Editorial: A new Ethiopia must have no business keeping old, repressive institutions!
As you walk by the area, nothing looks out of ordinary. It is a bustling part of Piassa overcrowded with – as many parts of Piassa are – bars, shops, hotels and restaurants. Pedestrians go back and forth past it oblivious of its presence (or perhaps terrified of it.)
The Ethiopian Federal Police Force Central Bureau of Criminal Investigation, known in Amharic by its bone chilling name, Ma’ekelawi, is a time defying institution which has been around for more than half a century, and has been used (and abused) for the same purpose: to detain, without due legal process, people alleged to have committed grave crimes against the state, the people and the constitution.
But describing Ma’ekelawi simply as “a place of detention” is a gross parody of its fundamental purpose for existence. It isn’t just a place of detention; it is, by any definition, a state-run “Torture Chamber” built by an extinct repressive government but preserved and run by a government which proclaims itself ‘democratic’.
Why is it still around?
This is a question that directly points at the essential explanation for the very existence of Ma’ekelawi as a tool of repression: lack of political will by the incumbent to render the brutal practices inside Ma’ekelawi irrelevant as per the values, principles, and rules of the current constitution and that of international covenants Ethiopia is a signatory to.
Owing to that Ma’ekelawi remains to be the only constant throughout the eras of monarchy, socialist totalitarianism, and federalist devolution, which indicates that the nature of the Ethiopian State is, at its core, unchanged; that it is the same; that it is a state which drives its authority (and therefore legitimacy) from force.
This is not a conclusion this magazine is asserting based on allegations. Dissect the often too conspicuous correlation between political dissent and the people overpopulating Ma’ekelawi suspected of (and charged with) crimes against the state, the people and the constitution. It will give you an idea or two on why successive states chose to keep that institution intact even as it continued depriving, in most instances, due legal process to the people under its custody.
It is no hush-hush that the overwhelming prisoners in Ma’ekelawi are political prisoners brought from all over the country. That leads to the question of why is that so.