Ana Maria Rosa Martins Gomes, better known as Ana Gomes (alias Hana Gobezie) receives tumultuous welcome by many Ethiopians wherever she travels. Many Ethiopians are happy to see the lady for the brave measure she took to denounce the government intimidation on the 2005 national election and the hidden deception and cruel acts to stifle democracy in this country. She reflected the torments and miseries the broad mass of Ethiopia endured after the national election. She stood by the side of those who were deceived, tortured and languished in prisons. That’s why many people were heard saying that the Ethiopian people owe Ana Gomes a favour. Ana Gomes is in Ethiopia this week for a short visit… This piece touches on issues concerning the Portuguese politician and member of European Parliament.
Many of us believed that the 2005 national election would bring a new hope to this ancient country of ours. Yes, the election campaign, the decision made by the government to hold free and fair election across the country, the televised debates conducted between the incumbent government and the opposition political parties lulled us all to think that Ethiopia was on the brink of embarking on the threshold of democracy.
But after a day-long voting process, things seemed to take different direction. Government representatives and cadres of the ruling party were seen creating row in every constituencies by intimidating the vote counting process and forcing the voters to give vote to certain parties. Many were disappointed and believed that this was a clear theft of public votes. In this way the ruling party testified openly that it was not willing to be arbitrated by popular vote. Sadly enough it showed its hidden desire to remain in power being supported by bullet not by ballot. What the dictator, Joseph Stalin said was indeed implemented in the country. “It is not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes”.
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) reminds us the then incident in its widely circulated final report that “…the counting and aggregation process were marred by irregular practices, confusion and lack of transparency…”
After the election, the country submerged in to chaos. Streets and villages were inundated by blood of many innocent civilians. Various reports indicated that 193 civilians and seven police officers were shot dead by the federal Police. During this time when the entire world kept watching the incident silently, a Portuguese lady, Ana Gomes, came forward to bravely denounce the governing party stating loudly that it should be held responsible for the chaos. She accused the ruling party of intimidating and rigging the national election and killings of many innocent people who staged peaceful demonstration to denounce the double-dealings. Following the final report of EU-EOM, Ana Gomes was at loggerheads with the late prime minister, Meles Zenawi and minister of information, Bereket Simon. Since then Ana Gomes has not been regarded favourably. She was rather disparaged, criticised and disrespected by these two people including senior party leaders, cadres and government officials of the then governing body. However, she has remained steadfast not only in opposing the government but also rendering love and pity to the people of Ethiopia. ‘The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love,’ so goes the saying.
Ana Gomes was born in Lisbon, Portugal on February 09, 1954. Her academic background is law. She has been a career diplomat since 1980 and served in the Portuguese Missions at the UN in New York and Geneva, and in the embassies in Tokyo and London. Between 1999 and 2003, she was head of mission and ambassador in Jakarta. Ana Gomes has become a member of the European Parliament since 2004. She was re-elected in June 2009 and in May 2014 for the third term. In the European parliament, her main areas of activity are migration, human rights, security as well as defence, international relations, gender issues and development.
Ana Gomes is a real friend of the Ethiopian people. She was the only person who cried loudly against vote-rigging, mass arrest, killings and the obscured coordinated sabotages perpetrated by the ruling party to stifle democracy in this country. Other election observers drawn from AU and Clinton Foundation were reluctant to be bold enough in denouncing officially the irregularities of the 2005 national election and intimidation of the government.
VOA reported quoting AU Election Observation Mission (AU-EOM) as saying that the 2005 national election was “calm, peaceful and credible”. What is clear from the press briefing of AU-EOM is that nothing was said about vote-rigging, killings of innocent people and arrest of tens of thousands of opposition leaders and supporters by the ruling party.
Of course, in its final statement, the Carter Centre Election Observation Mission CC-EOM “appreciated the pre-election and election day process but expressed its reservation and disappointment at the post-election events”. CC-EOM, however, has not gone deeply to expose double-dealings, sabotages and intimidation. I am of the opinion that the report was too feeble to put pressure against the then ruling party which was allegedly the real cause of the problems.
Unlike others, it was only EU-EOM that strongly denounced the illegal measure taken by the government to rig the national election, kill and detain many civilians and members of opposition political parties. Particularly its head, Ana Gomes, played appreciable roles in exposing the double-faced ruling party to the outside world.
In an exclusive interview she had with Addis Standard in November 2013 Ana appreciated Ethiopians. “Ethiopian people really marvelled me. Ethiopia has a great resonance in my country. My ancestors 500 years ago were looking for Prester John. However, Ethiopia has a magical resonance in my childhood. Ethiopia is special. Ethiopia is a civilization; not any country. It is a civilization.”
Ana Gomes speculated in 2017 about the upcoming public uprising that would explode in Ethiopia being provoked by the then totalitarian regime. She also said concerning the 2015 national election that it “was a farce and no one came to observe it… The fact that they [the international communities] have supported and turn a blind eye to the totalitarian regime of TPLF is going to provoke an uncontrolled explosion in Ethiopia”.
When she was asked in her twitter page whether she heard about the arrest of Bereket Simon, the former minister of information, Ana Gomes said that the news she heard was good. “Bereket Simon is a callous, repressive, deceptive, liar and ruthless individual. I dealt with him extensively in the 2005 elections and will never forget our extremely tense conversation in the afternoon of the 8th June massacre of civilians in Addis Ababa.”
Ana Gomes was asked by Addis Standard about the local name she was given by Ethiopians in appreciation of her courage to expose the government for its sabotage to swindle the election. She said that she was aware of the said name. “…Ethiopian friends told me about it. They told me [I was named] ‘Ana Gobeze’. I am flattered. I don’t deserve it. They told me that ‘Gobez’ means brave. I have been happy meeting Ethiopian community in different countries and received fantastic ‘Kaba’ [cloak] as a gift from Ethiopians in Sweden.”
Ana Gomes is married and with one daughter, three step children and six grandchildren. She published numerous articles and authored a book in Portuguese language. Ana Gomes also received many awards and decorations.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org