The Unbearable Lightness of Pardon: Reflections on Birtukan’s Second Sailing

7 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2011

See all articles by Alemayehu F Weldemariam

Alemayehu F Weldemariam

LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin; Suffolk University

Date Written: October 10, 2010


The re-release of Judge Birtukan Mideksa, leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, Ethiopia's largest opposition party, from prison on 6th of October 2010 has proven to be a no less potent topic for controversy than her re-incarceration on 29th of December 2008 among pundits and analysts.

The paper attempts to unmask the motives behind the selection of the procedure that secured Judge Birtukan Mideksa's re-release from Qaliti prison and its ramifications on her political career. In so doing, I shall trace the latest decision by the government to release Birtukan for a second time in just about two years since her re-incarceration back to a couple of posts on Aiga Forum in January and September 2010 and link it to a hint made in public by the Prime Minister and to an article published in the Reporter on 2nd of October 2010, just about 3 days before her actual release, or a couple of days before the decision was made or communicated to the prison officials with a view to showing a pattern in the scheme of things preceding the taking of the decision for her re-release.

It concludes that in both of Birtukan's sailings out of prison, the master of the ship was none other than the Prime Minister. One thing that the granting of pardon in both instances proved to all of us is nothing but the unbearable lightness of pardons. In spite of the cruel and inhumane treatment Birtukan received in the hands of her jailors, one thing that is certain is that she will remain to be a source of inspiration for all who work to advance basic human rights in Ethiopia and the world over.

Keywords: Ethiopia, Birtukan Mideksa, Political Parties, Pardon, Forgiveness

JEL Classification: K4

Suggested Citation

Weldemariam, Alemayehu F, The Unbearable Lightness of Pardon: Reflections on Birtukan’s Second Sailing (October 10, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Alemayehu F Weldemariam (Contact Author)

LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin ( email )

2317 Speedway
Austin, TX 78712
United States
206 446 1432 (Phone)

Suffolk University ( email )

Boston, MA 02108
United States


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