The Minister In The Closet

Further evidences reinforce that Mrs. Zenebu may have indeed been silenced 

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Following the controversial tweets of Mrs. Zenebu Tadesse, the Minister of Women, Youth & Children Affairs, which saw the termination of her Twitter account altogether, both the Minister herself and a government’s spokesperson alleged that it had all been the work of unidentified hackers.

In a radio interview Mrs. Zenebu gave to Fana FM over the phone three days ago, she claimed that she personally does not have such a stand on LGBT rights since her culture and ethics won’t allow that.

“I want to clarify that I am not the one who posted those tweets,” Mrs. Zenebu said somberly, “and it’s not the stand of the government, neither mine. My personality, culture and everything else don’t support this and I’m really disappointed.”

Mrs. Zenebu was also heard to have said that she in fact learnt about the tweet from others as she had been out on a fieldwork where she did not have access to her Twitter account.

Nevertheless, ever since the news about “the hackers” broke out, many are finding it difficult to swallow the claim, as that wasn’t the only pro-equality tweet to have appeared on that Twitter account. As shown in the previous post here in ADDCAFÉ, those pro-equality tweets were traced back as far as January.

On the same radio interview, the host asked Mrs. Zenebu when she last tweeted, to which Zenebu vaguely replied, “Oh, it has been a long time.” She didn’t say how long and neither the radio-host inquired.

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If we give the Minister the benefit of the doubt then, that means she has not been tweeting since early January.

As the Amharic weekly, The Reporter newspaper was the first to point out, the Minister’s early pro-equality stand came to light after re-tweeting (not exactly Ban Ki-moon’s tweet as reported on the paper) but, Charles Radcliffe’s January 8th tweet that mentioned Ban Ki-moon’s pro-equality message.

Charles Radcliffe, for your information, is the head of the global issues section at the UN human rights office in New York, and also serves as human rights adviser on sexual orientation and gender identity, supporting UN efforts to raise awareness of and address violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people around the world.

Ten days later, on January 18th, Mrs. Zenebu once more re-tweeted the following United Nations tweet: “No nation discriminating based on sexual orientation, gender identity gets a pass from the UN.”

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Then, a couple of other pro-equality-and-LGBT tweets/re-tweets followed in the days leading up to February 24th – the day she began to face a grilling over her tweet that explicitly condemns the anti-gay laws in Uganda.

Now, even if we are to believe the Minister may have been inactive for almost two months, the situation still begs the question: how come nobody noticed those tweets at least from her own Ministry, not to mention other government bodies?

Because when asked on that radio interview if she’s the only one who had been using her account, Mrs. Zenebu confirmed she’s the one who had been tweeting on most cases but, there were also others (from the Ministry) who were assisting her.

If that’s the case, then how come her assistants haven’t noticed those fraudulent tweets immediately? Why did it take them two months to notice the account is hacked?

But that’s not all. Further investigation indicates either Mrs. Zenebu or her assistants used the Twitter account during those two months, having seen the contents of two particular tweets, which could not have come from anywhere else except the Ministry.

2014-02-26_21-27-34The first tweet, posted on January 23rd, is an image of Mrs. Zenebu working in her office, described with the following text: “Here is me in my office, Tweeps. Working hard 4 my Ministry’s six months evaluation report. Lots of good results.”

The other tweet of February 11th also has an image of Mrs. Zenebu, together with the Dire Dawa Women Bureau Head, Ms. Aziza Abdi, at the graduation ceremony of 600 women trained in construction skills.

Such evidences are hard to ignore, and they – beyond doubt – ascertain the claim that the Honorable Minister’s account is truly “hacked”. Yes, it was hacked but only with one twist: the hacker is none other than the government.

And as far as Mrs. Zenebu is concerned, it is too early to say what will become of her, and if she ever comes back to the social media anytime soon. For now though, we can say this much: Madam Minister wasn’t only brave enough to support gay people, but her daring act has now put her in the same closet where the people she spoke up for can be found.

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