Ms. Birtukan Midekssa

Ms. Birtukan Midekssa is a former federal judge and leader of the pro-democracy opposition movement in Ethiopia. Hailed as the Aung San Suu Kyi of her country, she was sentenced to life in prison in 2005 after her party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, won an unprecedented number of seats in parliamentary elections.  After eighteen months in prison, she was pardoned in 2007 following a series of high-level negotiations. Upon her release, she founded the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ) and was elected its first chairperson. In 2008, she was rearrested for allegedly having violated the terms of her pardon and remained in prison for almost two more years. In 2010, she was shortlisted for the European Parliament’s 2010 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Prior to entering politics, Ms. Midekssa served as a defense attorney and federal judge, rendering numerous court decisions in support of the rule of law and in defense of fundamental constitutional liberties.

During her fellowship, Ms. Midekssa studied the factors that have contributed to the weakening of Ethiopia’s democratic opposition and explored ways of strengthening it.


Women’s Political Empowerment in Ethiopia :: PDF ,” International Conference of Ethiopian Women in the Diaspora, March 9-11, 2012.

Webs of Conflict and Pathways to Peace in the Horn of Africa: A New Approach?” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, February 29, 2012.

Building Democratic Opposition Parties in Ethiopia: Reflections from the Ground,” National Endowment for Democracy, February 16, 2012.


Ethiopian Community Dinner Remarks,” Amnesty International USA, June 10, 2012.

Remarks from a Current Fellow,” 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program, National Endowment for Democracy, May 17, 2012.

A Tribute to Vaclav Havel,” :: PDF Memorial Tribute Honoring the Life and Work of Vaclav Havel, sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Embassy of the Czech Republic, and the Vaclav Havel Library, January 6, 2012.

“Amnesty International, My Release, and Human Rights in Ethiopia: Perspectives from a Former Political Prisoner,” Write for Rights Global Write-A-Thon, National Press Club, sponsored by Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, December 9, 2011.


Press Freedom in Africa,” Voice of America–Straight Talk Africa, May 16, 2012.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: An Interview with Birtukan Midekssa,” TADIAS, March 30, 2012.

Press Mentions:

Ethiopian women held a conference in Washington, DC,” Ethiopian Review, March 16, 2012.

Ethiopia’s Opposition faces a lot of Challenges,” VIPI Africa, February 24, 2012.

Thank you Amnesty International, says Ethiopia’s future Midekksa,” The Examiner, December 10, 2011.