Prof Asrat Woldeyes
Professor Asrat Woldeyes was the first Ethiopian surgeon and the first Dean of the Medical Faculty at Addis Ababa University, of which he was a co-founder. He also collaborated with his few Ethiopian colleagues to create Ethiopia's first medical school.
The medical school came into being in 1965 and it has been producing hundreds of medical graduates every year ever since. Professor Asrat was also the late Emperor Haileselassie's personal doctor for many years.
Apart from his pioneering achievements as the country's first surgeon, Professor Asrat is also widely known for his courageous attempts to bring about a truly democratic political system in Ethiopia in the face of systematic crackdown on the part of the current EPRDF regime.
Soon after the EPRDF came to power in 1991, Professor Asrat founded a political party as an opposition to the government with the purpose of bringing about unity among Ethiopians and to abolish the EPRDF-inspired notion of ethnic federalism from the constitution.
Citing the EPRDF's call to critics to form opposition parties in the early days of the regime, Professor Asrat's political party declared it intended to bring about political change through peaceful political struggle for the first time in the country’s history. Soon, the peaceful struggle of this political party and its campaign for political change started gathering momentum, followed by a systematic crackdown on the part of the government.
In order to put down the pace of the struggle that was spreading quicker than expected all over the country, the government imprisoned Professor Asrat for five years at a maximum security prison in Addis Ababa after charging him of attempting to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means. Amnesty International denounced the accusations against him as "baseless" and dubbed Professor Asrat "a prisoner of conscience."
His health deteriorated significantly during his imprisonment and when it became apparent that he wouldn't survive, he was allowed to leave the country for medial reasons. Professor Asrat did not survive his ordeal and died at Pennsylvania University Hospital in the United States on 14 May 1999 at the age of 71.
Many believe that much of the political opposition that has gripped Ethiopia over the past many years drew inspiration from the party Professor Asrat founded in the mid 1990s.
Although Professor Asrat’s political party lost the struggle to the regime and its unconventional tactics, it will always get the credit for being the first political party that gave the Meles Zenawi regime some of its toughest challenges in its first few years in power.