By Abebe Gellaw
Former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died on July 14, 2012 at St. Luke University Hospital, in Brussels, Belgium. This fact is no more news. But even after the death of the former dictator, Bereket Simon, the chief TPLF/EPRDF’s lie factory and propagandist, had insisted that the former tyrant was on holiday abroad and would be back before the Ethiopian New Year. But Behind closed doors, Bereket and the other politically orphaned cronies were at each other’s throats fighting in a vicious power struggle, which is still going on.
During the five-week long preparations to announce the death of Meles Zenawi, Bereket Simon and his closest associates must have studied TV footage of North Korea’s globally ridiculed mass hysteria following the death of Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il. The replication of this mass hysteria, wailing, crying and at times fainting in front of cameras has only proven to be live coverage of the maximum crisis that the infighting TPLF-led junta is facing. When they continuously praise the former tyrant as an irreplaceable demigod, they are, in a way, saying that none of them are competent and worthy enough to fill his shoes.
After the preparations were completed, Bereket appeared from nowhere and told the nation that the great leader’s holiday was over. He died on August 20 from an “infection” at an undisclosed location, he informed the nation. But EU officials and foreign media outlets only confirmed that Zenawi died at St. Luke University Hospital, in Brussels, Belgium, which was accurately reported by ESAT on 30th July.
Berket had also told us that EPRDF appointed Hailemariam Desalegn as acting prime minister. Within 24 hours, this also turned out to be a lie confirming once more that Bereket, who is now gravely depressed, is a master of miscommunication. There are still unfinished palace conspiracies and intrigues to be the next Meles or to control the group that will be in charge of the fate of the nation. TPLF bigwigs believe that it is their birthright to dominate the nation. That is quite obviously one of the reasons why the decapitated regime declared such an unprecedented and extended period of “national mourning” in order to buy more time to solve the complex political calculus that only Meles could solve.
There was a five-week long preparation for the mass hysteria. Psychologists that have studied mass hysteria usually describe it as an epidemic psychogenic behaviour where people collectively act irrationally. In North Korea, propaganda plays a key role in generating mass hysteria.
When Kim Jong Il died last year, the state media and the communist party were fully utilized to mobilize people across the country to publicly weep and wail, and most importantly praise the Great Leader effusively. The mass hysteria was broadcast repeatedly with propaganda extolling the “Great Leader” generating an out-of-control show of grief. Sung-Yoon Lee, a research fellow at the National Asia Research Program told CNN that state control and coercion played a key factor in creating the hysteria. “There are always people watching you. If you are not devastated by the news, you may get in trouble,” he said.
Ethiopia’s 21-year long dictator has been described as the “Great Leader”, angel of love, father of Ethiopia, the light of Africa, pioneer of democracy and freedom…, just to mention a few among the long list of flourishing lies. The cadres worked round the clock to tell everyone that they should come out and grieve the death of “Comrade” Meles Zenawi. The lies and half-truths on state media are still countless and his image has been excessively distorted in order to create a new personality for the ruthless tyrant. But it all turned out to be the futility and vanity of tyranny.
Bereket’s strategy has been simple. He followed the rules of Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Gobbles, who once said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” In a country like Ethiopia where the literacy rate still stands at 30%, according to UNICEF, the intense propaganda campaign has certainly confused some people and created an illusory atmosphere of national mourning.
People who have been caught listening to music or smiling during those times of collective sadness, have been physically attacked. It is a bad beginning for a post-Meles Ethiopia that craves for change. Some people were even punished for not grieving. Journalist Reeyot Alemu serving jail terms for committing acts of “terrorism” has reportedly been threatened and her well being was compromised for not showing grief and shedding tears for the man who tortured and locked her up for doing her job. Another political prisoner Zerihun Gebre-Egziabher, chairman of Ethiopian National Democratic Party (ENDP) and who was also jailed for “terrorism”, was physically attacked for smiling.
The eulogy for Zenawi by local and foreign agents was largely fabricated. The worst tribute to Meles Zenawi was written by none other than the disgraced plagiariser Tesfaye Habisso, former Ethiopian ambassador to South Africa. On Tigraionline, he wrote: “Meles Zenawi was undoubtedly like the Sun among the numberless equally big/large and shining stars in the galaxy. He was so bright and so shining compared to the timid other stars sparsely spread far and wide across the fathomless sky. The Sun Meles has set now, it’s all darkness; for the whole country, for the people, for the ruling party and government. It will surely take some time before daylight overcomes again.” His unabashed statement, is quite telling why Tesfaye remains to be a classless sycophant.
Another crazed scribbler of tyranny, a certain Adal Isaw, declared that he started a religion called Meles Zenawi, which may be a deserving tribute to a dictator who surrounded himself with opportunists and worshipers. “After many years of abandoning my religious belief,” he declared on tyranny’s mouthpiece Aiaforum, “I am a born-again believer and my religion is Meles Zenawi. I believe in Meles Zenawi and he is my religion from now on till the end of my time. This I believe is not the result of stretching my emotion.” In fact, it is nothing but idiocy at its best.
In a shamefully orchestrated campaign of lies, deception and opportunism, artistes, athletes, celebrities and gospel singers were also recruited to extol the former dictator. In the process, many have already lost their own self-respect and dignity. Neway Debebe, Fikre-Addis Nekatibeb, Madingo Afework, Mezmur Yohannes and the lyricist Yilma Gebreab collaborated to produce a song full of lies. The “song” shamelessly refers to the dictator as the eternal Moses of Ethiopia, unifier and “elect of God”. The famous athletes Haile Gebreselassie, Derartu Tulu and Meseret Defar also joined the public tear shedding drama and the comedy of extolling the man that brutally and relentlessly abused Ethiopians for the last 21 years.
The worst gospel song ever heard in Ethiopia is probably the recently released single by a certain Habtamu Shibiru. According to this “man of God”, darkness fell over Ethiopia just because Meles and his hand-picked patriarch died. Though songs of praise are supposed to be reserved for Almighty God, Shiberu feels the terror of losing the former tyrant and his patriarch. While many see dawn of a new era, Shiberu tearfully tells us doom and gloom. What is certain is that those who overacted in Bereke’s Simon drama and spin will only regret it when reality hits back and the hangover is completely over.
Berket is currently one of the most dangerous loose cannons that need to be handled with utmost care. He is behaving like his former boss and wants to impose himself as a kingmaker. According to reliable sources, TPLF bigwigs are bitterly against his manipulation and misuse of the media that he controls to create an imaginary power for himself.
Now that the tents are dismantled, the ruling elite will face more maddening crises that will continue to unravel the dictatorial regime. The only way to move forward is to realistically address the grave ethnic, political, economic, security and religious challenges that have fragmented and divided our country. The hardliners like Bereket and security chief Getachew Assefa, who are reportedly plotting political assassinations at home and abroad, need to give way to reformists who are more capable and bold enough to address the grave problems facing Ethiopia. Bereket’s empty propaganda and naked lies have already backfired.
As a postscript, let me conclude with the following. After my vocal protest against Zenawi and call for freedom on May 18th, 2012 here in Washington DC, I have been receiving vicious death threats. Some fanatic supporters of TPLF’s dictatorship have also been spreading all sorts of venomous innuendos and threats, which are being dealt with by the FBI. It should be known that I am fully protected by the Constitution and Government of the United States. The effort of some people to import tyranny to this land of freedom is futile and does not scare anyone. I cannot afford to be silenced…
Ethiopia is at the threshold of dramatic, drastic and radical changes. We need to be prepared for change and seize on the opportunities as well as challenges fearlessly. Resistance to change must be resisted and defeated. We need to claim the future.