By Amanuel Biedemariam
In an effort to sell goodwill and to gain the hearts and minds of Eritreans, soon after Eritrea won independence, Meles stood on a podium in Asmara stadium and promised, “We will not scratch your wounds.” After decades of barbaric rulers; years of suffering, bloodshed, looting, rapes, destruction, displacements and cruelty; after decades of wars, Eritrea was ready to let go and move on. Eritrea was ready for peace and for good news. Meles understood Eritrea’s hunger and need to hear soothing words of peace when he made those statements. Of course, he never meant it. After gathering himself, he ignited unnecessary war, expelled more than 75, 000 Eritreans out of Ethiopia, stole their hard-earned wealth and temporarily destroyed the goodwill to heal wounds between the good people of Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Meles-ovich has been selling everything to bolster his stature as a strong man and key figure in Africa and the world consistently. He wanted to be the figurehead and was encouraged to act the part by his US and Western financiers; and he performed that part splendidly. The job required someone with no ethical standards, willing to lie and wreak havoc without regard to the future of the region or his people. The job required a lot of selling mainly to the international community. He obliged.
He sold the Badme war while labeling Eritrea the aggressor for a temporary gain and thus destroying all good will with Eritrea’s leaders. He misled the Ethiopian people into a war with Eritrea without a clear and achievable objective by tapping into the hopes of those who want to retake Eritrea by force using border issue as excuse with no intention to resolve what he foolishly started. He sold the Ethiopian people and the world a lie that he won the Badme decision at The Hague and soon thereafter, he rejected it by calling the EEBC decision as illegal and virtual demarcation as a “Legal nonsense.” Then he accepted it in principle and tried to sell the tired and disingenuous “dialogue” idea.
Meles-ovich is an incessant salesperson who thinks that the world is buying whatever he sells. He actually deserves a great deal of credit for trying to follow through on all his pitches albeit to a colossal failures. He followed through in Somalia after selling fabricated threats in an effort to invade a sovereign nation. He tried to sell one Somalia Transitional Government (TFG) after another in the hopes of screwing a leadership core that favors his repertoire. He overplayed the terror card that the Bush Administration may have felt out-staged. He sold Eritrea as a nation that sponsored terrorism and failed.
Moreover, whenever Meles sells Ethiopians, he addresses them with total disrespect and unashamed arrogance. He does not look or smile, never interacts and, he lashes with his sharp tongue whenever he utters a word. He simply talks down to Ethiopians. He says and does anything. He reverses himself at will; contradicted himself countless times whenever convenient. He never needed to stay true and principled. He never cared to tell the truth, he talked around things and never directly addressed issues. He is rude. He actually never addresses the Ethiopian people. Moreover, if-and-when he addresses Ethiopia, his favorite audience is his rubber stamp parliament that looks dazed. They ask predetermined questions and express fake frustration on queue. It is simply a surreal environment, a fantasy-drama world made up for the satisfaction of the donor communities.
Leaders around the world do many things to remain in power but what Meles-ovich does is simply unprecedented. The intriguing fact is that this despot actually enjoys selling his agendas and believes that people will actually buy his lies after lying to them for years. The question is what is his product or what is he selling? To understand his logic and antiques one must decipher, a) his target audiences, b) the various constituencies he is trying to address, c) understand what his challenges are and, how he intends to overcome it, d) most importantly, what he considers his opportunities are and how he goes after them.
His product is any thing that is the opposite of peace. He has no interest in peace. Therefore, he sells wars as in Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and most importantly in Ethiopia. He sells fear and terrorism as excuse to stifle his people. Meles-ovich has been selling the stability of Ethiopia as if he is the savior of it by telling his US and Western financiers if you stop helping me, Ethiopia will break apart along ethnic and religious lines after he himself divided the nation deliberately.
Meles’s target audience is usually the international community. That is, even when he gives phony interviews to selected “journalists” mainly from Tigray. However, that changed for a brief period days before the sham election in May of 2010. Meles-ovich conducted an interview with Ethiopian TV and answered pre-selected questions sent to him, supposedly from the public. For the first time in over 13 years, he showed eagerness to express, explain and most importantly tried to sell his ideas to Ethiopians. It was by far the most fascinating balancing-act I have ever witnessed albeit based on fabrication, convenient placement-of-issues, in accordance with his needs and desired outcomes. It was odd because normally, he sends his henchmen to do the job, namely Sebhat, Ghebru, Siye or the heavy hitter Bereket Simon when needed. He addressed four areas, namely Asseb, the Independence of Eritrea, the election and Ethiopian stability. His target audience: a) some of the anti-Eritrea “Eritrean” lost souls who are working with him aimlessly in the hopes of becoming the TFG of Eritrea, b) the general Eritrean public, c) Ethiopians in the Diaspora, particularly the Amhara, d) and, his supporters.
What is intriguing is how Meles-ovich cleverly tried to sell these issues to all segments mentioned above collectively and at once. He told Eritreans that he is not interested in Asseb, that he respects Eritrean territories and international laws. This man sent thousands of Ethiopians to their premature death in 2000 in an effort to capture Asseb. He is the man that is arming Afar and other ethnic groups from his side and parading them as Eritreans seeking self-determination. A man that wants to sell to Ethiopians that, Eritreans opted for independence due to repressive Ethiopian regimes while, at the same time selling the fragmentation of Eritrea along ethnic and religious lines by using religious extremist, pedophiles and other criminals discards.
Furthermore, he is trying to sell Ethiopians that Eritrea wants to destabilize Ethiopia by working, even with those who do not believe on Eritrea’s independence and those who claim Asseb. He is also claiming Eritrea is working with former Derg officials. However, Meles-ovich conveniently forgot, after the eruption of the border war, he released all the former Derg officers from prison in order to help him fight Eritrea. Moreover, he knows well, that Eritreans do not compromise on Eritrean independence and an inch of their territory. Badme should serve as example. Eritreans will not work with those who have territorial ambitions on Eritrea. During the recent Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa conference, Dr. Berhe Habtegiorgis told those who claimed Asseb is Ethiopian, their claim amounted to a declaration of war.
Meles’s pitch changes from day to day, as he tries to maximize on his opportunities any way he can. He sells exaggerated economic growth while millions are starving. He sold democracy until he realized that democracy threatened his power and disbanded it. His current sales pitch is that Ethiopia does not need democracy. He is selling Ethiopians not to focus on political issues but economic developments. He is touting the tiger economy of China as his savior. He is selling new military partnership with China and is trying to sell China, in effect blackmailing the US.
The above-mentioned facts are not new; many have pointed this out ad nauseam. Some have broken it down and spoke the truth to how Meles-ovich and his gang damaged the lives of women, children, and the youth. They listed the genocides, crimes against humanity, political imprisonments, harassment and looting of national treasures. They listed litany of criminal charges that should have sent the whole regime into prison. Therefore, it is an established fact that Meles-ovich does not represent the best interest of the people of Ethiopia and the region. He and his gang are criminals working under the umbrella of a legitimized government. It is a forgone conclusion amongst 95% of Ethiopians that the country is in the worst shape that it has ever been. The recipe for disaster is already set in motion. Absent of urgent remedies, it is just a matter of time until the doomsday scenario becomes a reality. The consensus is that it is impossible to work with Meles-ovich. Hence, it is imperative to remove him and his henchmen from power for the country and the region to get peace.
Moreover, it is clear to those who hoped for the international community, particularly the US or the EU, to stand on behalf of the Ethiopian people in the name of justice, democracy and the rule of law to wake up. It is like praying to devil outside the gates of hell for deliverance. In the aftermath of the Cold War, the interest and focus of Western countries has shifted into protecting energy and other resources. The war against terrorism and stability of the region are the main excuses used as reasons to prop up the brutal despots like Meles-ovich and Museveni. The US is his number one financier. Without US and Western support, Meles-ovich would close shop in days because he cannot afford to pay his war machinery. He is fully funded, armed and provided-with unparalleled political, diplomatic and PR-cover from the international community. And until now, he has done well in pursuing the agenda of destruction and genocidal missions throughout the region leaving trails of untold human suffering.
Clearly, Meles-ovich is the most reviled figure in the history of Ethiopia. Even those who use to support him have reversed course because they realize that he is the path to the destabilization of Ethiopia. Why then is he finding success in the Diaspora in the face of all these disdain? While there are many reasons, one of the main reasons is that many Ethiopian opinion makers and agenda setters have, and are working for his agenda knowingly or unknowingly.
As stated earlier, let us be clear here that Meles-ovich does not have any interest in peace. His interest lies on conflicts, fear and wars! After he heard about the Qatar mediation efforts and the agreement it produced between Djibouti and Eritrea, he cried foul and decried the UN for welcoming the development. Any sign of peace and reconciliation amongst the people in the region brings nightmares to the TPLF gang because they know that will bring their end. The recent change-of-tone and approach of the US regarding the situation in Somalia is sending shockwaves into the psyche of Warlord Meles-ovich and his partner Museveni of Uganda to the point of unilaterally deciding to send thousands of more troops into Somalia to the dissatisfaction of the US. They are threatening to internationalize the threat of Al Shabab to the dismay of the US in an effort to regain the funding they lost after they were forced to retreat in a humiliating defeat. This is the reaction of the US envoy to Somalia:
“If I could think of any tactfully discreet and diplomatically clear way to describe the outcome of the 15th Extraordinary Session of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government on Somalia without compromising the essence of my message, I would have simply chosen that approach. Therefore, going crude is the appropriate way: As a patched up political charade destined to embolden the very extremist elements that it is intended to subdue and push Somalia deep into anarchy and destruction, the resolution passed in that session is haphazardly imprudent and wildly dangerous”.
It is with this outlook in mind that one can say that many Ethiopian opinion makers and agenda setters are, and have been working for Meles-ovich’s agenda as it pertains to regional issues for the following reasons:
1) They failed to talk about humanity and bread and butter issues for the people in the region in ways that could have united Ethiopians with the various population segments of the region, i.e., Somalia, Gambella, and others. 2) They failed to own up to the issues of Somalia, Gambella, Ogaden, Oromo, etc… 3) They failed to recognize their weaknesses and acted and talked as if they rule Ethiopia when they were in no position. 4) They give Ethiopians exaggerated expectation of what Western powers, particularly the US, can do to bring change in Ethiopia. 5) Most importantly, they keep standing on the wrong side of history as in regards to Eritrea. During the wars that erupted in 1998, they sided with Meles. In fact, they were pleased because they felt it would weaken both antagonists and strengthen their positions. Many failed to speak about the horrendous uprooting of Eritreans and Ethiopians from Ethiopia. Moreover, and unfortunately, they are still steering Ethiopians into a conversation of Eritrea and Eritrean territories as if they have any ability to change the facts on the ground. Thus, placing the focus and attention away from Meles-ovich and provide fuel for his fire. They keep doing a disservice to Ethiopia time after time. It is somewhat baffling to see them duped easily by sales gimmicks Meles-ovich and his gangs throw at them. Weeks before the last sham election, at a time when Ethiopians were planning and conducting a significant conference in North America, Meles-ovich sent a select group from his henchmen and paraded them as opposition. Many Ethiopians actually fell for it and engaged Medrek-stars on tour. What is ironic is that they forgot that Siye and Meles actually have fought together for the same cause, Tigray. How can they think someone who sacrificed to come to power hand-over power on their demand? In addition, how could they believe; opposition that is on tour for weeks in the US during a crucial phase of the election is a legitimate? This shows a serious weakness and ill judgment.
Meles-Ovich has sold everything to the point that he has nothing left to sell. He sold sham elections until he realized what happened in Kenya could happen to him; power sharing. He preempted his opponents by intimidating, jailing and harassment. However, the sad part is, even after Meles-ovich declared his complete victory, humiliating the Ethiopian people, some dinosaurs or elites actually found it opportune time to talk about other issues, namely Eritrean ports and asking for political space from Meles-ovich. The question is when will they learn? When will they realize the truth and the reality as it is? When will they know their limitations and work within the scope of what they can realistically achieve? When will they learn to stop asking Meles-ovich to give them “some-political space,” when in reality, Meles-ovich has denied them their country and identity? Plain and simple! How is it possible for any one with an ounce of brain to think that Meles-ovich, who actually sacrificed to get to where he is possible to invite individuals to share power simply because they can eloquently describe democracy? Furthermore, why are these elites and educated personalities always assuming that the West and the US will actually work against their own interest and press Meles-ovich (funded by them) to bring change against his will?
Meles-ovich has drawn the line on the sand. He has unambiguously told the world, I rule my way and there is not a damn thing you can do about it! However, the elites are still pointing-out how bad, Meles-ovich is and, they are trying to plan on what to do next. Moreover, why are they not recognizing the efforts of those who are giving their foreheads to save Ethiopia? Do they still believe that their words and letters alone will be enough to dethrone Meles-ovich and his gang? Furthermore, do these elites actually believe that those who are paying sacrifices with their lives now (EPPF, OLF, ONLF etc…) will give them political space once they achieve victory? When will they stop playing on neutral grounds and take hard stands? When will they declare their positions regarding the OLF, Ogaden, Somalia, and whether to work with Eritrea and other related matters?
It is a matter of record and history that there has been no major achievement in the fight against Meles-ovich. Based on this sad history, it is obvious there is a need for some fresh thinking and a shot of new blood to re-energize this hopeless situation. The one thing that Ethiopians need to realize is that Meles-ovich and his gangs are not only Ethiopia’s problem. They are regional vermin. In order to cleanse the situation and plan for peaceful beginning towards successful coexistence, all options need exploring.
In these endeavors, the only country that is standing for the people of the region is Eritrea. The only country that is standing for justice in the region is Eritrea. The people of Eritrea want to see Ethiopia, Somalia and a region that is successful. Moreover, as President Isaias Afwerki stated, “Eritrea is not threatened by a strong and successful Ethiopia.” Therefore, it is high time for all to declare their solidarity and focus on the bull’s eye, but do so fully respecting Eritrean territories and sovereignty.
(The writer can be reached at Awetnayu@hotmail.com)