Veni, Vidi, Orator, Fugio!


By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Reinventing Zenawi

In 47 B.C., the Roman Emperor Julius Ceasar sent his senators news of his military victory in a simple declaration: “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” (I came, I saw, I conquered.) “Emperor” Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s dictator-in-chief, would have loved to send the same message to his “senators” in Addis Ababa following his speech at Columbia University’s World Leaders Forum (WLF) on September 22, 2010. But he will have to settle for something less: “Veni, Vidi, Orator, Fugio!” (I came, I saw, I spoke (for 20 minutes). I got the hell (out of Dodge) outta there!”)

In less than 60 New York minutes, Meles Zenawi was outta there. The whole kit and caboodle — introduction, speech, Q&As, pleasantries — took less than an hour, according to The Spectator, the campus online paper. No doubt, that was not the script Joe “The Globalizer” Stiglitz and his crew at the WLF had written when they invited Zenawi to deliver the “keynote address”. Their plan was to give Zenawi a forum to clean up his image on the heels of a 99.6 election victory in May 2010, and deflect attention from the impending condemnatory report of the European Union Election Monitoring Team due any day now. Simply stated, the affair was part of a Stiglitzian scheme to reinvent Zenawi for Americans right on Columbia’s stage and showcase him as a great African leader.

Of Mice and Men

But as the old saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go arwy”, and at the WLF, they did for Zenawi. His appearance drew condemnation from all quarters. Two prominent Ethiopian husband and wife journalists, Serkalem Fasil and Eskinder Nega[1], wrote a heart-wrenching letter from Ethiopia to plead with University President Lee Bollinger: “While we acknowledge [Zenawi’s] right to express his views, it is an affront to his government’s numerous victims of repression to grant him the privilege to do so on the notable premises of Columbia.” They recounted their “incarceration under deplorable circumstances”, ultimate acquittal in the courts, and how Serkalem gave birth to a “premature” baby because of her “physical and psychological privation in one of Africa’s worst prisons.” They offered testimony in their letter on the “incomprehensible vindictiveness” of Zenawi’s regime in denying them “an incubator” for their baby ordered by the doctors.

World-renowned economist Prof. Jagdish Baghwati of Columbia University, without mentioning Joseph Stiglitz and Jeffrey Sachs by name, condemned “unacademic professors” and academic “entrepreneurs” who are given “unaccountable power and funds” to exploit the University and “advance their own agendas”. He said the unnamed “entrepreneurs” seek to “ingratiate” themselves “with influential African leaders regardless of their democratic and human-rights record, to get PR and ‘goodies’ for themselves at African summits, at the UN where these leaders have a vote, etc.”

Prof. William Easterly of New York University, a world-renowned development economist, wrote on his blog: “I am happy to give the opposition a platform in this blog, without necessarily endorsing any one viewpoint, individual, or movement.” He put the question to his readers: “Should President Bollinger issue the “Ahmadinejad” disclaimer requested by the critics?”, in reference to the drubbing Bollinger gave Ahmadinejad in 2007 in his prefatory remarks.

Prof. Ted Vestal, the well-known and respected scholar on Ethiopia, wrote President Bollinger with an offer of advice and in apparent response to Prof. Easterly’s question: “The only way you can redeem the damaged reputation of the World Leaders Forum is by publicly making known the shortcomings of Prime Minister Meles and his government in your introductory remarks–a refutation similar to what you did in introducing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran in 2007.”

The Washington Examiner wondered: “It’s all well and good that [Zenawi] he is an ally of the United States, but why should Columbia honor him with a speaking engagement?”

In an editorial, The Spectator wrote: “Meles Zenawi is not a household name, but he is a despot. His government has carried out numerous extrajudicial killings, imprisoned political dissidents, and brutally suppressed protests by activists at Addis Ababa University…. The World Leaders Forum is supposed to be a hallmark of a global university. If we are truly globally minded, we must also be globally conscious. Students and administrators alike should care about Ethiopia.”

A day before the speech, Columbia announced without explanation that Zenawi will not speak at the stately domed Low Library, where heads of states usually speak, and directed those interested to show up at the Roone Arledge Auditorium, an all-purpose campus facility. A few dozen students and some faculty showed up. But President Bollinger was nowhere to be seen at the event. His Provost, Claude Steele, showed up and promptly reminded Zenawi that “Columbia doesn’t endorse the leaders it invites to the World Leaders Forum.” Busloads of Ethiopians trekked to Columbia from neighboring states to protest Zenawi’s appearance. They were orderly and peaceful, and expressed their opposition passionately. Their disciplined exercise of their democratic right to protest was an object lesson to all.

I was decidedly in the minority among Ethiopians in the Diaspora in vigorously defending Zenawi’s “right” to speak at Columbia or any other public venue in America, much to the chagrin of those who disapproved of his appearance. I argued: “As a university professor and constitutional lawyer steadfastly dedicated to free speech, I have adopted one yardstick for all issues concerning free speech, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ I underscore the words ‘everyone’ and ‘regardless of frontiers.'” I also expressed my hope that the speaking opportunity would be a teachable moment for Zenawi: “He may begin to appreciate the simple truth that ideas are accepted and rejected and arguments won and lost in the cauldron of critical analysis oxygenated by the bellows of free speech, not in prison dungeons where journalists and dissidents are bludgeoned and left to rot.” Regardless, I respect the views of those who disagreed with me.

Talking Big, Saying Nothing

The event was supposed to kick off a “conversation to examine Africa’s place in the world” and facilitate discussion on “the future of African agriculture, the explosion of Asian investment on the continent, the evolving contours of global aid to Africa, and the impact of the financial crisis on the region.” On Ethiopia, Zenawi was expected to speak about “progresses (sic) in many areas including in education, transportation, health and energy.” But the audience did not see an African knight in shining armor thrusting a lance at poverty, injustice and global inequality. They saw a sanctimonious emperor with new clothes.

Zenawi talked for a mere 20 minutes. He must have been tongue-tied. He usually harangues his parliament for hours, often berating and belittling the timid rubber-stampers.

As a devotee of the old “Globalizer” Stiglitz, Zenawi reminded the audience that “the continent must keep producing and consuming goods to keep the engines of globalization running.” He explained the “main challenge in Ethiopia is poverty. Most of you who have heard of Ethiopia will have heard of it in terms of poverty … It is my hunch that overcoming poverty and ensuring full security could contribute to the happiness of Ethiopians.” But when asked what he thought of the concept of “gross national happiness,” Zenawi said he had not really studied it. That’s quite understandable for someone who has been busy inflicting “gross unhappiness” on 80 million Ethiopians for the past two decades. Zenawi complained that “people have given up on Africa’s contribution to the world economy and that Africans have the chance to generate growth themselves. The continent must continue to produce and consume goods.”

Based on The Spectator report, the speech seemed desultory and meandering, cumulatively amounting to an implicit repudiation of the International Monetary Fund’s “structural adjustment programs” (market oriented policies as preconditions for loans). It does not appear that there was much discussion of globalization as advertised, and as we have heard it preached according to the Gospel of St. Stiglitz of Columbia (a/k/a Globalization and Its Discontents and Making Globalization Work.)

Zenawi was asked if he was being fairly characterized as a “dictator”. He evaded the question and sought credit for removing the junta dictatorship: “I have contributed my fair share to fighting the systems in Ethiopia that were unmistakably oppressive”. He failed to mention that after fighting oppression, he had become the apotheosis of oppression on the African continent today.

Zenawi tried to deflect attention from his own criminality by focusing on the criminality of the former military junta. He said during the “period of Red Terror [1977-78] people were killed without any recourse to the courts. That time of criminality and oppression is dead, is finished, and is not coming back.” Not true! That criminality never left; it is alive and well. The old criminality wore uniforms and boots; the new criminality wears tailored suits and alligator shoes. That’s the only difference. The courts today are circuses of injustice. Citizens get “legally” lynched, jailed and abused “with recourse to the courts.”

For the first time, Zenawi explained the methodology he used to calculate his 99.6 election victory in May 2010. (I had mistakenly believed it was a magic formula. Mea culpa!) It is actually a mathematical system hereafter to be known as the “Zenawian Theorem.” He said he was able to win 99.6 percent of all seats in parliament by winning just a little over 50 percent of the vote for each seat. Thus, applying the “Zenawian equation”: 50 percent plus 0.1 equals 99.6 percent. Apparently, he uses the same theorem to derive economic growth rates of 10.1, 11.9 and 14.9 percent for Ethiopia.

Zenawi was reassuring about his future plans: “In case you are wondering whether I will remain in power until kingdom come, I can assure you that this will be my last term in power.” Really? He has been saying that for the past five years straight. Anyway, for the past twenty years “Emperor” Zenawi has been sitting on the throne in his “kingdom” exercising his royal prerogative over his wretched subjects. Could he be envisioning his “kingdom” (“Reich”) lasting for a thousand years?

Asked about alleged crimes against humanity committed by his government, he responded, “I can understand how people have had an inadequate chance to consider the facts.” He failed to suggest where they may be able to find the facts. Might we suggest the 2010 human reports on Ethiopia issued by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists and the U.S. State Department?

Zenawi said he welcomes engagement and is glad to see students caring enough to learn about Ethiopia. He says that Ethiopia is making progress and invited everyone to come see for themselves. He did not say if he will cover the cost of their flights there.

Rather Disappointed

It was rather disappointing. In general, it does not appear that Zenawi was genuinely looking for an intellectual outlet for his ideas or a forum to respond to his critics. He was there to save face given the intense controversy surrounding his appearance. I was hoping to see Zenawi engaging those Columbia eggheads on issues of human rights and development and democratic theory and practice. He could have taught those armchair pundits and airhead academics a thing or two about the “end of poverty”, “globalization and its discontents”, the decay and imminent collapse of liberal democracy, the irrelevance of human rights and the vices of democracy and virtues of dictatorship. He could have also taken on his critics and disproven the things they have said and written about him. He could have made the opportunity a teachable moment for us all. But he missed the opportunity.

On the other hand, I believe Stiglitz has ill-served his academic community. He advertised that Zenawi would be delivering the “keynote address” to launch a “conversation” on “globalization and its impact on Africa.” Obviously, a 20-minute speech makes a travesty of such an important subject. Surely, Stiglitz as an academic “entrepreneur” is familiar with the concept of “truth in advertising”. In the future, he would be well-advised to apply that principle in the academic marketplace, and avoid intentionally misleading his community by deceptive advertising of his intellectual “product” lines.

It is said that there are some people who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It seems Zenawi is one of them. He had the World Leaders Forum to engage and spar with the best and the brightest America has to offer. He let the opportunity slip. The only thing left for him to do now is send an urgent message back to his doodling “senators” in Addis Ababa: “Veni! Vidi! Orator, Fugio!”

RELEASE BIRTUKAN MIDEKSSA AND ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS IN ETHIOPIA.


22 thoughts on “Veni, Vidi, Orator, Fugio!

  1. teyaqi on

    “He said he was able to win 99.6 percent of all seats in parliament by winning just a little over 50 percent of the vote for each seat.”

    Is this impossible?

  2. Balcha on

    Well, Professor, good thing you are not a math major. Actually, 50+0.1 = 100% is a good mathematical theorem proved, let’s say, by George Bush in 2000 (50%+ 537 votes= all 27 electoral votes in FL, which equals 100%), and by many presidential and parliamentarian elections through out the west. One would assume, at least, your history back ground should have thought you that. I think it was not meant to be. So, your drum beat was just nothing – but a drum beat. It’s singing to the choir. Please sir, try to listen what actually the PM said during his “20 minutes” speech and in his Q&A session. If you were a true Ethiopian, it was a moment to be proud of the fact that, at last, this great country of ours has produced such an eloquent and well respected person. But, I assume that stands between you and your narrow minded, ego centric and back ward thinking of yesterday. You said that the PM had said: He did not studied “gross national happiness” so you can make your next unfounded insult. What he said was – That he did not studied in depth this “new idea” but he went on to enumerate what he wished the gross national happiness of his people should look like. Very humble and intelligent response, indeed. As a Professor I would have thought you would appreciate such a response. The other weird thing is that while you say how there was not “free” thing in Ethiopia, you sight two peoples open letters from within Ethiopia as a proof of your twisted point. How do those things go together. One more thing – you did not critique his response about Birtukan – is that mean you are satisfied by his answer? Just wondering, you never know one can come to his consensus at any age. Nobody is too old to learn, that’s what I think. Oh one more thing, last I checked the Professor you are belittling was a nobel laureate unlike —–. Just let’s leave that at that. Good luck with your dream of getting free Oromo. For God’s sake, this 21st century to be so backward thinking!

  3. She Is Ethiopia on

    Alemayehu keep up the good job until we overthrow the Democratic Tyrant PM Meles Zenew’s Kingdom. The next Democratic Tyrant PM of Ethiopia would be the butcher’s wife, Azeb, till then she would keep stealing our famine stricken brothers and sisters aid wheat and oil.

  4. dfabachew on

    Is it magic or bluff. You guys if you are mathematicians would you please figure out how in the world you can arrive to 99.6%. When it illiteracy weyane is full of it. May be one of those tegadalites when he was supposed to read 66.9% he might have read it otherwise. Meles from the bottom of his heart wanted to cheat with a lower number. Thanks to this illiterate tegadalite he read the number up side down.

  5. I appreciate you brought the issue of Julius Caesar in your commentary. Emperor Zenawi is emulating the 2000 years old art of tyrany in Ethiopia. Take the parliament, judiciary, and the rule of law Zenawi is mocking every day in Ethiopia. The similarity is very astonishing.

  6. negede on

    Balcha! You telling us 50+0.1=100% ? I thought it is 60%. dfabachew is right they read it as 66.9%.

  7. I see a wide gap in our engagement with Meles. We seem to be good in exposing the bad and the ugly but very slow or dead in acknowledging the not bad. As I said last, we are excellent in organizing to destroy bad/evil systems but failures in building or preserving anything sustainable.

    However, I congratulate Prof. Al-Mariam for supporting Meles to speak at Columbia albeit very late. One day before the event is still better than never. 

    Another late comer for Meles was Obama’s remark at MDG summit “And it’s the force that has allowed emerging African countries like Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique to defy the odds and make real progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals”

    On the ER post Sachs and Stiglitz – in their own words we find Sachs saying the following “What you observe in the health sector (the miserable state of clinics and hospitals, the lack of medicines, etc.) is what you would observe in any impoverished country in sub-Saharan Africa. I have visited hundreds of such places, in Ethiopia and many other countries, and devoted my efforts to doing something about it. Your claim that this is the result of Ethiopia’s corruption or authoritarianism is an incorrect inference. Please visit Mali, or rural Tanzania, or rural Senegal or Malawi, and you will witness the same: the massive and disastrous effects of extreme poverty on human health.”

    IMO, not just denouncing everything but seriously looking into critical observations of Prof. Sachs, Obama and others is what we need.

  8. negede on

    Well Balcha! you telling us 50+0.1=100%?
    and you insult the professor? actually 50%+0.1= 60%. I think dfabachew is right woyanes read it as 66.9%. Do the math before u say something.

  9. Abiye Teklemariam on

    I wrote on Addis Neger Online about the 99.6% win. It is theoretically possible, but bizarre.

    Explaining the 99.6% win
    (http://addisnegeronline.com/2010/05/explaining-the-99-63-win/)

    There are no two ways about it. Winning 99.6% of parliamentary seats in any elections is bizarre. It is intuitive to start with the assumption that something must have gone wrong. But bizarre doesn’t mean impossible. Ethiopia’s electoral system is called First-Past-The-Post. A number of democratic countries including the UK and Canada follow this system. FPTP is based on Single-Member-District-Plurality (SMDP). In this system, each voter has a single vote to cast for a single candidate in his/her own constituency. Although proponents of FPTP have a lot of legitimate arguments for preferring it to other electoral mechanisms, the system has a number of glaring drawbacks. French political sociologist Maurice Duverger pointed out most of the statistical and tactical problems of FPTP.

    One of the most controversial aspects of FPTP is that its index of distortion is high, i.e., it exaggerates a win or a loss because of its winner-takes-all principle. In 2005, the Labour Party in the UK won 40.7% of the seats in parliament, overperforming its popular vote by more than 5% (the index of distortion). In the same elections, the Liberal Democrats underperformed their popular vote by nearly 4%. Labour’s popular vote margin of 13.2% over the LibDems produced a parliamentary seats share difference of 22.4%. This is in fact a very average index of distortion in FPTP. In Ontario’s provincial elections in 2003, the Liberals won 70% of the seats with just 46% of the vote, a high 24% index of distortion. In elections 2005, the CUD won 100% of Addis Ababa’s share of parliamentary seats with roughly 80% of the popular vote ( ID = 20%).

    We can imagine more absurd scenarios. In a simplified two-party competition, the most supported political party can win all seats with a popular vote win that equals to the number of constituencies if that lead is uniformly distributed. In fact, other things being equal, the probability of parties sweeping seats with just mid-single digits popular vote margins is fairly high because in probability combinatorics the binomial distribution is highly concentrated about its mean. What if these weren’t the first elections? If there were elections prior to the present elections, it is possible to assume – even in political systems with fierce party loyalties – that the second most popular party may lose all the seats it had gained in the previous elections to the most popular party in these elections if floating voters break decisively to one side.

    So why have we never seen the absurd scenario of 100% or near total seat wins in elections in democratic countries? It has to do with the high correlation between voting intention and area. Voting intention is a function of different variables. One of them is voting preference. Voting preference is in turn a function of wide ranging factors: age, education, class, race, ethnicity, level of urbanization, gender etc. Studies have showed that due to various internal social dynamics, people with the same voting preferences tend to congregate in the same areas, giving political parties solid areal base of support. In addition to this, regional voting preference differences arise from the inevitable dissimilarities in the nature and characteristics of discourse in different social settings as well as people’s perceptions about their regions and their own well-being. Add calculated redistricting and gerrymandering, you find deeply entrenched regional splits of voting. Even in the very rare case that voting preferences are evenly distributed throughout a state, regional information asymmetry leads to differences in voting intentions.

    Ethiopia is no exception to these well-documented voting variation patterns. If anything, the regional voting differences are starker than in many countries. If we analyze the 2005 election data disregarding some anomalous numbers, the regional distribution differences become very clear. Here are some examples. In Guraghe zone, CUD won 10 of the 13 Woredas. EPRDF won just three. It was able to win Gumer 1 because CUD candidate withdrew from the contest a day before the elections and only EPRDF supporters got out to vote (Turnout 19%). If we ignore that number, CUD got 83% of the Guraghe Zone’s share of parliamentary seats, leading Meles Zenawi to come up with the now infamous “dependency analysis”. By contrast, in Keffa EPRDF won all the seven Woredas. If we had taken the three contested election numbers in that zone and given them all to the opposition (which is not a fair allocation), EPRDF would still have won Keffa. These sort of zonal differences in voting patterns were exhibited throughout the country in 2005. Anyone who has read the history of Ethiopia and the last 40 years of its politics would have a very hard time imagining congruence of voting preferences, say, between West Shewa and West Gojjam, or between Hadya and Tigray. Prime Minister Meles himself admitted as much in the aftermath of the elections five years ago.

    Even if there is a regional voting preference variation, it doesn’t necessarily follow that if the variation is low in a given election x, the results aren’t legitimate. The link between regions and voting breaks if the right parties don’t compete in the regions where they have strong electoral base. Theoretically speaking, the fact that CUD won some regions in landslides five years couldn’t guarantee Medrek of success this year even if CUD isn’t competing. I don’t buy the argument that votes for the opposition parties always mean votes of no confidence for EPRDF. There is more to a voter choosing CUD over UEDF than an anti-EPRDF sentiment. Even taking this into account, the results of this month’s elections seemed hard to explain. There were still some right parties competing in the right regions. Take West Shewa. Merrara Gudina’s ONC won 14 out of 15 Woredas in 2005. The party competed in the same place this year- albeit with a different name – and lost all seats.

    In a previous article, I suggested that voters might elect EPRDF even in the traditional opposition strongholds to avoid punishment by the party they knew would continue to govern them despite their vote. Yet my argument may explain a total swing away from some of the opposition parties in their constituencies only if there were coordinated public moves. Such actions were unlikely to happen. So what explains the results? However hard I tried to think through some of the arguments by EPRDF’s supporters, I couldn’t help but think that the best explanation is that there was substantial amount of vote rigging. The decision by the Election Board not to release the detailed data has only strengthened my view.

    Here is a difficult question to answer: if there was vote rigging, what is in it for EPRDF to win a hard to explain 99.6% of parliamentary seats? Messay Kebede tries to provide an answer here, but I find them unconvincing. EPRDF could have achieved the goals Messay mentioned without turning the outcomes of the election into Sadam Hussien style fiasco and utterly embarrass its international backers. An 88% win for EPRDF and a defeat for the big guns of Medrek would still consolidate the one-party authoritarianism but save EPRDF from frustrating and antagonizing its allies. My own theory is that this is a case of election rigging running amok and surprising the riggers themselves.

    http://addisnegeronline.com/2010/05/explaining-the-99-63-win/

  10. Dfabachew, #4, here is how you get to 99.6% -whatever that number represents. Total seats to be had 547 (T), seats won by the other opposition 2 (O), seats won by EPRDF 545 (W= T-O). Now, if “T” represents 100% of the seats, then “W” equals, in terms of winning percentage, (W/T)*100%. This simple arithmetic will yield (545/547)=0.996343692870211 multiply that by 100%, da da, you have the magical number 99.6% !!!!!!!!! Perhaps you missed that math class to attend a better CLASS. I’m assuming that, at least, you did attend the next class where the teacher were talking about rounding up numbers. Thank you, for letting me stoop to your level of argument. So, before you look down on people, you better know your numbers first. In a forum where you can be constructive, you chose to be arrogant. That in turn scares the hell lot out of me. This is how all you EPRDF haters think. Unless you rise above and beyond your current level of pettiness – the Ethiopian people will have no problem to see you at that. Then, the second best option will never have a problem getting that high percentage of seats either. Hate doesn’t get you no where. We all should be in it together. Thanks to you and your cohorts – you are making me sound as if I’m a big fun of theirs. And trust you me – I am not alone on that front. Let’s talk what’s important to the development of our people with out this smoke screen. The ball is yours!

  11. Minyaregal on

    Teyaqi and Balcha,
    Yes it is impossible to get 99.6% by doing Meles claims he did.

    You see, is is also the same in the United States and democractic countries all over the world. In the US, democrats and republicans fight for 100 senatorial seats and 435 or so congressional seats. If either party wins even 60% of the seats, it will be a rare event, as happened only a few times in American history.

    Besides, Meles is claiming to have won 99.6% of the seats in a country where he lost perhaps 90% of the seats in the 2005 election in the country as a whole, and 100% of all the seats in Addis Ababa. Even Jesus with all his might will not be able to win back all these seats in a matter of 5 years, especially in an evnironment where Meles had to kill hundreds of innocent kids, and arrest and torture tens of thousands of them. In a free environment, Meles, let alone win 99.6% of the seats, he should have been sent to the gallows or the guillotin.

    So Teyaqi/Balcha, your questions are that of YE LEBA AYNE DERREK MELISO LIB YADRIKQ! Be honest with your self and don’t waste peoples’ time.

  12. Former Ethiopian cadets stranded in Kyrgyzstan

    By PETER LEONARD (AP) – 2 days ago TOKMOK, Kyrgyzstan —

    Softly singing along to the wistful strains of Ethiopian music, Haymanot Tesgaye and his friends are transported back to their homeland in Africa, far from this Central Asian nation where they have been stranded for two decades. Over that time, the men have withstood horrific racial abuse and struggled to piece together a living — testament to the ways in which lives are irrevocably changed when empires and regimes crumble. Tesgaye, once an aspiring fighter pilot, was one of 80 Ethiopian cadets sent to a Soviet military training facility in the remote republic of Kyrgyzstan in 1989 to master the art of flying combat aircraft. “At that time in Ethiopia there was a military government, and because of an agreement between the Soviet Union and Ethiopia, they used to train pilots for the country’s air force,” Tesgaye explained. Within two years, both the Soviet Union and Ethiopia’s Marxist regime had collapsed, forcing the cadets to think carefully about their options for their future in a strange and foreign land. Almost 20 years later, still fearing reprisals back home for the small role he played in the brutal rule of deposed Marxist leader Mengistu Haile Mariam, Tesgaye is marooned here — a world away from a family that has grown older without him. Some of the Ethiopians found ways to leave in the early days, emigrating or seeking asylum, while others risked returning home. A few that stayed behind were murdered. Only nine of them now remain in Kyrgyzstan and they form a tight-knit group, meeting often to eat familiar food, sing old songs and reminisce. Listening to silky, free-flowing Ethiopian jazz, Tesgaye fights back the tears, overcome with yearning for a real home. “When I hear this, I lose myself. I am in the air without a compass and I don’t where I am going,” Tesgaye said. “Especially now for us … I don’t have the words to explain this, it’s from here,” he said, pointing to his heart. Some of the Ethiopians eke out a living as taxi drivers in Tokmok, the small town that once housed the military base. A model of an Ilyushin-28 bomber still stands on a pedestal by the side of the main road to remind motorists passing through this sleepy and dusty spot of its aviation past. But the former training area, just a short walk from Tesgaye’s cramped Soviet-era apartment, is now a desolate waste ground overrun by weeds and trash. Kyrgyzstan is a rich blend of diverse ethnic groups, including Uzbeks, Russians, Koreans, Germans and Meskhetian Turks. But ethnic relations are often problematic, as best shown by devastating ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and minority ethnic Uzbeks earlier this year that claimed hundreds of lives, mainly among Uzbeks, and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. While tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks are a symptom of historic grievances over land and power, the kind of widespread intolerance that the Ethiopians and many other African men have had to endure in Kyrgyzstan stems from incomprehension and ignorance. Upon first arriving in Tokmok, when Tesgaye and his companions ventured outside the confines of the garrison, the prevailing reaction was bewilderment. “At that time, people in the Soviet Union, in Kyrgyzstan, thought that we were rich … and if they met us outside the garrison they wanted to get something from us,” Tesgaye said. Curiosity soon turned into something harder, however, and when they lost the protection of their military hosts, attacks and abuse became commonplace. Tales of abysmal intimidation and violence are told with disarming lightness, as though they have become so common that their gravity no longer registers. Another former cadet, Nassir Dyde, tells of a fellow countrymen called Haptam who was savagely beaten to death by the relatives of a girlfriend with whom he had broken up. “When the police found him they couldn’t bring themselves to touch his body, because of his skin, so they summoned us to take him to the morgue,” Dyde said. “They didn’t even want to wash his body down, so we did it ourselves.” Dyde then showed the multiple scars across his own body where he has been stabbed or beaten. Tens of thousands of Africans also went to Russia during Soviet times, most to study at universities. Thousands have stayed, including some more recent arrivals. Most stay because they fear for their safety in their home country, for instance if there is a war, while others stay for economic reasons, said Valence Maniragena, a native of Rwanda who heads a nongovernmental organization called Ichumbi, which helps Africans in St. Petersburg, Russia. Africans face discrimination and abuse in Russia, and some have been killed in racist attacks, but Maniragena said the situation has improved somewhat in recent years. In Uzbekistan, a populous country west of Kyrgyzstan, thousands of Afghans are experiencing a similar predicament, living in a state of limbo since the fall of the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan in 1992. While yearning to go abroad, the former Ethiopian cadets have largely resigned themselves to their fate and some, like Tesgaye, have married local women and had children. “When we walked down the street, people driving past used to wind down their windows to stare or spit at us, but we walked proudly with our child,” said Dilnara Tesgaye, after serving out platefuls of a tangy Ethiopian lentil dish she learned how to make from her husband. The cruel irony in the Ethiopians’ plight is that hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz people forced to travel to Russia in search of work themselves face frequent verbal and physical abuse at the hands of racists. Sisay Wondumagnehu, another Ethiopian who came to Tokmok to train to fly the Soviet-made Mi-8 helicopter, said they have repeatedly tried to seek asylum, but have failed every time. “I would like to go another country, but I have no way out, and so here I am.” Associated Press Writer Irina Titova in St. Petersburg, Russia, contributed to this report.

    Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

  13. Ittu Aba Farda on

    Brother Elias:
    Thank you for letting the comment by Balcha ride on this page. It shows how and where he got his material from. When you read his comment word by word and line by line, you will get this sense of a half-literate dictation wrought with misspellings and poor construction. It is a healthier conversation though. I refrain myself from calling him a paid collaborator because I have no evidence on hand about that. In the meantime, I would like to ask him a few questions regarding Mr. Meles (Mr. Goon to me).
    1) What measures were taken by Meles regime about the killings of 193 unarmed and mostly peaceful demonstrators in post-2005 election? Was there anyone investigated and brought to justice for excesses?
    2) Does he think that proven incidences where members of the opposition were mugged, harassed, shot to death and forced to flee the country was all hoax perpetrated by ‘Shabia’ in collision with the EU and US State Department?
    3) Does he think the harassment and persecution of members of the private media is (was) non-existent and all fabrications concocted again by Mengistu’s cronies in collaboration with Hillary Clinton, Ana Gomes, The EU, US State Department and Shabia?

  14. This admonition to the ungodly is explained by a picture of the separation which will be effected by the day of judgment. “For behold the day cometh burning like a furnace, and all the proud and every doer of wickedness become stubble, and the coming day will burn them, saith Jehovah of hosts, so that it will not leave them root or branch. But to you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise and healing in its wings, and ye will go out and skip like stalled calves and will tread down the ungodly, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I create, saith Jehovah of hosts.” The day of judgment will be to the ungodly like a burning furnace. “A fire burns more fiercely in a furnace than in the open air”. The ungodly will then resemble the stubble which the fire consumes point back to. Those who are called blessed by the murmuring nation will be consumed by the fire, as stubble is burned up, and indeed all who do wickedness, and therefore the murmurers themselves. The figure “root and branch” is borrowed from a tree – the tree is the ungodly mass of the people – and denotes total destruction, so that nothing will be left of them. To the righteous, on the other hand, the sun of righteousness will arise. Tsedâqâh is an epexegetical genitive of apposition. By the sun of righteousness the fathers and nearly all the earlier commentators understand Christ, who is supposed to be described as the rising sun, like Jehovah; and this view is founded upon a truth, viz., that the coming of Christ brings justice and salvation. Tsedâqâh ጽድቀት, again, is not justification or the forgiveness of sins for there will be no forgiving of sins on the day of judgment, but God will then give to every man reward or punishment according to his works. Tsedâqâh is here, what it frequently is in Isaiah, righteousness in its consequences and effects, the sum and substance of salvation. Malachi uses tsedâqâh, righteousness, instead of salvation, with an allusion to the fact, that the ungodly complained of the absence of the judgment and righteousness of God, that is to say, the righteousness which not only punishes the ungodly, but also rewards the good with happiness and salvation. The sun of righteousness has healing, in its wings. The wings of the sun are the rays by which it is surrounded, and not a figure denoting swiftness. As the rays of the sun spread light and warmth over the earth for the growth and maturity of the plants and living creatures, so will the sun of righteousness bring the healing of all hurts and wounds which the power of darkness has inflicted upon the righteous. Then will they go forth from the holes and caves, into which they had withdrawn during the night of suffering and where they had kept themselves concealed, and skip like stalled calves which are driven from the stall to the pasture. And not only will those who fear God be liberated from all oppression, but they will also acquire power over the ungodly. They will tread down the wicked, who will then have become ashes, and lie like ashes upon the ground, having been completely destroyed by the fire of the judgment. “Remember ye the law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded him upon Horeb for all Israel, statutes and rights in the books of Isaiah, the twelve prophets, the Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes, the last verse but one of these books was to be repeated when they were read in the church. Behold, I send you Elijah ኢልያስ the prophet before the day of Jehovah comes, the great and terrible one. And he will turn the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers, that I may not come and smite the land with the curse. The admonition, “Remember ye the law of Moses”. Moses urges upon the people the observance of the law, and also mentions Horeb as the place where the law was given. The whole of the admonition forms an antithesis to the rebuke that from the days of their fathers they went away from the ordinances of Jehovah. These they are to be mindful to observe, that the Lord when He comes may not smite the land with the ban. In order to avert this curse from Israel, the Lord would send the prophet Elijah before His coming, for the purpose of promoting a change of heart in the nation. The identity of the prophet Elijah with the messenger whom the Lord would send before Him, is universally acknowledged where the sending of David the king as the true shepherd of Israel is promised. Just as in these passages we cannot think of the return or resurrection of the David who had long been dead; but a king is meant who will reign over the nation of God in the mind and spirit of David; so the Elijah to be sent can only be a prophet with the spirit or power of Elijah the Tishbite. The second David was indeed to spring from the family of David, because to the seed of David there had been promised the eternal possession of the throne. The prophetic calling, on the other hand, was not hereditary in the prophet’s house, but rested solely upon divine choice and endowment with the Spirit of God; and consequently by Elijah we are not to understand a lineal descendant of the Tishbite, but simply a prophet in whom the spirit and power of Elijah are revived. But the reason why this prophet Elijah is named is to be sought for, not merely in the fact that Elijah was called to his work as a reformer in Israel at a period which was destitute of faith and of the true fear of Jehovah, and which immediately preceded a terrible judgment, but also and more especially in the power and energy with which Elijah rose up to lead back the ungodly generation of his own time to the God of the fathers. The one does not exclude but rather includes the other. The greater the apostasy, the greater must be the power which is to stem it, so as to rescue those who suffer themselves to be rescued, before the judgment bursts over such as are hardened is to lead back the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers. The meaning of this is not that he will settle disputes in families, or restore peace between parents and children; for the leading sin of the nation at the time of our prophet was not family quarrels, but estrangement from God. The fathers are rather the ancestors of the Israelitish nation, the patriarchs, and generally the pious forefathers, such as David and the godly men of his time. The sons or children are the degenerate descendants of Malachi’s own time and the succeeding ages. “The hearts of the godly fathers and the ungodly sons are estranged from one another. The bond of union, viz., common love to God, is wanting. The fathers are ashamed of their children, the children of their fathers”. This chasm between them Elijah is to fill up. Turning the heart of the fathers to the sons does not mean merely directing the love of the fathers to the sons once more, but also restoring the heart of the fathers, in the sons, or giving to the sons the fathers’ disposition and affections. Then will the heart of the sons also return to their fathers, turn itself towards them, so that they will be like-minded with the pious fathers. Elijah will thereby prepare the way of the Lord to His people, that at His coming He may not smite the land with the ban. The ban involves extermination. Whoever and whatever was laid under the ban was destroyed. This threat recalls to mind the fate of the Canaanites who were smitten with the ban. If Israel resembles the Canaanites in character, it will also necessarily share the fate of that people. The New Testament gives us a sufficient explanation of the historical allusion or fulfilment of our prophecy. The prophet Elijah, whom the Lord would send before His own coming, was sent in the person of John the Baptist. Even before his birth he was announced to his father by the angel Gabriel as the promised Elijah, by the declaration that he would turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the unbelieving to the wisdom of the just. This address of the angel gives at the same time an authentic explanation of our prophecy: the words “and the heart of the children to their fathers” being omitted, as implied in the turning of the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the explanatory words “and the unbelieving to the wisdom of the just” being introduced in their place; and the whole of the work of John, who was to go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, being described as “making ready a prepared people for the Lord.” The appearance and ministry of John the Baptist answered to this announcement of the angel, and is so described in that the allusion to our prophecy and the original passage is obvious at once. Even by his outward appearance and his dress John announced himself as the promised prophet Elijah, who by the preaching of repentance and baptism was preparing the way for the Lord, who would come after him with the winnowing shovel to winnow His floor, and gather the wheat into His granary, but who would burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Christ Himself also not only assured the people that John was the messenger announced by Malachi and the Elijah who was to come, but also told His disciples that Elijah, who was to come first and restore all things, had already come, though the people had not acknowledged him. When the messengers of the Sanhedrim came to John the Baptist to ask whether he was Elias, and he answered, “I am not,” he simply gave a negative reply to their question, interpreted in the sense of a personal reappearance of Elijah the Tishbite, which was the sense in which they meant it, but he also declared himself to be the promised forerunner of the Lord by applying to his own labours the prophecy contained in Isa 40:3. And as the prophet Elijah predicted by Malachi appeared in John the Baptist, so did the Lord come to His temple in the appearing of Jesus Christ. The day of the Lord, which they announce as the day of judgment, commenced with the appearance on earth of Christ, the incarnate Logos; and Christ Himself declared that He had come into the world for judgment viz., for the judgment of separating the believing from the ungodly, to give eternal life to those who believe on His name, and to bring death and condemnation to unbelievers. This judgment burst upon the Jewish nation not long after the ascension of Christ. Israel rejected its Saviour, and was smitten with the ban at the destruction of Jerusalem in the Roman war; and both people and land lie under this ban to the present day. And just as the judgment commenced at that time so far as Israel was concerned, so does it also begin in relation to all peoples and kingdoms of this earth with the first preaching of Christ among them, and will continue throughout all the centuries during which the kingdom spreads upon earth, until it shall be ultimately completed in the universal judgment at the visible second coming of the Lord at the last day. With this calling to remembrance of the law of Moses, and this prediction that the prophet Elijah will be sent before the coming of the Lord Himself, the prophecy of the Old Testament is brought to a close. After Malachi, no other prophet arose in Israel until the time was fulfilled when the Elijah predicted by him appeared in John the Baptist, and immediately afterwards the Lord came to His temple, that is to say, the incarnate Son of God to His own possession, to make all who received Him children of God, the segullâh of the Lord. Law and prophets bore witness of Christ, and Christ came not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them. Upon the Mount of Christ’s Transfiguration, therefore, there appeared both Moses, the founder of the law and mediator of the old covenant, and Elijah the prophet, as the restorer of the law in Israel, to talk with Jesus of His decease which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem for a practical testimony to the apostles and to us all, that Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for us, to bear our sin and redeem us from the curse of the law, was the beloved Son of the Father, whom we are to hear, that by believing in His name we may become children of God and heirs of everlasting life.

    ስድቅና፡ ኢልያስ፡ Retribution, Admonition to the Wicked and Glorification of the Righteous – Malachi

  15. Jegnaw Ethiopiawe on

    Melse and Woyane have been inflecting misery to Ethiopia for over 20 years now.and about gross national happiness to Ethiopia i doubt that will happen.but what is happening a gross ethnic looting at the expense of hungry,voiceless,jobless,hopeless Ethiopia.

  16. Balcha on

    Dear Mr. Ittu Aba Farda, thank you for allowing me to be posted and express myself. How nice of you. I also thank you for affording me with a the benefit of doubt of me being a paid woyene. If I were, trust me , I would carry that as a badge of honor. Nothing wrong as serving your own government and people. As to my grammar and sentence construction – well let me leave that as a cheap shot. I thought you had enough sense of my comment for you to counter comment. Isn’t that what’s all about in those forums? I can assure you that I made a good grade in all my english class exams as of late. In any case, you seem to be stack so much in the past you are unable to see the current happenings clearly. To find the answer to your questions you don’t need to go any farther than the relatively peaceful outcome of the election and its aftermath. That’s called a good governance – learning from your own mistakes and try to remedy them by taking the necessary steps. That’s what has happened as much as you wanted a blood bath. By the way, there were an investigation which took place in conjunction with the killings. If I am not mistaken – the EU participated in that exercise and put out a report of its findings. You obviously can google it – if you care. As to freedom of press, please try to pick up some of the papers in circulation and see how they mock and belittle the PM and his government and still survive to exist. The only people who had a problem are those who want to destabilize the country under the disguise of the free press. Well, if you still have a problem understanding my english, I promise to learn Eritregna (Arabic or Tigrigna) explicitly for you.

    Hahu (#11), your point is well taken. Nobody seems to contradict you so far – it takes a simplicity to silence some arrogant folks. Good job!

  17. Mot Baynor on

    Mr. Balcha,

    I appreciate your propagandas. All what you wrote is what you heard. Have you ever been in Ethiopia before the election 2010 and the feeling of the people. I am so sorry for you guys who feel that “We know what is enough for you”. As said by Shakspear “Little knowledge is very dangerous”, try to figure out what is there and the feeling and the psychology of the majority of Ethiopians than defending and fighting the forum attendants right here. Diros ke Qil ras min yitebekal. I left my home country last month because the likes of yours take over my mind and brain. They looted not only our material wealth but also our brain. But let me tell you one thing, our mothers are not dead and sterile, they will give a charismatic leader who can unite and go beyond the border of ethnic and village politics that your masters are baptized.

    Abo tewn eski,

    Best regards,
    you brother even though you don’t like me.

  18. Ittu Aba Farda on

    I have no problem with any dialogue that is civil and which can lead us all to a logical conclusion beneficial for the people back home. I have duly noticed your courage to come out and make your opinion known on this popular waterhole. I also highly commend Brother Elias for letting your comment ride on this website. I hope and pray that such fairness to ideas and opinions will come to be the norm back in our old country someday in the near future. The rule of the law of the land will someday protect anyone who chooses to differ in a non-violence way. Rule of law is the ultimate weapon that will protect a society from ruining itself. The neutrality of the judicial system should be guaranteed to all airtight, no leaks or no preference. Transparencies in all aspects (except family and personal lives) of those in public service should be applied to all with no hindrance. Their earnings, business ties and any conflict of interest must be known to the public at large and any flagrance must be dealt with according to the law of the land. Correct me if I am wrong that you are telling me all these are happening right now back home including there are no prisoners who are declared prisoners of conscience by international human rights organizations including the EU and the US State Department.
    Also, you mentioned about Brother AL GM is striving for a free Oromia as such that he is a secessionist. Do you have any evidence about that? I don’t know him personally but I am very curious about where you came up with that kind conclusion about it. Anyway, I would like to see Oromia free also. But my vision of free is justified when it shared by all. I want Brothers like Elias from Amhara, any Hagos from Tigray, any Farah from Somali, any Mirah from Afar and any one from other nationalities to join my Oromo people in free lives. They will accept of the fact that I am proud of my Oromo heritage and I am 100% in league with them for being proud of their own national heritage. They can come and live with me and I can go and live with them in peace and harmony. Nation bashing on what happened 100-150 years ago will not further the accord to benefit the people. It will only perpetuate any undercurrent hatred supplanted by narrow nationalists and chauvinists. So are you sure AL GM is a narrow nationalist turncoat that I(We) should all despise?

  19. dfabachew on

    HAILU #11 You are really a good weyane mathematician. Do you think such a complicate election use your hahu formula? What do you mean “thanks bla, bla”. You are dedebit’s professional or may be some kind of hodam who cries every time woyane is made fun of. You said “it will take us nowhere unless—“. Sir we are going back wards. Thanks to your heroes the tegadalite. Ethiopia can not go no where with goons like you.

  20. Dfabachew, it’s ok to choose to be dumb. You can’t even make a distinguishen between Hahu and Hailu. If you can’t read that, then any math is over your head. So, go back to the parking place. I have the feeling you came from the Meserte Timhirt era. Whether “such a complicate election” or not the rules of mathematics remain the same – dedeb! Mengistu ain’t coming back Defatam!

  21. Jegnaw Ethiopiawe on

    #11 HAHU you said let as talk with out the smoke screen. but i think you are the smoke screen for Woyane and Ethiopia will be better of with out Wayne that will remove the smoke screen thank you……..

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