Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

Egypt uprising escalates, protesters defy curfew

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Latest Developments
Mubarak deploys the army to enforce a curfew
Police pulls back
Protesters defy curfew, burned down ruling party’s headquarters
Internet sites shut down
Egypt Air cancels flights

CAIRO (Reuters) – President Hosni Mubarak sent troops and armored cars onto the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities on Friday in an attempt to quell street fighting and mass protests demanding an end to his 30-year rule.

Mubarak declared a night-time curfew firstly in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, the epicenter of demonstrations in the last four days, then extended it to all cities. Demonstrators stayed on the streets in defiance of security forces, some mounting armored cars, cheering and waving flags.

Medical sources said 870 protesters had been wounded on a day that saw security forces using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds n running battles. Some were in a serious condition with bullet wounds.

The demonstrations involving tens of thousands of people were the biggest and bloodiest in four consecutive days of protests by people fed up with unemployment, poverty, corruption and the lack of freedom under Mubarak.

Protesters hurled stones at police and shouted “Down, Down, Hosni Mubarak.”

“This protest is not going to stop. They won’t and can’t trick the people again and give us some lame concessions. Hosni has to go,” protester Mohamed Taha in Hussein said after fleeing a police attack.

“I am 70 years old, I am going to die, but these people have to fight to live,” he said.

The unrest in Egypt, which has raised fears of instability in other authoritarian Middle Eastern countries, hit global financial markets. Investors turned to the dollar and U.S. Treasuries as safe havens, while stocks fell around the world and crude oil prices rose.

Friday evening marked the first time the army had been put onto the streets. It was not immediately clear what role it would play or how troops would react to the protesters.

“According to what some provinces witnessed in terms of riots, lawlessness, looting, destruction, attack and burning of public and private property including attacks on banks and hotels, President Hosni Mubarak decreed a curfew as a military ruler,” state TV said.


As darkness fell, tracked armored cars took up positions in key cities.

“The armed forces started to deploy forces in the governorates of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez as a first stage in implementing the decree…imposing a curfew starting from 6 p.m.,” the official news agency reported.

Some 2,000-3,000 people thronged around a military vehicle near Cairo’s Tahrir square, a Reuters witness said. They climbed on it, shaking hands with the soldiers, and chanted: “The army and the people are united” and “The revolution has come.”

Shots were heard near parliament and TV showed the headquarters of the ruling party in flames, the blaze lighting up the night sky. Al Arabiya television said protesters forced their way into the state television building

In the eastern city of Suez, site of the strategically crucial canal, armored cars deployed in front of the charred remains of a police station, a Reuters witness said.

Dozens of protesters climbed on the military vehicles in Suez. They talked to soldiers who attempted to wave them off.

The unrest was triggered by the overthrow two weeks ago of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Al Ben Ali in an uprising that has also inspired anti-government protests in Yemen and elsewhere.

The events pose a quandary for the United States, which has professed its wish for democracy to spread across the Middle East. Mubarak, however, has been a close Washington ally for many years and the recipient of huge amounts of military aid.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. government was deeply concerned by the violence used by the security forces against the protesters and she urged the government to restrain them. Protesters should be allowed to express themselves peacefully, she said.

Snatch squads of plain clothes security men dragged off suspected ringleaders. At the Fatah mosque in central Ramses Square, several thousand people were penned in and teargassed.

Protesters often quickly dispersed and regrouped.

Some held banners saying: “Everyone against one” and chanted “Peaceful peaceful peaceful, no violence.” Others threw shoes at and stamped on posters of Mubarak. As clashes intensified, police waded into the crowds with batons and fired volleys of tear gas.

“Leave, leave, Mubarak, Mubarak, the plane awaits you,” people chanted.

Prominent activist Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Laureate, was briefly penned in by police after he prayed at a mosque in the Giza area but he later took part in a peaceful march with supporters. Arabiya television said later police had “asked” him to stay home but this could not be confirmed.


In some parts of Cairo, protests were peaceful. Dozens of people prayed together on one road. In Giza, on the city outskirts, marchers shook hands with the police who let them pass peacefully.

It is far from a foregone conclusion that the protesters will force Mubarak out. They face two key challenges, said Amon Aran, a Middle East expert at London’s City University.

“One is the Egyptian security apparatus, which over the years has developed a vested interest in the survival of President Mubarak’s regime. This elaborate apparatus has demonstrated over the past few days that it is determined to crush political dissent,” he said.

“Another obstacle derives from the fact that, so far, the protesters do not seem to form a coherent political opposition. The popular outcry is loud and clear, but whether it can translate into a political force is questionable.”

Before Friday’s clashes, at least five people had been killed over the four days, one of them a police officer. Police have arrested several hundred people.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition group, including at least eight senior officials, were rounded up overnight. The government has accused the Brotherhood of planning to exploit the youth protests while it says it is being made a scapegoat.

Many protesters are young men and women. Two thirds of Egypt’s 80 million people are below the age of 30 and many have no jobs. About 40 percent of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day.

Egypt has been under emergency rule throughout Mubarak’s term in office. The government says it is used to combat terrorism. Critics say it is used to stifle any dissent.

Elections were due to be held in September and until now few had doubted that Mubarak would remain in control or bring in a successor in the shape of his 47-year-old son Gamal.

Father and son deny that Gamal is being groomed for the job.

The ‘domino effect’ in living color

Friday, January 28th, 2011

By Yilma Bekele

What is referred to at the domino effect is “a chain reaction that occurs when a small change causes a similar change nearby, which then cause another similar change, and so on in a linear sequence.” We are witnessing that phenomenon right now.

Fear of the domino effect is what got the US involved in Vietnam in the ‘60’s. When The Vietminh under Ho Chi Minh took over North Vietnam and established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam the US was convinced the communists will over run South Vietnam then continue on to Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and so on. The war was to arrest the Communist juggernaut. Whether it failed or was a success is a matter of interpretation.

A recent example of the fear of the domino effect is the bailout of the Banking system here in the US and Western Europe. The US Treasury came up with the term ‘too big to fail.’ It was felt that allowing a major bank to go bankrupt would start a chain reaction that will threaten the capitalist system, as we know it. The taxpayer was compelled to prop up the banks with no interest loans and a guarantee by the Federal Reserve to do what is necessary to protect the integrity of the system.

This last week the domino effect came home to roost in every capital city where freedom and civil rights have been put in the back burner. Our beautiful and brave friends in Tunisia started the ball rolling in a spectacular fashion. May the almighty bless Tunisians and their ancestors. The elegant system they devised to topple a tyrant of over twenty years was awe inspiring in its simplicity and ease of application. It was a work of art. They are still fine tuning their copy righted manual “Seven Easy Steps to Get Rid of A Tyrant©”

An ordinary citizen named Mohamed Bouaziz set himself on fire because he decided it was not worth living in such an environment. I have no idea if he saw the bigger implication of his one-person defiance. For whatever reason he did it for, his public immolation set the domino effect in motion. Let us just say tyrants everywhere are rethinking their future prospects. No matter what brave face they present or pretend to do business as usual Tunisia has scared the pants out of them.

There was no fighting force in Tunisia. There was no opposition party that seized the leadership. Religion was not a factor. There were no glaring signs that things were simmering. But in less than thirty days the eruption of dis-content engulfed a whole nation. In a blink of an eye el macho, full of himself, the leader for life, tyrant and bully Ben Ali was stripped of his humanity.

It looks like Egypt is the next domino piece to fall. May be not. It really don’t matter, the foundation is showing cracks as big as Abbay gorge. Sooner or later it will crumble. As I write this, it is the third day of spontaneous protests and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for Mubarak and company. His son who was considered the heir apparent left for London with his wife and family. Now Mrs. Mubarak is reported to be in London too. I assume the tyrant of thirty years will join them soon enough. I will also venture to state that dictator Mubarak and family will settle in the US for the rest of their life in exile. Welcome fellow refugees.

Since I am in this euphoric mood may I predict the fall of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the demise of “The Leader”. For you not in the know, that is how they refer to Corporal Gaddafi of Libya to be followed by Saleh of Yemen. Even Lloyds of London will deny King Abdallah II and Colonel Gaddafi’s life insurance coverage.

With all this excitement twirling in North Africa and the Middle East it was strange to listen to Secretary of State Hillary Clintons advice to the Egyptian people. Reuters reported that “US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday urged all sides in Egypt to exercise restraint following street protests and said she believed the Egyptian government was stable and looking for ways to respond to its people’s aspirations.”

It sounds familiar to Ethiopians. In the aftermath of the 2005 elections the US and European Diplomats were urging Kinijit to show restraint. It is sort of strange advice after her forceful statement congratulating the Tunisian people. It would not be surprising if the Department of State condemns the abuse of power by former President Mubarak and his associates of course after his downfall. It is not only dictatorships that refuse to learn, super powers are short sighted too.

With all this drama around us, it is not asking a lot to see if we can learn a few lessons so we can make our transformation less painful. The last two times we tried this game of change we sort of stumbled and fell hard. Let us hope the third time it will be a charm.

We have a lot in common with both Tunisia and Egypt. All our leaders have abused their welcome by twenty years and over. The regimes are based on single party rule. Opposition is not tolerated. They speak the language of democracy and emerging economies. They trade heavily with the current currency of being anti terrorism. They are favored by both the IMF and the World Bank. The youth unemployment hovers 30% and more. No matter how much rosy picture the IMF and their propaganda machines paint, the reality is their economy has stagnated. It cannot support the aspirations of the people.

Compared to the two, Ethiopia is a little different. We are lot poorer. Ethiopia is still a peasant society. Communication like Internet, Television, and Radio are deliberately suppressed. Our leader understands knowledge is power. In Ethiopia there is a Communications Department that oversees what is being said and printed in the country.

In both Tunisia and Egypt what is being called ‘Social Media’ played a big role in the citizens ability to be informed and organize. Facebook and twitter are the new heroes. That is what we lack in Ethiopia. The Meles regime was aware of the power of information and suppressed the media. The 2005 general elections proved to Meles and company the danger of even a half free press.

But we are innovative people. We will always find a way out. We created ESAT. I know Voice of America and Deutche Welle are doing an excellent job of informing our people. But ESAT is different. ESAT is you and I. It is the result of our own labor and sweat. It is accountable to no one but us. ESAT is our Facebook and twitter. The TPLF regime knows that. They will spare no amount of expenses to shut ESAT down. They have done it once. They will try again. We will deny them that pleasure.

You know how we do that? We make ESAT strong. We make ESAT independent. We contribute to make ESAT to have the best capability to inform our people. It is easy. Go to and you can give using pay pal, bank transfer or just call them. It is not how much you give. That is not the issue. It is all about building from scratch and encouraging the best in us. There is no point feeling good about Tunisia and hoping for Egypt. We can help them by contributing our share of liberating our corner of the world. Go to and give your share. It could be ten dollars or a thousand but what matters is you gave. Are you up to the challenge?

Revolution against dictators spreads to Yemen (video)

Friday, January 28th, 2011

The revolution that has started in the north African nation of Tunisia against entrenched dictators has now spread to Egypt and Yemen. Ethiopia’s genocidal junta also faces an imminent uprising, and reportedly many of the ruling party officials have already taken most of their looted money out of the country. The following is a video report by AP about mass protest in Yemen today.

Egypt, Yemen Protests Unnerve U.S. Officials

(ABC) — The spark was lit in Tunisia, where protests led to the ouster of strongman president Ben Ali. But now, just across the continent, Egypt is on fire, and for Americans that could pose a huge problem.

The tens of thousands of protesters are trying to bring down the man who has held power in Egypt for 30 years, President Hosni Mubarak. They want better living conditions.

But for the U.S., alarm bells are sounding. Egypt is one of the strongest U.S. allies in the Arab world, supporting a Mideast peace process and fighting terrorism.

“If the Egyptian government falls, then all bets are off throughout the region,” said David Bender, an analyst with the Eurasia Group.

“Whatever government comes next is likely to be more suspicious, if not outright hostile, but certainly more suspicious of the U.S. than the current regime,” Bender said.

Today, President Obama reiterated his support for Egypt, but urged peaceful reform.

“Egypt’s been an ally of ours on a lot of critical issues,” Obama said at a YouTube town hall. “President Mubarak has been very helpful on a range of tough issues in the Middle East. But I’ve always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform — political reform, economic reform — is absolutely critical to the long-term well being of Egypt.

“My main hope right now is that violence is not the answer in solving these problems in Egypt,” Obama said. “So the government has to be careful about not resorting to violence, and the people on the streets have to be careful about not resorting to violence.”

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley also gently urged government reform.

“We want to see political, economic and social reform that opens up the opportunity for Egyptian people, just as the people of other countries, to more significantly influence who will lead their country in the future and the direction of that country and the opportunities generated in that country,” Crowley said Thursday.

The United States is not only worried about Egypt as the chorus of discontent spreads. Now, it’s crossed the water and the deserts to Yemen, where today thousands of protesters were calling for their president to step down.

“Yemen presents one of the most difficult policy problems for the U.S. right now,” Bender said. “On one hand, the regime is a strong ally of U.S. in the fight against terrorism. … For the U.S., ensuring Yemeni stability is one of the most important policy goals going forward.”

Yemen is a growing training ground for al Qaeda and is the home of Anwar al-Alawki, the man considered every bit as dangerous — if not more — than Osama bin Laden. He helped the failed Christmas Day bomber, inspired the Times Square bomber, and has called for more attacks on Americans. Bombs discovered on board cargo planes last October also came from Yemen.

Yemeni troops are going after al Qaeda, but that is at risk if the government is overthrown in the poverty stricken nation.

“The fear is that the Yemeni government collapses and suddenly Yemen becomes an absolute mess,” Bender said.

“It’s a place with little political order once the central government were to fall,” Bender said. “You have AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula]. You have a complex tribal structure, rebels in the north, secessionsists in the south.

“I think the fear is that this would simply fall apart and, of course, you have Somalia right across the water,” Bender added. “And the idea of having two chaotic states in the same place makes policy makers rightly very nervous.”

Yemen’s Opposition Goes to Code Pink

By J. DAVID GOODMAN and NADA BAKRI | The New York Times

The protesters who filled the streets of Sana, the Yemeni capital, on Thursday demanding the resignation of the country’s authoritarian leader claimed inspiration from similar large antigovernment protests that have rattled Egypt and toppled the government in Tunisia this month.

Yemen people rise up

But among the details distinguishing these marchers — including a higher degree of organization and, at least for now, no major clashes — was the preponderance of pink. Headbands, sashes, banners of cloth or paper, even the ink of the blaring slogans were a delicate pastel pink.

The color — commonly associated in the United States with breast cancer awareness and princess outfits — was both a unifying symbol and an indication of the level of planning underlying the protests.

Weeks ago, as the Tunisian protests were still escalating, a committee of the Joint Meeting Parties, an umbrella group of opposition parties that helped organize Thursday’s protests, settled on an escalating scale of protest colors.

Opposition lawmakers began by wearing purple hats and scarves to during sessions of Parliament. They moved, as planned, to pink for Thursday’s protest, choosing the color to represent love and to serve as a signal that the protests were peaceful, according to Shawki al-Qadi, a lawmaker and opposition figure.

The final stage of the color plan will be a strong, dark red, Mr. Qadi said, though he did not rule out other hues before that. He said the opposition had not yet decided what actions would correspond with the move to red, but insisted that the protests would remain peaceful.

Thursday’s demonstrations followed days of smaller protests by students and opposition groups calling for the removal of President Ali Abdallah Saleh, a strongman who has ruled this fractured country for more than 30 years and is a key ally of the United States in the fight against the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda.

Other colors appeared in photos of marches as well, but apart from the red, black and white of the country’s flag and scattered pockets of green, none dominated the march so much as pink.

The opposition parties may have had other considerations in mind as well when choosing from the softer side of the palate.

“Pastels in general have been chosen to avoid associations that come from primary colors that have already been linked to existing political movements or factions,” said Stacey Philbrick Yadav, a political science professor at Hobart & William Smith Colleges whose field research has focused on opposition parties in Yemen.

In the region, she said, strong associations can come with donning primary colors such as, in certain contexts, green for Islam or yellow for Hezbollah or black for ritual mourning, and the organizers may have sought to avoid any such connections.

“People are running out of colors,” said Professor Yadav.

U.S. urged Egypt not to block peaceful protests

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on Egypt’s dictator Mubarak to make reforms and not to block peaceful protests. A similar uprising is imminent in Ethiopia. It is NOT a matter of if, but when. When it happens, hopefully the U.S. Administration, unlike during the 2005 uprising, will be on the side of the people of Ethiopia, and not with its puppet Meles Zenawi. The following is an editorial by the New York Times.

Mr. Mubarak Is Put on Notice

EDITORIAL, The New York Times

We sympathize with the frustration and anger that is drawing tens of thousands of Egyptians into the streets of Cairo and other cities this week, the country’s largest demonstrations in years. Citizens of one of the Arab world’s great nations, they struggle with poverty — 40 percent live on less than $2 a day — rising food prices, unemployment and political repression.

Inspired by Tunisia’s so-called Jasmine Revolution, they are demanding a government that respects its citizens’ voices and is truly committed to improving their lives. Tunisia’s revolution should be a warning to all rulers who cling to power for too long and ignore their people’s demands. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt clearly hasn’t figured that out.

After huge demonstrations on Tuesday, Egypt outlawed public gatherings on Wednesday — but a large number of protestors defied the order and called again for Mr. Mubarak’s ouster. According to news reports, the protestors came from all social classes and ideologies.

As authoritarian governments often do, the one in Cairo is deluding itself about the causes for the unrest, which had left two protestors and one policeman dead. Officials blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement, which is formally banned but tolerated. Even if the Brotherhood had a role — the group denies it; the truth seems more complex — it is easy to understand why Egyptians are fed up.

Mr. Mubarak, 82 and in ill health, has been in power for three decades and is believed to be trying to fix it so his son Gamal can succeed him in elections expected later this year. Government projects that were supposed to benefit the poor only end up enriching the elite. Parliamentary elections in November were widely seen as fraudulent. Security forces, which beat and arrested hundreds of protestors, are widely seen as corrupt.

This is a delicate moment for the United States and Egypt, a crucial partner in Arab-Israeli peace efforts.

Mr. Mubarak may still have a chance to steer his country on a stable path without sacrificing it to extremist elements. That will require ordering security forces to exercise restraint against the protestors and — even more importantly — quickly offering Egyptians a credible, more democratic path forward.

President Obama was right to move beyond his predecessor’s “democracy” agenda built around military intervention and empty rhetoric. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called publicly on Mr. Mubarak to make reforms and not to block peaceful protests. The administration needs to persuade him to accept the legitimacy and urgency behind the protests and begin talking to opposition groups. Egypt needs change. A peaceful transition would be best for everyone.

EPPF founding member speaks out

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

A Founding member of the Ethiopian Peoples Patriotic Front (EPPF), Ato Melke Mengiste, has spoken out about the disappearance of several members and officials of his organization during a 3-hour discussion at Qale Ethiopian Forum on Sunday.  Ato Melke also discussed the current state of affairs inside EPPF. Listen the discussion below:


or Here:

Azeb Mesfin is squandering millions of dollars – ABC

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Azeb Mesfin, mother of corruptionA major newspaper based in Madrid, Spain, ABC Internacional, has reported that Azeb Mesfin, the wife of Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi is squandering the 1.2 billion euros her husband has stolen during the past two decades. (Read here)

The newspaper identifies Azeb Mesfin as one of the most wasteful wives of African leaders and accuses her of siphoning off millions of dollars.

Azeb is known among Ethiopians as the mother of corruption.

The other wives of African dictators the newspaper listed include Grace, the notorious wife of Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe, and Leila Trabelsi, the wife of the recently deposted Tunisian dictator Ben Ali.

Willard Hotel in DC cancels Woyanne meeting (photo)

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

WASHINGTON DC — Faced with protests by Ethiopians in the DC area, the luxurious Willard Hotel in Washington DC that is located a block away from the White House has canceled the meeting that was organized by Woyanne embassy this afternoon.

Ethiopians at Willard Hotel Washington DC stage protest against Woyanne junta reps Seyoum Mesfin and Girma Birru

Senior Woyanne junta officials Seyoum Mesfin and Girma Birru were scheduled to speak at the meeting with ruling party supporters in the Washington DC area.

Starting around 4:30 PM, several Ethiopians gathered to confront Seyoum and Girma, who have taken news posts as ambassadors to China (Seyoum) and Girma (United States), after looting and plundering Ethiopia for the past 20 years as ministers of foreign affairs and trade.

Around 5 PM, Willard Hotel management informed representatives of the demonstrators that the meeting has been canceled in the interest of both the hotel and the Woyanne officials.

At 6:Pm, after making sure that the Woyanne looters will not hold the scheduled meeting, the protesters dispersed.

Today’s outcome of the planned public meeting in Washington DC demonstrates how Ethiopians are making officials of the Woyanne ethnic apartheid junta unwelcomed every where. In Ethiopia, Woyanne is on borrowed time. Meles and Azeb will soon share room with Tunisia’s Ben Ali in Saudi Arabia.

Disappearances in Eritrea (interview)

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Founding and senior member of the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF), Ato Melke Mengiste, in an interview on Sunday with Netsanet LeEthiopia Radio in Washington DC, has expressed concern about the disappearance of Col. Tadese Muluneh, Ato Adane Mekuanent and several other former and current EPPF members.

Ato Melke also held a 3-hour discussion with over 300 Ethiopians at Qale Ethiopian Discussion Forum Sunday afternoon on the issue of the disappeared EPPF member, some of whom have reportedly been executed by Eritrean colonel, Fitsum Yisehak, who has been assigned to advise Ethiopian opposition groups in Eritrea. The discussion also examined cooperation between Ethiopian opposition groups and the government of Eritrea.

Listen to Ato Melke’s the interview with Netsanet Le Ethiopia’s interview below. [Forward to 30:00]

The interview with Qale Forum will be posted shortly.

Ben Ali’s friends (satire)

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Ethiopia’s tyrant Meles Zenawi and his wife Azeb (mother of corruption) may think that they have friends in Obama, Sarkozy and other Western leaders. Watch what happened to his friend in Tunisa, Ben Ali. The following video is satire, but it’s based on the truth. French President Sarkozy and all EU leaders rejected him when he was chased away by the people of Tunisia. In a couple of years, or may be even sooner, Meles will be facing the same fate. The countdown starts.

As African Tyrants Fall

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Alemayehu G. Mariam

The Invincible Dictators

Mohandas Karmachand Gandhi (The Mahatma or Great Soul) is today revered as a historical figure who fought against colonialism, racism and injustice. But he was also one of the greatest modern revolutionary political thinkers and moral theorists. While Nicolo Machiavelli taught tyrants how to acquire power and keep it through brute force, deceit and divide and rule, Gandhi taught ordinary people simple sure-fire techniques to bring down dictatorships. Gandhi learned from history that dictators, regardless of their geographic origin, cleverness, wealth, fame or brutality, in the end always fall: “When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it, always.”

Last week, it was Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s turn to fall, and for the Tunisian people to get some respite from their despair. In the dead of night, Ben Ali packed his bags and winged out of the country he had ruled with an iron fist for 23 years to take up residence in Saudi Arabia where he was received with open arms and kisses on the cheeks. (Uganda’s bloodthirsty dictator Idi Amin also found a haven in Saudi Arabia until his death in 2003 at age 80.) Ben Ali’s sudden downfall and departure came as a surprise to many within and outside Tunisia as did the sudden flight of the fear-stricken Mengistu Hailemariam in Ethiopia back in 1991. When push came to shove, Mengistu, the military man with nerves of steel who had bragged that he would be the last man standing when the going got tough, became the first man to blow out of town on a fast plane to Zimbabwe. Such has been the history of African dictators: When the going gets a little tough, the little dictators get going to some place where they can peacefully enjoy the hundreds of millions of dollars they have stolen and stashed away in European and American banks.

The end for Tunisia’s dictator (but not his dictatorship which is still functioning as most of his corrupt minions remain in the saddles of power) came swiftly and surprised his opponents, supporters and even his international bankrollers. President Obama who had never uttered a critical word about Ben Ali was the first to “applaud the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people” in driving out the dictator. He added, “We will long remember the images of the Tunisian people seeking to make their voices heard.” Those memorable images will be imprinted in the minds of all oppressed Africans; and no doubt they will heed the President’s words and drive out the continent’s dictators to pasture one by one.

After nearly a quarter century of dictatorial rule, few expected Ben Ali to be toppled so easily. He seemed to be in charge, in control and invincible. Many expected the 75 year-old Ben Ali to install his wife or son in-law in power and invisibly pull the puppet strings behind the throne. But any such plans were cut short on December 17, 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year old college graduate set himself on fire to protest the police confiscation of his unlicensed vegetable cart. Apparently, he was fed up paying “bakseesh” (bribe) to the cops. His death triggered massive public protests led by students, intellectuals, lawyers, trade unionists and other opposition elements. Bouazizi was transformed into a national martyr and the fallen champion of Tunisia’s downtrodden — the unemployed, the urban poor, the rural dispossessed, students, political prisoners and victims of human rights abuses.

Bouazizi’s form of protest by self-immolation is most unusual in these turbulent times when far too many young people have expressed their despair and anger by strapping themselves with explosives and causing the deaths of so many innocent people. Bouazizi, it seems, chose to end his despair and dramatize to the world the political repression, extreme economic hardships and the lack of opportunity for young people in Tunisia by ending his own life in such a tragic manner. He must have believed in his heart that his self-sacrifice could lead to political transformation.

Truth be told, Tunisia is not unique among African countries whose people have undergone prolonged economic hardships and political repression while the leaders and their parasitic flunkies cling to power and live high on the hog stashing millions abroad. In Ethiopia, the people today suffer from stratospheric inflation, soaring prices, extreme poverty, high unemployment (estimated at 70 percent for the youth) and a two-decade old dictatorship that does not give a hoot or allows them a voice in governance (in May 2010, the ruling party “won” 99.6 percent of the seats in parliament). In December 2010, inflation was running at 15 percent (according to “government reports”), but in reality at a much higher rate. The trade imbalance is mindboggling: a whopping $7 billion in imports to $1.2 billion worth of exports in 2009-10. In desperation, the regime recently imposed price caps on basic food stuffs and began a highly publicized official campaign to tar and feather “greedy” merchants and businessmen for causing high prices, the country’s economic woes and sabotaging the so-called growth and transformational plan. Hundreds of merchants and businessmen have been canned and await kangaroo court trials for hoarding, price-gouging and quite possibly for global warming as well. Former World Bank director and recently retired opposition party leader Bulcha Demeksa puts the blame squarely on the ruling regime’s shoulders and says price controls are senseless exercises in futility: “I’m not so angry with the retailers and sellers. I’m angry with the government, because the government counts on its capability to control price. Prices cannot be controlled. It has been tried everywhere in the world and it has failed. Unless you make it a totally totalitarian society it is impossible to control prices.” (When a regime claims electoral victory of 99.6 percent, there is little room to dispute whether it is totalitarian.) Aggravating the economic crises are chronic problems of reliable infrastructure including unstable electricity supply, burdensome and multiple taxation and a generally unfriendly business environment.

Gandhi’s Contemporary Relevance in Resisting Dictatorships

Without firing a single shot, Gandhi was able to successfully lead a movement which liberated India from the clutches of centuries of British colonialism using nonviolence and passive resistance as a weapon. Gandhi believed that it was possible to nonviolently struggle and win against injustice, discrimination and abuse of basic human rights be it in caste-divided India or racially divided South Africa. Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence was based on the ancient Vedic (sacred writings of Hinduism) idea of “Ahimsa” which emphasizes the interconnection of all living things and avoidance of physical violence in human relations and in the relations between humans and other living things, notably animals. For Gandhi, Ahimsa principles also applied to psychological violence that destroys the mind and the spirit. He believed that to effectively deal with evil (be it colonialism, dictatorship, tyranny, hate, etc.) one must seek truth in a spirit of peace, love and understanding. One must undergo a process of self-purification to be rid of all forms of psychological violence including hatred, malice, bad faith, mistrust, revenge and other vices. He taught that one must strive to be open, honest, and fair, and accept suffering without inflicting it on others. Such was the basic idea of Gandhi’s “Satyagraha” or the pursuit of truth.

Dismantling Dictatorships in Africa

Ben Ali left Tunisia in a jiffy not because of a military or palace coup but as a result of a popular uprising that went on unabated for a month. Police officers are the latest to join in the street demonstrations and protests demanding an end to dictatorship and establishment of a genuine democratic government. But Ben Ali’s dictatorship is alive and well-entrenched in power. A few members of his old crew have been arrested or fired from their jobs, but Mohamed Ghannouchi, other ministers and power brokers are still doing what they have been doing for the last 23 years. To placate the public, token members of the opposition have been invited to join a transitional “unity government” pending elections in 60 days under constitutional provisions that favor Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally Party (RCD). Those who led the uprising do not seem to have much voice or representation in the “unity” government. For now it seems that the RCD foxes guarding the hen house are buying time and making plans to finish off the hens. But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and the best laid plans of Ben Ali’s lackeys may in the end fail and make way for a genuinely popular government. There are hopeful signs. For instance, informed observers note that there is a measure of solidarity and consensus among major opposition elements on such issues as democratic governance, human rights, release of political prisoners, democratic freedoms and the functioning of civil society groups.

The Tunisian people’s revolution provides practical insights into the prerequisites for dismantling dictatorships in Africa. The first lesson is that when dictatorships end, their end could come with a bang or a whimper, and without warning. Just a few weeks ago no one would have predicted that Ben Ali would be swept into the dust bin of history with such swiftness. Second, there is always the risk of losing the victory won by the people in the streets by a disorganized and dithering opposition prepared to draw out the long knives at the first whiff of power in the air. Third, when tyrants fall, the immediate task is to dismantle the police state they have erected before they have a chance to strike back. Their modus operandi is well known: The dictators will decree a state of emergency, impose curfews and issue shoot-to-kill orders to terrorize the population and crush the people’s hopes and reinforce their sense of despair, powerlessness, isolation, and fear. Obviously, this has not worked in Tunisia. After more than 100 protesters were killed in the streets, more seem to be coming. Fourth, it is manifest that Western support for African dictators is only skin deep. Ben Ali was toasted in the West as the great modernizer and bulwark against religious extremism and all that. The West threw him under the bus and “applauded” the people who overthrew him before his plane touched down in Saudi Arabia. Some friends, the West! Ultimately, the more practical strategy to successfully dismantle dictatorships is to build and strengthen inclusive coalitions and alliances of anti-dictatorship forces who are willing to stand up and demand real change. If such coalitions and alliances could not be built now, the outcome when the dictators fall will be just a changing of the guards: old dictator out, new dictator in.

The Tunisian people’s revolution should be an example for all Africans struggling to breathe under the thumbs and boots of ruthless dictators. It is interesting to note that there was a complete news blackout of the Tunisian people’s revolution in countries like Ethiopia. They do not want Ethiopians to get any funny ideas. On November 11, 2005, Meles Zenawi defending the massacre of hundreds of people in the streets said, “This is not your run-of-the-mill demonstration. This is an Orange revolution [in Ukrane] gone wrong.” Ben Ali said the same thing until he found himself on a fast jet to Jeddah. From India to Poland to the Ukraine to Czechoslovakia and Chile decades-old dictatorships have been overthrown in massive acts of civil disobedience and passive resistance. There is no doubt dictators from Egypt to Zimbabwe are having nightmares from Tunisia’s version of a “velvet’ or “orange” revolution.

The Power of Civil Disobedience and Nonviolent Resistance: Dictators, Quit Africa!

In His “Quit India” speech in August 1942, Gandhi made observations that are worth considering in challenging dictatorships in Africa:

In the democracy which I have envisaged, a democracy established by non-violence, there will be equal freedom for all. Everybody will be his own master. It is to join a struggle for such democracy that I invite you today. Once you realize this you will forget the differences between the Hindus and Muslims, and think of yourselves as Indians only, engaged in the common struggle for independence…

I have noticed that there is hatred towards the British among the people. The people say they are disgusted with their behaviour. The people make no distinction between British imperialism and the British people. To them, the two are one. We must get rid of this feeling. Our quarrel is not with the British people, we fight their imperialism.

For Africans, the quarrel is not and ought not be about ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, religion, language or region, but about the injustices, crimes and gross and widespread human rights violations committed by African dictators. As Gandhi has taught, dictators for a time appear formidable, strong, golden and invincible. But in reality they all have feet of clay. “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will,” said Gandhi. The Tunisian people have showed their African brothers and sisters what indomitable will is all about when they chased old Ben Ali out of town. All Africans now have a successful template to use in ridding themselves of thugs, criminals and hyenas in designer suits and military uniforms holding the mantle of power.

The Faking of Tigrean Nationalism

Monday, January 24th, 2011

By Messay Kebede

I have read with great interest Jawar’s well thought and skillfully articulated piece on Tigrean nationalism. It has inspired me to present my own view, not so much to contradict Jawar as to present an alternative interpretation. I do not consider this article as a rebuttal because I agree with Jawar’s analysis on several points so that my interpretation can be considered as an invitation to broaden the approach. I no longer believe in the unity and struggle of opposites whereby the one pole triumphs by annihilating the other; instead, debates and differences of ideas mean the search for accommodating alternatives that trigger choices rather than the attempt to dominate.

One undeniable fact is that nothing is more crucial for people engaged in the fight to topple a regime than to know the true nature of the regime. In this regard, Jawar defines Meles’s regime as a “business oligarchy,” both to emphasize that the pursuit of individual interests rather than ethnic commitment is its driving force and to unravel its preferential treatment of one ethnic group as a politics designed to obtain support by instilling fear and insecurity.

Though I find Jawar’s definition clever and useful, I do not quite see why a business oligarchy will engage in or continue to pursue identity politics in a country like Ethiopia. Let me explain. If indeed Meles and his Tigrean associates make up a business oligarchy with no Tigrean bias except to deceitfully coerce Tigreans into supporting them, then Ethiopia is a country that offers them a better alternative to achieve their goal. Of course, I have in mind the undeniable existence of a civic nationalism, which we can define as Ethiopian nationalism. In effect, why would Meles and co. get involved in the muddle of ethnic politics when they could have governed in the name of Ethiopian nationalism and with the help of a de-ethnicized bureaucracy, as did the Derg, for instance?

Jawar’s answer is that Meles and co. need ethnic politics to rally Tigreans: by favoring them economically, they arouse the animosity of other ethnic groups, thereby forcing Tigreans to seek their protection. This reasoning makes sense only if one assumes that Meles and co. had no other option than ethnic politics to get some popular support. And Jawar can think so because for him Ethiopian nationalism has never existed. So that, no other way exists for an oligarchy to rule the country than to appeal to ethnic alignments even if business interests have diluted the ethnic commitment it once had.

But can anyone really believe that Meles and co. would have failed to find some legitimacy if they had espoused Ethiopian nationalism? The latter is still alive, as forcefully demonstrated by the 2005 electoral victory of Kinijit that Meles had to suppress by violent means. Is any of Meles’s decisions and frequent crackdowns intelligible without his resolution to prevent at all cost the rise of a strong pro-Ethiopian political party? Birtukan is in jail because she epitomizes the resurgence of Ethiopianism. It is because Meles is convinced of the resilience of Ethiopian nationalism that he is so persistently at war with whatever seems to reinforce it. Doubtless, then, if Meles had defended Ethiopian nationalism and made some regional concessions to ethnic concerns and expanded the already existing pan-Ethiopian bureaucracy and military apparatus, he would have acquired acceptance and created a solid base, which he would have rewarded with economic advancements.

On the other hand, Jawar reasons as though there is such a thing as “Tigrean nationalism.” He is surprised that the TPLF betrayed that nationalism by involving Tigreans in the untenable situation of new conquerors and oppressors. Thus, he is baffled that the freedom fighter that he once knew ransacked his village. Is not Jawar’s surprise easily explained by the bogus nature of the so-called Tigrean nationalism? The inspiring goal of the leaders of the TPLF has never been the alleged Tigrean nationalism, which they knew not to exist. In light of centuries of unity between Tigreans and Amhara, there is neither political nor cultural justification for arguing in favor of a separate Tigrean national identity. Incidentally, Jawar gives us the foundation of Ethiopian nationalism, and hence of the non-existence of Tigrean nationalism, when he interprets the appointment of a Tigrean as a patriarch of the Orthodox Church as another TPLF’s “intensified effort to make ethnicity more important than religious solidarity.” Is not the necessity of an intensified effort to break the old bonds tying Tigreans to the Amhara a confirmation of the inexistence of Tigrean nationalism?

What the TPLF baptized as “nationalism” is none other than the hatred against the Amhara ruling elite and Ethiopian nationalism. As Aregawi Berhe, one of the founders of the organization, openly admits in his new book (A Political History of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front), the inspiring motive of the rebellious Tigrean elite was “resentment” at the sight of Tigray’s economic and political marginalization by the Amhara ruling class. The split of Tigrean students from the pan-Ethiopian orientation of the Ethiopian student movement was the product of elite conflict for the control of state power that the TPLF disguised as Tigrean nationalism. Hostility, first against the Amhara ruling elite and then against the Derg––as a proponent of Amhara hegemony––was systematically disseminated to provide a popular support to the Tigrean educated elite in its competition for the control of state power. Giving this hegemonic goal, is it surprising if, once it seized power, the TPLF has proved to be an instrument of oppression?

Our surprise should decrease even more in light of ethnic discourse authorizing oppressive behavior. The clear message of ethnonationalist discourse in Ethiopia is that there is nothing common between Amhara, Oromo, Tigreans, and other groups. They are all different nations that the Amhara state held together by sheer force. Given this image of Ethiopia as a “prison-house of nations,” what can we expect from TPLF fighters when they land in Wollega, Gondar or Wolaita? Obviously, they come as conquerors and occupiers since no bonds exist between them and the indigenous people. In denying the existence of a country called Ethiopia, the TPLF fighter is thereby invited to behave as a foreigner occupying an alien land that he/she will ransack without the slightest hesitation. That is why, unlike Jawar, I am not shocked when such fighters plunder Ethiopian villages.

To downgrade the ethnic equation, Jawar analyses Meles and co. as cold calculators of their interests. He forgets the hatred they nourished for decades toward Ethiopia, a hatred such that it clouds their judgment and prevents them from seeing other options, for instance the alternative of Ethiopian nationalism. Where there is ethnic politics there is also emotional syndromes that are not accountable in terms of interests. Despite serious efforts, scholars have failed to reduce ethnic politics to rationality, that is, to the calculation of interests by elite groups. More often than not, alongside material interests primitive sentiments emerge, such as hatred, fear, mistrust, which elites use to mobilize people and from which violent confrontations often spring.

It seems to me that Meles and co. have become themselves victims of the hatred they generated against Ethiopian nationalism in their quest for power. I remember vividly one of Meles’s interviews to the Ethiopian Television soon after the occupation of Addis Ababa: to the concern that ethnic politics might destroy Ethiopia, he responded by saying that the failure of ethnic federalism would simply mean that Ethiopia was not meant to be. To be sure, the prediction of such ominous end by the head of state of the country did not emanate from a loving concern.

The combination of interests with hatred induces Meles and co. to hurt Ethiopia while exorbitantly taking advantage of its resources. This ambivalent politics explains why they engage in actions that are detrimental to Ethiopia, such as ceding lands to the Sudan or devising increasingly lethal means of division. The animosity they feel toward Ethiopia does not allow them to engage in a politics of sustained progress toward unity, democracy, and equal prosperity; they have to periodically antagonize and hurt so as to vent the enmity that is eating them from inside. Ethiopians would want Meles and co. to be rational calculators of interest, given that they would have easily perceived that their best interest lies in promoting the equal prosperity of all ethnic groups. Alas, deeply engrained emotional thirsts stand in the way of rational politics.

In this respect, nothing is more perilous than to treat Tigray and the Tigrean elite preferentially as the policy does no more than enrage the rest of Ethiopia, thereby turning the achieved prosperity into a precarious acquisition. But this is to forget that enraging Ethiopian nationalism is an integral part of the psychological makeup of Meles and co.: they cannot commit to rational politics owing to the rancor with which they have filled their mind since their student years. This is to say that I do not follow Jawar in his view that the TPLF leadership has but abandoned its ethnic references, which it uses only to scare Tigeans. On the contrary, the references are alive in the deep-seated need to damage Ethiopia. Of all people Ethiopians should never forget the destructive power of resentment: they saw it at work with Mengistu Haile Mariam whose stubborn narcissism brought about the demise of the Ethiopian army and state because some people had called him “baria” in his younger days.

Above all, the resolution to control power indefinitely pushes Meles and co. to continue the politics of divide and rule. Since the implementation of liberal democracy cannot but lead to their demise, what else is left but to force people to vote ethnically so that the resulting political dispersal is used to sustain the hegemony of the TPLF? Meles hangs on to ethnic politics for the simple reason that dispersion is the only way by which a minority can retain power. More than the need to spread fear among Tigreans through the instrumentality of envy caused by preferential treatment, ethnic politics provides an institutional mechanism that allows a minority to rule over the majority. As the workings of the EPRDF illustrate, the mechanism results from the combination of ethnic separation with centralization, which is otherwise known as democratic centralism. By making lower bodies accountable to higher bodies, the principle of democratic centralism counters the ethnic fragmentation by creating a pyramidal power structure that transfers the full control of the state to an ethnic minority elite, just as communist oligarchies ruled the Soviet empire for decades by using the same mechanism of control.

(The author, Prof. Messay Kebede, can be reached at

Atlanta police release sketches of Jagama’s killers

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Atlanta police have released sketches of two men they want to talk to in connection to the shooting death of Jagama Beyene, a 26-year-old Ethiopian film producer who worked part time as a store clerk.
police sketches of Jagama Beyene's killers

(Fox 5) — Jagama was known to his friends and family as “J” and Jack Wizzy Now, they’re asking why he was shot to death in such a brutal manner. Bullet holes were found all over the Citgo Gas Station where Beyene worked, and was shot on Thursday morning.

“I hope somebody will find out who did it and then I hope we will be able to know why,” said Essete Roister, the victim’s cousin. “The question is, why? He don’t deserve this.”

Beyene’s cousin spoke to FOX 5’s George Franco at his home in Tucker. She says her cousin was the writer, producer and director of a documentary on Ethiopians struggling to make it in Metro Atlanta. It was released this past August.

“The message of the movie is not to give up, not to quit—just to go strong,” said Daniel Cebray, Beyene’s friend.

Beyene’s friends say he mirrored the movie after his life. They say he’d been in the area for a couple of years, moving here from the Washington, D.C. area. They say he was working at the gas station to make ends meet when he was gunned down by two men after police say he was robbed.

What strikes the manager of the Citgo is the viciousness and senselessness of the crime. He says after the robbery and shooting occurred in the store, the perpetrator fired back at the store. Bullet holes are seen in a cooler.

Roister asked that the person responsible please come forward.

“I will forgive you, but we wanted to know why,” she said.

Now, Beyene’s family is coming together with friends in Atlanta, where he had been trying to carve out a new life and a name for himself.

Atlanta police say it’s possible a third man may have been involved in the murder of Beyene. They believe he and the other two men fled the scene in a red truck or SUV.

Ethiopians dominate Dubai Marathon

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia wins the Dubai Marathon in the Women’s field today and her fellow Ethiopian Eshetu Wendimu finished third in the men’s field. In both fields Ethiopians dominated the course. In the women course 6 out of the top tens finishers are Ethiopians, while five Ethiopian men were in the top ten.

Place name /country time/prize in US$
1 David BARMASAI, KEN, 2.07.18 250k
2 Evans CHERUYIOT, KEN 2.08.17 100k
3 Eshetu WENDIMU, ETH 2.08.54 50k
4 Deressa CHIMSA, ETH 2.09.08 25k
5 Stephen KOSGEI, KEN 2.09.27 15k
6 Berhanu BEKELE, ETH 2.09.54 14k
7 Emanuel SAMAL, KEN 2.10.27 13k
8 Adil ANANNI, MOR 2.11.15 12k
9 Dereje TESFAYE, ETH 2.13.26 11k
10 Alebachaw DEBAS, ETH 2.13.39 10k

1 Aselefech MERGIA, ETH 2:22:45 250k
2 Lydia CHEROMEI, KEN 2.23.01 100k
3 Isabella ANDERSSON, SWE, 2.23.41 50k
4 Atsede HABTAMU, ETH 2.24.26 25k
5 Atsede BAYISA, ETH 2.25.08 15k
6 Diana CHEPKEMOI, KEN 2.26.53 14k
7 Genet GETANEH, ETH 2.27.13 13k
8 Werknesh KIDANE, ETH 2.27.15 12k
9 Helena KIROP, KEN 2.27.41 11k
10 Feysa BORU, ETH 2.30.23 10k

DUBAI (IAAF) A torrid early pace put paid to a really fast time in Dubai on Friday morning, and after three consecutive victories for the most famous marathoner in the world, Haile Gebrselassie, it was the relatively unknown David Barmasai of Kenya who won today’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, in 2.07.18.

On a temperate morning for the Emirate, just 21C with low humidity, it was nevertheless a strong headwind in the second half of the race that robbed Ethiopian Aselefech Mergia of the women’s course record. She won in 2.22.45, five seconds outside her best (3rd in London 2010), and just three seconds short of her compatriot, Berhane Adere’s record of 2008. But first place prize money of $250,000, for both winners, will go a long way towards softening that disappointment.

The men took off in assault of Gebrselassie’s World record 2.03.59, and a group of 20, including race favourite Eliud Kiptanui of Kenya were within reach for the first 15km, which took 44.38. But by halfway in 62.46, the possibility had already gone, as had nearly half the contenders.

Shortly afterwards, pacemaker Stephen Kibet only had Kiptanui and Barmasai for company, and when Kibet throttled back at his allotted 30km, and Kiptanui shot away, the race looked settled. But the 21-year-old, who had run 2.05.39 in Prague last May suddenly clutched his side less than a kilometre later, and dropped out, leaving Barmasai to struggle through the final kilometres alone.

Despite his pace dropping considerably, from under three minutes per kilometre to 3.38 by the final one, the 22-year-old had done sufficient damage to his pursuers, to maintain a minute advantage by the end.

This was Barmasai’s third marathon, and his first trip outside Kenya. His only previous claim to fame was in winning the Nairobi Marathon in 2.10.31, at around 1600 metres (one mile) altitude last October.

Today’s result seemed as much of a surprise to himself as to his experienced opponents and the onlookers. “I didn’t really expect to win,” he said in the finish area, immediately after the race. “I was thinking to finish in the top ten. That’s why I kept behind the leading group up to halfway.

“I was afraid of Kiptanui, I was surprised to leave him behind, I thought he’ll come again later. Then I looked for him, and couldn’t see him. It was tough finding myself alone after 30km, and at 35km the wind was really affecting me. But I’m happy to win on my first trip outside my country”.

After two years of injury following his win in Chicago 2008(2.06.25), Evans Cheruiyot rallied into the headwind, and finished second, in 2.08.17, relegating Ethiopian Eshetu Wendimu to a third consecutive third place here, this time in 2.08.54.

After winning a bronze medal in the IAAF World Championships in Berlin 18 months ago, Mergia said that she suffered, “a lot of leg problems”. They were still evident when she finished clutching her left thigh, which went into spasm immediately afterwards.

But she had held the problems in check long enough to outpace the now veteran Lydia Cheromei of Kenya, who had shocked the athletics world exactly 20 years ago, when she won the World Junior Cross Country title at the tender age of 13.

“I was just a baby then,” said a cheery Cheromei, who is now a mother of five year old Faith. “I did not expect still to be running, at 33”.

It was her fourth marathon, as it was for Mergia, who reckoned that but for favouring her legs, she might have clocked closed to 2.20, a time she has always looked capable of doing since her first marathon two years ago.

She eased away from Cheromei with two kilometres to run, and said through an interpreter that it wasn’t until another kilometre later that she knew she would win. Cheromei clocked a personal best by close to three minutes, with 2.23.01. And the Kenyan born former orienteer, Isabella Andersson took another minute and a half off the Swedish record, finishing third in 2.23.40.

Pat Butcher for the IAAF

From Tunisia with love

Friday, January 21st, 2011

By Yilma Bekele

Here we are celebrating New Year in Tahesas. Accepting January, as Meskerem is a tall order. Enqutatash or Adis Amet is Adey Abeba blanketing the mountains with its vibrant bright yellow colors and the sun shining with all its strength. We are in the middle of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. It is dark, cold and gloomy.

That was a weak ago. Last Friday the sun shone a little brighter. It felt like spring. We Ethiopians gave each other a knowing smile. We all felt empowered. Guess who was generating this intense feeling of a new beginning. It is no other than little Tunisia, electrifying Africa and the Middle East. Last Friday Tunisia got rid of a malignant tumor.

It was only a year and three months ago Tunisia’s President Zinedine Ben Ali won a landslide victory, with 89.62%. Last Friday the honorable President was forced to flee for his life. How does an 89.62 percent winner turn into a refugee so fast? That is the nature of the dictatorship business. Just like an earthquake, it is unpredictable. Ben Ali is just a new inductee into that infamous Hall of Fame for “Scumbags of Humanity.” He follows the footsteps of Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko, Shah of Iran, Augusto Pinochet, Mengistu Haile Mariam and my personal favorite Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena.

As you read this, political refugee (actually fleeing criminal) Zinedine Ben Ali and former first lady Leila are camped in Saudi Arabia unsure of what tomorrow is going to bring. It will not be far fetched to say that the former mafia bosses are shell-shocked unable to comprehend what has unfolded and definitely under sedation. Unfortunate for the duo this is not some bad dream or a bad acid trip. It is real baby! How did they get into this mess?

Tunisia is located in North Africa between Libya and Algeria and has a population of ten and a half million. It got its independence from France in 1956. The first President Habib Bourguiba became the first dictator and stayed in power until doctors declared him ‘unfit to rule’ in 1987. Mr. Zinedine Ben Ali who was the Prime Minster became the President. That was twenty-three years ago.

Former dictator president Zinedine Ben Ali is a crafty fellow in the sense of being devious and cruel. He knew how to talk the language of Democracy, Human Rights, freedom of expression and free enterprise. That was for foreign consumption. It gave his enablers a fig leaf to hide behind. Ben Ali’s Tunisia was one big prison.

Dictator Ali went to military schools both in France and the USA. He worked his way up from Security Chief to being the Prime Minister. His style of leadership is the envy of every African dictator. Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia has mentioned him plenty of times as an example of good leadership and stability. Zambia has awarded him its highest medal. Tunisia has even won the United Nations E- government Award for ‘excellence in serving the public interest. I told you he was good. With Algeria on his left projecting symptoms of a ‘failed state’ and Libya to his right run by a poster child for ‘grandiose delusion’ symptoms, Ben Ali looked like an oasis of stability. To prove it Tunisia never failed to hold elections since Ben Ali came to power. The elections held in ’89, ’94, 04, and as recent as 2009 were all won By Ben Ali and his party with over 90% approval.

The real face of Tunisia was completely different than the picture presented by Ben Ali and family. The real Tunisia was a one Party State belonging to Zinedine Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi. Economic regulations, and legal procedures did not apply to the Ben Ali clan. First Lady Leila was the most hated person Tunisia. She even deserved her own report on Wiki Leaks. Here is a quote:
“Corruption in the inner circle is growing. Even average Tunisians are now keenly aware of it, and the chorus of complaints is rising. Tunisians intensely dislike, even hate, first lady Leila Trabelsi and her family. In private, regime opponents mock her; even those close to the government express dismay at her reported behavior.

Her greed was so legendary she was dubbed the Imelda Marcos of the Arab world and the ‘Regent of Carthage’ for her power behind the throne and her love of money, luxury cars and shopping spree.

The one party state did not allow dissent, banned political parties unless approved by the state, closed all independent media outlets and used Cisco filters to block free web sites. The prisons were full of political opponents and the most educated and those that have connections first impulse was to leave. The safest option for investment for those with money was real estate or off shore account. Both do not contribute to sustainable economic growth. The rampant corruption, unemployment, inflation and general hopelessness was spiraling out of control.

Mohamed Bouaziz a 26-year old unemployed college graduate became the flash point that started a prairie fire. When the police confiscated his fruit cart regarding permit issue, Mr. Bouaziz drew the line in the sand and said enough. He set himself on fire. The day was Friday December 17th. The people of Tunisia felt a jolt of ‘anti fear’ laser tease. Twenty-eight days later on Friday January 17th. Coward Ben Ali and cruel and mean Leila fled not knowing who will welcome them. Shock is an understatement.

Today, the interim government is hunting down former officials and palace lovers and state television reported the arrest for “crimes against Tunisia” of 33 members of Mr. Ben Ali’s family, many of whom grew rich from their connections. Let justice begin.

Is what happened to dictator Ben Ali out of the ordinary? Can it be duplicated? Both are valid questions. What happened in Tunisia is not unique. The saying ‘where there is oppression there is resistance’ is a universal truth. The human spirit soars when it is free. It is also true that dominance over others is an aphrodisiac. There will always be a few individuals that will shine brighter than others. Most will leave a lasting legacy and generations will utter their names with fondness and admiration. A few are considered a curse. Poverty of mind and spirit is their making. What happened in Tunisia has happened in Iran, Ethiopia, Philippines, Poland, East Germany, Romania, Zaire and more. Dictators never learn.

No one has been able to predict the ‘tipping point’ where fear is replaced by empowerment. Not political scientists, sociologists or human behavior psychologists. What opens the floodgates of discontent could be anything.

Rosa Parks’s refusal to give her seat to a white person is considered the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, the firing of Anna Walentynowicz, a shipyard worker in Gdansk, Poland gave birth to the Solidarity Movement that ushered in the unraveling of the Soviet System, and now Mohamed Bouaziz’s personal protest is felt all over the world.

Ethiopian television, radio, newspapers, websites have made it a policy not to mention Tunisia. Controlling the flow of information is job number one of any dictatorship. The regime spends millions of hard earned currency to misinform, jam, block use physical coercion to keep the population in ignorance. It is a futile attempt. Where there is oppression there is resistance.

I am sure crafty Ben Ali must have tried all kinds of gimmicks to turn away the tide of discontent. Sitting in his palace isolated from daily life he was sure that his people like him. The fool probably believed it too. I am sure he blamed the Diaspora, Islamists or other perceived enemies for the problem he created.

Our Ethiopia has its own uniqueness. Our country has been in turmoil since the early ‘70s. The over forty years of chaos have rendered us numb and confused. Killing, lying, cheating and using each other has become the norm. Fear has become our middle name. We don’t not only trust the government but mistrust among friends, neighbors or family has taken away our ability to unite. Our psych has been scared and requires careful handling. We are a very wounded people.

Ben Ali and Meles Zenawi are two different animals. The TPLF boss has his own private army, his own private Federal Police and boasts of emasculated Bantustan chiefs. Meles Zenawi can also count on the citizens he drove out of the country to turn around and contribute heavily to his welfare. According to the World Bank the Diaspora contributes over $3 billion US to prop up the ethnic junta. In a nutshell we are contributing for our own slavery.

That being said, fortunate for us ‘dictatorship’ carries its own destruction in its womb. No amount of Party organized bullying, Kebele based spying, Federal Police killing, fostering inter-ethnic strife will interfere with the inevitable collapse of a totalitarian state. As I said no one can predict when but all agree the system will explode. It is not a matter of if but when.

Oppressed people approach the problem from two fronts. The first is building up organizations that will act as a catalyst to hasten the inevitable collapse of the dictatorship. We are doing that. The many Diaspora organizations involved in doing community work in exposing the ethnic based regime are the source of our pride. Since the stolen elections of 2005 our force have shown both maturity and muscle. Such Organizations as Ginbot7, Andenet, OLF, SMNE, ONLF and others are doing a good job. The second front is winning the hearts and minds of our people. The best example of that is ESAT. Ethiopian Satellite TV is working hard to level the playing field when it comes to unfettered information. ESAT is our lethal weapon. ESAT will inform our people so they can make a smart decision based on facts not Berket Semeon’s concocted lie. ESAT and our independent web sites are the future of Ethiopia.

I will not try to guess where Ato Meles will go when ‘the rubber hits the road’ in other words when the mob breaches the palace walls. Will he be ready, will he have time to pack, will his security guard betray him and other questions will arise. Then comes the issue of where to go? Eritrea, definitely no, Sudan, out of the question, USA and Europe, very dangerous that leaves China, North Korea or Rwanda with his buddy Kagame. None of the choices are enticing. The question Ben Ali is contemplating today should be is life imprisonment a good investment for a mere twenty years of bullying. Being a dictator is a thankless job!

Plane heading to Ethiopia makes emergency landing

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

A plane carrying the Archbishop of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Jos Punt, and several other passengers to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa made an emergency landing in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik today after the pilots detected smoke in one of the aircraft’s engines.

RKK reported that Bishop Jos Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam, Deacon Fennis, and diocese spokesman Wim Peeters were heading for Ethiopia to attend the Baptism of the Lord (Timket).

According to Peeters the airplane made a few loops over the Adriatic Sea and the pilot then decided to make an emergency landing in Croatia. The pilot had “two of the four engines off. Therefore it seemed as if we were floating. Everyone held his breath. We obviously have said some prayers.

The trio arrived Wednesday morning in Addis Ababa. The Catholics were at the so-called Timket celebrations, the Ethiopian version of the commemoration of the baptism of Christ.

Bishop Punt, Fennis and traveling press secretary will fly later this week to Kenya to visit a number of projects run by the diocese.

Eritrea sends seasoned diplomat to Addis Ababa

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

The Government of Eritrea has sent one of its most seasoned diplomats, Ambassador Girma Asmerom, to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa as a representative to the African Union. Although Girma was sent to Addis Ababa because it is the seat of African Union’s Headquarters, the news has caused a rumor, fueled by Woyanne cadres, that it is among the first steps for normalization of relations between the regimes of Meles Zenawi and Isaias Afwerki.

Eritrea Reopens African Union Mission

By Peter Heinlein

Eritrea has reopened its mission to the African Union, ending years of self-imposed exile from the continental organization. But diplomats say the move does not signal a thaw in relations between Eritrea and its archrival, the African Union host Ethiopia.

Eritrea’s ambassador to the African Union Girma Asmerom Tesfay presented credentials this week to AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping. An AU statement said Ping expressed delight at seeing Eritrea return to the 53-member organization after several years’ absence.

Eritrea recalled its previous ambassador in an angry protest at what it called the African Union’s ‘failure’ to condemn Ethiopia’s alleged violations of a peace agreement that ended a 1998-2000 border war. The continental body was one of the main brokers of the agreement.

Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia and declared independence in 1993 after a 30-year struggle. But a border dispute sent the neighbors back to war five years later, and relations have been frozen since.

At Ethiopia’s urging, the AU took the unprecedented step in 2009 of asking the United Nations to penalize Eritrea for providing aid to Islamic fighters in Somalia. Despite Eritrea’s strong denial, the UN Security Council imposed tough sanctions on the Asmara government, including an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel bans.

AU Chairman Ping last year rejected Eritrean allegations that Ethiopia was using its position as AU host to block Eritrea from reopening its mission in Addis Ababa. Diplomats say Ping has worked tirelessly to bring the estranged member back into the fold.

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry has strongly denied any attempt to block Eritrea’s return. But in a telephone interview, ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said the re-establishment of Asmara’s AU mission will have no effect on the frozen bilateral relationship.

“It has nothing to do with the situation. We are the host country of the African Union,” said Mufti. “We are under obligation to facilitate anything for the African Union. That has nothing to do with the status quo.”

The Ethiopian spokesman rejected a suggestion that the arrival of an Eritrean government representative in Addis Ababa might be a sign of a thaw. He said there has been no change in the status quo.

Eritrea sent a high-level observer delegation to the most recent AU summit in Kampala last July as a sign of its renewed interest in continental affairs. There was no immediate word on who might represent the Asmara government at the next continental summit beginning later this month in Addis Ababa.

Tunisians ransack properties of deposed president’s family

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

By Eleanor Beardsley | NPR

In the days since the overthrow of Tunisia’s dictator, looters have ransacked a whitewashed villa in an upscale suburban neighborhood of Tunis called La Marsa. The house belonged to businessman Moaz Trabelsi, one of the 10 brothers of the ousted president’s wife, Leila Trabelsi. And it’s a scene that is playing out across the country at homes owned by relatives of president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Ben Ali family property ransacked

Tunisians say they want a complete break with their former ruler, They say the president, and in particular his wife and her family, abused power and enriched themselves at the expense of the country’s people.

On Tuesday, Tunisia’s new interim government was on shaky ground. Four Cabinet ministers resigned and others threatened to do so in protest over the continued presence in the government of Ben Ali’s allies.

Portrait Of Excessive Decadence

After days of looting in that suburban villa, there’s nothing more to take away. But still, hundreds of people still come every day to visit the wrecked shell.

One of this day’s visitors is Mounir Khelifa, an English professor at the University of Tunis. He points to a burned-out Porsche Cayenne and calls the mansion a “thief’s” or “robber’s” house.

The swimming pool has a mattress floating in it. Broken furniture and women’s magazines litter the yard. Families are walking through the villa’s empty, trash-strewn rooms as if it were a real estate open house.

Khelifa says Tunisians despise the president they deposed, but they hate his wife even more. The 55-year-old former hairdresser is 74-year-old Ben Ali’s second wife.

Like the tentacles of an octopus, the Trabelsi clan wrapped itself around almost every sector of the country’s economy, their critics say. They controlled the car dealerships, the banks, the airlines, the media and the major retailers.

Amel Jertila, a 37-year-old who started her own company, says doing business in Tunisia was hell.

“It was terrible. And you are scared all the time. What if I cross them one day in my life, what will happen to me? After years of work, we are scared of phantoms that are called Trabelsi and Ben Ali,” she says.

Cables from the U.S. ambassador in Tunisia that surfaced in WikiLeaks paint a picture of a family that lived in excessive decadence, while many Tunisians lived below the poverty level. Invited to dinner at the villa of Ben Ali’s favorite son-in-law, the ambassador described ice cream imported from St. Tropez on a private jet and a pet tiger in a cage on the compound.

‘Giants With Clay Feet’

Just three days before the final wave of protests that brought Ben Ali down, writer Abdelaziz Belkhodja took the risk of distributing documents showing the extent of what he calls the mafioso activity of the president, his wife and her family.

“It reached unimaginable proportions. These people wanted to take over the country. That’s why they took the banks and the media. She appointed the ministers, because after his death, she wanted to keep control of the country,” Belkhodja says.

He estimates that in their two decades in power, Ben Ali and his extended family stole about $20 billion — twice Tunisia’s national budget.

Another magnificent villa — this one on a hillside — is the home of a simple primary school teacher whose name happens to be Adel Trabelsi.

Inside the house, Tunisians are ripping out wiring and trying to detach some electric blinds from the windows. Everyone is smiling. Khelifa, the English professor, says no one in their wildest dreams would have imagined such a sudden and ignominious collapse of the Ben Ali-Trabelsi family.

“We suspected that tyrannical power is weak. But to this extent, this kind of weakness is just amazing,” Khelifa says. “I think if there is one lesson to be learned, it’s precisely that dictatorships, they’re giants with feet of clay.”

Will Ethiopia’s revolution be bloodless?

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

By Wodaje Ketema

If a system is malfunctioning, says Tony Blair in his new book, Tony Blair A Journey (2010: 249), it does need to change, whether that change be gradual or abrupt. There is a regime that is oppressive and dictatorial, but may decide to go into the right direction of reform despite it is slow; but there is also a regime whose very nature lies in its oppression. This regime will not change, not by evolution, not by the exercise of its own will- because that will is directed towards oppression- and for a long time, at least, it will not change by the will of the people who, because they are oppressed, lack the means to overthrow the regime.

Tunisia had a malfunctioning system, a system whose very nature lies in its oppression. It had a system that failed to address the will of the people, which is freedom- the freedom from fear, the freedom from persecution, the freedom from hunger and death and the freedom from “I now for you” mentality. Ben Ali’s regime had stifled those freedoms for the last 20 plus years, but couldn’t sustain that oppression for long. The younger generation, the globalised generation, couldn’t accept a 19th c system, a system that makes God’s children slaves and sub humans. The Tunisian boys and girls decided to dismantle that archaic system, and did they succeed. President Ben Ali was disgracefully overthrown and fled to Saudi Arabia to join another dictator there. However, the journey of Tunisia is not yet finished; the daunting task is still ahead. But, they have repossessed the “ball of choice”. They have now a choice- a choice to choose freedom or a choice to choose slavery. That is not the case in Ethiopia and in most parts of Africa.

Zenawi’s regime is a carbon copy of Ben Ali’s regime except that the former is also a racist. Like Ben Ali’s regime, Zenawi’s regime depends on oppression, killing and persecution of Ethiopians; but unlike the former, the later encourages people to fight and kill each other with its divide and conquer policy. That is the difference between the two regimes. Both are dangerous, but Zenawi’s is evil.

I have no doubt that the fire that started in Tunisia will expand to Ethiopia and devour Zenawi’s regime in a short period of time. Given the existing economic turmoil and political repression, we will witness a revolution of a huge magnitude sooner than later. The question is not when that revolution will exactly occur , but what consequence will it have and who is to lead it responsibly when that revolution occurs. Will the fire stop after destroying Zenawi’s archaic regime or will it expand to devour his ethnic group ?

The experience of 2005 election tells that there will be more bloodshed before Zenawi quits power. It could be more than what we have witnessed in June and November 2005; thousands could be maimed and hundreds of buildings destroyed. There could be ethnic cleansing as witnessed in Rwanda. Tigreans could face the fate of the Tutsis. The 2005 election proved that the people of Ethiopia have a huge grudge against the Tigreans who gave unequivocal support to the regime. It doesn’t seem that the Tigreans are repenting from their sins, they are still ardent supporters of the regime. There are pockets of Tigreans who don’t support the evil machination of zenawi’s regime, but I am sure when the time comes no one will have time to sift the chaff from the grain. That is why the Tigreans are time and again advised to alienate themselves from Zenawi’s regime before the night falls, which is fast approaching.

We have seen the beginning of the end in the 2005 election. Some Tigreans were truly Targeted. Most of them were gathering in meeting halls for fear of persecution. Zenawi could have used the story for its own evil ends, but the fact did occur that some Tigreans were hiding in bunkers. What worries me is the fate of the innocent Tigreans. I am sorry for them, and I wish God protect them. That is why I shiver when I think of Tunisia. I am smelling Rwanda is in the making in Ethiopia. We are not as luckily as the Tunisians, whose government didn’t choose to play with a race card.

I think of whether we have a political party that can shape the direction of the upcoming revolution. Wild revolutions are dangerous for a nation, they have to be tamed on time otherwise they will devour all dry leaves. When I think of political parties in Ethiopia, I don’t think that they have the capability and resource to lead a revolution. The only hope I have is for Ginbot 7. But the question still remains whether the G7 leadership will return back to Ethiopia to lead the revolution when the clouds begin to appear. That is the question I forward to the G7 leadership. They have to now that a revolution without a driver is doomed to fail. My hope is also on ESAT. I don’t expect ESAT to be radio mil coline of Rwanda. It has a huge responsibility to incite the people to stand up for a revolution, but at the same time inform the people not to turn the revolution into an ethnic revolution ( revolution with an ethnic element) . It should be a politico- economic revolution that is devoid of targeting Tigreans. ESAT has to inform the people that Zenawi couldn’t represent Tigreans. If that is the case, our revolution will be fruitful and bloodless. A good combination of G7 and ESAT may work. There rests my hope!

ESAT plans to raise $1 million in 2011

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

ESAT Press Release

The successful launch of the historic Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) service to Ethiopia on April 21, 2010 represents a giant step in the direction of freedom of information for all Ethiopians. ESAT is the result of the collective efforts of a small group of Ethiopians who are deeply committed to the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The time, energy and efforts that have gone into this historic effort are simply immeasurable.

During the past year, ESAT has delivered and is still delivering quality programming to Ethiopians at home and in the Diaspora. The ESAT production team has been overwhelmed and gratified by the thousands of telephone calls and e-mail messages it has received from viewers and supporters expressing good will and encouragement. According to many eyewitness accounts from Ethiopia, ESAT has dramatically impacted the lives of its viewers in Ethiopia by enabling citizens to freely express their opinion and by serving as the only independent source of information.

ESAT owes much of its success and popularity to a core group of selfless, dedicated staff and volunteers who work very hard to help ESAT fulfil its mission. However, the current broadcast, the ambitious plan of increasing the programming quality of ESAT and expanding its service to viewers around the world cannot and must not be the responsibility of few individuals. It takes the efforts of many people and enormous financial resources to support a satellite television service of ESAT’s magnitude. The dream of ESAT’s management team is not just to continue the current level of programming but also to increase ESAT’s quality, its capacity and its availability to Ethiopians around the globe.

Therefore, to add more programming, to cover very expensive satellite costs and to put ESAT on a strong financial foundation, ESAT’s governing Board has launched a two-month global campaign to raise $1 million, that will last from January 15 to March 20, 2011. The money raised from the campaign will cover 12 months of our current broadcasting cost and finance ESAT’s expansion plan outlined below. The three-stage implementation of the plan is highly dependent on the amount of funds raised on this campaign.

Stage I

* 50% of the fund ($500,000) secured will be used to pay for:

1. C-Band Satellite Service to Ethiopia, the rest of Africa, Australia, Asia & the Middle East.
2. Studio costs in Amsterdam, Washington D.C and London
3. Reporter’s salary in different Continents

Stage II

* 20% of the fund ($200,000) will be allocated for additional KU-Band Satellite Service purchase to Ethiopia

Stage III

* 30% of the money ($300,000) will be used to cover the cost of additional Satellite Service for North America & Europe

Ethiopia is mired in socioeconomic crisis stemming from the rule of dictatorship. The lack of free and independent media is one of the major reasons that we Ethiopians find ourselves in a cycle of dictatorship.

ESAT was established with the primary objective of breaking this detrimental cycle by imparting reliable and factual information. In fact, many Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia have already applauded ESAT’s impartiality and its strong determination to lay the foundation of free media in Ethiopia. We believe that any disruption or discontinuity of ESAT’s broadcasting due to financial problems simply puts Ethiopians back in the dark, and most importantly, it puts a break on our collective effort to overcome tyranny.

We extend our call to all Ethiopians to take the pride of breaking the media monopoly in Ethiopia by participating in every facet of ESAT’s fund raising campaign. We believe there will be no better way of empowering people than giving them credible information to make their own decisions. Information is central to democracy and it is a necessary condition for development; therefore, helping the free flow of information fulfils our two goals of democracy and development.

Long live the free spirit of ESAT!!!

Ethiopian genocide suspect comes to the U.S.

Monday, January 17th, 2011

The Horn Institute of Peace and Social Justice has reported today that President of the Somali Region in Ethiopia, Abdi Mohamud Omar, is due to arrive in the United States on January 18, 2011.

Abdi Mohamud Omar is a puppet of Meles Zenawi in the Ogaden region — which was renamed Somali Region by Meles when he came to power. Omar is responsible for carrying out genocidal war against the people of Ogaden. Some of his crimes include mass executions, public hanging of women and elders, gang rape of women by this troops, and food blockade to local population.

The Horn Institute of Peace and Social Justice has issued the following statement regarding Omar’s visit to the US.


Minneapolis, MN – Horn Institute of Peace & Social Justice is concerned that the Somali Regional President of Ethiopia, Mr. Abdi Mohamud Omar is expected to depart from Ethiopia on January 18, 2011 and arrive in Minnesota. We are vehemently protesting the decision to allow Mr. Omar to enter the United States. Mr. Omar and two accompanying members of his delegation, Mr. Abdifitah Sheik Abdullahi and Abdirahman Sheikh Mohamed are known human rights violators who have earned a despicable record in their part for the suffering of the Ogaden Somali civilians in Ethiopia. Mr. Omar, who leads the delegation, is the man who has established and single handedly maintained the brutal paramilitary force called Liyuu Police whose mission is copied from the Janjaweed of Sudan who caused the Darfur genocide.

Mr. Omar had created the Liyuu Police for the sole purpose of terrorizing the population to submit to him and the Ethiopian government. The Liyuu Police are unleashed on the population to commit crimes against humanity. The magnitude of their oppression is indescribable and had gone unabated for far too long. They are committing daily atrocities which are documented in the Human Rights Watch’s reports and confirmed by U.S Department of State –Bureau of Human Rights. Mr. Omar’s forces perpetuate arbitrary arrests, open executions, torture, imprisonment without fair trail, and rape as a weapon to suppress women who are defenseless against armed men. Mr. Omar has forcefully recruited underage men from the Ogaden cities, and goes after those in refugee camps located in neighboring country of Kenya who fled from him to join Liyuu Police in order to carry out Ethiopian government’s hidden atrocities against the Ogaden Somali civilians. Mr. Omar was the former Chief of security who led the Liyuu Police before becoming the President of the Somali region of Ethiopia.

Mr. Omar’s victims are scattered all over the United States and are saddened if their tormentor is freely allowed to enter the country without any repercussions for his crimes. Mr. Omar’s victims are currently receiving legal advice to bring him and his two high ranking members to Justice. Mr.Abdifatah Sheikh Abdullahi, the current Minister of Labor and Social Affairs in the Federal Government of Ethiopia, and Abdirahman Sheikh Mohamed, Ethiopia’s Minister of Trade are both accused of serious human rights violations. We feel if these men are allowed to enter the country and conduct their business, it will give the recognition and privilege they so desire to legitimize their abuse back home.

Horn Institute of Peace & Social Justice believes that we must never be silent about grave human rights abuses committed by these men on behalf of the Ethiopian government they work for. We feel that the United States must remain on the side of the Ogaden Somali victims and heed their sincere calls to block Mr. Omar and his delegation from entering the country. The present Obama administration had promised to make human rights its top priority, and in this case it should make good on its promise and join us in our quest to get justice for Mr. Omar’s victims residing both in Ogaden and in the United States. We take this opportunity to thank our Congressional Representatives from Minnesota, and other organizations who expressed their support by writing letters to the U.S government.

Horn Institute of Peace & Social Justice
Dept of Public Relations & International Affairs
P.O BOX 240781
St.Paul, MN 55124

Referendum for Sudan, Requiem for Africa

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Sudan’s Best and Worst of Times

It is the best of times in the Sudan. It is the worst of times in the Sudan. It is the happiest day in the Sudan. It is the saddest day in the Sudan. It is referendum for the Sudan. It is requiem for Africa.

South Sudan just finished voting in a referendum, part of a deal made in 2005 to end a civil war that dates back over one-half century. The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) says the final results will be announced on February 14; but no one really believes there will be one united Sudan by July 2011. By then, South Sudan will be Africa’s newest state.

In a recent speech at Khartoum University, Thabo Mbeki, former South African president and Chairperson of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel on Sudan, alluded to the causes of the current breakup of the Sudan: “As all of us know, a year ahead of your independence, in 1955, a rebellion broke out in Southern Sudan. The essential reason for the rebellion was that your compatriots in the South saw the impending independence as a threat to them, which they elected to oppose by resorting to the weapons of war.” There is a lot more to the South Sudanese “rebellion” than a delayed rendezvous with the legacy of British colonialism. In some ways it could be argued that the “imperfect” decolonization of the Sudan, which did not necessarily follow the boundaries of ethnic and linguistic group settlement, led to decades of conflict and civil wars and the current breakup.

Many of the problems leading to the referendum are also rooted in post-independence Sudanese history — irreconcilable religious differences, economic exploitation and discrimination. The central Sudanese government’s imposition of “Arabism” and “Islamism” (sharia law) on the South Sudanese and rampant discrimination against them are said to be a sustaining cause of the civil war. South Sudan is believed to hold much of the potential wealth of the Sudan including oil. Yet the majority of South Sudanese people languished in abject poverty for decades, while their northern compatriots benefitted disproportionately.

Whether the people of South Sudan will secede and form their own state is a question only they can decide. They certainly have the legal right under international law to self-determination, a principle enshrined in the U.N. Charter. Their vote will be the final word on the issue. The focus now is on what is likely to happen after South Sudan becomes independent. Those who seem to be in the know sound optimistic. Mbeki says, “Both the Government of Sudan and the SPLM have made the solemn and vitally important commitment that should the people of South Sudan vote for secession, they will work to ensure the emergence and peaceful coexistence of two viable states.” The tea leaves readers and pundits are predicting doom and gloom. They say the Sudan will be transformed into a hardline theocratic state ruled under sharia law. There will be renewed violence in Darfur, South Kurdofan and Eastern Sudan. There will be endless civil wars that will cause more deaths and destruction according to the modern day seers.

To some extent, the pessimism over Sudan’s future may have some merit. Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s told the New York Times recently about his post-secession plans: “We’ll change the Constitution. Shariah and Islam will be the main source for the Constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language.” Bashir’s plan goes beyond establishing a theocratic state. There will be no tolerance of diversity of any kind in Bashir’s “new Sudan”. He says, “If South Sudan secedes, we will change the Constitution, and at that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity.” Bashir’s warning is not only shocking but deeply troubling. The message undoubtedly will cause great alarm among secularists, Southern Sudanese living in the north who voted for unity and Sudanese of different faiths, viewpoints, beliefs and ideologies. In post-secession Sudan, diversity, tolerance, compromise and reconciliation will be crimes against the state. It is all eerily reminiscent of the ideas of another guy who 70 years ago talked about “organic unity” and the “common welfare of the Volk”. Sudanese opposition leaders are issuing their own ultimata. Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Umma Party, issued a demand for a new constitution and elections; in the alternative, he promised to work for the overthrow of Bashir’s regime. Other opposition leaders seem to be following along the same line. There is a rocky road ahead for the Sudan, both south and north.

From Pan-Africanism to Afro-Fascism?

The outcome of the South Sudanese referendum is not in doubt, but where Africa is headed in the second decade of the 21st Century is very much in doubt. Last week, Tunisian dictator Ben Ali packed up and left after 23 years of corrupt dictatorial rule. President Obama “applauded the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people” in driving out the dictator. Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo is still holed up in Abidjan taunting U.N. peacekeepers and playing round-robin with various African leaders. Over in the Horn of Africa, Meles Zenawi is carting off businessmen and merchants to jail for allegedly price-gouging the public and economic sabotage. What in the world is happening to Africa?

When African countries cast off the yoke of colonialism, their future seemed bright and limitless. Independence leaders thought in terms of Pan-Africanism and the political and economic unification of native Africans and those of African heritage into a “global African community”. Pan-Africanism represented a return to African values and traditions in the struggle against neo-colonialism, imperialism, racism and the rest of it. Its core value was the unity of all African peoples.

The founding fathers of post-independence Africa all believed in the dream of African unity. Ethiopia’s H.I.M. Haile Selassie, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Guinea’s Ahmed Sékou Touré, Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda and Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser were all declared Pan-Africanists. On the occasion of the establishment of the permanent headquarters of the Organization for African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa on May 25, 1963, H.I.M. Haile Selassie made the most compelling case for African unity:

We look to the vision of an Africa not merely free but united. In facing this new challenge, we can take comfort and encouragement from the lessons of the past. We know that there are differences among us. Africans enjoy different cultures, distinctive values, special attributes. But we also know that unity can be and has been attained among men of the most disparate origins, that differences of race, of religion, of culture, of tradition, are no insuperable obstacle to the coming together of peoples. History teaches us that unity is strength, and cautions us to submerge and overcome our differences in the quest for common goals, to strive, with all our combined strength, for the path to true African brotherhood and unity…. Our efforts as free men must be to establish new relationships, devoid of any resentment and hostility, restored to our belief and faith in ourselves as individuals, dealing on a basis of equality with other equally free peoples.

Pan-Africanism is dead. A new ideology today is sweeping over Africa. Africa’s home grown dictators are furiously beating the drums of “tribal nationalism” all over the continent to cling to power. In many parts of Africa today ideologies of “ethnic identity”, “ethnic purity,” “ethnic homelands”, ethnic cleansing and tribal chauvinism have become fashionable. In Ivory Coast, an ideological war has been waged over ‘Ivoirité (‘Ivorian-ness’) since the 1990s. Proponents of this perverted ideology argue that the country’s problems are rooted in the contamination of genuine Ivorian identity by outsiders who have been allowed to freely immigrate into the country. Immigrants, even those who have been there for generations, and refugees from the neighboring countries including Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and Liberia are singled out and blamed for the country’s problems and persecuted. Professor Gbagbo even tried to tar and feather the winner of the recent election Alassane Ouattara (whose father is allegedly Burkinabe) as a not having true Ivorian identity. Gbagbo has used religion to divide Ivorians regionally into north and south.

In Ethiopia, tribal politics has been repackaged in a fancy wrapper called “ethnic federalism.” Zenawi has segregated the Ethiopian people by ethno-tribal classification like cattle in grotesque regional political units called “kilils” (reservations) or glorified apartheid-style Bantustans or tribal homelands. This sinister perversion of the concept of federalism has enabled a few cunning dictators to oppress, divide and rule some 80 million people for nearly two decades.[1] South of the border in Kenya, in the aftermath of the 2007 elections, over 600 thousand Kenyans were displaced as a result of ethnic motivated hatred and violence. Over 1,500 were massacred. Kenya continues to arrest and detain untold numbers of Ethiopian refugees that have fled the dictatorship of Meles Zenawi. What more can be said about Rwanda that has not already been said.

It is not only the worst-governed African countries that are having problems with “Africanity”. South Africa has been skating on the slippery slope of xenophobia. Immigrants from Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia have been attacked by mobs. According to a study by the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP): “The ANC government – in its attempts to overcome the divides of the past and build new forms of social cohesion… embarked on an aggressive and inclusive nation-building project. One unanticipated by-product of this project has been a growth in intolerance towards outsiders… Violence against foreign citizens and African refugees has become increasingly common and communities are divided by hostility and suspicion.” Among the member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), South Africans expressed the harshest and most punitive anti-foreigner sentiments in the study. How ironic for a country that was under apartheid less than two decades ago.

Whether it is the “kilil” ideology practiced in Ethiopia or the “Ivorite” of Ivory Coast, the central aim of these weird ideologies is to enable power hungry and bloodthirsty African dictators to cling to power by dividing Africans along ethnic, linguistic, tribal, racial and religious lines. Fellow Africans are foreigners to be arrested, jailed, displaced, deported and blamed for whatever goes wrong under the watch of the dictators. The old Pan-African ideas of common African history, suffering, struggle, heritage and legacy are gone. There is no unifying sense African brotherhood or sisterhood. Africa’s contemporary leaders, or more appropriately, hyenas in designer suits and uniforms, have made Africans strangers to each other and rendered Africa a “dog-eat-dog” continent.

In 2009, in Accra, Ghana, President Obama blasted identity politics as a canker in the African body politics:

We all have many identities – of tribe and ethnicity; of religion and nationality. But defining oneself in opposition to someone who belongs to a different tribe, or who worships a different prophet, has no place in the 21st century…. In my father’s life, it was partly tribalism and patronage in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is a daily fact of life for far too many.

For what little it is worth, for the last few years I have preached from my cyber soapbox against those in Africa who have used the politics of ethnicity to cling to power. I firmly believe that our humanity is more important than our ethnicity, nationality, sovereignty or even Africanity! As an unreformed Pan-Africanist, I also believe that Africans are not prisoners to be kept behind tribal walls, ethnic enclaves, Ivorite, kilils, Bantustans, apartheid or whatever divisive and repressive ideology is manufactured by dictators, but free men and women who are captains of their destines in one un-walled Africa that belongs to all equally. “Tear down the walls of tribalism and ethnicity in Africa,” I say.

It is necessary to come up with a counter-ideology to withstand the rising tide of Afro-Fascism. Perhaps we can learn from Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s ideas of “Ubuntu”, the essence of being human. Tutu explained: “A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.” I believe “Ubuntu” provides a sound philosophical basis for the development of a human rights culture for the African continent based on a common African belief of “belonging to a greater whole.” To this end, Tutu taught, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” More specifically, Africa.

“Afri-Cans” and “Afri-Cannots”

As for South Sudan, the future holds many dangers and opportunities. Africans have fought their way out of colonialism and become independent. Some have seceded from the post-independence states, but it is questionable if they have succeeded. How many African countries are better off today than they were prior to independence? Before secession? As the old saying goes: “Be careful what you wish for. You may receive it.” We wish the people of South and North Sudan a future of hope, peace, prosperity and reconciliation.

I am no longer sure if Afri-Cans are able to “unite for the benefit of their people”, as Bob Marley pleaded. But I am sure that Afri-Cannot continue to have tribal wars, ethnic domination, corruption, inflation and repression as Fela Kuti warned, and expect to be viable in the second decade of the Twenty-First Century. In 1963, H.I.M. Haile Selassie reminded his colleagues:

Today, Africa has emerged from this dark passage [of colonialism]. Our Armageddon is past. Africa has been reborn as a free continent and Africans have been reborn as free men…. Those men who refused to accept the judgment passed upon them by the colonisers, who held unswervingly through the darkest hours to a vision of an Africa emancipated from political, economic, and spiritual domination, will be remembered and revered wherever Africans meet…. Their deeds are written in history.

It is said that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. I am afraid Africa’s Armageddon is yet to come. Africa has been re-enslaved by home grown dictators, and Africans have become prisoners of thugs, criminals, gangsters, fugitives and outlaws who have seized and cling to power like parasitic ticks on a milk cow. Cry for the beloved continent!


Is federation of Ethiopia and South Sudan possible?

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Nations and Nation Builders

By Msmaku Asrat

The following is a rather elaborate response to the objection raised by the good Sadiq Abdulrahman regarding my views about a future federation of Ethiopia with both South Sudan and self proclaimed independent Republic of Somaliland (formerly British Somaliland). Sadiq and I have more in common than he realizes. We both have the courage of our convictions and invoke our names to speak truth to power.

The Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 defined the principles of sovereignty and equality of nations and this became the blueprint for the formation of nation states of what is normally referred as ‘modern times” i.e. the period after the Treaty. The great nation builders of Europe, Ethiopia and Latin America were contemporaries – Bismarck of Germany (1844-1913); Garibaldi of Italy (1807-1882); Emperor Menelik of Ethiopia (1844-1913). Simon Bolivar of Latin America (1783-1830) could also be included in that category. Even the famous British Imperialist of the “Cape to Cairo” fame, Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), is in the same category, although on the other side. His plan was to expand the British Empire believing that the Anglo-Saxon race was destined to greatness. He also believed that Britain, US and Germany would dominate the world of the future.

But all nation builders did not ethnically belong to the country they built but were nonetheless dedicated to their “adopted” nation. Alexander the Great was a Macedonian(there is currently a dispute between Macedonia and Greece largely about his legacy); Catherine the Great of Russia was a German; Emperor Napoleon of France was an Italian; Hitler was an Austrian; Mahatma Gandhi was a South African; Kamuzu Banda of Malawi was an American; Isayiyas Afewerki (and Welde ab Wolde Mariam) were Ethiopians. It is hard to place the half-Eritrean Meles because he is perennially subservient to Isayiyas and also a narrow Tigrean tribalist.

Bismarck said that nations are formed by “blood and iron” when he brought together the various principalities of Germany and formed the German Nation. Menelik said that he would not be “an indifferent spectator” when nations come from faraway places and encroach his land. What makes him a great statesman besides being a military genius was his ability to have preserved what he can do and cannot do when far more powerful European powers were snatching his land. However, he has to make a last stand to defend the survival of his country and win decisively. Menelik is considered the greatest African general since Hannibal, who had vanquished the Romans, the ancestors of the Italians whom Menelik has conquered. That happened, two thousand years earlier!

We may recall that Menelik was the only modern Ethiopian leader who has vanquished a foreign enemy. Yohannes was defeated by Sudan and was beheaded; Theodros was defeated by the British and killed himself; Haile Selassie was defeated by the Italians and went into exile in Britain and to Geneva to appeal to the League of Nations. Menelik with his multi ethnic army shot like an arrow from the middle of his Empire and confronted the Italians at Adwa. He was riding segar beklo, fast paced mules 30 of whom were saddled and ready by his side and him transferring from one tired mule to another without breaking a stride. His military genius is recounted by George Berkeley : The Campaign of Adwa and the Rise of Menilik. The British deservedly called him Menelik the Great for several years afterwards, but the title was discontinued after repeated and fervent appeals by the humiliated Italians.

It was Menelik that put Adwa on the map. Nobody would have ever remembered that tiny dusty village of Adwa, in Tigray, if it were not for him. Austerlitz and Waterloo represent the rise and fall of Napoleon and are always associated with his name, Likewise, the glory of Adwa is associated with Menelik and is the legacy of the Ethiopian people and even beyond that the legacy of the subjugated people of the Third World. No one could snatch Adwa away from him and from the Ethiopian people and from the people of the Third World. Adwa will forever be associated with Menilik till Kingdom Come. And the Ethiopian people will continue to be proud of Adwa no matter what. This is a historical fact.

What I would like to point out to Sadiq Abdurahman is that no nation in history was formed by a single ethnic group. The nearest that came to this was Somalia. But even that was a fiction. Somalia did not include the almost one million Somali Bantu or Gosha living along the banks of Juba and Shebelle rivers. I have seen some of them when I visited Afgoi near Mogadishu. The other fiction of the now defunct Somalia was that it pretended that in due course, the new Somalia will achieve an ingathering of the Somali people scattered in neighboring countries. It was a pipe dream. The population of Djibouti is equally divided between Afars and Issas and in fact that was its official name before independence. Ogaden in Ethiopia has been settled also by many ethnic groups from all over Ethiopia for hundreds of years. So his objection is a non squinter. British Somaliland was an independent state and agreed to unite with Italian Somaliland five days later when the latter gained its independence from Italy. It was largely the work of the Somali Youth League which was active in the anti-colonial struggle. If one goes to the Somali Paltalk rooms we find almost a hundred of them every day, each promoting its specific clan. One is reminded of the old Somali saying “my nation against the world; my clan against my nation; my family against my clan; and me against my family” Unfortunately; It seems that the Somali has been broken to pieces like shattered glass. It would be wise and prudent to look for alternatives.

Another people who wanted to forge a country from one ethnic people are the Kurds. As time passes this is becoming increasingly impossible since the Kurds have a stake in whatever country they belong in and are turning their back to such esoteric dreams. Nations are continuously forming and breaking apart like Somalia. No other country was as visible as Yugoslavia after the Second World War, especially among the countries of the Third World. It was brought together by the powerful personality of the anti-Fascist patriot Marshall Broz Tito(a close friend of Emperor Haile Selassie.) However, after his death Yugoslavia is no more, it has been broken into seven separate states and the break up is continuing. The same happened to Czarist Russian Empire which was inherited by the Soviet Union. When it collapsed, 17 new states were created and more might be created. Belgium which has committed unspeakable crime against its colony of Belgian Congo is held by the skin of a teeth and is about to break up along linguistic lines any day now. Wherever we look it is the will of the people to live together that is the hallmark of a viable nation.

If Meles has his way Ethiopia would have broken up into six or seven countries. It did not happen because they are artificial and arbitrary entities. Take the case of Oromia. The people of Oromia have migrated north in the 17th Century occupying the place of the former inhabitants vanquished by Ahmed Gragn and his Turkish supported army. In the aftermath, the country had been weakened and made vulnerable to the aggressive conquest of the Oromo. What they could not destroy they absorbed in the age old tradition of the MOGASSA. An eye witness account of this very period was written by Aleka Bahri (who was from Gamu and not an Amhara as others allege) in his book Zenahu ze Galla (History of the Gallas.) Ato Yilma Deressa, a ”Galla” from Wellega, and the most prominent Minister in the Haile Selassie Government has also written a book about this 17th Century called The South to North migration of the Galla. He emphatically declares that he is proud to be called a Galla.

The humongous area designated as Oromia by the Weyane is a total fiction as half of the inhabitants of the area are multi ethnic. It is as ridiculous as calling Addis Ababa “Finfine” since Finfine (or Filwoha) occupies only about five percent of Addis Ababa. The same is true about trying to give Harar to the Adere who number a few thousand and their greater number lives in Addis Ababa and thus outside Harar. What is the opinion of Sadiq about the ¾ of a million Somalis living in Addis Ababa. They are not going anywhere soon. They are part of the city fabric.

The greatness of Ethiopia is that it has existed as an entity for thousands of years and has perfected the craft of living in peace and harmony. Even the two great religions Christians and Moslems have lived together in peace for over a thousand years which no other nation on earth could match. This harmony has been created not by governments but by people. Wise leaders like Emperor Haile Selassie have said that “a country is shared by all; but religion is an individual affair” promoting unity in diversity. The 15 years study conducted by the Derg about the “history of the peoples of Ethiopia” produced in several volumes confirmed just that. Since it did not serve the agenda of the Derg it was shelved. The Weyane would never allow the study to see the light of day. I hope those who participated in the study would muster courage and publish their findings.

Meles Zenawi in one of his frequent moments of monumental stupidity (which his Tigrean admirers regard as wisdom), had asked rhetorically “what is Axum for the Welayita or Lalibela for the Oromo.” It is a historical fact that the Agazi, the predecessors of the Tigre, were nowhere there when the Axum obelisks were erected. In fact the Welayita may have more to do with Axum than the Tigre. It is similar to the Arab claims to the Pyramids. They only came there in the 7th Century. The Fedayeen; the Nubians the Ethiopians, the Punt have more claim to the Pyramids than the Arabs. There is even a story circulating by non-Adwa Tigreans about their fellow ethnic Adwans. They say that the Adwans became the most evil among the Tigreans because they are a product of bastardization. When Menelik’s army came to Adwa these multi ethnic soldiers slept with thousands of Adwa women and these are the products of the union – half Tigre and half every other ethnic group! That is a way of absolving themselves and showing their particular hatred to other Ethiopians. There is even a treacherous curve along the road from Addis Ababa to Asmara, passing through Adwa that is popularly known as libe Adwa (the heart of Adwa) Those who say this must also be aware that there is another curve nearby along the same road which is called libe Tigrai (the heart of Tigrai). These are local folklores of no historical significance, but show the psychological makeup of the people in the area.

Here we might cast our attention in the direction of Eritrea. The perennial boss of Meles, Isayias Afewerki is the father of Eritrean nationalism. Unlike his vassal Meles he wants Eritrea to be a multi ethnic Nation. During the long drown out war Isayiyas encouraged Eritrean women to “sleep with the enemy”,-the Ethiopian army – as a sort of low-cost, low- maintenance espionage spread (no pun intended). The result was what Isayiyas has not anticipated but should have. Many unions resulted in love and marriage, but hundreds of thousands of these unions caused hundreds of thousands of children to be born. These children were half-Eritrean and half-every other ethnic group of Ethiopia. Such was the result of 30 years of union. However much Isayias tries to deny their existence, the future of Eritrea is more theirs than his. They are the ones who would shape the future of Eritrea.

Another historical fact is that about a third of the Hamassen of Eritrea have Gojame grandparents. The reason is this. Gojames are the traditional merchant class of Ethiopia (the Gurage are very recent arrivals in the field). For centuries they have been travelling beyond Ethiopia. Even Addis Ababa has Gojam Berenda since its infancy and no Gurage berenda (there is a Gojam Berenda in Khartoum as well). The merchants of Gojam are known as sirara Negade, with their long caravan of huge and sturdy mules who travel up to North Africa as far as Tripoli, Libya. One of their stops is Geza Aba Shawel of Asmara. Aba Shawel is the name of a prominent Gojame merchant. This place was where the caravan of the famed Gojame, Aba Shawel, stayed for R&R and the place was named after him. As is well known, no Eritrean was allowed to spend a night in Asmara during Italian colonialism. They were permitted to do their domestic work in Asmara during the day but have to go out of town at dusk. They stayed at Geza Aba Shawel, the other side of Asmara. – a practice the Fascists never dared to impose during their short occupation of Ethiopia. There is also folklore of another Gojame in Eritrea. He was called Aboy Mengesha. He occupies a similar reverence in Eritrea like the famous folkloric wisdom attributed to Aleka Gebre Hana of Menelik’s time in Ethiopia. Mengesha’s witticism is still told and retold to this day especially among the old folk. An old Eritrean gentleman who was my cellmate at Makelawi prison used to delight us by telling Aboy Mengesha’s witticisms.

Something is quite different to the Weyanes which is not exhibited in any other ethnic group – not to that extent. Maybe the Tigreans are the most parochial and xenophobic tribe in Ethiopia. They seem to find refuge in their ethnicity, similar to those ethnic entrepreneurs who promote the idea of OLF. However, those who propagate for OLF are a miniscule minority blinded by hatred and fired with ambition to rough-ride their ethnic unit. Fortunately they are constantly confronted and rejected by the masses of Ethiopian Oromos who are infinitely wiser. Twenty years have shown us that the Weyane are only interested in theft and pillage for the benefit of themselves and their ethic group. The entire Tigrean elite fully backs the Weyane pillage, to their etrnal shame. Their former Prime Minister, the Amhara-hating Tamrat Layne, stole millions in short order and deposited it in Swiss Banks. Only the powerful Alamudin was able to recover his loss. The rest was given to Tamrat by his fellow gang of thieves as a parting gift. It did not matter because the money is not theirs but the property of the Ethiopian people. Conveniently, Tamrat, the smart-alec thief, now says that he received a revelation when God talked to him in prison. He become a Pentecostal convert and he is now living in the US, endlessly recounting at church sermons his daily conversations with God and the gullible stand up and applaud. No mention about his loot or his crimes.

All told the crimes of the Weyane could not amount to ¼ of the crimes committed by the heinous Derg. The Khamer Rouge of Kampuchea and the Derg were the two most brutal murderers of the last quarter of the 20th Century. Pol Pot of Cambodia escaped justice by dying. Mengistu is thumbing his nose at the world from his comfortable exile in Zimbabwe He needs to face the International Court of Justice at the Hague. His associates who have committed genocide and crimes against humanity should be given the death sentence and hanged if justice was to prevail.

The recent development in Tunesia should serve as a warning shot for the Weyane. 20 years of dictatorship is more than enough.

(Msmaku Asrat, Ph.D., can be reached at

NMG political index gives Meles a failing grade

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

The Kenya-based Nation Media Group (NMG) has released its first annual African Presidents Index. The index has ranked Ethiopia’s genocidal tyrant Meles Zenawi as one of the top fifteen failed political leaders in Africa. NMG could not even give Meles an F grade, and instead give him an ICU (Intensive Care Unit). (Click here for details)

1 Sir Anerood Jugnauth, Mauritus 83.54 A+
2 Pedro Pires, Cape Verde 78.91 A
3 Ian Khama, Botswana 78.7 A
4 John Atta Mills, Ghana 72.56 A
5 Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba, Namibia 71.07 A-
6 Jacob Zuma, South Africa 69.93 B+
7 James Michel, Seychelles 66.4 B
8 Amadou Toumani Touré, Mali 64.4 B
9 Ernest Bai Koroma, Sierra Leone 61.89 B
10 Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, Tanzania 60.39 B-
11 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia 60.32 B-
12 Rupiah Banda, Zambia 59.59 C+
13 King Mohammed VI, Morocco 54.84 C
14 Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili, Lesotho 54.5 C
15 Thomas Yayi Boni, Benin 53.91 C
16 Mwai Kibaki, Kenya 53.43 C
17 Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi 53.04 C
18 Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal 51.68 C-
19 Paul Kagame, Rwanda 51.31 C-
20 Yoweri Museveni, Uganda 49.91 D+
21 Alassane Ouattara, Cote D’ivoire 49.69 D+
22 Armando Guebuza, Mozambique 49.35 D+
23 Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia 49.01 D
24 Salou Djibo, Niger 48.55 D
25 Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria 46.06 D-
26 Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi 45.2 D-
27 Omar Ghaddafi, Libya 44.64 F+
28 Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria 43.42 F
29 Alpha Conde, Guinea 41.94 F
30 Mohamed Hosni, Mubarak Egypt 40.74 F-
31 King Mswati III, Swaziland 40.05 F-
32 Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, Comoros 36.97 ICU
33 Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, Mauritania 36.29 ICU
34 Blaise Compaore, Burkina Faso 35.7 ICU
35 Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba, Gabon 34.28 ICU
36 Denis Sassou Nguesso, Congo 33.43 ICU
37 Faure Gnassingbe, Togo 33.38 ICU
38 Malam Bacai Sanha, Guinea Bissau 32.84 ICU
39 Meles Zenawi Asres, Ethiopia 32.68 ICU
40 Yahya Jammeh, Gambia 32.48 ICU
41 Ismail Omar Guelleh, Djibouti 31.53 ICU
42 Joseph Kabila Kabange, Drc 30.18 ICU
43 José Eduardo dos Santos, Angola 30.17 ICU
44 Paul Biya, Cameroon 29.52 Morgue
45 Andry Rajoelina, Madagascar 29.31 Morgue
46 François Bozizé Yangouvonda, CAR 28.22 Morgue
47 Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Zimbabwe 22.62 Morgue
48 Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Somalia 22.41 Morgue
49 Idriss Déby Itno, Chad 20.81 Morgue
50 Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Equitorial Guinea, 20.72, Morgue
51 Omar al-Bashir, Sudan 15.67 Morgue
52 Isaias Afwerki, Eritrea 12.14 Morgue

The Ethiopian Diaspora House

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

By Maru Gubena

As may be recalled, the issue of the Ethiopian Diaspora, its origin, and more particularly its potential role in and contribution to the process of political stabilization and democratization in Ethiopia, has been discussed relatively widely, if not as deeply as the community’s role and the extent of its involvement deserves. Some of my compatriots and others interested and involved in the subject matter have written and published their views related to the issues in question, and I personally have published a good number of articles, both prior to and in the aftermath of the 2005 Ethiopian parliamentary election. My most recent articles are cases in point: “Revisiting the Events, Sights and Sounds of the Aftermath of the 2005 Ethiopian Election,” which was widely published on the 4th of December 2010 and subsequent days, and “Reviewing the Damaging Effects of Ethiopian Diaspora Politics on the Wider Community and its Future Initiatives: The Search for Alternative Mechanisms,” published in February–May 2009 (also in four parts). In addition, I understand that a degree of interest in the subject matter has been planted in a few college and university circles, including international NGOs and even Ministries for Development Cooperation. Also financial resources continue to be allocated for study and research on the topic, especially in socio-economic and health-related fields. Further, given the widespread diversity of readers’ views in areas of political associations and ideology, it is somehow difficult to determine the genuineness of their opinions and judgments based just on brief and unelaborated responses and comments to published articles. It is nevertheless good and even a cause for rejoicing to observe that some of our articles are being incorporated in and used as discussion topics, teaching and research materials by some institutions and universities, which can also be seen as a direct contribution to students, teaching communities and societies in general.

Coming back to the main topic of this rather short paper, let me briefly reiterate the potential role and contributions of Ethiopian Diaspora politics to the process of democratization, and more particularly, to freeing Ethiopia and its people from the yokes and chains of the autocratic and divisive regime of Meles Zenawi. As stated repeatedly, loudly and unambiguously in my previously published articles, there were and still are multiple opportunities and choices that could allow Ethiopian Diaspora political activists to have an influence that is substantial and commanding, and therefore meaningful; and to be actors and factors in shaping both the politics and the future face of Ethiopia. To make this possible, political activists and their supporters must be willing to redirect their current disoriented convictions and approaches, such as “who is not with us is our enemy” and “go it alone,” which are unproductive. It is necessary to be prepared to speak with one firm voice. Even more essentially, we must all be able and willing to cultivate and spread a sense of confidence in each other, along with a collective courage to establish institutions that operate professionally and within legal frameworks, remaining neutral with respect to associations or affiliations with political groupings and political parties. My stance is even that those establishing and working in such institutions, in whatever positions, should be barred from any form of association with or membership in political parties, and in the event of regime change in our homeland should abstain from political ambition. Within maturely structured and established institutions of this sort, Ethiopian professionals trained in law and diplomacy can work together, design policies conducive to reviving and/or restoring the diminished morale and confidence of fellow Ethiopians, and engage tirelessly and responsibly in political and peace-oriented activities and peace building, including planting the seeds of credibility and integrity – not just in the land of Ethiopia and in our Diaspora community, but more fundamentally, within the global community, and its political and diplomatic circles in particular.

Institutions of the sort described will provide tools and opportunities that well trained, professional Ethiopians can seize to craft peace-oriented strategies that are careful and wise, and which will help to move towards engagement in various educational fields, to wage political and diplomatic wars directed at conflict resolution, and to work against our common enemies of family or group orientation and regionalism that have plagued us in relation to Ethiopian politics. Thus this institution can provide the most appropriate place for us to seriously engage in heartfelt reconciliation processes, bringing together Ethiopian political activists and working to resolve both long smoldering historical animosities and newly conceived resentments among various cultural, social and political groups.

Since the complex events of Ethiopia’s historical and recent past, including its multifaceted cultural heritage, remain unknown and unrecorded – not just for the international community at large, but also for Ethiopians – the institution to be established should also enable Ethiopians and others who work there to actively engage in this most fascinating research and data collection, chronicling and analyzing forgotten aspects of Ethiopia’s history and culture.

The paragraphs below, quoted from one of my previously published articles about two tragic events that have hardly been documented – the resignation of Prime Minster Aklilu Habte-Wold’s cabinet and the sudden murder of 60 civil and army officials by the brutal Dergue regime – are illustrations that make evident the extent to which we Ethiopians don’t mind, don’t seem to care, if we live in complete darkness about the actions and measures undertaken by our own ancestors, parents and even ourselves. These quotations clearly point up the urgent need to establish the repeatedly suggested institution, which I have referred to as the Ethiopian Diaspora House.

Even worse and more painful, in addition to these unhealed wounds and unforgettable scars in our recent history, we also know so little about the sources and causes that contributed to the abrupt resignation of Prime Minster Aklilu Habte-Wold’s entire cabinet on the 26 or 27 (embarrassingly, no exact date of resignation is to be found anywhere) of February 1974. Although this became a fertile ground for the emergence of the people’s enemy, the Dergue, and the subsequent structural crisis within Ethiopian society, this has not been explored and written up. Except through verbal stories and jokes told in family get-togethers and around coffee tables, most, if not all, Ethiopians have had no factual account – for example, based on meeting reports or recorded videos showing when, at which date and time, or indeed the exact reasons that led to the resignation of the late Prime Minister Aklilu Habte-Wold’s cabinet. And who was or were precisely responsible for this resignation of then Prime Minister Aklilu Habte-Wold and his ministers? Many Ethiopians say it was the Dergue that forced the entire cabinet to resign. But surely there was no Dergue or military committee at that time of their resignation? There was not someone in Addis Ababa at that time by the name of Mengistu Hailemariam.”

The second quotation states that:

The story surrounding the tragic, untimely and sudden murder of ministers, together with their compatriot army generals and civil servants, by the power hungry and power intoxicated Dergue members under the leadership of the most inhumane, cruel, anti-social animal called Mengistu Hailemariam, has remained buried, in exactly the same way as the story of the resignation of Aklilu Habte-Wold’s cabinet. No books, no films or video recordings based on facts seem to have been produced. It is probably due to our resulting ignorance that most Ethiopians of my generation often feel uncomfortable, even embarrassed, to talk or engage in debates involving these two tragic events. Yes, since there are no written meeting reports or video records that might indicate why and how the members of the Dergue reached their extremely cruel conclusions and decided to murder their own compatriots, most of us know little or nothing about the precise facts behind the killing of those 60 Ethiopian citizens in just a few minutes on the 23rd of November 1974 – we only know that they never faced due process in a court of law for the crimes of which they were accused.”

As time passes, later generations, including that of my daughter, will know even less. What is most remarkable of all is the lack of concern and the disinterest of Ethiopians in boldly confronting, exploring and writing about these painful events, the history of our own crises, which are also our own creations. Isn’t it tragic, even shameful, to realize that we Ethiopians still live without books, professionally produced films or video records of such important, fascinating but painful historical events?” — Maru Gubena in “Looking at Forgotten Recent Events and Future Strategies Conducive to a Mature Political Culture for Ethiopia: Putting the Cart Before the Horse?” published July 2006.

In conclusion, I will boldly and unambiguously assert that an Ethiopian Diaspora House, if it were to be established and take root, would unquestionably be not just a place that would begin to revive our dysfunctional social relations, networks and diminishing confidence and trust in each other; would help us to educate ourselves; would be a place of diplomacy and reconciliation; but also would serve as a source of pride in ourselves, pride in being Ethiopians – indeed an undisputed source of strength and new unity.

(Readers who wish to contact the author can reach me at

ECADF owner admits Col. Fitsum receives bribe

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

A desperate attempt is currently going on to cover up the crimes that have been committed against Ethiopian patriots in Eritrea in the hands of Col. Fitsum and his Ethiopian collaborators in the Diaspora. One of the colonel’s collaborators is an Internet discussion forum in called ECADF.

When reports about the disappearance of Col. Tadesse Muluneh and several other former and current members of the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) have surfaced recently, ECADF has taken a lead role in trying to cover up the crime by trying to impugn Ethiopian Review’s credibility and trash-talking its editor.

Last night, confronted with some angry Ethiopians, the head of the ECADF admin had a meltdown. Trembling and resorting to vulgarity and ethnic slur, he tried to explain what happened to the 17 fighters who have reportedly been executed following EPPF’s general assembly in February 2010.

In his bizarre cover up attempt, the ECADF head admin has admitted that Col. Fitsum has been accepting bribes from Ethiopians in Diaspora. He said that when a person named Selamhunu was sent to EPPF to deliver money collected from the Diaspora, he gave it to the Eritrean colonel instead. Listen below [forward to 07:45]

[Warning: audio contains vulgar language]

The ECADF head admin has also said that according to his investigation, the 17 EPPF fighters who have reportedly been executed by Col. Fitsum, are alive and that they might have went to Sudan or some unknown place. The ECADF admin, who claims to have close contacts with the EPPF leadership, is contradicting EPPF’s own statement that was sent to the media yesterday and posted on ECADF’s own web site, which says that the organization doesn’t know the fighters. [forward to 11:03]

[Warning: audio contains vulgar language]

None of the ECADF admins has visited EPPF. In fact, most of the ECADF admins claim to be active members of another political party. So why are they desperately trying to cover up Col. Fitsum’s crimes against Ethiopian patriots?

The writings of Teodros Kiros – Book Review

Friday, January 14th, 2011

By Tecola Worq Hagos

Professor Teodros Kiros is a well established personality in our Ethiopian Diaspora community (political life) due to his exemplary hard work and commitment to our political and social struggles. In several of his outstanding books, numerous essays and articles, we are privileged to learn about ourselves, about our struggle, and about our hopes and aspirations. Teodros is no charlatan trying his hand in this or that, but a well educated, brilliant, and socially conscious individual. He received his B.A. at University of Wisconsin and his Ph.D. in Political Philosophy at Kent State University. The following two books (under review) are his most recent contribution to our Ethiopian discourse:

Teodros Kiros, Philosophical Essays, Trenton, NJ: The Red Sea Press, 2011. [Teodros-1]

Teodros Kiros, Ethiopian Discourse, Trenton, NJ: The Red Sea Press, 2011. [Teodros-2]

In fact, Teodros’s sphere of involvement and influence is much wider than our own Ethiopian locality. He devoted all of his adult life in reminding us that there is a much higher plane to all our political and social involvements. To wit here are some of his outstanding books you all might want to explore: 1) Zara Yacob, A seventeenth Century Rationalist: Philosopher of the Rationality of the Human Heart, The Red Sea Press, 2005; 2) Self-Construction and the Formation of Human Values: Truth, Language, and Desire, Praeger Paperback, 2001; 3) Explorations In African Political Thought, Routledge, 2001; 4) Moral Philosophy & Development: The Human Condition in Africa, Ohio University Press, 1992.

I am tempted to ask what motivates Teodros to write with such depth and scope on a subject that seems, on the surface, contingent to a fruitful academic life. To a great extent, Teodros has answered that question where he stated, “I write because writing is my vocation. I enjoy it. But joy is not the only reason. I write because I consider myself a responsible citizen of the Ethiopia that I love from the depth of my veins. I do not write to please the public; if I did, my life would be so different. To the extent that I can, I try to write truthfully at all times, although that habit will not make me ‘the person of the year’ or even lead me to the right job.” [Teodros-2, p231] If we seek one word to draw as identification adjective to tag on Teodros, the word most appropriate to use would be “courageous.”

What is not published as often as his writings is about Teodros’s commitment to academic life and his exceptional contribution in the field of continental philosophy and ethics from a trajectory that is unique. His views on human endeavor are often interwoven in books and essays dealing with pressing social and economic issues. All of his books deal with economic and social issues (ethics and philosophy). Most of his writing is involved with the interpretation of principles and norms and in relating factual matters to such principles and norms. It is in this context of critical thinking or hermeneutics that I chose to review his recent books.

Both books under review are compilation of a series of essays and commentaries he wrote and published over a period of time. Theodros-1 seems to be more thematically focused than Teodros-2. Teodros-2 is eclectic in the range of subjects discussed over a period of over ten years. Thus, in reading the books under review one cannot help but feel revisiting known terrine of ideas. Nevertheless, there is a degree of novelty in the book-matrix that it is worth our effort to devote time to read these very important books. By way of reassuring all of my readers that there is nothing wrong in collected materials i.e., individual articles in a book form, to be part of our book collections, for references and occasional refreshing reading. I direct your attention to an outstanding article on the virtue (“sin” in the author’s own word) of rereading as expounded beyond the pale by David Gate in his beautifully and passionately crafted article “Now, Read it Again” of June 27, 2009, in Newsweek. “I’m always rereading …The simple answer is that they give me joy. They fill me with the voices of people I know, thousands of them—many times the number in that old Dickens print—the real and the imagined, the living and the dead. Heaven may be like this eventually, but why wait around when it’s right here, right now?”

The Case of Philosopher Zera Yacob

There are some serious questions that need be answered satisfactorily about the translation into English of the Hatetat of Zera Yacob by Professor Claude Sumner. The treatise of Zärʾa Yaʻe̳qob and of Wäldä Ḥe̳yw·at, was first printed in 1976. In the book, there is no one named translator, but that of the name of Claude Sumner is stated as the author. Sumner has no knowledge of Geez to qualify him as translator of such work. That fact has casted a dark shadow on the authenticity and credibility of the translation as presented by Sumner. This means that any writing based on such translation is also challenged because its referential book is challenged.

An Ethiopian scholar wrote some times back that “Sumner proved that the author of the Treatise was not an Italian Capuchin Giusto d’Urbino, who lived in Ethiopia in the 19th century; Giusto d’Urbino himself never said the work was his own but told that he had bought the manuscript.” That is well and good but it still remains for us to have a verifiable translation. It is not to discredit the voluminous work and devotion of Sumner to Ethiopia and its people that I am questioning the quality and authenticity of the translation of Zera Yacob’s great philosophical work, but to ensure that we pass to the next generation authenticated documents. Are we dealing here with the copy that was acquired by d’Urbino or some other version? Where is the original Geez version that was the basis for the translated work of Sumner? The problem of authenticity and proper inclusion of unnamed and shadowy Ethiopian translators as “Translators” in very many books/works by foreigners on Ethiopia is the single most serious and persisting defect that need be corrected.

It is obvious that Teodros adores Zera Yacob, the seventeenth century philosopher par excellance. [Teodros-2, 36-50] It is heart warming to read a serious scholar devoting his time and intellect to elucidate and explain an Ethiopian Philosopher that some consider the equal of Descartes, if not his superior intellectual brother. Teodros poured his heart and soul in his book on Zera Yacob: Zara Yacob, A seventeenth Century Rationalist: Philosopher of the Rationality of the Human Heart, The Red Sea Press, 2005. It is with great emotional difficulty that I discount the value of Teodros’s book on Zera Yacob completely. This has nothing to do with the quality of the analysis or the presentation of the ideas and arguments by Teodros if we assume the translation is a legitimate one and could be verified from the original Geez. The problem is with the translation work of Sumner. We have no way of verifying what is claimed to be a translation. We do not know who translated the Geez into English. For sure it is not Sumner for he could hardly find his way even in Amharic let alone Geez. We need to have the copy of the original Geez side by side with any translation so that there could be possible verification and testing for accuracy.

An entire field of philosophical enquiry has developed from such initial concerns about the accuracy of translations and the appropriateness of interpretations of biblical texts (medieval and early medieval works). Over a period of time such rigorous discipline took a life of its own and developed into a discipline called hermeneutics. Other than the serious technical difficulties that would deteriorate and affect the substance of the original book, there are also exaggerated claims that Zera Yacob’s writing has somehow contributed to “the development of African philosophy.” One must be careful in making such claims. The first question that comes to mind is the question of publication and wide distribution of Zara Yacob’s work for it to have some such impact. The second question has to do with the existence of an “African philosophy” in the sense of categories or types of philosophies. Both concerns/questions are very difficult to address in a definitive manner.

In this book review and miscellaneous comments I am not pouring cold water on a passionate expose of a philosopher by being highly critical of the translation/authorship of Sumner, but rather I am concerned in the verification and authenticity of the work of the Zera Yacob as presented in translation in English with no way of checking on the quality of the translation. I would offer a compromise in rehabilitating the works of Zera Yacob by suggesting that there be constituted a panel of experts in Geez to translate the work of Zera Yacob. But first, what must be done now is to have the original Geez writing verified by experts and submit the same to a body of qualified Geez scholars from Ethiopia. Ethiopian Orthodox Church scholars must be represented in such a panel of experts. At any rate, in private communication, Teodros has assured me that he has the Geez version of Zera Yacob’s work in his collections. It is very reassuring and calming to know that. It may be the case that the book and articles written by Teodros may well be vindicated for being based then on a text that is legitimated and authenticated. The first step in that direction is to publish Zera Yacob in his original Geez.

Democracy: Greeks v. the Rest

A number of Ethiopians in the Diaspora talk or write about “democracy” with such intensity that they may give to an outsider the impression that they may be worshiping some god called “democracy.” The irony is that we Ethiopians in general are not democratic as individuals or as a community. We are much more militaristic and hierarchical than we imagine. However intensely we bring up the subject of democracy in most of our discourses, it is yet mostly superficial and has no firm grounding in the lives of those of us who incessantly talk or write about democracy. One great exception may well be Teodros who is consistently devoted to the democratic model. Having said that, I should mention some disagreements I have with Teodros in the history of the development of “democracy.” Teodros concentrated on Plato and Aristotle in discussing democracy. [Teodros-1, ppxxi-xxiv, 1-19] It seems to me that is a choice of personalities rather than fact based reflection. It is a curious choice for Teodros to associate democratic political ideas with Plato or Aristotle unless we equate rationalism with democracy.

I am quite sure from historical records that Cleisthenes is the one person credited to have reorganized Athenian society into a system that is the precursor of a representative democratic political structure. Especially considering the fact that Cleisthenes was from a powerful aristocratic family in power, it was a great achievement then moving an aristocratic land based power structure into some form of a representative political structure. This must be considered in stark contrast to Plato who was in support of an elitist political hierarchy rigidly structured by class that resembled a caste system. Aristotle favored too an aristocracy. Neither philosopher could be considered a democratic thinker. It is clear, for example from the Apology of Plato that the statement of Socrates was not in any way indicative of any ideation of democracy. Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens, in essence euphemistically speaking for corrupting the then existing system of government, which was a democratic one that had lapsed momentarily into a dictatorship. The injustice Socrates suffered does not in anyway transform him into a democratic thinker. He was all his life against the common man, an elitist in his ideology and a sophist in his method of argument.

There is the possibility that I might have misread the trajectory that Teodros grounded his perception/evaluation in according prominent places to Plato and Aristotle on the subject of democracy. To me both philosophers were detractors rather than promoters of “democracy” as a system of government. At any rate, Teodros explained to us that the democratic form or structure of a society is not uniquely Western but also practiced all over the world at one point in past human history. This is all true, because it is supported by anthropological and sociological studies and findings by numerous experts and researchers.

Teodros is not a rigid or inflexible thinker. He adjusts his ideas with flow of time that reflects his constantly evolving mind. There is nothing more satisfying to see a man of great talent constantly struggling to perfect his craft and his ideas changing and adjusting his conclusions as a result of critical self examination and honesty. I quote here a very illustrative statement by Lewis Gordon in his Preface to Teodros-1, “In writing to his Ethiopian sisters and brothers with the call to critical reflection on democratic participation and justice through drawing upon their creative resources and reflective judgment, Kiros is engaging in that radical reflective spirit of universalizing praxis. In this sense, in all his homes—in Ethiopian and North American thought—he exemplifies the value of fearless speech, and in so doing, speaks to us all.”

Contractarians and the Birth of Modern (Liberal) Democracy

Even with all the pitfalls in generalizing a complex people and with the risk of drawing a simplified identification, I do not think of us Ethiopians as uniquely African, for we are foremost Ethiopians, an identity forged by thousands of years of pounding by the hammer and anvil of history shaped into a tempered distinct people (singular). Teodros’s discussion of our current political situation and thinking is grounded in the works of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, and Madison. This part of his work constitutes the first half of his entire book. [Teodros-1, 21-54]. The core ideas of those philosophers as expounded by Teodros suggest that they were not all cut from the same philosophy-cloth. True, all of them seem to be contractarians, but that is the extent of their similarity. For example, Hobbes thinks that man in the state of nature is beastly, whereas for Rousseau man in nature is at his natural best and that it is civil society that is responsible for all individual deformities.

Teodros admires Rawls, which is wonderful. I had also the good fortune of meeting Rawls at Harvard. I met him at a time when he looked emaciated in his declining health, but Teodros had a meaningful discourse and real feel of the great philosopher over an extended period. Thus, I paid much more attention to the sections where Teodros discussed Rawls. [Teodros-1, Sec 23, Sec 25] I was most intrigued how Teodros related the concept of “justice” as foundational rights for distribution of privileges. In this regard I draw comparisons and differences between Teodros’s treatment of Rawls and the criticism of Rawls in an article by Professor Andreas Eshete [hereafter Andreas], “Contractarianism and the Scope of Justice,” in Ethics, 85, 1 (October. 1974), 38-49. In discussing the views of Teodros and Andreas, I have in mind also my own rather clumsy effort on Rawls in graduate school as well. Of course, it will not be fair to compare or contrast brief synoptic statements with Andreas’s full fledged critical analysis on an aspect of Rawls’s idea of distributive difference principle.

I am bringing in the article by Andreas into focus in order to contrast the views of Teodros even though he may seem to be inclined towards Marxist thoughts to the Hegelian of Andreas. This is how Andreas framed the issue for his criticism of Rawls: “Since the conception of justice is jointly defined by the two principles, if the difference principle lacks invariance the conception as a whole fails to capture an eternal perspective. The attraction of contractarianism for social theory stems, in part, from the claim to eternality; I hope to show that this source of the doctrine’s attraction is illusory.”

What is interesting for me for the purpose of this review is why both philosophers stressed or focused on the distributive rule (difference principle) first and foremost as opposed to Rawls’s first principle on rights that need be satisfied first in order to consider the second distributive principle. In other words, the group or communal interest is given priority over and above the rights of individuals. Does not this ground the subject of democracy in a loop? Despite the fact that I am not sure whether the introduction of “temporality” as a serious question by Andreas in discussing the invariance of the difference principle is a valid one, for eternality can be a difficult concept to resolve in context of any statement or assertion of principle. [I hope my readers would realize that my criticism of Andreas is not personal; as matter of fact, I admire his writing skill, his carful choice of words, and his structure of meaning and context. It is his political and moral commitment that I am appalled with that he could not muster the common decency to see the harm and devastation Meles Zenawi has brought about on Ethiopia in the last eighteen years.]

As far as I can tell, when Rawls discussed “eternality” he seems to be using the concept of the eternal categorematically, whereas Andreas uses the term “eternality” syncategorematically. On the other hand, considering the literature of temporality or relativism, it seems to me there is a persistent confusion between statements that are eternal in content as opposed to their temporal structural expression—a difference in metaphor and metonymy. Andreas’s discussion is forcefully ontological in the sense that it goes against the stated statement of Rawls that his idea is simply hypothetical; thus, testing it under the metaphysical issue of “being” with existence as measuring tool simply miscasts the issue.

A far more interesting challenge to the “eternality” idea in Rawls is argued in a small book by Professor William Soderberg [hereafter Soderberg] where Soderberg saw the problem leading to the age old problem of heresy vs. orthodoxy that would result, as it has done countless times in the past, in some form of persecution.

The ‘perspective from eternity,’ or Rawls’ cards-down perspective, can pose a major problem: it can deteriorate into a tyranny of orthodoxy. People may begin to argue over who is adopting the perspective and who is not. When people claim to adopt the perspective, they are sometimes subjected to proofs of fidelity and proofs of orthodoxy. Those unwilling to adopt the timeless perspective—and who prefer to follow inclinations, for example—may be viewed as infidels and on occasion may be subjected to inquisition and persecution. Battles can break out over who is orthodox and who is not.” [William Soderberg, The Game of Philosophy, University Press of America, 2000, 57.]

My own preference is to think of the question of “eternality” as a non-question or as a silly question; however, if pressed I would consider the question of “eternality” as the eternal “present” that has no beginning and no end, or as the ancient Greeks would have it that which cannot be traversed. From the perspective of the individual—what other perspective can there be—eternality as a subjective concept is a non-starter.

At any rate, I challenge both philosophers that the hierarchy they attempted to edify with Hegel or Marx in the background should be revaluated, and the hierarchy should be modified with the rights principle on top and the difference principle as secondary or of much less importance. To put it in ordinary language, I put spirituality first and material convenience second. After all, what is uniquely human is our spirituality, for we share in our base appetites what is true with all the animals and the beasts of the jungle.

There is no doubt in my mind that Teodros considers philosophy as substantive, at least in its significance to the ongoing human discourse across disciplines overcoming and transcending nominalistic limitations. What I find surprising is the fact that there is no discussion of “cause and effect” temporizing events as would in Hume. There is no recognition of the direction of the arrow of time either. In simpler philosophical term, we are never safely tucked and immune to all the pervasive process of decomposition or dealing with the process of entropy. Needless to say, all principles dissolve with increased entropy that also indicates that time is not just a state of mind but a dimension of realty no matter how crudely understood by human beings.

I really do not give a hoot what individuals think in their private moments or lives. I get involved out of concern when their philosophy affects social order and the public good. Andreas’s view on the difference principle and the maximization of privileges is shaped by his predetermined outlook on the role of the individual in a community, formed already in his mind while young living under trying circumstances (family situation) in an Ethiopian culture of the 1940s and 50s. The tragedy of Ethiopian current political situation, in the main is due to such distortions and corruption of the individual in those formative years. The radicalization of Ethiopian students in the 1960s is reactionary to such extent that its focus being individual lives of the students themselves even though the surface explanation and agitation is all about the Ethiopian “Masses.”

If we reflect for a moment on the history of Imperial Ethiopia, we note that the Emperor and his order of Government structure cannot be that easily delaminated from the people of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian family structure was, in fact, the target of rebellion by the students of the time. Ethiopian students mainly fought for their own liberation from the tyranny of their fathers and the family hierarchy, and not, as often claimed, for liberation of Ethiopia’s “masses,” to use a favorite term from the literature of the student movement of the time. Such psychological Oedipus-complex in turn had a disastrous effect on our Ethiopian political life to this date. In a way, Messay Kebede had discussed such a process in his outstanding book: Messay Kebede, Radicalism and Cultural Dislocation in Ethiopia, 1960 – 1974, Rochester, NY: Rochester University Press, 2008. [hereafter “Messay”]

In December of 2008, I wrote in my consolidated book review and commentary of Messay’s book that summarized Messay’s primary points, which are often provocative because they go against the grain of accepted evaluations of the Ethiopian student movement. The question he raised and answered dealt with how the question of psychology vs. historical dialectics resulted in a distorted revolution. Messay contend that the student movement was not a consequence of economic hardship, but a movement born out of social alienation due to the education bubble created by Haile Selassie’s education policy. [Messay, 48-49, 95-97]. Furthermore, he contended that the radicalization of Ethiopian students was not due to rational or dialectical process but psychological of deeply felt feeling of guilt for rebelling against inapt “fathers.” [Messay, 143-154, 165-186] To me that bubble is simply an accidental setup, but the revolt of students and citizens alike was and still is against the authoritative father figure, the Oedipus complex (symbolized by the Emperor then, and every leader hence). Teodros did not try to explain the cause of social discontent resulting in political rebellion in terms political forces.

Unlike Teodros, Andreas is a truly tragic figure because of his weakness in accepting the patronage of Meles Zenawi, the current Ethiopian Government, in his appointment as President of the University of Addis Ababa. What a loss of talent in Andreas’s choice of work, for he betrayed his academic calling for an administrative profession for which he is badly prepared. The depth of loathing even by élites, including his contemporaries, is terrible. Any association with Meles Zenawi continues to be a kiss of death. By contrast, Teodros remained committed to philosophy, to the love of wisdom, and has produced numerous articles and several books that definitely benefit his fellow man. Along with Messay Kebede, Teodros is the great Ethiopian scholar who is productive and nurturing to all.

Elitism, Ethnicism, Federalism, and Social Consciousness

I apologize to my readers for this section for I have expanded it to include what may look unrelated subject, but in fact is. In order to understand the ramification of elitism in the Ethiopian context and how it had affected our lives/ethos, I have taken to task as my point of diversion Professor Andreas’s work. By his own admission, Andreas was one of the most influential voices that brought about the current “Federal” structure of the State of Ethiopia thereby causing the ever deepening fractures across ethnic lines of Ethiopian communities. In an interview with Callaloo, Volume 33, Number 1, Winter (2010), (102-116), Andreas affirmed his involvement in the incorporation of “a federal” state structure for Ethiopia in the 1995 Constitution. Who could defy and challenge what could only be described as the avalanche of graduates of Yale University including Fasil Nahum, the drafter of the 1995 Constitution, who were giving credibility to Meles Zenawi and his supporters in the EPRDF undermining all those who had far more unifying programs for the battered nation of Ethiopia?

Here is an extract from the incredulous interview of Andreas Eshete published in Callaloo, Volume 33, Number 1, Winter (2010):

WOUBSHET: You’ve argued that federalism is the most viable option for governing and holding together Ethiopia. Philosophically and historically, why is federalism the better constitutional option for Ethiopia and Ethiopians?

ESHETE: I think there are both reasons of history and reasons of theory if you like—practical theory—why this is important. The reasons of history are of course the fact that there were millions of Ethiopians who were completely marginalized, who didn’t feel they were Ethiopians or who felt they could not be Ethiopians unless they gave up their own identity, hid it, or withheld it. So federalism of course got rid of this necessity. It also made all religions, all cultural communities in Ethiopia, equal and sovereign. So Ethiopia now is going to be a free union of these sovereign peoples who now could retain their identity while becoming full-fledged Ethiopians and in fact the makers and sovereign architects of the new Ethiopia.”

Andreas is living in a dream world, a few months back he declared that he is still a socialist. Such is his anachronistic view: “So I am still a socialist and socialism still has a future for good reasons. I don’t gloat at the failure of capitalism, but I do enjoy the idea that what is supposed to be the enduring according to our Western friends, the enduring social form, the only one that fits our best theoretical knowledge and our best views about evolution, is not working.” It is hypocrisy of the worst kind for anyone who is greatly benefiting from a brutal dictatorial Government to be speaking of socialism let alone federalism. But that is exactly what Andreas is doing. The ongoing celebration of federalism in Ethiopia, which coincided with the 5th International Conference on Federalism that opened on December 14 at the UN Conference Center in Addis Ababa, is a show to behold on the folly of egotistical leaders, who have butchered innocent people, and even some accused of genocide and at least one indicted by the International Criminal Court, congratulating each other for a system that had not been implemented anywhere but used as an excuse to divide and rule citizens of such victim countries. Those same people at the Celebration are the dispossessed of millions of hectares of their fertile land by Meles Zenawi and their land leased out for a century.

The “Federalism” that both Andreas and Fasil are talking about is the worst kind and the most primitive type, for it is based on ethnicism and racism that totally undermines and subordinates all individual fundamental rights to the ethnic group rights. Ethnicism is the single most destructive tool in the ongoing balkanization of Ethiopia and its ultimate destruction of Ethiopia. It was absolutely irresponsible of Fasil and collaborators to have given a cover to Meles Zenawi to pursue his anti-Ethiopia destructive program in the guise of Federalism. It is disconcerting if not unhinging to hear Fasil Nahum talks about the virtue of ethnic based “federalism” in Ethiopia as a program to saving Ethiopia from disintegration in 1991. Such talk coming from Fasil Nahum is Kafkaesque in the extreme. He claimed, in a video interview with Walta of a couple of days ago, that there never was an Ethiopian government that respected human rights as the current Government of Meles Zenawi. Such are the statements of shameful lies of dishonorable men of learning. Or is this inexcusable stupidity or naiveté?

Rather than pontificating about the “feudalism” of traditional Ethiopia, in trying to discredit Ethiopia’s tradition and great Emperors, if Fasil had paid some attention to his scholarship, he would have realized that the concept of “Federalism” is not something new for Ethiopian rulers, for most of our history the “King of Kings” presided over autonomous territories governed by local leaders. It was only during Haile Selassie’s reign that serious centralization took place with some success. Traditional Ethiopia was not like feudal Europe. One must really be careful in making generalized statements about historical Ethiopian system of governments.

Fasil Nahum is a man who served Mengistu Hailemariam as an insider and close collaborator, and he used to sing the same kind of song he is now belting out trying to convince Ethiopians about the virtue of the “Federalism” of Meles Zenawi’s regime as he had done for Mengistu’s regime and his 1984 Constitution. Fasil is not even an Ethiopian by ethnicity, if we use his own criteria of testing for the identity of individuals: he is an Eritrean on his mother’s side and a Jew on his father’s side. Now, he has continued to lead his charmed chameleon life hurting Ethiopians once again collaborating with another brutal and savage leader and his Government that has committed large scale murder, incarceration of tens of thousands of people, and is still torturing and detaining Ethiopians as we speak. Such people also tried to portray the opposition as anti ethnic groups, which is an absurdity, for the opposition is far more supportive of individual rights which is the very base of ethnic identity. That approach is far more authentic and respect all Ethiopians without having to label them like caged animals.

There is also another serious error that is often glossed over by most people who claim that only a federal structure would insure the ethnic equality of the diverse “Poeples” of Ethiopians. This form of claim is based on false premises because it seems to equate the humanness of an individual with the culture of that individual. It confuses ethnic identity with the fundamental human rights a human being innately has irrespective of race, ethnicity, skin color, or gender. The over emphasis of ethnicity in the Ethiopian version of federalism has at its base the notion of cultural equality as its foundation. It is perceived by many supporters of “ethnic federalism” as the basis of all human rights. This is where the fallacy starts. Human beings are ends whereas culture is a means to an end, thus culture cannot be equated in any form with the foundational rights attributable to the individual nor can it be placed above or equal to such individual rights.

Whether it is Andreas or anybody else who is collaborating with the current Government of Meles Zenawi is selling his or her soul to the Devil. Such individual is walking on stilts. He or she is the quintessential elitist who is floating high above everyone, never engaging anyone unless one has political or financial power or is from an elite school or thereabout—a true deformity of character—that ought to be evaluated for the degree of harm he may have caused Ethiopia. By contrast Teodros has repeatedly written challenging the ethnic based federalism of the current Ethiopian Government and Ethiopian State structure. [Teodros-2, 207-218] The concern of intellectuals, the likes of Andreas and Fasil, is the structuring of power; if they speak of the people of Ethiopia, it is in terms of words like the “masses” that is an undifferentiated blob, incidental to their main goal of acquisition of power or serving such a god. Without doubt the people of Ethiopia are the main concern of Teodros. For example, Teodros devoted over fifty pages, almost a third of his book to the problem of famine in Africa in general and in Ethiopia in particular. [Teodros-2, 108-150] Rather than declaring that he is still a socialist or some such hypocrisy/thing, Teodros came up with a creative solution that does not bow down to either socialism or capitalism. He called his system of economy the “moral economy” and offered it as an alternative system to both capitalism and socialism. [Teodros-2, 113-121] The concept of “moral economy,” Teodros tells us, is based on the Pharonic Maat, which fact grounds that concept in our African Continent.

We see often in Ethiopian intellectuals, especially in those who were born in Addis Ababa or vicinity, such pronounced and incapacitating elitist attitude that has infected even those that are of recent vintage who lived most of their lives in foreign lands. The blocking off or alienation of Ethiopians outside of that pernicious group even in the arts is quite comical, if it were not devastating to our unity. The recent production in Callaloo, Volume 33, Number 1, Winter 2010 on the state of the arts in Ethiopia is such a disappointing attempt of elevation of few individuals by whom Ethiopian art and artists are to be measured. The individuals involved in that project are painfully green, and yet they set themselves arrogantly as arbiters and as paragons of virtue as standard and trend setters for the arts in Ethiopia.

As expected, in Callaloo painters Gebrekiristos Desta and Skunder Boghasian are edified as pioneers in developing the Arts in Ethiopia. Afework Tekle is noticeably absent in that name dropping in Callaloo. As a matter of fact, I believe the two painters Gebrekiristos Desta and Skunder Boghasian, from a certain perspective had hindered the development of home-grown painting/art form by distorting the normal flow of creative impulses of young aspiring Ethiopians by subordinating such minds to their hyphenated art forms in full imitation of Western modernist paintings. The awarding of the Haile Selassie I Prize to such painters was a mistake. At any rate, the value of art as a reflection or expression of ones own culture need not be recognized through awards and accolades, for it is forceful enough to impose itself on society. Once upon a time I was also an aspiring painter with plenty of native talent. I stopped painting because I realized that to survive as an artist in the West after I relocated my venue, I had to imitate the cultural trends of the society and produce art works that embodied the pictorial sensibilities of the West, its style, theme, execution, even philosophy. I chose to remain authentic and stopped painting altogether and shifted my creative energy to reading and writing.

I understand intimately the mind of the artist, his sacrifices and aspirations far more accurately than any of the imitators and cultural vandals and mercenaries. It is a misunderstanding to think of Ethiopian traditional art form anything but abstract. What could be more abstract than the non-representational supra-natural art form of Ethiopia whether it is expressed in religious thematic form or in secular decorative art expressed in all kinds of utensils, clothing, hair style, food presentations et cetera. Thus the issue per se is not the so called “modern” art form but the authenticity and respect to ones own cultural heritage. Every Ethiopian who grew up in our Ethiopian culture but reinvent himself as some form of modernist in the style of Western studio based trained painter is a charlatan and a fake.

In my couple of decades of close scrutiny of the lives of our intellectuals what I have discovered is the fact that Teodros is the least elitist intellectual. Teodros wrote several articles wherein it was clear that he was inviting all to participate in scholarly discourse. He instigated discourses on topics as varied as the choices for Ethiopia’s future systems of government, the ethical and moral issues involving famine et cetera. Almost none responded to his noble effort. I find such absence of interest, or even worse, neglect, unacceptable. For example, the individuals involved in the Callaloo fiasco did not even bother to contact such distinguished scholar like Teodros, but limited themselves to their incestuous relationships of their groupies both here in the United States and in Addis Ababa.

Attending an Ivy League school need not be used as a measure of distinction, after all it is not our Ivy League, and such distinction is not our attribute either. Teodros knows who he is and writes affirming his identity as an Ethiopian. He is very comfortable as an Ethiopian unlike a number of Ethiopian scholars who seem to be in perpetual search for an identity. There is no need to seek for some identity in any culture, even more so in a culture that has as its base slavery or minority subculture. After all we never had been anybody’s slave or colony. It is tragic that elitist Ethiopians in the forefront writing on Ethiopian art are such individuals who seem to be in total awe of such subcultures and look down at our own world class culture that they hardly give attention to or know about. The pursuit of “modernity” since the time of Emperor Minilik II and in full throttle during the fifty years reign of Emperor Haile Selassie resulted in distorting and corrupting our cultural identity.

Those transitory migrant Ethiopians from the margins of our Ethiopian social structure totally succumbed to such influences and paid back our main stream society with contempt and disdain of our great culture. Their aspiration for some other cultural outlet is understandable by taking into account the development of all pseudo cultures from main stream cultures. There is literally nothing we need in terms of culture from the outside world. We are a universe to ourselves. If at all the opposite is true. Rather than seeking to affirm Ethiopia’s indigenous cultural achievement, our elites try to find validation in some other cultures and subcultures. What is the relevance of Jazz or a Jackson Pollock dripping to us that we are supposed to pursue as some kind of talisman?

The assertion by quite a number of art critics and art historians that art is a universal language is a very shallow and pedantic idea. In case of the United States, the type of art criticism that promoted abstract expressionism or “modern art” in general was as fake as the works thus promoted by the likes of Clement Greenberg, a CIA hired-gun paid to counter Soviet proletariat art form. Art is a far complex endeavor of human beings that is often very subjective and also subjectively appreciated in context of ones culture and life conditions at a given time. The universalization of any art form is truly very simplistic. I wrote this particular point just to remind people that even in main stream America what goes as “Modern Art” is infested with lies and human frivolity.

One must not forget that the arts in general are considered by biologists, for example, as non-adoptive changes/activities in human evolution—in other words, of very little intrinsic value to mankind. Of course, it will be foolish to think of the creative process and the culture of artistic production as totally solipsistic. If only such hyphenated Ethiopians know the greatness of the core cultures of Ethiopia that are still intact in Lasta-Wag, Debre Tabor, Menz, Amara-Sa’int et cetera they will cut off symbolically their feet that led them astray. We can still start to rebuild from there and restart the whole experiment from the source of our great civilization and sink “modernity” with all its hyphenated sellouts and with all its alien and corrupted subculture.

Messay Kebede’s admonishment is on point on our tragic lose of our identity due to our disassociation from our core culture because of a distorted approach in using modern education system that replaced or supplanted our Orthodox Church based education. Here is where one facet of the academic lives of scholars like Messay and Teodros could/should intersect where great collaborative work could result in books of immense value to all of us.

More than any other Ethiopian intellectual, Teodros has extended on several occasions his invitations, through his several articles, for discourse with any Ethiopian. A few may have taken him up in his offer. However, what is tragic is that his peers, Ethiopians in academia, had not responded to his calls. It is tragic that the affectations and the vanity that many Ethiopians in academia suffer seem to be incurable. Speaking of Teodros, even his recent books in their totality are a form of invitation for discourse. Teodros is not only a brilliant and hard working philosopher but also a person who has humility and genuine respect of his fellow man. He has the great depth of personality to know that no one person has a monopoly on knowledge or wisdom and that through discourse and dialogue much can be achieved.

Moral Economy and Conclusion

My criticism of Andreas is not an attack on “Shoa Amharas,” as few would jump to such conclusions as was the case in the past. First of all Endreas is not a “Shoa Amhara” even though he grew up in a decent household of Amharas in Addis Ababa. Another fact that should be taken into account is the fact that I have been often accused falsely by ill-informed or ignoramus bloggers, of drafting or designing the setup of the “Federal” structure even though I had already left the country and never dealt with the 1995 Constitution drafting Commission headed by Kifle Wodajo. Although Kifle Wodajo, for whom I had great admiration for his diplomatic abilities and sublime writing skills, was my boss at one point in the early 1970s, I will not mince words now in my criticism when I consider his activities as the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission. He betrayed the Ethiopian people and the State of Ethiopia and its history heading a Commission that is instrumental in the destruction of Ethiopia. I have never supported federalism based on ethnicism or on language for Ethiopia. I believe in a “Unitary” system with local autonomous provincial administration and with incorporated urban structures as needed.

The fact remains that a handful of Ethiopian Yale graduates created the disastrous socio-political experiment and not some people from Harvard. I too, along with very many Ethiopians, wrongly had blamed Samuel P. Huntington from Harvard for the type of “Federalism” as practiced in Ethiopia. However, recently published material vindicates Huntington, for he had warned Meles Zenawi and his Government the risk of basing a political structure on ethnicism. Endreas, Fasil, Meles and Sebhat on the first ring and sycophants the likes of Seyoum Mesfin and the Members of the Central Committee of the TPLF in toto as second fiddles were responsible for the Federal structure adopted in the Constitution. To some extent, the career oriented go-betweens, the likes of Addisu Legesse, Dawit Yohannes, Kassu Illala et cetera helped the establishment of the current federal structure that is tearing Ethiopia apart.

It is quite unusual to see in the history of any nation that its successive leaders have some psychological incapacitating problem of being bastards, or too short, or too ethnic, or too illiterate, or too rustic, or too fearful, or too banda et cetera. One may naively think that such features are irrelevant to the determination of good leadership. But such holistic assessment of leaders is necessary in order to appreciate the intricacies of what goes in to constituting a person—even the size of ones fingers matters, and in case of a woman some such physical attribute. Everything about a person has some role in shaping that person. Leaders are no exception to that universal human becoming. Every Ethiopian leader for the last one hundred fifty years had some such problem.

As I stated above, Teodros came up with a wonderful concept to counter the human degradation due to lack of resources and diminished productivity in Ethiopia. He called his system “moral economy” and offered it as an alternative system to both capitalism and socialism. [Teodros-2, 113-121] It is not a situation where we have discourse and dialogue between Ethiopian academicians except for the biannual get together of the Ethiopian Studies conferences. But that is not discourse or dialogue but a form for those who seek to preach from a rarefied pulpit.

It is not an exaggeration when I state that there is much animosity and hate in the lives of Ethiopians, especially in the political lives of Ethiopians back home and/or in the Diaspora. Teodros’s essays are like a breath of fresh and clean air wafting down the stale and stinking writings of bloggers and chat-room intellectuals and those who write ad nauseam with a single theme of “I hate Tigrayans or Woyanes,” in hundreds of variations. Writing in the best interest of the public without biases or prejudices is a mark of a wise person, but it requires also moral courage and excellent academic training and native intelligence.

Raw ego/libido won’t work in turning what is essentially a rustic and vulgar brain into something that is wise no matter how often and how long one writes. An objective, intelligent, and polite manner of writing is not an easy task to carry out consistently and as successfully as Teodros has done over the years to date. Especially considering the fact that he spent his productive years as an exile during the brutal government of Mengistu Hailemariam and after, and yet maintaining that level of integrity is by itself a monumental achievement. Professor Teodros, thank you for two marvelous and educational books, and thank you also for all your countless articles and commentaries.

(Dr Teodros Kiros can be reached at

DW Radio on Al Amoudi vs Elias Kifle (audio)

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Deutsche Welle (የጀርመን ድምጽ ራዲዮ) has reported today about the lawsuit against Ethiopian Review editor by the richest man in Africa, Mohammed Al Amoudi. Click below to listen.

Al Amoudi is an Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire who is a self-acknowledged members of Woyanne, the ruling genocidal junta in Ethiopia.

The lawsuit is stated as Al Amoudi vs. Elias Kifle, but the real target is Ethiopia’s independent press that has been silenced in Ethiopia, but thanks to the Internet, it continues to have a strong voice.

Netsanet Le Ethiopia Radio in Washington DC will have a special program this coming Sunday on the lawsuit. Stay tuned.

Ethiopian Review’s Legal Fund has been reactivated to help cover expenses. Click here for more info.

Disavowing disappeared EPPF fighters

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

By Elias Kifle

The Asmara office of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) has issued a statement disputing a recent report on about the execution of 17 members, including the former secretary general.

According to the statement that was sent to yesterday, the EPPF leadership does not recognize the 17 individuals who are listed in the report as being executed.

The statement left me speechless since I have met some of the individuals at the Feb. 2010 EPPF general assembly that was held in Eritrea. The general secretary and the commanders in particular are well known by even those Ethiopians in the Diaspora who have been visiting and supporting EPPF during the past several years.

I have no doubt that the outrageous statement — written in a broken Amharic — was prepared by Col. Fitsum Yisehak, an Eritrean “adviser” to EPPF who has hijacked the organization and became its de facto leader. Following the Feb. 2010 assembly, he has dismissed and arrested many of the newly elected central committee members. Currently, the EPPF officials are nothing more than prisoners of the colonel and have no power to issue any statement. Nevertheless, who ever authored the release of such a blatantly false statement that can easily be proven wrong must be a bumbling idiot or an extremely arrogant person who has contempt toward all Ethiopians.

Ethiopian Review will continue to gather information on the disappearances (and possible execution) of the 17 patriots, as well as many others. I also urge the Government of Eritrea to conduct investigation for the sake of justice and peace. The colonel and his willing collaborators must be brought to justice.

Pardoning Derg officials: What is at issue?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

By Desta Joy

It is no wonder that the possible pardoning of former Derg officials has become a subject of heated controversy among Ethiopians. After all, it is about bunch of people who used (misused) the whole state machinery to brutalize and terrorize the whole country for seventeen long years! After all it is about people who were at the helm of a regime that unsparingly annihilated thousands Ethiopians of all walks of life, probably the summary execution of the top officials of the Imperial regime being the most high profile case. It would be downright wrong, however, to think that the case of those anonymous Ethiopians who were brutally murdered during those trying days is less important.

The vexing question now is whether pardoning those people would be unjust. Some victims’ families (well, if at all there is a family that had not been victimized by the regime) believe pardoning these criminals would be a mockery of justice. Indeed, their pain cannot be overstated. In the nature of things, their opposition to the possible pardon seems to muster sympathy and support. Tekola W. Hagos wrote, with his usual passion and eloquence, but also disturbingly:

[i]n case of those brutal murderers who are under the control of the Ethiopian Government, individuals who had spilt so much innocent blood, execution should be carried out by hanging them from Bole Airport to Meskel Square and also in other Squares, on electric power poles.’’

Such demands are disturbing not because the crimes the convicts are responsible for are any less horrendous, but rather because such kind of punishment serves none of the purposes of criminal punishment, and is, perhaps a little too backward. So, although the author argues otherwise, such vehement desire to see them hanged in public squares are animated by sense vendetta rather than yearning for justice. Yet, it should not be surprising that those who personally witnessed those atrocities feel more strongly towards the perpetrators than those of us who were either not born at the time or were just too young to comprehend what was going on.

Having sad that let me state what I think are critical issues:

1. First, criminal justice is inherently a public affair (not an issue between the perpetrators and victims). It becomes even a national issue when the crime involves not just theft, robbery, or other ordinary crime, but rather genocide (which Derg officials are convicted of) perpetrated by an entire regime over many years practically against the whole nation. My argument is that the crimes committed decades ago had national character. Whether pardoning the convicts (who are ‘vegetating’ in prison anyway) has any national significance at this point in time is something else altogether.
2. Accordingly, it is unequivocally wrong to try to ‘privatize’ the issue. It must be clear to everyone that justice is a function of rules and principles, not feelings (as the writer quoted above has argued). If we are talking about modern criminal justice, the feeling of victims (or towards perpetrators, for that matter) is a completely irrelevant concept.
3. Therefore, the question of whether pardoning Derg officials is just or unjust should be judged based on rules, principles, and its socio-political significance to the nation’s present and future, if any.

(The writer can be reached at

Kitaw Ejigu remembered

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Tomorrow, January 13, 2010, is the 5th anniversary of the passing away of Ethiopian scientist and patriot Kitaw Ejigu. Ethiopian Review pays tribute to this great Ethiopian whose life was cut short at a young age.

Brief biography of Dr Kitaw Ejigu (Source: Wikipedia)

Kitaw Ejigu (February 25, 1948 – January 13, 2006) was an Ethiopian-American scientist who worked for NASA as Chief of Spacecraft and Satellite Systems engineer. He was also a political leader.

Kitaw was born in Bonga, Kaffa, Ethiopia. He attended the Miazia 27th High School in Jimma. He then went to Bahir Dar Polytechnic Institute, and in 1966, as the top student in his class, he received his diploma in mechanical engineering with specialization in agricultural technology. After graduating from the Institute, Kitaw worked at the Ethiopian Automotive Services and Sales Company (EASSCO) as chief technical advisor and assistant manager for two years.

In 1972, he won a scholarship from the Japanese Overseas Technical Association and traveled to Japan where he studied automotive engineering at Hiroshima University, as well as language and economics at Osaka University. He later moved to the United States and began his intensive research and training and earned an MBA in 1979. He then completed his doctorate in space vehicle systems engineering from Northrop University in California.

Upon completion of his studies and researches in the late 1970s, he started working for NASA as a system engineer and space research scientist. He collaborated with other scientists on the space shuttle and other rocketry projects. Kitaw Ejigu was Ethiopia’s first aerospace scientist. The only Ethiopian in the field, Kitaw also worked for Rockwell International and Boeing.

Apart from his work as an aerospace scientist, he was also known for his efforts to bring about political change in Ethiopia. He publicly denounced the regime in Ethiopia and its actions and policies. Even though he was ambitious about using his knowledge, experience and high-status to help his homeland Ethiopia , he repeatedly said he was not made welcome by the regime. In 2002, he founded a political party, the Ethiopian National United Front, to help overthrow Meles Zenawi’s regime.

Kitaw Ejigu died at the age of 58 on 13 January, 2006 in the United States.

“Eskedar” – a new book by Dawit WoldeGirogis

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Shaleqa Dawit Woldegiorgis, the author of Red Tears and former high-level Ethiopian government official, has released a new novel based on true stories. The book is written in Amharic and it is currently being distributed in Ethiopia through underground networks. Artist Debebe Eshetu has written the following book review:

እስከዳር:- ከዳዊት ወ/ጊዮርጊስ

እስከዳርን አነበብኩት፡፡ዳዊት ወ/ጊዮርጊስን እንደገና አወቅሁት፡፡እንደ ደራሲ፤አስተማሪ፤ታሪክ አሰታዋሽቱ፡በቅድሚያ አንዲት ገጸ ባሕሪን ከሃዲስ ዓለማየሁ ‹‹ትዝታ›› ወስዶ የበለጠ ነፍስ፤ጀግንነት፤ሰብአዊነት አላብሶ በግሏ ጠንክራ እንድትወጣና የራሷን አካሄድ በማጉላት ሲያቀርብልን አዲስ ምዕራፍ ከፍቶ ሰጠን፡

እስከዳር ከላይ እንዳልኩት የአንዲት የትዝታ ባሕሪ ታሪክ ብቻ እንዳልሆነም ሊጤን የሚገባው ጉዳይ ነው፡፡ ለልጆቻችን ለልጅ ልጆቻችን ስለ ቀድሞው ኢትዮጵያዊነት፤ አባቶቻችን ስለአሳለፉት የሃገር ፍቅር ወኔያቸውና የቆራጥ ትግል ውሳኔያቸው የት እንዳደረሳቸውና ሃገርን ሲሉ ከነሙሉ ክብሩና ማዕረጉ እንጂ፤ ሃገርን ሲሉ ከነክፉ አጋጣሚና ስለሚያስከፍለውም መስዋእትነት እንጂ፤ ሃገርን ሲሉ ኢትዮጵያን ከፍ አድርገው እራሳቸውን አውርደው እንጂ ጥቅምን በዚያ ውስጥ በማየትና ክብርና ዝናን ለመጎናጸፍ እንዳልሆነ አሳምሮ አሳየኝ፡፡አሳወቀኝ አስታማረኝ ለማለት እደፍራለሁ፡፡

ዳዊት በአጻጻፉ ልራቀቅ ብሎ አበባዊ ቃላቶች ድርደራ ጊዜ አላባከነም፡፡ ሁሉም ሰው እለት በእለት በሚጠቀምበት ቋንቋ ተጠቅሞ ግን ሊረሳ የተቃረበውን፤ ልጆቻችን ጭርሱን ሰምተውት የማያውቁትን ባህላችንን አመላከተን፡፡እዚህ ላይ አንድ ማስረጃ ላቅርብ፡፡ በገጽ 252 ላይ ‹‹እንማን ናቸው›› ብሎ ያስቀመጣቸው ኢትዮጵያዊያን የኢትዮጵያ ዳር ድንብር አስከባሪ ሃይሎች አቀናጆች የነበሩትን በስማቸው ብቻ ጠቅሶ አላለፈም፡፡ ማዕረጋቸውንም ደርቦላቸው አልተዋቸውም፡፡ ይልቁንስ ምን አደረጉ፤ ከየት ተወለዱ፤የሚለውን በአናሳ በአናሳው ቦታ ሰጥቶ ለማወቅ የሚፈልግ ትንሽ አፈላልጎ እንዲያነብና እንዲያውቅ መንገዱን አሳይቶናል፡፡ ከዚህ በመነሳትም ጸሃፍት ስለነዚህ ሀገር ጠባቂዎች፤ ከምንም በላይ ከምንም በፊት ሃገሬ ያሉትን አባቶች አያቶቻችንን በማንሳት ተመራምሮ መጻፍ የሚገባው መሆኑን ጠቁሞናል፡፡

ደራሲ ዳዊት ከመነሻው ጀምሮ ስለ ሃገር ፍቅር በተለይ ለወጣቱ ትውልድ በሚገባና በሚነበብ መልኩ ነው ሊያስታውሰው የጀመረውና እስከ መጨረሻውም የሄደበት፡፡ ሃገር ምን ማለት ነው? ለሃገር መሰዋትስ? የሚለውን ከነሙሉ ግንዛቤው ሰጥቶናል፡፡

ሌላው የ‹‹እስከዳር›› አጻጻፍ ነው፡፡ መጽሐፉን ለልጆቻችን እንደተረት መጽሃፍ ብናነብላቸው በቀለለ አማርኛ የቀረበ በመሆኑ ይገባቸዋል ይወዱታል፡፡ ከሕጻኗ እስከዳር ጀምሮ ስለሚተርክ ልጆቹ እራሳቸውን ያገኙታል ወይም ጓደኛ አድርገው ያውቋታልና ልጆቻችንን ስለ ሃገራቸው፤ ስለ ሃገራቸው ጀግኖች፤ ሊኖራቸው ስለሚገባው የሃገር ፍቅር ሁሉ እየገባቸው እንዲያድጉየማድረግ ሃይ ስላለው በዚህም አቀራረቡ ሊመሰገን ሊደነቅ ይገባዋል እላለሁ፡፡

የጅግና ስሜት እንዴት የጀግናን ልብ እንደሚሰርቅና እንደሚያስቀና ሲያሳየንም ገጽ 47 ላይ‹‹…….ይህንን ሁሉ ትምለከት የነበረችው እስከዳር ልቧ ቅልጥ አለ፤በደስታ በኩራት ታፈነች፡፡ ያ የምትንቀው አጎናፍር ለካስ የወጣለት ወንድ ኖሯል፡፡ ጀግና ትወዳለች እስከዳር፡፡ የአጎናፍር ጀግንነት ሰውነቷን ወረረው፡፡ በዚያ ቅጽበትና ስፍራ ልቧ ውሃ ሆነ፤ፈሰሰ፡፡ሰውነቷን ነዘራት፡፡ ተሰምቷት የማታውቀው የሴትነት ስሜት ከውስጧ ገንፍሎ ሲወጣ በገሃድ ይታይ ነበር፡፡ፊቷ አበራ፡፡ የአልታያት የአጎናፍር ወንድነት፤ መልክና ቁመና፤ አሁን በድንገት ግልጥ ብሎ ታያት፡፡አራት ዓመት ሙሉ ስትሸሸው፤ ስትንቀው የነበረው አጎናፍርን ወደደችው፡፡ የማይነቀል የፍቅርና የአድናቆት ጦር በልቧ ተተከለ፡፡ ዓይነ ጥላዋ ተገፈፈ፡፡›› ሲል ጀግንነት ያለውን የመያዝ የመማረክ ስሜት ውብ አድርጎ አሳየን፡

ዳዊት በዚህ ‹‹እስከዳር›› ባለው ድርሰቱ ውስጥ ኢትዮጵያ ጥንታዊትነት ብቻ ሳይሆን ለሃገራቸው ቀናኢ የሆኑ ሕዝቦችም እንዳሏትና ዘወትር ተከባብረውና ተፋቅረው መኖርን ባህላቸው ያደረጉ አዋቂዎች እንደሆኑ በማስረጃ አቅርቦልናል፡፡

ከዚህ በተረፈ ደግሞ አንብቡትና ለልጆቻችሁም አስነብቡት አለያም ማታ ማታ ሲተኙ አንብቡላቸው፡፡ እኔ በበኩሌ የተሰማኝና ለደራሲ ዳዊት ወንድሜ ላሳስብ የምፈልገው በሲዲ አለያም በካሴት ተነቦ ቢቀርብስ የሚለውን ጉዳይ ነው፡፡

ደበበ እሸቱ

Observations of a former diplomat on Sudan referendum

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

(Name withheld)

South Sudan has drawn an international attention because of the week-long referendum now underway in that part of the country. The struggle of the people of South Sudan under the leadership of The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the political wing, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the military wing, began three decades ago. It resulted, however, in the death and displacement of millions southern Sudanese. The war had been dubbed by the international media as as a war between the Muslim North and the Christian South.

Indeed it was. However, besides its tinged color of religion, the people of South Sudan had remained one of the most oppressed peoples on our planet. They had been called slaves by the Northerners. They had no share in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the country. Their representation in the government was nominal. In the 1990s, there was a nominal vice president, a state minister in the foreign ministry, and a few diplomats.

During my stay in Sudan for four years, I had never seen a South Sudanese who had a small enterprise, even a shop in the capital city Khartoum. What I saw instead were house maids, guards, and gardeners in the affluent residencies of Northern Sudanese. Observing such a reality, a senior from South Sudan once remarked: “Every Northerner has a dog and a maid or servant from South Sudan.” He equated his people with dogs. Indeed the people of South Sudan were the wretched of the Earth, the miserable.

In my visit to 10 countries, I had never seen people oppressed to such a low degree as the people of South Sudan and North Korea. It needs no telling that the kind of oppression that the people of North Korea are subjected to. Besides the grinding poverty they wallow in, they are under complete control of the Communist regime. They are deprived of any form of right. They live under gun point discipline. The only difference between the two people is that the Koreans live in a developed infrastructure, the South Sudanese in agrarian country at its lowest level of development.

John Garang and Salva Kirr

I saw the late SPLM leader Colonel John Garang in an international airport in the 1990s. He sat alone in a comfortable sofa in the VIP lounge escorted by long and burly body guards. Fully equipped with sophisticated arms, the body guards watchfully scan the people in the lounge. Garang was sober, quiet and seemed to contemplate on his future plan — the guerrilla warfare in South Sudan. The bearded guerrilla leader had a furious look. As soon as a civilian passenger aircraft had arrived and dropped off the passengers, Garang with his guards boarded the plane to Nairobi where he resided.

Dr. Garang was a senior officer in the Sudanese army. He defected from the military and began to head the tortuous struggle to its logical conclusion — the referendum that enables Southerners to decide on their destiny. Unfortunately Dr. Garang has not lived to see it. He died in a mysterious helicopter crash on the common border of Uganda and Sudan upon his return from working visit to Uganda. He was vice president of Sudan for a very short period of time.

I saw Salva Kiir, presently Vice President of Sudan, in Nairobi two times. He was then called “Commander.” He was delegated by Garang to lead the delegation of the SPLM in the negotiation with the delegation of the government. Salva Kiir logically argued his position, the position of the SPLM during the negotiation. Right from the outset he hammered out referendum. The two negotiations held in Nairobi were unsuccessful. Salva Kiir and Co. went straight ahead to the bushes of South Sudan to continue their armed struggle. It was later on that they reached a conclusive agreement — vote on Referendum. Now after 17 years their dream has come true. Southern Sudanese are exhilarated and are casting their ballots. They are eagerly waiting for the result to be revealed at the end of the ballots.

South Sudan has a size equal to France. It has a fine weather, fertile land and oil. Its population is 4 million with three main ethnic groups, Dinka being the main one. Garang was from Dinka ethnic group. Provided that they have good governance, the people of South Sudan can develop and prosper.

What about Federation?

To sum up, I don’t in principle, support secession or separation of a part of a country. At the same time, I strongly oppose oppression from within or outside. The net result will be equality in all walks of life. In the absence of equality, there is the presence of oppression — then struggle not for few years but even decades like Southern Sudanese. Here I would like to present my humble proposal that the Horn of Africa countries should, sooner than later, embark on loose FEDERATION. This mechanism will help them to avoid war, to muster and accelerate economic, social and cultural development. Al Bashir’s dictatorial regime should stop instigating a new war in South Sudan. He is already an indicted war criminal because of his barbaric actions in South Sudan and the Darfur state.

Woyanne sends troops to Sudan

Monday, January 10th, 2011

The Woyanne ethnic apartheid junta in Ethiopia has sent thousands of troops to Sudan in a convoy of over 100 military trucks and equipment late last week, according to eyewitnesses at the Ethiopia-Sudan border.

Ethiopian Review sources have reported that the military convoy was heading to the Sudanese city of Al Qadarif.

Yesterday and today South Sudan is holding a referendum on independence and it is feared that the outcome of the vote could lead to violence, although Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said he will let the oil-rich south secede peacefully.

AP has reported that at least 30 people were killed today in Abyei region along Sudan’s north-south border.

United Nations spokesman Martin Nesirky said Monday the organization is “extremely concerned” about the reports of clashes and casualties in Abyei.

“The mission is in the process of confirming the numbers (of casualties), and containing the situation with enhanced patrols and engaging with the top leadership,” Nesirky said at a regular news briefing at U.N. headquarters.

The Woyanne junta is expected to take Khartoum’s side in any dispute, creating a possible favorable environment for Ethiopian opposition groups to establish relations with South Sudan.

AP reports that jubilant voters in South Sudan flooded polling stations for a second day on Monday. The seven days of balloting are likely to produce an overwhelming vote for independence.

U.S. President Barack Obama praised the timely start of the referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan and urged all sides to refrain from intimidation, coercion or violence and to allow voters to freely and peaceably express their will.

“The world will be watching in the coming days,” Obama said in a January 9 statement. He said the United States is fully committed to helping all Sudanese solve post-referendum issues such as borders, refugees and the sharing of oil revenues “regardless of the outcome of the vote.”

Obama warned that some Sudanese may try to disrupt the process, and said voters “must be allowed access to polling stations, and must be able to cast their ballots free from intimidation and coercion.”

“All sides should refrain from inflammatory rhetoric or provocative actions that could raise tensions or prevent voters from expressing their will,” he said, adding that violence in the Abyei region, where 36 people reportedly have been killed since the start of the vote, “should cease.”

U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration and Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry are in Sudan to witness the referendum.

Speaking to reporters January 9, Senator Kerry said the voting “sends an important message about the ability to solve problems in ways other than in choosing violence.”

Looking for Bob Marley and Fela Kuti

Monday, January 10th, 2011

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Music as a Weapon of Protest

It is said that “music is a universal language.” Using a few notes and inspiring lyrics, musicians and song writers have waged relentless battles against the perpetrators of tyranny, oppression, inequality and injustice. Music is a divine language that can pierce through the stony walls of hatred in the heart, the irrationality and fallacies of the mind and the darkness of the spirit. Musicians and songwriters have used their lyrics and melodies to defend and uplift the downtrodden, the exploited, the oppressed, the needy, the persecuted and subjugated. They have pumped up the volume against colonialism, racism, tribalism, imperialism, capitalism, communism, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, individualism, militarism, sexism, adventurism, fatalism, hedonism, materialism, nihilism, pessimism, statism, corporatism and whatever else is left out. Where have Bob Marely, Fela Kuti,…. gone?

Protest songs have served as potent weapons of political dissent and nonviolent resistance in American history. There were “protest” and “freedom” songs that championed civil rights, women’s rights, labor rights, and human rights and challenged slavery, injustice, inequality, war and brutality. The ultimate American freedom and protest songs were disguised in the Negro spirituals, consisting of religious songs created by enslaved African people in America to protest their oppression, degradation and exploitation on the plantation. They sang about escape from slavery: “Wade in the water./Wade in the water children./Wade in the water./God’s gonna trouble the water./”, was the coded message for fugitive slaves to elude their captors and make it safely to freedom. They sang about slipping the slave master’s grip by hopping on the “underground railroad”: “Swing low, sweet chariot/Coming for to carry me home,/…/ If I get there before you do,/ I’ll cut a hole and pull you through.” They even described the map of the escape route in song: “When the sun comes back,/and the first Quail calls,/Follow the drinking gourd,/For the old man is waiting/for to carry you to freedom/…/ The river ends between two hills,/Follow the drinking gourd,/…/”

In the 1960s, freedom and protest songs provided the spiritual force for the civil rights and nonviolence movement. “We Shall Overcome” became the signature protest song of the U.S. civil rights movement: “Oh, deep in my heart/I do believe/We shall overcome some day/We’ll walk hand in hand some day/We shall all be free some day.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said the protest songs of the day “invigorated and gave unity to the movement in a most significant way”.

Political protest and social activism were promoted in American pop music. The Soul music of James Brown electrified African American youth in the 1960s and 70s. “Say It Loud– I’m Black and I’m Proud” was Brown’s signature song. The “Godfather of Soul” used his lyrics and fame to speak out not only against prejudice and bigotry towards blacks in America, but also to inspire pride, self-reliance and empowerment among black people everywhere. Proudly defiant, Brown declared: “One thing more I got to say right here/ Now, we’re people/ Just like the birds and the bees/ We rather die on our feet, Than keep living on our knees.” The “Hardest Working Man in Show Business” followed up with “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door, I’ll Get It Myself)”, emphasizing self-reliance and self-confidence among African Americans: “Don’t give me sorrow/I want equal opportunity/To live tomorrow.” Marvin Gaye asked, “What’s Going on?” in Vietnam. “Brother, brother, brother/There’s far too many of you dying/You know we’ve got to find a way/To bring some lovin’ here today.”

There were countless other musicians and songwriters who delivered their political messages of protest, peace, racial harmony, tolerance and reconciliation. The long list of the great ones includes Paul Robeson (“No more auction block for me”), Pete Seeger/Lee Hays (If I had a hammer), Bob Dylan (“Blowin’ in the Wind”), John Lennon (“Give Peace a Chance”), Nina Simone (“Hound dogs on my trail/School children sitting in jail”) and Buffy Sainte-Marie (“Now That the Buffalo is Gone”) who wrote songs about the plight and suffering of Native American peoples. Even Elvis Presley, the apolitical “King of Rock and Roll”, told the gut-wrenching story of American poverty and crime “In the Ghetto”: “On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’/ A poor little baby child is born/In the ghetto/And his mama cries…/it’s another hungry mouth to feed/…/ People, don’t you understand/the child needs a helping hand/or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day/…/

Bob Marley, Fela Kuti and Pan-African Protest Music

Jamaican Bob Marley used reggae music not just for entertainment, but to teach, preach and reach people’s minds, hearts and spirits the world over. He used his music and lyrics to promote love, understanding and tolerance while confronting racism, inequality and injustice with a defiant message. Marley sang about the struggles of black people in Babylon (The West) and the need for Pan-African unity to overcome oppression. As a member of the Rastafari movement, he deified H.I. M. Haile Selassie and saw Africa as “Zion”, the place of unity, peace and freedom. His message for Africans was unmistakable: “Africa, Unite/’Cause we’re moving right out of Babylon/And we’re going to our father’s land/…/ So, Africa, Unite, Africa, Unite/Unite for the benefit of your people/…/. He urged those suffering oppression to “Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!/…/Get up, stand up: don’t give up the fight!/…/Most people think,/Great god will come from the skies,/Take away everything/And make everybody feel high./But if you know what life is worth,/You will look for yours on earth:/And now you see the light,/You stand up for your rights. jah!” African liberation from colonialism and Western exploitation was Marley’s foremost concern: “Zimbabwe./Every man gotta right/To decide his own destiny/…/So arm in arms, with arms/We will fight this little struggle/’Cause that’s the only way/We can overcome our little trouble/ Brother you’re right, you’re right/You’re right, you’re right, you’re so right/We gonna fight, we’ll have to fight/We gonna fight, fight for our rights/Natty dread it ina Zimbabwe/Set it up… Mash it up ina Zimbabwe/Africans a liberate Zimbabwe.” (If Bob Marley knew what Bob Mugabe had done to Zimbabwe today, he’d spin in his grave.)

Marley took part of a 1963 speech by H.I.M. Haile Selassie and made it a powerful song against war: “Until the philosophy which hold one race/Superior and another inferior/Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned/Everywhere is war, me say war/That until there are no longer first class/And second class citizens of any nation/Until the colour of a man’s skin/Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes/Me say war/That until the basic human rights are equally/Guaranteed to all, without regard to race/Dis a war/That until that day/The dream of lasting peace, world citizenship/Rule of international morality/Will remain in but a fleeting illusion/To be pursued, but never attained/Now everywhere is war, war/…/ Marley understood the daily struggle of the poor to find enough food to eat: “Them belly full but we hungry./A hungry mob is a angry mob./A rain a-fall but the dirt it tough;/A pot a-cook but the food no ‘nough./You’re gonna dance to JAH music, dance./…/ Cost of living get so high,/Rich and poor, they start a cry./Now the weak must get strong./They say, “Oh, what a tribulation.” In “Who the Cap Fit”, Marley warned against hypocrisy and duplicity in everyday relations: “Man to man is so unjust, children/You don’t know who to trust/Your worst enemy could be your best friend/And your best friend your worst enemy/Some will eat and drink with you/Then behind them su-su ‘pon you/Only your friend know your secrets/So only he could reveal it/And who the cap fit, let them wear it/…/Some will hate you,/Pretend they love you now/Then behind they try to eliminate you/But who Jah bless,/No one curse/Thank God we’re past the worse.”

Nigerian songwriter, singer and musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti was an equally talented and inspiring musical innovator and political advocate. He was inspired by the protest songs and political upheavals in the U.S. in the 1960s. For three decades, Fela became the musical voice of Nigeria’s poor, downtrodden, unemployed and marginalized. He sang about the abject conditions of existence in one of the richest African countries. His “Afrobeat” music was a combination of blues, funk, jazz and African rhythms. His lyrics are in pidgin English (“broken English”) and local languages. He relentlessly criticized government corruption, multi-national corporations, and police brutality in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. He used music as a weapon to promote human rights, good governance, accountability and transparency in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

In “Zombie”, Fela criticized Nigeria’s military as a bunch of mindless brutes who follow orders to shoot, kill and plunder: “Zombie no go go, unless you tell am to go/Zombie no go stop, unless you tell am to stop/…unless you tell am to turn/… unless you tell am to think/… Go and kill!/Go and die!../Joro, jaro, joro../ (Zombie)”. In “Authority Stealing”, Fela compared the Nigerian kleptocrats to armed robbers for stealing the nation’s resources to enrich themselves using their “magic pens”. “Authority people them go dey steal/Public contribute plenty money/…/Authority man no dey pickpocket/…/Armed robber him need gun/Authority man him need pen/Authority man in charge of money/Him no need gun, him need pen/Pen got power gun no get/If gun steal eighty thousand naira/Pen go steal two billion naira/Thief, thief, thief!”

In “I.T.T.”, Fela satirized the multinational corporation International Telephone and Telegraph and condemned foreign companies for sucking dry the Nigerian economy and spreading confusion, corruption and inflation: “Many foreign companies dey Africa carry all our money go/…/ Them call him name na I.T.T./ Them go dey cause confusion (Confusion!)/Cause corruption (Corruption!)/Cause oppression (Oppression!)/Cause inflation (Inflation!)/Oppression, corruption, inflation/…/Them go pick one African man/A man with low mentality/Them go give am million naira breads/To become of high position here/Him go bribe some thousand naira bread/To become one useless chief…/ Like Obasanjo and Abiola.”

After travelling the world, in “Upside Down”, Fela sang that things are organized and planned well everywhere except in Africa where there are villages, but no roads, land, but no food or housing. Africans don’t even have knowledge of African culture: “Open that book dem call dictionary/…/Upside down na there dey proper/Dem recognize the word for sure, yes/…/People no know their African name/People no dey think African style/People no know Africa way/For Africa man house, I don’t see/…/Communication Disorganize /…/Agriculture Disorganize/Electric Disorganize/ Everything Upside Down” in Africa. In “Beasts of No Nation”, Fela criticizes corrupt leaders in Africa and elsewhere and focuses on how certain governments have helped apartheid thrive in South Africa for so long: “Many leaders as you see dem/…/Animals in human skin/Animal-I put-U tie-oh/ Animal-I wear agbada (traditional Nigerian robe)/Animal-I put-U suit-u.” In the must-see documentary “Fela: Music Is the Weapon,” Fela said “the situation here [Nigeria] is worse than in South Africa.”

In retaliation for his songs, in 1977 one thousand of General Obasanjo’s “zombie” soldiers attacked Fela’s compound (“Kalakuta Republic” established to protest military rule), beat him to a pulp, and burned his house and everything in it. The soldiers literally threw out his 82-year-old mother, one of the notable anti-colonial figures in Nigeria, from a second-story window. She died from her injuries a few months later. Fela launched his own political party (Movement of the People) and ran twice for the presidency. His confrontational messages always got him on the wrong side of the military dictators who tried to find reasons to put him in jail. Fela also had his eccentric side including marrying over two dozen women at one time.

Music as a Weapon Against Dictatorship and for Human Rights

Fela titled his 1998 album “Music is the Weapon of the Future”. I believe African musicians could play a pivotal frontline role in the struggle for human rights, the rule of law, accountability and transparency in the continent with their lyrics and music. Africans today need new sounds against home grown dictators and tyrants who cling to power like barnacles to a sunken ship. In the mid-1980s, Fela sang about leaders who are “animals in human skin”. In the second decade of the Twenty First Century we know the actual physical form of the “animals” Fela was talking about. They are hyenas that sip on the blood of Africans like wine and dine on their flesh and bones everyday. Shakespeare wrote, “If music be the food of life, play on”. If music be the weapon of the future, I say sing on until we chase the greedy and corrupt scavengers out of the continent. Africa needs a new generation of Marleys, Felas, Makebas… to give them a new message hope, faith and charity; and Africa’s youth need new battle songs and hymns to fight the hyenas in designer suits and uniforms.

U.K. libel law is “an international laughing-stock” – DPM

Friday, January 7th, 2011

In a recent speech on civil liberties, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that the U.K. coalition government would restore civil liberties with the same systematic ruthlessness with which the former government took them away. It is this corrupt U.K. libel law that Ethiopia’s ruling party and its billionaire financier Al Amoudi are trying to exploit in their campaign to shut down Ethiopian Review. Read more about DPM Clegg’s speech below.

(BBC) — [...] Mr Clegg said the coalition government would restore civil liberties with the same systematic ruthlessness with which the former government took them away.

And he said he wanted to reform libel and turn the law from “an international laughing-stock to an international blueprint.”

He said a forthcoming draft libel bill would propose a statutory defence for those speaking out in the public interest, “whether they be big broadcasters or the humble blogger”.

That move, which was being considered by the former Labour government when it ran out of time, comes after a string of cases in which scientific writers have been sued over legitimate academic research or studies.

Mr Clegg said libel should also be reformed to better reflect “the realities of the internet” and also to end “libel tourism” under which foreign claimants sue foreign publications or writers in the British courts.

“We want public-spirited academics and journalists to be fearless in publishing legitimate research. Not least when it relates to medical care or public safety,” he said.

“It is a farce – and an international embarrassment – that the American Government has felt it necessary to legislate to protect their citizens from our libel laws.”

Several Ethiopians drowned off Yemen coast

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Over eighty Ethiopians and Somalis have drowned after two boats capsized as they headed for Yemen today, CNN reported. Many of them are feared dead.

(CNN) — More than 80 people are feared drowned after two boats capsized off the coast of Yemen, the coast guard in Aden said Monday.

Yemen’s Interior Ministry confirmed the incident on their state-run news site, adding that the two boats capsized in two different accidents and at two different sites.

According to a report on the official website of Yemen’s ruling party, three survivors have been recovered, all Somalis, from a boat that carried 46 people. The second boat was believed to have 35 to 40 people aboard. Most of those missing are thought to be from Ethiopia.

Search efforts were underway for any more possible survivors, coast guard officials are quoted as saying.

A Col. Fitsum hostage gives an interview

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

By Elias Kifle

Previously, I have written about an Eritrean “adviser” to Ethiopian opposition groups named Col. Fitsum who has been arbitrarily arresting Ethiopians, blocking reform inside the opposition groups, sabotaging their activities so that they stay weak, turning their members against each other, and robbing funds that are being sent to EPPF from its supporters in the Diaspora. Several Ethiopians, including myself, tried to make the Eritrean government aware of Col. Fitsum’s misconducts, to no avail, leading to politically damaging speculations that he is not acting alone and that he is carrying out a government policy.

Things turned from bad to worse when recently Col. Fitsum arrested a prominent Ethiopian opposition figure, Col. Tadesse Muluneh, a founder and former leader of the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF). Another prominent member of EPPF, Shambel Zewdu Ayalew, who was forced out of the organization by Col. Fitusm, had disappeared for over two weeks and I learned last Friday that he is back in his residence in Asmara. He now seems to be fine, although shaken up and is unwilling to speak to any one. Despite multiple requests for explanation, the Government of Eritrea (GOE) so far has chosen to remain silent about what happened to Col. Tadesse and other Ethiopians who disappeared.

Those of us who are expressing concern about Col. Tadesse’s arrest are now being targeted by Fitsum for propaganda attack. On Sunday, January 2, one of his prisoners named Mengistu, whom he installed as a spokesperson for EPPF, was interviewed by ECADF paltalk room where he said that those who ask about Col. Tadesse and other Ethiopians who have disappeared are trying to soil EPPF’s name. When pressed for an answer by the moderators and some in the audience, Mengistu, in a shivering voice, said that he and his colleagues are not in a position to get information and that he doesn’t think he should make an effort to find out what happened. Instead, he tried to explain that Col. Tadesse has left EPPF long time ago on his own will, and Shambel Zewdu also left because of health reasons. Mengistu’s answers have offended many in the audience who know about the circumstances under which both individuals left EPPF. They were forced out by Col. Fitsum. In Shambel Zewdu’s case, he had to literally run through the streets of Asmara to General Tekle Manjus’ office to seek protection. One of those who was ordered by Fitsum to arrest Shambel Zewdu was Mengistu himself.

It needs to be mentioned here that Gen. Tekle is a decent and humble person who is well-liked by every Ethiopian I met in Eritrea. It’s because of Eritreans like Gen. Tekle I still hesitate to conclude, despite mounting evidence, that what Col. Fitsum is a doing has not been sanctioned by Eritrean government. Unlike Col. Fitsum, many Eritrean officials such as Gen. Tekle, seem to be corruption-free and live a hermit-like life with little or no personal wealth. They also appear to be sincere in their desire to reach out to Ethiopians.

Cooperation between Ethiopians and Eritreans is a necessity for both people, but obstacles like Col. Fitsum, a corrupt and petty criminal who is knowingly and unknowingly serving Woyanne’s interest, must be removed. It is impossible to work with the Eritrean government in a mutually beneficial way while individuals like Fitsum are allowed to run amok.

Going back to Mengistu’s interview on ECADF, his answers have angered and disturbed many of the over 400 members of the audience. I, however, am not angry at him. I know Mengistu personally. I met him several times in Eritrea during the past two years. He is not a bad person. He is disillusioned by what is being done to EPPF and is desperate for a way out of the mess. I feel sorry for him because he is a prisoner and victim of Col. Fitsum. He was ordered to give an interview to try to misinform Ethiopians in the Diaspora, and discredit individuals who are exposing his crimes against Ethiopian opposition groups and their members. Truth and hard facts cannot explain away by cheap propaganda.

The fact is that EPPF is currently under the complete control of the rogue colonel who is too ignorant to understand that his actions, such as arresting prominent Ethiopian opposition figures, will damage the Ethiopia-Eritrea relation that many, including myself, have worked hard to build. I and many others were willing to tolerate his misconducts until EPPF is reformed and his interference is curtailed, if not completely stopped. When I realized that it was impossible to reform EPPF without a protracted effort that may take several years, I withdrew my support starting last August and took a different route completely separate from EPPF. Many others, including most of the fighters, have left the organization. The once promising EPPF has now dwindled down to less than 70 fighters, many of whom would not return if Fitsum allows them to leave Eritrea. Mengistu and most of the executive committee members would also not return if they leave Eritrea. That is why Col. Fitusm does not allow them to travel any where. Another executive committee member, Nurjeba, was arrested for over a year about 3 years ago for trying to escape to Sudan. As things stand now, EPPF fighters and leaders are Col. Fitsum’s hostages.

It was this kind of mess that we were trying to fix after being given assurances from President Isaias Afwerki that if there is any intervention at all from the Eritrean government it will be by Eritrean advisers who have genuine interest in working with us on the basis of mutual interest. There are indeed several Eritreans inside the government who have such interest.

I’m told by Eritreans that the GOE moves slowly and that the problems will be addressed soon. In the mean time, as I have been advocating cooperation with Eritrea in a very open manner while others sneak around in the dark, I will also point out difficulties we are facing in an open manner, especially when it comes to such a flagrant violation of the trust that we were trying to build between Ethiopians and Eritreans.

A sloppy attempt at self-exoneration – Messay Kebede

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

By Messay Kebede

My purpose begins by stating that my reading of Asgede Gebre Selassie’s book Gahdi 1 significantly departs from the review of the book by Tecola Hagos, an esteemed friend and an established public intellectual for the democratization of Ethiopia. Even though Tecola was critical of some aspects of the book, notably, of the “jubilation” that Assegid displays in his narratives of the TPLF’s victories against the Ethiopian army––since he seems to forget that the so-called victories were victories against his own country––in the main, his review is laudatory. The main reason for the praise is neither the literary quality of the book nor its conceptual insights but its truthful account of important political and military events by a person who had been both a direct participant and observer.

Nonetheless, every time Tecola reviews a book, something insightful is bound to happen, mostly because he has a way of putting the finger on issues that the author either failed to articulate properly or does not want to confront. His review of Gahdi is no exception to the rule, and the discernment comes out in the following statement: “what is most puzzling to me is the fact that why TPLF that was well organized, had superior manpower and weapon by the 1980s remained in some kind of subservient relations with EPLF’s Leadership.” The puzzle is real and reveals the failure of the book in that Assegid never succeeds in dissipating it. On the contrary, the book aggravates the riddle to the point of casting serious doubts on the veracity of its reports and explanations of events.

Though I reserve a more complete and detailed review of the book for a later date, I could not postpone the crucial importance of Tecola’s puzzlement, as it throws into relief the great question of Ethiopians about the nature of the TPLF. My claim is that Assegid’s book goes a long way in delivering the essence of the TPLF, provided that one reads it, not as an accurate account of events, but as a sloppy attempt at self-exoneration. I say “sloppy” because the book rests on a flagrant contradiction between Assegid’s visceral commitment to the TPLF and his own political demise, which he identifies with the loss of Assab and the wretched condition of Ethiopia under the TPLF.

The commitment is expressed by Assegid’s unreserved admiration of the TPLF’s fighting spirit and superior military strategy, an admiration so unbounded that he does not hesitate to say that the TPLF was the major, if not the only, defeater of the Derg. His account of the military force of the EPLF is deliberately demeaning, not to mention his utter contempt for the Ethiopian army. It is no exaggeration to say that, according to him, the TPLF would have defeated the Derg even without the EPLF when the plain fact is that the TPLF prevailed only after the Ethiopian army had been considerably diminished in its unsuccessful confrontations in Eritrea. The fate of the Derg was decided, not in Tigray, but in the Sahel mountains.

Unfortunately for Assegid, the more he assigns the exclusive victory over the Derg to the TPLF, the more he enhances the military and organizational power of the TPLF, and the less comprehensible becomes its subordination to the EPLF, all the more so as at times Assegid speaks as though the EPLF were the instrument of the TPLF rather than the other way round. Consequently, to explain why the TPLF failed in its commitments to liberate the Ethiopian peoples and create a prosperous and united Ethiopia with Assab as its main port, Assegid concocts the thesis that its leadership fell into the hands of Eritrean agents, the principal actors being Meles Zenawi, Abayi Tsehai, Sebhat Nega, Seyoum Mesfin, etc. Hence the puzzling issue: if the TPLF was so strong and the EPLF so weak, how on earth was the weak able to dominate the strong?

Assegid alludes to repression and deception silencing pro-Ethiopian elements in the TPLF. But his explanation falls flat when he himself admits that the anti-Eritrean forces within the TPLF failed to show a strong opposition to those working for the EPLF (see p. 31). Moreover, throughout the book, Assegid shows that the EPLF systematically engaged in activities detrimental to the TPLF and that the two organizations were sworn enemies from the get-go. He even states that the EPLF conspired with the Derg to undermine the TPLF, for instance by providing sensitive information to the Derg (pp. 138-139).Given this deep and protracted animosity, it is not clear how the leaders and fighters of the TPLF could be tricked, let alone forced, into giving the leadership to groups that were openly siding with the cause of Eritrea.

To the extent that the explanation of the derailment of the TPLF from its original goal is hardly convincing, the reason why Assegid clings to an irrational explanation is obviously rooted in his refusal to take a hard and critical look at the ideological and political goals of the TPLF. Since he refuses to question the original intent, he had to come up with an explanation involving derailment, essentially through the suggestion that Eritrean agents infiltrated the organization and brought about the betrayal. What speaks here is not reason or the resolution to understand and admit mistakes, but passion and the need to exonerate oneself by attributing the negative outcomes to a conspiracy, however unbelievable it may be.

The bare truth, however, is that the secession of Eritrea was the major condition allowing the TPLF to become the single hegemonic force controlling Ethiopia. Unquestionably, so long as the EPLF was a contending force within Ethiopia, the domineering goal of the TPLF could not come to pass so that pushing Eritrea out of Ethiopia was the appropriate strategic choice. (For further information on this point, see my article “The Underside of the Eritrean Issue.”) This same hegemonic goal explains why the TPLF decided to battle with the EPRP and the EDU, even as an alliance with these opponents of the Derg would have been more logical for an organization committed to democratize Ethiopia.

The point is that the TPLF has never been an organization committed to democracy; instead, it had a hegemonic agenda from the start, a point that has been recently underscored by another but more remorseful founding member. I have in mind Aregawi Berhe, who wrote: “the TPLF leadership put forward ethno-nationalism with ‘self-determination including and up to secession’ as its principal goal mainly because it offered the best chance of building an effective fighting force that leads to power, which understandably is the elite’s own goal” (A Political History Of The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (1975-1991), p. 307.)

What this reveals is that the so-called agents of Eritrea actually designed the right strategy to achieve domination. They understood very early that the best way to weaken the Derg and become the sole owner of Ethiopia was to fully support the Eritrean independence. The port of Assab was the necessary sacrifice to realize such a goal, given that any desire to retain the port would lead to war, thereby placing the TPLF in the same situation as the Derg. Indeed, to secure Assab, the TPLF would be forced to occupy Eritrea and engage in the same destabilizing conflicts as the Derg, with the added difference that it would have been in a much more disadvantageous position to pursue its hegemonic interests.

The great lesson here is that dissident members of the TPLF cannot join the struggle for democracy by denouncing the derailment of the organization for the simple reason that the theory is contradictory and utterly untenable. They must have a hard and critical look at the initial ideology and political agenda of their organization and admit that the predominance of Meles and his clique is neither an accident nor the product of a conspiracy, but a logical development of both the initial stand against Ethiopia and the subsequent hegemonic aspiration. They must do so for their own sake and regeneration into a democratic force, for admission of guilt chiefly conditions their emancipation from the demons of resentment, radicalism, and vindictiveness.

(Dr Messay Kebede can be reached at

Elias and their ilk: Proving Sigmund Freud wrong?

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

By Kiflu Hussain

Let alone in the strictly patriarchal society like Africa where the father as the head of the family wields a great deal of power that make or mar the psychology of his children, even in the Western society that prides itself of liberty and emancipation of women, the presence or absence of fathers be it in a domineering or accommodating fashion plays a pivotal role in shaping the personality of children into manhood or womanhood. Although, I may touch upon the general parent-children relationship irrespective of gender, since this missive is inspired by Elias Kifle’s nominating his father as the Ethiopian Review 2010 person of the year, I would mostly concentrate on father-son relationship. As Africa is still in its rudimentary stage, relationships in the social scheme of things are crude and rude. Therefore, husbands can “discipline” their wives by beating them up. Also the spouses do the same towards “disciplining” their children.However,we should bear in mind that despite the dominant patriarchal culture, there are some communities in Africa that never impose iron discipline on their children, especially on boys. Pastoral communities are known for raising their boys in an absolutely free and fiercely independent ways. That’s the general picture of a society in rural Africa including the multitude of uneducated and poverty stricken urban dwellers.

Come to the so-called few educated and middle class family. You find nothing much changed in disciplining wives and kids. The only difference here is the subtlety of the method applied. When disciplining goes out of hand and serious abuses take place, it would still remain a hush-hush story for the most part to protect the honor and privacy/GEMENA/of the family from any scandal.Thankfully, this has nothing to do with being backward or having a black skin color. Westerners themselves have many skeletons in their respective closets to this effect. But there is another kind of imposition on children, particularly on boys. If the father is successful, renowned or someone who is seen as a role model in the community, the son is also expected to grow up like him which can be taxing on his personality. Daughters don’t have this sort of burden so long as they succeed to land a husband with good social standing and confine themselves to the three Ks August Bebel described in German as “Kuche, Kirche, Kinder” meaning kitchen, church and children. Probably that is the reason that we still don’t see many women leaders in the Western world despite the much vaunted liberty and emancipation.Ironically, societies considered to be too conservative, backward, extremist or even barbaric produced female leaders long before the Western world. Remember Indira Ghandi of India, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh, Corazon Aquino of Philippines and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia? At any rate, it’s not only the father who attains prominence due to his record in public service or valour as a military man or entrepreneurial skill or academic prowess that expects his son to be like him. The society itself expects nothing less of him. Whenever the son falls short of expectation, he will be reminded not to be a weakling and a disgrace to his family, particularly to his father. In short, he would find it difficult to be himself wherefore one remembers Sigmund Freud’s “A son can’t be a man until his father dies.” Without going into the nitty-gritty of what led Freud to arrive at such a drastic conclusion, it’s easy to observe how successful fathers can be overbearing and intimidating more than ordinary fathers thereby overshadowing the healthy growth of their sons. The late Irving Wallace, an American novelist, testified to this fact in his book ‘The Almighty’ by saying “It’s hard for big self-made men who have everything to consider their puny sons as their equals and to trust them.” To emphasize this point, I would cite one example closest to home. According to Mulugeta Lule in one of his articles on the defunct monthly Tobia or Lisaane Hizeb, the renowned Ethiopian, Tekle Hawariat Tekle Mariam deflated his son’s ego, Girmatchew Tekle Hawariat on his appointment as minister by sarcastically remarking “Your appointment will not solve Ethiopia’s problem.” Thankfully, Girmatchew was not daunted. On the contrary, he earned a name and fame for himself. Negadras Tessema Eshete too saw the rise of his own son, Yidenekatchew to renown before he died. Can we say the same about Tadele? Well, almost. On top of being a successful businessman, he is also gifted on public speaking, a trait he inherited from his forefathers. Despite their unsung patriotism and hard-work in their respective endeavor, there are/were/other fathers too who begat sons and successfully raised them to noble causes. To mention a few, Dr. Berhanu, son of Nega Bonger whose father is a leading Hotelier who rose to success from a humble means through hard work. Ato Andargatchew son of Ato Tsige whose father not only taught academics but conducted himself as an exemplary upright citizen to his students. Ato Neamin son of the late Commander Zelleke whose father is particularly remembered for transforming Assab, the then portal town of Ethiopia from a scorching desert to a romantic town most sought by visitors. What is remarkable about these fathers apart from their own achievements is that they have never been like ordinary, content and self-centered fathers who advise their children to concentrate on mediocrity by avoiding risks and sacrifices. Either they encouraged their sons or at least didn’t get in their way. Before I say kudos to all of them including Elias’s dad, Kifle Seifu, I would like to add about those famous and less famous fathers who succeeded on top of their own success to raise their daughters to prominence.

The first one is Professor Getatchew Haile who also had a shootout with the henchmen of a dictatorship. Unlike Ato Kifle, Prof. Getatchew had a showdown with Woyanne’s predecessor, Derg whereby he got wounded and confined to a wheelchair for a life. This, however, had never dampened his spirit. In addition to his own contribution both to the Ethiopian cause and academia, his daughter, Rebecca, whom I believe owe her success to him, published a book titled “Held at a distance; my rediscovery of Ethiopia.” Another one is an Ethiopian I used to know from a distance before I went into exile.Though, he is not widely known on a national scale, he had a good record in the agricultural sector where he served quietly most of his life. On top of his deceptive villager demeanor underneath an astute mind crowned with a PhD, he was known not to buckle for something he didn’t believe in. His name was Dr.Gualu Endegnanew. Recently, I learned happily that his daughter who is the spitting image of him succeeded by achieving the highest position in a field that is heavily dominated by men even in the Western world. She is the first Ethiopian to fly a big commercial airliner as pilot-in-command. Her name is Captain Amsale Gualu. These Ethiopians taught their kids by being there for them and by their own money earned by the sweat of their brow unlike our current rulers who steal from the public coffers to send their spoiled kids to fancy schools in a limousine accompanied by bodyguards. My point, therefore, is Elias’s choice of person of the year for 2010 unlike his rash and highly controversial choice in 2008-09, has a salutary effect on almost all of us. Personally, it made me refer to a very good article I read on BBC Focus on Africa magazine by a Ugandan-born Canadian journalist and freelance writer named Nam Kiwanuka. She began her piece which she titled “My fragile father figure” with how ‘like many African children, grew up in fear of her father hence one of his looks can be enough to send her running.’ Yet, despite her fear, she admired him greatly wherefore she bragged about him “My Dad can do push-ups with one hand; He’s better at Kung fu than Bruce Lee.”

As parting company with a good dose of humour is good to preserve our sanity, I would also like to share my own or rather my last brother’s bragging on account of our father. All of us used to brag, but my brother’s as he revealed it to us much later after we grew up is really funny. He was showing off our father’s travel experience to all the ‘important’ countries to his childhood friend. Since our father was sent twice to U.S in his Air Force years, obviously America came first. Trouble is his friend’s father had also been to the U.S as a civilian employee of Ethiopian Airlines. So my brother began calling all the countries my father visited including the ones he didn’t visit. His friend claimed that his father too had been in all those places. Finally, my brother recalled my father’s conversation while reminiscing about his training days in the Air Force. He just remembered the phrase that my father used to employ “when I was cadet” in Amharic. The direct translation into English sounds like ‘when I was in cadet’ which made my brother assume in his childhood brain that cadet was a country. So he said to his friend “My father had also visited cadet!” whereby his friend admitted that he never heard a country called ‘cadet’ let alone to know about his father traveling to one.

(The writer can be reached at

Ethiopian boxing legend gets help from Los Angeles Ethiopians

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Ethiopians in Los Angeles hold a fundraiser to assist Ethiopian boxing legend Seifu Makonnen who represented Ethiopia at the Olympics. Seifu, who is popularly knows as Tibo, is suffering from a kidney disease and is currently waiting for a transplant. The Los Angels Times has the following report:

By Kate Linthicum

Nearly every month in Los Angeles, Ethiopians host a benefit [to support fellow countrymen]. Earlier this year, at events for two compatriots with cancer, Abebe’s group raised more than $55,000.

It’s not as if they have time or money to spare. Many Ethiopians here work as taxicab drivers or parking attendants, and most send large remittances to relatives back home. But they give because they know that if ever they need help, they will get it. They give because this is a community that takes care of its own.

You can see it at the home of a family that has just lost a loved one, where friends arrive for days of mourning, each with food, drinks or an envelope of money. You can see it at the hospital, where it’s not uncommon for an Ethiopian patient to receive 300 visitors a day.

It’s a way of life they learned at home, and it helps keeps them connected here.

Seeking asylum

Seifu Mekonnen was once one of the most feared boxers in East Africa. A heavyweight with a fierce punch, he was called Tibo, Amharic for “knockout.”

Ethiopian boxer Seifu Mekonnen

He has a clutch of gold medals from various victories across the world and a tattoo on his right shoulder of five interlocked rings — a reminder of when he represented Ethiopia at the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich.

But he hit his peak just as a hard-line military junta swept into power in his country, after the 1974 ousting of Emperor Haile Selassie I.

The communist regime put him in jail for several months. Later he was sent to train in Cuba. On a layover in Montreal on the way back to Ethiopia, he slipped a letter to airport police seeking political asylum.

He moved to Los Angeles with refugee status in 1978 and gave up boxing for another fight.

When Makonnen arrived in L.A., there were no Ethiopian restaurants or churches.

“Back then, everybody was on his own,” he said.

Makonnen helped found St. Mary’s Ethiopian Apostolic Church on Compton Avenue, the nation’s first Ethiopian church. While living in Washington, D.C., briefly, he opened a health center where Ethiopian athletes could train and started a weekly radio program about Ethiopian sports.

He helped build the community that now is helping him.

Together to help

The fundraiser-planning dinners have the feel of school board meetings. Decisions are made by consensus. Each person takes notes. One woman jots down the minutes, which are later typed up and sent out on the group’s listserv.

After three months of twice-monthly get-togethers, the event hall has been rented and the musicians’ travel arranged. But there is still much to be done. The invitations must be printed and the dinner menu chosen. Someone needs to make the rounds of all the Ethiopian-owned businesses to sell ad space in the February gala’s program.

The volunteers have embraced the American “do-it-yourself” ethic, with an Ethiopian flavor. Those who are hungry order food, and all eat from the same plate. They never raise their voices during two hours of sorting out event details. The meetings get heated only at the end, when the bill comes and they argue over who gets to pay it.

Beloved figure

Abebe first met Makonnen when he moved to L.A. in 1983. The former boxer was driving a taxi then, and he taught the newcomer from Addis Ababa how to find his way across a vast, unfamiliar metropolis.

Makonnen was diagnosed with diabetes in the 1980s.

The man who once skipped deftly in the boxing ring now steps slowly. He spends three days a week at a clinic undergoing dialysis. The treatments leave him exhausted and unable to work.

When Abebe heard about the fundraiser for his old mentor, he happily agreed to help. He drives to the Little Ethiopia meeting from Inglewood, where he lives with his wife and two children. Others come from the San Fernando Valley and Orange County.

“A lot of people love him and know him,” Abebe said of Makonnen, who has two grown children. “He needs another chance to live.”

When Makonnen heard about the gala, he was happy but not surprised.

“In Ethiopia, there is no ‘individual,’ ” he said. “You help people, and they’ll do good for you.”

A new Oromo political movement formed

Friday, December 31st, 2010

A new political party named Oromo People National Unity and Liberation Movement has been formed and is currently introducing its political program to the public. The new party strives to make Ethiopia a country where the rights of the Oromo people are respected, according to Colonel Abebe Geresu, an executive committee member. Col. Abebe, who now resides in Asmara, is one of the high ranking officers who defected from the Woyanne regime along with General Kemal Gelchu and several others. Click here to read OPNULM’s political program.

Ethiopian Groundhog Year 2010

Monday, December 27th, 2010

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Groundhog Year in Prison Nation

In December 2008, I wrote a weekly column entitled “Groundhog Year in Prison Nation” summarizing some of my weekly columns for that year. I used the “groundhog year” analogy following the title of the motion picture “Groundhog Day” in which a hapless television weatherman is trapped in a time warp and finds himself repeating the same day over and over. I wrote[1]:

2008 in Ethiopia was Groundhog Year! It was a repetition of 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004… Everyday millions of Ethiopians woke up only to find themselves trapped in a time loop where their lives replayed like a broken record. Each “new” day is the same as the one before it: Repression, intimidation, corruption, incarceration, deception, brutalization and human rights violation. Everything that happened to them the previous day, the previous week, the previous month, the previous 18 years happens to them today. They are resigned to the fact that they are doomed to spend the rest of their lives asphyxiated in a Prison Nation. They have no idea how to get out of this awful cycle of misery, agony, despair and tribulation. So, they pray and pray and pray and pray… for deliverance from Evil!

It is December 2010, the end of the first decade of the 21st Century. Are Ethiopians better off today than they were in 2009, 2005…2000?

Does bread (teff) cost more today than it did a year ago…, five years ago? Cooking oil, household fuel, beef, poultry, gasoline, housing, water, electricity, public transport…?

Are there more poor people today in Ethiopia than there were a year ago… five years ago? More unemployment among youth, less educational opportunities, less health care?

Is there more corruption, more secrecy, less transparency and less accountability in December 2010 than in December 2009…?

Are elections more free and fair in 2010 than they were in 2008, 2005?

Is there more press freedom today than five years ago? More human rights violations?

Is Ethiopia more dependent on international charity for its daily bread today than a year ago…?

Is there more environmental pollution, habitat destruction, forced human displacement and land grabs in Ethiopia today than there was in 2005?

Are businesses paying more taxes and bribes in Ethiopia today than in years past?

Is Ethiopia today at the very bottom of the global Index of Economic Freedom (limited access to financing, inefficient government bureaucracy, inadequate supply of infrastructure)?

Let the reader answer these self-evident questions. Suffice it to say, “It is what it is!”

Montage of Scenes From 2010 Time Loop

So here we are in Ethiopian Groundhog Year 2010. As a year-end overview, I decided to select and highlight a few of my columns from the multiple dozens of weekly and other commentaries I wrote in 2010 and published on the various Ethiopian pro-democracy websites, and the Huffington Post[2] where all of my commentaries for the year are readily available.

January 2010 – Looking Through the Glass, Brightly

“Ethiopia is the country of the future,” Birtukan Midekssa would often say epigrammatically. Ethiopia’s number 1 political prisoner is always preoccupied with her country’s future and destiny. Her deep concern for Ethiopia is exceeded only by her boundless optimism for its future… To be the country of the future necessarily means not being the country of the past. Birtukan’s Ethiopia of the future is necessarily the categorical antitheses of an imperial autocracy, a military bureaucracy and a dictatorship of kleptocracy. Her vision of the future Ethiopia is a unified country built on a steel platform of multiparty democracy. Birtukan would have been pleased to explain her vision and dreams of the future country of Ethiopia; unfortunately, she cannot speak for herself as she has been condemned to “rot” in jail.

February 2010- Putting Lipstick on a Pig

Ethiopia’s dictators think we are all damned fools. They want us to believe that a pig with lipstick is actually a swan floating on a placid lake, or a butterfly fluttering in the rose garden or even a lamb frolicking in the meadows. Put some lipstick on hyperinflation and you have one of the “fastest developing economies in the world”. Put lipstick on power outages, and the grids come alive with megawattage. Slap a little lipstick on famine, and voila! Ethiopians are suffering from a slight case of “severe malnutrition”. Adorn your atrocious human rights record by appointing a “human rights” chief, and lo and behold, grievous government wrongs are transformed magically into robust human rights protections. Slam your opposition in jail, smother the independent press and criminalize civil society while applying dainty lipstick to a mannequin of democracy. The point is, “You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper and call it ‘democracy’ but after 20 years it stinks to high heaven!”

March 2010- Waiting for Godot to Leave

The politics of “succession” to Zenawi’s “throne” has become a veritable theatre of the absurd. The personalities waiting in the wings to take over the “throne” (or to protect and safeguard it) bring to mind the witless characters in Samuel Beckett’s tragicomedy play Waiting for Godot, arguably the most important English play of the 20th Century. In that play, two vagabond characters anxiously wait on a country road by a tree for the arrival of a mysterious person named Godot, who can save them and answer all their questions. They wait for days on end but Godot never shows up… and the two characters keep returning to the same place day after day to wait for him; but they cannot remember exactly what happened the day before. Godot never came. Waiting for Zenawi to leave power is like waiting for Godot to arrive. It ain’t happening. He is not only the savior and the man with all the answers, he is also the Great Patron who makes everything work.

April, 2010- C’est la Vie? C’est la Vie en Prison!

When Meles Zenawi, the arch dictator in Ethiopia, was asked about Birtukan’s health in his prison on March 23, 2010, he was comically philosophical about it. He said Birtukan health is in “perfect condition”, except that she may be putting on some weight. “The health situation of Birtukan, the last I heard, is in perfect condition. She may have gained a few kilos, but other than that, and that may be for lack of exercise, I understand she is in perfect health… I am not surprised that they [U.S. State Department] have characterized Birtukan as a political prisoner, because I understand they have also characterized Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and Oromia Liberation Front (OLF) terrorists… as political prisoners… But that is life; I think the French say, ‘C’est la Vie.’

May, 2010- Speaking Truth to Power

For the past year, I have been predicting that the 2010 Ethiopian “election” will prove to be a sham, a travesty of democracy and a mockery and caricature of democratic elections. Without my literary and rhetorical flourish, that is now the exact conclusion of the international election observers. The “Preliminary Statement” of the European Union Election Observation Mission- Ethiopia 2010 stated: “The electoral process fell short of certain international commitments, notably regarding the transparency of the process and the lack of a level playing field for all contesting parties.” … Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the State Department told the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee that “we note with some degree of remorse that the elections were not up to international standards… The [Ethiopian] government has taken clear and decisive steps that would ensure that it would garner an electoral victory.” Even Herman Cohen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State who served as “mediator” in the so-called May 1991 London Peace Talks which resulted in the establishment of the Zenawi regime decried the outcome: “… I don’t think it was a fair election.”

June, 2010- Speaking Truth to the Powerless

Now that the hoopla around Meles Zenawi’s “election” is over, it is time for the Ethiopian opposition to take stock and re-think the way it has been doing business. We begin with the obvious question: “What happened to the Ethiopian opposition in the make-believe election of 2010?” Zenawi will argue vigorously that he defeated them by a margin of 99.6 percent (545 of 547 parliamentary seats). If that were the real “defeat” for the opposition, I would not worry much. Losing a sham election is like losing one’s appendix. But there is a different kind of defeat that I find more worrisome. It is a defeat in the eyes and hearts of the people. I am afraid the opposition collectively has suffered considerable loss of credibility in the eyes of the people by making a public spectacle of its endless bickering, carping, dithering, internal squabbles, disorganization, inability to unite, pettiness, jockeying for power, and by failing to articulate a coherent set of guiding principles or ideas for the country’s future.

July, 2010- Hummingbirds and Forest Fires

World history shows that individuals and small groups — the hummingbirds — do make a difference in bringing about change in their societies. The few dozen leaders of the American Revolution and the founders of the government of the United States were driven to independence by a “long train of abuses and usurpations” leading to “absolute despotism” as so eloquently and timelessly expressed in the Declaration of Independence… The Bolsheviks (vultures in hummingbird feathers) won the Russian Revolution arguably defending the rights of the working class and peasants against the harsh oppression of Czarist dictatorship. They managed to establish a totalitarian system which thankfully swept itself into the dustbin of history two decades ago… Gandhi and a small group of followers in India led nationwide campaigns to alleviate poverty, make India economically self-reliant, broaden the rights of urban laborers, peasants and women, end the odious custom of untouchability and bring about tolerance and understanding among religious and ethnic groups. Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo led ANC’s Defiance Campaign and crafted the Freedom Charter which provided the ideological basis for the long struggle against apartheid and served as the foundation for the current South African Constitution. In the United States, Martin Luther King and some 60 church leaders formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, becoming the driving force of the American civil rights movement.

August, 2010 – Steel Vises, Clenched Fists and Closing Walls

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton gave a speech in Poland… and singled out Ethiopia along with Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and others to warn the world that “we must be wary of the steel vise in which governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit.”… She pointed out: “Last year, Ethiopia imposed a series of strict new rules on NGOs. Very few groups have been able to re-register under this new framework, particularly organizations working on sensitive issues like human rights.”… Secretary Clinton said the acid test for the success or failure of U.S. foreign policy is whether “more people in more places are better able to exercise their universal rights and live up to their potential because of our actions?” By this measure, U.S. policy in Ethiopia has been a total, unmitigated and dismal failure. The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable…

September, 2010- Indoctri-Nation

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education issued a “directive” effectively outlawing distance learning (or education programs that are not delivered in the traditional university classroom or campus) throughout the country… Wholesale elimination of private distance learning programs by “directive”, or more accurately bureaucratic fiat, is a flagrant violation of Higher Education Proclamation No. 650/2009. Under this Proclamation, the Ministry of Education and its sub-agencies have the authority to regulate and “revoke accreditation” of a private institution which fails to meet statutory criteria on a case-by-case basis following a fact-finding and appeals process…. I believe the regime has a long term strategy to use the universities as breeding grounds for its ideologues and hatcheries for the thousands of loyal and dependent bureaucrats they need to sustain their domination and rule. The monopoly created for the state in the disciplines of law and teaching (which I will predict will gradually include other disciplines in the future) is a clear indication of the trend to gradually create a cadre of “educated” elites to serve the next generation of dictators to come.

October, 2010- Birtukan Unbound!

Birtukan was held for months in a dark room with no human contact except a few minutes a week with her mother and daughter. Fear, anxiety and despair were her only companions. Heartache knocked constantly on the door to her dark room needling her: “Did you do the right thing leaving three year-old Hal’le to the care of your aging mother?” Self-doubt kept her awake in that dark room where time stood still asking her the same question over and over: “Is it worth all this suffering? Give up!” But a voice in her conscience would echo thunderously, “Like hell you’re going to give up, Birtukan. Fight on. Keep on fighting. ‘Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.’” In the end Birtukan signed Zenawi’s scrap of paper making exception to convictions of honor and good sense. We expected nothing less from such a great young woman…. Prisoners can be brainwashed to say anything by those who control them. Prisoners who have endured torture, extreme degradation and abuse have been known to do shocking things to please their captors and ease their own pain and suffering. Abused prisoners have been known to deceive themselves into believing the cruelty of their captors as acts of kindness. It is called the “Stockholm Syndrome.” When the victim is under the total and complete control of her captor for her basic needs of survival and her very existence, she will say and do anything to please her captor.

November, 2010- Remember the Slaughter of 2005

November is a cruel month. Bleak, woeful, and grim is the month of November in the melancholy verse of Thomas Hood:

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member–
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,

And no justice for the hundreds massacred in Ethiopia in November (2005).
No redress for the countless men, women and children shot and wounded and left for dead.
No apologies for the tens of thousands illegally imprisoned.
No restitution for survivors or the families of the dead.
No trace of those who disappeared.
No atonement for the crimes of November.
No absolution for the slaughter of November.
November is to remember.

December, 2010- “So What!”

So what are the lessons of Groundhog Year 2010? The first decade of the 21st Century?

Lesson I. Crush your opponents with full force. Alternatively, vegetate them forever.
Lesson II. If you get into America’s face and stick it to her, she will always back down. Always!
Lesson III. “Democratization is a matter of survival.” If democracy stays alive in Ethiopia, Zenawi cannot survive. If Zenawi survives, democracy cannot stay alive.
Lesson IV: If you want democracy, you must struggle and sacrifice for it.
Lesson V. If your rights are being violated, defend them!
Lesson VI. Elections are like children’s marble game where everybody can play as long as the guy who owns the marbles wins all the time.
Lesson VII. If you want to win, you need to organize, mobilize and energize your base. You need to teach, preach and reach the people.
Lesson VIII. You want funding, don’t beg for it; dig deeper into your own wallets.
Lesson: IX. There is one law, one regime, one ruler, one circus master and only one man who runs the show in Ethiopia.
Lesson X: The greatest lesson of 2010 and the first decade of the 21st Century:




74 Ethiopians arrested in Kenya

Friday, December 24th, 2010

A Kenyan journal, The Standard, reports that the government of Kenya is intensifying its crackdown on Ethiopians who are fleeing from Ethiopia to seek refugee in other countries. Most of the Ethiopian refugees Kenyan authorities are arresting use Kenya as a transit point to South Africa and Yemen. The recent crackdown is said to be related with Kenya’s fight with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) at the urging of Woyanne, the ruling junta in Ethiopia.

NAIROBI (The Standard) — In Taita-Taveta, 57 Ethiopians were arrested on their way to Mombasa from Nairobi while 17 were intercepted on Nairobi-Nyeri highway.

The arrest brings to more than 70 the number of illegal immigrants so far arrested in Taita-Taveta County in the past two weeks. This is also the largest number of foreigners so far arrested.

Taita OCPD Nathaniel Aseneka said 56 men and a woman were arrested at Caltex filling station roadblock in Voi town. One of the suspects, however, escaped and police are still looking for him.

“We are detaining the suspects and will take them to court once we are through with our investigation,” said the police boss.

“We’re doing everything possible to rid the area of illegal immigrants,” Aseneka added.

No documents

Meanwhile, MPs Calist Mwatela (Mwatate), Dan Mwazo (Voi) and Thomas Mwadeghu (Wundanyi) accused some livestock traders of hiring foreigners as herders with no identification documents.

Elsewhere, police arrested 17 Ethiopians as they were travelling to Nairobi from Isiolo on Nairobi-Nyeri Highway.

They were nabbed on Monday night by police officers who were patrolling the highway at Huhi area, near Makuyu town.

Yesterday, Murang’a South OCPD Antony Onyango said the foreigners were arrested at 10.30pm after police manning a roadblock flagged down their vehicles.

Also arrested were two drivers who had been hired to ferry the 17 to a hotel in Narok town where they were to stay before travelling to South Africa. Onyango said they would be arraigned before a Thika court once investigation is complete.

Kenya in a large scale war against OLF

Friday, December 24th, 2010

The government of Kenya has launched a full scale attack against the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and according to human rights groups, Oromo refugees through out Kenya, including the capital city Nairobi, are currently being harassed and abused by Kenyan security forces, a UN news agency reports. Read the full report below.

MOYALE, ETHIOPIA (IRIN) – The presence of an Ethiopian rebel group in northern Kenya, coupled with operations by security forces from both countries, has caused numerous casualties and displacement among local residents, who also complain of arbitrary arrests.

“They are a menace,” Moyale District Commissioner David Rotich said of the secessionist Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which first rose up against Ethiopian authorities three decades ago.

“They pose a major threat to security and development and are linked to a group of gun dealers and poachers across the region,” he alleged.

Residents of Moyale, Isiolo and Marsabit districts told IRIN that civilians were often detained by security agents who accused them of belonging to the OLF, or harassed by the rebels on suspicion of collaborating with the authorities.

A trader at Walda centre in Sololo, Moyale district, said several business people had to close their operations because of a wave of terror acts allegedly arising from the OLF presence in the area.

“Walda trading centre is a risky and difficult area to do business because it is considered the main military base for OLF rebels; Ethiopian Woyanne troops frequently attack us while pursuing the rebel fighters who also attack, abduct, kill and threaten local residents,” the trader said.

Identifying himself only as Wario, a hotelier at Turbi – where at least 80 people were killed four years ago – said the OLF, often comprising Kenyans and Ethiopians, once ordered him close his restaurant business because of his ethnicity.

“Our county council and government issues permits and licences for all traders to conduct business but [I believe] OLF makes the final decision; I was forced to close my restaurant because my crime was simple, I am a Gabra and therefore considered an enemy,” Wario said.

Most of the OLF fighters in northern Kenya are from the Borana community.

A retired chief from Sololo said: “The OLF was at first a pride to the Borana community but it is now a monster; it has killed many of our neighbours.”

On 15 December, 15 people died in Moyale and Marsabit districts after fierce fighting between the OLF and a splinter group in Badarero, Walda and Kate areas.

A Turbi resident, identified only as Ndege, said hundreds of families from his Gabra community remained displaced.

“We have suffered greatly at the hands of OLF; many people have been killed, many families are poor after losing their livestock to OLF, many have moved far away to look for manual work, other are recipients of relief food, beggars in towns and some young orphaned girls have been forced to work as commercial sex workers,” Ndege said.

Police operations

In November, Kenya police launched an operation to flush out the OLF rebels. However, residents said dozens of innocent youth were netted in the operation.

Moyale police commander Nathaniel Langat, told IRIN: “We have intelligence reports, what we are doing now is very different from the past operations, it has achieved a lot, the rebels have fled, many have crossed to Ethiopia, the government could not just sit and watch its citizens being killed, abducted and threatened by this bandits.”

Wenslas Ong’ayo, the Upper Eastern province regional commissioner, said the operation was being conducted “with a human face” and that no incidents had been reported so far. He added that all those arrested were found with weapons and had no permission to be in the country.

However, Wajir human rights network official Mukhtar Nur said an assessment conducted by the group established that local residents were living in fear of security forces and rebel fighters roaming the area.

“Young herders are no longer going out to look after their animals for fear of arrests,” he said. “Women are also afraid to go out to look for water or firewood because some have been arrested along the way, held the whole day and accused of ferrying supplies to the rebels.”

• Meanwhile, in Nairobi, some 200 ethnic Oromos from Ethiopia complained of police harassment at a protest rally on 23 December.

“The police come to our houses in the middle of the night, abusing women, ripping up our refugee documents,” Tsegaye Gudeta, spokesman for the Oromo Refugee Community Welfare Association, told IRIN.

“Besides detention, some of us are facing daily disappearances and abuse. We were afraid for our lives, have no other place to go and we couldn’t wait any more,” he added.

The protest was held outside the UN Refugee Agency, which Gudeta said should work with Kenyan police to increase awareness of refugees’ rights.

OLF spokesman speaks out on Gen. Kemal Gelchu

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

A spokesman for the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Ato Lencho Bati, told Ethiopian Review that the report about Gen. Kemal Gelchu being under a virtual house arrest is incorrect and that the general can travel any where he wishes.

Ato Lencho has also said that OLF troops have not been immobilized and that his organization appreciates the Eritrean government for giving shelter to OLF members and supporters while Oromos are being mistreated and brutalized in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and other countries in the region.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Review has been informed yesterday that another well-known Ethiopian patriot named Shambel Zewdu has disappeared over a week ago in Eritrea and his current whereabouts remain unknown. Shambel Zewdu was elected to parliament in Ethiopia from the Gonder region at the 2005 election but when Woyanne stole the vote, he decided to join the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF). Earlier this year, he submitted his resignation after Col. Fitsum (the so-called Eritrean adviser to Ethiopian opposition groups) had tried to arrest him and for the past 11 months he had been living in Asmara as a refugee. Many of the rank-and-file members of EPPF looked upon Shambel Zewdu as a father figure. More details about him later.

In a radio broadcast to Ethiopia yesterday, the Asmara-based EPPF radio that is under the control of the rogue Eritrean colonel has blasted Ethiopian Review editor and 4 others as destructive individuals who are trying to hijack the organization. This is the same corrupt colonel who made EPPF his personal piggy-bank.

New technology gives thieves access to your wallet

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Watch the video below and take steps to protect your credit card and passport information.

Protecting Ethiopian patriots in Eritrea

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Several Ethiopians from around the world held a meeting Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010, and discussed the disappearance of Col. Tadesse Muluneh and other Ethiopian patriots in Eritrea. The meeting also discussed other on going issues concerning the struggle to liberate Ethiopia from the Woyanne ethnic apartheid regime. Read details of the meeting here [Amharic].

Exchange rate to reach $1 = 20 birr in Ethiopia

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

As hard currency reserve dwindles in Ethiopia, experts predict that exchange rate could soon reach 20 birr per 1 U.S. dollar in the black market.

The current official exchange rate is 16.76 per $1, but in the black market the rate is 17.50 and in some places it goes as high as 18.50 birr per one dollar.

The primary cause of the hard currency supply shortage in Ethiopia is said to be capital flight, and the biggest culprits are the mega corporations that are owned by the ruling Woyanne junta who are depositing a significant portion of their profits in foreign banks.

Most private businessmen in Ethiopia have little trust in the stability of the financial system and that many of them also take their money out of the country as much as they can.

Ethiopia: "So What!"

Monday, December 20th, 2010

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

“So what! Soo what!! Sooo whaaat!!!” was the repetitive mantra of dictator Meles Zenawi recently in response to pesky questions lobbed at him in parliament about his so-called Growth and Transformation Plan[1] (GTP), which will presumably make Ethiopia self-sufficient in food production in the next five years and expand the “industrial-led export sector”, infrastructures and what have you. It was vintage Zenawi. He gets a few challenging questions and he ignites into spontaneous self-combustion, a meltdown: “So what if the GTP doesn’t work! So what if we don’t have the money to implement it? So what if don’t have the institutional capacity to do it?! So what? I don’t have to tell you diddly squat. I will do as I please. It’s my way or you’re hitting the friggin’ highway!”

So what about Wikileaks?

The latest droplet of Wikileaks cable leak shows that back in January 2010, Zenawi met[2] with U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero and Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson for a couple of hours and gave them a piece of his mind, or a tongue lashing depending on your point of view. There were two fascinating things about the meeting: 1) the summary of the discussions (or hectoring monologue), and 2) the ambiance of the meeting of which we get a glimpse.

After carefully studying and analyzing the cable summaries, one is immediately struck by the absence of any meaningful dialogue on the issues. Rather one is overwhelmed by a sense of unrestrained monologue directed at the Americans with rhetorical flair. Extrapolating from Zenawi’s known demeanor, behavior and pattern and practice in Q & A sessions in parliament (particularly when he is asked challenging questions or is on the receiving end of an unexpected reposte from a member), media interviews, speeches and his recent shocking verbal assault on the European Union Election Observer Mission as “garbage”, one can retrospectively imagine that Otero/Carson must have had a traumatizing 2 hours. Reasoning deductively and reading between the lines in the cable summaries, Zenawi appears angry, frustrated, defensive and defiant. He tries to persuasively convince Otero/Carson of his good intentions for the country, but ends up hectoring, lecturing and talking down to them on elementary principles of democracy. The tone of his voice seemed condescending and contemptuous. His words were tinged with bitterness, and he seemed impatient with his guests. Overall, the meeting seems to have been a 2-hour monologue delivered with rhetorical fury as Otero/Carson cringed in stunned disbelief.

In response to Otero/Carson’s concerns about the crackdown on civil society organizations, narrowing political space and the imprisonment of Birtukan Midekssa, the first female political party leader in Ethiopian history, Zenawi tries to outplay them with clever sophistry. He said “his government placed no restrictions on its citizens’ democratic and civil rights, only the right of foreign entities to fund them.” He seemed conveniently oblivious to the fact that he receives billions in foreign aid annually which he uses to entrench his political party, a notorious fact known to the population and donors since the stolen election of 2005. He counseled “those Ethiopians who want to engage in political activity to organize and fund themselves”. He said “foreign funding of charities” is welcome as long as the money is given to his side, and not to the other guys. It seems he lost his temper at one point haranguing Otero/Carson: “Ethiopians must organize and fund themselves and defend their own rights” because they “were not too poor to organize themselves and establish their own democratic traditions, recalling that within his lifetime illiterate peasants and poor students had overthrown an ancient imperial dynasty.”

Zenawi made it clear to Otero/Carson that he had nothing but contempt for his opposition. They are all just a bunch of whiners and wimps. He pontificated, “When people are committed to democracy and forced to make sacrifices for it, they won’t let any leader take it away from them.” He preached that in “our own struggle against the Derg regime, we received no foreign funding, but were willing to sacrifice and die for [our] cause.” He matter-of-factly declared that Ethiopians must “take ownership of their democratic development, be willing to sacrifice for it, and defend their own rights.”

Zenawi flashed a moment of reasonableness as he assured Otero/Carson not to be concerned about the 2010 election because it “will be free, fair, transparent, and peaceful…” But a question about potential violence caused by the opposition sent him into total spontaneous self-combustion: “If opposition groups resort to violence in an attempt to discredit the election,” Zenawi vowed, “We will crush them with our full force; they will all vegetate like Birtukan (Midekssa) in jail forever.” He asserted with bombastic bravado that there is no power on earth that can save them. “Nothing can protect them except the laws and constitution of Ethiopia!” Capisci! Otero? Carson? One can imagine Zenawi pounding his desk and screaming, “Capisci! Capisci!

It is apparent from the cablegram that Otero and Carson were stunned into silence by Zenawi’s obstinacy and dogmatic single-mindedness in refusing to allow more political space, ease restrictions on opposition groups and civil society organizations and release Birtukan. As the two representatives of the World’s Greatest Superpower left the 2-hour verbal mauling, there could be no doubt in their minds that they had just met the “law and constitution of Ethiopia.” There is no indication that Otero/Carson learned any lessons from their close encounter of the fourth kind, but there are many to be learned indeed.

Lesson I. Crush your opponents with full force. Alternatively, vegetate them forever.

Anyone who opposes Zenawi will be crushed. Not with a teeny weeny bit of force. Not with reasonable force. Not even partial force. They will be crushed “with full force”. They will be crushed like roaches, bedbugs or spiders. Squish!

If you can’t crush them, then cage them like ferrets or rabbits; and sit back and watch them vegetate. Throw them in the dungeons. Let them rot in jail. So what! Who is going to save them? Better yet, coop them in solitary confinement and watch them turn into potted plants. See them go brain dead. Watch them go raving nuts, crazy. So what!

Lesson II. If you get into America’s face and stick it to her, she will always back down. Always!

American politicians like to talk big; but they rarely back up their talk with action. They have forked tongues, like serpents. They will jibber jabber about democracy, human rights and all that, but when things are down for the count, you will find them standing around twiddling their fingers and whistling Dixie. In fact, if you stand up to them, they will back down. There was a time when American foreign policy was guided by the old West African proverb: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” Now, they just speak softly, and instead of carrying a big stick they carry a big wad of cash, billions of it, and hand them out to those who have committed crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

The whole thing works backwards with the Americans. The more bad stuff you do, the more you are rewarded. Take the May 2005 Ethiopia election and all the nasty stuff that happened after that: an election stole, hundreds of citizens massacred in the streets, tens of thousands imprisoned, nearly all opposition leaders rounded-up and vegetated for nearly two years, anti-free press and anti-civic society laws enacted, Birtukan Midekssa incarcerated for 21-months incluyding prolonged periods of solitary confinement, Somalia invaded against the strong advise and disapproval of the U.S. (wink, wink) and on and on. So what did the folks at the U.S. State Department do? They patted Zenawi on the back and handed him blank checks for billions of American tax dollars. So what are the Americans going to do after the May 2010 elections? Send billions more in American tax dollars, of course. Duh!!!

Lesson III. “Democratization is a matter of survival.”

Zenawi says, “democratization is a matter of survival.” Zenawi’s survival, that is. If there is real democracy in the country, Zenawi’s regime will not survive because he will be voted out of office in heartbeat. If democracy stays alive in Ethiopia, Zenawi cannot survive. If Zenawi survives, democracy cannot stay alive. Stated more plainly, democracy and dictatorship cannot exist together in the same place and at the same time. Democracy necessarily means the end of dictatorship and vise versa. Therefore, there will be no democracy in Ethiopia as long as Zenawi’s regime survives. So what!

Lesson IV: If you want democracy, you must struggle and sacrifice for it.

Democracy is not something you get in a ballot casting match. All that pluralism and multipartyism stuff is hogwash. If you want democracy, you must “struggle, sacrifice and die for it”. What Zenawi is really saying is that “You ain’t gonna get the democracy we got through the bullet by stuffing ballots in a box.” There is no problem playing the whole election thing. It makes everybody happy, especially the American and European moneybags who dole out billions every year. But when push comes to shove, that is, if your idea is to push, shove and vote us out of power, it ain’t happening because “We will crush you with our full force.”

Lesson V. If your rights are being violated, defend them!

The opposition has been told, retold, advised and warned that the “international community will not be able to save them,” says Zenawi. But it is not just the international community that is powerless to help them. International law, international human rights treaties, international conventions, international diplomacy, the International Criminal Court, international public opinion, whatever – they are all useless to the opposition. So what if their rights are violated?

Lesson VI. Elections are like children’s marble game where everybody can play as long as the guy who owns the marbles wins all the time.

So what is all this hoopla and fuss about elections and democracy? The opposition is always whining, groaning and moaning about “free, fair, transparent, and peaceful” elections. The election business is not complicated. It is like playing marbles, except one guy owns all of the marbles and makes one rule: “He who owns the marbles wins all the time.”(a rule that is sometimes referred to as the “laws and constitution of Ethiopia”). In his election “victory” speech this past May, Zenawi proclaimed, “The important point in the election process is not the result of the election. It is not about which party won the election.” In other words, elections are not about winning or losing; they are about how you play the game. The opposition played the game, very badly and lost. So what if they don’t want to play anymore? It’s all good. They can hit the highway. We will bring in players who are willing to play the game and never expect or want to win.

Lesson VII. If you want to win, organize…

So what do you need to do if you want to win? Moaning, groaning, whining, wailing and sobbing ain’t going to do you much good. You need to organize, mobilize and energize your base. You need to teach, preach and reach the people.

Lesson VIII. You want funding, don’t beg for it like we do; dig deeper into your own wallets.

Cash? That is always a problem. It is OK to beg and collect billions in aid every year. It is OK to get Safety Net cash and Emergency Food Assistance and give it out to poor farmers in exchange for their votes. But no outside funds for the opposition because they and the “leaders of CSOs [civil society organizations] that receive foreign funding are not accountable to their organizations.” It is all about accountability and transparency. Zenawi is accountable for all of the aid money he gets, the opposition and the CSOs are not accountable for the meager international donations they get. So what if they need cash? Let them dig deep into their wallets.

Lesson: IX. The Rule and Power of One

Everybody, dig this: “There is one law, one regime, one ruler, one circus master and only one man who runs the show in Ethiopia.”

Lesson X: If you don’t like lessons I-IX?

“So what!”



Eritrean colonel causes havoc among Ethiopian opposition

Friday, December 17th, 2010

The government of Eritrea needs to act promptly to stop its rogue mid-ranking officers who are causing havoc among Ethiopian opposition groups if it is genuine about building a strong relationship with Ethiopians. The following information is intended for such purpose, since private communications have been left unanswered so far.

It was with shock and disbelief that a few days ago we learned about the disappearance of Col. Tadesse Muluneh, one of the founders of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF). We have requested Eritrean officials for an explanation. It’s now been over 2 weeks and we have not received any official response so far. Ethiopian Review sources in Eritrea, however, have informed us that it is not just Tadesse who is arrested. Several individuals in EPPF’s central committee have been rounded up in the past few months.

The arrests have been orchestrated by Eritrean adviser to Ethiopian opposition groups named Col. Fitsum, according to our sources.

This week we have also learned that current EPPF chairman Meazaw Getu’s movement has been restricted and his vehicle has been taken away by the same colonel.

During the past few months, at least two central committee members have been killed and several have fled. Hundreds of fighters have also left their units.

After rounding up Col. Tadesse and others, last week Col. Fitsum convened an EPPF meeting and forced the leadership to summarily remove several individuals, including six in the Diaspora, from the central committee for opposing his illegal actions. He then appointed a hotel-owner in Philadelphia named Tilahun Gelaw as head of EPPF in the Diaspora over the objection of the chairman, Meazaw Getu, and several central committee members.

EPPF is not the only group that is currently facing problems in Eritrea. We have also learned that hundreds of OLF fighters under Gen. Kemal Gelchu who are stationed in Eritrea have been immobilized. Gen. Kemal is currently placed under a virtual house arrest.

Col. Fitsum has also arranged some individuals to kidnap and beat up Ginbot 7 Secretary General Andargachew Tsige when he visited Eritrea a few months ago. To cover his track, Fitsum sent the attackers to Ethiopia where Woyanne shot them dead as soon as they arrived.

The turn of events in Eritrea regarding Ethiopian opposition groups is deeply worrisome to those of us who have been promoting cooperation with Eritrean government. Strong opposition figures are currently being silenced and in their place those who act and behave like puppets are being hand picked and installed as leaders by Col. Fitsum and other mid-ranking Eritrean military and intelligence officers.

We believe that all this is the work of rogue elements in the Eritrean military who might be secretly working to re-establish relations with the Woyanne regime in Ethiopia without the knowledge of the president. We believe that these Eritrean officers are purposefully undermining Isaias Afwerki’s agenda to build good relationship with Ethiopians based on mutual interest.

One of the tactics Col. Fitsum uses to keep Ethiopian groups weak and their members at each others’ throat is to identify corrupt individuals (some who are suspected of being Woyanne agents) and promote them while undermining and planting disinformation against those who are thought to be strong and free of corruption. That is what he has been doing against Col. Tadesse, who is in good terms with almost every one in EPPF, including the current chairman EPPF, Meazaw Getu. As a matter of fact, Meazaw has repeatedly expressed his wish for Tadesse to return to the EPPF leadership. It was Fitsum who chased away Tadesse from EPPF at the barrel of a gun. Fitsum turns around and informs his superiors that he is keeping Tadesse away from EPPF because the rank-and-file members will mutiny if he comes back.

Some question whether individuals like Col. Fitsum are acting on their own, or their actions are sanctioned by higher-ups. We will find out the truth in due course.

Our suspicion regarding the likes of Col. Fitsum has been strengthen by the recently leaked U.S. diplomatic dispatches from the American embassy in Asmara that has been released by Wikileaks.

In one of the diplomatic cables, the U.S. ambassador indicates that some military officers are working to bring down Isaias Afwerki. Could sabotaging the activities of Ethiopian opposition groups who are friendly with the Eritrean government by the likes of Col. Fitsum be part of a campaign of sabotage to undermine President Isaias? We could be wrong, but for now that is our assumption based on what we know so far.

If we look at EPPF, for example, every movement by EPPF units in the past year has been leaked to Woyanne forces in advance. As soon as the units make a move, Woyanne forces, along with ETV crew, capture them. Despite repeated warnings, the EPPF fighters are given mobile phones, which makes it easy for Woyanne to track them down.

At the Feb. 2010 EPPF general assembly a serious effort was made to revamp its leadership and establish an inquiry committee that would investigate allegations of corruption that has plagued the organization. The plan included bringing strong individuals such as Col. Tadesse to the central committee. All the efforts were blocked by Fitsum.

There were also credible reports that EPPF has been infiltrated by Woyanne with the full knowledge and collaboration of Col. Fitsum.

One of these infiltrators is Tilahun Gelaw who has given tens of thousands of dollars in cash and several mobile phones to Col. Fitsum during the past several months. Col. Fitsum has kept most of the money for himself and distributed the mobile phones to the EPPF fighters.

The above cases are just a few of the acts of sabotage against the EPPF and other Ethiopian opposition groups who are provided shelter in Eritrea.

The arrest of Col. Tadesse and several other Ethiopians is a reckless act as far as the Ethiopia-Eritrea relationship is concerned. Does the Isaias government want a genuine relationship with Ethiopians, or a master-puppet relationship?

If the answer is the former, to mend the situation, President Isaias can do the following promptly:

1. Order the release of Col. Tadesse and all other Ethiopian patriots.
2. Remove Col. Fitsum from his position as an adviser to Ethiopian opposition groups. There are many other Eritreans who can do the job in a constructive way.
3. Appoint an inquiry panel that investigates the alleged sabotages by Col. Fitsum and others against Ethiopian groups.

Mengistu Worku in his own words (video)

Friday, December 17th, 2010

A tribute to Ethiopian football icon Mengistu Worku.

Troublesome developments in Eritrea regarding EPPF

Friday, December 17th, 2010

There is more disturbing news regarding Ethiopian opposition groups who have been given shelter in Eritrea. A few days ago we learned about the disappearance of Col. Tadesse Muluneh, one of the founders of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF). We have requested Eritrean officials to investigate and let us know what happened to him. It’s now been over 2 weeks and we have not received any official response so far. However, our sources in Eritrea have informed us that his arrest has been orchestrated by Eritrean adviser to Ethiopian opposition groups named Col. Fitsum. Yesterday we also learned that current EPPF chairman Meazaw Getu’s movement has been restricted and his vehicle has been taken away by the same colonel. During the past few months, at least two central committee members have been killed and several have fled. Hundreds of fighters have also left their units… [details later]

China creates its own fake Peace Prize (video)

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

The ruling Chinese Communist Party is a growing threat to freedom in the world. The MSNBC report in the video below about China bullying 19 countries not to attend the Nobel Peace Award and creating its own peace prize is an eye opener. China must be stopped before it is too late. Simply stop buying Chinese products until China starts respecting basic civil rights.

Ethiopia: The Anuak's Forgotten Genocide

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Alemayehu G. Mariam

A Conversation With Obang Metho[1]

Note: A report by the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program on the Anuak concluded[2]:”From December 2004 to at least January 2006, the ENDF (Ethiopian National Defense Forces) attacked and abused Anuak civilians in Gambella region – wantonly killing, raping, beating, torturing, and harassing civilians in response to ongoing Anuak rebel attacks. These abuses left Anuak villagers fearful of leaving their homes at night, going to the fields and farms outside of town, or fetching water from the water pumps or streams.”

These are excerpts from an extended conversation I had with Obang Metho, the well-known Ethiopian human rights advocate, in solemn anticipation of the seventh anniversary of the December 13-16, 2003 Anuak massacres this coming Monday. The interview is captioned “forgotten genocide” because very few people know what happened to the Anuak seven years ago was genocide as defined under Art. 2 of the 1948 Genocide Convention. In the interest of full disclosure, in September 2006, I was honored to be the keynote speaker[3] at the University of California, Los Angeles premier of “Betrayal of Democracy”, a heartbreaking and gut-wrenching documentary on the Anuak massacre produced by the Anuak Justice Council, Obang Metho, Executive Director, in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan, Canada.

Alemayehu: As you know November and December are very sad months for Ethiopians. In November 2005, following the election that year, hundreds of unarmed demonstrators were massacred in the streets. The world knows a lot about those crimes. But I am not sure if too many people other than the Anuak remember what happened in December in 2003. To be frank, with the exception of some Anuak I have met, I don’t recall having any serious conversations with other Ethiopians about what happened to the Anuak people in Gambella seven years ago. Do you think your other countrymen and women really care about what happened at that time?

Obang: First of all, I want to thank you on behalf of the Anuak for joining with them in remembering some of the darkest days of Anuak history and for bringing this tragedy to the attention of Ethiopians now in 2010. I am sure that Meles never expected that seven years after the genocide of the Anuak that others, like yourself, would have joined together to commemorate this day.

You ask whether other Ethiopians really care about what happened to the Anuak. At the time of the massacre, the only Ethiopian organization that came to the defense of the Anuak was EHRCO [Ethiopian Human Rights Council]; otherwise, it was either overlooked or was not known among most Ethiopians. This was not surprising for several reasons. First, the Anuak were a remote, tiny and marginalized ethnic group who were not part of the mainstream of events in the country. Secondly, Ethiopians were very divided by ethnicity, region, skin color, political view, language, culture and to a lesser extent, by religion; so what was important was what happened to one’s own group and the rest tended to be ignored. Thirdly, even today, what happens in Addis Ababa has always received far more attention than what occurs in the rural parts of Ethiopia where most Ethiopians live. Fourthly, the Ethiopian government does its best to cover up their crimes so it does not get out to the mainstream media. If the news does get out, they simply deny their own responsibility, twist the truth and blame others or try to excuse what happened as one of the regrettable consequences of “ethnic conflict” or use other justifications to avoid responsibility. The government even issues a whitewashed report absolving itself of any responsibility in the massacres.

It is true that the November 2005 killing of 194 unarmed protesters in Addis Ababa and elsewhere in the country created a groundswell of outraged response from many sectors of the Ethiopian community because they could identify with the victims, and the killings were carried out in plain view. It became impossible to hide, even to the international community.

However, this was not the case in the majority of violent incidents that have taken place over the past two decades all over the country. We have over 86 different ethnicities; many of them live in remote, rural and marginalized communities and are silenced violently like the Anuak were in 2003 without too much publicity. In fact, the Anuak genocide is now much better known and more remembered than most of the other incidents that have been perpetrated by the TPLF [Meles Zenawi's party] against Ethiopians.

For example, in July of 2002, 200 Mazengers — neighbours to the Anuak in Gambella — were brutally killed, but who knows about this? In 2001, 100 Sidamo were massacred. Who remembers these victims today? Ethiopians were killed in 1992 in Badenyo and in Arba Gogu. In all few remember these anniversaries. I say ask the Oromo about the tens of thousands of their people who have been beaten, tortured, imprisoned and murdered in the last twenty years by the Meles regime. How can we remember an anniversary when there are so many incidents and they are still ongoing? Ask the Afar about the displacements and human rights abuses they are facing right now. Ask the Benishangul about the same displacements and human rights abuses in their area. Ask the Ogadeni about the genocide being committed against them as we speak. It is not all about “remembering,” but about standing with the victims against such barbaric aggression. We can keep going on for the list is endless and many cases are still unknown.

This is why the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) was formed. We must no longer mourn alone; it is time to take action. Meles’ government cannot stop on 80 million people if we all stood up for each other and together. I believe we Ethiopians will finally come together in this way to stop this oppression. Only then will we hear the countless stories that have never been told of the immeasurable suffering of our people, and not just the Anuak.

Alemayehu: Let’s nail down the facts about what happened in Gambella during the infamous three days in December in 2003, and in the days preceding and following. What are the established facts?

Obang: Meles and those carrying out the atrocities against the Anuak believed them to be expendable people; they thought of them as road blocks on the way to the oil fields, the fertile lands and abundant water and rich natural resources on indigenous Anuak land. They targeted those individuals who were the voices of the community and have a say in the exploration and development of oil on their land. As you might remember, when the killing squads went through Gambella town looking for the next Anuak to brutally kill, they chanted, “Today there will be no more Anuak,” “Today there will be no more Anuak land”. As they raped the women they said, “Today there will be no more Anuak babies.” Within three days, 424 Anuak were dead.

When I received news, it was the darkest day of my life. My world was turned upside down. Among the 424 Anuak killed, I personally knew 317 of them. They were my family, my classmates and many others with whom I had been working to bring development not just to the Anuak, but to the region. Most were educated and outspoken. I have no doubts that I would have been one of the victims had I been living there at the time.
The Anuak genocide occurred as a surreal event as no one discussed it. When international news covered the massacre, they picked up the Ethiopian government’s spin, which described it as an ethnic conflict between the Anuak and the Nuer. That is not true. Later on, Oromo soldiers, who had not even been in the area, were scapegoated for the killings. When I testified before the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in March and April of 2004, I did not speak only about the Anuak, but spoke of the Oromo and others facing persecution.

However, it was only after I testified before the US Congress in March of 2006 that I became more involved in the mainstream Ethiopian community. By that time, I had been to the capital cities of most of the donor countries in Europe and in North America exposing the Anuak massacre and ongoing human rights violations against the Anuak. After the November 2005 killing of unarmed election demonstrators in Addis Ababa and other parts of the country, other Ethiopians joined in this effort. Unfortunately, most tended to cluster around their own individual ethnic or political party interests rather than joining together as a whole. Sometimes we were working at cross purposes. I often wonder where we would be today had we been willing to collaborate then. I hope we don’t have to ask ourselves that question five years from now.

Alemayehu: I don’t believe many of us in the larger Ethiopian community adequately expressed our outrage against the crimes perpetrated against the Anuak. Perhaps many of us did not particularly care, didn’t know or were just indifferent. After all, the Anuak are a tiny minority. Do you sense indifference among other Ethiopians to the plight of the Anuak?

Permit me to answer this question by asking another question. How many mainstream Ethiopian people you see writing about the ongoing genocide in the Ogaden or about the displacements of people as foreign investors align with this one-party government in grabbing the Ethiopian peoples’ land and resources in places like Benishangul-Gumuz, on the borders of the Amhara region or even in Addis Ababa where graves are to be bull-dozed to make room for someone who seeks “ownership” of the land? This is not just indifference to the Anuak, but it is indifference to the problems our people are experiencing all over the country. The Anuak are only one example. This is why we need a “NEW ETHIOPIA!”

Not seeing the full humanity of each of us is the reason we have so many liberation fronts created not simply to break away from the country, but instead, created predominately to protect the interests and lives of the people that are not valued by others. As long as some feel they are more Ethiopian and see others as being of less worth, we will have indifference to the plight of others. This is why we have formed the SMNE, to fight for a new Ethiopia that values all her children the same way regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, political view or any other distinctions. The reason why many of these separatist groups do not want to associate with “Ethiopia” as they see it because they don’t see much inclusiveness in the larger Ethiopian community. Meles has had an easy time of dividing and ruling; and until we all change from the heart, we will not emerge from our collective suffering.

Alemayehu: When you came out in public in 2006 and sought help to put a light on the Anuak massacres, did you get your much support from other Ethiopians? Did you make an effort to mobilize Ethiopians in the Diaspora, and if not why not?

Obang: In the midst of the genocide and ongoing human rights crimes, I sought organizations and government officials who were in the best position to intervene. Genocide Watch president, Dr. Greg Stanton, was one of the first to respond to my call for assistance. At the same time, some Anuak and their friends in Minnesota had already decided to send a team, which soon included me, to interview Anuak survivors and witnesses to the genocide who had fled to a refugee camp in Sudan. We hoped to gather information and evidence while the memories were still fresh. At Dr. Stanton’s suggestion, we added a seasoned human rights investigator in our group. Following the investigation, we issued a report, “Today is the Day for Killing Anuak.” A subsequent investigation was also completed resulting in the report, “Operation Sunny Mountain,” which linked the massacre to the top officials of Meles in Addis Ababa.

Human Rights Watch did an investigation and issued two separate reports, “Targeting the Anuak: Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region“( 3/24/05) and “Ethiopia and Eritrea: Promoting Stability, Democracy and Human Rights“(5/5/05). The International Human Rights Clinic at the Harvard Law School issued another report, “We Are Now Hoping for Death“, (12/14/06). In all, the Anuak Justice Council was involved in coordinating the completion of five separate human rights investigations on the massacres.

We did not attempt to mobilize Ethiopians until 2006, following my testimony before the U.S. Congress when I made strong connections with other Ethiopians. At the time, ethnic and political divisions created competition between Ethiopians. Rather than working to advance similar goals, some tried to hijack the work of others or refused to collaborate. Even though this continues to be a characteristic shortcoming of many in the struggle for Ethiopian freedom and justice, I believe today Ethiopians are discarding peripheral differences to work together in common cause. I think Ethiopians suffering in the country would be highly encouraged if they saw real progress towards this goal among us in the Diaspora. It is only then that we can work together to mobilize the people within Ethiopia towards a national rather than an ethnic solution!

Alemayehu: How do we keep the memories of the Anuak massacre victims alive? What can we do as individuals and as a community, that is Anuaks and other Ethiopians together?

No one except the Anuak may have cried for them in 2003, but today, millions of Ethiopians know about the Anuak genocide. On December 13th, Ethiopians may remember the pain and suffering of the Anuak; speaking to others about it, praying for the survivors, joining with Anuak they know in a service of remembrance or calling them to personally talk. Many Anuak will shed tears as they remember those dark days and the subsequent grief and hardship resulting from their losses. May this remembrance be a call to all Ethiopians to reflect on the losses of their own loved ones or those of others in the country. We have suffered much as a country. We should try to lift up others with similar losses and wounds.

For me, I will join with other Anuak in Minnesota in a service to remember December 13th; honoring the memory of those who lost their lives and praying for the future of the people and Ethiopia. For me, the pain has somewhat subsided, but my memory of this horrific loss motivates me to work to prevent it from happening again to the Anuak or anyone else. If Ethiopians have forgotten the memory of the Anuak genocide in 2010, the reasons may be somewhat different than 2003.

First of all, we Ethiopians are in great distress right now. It is natural for memories to fade, but when we are still struggling for survival, it is easy to become diverted with one new crisis after another. It is important not to forget so that we can take hold of a better future, but part of remembering “rightly” will take place when peace comes to Ethiopia, when justice is finally served and when the perpetrators and their bosses are held accountable.

Another reason for the memory subsiding is that the Anuak are not alone. Many others have also suffered at the hands of this regime both before and after the Anuak genocide. Look at the genocide going on right now in the Ogaden. Look at the daily beatings, killings and imprisonment of innocent Ethiopians now carried out by this repressive regime all over our country.

Due to the current dictatorial regime, Ethiopians must first become free before official memorials will be constructed, but that time will come. Several years ago I talked about how the death of the Anuak will never be forgotten as long as there are those who care about justice. Even though the current regime would like to obliterate or “whitewash” the memory of these shameful acts, we Ethiopians must be sure they are not forgotten.

When this TPLF government finally collapses, not only do I envision a memorial for the Anuak in Gambella, but also in Addis Ababa where not only will the Anuak be represented, but many others known and unknown who have tragically died at the hands of the Meles regime. At that time, Ethiopians will build a wall of shame where we can go to remember how the government that was supposed to protect the people turned out to be their mortal enemy. It will serve as a sobering reminder of how we must work to preserve a respect for the humanity in each of us.

Alemayehu: Is there anything being done to bring to justice those who committed the crimes against the Anuak in 2003? Are there any efforts underway?

Obang: Yes! We have a very strong legal foundation in place for that day in court where Meles and others will finally be held accountable. This is due to all the human rights investigations and documentation completed by groups like Genocide Watch, Human Rights Watch and others. The case of the Anuak alone is very strong; but when combined with others, all of this abundant evidence may easily form the foundational basis for future prosecutions. The case of the Anuak is before the International Criminal Court (ICC) right now and the UN High Commissioner is looking at the case referred by Dr. Greg Stanton regarding the pattern of human rights abuses in Ethiopia at the hands of this government. I am confident that the time will come for Ethiopians to finally obtain justice. Look at the case of Cambodia where evidence collected and secured over twenty years ago produced convictions just this year. Meles is no different than Omar al Bashir. The tide is certain to change and we will be ready!

Alemayehu: From what you have been able to gather, is there systematic persecution still going on against the Anuak?

Obang: The new systematic persecution has everything to do with the “new fever” for Anuak land and resources. It is being advanced with speed and intensity in the case of the Anuak and other indigenous peoples of Gambella, but is also going on throughout the country; wherever there is resistance to this plan to dispossess the people of their land and assets. People from Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromiya, Afar and Ogaden have officially been put on notice to move from their homes to be resettled in camps. Those who speak out have been harassed, threatened or beaten. In the case of the Anuak, some have turned up dead, floating in the river or have been beaten to death. We do not know what will happen to the people if they refuse to leave their homes; something that is a definite possibility. It certainly could trigger fresh violence by government security forces.

How should we, as Ethiopians, work together to prevent the type of genocide that happened to the Anuak does not happen to any other groups in Ethiopia?

December 13th should act as a reminder of the shared pain of our people and act to bring us Ethiopians together to “mourn under one tent” as has been done in our traditional culture for many years. Inside the tent is the land of Ethiopia and our beautiful and precious people. The roof of that tent is the sky over our beloved country. Because of the pain, misery and ongoing threats to our survival as a nation, we must come together to find a common vision and lasting solution. This is at the heart of everything the SMNE and others have been trying to do.

Now is the time to change our thinking about each other and BEGIN to build a healthier, more inclusive society. No one but the Anuak and their friends cared about them in 2003, but we have a chance to do it over. The land grabs and human rights abuses going on right now; not only to the Anuak but to all the people of Ethiopia should sound the trumpet to gather together. Some only want to gather if they are in charge. This attitude will surely defeat us. We must ask ourselves how much we really care about potential tragedy if egos or hunger for power stand in the way. I do think we are better in 2010 than we were in 2003, but we are still not where we need to be.

The many loved ones I lost can never be replaced, but I trust God that their lives were not lost in vain. Ethnic domination and marginalization of others due to ethnicity, skin color, culture, education, gender or religion is unjustifiable. It was the reason the Anuak were singled out to be slaughtered among the 50,000 people who also lived in the city of Gambella. It was the reason why the government viewed them as a threat rather than as valuable human beings. As most survivors among the Anuak say, the Ethiopian government does not want the Anuak people, but only the resources. These resources on their indigenous land remain today as the chief threat to their survival as they stand in the way of the regime’s ambitions in the area; yet the Anuak are not alone as Ethiopians are becoming more accepting of each other.

Over the last seven years, I have met many wonderful Ethiopians like yourself, who have come into my life, contributing in some unique and special ways. You asked me about a story I have told many times about my experience in Washington DC some years ago with an Ethiopian cab driver who could not believe I was Ethiopian. I must say, Ethiopian cab drivers today are among the most educated and politically astute Ethiopians around. They know about the Anuak and the other diverse people of Ethiopia. Now, when I get in a cab in Washington DC, a more common experience I have is the driver who refuses to accept any fare for the ride saying, “I want to contribute to the struggle.” This is not about me or the Anuak, but about caring about the suffering people of our beautiful country. Yes, we should remember our painful history as a lesson for the future, but we must also embrace each other as we collaborate to create a New Ethiopia where there is room for all of us!

Alemayehu: With all the land-grabbing and population displacement, some 45,000 plus people from Gambella being moved to make way for international land-grabbers, do you have fears that what happened in December 2003 could happen again?

Obang: Yes, because once again, this regime’s greed for “more” is leading to robbing the most vulnerable people of Ethiopia of their land and resources. Because these people “do not count,” they are simply in the way of what this regime wants. If the people resist, the Meles government has been known to use any justification to use military force to subdue them; which could easily lead to ethnic-based killing. I do not think the people will all peacefully cooperate in this plan to displace themselves they have lived on for millennia. In 2003, the genocide was about oil. In 2010, it is about land, gold, potash, natural gas and even sand for concrete.

These are the new precipitating factors that could lead to genocide, crimes against humanity and other human rights violations. However, there is also the passive side of a new form of “genocide” that could lead to putting at imminent risk, large populations of some of the most vulnerable people of our country; not necessarily in terms of direct killings, but in terms of jeopardizing the long-term survival and well being of huge groups of people who are being forced from their homes and land all over the country. How will these people support themselves?

We need to care about the pain of each other more than we care about the power and advancement of one particular group of Ethiopians for “none of us will be free until all are free.” By the time I spoke before Congress in 2006, when our paths first crossed, I had already come to the conclusion that justice would never come to the Anuak until justice came to all Ethiopians; that until we cared about the wellbeing of others based on the God-given worth of every person–putting humanity before ethnicity–that Ethiopia would only produce serial dictators who would take turns preying on the vulnerable.

This is why when I testified I said I was not there not only for the Anuak, but also for the Tigrayans who disagreed with the cruelties of the Meles regime, the oppressed Oromos, the Somalis, the Afar and the other ethnic groups throughout Ethiopia who have been targeted by this regime. I said I was there for the Ethiopian woman whose son or daughter had been shot dead on the streets of Addis Ababa after the national elections and for the CUD leaders and young student protesters who had been taken away from their families and put in prisons and detention centers. I was there for those courageous prisoners of conscience, languishing in prisons throughout Ethiopia. I wanted my voice to not be my own but theirs; warning others that our country was in grave danger; that our nation was dying.

This was an effort to break out of our isolated boxes of caring only for our own tribe or ethnicity. It was the beginning of the SMNE. Today, the danger is greater than on that day and unless we put aside our differences and find common ground to unite, we have no hope. This regime will kill again and are doing so as we speak. Yet, God can help us change and I see a rising momentum for such change coming from many different groups of Ethiopians.

In 2003, we would never be having this discussion; yet, today, you are bringing these issues to the forefront. Both you and I have worked closely over the past four years on many issues. Through your many informed and insightful commentaries and analyses, you have contributed much to the discussion of the current situation by exposing the true nature of the regime and by creating greater international awareness and factual understanding of the dictatorship and repression in Ethiopia. This interview is just another example of your willingness to think beyond the ethnic-based paradigm that has defeated us for so many years. Because of people like you, who are willing to become the voices for a different kind of Ethiopia, a “new Ethiopia” of the future. May it inspire others to join with us! Thank you so much my friend!

Alemayehu: Thank you Obang for sharing your thoughts. It has been an honor working with you all these years. They say, “If you want peace, work for justice.” We all want peace in Ethiopia and for the Ethiopian people. So, we’ll be right there with you working for justice; we are with you in trying to bring to justice those perpetrators of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. It’s only because of scheduling conflict that I am unable to join you and the Anuak community in Minneapolis for the memorial on December 13. But be assured that all Ethiopians join you in observing this tragic date in spirit. I hope the Ethiopians in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, my old “stomping grounds”, will come out in full force and attend the memorial and show their solidarity with our Anuak brothers and sisters.

Obang: Thank you.


[1] Obang Metho is the Executive Director of the Anuak Justice Council and the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia.
Resource links on the Anuak massacres:

Ethiopian Review’s Person of the Year to be announced

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Ethiopian Review’s 2010 Person of the Year choice will be announced this coming Friday, Dec. 31. Person of the Year choice has become a much anticipated annual Ethiopian Review tradition that some times creates intense public discussion. Stay tuned.

WikiLeaks and orphan Ethiopia

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

Hopefully you have all heard or read about WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is an international non-profit organization that publishes documents from anonymous news sources and leaks. It has been doing that since 2006. These past few days it has been publishing leaked US State Department diplomatic cables. The US is not amused. It is ironic to see the “Western Democracies” crying foul, hacking and forcing Amazon, Pay Pal, Visa and eBay from offering service to WikiLeaks. On the other hand those that abhor government secrecy are overjoyed.

Naturally I was curious to read what the US has to say about our country. I was eager to find out what our Ferenji ‘enablers’ think of their little ‘Kebele’ administrators. The Ethiopian people do not need WikiLeaks to know the ruthless nature of the ethnic based regime in power. They live the nightmare. I was more focused to see if the US Embassy assessment of Meles and company reflects reality on the ground.

I was not disappointed. Actually I was rather impressed by the richness, detail and frank reporting by the diplomats. They actually get it! Their analysis of Zimbabwe and Mugabe is brilliant to say the least:

To give the devil his due, he is a brilliant tactician and has long thrived on his ability to abruptly change the rules of the game, radicalize the political dynamic and force everyone else to react to his agenda. However, he is fundamentally hampered by several factors: his ego and belief in his own infallibility; his obsessive focus on the past as a justification for everything in the present and future; his deep ignorance on economic issues (coupled with the belief that his 18 doctorates give him
the authority to suspend the laws of economics, including supply and demand); and his essentially short-term, tactical style.

One can actually substitute Meles for Mugabe and the description will be right on target. The Embassy cables from Mr. Putin’s Russia is downright scary. Today’s Russia is described as ‘highly centralized, occasionally brutal and all but irretrievably cynical and corrupt. The Kremlin, by this description, lies at the center of a constellation of official and quasi-official rackets.’ Again the similarity with the Meles regime is eerie to say the least. The regime doesn’t seem to discriminate where it gets its arsenal of coercive ideas.

Well the cables from Addis Abeba are beginning to come out. I am not disappointed. We have seen two and they seem to bring everything we know about the banana republic into sharp focus. It gives us a clear picture of the nature of Meles and his relationship with his ‘enablers’. One can stretch the analogy and describe it as ‘mutually beneficial.’ The tricky part is answering exactly beneficial to whom? Yes my friend that is the gist of the matter.

I am going to concentrate on the meeting between Meles Zenawi accompanied by his advisor Gebretensae Gebremichael and US Assistant Secretary Maria Otero, Assistant Secretary Johnny Carson and NSC Senior Director Michelle Gavin in January of 2020. One thing the cables shows us is the fuzzy nature of ‘diplomatic speak.’ The language is very anemic leaving it open to various interpretations, the sentences are short and ideas are thrown in as suggestions to nudge the listener to a desired outcome.

This particular meeting was to get Meles, who represented Africa at the Copenhagen climate summit, to sign the Copenhagen accord. Although the summit was felt to be a failure due to the absence of a binding agreement, the US was convinced it serves its interest and was focused on forcing its friends and client states to sign on the doted line.

Mrs. Otero’s mission was to get the signature, Mr. Carson’s role was to point out President Obama’s ‘commitment’ to democracy and the rule of law while the NSC’s (National Security Council) representative was there to assure Meles to take Carson’s pronouncements with a grain of salt. As usual, language played a central role in the discussion. Please note that the US diplomats, in order not to be seen as clueless idiots, informed the regime their concern regarding the forthcoming elections, the so called charities law enacted by the regime and the situation regarding opposition leader Birtukan, and the Diaspora that is a constant headache. It was all done in a low-key manner.

There is no such thing as subtlety and finesse when it comes to Meles Zenawi. The description ‘a bull in china store’ is a perfect fit. He must have been in a euphoric mood. His words were very forceful and crude. His logic was clear only to himself. It requires cojones to lecture Assistant Secretary Carson regarding the true meaning of fighting for democracy. Assistant Secretary Carson was born when a Black American was a second-class citizen in his own country. He was part of the Civil Right struggle. He knows what it means to be denied freedom. I will quote the cable so you can feel the anger:

Meles said his country’s inability to develop a strong democracy was not due to insufficient understanding of democratic principles, but rather because Ethiopians had not internalized those principles. Ethiopia should follow the example of the U.S. and European countries, he said, where democracy developed organically and citizens had a stake in its establishment. When people are committed to democracy and forced to make sacrifices for it, Meles said, “they won’t let any leader take it away from them.” But “when they are spoon-fed democracy, they will give it up when their source of funding and encouragement is removed.” Referencing his own struggle against the Derg regime, Meles said he and his compatriots received no foreign funding, but were willing to sacrifice and die for their cause, and Ethiopians today must take ownership of their democratic development, be willing to sacrifice for it, and defend their own rights.

Please read it again. The statement does not make sense. The statement is full of holes and is based on lies and made-up facts. It is a product of a deranged mind. The Ethiopian people have internalized the true meaning of democracy. Based on the principle of one-person one vote the Ethiopian people stood all day to cast their ballot in May 2005. When Ato Meles tried to nullify their vote they came out and protested. They were met with an overwhelming force. Like any rational human being they retreated. Weakness should not be looked at as ignorance. No one has ‘spoon-fed democracy’ to our people; rather our rulers have shoved the bayonet down our throat. As for the struggle Ato Meles and his party waged, it is not a license to further abuse and ill govern. I thought Ato Meles and his party fought for our collective freedom then what is this talk about further struggle after they liberated us. Do we have to pick up arms to get rid of them too? It is doable but is it necessary?

I said Assistant Secretary Maria Otero came to collect a signature. The cables are a good example of big power using big stick diplomacy cushioned in diplomatic language:

U/S Otero urged Meles to sign the Copenhagen accord on climate change and explained that it is a point of departure for further discussion and movement forward on the topic.

You know what that means in simple everyday English? Unless you sign on the doted line there is no need to speak anymore. The record shows Meles protested that he has ‘personal’ assurance from Obama for releasing the money and it has not happened yet and Secretary Gavin assured him she ‘would look into it.’ It looks like Meles does not understand that Mr. Obama does not have the authority to make personal assurance. He has to talk to his experts, consult his allies and inform Congress. Only despots make personal decisions in the name of their subjects.

You know what came to mind when I read that? My son when he was a baby always wants to eat the desert before the meal and I tell him eat your dinner and then you can have your dessert. Here we are as a government and Meles wants his dessert before he delivers Africa. How pathetic.

You notice the title says orphan Ethiopia. I read Prof. Alemayehu’s analysis regarding our conflict with Somalia. I felt depressed. I read WikiLeaks cable regarding elections and climate change and I felt more depressed. We have President Obama, Secretary Otero, Secretary Carson and Secretary Gavin systematically advancing the national interest of their country. Sitting across the table from them we have a despot fighting for his family and friends communal interest. The US strategy is to fight the terrorist menace far away from American shores and they are willing to make friends with the devil as long as it keeps the battle far from the homeland. We have Meles and company using every trick to stay in power even if it means betraying their people, their country and their flag to stay in power one more day.

We ventured into Somalia to deflect attention from election theft; we support climate change accord for a fistful of dollars and may be a future job for Meles. In the mean time our country and people are on a forced march backwards into the past. The revelations from WikiLeaks are not done yet. What would tomorrow bring?

WikiLeaks supporters shutdown Paypal, MasterCard

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Several news agencies are reporting that WikiLeaks supporters have shutdown credit card company MasterCard and money transfer company Paypal today in retailiation for terminating WikiLeaks’ accounts.

Paypal has admitted yesterday that the U.S. State Department pressured it to cancel the account. But the State Department denied Paypal’s claim.

The U.S. Government’s overreaction to the leaks is igniting a worldwide cyberwar.

The following are reports by various news outlets.

(DailyMail newspaper) — Computer hackers have sent one of the world’s biggest credit card companies into meltdown in revenge for cutting off payments to the WikiLeaks website.

The attack was launched by a shadowy international group called ‘Anonymous’ which said MasterCard had been targeted for freezing the account of the whistleblowing site.

The devastating blow to MasterCard, as well as the online payment network PayPal and a Swiss bank, came on one of the busiest online shopping days of the year.

There were reports this morning that the attacks had gone on through the night.

Yesterday, a six-hour stoppage is thought to have affected hundreds of thousands of shoppers worldwide and highlights how vulnerable the world’s computer systems are to attack.
It is thought just a few dozen ‘hacktivists’ launched the electronic onslaught, which was taken up by other supporters.

The ‘distributed denial of service’ (DDoS) attack involved around 2,000 computers bombarding the website’s host computers with requests for information, causing them to crash.

WikiLeaks has been publishing classified U.S. diplomatic cables, to the fury of Washington authorities.
They have lobbied to cut off all support for the website which they are desperate to shut down.

(The New York Times) — A group of Internet activists who took credit for attacks on the Web site of PayPal on Monday, and knocked a Swiss postal service bank offline later the same day, said they were behind attacks on MasterCard on Wednesday.

The group, which calls itself Anonymous, explained in a statement that the attacks were an expansion of what it calls Operation Payback, an anti-corporate effort that now includes taking revenge on companies that have suspended WikiLeaks accounts.

Early Wednesday morning, the group announced on Twitter: “WE ARE GLAD TO TELL YOU THAT is DOWN AND IT’S CONFIRMED!”

Later in the day the activists carried out a similar attack on

The group, which started Operation Payback in response to efforts to shut down file-sharing sites, said that it had carried out a distributed denial of service attack against — essentially flooding the site with traffic to slow it down or knock it offline.

Just before 8 a.m. Eastern time, MasterCard released a statement that said:

MasterCard is experiencing heavy traffic on its external corporate website – We are working to restore normal speed of service. There is no impact whatsoever on our cardholders ability to use their cards for secure transactions.

(The BBC) — MasterCard, which stopped processing payments to the whistle-blowing site, said the attack had had “no impact” on people’s ability to use their cards. But the BBC has been contacted by a payment firm that said its customers had “a complete loss of service.” In particular, it said that an authentication service for online payments known as MasterCard’s SecureCode, had been disrupted.

Supporters of WikiLeaks were angered on Tuesday, when a spokesman for MasterCard, James Issokson, said in a statement, “MasterCard is currently in the process of working to suspend the acceptance of MasterCard cards on WikiLeaks.”

(The Washington Post) — Hackers rushed to the defense of WikiLeaks on Wednesday, launching attacks on MasterCard, Visa, Swedish prosecutors, a Swiss bank, Sarah Palin and others who have acted against the site and its jailed founder Julian Assange.

The online attacks are part of a wave of support for WikiLeaks that is sweeping the Internet. Twitter was choked with messages of solidarity for the group, while the site’s Facebook page hit 1 million fans.

Late Wednesday, Operation Payback itself appeared to run into problems, as many of its sites went down. It was unclear who was behind the counterattack.

MasterCard is the latest in a string of U.S.-based Internet companies – including Visa,, PayPal Inc. and EveryDNS – to cut ties to WikiLeaks in recent days amid intense U.S. government pressure. PayPal was not having problems Wednesday but the company said it faced “a dedicated denial-of-service attack” on Monday.

Meanwhile, a website tied to former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin came under cyberattack, she said. In a posting on the social networking site Facebook last week, Palin called Assange “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands.” An aide said staff moved quickly to secure the website and no data was compromised.

WikiLeaks’ extensive releases of secret U.S. diplomatic cables have embarrassed U.S. allies, angered rivals, and reopened old wounds across the world. U.S. officials in Washington say other countries have curtailed their dealings with the U.S. government because of WikiLeaks’ actions.

Undeterred, WikiLeaks released more confidential U.S. cables Wednesday.

The most surprising cable of the day came from a U.S. diplomat in Saudi Arabia after a night on the town.

“The underground nightlife of Jiddah’s elite youth is thriving and throbbing,” the memo said. “The full range of worldly temptations and vices are available – alcohol, drugs, sex – but all behind closed doors.”

U.S. officials have directed their anger at Assange, but others have begun to ask whether Washington shares the blame for the diplomatic uproar.

“The core of all this lies with the failure of the government of the United States to properly protect its own diplomatic communications,” Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said Wednesday, criticizing the fact that tens of thousands of U.S. government employees had access to the cables.

Reported disappearance of Col. Tadesse Muluneh

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Ethiopia Zare and EthioMedia have reported on Monday that prominent Ethiopian opposition leader Col. Tadesse Muluneh has been arrested by Eritrean security forces and that his current condition is unknown.

The news has shocked many Ethiopians and yesterday and today Ethiopian Review has been inundated with inquires for confirmation of the report.

Col. Tadesse is a patriotic Ethiopian, a great advocate of Ethiopia-Eritrea peaceful co-existence, and a man of impeccable integrity. It is inconceivable that the Eritrean government would allow any one to harm him.

However, we are communicating with Eritrean authorities and will post an update as soon as we get solid information.

Revisiting the aftermath of 2005 Ethiopia Election

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

By Maru Gubena

Five year ago, though there were feelings of uncertainty and fearfulness about the future direction of Ethiopia itself, as well as its politics – including the possible transfer of power from the regime of Meles Zenawi to the then opposition parties – a good number of Ethiopians both at home and in the Diaspora were not just active but were energized and determined to fight against the factors and actors that divide us, to cultivate and expand a sense of togetherness and unity, and to do everything in our capacity to be sincere and respectful to each other, helping our country with collective hands and fresh thoughts. Yes, even though some of us felt a growing anxiety, especially due to the absence of well structured, professionally functioning and legally framed organizations in the Diaspora, a disproportionately high number of Ethiopians indeed anticipated that a harmonious society and a relatively peaceful, free and economically prosperous Ethiopia were being shaped and set on the right path for the first time in the entire history of our country. Consequently, the period was marked by plentiful, memorable sights and sounds of Ethiopian get-togethers, the publication of enormous number of articles, radio transmissions and demonstrations held throughout the international community protesting against the brutal killings of Ethiopians, including women and children, in support of what was then Kinijit and its leadership, from which Ethiopians were enthusiastically and with excitement awaiting relative freedom and democracy, expecting to face and test both its fruits and challenges.

Unfortunately, however – even though many of my compatriot politicians and political activists might not want to recognize this, to avoid creating impediments to their short term political agendas – whether we live in Ethiopia or in the Diaspora, and whether we belong to the ruling regime or opposition groups, one tends to feel that our blood, cultural behaviours and attitudes seem immune or perhaps inappropriate to the concepts of democracy, equality, individual freedom and human rights. Indeed, as the past two or more decades of political upheavals and experiences have shown, family affiliations, comradeship, group interests and regionalism are more urgent, more imperative to us than the complex collective issues and problems of the people of Ethiopia as a whole.

Yes, in Ethiopian culture equality, individual freedom and democracy are unknown quantities; they are strange to us, even though most Ethiopians expressed repeated wishes and uninterrupted prayers that the fears and anxieties voiced by a few concerned Ethiopians were wholly unfounded, and that instead the winds of change and democracy blowing above the mountains of Ethiopia would become more rapid and powerful. Meanwhile, the actual fashioning of implementable democratic strategies and the possibilities for working hand in glove with all stakeholders, while maintaining a sense of integrity and accountability, quickly became a tricky business, difficult to integrate with the mindsets and cultures of Ethiopians. Everything related to the opposition movements was emotionally loaded; once group oriented, they soon became to be dominated by personal and group interests and rivalries. Consequently, internal conflicts, infighting and rifts within the various movements and groups were rife, both in our homeland and in the Diaspora. This contributed to the untimely and complete dissolution of Kinijit and its disappearance from the political landscape of Ethiopia, which in turn left us today in complete darkness and confusion, with no a single reliable political party or socio-political movement to engage with and support.

Chronicling the Forgotten and Unrecorded Recent Events and Wars

As if writing up crucial historical and political events is forbidden by God or culturally restricted, we Ethiopians in general remain apathetic, appearing unconcerned about recording our own socio-economic and political processes and events, including the origins and dissolution of political parties and movements. This is notwithstanding that these political parties or movements are part and parcel of the political landscape and history of our country. They were established with the objective of adding helping hands and voices to support the process of democratization of the country, even though the opposition leaders and their supporters have been unable to communicate effectively and tirelessly and to avoid repeated confrontations and infighting. The recent unexpected dissolution of Kinijit and the unhappy split among its top leaders is a case in point. In fact, no one among those involved in Kinijit politics and activities knew in advance about the measures undertaken by Engineer Hailu Shawel during that chilly winter season, except a very few insiders or others very close to him.

Indeed, while most of us living in the western world were enjoying the approaching Christmas and New Year holiday shopping so quietly and happily, some holding firmly the hands of lovely little children or someone we love dearly, the unexpectedly speedy winds of the long smoldering rift among Kinijit leadership reached its ultimate climax. And, much to the astonishment and shock of politically conscious Ethiopians, the chilly December Winter season of 2007 marked the end of the main opposition party, Kinijit, when the Chairman of the party, Engineer Hailu Shawel abruptly announced the suspension of five top leadership figures, including Judge Birtukan Mideksa, then Vice Chair of the party; Mayor-Elect of Addis Ababa city, Dr. Berhanu Nega; Kinijit Spokesperson, Dr Hailu Araya; Engineer Gizachew Shiferaw and Brook Kebede. The announcement of the suspension was posted and/or transmitted through the Ethiopian Diaspora media outlets.

As can be imagined and as is always the case in Ethiopian political culture, the suspended individuals felt deeply offended, that the actions undertaken by Engineer Hailu Shawel were unfounded, and that the words and tone of the announcement were antagonistic, disparaging and autocratic, they responded instantaneously and heavy handedly – much to the displeasure of Engineer Hailu Shawel and his supporters – by establishing their own political party and movement, at home and in the Diaspora. The end of 2007 and the subsequent years were not marked just by the suspension of five key Kinijit figures and the establishment of a new political party and movement; more damagingly, there was also a declaration of a highly intense cyberwar among the supporters of each political group – each firing its tanks and guns from its own warzones and hidden fortresses, unknown and remote from its targeted enemies. As understood by most of us, the announcement of the suspensions and the subsequently established movement and political party marked the final dissolution of Kinijit, thereby dashing the immeasurable and intense, though short-lived, hopes and expectations Ethiopians had for both Kinijit and its leaders.

A related event took place some six weeks prior to the suspensions carried out by Engineer Hailu Shawel. Strangely, almost unbelievably, even the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) activists – with almost four decades of experience in politics and conflict resolution, and who had managed to regroup, primarily during the campaign and the aftermath of the May 2005 Ethiopian parliamentary election – were not spared by the spreading cruel, unforgiving disease of divisiveness. One would certainly not imagine that the hostile winds of division would dare to shake and tear the rocky houses built by those who were the direct victims of both the Dergue and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and suffered so tremendously at their hands – those who had held secret and dangerous meetings in various Ethiopia cities, waged urban wars, and who spent time together so closely and intimately as brothers, sisters and comrades under the chilly winters and summers of the Assimba mountains. Unfortunately, however, we who envisaged that the houses of EPRP were built upon heavy, immovable rocks and that decades of life and political experience and wisdom would not be so easily and so simply cracked were wholly in error. Yes, we were utterly wrong because, notwithstanding the incalculable sacrifice made by the generation that withstood the early years of Ethiopia’s socio-economic and political upheavals, accompanied by a climate of irreversible and irreparable destruction and of trust and confidence in each other, and the wisdom and life experience built up by the EPRP over decades, including their unhurriedly, carefully constructed rocky and immovable houses, appeared full of holes – weak and unable to hold back the strong, speedy winds carrying both long existing animosities and newly conceived hostilities and resentments among Ethiopian political activists.

Many politically conscious Ethiopians, especially those who belong to the generation had hoped that the long-held ideology of EPRP, the lost comrades, brothers and sisters in the cities of Ethiopia and in the vicinity of the mountain of Assimba, and the deep-seated and painful memories of the struggle would serve the entire EPRP, activists and other sympathizers, as sources of motivation, as fuel providing energy, and as a vital linkage, keeping them together and united for as long as the resistance requires them, and even beyond. Unfortunately and sadly, however, the hopes most us associated with both the blood and the ideology of the generation did not materialize. After some months of rumors in some Diaspora media outlets about increasing disagreements and wrangling, the actual split of EPRP into two camps became a reality at an Extraordinary Congress held on 29 October 2007 in Washington DC, which was marked by a fierce debates and the exchanges of unpalatable words, statements and accusations among long-time friends and war comrades who together had survived repeated attempts on their lives in the cities, the bush and the deserts of both their country of origin and their countries of exile within the region of the Horn of Africa. As can be imagined, the news was received by member activists, sympathizers and by others who belong to the generation with astonishment and sadness.

As if the shock and astonishment experienced by Ethiopians at the split of the EPRP and the measures undertaken by Engineer Hailu Shawel had not been enough, the unforgiving, cruel winds of divisiveness continued, spreading into the bodies of other political activist groups like a contagious disease. Even though society regards women, in comparison to their male counterparts, as more tolerant, sensible and capable of resolving disagreements and conflicts through softly, wisely and diplomatically crafted talk and other means of communications, due to an apparent absence of training in effective communication and conflict resolution within organizations, and also due to the affiliation of most of the leading members of the International Ethiopian Women’s Organization (IEWO) to one or the other of the political groups, there was no way to prevent the powerful and spreading disease of separation from entering the body of this group as well. Consequently, within just a few months after the split within EPRP, the IEWO group, to which I was once invited to speak, giving an overview about the future role and direction of Ethiopian opposition parties, made its irreconcilable decision to follow the footsteps of Kinijt and EPRP. It became two IEWO groups in early 2008, and exactly as other Ethiopian social and political groupings, they too decided to create two separate groups, each with its own website, but with significantly fewer activities, including face-to-face gatherings, and with fewer activist members, especially in comparison to the initial months of the IEWO.

The three tragic events described here, which took place in just under six months, illustrates how we Ethiopians evidently find it extremely difficult to work together on issues related to our country, unless we are forced to it either by extreme economic hardships or political and other pressures. These three most unfortunate examples show also how far removed our political culture is from becoming mature. What is more confusing, even embarrassing, is that – while we are not even in a position to maintain a friendly and peaceful climate while engaging each other in mature political discussions, and to manifest integrity and democratic minds while working together in groups – individual Ethiopians, even those who have already split up and established their own talking shops and groups are still talking so boldly and so loudly about their irrevocable determination to free Ethiopia from the entangled chains of the repressive regime of Meles Zenawi. They also repeatedly raise billion dollar questions, such as what exactly would be the best strategy and the shortest road to travel to destroy Meles Zenawi and those around him? Instead of first asking themselves why on earth we Ethiopians are so culturally stubborn, so unable to work together on the issues of our country and to sort of what exactly went wrong with us, including how we can be cured of our culturally inculcated diseases of family and group orientation and regionalism in relation to Ethiopian politics? Why, actually, do we still talk about destroying the power structure of the tyrannical regime when over ninety percent of us cannot even look at and talk to those who belong to other opposition political groupings in civil terms, genuinely, and with clean and clear minds?

In summary, though difficult to measure in objective terms, I would nonetheless dare to say that the price to be paid for the direct and indirect repercussions of these tragic events and related infighting would be, as has already been witnessed, the gradual disappearance of political movements and politically active community members, the breakup of already weakened social relationships and work within the Ethiopian Diaspora community, and unquestionably – and more essentially – the extension of the lifespan of Meles Zenawi by an additional two or more decades, unless some kind of coup d’état within his own circle, possibly by the armed forces, were to occur.

(The author, Dr Maru Gubena, can be reached at

U.S. official in charge of Africa policy caught in a lie (Wikileaks)

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

In September 2007, nine months after Ethiopian despot Meles Zenawi invaded Somalia, the top U.S. officials for Africa policy, Ms. Jendayi Frazer, told TIME magazine: “We urged the Ethiopian military not to go into Somalia.” [read here]

The just-released U.S. diplomatic cable that is leaked to [read here] contradicts Jendayi’s statement. It is now confirmed by the U.S. Government’s own diplomats that the Woyanne invasion of Somalia that resulted in the killing of 20,000 Somali civilians and the displacement of 2 million others was masterminded by the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and carried out by the beggar tyrant in Ethiopia.

Al Amoudi servant makes legal threat

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

One of Al Amoudi’s servants in the Diaspora, Ato Eyaya Arega, is imitating his boss by hiring a lawyer to harass Ethiopian Review. The lawyer, Steven Sarfatti of Washington DC, wrote a letter (read here) demanding that we remove the articles about Eyaya and his gang of thugs who have turned the Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA) into a tool for the Woyanne genocidal regime in Ethiopia.

The answer to Mr Sarfatti is that Ethiopian Review stands by the articles. In fact, there is more to come.

Wikileaks: Reports by U.S. diplomats on various world leaders

Monday, November 29th, 2010 has released 250,000 classified U.S. diplomatic dispatches on Sunday, which is said to be the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history. The following are some excerpts from the dispatches that were sent to the State Department by U.S. embassies around the world regarding various leaders.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe: A minister in the South African government calls Mugabe “a crazy old man.” U.S. Ambassador Christopher W. Dell writes: “Mugabe is “more clever and more ruthless than any other politician in Zimbabwe… To give the devil his due, he is a brilliant tactician and has long thrived on his ability to abruptly change the rules of the game, radicalize the political dynamic and force everyone else to react to his agenda.” Mugabe also seem to believe that his 18 doctorate degrees give him the authority to suspend the laws of economics, including supply and demand. Ambassador Dell goes on to explain: “The regime has become so used to calling the shots and dictating the pace that the merest stumble panics them. Many local observers have noted that Mugabe is panicked and desperate about hyperinflation at the moment, and hence he’s making mistakes. Possibly fatal mistakes. We need to keep the pressure on in order to keep Mugabe off his game and on his back foot, relying on his own shortcomings to do him in.” He added: “Mugabe and his henchman are like bullies everywhere: if they can intimidate, you they will. But they’re not used to someone standing up to them and fighting back.”

[Most of the above description about Mugabe can be also be said about Ethiopia's tyrant Meles Zenawi. There are 1,623 dispatches from Ethiopia to be released by Wikileaks. We will post them when they become available. Read more about Mugabe here.]

North Korea’s Kim Jong-il: Flabby old chap who suffers from ‘physical and psychological trauma.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Risk aversive and rarely creative.

Russia President Dmitry Medvedev: A pale, hesitant figure who plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi: Cannot travel without what one diplomat described as his “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse. The report, from the US embassy in Tripoli, disclosed that Colonel Gaddafi appeared to be afraid of staying on upper floors and disliked flying over water. He enjoyed horse racing and flamenco dancing and was upset when he was refused permission to pitch his Bedouin tent in New York City.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy: Emperor with no clothes; thin-skinned, authoritarian with a tendency to rebuke his senior team repeatedly for their alleged shortcomings.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Avoids risks and is rarely creative.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh: Saleh was viewed by U.S. diplomats as “dismissive, bored and impatient” during a meeting he held with John Brennan, a senior adviser to the US President on national security. In a meeting with former American commander in the Middle East General David Petraeus, Saleh reportedly said: “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”

Reflections on Thanksgiving in America

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Alemayehu G. Mariam

In 1620, one hundred and two prospective settlers left England and set sail for over two months to come to the New World. They landed in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. Nearly one-third of them were religious dissenters escaping persecution. A group of English investors had provided the voyagers transportation, provisions and tools in exchange for 7 years of service upon arrival at their destination. The settlers’ principal concern in the New World was potential attacks by the Native American Indians, who proved to be peaceful and accommodating. Their first winter proved to be wickedly cold. Unable to construct adequate habitation, sick and hungry, nearly one-half of the settlers died in the first year. The following year the settlers had a successful harvest and were living harmoniously with their Indian neighbors. They celebrated their good fortune and good neighbors with prayers of thanksgiving establishing that tradition.

Three and one-half centuries later, thousands of Ethiopians made their “pilgrimage” to America. In the early 1970s, many came to pursue higher education. In the late 1970s and 1980s, tens of thousands fled escaping political persecution. That trend continued in the 1990s with the entrenchment of one of the most ruthless dictatorships on the African continent. By the beginning of the new century, America had not only become a destination of choice for any Ethiopian who could manage to get out, but also the dream country of a new generation of Ethiopians.

Regardless of our reasons for coming to America, we have much to be thankful. If we exert ourselves, few of us have to worry about our daily bread or a roof over our heads. If we are determined to improve ourselves, the opportunities are readily available. Our children have more opportunities in America than anywhere else in the world. Above all, we should be thankful for living in a free country. We don’t have to fear the wrath of vengeful dictators. Our liberties are protected; and we have the means to defend them in the democratic process and in the courts of the land. To be sure, we should be thankful not because we live a dreamland, but because we are free to seek and make true our own dreams.

Reflecting on the meaning of the Thanksgiving in America, the question for me is not whether Ethiopians in America have reason to be thankful for the blessings of liberty and the opportunities they have to make material progress. The question for me is whether they should be thankful to America for providing billions of dollars to a repressive dictatorship that has its crushing boots pressed against the necks of their fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends living in their native land.

Ethiopia is Africa’s largest recipient of foreign aid. It received well over $3 billion in handouts in 2008. According to U.S.AID statistics, the “FY 2008-09 USAID-State Foreign Assistance Appropriations” for Ethiopia was $969.1 million in 2008 and $916.1 million in 2009. The latest U.S.AID brag sheet reports that U.S. aid money in Ethiopia has “helped build the capacity of institutions such as the Parliament and National Election Board to democratize and improve governance and accountability” and “strengthened judicial independence through legal education training for judges and students, and promote greater understanding of and respect for human rights among police and the courts.” U.S.AID claims that in 2009 it “led advocacy efforts that contributed to pardons for 15,600 prisoners who had been languishing in federal and state prisons.” U.S.AID reports that “about 450,000 [Ethiopian] children die each year, mainly from preventable and treatable infectious diseases complicated by malnutrition. One in three Ethiopians has tuberculosis, and malaria and HIV/AIDS contribute significantly to the country’s high rates of death and disease.” Among the major U.S.AID projects in Ethiopia today include an “integrated health care program [which] focuses on improving maternal and child health, family planning and reproductive health, preventing and controlling infectious diseases, and increasing access to clean water and sanitation.” U.S.AID is one of the major participants “in Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program, a donor-government partnership to reduce the economic and environmental causes of chronic food insecurity that affects 7.5 million Ethiopians.”

Such is the “newspeak”, the glossy, rose-colored narrative, of the U.S. aid bureaucracy. The most recent evidence paints a different picture: American tax dollars have done little to help the people of Ethiopia, and much to strengthen the dictatorship of Meles Zenawi. As the Economist Magazine noted this past July, “there is no escaping the fact that Ethiopia remains almost as fragile and underdeveloped as it was when an Irish musician, Bob Geldof, set up the first global pop concert, Live Aid, to help the drought-benighted nation 25 years ago.” Stated plainly, billions of American (and Western European) tax dollars later, Ethiopia is in no better shape than it was a quarter of a century ago despite the construction boom in glitzy buildings with few utilities in the capital begging for occupancy and the comic display of economic development that is skin deep.

The fact of the matter is that U.S. tax dollars in Ethiopia, combined with aid from other donors, is doing harm to the Ethiopian people by “financing their oppressors.”[1] Summarizing the evidence in the recent Human Rights Watch Report on Ethiopia, the renowned development economist, Prof. William Easterly of the New York University wrote :

Human Rights Watch contends that the government abuses aid funds for political purposes–in programs intended to help Ethiopia’s most poor and vulnerable. For example, more than fifty farmers in three different regions said that village leaders withheld government-provided seeds and fertilizer, and even micro-loans because they didn’t belong to the ruling party; some were asked to renounce their views and join the party to receive assistance. Investigating one program that gives food and cash in exchange for work on public projects, the report documents farmers who have never been paid for their work and entire families who have been barred from participating because they were thought to belong to the opposition. Still more chilling, local officials have been denying emergency food aid to women, children, and the elderly as punishment for refusing to join the party.

Prof. Easterly concluded:

This blatant indifference to democratic values is particularly tragic since there are many ways the aid community might help Ethiopians rather than their rulers. First and foremost, donors could insist that investigations into aid abuse be credible, independent and free from government interference, and then cut off support to programs they find are being used as weapons against the opposition. They could speak out forcefully against recent legislation that smothers Ethiopian civil society. They could also seek to bypass the government altogether, channeling funds through NGOs instead, or giving direct transfers or scholarships to individuals… For not only is foreign aid to Ethiopia not improving the lives of those most in need, by financing their oppressors, it is making them worse.

U.S.AID and Aid Without a Moral Compass

In his inaugural address in 1961, President John Kennedy set the moral tone of American aid policy, which now seems to be a distant historical echo: “To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required, not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right.” The Kennedian sense of altruistic morality in foreign aid is probably forgotten or unknown by those managing America’s foreign aid programs today. President Kennedy set a great ideal to guide America’s hand in helping others who need help. It was a simple and powerfully principled message: We should help the poorer nations of the world because helping our fellow humans is the morally right thing to do. Stated differently, if we cannot help “those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery”, we should not hurt them in the name of helping them.

Today, it seems the one measure of all things in U.S. foreign policy, including aid policy, is the “war on terror.” Any regime or dictator who claims to be an ally of the U.S. in the war on terror can expect to receive not only the full support of the U.S., but full absolution for all sins committed against democracy and human rights. Last December, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said:

First, a commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to those standards, including ourselves… By holding ourselves accountable, we reinforce our moral authority to demand that all governments adhere to obligations under international law; among them, not to torture, arbitrarily detain and persecute dissenters, or engage in political killings. Our government and the international community must counter the pretensions of those who deny or abdicate their responsibilities and hold violators to account.

The fact is that the U.S. has stood by passively and idly witnessing elections being stolen in Ethiopia time and again in broad daylight. It has turned a blind eye to repeated gross violations of human rights by Zenawi’s regime. Though the U.S. has substantial evidence that its aid money is being used, misused and abused for political purposes, it has chosen not to hold Zenawi accountable. For the U.S., it is all business as usual: Give out the blank checks to the grinning and palm-rubbing panhandlers standing outside the gates of U.S.AID.

I am appalled by the lack of moral criteria in U.S. aid policy because I believe states have moral obligations, ethical standards and legal duties to uphold, contrary to what is taught in the school of realpolitik. I believe it is the lack morality in U.S. aid policy that has contributed significantly to the triumph of tyranny and dictatorship in Ethiopia. It is self-evident that over the past five years the U.S. has shown little willpower and moral power in its dealings with the Zenawi dictatorship. Zenawi has taken advantage of this psychological weakness and simply finessed the U.S. into silence and policy paralysis. He has in fact cunningly turned the tables on the U.S. Just as the U.S. has made Zenawi its principal ally on the war on terror in the Horn, Zenawi has made the U.S. his principal ally in his war against democracy, freedom and human rights in Ethiopia.

The morality of aid to me is not some metaphysical abstraction but a practical expression of the accountability of recipient countries and the U.S. itself of which Secretary Clinton often talks about in her speeches. I frame the moral issue along two questions: Should American taxpayer money be used directly or indirectly to support a repressive dictatorship in Ethiopia? Does the U.S. Government have a moral and legal duty to make sure American tax dollars are not used to repress “those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery”, as President Kennedy so eloquently articulated it?

In pursuit of the war on terror, the U.S. has gone to extremes of subservience to Zenawi’s regime to ignore these two questions. Instead of standing up for American bedrock principles of democracy and human rights and promotion of economic growth and poverty reduction through good governance, the U.S. has adapted its principles to fit the dictates of dictatorship and tyranny. The U.S. continues to pour billions as elections are stolen, the independent press shuttered, constitutions trashed, political parties and opposition leaders persecuted and civic society institutions and leaders criminalized. The U.S. denies facts about poor farmers who are held in perpetual dependence on aid doled out based on a political litmus test. For the U.S., development is operationally defined as dumping aid money into a kleptocratic economy. The “success” of U.S. aid in Ethiopia is measured not by evidence of the right things that have been done (good governance) to promote political and economic freedom and protect human rights, but by how much money has been handed out with no questions asked.

In its aid policy in Ethiopia, the U.S. seems to be more interested in generating “newspeak” and photo ops than producing the right results (good governance). As I reflect upon it, I am more convinced than ever before that U.S. aid is in good part responsible for keeping Ethiopia “almost as fragile and underdeveloped as it was when an Irish musician, Bob Geldof, set up the first global pop concert, Live Aid, to help the drought-benighted nation 25 years ago.” The evidence assembled by Dambissa Moyo, William Easterly, Peter Buaer and others compellingly show that in Africa foreign aid corrupts; and in Ethiopia, the largest recipient in Africa, aid has corrupted governance absolutely.

For U.S. aid policy to succeed in Ethiopia and Africa in general, it must have a moral imperative which requires holding the corrupt leaders and institutions in recipient countries accountable for their past and present actions. U.S. aid policy must also insist on future compliance with high standards of financial and ethical accountability. The U.S has the tools to convert aid-driven public corruption in Ethiopia into a shining example of public integrity for all of Africa. It is called the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (as amended). Section 116.75 of that law provides:

No assistance may be provided under this part to the government of any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or de-grading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, unless such assistance will directly benefit the needy people in such country.

U.S. aid today does not “directly benefit the needy people” of Ethiopia. It benefits directly, indirectly and massively the dictatorship that denies the “needy people” of Ethiopia basic human rights. The U.S. helping hand no longer heals the “needy people” of Ethiopia; regrettably, it has become the brass knuckle of ironfisted dictators. So, I will just say, “Thanks for the thought U.S.A(ID), but no thanksgiving.”



Powers of Ten

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Most science students may have already seen the video below, but it is the first time for me today and I am captivated by it. Learn about the universe from the macro to the micro in just 10 minutes. Very interesting and educational at the same time. – Elias Kifle

The film begins with an overhead image of a man reclining on a blanket; the view is that of one meter across. The viewpoint, accompanied by expository voiceover by Philip Morrison, then slowly zooms out to a view ten meters across (or 101 m in standard form), revealing that the man is picnicking in a park with a female companion. The zoom-out continues (at a rate of one power of ten per 10 seconds), to a view of 100 meters (102 m), then 1 kilometer (103 m), and so on, increasing the perspective—the picnic is revealed to be taking place near Soldier Field on Chicago’s lakefront—and continuing to zoom out to a field of view of 1024 meters, or the size of the observable universe. The camera then zooms back in at a rate of a power of ten per 2 seconds to the picnic, and then slows back down to its original rate into the man’s hand, to views of negative powers of ten—10−1 m (10 centimeters), and so forth—until the camera comes to quarks in a proton of a carbon atom at 10−16 meter.

The film is an adaptation of the 1957 book Cosmic View by Kees Boeke, and more recently is the basis of a new book version. Both adaptations, film and book, follow the form of the Boeke original, adding color and photography to the black and white drawings employed by Boeke in his seminal work.

In 1998, “Powers of Ten” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” according to Wikipedia

'Great Ethiopian Run' turned into 'Great Woyanne Run'

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Great Ethiopian Run 2010The 10th Great Ethiopian Run was held Sunday in Addis Ababa in which over 30,000 people took part.

During the past few years, opponents of the ruling Woyanne junta used the event to express their frustration with the regime since public demonstrations are banned in Ethiopia.

This year, Woyanne wanted to use the event to promote its own agenda of ruling the country unchallenged. So instead of the usual open registration that lasted until a few days before the race, registration forms were sent out to state employees, ruling party members, and groups and businesses that are affiliated with the regime. Registration was closed several weeks before race day.

During yesterday’s race, every individual who was interviewed by the state-controlled ETV talked about Meles Zenawi’s “5 year transformation plan,” which actually is a plan to loot and pillage Ethiopia for 5 more years. Any one who watched the TV coverage of the race Sunday can conclude that it was a Woyanne political event that has been orchestrated by its propaganda chief Bereket Simon.

Meles and Bereket, however, did not fully succeeded in keeping opposition activities out of the event. During the run, thousands of pamphlets commemorating the 5th anniversary of the Ethiopian election massacre were distributed along the race route and other parts of Addis Ababa. An Ethiopian Review source has sent one of the copies shown below (click on the image to enlarge).

Great Ethiopian Run 2010

Angry Ethiopians confront Lidetu in London

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Brave Ethiopians in London confronted Lidetu Ayalew at a public meeting on Nov. 21, 2010. It took several police officers and private bodyguards to protect him from the angry Ethiopians, many of whom have fled their country after being victimized by his current bosses Bereket Simon and Meles Zenawi. Lidetu used to be a prominent opposition party leader, but in the past few years he turned himself into a tool for the Woyanne regime. Watch the video below.

Video 1

Video 2

NYT defends Haile Gebreselassie story

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Tom Connelly, assistant to the New York Times sports editor who assisted Jeré Longman with the story on Haile Gebrselassie told on Thursday:

The New York Times stands by its story. Jeré reported what he was told. We reported the story correctly.” offers the following analysis:

To us, it logically makes zero sense that a sports reporter would make up such a major accusation about the tapping of phone lines. If that’s the case, then the only logical explanation is that both Gebrselsassie and Hermens were strongly encouraged to denounce the story by the powers in charge in Ethiopia — either that or Gebrselassie realized he needed to have Hermens do it soon or he’d have some significant problems on his hands. The question therefore is, “Is this type of coercion common place in Ethiopia and does it make sense that this actually would have happened?”

The answer is yes, it is common for the despot in Ethiopia to extract confessions and statements from citizens.

We can only imagine what Haile is going through — although he is partly responsible. To protect him and other Ethiopian athletes, the IAAF and other international athletic groups need to launch an investigation.

Meles discussing ‘trash’ and ‘garbage'

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele.

As you all know Ethiopia held what is referred to as ‘elections’ last May. The ruling TPLF party won 545 of the 547 seats in Parliament. One can tell from the results that either the TPLF party is the most popular association in the country or the election was rigged and the outcome was tainted.

Ethiopians were resigned to the fact that the Prime Minster’s Party will be declared the winner. It was also assumed the regime will allow the so-called opposition to win some seats to save face and appease the Ferenji donors. Those aligned with Medrek actually were willing to look the other way when Ato Meles jailed their leader, murdered their candidates, denied them gathering places and threatened them with criminal charges if they criticized the regime’s polices in the heat of the moment. It did not save them from extinction.

Ato Meles did not stop there. He picked and choose the international observers and trained his own cadres to be election observers. He tried but was unable to deny the European Union from sending independent observers. Welfare recipients sometimes have limited choices. He did mange to curtail their activities to show his people that he will not be pushed around.

Well the report by European Union election observers was made official last week. For us Ethiopians there was nothing new there. We live the nightmare thus there is no need to read about it. Our collective response was a loud duh!

On the other hand our ‘fearless leader’ for life has a different response to this carefully written report. According to Barry Malone of Reuters, the PM chosen words were ‘”trash that deserves to be thrown in the garbage.” He did not stop there, elucidating further, he went on to say “The report is not about our election. It is just the view of some Western neo-liberals who are unhappy about the strength of the ruling party… anybody who has paper and ink can scribble whatever they want.”

Charming isn’t he. You would not expect such ‘trash talk’ from a leader of a country do you? One would think when you ascend to be a leader there are certain diplomatic norms to be maintained and style of talk to abide. One can disagree without being crass. The office one holds dictates one’s behavior and choice of words. Well, it is Ethiopia and international norms, rules and regulations are suggestions left to the individual’s discretion.

It took the EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) six months to issue the official report. EU EOM was headed by Thijs Berman, a Dutch member of European Parliament and 10 Core Team members (analysts) 90 Long Term Observers and more than 60 Short Term Observers from 22 EU member states, as well as Norway, Switzerland, and Canada. The report is a carefully written document giving credit where credit is due and pointing out some discrepancies where improvement is needed to make the system work better. None of the observers hold any bias against our country and people that we know of. Their stated mission was to observe and report so what ever happened will be well documented and help future decision makers to see where to put their resources to help Democracy take root in our country.

When it comes to our country things just don’t move in a reasonable and rational way. You can sense the crudeness of the TPLF regime when it denied the team access to Ethiopia to present their findings. According to Mr. Berman ‘”This is the first time that a host country has denied the EU observation mission access to return to present its report,”

The regime chose to impeach the character of the EU mission instead of responding to the detailed findings by the observers. First to comment was our good friend Shimeles Kemal (yes he is still around), the mentally unstable paranoid Communication Affairs Minster who said ‘the report is nothing but a biased political analysis of Ethiopia and was made under pressure from Human Rights Watch (HRW) which led the government to reject the report.” He was not satisfied with one enemy thus he threw in HRW for added effect.

The PM decided to lower bar further down. He was not about to be outdone by a junior miscommunication chief. He decided to leave the insulting and name calling to me. Twenty years at the helm has given him the license to dispense insults, demeaning words and bully his people with immunity. That is what he did five years ago in response to EU’s report regarding the 2005 elections. In fact he was so proud of his penmanship he published his response on his newspaper ‘The Ethiopian Herald.’ This is what he wrote:

The statement has come as a great surprise to me. I had expected that the statement would have very few if any nuggets of truth, and, if any, that these would be buried under so much garbage that it would be virtually impossible to excavate them. As it turned out, the statement has some big, really big, lumps of truth in it, and it is relatively easy to remove the garbage that has covered those lumps of truth. While I was expecting a huge garbage dump all I got was newly started garbage dump that was unable to bury the truth. The letter cannot but therefore start by identifying and highlighting the lumps of truth in the statement.

There you have it a head of state calling the Honorable Ana Gomez and her team’s report ‘garbage’.

Looks like time has not mellowed the PM. Why do you think he is stuck in this funky mode? Do you think just may be we have something to do with it? Is it possible we encourage this dysfunctional behavior? Are we part of the problem?

These are good points to ponder while we look at the PM and his isolated existence in a bubble. You see the truth is verbal abuse, demeaning of fellow citizens is nothing but the first step leading towards higher forms of criminal behavior. Ato Meles has made it a habit of knocking down our flag, country and culture. We are so enamored by his crass behavior that we ascribe such adjectives as ‘wend new’ ‘jegna new’, etc. that only emboldens his crudeness. He of course thinking it is cute goes on to apply it in his relationship with foreign dignitaries. It is true children repeat what they hear. Thus one is always careful about language around two-year-olds. They blurt out that ‘new’ word they just heard in a public setting.

We are ashamed that the PM did not find a grown up method of disagreeing in a civilized manner. Language is very important in diplomatic circles. Words carry great weight.

Political intimidation of a world record holder

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 has the following story on the Haile Gebreselassie retirement controversy that is evolving into a 3-way battle between Haile vs. the New York Times vs. the Ethiopian despot in the Battle for credibility.

The Haile Gebrselassie retirement story continues to make news and it’s only getting stranger and stranger. Two days after a story appeared in the New York Times on Gebselassie’s un-retirement in which it was said that Gebrselassie was under intense political pressure in his native Ethiopia and his phones had been tapped, Gebrselassie and his manager Jos Hermens appeared on national television in Ethiopia and ripped the veracity of the story that appeared in the New York Times… contacted the New York Times around 10:30 pm EST on Thursday night to try to get Jeré Longman’s response to the Hermens statement. Longman wasn’t in the office and the unidentified employee in the Sports Department who answered the phone told us to call back in the morning as he wasn’t going to call him this late at home on this matter. On an aside, we imagine if this story was about a US sports star, the reaction would be different. To us, this is a huge story as it involves possible political intimidation of a world record holder. If Hermens did tell the New York Times Haile’s phones were tapped, then it appears he has quickly been forced to deny it on national televsion in Ethiopia. If he didn’t say it, then it’s pretty bad reporting by arguably the US’s most famous newspaper… [read the whole story here]

Bereket Simon in action (video)

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

As expected, Woyanne propaganda chief Bereket Simon wasted no time to respond to New York Times report about Haile Gebreselassie’s reason for retiring. Within a few minutes after the New York Times report appeared online, we can guess that Bereket have summoned to his office both Haile and his manager Jos, and given them a tongue lashing, followed by threats of serious consequences unless both refute the report in a convincing way. Watch the drama below. Haile had a choice — to be a freeman and accept the consequences, or to be a slave to Woyanne. He chose to be a slave.

Report by ESAT

Ethiopians in Dallas confront Woyanne

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Ethiopians in Dallas confronted a Woyanne delegation that called a public meeting to discuss Meles Zenawi’s 5 year plan. A few weeks ago, a similar Woyanne meeting was dispersed by brave Ethiopians in Seattle. In the Dallas meeting, about 50 people showed up. Watch the video below.

Aung San Suu Kyi released… following a fake election

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

It is known that despots imitate each other. Here is a glaring example. The ethnic apartheid junta in Ethiopia released the leader of a major opposition party, Birtukan Mideksa, shortly after it conducted a fake election in May 2010. Similarly, the military junta in Myanmar (Burma) has decided to release Aung San Suu Kyi, the popular leader of the country’s opposition party, after conducting and winning a fake election last week.

The following is a report by The Telegraph

Aung San Suu Kyi release: the lady goes free but nothing changes

By Ian MacKinnon

On the face of it, Burma will have experienced a tumultuous seven days.

The woman known simply as The Lady to her fellow Burmese will taste freedom. Her worldwide following will cautiously rejoice.

Aung San Suu Kyi But the more significant event has already happened. Last Sunday’s nationwide election provided the junta with a civilian face for the first time since it seized power in 1962.

It was an outcome that Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been relegated to the sidelines since her National League for Democracy (NLD) dominated the last elections in 1990, was powerless to prevent. Now the generals, many of whom have exchanged their uniforms for lounge suits, are confident they can curtail Mrs Suu Kyi despite her enduring appeal as the rallying point for Burma’s opposition.

When Mrs Suu Kyi’s NLD contested the 1990 poll it was the only serious opposition and it won by a landslide. Now the opposition in Burma has been fractured by Sunday’s elections. A splinter group of the NLD broke away to form the National Democratic Force (NDF) after Mrs Suu Kyi and her party decided to boycott the “sham” poll.

The NDF has so far only garnered a handful of seats out of the 164 it contested, but the divisions in the opposition ranks may dilute the voices raised against the pro-military government.

The Burmese people have been so cowed by years of repression that culminated in the brutal crackdown on the 2007 monk-led “Saffron Revolution” that they would not take to the streets again even if Mrs Suu Kyi issued the call.

Similarly, her impact abroad will be limited by her continued refusal to travel outside her country. The former Oxford housewife fears that she would be permanently exiled if she did.

In common with the jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, she was conspicuously absent from a gathering of Nobel laureates in the Japanese city of Hiroshima yesterday.

Response to Karuturi CEO on his Ethiopia land grab

Friday, November 12th, 2010

SMNE’s response to the following statements by the Chief Executive Officer of the Karuturi Global Ltd, Mr. Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi:

1. *No one has been displaced.
2. They chose Gambella as it is relatively thinly-populated. He said like in Nevada you can drive 100 kms without seeing anyone. If they had chosen the shores of Lake Tana in heavily-populated Amhara then the ‘land grab’ critics would be justified.
3. *Ethiopia has 80 million hectares of arable land and only 12 cultivated. Foreign investment is needed to add the 3 million more the gov’t is targeting. “What is the argument” when so much money will enter the economy?
4. *There was discussion of relocation of the people of Elliah [Ilea] – the only settlement in the farm area – but the company did not want this. 5.
5. Elliah’s residents have been provided mosquito nets and electricity and live in “perfect communion” with the farm.

1. No one has been displaced.

The land has been taken over by Karuturi, but the clearing and cultivation is still in the beginning stages. Many people have been told that they should expect to be removed from their homes and land during the dry season which has just begun, but many of these have not yet been forced to leave. Reportedly, they have been told that they can move themselves now or later be taken to a resettlement village.

This is the case not in Ilea, but also in other areas around the Openo (Baro) River, and also in other districts; namely, Abobo, Jor, Dimma, Gog and Goderie whose local district and village leaders have received a similar mandate to be resettled elsewhere by officials sent from the regional and federal government. Most of the people in these villages are refusing to cooperate; saying they will never leave their homes and land; however, Ethiopian military troops have become more prevalent in the area and people are fearful that these troops will use force to evict them. Two weeks ago, a young man was arrested in Abobo because some government officials assumed he was advising the elders not to leave their homes and land.

Another highly sensitive issue is the fact that Karuturi has cleared Anuak burial ground that they have taken over; causing anger to simmer right beneath the surface. People cannot openly express their outrage due to fear of punitive actions on the part of the government; however, such an absence of public protest should in no way be reconstructed into thinking there is public approval of these land grabs. All of these issues have taken place without any input from the local people who have almost no information on what is going on even though it greatly impacts their lives and futures. Although Karuturi has commented about providing some kind of compensation to the people, no compensation has been given or even discussed with them.

2. They chose Gambella as it is relatively thinly-populated. He said like in Nevada you can drive 100 kms without seeing anyone. If they had chosen the shores of Lake Tana in heavily-populated Amhara then the ‘land grab’ critics would be justified.

This would never happen in the Tigray region that this ethnic-based government favors so why is it permitted in other parts of the country? You can say that the land is not cultivated—and there are many reasons for that—however, the land still belongs to the people of Ethiopia and in Gambella—to the indigenous people.

Karuturi is doing business with an unelected and illegitimate government that took power by force, manipulation and corruption. The Ethiopian people do not consider them the rightful negotiators of their national assets; particularly while they are forced into silence by one of the most brutal dictatorships in Africa.

The people of Gambella should be welcome at the negotiation table instead of being excluded and kept in the dark. It is like someone walking into your house and saying your house is too big for you so I’ll take these rooms over without consulting you and giving you any benefits. Is this right? This is why it is a land grab and justifies the criticism.

When I use the term “land grab” it means you “grabbed something” that was not rightfully yours without consulting the rightful owners. Is it not “land grabbing” when you exploit the vulnerability of people living under a repressive system where any protest is criminalized?

This is the Neo-colonization of Africa. If what is going on in Gambella was happening in New Delhi, India; in Oxford, England; in Bismarck, North Dakota; in Saskatoon, Canada; this would be unthinkable. If it is not allowed in these places, why is it justified in Ethiopia? Wrong is wrong! Just because the people are not educated or because, for a time, they are being controlled by a self-serving kleptocrat; it still does not make it okay to carry on such unethical business practices.

If one of the local Gambellans went to India and took over that much land without consultation with the people; would Indians be silent? This is a repeat of the Berlin conference where western colonizers met together; divvying up portions of Africa for themselves without ever including the Africans in the decision making.

3. Ethiopia has 80 million hectares of arable land and only 12 cultivated. Foreign investment is needed to add the 3 million more the gov’t is targeting. “What is the argument” when so much money will enter the economy?

Who is looking out for the best interests of the people? It is certainly not the leadership of Ethiopia; nor is it a company like Karuturi who denies the truth of the injustice carried out in their name.

If these deals are truly in the interest of Ethiopians, why is it all so hidden? If the people of Gambella are to benefit, why are the people of Gambella not in charge in any way? The same question can be asked of similar deals being executed in Benishangul-Gumuz, in the Southern Nations, in the Afar region, in Oromiya, in the Amhara region and elsewhere in the country—why are the people not consulted?

Secondly, no Ethiopians have confidence in ever benefiting from these deals, but instead see it as robbing them of their and their children’s future as their land is being leased for up to 99 years. This is more than a lifetime for most. Will this land always be “under-utilized” or could Ethiopians develop their own land in 5, 10, 20 or 50 years if they had a government that actually invested in the people; advancing agriculture in a freer market economy where people could actually own land?

Ethiopians have seen how little aid has ever made it to its destination and believe that this investment will again benefit only a select few. How will Ethiopians reap benefits from such economic development when they are already excluded from any decision-making? Instead, it is highly unlikely that the fruits of these land grabs will ever make it beyond the pockets of Meles, his cronies and those foreign partners willing to make these secret, backdoor deals.

4. There was discussion of relocation of the people of Elliah – the only settlement in the farm area – but the company did not want this.

They can say this now; however, it is only temporary as Karuturi has “claims” on land now that government officials assert will require the relocation of the people. Either Karuturi is not being told the “real” story or they are denying what is happening on the ground. In other words, if Karuturi was not there, this upcoming forced relocation would not be necessary. Ilea is only one place where this is happening as there are many more villages in the region being potentially impacted. It is not only affecting the Anuak, but some of the villages inhabited by the Nuer and Manjangir people are also targeted. Why is there no transparency? Why is there no honest discussion with the people? Karuturi may say they did not approve such resettlement, but the truth is that the people are being told they must be moved. No dates are set yet, but they know it is to happen in the near future.

5. Ilea’s [Elliah's] residents have been provided mosquito nets and electricity and live in “perfect communion” with the farm.

This is false. Reports from the ground adamantly deny any knowledge of such improvements in a community where such news would be widely known. There is no electricity. Mosquito nets have not been distributed. As of November 9, 2010, the only bore hole being drilled for water was located within the Karuturi compound. Karuturi has told some that the local people can come inside the compound to use the water if they wanted to do so; however, if the water was supposed to bring the “farmers” in “perfect communion” with Karuturi, why are there no bore holes for access to water outside a compound that potentially could easily be closed off to the public for a multitude of reasons?

Karuturi has promised to bring health clinics, clean water and other benefits to the people but so far; there is no sign or mention of any of this according to reports from the local people.

What does “perfect communion” mean when peoples’ homes and farmland are being taken? What does this mean when burial grounds are being cleared? What does this mean when the people have never been consulted? What does this mean when the people say they will refuse to leave their homes for resettlement camps? Such a statement is strictly a denial of reality; flimsily supported only through the propaganda of government officials.

The people of Gambella live in a repressive climate where most all are afraid to speak out for fear of arrest, detentions, beatings or extra-judicial killings; all of which have taken place in the last year as Karuturi and others have endeavored to force this plan on the people.

The Anuak have already endured one genocide in 2003 at the hands of this TPLF/EPRDF government as they eliminated any leaders who might oppose the development of the oil reserves in the region. No one knows what will happen this time, but Karuturi should reassess their approach if they truly seek such “perfect communion!”

(For more information please contact Mr. Obang Metho, Executive Director of the SMNE at

Sululta town residents revolt against land giveaway (ESAT)

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Residents of Sululta, a suburb of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, have revolted against land giveaway and attacked government officials. It’s a good beginning. Ethiopians need to take back their country from the vampire regime that is selling every thing — from children to fertile lands — in Ethiopia, and invest the money in developed countries. Watch the report below.

ESFNA – an ugly face of Ethiopia

Friday, November 12th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

ልክ ነው ብዙ የተጣሱ አሰራሮች አሉ። ለዚህም ነው በመጀመሪያም ይቅርታ ለመጠየቅ የፈለኩት። የሥራ አስኪያጅ ኮሚቴው ሥራውን ብቁ በሆነ መንገድ እንዳልስራ እኔ ማመን ፈልጋለሁ። ለድምፅ እንኳን መቅረብ አልነበረበትም። ይሄን ነገር ድምፁን ግን እንደገና የመነጋገር መብት የቦርዱ አባሎች መብት ነው። በሚቀጥለው ቀን ፔትሽን ተፈርሞ ምናምን የሚል ሕግ የለም። ስሜታዊነት ነበረ ተናግሬዋለሁ። ኃይለ ቃሎች ነበሩ። ተናግሬዋለሁ። ማንም ስው ማንም ላይ ጠመንጃ የያዘ የለም። እንደዚያ አይነት ግኑኝነትም ስብሰባ አይደለም። ስሜታዊ ስብሰባ ነበረ። እርግጥ ድምፅ ከፍ ባለ ሁኔታ ነበር የሚነነጋገረው። ግን ዋናው ስው እንዲገነዘብልኝ እናንተም እንድታውቁት የምፈልገው ያንን መጀመሪያ ድምፅ የስጡት ሰዎች ማንም ያስገደዳቻው የለም። አይሆንም በዚያው በድምፃችን እንቀጥላለን ብለው መቅረት ሲችሉ እራሳቸው አንድ ባንድ ተነስተው ማይክሮፎኑን ይዝው እኔ ድምፄን ያመጣሁትን መልሻለሁ በሚል ነው የወስኑት።


It is true lots of illegal things were done. That is why I apologized ahead. I want to admit that the executive committee did not carry its duties in a proper manner. The issue should not have been brought for voting at all on the other hand it is the board’s prerogative to bring the issue back for further discussion. There is no such thing (in the bylaws) as revising the issue at a later date using petition. It was an emotional meeting as I have indicated. Harsh words were exchanged. On the other hand no one was armed with guns. It is not such type of meeting. I want all to understand and you (VOA) to be aware that those who voted for the motion withdrew their support without coercion and it was their decision.

The above is part of the interview granted by Ato Fasil Abebe, the public relations head of ESFNA, to Ato Adissu Abebe and Ato Alula Kebede of Voice of America (VOA). The VOA reporters were patient with Ato Fasil. They asked him probing questions laced with facts from the organization’s past. I am afraid Ato Fasil was not able to answer their questions to the listeners satisfaction. It was a lesson in good journalism when they allowed their guest to escape bloodied but not down so he can contemplate the gravity of the situation. I presume Ato Addisu and Ato Alula felt further probe will not serve the communities interest.

I found Ato Fasil’s answers to be a reflection of our attitude towards the law, rules and regulations and general civility in our community. At the bat he admitted rules were broken, chaos reigned, and the meeting was reduced to a shouting and insulting match, but at the same time he is willing to argue and defend decisions taken under these circumstances as valid and binding. This situation is familiar to us Ethiopians. Might makes right. Rules are inconveniences that can be ignored or redefined after the event to justify what was done.

I am sure ESFNA folks have figured out ‘these Abeshas will complain, really get exited and move on to the next drama and life will go on as usual.’

I am afraid they might be right. If I have to bet I will go with them. Although our country is known for its marathon runners, we in the Diaspora are sprinters. We accelerate and tire easy. We overheat quickly and cool down fast. It is obvious we have created ESFNA in our own image. It is easy to ignore individual madness but when an an organization goes rogue, it sort of exhibits our collective fault for the world to see. We witness this shameful act of betrayal of trust and general hooliganism and we feign surprise. We know it is wrong but somehow we step back and refuse to correct and remedy the situation.

Why? When did we develop this habit of not standing for what is right? Why do we let the criminal elements amongst us to run amok and make our exile existence miserable? How come we always start with good intentions, lofty principles but end up holding a broken organization with members at each others throat? Of all immigrants we are the ones always congregating together, forming little enclaves, running small businesses, worshiping together and generally hanging out like a family. Why are we unable to build on this tremendous reserve of love for country and culture into a formidable organization that reflects the new us? The ‘us’ that left our home land due to civil war, strife, lack of opportunity and dictatorship and settled in a new land and thrive like no one. We work hard, we are an asset to the organizations we work for, the community we live in, but are totally useless when it comes to associating on a new and higher level as Ethiopians.

ESFNA is our challenge. This should be where we draw the line. It is not about what happened yesterday. It is all about what we can build for tomorrow. This is the best opportunity to create an organization built on solid foundation of transparency, accountability and a promise of serving the community and our country. All the parts are there, it is just a matter of having the will and the stamina to put it together for future generations to enjoy and grow.

We are thankful to those that started the organization. We pay our respects to those that kept it going. Today we are focused on improving on it and making it the power house of good will that it should be. We want it to be an organization that will usher a new model of work based on respect for each other, love for each other and hope for all that look up to us. Obviously we can not do that in Ethiopia. We can start the process here. ESFENA should be our prototype of a superior style of organization building.

The current leadership of the organization should admit that the existing format is not sustainable. It was fine when the outfit was operating in the dark. Well the bright light of public awareness and scrutiny is shining on ESFNA. There are two avenues open to the current leadership. Accept the fact that change is coming and help implement the reforms necessary or continue on the path of denial and see the organization implode from inside. That does not serve anybody’s interest. That only confirms the suspicion some have regarding the lawlessness and bad intentions of the leadership. I don’t want to believe that. I am sure there are plenty that mean well but go along with the culture of thuggery that has been practiced for so long. Let us encourage those that want real change and build on that.

The current crisis is not just about whether Birtukan should be invited or not. That just happened to magnify the ‘bad style’ of work that used to be acceptable. It magnified the festering problem inside the organization. I am sure there are plenty of association that would love to see the Birtukan. No, the issue is how the organization dealt with the question. First of all, this argument of ‘non-profit’ and ‘politics’ has been debunked. Our esteemed lawyers have answered that question. There are no attorneys in the executive body, nor have they brought a written opinion from a law firm to support their mistaken take on the issue. Let us put that view to rest.

Second, ESFNA was unable to show what parliamentary procedure it used to overturn the binding vote taken regarding the invitation. Thus the original decision still stands. As far as we are concerned, the invitation is still on the table and it is up to Birtukan to accept or differ for later time. Our concern is how to reform this organization to serve the interest of the community instead of a few individuals that are focused on running it to line up their pockets and protect outside forces that do not reflect the hopes and aspirations of our people and country.

I believe we should concentrate on two fronts. Number one is the issue of ‘empowering’ the clubs to assume responsibility of representing their supporters in a meaningful manner. The ‘clubs’ are the owners of the organization. The executive body is there to implement the decision made by the clubs. As it stands now, the roles have been reversed. The executive committee is a runaway train with the public and the clubs reduced to shoveling more fuel. This train should be derailed in a controlled fashion. We ask the clubs to take over their rightful place and demand accountability.

The second front is to demand release of all financial statement for the last seven years. Our public accountants should be allowed to comb through the income tax returns and draw up a yearly budget based on past records. This is not a witch hunt, but a sincere attempt to build a successful and proud organization. We hope the current executive body will read the writing on the wall and cooperate in a meaningful manner. The aim should be to build, not destroy; to teach, not punish and forgive but not forget. It is up to the executive body to choose. It is up to the ‘sane and reasonable’ among them to curb the misguided enthusiasm and anger of their comrades.

ESFNA is considered and holds the license to operate as a not-for profit outfit. That designation entitles it to lots of tax benefits so it will fulfill the vision it enumerated in its application. The license demands of it to operate in an open and transparent manner. Holding the not-profit license is a privilege not a right.

Atlanta is going to happen. We should make it clear that we are not going anywhere. Atlanta is where we make our stand. We do not boycott our own wedding. We do not split and form another organization. ‘Teletafi’ is not our cup of tea. We should just insist that democratic, transparent and accountable style of work is the only thing acceptable to the majority. Each and everyone of us should work with the clubs to help them achieve the fruits of their labor. Their success is our success. As you know the vast majority of those that attend the yearly festival are the young ones. We should find a way to involve them in this building process so they will experience the value of a democratic style of association and work habit. It is not going to happen in one session. It is not take roots in one season. Growing a strong organization is hard work. We can vow to start it today.

Ali Mohammed family appalled by U.S. Attorney's decision

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

By Keith L. Alexander | The Washington Posts

Friends and family of Ali Ahmed Mohammed gathered outside the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District on Monday to protest prosecutors’ decision to drop charges against the five men accused of beating Mohammed outside DC9, a popular nightclub.

Mohammed, 27, of Silver Spring, died later at a hospital. Authorities say the District’s medical examiner’s office has not found injuries consistent with a brutal beating.

The men, initially charged with murder, had been scheduled to appear in court today for a preliminary hearing on aggravated assault charges.

Mohammed’s mother, Sashie Bule, carried a sign that read “We want justice now” The sign also had Mohammed’s picture on it. Bule said her son “deserved justice.”

“I need answers,” she said. “I want to know what happened to my son. He didn’t deserve this.”

Police say Mohammed had been denied admission to the club and later came back after closing and threw bricks through the window. Authorities said the five men, who were employees of the club, chased Mohammed, held him down and punched and kicked him.

Mohammed, an Ethiopian immigrant, had worked as a security guard and sandwich maker at a local deli.

Protesters also chanted “Where is the justice America?”

Nunu Waco, Mohammed’s cousin, said her family was “appalled” by the decision by prosecutors to drop the charges.

“Our family deserves better. American citizens deserve better,” she said.

On Friday, when the charges were dropped, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said in a statement that his office needed more information, including a final conclusion by the medical examiner, before moving forward. He said the investigation would continue.

“Our work is not done,” Machen said. “The tragic death of Ali Ahmed Mohammed demands that we undertake a careful and comprehensive investigation to determine precisely how he died. . . . The search for justice cannot be rushed, and we will continue to pursue an active and vigorous inquiry.”

Inside the office of 555 4th St. NW, employees were seen gathered at the windows of their offices looking out at the protesters. Some employees, lowered the blinds. After the 45-minute demonstration, the protesters marched to the Justice Department to hold a similar protest.

EU released final report on the May 2010 Ethiopian election

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

The EU mission released a 41-page report today in which it stated that the May 2010 elections in Ethiopia did not meet international standards. The report is an impeachment of the Meles regime as illegitimate that has no mandate to govern. Members of the mission were denied visa by Meles to enter Ethiopia this week where they had planned to present report. Read the report below:

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) was present in Ethiopia from 14 April to 21 June 2010, following invitations from the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). The EU EOM was led by Mr. Thijs Berman, Member of the European Parliament. The Mission deployed 170 observers from 25 European Union Member States, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Canada to all the country’s regions to assess the electoral process against international and regional commitments for elections as well as the laws of Ethiopia. The EU EOM is independent in its findings and conclusions and adheres to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation commemorated at the United Nations in October 2005. On Election Day, EU EOM observers visited 815 polling stations in every region of Ethiopia to observe voting and counting… [read the full text here]

Honoring victims of the November 2005 Massacre

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Statement by The Alliance for Liberty, Equality and Justice in Ethiopia

November 7, 2010 is the 5th anniversary of the November Massacre, a massacre in which over 200 innocent Ethiopians were brutally killed and thousands more were wounded. We are a forward- looking nation of hope, but as much as we want to be a forward-looking people, in the month of November, Alliance for Liberty, Equality & Justice in Ethiopia (ALEJE), urges all Ethiopians to look back and reflect on the sacrifice of men and women who gave their life for the freedom of our people and great nation. ALEJE also emphasizes that as we remember our heroes; let us not think of them as everyday people who once lived and died. Let us remember that each one of the victims was an individual with a sense of prosperity and a dream of living a fulfilled life, but chose to make great sacrifice so that Ethiopians can live with freedom and democracy.

Those brave men and woman knew very well that a demonstration against Zenawi’s brutal regime could cost them their life, but without freedom, they believed that their life was worth giving for the freedom of the rest of the Ethiopian people. The November Heroes were true givers who sacrificed their life for others in a country where political sycophants always sacrifice principle to hold on to their ill gotten position of power. This November, our thoughts and prayers should go out for these heroes and to all past victims of Zenawi’s brutal regime as we continue to commemorate November 2005’s memories. Those brave men and women were robbed of their futures, but they gave us love, peace, and the hope of a better tomorrow.

On that “Cold” November day, death rate on the streets of our nation’s capital and elsewhere in Ethiopia soared as the fearless torches of democracy stood face to face with a the blazing guns of a brute force unleashed by the fascistic and ethnocentric regime of Meles Zenawi. We must raise the torch of these fallen heroes and carry it all the way to victory. While we grieve for the fallen and as we start the month long commemoration events worldwide, we must never forget the urgency and the magnitude of the tasks ahead of us.

As we pay homage to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in lives and limbs for our freedom, there is a debt that must also be paid; and there is only one choice and one path ahead to pay this debt. Our choice is freedom and the path to freedom knows no surrender or submission. So, as we take few minutes during this busy month and solemnly remember and thank our patriots, here are few things that they want us to do from now onwards:

* The victims of the November massacre lived and died to ensure freedom and democracy for the people of Ethiopia. Let’s honor their sacrifices by living a life worthy of the ultimate price that they paid and worthy of us Ethiopians, to make a resolution to ourselves to live a life of liberty and justice;

* To be part of the struggle for freedom and equality, it is imperative that every person joins ALEJE, any of the ALEJE member organizations, or any other democratic organization of his/her choosing. Liberty Equality and justice in Ethiopia could only be attained through organized struggle. Therefore, let us all be organized in the various organizations of our choice;

* Let us resolve to ensure that everything we do [our actions] and everything we don’t do [our in-actions] must help the struggle in Ethiopia;

* The media—Local radios, shortwave radios, and ESAT- has the power to influence the lives of millions of ordinary people who are fighting tooth and nail against the brutal dictatorial regime of Meles Zenawi. Therefore, helping all pro-democracy media outlets constantly is an integral part of the struggle for freedom and justice to prevail in Ethiopia;

* Every member of the Ethiopian Diaspora must join the diplomatic part of the struggle and influence their elected representatives not to use the tax payers’ money to support and prop a brutal and corrupt dictatorship in Ethiopia;

* We usually condemn donor nations for financing dictatorship in Ethiopia, but we ourselves are party to financing the TPLF dictatorship by using their companies and formal channels when transferring funds to our relatives and friends in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Diaspora transfers more than $3.2 billion annually to Ethiopia through both formal and informal channels such as banks and money transfer institutions. Through formal channels–money transfer and banks– the regime gets more than 1.2 billion annually in foreign currency. It is our moral duty to help our relatives who are neglected by the regime, but let’s never and ever use the TPLF companies and formal channels such as banks and money transfer institutions around the world so that the foreign exchange does not get into the TPLF coffers to further strengthen its repressive state apparatus and used to prop the instruments of repression by and corruption of the dictatorial regime in Ethiopia. We therefore call on all Ethiopians in Diaspora to find creative ways and means of sending remittance to friends and families in Ethiopia;

* The Ethiopian Diaspora must stand as one person and speak in one voice to foil TPLF’s design and campaign to control Churches, Mosques, and civil society organizations in the Diaspora.

The struggle of the Ethiopian people for Liberty, Equality and Justice shall triumph!

Contact address:

Dirty secret of USAID and other int'l aid agencies

Monday, November 8th, 2010

By William Easterly

The international aid system has a dirty secret. Despite much rhetoric to the contrary, the nations and organizations that donate and distribute aid do not care much about democracy and they still actively support dictators. The conventional narrative is that donors supported dictators only during the cold war and ever since have promoted democracy. This is wrong. … As for US foreign aid, despite all the brave pronouncements… more than half the aid budget still went to dictators during the most recent five years for which figures are available (2004–2008). … And there are still modern-day counterparts to Mobutu and Bokassa. Paul Biya, the dictator of Cameroon, is marking his twenty-eighth year in power in 2010 by receiving the latest in a never-ending series of loans from the International Monetary Fund with imaginative labels like “Poverty Reduction Growth Facilities.” Biya, whose government also enjoys ample oil revenues, has received a total of $35 billion in foreign aid during his reign. There’s been neither poverty reduction nor growth in his country: the average Cameroonian is poorer today than when Biya took power in 1982. In February 2008, Biya’s security forces killed one hundred people during a demonstration against food price increases and also against a constitutional amendment that will extend his rule to 2018. Many of the victims were “apparently shot in the head at point-blank range.” The IMF justification for the newest loan in June 2009 noted laconically that these “social tensions” have not recurred and “the political situation is stable.” Helen Epstein recently described in these pages the support that aid donors give to Ethiopia’s tyrant Meles Zenawi, who has roughly matched Biya in aid receipts in a shorter period of time… [continue reading here]

Hitting Woyanne where it hurts the most

Monday, November 8th, 2010

As Ethiopians around the world gathered over the weekend to remember those who were gunned down by Meles Zenawi’s death squads following the May 2005 election, Judge Frehiwot Samuel, Dr Berhanu Nega and others have asked how long are we going to allow ourselves to be victims? When are we going to start holding the perpetrators of gross injustice in our country accountable?

Ethiopians are facing an enemy that is armed and financed to its teeth by the US, EU, and their financial arms, the World Bank, IMF, DFID, and USAID to the tune of $3 billion per year. Ironically, the same amount of money is flowing into Woyanne coffers from Ethiopians in the Diaspora [read here]. It is therefore pertinent to ask why are we complaining about the money flowing from the World Bank and others to Woyanne while we Ethiopians are doing the same thing? We all know that Meles and gang (Woyanne) cannot survive one month in power without the foreign aid and Diaspora remittance. The hard currency from these sources are Woyanne’s life blood.

This question was one of main themes of this month’s 5th anniversary of the Ethiopian election massacre remembrance events around the world.

Ethiopian Review, in collaboration with other Ethiopian media, will delve into this issue deeper and challenge Ethiopians in the Diaspora to come up with an answer. To start with, please read the following summary of a study paper presented by a civic action study group that was formed recently to come up with recommendations [an Amharic version will be made available shortly]:

Ethiopia’s Diaspora and the Moral Hazards of Remittances

Drying up fuel that is feeding the Meles dictatorship

Presented by Ethiopian Civic Action Study Group

For the past 20 years, the Ethiopian people have suffered from repressive political governance and an exploitative economic system that have offered immense wealth and assets to members of the ruling party, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), its core membership, its puppets, allies and endowments. Remittances have become a major source of foreign exchange and firms and individuals involved in its transactions continue to benefit.

The first big wave of the Ethiopian Diaspora that established permanence abroad begun because of repression, factional onslaughts, civil wars and unbearable conditions in the country. This wave consisted mostly of professionals, civil servants, military leaders and personnel, students and political opponents to the Socialist Dictatorship. It was the beginning of what one would call the de-institutionalization of the country and the erosion of its social capital. This phenomenon of the emergence of Ethiopia’s Diaspora continued with a second wave in 1991 when TPLF took power.

The single most important variable that drove the next wave of Ethiopia’s social capital, especially those with tertiary and advanced education: professionals, technical personnel, military officers and leaders, business women and men was ethnic-federalism and ethnic division. The TPLF virtually made it impossible for national and democratic leaning persons to work and live in the country. In other words, both the first and second waves of immigrants were caused primarily by political conditions in the home country. Immigration in search of economic and social opportunities is a recent phenomenon for Ethiopians. The second wave was supported by relaxations in entry requirements among favored countries such as the United States and member countries of the European Union, Canada, New Zealand and Australia among others. The United States begun to issue Diversity visas that attracts a steady stream of Ethiopian individuals and families. Further, Ethiopians found other homes in developing countries in Africa and the Middle East. Today, Ethiopians live and work not only in Western countries but also in Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, South Africa, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates and others.

It is reasonable to estimate that at the end of 2010, the number in the Diaspora to exceeds 1.5 million. This estimate includes individuals who are undocumented. For the purpose of gauging remittances, one can assume the single most important driver, namely the outflow and descendants of Ethiopian immigrants to be substantial and increasing at a steady pace.

One of the most interesting features of the Ethiopian Diaspora—a feature also shared by other African immigrants–is that 84 percent possess at least a high school education and 29.5 percent have college degrees. Before 1974, there was only one known Ethiopian physician living and working overseas. The World Bank’s Migration and Remittances Fact Book shows that at least 29.7 percent of Ethiopian trained physicians have left the country since 1991 and continue to leave each year. The proportion of nurses and other professionals who leave the country is at least the same or higher. Where ever they live and work, Ethiopians have proven to be a model immigrant community in almost all sectors of economic, spiritual and cultural life across the globe. These attributes mean that employability is better and incomes more secure than for others. There is resiliency in remittances. However, self-sufficiency and self reliance and creating communities and institutions abroad come at a huge cost for the country in the form of massive brain-drain. No matter how one may try to put a positive spin on the subject, no amount of remittances could possibly compensate for this massive brain-drain on the country’s capacity and development. All experts in development not with dismay that Ethiopia’s well trained, educated and experienced human capital resides overseas and this affects the country’s rapid, inclusive and sustainable growth and development.

How are remittances deployed by recipients?

One is obliged to accept the notion that individuals have moral obligation and the right to remit monies in support of families, relatives, friends and organizations committed to social and economic causes. Ideally, remittances could meet an investment gap in importing goods and services not available domestically and therefore enhance domestic productivity and services. There is another compelling point augmenting these pro-remittance views. It strengthens freedoms and enables access to opportunities for recipients. Given wide spread repression and human rights violations in Ethiopia, freedoms and access to economic and social opportunities are heavily curtailed. The survey based data findings in Ethiopia counter the widely held view that remittances would have impact on society by reducing poverty levels. It is this view that compels development groups to support immigration and remittances. They suggest that remittances fill an important investment gap by mobilizing foreign exchange from the Diaspora and channeling them into productive activities. In some countries such as China, Ghana and India, remittances play developmental roles. Evidence shows that these countries have lifted millions out of poverty. Remittances support good economic policies and management. Foreign exchange from remittances and or local currency equivalents are invested heavily and consistently into productive enterprises such as commercial farms, manufacturing and social infrastructure such as school, clinics, hospitals and roads and services. In the case of Ethiopia, there is no substantial evidence that shows relationships between remittances and investments in socially meaningful activities and productive enterprises that reduce poverty, increase incomes and substantially boost sustainable growth and development and generate significant employment opportunities.

What then are the issues?

Those who are skeptical about the prudent developmental and poverty reducing impacts of remittances in Ethiopia accept the principle that members of the Diaspora have moral obligation and responsibility to help family, relatives, friends and organizations by remitting monies. There is no indication or argument that anyone should be asked not to remit. The issue is how remittances can and should be transmitted. The how is buffeted by a number of substantive points. First, the foreign exchange remitted fortifies single party dictatorship. The leadership uses foreign exchange to purchase weapons and other tools of control. Second, given wide-spread corruption in the country, foreign exchange is routinely and illicitly taken out of the country for private use. This deprives communities and the country from using foreign exchange for development and reduction of poverty. Third, there is ample evidence to show that remittances, foreign aid and FDI induce unacceptable level of inequality. Fourth, the ruling party channels foreign exchange to party owned and endowed enterprises. The national prominence of enterprises such as EFFORT, which manages numerous firms under it, is a consequence of its favored status. Easier access of foreign exchange is a manifestation of such privileged status.

It is these arguments that suggest redirecting as much of the remittances as possible through informal channels with a view of depriving the ruling party free and unbridled access to the Diaspora’s hard earned foreign exchange. In this regard, it is reasonable to ask what difference rechanneling or redirecting would bring when the government has accesses to foreign aid, FDI and remittances from those who support the ruling party. Here, the amounts of remittances sent through formal and informal channels might tell the story of why redirecting, as part of an overall sustained approach, might have some effect in changing government policy. Let us first explore volume.

Official remittances inflows provided to the World Bank by Ethiopian officials show a steady rise in remittances from 2003 to present, with a sharp drop from a peak of US$386.7 in 2008 to US$301.1, a decline of US$85.6 million. For a country like Ethiopia, this is a substantial loss, largely driven by the financial and economic crises in developed countries. Given the contradictory figures from various sources and the low level figures from the National Bank, it is highly probable that official remittances are underestimated by hundreds of millions each year. In contrast to official remittances inflow reported by the World Bank, whose source is the National Bank of Ethiopia, other sources report higher figures. It may be reasonable to hypothesize that drop in remittances would require additional foreign aid, while rise in remittances would not necessarily result in reducing aid dependency. It is clear from this concern of possible decline and from the government’s continued courting of the Diaspora that remittances played a huge role in supporting the government’s needs for predictable foreign exchange resources. The figure of official remittance of US$1.2 billion in 2008 is the most credible that one can and should assume. In the event, the combined informal or unofficial of a low of two times the official amount would mean close to US$3.6 billion. In light of the financial and economic crisis, this figure may still be too high. However, it is reasonable to assume that informal or non-official remittances are at least twice official remittances. With the above conservative assumption, the total amount of remittances of US$3.6 billion per year since 2008 is reasonable. This is a huge amount and exceeds net foreign aid and export earnings. In light of these estimations and various reports from independent experts as well as conversations with numerous Ethiopians over the past few years, figures provided to the World Bank are said to be very low and not realistic. When one combines remittances sent via official and informal channels, the amounts are substantial enough that the country should be doing better if these resources were used for the sole purpose of boosting productivity, stimulating the private sector and generating income earning opportunities for recipients and others.

The Ethiopian Diaspora has effectively replaced foreign aid as the single most important sources of foreign exchange and investments funds for the Ethiopian government. The sharp decline in inflows that begun in the second quarter of 2008 and continued in the second quarter of 2009 , may be an ominous sign. However, it does not tell us the whole story. Informal remittance amounts may be more resilient than amounts sent through normal channels. In the event, asking the Diaspora to channel its monies through informal or non-official channels is a sellable proposition. Like other immigrants, Ethiopians have a tendency to save more and send more to families, friends and other recipients when times are tough back home. Nevertheless, one would be hard pressed to dismiss the impact of the financial and economic crisis on the amount of remittances to Ethiopia through both official and informal channels.

In summary, it is against the backdrop of endemic poverty, hunger, aid dependency, illicit outflow of funds, massive migration and repressive governance that one must gauge and assess the role and impacts of remittances on Ethiopian society and explore the options available to the Diaspora in leveraging this substantial capital resources in pursuit and support of equitable, inclusive, rapid and sustainable growth and development. The vast majority of one and half million Ethiopians scattered around the globe make every effort to assist close family, relatives, friends and those in need in one form or another. Some invest in corporations and non-governmental organizations committed to the reduction of poverty, especially in the social sectors. In general, members of the Diaspora try to make sure that they share whatever they can afford with the people they left behind. They send huge amounts of remittances through official and non-official channels. While their intent is genuine assistance to families, relatives, friends, those in dire need and various organizations, the Ethiopian government considers this large and relatively well to do Diaspora as an important source of scarce foreign exchange. The ruling-party, on its part, has not lived up to the expectations of the Ethiopian people. Corruption, rent-seeking activities, embezzlements, diversion of financial resources, illicit outflows of funds, endemic poverty, hunger, high inflation, unemployment and hopelessness continue to persist. Billions of dollars in foreign aid have yet to free Ethiopian society from depths of poverty and heavy dependency. The Prime Minister himself acknowledged that “rent-seeking behavior” is no longer acceptable. Yet, it is government policy that has allowed this condition to envelope the entire society with no end in sight. The country is more dependent than at any time in its long history. NGOS are wide-spread with little impact in alleviating poverty.

Approaching the issue with wisdom

Remittances perform humanitarian, social and economic functions. This notion should not be in dispute at all. Hating the ruling party is one thing; but punishing the Ethiopian people is another matter. One needs to make a clear and careful distinction between the two. In an ideal situation of which the Ethiopian case is not a part, Ethiopia’s Diaspora could have played a critical role in the development process, not so much because it has money, but that it has a stock of knowledge and skills that are transferable. However, at the moment, the political environment does not allow most members of the Diaspora to use their intellectual and other social capital in the advancement of their country. So, remittances to family, relatives and friends are morally and socially defensible. Remittances save lives. Remittances supplement incomes and meet day-to-day necessities. It will be political suicide for the Diaspora to ask anyone not to remit monies in support of families, relatives, friends and organizations that support noble causes in the country. Redirecting remittances through non-official and non-formal channels might be defensible as long as the remitters and the recipients are not affected adversely.

If remittances are not sent through non-formal and non-official channels, monies will be used to bolster the ruling party and its allies. If one agrees that the ruling party is repressive, oppressive, uncaring, cruel, discriminatory, corrupt, nepotistic, unchanging and un-representative, then, transfer of remittances through official channels does not make social, economic or political sense. Remittances provide the ruling party with one of the most vital tools in enhancing its arsenal of repression and in diverting foreign exchange illicitly. The same is true of foreign aid and FDI. It is for these reasons that other instruments of informal voluntary transfer must be explored carefully and imaginatively. The ruling party must not benefit from the Diaspora’s moral obligation to help family, relatives and friends or other worthwhile causes. It is possible to do both: deny the ruling party foreign exchange while meeting the social and moral obligation to help. The challenge for those who oppose the ruling party’s malpractices in governance is to deny it the requisite tools as much and as far as possible without harming those who deserve support. In any case, for redirecting of remittances to make any sense, it must be part of a sustained strategy and not a solitary one.

Ethiopia: Remember the Slaughter of November (2005)!

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Cruel November

November is a cruel month. Bleak, woeful, and grim is the month of November in the melancholy verse of Thomas Hood:

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member–
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,

And no justice for the hundreds massacred in Ethiopia in November (2005).
No redress for the countless men, women and children shot and wounded and left for dead.
No apologies for the tens of thousands illegally imprisoned.
No restitution for survivors or the families of the dead.
No trace of those who disappeared.
No atonement for the crimes of November.
No absolution for the slaughter of November.
November is to remember.

How Does One Remember the Slaughter of November?

Elie Wiesel, a Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, said we remember the innocent victims of evil by bearing witness for them.

For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time. The witness has forced himself to testify. For the youth of today, for the children who will be born tomorrow. He does not want his past to become their future.

For the past three years, I have chosen to bear witness for the hundreds of massacre victims of dictator Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia.[1] Wherever evil triumphs, all of humanity is victimized. I have never met any one of the massacre victims of June and November 2005, but that does not matter. I remember each and every one of them. So I bear witness once more on behalf of Tensae Zegeye, age 14; Habtamu Tola, age 16; Binyam Degefa, age 18; Behailu Tesfaye, age 20; Kasim Ali Rashid, age 21. Teodros Giday Hailu, age 23. Adissu Belachew, age 25; Milion Kebede Robi, age 32; Desta Umma Birru, age 37; Tiruwork G. Tsadik, age 41; Elfnesh Tekle, age 45. Abebeth Huletu, age 50; Regassa Feyessa, age 55; Teshome Addis Kidane, age 65; Victim No. 21762, age 75, female, and Victim No. 21760, male, age unknown and hundreds more shot and killed or wounded while protesting stolen elections.[2] Once again, I point an accusatory finger at the policemen who pulled the trigger, the invisible hands that pulled the fingers of the policemen who pulled the trigger and the mastermind who orchestrated the whole bloody carnage.

Police Riots: Understanding the True Scope of the Massacres in 2005

There are two astonishing facts about the massacres of June and November, 2005. The first is that the policemen sent out to contain the “disturbances” literally had a riot shooting up anything that moved in the streets. The second is the manifest undercount of the actual fatalities and casualties of the massacres. When an Inquiry Commission was established by Zenawi under Proclamation 478/2005 to investigate post-election “disturbances”, its investigation of incidents was limited to specific dates and places, namely: violence that occurred on June 8, 2005 in Addis Ababa and 2) violence that occurred from November 1 to 10, 2005 and from November 14 to 16, 2005 in identified locations in Addis Ababa and other specifically designated towns and cities outside the capital.

In public presentations, Inquiry Commission Chairman Judge Frehiwot Samuel has indicated that the Commission’s charge prevented it from including evidence of casualties and fatalities that occurred in close proximity to the dates and places set forth in the Proclamation. There is little doubt that a full and comprehensive investigation of the post-election “disturbances” in 2005 would reveal casualty and fatality figures that are many times the number reported in the Commission’s report.

In its investigation, the Inquiry Commission examined 16,990 documents, and received testimony form 1,300 witnesses. Commission members visited prisons and hospitals, and interviewed members of the regime’s officialdom over several months. In the end, the Commission determined[3] that the police shot and killed 193 persons and wounded 763 others on the specific dates and in the specific places identified in the Proclamation. Further, the Commission documented that on November 3, 2005, during an alleged disturbance in Kality prison that lasted 15 minutes, prison guards fired more than 1500 bullets into inmate housing units leaving 17 dead, and 53 severely wounded. Commission Chairman Judge Frehiwot commented: “Many people were killed arbitrarily. Old men were killed while in their homes, and children were also victims of the attack while playing in the garden.” Over 30,000 civilians were arrested without warrant and held in detention.

By an 8-2 vote, the Commission made specific factual conclusions about the “disturbances”: 1) The persons killed or wounded during the violence were unarmed protesters. “There was not a single protester who was armed with a gun or a hand grenade (as reported by the government-controlled media that some of the protesters were armed with guns and bombs)”. 2) The shots fired by government forces into crowds of protesters were not intended to disperse but to kill by targeting the head and chest of the protesters. 3) There was no evidence that any security officers involved in the shootings were attacked or killed by the demonstrators: “Security forces which are alleged to be killed by demonstrators were not taken to autopsy, even there is no evidence of either photograph or death certificate showing the reason of death and couldn’t be produced for police as opposed to that of civilians.”

There is a Certified List of 237 Killers in the Massacres of 2005

In 2008, a “think tank that met regularly at the Ethiopian Embassy in London” commissioned an “internal security study” to counter criticism by various international human rights organizations following the 2005 elections. In a report entitled “Modernizing Internal Security in Ethiopia”[4] (see fn. 4 for copy of original study), counterterrorism expert Col. Michael Dewar, British Army (Rtd.) revealed some shocking facts about the federal police, detention facilities and riot control capabilities and procedures in Ethiopia. One of the most surprising facts revealed by Col. Dewars was the existence of a certified list of policemen involved in the massacres. Col. Dewars stated in his report that “after three hours of one to one conversation”, Werkneh Gebeyehu, the Director General of the Ethiopian Federal Police, told him that “As a direct result of the 2005 riots, he [had] sacked 237 policemen.” The Director General’s admission to Col. Dewars conclusively establishes the existence of a list of names of at least 275 policemen who are prime suspects in the massacres of unarmed protesters in June and November of 2005. These criminals must be brought to justice immediately for prosecution on charges of murder and crimes against humanity.

Understanding the Historic Significance of the Massacres of June and November, 2005

On March 21, 1960, South African police without provocation slaughtered 69 unarmed black protesters in the township of Sharpeville and wounded 180, exposing the savagery of the apartheid system for the world to see. In 2005, security forces loyal to Meles Zenawi slaughtered 193 unarmed protesters and wounded 763 others. As the Ethiopian protesters were “targeted in the head and chest” and shot, as documented by the Inquiry Commission, nearly all of the black South Africans in Sharpeville were shot in the back as they tried to flee the scene. The Sharpeville incident played a decisive role in the ultimate dismantling of apartheid rule in South Africa over three decades later.

Sharpeville and the massacres in Ethiopia were not random events. Both the apartheid and Zenawi’s regimes used cold blooded massacres as a deliberate tactic to ruthlessly crush and wipe out all political opposition. It was their way of saying that they will do anything to stay in power. The Sharpeville massacre was intended to “teach the kaffirs a lesson” they will not forget. Zenawi intended to teach his opposition a lesson they will not forget by indiscriminately massacring men, women and children in the streets or in their homes, as the Inquiry Commission has documented. It was a deliberate and calculated act designed to break the backbone of the opposition and make sure that no opposition will ever rise again.

It is characteristic of dictatorships to massacre their opposition as a demonstration of strength. History, however, shows that massacres are often manifestations of weakness, vulnerability and fear of popular uprising by oppressive regimes. South Africans were not intimidated by the Sharpeville massacre; they came out in full force to challenge the pass laws in every major city in South Africa as the masters of apartheid unleashed unspeakable violence against them. Sharpeville caused the apartheid regime to intensify its repression by tightening the pass laws (pass books required for black South Africans to travel within their country) and rigidly enforcing regulations to keep black South Africans in the Bantustans (black African “homelands” or “reservations”). Sharpeville also stoked the imagination of black South African youth and energized and inspired all freedom-loving South Africans to fight against apartheid with determination.

Following the 2005 elections, Zenawi went on a rampage. He jailed nearly all of the leading opposition leaders, civic society organizers, human rights advocates and journalists in the country on trumped up treason charges. He passed “laws” clamping down on independent journalists and newspapers and criminalized civil society institutions. Zenawi even jailed and put in prolonged solitary confinement Birtukan Midekssa, a young woman — indeed a highly respected former judge, learned lawyer and a much admired and loved opposition leader — openly and unequivocally committed to peaceful change and constitutional governance. A few months ago, Zenawi declared he had won the election by 99.6 percent.
Sharpeville marked a defining moment in the South African struggle for liberation from apartheid. The June and November massacres (and many others that have yet to be investigated) will in the same way mark a watershed in the march towards democracy and resistance to dictatorship in Ethiopia.

One of the most important lessons of Sharpeville is the role that massacre played in mobilizing international support for ending the apartheid regime. It was after Sharpeville that international efforts to isolate and sanction the apartheid regime began to roll unstoppably. Sharpeville gave the first signal to the foreign investors that apartheid is no longer tenable and a transition to majority rule absolutely necessary. Shortly after Sharpeville, foreign investors pulled out tens of millions of dollars out of South Africa draining that country’s reserves and bringing the economy to the verge of collapse. In the years that followed, as more countries adopted trade and financial sanctions and significant amounts of foreign investments began to be withdrawn from South Africa, it became clear to the apartheid regime that political change was inevitable and it had to accept majority rule.

End the Culture of Impunity: Demand an ICC Investigation into the Massacres of November, 2005

There is an entrenched and pervasive culture of impunity in Ethiopia as I have written previously[5]. Gross and widespread abuses of human rights are perpetrated without so much as a preliminary investigation being done to identify and hold the criminals accountable. Those in power feel that they can commit any act or crime and get away with it. The leaders of the ruling regime believe they are above the law, indeed they are the law. This culture of impunity must end, and a new civic culture based on strict observance of the rule of law must be instituted.

There is much to be learned about accountability from the recent history of a neighboring country. In the 2007 presidential election in Kenya, over 1,500 people were killed. Over 300,000 people were displaced as a result of the violence. The Waki Commission which investigated the violence fingered some high level government officials as prime suspects in the perpetration of the violence. The Waki Report which was passed on to Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), identified 19 politicians on a list of 219 alleged perpetrators including six cabinet ministers of the Kibaki government for possible prosecution for crimes against humanity.

ICC investigations cannot be initiated at the request of private parties. The ICC Prosecutor could initiate investigations only if he receives a referral from States or the U.N. Security Council. He could also initiate an investigation on his own. Despite the procedural hurdles, an organized and sustained demand for an investigation by the Prosecutor’s office could play a decisive role in persuading Moreno-Ocampo to consider launching a comprehensive inquiry into the massacres of 2005 in Ethiopia.

Immortalizing the Victims of Police Riots in Ethiopia

In November 2005, hundreds of Ethiopian men, women and children paid with their lives for the causes of freedom, democracy and human rights. Truth be told, the world does not remember the massacres of June and November, 2005. That is in good part because many of us in the Diaspora have done a poor job of remembering them ourselves and publicizing their cause and creating awareness worldwide. Thanks to so many dedicated individuals and groups that is changing. In this month of November, Ethiopians the world over are commemorating the 5th anniversary of Ethiopian election massacres.

The Ethiopian massacre victims now belong to the whole of humanity. They must be remembered by all freedom-loving peoples throughout the world, not just Ethiopians. In the U.S., we often hear members of Congress delivering stirring floor speeches in remembrance of massacres that took place half way across the globe. We have seen official proclamations and statements in memoriam for massacre victims in remote corners of the world. We have even read statements issued by U.S. Presidents reflecting on the historic significance of such events. American newspapers report on massacres that took place decades ago; houses of worship offer special prayers and even school children do special memorial projects in remembrance of massacre victims in different parts of the world. Perhaps next year, we may be able to do more things that will help create greater international awareness of the crimes against humanity that were committed in Ethiopia in June and November, 2005. By remembering the atrocities and spreading word about gross human rights abuses in Ethiopia, we not only keep alive the memory of the innocent victims of 2005 but also hasten the day when the criminals will be brought to justice.

Defining Moments: A Personal Reflection on the Slaughter of 2005

It seems to me that in the course of human events, most people face their own “defining moments”. Often that “moment” is a point in time when we gain a certain clarity about things that may have eluded us in the past or cloud our judgment. These moments are often random events beyond our control but define us as the persons we truly are. They come to us in the form of a choice: to be or not to be; to do or not to do; to speak up or not to speak up. By making the right choice we define the moment; and by making the wrong choice or not choosing at all, we allow the moment to define us. Frehiwot Samuel, Woldemichael Meshesha and Mitiku Teshome had their defining moments when they completed their report in 2006. They could have turned in a whitewash and received riches from Zenawi beyond their imagination. They chose to carry the truth into exile at extraordinary risk to their lives and began uncertain futures in foreign lands. When the modern history of Ethiopia is written, their names will be listed at the very top for displaying courage under fire, audacity in the face of despair, bravery in the face of personal danger, and unflinching fortitude in the face of extreme adversity. We can only thank them. “Never have so many owed so much to so few!”

Tyrants also have their defining moments and their lasting legacy for which they will be remembered in history. Adolf Hitler will be remembered for the Holocaust. Pol Pot will be the eternal symbol of the killing fields of Cambodia; and Saddam Hussien’s name will live infamy for his poison gas massacre in Halabja. Omar Bashir of Sudan, an indicted war criminal, will be remembered (and one day face face prosecution in the International Criminal Court) for this his genocidal campaigns against the Fur, Marsalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups in Darfur. Mengistu Hailemariam, the former military dictator in Ethiopia, will be remembered for his ruthless Red Terror campaign; and Meles Zenawi will forever be defined by the massacres of June and November, 2005 and many others that history will reveal.

The massacres of June and November 2005 were defining moments for me as an individual. I had to make a choice. The easy thing for me to do at the time was to shake my head in disbelief, cover my eyes in horror, roll my eyes in disgust and purse my lips in sorrow and move on to something else. That would have been tantamount to capitulating to evil and turning a blind eye to monstrous crimes committed against innocent human beings in my native homeland. My other choice was to muster the energy and courage to stand up and speak up against the personification of pure evil. I now live by the timeless maxim: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.” Affirmatively stated, I believe all that is necessary to triumph over evil is for all good men, women and young people to do something.

The slaughter of 2005 must be made a warning to each new generation of Ethiopians of what happens when human rights are abused, the rule of law trashed, democracy trampled and freedom crushed. To paraphrase Elie Weisel, we must seek justice for the victims of yesterday not only because it is the right thing to do, but also to protect the youth of today, and the children who will be born tomorrow from similar injustice and wrong. We do not want the past to become the future of our children and grandchildren. That is why all of the criminals responsible for the 2005 massacre must be held accountable. Delaying justice to the Ethiopian massacre victims is to invite the harsh verdict of history upon ourselves and future generations: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”


[1]  ;

OLF leadership calls for a united front

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

By Hunde Dhugassa

Senior OLF diplomat and the current head of OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) Diplomacy for The European Chamber, Dr. Shigux Geleta, has reaffirmed his organization’s commitment for partnership and called for united front against the TPLF dictatorship in Ethiopia.

Speaking at the Workshop Organized by Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) from 28-29th October 2010 RISC, Reading in United Kingdom, Dr. Shigux has praised the SMNE for helping organizations with different political outlook to engage in dialogue and discussed the effort of OLF in creating different form of political partnership which dates back to the formation of Transitional Government in Ethiopia, the 2000 Paris Conference and the recent 2006 achievement in the formation of AFD (Alliance for Democracy).

He also discussed the nature of Ethiopian state, how TPLF managed to establish its political hegemony, the economy, human right situation and the way forward. He talked about the biased understanding of OLF by some Pan Ethiopianists who still remain in their traditional juxtaposition of individual versus collective rights in which case they uphold the first while rejecting the latter.

He explained, be the liberal theory as it may be, in reality there is no individual without certain basic social traits such as language, social habit, custom and ways of life, to say the least. This means by virtue of the fact that a human individual is brought up by a certain family under a given social structure in a certain way, he is already a social animal. His individuality is inseparable from that social environment in which he/she is brought up. Therefore, an individual can never be considered to be an atom whose identity is immaterial irrespective of time and space. Had it not been the case, there would not also be Ethipianness “Ethiopiawinet” for this Ethiopiawinet is anchored in a certain collective identity. So for liberal Ethiopians it would be self-contradictory in terms to uphold Ethiopiawinet and deny the social character of an individual at the same time. As much as Ethiopiawinet is the social source of nourishment for the individual, the individuals are the perpetrators or the agents of Ethiopiawinet. So there is no way to mutually separate the individual from the social and vice-versa. [Read full text of the speech here.]

What is more, his paper on “Current political affairs from OLF’s perspective” on the forum organized by Horn Of African Solidarity Group on 22 of May 2010 in Frankfurt, Germany [read here] has attracted tremendous audience across Europe. Dr. Shigux have explained the absurd reality on the ground in the Horn of Africa due to the TPLF dictatorship and called for the much needed partnership to tackle the ever growing trait posed by the one man rule in Ethiopia. He also briefly discussed the damages caused by the regime on power on democracy, land, people and its environment.

As a conclusion he said, the Meles regime will certainly fall sooner or later as a result of its own policies. Its fall, however, could be hastened, said Dr. Shigux, if all forces opposing the regime cooperate with one another on the bases of mutual interest and equality.

(The writer can be reached at

Resolving the ESFNA impasse

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

By Fekade Shewakena

Almost every year there appears to be some ritual around the Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA) of creating a dust up, on issues big and small. I have always found myself on the side of the Federation and defended it to the best of my ability. I did so, like many others, largely because I respect ESFNA as one institution that has survived multiple intra-community rancors to become the only long standing good Ethiopian Diaspora institution we ever succeeded in creating. None of the controversies ESFNA faced so far however, rise to the magnitude I am observing now around the accusation that it reversed its own democratically made decision to invite Birtukan Mideksa as its official 2011 guest of honor. Unless we do a reasoned and civilized discussion and solve this impasse and if we keep digging our heels on all sides, I am afraid this one could end up being the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Already, I came across some Ethiopians who are planning on a huge cultural festival in Washington DC during the same week that ESFNA’s is to be held. We will be making a tragic mistake if we hurt this long standing organization by either diminishing its usefulness or break it up altogether. A good part of the responsibility sits on the Federation. The suggestion that the debate is driven by tabloids, as the recent statement from the Board states, underestimates the community’s knowledge and concerns. We all know a widespread wave is developing. Let’s reverse it.

I assigned myself the role of a shimagille and took some time to do some research to look at the facts before making any accusation or suggestion. Like a good shimagille, I will put the facts as I see them, and in the best traditions of our Shimgillina, I will make my suggestions for a remedy in clear language. I will keep an open mind to be corrected and informed if I am mistaken. I want ESFNA to be stronger and live longer and I want to keep supporting my Maryland teams every year. Far more importantly, I also want the events ESFNA holds annually to be, enjoyable, lively and live up to its motto of “bringing Ethiopians together”. Holding the annual event is not an end in itself. Nothing may stop the Board from holding the Atlanta event in 2011, but it is possible that it can hold it without “bringing Ethiopians together”.

I have tried to straddle both sides of the argument without flunking the facts and the substance. I see a lot of over explaining of the problem from both sides of the argument. But more often than not, the explanations veer way out of the core issue of contention and confound the misunderstanding even more. ESFNA’s official press releases and statements were more of defensive and fail all tests of our past experiences with it. It is not helping us, its supporters, or itself. Some accusations against the Board and its members were in many cases over the top and, in my view, should be replaced with more reasoned debate.

One thing that I clearly came to understand as I tried to study the problem is that all the members of the Board are admirers of Birtukan Mideksa as a person, particularly as a young woman, who made sacrifice to fight for freedom and justice in our tormented country. I have found out that even some among those who are accused of being on the side of the decision to reverse her invitation are her admirers. A good number of the members of the board may not be politically minded but all of them are patriots who love Ethiopia and admire what Birtukan did and the inspiration she has become for a generation of Ethiopians, particularly the women of our country. In fact, all the members of the Board believe they are contributing their share to mitigating the divisive policies of the dictators who divide and rule our country and people. The reference by some individuals on the media to some board members as stooges of the ruling regime is off the mark and should stop. If anything, this kind of accusations pushes innocent Ethiopians away from the community mainstream. It is important that we stop trashing their names and services. We should not lose sight of their contribution even when we have to criticize them harshly as I do right here. ESFNA’s board members are like every one of us, members of our community, who love their country and the freedom of our people, and whatever problem that they have are problems that each of us have as members of the community. They make mistakes. End of story.

Clearly the board has mangled its decision making process big time. In fact, I was ashamed to find out that they didn’t even follow elementary procedures of parliamentary democracy when they decided this controversial case. This cannot happen even in private clubs let alone a public nonprofit organization. That this kind of careless disregard for basic procedure happens in America makes it even more damning. Many of the board members are intelligent people and should know better. There is a sound and legitimate procedure we follow everywhere for changing any decision involving collective responsibility. The board has simply stampeded all civilized discourse in this case. To its credit, the Board does not deny that this unspeakable thing happened. The problem it is in now is that it is trying to correct a mistake by another mistake.

In my view the problem is solvable without a lot of legalism and lawyering. The suggestion that the Federation will violate its 501(C3) status if it invites Birtukan is the lamest of all the excuses I heard and read about. I have been a director of a 501(C3) organization for over three years and know how it works. The only time you will violate your 501(C3) status is when you endorse the political view of a partisan political organization of the United States. I suggest that everybody drop this dishonest crap from the argument.

The only plausible argument to exclude a political partisan Ethiopian or a US politician, for that matter, could be only if the bylaws of the Federation clearly state that it will not make political personalities its official gusts. Only then would the argument not to invite Birtukan or reconsider the decision to reverse her invitation will have any merit for debate. But even then that would not prohibit inviting Birtukan as a former prisoner of conscience, that Amnesty International, other human rights groups, the UN and even the government of the United States so declared. Strangely, the bylaws of ESFNA are not on its website. I haven’t read it. But multiple members of the Board told me that that is not clearly stated in the bylaws either. By removing its bylaws from the website, the Board is looking like it has something to hide and should post it at its earliest convenience. Transparency disinfects many things. Moreover, that there were precedents of inviting partisan politicians to speak at ESFNA events, though, in my view, not substantively pertinent to this argument, kills the nonprofit status excuse. I have confirmed from some members of the board that the Board has changed its decision to invite Birtukan after some emotional confrontations took place right after the voting ended and Birtukan was elected and some Board members have already left the hall. It is one thing to reconsider a decision through a normal procedure of submitting petition and reconvening a meeting for reconsideration at a later date, it is another to reverse it simply because an impassioned quarrel occurred right after the decision and some board members have felt the need to quell it. I wouldn’t be surprised if such a decision is made in Ethiopia where it routinely happens, but in America? Com’on!

Another credible argument from the side of those who are for reversing the decision is that her invitation will open precedence for inviting politicians from every political side. One Board member rhetorically asked me what would stop the board if some day it decides to invite Abadula Gemeda or Bereket Simon to be gusts of honor by securing a majority vote. The most reasonable response one could give to this argument is that, yes, if Bereket or Abadula touched our hearts by doing some magnificent things for our people and merit our gratitude they can be invited. If, for example, Abadula stands up to Meles and demands that the thousands of Oromo political prisoners rotting in the jails be released and succeeds in bringing redress to the plight of these citizens, I will consider him a good humanitarian deserving being a guest of honor. If I am a board member I will vote for him. I mean this sincerely. As long as he or she shows a demonstrable achievement that can make us proud as Ethiopians and solves some problems, anybody can be invited in recognition of the specific contribution they made irrespective of what political position he or she holds.

Nobody is arguing that Birtukan be invited as a guest of honor simply because she is a favorite opposition leader or millions of Ethiopians love her for her globally admired sacrifice for our people. The center of the contention is that her invitation which was decided by a majority vote of the members of the Board is reversed unlawfully. We are given this amazing excuse that the people who nominated and seconded her nomination withdrew their nomination after the vote was counted and Birtukan’s election was announced and some board members have already left. I understand they did it to avoid a serious and impassioned conflict that erupted in the meeting hall. That is the truth. But we have to agree that this is a very primitive way of making a collective decision. It is shameful to say the least. We have enough of this kind of things in Ethiopia to be ashamed about: why add one here where we live in freedom? Do you remember when Kenyans were saying, “This is not Ethiopia!” when Mbeki stole their votes in 2006 and went out to fight back to reclaim their votes? We should understand that we have a country where people were massacred demanding that their stolen votes be appropriately accounted for. Wasn’t ESFNA’s condemnation of the 2005 massacre one of its shining moments?

Here is the problem. If the intention of the board was to avoid a political person from invitation, it erred when it let the nomination stand in the first place and we wouldn’t have been in this argument. The decision was legal and binding whether some liked it or not. What the Board does since then is trying to solve a mistake by another mistake. By so doing the members of the Board are disrespecting the community and themselves.

I have no problem with the Federation of accepting the controversial Sheik’s funding. God love the Sheik and add more money in his pocket for that. The only problem I will have is if he demands some sort of a quid pro quo and the federation decides to engage in that. He has every right to support or fund the federation and hold any political view he wishes. The quarrel over this rich man’s funding of ESFNA, we have had so far, is a useless argument as far as I am concerned. But the Board should be reminded of a big hole in its repeatedly stated position. The rich sheik, a self admitted activist and financier of the ruling party in Ethiopia, is sitting as a permanent honoree of ESFNA. This will be hard to stack up what the rationalization of some Board members to revoke Birtukan’s invitation. Are we watching a double standard?

Some Board members are telling me that “ESFNA survived many controversies before and will ride out this one too.” I see this one to be more difficult to ride out without fixing the impasse.

My suggestions:

1. Reinstate the invitation of Birtukan and diffuse the widespread anger in the community and avert an impending danger to ESFNA’s survival as a respected organization. Acknowledgment and invitation of Birtukan can be made by referring to her as a former prisoner of conscience declared by International Human Rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, including the government of the United States. Her invitation should not state or relate to her being the leader of UDJ. If avoiding political personalities in the future is the issue, amend the bylaw carefully and apply it as of 2012 and make the decision on the same minutes Birtukans reinstatement is made.

2. ESFNA cannot live in a bubble, completely separated from the social, political and economic realities of our country. That was why it had to take the appropriate and honorable step of condemning the massacre five years ago. The public participating at ESFNA events does not participate because it is a soccer fan. The Board, I believe, understands there is more to ESFNA than pure soccer. I am not suggesting that it become a political activist organization. But nothing should stop it from expressing its position on violations of human rights in Ethiopia, war and peace, poverty, corruption and the like.

I trust that the members of the Board will do the right thing and continue to “Bringing Ethiopians Together” and more closer to one another with every passing year.

(The writer can be reached at

Azeb Mesfin partners blackmail athlete Haile Gebreselassie

Monday, November 1st, 2010

haile gebreselassie berlin marahon 2009 photo by victah sailerThe appearance and speech by superstar Ethiopian athlete Haile Gebreselassie at the ruling junta (Woyanne/EPRDF) conference in early September, had caught many by surprise. Throughout his career as an athlete, Haile has tried to distance himself from the Woyanne regime, as all the other star Ethiopian athletes. So what has caused him to show up at the ruling party’s conference now? The answer is not shocking or surprising.

According to Ethiopian Review sources in Addis Ababa, Meles Zenawi’s wife Azeb Mesfin (commonly known as the “Mother of Corruption”) and her business partners are going after Haile’s {www:enterprise}s with demands for partnership.

For a long time Haile has been heavily investing in real estate development and this year his new five star hotel in the town of Awassa was {www:inaugurate}d. The 4-story, 150-room hotel was built at the cost of 200 million birr. Haile is also preparing to build 200 condos in Addis Ababa on 40,000 square meters of land.

Recently, Meles Zenawi’s {www:puppet} mayor of Addis Ababa, Kuma Demeksa, who is a close ally and business partner of Azeb Mesfin, has ordered the confiscation of the land that has been leased to Haile. Apparently, his company, Haile & Alem Real Estate, is competing with other companies who have Azeb as partner.

The reason Kuma gave for confiscating Haile’s land is that construction of the planned condos has been delayed. Haile said that he was unable to start construction because the Addis Ababa City Administration, led by Kuma, would not demarcate the land for 4 years after it was leased to him.

It is to protect his business interest against the Mother of Corruption that Haile has suddenly appeared at the Woyanne conference, according to observers.

Tecola Hagos asks Tigreans to take a stand against Meles

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Prof. Tecola Hagos, former legal adviser to Meles Zenawi, has written an eye-popping article, in a form of book review, that calls on Ethiopians of Tigrean origin to take accountability for allowing Meles Zenawi to loot Ethiopia for this long [read below]. If most Tigrean intellectuals come out and a take a similar stand, the resentment many Ethiopians feel toward Tigreans would disappear. Most Tigreans, perhaps over 90% of them, are as much victims of Meles and other Ethiopians. Unfortunately, however, the Tigrean elite has been blindly supporting Meles only out of ethnic loyalty and some crumbs. — Elias Kifle

* * *
BOOK REVIEW: Ethiopia’s Endemic Poverty that Globalization Won’t Tackle, But Ethiopians Can

By Tecola Worq Hagos

It is rare, indeed, that a captivating non-fiction socio-politico-economics book on Ethiopia appears on the market, and at a bargain price of twenty five dollars, at this age of blogging and chatting where most Ethiopians get their information. I am not exaggerating at all to state that Aklog Birara Ph.D. [hereafter “Aklog”], who recently retired after thirty years with the World Bank, has written a monumental book titled appropriately WAVES: ETHIOPIA’S ENDEMIC POVERTY THAT GLOBALIZATION WON’T TACKLE, BUT ETHIOPIANS CAN [here after “Waves”]. This is a serious book that should be read by Ethiopians and others interested to know the facts and the reasons why Ethiopia , a nation that was never colonized with a long history of independence and in that part of the World endowed with great natural resources, remained poor and starving for decades.

Aklog’s book is a work of love and compassion for a great nation and a people who have fallen on excruciatingly painful times perpetrated by violent and brutal successive Governments, the latest being the worst. The sheer size of the book, of five hundred pages, which is densely packed in small prints with very narrow margins, would require stamina and dedication to read from beginning to end. Fortunately, Aklog is a consummate writer of brilliant analysis delivered in beautifully crafted language. It is a mark of the mastery of a language where style is subordinated to content and one reads with eagerness an author without being overwhelmed with technicalities. Nevertheless, Aklog’s book is not for the faint hearted, the one who would give up after few chapters. I pride myself for being a fast reader, with the paradox the faster I read the better I retain the content of a book. Even then it took me a while to finish Aklog’s book. I could say that if the book had been formatted properly with wide margins and larger font size, it would have easily been in three volumes.

I came to know Aklog in person only recently. I realized what a great human being he is as an individual, a person with great charm and humility. I am amazed having witnessed on few occasions in conferences and/or group meetings how well he relates with ordinary mortals like me. I can understand how he was and still is a great asset for the World Bank having to deal with often cantankerous and difficult national government representatives and experts in all sorts of disciplines. One of the most attractive aspects of Waves is the narrative about Aklog’s own beginnings in rural Gondar nearby village and his transformation over the years going through high school both in Ethiopia and in the United States and ending up finishing his formal schooling with a Ph.D. at one of America ’s most prestigious institutions of higher education, the Johns Hopkins University . He has lived a full life of growing up in an Ethiopian extended family structure surrounded with nurturing parents and relations and neighbors. What makes Aklog’s book endearing to me is its unselfconsciousness and honesty.

In fact, what was striking to me, the first time I met Aklog, was his appearance with his massive head and prominent brow/forehead. I hope no one accuses me of being a student of Francis Galton, for associating such configurations with great intelligence. In Aklog’s case, I am right. I am probably younger albeit with few years from Aklog, and yet he treated me from the very beginning with undeserved respect. In fact, he should have been angry with me, for years earlier I had written a piece misidentifying his role during the time of the Derg, in a piece I wrote about Kinijit and the leadership of Hailu Shawel who had appointed Aklog as a member of Kinijit International Leadership (KIL), while Hailu was detained along with other CUD leaders after the 2005 National Election. [See Tecola W. Hagos, “Revisiting the Political Opposition: on the Conviction of CUD Leaders,”, June 22, 2007.]

A lot could be learned about a person by looking at the list of books he would read and the concepts he would question. The number of books cited by Aklog in Waves gives us a fair picture of his political inclinations, and the form of economic system he might prefer. It is in that light that I was much interested in the names of authors Aklog had read. A sample of his reading revels that Aklog seems to favor liberal-democracy on the subject of political systems and issues of individual rights, and controlled market economy on the subject of national economies. He quoted often in his book outstanding visionaries and experts in socio-economic matters and also those courageous human rights champions who dare speak to power, such as Robert Calderisi, Ha-Joon Chang, Hernando de Soto, William Easterly, Thomas Friedman, Dambisa Moyo, David Rothkope, Amartya Sen et cetera. Having admired his range and depth of reading, I find one author that Aklog cited often as objectionable and extremely annoying to me. The author Michela Wrong is the most despicable individual who hides her racist biases in the jargon of human right activist language. I hope Aklog would rub out in his future reprint or edition of his book that Neanderthal creature from his book.

The Gentle Narrative of Ethiopian Life

In Chapter One, Aklog set the tone of his book by first describing how he thinks of himself as “idealistic, principles centered, stubborn, and controversial.” [P11] Though it is very difficult for me to see myself in well defined terms, I do appreciate Aklog’s perception of himself with such degree of clarity. Knowing oneself is the beginning of wisdom as the ancients had surmised, as inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi : “γνῶθι σεαυτόν,” in translation “know thyself.” I am not talking about some superficial self knowledge, but a deep understanding of ones frailty as well as strength, and ones motives and goals.

Aklog started his Chapter One with a quotation from the greatly loved and universally respected Ethiopian author Haddis Alemayehu, from his famous and endearing book ፍቅር እስከ መቃብር [Fiqqer Eske Meqqaber]. Aklog tells us how he grew up in the rural setting of a farming village in Gondar area. We do not know exactly the name of the locality, but that does not diminish the narrative process, for his story is typical of highland Amharas from North to South and East to West. What he left unsaid though about his home area, which is atypical from the rest of the Amhara region, is the fact that he came from the home area of some of the greatest Ethiopian Emperors and also renowned great Ethiopian scholars—Debre Tabor and vicinity.

On its own, Gondar (including the city by that name) is a region of Ethiopia with fabulous history. Gondar the City itself is the home base of several illustrious Emperors and Queens including Emperor Fasiledas (1625-1660 EC), the founder of the City, Iyasu the Great (1674-1698 EC), Empress Mentwab the beautiful, et cetera. To me it is the home base of my favorite Emperor Dawit III (1708-1713 EC), a truly renaissance man who invigorated the art of “living” in his very short reign of six years with his patronage of great art works, musicians and musical compositions, and literary works. Great writers, such as Samuel Johnson (Rasselas) and L. R. R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) either based their fabulous stories in Gondar or named their fictitious realm after Gondar . Johnson described Gondar in the very first chapter of his allegorical novel, “Rasselas” by stating that Rasselas the main character “was the fourth son of the mighty emperour, in whose dominions the Father of waters [Blue Nile] begins his course; whose bounty pours down the streams of plenty, and scatters over half the world the harvests of Egypt .” It is a fact that at the time when Johnson wrote Rasselas, the Emperors of Ethiopia were young Eyoas (1747-1761 EC) the son of Emperor Bekafa (1713-1723 EC), followed by Yohannes II (1761- 1762 EC). At that time, Ethiopia was in great turmoil, which was the time of the beginning of the Age of Warlords. But Johnson would not know about the situation. He based the story of Rasselas from reports of Portuguese missionaries, from the period of Emperor Minas, the brother of Emperor Gelawdewos, from the 1550s and 1560s, which report Johnson translated from the Portuguese.

Aklog did not say much about Gondar the city itself. I wish he had. I have a special place in my heart for Gondar . The first time I visited Gondar was with a family friend who took me to see this fabulous City of Forty Four Cathedrals and great Castles of Emperors and Empresses. Having read so many fairy tales by that tender age of twelve about castles and dragons and knights in shining armors, I had a sharpened imagination and expectations though fashioned after illustrations in books of European settings. Nevertheless, I was not at all disappointed, but thrilled with the real live Gondar Castles of my own history. I sensed that I was visiting a very historical city; my depth of understanding how great a history came much later.

There is something more to Ethiopia if one could read the subscript in Aklog’s book, for it is not narrative for narrative sake what Aklog attempted and succeeded in writing about his life growing up in rural Ethiopia . What he has succeeded in a way of establishing that Ethiopia is no pushover nation, but a country of great history and a social structure that had withstood the assaults of Centuries of highly corrosive political and economic systems.

III. Ethiopiawinet [ኢትዮጵያዊነት]

Aklog did not devote a specific chapter or sub-section to the concept of “Ethiopiawinet.” However, one can say without exaggeration, his whole book is about “Ethiopiawinet.” For example, if we consider what Aklog stated as the thesis of his book, we can easily see that Ethiopiawinet is at the center of it all. I am setting this issue by itself because in the past all those who wanted to destroy us first attacked our national ethos, our sentiments of nationhood, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity, and undermined our unity by encouraging local leaders to identify more with their ethnic group than the Empire of Ethiopia of then.

“The thesis of this book is that no amount of foreign humanitarian and development assistance will eliminate hunger, abject poverty and technological backwardness. Aid by itself will not propel the country towards a path of rapid and equitable social and economic transformation and shared prosperity. It is harnessing the resources and capacities of the Ethiopian people that can move the country forward. This requires a dedicated and highly committed and nationalistic state and governmental leadership.” [p2-3]

As we will discover reading this monumental work, Aklog’s fight is to preserve the territorial integrity and Sovereignty of Ethiopia foremost, and to do that he argues through out the book the Ethiopian Government and the people of Ethiopia have the singular responsibilities to develop the country to feed itself first.

I believe, as Aklog pointed out in so many ways, self awareness in knowing ones history and ones struggle is the core of all development. The heart warming narration of Aklog’s own life story, the route that he took to be the man he is now, all tell us the story of Ethiopia in miniature. His story is our story too. Very many Ethiopians have expressed what it means to be Ethiopian in words and in direct actions for centuries, it includes Emperors, Queens, Church leaders, Christians and Moslems, Scholars, Soldiers, Simple Folks, and even Children. The last group in the list being the Children of the Old Airport Area, Addis Ababa, who in defiance to Meles Zenawi’s ersatz remark that our flag is just “a piece of cloth,” hoisted their own Ethiopian Flag on a home mad flagpole in the middle of a traffic square and guarded it day and night. I saw that with my own eyes, and there is no measure to my pride then and now of the patriotic feeling of “Ethiopiawinet” in so young members of our community. Out of curiosity and trying to learn what motivated the children to do such a bold act, I asked a few of them, and their answer was that Ehadeg meaning EPRDF insulted the national Flag and on that they will challenge anyone. The children were mostly ten to twelve year olds.

No one should undermine the pull and power of identity. It is not without reason why Meles Zenawi and his TPLF members tried to undermine our Ethiopian identity with all kinds of processes and underhanded tools, such as the establishment of the Killel system, the requirement that individuals have to identify themselves in all official documents with their ethnic identity rather than their Ethiopian identity, the willingness to give up Ethiopian territory claiming that such territory does not belong to Ethiopia when the facts on the ground show other wise thereby reducing our size and importance and our national pride, the indoctrination within the TPLF undermining Ethiopia’s history and territorial sovereignty to this day whereby even ex-officials of the TPLF still repeat as a mantra. Our Ethiopian Identity is our best weapon against all those who want to see us destroyed.

Ethiopiawinet is both a philosophy and a way of life, and to a few a religious experience. Americans have their “America Dream” where they weave a unifying matrix. In Ethiopia we have something much older and not just a dream. Ethiopiawinet is expressed and daily affirmed in the way we live. Ethiopiawinet does not mean having a single culture, or a single religion and a single God, or speaking a single language, et cetera. We have a wonderful expression about Ethiopiawinet from the Former President of Ethiopia Dr. Negasso Gidada, who stated at a conference in Washington DC that Ethiopia resembles a wreath of flowers, each bloom distinct and identifiable but interconnected with other blooms bringing in such beauty and wholeness as part of a wreath. We read similar sentiment in Aklog’s writing. “I identified and defended the policy need to agree on Ethiopia ’s multi-ethnic based centrality while ensuring political pluralism, genuine decentralization and the unfettered freedom of each nationality group to enjoy its own languages, cultural heritage and benefits from its natural and human resources endowments.” [p491] The extreme form of such ethnic aggregation is not the desirable form, what is desirable is the one formulated to work under the umbrella of Ethiopian unity, territorial integrity and political plurality.

IV. Articulation of Ethiopia ’s Problems

Aklog spent considerable time and energy in Chapter Three after having laid out his own life experience and the setting of our recent history in Chapters One and Two. He identified what he designated as “national policy mistakes” of the executives of the ruling-party i.e., Meles Zenawi and his Government. I see in those articulations not only “mistakes” but also deliberate acts of destruction of a great nation by a malicious hateful individual. Aklog considered the many stupendous problems facing our Ethiopia as a result of anti-democracy collective leadership. I see the problem differently in that all of the problems identified by Aklog are the brain-child of Meles Zenawi—the manipulative and vicious work of a single man. There is no doubt in my mind looking at the mountain of evidence that it is the hateful activities of a single individual who used at every stage his own political Party and the people and wealth of Ethiopia to serve his only agenda of unfettered greed for power no matter the price. Let me list first the five problems identified by Aklog before I suggest my evaluation of those problems.

1. The willful and deliberate turnover of Ethiopia ’s access to the Port of Assab to the Eritrean Government. The support and advocacy of Eritrea secession from Ethiopia . [p76ff]
2. The legalization and institutionalization of an ethnic-state, ethnic-politics, and ethnic federalism. [79ff]
3. The legitimization of party-owned, supported and endowed enterprises and non-profit organizations. [80ff]
4. The bogus claims by the ruling-party of the creation of institutional foundation for democracy, the rule of law, human rights, equality of nationalities, a free market economy, respect of civil liberties and human rights, administrative efficiency, and rapid socio-economic development.[89ff]
5. The leasing and/or selling of millions of hectares of fertile arable land to foreign investors. [92ff]

No doubt the five items that Aklog identified are extremely serious problems facing Ethiopia ; however, they are not the only ones. Nevertheless, Aklog developed to the full each of the problems he identified as mistakes of policy, in several chapters including Chapter Five that pointedly deals with well reasoned critique of “ethnic federalism” that is the main them of the Government of Meles Zeanwi and resulting in his most destructive political program.

In fact, I have identified additional two problems no less devastating than the five well articulated problems, which are elaborated and explained quite well by Aklog. I would include poor education system and population explosion as real threats to the very existence of Ethiopia . Aklog did discuss the problems of poor education and the growth of the population of Ethiopia in Chapter Five and elsewhere. He saw the problem as an obstacle that can be overcome through governmental and public participation. He even suggested population growth as some kind of an asset that could be used to promote economic development.

“A country’s population growth could be either a risk or an asset depending on the performance of the economy. Some foreign experts believe that Ethiopia ’s explosive population growth is ‘the elephant in the room’ that keeps the country poor and its people hungry. I disagree with this thesis and have shown why population size is not a curse.” [p392]

I disagree strongly with that type of association of numbers with development or wealth, for its biblical connotation of unchecked multiplication. I see great social and economic problem in unchecked reproduction as an inherent problem of underdevelopment, disfranchisement, and the setting or prelude to devastating human rights violations. Overpopulation in the case of Ethiopia represents to me a society losing its control on the sexuality of its citizens. A traditional society, which had perfected taboos, mores, and rituals controlling the sexuality of its community members, is literally at the mercy of the devastating effect of modernity and the rise of urban centers. Population explosion is a symptom of loose sexual mores, taboos, and ritual control. In other words, population explosion is a symptom of far deeper problems of a society because of the loss of fundamentals due to the drastic introduction of modernity without the complexity that had it working for Western societies effectively. The modernity of traditional societies overnight results only in vulgarity and the deformity of the indigenous culture.

One must look at the Ethiopian people themselves not just the leadership in order to read correctly why Ethiopia is underdeveloped and in perpetual shortage of food. In fact, I believe none of the five problems identified by Aklog would be seriously devastating and threatening if Ethiopia had an improved education system and drastic population control. These two problems are insurmountable with out proper paradigm shift. To some extent, Aklog did fall into the same trap of piling all the problems of Ethiopia on the rulers of Ethiopia, such is the trap that is often overlooked by many Ethiopian scholars critical of the rulers of Ethiopia from earlier period including the current Ethiopian Government headed by Meles Zenawi. Meles Zenawi may well be the symptom of a very sick society rather than being the cause of it.

As a generalized solution to all the problems facing Ethiopia , Aklog offered a fourteen-point solution in his final Chapter, Chapter Ten. Those solutions are dependant on the general framework of the type of state governmental structure Aklog is suggesting—political plurality. Aklog seems to be convinced that form of “plurality” [Aklog did not discuss what the word means or elaborate the concept it embodies] will advance the “socioeconomic and political development suited to the 21st century, they owe it to the country and their constituents that they move from tribalism multi-nationalism and a pluralist political culture that will accommodate competing interests.” [p211] That may be a very difficult undertaking, for the task of functioning as a state with such necessarily two diametrically opposed and forcefully different and antagonistic systems or approaches may be insurmountable. To hold together an ever fracturing Ethiopia from within, an Ethiopia victimized by a leader actively pursuing such goals since 1991, would be impossible to check and control in promoting unity (sovereignty and territorial integrity).

On that score, I have a fundamental disagreement with Aklog, for I treat the concept of “nations, nationalities and peoples” within a state as pure creation of the élites of the Ethiopian society in the 1960s and 1970s and not reflective of the interests nor sentiments of the Ethiopian population from whatever ethnic enclaves. May be the exception could be Eritrea due to its sixty years under the yoke of a colonial master and his imposition of some divisive structures on the local population. For me, the only force that has its base in the sentiments of the Ethiopian population is the idea of being an Ethiopian. The ethnic identification that people had used in all of our history was simply done as means of social identity and not as a “nationalist identity.” What ever rational we bring into the debate, or what ever label we put on it, any form of political structure that is based on nationality or ethnic identity will not be any different than the present Killel system that is destroying Ethiopian unity.

In a way, either Aklog is making subtle differences or is contradicting himself, for he had argued vehemently that the 1995 Constitutional Articles 2 and 8 undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia, because such articles claim that such prerogatives reside in “the nations, nationalities and peoples” thereby marginalizing the fact of the “State of Ethiopia.” [p236] The phrase “the nations, nationalities and peoples” thus found in the Ethiopian Constitution is a legacy from the writings of immature and juvenile diatribe of badly educated and socially disfranchised and radicalized students of Haile Selassie I University of the 1970s. It is the ersatz voice of Meles Zenawi forcing himself through the 1995 Constitution on the People of Ethiopia his narrow and ignoramus ideas on the history of Ethiopia and the process of nation building. Aklog may have to rethink and clarify his stand on such sensitive issues. His book does not give clear guidance on the conflicting ideas of pluralist political culture against the challenge of inherent fragmentations of Ethiopia due to ethnic politics.

V. The Role of TPLF/EPRDF

No one man or political organization had devastated Ethiopia as much as Meles Zenawi and his political organization the TPLF/EPRDF have done in the last eighteen years. I am not writing here about the suffering of millions of Ethiopians whose human rights and political rights are abused or violated daily, but about much more serious processes of the destruction of the very fiber of Ethiopia as a nation. Aklog did give us ample evidence and analysis to reach that conclusion. In fact, the great contribution of Aklog to us is his meticulous documentation of the several ways implemented by the current Government eroding the unity and cohesiveness of Ethiopia as a political, economic, and cultural entity.

Once upon a time there was arguably some redeeming value in the TPLF, but since 1992 it had atrophied until it was completely corrupted and gutted by 1999 and Meles Zenawi became the dictator doing what ever pleased him to do. Most of the Western nations had turned a blind eye to the atrocities and the gross human rights violations by Meles Zenawi and his psychopathic enforcers. Meles Zenawi is a truly depraved man with psychopathic personality. It is beyond imagination how a short boy with an extended belly and bulging eyes from a rustic poor environment could get to the pinnacle of power and acquire such fabulous wealth. Meles Zenawi’s success is not a testament to his abilities, but a sad commentary on our deficiencies. As a people, since the time of the destructive romp of Gragn Mohammed for thirteen years, we have failed for centuries from consistently and successively developing responsible and mature leadership. What had happened in our history is sporadic and unpredictable leadership, which at times inspiring and at other debouched and destructive.

For a long time, I had accused indiscriminately anyone criticizing Meles Zenawi based on his ethnic background. For me then to identify Meles Zenawi’s destructive leadership by his ethnic background only, without substantial evidence of his narrow ethnic affinity, would be totally wrong. When I criticized Menilik II, I based my criticism on facts (supported by incontrovertible evidence of international treaties, signed letters addressed to foreign government leaders often hostile to the interest of Ethiopia) that his activities were geared to promote the interest of a particular area. However, compared to the types of the anti-Ethiopia activities of Meles Zenawi and his Government, such as the signing if the Algiers Agreement, the half-hearted representation of Ethiopia’s interest at the hearings of the Boundary Commission, the declaration of the acceptance of a corrupt decision of the Commission, the fracturing of the nation by ethnic segregation, the looting of the wealth of the nation by TPLF controlled entities et cetera, with that of Menilik’s very few questionable treaties, the destruction caused by Meles Zenawi is humongous. Now, considering the many anti-Ethiopia and ruthless disfranchisement of Ethiopians, I believe Meles Zenawi is the worst leader Ethiopia had ever seen in its long history. Even Menilik II, whom I had criticized because of his signing of a few international treaties and conventions that adversely affected the vital national interest of Ethiopia , is an honorable man and patriotic in his own way to the nth degree compared to Meles Zenawi.

Aklog is rightly indignant due to Meles Zenawi and his TPLF organization’s lack of zeal to defend Ethiopian territorial integrity and its sovereignty. In no uncertain terms Aklog stated, “Until the TPLF took power, the tradition of defending Ethiopia ’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and interest had never been compromised or bounded by ethnic-affiliation or origin.” [p158] This is absolutely true, that Ethiopia ’s territorial integrity had never been so vulnerable and opened up for negotiation as much as Meles Zenawi had tried to do. What makes Meles Zenawi so much anti-Ethiopia may have to do with his family and his upbringing in a family of Bandas who worked for the Italian occupying Army during the Italian aggression of Ethiopia in 1935 to 1941. Aklog has also provided us with a table listing the names of military commanders. It is a highly ethnicized military, where nearly all of the Commanders are Tigrayans. [p382ff] It is impossible to explain to people why so many are from a particular ethnic group. Such military is very weak, for Ethiopians through out our history had fought enemies with an army composed from several ethnic groups. Even the earliest record of Ezana, from before the time of the Christ, stated that one of his well respected wing of cavalry were Bejas from North Ethiopia, present day Eritrea.

The devastating suppression and Stalinist form of penetration and destruction of the Opposition political groups after the fiasco of the 2005 national election is well discussed by Aklog. Aklog believes that the Ethiopian public has deep philosophical disagreement or disengagement with the TPLF/EPRDF run Government of Ethiopia and predicted that they will be in opposition across ethnic lines against the ruling party, TPLF/ EPRDF. [p232-245] One reason I tagged Aklog as an optimist is due to his faith in the ordinary people of Ethiopia . Especially, after the dismal sheepish behavior of Ethiopian voters in the 2010 National Election, I am convinced that this generation of Ethiopians is very different than previous generations, and as such the current Ethiopian public in general is an opportunist ready to betray friends if there is some monetary gain or if there is a turn of events that it might join if safe. There are only handfuls of principled Ethiopians back home or abroad at this crucial time. I wish I could see the same Silver-lining of hope that Aklog seems to see around the dark-gloomy cloud of political and economic disaster hovering over Ethiopia .

The raping and looting of Ethiopia by Meles Zenawi and his TPLF Party organization is exhaustively documented and analyzed by Aklog in Chapters Six and Seven. These Chapters are exceptional in that Aklog in over seventy pages has compiled and analyzed first the merging of ethnicity with economic structures showing the monopoly of the Ethiopian economy by the TPLF using non-profit entities, such as EFFORT to acquire and control vast areas of commerce, agro-industries, and export trades. Here is one source of objective look how far the TPLF pretending to be a national political organization looted the wealth of a nation for the benefit of the very few individuals. It will be very difficult to explain such a corrupt structure to the people of Ethiopia claiming that all is done in their best interest.

“Ever since he abandoned his communist principles a long time ago, Meles Zenawi has been looking for a new ideological frame of reference. A few years ago he was a supporter of ‘revolutionary democracy’ in whose name he imprisoned his rivals in the EPRDF governing coalition. Now he has just found a new credo. Feeling that ‘liberal capitalism’ was of no use to his country, the Ethiopian Prime Minister stated that he was opting for what he called the ‘developmental state’ as had been expounded in South Africa . He also stated that the path to development adopted by China was the best. Full circle, so to speak!” [The Indian Ocean Newsletter, January 21, 2009.]

With much closer examination, and by allowing also sufficient time for the dust to settle down, it is now much clearer to me that Meles Zenawi would not have stayed in power for so long devastating Ethiopia and looting its wealth and planting the seed of the disintegration of Ethiopia across ethnic lines without the help or acquiescence of most of the people of Tigray. From now on the onus of proof is on Tigrayans to establish their loyalty to the rest of Ethiopia . The rest of the people of Ethiopia have given them for the last twenty years a chance to show their true allegiance, to make a clear choice between localized and narrow selfish interest or the unifying all embracing Ethiopian concern and firm commitment to the Motherland, and they have not been forthcoming.

The Development State and its Discontents

The “development state” is not something new, but an old fallout from the communist-socialist mold adopted as fallback position in the aftermath of the devastation and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1986. It is true that it is after the 2005 Ethiopia ’s national election fiasco that Meles hammered at the concept of development state. The preliminary draft of Meles Zenawi’s change of policy was stated in advance extract he presented at a development forum organized by Initiative for Policy Dialogue in 2006. There were extracts from his book manuscript African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings (Preliminary Draft)and one such extract stated.

“The political and economic renaissance of Africa is an issue that continues to preoccupy Africans’ and non-Africans alike. Various methods of achieving such a renaissance have been proposed. Most of these proposals are variations of the dominant neo-liberal paradigm of development. My argument is that the neo-liberal paradigm is a dead end, is incapable of bringing about the African renaissance, and that a fundamental shift in paradigm is required to bring about the African renaissance.”

In discussing some of the activities of Meles Zenawi’s Government, Aklog stated clearly that he acknowledged several meritorious constructions, such as main highways, dams, et cetera that are assets for the people of Ethiopia undertaken by the TPLF/EPRDF Government. “Evidence shows that the ruling-party has done a commendable job in many sectors: infrastructure, construction, education, health services, among others.” [p289] [p452] However impressive those constructions might be, they are not as outstanding as Aklog depicts them to be. The fact is that they were schemes to move public fund and foreign exchange to private hands to companies controlled by Meles Zenawi and his wife, with close associates from the TPLF leadership.

Here is where Aklog seems to have been taken by the deceptive practices of Meles Zenawi and seems to overlook the layers of deceptions and fraudulent manipulation by Meles Zenawi once again looting the wealth of the nation. Aklog did not discuss the personal fortune amassed by Meles Zenawi and Company. This is one item this brilliant author did not discuss and enlighten us on the specific corruption of the crime infested leadership of the TPLF. What is the financial take of all the minions and barracudas clinging to the white shark of corruption—the Government of Meles Zenawi? One answer is to be found in Aklog’s comment where he cited the report of Philip Thornton that money flowing from on deposit in Banks in England was on the rise by over one hundred percent. And Aklog rightly asked, “Where does the money come from?” [p371]

Although Aklog has discussed the corrupting influence of Mohammad Hussein Al’Amoudi in connection with the leasing of tens of thousands of hectares of land, he did not go into the detail of the devastation caused by a con-man no different than a common street pick-pocket. It would have been appropriate and enlightening to have discussed the looting of our gold by Al’Amoudi and also to have investigated in depth any private arrangements or deals with Meles Zenawi and associates, and the role played in all these debacles and corrupt relationships with the TPLF. I would have liked to read also about the money-laundering schemes, if any, these characters might be involved in. There are, for example, shady real-estate corporations allegedly involved in money laundering schemes working for the private accounts of some of the members of the Leadership of TPLF. The corruption in Addis Ababa real-estate market had spread out to Baher-Dar, Awassa, Mekele, et cetera. There need be thorough investigation in that area too.

Aklog’s brief statement on one of the worst rapist of Ethiopia and looter of the wealth of Ethiopia , Al-Amoudi, revel to us what Ethiopians have been suspecting all along. Of course, Aklog did provide us with valuable evaluation of how much gold is looted by this Saudi National with claims of Ethiopian mother, to be about 3.5 ton a year. [p205] I was hoping to read a global picture of Al-Amoudi’s corporate structure and how he moved hundreds of millions of dollars and Euros, around the World, and how he looted Ethiopia blind. I will fill in some aspects of Al-Amoudi’s entry into the Ethiopian market working his way up the ladder from 1991 to the pinnacle of the TPLF leadership by 1993. Here we can have a glimpse of some of the forty corporations and partnerships owned by Al-Amoudi through his holding corporation MIDROC-Ethiopia: Sheraton Addis, Midroc Construction, Ethiopia Moha Soft Drinks S.C., National Mining Corp., National Motor Companies, Ethio Leather Industries (ELICO) P.L.C., Dashen Bank, Elfora Agro-Industries P.L.C., Bauer-Midroc, Sara Lamps, Ethio Coffee & Tea Plantation & Marketing P.L.C. and Kombolcha Steel Products Industry (KOSPI). [Source: Tiret Magazine]

In 1998 Al-Amoudi bought a twenty year concession of the Lege Dembi Gold Mine for a measly 172 million dollars. At the beginning of this year, Al-Amoudi’s gold company, MIDROC Ethiopia , announced its discovery from two mining sites a total of 28,000 Kg gold reserve. [See Addis Fortune, Strikes Gold Big in Two Reserves.htm as retrieved on Feb 28, 2008] This could easily top a return of over a billion dollars on an investment of 172 million dollars, which does not include existing mining operations that have been producing gold for Al-Amoudi since 1998. This is over 500% return on investment, which is extremely lucrative by any standard of measurement of risky businesses. The Ethiopian Government should not renew that Concession at all and simply take over the operation.

The one extremely sensitive item that concerns most Ethiopians is the issue of the ownership of land. Ethiopian scholars, ordinary Ethiopians, political organizations and civic associations, and business leaders et cetera are divided in their stand on the issue of land ownership. Generally Oromo nationalists do not want to change the current system of leasing land and all title of ownership of land being controlled by the State/Government, in other words by the collective. However, in reality it is the Leadership of the TPLF in the Ethiopian Government that has the ultimate power about land ownership or lease. Aklog clearly favors private ownership of land and would like to see such change as part of the general change in the development of the nation’s natural resources. [pp178-180]

Referencing Alfredo De Soto, the renowned economist on the suppressed hidden asset of the rural poor, Aklog made his most poignant and heart wrenching remarks on the desperate situation of Ethiopia ’s poor farmers, who are ever threatened of eviction and losing their tenured land at the whims of local TPLF/EPRDF representatives. He wrote, “They are afraid of expropriation or at least a perception that land cannot be transferred to children and others. Land cannot be used as collateral to access credit. This perception has a great deal to do with the politicization and ethnicization of land.” [p179] If the very backbone of the economy of the country, the small scale farmers of Ethiopia are in constant threat, insecure in their land, and at the mercy of the whims of local and national political leaders, how is the nation going to feed itself?

It is not surprising that Aklog’s bold stand both in his book [155ff] and in his public addresses in conferences focused on the issue of Ethiopian land grabbing by foreigners. I agree with Aklog completely that it is unconscionable to lease/sale millions of hectares of fertile land to foreign governments, especially to those governments, such as those of Egypt , Saud Arabia et cetera, that are historic enemies of Ethiopia . Now, one wonders what happened to all those poor Ethiopians who are landless, and some being forced out from their land holdings that they have either farmed or used for pasturing their animals in order to make way to foreigners? The contract for such giveaway of Ethiopian land is kept secret by the parties. Only Meles Zenawi and his co-conspiratorial enforcers would know the contents of such contracts. What had been leaked tells us a grim story of unimaginable stupidity on the part of Meles Zenawi and enforcers on how they have leased for over eighty years for rates as cheaply as one US Dollars per year per hectare, where a comparable land in Indonesia would cost over three hundred US Dollars. [P338-342]

It is absolutely revolting to witness the disposed Ethiopians working for Indian or Arab owners and overseers in nightmarish exploitative plantations in their own country in the 21st Century Ethiopia , under the Dictatorship of Meles Zenawi and his TPLF organization. I could say without any reservations, “Shame on you Meles Zenawi and all you members of the TPLF for doing to Ethiopia and Ethiopians what even Fascist Italy would not have done.” Aklog is also actively involved in the Border Committee fighting to preserve the territorial integrity of Ethiopia on the Western borders of the Nation currently under the attack of Meles Zenawi who is bent on ceding over sixty thousand square kilometers of great Ethiopian territory to Sudan in a secret deal he is making. [p222]

It is truly astounding that Sudan that is a beneficiary of unimpeded freely flowing waters of the Blue Nile that delivers over 85% of the water of the Nile yearly inundating Sudan and Egypt with millions of tons of fertile soil is now being rewarded further by Meles Zenawi with millions of hectares of Ethiopian land. With the right leadership, it should have been the other way round that both Egypt and Sudan pay annual fees to Ethiopia for the use of the water and fertile soil of Ethiopia delivered by the Blue Nile . Such demand is not at all unreasonable considering the fact that Ethiopia has to halt or limit her own development projects to feed her own people, in trying to accommodate the needs of both Egypt and Sudan .

Globalization Vs Localization

What is creative in Waves is the fact that Aklog saw colonialism as an aspect of globalization albeit of an earlier era. He was able to identify certain features of colonial expansion with globalization, which may be labeled in the jargon of the 1960s and 1970s as “imperialism” of the capitalist West. Aklog wrote in his book “ Africa suffered from the globalizing influences of colonialism.” [p13] He devoted considerable energy and time discussing and elaborating the myth of globalization. He brought into the discussion not only his own deep insight, but also the views of several renowned scholars with clarity of text enviable for its depth and scope.

In Chapter Five Aklog took up the issue of how Meles Zenawi implemented his scheme of ethnic-federalism of the current Ethiopian state structure in his globalization mantra to carry out full scale looting of the wealth of a nation to benefit the few, sharing in the polarization of the rights of the many, camouflaging his activities as if there is equitable distribution among the many ethnic enclaves created by the TPLF leadership. [p227] He pointed out also the fact that the initial ethnic-federalism had “evaporated while the tide in favor of multi-ethnic politics is in the rise.” [p234] Chapter Five is in a matter of serialization a prelude to Aklog’s Chapter Nine, his most astute and brilliantly stated commentary on globalization and ethnic politics. Chapter Nine is Aklog’s best Chapter in Waves, incomparable for its clarity, precision, and depth. There are several memorable statements in Chapter Nine, and the one that jumped out at me is a statement dealing with the conflict and contradiction inherent in the fracturing of Ethiopia into ethnic enclaves and the globalization sweep of our time. “Unified, they [Ethiopians] would have a better chance in defending their interests. Divided, they will be swallowed by forces over which they will have little if any control. Globalization is not for the week and submissive.” [p398] [emphasis in the original]

And yet even in Chapter Nine, Aklog seems to hold contradictory views. One explanation for such paradoxical views could be the fact of the grand scope of the Book, which is overwhelming. This would result in what may seem to be contradictory views. For example, if we start with the first paragraph of Chapter Nine we read the statement, “The country is highly polarized by ethnic-based politics and geopolitical structure.” [p375] Ethnic-based politics and geopolitical structure was the basis of the 1995 Federal Constitution imposed by the EPRDF, which legalized and formalized that narrow perception of the elements of the State of Ethiopia. Further down we read also the puzzling statement, “I do not share the consensus view within the opposition camp of political, civil, professional, intellectual leaders and opinion makers that the ruling party is singularly responsible and accountable for the country socio-economic and political ills.” [p375] I cannot see how any one else could be accountable for the dreadful state Ethiopia is in other than the ruling-party, especially Meles Zenawi and his sycophantic supporters within the TPLF leadership.

Under the subsection “Dreadful Model,” Aklog laid out the tragedy of the “aid business in Ethiopia [that] can only be described as vast, reflecting the depths of poverty and unparalleled destitution.” [p379] He further pointed out to us that there are “close to 24,000 associations, NGOs and other groups” involved in Ethiopian society providing highly needed services. When we take into account the amount of money poured into Ethiopia from outside sources, we expect as much progress in capacity building and social and political development. My understanding from information available from different sources as well as Aklog, the donor countries mainly the United States, Britain, Germany, Nordic countries have pumped in about 2.5 billion dollars into Ethiopia last year alone, and have done so an average of 1.5 billion dollars yearly since 2000, and the Diaspora Ethiopians have remitted to the country over one billion dollars yearly as well in the same period. [p275] This is not some little change, but major financial assistance infusion. The result is to behold, other than glitzy buildings and highways that go nowhere, and hydroelectric dams with innumerable problems, a fractured and extremely vulnerable society where tens of millions are starving and/or underfed.

Aklog is positively inclined to some extent toward the involvement of China in Africa . [p331-32] China has moved into Africa in a major way. In East Africa its major partner seems to be the Government of Meles Zenawi. However, the local report from Ethiopians is not that encouraging, for China seems to have undermined its great projects by its activities competing in retail and small scale enterprises cutting into the mercantile and cottage industries of the local Ethiopian population.

“Cheap imports, especially from China , dominate the domestic market. The Government’s unwillingness and inability to promote the national private sector inhibit domestic manufacturing and industrialization at paces corresponding to the country’s needs. Domestic demand is met largely through imports.” [p134]

Although Aklog did not discuss the issue of devaluation in this context, one of the reasons for the steep demand for hard currency is the fact of the import business mostly owned by TPLF Corporations controlled by Meles Zenawi and his Wife. There is more to the devaluation of the Ethiopian Birr recently, and one must devote time to that debacle on its own.

China has leased land from the Government of Meles Zenawi to grow sesame. [p486] In other words, China is in competition with Ethiopian producers of sesame in their own backyard using their own land. To allow such arrangement with China , I can only say that Meles Zenawi must have tremendous hate for Ethiopia and Ethiopians or he is totally insane. On the international arena China seems to provide Meles Zenawi with a backup financing scheme if he falls into some kind of disfavor with the West thereby neutralizing what ever leverage the West might have against the Ethiopian regime. The political game might favor Meles in the short term, but he is risking permanently damaging the long term interest of Ethiopia with the United States and Europe .

Some Ethiopians believe that Ethiopia is paying too steep a price with its new found interlude with China . China is the new darling of the Government of Meles Zenawi. The recent publication of the Economist (“ Ethiopia and China , Looking east: Meles Zenawi’s new best pal,” Oct 21, 2010) asserted as much. The Economist, is not to be trusted in all of its writings because a year ago it had an article titled “Resilient Prime Minister: The Two Sides of Meles Zenawi,” in its August 14, 2009 issue, rather flattering portrayal of Meles Zenawi that was far from his brutal and violent reality on the ground in Ethiopia. The article is also cited by Aklog. [p329] And a number of Ethiopians in the import and export business believe that China is dumping its goods on Ethiopia depressing all kinds of industrialization that would have been the proper development program for Ethiopia . However, China picked where the West left, Ethiopia was in dire circumstances and was on the brink of collapse. It is a fact that China was waiting in the wings during the period of the rule of the Derg. Then the key player was the Soviet Union . After the defeat of Mengistu and the establishment of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia in 1991, China ’s place was assured despite the fact that at one point Meles Zenawi had scorned the Chinese form of socialist movement favoring Albania .

No one would question the fact that the United States was involved with Ethiopia for far longer period than the period China was involved with Ethiopia . Nevertheless, it is to the credit of China that within a decade it has become a major partner for Ethiopia ’s effort to develop its hydropower and other natural resources. The United States by contrast, even though it has spent tens of billions of dollars in humanitarian contributions, did not make much headway in its investment in Ethiopia . Aklog discussed President Obama’s policy in regard to corruption citing the address he gave when visiting Ghana . [p316] How much of that speech would have been appropriate address to Meles Zenawi and his Party members is anybody’s guess. What is puzzling is the fact that the Government of Meles Zenawi continues to get financing from the World Bank and the IMF.

One may ask of Aklog whether international aid/assistance (from both Governments and NGOs) can be considered as an aspect of globalization. Aklog did not tackle the issue of international aid/assistance in those terms, but he takes up the issue in several chapters pointing out the corruption of the benevolent gesture from donor countries by the officials of the TPLF/EPRDF led Government. For example, Aklog pointed out the cozy and unhealthy relationships that existed at one point between the Ethiopian Government officials and the managers of NGOs who acquiesced to the political and economic suppression of the millions of Ethiopians by the current Government and its political Parties. [p196] Well, all that was changed with the enactment of Proc No. 621/2009, [p355] which legislation drastically limited the activities of NGOs even making some innocent activities as potential subversive criminal acts. In case of the rising star Dambisa Moyo, Aklog pointed out his disagreement with Moyo’s thesis that international aid causes corruption in national economies. Aklog explained his disagreement in that international aid per se is not the cause of corruption. [p433] I agree with Aklog to some extent that international aid has a role in the development of nations, but it is also akin to putting great temptation where there is serious need and minimal institutional control that end up “tempting the Devil.”

In an article I wrote a few months back I tried to draw analogy between a bonsai tree and Ethiopia . The starvations, the torture, the binding by wire, all seem to be similar to the daily lives of the Ethiopian nation and the victimized population. Helen Epstein in her heart wrenching article “Cruel Ethiopia” is simply holding the mirror of truth to our faces. It is alarming that sixty percent of all Ethiopian children are suffering from stunted growth due to malnutrition and starvation in millions of instances. This is not a simple tragedy but a frightening national security matter. I always held the view that comparing “miseries” does not help or improve the quality of life of anyone. But it does inform; awareness is the first step in the process of revolutionary changes.

The Fourteen-Point Solution

In the final Chapter like a great Fianale, Aklog bear down on us with his fourteen point solutions. The suggested solutions are long, medium, and short term solutions. However Aklog left it to us to determine which is which. Most importantly he believes the solution to alleviate poverty must involve everyone including the Government. This is all fine, but the one question that Aklog did not answer to my satisfaction is why anyone should help poor people. This question requires some in depth discourse. There is just a presumption that people have simply used as their starting point when discussing development and modernization and combating poverty. I am asking such a question because if we have a clear answer to that basic question, we may be able to come with profoundly fundamental answers to many of our problems. I want that examined and restated with clear rational.

Aklog has given as a list of solutions in Chapter Ten that we must consider in all seriousness. In discussing each of his solutions Aklog used and referred to numerous works by experts. Some of the experts he discussed are very familiar to me, but others I still have to read. What we have here in the person of Aklog is an author with great depth and learning with great capacity to interpret and apply that knowledge in the service of our Motherland. This is not an easy fete for anybody, but an accomplishment born of discipline and cognitive excellence in real time. These solutions suggested by Aklog would require a life time commitment and hard work with the guidance of new Government leaders who must be totally dedicated to the people of Ethiopia .

1. Promote and build an inclusive society beyond ethnicity [p442]
2. Negotiated settlement with Eritrea on the issue of Ethiopia being landlocked [p446]
3. New land policy [p447]
4. Industrialization policy [p450]
5. Infrastructure policy [p451]
6. Social capital formation – education policy [p454]
7. Free access to information – freedom of speech and press [p458]
8. Basic health services [p461]
9. Stop the brain drain [p462]
10. Feminine liberation and rights [p467]
11. Managing the population explosion or ‘bubble’ [p474]
12. Encourage private enterprise [p481]
13. Sovereignty [p484]
14. Learning from other [p489]

There is no question that the above solutions to such identified problems are all valid and would certainly help eradicate hunger, disease, and pestilence et cetera from Ethiopia . The secret is how to prioritize which programs, and work out the details of appropriate projects. As far as I am concerned the first item that need be on anybodies list of solutions must start with Aklog’s Number Ten starting at page 467 dealing with steps to be taken against gender-based inequalities. I sincerely believe that there is nothing more important than bringing to the forefront as a matter national emergency the tragedy of the treatment of Ethiopian females inhumanly at home and abroad. The entire Ethiopian society must be galvanized to fight for the rights of our sisters and mothers, for the respectful and the humane treatment of females in Ethiopia , even before worrying about feeding the Ethiopian population.

The cultural frameworks dealing with family life, marriage et cetera was meant to insure that only those that are capable of maintaining a family have access to sex. Such formulation and control of the sexuality of the members of a society had kept men (women) in their prime in all successful societies. The simple biological process would require only those that are capable of maintaining stable homes would be in bonding with female counterparts and produce well looked after offspring. When sex becomes easily accessible and even exportable such a society is on its way to destruction, as is the case with Ethiopia . The traditional structure for marriage and mating rites had all been discarded with the modernization effort of Emperor Haile Selassie. The country has been a hotbed of prostitution losing its moral compass for the last fifty years ever since.

As Aklog has identified, “Girls and women are the social fabric of Ethiopian society and have been for generations.” [p467] I will add to that statement that without proper respect and humane treatment of Ethiopian females, proper care of Ethiopian mothers and children there cannot be an Ethiopian nation worthy of its name. The beginning of all wisdom is the respect and humane treatment of females and children in Ethiopia . Aklog put it succinctly, “Development is meaningless without the wellbeing of [Ethiopian] girls and women.” [p390] Nothing else matters at this stage of our political and economic life than this most devastating cruelty and degradation facing Ethiopian females both in Ethiopia and in Arab nations and else where in the World.

We must demand first and foremost to stop any kind of employment of Ethiopian females in Arab Countries and in all other abusive nations with dismal human rights record, and the second step is repatriate all Ethiopian females from abusive Arab/Gulf States. At the same time during such period of rehabilitation, the Ethiopian Government should setup funds to help the returnees from Arab countries with living assistance, homes, stipends and work programs et cetera. I wish Aklog had shared his views with us about solving the monumental problem of prostitution and discussed in depth how it has degraded the value of womanhood in Ethiopia .

It will indeed be an oversight not to emphasize Aklog’s devotion and concern for a system of education responsive to the needs and aspirations of individual Ethiopians and helpful in fulfilling the national vital interest of Ethiopia . He identified first the defect of the ethno-education systems that had totally distorted the education system in Ethiopia creating all forms of dilatory obstacles in other sectors of development also.

“The current educational and training system incentivizes small and narrow economic and social sizes to the detriment of the national economy. … An education system that does not allow academic freedom to debate economic ignorance fails to produce leaders, technical and professional citizens with the confidence, competence and independence of devising a strategy for changing it in fundamental ways.” [p457]

It is a fact that in the Oromo region the alphabet in use is not the Ethiopian-Geez Alphabet but Latin Alphabet and as a result even written communication had become difficult across ethnic populations. The fact that the Government of Meles Zenawi is actively discouraging the use of Amharic as a unifying national language is another major obstacle set by the ruling-party, TPLF/EPRDF. These are all social issues that should have been left to the people to decide freely in completion in the free market of cultural ideas.

Nothing Meles Zenawi has done will stand the test of time; what ever he has done will die with him in ignominy. What the current political leaders in Ethiopia have succeeded in doing is to create an illusion of an ongoing vigorous economic activity in Ethiopia . The Ethiopian economic structure, which generates and registers some statistical data for the benefit of Western governments and their banks (e.g., World Bank, IMF) that are willing to hang on to straws in order to justify their involvement in Ethiopia shelling out billions of dollars or Euros, is simply a house of cards that will collapse if Meles Zenawi stops to exist. That might even happen sooner than we think, for the rumor is that he is very seriously ill from some form of incurable disease. The people that he had now lined up as members of his Cabinet are not in any way capable of maintaining the country under the thumb of the TPLF/EPRDF. All personality based governments will sooner or later bite the dust and nothing is left as their legacies except fracturing, civil strive and civil war, and another turn of a brutal dictator.

Meles Zenawi seems not to have abandoned his youthful foolish dream as his fall back strategy—the creation of an independent State of Tigray—a juvenile view of a megalomaniac whose political horizon does not go any higher beyond the bridge of his pug nose. If he is relaying on Sudan , the day he declared the independence of Tigray is the last time Al-Bashire will speak to him. Eritrea will be all over his front yard and Ethiopia from the South will be in Mekele in no time. More importantly, Tigrayans themselves will make minced meat out of him in few days. I emphasize this particular thought process of Meles Zenawi because of the fact that it is a sore point among the Diaspora population as well as local politicians at home.

The problem with dictatorship is the fact that no national or human concern ever moves a dictator to take actions. It is always his own insatiable appetite that overrides everything else. Meles Zenawi’s interest is Meles Zenawi. Recent article by Professor Ghelawdewos Araia, seems to court the idea of reconciliation between the Government of Meles Zenawi and the Opposition that has been decimated with no political clout. What is to reconcile under the circumstances? The only viable and rational action is to remove Meles Zenawi by all means. In fact, prayer seems to be the most effective way to carry out that noble action. Let Ethiopians from every where mark a particular time of a particular day and pray for fifteen minutes stopping what ever they are doing. If all Ethiopians from all over the World carry out that simple activity, in less than six months, Meles Zenawi will be history.

The Book Cover

It might look frivolous to bring up the “Cover” of a book as a topic of discussion, especially in a review of a very important and extremely serious book. Nevertheless, I justify my decision to comment on the book-cover of Waves because I have worried about the way we (Ethiopians) depict ourselves in our art, in books, in films, in videos et cetera. There are situations where I have seen Ethiopia being depicted solely as a country populated by very light skinned beautiful people, and at others with Nilotic or Bantu people image of painted primitive people, stark naked, with revolting culture. Neither is the right depiction or representative sample of Ethiopians. This is not meant in any way to depreciate or to glorify any one ethnic group but to set the record straight and represent the reality of Ethiopian life correctly.

The book cover of Waves is similarly not representative of the Ethiopian population. My comment here is not in any way meant to impinge on the nobility of the gesture by Aklog as a sign of inclusion of our minority Ethiopian brothers and sisters who have been long disfranchised in our history. On the cover, there are twenty seven individuals that are clearly Nilotic and Bantus out of the total figures of fifty. The rest being highlanders and/or lowlanders Amharas, Tigrayans, Afars, Oromos et cetera. If that is meant to be a representative depiction of Ethiopia ’s diversity of population, it is totally misleading. I have seen similar misrepresentations of the ethnic identities of Ethiopians in Websites and in pictures or brochures issued by tourist agencies. Statistical data from the official census of Ethiopia 2007 shows the following approximate distribution of the population: of Ethiopia that is represented on the cover making up over fifty percent of those depicted in the pictures:

Anuak ——————– 70,000 (to 100,000)
Basketo —————– 80,000
Bodi ———————- 50,000
Hamer ——- ———– 47,000
Mursi ——————– – 7,500
Shankella / Gumuz — 200,000
Total 464,500

By contrast, the Amhara population by itself is more than thirty million, the Oromo population will be also over thirty million, and yet the representation of those population groups is far less than half of what is depicted on the Cover of the Book.

In an effort to give honor and credence to minority groups, such representation is creating a false image of Ethiopia and its diversity. The minority groups represented in the picture could barely make up five hundred thousand in absolute number out of a total population of over eighty million people. On the book cover of Waves the Nilotic and Bantu tiny fraction of the total Ethiopian population is made to represent over fifty percent of the individuals depicted on the book cover. In other words, such tiny minority groups are misrepresented as if they are over forty million when in reality they are only half a million or half of one percent (0.55%) of the total population of Ethiopia.

Thus, such type of depiction of Ethiopia as if it is populated with a majority of Nilotic and Bantu people is gross misrepresentation of our Ethiopian population. Ethiopians mostly are Agew/Beja not Nilotic or Bantu. Taking the book cover of Waves as sample, and if we want to have a correct depiction of Ethiopia’s demography in pictures with a total of fifty individuals to be depicted on a cover of a book, for example, only one individual would represent the Nilotics and Bantus of Ethiopia, about twenty eight individuals will depict Amharas, Afars, Gurages, and Tigrians, and about twenty individuals will represent Oromos which includes Bale and Harar-Diredawa and Somali areas as well. I would like to see the incredibly beautiful people from Afar, Ambasel, Axum, DebreMarkos, Gondar , Lasta, Menz, Raya, Sodo, Wag et cetera featured prominently. I want to see the core people that make up more than eighty percent of the total population of Ethiopia taking up eighty percent of the publication space and promoted widely, not just those from the fringes.


It is tragic that Ethiopia, the land of great heroes, could become the play ground of the likes of Meles Zenawi and Al-Amuodi. What would our ancestors think of us turning our country into a sandbox for traitors and rich kids to use it as a playground? My Patriotic Father who fought the Italians continuously during the five years occupation of our sacred Motherland, and who died recently, included. Is it not shameful to turn a nation that has been forged out of the very blood, flesh, and bones of countless brave Ethiopians into a brothel? Is it not shameful to turn our many sisters into prostitutes earning us the scorn of the world? I have spent countless nights brooding over the humiliation I feel when I consider my fellow Ethiopians being shoved aside and suffering in silence as second-class citizens, while foreigners, children of bandas, and sleek arada individuals, who do not give a hoot about Ethiopia, are now the leaders and the beneficiaries of all the sacrifices of our ancestors, in the current Ethiopia.

There are very many lines of actions that Ethiopians can take in the best interest of Ethiopia . It is not necessary that individual Ethiopians as individuals or as members of a group need be in power in order to bring some solution to our serious national problems. The first line of defense against abusive political and business practices is to develop the right frame of mind for protest, which would require objective evaluation of the characteristics and motives of people who affect our lives. What emboldens our political leaders to be ruthless and abusive is the fact that there seems to be no retaliatory action by Ethiopians as individuals or as groups against such leaders or their families. There ought to be consequences against leaders who abuse their public trust of brutal governance that will check such brutal leaders from hurting our country or citizens.

Our Ethiopia is at historical crossroads, and is being held hostage by a single man who seems to acquire absolute power and immense wealth at the cost of our Motherland. Meles Zenawi has absolutely no loyalty to the State of Ethiopia and to the people of Ethiopia. In his addresses he hardly ever mentioned Ethiopia, even when he does a few times it drips from his fangs like some poison. The more this particular individual stayed in power, he will do more irreversible harm to our Motherland. Now going back to the Book under review, there are few suggestions I would make that would help us manage to retain much of the important facts and analysis in reading this great work by Aklog.

As I have stated many times, Waves is truly a remarkable book that must be read by everyone capable of handling a complex, highly intellectual, deeply provocative, and analytical book. Aklog is a very optimistic individual as one can see his personality reflected and embedded in his brilliant book, and despite the fact that he ended his book with a pessimistic sentence:” The bleak socioeconomic reality presented in this book makes it urgent.” The effect of this monumental book on me, however, is to lose totally my hopes for Ethiopia. I was depressed for days, dazed, and brooding over some of the statements of Aklog in his incredible book, which ideas seem to have been glued to me. The truth about the fragility of Ethiopia is simply unbearable to me—obviously, a person of weak constituency. How could a nation buried under so much suffering and poverty, and horrible governmental policies, and corruption ever find its way out from such nightmare? One may think of that overwhelming unvarnished truth presented by Aklog as the one deficiency of this great work for it forces us to look at ourselves and lose hope.

There is nothing that can be overlooked or discarded from Aklog’s book for it is full of important facts and rigorous analysis and synthesis as well. It is this very fact of the wealth of information and discourse that overwhelms the mind. It is quite exhausting to deal with the complexity of the issues and the extent of the breadth of factual matters presented in the book. As I read the book, I wondered at times whether it would have been better to have this great opus in bite-size morsels that most Ethiopians would be able to chew and swallow. It would have been wise to have reorganized the book under specialized titles at the very least into three volumes. And by reformatting it into three volumes would not have taken away any of its vigor and great depth, and importance. No question that Waves is a master work.

Furthermore, I do have few suggestions for few structural changes for the book that will make it easy for readers to go through the humongous amount of information Aklog earnestly labored to enrich us with. It may be advisable to rearrange the Chapters and subsections under a point by point system rather than the mixed method utilized by Aklog. Two important features missing in the book are an “Index” and a “Bibliography.” A book without an index is like a ship without rudder.

Reviewing a book of this size and complexity is not an easy task. I am not trying to toot my own achievement, but rather to ask forgiveness from my readers for my being clumsy or for overlooking some important aspects of the Book, and for not being far more precise and brief. Brevity at times is an overrated quality. In this case of reviewing a great book, longevity or duration is preferable. My last words are saved for the Author of this remarkable work, my hard working, brilliant, and decent fellow Ethiopian Dr. Aklog Birara: Bravo! And thank you for a book so fulfilling!

(To Order the Book: Contact Dr. Aklog Birara:

ESFNA and the art of lying

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

What is it about us Ethiopians that invite abuse? Is there a big fat lettering stuck on our forehead that proclaims ‘I am stupid?’ It is not some idle question but a subject that requires some soul searching and must be answered if we have to move forward and expect to bring positive change to ourselves, our surrounding and our poor country.

What brought this important question to the surface is the recent action by none other than the infamous ESFNA (Ethiopian sports federation in North America) and its Board of Director’s ongoing dysfunctional behavior. This is not the first time ESFENA have gone the extra mile to humiliate its constituents. What I have in mind is ESFNA’s acceptance of large amount of money from good old Sheikh Al Amudi back in 2008 and the condemnation it received from the North American public. They promised to be mindful of their responsibility to the public and claimed that they will work on the question of accountability. It was an empty gesture.

Here we are 2010 and we can see this wild animal is not tamed yet. They decided to insult and disrespect their cash cow once again. This time it is no other than the honorable Judge/Chairwoman Bertukan they decided to dis.

Very timely and educational articles were written to clarify the situation and encourage rational discussion on the subject. I am referring to the opinion pieces by Ato Ephrem Madebo and Ato Shakespear N. Feyissa on our independent Web sites.

The response to this invitation for reasonable and grown up discussion took a bizarre turn. The article by Ato Tesfaye Abebe, a member of one of the clubs is a little disingenuous to say the least. It is a well-written article as far as the grammar goes but the facts are revised to fit the writer’s bias. That is not an honest thing to do. I spoke to two individuals that were present in Atlanta to have a good understanding of what exactly happened in that meeting.

Is Ato Tesfaye not telling the truth or simply put is Ato Tesfaye lying in his article? He wrote:

‘ As those that nominated Birtukan spoke passionately to underline the importance of inviting her, those that did not believe she should be invited expressed theirs. Reasons for not inviting her, ranged from the inappropriateness of inviting her in the cultural category to her being a leader of a political organization whose invitation might compromise our non-profit and non-political status.
Upon the insistence of those members that nominated Birtukan, and following parliamentary procedure a vote was taken by the Board Members and Birtukan narrowly won.’

In my opinion what Ato Tesfaye is doing is what is called ‘lying by omission’. He is cleverly using ambiguity in order to deceive and mislead the reader. Weizero Bertukan was nominated; the issue discussed and voted upon, that much is true. But there is more to it than that. The issue on the so-called jeopardizing the ‘non profit’ status was mentioned in passing but was not brought as a major hurdle. The main argument by those opposed was the question of ‘timing’. They felt it was not a good idea ‘at this time’ since she was just released from jail and it would create a bad impression on the organization (I guess by the government of Ethiopia) After a lengthy argument the issue was voted upon. When he says ‘Bertukan narrowly won’ that is a bold lie. She won 14 to 4 and that is 77% majority. Some will call it a landslide.

If you noticed I characterized it as an ‘argument’ not a ‘discussion’. According to my sources it was a very shameful meeting fit for gangsters. The Chair was clueless and weak and members were on each other’s face taunting and insulting like kids in a playground. Some members were forced to leave the meeting out of shame and disgust. The real purpose by those who lost was to create chaos so those well meaning individuals will be discouraged and will give in to the demands of the bully’s. If you think about it there is no rational reason or parliamentary procedure that allows an issue that was settled by an overwhelming majority to be brought back for further discussion.

Please notice the fact that Ato Tesfaye qualifies both Ato Ephrem and Ato Shakespear with their political party’s affiliation. What brought that about? They wrote their opinions as concerned individuals not Party officials. We are familiar with that kind of argument, smear rather than answer the charges is the logic behind it.

I have noticed these two characteristics to be a must among TPLF school graduates. None other than junta leader Meles Zenawi practices the best example of ‘lying by omission’. During the question and answer at Columbia University when asked why he jams Ethiopian Satellite TV and our independent web sites he responded by saying ‘the US does not allow VOA to broadcast to the American people either. Yes it is true VOA does not broadcast inside the US but it is not due to jamming. It is because the US government does not think it is appropriate to use taxpayer’s money to distribute the news. There are zillions of news outlets operated privately. Ato Meles on the other hand does not want independent newscasters telling the truth and unravel his house built on sand. Technically he did not lie, but he just subverted the truth.

There was also a second article written by Ato Tibebe Ferenji titled ‘In defense of ESFNA’ I don’t think it is a wining strategy to baselessly attack those who you disagree with instead of presenting one’s opinion and letting the reader be the judge. There is no point in putting words in your opponent’s mouth when the reader can easily go to the source and verify. My copy did not include such allegations as Ato Ephrem claiming to be an attorney nor asking organizations to break their rules.

On the other hand Ato Tibebe gave us a section of IRS rule as if reading those five lines will entitle us to reach a reasonable conclusion. I truly believe my friend Ato Shakespeare’s approach is most appropriate here. Interpreting the law is his domain. That is why he invested time and money to qualify and hold a license to practice the law. This Ethiopian habit of being an expert after a cursory glance is not a good idea. I ask both Ato Tibebe and ESFNA to read Ato Shakespeare’s analysis and correct their mistake and wrong interpretation of IRS code.

What can we do to remedy this unfortunate situation is an important question. The organization is too important to be left to individuals that do not have the interest of the community at heart. It has been a playground of those whose sole aim is to enrich themselves at the expense of others and use the organization as a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. In its over twenty-five years of existence it has nothing worthy to show that could be mentioned in public. Its own supporters have no example or instance to mention to convince the public of their good deeds. Ato Tibebe is forced to say ‘more over, ESFNA has been engaged in various charity activities including providing scholarship in Ethiopia.’ Looks like we are a little short on verifiable facts here because there is nothing to show.

The fact that during the Atlanta meeting the financial report showed that the 2009 festival in San Jose showed a profit of just $13.000.00 is cause for alarm. Either the Board is engaged in creative accounting or they are not fit for the position they hold. When you consider they were bilking our local business people $3,000.00 per tent and were charging us $20 for admission one wonders where the money went. As the name implies it is an Ethiopian sports organization. I agree with my friend Ato Ephrem. The use of ‘E’ in the name is not a simple matter. I do believe the use of ‘E’ is a privileges and an honor. Yes my dear Ato Tesfaye it can be taken away too! I don’t think you will put Abuna Petros and some Banda like Dejazmach Gugsa in the same league, would you? The ‘E’ in front of Abuna Petros brings warmth to our heart while the ‘E’ in front of Banda Gugsa looks out of place.

What we should strive for is ‘empower’ the clubs to exercise their right as owners and main actors of this outfit and run it like a business and make us proud. After all it is the clubs and the players that we all gather to see and there is no need for a Board of vultures to lord it over and abuse us all. The clubs can hire professional Ethiopians that are experienced in the hospitality and convention business and produce a better product that what we have now. Twenty-five years have shown that the current leaders are void of new and creative ideas and repeat the same old tired formulae until it is beaten to death. Frankly I don’t see any difference between them and their Woyane masters. It is up to us to work with the clubs and make them aware of their strength. It requires work, perseverance and unity of purpose. Like their Woyane cousins they are good at creating side issues, character assassination and a lot of smoke. On the other hand we have a good cause and the support of the majority of our people. We got work to do. Now quit talking and take the garbage out.

Diaspora remittance is lifeblood of the Meles regime

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Prof. Seid Hassan has informed us a couple of years ago that without the hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign currency that Ethiopians in the Diaspora send to Ethiopia (remittance), the Meles dictatorship would have faced a grave financial crisis. In a recent book, Dr Aklog Birarra has pointed out that Ethiopians in the Diaspora remit over $1.2 billion through official channels alone such as Western Union. An equal amount of money is sent to Ethiopia through non-official channels such as hawala.

In considering anti-remittance campaign and other actions against Meles, it helps to revisit Dr Seid’s insightful article about investment in Ethiopia. [Click here to read]

Grace, Azeb stark similarities

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Ethiopia’s mother of corruption Azeb Mesfin has found her match in Grace Mugabe, the wife of Zimbabwe’s dictator. The similarities between these two witches is amazing. Like Grace, Azeb is forming business partnerships left and right. Like Grace, Azeb is a whore. Read the article below about Grace Mugabe and judge for yourself.

Mugabe’s wife has affair with his best friend


When President Robert Mugabe’s younger sister, Sabina, died in Harare after a short illness, pictures showed the 86-year-old president looking devastated at her funeral.

According to one of Mugabe’s most trusted bodyguards who was present at the time, Sabina Mugabe, 75, warned her brother before she died that he was being betrayed by two of the most important people in his personal and political life: his wife and his personal banker, a pivotal member of his regime.

Sabina told the president that Grace and Gideon Gono, the powerful head of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and Mugabe’s confidant, were secret lovers.

Grace, 41 years Mugabe’s junior, has taken lovers before. One lover, Peter Pamire, died in a mysterious car accident. James Makamba, one of Zimbabwe’s richest businessmen and a top-ranking Zanu-PF official, enjoyed her favours but their affair ended in tears, too, when a furious and sexually jealous Mugabe ran him out of town in fear of his life.

But never before has Grace been romantically involved with a politician in Mugabe’s inner circle. And never before has a man so close to the president risked allowing it to happen.

The dangers from discovery are high. Zimbabwe state intelligence officials made it known that Mugabe’s detection of the affair had already led to the murder of the bodyguard present at Sabina’s bedside and more trouble would almost certainly follow.

“Once he hears something like that, I think someone will go and meet God,” said one intelligence official.

A pillar of the regime who Mugabe personally appointed in 2003 to head the central bank, Gono was a person he absolutely trusted ; furthermore, he was a family friend. The two have known each other since 1995 when Mugabe appointed Gono, then chief executive of a major Harare commercial bank, to be his personal banker.

“Mugabe trusted Gono. He even thought our boss was taking care of the first lady keeping a protective eye on her so that she could not again be adulterous,” said one senior official in Gono’s office who became aware of their secret affair, and who spoke out about it for the first time last month, on condition of anonymity.

Another in Gono’s entourage said Gono and Grace, who are business partners in several enterprises in Zimbabwe and South Africa, had been planning a life together after Mugabe’s death.

Mugabe’s marriage to Grace is itself founded on an adulterous relationship which shocked many Zimbabweans at the time. Grace was working as a junior secretary in the typing pool in Mugabe’s office and married to an air force officer when the two began having an affair. They had two children while Mugabe’s first wife, Sally – who was universally popular – battled a terminal kidney disease. After her death in 1996, Mugabe wed Grace, who is widely loathed and notorious for her lavish shopping sprees.

The Gono source said Grace and Gono first became romantically involved in 2005 and had seen each other regularly since. When they could not find an excuse to meet in South Africa or further abroad, they met at Gushungu Dairy Estate, Grace’s 1000ha farm about an hour from Harare.

They met twice, sometimes three times, a month.

They also met at the Harare home of a woman friend and business associate of Grace who is a Zanu-PF stalwart. They exchanged e-mails, which one official privy to them described as “explicit”.

He said Mugabe had always naively accepted as true Grace’s story that she and Gono are related. They are not, although both come from the town of Chivhu, 200km south of Harare.

The enormity of Gono’s betrayal would have come as a devastating emotional shock to Mugabe when Sabina revealed it to him.

Mugabe went to visit his sister between 6pm and 7pm on July 26 in the intensive care ward at the Avenues Clinic in Harare. As he sat on her bed with senior police commissioner Cain Chademana, his most trusted bodyguard, at his side, she told him the truth.

Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) officials said Chademana told them of the discussion afterwards and said that the president left the meeting devastated.

“At first, Mugabe did not want to believe it was true, but Sabina told him to ask his men about the affair and make up his own mind,” said the officials, quoting what Chademana had told them.

“It was maddening because Mugabe had encouraged their friendship and sometimes asked Grace to see Gono to discuss mutual business matters.”

In early August, a few days after Sabina’s funeral, Mugabe and Grace left together for China on an official visit.

Mugabe took his sister’s advice when he returned to Harare later in August, the state intelligence officials said .

He summoned his bodyguard, Chademana, to tell him exactly what had been going on. Like others in the state security services close to the Mugabes, Chademana had had good reason to believe Grace and Gono were having an affair even before Sabina revealed it in his presence, but had thought it wisest to keep quiet about it.

When Mugabe summoned him in August, “Chademana admitted that he knew something was going on which he had not said before”, said the state security officials.

“Mugabe is said to have gone very silent.”

It was a fatal admission. A matter of days later, at the end of August, Chademana mysteriously died. State security officials handed over his body to his son, Welcome, for burial. No autopsy was performed. The dead police officer was a decorated veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation war in the 1970s. He had served as Mugabe’s aide de camp for many years and officials in the president’s office let it be known that Mugabe was deeply shocked.

“It will be difficult for us to come to terms with this sad reality,” said Albert Ngulube, the department’s assistant director in a speech at Chademana’s funeral.

“We are not a murderous organisation but peace-loving Zimbabweans who are determined to protect our country.”

His remarks stopped further speculation of foul play arising from the bodyguard’s sudden demise.

But CIO sources last week revealed that Chademana was poisoned under Mugabe’s instructions by Mugabe’s intelligence men, allegedly employing an undetectable poison. The instructions were carried out after Mugabe had briefed Happyton Bonyongwe, the director general of the CIO.

It was a desperate measure to keep Grace’s affair with Gono from leaking out and making a mockery of the ageing president.

“Mugabe wanted it hushed up at all costs,” said a security official. “Gono is his personal banker, knows Mugabe’s financial secrets and is trusted. And there he is betraying the old man by having an affair with his wife.

“It would be too humiliating and could not be allowed to stand. In addition, Mugabe concluded that Chademana was the source of humiliating leaks about the president’s deteriorating health.”

Mugabe hopes the embarrassing secret of his wife’s infidelity with one of his right-hand men is safely buried with the body of the hapless Chademana in the Warren Hills cemetery outside Harare.

The reserve bank governor’s betrayal presents Mugabe with a dilemma. Throughout most of the last decade of political turmoil and economic meltdown Gono was central to Mugabe’s survival in power.

As the controller of the state coffers, he wielded enormous influence and patronage essentially saving Mugabe’s presidency by finding ways to keep the money flowing when the value of the Zimbabwe dollar had collapsed through hyperinflation.

By dipping into the coffers to fund all Zanu-PF projects, seeing the army generals and the security services were paid and bankrolling the party’s 2008 terror campaign to get Mugabe re-elected, Gono made himself indispensable.

After the reaching of a power-sharing agreement last year when Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai joined a coalition with Mugabe, Gono lost some of his power. But he still remains vitally important to Mugabe and the key figures in his regime and cannot be easily got rid of.

As Mugabe’s personal banker Gono, 50, manages the president’s vast family fortune looted from the country which Mugabe and Grace have stashed away in an opaque network of overseas bank accounts, business ventures and properties, many in the Far East. He also looks after the financial interests of General Constantine Chiwenga, the armed forces chief and others who surround Mugabe at the top and have enriched themselves through their positions.

A measure of Gono’s importance is that Mugabe unilaterally reappointed him to his post last year against considerable opposition from Tsvangirai and, clearly feeling his departure would be highly damaging, he has ever since resisted all demands to dismiss him.

Meanwhile, it looks as if Chademana’s killing could backfire. There are rumblings of discontent within the state intelligence agency where officers, already demoralised by low pay and the killing of Chademana, are talking. Last week several came forward with more revelations which showed the depth of Gono’s betrayal.

One who worked in Gono’s office said he first became aware of his boss’s affair with Grace several years ago when he accompanied him to Malaysia on official business.

During the visit Gono, who had been booked into the Sheraton hotel in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, quickly disappeared to the Berjaya Langkawi beach and spa resort on the island of Langkawi to see her.

The source said that he and his colleagues thought nothing of it until they came to settle Gono and Grace’s hotel bill for the stay and found they were paying for a double room.

Asked how he reacted he said: “In our job we never trust anyone. Even those we are working with we don’t trust. We saw and kept quiet. It is very sensitive.”

At the end of last year, he said, the couple had shared a room at the Cape Grace hotel in Cape Town. Another of Mugabe’s right-hand men, the former Air Vice-Marshal Robert Mhlanga – a key figure in the controversial exploitation of Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond field which is so rich it could make Zimbabwe the world’s top diamond producer – was also said to be aware of Grace’s affair with Gono but kept silent.

Mhlanga has hosted the couple at his Johannesburg house on several occasions during their so-called business trips to South Africa.

“Ask me for another trip like that!” Grace said to Gono afterwards in one e-mail message seen by the official.

More incriminating claims came from the workers at Gushungu, Grace’s dairy farm, an hour’s drive from Harare.

The couple pass off their frequent visits to the farm as business and make a point of arriving and leaving separately.

“At first I did not think anything was going on between them outside business because each time Gono came he bought money with him for the farmworkers,” said one.

“But later on I started suspecting that something was going on each time we visited the house after they had gone.

“No one was allowed inside while they were there. After they left we went back inside. At once it was clear the bedroom had been used for their meeting even though the first lady’s bodyguards had tidied up. They had remade the bed but we could see the sheets had been used. And we noticed the perfume in the bedroom.”

Asked if it surprised him that Gono and Grace were using the farm for an affair, one worker said: “I am not surprised by it. Some others might be. But those who worked at the farm and particularly those who worked in the house will not be astonished.

“It was only going to be a matter of time before someone said it for us. We could not say it ourselves because of fear.”

The Meles Doctrine

Monday, October 25th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

What exactly is a doctrine is a good question. It is a formal way leaders lay down their beliefs, principles, and/or vision so that their citizens will have some clue of where they are taking the country. Apparently Sarah Palin was not aware of the concept, when she sat down with a reporter before the 2008 elections. When asked regarding her understanding of the ‘Bush Doctrine’, the barracuda from Wasilla, drew blank. Her simple innocent answer was ‘in what respect Charlie?’

I do not want you responding ‘in what respect Charlie? when asked about the Meles Doctrine. There is of course a big difference between ‘Ideology’ and ‘Doctrine’. One can say ‘ideology’ and ‘doctrine’ are cousins that can easily be confused by the layman. Marxism is an ideology. Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism are upgrades. Then you have the poor man cheap Apps. that do not rise to the level of ideology, but are thrown in to give petty tyrants a certain air of intellectualism. Juiche in North Korea, Ujama in Tanzania, Green Revolution in Libya etc. are good examples. If you remember Ato Meles came up with ‘revolutionary democracy’ to explain his style, but unfortunately, it did not get traction. It was not definable because it was just empty rhetoric thrown in to explain single ethnic supremacy.

Let us look at some famous ‘Doctrines’ to get a better understanding of the term. I will start with the ‘Monroe Doctrine’. The Monroe Doctrine is a United States policy that was introduced on December 2, 1823, which stated that “further efforts by European countries to colonize land or interfere with states in the Americas would be viewed, by the United States of America, as acts of aggression requiring US intervention.” The US President was warning the European powers to stay out of this hemisphere.

The Truman Doctrine was a policy set forth by U.S. President Harry Truman on March 12, 1947 stating that the U.S. would support Greece and Turkey with economic and military aid to prevent them from falling into the Soviet sphere. It was a warning to Stalin to stay put.

Last but not least, we have the ‘Bush Doctrine’. Compared to the other doctrines, the Bush Doctrine was as confused as the person himself. It was left open for others to define it and/or to attribute different meanings to the concept. It went something like ‘the US should depose regimes that represented potential or perceived threat to the security of the US even if that threat was not immediate.’ It was an open-ended policy to justify the use of military power. Those without a few nukes were worried.

The ‘Meles Doctrine’ was officially unveiled during his speech at the ‘World Leaders Forum’ last month. It was supposed to be a moment of great significance that will usher a new path of ‘salvation’ for the developing countries. It was a crowning moment organized by his friends and fans for our ‘Dear leader for life’ to shine in the international scene. Professor Stiglitz referred to it as ‘academic dialogue.’ A lot of work went into it. The speech was written, rewritten, proofread, and deemed Columbia worthy by all top TPLF cadres, at least all those that can read. Thanks to the ‘vocal Diaspora’ it fell on deaf ears. How could one formulate such an earth shaking theory with such incessant jabbering by misguided Diaspora and unworthy audience that filled the auditorium. Pox on all of them.

I will attempt to right that went wrong. I took my time and listened to the speech thanks to you tube

Professor Joseph Stiglitz’s introduction was both revealing and sad. The Professor is a Nobel laureate and a highly respected economist. Why the good professor is ignoring the findings of highly respected international organizations regarding his guests alleged ‘criminal’ acts is not clear. I didn’t know being a Noble laureate entitles one to forgive and befriend dictators that believe in ethnic purity. I was a little surprised when he said ‘I hope he will, I am sure he will say a few words about Ethiopia’s economic progress.’ What else dear professor, when the title of the discussion was ‘The current global environment and its impact on Africa.’ Am I mistaken in thinking that the prime Minster will talk in general and support his argument with first hand experience as it affected good old Ethiopia?

He did not even mention Ethiopia. Not even once. Not even as an example of ‘neo-liberalism’s failure, the subject he is trying to prove passé. I felt insulted. We don’t even fare a footnote in such a forum. Anyway, without further ado, here is Ato Meles in his own words explaining the Meles Doctrine.

“The last three decades which could be described as the decades of the emergence and triumph of neo liberalism in key centers of global power and hence throughout much of the world have been very bad decades for Africa. They have for all intensive purposes been lost decades. At the beginning period Africa faced a huge burdens and associated micro economic imbalances and low rates of economic growth due to weak management of the economy and unfortunate external circumstances, therefore it was forced to seek support from the international financial institutions which had by then become key enforcers of the emerging neo liberal paradigm. Africa was asked to undergo fundamental neo liberal economic reforms and in return for the support it sought from the international financial institutions. These reforms were sold as the ultimate salvation for its problems and were supposed to lead to sustained economic growth and transformation. The reforms could not and did not lead to salvation. On the contrary the limited industrialization of the continent that has taken place since independence was reversed with no economic revival in sight…..Africans were made to see that neo liberalism was the only game in town ….. this insanity of implementing the same failed neo liberal policies and expecting different resulted in another lost decade during the 90’s. While Africa was mired in perpetual economic crisis and associated political malaise punctuated by horrific and senseless violence neo liberal globalization was making tremendous progress…(here he makes a linear analysis of the international economic situation regarding the emergence of China, India and others) …it was towards the end of the roaring 90’s that the pretense of neo liberal reforms finally leading to sustained growth then transformation in Africa was finally and more or less explicitly abandoned. Africa was now more or less explicitly being managed as a lost case, as a continental ghetto on the margins of a fast globalizing world….. Poverty in Africa was seen to be endemic. The new name of the game thus because not the transformation of Africa’s poverty thru neo liberal reform, thru neo liberal or other reform but the management of its chronic poverty. The objective became to alleviate poverty in Africa and limit the damage of its poverty to itself and to the rest of the world. A new generation of externally driven poverty alleviation strategies thus mushroomed over night thru out the continent…..the emergence of new players in the global economy in general and the emergence of China in particular was beginning to significantly impact on Africa’s economic prospect….as the emerging powers were either opposed to the neo liberalism or reluctant to evangelize on its behalf a new and different game came to town ….Africans have for the first time in three decades real alternatives to the orthodoxy, they now have a choice that they have not had for a long time. The fact the Africans now have a choice is in of itself fundamentally liberating above and beyond that Africans now have a real chance to chart a new course of development, one that incorporates best practice elsewhere and is capable to generating fast growth and transformation. “

That is his story and he is sticking to it. It is very important that you watch the youtube video or re-read the excerpt above. I just want to make sure you know that I am not making it up.

What exactly is the neo liberalism that Ato Meles is ranting about? Here is a definition of the term from

Neoliberalism is a market-driven[1] approach to economic and social policy based on neoclassical theories of economics that stresses the efficiency of private enterprise, liberalized trade and relatively open markets, and therefore seeks to maximize the role of the private business sector in determining the political and economic priorities of the state.

Thus, what he is theorizing is that the West led by the US and Britain, forced poor Africans to follow this prescription that caused the current distressful situation. Unfortunate for the West, their bankrupt theory has come home to haunt them as seen by the ongoing economic melt down. On the other hand, it had a positive effect on countries like India and China, which brings us to his fantastic conclusion that Africans can now abandon neo liberal voodoo economics and follow the Chinese path that comes without evangelizing about certain bad and nasty African habits such as dictatorship, human right abuse, Kleptocracy, and general evil deeds.

The problem is Ato Meles is not some University professor going on a limb and coming up with fantastic scenarios to prove. No, Ato Meles is a leader of a country. He is, though a Prime Minster by title, the de facto King of Ethiopia. His wish is the law. His theory is the practice of his party. His belief is the national policy. All this is due to the simple fact that he controls the military and public security, both perfect tools of coercion.

Now it would have been better if he has volunteered some factual data to support his argument. After all this is not some Starbucks discussion where anything goes. If we are going to have an ‘academic dialogue’ as promised by the Professor, let us at least make it real and not some ‘Alice in wonderland’ tale.

When he claims that the International financial institutions ‘forced fundamental economic reforms’ on Africans, he should tell us what exactly they forced Ato Meles to do to get financial relief? Let us take the policy of deprivatization as practiced in Ethiopia. I don’t think the IMF prescription was to create a private business (EFFORT) in the name of an ethnic group or sell the illegally expropriated property back to the original owners at inflated price. We are not even going to talk about land. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa where all land belongs to the government and is leased by its people. Americans say ‘there is a sucker born every minute’, they must have been thinking of us.

When he says ‘Africa faced a huge burdens and associated micro economic imbalances and low rates of economic growth due to weak management of the economy and unfortunate external circumstances’, does it sound like shifting responsibility? Let us see Africa was mismanaged by the like of:
· Mengistu Hailemariam of Ethiopia 1974-1991. King of ‘Red Terror’ specialized in using ‘neighborhood committees (kebeles)’ to terrorize and murder over a million citizens. (Body count 1.5 Million lives) He destroyed a generation of future leaders that the country has not yet recovered from.
· Idi Amin of Uganda 1971-1979. Specialized in removal of organs (bodies were found with genitals, eyes, livers, noses missing) and prisoners were forced to bludgeon each other to death with sledgehammers. (Body count about 300,000 lives)
· Jean Bedel Bokassa of Central African Republic 1966-1979. Specialized in cannibalism and known for murder of Scholl age children for refusing to wear uniform manufactured in his factory. (Money count $125 Million)
· Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire 1965-1997. Specialized in what is known as ‘Kleptocracy’ where the distinction between state assets and his own was blurred. (Money count $4 Billion)
· Charles Taylor of Liberia 1997-2003. Rain of death on Liberia and its neighbors. Specialized in ‘child solders’ and his personal fortune was greater than Liberia’s GNP. (Body count over 300,000 lives)
Which of these gentlemen is expected to invest time and energy on good governance and nation building? Micro economic imbalance doesn’t sound credible to me. It is more like ‘lack of accountability and megalomania and a dash of grandiosity’ on the part of these mad men in charge.

As for the theory that commodities are bringing more wealth to Africa, it is a tried and tired notion. Africa’s problem is not the lack of money, but it is purely lack of democracy, the rule of law, and accountability. Look at Nigeria where the leaders have stolen over $400 billion from the oil income Yes, that is billion. Guess what they did with it? Deposit it in Swiss, London, or New York banks.

He concludes by saying ‘Africans have for the first time in three decades real alternatives to the orthodoxy, they now have a choice that they have not had for a long time.’ I fail to see what is new here. Didn’t we have a bi-polar world with just two super powers? So what is the big deal about replacing the Russians with the Chinese? Is the expectation that the Chinese for some pure altruism will be better masters than the ferenjis? Shifting between the West and the East did not bring us any gains last time around. They played volleyball with us. Should we give it another try? Didn’t Ato Meles make a choice when he followed the Albanian model? Of course, he grew up and replaced it with the Western model that he is outgrowing today. What is this madness about adapting a new model at this late in the game?

On the other hand, we are told and retold that the Ethiopian economy is growing double digits and is the talk of the continent. Why would anybody quarrel with such an impressive record? Shouldn’t Ethiopia be presented as poster country for the ‘triumph’ of neo liberalism? It is not good to bite the hand that feeds, is it? Or was the growth statistics a hoax? What is curious is that the Chinese we are trying to emulate are moving towards the Western model at the speed of light. Chairman Mao’s body was not even cold when Deng Xiaoping remarked “black cat, white cat, I don’t care what color it is as long as it catches mice”? Today’s China is boasting plenty of billionaires and the Communist Party is working overtime to balance economic growth and political freedom. A very elusive goal if you ask me. What part of that system are we ogling? Don’t tell me we are looking at the Chairman!

The Meles Doctrine should be declared dead on arrival. It needs work. It is not ready for prime time. The PM should go back to the drawing board and give his argument some meat. Declaration might work when one is dealing with underlings but scholarly work requires a little bit more diligence. In my humble opinion the ‘Doctrine’ suffers from tunnel vision. It looks at the world in one dimension. It is afraid to look out side of the box. I agree with his often repeated statement about ‘the insanity of implementing the same failed policy and expecting different result.’ Isn’t presenting the choice between the Western and Chinese model following a failed road.

The ‘creative potential’ of the Ethiopian people is not taken into consideration. Surely a people scattered all over that left their country bare feet to settle in strange lands and manage to send over a billion US dollars in remittances is a formidable force. They are the same people that work hard and invest in Ethiopia that Ato Meles is taking credit for. If it was not for the Diaspora remittance (a cool billion a year) TPLF’s Ethiopia will be one destitute place. We daily think of those that stayed behind and are suffering the brunt of the fire of poverty, ethnic degradation, famine and general apathy. They should be commended for being so calm and peaceful under trying circumstances. Our people are our precious asset. Our only choice is having faith in ourselves and meeting the challenge head on. There is no free lunch in this life. Both the East and the West require a pound of flesh for their handout. The idea of playing one against the other is a zero sum game. It is so yesterday, it is pathetic.

Dialogue for common goal

Monday, October 25th, 2010

In preparation for a united front, Ethiopian opposition groups need to answer what their common goal is. According to Ethiopian Review editorial adviser Ato Sioum Gebeyehou, the common goal that binds every one in the country is Ethiopiawinet, i.e., to belong to one nation called Ethiopia. The following presentation by Ato Sioum explains that Ethiopia is a model nation of minorities that is a composite fabric of more than 77 ethnic groups. Click on the image below to view the 3-page presentation:

The Meles regime goes after Sebhat Nega's Wegagen Bank

Monday, October 25th, 2010

By Mikias Sebsibe | The Reporter

Awash Construction SC, the state-owned construction enterprise, filed a lawsuit against Wegagen Bank, which is owned by a former member of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) politburo Sebhat Nega, for the recovery of nearly 800,000 birr plus interest for a failed construction project.

The construction company signed a nearly 1.3 million birr contract for the supply and fixing of swimming pool works at the National Bank project in January 2010 with Project Design Innovation Trading.

It also claimed that it has extended 30 percent of the advance payment in two installments after receiving a guarantee of nearly 400,000 birr from Wegagen Bank for a period of four months. The state-owned construction company also claimed that the bank signed up a performance guarantee of nearly 130,000 birr for the same period.

However, Awash Construction S.C. terminated the agreement on August 2010 alleging a breach of contract. Despite repeated notices given to Project Design Innovation Trading, the project was not finalized within 120 days of the signing as agreed in the contract, claims Awash Construction. It also alleged that the bank, which extended its guarantee period for a further period of six months, failed to make the payment after notice was sent to it on September 2010.

Awash Construction S.C., which was established in 1993, instituted the lawsuit against both Wegagen Bank and Project Design Innovation Trading as the first and second defendants, respectively at the Ninth Civil Bench of the Federal High Court early last week. It claimed a little over 500,000 birr from the bank for failing to pay for the advance payment guarantee and performance bond. The plaintiff also sought nearly 300,000 birr from the second defendant for the delay which caused the value of the contract to increase by 22 percent due to the devaluation of the birr.

The defendants are expected to present their statements of defense at a hearing which will be held on October 29.

"Foreign Affairs Minister" hold talks with U.K. soccer team

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Meles Zenawi’s new, non-Tigrean, “Foreign Affairs Minister” Hailemariam Desalegn has assumed his position and one of his first major tasks is a meeting with an English football team, while the real Foreign Affairs Minister, Berhan GebreKristos, a central committee member of the Tigray People Liberation Front (Woyanne), is calling on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his other foreign counterparts. Individuals like Hailemariam have a conscience of a pig. That’s why they allow Meles Zenawi to use them as puppets while giving real power only to his ethnic group. For every non-Tigrean minister, there is a Tigrean official (deputy or state minister) who holds real power.

The following is a report by the Woyanne-controlled Ethiopian News Agency (ENA):

Foreign Affairs Minister Holds Talks With English Premier League

Addis Ababa (ENA) – Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn held talks here on Monday with the Chairman of the English Premier League, David Richards.

Hailemariam said the working with the England Premier League would revive Ethiopian football.

He recalled that Ethiopia is one of the founders of African foot ball teams and has a significant contribution for the development of football in Africa.

However, he said, Ethiopia still lags behind compared to other African countries.

Richards said on his part that he was happy about everything he has seen in Ethiopia.

The prevalence of peace and security in the country in particular would have a significant contribution for the development of sport.

World Bank is financing repression in Ethiopia – Ben Rawlence

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Ben Rawlence, author of a new Human Rights Watch report, “How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia,” accuses the World Bank of feeding repressing in Ethiopia in his latest piece posted today on He writes:

Publicly, the World Bank insists that development programs are helping large numbers of people and that there are mechanisms to monitor political {www:manipulation} of donor-supported programs. But privately they openly acknowledge that they have no way of knowing if their aid is distributed manipulatively and in fact they know there is discrimination and repression but are powerless to stop it.

Read the full text below.

World Bank Feeding Repression in Ethiopia

By Ben Rawlence

The child in the man’s arms is painfully thin. The father is hungry too. He lives in southern Ethiopia, where food shortages are an annual occurrence. There are food distributions in his village but the man, let’s call him Joseph, is a member of the wrong political party.

Joseph is a well-known critic of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and openly campaigned for the opposition in his ward in controversial 2005 elections and this year’s general elections in May.

His family has paid for his political views. His wife left him, taking the youngest children because, he says, she was tired of being hungry. Their eldest child, too old for the emergency feeding programs, remains with Joseph. The boy is 8, but looks like an undernourished 5 year old.

No one will hire Joseph because of his opposition ties. The land he’s allowed to farm has been reduced by the village chairman, a ruling party representative. And when Joseph sought to participate in a food-for-work program, he was denied. The day before he spoke to me, the chairman of his village told him: “You are suffering so many problems, why don’t you write a letter of regret and join the ruling party?”

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has made a global name for himself as a reformer committed to eradicating poverty and making strong progress toward the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. In support of this progress — though there is some dispute about the accuracy of Ethiopia’s statistics — Western donors including the World Bank, the United States, United Kingdom and European Commission give more than $3 billion to Ethiopia every year. The money goes straight to the treasuries of the federal and regional governments for spending on public services in villages and safety net food for work programs.

These programs are run by the World Bank and jointly monitored by Ethiopian and donor officials. But the programs are so huge, the sums so vast, and the access granted by the Ethiopians to independent monitors so limited, that the bank and other donors mostly trust the Ethiopian officials to spend the money as agreed.

Ethiopia’s government is one of the most highly organized on the continent. It is also one of the most repressive, with the government and the ruling party increasingly fused during the party’s 19 years in power.

When the party faced protests following the 2005 elections, the government showed its sinister side, killing over 200 protesters, detaining around 30,000 opposition supporters and bringing treason charges against leading members of the opposition and the media.

The World Bank and its donors suspended direct budget support to the government, fearing that their aid money might be misused to support only ruling party members and divide society, what they termed “political capture” of development assistance. The suspension was temporary, though. Overall, between 2004 and 2008, annual aid spending doubled, to $3.3 billion.

But what the World Bank feared in 2005 has come to pass. It is notoriously difficult to speak openly in Ethiopia. In the villages where 85 percent of the population live, every five households are organized into a cell, whose leaders report on households to the village leaders. Visitors, conversations and political affiliation are all noted and evaluated when decisions are made about allocating seeds, fertilizers, micro-credit loans or participation in the food-for-work safety net program. Village officials also provide references for students and references for jobs and promotions for teachers and civil servants.

The bottom line is that if you step out of line, you risk not just social exclusion, but total deprivation, as Joseph did.

In 2009 Human Rights Watch interviewed over 200 people from over 50 villages in three regions of the country, many with stories like Joseph’s.

Publicly, the World Bank insists that development programs are helping large numbers of people and that there are mechanisms to monitor political manipulation of donor-supported programs. But privately they openly acknowledge that they have no way of knowing if their aid is distributed manipulatively and in fact they know there is discrimination and repression but are powerless to stop it.

The ruling party, which won over 99 percent of the seats in elections in 2008 and May 2010, locks up dissidents, intimidates journalists into leaving the country and has passed repressive laws that eviscerate civil society.

Donors are in a bind. They fear that if they push Ethiopia too hard, it may turn toward China’s no-strings money. But continuing to write checks in the face of Ethiopia’s increasing authoritarianism runs counter to donors’ own policies, which state that human rights are central to sustainable development.

Bank officials in Addis Ababa were eager in interviews to discuss the Chinese model and whether it is possible to have development without freedom. But the real question for donors, and for Western taxpayers, parliamentarians and governments, is whether development reserved only for those who support one political party is the kind of development they are happy to support.

Poverty-mongers come out against HRW report on Ethiopia

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

A collection of international aid agencies in Ethiopia that has named itself Development Assistance Group (DAG) has issued a statement rejecting a recent report by Human Rights Watch that points out how foreign aid is being used by the ruling junta to suppress people. DAG said:

We do not concur with the conclusions of the recent HRW report regarding widespread, systematic abuse of development aid in Ethiopia. Our study did not generate any evidence of systematic or widespread distortion…

DAG is not willing to accept all the evidences that have been compiled by international human rights groups because it is in its self interest for Ethiopia to stay poor and underdeveloped. The aid agencies in Ethiopia are perpetuating poverty by helping prolong the brutal dictatorship’s grip on power. Most of the $3 billion that is being funneled to the Meles dictatorship every year through DAG is not reaching the poor.

Let’s crunch the numbers:

DAG gives Ethiopia’s regime $3 billion per year, according to HRW, which is roughly 50 billion birr. This amount of money is enough to give 5 million children 10,000 birr each per year, which is enough to provide food, cloth, shelter and education for each child for a year.

However, the fact on the ground right now is that even in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, tens of thousands of children eat trash to survive, while DAG Ethiopia representatives dine, wine and party with officials of the Meles regime every night of the week in Addis Ababa’s most expensive restaurants and night clubs.

All the aid agencies (poverty pimps) would do the people of Ethiopia a big favor if they pack up and leave.

The following is a list of DAG members:

African Development Bank
Mr.Lamin Barrow
Resident Representative
Tel :0115-533244
Fax :0115-546355
Email :

Austria Development Cooperation
Mr. Heinz Habertheur
Head of Development Cooperation
Tel : + 251 11 553 38 28
Fax : + 251 11 553 38 31 Email:

Ms.Cruz Ciria
Head of Development Cooperation
Tel : 0116-185365
Fax : 0116-185357
Email :

Mr. Edmound Wega
Country Dirctor and Head of Development Cooperation
Tel : 0113-713022
Fax : 0113-713033
Email :

Denmark Embassy
Ms. Pernille Dahler Kardel
Tel : +251 11 6187075
Fax : +251 11 6187057
Email :

DFID Mr. Howard Taylor Head
Tel: +251 116-180601
Fax:+251 116-610588

European Commission
Mr. Denis Thieulin
Head of Development Cooperation
Tel :+251 116-612511
Fax : +251116-612877
Email :

Embassy of Belgium
Mr. Wouter Detavernier
First sec. and Head of Dev.Cooperation
Tel : +251 11 661 16 43
Fax : +251 11 661 36 46
Email :

Embassy of Finland
Ms. Virpi Kankare
Deputy Head of Mission
Tel : +251 11 320 59 20
Fax : +251 11 320 59 23
Email :

Embassy of France
Mr. Patrick Cohen
Head of Development Cooperation
Tel : +251 11 140 0000
Fax : +251 11 140 0050
Email :

German Embassy-German Development Cooperation
Mr. Bernhard Trautner (Phd.)
First Counsellor/Head of Development Cooperation
Tel : +251 11 123 5139
Fax : +251 11 123 5132
Email :
German Embassy

Embassy of Japan
Mr. Yoshinori Kitamura
First Secretary/ Head of Development Cooperation
Tel : +251 11 551 10 88
Fax : +251 11 551 13 50
Email :

Embassy of Norway /NORAD
Mr. Havard Hoksnes
Head, Development Cooperation
Tel : +251 11 371 07 99
Fax : +251 11 371 12 55
Email :

International Monetary Fund
Mr. Sukhwinder Singh
Resident Representative
Tel :+251 116-627800
Fax : +251 116-627803
Email :

Indian Embassy
H.E. Bhagwant Bishnoi
Tel : +251 11 1235544/38
Fax : +251 11 1235547/48
Email :

Irish Aid
Ms.Colleen Wainwright
Head of Development
Tel : +251 11 4 665005
Fax : +251 11 4 665020
Email :

Italian Cooperation
Mr. Giorgio Sparaci
Head of Development Cooperation
Tel : +251 11 123 96 00/01/02
Fax : +251 11 123 96 03
Email :

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
Mr. Ota.Koji
Resident Representative
Tel : +251 11 550 47 55
Fax : +251 11 550 44 65
Email :

Netherlands Embassy
Mr. Geert Geut
Head Development Cooperation
Tel : +251 11 371 11 00
Fax : +251 11 371 15 77
Email :

Mr. Abdi Foum
Head of Development Cooperation
Tel :+251 115-180018
Fax : +251 116-626752
Email :

Turkish International Cooperation Agency (TICA)
Mr. Abdullah Sari
Programme Coordinator
Tel : +251 116-627850/51
Fax : +251 115-185357
Email :

UN Development Programme (UNDP)
Mr. Eugene Owusu
Resident Representative
Tel : +251 11 551 10 25
Fax : +251 11 551 51 47/ +251 11 551 49 77
Email :

Mr. Thomas H. Staal
Mission Director
Tel : +251 11 551 08 51
Fax : +251 11 551 00 43
Email :

World Bank
Mr. Kenichi Ohashi
Country Director
Tel : +251 11 662 77 00
Fax : +251 11 662 77 17
Email :

Ethiopians in Seattle dispersed a Woyanne meeting

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Brave Ethiopians in Seattle have dispersed a meeting called by Woyanne cadres Friday afternoon.

Woyanne Minister of Youth and Sports Aster Mamo and two other ruling party officials were scheduled to speak at public meeting.

After chasing away the Woyannes, the Ethiopian activists held a meeting to discuss plans for the upcoming 5th anniversary of Ethiopian election massacre remembrance events.

The activists have also formed a Seattle anti-Woyanne coalition that is composed of all Ethiopian groups, including Ginbot 7, UDJ, OLF, and civic groups.

A letter to my Ethiopian sisters

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

By Mesrak Gessesse

October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” in the United States. I am writing this “letter” in hopes of raising greater awareness about the disease among Ethiopian women and encouraging them to fight the disease effectively with early detection and treatment. With the types of treatments available today, breast cancer is a disease that can be treated effectively if caught early.

The word “cancer” is enough to scare anybody, but it is a woman’s worst nightmare to be told that she has breast cancer. I went through an emotional roller coaster — shock, denial, anger, and “why me” self-pity — when my doctor told me I had breast cancer. Thank God the cancer was caught in its earliest phase known as “stage 0”. If I had skipped my annual checkup and mammogram, the result could have been much different.

One of the things I have observed over the years is that many of us Ethiopian women in the U.S. tend to be lax about doing our annual checkups or having our regular mammograms. For some of us, it is a simple problem of not being able to afford any health care. Without insurance, getting health care in the U.S. could be very difficult. But I have also found out that many Ethiopian women who have the means to get regular checkups and mammograms often do not get it.

I have heard many reasons for this potentially dangerous situation not just from strangers but also friends and family members. I believe one of the major reasons for this situation has to do with not being well-informed about breast cancer. Many of us are so scared of the disease that we don’t want to think about it, let alone actively learn information that could save our lives. I have heard so many Ethiopian women say they will not go to see the doctor unless they are “very sick”. With breast cancer, waiting until one is “very sick” means one is just too late to get help to save one’s life.

This attitude is understandable, even though very risky, given the fact that many immigrant Ethiopian women are overburdened with family and work responsibilities and find it almost impossible to pay attention to their basic health care needs. Being in the health care field, I have talked to some Ethiopian women who have told me of their belief that if they go to see the doctor, they may find out they have a “bad disease such as cancer”. Strange as it may seem to them, that is exactly what they need to find out with breast cancer, and as early as possible.

Breast cancer is one disease that no woman can hide from or afford to ignore. Ignoring breast cancer is like ignoring a small brushfire in the forest. Left alone, the brush fire will eventually destroy the forest. Breast cancer, if not detected early or ignored after one catches its tell-tale signs, could spread to various organs in the body and kill its victim. It is not uncommon for some women to feel lumps in their breasts, ignore it and not have it checked out because it “does not hurt.” That is a big mistake. Any kind of lump or hard tissue in the breast should be taken very seriously and checked out by a doctor.

There are also myths that many Ethiopian women believe about breast cancer tests and treatments. For example, some women avoid getting their annual mammograms because they believe they can get cancer from it. Mammogram does not cause breast cancer. It is a simple and painless procedure just like taking X-rays. There is very little risk of getting cancer from doing a mammogram.

Some Ethiopian women believe cancer is something to be ashamed of. They don’t want their friends and relatives to know they have it and keep it a secret to themselves until it is too late or they are in the hospital. There is nothing shameful about breast cancer. It is a terrible disease that does not discriminate between women who are poor or rich, black or white or in whatever part of the world a woman may live in.

What I want to stress here more than anything else is the fact that Ethiopian women need to do regular medical checkups and get mammograms to catch any symptoms or signs of breast cancer. Breast cancer is not like the flu, it does not go away with a few days of bed rest. If left untreated, it gets worse by the day until it reaches a point where nothing can be done medically. Early detection of breast cancer is the key to survival.

The really sad part of breast cancer is the needless deaths that are caused because Ethiopian women simply avoid doing the basic things that could help catch the disease at its early stage. Perhaps like many who may read this “letter”, over the years I have lost friends, acquaintances, co-workers and family members to this terrible disease. I have to say many lost their lives because they did not have timely breast cancer screening and diagnosis, or ignored their symptoms until after it was too late.

I know for many Ethiopian women in the U.S. there are cultural, language and financial issues that make it difficult to get regular checkups and screenings for breast cancer. I believe Ethiopian women helping each other could help greatly in dealing with these issues. That is why I ask all of my Ethiopian sisters to openly talk about breast cancer with each other at home, in places of worship and social events and gatherings and share information about early breast cancer detection and treatment. As we freely talk about our high blood pressure or diabetes, we should do the same with breast cancer so that we can get help in a timely fashion.

I believe Ethiopian health professionals can play a key role in educating and getting early diagnosis and treatment for women at risk for breast cancer. Ethiopian women doctors especially, and men too, could play an important role in educating women about the disease, doing screenings and suggesting possibilities for those who may not be able to afford health care. There are many local clinics and hospitals in the U.S. that offer free breast cancer screenings for women who cannot afford it.

It would be great if Ethiopian women could start breast cancer patient support groups in their local communities throughout the U.S. that can provide information and one-to-one support for those diagnosed with breast cancer or going through treatment. Those in the religious community can play an important role by inviting knowledgeable health professionals in breast cancer to their community halls to educate Ethiopian women on how to access free or low cost health care to get checkups and mammograms. In many major cities, there are radio stations serving the Ethiopian community. They could help save many lives if they devoted some air time to breast cancer awareness and treatment. The same can be said of the various Ethiopian websites. I am hopeful that by next year this time, we will be able to have our first annual “Ethiopian Women Breast Cancer Awareness Month” to coincide with the national program.

I discovered my breast cancer during a routine annual mammogram screening test. The test showed traces of “micro calcification”, which are cells that could turn fully cancerous if left untreated. My doctor did a biopsy by taking a tiny amount of tissue from the breast area where the cancer cells were seen. I had surgery which removed just the affected tissue area. I did radiation therapy to make sure no cancer cells remained and got medication to prevent any possibility of recurrence. I was back to my regular schedule within a few short weeks.

Today I am cancer free, healthy and able to share my story with everyone, thanks to God. Regular checkups and mammogram tests saved my life. Let us all work together to create breast cancer awareness in our communities and help each other find ways of early detection and treatment.

(The writer works in health care administration in Southern California and is actively involved in efforts to promote early cancer detection and treatment and education. She may be reached at

ESFNA teams rally behind Birtukan vote

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

The Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA) is engulfed in a controversy after its Woyanne-infested 9-member executive committee has tried to reverse the 27-member board’s decision to invite Birtukan Mideksa as a guest of honor.

As reported earlier (see here), majority of the ESFNA board voted by a wide margin to invite Birtukan, which was violently opposed by Al Amoudi stooges Sebsebe Assefa, Ayaya Arega, and Endale Turfa. At one point, Sebsebe and Ayaya threatened to physically attack delegates from the Los Angeles Abebe Bikila and the Maryland St. Mikael teams who presented the proposal. When the chair, intimidated by Al Amoudi thugs, hesitated to allow a vote, five of the 27 teams walked out. At which point, the chair gave in and allowed a vote to take place. The result was 12 to 8 in favor of Birtukan. If the five teams who walked out in protest are counted, the total number of teams who are in favor of Birtukan are 17 out of the 27.

The next day after the vote, Al Amoudi servants (ashkeroch) regrouped and forced the executive committee to reverse the board’s decision.

Flush with money looted from Ethiopia by Al Amoudi, the executive committee is preparing to file a law suit against Ethiopian Review and also to launch a public relations campaign to sell its frivolous argument that ESFNA cannot get involved in politics by inviting a politician. What they conveniently forget is that on more than one occasion ESFNA had invited a political figure as a guest of honor. The involvement of Al Amoudi and Woyanne agents in the ESFNA itself is highly political. On top of that, some of the executive committee members, such as Endale Turfa, are Woyanne activists who organize events on behalf of the Meles junta.

Some members of the teams whose delegates voted NO to Birtukan’s invitation told Ethiopian Review today that they are terribly disappointed at the decision of their representatives.  Most members of the ESFNA teams are patriotic Ethiopians who oppose the executive committee’s relations with the Woyanne junta and Al Amoudi. The ESFNA Executive Committee is actually a toothless body that is bossed around by Al Amoudi’s top aid Abnet GebreMeskel and his gang of thugs led by Ayaya, Arawit, and Sebsebe.

Here is how the ESFNA teams stand on the Birtukan invitation:

Teams Who Voted for Birtukan
Abay Ethio – New York
Abebe Bikila – Los Angeles
Blue Nile – Chicago
Dashen – Seattle
Ethio SC – Atlanta
Ethio SC – Boston
Las Vegas – NV
Liberty Walya – PA
Nyala – MN
San Jose Anbessa – San Jose
Seattle Barro -
St Mikeal – MD
Tana – Denver
Toronto Ethiostars – Toronto
Unity – DC
Virginia Lions – VA
Walya – San Francisco

Teams Who Voted Against Birtukan
Abyssinia – Portland
Addis – Dallas
DC Ethiopian Stars
Ethio SA – Dallas
LA Ethio Stars – Los Angeles
St George – Ohio
Tewodros SC – San Diego

Dallol – Culver City
Houston Ethiopian SA

UPDATE – Ethiopians hold Vigil for Ali Mohammed (photos)

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

6:30 PM — Hundreds of Ethiopians in the Washington DC Area are holding candle light vigil for Ali Mohammed on 9th and U Street. The vigil started at 6 PM. [Read about Ali here]

[Photos by Abebe Belew and Fitsum Girma]

Vigil for Ali outside DC9 at 9th and U Street

Ali’s sister at the vigil

DC Councilman Jim Graham

Tamagn Beyene



Letter Ronald C. Machen Jr. US attorney’s office for the District of Columbia

Ronald C. Machen Jr.
US attorney’s office for the District of Columbia
555 4th street NW Washington, DC 20530.

Dear District Attorney Machen Jr.,

We are contacting you on behalf of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an international social justice organization; committed to defending the rights of Ethiopians both in the Diaspora and within Ethiopia. We want to alert you to our serious concerns regarding the recent violent assault and subsequent death of a 27-year-old Ethiopian man, Ali Ahmed Mohammed, in Washington D.C. on October 15, 2010 at the hands of the owner and four employees from the nightclub, DC 9.

We do not defend Mr. Mohammed’s own actions that caused property damage to the DC 9 nightclub, but believe those reportedly involved in his brutal and horrific murder should be held accountable under the law of the United States of America. Instead of calling the police and letting the courts decide on the outcome, reports indicate that the owner and four of his employees from the DC 9 nightclub chased Mr. Mohammed down the street, threw him to the ground and then beat him and brutally stomped on his head and body. He died only 45 minutes later. What began as property damage to a window by Mr. Mohammed, led to a savage five-man gang assault against this one unarmed man.

We in the Ethiopian community are not only saddened by the loss of this man, we are also deeply disturbed by your office’s decision to amend the charges from Second Degree Murder to Aggravated Assault, despite the police reports and eyewitnesses that closely connect this brutal assault to Mr. Mohammed’s death. We would first ask why these charges were reduced; hoping that those original charges will soon be reinstated; however, if they are not, we would ask for an explanation.

We believe that transparency and rigorous adherence to the law can quell any suspicions; including concerns among Ethiopian Americans that somehow, his death will be attributed to other causes. Yet, as one can see from the picture above, the evidence that the attack was violent and vicious has left its bloody trail on the pavement.

There were also multiple eye-witnesses; both Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian, who will be able to testify to the heavy blows on his head and body that would have easily caused his death less than an hour later.

Ethiopians throughout the world, many of whom are very connected to each other through new technologies, are closely watching this case. They are shocked by the amended charges, but still maintain hope in the integrity of the American justice system. In Washington DC alone, we have over 300,000 Ethiopian Americans who are good citizens, hard-working people and law-abiding. Most have come to this great American land after running away from the rampant injustice, lack of political rights and corruption within Ethiopia; a country where political alliances and cronyism regularly pervert justice.

We ask you to show us an irrefutable example of American justice being served; even if it requires independent medical examiners, forensic experts, independent investigators, a change of court venue or other actions that may become necessary to create greater trust in the system and its fair, non-biased outcome.

We in the SMNE, are standing together with other Ethiopians and justice-loving people to make sure that the rule of law is followed because this young man who died was not just an unknown Ethiopian immigrant or a young man with a Muslim name or someone who committed a wrongful property crime, but he is our American family member, one of us and above all, a human being created by God who did not deserve to die this way. We believe in humanity before anything else and that until justice is served to all; the justice of all is threatened.

As an organization representing the Ethiopian people, we in the SMNE have already contacted a major law firm in Washington DC about some of the facts of this case. They have agreed to work with the SMNE, the Ethiopian community and the family as questions, difficulties or issues arise surrounding this case. We are also willing to assist your office as able.

We look forward to hearing from you. For more information on the SMNE, you may view our website at:

Sincerely yours,

Obang Metho;
Executive Director of the SMNE
PO Box 50561
Arlington, VA 22205
Phone: (202) 725-1616

Foreign aid underwrites repression in Ethiopia – HRW

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Human Rights Watch has released a 111-page report that discusses how the $3 billion Ethiopia’s dictatorship receives annual from foreign donors is fueling the Meles regime’s machinery of repression while contributing little or nothing for the country’s development. HRW writes:

Led by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the government has used donor-supported programs, salaries, and training opportunities as political weapons to control the population, punish dissent, and undermine political opponents—both real and perceived. Local officials deny these people access to seeds and fertilizer, agricultural land, credit, food aid, and other resources for development.

… But development agencies have turned a blind eye to the Ethiopian government’s repression of civil and political rights, even though they recognize these rights to be central to sustainable socioeconomic development.

Read the full report here.

While the conclusion HRW has reached about the devastating effect of foreign aid on Ethiopia is not new, the facts and figures that are included in the report make the case for holding the donor agencies directly accountable for the atrocities that are being committed by the Meles brutal dictatorship. The Obama Administration, in particular, is a major disappointment since President Obama gave hope that he would not support “those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent.” Despite his promise, he is currently giving the Meles genocidal dictatorship over $1 billion per year.

The solution for Ethiopians is within us. We must not depend on any one to remove the Woyanne cancer. Let’s identify Woyanne’s soft targets and start hitting.

Let Ethiopians Hear America's Voice

Monday, October 18th, 2010

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Ethiopian Citizens Have the Absolute Constitutional Right to Listen to the VOA

So many lessons to learn from Columbia University! When dictator-in-chief Meles Zenawi spoke unceremoniously at Columbia on September 22, he was talking trash about the Voice of America (VOA). He said he decided to jam VOA broadcasts in Ethiopia “by taking a page from U.S. policy”[1]. He wildly alleged that an evil cabal of supporters of the defunct Ethiopian military regime disguised as journalists had taken control of VOA’s Amharic service.

Now, I don’t know if you know this but VOA [Voice of America] is not allowed to broadcast to the U.S. by law. It is not allowed to broadcast to the U.S. by law. It is allowed to broadcast to other countries, but not to the U.S. because it is supposed to reflect the policy of the government in power of the day. Now, VOA Amharic service happens to be dominated by people associated with the previous regime who tend to have a particularly jaundiced view of events in Ethiopia for understandable reasons. We took a page from the policy of the United States and said VOA is not welcome to Ethiopia either.

This past March, Zenawi made the downright wacky allegation that the VOA’s Amharic service staff had been engaged in plotting genocide in Ethiopia for “many years”:

We have been convinced for many years that in many respects, the VOA Amharic Service has copied the worst practices of radio stations such as Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda in its wanton disregard of minimum ethics of journalism and engaging in destabilizing propaganda.

When the Voice of America’s Amharic Service interviewed me on October 1, 2010 to comment on Zenawi’s legal and policy justifications for jamming the VOA by taking a “page from the policy of the United States,” I told them it was a no brainer: “U.S. policy and laws are completely irrelevant to the exercise of expressive freedoms in Ethiopia. Ethiopian citizens have the absolute constitutional right to receive broadcasts of the VOA or “any other media of their choice.” Zenawi has no legal power or authority of any kind to prevent Ethiopian citizens from listening to VOA broadcasts.

The indisputable fact of the matter is that the right of Ethiopian citizens to listen to the VOA or “any other media of their choice” or to seek information from any source does not depend on U.S. policy or the permission of Zenawi. Their right is founded solely and exclusively on the sweeping constitutional guarantees they enjoy under Articles 29 and 13 of the Ethiopian Constitution. The language of these two articles is simple, plain, straightforward, unambiguous and requires no interpretation. Article 29 (reproduced also in the official Amharic text below[2]) states:

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression without interference. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers [the official Amharic version reproduced below literally translates the word "frontier" to "without limits to information originating within the country or outside of the country"], either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through other media of his choice.

3. … Press freedom shall, in particular, include the rights enumerated hereunder: a) that censorship in any form is prohibited. b) the opportunity to have access to information of interest to the public.

In fact, the text of Article 29 (2) is taken almost verbatim from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which provides:

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.

Article 13 bolsters Article 29 by tying the interpretation of all “democratic constitutional rights” enjoyed by Ethiopian citizens to international human rights treaties and conventions to which Ethiopia is a signatory, and explicitly mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which Ethiopia adopted as one of the original 48 members who voted for it in the U.N. General Assembly in September 1948. Article 13 (Scope and Interpretation) provides:

1. The provisions of this Chapter shall, at all levels, apply to the federal and state legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.
2. The fundamental rights and freedoms enumerated in this Chapter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international human rights covenants and conventions ratified by Ethiopia.

All of the foregoing legal language can be reduced to four simple but irrefutable propositions:1) Ethiopian citizens have the absolute constitutional right to hear any radio broadcast “or media of their choice”. 2) Ethiopian citizens have the absolute right to hear any radio broadcast “or “media of their choice” under international human rights laws and conventions to which Ethiopia is a signatory. 3) No official or institution in Ethiopia has the legal power to prohibit, exclude or interfere with the delivery of radio broadcasts or information from any other media (including internet sources) because “censorship in any form is prohibited.” 4) Zenawi is in flagrant, brazen and egregious violation of the Ethiopian Constitution and international human rights laws and conventions by jamming of VOA broadcasts in Ethiopia.

Living on Planet Denial-stan?

When Mahmood Ahmadinejad came to Columbia University in 2007 to speak, its president Lee Bollinger, rhetorically wondered why Ahmadinejad would deny the occurrence of the Holocaust, and concluded by telling him: “You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.” One is tempted to offer the same conclusion to Zenawi for saying the United States Government “for many years” has operated a radio broadcast service that had promoted genocide in Ethiopia and seeking to justify his jamming of VOA broadcasts on the basis of a U.S. Government “policy” that does not exist.

It would be easy to dismiss Zenawi’s outrageous allegations against the VOA as mere polemical political theatre but for a consistent pattern of other equally outlandish allegations and assertions he has made over the years. When I wrote my piece “The Grammar of Dictators” in August, 2008, I was fascinated by dictators’ use of language to humanize their cruelties and civilize their barbarism; or as George Orwell put it, to use “political language to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

The cumulative evidence of Zenawi’s double talk and preposterous allegations and assertions unmistakably point to the fact that his manifest perception of the facts is completely detached from reality. Back in April 2008, in a Newsweek interview, Zenawi triumphantly declared that his new press law “will be on par with the best in the world.” That same year he told Time Magazine that there is no famine in Ethiopia, only “pockets of severe malnutrition in some districts in the south and an emergency situation in the Somali region.” In September 2007, Zenawi said there is not a “shred of evidence” that significant human rights violations have occurred in the Ogaden region: “We are supposed to have burned villages [in the Ogaden]. I can tell you, not a single village, and as far as I know not a single hut has been burned. We have been accused of dislocating thousands of people from their villages and keeping them in camps. Nobody has come up with a shred of evidence.” In October 2006, Zenawi denied the existence of political prisoners in his prisons: “There are no political prisoners in Ethiopia at the moment. Those in prison are insurgents. So it is difficult to explain a situation of political prisoners, because there are none.” To make such statements, one must spend a great deal of time on Planet Denial-stan, where the operating principle is, “I think, therefore things exist or do not exist.”

Does Zenawi Really Believe the VOA is the VOI?

It boggles the mind to think that Zenawi actually believes the Voice of America is the Voice of Interhamwe, Rwanda. It is equally incredible why he would make such a statement without backing it up with solid evidence or even giving a single example of a genocidal broadcast of any kind made by the VOA anywhere, anytime. What is stunningly astonishing is the fact that these words rolled off the tongue of an individual lionized for his prodigious intellect and political astuteness. In 2005 at an award ceremony for Zenawi, the internationally renowned Prof. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, the man sworn to ending global poverty by 2015, could barely contain his fawning eulogy of Zenawi’s sagacity and intellectual prowess: “You have distinguished yourself as a one of our World’s most brilliant leaders. I have often said that our many hours of discussion together are among the most scintillating that I have spent on the topics of economic development. I invariably leave our meetings enriched, informed, and encouraged about Ethiopia’s prospects.”

Is it possible that “one of our World’s most brilliant leaders” actually believes the VOA is America’s version of genocide Radio Mille Collines, Rwanda!?!?

I cannot be sure, but I would like to believe Zenawi is being “brazenly provocative” by making such an allegation. I should like to think that he is using a “shock and offend” strategy calculated to trigger the ire of the United States Government and ensnare it in an all-out war of words on a propaganda battlefield over which Zenawi has control of the commanding heights. In other words, if the U.S. could be provoked to respond angrily or defensively to the allegation, it could then be dragged into a mud fight worthy of the proverbial wrestling match with the pig. At the end of the match both combatants will be filthy and exhausted, but one gets the distinct feeling that the pig enjoyed the experience very much. But the U.S. did not take the bait and steered clear off the mud issuing a terse statement: “Comparing a respected and professional news service to a group that called for genocide in Rwanda is a baseless and inflammatory accusation that seeks only to deflect attention away from the core issue. The Ethiopian government may disagree with VOA news, but interfering with its broadcasts undermines the nation’s constitutional commitment to censorship and freedom of expression.

Why the VOA is Not Allowed to Broadcast Within the U.S.

Zenawi said he jammed VOA broadcasts “by taking a page from U.S. policy.” He must be “astonishingly uneducated” or willfully ignorant of some simple facts about the American system of laws and government. Anyone who has marginal familiarity with the American legislative and judicial process would refrain from making such an inane and thoughtless statement. The VOA (with over 1,500 affiliates throughout the world), is part of a larger system of global information, educational and cultural service created by the U.S. Congress to conduct “public diplomacy or government-to-people dialogue.” In 1948, Congress passed the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act with the purpose of “promoting better understanding of the United States among the peoples of the world and to strengthen cooperative international relations.” By authorizing the creation of a global broadcast service, the U.S. sought to create good will and shape the thinking and attitudes of elites in countries receiving the broadcasts.

Over the years, the VOA has played a central part in the U.S. media strategy to win hearts and minds in the Cold War. One of its central missions today is to uphold U.S. foreign policy objectives by promoting democracy, peace, prosperity, human rights and other programs to new generations in countries receiving VOA broadcasts. As absurd as it sounds, the VOA does not and has never fostered genocide of any kind in any country. In fact, Congress prohibited domestic U.S. broadcasts by the VOA to make sure that it is not abused politically by any individual or groups, and to make sure that the kind of state media abuse seen historically in totalitarian and other communist countries did not happen in the U.S. Because of this concern, Congress authorized the creation of a bi-partisan board consisting of eight members nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, with the Secretary of State as an ex officio member, to oversee its operations. To believe that the President of the U.S. would nominate individuals who would allow or condone genocidal broadcasts to Ethiopia using VOA broadcasts is downright crazy!

The fact of the matter is that whether VOA broadcasts are available domestically is of no consequence. Americans have more than 10,000 radio stations, tens of thousands of newspapers and magazines and millions of websites to get and choose the information they want or need. If they so choose, they can get VOA broadcasts instantaneously online, over satellite dishes, cellular phones and various other modern communications technologies.

But Zenawi’s campaign of fear and smear against the VOA Amharic service professionals is downright unfair and contemptible. If Zenawi has evidence, a molecule of evidence, to prove that these professionals are “people associated with” the defunct military Derg or part of a silent conspiracy with anyone else to promote genocide or anarchy in Ethiopia, he should produce it; and they will surely be held to account before the VOA administration and the law. If Zenawi has proof that their reporting is inaccurate, unfair, unethical or malicious, he should produce that evidence as well. Of course, he cannot produce a speck of evidence to back up any of his claims.

The reality is different. We could all criticize VOA’s Amharic service for whatever we choose, but we would be hard pressed to back up our criticism with substantial evidence of lack of accuracy, objectivity or fairness. Suffice it to say, how many hundreds of times over the years have we heard Amharic service VOA reporters announcing to their listeners: “We tried numerous times to get official comment from the Ethiopian Government but we were unable to do so because… the government official backed out at last minute… declined to comment… was not available for an interview at the appointed time… or…We will keep trying to get official comment from the Ethiopian Government.” That is what usually happens. The fact of the matter is that for whatever reason Zenawi has chosen not to make his people available to engage the VOA and challenge the Amharic service reporters on the air for all Ethiopians to hear.

Zenawi says the VOA operates in “wanton disregard of minimum ethics of journalism and engaging in destabilizing propaganda.” That is simply not true, and reflects his lack of knowledge of VOA’s strict legislative mandate. The VOA is a highly professional organization with journalistic integrity, and functions under close supervision of its presidentially-appointed board always guided by its clear legislative mandate set forth in its 1976 Charter which requires the VOA to 1) “serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news [by making sure] news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive; 2) “present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions ,and 3) ” present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and … responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.” If anyone at VOA promotes or attempts to promote genocide or “wantonly engages in destabilizing propaganda,” not only will such persons surely find themselves walking the streets without a job, they are guaranteed to do some serious jail time.

There are many things over which people could disagree. But there could be no disagreement over the fact that the sun always rises in the east, the law of gravity or the absolute constitutional right of Ethiopian citizens to listen to broadcasts of the VOA or any other “media of their choice.” Zenawi could learn a sound lesson from VOA’s founding motto: “The news may be good. The news may be bad. We shall tell you the truth.” If the VOA promotes genocide or broadcasts ‘destabilizing propaganda’, the Ethiopian people will be the first ones to vote with their fingers by turning their radio dials in a counterclockwise motion: Click!”

Mr. Zenawi: “Tear down the electronic wall you have built to keep VOA radio broadcasts and ESAT (Ethiopian Satellite Television) service out of Ethiopia! Let Ethiopians hear America’s voice, the Voice of America. Let the VOA tell the truth to the Ethiopian people who have a constitutional and international legal right to hear it and decide for themselves.”