The shameful act of OPDO. By Yilma Bekele I came across a clip of a VOA interview from Ethiopia. It is about the unveiling of a new statue in Oromia Kilil (Bantustan), Arsi Zone, Hitosa Wereda named Anole Statue and Museum. From the video that came with the report the ugly contraption seems to be […]
Posts Tagged ‘Ethiopia Democracy’
Ethiopian (Woyane) Airlines hijacked. By Yilma Bekele The Name is Ethiopian but that particular property belongs to our Woyane masters. It is there for the TPLF to do what it wants. It started with such promise and grew up to be such a proud achievement by both people and country. That is until Woyane showed [...]
By Yilma Bekele ‘Et, tu Brute?’ is what the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was heard to have said when he saw his dear friend Marcus Brutus in league with his assassins. In English he was saying ‘you too, Brutus?’ It is said by historians that Caesar was fond of Brutus and treated him as he [...]
How best to honor Madiba in Ethiopia. By Yilma Bekele President Mandela was inspired by the history and people of a place called Ethiopia and today we Ethiopians look at the life of this great man as an inspiration and source of optimism on what is possible when we are willing to practice what we [...]
By Yilma Bekele I hope you are sitting down while reading the story I am about to tell you. Unfortunately it is a true story and it couldn’t have happened anywhere but in good old Ethiopia. When it comes to laying down like a doormat and letting everyone walk all over us we Ethiopians wrote [...]
‘Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.’ Is what comes to mind when we see the behavior of the Ethiopian government and its response to the Ethiopian tragedy taking place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Lies have been told to cover up previous lies that it has become [...]
By Yilma Bekele Today it is said that there are over a quarter of a million Ethiopians in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The vast majority are young economic refugees working as maids, chauffeurs, and house servants. Women outnumber men and judging by the conditions in Ethiopia, it is safe to say most have less [...]
The last Ethiopian standing. By Yilma Bekele
That is exactly what I feel like now. Who died and left me with this burden is not clear to me but believe me I feel like I am all alone and it is up to me to carry the flag and sing the national anthem. This business of being an Ethiopian has never been easy but you would think with experience and practice I have gotten the hang of it. I am afraid I am hopeless in that department. I still feel the burden.
They say the environment shapes our behavior. I am not here to argue whether ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ is the defining role in our development I will leave that to the scientists. Speaking for myself I believe the environment has played a big role in shaping who I am today. I am a transplanted Ethiopian who has been culturally shocked, mentally molded, philosophically tampered and forced to question realty on a daily basis. I have no idea how that central theme of being Ethiopian has managed to survive in all the thousands of ways my central core has been violently breached.
I have survived it all thanks to my family and that little town in Southern Ethiopia that imbued me with respect for elders, love for your neighbor and the beauty of leaving with different cultures in a mutually beneficial way. Those values are what differentiate the beast from the human. I believe that upbringing gave me an advantage when later on in life I found myself in circumstances that I have never thought I would find myself in. I have confronted moving to Addis from my small town, crossing an ocean to come to America, being the object of curiosity in small town in Oregon and coming to terms in growing old in the US with that wisdom I learnt while growing up that says ‘it is not really that bad just deal with it.’
As I said I have dealt with most things in a calm collected manner. The one thing that is really causing me pain and agony is this business of defending my country Ethiopia. It feels to me, mind you I might be mistaken, or a little touchy but it feels to me that every Hagos, Ketema, Kuma, Abdella, Betiso etc. is dumping on me for crimes I have no idea I committed.
Well you my Ethiopian reader, can I call you that without offending you, any way you must be thinking why the heck am I telling you all this in the middle of summer? It is because a few things happened the last few days and I felt they were directed at me. Not personally you know but since I feel I am the last one standing it felt personal in a roundabout way.
The big momentous event was my dear friend Jawar declaring he is Oromo first and his Ethiopianess was imposed on him. I have no problem with that. In fact I believe Jawar is Oromo, Ethiopian and American. He has got choices. Which one he puts primary is all up to him. I also don’t know if being an American was imposed on him or he voluntarily filled up a form and swore allegiance to the star spangled banner. With this speech he seems to dig the hole a little deeper. He was heard equating Ethiopian Oromo Moslems with those in Somalia and Djibouti claiming it to be one and the same struggle. I am afraid his next Al Jazeera appearance he is going to have to answer the question are you Muslim first or Oromo first. Good luck my friend.
The only thing I have problem is his assumption of the role of a spokesman ship for the Oromo people of Ethiopia. As far as I know he has never been elected to any office. He has never been sent as a delegate by any group in present day Ethiopia to speak for them. He has not articulated their demands in a coherent manner, written books about their glorious history, interpreted the nuances of their culture or educated the rest of us about the Oromo condition. In other words other than others declaring him an up and coming young intellectual and him playing that role to the hilt he has not bothered to study, interpret, add on the history and role of the Oromo people in what we call Ethiopia. Of course I stand to be corrected if someone could present me with a proof showing Obbo Jawar’s vast contribution to the knowledge base of Oromo history, Oromo culture and Oromo Psychology.
In the You tube video being distributed he is addressing a gathering of Oromo Muslims. I am assuming he was invited as an analyst regarding the Ethiopian Moslem confrontation with the dictatorial regime taking place in our country.
How did our political analyst approach the challenge is a good question to ask. All I could say is he did not respect the sensibilities of his audience. He was confrontational. He was dismissive, he was arrogant and he was an extremist of the highest order. That is the impression I got after watching this Duche like sermon. From what I understand the Ethiopian Moslem issue is regarding state interference in their religion. It is not about political power, it is not about demonizing the rest that don’t have the same belief. Then why is the speaker turning this peaceful issue of respect into one of violent confrontation? Our Ethiopian Moslem leaders have done a splendid job of making friends with all Ethiopians regardless of religion and gone the extra mile not to antagonize anyone and succeeded beyond expectations. The rest of Ethiopia has embraced their quest for fair treatment and stood side by side with them. Why is our young intellectual turning this simple request for respect into a jihad?
Is it possible our dear friend Jawar grew up in Woyane Ethiopia thus his understanding of our common history derives from that perspective. It looks like he never bothered to scratch below the surface and learn if there is more. What is education for if not to answer vital questions in a rational and measured manner? What is the point of learning if not to pinpoint problems and look for answers that would bring not only lasting solutions but harmony? Why would anyone boast about cutting peoples necks off because they follow a different god? Caught in the heat of the moment my young friend said that.
That was a week ago. Many people wrote their opinions about that. That is the beauty of democracy. It is all about the individual’s right to speak and write what he thinks and others to respond. We all learn from the diverse views and the give and take. Some we reject off hand, some gives us a pause and a some really say what we believe and we go ‘I am not alone.’ So that is what I was doing when I came across this audio by Ato Abdi Fite on Ze Habesha.com. It is presented in a rational manner but misses the point by a mile. It just does not seem to answer a very simple question that it itself asks. Who is us against them?
As far as I am concerned Ato Abdi Fite has locked himself into this small room and anybody outside is the enemy. Is that the way it is? What is the difference between the Oromo farmer, the Amhara peasant, the Tigrai laborer, the Adal pastoralist, the Ogaden herder, the Gambellan fisherman, the Dorze weaver etc.? Aren’t they all victims of the system? Isn’t this what the struggle is all about? Can one be free while the rest stay in bondage? Shouldn’t we all work together to liberate them all so they could grow and prosper?
Ato Abdi was repeating himself so much I thought we were on a never ending loop. Just because something is said many times over does not make it turn out to be a factual statement. It is just false hood but told in twenty minutes instead of two. The central theme in his audio essay is to accuse the rest of Ethiopians ignoring the plight of his Oromo people. Does he have a leg to stand on?
Not really. When in the sixties the Ethiopian students confronted the Imperial regime their number one slogan was ‘land to the tiller.’ They did not specify Amhara, Oromo, Sidama, Tigrai etc. land but their demand was all inclusive. When they went out and established EPRP and other anti-dictatorship associations they did not think in terms of ethnic affiliation but a nationwide movement. Today the Diaspora which Ato Abdi is addressing, I don’t see any ethnic based successful movement working to get rid of the ethnic based TPLF that is tormenting our country and people. We have one voice that abhors ethnic division, avoids ethnic/religion divide and concentrates in uniting the many to get rid of the few troublemaker woyanes.
It is true we popularize some of the victims of the TPLF but that is a political move. We are aware there are thousands of Eskinders, Reyots, Wubshets, Bekeles, Abubakers but we mention those victims as a symbol for the many. We don’t even ask what ethnic group they belong to nor do we care.
Instead of telling us where we failed him I wish he would tell us where he called on us and we ignored his cry. Instead of accusing us of not paying attention to the Oromo question I wish he would tell us what he did to popularize the Oromo issue. In today’s Ethiopia the system is the problem. The solution is to unite all the victims in a democratic and equal association to smash the system and build a new one that respects their aspiration to be free, to be seen as equal and form a lasting union. Being a polarizing figure like the road taken by Meles Zenawi is not the way to go. Uniting people to work for a common solution they could all live with is the Mandela way and it is much preferable and lasting.
What I find troubling about our two Oromo operatives is their failure to see the futility of the treatment they are prescribing to resolve the ethnic divide in our country. The medicine they are ranting about has been administered by the OLF for the last forty years. What exactly has it achieved other than give a false sense of cure while the disease is causing untold damage to our people? With wisdom born from experience the present day OLF is in the process of revising their failed policy and searching for ways of working with others like them that are feeling the brunt of TPLF fire. That is what leadership is about.
Our young intellectuals seem to be gung ho about opening old wounds and reviving past mistakes. What is also surprising is their suicidal drive to offend the one friend they always have on their corner. I am referring to the progressive forces in the Diaspora that are working hard to expose the TPLF regime. The Diaspora is the most important and natural ally of the oppressed people of Ethiopia. There is not one Diaspora organization that opposes the right of the Oromo people to determine their future without undue interference from outsiders. We feel the liberation of the Oromo is the liberation of the Amhara, the Gurage, the Tigrai and all Ethiopians.
Timing is very important in political struggle. Today our country seems to be entering a new stage with the death of the dictator. The political parties are making good progress in wiping out fear from their constituents. We have broken the regimes strangle on mass media thanks to ESAT. It is a shame the ranting and a childish tantrum of a few is taking our eyes away from the prize. All I can say is grow up, coming up with bizarre talk trying to garner attention lasts a few days but in the end you have to live with yourself. .
Proving them wrong – the Ethiopian way. By Yilma Bekele
They say all kinds of bad stuff about us. It is said so many times and so often some of us start to believe the lie. That is always the problem with being lied to. I am sure by now Woyanes are drunk with their own silly propaganda. The situation with us is that they used to own the means of communication and we were their potted plants waiting to be told, lectured and abused to no end. Thanks to ESAT that is not so anymore.
I have so many instances of this situation I just don’t know where to start. I believe 2005 is day one in recent Ethiopian history. From 1992 to 2005 were the golden years of Woyane where they could do nothing wrong. They could have declared black is white and no one would have challenged them. They held three elections before 2005 and trounced the so called opposition like a beach ball. The loyal opposition led by such luminaries as Dr. Beyene Petros were amenable in a fantastic manner and submitted without much fanfare.
It was the height of believing your own lie to hear the late dictator lament about the lack of a worthy opposition to challenge his TPLF mafia outfit. What is more our benefactor’s embassies were reporting that ‘there is no viable alternative to EPDRF.’ So our people lied low. You know how we operate. We flash that winning smile while in the back ground the brain is on overdrive to find a way out. That is what our people did in 2005.
In a closed door session with the foreigners Ato Meles was so sure of victory this is what he told them regarding his reason for allowing free discussion on his TV “That is why we were so generous in allocating airtime to the opposition. We wanted to give them a long enough rope for them to hang politically, by expressing their views in the ugliest form so that the people can see what they stand for…So as far as our rhetoric is concerned, we have said that they are the Interhamwe. Not because they will send the Tutsis back home, but the Tigrayans back home, normally on all fours.”
This is how much the TPLF was detached from reality. What did our people do? They annihilated the TPLF machine in every corner of our beautiful land. No worthy TPLF was left standing. Bereket Semon was knocked out, Aba Dulla was left for dead, Arkebe was humiliated and Meles Ashebari Zenawi was rendered mute. My best recollection is the letter to the editor to the Ethiopian Herald written by no other than the tyrant himself. Until today I believe that is the best insight into that murky criminal mind of the dear departed leader. I have a printed copy of that infamous letter hanging on my wall. In 2005 the Ethiopian people spoke loud and clear when given a chance. We proved them wrong in no uncertain ways.
Recently I read an editorial by the Ethiopian newspaper ‘The reporter’. Let me say first the Amharic version has a motto above the name and it says ‘Free press, Free thought and Free spirit.’ That motto is absent in the English version. I would think it would be easier to lie in a foreign language but I guess the Reporter thinks otherwise. They have no shame. Here is the title of the editorial ‘የኢትዮጵያ ሕዝብ ተቃዋሚዎችን እየታዘበ ነው’ According the ‘Fearless Reporter’ here in a nutshell is what the editor is preaching. The opposition claims the government is putting hurdles to keep them weak and the editor says they in good faith cannot claim the government has helped, supported or encouraged the opposition. But the Reporter opines we do not think the government is responsible for the weakness and the problems of the opposition.
In the Reporters opinion ‘the opposition lacks resolve strength and good will and is not ready to sacrifice otherwise they would have been stronger.’ We believe the opposition is responsible for their weakness. The Reporter goes on to say plenty of nasty stuff about the opposition none of it worth repeating. The Reporter that practices what is called ‘yellow journalism’ and is the unofficial mouthpiece of the TPLF is one of those weapons that insistently peddles hate, fear, hopelessness and attempts to kill the spirit of Ethiopianism. I also believe the English version is written by someone with a second grade education.
Who else in his right mind would blame the victims that cannot even rent a meeting hall, that do not have a newspaper, that are denied airtime and cannot even raise funds to operate for being weak? The Ethiopian opposition has paid and is paying a heavy price for freedom. They have been hounded from their homes, fired from their jobs, their children denied schooling some murdered and the jails are full of our brave and resolute comrades in arms. You can see the shameless Reporter that does not even have an iota of honor and that lacks the moral capacity to pass any form of judgment on those that operate under a ruthless and criminal regime using precious paper to spread ignorance.
Despite what is being done to them, despite the power of the state that belittles their efforts 24/7 on national TV, Radio and rags like the Reporter the Ethiopian opposition is alive and well. There are ups and downs in this long journey. Today the torch of freedom is burning bright. We got a few choices that are steeled in the struggle and are raising the banner of hope. Semayawi Party is the new kid on the block. They are redefining the agenda. Despite the Reporters lamentations, the TPLF’s unending threats of dire consequences and the fear mongering by the old guard on June 2nd the Ethiopians came out in droves to support their party. The young and old, men and women, Christian and Moslem regardless of ethnic affiliation all showed under the banner of freedom and democracy. They said it was impossible, cannot be done but we proved them all wrong.
The recent ESFNA’s 30th. Celebration in Maryland is another occasion where we rose up to the challenge. They say we are one combative people. The rumor is we love to fight with each other, we don’t care to unite and we are always badmouthing our own people. They claim there is nothing on earth that will bring us together and we are one selfish people. It is supposed to be common knowledge that Abeshas are envious, uncooperative and hopeless. They say it and we repeat after them. After a certain time we reach a point where we start believing it ourselves. So we thought.
It is lucky for us that those that try to put us down and demoralize us start to be swayed by their own propaganda. Our clueless bandas believed their lies and organized a tournament to compete with ESFNA. They rented the best stadium there is, they bribed youngster from all over America with free ticket and free lodgings, they brought plane load of the nouveau rich from home and waited for the party to begin. They really thought we would sell our soul for a fist full of dollars. They inadvertently gave us a stark choice. Money or country was on the table. The people spoke. You can always buy a few bandas like the Italians did but Ethiopia or death became the cry of the many. How many you asked? Over forty thousand and that was the capacity of the stadium. We might quarrel, we might have disagreements but when it comes to Ethiopia we are tight. How tight you ask? We don’t even allow a skinny Woyane to pass between us. We proved them wrong! Thank you ESFNA, thank you my brothers and sisters, I knew you will not let mother down. Prove them wrong is the battle cry. We shall overcome.
The Oromo issue on Al Jazeera. By Yilma Bekele
There was a half hour discussion on the Oromo issue in Ethiopia on Al Jazeera Television Network. It was one of those situations where you go ‘what just happened’ after an experience that leaves you confused and dumbfounded when it is over. As an Ethiopian I am familiar with the issue and as someone who was born and raised in Sidama I certainly have enough real experience to have a handle on the matter. Furthermore as an Ethiopian that has been exposed to the opinions presented by the OLF and other Oromo groups I thought this program will give me further insight to the grievances by the party’s concerned.
I am sad to say the discussion did not shine any new light on the issue, was not able to define the problem in a coherent manner and failed to present a solution that is well thought of and acceptable to all the parties involved. What is the point of appearing on a discussion program if the net result is to not being able to teach some, respond to difficult questions with rational and verifiable argument and show the world why your position is just and convince all peace loving people to support your cause.
I would like to say that the hosts of ‘The Stream’ show were very gracious and asked very important and probing questions and gave the participants plenty of opportunity to state their case. You can tell the interviewers were as confused as we the viewers based on the trend of their questions which was asking for specifics and some kind of solution as the program was coming to an end. In fact one of the hosts brought out her own experience belonging to a majority tribe in Nigeria trying to make sense of the confusing analysis made by the guests.
One thing for sure is that the subject is not an easy one to define and explain. What exactly is the Oromo question in our country is a good place to start. Some see it as a question of democracy and human right within the Ethiopian context. Others define it as a self-determination issue up to and including secession. We are talking about a new country with international boundary a flag and a seat in the UN.
I am not really well equipped to discuss the historical question as I have not versed myself in the issue to be able to give an in-depth analysis. I will leave that to historians. As a layman I am just interested by the arguments presented on this show and the end result achieved by the participation of my esteemed Ethiopian brethren whether they accept me as such or not.
What troubled me most was the wanton way statistics was thrown around, facts distorted to fit the argument and reality on the ground completely and absolutely ignored to make a feeble point. I am familiar with the way we Ethiopians use statistics. No one equals our current government with absolute disregard and unrivaled contempt to the science of statistics. It is with a straight face and somber look that they tell the whole world our economy is growing double digits and is the envy of every developing country. It is their cooked number and they are proud of it.
I was a little appalled when the same argument was brought out on ‘The Stream’ presentation. Here are some examples of the plethora of statistics thrown during the discussion – ‘there are twenty five thousand to thirty thousand Oromo political prisoners, nine out of ten political prisoners are Oromos jailed for speaking their language, in 2012 ninety thousand out of one hundred ten thousand (82%) refugees into Yemen were Oromos, Oromos contribute sixty to sixty five percent of Ethiopia’s GDP’ All I ask is credible citations for this pronouncements.
I am afraid I do not have direct experience under Meles/TPLF administration but most of the stuff that was said about our country during the Imperial era and the Derg regime does not seem to reflect the facts on the ground. We all agree there was national oppression in our country. We all understand the vast majority were marginalized and did not participate fully in the governance of their nation. On the other hand what we had was an old fashioned Imperial Kingdom that drew its legitimacy from tradition and the ‘will of God’. Logic says democracy and rule of law cannot be expected from such arrangement.
The military regime that followed with all credit due tried to right what was wrong in its own way. But due to its nature it did not succeed. Remember the Imperial regime failed by the sheer will and determination of the masses of people. The Derg circumvented the will of the people. Both systems failed because they did not fulfill the aspirations of their people. But we got to admit things did not stay the same as they were before. Claiming otherwise is a futile attempt to deny reality. The change brought about has not yet fulfilled our hopes. That is exactly why there is so much dissatisfaction in our country today. Our people deserve better is our general sentiment.
That is exactly why the host asked a very intelligent and deep question. She said ‘How do you see Ethiopia, how do you see Oromos reconciling so you all want Ethiopia rather than this major group, major ethnic group felling they have a lot of grievances –where do you go to now, what is the way forward? This was the perfect opportunity for the guests to shine. To rise above the rhetoric, the blame game, the victim syndrome and use the program to be a teachable moment for their Oromo constituents and for the rest of Ethiopians. They failed miserably. Their purpose was to insistently talk about the past instead of what could be achieved in the future together with the rest of the oppressed masses of Ethiopia. They failed to recognize their dream is our dream, their liberation is our liberation and the future belongs to all of us together. It was a missed opportunity to help our people see beyond victimhood and paint a bright future in bold colors.
Our Ethiopian/Oromo guests were reluctant or unable to state what exactly they want but instead deluded the hosts with horror stories by traveling back in time and drawing a nightmarish Ethiopia of conquests, slavery and dark moments. You see the problem with that analysis is no country or nation on planet earth can claim immune from the untold horror stories that accompany nation building. China, Russia, France, England, USA, Brazil, Bolivia, South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Canada etc. etc. were all the outcome of conquest. It is not unique to our country. Just because the current Woyane regime intensifies the contradiction for its own narrow aims, just because they preach hate, just because they feed on our ignorance there is no reason we should repeat after them and take our country to hell.
Except for our northern cousins most of us in the south, center, east and west of our country are a very mixed blood people. We have lived together for eons, intermarried, and lived in harmony for a very long time. I remember when discussing lineage was frowned upon. The TPLF came and said everybody to your Kilil and a lot were unable to define themselves. Our Woyane masters were totally confused with this phenomenon. Twenty years into this game it is sad to see people singing the same old song.
Our guests seem to conveniently forget a certain part of history where the OLF leadership partnered with TPLF. The OLF was used by TPLF thugs to commit untold atrocity in certain parts of Ethiopia. The OLF leadership disarmed and abandoned their troops to be humiliated and massacred. We understand. We are the victims of TPLF policy too. We are familiar with ANDM that is betraying our people. We certainly recognize Bene Shangul Gumuz and SNNP that is carrying out ethnic cleansing fueled by TPLF, we are familiar with Afar and Gambela hired puppets that are displacing our brethren from their ancestral lands, we feel the pain of our Somali Ethiopians that are going thru hell on earth. All atrocities are committed by TPLF using local people as a front.
Well my friends, the Amhara and Tigrai peasant, the Oromo herder, the Afar pastoralist, the Sidama farmer, the Gambelan fisherman have one thing in common, they are all victims of a policy by the Tigrai based so called Ethiopian regime. It is only when these dispersed groups unite and challenge the heavily armed minority regime that real change can happen. This idea of confronting the enemy as bands of warriors is not going to work. This idea of going on a television program and reciting atrocities from hundred years back is a no brainer. It gives the speaker some tiny ego massage but it does the cause they stand for no good. It is a disservice to our people and a complete joke on our intelligence. We have come a long way, we have seen so much, we have experienced a lot and we should be treated with a little bit more respect.
On a recent lecture on crisis leadership, Nancy Koehn a Harvard Business school historian said what we need is wisdom, because ‘information …does not equal knowledge, and knowledge does not equal understanding, and understanding does not equal wisdom.’ It is not a good thing when some of our learned friends prey on the ignorance and weakness of our people to reduce grave problems into simplistic formulas of us against them. That road has been tried and it has not taken us anywhere. Leadership requires making the hard choices no mater unpopular. In the same lecture Professor Koehn quoted the novelist David Foster Wallace and his definition of leadership-‘effective leaders are individuals who help us overcome the limitations of our own selfishness and weakness and fears and get us to do harder, better, and more important things than we can get ourselves to do on our own’.
It is a beautiful definition and that is what is needed of those that aspire to be future leaders. Work hard to enhance our strength rather than magnify our weakness, strive to bring the best in us instead of catering to our worst instinct, show us the road to the Promised Land not dwell on what we left behind. It is never too late to change. We pray for change.
Keep your eyes on the prize. By Yilma Bekele
We are witnessing a flurry of news from the TPLF party that calls itself the Ethiopian government. Why is the Woyane party so busy and why is the party pushing its cadres to be super active is a good question. That is what piqued my interest and I was forced to look around to figure out what exactly is happening both in Ethiopia and the Diaspora community to make the illegal regime work overtime.
I did not have to look far to see why the government is acting very nervous. It looks like for a change the progressive forces are on the attack and the reactionary regime is on the defense. Believe me this is a rare occurrence and shows the realignment of forces in our country. I will try to explain why later on but let us look at what is causing this shift. A few weeks back the regime carried out its ‘ethnic cleansing’ activity in the Beneshangul Gumuz Kilil. It was not the first time the TPLF led regime has done this criminal act but what was different this time around was our collective indignation. We were able to carry out a sustained and well organized push back from around the world. The opposition in Ethiopia cooperated by boldly demanding action and tried to collect evidence from the affected areas.
First the hapless regime paraded its toy PM and made him give some half ass explanation and dumped the crimes on their Kilil dog. The fact that the previous ‘ethnic cleansing’ activity was carried out in the South Kilil where the PM originated from was not lost on us. This rehearsed mea culpa did not impress anyone. It was back to the drawing board for the regime. Next In the clueless regime tried to divert our attention by planting rumors about the death of that other tyrant in Zimbabwe. We did not bite. After the failure of that story they again tried to engage us by removing the monument dedicated to our Holy Father Abune Petros. Again we showed our unhappiness but did not take our eyes of the ‘ethnic cleansing’ crime. We were focused and relentless. We were just simply not crying but talking about taking the matter to the International Court of Justice and the UN.
After lots and lots of postponements and dragging the regime brought our political prisoners and decided to hand down their useless justice. We were supposed to drop all other activity and concentrate on Eskinder Nega and Andulalem’s miscarriage of justice. Something odd happened here. We did not follow the script. For the first time we were able to connect the dots and see the whole picture. The progressive forces decided to link ethnic cleansing, Abune Petros and our Political prisoners’ situation as one.
I was waiting for the next drama with heightened anticipation. What would they try now was a common question asked by students of Woyane theatre. Invading Somalia was out of the question since they have already learned their lesson. The demonization of Eritrea was becoming stale. Playing the ethnic card is what brought about the problem in the first place so that was a no go zone. What would the ‘great visionary’ leader do under the circumstances was in the mind of all TPLF cadres in leadership position. They dug deep, traveled back in their criminally ladened history and came up with ‘cannibalism’ as the way out.
So with great fanfare they went about arresting anything anybody they could find. The injustice Minister was hauled away. The guy with dark glasses that sat behind the tyrant in Parliament was arrested. The Revenue and Customs guys were escorted to their won prison with a few selected business people to add flavor to the drama.
I guess all this activity is supposed to impress us. A criminal arresting another criminal is meant to fill our soul with hope for the future. They are so clueless they don’t even know that the news is taken with such amusement that a soccer game between Buna and Giorgis garners more anticipation than their cheap drama. Why would anyone think that Melaku Fenta that spineless individual sitting under Gebrewhaid Giorgis is capable of making any decision let alone steal big? Like most sycophants that are serving as the face of their departments Melaku was just another mannequin for show while the TPLF boss under him runs the outfit. That game is played all over Ethiopia and in the Embassy’s outside. I bet you cannot find any worthwhile governmental body without a TPLF deputy in charge.
This new drama is meant to keep us guessing what in the world is going on inside the TPLF party. We are supposed to guess which faction is up and who is down. The disinformation campaign by Debretsion keeps manufacturing different versions of their supposedly internal turmoil and some of us love nothing more than being instant experts in the inner workings of the mafia group. To hear some of our people go on the minute details of the party is mind boggling and a testimonial to the hopelessness of a few of our family and friends. They might have their own differences but do you really think that will stop them from their common goal of staying in power no matter what? Do you for second think they will not close ranks when threatened? Then why in the world are you wasting time and energy whether Azeb is fighting with Berket and if Sebhat is is not in good terms with Seyoum? Now if they really want our attention the best way to do it will be arrest Azeb or Abay Woldu not Sebhat or Seyoum since they already are near death.
The biggest joke of all is the claim that Hailemariam Desalgne was cleaning house. Let us see the PM that was handpicked by the dead tyrant and schooled in the art of servitude to TPLF, the PM that does not have a power base, the same PM that cannot even pick the guards outside his office is exercising authority on TPLF officials? Who would swallow such Mamo Kilo bed time story is a good question. Yes there are a few especially here in the Diaspora that are trying to put some lipstick on this pig of a story.
Some opined ‘EPDRF supporters speaking out’ while others declared ‘EPDRF undergoing profound changes.’ Well, well let see us what is giving these Woyane coddlers new life? What is different today that was not there yesterday is a good question. I read their writings very closely and tried to see what they were basing their new found euphoria on. I wanted to know what arguments they were bringing to the table to see if there was any validity to their conclusions. I couldn’t find any. It is all wishful thinking, self fulfilling prophesy and confused theories that is trying hard to fit a square peg in a round hole. The ones that are trying to see light at the end of the tunnel are the same people that advised wait and see attitude when Woyane conquered our capital and were willing and ready to serve the criminal organization. Their last miscalculation caused twenty years of misery to our people and country and here they are again advising us the presence of a non entity called EPDRF that is supposed to usher a new era of peace and prosperity. Give it a rest gentlemen and do not waste our time with your unfounded optimism. Why peddle a worn out theory this late in the game?
I am emboldened by three factors that have been added to the equation of fighting injustice in our dear country. The first and very significant addition to our arsenal of fighting for freedom and democracy is no other than our beloved ESAT. It has given voice to the voice less and opened our eyes to the reality that is what is ailing us. ESAT is the main reason Woyane misinformation campaign is falling on deaf ears. ESAT is the main reason the cry of our people in Ethiopia is getting a hearing. No matter what no sane Ethiopian can ignore the voice of our people coming thru the airwaves loud and clear. The tenacity and diligent reporting by ESAT that refused to fall for Woyane diversion kept the ‘ethnic cleansing’ criminal act in focus and thwarted their attempt to derail us.
The second factor is the gallantry of our Moslem citizens that have against all odds persevered for over a year their quest for freedom and independence. The many attempts to divide and splinter them by the illegal Woyane regime has been repulsed and the Moslem community is still standing together with one voice and one aim of protecting their right to run their religion free of government interference. It is a lesson to the rest of us to keep our eyes on the prize and not to let our organizations be the play ground of Woyane operatives.
The third factor that is emerging from Ethiopia is the beautiful new voice of Semayawi Party that is clear, clean and void of any clutter of the past that has been hindering our forward movement. From what I can observe from afar Semayawi is not encumbered by our past failures, weighed down by unnecessary dogma and geared to act and try newer stuff. That is what the doctor ordered. Why use beige and gray to paint when you can use bright blue and bring warmth to the canvas. The call by Semayawi Party to dress in black and show the discontent of our people during African Unions 50th anniversary is a bold and timely call. That is all peaceful resistance is about. It is our duty to follow the advice of the Party and tell our family and friends to cooperate in showing their grief by dressing in black. Those of us that believe in peaceful resistance this is our chance to practice what we preach.
As times go by it is becoming clear that the regime is feeling the loss of the evil person in charge. For over thirty years the prince of darkness Meles Ashebari Zenawi has been the brain and body of the mafia outfit that has been masquerading as a political party. I am willing to give him the credit as the personification of Satan on earth. He has earned the title. His death has left the TPLF party void of someone to fill his shoes no matter how small it is. It is not the absence of idiots or sycophants that is lacking in their midst but they just seem to suffer from the mistrust the evil one has left them with. That deficiency coupled with the emergence of new and daring Ethiopians schooled in the art of confronting the regime head on is what is causing headaches to the downgraded TPLF.
Life is beautiful. Our new found unity and purposeful march to the future is a hard won victory. The fact that it is Woyane in disarray and we are becoming hip to their many attempts to distract us is testimonial to our ability to learn and apply the lesson. There are still many voices that are constantly trying to derail our movement but the fact that we have matured and are able to separate the chaff from the wheat is our new found strength. We are not there yet but with all those strong and tested groups and individuals joining our movement there is no reason to doubt we are bringing the dark days to an end and new bright sun will rise up over our mountains and valleys. A luta continua-the struggle continues.
Mengistu Hailemariam and our moral compass. By Yilma Bekele.
Today I felt like crawling under the blanket and just hide. I know that is what children do. They think hiding under the blanket makes them invisible. It give them a feeling of security and that what I was looking for. Some place to hide and feel secure from my clueless people. Clueless is what we are and I guess I just have to live with it. Predictable like the season is how we function and I have to accept it.
What has gotten me down is the talk of the dead not yet dead news regarding the former dictator of my country. It looks like the despicable individual is not going to disappear from our radar no matter how far removed and how long ago we have parted company. Like a nightmare he keeps showing up in the most awkward and inopportune moments. His appearance this time around was not his doing but nevertheless he was used as weapon to clobber us with.
I am not really concerned about the hapless dictator it is us I worry about. You would think that after over twenty years of contemplating the total ramifications of what his involvement in our country’s history has meant to us that we have come to a few conclusions. We have looked at the situation and drawn a few lessons so we can keep it in the back of our brain for future reference good and bad. That is all experience is all about isn’t it?
Life is a learning experience. We succeed some fail a few but we draw conclusion so we know what works and what to avoid. That is how we move forward. Those that learn from past experience, analyze then adapt what works avoid that did not produce the intended result get to reap the benefits. Those that ignore the lessons of history end up digging their own grave.
That is what we are doing today, digging our own grave. The fact that we have not put the criminal dictator in perspective is very alarming and not so good news regarding our future. How could we be trusted with the future when we do not have a clear picture of our past? How do we know what we want tomorrow when we have not really sat down and looked at yesterday to see what went right and what exactly went wrong and why?
Two things happened simultaneously this last week. The ethnic based regime’s blunder aroused the ire of our people and exposed them to charges of criminal activity. To divert attention and blunt the impact they were able to concoct a ruse pointing away from their evil deeds. It was a simple ploy one plays on children and it worked. It worked because we did not take the last twenty years to learn, analyze and grow. It looks like we did not take the idea of raising a conscious, smart and morally upright citizen to heart in order to be able to lay a solid foundation to build the future Ethiopia. We did not invest time and energy to produce an intelligent, motivated and smart generation that is able to avoid the mistakes done by the past generation.
The last two weeks the major news coming out of our country was the plight of our Amara citizens being uprooted from their homes. It was not a pleasant sight. Simple farmers that make their living by sheer determination and constant struggle against nature using primitive tools were deemed to be unworthy of basic human respect and dignity and were ordered to move from their villages at a moment’s notice. It was very distressing to see fellow humans being treated like that in their own country. It became the focus of attention and revealed the nature of the illegal and corrupt regime in Ethiopia. It was not a welcome attention and the government rightly felt the heat.
There was attempt made by the opposition to investigate and gather evidence to bring the matter to the attention of all that are empowered to look at situations like this. It was not easy but they tried under the difficult circumstances presented by the regional Bantustans and the Federal government. Their representatives were jailed, abused and given a few hours to leave the region. Thanks to technology the whole world in general and the Diaspora Ethiopians were able to follow the news and keep in touch with their people.
The government first tried to deny that ‘ethnic cleansing’ is being carried out. They also attempted to blame the regional administration for the problem and finally were compelled to admit there was some truth to the allegations and were forced to ask the deportees to return. In a matter of a week the news was bringing clarity regarding the illegal and criminal nature of the regime in power. It was opening the eyes of many individuals to see the regime in a different light. The news was gathering momentum and the regime was entering a state of panic. The opposition and the Diaspora activists were even talking about appealing to the International Court of Justice and the United Nations.
Someone somewhere figured the weakness and clueless nature of the Ethiopian. They figured give them another bone to chew and they will drop everything and jump at the opportunity. They did not have to look far. They found an old discarded bone and tossed it in the middle of the unruly pack. Thus they put out a press release announcing the death of the tyrant that has been holed in Zimbabwe for the last twenty years. That is all it took for the frenzy to start, the earth to move and the heavens to open.
Are we that transparent? Are we that easy to fool? Fifty four percent of the Ethiopian population is under twenty five years of age. They have not witnessed the madness of the Derge era. To them Mengistu is a distant history. The history of Ethiopia including the Derg period is a self-serving tale as told by Woyane and their apologists. Neftegna, Monarchist, Dergist is an interchangeable term Woyane uses to ruin people’s lives. The fifty four percent cannot be relied upon regarding their knowledge of our past. Meles and his disciples’ main agenda was to discredit our past so they could build their distorted vision on a shaky ground. According to Woyane and their followers there is nothing good or redeemable about Ethiopia before their appearance.
It is a very difficult story to take to heart. Especially when life under Woyane is nothing but hell on hearth for the vast majority of our people. That is why the fifty four percent are all waiting their turn to leave by foot, boat, plane and any which way out. What got me a little concerned and a lot despondent is the failure of those aged 25-54 years and compromise twenty nine percent of the population. The ones that are politically involved and run our independent media outlets. They picked this disinformation campaign and run with it. I am not saying we should have ignored the story on the other hand it is our responsibility to tell the story with a certain amount of perspective thrown in to give the listener and reader some point of reference. Every time we mention the criminal dictator we should remind our people the role he played in the destruction of our country and people. That is the legacy he left behind and that is how he should be remembered. This idiotic idea of misplaced ‘Ethiopian chewanet’ is what works against us and blinds us from standing up against abusers and ill-mannered individuals. The kind of ways the news was reported was both embarrassing and self-defeating to say the least.
Dear editors of our independent media what are we supposed to make of your screaming headline announcing the ‘good health’ of a tyrant in exile that has not even acknowledged his criminal role and responsibility when he was the de facto head of state? Some of you even went the extra mile and called his house and talked to his wife while others relied on their reporters to find out the latest ‘breaking news’. Did you really think the sympathetic, feel good close to the heart story was appropriate regarding a criminal in exile? One of the headlines screamed “Former Ethiopian President Colonel Mengistu is alive and well…” I dove for cover.
Mengistu Hailemariam was a ruthless dictator, a cruel and horrible individual that will be remembered as a black mark in our country’s history. The fact that the one who came after him was a ruthless psychopath does not make the former any less of a criminal. Our independent medias’ reporting was journalism at its worst and an affront to truth and insensitive to the victims.
Where exactly did we go wrong? What exactly happened to our moral compass? It looks like we got a long way to go to differentiate bad from evil, truth from fiction and show some empathy towards those that were victimized by Mengistu and his accomplices. Mengistu which even writing his name brings pain and agony to my soul was the cause of much anguish to our country and people. This is not even past history but it happened yesterday in our life time. Many of those fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters that lost their beloved ones are still among us. The memory has not even faded from our collective mind.
To refresh your memory the ongoing exodus out of mother Ethiopia started under Mengistu. The first time in our countries history her children started running away from home. Ethiopia began losing its youngest and brightest and has not recovered ever since. The whole country became a killing field. The lawlessness nature of the regime brought about the degeneration of societal norms and the gradual destruction of culture. His regime rode rough on all that we hold dear and that has taken us long to build. His lack of basic leadership skills and ruthless evil nature decimated all that were educated, able and showed potential. He exposed our country to dangerous minds that used the opportunity to wrestle power cunningly. He is a military leader that left his troops in battle to save his dirty ass. He is wanted by the Ethiopian military to be court marshaled and is definitely a candidate for a firing squad. This is the individual you so zealously displayed and published letters written by Woyane and their sympathizers lauding his good side. Shame on you all!!!
Every one of us got something good and commendable within us. Something positive could even be said about evil individuals. I am sure Hitler was a German Nationalist that loved his country, Meles Zenawi was probably a good family man, Mussolini was probably a devout Catholic but that does not define the totality of the person. All three of them have their dark side that outweighs their positive nature. The evil one lurking behind the smiling face is what affects us.
Dear country people please remember choosing one abuser over another is not a virtue. Demanding no abuse is the way to go. Why in the world do we compare and contrast the crimes of our leaders instead of resolving for such never to happen to us again? Isn’t that the lesson to draw from the experience of the last forty years? How could I trust you with my future when some of you think of life as a pissing match and are busy picking the lessor of two evils instead on no evil? Is that where we find ourselves today that we are willing to accept a little less criminal than Meles instead of someone that respects the rule of law, the sanctity of life especially human life and love for mother Ethiopia?
ESAT and messengers of peace in Jose, Ca. By Yilma Bekele
Tamagne was here. I wrote that and felt I have said enough. Well since you asked I guess I will tell you the rest of the story. I thought by now you would know If Tamagne was here something big and important regarding Ethiopia happened. You know Tamagne; he does not do things little. He does not think of neighborhood, not even a region Tamagne goes the whole nine yards and dreams of a nation. Tamagne does not fly to Atlanta or Houstinn from his base in DC, our Tamagne crosses a continent all the way to California to spend an evening with his people. I am afraid he is outgrowing even that. Now we see Tamagne in New Zealand or Norway. I don’t need a fortune teller to predict we might hear from Tamagne from outer space. I will just sigh and mumble he must have found a lost Habesha that just don’t know when to stop and settle.
He has developed a new habit too. He does not travel light no more. As if the one man army is not enough he is accompanied by some heavy guns all around him. I am not talking about a bazooka or tank. No Tamagne has found the ultimate weapon disarm his enemies. He is accompanied with the messengers of love, brotherhood and tolerance. How I envy Weizero Mamita and Grazmach Beyene because they have given us such a precious gift. May God bless them.
I am sorry about my sloppy writing but you can’t blame me. Right now I am levitating and I am afraid it will take a while to bring me down to earth. I am floating with joy, happiness and hope and it is all due to Tamagne and his associates. I also noticed most of the folks I spent the evening with were a little delirious and as the evening went on the love and peace was infectious with Ethiopians spontaneously clapping, laughing and hugging without abandon. I told you, you should have been there.
Messengers of peace and unity.
What were all these people doing on a beautiful Saturday afternoon is a good question? The only explanation I could give you is to say they are committed, they care and they just acted on it. Lots of people worked hard to make the event a success it was. They all have one thing in common, they were all Ethiopians. What brought them together is their love and concern for their homeland.
First were the organizers of the event. It took time and effort to find a good safe location. They have to arrange transportation and accommodation for their guests. Flyers and pamphlets have to be printed to advertise the event. The posters have to be distributed in the community, published on our Web sites and the tickets have to be sold door to door. Without them there is no event. Thank you my beautiful young friends. I am happy your effort was gladly embraced by your community.
Then there were our guests that have to travel far and close to spend a precious day with their people. They are all busy and successful people that are willing to share their views and stick their neck out for all of us to dissect and parse. They were chosen to sit on the podium because they have earned the respect of their community by their work and deeds and we all want to hear from them, meet them and share our views with them.
The most crucial element in this gathering are the guests. Their presence is what makes all that effort worthwhile. I always think it is beautiful to have plenty of people but even the attendance of a single individual to me is a success. We have to show respect and do what has to be done. Coming to an event is not easy. It requires planning commitment and energy. We have to juggle so many responsibilities in our daily life and spending a whole afternoon and evening attending an event is not an easy matter. There is work, family responsibility and other commitments to take into consideration, not to mention paying for the ticket, arranging transportation etc. etc.
All three actors in this important function have something in common that makes them special. They all love their country in a positive way. They value the importance of getting together and trying to find a common solution to make their ancient country a better place. They are not just talkers but doers that go the extra mile to make things happen. It is what is called a symbiotic relationship. One cannot survive without the other. One needs the other to grow and thrive.
Our guests made all of us proud. They said many important things and it is beyond this little presentation to do it justice. There were so many standing ovations, plenty of laughter and the evening went so fast our poor organizers were forced to rearrange their program to fit the occasion. The two young people assigned to lead the ceremony were consummate professionals that made it look so easy I even thought I could do that. Dressed in the splendor of our national colors they set the tone in a positive manner. The sound and video was perfect showing the organizers commitment to excellence.
Abatachen his Holiness Abune Melkesedek General Secretary of the Holy Synod-in Exile, Archbishop of Medhane Alem Cathedral in Oakland was sitting in the middle. That sight by itself was enough to make ones heart swell with pride and joy. He started the assembly with a prayer. I don’t know about you but I knew things were going to get better and better. How could anything go wrong when Abatachen gives his blessings?
I hope you don’t mind me paraphrase and put their speech in my own words. Abatachen spoke about the importance of faith and responsibility in our daily life. He gave us perspective regarding our ancient history and the crucial role religion has played in the making of our country. He thought us how respect for each other’s religion and tolerance of our differences has played an important role in forming the Ethiopia we know now. Then he looked at us and asked a crucial question. What makes us different from animals? He said we are born, we grow up we have family and we all die. He explained we humans are different because we determine road we travel. If you take an animal far from where he was born and give it the comfort he/she needs they will not leave but stay put. It will form a family take care of its offspring and die. But we humans are different. There should be more. We think about the future. What we leave behind for our offspring is a very important consideration of being a human. Life is not about a simple comfort for oneself and one’s family but thinking of the greater family is a crucial aspect of living a successful and whole life. Something to think about, what do you think?
My dear brother Sheik Imam Khalid is not a complicated person. He speaks clearly, forcefully and in sharp short sentences. He does not leave much for ambiguity. In this time of misinformation, propaganda and rumors it is a relief to listen to someone that does not beat around the bush and states his case in a clear manner. His love for his country and religion just oozes out of him. He laid to rest the fact that our Muslim brothers struggle is for the rights of their religious independence despite the many insane ideas being thrown around by the illegal regime in power. In simple words he wants the government to stop meddling in his religion. I loved the way he started his speech. His observation was regarding the duality of our personality. There is the family you, the work place you, the you that is routinely presented among friends and the Mosque or Church you. Why so many faces? That he said is the central problem. We have to resolve that issue within ourselves and come out clean. It is not complicated is it?
We also heard from our local Mosque religious leader and he spoke about the importance of working together, the culture of unity of purpose our people have developed thru out the years and that spirit that is still leading our struggle forward. Shamble was the person that gave color to the event. With his Masinko and beautiful voice he took us back and you can see the audience mesmerized with everyone going home in a mental trip. Thank you Shambel may be next year we will meet in Addis. As the Jewish saying goes “Lashanah haba’ah biy’rushalem’ I say to you ‘ ýememetaw amet biáddis abeba’
Our hosts had a surprise guest for us too. I told you they were firing with all eight cylinders. They brought us none other than the dragon slayer himself. My friend Abebe Gelaw in person. The assembly went wild. Who else to elevate our spirit and remind us of the importance of sticking out for our people when the time requires it. He defines the meaning of seize the time.
It was time for Tamagne to come to the podium. You can hear a pin drop. The anticipation was overwhelming. As I have said before Tamagne don’t have to do anything to paint smile and joy on our faces. He has this ability to channel our energy and magnify it back at us. Some shout, some clap the men whistle and the women ululate. Pandemonium in the house is what it felt like. The fire alarm was triggered by the noise, the earth shook and the security showed up in force. I am exaggerating a little aren’t I? Well I don’t have a video and this is the best I can do. You get my meaning.
I will not even try to tell you what Tamagne presented. I don’t really know for how long but whatever it was it was short. Time has a tendency to flee when he is on stage. His simplicity is what makes the situation complicated. He disarms you with the strength of his presentation. It is audio, video and god knows what else. My suggestion is do not at all challenge Tamagne, he carries this thumb drives full of facts and figures. For a person with a death sentence hanging around his neck he seems to be relaxed. If only Ato Meles has allowed him to present his defense when accused of being a terrorist I am sure the court would have thrown the dictator into Kality. Poor Meles he died knowing Tamagne has another date to clear his name in a real court of law. You know me I will be in that jury.
So what did we accomplish? A lot my friend. We showed we cared. We proved Abatachen right by working together to leave something behind for our country and children. We rose up to the occasion when called for. The idea of the gathering was to raise money so ESAT can continue the job of being the independent ‘eyes and ears’ of our people. From something like three hundred people we raised over thirty thousand dollars. The investment we made was not to realize profit. Our reward comes when ESAT uses the fund to do the job we have entrusted them with-faithfully and truthfully inform our people. I am absolutely sure they will do that with determination professionalism and purpose. If not we all are here to watch and speak out when both things go right or wrong.
As I said it was a festive afternoon and evening. It was nice to see Ethiopians gathered to show concern and love for country and each other. I said many good things about our guests. I put them up on a pedestal. It is not about hero worship or excessive adulation of individuals. To me it is all about giving credit where credit is due. The tone set by the late dictator was constant put down of our country, people and culture. He wanted to shine all by himself. That is not good. We have plenty of good things going for us. We are blessed with ancient culture that is built on love and tolerance as a foundation. We have lived for eons as a nation state due to that. To me our guests were building on that tradition. If we don’t put them up on a pedestal who would? If we don’t celebrate their accomplishments , if we don’t appreciate their sacrifice who then? None were paid to be there, no one made a penny of the event and no one was compelled to come. That is all commitment is about. May God and Allah bless them all and protect them and shield them from harm for they are our national treasure.
I am sure my cousin Fekreye will ask me “why do you make it so long’ I thought I should be faithful to such an important gathering of honorable people and it just kept coming out. Take your time and read it please, won’t you I worked hard on it.
By the way the next day Tamagne presided on another gathering in Seattle and you know folks of Seattle are a show off and they collected close to sixty thousand dollars. Seattle congratulations, we will meet again and we will be ready. We accept the challenge, we got work to do. Finally look at the picture below and see Tamagne at work-the power of love!
The selling of Ethiopia to the highest bidder. By Yilma Bekele
Actually that statement might not be true. We do know our country is being sold but we have no idea if the bidding has been open or closed. We have sold almost all of Gambella, we have leased half of Afar and Oromia has been parceled out bit by bit. Our Beer factories are under new owners, our gold mines belong to the fake Ethiopian sheik, Telephone is under the Chinese and our Airlines is looking for a suitor. Have we always looked for outsiders to own us?
Not really when you consider that we celebrated the victory at the battle of Adwa a few weeks back and that was the mother of all wars that made it clear this African country is not for sale. We might not have contributed much to the industrial revolution but we did manage to rely on our own ingenuity to follow along and do things our own way. You might not believe this but there was a time when Ethiopians actually used to be involved in making stuff from scratch. You think I am making things up don’t you? I don’t blame you because today you cannot even come up with one name that stands out as an Ethiopian entrepreneur, go getter or someone that shines like the north star based solely on his own sweat and blood.
The things that were accomplished by earlier Ethiopians are all around us but we don’t see them. All the things the current government brags about have their roots in the yester years they so much condemn and brush off. I don’t know where to start but here we go. Let us start with hospitals. Bella Haile Selassie (Bella), Leelt Tshay (armed Forces), Paulos, Haile Selassie Hospital (Yekati 12), Balcha, Ghandi, Tikur Anbessa, Ras Desta, Minilik etc. The vast majority of the doctors were Ethiopians, the hospitals were clean, well equipped and you don’t even have to take your own sheets and blankets.
How about Hotels? Ethiopia, Ghion, Wabi Shebele, Ras, Bekele Molla were the premier destinations. They were owned and operated by Ethiopians. When it comes to Ethiopian Airlines the Pilots were proud Ethiopians and the technicians were the envy of Africa. The Imperial government built the Airlines from scratch. Trans World Airlines (TWA) was a partner until we were able to train and staff our own and we did manage to do that.
If we talk about agriculture we did manage to establish the Sugar estates of Metehara and Wonji not to mention Setit Humera, the wheat and corn fields of Arsi, the fiber plants of Sidama and the cotton fields of Awash Valley are testimonial to our ingenuity. The sixties saw the emergence of the new educated Ethiopians that raised the bar of excellence.
The establishment of Africa Hall was how Africans showed respect to our Emperor and our old history when they choose Addis Abeba as the head quarter for the continent. The University at sadist Kilo was a gift to his people by the Emperor and it was a spectacular success. All the teachers were highly educated Ethiopians and the graduates were the pride of our country.
Why am I discussing such subject today? It is because two items reported by the media caught my eye a few days back. Both are an assault on our sovereignty and our ability to grow our own economy by Ethiopians for Ethiopians. Heineken a Dutch conglomerate is building the biggest brewery in Ethiopia and Guangdong Chuan Hui Group from China is given 41,000 Sq. meter of land to construct hotel and industrial complex. The way the story is being reported we should be jumping with joy. What could be better than those two benevolent multi nationals investing so much in our poor destitute country?
Is that how we should look at it? Is there another aspect to this story? In order to see the pros and con of the question posed In front of us it would have been nice if there has been a nationwide discussion to see if the plan makes sense when it comes to our homeland. That is how smart decisions are made. Open and vibrant nationwide discussion regarding such important issues that impact our national economy and our people’s well-being assures a better outcome.
That usually is not the case in our country. There are no checks and balances. There is no independent legislative body and the judiciary is a government tool. A single party the TPLF controls all and everything in the country. Our political leaders have no faith in the ability of the people to know what is good for them. That is why they approach their job as being a ‘baby sitter’ and are constantly fretting about what the people hear and read. Decisions are made by a few TPLF politburo members to be approved by the rubber stamp Parliament. Anyone that questions such a decision is branded as enemy of the people and dealt with.
Let us start with our beer story. You know beer is nothing but European Tella. It is bottled fancy and costs a little bit more. How long ago do you think we acquired the idea of brewing for a larger crowd? Eighty years ago my friend! St George brewery was started in 1922. Meta Abo Brewery was founded in 1963. Meta Abo was a partnership between government and private capital and started with a base capital of 2million Birr. The military junta nationalized both and the current TPLF Woyane regime inherited them with the rest of Ethiopia. What do you think these successive regimes did with our own old industry and land? Did they build on what was started? Did they reinvest the profit to make the enterprises bigger and better? Did they run our industries, enterprises and farms in a responsible and judicious manner?
Both St. George and Meta Abo are no more Ethiopian enterprises. BGI (an internationally acclaimed Brewing Company that operates in many countries.??) bought St George in 1998 for US 10 million ‘through foreign direct investment’(??) Meta Ambo was sold to Diego Industries-a British congalmorate for US 225 million. Heineken a Dutch multi-national acquired 18% of Bedele and Harar breweries for US 163 million in 2011. Raya Brewery an idea that has not materialized yet but promoted by Lt. General Tsadkan W.Tensai and investors such as Yemane (Jamaica) Kidane and other TPLF officials sold 25% interest to BGI for 650 million Br and invited Brewtech a German company as a partner.
As you can see the TPLF regime collected close to US 400 million from the sale of our home grown breweries. By all imagination that is chump change when you consider the ownership is lost and the profit for eternity belongs to the foreigners. Is this a good way to grow a national economy? Has it been done before or is this another of that failed ‘revolutionary democracy’ pipe dream?
BGI, Diego or Heineken are investing in our country to realize profit for their shareholders. What is our country getting out of this? The beer manufacturing business is a highly automated enterprise so it is not about job creation. Most if not all of the high paying managerial jobs will be occupied by the parent company. The malt, barley and other ingredients are imported and are considered a trade secret. We all know about creative accounting thus I am sure our country does not even benefit from the profit because the bookkeeping is rigged to minimize taxes.
Let us not even think of technology transfer since we cannot learn what we have already mastered. Remember we have been brewing beer since 1922. I will tell you what we got out of this unequal relationship. We as a people got royally screwed. The TPLF party officials got paid plenty for their pimping effort. The regime in its insatiable appetite for foreign currency bought a few months of respite to purchase oil, wheat, cooking oil etc. to postpone its inevitable collapse.
There are certain things we know how a growing economy with a nationalist government operates. We have seen how China, India, Malaysia, Brazil and other emerging economies handled their growth potential. They use what is known as subsidy to protect their infant industries from foreign predators. They allowed investment where technology transfer will bring benefit to their people but shielded their home grown industries from foreign competition.
Why do you think the TPLF bosses are interested in selling our sovereignty? I doubt it is because they are anti-Ethiopian even though the late evil PM used to suffer from inferiority complex when it comes to central highlanders. I believe it is because of their ‘get rich quick’ philosophy. They are in a hurry to accumulate before their Ponzi scheme comes crashing down. According to the UN billions of dollars are leaving our country. They are buying properties in the US and Europe, sending their children to expensive schools abroad and vacationing in exotic places with the money they steal from our country.
What are we the victims doing about this rape and pillage of our resources and the degradation of our national pride? I am afraid other than insistently talking there is nothing more most of us are doing about it. Why do you think that is so? I could think of a few things but ignorance comes to mind first and foremost. Our ignorance prevents us from connecting the dots and looking at the bigger picture. Our misplaced pride does not allow us to listen to others and learn to be able to formulate better solutions to our problems.
Today we have a population that is not familiar with its history. Sixty four percent (64%) of our people are under twenty five years old while twenty nine percent (29%) are under the age of 54 years. We have a toxic population on our hands. Those under twenty five grew up under the Woyane regime where being an Ethiopian is taken as a liability. While those under fifty four are the result of the Derge era of undermining religion, family, and stability. Ninety three (93%) of our population is a fertile ground for evil Woyane to plant shame, doubt and insecurity about being Ethiopian.
It is this population that is sitting on the side and cheering the selling of their country. For most people what bothers them is not what is lost but they spend endless energy to get a piece of the action. In Ethiopia stealing, lying, being part of a criminal enterprise is encouraged by the regime. When the recently dead Meles Zenawi said ‘even being a thief requires being smart’ he was giving a green light to his cadres and the population at large. The so called Diaspora is the number one enabler of the criminal Woyane machine. They use their new found riches to bribe Woyane so they could acquire stolen land to build their flimsy unsustainable condominiums and spend endless nights worrying if the next highest bidder will in turn take it away in broad day light.
This is exactly the reason we are having a problem forming a united front to get rid of this cancerous body in our midst. This is the reason even in exile we are unable to form a democratic, inclusive and worthy association that will benefit the many. The ninety three percent are in need of education in civic affairs and a dose of what it means to love your neighbor as you would love yourself.
May be it is the lords way of teaching us little humility and humbleness as he did with the children of Israel when he left them to wonder for forty years in the wilderness so they know what is in their heart. It is a choice we have-to be humble or perish due to pride.
On the road to democracy and unity?
For some time now, I have been heralding Ethiopia’s irreversible march from dictatorship to democracy. In April 2011, I wrote a commentary entitled, “The Bridge on the Road(map) to Democracy”. I suggested,
We can conceive of the transition from dictatorship to democracy as a metaphorical journey on the road to progress, freedom and human enlightenment (democracy) or a regression to tyranny, subjugation and bondage (dictatorship). Societies and nations move along this road in either direction. Dictatorships can be transformed into democracies and vice versa. But the transition takes place on a bridge that connects the road from dictatorship to democracy. It is on this bridge that the destinies of nations and societies, great and small, are made and unmade. If the transition on the bridge is orderly, purposeful and skillfully managed, then democracy could become a reality. If it is chaotic, contentious and combative, there will be no crossing the bridge, only pedaling backwards to dictatorship. My concern is what could happen on the bridge linking dictatorship to democracy in Ethiopia when that time comes to pass.
In June 2012, I wrote a commentary entitled, “Ethiopia: On the Road to Constitutional Democracy”. I argued with supporting historical evidence that “Most societies that have sought to make a transition from tyranny and dictatorship to democracy have faced challenging and complex roadblocks.” Focusing on the practical lessons of the “Arab Spring”, I proposed a constitutional pre-dialogue and offered some suggestions:
The search for a democratic constitution and the goal of a constitutional democracy in Ethiopia will be a circuitous, arduous and challenging task. But it can be done… To overcome conflict and effect a peaceful transition, competing factions must work together, which requires the development of consensus on core values. Public civic education on a new constitution must be provided in the transitional period. Ethiopian political parties, organizations, leaders, scholars, human rights advocates and others should undertake a systematic program of public education and mobilization for democratization and transition to a genuine constitutional democracy. To have a successful transition from dictatorship to constitutional democracy, Ethiopians need to practice the arts of civil discourse and negotiations….”
They are pedaling backwards on the low road of dictatorship, but are we marching forward on the highway to democracy?
It is easy for some people to speak truth to power, or the powers that be. Without great difficulty, they can preach to abusers of power why they are wrong, what they are doing wrong, why they should right their wrong and do right by those they have wronged. But it is not so easy to speak truth to powers that could be, particularly when one does not know who “they” are. Instead of speaking truth to the powers that could be, I will simply ask: They are pedaling backwards on the low road of dictatorship, but are we marching forward on the highway to democracy? Where do we go (or not go) from here?
Ordinarily, this question would be put to Ethiopia’s “opposition leaders”. For some time now, I have been wondering who those leaders are and are not. In my commentary last September entitled, “Ethiopia’s Opposition at the Dawn of Democracy?”, I asked out loud (but never got answer), “Who is the Ethiopian ‘opposition’?” I confessed my bewilderment then as I do now: “There is certainly not a monolithic opposition in the form of a well-organized party. There is no strong and functional coalition of political parties that could effectively challenge both the power and ideology of the ruling party. There is not an opposition in the form of an organized vanguard of intellectuals. There is not an opposition composed of an aggregation of civil society institutions including unions and religious institutions, rights advocates and dissident groups. There is not an opposition in the form of popular mass based political or social movements. There is not…”
Stated differently, is the “opposition that amorphous aggregation of weak, divided, squabbling, factionalized and fragmented parties and groups that are constantly at each other’s throats? The grumbling aggregation of human rights advocates, civic society organizers, journalists and other media professionals and academics? The groups committed to armed struggle and toppling the dictatorship by force the opposition? Anyone who thinks or self-proclaims s/he is the opposition?” All or none of the above?
I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that the disciples of the late Meles Zenawi would have no problems explaining where they are going from here. They would state with certainty, “Come hell or high water, we’ll pedal backwards lockstep in Meles’ ‘eternally glorious’ footsteps to the end of the rainbow singing Kumbaya to grab the pot of gold he has left for us under the Grand Renaissance Dam. We will fly high in the sky on the wings of a 10, 12, 15 percent annual economic growth and keep flying higher and higher…” I say it is still better to have a road map to La-La Land than sitting idly by twiddling one’s thumbs about the motherland.
Is the question to be or not be in the opposition? What does it mean to be in the “opposition”? What must one do to be in the “opposition”? Is heaping insults, bellyaching, gnashing teeth and criticizing those abusing power the distinctive mark of being in the opposition? Is frothing at the mouth with words of anger and frustration proof of being the opposition? How about opposing the abusers of power for the sake of opposing them and proclaiming moral victory? Is opposing the abusers of power without a vision plan, a plan of action or a strategic plan really opposition?
I have often said that Meles believed he “knew the opposition better than the opposition knew itself.” Meles literally laughed at his opposition. He considered the leaders of his opposition to be his intellectual inferiors. He believed he could outwit, outthink, outsmart, outplay, outfox and outmaneuver them all, save none, any day of the week. He believed them to be dysfunctional, shiftless and inconsequential; he never believed they could pose a challenge to his power. In his speeches and public comments, he ridiculed, scorned and sneered at them. He treated his opposition like wayward children who needed constant supervision, discipline and well-timed spanking to keep them in line. Truth be told, during his two decades in power, Meles was able to outwit, outthink, outsmart, outplay, outfox and outmaneuver, and neutralize his opposition at will. Meles’ disciples today trumpet their determination to walk in his footsteps and do exactly the same thing.
Where is the “opposition” now?
Perhaps it is premature to pose the question, “Where do we go from here?” to Ethiopia’s “opposition”. It may be more appropriate to ask where the “opposition” is (is not) now. From my vantage point, the “opposition” is in a state of resignation, stagnation, negation, frustration and alienation. I see the “opposition” watching with hypnotic fascination the abusers of power chasing after their tails. The “opposition” seems anchorless, agenda less, aimless, directionless, dreamless and feckless. The “opposition”, it seems to me, is in a state of slumber, in crises and in a state of paralysis.
Time was when the “opposition” got together, stood together, put heads together, worked together, campaigned together, negotiated together, compromised together, met the enemy together and even went to jail together. Flashback 2005! The “opposition” set aside ethnic, religious, linguistic, ideological and other differences and came together to pursue a dream of freedom and democracy. That dream bound the opposition and strengthened the bonds of their brotherhood and sisterhood. The “opposition” mobilized together against factionalism and internal conflicts and closed ranks against those who sought to divide and split it. By doing so, the opposition thumped the ruling party in the polls.
In the past seven years, the dream of democracy and freedom among the “opposition” seems to have slowly faded away and the strength of its champions sapped away in mutual distrust and recrimination. Dialogue in the “opposition” has been replaced with monologue and deafening silence; action with inaction; cooperation with obstruction; coalition with partisanship; unity with division; amity with enmity and civility with intolerance.
The “opposition” wants change and rid Ethiopia of tyranny and dictatorship. But as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent. … We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” The Ethiopian “opposition” needs to stand up erect and make demands with steely backbone and stiff upper lip.
There are many ways to stand up and show some backbone. To speak up for human rights and against government wrongs is to stand up. To demand that wrongs be righted is to stand up. To open up one’s eyes and unplug one’s ears in the face of evil is standing up. To simply say “No!” even under one’s breath is standing up. Speaking truth to power is standing up. Dr. King said, “A just law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.” Standing up against an unjust law is standing up for justice.
In January 2011, I wrote a weekly column entitled, “After the Fall of African Dictatorships” and posed three questions: “What happens to Africa after the mud walls of dictatorship come tumbling down and the palaces of illusion behind those walls vanish? Will Africa be like Humpty Dumpty (a proverbial egg) who “had a great fall” and could not be put back together by “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men”? What happens to the dictators?”
The mud walls of dictatorship in Ethiopia have been exhibiting ever expanding cracks since the death of the arch architect of dictatorship Meles Zenawi sometime last summer. The irony of history is that the question is no longer whether Ethiopia will be like Humpty Dumpty as the “king” and “king’s men” have toiled to make her for two decades. The tables are turned. Despite a wall of impregnable secrecy, the “king’s men and their horses” are in a state of disarray and dissolution. They lost their vision when they lost their visionary. The old saying goes, “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Well, the king is no more; and the “king’s men and horses” are lost in the wilderness of their own wickedness, intrigue and deception.
The “fierce urgency of now” is upon Ethiopia’s opposition leaders to roll out their plans and visions of democracy. Now is the time for Ethiopia’s human rights advocates to bring forth their vision of a society governed by the rule of law. Now is the time for Ethiopia’s civil society leaders to build networks to connect individuals and communities across ethnic, religious, linguistic, gender and regional lines. Now is the time for Ethiopia’s intellectuals to put forth practical solutions to facilitate the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Now is the time for all freedom loving Ethiopians to come forward and declare and pledge their allegiance to a democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Now is the time to unchain ourselves from the burdens of the past. Now is the time to abandon the politics of identity and ethnicity and come together in unity for the sake of all of Ethiopia’s children. Now is the time to organize and mobilize for national unity. Now is the time for truth and reconciliation. Now is the time to assert our human dignity against tyrannical barbarity.
Now is not the time to for division, accusation and recrimination. Now is not the time for finger pointing, bellyaching and teeth gnashing. Now is not the time to remain silent. Now is not the time to turn a blind eye. Now is not the time to turn a deaf ear.
Where should we go from here?
I will try to answer my own question in brief form for now. The opposition should get on the highway that leads to democratic governance. The opposition should roll out its action plan for a democratic, post-dictatorship Ethiopia. The principal lesson to be learned from the experiences of the past seven years is that the opposition’s role is not simply to “oppose, oppose and oppose” for the sake of opposing. The opposition’s role and duty goes well beyond simply proclaiming opposition to the abusers of power. The opposition’s role goes to the heart of the future democratic evolution and governance of the country. In that role, the opposition must relentlessly demand accountability and transparency of those absuing power. The fact that the abusers of power will pretend to ignore demands of accountability and transparency is of no consequence. The question is not if they will be held to account but when. The opposition should always question and challenge the actions and omissions of those abusing their powers in a principled and honest manner. The opposition must analyze, criticize, dice and slice the policies, ideas and programs of those in power and offer better, different and stronger alternatives. It is not sufficient for the opposition to publicize the failures and of the ruling party and make broad claims that they can do better.
For starters, the opposition should make crystal clear its position on accountability and transparency to the people. For instance, what concrete ideas does the opposition have about ending, or at least effectively controlling, endemic corruption in Ethiopia. In an exhaustive 448-page report, the World Bank recently concluded that the Ethiopian state is among the handful of the most corrupt in the world. I cannot say for sure how many opposition leaders or anyone in the opposition has taken the time to study this exquisitely detailed study of corruption in Ethiopia; but anyone who has read the report will have no illusions about the metastasizing terminal cancer of corruption in the Ethiopia body politics. The opposition should issue a white paper on what it would do to deal with the problem of corruption in Ethiopia.
Speaking truth to the powers that could be
I know that what I have written here will offend some and anger others. Still many could find it refreshing and provocatively audacious. Some critics will wag their tongues and froth at the mouth claiming that I am attacking the “opposition” sitting atop my usual high horse. They will claim that I am weakening and undermining the “opposition” preaching from my soapbox. Others will say I am overdramatizing the situation in the “opposition”. Still others will claim I am not giving enough credit or am discrediting those in the “opposition” who have been in the trenches far longer than I have been involved in human rights advocacy. They will say I am doing to the opposition what the power abusers have done to them. They will say I don’t understand because I have been sitting comfortably in my academic armchair and have not been on the front lines suffering the slings and arrows of an outrageous dictatorship. Be that as it may!
Though I acknowledge such claims could be convenient diversions, there are two essetnial questions all of us who consider ourselves to be in the “opposition” can no longer ignore and must be held to answer: They are pedaling backwards on the low road of dictatorship, are we marching forward on the highway to democracy? Is the “opposition” better off today than it was in 2005?
Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino and is a practicing defense lawyer.
Previous commentaries by the author are available at:
Amharic translations of recent commentaries by the author may be found at:
By Yilma Bekele
We always think of our people to be so loving that welcome a stranger into their homes and share what little they have. Our language is full of sayings about being a good host, a great neighbor and a kind human. Sharing what you have, helping those in need and putting others ahead play a central theme in all our folklores. At least that is what we try to believe and that is what we tell ourselves and each other every opportunity we get. What a kind and loving people we are is a common mantra.
Do you think that is a true picture of our country? I don’t know about you but I knew such Ethiopia in my life time. Here we go again, I did not say we were a perfect paradise but definitely we were not the Wild West either. But I know for sure we used to care for each other and we were a once proud nation.
Then where did all this violent act and talk of perpetual violence came from is a good question? It is a timely question too. Today violence both the act and the talk is permeating our society. The specter of violence is everywhere. Our country has become one big cesspool of violence and you can’t even escape it from any point on earth.
According to the World Health organization (WHO) violence is defined ‘as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person, or group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.’
The dergue started the ball rolling with the class warfare crap. The TPLF took over with ethnic cleansing mantra. It looks like the last forty years have been a time of violence, threat of violence and absence of peace era. The Mengistu and Meles generation has been schooled in the exercise of violence as a normal day to day activity.
What got me look at these phenomena is the current behavior of our masters in Addis Abeba and their children here in the US. The Berket/Debretsion government is going out of its way to bully our Muslim citizens, intimidate our journalists and frighten our people. They are using the monopoly they exercise on our communication media to produce second rate movies, badly written essays and moronic broadcasts to confuse their captive audience.
War is waged on our Muslim brothers and sisters thru out the country. Their leaders have been incarcerated, their worship places have been desecrated and their religion has been equated with terror. The TPLF is trying to do to the Muslims what they have been doing to the Orthodox Christians the last twenty years. They were able to divide and set the Christians against each other. Bishops and priests have been beaten, exiled and insulted in broad day light. Due to lack of spine by the Christian followers the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia today has lost all its moral compass and made into a leaderless association no different than those ‘teletafis’ clustered around the mighty TPLF.
Not content on terrorizing our people at home it looks like TPLF has branched out to reach into the Diaspora community and practice its form of violence. For some of us it is not a new revelation. We have been pointing out the presence of TPLF agents amongst us for quite a while. Their activates in the various opposition party support groups we have been forming was visible and hard to miss. Their sabotage of our houses of worship is legendary. Their presence in our football organization took a valiant effort by some to unmask. No one escapes the sinister act of Woyane spies and saboteurs in any outfit that dares to organize as an Ethiopian entity. I don’t think I need to prove any of my assertions. I beg the reader to look around him/her in any city USA. I dare you to find a peaceful association untouched by Woyane virus wherever you reside.
Now their underground activity is made visible by no other than our dragon slayer, dictator buster, honor restorer and champion of freedom, my friend Abebe Gelaw. No need to elaborate more but our country and people are always grateful for the epic grand stand that was made in Washington DC on behalf of mother Ethiopia. Her children rejoiced while her enemies wept. It looks like they did not learn a lesson. They reverted back to form.
They are trying to do here in the US what they do to our people back home. They are trying to intimidate, bully and scare us from exercising our free will. A few months back an individual registered by the name of Guesh Abera on Facebook was investigated by the FBI for threatening Ato Abebe. His normal TPLF animal behavior was taken as a subject of concern by the FBI that sent agents to his work place to interview the individual and put him on alert. I am sure they felt it was better to nip this ugly idea in its bud rather than wait. Whether in jest or for real the issue is Goush threatened and the FBI investigated.
A few of our Woyane friends tried to make fun of the situation and ridicule the assertion. They went to the extent of accusing ESAT and our independent Web sites of misinformation. They tried to turn the story on its head and attempted to make the victim the aggressor. Awramba Times unmasked itself as nothing but a shameless Woyane sympathizer while some in the venerable Voice of America tried a clumsy investigative journalism that missed its mark.
Some organizations and a few people are so dense they are unable to see what is in front of them and change to avoid calamity. TPLF and its operatives are one such outfit. Despite the unmasking and public humiliation of Guesh Abera, guess who shows up to accept the medal of stupidity? None other than another ethnic hero by the name of Mulugeta Kahsay, a proud immigrant residing in Britain. This individual doing his job as assigned by TPLF was caught red handed attempting to intimidate and frighten Ato Abebe. He made repeated cals threatening not only Ato Abebe but his whole family both in the US and back in Ethiopia.
According to Wiki ‘A death threat is a threat, often made anonymously, by one person or a group of people to kill another person or groups of people. These threats are usually designed to intimidate victims in order to manipulate their behavior, thus a death threat is a form of coercion.’ Here in the US death threat is considered a criminal act. Mulugeta Khassay’s action is deplorable and will land him in jail if it was made in the US.
Why do you think these two individuals felt such behavior is both acceptable and something to be proud of? The simple answer is where they came from it is considered lawful and practiced with abandon. The TPLF Woyane regime uses violence and the threat of violence to silence its opponents and anybody it feels stands on its way. The late TPLF chieftain Meles Zenawi used to threaten cutting hands of the citizen routinely. Like father like son is the situation here. What is not surprising is the fact that so many Woyanes and their admirers cheered such behavior and they are not ashamed to check out the ‘Like’ button on Facebook. So much for peaceful coexistence, wouldn’t you say?
In a civilized setting such behavior back fires and results in exactly the opposite of what is intended. We are all appalled by such naked brutal attempt by the two individuals and their organization or are we all? This is a difficult question to answer. When we see how we Ethiopians relate to each other and how we try to resolve differences, the behavior of Goush and Mulugeta are not that much of an anomaly. The system set up by Woyane encourages such criminal mind set and illegal activity. In today’s Ethiopia breaking the law, getting ahead at the expense of fellow citizens is a celebrated act. Lying, cheating, bribing is not frowned upon and expected practice to finalize any and all transaction. It is so routine that it has become second nature to some of us.
It is not enough to condemn these two gangsters. What is needed is to see how low we have sunk as a people that such action was carried out amongst us. It is not enough to sneer at the workings of Woyane but to reflect on our society that has allowed such evil doers to prosper and grow. When we allow a few to disturb our associations, when we turn a blind eye to those that disrespect our religious leaders and create chaos in our church, when we let an insult and rogue behavior go unchallenged we end up reaping what we planted. As long as we allow ethnic based organization such as the TPLF set the agenda in our country these kind of abhorrent behavior and criminal acts will continue to be the norm. The fight against injustice starts with each one of us. We are grateful to those that have risen to get rid of the body cancer called TPLF from our land. Helping them is a duty to our mother land and to one self.
See Mulugeta Kahsay tie himself in knots:
TPLF and the culture of violence. By Yilma Bekele.
According to ESAT the FBI has foiled an attempt by the Ethiopian government to assassinate Ato Abebe Gelaw. Goosh Abera and his accomplices are under custody. Please note here I said the Ethiopian government since there seems to be no thin line between the TPLF party and the government. Why am I not surprised? I am not surprised because for the TPLF violence is sanctioned by the party leaders as a legitimate tool to achieve political, economic and military dominance.
The following weeks as we look closely at Goosh Abera and his criminal friends and the FBI presents a psychological profile of the alleged conspirators we are sure to find out certain telltale signs about TPLF and their bizarre psychopathic behavior. Individuals like Goosh are most probably equipped with basic rudimentary education if any and survive by their wit and ethnic fueled bravado. In Ethiopia they are known for carrying weapons conspicuously, brandishing them at will and revealing in their thuggish behavior. They are the kind that administers summary judgment on street corners, bars and clubs.
How was TPLF Chairman, the recently departed Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi able to achieve this goal in Ethiopia? The simple truth is by using violence to silence, intimidate, and eliminate his and the party’s actual or perceived enemies using any means necessary. You do not need to be a Sherlock Holmes to detect this pungent smell of gun powder around most Woyanes.
Mengistu Hailemariam prepared the perfect ground for TPLF to flourish. He has already disarmed the population, delegitimized the family system and used the lowest denominators to be in charge of the Kebeles. TPLF inherited a demoralized, confused and tired population to mold in its own image.
The first target of this terrorist organization was the educated citizen. The University was stripped of its most experienced and independent thinkers. By ’94 the University was a former ghost of itself. The political system was dealt in a harsh way. Professor Asrat was murdered in the most inhumane way possible. Teachers President Assefa Maru was shot against a wall execution style. Masses of independent publication owners, editors and reporters were brutally beaten, murdered, bankrupted, intimidated, exiled or killed even in exile. Bank employees were fired in masse, telecommunication workers were discarded teachers and their unions were digested even Chamber of Commerce was not immune from TPLF take over. One thread common to all is that none of them were acquired peacefully. Violence was the main calling card of the TPLF.
Every opportunity he got the sick dictator used to trash our country and our history and every opportunity they got his security department used to bully, intimidate and made to cower with fear. My dear fellow citizens, you know there is nothing new in what I am telling you. Some have witnessed it, plenty have experienced it and a vast majority would try not to think about it. The shame is unbearable.
One thing about TPLF is it is not a behind the curtain type of organization. It practically advertises every hit and all illegal acts. They use their criminal action to send a clear message to the citizen. That is why they insist that all are aware and versed on their mode of operation. They use their Television news, their newspapers and radio to send warning messages before they take action. When the unthinkable happens some are heard to say ‘he/she was warned but refused to listen-they deserve it!” You see the victim assumes the blame.
They have been systematically killing any and all emerging Ethiopians. They have goon squads that go around intimidating anybody they perceive to be a challenge. They use beating and flogging opponents to shame them in front of family, friends and a whole village. They use blackmail as a tool. They use the law to break the law. Meles used to amend the Constitution in a weekend. Even the Constitution is not worth any respect. Once you trash the Constitution what is on your way?
That is what the FBI s telling us. Their dirty deeds have arrived in America. Under Meles they were content in infiltrating our organizations such as Political Party support groups, Eders, Churches, Sport organization and disrupting from the inside. There is no Organization in North America that has not been a victim of TPLF insider disruption. They are crafty, relentless and completely understand our frame of mind. They exploit our ignorance, selfishness and greed to keep us in a daze.
The new TPLF leaders are a little bit reckless. I understand that too. It comes out of desperation. The group is under tremendous pressure. The late dictator I am afraid was a very selfish person. The sun revolved around him. When he left the light went dim. I do not think any social or military organization can take credit for the current upheaval. In my humble opinion the stink is coming from inside. I agree things are getting ripe on the outside and that could intensify the pressure inside the TPLF bowl. I am afraid the last CEO did not really care to what came after him. He was too busy surviving from day to day in this shark infested pond that he did not have the time and luxury to bother with outcome. He left an army with too many generals. Here in America there is a saying ‘all chiefs and no Indians.’ Debretsion, Bereket, Sebhat, Gebru, Abbay and a bunch of tin pot Generals are on their own trying to carve the biggest pie for themselves.
This desperate act of attempt to assassinate Ato Abebe here in the US is the work of a mad man. If the group was trying to send a message about the long arm of TPLF it is a very stupid and crazy gesture. We have been complaining about their disruptive activities in our midst but this mission of trying to kill is a little concerning. There is no question the FBI will get to the bottom of this incident. It should be treated as act of terrorism by a government and investigated to the full extent of the law and let the chips fall where they may.
I am sure the alleged conspirator will name names and tell us who gave the order for such criminal act. I doubt one individual will take it upon himself to take such mission. The Ethiopian Government under Dictator Meles routinely used to kill, rough up and intimidate its opponents in the African countries they are exiled to. The new guys are a little daring. Prime Minister Debretsion and security chief Workeneh Gebehu Should be interviewed about the work of their agents and made to take responsibility for their actions. We hope the US government will take the necessary action of baring all Ethiopian Government officials and family members from entering the country before everything is known about this conspiracy to commit crime in the US. We should demand the US government protect us from the monsters they have been coddling.
This definitely is not their first time committing crime here in the US. They have been using every legal and illegal means to harass, bankrupt and shut down Ethiopian Review Web site. They have employed what is known as denial of service attacks (DDoS Attack) to block ER and various Web sites, they have hired attorneys to intimidate ER publisher and are present in every of our Churches sawing dissent and negativity.
As Ethiopians in exile we should take the actions of these criminals seriously. It is true there is no criminal without the victim. Sometimes it is unfortunate things happen but you really can’t leave your door open and cry about being robbed do you? It is time we accept responsibility. The Ethiopian people that are facing the brunt of TPLF abuse should wake up and face their coward enemies. By now it should be clear silence is not the answer. The one year anniversary by our Muslim citizens is clear indication the regime does not listen to reason. The steadfastness of our Muslim brethren should be applauded and emulated by the rest of us. The call by our Orthodox church in exile for every one of us to safeguard our religion and our country is a timely reminder.
The fact that we have muscle now is a very empowering feeling. The cooperation between Ginbot7, Afar Front, anti Woyane activists in Tigrai, OLF, Patriotic Front and the formation of Ginbo7 Forces is the right direction considering the nature of TPLF. As I said before leveling the playing field is called for. That is one small step for our Fronts and one giant step for Ethiopia.
As for the Diaspora it is time we stop enriching the coffers of the evil regime. Any kind of involvement in their Ponzi scheme adds one day more to their life. As there is no little pregnancy there is no such thing as a little investment. It has to be a clean and complete break. This Abesha way of qualifying our illegal act is not good for our future. Your selfish action is hurting us and we ask you stop it. It is like MLK said ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ It is something to think about.
We feel the pain and hurt of our friend Abebe and his family. He has never threatened those that have hounded him and his family from his beloved homeland. His only weapon is his pen and pencil and the power of reason to resolve contradictions. Exiling him was not enough. Now they want to kill him in cold blood. That is the only language they speak. They have killed so many but they are unable to understand their violence has not resolved any of the outstanding issues. Don’t they see it? Don’t they know there are a lot more Abebebes as there were plenty of Asrats, Assefas, Eskindirs, Reyots? When is this madness going to stop? When is our country going to be a citadel of peace and harmony instead of a poster child for famine and civil war?
You know what no one gives you your freedom. You have to snatch it from those that want to make you their slave. No oppressor has ever said enough, I am going to leave you alone here go in peace. No, every oppressor faced by human kind was compelled to relinquish power by force. Not reason but force. The French revolution, the American revolution, the Russian revolution, the Chinese revolution, the South African revolution are all examples of the citizens taking matters into his hands and forcing the oppressor to step aside. Woyane dogs are not going to wake up one morning and pack and leave. You and I have to push them out. That is the only proven way. Anything else invites more abuse.
The role of higher education and Ethiopia. By Yilma Bekele
My beautiful and brilliant niece graduated from college a few days ago. We are all proud and happy with her accomplishment. It gave the whole family an opportunity to get together. Believe me the festival was preserved on video and camera, posted on Facebook, published on Instagram and micro blogged on tumblr. That is how important it was. No question it was a proud moment for her parents and an early Christmas present to the whole clan. We were lucky and our daughter was strong and focused and it all worked out pretty good.
Here in the US Universities, Colleges and institutes of higher education are held in high reverence. The vast majority are public institutions funded by the citizen. There also exists plenty of private non-profit and commercial places of learning. They are all designed with two purposes in mind. Knowledge and Utility.
They are places of socialization where the individual learns the democratic process such as tolerance, respect for others and the value of freedom. It is here where change is the norm innovation, curiosity and looking into the future is encouraged and the human mind is left to soar like an eagle in a storm.
The speeches during the graduation ceremony reflected these learned values. The rainbow nature of the graduating class speaks plenty to the capacity of the US system to absorb the best from the planet and toss it into what they call the melting pot. The graduate school representative’s speech was a perfect example of using education as a tool to help create a positive environment where society as a whole thrives.
The graduating class representative from the International Studies program gave a very forceful speech based on his experience as a young man in Tanzania. This is the way he started his long journey ‘… my first visit to Africa was five years ago …..i had never been to a developing country before and I went to Tanzania mostly because the idea of travelling outside my comfort zone scared me and I didn’t want not to do something potentially meaningful just because it scared me clearly I had brain development issues. I was also eager to make a difference the Africa I thought knew was the Africa of save the children brochures poor and in need of help I was comparatively reach and looking to help surely this will work out.’
His visit to Africa opened his eyes to the many problems facing mankind. His stay at the University gave him ‘some clarity’ not only how to view the situation but the knowledge on how to interpret them and be part of the solution. In his own eloquent words this is what he said.
‘USF helps us to fill in those gaps and it also helps us to recognize them understanding what we don’t understand made us more likely to question and more likely to dig deeper to find the root of problems.
Therein lays the beauty of our education. The world after all does have problems and the problems do have solutions. USF help us to figure out what they might be and what we can do to help. It is inspiring to feel that you’ve a better understanding of the world than you did just a year ago and you can attribute that improvement to something other than brain development.’
The President of the University spoke last. He joked about the most expensive Christmas gift they were receiving paid by themselves or their family and went on to remind them of the huge responsibility of living a meaningful life. He used a passage from a book ‘Tuesday’s with Maury’ to drive his point home. He choose a section which he referred to as ‘probing even disturbing’ where in the book Maury asks his middle aged friend ‘have you found someone to share your heart with, are you giving to your community, are you at peace with yourself and are you trying to be as human as can be?’
It is a perfect illustration of how the University was able to nurture and produce young minds skilled both in knowledge and utility. It has fulfilled its promise to society and the tax payer’s money and the tuition paid by the students is a worthy investment.
It is with sadness we hear the disturbances at Addis Abeba University the last few days. It would have been understandable if the students were protesting about the quality of education, the lack of freedom, the dismal state the library or internet, the issue of press freedom in the country or the non-existence of opportunity upon graduation. It is none of the above. The Ethiopian institution of higher education is not geared to equip the young minds to ask such probing even dangerous questions. Addis Abeba University is the reflection of the TPLF mentality of dumbing down the population and keeping them at each other’s throat.
From what we hear the upheaval was based on ethnic grounds. There is no question like the rest of the country the University is the playground of the TPLF mafia group. The administration and faculty is chosen based on loyalty to the regime and the once proud and independent student union has been demolished to be replaced by ‘Teletafi’ created in the face of TPLF. From experience we know Woyanes are good at starting conflict whenever they want to divert attention away from their criminal acts. The fact that they were successful in the University is what I find troubling here.
The very same place where students sacrificed asking ‘Land to the Tiller’, the very hallowed ground where they marched against the illegal regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa, today they are supposedly confronting each other arrayed in their own Kilil. What a shame is an understatement. It points to few facts about our country and the new society the TPLF regime has been constructing the last twenty years. In the particular case of the University it is obvious it has become a cadre training institute rather than a place of knowledge and utility. It is an absolute failure on both fronts.
This is made obvious by the recent report that stated the abysmal state of Medical school graduates from the so called medical schools. According to the newly minted proud TPLF windbag Dr. Tedros Adhanom ‘This year, for the first time, we enrolled 3,100 medical students, which is almost tenfold compared to what we used to enroll five, six years ago.’ Dear reader, this is a typical TPLF statement void of value and substance.
The report by PRI based on site interviews with teachers, students and aid workers makes it clear that the so called medical schools lack such rudimentary accessories as skilled teachers, half way equipped laboratories and decent libraries. Our brave Foreign Minster’s take on the dismal situation is ‘I don’t think we will change this country by waiting until we get something perfect to start to start something…it cannot be perfect. We have to start with what we have.’
On the surface one might be sympathetic to such talk. You would think a poor country doing its best to relieve a major problem by using its meager resources. But that is not a true statement. The actual situation is a country with plenty of human and material resources hell bent on mismanaging its god given asset. The TPLF regime sole interest is holding onto power regardless of the consequences.
The regime is interested in inflating the numbers for propaganda purpose rather than being concerned with quality. Like every one of their pie in the sky schemes they use numbers to show how much more they are achieving. The economy is showing double digit growth but the number of those starving is in the millions, the Federal system is working wonders but there is conflict in every region, the number of Doctors is increasing by tenfold except they are not real and according to foreign observers ‘they could do more harm than good.’
I would like to see Dr. Tedros and Dr. Debretsion take one of their medical school graduates as their family doctor. Would they take prescription drugs from those clinics and would they allow one of the surgeons to operate on their son or daughter? I doubt that. Medical practice is not an experimental science. Good enough does not work when it comes to human life.
Training excellent doctors, having great centers of education is not an out of reach dream for our country. It is a question of resources management and defining priorities. The regime spends millions on Chinese technology to jam and block Internet and other media to keep information from our people. Do you think that money could be used for education? The regime employees millions to spy on their family and neighbors can that budget be allocated for good purpose? The regime has one of the highest numbers of troops in Africa, is that necessary? It is all about priorities isn’t it?
Education is not taken seriously in today’s Ethiopia. The regime is not interested in producing an educated and motivated generation. They cannot afford a smart and questioning youth. There are not enough trained teachers, the class rooms are crowded, books and supplies are non-existent and the facilities are mostly from the Imperial era somehow still standing by the grace of God. Why do you think this is so?
The TPLF regime is not into education. Let alone as a national policy the regime does not even allow private individuals to donate books, computers and other learning tools without their permission. One has to get a written stamped document from the zone, Kilil, Ministry, Foreign office just to bring a computer. Internet is a government monopoly and communication is a regulated enterprise. Why do you think they do this?
Control is the key word here. The TPLF regime must control all aspects of the individual’s existence. They control where you live, what you own, where you work, what you read, what you watch and if possible what you think. They instill fear, they trade with fear, and they are peddlers of fear. You the reader of this article are terrified of the TPLF machine even from thousands of miles away. You wouldn’t dare criticize the regime without looking around you. You would not sign a petition afraid who might see it. You dare not go out on protest afraid of cameras. Fear is engrained into our very existence.
Have you heard the saying ‘I’m like a mushroom, keep me in the dark and feed me bullshit.’ They falsify statistics and claim double digit growth, they graduate a bunch of dressers and call them doctors, they open high schools and call them colleges and universities and we go along with that. Because the TPLF leaders are not educated they show absolute disdain to the expert or the educated. Being a medical doctor is not a simple matter. The title is conferred upon someone after a rigorous training and it carries a lot of both privilege and responsibility. Being a university or college professor is achieved after a lengthy process of learning and publishing and peer review.
When out TPLF bosses play around with such titles it is not a simple matter. It demeans the professions and the efforts of the people that sacrifice to achieve such noble goals. This is another continuation of their cynical view of our country our people and our future. The late criminal Meles used to reveal in insulting our past and mocking our achievement. His children are continuing the legacy of making our country and people not worthy of any pride. Even becoming a doctor has become a joke. I do not mean to dis respect my brothers and sisters working hard to learn under the difficult condition imposed by the regime. I share their frustration when asked to do the impossible without adequate training and necessary tools. My sincere apology since we are both victims of a nefarious system. We shall overcome.
By Alemayehu G Mariam
Ethiopians had their new year on September 11. It is now 2005. On September 21, they also got a new prime minster. How delightfully felicitous to have a new prime minister in the new year! Heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to the people of Ethiopia are in order.
Hailemariam Desalegn was sworn in as prime minister before a special session of parliament. It was a rather low key affair with little pomp and circumstance. There were no parades and no sounds of bugle or trumpet announcing the changing of the guard. No inaugural balls. It was a starkly scripted ceremonial affair with minimal fanfare and political theatricality. Some 375 of the 547 members of Parliament sat quietly and heard Hailemariam recite the oath of office and gave him a hearty round of applause.
Since late May, Hailemariam has been operating in political limbo. He was officially described as “deputy”, “acting” and “interim” prime minster, the latter two offices unauthorized by the Constitution of Ethiopia. There were also some nettlesome constitutional questions about the duties of the deputy prime minister in the absence of the prime minister and the proper method of succession. Those issues aside, Hailemariam’s swearing in ceremony was scheduled on several prior occasions only to be cancelled without adequate explanation. The abrupt cancellations fueled all types of speculations and conspiracy theories about turmoil and confusion among the ruling elites. To complicate things further, it was officially announced days before the actual swearing in ceremony that Hailemariam would be sworn in early October. For some publicly unexplained reason, a special session of parliament was suddenly called for the purpose of naming a prime minister creating additional public confusion about the manifest dithering among the power elites.
Hailemariam takes office under a cloud of apprehension. Speculations abound that he is really a “figure head”, a “front man” and a “seat warmer” for the entrenched interests in a transitional period. Critics suggest that he will have little independence of action and will be puppet-mastered by those who control the politics and economy behind the scenes. Others suggest that he is a “technocract” who is unlikely to survive in a political machine that is lubricated by intrigue, cabalist conspiracy and skullduggery. But some, including myself, have taken a wait-and-see attitude and would like to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Hailemariam’s “inauguration speech” hammered the theme of “Stay the Course.” He said under his leadership the programs and projects that have been initiated and underway will continue to completion. “Our task is to stay the course on the path to firm development guided by the policies and strategies [of our party]. We will continue to pursue development and democracy by strengthening our collective leadership and by mobilizing the people.” He said modernizing agriculture and the rural economy by accelerating agricultural development were top priorities. His government “will work hard” to improve agricultural infrastructure. He promised help to cattle raisers. He emphasized the need for better educational quality and entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth. He said the country needs a curriculum focused on science, technology and math. His administration will work hard to expand opportunities for women and pay greater attention to women’s health and improved health care services to mothers. He called upon the intellectuals and professional associations to engage in rigorous applied policy analysis and research to solve practical problems.
Hailemariam said his vision is to see Ethiopia join the middle income countries in ten years. To achieve that, he said significant improvements are needed in industry and manufacturing. His administration will pay special attention to remove development bottlenecks, improve the export sector and facilitate greater cooperation between the private sector and the government. He promised to work hard to alleviate housing and transportation problems in Addis Ababa. He touched upon the economy noting that though inflation is coming down, much more action is needed to bring it under control. He urged Ethiopians to bite the bullet (tirs neksen) and make sure the existing plans for ground and rail transportation, hydroelectric power generation and telecommunications are successfully executed. He pledged to complete the “Hedasse Gidib” (“Renassaince Dam”) over the Blue Nile. He referred to corruption and mismanagement in land administration, rent and tax collections and public contracts and pledged to get the public involved in eliminating them. He noted that there were significant deficits in good governance in the operation of the police, courts, security system that need to be improved.
Hailemariam emphasized that importance of human rights. He urged the parliamentary oversight committee to review the work of the Human Rights Commission for improvements. He underscored the vital role of the Elections Commission, the Human Rights Commission, press organizations and opposition parties in the country’s democratization. He said he was ready to work “closely” with press organizations, civic society institutions and other entities engaged in the democratic process. On foreign policy, he focused on regional issues, Ethiopia’s contribution to peace-building in Somalia, South Sudan and the Sudan.
The speech could best be described as “technocratic” in the sense that it focused on ways of solving the complex problems facing the country. The speech was short on rhetoric, oratory, appeals to the pathos of the masses and big new ideas and promises. He did not sugarcoat the deep economic problems of the country with hyperbolic claims of 14 percent annual growth nor did he make any grandiose claims about Ethiopia as the “one of the fastest-growing, non-oil-dependent economies in the developing world”. There were no impactful or memorable lines or sound bite phrases in the speech. He offered no inspirational exhortations in words which “soared to poetic heights, igniting the imagination with vivid imagery”. There were no anecdotes or storytelling about the plight of the poor and the toiling masses. It was a speech intended to serve as a call to action with the message that he will work hard and asks the people to join him. He spoke of responsibility, hard work, willingness to lead, standing up to challenges, engaging the opposition, civil society and press institutions, etc. for the purpose of improving the lives of the people.
Hailemariam’s speech was a refreshing change from similar speeches of yester years in a number of ways. It was delivered in a dignified and statesmanlike manner. It was not an ideologically laced speech despite repeated references to the guiding grand plan. It was accommodating and bereft of any attitude of the old militaristic and aggressive tone of “my way or the highway.” There was no finger pointing and demonization. He did not use the old tricks of “us v. them”. He did not come across as an arrogant know-it-all ideologue. He offered olive branches to the opposition, the press and other critics of the ruling party. What was even more interesting was that he did not pull out the old straw men and whipping boys of “neoliberalism”, “neocolonialism”, and “imperialism” to pin the blame on them for Ethiopia’s problems. He did not pull any punches against the local opposition or neighboring countries. He used no threats and words of intimidation. Even when he addressed the issues of corruption, mismanagement and abuse of power, he aimed for legal accountability rather than issuing empty condemnatory words or threats.
Another surprising aspect was the fact that the speech contained none of the old triumphalism, celebratory lap running and victorious chest-beating exercises. There was no display of strength of the ruling party, no self-congratulations and ego stroking. He softly challenged the opposition and the people to work together in dealing with the country’s problems. His speech seemed to be aimed more at making the people think and act on existing plans than making new promises. Over all, the speech was written with intelligence, thoughtfulness and purpose. Hailemariam spoke in a cool and collected manner and tried to get his points across directly. What he lacked in rhetorical flair, he made up with a projection of self-assurance, humility, respectability and profesionalism.
What Was Not Said
There were various things that were not said. Though Hailemariam acknowledged the structural economic problems and the soaring inflation, he offered no short-term remedial plans. He repeatedly came back to “stay the course” theme. Does “staying the course” mean “our way or the highway”? Is national reconciliation an idea the ruling party will consider? There was no indication in the speech about the transitional process itself, but he did offer what appeared to be olive branches to the opposition, the press and others.
Hailemariam also did not give any indication about the release of the large numbers of political prisoners that are held throughout the country. Nor did he mention anything about re-drafting the various repressive press, civil society and so-called anti-terrorism laws. For over a decade, all of the major international human rights and press organizations have condemned the government in Ethiopia for its flagrant violations of human rights, illegal detention of dissidents and suppression of press institutions and persecution of journalists.
Words and Actions: Shoes of the New Prime Minister
It is often hard to judge politicians by the speeches they make. It is not uncommon for politicians to deliver inspirational speeches and come up short on the action side of things. It is true that action speaks louder than words. In his speech, it seems Hailemariam sought to move himself, his party and the people to action. But he is in a difficult situation. He feels, or is forced to feel, that he has to “fill in big shoes”. He said he will walk in footsteps that have already been stamped out. But the shoe that fits one person pinches another. But for all the hero worship, Hailemariam must realize that there is a difference between shoes and boots. For two decades, boots, not shoes, were worn. Those boots have made a disfiguring impression on the Ethiopian landscape. It must be hard to pretend to walk in the shoes of someone who had sported heavy boots. The problem is what happens when one wears someone else’s shoes that do not fit. Do you then change the shoe or the foot? I hope Hailemariam will in time learn to walk in the shoes of the ordinary Ethiopian. He will find out that those shoes are tattered and their soles full of holes. Once he has walked a mile in those shoes, he will understand what it will take to get every Ethiopian new shoes. He must also realize that “it isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” There comes a time when we all need new shoes. That time is now. All Ethiopians need new shoes for the long walk to freedom, democracy and human rights. Prime Minster Hailemariam does not need hand-me down shoes; he needs shoes that are just his size and style and rugged enough for the long haul.
I believe Hailemariam gave a good “professional” speech. I do not think it will be remembered for any memorable lines, phrases or grand ideas. It was a speech that fit the man who stood before parliament and took the oath of office. As a self-described utopian Ethiopian, I thought the very fact of Hailemariam taking the oath of office symbolically represented the dawn of a long-delayed democracy in Ethiopia. Few would have expected a man from one of the country’s minority ethnic group to rise to such heights. Whether by design, accident or fortune, Hailemariam’s presence to take the oath of office, even without a speech or a statement, would have communicated a profound message about Ethiopia’s inevitable and unstoppable transition to democracy. Most importantly, now any Ethiopian boy or girl from any part of the country could genuinely aspire to become prime minister regardless of his/her ethnicity, region, language or religion.
I do not know if history will remember Hailemariam’s “inaugural” speech as a game changer. History will judge him not for the words he spoke or did not speak when he took the oath of office but for his actions after he became prime minister. It’s premature to judge. I like the fact that he appeared statesmanlike, chose his words carefully, focused on facts and presented himself in businesslike manner. It is encouraging that he expressed commitment to work hard to make Ethiopia a middle income country within a decade. He showed a practical sense of mission and vision while keeping expectations to reasonable levels.
To be Or Not To Be a Prime Minister
“Being Prime Minister is a lonely job,” wrote Maggie Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minsiter. “In a sense it ought to be; you cannot lead from a crowd.” I would say being a prime minister for Hailemariam, as the first prime minster from a minority ethnic group, will be not only lonely but tough as well. But somebody has got to do it. Hailemariam has his work cut out for him and he will face great challenges from within and without, as will the people of Ethiopia. I wish him well paraphrasing Winston Churchill who told his people in their darkest hour:
I would say to the House as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Democracy. Democracy at all costs. Democracy in spite of all terror. Democracy, however long and hard the road may be, for without democracy there is no survival.”
I believe Ethiopia will survive and thrive and her transition to democracy is irreversible, inevitable, unstoppable and divinely ordained!
On a personal note, I would give Prime Minster Hailemariam a bit of unsolicited advice. Smile a little because when you smile the whole world, not just the whole of Ethiopia, smiles with you!
Amharic translations of recent commentaries by the author may be found at: http://www.ethiopianreview.com/amharic/?author=57
Previous commentaries by the author are available at: http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/ and www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/
By Yilma Bekele
The US is getting ready for presidential elections. 2012 will be the 57th time elections have taken place. The first election was held in 1788 and there were five contestants and it was won by George Washington. Barack Obama is the 44th President. The Republican Party held its convention a week ago and the Democrats started their nomination process yesterday. The candidates are thinned down by the grueling primary campaign. The conventions are more or less a coronation event and come November one of the nominees wins and everybody goes home and wait for another four years. This routine has not changed for over 224 years. If the American citizen is so jaded about the event you can see why. It is nothing to write home about.
Non-American citizens are not allowed to participate in the process. It is unthinkable any government will try to influence the election in any covert manner. The American people determine their own future without help or interference from any outside body.
As you know our Prime Minster died a few months back and we have been operating without a leader for quite a while. Either the Ethiopian people are extremely low abiding or phenomenally docile because nothing has happened that is alarming under the circumstances of operating without central power. The PM was buried last Sunday, or at least a casket was laid to rest and still no decision has been made regarding a leader.
We in Ethiopia have not developed a system regarding how we would like to be governed. Until about forty years ago our regional warlords duked it out among themselves and the one standing at the end crowned himself or herself king, Queen or Emperor. Haile Selassie was the last Emperor. Colonel Mengistu was the next warlord disguised as head of the Military Junta or the Derge. He was in the process of legitimizing his rule by forming a party when he was overthrown by the TPLF guerrilla army.
The next chapter of our history is a little bit murky and sort of opaque. We have held four elections since the demise of Mengistu. All four have been won by the ruling TPLF party. As a matter of fact the 2005 election is the only one that will be considered partially free and fair. It was won by the opposition. Today that election is looked upon with nostalgia by the majority of our people.
In 2005 the recently departed PM miscalculated his and his party’s popularity big time. It is what happens when one is locked in a palace for too long and is surrounded by yes men and sycophants. The TPLF party learned a negative lesson from this debacle and the last election held in 2010 was a travesty of what election is all about. As they lost big time in 2005 they won the whole enchilada in 2010. We have a broken system with warlordism disguised as democracy.
This is why we are having this hiccup replacing the tyrant. He left a mess behind and cleaning it up is no small matter. There are so many rumors, theories and explanations’ twirling around the situation makes a Spanish novella look like a children’s bedtime story.
First and foremost to note in this tragic affair is that the Ethiopian people are not involved in this drama in any form or shape. We the people are ring side spectators waiting to be told the outcome of this three ring circus. We are keeping score.
Star of the show is no other than the Tigrayan people TPLF Party. It is rumored the party have different factions. The internal bickering is not expected to reach a boiling point. Others playing minor parts are the Amhara Party (ANDM), the Oromo Party (OPDO) and the Southern people’s Party (SEPDM). There are others like the Gambellan, Benishangel-Gumuz etc. but they are for all practical purposes as observers as the Ethiopian people. Everyone is organized under the umbrella known as the EPRDF.
The Executive Committee of EPRDF held its first meeting since the death of warlord numero uno and you would think their first agenda will be filling the void. No such luck in revolutionary Ethiopia. According to Woyane TV “The executive committee passed decision to strive towards success of the Growth and Transformation Plan and further strengthen efforts towards renaissance of the country.” As to the most important issue at hand the “The meeting passed decision to name chairperson and vice chairperson for the Front in its meeting to be held in mid September 2012. It called on the Ethiopian people to rally behind the Front in the efforts to reduce poverty and realize renaissance of the country.”
The only conclusion to reach after reading such a press release is that the EPRDF cannot agree regarding giving the position of PM to the person who was designated as the vice. Why do you think that is? Is it because the number one position has always been reserved to the TPLF Party? It looks like they have found themselves in a very difficult situation at the moment. Appointing a TPLF person would not be looked at kindly by all involved especially the foreign enablers. It is not that they have any objection to the TPLF but they are not willing to chance anything that would destabilize the current cozy situation they have gotten used to. Why rock the boat now must be what they are asking the ruling mafia.
It is said the EPRDF Executive Committee has thirty five members. Since the country is divided on the basis of ethnicity the EC is composed of representatives from four regions. What is peculiar about this situation is the number of participants in the EC. It is said that each Party sends eight people but how they arrived at this number is not clear. The Oromos’ constitute 34.5%, the Amaras’ 26.9% and the Tigrais’ 6.1% of the population. The disparity in representation does beg for an answer.
At the moment the situation the Vice/Acting Prime Minster finds himself is not enviable at all. It looks like he is going up a creek without a paddle. The military is in the hands of the TPLF Party. The Security service is beholden to the TPLF Party. The Media is under the control of the TPLF Party. Major industries such as banking, telecommunications etc. are under the TPLF Party. The Vice/Acting PM does not have a party he controls. He does not have a constituent to fall back on. Up a creek with no paddle seems to describe the situation.
Most of Ethiopians find themselves in a quandary. They want peace and stability. The problem is this situation of being governed by unelected individuals is getting a little too old to accept. The last time this happened it has taken us over twenty years to even replace one person. We find ourselves where we were in 1991. We were told to give the new government time, to be patient and not be so negative. I believe twenty one years is long enough to learn that those that assume power without the consent of the people are not in any position to let it go without hassle.
I started by reciting the news regarding the election in the US. It is clear to see that having a tradition of fair, open contest for the highest office in the land has resulted in the construction of a stable and prosperous country. Campaigns help the people to see what the candidates have in mind and how they intend to fulfill the wishes of the citizen. The elected leader is given a limited amount of time to show what he can accomplish. The citizen is given the power to remove him if he does not perform to expectations.
That is what we need in our ancient homeland. Our people are smart enough to know what is good for them. You do not need a PhD from Harvard to know your interest. This concept of discussing our business behind closed doors is not a winning strategy. Sooner or later it is bound to create problems and contradictions. A leader not answerable to the citizen is a recipe for disaster. A leader with no mandate from his people but beholden to a few with guns will in end harvest contempt and disrespect by all. We hope the EPRDF EC will quit deluding themselves into thinking fear will solve everything. We hope they will learn the lesson of what happened to the occupier of the office not long ago. Twenty one years behind barbed wire fence, with no love, no respect from those he was supposed to serve is not a life style to emulate. In the end we all lost. There was no winner in this game. Our country is still backward, our people are dispersed all over the planet and our future does not look bright if we continue this road of rule by force.
By Yilma Bekele
The Ethiopian people have been told to show grief regarding the death of Meles Zenawi. This is sadness by government decree and it is not unique to us. We just witnessed it happen in North Korea but it always is a little strange when what you feared happen to you. There is no question the regime under the control of the TPLF party is orchestrating this drama. They are not even trying to hide it. The truth of the matter is they are going the extra mile to make sure the citizen understands it is official government policy.
It took the regime over four weeks to announce the death of the dictator. It looks like they took their time time to plan what to do and how to do it. They are perfectly aware that the individual is not liked let alone loved by the Ethiopian people. Since his illness was hidden from the public his sudden death would have unjarred the population. They know the situation has to be dealt delicately. Their main goal was how to use the unfortunate situation to garner sympathy and good will while at the same time show who the boss is. The fact the citizen loathed the little tyrant was a big hurdle to overcome.
The only way the party can get benefit out of this disastrous situation was to go back into their bag of tricks and revert back to the proven method of bullying by using force and coercion. It has worked since their inception forty years ago and they have become really good at it. The system of bending people’s wills to to fit the tyrants way is the hallmark of all totalitarian societies. The TPLF did not invent it but they are very good students of everything that is bad and toxic to society.
The question in front of us is how and why they do that? I believe this has eloquently been answered by Mr. Anthony Daniels in his book ‘The wilder further shores of Marx’.
‘…..with an established totalitarian regime the purpose of propaganda is not to persuade, much less to inform, but to humiliate. From this point of view propaganda should not approximate to the truth as closely as possible: on the contrary it should do as much violence to it as possible. For by endlessly asserting what is patently untrue, by making such untruth ubiquitous and unavoidable, and finally by insisting by everyone publicly acquiesce in it, the regime displays its power and reduces individuals to nullities. Who can retain his self respect when, far from defending what he knows to be true, he has to applaud what he knows to be false- not occasionally, as we all do, but for the whole of his adult life.’
This is a nut shell describes Woyane kind of mind set. You would think Mr. Daniels has been to Ethiopia. Mr. Daniels’s book is based on his experience of such failed states as East Germany, the former Soviet Union, North Vietnam and North Korea among others. The TPLF controlled Ethiopian government is copying the loathsome practices of the Stasi in East Germany and the KGB of the Soviet Union. Folks like Berket Semeon, Workrneh Gebeyehu, Getachew Assefa are excellent students of such inhuman system that has managed to hurt so many but was at last discredited by the citizen. Our country is back ward, our people are kept illiterate by design our culture still is based on fear of authority, fear of elder and our Woyane warriors found a fertile ground to practice this craft of crime against a nation.
I would like to take one statement from the quotation above and look at it in the context of Ethiopia.
‘…..with an established totalitarian regime the purpose of propaganda is not to persuade, much less to inform, but to humiliate. From this point of view propaganda should not approximate to the truth as closely as possible: on the contrary it should do as much violence to it as possible.’
In life Meles Zenawi was a recluse that disparaged even the word Ethiopia. He lived in a palace surrounded by robust security and never left his compound to mix or associate with ordinary people. The only contact the citizen has with the PM was thru the window of Ethiopian TV. We all know he never allowed open discussion and surrounded himself with people that worshiped him, agreed with him and swore allegiance to him. He is known to be very vindictive, ill tempered and unforgiving. The Ethiopian people, his close associates and his Party feared him. There was no respect or love for the individual. This is the man we all know.
Today Berket Semeon and company are telling us a different story. Mind you not a little different, not an innocent white lie but as outrageous as possible and beyond the truth as much as possible. They just do not want the citizen to cry a little, grief some but they expect some genuine wailing to be recorded and beamed all over the world. Why do you think they do that? It is all about show of power. By forcing us to do what we all know to be false they make us loose self respect and individual will. When you see your family, your neighbor, your coworker being forced to act in such manner when you find yourself doing something you know deep inside to be untrue you die some. The person is reduced to nothingness with no self respect, no spine and no free will. Haile Gebreselassie comes to mind.
It has the same effect on those that watch such spectacle from afar. I have noticed my friends to be confused, unable to understand and finally choosing silence to hide the shame. We all try to explain the phenomena by mentioning culture, being human or religion. It is an attempt to make sense. We are trying to make the irrational situation palatable by injecting some logic into it. It is perfectly understandable. Our brain rejects such dissonance. We get angry, feel confused, embarrassed and helpless.
This disturbing situation in our society is not a natural occurrence or an accident. It is engineered by the TPLF party. In their futile attempt to stay in power they have declared psychological form of warfare on their own people. It is relentless, unmerciful and very lethal. It does not kill you but it reduces you into a state of sub human, void of free will and easy to control. That is what the criminals are doing to us. That is what they have been doing to us with Meles Zenawi as the ring leader. Today he has left his underlings to continue from where he left off. They show no shame, no what is called ‘yelunta’ when they declare black is white, wrong is right and force us to repeat it after them.
How do you fight such form of warfare? There is no need to panic. No shame to being forced to go against our will. A government is a very powerful organization. When a state puts all its efforts to do evil no one is immune. The Russians, the East Europeans went thru over fifty years of hell. The North Koreans are in worse of shape than us. Our tormentors are amateurs compared to the Stasi. The fact that our country is backward and our people kept ignorant is what is giving them the power. On the other hand the world is a different place now. The advent of the Internet, the ubiquitous nature of Social media has given us a slight advantage. The founding of ESAT as I said before is a game changer. The Woyane goons monopoly on the media is no more.
We stop the complaining and work harder to expose, undermine and attack our tormentors aggressively. We encourage those that are trying to organize and work for us instead of second guessing, undermining their effort and splitting hair. We hope those that have been organizing for some time show us sign that they are here and active. There is no need to wait for the most opportune moment rather the job of the activist is to seize the time and make history. My friend Abebe Gelaw did not wait for the stars to line up but rather he forced the issue and made history. The time is now and the place is Ethiopia. We shall win, history is on our side. Stay strong don’t let them break you.
By Yilma Bekele
The Ethiopian TPLF Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died three weeks ago. He died at St-Luke University Hospital in Brussels, Belgium. His Party kept him in the freezer while trying to determine what to do regarding the rules of succession, which the leader deliberately kept vague. For three weeks his Party made a mockery of the Ethiopian people by issuing conflicting press releases and unconfirmed reports. The death of the TPLF patriarch Aba Gebremedhin seems to have given them the opportunity to unthaw or defreeze his stiff body and prepare for a state burial in tandem with the wayward priest.
De mortuis nihil nisi bonum (“Of the dead, nothing unless good”). Is this maxim appropriate under the circumstances? I would say normally yes. The dead are not able to defend themselves. Is this always true? Not really, a few speak for many years after they are gone. They leave a legacy of evil behind. The living uses the negative experience to avoid future mistakes.
The same Ethiopian TPLF regime that was lying to us regarding the health of the tyrant has already began revising history and started the manufacture of fairy tales and Holly Wood style fiction. No adjective will be spared to build the resume of Legese Zenawi. Our airwaves will be inundated by lies, false testimonials and Mamo kilo stories. No one will be allowed to breath any truth in the land of the Abeshas. The TPLF controlled TV, Radio, Internet will be playing 24/7 how lucky we were to have such a visionary lead us and how difficult it would be to replace a giant of a leader that ever existed in human history.
It is important we the victims set this story in proper context and use this occasion as a teachable moment. No one relishes speaking ill of the dead. But the situation goes beyond saying a few bad words about the dead when the dead is still speaking thru the work he left behind. That is the work we would like to talk about because the death of the evil gives us the opportunity to undo the harm. We learn from the history of those that were confronted by that kind of situation and see how they dealt with it.
The best example I can think of the ill famous Adolph Hitler and the legacy he left behind. If you notice no one dares speak good of the Furher. He has become the personification of evil. It is possible to say a few good things about the Furher but the problem is his negatives outweigh his good deeds. One can speak of the economic miracles of Germany under the Nazis. At the end of World War I and the imposition of the Versailles treaty on Germany the country was in ruins. One can say Hitler and his Nazi Party united the Germans and built an economic juggernaut the dominated all of Europe. Germany’s prosperity was the envy of the world.
You don’t judge a book by the cover alone. There was the dark side of Hitler. That is all that is left of his legacy today. Today the German people use that period to teach their children the danger of demagoguery and blind allegiance to a person or a cause. They cannot undo the crime but they will keep reminding their people and the world the danger of what a single individual with a false vision can do to a people.
That is how Ethiopia can learn from the crimes of Legese/Meles Zenawi. He came into the picture with our country weakened from years of civil war, our economy in shambles and our moral compass out of balance. He used our confusion and lack of direction to take us on a road that has brought us nothing but misery. No matter how much some try to build the non-existent accomplishment of the TPLF party the reality will never confirm any of that assertion.
The World Bank, The Economist Magazine, the IMF, the US State Department and all foreign who is who will be telling us the double digit growth under the leadership of Ashebari. They will bring out pictures and graphs to prove to us how well off we are. The TPLF lie machine will repeat this to our people using all available media. Even a few of our own will be echoing the good virtue of Ashebari and the wonderful Ethiopia under his tutelage.
But we know better. We the victims tell a different story. There are over eighty five million Ethiopians. Why are they telling us about less than a hundred thousand of us? Does eating more than three times a day by the few substitute for the not eating of the three to four million who live on less than a 100 calories a day? They tell us double-digit growth but why are our children dying in Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda and the coast of Yemen? Why are our daughters committing suicide all over the Gulf and Lebanon? Why are more standing in line to change their names and go to where they know danger awaits them? Isn’t it hopelessness, the feeling of dejection and no tomorrow that is permeating our society?
Ato Meles Zenawi ruled our country for over twenty years. How do you think he will answer if asked what do you have to show for twenty years of absolute rule? It is a fair question that requires a real answer not some made up excuse. There was starvation when he came he left with starvation still the norm. He came in times of civil war he left with his people watching each other with suspicion and his Federal Police everywhere abusing, killing and feared. He came with the economy in ruins he left with his country loaded with debt, our land leased to foreigners and our central bank printing money like there is no tomorrow. He came when there was no political order and no rules of governance and he left with a Constitution not worth the paper it is written on, a parliament that can not read and write, a judiciary that is the laughing stock of the nation and a country serving one ethnic group.
Those that are in the process of inheriting his style of leadership seem to have learned no lesson from his debacle. They still lie, still show no respect and still play the same old game of fear, divide and rule and behind the scene deal making. They have written a new amendment to Constitution that they will make the Parliament approve and put the hapless Deputy in charge. He does not have a party, he does not have a constituent to fall back on and he does not have authority over the military or security services. He is what is called a figurehead. He cannot even give order to the TPLF guard outside his office. That is the reality of the situation no matter how we deny it.
It is time we start assessing the legacy of Meles Zenawi based on reality. It is time we stop repeating made up statistics by foreigners that tell a story based on their self-interest. There is no denying he sold land to the highest bidder and the facilitated the construction of condominiums. There is no denying he borrowed money in our name and built shoddy roads while scamming most of the money. There is no denying he established Universities in every Kilil but forgot to train competent teachers or well-equipped libraries. It is fair to say Meles was into appearance but not into essence. Let us use this occasion to repair what is broken, change what is not working and open a new chapter of building a fair society that embraces all the children of Ethiopia. We are given another chance to right what is wrong. Let us seize the opportunity and start anew.
By Yilma Bekele
It has been forty-eight days since we saw or heard from Meles Zenawi. Some are convinced the tyrant is dead while the regime insists he is recovering, on vacation or just hanging out, depending on Ato Bereket’s mood of the day. Whatever the reason his absence has stirred different responses from his subjects.
The whole idea of a leader of a country disappearing into thin air is a purely Ethiopian phenomenon. The head of state just don’t leave his post without notice. In most countries he can’t even catch cold without informing the press. The position is too important to be left vacant even for a few hours. Who is supposed to give guidance and leadership if a crisis happens. A crisis normally does not occur with adequate notice that is why it is called an emergency. For someone to give orders he/she better have the necessary authority invested in them.
All countries anticipate such scenario and have the solution built into the system to avoid unnecessary power grab contention between the different branches of government. The current uncertainty regarding the order of succession in Ethiopia shows the issue was not addressed during the design of the current Constitution. It is obvious this is not a matter of simple oversight by the architects of the system. They are definitely not that stupid. It is left unanswered due to the nature of the system that was put in place. Ato Meles and partners deliberately left the issue open because resolving such question would have made their life miserable.
Ato Meles used the issue of succession as a brilliant reward to tangle to who ever he favored at that particular moment. At one time the position belonged to the Amharas or was rumored to favor the Oromos then offered to any of the minority group currently in vogue. Committing such post on paper would have been a death sentence to the occupier of that position. All others close to the throne would have given up any hope of upward mobility and intensified either building up their own faction or doubled on the looting. Ato Meles would have lost a huge leverage to keep all sycophants in line.
It looks like Ato Meles was taken ill without adequate notice. He never thought the end was close. He was only in his late fifties and the brain tumor situation was a cause for concern but not an emergency. I believe his humiliation in Washington DC pushed him over the edge. His whole system was jarred causing a cascading effect that he was unable to recover from. He has always been shielded from confrontational situation due to the fact that he made sure he dealt with adversaries from overwhelming power arrayed behind him. He did not even take a walk in his garden without a phalanx of security around him. He did not even trust his own shadow. He was a very fearful person or a coward to be precise and he used fear and terror as a tool. He understood the power of fear from personal experience.
Forty-eight days into his disappearing act and what are the Ethiopians doing? As docile as ever, the subjects are very quiet. The Ethiopian capacity to self-police is legendary. In fact they are so proud of it they chastise all those that try to rock the boat. The regime without its head understands this state of mind. How in the world can you respect someone that has no self-respect so to speak of?
The regime has been trotting out officials, those close to officials and self-declared spokes persons and puppet talking heads to fill the air with trash talk. All you got to give an Ethiopian is a few intelligent sounding lines and they are happy to fill the rest. Here in the Diaspora every coffee house is full of talking heads getting drunk listening to their own voice. Ask them to be part of the solution silence is their response.
Ato Meles’s contempt to his subjects is legendary. His lieutenants currently working on his behalf seems to have inherited this useful trait. They have no qualms even in not announcing the whereabouts of the dictator. The reason for his absence is not even felt to be important enough to be disclosed. Ato Bereket is heard to speculate different reasons depending what day of the week it is. He is resting due to job fatigue, he is recovering from illness, he is on vacation or it is none of any body’s business has been the explanation given to his docile subjects.
Who is in charge is a good question. According to Aboy Sebhat, a non elected person but rumored to be mentor and close fatherly figure of the tyrant there is no need to have a leader present and accounted for. The system in place is adequate enough to function like a well-oiled machine. I love this explanation. It is a break through in human politics and system of governance. The same people that came up with Revolutionary Democracy have now presented us with a system that requires no leader or head of state. Brilliant is all that comes to mind. It has been working like a charm for forty-eight days now and at the moment there is no reason to think why it should not go on for a little longer.
In the absence of the head of state the Parliament has managed to pass a budget, the security has dealt with the question of freedom by the Moslem community in its usual harsh manner, the international agencies have continued to grant loans and aid in the usual manner and the citizen has accepted the status quo.
So far so good but is there any danger of this life without a head of state coming to a point where Aboy Sehat’s theory might not be able to address a situation? For our sake let us hope not but I feel it is always good to prepare for all eventualities. We are in this situation due to the fact that Ato Meles forgot he was human and being taken ill or dying is part of our programming. He put all his eggs in one basket. Of course we should have known better since we knew Ato Meles never has the interest of our country in mind and to be fair never pretended to care for anything else other than himself. As I write this I am sure where ever he is either sitting for a game of chess with Gadaffi or Kim Jung or laying on beach in beautiful Puerto Rico with a glass of Pena Colada, he must be grinning from ear to ear satisfied with what he left behind.
So what could go wrong? A national emergency is one. Let us say for the sake of argument President Isaiyas decides to take over Zele Ambesa, who is going to give the order to the military to march north? You can’t have a committee declare war. A spokes man is not really the person to come on television and mobilize the population. The Ethiopian people will laugh if Ato Bereket or Shimeles Kemal show up TV and declare war. They just don’t have that look of a belligerent dictator. Would the Generals take order from Council of Ministers? Would the population rally around nameless individuals?
How about another kind of emergency? Let us say the Moslem and Christian community coordinates their quest for freedom and march in all the big cities? Who is going to authorize the riot police to confront the freedom seekers? The last time this happened Ato Meles as the head of state declared state of emergency and sent his Agazi force and gave the order to shoot. Who is authorized to declare state of emergency and would the solder have to obey such order? Can a committee give the order to shoot?
In both emergency scenarios the military seems to play a central role to bring stability and order, what is to prevent the Generals from taking matters into their hands and moving into the palace? Why serve a few un-elected pompous usurpers? Why share the power pie when you can keep the whole thing to yourself? In fact they might even reap some credit by throwing all the TPLF politburo members into Kaliti. That is what is called killing two birds with one stone.
How about if this situation of no head of state goes for a few more months, would those who are governing at the moment get used to this situation and try to make it permanent? We have no idea if Ato Meles is dead or alive, how about if he is alive? Would the committee decide to kill him since his return would destabilize the comfortable situation they have created? Is Ato Meles willing to go into the sunset quietly or does he have a backup plan of his own?
All this questions are currently unanswered and I am sure a few more are bound to rear their ugly head. The question to ask at the moment is are we so docile that the ninety four percent are going to sit on the side while the six percent are trying to figure out how best to screw us for another twenty years?
The current situation is not sustainable. What is going to happen is not really clear to all concerned. The TPLF or the new TPLF that has been rebuilt by Ato Meles since he expelled his buddies is not something that is resting on solid ground. It is an amalgamation of sycophants and weak individuals that were willing to serve the dictator as long as there was enough to loot. His absence changes the equation. We have to admit he was good at reading the international situation and securing all kinds of handouts, loans and grants. Foreign donors are going to sit on the sidelines and wait till the dust settles. The greedy Diaspora that has been financing the regime is not able to continue at the old pace due to the economic situation in the west.
Already inflation is spiraling and dollar reserve is getting very low. The TPLF new millionaires and their supporters are entering a panic stage which means that they will sell all assets, hoard all cash and trip each other while trying to exit. The slowing of the economy will bring what is known as social unrest. The committee of heads of state is not familiar on how to deal with such situation. The only blue print left by Ato Meles is use of force at any and all situations. Compromise, give and take, negotiation is not part of the vocabulary for the last twenty years. One man can do that. He is the face of the regime and an old culture like ours is familiar with ‘strong man’ rule. But a committee is different. No one listens to a committee. A committee does not have one voice. Looking at the current members of that committee no one stands out that exudes leadership. Starting with Aboy Sebaht, Abay Woldu, Berket Semeon, Arkebe, Mesfin Seyoum, Berhane or Queen Azeb do not have the making of a leader. Background workers yes but definitely not leadership material.
As for the ninety-four percent this is the best time to present our demands so the committee can entertain some of our questions. The need for a new Constitution, the formation of a care taker government, the freezing of all EFFORT assets, the prohibition of moving money out of the country, the release of all prisoners that are in jail using the so called terrorism charge, the immediate abolition of the Communication department, lifting the prohibition of the free press should be in the forefront of our demands. If we do not ask how would they know? If we do not protect our interest who would?
Ethiopia, Ato Meles and his health. By Yilma Bekele Ato Meles Zenawi, Chairman of Tigrai People Liberation Front (TPLF) and Prime Minster of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is not in good health. I became aware of that fact after watching the video of a news clip made during his meeting with the President [...]
By Yilma Bekele The origins of the Internet can be traced to ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) that was funded by the US Department of Defense (DARPA) for use by its research labs in the 1960’s. The Internet as we know moved from connecting research institutions and Universities into commercial use in the middle [...]
By Yilma Bekele The Ethiopian government was peddling its ponzi scheme of selling bonds for the pie in the sky project named The Grand Renaissance Dam’ on the Abbay river here in the Bay Area. It was not as lavish as the event that took place in their embassy in Washington DC. That ‘event was [...]
Waldeba in my heart. By Yilma Bekele Truth be told I was not aware of Waldeba Monastery until quite recently. Today I live Waldeba, I breathe Waldeba, and I believe Waldeba has taken over my soul. Mind you I am not protesting rather I am being thankful for this ancient place for bringing focus into [...]
By Yilma Bekele I am always harking back to the pleasant years of our past. Believe me it not being nostalgic rather it is the lack of good news that makes me reach deep to salvage a little bit of dignity how ever fleeting that might be. One can also make an argument for the [...]
Alemayehu G Mariam At the “World Economic Forum Meeting” in Ethiopia last week, dictator Meles Zenawi lectured: …. My view is that there is no direct relationship between economic growth and democracy historically or theoretically. But my view is that democracy is a good thing in and of itself [...]
By Yilma Bekele Dear President Obama, I am sure you do not have time to read my letter nonetheless it gives me a certain amount of release from the pain I am feeling and the little chance of this letter getting to you fills my soul with great amount of joy and hope. I am [...]
By Yilma Bekele I feel energized. Our freedom tree is bearing fruits. It is the result of the tireless effort of thousands if not millions of us working together in harmony. Due to the miracle of the Internet such as our independent Web sites and Social Media such as Facebook and Twitter and our potent [...]
Alemayehu G Mariam Last week I had an opportunity to address a town hall meeting in Seattle sponsored by the Ethiopian Public Forum in Seattle (EPFS), a civil society organization dedicated to promoting broad dialogue, debate and discussion on Ethiopia’s future. I was asked to articulate my views on Ethiopia’s transition from dictatorships to democracy [...]
By Yilma Bekele Most locations are just bland places. There is not much variation in the topography. Look at Google satellite map of Africa and you will see what I mean. Endless flat land, a stretch of desert, an occasional river or a few hills is the norm. Our Ethiopia is different. In the North [...]
By yilma Bekele On November 11, 2011, Yenesew Gebre was driven to kill himself on behalf of all suffering Ethiopians. He killed himself out of love for his people and country. He made the ultimate sacrifice to wake us up so we can see what it means to be humiliated in your own home. Love [...]
Alemayehu G Mariam Rule of Law, Rule by Law, Rule by Unjust Law, Rule by Man All of the weekly commentaries I have written over the years have been structured on a single fundamental principle: the rule of law. What is it? How does it configure in Ethiopia’s transition from dictatorship to democracy? The phrase “rule [...]
By Yilma Bekele I am sure we are all familiar with what is known as the ‘melting pot’ concept when it comes to describing how America functions. The term is a metaphor ‘for a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous, the different elements “melting together” into a harmonious whole with one common culture. The concept was [...]
By Yilma Bekele War is upon us again. War defines the Ethiopian Government. Since it came to power it has been at war with its citizens. No region or ethnic group has been spared from this infection. The regime is always at war with opposition politicians, journalists, publishers, intellectuals, and business people to mention a [...]
By Yilma Bekele
East Europe suffered under Soviet domination for over fifty years. While West Europe was marching forward, East Europe was engulfed in darkness and hopelessness. The Arabs with all their vast population and abundant natural resources stumbled around for so long they were considered people of no consequences. The East Europeans emerged from their forced slavery and are now trying to rebuild a new reality. The Arabs are showing signs of life. From the shores of the Atlantic all the way to the Indian Ocean Arab awakening is the talk of the planet.
As usual Africa is acting dead. The ‘Dark Continent’ as they aptly named us is still in slumber mode. It still is the playground of the buffoon, the mentally unstable, the psychopath and the pure evil. The Mugabe’s, Museveni’s, Bashir’s, Zenawi’s, Afeweki’s are the faces of Africa. They have been around so long that it is difficult to remember what came before their rude appearance. We Ethiopians have contributed our fair share to this collective madness. We are not innocent bystanders but rather one of the stars of this tragic show. Nobody thought we would sink this low in such a short time. Here we are at the bottom of the barrel.
Do you want me to remind you of the times the name Ethiopia evoked pride and hope? Believe me it is true. Our country is so old and our people so wise that we even have a mention in the Bible. I know it is difficult to top that but I will humbly mention our earthly accomplishments too. The Axumite Kingdom is considered one of the four Great powers along with Persia, Rome and China around 4th century BC. We are the only country in Africa not to be colonized by the Europeans. We were equal founders in the establishment of the League of Nations the forerunner to the current United Nations. Our Emperor played a key role in establishing the Organization of Africa Unity with Addis Ababa as its Headquarters. There was a time when Emperor HaileSelassie hosted warring factions in our capital and he was listened to.
That is why I believe our ancient land will usher in the people’s uprising that is shaking our neighborhood into Black Africa. We are ripe and ready. We are overdue. I know it. Deep inside you know it too. The Ethiopian dictatorship understands the volatility of the situation. At this moment it is operating on crisis mode. The regime is experimenting with so many responses it is actually possible the right hand does not know what the left is doing. That is the problem with occupiers. They end up being strangers in their own country. They saw themselves differently. They felt they were entitled. They felt safe inside the false wall they built. Looks like the chicken are coming home to roost. How pathetic!
It is becoming obvious the situation in Ethiopia shows all the signs of readiness for upheaval. It has reached what in physics is known as ‘critical mass.’ In politics the current situation has all what is needed to force a new reality to take place. Be it positive or negative something is bound to happen and that is independent of any ones wish.
The famine/hunger/ food shortage whatever it is called is the main catalyst. The Ethiopian government does not have enough foreign currency to buy food for its people. The wrong polices of the last twenty years have not been able to solve this lingering problem. Due to the worsening situation in Somalia food donor’s attention is not focused on our country. The regime is in no position to admit famine has arrived. It will be suicidal. Unfortunately it cannot be hidden or ignored. The ferenjis are beginning to ring the alarm bells but very cautiously. They do not want to upset their ‘anti-terrorist’ partner. Like it or not hungry people soon turn to angry people. Mobs have been known to do strange things when outraged. It is critical we find a way to channel this raw anger into positive direction for the sake of all of us.
The second condition feeding our critical mass political situation is the general melt down of the economy. Officially inflationist 40.6% for what it is worth. You know the actual figure is close to double that. This New Year the price of basic goods and necessities was beyond even professional citizen’s standard. Cow/Bull was eleven thousand Bir, Sheep fifteen hundred, Chicken one hundred twenty five, Teff one thousand five hundred, red onion six Bir per kilo, garlic one hundred Bir per kilo, butter one hundred twenty five per kilo, berbere sixty per kilo and so forth. Most of our people are going to bed hungry. The children and the elderly suffer the most. Even those who have jobs cannot afford to feed their family.
The third ingredient is unemployment. There is no private sector so to speak of in Ethiopia. The government is the largest employer in the country. That is done for control. Realistically it is not a good or efficient economic model. When you consider the government is broke thus unable to meet the needs of a growing population it fair to say it is sitting on a time bomb. Idleness breeds’ anti-social behavior. The regime tried using drugs like Kat and televised sports to divert but it can only go so far.
The fourth factor is the dwindling remittances and Diaspora investment. Remittances have definitely shown dramatic decrease due to the international economic situation. The Middle East is in turmoil and the West is closing its doors to outsiders. The double digit ‘growth’ was not due to increase in economic production but due to remittances from the Diaspora and aid money from the ferenjis. It was an illusion built on sand. All those condominiums and shopping centers are colossal waste. When the artificially inflated real estate prices plummet the door is not wide enough for those that want to exit.
The fifth catalyst will be the situation in the North Africa, The Middle East, and the general mood of the Western enablers. The Arab Spring is known to all in Ethiopia. They are familiar with this type of situation. No matter how hard the regime tries to pretend there is nothing odd going on, the eyes and ears of our people are following the drama intently. Although our information system is carefully managed by the TPLF blanket they covered our country with, it is full of holes. News gets in. The Western enablers are confused. Their ‘smart’ intelligence system did not even see the Arab Spring train pulling into the station. Their banana republic puddles are falling one after another. Mubarak’s fall was spectacular. Now they are cautious showing any kind of fondness to the rest of their puppies. Swim or sink the dogs have entered uncharted waters. One or two will survive but most will be history. Meles is trying to avoid that fate. He is trying to cancel his reservation at Kaliti Presidential suite.
I kept the beast for last. I am delighted to say the nature of the TPLF regime is the absolute best carrier of the fissionable material for our critical mass to reach its tipping point and deliver a brand new reality to our beautiful homeland. What more can you ask when you are given a virus that carries its own destruction code embedded. Our precious regime is doing that as we speak. The madness started about two months ago and it is continuing at an accelerated pace. Meles and company have completely and absolutely arrived at the conclusion that no matter what change is coming. They are swimming against the tide.
We are lucky that it does not require a lot to create panic in the TPLF politburo. They have a tendency to lash out blindly and irrationally. They are so used to bullying that violence is their first response for any new situation. They started by imprisoning media figures. Awramba Times deputy editor Wubeshet Taye and Feteh Magazine Reeyot Alemu were arrested on vague charges and kept in isolation. Their next victims were political leaders. Bekele Gerba of OFDM and Olbana Lelisa of OPC and twenty-nine individuals were arrested for being suspected of belonging to Oromo Liberation Front.
The arrest of Ato Debebe Eshetu, Ato Andualem Arage Secretary of UDJ and reporter Eskender Nega is the latest in this high stake drama. All are accused of the usual crimes of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and belonging to terrorist organizations. As is customary they will be kept in isolation. Shimels Kemal will promise to produce evidence to prove their crime.
Why are Meles and company doing all this? I assure you it is not because it is fun. It is the only thing they know. They have been doing it for twenty years. Although both the domestic scene and the international situation are presenting a completely new reality the regime’s response seems unchanged. It is highly possible that they have decided there is no other palatable option left to them. That is the problem with criminal enterprises, they cannot cut and disappear, they carry too much baggage. I believe that is TPLF problem and we will set it aside.
If you notice closely they pick their victims carefully. TPLF goes for impact. They create big waves with big news. Ethiopia is one big TPLF prison. The ones we hear are about the big fish. For every Debebe, Andualem, Eskender, Bekele and Olbana there are hundred nameless incarcerated all over the country. This is the way they have been operating for twenty years. Remember Kinijit leaders, did you forget Teddy Afro or Judge Bertukan. They are all symbolic figures to send the message to the rest of us. It is in your face challenge. They are saying to us what are you going to do about it? The truth is it does not move their agenda one inch forward. Their empty bravado isolates them further and increases their paranoia.
We see hunger and we are sad. We see the hopelessness of our people and we grieve. We see the bravery of our neighbors in Egypt, Libya and Yemen and we see hope. When are we going to move from thinking to acting? When are we going to transform our apathy to a meaningful action? When are we going to stop crying for our mother and instead roll up our sleeves and smash the pain factory known as TPLF inc? Someone once said ‘acts of bravery don’t always take place in a battlefield.’ You don’t have to be in Ethiopia to fight TPLF injustice. We all did not go to South Africa to fight Apartheid. South Africans all did not pick up the gun to fight the unjust system. Those that wish freedom and justice fight from where ever they are.
We ask our people to take matter into their hands and smash the TPLF system wherever it rears its head in our precious land. TPLF headquarters, TPLF businesses, TPLF arms of coercion should be targeted and neutralized. All TPLF command and control centers should be made into battlefield. War has been declared on our people it is only fitting that we in turn make our country hell for those that want to impose their rotten, ethnic based rule on us. I am sure our people will turn fear into strength and show the few the power of the many. The time for tears is over. It is time to give a taste of their own medicine back to these ungrateful occupiers.
We hope to hear good news in the coming days and weeks. We hope to hear Meles squealing like a terrified pig from his hiding place under the palace. This is not idle talk or empty wish. It is going to happen because both the local and international situations are conducive to getting rid of tyrants. We each have a choice. We can sit at home or our favorite coffee houses and talk or we can rise up and complement the battle cry of our people. We can criticize those that are doing what they believe to be right or we can join the freedom train and make the battle quick and less painful.
The various Security personnel, Federal Police chiefs, Kebele leaders we want you to know that we are watching your every move. We are recording your every bad deed. We want you to know that Meles and family will try to finagle their way out of the mess they created but you will be left high and dry to fend for yourself. I was just following order has never been a good defense.
Alemayehu G. Mariam In 1987 when Time Magazine featured a famine-stricken Ethiopian mother on its cover page, it failed to ask the most important question of all: What should Ethiopians do and not do to help themselves? It is the privilege of those who give to pity those who receive. One of the great indignities of [...]
By Yilma Bekele There are a lot of Ethiopians outside of their homeland. I have not seen a reliable statistics to tell us the real number, but there is no hiding from the fact that we have become a Nation that looks to outside to solve many of our pressing needs. Coffee, hides and lately [...]
By Yilma Bekele … within an established totalitarian regime the purpose of propaganda is not to persuade, much less to inform, but to humiliate. From this point of view, propaganda should not approximate to the truth as closely as possible: on the contrary it should do as much violence to it as possible. For by [...]
By Yilma Bekele I am not making this up You can follow the link below and watch the four part video of the leader for life meeting with Ethiopian business leaders. It is a very interesting video. The video is edited and posted on You Tube by Ethiopian TV. I am very grateful. They should [...]
By Yilma Bekele
It is only four weeks ago when a few of us drove down from Oakland to San Jose to attend the public meeting called by the Ethiopian regime. We don’t really recognize the current Ethiopian regime as a democratically elected representative of the people, thus one of the reasons for our trip was to peacefully protest this illegal event and at the same time teach our own people and the American citizen regarding the nature of the TPLF regime and cry loudly for the voiceless, the silenced ones.
It was a sad event. Protesting against ones own people is never easy. It feels like washing one’s dirty linen in public. But it has to be done. Silence is our number one enemy. I agree with Elie Wiesel who wrote ‘Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.’ They tried to silence us by calling the police. The police told them ‘it is a free country and we can protest to our hearts content as long as we don’t infringe upon the freedom of others.’ They picked and choose who can attend and refused entry to some they defined as un-desirable. During question and answer time they decided who gets the microphone. We watched them in amazement. It was a choreographed event with no soul, no love and no life. It was a cadre convention. The blind leading the blind is what we saw.
We drove down to San Jose one more time this weekend. You can tell this trip was different. Everybody was in a festive mood. It was a bright beautiful Saturday and the gathering of all this Ethiopians to do good made it brighter. We drove fast. We shouted and we argued in good nature and San Jose got a lot closer this time around. This time we were attending a fundraising event for ESAT. Dr. Berhanu and Ato Tamagne were the invited guests. We were driving mad to help support the voice of freedom. As Dr. Berhanu said ‘our own Aljazeera.’
When people work with passion they do miracles. The mother of all Ethiopian flags was brought out and computer, projector and sound were weaved out of thin air. Ethiopians showed up on time. Some showed up early. I believe we are onto something. You can tell this meeting was different. No one was impatient. They just kept arriving. We kept adding more chairs.
And thenTamagne showed up on the stage. He does not have to do anything. His presence was enough. You can feel over three hundred brains working in harmony. They all show heightened sense of happiness and this uncontrollable urge to scream with delight. I was standing in the back and I saw them being electrified. People sat up straight. They were all smiling. To frown would have been totally rude and out of place. Tamagne exudes Ethiopia. Tamagne knows how to work that. What is fact and what is fiction gets blurred. The joke becomes a ‘Eureka’ moment and you start to see what is right in front you. He gets you totally immersed in the story the message sips in by osmosis. I told you he is good. He had the place in perfect sync. You know what? You can’t get enough of Tamagne.
I was worried. Dr. Berhanu is next and how do you follow Tamagne. That is the Ethiopian in me, always anxious. Well, it was all for nothing. Our Dr. has this rare ability to relate. Dr. Berhanu has perfected the art of reducing stuff into their simplest form. That must be the teacher in him. When he speaks he talks to you. He connects the dots and one start to see the picture. Please don’t ask him to finish it for you. He will send you to remedial class. Ask Meles he will tell you. Dr. Berhanu deals with facts not rumors. He tells you as it is not as the way you would like to see it. He does not evade question but meets it head on. You get to see why he is loved and respected by so many while he brings out the hate in some. The professor does not suffer fools gladly.
ESAT was celebrated as never before. The whole house was in such euphoric mood and the Ying and the Yang were in perfect harmony. Contributions for ESAT came like tis esat falls. It was raining money. Guess who shows up to prove the need for a free and independent press in Ethiopia? None other than our unfriendly neighborhood Woyane that is who. It was a perfect picture. The same folks that were standing outside and pointing out Ethiopians that are not allowed to attend their meeting four weeks earlier and the person that was on the podium with the TPLF officials as chairman were sitting comfortably in our festival. We were happy to see them. Not a soul asked them to leave. We saw it as a teachable moment.
Our Woyanes were in a hostile mood. They were ready for question and answer moment. They assumed we would deny them the microphone. They were taken by surprise. Our microphone was awarded on first come basis. You raise your hand first and you are the first to ask. When their turn came they were given the microphone. Their first questioner decided ‘insulting’ the house was the best strategy. Poor Abbay was the foil. Our grand father looking Woyane told the house to be thankful because in his own words ‘before Meles showed up we were not even aware of Abay’! Yes he said that and he was allowed to say it. You can feel the tension in the assembly but not a soul moved to object to such verbal aggression. He was provoking us. He was in search of chaos. We were more irritated than angry.
A few questioners later the second Woyane decided to change tactics. First he complained the way Dr. Berhanu answered his friend’s question and said ‘I found your answer condescending’ and went on and on some tirade. Since he was not asking but rather making a long statement he was asked to please hurry up since others were waiting for their turn. He was not interested in a dialogue but went on to hurl more insults in a loud manner. That was the feather that broke the camels back. Our friend was hauled out unceremoniously. His comrades tried to intervene but it was futile. The door was closed and the meeting continued as if nothing happened. TPLF cadres do not seem to understand that being allowed to ask a question is a privilege not a right.
The fact we are raising money for independent media for our motherland speaks a lot. We are not investors looking for profit. We do not have any agenda of our own that we are trying to pursue. Out two guests traveled across the continent for free. We are doing all this because independent media is not allowed in Ethiopia. Our country is only one of a handful on this planet where the government deicide what the citizen hears, watches and views. The regime controls all media. That was why we got together to raise money for ESAT. That is Ethiopian Satellite Television. ESAT is the fruit of some patriotic Ethiopians that donated their time and money to this noble cause. ESAT is not affiliated with any party or ideology but the truth.
ESAT has been under siege since birth. Meles Zenawi vowed in public to cripple ESAT. Based on his own admission his salary is not enough to wage a war against ESAT. He was vowing to use the taxpayer’s money to wage his private war. Believe me a country is a formidable enemy. Poor ESAT has been tossed around like a boat in stormy seas. First it was ArabSat but Meles and company checkmated with our beloved Sheik, then onto Thailand and AsiaSat, crap the Chinese probably launched the Satellite and the orbit requires a special gizmo on the dish. Well that is not good is it? It is like announcing ‘here Mr. Woyane look at me.’ ESAT is on the third or forth satellite. You know what ESAT is still alive because so many wish it to succeed. ESAT defines our common dream of Independence. ESAT is the voice of freedom.
Our gathering was to raise funds for ESAT. Because the Meles regime denies the citizen to be informed by independent media we are compelled to use our limited resources to combat censorship. Today we have millions of people starving, millions of kids with out vaccination, millions without adequate schools, teachers or books but the regime is spending millions to block ESAT and our independent Web sites.
The Meles regime does that because we let them. There is no victimizer without a victim. History shows victimizer will not relent without the victim demanding it. Some enable the victimizer by their silence while a few due to lack of the moral strength to stand up to bullies. Meles and a few of his friends decide the fate of eighty million people. We make all kinds of excuses for our failure to stand up for what is right. We make the argument for him to cover our fear and cowardice. We allow less than a thousand cadres lord it over eighty million souls. It is a shame.
The gelgel Woyanes that showed up at our fund raising were doing what comes naturally to cadres following orders. Their job is to show up and create chaos. Their aim is to insult, degrade and intimidate us. If it was in Ethiopia they will be armed.
ESAT will help us regain our self worth. Our Saturday afternoon festival was to enable our people get different perspective unfiltered by Woyane censors. Those that gathered that Saturday afternoon came to collect money so ESAT will do its job. There is a bright cloud of change coming to our country. That it is coming is not the question, the gist of the matter is, are we ready? I believe ESAT is one of the tools that will help create a well-informed and smart citizen. A conscious citizen is the best defense against tyrants and dictators. That is why the Ethiopian regime is hell bent in blocking ESAT and that is why we freedom lovers have vowed to make ESAT strong enough to penetrate their flimsy weak curtain. Go to http://www.ethsat.com/ and donate. Organize ESAT support group in your neighborhood and help ESAT. TPLF owns the Internet, television transmission, radio and newspaper and we got ESAT.
By Yilma Bekele
By all accounts the minority based dictatorial regime in Ethiopia is in big trouble. Circumstances in the neighborhood are a bit disconcerting to Meles and company. You can tell from the flurry of activity being orchestrated the last three months that Arat Kilo is on pins and needles. The Woyane regime is doing its best to keep the Ethiopian people at home and their Diaspora relatives focused on something else other than the vision of an uprising. The events in North Africa and the Middle East have unnerved our TPLF bosses. It is rumored a few of them are in need of diapers, may we suggest Huggies due to their patented leakage protection.
The regime has devised a two-pronged attack to postpone the inevitable uprising. At home the Junta leader is busy wagging his fingers and huffing and puffing to scare and bully. The last two weeks he has put on a performance with the local cadre press to assure his followers that their job is safe due to the phenomenal economic growth that the chances of upheaval is deemed to be non-existent. No one believed him. Looks like it was not enough.
He decided to use his podium in the kangaroo Parliament to vent some more. There is a video posted on his web site. It is as usual two a part series. I listened to part two. Is it possible that all tyrants attend the same school? Castro used to speak for four hours, Mengistu used to speak for hours, Gaddafi was given a fifteen-minute slot to speak at the UN but rambled for an hour and half and our own orator spoke for an hour and twelve minutes in part one and an hour and thirty-four minutes in part two. He must love his voice. Of course it was a captive audience. He knows no one will dare leave his lecture. I am sure most of the cadre parliamentarians have no idea what he is talking about and the fact is he was not actually addressing them. They are just a prop.
This lecture was more focused on preparing the ground for his actions when the people’s demand for democracy begins. He was lining up the new enemies that are going to get the blame. This time around Egypt got the top billing. According to Ato Meles Egypt is in the process of undermining our way of life. Egypt in collusion with archenemy Eritrea and the local opposition including OLF, Andenet and Medrek and others are conspiring to topple our democratically elected government. He was very theatrical when he started waving his fingers and adjusting his glasses. It looks like the subject is dear to his heart. He just wanted to say I told you so when his sharp shooters start the mayhem.
His Diaspora strategy is unfolding as we speak. His cadre representatives are in North America. According to the World Bank the Diaspora sent in remittances $3.2billion USD in 2009 which is about $52 billion Bir. In 2009 Ethiopia earned $375.8 million from coffee, $158 million from flowers, $205 million from Khat and $129 million from sesame seed. You see what I mean. The Diaspora contributes ten times as much as the number one export. We are the premier benefactors of our precious homeland. I can say ‘may the almighty bless the Ethiopian Diaspora’ but I won’t. It is not something to be proud of. If the regime attracts $3.2 billion without working for it the question becomes what is the meaning of the current tour?
The fact that the illegal regime is dispatching its ‘top guns’ to face the fury of the dreaded Diaspora is a little, shall I say strange. Why at this juncture in time is a good question? It is not logical to think the DLA Piper advised regime would send its officials into the lion’s den and in broad daylight without a valid and compelling reason. My hunch is there is more to it than selling land. When you consider the temperature reaching a boiling point against tyranny around the neighborhood I have a feeling Woyane probably felt this to be a good time to shift the attention of the Diaspora away from lighting the fuse.
Nice try but it won’t work this time. Looks like all the vital ingredients for a ‘BEKA’ moment are all present and accounted for. Based on our recent experience in North Africa and the Middle East we pass the test with flying colors. Let us see, the main causes for the peoples uprising were, leaders in power for too long, rampant corruption and runaway nepotism, economic stagnation and recurring high inflation, high unemployment and a vast majority under thirty and under utilized, general hopelessness and resignation with high rate of migration. It is what is commonly referred to as volatile situation.
The weakest link in our peoples yearning for a better future is a small section of the Diaspora. It is a sad fact. To see those that got away due to a matter of chance using their new found success to bring misery on their own people is shameful. Without the cash inflow from the Diaspora the Ethiopian regime will not have been emboldened to be so arrogant. Remittances enable the regime to live for another day. This is not about the few hundred dollars that is sent to keep a family alive. That is a humanitarian act. It is about the big money. The money, that goes to buy stolen land to build a fake foreign looking building in collaboration with government and government affiliated businesses at an inflated price. The dollars that come in without strings attached enable the regime to pay its many employees that exist to torment our people.
Today we have government cadres in our cities promoting the so-called Growth and Transformation Plan. It sounds like something DLA Piper will come up with to give it a positive and friendly spin. What ever it is you can be sure that the Ethiopian people do not have any input in this plan. Their representatives are government cadres chosen for loyalty not ability. They are not capable of understanding the issue and they do not have expert staff to help them. The plan is the brainchild of Meles and company in consultation with IMF and World Bank. Eighty million people are beholden to a handful of cadres that are in power because they have big guns.
What they want from the Diaspora is more cash to be invested in enterprises they choose. Buying land, building a house, establishing bar and nightclub is encouraged. It is not allowed to start an Internet provider company, private television transmission, private radio station, independent newspaper and magazine or a printing press. The TPLF regime is allergic to knowledge-based investment.
So what is the rational for investing? Some say it is patriotic and that it creates jobs. That argument has been tried before. That is what the Western governments said about their investment in Apartheid South Africa. They called it ‘constructive engagement’. It was a big lie. They were just greedy and slave labor was always cheaper. The South Africans response was best delivered by Noble Laureate Albert Luthuli, President of the African National Congress who said ‘“The economic boycott of South Africa will entail undoubted hardship for African. We do not doubt that. But if it is a method which shortens the day of bloodshed, the suffering to us will be a price we are willing to pay.”
The use of economic muscle to modify an adversary’s behavior is common in International dealings. One of the earliest examples is In fact the American Revolution that owes its inception from the movement that erupted when the British Parliament passed what is known as the ‘stamp act’ in March of 1765. The act required printed materials in the colonies to be produced on stamped paper from London and carry revenue stamp. Colonial America revolted. The stamp act was the spark that started the prairie fire that led to the American Revolution. The American colonies took exception to the ‘stamp act’ because they felt they were being taxed without consent. Since they have no representation in the British parliament the colonies felt the act to be an affront to the system of local representation that they have put in place. The colonies said ‘no taxation without representation.’
A few months back here in the US the state of Arizona passed a draconian bill to control the so-called illegal immigration problem. Some people felt it was an attempt to increase the power and intrusiveness of the State and should not be tolerated. Labor organizations, liberal groups and Human Rights advocates went on the offensive and organized boycotts of all business associated with Arizona. They used their economic muscle as a leverage to advocate change.
Mrs. Rosa Parks’s refusal to give her bus seat to a white man sparked the ‘Montgomery Bus boycott.’ Our African people in North America used their economic power to fight injustice. Martin Luther King was in the forefront of using boycott as a weapon to secure the rights of black people in America. The freedom we enjoy here today came because some fought using every means necessary. Today’s Diaspora is working, learning, raising a family and helping their brethren back home because MLK, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and others said BEKA, GEYE, BAS, ALONE, WETANDEM, YAAKEL, GIDES, DETEM!
Dear Diaspora, don’t you think it is a BEKA moment today. Do you really think the cadres that have been in power the last twenty years are capable of bringing change and transformation? Do you think they have the interest of Ethiopia at heart or are they focused in staying in power using any means necessary? I am sure a lot of you went to check on your investment, tell me were you satisfied with what you saw? I know the Woyane regime have prepared all that is necessary to make your stay comfortable and fun. When you consider the vast number of Hotels, nightclubs and whorehouses set in place to suck your dollars did you think that reflected the reality your parents and cousins face everyday? Did you notice the fear permeating the society, the unfriendly stare by cadres and security to remind you of your place? May be you thought that foreign passport afforded you some form of protection but how about your brothers and sisters? No matter how you look at it is a betrayal of country and people to wine and dine with killers and psychos. A mistake has been done but there is no point compounding it further. Today is a BEKA time.
When you consider how India, Korea, Israel and others used the potential of their Diaspora for transforming their country it is sad that we are still fighting against a predator regime that is hell bent in dividing us, setting us against each other and spending our resources in useless, unsustainable projects that do not help our country. Those countries did not invite their Diaspora to come and lease their parents land to build condominium. No they asked for investment in education, agriculture, industry and manufacturing. They wanted brainpower, they encouraged and subsidized knowledge not fell good projects for show and tell.
Change is coming. Mubarak did not stop it. Gaddafi tried but it looks like his days are numbered. Meles is trying to devise new ways of buying another week, another month but it is a useless exercise. He is not stupid, but he is blinded by power and false sense of security. It is the nature of dictators to think they are unique and what ever happened to their neighbor is not possible in their house. History has shown us otherwise. Ato Meles and company will not escape the judgment of their people. For now we will be in their face where ever they show up and say loud and clear BEKA!
By Yilma Bekele
“When a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now,” said President Obama. He was not talking about Meles Zenawi. President Obama was discussing Libya’s beleaguered dictator Gaddafi.
We all know Gaddafi has been a ruthless tyrant for quiet a while. He has been abusing his people, disturbing the peace in his neighborhood and far and is the poster child for a dysfunctional and failed leadership model. The last few days all his enablers have been coming out of the woodworks to condemn his style and demand his ouster.
Some will say too little too late. I know it sort of fishy when the British, the French and the Americans all of a sudden stand in solidarity with the Libyan people. Where were you the last forty years is a legitimate question? On the other hand it is perfectly understandable if the Libyan people look at their new friends with a little bit of suspicion and put their guards up. That is the way it should be. Hopefully the Libyan, Egyptian and Tunisian people will keep their new friends at arms length until they sort out their problems their own way.
For us Ethiopians the upheaval in our neighborhood has been a godsend event. We are overloaded with lessons and information. We are thrilled thinking of the possibilities, we are happy of the fact that freedom is at hand and delirious with the knowledge our Woyane leaders are scurrying around to postpone the inevitable. The fact that junta leader Meles is holed up in his palace pouring over discarded manuals is priceless.
As we are learning from Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya, remember the tyrant and his associates are figuring how to reverse engineer the gains of the last few weeks. It is not easy but they have no choice. Libya is showing us that criminals fight to the last. How come they don’t realize it is over is a good question. The short answer is this state of mind called ‘delusion’.
This sickness is best manifested by no other than our Communication Minister Berket Simon and Gaddafi’s son Saif El Islam. These two characters will join that special place currently occupied by Mohamed Saeed al Sahaf AKA ‘Baghdad Bob’ the information Minster of dear old departed Saddam Hussein who is famous for declaring ‘ There is no presence of American infidels in the city of Baghdad’ while you can see the smoke rising in the background from US bombing. Gentlemen, that is a perfect example of being delusional and an absolute detachment from reality.
Saif El Islam decided to go on Libyan TV actually there is no such thing as Libyan TV. It should be renamed Gaddafi family TV. He spoke for ½ hr. Saif was trying to impress his listeners how educated he is by declaring that he will speak without prepared notes and from his heart. Well it was a big mistake. The playboy prince only proved that he couldn’t follow a train of thought nor make sense of his understanding of events as it unfolds all around him. His half hour presentation was gibberish at most and further proof that the Gaddafi family is in dire need of psychiatric aid. You can follow the link at the end this article on youtube and cry. Here is Saif without further ado.
Dear brothers there is a plot against Libya, the security forces will show this on TV we have arrested tens of people unfortunately from our Arab brethren and of course from the African employees in Libya. …Millions of pounds was spent on these people …proof is in Benghazi and baida you could see Arabs and Africans they were holding arms. All have their own plots ….our Arab brothers who are sitting down in their comfort chairs drinking coffee and helping us Libyans to burn and destroy our country. …then the story is very dangerous, it is bigger than the Libyans and the small young people who are in the streets trying to imitate what happened in Tunisia and Egypt and I would like to tell you Libya is not Egypt and Tunisia don’t be over enthusiastic and don’t be affected by this In Libya the situation is different Libya if any separation happen it will break it up.. Libya it is not like Egypt it consists of tribes and clans is not societies with party’s and so on it is clans everyone knows their area every ones knows their duty and obligations and then this will cause civil war back to the civil war of ’36. Libya is not Tunisia and Egypt … Libya has got oil which has united the whole of Libya….all Libyans live on it is not in the east or the west it is in the middle all 5 million live on it if we separate who is going to feed us who is going to run these oil resources who have the ability to run this and manage it how we going to divide this between us who is going to spend on our children and our food drink hospitals schools do you expect if we divide the country this is defiantly a sedation we will agree on how to divide the petrol and oil for two three months but you are wrong this will be a burning issue this will be the cause for fights and trial and tribulations between all the tribes because it is in the middle of Libya and the south and it is in the desert and it is not inhabited …..Benghazi have no oil Barka have no oil how you going to eat brothers what could happen to Libya is very dangerous…therefore we are now facing a huge test a difficult test I have to be honest with you we are all armed even the thugs and those who are unemployed they have guns …everyone is armed therefore we can have forty years of civil war and Libya will have little education no health no food no future in addition now we have companies in Libya there are 200 billion worth of projects this will go astray no one would come to Libya and do any business or investment in Libya 55 thousand housing units hospitals would not be working ….remember what I am saying very well and therefore today we are at crossroads and before a historic decision to make either we agree today we say wee Libyans and this is our country we want to reform we want freedom and we want democracy and we want real reforms and and this what we have originally agreed on now we demand as final decision everyone gives up all the five millions have arms we are tribes and clans and if we have all have arms then we will not be crying over 84 death we will be crying over thousands of death there would be rivers of blood all over Libya you will be emigrating from Libya because the oil will stop being pumped and foreigners will leave Libya and the oil companies will leave Libya there will be no money …today I will ask you for the last time before we go intoto the arms and all of us as Libyans if it goes out of control like some people want do this before we resort in to arms and every Libyan would have to carry arms in order to defend himself then blood will flow tomorrow lets go with an imitative historic tomorrow within 48 hrs within 3 days within 6 hrs just to have a general peoples assembly with one clear agenda that is to issue a number laws that everyone agrees on that is the law of information to put law and order so that we open everything for freedom and also all the penal system that was silly and we begin national dialogue and national debate we all agree on even the leader in his last meeting with the journalists he said ..we have to lay down constitution for the country…..call it what you call it … of course there have been steps to increase wages and also to give more loans to youth …any way we have discovered many cells many Arabs people use drugs they use Egyptians Tunisians everything will come up to the whole world with documents anyway Libyans who live in London, who live in New York and Manchester and in Germany and in Canada they are inciting you and asking you to turn against us they live in there they have health care and your kids come here and die outside the army barracks when they go to get ammunition they are happy and comfortable in Europe together with their children and they are inciting us so that you die and destroy our country why is that so they come here and run us and rule us and rule Libya …they are turning us into Iraq ..Muammar Gaddafi is not General Abedine or Mubarak he is not a classical or traditional President.
So you think it is long and rambling nonsense. I agree, I sat thru ½ hr of trash talk and have to transcribe and cut it down to its essence. Saif did us a favor. He was able to put all of his father’s argument why he should be declared leader for life. We Ethiopians are familiar with all his important talking points. We have heard it on TPLF/Woyane TV that some of us repeat it word for word.
I did not have to work hard. Our own Berket came to the rescue. Dear old communication-miscommunication Minster put in his two cents worth of stupid speak to tell us why he is safe. This is what the criminal has to say regarding his take on the uprising in the neighborhood:
There is no chance for a public uprising in Ethiopia as the predominately factor for such uprising in Egypt and Tunisia were middle income states that no longer could drive through economic growth, and failed to provide enough jobs and equitable wealth distribution creating desperation among the public hardly resembles Ethiopia …there [where popular revolts happen] are desperate people, people who have nowhere to turn to. Our people are not desperate, here we have a public that has seen hope, a public that enjoys a glimmer of hope more than ever due to the recent years’ economic growth and transformation,”
This is just the beginning. As the temperature rises Woyane enablers will come up with zillions of arguments the reasons why Ato Meles should lead us and why we worthless subjects are lucky to have such an intelligent, wise and world respected leader at the helm to steer the ship called Ethiopia.
All we got to do is substitute Libya with Ethiopia and you can see the meetings of minds between these dysfunctional individuals. They both think without their leadership the country will fall apart. Their removal will cause disintegration, economic collapse and foreign intervention. The problem is not caused due to their failed polices but due to the phantom opposition be it local or the Diaspora. You can see Seif’s rant against the Diaspora and go to Walta, Aiga or Ethiopian (Woyane) TV and you see the same train of thought.
There are certain things we noticed the last few months. God it looks like months but the dictators are tumbling down weekly. They never saw it coming is a fact of life. Ben Ali never dreamt that thirty years of bullying would be undone in just thirty days. Mubarak did not see it coming. Gaddafi was ranting against Tunisians and never believed his days are numbered. Considering that he is claiming the love of his people today, I guess he is still in the dark while sitting in his bunker. On top of it all Israeli intelligence was certain their puppy Mubarak was safe and the CIA was assuring decision makers that Mubarak was untouchable. So much for the Mossad and the CIA, I guess their PR is mightier than their analysts.
As you can see Tunisia did not experience civil war, Egypt did not disintegrate and Libyans do not seem to be killing each other but are collectively encircling the ‘leader’ and his henchmen. This is a lesson to Woyane enablers. It is not going to be different in Ethiopia. We have lived together for so long, intermarried, worshiped that no amount of propaganda and self serving wish will turn us against each other. It did not happened before when TPLF was fanning the flame of hate and shouting everybody to his Kilil concept. It did not happen when Meles and company pushed out our Eritrean citizens from their place of birth and wanted the rest of us to celebrate with them. You know what we did, our people cried following the buses taking their brothers sisters away from their home. We are gentle, loving people. Hate have no place in our Ethiopia. Woyane’s are planters of hate. The only thing they will harvest is this colossal tsunami of rage directed at the thousand or less Woyane dogs.
Ethiopian ESAT is a game changer. By Yilma Bekele
When you think things look bad and hope is fading something happens to boost the morale and compels you to get up and give it another spin. When the little tyrant is making fun of democracy and elections and freedom lovers everywhere despair there comes a ray of hope from around the corner and floods our heart with optimism and ‘yes we can’ mind set.
ESAT is such a moment in the long history of our ancient land. It is like they close the door to engulf us in darkness and our brave ones open a window to let the light in. So you think I am getting carried away? No sir, actually I am frothing at the mouth and I am doing all I can, not to go up on top of Ras Dashen and shout Hallelujah or Alhamdulillah. Now this is a truly Hallelujah or Alhamdulillah moment if there is any.
When they say ‘information is power’ they know what they are talking about. Tyrants, dictators, totalitarians and all mad men in charge have one thing in common – absolute monopoly on information management. Totalitarianism 101 states ‘news and views’ shall be managed by the State. That is the way it is in Ethiopia. The one party state is a one absolute dictator country, a one TV channel, a single radio and a lonely flag ship newspaper nation. Tyrants abhor diversity.
Our country is the last in Africa in communications technology. The regime controls the media including the new technology of Internet. We are the least wired nation on the Planet. For crying out loud even our war torn neighbor Somalia boasts of more Web citizens that good old Ethiopia. The Ethiopian state spends more resources in jamming radio signals, interfering with TV broadcast, hounding editors and reporters and even censoring books and periodicals than on education and health.
The so called ‘Communications Dept’ headed by the infamous Bereket Semeon under the auspicious of PM Meles Zenawi is where they keep the light switch. That is where they summoned the editors of ‘Awramba Times’ to discuss the consequences of their euphoria regarding freedom. That is where they invited the editors of ‘Addis Neger’ for their ‘last super’. In their dark dungeon Zenawi, Semon, Bedri and others pour over transcripts, videos, audios and all source of enlightenment to make sure the Ethiopian people are shielded from unfiltered knowledge.
There is nothing left to chance. Even Internet is seen as threat. Whereas poor nations saw the possibility of growing their economy and catching up, the Ethiopian leaders knee jerk reaction was to block it. Thus they waste limited resources to buy technology to block filter and spy on their citizens. All our independent Web sites are blocked. They are truly afraid that if the Ethiopian people hear the truth they will demand to be free.
ESAT is a game changer. ESAT has started to broadcast to Ethiopia 24 hrs a day using satellite parked high above the equator. It is digital. It is unblockable. It is the voice from tomorrow. It is the little tyrants nightmare.
We the children of Ethiopia are heartened by this good news. We are bursting with joy. At last our people are going to be treated like adults. We are going to do away with the ‘baby sitters’. We are slow, we get distracted easy and we fight amongst each other but in the end we always get the job done. ESAT is our WMD. It is a lethal weapon that disarms those that deny our people freedom and democracy. Let those that preach hate, glorify division beware. ESAT is here to set the record straight. ESAT is going to tell our story, as it really is not some version concocted by behind the scene ‘communications bureau’. Their strangle hold on the news is broken. No more lies.
We urge ESAT to stay true to the cause of freedom. We urge ESAT to celebrate independence and professionalism. We welcome ESTV with open arms and consider their achievement as our own. We promise to move heaven and earth to make ESAT a success. We promise to contribute our share to make ESAT strong, successful and a reflection of that Ethiopian sense of proud yet humble. We congratulate the Board of Directors of ESAT for bringing our country such a priceless gift that is truly a game changer in every sense. Ladies and gentlemen start broadcasting the truth! Please go to (http://www.ethsat.com/) and feast to your hearts content.
ESAT has organized a fund raising event for the inauguration of this important venture. It will be held in every major city where our people reside. We asked for it, now we got it. It is time to put our resources where our mouth was. Our involvement enhances the quality of the programming. Our involvement will make it stay true to the cause of freedom that we yearn for. Roll up your sleeve and get involved. Find out where the event is and get involved. Call your family, call your neighbor call your Kebele or call your resident cadres and tell them to tune in:
- Arabsat / Badr 6/ Ku band
- Channel Frequency: 11785 GHz
- Symbol Rate: 27500 MSym/s
- Polarization: Vertical
Alemayehu G. Mariam
Note: Except for elements inserted in the nature of narrative license, syntax and independently established facts, this “interview” is based on English or Amharic translations of public statements, hearing testimony, speeches and other declarations[ 1] of Birtukan Midekssa, the first woman political party leader in Ethiopian history and that country’s most famous political prisoner. Her re-imprisonment in December 2008 on allegations of denying a pardon was a tactical move by dictator Meles Zenawi to incapacitate and eliminate his only serious and formidable challenger in the May 2010 “elections”. In March 2010, the U.S. State Department declared Birtukan a political prisoner. In January 2010, the United Nations Human Rights Council listed her as a victim of arbitrary detention. Amnesty International named Birtukan a prisoner of conscience in 2009.
This “interview” is done partly for the benefit of Western governments and their diplomatic representatives in Ethiopia in light of the May 2010 “elections”. It seems that Western governments in general have taken a solemn vow to say nothing, see nothing and hear nothing about Birtukan. As they hide behind a diplomatic shield of shame and give lip service to democratic ideals while coddling a dictator, I hope with this “interview” they will at least begin to appreciate this extraordinarily brilliant, thoughtful, enlightened, perceptive, humorous, cultured, humble and compassionate Ethiopian woman political leader.
I had the great honor and privilege to meet Birtukan in the Fall of 2007 when she led a delegation of Coalition for Unity and Democracy (Kinijit) party leaders visiting the United States. On numerous occasions, I have publicly expressed my highest respect, greatest admiration, deepest gratitude and boundless appreciation for Birtukan’s sacrifices in the cause of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law in Ethiopia.
Q. Let’s start by talking about your situation in Akaki federal prison over the past year and half. We are told that your “health is in perfect condition”, you have picked up a “few kilos” and could use some physical exercise. How is life in prison?
Birtukan: Correction! You mean life at the Akaki Hilton Spa and Resort? Well, the food here is excellent and so are the accommodations. I have my own special room. I like to call it my boudoir. They call it “Solitary Confinement”. It is true that I have “gained a few kilos”, but that is because I spend all of my time in my room. “C’est la vie” at the Akaki Hilton, as they say in French.
Q. The reason you were returned to prison to serve out a life term is that you allegedly denied receiving a pardon when you were released in July, 2007. Did you deny receiving a pardon?
Birtukan: I have never denied signing the pardon document as an individual prisoner. I, along with the other opposition political prisoners, asked for pardon through the elders according to the document that was written on June 18, 2007. This is a fact I can not change even if I wanted to. In my opinion the reason why all these illegal intimidations and warnings were aimed at me have nothing to do with playing with words, inaccurate statements I made or any violations of law. The message is clear and this message is not only for me but for all who are active in the peaceful struggle. A peaceful and law-abiding political struggle can be conducted only within the limits the ruling party has set and not according to what the country’s Constitution allows. And for me it is extremely difficult to accept this.
Q. As you know, elections are scheduled for May 23, 2010. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Birtukan: It is hard for me to say much locked up at the Akaki Hilton. I get no newspapers, magazines or books. I have no radio or television. But I can tell you how it was in 2005 and you can judge for yourself what the situation is like today.
In 2005, public interest and participation in the electoral process was massive. The European Union Observer team estimated voter registration at no less than 85% of all eligible voters, based on lists containing 25,605,851 names of registered persons. The total number of candidates for the House of Peoples’ Representatives was 1,847. A total of 3,762 candidates ran for Regional Councils. The total number of women candidates to the House of Peoples’ Representatives was 253, and 700 in the Regional Councils.
To its credit the government in 2005 allowed limited media access, established a Joint Political Party Forum at national and constituency levels, regular consultations with electoral authorities to resolve problems in campaign and election administration, special elections-related training programs for the police and the judiciary, pledges of non-violence between the ruling and opposition parties for election day and invitation of international election observers and so on.
As election day approached, the government started to use its power to influence the outcome of the election. There was widespread interference by local authorities in the conduct of public gatherings and opposition party rallies, threats and intimidations by some local public officials. In some instances, force was used to disrupt public gatherings and detain opposition supporters throughout the country. In the days preceding the elections, there was a spike in negative campaigns on radio and television using images and messages designed to intimidate by associating the genocide in Rwanda with opposition politics.
Even though the Election Board was required to announce the official results on June 8, that requirement was superseded when Prime Minister Meles Zenawi declared a state of emergency, outlawed any public gathering, assumed direct command of the security forces, and replaced the capital city police with federal police and special military units. The Elections Board simultaneously ordered the vote tallying process to stop, and on May 27, the Board released its determination that the ruling party, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front had won 209 seats, and affiliated parties 12 more. The report indicated opposition parties had won 142 seats. Our party filed complaints in 139 constituencies, the UEDF lodged 89 complaints, while the EPRDF raised concerns over irregularities in more than 50 seats.
That’s how it was back in 2005.
Q. The ruling regime continues to make public accusations that the opposition in the current “election” is inciting violence as it did in 2005. Recent public statements from the highest levels of the ruling regime indicate that any attempts by opposition parties to boycott the election, complaints of harassment and intimidations and agitations of youth to engage in violence will be dealt with harshly after the elections. How do you assess the situation?
Birtukan: As the 2005 elections have shown, if there is any violence to occur in the current election it is not going to come from the opposition. The Inquiry Commission established by the government in 2005 to look into the killings and excessive use of force against demonstrators decided that there was not a single protester who was armed with a gun or a hand grenade as alleged by the government. The shots fired by government forces were not intended to disperse the crowd of protesters but to kill them by targeting their heads and chests. The historical facts speak for themselves. If there is election related violence today, one need look no further than the usual suspects.
Q. The ruling regime likes to trumpet to the world that Ethiopia is governed democratically, human rights are fully protected and the rule of law observed. Do you agree with these claims?
Birtukan: Dictatorship and democracy are not the same thing. There is no democracy in Ethiopia today, despite empty claims of “recent bold democratic initiatives taken by our government, the immense progress in creating a competitive, pluralistic system of government and a more open civil society.” The fact of the matter is that there is neither pluralism nor commitment to democratic principles and practices in Ethiopia. The government’s claim of political pluralism has not gone beyond the stage of political sloganeering. If pluralism involves widespread participation and a greater feeling of commitment from citizens, it does not exist today in Ethiopia. If pluralism means increased and diverse participation in the political decision-making process and giving everyone a stake in the political process, it does not exist in Ethiopia. If pluralism means a process where every voice is heard, conflict is resolved by dialogue and compromise and an atmosphere of tolerance, understanding and respect is nurtured, that does not exist either. But democracy in Ethiopia today must not only reflect the values of pluralism, it must also be genuinely participatory, transparent, accountable, equitable and based on the rule of law. We are all aware that democracy in Ethiopia will not be accomplished overnight. But we must start the process now in earnest by installing its critical pillars of support.
Q. What are the pillars you believe are important in establishing democracy in Ethiopia?
Birtukan: The are many. Let me start by mentioning the need for an independent judiciary. I know a thing or two about that having served as a judge and also being a victim of a judicial system that has me imprisoned for life. In 2005, I and the various opposition leaders were prosecuted for various state crimes including genocide, treason, incitement to violence, leading armed rebellion and other charges. Our prosecution occurred in a court system that has little institutional independence, and one subject to political influence and manipulation from the ruling regime. It is a judiciary that is used as a tool of political harassment, intimidation and persecution. Judges are selected not for professionalism or legal knowledge but for their loyalty to the government.
It is universally accepted that an independent and professional judiciary is a key element in the institutionalization of the rule of law, the promotion and protection of human rights and even in implementing social and economic reform in society. The U.N. Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other documents recognize the central importance of an independent judiciary as the guarantors of due process and justice. Judicial independence is guaranteed by Article 78 of the Ethiopian Constitution but it does not exist in reality. Although judges are supposed to be free of party politics, many are under the direct control of the party in power, if not outright members. With the judiciary under effective political control, there is little confidence in its institutional powers or the legitimacy of its rulings. If we can not have serious judicial reforms, not only will we be unable to protect the rights of citizens, we will always live under the rule of the gun instead of the rule of law.
Q. What other pillars of democracy do you believe are missing in Ethiopia?
Birtukan: Press freedom is another essential requirement necessary for building democracy in Ethiopia. Without a free press, there can be no meaningful democracy. People in Ethiopia, particularly in the rural areas, do not have access to important political information because of exclusive government control of the media. Political parties need to have equal access to media controlled by the government so that they can effectively communicate with the people. Various international human organizations have ranked Ethiopia at the top of the list of countries where there is little freedom of press. The U.S. and other Western governments can help by promoting private electronic media and supporting the emergence of private newspapers, weeklies and magazines to help develop a well-informed public.
Q. What are your views on the electoral process, and what improvements to that process do you believe are needed?
Birtukan: First, all elections must be free and fair in order for citizens to meaningfully participate in shaping the political makeup and future policy direction of government. People must be free to register to vote or run for public office. Candidates and parties must be free to engage the voters without intimidation or harassment. There must be an independent free press to provide information to the voters. The freedom to assemble for political rallies and campaigns must be guaranteed. There must also be an impartial system of conducting elections and verifying election results. It was the lack of independence, impartiality and transparency of the Ethiopian National Electoral Board that was one of the factors that complicated the resolution of the dispute in the 2005 elections. We need an elections board that is representative of all the political parties and enjoys the public trust. People need to have confidence that their votes are counted properly and there is no elections fraud.
Q. How do you assess the human rights situation in Ethiopia?
Birtukan: Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. Many of these rights are secured under international law and the Ethiopian Constitution. The ruling regime has sought to put up a façade of commitment to human and democratic rights. But its practices contravene all of its obligations under the Ethiopian constitution and the human rights conventions that bind Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Constitution under Art. 14 enumerates all of the “human rights” enjoyed by Ethiopian citizens. Arts. 14-28 enumerate these rights and include basic protections against arbitrary government actions and guarantees of due process. Art. 13, sec. 2 states “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.”
The fact is that the ruling regime observes neither its own constitution nor the requirements of well-established international human rights conventions. The regime’s own Inquiry Commission in 2005 has documented widespread excessive use of force by government security forces. The human rights violations committed by the ruling regime are so numerous and egregious that it would be too difficult to list them all here. But I wish to cite a few examples documented in the U.S. State Department Human Rights Report for 2006.
That report stated that “Although the [Ethiopian] constitution and law prohibit the use of torture and mistreatment, there were numerous credible reports that security officials often beat or mistreated detainees.” Massive arrests and detentions are common, and the Report concluded, “Although the [Ethiopian] constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, the government frequently did not observe these provisions in practice…. Authorities regularly detained persons without warrants and denied access to counsel and family members, particularly in outlying regions… The independent commission of inquiry… found that security officials held over 30,000 civilians incommunicado for up to three months in detention centers located in remote areas… Other estimates placed the number of such detainees at over 50,000.”
Q. Do you think Western governments, particularly the U.S., can play a role in improving the overall situation in Ethiopia?
Birtukan: As the largest donor country, the U.S is in the best position to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Ethiopia. In general, Western governments must insist on the release of all political prisoners and the immediate restoration of democratic rights. They must insist on accountability and transparency since they provide substantial aid to keep the government afloat. They must promote human rights by supporting civic society organizations and implementing other mechanisms that can facilitate adequate monitoring and reporting of human rights violations. The West must insist on the functioning of a free press without censorship and restrictive press laws, and help strengthen private media in Ethiopia. The West can also play a central role in the electoral process by ensuring fraud-free elections, helping political parties build more effective organizations and campaigns, strengthening civil society groups to function as facilitators in the democratic process and professionalization of the National Election Board to help it become fair and balanced. On the other hand, we want to make sure that U.S. security assistance to Ethiopia be used for peacekeeping and counter-terrorism operations, and never against the civilian population.
Q. What are your views on the future of Ethiopia?
Birtukan: I believe Ethiopia is the country of the future. Ethiopia has many problems, including a legacy of repression, ethnic division, corruption, mismanagement, lack of accountability and transparency. It will not be easy for us to confront the past and move on with lessons learned. The most important task now is to build the future country of Ethiopia by fully embracing democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Only through dialogue, negotiation and compromise can justice, stability and peace be guaranteed in Ethiopia.
Thank you Birtukan for this “interview”. Stay strong!
 See e.g., http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/mid100207.htm
Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. He writes a regular blog on The Huffington Post, and his commentaries appear regularly on pambazuka.org, allafrica.com, newamericamedia.org and other sites.
Alemayehu G. Mariam
Last week, a couple of interesting political statements grabbed the cyber headlines. One was a truly entertaining piece entitled “Letter from Ethiopia,” by the indomitable Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega. Eskinder’s “Letter” sought to make sense of the power jockeying that is apparently taking place backstage to replace dictator Meles Zenawi. The other was a bombastic speech given by Zenawi to a captive audience in Mekele in observance of the 35th anniversary of the founding of his liberation movement. In that speech, Zenawi unleashed a torrent of vitriol against his opponents and critics to rival Hugo Chavez’s, and indulged in a little bit of megalomaniacal braggadocio and self-glorification for democratizing Ethiopia and inundating it with prosperity.
Using the so-called election scheduled for May, 2010 as a backdrop, Eskinder crystal-balled the inevitable implosion of the ruling “EPDRF” party, and sketched out the qualifications of the motley crew of droll characters standing in line as heirs-apparent to succeed Zenawi on the “throne”.
Scratch beyond the surface and the EPRDF [Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] is really not the monolithic dinosaur as it is most commonly stereotyped. [It has become] a coalition of four distinct phenomenon: the increasing confusion of the dominant TPLF [Tigrayan People's Liberation Front], the acute cynicism of the ANDM [Amhara National Democratic Movement], the desperate nihilism of the OPDO [Oromo People's Democratic Organization] and the inevitable irrelevance of the incongruent SEPM [South Ethiopian People’s Movement] (a grab bag of some 40 ethnic groups from the southern part of the country). ”
In the battle royal for the “throne” are a number of goofy and cagey characters including “OPDO’s Girma Biru” who is said to be “managerially competent” but a dud and a wimp when it comes to formulating a “grand vision and [lacks] the ruthlessness deemed crucial to keep the EPRDF vibrant and intact.” OPDO chairman Abadula Gemeda, the butt of “the city’s political jokes”, is considered a possible contender and given full credit for his own “comical intellectual pretensions.” ANDM’s Addisu Legesse is said to be held in “particular high esteem” by Zenawi for his servility and slavish loyalty beyond and above the call of duty. Then there is the Svengalian master of intrigue, Bereket Simon whose “influence is expected to wane once Meles eventually leaves the limelight.” The crocodilian Sebhat Nega, “king maker for two decades”, has apparently “chosen to leave TPLF’s politburo” but remains a member of the Central Committee as puppet-master extraordinaire.
In other words, 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, but each day a young messenger comes to tell them Godot will be there tomorrow. As they wait each day, they try to find something to do. They keep busy chatting, arguing, singing, playing games, swapping hats, taking their shoes off, napping and doing all sorts of trivial things just “to hold the terrible silence at bay”. Each day, the characters tell each other that they can not go on waiting. They are so tired of waiting day after day that they contemplate suicide. Godot never shows up but the two characters keep returning to the same place day after day to wait for him; but they can not 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. In his Mekele speech, Zenawi made it clear that he is staying put and the great business of state business will go on as usual; and but for the wicked opposition elements and pesky critics, how things could really be awesome! But he did not hold back in visiting his wrath on his opposition and critics. With rhetorical flourish, he lambasted his former comrade-in-arms, opposition elements and critics with the Amharic equivalent of “muckrakers”, “mud dwellers” and good-for-nothing “chaff” and “husk”. He accused them of being “anti-democratic”, “anti-people” fomenters of “interhamwe”. He called them “sooty”, “sleazy”, “gun-toting marauders”, “pompous egotists” and every other name than could be pumped out of the Insulto-Matic machine. He repeatedly denounced his opposition for rolling in a quagmire of mud and trying to smear mud on the people. After all was said in that speech, it was clear that he was the one doing all the mud-slinging and mud-rolling (chika jiraf and chika mab-kwat). (It must have been a bad hair day for him [no pun intended]!)
Zenawi pulled no punches slamming and vilifying his opponents and critics:
There are those who maintain an eagle eye on the regime with bitter animosity and sully it by painting and drenching it in soot. Regardless, our country has marched into democracy confidently and irreversibly.
Anti-democratic and anti-people forces have so much contempt that they badger our uneducated people telling them chaff is wheat. However, our people are used to winnowing the chaff in the wind and keeping the wheat. Our enemies are peddling chaff to the people and trying to find holes to sabotage our peoples’ democracy, peace and development. But since our organization knows that our operation is airtight, we are not concerned.
The chaff hope to provoke the people into anger and incite them to undemocratically resort to violence. Although they (the “chaff”) can not dirty up the people like themselves, they may try to smear the people with mud in the hope of inciting them into lawlessness.
It was an unstatesmanlike speech, to say the least. But there were a few odd things about the speech itself. Even though the speech was given to a captive audience in Mekele, the clear impression that is created for the listener is that the people of Tigray will be doing the winnowing of the useless “chaff” from the valuable “wheat.” The contextualization of the speech subtly cuts off the people of Tigray from the rest of the country. The incredible amount of venom in the speech could make a snake puke. The allusion-fest to “mud”, “soot,” “chaff”, “wheat”, etc., and the thinly veiled ad hominem attacks, derision and disparagement of opponents and critics points to a deficit of intellectual discipline and rigor to argue and fiercely debate the issues in the court of public opinion. Instead of name-calling, one ought to use hard evidence and logical analysis to disprove the allegations, contentions or analysis of the opponents and critics. In this regard, there is a rather humorous tu quoque (two wrongs make a right) logical fallacy that infuses the whole speech. Zenawi takes the position that since his critics “wallow” in mud and keep slinging it at him, it is right for him to wallow in and sling mud and muck back at them while professing to command the moral high ground. In other words, it is right to “fight mud with mud.” The problem of a mud fight is that everybody gets dirty. It is morally superior and infinitely more pragmatic to fight the “mud slingers” by slinging back at them, not mud pies, but facts, evidence, data and logical analysis.
The speech is also noteworthy for its self-righteousness, messianic fervor and dogmatic certitude in the speaker’s rectitude: Everybody is chaff except the winnowed wheat. Everyone is a member of the Evil Empire except the anointed Jedi Knights of the TPLF who are the guardians of peace and justice in the Republic (to borrow from a popular American motion picture “Star Wars”). Such a Manichean worldview (Weltanschauung) of good and evil and chaff and wheat is symptomatic of narcissistic self-absorption, a behavioral pattern well documented in the psychological literature; and empirically observed in terms of faulty reasoning, acute hostility towards others groups, rigid character attributes and blindness to one’s failings.
The real issue is not about name calling, mudslinging or even determining the true bearers of the democratic cross. The real issue is about the accountability of a personalist dictatorship that is sustained through a self-aggrandizing oligarchy that now craves a veneer of legitimacy by staging a democratic “election” for international donors. The fact remains that no amount of mudslinging, soot smearing or bombastic speech can mask the true nature of an election in a dictatorship. One can put the finest lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day the pig is still a pig.
As Zenawi’s speech shows, he exercises absolute imperial power for self-gratification and self-glorification; and his declared aim is to mold Ethiopian society in his own image. His ruling regime fundamentally believes that political power grows out of the barrel of the gun (not from the consent of the people), fully aware of their own feebleness without the gun. Their raison d’etre is to amass and centralize political and economic power at all costs and maintain themselves in power by greed, fear and blind ambition.
We fully accept the metaphor of “chaff” and “wheat” as a judicious and appropriate way not just to understand Ethiopian politics today but also as a practical way of resolving the crises of confidence in governance and proper determination of leadership succession. It is the right time now to put the metaphor to a real test: Let the Ethiopian people winnow the “chaff” from the “wheat” in the calm winds of a genuinely free and fair election in May 2010! That seems highly unlikely; and the chaff that stands in the way of the people “shall inherit the wind”.
Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. He writes a regular blog on The Huffington Post, and his commentaries appear regularly on pambazuka.org, allafrica.com, newamericamedia.org and other sites.