Posts Tagged ‘VOA amharic’

VOA and its problems

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

By Yilma Bekele There is an Amharic saying that comes to mind when you think of the current revelations regarding VOA and its dealings with Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Thanks to Ato Abebe Gelaw’s investigative work we are able to see the inside workings of the independent News Organization. Its credibility is under a magnifying glass [...]

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Exporting Kilil to America

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

By Yilma Bekele

Being an Ethiopian has always been difficult. The bad news is, it is not going to get any easier. Two weeks ago I found out it can be taken away too. It has come to a point where names and looks plus attitude can determine who is and who is not an Ethiopian. Welcome to Kilil in America.

The Ethiopian government reps. held a town hall meeting in a city not far from where I live. There were over a hundred of us protesting outside and two hundred plus were inside listening to the marketing. It was an out of this world experience. San Jose and other cities where the salesmen went were transformed in a new and positive manner. The intervention was definitely divine. Ethiopia stretched her hands to God and it was answered.

They came with their ethnic baggage in hand; we waited for them as one. They came to divide, we ended up together. They came to saw hate and discord but they made us see how beautiful our diversity is. They are programmed to think as one while we celebrate the many voices that enrich our discussion. It was obvious we were like oil and water. Woyane and Ethiopia don’t mix. Mengistu and Ethiopia did not mesh either. Too bad we ended up where we started.

The government is perfectly aware that there was no chance of holding a fund raising or any event in any western city. None. Why do it then? Why does a snake bite? It is embedded in its DNA. Hate and violence are imbedded in Woyane’s nature. They came specifically to stir the pot of hate and ethnic division. They knew they were going to set up a single ethnic group against all others. If it serves their purpose and they did not care for the consequences. They are cold blooded.

San Jose was one such place where this tragic theatre was played. It was financed by all but directed, stared by and played by a single ethnic group. It started late, sound and video were not set up and things never got any better. When it did start the presentation made you wonder why a meeting was called for. The presenter who later on the program introduced himself as Minster of Internet just read the power point presentation word for word. That was the whole shpeel. The question and answer were a wholesale situation where nothing of significance was asked or answered. It was a depressing display of weakness.

Looking at the officials made me think how much we all contributed to this madness. I thought of my cousins starving, their children not learning, the graduates not working and the mothers and fathers watching their kids wasting their productive years. Here we have a 35 people strong delegation visiting 10 US cites to stir trouble. It is not a cheap trip. Here is a very conservative budget for building a bridge to nowhere.

Round trip ticket 35*4500 157,500.00
Hotel 35*15*350 183,750.00
Per Diem 35*15*250 131,250.00
Hall rental 10*4500 45,000.00
Security 10*2500 25,000.00
US transportation 35*1500 52,500.00
Auto rental 15*750 11,250.00
Entertainment 10*5000 50,000.00

Total in US dollars $656,250.00
Total in Eth. Bir $11,812,500.00

Do you think the investment is worth the return? Or should the question be what exactly was the regime expecting from such an investment. I believe it was meant to deflect attention away from the current peoples uprisings in North Africa. It is also to cover up the ongoing economic melt down. As far as the regime is concerned both are very troubling issues currently eating up scarce resources to safeguard the status quo. The whole country is employee of the Ethiopian government. There is no branch of activity the government either directly or thru its proxies such as EFFORT is not involved in. Land, Communication, banking, insurance, import export, are all under the control of the TPLF party. It requires a lot of resources to run an illegal enterprise.

It requires constant injection of new capital. The economic downturn in the west and the Middle East is having a negative impact on the regime. The remittance cash is drying up. Expenses are going up. As usual the government is throwing up all kinds of solutions hoping one works. We have seen this before. You remember when growing for bio-fuels was the salvation or was it flowers? How does that compare to railway line to Port Sudan or was it to Mombassa? I believe even Hargessa was in the running. I do not think it was as dramatic as fiber optics wiring for good old Ethiopia and that was five years ago. A few weeks ago the PM was speculating about streetcars for Addis, hope he was dreaming of solar powered, you don’t want all those trolleys stuck in the middle of the road for lack of electricity do you? Menged be fereka.

The new scam to expropriate cash from the citizen is the millennium dam on the mighty Nile. The idea is so beautiful it takes your breath away. It is a very bold proposition that stirs the soul. Imagine a big dam holding our water just for us. As usual as far as TPLF is concerned the dam is done. The computer-generated design is awe-inspiring. You can almost touch it. That is all it is, pie in the sky. They will collect a few dollars and let it die a natural death. Just like the railway line to Kenya, the great highway to Sudan, broadband Internet all over Ethiopia the Millennium Dam will be allowed to evaporate. But, what a warm feeling it created in all of us. Thank you for the wonderful trip Woyane.

While the regime is in such a generous mood to modernize Ethiopia we have a few suggestions if we are allowed. It does not require a single penny from the government. Let us start with education. It is the key. Knowledge is what makes the world go round. Knowledge is what is needed in Ethiopia. Can we allow the privatization of the communication sector and unleash the power of the Internet to spread knowledge free of charge? The rewards are beyond our dreams. It will create thousands of jobs (service providers, web designers, programmers, sales and advertising) not to mention a smarter generation.

Let us also allow the private press to flourish. Private television, radio, newspaper and magazines inform and nurture our people. The government will collect revenues from all this enterprises while the citizen creates jobs and wealth. The San Jose participants were freely given beautifully printed brochures full of pictures, graphs and marketing all done by government-confiscated presses. How sad due to the artificial price of paper, ink and Communications department sanctioned use of violence, threat and other illegal acts the free press in Ethiopia is withering away as we watch. Today our country is the last in Africa in newspaper distribution, variety and freedom scale. Darkness is the friend of the totalitarian system. Knowledge and freedom go hand in hand.

The Ethiopian government means to keep the population in ignorance. Our country is the worst wired and the least digitized on the planet. The government is afraid of the citizen getting unbiased opinion. Independent Web sites are blocked, our satellite TV transmission is jammed (www.esat.com) even VOA and Deutsche Welle are victims of TPLF madness. How could such a government be trusted to do anything good? Why would such a system that degrades human beings be allowed to exist?

It exists because we allow it. It exists because we feed it. It exists because some of us have decided our personal interest is bigger than our love for country and fellow human being. It exists because we have knowingly decided to turn our face away. There are no two sides to dying of hunger. There is nothing to be said about being exiled from your homeland and finding yourself wondering in the deserts of Libya, the Jungles of Malawi, the ghettos of Rome or Frankfort the projects of America. But our silence makes all this happen. If not for us telling the world the trials and tribulations of our people who else?

Since the uprisings in the Moslem world the Ethiopian government has been experimenting with various responses to hold this tsunami of freedom at bay. I believe we are on response #5. It is good to notice that there has never been this flurry of activity in past crisis situations. This one is different. It seems to have a life of its own. No one has found the right combination of response. The one that has come close is Ben Ali of Tunisia. He left early, he left clean. The others, like patients on AID medicine are trying different combinations.

Ato Meles is trying hard. There is no margin for error here. If history is any indication his neck is on line. To his credit he sent Berket, gave a press conference, used the speech at the kangaroo Parliament, sent his delegates to Europe and America and created the Millennium Dam fiction. That is five different responses in two months time. For a person whose contract specifies eight hours a day this uprising business is creating over time situation. It is lonely at the top. He does not have any good will left with anybody. His old friends are more than happy to be called as witnesses for the prosecution, his Kilil servants will even the score at a drop of a hat, his foreign benefactors will send Ambassadors to meet the new guys in town and the reliability of family and close friends is not certain. This is not a happy Easter.

Ato Meles and his never-ending threats

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

By Yilma Bekele

The people’s uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have been the talk of Ethiopians both at home and the Diaspora for the last month and half. We are surprised by the sudden fall of the tyrants of Tunisia and Egypt. We are watching with keen interest the volatile situation in Libya and Yemen.

You know the one thing in common these far away places have is the large number of displaced Africans caught in this wave. Most of our people are refugees from bad economy, civil war, lack of opportunity, tyranny and other curable ills. There are plenty of Ethiopians that are currently exposed to danger while searching for a meaningful life. It was sad to hear Meles Zenawi pretending about using air and sea to pluck our people from Libya. When you consider most of these people paid large sums of money to reach Libya escaping sadness and misery in their homeland it is inconceivable that they will return to hell willingly.

Even though the world media was transfixed by the upheaval in the lands of the Arabs, the Government controlled media was going to great length to pretend nothing out of the ordinary was going on in the neighborhood. The Ethiopian peoples information regarding the tsunami in their vicinity came from a few brave Independent News Papers at home, ESAT (Ethiopian Satellite TV (http://www.ethsat.com/), Diaspora Web sites, VOA, Deutche Welle, and Al Jazeera. The regime was also investing large amounts of money and labor to jam and interfere with ESAT and Diaspora based independent Web sites.

Denial of independent news is the hallmark of a dictatorial regime. Creating confusion, misinforming and revising the news is also a prefered and a known modus operandi of a closed system. It is with this in mind the Ethiopian Prime Minster called his government certified reporters for press conference after a month long hiatus from public view to tell us his version of the story. He wanted to bully, threaten, scold and warn eighty million people against an attempt to remove him, his family and friends from power. As you know his lieutenant Berket offered some bogus explanation a la Seif Gaddafi to show why an uprising is not possible in a 12% growing economy. Needless to say he was laughed out of town.

Ato Meles decided to approach the situation from a different angle. It looks like Ato Melese’s strategy is to stick to the good old method of belligerency as the best way out of this mess he finds himself in. We the rest of ordinary Ethiopians have been looking at the unfolding situation and learning a valuable lesson in overcoming our fear and devising low cost methods of removing this TPLF tumor from our home land. It looks like Ato Meles sitting in his guarded bunker has been pouring over documents to draw a lesson on how to avert being Mubaraked by the people.

The so-called press conference was to unfurl his ‘doctrine’ regarding the hard lessons of the last few weeks. The usual suspects from Walta, Aiga Forum, The Reporter, Ben’s page etc. were summoned and given the prepared question to ask. It is always perplexing to see six microphones on the podium when one should be more than enough considering they all go to the same news editor.

Ato Meles was exhibiting a brand new haircut, a five thousand dollar Savile Row suit and a better makeup than the last time we saw him. You can tell that he has been under tremendous stress by looking at the bags under his eyes and the violent way he was pounding the table to make his point. When it came to answering the question regarding the ‘uprising’ the pounding got louder, the head scratching and fidgeting got intense and the internal fury was producing lots of heat like the crippled Japanese Nuclear plants and needed venting to avert explosion.

I want to concentrate on his response regarding the chances of an uprising in Ethiopia, but I would like to comment on a few of the points raised by the TPLF leader before he got to his main talking point.

Ato Meles seems to have a very strange understanding of the office he occupies. He said that ‘his contract with the Ethiopian people is for an eight hour a day labor’ and he does not feel it is important for him to be ‘a role model’ for anybody. That is a disturbing statement coming from a person entrusted for the welfare of eighty million souls. One would think being a leader of such a poor country with over eight million citizens suffering the scourge of hunger, double-digit inflation, high rate of unemployment etc. is more than a 24/7 responsibility. As for the issue of being a ‘role model’ who better than the head of the government and guardian of what is good and noble in all of us for the people to follow.

When asked about inflation the price of fuel and general failure of the economy, again I find his response very illiterate and far from the truth. His take on basic economics 101 is a little confusing to say the least. He said ‘ why would the price of potatoes go up due to the increase in gasoline?’ Let us see. Potatoes are generally grown in the countryside and require trucks to transport them to the market. In some instances fertilizers are applied for good harvest, tractors are used to dig out the bounty and the warehouse they are stored require electricity. What is common here is the importance of oil in this chain of economic activity. Why wouldn’t the hike in the price of fuel affect potatoes my dear Meles?

So much for economics, now to the important issue at hand, the current trend of peaceful peoples uprising to bring democracy and the rule of law. This press conference was to deal with the problem before it rears its ugly head in Ethiopia. It was Ato Melese’s response to the Ethiopian people on how he was going to handle the situation. It was his way of putting lipstick on a pig in a futile attempt to stop the impending implosion. It was a nice try. Unfortunately like everything else he tries it was an abject failure.

What Ato Meles learned from the uprisings became clear from his response to his own questions as read by his staff. From Tunisia he learnt quick exit is not the answer since Ben Ali’s exile did not save his family’s fortune from being under consideration for confiscation or stop the demand by the people to haul his criminal ass back to Tunisia for trial, Mubarak’s futile attempt to hang on only postponed the inevitable for a few days and resulted in his being a virtual prisoner in his home land, Saleh’s attempt both to offer concessions and kill at the same time has only resulted in his hanging on to power by his fingernails while Gaddafi and sons are in a do or die situation with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Ato Meles decided to attack before the idea of uprising took roots. The pres conference was to bully his people and at the same time show his followers that he is still in charge; he is not afraid and give them a nudge to intensify the offense. In a nutshell the main speaking points could be summarized as follows. ‘There is no chance of uprising here because we carried an election about ten months ago and EPDRF won overwhelmingly, we have in place a constitutional method of changing leaders unlike Egypt and Tunisia and all our problems can be traced to Shabia and Al Qaeda Islamists blah blah.’

What is revealing is the charge he leveled against his ‘enemies’ regarding the crimes they are supposedly hatching against his regime. According to him Shabia in cooperation with rogue Ethiopians and some of the legal opposition is planning to turn ‘Addis into Baghdad.’ That is his story and he is sticking to it. If you notice this madness has similarity to the charges leveled against Kinijit leaders and Civic organization heads in the aftermath of the 2005 elections where they were accused of planning a ‘genocide.’ You see even before the civil disobedience starts Ato Meles is accusing all those that oppose him of planning violence to justify his gangster type response. Not a bad tactic if you ask me. Hijacking the cry of the victim is nothing new. What is sad is the idea of a ‘government’ spending so much time and energy to sabotage and suppress the dreams and aspirations of its own population for the benefit of a few individual’s thirst for power and money.

So what do you think of Ato Meles’s take on the situation? Is he correct in his assessment of the situation both at home and the neighborhood? Is he telling the truth when he says ‘we do not consider it (the question of civil disobedience) as an immediate and relevant issue…and it is not discussed by his Politburo?’ In other words as they say here in the US ‘would you buy a used car’ from this salesman?

If you have your doubts, I understand. I concur that It is very difficult to accept Meles’s analysis as correct and based on facts. He does not seem to have a good track record when it comes to having a clear understanding of the situations in the neighborhood and his assessment of the moods and wants of the Ethiopian people. In other words the individual is clueless when it comes to relating to the people he is supposed to lead. We don’t have to go far to prove our point.

Do you remember his conclusion that Shabia is not going to attack? Shabia did and we paid the price with over eighty thousand dead and millions of dollars wasted on weapons from Korea and East Europe. We are also aware of Siyoum Mesfin’s lying declaration that the International Court have agreed with Ethiopia regarding Badme and four years later it is still unresolved issue. How could we forget the so-called ‘cake walk’ into Somalia and the ensuing humiliation? Do I need to remind you of the 2005 election and EPDRF’s loss of Addis and most of the country? There is no need to mention the utterly weird situation of 12% growth to go with hyperinflation, famine and the dwindling foreign reserve? As you can see the palace folks are poster children for miscalculation and fiction rather than a sober and realistic assessment of any situation. It is my firm belief that TPLF folks are not capable of finding the exit door in a studio apartment.

If we are permitted we can actually give our friends some advice on avoiding the fate of Ben Ali, Mubarak or Gaddafi. There is a cheaper solution that does not require spending time and energy on exotic and expensive scenarios to fight what is inevitable. History is full of examples where in the end no matter how much one tries victory of good over evil is as sure as the sun rising from the East tomorrow morning. Here is a short list of responses by Meles and company that will assure them keeping their head intact with the rest of their body and avoiding humiliation in front of the people of Ethiopia and humanity in general.

The simple and more direct solution will be to resign. The TPLF boss can say he wants to spend more time with his family and we will understand. If that is too radical then there are other options. Let us start by abandoning this self-serving Constitution and starting fresh. We can undo the illegal act of the Derge that made land property of the government instead of the people. All land and property should be returned to the rightful owners with no ifs or buts. The concept of Kilil and formation of Ethnic based party and organization should have no place in our new Ethiopia. The internal security will be dismantled never to show its ugly and brutal face ever again. The new Ethiopia will allocate large portion of its budget on education instead of Arms and repressive organs. The emerging free and democratic Ethiopia will sit down with our Eritrean cousins and resolve the issue of security and use of port facilities in amicable ways. Ethiopia will sign a non aggression pact with all is neighbors including Somalia and work towards cultural, educational and sports exchange to turn East Africa in to a zone of peace and tranquility.

Tell you what if you take our advice we will even convince Judge Wolde Michael Meshesha not to press on this issue of criminal act committed way back in October 2005. It is not easy but we will do our best in lieu of the benefits to our poor and tired country and people. We might even go as far as looking the other way regarding the loot some of you have stashed in foreign banks but it all depends on your cooperation and your solemn oath that you will refrain from denying your guilt and will ask the Ethiopian people for forgiveness and show real remorse. I believe our way is a lot better than a protracted and ugly struggle you might wage for a few days before the inevitable collapse of your ponzi scheme.

You know it, we know it and everybody and his dog knows it that there is no easy way out. The bullying and repression have bought you a measly ten years or so. It is not effective anymore because of the new international situation being allergic towards despots and finally to the current deteriorating economic situation where gas costs 18.50/liter, Oil costs 36 or more, teff costs thousands, chicken costs triple digits etc. etc. You see what I mean, people are coming to the realization that there is nothing to loose anymore. That is scary and that is what is keeping you awake at night. That is what makes you come up with scenarios like ‘Addis into Baghdad’ and the specter of all those unemployed youth breaching the palace walls with Meles and company running around in their pajamas pursued by an angry mob! It gives me shivers just to think about it. Let us agree to nip this horrible situation in the bud before it gets traction. Good luck my friend, please don’t make me say ‘I told you so!’

Ethiopian and Californian elections

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

It is election season in California. Two positions are open. The governorship and Federal Senate positions are up for grabs. Both parties, that is the Democrats and Republicans are going thru the primary process to nominate their strongest candidates for the November elections. November is Six months away but the contest is becoming hot.

Television and radio are the two preferred medias to reach the electorate. We are being inundated by sleek commercials costing millions of dollars. The candidates are spending their own money, their supporter’s money and their friend’s money as if it grows on trees. There is no such thing as ordinary elections. It is both art and a science. Nothing is left to chance. Commercials are prepared after a lengthy process of focus groups, pools, psychological impact, sociological studies and good old ‘makes me feel good’ assessments.

There have been lengthy debates between the contestants organized by independent groups. Free, vibrant and long debates on issues are standard. There is a media watch group checking all the facts thrown by the candidates. A small mistake can be their undoing, so they are very careful before they open their mouth. They avoid what is known as ‘foot in the mouth disease’. Supporters organize town hall meetings, neighborhood functions and public rallies to introduce their candidate. Fans put signs on their front lawn, windows, cars and every conceivable open space to advertise their preferences. They set up phone banks to call every voter, prepare mailers, use their email accounts and move heaven and earth to reach every last voter.

There is no such thing as government imposed ‘Election code of conduct’ on the candidates, journalists or the party’s. The local Police, State Police and the Federal police (FBI) are not part of the equation. The State has not yet threatened the candidates regarding their positions on issues and the possibilities of being charged for their frank opinions. The Governor has not warned the party’s regarding any wild intentions of withdrawal from the election. No one has offered to come and observe the election. The candidates have not requested observers either.

The candidates know that the voter is sovereign. They are no attempt to belittle the citizen or intimidate an opponent. It is not acceptable behavior. One-person one vote is the rule. It is not always perfect but there is no organized attempt to steal, cheat or exclude.

The voting in our neighborhood is conducted in a small church around the corner from our house. They have a roll of names from DMV, check your name and hand you a ballot. Ethiopians that have arrived a matter of six years ago and that have acquired US citizenship can vote. The only requirement is citizenship and age.

It is election season in Ethiopia too. Citizens are voting for membership in the Federal Parliament. The Party with the highest number of winners will form the next government. That is well and good, but as they say the ‘devil is in the details’. There are a few issues we have to clarify in this Kafkaesque process of election in Ethiopia. Kafkaesque is an apt description of what is billed as election. Here I am using the term to mean ‘intentional distortion of reality, senseless disorienting, often menacing complexity and a sense of impending danger’ by the one party state.

To begin with there is the ‘National Election Board of Ethiopia’ (NEBE) appointed by the ruling party. The members of this government body owe their allegiance to the party. Please see PM Meles’s interview with Stephen Sackur’s regarding the election board. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pY2NNOYKM8M) Their survival depends on the whims of the Prime Minster and his TPLF party Politburo (it is an old Soviet term to mean Central Committee of the ruling mafia group). It is alive and well in Ethiopia. There is also an ‘Election Code of Conduct’ proposed as (‘”I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” kind) and a few ‘chosen’ ones signed the contract. The ‘code of conduct’ is an all-reaching agreement that controls the activities of the Party’s, the Media the Candidates and the air they breathe. It is entirely drawn by the ruling TPLF party and the TPLF appointed Judiciary is the final arbitrator of all issued raised. If the election is a football match this will be analogous to having the TPLF assign the referee, linesmen, the football rules and is in control of the stadium with its own security force.

There are over eighty political party’s registered by NEBE. All but less than five are organized by the ruling TPLF party. Most exist by name only to be activated on a need basis. They can field candidates recruited by the regime, accept state funds thru the ruling party and show up for make believe debates and official functions. They have assigned ‘leaders’ from their own ethnic group but TPLF cadres (mostly Tigrai) run the show from behind.

The fantasy created is so real that it puts real competition to shame. There are candidates but they cannot campaign, meetings are allowed but meeting venues are closed or owners of such places as hotel halls or parks are threatened by the state not to allow opposition activities. Candidates meetings with their constituents are discouraged by arresting and intimidating their supporters. Please read Dr. Negasso Gidada’s article (http://ethioforum.org/wp/archives/1451) Debates are held but since all parties are counted as real the opposition ends up with a fraction of the time. The opposition candidates have to be careful what they say in the heat of the debate since the Prime Minster have warned about the dangers of prosecution after the election.

The opposition cannot campaign in the Kilils due to fear of intimidation and the real danger of being beaten, jailed, and property like cars, video cameras damaged. Please see Dr. Merera’s report regarding his visit to Moyale (click here). The only exception seems to be in Tigrai due to the fact that the candidates were former members of the ruling party and seem to have clout in the military. It is ‘check mate’ situation in Tigrai. The rest of the Kilils are like the American ‘wild west’ where might is right.

Television and radio are the sole property of the TPLF party. The opposition is given the two minutes during debates that are also delayed for ‘editing’ purpose while the ruling party is allowed twenty-three hours and fifty minutes. The independent ‘print media’ has been decimated thus it does not play any significant role while make believe ‘independent’ newspapers are a few but loud.

Supporters of the opposition Party cannot campaign door to door, neither holds meetings in their own houses nor put up placards on their cars or front door. It will surely invite catastrophe and this fact is clear to all. The mere attempt of wearing T-shirts with the opposition name and picture is a criminal offense. The law to watch out regarding meetings is the new ‘terrorist’ law passed after the last election. Please see Human Rights Watch analysis of the law here.

Election observers are members of the TPLF party and its junior affiliates. Foreign observers are a few in number and rendered ineffective by the ‘code of conduct’ that specifies no video, no picture and no interview in the pooling places. Ferenji philosophy is ‘I will not tell unless you complain’.

Suffice to say that the only thing the two elections have in common is the word ‘election’. In California the citizen is free to make his choice without undue pressure from anyone. In California the chances of electing the most capable person for the position is statistically high. In California the candidates have utilized every available media to let the citizen know their stand on issues. In California the Kilil and the Federal government have taken ‘hands off’ attitude and recognized the right of the citizen to make a decision based on his own conscience. In California the ‘candidates’ are not threatened with harm, their family and friends intimidated or stay up all night gripped with fear of what tomorrow might bring.

In Ethiopia the election is over before it started. For the opposition it is what is called as ‘fait accompli’ situation. That means it is over before you know what happened and it is not reverse able. As the sun will rise up from the East tomorrow morning TPLF (EPDRF) will have a majority in parliament, Ato Meles will be elected Prime Minister and more than ten million Ethiopians will wake up hungry with no prospects for a good lunch the day after the ‘democratic election’.

In this election over half of the country is closed to the opposition. There have been three reported incidents of candidates being murdered the last two months. The one Party State has been known to use lethal force on its citizens. It is a clear warning of what is to come. There are not enough brave souls that are foolish enough to tempt fate and stand for elections. In the Democratic Republic of Ethiopia the Chairman of the strongest opposition party is jailed on trumped up charges (Chairman Bertukan Mideksa). The logo of the opposition is awarded to an affiliate of the ruling party (CUDP logo to EDP). The name of the opposition party is handed to ‘hand picked’ leader (CUD to Ato Ayele Chamiso). Even the Chairman of an opposition party is removed from his position and a new one replaced by the NEBE (Dr. Merera and ONC). In Ethiopia the chances of electing the most capable person is nil, zero none.

Please note this not due the Ethiopian people being stupid and incapable. It is due to a lack of good governance. Election 2005 marks a watershed in our country’s history. It showed us that our people embrace the concept of good competition and fair election. The road to the elections were the most exiting, hopeful and a rebirth of the good old Ethiopian ‘free and proud’ mindset. The atmosphere was ripe with anticipation and people were filled with purpose and unity. That Ethiopian sense of ‘not trusting’ was hovering in the background but we choose to believe that a positive outcome was possible. What can I say the Nation was drunk with hope?

The ruling party sent all kinds of signals to show that it hasn’t changed. A few candidates were murdered and some beaten. We knew it was part of the ‘weaning process’ of a Party that was used to violence. You just can’t expect them to quit cold turkey. The PM raised the specter of ‘interhawme’. Alarms were raised and dismissed. Another hiccups we thought. The May rally at Meskel Square was our epiphany. At last we knew that we are good people that can unite for a great purpose. Please read Ato Debebe Eshetu’s article on Awramba Times. Meskel Square showed that under the right conditions we are capable of rising above religion, ethnic affiliation and social class.

We come to the most important question now. Why participate in such a farce? The real answer is, it does not really matter much. Why discuss something that is insignificant in the great scheme of life. What is true is that a democratic election is a process of building a successful, growing and peaceful society. Those countries that hold democratic and free elections have a stable, peaceful and healthy society. Those that deny the basic right of their people suffer from civil war, insurrection and a miserable population always on the verge of catastrophe.

The Ethiopian election is not democratic. The Ethiopian Nation the TPLF leaders have built for the last eighteen years has not borne any fruit. It has only exacerbated the problems they inherited from the failed Junta dictatorship. The TPLF philosophy is not capable of growing the economy, creating real peace and having a happy, healthy and content population. The economic system of favoring an ethnic group to lord it over all others does not work. The idea of a single ruling party and ethnic group monopolizing both the military, and the business sector does not work. The concept of power emanating from above and treating the population as serfs does not work.

Thus electing some members from Medrek, some from AEUO, EDP and others is not a game changer. The problem is not the number of party’s. The system itself is the problem. With the Ethiopian system the question is not a matter of fine-tuning it. It is a complete overhaul that is called for. Party’s can go ahead participate to their hearts content, but remember other than creating employment for a few more individuals it is not going to make an iota of difference. And arguing whether to participate or not at this eleventh hour is only to create a distraction from the shameless act that is to follow. Just do not expect us to cry when you scream foul because Meles cheated or your behind is hauled to Kaliti for further schooling on the true nature of a dictatorial one party state. We promise not to say ‘we told you so!’ Furthermore, this business of bitching because you are not offered a solution is very lame. If someone tells you jumping from a cliff will kill you it doesn’t mean that not jumping will help you solve your problem. Telling you not to jump gives you another chance to contemplate, and to find a lasting solution that will prevent you from entertaining this crazy idea of trying to solve a fundamental problem by ending your life.

The missing 8.6 million Ethiopians, where art thou?

Friday, November 20th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

I couldn’t sleep all night. I kept turning and tossing to no avail. What was bothering me was what I heard on VOA yesterday afternoon. VOA is Voice of America for those of you not in the know. I found out I can listen to VOA on my smart phone and things haven’t been the same. My phone has become my best friend. I can surf the web, send email, watch You Tube, shoot a video, listen to the radio and oh yes talk too. My phone has become indispensable. Back to my story.

Dispersed among the many important stories of the day I heard the announcer discussing food, rather the lack of food in East Africa. Looks like the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) was passing out the plate to collect donations to feed poor Africans and the pledge from the Europeans fell short and the director and African delegates were crying about the indifference of the rich countries. This is what you call aggressive begging. It takes balls to sit on such virgin land and blame others for your own stupidity so I didn’t pay that much attention to the story.

What came next was what piqued my interest. UNFPA (UN population fund) was discussing the state of human population growth. According to them there are eighty-two and half million Ethiopians. Plenty of us if you ask me. On the other hand the Ethiopian government count shows seventy-three point nine million Ethiopians. Quiet a discrepancy wouldn’t you say. We are talking about eight point six million Abeshas an accounted for. Now you know why I couldn’t sleep.

I don’t mind if we are missing a few thousand of us. You know how African borders are. It is possible the day or week of the count some have ventured far following rich grazing grounds or even gone to the market in a neighboring country. It is also possible so many are escaping and temporarily situated in Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea or Djibouti. I doubt if they will stop for the census bureau to be counted. Believe me eight point six million is not a small number. For crying out loud it is larger than a whole bunch of countries entire population.

Staying up all night has its rewards. As the sun was rising over the rolling hills of East bay, the birds chirping signaling a new day the answer came to me, we Ethiopians have a problem with numbers! We just don’t know how to count. That is not idle talk my friend, I got proof.

Let us just start with famine. According to the UN, US Aid, Oxfam and other professionals who do this sort of stuff for a living there are over ten million Ethiopians in need of food. According to the Meles regime the number is less than four million. It sort of bizarre to haggle over the number of your own people condemned to die of hunger but that is what has become of our country. Why this obsession with numbers you might ask. It is because the TPLF regime is always interested in the degrees of suffering of our people.

They start with the great famine of 1973 and compare that with the famine of 1983 and arrive at the startling conclusion that says less are dying thus we are doing better. With TPLF the question is not how to avoid famine but how to manage famine. Thus they spend time, energy and try our patience playing with numbers.

How about the much heralded 12% growth. Again it is a number TPLF throws with abandon gets quoted by Reuter or Bloomberg ergo it becomes a fact. The question is does reality on the ground jive with fantasy in the collective brain of TPLF cadres? I am afraid not. Putting up some concrete structures using Diaspora money, paving roads with IMF and Chinese loans is not an example of sustainable growth. It is just feel good economics or voodoo economics. The numbers are repeated again and again purposely to etch them in our mind.

Even the so-called Federal budget is not immune to this number challenge we face. After the 2005 elections the TPLF regime was printing money as if it was going out of style. The money was used to bribe the different EPDRF minions and buy their temporary loyalty. When the Federal Audit Report showed the truth about the minority regimes borrowing of billions of Bir the Prime Minster was not amused. Our fearless leader called the report a ‘junior accountants error’ and rejected the findings. His handpicked teams of investigators were able to shift a few zeros and bring the report in line with his wishes.

The mother of all ‘number challenged’ problems was the 2005 general elections. It was a situation where electorate and the ballot were in complete and total dis-harmony. It took more than six months of the best TPLF cadre’s brain to reconcile what really happened with what was supposed to happen. Even our favorite Woyane Bereket Semeon’s Wollo constituency was in disarray. The second balloting ordered by TPLF showed more people than what turned out to vote during the first free and euphoric election. Go figure that out!

Numbers and facts came to clash during the recent ‘Tekeze dam’ inaugaration. The prime Minster was proud and precise when he said Tekeze was built by “berasachin genzeb” Again does this jive with reality or does it leave many un answered questions. According to some knowledgeable sources ‘The Tekeze Dam Project financing is by China National Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Company (CWHEC), 49pc, and China Gezhouba Water and Power (group) Ltd, 30pc, and Sur Construction, subsidiary company of EFFORT, 21pc. (TPLF) So what is it? Does it belong to us or the bond holders? Is this a new formula of financing? Questions, questions.

I will leave you with one number problem we encountered a while back as told by our own Tamagne Beyene. He tells it a whole lot better but I will do my best. The TPLF radio, yes they used to have a radio station during their armed struggle for the liberation of Tigrai, in its reports of their heroism was throwing increasable numbers regarding the number of Derg solders they have killed. Unfortunately when the numbers were added up at the end of the day they showed that they have killed more solders than all the Derg military combined.

The question for us is shall we get out of this numbers business? Shall we bring in outsiders to do any and all counting business in our country? Can Ethiopians be trusted with numbers or is it a localized TPLF problem? No matter it still leaves us with eight point six million Ethiopians out there with no one to claim them. Misplacing that many Abeshas is nothing to sniff at, I want my people accounted for.

Aboy Sebhat speaks to VOA

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

I am sure you have all heard that Ato Sebhat Nega aka Aboy Sebhat, the Prime Minster’s mentor and a very high official of the ruling TPLF party was a guest on Voice of America. I was very glad. We are always happy when TPLF officials submit to unrehearsed interviews. It seems that it is the only way we get to know them close and personal. I fondly remember Ato Meles’s appearance on Hard Talk with Stephen Sakur in 2005 and Zenib Badawi in 2009. Ato Sebat’s interview is another gem to be savored.

Ato Sebhat was interviewed by Ato Addisu Abebe of VOA Amharic program. Ato Addisu is a consummate professional. He did his job very well. He was not there to prove Ato Sebhat right or wrong. He knows it is up to the listener to make that determination. Like a language surgeon he is, with his soothing voice he lulled his subject into an incredible comfort zone. Then it was a matter of pealing the public fake persona TPLF have constructed for him. Ato Addisu was able to draw Aboy Sebhat out of his skin and reveal the inner self. It was not a pleasant sight. The Sebhat Nega we saw is a very embarrassing figure. Full of hatred, suffering from an inferiority complex, very angry and a pathological liar are the descriptions that come to mind.

I do hope that Aboy Sebhat took some lessons from his experience with VOA. Although his party controls all media outlets and does not allow the airing of ideas different than the ruling party’s here in America it is the responsibility of the press to present different views and let the public be the judge. It has served them very well for over two hundred years. We hope Aboy Sebhat’s outfit Ethiopian Radio and TV will invite leaders of the real opposition and have them explain their vision for their country. The opposition is more than happy to comply.

This was a two-part interview. In this short piece I will concentrate on a few of the ill conceived ideas he was trying to disseminate. I knew it was going to be interesting when I heard his title in the introduction. He is a member of the Ethiopian Parliament, I guess from Tigrai (one never knows since Ato Berket represents Wollo) and President of International Center for Peace and Development. There is no one opposed to peace and development, but this one in Addis it is nothing but. The truth is it is Orwellian double speak at its best. The Center is one of those TPLF created outfits to swindle cash from European Union and Western aid agencies. Ato Sebhat and his organization have never known peace nor developed any enterprise using legal means. As for being elected, I am sure he garnered 99.9 percent of the vote and he did not even have to campaign for it.

He started the interview with a bold lie. There was no need to lie. He can’t help it. His quick motor response is to lie at a drop of a hat. There was no stopping him after that. Blinded by his hatred, emboldened by his false sense of self worth Sebhat Nega was swimming in a cesspool of lies, falsehood and ignorance. We wouldn’t give a damn what he have to say if it wasn’t for his influence and advice to that other powerful person sitting in Arat Kilo with a loaded gun in his hands aimed at our country.

To start him off Ato Addisu thanked his guest for accepting the invitation and out of curiosity asked him regarding TPLF’s policy of not granting interview to VOA’s Amharic programming. That they do not is an established fact. The question was simply what the reason is for such a policy. His response was outright denial of the existence of such a decision.

Could this be true? There is one Nation wide radio station in Ethiopia, Radio TPLF. By all accounts VOA and Deutche Welle are the two most listened to independent news services favored by the population. The minority based government views unfiltered news as a threat. Thus on numerous occasions it has officially complained to both the US and German government regarding the radio stations. The TPLF regime has invested millions of dollars in purchasing radio signal jamming devices from Chinese and East Europeans to silence independent voices.

Is Ato Sebhat’s claim of the Politburo not discussing VOA and formulating different policies credible? To top if off he said he personally does not listen to VOA! When you consider that the Prime Minter himself anonymously participates in Radio call in shows isn’t this assertion a little difficult to swallow? So he claims that he personally does not listen to VOA and since he came to the US he has been told that ‘VOA lacks objectivity, that it is not balanced and it is in the camp of the opposition’. The word he choose to translate the word ‘camp’ into Amharic is very revealing. He said ‘yetequamiwoch Beret’. As far as I know ‘Beret’ is where we keep animals. Enclosed so they do not escape, watched by guards and dogs so wild animals do not harm them. Is that how he views his fellow Ethiopians. Which of these two are we? The domesticated animals fattened for labor or dinner? Or the stupid and gullible sheep and cows and have to be watched by TPLF cadres from undue influence? A curious choice of words but it speaks a lot about the mindset of the individual and his friends.

The crazy part of this farce is that he is telling all this to Ato Addisu Abebe, a VOA correspondent and victim of TPLF injustice. You see Ato Sebhat’s government charged Ato Addisu and twenty-one Ethiopian journalists with ‘involvement in an attempt to overthrow the government’ in the aftermath of the famous 2005 elections. Ato Addisu is lucky. He has the US government behind him. The Ethiopian journalists suffered a lot. They all lost their livelihood. Some are still in prison. Some were jailed for over two years and their license revoked. A few were hounded out of the country. Many were scared for life. Our country lost its brave and brightest sons and daughters. Ato Sebhat as member of the Politburo is personally responsible and will be asked to account for his actions. Whether this will happen or not is not relevant. He is responsible in the eyes of the Ethiopian people.

The next discussion was about EFFORT (endowments fund for the rehabilitation of Tigrai). The eight hundred-pound gorilla. Ato Sebhat’s claim is that it is the premier corporation in Ethiopia both in asset and reach. After confirming that it is audited both internally and by external government agencies he feigned memory loss when asked to disclose the capital of the multi national in numbers. What he said was ‘it is not important’. It was very curious answer for a person who has been the CEO and President of the company. A company without a balance sheet and net worth unknown to the CEO can only happen in TPLF fairyland.

What was absolutely laughable is the claim that TPLF brought the capital from outside to establish the company in Ethiopia. That is insulting the intelligence of eighty million people. For the life of me I do not remember our Tigrai cousins being known for their special skills in being traders and merchants in our Ethiopia. Here we are in 2009 and the most visible conglomerate is EFFORT and the richest and smartest merchants are our Tigrai cousins. Wonder never ceases. Keep talking Aboy Sebhat.

The next line of questioning has two threads and it is full of the most bewildering mish mash of ideas put together in a very haphazard manner. The first one consists of TPLF’s philosophy of what he refers to as ‘bourgeois revolution’, followed by the party’s view of our country Ethiopia.

Ato Sebhat’s attempt to describe the theory of ‘bourgeois democracy’, ‘revolutionary democracy’, ‘emerging democracy’ or ‘developmental state’ (depending on the mood) the society his party is trying to build in Ethiopia completely went over my head. His claim is that TPLF masquerading as EPDRF is accelerating the growth of capitalism in Ethiopia and will wither away on its own is a very lame interpretation of the Marxist idea of the ‘withering away of the state’ as the final stage of capitalist development. Suffice to say that it is proven to be a fairy tale. So, at a certain point in time EPDRF will hand power to the new classes and disappear. That is what he said and he is sticking by it. He did not elaborate when this is projected to happen or who these new classes are. Why there still are classes upon the withering away of the state is left open. May be the theory is in a developmental state. Let us just say it is not well thought of.

The second thread is where Abboy Sebhat’s version of Ethiopia is defined. When he started the journey to liberate Ethiopia this is where he began. His assertions are very troubling. In computer speak there is something they call GIGO. It stands for garbage in garbage out. A ‘computer will unquestioningly process the most nonsensical of input data and produce nonsensical output.’ The same with leaders saddled with faulty, incomplete, or imprecise and utterly wrong data they come up with wrong and imperfect solutions that cause harm and agony to their people.

His claim that we stayed enclosed in our own regions isolated from each other is utterly false. His assertion that we have been fighting each other for hundred years and lived with our hands in each other’s throat is both ugly and abhorrent. His very violent statement that we do not know each other uttered in such forceful manner is very alarming. He repeated ‘Anetwawekem! Antewawekem!’ twice. It made me very sad. It is far from the truth. It is not the Ethiopia I know and I am a typical Ethiopian.

How he is able to hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time is bewildering. He said that he embarked on the struggle to get rid of national oppression. Well and good. But the solution he came up with is very strange to describe it mildly. In order to foster equality they decided to divide the country into Kilils. Everybody was ordered to get an identity card with his/her ethnicity registered by the authorities and was encouraged and forced to go settle in his own enclave. Those with mixed ethnic identity were forced to pick one. I am sure this did not pose a problem in Adwa, but in the rest of Ethiopia many people were put in absolute quandary. How being strangers to each other was going to foster one people one country is not clear. This was a sad moment in our history

So the theory goes the TPLF as an advanced and vanguard party under the tutelage of Meles Zenawi, Sebhat Nega, Azeb Mesfin, Seyoum Mesfin, Arkebe Uqbai and their immediate families will preside on this lofty Nation building endeavor. The Military and security forces with Woyane Generals and high-ranking officers will work in bringing the Oromos, Amharas, Sidamos, Wolamos, Anuaks and other assorted Nationalities to a newer level of preparedness to build the new emerging Ethiopia.

One can see the common thread in this new philosophy of Nation building process. Our Tigrai masters seem to be the center of the Ethiopian universe with wealth and power emanating out until it engulfs the whole society. Le Ras Sekorsu Ayasnasu comes to mind. What do I think? I think Komatan Komata kalalut Gebeche Lefetfit Yelal is most approperate. I believe for so long no one have bothered to tell Aboy Sebat ‘with all due respect sir, you are full of crap!’ I know it is not grown up, but it serves the purpose. I could put it delicately in a more civilized way. But what is the point?

To come up with such preposterous idea it is possible Ato Sebhat’s Adwa was different. That must be the glass he is using to see Ethiopia. But he lived in Addis while going to Haile Sellasie I University. Did he not see how the others lived together? Wasn’t the cry ‘land to the tiller’ by the privileged University students of the time? Surely the students were not fighting for a plot of land. How about during the fight against the Derg? We are told that the TPLF army was composed of all Ethiopians. Weren’t Addisu, Kuma, Tefera, Aba Dula in the TPLF military or did they have their own regiment? Did they fight for the freedom of all Ethiopians or freedom for their ethnic group?

During the process of Nation building animosity does arise between people. Solving such problems and emerging stronger is a difficult task. Some countries are blessed by visionary leaders that harness the positive power of their people and lay a strong and unshakeable foundation. Some are cursed by the likes of the Rwandan Hutu leaders, Milosevic of Yugoslavia and Stalin in Armenia. They bring war and destruction on their people. They go away but they leave animosity and mistrust behind. It takes a long time to undo the damage they cause. In the mean time the rest of humanity marches forward. Evil has to be stopped at its inception before it takes roots. Silent people allow evil to flourish.

Lots of things were said by Aboy Sebhat. The assertion that there were no national Organizations that fought the Derg is not correct. Without going far both EDU and EPRP were National based and stood for the unity of our country. Both were violently attacked by TPLF. Both were expelled out of Tigrai by TPLF. The EDU leader His Excellency Prince Ras Mengesha Seyoum was warned regarding an official trip to his beloved Tigrai. His presence in Tigrai was a threat to the mighty TPLF. The existence of EPRP was denied. When he said that TPLF was ‘overjoyed’ when they found the existence of Ato Kifle Wodgajo’s party in the USA it was nothing short of wonder about the capacity of Aboy Sebhat’s brain to have woven such a tapestry with imaginary yarn of silk. Listen to it and you be the judge my friends in the Diaspora. You can go to VOA website and listen to it from the archives. Unfortunately our people in Ethiopia cannot do that. There is no electricity; when Internet service is available it is a slow crawling modem with all the independent Ethiopian websites blocked. That in a nutshell is the Ethiopia TPLF is building deaf, blind and ignorant.

Resources used in this article:

http://www.ifex.org/ethiopia/2005/12/22/journalists_face_antistate_charges/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/hardtalk/4649373.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/hardtalk/7991478.stm

http://www.cpj.org./

http://www.ethiopianreview.com/content/10029