Our misplaced rage at the Lebanese

By Fekade Shewakena

The harrowing experience of Ethiopians on the doomed Ethiopian airliner in the Mediterranean Sea last week, and the racist ways in which grieving Ethiopians who were trying to know the fate of their fellow Ethiopians on the plane were treated in Lebanon, could have been used to raise important questions and start a more important discussion. Sadly, it is being deflected in a useless direction – complaint about racism, anger at the wrong parties and a cyber-war or words with the wrong culprit. Frankly, I find the self deceptiveness and empty bravado and hypocrisy of my fellow Ethiopians more maddening than the racism and degrading treatment of Ethiopians in Lebanon which we know exists in the region all along. It is good to be angry and not unreasonable at all. But it will be a foolish exercise if we don’t know where to direct our rage to. In my view, this anger has to be directed primarily at ourselves for letting this to happen to us. If we think that this experience is an isolated case then we have closed our eyes. What has gone so wrong with our generation, the sons and daughters of a proud people, who throughout the ages fought hard to keep their pride and dignity and never let anybody look down on them? What the damn went wrong with us!

As we often do in many cases, we are taking our eyes off the big picture, completely failing to raise and answer the most important questions that we need to ask ourselves about our country and ourselves as a people. How and why have we ended up being subjected to this kind of humiliation and racism and how are we going to end it? How is it that the beacon of hope and freedom of black people around the world ended up making an industry out of exporting their beautiful children to slave labor in the Middle East at the turn of a new century?

To those of you who seemed to be angry by the racist treatment of our fellow Ethiopians, I have some more questions for you. What were you expecting a bunch of maidservants who live and work much like medieval slaves were going to be treated like in a country where most people only know them as domestic slaves? Do we expect them to read our history before they buy their slaves and be forced to care that we Ethiopians are a proud and dignified people with a along and proud history of not allowing ourselves to be looked down upon by anybody? Was this the only incident and instance that Ethiopians have been treated in inhuman, degrading and racist ways around the Middle East? Have you asked why even our Airline, Ethiopian, the island of modernity in Ethiopia that we are all proud of for its world class service and record, and frankly, one that dwarfs most Middle East carriers in every respect, couldn’t dodge the racism. Have you seen how minutes after the accident and before any evidence was available, the transport minister of Lebanon and their journalists blamed the accident on the pilot. And mind you, this is a terrorist infested area and the first eye witnesses were saying the plane went down in flames. You see, after all, Ethiopian Airlines is owned and operated by a country and people that dump their beautiful children as slaves in their countries to work seven days a week in the most dehumanizing conditions. So, what in the world have we expected them to treat us like other than in indignity?

There are many more questions that any Ethiopian worthy of self respect should ask. How many times have you heard epidemic levels of Ethiopian suicides in the Middle East? How many of us have heard Ethiopian girls throwing themselves from the top floors of buildings to end their misery in these countries? Haven’t you heard that the Ethiopian embassies in these countries routinely tell our slave sisters to go to hell whenever they ask for help? How many times have we heard that boatloads of Ethiopians travelling from Bosaso in Somaliland sink in the Red Sea while attempting to reach the cost of the Arabian Peninsula where they were treated like animals? Have you wondered why hours after the first boat capsized with all Ethiopians on board others keep riding the next ramshackle boat taking a chance on their lives? Haven’t we seen pictures of Ethiopian women beaten, sometimes even burnt by their masters in this region? How often have we heard women thrown into jail, or their passports confiscated and thrown out on the streets for voulchers to play with them? Have we not heard that many are often denied their slave salaries by their masters and thrown out on streets? Have we not heard that many dead Ethiopians are simply buried in the sands and vanish like the wind? How many of us have heard Ethiopian maidservants calling the voice of America or Ethiopian community radio stations in the West to tell us harrowing stories of mistreatment and racism pleading with us for help? An Ethiopian airline crew member I met recently told me that it is not unusual to travel from the Middle East to Addis Ababa with many young Ethiopian girls who suffer from extreme forms of depression and trauma, some who lost their minds and behave strangely. Yes, there is some awful thing happening to us as a people and we seem to be lost. If there is anything strange in this particular case, it is our attempt to treat it as an isolated case, a self deception that borders on stupidity. Rather than blame ourselves for letting this happen to us we tend to project it elsewhere.

The first job of any government anywhere is to protect its citizens, so we hear in nearly all countries. In that case we have no government. We have allowed robber barons to rule over us. The anger should be directed at us for letting our country be run by a slave trading oligarchy – the government of Meles Zenawi that turned selling young Ethiopian girls in the Middle East into a huge industry. I hear that this slave trade is now becoming one of Meles Zenawi’s most important hard currency earning businesses in the country.

From time to time I meet some pigs who feed at Meles Zenawi’s trough. They tell me something I already know very well. They tell me the economy in Ethiopia is growing. Nobody is contesting that other than the inflated statistics cooked-up in Meles Zenawi’s office for propaganda purposes. This is not even a secret. I have heard it from people who work on analyzing and reporting the data. These pigs, like any pig, hardly understand the meaning of economic growth and development as it relates to social welfare and how to measure it and account for the source of the growth and who benefits out of it. If they see buildings and asphalted roads and bridges and a few people in Addis Ababa and elsewhere striking it rich overnight, that’s it- economy is growing. They seem to have very little clue that the TPLF is expected to do something for a living or that it is supposed to show us something in the form of growth for being one of the world’s most important destinations of billions of dollars of foreign aid in the world and the huge remittance from millions of Ethiopians abroad, including from the slave labor its sells to the Middle East and the massive number of children it sells for adoption? By the way, have you stood by at major terminals of Ethiopian Airlines? The most common scene is a parade of people carrying small Ethiopian children. I once saw an old Ethiopian woman crying profusely at the site of the little children at Dulles Airport in Virginia. These adopters say they pay a fortune to Mr. Zenawi’s government to get these children. Did you hear that the government of Australia saw the obscenity and was forced to stop it recently? Is this a proud thing to do for a people and a country which boasts “unheard of” economic growth?

The naming of the Abay Bridge by Meles Zenawi is an interesting illustration of how Meles himself and the pigs at his trough perceive economic growth and development. According to the local media reported at the time of the inauguration of the bridge, Meles Zenawi named the bridge “Hidasse dildiy” – meaning the “bridge of renaissance.” What makes this interesting is that the construction of the bridge was 100% funded by the Japanese government! Silu semta doro tanqa motech!

Whatever its source, what is economic growth or development anyway if it is not meant to improve the life of people? Why is it that our loss of pride and dignity and humiliation so positively correlated with this reported growth? I mean, how is it that the more the country grows economically, the more people live in humiliation and desperation, and the number of the poor increases exponentially? Who is getting rich any way? What the pigs and the TPLF officials don’t tell you is that the number of the absolute poor and the perennially aid dependent population more than tripled since TPLF arrived in Addis Ababa almost two decades ago? Beggary is no more a humiliating exercise in Ethiopia. It used to be. If you happen to meet any of these pigs, or any of the government officials who brag about economic growth in Ethiopia, ask them to show you what the country manufactures and sells to the world other than good old coffee and other agricultural products that we began exporting a century ago. Ask them how many extractive industries like mining are operating.

And lo and behold, a slavery of epic proportions is hovering at your door steps. If you are not redirecting the anger and rise up to make changes as any people worthy of dignity and respect must do now, wait until the Middle East tycoons begin operating the land Meles Zenawi is selling them at bargain prices now. If you think the current land grab in Ethiopia is traditional investment and not colonialism, just wait until your relatives begin working in the Egyptian, Arabian and Asian plantations. I am not sure if it will be too late by then. If you are angry that you are despised outside of your country, you will see what it looks like when they come home to take the land our fathers fought hard to leave for us. But when are we going to say enough is enough! Ehhhhhhhhhhh!

(The writer can be reached at [email protected])