Features of a fully blown tyranny before its demise

By Kiflu Hussain

“There are no good dictators. But some are better than others. The best dictators permit freedom of expression, rule of law and economic growth, creating a democratic minded middle class that eventually pushes them aside. The worst dictators, by contrast, grind down civil society, breeding poverty and sectarian hatred and pulverizing all the institutions from which liberalism might grow. The worst dictators eventually leave too, but when they do, all hell breaks loose.”

So said one called Peter Beinart on 6 August 2007 in a piece he wrote to Time Magazine under the title “How to deal with dictators.” At the time, he was outlining his ideas for the US administration on what is the best course to deal with one of Washington’s friendliest dictator, Pervez Musharraf, by drawing historical parallels between South Korea which evolved from a benevolent dictatorship into a democracy and Iraq which degenerated from a fully blown dictatorship into a killing field for sectarian violence to the point of abdicating its sovereignty to a superpower. After having read the writings on the wall, Musharraf, as we know it today, has left from the political landscape of Pakistan gracefully thereby prompting the ever prolific pen of Prof. Alemayehu G.Mariam to wonder as to whether dictators somehow become statesmen; also whether Musharraf had been a closet statesman all these years? (Read “Gotta know when to fold’em” 25 August 2008)

In Africa too, we have seen these kinds of dictators who got transformed from a military dictatorship into a statesmanship ranging from Lt. Jerry Rawlings of Ghana to General Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria. Others currently in power in most African nations too, manifest this positive signs of transforming themselves into statesmanship whenever their respective country requires it. They show the wisdom on how to blow with the wind of governance by consent. That’s why right after the Kenyan election debacle, the incumbent led by Mwai Kibaki got back to its senses and sat down with the opposition to form the coalition government for the good of Kenya. Even that octogenarian dictator of Zimbabwe who has been the object of unabashed vilification by the western media didn’t mess that much with the independence of the judiciary, nor the press.

On the contrary, where so-called judges and prosecutors in Ethiopia take blind orders from Meles Zenawi, Judges in Harare grant bail and also turn in a not guilty verdict for the adversaries of the Mugabe government. While you see gruesome pictures of Zimbabwean victims of “cholera” on CNN, you’ll be told in a hushed tone by a BBC Correspondent in Addis that the Ethiopian government/regime in my lexicon/prevented them from taking pictures and the matter rests at that.

In Uganda, where this writer has taken refuge since 2007, people complain vociferously that their president is a dictator.Indeed, according to my observation; he has the inclinations of a dictator. Unlike Ethiopia, though, let alone Ugandans, I the refugee suffer no consequence for saying so. People in Kampala get away everyday with obnoxious expressions on the numerous FM Stations and TV channels on any topic. Of course, abuses take place but not with impunity.And, when they do, those behind them will be made answerable for it.Recently, for instance, Human Rights Watch grilled the Ugandan government for the disappearance and torture of a couple guys in a secret detention centre run by the army. The American lady who did the research presented her findings right here in Kampala. Later, she was put on a talk show on FM and TV with the army spokesperson. The spokesperson, Major Felix Kulaigye was humble when defending the position of his government. I can go citing incidents like this from the Ugandan political landscape. The bottom line is; can any Ethiopian imagine such a scenario under the regime of Meles Zenawi?

The bare fact is, the Ethiopian regime even by African standards, is a relic of history belonging to barbarism. Being barbaric with zero tolerance for dialogue, rule of law or any civility, it views the whole world through its archaic lens.Thus,because of some exchange of diplomatic niceties between Meles Zenawi and Yoweri Museveni,TPLF’s lieutenants such as Girma T/sion here in Kampala expect their counterparts to hand them over some Ethiopian exiles. Little did their dense ‘intelligence’ allow them to understand how strong the political will in Uganda is when it comes to respecting human rights, including the sacred rights of refugees. Just because their bribery worked in the highly corrupted Kenyan society, they think they can do the same with Ugandan officials.However, it’s not the first time, nor would it be the last for Meles Zenawi’s regime to behave in this sort of asinine manner. During the height of its incursion in Somalia where it received a humiliating defeat, Aljazeera exposed the brutality committed by Zenawi’s henchmen on Somali civilians. Unable to stifle Aljazeera by invoking its partnership in the fight against terrorism to the White House so that it bears upon the Kuwaiti sheikdom, it broke diplomatic relationship with the Kuwaiti government with a manifestation of egregious infantile politics.

And, now accompanied by his new found lackey, Bereket Simon reportedly went to the United States to request for the umpteenth time so that VOA Amharic service is taken off the air. Probably too, to ask for the extradition of that “terrorist”Dr.Berhanu Nega.”All these farcical and frantic effort to stifle dissent not only reminds you of that age old saying “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It also shows you how a fully blown dictatorship inching by the day towards its demise becomes so out of touch with reality. Due to the highest level of intoxication that the Meles-Bereket clique suffers from controlling and undermining everything in Ethiopia ranging from SMS to the airwaves, they think it easy to do the same with Aljazeera and VOA. Because,they managed to bribe some Kenyan officials for the abduction of Ethiopian exiles or because of their previous success with Sudan and Djibouti in having Ethiopian asylum seekers extradited in a scratch-my-back-I-will-scratch-yours understanding of barbaric regimes, they assume that this is how things are done in international relations.Well,I’ve news for them. Uganda is different with many strong institutions notable among them is the judiciary. The police and the army too is not a force that panders to the whim of officials like its counterpart in Ethiopia.

Therefore, TPLF’s current effort to paint Ginbot 7 as a terrorist group thereby attempting to link Ethiopian exiles in Uganda with terrorism is in vain. Ugandans are too informed to be tricked by this sort of deviousness. They know very well to what extent the Meles-Bereket clique have narrowed the political space in Ethiopia and that no recourse is left to a people under such a tyranny except rebellion as laid down in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights/UDHR/.Encouraged by their understanding, we on our part tell to our Ugandan friends in the intelligence service to take any bribe offered to them by Zenawi’s agents here in Kampala.Though, it’s sad that the Meles-Bereket clique squanders the country’s meager resource in this way too, we should be consoled that our African brothers and sisters would benefit something, even if it’s not anything like the hefty payment made to the already rich American lobbyist DLA Piper. As the Meles-Bereket clique is a company of fools that says history repeats itself instead of learning from history not to repeat the same folly, it’s proper to throw some platitudes before parting as platitudes are befitting to people who try to turn the clock back.