By Yilma Bekele
My friend came from out of town for a visit. I took him around to all the tourist places, including our local Museum of Modern Art. Lucky for us there was a Picasso exhibit the critics were raving about. It was a delight to view Picasso’s work in living color.
I was transfixed by the painting ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ or the chicks from d’ Avignon. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chicks-from-avignon.jpg)
Even though Picasso denied it, this work shows a strong resemblance to African art. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is the maestro at his best. By some it is considered his most daring and outrageous work. The use of bold colors and brash diagonal lines makes the painting full of activity and perpetual motion. Pablo Picasso was a genius. Looking at Les Demoiselles d’Avignon one is left with the impression that Picasso was developing a new means of artistic expression. He is considered a maestro or ‘king of his craft.’
Then it came to me. I know some one that fits the description. It is no other than our dear leader for life Meles Zenawi. Picasso used his god given talent to bring joy to humanity while Meles uses his devil inspired negatively charged machinations to create chaos, mistrust and uncertainty to his subjects. The maestro our very own ‘prince of darkness.’
It was a sad realization but nevertheless a realization that will at eat my heart for the next two weeks. No matter how hard I tried to push it out of my head, it wouldn’t go away. I have to admit it was an apt comparison. There was no escaping from the fact that we are witnessing the scientific evolution of the ‘art of terror’ and our very own Meles Zenawi is achieving the rank of maestro in his chosen field. OK I concede, we can qualify it by creating a new classification of ‘mal maestro’. It must be a proud moment for his friends and family. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some just cheat, lie, push, shove, and kill just to make it. We have a winner amongst us.
Bestowing the title of maestro on our ‘Dear leader’ might be offensive to some. But ladies and gentlemen, if you will forgive me, I don’t see anything wrong in giving credit where credit is due. The tightly choreographed play that passed for a democratic and free election is worthy of mention in any history book. Mal maestro sounds like a perfect title to me. Our friend Picasso introduced the African sense of unrestricted vibrant wild energy into the ‘Cubist’ style of the time. Last weekend humanity watched in living color the modern drama of unabashed robbery as witnessed by distinguished guests from Europe and Africa. The opposition candidates were led to the sacrificial pooling booth accompanied by neatly dressed and well-fed toy solders adorned in their best-imported uniforms.
Just to add a little bit of drama our mal maestro erected video cameras in every major corners to watch, record and intimidate while a low flying helicopter supposedly equipped with video camera and automatic weapons was thrown in for special effect. The 2010 fourth general election in Ethiopia is another milestone in our history that will be judged as the best work of mal maestro Meles Zenawi by generations to come.
It took five years of preparation to put paint to canvas, and come up with such glorious achievement of 99.6% purity. Many have tried it but none have achieved such pure nirvana. Sudan’s Al Bashir was awe stricken, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe was flabbergasted, Mymar’s nameless Generals demanded the blueprint, and the Chinese Communist Party was humbled. Iran’s Ahmadinejad called a cabinet meeting upon hearing such colossal achievement, and Kyrgyzstan’s petty tyrant is said to have wept openly from his hiding place in Belarus. Solomon Tekaligne is right ‘the eye browed’ one is one cool hombre.
Watching the mal maestro at work is a delight. Professionals make a difficult task look so easy. The election drama was played out to a mesmerized audience with such passion that it left the feeble opposition dumbstruck and shell-shocked. Mal maestro Meles displayed such bold moves as TV debates in undisclosed location to be edited and broadcasted at a later time. His use of vibrant colors full of energy was evident in his ‘warning’ of contestants that they will be held liable for their negative uttering regarding his policy. The only location they could campaign without being taunted, beaten or abused was thousands of miles away in North America among non-voting supporters. Even there, they were reminded of the penalty of ‘mis- speaking’ that will await them. They were forced to relearn the art of speaking without saying anything of value. The fact that the opposition sacrificed a few die-hards was compared to the 2005 election and declared an improvement.
Our mal maestro was so sure of success that he organized a victory celebration before the ballots were in. The neat beautiful tri-color posters were printed months back, the participants paid ahead and the beautiful dais at Meskel Square lit with special lighting. The bulletproof vest was adorned with a casual jacket, the baseball hat was lined with silk and the big Israeli gun was brought out openly to make a bold statement of ‘don’t thread on me.’ The picture of the little dictator behind the bulletproof glass in front of his adoring fans was a symbol of our insanity taken to a higher level.
Mal maestro Meles is not faint hearted. That is his undoing. Why pussyfoot around when you can overwhelm and relieve the peasants of their misery is his motto. He is daring but lacks wisdom. Crude is the word I am looking for. He is void of ingenuity, creativity and nuance. A wise person searches a clever way out of an unpleasant situation. Our mal maestro is not blessed with subtlety. By any standards a blunt force such as 99.6% is the least elegant solution. It is like calling upon the US Air Force to settle a bar room brawl.
What did his subjects do, you might ask? I will try to answer that delicately. For a people who have been trampled upon for the last thirty years, we have developed a very fragile ego. Who would blame us if we turn around and fault ourselves? Victim blaming certainly did not start with us. Didn’t the Europeans blame Africans for the slave trade? Didn’t Hitler blame the Jews for his atrocities? Didn’t Meles blame Kinijit for planning Interhamwe? Well it is no surprise that some are blaming the opposition for losing.
Please tell me something new. Isn’t self-flagellation our national past time? No one can surpass Ethiopians in that field. We leave our homeland empty handed, we settle in strange places, we build a life, we raise a family and we still bad mouth each other. Do you notice that we live together in humongous apartment complexes, eat Tibs and Kitfo in our own restaurants, buy insurance from our cousins but without pause, we talk about the uselessness of Abeshas. Why stop there while you are at it why not blame the University massacre, the war with Eritrea, the genocide in Hawasa, Ogaden and Gambella the over 40% unemployment, the debacle of Gibe Dam and other mal maestros misdeeds on the opposition. Hey why not include the lack of rain in the mix. That should show everybody the only smart choice is the gang from Adwa.
So how did we deal with our current debacle? I am afraid I have nothing positive to report. We have decided to direct the rage on each other. Our programming was so complete we were ready to accept any crumbs thrown by the mal maestro. The contestants openly admitted the impossibility of wining. The issue was presented how much less was acceptable. Talks about low expectations, our gallant parties were reduced to dampening the enthusiasm of some of their hotheaded supporters that took the fake election to heart.
Where do we go from here? Do we go back to old habit of passing the blame around, knocking each other down and hiding our head under the sand or try something new for a change. Something like looking at the glass half full rather than half empty. Do we dare building on what we have instead of raising the bar so high and setting ourselves for another failure?
I am an optimist. I see the glass half full. I believe the mal maestro due to arrogance of power or the freelance nature of his well-trained zombie cadres committed a slight error. 99.6% was not the intention. But you can’t undue what is already done. He has made it difficult to his foreign benefactors to turn the usual blind eye. So they will complain a little, wring their hands a little and advise his victims to be a little patient. Some of us have already started to crow about the few isolated statements foreign office junior officials regarding the lack of ‘level playing field’ yadi yada. We seem to revelle when the Ferenjis tell us how brutal the mal maestro is. Ferenjis enable the victimizer then tell us how painful it is.
Now the ball is in our court so to say. It is about time somebody shows they got tooth too, that we can and we will bite back. We want our own ‘shock and awe’ moment. The time for talk is over. Baby steps are not the solution. Condemnations, outrage, anger are so yesterday. Today should be ‘look mom I can stand up with no support’ display moment. It is to show the world we are not dead, that we are capable of sacrifice and when we set our minds to the task we can do it! The issue is not how strong the enemy is but how committed we are for freedom. It is about hitting him in his most vulnerable spots and creating uncertainty and doubt. His benefactors will abandon him the first whiff of trouble. Our people will rally around the first inkling of trouble brewing. We ask someone to step forward and do the maestro a favor. He is tired, let us relieve him of such a heavy burden of bullying eighty million souls and let him get his deserved rest in a four by six room at Kaliti. We will include weight watchers manual in case of a few kilos from such comfort.