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!’