By Yilma Bekele
Did you see what was coming out of North Korea this week? Someone referred to it as the ‘world’s largest display of uncontrollable grief.’ Kim Jung un ‘the Brilliant Comrade’ succeeded his father Kim Jung il ‘the Dear Leader’ who took over from his Grand Father the ‘Great Leader.’ The Korean people are celebrating sixty years under the stewardship of the Kim family? Do you wonder why? How is that possible in this day and age that one family can control a whole nation?
The Korean people are no different than the rest of humanity. There is no outward sign that sets them apart from the rest of us except the system they live under. That is the key to their dilemma. The Kim family and the system they perpetuate is the cause of all this freaky display being beamed out.
The Korean people are kept in ignorance by design. The Kim family motto is ‘Military first.’ It is not because North Koreans have enemies ready to conquer them. In fact North Korea have no enemies other than the Kim family and those aligned with them. The military ‘s mission is to bully, frighten and intimidate the Korean people into submission. The people are the enemy.
There is no independent Television broadcaster, no independent Radio station, no independent Newspaper and no independent Internet provider in the Kingdom of Korea. The Kim family and friends control all of the communications media. They figure that ignorant people are easier to control. You can’t argue with sixty years of success. I was looking and marveling at this phenomenon when I heard the news that Ato Bereket has written a book. You know me I was delirious with joy with the news. I have found my own Kim in my backyard. For some reason Kim of Korea and Meles of Ethiopia converged.
Mind you Ato Bereket have no compelling reason to stick his neck out and display his normal unfamiliarity with rational thought process and his utter contempt for facts and put all that down on paper for all to see. The only explanation I have is this disease of contempt for truth, self-aggrandizement, ego trip and simple garden-variety madness.
I have not read the book yet. To tell you the truth, I have no intention of reading it either. Judging from the inaugural ceremony when the book was made public I figured reading is not a requirement to talk or write about it. I am not going against convention here and read the damn book. My sincere hope is Ato Bereket himself has read the book.
The setting for the unveiling (Addis Sheraton, Lalibela Room) more than made up for the pedestrian quality of the content. It is reported that ‘who is who’ of the Ruling Party was present. The most esteemed benefactor of our motherland, Dr. Sheik Al Amoudi was there. The report does not say if Ato Meles was present or was watching from a remote site. I know from sources that videotaping is standard procedure. The First lady was not present either. I assume they were watching from their bunker.
The book is titled ‘A tale of the two elections.’ The dilemma faced by librarians all over is which category to file the book under. Fact or fiction is a valid question. It purports to be based on facts but from the reviews I get the feeling there is no research and data to support the thesis presented but rather it is a matter of taking the authors assertion as facts. Simple faith is what is called for.
Dr. Sheik Al Amoudi paid for the printing that was done in Kenya for quality purpose. According to the Dr. Sheik who confessed that he has not read the book it is a work of such importance that he recommended it as a ‘must reading’ for our youth. Judging by the glossy cover, beautiful fonts and pretty soft paper its function, as a doorstop will be invaluable. I know I am hating but deservingly.
Next to give his lofty recommendation was none other than Ato Demeke Mekonen, Minster of Education. Unfortunately he has not read the book either but it did not stop him from offering his praise and opinion. In fact he went a step further and added stuff that was not even in the book. Ato Demeke was glad and praised the author for dedicating the book to his comrades from the liberation movement when the reality is that Ato Bereket dedicated his book to his brother. Needless to say the Minster is in favor of adapting it as a textbook for our children.
I knew my friends at Aiga would add their share of cheerleading to this work of historic proportion. I am grateful to Ato Reta Sisay for his blind review. No adjective was spared in his haste to pile the accolades. He boldly compares and equates the book to the work of the celebrated English author Charles Dickens. I have no idea how and why. The only reason why Charles Dickens would be mentioned can only be due to the similarity of the title because the two works have nothing in common what so ever. The Englishman’s book is a work of fiction while Ato Bereket’s book purports to be a historical analysis of what happened yesterday in front of all of us. Ato Reta got carried away.
In my opinion the best un read review is done by none other than Ben of Ethiopia First. He wanted to stay true to the theme of fiction and continued to weave his own tale. When the book was unveiled in Addis, Ben said he was visiting the Great Wall of China. We are grateful he stopped his tourist activity and stayed in his room to write his Blog. How he got hold of the book in China is not clear and to top it all he was writing a testimonial before he even finished reading the book. He said so himself. Ben, Ben, Ben, how many times have you been told to not make shit up!
I found the review written by an individual named Daniel Berhane to be mildly interesting. He seems to be a Party functionary and goes out of his way to show Ato Bereket in a good light despite his failings as the ‘main strategist’ for the 2005 elections. Daniel seems to take advantage of his ethnic affiliation and gives us inside information regarding the Prime Minster’s plan to be called Doctor and the many fiction he has written and are awaiting publication. Ato Daniel states that there was no need for Ato Meles to review the work since Bereket is a premier ‘spin doctor’ in his own right. It is a little confusing when Bereket claims that Ato Meles is the busiest person in the service of his country and Ato Daniel asserts that the PM is busy studying for his PHD. We got a part time student and Prime Minster, and a part time spin-doctor and historian author.
May be I should also mention the write up by Addis Fortune newspaper ‘gossip’ columnist. We are after all in Ethiopia where a few papers are allowed to function pretending all is honky dory and normal while some are hounded out of existence. Our Columnist took a different take on the whole issue. The concern was not what was in the book but rather the perception. It boldly claims the ‘recently released book, the launch of which, at Sheraton Addis, caused so much furor among members of the public.’ Over the top statement considering ‘members of the public’ are eighty million of which seventy nine million nine hundred thousand are not aware of the book nor do they give a damn. Furthermore the Columnist was ticked off and wrote ‘there has been a passionate disapproval by many after seeing a well-heeled businessman speak of a senior government official in a manner that was distasteful, if not repulsive.’ I am sure this disapproval was not followed by not eating the lavish dinner, not drinking the free booze and not lining up to buy an autographed copy. A room full of spineless sycophants is what it looks like. A little harsh but you know what I mean.
The following paragraph from the Fortune article I would like to leave it intact and you the reader be the judge of this madness:
‘Equally, he has been criticised for reaching out to a businessman while his own party, the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), could have paid for the printing of the book. He could have received the services of Mega Printing, a subsidiary of the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), a party-affiliated company, others criticised.’ I have nothing to add to this crap.
It will be considered rude to finish without saying something about our dear friend, newly minted author and Head of Government Communications Minster good old Bereket Semeon. I will start from the beginning and rely on Ato Tesfaye Gebreab’s first hand description of the times and events. I have no reason to doubt Ato Tesfaye’s meticulous research and incredible memory. We are lucky.
Ato Bereket was born in Gondar to Aboy Gebrehiwot and Weizero Werknesh. He was named Mebrehatu Gebrehiwot. He came of age when our country was in turmoil. Like the youth of his time he joined the struggle to topple the Military regime or Derg. He has an older brother named Kasahune and the book is dedicated to him. Kasahune was born in the province of Eritrea and grew up in Gondar. He joined the EPRP to liberate his country. In my opinion history will show EPRP to be the first modern multi national movement that understood the richness, diversity and strength of the new Ethiopia to be built. Ato Mebrehatu died in a battle between EPRP (EPRF) militia and TPLF army.
History will also show TPLF was established, formed and founded to liberate the province of Tigrai. George Orwell wrote ‘to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.’ The folks of TPLF have the whole of Ethiopia under their nose but they choose to liberate a small sliver of land. This myopic vision never left our fearless leaders.
Back to our tale, upon joining TPLF Mebrehatu changed his name to Bereket. This was a common practice at the time but Mebrehatu went a step further and changed his fathers name too. He wanted a complete transformation I guess. He choose the name of an EPRP combatant from Eritrea that has mysteriously disappeared. It was normal to assume that he might have been killed in battle. It is good to know that the real Ato Bereket Semeone is still alive and was even the Ambassador to France representing the State of Eritrea. Not even Hollywood can dream of such a tale.
Ato Bereket/Mebrehatu did not bother to go into these matters. His book is about the 2005 election and the 2010 Coronation. It is very strange that TPLF folks are trying hard to revise history right under our nose. They have this guilt feeling if at all possible mixed with real fear and are constantly working hard to make us believe they were the victims. I have this strange notion this fiction is authored by none other than Ato Meles/Legesse Zenawi. I consider myself a skilled observer of The TPLF in general and the Politburo in particular. In fact I specialize on three and half individuals as my object of interest.
Based on extensive review of the reviews I have concluded Ato Meles to be the author. The tone and language is vintage Meles. The length (over 300 pages) is standard Meles diatribe and the evil ways he attacks perceived opponents is familiar to us. The book was written to whitewash the crimes of 2005 settle scores with ‘enemies’ and gauge the reception from the one percent. The 99 percent are not part of the equation. I believe Ato Bereket is not wired to come up with such absurd tale and commit it to paper. It requires someone with a lot of time in his hands and the expertise to think smart and act damn. It is a worthy digression from the current malaise. But it is temporary. The economy is stuck, the remittances are still anemic, the constant jabbering of “Spring” is unnerving and the Gadaffi picture is difficult to shake. Most of all I truly enjoy their paranoia regarding Dr. Berhanu. They imprisoned him again and again, they exiled him and they still obsess about him. The more you hate him the more I love him. Bring it baby let us have some more fiction.
I have a few suggestions to our authors. It is easy to talk trash when you are the only one allowed to speak. I will fight for your right to write any book you want but please let others tell their side of the story too. You see your denial of the same rights to others cheapens your work. No one will believe it. What is the point of writing it if it doesn’t shed some light? You might think forcing schools, work places and associations to buy it might give you boasting rights but what is the point if everyone knew it is fake. It will be like your Tehadso project. You call a meeting of the faithful you give them money to donate and you shout how successful it was. This Mamo Kilo moment is not a wining strategy. I will read Ato Bereket’s fiction when he allows others to write their version of reality.
Let Eskinder out of prison, he will show you how to write. Let Reiyot Alemu and Zerihune Gegziabeher out your dungeon and they will show you how to publish using their sweat. Let Andualem Arage out of his confinement and he will teach you how to organize without using force and bribery. This trash publishing business using welfare is not the way of the Ethiopia we envision. I suggest Ato Bereket read his book if nothing else to know what is being said in his name.