By Yilma Bekele
‘Prime Minster Meles Zenawi said on Wednesday Ethiopia could pardon politicians and journalists arrested under a 2009 anti-terrorism law.’ That news was reported widely including inside Ethiopia. Normally what we hear outside and what the people are told is two different things. This time the message was meant for the Ethiopian people. It reinforces the idea of the benevolent Land Lord.
What the Ethiopian minority based regime is doing is bullying it’s own people. According to Wiki ‘Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power.’ Gadaffi was a serial bully so was Mubarak or Saleh. Meles Zenawi is a habitual bully. He uses lethal force as well as verbal aggression on a daily basis. His regime terrorizes our people both inside and outside the country.
No one speaks openly in the so-called developmental state of Ethiopia. Every body is spying on everybody else. It doesn’t have to be true but they all believe it is so. That is what matters. This is a form of mental terror. Those outside are not immune to this. In most meetings Pictures are shot from the back of the room careful not to alarm people. Most prefer ‘pen’ names or aliases when they write to hide their identity. That is true even on social media. It is not to belittle or make fun our behavior but it is true and it is so due to fear. Real or imagined is not important but it affects how we think and act. It affects our inner soul.
That is what a bully does to you. Bullies instill fear. Remember agriculture (peasant farming) is the vocation of 85% of the population and accounts for 45% of GDP. We are the product of a pre industrial society. It really don’t matter where one resides that trait is wired into our behavior. Sometimes in haste we seem to forget that. The truth is that we accept authority with out much fanfare due to old culture and ignorance. We accept the importance of hierarchy and the virtue of keeping quiet and suffering silently.
This drama of “pardon” is nothing more than another ponzi scheme to play with our fears. The current drama started with the ferenji reporters. The regime had a hot potato issue in its hands. The Swedish reporters were caught in the Ogaden during a firefight between the TPLF Army and ONLF freedom fighters. Once they were caught alive they were never in danger. They cannot be made to disappear. You just don’t go around killing white people like you do with Africans. The moment their capture became public their own government and every European Embassy made it clear that the Ethiopian Junta is responsible for every single hair on their body of their unwelcome guests.
The idea of using the reporters to bully the Ethiopian people seemed like a winning idea. It has its risk but one can only deal with the cards on the table. The regime decided to use the occasion to send its own message to the Ethiopian people. The ‘anti-terrorism law was a perfect vehicle to widen the net. Ethiopian Journalists and opposition leaders were bundled with the fernjis. The West was consumed by their own kind and did not pay that much attention to the natives. I am talking about the Western Governments here and their big Media. There were plenty of organizations and individuals protesting loudly regarding all prisoners in Ethiopia.
We are always thankful to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reporters without Boarders (RSF), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Doctors without Boarders (MSF), and plenty others that are friends of all those that suffer under all kinds of Dictators. Using the anti-terrorism Law the TPLF regime has arrested god knows how many Ethiopians. We have the names of all the prominent ones but to their friends and family all arrested are prominent and dear. We publicize the names of the ones we know but they speak for all the other thousands. Eskinder was picked up on his way to pick up his son from school, Andualem was arrested at his office, Reeyot, Wubshet and Zerihune were hauled away from their place of work. None were caught with any kind weapon other than their free will and their pen.
I keep Eskinder in my heart all the time. I have conflicting feelings about him. His stubbornness irritates me. His strength threatens my docility. I harbor a certain amount of anger towards him. That is the Ethiopian in me, blaming the victim. There aren’t many Eskinders on this planet. That is why we treasure them when they show up like the morning Sun, bright and warm. His determination against all odds fills all of us his brothers and sisters with so much strength while his jailers recoil with shame. Using the might of the State to bully one citizen is such an abuse of power and authority it makes the jailers look so small and uncivilized. He has been in jail since September 14. It has been over one hundred twenty days or over six months my brother has been kidnapped for no other crime other than wanting to be free to think, write and raise a family. His wife Serkalem and his miracle son Nafkot live in agony. We cannot imagine their sorrow. How do you miss someone you haven’t met but I miss him and wish him all the strength to live another day.
I can’t imagine solitary confinement. I assume the cycle of the days becomes meaningless. They use silence as a weapon. All their punishment is meant to hurt. It is designed to harm and injure. It is cruel mental torture. The brain plays games on you they say. Does he have a window in his cell or is he in a dungeon. Is it cold and wet? Keeping a ‘prisoner’ inside wells, caves or a dark dungeon is a common TPLF practice. Are they doing that to my brother? It is not my imagination. Their style of work is well documented. The testimony given by old party members that have defected is very alarming and scary. My friend Eskinder is on the other end of this sadistic system.
The regime used the their ferenji prisoners to talk to us. Bullying is the language of preference the minority-based regime employs to telegraph its likes and dislikes. Jailing our best and brightest is meant to teach the rest of us the futility of defiance. Meles and company used the ferenjis to show their subjects that they are not afraid. They can even jail a ferenji and impose their will is what they were telling us. Observe and behave is the message. It is a government gone rogue.
No words describe the satisfaction when we witness the plan boomerang. It backfired big time. It is not a game changer but it has managed to expose the workings of the Ethiopian Junta in power to a bigger audience. It counts a lot. We the vocal Diaspora, the talkers and non-doers are very happy of this outcome. We take complete credit for the debacle. The exposure of the regime’s method of waging war on the Ethiopian people has become a public relations nightmare to their public relations firm. They are attempting damage control. They are trying to put lipstick on a pig.
Ato Meles and his minority-based dictatorship are feeling the heat from their enablers. The spring of TPLF style ‘Pardon’ is upon us again. Kinijit Pardon Judge Bertukan pardons are in the history books. I have to refer to Pardonoligists to determine if Judge Bertukan’s pardon is given one or two credit. Our two guests are leaving us soon. They will be pardoned and let go in the next few weeks. The regime using its monopoly media will tell its subjects that the Swedes accepted responsibility and asked for forgiveness while showing remorse and they were deported. But the damage was done. Even the New York Times noticed. What we have been saying is sort of noticed by foreigners that matter. As I said it is a step forward but not a game changer.
Arab Spring’ has made a few things clear. The people themselves have to conquer their fear and demand their rights. There is no other formula or recipe. What we saw was when the people slowly realize their power there is nothing to stop them from snatching it away from the usurper. How it is snatched is a whole story by itself. Think of Mubarak, Gadaffi, Saleh and think of Ben Ali. Three selfish bastards with three different responses to the same demand. Go figure who today is able to pray facing Mecca.
What is clear is that we are contributing our share. Make no mistake about our role. No one will pay attention to Meles’s crimes if it was not for us in the outside. Our activates on the Internet and on Facebook is bearing fruits. ESAT is proving how balanced, informative and educational we could be given the chance. ESAT is 100% made in Ethiopia. The independent Web sites are flourishing. Arab Spring was all about using every available means to create one big family focused and willing to act as a bridge to tomorrow land. I am sure an opinion maker like Mr. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times Googling us will see the kind of people we are. We are passionate but we are not haters. We are probing for a solution that is acceptable to the many. We celebrate diversity. Our Free Web sites reflect that. The Ethiopian regime cannot say that. They block ideas they do not agree with. They are afraid of airing an opinion different from theirs. They win by silencing not by the power of their argument. A dammed down population is easy too bully. They keep our people in the dark by design. That is why some of us shout and scream. Looks like we are getting heard.
What we do with this knowledge is something to think about. Surely we think about the prisoners of conscience that are paying for doing what was allowed in the regimes own constitution. Do we double our efforts so the Eskinders, the Andualems, the Reeyots the Zerhunes, the Wubshets will be free and enjoy life to its fullest? Do we dare to conquer fear and unite in a positive manner to do good? Do we allow the regime to bully us into submission or rise up in righteous indignation and say hell no! Our individual tiny contribution in consort with other minuscule offerings becomes a tsunami when put together. That is what we learnt from Egypt. Do not let the bully get away with his rude and crude method of dismissing us but make him pay attention and watch him flail to explain the unexplainable.
Listen to Communication Minster Bereket Semeon trip over his words trying to explain who and how in the world he thinks he is entitled to regulate what we write and say. Watch the Junta leader confess that he copied the Law from the West so it must be correct. It is pathetic and so void of commonsense it makes you wonder how they view us. When you see the Kangaroo Parliament laughing at his tasteless jokes and moronic explanations you can see it is the blind leading the blind and our current situation of jumping from one crisis to another makes perfect sense. Well Ato Meles if you are in the habit of copying how about copying the ‘Bill of Rights’ from the US Constitution. Sorry my mistake it looks like you have already copied a few things but my dear friend the devil is in the implementation.
There are a few fighting evil. We are not all docile. We are not all self centered. On the other hand it is true most of us are afraid. We try to cover that by being belligerent towards each other. Afraid of Meles and his killing machine we turn our ire against each other. That has to stop. It is not cute and it makes us so cheap and laughable. Being afraid to confront Meles and his people does not justify dumping ones anger against those that are resisting his crimes. Do you see yourself my friend? You lie down dead and blame those that fight back? Does that make sense? What are you going to do when the Ethiopian people rise up like Egyptians or Libyans or Syrians? Blame the victims and blame us for inciting? Some say why don’t you go back and fight? Really is that the best you can come up with? From where I sit most of us have three choices to make. We can help our people resist, we can sit on the side and pretend dead or join the TPLF as junior partners. Choose and act.