By Yilma Bekele
The whole planet is deliriously happy. It is possible that data from Hubble telescope will show a slight wobble by our planet at exactly 8:17 PM Pacific Standard Time on November 4th. 2008. It must be from the spontaneous dancing by the majority of living things on earth. I said living things, not just Humans. Even the Moose in Alaska approved. Neither Color nor Gender or Nationality mattered. We were all happy Obama won!
Why are we happy Obama won? The response to this simple question is as numerous as the stars in heaven. I have talked to so many people regarding Obama and no two have given me the same answer. But all answers share a certain common thread. It is a belief in the possibility of building a just world where humanity relates as one big family. For Africans in general and Ethiopians in particular he embodies our wish that this son of Africa will be the one to bring what has been denied to us, Freedom, Democracy and the rule of law.
These are not just words. They are the building blocks of a strong and vibrant Union. The US produced such a leader because the Constitution, as the foundation is embedded in granite rock. The founders based their new association on solid ground composed of ideas and principles. Individual Freedom, Democracy and the supremacy of the law were not open to negotiations. The constitution is a living document open to tinkering and modification, but the principles of liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness are nothing to trifle about. This guiding principle allows the Union to grow and accommodate the different demands arising as time goes by. The mostly forward movement is both gradual and peaceful.
Mr. Obama is the forty forth President. The first was George Washington. He took the oath of office in New York and the year was 1789. In a letter addressed to James Madison he wrote, ”as the first of everything, in our situation will serve to establish a precedent, it is devotedly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles.’ He served two terms and retired to his farm in Mount Vernon. He set the example for a peaceful transfer of leadership. He was happy to serve.
The two party systems emerged around this time. John Adams and Alexander Hamilton led the Federalists. Thomas Jefferson was the leader of the Democratic-Republican Party. John Adams won the election and became the second President of the new Republic. After two terms in office he retired to his farm in Quincy, Massachusetts. Thomas Jefferson followed him.
For the young Republic it was a time of nation building and charting of new courses. The two Parties were vying to define the road ahead. The two great powers of the time the British and the French were at war. It was Washington that advocated a neutral stand and John Adams continued his policy. Jefferson and his party were inclined to side with the French.
All three Presidents fought the British in the Revolutionary war. When their time was up all three Presidents left office peacefully. They did not fight the British to replace one kind of tyranny by another. They fought because they valued freedom for themselves and others. They did not use their offices to enrich themselves and reward their family. Nor did they question the patriotism and integrity of their opponents because of differences of opinion. After a healthy contest the loser wished the winner good luck and retired to a new life.
To think that this took place two hundred nineteen years ago and we still have a problem with this concept in Ethiopia is mind-boggling. Actually that is not true. All indications are the Ethiopian people stayed up until the wee hours waiting for the results. Mr. Obama’s victory was received with delight. They were happy to see the fruits of democracy in a far away land. They celebrated by knowing smiles and hidden signals. That is the way of a terrorized people.
On the other hand the good news was a source of terror and agony to the TPLF. Arat Kilo suddenly got frigid cold. Mr. Obama’s election is throwing a monkey wrench into the coercive machinery. It is taking them back to square one. The transition from Albanian type Communism to pretend free market system and make believe democracy was hard enough. Obama’s definition of Democracy and Human Right does not bode well for the future of TPLF and their partners in crime.
You see the problem is that a ‘Police State’ is not capable of change. A democratic system has laws, rules and regulation built in to it to handle change. The Police State knows one thing and one thing only. Use of force is the only option in the book. Thus when the possibility of Obama’s election became real the Ethiopian government drafted assortment of laws and measures to combat the disease known as ‘hope’.
· First they held their pretend ‘convention’ in Awasa. They mistook form for essence. They were willing to share regional dress but were unwilling to share power. They allowed their junior partners to talk, but they wrote the speech for them.
· They burned villages in the Ogaden, exposed millions to poverty and famine. As a solution they passed a law to control and intimidate NGO’s whom they suspected of leaking the news. Doctors without Borders were sent away packing and Human Right Watch was declared enemy of the State. Too bad they are not capable of blocking ‘Google Earth’ from exposing their ill deeds.
· The last ‘terrorist’ card was played with the rounding up of anybody and everybody with Oromo blood. Politicians, University lecturers, business people, students were all arrested and branded terrorist. The most prominent is Ato Bekele Jirata Secretary general of Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement a legally registered opposition party. The TPLF regime was cunning enough to convince the US embassy to issue an alert regarding a terrorist attack. Why the embassy doesn’t do that when the Ethiopian people are terrorized by their own government is a mystery.
· TPLF made headlines by shuffling the cadres that dutifully pose as Ministers. Again form trumped essence. The policy is the same the face is different. Change Ethiopian style.
· They claim there is freedom of the press but they arrest editors for reporting the news. They imprison or fine reporters and editors for common mistakes. In Ethiopia you do not publish ‘corrections’ you go directly to jail. Names like Berhanu Nega or Teddy Afro are to be avoided. Remember it was illegal to quote Mandela or Miriam Makeba during Apartheid. Junior Apartheid is alive and well in Ethiopia.
· They invaded another country and spent thousands of lives and millions of needed money. They support all sides as long as the result is chaos in the neighborhood. An instable situation in the vicinity makes the TPLF look like a pillar of calmness.
After all is said and done responsibility has to be shared equally by all. As there is no end without a begining; there is no oppressor with out the oppressed. Wars are fought, soldiers are paid, informers are taken care of officials are bribed all with capital. Money makes all evil acts possible. Where does it all come from?
· Taxes from the Ethiopian people
· Loans from the IMF and World Bank
· Loans and grants from friendly governments.
· Remittances from the Diaspora.
We cannot tell the Ethiopian people not to pay their taxes. It is not wise to tell NGO’s to pack and leave. On the other hand we have the power to influence the last four items on this list. We stand a good chance of being heard by both IMF and World Bank as long as we speak in one voice and we definitely can reduce our own investment. We have to learn to practice what we preach. If tyranny is considered bad and evil, we cannot go around helping and coddling tyrants, nor can we try to sneak in a quick profit at the expense of our own people.
Some might say ‘my investment help create jobs’. This is nothing but a fig leaf to hide behind immoral deed. The Western investors tried the same argument during the debate to ‘boycott’ the Apartheid regime. Foreign investment by the US and Europeans was creating jobs for the Black population in South Africa. Steven Biko and ANC advocated divestment because the tax and other income were propping up the Apartheid regime. Steven Biko wrote ‘those who professed to worry over Blacks suffering if the economy deteriorated had missed the point. We’re already suffering’ He often reminded us ‘those who live in constant fear of being shot, beaten, or detained without charge, for those whose children already live in abject poverty and near starvation, an economic downturn is not the major area of concern.’ Nobel Laureate Albert Lutuli, president of the African National Congress in one of his speeches said:
The economic boycott of South Africa will entail undoubted hardship for African. We do not doubt that. But if it is a method which shortens the day of bloodshed, the suffering to us will be a price we are willing to pay.
Please spare us of your sermon regarding your good deeds. The damage caused by your investment outweighs your so-called kind intentions. The land belongs to TPLF, the construction company is a subsidiary of TPLF, the Finance is controlled by TPLF, the materials supplier is TPLF and the only non-TPLF entity is you my Diaspora friend. So you send you hard earned money to the mighty TPLF and cause inflation for your poor cousins and as a bonus you fly Ethiopian Airlines and fatten the wallets of your tormentors. Ethiopians-Americans alone contributed $1.2 billion last year. What we got here is a merry go round of the ugly type. Talk about pistol whipped by your own gun.
Your million-dollar castle without water, sewer, electricity and unpaved road inconveniently located miles from transportation lines is nothing but a white elephant. Budget deficit and inflation has rendered your make believe million dollar home into a toxic investment. Thanks to you Woyane cadres have reinvested you generous donations in shopping centers and apartments in the West. Justice might be late but it is always around the corner. Thus, yesterdays highflying investors in stocks, bonds and western real estate are today’s confused and liquidity challenged shell-shocked dictators. The so-called infrastructure development is the ultimate ‘bridge to nowhere’.
We Ethiopians were not always like this, so they say. We used to be proud and brave people. Our fore fathers stood up against foreign invaders. It is only yesterday that our own friends went out marching to demand ‘land to the tiller’, and there was nothing in it for them. I guess the military junta was successful in castrating all our manhood and woman hood and left us as a shadow of our former self. We seem to have lost our backbone to stand up against injustice. No spine just ligament. The hope is that it is just a temporary condition. May be this financial meltdown and the assent of our friend Obama will inject some sense of self-realization into our collective heads.
It was James Monroe the fifth President of the US who wrote “It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin.” The year was 1817. It is never too late to learn. Let us hope that we will go beyond this disease of denial and stand up for what is right and just for our country. Here is to overcoming the dissonance caused by this uncomfortable feeling of holding two contradictory thoughts simultaneously. Logic and mental health dictates rejecting one of the contradictory ideas. It cannot be done my friend. Just look at the actions of the TPLF mafia, they are grasping for answers to reconcile dictatorship and democracy.
(The author can be reached at [email protected])