Skip to content

Africa

Religion and Ethiopia

By Yilma Bekele

Two important meetings were held a week ago. One was in Addis Abeba and the other in Washington DC. Both were concerning our motherland and the future. That is where the similarities end. One was intended to continue the path of destruction chartered by the current regime while the other was trying to build on what has been achieved throughout millennia and proven to work beyond expectations. The DC conference was an affirmation of the wise and keen insight of our forefathers that laid the foundation for the place we call home.

Christianity and Islam are the two most related faiths that trace their origin in our own neighborhood. Ethiopia is one place where the two have converged in a peculiar manner and have managed to lead a mutually assured loving existence. The bond between the two is so deep no mortal man can break that and live to tell about it. A few have tried to no avail. As evil goes the meeting in Addis was another attempt to create a wedge between the two faiths and their followers. It was vintage TPLF brainchild or brain fart.

Why our country has succeed in this endeavor while most of mankind is still trying to figure out how to come to terms with religion and State issue is a wonderful subject for our historians. I am by no means a historian but I will attempt to share the little I know from my sketchy reading of our glorious past.

Exact date for the emergence of Christianity in Ethiopia is not yet settled. The earliest and reference to the introduction of Christianity to Ethiopia is in the New Testament (Acts 8:26:38) when Philip the Evangelist converted an Ethiopian court official in the 1st Century AD. Credit is given to Saint Frumentius as the first to bringing Christianity to the Axumite Kingdom. Frumentius a Syro-Phoenician Greek from Tyre along with his brother Edesius accompanied by their uncle Meropius were shipwrecked on the Red Seacoast around the year 316 AD. The two boys were taken as slaves to the King of Aksum. Upon the king’s death they were set free but at the request of the queen they stayed to help in the education the young heir Ezana. When Ezana came of age the two brothers returned to Tyre but Frumentius was able to convince the Patriarch of Alexandra, Athanasius to send a Bishop to Ethiopia. In the year 328 Frumentius was sent back as the first Bishop. He succeeded in baptizing King Ezana initiating the spread of Christianity. The Ethiopians refer to Frumentius as Kesete Birhan (Revealer of the Light) and Abbba Selama (Father of Peace) and he is the our first Abune.

Islam came to Ethiopia around 615AD. The first Muslims were immigrants from Mecca due to persecution by the ruling Quraysh tribe. The prophet Mohamed (peace and blessings be upon him) felt Ethiopia to be a safe haven for his relatives and companions. Moslem historians refer to it as the first Higra or migration and the Christian Emperor as Ashama ibn Abjar. The prophet instructed his followers to ‘respect and protect Ethiopia and as well as live in peace with Ethiopian Christians. Today Harar, Ethiopia is considered the fourth holy city of Islam with 82 Mosques three of which date from the 10th. Century.

The conference held in Washington DC by The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Exile was an affirmation of this historical bond between the two religions and people. It was a proud moment building on the strong and unshakeable foundation laid centuries back that still endures despite the attempt by a few to break what God and Allah has willed.

On the other hand the meeting held in Addis was a flagrant attempt to saw dissent and weaken the bond between religion and people. It was an embarrassing moment and a shameful act that has brought shame and sorrow to country and people. It was the reflection of Kilil brought to the realm of religion. It was another ill hatched plan by Meles and company to bully our ancient land and a feeble attempt to divide and conquer. That it fell on deaf ears is no surprise. As I said our house is not built on sand but on sold granite that no amount of man made idiot trick will cause any harm. I would venture to say it ends up making it stronger and mightier burning the usperes to recoil with shame and horror.

Our Abun’s in Washington DC were celebrated for their forceful solidarity with our Moslem brothers and sisters while the usurper in Addis was shouted down by our Abun’s that steadfastly stood their ground despite the threat of violence including death. Our deep appreciation to the Abun’s strength in withstanding such ugly behavior by the usurper Paulo’s and his henchmen fills our heart with pride and reminds us of our beloved father Abune Petros and his unyielding faith in country and people in front of the Fascist firing squad.

The leader of the Italian Invasion of our land Gen. Rodolfo Graziani proclaimed “The Duce (Mussolini) will have Ethiopia, with or without Ethiopians.” Abune Petros replied, “The cry of my countrymen who died due to your nerve-gas and terror machinery will never allow my conscious to accept your ultimatum. How can I see my God if I give a blind eye to such a crime?’ That is the footsteps our current Abune are following. We thank them for making us proud both in Addis and Washington DC. We praise them for their leadership and their timely message to stir that strong feeling of what it means to be an Ethiopian both as a Christian and a Moslem. No one can break apart that God and Allah has joined together.

As he has done with an appointment of a cadre Patriarch the Meles regime is busy sawing dissent and animosity in the Moslem community. There is no trick left unturned. Churches have been burnt to put the blame on our Moslem citizens and Moslems have been accused of being terrorists, wahabists etc. As he has put Cadre Paulos in power today the regime is protecting the illegal Moslem leader and placing his internal security around him.

All politics is local. It is with this in mind Ethiopians in the Bay Area are traveling to Los Angles to attend a World Wide demonstration the weekend of June 4th. against the regime’s interference in religion in general and the attempt to destroy our ancient heritage, Waldeba Monastery in Northern Ethiopia. Those interested in attending this event can email Waldeba Monastery [email protected]

Ethiopia – In search of a common ground

By Yilma Bekele

How to manage and resolve conflict has always been our Achilles Heel. That is part of the reason why we stumble from one crisis to another. Last week was a perfect example of an attempt to try to find out a reasonable solution to a problem that arose in our region here in Northern California. I hope it will give us an insight into an exercise in positive behavior that will probably end up in a win-win situation. It made me realize that the scorched earth policy we seem to favor when it comes to resolving differences between us is not a winning strategy and it has not brought us any positive results.

The public transit system serving our area (BART) has been facing mounting criticism from the public due to the strong arm tactics used by the Transit Police. A few weeks ago BART police fatally shot an individual during an arrest. People were not happy about that. A public demonstration was held, a BART station was temporarily closed, and rail service disrupted. The organizers who were using social media as a tool to come together vowed to return the following Friday to continue their public demonstration.

How BART responded to the imminent gathering of angry people is what brought this important discussion into the forefront. BART management decided to meet the threat by pulling the plug on cell phone service for a portion of its stations to disrupt electronic communication. That act completely changed the nature of the problem. Folks wanted to know under whose authority those in charge are allowed to shut down a communications system. It opened a lively constitutional discussion regarding the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment.

Public discussions were held to define the problem. Experts in Constitutional Law were called to clarify the issue. BART board of Directors called a hearing to discuss the ramifications. The people demanded clarity. The core issue became how the First Amendment of the US Constitution was interpreted in action. I will present you the text of the First Amendment as well as two opinions by experts on the Constitution.

Here is the text of the First Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

According to Michael Risher of ACLU of Northern California “To be clear, the First Amendment doesn’t protect the right of people to disrupt train service, and the government may impose reasonable restrictions on protest. But they can’t simply shut down a park because they don’t want an unpopular group to come protest there; they shouldn’t be shutting down a communications network just because they don’t like what’s being said on it. That’s contrary to the First Amendment.”

Professor Eugene Volokh of University of California at Los Angles (UCLA) response was “As to the federal constitution, based on press accounts of what the facts are, it seems to be that BART was acting within its constitutional power. It doesn’t mean it’s a good idea… but the important thing is that BART was turning off cell phone hardware that was on its property that it either owned or had control over. That’s very different from the government shutting down private networks or interfering with communications on private property or for that matter on streets and parks, which are treated similar to private property in this respect under the First Amendment.”

Watching the discussion and trying to digest the information to make a reasonable assessment has been a teachable moment for me. I noticed the language that the participants used to make their respective points were measured and non-provocative. There were no good guys and bad guys, but people trying to resolve a common problem. There was no anger and none questioned the motives of their opponent. The task at hand was to try to find a lasting solution and avoid future problems. BART directors were not vilified while their decision making process was brought under public scrutiny. This type of environment creates a fertile ground for good ideas to blossom. It brings out the best in all of us and enhances possibility of a positive resolution of the problem. Might I add that the existence of a free and equal environment is what made it all this possible?
I believe that is what is lacking in our social discourse. A civilized way of handling conflicting ideas to be able to reach a reasonable and common ground. Why do I think we suffer from this disease of rigidness and lack of respect for other people’s ideas and opinions? I have two examples of the weakness of our system when it comes to dealing with ideas different than our own.

I wrote an opinion regarding the wisdom of our independent Web sites disseminating interviews with Shaleka Mengistu. I was not dealing with the individual’s right to grant an interview. I believe that is a different issue. Here in California the law does not allow a criminal to profit from his misdeeds. I understand the Shaleka has written a book and part of the interview was to market the product. My issue was the fact of our inability to say enough! That was what I questioned. On the other hand, the discussion that ensued was full of insults, hatred and unreasonable diatribe. I found out folks just don’t disagree and let it go but they take the extra step of questioning my lineage, my integrity and everything associated with me. Unfortunately, the original issue gets lost in this acrimonious festival.

Some said I should stop being angry, a few have forgiven him and they want all of us to do so while others championed his right to speak. I do not agree at all. I believe anger is a reasonable response. Remember, we are the victims. I think a certain amount of disgust is good for the psyche; otherwise, one is bound to be treated like a door mat. You know everybody stepping on you kind. ____ I almost said that is so like us, but I won’t. I will consider the possibility of forgiveness when the criminal shows remorse for his actions and confesses for his untold crimes. I also believe it is my responsibility to speak for my dead people and it is not my place to forgive on their behalf. I truly believe the Shaleka does not have any right to speak. He lost that right when he committed crimes against humanity. Justice demands that he be put on trial, and be hanged until he is dead. His death will serve as a deterrent to future tyrants. That will leave a lasting impression on how not to treat Abeshas. I also believe that asking the Shaleka to advise us in the intricate art of Nation building is the same as asking Ato Meles’s advice on economic growth and the best policy to achieve that goal. Good luck my clueless friends.
The next example is the discussion that has been going around the question of creating a united front against the common enemy and whom to include in this tent. I am assuming we all believe that our country is being mis-governed by the TPLF mafia and that we all want to change that. Please bear in mind the current abusers have been in power for twenty years and we have tried different methods to get rid of them. No one can accuse us of not trying. Failing yes, but definitely most have been doing their best to get rid of this cancer. Reasonable people will look at this situation and try to find out why a very tiny minority of criminals have succeeded in routing the many freedom seekers.

Well some are trying to find the formula that will succeed where others have failed. As the concept implies ‘United Front’ means an amalgamation of those that have a common goal and their attempt to find a way to work together. Organizations have a life of their own. They have their own peculiarities, needs, strengths, and weaknesses, and that is why it has been difficult to achieve unity. It is difficult but not impossible. It has been done before by others and they have succeeded. Why are we having this difficulty time and time again? Is our enemy that formidable or are we that dysfunctional? Is this our first instance to try to unite together, or have we done it before? Is our goal so unappealing that we have problems attracting the many, or does our recurring inability and failure turn people off? We have to mull over all of these are reasonable questions and come up with answers so we can move forward.

Some organizations are in the process of working on such issues to come up with answers that will enhance our ability to confront our abusers. It seems like the folks of Ginbot7, Oromo Liberation Front, Afar Liberation Front and Ogaden Liberation Front are in deep discussion to find a common ground. I am sure the TPLF mafia group is not happy with such a prospect. Reasonably so too! The part I find a little puzzling is the anger by those that are supposedly working to get rid of the same Woyane cancer. One would think they will be overjoyed others are getting together to help them in their common quest. It is even rational to think that they will probe ways of becoming part of such group and try to influence decisions in a democratic and equal manner.

True to our character a few organizations are contorting into knots and showing signs of hysteria beyond reason. Some claim to love Ethiopia more than others and are willing to destroy it to save it. A few are purity police and are constantly on guard to avoid pollution by others whoever they are. The Amhara super Nationalists and the Oromo steroid enhanced separatists are the two interesting groups to watch. When you consider it is these two groups that will greatly benefit from the demise of the mafia system, it is sort of difficult to rationally understand their respective hysteria.

For some of us without any ethnic identity other than being an Ethiopian the whole exercise is a little difficult to digest. For a Nation that is as old as the universe, it is a disconcerting to think today’s arrivals who are questioning the work of their forefathers. When you consider the fact that our country was there before others and by all acceptable standards have a set of internationally recognized boundary; why its own citizens are trying to tear that apart is not clear to many. When the current rulers are in the process of holding a garage sale of our fertile land, and when millions of our people are facing the scourge of famine, is this a good time to come together and avoid catastrophe or revert back into drawing imaginary lines on imaginary Oromia, Tigrai or Amhara enclave?
The lesson I learned from the BART incident in our area is that reasonable people do disagree, but reasonable people hold a quiet and balanced discussion to come up with a solution that might not satisfy all, but that has a reasonable chance of being accepted by many. The point of the exercise was not to win at any cost but find a solution that will bring peace and harmony in the community. All the parties were willing to listen to each other’s concerns and addressed the issue in an even handed manner. There were no losers or winners in this equation. Why couldn’t we do that? Why do we allow the nay Sayers and the belligerent amongst us to hijack the issue and define it in such a way that states that either I am for or against it. Can I be left alone to find a common ground where I can work with all Ethiopians to bring peace, harmony and love to all her children? That is not too much to ask, is it?

Please note that this discussion for good or bad is held on a free Diaspora Media. Here we are free to discuss any issue in a respectful and reasonable manner. Here ideas are not feared or censored. Just because I disagree with some, the sky is not going to fall. I believe we all are intelligent enough to decide what is good for ourselves without undermining others. Our people in Ethiopia cannot do that. There is a communications department that decides what people should view or hear. The Ethiopian government spends millions to block, jam or interfere with free flow of ideas. When our children are hungry the government spends money on technology to keep them dead or alive in the dark. A few decide for eighty million people. Being silent about that is acceptance of abuse. It is wrong. Encouraging our independent Web sites, giving what we could to ESAT and keeping an open mind and a positive outlook on the discussion for unity is what our country demands. That is if you care.

Meles blames the Ethiopian people

By Yilma Bekele

I am not making this up You can follow the link below and watch the four part video of the leader for life meeting with Ethiopian business leaders. It is a very interesting video. The video is edited and posted on You Tube by Ethiopian TV. I am very grateful. They should be commended for spending all the time and effort to inform the Diaspora. It is true due to censorship, lack of broadband capability, absence of electricity, and computer the Ethiopian people will not be able to access and watch this revealing video anytime they like. I have taken the time and effort and watched it twice.

I wanted to make sure that I stay true to the discussion. Based on that video it is not correct to call it a discussion. It is more like a monologue. It is presented in four parts. Each part is fourteen minutes for a total of fifty-three minutes and fifty-four seconds. In part one a questioner took five minutes and three seconds and a second one was done in one minute and thirty-six seconds. Forty-seven minutes and fifteen seconds are the musings of the great leader for life.

The meeting was a perfect example of what is wrong with our country. It is a big mirror held in front of us so we can really see ourselves. They say ‘you deserve the leaders you get’. That statement is a poster child for Ethiopia. Our tolerance of injustice has bestowed on us a very unjust situation. What happened in that video is acceptable in a Monarchy. It is the rule under Communism. It is normal in a military dictatorship. Ethiopia is none of those. It is billed as a Federal Democratic Republic. The leaders are elected to serve the people. They serve at the will of the people. The question is why is the Ethiopian leader threatening, scolding and demeaning the people he serves?

That is Ethiopia in a nutshell. We got rid of a Monarchy to replace it with a brutal military dictatorship. After considerable loss of life the military Junta was replaced by the victors organized under TPLF. We were told a new era begun. The democratic way was ushered with much fanfare. That was twenty years ago. That video makes it clear that there was a peaceful transition from Mengistu to Meles. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Ato Meles spoke a lot in that meeting. He revealed to us how his brain is wired. He wanted to make it clear to the merchants and thru that meeting to all Ethiopians that not accepting the decree of the great leader for life have consequences. He expressed it beautifully in Amharic. (Beklo maserewan qoretch bilu, lerasua asterech). He actually said that. We are the Beklo and he is the one with the leash or lasso. A very interesting mind set.

I found it very difficult to decide where to start. You see the one-hour video is mostly lies, misinformation and full of distortions. It is not difficult to refute. Thanks to Google you can search any assertion if true or false. Democratic Ethiopia is built on false premises. It is a house built on sand. This time for added measure he brought out two cadres to set the stage for his conclusion. Both made wrong misinformed statements as a foundation and he built his house of cards on that unstable footing.

The first questioner was a perfect specimen of a self-loathing; clueless and void of self esteem Ethiopian. He spoke good Amharic, was dressed perfectly with his matching suit and ties and can BS like no one. He started by insulting our past sprinkling his language with English words for added measure. Unfortunately a lie is a lie uttered in Amharic or English. After degrading our past he concluded by saying the concept of modernism (zemenawi) and free enterprise came with TPLF. He looks like he is in his thirties so he must be a product of the Derg era and came into maturity with the reign of Emperor Meles. He is excused for his ignorance regarding the history of his country and proud ancestors.
To set the record straight free enterprise means the existence of the freedom of private businesses to operate competitively for profit with minimal government regulation. During the Emperors reign I witnessed the practice of incipient free enterprise system in our country. There was a problem of fair distribution of resources but I assure you land was private, supply and demand were at work and the government generally followed hands off approach. The questioner’s Ethiopia is different. The current TPLF regime is the main engine of the economic system. The regime owns all land and leases it to the citizen, controls all major industries outright or using proxies such as EFFORT and is the biggest and baddest employer in the land.

Our questioner is also fond of misinformation knowing that the citizens have no way of verifying his distortion. He said he belongs to the camp that advocates the government’s intervention in price control for basic items such as oil, sugar, soap etc. and mentioned Thailand as an example of a country with such practice. So I Googled Thailand and price control to check his assertion. He did not disappoint me. He was following the good old Ethiopian habit of concluding without facts and using a broad brush to justify saying anything.

You see Thailand used price control on basic items like sugar, rice and oil. That much is true. That is the only thing common with our country. The control in Thailand is to set the price of sugar below international prices. Thailand is the second largest exporter of sugar in the world after Brazil. The government has a quota for internal consumption and export. The problem faced by the Thais is that some exporters cheat and export sugar allocated for the domestic market thus creating shortage. Now the problem faced with our country is a little different. There is no sugar, oil, and wheat because there is not enough internal production. Also we do not have enough foreign reserve to supply the population to meet its basic needs. Furthermore the TPLF regime is using this opportunity to break the back of the small merchants in its attempt to control the market from above. When he waded into pointing out the futility of the regimes attempt to set artificial prices he was cut off.

The second questioner is a rare breed. I have no idea what he was doing there passing himself as a businessman. He is a typical Woyane sitting as a civilian. But he was there and he asked a question. A little bizarre if you ask me. He was asking his boss to please do something because some merchants are insisting on making a maximum profit. Here is what he said:
We fully support the government’s action regarding wheat this past week. The idea that the government is going to distribute 450 thousand quintal of wheat at $490bir per quintal to us and set the price we sell it to the consumer, I am sure will stabilize the price of flour from today on. I guarantee that. What I would like to tell the government is I am sure many of the mills were hording wheat and some who bought it at $400bir are waiting to sell when it hits $900bir and some even stock it for six seven months and we appeal to the government to create a central trading like ECX (commodity exchange) for wheat …… I am sure there is over a million quintal in stock horded by the Flour mills etc…

There you have it the private entrepreneur begging the state to put him on a leash. Only in Revolutionary Democracy Ethiopia can such a theatre take place. And where he got that million quintal only God knows. It is also possible it is a veiled threat to remind them the calamity that has befallen coffee merchants. All this excitement and it is only six minutes into a one-hour presentation.

As I said before The Leader spoke forty-seven minutes and fifteen seconds, at least according to this edited presentation. I believe it will be fair to divide it into two sections and learn from it. The first part will be where The Leader speaks about the failure of the Ethiopian people to grow the economy. The second part will be where he explains the further fine-tuning of the Capitalist system being built by the Government of Ethiopia. This is definitely a first. All eyes are on Ethiopia and The Leader.

I noticed that he speaks very slow and deliberate. Either he wants to make it very clear or he has a very low opinion of his listeners. That is the way most people speak to two year olds. The tone shows that it was more like a lecture than a discussion. It was an upside down situation in that room. They pay his salary and he is threatening them. You would think that he would be nice to them since he wants to be re-elected. He wants their support and cooperation doesn’t he? That is the way it should work in a Democratic setting. You know like employer and employee. If the employee does not like the employer the only option is quitting. On the other hand if the employer does not like the employee firing is best for everybody. In Ethiopia the employee is firing the employer. Go figure that.

Here is Ato Meles in his own words:
The Government is concerned because beyond loss of income it has further meaning. If looked from tax income perspective collected into the National treasury Ethiopia is ranked with Somalia, one cannot compare us with any African country Kenya collects 25% whereas we are less than 10% (pause) under this circumstances the government can only live on alms (pause) this is a big disadvantage (long pause) on the other hand if the issue was just about collecting tax personally I wouldn’t have gotten into this hassle (neterek) I would have no problem in accepting being compared to Somalia. Beyond loss of revenue this has two major consequences. First it negatively affects capital allocation. There are ways of getting out of paying taxes. Manufacturing is one activity where avoiding paying tax is difficult. Even our blind and toothless system will find it by feel. On the other hand businesses like services and construction where taxpaying is lax capital will flow to that. Not getting revenue is a burden we can carry but capital is flowing no growth-oriented direction. Look at Addis. Due to the many buildings people are partying and dancing, they think that is growth and progress on the other hand if only one third has gone to manufacturing it is not difficult to imagine the effect on the country’s growth. Only the Indians, Chinese and Turks are involved in manufacturing. We cannot count on borrowed capital outside capital is not substitute. Unless the pillar of our economy is not ours we will end up being outsiders in our own country. If you ask why more capital is invested in services and construction it is because land is held using bribes and illegal means. If you have enough land you can be very rich if you have buildings you don’t pay rent. If you rent it to the foreigners including Embassy’s you can collect rent outside. Ethiopians hold over $2billion dollars in foreign banks. The burden we can not carry is we are losing the future economic power because our capital is flowing not into growth oriented but to areas that can help avoid paying taxes and the important economy branches are taken over by foreign capitalist. To hide your wealth you involve in high consumption activities Ethiopian Easter, vast amounts spent in big hotels, Ethiopian weddings, Ethiopian memorial services Ethiopian tidbits is comparable to highly developed countries. To save and invest it one thing but money hidden from paying taxes is like gambling money. We are not using our wealth to bring growth. The second thing we are worried about is you can operate like this in the forest. One cannot steal in broad daylight. When there is a forest you not only find Rats and Snakes all kinds of creatures in the forest including Elephants can hide. The forest is black hole to hide wealth. It is difficult to know ownership. Some officials’ steal and when confronted claim the money came from their aunt’s son in America. If we know each individuals income we can get rid of the forest. You can tell who is snake and who is human. In the old system individuals posses more than one business license. Some even register their dogs. Due to these revenue-hiding schemes our corrupt officials were hiding in this big forest thus we cannot cleanse ourselves. If this continues it is only a matter of time before we turn on each other. Where authority is the only means to be wealthy there will no be lasting peace. We can only get rid of corruption when we know each individuals income. The thief will be left naked for all to see. We do not want to involve in search and destroy. Knowing everyone’s income is a solution. Concerning taxes it is a rare exception where correct invoices are submitted. The receipts you submit are automatically suspect. You bring us proof on CD’s. Everybody knows that you can never avoid mistakes when you create CD. No matter how diligent. Our people have a saying. If the Mule cuts off its lasso, it only shortened it for it self. Your cutting the lasso made it shorter for you. We are all hurting.

Let us get something straight before anything is said. The speaker Ato Meles Zenawi has been in charge of the country since 1992. He has never allowed or tolerated any outside party other than TPLF and its creation EPDRF. It has been Ato Meles and his TPLF partners that have been making all major and minor decisions in the name of Ethiopia. Since the split in TPLF after the war with their Eritrean partners Ato Meles was able to vanquish his opponents and enter the one-man rule era. For all practical purposes Ato Meles is Ethiopia and Ethiopia is Ato Meles. The Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet is known to have said “Not a leaf moves in Chile if I don’t know about it” You can say the same thing about Ato Meles and Ethiopia.

The question I have is why is The Leader singing the blues now after he has been the main architect of this 12% growth we have been hearing about for the last few years? He was the first to take credit when the news was all about this unheard of growth and peace under his able and smart stewardship. Why talk about the impending loss of sovereignty and specter of disintegration now?

He started by moaning the problem of raising revenues and compared our country to Somalia and Kenya. I have no idea where he got his facts regarding a non-country like Somalia. But his take on Kenya is definitely wrong. Kenya has a highly developed economy than ours. Look at the chart.

Country Population GDP/Capita Budget
Ethiopia 90.8 900 4.3billion
Kenya 41.0 1600 7.01billion

Looks like the only place where we are ahead is in procreating. Is it possible Ethiopia collects less because our people live on subsistence level? The comparison is invalid and misleading.
I am surprised to hear the head of the government saying that it is ok with him if people do not pay their fare share of break the law of the land. I did not know obeying the law was an option. It is a very curious statement to say the least.

Ato Meles seems to have a different understanding of the workings of a free enterprise system. I fail to understand where the confusion is if capital moves where more money is to be made. It is every capitalist’s interest to find a legal way to reduce his/her tax burden. Like any human enterprise there are a few that will find a way to avoid paying their share. His government followed on the footsteps of the Derg and kept all land in the hands of the government. He has been selling it to the highest bidder since coming to power. His family and friends are the premier owners of choice property. His government has been working overtime in the Diaspora arranging land sale gatherings. Constructing what is commonly referred to as ground plus condominiums and office space has been the talk of all Ethiopia. There is not a town not affected by this national madness of concrete and glass in the middle of nowhere.

Wasn’t it true that the construction outfits and banks organized around EFFORT were the number one beneficiary of the Diaspora’s investment in the 12% growth we have been hearing about? Today The Leader tells us that is the wrong road. Did he apologize for this royal screw up? No sir, he is blaming the investor. His theory is that folks are attracted to housing investment to avoid paying taxes. It is a very difficult to understand his assertion. I believe a vast majority invest in building housing because they believe the will come out ahead. It is normally a good investment. Most in the Diaspora invest in Ethiopia for various reasons. Some invest to have a place for retirement, a few to make money and others because it is cheaper and easier than in most foreign lands. I have not met anyone investing large amounts to avoid Ethiopian taxes. Ato Meles mocks people’s patriotism. He even blames people for enjoying their money on lavish weddings and hotel expenses. I thought under capitalism one is free to do what he wants with his earned income.

His preference seems to be manufacturing. He wants Ethiopians to put their money into the manufacturing industry. Again it is a very curious statement coming from the head of the state. There is no need to wish it or complain about its absence. It is in his power to gear the economy towards the direction he wants. From what I understand Governments use various incentives to direct the orientation of the economy where it is most beneficial to the country. Tax incentives, land give a ways; subsidies are but a few methods. Before such methods are tried there is usually groundwork to be done. A few question a capitalist interested in setting up a manufacturing enterprise will ask will go something like is there infrastructure to support the enterprise? This will include things like roads, power and communication. Having an educated work force is plus. So before the invitation is printed is Ethiopia ready to welcome investors? The answer is no. Power is in short supply and the education level is below par. His condemnation of the hand that feeds him is rude and unacceptable.

The talk about the forest Rats, Snakes and Elephants is where he lost me. This is where his imagination kicked in and the talk regarding snakes and humans started to cloud the monologue. I have no idea why he conjured up all these animals when the point he wanted to make was he wants to have a record of every Ethiopian income. It is a very interesting situation we got here. One of the poorest countries wants to invest in building a sophisticated database on it citizens. A country that is looking at over seven million people in a state of famine wants to spend billions on book keeping. It was very interesting to see The Leader telling his tax paying citizen that they are not trust worthy and that they are guilty until proven innocent.

I believe he should be man enough to accept his mistakes. The polices he is putting down and making fun of are none other than his very own. He is the owner the current economic and political policy in place. Starting with his back door deal with Eritrea, the land as government property, the division of our country on ethnic lines, the war with Somalia, the lack of healthy political environment, the suffocating security setup is all the work of Ato Meles and his TPLF partners. Real men accept responsibility for their deeds. The Ethiopian people cannot take the blame for decision they were not consulted or agreed upon. Even as parents we make sure our children understand the value of ‘thank you’ and ‘I am sorry’ early in their developmental stage.

I fully understand The Leader is under tremendous strain. The people’s uprising in the neighborhood is freaking out his outfit. They are coming out with different approaches to bully, frighten and intimidate the population. The fate of Ato Meles is similar to that of Mubarak, Gaddafi, Saleh and Assad. There is no easy way out. So much crime has been done there is no way of whitewashing and going back to the beginning. There is no reset button on governance. Ato Meles and the Ethiopian people are dancing around each other waiting to see who is going to fall first. This sort of situation does not favor tyrants. They are edgy and prone to make irrational and sudden moves that jar the equilibrium. Everyday sees the advent of a new crisis. If it is not inflation it is Kilil revolt. If it is not scarcity of basic items it is fire in Gondar or transformer blow up in Arsi.

It is a shame to see a leader bully his people and distributes the video to show his shameful behavior. Even after editing it does not present a smart picture. Those in the room were grown up people trying to survive in such an environment unsure of what tomorrow will bring. It is a sad scene. The second part will be on the wonderful explanation of how the Ethiopian Government is reinventing itself as Wall Mart, wholesale distributor of oil, bread and sugar. It did not work for Mengistu, no reason to think it will work this time around. Pray for Ethiopia.

Dictatorship 101

By Yilma Bekele

According to Wiki “in contemporary usage, dictatorship refers to an autocratic form of absolute rule by leadership unrestricted by law, constitutions, or other social and political factors within the state.” That is what we have in Ethiopia. That is what we are used to in Ethiopia. We have never known any other type of system.

Emperor Menilik is considered the father of modern day Ethiopia. He was crowned in 1889 and reined till 1910. His title was Neguse Negest or king of kings. He was followed by Haile Sellasie who acted as a regent from 1916 to 1930 and Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1074. His title was “His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and Elect of God” (Ge’ez ግርማዊ፡ ቀዳማዊ፡ አፄ፡ ኃይለ፡ ሥላሴ፡ ሞዓ፡ አንበሳ፡ ዘእምነገደ፡ ይሁዳ፡ ንጉሠ፡ ነገሥት፡ ዘኢትዮጵያ፡ ሰዩመ፡ እግዚአብሔር; girmāwī ḳadāmāwī ‘aṣē ḫaile śelassie, mō’ā ‘ambassā ze’imneggede yehūda negus negast ze’ītyōṗṗyā, tsehume ‘igzī’a’bihēr)

The French absolute Monarch Louis the XIV of France defined the term when he said L’État, c’est moi (the state, it is me). All power was vested on the individual and the citizen is referred to as a subject.

Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam was the next de facto Emperor. His ascension to power was, as far as I am concerned definitely a freak accident. He was cunning enough to use ruthlessness as a calling card. We witnessed his purges. We became part of his convoluted worldview. We did a lot of harm to each other. Everybody carries a scar. Indifference carries its own baggage too. Colonel Mengistu and his minions abused us till his departure in 1991. If you are keeping count Mengistu precedes Ben Ali of Tunisia as the original deportee from his own country. He was thrown out. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is scheduled to join us the next few days. Frankly I am tired of welcoming tyrants. Hosni rest assured we are in no mood to furl the welcome mat. You are on your own.

Our current leader tormentor Meles Zenawi became President of the Transitional Government from 1991 to 1995 and has been the Prime Minister and kingmaker since 1996. He controls the army, banking thus the economy, the judiciary and the parliament (legislative body). He is the new emperor in a different guise. That is the condensed version of our history of the last one hundred twenty two years.

It looks like we are conditioned to accept the rule of a single individual. We are bred to follow power and authority. Subservient to someone because of age, wealth, education, heredity is part of our DNA. We invite what is known as ‘strong leader.’ We insist on it. The more abusive those leaders are the more our appreciation and respect out of fear.

This abusive relationship is not confined to the political realm alone. It permeates our social and family life too. We allow unscrupulous individuals to climb into position of leadership even in our civic and religious organizations. We know they are up to nothing good but we pretend, ignore and deny. We just wait for the crap to hit the fan and we come out of our hiding place and feign surprise. Our women tolerate their abusive partners; our children suffer under a suffocating and irrational family life.

This ugly trait we cultivate is carried over to the highest office in the land. Our leaders whether Emperors, solders or ordinary garden variety criminals are our own products. We gave birth to them. We coddled them, nurtured them and let them loose on ourselves. It looks like it is not them alone that have to change. We have to change too. We have to learn to respect our selves. We have to believe we deserve the best. How could we demand change when we ourselves are not willing to change? How could we respect strangers when we don’t respect those around us?

Our current Emperor is in a dilemma? We have allowed him to mistreat, abuse and kick us around for the last thirty years or more. He fine-tuned his style of bullying way back when he was an ordinary member of a study group. Now it has gone to his head and I am afraid he does not know the difference between right and wrong. There is no point in psychoanalysis. It is right in front of us for all to see. His habit of resorting to force at the drop of a hat, his tendency to be little others and his show of contempt for those that disagree with him is a glaring example of an individual with no moral compass. You cannot reason with such person.

Let us be clear that any show of good will and compromise is seen as a weakness by such individuals and will be dealt with harshly. Such people are not interested in just wining but require the absolute destruction of their perceived enemy. They get a jolt of adrenalin rush from delivering such a devastating blow. Do we need examples of such behavior? If you insist.

The utter humiliation of comrade in arms Tamrat Laine, the public flogging of Abate Kisho, the imprisonment of the whole clan of Seye Abraha and confiscation of their ill gotten wealth, the harsh treatment of Kinijit leaders and the over forty thousand young people in the aftermath of the 2005 elections and the re imprisonment of Bertukan are symptoms of a sick mind at work. The fact that the ‘leader’ was even keeping tab of Bertukan’s diet and weight is an indication of a very disturbed mind at work.

I dealt with dictatorship because of the current trend of emerging from the yoke of abuse and humiliation in our neighborhood. The example set by Tunisia knows no sign of slowing down. It took Tunisians twenty eight days to topple a twenty-three years old dictatorship. It looks like the Egyptians might do it in less than fifteen days. They were exactly in the same boat like us. Some pundits are trying to show how different we are. I disagree. Our similarities are more than our differences. All three dictators used fear as their potent weapon. All three used excessive force for minor offenses. Murdering, imprisoning or exiling opponents is common to all three. All three economies were on the verge of collapse.

Trying to compare who is the most autocratic between the three misfits is a useless exercise. All three would not blink when it comes to killing to stay in power. Ours is a little primitive due to the backward economic condition of our country. Using ethnic divide, economic disparity or education level is the hallmark of a dictatorship. Nothing-new there.

We learned from Tunisia that the yearning for freedom is a universal wish. We also found out that the people united speak with one loud voice. There was no lamentation regarding the lack of a viable opposition party or leader. No one except Ben Ali and company was worried what would come after the demise of the rotten system. There was no sign of lawless ness because there was a ‘void’. The dictator was sent packing and Tunisians are slowly trying to undo years of mismanagement.

We are learning additional lessons from our Egyptians brothers and sisters. We are beginning to witness the correct approach to dealing with the military. We are finding out the average solder is committed to protecting his country and flag not the tyrant. We are also watching closely the emergence of an independent individual to coordinate the various actors in this drama. Notice that he is someone that is not associated with the dictator or the opposition. It is a very interesting development.

It is a very important and timely lesson for our country. Some would like to scare us with the specter of a military dictatorship upon the demise of TPLF. Egypt is a good example of not looking at the military as a simple tool of the ruling class. It is a living organism with different independent parts not always controlled from the center. When it comes to our country what we see is a beautiful picture. Our job is to build on that discontent and appeal to the good in all of us. We know the Generals and officers are from the ruling ethnic group. Fortunately the ordinary foot solders are just like us. A rainbow of nations and nationalities.

Let us resolve to approach this situation with hope and anticipation of a better tomorrow. Let us ignore the naysayers, the scaremongers and the negative merchants. Our country is ripe for change. Our people are ready for change. Our situation cries out for change. We are going to bring about positive change. We are going to use every available means to help our people and ourselves to emerge as a shining light in East Africa. That is our destiny.

We are in the process of organizing a ‘peaceful occupation’ of Ethiopian Embassy’s all over the world. We are going to use ESAT, Facebook, our independent websites and Ginbot7 short wave radio to gather our forces. Our intention is to show the lack of democracy and civil rights in our ancient land. Our hope is those who are clinging to power will realize change is inevitable and they will see the writing on the wall and go wherever dictators go without a futile attempt to deny reality. We are not into revenge but are committed never to allow the rule of a single individual. We also realize those who still stand with abusers even at the last hour will not receive mercy from us. It is time all decide where they stand at this hour of change. Enough is enough.

WikiLeaks and orphan Ethiopia

By Yilma Bekele

Hopefully you have all heard or read about WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is an international non-profit organization that publishes documents from anonymous news sources and leaks. It has been doing that since 2006. These past few days it has been publishing leaked US State Department diplomatic cables. The US is not amused. It is ironic to see the “Western Democracies” crying foul, hacking and forcing Amazon, Pay Pal, Visa and eBay from offering service to WikiLeaks. On the other hand those that abhor government secrecy are overjoyed.

Naturally I was curious to read what the US has to say about our country. I was eager to find out what our Ferenji ‘enablers’ think of their little ‘Kebele’ administrators. The Ethiopian people do not need WikiLeaks to know the ruthless nature of the ethnic based regime in power. They live the nightmare. I was more focused to see if the US Embassy assessment of Meles and company reflects reality on the ground.

I was not disappointed. Actually I was rather impressed by the richness, detail and frank reporting by the diplomats. They actually get it! Their analysis of Zimbabwe and Mugabe is brilliant to say the least:

To give the devil his due, he is a brilliant tactician and has long thrived on his ability to abruptly change the rules of the game, radicalize the political dynamic and force everyone else to react to his agenda. However, he is fundamentally hampered by several factors: his ego and belief in his own infallibility; his obsessive focus on the past as a justification for everything in the present and future; his deep ignorance on economic issues (coupled with the belief that his 18 doctorates give him
the authority to suspend the laws of economics, including supply and demand); and his essentially short-term, tactical style.

One can actually substitute Meles for Mugabe and the description will be right on target. The Embassy cables from Mr. Putin’s Russia is downright scary. Today’s Russia is described as ‘highly centralized, occasionally brutal and all but irretrievably cynical and corrupt. The Kremlin, by this description, lies at the center of a constellation of official and quasi-official rackets.’ Again the similarity with the Meles regime is eerie to say the least. The regime doesn’t seem to discriminate where it gets its arsenal of coercive ideas.

Well the cables from Addis Abeba are beginning to come out. I am not disappointed. We have seen two and they seem to bring everything we know about the banana republic into sharp focus. It gives us a clear picture of the nature of Meles and his relationship with his ‘enablers’. One can stretch the analogy and describe it as ‘mutually beneficial.’ The tricky part is answering exactly beneficial to whom? Yes my friend that is the gist of the matter.

I am going to concentrate on the meeting between Meles Zenawi accompanied by his advisor Gebretensae Gebremichael and US Assistant Secretary Maria Otero, Assistant Secretary Johnny Carson and NSC Senior Director Michelle Gavin in January of 2020. One thing the cables shows us is the fuzzy nature of ‘diplomatic speak.’ The language is very anemic leaving it open to various interpretations, the sentences are short and ideas are thrown in as suggestions to nudge the listener to a desired outcome.

This particular meeting was to get Meles, who represented Africa at the Copenhagen climate summit, to sign the Copenhagen accord. Although the summit was felt to be a failure due to the absence of a binding agreement, the US was convinced it serves its interest and was focused on forcing its friends and client states to sign on the doted line.

Mrs. Otero’s mission was to get the signature, Mr. Carson’s role was to point out President Obama’s ‘commitment’ to democracy and the rule of law while the NSC’s (National Security Council) representative was there to assure Meles to take Carson’s pronouncements with a grain of salt. As usual, language played a central role in the discussion. Please note that the US diplomats, in order not to be seen as clueless idiots, informed the regime their concern regarding the forthcoming elections, the so called charities law enacted by the regime and the situation regarding opposition leader Birtukan, and the Diaspora that is a constant headache. It was all done in a low-key manner.

There is no such thing as subtlety and finesse when it comes to Meles Zenawi. The description ‘a bull in china store’ is a perfect fit. He must have been in a euphoric mood. His words were very forceful and crude. His logic was clear only to himself. It requires cojones to lecture Assistant Secretary Carson regarding the true meaning of fighting for democracy. Assistant Secretary Carson was born when a Black American was a second-class citizen in his own country. He was part of the Civil Right struggle. He knows what it means to be denied freedom. I will quote the cable so you can feel the anger:

Meles said his country’s inability to develop a strong democracy was not due to insufficient understanding of democratic principles, but rather because Ethiopians had not internalized those principles. Ethiopia should follow the example of the U.S. and European countries, he said, where democracy developed organically and citizens had a stake in its establishment. When people are committed to democracy and forced to make sacrifices for it, Meles said, “they won’t let any leader take it away from them.” But “when they are spoon-fed democracy, they will give it up when their source of funding and encouragement is removed.” Referencing his own struggle against the Derg regime, Meles said he and his compatriots received no foreign funding, but were willing to sacrifice and die for their cause, and Ethiopians today must take ownership of their democratic development, be willing to sacrifice for it, and defend their own rights.

Please read it again. The statement does not make sense. The statement is full of holes and is based on lies and made-up facts. It is a product of a deranged mind. The Ethiopian people have internalized the true meaning of democracy. Based on the principle of one-person one vote the Ethiopian people stood all day to cast their ballot in May 2005. When Ato Meles tried to nullify their vote they came out and protested. They were met with an overwhelming force. Like any rational human being they retreated. Weakness should not be looked at as ignorance. No one has ‘spoon-fed democracy’ to our people; rather our rulers have shoved the bayonet down our throat. As for the struggle Ato Meles and his party waged, it is not a license to further abuse and ill govern. I thought Ato Meles and his party fought for our collective freedom then what is this talk about further struggle after they liberated us. Do we have to pick up arms to get rid of them too? It is doable but is it necessary?

I said Assistant Secretary Maria Otero came to collect a signature. The cables are a good example of big power using big stick diplomacy cushioned in diplomatic language:

U/S Otero urged Meles to sign the Copenhagen accord on climate change and explained that it is a point of departure for further discussion and movement forward on the topic.

You know what that means in simple everyday English? Unless you sign on the doted line there is no need to speak anymore. The record shows Meles protested that he has ‘personal’ assurance from Obama for releasing the money and it has not happened yet and Secretary Gavin assured him she ‘would look into it.’ It looks like Meles does not understand that Mr. Obama does not have the authority to make personal assurance. He has to talk to his experts, consult his allies and inform Congress. Only despots make personal decisions in the name of their subjects.

You know what came to mind when I read that? My son when he was a baby always wants to eat the desert before the meal and I tell him eat your dinner and then you can have your dessert. Here we are as a government and Meles wants his dessert before he delivers Africa. How pathetic.

You notice the title says orphan Ethiopia. I read Prof. Alemayehu’s analysis regarding our conflict with Somalia. I felt depressed. I read WikiLeaks cable regarding elections and climate change and I felt more depressed. We have President Obama, Secretary Otero, Secretary Carson and Secretary Gavin systematically advancing the national interest of their country. Sitting across the table from them we have a despot fighting for his family and friends communal interest. The US strategy is to fight the terrorist menace far away from American shores and they are willing to make friends with the devil as long as it keeps the battle far from the homeland. We have Meles and company using every trick to stay in power even if it means betraying their people, their country and their flag to stay in power one more day.

We ventured into Somalia to deflect attention from election theft; we support climate change accord for a fistful of dollars and may be a future job for Meles. In the mean time our country and people are on a forced march backwards into the past. The revelations from WikiLeaks are not done yet. What would tomorrow bring?

Meles discussing ‘trash’ and ‘garbage’

By Yilma Bekele.

As you all know Ethiopia held what is referred to as ‘elections’ last May. The ruling TPLF party won 545 of the 547 seats in Parliament. One can tell from the results that either the TPLF party is the most popular association in the country or the election was rigged and the outcome was tainted.

Ethiopians were resigned to the fact that the Prime Minster’s Party will be declared the winner. It was also assumed the regime will allow the so-called opposition to win some seats to save face and appease the Ferenji donors. Those aligned with Medrek actually were willing to look the other way when Ato Meles jailed their leader, murdered their candidates, denied them gathering places and threatened them with criminal charges if they criticized the regime’s polices in the heat of the moment. It did not save them from extinction.

Ato Meles did not stop there. He picked and choose the international observers and trained his own cadres to be election observers. He tried but was unable to deny the European Union from sending independent observers. Welfare recipients sometimes have limited choices. He did mange to curtail their activities to show his people that he will not be pushed around.

Well the report by European Union election observers was made official last week. For us Ethiopians there was nothing new there. We live the nightmare thus there is no need to read about it. Our collective response was a loud duh!

On the other hand our ‘fearless leader’ for life has a different response to this carefully written report. According to Barry Malone of Reuters, the PM chosen words were ‘”trash that deserves to be thrown in the garbage.” He did not stop there, elucidating further, he went on to say “The report is not about our election. It is just the view of some Western neo-liberals who are unhappy about the strength of the ruling party… anybody who has paper and ink can scribble whatever they want.”

Charming isn’t he. You would not expect such ‘trash talk’ from a leader of a country do you? One would think when you ascend to be a leader there are certain diplomatic norms to be maintained and style of talk to abide. One can disagree without being crass. The office one holds dictates one’s behavior and choice of words. Well, it is Ethiopia and international norms, rules and regulations are suggestions left to the individual’s discretion.

It took the EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) six months to issue the official report. EU EOM was headed by Thijs Berman, a Dutch member of European Parliament and 10 Core Team members (analysts) 90 Long Term Observers and more than 60 Short Term Observers from 22 EU member states, as well as Norway, Switzerland, and Canada. The report is a carefully written document giving credit where credit is due and pointing out some discrepancies where improvement is needed to make the system work better. None of the observers hold any bias against our country and people that we know of. Their stated mission was to observe and report so what ever happened will be well documented and help future decision makers to see where to put their resources to help Democracy take root in our country.

When it comes to our country things just don’t move in a reasonable and rational way. You can sense the crudeness of the TPLF regime when it denied the team access to Ethiopia to present their findings. According to Mr. Berman ‘”This is the first time that a host country has denied the EU observation mission access to return to present its report,”

The regime chose to impeach the character of the EU mission instead of responding to the detailed findings by the observers. First to comment was our good friend Shimeles Kemal (yes he is still around), the mentally unstable paranoid Communication Affairs Minster who said ‘the report is nothing but a biased political analysis of Ethiopia and was made under pressure from Human Rights Watch (HRW) which led the government to reject the report.” He was not satisfied with one enemy thus he threw in HRW for added effect.

The PM decided to lower bar further down. He was not about to be outdone by a junior miscommunication chief. He decided to leave the insulting and name calling to me. Twenty years at the helm has given him the license to dispense insults, demeaning words and bully his people with immunity. That is what he did five years ago in response to EU’s report regarding the 2005 elections. In fact he was so proud of his penmanship he published his response on his newspaper ‘The Ethiopian Herald.’ This is what he wrote:

The statement has come as a great surprise to me. I had expected that the statement would have very few if any nuggets of truth, and, if any, that these would be buried under so much garbage that it would be virtually impossible to excavate them. As it turned out, the statement has some big, really big, lumps of truth in it, and it is relatively easy to remove the garbage that has covered those lumps of truth. While I was expecting a huge garbage dump all I got was newly started garbage dump that was unable to bury the truth. The letter cannot but therefore start by identifying and highlighting the lumps of truth in the statement.

There you have it a head of state calling the Honorable Ana Gomez and her team’s report ‘garbage’.

Looks like time has not mellowed the PM. Why do you think he is stuck in this funky mode? Do you think just may be we have something to do with it? Is it possible we encourage this dysfunctional behavior? Are we part of the problem?

These are good points to ponder while we look at the PM and his isolated existence in a bubble. You see the truth is verbal abuse, demeaning of fellow citizens is nothing but the first step leading towards higher forms of criminal behavior. Ato Meles has made it a habit of knocking down our flag, country and culture. We are so enamored by his crass behavior that we ascribe such adjectives as ‘wend new’ ‘jegna new’, etc. that only emboldens his crudeness. He of course thinking it is cute goes on to apply it in his relationship with foreign dignitaries. It is true children repeat what they hear. Thus one is always careful about language around two-year-olds. They blurt out that ‘new’ word they just heard in a public setting.

We are ashamed that the PM did not find a grown up method of disagreeing in a civilized manner. Language is very important in diplomatic circles. Words carry great weight.