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Confessions of a disappointed Ethiopian

By Yilma Bekele

Foreign policy magazine had an article by Professor George Ayittey titled “The worst of the worst-bad dude dictators and general coconut heads.” As an Ethiopian I was sold by the title. I knew I was in familiar territory. That is one category we can claim ownership. There are a few human experiences that are sort of associated with our country. It is like when you mention marathon or distance running the first thing that comes to mind is mother Ethiopia and her barefoot runners. That is good. On the other hand say famine or starvation the face presented is that of an Ethiopian. That is bad.

Thus I was sure that Professor Ayittey’s article was such a place where our country will outshine the competition. Yes sir, we will make them eat dust. Gentlemen rev your engines here comes the most important list. This special list contains 23 autocrats that control 1.9 billion people. Here is how he started his article:

I call these revolutionaries-turned-tyrants “crocodile liberators,” joining the ranks of other fine specimens: the Swiss bank socialists who force the people to pay for economic losses while stashing personal gains abroad, the quack revolutionaries who betray the ideals that brought them to power, and the briefcase bandits who simply pillage and steal. Here’s my list of the world’s worst dictators. I have ranked them based on ignoble qualities of perfidy, cultural betrayal, and economic devastation. If this account of their evils makes you cringe, just imagine living under their rule.

That is just page one. So I shout hurry up with the list and turn the page over. Number one is Kim Jung IL of North Korea. It is ok no surprise here. Kim Jung is a formidable tyrant with some sort of crude Nuclear weapon by his bedside. Guess who comes next. Freaking Mugabe, that is who. I was a little disappointed but continued turning the page. The picture was that of General Than Shwe of Burma. He looks like some character from Disney with all the self- awarded medals covering half his chest. No mention of us. Next is none other than our neighbor General Al Bashir of Sudan.

Well you should see my disappointment. Why do you do this to me Professor, I plead. Are you trying to take the only thing we got going for us? The professor is very cruel. He ranked some dentist turned tyrant from Turkmenistan as number six, followed by our neighbor from the north Isaiyas Afworki, coming at number eight is a ‘ruthless thug’ from Uzbekistan, and Ahmadinejad of Iran taking the number nine spot. Our dear leader for life, architect of 99.6% victory Prime Minister Meles is ranked number ten.

To say I was furious is an under statement. I was crushed. I Googled Professor George B.N. Ayittey’s name. I wanted to know what beef he got with mother Ethiopia. What is going on here? What kind of joke is the professor playing on us? I can understand number three, may be number four but number ten seems a little harsh to me.

This does not bode well to either the Prime Minister or his TPLF cadres. They have been sharpening their craft for the last twenty-five years and all they got to show for it is lousy number ten ranking? I do believe the Professor is trying to make them the laughing stock of the country if not the neighborhood. Have you ever heard of respect for number ten?
As a self-respecting loyal subject of number ten I fired off an email to the good professor. I told him in no uncertain terms that we take offense to that. I understand we might not brandish Nuclear weapons like ‘Dear Leader’ Kim but we make it up with other cowardly acts. Just take the ranking of those crude Generals from Burma as number two. What do they got that we don’t have? For starters they have the Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi but we got Bertukan Mediksa. That is a wash. On the other hand while Aung San Suu Kyi is under a house arrest, Judge Bertukan is in solitary confinement at the rat infested Kaliti Prison. Surely number ten gets extra points for that.

Number ten has sacrificed over eighty thousand subjects in the Eritrean war with another ten thousand or more in Somalia and various other conflicts, can the Burmese tyrants equal that? They don’t even have the balls to start a war with their neighbors. Give me a break professor. The lower ranking of Mugabe and Al Bashir is further insult that should not go un noticed. When it comes to terrorizing ones own population they can’t even hold a candle to number ten. We are talking about targeted shooting of unarmed peaceful demonstrators in broad daylight, imprisonment of over forty thousand suspected opposition sympathizers and incarceration of the entire opposition party leaders. None of the two tin pot dictators can boast of such a feat. A few unorganized acts of terror here and there but I doubt they have a well-equipped Agazi force at their disposal.

I am really surprised that of all the glorious achievements by number ten the Professor saw fit to mention the following:
Worse than the former Marxist dictator he ousted nearly two decades ago, Zenawi has clamped down on the opposition, stifled all dissent, and rigged elections. Like a true Marxist revolutionary, Zenawi has stashed millions in foreign banks and acquired mansions in Maryland and London in his wife’s name, according to the opposition

I tend to disagree. I would like to think murder and genocide will out rank simple thievery in the scheme of criminal acts. I also think those properties are a ruse to camouflage the real location of the retirement venue. As you know both countries have no qualms regarding shipping former tyrants to The Hague, thus I would think number ten is aiming for either Shanghai or Pyongyang.

Further more do you see any of the other contestants at the G20 meeting anywhere? No sir, it is number ten that shows up consistently. The fact that he has noting of value to contribute hasn’t stopped him from hobnobbing with elected leaders. It is not lost on the organizers that number ten’s presence gives vibrancy to a boring and uneventful gathering. It is also true that the organizers reserve a special section for the Ethiopian Diaspora to vent out while forcing number ten to crawl down in the back seat. Master Card is doing a commercial based on this true story. According to reliable sources the ad campaign goes like this:
Plane ticket to Toronto- $1500.00
First class Hotel- $2000.00/night
Limousine rental $500.00/day
The look on number ten hiding in his limo driving by angry Ethiopians: priceless.
There is some things money can’t buy, for everything else there is MasterCard!

In the name of fairness and decency we ask Professor Ayittey to revise his list and restore our well-deserved ranking. Number ten is getting ready to take the oath of office after the grueling campaign and we hope this ranking will not deter the Mugabes, Al Bashirs and other highly rated misfits from skipping the ceremony. Some are claiming that the lower ranking is a conspiracy by Ethiopian haters to discredit numbers ten’s glorious achievement, but I wouldn’t go that far. I urge the Professor to reconsider. You can read his article by clicking at the following site.,0

Ethiopia’s Meles and Picasso – masters of their art

By Yilma Bekele

My friend came from out of town for a visit. I took him around to all the tourist places, including our local Museum of Modern Art. Lucky for us there was a Picasso exhibit the critics were raving about. It was a delight to view Picasso’s work in living color.

I was transfixed by the painting ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ or the chicks from d’ Avignon. (
Even though Picasso denied it, this work shows a strong resemblance to African art. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is the maestro at his best. By some it is considered his most daring and outrageous work. The use of bold colors and brash diagonal lines makes the painting full of activity and perpetual motion. Pablo Picasso was a genius. Looking at Les Demoiselles d’Avignon one is left with the impression that Picasso was developing a new means of artistic expression. He is considered a maestro or ‘king of his craft.’

Then it came to me. I know some one that fits the description. It is no other than our dear leader for life Meles Zenawi. Picasso used his god given talent to bring joy to humanity while Meles uses his devil inspired negatively charged machinations to create chaos, mistrust and uncertainty to his subjects. The maestro our very own ‘prince of darkness.’

It was a sad realization but nevertheless a realization that will at eat my heart for the next two weeks. No matter how hard I tried to push it out of my head, it wouldn’t go away. I have to admit it was an apt comparison. There was no escaping from the fact that we are witnessing the scientific evolution of the ‘art of terror’ and our very own Meles Zenawi is achieving the rank of maestro in his chosen field. OK I concede, we can qualify it by creating a new classification of ‘mal maestro’. It must be a proud moment for his friends and family. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some just cheat, lie, push, shove, and kill just to make it. We have a winner amongst us.

Bestowing the title of maestro on our ‘Dear leader’ might be offensive to some. But ladies and gentlemen, if you will forgive me, I don’t see anything wrong in giving credit where credit is due. The tightly choreographed play that passed for a democratic and free election is worthy of mention in any history book. Mal maestro sounds like a perfect title to me. Our friend Picasso introduced the African sense of unrestricted vibrant wild energy into the ‘Cubist’ style of the time. Last weekend humanity watched in living color the modern drama of unabashed robbery as witnessed by distinguished guests from Europe and Africa. The opposition candidates were led to the sacrificial pooling booth accompanied by neatly dressed and well-fed toy solders adorned in their best-imported uniforms.

Just to add a little bit of drama our mal maestro erected video cameras in every major corners to watch, record and intimidate while a low flying helicopter supposedly equipped with video camera and automatic weapons was thrown in for special effect. The 2010 fourth general election in Ethiopia is another milestone in our history that will be judged as the best work of mal maestro Meles Zenawi by generations to come.

It took five years of preparation to put paint to canvas, and come up with such glorious achievement of 99.6% purity. Many have tried it but none have achieved such pure nirvana. Sudan’s Al Bashir was awe stricken, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe was flabbergasted, Mymar’s nameless Generals demanded the blueprint, and the Chinese Communist Party was humbled. Iran’s Ahmadinejad called a cabinet meeting upon hearing such colossal achievement, and Kyrgyzstan’s petty tyrant is said to have wept openly from his hiding place in Belarus. Solomon Tekaligne is right ‘the eye browed’ one is one cool hombre.

Watching the mal maestro at work is a delight. Professionals make a difficult task look so easy. The election drama was played out to a mesmerized audience with such passion that it left the feeble opposition dumbstruck and shell-shocked. Mal maestro Meles displayed such bold moves as TV debates in undisclosed location to be edited and broadcasted at a later time. His use of vibrant colors full of energy was evident in his ‘warning’ of contestants that they will be held liable for their negative uttering regarding his policy. The only location they could campaign without being taunted, beaten or abused was thousands of miles away in North America among non-voting supporters. Even there, they were reminded of the penalty of ‘mis- speaking’ that will await them. They were forced to relearn the art of speaking without saying anything of value. The fact that the opposition sacrificed a few die-hards was compared to the 2005 election and declared an improvement.

Our mal maestro was so sure of success that he organized a victory celebration before the ballots were in. The neat beautiful tri-color posters were printed months back, the participants paid ahead and the beautiful dais at Meskel Square lit with special lighting. The bulletproof vest was adorned with a casual jacket, the baseball hat was lined with silk and the big Israeli gun was brought out openly to make a bold statement of ‘don’t thread on me.’ The picture of the little dictator behind the bulletproof glass in front of his adoring fans was a symbol of our insanity taken to a higher level.

Mal maestro Meles is not faint hearted. That is his undoing. Why pussyfoot around when you can overwhelm and relieve the peasants of their misery is his motto. He is daring but lacks wisdom. Crude is the word I am looking for. He is void of ingenuity, creativity and nuance. A wise person searches a clever way out of an unpleasant situation. Our mal maestro is not blessed with subtlety. By any standards a blunt force such as 99.6% is the least elegant solution. It is like calling upon the US Air Force to settle a bar room brawl.

What did his subjects do, you might ask? I will try to answer that delicately. For a people who have been trampled upon for the last thirty years, we have developed a very fragile ego. Who would blame us if we turn around and fault ourselves? Victim blaming certainly did not start with us. Didn’t the Europeans blame Africans for the slave trade? Didn’t Hitler blame the Jews for his atrocities? Didn’t Meles blame Kinijit for planning Interhamwe? Well it is no surprise that some are blaming the opposition for losing.

Please tell me something new. Isn’t self-flagellation our national past time? No one can surpass Ethiopians in that field. We leave our homeland empty handed, we settle in strange places, we build a life, we raise a family and we still bad mouth each other. Do you notice that we live together in humongous apartment complexes, eat Tibs and Kitfo in our own restaurants, buy insurance from our cousins but without pause, we talk about the uselessness of Abeshas. Why stop there while you are at it why not blame the University massacre, the war with Eritrea, the genocide in Hawasa, Ogaden and Gambella the over 40% unemployment, the debacle of Gibe Dam and other mal maestros misdeeds on the opposition. Hey why not include the lack of rain in the mix. That should show everybody the only smart choice is the gang from Adwa.

So how did we deal with our current debacle? I am afraid I have nothing positive to report. We have decided to direct the rage on each other. Our programming was so complete we were ready to accept any crumbs thrown by the mal maestro. The contestants openly admitted the impossibility of wining. The issue was presented how much less was acceptable. Talks about low expectations, our gallant parties were reduced to dampening the enthusiasm of some of their hotheaded supporters that took the fake election to heart.

Where do we go from here? Do we go back to old habit of passing the blame around, knocking each other down and hiding our head under the sand or try something new for a change. Something like looking at the glass half full rather than half empty. Do we dare building on what we have instead of raising the bar so high and setting ourselves for another failure?

I am an optimist. I see the glass half full. I believe the mal maestro due to arrogance of power or the freelance nature of his well-trained zombie cadres committed a slight error. 99.6% was not the intention. But you can’t undue what is already done. He has made it difficult to his foreign benefactors to turn the usual blind eye. So they will complain a little, wring their hands a little and advise his victims to be a little patient. Some of us have already started to crow about the few isolated statements foreign office junior officials regarding the lack of ‘level playing field’ yadi yada. We seem to revelle when the Ferenjis tell us how brutal the mal maestro is. Ferenjis enable the victimizer then tell us how painful it is.

Now the ball is in our court so to say. It is about time somebody shows they got tooth too, that we can and we will bite back. We want our own ‘shock and awe’ moment. The time for talk is over. Baby steps are not the solution. Condemnations, outrage, anger are so yesterday. Today should be ‘look mom I can stand up with no support’ display moment. It is to show the world we are not dead, that we are capable of sacrifice and when we set our minds to the task we can do it! The issue is not how strong the enemy is but how committed we are for freedom. It is about hitting him in his most vulnerable spots and creating uncertainty and doubt. His benefactors will abandon him the first whiff of trouble. Our people will rally around the first inkling of trouble brewing. We ask someone to step forward and do the maestro a favor. He is tired, let us relieve him of such a heavy burden of bullying eighty million souls and let him get his deserved rest in a four by six room at Kaliti. We will include weight watchers manual in case of a few kilos from such comfort.

Ethiopian ESAT is a game changer.

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Ethiopian ESAT is a game changer. By Yilma Bekele

When you think things look bad and hope is fading something happens to boost the morale and compels you to get up and give it another spin. When the little tyrant is making fun of democracy and elections and freedom lovers everywhere despair there comes a ray of hope from around the corner and floods our heart with optimism and ‘yes we can’ mind set.

ESAT is such a moment in the long history of our ancient land. It is like they close the door to engulf us in darkness and our brave ones open a window to let the light in. So you think I am getting carried away? No sir, actually I am frothing at the mouth and I am doing all I can, not to go up on top of Ras Dashen and shout Hallelujah or Alhamdulillah. Now this is a truly Hallelujah or Alhamdulillah moment if there is any.

When they say ‘information is power’ they know what they are talking about. Tyrants, dictators, totalitarians and all mad men in charge have one thing in common – absolute monopoly on information management. Totalitarianism 101 states ‘news and views’ shall be managed by the State. That is the way it is in Ethiopia. The one party state is a one absolute dictator country, a one TV channel, a single radio and a lonely flag ship newspaper nation. Tyrants abhor diversity.

Our country is the last in Africa in communications technology. The regime controls the media including the new technology of Internet. We are the least wired nation on the Planet. For crying out loud even our war torn neighbor Somalia boasts of more Web citizens that good old Ethiopia. The Ethiopian state spends more resources in jamming radio signals, interfering with TV broadcast, hounding editors and reporters and even censoring books and periodicals than on education and health.

The so called ‘Communications Dept’ headed by the infamous Bereket Semeon under the auspicious of PM Meles Zenawi is where they keep the light switch. That is where they summoned the editors of ‘Awramba Times’ to discuss the consequences of their euphoria regarding freedom. That is where they invited the editors of ‘Addis Neger’ for their ‘last super’. In their dark dungeon Zenawi, Semon, Bedri and others pour over transcripts, videos, audios and all source of enlightenment to make sure the Ethiopian people are shielded from unfiltered knowledge.

There is nothing left to chance. Even Internet is seen as threat. Whereas poor nations saw the possibility of growing their economy and catching up, the Ethiopian leaders knee jerk reaction was to block it. Thus they waste limited resources to buy technology to block filter and spy on their citizens. All our independent Web sites are blocked. They are truly afraid that if the Ethiopian people hear the truth they will demand to be free.

ESAT is a game changer. ESAT has started to broadcast to Ethiopia 24 hrs a day using satellite parked high above the equator. It is digital. It is unblockable. It is the voice from tomorrow. It is the little tyrants nightmare.

We the children of Ethiopia are heartened by this good news. We are bursting with joy. At last our people are going to be treated like adults. We are going to do away with the ‘baby sitters’. We are slow, we get distracted easy and we fight amongst each other but in the end we always get the job done. ESAT is our WMD. It is a lethal weapon that disarms those that deny our people freedom and democracy. Let those that preach hate, glorify division beware. ESAT is here to set the record straight. ESAT is going to tell our story, as it really is not some version concocted by behind the scene ‘communications bureau’. Their strangle hold on the news is broken. No more lies.

We urge ESAT to stay true to the cause of freedom. We urge ESAT to celebrate independence and professionalism. We welcome ESTV with open arms and consider their achievement as our own. We promise to move heaven and earth to make ESAT a success. We promise to contribute our share to make ESAT strong, successful and a reflection of that Ethiopian sense of proud yet humble. We congratulate the Board of Directors of ESAT for bringing our country such a priceless gift that is truly a game changer in every sense. Ladies and gentlemen start broadcasting the truth! Please go to ( and feast to your hearts content.

ESAT has organized a fund raising event for the inauguration of this important venture. It will be held in every major city where our people reside. We asked for it, now we got it. It is time to put our resources where our mouth was. Our involvement enhances the quality of the programming. Our involvement will make it stay true to the cause of freedom that we yearn for. Roll up your sleeve and get involved. Find out where the event is and get involved. Call your family, call your neighbor call your Kebele or call your resident cadres and tell them to tune in:

– Arabsat / Badr 6/ Ku band
– Channel Frequency: 11785 GHz
– Symbol Rate: 27500 MSym/s
– Polarization: Vertical

Ethiopia and election drama

By Yilma Bekele

What do you do when you first wake up in the morning? Some of us cannot move without our first cup of coffee while others require a good breakfast. How about if you went to bed without dinner? I am sure you woke up a few times hungry, you did not have a good restful sleep and it is possible your rest was disturbed by all sorts of dream and nightmare due to an empty stomach.

Food is primary. Food comes first. Without food there is no you. Without food there is no life.

Food is what is lacking in our country. Food has been lacking in our country for eternity. We are famous for not having enough food. Our name has become synonymous with hunger. When you say famine the word that comes to mind is Ethiopia.

Why is there not enough food in Ethiopia? We are lazy? No. Our people are known to farm from sunup to sundown. Farming is a family business. Our land is dry? No. We have plenty of rivers flowing out of our highlands north into Egypt, East to Somalia and west to Sudan. We don’t have enough land. No. We have plenty of virgin land waiting to be developed. We are over populated. No. We have enough land to sustain twice our current population. We are stupid? No. Our dispersed citizens all over the world are proof that we are one clever people that will settle anywhere and thrive.

Thus we are not lazy, we have a beautiful fertile land, we are not over populated and we are not mentally challenged people but we are still hungry and cannot survive without a handout. Why?

There is not enough food because we are not using our resources intelligently. Did I just say resources? As soon as I said resource you automatically thought of mineral or oil or such commodity. No, we have resources more precious than that. The people are the most important resource of a country. We have not figured out a way to harness the abundant resource of eighty million souls in front of our eyes. That, in a nutshell is our problem.

It is nice to have minerals and oil. It is good to be blessed with a vast population. But by themselves they don’t mean much. There is a third important factor that makes the two work in harmony. It is a vital part of the equation. It is what we have been lacking for a long time. That is what we don’t have.

I am glad you asked. What is lacking is good governance. It is enlightened leadership. That is what is missing in our country. Our country goes back thousands of years. Our Ethiopia is not a recent phenomenon. We have such visionaries as Tewodros, Yohanes and Menelik. They have been gone a long time but their legacy still lives.

Today we are lost. We are like a vessel without a pilot but driven by the wind. We stumble from port to port. We travel without knowing our destination, we plan without knowing what we want to achieve and we fail time and time again. We are accustomed to leaders that avoid responsibility. They excel at blaming others for their mistakes and lack of vision but they have this remarkable ability to shake accountability.

Here is a quote from a classic Chinese text (Tao TeChing) written around the 6th. Century BC about leadership:

The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects;
The next best are loved and praised;
The next are feared;
The next despised:
They have no faith in their people,
And their people become unfaithful to them.

When the best rulers achieve their purpose
Their subjects claim the achievement as their own.

We don’t have that do we? Thus we go hungry. We roam the earth looking for a place to settle. We despair for our country and we fight each other. Whether at home or in a foreign land we have no harmony. There is no peace among the children of Ethiopia. We celebrate our differences and magnify our contradictions. We are one sorry nation.

The way we are going about building our country is not a wining formula. We all know it is not going to happen. You cannot fit a square inside a circle. You can try, but it won’t fit. My son used to try that when he was two. One week with that toy and he figured it is not going to happen. He did not force the issue. He learnt. Here we are responsible adults and we are still trying to fit a square inside a circle.

We are at it again. The current farce billed as an election is bringing out the worst in us. We are stuck with a Party that is unable to let go. It survives from day today. It survives by creating contradiction among its people. It stumbled into power without a clue of what to do with it. It has been improvising for the last seventeen years. It lacks what the American refer to as ‘Exit strategy’. I am sure the TPLF leaders would love to go into the sunset peacefully. Sit back and enjoy their ill-gotten wealth. How is the burning question keeping Ato Meles and company awake at night. Their belly is full but their mind wonders.

Think of it this way. Ato Meles his family a few of his friends can leave. How about their entourage. What is going to happen to the junior abusers that have been doing the actual dirty job? It is a very interesting situation. Lack of ‘exit strategy’ has been the Achilles heel of dictators since time immemorial. Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos, Augusto Pinochet, Mobutu Sese Seko, Alberto Fujimori, Nicolae Ceausescu and so on have all been victims of that simple but vital concept. They always get caught with their pants down.

After all is said and done we are back to square one. Waking up hungry. Fourteen million Ethiopians are in a state of constant famine. Twice that number wake up hungry everyday. When it comes to our children it is said that those that are mal nourished (starved) during their developmental phase, the deficiencies are recognized to have the potential for permanent adverse effects on learning and behavior. A nation of mentally challenged is the outcome.

Everything is inter related. You cannot have food on the table without a good governance that requires a visionary leader. You cannot have a visionary leader without a democratic elections that weeds out the wheat from the chaff. You cannot weed out the chaff without an open transparent competition for the citizen to judge. So we go around this vicious circle we have created.

What do you think the current election is going to accomplish. Definitely it is not going to separate the chaff from the wheat. Why? Because it is all chaff. The wheat knows better. It is going to sit this one out. TPLF is going to win. Medrek will be allowed one hundred seats. The Europeans and the Americans will bless the outcome with ‘some’ reservation. Ato Meles and company will celebrate their emerging democracy.

The Ethiopian people will watch the drama somberly. The hunger will continue unabated. The migration of the young will be accelerated. The sale of our virgin territory will gain momentum.
All is not lost. It might look hopeless but every contradictions carries its own solution. Didn’t the divine Haile Sellasie regime crumble due to internal rot? Didn’t the mighty Derge wither away due its arrogance and abuse? The same fate awaits the criminal TPLF regime. I will leave you with what Tao TeChing said about rebellion:

When rulers take grain so that they may feast,
Their people become hungry;
When rulers take action to serve their own interests,
Their people become rebellious;
When rulers take lives so that their own lives are maintained,
Their people no longer fear death.

When people act without regard for their own lives
They overcome those who value only their own lives.

There will come a time when the people no longer fear death.

Medrek and the Ethiopian election

By Yilma Bekele

I am sure most of you have heard or read that the leaders of Medrek are on a tour of North America. They have held town hall meetings in Seattle, San Jose, Las Vegas, Washington DC and Atlanta and are coming to Los Angles this coming weekend. The delegation consists of Ato Seye Abreha, Ato Gebru Asrat, Dr. Negasso Gidada and Ato (engineer) Gezachew Shiferaw. All four gentlemen were ex members of TPLF, OPDO or AEUP.

For those not familiar with the alphabet soup, TPLF stands for Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front and OPDO is Oromo Peoples Democratic Union. OPDO is the brainchild of TPLF. That is neither paranoia nor a figment of my imagination. Other TPLF subsidiaries include ANDM (Amhara National Democratic Movement) SEPDM (Southern Ethiopia Peoples’ Democratic Movement) and other minor parties. They call them Teletafi (ተለጣፊ) They are organized as EPDRF (Ethiopian peoples’ Democratic Revolutionary Front).

The current Ethiopian Parliament is composed of 526 members and EPDRF controls 326 seats. That is actually not a true statement. TPLF Party control extends to all the so-called political parties organized as an independent for ‘Ferenjis’ consumption. Thus in reality the Parliament is TPLF’ Party’s’ private playing field. As the Chilean dictator Pinochet said ‘”Not a leaf moves in Chile if I don’t know about it”, nothing in Ethiopian Parliament happens without the permission of the one party state.

If you will forgive me I will start our current story with the 2005 general election as a background. To a majority of Ethiopians May 2005 is day one in the hope of our people for democracy and a better future. May 2005 left the Meles regime physically naked mentally dead and spiritually void of values. The total rejection of ethnic politics and cadre rule unnerved the regime. Meles and company panicked. They communicated with the Ethiopian people with snipers on every roof and concentration camps in every Kilil. The aftermath of 2005 election ushered the quest for a new understanding of the struggle for liberation under a totalitarian state.

Kinijit leaders were forced to forge a new path based on the experience of the 2005 debacle. Kinijit the dragon slayer was an amalgamation of different organization united for the purpose of elections. The two years in Kaliti jail dealt a heavy blow on the young party. The TPLF machine used every evil means at its disposal to create mistrust, mis-information resulting in disarray. Kaliti did a favor to the movement. It differentiated the men from the boys. Ledetu was officially recognized as a subsidiary. Hailu was exposed as spoiler. Merera and Petros became inconsequential. Berhanu reloaded and Bertukan decided to re-calibrate.

Our story revolves around Bertukan Mideksa. Upon her return to Ethiopia from her North American tour, she embarked on the formation of a new political party modeled after Kinijit. If you remember Ato Meles’s court have already handed Kinijit to some obscure individual named Ayele Chamiso. Thus Weizero Bertukan labored tirelessly to form Andenet Party. Despite the many hurdles thrown on her path she was able to dot the I’s and cross the t’s and form Andenet. It was a proud accomplishment that will be told and retold for a long time. Birtukan’s Andenet is a multi national party based on equality and resting on a strong bedrock of Democracy as its foundation.

Weizero Bertukan criss crossed the country forming headquarters in every region and managed to win the trust and respect of the Ethiopian People. Her rising star was eclipsing the faint candlelight of the TPLF cadres. That did not go well with TPLF. Chairman Bertukan was re-hauled back to Kaliti on some funky charge to be kept away until the 2010 election is over.

Her imprisonment created a void in the new party. It was not long before factions were formed and an all out war was declared. The young party was left without a rudder to steer the party in the TPLF shark infested ocean. The battle tested TPLF leaders exploited the weakness of the rookie leaders to the maximum. TPLF was not interested in killing the Party. It just wanted to deliver a crippling blow. It was not long before things degenerated to the extent that Andenet was forced to appeal to the TPLF regime for protection from its own members. Shame is an understatement. It was under these strange circumstances that Andenet joined what is known as Medrek. What exactly is Medrek?

Medrek is a coalition of different parties that include UEDF (United Ethiopian Democratic Forces led by Dr. Beyene Petros and Dr. Merera Gudina) OFDM (Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement led by Ato Bulcha Demeksa) A.R.E.N.A. Tigrai led by Ato Gebru Asrat, and Andenet led by Ato Gezachew Shiferaw. Please note Andenet is the only multi national party in the group. Andenet under the leadership of Chairman Bertukan is the only party with representation in all parts of the country and support organizations in the Diaspora.

The two independent individuals Ato Seye Abraha and Dr. Negasso Gidada joined the weak and wounded Andenet at this critical time. The void felt in the party due to the expulsion of some founding members created a fertile ground for the two ex-officials to assume positions of leadership upon arrival.

Thus, this is the Medrek that is currently touring North America. Some of my esteemed friends have used such expressions as ‘the rebirth of Ethiopia’ and ‘a new political culture in Ethiopia’ to explain the tour. Is this really a Hallelujah or Alhamdulillah moment? It is possible that both declarations are heavy on the cheerleading side but lacking in the friendly but critical assessment option.

The American expression ‘friends don’t allow friends drive drunk’ comes to mind, especially when one is a passenger in the vehicle. We are all passengers in this ship called Ethiopia. The action of the pilot affects the welfare of the passengers. The current tour leaves many questions unanswered and the timing is a puzzle to all well-wishers. The question of raising money is out of the question. The Diaspora is fighting a life and death battle to retain jobs, pay mortgages and raise expensive children. The Diaspora does not vote. Is it possible the expenditure of thousands of hard earned dollars in transporting, lodging and feeding the delegation is not a smart investment?

What exactly is Medrek trying to accomplish in the current election? The short answer is of course win. The next question will be is that possible? The simple answer is a resounding no. That leads us back to the first question, why participate in an impossible, rigged game where the outcome is pre determined? That the TPLF started the preparations for this election way back in May of 2005 is obvious to all. Meles and company vowed not to be caught with their pants down again. Thus the vibrant independent media was destroyed, capable leaders were killed, exiled or jailed, the Constitution was amended to include curbs on NGO activities, a law defining any opposition as terrorism and a new code of conduct was put in place.

In Election Ethiopian style the opposition cannot hold unauthorized meeting, cannot hold a rally, and cannot raise money from outside sources including the Diaspora. It is enough for you to say what a cockamamie idea? Wait there is more; according to the PM candidates cannot criticize the regime under threat of being charged with incitement or sedation. In emerging democratic Ethiopia the opposition cannot campaign except in a few large cities like Addis Abeba and Bahir Dar. Being a candidate or supporter of the opposition is a hazardous duty in most of the Kilils. The only exception seems to be Tigrai where the ex TPLF members can campaign in a limited areas.

Medrek has sacrificed plenty of candidates in this election. Human right activists, foreign correspondents such as VOA, Bloomberg and many others, have recorded party members being prosecuted, hounded in their villages, denied government controlled necessities and even murdered. Ethiopian politics is not for the fain hearted.

The 2005 election was proof that the minority-based regime is a paper tiger. It was resoundingly defeated where the ballot boxes were opened under the watchful eyes of the people and international observers. Thus the lesson learnt was it is not about the campaign but it is all about the counting of the ballots. What we see today is that the regime still controls the election board, recruited trained and is ready to deploy its own cadre observers and have drawn up a strict code of conduct for the Ferenji observers. It is like meet the new situation same as the old situation.

The simple question to Medrek is why do you exactly expect a different outcome when nothing has changed? The truth of the matter is actually things have change in a negative way as far as the opposition is concerned. With its star leader behind bars and its candidates and supporters terrorized by government goons how is it possible to contemplate winning when even trying has become a crime?

Why is Medrek giving legitimacy to a dictatorial regime by its involvement in a rigged game? Some will say half a loaf is better than no loaf, is that Medrek’s philosophy too? Is the idea to win a hundred or so seats in Parliament? Is that considered good whereas the regime with its majority control will continue the abuse of the few opposition members seated for show?

These are the questions Medrek have not addressed both at home and abroad. It was only last October that Ato Gezachew declared ‘The release of Birtukan Mideksa and all Political Prisoners is the main agenda for joining the 2010 Election’. What ever happened to that bravado? How come the political prisoner population of Kaliti and the Kilils has gone up let alone secure the release of our leader?

The lessons of 2005 should not be forgotten. Repeating the same mistake is definitely not a winning strategy. The Ethiopian people have paid a heavy price for an inferior and ugly outcome. We worry that what was done to us five years ago is in the process of being repeated. We ask Medrek to consider the ramifications of kowtowing to a totalitarian state that is hell bent in winning at all cost. We urge Medrek to listen to its constituents that wish it well and include their concerns in its deliberations. We have a very sick regime that considers politics as a game where winning is the only acceptable outcome. They have shown that they will kill to secure their ill-gotten power and wealth.

We feel the pain of the opposition candidates that have sacrificed trying to get involved in the affairs of their nation. We are horrified to witness the death of Ato Aregawi Gebre Yohanes, Ato Beyanza Deba and many other nameless Ethiopians whose crime was wanting to be free. We hope Medrek will take its role seriously and observe the Hippocratic oath like doctors that states ‘do no harm’. Our hope is that they contemplate if their actions bring good or harm on our people.

It is a good possibility the regime will orchestrate an election worthy of an African standard. It is also true that the US and the Europeans will declare ‘a few irregularities’ but ‘an essential first step’. Just like what happened five years ago Ato Meles and company will continue the rape and pillage of our country and sell what is left of it to the highest bidder. We hope Medrek will not be one of those parties that will sit silently in the kangaroo parliament and preach the gospel of ‘working together’ and such crap while dining with killers, psychos and future guests of the International Criminal Court.

Let my sister go!

By Yilma Bekele

“Opposition UDJ party president Birtukan Mideksa, whose pardon was revoked and life sentence reinstated in December 2008, remained in prison throughout the year. She was held in solitary confinement until June, despite a court ruling that indicated it was a violation of her constitutional rights. She was also denied access to visitors except for a few close family members, despite a court order granting visitor access without restrictions. There were credible reports that Birtukan’s mental health deteriorated significantly during the year.”

The above is taken from the US Department of State report on Human Rights in Ethiopia. It is a very depressing document full of verifiable facts with names and places detailing the atrocities committed by the Meles regime against its own people. It is not news to the Ethiopian people. Seeing it in black and white confirms the nightmare is real. I am sure you have all heard of Meakelwi. What do you think they do there? I know I would rather not think about that, but here it is:

Numerous reliable sources confirmed that in Meakelwi, the central police investigation headquarters in Addis Ababa, police investigators often used physical abuse to extract confessions….. Abuses reportedly include being blindfolded and hung by the wrists for several hours, bound by chains and beaten, held in solitary confinement for several days to weeks or months, subjected to mental torture such as harassment and humiliation, forced to stand for more than 16 hours, and having heavy objects hung from the genitalia.

Ato Meles and his militia are nothing but sick gangsters. He has surrounded himself with mentally unstable people that get their fix by inflicting pain on civilians. The Woyane regime has built up an elaborate system to bully the population and have raised the rule by terror into a science. The whole country is one gigantic prison. You don’t think so. Go ahead read what it says in the State Dept. report:

The country has three federal and 117 regional prisons. There are several unofficial detention centers operating throughout the country, including in Dedessa, Bir Sheleko, Tolay, Hormat, Blate, Tatek, Jijiga, Holeta, and Senkele. Most are located at military camps and were allegedly used as overflow detention centers following mass arrests.

Do you notice we have more concentration camps than Universities, factories or research institutions? And the concept of ‘unofficial detention center escapes me. This is Woyane’s Ethiopia. Prison inside a prison.

This past week the Prime Minister gave interviews to both foreign and local reporters. The room is arranged in a horseshoe shape with a little dais for the PM. They always place five or six microphones to give the illusion that there are that many outlets. The fact of the matter is one is enough since there is no independent TV or Radio in the country. I believe one microphone is enough to give one version of the story. Foreign reporters question is handled one at a time. Local press gets no respect. They ask there or four question and our fearless leaders answers the ones he wants. No follow up is allowed.

I am thankful to Jason(?) of Bloomberg news for his question. The sound system is bad but this is what I understood his question to be.

… I just want to ask you about one point from the report because I know you want to give a response to that …Bertukan Mideksa is a political prisoner they mention in that report her mental health have been deteriorating in prison. I want you to respond to that if you have any information about her health status.’

Here is what the Honorable Ato Meles Zenawi, Prime Minster has to say about that:

I am not surprised that they have characterized Bertukan as a political prisoner because I understand they have also characterized the ONLF and OLF terrorists that have been taken to court and sentenced by the court as political prisoners (pause) it may sound strange but terrorists who have been taken to court of law have been characterized as political prisoners by the US which was a country that introduced the world to concept of ‘enemy combatants’ who are expected to live in legal limbo in perpetuity but that is life eh. I think the French say ‘C’est la vie” and that is how we characterize it ..uh.. the health situation of Bertukan the latest I heard she is in perfect health. She may have added some a few kilos but other than that and that may be for lack of exercise other that that I understand she is in perfect health ..’

How callous can one be? How cruel do you have to be to speak of a fellow human being like this? It is a very disturbing way of thinking to dismiss the agony of person with such indifference. Why Ato Meles is a good question? What turned your heart into stone is a valid question. Being entrusted with the welfare of eighty million human beings is a major responsibility. Eighty million starts with one. It is sad to think an elected leader of a party, hope to many mother to one is discussed as an ordinary criminal. Judge Bertukan is no ordinary criminal. She is a highly educated and carrying person with a deep sense of right and wrong.

From his answers it is clear the Prime Minster follows her situation closely. There is no reason to believe that he does not know she is kept in solitary confinement. He also knows despite his own court ordering that she be allowed to have visitors that his prison officials have refused to abide by the ruling. He also knows that she is in bad health and she requires medical attention.

Solitary confinement is torture. It is considered a form of psychological torture. It is illegal and it is a criminal act. It is inhuman. Senator John McCain knows about solitary confinement, here is what he wrote:

“It’s an awful thing, solitary,” John McCain wrote of his five and a half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam—more than two years of it spent in isolation in a fifteen-by-fifteen-foot cell, unable to communicate with other P.O.W.s except by tap code, secreted notes, or by speaking into an enamel cup pressed against the wall. “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.”

Terry Anderson the chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press was kidnapped by Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1985. He was released in 1991. In his memoir ‘Den of Lions” he recounts his bitter experience and ‘solitary confinement’ is a bitter chapter he would rather forget. He wrote ‘“The mind is a blank. Jesus, I always thought I was smart. Where are all the things I learned, the books I read, the poems I memorized? There’s nothing there, just a formless, gray-black misery. My mind’s gone dead. God, help me.”
After sharing a cell with other hostages he was thrown into solitary confinement and after a few weeks he recalled in his memoir “I find myself trembling sometimes for no reason,” he wrote. “I’m afraid I’m beginning to lose my mind, to lose control completely.”
Mr. McCain was an enemy prisoner and Mr. Anderson was a kidnapping victim. On the other hand Judge Bertukan is neither an enemy nor hostage. Judge Bertukan is in jail because the Prime Minister is afraid of her. She is one person in Ethiopia that followed the letter of the law when she was a judge. She took her oath of office very seriously. She refused to bend to the wishes of the Prime Minister.
Now we hear that the confinement and the psychological warfare waged against our sister is having its effects. She is only human and can only resist as much and no more. Last Sunday during a the weekly few minutes visit with her mother Judge Bertukan was trying to alert her visitor about her condition when the ever present female guard whisked her away cruelly. We heard Judge Bertukan was seen crying. That must be a very strange display of weakness for a strong lady like Bertukan. We are all sad to hear such a monstrous story.
We demand the Prime Minster release Judge Bertukan now. That is the right thing to do. We know he is not going to do that. We demand his enablers, the British and US government to use their influence on the rogue regime to allow Red Cross and independent doctors to visit and treat Judge Bertukan.
We put the Prime Minster and his underlings on notice that the Ethiopian people are watching their criminal acts. We might not have the power and resource to stop this insane tragedy at this time but we know in the long run good will triumph over evil. Today’s jailers are tomorrow’s prisoners. We have seen that in our country. Right now our concern is our courageous sister and we will do anything to set her free.
We urge women of Ethiopia to rally to save our strong sister. They should be in the forefront of the struggle to bring about the release of a mother, political leader and future prime minister of Ethiopia.
We urge Ethiopians friends of Ethiopia and all peace and justice loving people to contact their Senators and representative and urge them to demand the release of our leader. Use the following web address to locate the number to your elected official:
US Senate:
House of representative: