Syria and Ethiopia–two peas in a pod. By Yilma Bekele
Tahrir Square, Misrata, Darra, Homs are becoming a household name. They are home of the brave and the bold. History will show epic battles were fought in this locations and the people won. The battles were not against foreign aggressors but rather it was the people against one of their own. Movies will be made, musicals will be composed and poetry written chronicling the taste of freedom and the average person’s sacrifice to keep it. They are locations we should all be proud of. They are places where the word ‘NO’ resonated to be heard all around the world. Some will say they are places of shame. No one likes to wash dirty linen in public. The people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria showed us sometimes it is necessary. It has to be done to cleanse the country from of years of accumulated spiritual dirt.
We in Ethiopia have a lot of cleaning to do. Our house is filled with dirt and grime. Sweeping the dirt under the rug did not work. Painting over the dirt only aggravated the existing illness. In our case reform is not such a good idea. It can be said that we introduced the concept of remodeling a crumbling house. We did not have a prototype to test our design. Our model failed twice. Fear no more. A final design is emerging in the Arab World. We have a successful prototype to adapt to our situation.
We thank our Arab neighbors for the heavy lifting. We envy their success while we are not ashamed to bask in their reflected glory. Our self-esteem is enhanced by their success. We are ready to learn and implement the final battle. The question is not if there is going to be a war but how best to prepare for it is our issue. What better teacher than our Arab friends can one ask for?
All three countries have their own story to tell. There is a common thread running thru out their story. All three were cursed with evil men in charge. Two have overcome and one is on the verge. We have watched all three closely and here is the lesson I have grasped from this unfolding event. As I write this Gadhafi and family are on the run but by the time you read it he could be in custody either in Tripoli, Benghazi or The Hague, even dead. A sorry ending to a sorry life.
Tunisia is the spoiler. Ben Ali is not a good prototype. He loved himself too much. He was able to see the writing on the wall. He bailed out the first instance of trouble. As a dictator he was not the pride of his club. Mrs. Leila Ben Ali did not fare any better. While the mob was outside the walls she was busy hauling gold from the National Bank. At least she got her priorities right. They took the last train out of town. We noticed Tunisians don’t have the stomach for violence. Compared to what came after, theirs is the quiet revolution. Even the name given to their uprising is so laidback. What do you expect from a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ other than love? The world will never forget Mohamed Bouazizi our hero that lit the fuse which is still burning.
Egypt is a different matter. Mubarak was a formidable foe. Unfortunate for him his opponents were more formidable and savvy. He had plenty of tricks in his bag and used them all. First he was belligerent. He dismissed the whole incident as another attempt by the feeble. Then he brought the old Moslem Brotherhood into the picture with al Qaeda thrown in to please the West. That did not get traction. It was time for good old cabinet shuffle. The people of Egypt went into collective yawn. It was time to bring out the tugs on camel back. Single handedly our Mubarak ignited Tahrir Square like never before. It was a matter of time before the dominos started to fall. The Generals grabbed the last parachute and bailed out. Egypt is too educated and advanced for us. The lesson for us is dictators are paper tigers.
Now Libya is very interesting. The resemblance to our Ethiopia is borderline freaky. They are not our twin but close. The Leader is someone existing in his own zone. Why not, he has been hallucinating for the last forty years. He had the nerve to scold the Tunisians for chasing Ben Ali and Leila. That requires balls made of titanium. Too bad the brain is a mush. Gadhafi thought he has all his ducks lined up. Nothing can go wrong in Libya. What – me worry he said. Delusion was his undoing. He has his elder son berating his people, his middle son with his own battalion rearing to burn and pillage and his only daughter screaming on National TV. Libya was a family affair.
Vain, selfish, spoiled and totally mad is a few of the adjectives used to explain this dysfunctional family. The oil money helped fuel their eccentric behavior. For forty years Libya was run like a family business. For forty years ‘The Leader’ was allowed to bully his people, bully his neighbors and entertain humanity. The West accommodated him when it suits their interest. The Libyan people suffered quietly. Today it is payback time.
Gadhafi felt he was safe why? Because he thought he did his homework that is why. He had all that is needed to run a police state. No independent Parties are allowed. Check. No independent media permitted. Check. No independent civic organizations tolerated. Check. Country divided among tribal lines. Check. Secret police let loose on the population. Check. Those that can be bribed, black mailed or exiled taken care of. Check. What in heaven went wrong? Sometimes it is not all about the belly. Mental and spiritual freedom is another necessary component. That is what is lacking in oil rich Libya. That is what Senor Gadhafi is finding out as he is hiding in a cold and wet underground bunker with no light and no TV to watch himself bully his people. Today he is the rebel and they are the State. Life has a way of catching up, you think? The Leader has a date to keep with International Court of Justice or a single bullet. He brought it on himself.
Syria is a different animal. Syria is our identical twin. Ato Meles meet Dr. Assad your long lost brother. Their resemblance is uncanny. Syria is our prototype. What Assad does Meles will do, you can be sure of that. What is being done to the Syrian people will be done to us, no question about that. Because the primitive nature of our society we get double dose. What exactly is Assad and company doing to their people is a good question.
Hafez al Assad the father of the current president died in 2000 after thirty years of brutal dictatorship. The Parliament amended the constitution reducing the mandatory minimum age of the President from 40 to 34 to allow his son to succeed him. In a referendum in which he ran unopposed he was able to ‘win’ 97.29%. You can say amending the constitution and rigging elections are a common trait shared by our brave leaders.
The Assad’s belong to the Alawi tribe. The Alawi are Arabic speaking ethno-religious community. According to Daniel Pipes writing in The Middle Eastern Studies ‘Alawis were the weakest, poorest, most rural, most despised, and most backward people of Syria. In recent years, however, they have transformed themselves into the ruling elite of Damascus. Today, Alawis dominate the government, hold key military positions, enjoy a disproportionate share of the educational resources, and are becoming wealthy.’
You see what I mean. Substitute Alawi with some people we know and you got a mirror image. The Alawi constitute 12% while ours account for 14%. Assad got Maher and Rifaat his two brother and other Alawi tribesmen in key positions controlling the Army and security while we got Smora Yunus, Tadese Worde and Gebre Dela. Where their allegiance lies is not difficult to guess. The Nation or the Tribal Leader is a hard choice to make. Sometimes but not today.
Here is where we and our Syrian cousins break ranks with Tunisia and Egypt. Ben Ali and Mubarak were measured in their response. The killing was a last resort. It was not a first response. An argument can be made for the two being a peaceful revolution or change thru non-violence. Without the population resorting to picking up arms. The regime of course killed but it was a half-hearted attempt. The nature of the Army made a big difference in the regimes psychology. Cairo and Tunis have a professional army loosely chained to the dictators while in Syria and Ethiopia the Army/State Security and the political leadership are peas in a pod. One cannot exist without the other. So what has Hafze’s son been up to? Nothing good at all!
His problem started when Tunisia erupted with Ben Ali fatigue. Bashir felt the heat all the way in Syria. It has been percolating ever since. All the standard responses have been tried. Nothing seems to work. He has tried sending tanks into neighborhoods, mass arrest, snipers on every tall building, concessionary speeches on TV, promises of coming election, lifting of draconian laws, setting up meetings with selected ‘opposition’ groups and encouraging inter-ethnic strife. None worked. There is no reason to think he is capable of meeting the demands of the people. The situation he has boxed himself does not allow compromise. The two thousand people his security has killed since the onset of the uprising have completely changed the situation.
Is there a formula that allows Assad to escape from this unfortunate situation? There is always a chance, isn’t that what Doctors tell you even when the diagnosis is terminal cancer? The truth is that there are not that many instances where serial criminals such as Assad or Gadhafi have negotiated a safe exit. A few have managed to negotiate a way out. Chile and South Africa are good examples. Assad’s Syria is a little different.
Both Augusto Pinochet and F.W de Klerk agreed to free and fair elections. They also received guarantees that the new regime will be measured in its dealings regarding the past. Their organizations and most of the upper class that benefited from the current order agreed ‘democracy with guarantees’ was a better way out. Is this possible in Syria?
The answer is a guarded no. There are factors that complicate the situation. How does the minority but highly visible Alawis react? They supplied the muscle to the regime wouldn’t a new situation complicate that? The resentful Sunni majority is not going to sit idle when they see a crack on the wall. Notice the role of the Mosques in this confrontation. How about the powder keg of the young and unemployed, what do they have to lose? Assad is between a hard place and a rock.
The opposition is becoming bold and relentless. The foreigners are putting a squeeze on him by freezing his account and threatening a few of his accomplices. The economy is tanking due to the strife economic and isolation and the Arab League has turned left. His Army is stretched thin and money is running low. Inflation is here.
Due to his and his father’s iron rule there is no credible opposition he can negotiate with. The mob on the street is not going to listen to his chosen leaders of the legal opposition. Accepting free and fair election is out of the question. Why would his Alawi base accept that? What guarantee do they have the Sunni majority will be so forgiving for years of abuse? Why would the criminal elements in the Security and Army expose themselves to trial and punishment? How about those paper millionaires both Alawi and Sunni, would they sit and watch while their wealth crumbles?
As you can see the similarities between the two countries is very scary. It is clear Assad is cornered. It has not occurred to him that further resistance is futile. The least we can do in Ethiopia is watch and learn and devise ways of turning our coming disaster into a positive moment. It is no use to pretend things are hanky dory. They are not. When a single Banana costs $10 bir, a liter of cooking oil costs $130 or so a kilo of coffee costs $140 it is not all right. It is not going to be all right in the near future. We have to discuss ways of confronting the problem and have a solution ready. We buy insurance in case we have an accident. When it happens, if it happens we are ready. Let’s us look at our country the same way. In case it starts to implode from inside, like the last two times I believe it is better to anticipate situations and devise appropriate response. This knee jerk response based on hate and insufficient knowledge and expertise is not rational or winning strategy.
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.
What is it about us Ethiopians that invite abuse? Is there a big fat lettering stuck on our forehead that proclaims ‘I am stupid?’ It is not some idle question but a subject that requires some soul searching and must be answered if we have to move forward and expect to bring positive change to ourselves, our surrounding and our poor country.
What brought this important question to the surface is the recent action by none other than the infamous ESFNA (Ethiopian sports federation in North America) and its Board of Director’s ongoing dysfunctional behavior. This is not the first time ESFENA have gone the extra mile to humiliate its constituents. What I have in mind is ESFNA’s acceptance of large amount of money from good old Sheikh Al Amudi back in 2008 and the condemnation it received from the North American public. They promised to be mindful of their responsibility to the public and claimed that they will work on the question of accountability. It was an empty gesture.
Here we are 2010 and we can see this wild animal is not tamed yet. They decided to insult and disrespect their cash cow once again. This time it is no other than the honorable Judge/Chairwoman Bertukan they decided to dis.
Very timely and educational articles were written to clarify the situation and encourage rational discussion on the subject. I am referring to the opinion pieces by Ato Ephrem Madebo and Ato Shakespear N. Feyissa on our independent Web sites.
The response to this invitation for reasonable and grown up discussion took a bizarre turn. The article by Ato Tesfaye Abebe, a member of one of the clubs is a little disingenuous to say the least. It is a well-written article as far as the grammar goes but the facts are revised to fit the writer’s bias. That is not an honest thing to do. I spoke to two individuals that were present in Atlanta to have a good understanding of what exactly happened in that meeting.
Is Ato Tesfaye not telling the truth or simply put is Ato Tesfaye lying in his article? He wrote:
‘ As those that nominated Birtukan spoke passionately to underline the importance of inviting her, those that did not believe she should be invited expressed theirs. Reasons for not inviting her, ranged from the inappropriateness of inviting her in the cultural category to her being a leader of a political organization whose invitation might compromise our non-profit and non-political status.
Upon the insistence of those members that nominated Birtukan, and following parliamentary procedure a vote was taken by the Board Members and Birtukan narrowly won.’
In my opinion what Ato Tesfaye is doing is what is called ‘lying by omission’. He is cleverly using ambiguity in order to deceive and mislead the reader. Weizero Bertukan was nominated; the issue discussed and voted upon, that much is true. But there is more to it than that. The issue on the so-called jeopardizing the ‘non profit’ status was mentioned in passing but was not brought as a major hurdle. The main argument by those opposed was the question of ‘timing’. They felt it was not a good idea ‘at this time’ since she was just released from jail and it would create a bad impression on the organization (I guess by the government of Ethiopia) After a lengthy argument the issue was voted upon. When he says ‘Bertukan narrowly won’ that is a bold lie. She won 14 to 4 and that is 77% majority. Some will call it a landslide.
If you noticed I characterized it as an ‘argument’ not a ‘discussion’. According to my sources it was a very shameful meeting fit for gangsters. The Chair was clueless and weak and members were on each other’s face taunting and insulting like kids in a playground. Some members were forced to leave the meeting out of shame and disgust. The real purpose by those who lost was to create chaos so those well meaning individuals will be discouraged and will give in to the demands of the bully’s. If you think about it there is no rational reason or parliamentary procedure that allows an issue that was settled by an overwhelming majority to be brought back for further discussion.
Please notice the fact that Ato Tesfaye qualifies both Ato Ephrem and Ato Shakespear with their political party’s affiliation. What brought that about? They wrote their opinions as concerned individuals not Party officials. We are familiar with that kind of argument, smear rather than answer the charges is the logic behind it.
I have noticed these two characteristics to be a must among TPLF school graduates. None other than junta leader Meles Zenawi practices the best example of ‘lying by omission’. During the question and answer at Columbia University when asked why he jams Ethiopian Satellite TV and our independent web sites he responded by saying ‘the US does not allow VOA to broadcast to the American people either. Yes it is true VOA does not broadcast inside the US but it is not due to jamming. It is because the US government does not think it is appropriate to use taxpayer’s money to distribute the news. There are zillions of news outlets operated privately. Ato Meles on the other hand does not want independent newscasters telling the truth and unravel his house built on sand. Technically he did not lie, but he just subverted the truth.
There was also a second article written by Ato Tibebe Ferenji titled ‘In defense of ESFNA’ I don’t think it is a wining strategy to baselessly attack those who you disagree with instead of presenting one’s opinion and letting the reader be the judge. There is no point in putting words in your opponent’s mouth when the reader can easily go to the source and verify. My copy did not include such allegations as Ato Ephrem claiming to be an attorney nor asking organizations to break their rules.
On the other hand Ato Tibebe gave us a section of IRS rule as if reading those five lines will entitle us to reach a reasonable conclusion. I truly believe my friend Ato Shakespeare’s approach is most appropriate here. Interpreting the law is his domain. That is why he invested time and money to qualify and hold a license to practice the law. This Ethiopian habit of being an expert after a cursory glance is not a good idea. I ask both Ato Tibebe and ESFNA to read Ato Shakespeare’s analysis and correct their mistake and wrong interpretation of IRS code.
What can we do to remedy this unfortunate situation is an important question. The organization is too important to be left to individuals that do not have the interest of the community at heart. It has been a playground of those whose sole aim is to enrich themselves at the expense of others and use the organization as a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. In its over twenty-five years of existence it has nothing worthy to show that could be mentioned in public. Its own supporters have no example or instance to mention to convince the public of their good deeds. Ato Tibebe is forced to say ‘more over, ESFNA has been engaged in various charity activities including providing scholarship in Ethiopia.’ Looks like we are a little short on verifiable facts here because there is nothing to show.
The fact that during the Atlanta meeting the financial report showed that the 2009 festival in San Jose showed a profit of just $13.000.00 is cause for alarm. Either the Board is engaged in creative accounting or they are not fit for the position they hold. When you consider they were bilking our local business people $3,000.00 per tent and were charging us $20 for admission one wonders where the money went. As the name implies it is an Ethiopian sports organization. I agree with my friend Ato Ephrem. The use of ‘E’ in the name is not a simple matter. I do believe the use of ‘E’ is a privileges and an honor. Yes my dear Ato Tesfaye it can be taken away too! I don’t think you will put Abuna Petros and some Banda like Dejazmach Gugsa in the same league, would you? The ‘E’ in front of Abuna Petros brings warmth to our heart while the ‘E’ in front of Banda Gugsa looks out of place.
What we should strive for is ‘empower’ the clubs to exercise their right as owners and main actors of this outfit and run it like a business and make us proud. After all it is the clubs and the players that we all gather to see and there is no need for a Board of vultures to lord it over and abuse us all. The clubs can hire professional Ethiopians that are experienced in the hospitality and convention business and produce a better product that what we have now. Twenty-five years have shown that the current leaders are void of new and creative ideas and repeat the same old tired formulae until it is beaten to death. Frankly I don’t see any difference between them and their Woyane masters. It is up to us to work with the clubs and make them aware of their strength. It requires work, perseverance and unity of purpose. Like their Woyane cousins they are good at creating side issues, character assassination and a lot of smoke. On the other hand we have a good cause and the support of the majority of our people. We got work to do. Now quit talking and take the garbage out.
What exactly is a doctrine is a good question. It is a formal way leaders lay down their beliefs, principles, and/or vision so that their citizens will have some clue of where they are taking the country. Apparently Sarah Palin was not aware of the concept, when she sat down with a reporter before the 2008 elections. When asked regarding her understanding of the ‘Bush Doctrine’, the barracuda from Wasilla, drew blank. Her simple innocent answer was ‘in what respect Charlie?’
I do not want you responding ‘in what respect Charlie? when asked about the Meles Doctrine. There is of course a big difference between ‘Ideology’ and ‘Doctrine’. One can say ‘ideology’ and ‘doctrine’ are cousins that can easily be confused by the layman. Marxism is an ideology. Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism are upgrades. Then you have the poor man cheap Apps. that do not rise to the level of ideology, but are thrown in to give petty tyrants a certain air of intellectualism. Juiche in North Korea, Ujama in Tanzania, Green Revolution in Libya etc. are good examples. If you remember Ato Meles came up with ‘revolutionary democracy’ to explain his style, but unfortunately, it did not get traction. It was not definable because it was just empty rhetoric thrown in to explain single ethnic supremacy.
Let us look at some famous ‘Doctrines’ to get a better understanding of the term. I will start with the ‘Monroe Doctrine’. The Monroe Doctrine is a United States policy that was introduced on December 2, 1823, which stated that “further efforts by European countries to colonize land or interfere with states in the Americas would be viewed, by the United States of America, as acts of aggression requiring US intervention.” The US President was warning the European powers to stay out of this hemisphere.
The Truman Doctrine was a policy set forth by U.S. President Harry Truman on March 12, 1947 stating that the U.S. would support Greece and Turkey with economic and military aid to prevent them from falling into the Soviet sphere. It was a warning to Stalin to stay put.
Last but not least, we have the ‘Bush Doctrine’. Compared to the other doctrines, the Bush Doctrine was as confused as the person himself. It was left open for others to define it and/or to attribute different meanings to the concept. It went something like ‘the US should depose regimes that represented potential or perceived threat to the security of the US even if that threat was not immediate.’ It was an open-ended policy to justify the use of military power. Those without a few nukes were worried.
The ‘Meles Doctrine’ was officially unveiled during his speech at the ‘World Leaders Forum’ last month. It was supposed to be a moment of great significance that will usher a new path of ‘salvation’ for the developing countries. It was a crowning moment organized by his friends and fans for our ‘Dear leader for life’ to shine in the international scene. Professor Stiglitz referred to it as ‘academic dialogue.’ A lot of work went into it. The speech was written, rewritten, proofread, and deemed Columbia worthy by all top TPLF cadres, at least all those that can read. Thanks to the ‘vocal Diaspora’ it fell on deaf ears. How could one formulate such an earth shaking theory with such incessant jabbering by misguided Diaspora and unworthy audience that filled the auditorium. Pox on all of them.
I will attempt to right that went wrong. I took my time and listened to the speech thanks to you tube
Professor Joseph Stiglitz’s introduction was both revealing and sad. The Professor is a Nobel laureate and a highly respected economist. Why the good professor is ignoring the findings of highly respected international organizations regarding his guests alleged ‘criminal’ acts is not clear. I didn’t know being a Noble laureate entitles one to forgive and befriend dictators that believe in ethnic purity. I was a little surprised when he said ‘I hope he will, I am sure he will say a few words about Ethiopia’s economic progress.’ What else dear professor, when the title of the discussion was ‘The current global environment and its impact on Africa.’ Am I mistaken in thinking that the prime Minster will talk in general and support his argument with first hand experience as it affected good old Ethiopia?
He did not even mention Ethiopia. Not even once. Not even as an example of ‘neo-liberalism’s failure, the subject he is trying to prove passé. I felt insulted. We don’t even fare a footnote in such a forum. Anyway, without further ado, here is Ato Meles in his own words explaining the Meles Doctrine.
“The last three decades which could be described as the decades of the emergence and triumph of neo liberalism in key centers of global power and hence throughout much of the world have been very bad decades for Africa. They have for all intensive purposes been lost decades. At the beginning period Africa faced a huge burdens and associated micro economic imbalances and low rates of economic growth due to weak management of the economy and unfortunate external circumstances, therefore it was forced to seek support from the international financial institutions which had by then become key enforcers of the emerging neo liberal paradigm. Africa was asked to undergo fundamental neo liberal economic reforms and in return for the support it sought from the international financial institutions. These reforms were sold as the ultimate salvation for its problems and were supposed to lead to sustained economic growth and transformation. The reforms could not and did not lead to salvation. On the contrary the limited industrialization of the continent that has taken place since independence was reversed with no economic revival in sight…..Africans were made to see that neo liberalism was the only game in town ….. this insanity of implementing the same failed neo liberal policies and expecting different resulted in another lost decade during the 90’s. While Africa was mired in perpetual economic crisis and associated political malaise punctuated by horrific and senseless violence neo liberal globalization was making tremendous progress…(here he makes a linear analysis of the international economic situation regarding the emergence of China, India and others) …it was towards the end of the roaring 90’s that the pretense of neo liberal reforms finally leading to sustained growth then transformation in Africa was finally and more or less explicitly abandoned. Africa was now more or less explicitly being managed as a lost case, as a continental ghetto on the margins of a fast globalizing world….. Poverty in Africa was seen to be endemic. The new name of the game thus because not the transformation of Africa’s poverty thru neo liberal reform, thru neo liberal or other reform but the management of its chronic poverty. The objective became to alleviate poverty in Africa and limit the damage of its poverty to itself and to the rest of the world. A new generation of externally driven poverty alleviation strategies thus mushroomed over night thru out the continent…..the emergence of new players in the global economy in general and the emergence of China in particular was beginning to significantly impact on Africa’s economic prospect….as the emerging powers were either opposed to the neo liberalism or reluctant to evangelize on its behalf a new and different game came to town ….Africans have for the first time in three decades real alternatives to the orthodoxy, they now have a choice that they have not had for a long time. The fact the Africans now have a choice is in of itself fundamentally liberating above and beyond that Africans now have a real chance to chart a new course of development, one that incorporates best practice elsewhere and is capable to generating fast growth and transformation. “
That is his story and he is sticking to it. It is very important that you watch the youtube video or re-read the excerpt above. I just want to make sure you know that I am not making it up.
What exactly is the neo liberalism that Ato Meles is ranting about? Here is a definition of the term from wikipedia.org
Neoliberalism is a market-driven approach to economic and social policy based on neoclassical theories of economics that stresses the efficiency of private enterprise, liberalized trade and relatively open markets, and therefore seeks to maximize the role of the private business sector in determining the political and economic priorities of the state.
Thus, what he is theorizing is that the West led by the US and Britain, forced poor Africans to follow this prescription that caused the current distressful situation. Unfortunate for the West, their bankrupt theory has come home to haunt them as seen by the ongoing economic melt down. On the other hand, it had a positive effect on countries like India and China, which brings us to his fantastic conclusion that Africans can now abandon neo liberal voodoo economics and follow the Chinese path that comes without evangelizing about certain bad and nasty African habits such as dictatorship, human right abuse, Kleptocracy, and general evil deeds.
The problem is Ato Meles is not some University professor going on a limb and coming up with fantastic scenarios to prove. No, Ato Meles is a leader of a country. He is, though a Prime Minster by title, the de facto King of Ethiopia. His wish is the law. His theory is the practice of his party. His belief is the national policy. All this is due to the simple fact that he controls the military and public security, both perfect tools of coercion.
Now it would have been better if he has volunteered some factual data to support his argument. After all this is not some Starbucks discussion where anything goes. If we are going to have an ‘academic dialogue’ as promised by the Professor, let us at least make it real and not some ‘Alice in wonderland’ tale.
When he claims that the International financial institutions ‘forced fundamental economic reforms’ on Africans, he should tell us what exactly they forced Ato Meles to do to get financial relief? Let us take the policy of deprivatization as practiced in Ethiopia. I don’t think the IMF prescription was to create a private business (EFFORT) in the name of an ethnic group or sell the illegally expropriated property back to the original owners at inflated price. We are not even going to talk about land. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa where all land belongs to the government and is leased by its people. Americans say ‘there is a sucker born every minute’, they must have been thinking of us.
When he says ‘Africa faced a huge burdens and associated micro economic imbalances and low rates of economic growth due to weak management of the economy and unfortunate external circumstances’, does it sound like shifting responsibility? Let us see Africa was mismanaged by the like of:
· Mengistu Hailemariam of Ethiopia 1974-1991. King of ‘Red Terror’ specialized in using ‘neighborhood committees (kebeles)’ to terrorize and murder over a million citizens. (Body count 1.5 Million lives) He destroyed a generation of future leaders that the country has not yet recovered from.
· Idi Amin of Uganda 1971-1979. Specialized in removal of organs (bodies were found with genitals, eyes, livers, noses missing) and prisoners were forced to bludgeon each other to death with sledgehammers. (Body count about 300,000 lives)
· Jean Bedel Bokassa of Central African Republic 1966-1979. Specialized in cannibalism and known for murder of Scholl age children for refusing to wear uniform manufactured in his factory. (Money count $125 Million)
· Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire 1965-1997. Specialized in what is known as ‘Kleptocracy’ where the distinction between state assets and his own was blurred. (Money count $4 Billion)
· Charles Taylor of Liberia 1997-2003. Rain of death on Liberia and its neighbors. Specialized in ‘child solders’ and his personal fortune was greater than Liberia’s GNP. (Body count over 300,000 lives)
Which of these gentlemen is expected to invest time and energy on good governance and nation building? Micro economic imbalance doesn’t sound credible to me. It is more like ‘lack of accountability and megalomania and a dash of grandiosity’ on the part of these mad men in charge.
As for the theory that commodities are bringing more wealth to Africa, it is a tried and tired notion. Africa’s problem is not the lack of money, but it is purely lack of democracy, the rule of law, and accountability. Look at Nigeria where the leaders have stolen over $400 billion from the oil income Yes, that is billion. Guess what they did with it? Deposit it in Swiss, London, or New York banks.
He concludes by saying ‘Africans have for the first time in three decades real alternatives to the orthodoxy, they now have a choice that they have not had for a long time.’ I fail to see what is new here. Didn’t we have a bi-polar world with just two super powers? So what is the big deal about replacing the Russians with the Chinese? Is the expectation that the Chinese for some pure altruism will be better masters than the ferenjis? Shifting between the West and the East did not bring us any gains last time around. They played volleyball with us. Should we give it another try? Didn’t Ato Meles make a choice when he followed the Albanian model? Of course, he grew up and replaced it with the Western model that he is outgrowing today. What is this madness about adapting a new model at this late in the game?
On the other hand, we are told and retold that the Ethiopian economy is growing double digits and is the talk of the continent. Why would anybody quarrel with such an impressive record? Shouldn’t Ethiopia be presented as poster country for the ‘triumph’ of neo liberalism? It is not good to bite the hand that feeds, is it? Or was the growth statistics a hoax? What is curious is that the Chinese we are trying to emulate are moving towards the Western model at the speed of light. Chairman Mao’s body was not even cold when Deng Xiaoping remarked “black cat, white cat, I don’t care what color it is as long as it catches mice”? Today’s China is boasting plenty of billionaires and the Communist Party is working overtime to balance economic growth and political freedom. A very elusive goal if you ask me. What part of that system are we ogling? Don’t tell me we are looking at the Chairman!
The Meles Doctrine should be declared dead on arrival. It needs work. It is not ready for prime time. The PM should go back to the drawing board and give his argument some meat. Declaration might work when one is dealing with underlings but scholarly work requires a little bit more diligence. In my humble opinion the ‘Doctrine’ suffers from tunnel vision. It looks at the world in one dimension. It is afraid to look out side of the box. I agree with his often repeated statement about ‘the insanity of implementing the same failed policy and expecting different result.’ Isn’t presenting the choice between the Western and Chinese model following a failed road.
The ‘creative potential’ of the Ethiopian people is not taken into consideration. Surely a people scattered all over that left their country bare feet to settle in strange lands and manage to send over a billion US dollars in remittances is a formidable force. They are the same people that work hard and invest in Ethiopia that Ato Meles is taking credit for. If it was not for the Diaspora remittance (a cool billion a year) TPLF’s Ethiopia will be one destitute place. We daily think of those that stayed behind and are suffering the brunt of the fire of poverty, ethnic degradation, famine and general apathy. They should be commended for being so calm and peaceful under trying circumstances. Our people are our precious asset. Our only choice is having faith in ourselves and meeting the challenge head on. There is no free lunch in this life. Both the East and the West require a pound of flesh for their handout. The idea of playing one against the other is a zero sum game. It is so yesterday, it is pathetic.
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. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chicks-from-avignon.jpg)
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.
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 (http://www.ethsat.com/) 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