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. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/06/21/the_worst_of_the_worst?page=0,0
By Yilma Bekele
Dear Ato Meles, I have been following your interviews with the foreign media the last few months. I have no idea why you prefer to discuss matters regarding our country with the foreign press. One would think that it would be better to discuss your plans, dreams and musings with the Ethiopian people rather than blabber with foreign journalists who a) are not well informed about the country b) do not give a figs leaf what you a Prime Minister of one of the poorest country have to say and bury the story on page ten beside the obituaries forcing us to dig deep so we the concerned can publish it on page one.
To say I am always baffled after reading or listening to your interviews is putting it mildly. You always seem to have a different take on the situation in the country. The facts on the ground do not seem to support the conclusions you reach. Have you thought of any reason why that is so?
I know it is presumptuous of me to comment on the matter and I humbly ask your Excellency to indulge me in this little exercise to set the record straight. First and foremost I want you to know that I wholly understand that when one is isolated from normal everyday human contact one develops certain ideas and beliefs not grounded in fact or truth. From what I understand you have been residing at your current address since 1991. Shall we just say Arat Kilo is an awe-inspiring location?
I did not have the privilege of visiting the inside but I am sure it is very luxurious. It must have beautiful hardwood floors in the dining rooms, Italian tiles in bath bathrooms, thick Persian or Afghan rugs and carpets in the bed rooms, long Mahogany dining room tables with beautiful chandlers and real crystal lights everywhere, oh let us just say opulent. I hope the previous tenant did not remove some of the expensive items. He left in a little bit of a hurry so may be he did not have time to loot. I know for a fact that you have turned the place into a modern fortress since you moved in. It is highly possible the so-called Green Zone in Iraq was a copy of Arat Kilo.
The move from ‘meda’ to palace must have been most jarring to say the least. Unless handled carefully such a move can cause a lot of anxiety and delusion. Believe me it is normal. Here in the US we witness that all the time. Most athletes from the inner cities are prone to that. The idea of jumping from public housing one bedroom apartment to signing a multi-million-dollar contract has been blamed for plenty of meltdowns.
It is fair to say it has been over eighteen years since you have found yourself in the company of ordinary people discussing ordinary issues as an equal. You have managed to get rid of a majority of the people who know you as Legesse. Some have died under peculiar circumstances, you have jailed quite a few, some have been exiled to far away places and some have resigned before you got to them. That leaves the few that have accepted their location on the bottom of the totem pole. Those are the sycophants. The yes men, the flatters. There is no one in the vicinity that is able to correct you when you are wrong, advise you when you err or set you straight when you digress.
I believe that explains the many false statements you seem to utter to the complete disbelief of your country’s people. As I said before this little note is to help you see the other side of the story. It is an attempt to show you a different perspective so you know that there is another reality outside of Arat Kilo.
I will start with your recent interview with the Financial Times of London on June 23. A lot of UN true stuff was said. I will not bother with most of your answers except the one dealing with the free press.
FT: All these events have contributed to an atmosphere where people do not feel free to speak.
MZ: Have you read the local newspapers? Do they mince their words about government …
You see my problem here? What local newspaper are you talking about? Isn’t it true that after the 2005 elections you have managed to destroy the free press? Didn’t your government enact new legislation to strangle the press? For your information you own the single television transmitter, you won the single short wave radio transmitter and you own the telecommunication department. There is no free press in Ethiopia. There are a few that are struggling with a loaded gun held to their temple. Somehow they manage to publish. You really do not think that we consider ‘The Ethiopian Reporter’ as an example of free press do you? We know it is there to give legitimacy to your regime. Nothing more.
In August of 2008 you told your Parliament “In general, we don’t expect drastic effects on our economy, our financial structure is not as liberalized as those of affected countries and the economy is not intertwined to Western economies to face a crisis” Do you want to revise that assertion? Do you see now that our country is not an island? Why were you unable to see that the single crop Ethiopia has been peddling before you were born is going to be affected by world economy slow down? How come you did not know the double digit economic growth you have been shouting about is the result of misguided and selfish Ethiopians in the Diaspora investing in your real estate ponzi scheme and remittances are going to dry up?
Since the debacle of the 2005 election your National Bank has been printing Bir as if it is going out of style. What made you think this kind of irresponsible economic scheme will not result in inflation? I know you have to increase the money supply to keep up with the ever-increasing demand of the military, Kebele officials, public security personnel and various Kilil dogs you have to appease. Your government is the number one employer in the country. So now we are faced with both devaluation and inflation. Are you aware that you have to devalue the Bir by another 20%? Are we going to do five percent here nine percent there or are we going to swallow the bitter medicine all at once and get it over with? Inflation dipping to single digit…when pigs fly.
You have been titillating us with this talk of quitting why is that? This is what you told Financial Times:
FT: Why is it that Ethiopians don’t really believe you could go?
MZ: Because it has not been done in the past in Ethiopia.
FT: But this is a precedent you would like to set?
MZ: This is a precedent that I would almost kill to set.
Very dramatic indeed. Believe me you can purchase a ticket from your local TPLF kiosk and fly away and no one will care. Killing, beating and maiming is an obsession with you TPLF folks. There is no need to kill anybody, but if you have to kill may we suggest one of your comrades. On the other hand there are a few unsettled businesses between the Ethiopian people in general and you and your TPLF cadres in particular. The massacre in the aftermath of the 2005 elections is in the forefront. I believe Judge Wolde Michael Meshesha would like to interview you about that without the presence of your armed goons. There are also a lot of families that want closure and justice done. There is also the murder of Professor Asrat, Assefa Maru and god knows how many more to be dealt with. You really do not think all will be swept under the rug do you? We don’t care what Ledetu have promised you but it will not work.
When you say your party have to agree what exactly does that mean? Are they asking for blanket forgiveness for all crimes committed the last eighteen years? Are they demanding Parliamentary resolution to that effect? Are they threatening you in anyway, something like we all go together or we stay put? Most of you in the politburo are exposed to criminal charges whereas the rank and file is afraid of economic meltdown. It must be difficult to explain how one becomes a multi millionaire in a mere fifteen years. Is this the discussion inside the TPLF? We know for a fact that those ‘teletafis’ or pretend party’s are unsettled about this talk of you leaving them high and dry to face the music. They never thought the end was coming. Do you stay awake all night thinking about all these unpleasant matters? Do you think you are clever and you will manage to squeeze out of this predicament you find yourself in?
They say hindsight is one hundred percent, do you look back and think may be you should have exited peacefully in 2005? What did all that killing bring you except a few million more and universal condemnation? Are you improvising as you go along or do you really have a plan for what is about to happen tomorrow?
The world has changed a lot since 2005. The hate level of the Ethiopian people against your TPLF cadres has skyrocketed, the economy has tanked and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Creating ethnic tension has become too obvious, terrorism is so yesterday it has been devalued more than your Bir and your loyal dogs are lined up by the exit door (check out your Communications Minister who is getting ready to spill his guts on Addis Voice, VOA or DW radio) If I were you I will assign loyal cadres to watch Addisu, Dula, Kumsa, Azeb and Kasu Ilala. Betrayal is second nature in your sorry outfit.
So you said you want to retire in peace and rest. Well let me tell you what the opposition have in store for the future of our country upon your departure to Kaliti. Here are the top ten:
· Truth and reconciliation committee will be set up. Citizens will be encouraged to file grievances.
· New Constitution will be written after extensive discussion and debate.
· Kilils will be abolished.
· Land belongs to the individual not the government will be the law.
· All confiscated property will be returned to the lawful owners.
· Television, radio, newspaper, Internet and telephone service will be in private hands.
· All bank account, property and assets of former officials will be frozen awaiting certification of how it was amassed.
· All international agreements and deals made by the TPLF government will be subject to review.
· The millions of Ethiopians in the Diaspora will be encouraged to return home and participate in building the motherland. When we say contribute it is not bars or nightclubs but farming, industry and other productive enterprises.
· That ugly symbol you affixed will be removed from our flag never ever to be seen again.
I know all the foreign press has been asking you about the increasing repression, your hasty departure from Somalia, the drying up of foreign reserve and now the lack of electricity in 2009. No one seems to have any thing good to say about your regime. Judge Bertukan’s star is shining bright from behind bars. Your feeble attempts to rub shoulders with democratically elected leaders have only brought you further humiliation. Brave leaders face the consequences of their actions head on and either apologize to their people or take the Japanese way out you know what I mean. Which one would it be? Riding peacefully into the sunset is out of the question!