I am an Amara. “ene Amara negne.”- By Yilma Bekele
“Ich bin ein Berliner.” – “I am a Berliner” Those words were spoken by President John F. Kennedy on June 26, 1963 in West Berlin. He said that to show solidarity with the people of Berlin after the East Germans with the approval of the Soviet Union erected the Berlin Wall to prevent their captive citizens from fleeing to the west.
The passage I like the most is when he said “Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!”… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!”
Today it feels me with so much pride to say all Ethiopians where ever we live say in unison “ene Amara negene” Injustice against any of Ethiopia’s children is injustice to all of her children. We feel each other’s pain. When one Ethiopian is marginalized, when a single Ethiopian is put in harm’s way it is an affront to each one of us and we all suffer. It was none other than Martin Luther King Jr. who took injustice to heart when he declared “he who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
Tell me my fellow Ethiopian. What do you see in the picture above? It is a picture of people huddled together. It must be night time, what are they doing outside in the cold? Why are they sad? There is no mistaking that they are our people. I can tell that Ethiopian face from a mile away. Look at that slender chiseled face, kind eyes and welcome demeanor. They are our sisters, brothers, mothers or fathers sitting on bare soil, with no chairs and it is difficult to tell whether it is outdoors or inside. There is no question they seem to be confused, tired, and sad. Notices the young girl on the left with barefoot and looking resigned and observe the father on top right holding his chin and just seeming to wonder about the dire situation. I want you to see the child on his mother’s lap looking sad and his mother looking straight at the photographer not for pity but seems to be saying ‘take a good look, don’t forget my ace!’ I cried because I am human, I hurt because I cannot be there to hold their hand, rub their shoulders and ‘whisper it is ok, I am here to help.’ Oh my God the pain is killing me; it is tearing my soul apart. Why is this happening to my people? Why am I witnessing this suffering?
They are not just numbers. They are not statistics we refer to from some paper. They are living, breathing human beings. There is no Ethiopia without them. A house cannot stand without a foundation and a country does not exist without people. The people you see above are Amaras from the region referred to as Beneshangul/Gumuzl Kilil in Western Ethiopian that were deported from their own land to places they don’t even know. They are the homeless Ethiopians. They are stateless people within a country called Ethiopia. They are the surplus Ethiopians. How does such calamity happen? Was there an invasion by a foreign forcer? Was there some kind of natural disaster? Was there a civil war?
No they are the victims of a policy carried out by a rogue regime gone wild. Their plight is a calculated and thought out policy put in place by the regime in power. They are the recipient of a plan drawn by Meles Zenawi and his friends to keep our country in perpetual conflict and destroy Ethiopia from within. This is not an isolated event or an opportunistic move on the spur of the moment. No this is a plan drawn over thirty years ago same as Adolf Hitler’s plan of what he called to as the ‘Final Solution’ to annihilate the Jewish people. This is Meles Zenawi, Sebhat Nega, Seyoum Mesfin, and Abbay Tshaye’s and company nefarious plan directed at a single ethnic group. The ‘Final Solution’ against the Amara people.
Fascist Mussolini in his own evil ways knew that he cannot conquer Ethiopia without partitioning us. Thus he divided our country into six units as follows: 1) Eritrea to include Tigrai – capital Asmara 2) Amhara to include Begemeder, Gojjam, Wello and northern Shoa – capital Gonder 3) Galla and Sidamo –capital Jimma 4) Addis Abeba 5) Harar 6) Somalia-capital Mogadishu. Meles Zenawi and his Woyane party went further and created what we today call nine Kilils. He called it Federalism but in actuality it was South Africa’s Apartheid system in East Africa.
Musoloni and the Italians were in charge of the six units they created. The white minority government in South Africa was the boss of all the Bantustans. In Ethiopia Meles Zenawi with his Tigrai ethnic based Woyane party ushered a new era of abuse, conflict, civil war and the beginning of the destruction of our ancient land.
All Tigray’s are not Woyane. On the other hand there is no reason to shy away from stating the obvious-most Tigrais are the beneficiary of the system set up by Woyane warlords. They are the number one Ethiopians standing heads high above all others. This is not hate. This is not a figment of my imagination. Nothing happens in Ethiopia without the knowledge and consent of the Woyane party. This is a very painful statement to write down but why hide from the truth.
It is also true that Woyane agents and provocateurs planted among us are posing as Amara/Oromo among others and making ugly and hateful statements directed at our brothers and sisters from Tigrai ethnic group. This is the Way Woyane operates and we are all familiar with that mentality. We should also be aware of the fact that Woyane has been systematically attacking Ethiopian history, Ethiopian heritage and the concept of being an Ethiopian in order to carry out their goal of setting us against each other. They have convinced a few gullible people, uneducated and lumpen individuals that our country is not worth saving and separation and going your own way is an option.
We should all try harder not to allow any kind of hateful speech; any put down of each other based on ethnicity and should at no time and place tolerate such ugly and backward behavior. It is commendable to be proud of one’s ethnicity and heritage but it is not a license to attack and degenerate someone from another group. We do not have choice what ethnic group to belong to when born, we are what we are. No one decide ahead to be white or black, to be Chinese or Indian, to be short of tall or be female or male. That is all in the hands of a higher authority. Ignorance and pettiness is what makes us stressed and lash out against those we are not familiar with.
Then some evil people like our Woyane warlords use our weakness to divide us, to be suspicious of each other and plant the seeds of hatred in our society. It is a struggle not to be taken by such propaganda that is intended to make us feel better even with an empty stomach. Let alone our old and poor backward country even the industrialized and educated countries have not been able to tackle this cancer in their body politic.
But we Ethiopians are resilient people. The fact of the matter is over twenty years of hate filled propaganda by Woyane has not been able to accomplish their goal of setting us against each other. Proof in point being during Woyanes deportation of our Eritrean citizens it was heartwarming to see our ordinary people crying and being distressed following the buses that was hauling our brethren, it was a display of true Ethiopian love to see the citizens of Gurafereda washing their hands of Shiferaw Shigute’s ugly deed and today we are sure that our citizens of Bena Shangul do not agree with this current nightmare visited on them by the new Woyane warlords in Arat Kilo.
Do you really think puppet Shiferaw Shigute of Southern Region, do you for a second believe puppet Ahmed Naser Ahmed Of Beneshangul/Gumuz Kilil will carry out such ugly deed without the approval and consent of Meles Zenawi then and Debretsion Gebremichael today? No sir, this kind activity is carried out with the direction of the highest body of the party that is run by Debretsion and company.
It does not do us any good to speculate why they are doing this criminal act. Why would a government declare war on its own people is a question history always tries to answer. It is nothing new. It has happened before we have witnessed it unfold all around us. Rwanda was yesterday, Bosnia is still fresh in our mind and Gurafereda and Beneshangul are close to our heart. No matter how you put it in Ethiopia under the leadership of the Woyane Tigrai based TPLF party our country is turning into hell on Earth. Our Gambellan citizens are uprooted from their ancestral land, Sidama citizens are hunted like wild animals and the Amaras are the favorite target of these disturbed and sick individuals in charge.
Of course we can fight their hatred based criminal act with more hate. I believe MLK Jr. said it better when he wrote ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ I do not hate Woyane. I do not want to be like them. Again I will quote you MLK when he said “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too much a burden to bear.” My heart aches when I think of the dead Meles Zenawi, I cringe when I see the picture of Bereket Semeone, Debretsion Gebremichael, Sebhat Nega or Abbay Tshaye’s. They must carry such a burden with them how do they ever sleep at night? How do they function among the company of people with such overwhelming evilness engulfing the depth of their soul?
We all have responsibilities in our daily life. We are fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, neighbors and workers interacting with other fellow human beings. Sometimes our duties and expectations from those around us is a source of stress and uneasiness. Fathers and mothers worry about the welfare of their family, children are under constant pressure to perform better and our work place puts up so much demand on us we are driven to the edge. It is all because we all want to be loved, needed and do better for those around us. The ultimate satisfaction is when a job done comes out perfect and those around us appreciate the effort. That is the reward that feeds the ego.
Our leaders do not seem to understand that. Given the chance to lead and make a better world for their fellow citizens that put so much trust and faith in them they callously throw away the opportunity to excel. They choose the path of hate, divide and rule and the road of destruction. Instead of sharing the bounty that comes from all working together and lift everybody higher they choose to hoard little crumbs for themselves and those around them. They play with words to fool themselves. They try to manipulate reality to fit their myopic vision. They think calling famine nutrition deficiency changes the pain, naming their terror squad internal security wipes the blood of their hands or doctoring the book balances the account for real. It is a sickness with no cure.
I wrote down I cried and felt broken heart when I saw the picture of my people from Beneshangul then I thought about it. Yes it is human to feel their pain but that is not the answer to our problem. I went back to MLK to see what he tells me about mending a broken heart. How did the great leader deal with such ugliness in the world. This is what he said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” It is true my response should be what am I going to do about this situation that is keep me up all night?
I am going to be proactive. I will not sit down and observe and take this abuse silently. I am in the USA. I will do my best to discuss with my people so we can find a solution that is sustainable. I will write and talk every chance I get to develop a culture of inclusiveness based on equality, respect and justice. I will support all those forces that are struggling to overcome this force of darkness by any means necessary. I will strive harder to learn from this negative experience and turn it into a positive experience so we can together build a better and just society. I will organize my fellow exiles to contact their Senators, Representatives, locally elected officials so they can pressure the US government to stop coddling such a criminal enterprise masquerading as a government.
I am also heartened by political parties, civic organizations and groups that are currently working under harsh conditions in Ethiopia to gather information, proof and documents regarding the ethnic cleansing situation. I also believe upon getting our documents in order we could be able to do a citizen’s arrest of all the mentioned criminals when they show up outside the country. We can as victims of government atrocity hold these despicable individuals and hand them to our local police. Armed with our documents we have every right as human beings to ask that they be brought to justice since they are breaking international law which our country is signatory of. It is just but another arsenal in our fight against injustice. Finally since information is power I give my word of honor that I do my at most best to strengthen and make ESAT the most powerful media in my beautiful homeland. I ask my fellow Ethiopians to sit down and think hard because indifference has not brought us any amount of measurable respite from this from this never ending atrocity by a regime one wild.
Violence and the Ethiopians. By Yilma Bekele
We always think of our people to be so loving that welcome a stranger into their homes and share what little they have. Our language is full of sayings about being a good host, a great neighbor and a kind human. Sharing what you have, helping those in need and putting others ahead play a central theme in all our folklores. At least that is what we try to believe and that is what we tell ourselves and each other every opportunity we get. What a kind and loving people we are is a common mantra.
Do you think that is a true picture of our country? I don’t know about you but I knew such Ethiopia in my life time. Here we go again, I did not say we were a perfect paradise but definitely we were not the Wild West either. But I know for sure we used to care for each other and we were a once proud nation.
Then where did all this violent act and talk of perpetual violence came from is a good question? It is a timely question too. Today violence both the act and the talk is permeating our society. The specter of violence is everywhere. Our country has become one big cesspool of violence and you can’t even escape it from any point on earth.
According to the World Health organization (WHO) violence is defined ‘as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person, or group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.’
The dergue started the ball rolling with the class warfare crap. The TPLF took over with ethnic cleansing mantra. It looks like the last forty years have been a time of violence, threat of violence and absence of peace era. The Mengistu and Meles generation has been schooled in the exercise of violence as a normal day to day activity.
What got me look at these phenomena is the current behavior of our masters in Addis Abeba and their children here in the US. The Berket/Debretsion government is going out of its way to bully our Muslim citizens, intimidate our journalists and frighten our people. They are using the monopoly they exercise on our communication media to produce second rate movies, badly written essays and moronic broadcasts to confuse their captive audience.
War is waged on our Muslim brothers and sisters thru out the country. Their leaders have been incarcerated, their worship places have been desecrated and their religion has been equated with terror. The TPLF is trying to do to the Muslims what they have been doing to the Orthodox Christians the last twenty years. They were able to divide and set the Christians against each other. Bishops and priests have been beaten, exiled and insulted in broad day light. Due to lack of spine by the Christian followers the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia today has lost all its moral compass and made into a leaderless association no different than those ‘teletafis’ clustered around the mighty TPLF.
Not content on terrorizing our people at home it looks like TPLF has branched out to reach into the Diaspora community and practice its form of violence. For some of us it is not a new revelation. We have been pointing out the presence of TPLF agents amongst us for quite a while. Their activates in the various opposition party support groups we have been forming was visible and hard to miss. Their sabotage of our houses of worship is legendary. Their presence in our football organization took a valiant effort by some to unmask. No one escapes the sinister act of Woyane spies and saboteurs in any outfit that dares to organize as an Ethiopian entity. I don’t think I need to prove any of my assertions. I beg the reader to look around him/her in any city USA. I dare you to find a peaceful association untouched by Woyane virus wherever you reside.
Now their underground activity is made visible by no other than our dragon slayer, dictator buster, honor restorer and champion of freedom, my friend Abebe Gelaw. No need to elaborate more but our country and people are always grateful for the epic grand stand that was made in Washington DC on behalf of mother Ethiopia. Her children rejoiced while her enemies wept. It looks like they did not learn a lesson. They reverted back to form.
They are trying to do here in the US what they do to our people back home. They are trying to intimidate, bully and scare us from exercising our free will. A few months back an individual registered by the name of Guesh Abera on Facebook was investigated by the FBI for threatening Ato Abebe. His normal TPLF animal behavior was taken as a subject of concern by the FBI that sent agents to his work place to interview the individual and put him on alert. I am sure they felt it was better to nip this ugly idea in its bud rather than wait. Whether in jest or for real the issue is Goush threatened and the FBI investigated.
A few of our Woyane friends tried to make fun of the situation and ridicule the assertion. They went to the extent of accusing ESAT and our independent Web sites of misinformation. They tried to turn the story on its head and attempted to make the victim the aggressor. Awramba Times unmasked itself as nothing but a shameless Woyane sympathizer while some in the venerable Voice of America tried a clumsy investigative journalism that missed its mark.
Some organizations and a few people are so dense they are unable to see what is in front of them and change to avoid calamity. TPLF and its operatives are one such outfit. Despite the unmasking and public humiliation of Guesh Abera, guess who shows up to accept the medal of stupidity? None other than another ethnic hero by the name of Mulugeta Kahsay, a proud immigrant residing in Britain. This individual doing his job as assigned by TPLF was caught red handed attempting to intimidate and frighten Ato Abebe. He made repeated cals threatening not only Ato Abebe but his whole family both in the US and back in Ethiopia.
According to Wiki ‘A death threat is a threat, often made anonymously, by one person or a group of people to kill another person or groups of people. These threats are usually designed to intimidate victims in order to manipulate their behavior, thus a death threat is a form of coercion.’ Here in the US death threat is considered a criminal act. Mulugeta Khassay’s action is deplorable and will land him in jail if it was made in the US.
Why do you think these two individuals felt such behavior is both acceptable and something to be proud of? The simple answer is where they came from it is considered lawful and practiced with abandon. The TPLF Woyane regime uses violence and the threat of violence to silence its opponents and anybody it feels stands on its way. The late TPLF chieftain Meles Zenawi used to threaten cutting hands of the citizen routinely. Like father like son is the situation here. What is not surprising is the fact that so many Woyanes and their admirers cheered such behavior and they are not ashamed to check out the ‘Like’ button on Facebook. So much for peaceful coexistence, wouldn’t you say?
In a civilized setting such behavior back fires and results in exactly the opposite of what is intended. We are all appalled by such naked brutal attempt by the two individuals and their organization or are we all? This is a difficult question to answer. When we see how we Ethiopians relate to each other and how we try to resolve differences, the behavior of Goush and Mulugeta are not that much of an anomaly. The system set up by Woyane encourages such criminal mind set and illegal activity. In today’s Ethiopia breaking the law, getting ahead at the expense of fellow citizens is a celebrated act. Lying, cheating, bribing is not frowned upon and expected practice to finalize any and all transaction. It is so routine that it has become second nature to some of us.
It is not enough to condemn these two gangsters. What is needed is to see how low we have sunk as a people that such action was carried out amongst us. It is not enough to sneer at the workings of Woyane but to reflect on our society that has allowed such evil doers to prosper and grow. When we allow a few to disturb our associations, when we turn a blind eye to those that disrespect our religious leaders and create chaos in our church, when we let an insult and rogue behavior go unchallenged we end up reaping what we planted. As long as we allow ethnic based organization such as the TPLF set the agenda in our country these kind of abhorrent behavior and criminal acts will continue to be the norm. The fight against injustice starts with each one of us. We are grateful to those that have risen to get rid of the body cancer called TPLF from our land. Helping them is a duty to our mother land and to one self.
See Mulugeta Kahsay tie himself in knots:
TPLF and the culture of violence. By Yilma Bekele.
According to ESAT the FBI has foiled an attempt by the Ethiopian government to assassinate Ato Abebe Gelaw. Goosh Abera and his accomplices are under custody. Please note here I said the Ethiopian government since there seems to be no thin line between the TPLF party and the government. Why am I not surprised? I am not surprised because for the TPLF violence is sanctioned by the party leaders as a legitimate tool to achieve political, economic and military dominance.
The following weeks as we look closely at Goosh Abera and his criminal friends and the FBI presents a psychological profile of the alleged conspirators we are sure to find out certain telltale signs about TPLF and their bizarre psychopathic behavior. Individuals like Goosh are most probably equipped with basic rudimentary education if any and survive by their wit and ethnic fueled bravado. In Ethiopia they are known for carrying weapons conspicuously, brandishing them at will and revealing in their thuggish behavior. They are the kind that administers summary judgment on street corners, bars and clubs.
How was TPLF Chairman, the recently departed Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi able to achieve this goal in Ethiopia? The simple truth is by using violence to silence, intimidate, and eliminate his and the party’s actual or perceived enemies using any means necessary. You do not need to be a Sherlock Holmes to detect this pungent smell of gun powder around most Woyanes.
Mengistu Hailemariam prepared the perfect ground for TPLF to flourish. He has already disarmed the population, delegitimized the family system and used the lowest denominators to be in charge of the Kebeles. TPLF inherited a demoralized, confused and tired population to mold in its own image.
The first target of this terrorist organization was the educated citizen. The University was stripped of its most experienced and independent thinkers. By ’94 the University was a former ghost of itself. The political system was dealt in a harsh way. Professor Asrat was murdered in the most inhumane way possible. Teachers President Assefa Maru was shot against a wall execution style. Masses of independent publication owners, editors and reporters were brutally beaten, murdered, bankrupted, intimidated, exiled or killed even in exile. Bank employees were fired in masse, telecommunication workers were discarded teachers and their unions were digested even Chamber of Commerce was not immune from TPLF take over. One thread common to all is that none of them were acquired peacefully. Violence was the main calling card of the TPLF.
Every opportunity he got the sick dictator used to trash our country and our history and every opportunity they got his security department used to bully, intimidate and made to cower with fear. My dear fellow citizens, you know there is nothing new in what I am telling you. Some have witnessed it, plenty have experienced it and a vast majority would try not to think about it. The shame is unbearable.
One thing about TPLF is it is not a behind the curtain type of organization. It practically advertises every hit and all illegal acts. They use their criminal action to send a clear message to the citizen. That is why they insist that all are aware and versed on their mode of operation. They use their Television news, their newspapers and radio to send warning messages before they take action. When the unthinkable happens some are heard to say ‘he/she was warned but refused to listen-they deserve it!” You see the victim assumes the blame.
They have been systematically killing any and all emerging Ethiopians. They have goon squads that go around intimidating anybody they perceive to be a challenge. They use beating and flogging opponents to shame them in front of family, friends and a whole village. They use blackmail as a tool. They use the law to break the law. Meles used to amend the Constitution in a weekend. Even the Constitution is not worth any respect. Once you trash the Constitution what is on your way?
That is what the FBI s telling us. Their dirty deeds have arrived in America. Under Meles they were content in infiltrating our organizations such as Political Party support groups, Eders, Churches, Sport organization and disrupting from the inside. There is no Organization in North America that has not been a victim of TPLF insider disruption. They are crafty, relentless and completely understand our frame of mind. They exploit our ignorance, selfishness and greed to keep us in a daze.
The new TPLF leaders are a little bit reckless. I understand that too. It comes out of desperation. The group is under tremendous pressure. The late dictator I am afraid was a very selfish person. The sun revolved around him. When he left the light went dim. I do not think any social or military organization can take credit for the current upheaval. In my humble opinion the stink is coming from inside. I agree things are getting ripe on the outside and that could intensify the pressure inside the TPLF bowl. I am afraid the last CEO did not really care to what came after him. He was too busy surviving from day to day in this shark infested pond that he did not have the time and luxury to bother with outcome. He left an army with too many generals. Here in America there is a saying ‘all chiefs and no Indians.’ Debretsion, Bereket, Sebhat, Gebru, Abbay and a bunch of tin pot Generals are on their own trying to carve the biggest pie for themselves.
This desperate act of attempt to assassinate Ato Abebe here in the US is the work of a mad man. If the group was trying to send a message about the long arm of TPLF it is a very stupid and crazy gesture. We have been complaining about their disruptive activities in our midst but this mission of trying to kill is a little concerning. There is no question the FBI will get to the bottom of this incident. It should be treated as act of terrorism by a government and investigated to the full extent of the law and let the chips fall where they may.
I am sure the alleged conspirator will name names and tell us who gave the order for such criminal act. I doubt one individual will take it upon himself to take such mission. The Ethiopian Government under Dictator Meles routinely used to kill, rough up and intimidate its opponents in the African countries they are exiled to. The new guys are a little daring. Prime Minister Debretsion and security chief Workeneh Gebehu Should be interviewed about the work of their agents and made to take responsibility for their actions. We hope the US government will take the necessary action of baring all Ethiopian Government officials and family members from entering the country before everything is known about this conspiracy to commit crime in the US. We should demand the US government protect us from the monsters they have been coddling.
This definitely is not their first time committing crime here in the US. They have been using every legal and illegal means to harass, bankrupt and shut down Ethiopian Review Web site. They have employed what is known as denial of service attacks (DDoS Attack) to block ER and various Web sites, they have hired attorneys to intimidate ER publisher and are present in every of our Churches sawing dissent and negativity.
As Ethiopians in exile we should take the actions of these criminals seriously. It is true there is no criminal without the victim. Sometimes it is unfortunate things happen but you really can’t leave your door open and cry about being robbed do you? It is time we accept responsibility. The Ethiopian people that are facing the brunt of TPLF abuse should wake up and face their coward enemies. By now it should be clear silence is not the answer. The one year anniversary by our Muslim citizens is clear indication the regime does not listen to reason. The steadfastness of our Muslim brethren should be applauded and emulated by the rest of us. The call by our Orthodox church in exile for every one of us to safeguard our religion and our country is a timely reminder.
The fact that we have muscle now is a very empowering feeling. The cooperation between Ginbot7, Afar Front, anti Woyane activists in Tigrai, OLF, Patriotic Front and the formation of Ginbo7 Forces is the right direction considering the nature of TPLF. As I said before leveling the playing field is called for. That is one small step for our Fronts and one giant step for Ethiopia.
As for the Diaspora it is time we stop enriching the coffers of the evil regime. Any kind of involvement in their Ponzi scheme adds one day more to their life. As there is no little pregnancy there is no such thing as a little investment. It has to be a clean and complete break. This Abesha way of qualifying our illegal act is not good for our future. Your selfish action is hurting us and we ask you stop it. It is like MLK said ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ It is something to think about.
We feel the pain and hurt of our friend Abebe and his family. He has never threatened those that have hounded him and his family from his beloved homeland. His only weapon is his pen and pencil and the power of reason to resolve contradictions. Exiling him was not enough. Now they want to kill him in cold blood. That is the only language they speak. They have killed so many but they are unable to understand their violence has not resolved any of the outstanding issues. Don’t they see it? Don’t they know there are a lot more Abebebes as there were plenty of Asrats, Assefas, Eskindirs, Reyots? When is this madness going to stop? When is our country going to be a citadel of peace and harmony instead of a poster child for famine and civil war?
You know what no one gives you your freedom. You have to snatch it from those that want to make you their slave. No oppressor has ever said enough, I am going to leave you alone here go in peace. No, every oppressor faced by human kind was compelled to relinquish power by force. Not reason but force. The French revolution, the American revolution, the Russian revolution, the Chinese revolution, the South African revolution are all examples of the citizens taking matters into his hands and forcing the oppressor to step aside. Woyane dogs are not going to wake up one morning and pack and leave. You and I have to push them out. That is the only proven way. Anything else invites more abuse.
By Alemayehu G Mariam
Ethiopians had their new year on September 11. It is now 2005. On September 21, they also got a new prime minster. How delightfully felicitous to have a new prime minister in the new year! Heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to the people of Ethiopia are in order.
Hailemariam Desalegn was sworn in as prime minister before a special session of parliament. It was a rather low key affair with little pomp and circumstance. There were no parades and no sounds of bugle or trumpet announcing the changing of the guard. No inaugural balls. It was a starkly scripted ceremonial affair with minimal fanfare and political theatricality. Some 375 of the 547 members of Parliament sat quietly and heard Hailemariam recite the oath of office and gave him a hearty round of applause.
Since late May, Hailemariam has been operating in political limbo. He was officially described as “deputy”, “acting” and “interim” prime minster, the latter two offices unauthorized by the Constitution of Ethiopia. There were also some nettlesome constitutional questions about the duties of the deputy prime minister in the absence of the prime minister and the proper method of succession. Those issues aside, Hailemariam’s swearing in ceremony was scheduled on several prior occasions only to be cancelled without adequate explanation. The abrupt cancellations fueled all types of speculations and conspiracy theories about turmoil and confusion among the ruling elites. To complicate things further, it was officially announced days before the actual swearing in ceremony that Hailemariam would be sworn in early October. For some publicly unexplained reason, a special session of parliament was suddenly called for the purpose of naming a prime minister creating additional public confusion about the manifest dithering among the power elites.
Hailemariam takes office under a cloud of apprehension. Speculations abound that he is really a “figure head”, a “front man” and a “seat warmer” for the entrenched interests in a transitional period. Critics suggest that he will have little independence of action and will be puppet-mastered by those who control the politics and economy behind the scenes. Others suggest that he is a “technocract” who is unlikely to survive in a political machine that is lubricated by intrigue, cabalist conspiracy and skullduggery. But some, including myself, have taken a wait-and-see attitude and would like to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Hailemariam’s “inauguration speech” hammered the theme of “Stay the Course.” He said under his leadership the programs and projects that have been initiated and underway will continue to completion. “Our task is to stay the course on the path to firm development guided by the policies and strategies [of our party]. We will continue to pursue development and democracy by strengthening our collective leadership and by mobilizing the people.” He said modernizing agriculture and the rural economy by accelerating agricultural development were top priorities. His government “will work hard” to improve agricultural infrastructure. He promised help to cattle raisers. He emphasized the need for better educational quality and entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth. He said the country needs a curriculum focused on science, technology and math. His administration will work hard to expand opportunities for women and pay greater attention to women’s health and improved health care services to mothers. He called upon the intellectuals and professional associations to engage in rigorous applied policy analysis and research to solve practical problems.
Hailemariam said his vision is to see Ethiopia join the middle income countries in ten years. To achieve that, he said significant improvements are needed in industry and manufacturing. His administration will pay special attention to remove development bottlenecks, improve the export sector and facilitate greater cooperation between the private sector and the government. He promised to work hard to alleviate housing and transportation problems in Addis Ababa. He touched upon the economy noting that though inflation is coming down, much more action is needed to bring it under control. He urged Ethiopians to bite the bullet (tirs neksen) and make sure the existing plans for ground and rail transportation, hydroelectric power generation and telecommunications are successfully executed. He pledged to complete the “Hedasse Gidib” (“Renassaince Dam”) over the Blue Nile. He referred to corruption and mismanagement in land administration, rent and tax collections and public contracts and pledged to get the public involved in eliminating them. He noted that there were significant deficits in good governance in the operation of the police, courts, security system that need to be improved.
Hailemariam emphasized that importance of human rights. He urged the parliamentary oversight committee to review the work of the Human Rights Commission for improvements. He underscored the vital role of the Elections Commission, the Human Rights Commission, press organizations and opposition parties in the country’s democratization. He said he was ready to work “closely” with press organizations, civic society institutions and other entities engaged in the democratic process. On foreign policy, he focused on regional issues, Ethiopia’s contribution to peace-building in Somalia, South Sudan and the Sudan.
The speech could best be described as “technocratic” in the sense that it focused on ways of solving the complex problems facing the country. The speech was short on rhetoric, oratory, appeals to the pathos of the masses and big new ideas and promises. He did not sugarcoat the deep economic problems of the country with hyperbolic claims of 14 percent annual growth nor did he make any grandiose claims about Ethiopia as the “one of the fastest-growing, non-oil-dependent economies in the developing world”. There were no impactful or memorable lines or sound bite phrases in the speech. He offered no inspirational exhortations in words which “soared to poetic heights, igniting the imagination with vivid imagery”. There were no anecdotes or storytelling about the plight of the poor and the toiling masses. It was a speech intended to serve as a call to action with the message that he will work hard and asks the people to join him. He spoke of responsibility, hard work, willingness to lead, standing up to challenges, engaging the opposition, civil society and press institutions, etc. for the purpose of improving the lives of the people.
Hailemariam’s speech was a refreshing change from similar speeches of yester years in a number of ways. It was delivered in a dignified and statesmanlike manner. It was not an ideologically laced speech despite repeated references to the guiding grand plan. It was accommodating and bereft of any attitude of the old militaristic and aggressive tone of “my way or the highway.” There was no finger pointing and demonization. He did not use the old tricks of “us v. them”. He did not come across as an arrogant know-it-all ideologue. He offered olive branches to the opposition, the press and other critics of the ruling party. What was even more interesting was that he did not pull out the old straw men and whipping boys of “neoliberalism”, “neocolonialism”, and “imperialism” to pin the blame on them for Ethiopia’s problems. He did not pull any punches against the local opposition or neighboring countries. He used no threats and words of intimidation. Even when he addressed the issues of corruption, mismanagement and abuse of power, he aimed for legal accountability rather than issuing empty condemnatory words or threats.
Another surprising aspect was the fact that the speech contained none of the old triumphalism, celebratory lap running and victorious chest-beating exercises. There was no display of strength of the ruling party, no self-congratulations and ego stroking. He softly challenged the opposition and the people to work together in dealing with the country’s problems. His speech seemed to be aimed more at making the people think and act on existing plans than making new promises. Over all, the speech was written with intelligence, thoughtfulness and purpose. Hailemariam spoke in a cool and collected manner and tried to get his points across directly. What he lacked in rhetorical flair, he made up with a projection of self-assurance, humility, respectability and profesionalism.
What Was Not Said
There were various things that were not said. Though Hailemariam acknowledged the structural economic problems and the soaring inflation, he offered no short-term remedial plans. He repeatedly came back to “stay the course” theme. Does “staying the course” mean “our way or the highway”? Is national reconciliation an idea the ruling party will consider? There was no indication in the speech about the transitional process itself, but he did offer what appeared to be olive branches to the opposition, the press and others.
Hailemariam also did not give any indication about the release of the large numbers of political prisoners that are held throughout the country. Nor did he mention anything about re-drafting the various repressive press, civil society and so-called anti-terrorism laws. For over a decade, all of the major international human rights and press organizations have condemned the government in Ethiopia for its flagrant violations of human rights, illegal detention of dissidents and suppression of press institutions and persecution of journalists.
Words and Actions: Shoes of the New Prime Minister
It is often hard to judge politicians by the speeches they make. It is not uncommon for politicians to deliver inspirational speeches and come up short on the action side of things. It is true that action speaks louder than words. In his speech, it seems Hailemariam sought to move himself, his party and the people to action. But he is in a difficult situation. He feels, or is forced to feel, that he has to “fill in big shoes”. He said he will walk in footsteps that have already been stamped out. But the shoe that fits one person pinches another. But for all the hero worship, Hailemariam must realize that there is a difference between shoes and boots. For two decades, boots, not shoes, were worn. Those boots have made a disfiguring impression on the Ethiopian landscape. It must be hard to pretend to walk in the shoes of someone who had sported heavy boots. The problem is what happens when one wears someone else’s shoes that do not fit. Do you then change the shoe or the foot? I hope Hailemariam will in time learn to walk in the shoes of the ordinary Ethiopian. He will find out that those shoes are tattered and their soles full of holes. Once he has walked a mile in those shoes, he will understand what it will take to get every Ethiopian new shoes. He must also realize that “it isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” There comes a time when we all need new shoes. That time is now. All Ethiopians need new shoes for the long walk to freedom, democracy and human rights. Prime Minster Hailemariam does not need hand-me down shoes; he needs shoes that are just his size and style and rugged enough for the long haul.
I believe Hailemariam gave a good “professional” speech. I do not think it will be remembered for any memorable lines, phrases or grand ideas. It was a speech that fit the man who stood before parliament and took the oath of office. As a self-described utopian Ethiopian, I thought the very fact of Hailemariam taking the oath of office symbolically represented the dawn of a long-delayed democracy in Ethiopia. Few would have expected a man from one of the country’s minority ethnic group to rise to such heights. Whether by design, accident or fortune, Hailemariam’s presence to take the oath of office, even without a speech or a statement, would have communicated a profound message about Ethiopia’s inevitable and unstoppable transition to democracy. Most importantly, now any Ethiopian boy or girl from any part of the country could genuinely aspire to become prime minister regardless of his/her ethnicity, region, language or religion.
I do not know if history will remember Hailemariam’s “inaugural” speech as a game changer. History will judge him not for the words he spoke or did not speak when he took the oath of office but for his actions after he became prime minister. It’s premature to judge. I like the fact that he appeared statesmanlike, chose his words carefully, focused on facts and presented himself in businesslike manner. It is encouraging that he expressed commitment to work hard to make Ethiopia a middle income country within a decade. He showed a practical sense of mission and vision while keeping expectations to reasonable levels.
To be Or Not To Be a Prime Minister
“Being Prime Minister is a lonely job,” wrote Maggie Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minsiter. “In a sense it ought to be; you cannot lead from a crowd.” I would say being a prime minister for Hailemariam, as the first prime minster from a minority ethnic group, will be not only lonely but tough as well. But somebody has got to do it. Hailemariam has his work cut out for him and he will face great challenges from within and without, as will the people of Ethiopia. I wish him well paraphrasing Winston Churchill who told his people in their darkest hour:
I would say to the House as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Democracy. Democracy at all costs. Democracy in spite of all terror. Democracy, however long and hard the road may be, for without democracy there is no survival.”
I believe Ethiopia will survive and thrive and her transition to democracy is irreversible, inevitable, unstoppable and divinely ordained!
On a personal note, I would give Prime Minster Hailemariam a bit of unsolicited advice. Smile a little because when you smile the whole world, not just the whole of Ethiopia, smiles with you!
Amharic translations of recent commentaries by the author may be found at: http://www.ethiopianreview.com/amharic/?author=57
Previous commentaries by the author are available at: http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/ and www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/
By Yilma Bekele
Someone broke into our house. They forced the backdoor open and went through every square inch of the house. They turned our mattress over, pilfered through our drawers and left the closet in a mess. It was done in the middle of the day and it looks like they took their time. They stole laptops, I pod, tablet computer, flat screen TV’s and my wife’s gold jewelry.
We have lived in the same neighborhood for over twenty years now. Nothing like this has happened before. We felt safe and secure. We did not have a burglar alarm. There were no metal guards on our doors and windows. When we moved to the area most of our neighbors were elderly people enjoying their retirement. They were always outside sitting on their porch and remising and watching. It is true there were one or two houses where the young kids were dealing drugs but the presence of the grandfathers made their business low-key.
Burglary is an ugly and very personal crime. Most of the stuff they took is replaceable. What is disturbing and creepy is the fact that a stranger went thru your stuff. I just keep visualizing their ugly dirty hands in my drawer and all over my home. They stole expensive stuff like computers but what bothered me most was the loss of quarters I was saving for my son. They took the flat screen televisions and Google tablet but the loss of little gold crosses from my mom to my wife is what keeps me awake at night. The thought of a burglar never crossed my mind but now I am convinced burglars are the scums of the earth. I better not be called for a jury duty where the crime is burglary. Off with his/her head is what first comes to mind.
I was seething with anger regarding my home invasion when I read Ambassador Susan Rice eulogy at the funeral of you know who in my homeland. My depression was compounded. Et tu Susan? When Bush was the President Ambassador Rice opined on the Washington Post “We Saved Europeans. Why Not Africans?” regarding the administration’s refusal to use force in Darfur and her praise of President Clinton’s military intervention in Kosovo. Compare that to her statement at the funeral of an African tyrant. Our fearless Ambassador was very generous with her praises of the dictator and was nice enough to include the human side of him inquiring about her family. She went out of her way to heap accolades like a smitten teen ager and elevate the dictator to new heights. I have no problem with her ignorance but what got my goat was her statement “He [Meles] was tough, unsentimental and sometimes unyielding. And, of course, he had little patience for fools, or “idiots,” as he liked to call them” That to me is too personal. Shame on you Susan Rice! Those of us that fight injustice are not fools or idiots. My dear Ambassador it looks like you have things reversed.
Those that deny freedom to others, those that deny democracy, those that deny the rule of law are considered fools and idiots. On the other hand those that fight back to secure their God given right to live in peace and dignity are normally referred to as freedom fighters. As a black person that find yourself in such a high and powerful position representing your country I would have thought you would be the perfect candidate to identify with the cause of our people and be able to articulate our wishes and dreams better than your Wasp predecessors. Mrs. Ambassador it is a little disconcerting to think a poor immigrant like me is constantly fighting with rednecks and conservatives that judge you negatively based on the color of your skin and declare you unfit to represent America and here you are paying my favor by dancing with criminals and unsavory characters. Too bad you are not a student of MLK. Where did you miss the bus?
Anyway I gave your transgressions and insulting behavior some thought and was able to put things in perspective. I decided there is no reason I should spend an ounce of energy on what you think and say. I got bigger problems to solve. Thus I went back to my home burglary issue and viewed the two items and marveled at the linkage of the situation.
I did not leave my home open. Someone forced the door open. What I have done since then is install security doors and windows, install cameras and use cloud storage to back up my documents. It is impossible to stop a determined criminal the least I could do is make the bum work to earn his pay. It is said you know who your friends are in times of difficulty. I was humbled by two of my friends that gave me a lap top computer and a flat screen television to ease my pain. My friends Getachew and Dr. Tesfaye made me realize I am not alone. We are each other’s keeper.
When it came to my homeland the situation is a little different. The burglars did not have to break a door or climb thru a window. They just bought their way in to our precious country. They used collaborators to open the door and let them in. We left our door open. No need to blame the burglar for our being indifferent regarding our treasure. Ambassador Rice was praising an individual we allowed to dictate to us for over twenty years. I know some fought back. Plenty paid with their life. The use of ethnic loyalty was his calling card. I am also sure that his harsh and intrusive system have something to do with his longevity. No matter the reason, our door was left open, and our security was compromised.
The solution to safeguard a country is a little different than securing a home. Walls, cameras, border guards on the ground and drones in the sky are not a solution. The best full proof system is a population that is empowered to safeguard its own freedom. The citizen has to feel that they are in charge and they own their country. Those in charge have to understand that they serve by the will of the people. That is what is meant by ‘for the people by the people.’ As they are hired by the citizen they must know that the possibility of being fired for misconduct is real.
This kind of arrangement assures the leader entrusted with the key will not open the door and let strangers in to take advantage of a poor nation. Strangers will not try using underhanded means to get in and and act like king makers knowing it will be rejected. The recent death of the dictator is proof that our door was left wide open. The situation has favored the outsiders at the expense of the citizen. He was loved, respected, held in high esteem, considered a visionary and a person of extraordinary super natural gift. Unfortunately the sky high phrases are uttered by no other than those that enabled him to stay in power.
The issue is not Susan Rice, European Union or any outside party. We are that are the legitimate owners of this Nation called Ethiopia that allows misfits, megalomaniacs and unsavory individuals to hold the key to our door. We refuse to stand for fair play and justice. Recently when talking about an issue that tested the American people President Obama said ‘As Americans let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases lay down their lives for it. Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those, both civilian and military, who represent us around the globe.’ It is when we can say those words regarding our motherland that we can stand straight look each other in the eye and utter the words ‘I love Ethiopia.’ Anything else is hot air and bluster.
An Ethiopian with election envy. By Yilma Bekele
The US is getting ready for presidential elections. 2012 will be the 57th time elections have taken place. The first election was held in 1788 and there were five contestants and it was won by George Washington. Barack Obama is the 44th President. The Republican Party held its convention a week ago and the Democrats started their nomination process yesterday. The candidates are thinned down by the grueling primary campaign. The conventions are more or less a coronation event and come November one of the nominees wins and everybody goes home and wait for another four years. This routine has not changed for over 224 years. If the American citizen is so jaded about the event you can see why. It is nothing to write home about.
Non-American citizens are not allowed to participate in the process. It is unthinkable any government will try to influence the election in any covert manner. The American people determine their own future without help or interference from any outside body.
As you know our Prime Minster died a few months back and we have been operating without a leader for quite a while. Either the Ethiopian people are extremely low abiding or phenomenally docile because nothing has happened that is alarming under the circumstances of operating without central power. The PM was buried last Sunday, or at least a casket was laid to rest and still no decision has been made regarding a leader.
We in Ethiopia have not developed a system regarding how we would like to be governed. Until about forty years ago our regional warlords duked it out among themselves and the one standing at the end crowned himself or herself king, Queen or Emperor. Haile Selassie was the last Emperor. Colonel Mengistu was the next warlord disguised as head of the Military Junta or the Derge. He was in the process of legitimizing his rule by forming a party when he was overthrown by the TPLF guerrilla army.
The next chapter of our history is a little bit murky and sort of opaque. We have held four elections since the demise of Mengistu. All four have been won by the ruling TPLF party. As a matter of fact the 2005 election is the only one that will be considered partially free and fair. It was won by the opposition. Today that election is looked upon with nostalgia by the majority of our people.
In 2005 the recently departed PM miscalculated his and his party’s popularity big time. It is what happens when one is locked in a palace for too long and is surrounded by yes men and sycophants. The TPLF party learned a negative lesson from this debacle and the last election held in 2010 was a travesty of what election is all about. As they lost big time in 2005 they won the whole enchilada in 2010. We have a broken system with warlordism disguised as democracy.
This is why we are having this hiccup replacing the tyrant. He left a mess behind and cleaning it up is no small matter. There are so many rumors, theories and explanations’ twirling around the situation makes a Spanish novella look like a children’s bedtime story.
First and foremost to note in this tragic affair is that the Ethiopian people are not involved in this drama in any form or shape. We the people are ring side spectators waiting to be told the outcome of this three ring circus. We are keeping score.
Star of the show is no other than the Tigrayan people TPLF Party. It is rumored the party have different factions. The internal bickering is not expected to reach a boiling point. Others playing minor parts are the Amhara Party (ANDM), the Oromo Party (OPDO) and the Southern people’s Party (SEPDM). There are others like the Gambellan, Benishangel-Gumuz etc. but they are for all practical purposes as observers as the Ethiopian people. Everyone is organized under the umbrella known as the EPRDF.
The Executive Committee of EPRDF held its first meeting since the death of warlord numero uno and you would think their first agenda will be filling the void. No such luck in revolutionary Ethiopia. According to Woyane TV “The executive committee passed decision to strive towards success of the Growth and Transformation Plan and further strengthen efforts towards renaissance of the country.” As to the most important issue at hand the “The meeting passed decision to name chairperson and vice chairperson for the Front in its meeting to be held in mid September 2012. It called on the Ethiopian people to rally behind the Front in the efforts to reduce poverty and realize renaissance of the country.”
The only conclusion to reach after reading such a press release is that the EPRDF cannot agree regarding giving the position of PM to the person who was designated as the vice. Why do you think that is? Is it because the number one position has always been reserved to the TPLF Party? It looks like they have found themselves in a very difficult situation at the moment. Appointing a TPLF person would not be looked at kindly by all involved especially the foreign enablers. It is not that they have any objection to the TPLF but they are not willing to chance anything that would destabilize the current cozy situation they have gotten used to. Why rock the boat now must be what they are asking the ruling mafia.
It is said the EPRDF Executive Committee has thirty five members. Since the country is divided on the basis of ethnicity the EC is composed of representatives from four regions. What is peculiar about this situation is the number of participants in the EC. It is said that each Party sends eight people but how they arrived at this number is not clear. The Oromos’ constitute 34.5%, the Amaras’ 26.9% and the Tigrais’ 6.1% of the population. The disparity in representation does beg for an answer.
At the moment the situation the Vice/Acting Prime Minster finds himself is not enviable at all. It looks like he is going up a creek without a paddle. The military is in the hands of the TPLF Party. The Security service is beholden to the TPLF Party. The Media is under the control of the TPLF Party. Major industries such as banking, telecommunications etc. are under the TPLF Party. The Vice/Acting PM does not have a party he controls. He does not have a constituent to fall back on. Up a creek with no paddle seems to describe the situation.
Most of Ethiopians find themselves in a quandary. They want peace and stability. The problem is this situation of being governed by unelected individuals is getting a little too old to accept. The last time this happened it has taken us over twenty years to even replace one person. We find ourselves where we were in 1991. We were told to give the new government time, to be patient and not be so negative. I believe twenty one years is long enough to learn that those that assume power without the consent of the people are not in any position to let it go without hassle.
I started by reciting the news regarding the election in the US. It is clear to see that having a tradition of fair, open contest for the highest office in the land has resulted in the construction of a stable and prosperous country. Campaigns help the people to see what the candidates have in mind and how they intend to fulfill the wishes of the citizen. The elected leader is given a limited amount of time to show what he can accomplish. The citizen is given the power to remove him if he does not perform to expectations.
That is what we need in our ancient homeland. Our people are smart enough to know what is good for them. You do not need a PhD from Harvard to know your interest. This concept of discussing our business behind closed doors is not a winning strategy. Sooner or later it is bound to create problems and contradictions. A leader not answerable to the citizen is a recipe for disaster. A leader with no mandate from his people but beholden to a few with guns will in end harvest contempt and disrespect by all. We hope the EPRDF EC will quit deluding themselves into thinking fear will solve everything. We hope they will learn the lesson of what happened to the occupier of the office not long ago. Twenty one years behind barbed wire fence, with no love, no respect from those he was supposed to serve is not a life style to emulate. In the end we all lost. There was no winner in this game. Our country is still backward, our people are dispersed all over the planet and our future does not look bright if we continue this road of rule by force.