“Hunger is actually the worst of all weapons of mass destruction, claiming millions of victims every year. Fighting hunger and poverty and promoting development are the truly sustainable way to achieve world peace. There will be no peace without development, and there will be neither peace nor development without justice.” – Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of.” – Confucius, Chinese Philosopher
Whether it is a country that is well governed such as the United States where the middle class is squeezed by the one percent rich in whose hands incomes and wealth are concentrated; or in a poorly governed country such as Ethiopia, where corruption and illicit outflow from one of the two poorest countries in Africa, is now endemic, the impacts are the same. Repressive and corrupt governance entails injustice and shame for those who are left out. Poverty and injustice are sources of shame and agony, especially when these are induced by minority ethnic elite that extract billions of dollars each year from the poor, the society and country. Economic plunder is injustice; and where it exists, peace is inconceivable in the long-run. The Oxford University Multidimensional Index identifies Ethiopia as among the two poorest countries in Africa. If one gauges poverty using the African Development measurement of US$2 dollars per capita per day, ninety percent of the Ethiopian people are poor. Poverty affects all segments of society. It is perhaps the one shame that all ethnic and religious groups have in common.
Over the past several months, I offered compelling reasons backed by concrete evidence why Ethiopians must unite; and why they can indeed unite if they are willing. I admit that it is easier to diagnose problems from all sides and suggest alternatives going forward. There must be social forces on the ground and support outside that are bold enough to implement alternatives that would embolden ordinary people to free themselves from the shame of injustice, poverty and destitution. It is within the realm of possibilities.
In my 2010 book Waves; I analyzed the evolution of ethno-nationalism, and the socioeconomic and political architecture of the current government. I strengthened the arguments of its pitfalls and the vulnerabilities it poses to national cohesion, stability, democratic interactions, equitable and inclusive growth and development, and the threats ethno-nationalism poses to the country and to its diverse population. The single most worrisome source of these vulnerabilities that the vast majority of Ethiopians share is endemic poverty. Another is continuous exodus out of the country to escape injustice and poverty. Wide spread and recurring hunger is a glaring example of injustice. Increasingly, poverty is compounded by rising inequality. This emanates from the plunder of national incomes and resources and its concentration in a few at the top of the policy, decision making and resource allocation process. It is a pyramid. Corruption, illicit outflow, gross human rights violations, nepotism and discrimination are a consequence of a system; and the system happens to be ethnic, repressive and corrupt.
For this reason, I concur with President Lula of Brazil that hunger is “actually the worst of all weapons of mass destruction.” I agree that “there will be no peace” without resolving Ethiopia’s endemic corruption and hunger crises. Regardless of one’s political stand with regard to Ethiopia’s future, the urgent need for social justice is embedded in this vicious cycle that is akin to a national tragedy. When a governing party uses humanitarian aid to punish opponents and reward supporters, you know that the governance is not only unjust; but cruel. Those who are left out, unemployed and hungry have no stake in the stability a system that denies them a chance to eat and earn decent living. I share the notion that overcoming hunger is a collective, and not solely, a government responsibility. However, lead accountability and responsibility for destitution, hopelessness and hunger reside with the top leadership of the governing party. It is this leadership that created the ethnic federal political and socioeconomic system that serves it and its allies well while keeping the poor where they are.
No matter how one diagnoses it, ethno-nationalism and ethnic-federalism now contribute to the lack of a level playing field in social and economic life. It is legitimate for the reader to ask a simple question and try to answer it honesty. How did the current income and wealth concentration arise? Why are billions of dollars stolen each year and not recycled within the country to build factories, schools and hospitals and to boost agricultural productivity? Stolen wealth was not inherited or granted by forces from the heavens. It is manmade; and it is only humans who can reverse this corrosive and corrupt economic system that makes poor people even poorer. I keep suggesting that, if things persist as they are, a person born poor in Ethiopia has a higher chance of dying poor. Poor parents cannot transfer real assets; they transfer poverty to their children and the cycle continues. They have no assets that will free them from this vicious cycle.
Capital accumulation and concentration in a few is never accidental. It is systemic and arises from a system that allows it. In their provocative and well researched paper, “Rethinking business and politics in Ethiopia: the role of EFFORT, the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray,” Mesfin Gebremichael and Sarah Vaughan make a direct correlation between Tigrean elite political capture at the top and capture and plunder of economic and financial resources throughout the country. They show public “frustration at persistence of a non-competitive, moribund and oligopolistic market, based on low levels of productivity, and regularly delivering high levels of opportunistic rents.” These “opportunistic rents” emanate from procurement deals and commissions; government sponsored and financed construction of roads, bridges, schools, health facilities, dams, offices; dominant roles in the transport and export and import business; generous and non-collateralized access to and provision of urban and rural lands, credits and loans; biased permits; accesses to foreign exchange and so on. Keep asking what type of system allows this to happen? You will be in a position to unravel the mystery of capital in Ethiopia and the success of EFFORT and other monopolies.
So what is wrong with the EFFORT monopoly story? This monopoly has a specific ethnic designation and conveys the perception that its lead and primary role is the “rehabilitation” of the Tigray region. Instead, it more than rehabs a selected few party officials and their extended families. It is owned by and benefits a specific ethnic elite group, Tigrean. I have consistently made the distinction between Tigrean elite at the top and the rest of the population. Let us be fair and objective.
As much as one cannot associate ‘past ills and mistakes’ on the entire Amhara or any specific group of people that the TPLF ethnic core designates by ethnicity rather than citizenship, it is not justified to attribute the horrendous injustice, plunder, repression, genocide, crimes against humanity, corruption, illicit outflow, transfer of real resources to domestic ethnic elite allies, foreign governments and firms on the entire Tigrean population. Similar to previous regimes, this repressive and plunder-prone system draws support from members of other ethnic elites. It is a ‘Scratch my back and I will scratch yours’ model. The system would not survive for long without providing material and financial incentives to individuals and elites from other ethnic groups. This gives a semblance of shared benefit and shared stake in the future. It is done without devolving real policy and decision making authority from a core Tigrean ethnic elite at the top. In my view, it is among the weakest links in the system.
As one anonymous author put it, the other weakest links in the system are embodied in the personification of social, political and economic ills identified earlier in the top leadership, especially “the Prime Minister and the security and defense establishment” that ethnic Tigrean officers lead and command. In light of this, the vast majority of Tigrean people on whose name and on whose behalf these ills are perpetrated need to wake-up in unison with the rest of the population. By the same token, the rest of the population that wishes to advance justice and political pluralism must reach out and join forces with them. As the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It takes all of the Ethiopian people to restore justice and establish a genuine and lasting foundation of democratic governance.
The extraction of rents is national and the beneficiaries are principally Tigrean elites and persons. The bulk of the sources of internal riches and illicit outflow of funds is either funded largely by a central or federal government that is dominated by the same ethnic elite or condoned by it. This unjust system punishes the vast majority of the population while amassing incomes and wealth assets that are simply grotesque and unjust. One should not dismiss the public perception that the Tigrean population as a whole benefits from the largesse of the federal state dominated by the TPLF core. Tigrean nationals who oppose the system must recognize this unfortunate perception and the collateral damage the minority ethnic elite has caused in the short run and will cause in the medium and long term. This collateral damage by association without gaining benefits compels them to side solidly with the rest of the Ethiopian population and abandon the divide and rule strategy of the TPLF core and its allies.
Income redistribution to “us” from “them” through narrow ethnic-based political power has the effect of limiting economic and social opportunities for the rest, including ordinary Tigrean. There is no legitimate or valid argument that any Ethiopian could make that the socioeconomic and political system should result in a zero-sum game. If ethno-nationalism and ethnic-federalism prove to be impediments to shared growth and development, it behooves all political and social leaders to reexamine the model of crony capitalism itself. In the medium and long-term, Ethiopia cannot afford an economic and social model which rewards those with political power and punishes those without one. The system keeps the entire society on a low productivity path. This is why it is labeled as “moribund” and the lead reason why I wanted to tie the hunger issue with ethno-nationalism, and ethnic-federalism. Both are impediments to equitable, inclusive and rapid growth and development for all Ethiopians.
If the current ethnic federal system is a barrier to equitable growth and development; and if it is the lead source of repression and corruption (double whammy), is it at all sensible to propagate ethnic politics as a virtue and a corner stone for democratization? I am afraid to report that there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Studies show that ethnic politics, organization and leadership will not advance justice, equitable accesses to economic and social opportunities. It will not advance political pluralism and the rule of law. It is conflict and instability ridden. Ethnic politics will not lead to the sovereignty of the people. Sovereignty is gained when each person has the right to voice her/his opinion and has the chance to participate in the political, policy and decision-making process freely.
In light of this, I welcomed the recent monumental decision by one wing of the Oromo Liberation Front to abandon narrow ethnic politics and secession and to join other Pan-Ethiopian democratic forces in the quest for political and social justice for all Ethiopians. This is a most welcome development and should encourage others who believe in the independence and territorial integrity of the country and in the unity and sovereignty of the Ethiopian people to coalesce, collaborate and struggle for the same cause. Dissidents must seize the opportunity now. It is among the prime reasons why I am writing this series.
This latest positive development notwithstanding, I am not entirely convinced that, as yet, Ethiopian political and social elites appreciate the economic, social and political forces that are shaping the new world of this century. This unfolding world places enormous emphasis on educated workforces and national cohesion on the one hand and flexibility to manage the risks and harness the benefits from an increasingly integrated world. Globalization is mean unless one has a nationalist government that places singular emphasis on national ownership of assets and on productivity and equity. Globalization is mean for the weak and for those countries whose leaders are not nationalistic. Globalization identifies and exploits opportunistic leaders who place a premium on their wealth and power. The recent recommendation to the Ethiopian government by Access Capital to sell some of the most profitable and national icons such as Ethiopian Airlines to the private sector is not an isolated phenomenon. Access Capital did not say anything about the US$12 billion that was stolen and taken out of the country; and the billions of Birr squandered and diverted internally. Ethiopia does not suffer from shortage of financial capital. It suffers from poor, repressive and corrupt governance. This, Access Capital, the World Bank or IMF do not say. Why?
The next decades call on a new generation of educated people who use science and technology to create and recreate their own societies. The old way of organizing and managing is increasingly out of place. This new and demanding world requires fresh and outside the box rethinking of how Ethiopian society ought to be organized and governed in meeting new challenges. Ethnic governance is not it. The TPLF/EPRDF model of ethnic governance is not suited to respond to this demanding world of change. A few examples from past practice will illustrate this point. The leadership conspired and turned over Eritrea in general and the port of Assab in particular and made the country landlocked. A landlocked economy is a dependent economy. Import and export costs are astronomical because of the regime’s unforgettable and deliberate policy mistake. It offered 1,600 square km of some of the country’s fertile lands, waters, flora and fauna to the North Sudanese government as dividend for Sudanese support when the TPLF was a liberation front. Having failed to achieve food self-sufficiency and security for the Ethiopian people, it embarked on one of the most disastrous policies of any government. It offered millions of ha of the most fertile farmlands and water basins to companies and persons from 36 countries; and to Tigrean elites that are loyal to the TPLF. It is therefore not equipped to deal with the intricacies of managing a society in the 21st century that calls for national cohesion.
Without going much further than the later part of the 20th and the early part of the 21st century, governance in Ethiopia has been based on the principle of political and economic capture by narrow ethnic and ideological elite. This was done through non-peaceful and non-democratic means. Political and economic capture has been about punishments and rewards. In coming to power, successive regimes had to inflict sufficient pain on their enemies so that they will never resurrect. Since the gains realized from continued political capture are substantial, the ruling group must reward itself and its supporters in order to solidify its power base. Correspondingly, it had to deprive its competitors of political and economic roles. In a poor country, financial, budgetary and other economic resources are very limited and are thus strategic tools. The TPLF core is a master at marrying ethnic governance, including ethnic federalism with economic capture.
Traditionally, an ethnic-based regime does not see the duration of its governance as finite and as subject to public consent. Political capture has always been a win-lose strategy. The biggest losers in this strategy are the poor, the society and succeeding generations. Political leaders do not wish to lose with grace through free, fair, open, transparent and competitive elections. The political tradition is for the ruling group to win big by any means necessary, including electoral fraud, intimidation, killings, imprisonment or persecution of adversaries. The TPLF/EPRDF top leadership has perfected this instrument of control at substantial costs for the country, and the vast majority of the population, including the vast majority of Tigrean.
Ethnic-governance and ethnic-federalism embed drawbacks in social, economic and political terms. Elections are always contested and are directly affected by them. Accesses to social and economic opportunities are influenced and directed deliberately. Land leases and allocations are decided through ethnic elite lenses. The concentration and uncontested nature of political and economic power at the executive level has offered the ruling-party the institutional and material means to hold on to power and to refrain from initiating needed socioeconomic and political reforms. Reform would mean sharing power and resources with the rest.
In an effort to appease nations, nationalities and people, the system allows the minimum required. It promotes and allows cultural, linguistic and other forms of freedoms while exercising monopoly over institutions, policies, decision-making and capture of their natural resources. Regional ethnic elites and personalities act as modern vassals and ‘lords’ and are often blamed and sacrificed when things go astray. The succession of Regional Presidents in the Gambella region who have been sucked is a case in point. Their primary role is not to serve the people and region they represent. It is to be loyal to and serve the party in power. Regional ethnic officials are never free or independent to enjoy freedom of choice. I do not underestimate the perceived emotional and real benefits associated with ethnic federalism. I contest its democratic content. Ordinary people on whose behalf pretensions of ethnic amity and freedom are exercised are paying a huge price now; and their children will bear the brunt of exploitation and plunder at play. The system will not initiate radical reforms that will make them masters of their own national resources.
In my assessment, radical reforms are needed urgently to empower Ethiopian society as a whole and to feed the millions who depend on international emergency food aid, hundreds of thousands who leave the country, and millions who are unemployed. Even if one were to ignore the developmental reasons, this back drop is vital for humanitarian causes. To ignore this injustice of recurrent and massive hunger is to deny justice to the affected millions. I do not know of a single Ethiopian who is not ashamed and saddened by the level of destitution, hunger and recurring famine in Ethiopia. While leaders of donor institutions and non-governmental organizations empathize with the hungry or send food or money or both and feed millions, it is a matter of dignity and honor for Ethiopians regardless of ethnic affiliation to reject the system that allows these to occur in the first place.
Ethiopians cannot go on depending on food aid for ever. For those in the Diaspora, it is about a recurrent human tragedy of a country with which they identify and they love. For them, and for millions of concerned people around the globe, the hunger of a child, a mother or a father waiting for emergency food aid is an affront to conscience and human dignity. It is a lead indicator of failed leadership. This failed leadership is fundamentally flawed because it is based on ethnic domination and divide and rule.
For government officials who live in what an Indian economist, Khanna, calls “mansion villas,” destitution has become a normal and acceptable part of life. Someone just wrote a note and told me that this person must have visited Mekele. I said yes; he has. He also visited Gondar, Bahir Dar, and Awassa, Addis Ababa and other cities and towns where ‘villas and mansions’ dot slums. For this reason alone, I will highlight critical policy issues, as a prelude to this series on the devastating impacts of ethnic political and economic capture.
While children, girls, boys, mothers and fathers are starving and dying, the ruling-party continues business as usual. It is more concerned about regime continuity, and less about the bigger and most immediate issues of hunger, famine, starvation, unemployment, slum-like shelters, dependency and endemic poverty. In this sense too, the ruling party’s values are worrisome to most Ethiopians across the ideological and ethnic spectrum. They feel that the regime focuses much more on rewards and punishments to keep itself in power and to extract more wealth and incomes from a broken system. It inflicts punishments on those who dissent and disagree with or oppose its policies and programs. Many Ethiopians say that the ruling-party rewards its members, affiliates and supporters handsomely. In doing this the leadership has elevated the punishment and reward equation to a new and dangerous level. This has the unsettling ingredients of collapse and civil unrest that is unpredictable. In light of this, I conclude that the TPLF/EPRDF socioeconomic and political conception, design, policies and programs have proven to be totally ethnic political elite-based, self-serving, dictatorial, corrupt and dangerous. The executive branch has replaced all institutions with regard to policies and decisions.
The conception of ‘victories I win or defeats me lose’ formula has strengthened the proclivity to hold on to power by all means necessary. Historically, political power in Ethiopia was characterized by a macho culture of defeating enemies. Battling out policies and programs through peaceful and democratic means, with the intent of letting voters decide, has never been the norm. Devaluing and limiting the formation of political pluralism and advancements toward a democratic culture of voter preferences and choices, the ruling-party uses public funds to recruit and mobilize members. It incentivizes and guides voter patterns to its own advantage. It punishes those who challenge the system in any way. It rewards those who support it. Affiliated ethnic parties and elites who lead them facilitate this phenomenon. This way, the political culture of exclusion continues indefinitely regardless of social injustice.
The reader would say that such a punishment and reward route to political power is not unique to Ethiopia. It has been a pattern throughout post-colonial Africa. I agree. My lead argument is that the primary motivating factor in this century as in the past behind the same model continues to be acquisition of wealth assets. On October 16, 2009, the Financial Times (FT) put this succinctly in an article entitled “Affluent Africa: The most reliable route to riches in Africa once lay via politics and “public” service.” No surprise, since “the state in many of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 48 countries controlled the principal levers (pillars) of the economy in the decades following independence.” The article cited numerous examples of extraction of riches by and for political elites using “absolute power.” Most African government leaders and elites were famous–many still are–not so much for public trust or public services but for extracting wealth at the cost of the vast majority. While there have been changes in a number of Sub-Saharan African countries, Ethiopia remains among the exceptions in not expanding opportunities and tackling endemic poverty. Many African intellectuals rightly ask why the country is unable to feed itself.
Ethiopia is also among the exceptions in prolonging and sustaining direct links between the party in power, the state and ethnicity. I shall show that these links promote and show corrupt practices and allow massive illicit outflow of funds. Similar to other Sub-Saharan African regimes that have not yet changed, those in power are not sole gainers from political and economic capture. They create foreign and domestic alliances and partners to justify their grip. The Ethiopian case mimics such partnerships in globalization as well.
One example might illustrate the point. In the same FT article quoted above, Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi, one of Africa’s wealthiest men is identified as one of the movers and shakers of Ethiopia’s political economy. An Ethiopian newspaper had identified the relationships between Al-Amoudi’s large business empire and monopoly and the ruling-party as a “state within a state”. A capitalist has found a lucrative alliance in a country where there are hardly any large scale domestic or national competitors. “Al-Amoudi is close to the ruling regime and partly funded Ethiopia’s millennium celebrations in September 2000. Al-Amoudi’s business empire centers on the Midroc Global Group, a conglomerate that owns more than 30 enterprises; and employs 24,000 people in four continents. Having leased vast tracts of land for commercial farming, the Sheikh also owns the Legadembi gold mine, which produces roughly 3.5 tons of fine gold a year.” I do not know of many governments that turn over a precious source of foreign exchange for the country to a foreign monopoly. The TPLF does.
The point of the quotation from the FT article is to suggest that the ruling-party allows unrestricted investments and operations, including leases of “vast tracts of land for commercial farming” to foreigners and domestic allies as long as such investments and partnerships pay dividends financially, politically and diplomatically. “Absolute” state political and economic power allows virtual centrally driven investments and economic monopolies to thrive. They crowd-out and undermine national firms and domestic entrepreneurs. In short, the system perpetuates dependency; and suffocates domestic private sector development. How can deserving Ethiopian nationals enter and sustain businesses if monopolies are given special privileges? The gold mine owned and run by Al-Amoudi was once state owned and profitable. Privatization proved to be lucrative for ethnic folks and ethnic endowments that are close to the ruling-party. Massive asset transfers associated with privatization show the dilemma. Among other factors, privatization has not expanded domestic and nationally owned and managed and merit based enterprises. It has not generated large employment. It has not produced a vigorous middle class. There is little benefit for Ethiopian youth, especially girls. Contrast and compare this condition with the Asian Miracle where privatization and indigenous development took advantage of globalization in general and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in particular; and offered enormous employment and incomes opportunities for millions.
The Oromo issue on Al Jazeera. By Yilma Bekele
There was a half hour discussion on the Oromo issue in Ethiopia on Al Jazeera Television Network. It was one of those situations where you go ‘what just happened’ after an experience that leaves you confused and dumbfounded when it is over. As an Ethiopian I am familiar with the issue and as someone who was born and raised in Sidama I certainly have enough real experience to have a handle on the matter. Furthermore as an Ethiopian that has been exposed to the opinions presented by the OLF and other Oromo groups I thought this program will give me further insight to the grievances by the party’s concerned.
I am sad to say the discussion did not shine any new light on the issue, was not able to define the problem in a coherent manner and failed to present a solution that is well thought of and acceptable to all the parties involved. What is the point of appearing on a discussion program if the net result is to not being able to teach some, respond to difficult questions with rational and verifiable argument and show the world why your position is just and convince all peace loving people to support your cause.
I would like to say that the hosts of ‘The Stream’ show were very gracious and asked very important and probing questions and gave the participants plenty of opportunity to state their case. You can tell the interviewers were as confused as we the viewers based on the trend of their questions which was asking for specifics and some kind of solution as the program was coming to an end. In fact one of the hosts brought out her own experience belonging to a majority tribe in Nigeria trying to make sense of the confusing analysis made by the guests.
One thing for sure is that the subject is not an easy one to define and explain. What exactly is the Oromo question in our country is a good place to start. Some see it as a question of democracy and human right within the Ethiopian context. Others define it as a self-determination issue up to and including secession. We are talking about a new country with international boundary a flag and a seat in the UN.
I am not really well equipped to discuss the historical question as I have not versed myself in the issue to be able to give an in-depth analysis. I will leave that to historians. As a layman I am just interested by the arguments presented on this show and the end result achieved by the participation of my esteemed Ethiopian brethren whether they accept me as such or not.
What troubled me most was the wanton way statistics was thrown around, facts distorted to fit the argument and reality on the ground completely and absolutely ignored to make a feeble point. I am familiar with the way we Ethiopians use statistics. No one equals our current government with absolute disregard and unrivaled contempt to the science of statistics. It is with a straight face and somber look that they tell the whole world our economy is growing double digits and is the envy of every developing country. It is their cooked number and they are proud of it.
I was a little appalled when the same argument was brought out on ‘The Stream’ presentation. Here are some examples of the plethora of statistics thrown during the discussion – ‘there are twenty five thousand to thirty thousand Oromo political prisoners, nine out of ten political prisoners are Oromos jailed for speaking their language, in 2012 ninety thousand out of one hundred ten thousand (82%) refugees into Yemen were Oromos, Oromos contribute sixty to sixty five percent of Ethiopia’s GDP’ All I ask is credible citations for this pronouncements.
I am afraid I do not have direct experience under Meles/TPLF administration but most of the stuff that was said about our country during the Imperial era and the Derg regime does not seem to reflect the facts on the ground. We all agree there was national oppression in our country. We all understand the vast majority were marginalized and did not participate fully in the governance of their nation. On the other hand what we had was an old fashioned Imperial Kingdom that drew its legitimacy from tradition and the ‘will of God’. Logic says democracy and rule of law cannot be expected from such arrangement.
The military regime that followed with all credit due tried to right what was wrong in its own way. But due to its nature it did not succeed. Remember the Imperial regime failed by the sheer will and determination of the masses of people. The Derg circumvented the will of the people. Both systems failed because they did not fulfill the aspirations of their people. But we got to admit things did not stay the same as they were before. Claiming otherwise is a futile attempt to deny reality. The change brought about has not yet fulfilled our hopes. That is exactly why there is so much dissatisfaction in our country today. Our people deserve better is our general sentiment.
That is exactly why the host asked a very intelligent and deep question. She said ‘How do you see Ethiopia, how do you see Oromos reconciling so you all want Ethiopia rather than this major group, major ethnic group felling they have a lot of grievances –where do you go to now, what is the way forward? This was the perfect opportunity for the guests to shine. To rise above the rhetoric, the blame game, the victim syndrome and use the program to be a teachable moment for their Oromo constituents and for the rest of Ethiopians. They failed miserably. Their purpose was to insistently talk about the past instead of what could be achieved in the future together with the rest of the oppressed masses of Ethiopia. They failed to recognize their dream is our dream, their liberation is our liberation and the future belongs to all of us together. It was a missed opportunity to help our people see beyond victimhood and paint a bright future in bold colors.
Our Ethiopian/Oromo guests were reluctant or unable to state what exactly they want but instead deluded the hosts with horror stories by traveling back in time and drawing a nightmarish Ethiopia of conquests, slavery and dark moments. You see the problem with that analysis is no country or nation on planet earth can claim immune from the untold horror stories that accompany nation building. China, Russia, France, England, USA, Brazil, Bolivia, South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Canada etc. etc. were all the outcome of conquest. It is not unique to our country. Just because the current Woyane regime intensifies the contradiction for its own narrow aims, just because they preach hate, just because they feed on our ignorance there is no reason we should repeat after them and take our country to hell.
Except for our northern cousins most of us in the south, center, east and west of our country are a very mixed blood people. We have lived together for eons, intermarried, and lived in harmony for a very long time. I remember when discussing lineage was frowned upon. The TPLF came and said everybody to your Kilil and a lot were unable to define themselves. Our Woyane masters were totally confused with this phenomenon. Twenty years into this game it is sad to see people singing the same old song.
Our guests seem to conveniently forget a certain part of history where the OLF leadership partnered with TPLF. The OLF was used by TPLF thugs to commit untold atrocity in certain parts of Ethiopia. The OLF leadership disarmed and abandoned their troops to be humiliated and massacred. We understand. We are the victims of TPLF policy too. We are familiar with ANDM that is betraying our people. We certainly recognize Bene Shangul Gumuz and SNNP that is carrying out ethnic cleansing fueled by TPLF, we are familiar with Afar and Gambela hired puppets that are displacing our brethren from their ancestral lands, we feel the pain of our Somali Ethiopians that are going thru hell on earth. All atrocities are committed by TPLF using local people as a front.
Well my friends, the Amhara and Tigrai peasant, the Oromo herder, the Afar pastoralist, the Sidama farmer, the Gambelan fisherman have one thing in common, they are all victims of a policy by the Tigrai based so called Ethiopian regime. It is only when these dispersed groups unite and challenge the heavily armed minority regime that real change can happen. This idea of confronting the enemy as bands of warriors is not going to work. This idea of going on a television program and reciting atrocities from hundred years back is a no brainer. It gives the speaker some tiny ego massage but it does the cause they stand for no good. It is a disservice to our people and a complete joke on our intelligence. We have come a long way, we have seen so much, we have experienced a lot and we should be treated with a little bit more respect.
On a recent lecture on crisis leadership, Nancy Koehn a Harvard Business school historian said what we need is wisdom, because ‘information …does not equal knowledge, and knowledge does not equal understanding, and understanding does not equal wisdom.’ It is not a good thing when some of our learned friends prey on the ignorance and weakness of our people to reduce grave problems into simplistic formulas of us against them. That road has been tried and it has not taken us anywhere. Leadership requires making the hard choices no mater unpopular. In the same lecture Professor Koehn quoted the novelist David Foster Wallace and his definition of leadership-‘effective leaders are individuals who help us overcome the limitations of our own selfishness and weakness and fears and get us to do harder, better, and more important things than we can get ourselves to do on our own’.
It is a beautiful definition and that is what is needed of those that aspire to be future leaders. Work hard to enhance our strength rather than magnify our weakness, strive to bring the best in us instead of catering to our worst instinct, show us the road to the Promised Land not dwell on what we left behind. It is never too late to change. We pray for change.
An Ethiopian walking on eggshells. By Yilma Bekele
No question I have to be careful writing this column. That is why I choose the title. Some of us are quick to take offense or assume holier than thou attitude when it comes to the subject I am gingerly trying to confront. I decided to approach the issue head on and let the chips fall where they may.
It all started after reading my friend Dr. Fikre Tolosa’s article regarding the Oromo question in our homeland. I was impressed and empowered by his lucid analysis. His grasp of our ancient history is second to none and his piece on the current situation was a showcase of his vast knowledge. The response to his presentation did not fit the gravity of the subject matter he so carefully laid out. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I expected a mature and open discussion so we can have clarity and help us see the problem that has confounded our people for quite a long time. There is nothing like looking at an old problem with a fresher perspective equipped with new knowledge and experience gained from learning and observing.
Thus with my disappointment for those that claim to speak for the oppressed and down trodden I left the subject matter behind and moved on to other things. But that nagging feeling of searching for an opportunity to put the matter into some perspective stayed with me.
I was making my breakfast one early morning when I heard Public Radio discussing the anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Evers and the Mississippi of 1963. I was mesmerized by the story. For those that are not familiar with the history of America and its race relations I will do my best to give you a snapshot of the period.
The 1960 USA was a different country from what we see today. The two races white and black might as well have been living on different planets. They claim the north was a little different whatever that means but in the south USA being black was not a small matter. The State of Mississippi was ground zero for racism in its ugliest form. It was not de facto apartheid but it was definitely de facto segregation. The two races kept separate neighborhoods, separate schools and separate existence.
Medgar Evans, a veteran of World War II who fought for his country, a college graduate and a civil right campaigner applied to the University of Mississippi law school and his application was rejected due to his race. This was 1954. Mr. Evans continued his work in the civil rights movement by helping organize boycotts and setting up chapters of NAACP (National Alliance for the Advancement of Colored People) in his home state.
Some white folks in Mississippi did not appreciate the likes of Medgar Evans that were trying to upset the norm. Separate and unequal was their philosophy. Thus on June 12, 1963 a white fellow that took the distorted view to heart shot and killed Medgar Evans thinking that his act will stop the march of history. Here is the lyric to a beautiful song by Bob Dylan trying to make sense of this tragedy.
A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man’s brain
But he can’t be blamed
He’s only a pawn in their game.
How true, the hapless individual with no name was just a ‘pawn in their game’. I felt a strong sense of attachment and empathy to Medgar Evans. He was not a complainer. He was an activist. Despite the danger to himself and his family Medgar worked to right what he felt was wrong. That was the story being told on the radio the morning as I was making my breakfast.
You see they were not discussing how awful it was to be a black person in Mississippi in 1963 but rather how things have changed due to heroes like Medgar. There was lynching, separate bathrooms, designated water fountains, unequal schools and a whole bunch of grievances to talk about but what was the point of dwelling on the negatives when one can construct on the positive? Slavery was an ugly period with the consequences still lingering until today. There is no denying that when you look at the America of 2013. But in that radio program they choose to take a positive approach. Remember the past but look what has been achieved in such a short time and build on that was the message.
And I thought here are a people brought with chains to serve, systematically dehumanized due to the color of their skin, psychologically whipped and untold atrocity visited on them but are triumphatically celebrating their endurance with hope and I was humbled. I was filled with a new sense of my ability to overcome and thrive. The sacrifice of Medgar Evans in Mississippi gave perspective to the suffering of my people in Ethiopia and the possibility of one day celebrating such a bright future in my ancient land. I thought of Professor Asrat that suffered for my freedom, I remembered Assefa Maru that was gunned in broad daylight for his resolve not to bow down, I stay up nights thinking of my brother Eskinder and Andulalem, Bekele, Wubeshet, my sister Reyot and many others enduring pain on my behalf. I dare not complain because it is a lot better to work harder so their sacrifice is not in vain.
My education did not end there. A few days later the same Public Radio brought out the story of race relations in the state of Alabama. This was another dramatic story with a positive twist. It took place in June of 1963 and the setting was another place of higher education. The person being interviewed is the daughter of the then Governor of the state and she was only a 13 years old girl at the time when the tragic drama took place. On that fateful day her father stood in front of the University of Alabama to block a black person from registering. The confrontation between the state and the federal government was a made for a picture moment. George Wallace the Governor lost but he made his point when he vainly declared ‘segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.’
Peggy Wallace the daughter is one of those rare human beings that are able to emerge from such a tumultuous period with integrity. Her father redefined himself in the later part of his life but what struck me most was her statement ‘I am a Wallace but I am different.’ In the radio interview she said ‘It has taken me a lifetime to step out from the shadow of the schoolhouse door….I decided I wanted to leave a legacy for my children … one of change. If you have the courage to find your own voice, you can make change. I wanted Burns and Leigh (her children) to know that their mother found her voice and had the courage to stand for change. That she wanted change. That she did change.’
The two stories lifted the feeling of hopelessness and the heavy burden I feel when I think of my homeland. It is good to know that individual action could galvanize a whole nation to stop and pay attention. Medgar Evans sacrifices on behalf what is right and George Wallace’s defiance against what is just made people realize change is necessary. The nation was confronted with the reality that evil things were happening and no one is free when others are oppressed.
My happy thoughts were jarred when I listened to a Voice of America interview with an individual presenting himself as an Ethiopian historian. Ato Gebrekidan Desta is other things but definitely not a historian. Listening to his bombastic analysis it is easy to tell that his whole purpose was to settle a score not to enlighten or find a meaning in a scholarly manner. It looks like he first arrived at a certain conclusion and went about looking for incidents to fit his theory. He reminded me of our Woyane leaders that never miss a chance to condemn the Derg while at the same time working hard to emulate and surpass the atrocity they so much hated and supposedly fought to get rid of.
Our friend Ato Gebrekidan passionately puts down early Ethiopian history and the leaders in his vain attempt to build the resume of Atse Yohanes. He dismisses all historians as tools of other Ethiopian kings while blindly forging ahead to construct his own reality regarding his favorite king Atse Yohanes. I was appalled when Ato Gebrekidan dismissed all previous historians as nothing but tools of the old regime. Such worthy intellectuals as Belaten Geta Hiruy Welde Selassie, Dr. Sergew Hable Selassie, Bahru Zewde, Richard Pankhurst, Donald Levine, Harold Marcus and other giants were all considered unworthy of respect.
I have not read or come across a historian worthy of his profession that has disparaged or dismissed the contributions of Atse Yohanes and the part he has contributed to enrich our ancient history. On the other hand there is no need to belittle and vilify others so as to put him high on a pedestal. Ato Gebrekidan speaks more like a hired cadre with a mission not like a professional, a teacher and seeker of the truth.
I am grateful to VOA for inviting Dr. Shumet Sishagne to give us a better perspective on how to look at history and how to talk in a civilized manner with the goal being to teach but not preach. Dr. Shumet, God bless him is a perfect example of what it means to be an expert on a subject. In a calm and reserved manner he was able to give us perspective on how we view our past and how we interpret the event that took place to establish what we call home today.
Whether we like or not, whether we approve or not there is a country called Ethiopia and there are over eighty million souls that are physically and politically recognized by the international community to be residents of that defined space. While countries still are waging wars to conquer and increase their physical size we in Ethiopia have actively been engaging in dismantling the big to create mini kingdoms. The first causality is Eritrea and thanks to the largesse of the TPLF party today for the first time in our history our country does not have access to the sea. Although the TPLF party’s main agenda was to create another enclave for obvious and other reasons it did not materialize. Unfortunately there are still a few that keep insisting on resetting the clock back to the last century to the time when we each tribe or ethnic group was isolated from their neighbors and ruled by a despot, a warlord or hereditary king.
That was the response to Dr. Fikre’s article which I mentioned at the beginning of this piece. Some were vividly remembering what happened during the period of nation building and presenting it as a crime. Fortified with imagination fueled with hate it looks like they want to settle a dispute which took place may be over a hundred years ago right now and today. Their emotional outburst confounds most that have a difficult time relating to a part of history that is old, outdated or not in the radar of the average person that has moved on to other things in life. It is sad to see some that supposedly have tasted enlightenment with college degrees to prove it and tasked with the burden of higher expectations by their people sink low and peddle ethnic politics for fleeting ego massage.
No one can turn back the march of time. The responsibility with the generations to come is learn from history so what was done wrong would be righted and educate themselves and their children to avoid future mishaps. The example I gave regarding Mississippi and Alabama are perfect examples where the responsible action of using the law and open discussion have resulted bringing about a just and fair system. The job is not done yet but looking at the foundation laid it is easy to predict that whatever comes next would be positive and a plus.
If such approach can overcome the hurt and hate that engulfed the black American population that was bought and sold as a commodity, held separate and systematically kept ignorant surely in our country where the different ethnic groups have intermarried, worship together and have so much in common the chances of building an all-inclusive society is not a fools dream. There is no need to go around looking for proof when all we got to do is look deep at our own linage and see the rainbow nature of our family tree.
It is easy to hate. It is a lazy persons approach to explain difficult situations with hysteria and moronic one lines. Giving a smart and reserved response requires knowledge and common sense. Some choose to cater to the lowest denominator among us and hurl insults or question a person’s character and integrity when confronted with the truth.
Dr. Fikre’s questions have not been answered yet. Those that advocate separation and going it their way have not made their case why such action will result in a better situation for the people they are trying to liberate. They have not explained the many important but grave issues of dealing with millions of people that will be caught in the middle. This article is not enough neither would it try to point out the many consequences of such drastic measures advocated by some but any discussion should address all issues that come with acts of national divorce. On the other hand the proven and successful means employed by the US, South Africa among others should be looked at closely to solve a national problem that needs to be dealt with delicately.
I also believe while not belittling the national question to me at this moment in time the number one question confronting our country is the issue of Democracy and respect for Human Right. Solving those two important questions would naturally resolve the issue of equality. Respect for individual right will translate to respect for right of nationalities. I believe our time and effort is better spent on getting rid of the Woyane group that is the cause of all problems and the source of disharmony among the children of Ethiopia. I urge you to please read the articles and video this piece is based on. The links are at the bottom.
Voice from the grave. By Yilma Bekele
Meles Zenawi is dead. Meles Zenawi is alive. I am afraid in our case both statements are true. We saw the tyrant being buried or placed six foot under and the extraordinary sendoff orchestrated by his politburo in living color. The whole country was on stand still for a week or so to bury the warlord who was in the freezer for a month or so. We witnessed the bullying power of the TPLF party that forced every department, every keble and every household to send a representative and show sorrow for a person hated and reviled by all living Ethiopians.
Well he is not really gone. He is still directing the show from hell or wherever evil resides. It has been said that he vowed to leave us with the seeds of conflict, hate and chaos for a long time after he is gone. It looks like he is right. There is no escaping his presence. I don’t mean the life size posters of his ugly face in every corner of our country. I am referring to his toxic and useless ideas including his insane and childish plans that are trying to drive our politics and economy without him.
I am not talking about his ever chameleon Constitution that is still used to whip the opposition. I am not pointing out to the Kilil system that is creating a country of strangers. There is no need to mention the Keble system that is making every household an extension of the security service. Today I am focused on the use of the king of kings of all rivers, the great nurturer of ancient civilizations the one and only Abay River and its unfortunate use by the evil one to hurt our poor country.
The last week all the talk has been about Abay. We are fortunate to have so many rivers flowing out of our high escarpments that if you look at Google map of Africa you marvel and see how God has favored our ancient country. Our high mountains kept us isolated and free from invaders while nurturing our people when all around us suffered from lack of water. The great Wabishebele, the giving Awash, the beautiful Genalle, the fierce Tekeze and Mereb the homily Gibe are but just a few of our mothers milk flowing to keep us and our neighbors happy and strong.
What can be said about the great Abay? The mighty Abay is not just an Ethiopian phenomena. Good old Abay is the mother of the Pharos and the great Egyptian civilization. The wonder of the world owes its existence to the highlands of Ethiopia that made it possible for such a civilization to flourish. The Pyramids of Giza wouldn’t exist without the wealth made possible by the river Nile. Our Abay contributes two thirds of the Nile water supply.
Mount Gishe at 10,000 feet floats on a lake according to the priests that bless the spring that gives birth to the mighty Abay. It is here Abay starts its thousands of miles journey until it empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Abay with its deep gorges numerous waterfalls protected our land from European colonialists, Turkish invaders, Italian fascists and all those that wished ill to our fair land. From mount Gishe to the Sudanese border alone Abay meanders along for over 500 miles (800kM) never in a straight line like most rivers but encircling and hugging our land as if it does not want to leave. Our music and literature is full of praise for the mighty Abay and its force is recognized by all those who come near it and its power felt all over our country.
It is none other than this historic river that today is tossed around like a beach ball by Woyane bastards for their own useless dream and close your eyes lets us fool you story. This what Meles Zenawi planed before his death and this is what he is witnessing from the grave. When Woyane pulled the dam on Abay plan three years ago their leader knew it was his last goodbye wish to our nation that would seal his legacy of evil. It was never mentioned in the five year transformation blueprint they are so proud of. It was never discussed because the idea is so ridiculous any governing body will laugh it off. Thus Meles and company brought it out the last minute and claimed it was kept a secret. Why and from whom is not clear yet. But they damn well knew it was a crazy idea and no one will take it seriously.
Why do you think it is such an insane idea and not even worth refuting? Very simple, our nation is poor and living on welfare even for the food we eat we rely on alms thus no big and complex project like building a dam is possible without the help of outsiders whether the West or the East. No outside Bank or foreign government will finance such a project without adequate studies. Building a dam on a river that crosses an international border complicates the situation in a very big way.
Thus when the warlord came up with the idea that this humongous project was going to be financed by local resources it was time to appreciate the size of his balls for such bravado and empty jive. The claim is so bizarre there is no need to refute such bold face stupidity other than shaking ones’ head and keeping our collective mouth shut. People that survive on a few dollars a day, that look for outsiders to feed them and watch their young and able fleeing their home in droves facing unknown danger are going to save enough to finance a multi-million dollar project is not a good idea to put forward and wait for contributions to pour in. Logic says it ain’t going to happen even when hell freezes over.
Why do you think the dictator pulled this crap out of his hat knowing his days are numbered? He was focused on three important aspects of the future of our country after he is gone and both are shaping as he planned. One is harvesting more enemies for our poor land. Alive he has already managed to get our country entangled into two costly wars. The war with Eritrea that should not have happened has already cost us dearly in both money and lives. Over eighty thousand Ethiopians died and over twenty thousand suffered major injuries. Ethiopia emptied all its foreign reserve buying arms with cash since no weapon dealer accepts credit. For all that investment we won a barren piece of territory that today sits in no mans’ land.
The incursion into Somalia was a no win situation and it was not even in our national interest at all. The dictator to solidify his standing as a ‘terrorist fighter’ and use the situation to clobber the opposition at home had no qualms using Ethiopian lives for his selfish means in order to stay in power. Our solders committed so many war crimes in Somalia the bad felling between the two peoples will take years to wash away. Neighbors that will live for generations in close proximity do not normally engage in such activity that will create animosity and hate between our two people but our great leader was not concerned about that and he showed it by his callous decision.
The second reason for Abay dam madness is to shop for more enemies for our country. You see the idea of building a dam on Abay is not an original idea. Both the Imperial government and the Military regime have exhaustively studied the subject. There are plenty of documents to show their efforts for the project. They have reason why they did not pursue the matter. Today the Woyane regime propaganda makes it look like Meles came up with an original idea and they even coined a catchy phrase ‘Abayen ye defere jegna’ to hype the silly project. So what did he do? He came out with a dam project without asking the rest of Ethiopia or our experts to sit down and define what exactly needs to be done in our nation’s interest. We did not see Ethiopian engineers, hydrologist, geologists, economists, and environmental scientists, political and diplomatic experts being consulted before the ‘secret’ plan was presented in a take it or shut up situation.
Logically a dam on Abay river is a concern to all those upstream countries that rely on the river for survival. Of course the Egyptians did not take the news kindly. Is that a surprise? Put yourself in their shoes would you like it if someone decides to curtail your life line? Our country is not so strong and mighty that it could unilaterally take actions that would negatively affect the lives of so many millions. It was only yesterday in the news that the USA and Mexico signed a negotiated deal on the use of the Colorado river that starts in the rocky mountains of Wyoming and empties into the Baja California in Mexico. It is a shared river and the two governments consult each other on its use. That is what the Egyptians are asking us to do. That is what international treaties require us to do. This political chest thumping and arrogance behavior is not a sign of a great nation that wants to live in peace and harmony with its neighbors far and close. Meles Zenawi planted the seeds of this conflict before his exit.
The third and important reason for this hasty project is all about a Ponzi scheme to gather more money for our Woyane warriors. Where do you think the recently disclosed three billion dollars net worth of the war lord came from? In a nutshell it is all about EFFORT and its continuing quest to amass more money at the expense of our people and country. Mesfin Engineering and the privately held Italian outfit Salini Construction are the two main contractors on the Abay dam project. If you remember Salini is the same no bid winner on the Gibe dam project that had the tunnel collapse exactly one month upon completion. Salini is also the contractor that at the moment is involved building a dam on Tekeze river affecting Waldeba Gedam. Salini does not bode well for Ethiopia.
The current wild talk by the spooked Egyptian regime is creating a stressful and ugly situation to our Ethiopian citizens that are stuck in Egypt. Every ill-conceived idea by the Woyane regime always creates a backlash against our immigrants that are escaping the dire situation in their homeland. It is obvious Woyane cannot stay in power without drama. They always are creating enemy’s both at home and outside to deflect our attention away from their failure to build a sustainable economy, a peaceful nation and a just society. It is also a little depressing to see Ethiopians venting their anger at the Egyptians instead of questioning their own dictators why they are always creating havoc both at home and with our neighbors.
Our creator in his/her infinite wisdom has recalled one of his defective product to spare our country from further destruction but we in our feeble ways are refusing to bury his toxic ideas and burn the memory one and forever. We should pray for the strength to say no, leave us alone. I urge you to watch a wonderful conversation on ESAT with Dr. Getachew Bagashaw regarding the Abay dam project. You can also read a beautiful analysis by the relentless Professor Mesfin WoldeMariam on Abay.
On July 29th. 1936 Abune Petros was executed by the Italian fascist that were trying to colonize our country for his refusal to submit. On May 2nd. 2013 the monument that was built to commemorate our Holy Father was removed by the order of the TPLF party that is currently ruling our country. Our Holy Father died for the first time. The murder by a firing squad was an honor and showed his deep love for his people and country. The fascist killed his body but he made his home in every Ethiopian soul for ever and ever. We all carry Abune Petros in our heart. ‘Abune Petros Adebabaye’, ‘Abune Petros Hawelt’ is not just a location but the symbol of our pride and the true meaning of sacrifice for a higher cause.
The order to Kill Abune Petros was given by the fascist Viceroy Graziani but the trigger was pulled by solders from the North that were faithfully serving the fascist invader. The order to remove our monument to our beloved father was given by the TPLF party but the backhoe and flatbed truck was driven by modern day Banda’s.
They claim the removal is temporary. That is not the issue. Was it necessary is our question. Could it have been avoided is our point. Aren’t there some things considered priceless is our contention. The same people that moved heaven and earth to bring back our stolen Obelisk and erect it in its rightful place felt no qualms about dispatching daily laborers to bring our hero down and place him in a warehouse. We rejoiced when our obelisk was returned because it is the symbol of our glorious past. Although their leader dismissed our joy and happiness and tried to claim it as his peoples private history we bit our tongue and dismissed his rudeness for immaturity.
I agree it is difficult to personally relate to a stone like an obelisk. Nevertheless it is the product of our ancestors and a symbol of their ingenuity for that period in our past. But Abune Petros is a living symbol every one of us would have no problem claiming, admiring and silently thinking ‘would I have courage to act like him?’
Abune Petros is what I always thought we Ethiopians were like. I was raised at a time when being an Ethiopian was something special. There was not enough adjective to describe our country and people. Yes I am aware that we had lots of problems to resolve after all forging a nation is not a cake walk. There were many that were left behind and quite a few that did not get a fair share of what was on the table. We are still trying to come to terms with that.
That still should not dampen our glorious past. Abune Petros was one of those bigger than life Ethiopians that added a positive value to our experience. He defined patriotism, resolve, love, spiritual guidance and commitment to the truth. He accompanied our Emperor and the civilian army to Maichew and confronted the fascist army. He witnessed the gallantry of his people and the savageness of the European invaders. They came with modern weapons and poison gas to scare us to submission. We lost the battle but it only made us realize defeat was not an option. Surrender was not the language of the Ethiopian at that time. Yes times do change. A visitor would have a hard time believing the current generation descended from those that even washed the shoes of the foreigners least they take our soil with them.
Abune Petros continued to fight the way he knew. His religion and his love for his country were his weapons. From the monastery of Debre Libanos to far away churches he continued to rally his people to stand up straight and took the cry ‘By any means necessary!’ to drive the invader out of our cherished land. During his interrogation this is what he told the fascist authority when asked to accept Italy’s sovereignty over Ethiopia or face death.
“The cry of my countrymen who died due to your nerve-gas and terror machinery will never allow my conscious to accept your ultimatum. How can I see my God if I give a blind eye to such a crime?”
His last words before the bullets tore our bishop and Holy Father were:
“My fellow Ethiopians, do not believe the Fascists if they tell you that the patriots are bandits, the patriots are people who yearn for freedom from the terrors of fascism. Bandits are the soldiers who are standing in front of me and you, who came from far away to violently occupy a weak and peaceful country. May God give the people of Ethiopia the strength to resist and never bow to the Fascist army and its violence. May the Ethiopian earth never accept the invading army’s rule.”
His defiance and heroism became the battle cry of our patriotic army thru out the land and it echoed in our valleys and mountains from north to south east to west and the invader never saw a day of peace until they were driven out.
This was the man and his memory our new Bandas were trying to extinguish that day a week ago. They thought removing a statue would erase history. They tried to cover their mis-deeds with talk of progress. We are not against progress. We in the Diaspora contribute more than our share to help our country and people. As a matter of fact there would be no tall buildings, no dinner on the table and no profitable Ethiopian Airlines and no TPLF millionaire without remittance from the Diaspora. We just know that there are some things more important than others and our heritage, our history and our patriots cannot be kicked around wantonly. We are also well aware of TPLF’s habit of using wedge issues to divide us and hiding behind nation building while using a wrecking ball to destroy our history.
It is a sad sign of the times that our dear father’s memorial statue was removed without much protest. Those that preach about waging a ‘peaceful struggle’ against the new Bandas were nowhere to be seen holding a vigil. They were given an opportunity to unite and galvanize their people and use this Woyane insult against our history as a ‘teachable’ moment. Yes a little sacrifice is what is required to fight injustice. Yes there is imprisonment, injury even death in the struggle for freedom and dignity. People like Eskinder, Reyot, Andualem, Bekele Gerba , Abubeker and Woubeshet are behind bars because they choose not to submit to injustice and heed Abune Petros’s call to stand their ground. I am sure what gives them such determination is his everlasting pray “May God give the people of Ethiopia the strength to resist and never bow to the Fascist army and its violence.” We shall overcome.
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Mengistu Hailemariam and our moral compass. By Yilma Bekele.
Today I felt like crawling under the blanket and just hide. I know that is what children do. They think hiding under the blanket makes them invisible. It give them a feeling of security and that what I was looking for. Some place to hide and feel secure from my clueless people. Clueless is what we are and I guess I just have to live with it. Predictable like the season is how we function and I have to accept it.
What has gotten me down is the talk of the dead not yet dead news regarding the former dictator of my country. It looks like the despicable individual is not going to disappear from our radar no matter how far removed and how long ago we have parted company. Like a nightmare he keeps showing up in the most awkward and inopportune moments. His appearance this time around was not his doing but nevertheless he was used as weapon to clobber us with.
I am not really concerned about the hapless dictator it is us I worry about. You would think that after over twenty years of contemplating the total ramifications of what his involvement in our country’s history has meant to us that we have come to a few conclusions. We have looked at the situation and drawn a few lessons so we can keep it in the back of our brain for future reference good and bad. That is all experience is all about isn’t it?
Life is a learning experience. We succeed some fail a few but we draw conclusion so we know what works and what to avoid. That is how we move forward. Those that learn from past experience, analyze then adapt what works avoid that did not produce the intended result get to reap the benefits. Those that ignore the lessons of history end up digging their own grave.
That is what we are doing today, digging our own grave. The fact that we have not put the criminal dictator in perspective is very alarming and not so good news regarding our future. How could we be trusted with the future when we do not have a clear picture of our past? How do we know what we want tomorrow when we have not really sat down and looked at yesterday to see what went right and what exactly went wrong and why?
Two things happened simultaneously this last week. The ethnic based regime’s blunder aroused the ire of our people and exposed them to charges of criminal activity. To divert attention and blunt the impact they were able to concoct a ruse pointing away from their evil deeds. It was a simple ploy one plays on children and it worked. It worked because we did not take the last twenty years to learn, analyze and grow. It looks like we did not take the idea of raising a conscious, smart and morally upright citizen to heart in order to be able to lay a solid foundation to build the future Ethiopia. We did not invest time and energy to produce an intelligent, motivated and smart generation that is able to avoid the mistakes done by the past generation.
The last two weeks the major news coming out of our country was the plight of our Amara citizens being uprooted from their homes. It was not a pleasant sight. Simple farmers that make their living by sheer determination and constant struggle against nature using primitive tools were deemed to be unworthy of basic human respect and dignity and were ordered to move from their villages at a moment’s notice. It was very distressing to see fellow humans being treated like that in their own country. It became the focus of attention and revealed the nature of the illegal and corrupt regime in Ethiopia. It was not a welcome attention and the government rightly felt the heat.
There was attempt made by the opposition to investigate and gather evidence to bring the matter to the attention of all that are empowered to look at situations like this. It was not easy but they tried under the difficult circumstances presented by the regional Bantustans and the Federal government. Their representatives were jailed, abused and given a few hours to leave the region. Thanks to technology the whole world in general and the Diaspora Ethiopians were able to follow the news and keep in touch with their people.
The government first tried to deny that ‘ethnic cleansing’ is being carried out. They also attempted to blame the regional administration for the problem and finally were compelled to admit there was some truth to the allegations and were forced to ask the deportees to return. In a matter of a week the news was bringing clarity regarding the illegal and criminal nature of the regime in power. It was opening the eyes of many individuals to see the regime in a different light. The news was gathering momentum and the regime was entering a state of panic. The opposition and the Diaspora activists were even talking about appealing to the International Court of Justice and the United Nations.
Someone somewhere figured the weakness and clueless nature of the Ethiopian. They figured give them another bone to chew and they will drop everything and jump at the opportunity. They did not have to look far. They found an old discarded bone and tossed it in the middle of the unruly pack. Thus they put out a press release announcing the death of the tyrant that has been holed in Zimbabwe for the last twenty years. That is all it took for the frenzy to start, the earth to move and the heavens to open.
Are we that transparent? Are we that easy to fool? Fifty four percent of the Ethiopian population is under twenty five years of age. They have not witnessed the madness of the Derge era. To them Mengistu is a distant history. The history of Ethiopia including the Derg period is a self-serving tale as told by Woyane and their apologists. Neftegna, Monarchist, Dergist is an interchangeable term Woyane uses to ruin people’s lives. The fifty four percent cannot be relied upon regarding their knowledge of our past. Meles and his disciples’ main agenda was to discredit our past so they could build their distorted vision on a shaky ground. According to Woyane and their followers there is nothing good or redeemable about Ethiopia before their appearance.
It is a very difficult story to take to heart. Especially when life under Woyane is nothing but hell on hearth for the vast majority of our people. That is why the fifty four percent are all waiting their turn to leave by foot, boat, plane and any which way out. What got me a little concerned and a lot despondent is the failure of those aged 25-54 years and compromise twenty nine percent of the population. The ones that are politically involved and run our independent media outlets. They picked this disinformation campaign and run with it. I am not saying we should have ignored the story on the other hand it is our responsibility to tell the story with a certain amount of perspective thrown in to give the listener and reader some point of reference. Every time we mention the criminal dictator we should remind our people the role he played in the destruction of our country and people. That is the legacy he left behind and that is how he should be remembered. This idiotic idea of misplaced ‘Ethiopian chewanet’ is what works against us and blinds us from standing up against abusers and ill-mannered individuals. The kind of ways the news was reported was both embarrassing and self-defeating to say the least.
Dear editors of our independent media what are we supposed to make of your screaming headline announcing the ‘good health’ of a tyrant in exile that has not even acknowledged his criminal role and responsibility when he was the de facto head of state? Some of you even went the extra mile and called his house and talked to his wife while others relied on their reporters to find out the latest ‘breaking news’. Did you really think the sympathetic, feel good close to the heart story was appropriate regarding a criminal in exile? One of the headlines screamed “Former Ethiopian President Colonel Mengistu is alive and well…” I dove for cover.
Mengistu Hailemariam was a ruthless dictator, a cruel and horrible individual that will be remembered as a black mark in our country’s history. The fact that the one who came after him was a ruthless psychopath does not make the former any less of a criminal. Our independent medias’ reporting was journalism at its worst and an affront to truth and insensitive to the victims.
Where exactly did we go wrong? What exactly happened to our moral compass? It looks like we got a long way to go to differentiate bad from evil, truth from fiction and show some empathy towards those that were victimized by Mengistu and his accomplices. Mengistu which even writing his name brings pain and agony to my soul was the cause of much anguish to our country and people. This is not even past history but it happened yesterday in our life time. Many of those fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters that lost their beloved ones are still among us. The memory has not even faded from our collective mind.
To refresh your memory the ongoing exodus out of mother Ethiopia started under Mengistu. The first time in our countries history her children started running away from home. Ethiopia began losing its youngest and brightest and has not recovered ever since. The whole country became a killing field. The lawlessness nature of the regime brought about the degeneration of societal norms and the gradual destruction of culture. His regime rode rough on all that we hold dear and that has taken us long to build. His lack of basic leadership skills and ruthless evil nature decimated all that were educated, able and showed potential. He exposed our country to dangerous minds that used the opportunity to wrestle power cunningly. He is a military leader that left his troops in battle to save his dirty ass. He is wanted by the Ethiopian military to be court marshaled and is definitely a candidate for a firing squad. This is the individual you so zealously displayed and published letters written by Woyane and their sympathizers lauding his good side. Shame on you all!!!
Every one of us got something good and commendable within us. Something positive could even be said about evil individuals. I am sure Hitler was a German Nationalist that loved his country, Meles Zenawi was probably a good family man, Mussolini was probably a devout Catholic but that does not define the totality of the person. All three of them have their dark side that outweighs their positive nature. The evil one lurking behind the smiling face is what affects us.
Dear country people please remember choosing one abuser over another is not a virtue. Demanding no abuse is the way to go. Why in the world do we compare and contrast the crimes of our leaders instead of resolving for such never to happen to us again? Isn’t that the lesson to draw from the experience of the last forty years? How could I trust you with my future when some of you think of life as a pissing match and are busy picking the lessor of two evils instead on no evil? Is that where we find ourselves today that we are willing to accept a little less criminal than Meles instead of someone that respects the rule of law, the sanctity of life especially human life and love for mother Ethiopia?