By Yilma Bekele
The Ethiopian government was peddling its ponzi scheme of selling bonds for the pie in the sky project named The Grand Renaissance Dam’ on the Abbay river here in the Bay Area. It was not as lavish as the event that took place in their embassy in Washington DC. That ‘event was graced by the presence of a high- level Ethiopian delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister and Chairman of the National Renaissance Council, Haile Mariam Desalegn’ according to Aiga. Since he has such a long title they have shortened to D/PM, FM to go along with his curtailed duty that only includes reading written notes, greeting visitors and presiding at Renaissance meetings.
Ours event was shall I say ‘graced’ by their Conciliate from Los Angles and a political science professor from Addis Abeba University. Considering I was marching in front their office in Los Angles just a week ago regarding their current attempt at destroying our cherished heritage of Waldeba monastery it was a little confusing to see his honor involved in building a dam. They invited all Ethiopians and I just couldn’t refuse. My curiosity overcame my rationality. I am glad I went, If the Ethiopian people are subjected to such farcical presentation day in day out I felt sitting for a two hours presentation was the least I can do to understand the daily stress of my people.
The first speaker that described herself as the Chairperson of the project in the Bay Area mentioned that her group has been active for less than three months. What knocked me off my seat was her declaration that in this short time they have been able to sell $138,000 US dollars worth of bonds. That is 2.4 million Bir. I was impressed. Then I turned around and all I could see was about twenty-five people in the room. I thought people who paid all that money will defiantly attend a meeting to see how their money was spent but for some reason they just did not bother to show up. Is it possible that they are just a figment of someone’s imagination?
Well with all things Woyane the imagination is always greater than the reality and this was an indication of better things to happen as the meeting progressed. One thing I notice about Woyane lectures is that they have this unhealthy fascination with power point presentation. It is futile attempts to sugar coat the lie and empty rhetoric by sharp looking graphs and larger than life pictures. Facts are glossed over while the listener is trying to figure out all the confusing information being displayed at a random fashion.
The Ambassador has the most difficult task of the two speakers. It is not easy being a snake oil salesman. The regular joke about us not being smart or dedicated enough to use the mighty Abbay was of course mentioned. We are supposed to thank the far-reaching leadership of Meles Zenawi to have come up with such a fantastic and brilliant idea of building a dam on Abbay. I am sure we will be told soon it came to him during his sleep showing us even in bed that sharp mind is still working. The Ambassador used a short documentary to show us the progress since the start of the project. Shall we say the presentation was a little lacking for a task that is projected to cost us billions?
The short video was made either to insult or mock anybody with an ounce of intelligence. There was one excavator and one dump truck and a few cement mixer trucks. Yes I said one lonely excavator. For a country with eighty million people where over half of the adult population is unemployed you would think human labor would be the preferred choice if one really wants to use the resources under his nose. Unfortunately that will require the enthusiastic participation of the nation in the project but when your government is unpopular and viewed with suspicion that is not an option. Plus it would require transporting people from one kilil to another and that is not allowed.
What we saw was may be fifty or so guys dressed in orange uniform. What was fascinating was to see the skinny flag of Salini the Italian construction company flying from a bowed tree pole. If you remember Salini was the same company that was in charge of Gibe II project where the tunnel collapsed exactly a month after inauguration. That was a no bid project and you can imagine where most of the money borrowed in then name of Ethiopia went. I thought this project was by us and for us and what the heck is Salini doing there? May be Salini is paying us for what Minilk did to his grand pa a while back. Lets us all remind our children to get back the money stolen with the modern day Askaris including interest as soon as we reclaim our land.
The official spoke at length about the many successful projects accomplished the last twenty years. That is well and good but twenty years is a long time and showing no progress would have been a little strange. The issue here is here is how much progress and under what circumstances. When you consider President Obama is fighting like hell for his reelection bid and he only had four years to correct a colossal economic melt down I would say twenty years is quite generous amount of time to do miracles. So our question to our rulers becomes what you got to show for twenty years of being in complete charge? Knocking down the old cannot be a perpetual excuse, at a certain point one has to stand on his own record. Unfortunately like a broken record our rulers never tire talking about yesterday to cover up today’s shortcoming.
I have to admit the professor gave a very intelligent presentation regarding the role water or river plays in international dealings between nations. He was very knowledgeable on the subject and his power point presentation was flawless. The problem reared its head when it comes to his conclusion. It is one thing to explain water intellectually but to bring it home and try to make it relate to woddase dam is a lit bit tricky, and it showed. He was left floundering unable to commit and say this project is what is needed and this regime can bring it to life. He cannot say that with conviction. As a political scientist he knows theory in one thing but implementation requires a whole host of other factors that have to be present to achieve success. The current organization that is operating in our country is not conducive to attain that goal and a first year college freshman can tell you that. It would be considered intellectual dishonesty to trust one of the most corrupt regimes to carry out such a colossal task.
You see scheming the surface no one is against building a dam, a highway or a factory. The truth of the matter is that most Ethiopians will give the shirt of their back if it will help our country. The problem lies with that qualifier ‘if’ it just leaves an uncertain feeling doesn’t it? That is the problem with our renaissance dam project. It is a very uncertain proposal that is difficult to explain and not easy to digest.
It is not easy because based on reality, as we have known it the last twenty years the people in power cannot be trusted to do anything that will bring honor or pride to our country. No one in his right mind will trust the folks in charge to be able to bring any project to a successful conclusion. If there is anything we can be sure of is that they will find a hundred different ways to screw us up. Here is the real Ethiopia in nutshell:
1) Social harmony: None. Our country is divided into Kilils and we are made to view each other with suspicion and hate. We are in fact deporting our own citizens within the country. Today the regime is attempting to create conflict among our old religions throughout the land. Both Christians and Moslems are resisting mightily but it is an uphill struggle.
2) Economy: Bankrupt. Inflation is double digits and unemployment is beyond imagination. Over eight million people are on food aid and famine is real. The government is in the process of leasing land to foreigners so they can grow crops for export. The economy is controlled by EFFORT a one ethnic based conglomerate.
3) War: Plenty. Since coming to power the TPLF regime has fought with Eritrea and sacrificed over eighty thousand lives. It has invaded Somalia and no one knows the sacrifice in human lives and money. Inside the country it has sent its solders to kill in Gambella, Ogaden, Hawasa, Gondar, Afar, etc.
4) Politics: Waging relentless disruption against opposition parties and groups is second nature to the regime. In the aftermath of the 2005 elections the regime murdered over two hundred eighty citizens, imprisoned all the opposition and hauled over forty thousand people to concentration camps. (We thank the heroic act of Judge Woldemariam and his associates in smuggling out the evidence) The Parliament is the playground of the Prime Minster.
5) Media: Government monopoly. Television. Radio, print media, Internet and telecommunications are all controlled by the regime. Independent voice is not allowed. Our friends Eskinder Nega, Reyot Alemu and Webeshet Taye among many others are today in prison because they spoke and wrote the truth.
There is no need to recount further atrocity the question becomes how could you trust such a ruthless bunch of sycophants to carry out a noble task as building a dam? One has to be plenty gullible or certified moron to go along with such Ponzi scheme. How could you hand your hard earned money where there is no accountability, no consultation or any outside independent audit?
This is what Ambassador Girma Birru, Special Envoy and Ambassador Extra-ordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the US and non-resident envoy to Mexico – another long title don’t you think? Any way here is how Aiga reported it ‘In his revealing statement the Ethiopian Special Envoy recounted the propitious political climate which is prevalent in present day Ethiopia that allows the free participation of the citizenry in matters ranging from the right to assembly, association, expression and faith up to and including the basic right to vote in elections that are held regularly @ the county, district, state and federal levels.’ Do you think he actually believes that? He must have said what was reported, the question becomes who is crazy them or us? You be the judge.
In our presentation here in Oakland both speakers were adamant in saying the renaissance dam site is sparsely populated and no one was moved or relocated. Isn’t it always surprising all their projects are so pure and picked for locations where no Ethiopian resides? But at the same time why do we come across a whole bunch of our citizens that have been made homeless when their land is leased to forsaken foreigners? Then why do we hear our brother Ato Ojulu from Gambella who has been forced from his ancestral land pleading from Kenya? Their lie seems never to stop.
In conclusion I would like to say something. It is true but a sad statement. The assembly in our city was a reflection of what is taking place in our country. It has to be pointed out because it has to be discussed openly and corrected in a timely manner. As I said there were less than thirty people present and over ninety percent were from one ethnic group. Pretending otherwise is not healthy. The question to ask is why? Why would only Tigreans show up to support the construction of a dam on Abbay? Abbay is far from Tigrai Kilil so why are they feeling this special affinity to this project? It is a valid question. I am sure we all have all seen this kind of weird and strange situation on every question raised in our homeland.
I will give my answer and it is definitely not the final statement on the issue. It is what I think right or wrong. My response is to help us openly analyze the dilemma faced by all of us and devise a healthy and lasting solution instead of whispering from behind and muddying the situation further. First of all this virus was brought upon us by no other than Meles Zenawi and his accomplices. It was in the late seventies while all were trying to form a united front and fight the Derg that his group insisted in this separate non-inclusive way of struggle. Their first causality was the brave patriotic EPRP that sacrificed beautiful children of Ethiopia in their prime. Meles Zenawi did as much damage as Mengistu Hailemariam when it comes to our educated and dedicated brothers and sisters that stood for real freedom and unity of our nation. We will never forget.
Since 1992 TPLF has inoculated our nation with this deadly virus more dangerous than HIV aids. They have set us up against each other. Our meeting is the result of this disease that even follows us into a free land. Tigreans have become hostages of this disease and the rest of us have allowed it to simmer while a few have bought into this crap. It is true a few Tigreans are riding this wave and accumulating wealth and riding rough on the rest of us. Meles and company are always pointing out our differences and making sure the few they have chosen are displayed. What is true in today’s Ethiopia is that all real power is in the hands of this ethnic group starting from the security, military, banking, commerce and key organizations. On the other hand the average Tigrai living in the rural areas of his kilil is as much the victim as rest of our own peasants. No matter how some put it the Tigrai Kilil is not the paradise it is portrayed to be. The TPLF tugs in charge are the same everywhere.
Do we buy into this negative scenario as painted by Meles and company or see it as the self-serving philosophy by a few friends and family to extend their evil rule over all of us? Has this kind of mind set ever shown to work or has it at certain point exploded on the makers and taken all into the abyss? Isn’t that what we see in history when we study totalitarian systems and their implosion from inside? Isn’t that what happened in Libya? Are we witnessing it in Syria with Assad and his Alawit tribe fighting for dear life from house to house? What do you think is going to happen in Syria once Assad and his little army are wiped away? Syria is not going anywhere but what kind of Syria would it be? Can they just forget the hate and animosity that has been cultivated and put their energy on building a new society? Or would it take a long time to wash away the negative energy, mistrust and hate that have been systematically planted in every Syrian brain?
When we see our Ethiopia these are the things we should contemplate instead of trying to out perform each other on the level of our hate. We should be very careful on how we view the situation and search deep into our heart and soul before we judge others due to their ethnic affiliation or religion. None of us choose where we are conceived. We should be judged on what kind of human being we have become. Sometimes in times of scarcity and fear buying into the evil design of a few we all go astray. The only thing that will bring us back to the right path is show of love and tolerances not more hate and further attempt at marginalizing. Remember both the perpetrator and victim are connected and the attempt should be to save both if possible without doing further damage.
I am sure all those that gathered in our meeting love Ethiopia. I am sure in their own way they all think they are doing the right thing. Unfortunately both sides cannot be right. The road taken by the current government has only shown that this sort of exclusive journey is not lasting nor will it bear good fruit. Our job is to patiently explain the futility of traveling on this dead end street and bring our people back to our fold. That is not done thru condemnation, name-calling or threat but show of love, understanding and showing by example. It is a shame educated and conscious Ethiopians have fallen pray to this narrow ethnic divide and some by cooperation a few by their silence have emboldened the sick and worthless students of TPLF garage and nihilist philosophy. I believe in every one of us our kind side outweighs the evil and bad and our challenge is to bring out the good and infect our people with this sweet medicine God has built into us. We pray for our country.
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