The last Ethiopian standing. By Yilma Bekele
That is exactly what I feel like now. Who died and left me with this burden is not clear to me but believe me I feel like I am all alone and it is up to me to carry the flag and sing the national anthem. This business of being an Ethiopian has never been easy but you would think with experience and practice I have gotten the hang of it. I am afraid I am hopeless in that department. I still feel the burden.
They say the environment shapes our behavior. I am not here to argue whether ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ is the defining role in our development I will leave that to the scientists. Speaking for myself I believe the environment has played a big role in shaping who I am today. I am a transplanted Ethiopian who has been culturally shocked, mentally molded, philosophically tampered and forced to question realty on a daily basis. I have no idea how that central theme of being Ethiopian has managed to survive in all the thousands of ways my central core has been violently breached.
I have survived it all thanks to my family and that little town in Southern Ethiopia that imbued me with respect for elders, love for your neighbor and the beauty of leaving with different cultures in a mutually beneficial way. Those values are what differentiate the beast from the human. I believe that upbringing gave me an advantage when later on in life I found myself in circumstances that I have never thought I would find myself in. I have confronted moving to Addis from my small town, crossing an ocean to come to America, being the object of curiosity in small town in Oregon and coming to terms in growing old in the US with that wisdom I learnt while growing up that says ‘it is not really that bad just deal with it.’
As I said I have dealt with most things in a calm collected manner. The one thing that is really causing me pain and agony is this business of defending my country Ethiopia. It feels to me, mind you I might be mistaken, or a little touchy but it feels to me that every Hagos, Ketema, Kuma, Abdella, Betiso etc. is dumping on me for crimes I have no idea I committed.
Well you my Ethiopian reader, can I call you that without offending you, any way you must be thinking why the heck am I telling you all this in the middle of summer? It is because a few things happened the last few days and I felt they were directed at me. Not personally you know but since I feel I am the last one standing it felt personal in a roundabout way.
The big momentous event was my dear friend Jawar declaring he is Oromo first and his Ethiopianess was imposed on him. I have no problem with that. In fact I believe Jawar is Oromo, Ethiopian and American. He has got choices. Which one he puts primary is all up to him. I also don’t know if being an American was imposed on him or he voluntarily filled up a form and swore allegiance to the star spangled banner. With this speech he seems to dig the hole a little deeper. He was heard equating Ethiopian Oromo Moslems with those in Somalia and Djibouti claiming it to be one and the same struggle. I am afraid his next Al Jazeera appearance he is going to have to answer the question are you Muslim first or Oromo first. Good luck my friend.
The only thing I have problem is his assumption of the role of a spokesman ship for the Oromo people of Ethiopia. As far as I know he has never been elected to any office. He has never been sent as a delegate by any group in present day Ethiopia to speak for them. He has not articulated their demands in a coherent manner, written books about their glorious history, interpreted the nuances of their culture or educated the rest of us about the Oromo condition. In other words other than others declaring him an up and coming young intellectual and him playing that role to the hilt he has not bothered to study, interpret, add on the history and role of the Oromo people in what we call Ethiopia. Of course I stand to be corrected if someone could present me with a proof showing Obbo Jawar’s vast contribution to the knowledge base of Oromo history, Oromo culture and Oromo Psychology.
In the You tube video being distributed he is addressing a gathering of Oromo Muslims. I am assuming he was invited as an analyst regarding the Ethiopian Moslem confrontation with the dictatorial regime taking place in our country.
How did our political analyst approach the challenge is a good question to ask. All I could say is he did not respect the sensibilities of his audience. He was confrontational. He was dismissive, he was arrogant and he was an extremist of the highest order. That is the impression I got after watching this Duche like sermon. From what I understand the Ethiopian Moslem issue is regarding state interference in their religion. It is not about political power, it is not about demonizing the rest that don’t have the same belief. Then why is the speaker turning this peaceful issue of respect into one of violent confrontation? Our Ethiopian Moslem leaders have done a splendid job of making friends with all Ethiopians regardless of religion and gone the extra mile not to antagonize anyone and succeeded beyond expectations. The rest of Ethiopia has embraced their quest for fair treatment and stood side by side with them. Why is our young intellectual turning this simple request for respect into a jihad?
Is it possible our dear friend Jawar grew up in Woyane Ethiopia thus his understanding of our common history derives from that perspective. It looks like he never bothered to scratch below the surface and learn if there is more. What is education for if not to answer vital questions in a rational and measured manner? What is the point of learning if not to pinpoint problems and look for answers that would bring not only lasting solutions but harmony? Why would anyone boast about cutting peoples necks off because they follow a different god? Caught in the heat of the moment my young friend said that.
That was a week ago. Many people wrote their opinions about that. That is the beauty of democracy. It is all about the individual’s right to speak and write what he thinks and others to respond. We all learn from the diverse views and the give and take. Some we reject off hand, some gives us a pause and a some really say what we believe and we go ‘I am not alone.’ So that is what I was doing when I came across this audio by Ato Abdi Fite on Ze Habesha.com. It is presented in a rational manner but misses the point by a mile. It just does not seem to answer a very simple question that it itself asks. Who is us against them?
As far as I am concerned Ato Abdi Fite has locked himself into this small room and anybody outside is the enemy. Is that the way it is? What is the difference between the Oromo farmer, the Amhara peasant, the Tigrai laborer, the Adal pastoralist, the Ogaden herder, the Gambellan fisherman, the Dorze weaver etc.? Aren’t they all victims of the system? Isn’t this what the struggle is all about? Can one be free while the rest stay in bondage? Shouldn’t we all work together to liberate them all so they could grow and prosper?
Ato Abdi was repeating himself so much I thought we were on a never ending loop. Just because something is said many times over does not make it turn out to be a factual statement. It is just false hood but told in twenty minutes instead of two. The central theme in his audio essay is to accuse the rest of Ethiopians ignoring the plight of his Oromo people. Does he have a leg to stand on?
Not really. When in the sixties the Ethiopian students confronted the Imperial regime their number one slogan was ‘land to the tiller.’ They did not specify Amhara, Oromo, Sidama, Tigrai etc. land but their demand was all inclusive. When they went out and established EPRP and other anti-dictatorship associations they did not think in terms of ethnic affiliation but a nationwide movement. Today the Diaspora which Ato Abdi is addressing, I don’t see any ethnic based successful movement working to get rid of the ethnic based TPLF that is tormenting our country and people. We have one voice that abhors ethnic division, avoids ethnic/religion divide and concentrates in uniting the many to get rid of the few troublemaker woyanes.
It is true we popularize some of the victims of the TPLF but that is a political move. We are aware there are thousands of Eskinders, Reyots, Wubshets, Bekeles, Abubakers but we mention those victims as a symbol for the many. We don’t even ask what ethnic group they belong to nor do we care.
Instead of telling us where we failed him I wish he would tell us where he called on us and we ignored his cry. Instead of accusing us of not paying attention to the Oromo question I wish he would tell us what he did to popularize the Oromo issue. In today’s Ethiopia the system is the problem. The solution is to unite all the victims in a democratic and equal association to smash the system and build a new one that respects their aspiration to be free, to be seen as equal and form a lasting union. Being a polarizing figure like the road taken by Meles Zenawi is not the way to go. Uniting people to work for a common solution they could all live with is the Mandela way and it is much preferable and lasting.
What I find troubling about our two Oromo operatives is their failure to see the futility of the treatment they are prescribing to resolve the ethnic divide in our country. The medicine they are ranting about has been administered by the OLF for the last forty years. What exactly has it achieved other than give a false sense of cure while the disease is causing untold damage to our people? With wisdom born from experience the present day OLF is in the process of revising their failed policy and searching for ways of working with others like them that are feeling the brunt of TPLF fire. That is what leadership is about.
Our young intellectuals seem to be gung ho about opening old wounds and reviving past mistakes. What is also surprising is their suicidal drive to offend the one friend they always have on their corner. I am referring to the progressive forces in the Diaspora that are working hard to expose the TPLF regime. The Diaspora is the most important and natural ally of the oppressed people of Ethiopia. There is not one Diaspora organization that opposes the right of the Oromo people to determine their future without undue interference from outsiders. We feel the liberation of the Oromo is the liberation of the Amhara, the Gurage, the Tigrai and all Ethiopians.
Timing is very important in political struggle. Today our country seems to be entering a new stage with the death of the dictator. The political parties are making good progress in wiping out fear from their constituents. We have broken the regimes strangle on mass media thanks to ESAT. It is a shame the ranting and a childish tantrum of a few is taking our eyes away from the prize. All I can say is grow up, coming up with bizarre talk trying to garner attention lasts a few days but in the end you have to live with yourself. .
Proving them wrong – the Ethiopian way. By Yilma Bekele
They say all kinds of bad stuff about us. It is said so many times and so often some of us start to believe the lie. That is always the problem with being lied to. I am sure by now Woyanes are drunk with their own silly propaganda. The situation with us is that they used to own the means of communication and we were their potted plants waiting to be told, lectured and abused to no end. Thanks to ESAT that is not so anymore.
I have so many instances of this situation I just don’t know where to start. I believe 2005 is day one in recent Ethiopian history. From 1992 to 2005 were the golden years of Woyane where they could do nothing wrong. They could have declared black is white and no one would have challenged them. They held three elections before 2005 and trounced the so called opposition like a beach ball. The loyal opposition led by such luminaries as Dr. Beyene Petros were amenable in a fantastic manner and submitted without much fanfare.
It was the height of believing your own lie to hear the late dictator lament about the lack of a worthy opposition to challenge his TPLF mafia outfit. What is more our benefactor’s embassies were reporting that ‘there is no viable alternative to EPDRF.’ So our people lied low. You know how we operate. We flash that winning smile while in the back ground the brain is on overdrive to find a way out. That is what our people did in 2005.
In a closed door session with the foreigners Ato Meles was so sure of victory this is what he told them regarding his reason for allowing free discussion on his TV “That is why we were so generous in allocating airtime to the opposition. We wanted to give them a long enough rope for them to hang politically, by expressing their views in the ugliest form so that the people can see what they stand for…So as far as our rhetoric is concerned, we have said that they are the Interhamwe. Not because they will send the Tutsis back home, but the Tigrayans back home, normally on all fours.”
This is how much the TPLF was detached from reality. What did our people do? They annihilated the TPLF machine in every corner of our beautiful land. No worthy TPLF was left standing. Bereket Semon was knocked out, Aba Dulla was left for dead, Arkebe was humiliated and Meles Ashebari Zenawi was rendered mute. My best recollection is the letter to the editor to the Ethiopian Herald written by no other than the tyrant himself. Until today I believe that is the best insight into that murky criminal mind of the dear departed leader. I have a printed copy of that infamous letter hanging on my wall. In 2005 the Ethiopian people spoke loud and clear when given a chance. We proved them wrong in no uncertain ways.
Recently I read an editorial by the Ethiopian newspaper ‘The reporter’. Let me say first the Amharic version has a motto above the name and it says ‘Free press, Free thought and Free spirit.’ That motto is absent in the English version. I would think it would be easier to lie in a foreign language but I guess the Reporter thinks otherwise. They have no shame. Here is the title of the editorial ‘የኢትዮጵያ ሕዝብ ተቃዋሚዎችን እየታዘበ ነው’ According the ‘Fearless Reporter’ here in a nutshell is what the editor is preaching. The opposition claims the government is putting hurdles to keep them weak and the editor says they in good faith cannot claim the government has helped, supported or encouraged the opposition. But the Reporter opines we do not think the government is responsible for the weakness and the problems of the opposition.
In the Reporters opinion ‘the opposition lacks resolve strength and good will and is not ready to sacrifice otherwise they would have been stronger.’ We believe the opposition is responsible for their weakness. The Reporter goes on to say plenty of nasty stuff about the opposition none of it worth repeating. The Reporter that practices what is called ‘yellow journalism’ and is the unofficial mouthpiece of the TPLF is one of those weapons that insistently peddles hate, fear, hopelessness and attempts to kill the spirit of Ethiopianism. I also believe the English version is written by someone with a second grade education.
Who else in his right mind would blame the victims that cannot even rent a meeting hall, that do not have a newspaper, that are denied airtime and cannot even raise funds to operate for being weak? The Ethiopian opposition has paid and is paying a heavy price for freedom. They have been hounded from their homes, fired from their jobs, their children denied schooling some murdered and the jails are full of our brave and resolute comrades in arms. You can see the shameless Reporter that does not even have an iota of honor and that lacks the moral capacity to pass any form of judgment on those that operate under a ruthless and criminal regime using precious paper to spread ignorance.
Despite what is being done to them, despite the power of the state that belittles their efforts 24/7 on national TV, Radio and rags like the Reporter the Ethiopian opposition is alive and well. There are ups and downs in this long journey. Today the torch of freedom is burning bright. We got a few choices that are steeled in the struggle and are raising the banner of hope. Semayawi Party is the new kid on the block. They are redefining the agenda. Despite the Reporters lamentations, the TPLF’s unending threats of dire consequences and the fear mongering by the old guard on June 2nd the Ethiopians came out in droves to support their party. The young and old, men and women, Christian and Moslem regardless of ethnic affiliation all showed under the banner of freedom and democracy. They said it was impossible, cannot be done but we proved them all wrong.
The recent ESFNA’s 30th. Celebration in Maryland is another occasion where we rose up to the challenge. They say we are one combative people. The rumor is we love to fight with each other, we don’t care to unite and we are always badmouthing our own people. They claim there is nothing on earth that will bring us together and we are one selfish people. It is supposed to be common knowledge that Abeshas are envious, uncooperative and hopeless. They say it and we repeat after them. After a certain time we reach a point where we start believing it ourselves. So we thought.
It is lucky for us that those that try to put us down and demoralize us start to be swayed by their own propaganda. Our clueless bandas believed their lies and organized a tournament to compete with ESFNA. They rented the best stadium there is, they bribed youngster from all over America with free ticket and free lodgings, they brought plane load of the nouveau rich from home and waited for the party to begin. They really thought we would sell our soul for a fist full of dollars. They inadvertently gave us a stark choice. Money or country was on the table. The people spoke. You can always buy a few bandas like the Italians did but Ethiopia or death became the cry of the many. How many you asked? Over forty thousand and that was the capacity of the stadium. We might quarrel, we might have disagreements but when it comes to Ethiopia we are tight. How tight you ask? We don’t even allow a skinny Woyane to pass between us. We proved them wrong! Thank you ESFNA, thank you my brothers and sisters, I knew you will not let mother down. Prove them wrong is the battle cry. We shall overcome.
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.
The last seven years or so I have been writing opinion pieces on the political situation in our homeland. Naturally I have discussed the late Prime Minter Meles Zenawi and his central role in charting the direction our country should follow on the road he envisioned to improve the life of our people. Prime Minter Zenawi ruled over our country for twenty one years. One can say from 1991 when the TPLF took over to 2001 when the split within the party took place in the aftermath of the Eritrean Conflict the TPLF operated in a primitive semi democratic group type of leadership which they brought over from their days fighting the Derg.
The split that took place in 2001 changed the dynamic of the ethnic based outfit. It did not take long for Meles Zenawi to assert his position as the Capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses) in the Mafia outfit that was masquerading as a political party until his death in 2013. The 2005 General election was another defining moment in the relationship between the TPLF Party and Meles Zenawi on one hand and the people of Ethiopia on the other.
From 1992 to 2004 Meles Zenawi and his party were busy redrawing the map, rewriting our history, granting independence and redefining our national priorities and felt comfortable in their accomplishments. In fact they were so sure that they have constructed a solid foundation that will withstand any and all challenge by what they thought to be a desperate amalgamation of discredited and demoralized opposition that they allowed an open semi free election. Meles called the move “a calculated risk.” Obviously it exploded and back fired on his face.
The election changed the whole dynamics of the relationship between Meles Zenawi as a leader and the Ethiopian Nation as his responsibility. His earlier misgivings about Ethiopia as a nation, his deep seated hatred towards the rest of Ethiopia in general and the Amhara in particular, his always nagging feeling that people did not give him credit for being an Ethiopian was validated by the complete rejection of his party in every village, town and city all over the country. The election was a watershed moment in the life of Meles (Legesse) Zenawi Asres.
I brought this all up because in order to understand the latest news regarding the personal wealth of Ato Meles it is important we have a good perspective on what drove the individual to engage in such massive crime of the first kind that the whole idea boggles the ordinary mind. Because of the many atrocities visited on us we have taken the news in many peculiar Ethiopian fashion which I am sure is difficult for others to comprehend. We have become desensitized to the crimes of the Government and we do not react in a rational or normal manner like the rest of humanity. I believe this situation is a glaring example of that strange Ethiopian behavior towards crime, the criminal and the victim. It is not nice to say but I am afraid we have a long way to go before we learn to assert our human right and dignity and demand respect as a citizen endowed with certain unalienable Rights
The richest.org (http://www.therichest.org/) an internet site that publishes the net worth of rich and famous people in the world in its recent publication included none other than our own Meles Zenawi in the company of other billionaires in its ranking. I am certain we all looked twice to make sure someone is not playing tricks on us. I am afraid it is true. There is no reason to doubt why the folks at richest.org would pick on our guy unless they have verifiable facts in order to splash his name and picture on the front page. Of course they are aware his wife and family will sue the hell out of them if there was no truth to their assertion and pay dearly for it too. Up until now no one has come forward to set the record straight if mistake was made.
What they publically splashed across their front page was Meles Zenawi is worth $3 Billion US dollars. His profession is given as a politician and included details about his length in office and marital status. As an Ethiopian this for me is a very troubling question that I must answer to myself to satisfy the many questions twirling in my head. To be frank with you I have no concept of a billion dollar and I am afraid even a million is beyond my pay scale. How did Meles Zenawi do it?
We know for sure Meles Zenawi never worked for wages until he became the President of Ethiopia in 1991. He came to the job with the clothes on his back; I am sure some books and most probably not even a wallet in his pocket. He had no needs for all that while engaged in fighting the Derg. Ever since that day he has stayed in Arat Kilo and has never engaged in a profitable business, been officially involved in any partnership that we know of or known for his keen sense of entrepreneurship. He has been a political leader. The nagging question again is how does one amass 3 billion dollars while not engaged in a business enterprise? What exactly is this special ability he possessed that turned according to his wife a four thousand bir a month salary into a 3 billion bonanza in less than a decade?
Since he is dead I am afraid we are unable to ask the individual. Whatever form his wealth is in it is safe bet to assume it is not invested or sitting in one of our banks. But one fact we know for sure is that the folks at the richest.org were able to find out and verify their data in order to publish such information. Of course we can summarize how one makes a lot of money being a political leader and we wouldn’t be off the mark. The only way open to such an individual is corruption and using the power of his office for personal gain. I am afraid it does not require a degree in nuclear physics to figure that out.
In hind sight it is possible to pinpoint the period when the Prime Minster decided to engage in such outright petty theft of our National wealth and help himself and his family in this criminal behavior by looking at the political and economic situation in our country. I will bet anything that 2005 was the point in time that the dictator turned rouge and decided to pay us back for the perceived betrayal and ungratefulness for his sacrifice on behalf of our Nation. You see the problem with disturbed and mal adjusted people is that they always believe their selfish deeds is in the interest of others and they do not take rejection kindly. The 2005 election was what drove our tyrant to the abyss and that trend continued to the end. Three billion dollars is not a small matter and it requires some unfulfilled deprivation to satisfy. We are of course finding out today the little tyrant was up to the job.
What we do with this information is what interests me the most. After all we know he did not earn it. The natural assumption is he stole it from us. That I am afraid is not off the mark since he did not take it with our permission. The question to our people and nation is what do you exactly do when someone illegally takes what belongs to you? Really except for an Ethiopian this is such a pedestrian question it is enough to roll one’s eyes and say whatever dude! Naturally if someone robs you and you know who, it is safe to assume you would call the police on the individual or take him/her to court to get redress.
That is what I am hoping we do. Get off our righteous anger, get over our surprise, put that cynical behavior behind us and earnestly look for ways to recover what is legally, morally and justifiably ours. I have a few proposals to make that I think is not beyond our ability to try to do. The people of richest.org have already done the best part of the job for us. They I am sure without much personal motivation have been able to find out the dead guy certainly stashed all that money away. Thus I am assuming we have such an incentive to move heaven and earth to follow the trail and uncover every penny of what is taken from us. This is what I think we should start with:
1.Demand the Ethiopian Government open an investigation regarding the alleged wealth of the PM to clear his good name and the reputation of our country.
2.Demand the Ethiopian Parliament start investigation to see if the information has any validity.
3.Demand the Ethiopian government put a travel ban on his widow and family until the issue is resolved.
4.Encourage, help and advice patriotic Ethiopian banking professionals to secure information regarding money transfer connected with the ruling group.
5.We in the Diaspora organize a team consisting of forensic accountants, banking and finance professionals, finance lawyers, computer scientists and criminal investigators to follow the paper trail where ever it leads to.
6.We encourage and help our professional investigators with leads, inside information etc. to help them.
7.We in the Diaspora study case histories of such wealth recovery done by other victims such as Philippines, Tunisia, Chile, Egypt, Libya etc.
8.Demand Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Clinton Foundation, World Bank, IMF and all other international organization make their books transparent regarding their dealings with the Government of Ethiopia.
9.Respectfully ask my brother Obang to use his vast resources to look into the matter.
10.Respectfully ask ESAT to use its journalistic knowhow to investigate and expose this national shame.
All the above are not beyond our ability to accomplish. It is up to each one of us to take the initiative to help our country and people recover what is stolen from us. Three billion dollars is a lot of money and it could be used to open schools, hospitals, improve water supply, and bring better sanitation service and other needed projects to improve the life of our people. It is not fair or morally right for one family to illegally take what belongs to all of us.
I am afraid this is the tip of the iceberg. If the person in charge was helping himself to the till we should also assume those around him were not sitting idle. Thus the possibilities are more than excellent that top officials of TPLF such as Seyoum Mesfin, Arkebe Uqbai, Berhane Gebre Kristos, Tedros Adhanom, are sitting on a pile of money that cannot be explained easily. It is imperative we demand a through explanation regarding their net worth, how they acquired it and where exactly it is invested at the moment. As government officials they are obliged to answer or face the consequences. They owe our nation an explanation and it is not unfair to ask those who hold political power to explain the source of their wealth. I am not accusing but as a citizen it is our right and obligation to make sure no laws have been broken by those that are supposed to enforce it.
I believe this is a very important matter and cannot be ignored, laughing off or dismissing it off hand is not good enough. When you consider the amount of money the Diaspora remits to help their family and friends it is absolutely not fair that those sitting in charge would just turn around and put it in their pockets for personal and family use. The money the Diaspora makes comes by sacrifice, hard work and plenty of sweat. It looks like our officials starting with the late PM feel entitled and think nothing of putting their dirty fingers in the till. If we let such criminal activity take place under our watch and do nothing about it I am afraid we have no moral ground to call our country home, to carry the flag and celebrate our gallant ancestors that paid a price to preserve what we today call Ethiopia. When we let such criminal act and national abuse go unchallenged I am afraid we we invite more abuse and we have no one to blame but ourselves. I used to think of the late dictator murderer (Professor Asrat, Asefa Maru), Human Right abuser (Kinijit leaders, Bertukan Mideksa, Eskinder Nega, Bekele Gerba, Abubeker Ahmed) now I can add another designation to his hall of shame – grand larceny.