I dreamt about my uncle. He has been dead for over ten years so I was wondering what brought him to my conscious now. It was a vivid dream and I awoke both sad and happy. So all day long I kept wondering what is it that made me dream about him. I really think I was able to come up with a reasonable explanation why this memory was triggered in my brain. I believe it is due to what I have been reading lately that awaken this memory about service, integrity and today’s Ethiopia.
The night before the dream I read a very revealing article on goolgule.com about the land grab in Oromia region. It is a depressing tale of what those in position of power and authority do to our people. The story was told to give us perspective about Ato Junedin Sado, who seems to find himself in a very precarious position lately. His problem that started before the death of the tyrant has escalated to his being dismissed from that TPLF satellite organization OPDO. It looks like this puppet who has been serving his TPLF masters faithfully betraying the Oromo people is now paying the price for his sins.
I also have been reading about the Deputy Mayor of Addis Abeba Ato Kefyale Azeze defecting and moving to the US as a fellow refugee. I have also been informed about Ato Getachew Belay, a high ranking TPLF official, who decided to stay in the US abandoning his post. Ato Getachew has served his party as head of the Privatization Agency and head of EFFORT. Both are posts normally reserved for party loyalists.
The defections must have been what got me to think about service to people and country. That must be what triggered this deeply held memory to surface in the middle of the night. My uncle is one of the few people that have left a mark in my brain. I always think of him in a very pleasant manner. The earliest I remember of him from is the picture hanging on our living room wall. It was taken before he left for Korea as part of the United Nations peace keeping force. He was dresses in a greenish uniform sitting on a chair with medals on his chest. It was a serious picture but his boyish face betrayed the stern garish looking uniform and made him look like a kind solder unlike a warrior he was supposed to be. No question that picture impressed all of us growing children.
Upon his return from Korea he was recruited to work at our embassy in Egypt. He must have stayed there a long time because when we met next I was already in high school. He was working as administrator at Paulos Hospital in Addis Abeba. He got married and built a beautiful bungalow in Gulele. My brother and I used to love going over to visit him in the weekends and spend the day listening to him talk and observe the disciplined and meticulous way he lived.
He built the house himself and for us it was like a Ferenji place. It has a beautiful bathroom with toilet, bathtub and bidet with working plumbing system including hot water. The house has a beautiful dining area and a living room for entertainment with couches and a radio. His flower garden was a marvel to look at. We sat and ate in the dining room and washed our hands in the bathroom without a maid fetching water and towel to our table.
A few years later he built an addition on his land to rent for income and help raise his three beautiful daughters. He was making an honest living and looking forward to enjoying his retirement. I finished High school and came to America.
The appearance of the Derg changed everything. The turmoil that followed affected my uncle and his contemporaries in a negative manner. The Derg expropriated all wealth created regardless of how it was achieved. My uncle became the victim of this haphazard and meaningless policy. The Derg became the landlord of his property and his tenant started paying rent to the government. My uncle was forced to retire due to the turmoil in the country.
When I visited him next I couldn’t help but notice how fast he has aged. He was still living in his house but there was no incentive to do any repair or make his house into his own castle. It was shocking to see the deterioration of both man and property. Such a vibrant and go getter of a person was reduced to spending his days on trifle affairs and mundane subjects. It was odd to see his previous tenant subleasing the house and making money. The coming of Woyane did not make things any better. They took over where the Derg left off. That is how much things have turned topsy turvy.
May be I am grasping for straws, maybe I am letting my imagination go wild but the truth is I saw a connection between my dreaming of yester year and the current news coming out of Ethiopia. My uncle’s life was a simple straight line of service and hard work with rewards of stable and fulfilling end until it was rudely interrupted. His achievement was on merit and his honest service is what makes the wheels of society turn in predictable manner. His honorable way of life was an example to all our family. We all learn by example and he was a proud mentor.
Why am I writing about my uncle is a good question. I wanted to tell you we have not always been the way we are now. Lawless, corrupt, shifty, no roots and void of faith, this is what has become of us. I believe this describes the new Ethiopia. Not long ago our country and people were different. Yes there was inequality, there was injustice and we were definitely backward. But we were not degraded, self-loathing and hopeless.
What do we have today? There is no sense of public service but public robbery, there is no sense of do the right thing but a sense of what can I get away with, there is no sense of pride in workmanship but cheap labor for fast money, there is no sense of us but it is all about me. That is what the TPLF regime cultivates. That is why they could do all kinds of damage to our people and at the end of the day abandon all and move out of the country.
When I read about the likes of Junedin, Kefyalew and Getachew I start to wonder about the future of my country and people. What do our people learn from such disgraceful action? What kind of society produces such individuals? How did our country find itself putting such people in charge?
Let us take Ato Junedin. Let us also remember the entire OPDO leadership was rejected by the Oromo people during the 2005 elections. They were restored to their position after Ato Meles ordered recount of the ballots. It was in the aftermath of this event that the OPDO leadership decided to teach the people a lesson. Land is the only wealth the Ethiopian peasant owns. He has no bank account, no capital in machinery and no stocks and bonds. People like Junedin robed the land from the simple peasant. The stolen land was leased to grow flower for the export market while some was used to build condominiums and town houses.
The same peasant that lost his land was recruited to work as a day laborer while his children were let loose in the green houses where they grew flowers. Fifteen and sixteen year old Oromo girls were exposed to chemicals and fertilizers without adequate or no protection. The land given to the developers with fancy names puts the children’s fable Alice in wonderland to shame. In a country where the per capita income is less than $700 a year our developers are constructing housing that costs five million to twenty million. That is what a company called Country Club Developers is building in Legetafo, Oromia. It is also true that over 95% of the residents of Oromia cannot afford to purchase their dream house in Legetafo. Ato Junedin made all this possible.
Folks like Kefyalew and Getachew are the engines that facilitated the working of the TPLF anti Ethiopian machine. Today they come to America as victims. They followed high officials of the Derg regime that left before the fall of Mengistu. Derg era criminals today are respected members of our community. I assure you in a few years Kefyalew and Getachew will join our Church, Mosque and Eder as ordinary fellows in exile. How could a lesson be learnt if yesterday’s criminals are today’s freedom fighters?
Do you think the problem is with them or with us? Do you think people like Junedin, Kefyalew and Getachew can exist with us? There is no ying without yang, there is no smoke without fire and there is no criminal without a victim. Our indifference, our apathy makes people like the above flourish. When we keep quiet while observing injustice we encourage such evil act to continue. When we participate in buying stolen land, building on stolen land we facilitate the coming to death of our homeland. We mock our people’s plight because we ventured out and collected a fist full of dollars.
It does not require a fortune teller to predict sooner or later the injustice, the famine; the hopelessness will force our people to resort to force as they have done before. Today’s Ethiopia is reaching that boiling point. This is not because it is written but it is so because her children failed her, because her children refused to act because her children looked the other way. The solution lies in each one of us. We all know what is right and what is wrong. We all know we cannot judge the Junedins and the Kefyalews and the Getachews if we would act like them given the chance. The question to ask ourselves is would I be different? Am I a better human being aware, conscious, and keeper of my brother?
Mr. Charles Krauthammer is an American syndicated columnist, political commentator and is considered a highly influential conservative voice. He is critical of President Obama’s policies and supports the election of Mr. Romney to be President. As a tradition if a candidate for the presidency does not have a thick resume when it comes to foreign policy issues they normally travel to friendly European countries to shake hands with the leaders for what is called a ‘photo opportunity’.
It is with this in mind that Mr. Romney flew over to Great Britain to rub shoulders with British Conservative Party leaders and attend the opening of the Summer Olympic Games. Unfortunately the trip did not go as intended. Mr. Romney got the British all pissed off by doubting their security plans and furthermore questioning if they were enthusiastic about the games being held there. It is fair to say all of Britain wanted nothing more than for Mr. Romney to pack and leave.
His ill manners in Britain were a source of unbearable anguish to his friends and supporters in the conservative camp. I very much enjoyed Mr. Krauthammer’s analysis of the unfortunate situation. He wrote “What Romney answered in that question, it’s unbelievable, it’s beyond human understanding, it’s incomprehensible. I’m out of adjectives,” Krauthammer said. ‘All Romney has to do is say nothing. It’s like a guy in the 100-meter dash. All he has to do is to finish, he doesn’t have to win. And instead, he tackles the guy in the lane next to him and ends up disqualified. I don’t get it.”
I brought this up because that is how his friends and supporters must have felt when they heard Ato Seye Abraha’s speech in Seattle a few days back. Fresh from his two years course at Harvard all Ato Seye got to do was utter a few smart sounding phrases and reintroduce himself into our politics. Just like Mr. Romney Ato Seye ended up putting his foot in his mouth. Mistakes like this occur not because the individuals are uninformed but rather they just happen to be clueless about their surroundings and lack common sense to fully understand what is expected of them to achieve the goal they set for themselves.
Mr. Romney goes to Britain and undermines his hosts and Ato Seye traveled to Seattle to insult the sensibilities of his fellow Ethiopian citizens in exile. Their action is what is called self inflicted wound. The fact that Ato Seye was invited by the same poor immigrants that left their homeland due to the policies put in place while he was part of the leadership is what makes the situation a little difficult to comprehend. I always say we Ethiopians are a marvel to watch and Seattle is the epicenter of that phenomenon. I do not know how to put it in English but in Amharic we say ‘teteketo asteki’.
At Seye is not an ordinary Ethiopian. He is one of the founders of the Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and was member of the Central Committee or Politburo of that infamous organization. Upon the defeat of the Derg and TPLF takeover of power Ato Seye has served his party as Defense Minister, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigrai (EFFORT) and Chairman of Ethiopian Airlines.
After the war between Shabia and Woyane in 19998-2000 Ato Seye was accused by his friend Meles Zenawi of leaning towards Bonapartism and extreme corruption. He was expelled from the TPLF, tried by Ato Meles’s kangaroo court and spent six years in prison. One can say he is lucky because normally in the TPLF dissent can cost you your life. It is also good to note that unlike other prisoners taken by TPLF he did not have to ask for pardon to get his freedom.
Upon his release Ato Seye formed Forum for Democratic Dialogue (FDD) with the aim of bringing opposition activists together. Around this time Judge Bertukan Mideksa Chairman of Andenet Party was again accused of fabricated charges by Ato Meles and taken to Kalit prison. In her absence Dr. Negasso Gidada another former member of EPRDPF assumed the Chairmanship. Ato Seye joined Andenet Party. Please note his admission to the party caused such an upheaval that a few of the founding members such as Professor Mesfin and Ato Debebe Eshetu including quite a few young activists were driven away from the party.
This was also the time Ato Meles and his TPLF Party were holding elections. This was also the main reason Chairman Bertukan was removed from the scene. Our beloved leader was held in solitary confinement and subjected to psychological abuse and inhuman treatment with the knowledge of Meles Zenawi and his security department.
Despite the fact that their Chairman was in jail for no crime other than being highly popular and a proven leader, despite the fact that the so called ‘Election Board’’ was still under the TPLF, despite the fact that foreign observers were put on short leash and despite the fact that plenty Ethiopians advocated boycotting this election charade Andenet choose to give Meles Zenawi a cover of legitimacy by showing up to be humiliated. While the TPLF was holding election circus Andenet candidates were in North America holding ‘Town Hall’ meetings with the Diaspora that cannot vote.
It was not long after the 99% Meles victory Ato Seye came to the US to go to school. For two years he stayed out of Ethiopian politics. He did not involve himself in Diaspora politics either. Seattle is the first instance we hear from Ato Seye. He was representing Medrek with fellow politician Dr. Merera Gudina.
As far as I am concerned the timing is a little difficult to comprehend. Our country is on the verge of change after over twenty years of TPLF dictatorship. The Woyane kingpin has died unexpectedly and his Party is moving heaven and earth to find a formula to continue the misrule. Why in the world would an Ethiopian opposition leader hold a meeting in faraway USA is a good question to ask? On the other hand it fits the pattern. When there is vital burning issue at home the leaders travel outside to hold discussion with the non stake holders. It is definitely not to explain the situation to us. We have more unfettered discussion in the Diaspora. We enjoy free press. We have more Radio and television service. Our Web sites are unblocked and independent. What in the world can they tell us that we don’t know?
Ato Seye’s short speech (http://www.awrambatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/SEEYE-SEATTLE-SPEECH.pdf) in Seattle was a little short on facts and completely void of vision and historical accuracy. It can also be said that Ato Seye has Chutzpah or Cojones or in simple English balls to show up among the Diaspora and read eulogy for the person that caused so much hurt and agony to our people. Dr. Merera as usual served as a sidekick the role he has played the last eight years or so.
I am hundred percent sure he(Seye) is aware of the fact that our people were ordered to line up in the rain and forced to show grief but choose to tell us it was a voluntary action why? He is knowledgeable of the workings of the Woyane system he helped set up that practiced the art of control and coercion starting in Tigrai, why is he pretending otherwise?
I am one hundred percent sure he did not chastise his American friends when they celebrated the death of Osama Bin Laden whereas we are lectured to be ashamed of showing pleasure at the death of the tyrant why is that? Don’t we feel pain? Don’t we grief for the many thousands that were killed by TPLF army and security?
I am really surprised by his lecture regarding our lack of ‘diplomatic skills’. He brought the example of Armenians in the US that play a strong and vital role lobbying to steer American foreign policy to help their homeland. He also thinks our vehement opposition to Ambassador Susan Rice’s speech at the dictator’s funeral to be misguided and false. I beg to disagree on both points.
The first analogy is way off mark. Armenians migrated to the US a long time ago. About three generations back. In fact about twenty years ago the Governor of California was of Armenian descent. Ethiopians are still on the first generation. The fact of the matter is we are the most successful and vibrant group among the new immigrants. Our New Year events are attended by Governors, Congressmen and Mayors all across America. We have managed to schedule hearings in the US Congress regarding our country and even managed to present a bill to help assure Human Rights in dear old Ethiopia. No new immigrant has scaled such heights. We got work to do but we have not been idle. I do not recall Ato Seye giving us a hand the last two years he has resided in the US.
As for Ambassador Rice she was wrong. She made mockery of our people’s quest for freedom and dignity. She insulted us. We will not trade our honor to curry favor from no one. We vented our frustrations. Sometimes it is necessary to stand for what we believe to be right and she has to be told in no uncertain words that heaping praise to a human right abuser, denier of democracy and murder of our family and friends is never acceptable.
The Seattle speech was geared to lay a conciliatory tone to a certain wing of TPLF and also advise the rest of us not to look back. I don’t care about the TPLF part but I do agree it is a good idea to move forward. There is also this little thing called history. We learn from the past so we avoid certain mistakes. South Africans have managed to do that. They just did not gloss over past mistakes but brought it up in the open and dealt with it. That is what ‘Truth and reconciliation’ is about. Air your dirty laundry for all to see and punish those that crossed the line and reform those that show remorse. Moving forward without doing that is like putting dirty cloth after a shower. The murder of Assefa Maru, the death of Professor Asrat the shooting of Shibre and others have to be laid to rest in a proper way.
I am not being uncharitable towards Ato Seye. As I said before he is not an ordinary Ethiopian. He was invited to Seattle because he is a political figure. He was one of the leaders of TPLF Party. He was present when Eritrea gained its independence a decision made behind closed doors, he was there when the current constitution was imposed on us, he facilitated the formation of Kilil Bantustans, he was aware that the so called EPDRF was nothing but a cover up for TPLF domination, he was the CEO of EFFORT which got its start by using the law to steal important businesses and properties that belonged to all Ethiopians to be controlled by a party and a family and today he is one of the leaders of the biggest and important legally recognized opposition party. This is the reason we should hold him to a higher standard.
Leadership is not an easy matter. That is why all the advanced democracies hold competition on a level playing field to pick the best among many. The leader can make or break the country. For every Nelson Mandela there is an Adolf Hitler. It is obvious we do not have the skills to choose a good leader. We haven’t had the experience. Our people have not yet chosen a leader thru the ballot. We must be among the very few in the world that have not enjoyed the luxury of deciding who the leader should be. Throughout our history leadership has been usurped by the strong and cunning.
Why is it so? Is it because we don’t question authority? Do we differ to other due to wealth, education, age or linage? Why are we so meek? When is this behavior going to stop? When are we going to stop being cheer leaders and start the real work of leading by example? The Diaspora has to stop serving as an ATM machine to those that use our kind heart to further their failed policies. The Diaspora has to stop being a door mat and learn how to say no. There is nothing wrong with that. Ato Seye has to stop treating us like imbeciles and go join his old party now his nemesis is gone. This idea of telling us there has been twenty years of peace and progress in Ethiopia should be laid to rest. This idea of lecturing us on how to mind our business sitting on top or the sideline is not acceptable. We got plenty of that what we are lacking is bold leadership that listens to our heart beat.
By Yilma Bekele
Someone broke into our house. They forced the backdoor open and went through every square inch of the house. They turned our mattress over, pilfered through our drawers and left the closet in a mess. It was done in the middle of the day and it looks like they took their time. They stole laptops, I pod, tablet computer, flat screen TV’s and my wife’s gold jewelry.
We have lived in the same neighborhood for over twenty years now. Nothing like this has happened before. We felt safe and secure. We did not have a burglar alarm. There were no metal guards on our doors and windows. When we moved to the area most of our neighbors were elderly people enjoying their retirement. They were always outside sitting on their porch and remising and watching. It is true there were one or two houses where the young kids were dealing drugs but the presence of the grandfathers made their business low-key.
Burglary is an ugly and very personal crime. Most of the stuff they took is replaceable. What is disturbing and creepy is the fact that a stranger went thru your stuff. I just keep visualizing their ugly dirty hands in my drawer and all over my home. They stole expensive stuff like computers but what bothered me most was the loss of quarters I was saving for my son. They took the flat screen televisions and Google tablet but the loss of little gold crosses from my mom to my wife is what keeps me awake at night. The thought of a burglar never crossed my mind but now I am convinced burglars are the scums of the earth. I better not be called for a jury duty where the crime is burglary. Off with his/her head is what first comes to mind.
I was seething with anger regarding my home invasion when I read Ambassador Susan Rice eulogy at the funeral of you know who in my homeland. My depression was compounded. Et tu Susan? When Bush was the President Ambassador Rice opined on the Washington Post “We Saved Europeans. Why Not Africans?” regarding the administration’s refusal to use force in Darfur and her praise of President Clinton’s military intervention in Kosovo. Compare that to her statement at the funeral of an African tyrant. Our fearless Ambassador was very generous with her praises of the dictator and was nice enough to include the human side of him inquiring about her family. She went out of her way to heap accolades like a smitten teen ager and elevate the dictator to new heights. I have no problem with her ignorance but what got my goat was her statement “He [Meles] was tough, unsentimental and sometimes unyielding. And, of course, he had little patience for fools, or “idiots,” as he liked to call them” That to me is too personal. Shame on you Susan Rice! Those of us that fight injustice are not fools or idiots. My dear Ambassador it looks like you have things reversed.
Those that deny freedom to others, those that deny democracy, those that deny the rule of law are considered fools and idiots. On the other hand those that fight back to secure their God given right to live in peace and dignity are normally referred to as freedom fighters. As a black person that find yourself in such a high and powerful position representing your country I would have thought you would be the perfect candidate to identify with the cause of our people and be able to articulate our wishes and dreams better than your Wasp predecessors. Mrs. Ambassador it is a little disconcerting to think a poor immigrant like me is constantly fighting with rednecks and conservatives that judge you negatively based on the color of your skin and declare you unfit to represent America and here you are paying my favor by dancing with criminals and unsavory characters. Too bad you are not a student of MLK. Where did you miss the bus?
Anyway I gave your transgressions and insulting behavior some thought and was able to put things in perspective. I decided there is no reason I should spend an ounce of energy on what you think and say. I got bigger problems to solve. Thus I went back to my home burglary issue and viewed the two items and marveled at the linkage of the situation.
I did not leave my home open. Someone forced the door open. What I have done since then is install security doors and windows, install cameras and use cloud storage to back up my documents. It is impossible to stop a determined criminal the least I could do is make the bum work to earn his pay. It is said you know who your friends are in times of difficulty. I was humbled by two of my friends that gave me a lap top computer and a flat screen television to ease my pain. My friends Getachew and Dr. Tesfaye made me realize I am not alone. We are each other’s keeper.
When it came to my homeland the situation is a little different. The burglars did not have to break a door or climb thru a window. They just bought their way in to our precious country. They used collaborators to open the door and let them in. We left our door open. No need to blame the burglar for our being indifferent regarding our treasure. Ambassador Rice was praising an individual we allowed to dictate to us for over twenty years. I know some fought back. Plenty paid with their life. The use of ethnic loyalty was his calling card. I am also sure that his harsh and intrusive system have something to do with his longevity. No matter the reason, our door was left open, and our security was compromised.
The solution to safeguard a country is a little different than securing a home. Walls, cameras, border guards on the ground and drones in the sky are not a solution. The best full proof system is a population that is empowered to safeguard its own freedom. The citizen has to feel that they are in charge and they own their country. Those in charge have to understand that they serve by the will of the people. That is what is meant by ‘for the people by the people.’ As they are hired by the citizen they must know that the possibility of being fired for misconduct is real.
This kind of arrangement assures the leader entrusted with the key will not open the door and let strangers in to take advantage of a poor nation. Strangers will not try using underhanded means to get in and and act like king makers knowing it will be rejected. The recent death of the dictator is proof that our door was left wide open. The situation has favored the outsiders at the expense of the citizen. He was loved, respected, held in high esteem, considered a visionary and a person of extraordinary super natural gift. Unfortunately the sky high phrases are uttered by no other than those that enabled him to stay in power.
The issue is not Susan Rice, European Union or any outside party. We are that are the legitimate owners of this Nation called Ethiopia that allows misfits, megalomaniacs and unsavory individuals to hold the key to our door. We refuse to stand for fair play and justice. Recently when talking about an issue that tested the American people President Obama said ‘As Americans let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases lay down their lives for it. Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those, both civilian and military, who represent us around the globe.’ It is when we can say those words regarding our motherland that we can stand straight look each other in the eye and utter the words ‘I love Ethiopia.’ Anything else is hot air and bluster.
By Yilma Bekele
I am hoping this is the last discussion about our emotional response regarding the disappearance then death of Ato Meles Zenawi. As controversial and in your face individual he was alive his death has brought drama, division and ugliness to our life. The person is refusing to go away in silence and dignity. I am very much conflicted about his going away. First and foremost I want to make it clear that I am definitely not sad at all. It is not because I am inhuman or lack empathy. Far from that, I consider myself caring and always concerned about others.
When it comes to Meles Zenawi my blood turns ice cold. It is not because of any of his physical traits but rather it is all about his record as the Prime Minter of my motherland. How he used his office and the power it comes with it is how I judge the individual. By all accounts he was not a pleasant human being and for over twenty years he rode rough on our poor nation and seemed to enjoy the wanton destruction he visited on his people. When I think of him what I visualize in my head are memories that bring negativity, sadness and rage.
I remember his constant put down of anyone that dares to ask a question not to his liking, the display of that stupid smirk on his face knowing the individual dare not confront him or else. I will not forget his cold blooded response after murdering over two hundred fellow citizens because they marched in peace because he cheated. His non-challant response to a reporter regarding the health of Judge Bertukan Mideksa whom he threw in jail for no reason by joking she is fine except she might have gained a few kilos and the display of that same smirk on his face is etched in my brain forever. Meles Zenawi was a despicable human being, a mad person that should not be trusted with authority over a family let alone a nation.
The current cry fest sponsored by his fellow criminals even after his demise is what worries me. In Ethiopia they are using the power they accumulated the last twenty years to assert their authority. The citizen is at the mercy of the TPLF mafia. Land belongs to the government, the regime is the number one employer in the country and such essential items as flour, sugar, oil and others are regulated by the dreaded kebeles. The average Ethiopian is a prisoner in his own land. There should be no surprise if they cry when told, march when ordered and ask how high when instructed to jump. It is sad but true. The fact they are obeying the instructions of the TPLF cadres does not mean they agree or are convinced. No deep inside they are laughing and bidding for time. Our people are not stupid nor cowards but they are not into suicide either. They are like mount Zukala volcano, dormant but not extinct.
The Ethiopians in the Diaspora are a different matter. There are those from the regime’s ethnic group that will support the regime due to commonality of interest. Most have vested interest in the survival of the TPLF regime. Then there are those that have used their dollar power to buy stolen land, stolen property and are intricately connected to the ruling party. They are the ones that are easily coopted or blackmailed into obedience. A vast majority have their head in the sand and refuse to hear or see no evil. They wait for the most opportune time to see who will come ahead and join the parade. They are sometimes called the silent majority. Unfortunately their silence works against themselves and the loved ones they left behind.
It is the combination of the TPLF party sympathizers and their puppies they keep on a leash that are making noise regarding holding a cry fest in the Diaspora community. A few of them rent a hall or a community center get their video or picture taken to be beamed by Woyane media at home. The purpose is to show the Ethiopian people that their power and hold extends in the Diaspora community. It is another form of bullying. We saw that during their campaign to raise money in the so called dam on Abbay river. In the Ponzi scheme meeting held in our city over ninety five percent of the participants were from the ruling ethnic group. The cry fest is the same crap in a different guise.
The problem for us is this drama they concoct takes us away from the job at hand. It is vintage Woyane tactic to send us on a wild goose chase while they do their homework. If you notice they took a month to declare the tyrant dead. They used the month to call meetings of their party, the Kebeles and underlings to prepare the ground for country wide mourning. We used that time to speculate whether he is dead or alive, what hospital he is in, where his wife is spotted and discuss the many ramblings of Sebhat Nega. It was a useless digression.
We are at it again. The discussion is on the drama beamed by Woyane TV regarding who has been taken prisoner and made to cry or swear allegiance. We get worked over when we see Haile sobbing, Neway bending some other idiot in designer black silk cloth taken hostage and putting a show. We are programed to follow.
While we are wasting valuable time and energy on side issues Woyane’s are working in the background to shore up support and hold the structure from falling. Speculation is rife with Obama calling Hailemariam, Azeb snubbing Hailemariam, Sebhat under house arrest, Samora dying and Seyoum weak. I still have not seen any of our so called opposition calling for a country wide discussion where we should be heading and some kind of list of points we should be thinking about. Leadership is all about putting your preferences, your thoughts and your plans so the citizen can mull over the possibilities and make an informed decision. Always pointing out Woyane’s atrocities, wrong doings and Woyane’s plans is not a winning strategy.
The question facing our Woyane warriors is what comes next Monday. The drama is done and over and poor Meles is six foot under, what comes next. We just can’t continue with no one in charge. For the last two months Ethiopia and Somalia have been the only two countries operating without a known leadership in charge. We are on what is known as auto pilot. I don’t know if this is good and healthy. One thing is for sure it has not been tried before. In most previous situation the void is normally filled by regional warlords. Are we reverting to that?
Right now the foreign reserve has been depleted; commerce has been on hold for over a month and the two weeks mourning period has brought the poor economy to standstill. The noveau capitalists have been either hording dollars or transferring it outside the country.
How does the new regime afford buying fuel, buying wheat and oil and still pay all the millions borrowed by Meles? What happens to all the contracts signed by Meles selling different parts of the country? Do the new Kilil heads accept the one sided agreements dictated by the then strong TPLF or demand a new form of contract? Are the American and European enablers willing to allow more borrowing from IMF and World bank for a regime that does not show promise of staying stable? What kind of demands are they going to present now knowing they have a weak and divided central authority? Last time their solution caused us agony for twenty years are they going to screw us again?
Issues like this is what we should be discussing about instead of inner fighting and speculation regarding the health of dying Woyanes. We seem to fall into a trap set by the mafia group and waste time and money. We need to grow up and stick to issues that will help our country and people and mind our own business instead of being led astray by others that have their selfish needs.
It is time we bury Meles and his toxic ideas and move forward. It is time we decide the agenda instead of following one drawn by TPLF. It is time we completely ignore Woyane drama do what we got to do to define our issues and stick with the plan. My wish, my plan is that I do not mention you know who for ever and ever and completely wipe his face and memory from my brain. No need to dwell on a history that is only twenty years old while my country has over three thousand years of glory. He was a stain but a very tiny and insignificant one.
It has been forty-eight days since we saw or heard from Meles Zenawi. Some are convinced the tyrant is dead while the regime insists he is recovering, on vacation or just hanging out, depending on Ato Bereket’s mood of the day. Whatever the reason his absence has stirred different responses from his subjects.
The whole idea of a leader of a country disappearing into thin air is a purely Ethiopian phenomenon. The head of state just don’t leave his post without notice. In most countries he can’t even catch cold without informing the press. The position is too important to be left vacant even for a few hours. Who is supposed to give guidance and leadership if a crisis happens. A crisis normally does not occur with adequate notice that is why it is called an emergency. For someone to give orders he/she better have the necessary authority invested in them.
All countries anticipate such scenario and have the solution built into the system to avoid unnecessary power grab contention between the different branches of government. The current uncertainty regarding the order of succession in Ethiopia shows the issue was not addressed during the design of the current Constitution. It is obvious this is not a matter of simple oversight by the architects of the system. They are definitely not that stupid. It is left unanswered due to the nature of the system that was put in place. Ato Meles and partners deliberately left the issue open because resolving such question would have made their life miserable.
Ato Meles used the issue of succession as a brilliant reward to tangle to who ever he favored at that particular moment. At one time the position belonged to the Amharas or was rumored to favor the Oromos then offered to any of the minority group currently in vogue. Committing such post on paper would have been a death sentence to the occupier of that position. All others close to the throne would have given up any hope of upward mobility and intensified either building up their own faction or doubled on the looting. Ato Meles would have lost a huge leverage to keep all sycophants in line.
It looks like Ato Meles was taken ill without adequate notice. He never thought the end was close. He was only in his late fifties and the brain tumor situation was a cause for concern but not an emergency. I believe his humiliation in Washington DC pushed him over the edge. His whole system was jarred causing a cascading effect that he was unable to recover from. He has always been shielded from confrontational situation due to the fact that he made sure he dealt with adversaries from overwhelming power arrayed behind him. He did not even take a walk in his garden without a phalanx of security around him. He did not even trust his own shadow. He was a very fearful person or a coward to be precise and he used fear and terror as a tool. He understood the power of fear from personal experience.
Forty-eight days into his disappearing act and what are the Ethiopians doing? As docile as ever, the subjects are very quiet. The Ethiopian capacity to self-police is legendary. In fact they are so proud of it they chastise all those that try to rock the boat. The regime without its head understands this state of mind. How in the world can you respect someone that has no self-respect so to speak of?
The regime has been trotting out officials, those close to officials and self-declared spokes persons and puppet talking heads to fill the air with trash talk. All you got to give an Ethiopian is a few intelligent sounding lines and they are happy to fill the rest. Here in the Diaspora every coffee house is full of talking heads getting drunk listening to their own voice. Ask them to be part of the solution silence is their response.
Ato Meles’s contempt to his subjects is legendary. His lieutenants currently working on his behalf seems to have inherited this useful trait. They have no qualms even in not announcing the whereabouts of the dictator. The reason for his absence is not even felt to be important enough to be disclosed. Ato Bereket is heard to speculate different reasons depending what day of the week it is. He is resting due to job fatigue, he is recovering from illness, he is on vacation or it is none of any body’s business has been the explanation given to his docile subjects.
Who is in charge is a good question. According to Aboy Sebhat, a non elected person but rumored to be mentor and close fatherly figure of the tyrant there is no need to have a leader present and accounted for. The system in place is adequate enough to function like a well-oiled machine. I love this explanation. It is a break through in human politics and system of governance. The same people that came up with Revolutionary Democracy have now presented us with a system that requires no leader or head of state. Brilliant is all that comes to mind. It has been working like a charm for forty-eight days now and at the moment there is no reason to think why it should not go on for a little longer.
In the absence of the head of state the Parliament has managed to pass a budget, the security has dealt with the question of freedom by the Moslem community in its usual harsh manner, the international agencies have continued to grant loans and aid in the usual manner and the citizen has accepted the status quo.
So far so good but is there any danger of this life without a head of state coming to a point where Aboy Sehat’s theory might not be able to address a situation? For our sake let us hope not but I feel it is always good to prepare for all eventualities. We are in this situation due to the fact that Ato Meles forgot he was human and being taken ill or dying is part of our programming. He put all his eggs in one basket. Of course we should have known better since we knew Ato Meles never has the interest of our country in mind and to be fair never pretended to care for anything else other than himself. As I write this I am sure where ever he is either sitting for a game of chess with Gadaffi or Kim Jung or laying on beach in beautiful Puerto Rico with a glass of Pena Colada, he must be grinning from ear to ear satisfied with what he left behind.
So what could go wrong? A national emergency is one. Let us say for the sake of argument President Isaiyas decides to take over Zele Ambesa, who is going to give the order to the military to march north? You can’t have a committee declare war. A spokes man is not really the person to come on television and mobilize the population. The Ethiopian people will laugh if Ato Bereket or Shimeles Kemal show up TV and declare war. They just don’t have that look of a belligerent dictator. Would the Generals take order from Council of Ministers? Would the population rally around nameless individuals?
How about another kind of emergency? Let us say the Moslem and Christian community coordinates their quest for freedom and march in all the big cities? Who is going to authorize the riot police to confront the freedom seekers? The last time this happened Ato Meles as the head of state declared state of emergency and sent his Agazi force and gave the order to shoot. Who is authorized to declare state of emergency and would the solder have to obey such order? Can a committee give the order to shoot?
In both emergency scenarios the military seems to play a central role to bring stability and order, what is to prevent the Generals from taking matters into their hands and moving into the palace? Why serve a few un-elected pompous usurpers? Why share the power pie when you can keep the whole thing to yourself? In fact they might even reap some credit by throwing all the TPLF politburo members into Kaliti. That is what is called killing two birds with one stone.
How about if this situation of no head of state goes for a few more months, would those who are governing at the moment get used to this situation and try to make it permanent? We have no idea if Ato Meles is dead or alive, how about if he is alive? Would the committee decide to kill him since his return would destabilize the comfortable situation they have created? Is Ato Meles willing to go into the sunset quietly or does he have a backup plan of his own?
All this questions are currently unanswered and I am sure a few more are bound to rear their ugly head. The question to ask at the moment is are we so docile that the ninety four percent are going to sit on the side while the six percent are trying to figure out how best to screw us for another twenty years?
The current situation is not sustainable. What is going to happen is not really clear to all concerned. The TPLF or the new TPLF that has been rebuilt by Ato Meles since he expelled his buddies is not something that is resting on solid ground. It is an amalgamation of sycophants and weak individuals that were willing to serve the dictator as long as there was enough to loot. His absence changes the equation. We have to admit he was good at reading the international situation and securing all kinds of handouts, loans and grants. Foreign donors are going to sit on the sidelines and wait till the dust settles. The greedy Diaspora that has been financing the regime is not able to continue at the old pace due to the economic situation in the west.
Already inflation is spiraling and dollar reserve is getting very low. The TPLF new millionaires and their supporters are entering a panic stage which means that they will sell all assets, hoard all cash and trip each other while trying to exit. The slowing of the economy will bring what is known as social unrest. The committee of heads of state is not familiar on how to deal with such situation. The only blue print left by Ato Meles is use of force at any and all situations. Compromise, give and take, negotiation is not part of the vocabulary for the last twenty years. One man can do that. He is the face of the regime and an old culture like ours is familiar with ‘strong man’ rule. But a committee is different. No one listens to a committee. A committee does not have one voice. Looking at the current members of that committee no one stands out that exudes leadership. Starting with Aboy Sebaht, Abay Woldu, Berket Semeon, Arkebe, Mesfin Seyoum, Berhane or Queen Azeb do not have the making of a leader. Background workers yes but definitely not leadership material.
As for the ninety-four percent this is the best time to present our demands so the committee can entertain some of our questions. The need for a new Constitution, the formation of a care taker government, the freezing of all EFFORT assets, the prohibition of moving money out of the country, the release of all prisoners that are in jail using the so called terrorism charge, the immediate abolition of the Communication department, lifting the prohibition of the free press should be in the forefront of our demands. If we do not ask how would they know? If we do not protect our interest who would?
I knew something was missing. It kept nagging at me, the little voice in side kept saying ‘you know you have been here before.’ I was driving south on the 580 Freeway when it hit me. It was 2005 deja vu. How could I forget? I ask for forgiveness, I am an Ethiopian and memory is an option. Our long-term memory is intact and is usually retrieved at a drop of a hat. Now short term is a different matter. We are very selective about that. Why do you think I keep writing about the crimes of the regime? It is my humble attempt to act as a reminder, to help us visualize and store for easy recall.
This is what I wrote in 2009 during the Kinijit debacle “Psychologist Ellen McGrath calls it ‘the rumination rut’…. a style of thinking in which, like a hamster in a cage, you run in tight circles on a treadmill in your brain. It means obsessing about a problem, about a loss, about any kind of setback or ambiguity without moving past thought into the realm of action.’ This in turn makes us loose our focus. While our problem stays constant our focus wonders aimlessly. It is like trying to hit a moving target.”
See what I mean, what we got here is mirror image of our situation then. I am not that much of a religious person. But I am beginning to see what we commonly refer to as the Ethiopian God or Allah. What ever the force is it looks like we got some body, someone looking after our ancient land. It is too much of a coincidence to be dismissed lightly. The force is with us again. Despite our weakness it always shows up to salvage all that we mange to squander. This time it came in full glory with trumpets, whistle and drums.
There was the time when the TPLF regime in consort with Shabia declared us superfluous and discarded us as old shoes. We lost use of a port, we let our army march in shame, we opened our border as a one way highway, shared a common National bank, contemplated changing the name of our Airlines and even took a second fiddle to exporting the mighty coffee. Then the force showed up. Need I say more? No.
There was a time when Somalia and Ogaden were quiet. Poor Somalia was going thru growing pains. The whole world was dumping on our brothers. Literally dumping toxic waste on their coast and fishing their resources out of existence. The brave and fierce Somalis said enough. The arrogant west decided to practiced target shooting on live humans. Well, well, well guess who decided to be part of this game. Thus we marched into Mogadishu dressed, armed and driven with foreign sponsors. It was not long before we left in the middle of the night whipped, demoralized and in a hurry. The force showed up.
In 1993, during the conclusion of an interview, a reporter asked the lately departed Ashebari on his views of Ethiopian history and he replied, “ Ethiopia is only 100 years old. Those who claim otherwise are indulging themselves in a fairy tale.” The arrogance, the hubris boggles the mind on the other hand it leads one to do reckless stuff. Thus Waldeba Monastery was condemned to be a sugar plantation. Over fifteen hundred years of treasure was to be replaced by a farm so we can sweeten our coffee. The mighty force was not amused. Shall we say the Christian God and the Muslim Allah got together and decided to declare a recall of a defective specimen. I am not being presumptuous but some things have to be explained in a manner we can all understand. This is my take on this situation.
I believe we have been cashing our credit once too often. There should come a time when we should help our selves instead of relying on an outside power to straighten our never-ending screwups. What better than now to acquire some stiff spine or an extra pair of balls if you don’t mind my expression. Is it possible to trade in timidity with bold action? I know it is a tall order but you know what it is actually possible. May I be allowed to whisper Arab Spring in your ear please? I really don’t want to startle you, so I will try to jog that short-term memory into the front for easy recall.
I associate Arab Spring with rage. Our cup has runneth over and it is time, don’t you think? That is what happened with our Arab neighbors, their cup runneth over and they exploded.
Who would have thought forty years of Gadaffi, thirty years of Mubarak, thirty years of the Assad’s and whatever year of Ben Ali will be such a push over? It is all about rage my friend. Did the Arabs have elaborate plans of what comes next when they decided to do away with the garbage? I am afraid not. There was no user manual. There was no formula and there was no divine guidance. Just your everyday dream of hope and optimism is all they needed. There were no leaders showing the way, there were no grand coalitions, there were no Fronts and no organized Parties. It was just your average ordinary citizen taking matters into their own hands and drawing and redrawing the future one-day at a time.
The few scattered voices turned into a tsunami of screams. Some took long while a few were done is a short time. As I said there was no blueprint. What they got in common was rage. What runs thru their story is the common theme of a relentless confidence that tomorrow whatever it is cannot be as bad as today. Yesterday stank, today is more of the same thus the only thing left is to try to change tomorrow so it would be a better day. There was nothing to lose. If we can call the happenings in the last few months’ as history, no question it will be judged a success. A few hiccups but it is work in progress and no one promised a rose garden.
It could be said it is a pivotal moment in our long history. We got a choice to go forward in good faith, unsurpassed optimism or march on the same spot till we fall due exhaustion. No one can make that choice for us. As psychologist McGrath said ‘we can run that tight little circle in our brain obsessing about our problems’ or go past that rumination stage and commit our selves to act.
What we got today is a very peculiar situation that can only happen in Ethiopia. We are always different, aren’t we? Looks like our dictator is gone. The evil that has polluting our very existence has been removed by the grace of God. He was the center around which eighty million people revolved. The center has collapsed on itself. When the Sun dies an about five billion years or so all the planets revolving around it will disappear too. That is the law of physics. The death of evil Meles will result in the withering away of his evil TPLF party and those hodam teletafis revolving around him. No one can stop that.
What should our response be like? You know us; it is as muddled as anytime before. Right now we are on a freeze mode. We are unable to go beyond the ‘talk’ stage. Looks like we jabber so much we substitute that for action. I have been the beneficiary of so many incredible responses by my friends and acquaintances I consider myself immune to farce, idiocy, ignorance not to mention comedy. I had people admonishing me for celebrating the death of an evil tyrant, folks lecturing me about my giddy disposition regarding the demise of the cancerous cell in our body politic or rebuking me for falling on my knees and thanking God almighty. As you can see I am one confused Abesha. How exactly I am supposed to view the death of my countries and people enemy is not clear to me.
Our Amharic saying goes ‘helm teferto kuch belo aytaderm’ A very simple and beautiful statement. Should we have prayed to God to allow the idiot to live a little longer since we are afraid what would come next? No one seems to have told this Ethiopian insight to the Tunisians, Libyans or Egyptians. Aren’t you glad? I believe since we screwed twice before in this business of trying to bring change we area little gun shy now. It is understandable but definitely not rational. Life does not work like that. How many times have each one of us made mistakes in our everyday life? It has not stopped us from trying again has it? Of course there is no guarantee of success now but that should not deter us from trying, should it?
We also have this issue of a leader. It is associated to a simple lack of self-esteem. Following comes natural to us due to our old culture of fear of family, fear of elders and fear of authority. Thus we are always looking for a leader, a redeemer or a fall guy. We expect Dr. Berhanu, Ato Bulcha, Professor Mesfin, Judge Bertukan or others to lead us to the Promised Land. We also insist they form a Front, unite or be one for us to approve. Why do you think that is so? Is it possible that we want to avoid responsibility in case things do not work out? Is it because we always seem to prefer that others stick their neck out for our benefit? Or could it be that we can always have someone to assign blame to? Again I wonder how this philosophy would have translated in the land of the Arabs.
Fear of failure is our number one enemy. Fear of assuming responsibility is our Achilles heel. Lack of self-esteem is our undoing. I love Judge Bertukan. I respect Dr. Berhanu. I miss Eskinder. They all stood up for what they believe and paid a price. The net effect on me is that they inspire me. I pay them compliments by emulating their unselfish act. My resolve to be free makes them a better leader. By fighting for their freedom and dignity they inspire me to demand for mine too. We complement each other. We are equal human beings; they just have the added responsibility of standing in the front with my consent. It is true we are all leaders it is a matter of degrees. The difference is some of us lack faith in our good judgment.
Today same old Woyane bastards are toying with us. The evil man is dead but his evil system is still functioning by remote. Absolute idiot like Berket Semeon, a high school graduate that won his last election by cheating is giving out incoherent press conferences. A senile fatherly figure like Sebhat Nega with mind stuck in the ‘70s, and no authority from anyone we know of is trying to explain to us how things work. There is no such thing as a legitimate Ethiopian Constitution, there is no such thing as a freely elected Ethiopian Parliament and here we are trying to interpret and split hair of a non-existent phantom situation. All ado about nothing.
All I see in my head is Arab Spring. All I think about is the power of rage. I remember the brave Egyptians burning Mubarak’s headquarters to smitten and I grin from ear to ear. I dream of my brave fearless people smashing the walls of Maekelawi and letting my brothers and sisters out. I lounge for the day when the doors of Kaliti are flung open and my people march singing and dancing all the way to Merkato and Kebena and Gulele. I smile when I see in my head Meskel Square full of my people celebrating their freedom and hugging, kissing shouting “Free at last, thanks God almighty we are free at last!!” I jump with joy when Ethiopian Airlines lands at Bole with the scattered children of Ethiopia from the four corners of the world bring her future back to build and make our ancient land the center of African freedom and dignity. Yes you can make that happen but you first have to have faith in yourself, respect for your fellow human and a heart full of love and tolerance the rest will take care of itself. It is all about you talking personal responsibility and rising up to the occasion. Hate of dictatorship is acceptable. Celebration of the demise of evil is a human duty. Wanting to be free and live in dignity is as important as breathing and eating.
Meles died in Europe. Meles should be buried in Europe. Alive he did not care for Ethiopia. Dead there is no place for him in Ethiopia. We want to be free of his body and spirit. This is not about hate but a perfectly normal closure for the pain and agony he inflicted on our country and people. TPLF should be warned regarding this notion of a state burial for a tyrant. Do not thread on our sensibilities and bring the ugly in all of us. Let us open a new chapter in peace and harmony.