By Yilma Bekele.
As you all know Ethiopia held what is referred to as ‘elections’ last May. The ruling TPLF party won 545 of the 547 seats in Parliament. One can tell from the results that either the TPLF party is the most popular association in the country or the election was rigged and the outcome was tainted.
Ethiopians were resigned to the fact that the Prime Minster’s Party will be declared the winner. It was also assumed the regime will allow the so-called opposition to win some seats to save face and appease the Ferenji donors. Those aligned with Medrek actually were willing to look the other way when Ato Meles jailed their leader, murdered their candidates, denied them gathering places and threatened them with criminal charges if they criticized the regime’s polices in the heat of the moment. It did not save them from extinction.
Ato Meles did not stop there. He picked and choose the international observers and trained his own cadres to be election observers. He tried but was unable to deny the European Union from sending independent observers. Welfare recipients sometimes have limited choices. He did mange to curtail their activities to show his people that he will not be pushed around.
Well the report by European Union election observers was made official last week. For us Ethiopians there was nothing new there. We live the nightmare thus there is no need to read about it. Our collective response was a loud duh!
On the other hand our ‘fearless leader’ for life has a different response to this carefully written report. According to Barry Malone of Reuters, the PM chosen words were ‘”trash that deserves to be thrown in the garbage.” He did not stop there, elucidating further, he went on to say “The report is not about our election. It is just the view of some Western neo-liberals who are unhappy about the strength of the ruling party… anybody who has paper and ink can scribble whatever they want.”
Charming isn’t he. You would not expect such ‘trash talk’ from a leader of a country do you? One would think when you ascend to be a leader there are certain diplomatic norms to be maintained and style of talk to abide. One can disagree without being crass. The office one holds dictates one’s behavior and choice of words. Well, it is Ethiopia and international norms, rules and regulations are suggestions left to the individual’s discretion.
It took the EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) six months to issue the official report. EU EOM was headed by Thijs Berman, a Dutch member of European Parliament and 10 Core Team members (analysts) 90 Long Term Observers and more than 60 Short Term Observers from 22 EU member states, as well as Norway, Switzerland, and Canada. The report is a carefully written document giving credit where credit is due and pointing out some discrepancies where improvement is needed to make the system work better. None of the observers hold any bias against our country and people that we know of. Their stated mission was to observe and report so what ever happened will be well documented and help future decision makers to see where to put their resources to help Democracy take root in our country.
When it comes to our country things just don’t move in a reasonable and rational way. You can sense the crudeness of the TPLF regime when it denied the team access to Ethiopia to present their findings. According to Mr. Berman ‘”This is the first time that a host country has denied the EU observation mission access to return to present its report,”
The regime chose to impeach the character of the EU mission instead of responding to the detailed findings by the observers. First to comment was our good friend Shimeles Kemal (yes he is still around), the mentally unstable paranoid Communication Affairs Minster who said ‘the report is nothing but a biased political analysis of Ethiopia and was made under pressure from Human Rights Watch (HRW) which led the government to reject the report.” He was not satisfied with one enemy thus he threw in HRW for added effect.
The PM decided to lower bar further down. He was not about to be outdone by a junior miscommunication chief. He decided to leave the insulting and name calling to me. Twenty years at the helm has given him the license to dispense insults, demeaning words and bully his people with immunity. That is what he did five years ago in response to EU’s report regarding the 2005 elections. In fact he was so proud of his penmanship he published his response on his newspaper ‘The Ethiopian Herald.’ This is what he wrote:
The statement has come as a great surprise to me. I had expected that the statement would have very few if any nuggets of truth, and, if any, that these would be buried under so much garbage that it would be virtually impossible to excavate them. As it turned out, the statement has some big, really big, lumps of truth in it, and it is relatively easy to remove the garbage that has covered those lumps of truth. While I was expecting a huge garbage dump all I got was newly started garbage dump that was unable to bury the truth. The letter cannot but therefore start by identifying and highlighting the lumps of truth in the statement.
There you have it a head of state calling the Honorable Ana Gomez and her team’s report ‘garbage’.
Looks like time has not mellowed the PM. Why do you think he is stuck in this funky mode? Do you think just may be we have something to do with it? Is it possible we encourage this dysfunctional behavior? Are we part of the problem?
These are good points to ponder while we look at the PM and his isolated existence in a bubble. You see the truth is verbal abuse, demeaning of fellow citizens is nothing but the first step leading towards higher forms of criminal behavior. Ato Meles has made it a habit of knocking down our flag, country and culture. We are so enamored by his crass behavior that we ascribe such adjectives as ‘wend new’ ‘jegna new’, etc. that only emboldens his crudeness. He of course thinking it is cute goes on to apply it in his relationship with foreign dignitaries. It is true children repeat what they hear. Thus one is always careful about language around two-year-olds. They blurt out that ‘new’ word they just heard in a public setting.
We are ashamed that the PM did not find a grown up method of disagreeing in a civilized manner. Language is very important in diplomatic circles. Words carry great weight.
By Yilma Bekele
There is a three days conference on Ethiopia to be held in Alexandra, Virginia. There are plenty of notables involved in this dialogue regarding our neighborhood. All are peoples of stature that have been involved in trying to make life tolerable for their fellow human beings.
If we have to drop a few names here we are tempted to mention Senator Russ Feingold, Congressman Donald Payne, Congressman Chris Smith, the Honorable Ana Gomez, Ambassador Emeru Zeleke, Ambassador David Shinn, Dr. Berhanu Nega and plenty more sitting around a circular table and discussing the dreams and hopes of creating a better future in our neighborhood.
The horn of Africa is a major trouble spot. No one can deny that. Our country Ethiopia is not in good condition. Our nation is epicenter of chaos in the region. Seventeen years after the TPLF assumed power we still find our selves exactly where we started. Famine is still with us, migration of the best and ablest is common and we always show up at the bottom of any and all statistics regarding human accomplishment. No matter how we interpret the statistics today’s Ethiopia is not famous for science, engineering and contribution to human knowledge base. We are famous for civil war, famine and un-relentless migration outwards.
The conference in Virginia is to discuss how to bring about a positive change and build a better future for our people. The participants are people that are working hard to make a difference in the lives of eighty million people. They are not getting paid to attend. There is not any net gain in their private lives for attending the conference. I am sure they spent plenty of their time to prepare for the conference to make their personal contribution a success.
Dialogue and discussion is a preferable method to resolve conflict over fighting. Human experience has proven that approach to be correct and durable. I am sure the organizers are following that footstep pioneered by our ancestors. Thus they have taken the time and resources to apply this proven method to solve the problem facing our old country. We are lucky to have such well-meaning people to take the time and assume responsibility to try to find a solution for our shortcoming.
The question is why are some working over time to derail such a noble cause? Why are a few disparaging such an attempt to find a solution for an old age problem that is evident in our life? Why are a few trading on hate and division to derail our train loaded with hope and goodwill? The short answer is because they don’t know any better. It has become second nature to their existence to put down others worthy contribution.
A friend of mine suggested I visit the web site of the nay Sayers to see the negative and hate filled venom expressed by our brethren. It was not a pleasant experience. It is a sad sight. It begs the question why? Why in the world would anybody oppose an open forum dedicated to find a solution for a problem spot that is affecting over a hundred million humans? There is no rational reason one can think of. May be they have been so comfortable bullying and ignoring the genuine demands of their population that they feel threatened by the mere attempt of others to find a solution to our common problem. Yes the saying ‘like father like son’ comes to mind. It perfectly fits the pattern.
A few weeks back the Prime Minister of Ethiopia was in Mekele, Tigrai celebrating his triumphant anniversary. Instead of using the occasion to celebrate his party’s accomplishment he used the venue to insult, demean and degrade those who do not agree with his views. He painted a dark and sinister picture of those who dare to differ with his blueprint for the future of our country. Their subjects do not view statements by leaders as an empty rhetoric. Words have ramifications. A few days after that hate instigating speech a candidate running for parliament was slayed by the Prime Minster’s supporter. That speech opened the floodgates of hate and negativity. Several candidates running for office have been killed, beaten and threatened through out the country for daring to dream of public service.
It is following that footstep that supporters of the regime have portrayed the ‘horn of Africa’ conference as a negative assembly of anti Ethiopians. The few websites they run has been dedicated to saw discord and ill feeling among people. They have used vile language to describe the participants and organizers of forum. They have resorted to defaming and insulting such worthy public servants because they took the time and showed concern for our country. Their behavior is a sad reflection of the current trend of disparaging and attacking individuals as a person instead of discussing ideas and opinions. It is not like the Ethiopia we know.
Their uttering is far from the truth. Their vain attempt to condemn and vilify is nothing but an attempt to cover their eighteen years of neglect and crime against their own people. Their hate filled diatribe is an attempt to deflect their failure to solve the problems facing the region. On the other hand the conference is an attempt to find a lasting solution rather than blame and finger point. Dialogue is superior form of forging a common path to find a lasting solution. When there is an open and transparent discussion, the outcome is always better and acceptable. It is with that in mind the Virginia conference is set in motion. That is why many East Africans welcome such a positive event knowing the good is definitely far better than the silence and indifference we got on the ground.
Guess what the organizers have decided to involve all of us and judge the event for ourselves. The Conference on the Horn of Africa events will be live-streamed, meaning that you could watch Live Video on your computer with your Internet access where you live in the world. The following is link for the Live streaming of the event on Saturday & Sunday. http://www.ethiov.com/events
We are indebted to the organizers for arranging such a worthy conference. We thank our foreign friends for taking time from their busy schedule and showing concern for our people and country. We are proud of our Ethiopian participants for their relentless work on behalf of their people. Our old nation is better off when her friends and children sit around a table and brainstorm to find a solution and build a better country for all of us. We hope and pray the Ethiopian government will involve itself in building a bridge to find a common ground that will include all the people in finding a solution for our problem. The attempt to bully the participants and vilify the organizers is not worthy of a national government. We hope hate is replaced with love.
By Yilma Bekele
Our new name is the Ethiopians in the Diaspora. ‘The term Diaspora (in Greek διασπορά – “a scattering [of seeds]”) refers to the movement of any population sharing common ethnic identity who were either forced to leave or voluntarily left their settled territory, and became residents in areas often far remote from the former.’ I really don’t like it. We used to be immigrants. I have no idea when we became the Diaspora.
I don’t like both terms. They have finality about them. It means that wherever we are, we intend to settle permanently. I would rather think of myself as a refugee. A refugee is some one in transit. I like that. Isn’t that what we are? We have scattered to all four corners of the world because we are seeking shelter from danger. We escape from our country because it is not safe. Some are political refuges. They left to avoid persecution. A lot are economic refuges. They are running away from slow death. Our country offers its population such choice as physical death due to starvation, mental and spiritual death due to forced ignorance.
Sometimes good can come out of a bad situation. This refuge business is one such instance. Our ancient country is always looking after us. It gave us a solid foundation to withstand the shock of settling in strange far away places. We were mentally fortified. Every nationality thinks they are unique. We don’t only think we are unique, we believe it. It is like Ethiopia said to each one of us ‘if you have to go, go but don’t forget who you are and please return.’
Where ever we have settled we have thrived. We seek each other. We congregate. All you got to do is find one of us. It is like opening a floodgate. You find one you find them all.
This has been a week of graduation in our area. A proud moment for a lot of families. A celebration of achievement. Sons and daughters of refugees feeling good about them selves and making their family proud. There is nothing like being free to excel.
So how did these offspring’s of destitute refugees get to attend some of the best institutions in this great land? It is simple. It is so because those refugee parents had to learn fast and adapt to the new situation. Most arrive with just their shirts on their back. They work hard. They work long. They study with passion. They aim high. They succeed like no other.
When one is far away from home and there is no one to lean on one learns fast. We learn to think beyond today. We plan and project far into the future. We become masters of our own success or failure. We stop being crybabies and assume responsibility for our actions.
We learn that there is no free lunch, no reward without effort, and no easy short cuts in life and if we are lucky we learn to be empathic to our fellow humans.
I, as a bona fide refugee and graduate of the ‘hard knock’ school of life I was highly disconcerted when I heard what the Ethiopian Prime Minster said to a Mr. Jason McClure of Bloomberg News. I don’t know how Mr. McClure took the news but I was forced to say ‘come again?’ Believe me I have made up a lot of excuses for my actions and I have heard some bizarre ones too but this one takes the gold. No question about it. Talk about chutzpah!
Ato Meles blames ‘the World Bank and international donors’ for the scarcity of Electricity in Ethiopia. Mr. Mc Lure wrote:
The World Bank underestimated electricity demand in previous years and failed to provide funding for new power-generation projects the government had wanted, leading to under-investment in the industry, he said.
“We could have avoided that mistake if we had the money or had we had the support of our donors,” Meles said.
I believe most of us were under the impression that Ato Meles and his TPLF politburo are in charge of Ethiopia. At what point did World Bank enter the picture? What else are they running besides Electric power? I want to know if the Somali invasion was their idea? Did they force Ato Meles to declare ‘state of emergency’ after the 2005 elections and gave the order to shoot to kill? Was that the World Bank that forced Ato Meles to arrest Judge Bertukan too? Frankly I never trusted the World Bank and Ato Meles is confirming my worst fears.
That ‘gotcha’ moment was short lived. It looks like the reporter talked to a Mr. Kenichi Ohashi, the World Bank’s director for Ethiopia. Well apparently Ato Meles did not clear his story with Mr. Ohashi, and Mr. Ohashi is not amused. This is what he has to say about it:
“The notion that because we didn’t finance power they have a problem, that’s bogus,” Kenichi Ohashi, the World Bank’s director for Ethiopia, said by phone today. “If we financed power that would come at the expense of something else”
Interesting. I don’t know what the choices were but it must have been difficult for outsiders to make decisions for a nation they have neither kinship nor strong bond. You can say the same about Ato Meles but today we are not going there. So where is the sovereignty Berket is always babbling about? Now since we all know who is running Electric power you know where to forward your complaints.
There is more. TPLF is the gift that keeps giving.
Power cuts might also have been alleviated if the Washington-based multilateral lender had provided funding for a 60-megawatt diesel generator the government requested this year, Meles said.
A lousy 60-megawatt diesel generator just to hold us over until the July rains and they said no! Those heartless bastards what do they care. Bankers are cold. They are willing to destroy the economic well being of a nation. Hold on that is not the story Mr. Ohashi is telling.
The World Bank didn’t finance the generator because the government’s contracting process didn’t meet World Bank standards and wasn’t “open and transparent and competitive,” Ohashi said.
Now I see it. The Bank wants ‘open and transparent’ process and EFFORT had already won the contract. Ato Meles was just asking for the cash and the Bank has the audacity to say no. May be the Bank thought diesel is not such a good idea considering the shortage of dollars to buy fuel. I get the feeling that Ato Meles leaves a lot out when telling a story. I have no idea if he forgets or it is pathological. What is certain is that he is not telling the truth. In other words he is lying. Simple.
So when Mr. Ohashi’s outfit said ‘No” to the loan what did Ato Meles’s government do to mitigate the effects of the certainty of power shortage? You just don’t fold your hands and sit. I guess you can. They did not even ask their Abuna to urge the people to pray for rain.
This is the difference between the Diaspora (refugees) and TPLF. We have learned to take responsibility for our actions. We don’t shift blame nor do we cry in public. We avoid welfare and work double shift to meet our obligations. Just try telling your mortgage holder that you can’t pay your note since the bank did not give you the loan subsidy. Your sad ass will be out on the street in a New York minute.
There seems to be a lot of speculation with what the Prime Minster might do or not do regarding his future plans. He speaks in hyperboles and wants to sound mysterious. Listen to this:
“My guess is this is going to boil-down to plus or minus a year or two,” he said. “I’m simply thinking aloud. Now if it were to boil-down to plus or minus a year or two, I would probably say this is not a matter on which I ought to leave the party.” It’s also possible, “some would say very likely” that he will be succeeded as prime minister by a person from outside the Tigrayan ethnic group, Meles said.
I dare you to make sense of that. What does plus or minus a year mean? Boil down? Why he speaks in clichés is foreign to me. Here in the US politicians start running the day they are elected. It is a 24/7 job. You don’t hide in gated community surrounded by armed solders. If they want to be elected they mingle with their constituents. Not the supreme leader. He still thinks in ethnic terms. The notion some one capable without the ethnic baggage is foreign to him. It is possible the TPLF folks can sign petitions to force him to be Prime Minister again. May be he is being coy with us so we can start a nation wide campaign to crown him as Yohanes V. Anything is possible in Ethiopia. As I said we are very resourceful people.
What he said regarding Judge Bertukan is very mean. A head of state does not make a statement like that regarding the leader of the biggest opposition Party in the country. This is what he said:
Meles said there is “zero” chance that opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa will be released from prison in time to compete in the elections scheduled for next May. He also said Birtukan’s jailing is not a pretext to eliminate political opposition.
Judge Bertukan has been in jail one hundred seventy six days. That is five months and twenty-six days. She has been in solitary confinement. She is not allowed visitors except her daughter Hale who is four years old and her mother Weizero Almaz who is seventy-two years old. She is not allowed to see her lawyer, listen to the radio or visit by the Red Cross. Complete isolation in a dark cold room is torture. Ato Meles said the chances are zero that she will be released. On the other hand the chances are 100% that Ato Meles will be tried for torture, genocide and crime against humanity both by the Ethiopian people and the International Criminal Court. We will be the first ones to defend Ato Meles’s and his fellow criminals right for a fair and speedy trial. We will not tolerate torture and the prisoners will be allowed to hire even foreign lawyers but not with our money. The sight of Ato Meles and friends in a pink prison garb will be priceless. Just picture it my friends.
It looks like the situation in Iran further complicates Ato Meles’s grip on power. It is obvious that there will be no repeat of 2005. The world is watching. Europeans will follow the US lead. President Obama’s administration is allergic to state sponsored killing. The Diaspora Ethiopians are loud and everywhere. The ‘Eight’ points by Kinijit are still the minimum demands. No party in Ethiopia will be accepted as legitimate contender with out the eight points being fulfilled. There is no such thing as a free election without a free press and the opposition’s right to free assembly and organization is respected.
Remittances from the Diaspora has dried up, commodity prices are plunging, inflation is spiraling, devaluation is over due, Ana Gomez, Donald Payne, Russ Feingold, Berhanu Nega are circling over head, what are you going to do? You definitely are not going to Disney land. I urge my hero Shambel to sing ‘Express train to Kaliti’