The selling of Ethiopia to the highest bidder. By Yilma Bekele
Actually that statement might not be true. We do know our country is being sold but we have no idea if the bidding has been open or closed. We have sold almost all of Gambella, we have leased half of Afar and Oromia has been parceled out bit by bit. Our Beer factories are under new owners, our gold mines belong to the fake Ethiopian sheik, Telephone is under the Chinese and our Airlines is looking for a suitor. Have we always looked for outsiders to own us?
Not really when you consider that we celebrated the victory at the battle of Adwa a few weeks back and that was the mother of all wars that made it clear this African country is not for sale. We might not have contributed much to the industrial revolution but we did manage to rely on our own ingenuity to follow along and do things our own way. You might not believe this but there was a time when Ethiopians actually used to be involved in making stuff from scratch. You think I am making things up don’t you? I don’t blame you because today you cannot even come up with one name that stands out as an Ethiopian entrepreneur, go getter or someone that shines like the north star based solely on his own sweat and blood.
The things that were accomplished by earlier Ethiopians are all around us but we don’t see them. All the things the current government brags about have their roots in the yester years they so much condemn and brush off. I don’t know where to start but here we go. Let us start with hospitals. Bella Haile Selassie (Bella), Leelt Tshay (armed Forces), Paulos, Haile Selassie Hospital (Yekati 12), Balcha, Ghandi, Tikur Anbessa, Ras Desta, Minilik etc. The vast majority of the doctors were Ethiopians, the hospitals were clean, well equipped and you don’t even have to take your own sheets and blankets.
How about Hotels? Ethiopia, Ghion, Wabi Shebele, Ras, Bekele Molla were the premier destinations. They were owned and operated by Ethiopians. When it comes to Ethiopian Airlines the Pilots were proud Ethiopians and the technicians were the envy of Africa. The Imperial government built the Airlines from scratch. Trans World Airlines (TWA) was a partner until we were able to train and staff our own and we did manage to do that.
If we talk about agriculture we did manage to establish the Sugar estates of Metehara and Wonji not to mention Setit Humera, the wheat and corn fields of Arsi, the fiber plants of Sidama and the cotton fields of Awash Valley are testimonial to our ingenuity. The sixties saw the emergence of the new educated Ethiopians that raised the bar of excellence.
The establishment of Africa Hall was how Africans showed respect to our Emperor and our old history when they choose Addis Abeba as the head quarter for the continent. The University at sadist Kilo was a gift to his people by the Emperor and it was a spectacular success. All the teachers were highly educated Ethiopians and the graduates were the pride of our country.
Why am I discussing such subject today? It is because two items reported by the media caught my eye a few days back. Both are an assault on our sovereignty and our ability to grow our own economy by Ethiopians for Ethiopians. Heineken a Dutch conglomerate is building the biggest brewery in Ethiopia and Guangdong Chuan Hui Group from China is given 41,000 Sq. meter of land to construct hotel and industrial complex. The way the story is being reported we should be jumping with joy. What could be better than those two benevolent multi nationals investing so much in our poor destitute country?
Is that how we should look at it? Is there another aspect to this story? In order to see the pros and con of the question posed In front of us it would have been nice if there has been a nationwide discussion to see if the plan makes sense when it comes to our homeland. That is how smart decisions are made. Open and vibrant nationwide discussion regarding such important issues that impact our national economy and our people’s well-being assures a better outcome.
That usually is not the case in our country. There are no checks and balances. There is no independent legislative body and the judiciary is a government tool. A single party the TPLF controls all and everything in the country. Our political leaders have no faith in the ability of the people to know what is good for them. That is why they approach their job as being a ‘baby sitter’ and are constantly fretting about what the people hear and read. Decisions are made by a few TPLF politburo members to be approved by the rubber stamp Parliament. Anyone that questions such a decision is branded as enemy of the people and dealt with.
Let us start with our beer story. You know beer is nothing but European Tella. It is bottled fancy and costs a little bit more. How long ago do you think we acquired the idea of brewing for a larger crowd? Eighty years ago my friend! St George brewery was started in 1922. Meta Abo Brewery was founded in 1963. Meta Abo was a partnership between government and private capital and started with a base capital of 2million Birr. The military junta nationalized both and the current TPLF Woyane regime inherited them with the rest of Ethiopia. What do you think these successive regimes did with our own old industry and land? Did they build on what was started? Did they reinvest the profit to make the enterprises bigger and better? Did they run our industries, enterprises and farms in a responsible and judicious manner?
Both St. George and Meta Abo are no more Ethiopian enterprises. BGI (an internationally acclaimed Brewing Company that operates in many countries.??) bought St George in 1998 for US 10 million ‘through foreign direct investment’(??) Meta Ambo was sold to Diego Industries-a British congalmorate for US 225 million. Heineken a Dutch multi-national acquired 18% of Bedele and Harar breweries for US 163 million in 2011. Raya Brewery an idea that has not materialized yet but promoted by Lt. General Tsadkan W.Tensai and investors such as Yemane (Jamaica) Kidane and other TPLF officials sold 25% interest to BGI for 650 million Br and invited Brewtech a German company as a partner.
As you can see the TPLF regime collected close to US 400 million from the sale of our home grown breweries. By all imagination that is chump change when you consider the ownership is lost and the profit for eternity belongs to the foreigners. Is this a good way to grow a national economy? Has it been done before or is this another of that failed ‘revolutionary democracy’ pipe dream?
BGI, Diego or Heineken are investing in our country to realize profit for their shareholders. What is our country getting out of this? The beer manufacturing business is a highly automated enterprise so it is not about job creation. Most if not all of the high paying managerial jobs will be occupied by the parent company. The malt, barley and other ingredients are imported and are considered a trade secret. We all know about creative accounting thus I am sure our country does not even benefit from the profit because the bookkeeping is rigged to minimize taxes.
Let us not even think of technology transfer since we cannot learn what we have already mastered. Remember we have been brewing beer since 1922. I will tell you what we got out of this unequal relationship. We as a people got royally screwed. The TPLF party officials got paid plenty for their pimping effort. The regime in its insatiable appetite for foreign currency bought a few months of respite to purchase oil, wheat, cooking oil etc. to postpone its inevitable collapse.
There are certain things we know how a growing economy with a nationalist government operates. We have seen how China, India, Malaysia, Brazil and other emerging economies handled their growth potential. They use what is known as subsidy to protect their infant industries from foreign predators. They allowed investment where technology transfer will bring benefit to their people but shielded their home grown industries from foreign competition.
Why do you think the TPLF bosses are interested in selling our sovereignty? I doubt it is because they are anti-Ethiopian even though the late evil PM used to suffer from inferiority complex when it comes to central highlanders. I believe it is because of their ‘get rich quick’ philosophy. They are in a hurry to accumulate before their Ponzi scheme comes crashing down. According to the UN billions of dollars are leaving our country. They are buying properties in the US and Europe, sending their children to expensive schools abroad and vacationing in exotic places with the money they steal from our country.
What are we the victims doing about this rape and pillage of our resources and the degradation of our national pride? I am afraid other than insistently talking there is nothing more most of us are doing about it. Why do you think that is so? I could think of a few things but ignorance comes to mind first and foremost. Our ignorance prevents us from connecting the dots and looking at the bigger picture. Our misplaced pride does not allow us to listen to others and learn to be able to formulate better solutions to our problems.
Today we have a population that is not familiar with its history. Sixty four percent (64%) of our people are under twenty five years old while twenty nine percent (29%) are under the age of 54 years. We have a toxic population on our hands. Those under twenty five grew up under the Woyane regime where being an Ethiopian is taken as a liability. While those under fifty four are the result of the Derge era of undermining religion, family, and stability. Ninety three (93%) of our population is a fertile ground for evil Woyane to plant shame, doubt and insecurity about being Ethiopian.
It is this population that is sitting on the side and cheering the selling of their country. For most people what bothers them is not what is lost but they spend endless energy to get a piece of the action. In Ethiopia stealing, lying, being part of a criminal enterprise is encouraged by the regime. When the recently dead Meles Zenawi said ‘even being a thief requires being smart’ he was giving a green light to his cadres and the population at large. The so called Diaspora is the number one enabler of the criminal Woyane machine. They use their new found riches to bribe Woyane so they could acquire stolen land to build their flimsy unsustainable condominiums and spend endless nights worrying if the next highest bidder will in turn take it away in broad day light.
This is exactly the reason we are having a problem forming a united front to get rid of this cancerous body in our midst. This is the reason even in exile we are unable to form a democratic, inclusive and worthy association that will benefit the many. The ninety three percent are in need of education in civic affairs and a dose of what it means to love your neighbor as you would love yourself.
May be it is the lords way of teaching us little humility and humbleness as he did with the children of Israel when he left them to wonder for forty years in the wilderness so they know what is in their heart. It is a choice we have-to be humble or perish due to pride.
For some time now, I have been heralding Ethiopia’s irreversible march from dictatorship to democracy. In April 2011, I wrote a commentary entitled, “The Bridge on the Road(map) to Democracy”. I suggested,
We can conceive of the transition from dictatorship to democracy as a metaphorical journey on the road to progress, freedom and human enlightenment (democracy) or a regression to tyranny, subjugation and bondage (dictatorship). Societies and nations move along this road in either direction. Dictatorships can be transformed into democracies and vice versa. But the transition takes place on a bridge that connects the road from dictatorship to democracy. It is on this bridge that the destinies of nations and societies, great and small, are made and unmade. If the transition on the bridge is orderly, purposeful and skillfully managed, then democracy could become a reality. If it is chaotic, contentious and combative, there will be no crossing the bridge, only pedaling backwards to dictatorship. My concern is what could happen on the bridge linking dictatorship to democracy in Ethiopia when that time comes to pass.
In June 2012, I wrote a commentary entitled, “Ethiopia: On the Road to Constitutional Democracy”. I argued with supporting historical evidence that “Most societies that have sought to make a transition from tyranny and dictatorship to democracy have faced challenging and complex roadblocks.” Focusing on the practical lessons of the “Arab Spring”, I proposed a constitutional pre-dialogue and offered some suggestions:
The search for a democratic constitution and the goal of a constitutional democracy in Ethiopia will be a circuitous, arduous and challenging task. But it can be done… To overcome conflict and effect a peaceful transition, competing factions must work together, which requires the development of consensus on core values. Public civic education on a new constitution must be provided in the transitional period. Ethiopian political parties, organizations, leaders, scholars, human rights advocates and others should undertake a systematic program of public education and mobilization for democratization and transition to a genuine constitutional democracy. To have a successful transition from dictatorship to constitutional democracy, Ethiopians need to practice the arts of civil discourse and negotiations….”
They are pedaling backwards on the low road of dictatorship, but are we marching forward on the highway to democracy?
It is easy for some people to speak truth to power, or the powers that be. Without great difficulty, they can preach to abusers of power why they are wrong, what they are doing wrong, why they should right their wrong and do right by those they have wronged. But it is not so easy to speak truth to powers that could be, particularly when one does not know who “they” are. Instead of speaking truth to the powers that could be, I will simply ask: They are pedaling backwards on the low road of dictatorship, but are we marching forward on the highway to democracy? Where do we go (or not go) from here?
Ordinarily, this question would be put to Ethiopia’s “opposition leaders”. For some time now, I have been wondering who those leaders are and are not. In my commentary last September entitled, “Ethiopia’s Opposition at the Dawn of Democracy?”, I asked out loud (but never got answer), “Who is the Ethiopian ‘opposition’?” I confessed my bewilderment then as I do now: “There is certainly not a monolithic opposition in the form of a well-organized party. There is no strong and functional coalition of political parties that could effectively challenge both the power and ideology of the ruling party. There is not an opposition in the form of an organized vanguard of intellectuals. There is not an opposition composed of an aggregation of civil society institutions including unions and religious institutions, rights advocates and dissident groups. There is not an opposition in the form of popular mass based political or social movements. There is not…”
Stated differently, is the “opposition that amorphous aggregation of weak, divided, squabbling, factionalized and fragmented parties and groups that are constantly at each other’s throats? The grumbling aggregation of human rights advocates, civic society organizers, journalists and other media professionals and academics? The groups committed to armed struggle and toppling the dictatorship by force the opposition? Anyone who thinks or self-proclaims s/he is the opposition?” All or none of the above?
I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that the disciples of the late Meles Zenawi would have no problems explaining where they are going from here. They would state with certainty, “Come hell or high water, we’ll pedal backwards lockstep in Meles’ ‘eternally glorious’ footsteps to the end of the rainbow singing Kumbaya to grab the pot of gold he has left for us under the Grand Renaissance Dam. We will fly high in the sky on the wings of a 10, 12, 15 percent annual economic growth and keep flying higher and higher…” I say it is still better to have a road map to La-La Land than sitting idly by twiddling one’s thumbs about the motherland.
Is the question to be or not be in the opposition? What does it mean to be in the “opposition”? What must one do to be in the “opposition”? Is heaping insults, bellyaching, gnashing teeth and criticizing those abusing power the distinctive mark of being in the opposition? Is frothing at the mouth with words of anger and frustration proof of being the opposition? How about opposing the abusers of power for the sake of opposing them and proclaiming moral victory? Is opposing the abusers of power without a vision plan, a plan of action or a strategic plan really opposition?
I have often said that Meles believed he “knew the opposition better than the opposition knew itself.” Meles literally laughed at his opposition. He considered the leaders of his opposition to be his intellectual inferiors. He believed he could outwit, outthink, outsmart, outplay, outfox and outmaneuver them all, save none, any day of the week. He believed them to be dysfunctional, shiftless and inconsequential; he never believed they could pose a challenge to his power. In his speeches and public comments, he ridiculed, scorned and sneered at them. He treated his opposition like wayward children who needed constant supervision, discipline and well-timed spanking to keep them in line. Truth be told, during his two decades in power, Meles was able to outwit, outthink, outsmart, outplay, outfox and outmaneuver, and neutralize his opposition at will. Meles’ disciples today trumpet their determination to walk in his footsteps and do exactly the same thing.
Where is the “opposition” now?
Perhaps it is premature to pose the question, “Where do we go from here?” to Ethiopia’s “opposition”. It may be more appropriate to ask where the “opposition” is (is not) now. From my vantage point, the “opposition” is in a state of resignation, stagnation, negation, frustration and alienation. I see the “opposition” watching with hypnotic fascination the abusers of power chasing after their tails. The “opposition” seems anchorless, agenda less, aimless, directionless, dreamless and feckless. The “opposition”, it seems to me, is in a state of slumber, in crises and in a state of paralysis.
Time was when the “opposition” got together, stood together, put heads together, worked together, campaigned together, negotiated together, compromised together, met the enemy together and even went to jail together. Flashback 2005! The “opposition” set aside ethnic, religious, linguistic, ideological and other differences and came together to pursue a dream of freedom and democracy. That dream bound the opposition and strengthened the bonds of their brotherhood and sisterhood. The “opposition” mobilized together against factionalism and internal conflicts and closed ranks against those who sought to divide and split it. By doing so, the opposition thumped the ruling party in the polls.
In the past seven years, the dream of democracy and freedom among the “opposition” seems to have slowly faded away and the strength of its champions sapped away in mutual distrust and recrimination. Dialogue in the “opposition” has been replaced with monologue and deafening silence; action with inaction; cooperation with obstruction; coalition with partisanship; unity with division; amity with enmity and civility with intolerance.
The “opposition” wants change and rid Ethiopia of tyranny and dictatorship. But as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent. … We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” The Ethiopian “opposition” needs to stand up erect and make demands with steely backbone and stiff upper lip.
There are many ways to stand up and show some backbone. To speak up for human rights and against government wrongs is to stand up. To demand that wrongs be righted is to stand up. To open up one’s eyes and unplug one’s ears in the face of evil is standing up. To simply say “No!” even under one’s breath is standing up. Speaking truth to power is standing up. Dr. King said, “A just law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.” Standing up against an unjust law is standing up for justice.
In January 2011, I wrote a weekly column entitled, “After the Fall of African Dictatorships” and posed three questions: “What happens to Africa after the mud walls of dictatorship come tumbling down and the palaces of illusion behind those walls vanish? Will Africa be like Humpty Dumpty (a proverbial egg) who “had a great fall” and could not be put back together by “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men”? What happens to the dictators?”
The mud walls of dictatorship in Ethiopia have been exhibiting ever expanding cracks since the death of the arch architect of dictatorship Meles Zenawi sometime last summer. The irony of history is that the question is no longer whether Ethiopia will be like Humpty Dumpty as the “king” and “king’s men” have toiled to make her for two decades. The tables are turned. Despite a wall of impregnable secrecy, the “king’s men and their horses” are in a state of disarray and dissolution. They lost their vision when they lost their visionary. The old saying goes, “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Well, the king is no more; and the “king’s men and horses” are lost in the wilderness of their own wickedness, intrigue and deception.
The “fierce urgency of now” is upon Ethiopia’s opposition leaders to roll out their plans and visions of democracy. Now is the time for Ethiopia’s human rights advocates to bring forth their vision of a society governed by the rule of law. Now is the time for Ethiopia’s civil society leaders to build networks to connect individuals and communities across ethnic, religious, linguistic, gender and regional lines. Now is the time for Ethiopia’s intellectuals to put forth practical solutions to facilitate the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Now is the time for all freedom loving Ethiopians to come forward and declare and pledge their allegiance to a democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Now is the time to unchain ourselves from the burdens of the past. Now is the time to abandon the politics of identity and ethnicity and come together in unity for the sake of all of Ethiopia’s children. Now is the time to organize and mobilize for national unity. Now is the time for truth and reconciliation. Now is the time to assert our human dignity against tyrannical barbarity.
Now is not the time to for division, accusation and recrimination. Now is not the time for finger pointing, bellyaching and teeth gnashing. Now is not the time to remain silent. Now is not the time to turn a blind eye. Now is not the time to turn a deaf ear.
Where should we go from here?
I will try to answer my own question in brief form for now. The opposition should get on the highway that leads to democratic governance. The opposition should roll out its action plan for a democratic, post-dictatorship Ethiopia. The principal lesson to be learned from the experiences of the past seven years is that the opposition’s role is not simply to “oppose, oppose and oppose” for the sake of opposing. The opposition’s role and duty goes well beyond simply proclaiming opposition to the abusers of power. The opposition’s role goes to the heart of the future democratic evolution and governance of the country. In that role, the opposition must relentlessly demand accountability and transparency of those absuing power. The fact that the abusers of power will pretend to ignore demands of accountability and transparency is of no consequence. The question is not if they will be held to account but when. The opposition should always question and challenge the actions and omissions of those abusing their powers in a principled and honest manner. The opposition must analyze, criticize, dice and slice the policies, ideas and programs of those in power and offer better, different and stronger alternatives. It is not sufficient for the opposition to publicize the failures and of the ruling party and make broad claims that they can do better.
For starters, the opposition should make crystal clear its position on accountability and transparency to the people. For instance, what concrete ideas does the opposition have about ending, or at least effectively controlling, endemic corruption in Ethiopia. In an exhaustive 448-page report, the World Bank recently concluded that the Ethiopian state is among the handful of the most corrupt in the world. I cannot say for sure how many opposition leaders or anyone in the opposition has taken the time to study this exquisitely detailed study of corruption in Ethiopia; but anyone who has read the report will have no illusions about the metastasizing terminal cancer of corruption in the Ethiopia body politics. The opposition should issue a white paper on what it would do to deal with the problem of corruption in Ethiopia.
Speaking truth to the powers that could be
I know that what I have written here will offend some and anger others. Still many could find it refreshing and provocatively audacious. Some critics will wag their tongues and froth at the mouth claiming that I am attacking the “opposition” sitting atop my usual high horse. They will claim that I am weakening and undermining the “opposition” preaching from my soapbox. Others will say I am overdramatizing the situation in the “opposition”. Still others will claim I am not giving enough credit or am discrediting those in the “opposition” who have been in the trenches far longer than I have been involved in human rights advocacy. They will say I am doing to the opposition what the power abusers have done to them. They will say I don’t understand because I have been sitting comfortably in my academic armchair and have not been on the front lines suffering the slings and arrows of an outrageous dictatorship. Be that as it may!
Though I acknowledge such claims could be convenient diversions, there are two essetnial questions all of us who consider ourselves to be in the “opposition” can no longer ignore and must be held to answer: They are pedaling backwards on the low road of dictatorship, are we marching forward on the highway to democracy? Is the “opposition” better off today than it was in 2005?
Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino and is a practicing defense lawyer.
Previous commentaries by the author are available at:
Amharic translations of recent commentaries by the author may be found at:
Violence and the Ethiopians. By Yilma Bekele
We always think of our people to be so loving that welcome a stranger into their homes and share what little they have. Our language is full of sayings about being a good host, a great neighbor and a kind human. Sharing what you have, helping those in need and putting others ahead play a central theme in all our folklores. At least that is what we try to believe and that is what we tell ourselves and each other every opportunity we get. What a kind and loving people we are is a common mantra.
Do you think that is a true picture of our country? I don’t know about you but I knew such Ethiopia in my life time. Here we go again, I did not say we were a perfect paradise but definitely we were not the Wild West either. But I know for sure we used to care for each other and we were a once proud nation.
Then where did all this violent act and talk of perpetual violence came from is a good question? It is a timely question too. Today violence both the act and the talk is permeating our society. The specter of violence is everywhere. Our country has become one big cesspool of violence and you can’t even escape it from any point on earth.
According to the World Health organization (WHO) violence is defined ‘as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person, or group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.’
The dergue started the ball rolling with the class warfare crap. The TPLF took over with ethnic cleansing mantra. It looks like the last forty years have been a time of violence, threat of violence and absence of peace era. The Mengistu and Meles generation has been schooled in the exercise of violence as a normal day to day activity.
What got me look at these phenomena is the current behavior of our masters in Addis Abeba and their children here in the US. The Berket/Debretsion government is going out of its way to bully our Muslim citizens, intimidate our journalists and frighten our people. They are using the monopoly they exercise on our communication media to produce second rate movies, badly written essays and moronic broadcasts to confuse their captive audience.
War is waged on our Muslim brothers and sisters thru out the country. Their leaders have been incarcerated, their worship places have been desecrated and their religion has been equated with terror. The TPLF is trying to do to the Muslims what they have been doing to the Orthodox Christians the last twenty years. They were able to divide and set the Christians against each other. Bishops and priests have been beaten, exiled and insulted in broad day light. Due to lack of spine by the Christian followers the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia today has lost all its moral compass and made into a leaderless association no different than those ‘teletafis’ clustered around the mighty TPLF.
Not content on terrorizing our people at home it looks like TPLF has branched out to reach into the Diaspora community and practice its form of violence. For some of us it is not a new revelation. We have been pointing out the presence of TPLF agents amongst us for quite a while. Their activates in the various opposition party support groups we have been forming was visible and hard to miss. Their sabotage of our houses of worship is legendary. Their presence in our football organization took a valiant effort by some to unmask. No one escapes the sinister act of Woyane spies and saboteurs in any outfit that dares to organize as an Ethiopian entity. I don’t think I need to prove any of my assertions. I beg the reader to look around him/her in any city USA. I dare you to find a peaceful association untouched by Woyane virus wherever you reside.
Now their underground activity is made visible by no other than our dragon slayer, dictator buster, honor restorer and champion of freedom, my friend Abebe Gelaw. No need to elaborate more but our country and people are always grateful for the epic grand stand that was made in Washington DC on behalf of mother Ethiopia. Her children rejoiced while her enemies wept. It looks like they did not learn a lesson. They reverted back to form.
They are trying to do here in the US what they do to our people back home. They are trying to intimidate, bully and scare us from exercising our free will. A few months back an individual registered by the name of Guesh Abera on Facebook was investigated by the FBI for threatening Ato Abebe. His normal TPLF animal behavior was taken as a subject of concern by the FBI that sent agents to his work place to interview the individual and put him on alert. I am sure they felt it was better to nip this ugly idea in its bud rather than wait. Whether in jest or for real the issue is Goush threatened and the FBI investigated.
A few of our Woyane friends tried to make fun of the situation and ridicule the assertion. They went to the extent of accusing ESAT and our independent Web sites of misinformation. They tried to turn the story on its head and attempted to make the victim the aggressor. Awramba Times unmasked itself as nothing but a shameless Woyane sympathizer while some in the venerable Voice of America tried a clumsy investigative journalism that missed its mark.
Some organizations and a few people are so dense they are unable to see what is in front of them and change to avoid calamity. TPLF and its operatives are one such outfit. Despite the unmasking and public humiliation of Guesh Abera, guess who shows up to accept the medal of stupidity? None other than another ethnic hero by the name of Mulugeta Kahsay, a proud immigrant residing in Britain. This individual doing his job as assigned by TPLF was caught red handed attempting to intimidate and frighten Ato Abebe. He made repeated cals threatening not only Ato Abebe but his whole family both in the US and back in Ethiopia.
According to Wiki ‘A death threat is a threat, often made anonymously, by one person or a group of people to kill another person or groups of people. These threats are usually designed to intimidate victims in order to manipulate their behavior, thus a death threat is a form of coercion.’ Here in the US death threat is considered a criminal act. Mulugeta Khassay’s action is deplorable and will land him in jail if it was made in the US.
Why do you think these two individuals felt such behavior is both acceptable and something to be proud of? The simple answer is where they came from it is considered lawful and practiced with abandon. The TPLF Woyane regime uses violence and the threat of violence to silence its opponents and anybody it feels stands on its way. The late TPLF chieftain Meles Zenawi used to threaten cutting hands of the citizen routinely. Like father like son is the situation here. What is not surprising is the fact that so many Woyanes and their admirers cheered such behavior and they are not ashamed to check out the ‘Like’ button on Facebook. So much for peaceful coexistence, wouldn’t you say?
In a civilized setting such behavior back fires and results in exactly the opposite of what is intended. We are all appalled by such naked brutal attempt by the two individuals and their organization or are we all? This is a difficult question to answer. When we see how we Ethiopians relate to each other and how we try to resolve differences, the behavior of Goush and Mulugeta are not that much of an anomaly. The system set up by Woyane encourages such criminal mind set and illegal activity. In today’s Ethiopia breaking the law, getting ahead at the expense of fellow citizens is a celebrated act. Lying, cheating, bribing is not frowned upon and expected practice to finalize any and all transaction. It is so routine that it has become second nature to some of us.
It is not enough to condemn these two gangsters. What is needed is to see how low we have sunk as a people that such action was carried out amongst us. It is not enough to sneer at the workings of Woyane but to reflect on our society that has allowed such evil doers to prosper and grow. When we allow a few to disturb our associations, when we turn a blind eye to those that disrespect our religious leaders and create chaos in our church, when we let an insult and rogue behavior go unchallenged we end up reaping what we planted. As long as we allow ethnic based organization such as the TPLF set the agenda in our country these kind of abhorrent behavior and criminal acts will continue to be the norm. The fight against injustice starts with each one of us. We are grateful to those that have risen to get rid of the body cancer called TPLF from our land. Helping them is a duty to our mother land and to one self.
See Mulugeta Kahsay tie himself in knots:
TPLF and the culture of violence. By Yilma Bekele.
According to ESAT the FBI has foiled an attempt by the Ethiopian government to assassinate Ato Abebe Gelaw. Goosh Abera and his accomplices are under custody. Please note here I said the Ethiopian government since there seems to be no thin line between the TPLF party and the government. Why am I not surprised? I am not surprised because for the TPLF violence is sanctioned by the party leaders as a legitimate tool to achieve political, economic and military dominance.
The following weeks as we look closely at Goosh Abera and his criminal friends and the FBI presents a psychological profile of the alleged conspirators we are sure to find out certain telltale signs about TPLF and their bizarre psychopathic behavior. Individuals like Goosh are most probably equipped with basic rudimentary education if any and survive by their wit and ethnic fueled bravado. In Ethiopia they are known for carrying weapons conspicuously, brandishing them at will and revealing in their thuggish behavior. They are the kind that administers summary judgment on street corners, bars and clubs.
How was TPLF Chairman, the recently departed Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi able to achieve this goal in Ethiopia? The simple truth is by using violence to silence, intimidate, and eliminate his and the party’s actual or perceived enemies using any means necessary. You do not need to be a Sherlock Holmes to detect this pungent smell of gun powder around most Woyanes.
Mengistu Hailemariam prepared the perfect ground for TPLF to flourish. He has already disarmed the population, delegitimized the family system and used the lowest denominators to be in charge of the Kebeles. TPLF inherited a demoralized, confused and tired population to mold in its own image.
The first target of this terrorist organization was the educated citizen. The University was stripped of its most experienced and independent thinkers. By ’94 the University was a former ghost of itself. The political system was dealt in a harsh way. Professor Asrat was murdered in the most inhumane way possible. Teachers President Assefa Maru was shot against a wall execution style. Masses of independent publication owners, editors and reporters were brutally beaten, murdered, bankrupted, intimidated, exiled or killed even in exile. Bank employees were fired in masse, telecommunication workers were discarded teachers and their unions were digested even Chamber of Commerce was not immune from TPLF take over. One thread common to all is that none of them were acquired peacefully. Violence was the main calling card of the TPLF.
Every opportunity he got the sick dictator used to trash our country and our history and every opportunity they got his security department used to bully, intimidate and made to cower with fear. My dear fellow citizens, you know there is nothing new in what I am telling you. Some have witnessed it, plenty have experienced it and a vast majority would try not to think about it. The shame is unbearable.
One thing about TPLF is it is not a behind the curtain type of organization. It practically advertises every hit and all illegal acts. They use their criminal action to send a clear message to the citizen. That is why they insist that all are aware and versed on their mode of operation. They use their Television news, their newspapers and radio to send warning messages before they take action. When the unthinkable happens some are heard to say ‘he/she was warned but refused to listen-they deserve it!” You see the victim assumes the blame.
They have been systematically killing any and all emerging Ethiopians. They have goon squads that go around intimidating anybody they perceive to be a challenge. They use beating and flogging opponents to shame them in front of family, friends and a whole village. They use blackmail as a tool. They use the law to break the law. Meles used to amend the Constitution in a weekend. Even the Constitution is not worth any respect. Once you trash the Constitution what is on your way?
That is what the FBI s telling us. Their dirty deeds have arrived in America. Under Meles they were content in infiltrating our organizations such as Political Party support groups, Eders, Churches, Sport organization and disrupting from the inside. There is no Organization in North America that has not been a victim of TPLF insider disruption. They are crafty, relentless and completely understand our frame of mind. They exploit our ignorance, selfishness and greed to keep us in a daze.
The new TPLF leaders are a little bit reckless. I understand that too. It comes out of desperation. The group is under tremendous pressure. The late dictator I am afraid was a very selfish person. The sun revolved around him. When he left the light went dim. I do not think any social or military organization can take credit for the current upheaval. In my humble opinion the stink is coming from inside. I agree things are getting ripe on the outside and that could intensify the pressure inside the TPLF bowl. I am afraid the last CEO did not really care to what came after him. He was too busy surviving from day to day in this shark infested pond that he did not have the time and luxury to bother with outcome. He left an army with too many generals. Here in America there is a saying ‘all chiefs and no Indians.’ Debretsion, Bereket, Sebhat, Gebru, Abbay and a bunch of tin pot Generals are on their own trying to carve the biggest pie for themselves.
This desperate act of attempt to assassinate Ato Abebe here in the US is the work of a mad man. If the group was trying to send a message about the long arm of TPLF it is a very stupid and crazy gesture. We have been complaining about their disruptive activities in our midst but this mission of trying to kill is a little concerning. There is no question the FBI will get to the bottom of this incident. It should be treated as act of terrorism by a government and investigated to the full extent of the law and let the chips fall where they may.
I am sure the alleged conspirator will name names and tell us who gave the order for such criminal act. I doubt one individual will take it upon himself to take such mission. The Ethiopian Government under Dictator Meles routinely used to kill, rough up and intimidate its opponents in the African countries they are exiled to. The new guys are a little daring. Prime Minister Debretsion and security chief Workeneh Gebehu Should be interviewed about the work of their agents and made to take responsibility for their actions. We hope the US government will take the necessary action of baring all Ethiopian Government officials and family members from entering the country before everything is known about this conspiracy to commit crime in the US. We should demand the US government protect us from the monsters they have been coddling.
This definitely is not their first time committing crime here in the US. They have been using every legal and illegal means to harass, bankrupt and shut down Ethiopian Review Web site. They have employed what is known as denial of service attacks (DDoS Attack) to block ER and various Web sites, they have hired attorneys to intimidate ER publisher and are present in every of our Churches sawing dissent and negativity.
As Ethiopians in exile we should take the actions of these criminals seriously. It is true there is no criminal without the victim. Sometimes it is unfortunate things happen but you really can’t leave your door open and cry about being robbed do you? It is time we accept responsibility. The Ethiopian people that are facing the brunt of TPLF abuse should wake up and face their coward enemies. By now it should be clear silence is not the answer. The one year anniversary by our Muslim citizens is clear indication the regime does not listen to reason. The steadfastness of our Muslim brethren should be applauded and emulated by the rest of us. The call by our Orthodox church in exile for every one of us to safeguard our religion and our country is a timely reminder.
The fact that we have muscle now is a very empowering feeling. The cooperation between Ginbot7, Afar Front, anti Woyane activists in Tigrai, OLF, Patriotic Front and the formation of Ginbo7 Forces is the right direction considering the nature of TPLF. As I said before leveling the playing field is called for. That is one small step for our Fronts and one giant step for Ethiopia.
As for the Diaspora it is time we stop enriching the coffers of the evil regime. Any kind of involvement in their Ponzi scheme adds one day more to their life. As there is no little pregnancy there is no such thing as a little investment. It has to be a clean and complete break. This Abesha way of qualifying our illegal act is not good for our future. Your selfish action is hurting us and we ask you stop it. It is like MLK said ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ It is something to think about.
We feel the pain and hurt of our friend Abebe and his family. He has never threatened those that have hounded him and his family from his beloved homeland. His only weapon is his pen and pencil and the power of reason to resolve contradictions. Exiling him was not enough. Now they want to kill him in cold blood. That is the only language they speak. They have killed so many but they are unable to understand their violence has not resolved any of the outstanding issues. Don’t they see it? Don’t they know there are a lot more Abebebes as there were plenty of Asrats, Assefas, Eskindirs, Reyots? When is this madness going to stop? When is our country going to be a citadel of peace and harmony instead of a poster child for famine and civil war?
You know what no one gives you your freedom. You have to snatch it from those that want to make you their slave. No oppressor has ever said enough, I am going to leave you alone here go in peace. No, every oppressor faced by human kind was compelled to relinquish power by force. Not reason but force. The French revolution, the American revolution, the Russian revolution, the Chinese revolution, the South African revolution are all examples of the citizens taking matters into his hands and forcing the oppressor to step aside. Woyane dogs are not going to wake up one morning and pack and leave. You and I have to push them out. That is the only proven way. Anything else invites more abuse.
The role of higher education and Ethiopia. By Yilma Bekele
My beautiful and brilliant niece graduated from college a few days ago. We are all proud and happy with her accomplishment. It gave the whole family an opportunity to get together. Believe me the festival was preserved on video and camera, posted on Facebook, published on Instagram and micro blogged on tumblr. That is how important it was. No question it was a proud moment for her parents and an early Christmas present to the whole clan. We were lucky and our daughter was strong and focused and it all worked out pretty good.
Here in the US Universities, Colleges and institutes of higher education are held in high reverence. The vast majority are public institutions funded by the citizen. There also exists plenty of private non-profit and commercial places of learning. They are all designed with two purposes in mind. Knowledge and Utility.
They are places of socialization where the individual learns the democratic process such as tolerance, respect for others and the value of freedom. It is here where change is the norm innovation, curiosity and looking into the future is encouraged and the human mind is left to soar like an eagle in a storm.
The speeches during the graduation ceremony reflected these learned values. The rainbow nature of the graduating class speaks plenty to the capacity of the US system to absorb the best from the planet and toss it into what they call the melting pot. The graduate school representative’s speech was a perfect example of using education as a tool to help create a positive environment where society as a whole thrives.
The graduating class representative from the International Studies program gave a very forceful speech based on his experience as a young man in Tanzania. This is the way he started his long journey ‘… my first visit to Africa was five years ago …..i had never been to a developing country before and I went to Tanzania mostly because the idea of travelling outside my comfort zone scared me and I didn’t want not to do something potentially meaningful just because it scared me clearly I had brain development issues. I was also eager to make a difference the Africa I thought knew was the Africa of save the children brochures poor and in need of help I was comparatively reach and looking to help surely this will work out.’
His visit to Africa opened his eyes to the many problems facing mankind. His stay at the University gave him ‘some clarity’ not only how to view the situation but the knowledge on how to interpret them and be part of the solution. In his own eloquent words this is what he said.
‘USF helps us to fill in those gaps and it also helps us to recognize them understanding what we don’t understand made us more likely to question and more likely to dig deeper to find the root of problems.
Therein lays the beauty of our education. The world after all does have problems and the problems do have solutions. USF help us to figure out what they might be and what we can do to help. It is inspiring to feel that you’ve a better understanding of the world than you did just a year ago and you can attribute that improvement to something other than brain development.’
The President of the University spoke last. He joked about the most expensive Christmas gift they were receiving paid by themselves or their family and went on to remind them of the huge responsibility of living a meaningful life. He used a passage from a book ‘Tuesday’s with Maury’ to drive his point home. He choose a section which he referred to as ‘probing even disturbing’ where in the book Maury asks his middle aged friend ‘have you found someone to share your heart with, are you giving to your community, are you at peace with yourself and are you trying to be as human as can be?’
It is a perfect illustration of how the University was able to nurture and produce young minds skilled both in knowledge and utility. It has fulfilled its promise to society and the tax payer’s money and the tuition paid by the students is a worthy investment.
It is with sadness we hear the disturbances at Addis Abeba University the last few days. It would have been understandable if the students were protesting about the quality of education, the lack of freedom, the dismal state the library or internet, the issue of press freedom in the country or the non-existence of opportunity upon graduation. It is none of the above. The Ethiopian institution of higher education is not geared to equip the young minds to ask such probing even dangerous questions. Addis Abeba University is the reflection of the TPLF mentality of dumbing down the population and keeping them at each other’s throat.
From what we hear the upheaval was based on ethnic grounds. There is no question like the rest of the country the University is the playground of the TPLF mafia group. The administration and faculty is chosen based on loyalty to the regime and the once proud and independent student union has been demolished to be replaced by ‘Teletafi’ created in the face of TPLF. From experience we know Woyanes are good at starting conflict whenever they want to divert attention away from their criminal acts. The fact that they were successful in the University is what I find troubling here.
The very same place where students sacrificed asking ‘Land to the Tiller’, the very hallowed ground where they marched against the illegal regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa, today they are supposedly confronting each other arrayed in their own Kilil. What a shame is an understatement. It points to few facts about our country and the new society the TPLF regime has been constructing the last twenty years. In the particular case of the University it is obvious it has become a cadre training institute rather than a place of knowledge and utility. It is an absolute failure on both fronts.
This is made obvious by the recent report that stated the abysmal state of Medical school graduates from the so called medical schools. According to the newly minted proud TPLF windbag Dr. Tedros Adhanom ‘This year, for the first time, we enrolled 3,100 medical students, which is almost tenfold compared to what we used to enroll five, six years ago.’ Dear reader, this is a typical TPLF statement void of value and substance.
The report by PRI based on site interviews with teachers, students and aid workers makes it clear that the so called medical schools lack such rudimentary accessories as skilled teachers, half way equipped laboratories and decent libraries. Our brave Foreign Minster’s take on the dismal situation is ‘I don’t think we will change this country by waiting until we get something perfect to start to start something…it cannot be perfect. We have to start with what we have.’
On the surface one might be sympathetic to such talk. You would think a poor country doing its best to relieve a major problem by using its meager resources. But that is not a true statement. The actual situation is a country with plenty of human and material resources hell bent on mismanaging its god given asset. The TPLF regime sole interest is holding onto power regardless of the consequences.
The regime is interested in inflating the numbers for propaganda purpose rather than being concerned with quality. Like every one of their pie in the sky schemes they use numbers to show how much more they are achieving. The economy is showing double digit growth but the number of those starving is in the millions, the Federal system is working wonders but there is conflict in every region, the number of Doctors is increasing by tenfold except they are not real and according to foreign observers ‘they could do more harm than good.’
I would like to see Dr. Tedros and Dr. Debretsion take one of their medical school graduates as their family doctor. Would they take prescription drugs from those clinics and would they allow one of the surgeons to operate on their son or daughter? I doubt that. Medical practice is not an experimental science. Good enough does not work when it comes to human life.
Training excellent doctors, having great centers of education is not an out of reach dream for our country. It is a question of resources management and defining priorities. The regime spends millions on Chinese technology to jam and block Internet and other media to keep information from our people. Do you think that money could be used for education? The regime employees millions to spy on their family and neighbors can that budget be allocated for good purpose? The regime has one of the highest numbers of troops in Africa, is that necessary? It is all about priorities isn’t it?
Education is not taken seriously in today’s Ethiopia. The regime is not interested in producing an educated and motivated generation. They cannot afford a smart and questioning youth. There are not enough trained teachers, the class rooms are crowded, books and supplies are non-existent and the facilities are mostly from the Imperial era somehow still standing by the grace of God. Why do you think this is so?
The TPLF regime is not into education. Let alone as a national policy the regime does not even allow private individuals to donate books, computers and other learning tools without their permission. One has to get a written stamped document from the zone, Kilil, Ministry, Foreign office just to bring a computer. Internet is a government monopoly and communication is a regulated enterprise. Why do you think they do this?
Control is the key word here. The TPLF regime must control all aspects of the individual’s existence. They control where you live, what you own, where you work, what you read, what you watch and if possible what you think. They instill fear, they trade with fear, and they are peddlers of fear. You the reader of this article are terrified of the TPLF machine even from thousands of miles away. You wouldn’t dare criticize the regime without looking around you. You would not sign a petition afraid who might see it. You dare not go out on protest afraid of cameras. Fear is engrained into our very existence.
Have you heard the saying ‘I’m like a mushroom, keep me in the dark and feed me bullshit.’ They falsify statistics and claim double digit growth, they graduate a bunch of dressers and call them doctors, they open high schools and call them colleges and universities and we go along with that. Because the TPLF leaders are not educated they show absolute disdain to the expert or the educated. Being a medical doctor is not a simple matter. The title is conferred upon someone after a rigorous training and it carries a lot of both privilege and responsibility. Being a university or college professor is achieved after a lengthy process of learning and publishing and peer review.
When out TPLF bosses play around with such titles it is not a simple matter. It demeans the professions and the efforts of the people that sacrifice to achieve such noble goals. This is another continuation of their cynical view of our country our people and our future. The late criminal Meles used to reveal in insulting our past and mocking our achievement. His children are continuing the legacy of making our country and people not worthy of any pride. Even becoming a doctor has become a joke. I do not mean to dis respect my brothers and sisters working hard to learn under the difficult condition imposed by the regime. I share their frustration when asked to do the impossible without adequate training and necessary tools. My sincere apology since we are both victims of a nefarious system. We shall overcome.
Ethiopians had their new year on September 11. It is now 2005. On September 21, they also got a new prime minster. How delightfully felicitous to have a new prime minister in the new year! Heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to the people of Ethiopia are in order.
Hailemariam Desalegn was sworn in as prime minister before a special session of parliament. It was a rather low key affair with little pomp and circumstance. There were no parades and no sounds of bugle or trumpet announcing the changing of the guard. No inaugural balls. It was a starkly scripted ceremonial affair with minimal fanfare and political theatricality. Some 375 of the 547 members of Parliament sat quietly and heard Hailemariam recite the oath of office and gave him a hearty round of applause.
Since late May, Hailemariam has been operating in political limbo. He was officially described as “deputy”, “acting” and “interim” prime minster, the latter two offices unauthorized by the Constitution of Ethiopia. There were also some nettlesome constitutional questions about the duties of the deputy prime minister in the absence of the prime minister and the proper method of succession. Those issues aside, Hailemariam’s swearing in ceremony was scheduled on several prior occasions only to be cancelled without adequate explanation. The abrupt cancellations fueled all types of speculations and conspiracy theories about turmoil and confusion among the ruling elites. To complicate things further, it was officially announced days before the actual swearing in ceremony that Hailemariam would be sworn in early October. For some publicly unexplained reason, a special session of parliament was suddenly called for the purpose of naming a prime minister creating additional public confusion about the manifest dithering among the power elites.
Hailemariam takes office under a cloud of apprehension. Speculations abound that he is really a “figure head”, a “front man” and a “seat warmer” for the entrenched interests in a transitional period. Critics suggest that he will have little independence of action and will be puppet-mastered by those who control the politics and economy behind the scenes. Others suggest that he is a “technocract” who is unlikely to survive in a political machine that is lubricated by intrigue, cabalist conspiracy and skullduggery. But some, including myself, have taken a wait-and-see attitude and would like to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Hailemariam’s “inauguration speech” hammered the theme of “Stay the Course.” He said under his leadership the programs and projects that have been initiated and underway will continue to completion. “Our task is to stay the course on the path to firm development guided by the policies and strategies [of our party]. We will continue to pursue development and democracy by strengthening our collective leadership and by mobilizing the people.” He said modernizing agriculture and the rural economy by accelerating agricultural development were top priorities. His government “will work hard” to improve agricultural infrastructure. He promised help to cattle raisers. He emphasized the need for better educational quality and entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth. He said the country needs a curriculum focused on science, technology and math. His administration will work hard to expand opportunities for women and pay greater attention to women’s health and improved health care services to mothers. He called upon the intellectuals and professional associations to engage in rigorous applied policy analysis and research to solve practical problems.
Hailemariam said his vision is to see Ethiopia join the middle income countries in ten years. To achieve that, he said significant improvements are needed in industry and manufacturing. His administration will pay special attention to remove development bottlenecks, improve the export sector and facilitate greater cooperation between the private sector and the government. He promised to work hard to alleviate housing and transportation problems in Addis Ababa. He touched upon the economy noting that though inflation is coming down, much more action is needed to bring it under control. He urged Ethiopians to bite the bullet (tirs neksen) and make sure the existing plans for ground and rail transportation, hydroelectric power generation and telecommunications are successfully executed. He pledged to complete the “Hedasse Gidib” (“Renassaince Dam”) over the Blue Nile. He referred to corruption and mismanagement in land administration, rent and tax collections and public contracts and pledged to get the public involved in eliminating them. He noted that there were significant deficits in good governance in the operation of the police, courts, security system that need to be improved.
Hailemariam emphasized that importance of human rights. He urged the parliamentary oversight committee to review the work of the Human Rights Commission for improvements. He underscored the vital role of the Elections Commission, the Human Rights Commission, press organizations and opposition parties in the country’s democratization. He said he was ready to work “closely” with press organizations, civic society institutions and other entities engaged in the democratic process. On foreign policy, he focused on regional issues, Ethiopia’s contribution to peace-building in Somalia, South Sudan and the Sudan.
The speech could best be described as “technocratic” in the sense that it focused on ways of solving the complex problems facing the country. The speech was short on rhetoric, oratory, appeals to the pathos of the masses and big new ideas and promises. He did not sugarcoat the deep economic problems of the country with hyperbolic claims of 14 percent annual growth nor did he make any grandiose claims about Ethiopia as the “one of the fastest-growing, non-oil-dependent economies in the developing world”. There were no impactful or memorable lines or sound bite phrases in the speech. He offered no inspirational exhortations in words which “soared to poetic heights, igniting the imagination with vivid imagery”. There were no anecdotes or storytelling about the plight of the poor and the toiling masses. It was a speech intended to serve as a call to action with the message that he will work hard and asks the people to join him. He spoke of responsibility, hard work, willingness to lead, standing up to challenges, engaging the opposition, civil society and press institutions, etc. for the purpose of improving the lives of the people.
Hailemariam’s speech was a refreshing change from similar speeches of yester years in a number of ways. It was delivered in a dignified and statesmanlike manner. It was not an ideologically laced speech despite repeated references to the guiding grand plan. It was accommodating and bereft of any attitude of the old militaristic and aggressive tone of “my way or the highway.” There was no finger pointing and demonization. He did not use the old tricks of “us v. them”. He did not come across as an arrogant know-it-all ideologue. He offered olive branches to the opposition, the press and other critics of the ruling party. What was even more interesting was that he did not pull out the old straw men and whipping boys of “neoliberalism”, “neocolonialism”, and “imperialism” to pin the blame on them for Ethiopia’s problems. He did not pull any punches against the local opposition or neighboring countries. He used no threats and words of intimidation. Even when he addressed the issues of corruption, mismanagement and abuse of power, he aimed for legal accountability rather than issuing empty condemnatory words or threats.
Another surprising aspect was the fact that the speech contained none of the old triumphalism, celebratory lap running and victorious chest-beating exercises. There was no display of strength of the ruling party, no self-congratulations and ego stroking. He softly challenged the opposition and the people to work together in dealing with the country’s problems. His speech seemed to be aimed more at making the people think and act on existing plans than making new promises. Over all, the speech was written with intelligence, thoughtfulness and purpose. Hailemariam spoke in a cool and collected manner and tried to get his points across directly. What he lacked in rhetorical flair, he made up with a projection of self-assurance, humility, respectability and profesionalism.
What Was Not Said
There were various things that were not said. Though Hailemariam acknowledged the structural economic problems and the soaring inflation, he offered no short-term remedial plans. He repeatedly came back to “stay the course” theme. Does “staying the course” mean “our way or the highway”? Is national reconciliation an idea the ruling party will consider? There was no indication in the speech about the transitional process itself, but he did offer what appeared to be olive branches to the opposition, the press and others.
Hailemariam also did not give any indication about the release of the large numbers of political prisoners that are held throughout the country. Nor did he mention anything about re-drafting the various repressive press, civil society and so-called anti-terrorism laws. For over a decade, all of the major international human rights and press organizations have condemned the government in Ethiopia for its flagrant violations of human rights, illegal detention of dissidents and suppression of press institutions and persecution of journalists.
Words and Actions: Shoes of the New Prime Minister
It is often hard to judge politicians by the speeches they make. It is not uncommon for politicians to deliver inspirational speeches and come up short on the action side of things. It is true that action speaks louder than words. In his speech, it seems Hailemariam sought to move himself, his party and the people to action. But he is in a difficult situation. He feels, or is forced to feel, that he has to “fill in big shoes”. He said he will walk in footsteps that have already been stamped out. But the shoe that fits one person pinches another. But for all the hero worship, Hailemariam must realize that there is a difference between shoes and boots. For two decades, boots, not shoes, were worn. Those boots have made a disfiguring impression on the Ethiopian landscape. It must be hard to pretend to walk in the shoes of someone who had sported heavy boots. The problem is what happens when one wears someone else’s shoes that do not fit. Do you then change the shoe or the foot? I hope Hailemariam will in time learn to walk in the shoes of the ordinary Ethiopian. He will find out that those shoes are tattered and their soles full of holes. Once he has walked a mile in those shoes, he will understand what it will take to get every Ethiopian new shoes. He must also realize that “it isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” There comes a time when we all need new shoes. That time is now. All Ethiopians need new shoes for the long walk to freedom, democracy and human rights. Prime Minster Hailemariam does not need hand-me down shoes; he needs shoes that are just his size and style and rugged enough for the long haul.
I believe Hailemariam gave a good “professional” speech. I do not think it will be remembered for any memorable lines, phrases or grand ideas. It was a speech that fit the man who stood before parliament and took the oath of office. As a self-described utopian Ethiopian, I thought the very fact of Hailemariam taking the oath of office symbolically represented the dawn of a long-delayed democracy in Ethiopia. Few would have expected a man from one of the country’s minority ethnic group to rise to such heights. Whether by design, accident or fortune, Hailemariam’s presence to take the oath of office, even without a speech or a statement, would have communicated a profound message about Ethiopia’s inevitable and unstoppable transition to democracy. Most importantly, now any Ethiopian boy or girl from any part of the country could genuinely aspire to become prime minister regardless of his/her ethnicity, region, language or religion.
I do not know if history will remember Hailemariam’s “inaugural” speech as a game changer. History will judge him not for the words he spoke or did not speak when he took the oath of office but for his actions after he became prime minister. It’s premature to judge. I like the fact that he appeared statesmanlike, chose his words carefully, focused on facts and presented himself in businesslike manner. It is encouraging that he expressed commitment to work hard to make Ethiopia a middle income country within a decade. He showed a practical sense of mission and vision while keeping expectations to reasonable levels.
To be Or Not To Be a Prime Minister
“Being Prime Minister is a lonely job,” wrote Maggie Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minsiter. “In a sense it ought to be; you cannot lead from a crowd.” I would say being a prime minister for Hailemariam, as the first prime minster from a minority ethnic group, will be not only lonely but tough as well. But somebody has got to do it. Hailemariam has his work cut out for him and he will face great challenges from within and without, as will the people of Ethiopia. I wish him well paraphrasing Winston Churchill who told his people in their darkest hour:
I would say to the House as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Democracy. Democracy at all costs. Democracy in spite of all terror. Democracy, however long and hard the road may be, for without democracy there is no survival.”
I believe Ethiopia will survive and thrive and her transition to democracy is irreversible, inevitable, unstoppable and divinely ordained!
On a personal note, I would give Prime Minster Hailemariam a bit of unsolicited advice. Smile a little because when you smile the whole world, not just the whole of Ethiopia, smiles with you!
Amharic translations of recent commentaries by the author may be found at: http://www.ethiopianreview.com/amharic/?author=57
Previous commentaries by the author are available at: http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/ and www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/