The last Ethiopian standing. By Yilma Bekele
That is exactly what I feel like now. Who died and left me with this burden is not clear to me but believe me I feel like I am all alone and it is up to me to carry the flag and sing the national anthem. This business of being an Ethiopian has never been easy but you would think with experience and practice I have gotten the hang of it. I am afraid I am hopeless in that department. I still feel the burden.
They say the environment shapes our behavior. I am not here to argue whether ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ is the defining role in our development I will leave that to the scientists. Speaking for myself I believe the environment has played a big role in shaping who I am today. I am a transplanted Ethiopian who has been culturally shocked, mentally molded, philosophically tampered and forced to question realty on a daily basis. I have no idea how that central theme of being Ethiopian has managed to survive in all the thousands of ways my central core has been violently breached.
I have survived it all thanks to my family and that little town in Southern Ethiopia that imbued me with respect for elders, love for your neighbor and the beauty of leaving with different cultures in a mutually beneficial way. Those values are what differentiate the beast from the human. I believe that upbringing gave me an advantage when later on in life I found myself in circumstances that I have never thought I would find myself in. I have confronted moving to Addis from my small town, crossing an ocean to come to America, being the object of curiosity in small town in Oregon and coming to terms in growing old in the US with that wisdom I learnt while growing up that says ‘it is not really that bad just deal with it.’
As I said I have dealt with most things in a calm collected manner. The one thing that is really causing me pain and agony is this business of defending my country Ethiopia. It feels to me, mind you I might be mistaken, or a little touchy but it feels to me that every Hagos, Ketema, Kuma, Abdella, Betiso etc. is dumping on me for crimes I have no idea I committed.
Well you my Ethiopian reader, can I call you that without offending you, any way you must be thinking why the heck am I telling you all this in the middle of summer? It is because a few things happened the last few days and I felt they were directed at me. Not personally you know but since I feel I am the last one standing it felt personal in a roundabout way.
The big momentous event was my dear friend Jawar declaring he is Oromo first and his Ethiopianess was imposed on him. I have no problem with that. In fact I believe Jawar is Oromo, Ethiopian and American. He has got choices. Which one he puts primary is all up to him. I also don’t know if being an American was imposed on him or he voluntarily filled up a form and swore allegiance to the star spangled banner. With this speech he seems to dig the hole a little deeper. He was heard equating Ethiopian Oromo Moslems with those in Somalia and Djibouti claiming it to be one and the same struggle. I am afraid his next Al Jazeera appearance he is going to have to answer the question are you Muslim first or Oromo first. Good luck my friend.
The only thing I have problem is his assumption of the role of a spokesman ship for the Oromo people of Ethiopia. As far as I know he has never been elected to any office. He has never been sent as a delegate by any group in present day Ethiopia to speak for them. He has not articulated their demands in a coherent manner, written books about their glorious history, interpreted the nuances of their culture or educated the rest of us about the Oromo condition. In other words other than others declaring him an up and coming young intellectual and him playing that role to the hilt he has not bothered to study, interpret, add on the history and role of the Oromo people in what we call Ethiopia. Of course I stand to be corrected if someone could present me with a proof showing Obbo Jawar’s vast contribution to the knowledge base of Oromo history, Oromo culture and Oromo Psychology.
In the You tube video being distributed he is addressing a gathering of Oromo Muslims. I am assuming he was invited as an analyst regarding the Ethiopian Moslem confrontation with the dictatorial regime taking place in our country.
How did our political analyst approach the challenge is a good question to ask. All I could say is he did not respect the sensibilities of his audience. He was confrontational. He was dismissive, he was arrogant and he was an extremist of the highest order. That is the impression I got after watching this Duche like sermon. From what I understand the Ethiopian Moslem issue is regarding state interference in their religion. It is not about political power, it is not about demonizing the rest that don’t have the same belief. Then why is the speaker turning this peaceful issue of respect into one of violent confrontation? Our Ethiopian Moslem leaders have done a splendid job of making friends with all Ethiopians regardless of religion and gone the extra mile not to antagonize anyone and succeeded beyond expectations. The rest of Ethiopia has embraced their quest for fair treatment and stood side by side with them. Why is our young intellectual turning this simple request for respect into a jihad?
Is it possible our dear friend Jawar grew up in Woyane Ethiopia thus his understanding of our common history derives from that perspective. It looks like he never bothered to scratch below the surface and learn if there is more. What is education for if not to answer vital questions in a rational and measured manner? What is the point of learning if not to pinpoint problems and look for answers that would bring not only lasting solutions but harmony? Why would anyone boast about cutting peoples necks off because they follow a different god? Caught in the heat of the moment my young friend said that.
That was a week ago. Many people wrote their opinions about that. That is the beauty of democracy. It is all about the individual’s right to speak and write what he thinks and others to respond. We all learn from the diverse views and the give and take. Some we reject off hand, some gives us a pause and a some really say what we believe and we go ‘I am not alone.’ So that is what I was doing when I came across this audio by Ato Abdi Fite on Ze Habesha.com. It is presented in a rational manner but misses the point by a mile. It just does not seem to answer a very simple question that it itself asks. Who is us against them?
As far as I am concerned Ato Abdi Fite has locked himself into this small room and anybody outside is the enemy. Is that the way it is? What is the difference between the Oromo farmer, the Amhara peasant, the Tigrai laborer, the Adal pastoralist, the Ogaden herder, the Gambellan fisherman, the Dorze weaver etc.? Aren’t they all victims of the system? Isn’t this what the struggle is all about? Can one be free while the rest stay in bondage? Shouldn’t we all work together to liberate them all so they could grow and prosper?
Ato Abdi was repeating himself so much I thought we were on a never ending loop. Just because something is said many times over does not make it turn out to be a factual statement. It is just false hood but told in twenty minutes instead of two. The central theme in his audio essay is to accuse the rest of Ethiopians ignoring the plight of his Oromo people. Does he have a leg to stand on?
Not really. When in the sixties the Ethiopian students confronted the Imperial regime their number one slogan was ‘land to the tiller.’ They did not specify Amhara, Oromo, Sidama, Tigrai etc. land but their demand was all inclusive. When they went out and established EPRP and other anti-dictatorship associations they did not think in terms of ethnic affiliation but a nationwide movement. Today the Diaspora which Ato Abdi is addressing, I don’t see any ethnic based successful movement working to get rid of the ethnic based TPLF that is tormenting our country and people. We have one voice that abhors ethnic division, avoids ethnic/religion divide and concentrates in uniting the many to get rid of the few troublemaker woyanes.
It is true we popularize some of the victims of the TPLF but that is a political move. We are aware there are thousands of Eskinders, Reyots, Wubshets, Bekeles, Abubakers but we mention those victims as a symbol for the many. We don’t even ask what ethnic group they belong to nor do we care.
Instead of telling us where we failed him I wish he would tell us where he called on us and we ignored his cry. Instead of accusing us of not paying attention to the Oromo question I wish he would tell us what he did to popularize the Oromo issue. In today’s Ethiopia the system is the problem. The solution is to unite all the victims in a democratic and equal association to smash the system and build a new one that respects their aspiration to be free, to be seen as equal and form a lasting union. Being a polarizing figure like the road taken by Meles Zenawi is not the way to go. Uniting people to work for a common solution they could all live with is the Mandela way and it is much preferable and lasting.
What I find troubling about our two Oromo operatives is their failure to see the futility of the treatment they are prescribing to resolve the ethnic divide in our country. The medicine they are ranting about has been administered by the OLF for the last forty years. What exactly has it achieved other than give a false sense of cure while the disease is causing untold damage to our people? With wisdom born from experience the present day OLF is in the process of revising their failed policy and searching for ways of working with others like them that are feeling the brunt of TPLF fire. That is what leadership is about.
Our young intellectuals seem to be gung ho about opening old wounds and reviving past mistakes. What is also surprising is their suicidal drive to offend the one friend they always have on their corner. I am referring to the progressive forces in the Diaspora that are working hard to expose the TPLF regime. The Diaspora is the most important and natural ally of the oppressed people of Ethiopia. There is not one Diaspora organization that opposes the right of the Oromo people to determine their future without undue interference from outsiders. We feel the liberation of the Oromo is the liberation of the Amhara, the Gurage, the Tigrai and all Ethiopians.
Timing is very important in political struggle. Today our country seems to be entering a new stage with the death of the dictator. The political parties are making good progress in wiping out fear from their constituents. We have broken the regimes strangle on mass media thanks to ESAT. It is a shame the ranting and a childish tantrum of a few is taking our eyes away from the prize. All I can say is grow up, coming up with bizarre talk trying to garner attention lasts a few days but in the end you have to live with yourself. .
On July 29th. 1936 Abune Petros was executed by the Italian fascist that were trying to colonize our country for his refusal to submit. On May 2nd. 2013 the monument that was built to commemorate our Holy Father was removed by the order of the TPLF party that is currently ruling our country. Our Holy Father died for the first time. The murder by a firing squad was an honor and showed his deep love for his people and country. The fascist killed his body but he made his home in every Ethiopian soul for ever and ever. We all carry Abune Petros in our heart. ‘Abune Petros Adebabaye’, ‘Abune Petros Hawelt’ is not just a location but the symbol of our pride and the true meaning of sacrifice for a higher cause.
The order to Kill Abune Petros was given by the fascist Viceroy Graziani but the trigger was pulled by solders from the North that were faithfully serving the fascist invader. The order to remove our monument to our beloved father was given by the TPLF party but the backhoe and flatbed truck was driven by modern day Banda’s.
They claim the removal is temporary. That is not the issue. Was it necessary is our question. Could it have been avoided is our point. Aren’t there some things considered priceless is our contention. The same people that moved heaven and earth to bring back our stolen Obelisk and erect it in its rightful place felt no qualms about dispatching daily laborers to bring our hero down and place him in a warehouse. We rejoiced when our obelisk was returned because it is the symbol of our glorious past. Although their leader dismissed our joy and happiness and tried to claim it as his peoples private history we bit our tongue and dismissed his rudeness for immaturity.
I agree it is difficult to personally relate to a stone like an obelisk. Nevertheless it is the product of our ancestors and a symbol of their ingenuity for that period in our past. But Abune Petros is a living symbol every one of us would have no problem claiming, admiring and silently thinking ‘would I have courage to act like him?’
Abune Petros is what I always thought we Ethiopians were like. I was raised at a time when being an Ethiopian was something special. There was not enough adjective to describe our country and people. Yes I am aware that we had lots of problems to resolve after all forging a nation is not a cake walk. There were many that were left behind and quite a few that did not get a fair share of what was on the table. We are still trying to come to terms with that.
That still should not dampen our glorious past. Abune Petros was one of those bigger than life Ethiopians that added a positive value to our experience. He defined patriotism, resolve, love, spiritual guidance and commitment to the truth. He accompanied our Emperor and the civilian army to Maichew and confronted the fascist army. He witnessed the gallantry of his people and the savageness of the European invaders. They came with modern weapons and poison gas to scare us to submission. We lost the battle but it only made us realize defeat was not an option. Surrender was not the language of the Ethiopian at that time. Yes times do change. A visitor would have a hard time believing the current generation descended from those that even washed the shoes of the foreigners least they take our soil with them.
Abune Petros continued to fight the way he knew. His religion and his love for his country were his weapons. From the monastery of Debre Libanos to far away churches he continued to rally his people to stand up straight and took the cry ‘By any means necessary!’ to drive the invader out of our cherished land. During his interrogation this is what he told the fascist authority when asked to accept Italy’s sovereignty over Ethiopia or face death.
“The cry of my countrymen who died due to your nerve-gas and terror machinery will never allow my conscious to accept your ultimatum. How can I see my God if I give a blind eye to such a crime?”
His last words before the bullets tore our bishop and Holy Father were:
“My fellow Ethiopians, do not believe the Fascists if they tell you that the patriots are bandits, the patriots are people who yearn for freedom from the terrors of fascism. Bandits are the soldiers who are standing in front of me and you, who came from far away to violently occupy a weak and peaceful country. May God give the people of Ethiopia the strength to resist and never bow to the Fascist army and its violence. May the Ethiopian earth never accept the invading army’s rule.”
His defiance and heroism became the battle cry of our patriotic army thru out the land and it echoed in our valleys and mountains from north to south east to west and the invader never saw a day of peace until they were driven out.
This was the man and his memory our new Bandas were trying to extinguish that day a week ago. They thought removing a statue would erase history. They tried to cover their mis-deeds with talk of progress. We are not against progress. We in the Diaspora contribute more than our share to help our country and people. As a matter of fact there would be no tall buildings, no dinner on the table and no profitable Ethiopian Airlines and no TPLF millionaire without remittance from the Diaspora. We just know that there are some things more important than others and our heritage, our history and our patriots cannot be kicked around wantonly. We are also well aware of TPLF’s habit of using wedge issues to divide us and hiding behind nation building while using a wrecking ball to destroy our history.
It is a sad sign of the times that our dear father’s memorial statue was removed without much protest. Those that preach about waging a ‘peaceful struggle’ against the new Bandas were nowhere to be seen holding a vigil. They were given an opportunity to unite and galvanize their people and use this Woyane insult against our history as a ‘teachable’ moment. Yes a little sacrifice is what is required to fight injustice. Yes there is imprisonment, injury even death in the struggle for freedom and dignity. People like Eskinder, Reyot, Andualem, Bekele Gerba , Abubeker and Woubeshet are behind bars because they choose not to submit to injustice and heed Abune Petros’s call to stand their ground. I am sure what gives them such determination is his everlasting pray “May God give the people of Ethiopia the strength to resist and never bow to the Fascist army and its violence.” We shall overcome.
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Last April, I wrote a “Special Tribute to My Personal Hero Eskinder Nega”. In that tribute, I groped for words as I tried to describe this common Ethiopian man of uncommon valor, an ordinary journalist of extraordinary integrity and audacity. Frankly, what could be said of a simple man of humility possessed of indomitable dignity? Eskinder Nega is a man who stood up to brutality with his gentle humanity. What could I really say of a gentleman of the utmost civility, nobility and authenticity who was jailed 8 times for loving liberty? What could I say of a man and his wife who defiantly defended press freedom in Ethiopia, even when they were both locked up in Meles Zenawi Prison just outside of the capital in Kality for 17 months! What could anybody say of a man, a woman and their child who sacrificed their liberties, their peace of mind, their futures and earthly possessions so that their countrymen, women and children could be free!?
Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega is a special kind of hero who fights with nothing more than ideas and the truth. He slays falsehoods with the sword of truth. He chases bad ideas with good ones. Armed only with a pen, Eskinder fights despair with hope; fear with courage; anger with reason; arrogance with humility; ignorance with knowledge; intolerance with forbearance; oppression with perseverance; doubt with trust and cruelty with compassion. Above all, Eskinder speaks truth to power and to those who abuse, misuse, overuse and are corrupted by power.
Now almost a year since I wrote my tribute, I remember my great friend and brother Eskinder Nega as he languishes in Meles Zenawi Prison. But I do not remember him in sadness or with heartache. No! No! I remember Eskinder in the hopeful, faith-filled and resolute words of American poet James Russell Lowell (“The Present Crisis”): “When a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth’s aching breast…/ Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide…/ In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side… For Humanity sweeps onward: where to-day the martyr stands…/ Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne…/
Eskinder and his wife Serkalem did the right deed to defend the right of press freedom in Ethiopia. They spoke truth to falsehood in their newspapers and never backed down. They spoke right to wrong in kangaroo court. The man who tried for 20 years to right the wrongs of tyranny, today, like Lowell’s Truth, hangs on the scaffold in the belly of Meles Zenawi Prison, a place of “wrath and tears where the horror of the shade looms”, with his head bloodied but UNBOWED!
Last week, Birtukan Mideksa wrote an opinion piece for Al Jazeera urging the release of Eskinder Nega and other journalists including Reeyot Alemu (winner of the International Women’s Media Foundation 2012 Courage in Journalism Award) and Woubshet Taye (2012 Hellman/Hammett Grant Award) and all political prisoners in Ethiopia. Birtukan is the first female political party (Unity for Democracy and Justice) leader in Ethiopian history. Birtukan, like Eskinder, was the personal political prisoner of the late dictator Meles Zenawi. Meles personally ordered Birtukan’s arrest and on December 29, 2008, a year and half after he “pardoned” and released her from prison, he threw her back in jail without even the usual song and dance of kangaroo court. On January 9, 2010, Meles sent chills down the spines of reporters when he declared sadistically that “there will never be an agreement with anybody to release Birtukan. Ever. Full stop. That’s a dead issue.” On January 15, 2010, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an opinion finding that Birtukan Midekksa is a political prisoner.
It is heartwarming to read Birtukan’s moving and robustly principled defense of Eskinder Nega and the other Ethiopian journalists and political prisoners. It is also ironic that Eskinder should replace Birtukan as the foremost political prisoner in Ethiopia today.
Few can speak more authoritatively on the plight of Eskinder and all Ethiopian political prisoners than my great sister Birtukan who also spent years in in the belly of Meles Zenawi Prison, a substantial part of it in solitary confinement. In her Al Jazeera commentary she wrote:
My journey to become a political prisoner in Ethiopia began as a federal judge fighting to uphold the rule of law. Despite institutional challenges and even death threats, I hoped to use constitutional principles to ensure respect for basic rights… [Ethiopian] authorities have detained my friend Eskinder Nega eight times over his 20-year career as a journalist and publisher.After the 2005 elections, Eskinder and his wife – Serkalem Fasil – spent 17 months in prison. Pregnant at the time, Serkalem gave birth to a son despite her confinement and almost no pre-natal care. Banned from publishing after his release in 2007, Eskinder continued to write online. In early 2011, he began focusing particularly on the protest movements then sweeping North Africa and the Middle East. Eskinder, who does not belong to any political party because of a commitment to maintain his independence, offered a unique and incisive take on what those movements meant for the future of Ethiopia. Committed to the principle of non-violence, Eskinder repeatedly emphasised that any similar movements in Ethiopia would have to remain peaceful. Despite this, police briefly detained him and warned him that his writings had crossed the line and he could face prosecution. Then in September , 2011, the government made good on that threat. Authorities arrested Eskinder just days after he publicly criticised the use of anti-terror laws to stifle dissent. They held him without charge or access to an attorney for nearly two months. The government eventually charged Eskinder with terrorism and treason, sentencing him to 18 years in prison after a political trial. Unfortunately, Eskinder is not alone; independent journalists Woubshet Taye and Reeyot Alemu also face long prison terms on terrorism charges.
Eskinder is a hero to the world but a villain to Meles Zenawi and his disciples
Who really is Eskinder Nega? In Meles Zenawi’s kangaroo court, Eskinder has been judged a “terrorist”, a “public enemy”. In the court of world public opinion, Eskinder is celebrated as the undisputed champion and defender of press freedom.
When speaking of my brother Eskinder, I could be accused of exaggerating his virtues, hyperbolizing his singular contributions to press freedom in Ethiopia and overstating his importance to the cause of free expression throughout the world. Perhaps I am biased because I hold this great man in such high respect, honor and admiration. If I am guilty of bias, it is because seemingly in Ethiopia they have stopped making genuine heroes like Eskinder Nega, Woubeshet Taye, Anudalem Aragie, Temesgen Desalegn… and heroines like Birtukan Midekssa, Serkalem Fasil, Reeyot Alemu….
Let others more qualified and more eloquent than I speak of Eskinder Nega’s heroism, courage, fortitude, audacity and tenacity in the defense of press freedom.
… No honor can be greater than to read Eskinder Nega’s words. He is more than a symbol. He is the embodiment of the greatness of truth, of writing and reporting real truth, of persisting in truth and resisting the oppression of untruth… So let us marvel at and celebrate Eskinder Nega. For who among us could write what I am about to read [a blog of Eskinder’s] spirit unbound, faith in freedom and the power of the word untrammeled…
Larry Siems, director of PEN Freedom to Write Award, at the award ceremonies groped for words trying to describe Eskinder Nega. “…[This year] one [journalist] really stood out, and that is Eskinder Nega. So tonight we recognize one of the world’s most courageous, most intrepid, most creative advocates of press freedom that I have ever seen…”
In awarding its prestigious Hellman/Hammett Award for 2012, Human Rights Watch described Eskinder and the other journalists as “exemplifying the courage and dire situation of independent journalism in Ethiopia today. Their ordeals illustrate the price of speaking freely in a country where free speech is no longer tolerated.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists declared, “The charges against Eskinder are baseless and politically motivated in reprisal for his writings. His conviction reiterates that Ethiopia will not hesitate to punish a probing press by imprisoning journalists or pushing them into exile in misusing the law to silence critical and independent reporting.”
The specific charge against Eskinder was that he conspired with a banned opposition party called Ginbot 7 to overthrow the government. At his trial, government prosecutors showed as evidence a fuzzy video, available on YouTube, of Eskinder at a public town-hall meeting, discussing the potential of an Arab Spring-type uprising in Ethiopia. State television labeled Eskinder and the other journalists as “spies for foreign forces.” There were also allegations that he had accepted a terrorist mission—what the mission involved was never specified.
The United States remains deeply concerned about the trial, conviction, and sentencing of Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega, as well as seven political opposition figures, under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. The sentences handed down today, including 18 years for Eskinder and life imprisonment for the opposition leader Andualem Arage, are extremely harsh and reinforce our serious questions about the politicized use of Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law in this and other cases.
The deprivation of liberty of Eskinder Nega is arbitrary in violation of articles 9, 10, 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 9, 14, and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights… The Working Group requests the Government to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation, which include the immediate release of Mr. Nega and adequate reparation to him.
Meles said Eskinder and all of the journalists he jailed are “terrorists”. If Eskinder Nega is a terrorist, then speaking truth to power is an act of terrorism. If Eskinder Nega is a terrorist, then advocacy of peaceful change is terrorism; thinking is terrorism; dissent is terrorism; having a conscience is terrorism; refusing to sell out one’s soul is terrorism; standing up for democracy and human rights is terrorism; defending the rule of law is terrorism and peaceful resistance of state terrorism is terrorism. If Eskinder Nega is a terrorist today, Nelson Mandela was a terrorist then. The same goes for all of the other jailed journalists and opposition leaders jailed by Meles Zenawi.
But the real terrorists know who they are. When Meles and his horde of guerilla fighters challenged military dictator Mengistu Hailemariam, they were officially branded as terrorists, bandits, mercenaries, criminals, thugs, murderers, marauders, public enemies, subversives, rebels, assassins, malcontents, invaders, traitors, saboteurs and other names. Were they?
The current ruling party, “Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Movement” (TPLF), is listed today in the Global Terrorism Database as a terrorist organization. Documented acts of terrorism by the TPLF include armed robberies, assaults, hostage taking and kidnapping of foreign nationals and journalists and local leaders, hijacking of truck convoys, extortion of business owners and merchants, nongovernmental organizations, local leaders and private citizens and intimidation of religious leaders and journalists.
An official Inquiry Commission established by Meles Zenawi to investigate the deaths that occurred in the post-2005 election period determined that security forces under the personal control and command of Meles Zenawi massacred 193 unarmed protesters in the streets and severely wounded another 763. The Commission concluded the “shots fired by government forces were intended not to disperse the crowd of protesters but to kill by targeting the head and chest of the protesters.” On November 1, 2005, security forces in the Meles Zenawi Prison in Kality gunned down 65 inmates while confined in their cells. No one has ever been brought to justice for these crimes against humanity.
Who are the real terrorists and criminals in Ethiopia today?
Tale of the Good Wolf and Evil Wolf
The late Meles Zenawi and his apostles remind me of an old Cherokee (Native American) tale of two wolves: A grandfather tells his young grandson that everyone has a Good Wolf and an Evil Wolf inside of them fighting with each other every day. The Good Wolf thrives on peace, love, truth, generosity, humility and kindness. The Evil Wolf feeds on hatred, anger, greed, lies and arrogance. “Which wolf will win, grandfather?” asked the boy. “Whichever one you feed,” replied the grandfather.
Meles and his disciples have been feeding the Evil Wolf for decades, and now the Evil Wolf sits triumphantly crowned on the Throne of Hatred and Falsehood. They have fattened the Evil Wolf with a lavish diet of inhumanity, barbarity, brutality, ignobility, immorality, depravity, duplicity, incivility, criminality, ethnocentricity, mediocrity, corruptibility and pomposity.
Eskinder, Reeyot, Woubshet, Andualem. Temesgen and the rest have managed to tame the Good Wolf and have followed the path of peace, love and truth. Their wolf thrives on a simple diet of humanity, unity, integrity, authenticity, civility, morality, incorruptibility, dignity, affability, humility, nobility, creativity, intellectuality and audacity.
It is hard for the reasonable mind to fathom why Meles and his disciples chose to embrace and follow the path of the Evil Wolf. Indeed, the Evil Wolf has been very good to them. The Evil Wolf has made it possible for them to accumulate great wealth and amass enormous power. They have unleashed the Evil Wolf to divide and rule the country along ethnic, religious, linguistic and regional lines. They have used the Evil Wolf to destroy not only the lives and futures of young professionals like Eskinder, Birtukan, Reeyot, Woubshet, Temesgen and Andualem but also the future of the younger generation. They have used the Evil Wolf to sell off the country’s most fertile lands for pennies and plunder its natural resources. They have used the Evil Wolf to convict the innocent in kangaroo courts. They have used the Evil Wolf to strike fear and loathing in the hearts and minds or ordinary citizens.
They have given new meaning to the ancient Roman playwright Paluatus’ aphorism homo homini lupus est (“man is a wolf to his fellow man”). They have used the Evil Wolf to create war from peace; strife from harmony; wrong from right; vice from virtue; division from unity; shame from honor; immorality from decency; poverty from wealth; hatred from love; ignorance from knowledge; corruption from blessing; bondage from freedom and dictatorship from democracy. In 21 years, Meles and his disciples have managed to jam a whole nation between the jaws of a snarling, gnarling and howling Evil Wolf.
How long before the Good Wolf wins over the Evil Wolf?
The great Nelson Mandela wondered when Apartheid would end. He told those who had unleashed the Evil Wolf of Apartheid, “You may succeed in delaying, but never in preventing the transition of South Africa to a democracy.”
My friend Eskinder Nega warned the overlords of the Evil Wolf in Ethiopia, “Freedom is partial to no race. Freedom has no religion. Freedom favors no ethnicity. Freedom discriminates not between rich and poor countries. Inevitably freedom will overwhelm Ethiopia.”
But how long before freedom overwhelms Ethiopia? How long before Ethiopia transitions to democracy? How long before “truth crushed to earth rises again” in Ethiopia? How long before all Ethiopian political prisoners are set free? Before Eskinder is released and joins his wife Sekalem and their son Nafkot? How long before Reeyot, Woubshet, Andualem… rejoin their families? How long before the Good Wolf wins over the Evil Wolf?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. agonized over similar questions during the darkest days of the struggle for civil rights in America. His answer to the question, “How long?” was “Not long!”.
I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?” Somebody’s asking, “How long will prejudice blind the visions of men…?”
Somebody’s asking, “When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham… be lifted from this dust of shame…? … How long will justice be crucified, and truth bear it?”
I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because “truth crushed to earth will rise again.”
How long? Not long, because “no lie can live forever.”
How long? Not long, because “you shall reap what you sow.”
How long before the Good Wolf wins over the Evil Wolf? Not long, because “once to every man and nation comes the moment” to decide between Good and Evil.
How long before wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Addis Ababa, Mekele, Adama, Gondar, Awassa, Jimma… is lifted from the dust of shame? Not long, “because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
How long before truth and right crushed to earth rise up again in Ethiopia? Not long, because truth and right will not remain forever on the scaffold nor wrong and falsehood nest forever on the throne!
I have no greater honor than to stand up, speak up and defend my friends, brothers and sisters Eskinder Nega, Serkalem Fasil, Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye, Temesgen Desalegn, Andualem Aragie and all political prisoners held in Meles Zenawi Prison!
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:
Mr. Charles Krauthammer is an American syndicated columnist, political commentator and is considered a highly influential conservative voice. He is critical of President Obama’s policies and supports the election of Mr. Romney to be President. As a tradition if a candidate for the presidency does not have a thick resume when it comes to foreign policy issues they normally travel to friendly European countries to shake hands with the leaders for what is called a ‘photo opportunity’.
It is with this in mind that Mr. Romney flew over to Great Britain to rub shoulders with British Conservative Party leaders and attend the opening of the Summer Olympic Games. Unfortunately the trip did not go as intended. Mr. Romney got the British all pissed off by doubting their security plans and furthermore questioning if they were enthusiastic about the games being held there. It is fair to say all of Britain wanted nothing more than for Mr. Romney to pack and leave.
His ill manners in Britain were a source of unbearable anguish to his friends and supporters in the conservative camp. I very much enjoyed Mr. Krauthammer’s analysis of the unfortunate situation. He wrote “What Romney answered in that question, it’s unbelievable, it’s beyond human understanding, it’s incomprehensible. I’m out of adjectives,” Krauthammer said. ‘All Romney has to do is say nothing. It’s like a guy in the 100-meter dash. All he has to do is to finish, he doesn’t have to win. And instead, he tackles the guy in the lane next to him and ends up disqualified. I don’t get it.”
I brought this up because that is how his friends and supporters must have felt when they heard Ato Seye Abraha’s speech in Seattle a few days back. Fresh from his two years course at Harvard all Ato Seye got to do was utter a few smart sounding phrases and reintroduce himself into our politics. Just like Mr. Romney Ato Seye ended up putting his foot in his mouth. Mistakes like this occur not because the individuals are uninformed but rather they just happen to be clueless about their surroundings and lack common sense to fully understand what is expected of them to achieve the goal they set for themselves.
Mr. Romney goes to Britain and undermines his hosts and Ato Seye traveled to Seattle to insult the sensibilities of his fellow Ethiopian citizens in exile. Their action is what is called self inflicted wound. The fact that Ato Seye was invited by the same poor immigrants that left their homeland due to the policies put in place while he was part of the leadership is what makes the situation a little difficult to comprehend. I always say we Ethiopians are a marvel to watch and Seattle is the epicenter of that phenomenon. I do not know how to put it in English but in Amharic we say ‘teteketo asteki’.
At Seye is not an ordinary Ethiopian. He is one of the founders of the Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and was member of the Central Committee or Politburo of that infamous organization. Upon the defeat of the Derg and TPLF takeover of power Ato Seye has served his party as Defense Minister, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigrai (EFFORT) and Chairman of Ethiopian Airlines.
After the war between Shabia and Woyane in 19998-2000 Ato Seye was accused by his friend Meles Zenawi of leaning towards Bonapartism and extreme corruption. He was expelled from the TPLF, tried by Ato Meles’s kangaroo court and spent six years in prison. One can say he is lucky because normally in the TPLF dissent can cost you your life. It is also good to note that unlike other prisoners taken by TPLF he did not have to ask for pardon to get his freedom.
Upon his release Ato Seye formed Forum for Democratic Dialogue (FDD) with the aim of bringing opposition activists together. Around this time Judge Bertukan Mideksa Chairman of Andenet Party was again accused of fabricated charges by Ato Meles and taken to Kalit prison. In her absence Dr. Negasso Gidada another former member of EPRDPF assumed the Chairmanship. Ato Seye joined Andenet Party. Please note his admission to the party caused such an upheaval that a few of the founding members such as Professor Mesfin and Ato Debebe Eshetu including quite a few young activists were driven away from the party.
This was also the time Ato Meles and his TPLF Party were holding elections. This was also the main reason Chairman Bertukan was removed from the scene. Our beloved leader was held in solitary confinement and subjected to psychological abuse and inhuman treatment with the knowledge of Meles Zenawi and his security department.
Despite the fact that their Chairman was in jail for no crime other than being highly popular and a proven leader, despite the fact that the so called ‘Election Board’’ was still under the TPLF, despite the fact that foreign observers were put on short leash and despite the fact that plenty Ethiopians advocated boycotting this election charade Andenet choose to give Meles Zenawi a cover of legitimacy by showing up to be humiliated. While the TPLF was holding election circus Andenet candidates were in North America holding ‘Town Hall’ meetings with the Diaspora that cannot vote.
It was not long after the 99% Meles victory Ato Seye came to the US to go to school. For two years he stayed out of Ethiopian politics. He did not involve himself in Diaspora politics either. Seattle is the first instance we hear from Ato Seye. He was representing Medrek with fellow politician Dr. Merera Gudina.
As far as I am concerned the timing is a little difficult to comprehend. Our country is on the verge of change after over twenty years of TPLF dictatorship. The Woyane kingpin has died unexpectedly and his Party is moving heaven and earth to find a formula to continue the misrule. Why in the world would an Ethiopian opposition leader hold a meeting in faraway USA is a good question to ask? On the other hand it fits the pattern. When there is vital burning issue at home the leaders travel outside to hold discussion with the non stake holders. It is definitely not to explain the situation to us. We have more unfettered discussion in the Diaspora. We enjoy free press. We have more Radio and television service. Our Web sites are unblocked and independent. What in the world can they tell us that we don’t know?
Ato Seye’s short speech (http://www.awrambatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/SEEYE-SEATTLE-SPEECH.pdf) in Seattle was a little short on facts and completely void of vision and historical accuracy. It can also be said that Ato Seye has Chutzpah or Cojones or in simple English balls to show up among the Diaspora and read eulogy for the person that caused so much hurt and agony to our people. Dr. Merera as usual served as a sidekick the role he has played the last eight years or so.
I am hundred percent sure he(Seye) is aware of the fact that our people were ordered to line up in the rain and forced to show grief but choose to tell us it was a voluntary action why? He is knowledgeable of the workings of the Woyane system he helped set up that practiced the art of control and coercion starting in Tigrai, why is he pretending otherwise?
I am one hundred percent sure he did not chastise his American friends when they celebrated the death of Osama Bin Laden whereas we are lectured to be ashamed of showing pleasure at the death of the tyrant why is that? Don’t we feel pain? Don’t we grief for the many thousands that were killed by TPLF army and security?
I am really surprised by his lecture regarding our lack of ‘diplomatic skills’. He brought the example of Armenians in the US that play a strong and vital role lobbying to steer American foreign policy to help their homeland. He also thinks our vehement opposition to Ambassador Susan Rice’s speech at the dictator’s funeral to be misguided and false. I beg to disagree on both points.
The first analogy is way off mark. Armenians migrated to the US a long time ago. About three generations back. In fact about twenty years ago the Governor of California was of Armenian descent. Ethiopians are still on the first generation. The fact of the matter is we are the most successful and vibrant group among the new immigrants. Our New Year events are attended by Governors, Congressmen and Mayors all across America. We have managed to schedule hearings in the US Congress regarding our country and even managed to present a bill to help assure Human Rights in dear old Ethiopia. No new immigrant has scaled such heights. We got work to do but we have not been idle. I do not recall Ato Seye giving us a hand the last two years he has resided in the US.
As for Ambassador Rice she was wrong. She made mockery of our people’s quest for freedom and dignity. She insulted us. We will not trade our honor to curry favor from no one. We vented our frustrations. Sometimes it is necessary to stand for what we believe to be right and she has to be told in no uncertain words that heaping praise to a human right abuser, denier of democracy and murder of our family and friends is never acceptable.
The Seattle speech was geared to lay a conciliatory tone to a certain wing of TPLF and also advise the rest of us not to look back. I don’t care about the TPLF part but I do agree it is a good idea to move forward. There is also this little thing called history. We learn from the past so we avoid certain mistakes. South Africans have managed to do that. They just did not gloss over past mistakes but brought it up in the open and dealt with it. That is what ‘Truth and reconciliation’ is about. Air your dirty laundry for all to see and punish those that crossed the line and reform those that show remorse. Moving forward without doing that is like putting dirty cloth after a shower. The murder of Assefa Maru, the death of Professor Asrat the shooting of Shibre and others have to be laid to rest in a proper way.
I am not being uncharitable towards Ato Seye. As I said before he is not an ordinary Ethiopian. He was invited to Seattle because he is a political figure. He was one of the leaders of TPLF Party. He was present when Eritrea gained its independence a decision made behind closed doors, he was there when the current constitution was imposed on us, he facilitated the formation of Kilil Bantustans, he was aware that the so called EPDRF was nothing but a cover up for TPLF domination, he was the CEO of EFFORT which got its start by using the law to steal important businesses and properties that belonged to all Ethiopians to be controlled by a party and a family and today he is one of the leaders of the biggest and important legally recognized opposition party. This is the reason we should hold him to a higher standard.
Leadership is not an easy matter. That is why all the advanced democracies hold competition on a level playing field to pick the best among many. The leader can make or break the country. For every Nelson Mandela there is an Adolf Hitler. It is obvious we do not have the skills to choose a good leader. We haven’t had the experience. Our people have not yet chosen a leader thru the ballot. We must be among the very few in the world that have not enjoyed the luxury of deciding who the leader should be. Throughout our history leadership has been usurped by the strong and cunning.
Why is it so? Is it because we don’t question authority? Do we differ to other due to wealth, education, age or linage? Why are we so meek? When is this behavior going to stop? When are we going to stop being cheer leaders and start the real work of leading by example? The Diaspora has to stop serving as an ATM machine to those that use our kind heart to further their failed policies. The Diaspora has to stop being a door mat and learn how to say no. There is nothing wrong with that. Ato Seye has to stop treating us like imbeciles and go join his old party now his nemesis is gone. This idea of telling us there has been twenty years of peace and progress in Ethiopia should be laid to rest. This idea of lecturing us on how to mind our business sitting on top or the sideline is not acceptable. We got plenty of that what we are lacking is bold leadership that listens to our heart beat.
It is time to bury the hatchet and move forward in Ethiopia! Nelson Mandela taught that “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” I would add that your enemy also becomes your friend and your ally. Historically, when warring nations of Native Americans made peace with each other, they would bury their axes (hatchets) into the ground as a symbolic expression of the end of hostilities. I say today is the perfect time for all Ethiopians to bury the hatchet of ethnic division, religious sectarianism, regional conflict and human rights violations. It is the perfect time to shake hands, embrace each other and get our noses to the grindstone to build a new democratic Ethiopia where the rule of law is upheld and human rights and democratic institutions respected.
Today, not tomorrow, is the best time to put an end to historic hatreds and resentments and open a new chapter in Ethiopia’s history. Today is the best time to unchain ourselves from the burdens of the past, close the wounds that have festered for generations and declare to future generations that we will no longer be prisoners of resentments of the past. Nelson Mandela said that “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” Mandela did not drink from the poison of resentment and managed to outlive most of his “enemies” and is still alive and kicking at 94. But today there is a lot of resentment going around in Ethiopia and in the Ethiopian Diaspora. There is the quiet and despairing resentment of those who feel wounded and defeated by loss. There is the gloating resentment of those who feel victorious and morally vindicated by the loss of others. Then there is the resentment of those who are indifferent because they just don’t care. Today is a great day to say good-bye to historic animosities. Today is a great day to end bitterness, not tomorrow. Reaching out to our adversaries must begin today, not tomorrow. Reconciliation must begin today, not tomorrow. Most importantly, “radical improvements in good governance and democracy” must begin today, not tomorrow.
Let’s Begin Radical Improvements in Good Governance and Democracy Today
In 2007, the late Meles Zenawi expressed his “hope that [his] legacy” would be not only “sustained and accelerated development that would pull Ethiopia out of the massive deep poverty” but also “radical improvements in terms of good governance and democracy.” Today is the day to begin in earnest radical improvements in good governance and democracy. These improvements must begin with the release of all political prisoners, repeal of anti-terrorism, civil society and other oppressive laws and declaration of allegiance to the rule of law.
All political prisoners in Ethiopia must be released. Their situation has been amply documented for years in the reports of the U.S. Government, U.N. agencies and various international human rights organizations. The 2011 U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Ethiopia (April 2011) documented “unlawful killings, torture, beating, and abuse and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces, especially special police and local militias, which took aggressive or violent action with evident impunity in numerous instances; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of suspected sympathizers or members of opposition or insurgent groups; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention…”
In its 2010 World Report-Ethiopia, Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded that “torture and ill-treatment have been used by Ethiopia’s police, military, and other members of the security forces to punish a spectrum of perceived dissenters, including university students, members of the political opposition, and alleged supporters of insurgent groups… Secret detention facilities and military barracks are most often used by Ethiopian security forces for such activities.”
A report of the U.N. Committee Against Torture (November 2010) expressed “deep concerns about numerous, ongoing and consistent allegations concerning the routine use of torture by the police, prison officers and other members of the security forces, as well as the military, in particular against political dissidents and opposition party members, students, alleged terrorist suspects and alleged supporters of insurgent groups such as the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). It is concerned about credible reports that such acts frequently occur with the participation, at the instigation or with the consent of commanding officers in police stations, detention centers, federal prisons, military bases and in unofficial or secret places of detention.”
It is difficult to accurately establish the number of political prisoners in Ethiopia. International human rights organizations are not allowed access to political prisoners or to investigate their situation. But various reports provide estimates that vary from several hundreds to tens of thousands. Recent estimates by Genocide Watch peg the number of political prisoners at around one hundred thousand. Political dissidents, critics and opposition leaders continue to be arrested and detained every day. In the past year, an undetermined number of members of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) and the Oromo People’s Congress (OPC) have been detained for political reasons. Other opposition parties have reported similar arrests of their members. Alleged members of the Oromo Liberation Front continue to be arrested and detained without charge. In just the past few months, journalists, opposition political leaders and activists, including Andualem Arage, the charismatic vice chairman of the opposition coalition Medrek, Natnael Mekonnen, an official of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, the internationally-celebrated journalists Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu, and editor Woubshet Alemu have been sentenced to long prison terms.
Radical improvements in good governance and democracy also require repeal of the so-called “Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009”. Over the past few years, this “law” has been used to round up and jail dissidents, journalists and opposition party political leaders as “terrorists.” The law has been condemned by all international human rights organizations. Human Rights Watch criticized the law as “potent tool for suppressing political opposition and independent criticism of government policy.” The vaguely drafted “anti-terrorism law” in fact is not much of a law as it is a velvet gloved iron fist used to smash any opponent of the regime. Speech aimed at “advancing a political, religious or ideological cause” and intending to “influence the government”, “intimidate the public”, “destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social institutions of the country” is classified as “terrorism”. Making or publishing statements “likely to be understood as encouraging terrorist acts” is a punishable offense under the “law”. Anyone who provides “moral support or advice” or has any contact with an individual accused of a terrorist act is presumed to be a terrorist supporter. Anyone who “writes, edits, prints, publishes, publicizes, disseminates, shows, makes to be heard any promotional statements encouraging, supporting or advancing terrorist acts” is deemed a “terrorist”. A person who “fails to immediately inform or give information or evidence to the police” on a neighbor, co-worker or others s/he may suspect of “terrorism” could face up to 10 years for failure to report. Two or more persons who have contact with a “terror” suspect could be charged with conspiracy to commit “terrorism”.
Under the “anti-terrorism” law, “The police may arrest without court warrant any person whom he reasonably suspects to have committed or is committing terrorism” and hold that person in incommunicado detention. The police can engage in random and “sudden search and seizure” of the person, place or personal effects of anyone suspected of “terrorism”. The police can “intercept, install or conduct surveillance on the telephone, fax, radio, internet, electronic, postal, and similar communications” of a person suspected of terrorism. The police can order “any government institution, official, bank, or a private organization or an individual” to turn over documents, evidence and information on a “terror” suspect. A “terror” suspect can be held in custody without charge for up to “four months”. Any “evidence” presented by the regime’s prosecutor against a “terror” suspect in “court” is admissible, including “confessions” (extracted by torture), “hearsay”, “indirect, digital and electronic evidences” and “intelligence reports even if the report does not disclose the source or the method it was gathered (including evidence obtained by torture).
As I have previously commented, the “anti-terrorism” law criminalizes democratic civic existence itself: “Thinking is terrorism. Dissent is terrorism. Speaking truth to power is terrorism. Having a conscience is terrorism. Peaceful protest is terrorism. Refusing to sell out one’s soul is terrorism. Standing up for democracy and human rights is terrorism. Defending the rule of law is terrorism. Peaceful resistance of state terrorism is terrorism. But one must be reasonable about “terrorism”. Nelson Mandela was jailed for 27 years as a “terrorist” by the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Following his release, he said, “I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies, and that is what I normally tell other people who say those who are struggling for liberation in their country are terrorists. I tell them that I was also a terrorist yesterday, but, today, I am admired by the very people who said I was one.” The “antiterrorism law” must be repealed.
The so-called Charities and Societies Proclamation No. 621/2009 must be repealed. This “law” has been severely criticized by all of the major international human rights organizations. Among its draconian elements include prohibitions on foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from engaging in human rights and democratic advocacy activities in Ethiopia including advocacy of gender and religious equality, conflict resolution or justice system and electoral reform. A local NGO that receives more than ten percent of its funding from foreign sources is considered “foreign”. Since few Ethiopian NGOs are financially self-sufficient, the vast majority depend significantly on foreign sources for their funding. This law has effectively put them out of business. The law allows an administrative body to have final authority over NGO disputes by granting it broad discretion to deny, suspend or revoke the registration of any NGO. Criminal sanctions and fines are also provided for violations of the law exposing NGO officials, members, volunteers and service recipients. Moreover, this law flagrantly violates various sections of the Ethiopian Constitution dealing with freedom of expression, assembly and association as has been pointed out by various human rights organizations.
Ethiopia today stands at the crossroads. It can march forward into democracy by taking confident steps that begin radical improvements in good governance and democracy. Or Ethiopia can continue to slide backwards and deeper into the vortex of dictatorship. Or it can free fall into chaos and strife. The choice is ours to make. There are important lessons to be learned by all. Those in power should be mindful that “making peaceful revolution impossible is making violent revolution inevitable.” Others should heed the message of Dr. Martin Luther King who once told the great Harry Belafonte his concerns about racial desegregation and its potential consequences: “I fear, I am integrating my people into a burning house,” wondered Dr. King metaphorically referring to the potential for racial conflict and strife that could result from outlawing discrimination. Belafonte, somewhat taken aback asked Dr. King, “What should we do?” Dr. King told him that we should “become the firemen [and] not stand by and let the house burn.’” We all need to be Ethiopian firemen and firewomen and begin “radical improvements in good governance and democracy” today, not tomorrow!!
Amharic translations of recent commentaries by the author may be found at: http://www.ecadforum.com/Amharic/archives/category/al-mariam-amharic and http://ethioforum.org/?cat=24
Previous commentaries by the author are available at: http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/ and www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/
The headlines screamed ‘Ethiopian court convicts 24 of terrorism charges’. As usual it was a misleading and incorrect statement. There is no such animal called Ethiopian court. There is a TPLF controlled judicial arrangement in Ethiopia. Prime Minster Meles and his politburo are the directors behind the scene of this farce. For the last twenty-one years they have been using the power of the state to marginalize, terrorize, demean and undermine the Ethiopian citizen. We are so used to their bullying the average Ethiopian does not even dwell on it. We make that peculiar noise with our lips you know that hissing sound and move on.
Our brothers Eskinder Nega, Andualem Arage, Wubshet Taye our sister Reyot Alemu and the others whose names are not publicized were convicted for exercising their right to speak and write freely. They only used their voice and their choice of weapon was the pen and paper. There was no evidence to show otherwise. Ato Eskinder has the audacity to speculate the chance of Arab Spring migrating to Ethiopia. Ato Andualem was simply trying to organize and recruit people to his legally recognized party. Reyot and Wubshet were doing their job as journalist and reporter. In any other country this is a normal and routine kind of job. But we are not like any other country or any other people. Our Ethiopia has always been different. Not only we got strange and bizarre leaders but we also have a different breed of people.
Yes we are different both inside Ethiopia and in the Diaspora. A vast majority of us have decided to accept shame as normal behavior and we even celebrate it loudly and wear it with pride. We victimize each other our country and people and we are the first ones to holler foul. It is done so much and so often it is becoming a little boring. I am afraid we have lost any semblance of respect for our selves and what is sad is others are losing respect for both victim and victimizer. They deserve each other is what comes to mind.
Asians have this philosophy referred to as Ying and Yang to describe how opposites are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world. Nothing is totally yin or totally yang. Female and male, dark and light, cold and hot, water and fire are manifestations of yin and yang. ‘Just as the state of yin is reached yang begins to grow. Yin contains seed of yang and vice versa. They constantly transform each other. The classics state ‘yin creates yang and yang activates yin’. I am afraid that philosophy is not true in our country. Our yin and yang are not in balance. The harmonious change envisioned in the philosophy has gone haywire when it comes to us. Too much of one is bound to weaken and consume the other. That is happening in our society. This phenomenon is so clearly manifested in the Ethiopian Diaspora community.
Let us start with our yearly soccer tournament. It is such a beautiful and positive activity that it has energized our community for the last twenty-five years or more. It should be our pride and a showcase of how much good we can do when we work together. Unfortunately it is also the other side of us where a few can use this positive energy for negative purpose. Those that have been leading the organization have been using the proceeds as cash cow and also as a vehicle to undermine our unity and sell our country to the highest bidder. We let them do that. We see, we hear but we choose to be silent. We have this notion that ignoring bad deed will make it go away.
Thus the Ethiopian Soccer Federation in North America (ESFNA) governing body at long last voted to start fresh and reform this rogue outfit. Of course those who are so used to working behind the scene in the dark were not willing to go silently. They were taken to a real court that ordered to cease and deceit from using the name of the organization and also answer a few question regarding finances and book keeping. What did they do? They went to their sugar daddy and applied for welfare. The same person that is fully integrated with that other rogue outfit called the TPLF supposedly gave them $2 million US to carry out their mission of dividing us and setting us against each other. They, like their father and mentor Meles Zenawi do not believe in self-imitative but run to the nearest welfare donor to get their funding. He sells our land, borrow in our name and steals in consort with his friends, sells our daughters to Middle East degenerates and ours squander their payment in renting stadium to entertain the rich and greedy. Money can buy you anything including entertainers that got their start from the Diaspora but now serve a new master to undermine their benefactors. Definitely Yin and yang are not in harmony or in balance.
If we look at our Church in exile it is something to be proud of. It is a place where our rich culture and ancient religion is celebrated like never before. It is a place where our fathers and mothers in exile find peace and happiness and every week and mentally transport themselves to that place they call home. It is a place where our children learn how social we are and how we respect and value our culture and country. It is such a beautiful feeling to see our children come in front of the congregation when they graduate from high school to be blessed by the priest and proudly inform us their choice of college. Then we have the troublemakers in every city and town. Their mission is to disrupt and divide us. There is no church spared from these prince’s of darkness that scheme behind the scene and attempt to take over the leadership. If that does not succeed they have no qualms in waging a relentless war to undermine and weaken and disparage all those that stand between them and their evil scheme. Our city is going thru such a painful process and it is sad to see families and friends in turmoil. Most of us allow them to do that by our silence and apathy. It is another instance yin and yangs are not in harmony.
A few days ago we had a fund raising activity for ESAT and also celebrate Ato Abebe’s heroic stand for his people and country by exposing the tyrant in front of his enablers and the whole world. There was no question a vast majority of our people was empowered by his action. There are most certainly over ten thousand Ethiopians in the Bay area where the event was held. Less than two hundred brave souls showed up to help raise fund to make ESAT a powerful force in the struggle against tyranny. A good amount was collected from those who came. We are happy and grateful. But I find it odd that out of all these country and freedom loving folks only a handful showed up. Why do you think it is so?
They all seem to harbor negative feelings against the TPLF regime. It is odd to meet some one that would speak favorably regarding the actions of the dictator or his polices. Every Starbucks and every coffee house is full of these talkers parsing the actions of the TPLF party. How come they don’t take the next logical step, which is to help bring this ugly regime to its knees? Why is there such a wide gulf between talk and action? Here is what President Obama said on his visit to the Holocaust Memorial in Washington a few months back speaking of the victims of nazi horror:
He said “Let us tell our children not only how they died, but also how they lived—as fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who loved hoped and dreamed just like us — we must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen – because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent – We must tell our children. But more than that, we must teach them. Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing. In this sense, “never again” is a challenge to us all—to pause and to look within.”
‘Awareness without action changes noting’ is the key phrase and that is what is escaping us. That is so many of us talk but are unable to move beyond that. We kid ourselves or we expect someone else to do the job for us. Is that why when Kinijit kicked Woyane’s ass so many people were pushing each other to get to the center of the action? We had a visitor to our church from Canada. Abune Michael of Calgary gave a memorable sermon a few Sundays back. What stuck in my mind was his saying ‘meswatenet yelelew emnet’ or belief without sacrifice I believe that is ying without yang.
Fear not all is not lost. We also have our Ethiopian Heritage Society of North America (EHSNA). They are celebrating their second anniversary from July 27-29 in Washington DC. Last years event with Judge Bertukan Mideksa was a huge success. This is one venue where our flag fly high our culture is celebrated with all its diversity and our history is told with all its glory. It is a family affair and our young ones and children are given the respect and attention they deserve. The March 2012 Adwa Victory celebration organized by EHSNA gave our ancestors gallant effort the highest honor reserved for such Herculean deed. We salute the organizers for shining a bright light on our accomplishments as people in this time of doom and gloom. This is one organization that is trying to bring balance between our yin and yang. We can see perfect harmony between the opposites.
Each one of us is faced with a choice. We can be carriers of change or we can follow the path of destruction. Change does not happen without effort. Those that are hell bent in bullying and dividing us are not going to leave voluntarily. No one willingly gives up his privileged position. It has never happened. They are unable or unwilling to see the freedom train coming at them at full speed. That is what happened to Mubarak, Gadaffi faithfully believed his people loved him and we see Assad for some reason thinking that he can save himself and his clan by killing all Syrians if necessary. Dictators are a rare breed of people. Meles honestly believes he can last a while longer. Locked in his palace surrounded by his yes men reading his own review and watching his one channel TV he is intoxicated by his own lies. Twenty-one years is a long time to be isolated from normal people. It is possible to create ones own make believe world.
How come we see Libya, Egypt, Yemen and now Syria and do not learn? How come we do not work a little harder to avoid such catastrophe? Why do we allow Eskinder, Andualem and all the other fellow Ethiopians pay the price on our behalf? How come we are unable to say no and show outrage at such act of injustice by a handful of people? Do you think Meles jailed our brothers and sister or do you think we allowed him to do such ugly deed due to our indifference and apathy? Is the blame on the dictator or on the vast majority that lets him gets away with this criminal act? I am sure we are all disgusted with this farce of jailing people for life because they spoke what the regime does not approve of. What is next, to go to prison accused of bad thought? Why not the dictator has no incentive not to follow that route. He knows we will take it silently. Didn’t we when Professor Asrat was denied medical treatment, when Asefa Maru was gunned down, when Judge Bertukan was jailed twice, when Gambella was sold, when our children are left to die in the jungles of Central Africa and their bodies scatted on the highways of Tanzania and the waters of Lake Malawi or Gulf of Aden? Yes no question about it we are responsible for the jailing of Eskinder and all the rest. Frankly I am bored and tired of shifting the blame.
Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ying_and_Yang