Alemayehu G Mariam
(This week my regular Monday commentary is presented for the second time in the form of a “flash drama” on Obama (a sub-genre of theatrical play sometimes described as a “ten minute one-act play”). The first “act” of this “flash drama” was presented in my June 23 commentary, “Obama is Coming! Obama is Coming to Africa!!”
The scene in the second act is a neighborhood tearoom somewhere in Africa. The two young African college friends two weeks later have a chance meeting. Their conversation shifts from the critical health condition of President Nelson Mandela to President Obama’s departure from Africa after he completed his “Africa Visit”. (I have opted to use “flash drama” to add creative range to my commentaries and expand my reach to the younger generation of Ethiopians and other African youth. The names of the characters have special meaning.)
Act I: Obama is Coming! Obama is Coming to Africa!!
Duma: I am worried sick Mandela is sick.
Shudi: I just wonder what will happen to South Africa after Mandela is gone.
Duma: The same thing that will happen when the father of any family is gone.
Shudi: You mean there will be some family feud, discord and falling out…
Duma: But the family will survive. The South African family is strong.
Shudi: The Spirit of Mandela will keep the family together!
Duma: And guide South Africa as it always has.
Shudi: Guide the conscience of South Africans.
Duma: And their hearts and minds too.
Shudi: Mandela may be gone but his Spirit will live forever!
Duma: Africans say, “A good chief is a reward of God.”
Shudi: South Africa has been blessed!
Duma: “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (God bless Africa.)
Shudi: Obama has come and gone…
Duma: Obama came and saw but did he conquer?
Shudi: He came. He saw. He left.
Duma: Back to the U.S. of A?
Shudi: Where else?
Duma: Ethiopia? Nigeria? They are America’s best partners in Africa.
Shudi: Not even Kenya! He says he’s “got three and half years to come back to Kenya.”
Duma: Hope he had a better reception than his first Africa visit in Accra, Ghana in 2009.
Shudi: Someone told him in Soweto, “the euphoria that engulfed this continent when President Obama was elected is fading.”
Duma: Yeah! The thrill is gone with the Obama drama.
Shudi: He visited three countries in one week, you know.
Duma: What’s up with that? Is he making campaign stops?
Shudi: With all the promises and pledges he made, you could say he was stumping.
Duma: He is the best at making promises.
Shudi: And not keeping them?
Duma: And breaking them. What did he promise this time?
Shudi: He promised to “launch a new program that’s going to givethousands of promising young Africans opportunity to come to the United States and develop their skills at some of our best colleges and universities.”
Duma: Too little, too late!
Shudi: What do you mean?
Duma: China has already snatched 12,000 young Africans.
Shudi: Promising ones?
Duma: The crème de la crème.
Shudi: What about the millions of not-so-promising young Africans?
Duma: They are on their own.
Shudi: Promises only for promising young Africans in the Promised Land?
Duma: But it’s all promises. Don’t mean nothing.
Shudi: What do you mean?
Duma: How many promises has Obama made?
Shudi: Too many?
Duma: How many has he broken?
Shudi: Too many.
Duma: Ever heard of the “talented tenth”, Shudi?
Shudi: No. What’s that?
Duma: It’s an old idea about one in ten black men becoming leaders of their race in the world and solving the “The Negro Problem”.
Duma: Through education, entrepreneurship, scholarship and direct involvement in social change.
Shudi: Talented tenth for the “African Problem”?
Duma: Bring the most promising young Africans to America and teach them about “civic leadership and public administration and business and entrepreneurship”.
Shudi: And solve the “African Problem”?
Duma: With the help of the “connections” they “make in America… Americans from all walks of life… leaders in business and nonprofits and government.”
Shudi: And the great African brain drain continues…?
Duma: That’s old school, Shudi. It is now called “human capital flight”.
Shudi: Young promising Africans taking flight to America…
Duma: Whatever happened to Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative in 2010?
Shudi: That’s an old promise. That was about “engaging young African leaders who will shape the continent’s future.”
Duma: How many young African leaders were engaged in the last three years?
Shudi: You’re always digging up old promises. Fresh promises about old broken promises are the best kind of promises, if you know what I mean.
Duma: Promises are bliss to youth. Africa’s “talented tenth” better watch out.
Duma: Obama says, “The world will be watching what decisions you make. The world will be watching what you do.”
Shudi: Does that mean the U.S. is watching too?
Duma: Secretary of State John Kerry said America is watching.
Duma: “Brave citizens around the world and those who would abuse them.”
Shudi: Will the U.S. be watching the brave, suffering and not-so-promising young Africans?
Duma: They are on their own. They don’t matter.
Shudi: You mean it’s mind over matter?
Duma: I mean Obama don’t mind and they don’t matter!
Shudi: Do you think Mandela will make it through?
Duma: Why not? He pulled through 27 years of hard labor and solitary confinement.
Shudi: Mandela is a man of courage. He can do anything!
Duma: Isn’t that what Obama said? “Nelson Mandela showed us that one man’s courage can move the world.”
Shudi: The man imprisoned for 27 years and on life support today can move the world but…
Duma: Why can’t the most powerful man in the world be able to move Africa?
Shudi: Obama says, courage is “the power that comes from acting on our ideals. That’s what Mandela understood.”
Duma: Why can’t Obama act from his ideals?
Shudi: Maybe he lost them. Maybe he doesn’t have any.
Duma: When he accepted the Nobel Prize, didn’t he say: “We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it’s easy, but when it is hard.”
Shudi: Did Obama compromise his ideals?
Duma: Did he lose himself?
Duma: He wants young Africans to act from their ideals?
Shudi: He wants them to “think of how many times ordinary people pushed against those walls of oppression and resistance, and the violence and the indignities that they suffered; the quiet courage that they sustained. Think of how many ripples of hope it took to build a wave that would eventually come crashing down like a mighty stream.”
Duma: What does that mean? A mighty tidal wave of angry youth crashing on African dictators?
Shudi: And hungry youth? Don’t know what it means.
Duma: It’s “Obamanese”. Empty words always sound good.
Shudi: Just like cotton candy tastes good?
Duma: Just like the sight of floating butterflies make you feel good.
Shudi: Obama said, “The struggle against apartheid, for freedom, Madiba’s moral courage, his country’s historic transition to a free and democratic nation, has been a personal inspiration to me.”
Duma: Obama was once an inspiration to me too.
Shudi: “Yes We Can!” “We are the change we have been waiting for.” “Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire; what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation…” “If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and to promote their common welfare – all else is lost.”
Duma: “History is on the side of brave Africans.” “I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.”
Shudi: Where do you get courage?
Duma: The same place you get your ideals.
Shudi: Obama said, “Africa is rising”.
Duma: From tyranny? Dictatorship? Corruption?
Shudi: From “poverty to a growing, nascent middle class.”
Duma: Are the 80 percent of Africans living under less than $2 a day rising or falling?
Shudi: You can’t fall if you’ve always been down.
Duma: Only way is up.
Shudi: Up from tyranny. Injustice. Abuse of power.
Duma: And the not-so-promising young Africans?
Shudi: They are on their own and down?
Duma: They are all down and out.
Shudi: Obama said, “there is no question that Africa is on the move”?
Duma: I have a question. Which Africa?
Shudi: The African middle class is on the move.
Duma: How about the African “80 percenters”?
Shudi: They can’t move.
Duma: Well, the “80 percenters” are like the “47 percenters”, if you know what I mean.
Shudi: Don’t know what you mean.
Duma: “They depend on government handouts; they believe that they are victims; they believe government has a responsibility to care for them; they believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
Shudi: Didn’t the 47 percenters elect Obama?
Duma: Obama wasn’t elected in Africa.
Shudi: Shouldn’t the real question be if democracy is on the move in Africa?
Duma: And human rights are rising and dictatorships falling?
Shudi: Obama says, he will “partner with governments and regional organizations here in Africa and foundations and civil society to amplify your voices as you stand up for democracy and equality.”
Duma: Partner with the foxes guarding the henhouse?
Shudi: Partnership of eagles and foxes?
Duma: Eagles and hyenas.
Shudi: Amplify the voices of silenced civil society institutions? I don’t understand…
Duma: What’s there not to understand? Silence is the voice of the voiceless.
Shudi: Obama says Africa is not moving fast enough “for the protester who is beaten in Harare [Zimbabwe], or the woman who is raped in Eastern Congo”?
Duma: And for the unfortunate and untalented 80 percenters?
Shudi: Them too.
Duma: But moving fast enough for young, talented and jailed Ethiopian journalists like Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye, opposition and civic society leaders and dissidents Andualem Aragie, Olbana Lelisa, Bekele Gerba, Abubekar Ahmed, Ahmedin Jebel and so many thousands of Ethiopian political prisoners…?
Shudi: Are there good and bad African dictators?
Duma: You mean does Obama think there are good and bad African dictators?
Shudi: Obama said, “Governments that respect the rights of their citizens and abide by the rule of law do better, grow faster, draw more investment than those who don’t. That’s just a fact.”
Duma: As a matter of fact, which African governments respect the rights of their people?
Shudi: You’re missing the point, Duma. Obama told the South Africans, “Just look at your neighbor, Zimbabwe, where the promise of liberation gave way to the corruption of power and then the collapse of the economy.” Zimbabwe is on the move with a new constitution and new elections.
Duma: An elected constitutional democratic dictatorship!
Shudi: Just a promise of an elected constitutional democratic dictatorship?
Duma: Mugabe is a dictator.
Shudi: And a thief. He has been stealing elections for decades. How can Zimbabwe move forward with a thieving dictator?
Duma: The dictators in Ethiopia have been stealing elections for decades too, but they are America’s best partners in Africa.
Shudi: But Mugabe is a dictator and an S.O.B.?
Duma: And those guys in Ethiopia?
Shudi: They are dictators too. “But they are our S.O.B.s”?
Duma: You sound like President Franklin Roosevelt.
Shudi: Obama said 85 percent of Africans need power and he is going to give it to them?
Duma: Power? Africans have all the power they need, if it weren’t stolen by the dictators…
Shudi: I meant electric power, not real power. You know what I mean?
Duma: What do you mean?
Shudi: He said, Africans “must have the power to connect their people to the promise of the 21st century.”
Duma: Another promise?
Shudi: He said, “Now we’re going to talk about power — Power Africa — a new initiative that will double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. Double it.”
Duma: Talked about Africa. Talked about brave young Africans.
Shudi: Now, talk about power? Doubletalk about power?
Duma: Why not talk about the absolute power of African dictators?
Shudi: Obama said, “We’re going to start by investing $7 billion in U.S. government resources. And in partnership with African nations, we’re going to develop new sources of energy.”
Duma: The youth are the new sources of energy. Why not develop them?
Shudi: Develop the not-so-promising young Africans?
Duma: They are on their own.
Shudi: He is going to take “$7 billion in U.S. government resources” and give it to stinking rich African dictators?
Duma: Who are “U.S. government resources”?
Shudi: American taxpayers?
Duma: Take from toiling American taxpayers and give to stinking rich African dictators.
Shudi: Reverse Robin Hood for Africa.
Duma: That’s not fair…
Shudi: You mean…
Duma: Detroit needs the money more than African dictators. Don’t you agree?
Duma: I am not worried.
Shudi: Why not?
Duma: It’s all talk. Doubletalk. Empty promises. Cotton candy for African dictators!
Shudi: Obama said, “If anyone wants to see the difference between freedom and tyranny, let them come here, to South Africa. Here, citizens braved bullets and beatings to claim that most basic right: the ability to be free, to determine your own fate, in your own land.”
Duma: That’s an odd thing to say?
Shudi: What do you mean?
Duma: Is he saying that if Africans want to end tyranny and get their freedom, they should be “brave” enough to “brave the bullets and beatings”?
Shudi: I think he meant what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meant: “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.”
Duma: I got no problems with that.
Shudi: Obama told Africans as it is.
Duma: What did he say?
Shudi: “These are things that America stands for… We don’t tell people who their leaders should be, but we do stand up with those who support the principles that lead to a better life. And that’s why we’re interested in investing not in strongmen, but in strong institutions: independent judiciaries that can enforce the rule of law — honest police forces that can protect the peoples’ interests instead of their own; an open government that can bring transparency and accountability. And, yes, that’s why we stand up for civil society — for journalists and NGOs, and community organizers and activists — who give people a voice… I want you to know that you will always find the extended hand of a friend in the United States of America. ”
Duma: Give me a break!! He said exactly the same thing in Accra in 2009.
Shudi: He did?
Duma: Same exact thing! “Good governance is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That’s the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans. History offers a clear verdict: Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny. I know there are those who argue that ideas like democracy and transparency are somehow Western exports. I disagree. Those in power who make those arguments are usually trying to distract people from their own abuses. In the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges; an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people’s everyday lives. Now, make no mistake: History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”
Shudi: Obama told Africa’s youth to use their “imagination, your optimism, your idealism. The future of this continent is in your hands. Don’t lose those qualities of youth, the imagination, the courage, the ‘yes, we can’ attitude of young Africans like you.”
Duma: The future of Africa in the hands of Africa’s youth? Don’t think sooo!
Shudi: What do you mean?
Duma: The future of Africa is in the hands of China, India, Saudi Arabia…
Shudi: China came, saw and conquered.
Duma: India and Saudi Arabia too.
Shudi: Not America?
Duma: America is chasing terrorists in Africa.
Shudi: It should be chasing after Africa’s youth?
Duma: The promising and the not-so-promising ones.
Shudi: What do you say to Africa’s youth?
Duma: Obama came, Obama saw but did he conquer Africa’s youth?
Shudi: But really…
Duma: I’d say to them what Percy Bysshe Shelley said poetically to those young people who faced impossible odds:
Let a vast assembly be,
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words, that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free!
And if then the tyrants dare,
Let them ride among you there,
Slash, and stab, and maim and hew,
What they like, that let them do.
Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many — they are few”
Rise and shine African Cheetahs and Lions!! And Hippos too?!
(The meaning of the names of the characters: “Shudi” in the Hausa language (Nigeria) means Blue. “Duma” in Swahili means Cheetah. Blue Cheetahs!)
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:
By Yilma Bekele
I doubt there is an Ethiopian in the Diaspora not familiar with what happened last Friday. As they say the video has gone viral. The act has brought deep satisfaction to the psych of the oppressed and left the evildoers in disarray. Abebe took less than one minute to do what has been tried for over twenty years. His heroic act will be remembered in the history books like that other important event in the annals of our glorious past.
Of course I am talking about the daring act of none other Abraha Deboch, Moges Asgedom and Simeyon Adefres on February 19, 1937. The Fascist Italian Viceroy Rodolfo Graziani was set to celebrate the second anniversary of the occupation of our homeland and the birth of an Italian royal baby at Addis Abeba Palace now Addis Abeba University. That did not sit well with our freedom fighters.
Simeyon who has learned to drive befriended a soldier from the household of the patriot leader Dejazmach Fikre Mariam and was able to secure hand grenades. Abraha and Moges hurled their grenades at the Viceroy during the celebration but the balcony saved the Fascist pig. Their job was done. Honor was restored. The attempt on the Viceroy was followed by the massacre of the citizens of Addis from February 19-21. Their heroism was able to fill the hearts of their people with pride and joy and the number of the patriotic forces swelled until victory was achieved.
What my friend and brother Abebe Gelaw did was no less. It was a different time and place but the generous act on behalf of country and people is noted by all patriotic forces that stand against tyranny by a single individual. The setting was perfect and the delivery was laser guided. The event was a very shameful attempt to humiliate Ethiopia and its people. There was no other way of looking at this act of abdication of responsibility by the President of the US other than to bully our people into submission by affirming this unholy alliance that does not have lasting value to both our Nations. We pleaded, we warned and we tried to teach the administration the folly of this enabling act of a tyrant. It fell on deaf ears. We are aware of the fact Mr. Obama will not be seen with Ahmadinejed. He will not invite Assad for dinner. But he felt no qualms sitting with this criminal leader and place him on the same dais as elected heads of State. Our people and country were insulted. This election Ethiopian Americans should pay attention to this fact.
It was wrong. But our brother Abebe was there to set the record straight. Abebe used the art of ‘political heckling’ in its purest form. Citizens heckle out of anger and frustration. Heckling done right subverts the proceedings and knock the powerful and famous from their stride. In less than a minute Abebe accomplished all that and more. The lion roared and the mouse scurried away. There was no hole to hide no place to take shelter. The intense light showed the paper tiger from Arat kilo for what he is, underneath all that TPLF bravado there sits a little scared soul trying to get out. A bully met his match. The Prime Mister preys on the weak. In Washington DC the playing field was leveled in favor of the silenced and oppressed.
Since Friday all the talk has been about the patriotism, unselfish act and bravery of one individual. Yes it is true some people find the inner strength to rise up for the occasion. Somehow they dig deep inside their soul and come up with earth shaking feat that defies the law of nature and gravity. Do you think I am laying it on heavy? I very much doubt that. Can you think of any setting on that fateful Friday where the eyes of the planet were focused on? A meeting with the President of the US, the most powerful person in the world attended by the major News networks definitely counts as the premier event of the week. One individual put everything else aside and decided to be the voice of eighty million silenced souls. OH did he speak!!
Meles Zenawi is a dictator! Meles Zenawi is a dictator! Free Eskinder and all political prisoners! You are a dictator! You are committing crimes against humanity! You do not talk about food without freedom! We need freedom more than food! We need Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!
It was short, precise and to the point. It is all choice words that conveyed our hopes and wishes. The delivery was forceful and the face was that of an angry lion roaring. Where did Abebe get all that energy is a good question? He got it from us! At that moment eighty million souls converged in the body of my friend and he was transformed into human missile of untold force. I was there. You were there. We were all there. Then it came to me. The message was not really directed at President Obama or anyone else. The message was for his people. Abebe was showing us the power of the individual and the enabling act of taking personal responsibility for you fate.
That is why I compared it to Abraha, Moges and Simeyon. Their heroic act was not just about killing Graziani. Mussolini can always send another Viceroy. They were more focused in teaching us what can be accomplished when individuals set their focus and energy in search of freedom. The fact of the matter was it worked. The patriots were inundated by new recruits. The spirit of “Yes I can” became contagious. Apathy was replaced by action. Darkness was gone and the light shone high and bright. That is what I saw the last three days. Ethiopians walking tall. Ethiopians high Fiving each other. Ethiopians understanding the power of the individual to rise up for the occasion.
What was revealing from this incident was the reaction of two individual. The Prime Minster was left speech less. He was left with his mouth wide open and his brain on freeze mode. He entered uncharted territory and he was on a free fall. Abebe’s timing was perfect. The PM was replying about food. That by itself is a very cruel joke being played on our people by the hapless moderator. The question gave the impression the moderator was chosen for his looks and his talking head not his journalistic credentials. He is the kind who would ask the pilot of the Titanic on the procedure of glacier avoidance or Colonel Gadaffi on the art of confronting a hostile mob.
The PM who is celebrating over twenty years in power is the last person to be asked such question. His ill planned policy is the cause of recurring famine and disaster on our ancient land and people. In a sane setting he should be chided for failure of leadership. But in this Disney land environment we were witnessing he was pontificating how the agriculture system should be set to avoid food insecurity. Even the words they choose are not to expose but hide and play cute games at the expense of our people. They call it food insecurity, mal nutrition, calorie deficiency whereas to our people it is pure famine or the absence of food. Nothing more nothing less.
The PM locked side ways with a look of surprise. How could this happen is his first thought. Then he saw the Lion roaring. Relentless, focused, and imbued with the energy of eighty millions and this was one mighty Lion. The dictator looked down. The dictator shrank. The wrath of the oppressed, the spirit of Eskinder, Andualem, Reeyot and all those ghosts he left behind in his dungeon came screaming to haunt him right there on stage. Evil does not pay. The price of bad deeds is mental anguish.
The reaction of his bodyguard is another revealing moment in this high stake drama. He threatened violence against my brother. He responded the only way he knows. ‘We will kill you’ he uttered! What a weak statement. What an empty threat. What a solution to propose for the problem he found himself in. What would have been accomplished by the killing of my brother? They say you cannot teach an old dog a new trick. Killing is the only language the PM and his associates speak. That is the sort of people President Obama invited to his table. We are saddened by this act. We expected better from the son of Africa. We hoped for better things. What the white leaders have done for their brethren in Europe we thought a black president will bring us respite from this agony our continent finds itself in. Not today. We are on our own. Our destiny is in our won hands. It has always been, but the last few years we have shown the tendency to drop the ball. But when you think the future looks bleak the problems pile up and darkness attempts to engulf our soul there rises a beam of bright light like the star of Bethlehem that led the three wise men to where Jesus was born.
That is what we shall do. We shall follow the spirit of our young friend and take matters into our own hands. We will redouble our efforts to free our country and people by any means necessary. One does not make appointment to be free. We start now. We each vow in our homes, our work place wherever we are to start the day of defiance of the evil system starting now. It is the result of our collective effort that can usher the era of peace, democracy and freedom. We do not act due to hate. We do not act to hurt others. But we have God given right to protect ourselves, our family and our country and people from evil.
Live, I wanna live inspired
Die, I wanna die for something
Facing towards the heavens
I fell into pitch a black
I’m moments from landing and I’m shaking like a heart attack
Is there time, can I turn back
I’ve made mistakes in the past
Need a chance, can’t take it back
Wish I could set things right tonight
Live, I wanna live inspired
Die, I wanna die for something higher than myself
Live and die for anyone else
The more I live I see this life’s not about me
All I know spins out of control
Wonder what’s next for the heart and soul
Nothing I earned can save me now
Hear in what may be my final hour
Don’t want to leave this world, knowing I’ve lived in vain
No time for myself, so sorry, so ashamed
Don’t wanna livee this life, knowing I’ve barely tried
Chase down all my dreams that I’ve hid away on the inside
Live I wanna live on fire
Die, I wanna burn out brighter
Brighter than the Northern Lights
Wanna live to feel the daylight
The more I live
I see, this life is not about me
Note: Ethiopian Politics- Richard Pankhurst
Lyrics: Anberlin- Burn Out Brighter (Northern Lights) lyrics
By Yilma Bekele
To my dear friend Barack Obama. I hope this letter finds you well. We are doing fine here in this location that will stay nameless. Except for that little matter of famine, deflation and inflation most things are under control thanks to the Pentagon, IMF, World Bank and hodam Diaspora.
I am writing you this letter to console you on that little loss your party suffered in Massachusetts. I feel your pain. On the other hand I feel compelled to share with you the art of election, politics and staying in power.
My dear Barrack, I am really sorry for not contacting you earlier to share my misgivings regarding your sincere and shallow view of elections. Bereket and myself have long concluded that your candidate was going to lose. I tried to call and warn you plenty of times but as usual most circuits were busy. You have only been in office one year. Take it from a person who has been in charge for over eighteen years governing is not a simple matter. We in this nameless place know it is not for the faint-hearted.
I understand you have mid year elections coming. I hope the debacle in Mass. Has opened your eyes. I would like to share my experience and offer a few suggestions at this time. You might not be aware of it but I was put in the same predicament a while back. It was the first time I tasted the bitter medicine of defeat and humiliation. I was forced to kill a few and jail a lot. I don’t want you to go through the same nightmare. I don’t wish that on no one, not even my nemesis Isaias. Azeb tells me I was impossible to live with. I believe her. I vowed it would never happen again. It took four years of preparations to guarantee a sure victory. I have upgraded the art of dictatorship to a higher level.
Well, here you go buddy this is my blueprint for a successful election. I gave the same advice to your predecessor (remember the Supreme Court decision regarding vote counting in Florida, let us just say I played a little part…wink) but I charged him for it. For you my black friend it is free. Don’t tell Aiga I called you a friend.
I notice you have only two major parties. What kind of choice is that? Here in this nameless place I have organized over fifty. Of course all are subsidiary of TPLF but no one has to know. They are organized as ethnic group based on birth or language. My own cadres change their names and are put in charge until we produce local cadres schooled by TPLF to take over. We were lucky to recruit and train Amhara and Oromo cadres during the time in the field. They are serving with distinction. I am sure you will not have any problem forming one party per state and a few more based on gender and color. In America you got homosexual and trans gender people what ever that is, so go ahead create a party for them too. The more the better. It impresses the ferengis.
Your biggest challenge will be the media. Here (nameless place) I solved that problem in a creative manner. First I amended the definition and requirement of owning means of communication. I created a few of my own and last but not least I have the unruly editors eliminated or exiled. The Reporter is my flagship publication. This might not work for you so another solution is needed. Blackmail and extortion might be more appropriate in your case. I have what is called ‘Musina Commission’. Their office is next door to mine. Here is where I collect all information. Information is power. I am aware you can’t exile your opposition but you sure can blackmail them.
There is also the problem of having your own security. I understand you can’t ask the FBI to do some of the dirty work required to safe guard the smooth operation of the constitutional order. I suggest creating your own force. Federal police and Agazi force has been a lifesaver for me. Your system has all this separation of power and accountability foolishness built into it. I say to you, go around it my dear Barrack. There is nothing empowering like having your own private militia. May I suggest importing some Kenyans from your father’s tribe? They will be loyal to you and most of all since they don’t speak the language there is less chance of contamination. Believe me you will have all these Senators and Representatives cowering in front of you. I know you will drool over a few of my pets here in Arat Kilo. My new addition to the manger has already shown promise of consideration for the presidency after the elections. I am satisfied with his performance both in Mekele and Bahr Dar.
Last but not least let us talk about elections. Remember they do have elections in China and Russia, you see my friend it is just a matter of definition. I suggest you use your new security to kidnap some of the opposition candidates, co-opt a few and jail others until the election is over. Needless to say you should have boxes and ballots processed and ready to be unveiled the evening of the election. I hate to say it but we were caught unprepared during our last election. It took us over six months to reprint and recount. Foreign observers are a curse. Avoid them at all cost. If at all possible demand observers from friendly regimes. I have already put my request for Zimbabwean, Nigerian, and Uzbek observers. Of course we have trained our own observers too. Most wouldn’t find the door in a studio apartment. Sweet.
I have noticed that you address your people with respect and heap all kinds of praise on your subjects. That is a definite no, no. There is nothing they love more than being degraded. It is always a good idea to humiliate them. The more you trample on them the bigger their respect for you. Fear is what humans understand. A leader should be feared. Love is for sissies. I suggest you manufacture a few incidents and use your security forces to show who the boss is. Inter ethnic, inter state or inter faith crisis is what is required to present yourself as a lifesaver. By all means encourage strife and show up to save the day. It is too bad you can’t invade Canada or Mexico. There is nothing like war to rally your subjects around you. Afghanistan is too far. What the heck go ahead and invade Mexico. Illegal alien threat is a good excuse to wave in front of your people.
There are a few kinks I have been tackling with Berket during our daily ‘bercha’. I could arrange a shipment of the best Harar or Yergachefe Kat if you are open to the idea. I find the experience enriching and Berket swears that I come up with the best ideas during our afternoon session. Anyway we still have not figured out what to do in case of a few misguided souls complaining after the election. I doubt I can get away with a little violence like the last time. Thanks to your liberal friends killing a few is not in fashion anymore. Despotism is not what it used to be.
I am a little worried about this renegade group called G7. Despite my request to have their leader deported back, your justice department has ignored me. May be you can intervene on behalf of your new friend. While you are at it could you talk to Gordon Brown and mention the other G7 terrorist in London. I will be indebted to you. Tell you what my friend I have a few well-respected torturers that I will be willing to lend you for your new security. They have impeccable credentials and have served in North Korea and Zimbabwe with distinction. Well Barrack I wish you good luck and please don’t hesitate to call me. I know the circuits are busy but you never know.
Prime Minster of name less place
P.S.- Please give my regards to Michelle and Azeb profoundly apologizes for that little incident in Pittsburgh. I promise not to bring her during the next G20 meeting. I know you will help me with the invite. I promise to behave and not follow you around for a Kodak moment. XoXo.
By Yilma Bekele
Our new name is the Ethiopians in the Diaspora. ‘The term Diaspora (in Greek διασπορά – “a scattering [of seeds]”) refers to the movement of any population sharing common ethnic identity who were either forced to leave or voluntarily left their settled territory, and became residents in areas often far remote from the former.’ I really don’t like it. We used to be immigrants. I have no idea when we became the Diaspora.
I don’t like both terms. They have finality about them. It means that wherever we are, we intend to settle permanently. I would rather think of myself as a refugee. A refugee is some one in transit. I like that. Isn’t that what we are? We have scattered to all four corners of the world because we are seeking shelter from danger. We escape from our country because it is not safe. Some are political refuges. They left to avoid persecution. A lot are economic refuges. They are running away from slow death. Our country offers its population such choice as physical death due to starvation, mental and spiritual death due to forced ignorance.
Sometimes good can come out of a bad situation. This refuge business is one such instance. Our ancient country is always looking after us. It gave us a solid foundation to withstand the shock of settling in strange far away places. We were mentally fortified. Every nationality thinks they are unique. We don’t only think we are unique, we believe it. It is like Ethiopia said to each one of us ‘if you have to go, go but don’t forget who you are and please return.’
Where ever we have settled we have thrived. We seek each other. We congregate. All you got to do is find one of us. It is like opening a floodgate. You find one you find them all.
This has been a week of graduation in our area. A proud moment for a lot of families. A celebration of achievement. Sons and daughters of refugees feeling good about them selves and making their family proud. There is nothing like being free to excel.
So how did these offspring’s of destitute refugees get to attend some of the best institutions in this great land? It is simple. It is so because those refugee parents had to learn fast and adapt to the new situation. Most arrive with just their shirts on their back. They work hard. They work long. They study with passion. They aim high. They succeed like no other.
When one is far away from home and there is no one to lean on one learns fast. We learn to think beyond today. We plan and project far into the future. We become masters of our own success or failure. We stop being crybabies and assume responsibility for our actions.
We learn that there is no free lunch, no reward without effort, and no easy short cuts in life and if we are lucky we learn to be empathic to our fellow humans.
I, as a bona fide refugee and graduate of the ‘hard knock’ school of life I was highly disconcerted when I heard what the Ethiopian Prime Minster said to a Mr. Jason McClure of Bloomberg News. I don’t know how Mr. McClure took the news but I was forced to say ‘come again?’ Believe me I have made up a lot of excuses for my actions and I have heard some bizarre ones too but this one takes the gold. No question about it. Talk about chutzpah!
Ato Meles blames ‘the World Bank and international donors’ for the scarcity of Electricity in Ethiopia. Mr. Mc Lure wrote:
The World Bank underestimated electricity demand in previous years and failed to provide funding for new power-generation projects the government had wanted, leading to under-investment in the industry, he said.
“We could have avoided that mistake if we had the money or had we had the support of our donors,” Meles said.
I believe most of us were under the impression that Ato Meles and his TPLF politburo are in charge of Ethiopia. At what point did World Bank enter the picture? What else are they running besides Electric power? I want to know if the Somali invasion was their idea? Did they force Ato Meles to declare ‘state of emergency’ after the 2005 elections and gave the order to shoot to kill? Was that the World Bank that forced Ato Meles to arrest Judge Bertukan too? Frankly I never trusted the World Bank and Ato Meles is confirming my worst fears.
That ‘gotcha’ moment was short lived. It looks like the reporter talked to a Mr. Kenichi Ohashi, the World Bank’s director for Ethiopia. Well apparently Ato Meles did not clear his story with Mr. Ohashi, and Mr. Ohashi is not amused. This is what he has to say about it:
“The notion that because we didn’t finance power they have a problem, that’s bogus,” Kenichi Ohashi, the World Bank’s director for Ethiopia, said by phone today. “If we financed power that would come at the expense of something else”
Interesting. I don’t know what the choices were but it must have been difficult for outsiders to make decisions for a nation they have neither kinship nor strong bond. You can say the same about Ato Meles but today we are not going there. So where is the sovereignty Berket is always babbling about? Now since we all know who is running Electric power you know where to forward your complaints.
There is more. TPLF is the gift that keeps giving.
Power cuts might also have been alleviated if the Washington-based multilateral lender had provided funding for a 60-megawatt diesel generator the government requested this year, Meles said.
A lousy 60-megawatt diesel generator just to hold us over until the July rains and they said no! Those heartless bastards what do they care. Bankers are cold. They are willing to destroy the economic well being of a nation. Hold on that is not the story Mr. Ohashi is telling.
The World Bank didn’t finance the generator because the government’s contracting process didn’t meet World Bank standards and wasn’t “open and transparent and competitive,” Ohashi said.
Now I see it. The Bank wants ‘open and transparent’ process and EFFORT had already won the contract. Ato Meles was just asking for the cash and the Bank has the audacity to say no. May be the Bank thought diesel is not such a good idea considering the shortage of dollars to buy fuel. I get the feeling that Ato Meles leaves a lot out when telling a story. I have no idea if he forgets or it is pathological. What is certain is that he is not telling the truth. In other words he is lying. Simple.
So when Mr. Ohashi’s outfit said ‘No” to the loan what did Ato Meles’s government do to mitigate the effects of the certainty of power shortage? You just don’t fold your hands and sit. I guess you can. They did not even ask their Abuna to urge the people to pray for rain.
This is the difference between the Diaspora (refugees) and TPLF. We have learned to take responsibility for our actions. We don’t shift blame nor do we cry in public. We avoid welfare and work double shift to meet our obligations. Just try telling your mortgage holder that you can’t pay your note since the bank did not give you the loan subsidy. Your sad ass will be out on the street in a New York minute.
There seems to be a lot of speculation with what the Prime Minster might do or not do regarding his future plans. He speaks in hyperboles and wants to sound mysterious. Listen to this:
“My guess is this is going to boil-down to plus or minus a year or two,” he said. “I’m simply thinking aloud. Now if it were to boil-down to plus or minus a year or two, I would probably say this is not a matter on which I ought to leave the party.” It’s also possible, “some would say very likely” that he will be succeeded as prime minister by a person from outside the Tigrayan ethnic group, Meles said.
I dare you to make sense of that. What does plus or minus a year mean? Boil down? Why he speaks in clichés is foreign to me. Here in the US politicians start running the day they are elected. It is a 24/7 job. You don’t hide in gated community surrounded by armed solders. If they want to be elected they mingle with their constituents. Not the supreme leader. He still thinks in ethnic terms. The notion some one capable without the ethnic baggage is foreign to him. It is possible the TPLF folks can sign petitions to force him to be Prime Minister again. May be he is being coy with us so we can start a nation wide campaign to crown him as Yohanes V. Anything is possible in Ethiopia. As I said we are very resourceful people.
What he said regarding Judge Bertukan is very mean. A head of state does not make a statement like that regarding the leader of the biggest opposition Party in the country. This is what he said:
Meles said there is “zero” chance that opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa will be released from prison in time to compete in the elections scheduled for next May. He also said Birtukan’s jailing is not a pretext to eliminate political opposition.
Judge Bertukan has been in jail one hundred seventy six days. That is five months and twenty-six days. She has been in solitary confinement. She is not allowed visitors except her daughter Hale who is four years old and her mother Weizero Almaz who is seventy-two years old. She is not allowed to see her lawyer, listen to the radio or visit by the Red Cross. Complete isolation in a dark cold room is torture. Ato Meles said the chances are zero that she will be released. On the other hand the chances are 100% that Ato Meles will be tried for torture, genocide and crime against humanity both by the Ethiopian people and the International Criminal Court. We will be the first ones to defend Ato Meles’s and his fellow criminals right for a fair and speedy trial. We will not tolerate torture and the prisoners will be allowed to hire even foreign lawyers but not with our money. The sight of Ato Meles and friends in a pink prison garb will be priceless. Just picture it my friends.
It looks like the situation in Iran further complicates Ato Meles’s grip on power. It is obvious that there will be no repeat of 2005. The world is watching. Europeans will follow the US lead. President Obama’s administration is allergic to state sponsored killing. The Diaspora Ethiopians are loud and everywhere. The ‘Eight’ points by Kinijit are still the minimum demands. No party in Ethiopia will be accepted as legitimate contender with out the eight points being fulfilled. There is no such thing as a free election without a free press and the opposition’s right to free assembly and organization is respected.
Remittances from the Diaspora has dried up, commodity prices are plunging, inflation is spiraling, devaluation is over due, Ana Gomez, Donald Payne, Russ Feingold, Berhanu Nega are circling over head, what are you going to do? You definitely are not going to Disney land. I urge my hero Shambel to sing ‘Express train to Kaliti’