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Arrival of the Ethiopian Spring

By Yilma Bekele

No one likes a whiner. Why complain insistently when it is of no use. We used to be good at that. Whining was our domain. Did I just say ‘was’? Yes I did. It seems that we are coming out of our shell. The Arab Spring has arrived. The Diaspora is infected with a sense of optimism and hope. It is a very good feeling.

It is the {www:convergence} of three events that is making me delirious. To say they are a defining moment in the life of the Ethiopian Diaspora is not an exaggeration. We have made a great leap forward. Whining is so yesterday. Let us just say we are going where no Ethiopian has gone before.

We have made our share of mistakes. We have fallen plenty of time. We have scars to show for it. At long last we are showing signs of life. The giant is waking up. Our tenacity is paying off. We have come to realize there is nothing satisfying like doing the job your self. That little fact escaped us for a long time. A lot longer than some of us would care to remember. The important thing today is that we have arrived. Any mother would be proud of the new us.

What exactly I am gushing about is the founding of ESAT, the successful debut of The Ethiopian Heritage Festival and the just concluded public meeting organized by Alliance for Liberty, Equality and Justice in Ethiopia (ALEJE) in Arlington, VA. All three can be considered a giant step forward in our search for peace, democracy and the rule of law in our motherland.

Free Press is the first causality of a dictatorship. News is professionally filtered before it reaches the citizen. Unfiltered news is viewed as a threat. That is why the Meles regime spends millions to block ESAT, block independent Web sites, jam international newscasts in Ethiopian languages and kill, hound or exile journalists. All this expenditure to block the free flow of information while millions of our people starve. We used to complain and go around in circles seething with anger about this unjust situation. ESAT is our response. Meles, you can run but you can’t hide.

Since its inception ESAT has been battling the Woyane regime. Like they say ‘the strongest steel goes through the hottest fire’ ESAT is being tested. ESAT has shown {www:resiliency}. ESAT has been embraced by the children of Ethiopia. The just concluded fund raising campaign is testimonial of the love of the Diaspora that donated over three hundred thousand dollars to help ESAT. We will nurture ESAT until it penetrates the flimsy Woyane grass curtain.

Organizations that claim to serve the people should be open, transparent and the leaders democratically elected. Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America’s claim to be at the service of the Diaspora was glaringly brought into question during the ‘guest of honor’ selection process. ESFNA refused to listen the call of its supporters for transparency and accountability. We used to complain and threaten all kinds of calamities that will befall the mafia outfit. We used to boil over for a month or two and cool down to zero degrees until the next abuse. The Ethiopian Heritage Festival is our response. We created an organization that is open, transparent and keeper of our beautiful culture and the spirit of our brave ancestors.

The first Ethiopian Heritage Festival was a colossal success. It was a celebration of all things good about us. It was a place where our flag flew with the dignity it deserved. The setting was family friendly and the crowed was in a festive mood. The organizers should be complemented for such a lavish presentation that brought people together to celebrate our culture. Thank you for showing us good things can be done without {www:ulterior} motive. Love for people and country is reason enough and the reward is priceless. We thank the organizers for giving us a choice.

The ugliest malignant cancer introduced into our body politic by the Woyane regime is the concept of Kilil. It is presented as a righteous {www:indignation} of the downtrodden to right what was wrong. It is considered dangerous to even talk about it. It is a cancer cell mimicking to be normal. It has turned our country into a nation of strangers. Its effects even reverberate across the ocean.

Thus it was a breath of fresh air to see Dr. Berhanu Nega of Ginbot7 and Dr. Nuro Dedefo of OLF on the same stage discussing the future of our country. It was a direct contradiction of the concept of Kilil. It was an affirmation of the commonness of our struggle for freedom and Democracy. The twenty years of propaganda to divide us and set brothers and sisters against each other is laid to rest. What unites us is a million times more than our little differences. The symposium in Arlington, VA. was a milestone in our quest for justice.

If you notice the happenings in North Africa there are certain question that have come to the forefront. Why did things go smoothly in Tunisia and Egypt while hell broke loose in Libya and Syria? Among the many explanations presented there is one that seems to define the situation that is common to all. The magic word is the absence of ‘independent civic organizations’ under the two dictatorial regimes. We in Ethiopia are familiar with that mode of operation. That is what the TPLF regime did upon entering our capital city.

The Meles regime’s first order of business was the destruction of all independent organizations and associations. Today’s Ethiopia is marked by the complete absence of any outfit without the presence of TPLF boss at the helm or behind the scene manipulating their chosen manikin dressed up for show. Trade Unions, Chamber of commerce, Teachers Union, Women’s Organizations, Sports Federation and even Political Party are not safe from the Woyanes dirty finger. That is the reason Libya and Syria are on the brink of the abyss since there is no credible voice of the people inside the country.

That is exactly the reason I am full of hope with the emergence of genuine, homegrown response to Woyane atrocity. We are done crying. We are now creating our own robust response to force Woyane to do the crying. We are laying the foundations for sustainable and genuine associations by the people for the people. The seeds are planted, it is the responsibility of each one of us to nurture and grow our future building stones for a free and democratic Ethiopia.

Like it has been said many times ‘if you want it done right it is better if you do it yourself.’ Well it looks like we heeded that call. I believe the three examples are the road in the right direction. We learnt whining does not cut it. Now we are beginning to come with the answer instead of just the question. We have started with a good solid foundation. It is definitely a good beginning. It shows forward thinking, it shows determination and most of all it shows maturity. Our Ethiopian Spring is here. Despite the gloomy report regarding our starving brethren, our inflation whipped parents; we see light at the end of the tunnel. The new road we are traveling looks bright and hopeful.

Irrational acts and strange behavior

By Yilma Bekele

There is no lack of that in our neighborhood. We are blessed with delusional pea brains with inflated view of themselves and their capabilities while masquerading as leaders. They have a tendency to think if they believe it, it must be so. Unfortunately life slaps them with what is commonly known as reality.

Actually ‘unfortunate’, for the rest of us is a better expression, since they already have done the damage and there is no punishment fit for their crimes. We are left cleaning the mess they leave behind. ‘C’est la Vie’ is definitely not appropriate here for the victimizer. If we have to go ferenji with it I would say ‘nolo contendre’ is more fitting. For those of you not well versed in French or Latin ‘nolo contendre’ means that the defendant does not admit the charge but does not dispute it either. Here are a few examples of ‘say it ain’t so, Joe’ moments in East Africa the last two weeks.

A week ago five Somali pirates were taken into custody by a US war ship. Two were waiting on the mother ship further away while the three boarded a ‘skiff’ (a small boat) and fired at the US Navy ship. The report states that the USS Nicholas, a guided missile frigate has been tracking the boat when the hapless pirates decided to open fire. Yes this small rowboat manned by three Kat intoxicated Somalis was going to board a US war ship and hold it for ransom.

The USS Nicholas is no ordinary ship. According to the Navy ‘she is designed to provide in-depth protection for military and merchant shipping, amphibious task force and underway replenishment groups.’ The Nicholas has 17 officers and 108 enlisted men. She has served with distinction is the first Persian Gulf War and played a role in enforcing UN sanctions against the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Its deck brisling with all sorts of radar and sonar, with its short and long range anti aircraft cannons and killer Torpedoes the Nicholas a sight to behold.

Why would a little boat with simple automatic weapons engage such an impressive war machine? Madness is one explanation. A highly inflated sense of one’s power is another. When you throw in Kat into this mix the sky is the limit to the pirate’s delusion.

The Ethiopian Prime Minster when asked about his regime’s interference with Voice of America’s broadcast to Ethiopia said ‘”We have to know before we make the decision to jam, whether we have the capacity to do it,” the prime minister said. “But I assure you if they assure me at some future date that they have the capacity to jam it, I will give them the clear guideline to jam it. But so far there has not been that formal decision to jam.”

VOA broadcasts to Ethiopia in three languages. Amharic,Tigrigna and Afan Oromoo. The regime is focused on the Amharic transmission. Why is a good question? Why are only Amharic speakers targeted not to listen to VOA, defined, as the forerunner to ‘Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda’ by the dictator is not clear at the moment. Is it possible those two groups are immune to that kind of propaganda or they don’t listen to VOA? Nonetheless our fearless leader is investing money and resources to acquire the ability to silence VOA.

I am sure with plenty of resources and know how most things are possible. Please note the key words ‘resources and know how’. Ethiopia does not meet both requirements. The country cannot feed itself and has been on international life support system for a very long time. It definitely does not have the know how inside Ethiopia to manufacture such sophisticated instrument. It looks like with its limited resources TPLF has bought some second-rate technology from the Chinese or East Europeans to interfere with VOA’s broadcast. VOA was not amused. The State Department found the dictator’s pronouncement very offensive. (በለፈለፉ ይጠፉ) A low level official responded in the usual manner dismissing it as yet another example of an African leader’s babble. VOA went into satellite mode. Go ahead find us is what VOA said. Good luck wana be jammers!

If we are bold enough to make a suggestion here the regime is better off sending cadres in to every house to shut off the radio. That is a low level technology and within reach of the totalitarian system. It could also solve the rampant unemployment problem.

According to those who are in the know regarding food our country is in dire need of food aid to feed over eight million starving Ethiopians. Our government refers to the problem as ‘acute mal-nutrition’. The people affected refer to it as hunger and famine. How do you think the regime is trying to solve the problem? May be revise the policy of ‘state ownership’ of land? Devise new policy to help farmers improve production thru education, better seed selection and subsidized fuel and fertilizer?

The short answer is none of the above. The TPLF regime’s approach is a little different. The plan is to attract foreign investment by offering virgin land and generous tax incentives. Thus these foreign entities are going to farm using state of the art means to grow cash crops to be sold on the international market. There are a few kinks in this irrational decision to solve a real problem. First there is no tax to be collected by the state due to the initial agreement. Employment is not going to be a factor since the project is capital incentive using tractors and harvesters. The run off from too much fertilizer use of course will affect the land and the next generation will have to deal with the toxic waste left behind.

It is also true that what is grown on our own land can not be purchased by us since we can not be able to compete in the international open market. So what was in it for the regime? Immediate cash at signing the contract is at the heart of such a foolish decision. For TPLF the issue is solving the problem of not enough foreign currency especially at this time of elections. For the next two months the regime is going to spend a lot of money buying, bribing and coddling their junior partners not to be embarrassed during the coronation. Please note leasing of land is relegated to Gambella, Oromia and the South. Tigrai is not for sale.

Last but not least in this madness is a report from Ethiopia heralding the introduction of Electric car. The report quotes a ‘Mr. Carlo Pironti, general manager of Freestyle PLC, the company producing the Solaris, told the BBC’s Uduak Amimo in Addis Ababa that Ethiopia’s electricity shortages were not a major obstacle to operating an electric car.’

A country unable to produce electricity to light a 20watt.light bulb consistently is in the process of manufacturing an electric car that requires charging. I guess Mr. Pironti must have lived in Ethiopia for a while since he is affected by this abesha sickness of run away imagination. He thinks electric car without electricity is not a problem. Would you say this is an example of taking the slogan ‘Yes we can’ to the extreme? Do you get the feeling that the regime wakes up trying to surpass yesterdays lies and empty bravado by more absurd news and pronouncements? It is highly possible that the policy is to come up with a combination of little fact and more fiction hoping it will deflect the real and depressing condition in the country. It is also possible that insulated from real life, our leaders have become consumers of their own lies and make believe stories.

The small Somali rowboat firing on the war ship, the banana republic challenge of VOA, the land sale to foreigners and electric car without electricity are a perfect example of irrational act raised to the level of a valid policy. Stay tuned for a free and fair election with the winners going to Kaliti and the losers to parliament.