Nelson Mandela In Ethiopia: A Peacemaker's Beginnings As Guerrilla Fighter
By Jacey Fortin
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- Flags are flying at half-staff outside the African Union headquarters on Friday in honor of Nelson Mandela, whose death Thursday has the entire continent, and the world, in mourning. The activist, politician, scholar, husband, father and Nobel Peace Prize laureate fought against apartheid, a system of formalized segregation that saw black South Africans treated as third-class citizens, and helped to heal a fractured nation in the aftermath of minority rule.
“Nelson Mandela will be remembered as a symbol for wisdom, for the ability to change and the power of reconciliation,” AU Deputy Chairman Erasmus Mwencha told reporters here in Ethiopia's capital city on Friday morning. “His life and legacy is the biggest lesson, motivation, inspiration and commitment any African can give to Africa.”
Welcome to Ethiopia, let me have your bag
By Yilma Bekele
I hope you are sitting down while reading the story I am about to tell you. Unfortunately it is a true story and it couldn’t have happened anywhere but in good old Ethiopia. When it comes to laying down like a doormat and letting everyone walk all over us we Ethiopians wrote the manual. We cannot repeat this story to any outsider because they would look at us in a strange way and walk away not understanding this kind of convoluted humor. In fact most of us will deny it happened.
Some of us would have to come up with some kind of explanation to make the story go down smooth to avoid getting choked with our shame.
As you all know the Saudis mostly but all the Middle Eastern Arabs have not been kind to us for quite a while. Three weeks ago the Saudis decided to tighten the collective noose around our neck by a notch. It was not pleasant. I mean due to the Internet and ubiquity of mobile technology the whole world witnessed their barbarity. For those that got killed, raped, beaten and humiliated may the creator have mercy on their soul.
It even angered the so called Diaspora or economic and political refugee from their motherland. The abuse of Ethiopians in the Middle East is common knowledge. The news of some little girl hanging herself, taking household detergent as poison, being driven out of her mind has become an everyday news. Normally we read the news then we shrug, swallow hard make that hissing sound and move on.
This time it was different. Instead of trickled down abuse they decided to do it wholesale style to us. Hunt them down and throw them in the desert was what the King declared. The security force and vigilantes were more than happy to comply.
Now the Ethiopian government was true to its nature of being the fire starter and the fire fighter at the same time. This game has been refined by the late nameless warlord that all the new guys have to do was go on auto pilot and let us do all the heavy lifting. Thus they activated their cadres to take us on a rampage and get the world to notice the crime. We complied beautifully. I am not saying we should not have protested but the heart of the matter lies protest against who and why and to what end. Woyane answered those questions for us.
If you look closely at all the rallying cry since the problem started you will notice all our ire was directed at ‘Saudis, Arabs, Muslims’ and other phantom enemies.
The Ethiopian government unable to take care of its people willingly exports them to the Middle East, turn its face away when they are abused, closes Conciliates to deny them shelter and we curse the ‘Arabs’ for not being humane to the those with no place to go. One thing our cry did was help Woyane spin a new version of the sad story.
This is where Woyane excels- snatching victory out of defeat. Sure enough the Foreign Minister that seems to be void of diplomatic language using such memorable words such as ‘depressed, bugged etc.’ to explain tragic events that happened to his people was the lead sent out to calm us down. A blind leading the blind is what comes to mind.
However you sneer at it, it worked. Before you know it the international conscience we were able to wake up and take notice was what Woyane was anticipating. All of a sudden the urgency of the situation was magnified by Woyane. The numbers kept climbing from one day to another. The Foreign Minister on training set up what he called ‘command center’ to collect money in an orderly manner. The Saudi Government paid for the trip, the Red Cross facilitated the camp, the UN refugee organization poured money into the bucket and good old Woyane opened their pockets.
This is where I am going to tell you more of what happened. I ask you again if you are sitting down. You see the Saudis started flying around the clock bringing the Habesha home. So you would think people will be lined up to welcome the traumatized, abused and weak from being kept in a desert tent back to their mother land. One would hope it would be a joys day where families embrace their loved ones and thank their Gods for their safe return.
I am afraid none of that happened. The government did not want the people to be involved in this happy moment. Furthermore our dear old government came up with a brilliant scheme to make money of already beaten people. New regulations went into effect. Only two bags, two mobile phones, no electronic items and gold has to be weighed before entering the country. All excess amounts will be confiscated.
Thus the Saudis kicked our people from their country, they killed some, raped a few but in the end allowed them to gather their belongings and transported them home. The Ethiopian government waited with open hands and robbed them of their last shred of dignity as a welcome gesture.
I am glad some of our people were rescued from this hell on earth. I am happy we their brethren did not ignore their plight. No matter what a few tried to use this sad situation to line their pockets, show loyalty to their handlers, secretly betray their people and country most of us with good heart did what we have to do. What
I am saying here is that it is not enough. A band aid solution is not the way to go. What we have done is postpone the problem for another day.
Our halfhearted gesture ultimately ends up hurting us. We are present at the start of the problem but we do not wait around to solve it. We raise the issue and someone else comes around and sticks a useless defanged solution that we have to go back and try to solve again. Let us see when the Emirates, or Lebanon or
Kuwait gets tired of our people and starts the deportations are we going to go out and scream again? What would those that see us with our banner again think of us? Let alone foreigners even some of us are getting tired of this crap. Please read the attached and see the actions of the illegal minority regime in this time of sadness for our people. Let us pay attention to what Henry David Thoreau said ‘There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.’ Strike at the root, hit Woyane!
The angry children of Ethiopia
By Yilma Bekele
We really are a special people. No matter how far we go one eye is always on Ethiopia. The last few days we saw something we did not like. Ethiopians on all four corners of the world saw it at the same time. We were universally sad and worried to death. What we saw being done to our cousins will not be forgotten. What the Saudi Security and a few Saudi citizens did to unarmed young boys and girls is ugly. It is a sad reflection on Saudi Arabia’s society being built with petro dollars. All I can say is what a waste. When that freaky system they are constructing implodes I know they will bring their sorry ass to Ethiopia and we will meet under our terms.
We are normally a very quiet and reserved people. But the situation in the Middle East in general and Saudi in particular seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Our response which is still in progress was one of united indignation. Outside of Ethiopia protest was held in every city, town and village Ethiopians live. Why do we go out on protest marches is a good question.
We all agree the way the Arabs of the Middle East treat us is degrading, inhuman, against international treaties and should stop right now. How do we accomplish that goal is the answer to our current problem. Today there are thousands in detention camps, thousands that live in fear and plenty more that are being abused as we speak. How do we stop them hurting our people and disrespecting our country?
There are several ways to get the Arabs to listen and pay attention. Military might is the most effective method. There is nothing like having a big gun to level the playing field. That is the response of Nation States. Unfortunately the Diaspora does not have an army. So we did what we could to show our concern. No Saudi Embassy and Conciliate was safe from our assault. We did our part in the Bay Area. It was great to see Ethiopians speaking in one voice. Our Eritrean cousins joined us and made the occasion more notable. Who else would show up in times of crisis other than one’s family near and far. Although it was a chilly November day we all felt warm and energized by each other’s positive energy and that fierce Ethiopian spirit. It was a work day and plenty were unable to come. But we all felt their presence.
Our aim was to put the Saudi government on notice that those they are abusing with impunity have someone that cares. We were using international shaming as a weapon. We were also teaching the citizens of the countries we live in about the dire situation Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali migrant workers find themselves in. Our protest were recorded by the news media and our petitions have gone to all those that can act on it.
It feels good to be able to protest in a peaceful manner and makes one’s opinion known. It is clear it is not enough to solve the problem we are facing. We cannot sustain this anger for long. In a few weeks just because we got over it does not mean the problem is gone. We need to figure out a lasting solution.
There are three solutions I have in mind. All three would effectively solve our problem and we can return back to what we were doing. Solution number one is flex our military muscle and fly our jets into Saudi air space and act menacingly. Solution number two is bring all our people back home where they belong. In fact the Arabs would even pay for the trip back. The third and final solution is pulverize the source of the problem that seems to drive young people out of their country.
Solution number one is not an option. Our military cannot even win over Somalia – a country with no government. Solution number two is not acceptable either. The way the Woyane regime is constructed they need remittances to replenish their foreign currency, are pleased with getting rid of young impatient citizens and with unemployment over forty percent and more there is no incentive to bring the kids home. If there was opportunity they would not have left in the first place.
Why exactly are these young people flocking to the Middle East knowing the danger? The simple answer is because they see no future in their homeland. Leaving your place of birth is not an easy decision. It is a very traumatic experience. The hardship is doubled when one has a low educational level and no skill to sell.
Normally it is the job of a government to protect its citizens. Ours is unable and unwilling to do that. That is why we in the Diaspora are protesting despite the governments many attempts to infiltrate and sabotage our efforts in the community. We do not have a government that feels any sense of responsibility to its citizen. The government is a body detached from the citizen thus is in no position to understand the degree of anger that is building up in the society. While tens of thousands are in so called detention centers the regime wants to toot its horn for bringing two hundred fifty six back. And the handpicked Foreign Minister says ‘…they have homes to come to’ knowing he has no plans to resettle all these stranded citizens.
The Ethiopian people despite news blackout by the regime were very much disturbed by the news. Led by Semayawi Party and Andenet they tried to protest in front of the Kingdom’s Embassy but were even denied that. The regime sent its security force to harass, beat up and jail citizens that were exercising their right in a peaceful manner. We can march in Washington D.C., Seoul-South Korea, Oslo-Norway, and Toronto-Canada but are not allowed in Addis Ababa. We are escorted by motorcycle police in San Francisco but are whipped like animals by Ethiopian Federal Police.
The regime knows we are very angry and is doing all it can to bottle this tsunami of emotion. Their operatives are working hard to shift the blame on Arabs. They are screaming let us discuss effect not cause. They say we are strictly concerned about human rights abuse in Saudi Arabia and there is no need to bring ‘politics’ into the picture. We don’t ask why everybody is migrating out despite the danger but protest if they are abused by some savage government. Woyane agents and Hodam Diaspora are enlisted to keep the discussion strictly on the behavior of the Arabs and shield the regime.
This incident has shone a bright light on the nature of the minority regime in Addis Abeba. Faced with a major problem affecting thousands of its citizens it chooses to keep quiet. The Saudis notified the world that they are giving a seven month period for undocumented people to find spencer or leave. The Ethiopian government is fully aware that there are a large number of our people that have entered the country without proper credentials. For seven months the Woyane regime chooses to ignore the situation. Knowing the young citizens are at harm’s way the Woyane regime did nothing to help them.
Even after the whole world became aware of the dire situations faced by our people including the killings, rape, beatings the Ethiopian government is still calling the Diaspora alarmist and putting out false press releases denying the problem. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.
What do you think, doesn’t the third solution of removing this entity called Woyane from the scene the only option that could result in a lasting solution faced by our country and people? We definitely cannot change the Saudi Regime. It is too rich and powerful to be moved by our protest. Anyway it is always easier and better to change one’s own condition than someone else’s.
This latest confrontations with the minority regime has elevated our movement to a higher level. The Woyane is being stripped of any and all legitimacy and proving once again it does not have the interest of our country and people when it comes to dealing with other nations. Many that were fiving the regime the benefit of the doubt are today looking at it differently. The picture is getting clearer by the day. The regime claim they have repatriated two hundred fifty people they just have twenty five thousand plus to go.
We the children of Ethiopia have a choice in front of us. We can continue being abused by our own government or we could roll our sleeves and unite to deliver a crippling blow so it will never rear its ugly tribalist head ever again in the land of the Habeshas. It is your choice. We can continue the dysfunctional behavior we are famous for like putting each other down, creating organizations that don’t stand any chance of doing anything substantial, peddling the ethnic card using those knowledge challenged followers, travelling home and feeding the monster with our hard earned money or pretending everything is great and no need to lift a finger. All are choices we have to make. You can support Semayawi party in its quest to use smart nonviolent means; you could help Andenet in its slow deliberative process or join the forces of Ginbot 7 in its painstakingly organized stealth assault at the heart of the enemy. I don’t want to hear you say there is no leader, no vanguard party because if you don’t join and help there won’t be any. If protest march is not followed with concrete action then what is the point of all this drama?
Ethiopia: Meles Zenawi's selected speech: completing the story
By Hindessa Abdul
It has been a year since long time Ethiopian ruler Meles Zenawi died of unestablished causes in a Belgian hospital somewhere between June and August of 2012. The Government hasn’t come out clearly about the cause of his death.
During the last several weeks the state run media were preoccupied portraying a person akin to a saint. The praises showered upon him were more than needed to canonize him. 21-gun salute was fired; millions of trees planted; fellow leaders of neighbouring countries were at hand to give pomp to the event; scores of parks renamed after him, and the list goes on and on.
University professors, army generals, cabinet members, and party operatives were paraded to give testimony about the deeds of his excellency. They said he was an intellectual, a military strategist, a farmers’s best friend, and man of the people.
ETV even took a page from North Korean manual on cult of personality. They took us to his office showing the working area displaying a document he allegedly was working on; Koreans already did that telling the story of Kim Il-sung (the senior Kim). If that is any indication, everything Meles touched may be preserved as historical relic.
For those whose thirst about Meles’ myth were not quenched, the Sunday shows came up with the selected speeches that tried to make an entertainer out of the chief priest of “revolutionary democracy.”
Meles had all the answers for every question under the sun; he was talking to the rubber stamp parliament ready to giggle at every phrase uttered; he was addressing the youth, the business men, the revelers at a millennium party, you name it.
While the nation propaganda machine wants to paint a demigod, it is only fair to complete the story. As they say, journalism is “the first rough draft of history.” Here are some of his pronouncements that were willingly left out:
In April 1990 a year before Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) controlled Addis Ababa, Meles had an interview with the late CIA and National Security specialist Paul B. Henze in the TPLF’s Washington office. “We can no longer have Amhara domination,” Meles told him. While it was no secret that Henze sympathized with TPLF, he still confronted the rebel leader to which Meles tried to soften a bit: “ When we talk about Amhara domination, we mean the Amhara of Shoa, and the habit of Shoan supremacy that became established in Addis Abeba during the last hundred years.”
In a visit to the Tigray region shorty after his ascendance to power the then Ethiopian President played to the emotions of the public somewhat in the line of Hitler’s rhetoric about the Aryan race: “We are proud to be born out of you...we are proud to be gotten out of you.” ( Enkwae abhatkum tefetirna...enkwae abhatkum terehibna )_ That part of the speech is always left out when ETV takes sound bytes from that “historical” speech, not to offend the “nations and nationalities.”
In August 1994 (some say it was October 1995), Meles Zenawi visits the U.S. and confers with members of Ethiopian community in Washington D.C. Flanked by his yes-men like Seyoum Mesfin, Berhane G.Kristos, Dr Tekeda Alemu and other TPLF top brass, Meles was entertaining questions from the audience. A lady asks him what his vision was for Ethiopia ten years from then. Meles responded his vision was to make sure the people eat three times a day._ Decade after the promised era, Ethiopians scavenge for left overs at restaurants or in city waste disposal sites.
In an interview with Professor Donald Levine - a renowned U.S. sociologist and professor of Ethiopian studies - the late premier retorted: “The Tigreans had Axum, but what could that mean to the Gurague! The Agew had Lalibela, but what could that mean to the Oromo! The Gonderes had castles, but what could that mean to the Wolaita?”
That comment was to haunt him on the eve of the 2005 general elections where he was afraid to face any opposition politician for debate. In his last appearance prior to the vote, Meles explained that gaffe saying it was taken out of context. But he implied that the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture (then Ambassador to France) Teshome Toga who hails from Wolaita Zone was put in charge to counter the perception his words created. Teshome eventually oversaw the return of the Axum Obelisk in April 2005.
When history is written by historians rather than victors, those speeches and comments hopefully will get their rightful place in the interest of posterity.
Ethiopia: Eskinder’s Wail from the Gulag irks 'Tyrants on the Throne'
By Selam Beyene
At a time when patriotic Ethiopians like Eskinder Nega are languishing in Gulag-style prisons for exercising their rights to express their opinions, those of us living beyond Woyane’s reach are blessed with the freedom to read books that stimulate the mind, shed light on our rich heritage, expose the treasonous policies of the Woyane regime in power, and, above all, enlighten us on the triumphs of those luminous sons and daughters of Ethiopia who built a country that was once Africa’s beacon of hope but is now being torn asunder by the treacherous TPLF cadres.
One such book is “Republicans on the Throne: A Personal Account of Ethiopia's Modernization and Painful Quest for Democracy” by Tekalign Gedamu (Tsehai Publishers, 2011). To read the book is to go on a journey through time filled with traumatic events, dashed hopes, lost opportunities and excessive greed on one side, and patriotism, optimism, Ethiopian ingenuity and love of country on the other. The memoir, which has the mark of an unusual flare of literary brilliance and unmatched elegance, is punctuated with ubiquitous gems of trivia only an essayist of the author’s experience and intellect can muster and encapsulate in mesmerizing prose. More importantly, it offers a pragmatic roadmap for a democratic Ethiopia in which the philosophy of ethnocentrism will have no place, individual rights will be respected, and lasting peace and stability for the region will be secured.
As we read in this magnificently written book the gripping account of the journey Ethiopia has undertaken over the past several decades, we can’t help but wonder how from a land that had once produced such great leaders as Aklilu Habte-Wold, Yilma Diressa, Ketema Yifru and numerous others, including the author himself, could emerge tyrants and traitors in the likes of Mengistu Haile-Mariam, Meles Zenawi and his TPLF cadres, whose deviant policies have led the country to a path of destruction. Today’s Ethiopia is a country where ethnic politics is the official ruling party platform; corruption, nepotism and greed are instruments of anti-Ethiopianism; reading pro-democracy Websites is criminalized; and speaking truth to power is a certain ticket to the country’s Gulag. Nothing captures the sense of totalitarianism and hopelessness reigning in the country today better than the recent posting by Eskinder Nega in The New York Times (July 24, 2013):
‘I was arrested in September 2011 and detained for nine months before I was found guilty in June 2012 under Ethiopia’s overly broad Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which ostensibly covers the “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt” of terrorist acts. In reality, the law has been used as a pretext to detain journalists who criticize the government. Last July, I was sentenced to 18 years in prison. … all I did was report on the Arab Spring and suggest that something similar might happen in Ethiopia if the authoritarian regime didn’t reform. … I also dared to question the government’s ludicrous claim that jailed journalists were terrorists.’
It is in the backdrop of such a horrendous and uncertain condition in the country that we are presented with Republicans on the Throne. This is a book that will put to shame our generation for ignorance of our heritage, and enlighten current and future generations about the heroic achievements of their forefathers and their obligation to fight and die for their proud and precious legacy.
In the early chapters of the memoir, the author reminiscences about his youth in Gore, one of the remotest provincial cities during Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign, and takes the reader back to an age of innocence when citizens were not categorized by their ethnicity but by the social bond that tied them closely together, and when leaders and followers revered the sanctity of our tricolor and the inviolability of our sovereignty. In contrast, the treasonous tyrants “on the throne” today denigrate the flag that countless generations protected with blood and sweat, parcel out precious land to foreigners at dirt cheap prices, aggressively promote inter-ethnic strives, and loot the cherished wealth of the country.
The subsequent chapters that depict Gedamu’s early life as a student in the US and the ensuing decades of career in the United Nations, successive governments in Ethiopia and eventually the African Development Bank, paint the picture of a man who epitomizes all the qualities of that unique Ethiopian we all grew up to venerate -- one who values hard work over leisure, esteems public service over personal wealth, relishes integrity over treachery, and, above all, reveres love of country over caustic ethnic politics. In due course, the memoir elucidates the strengths and weaknesses of the Imperial system, the chaos that followed the 1974 revolution, and the emergence of successive brutal dictatorships.
The book is also a treasure trove of anecdotal accounts of important events and personalities that shed further light on the modus operandi of the time and the lives and moral fibers of some of the extraordinary leaders that ran the day-to-day business of the nation. As one flips through the pages one is frequently reminded of how little did most of us know about those leaders, not to mention the foibles of Aman Andom, the remarkable professionalism of Haddis Alemayehu, the statesmanship of Aklilu Habte-Wold or the gumption of Michael Imru.
As the writer transitions his focus to the post-Derg era, he momentarily leaves the reader with a sense of puzzlement as to why he would choose to return to Ethiopia and embark on major entrepreneurial projects under the tyrannical rule of Zenawi. In light of the stellar background of the author as an accomplished technocrat who had served under or lived through disparate systems of government, the reason for such seemingly foolhardy decision is hard to justify, and even more difficult to attribute to a manifestation of plain naiveté. However, a perceptive reader would soon be sympathetic on the knowledge that the sinister and elusive propaganda Zenawi perfected has hoodwinked many seasoned technocrats of Gedamu’s caliber and eventually landed them in prison. Even today, it is with a sense of unfathomable astonishment and compunction that we witness the tragic transfer of hard-earned Diaspora money into Woyane’s coffers, in the name of investing in the home country, by credulous Ethiopian émigrés in the West, who have yet to fully appreciate the true nature of the regime and the cancerous ethnic agenda it has espoused to irreparably harm the long-term viability of the nation.
While the book by and large abounds with a wealth of information about the recent past and present history of the country, some of the most significant contributions come in the last few chapters, in which breaking from tradition, the author tackles head on Woyane’s totalitarianism and duplicity, and masterfully analyzes the internal and external challenges that must be confronted to build a “promising future”. Unlike most writers of the same genre whose pens are woefully timid when it comes to underscoring the true nature of Woyane, Gedamu boldly exposes the most dangerous aspect of the regime, viz, its anti-Ethiopianism. “Closely wedded to ideology, perhaps even its principal raison d'être, is TPLF’s commitment to the politics of ethnic identity,” he affirms. He goes on to caution: “A one-dimensional perception of identity puts greater emphasis on the rights of groups and correspondingly less on the rights of the individuals that make up these groups; and lesser still on those outside the group.” He then reminds us of Amy Gutman’s wise words: “Subordinating individual [rights] to group [rights] is another name for tyranny.”
In debunking the anti-Ethiopia agenda that “extremist TPLF members” espouse, Gedamu warns them of the “… tragic backlash that is bound to ensue if they persist in their policy,” and notes:
“An independent Tigrai built on assets plundered from Ethiopia is the surest prescription for a potent reprisal that would be an unending source of conflict for the new state. More menacingly, Tigreans living in Ethiopia would be exposed to vengeful acts of violence too fearful to contemplate. The silent majority of Tigreans is doubtless conscious of this and will hopefully prevail upon the party fanatics to pursue a policy of multiethnic collaboration and accommodation.”
To those who try to find answers to the present predicament of Ethiopia, where totalitarianism, corruption and anti-Ethiopianism define the Woyane leadership, the author candidly expounds Woyane’s barricade against the struggle for democracy, fundamental freedoms, national cohesion and the fight against poverty. He authoritatively declares that “[N]either Marxism nor identity politics is likely to respond to the challenges facing Ethiopians today: autocracy, poverty, and communal antagonisms,” and boldly charts a pragmatic roadmap that can inform genuine dialogue to extricate the country from the current quagmire of ethnocentric rule, naked tyranny and gloomy prospects of national collapse.
Admittedly, Gedamu’s roadmap is only one of many admirable ideas put forth by many genuine Ethiopians to accelerate the victory for democracy and national salvation that has proved so elusive so far. Such a victory, however, can only be possible through the discreet activities of a strong organization that enjoys the participation of a well-informed membership about their heritage and the true nature of the regime. While the works of writers like Gedamu are a good start, it is the responsibility of every legitimate Ethiopian to ensure the messages are spread far and wide.
The enemy is well armed, superbly organized and lavishly financed, and has controlled the population through a Soviet- style security system and sinfully alluring entitlements that may make the tasks of pro-democracy forces exceedingly onerous. However, as the recent history of the Arab Spring has shown, no power can pent up the rage of an oppressed people for much too long.
The writer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of nazret.com. The views are solely that of the author. Become a blogger of nazret.com, the #1 Rated Ethiopian Website according to Alexa. Contact us for details
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