Ethiopia and Syria revisited
By Yilma Bekele
The Syrian regime is killing its own people to save the country from terrorists (Ashebari). The world is watching and keeping score. Thanks to social media such as Twitter and Facebook we are all witnessing this display of total madness safely from our home. The Missile attack on neighborhoods is televised in living color. The old Soviet tanks lined up outside towns are not defending the country from outsiders but rearing to rain death on their own people. It was only a few years back that such atrocity by dictators was not considered newsworthy. It is not because no one cared but rather because it was done behind closed borders. Things are different now. There is no place to hide.
The last year has been a very tumultuous year in our neighborhood. We have all witnessed the happenings in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. All these countries have imploded from inside. There was no outside interference so to speak of. There was no scapegoat. If you look closely there is one theme that is common to all. The existence of what is called a ‘strong leader’; ‘dictator’ or ‘mad person in charge’ is what is true in every instance. Change was overdue but dictatorship and change are not compatible. Dictatorship cannot be overcome by evolutionary means. Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria are living examples of the validity of that statement.
I am sure the citizens of all those countries would have preferred a peaceful route to bring needed change. I am also sure they for many years, have tried to convince their respective Leaders to accommodate their demands. The upheaval is the result of the inability of the system to fulfill the aspiration of the people. When the needs of the citizen and the wishes of the dictator clash the country enters a very volatile state that can only be resolved by some sort of explosion.
There are controlled explosions and spontaneous explosion. The transition from the Derg to TPLF was a good example of controlled explosion. The transition from the Emperor to the Derg was a very haphazard, creeping and tiring kind of wimpy explosion. The last one standing won. The one with balls but no brains was victorious. Result speaks louder than words.
Syria is entering or has entered that stage. This is the last show and the curtains are coming down. There will be no repeat performance. We all know how it is going to end. By ‘we’ I mean the rest of the world except of course the Syrian ruling lass. All Dictators have a tendency for getting caught by surprise. For some the denial is so strong they don’t even have an escape plan. That is what Gadaffi aide said in an interview. The Leader never thought his ‘people’ would be able to gather their nerves and rise up against him. Didn’t he crush their will and personhood? The Idiot was surprised!
Our current object Syria is nothing but a continuation of Arab awakening or “Arab Spring” that originated in Tunisia. But it has its own unique features. In the scheme of Dictatorships in history, it gets a grade of D- at best. It looks like it will only last a single generation. It is nothing to write home about. I do not mean no disrespect or sneer at ours that is gasping to last even a half-life but that is the nature of the business. Africa is littered with wannabe dictators that have lasted less.
The Assad’s have managed to exist by all sorts of trickery and Ponzi scheme. This includes Clannish behavior, benefactor role, blackmail, extortion, assassination and every kind of criminal activity that buys them another day. Today the fabric that has been painstakingly woven is breaking apart. It has run its course and there is no new trick left to prop up the dying system. The Assad’s know it, their Alawit Clan is aware of it and the Syrian people are doing all that they could to hurry matters along.
What exactly is arrayed against the Assad clan is a good question. The main characters all are easy to spot. We are witnessing their cajoling for the best spot after the dust settles. And there are many actors in this farce. The Israelis want a weak Syria with Assad in charge. Their motto is decapitate but not kill. The Jordanians are not thrilled by another crazy regime on the other side of their border. Iraq has already caused a lot of dislocations. The Lebanese are as usual caught between a rock and a hard place. They are keeping a low profile. Turkey is delirious by the opportunity to be seen as an emerging neighborhood bully. Turkey is flexing its muscles.
Iran is depressed. This could not have come at a most unfortunate time. Iran is under siege and it its important ally is jumping from a plane without knowing if the parachute would work. The Mullahs in Quom are not happy and the Islamic Republic will do all that is necessary to prop up the dying regime. The US is walking a tight rope. Mr. Obama does not want anything to complicate matters in this election season. The Israeli Lobby is beating war drums. Mr. Obama has no intention of picking a fight with a powerful constituent no matter what the cause is.
Russia is posturing. Mr. Putin still possess a few not sea worthy submarines prone to accident and rusting nuke Silos and for some reason the West pretends he packs a punch. Clint East Wood would say “Go ahead Vladimir make my day.” Russia’s useless posturing is tolerated because it buys the West time to figure out the volatile situation inside Syria.
The Chinese are looking after number one here. They are thinking “if these foreign devils pass a resolution regarding interference in Syria what is to stop them doing the same when it comes to Tibet?” China is still smarting over being tricked into going along with the invasion of Libya. They have concluded this not to be the time to posture but send scouts to bid on infrastructure building that will definitely follow the mayhem.
Did you notice who I left for last? Yes, good old Syrian people. I am afraid they allowed this abuse by the Assad family and his minority Alawit Clan to go for so long they have become an after thought in the search for a solution to their problem. No one takes their protestations and defiance seriously. Outsiders are looking for a ‘solution’ to impose on them with little or no regard to what they want. It is exactly like what parents say to their child ‘eat your vegetables, it is good for you!’
We Ethiopians are looking closely at the situation in Syria. We have a lot in common. We are both victims of a mad leader and minority clan rule. We both live in a very dangerous neighborhood where others use our precarious existence to wage proxy wars. My interest in writing this paper is to show you what will be done to your country and people in the next few months. I hope you will not feign surprise or pretend you were in the dark. What you see in Syria will be what you will witness in Ethiopia. It won’t be exact but it will be close enough to act as a model. I promise to be the happiest person if I am proven wrong, but that would be flying against facts.
In a very simplistic term this is what we got in Syria. Assad is a second-generation dictator. His power base is the minority Alawit Clan. They consist 12% of the population and occupy all the upper echelons of the military. Security is in the hands of close family members. The economy is used to reward or punish the rest of the population including the majority Sunnis. All media is under the control of the State.
Syria has been in turmoil since March of 2011. The official figure is over seven thousand killed. The Syrian government has killed over seven thousand of its own citizens to stay in power. Bashir and his Alawit Clan are telling the rest of the Syrians either we rule or you all die. It is that simple. He owns a formidable army. Unlike in Egypt the Army is disciplined and controlled better from above. They do not hesitate to fire even into populated areas. Assad, his family and Clan today are feeling like cornered animals. Due to situation they created their escape route is narrowing as we read this. Under the circumstances the only thing to do is pray that the Syrian people put their differences aside and finish this varmint once and for all.
When we look at Syria in the mirror why do I get this feeling that we see Ethiopia. Look at the bright side. This gives us the opportunity to avoid disaster. If we share a common problem and if one of us self-destruct trying a solution I believe the second party should lean from the mistakes and adjust accordingly. That is where we come in. Observe and study all the wrong moves taken by the Dictators and circumvent it before it takes place. I agree it is not easy for Prime Minster Meles and his group. It is a little naïve to think they are doing this because they are evil or lack the expertise. The simple answer is because that is the only way they know how. But it is very easy for us to learn and adopt.
A far as Assad or Meles are concerned the last thirty years has only proved the effectiveness of their method. I said effectiveness not correct and sustainable. Since their inception the use of brute force has been the only way they have resolved any contradiction. The chances of teaching them the value of compromise and the lasting nature of give and take is not possible and utterly a waste of time. It is not going to happen. Gadaffi did not fall for that. Assad will not even consider such farce. The TPLF party is not into committing suicide. We all know they are not capable of learning.
I was talking about us. I believe we are capable of learning from the failed experience of Gadaffi, Saleh and Assad. Ato Meles is not going to invent a new reality. He is going to act exactly like his fellow criminals in a predictable manner. Killing and more killing is the only solution. They assume the more they kill the less we rise up against them. That always worked. Unfortunately once the population gets rid of its fears death is not a valid threat anymore. More killing only breeds more sacrifice and primal anger. Go ask Gadaffi he will tell you what the wrath of the people feels like.
There isn’t much the world can do for the Syrians. Send ‘coffins’ is what a Syrian said in the town of Homs. The Syrians are on their own. May be it will be a good idea to work on our collective responses when the time comes. We Ethiopians are going to find ourselves on our own pretty soon. Thus when you hear the agony of Homs think of Addis Abeba, when they mention Daraa you might as well cry for Dire Dawa when you read the shelling in Hama remember that is what is waiting Hawasa. You might say I exaggerate but really isn’t it the same Meles that killed close to three hundred unarmed kids? Isn’t it Meles and company that used their EFFORT lorries to haul any body and everybody to Zuwai, Sendafa etc? Do you think I am being an alarmist?
We have an opportunity to find a way to work together and minimize the damage that is bound to occur when this unfortunate experience implodes on itself. Sergena meta berbere kentesu is not a winning strategy.
Ethiopia: Africa’s Hall of Shame in Addis Ababa
By Fekade Shewakena
The debate on whether Emperor Hailesilassie’s statue deserves to stand along with that of Kwame Nkrumah in front of the newly inaugurated AU headquarters in Addis Ababa built by the government of China as a “gift” to the AU misses a lot of big points. In my view, and I am sure in the views of many observers of Africa, the entire building itself is one giant statue of shame for Africa. Nkrumah is perhaps rolling in his grave, and for all I read and heard about him and about what he wanted Africa to become, I believe he would feel ashamed and may even cry if he were to see his statue housed in there. It is also good that Hailesilassie’s statue doesn’t stand anywhere near this building. Here is why.
First of all, the building is a metaphor for the way most African countries are run. The Chinese handout in Addis Ababa that is going to house the AU is more than a symbol that perpetuates the beggar image that has defined most African countries for a better part of their modern history. Most African countries have decided to achieve development and modernization by substituting working hands and innovative minds with hands stretched toward foreign aid and largess. This Chinese handout symbolizes Africa’s failure and speaks about a leadership that has completely failed to understand that you can’t have your pride and dignity, and a respectable place in the community of nations while living on the handouts of others. Indeed, it is a testament and stark reminder to an increasingly frustrating reality that the leaders of African have given up on any attempt at self reliance.
Just ask why it should be so difficult for 54 African countries to contribute no more than four million dollars each and build this building on their own? Is it the addiction to handouts? You may even ask why any African in position of power and with minimal self respect and knowledge of history could not have wanted the building designed by African architects. You may even wonder why there was no one among these leaders to think such a structure should have an architectural design that is made of a touch of African architecture and culture, say for example, something like a combination of the pyramids of Egypt, the obelisks of Axum, Lalibella, the magnificent libraries of ancient Mali and the numerous beautiful tukuls that dot the African landscape to mention just the few we know well. Imagine how such a product owned and built by Africans could be one huge source of pride and something to show for African ingenuity. For a continent that looses tens of billions of dollars in elicit capital flight and outright theft every year, isn’t two hundred million dollars just peanuts? And don’t this honorable guys ruling Africa read history? Haven’t they read that Africa has been there before and done that? How can you forget that the first things that European colonialists brought to Africa before they began looting the land and enslaving Africans were glittering gifts to local tribal chiefs?
This building is not only a case of what we in Ethiopia call “የሰው ወርቅ አያደምቅ” – which roughly translates as, “you cannot look beautiful by wearing gold jewelry that belongs to other people”. As the history of Africa itself attests, these so called gifts are often down payments for the merciless exploitation of the continent’s natural and human resources. How do we Africans overcome the stereotype that we are incapable of changing our reality while we keep doing this crazy thing of repeating the same thing over and over again even after we have confirmed that it is not working to our advantage?
I hope there is no any idiot out there who thinks the Chinese gave this building to Africa out of compassion for Africans or out of plain generosity or reasons charity. We all know that there are more destitute people inside China than all the destitute people in sub Sahara Africa combined. It is clear that the Chinese leaders are making an investment with sacrifice to help their long term plan, their future. It is now an open secret that the Chinese think of Africa as a solution to their overpopulation and pollution problem and have already gone a long way on that line. In the last decade alone nearly eight hundred thousand Chinese have settled in Africa and China towns are proliferating in many cities in Africa. There are reports that Chinese experts are planning and working to settle some 300 million Chinese in Africa as a solution to their overpopulation related problems.
It appears that the Chinese are applying the advice of a certain racist British named sir Francis Galton who a little more than a hundred years ago, sometime in 1873, wrote that the continent of Africa which he defined as “occupied by lazy, palavering savage people” be taken over and tenanted by what he said were “industrious and order-loving Chinese”. Trends of the last decade or two shows that the Chinese seem to have taken this once despised racist advice to heart. They are working hard to make this a reality and to some extent succeeding. They are working hard and sacrificing to solve their demographic and pollution problems on the backs of Africa. Unless Africans are aware of this fast creeping Chinese takeover now, it would be too late when we wake-up tomorrow. The leaders of Africa who are blinded by their desire to preserve their power and material benefits never seem to care. The new AU building is only one in a series of bribery to Africa’s ruling elite. The Chinese know they will get back their two hundred million dollars in one or two transactions of their cheap toys to Africa and the minerals and lumber they plunder cheaply. At the end of the day it is poor Africans who will stand there holding the bag.
There is also another ugly side to look at when seeing this shameful hall of shame in Addis Ababa. If you uncover the veils and secrecy inside Chinese capitalism, you will see that it is an extremely criminal enterprise. The “gift” standing in Addis Ababa is tainted with blood, tears and sweat of other unfortunate human beings being mercilessly ruled and exploited. It is an open secret that Chinese workers are subjected to slave type labor where in many cases, protest by workers in a factory and demands of workers to be heard takes the form of committing group suicide. To see what kind of blood money the AU building may be tainted by, read this recent New York Times exclusive investigative report about the horrible life of the workers who supply products to the manufacturers of our iPads. After reading the report I could not believe that the ipad I am using is tainted with that horror. Shouldn’t Africans that have suffered merciless exploitation themselves of the kind Chinese workers suffer today be the first to reject any Chinese offer out rightly on grounds that it is a reminder of their own painful history?
I am also disappointed by the muted response of the African elite regarding this shameful “gift” and creepy Chinese takeover of Africa. It appears that we all have given up on Africa, I mean, ourselves. How many cases do we have to be ashamed of about being African? The brutal and savage killings of one another, being ruled by cruel tyrants for decades on end, our poverty in the midst of plenty and perennial beggary for food handout, are killing us already. Should accepting a down payment wrapped as a “gift” while being set up in plain sight for a new round of slavery and plunder be another one?
The leaders of Ethiopia, particularly Ato Meles Zenawi, did us a favor inadvertently by not lobbying to have Hailesilassie statue erected there along with that of Nkrumah. Ethiopians should be happy that Hailesilassie’s statue and through that Ethiopia’s contribution was not erected anywhere near this hall of shame. If the Ethiopian leaders just whispered Hailesilassie’s name, I am sure there will be a unanimous vote by African leaders to honor Hailsilassie and through him Ethiopia by building his statue there. Yes, we can debate the good and bad he did to his own country. But no one, except men with little minds and little sense of history question that he, Hailesilassie, and through him Ethiopia, stood the tallest among the tall when it comes to fighting for the independence of Africa and bringing Africans together. It is one of Ethiopia’s epic images that history will not forget and one that never needs a statue as a reminder. I am happy this image is not tainted with Hailesilassie’s statue in that hall of shame. Now the debate should not be whether Hailesilassie’s statue and though him Ethiopia’s should have been built along with Nkrumah in front of this hall of shame, it should be weather even that of Nkrumah’s should be standing there to adore a symbol of Africa’s shame.
Ethiopia: 37 years of the TPLF and the footprints of Meles
By Tesfay Atsbeha and Kahsay Berhe
On 19 February 2012, the official 37th birthday of the TPLF, many people in Tigray have to think of their loved ones as martyrs as every year; it is a day for remembering the loss of about 60 000 young women and men; as well as thousands of civilians killed in the country side and urban centres by the TPLF and the Derg respectively. The only act of paying respect to the martyrs would have been the prevalence of justice, the rule of law and democracy for all Ethiopians. But this is not the case and therefore the day is a day of sorrow for the overwhelming majority of oppressed and hungry Ethiopians.
For a few oppressors and exploiters as well as their supporters it is a day of celebrating their gains and luxuries. There is also the macabre situation of the sad being forced to celebrate their losses.
There are special events which transcend regimes and ethnic membership, like the victory of Adwa, which are celebrated by Ethiopians, but the birth of the TPLF will never be one of them. The celebration of this particular event is unlikely to outlive Meles. We Ethiopians, as many other people all over the world, do not have a tradition of celebrating events which do not have a positive meaning for posterity. We do not celebrate victories per se. No victory of Tewodros over Ras Ali, Dejatch Wondyerad etc. no victory of Yohannes over emperor Teklegiorgis, no victory of Menilik over king Teklehaimanot is celebrated by Ethiopians and therefore no victory of the TPLF over the Derg which ended up in the tyranny of Meles will be celebrated by Ethiopians in the future.
When it comes to principles, Ethiopians celebrate and pay respect only to those historical figures who selflessly struggled against invaders and for the dignity of the people, no matter whether such figures were victorious or not. Patriots like Abune Petros and Zeray Deres who sacrificed their lives for a genuine cause are as much respected as the patriots who victoriously defended the independence of Ethiopia. As we are living at a stage of the development of the world at which the struggle for (at least formal) independence is a thing of the past, Ethiopians have been struggling for democracy since almost four decades. The TPLF under Meles and his clique has proved itself without any reasonable doubt so far that it is not only anti-democratic but also extreme ethnic nationalist by obeying the orders of Meles to the disadvantage of more than 94% Ethiopians. We say “so far” by probably hoping against hope and taking into consideration that some members of the TPLF who have not committed crimes can still get rid of the criminals and help facilitate the transition to democracy in Ethiopia; because although it is very late it is not too late.
Meles has been paying lip service to the martyrs, hiding his own atrocities and talking about those of the Derg to present himself as a liberator and benefactor of the people. In actual fact, Meles has by his evil deeds played a decisive role in destroying the possibility for the martyred and living members of the TPLF to have a positive history all over Ethiopia.
Whenever the anniversary is followed by fake elections, Meles uses the occasion to disseminate lies, hatred and fear. On the 30th anniversary of the TPLF in 2005 before the fake parliamentary election, Meles told the people of Tigray not to worry about the enemies, because we (meaning the TPLF and the people of Tigray) have knocked out the teeth (in the sense of defeating and disarming them) of the enemies. He was referring to the legal and peaceful opposition and maliciously equating the opposition with the deposed military regime (the Derg) without mentioning the regime by name. By telling the people to consider the opposition parties like CUD as enemies, Meles was conveying the distorted message that the multi-ethnic Ethiopian organizations have to be associated with the Derg, chauvinism and Interhamwe.
On the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the TPLF which was again about three months before the fake election of 2010, Meles with his boundless rudeness could not behave even like a simple disciplined Ethiopian citizen, let alone like a prime minister. He portrayed Tigrayans who were in the opposition as a cover used by the enemy of the people of Tigray to cheat the people of Tigray, insulted them as chaff, dirt etc.. and agitated the people to be angry at them. Then, he hypocritically advised the people not to physically attack members of the opposition, not because they don’t deserve it, but because the opposition would use it for mud slinging. The speech of Meles was a green light for his tugs to attack the opposition, which they did. Aregawi Gebreyohannes from the opposition Arena was stabbed to death. We don’t mind if Meles considers any Ethiopian multi-ethnic organisation as his enemy. However, the claim that such organizations are the enemies of the people of Tigray by falsely associating them with the Derg is an act of irresponsibility and evilness.
Now, since there is no election, an election cannot be a motive for Meles to abuse the occasion to harass people. The regime is currently preoccupied with prosecuting and terrorizing patriotic and peaceful journalists as well as opposition leaders by using its own distorted interpretation of terror. It is also distorting history by denying emperor Haileselassie’s rightful place in the formation of the OAU and therefore in paving the way for the formation of the AU. It is also continuing with the double digit growth rate of the economy which is rather a double digit growth rate of its lies. The evil performances of Meles on the issues pertaining to the interpretation of terror, the denial that emperor Haileselassie belongs to those who deserve a statue as well as the lie of a double digit growth of the Ethiopian GDP will be the footprints of the TPLF with the limelight taken by Meles.
As we are writing this article in connection with the 37th anniversary of the TPLF, we will make a short review of the footprints of the TPLF in the course of 37 years and thereby concentrate ourselves on the less known aspects of the history of the organization. We hope readers can compare and contrast our presentation with what they know about the regime and make their own judgment about our characterization of the TPLF.
It would only be an anomaly, if tyrants came to power in a democratic society or organization. As Professor Messay Kebede wrote somewhere that the TPLF is as much the creation of Meles, as Meles is the creation of the TPLF, Meles has absolute power, because the members of the TPLF were and are - as many Ethiopians - vulnerable to tyranny. The underdevelopment of our country is mainly caused by submission to the tyranny of a single individual who suppresses ideas, drives the educated out of the country (brain drain) and blocks correction of wrong policies. Why do evil individuals come to power in Ethiopia? Why has not our moral standard been strong enough to deter criminals from being our masters? Is our enlightenment so low or not so wide spread enough that our society can be manipulated by bad people? Could it also be that there are many Ethiopians who appreciate any victory by evil means, as long as it is a victory, like doping to succeed in a sport competition?
In respect to the last question, an innocent Ethiopian said something surprising. It is important to mention that the gentleman is innocent as this would apply to many innocent people. In a heated discussion about the atrocities of Mengistu Hailemariam, the murder of the 60 ex-officials and that of General Teferi Banti and others were cited. When the phrase: “They wanted us for lunch, but we made them a breakfast.”, which is supposed to have been said by Mengistu was mentioned, the gentleman who was actively participating suddenly said: “but he is also a man (ginko wend new)”. It was shocking. Mengistu was actually a coward and a power monger who murdered his compatriots and told a lie that he did it in self-defence or in defence of the revolution. If people appreciate the success of crime and the successful criminal, it is a sign of the lack of moral virtues and encourages criminals who should be condemned. Of all criminals a criminal politician is the worst, because such a criminal, like Meles, can commit several acts of crime simultaneously and rule by (criminal) force.
The TPLF is not principally made up of progressive elements who consciously struggled for democratic and human rights. Such rights have never been respected in the organization itself. Conversely, although the TPLF never needed Meles and it would have been much better off without him and therefore without his anti-Ethiopian views and activities, serial mass murders, lies, deceptions, ethnic divisions, corruption etc. the TPLF behaves as if it were created to fulfil the wishes of Meles. The Front has so far really been devoid of any freedom, tolerance and any differences of ideas short of enmity, as if all members of the organisation were produced with a programme to act like a private army of Meles. Meles has cultivated such an undemocratic, unpatriotic, servile and irresponsible behaviour in the TPLF that this behaviour has also been extended to the other members of the EPRDF and its sympathisers. In this sense, Meles has also partially re-created the TPLF as an organisation of servants who in turn treat their subordinates and the people as servants. This system of Meles was already in place during the armed struggle, during which the “freedom fighters” could not even defend themselves and their peers against arbitrary killings and physical beatings within the organization. The history of the members of the TPLF which could have been associated with the promotion of democratic and human rights has been turned by Meles to a history of a tool of terror, repression and corruption.
It was a (feudal) tradition for civil servants including the armed forces and dignitaries until Emperor Haileselassie to portray themselves and even boast as the servants (ashker) of the emperor of their respective time. Since the reign of the military regime, the servants do not call themselves “servants”, but they are more servile and less free than their predecessors. It seems that the 1974 revolution has abolished some words of servility, like ashker and replaced them with words like “comrade” without any change in the content. In the meantime, the culture of treason, serial mass murders, lies, deception, ethnicity, fear, hatred and corruption has become an integral part of the system of Meles as we will show some of it chronologically.
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST HIGH
AN OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER MELES ZENAWI
The Federal Republic of Ethiopia
Dear Prime Minister Meles:
Allah willing, you and your family are well.
I am writing this letter to you with a heavy heart and a great deal of concern with the present debacle Ethiopian Muslims currently find themselves in. Of course, I am referring to what has come to known as the Ahbash Controversy. Interestingly enough, this is not the first time I have written to you about a matter that was for me a matter of great concern. More specifically, I wrote and faxed a letter to you in May of 1996. I never received an answer from you; perhaps the letter never got to your desk. Just as I am now concerned about the current plight of the Muslims, so that 1996 letter expressed concern with the Muslims’ plight. Here is the full text of that letter:
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST
Post Office Box 1115
Washington, DC, 20013
Phone/Fax: 301 324 9163
The Federal Republic of Ethiopia
I write this letter with a heavy heart. I am writing to you concerning my Muslim brothers and sisters who have remained incarcerated in Karchelle Prison since 21 February 1995.
As you know, the Muslim population of Ethiopia has been severely oppressed by every regime that has been in power since Emperor Tewodros, covering a period of more than 150 years. And now, Mr. President, you have come to power. From every sign and signal coming out of Ethiopia, it seems that you have every intention of maintaining this infamous tradition. The evidence of my assertion is clearly manifested in the continued unjust incarceration of my people.
I say “my people” not only in the religious sense but also in the ancestral sense: although I am an African-American, I trace my roots to the Warra Sheik of Yejju and the Warra Himano of Welo. So, you see, my concern for the welfare of those incarcerated is compounded.
Now, I cannot tell you what to do or how to behave, for you are as much an adult as I am. All I can do is to give you some very important advice and pray to Allah that you consider it carefully and act on the best of it.
There are two facts that are beyond dispute. First of all, you, Meles, have the power, potential, and opportunity to be recorded as one of the great men in African history. Secondly, the present Muslim populace of Ethiopia is not only on an irreversible path of determination to establish and practice the Islamic way of life in today’s world. However, your path to greatness and the Muslims’ path of reawakening and determination are presently on a collision course.
I call on you to reevaluate your present attitude and policy toward the Ethiopian Muslims. I also caution you in listening to American and Israeli advisors: they are, in fact, your worst enemies, if you but only knew. You should follow your heart, Meles, and establish what you know is best for the people, all of the people, over which you currently have some power and authority. What you did at the Anwar Mosque on 21 February 1995 is not in your best interests; what you continue to do against the Muslims by holding them unjustly in Karchelle is not in your best interests. Deep in your heart, you know that. Do not wait until it is too late, Meles.
You should know that I am a writer and economist. I am currently preparing a manuscript for publication I have provisionally entitled “Christianity, Islam, and Socio-Economic Development in Ethiopia.” In this manuscript, I intend to present, Allah willing, a workable plan for socio-economic development by first showing what some may consider quite radical: that both The Bible and The Qur’an are in complete accord on the basic pillars of economic development and that both The Bible and The Qur’an are diametrically opposed to capitalist accumulation and formation. I will attempt to show through this publication that all Ethiopians can work together to build Ethiopia in a unity that will bring Christians and Muslims together according to the very religious texts they hold so dear.
However, your present intransigent position against the Muslims may render my effort and the well-intentioned efforts of others completely worthless. Think deeply about what I have written in this letter. The ball is in your court!
Muhammad Ali Alula Al-Hashimi
3 May 1996
15 Zul-Hijja 1216
I never received an answer from you, Ato Meles. So, I do not know if you received my faxed letter, and even if you did, whether you decided just to dismiss it after reading it. Although my fundamental concern was for the plight of the Muslims, I was trying to convey to you that, from my perspective, you had arrived on the political stage at a critical time in Ethiopian history: Ethiopia was free from the stifling Ethiopian monarchy of Haile Selassie and you had lead the way to the overthrow the socialist regime of Haile Mengistu Mariam. The only thing left, and I am sure you were well aware of it, was to establish political and social institutions allowing for the freedom and wholesome development of the people. That is why I wrote to you saying that you had the “opportunity to be recorded as one of the great men in African history.” And I went on to give you what I thought was good advice: keep American and Israeli advisors at arms length and work for the people of Ethiopia with a sincere heart to improve their lot. I was your well wisher from the very beginning, Ato Meles. And I remain a well wisher.
The first thing I was impressed with was the way you boldly moved forward and established a federal system of government in Ethiopia. This system made sense in light of the different nations and ethnic groups who had long been politically disenfranchised. Then, the new Ethiopian constitution was another major milestone allowing the Ethiopian people to feel an even greater sense of freedom. And when these gains were threatened by the pro-monarchist CUD—the so-called Coalition for Unity and Democracy—you were able to successfully curb their activity, an activity that clearly wanted to take the country backwards. And I will just tell you right now, Ato Meles, the Muslims were very happy with you. They really felt that you were really concerned about the freedom and just treatment of all Ethiopians, Muslims and Christians.
And I have seen by my own eyes, Ato Meles, the great things you have done in the arena of economic development. I remember seven years ago being in Gurjee, just outside Ring Road. I was coming out from a café after having coffee. It was late afternoon. As I left the restaurant, I was almost knocked down by a crowd of construction workers getting off of work. Ironically, almost being knocked down was a good feeling, because it was a clear sign of Ethiopia moving forward. And the Ethiopian economy continues to grow under your leadership, even now, when much of the western world is experiencing a severe economic slow down due to the global debt crisis. It is true that a lot more needs to be done with the redistribution of national income in the form of entitlements and social welfare programs for the poor. But there is evidence that you are working to do something about it.
The short foregoing synopsis of your political tenure tells me that you have achieved much of what you need to achieve to become one of those great men of African history I mentioned in my 1996 letter to you. In a recent article published online at the First Hijrah Foundation website titled “The Ethiopian Muslims and Ahbash Controversy,” I wrote the following about you:
When one stands back and takes a panoramic perspective of Ethiopian political history over the past 200 years, you will not find any political entity under which more has been accomplished than under the regime of Ato Meles Zenawi. So, why would Meles risk the positive attributes of his tenure—particularly with regard to the improvement in the national economy and the increased inclusion of the Muslim populace in national activity—to enter into this current phase of horrendous negativity?
And that remains the question, Ato Meles. Why are you continuing to be involved in “this current phase of horrendous negativity” that is the Ahbash debacle? Why are you continuing to punish the Muslims with disenfranchisement of their freedom and religious rights as so eloquently defined in the Ethiopian constitution, a document developed under your political watch? Why are trying to so thoroughly to tarnish your historical legacy?
Ato Meles, this may be the 11th hour for you. Nevertheless, I still remain your well wisher. I still remain one who has tremendous respect for your sharp intellect in the arena of political economy and your positive accomplishments with regard to the improvement of Ethiopian life. But even though it may be your 11th hour, you still have time to pull back from the edge of the abyss.
I respectfully request that you, Prime Minister Meles, send the Ahbash contingent back to Lebanon and let the Ethiopian Muslims get on with their lives free from aggression and repression. Allah willing, you will do the right thing. The ball is in your court!
Muhammad Ali Alula Al-Hashimi, PhD
Washington, DC, USA
15 February 2012
23 Rabi ul-Awal 1433
Deutsche Welle (Ethiopia): A Disgrace to Press Freedom?
By Alemayehu G. Mariam
In a memorandum sent to Deutsche Welle’s (DW) [Germany's international broadcaster] “correspondents outside Ethiopia” in late 2010, Ludger Schadomsky, editor-in-chief of DW’s Amharic program, blasted “ethiomedia and similar sites by extension” as a “disgrace” to press freedom. “The amount of hatred splashed across [ethiomedia] is a disgrace to any politically sober mind,” declared Shadomsky self-righteously. To shelter his staff from the crazed haters (not of sober mind), Schadomsky issued a strict gag order: “Let me make it very plain that I will not have DW correspondents contribute ‘Letters-to-the editor’ or articles to ethiomedia and similar sites.”
Why is Schadomsky bent out of shape over “ethiomedia and similar sites by extension”? Apparently, he had been chewed out, tongue-lashed, dressed down, squeezed, badgered, blackmailed and "monitored" by none other than dictator Meles Zenawi’s doppelganger in charge of information. Schadomsky explained to his staff:
You will be aware of the close monitoring of the Ethiopian government of any activities by our staff members perceived to be ‘opposition activities’. I have a number of names thrown at me by Bereket Simon every time I am in Addis… We will be embarking on another attempt to secure additional licenses in Ethiopia. You will appreciate that any activity outside the realm of objective news reporting will harm those efforts, and is generally not in line with our editorial policy.”
In an “Open letter to ethiomedia.com” in January 2012, intended to refute “a number of articles on Ethiomedia alleging self-censorship at DW Amharic,” Schadomsky triumphantly depicted himself as a fearless defender of press freedom and a paragon of journalistic integrity. He declared unabashedly:
I would like to go on record as saying that we at DW Amharic neither bow to pressure from the government of Ethiopia, nor give in to the increasingly outrageous demands made by radicalized opposition figures and organizations. Our editorial policy is guided by one principle only, namely: to provide millions of Ethiopians with access to free and fair information in a country where media freedom is heavily curtailed.
Schadomsky claimed to be “flabbergasted” by allegations made in an “open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel that DW Amharic deliberately shuns voices critical of the [Ethiopian] government in its programmes.” He carped, “One expects a certain degree of harassment from an authoritarian government… (but) I did not expect the same, and worse, harassment from people who claim to champion democracy and freedom of speech.” He pontificated: “You don’t have to be a citizen of a country still struggling with its Nazi past to find the phrase ‘the fascist Woyane regime in Addis Ababa’ horribly inappropriate, no matter how much one may disagree with the present government.”
Who is a Disgrace to Press Freedom?
As Schadomsky furiously wags an accusatory finger at “ethiomedia and similar sites by extension” and vilifies them as a “disgrace”, he fails to notice that three fingers are silently and squarely pointing at him. But closer scrutiny of Shadomsky’s claims reveal some unsettling facts:
Editorial Policy: Shadomsky vaguely alludes to DW’s “editorial policy”, which he claims is “guided by one principle only, namely: to provide millions of Ethiopians with access to free and fair information in a country where media freedom is heavily curtailed.” How does he reasonably expect to provide “free and fair information” to the Ethiopian people when is on his hands and knees groveling for “additional broadcasting licenses”? When did freedom (in any from including expression and the press) become a licensable activity or commodity in Germany?
Editorial policy uninformed by ethical and professional standards and principles of press freedom is pointless and delusional. The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists (which has been in operation since 1909 and universally adopted by professional journalists) urges journalists to “give voice to the voiceless” and to “tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so”. It instructs professional journalists to “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” and to “remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.” Schadomsky does not seem to be aware of these obligations.
Curiously, Schadomsky seems to have a very narrow understanding of journalism as he commands his staff to stay away from “any activity outside the realm of objective news reporting”. In pursuit of political correctness and "additional broadcasting licenses", he has resolved to sacrifice news analysis, editorials and presentation of divergent viewpoints to his audience. Following Schadomsky’s “objective news theory”, DV Amharic could report that a major Ethiopian opposition political figure has been jailed, but related news or discussions of the legality of the imprisonment and the pattern and practice of official political persecution and human rights violations which nurture such arbitrary arrests and detentions in the country would be off limits. “Objective news” is meaningless without context, frame of reference. If “objective news” reporting is about fairness, accuracy and minimization of bias, the best way to achieve that is to allow expression of divergent views and opinions, and not underestimate the intelligence of Ethiopian listeners to separate fact from opinion.
The claim of pursuit of “objective news” is contradicted by other facts. For instance, coverage of certain opposition figures including Birtukan Midekssa while she was in prison was off limits. There is evidence showing that members of Zenawi’s embassy in Germany have met with DW’s Amharic staff at least twice and dictated terms and conditions to Schadomsky for their cooperation and granting of additional licenses. Among these conditions include DV’s avoidance of human rights related issues, banning of certain individuals from DV microphones (a fact Shadomsky admits when he stated in his memo, “I have a number of names thrown at me by Bereket Simon every time I am in Addis…”) and glorification of the economic and political progress made under Zenawi’s leadership.
Schadomsky also appears to believe that his editorial policy of tokenism by inviting a handful of Ethiopian opposition representatives from time to time proves journalistic neutrality and inclusiveness. He seems to believe that an occasional interview with Thilo Hoppe, German lawmaker and critic of Zenawi’s regime, opposition leader Berhanu Nega and “sole opposition MP, Ato Girma Seifu” in Ethiopia adequately represents the diversity of Ethiopian opposition views, or affords opponents of Zenawi’s regime a fair opportunity to be heard. But this policy of tokenism belies Schadomsky’s systematic and relentless browbeaitng and badgering of the Amharic staff to avoid certain subjects and ban certain critics of Zenawi’s regime from DW’s microphones, including Eskinder Nega, the present author and others.
But Schadomsky’s issues appear to go beyond lack of basic familiarity with professional journalistic ethics, conflict of interest principles, difficulties with truth-telling and imperious and cavalier treatment of his staff. Schadomsky can be challenged in three specific areas: 1) He simply cannot back up his accusatory claims which buttress his conclusion that “ethiomedia and similar sites by extension” are a disgrace to press freedom and the politically sober mind. 2) He manifests extreme sensitivity to criticism of his editorial policy or allegations of “self-censorship” and being a regime "mouthpice". 3) There are significant questions which raise doubt about his professional competence to discharge his duties as editor-in chief of the Amharic program.
Hate Speech: In his January 2012 “Open Letter” Schadomisky alleges: “It is our view that some of the content splashed across certain news sites constitutes hate speech, and DW will not allow opinion pieces by its journalists to be posted alongside hate speech.” This conclusion is unsupported in Art. 5 (1) or other provisions of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (BL). Under the BL, there is a world of difference between offering an opinion and engaging in hate speech. Art. 5(1) guarantees that “Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing…”
On the other hand, hate speech refers to “utterances which tend to insult, intimidate or harass a person or groups or utterances capable of instigating violence, hatred or discrimination.” The German Federal Constitutional Court has held that “opinions are characterized by an element of taking a position and of appraising” and “demonstration of their truth or untruth is impossible.” Consequently, opinions “enjoy the basic right's (BL) protection regardless of whether their expression is judged to be well-founded or unfounded, emotional or rational, valuable or worthless, dangerous or harmless… and do not lose this protection by being sharply or hurtfully worded.”
Schadomsky’s offers only one concrete example of alleged hate speech by “ethiomedia and similar sites by extension” in his hyperbolic allegations of “splashed hate”. He claims: “You don’t have to be a citizen of a country still struggling with its Nazi past to find the phrase the ‘fascist Woyane regime in Addis Ababa’ horribly inappropriate, no matter how much one may disagree with the present government.”
This alleged example of “hate speech” is nothing more than an opinion -- a value judgment, a statement of belief or impression -- and is fully protected by Art. 5(1) of BL. Fascism is a discredited, though historically a dominant, political ideology. It extolls a party and state led by one supreme leader who exercises dictatorial powers over the party, the government and other state institutions. Fascist regimes reject liberal (“neoliberal”) forms of democracy based on majority rule and egalitarianism in favor of centralized power in the hands of a few.
It is not “hate speech” for one to call a regime a “fascist Woyane regime” (“Woyane” referring to a rebellion in Northern Ethiopia in 1943) if one holds such an opinion. Neither is it hate speech to lambaste Diaspora Ethiopian critics as “fundamentalist neo-liberals”, “extremist hardliners” or to bandy other silly but colorful descriptions.
Extreme Sensitivity to Criticism. For reasons that are not apparent, Schadomsky goes ballistic when faced with criticism. He seems to be particularly stung by criticism that his program practices “self-censorship” and has become a “mouthpiece” of Zenawi’s regime, something he claims has “dumfounded him” in light of the fact that the “Government of Ethiopia routinely jams our broadcasts for months at a time… and [has] refused us additional reporter licenses”. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “Schadomsky doth protest too much, methinks.” By overreacting to such criticism, caustic and scathing as they may sound, Schadomsky risks validating them. The fact of the matter is that those in the media must tolerate criticism of their work and role because it comes with the territory. They just have to deal with it, not mope around moaning and groaning about it!
Competence to Serve as Editor-in-Chief: There is evidence to suggest that DW has a basic policy of appointing editors-in-chief in its radio programs who have facility in the particular programming language. For instance, the editors of the Africa programs -- Hausa, Kiswahili, Portuguese -- are said to be fluent in their respective languages. Schadomsky is said to have no fluency whatsoever in Amharic and largely depends on a single subordinate for advice and counsel in making editorial decisions. While this is an administrative matter, it does detract significantly from Schadomsky’s claim “to provide millions of Ethiopians with access to free and fair information in a country where media freedom is heavily curtailed.” His handicap in the Amharic language and reliance on the “heavily curtailed” information he receives from a single subordinate makes his claim of serving millions of Ethiopians rather hollow, if not laughable.
Schadomsky’s memo demonstrates that he is obsessed with political correctness, and fearful of unleashing the wrath of the powers that be in Ethiopia. This untenable situation has created a credibility gap for DV and a gullibility gap for Schadomsky. He can claim that there is no “self-censorship” at DV Amharic; but his memorandum is proof positive that there is not only self-censorship but also fear and loathing among his staff who wince at the very thought of expressing their views under his gag order. He can mount a campaign of fear and smear against “ethiomedia and similar websites by extension” and bombard them with verbal pyrotechnics in an attempt to deflect attention from his professional deficits and anemic ethical standards.
The fact of the matter is that the credibility of DV Amharic has been damaged beyond repair after the revelation of Schadomsky’s sanctimonious memorandum. As long as he remains at the helm, DV Amharic will be regarded by millions of Ethiopians as self-censoring, cowardly and trifling. Those who may listen to DV Amharic may do so not out of thirst for useful information but sheer habit. For most, DV Amharic will remain background static noise over the airwaves.
Apology is Due to Ethiomedia and Other Pro-Democracy Ethiopian Websites
Schadomsky owes “ethiomedia and similar sites by extension” an apology. He has unfairly characterized them as hateful and not having a “politically sober mind”. In other words, he has called them crazy hatemongers. They have their own viewpoints and perspectives as they are entitled to have; and they are passionate about their beliefs. Whatever faults they may have, one of them is not putting on a charade of being an independent news agency. I am confident that Ethiomedia and the other Ethiopian pro-democracy websites fully subscribe to the proposition that “A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press, must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the right of the people to know.”
There is no disgrace in standing up for one's beliefs; but it is a disgrace to speak with forked tongue. My deepest gratitude and appreciation goes to all of the pro-democracy Ethiopian websites worldwide.
Previous commentaries by the author are available at: www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/ and http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/
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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