Sunday, October 28, 2007

This Music is Really Good for You - II

Somalia burns, Ethiopia simmers (it may soon explode) and America is yet again on the wrong side of history in Africa. So, what else is new? But life goes on, as it must, and thank God, beautiful music, which soothes our aching souls, continues to be made. In this edition of "This Music is Really Good for You", I would like to introduce you to an incredible Latin folk rock musical duo from Mexico City, Rodrigo y Gabriela, whose performance, I guarantee you, will leave you with your jaws wide open. Here are a couple of their tunes courtesy of YouTube: "Tamacun" (3:23) and "Diablo Rojo" (6:10). While I am at it, let me also recommend to you a favorite song of mine from the 80s, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears For Fears. Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Help Pass H.R. 2003 in the US Senate

Were you outraged by Senator Inhofe's remarks on the floor of the US Senate regarding HR 2003 last week as I was? If you were, as many Ethiopians were (Not in Her Name, Senator!, Senator, You Owe Us an Apology, Open Letter to Senator Inhofe, etc), then here is one easy thing you can do to help the US Senate take up H.R. 2003 for mark up and, hopefully, pass it.

The web page forms for contacting members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations are hyper linked to their names below. Please click on their names and take 30 minutes of your time to send them a letter urging them to support H.R. 2003, or you can use the letter I sent to the Senators (see below). If 1000 of the 1778 weekly visitors of this blog help with this effort, that would be a great!

I just found out that there is an easy way to do this. Please go to Just Foreign Policy -- it will allow you to do this tedious task in one fell swoop!

Joe Biden
Richard Lugar
Chris Dodd
Chuck Hagel
John Kerry
Norm Coleman
Russ Feingold
Bob Corker
Barbara Boxer
John Sununu
Bill Nelson
George Voinovich
Barack Obama
Lisa Murkowski
Robert Menendez
Jim DeMint
Bejamin Cardin
Johnny Isakson
Robert Casey Jr.
David Vitter
Jim Webb

Dear Senator X,

I am writing to urge you to support H.R. 2003, the Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007, which was recently passed by the US House of Representatives and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

H.R. 2003 is a bipartisan legislation that is designed to promote democratic reforms in Ethiopia and encourage the Ethiopian government to respect human rights. This legislation does not negatively affect counter terrorism cooperation with the Ethiopian government.

I would encourage you to view or listen (see link below) to the October 2, 2007 hearing on the State of Democracy in Ethiopia conducted by the House Subcommittee on Africa to learn more why this legislation is necessary.

Hearing link:

Thank you for your time.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

He is Home, and He Isn't

Yacob Hailemariam has returned to his beloved family in Virginia Beach VA, reports The Virginian-Pilot.
Relaxed as he looked, joking or not, and home less than a day, Yacob Hailemariam talked only of returning home – to his homeland, Ethiopia. Permanently.

He said he plans to go back in two months to continue the “unfinished business” of peacefully instilling democracy. The 2010 elections are coming.

“There is a chance we could go back to prison, but what are you going to do?” he asked, smiling. “We have made promises to the people, and we can’t renege on those promises.”

To read the whole story and view a brief video clip of Yacob, go here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

One against all?

By Ephrem Madebo

Our country Ethiopia might be as old as the earth it self, and the Ethiopian state might be one of the oldest on earth, but despite this inspiring historical and political background, dualism and Party politics are new phenomena that have eluded generation of Ethiopian intellectuals who dreamed multi-party democracy for Ethiopia. One month ago, I vowed to not dip my hands in to the internal conflict of Kinjit, however, after a month of speculation and shuddering political roller costar, I decided to end the silence because without debate, or without criticism, no party, no government, and no country can succeed -- and no democracy can survive. In the last 40 years, the Ethiopian political spectrum has entertained a plethora of political parties and political alliances, but none of the parties has stood firm to celebrate its 10th birthday without dividing and sub-dividing like an amoeba. Sadly, this has been a shocking truth of the Ethiopian political parties from the infamous EPRP of the 1970s to the flamboyant CUDP of the new millennium.

Evidently, no political party has captivated the imagination of young Ethiopians like EPRP did in the 1970s. The Ethiopian youth of the late 1960s and early1970s (the golden generation), was more loyal and obedient to EPRP than to its parents. I remember, I had a distant cousin who used to carry a potassium cyanide capsule whenever he was out on the streets on a party mission. We had such a determined youth that preferred its death than compromising party secrets. Today, party confidential is compromised on VOA and other media outlets by those who are at the top of protecting it. In the middle of the 1970s, EPRP crumbled and so did the morale and fighting sprit of the Ethiopian youth. When EPRP ceased to exit as a viable political force, the Ethiopian youth saw no reason for everything it did in the past, and lost the courage to stand for the future. Therefore, the youth resorted to substance abuse, alcoholism, and jolly-jackism.

It took 30 years to see another party that fascinated the Ethiopian youth and heaved it out of three decades of political retirement. This party is Kinjit. Though Kinjit has its own problem from its inception, many Ethiopians gave it the benefit of the doubt to be the party that gathers the momentum lost decades ago. As a result, many young people gave their life, savagely beaten, went to jail, and persecuted believing that the “sprit” of Kinjit shall muster them to realize their life long dream of freedom and justice. Any political miscalculation, sabotage, or mistake that creates any life threatening damage on Kinjit tears apart not only Kinjit as a party, it also obliterates the sprit of Kinjit from the minds of millions of Ethiopians. There is no doubt that our country Ethiopia is a very old country, but its population is comprised of a higher proportion of young people. We can not afford any EPRP like mistake of the 1970s that discourages our youth and alienates it from the political affairs of its nation.

Unfortunately, today, a paternal figure of the opposition camp is playing the most dangerous game of his political life. Engineer Hailu Shawel, the very person entrusted for his patriotic leadership of Kinjit, is on the verge of reducing Kinjit in to useless factions that will easily melt in the blistering heat of the TPLF political furnace. Engineer Hailu’s awkwardly designed moves and acts seem to constantly oppose his public words. The Engineer has repeatedly been heard saying “Kinjit shall never be divided”, but his acts and strange behaviors ever since he arrived to North America have jeopardized the life of Kinjit as a political entity. Should we beg Engineer Hailu to keep himself away from the riff-raffs of history that surrounded him and put his money where his mouth is? If that helps, I will definitely beg!

Ethiopians have unequivocally said no to dictatorial rule and supremacy of any kind. The following is what I heard from an extreme right wing radio station here in Washington, DC: “Kinjit as a party must implement the decisions of its chairman” (Dr. XX). If this is what the doctor is dreaming to Ethiopia, and if this is the kind of leadership Engineer Hailu insists to impose on Kinjit; I guess, both Ato Hailu and the doctor have few countries left in the world (China, Cuba). This is nothing, but the Nicolae Ceausescu type of party leadership. Engineer Hailu, or any leader of Kinjit has the responsibility of executing the majority decision of Kinjit regardless of which side of the decision the leader stands. In a recent Washington DC meeting, Engineer Hailu suggested that he would replace the “renegades” by others willing to work under his leadership. What is a party to Engineer Hailu? Isn’t a party a place where people of dissenting ideas work together? I’m sure it’s not a place where one exchanges an orange for another orange and end-up with the same orange. In a party one exchanges ideas and end-up with more ideas. I wonder if the Engineer thinks that his mere existence makes his side a majority regardless of the number of people in the other side.

Engineer Hailu’s inability to respect those who disagree with him is a sign of a quick descend from cynicism in to dogmatism. Don’t call me rude, for I am a true believer of reason. If Ato Hailu’s stand was honest, but erroneous, I would have stood with him and used reason to correct his error. This is not peculiar to me; most of us would tolerate error of opinion if reason is left free to combat it. But, the Engineer who himself was a hostage of tyranny a few months ago is holding ‘reason’ hostage, and making a nonsensical argument that would make Plato puke from the heavens.

Leaders unite people of different ideas, not create a rift. Leaders motivate people, not discourage them. Leaders rally followers around a common objective, not diminish the hope of people. Ato Hailu Shawel, the long time paternal figure of Kinjit has denied fatherhood to his political sons and daughters by reducing himself from a graceful leader of Kinjit to a discourteous leader of “petty politics”. The Renaissance Hotel meeting where Ato Hailu unveiled his degenerative vision was chaired by Dr. Taye Woldesemayat. My pen has written much about Dr. Taye when he was important to our struggle; I will not spoil that same pen by writing about this person whose public misdeed increases in direct proportion to his age.

The existence of Kinjit as a political entity benefits all Ethiopians regardless of party affiliation. I am not a kinjit member, I haven’t been, but I fight for its existence for I do believe that Kinjit and the political organization that I associate myself exist in the context of each other. The failed political parties of yesterday are campaigning day-in and day-out to justify their failure and attract others to their side. I’m afraid Ato Hailu seems to be the latest victim of these political rattle snakes. The unprecedented Public gratitude to Kinjit leaders in Washington DC, Dallas, Los Angles, Seattle, Boston, New York, and Atlanta must have sent an ambiguous message to Engineer Hailu and the handful of cacophonous singers around him.

If the beauty of democracy that Ato Hailu fought for years means anything at all, it means the undisputed right of party members to disagree with him, and his moral duty to execute the decision that he disagreed with. Just two months ago, Engineer Hailu was a person we all depended on to change the political landscape of Ethiopia. I want to say it loud and clear to the Engineer that no progress is possible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. No matter how patriotic and how anti-TPLF one is, acting against the fundamental principle of democracy is not a virtue, it’s a vice! Viva to the majority of Kinjit leaders who are fighting to keep the party in-tact. I salute your unwavering stand for the truth, and I applaud your initiative to include the many forgotten voices in Kinjit. I want to remind you that the truth you stand for might be ridiculed, or even violently opposed; but at the end of the day, it shall be accepted as self-evident. Trust me, one against all shall never win! Do not be anxious for the loafers, stand above all conditions, rise to every occasion, and most importantly stand for what is right. If you do, you will transcend the current party shortcomings, and lead us in to the promise land like Moses, not to the other side of the Red Sea, not far from it either, but within and to itself. May God bless our Ethiopia!

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Boycott of Parliament and the Future of Kinijit

By Fikru Helebo

Two years ago this week I was furious at the combined Ethiopian opposition (CUD, UEDF, OFDM). Why? Because, just a few months after beating the EPRDF regime in the 2005 elections with all odds stacked against them, they blinked and failed to stand together in the decision about joining or boycotting parliament, thereby giving Meles Zenawi what he wanted: a divided opposition. In the debate about joining or boycotting parliament in 2005, although I leaned towards those who advocated joining parliament, I thought that it was very important for the opposition to have a single strategy regarding the issue of joining or boycotting parliament.

Now, two years later, I think it is safe to say that the opposition's inability to adopt a single strategy on joining or boycotting parliament did not serve them well. If the opposition had adopted a single strategy, join or boycott, most Ethiopians who voted for the opposition would have supported them. If they were united either way, I do believe that the political landscape of Ethiopia would have changed for the better. Unfortunately, it did not turn out that way and the rest is history.

The verdict on those parties who joined parliament under the highly charged atmosphere of 2005 is clear. But it is not quite as clear for the party that put preconditions on joining parliament, the CUD (Kinijit). Those who joined parliament have proven nothing by joining parliament. In fact, by staying in parliament after hundreds of innocent civilians were gunned down and thousands imprisoned by the Meles regime, they have discredited themselves as an opposition and, in the process, they have become a pariah among supporters of the opposition. The party which boycotted parliament, Kinijit, is also not served well by its decision to boycott parliament,
at least from the results that we have witnessed so far. The decision to boycott may not have served Kinijit well in the short term, but it certainly has made Kinijit more popular among Ethiopians and it may help it in the long term. That, however, depends on many variables going Kinijit's way.

In as much as the decision to boycott parliament two years ago may have made Kinijit very popular, it is probable that the process Kinijit went through in reaching that decision may be the culprit for the current internal crisis that Kinijit finds itself in. It should be recalled that Hailu Shawel, the president of Kinijit, made quite a stir when he announced in Washington, DC three weeks before parliament opened on October 10, 2005 that Kinijit has decided not to enter parliament. Hailu Shawel's declaration was refuted a couple of days later by a press release
which appeared on Keste-Demena's now defunct web site, Keste-Demena being one of Kinijit's member parties and one which was led by Berhanu Nega ( served as a de facto Kinijit web site at that time). I liked the statement on Keste-Demena's web site; it sounded mature and responsible. That statement combined with a joint statement by CUD and UEDF a few days later raised my hope that the opposition may be pursuing a united strategy regarding the issue of joining or not joining parliament. Unfortunately, everything unraveled a few days later after CUD and UEDF officials met with Meles Zenawi.

This episode revealed that there were serious disagreements within Kinijit regarding the issue of joining or boycotting parliament. Disagreements within a political organization are natural, but this disagreement highlighted the existence of a deeper disagreement within Kinijit on its vision and its strategy for dealing with its opponents. Fast forward to October 2007 and, it seems to me, Kinijit is still stuck in the disagreements that arose during the decision process about joining or boycotting parliament in 2005. Most had hoped that the release of Kinijit's leadership from jail last July would re-energize the opposition. One faction of Kinijit is actually trying its best to reinvigorate the opposition camp. Unfortunately, another faction seems more interested in winning the turf battle within Kinijit than wining the hearts and minds of Ethiopians across the ethnic, religious and geographical spectrum.

As I have attempted to discuss in an article titled "The Battleground Region" last year, the Ethiopian South is where the next election will be won, if free and fair elections are to take place. At this point in the evolution of Kinijit as a party one can not deny that the base of the party is in the Amhara region. Nothing wrong with that per se. But, for Kinijit to be a majority party in Ethiopia, it will have to reach out to people in the South and Oromia regions. The faction of Kinijit that is linked to Hailu Shawel is quickly proving to be a liability for Kinijit in its effort to broaden its support base in other regions of the country. The Amhara base of Kinijit is a very important constituency for Kinijit and it looks like this is the card that Hailu Shawel is playing to keep Kinijit under his firm grip. But with Hailu Shawel's dictatorial tendencies, which can easily be detected in the interviews he has been giving since he arrived in the US, and his inherent inability to inspire, it is highly unlikely that Kinijit can make further inroads into the South and Oromia regions.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Who is the Terrorist?

"The war on terrorism is very important, we all know that. But no regime that terrorizes its own citizens can be a reliable ally in the war on terror. Terrorism isn't just a military issue, it is also a human rights issue." -- Representative Christopher Smith as quoted by VOA News on July 18, 2007

Kinijit's Growing Pains

If you have a couple of hours to listen, here are two audio clips about the problems inside Kinijit. It would be nice if they can stay united, but it is much more important that they lead by example.

1. VOA's interview with Dr. Yacob Hailemariam courtesy of EMF.

2. Kinijit leaders Q&A session with supporters in Dallas, TX courtesy of Mahder.