Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Touched by an “Angel”, the Fairy Tale of Washera_2000

By Ephrem Madebo

I was born and raised in south Ethiopia where most of the people have less or no knowledge of monasteries, or monastic life. However, the famous Waldiba monastery in Gondar where monks are believed to be jamming once in a blue moon [Andeande Waldibam…] and the exclusive “qene” school of Washera- Mariam in Gojam have been part of my memory since I was 13 years old. Today, I’m not here to tell you about Washera-Mariam, yet line after line of this article deals with “Washera”. Confused? Please don’t. I promise, I will never live you in the dark. When you’re done with this article, you will definitely be aware of the difference between Washera-Mariam and “Washera- Washo”.

As there are many hoi polloi supporters of the TPLF gangs, obviously, there are some zealous and irrefutably articulated defenders of the TPLF regime whose articles are worth reading to gauge the strength of the forces of tyranny. One of these fanaticals is a person who writes by a pen name of Washera_2000. Please read Washera’s article before you start reading this article.

Last week I visited aigaforum.com and read Washera’s latest piece on the “intelligence” of PM Meles Zenawi. This is what I read at the beginning of the 2nd paragraph: “It has been a while since I concluded that the PM is a hard working and very intelligent individual”. At the first glance, I thought “Washera” was applying the lessons he learned in Washera Mariam; and I started looking for the hidden word until I realized that the trans-Atlantic “biographer” was trying to immortalize a desecrated person. What I actually read was not even a biography; it was a “White Paper” on the intelligence of Ethiopian leaders. I applauded his “noble” start and top-down analysis, but condemned his motive and dissipated intellectual paralysis. I’m one of the most animated opponent of Meles, but I’ve never questioned his intelligence because Zenawi’s problem is not his intelligence; it’s his arrogance and his atrocious attitude to those who oppose him.

Josef Mengele is a person that I believe is more intelligent than Meles, but he is also a person who engineered a methodology to wipe out non- Germans. Is Mengel intelligent? Yes, he is, but despite his intelligence; today the world calls him “Angel of Death” Is Meles intelligent? Well, let me say yes, but our children and grand children will remember him for his nonsensical street killing, not for his intelligence.

Here is another excerpt : “He [Meles] refers to this as a Democratic Developmentalist Paradigm and backs it up with an impressive argument for the establishment of a dynamic agrarian democracy; much like the one advocated by Thomas Jefferson” Mr. Washera, I live in Virginia where memories of Thomas Jefferson are still alive in places like the University of Virginia and Monticello. I don’t think Meles should be mentioned in the same page with Thomas Jefferson, not even in the same book. Meles, who once was a drifter in Tirana, still carries Enver Hoja’s blue print of communist land policy. Thomas Jefferson is a person who idealized private ownership of farmland as a prototype of republican virtues in America. How dare do you put the name of this great state man along side a person who confuses a nation with a locality, and history with a fairy tale?

As your own subliminal phrases indicate, Meles’s land policy is highly influenced by the now defunct communist ideology. Jefferson is a person who believed and stood for private ownership of property. Zenawi’s place in history has yet to be determined, but I can sense it is closer to Chauchesco than it is to Thomas Jefferson. For Meles, there is TPLF ownership, public ownership, and private ownership of property. Had they lived together, I don’t think Meles would have qualified to carry Jefferson's manuscripts of the declaration of independence.

Washera said: “For PM Meles, that coalition building starts with the rural agriculture-dependent population which will be responsible for much of the work of accelerated growth. Whether through his socialist leanings....” (Italics and line by me). Washera, I believe you live in the US and you know how this great nation transformed its agricultural sector. If your prodigy is brave enough to put his money where his mouth is, why doesn’t he start a real agrarian transformation by distributing land to farmers? If his priority is the rural farmer, then the rural farmer has no other priority, but land. There is no economy in the world that fully transformed its agricultural sector without privatizing farm land. The policy of Public ownership of land was a complete fiasco in the former USSR and its satellite states of East Europe. Do you think a student from Albania [Comrade Meles] will succeed in an endeavour where Lenin, Stalin, Chauchisco, and Mao failed? If you do, you’re like a man who snobbishly keeps on ditching a ditch with a scoop when everybody else puts the earth back to your ditch.

Ethiopia’s agricultural sector makes up for about 85% of the country’s population. This sector must supply labor, capital, and raw material to the industrial sector, but due to Zenwi’s ill-advised land policy, Ethiopia’s agricultural sector can’t even feed it self. Zenawi wants the peasantry to remain in rural areas dependent upon the state for its basic needs. Farmers who don’t own their own piece of land can not borrow capital and have little or no incentive to improve a government owned land. All in all, the invisible hand is non-existent in rural Ethiopia. Yes, there is abundant supply of labor in the agricultural sector, but capital and land, the two indispensable factors of production are absent. Such an absence is the biggest obstacle to the development of agriculture and industry. Washera, I’m sure you might have bought a residential place here in America, if you didn’t, so many of us have. Look Washera, our fathers, mothers, and brothers do not have the same right that you and me enjoy here on a foreign land. Yet, you are proud of man who is the corner stone of a failed agricultural policy. To me, you sound like a good Christian who denies the death and resurrection of Christ.

Did I hear you saying that Ethiopia is in the right direction with Zenawi behind the wheel? Washera, this is a shame of all shames that lingers over to posterity. You have the right to be proud of Meles, you can even worship him, but I can assure you Meles is not the right direction to heaven. Ato “Washera”, I think articulating the truth is more of a “Latin” to you than economic terminologies are to average readers. By the way, why did you choose the word Latin? Your choice could have been French, or even Navajo. Anyways, Latin, French, or Navajo; the average Ethiopian farmer needs his own share of private farm land, not Meles’s doctoral dissertation, or your doodles on his intelligence.

Washera said: “It behooves Ethiopian political opposition groups to understand this man very clearly and articulate an alternative vision for the country if they disagree with him, or stop wringing their fingers and join his efforts in tandem” Oh my God! You’re making me sick to my bone. Did you say join Meles? What a ridiculously ludicrous call ! Are you re-writing Malthusian theory of population? If so, please reverse your call. The mission of the opposition is to save Ethiopia from Meles, and most importantly; Meles doesn’t need the help of the opposition to kill more, he knows how. Your pseudo name insinuates that you’re from Washera-Mariam, and we all know your prodigy is from “Dedebit”. So which school is the opposition supposed to go to understand Meles? Do you jointly own a school with Meles? Please say no, I don’t want to know what a joint school of Washera-Mariam and “Dedebit” looks like.

You also talked about a zero-sum politics of the opposition. Washera, how can the opposition reach to a win-win situation when Meles is the rule maker, the player, the official, and the spectator of the game? I don’t know about your math skill, but I thought you were good in “addition”. In Ethiopia, there is only negative-sum politics (Loss-Loss). By the way, thank you for positioning the opposition in the middle of the number line. Washera, you can write about Meles, but please don’t magnify what ever he spits, let the dust take care of that.

You said: “His [Meles's] own personal experience and dedication to see the establishment of a healthy democratic pluralism of a broadly based agrarian democracy that is capable of evolving into a mature urban-based democracy is to be applauded” Washera, when I read this statement, I stood still like the late comedian Redd Fox [Sanford & Son], and started calling my version of “Elizabeth”. Is this a go-and tell them urban legend from 4 Kilo? Washera, I have seen so many fools, but I haven't seen, or heard of a fool that applauds when he is cloned to produce another fool like him. The Meles way of democratic pluralism is to make sure that every party in the country is genetically tied to his TPLF party (clone of TPLF), anything else is doomed to be suffocated to death. The truth is that Meles fights pluralism by far more than he fought the fascist regime of Colonel Mengistu.

You said you’re proud to know that Meles is at the helm of the Ethiopian state steering it in the right direction. If you think Meles is steering the nation in the right direction, I believe you need a powerful GPS device to augment your lost sense of direction. Washera, I am not worried for Meles, I am worried for you. Meles is a totally lost person, he doesn’t need GPS; he needs a new direction, or a new beginning. GPS is for people like you who know where they are going but don’t know how. The choice between hell and heaven might be a Devine choice for the people of faith, but the choice between right and wrong is a choice for humanity; and no human being should be proud of her/his bad choice knowing that he/she is wrong.

Washera, what else are you proud of? Are you proud of a land locked Ethiopia? Are you proud of a young boy whose mother was killed in front of him? Are you proud of the mass killings on the streets of Addis, Awassa, and Ambo? Are you proud of millions of poor land less farmers ? Are you proud of thousands of Ethiopians who died defending Bademe in vain? Eight years ago the Ethiopian heroes decisively crushed the Eritrean invaders. Today, Eritreans are considered winners of the 1999-2000 war. Well, we won the military phase of the war, but thanks to Meles, we lost the political cause of the war when he negotiated on the blood of thousands of Ethiopians. Is this the man whom you said you’re proud of? “Kezihis Sewerign” Washera, it’s much better to admit shame with dignity than to be proud of your own nudity.

You also talked about Pareto Efficiency. Well, since I am one of those average readers, It took me a while to understand the concept. As you correctly summarized it, Pareto Efficiency, or Pareto Optimal is a condition where given alternative allocations of income for a set of individuals, a movement from one allocation to another that can make at least one individual better off without making any other individual worse off.

The economic divide between the rich and the poor has polarized our nation, living the majority of Ethiopians in abject poverty. Today, poor land policy, uneven economic development, and lack of political stability in the Horn of Africa coupled with international economic crisis have pushed millions of Ethiopians far below the poverty line. The IMF and World Bank Annual Reports show some economic progress in Ethiopia, but the beneficiaries of this trumpeted economic progress are those who are closely associated to the ruling TPLF elite. A variety of economic indicators show that the economic development in Ethiopia has not trickled down to the poor. What we see in Ethiopia is the making of “Brazil” in Africa. Is this what you call Pareto Optimal? Signor Vilfredo Pareto might have been dead for decades, but he will definitely look down at you and cry – “Oh mio Dio… Non รจ questo che mi hai insegnato”. [Oh my God, this is not what I taught you ]

By the way, did you hear that the Ethiopian army and Police forces are on a stand-by to fight Inflation? I think we need to tell this to Jay Leno so that America giggles for a week. Washera, aren’t you ashamed when a man to whom you proudly tip your hat off acts like a mad-cow and uses force to solve every problem including Inflation? Yes, you heard me right; Inflation! This reminds me one of Megistu’s slogans – “Eyetewagan Enamertalen”. Well, no wander, Mengistu and Meles are heads of different evil regimes planted by bayonets. Capitalism is the best alternative for development that the world has seen so far. However, we all know that without any kind of over site, capitalism could be a cancerous cell that feeds on itself. Inflation, recession, stagflation, and uneven distribution of income are some of the down sides of capitalism, however, none of these shortcoming of capitalism are corrected by using force like Zenawi. If guns were solutions for inflation, the Federal Reserve (Fed) would have controlled military contractors, not the money supply.

Washera,our country Ethiopia finds itself in one of the most defining moment in its long history. I’m not sure why you support the minority TPLF regime, as to me, I am with the opposition because the choice given by Meles is between bad and worse. If we choose bad, we will be headed to the worst. If we chose worse, we all are domed to die. My fellow country man Washera, If we want to survive as a nation and make Ethiopia a better place to live, what better alterative do we have other than the opposition? I am not talking about this or that party, I’m talking about a much better alterative to Meles. Washera, you may dislike some opposition parties, so do I. The opposition is a large puzzle while any single party is part of the puzzle, so why dislike the whole puzzle? To you, to me, and to millions of Ethiopians, Ethiopia must come before Meles and before any one in the opposition. If you agree with this, then your shame should be my shame and my pride should be your pride. May God bless Ethiopia.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Lesson from Nairobi

By Ephrem Madebo

Through out history, Ethiopia’s determination to stay as a free country and the willingness of its heroes to die for the territorial integrity of the nation has put Ethiopia in a unique group of nations that have been independent since the time of Adam and Eve. The prominent saying “We are the only non-colonized black nation” has always been the trade mark of Ethiopians around the world. Whether it is at a local bar when we get tipsy, or in discussions with people of other countries, Ethiopia’s perpetual independence has always been the source of pride for its people. Indeed, we Ethiopians are not strangers to political independence, the only thing that eluded us for many years is liberty and justice that people in many democratic countries take for granted. Many generations of Ethiopians have been pitiless fighters against foreigners who tried to snatch their freedom. However, for Ethiopians and the rest of the world, it has always been perplexing why we Ethiopians quietly allow our own country men to steal our freedom and treat us inhumanly. As a nation, if there is one thing that we repeatedly failed, it should be our inability to rise as a single entity and declare victory over dictators.

In May 1963, when the OAU was established in Addis Ababa, billboards all over the city read – “a country with 3000 years of history” while Kenya was still a British colony. In fact, Kenya’s independence didn’t come until December 12 of the same year. However, today; the question is not what Kenyans can learn from the long history of Ethiopia, it is what Ethiopia can learn from Kenya’s steadfastness for freedom and liberty. In 1991, the writer of this article was a refugee living in a place not far from the infamous township of Kibera where ethnic Kikuyus were battered by the Luos in the aftermath of Kenya’s descend into violence following the December 2007 presidential election. In my brief stay in Kenya, I witnessed the birth of multi-party politics which was architected by Martin Shikuku, Michael Kijana, Kenneth Matiba, and the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the father of the current opposition leader Raila Odinga.

For many Kenyans, the early years of the 1990s were times of great hope and excitement. Towards the end of 1991, Kenyans optimistically saw the resurgence of democracy as they forced the then-President Daniel Arap Moi to legalize multi-party politics. As democratic competitions increased and grass root movements flourished throughout the nation, Kenyans were unwillingly stumbled with a danger that eventually wiped out the short lived euphoria of progressive Kenyans. The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD), responsible for most political victories, split and re-split until it no more stood as a formidable force in the face of Kenyan African National Union (KANU) party. As a result, in 1992 and 1997, the incumbent Moi was re-elected with a relatively small minority of the vote. In 1992 and 1997, KANU won with 36.3% and 40.12% of the vote while the fragmented opposition shared 63.7% and 59.88% of the vote. In 2002, Kenyans learned from past mistakes and they stood together. After two consecutive heart breaking losses, finally, Mwai Kibaki kicked Moi out of office by winning 62.2% of the vote. In 2002, Kenya reached a huge political milestone in just 39 years what Ethiopia couldn’t in 3000 years.

In 2008, when Mwai Kibaki attempted to apply the bad lessons he learned from his northern border, Kenyans said no. They just didn’t say no, they made Kenya ungovernable. The entire world condemned the killings in Kenya and stood with the Kenyan opposition. Last week (February 28, 2008) Mwai Kibaki and Ralila Odinga agreed to share power and opened a new era in Kenyan politics. When Kenya was in political turmoil, unlike Ethiopia, the whole world looked at Kenya, not because the world loved Kenya more than Ethiopia. To be honest, it was the Kenyan opposition specially the determination and resolution of the Kenyan people that forced the world to look at them. In Kenya, just like in Ethiopia, ethnic identity has been manipulated by some self-serving political elites, but make no mistake, Kenya’s political disorder after the election has nothing to do with ethnicity, it was all about the rule of law and respect to the will of the people.

In 2005, when the then loose alliance of CUD and UEDF called the “stay home” strike, the so called western ambassadors tried to bring Meles and the opposition to the negotiation table. Both Meles and the opposition agreed. However, Meles walked out victorious as the western ambassadors doubted the will and unity of the opposition when CUD and UEDF called off the strike and made different decisions on how to continue the struggle. During the negotiation, Meles, who in advance knew the consequences of the strikes and the demonstration, did not want to see both before the opening of the parliament. He managed to avoid both by begging western diplomats to exert pressure on the opposition. The naive opposition called off the strikes and helped Meles to cool off the people’s wrath, the only power that could have brought his totalitarian regime to an end. The opposition failed to use its ultimate power, the people’s power.

Today, three years after the May 2005 election, the Ethiopian opposition is in total disarray. Instead of asking what went wrong, the opposition is busy making mistakes after mistakes to the extent of killing itself. In my opinion, the greatest thing that the Ethiopian opposition should learn from history is that it has never learned from history. The Kenyan opposition learned from its 1992 and 1997 mistakes, and in 2002, opposition parties in Kenya unseated KANU for the first time since independence. The Ethiopian opposition (especially CUDP), instead of learning from mistakes, it repeated the 1992 and 1997 mistakes of Kenya. It will be a long time before we know what in the hell [sorry for my French] the CUDP leaders were thinking when they reduced the party that petrified Meles in to numerous feeble factions. Will CUDP redeem itself by learning from the 2008 success story of Kenya?

In the last 8 years, elections results were manipulated in many unsteady democratic countries including Ethiopia (2005), Serbia (2000), Ukraine (2004), Nepal (2006), and Kenya (2008). Except in Ethiopia, in all of the above countries, opposition parties led a successful popular movement that restored the democratic process and forced dictators to give up power. Just like Serbians and Ukrainians, in 2005, the Ethiopian people were ready to do what ever it takes, but they did not have a seasoned party to guide them and a motivating leader to lead them.

Evidently, progressive sentiment in Ethiopia is very strong, but progressive institutions (political parties) are not. Leaders of opposition political parties are blown like dry leaves by the forces of egoism and strong ambition to power. The inability to distinguish between the burning needs of their nation and their political greed is one of the undesirable weaknesses of our political leaders. Today, the Ethiopian opposition is divided more than ever, and it is weaker to the extent of not being able to defend its own existence. The Ethiopian opposition camp has one common enemy that makes use of its weaknesses. The weak appearance of the opposition is a moral boost to the enemy. All in all, the failure of the opposition to stand undivided is a gratuitous reassurance to those who continue to rule us by force.

Ethiopians have started every decade with elevated hope and ended with startling despondency. They gave their money, time, and most importantly their life to create a prosperous society where liberty and justice are treasured above everything and more than anything. Every new coming regime promised a bright new era, but from Emperor Haile Selassie to Colonel Mengistu and from Mengistu to Meles Zenawi, Ethiopians were repeatedly betrayed as dictators succeeded authoritarians. The Ethiopian people feel a sense of vulnerability; they feel pain and hurt because their liberty, freedom, and peace have been snatched from them.

In the last 25 years a myriad of political parties and alliances have come and gone. We have seen countless faces, names, and name changes. The only thing we never saw is a tangible political victory attributed to these parties, or political alliances. I strongly believe that the “golden generation” that dominated the Ethiopian political landscape for the last four decades has failed individually, organizationally, and as a generation in bringing any landmark democratic transformation. Don’t take me wrong, this generation is credited for many positive changes, but it is so entangled with the past and with itself, therefore, I don’t think it has any gas left in its tank to complete the change it started decades ago. To satisfy the democratic appetite of Ethiopians, the “golden generation” unavoidably needs the help and participation of the younger generation.

Young people make up more than half of Ethiopia’s population. Today, in many places of the country and here in the US, young Ethiopians are speaking out and taking active leadership roles throughout the society to ensure that the youth plays a vital role in building a nation that truly fits the future generation. Many young Ethiopians are key community activists making differences in their communities. They are representing the concerns and views of their peers in different forums and are actively engaging in ‘inter-generational dialogues’ with adults in key decision-making positions.

The “golden generation” of Ethiopia has wisdom, but no tolerance for dissent. It has a great deal of knowledge and experience, but it is un-compromising like the mountains that protected the nation from invaders; it is also immeasurably patriotic, but appallingly self-centered. It is about time that this generation opens the door for young leaders, accepts new ideas, and invites unheard voices to the Ethiopian political forum. After all, Ethiopia is predominantly a country of the young. We need young leaders who can communicate vertically and horizontally.