Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Eritrean Regime Sanctioned

Last week the UN Security Council passed a resolution which imposed targeted sanctions on Eritrea for its destabilizing role in Somalia and for refusing to withdraw its troops from Djibouti. The sanctions include an arms embargo and travel restrictions on and a freeze on the assets of the political and military leaders of the regime. These sanctions are tied to two other previous UN resolutions (resolutions 751 and 1267) and seem to have some teeth, which explains the regime's freakish reaction to the resolution. You can read the full text of the resolution here.

This is a welcome development for the Horn of Africa region; the sanctions are balanced and appropriate for the offence commited. However, punishing the Eritrean regime alone will not bring peace to Somalia or stability to the Horn region. That would require a comprehensive carrot and stick approach towards all the regimes in the region and a real support to human rights and democracy advocates in the region. On this score, the Obama Administration has so far proven itself to be as worthless as the administration it replaced.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Cheers!

Here is a cheerful Christian song by Asfaw Melese. The setting is Hossana, which happens to be Asfaw's hometown, and also mine. The audio is not great, but the energy is infectious. Watching the kids enjoy themselves made me wish that I was a teenager again. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Copenhagen Blues

The Telegraph wrote a headline today which read "world leaders miss best chance" in describing how the Copenhagen climate change summit ended in disappointment for the global apocalypse faithful. It went on to conclude:
They have agreed to meet again early next year to agree targets for 2020. But no one was denying that making further progress will be hard, as will regenerating the momentum that was lost so recklessly over the last days.
I am not sure what recklessness the Telegraph was talking about. But, thanks to Climategate, it is now clear to any rational mind that the parties that were reckless are the group of scientists who tried to sell to the world a half-baked science as settled science and their leftist allies from all around the world who can't seem to miss a chance to alarm the world about the catastrophe that global warming has purportedly caused and will cause in the future.

Now that the collusion between these two groups has been exposed for the sham that it is, those scientists with any sense of descency left in them should return to their labs and ponder on alternative and dissenting views on climate-change science, like the one suggested in this WSJ article and many others, and come up with research that is transparent and invites scientific scrutiny. And, what about their political allies? They should re-direct their energy towards environmental issues that have broad-based support and can be implemented in a financially sound way.

As to the actual agreement(s) that were made in Copenhagen, the Obama Accord or any of its variants, they are as worthless as the papers they are printed on. And, if any one out there believes that the African nations will ever get the 100s of billions of dollars they extorted from the rich nations, regardless of whom the extorter-in-chief was, then I have a magic pill that will cure your Copenhagen Blues and any other ailments you might think of here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Model Nation for Religious Persecution?

The BBC reported yesterday that 30 elderly women have been arrested in Eritrea while praying together. This report is just the latest in a long series of persecution for adherents of various Protestant Christian denominations, Jehovah Witnesses and other faiths that are not granted an official stamp of approval by the Eritrean regime since 2002.

One of the well known cases of this ongoing persecution is that of gospel singer Helen Berhane
who was tortured and detained without charge for two years before she was released in 2007 and was granted asylum in Denmark. As you can see in the video below, Helen has a difficult time walking as a result of the torture she was subjected to during her incarceration. Obviously, the tortures did not brake her. As is often the case, persecution of religious people never accomplishes its intended objective.

I fail to understand what Isaias Afeworki and his henchmen want to achieve by such inhumane treatment of their own people! Trying to become a model nation for religious persecution? Here is a graphic description of what happens to the Christians and others from an
Eritrean witness who was a prison guard:

I was doing my national service in Sawa Military training during the period 1999- 2001. During the two years period of my stay in Sawa, I witnessed an enormous amount of beating and torture to individuals who happened to be followers of Jehovah's Witness and Pentecostal (commonly known as "Pente") religions. I was, on many occasions, a prison guard to these people. The Jehovas are detained for refusing, according to their faith, to take the military training. But the "Pentes" are usually simply detained for reading bibles, praying in a group, singing gospels etc during the free time, even though they are good soldiers. Once they are detained their head is shaven, like the other criminals in the prison. 20-30 of them are detained in a 3x4 metal-house. They were allowed to go out only for 30 minutes in whole day. The perfect relaxation time for the detainees were when they were taken to load and unloads cement, food etc from trucks. They all prefer this work than to be locked in the container even though it is physically exhausting for them. But the worst time for all of them was during 'questioning' time. They were badly beaten to the
extent that noses are broken, feet bleed. After the beating comes the notorious 'helicopter' torture in which your two legs are tied with your hands on your back. You are thrown in the sun and milk is poured on your body to attract the flies. It was the most inhuman treatment I have ever witnessed

Amanuel, Cape Town, South Africa

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Africa and Climategate

Much hoopla surrounds COP15, the Climate Change Conference that is set to open in Denmark in a couple of days. While the industrialized nations are still haggling about the extent to which carbon emissions should be cut by the great carbon pollutors of the world, the African countries, represented by an Ethiopian despot named Meles Zenawi, are sullivating to extort large sums of money from the industrialized nations for their "carbon sins" (see Africa will not reveal its climate compensation demands).

Meanwhile, a big scandal is brewing in climate change science itself, dubbed Climategate by some, that is threatening to derail the Copenhagen conference. In case you have not been paying attention in the last couple of weeks, the nerve center of climate change study, University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit in the United Kingdom, was hacked and that has brought to public view
email communications among scientists which revealed the unscientific nature of climate change science.

What these email exchanges between climate scientists reveal is that much of the science that was used to declare "
Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations" was tainted by ideologically driven politics. I suppose these revelations may probably mean that not much concrete progress is likely come out of Copenhagen.

What about the Africans? Well, Climategate could also dash their hope of collecting a handout in the name of global warming. The same scientists who were caught cooking the books in climate change science are the ones who supplied the "scientific" basis for the Africans' claim. Here are a couple of articles that discuss the effects of global warming which the Africans are using in making their case:
Alarming health effects of global warming
Health toll of climate change seen as ethical crisis
Climategate has given scientists a bad name and it has underscored the need for scientists to decouple themselves from the political debates that touch upon their scientific research area. One of the climate scientists who was involved in the aforementioned email exchanges put this maxim best in a WSJ Op-Ed article titled "The Science and Politics of Climate Change":
Climate scientists, knowingly or not, become proxies for political battles. The consequence is that science, as a form of open and critical enquiry, deteriorates while the more appropriate forums for ideological battles are ignored...

Science never writes closed textbooks. It does not offer us a holy scripture, infallible and complete. This is especially the case with the science of climate, a complex system of enormous scale, at every turn influenced by human contingencies. Yes, science has clearly revealed that humans are influencing global climate and will continue to do so, but we don't know the full scale of the risks involved, nor how rapidly they will evolve, nor indeed—with clear insight—the relative roles of all the forcing agents involved at different scales.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Your (US) Tax Dollars At Work

This is a quote from a letter from Amare Mammo, a former official with the Ethiopian Agricultural and Food Organization, to Dr. Seid Hassan of Murray State University. For most Ethiopians, myself included, the content of the letter may not come as a surprise, but only very few of us can actually substantiate allegations of government corruption and voter intimidation with such detail and first hand witness account. Thanks to Mr. Amare for the eye-opening letter and to Dr. Seid for sharing with the rest of us. Hello US State Department!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Rejuvenated UDJ?

The news of Negasso Gidada and Seye Ahraha, former high officials of the Woyane regime, joining the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party a few days ago was pleasantly surprising. It was surprising because it came on the heels of a UDJ internal turmoil and the mysterious departure of Yacob Hailemariam from his UDJ leadership position. It is a pleasant news because these two gentlmen are seasoned politicians who have the potential to add a significant number of supporters to the fledgling UDJ from key constituencies.

However, with all the disappointments Ethiopians have had to go through with the recent Kinijit debacle, not to mention many of the other false starts, it would be prudent to take a wait-and-see attitude regarding this news. We will all find out before too long whether or not the Negasso-Seye move can rejuvenate the UDJ, perhaps in a matter of weeks. If the energy I witnessed among the participants of the vigil for Birtukan at the White House earlier tonight can be taken as an indication of the UDJ's future, then we may be in for more pleasant surprises in the near future. In any case, the UDJ is lucky to have these two gentlemen on its side, and good luck to all of them!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Milton Friedman

Interview with Richard Heffner on The Open Mind (December 1975)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nominate Birtukan

Milton Friedman was probably the most influential economist of the 20th century. But he will most likely be remembered in history as one of the greatest champions of freedom and limited government. Birtukan deserves the 2010 Milton Friedman Prize. Please nominate her here. Please also send the post card prepared by Amnesty International to the European Commissioner for Humanitarian and Development Aid. Thanks.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wycoff this!

I just read a news item that said the US is concerned about the restriction on Ethiopian opposition groups ahead of elections in May of 2010. The AFP quotes Karl Wycoff, the deputy assistant secretary of state for East African Affairs, as saying:
The US is concerned by what we see as reduction in political space and the ability of opposition parties to operate and do what opposition parties should do.
Hallelujah! I guess the US gets it, eh! The Obama Administration seems to be worried that the Ethiopian regime is closing down the political space. But, in all seriousness, isn't this the same administration that gave its stamp of approval for a Zenawi-$hawel deal just three weeks ago while knowing fully well that the Ethiopian regime is not remotely interested in openning up the political space? Who are they trying to fool?

If such a concern had been voiced publicly when foreign minster Seyoum Mesfin
visited with Hillary Clinton at the State Department a couple of weeks ago, a case could have been made that the US is serious about its concern. But it was not, and that was done deliberately. Instead, that burden was was left to Karl Wycoff, a mid-level official whose main expertise is counter-terrorism.

It is quite evident that the reason
Karl Wycoff was sent to Addis has nothing to do with pressuring the Ethiopian regime into openning up the political space but, rather, it had everything to do with the situation in Somalia and punishing the Eritrean regime for its cynical support of Somali Islamists.

Enough with such nonsense! It is now apparent that there isn't a dime's worth of difference in US foreign policy towards Ethiopia between this administration and its predecessor. Shame on me for believing that a change of political party in Washington could be a harbinger of better days for Ethiopia.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Dominance of Shoa

Excerpt from "Rebels and Separatists Ethiopia: Regional Resistance to a Marxist Regime" by Paul Henze (December 1985).

Ethnicity had almost nothing to do with the emergence of Shoa as the core of the revitalized Ethiopian state at the end of the nineteenth century. Shoa played as important a role in modern Ethiopian evolution as Prussia did in the development of modern Germany. There are interesting parallels. Shoa was for much of its early history a frontier region, as Prussia was. Its people were a mixture of several ethnic strains, as Prussians were.

The challenge of dealing with frontier problems stimulated in Shoa the emergence of strong leadership and the development of efficient administration and military forces. Among a mixed population, concern with ethnic exclusiveness brought no advantage to those competing for leadership. Attitudes prevailing in Shoa created a favorable climate for the intensified and successful effort Haile Selassie made to overcome regionalism and build the governmental framework of a modern state.

To characterize Haile Selassie's Ethiopia as Amhara dominance, as many Western journalists and exile separatists have done, is to apply facile preconceptions rather than to analyze how the system worked. In the pre-Shoan era, the core of senior officials in the Ethiopian government came from Tigre or from the central Amhara provinces: Begemder, Gojjam, and Wollo. During the reign of Menelik II, the representation of these areas in the central government fell sharply.

The northern Amhara regions were severely disadvantaged during Haile Selassie's reign not only by lack of representation at upper levels of government, but as development accelerated after World War II, by lack of a proportionate share of investment and developmental priority. Table [below] gives the number of high-ranking officials (ministers, ministers of state, and vice ministers) in the central government from various regions over a 24-year period.

Shoan dominance of the central government intensified during Haile Selassie's long reign, with Eritreans coming to play a strong secondary role. If data were available on Eritrean participation in other ranks of the civil service and in key technical and professional positions (telecommunications, air transport, teaching, law, and commerce), they would show a higher proportion than Shoans in some fields; the northern Amhara provinces would account for only a minor fraction of such personnel.

Shoa's position can be exaggerated. I stress it here only to dispose of the facile characterization that, in its extreme form, depicts Ethiopia as a conspiracy of the Amhara against all its other inhabitants. The predominance of Shoa has an exact parallel in the preeminence of Paris and the surrounding region in France, of London and the home counties in England, and of Athens in modern Greece. Patterns vary. Rome and Latium dominated Italy for hundreds of years during the Roman republic and empire but have not gained the same position in modern Italy. Prussia, of course, no longer exists.

Ethiopia has survived long periods when power was diffused among regions. Until early modern times, the imperial court moved seasonally from one part of the country to another. But when Menelik II chose Addis Ababa as his capital in 1886, it quickly became the hub around which Ethiopian politics rotated, and the surrounding region, the old kingdom of Shoa, took on a central role in Ethiopian life which it has never lost. Addis Ababa and Shoa do dominate Ethiopia. They are the melting pot of the country's ethnic strains. The revolution has changed nothing in this respect.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

No Famine Here

If you scan all the news outlets from Ethiopia in the last month, both govenment-owned and private, you would not know that the country is on the brink of famine. The reason is because the government is too busy doing all it can to discourge any talk of the impending famine.

In an article published two days ago, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports on the attempt to hide the famine in this way:
On the 25th anniversary of the famine that killed nearly a million Ethiopians in 1984, any talk of drought and hunger is still a highly sensitive issue in this impoverished country, subject to draconian controls by the government. Two regimes were toppled in the 1970s and 1990s because of discontent over famines, and the current regime is determined to avoid their fate.

Aid agencies that dare to speak out publicly, or even to allow a photo of a malnourished child at a feeding centre, can be punished or expelled from the country. Visas or work permits are often denied, projects can be delayed, and import approvals for vital equipment can be buried. Most relief agencies are prohibited from allowing visits by journalists or foreigners, except under strict government control.
An article by René Lefort in March of this year titled "Ethiopia's famine: deny and delay" correctly pointed out the government's approach to handling news of the drought that has gripped the nation since 2007. But the regime was quick to lambast Mr. Lefort's article as "full of exaggerations and in some cases downright inventions." I am pretty sure they will come after Geoffrey York, the reporter for the Globe and Mail article, with the same gusto!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Aradaw $hawel

"We are slaves. I can't see how we can reconcile if the guy in power can't reconcile." Hailu $hawel, July 2007

"This time we really negotiated hard, we really came to an understanding, we've even come to a trust, that is a big jump, I believe that is a change from 2005." Hailu $hawel, October 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ethiopia will be a Battleground for Sectarian Violence by 2025

Continuing on the theme of religion and politics from the last post, please consider the quote below from "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World", a November 2008 report by the US National Intelligence Council (NIC). Regarding religion-based identity politics and the intolerance that might result from it, the authors of the report note the following:
Although inherited and chosen layers of identity will be as "authentic" as conventional categories of citizenship and nationality, one category possibly will continue to stand out. Islam will remain a robust identity. Sectarian and other differences within Islam will be a source of tension or worse. The challenge of Islamic activism could produce a more intense backlash of Christian activism. Nigeria, Ethiopia, and other places in Africa will remain battlegrounds in this sectarian struggle.
Well, we are 15 years away from 2025, but Nigeria is already in the midst of a sectarian struggle since 1999 when Sharia was imposed in 12 northern states. There have been some instances of sectarian violence in Ethiopia since 2006 but, thankfully, none on a scale witnessed in Nigeria. Is it possible that Ethiopia can experience a large scale sectarian violence like Nigeria? Sure, it is possible.

What was intriguing to me about the NIC quote was that one of its authors, Johnnie Carson, would later become the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, a position that is largely responsible for most of the US policy towards sub-Saharan Africa. Ambassador Carson was the main Africa expert at NIC at the time the report was published.

I am inclined to think that this quote gives a clue as to how the US policy towards Ethiopia might evolve in the Obama Administration under Carson's guidance. The clue, I think, is this: the Obama Administration could conclude that the causes of the main political problems in Ethiopia are ethnic and sectarian related and, therefore, may determine that the US foregn policy making apparatus should not be used in sorting out "internal" issues.

If this comes to fruition, then I think that the Obama Administration will have made a serious error in judgment and would leave Ethiopian human rights and democracy advocates out in the cold just like its predecessors did.

Here below is Ambassador Carson being interviewed by VOA's Tizita Belachew in the Spring shortly after talking office. His lackluster answer to Tizita's pointed question about a revision of American policy towards Ethiopia is telling.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mahmoud Muhammad Taha

Mahmoud Muhammad Taha (1909-1985) was a Sudanese engineer turned spiritual leader who was executed by the regime of Jaafar al-Nimeiri. I came to learn about him through his association with another Sudanese intellectual named Abdullahi Ahmed an-Naim, a professor of law at Emory University, whom, in turn, I came across with while cruising through Sudanese blogs a few days ago.

I read a fascinating three-year-old lengthy article about Taha titled "The Moderate Martyr: A radically peaceful vision of Islam" on The New Yorker magazine, which is well worth your time to read if you care about human rights and the role of religion, Islam in particular, in politics. Here is a quote from the article:

Naim’s quandary over Islam was an intensely personal conflict--he called it a "deadlock." What he heard at Taha’s lecture resolved it. Taha said that the Sudanese constitution needed to be reformed, in order to reconcile "the individual’s need for absolute freedom with the community’s need for total social justice." This political ideal, he argued, could be best achieved not through Marxism or liberalism but through Islam--that is, Islam in its original, uncorrupted form, in which women and people of other faiths were accorded equal status.
The Islamists of the Sudan led by Hasan al-Turabi may have killed Taha, but they have failed terribly at killing his idea. Naim is the most visible proponent of Taha's idea. You can get a sample of his views from this recent interview at Georgetown University where he asserted that "As a Muslim, I need the state to be secular." Below is Taha's unwavering statement at his kangaroo court trial. Long live Taha!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lemma Senbet Interview

You may have already seen this three year old interview of Professor Lemma Senbet on Ethiopian Talk Show or some other website. I have posted it on YouTube in three parts. In this interview Dr. Senbet discusses his college and professonal career from his student days at Haile Selassie I University to his current position at the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD).

There is a story that Dr. Senbet tells about doing well in school which I particularly find inspirational and, I am sure, you will do, too. If you know of a college-age person who needs a little motivation to excel, please do him/her a favor by passing the link to this page. Dr. Senbet is one of the world's foremost scholars on corporate finance and is currently the director of UMD's newly created Center for Financial Policy. Enjoy!

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Man from Wollonkomi

If you had not pay much attention to the news over the summer months, you may have missed the most important Ethiopia-related news of the year so far in my view. The news I am referring to is the naming of Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, a Distinguished Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University and a native of Ethiopia, as the 2009 World Food Prize Laureate.

Among Dr. Ejeta's major accomplishments, according to World Food Prize, is "his research to conquer the greatest biological impediment to food production in Africa -- the deadly parasitic weed Striga, known commonly as witchweed, which devastates yields of crops including maize, rice, pearl millet, sugarcane, and sorghum, thus severely limiting food availability." The picture below illustrates this point best.

After he was named a recipient of the World Food Prize, Dr. Ejeta travelled to Wollonkomi, the village of his birth, and other places in Ethiopia where he spent his formative years along with Tom Campbell, a managing editor of a Purdue publication. Mr. Campbell wrote a daily journal while he was in Ethiopia which is well worth your time to read. Here below is a poignant picture of Dr. Ejeta from the journal in front of a worn-out blackboard at his old elementary school.

Dr. Ejeta will present Iowa State University's annual Norman Borlaug Lecture on October 12 on the Ames campus and he will receive the $250,000 World Food Prize on October 15 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Beggars of Addis Ababa

I just watched a 45 minute gut-wrenching documentary titled "The Beggars in Addis Ababa" courtesy of Ethiomedia. The documentary was made in 2008 by a Danish film-maker Jakob Gottschau who followed two women beggars from a village called Kajima in north Wollo region. Begging is nothing new in Addis Ababa or Ethiopia, but there is no mistaking that the beggar population of Addis Ababa has skyrocketed in the last two decades. Next to the astounding population explosion of the country, I would have to say that this beggar phenomenon is one thing that struck me the most on my trip to Ethiopia in 2003. I just do not remember seeing able-bodied people, like these two women in this documentary, begging in the streets of Addis Ababa back in the 80's. Back then, the beggars were folks who had some kind of physical ailment that made them "untouchable" or an outcast in their own villages such as lepers, blind people, etc. Would it be fair to blame this sad reality on the incumbent regime of Ethiopia that has ruled the country for more than 18 years? Sure, it is.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dereje Kebede, Volume 9

By Fikru Helebo

After a hiatus of more than a decade, Dr. Dereje Kebede, the preeminent Ethiopian Christian singer/songwriter of our time, has put out his long awaited latest album Ye-Aadnaquote Qen Le-Egziabhare (A Day of Praise to God) this past summer. The album contains 11 tracks with thought provoking lyrics. Two of the tracks are a timely and necessary admonishment to materialistic church leaders who abuse their trust. With the exception of one track, I do think that all the songs in this album have original sound and their melody is infectious. Here is a sample of my favorite track from this CD which is titled Egziabhare Yetaal Lemin Tilegnaleh (Why do You Say There is No God?):

If you are not familiar with Dereje's songs, give him a try. I am sure you will enjoy his songs. Here is a track from his last album (vol. 8) titled Yibeqanaal Mezenatelu (Enough with Tearing One Another Apart) where Dereje exhorts about the ills of ethnic division:

You can find the lyrics for his latest album by clicking on the album cover picture at the top. You can also find my two previous postings on Dereje's songs here and here. Enjoy!

The music widget does not work with Internet Explorer. Please use Firefox or some other browser. My apologies!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

"Anatomy" of a Molecule

Perhaps you've heard about nanotechnology, but you are not sure what it is. Well, below is an image that can help you better understand what it is. We need to be familiar with nanotechnology because it has already began to play a significant role in our lives through its application in medicine and electronics and will be more prevalent in the future.

For the first time, scientists achieved a resolution that revealed the chemical structure of a molecule. IBM scientists in Zurich, Switzerland announced last month that they captured the image of a pentacene molecule with an atomic force microscope.
Above is a ball-and-stick model of the pentacene molecule showing the arrangement of the atoms and the bonds in between. Twenty-two carbon atoms (gray balls) form five interconnected hexagonal rings. Fourteen hydrogen atoms (white balls) bind to the carbon atoms. The molecule itself measures 1.4 nanometers in length. More pictures here.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

What's going on in the UDJ?

By Fikru Helebo

What's going on in the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) Party -- Andinet -- these days? Looking from a distance, it seems as though the party is going through a self-destructive phase. Is it a compulsory activity for Ethiopian opposition groups to self-destruct? It must be, because that is what has been happening time and again for the last 18 years.

It was not difficult to sense something was terribly wrong within the UDJ when they allowed what seems to be disagreements over tactical issues to boil out in public view soon after the re-arrest of Birtukan Mideksa, their chairperson. It seems to me the main disagreement they have is on whether or not the UDJ should have a working relationship with Medrek, a consultative forum for opposition groups.

I do believe that it is always a good idea to find a working relationship with as many parties as possible, even with parties that you do not see eye to eye on many issues. However, I am skeptical about the viability of Medrek as a political force for the same reason I was skeptical about the UEDF in 2003 and the CUD in 2004. The experience with those two groups, coupled with those of COEDF and CAFPDE in the 90s, is a good indication that coalition politics is not well suited to Ethiopian political groups as it lends itself to factionalism.

I think it is healthy for a political party to have vigorous internal debate on issues. However, the strength of a party is not measured by whether or not there are open and candid debates on issues, though that's very important, but by how it resolves contentious disagreements over those issues. My expectation for the UDJ, a party that claims to be the rightful inheritor of Kinijit, was that it is guided by folks who had learned some valuable lessons from the fall of Kinijit and will do everything they can possibly do to not repeat the mistakes that led to the downfall of Kinijit.

Although growing pains are to be expected in any young political party, I had hoped that the folks who had the courage to pick up the pieces from the ashes of Kinijit were in a position to understand, perhaps better than most, how important it is to resolve disagreements in an orderly way. It is disheartening that the UDJ folks have not yet learned this lesson. It is understandable that the party had a bit of a setback with Birtukan's unjust incarceration, but that should have been only a temporary setback, not a cause for protracted bickering over a tactical issue. The turmoil the UDJ folks are going through right now is a good test to see if they have got the collective will to continue the struggle and move it forward.

I am of the opinion that the survival and, hopefully, the blossoming, of a national party like the UDJ in the Ethiopian political space is the most important indicator of the health of the Ethiopian state. Therefore, there must be a strong national party that most Ethiopians can feel comfortable with and has the credibility to lead them against the Woyane regime out in the open. If the UDJ people believe they are such a party and want to meet this challenge, then the party's leaders must realize that they have to correct their mistakes and move to restore the trust they have lost as a result of this episode fairly quickly.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Dreams of Haile Gebrselassie

By Fikru Helebo

I dreamed of Haile GS in my sleep last night. Since I had not thought about running for a while, let alone run, and since I had not read anything related to athletics in the days or weeks prior, I thought it was peculiar that I would dream about the legendary athlete at this particular time. In my dream I saw Haile, one of the greatest long distance runners in history, if not the greatest, expressing utter frustration at the worsening human rights and economic conditions in Ethiopia.

Haile did this by calling a press conference in Addis Ababa and demanding that the incumbent Woyane regime take immediate steps towards releasing all political prisoners and removing all obstacles for the free participation of all Ethiopian political groups in the planned 2010 elections. To underscore his point, Haile put a huge banner on top of a high rise building that he owns that read "Ethiopia shall be free!"

When I woke up in the morning, I told my wife and my mom, who is visiting from Ethiopia, about my dream. My wife was dismissive of it and said that I should not try to be a prophet (she has a point!). But my mom wanted to know where, in my dream, Haile conducted his press conference. When I told my mom that he did it right under Woyane's nose in Addis, she wondered why Haile would take such a big risk. I replied, Haile may have reached a breaking point regarding the direction Ethiopia has been taking under the Woyane and felt that the time has finally come for him to use his enormous name recognition and prestige to bring attention to the myriads of problems that Ethiopia faces.

My mom's concern about Haile's safety is well taken and I would have raised the same concern if someone else told me the same story. But Ethiopia's predicament is getting more precarious by the day and I can understand why Haile GS, or another personality like him, would take the kind of risk that Haile took in my dream and express his/her concerns in such a public way.

Speaking of my dream, for the record, I am not the first one to dream about Haile GS in a similar way. My good friend Roocha at was the first to publicly share his dreams about Haile. Well, okay, he did not dream, not that I can tell anyway, but he wrote a very thoughtful article three years ago about why Haile GS should seriously consider running for the highest office in Ethiopia in his article titled: Running for Office.

Here is what Roocha said then:

I want to go on the record, with all seriousness, as the first person calling on Haile to take up the cause of Ethiopia by seeking high political office when the 2010 elections come around ... Haile has always been one to achieve the impossible and, in the end, this chapter of his life will be no different. Let’s all encourage him to seek office in 2010, let’s chant to him “YICHALAL!”

I think Roocha makes a persuasive argument as to why Haile GS should seek the highest political office in Ethiopia and I highly recommend that you read his article in its entirety.

Right after reading Roocha's article, I wrote him an email and offered him my unsolicited opinion about the subject matter of his article and expressed my misgivings about it in this way:

Yet another superb article! I think it is a good thing that Haile has shown interest in running for a political office in the future. I am sure he can contribute to the betterment of the country. But it would be a mistake to push him in that direction prematurely. He is still a young fellow -- younger than us, at least! You need to wait until Haile decides to publicly engage the Ethiopian public on the important issues of the day before you throw your unqualified support behind him. I, for one, do not know anything about Haile's views on the most important issues of the day to endorse him for the highest office in Ethiopia. The skill sets that make a person a good politician (effective at bringing people together to accomplish something good) are also not necessarily the same as those that make one a superstar athlete!

I still do not know what Haile GS's political views are on the important issues that Ethiopia faces and I am not certain whether or not Haile GS has the skill sets necessary to be a good (effective) politician. But that was then and this is now. I have now come to the conclusion that the current set of Ethiopian political classes, including those in the opposition (with all due respect to their honest efforts), do not have the character and trustworthiness that is necessary to gain the respect of the broadest section of the Ethiopian people to offer a leadership that is capable of changing the trajectory of the country in a positive direction. To be sure, all political groups have their roles to play in bringing about positives changes to Ethiopia, but I do not believe none that are currently active are capable of providing the decisive leadership that would be necessary.

The challenges that Ethiopia faces are daunting to say the least and the times require thinking outside the box and searching for a leader in an unconventional places. Perhaps now is the time to look at Haile GS, a person with a clear track record of success and someone who has demonstrated a knack for common sense thinking and hard work ethics, to lead a nation of 80 million that is desperate for a new beginning.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The attack dogs of “Dedebit”

By Ephrem Madebo

Unlike the other eleven months, the month of “Ginbot” is a unique month rich with distinctive cultural and political events. Examples are: “Ginbot-Lideta”, “Ginbot-8”, “Ginbot-20” and “Ginbot-7”. As eventful as “Ginbot” is, it is also a dismally disappointing month. “Ginbot 8” 1990 dawned as a day of hope for millions of Ethiopians, but it quickly turned into unprecedented day of carnage. In Ginbot 2005 [Ginbot 7], Ethiopians saw the sparks of a democratic process, yet as they enthusiastically jumped into the wagons of the democratic process, they were compellingly pulled back to only find themselves far-flung from democracy. I don’t think there is a comparable dictionary word that characterizes the ill-fated day of Ginbot 20, 1992 except calling it a national day of mourning!

I’m not here to offer any explanation on the events of “Ginbot” other than reminding you the depressing occurrences of Ginbot. I’m not even trying to prove or disprove anything anymore, or would I care to. I’m here to tell you about the fear that looms all over Ethiopia, the horror that conquered our very existence, and the voodoo that eluded our longstanding invincibility. Yes, I ‘m here to tell you about the ghosts of “Ginbot”, not the ghosts of “Ginbot Lideta”, but the phantoms of “dedebit” who also are known as - The attack dogs of Dedebit. If you are here to know the truth about the attack dogs of Dedebit, you must be open-minded, fascinated, and as mystical as I am. Enjoy the reading!

Recently, more frequently than any news outlet in their position, “aigaforum” and “The Reporter” have pitilessly attacked the entire Ethiopian opposition camp. In fact, these two websites have been the attack dogs of the TPLF regime for a long time. Aigaforum and “The Reporter” bark when Meles orders them to do so, and wag their tails and look hospitable when Bereket tells them to look friendly. For example, after years of name calling, cursing, and outright character assassination, it is surprising how these two attack dogs and their puppies are so concerned about AEUP party. I wonder where these two pathetic websites were when the president of AEUP [the then CUDP Chairman] was undeservingly suffering in Kality?

Both aigaforum and “The Reporter” love to portray themselves as hard-nosed defenders of democracy and staid challengers of orthodoxy and bad politics. Well, this is what they claim to be, the reality is the opposite. To be honest, there simply is no class of journalists more reverent of the TPLF establishment and more devoted to protecting and defending its prerogatives. If aigaforum and “The Reporter” were part of the free press, and most importantly if the name Ethiopia means anything to them, they shouldn’t have demanded a leader investigated for genocide be treated with the type of profound reverence typically reserved for national heroes, or religious leaders. Had the TPLF political machine had a tiny drop of democratic blood in its vein [as these two websites claim], Meles Zenawi and Bereket Simon wouldn’t have been the most entitled to be safeguarded from any kind of political criticism. The nastiest part of this depressing story is the irony- aigaforum and “The Reporter” have created for themselves. Often, these barefaced propaganda machines offer a shredded content of the full story of political events, totally disregarding the public’s right to know the evolution, development, and maturity of events. Sadly, instead of being faithful for owners of the machine, these dogs of lie stand for the machine that devours its owner.

Here is how the attack dogs mixed gold with gravel in aigaforum:

“Way before the cacophonous singing started though, I vividly remember reading an article written by five assorted PhD holders of various discipline-for what was then a Los Angeles based Ethiopian Mirror- predicting the inevitable journey of Ethiopia into the pitfall of anarchy”

Forget the “cacophonous singing”! Even Luchiano Pavarotti knows that the TPLF bandits have no shortage of harmonious voices, including the “flamboyant” patriarch who was in the millennium Karaoke contest with the planetary popular pop singer Beyonce Knowles. But this is far from the real story! The real story is that Ethiopia is a place where the powerless and the less-connected live at the mercy of the powerful. In Ethiopia, if you don’t belong to the “Golden” group you’re a rat that even a starving cat would ignore. The TPLF regime is a terror regime that terrorizes Ethiopians far more times than Bin Laden terrorized Americans. More than anything else, TPLF is an outlaw regime that has tossed a blanket over its own constitution and declared war on all opposition parties at home and abroad -- all in the name of a spurious- Safeguarding the Constitution! In fact, this is what the good PHD holders predicted. If this is not “anarchy”, then what is…..

Heaven knows what the definition of “anarchy” in the MoFA dictionary is, but I am absolutely sure that for both Meles and Bereket, the denial of chaos is a better definition of anarchy than its acceptance. The TPLF machinery and its ham-fisted system is terminally sick, otherwise, there is no need for the two architects of the system [Meles & Bereket] to repeatedly go public and deny its illness.

I’m not sure what peace means to the editor of aigaforum when a government he praises kills its own people; and I wonder how editor of “The Reporter” values peace when a leader he worships gets investigated for genocide. Yes, Amare Aregawi and Isayas Abay, you heard me right! Your goddess is being investigated for genocide! Do you think peace means the same to you and to the Anguaks who were massacred simply for being Anguak? Is Isayas Abay who lives in San Jose, California, confusing the Silicon Valley with Ethiopia? What about Amare Aregawi? Does he measure economic development by the number of high rises built to satisfy big time gluttons such as the ravenous Azeb Mesfin and the many-headed monster Sibhat Nega? What does economic development mean to these two lackluster pig-heads when the misery index (inflation rate + unemployment rate) of Ethiopia is a large number greater than the age of its octogenerian president? It is high time that Amare Aregawi and Isayas Abay answer these questions, or it is about time for self-flagellation!

Here is another doodle by the same attack dogs in aigaforum :

“Isolating Meles Zenawi and Bereket Simon from the rest of EPRDF leadership is an old trick, utilized to convey the appearance of division within EPRDF and have little bearing if any to the point of contention at hand, which is, the uncovering of a terrorist plot allegedly perpetrated by Ginbot 7-the brain child of Dr. Berhanu Nega”

To be honest, no one spends time trying to isolate things that weren’t meant to be together in the first place. Meles and Bereket have nothing to do with EPRDF. EPRDF is an incompetent amorphous entity created by the two criminals to give TPLF national mandate. Otherwise, Ethiopia is a one party polity, and that party is none than the ethnic conglomerate TPLF party created by the evil seeds of ethnicity. Evidently, there are some people of substance within the EPRDF party who like active volcano are waiting to explode, but for the most part, EPRDF is a ship willfully hijacked by the TPLF pirates.

Unlike what the paid attack dogs try to tell us, Ethiopians are terrorized by Meles Zenawi who is entrusted to lead them. In fact, his words of terror started in day one of his administration. Here is one of the most disdaining phrases belted out to the opposition by a person who vowed to lay the foundation of multi-party politics in Ethiopia: -- "Mengedun Cherk Yargilachehu", which basically means go to hell. Such shameless and despicable inflammatory statements are characteristic of Meles Zenawi’s dismissive ego whose arrogance is just beyond the pale. All in all, Meles Zenawi is a typical symbol of hypocrisy at the helm of the TPLF regime. When he speaks he speaks lies, when he makes a promise he breaks it, and when he is trusted he betrays his trust.

Ginbot 7 is not and has never been a party of individuals, and most importantly, Ginbot 7 is not a party that promises the impossible and tries to attain the in attainable. The promise of Ginbot 7 is freedom and, no matter how often Meles and Berket lie, freedom is attainable! Meles Zenawi is a person who lies to himself; his daily life is filled with denial of what he does, even what he thinks. He does this because he is afraid of what Ginbot-7 can do - Bring an end to his wealth making hierocracy. For Meles and his bandits denial is always the first step in their apparent attempt to prevent the inevitable. Otherwise, Ginbot-7 is everywhere in Ethiopia including at the back yard of Melses Zenawi. His attempt to kill Ginbot-7 is no different than Hercules trying to kill Hydra in the classic Greek mythology. Ginbot-7 is difficult to kill because when you cut off one head anywhere in Ethiopia, two more heads would grow back out of the stump elsewhere. I’m not quite sure about Berket because he has no brain of his own; but, I’m dead sure his master knows the significance of the Hydra, as the Hydra would be the eventual downfall of Hercules.

Here is one more ‘hushed’ bark by the attack dogs:

“Failing to remember that he has unequivocally condemned violence few years back, he is now adhering to dislodge a democratically elected government “by any means necessary.” This is what the world knows and there is no entity in this world able enough to fabricate what Berhanu has argued for to mean anything other than terror”

Dr. Berhanu, and millions of Ethiopians who adore him love peace and adhere to peaceful methods of struggle, but peaceful struggle does not mean bowing to Meles Zenawi and participate in a meaningless election to coronate the same “King” every five years. Peaceful struggle is pointless when a tiny 4% of the Ethiopian population decides on the fate of the other 96%. Yes, indeed, peaceful struggle is disingenuous when one party has roses, and the other has guns and knows no mercy. The only living organism that hates peace & tranquility is the one that needs turmoil for its survival, and that organism is Meles Zenawi. Actually, it is not just Meles Zenawi; essentially, the nature of the TPLF thugs is enmity against peace and democracy. Obviously, the result of such eccentric behavior is a continued warfare against their own constitution and against the society they’re supposed to lead. Let it be heard loud and clear! Given all the available choices, there is no human being that resorts to violence, and when there is no other option left, no human being gives up its freedom for fear of violence.

One other wavy-line in the above statement is: “he [Berhanu] is now adhering to dislodge a democratically elected government “by any means necessary.” Well, this is just a joke, and it’s the only joke that makes Colonel Mengistu chuckle who hasn’t chuckled in 18 years. Ironically, what makes bore-stiff Mengistu laugh is not the joke itself. It is the perception that his nemesis is using the same old election tricks that Mengistu himself used in the 1970s and 80s. If “Democracy” to Meles Zenawi is rising to power “by any means necessary” then what is wrong with Dr. Berhanu’s adherence to bring him down “by any means necessary? Who is the terrorist here? Is it Meles Zenawi who ascended to power by killing his opponents, or is it Dr.Berhanu Nega who has the courage to say no to Zenawi’s senseless arrogance?

Ethiopia’s political and economic future depends on the courage and capacity of its leaders to face the bold truth of the present. Facing the truth is the only thing that sets Meles Zenawi free, otherwise, covering the painful emotions of moms and dads whose children died defending democracy; and blocking the gross images coming from Ogden and Gambela is a senseless denial of reality that diminishes our ability to survive as a society. Evidently, Meles Zenawi and Bereket Simon are pathological liars; therefore, expecting honesty from them is a little more than a bad joke. However, no matter how bad liars they are, they should not swing like a hot wire. Meles Zeanwi has never been loyal to Ethiopia and Ethiopians ever since he and his rag-bag guerilla army set foot in Addis Ababa. His leadership has always been tainted with ethnicization of politics, systematic killing, and human right abuse even at times when many Ethiopians gave him the benefit of the doubt. So much can be said about Meles Zenawi and Berket Semon. These two self-indulgent mortals are liars, killers, crooks, and most importantly they are the ultimate symbols of human inhumanity. Their shallow strength may carry them through today, and may be tomorrow, but these wicked forces of evil will be defeated by the forces of good and excellence!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Bury the Spear!

This is a preview of a 2004 documentary film made by the anthropologist/filmmaking team of Ivo Strecker and Alula Pankhurst.
Bury the Spear! focuses on the 1993 peace-making efforts of the Arbore, Borana, Konso, Tsamai, Hamar and Dasanach to end decades of ethnic war in the southern Ethiopian Rift Valley. The title of the film comes from the climactic scenes of elders uttering curses as they use stones to blunt the blades of their spears.
I suppose the occupants of Minilik's palace and its aspirants can learn a thing or two from this film.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tilahun Gessesse, RIP

Sad to hear the passing of Tilahun Gessesse, the one and only, the legendary, the irreplaceable Ethiopian singer of the last half century. I have to admit, he was not my favorite singer, but he was probably the greatest Ethiopian vocalist, ever! And, what can you say about this emotional and masterful performance? The fact that he has total control of his vocals while he is in tears is beyond me. Wow!

I had one brief encounter with him in 1984 (September, I believe). I was visiting a relative of mine at Amanuel Hospital in Addis and, lo and behold, Tilahun was being treated in the same ward of the hospital, accross the room from my relative, for a condition that was rumored (since I have no way to confirm it) to be inflicted on him by the Derg regime. His wife, Roman, was sitting right beside him on the bed and my relative, a soldier who had suffered emotional trauma after serving his country in the Red Star campaign of the Eritrean war, was joking with Tilahun. I also saw another great Ethiopian singer in the flesh that day, Alemayehu Eshete, as he was leaving the hospital after visiting Tilahun. Can you imagine what a thrill it was to see two musical legends in just an hour for this seventeen years old lad?

You can find an alternative biography of the late Tilahun Gessesse (PKA Daandanaa Ayyaano Guddata) from Ayyaantuu Oromiyya Portal.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Photos from Africa by James Baigrie

Please take a look at these absolutely breathtaking pictures from Africa by James Baigrie, a native of South Africa. The one you see above is from somewhere in Shoa, Ethiopia. If you can read Amharic, there is one from Gojam which will cause you to laugh uncontrollaby! There are 47 pictures in all, 21 from Ethiopia and 10 from Eritrea. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

War on Dysfunctional Behaviors

Comments on the article "Time to Declare War on Dysfunctional Behaviors"

By Mesfin Felleke

Even though this article by Ato Dessalegn Asfaw appeared more than two years ago, about every few months I look for it and read it to gain some new understanding of why we are who we are today as Ethiopians. I even pass it to friends and relatives to help them they ask themselves few questions so that they get into understanding their own dysfunctional behaviors.

The author of this article, I surmise, must be an expert in these areas of the human character as I probably would never have put it as succinctly and clearly as he did. However for long I have strongly felt the many character flaws in us Ethiopians is the basis for our continued inability to transform our struggle for democracy into an enduring force . I am not sure where and how we got all those flaws as described in Dessalegn’s article, but I suspect it is embedded in us as a result of our hundreds years of proud history as a geographically land locked people, fiercely guarding our own form of Christianity, our ancestors fighting many wars to guard off any outside influence of any form while living side by side with Muslims and other religious persuasions. As a result, for hundreds of years we forgot the world as the world also forgot us (from Edward Gibbons). This protectionism went on all the way to the start of the last century when Western influence poured in unmitigated in its various forms. Since then it has been nothing but outside influence mixed in its bad as well as good attributes. I think there is a great opportunity here for some learned Ethiopian to work on and find out how our historical background, mixed with Western influence shaped our current behavior.

The main reasons why I am commenting on this two years old article is:
  1. In spite of so many appalling endings, the movement to free our country from dictatorial leaders never stops from re-emerging in some form, somewhere by some group of people. One always hopes there is a learning from past failures.
  2. From what I have seen and heard these learning includes some amount of realization of the dysfunctional behaviors listed in this article. However I am not sure the desired remediation is formulated well enough by these emerging groups to underscore the changes needed to curtail another series of organizational failures.
  3. This is where I believe Dessalegn’s perfect analysis and presentation of our many dysfunctional behaviors come to fill a hitherto forgotten gap. A gap that has so far managed to render our countless political and supportive organizations as ineffective and eventually disbanded.
  4. To that end I will urge Ato Dessalegn to publish his article frequently. Maybe by reducing its lengthiness and changing its format here and there using short and bulleted points so that it creates curiosity, stays in our memory and turns to usability. In our fast paced life we have come to be time-sensitive towards long articles even though subject matters like his really need to be long to be effectively explained.
"Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time" (Mark Twain). And as such if we are repeatedly but systematically informed that our dysfunctional behaviors are formed habits and that habits can be reformed for the better, I know we will come to realize our short comings and listen to others who will provide us with well researched and practical solutions. Seldom did I see such a well done cause and effect analysis of "us". We could be lacking on those behavioral aspects, but I also know we are good people who, as a first generation newcomers to all the lands we spread into, we have managed to keep up with our educations, businesses, families and done well just like the locals. We will listen to a perfectly laid out analysis like Dessalegn’s if told repeatedly and intelligently enough.

Finally, as history will bear witness, we love our country and our people. We have shown that untold number of times, occasionally by willingly but foolishly paying the ultimate (Key Shibir) and often times by unselfishly contributing our money and time (Kinijit and its many supportive groups). I know this love and dedication may go up and down on the scale but will never fade away as long as there is an ounce of Ethiopian blood left in us and even in our children born and raised outside our country. So here today I urge Ato Dessalegn to expand on his study of analyzing "our dysfunctional behavior", finding the appropriate remediation and talk to us by publishing his works as often as possible till we get it right and take the necessary steps to fix it.

To those of you who agree with Dessalegn’s work, are endowed with public speech, and are actively involved in the Ethiopian Democratic movement, I beseech you to make it an active part of your organization building and group strengthening routine so that the rest of us take these character flaws seriously and actively work for remediation. Such recognition activities by our leaders, the remediation efforts duly practiced by them for good measure also goes a long way in forming strong followers and unrelenting loyalty to the cause of freedom.

Long live Ethiopia and the enduring fight by its children to create a better country where justice, equality, pursuit of happiness and the rule of just law will one day soon be practiced all across our land.

Readers who wish to contact the author can reach him at

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The People Who Lost Their Way

Looking at the Consequences of "Going it Alone"

By Maru Gubena

The problems facing Ethiopia and its people are too many and too complex to count or describe, but they all have been created and cultivated by the people themselves, as it is the group, the community and the society which are responsible for moulding and shaping our lives, cultures and habits -- bringing up and socializing its children. Even those who show cruel, inhuman and destructive behaviours, such the former dictator, Mengistu Hailemariam, or the current leader of the TPLF, Meles Zenawi, belong to and are an inseparable part and product of Ethiopian society.

It would not be wrong to state that that since most of us have not been tested, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to vigorously argue that we, the Ethiopians at home and abroad who are restlessly, relentlessly and sleeplessly demanding basic rights and freedoms for individual members of Ethiopian society, including a dramatic improvement in living conditions, could not behave in similar ways, just as inhuman and destructive as those two individuals, had we been given the opportunity to rule. Our own destructive actions and behaviours throughout the fall of 2005 and to the present day clearly suggest that we might not be so very different from those who have inhumanely committed the most horrifying, atrocious crimes against our families, friends, classmates, colleagues, neighbours and our most talented Ethiopian compatriots, whom most Ethiopians had seen as the future assets of the country and its people. Yes, I actually continue to wonder, often anxiously, whether we ourselves, who appear to have lost our way yet try to appear to be the guardians and defenders of human rights, are well equipped for these roles, and whether we would prove to be better, more responsible thinkers and relatively honest policy makers, policy executors and educators.

Imagine now just for a while, just for a moment, that we, the entire community of the Ethiopian Diaspora, had lived through the remarkable and testing four-year period, from winter 2005 to early 2009, a period marked by an irremovable black stain on the minds of the Ethiopian Diaspora community, on our own island. I will call it Zaldonia. We are there with no rules and laws of our own, just as we are living now. It should not be at all difficult for any member of our community with a healthy common sense who walked the rough paths of those high, treacherous mountains with us throughout those four remarkably tragic years to predict or guess what would have happened to some, or even most of us. Yes, the past few years have put the long-held grudges and deep-seated resentments many of us hold against each and every one of our own compatriots in a bright light. In fact, the past three and half decades, but especially this brief four-year period, have shown us unmistakably that we have completely lost our direction with respect to finding a path to togetherness and unity.

Yes, it is certainly true that each of us is talking through our own personal websites, newspapers, radios, paltalk rooms and other means of communication about Ethiopia and the unity of its people, including discussions of our country’s territorial integrity, but in actual terms those talks are just a means to an end, a ladder that can be used to climb to desired socio-political and economic positions or to help those related to us to achieve a degree of political power over others. Yes, it is true that all of us are talking and writing - but we are not changing ourselves, our behaviours and mindsets; we are just trying to influence and change others, so that we can share (or if possible remove) their political power and the economic positions at their disposal.

Yes, all of us are also writing, talking and complaining about opposition groups and those who love to "go it alone," and we want them to establish a united force and work together, but we ourselves, as website and radio owners and paltalk talkers don’t like and don’t want to hear about working jointly with other radios, websites or owners of other communications media. We, all of us who have been molded by exactly the same culture, love to go it alone so that we can continue to enjoy doing what pleases us to without being bothered by others, without the slightest feelings of shared responsibility or accountability, within our own lonely and fruitless circles of freedom -- going our own way on our own timetable.

Let me just share something with you, something which sometimes even scares me. But I hope I am terribly wrong. Yes, I sometimes think, imagine and get even so scared to death that if, just if, Ethiopia, our country, one day becomes very lucky and finds herself to be young and beautiful, exactly in the same way as some of our exceptionally elegant, beautiful Ethiopian girls, and much to her disbelief and shock, she meets someone, a kind prince. They fall in love and marry. She, our country, looks set to live happily ever after, becoming not just prosperous, a disease and prison-free land, but also kicking out all of those who have been and still are oppressing and repressing her children, taking their positions as President, PM and Information/Disinformation or whatever ministerial positions they may have held, becoming very democratic and commencing a joyful life with all of her eighty million children.

What do you think what would happen next? I really don’t know, but I am sometimes so scared that some, if not most, Ethiopian Diaspora talk shows and political groupings might possibly not give up their talking, unless their demands or the demands of those they support and with which they have been engaged and busy for so long are incorporated into the lifestyle of the newly born Ethiopia and its newly crafted socio-political and economic policies. They might not even want to attend her wedding. This is not just based on my wildest dreams or fantasies; it comes from my observations, for example when I have witnessed that many helpful ideas and visions presented to us by some open-minded thinkers who are free from family and group orientations, which have not been allowed to grow in our minds and hearts, or in our home country. Instead they were simply buried deep in the ground and forgotten, simply because such ideas and visions did not make a place for the political programmes of our current, ineffective political organizations and the plans and desires of privately owned business and media outlets.

In conclusion, I would dare to say that, although "going it alone" -- ignoring the direction that most social animals of the world community follow, living in respect and love with each other -- may have benefited a limited number of our compatriots, perhaps in economic terms or/and self-satisfaction, for the majority of us the direct and indirect consequences of losing our way and going it alone have been and are huge and may be difficult, if not impossible, to repair. The limited social and cultural fabric of the Ethiopian Diaspora community that existed previously has been shattered by those who are incurably addicted to going it alone and by those whose mindsets are firmly glued to a family and group orientation.

Why are we then talking and shouting, sometimes very emotionally and sometimes in an exceptionally concerned manner, saying that we are talking about the current problems and future direction of our country and its people, instead of simply admitting that what we are saying is on behalf of ourselves?

Readers who wish to contact the author can reach him at

Monday, April 06, 2009

Observations from the DC Candlelight Vigil

Photo by Matt Andrea
By Fikru Helebo

I went to the candlelight vigil in
Washington, DC which was held yesterday to remember Birtukan Mideksa and all the rest of the political prisoners in Ethiopia. The weather in the DC area was absolutely gorgeous and I decided to make the vigil a family affair. We got to the White House an hour ahead of the candlelight and took leisurely walk around the White House.

We arrived at the candlelight location at 6:05 PM and saw only about 30 Ethiopians, which got me concerned.
I expected Ethiopians to be tardy for such gatherings but I thought more would show up as the minutes went by. When the time said 6:30, I thought I should ask one of the organizers about their schedule. So, I approached one of the guys who seemed to be one of the organizers and I introduced myself. When I informed the well dressed gentleman that I blog on Enset, he decided to introduce me to a person
by the name of Alex who was in charge of organizing the event.

I related to Alex the concern I had about the low attendance. But he did not seem as concerned as I was. He gave me five plausible reasons why there were not as many people as I had expected there should have been at around 6:30:
  1. Ethiopians' habitual disregard for punctuality.
  2. Calendar change of the event.
  3. President Obama's absence from DC.
  4. Difficulty finding automobile parking spots close to the event's location.
  5. Division within the ranks of the opposition.
Sure enough, while I was still talking with Alex, more and more people arrived. By the time the event got started around 7 PM, there were at least 200 participants by my estimation. The event lasted for about an hour and I returned home satisfied that there are a sufficient number of concerned Ethiopians who appreciate the sacrifices that Birtukan and the other political prisoners are making on behalf of their country men and women.

One thing that struck me about the event was the absence of many of the political activists that I knew from the time I was active in DC area opposition politics from 1994 to 2001. I very seldom go to political events nowadays mainly because of the toxic atmosphere that pervades Ethiopian politics. I saw only two people that were familiar faces to me from those days. This suggests to me that the last point that Alex pointed out for the low turn out was a factor. Sad to see that the more things change in Ethiopian politics the more they stay the same. When will Ethiopian opposition politicians ever grow up and learn to compromise and see the benefits of cooperation?

Another thing which pleasantly surprised me was the presence of younger people in proportions that is much larger than the political meetings and events that I used to go to in the 90s. I estimated that about half of the participants were under 40 years of age. This is an encouraging development. This suggest to me that the younger generation folks are engaged in the affairs of their homeland more than I thought they were. I think progressive opposition groups like Andenet should give serious consideration to tapping the energy and fresh perspective that younger folks bring to the table.

I estimated that less than one in five of the participants at the vigil were women. For me, this is a very low representation considering the fact that Birtukan is now the main symbol of the struggle to bring about change to Ethiopia. Overall, I thought the vigil was a moderately successful event, but I thought it should have been attended by at least twice the size of the participants in a city that has the largest number of the Ethiopian Diaspora. Kudos to the organizers for their hard work and determination to carry on the torch of freedom in spite of the adverse conditions.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Genographic Project

"We all have one common place of origin: East Africa."

This video will give you a much better description of what the Genographic Project is about than anything I can tell you. But, in case you are hesitant to click on the video or the link and find out for yourself what the project is about, here is a brief summary of it from their web site:

Genographic Project is a five-year (2005-2010) research partnership led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Spencer Wells. Dr. Wells and a team of renowned international scientists and IBM researchers, are using cutting-edge genetic and computational technologies to analyze historical patterns in DNA from participants around the world to better understand our human genetic roots. The three components of the project are: to gather field research data in collaboration with indigenous and traditional peoples around the world; to invite the general public to join the project by purchasing a Genographic Project Public Participation Kit; and to use proceeds from Genographic Public Participation Kit sales to further field research and the Genographic Legacy Fund which in turn supports indigenous conservation and revitalization projects. The Project is anonymous, non-medical, non-profit and all results will be placed in the public domain following scientific peer publication.
150 years after Charles Darwin published his seminal work on the theory of evolution and 55 years after the discovery of the structure of the DNA, there is now a near consensus in the scientific community about Africa being the single origin of modern human beings. The co-discover of Australopithecus afarensis ("Lucy"), the 3.2 million years old hominid skeleton found in the Afar region of Ethiopia, says the following in his article "Origins of Modern Humans: Multiregional or Out of Africa?":
There are two theories about the origin of modern humans: 1) they arose in one place -- Africa and 2) pre-modern humans migrated from Africa to become modern humans in other parts of the world. Most evidence points to the first theory because:
  • fossils of modern-like humans are found in Africa
  • stone tools and other artifacts support African origin
  • DNA studies suggest a founding population in Africa
Research on Y and X chromosomes in the past 20 years, including early result from the Genographic Project, so far also support the first theory. I came across this project by chance back in December while browsing the internet. Ethiopia, being at the center of the Eastern Africa region where all human beings alive today are thought to have directly originated from, naturally I got interested in the subject and I started reading about it. Since the project is open to the general public, I thought it would be interesting to participate in it myself and contribute to the scientific understanding of where human beings originated from and how they were able to colonize the Earth in about 60,000 years from a single point of origin. I also thought that such an understanding of our common origins, regardless of the journey our ancestors may have taken to get to their current abode, may help to mitigate our modern infatuation with our ethnic differences. So, I have decided to participate in this project and I will post a summary of my deep ancestry, which is what you get with the Genographic DNA test, when I get my results.

I am not aware whether the Genographic Project folks have gotten DNA samples from population groups in Ethiopia for this study. I would be surprised if they have not. Regardless, it is my hope that my participation in this project will encourage Ethiopians and other East Africans from all ethnic backgrounds to participate in this project.