By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
While I am not known as a morning friendly person, Wednesday morning I got up early and sat in front of my computer. I started by leafing through pages of newspapers and web pages that usually carry some articles or commentaries on Ethiopia.
To the consternation of some who have some dos and don’ts to sanctify their politics, let me confess that I normally begin the day with aigaforum.com and other TPLF pages, news outlets such as Fana – the killer TPLF created with governemnt funds to destroy the historic Ethiopian News Agency (ENA), which was established in 1941 as a national news source.
I do this on a daily basis to get sense of what the TPLF has up its sleeves. Not looped with the regime in anyway, to this day I have not found better way of capturing what is being cooked up in the corridors of power in Addis Abeba. Nonetheless, while doing this I am aware that one has to take risks in losing precious time, even if at times what appear on the TPLF pages are self-serving propaganda, packed with lies and exaggerations the Front cadres habitually concoct for political mileage.
Unfortunately, what caught my attention yesterday morning June 22, 2015 was an article by Dilwenberu Nega Birhanu’s baptism of fire and Terrence’s hogwash are the height of folly.
I am writing this piece to show readers whether it is the TPLF or the opposition camp that peddles with lies and falsehoods. For that, I would, therefore, sample a few of the things mentioned in the said article that are either outright lies, false propaganda, or a posturing of sorts by the TPLF.
It should be mentioned here that right at this moment, the TPLF people are terrified for Ethiopia is now increasingly becoming their Antarctica. The dilemma is that they can no longer enjoy it frigid as it is; nor abandon their heaven altogether, given the status, name and power it has given them they rather used effectively to build their personal fortunes.
This piece is not defense of the people whose names have been mentioned in Dilwenberu’s article. For one, most of them have proved capable of defending themselves up until this point. Nor is there any need on the part of Arbegnoch Ginbot 7 (PG-7) or any other to seek the defense of a non-member. The movement has already shown this since July 2/2015, having declared war to challenge the US-and-other-Western-nations-supported power in Addis Abeba and Africa’s third largest army. It is understood that Patriotic Ginbot 7 are willing to employ all forms of struggle in rural areas, towns and cities, including targeting to disable EFFORT economic and production sites built with stolen Ethiopian resources – as happened to Sur Construction in Gondar days ago, according to ESAT.
Let it be clear that one thing I have in common with PG-7 or any other political group with similar persuasion is our common rejection of the racism and ethnic discrimination the TPLF has institutionalized in our country. This has reduced our people to second class citizenship. I have made this clear for several years in many of my writings warning about the impending danger to the nation; also since 2011 in TEO’s About as well as in ኢትዮጵያ ወደአደገኛ አግጣጫ እያመራች ነው!
As far as Dilwenberu Nega is concerned, let me state that I have long recognized him through his scribbles as dictionary peddler of sorts. While his is a pen name, in Ethiopian readers’ circles, it comes loudly clear because of his constant engagement as a hired hand – usually defending the TPLF’s crimes, as he has done now in non-communicative language and non-ordinary style jabbering with non-media-friendly words.
In day-to-day life, however, he is a London-resident TPLF cadre, although the Ethiopian ambassador in London once referred to him in moments of gossip with a friend as a ‘pretender, a vuvuzela and a boiler all at once.’
Even better, he is known to London resident Ethiopians as creator, among others, of controversies, author of provocation, cover ups and the lies and stoker of fires of disunity amongst Ethiopians, the cause and target of which has been TPLF’s need for the Tigranization of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, with the Church dispute he has fanned in London and at home as one example. That, fortunately, to his utter dismay, has been resolved once and for all, with action the London High Court took. When he did not show up until recently, I thought, he had taken longer ‘leave’, sadly until he showed up again two or three articles ago.
In the above-mentioned bizarre article, Dilwenberu writes about two categories of Ethiopians. He differentiates them between those that have the “authority”, as he put it, to speak about Ethiopia and those that do not. With such right are those that are domiciled in the country. We could refer to this as Constituency One. It is interesting that such right is extended to Ethiopians at home, while last May and before that in many elections they were not even allowed to freely vote their mind and conscience with full self-awareness, since the TPLF can easily control them and at any time.
The second category is that of those Ethiopians who live abroad – the diaspora. Unfortunately, they too are differentiated between those that cannot at all exercise such rights, simply because they are not regime supporters or non-Tigreans. By the same token, there are regime supporters, because of ethnic reasons or economic interests, who are part of Constituency One, even though they live abroad. After all, the TPLF is a walking contradiction that always is wanting, a character of the sorts Ethiopians in Amharic refer to as ቅሌታም ወይንም ይሉኝታ ቢስ!
Even there, we have known how intricate this could become in view of the fact that Ethiopia in the past quarter century have become mother of first sons and daughters due to ethnic factors. The rest could have second or third tier privileges, which cannot even help remove minor bureaucratic obstacles and problems.
Outright, the writer tells us that Dr. Tadesse Birru has no authority whatsoever to speak of and on/about Ethiopia in any contexts. Dilwenberu’s convoluted reasoning is that Dr. Tadesse “is not an elected member of homeland Ethiopians”. Shameful as this is, he then authorizes Dr. Tadesse to be able to speak only for those Ethiopians that “are in fact his likes: exponents of just-in-time politics which is a form of politics in which ad hoc coalitions and relationships are built around issues instead of parties or ideologies.”.
The implication to Dr. Tadesse Birru is the derivative denial of his right that bans him from joining any political party or movement that is engaged in advocacy for and about Ethiopia, even when the objective is to help Ethiopia overcome poverty, repression and empower each member of society.
The whole point behind this bizarre idea of the TPLF is its desire to create divisions between Ethiopians, especially now at a time of reawakening, when Ethiopians have started in earnest paying attention to PG-7; this comes after its declaration of war against the TPLF regime. By so doing, TPLF’s vain objective is to deprive the movement of large pool of suuporters/ recruits as the armed struggle intensifies.
What is lost on the writer and his bosses in Addis Abeba is that wherever Ethiopians live, they always keep their country in their minds, hearts and souls. They love to think and speak about Ethiopia, without anyone’s support or approval. The new TPLF strategy that Dilwenberu is now testing in public is simply boneheaded, coming as it does when the TPLF’s wings are in danger of being clipped.
It appears to me that he unintentionally writes a one and a half telling sentence about the real TPLF’s concerns: “…[T]he residents of Addis Ababa view Birhanu Nega with distrust and aversion following his decision to dodge the 2005 election win. The clarion call to join a quisling will no doubt be met with deaf ear, for they know a burnt child dreads the fire.”
In my experience, having lived abroad for such a long time, I have never heard Ethiopians fencing around themselves by such stupid distinctions, i.e., notwithstanding the many differences/separateness we have been formed with by birth, political and social circumstances.
True, the TPLF has been trying hard and for several years to win Ethiopians to its side. When those have not worked, it moved to create divisions amongst the nation’s children. For instance, it has been currying in vain the favor and support of willing members of the diaspora. Over the years, it has tried this by offering land to some, houses to others, cars and some other privileges still to some others.
Nonetheless, the TPLF has not won as many Ethiopians to its side as it has hoped for, especially from outside its ethnic group. Therefore, thus far it has not succeeded in this effort, despite even the introduction this year of Diaspora Day, the idea being the TPLF celebrates the diaspora.
A measure of the diaspora-TPLF engagement is that for the second year in a row, private transfers from the diaspora have shown huge decline. The only thing that keep it going at around the same level, plus or minus a few hundred thousand dollars in these past two years, however, is the housing schemes that are on offer.
The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) estimates that total cash private transfers to Ethiopia in 2011/2012 was $1.8 bil. This is only 35.1 percent of total transfers to the country (Private + Official Transfers – the latter in 2012/2013 declining by 14.4 percent).
In 2012/2013, private cash transfer (diaspora) amounted to $2.2 bil, representing 41.1 percent increase, according to the NBE 2013/2014. What this shows is not actual growth in diaspora transfers to families and friends as it usually is. The change is a skimpy $361,000 plus in 2012/2013 due to some members of the diaspora depositing monies through the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) to buy mostly the 40/60 apartments.
Put briefly, the question of authority to speak on behalf of Ethiopia works against the TPLF. Stealing votes and claiming victory without the people’s confidence are two different things. Forget historical elections. The elections of 2005, 2010 and 2015 have become TPLF’s wreckers, having permanently sooted its image.
The TPLF always accuses this or that, but, biblically speaking, it never looks into the mot in its own eyes. Such is the extent of its confusion that through Dilwenberu it is now saying “it is quite probable that the Obama Administration has issued the marching orders to Ginbot 7.”
While I am not privy to the Obama Administration’s secrets and inner policies, I am not sure that in diplomacy one bleeds an ally and hope that it would be all right. This is more so especially when the TPLF regime is soldiering in Somalia to show that it has put Al-Shabab on its back foot. It may not have recognized that its soldiering to US interests is its choice and a result of its own poodling, the consequences of which are its self-inflicted wounds. Ethiopians have not been consulted, when the TPLF went heel over head into US policy of securitization of the nation’s development, although irrespective of US policies Ethiopiabs are intolerant of extremists of all sorts!
What the regime has done is not only creating a very serious and insurmountable problem to itself. But also, I believe, has become incapable of being a sovereign government – primarily respected by its own citizens. This has placed it into a terrible quagmire. This includes the TPLF’s rough and cruel behavior towards Ethiopians, which for years has been the subject of international criticisms and is getting even worse by the day.
While it has in recent years, especially after the May 2015 election and the manner it has mistreated the opposition during 2014 and 2015 has spurned it, it is even making it increasingly difficult for the Obama Administration to properly conduct its relations with Ethiopia. It is not without reason that, the UK in the context of the 2011-2015 DFID Country Operational Program included in the program my favorite indicator – a statement – which reads: “…But it’s [the TPLF’s] approach to political governance presents both substantive challenges to sustainable development and reputational risks to partners.”
After all, recall that within the very month President Obama is coming to visit Ethiopia, Patriotic Ginbot 7 has declared war against the regime, i.e., as of July 2nd 2015. Probably less than ten days before arrival of the president to Ethiopia, the Chairman of Patriotic Ginbot 7 Prof. Berhanu Nega has also left his home in Philadelphia, his family and the university where he teaches economics to move to Eritrea to join his forces on the ground to accelerate, among others, the armed struggle to dethrone the TPLF regime, irrespective of the degree the Obama Administration’embrace it enjoys.
The number of Americans and institutions that disagree with Barack Obama’s decision to visit Ethiopia is growing by the day. This comes in view of the fact that President Obama’s Administration has become insensitive to the people of Ethiopia, who are being savagely butchered in the hands of the TPLF with TPLF’s cruelty getting worse.
Many have written to the White House since news of the president’s visit has been made public; many have also published critical articles on major United States papers. Ethiopians have marched in front of the White House to make their aversion of the visit known.
Already on Tuesday, 21 July 14 very well recognized and meritorious United States institutions and personages such as the following have attached their names to implore the president to give attention to the respect of human rights and human dignities in Ethiopia and Kenya, whose US-inspired anti-terrorism laws have become balls in the hands of dictators, especially in Ethiopia:
Bronwyn E. Bruton
Deputy Director, Africa Center
Council on Foreign Relations
Director, Human Rights Defenders
Human Rights First
CUNY Graduate Center and City College of New York
Amnesty International USA
Senior Director for Human Rights and Democracy
The McCain Institute for International Leadership
Senior Advisor to the President
United States Institute of Peace
Human Rights Watch
Senior Policy Analyst
Open Society Policy Center
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
George Washington University and Johns Hopkins SAIS
Amb. (Ret) William M. Bellamy
Warburg Professor of International Relations
Looking from the list of the signatories and recalling their political positions in the 1980s, I recognize some names who were ardent and strong supporters of the TPLF. A case in point, for instance, is Prof. John Harbeson. Today, perhaps with sickened heart he and others look back how much the TPLF has dashed their hopes for better days for Ethiopians, a people that cyclically have lived through lots of difficulties, including the present that has become their worst with its land grab, massacre of youths, ethnic discrimination in a country known for its social and religious tolerances.
What is more difficult for Obama is that Berhanu Nega is educated in the United States. He has appreciation for the virtues and values of the United States, i.e., love of freedom and hard work the United States prides itself. Those have become his values as a human being and has so much wanted to instill in Ethiopian society as transformative influence and panacea for all its ills.
In terms of values, from what I know about Berhanu Nega through the friendship we fostered from the mid-1980s in New York, initially he as a doctoral student at the celebrated The New School, founded by European emigres escaping Nazi Germany’s persecution, they have become part of his genetic make-up. Our ties in Nrw York lasted through 1991, up until the very afternoon the TPLF seized Addis Abeba. He called me up in my office to talk about it; he was overjoyed and hurried to pack up and go.
That call, not the most agreeable between us, was the last I heard of him until Ginbot 7. With all honesty, I can say those have showed me where his soul has been more than any of our exchanges.
I can say with certainty that those windows of friendship have convinced me that he stands for the same values any leader the people of the United States install in the White House – liberty, freedom, human dignity, tolerance, working hard to make use of opportunities and moving oneself up the ladder, among others.
Moreover, his family, his wife and children are Ethiopian-Americans, although I do not know at this point what passport he holds after we lost personal touches.
Berhanu Nega has been educating American children in one of its prestigious universities – Bucknell University established in 1846. As a national liberal arts institution, its overall national score in 2015 is 32nd, according to the US News and World Report. Most importantly, the fact that the university that has known him for such a long time has awarded him full professorial status and tenure as of 2015 must speak to President Obama to the need to re-examine his Ethiopia policy.
Having left the United States and giving his energies to trying the peaceful way to contribute to Ethiopia’s development and the building of the institutions of democracy in the country on the ground between the early 1990s and 2005, one could see that Berhanu has given chance to peaceful change. What failed him is that the TPLF’s Meles Zenawi threw him to prison, along with several of his comrades-in-arms, accusing them of ‘trying to overthrow the constitutional order’- in today’s lingo of being terrorists – and sentenced some of them to death, Berhanu for one, and others to life in prison.
Be ye the careful judge to the differences between the love of a country and the love of a wonderfulp woman!
In this situation, how would and could Barack Obama justify finding fault with Berhanu Nega and his colleagues in the tone Wendy Shernan spoke, most of the other activists, the movement they lead and the Ethiopian people that want to see the back of the regime the president supports?
All that Ethiopians want is peace, freedom and restoration of their human dignity.
Yes, the president is most preoccupied with crushing Islamic extremism and fundamentalism in Somalia and elsewhere, justifiably important as these objectives are. This, however, should not be done with Ethiopia-US relations placed at narrowest tip of a cone so to say contacts limited between two leaders and their assistantsRegarding this, the US must also learn from its past mistakes, for instance, at the end of the Cold War, when it literally lost Russia, because what mattered was the narrow Clinton-Yelsin banding together.
If the ultimate goal is to defeat terrorism, the best security is having the people stand guard, instead of corrupt and violent regime that breaks the spirit of the people turning around and charging them for terrorism, beating them up with the stick the United States offers it – political, diplomatic, economic, financial and military supports. Piles of of such United States acts all over around the globe is contributing to the weakening of the international system of governance and international cooperation, a vital tool in international diplomacy to solve all sorts of problems of social, political, economic and security nature.
In the latest message Berhanu primarily transmitted to the TPLF, its army, to Ethiopians and to the people of the world at large, he pointed out how much he regrets the worsening situation in Ethiopia on account of TPLF misbehavior should force his movement into raising arms, when political dialogue could have solved all national problems.
Note that neither the president nor the Ethiopian people would ever hear this from the TPLF bonehead killers!
President Obama arrives in Ethiopia perhaps Sunday or Monday, following an exuberant three-day visit to neighboring kenya – his father’s birthland. Reading Monday’s Daily Nation about the welcoming preparations, I have no doubt that he would be treated with joy, great affection and dignity reserved to special royals by a people and country to whom royalty is merely notional.
I know Kenyans; they are good people and less complicated than most Africans. They mean what they say.
Reading the Daily Nation also made me envious of how the reform Kenya started in 1999 under a long gone administration, unlike in Ethiopia where under the TPLF all of yesterday must be destroyed, was being credited for many of the reforms Kenya undertook to ensure public/private sustenance of the economy.
When I turned my attention home, the next thing I read on an Ethiopian paper is that, because of the shortages of everything, it was about the TPLF’s import of 40mil liters of oil – NOTE HERE for distribution half of it through political party business of the ruling party (endowments) and the other half through selected private (selection criteria not known, but possibly ethnicity)!
One more thing, transportation has never been working in Addis Abeba, because Ethiopia is a city and a nation where innovation and new ideas is source of trouble for its authors. Therefore, the solution they came up is tweaking on the margins. They recommended, for instance, the taxi system to be reorganized in a new association. This is one major drawback of governance under so-called revolutionary democracy! The last time, they the said transportation problem is behind us, according to transport chief Tiblets Asgedom with the purchase of 50 busses, not instituting the logic and system of transportation. How could this be done, when the boss’s education is handling weapons during their fight for Tigray and the TPLF in the trenches and their appointment is merely a reward for services rendered.
That said, I would like to tell the president with all honesty that in contrast, his visit to Ethiopia finds no intrinsic reason to excite Ethiopians to create such enthusiasm as in Kenya. He must be aware that the major Ethiopian opposition parties are openly opposed to his visit for reasons already discussed. They oppose Mr. Obama’s standing head and shoulders with the TPLF bandits and killers, as reported on ESAT.
Most importantly, Mr. Obama arrives in Ethiopia at a challenging time for the nation more than ever before. As already mentioned, the president’s visit to Ethiopia has been controversial; it comes in the wake of the TPLF rudely having crowned itself with a victory in so-called national election it unashamedly ransacked and claimed 100 percent electoral victory and awarded itself all the parliamentary seats, in a nation that long ago turned single-party state.
The result is that the political situation in the country has been polarized, even over a month now since the election has been over, the winner is still persecuting those opposition activists that have survived attacks, deaths, house burnings and beatings. Those that remain outside prison are now being prosecuted in TPLF’s kangaroo courts whatever crimes it levels against them.
I would now close this piece, with quotation from my Monday’s article on the same subject: the president visiting Ethiopia:
“Innocence and guilt are no longer distinct attributes in Ethiopian courts. One is locked at will, because someone does not like his non-Tigrean name or the language he speaks. Some are released because President Obama is visiting Ethiopia, possibly as goodwill gesture.
I do not believe that this is what Ethiopians deserve, because of the United States or its important people or interests in our region or subregion!
For all that Ethiopians know, US economic policies, good or bad, affect us all the time as developing countries in all sorts of ways – the exchange rate, high inflation in the past, low commodity prices now, its geopolitical interests, etc.
It is not all right at all that US policies and interests should also encourage the human insecurity of individual citizens, i.e., by the mere fact the US supports lawless dictatorship in Ethiopia, to the extent that today peace in Ethiopia should increasingly become its casualty.”
*Title modified and updated.