Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ethiopia’s Baghdad Bob, The New “A” Word and the Ethnic Ethic

"Our members would be prosecuted if found to have taken part in abuses. Any
diversion from this code of conduct would make our members accountable.”
- Ato Bereket Simon

That would be Ato Bereket, Ethiopia’s Information Minister, a.k.a. the Baghdad Bob of Ethiopia. Remember the other Baghdad Bob, Saddam Hussein’s Information Minister? Remember his memorable utterances that lent comic relief to an otherwise humorless war?
"Let the American infidels bask in their illusion" Belew!
"We have placed them in a quagmire from which they can never emerge except dead"? Digemew!
"God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of Iraqis"? No… he… did’n!

Now let's switch back to Ato Bereket for a moment:

We believe that the ruling party is enjoying its finest years and has enhanced
credibility across the board. So why do we need to take part in such unethical
practices when we are going to win the election with a landslide?"

Duuuude! It must suck every day being the Information Minister for EPRDF, but these days it must suck ridiculously.

The greatest judge of character I know is my father. My father would take one look at my potential suitors in high school and verily summarily dismiss them thus: “Esu ayrebam!”… esu westlatanet alebet” and the dreaded “asteyayetu alamaregim.” 98.75% of the time he ended up being right.

So I called him yesterday to ask about Ato Bereket. “Teiyiew bakish. Lerassu miskeen new.” What!? Okay, this is that 1.25 times that my father is wrong. I prodded for more information but that’s all my father would say. I was about to give up on my pursuit when I caught the tail-end of my father’s mutterings. “Yiliqunu, something something… igziyaber yiyilat…” Who? Ma? “Yachi Genet Zewde… igzihaber ye srawan yisTat.”

Something in my gentle father’s voice told me not to ask any more questions. Apparently, the Education Minister, the former Education Minister, has major karmic debt to contend with.

What must it be to be like to be universally hated? As a leader, wouldn’t you feel like you need to earn the respect of the people? When I was in Ethiopia, whole avenues would be shut off when Meles and entourage zipped through Addis. I know they probably thought it looked cool. They would.

It’s been so long since Ethiopia had a leader she adored.

One of the best articles I’ve read recently is this one about Emperor Haile Selassie. It is so on the mark about what we did to the man. Thirty years later, a young Ethiopian pop artist, Teddy Afro, managed to finally give the man tribute. Ayi ItoPiya!

Anyhoo, to today’s “pissing me off” du jour

I often have to check the calendar on my computer when I read some Ethiopian, formerly Ethiopian, and endeavoring to be future non-Ethiopians’ discussion forums on the off chance that whatever weird science being cooked up at Microsoft had not transported me back to 19th century Ethiopia without my express permission.

I am not sure if people are being facetious or being deliberately provocative but it appears to this amateur wonkette that all is not well in Kansas. Are people really taking this ethnicity thing seriously? “You arrogant Shoans… yada-yada”… “Oh, it’s Tigrayan chauvinism yap-yap-yap”, “Oromiya shall rise” (where has it been?) Lib miyadekimmmm neger!

Do people realize how ridiculous they sound? A whole generation has grown up and come of age without ethnicity being at the forefront of its mind. And yet…we have yet to move an inch. (Although you have to appreciate the irony—using cable modem to rabble-rouse about zemene mesafint foibles.)

Do you wonder what the ancient Ethiopian kings would have posted on discussion forums if they had computers in their ilfign? The afe negus of Dejazmatch Kassa/Atse Yohannes typing furiously on Menelik II’s discussion forum: “You will never, never rule Ethiopia! The fury of my Tigayan blood will boil you and Shewa! And by the way, Ankober sucks!” To which Menelik would have tightened his bandana and dictated to his Tsehafi Te'ezaz: “Shoan bones will never melt in a cauldron of boiling Tirgrayan blood! And by the way, check yo’ self… If some trollop had not seduced Melmal Eyasu, you’d be some third rate Asir Aleqa!”

In the meantime, on an Oromo separatist website… well, they’d be bellyaching the same thing they are today.

So, there… things have not changed that much, have they? It is so ridiculous.

In the Mengistu era it was the great Adhari vs. Lab Ader divide. God help you if by some pimply abiyotawi’s fuzzy math you ended up categorized in the adhari column. Many a bet lij has slunk by Qebelle doors, his or her face buried, praying that no one would throw out a random act of “adhari!"sm.

So, what do you think would happen if I shouted “ante adhari!” in a crowded room today? I’d be ridiculed until my bones cracked. (Hm, unless I said it in a roomful of cantankerous EPRP-ans… then I’d be their hero. Talk about “wiy miskeenoch!”)

So, in a few years, (I'd say months) this deranged obsession with ethnicity will become passé, no one will care, and those who peddled the dementia will be mercilessly ridiculed. So, I say that those of us ahead of the curve start ridiculing them now. Ethnic politics is the new Adhari, the A word, and its shelf life is about to expire. God help us, if EPRDF is retired, so will the era of getting all senselessly frantic about who our grandfathers were, and not a moment too soon. And excuse me, but wasn’t that why the Haile Selassie regime was crucified—for making bones about its bones?

I had initially though that I’d vent long and hard about ethnic politics—but really.. it’s such a farce in today’s global economy that it’s not worth it. Besides, you know everything there is to know about it, thanks to 14 years of the EPRDF’s imbecilic policies. So, the short end of it is, let’s all get over ourselves. The future is in pushing Ethiopia to become the Silicon Valley of Africa… It’s about building a burgeoning, educated middle class that is too busy working, not clinging to blood and bones. The future is to extricate ourselves from this static agricultural based economy to an industrial based economy. And in a fast paced, progressive economy, there’s no time to whine about what your grandfather did to my grandfather. So, tell it to your therapist and move on, brother. No one except the Anuaks can play the ethnic card today without sounding asinine… least of all the Amara, Tigre and Oromo. I mean, not even P.Diddy is this narcissistic.

Enough! You feel you need to bond with your forefathers? Go build a road or a hospital in their honor and shut up.

Hm. That felt good.

Wait, hold on… lemme check my calendar just incase…. Nope… it’s still 2005 and I am no Seble Wengail Meshesha throwing carefully choreographed virgin-harlot looks at the besieged Bezabih. (He’s so cute when he trembles.)

Goddamn those Microsoft people! What do they do all day?

So, it has officially started—anyone playing up the tribalization racket will be ridiculed. Let’s start with the EPRDF…

Oh.. and thank God Dagmawi is back!

One of my favorite Seleda articles about how to move Ethiopia to the new century.


Anonymous Chiffra said...

ETWonkette-- Bravo! Finally someone advocating for us technocrats! the ethnic farinet has got to stop. My favorite quote is: Ye ItyoPPia Telat farinet new!" Thank you and keep up the good work!

1:40 PM, May 25, 2005  
Anonymous Ye-tewonkettew said...


I took Wonki's advice and set out on my usual Friday night drinking bing (mechase amel meTfo neger) at the local DC abesha wateringhole.

andu ke naye yebassebet, was on a hot streak about ethnicity--- Gojam sayqqer was put through his liquored-up solilioquy. I threw Wonki's "be zer yemikefafil fara new" manifesto (after warming it up with one ot two ye ferenjie qqqrarri) at him and ducked.

Well guess what? The whole bar came to my defense and we ended up browbeating the "zer-man-zer," out of our fellow barstool tederadari.

It works, Wonki. Those of us who think that this ethniscization thing has gotten out of hand are the silent majority and we should speak up-- or ridicule, as you adviced. It really works! (if you do the latter make sure you have a couple in you... just as an out.)

Thank you Wonki-wonk, yenaye wonk, for speaking up for the silent majority.. (I was shocked to find out that the poor guy at the bar was actually a qilitTTttt yale yenaTete ye kebertelij from Addis ab'eba... who discovered the "ethnic ethic" from the "e-nnernez." The problem might be deeper than we thought, so we have to fight back. if someone like him can embrace the bullshit, then ... weichegood, indeed.

ke technocracy gar wedefeet! wedefeet! wedefeet!
Le zare bezih yibqqa.

votre admirateur, et votre sectateur,

6:04 AM, May 28, 2005  

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