Monday, May 23, 2005

Landslide my ass!

I am still trying to get reliable information on the elections. I guess the hanging chads and the pregnant chads are being counted. In the meantime…

Can somebody please explain to the Information Minister the definition of a “landslide”? When a government which controlled 98% of the parliament actually (admittedly) loses seats in an election… not so much a landslide. The latest figure being touted by the EPRDF is that it has won 300 seats. Considering it used to have, what 542, claiming a landslide victory might be… what would you call it, retarded.

The general consensus from all seems to be that no way is the EPRDF going to give up power. I get this sentiment from the most salient of political analysts, my uncle in Ethiopia who has a knack for summarizing major world events in seven words or less (Tsunami: “Esiya wusT cheresachew, aydel?”) He tells me that the EPRDF hardliners are now saying “be demmachin yagenenewin manim aywesdewim… (“No one will take away from us what we gained by spilling our blood”). God help us when Prime Minister Meles is considered the moderate one in Ethiopian politics.

About the elections: the pictures I see posted on the innernetz from Election Day in Ethiopia… I don’t care who your candidate is, they had to touch you. The elderly woman pushing in her ballot in the box with the help of her young assistant… the group of qessoch who, adorned in heavy gabi to combat the early frost, holding their crosses in one hand, and their ballot in the other… the young men who showed up to vote dressed in their best outfits, their hair trimmed, their faces freshly scrubbed in the proper deference to democracy. It is hard not to feel touched.

There are some sentiments here in LA and in the States by know-it-alls easily dismissing the elections. To me they were profound. Despite myself, I know how I felt when I first cast my vote to elect my leader. I can only imagine how they felt in Ethiopia. These are certainly exciting times for Ethiopia.

So, how do you lead a nation when you don’t control the capital? Yeah, yeah… don’t give me the “you damn elite, Addis Ababa is not Ethiopia” argument. For all intents and purposes it is. Not that it should be, mind you, but the reality on the ground is that it is. And the opposition, it appears, has also won all other major cities. Surely, this is the beginning of the end. Perhaps in 2010 Ato Bereket Simon will know the definition of a landslide.

If it is a foregone conclusion that EPRDF will retain power, this will be an opportunity for the opposition to fine tune its policies ( I read Ato Hailu Shawel’s interview and, ehem, them policies need some fine tuning), strengthen its coalition and cruise into power in 2010. Five years is not a long time.

I am reminded of the modus operendai of the nutty wing of the Republican Party which basically said, “It’s OK is we lose a couple of elections. We will bide our time with winning small local elections and build up.” When they said that, by the way, the Democrats scoffed: who are these hicks who think they can regress America to a theocracy? Big mistake. The Christian Coalition started off by winning city council, school board and dog catcher positions in 1982, and now you can’t be elected to the highest office in the world without the approval of Pat Robertson! Abess geberku! So, seriously, five years is not a long time.

We should not devalue what it means to be a vibrant opposition. It’s all about thinking two steps ahead. EPRDF has already lost despite winning another (last) term. You can deride the right wing nuts in the Republican Party all we want, but their tactics of rising from a disdained minority to being major political players should be taught in textbooks. The best victory is one that is achieved despite the rules being stacked against you. Who would have thought 20 years ago, that we’d be having arguments about whether there should be a Ten Commandments monument inside a state court house! It was an amazing change in political tide, and perhaps that’s what the Ethiopian opposition should be concentrating on rather than piddle with sound-bites. Hey, CUD/UDEF! Can you actually enjoy being a powerful opposition, please?

The thing is, unless the opposition starts spinning their gain in parliament as a huge victory and stop with the “I demand a recount” chikonet, they might lose momentum with the people, especially those who voted for them. It will be hard to recover the base once your supporters start feeling like they sided with the losing party. That won’t be good. People need to feel like winners to have voted for the opposition, despite not actually winning the parliment!! That will keep them hanging on through to 2010.

If, as is believed, the EPRDF is determined to hold on to power by any means necessary, then let them have a last victory lap. Be gracious about it. My suggestion is that on June 9 the opposition goes on a “Thank you, Ethiopia” tour and win the hearts of the people. Once you’ve won their hearts, you’ve won.

It might also be an exercise in tolerance both for the ruling party and the opposition to work together for five years. Even when the coalition wins in 2010, however, I hope there will be another vibrant opposition (even if it is the EPRDF) that keeps us from ever having one party heading a rubberstamp parliament. If Berhanu Nega becomes the Mayor of one of the biggest cities in Africa and he has to report to PM Meles, wouldn’t that be a lesson in cooperation and compromise? I am inclined to think that all is not lost just because the opposition does not have 297 seats. It will make it stronger. It will. The opposition should bide its time and not hurry to storm into a falling house. Just wait until the house falls down by itself and just step in.

To me, the case against the EPRDF and PM Meles is simple. I like honor in a person, and this government has proven itself astonishingly dishonorable. I can tolerate some incompetence, even some hubris. But honor is non-negotiable. At the heart of it, I see no goodwill and good intentions in the EPRDF, and that makes it hard to see beyond that.I visited Ethiopia when the EPRDF first came into power.

They say that you can tell a man’s true character when he has power. How PM Meles and his party behaved between 1992-95 was abominable. I used to think that “Ye Ethiopia amlak” was a simpleton saying that gave ecclesiastical explanation to all that ailes us. But truly there must have been a higher power looking out for Ethiopia, because the whole TPLF/EPLF alliance during that time and the guerilla mentality it brought with it was nothing short of obscene. That Ethiopia did not deteriorate into a Somalia at that time was because there was ye Ethiopia amlak. Maybe someday I will write a book on that time.

In short, why is honor the last thing we look for from our leaders in Ethiopia, and Africa in general?

A friend of mine who stopped being an Ethiopian in 1991 and became an Eritrean (he has since become an Ethiopian again, but I have not checked his country affiliation in a couple of months) went back with me to Ethiopia in 1993-4 and was aglow about what hew saw as the “new Ethiopia". He quickly joined the cabal of the nouveau riche. I returned to the States having had seen enough unacceptable behavior.

In late1999 or early 2000 my friend was deported from Ethiopia and I heard an earful from him about the scandalous way Eritireas were being deported and treated in Ethiopia, how the Meles government was evil and how this is a holocaust.

Yep… except it was a holocaust between 1991-1999 as well, it just didn’t seem like it to my friend.

You don’t even have to go to the stunningly bizarre ethnic policy and kililization/tribalization policy of the Meles government. (Something I will address later.) I truly believe that anyone who has goodwill at heart is workable. You may have glaring policy differences with a person of goodwill but still trust him and his leadership.

Like I said, honor is non-negotiable, and the EPRFD is unforgivably, unrepentantly dishonorable. The case against Meles is simple.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much humor and insight. Greatly enjoyed the intellect behind. Good write up! //m

11:58 AM, May 24, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I know someone too whom I saw him distributing a Newspaper called, I think, "Hadish Eritrea" in the work place back in 1991 E.C . He visited me in Atlanta after being deported from Ethiopia and told me how innocent city boy he was who became a mere victim.

4:19 PM, June 05, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should have this re-written in Amharic and/or other national languages and post it on the internet-to reach wider readership!! I really mean it, it is written in a style that is humorous, but with very serious message.

It looks like a review of articles, too. Less of a rhetoric and more of facts.
Well done.

12:26 PM, June 09, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ይህንን ይመልከቱት።

Oromia state calls on public to be wary of conspiracy

Addis Ababa, June 10,2005 (WIC)-The Oromia National State has called on the Oromo people not to take part in acts perpetrated during the past two days in the capital as it is a conspiracy instigated by forces that seek to hold power through creating havoc፣ (በተለይ ባልታጠቁ ንጹሃን ዜጎች ላይ ጥይት በማዝነብ።).

In a statement issued yesterday, the State urged the Oromo people to refrain from any demonstrations, meetings and strikes organized by forces bent on instigating crisis (የዜጎችን መሰረታዊ ሰብአዊ መብቶች በመርገጥ) since the situation created in Addis Ababa has nothing to do with election irregularities (የመነጋገሪያ ር እስ ለመቀየር ካደረግነው ሙከራ በሁዋላ) or any other violation of human rights (ኣፌን ቁርጥ ያርገውii).

It said (እንዳልናቸው) the state government and the people have exerted maximum patience and tolerance to conduct the last election in a peaceful and democratic manner, adding that the state would decisively deal with forces that are trying to ignite (እስከታንክ ድረስ ስላላቸው ተጠንቀቁኣቸው) violence and desperately attempting to disrupt the harmonious relationship of the Oromo people with its neighboring nations and nationalities (እስካሁን ምን ስንል እንደነበር ረስታችሁልን ይሆናል፤ ሆኖም የምንላችሁን ድገሙ እንጂ የምንሰራውን ኣትጠይቁን።).

The statement noted that the Neftegnas (አዎ በአዲስ ኣበባ መንገዶች ላይ ፈስሰዉላችሁኣል) are conspiring to snatch the right of self-administration of the Oromo people (የሁሉንም፤ የኣማራውን ጨምሮ) and promotion of its language and culture by setting up borders along rivers and mountains (ተቃዋሚ ፓርቲዎቹ ያስቀመጡትን የምርጫ ማኒፌስቶ እንድታንብቡ ኣንፈቅድም!! እኛ እናውቅላችሁኣለን።).

It said this is unforgivable as it is a blatant attempt to steal the rights won through 100(3000 አመቱን እንርሳው፤ ሆኖም ሲደመር 14) years struggle by the Oromo (people in order to impose anti-democratic rule (በተለይ ከግንቦት 7 ቀን ማታ በሁዋላ).

According to the statement, the Oromo National Congress party is the stooge of the Neftegnas (የኣግአዚ ጦር ኣባል ስለሆኑ??) in Oromia and the public should ignore their calls for demonstration, strikes and illegal acts (ከሁሉ በላይ ግን ጥይት የጨረስን አይምሰላችሁ).

It said all sections of the society including teachers, students, farmers and urban residents should carry on with their jobs calmly, while fighting the provocative acts of the Neftegnas (ዋ ብለዋችሁኣል፤ ዋ፥ሩቅ ያሉ አይምሰላችሁ፥በየደጃፋችሁ ናቸው።).

The state government and security forces would take appropriate measures to ensure the supremacy of law (ራሳችን ህጉን ለመሆን የምናደርገውን ጥረት በከፍተኛ ደረጃ እንደምናደንቅ በዚህ አጋጣሚ ስንነግራችሁ ከፍ ባለ ደስታ ነው) unless the anti-peace forces refrain from spreading their illegal activities in the state (ራሳችንን ብንቃረን ምን አገባችሁ?).

The state government meanwhile expressed its deep condolences (ለይስሙላ ነው የሚሉ ካሉ እነሱ ተኳሾቹ ብቻ ናቸው)over the loss of lives and property destruction witnessed in Addis Ababa this week.

እናመሰግናለን፡ የዋልታ ኢንፎርሜሽን ማእከል ነባር ተግባራችሁን ስላረጋገጣችሁልን፥ ግን ስንሰማው ከኖርነው የተለየ ኣይደለም፤ በየዩኒቨርስቲው ተማሪዎች እንዲጋጩ፤ እንዲሁም ካራት ኣመት በፊት በኣዲስ ኣበባ

"ከእባብ እንቁላል ርግብ እንዲፈለፈል ትመኛላችሁ?" እንደተባለው ማለት ነው።

8:07 AM, June 10, 2005  

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