Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Go Ahead… Radicalize Me!

As it flails to stay alive even as it saws its head off, it seems that the EPRDF is going to extraordinary lengths to eradicate what scant endearment it had managed to scrap together for Tony Blair’s and Jimmy Carter's benefit. In the process, it is also industriously destroying whatever cache it might have gotten for ousting Mengistu.

The predictability of the EPRDF is almost astounding, but I must say that I was surprised by their stunt of the past two days. Their handling of the university students proves that their wiring is short-circuiting at an even more rapid rate than I imagined. People drunk with power always make that one fatal mistake that not only expedites their downfall but annihilates their legacy.

The only government in recent history that has managed to squelch an extemporaneous student uprising is the Chinese government when it started gunning down students in Tian'anmen Square. But even China waited a few days before reverting to violence. When China has a more heightened sense of yilugNta than the EPRDF you know something’s wrong.

China got away with it because it is an economic and political juggernaut. Apparently, however, PM Meles and the EPRDF must be suffering from delusions of grandeur bigger than Donald Trump’s ego. China-envy syndrome? When you are trying to maintain your “most progressive government in Africa” status, you can’t be seen bloodying up kids and killing little girls. It freaks out donor countries. I cannot understand a government that is willing to round up and beat and kill kids. The EPRDF has become an extension of Mengistu’s Derg—and as much as the EPRDF bristles at the comparison, it is the Derg in designer clothing.

Most of the people in the EPRDF were students in the 70s and they, of all people, should know the very organic nature of a student uprising—let’s see… you’ve got yourself hormones which are going haywire, plus a sense of invincibility, plus a sense of immortality… add to that a sense of righteousness and you got yourself some kind of combustion a’brewin’: there’s either going to be a massive orgy or a massive political outcry… one of those is going to happen (the lucky people in Woodstock had both.) So instead of letting students blow off some steam and being seen as a benevolent master, the EPRDF saw it fit to storm universities in Addis Ababa and beat up kids. Is it hubris or desperation that has blinded them?

The very people who were students in the same university in the 70s, who, by the way, got a lot of leeway from His Imperial Highness to express whatever half-wit Marxist gobbledygook they speed read the Cliff Notes to, should know that students can’t be easily made to shut up when they are frustrated. Don’t they remember the fire in their belly as they screeched “Land to the Tiller!” outside the palace gates? Could anything have made them passive observers during those times? And yet they expect the students of today to be sedated. Oh, puleese! (By the way, whatever happened to “Land to the Tiller”? How is it that the government is the sole owner of land in Ethiopia and the tillers, well, just till it? Not so easy to give that up land when you are in power, is it? Ethiopundit brilliantly expounds on this in his “Land from the Tiller” series.)

So, thirty years later, the same people who held daily protests against the monarchy and told their fellow students to rise up and be heard are now giving orders to mow down students who want to be heard. The same people who said Mengistu was a ruthless dictator are now saying that they are “enforcers of law and order” when they beat up unarmed students. The EPRDF has become a bad parody of itself. I guess it is true that we all eventually become the very thing we hate the most.

I guess no part of my eloquent discourse on how PM Meles and EPRDF have an opportunity to be the de Klerk of Ethiopia (see Political Viagra and the EPRDF) sank in with these folks. I told you they were jonesing for some kind of calamity.

I was particularly dismayed that they did not heed my advice to lull Baghdad Bereket, EPRDF’s hapless Misinformation Minister, into the basement, push him in and slam the door behind them because he was at it again today with his tedious ramblings. As predicted, Baghdad Bereket blamed the Opposition for “inciting” the students. Oh, as if! The EPRDF’s long laid and painfully transparent plan to flex its military might by using any incident as a pretext for “protecting the public” is so deplorably lame and unforgivably inept that I ain’t advising them with nothin’ no more! How long before leaders of the Opposition are thrown in jail…? 3…2…1…

PM Meles and the EPRDF sealed their fate yesterday by making an amateur’s mistake of trying to smother a student movement. Who advises these people? Is it me or had they previously managed a much more sophisticated ship? Did they forget that no one likes seeing a government plough a teenager with a rifle? And those of us on planet Earth also don’t like seeing the excruciating anguish on mothers’ face staring back at us. It makes us think that you are creepy.

And thankfully, the AP has also come to its senses because you will notice that the Meles government has been terminally downgraded from “considered to be one of the most progressive in Africa” to “his sometimes authoritarian regime.”

The elections had been seen as a test of Meles' commitment to reform his sometimes authoritarian regime.

That was quick, wasn’t it? One day you’re sailing along as the most progressive thing since tofu Tibs, and the next thing you know you are running a “sometimes authoritarian” regime. Round up a few more kids and let a few more pictures of tormented mothers pop up on the internetz and by the end of the week you’ll be “Meles’ hard-line Marxist dictatorship." That’s a few steps away from “freedom and God-hater.” God speed. (People are already referring to the prime minister as “Meles Zarkaawi”.)

It’s a new era for Ethiopian politics… especially the past two days. The most amazing thing that I have noticed since Monday is the brisk radicalization of two previously sedated groups: ET yuppies in the Diaspora and our laid-back “America yalachihut sra fetachihuwal” parents.

Let me explain.

My parents returned to Ethiopia after nearly thirty years abroad. They’ve seen war and they’ve seen terror. Upon their return they were pretty happy about how things had progressed back home… they goo-goo-ga-ga’ed the private press, free-market and recently, the elections. They even, thanks to GQ boy and ex-mayor Ato Arkebe Oqubai, managed to wrangle back and reclaim our old home from some shrill, busybody matron who had turned my childhood bedroom into a seedy “rent-by-the-hour” No Tell Motel. Damn her. So life for my parents was pretty good. Memories of the Derg years were fading (hopefully not related to Alzheimer’s), their friends were also moving back… peachy. The ate up the progressive facade of the EPRDF. All they wanted was to spend their golden years in the land of their forefathers, and, when the time came, die in Ethiopia and not in a nursing home somewhere in the mid-west-- which they were inexplicably convinced that my siblings and I would throw them in at the first sign of trouble. For the record, we would never have made them go to any nursing home…in the Mid-west... not when Arizona is much cheaper.

Anyway, so when I called home on Monday my mother told me that my father was out. Out? Out where? I know you guys live a sheltered life and all, but there is some kinda war happening in Addis. My mother flung a through-the-phone gilmiCha at me and informed me that my father had headed to Kotebe, his brother and two friends in tow, to protect university students from government henchmen.

Considering that my father has been faithfully apolitical since they hauled off HIM Haile Sellasie in a Volkswagen, the news stunned me. I frantically asked my mother how she could let him go to Kotebe unescorted by anything more, um, substantial than the zemenawi ye azawintoch kibeb, to which she replied, “It’s your father’s duty.” What?! I reminded my mother of our heated discussion before the elections because she intimated that she was going to vote for the EPRDF because… well, she was never one to rock the boat. My mother, in the only way my mother can, said quietly, “Inezih… kibr mywedilachew sewotch tadiya…”

And thus my parents started back what they never finished in the 70s: protecting the defenseless. When I spoke to my father tonight he told me of stories of people talking some soldiers into letting the kids go… of clergymen yanking out kids from government trucks. The EPRDF has no idea what it triggered in people.

And then there is us—yesteryear’s lethargic yuppie Ethiopian Diasporans who had vowed not to touch Ethiopian politics with a ten-foot pole. When you manage to radicalize over-achievers like us, you are in for at least some nuisance because we are a royal pain in the ass. We have the time, money and know-how to be thorns in your side. And you know what we hate more than gussied up Marxists? Gussied up Marxists who beat up kids and make mothers cry. It takes a lot to rile us up, but in that rare case that we think something totally sucks, well gee-golly, we are going to do something about it.

PM Meles might think that there will be a “no color revolution”, but he may not want to dismiss the internet and corporate savvy hedonists like us who have a pronounced chikonet afflicting us. Like I said, the EPRDF has no idea what it has triggered in people.

So there you have it—the Great ET Yuppie Awakening… the Fuschia/Ecru/ Magneta Revolution. Or, better yet, the Byte (Me) Revolution.

I have been playing the Teddy Afro CD so much that my son can now hum some of the verses of Yasteseriyal. My son’s favorite part is when Teddy says “Ityopiyayae.” Whenever that verse comes up my son sings… “Ityopiya… Abyssinia…” and then screams out “Ityopiyaye” in such an endearing way that tugs at my heart so. That’s what we had lost… saying “ItiyoPiyaye” with the kind of visceral possessiveness and abandon of a seven-year-old. And that’s what we got back on Monday: the ability to scream out “Ityopiyaye!”

And when someone attacks Ityopiyaye, our fangs come out.

In memory of the mothers who stood in front of trucks to save their children. May they never live through another Red Terror.

(for more pictures from the past three days click here)


Anonymous Kezas said...

go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewheavens and see more pictures.

Like your blog

5:55 AM, June 08, 2005  
Anonymous Mitiku said...


Your best work yet! you managed to make me smile even as I wanted to cry. Bloody Monday might have brought something more with it.


Yet another right insane ET not writing about politics.

6:51 AM, June 08, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are becoming the voice of the multitude of the voiceless in Ethiopia

7:26 AM, June 08, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's what I'm talking about, Wonk'yE. That's why I missed you something awful yesterday.
No playing hooky no' more, hear?

10:32 AM, June 08, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good keep it up. Did you find out why the western won't say a thing a bout the whole situation.
My gut feeling is that they think they manage ethiopia by their food support(subsidized corn) and any negative will instigate questions on that..

11:51 AM, June 08, 2005  
Anonymous elias said...

You've radicalised and entertained me in single post. You rock!

3:10 PM, June 08, 2005  
Anonymous Eske Meche said...

"And when someone attacks Ityopiyaye, our fangs come out."

Count me in.....

5:22 PM, June 08, 2005  
Blogger henok said...


You are a gem. I was so riled up by everything I have been learning today until I read your piece and you made me realize what I have missed all along.
God Bless You.

6:34 PM, June 08, 2005  

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