Friday, June 03, 2005

Political Viagra and the EPRDF

So I saw that the Boston Globe has an article about the Ethiopian Elections … an actual article—the old fashioned kind where newspapers actually send journalists to an event? Remember those? And, amazingly, it did not echo the overburdened AP guy’s sentiments the standard “PM Meles is considered to be one of the most progressive leaders in Africa” prose which every paper from the Tuscaloosa Sentential to the Dakotan Tribune has been passing around as if it were the last condom at a brothel. (The Dakotans have a newspaper, right?)

I have been trying to get our own local newspapers to write about the elections but apparently Brittany Spears is knocked up, and that’s keeping the LA Times and the SF Chronicle busy.

So after my long and heartfelt soliloquy on Teddy Afro, I find out that his music is banned on FM Addis! Got independent confirmation on this. Actually, at first I called Addis and talked to my “in seven words or less” uncle… Is it true that “Yasteserial is banned in Addis?”

Initially he tried to dignify the question by diplomatically ignoring it. But, you know me… my subtlety gene is sedentary, so I insisted.

Lezih new yedewelshiew?”
Um, yeaaaah—as the ridiculousness of it all started to dawn on me.
“America yalachiut sira fetachihwal

I told you… seven words or less.

So it got me thinking, what the hell kind of government bans music that preaches tolerance and forgiveness? What do they think it says about them? Why are they acting like petty, vengeful Neanderthals? And, what? Are we living in Eritra now?

[Total Aside: one of my favorite quotes of the week is from a story the AFP reported on how the Eritran government is curbing NGOs’ activities-- and by “activity” they don’t mean NGO workers’ proclivity to um, play doctor/distressed nurse with local koredas. No, NGOs operating up North now have to pay taxes on imported materials --which means… I don’t know. If you bring in grain to feed people, is it taxed just like your computer…?-- Anyway, the other new rule is that local NGOs “will be required to have operating capital of one million dollars. International groups will have to have twice as much.” Okay, don’t ask. But here’s my favorite quote from their official: “’If certain NGOs are not happy with some of our new laws, we can always negotiate,’ she added.” Whaaa? Their laws are negotiable now? Are they running a country up there or an auction? “Do I hear $500,000? C’mon… someone give me $500,000… you’re talking about setting shop in beautiful Eritra! Thank you, lady in the big blue hat. We have $500,000. Do I hear $550,000?]

Anyway, back to our own mess.

There are little clues we easily dismiss that tell us a lot about people and governments. We willfully ignore the little signs and then when everything naturally deteriorates we wring our hands in angst and wonder how the hell it came to this. For example, if your kid is a loner and he likes killing cats… chances are he is a Jeffrey Dahlmer in-the-making.

So it shouldn’t surprise us that a government who starts off by banning reconciliatory music from an astoundingly popular teeny-bopper singer will naturally progress to arresting journalists for “inciting violence”—a charge as subjective and broad as “corruption” charges that the EPRDF used to clean house.

Aha, maybe now there will be less talk about how progressive the EPRDF is because the recent Human Rights Watch report and the State Department’s Human Rights Report were not quite damning enough to conclude that killing and intimidation = not so progressive traits. Perhaps a rounding up of journalists will convince Mr. AP-stringer to lift his standard of “progressive” by a notch. By the way, I couldn’t find any response to these reports from either Tony Blair of our Jimm’ah Car’ah. They must be busy not observing the observable.

EPRDF is on a self-destructive path. Whatever "we are progressive" spin it had managed to prop up for the world to see, it is systematically dismantling all by itself. I say that it is slowly disintegrating because nothing gets the western press all lathered up than journalists being rounded up, so maybe now they’ll cover the elections.

In politics there are certain waves that you can’t stop and the best way to survive them is to ride along with them. In the late 80s, when F.W. de Klerk realized that he could no longer sustain apartheid because the world opinion tide was finally going against it, he changed courses—he legalized the ANC and freed Mandela, who had become an international symbol for oppression. Oh, the world said, how nice of Mr. De Klerk. What a swell guy. What a, um, progressive guy. But de Klerk knew that if he insisted on prolonging apartheid, he would eventually not only be drummed out of office, disgraced, but, even worse, without any money. He knew he had to bow out gracefully without disturbing the status quo so that white South Africans still maintained control of the economy. So what if black faces run the country?

So, how brilliant was de Klerk? Here’s how brilliant: after all that he did to black South Africans, in 1993 he won the Nobel Peace Prize! Yep! Right along with… let’s collectively gasp, Nelson Mandela, for "their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa." Hello. Say the Nobel Peace Prize people of de Klerk:


As Minister of National Education, F.W. de Klerk was a supporter of segregated
universities, and as a leader of the National Party in Transvaal, he was not
known to advocate reform.

He was not known to advocate reform?! No shit. And so, in four short years the brutality of apartheid got an extreme makeover and the world slapped on a soft “Barb-wra Wa-ltoowers” lens on South Africa’s brutal past.

That’s how brilliant de Klerk was. He knew when to fold ‘em.

And that’s how brilliant Mandela was as well. He didn’t want to inherit an economy that was going to be plundered by another group of marauders-- the whacko element in the ANC who fancied killing all the whites and sending their bodies back to all parts of Europe in small suitcases. Mandela also understood the importance of maintaining the political stability of the richest country in Africa if he wanted to be a leader of the richest country in Africa. However, black faces had to lead the country, while the kingmakers and purse-sting holders stayed in the back. So, there was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And that’s how brilliant Mandela was. He knew when to hold ‘em.

The EPRDF, on the other hand, is still operating with the sophistication of a guerrilla mentality which makes it impossible for it to see that it is cutting off its head to spite its nose. It is seduced by the petty. It thinks that being the ruling party is the ultimate Viagra and without it, it would lose its virility forever. (There should be a sign on EPRDF’s doorstep: “Call your doctor if your erection lasts more than 14-years.) Instead of crafting a way to becoming the de Klerk of Ethiopia, PM Meles is on his way to becoming the Mengistu of Zimbabwe.

When will we ever learn?

Yesterday, the NEBE, citing “campaigns unleashed against it as well as the overall electoral process by some opposition parties”,
urged
opposition parties to desist from spreading defamatory allegations against the
board and engaging in activities that would adversely affect the electoral
process.

… NEBE said in a statement that some opposition parties,
particularly the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and the United
Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), are engaged in tarnishing the image of the
board while they could lodge their resentments in a legal and peaceful
manner.”

That’s was the pitch.

But what does the world see? That the opposition has filed a lawsuit against PM Meles in Ethiopian courts challenging the ban on demonstrations. It has also filed a lawsuit demanding that NEBE desist from issuing election results that include disputed constituencies.

How much more legal can you get than taking legal action? For once, the EPRDF is being out-foxed. And you will notice that all statements from the opposition are careful to include the words “peaceful and legal ” in them. If I were the opposition I’d keep on filing lawsuits and tone down the drivel about boycotting the parliament.



(By the way, the NEBE has a killer website! Very well designed and incredibly efficient.)

And so, the great unraveling has started:

"An Information Ministry official, who declined to be named, said the reporters
faced charges of inciting violence brought by state prosecutors.

Some of these journalists working for newspapers
owned by political parties have been calling for an insurrection, and
engaged in outrageous propaganda which could endanger public safety," the
official said."
That’s the swing.

Libelwat yassebuwatin jigra”… the saying goes in Ethiopia. Wasn’t it the government of Ethiopia that said that the opposition was going to act like the Hutu Interhawame and trigger a bloodbath between ethnicities if it wins? Hows about that for inciting violence?

We’ll wait for the sttttttriiike!

Tony Blair, Jimm’ah Car’ra and the world shall watch how the EPRDF writes its legacy. Perhaps in five years PM Meles will be the recipient of the Nobel Piece Prize. Whatever it takes.

I want to prove my uncle wrong that we in the Diaspora are sra fetoch. I’ll keep bugging my local papers to send reporters to Ethiopia. You so the same. We need the world as a witness. The Ethiopian Renaissance shall be televised.

Have a great weekend!

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are indeed a smart Ethiopian lady!.
I also noticed that the "respected western Jornalists " pasting their "most progressive" and "more pragmatic" qualifiers to one of the most pathological liars in the world, in every story they dispached since election day.
How low has American journalism gone down since the days of Nixon, when true Journalists came up against the "Wrath " of the presidency.
Or may be this digital technology has prompted journalists to be lazy?- cut, copy, paste, duplicate store, use,later, etc .

Wish you a more serious and successful career in journalism.

Teddy from Addis

9:16 AM, June 03, 2005  
Anonymous Mike said...

Wonk,

while i envy your optimism, i think you give too much credit to meles and ihadg. we don't have leaders who don't not have "the sophistication of the guerilla mentality." as much as i had sided with them for a while (ok, ok angle me on your verbal firing squad) but i am losing what little respect i had. it's barbarians at the gate, ET-style. mr. meles, can we not set back ethiopia back to the stone age?

Jerry Garcia: "what a long strange trip it has been..."

12:04 PM, June 03, 2005  
Anonymous Nega Belew said...

maaaaaaan! what the... ke yet metash, ETW? ereg-reg-reg mewreg-reg.

my 2 cents:- i agree with Mike. when you go past the facade of statesmanship, eprdf is still back in 1989.. and our p.m. is still showing his war plans to jee-mah. it is painful to me as an ethiopian and an african that we have to depend on westerners to validate our democracy. hopefully, this is the begining of the end of looking towards europe and north america for that validation. tell teddy afro 'negtwhal'

1:26 PM, June 03, 2005  
Anonymous Malgodeni said...

Wonkeet-nefs! zarE demo alkush.. . you are in rare form!! sewreN new
mibalew!

“14-year erection” alshiw gudayun? Giiiirrrllll, you ain’t never
lied!

In one fell swoop, or was that in one swoop fell? Uff, Engeelish indiaw . . ashegari!!

Anyway, lijE, with that one phrase, you laid bare the single most
egregeous aspect of contemporary ET-politics: The 14-year-Erection! It did feel like we were being screwed over and over relentlessly! Ouch!

Bey esti matameCHiw yele!

2:42 PM, June 03, 2005  
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I laughed to my guts, with the "14 years erecetion". This is cool!! This is the only day I had some fun since I startted following recent developments in Ethiopia.
Thank you very much

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