Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Best Democracy Fraud will Buy

A friendly reminder:

All credible domestic and international observers have declared that the elections, including the processes of the election day have been free, fair and transparent by any standard and not just by Ethiopian or African standards.

June 30, 2005
PM Meles Zenawi’s Letter to US Congress

Ehhhhh... not so much....

"The EU Observation Mission regrets [that the election process] did not live up to the international standards and to the aspirations of Ethiopians for democracy," Ms Gomes said.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Well, inching closer and closer.

You know how I’m always contending that the EPRDF is slowly committing suicide ( and everyone ignores me)? Is there any, ANY more proof of that than the article, “Gomes, Clarke: Neutral observers or hidden dealers?” published in the State controlled newspaper and then promptly posted on Walta Disinformation Center? You can’t pay to see this kind of stuff.

The opposition should get on its knees and thank the EPRDF for that article. My favorite quote:

Some reliable sources leaked to this writer that she [Gomes] is promised to be paid up to 20% of the money collected from the diaspora provided she writes a critical observation on elections

20%? Shhooot! If I know anything about Ana, I’d think she’d ask for at least for 30%.

Okay, so I am totally ripping off David Letterman and the Seleda Top Ten, but here goes nothing…

So here are a few predictions on how the EPRDF is going to respond to today’s Democartius Interruptus report issued by the EU that basically says that these elections were not even kosher by Robert Mugabe standards.

  1. The PM said “credible” international observers. He did not mean to include the EU in that category.
  2. Anna Gomes is pregnant with Berhanu Nega’s child.
  3. Beyene Petros is pregnant with Tim Clarke’s child.
  4. Article 109 of the election rules clearly states: “No one but the ruling party is allowed to rig elections.”
  5. The opposition leaders are all Europeans, so the European Union? Hmmm…? Guess who they’re gonna support?
  6. EVERY observer from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said that the EPRDF won these elections, “hands down.”
  7. Did we say democracy? We meant Kleptocracy—it’s EPRDF for democracy.
  8. We are waiting to see if Ms. Gomes will accept the Prime Minister’s offer to share his Yara Prize award money in return for endorsing these elections before we cast aspersions on her.
  9. Tim Clarke has been heard to say under the influence of a couple of St. George beers that Queen Elizabeth has promised to make him the Viscount of Bole isf he writes a bad report on the elections.
  10. Information Minister Bereket Simon, responding to the EU report said today, “There are evidences that have a golden lining in the clouds of democracy that the opposition’s hell-bented-ness violence tendency shall be a shot in the leg for our free democracy that will make them paddle their own ferry boat barring any rain down of cats and poodles in a fair election which, as we all know, a picture is worth a thousand grenades. So, realistically, flattery will get you different strokes for different standards of democracy. So, you see, it is very clear that we won the elections.
  11. Elections? Oh, we thought you said erections. Yes, our erections are fake too.

Oh, EPRDF. How creepy thou art.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Sopranos- Ethiopian Style

Tim Clarke is pissed—in that very detached, very British, very passive aggressive manner that I frankly find unsettlingly beguiling. You know, where they grit their teeth and smile while muttering, “bloodyfuckinghellthisisbloodybullshit!” in a very proper accent before turning back to smile at you, this time icicles dripping from their eyes.

Yeah. It’s all so very Tony Soprano—y’know, where he puts his arm around a guy to tell him, “Yo, hey. Hey, ho, you are like family,” before he pumps several rounds of ammunition into the pathetic guy’s back who had thought he had pulled one over the Tony. Poor guy. Lulled into détente before he finds himself riddled with bullet holes .

So what’s Tim Clarke pissed about? Well, apparently the Ethiopian government lied about him.


Oh yes. The same government that is trying to filch an election in such a tragically comic way, the same government which has yet to bother to even look into the deaths of 42 unarmed people that its soldiers gunned down, the same government which has apoplectic anger management issues... yes, that same government… lied.

Say it ain’t so. Oh, it so. It very so.

The EPRDF, no newcomer to perverse double speak and congenital mendacity, apparently lied. Not only did it lie, but it lied about what Tim Clarke said about the so called election review. And that makes Tim Clarke mad. Tim Clarke doesn’t like people who lie about Tim Clarke. About an entire election? No problem. But about Tim Clarke? We got a problem.

Timmy, Timmy, Timmy. You must be new. Welcome to our world.

Tim Clarke, head of the EU delegation in Ethiopia, has the unenviable position of sitting through meetings with the EPRDF and the opposition parties, and brokering “code of conduct” agreements that he must know mean very little to the Ethiopian government which can’t accept any code of conduct that infringes on its right to summarily imprison its opponents and act in a manner befitting a petulant tyrant. The EPRDF is old-fashioned that way.

You might remember Mr. Clarke from the days when the EPRDF’s unraveling became stark. Remember after the first “peace treaty” was signed and the EPRDF decided to celebrate this occasion by, um, putting perennially cranky opposition leader Very Engineer Hailu Shawel under house arrest? Good times.

So back then, Mr. Clarke and a few diplomats went to see Very Engineer Hailu Shawel, but they didn’t come bearing gifts for the EPRDF goons stationed outside Ato Hailu’s gate because the goons started harassing them.

"This is absolutely disgraceful," Clarke said of the behaviour of the soldiers.
In a phone call to Information Minister Bereket from outside Hailu's home,
Clarke could be heard saying diplomats had been assaulted.

Ah, anal probing of diplomats. Ato Meles’ sharp diplomatic skills at their very best.

Well, anyway, apparently the counting and recounting of these botched elections was not going the EPRDF’s way because it decided to apply its rusty diplomatic skills to seal the deal.

On July 29, 2005 the Ethiopian News Agency (motto: “We misreport, you take our word") reported that Tim Clarke had given his blessing to the election investigation process. Of course Walta Disinformation Center (which, by the way, is in dire need of an editor who is vaguely familiar with grammar) jumped on the story and emblazoned “NEBE Conducting Well Investigation Process” on its website. Don’t… don’t ask. It has since removed that story but here is the cached story—can someone ‘splaine to Walta people that maybe apologizing for a “wrong” story might be a better tactic than trying to idiotically hide a lie on the innernets?

So, ENA… tell us, in your own words (ha ha… get it?) what Tim Clarke said.

Head of delegation of the European Commission to Ethiopia says the National
Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has been conducting well the investigation
process in difficult circumstances. He also urged political parties in the
country to work closely within the context of the constitution.

Wow. Okay. Well, there is nothing in quotes, so the EPRDF could get away with the “we misread his sentiments” argument.

But, no. That was not good enough for the EPRDF. It had to take the circus one step further because it’s wild and crazy like that.

Tim Clarke told ENA yesterday that given the constraints in Ethiopia, the
electoral board has done remarkable job in trying to bring the process to a
satisfactory end.

Ooooh, “remarkable job.” Remarkable job?? EPRDF’s Department of Bullshit, quite ably headed by master of mediocrity Ato Bereket Simon, must not believe in subtlety. Remarkable.

Then in a very “what the hell, who’s gonna know” move, the EPRDF went juuuuuuust a little further and cemented its reputation as a glorified gangsta.

"I myself participated in one investigation in one area to see how it worked. It
was a fascinating and unique process as no other country in the world has gone
through the same process like here,” he said.

Aw, shit. Okay, you see what I mean by mediocre? If you are going to make up a quote, EPRDF, at least try to make it, how can I say it, believable? That sentence structure is so Bereket Simon, right down to its tormented sentence structure.

“As no other country in the world has gone through the same process like here”??? Are you kidding me? I know Ato Bereket is busy “contesting” the votes that drummed him out of his parliamentary seat, and thus he is testier than ever, but, please.

It was professionally managed and chaired by NEBE, he said.
Yeah. Whatever. I’m still pissed off that we have a government which can’t even make up a halfway decent misquote.

So all of this made Tim Clarke snap because he sent a letter to Ato Bereket Simon and then cc’ed the opposition and members of the soon-to-not-be-free private press.


Meester Clarke, please, enlighten us.

I have been disturbed by some of the misreporting in the press of last
Thursday’s meeting between PM Meles and Opposition Leaders. I personally have
been misquoted in some cases, causing confusion and misunderstanding.

Confusion and misunderstanding? Whachoo mean confusion and misunderstanding? Didn’t you, um, say those remarkable things? (Mr. Clarke never did say what he said and what he did not say.) So this is what a pissed off Brit sounds like? Hmm.
As you know Minster, I was surprised at the EPRDF decision to put out a
statement at the time of signature of the Code of Conduct on Friday afternoon,
calling into question the integrity of the Opposition parties.

Tim Clarke is ... surprised that the EPRDF is calling into question the integrity of the opposition parties?? I’m sorry. We are talking about the same EPRDF that has been accusing the opposition of having wet dreams of unleashing Rwandan style genocide on the Ethiopian people? Oh, it also blamed the opposition for making it kill unarmed people. I thought that calling into question the opposition’s integrity was THE reason EPRDF woke up in the morning.

Monsieur Clarke? You have something else to add?

I had no idea, nor did the Opposition leaders that the agreement reached the
previous night in the presence of PM Meles would in some way be qualified,
breaking the confidence and trust that needs, as you know, at this very
difficult time, to be nurtured, reinforced and deepened.

"I had no idea." Oh, Mr. Timothy. Did the EPRDF shock, shock you. Ayzon! Ayzon! Me, personally, I don’t want to say that the EPRDF has a long and remarkable history of breaking confidences and trusts, but…. Heck, yes, I’m saying that.

Okay, I’m lost. Mr. Clarke, did you or didn’t you say, “I myself participated in one investigation in one area to see how it worked. It was a fascinating and unique process as no other country in the world has gone through the same process like here”? That’s all we want to know, Mr. Clarke. Please?

Hours and weeks of trying to delicately put together this document were thrown
aside in an hour. This, in my judgment, cannot be good for the democratisation

Hmm, you’re not gonna tell us, are ya?

In my humble view, I believe it is in the interest of all parties to come back
again and sign the Code of Conduct.

Hmm… Why? Because all the other “code of conduct” treaties worked so well, or because you want to see if the EPRDF can violate a “code of conduct” treaty in less than an hour this time around? How many “code of conducts” do you think the EPRDF will have to violate before Mr. Clarke says “bloodyfuckinghellthisisbloodybullshit!” to Ato Bereket?


At the same time, I believe, as colleagues have being saying over many weeks,
that there is a deep-seated need to tackle the present ills of the media- to
raise professionalism and standards of integrity. This is a prerequisite for
democracy to take root and thrive.

Here’s why a lot of us are confused: we thought that a government which actually believes in democracy was a prerequisite for democracy. We feel… remarkably swindled.

The Ministry of Information must set and adhere to the highest standards of
integrity too.
Ato Bereket, head of the Ministry Information is a lot of things. An adherent to integrity, let alone the highest standards of integrity… not so much.

Remember this interview:

Just to pin down the specific question about guns. Why was deadly
force allowed when you could have used water canons or tear gas?

We have used that, I assure you. We have used that…

Just to pin down the specific question about guns. Why was
deadly force allowed when you could have used water canons or tear

We have used that, I assure you. We have used that…

June 20, 2005, Mesqel Square Interview

Safe to say that Ato Bereket and ‘highest standards of integrity’ will not be sharing the same motel room any time soon.

In the medium term, I believe that a broad-based consultative process should be
launched to reflect on the present ills of the media and to see how improvements
can be introduced to ensue that it truly works in the interests of the people.

I am no media wonkette, so can someone tell me what in the hell is a “broad based consultative process”, and is it really needed to “reflect on the present ills of the media”? Wouldn’t a simple “The Ethiopian government cannot be trusted” be enough? No? We have to launch a “broad-based consultative process” to come to that conclusion? Okay. Launch away. See if I care.

So, here’s what I think this whole thing means because you and I know that Tim Clarke knows that the Ethiopian government is creepy beyond what’s imaginable. I mean, c’mon. This is not about any kind of expectation that Ato Meles and Ato Bereket will all of a sudden morph into choir boys. The EU knows who it is dealing with. Another code of conduct? Sure, knock yourself out, Timmy. But there’s more to the story, of course.

Basically, this is the EU’s way of putting an arm around Ato Meles and saying, “Hey, yo. Yo, hey. We were hopin’ to keep this in the family. You know you’re like a son to me.”


This is where the EPRDF should do a little backtracking.

“Tony,” (well, in this case EU…) “I didn’t mean nuthin’ by it. I was just trying to lift morale of the troops. Y’know what that’s like. I was startin' to look really bad so... so I said something stupid. But you know, Tone, I’d never disrespect you like that. Swear on my mutha.”

Tony (EU)-smiling icily-: Listen, pal. I’ve been looking the udder way when you fuckin’ went ape shit and killed all those people and I had to look the family right in de eye and tell dem that youse okay, and that youse was just a little excited. And how do you pay me for dat act of kindness? You drag my name though d'mud, you ungrateful little turd. I should wring yo’ fuckin’ neck right now, but we are family…

EPRDF: Yes, Tone, we are family. And families forgive. I swear, Tony, this will never happen again.

Tony EU- Goddamn straight it won’t happen again…

EPRDF: I beg you…, I beg you Tony-EU. It… never… I never meant to disrespect you or the family.

Tony-EU: You are a disgrace.

EPRDF: I am. I am! I swear on my mutha… Tone, I love you.

Tony-EU: Yeah?

EPRDF: Yeah, yeah. I do.

Tony EU: Okay.

EPRDF: We cool, Tony?

Tony-EU (smiling): We cool, you bastard. You okay?

EPRDF: Phew. Tony you won't reget this. I promise ya.

Tony-EU: We just need to set up a… “broad based consultative process” to… y’know… avoid another misunderstanding.

EPRDF: Whatever you say, Tony.

Tony-EU: Okay. Fo’geddabaoudeed. You say hi to Olivia and the kids for me. We should have you over soon. Heh? Y’d like that? Good. Okay, here’s Silvio. He’ll let you know about the schedule to sign a new code of conduct. See ya!

Exit Tony Soprano. Enter Silvio Dante.

Silvio: Yo, EPRDF. Let’s take a walk by the woods dere.

EPRDF screams and falls to its knees.

Scene ends. Thank you. Thankyouverymuch.

Silvio Dante, in this case, will be played by EU Chief Observer Ana Gomes, who I have long predicted would be the one to blow the roof off this baby. For some reason I have a feeling that she has had it up to here with the EPRDF’s bullshit, and sooner or later the EU will have to put out its final statement about whether these elections were free and fair. We are all waiting to see, if after all this, it declares the Ethiopian elections free and fair.

Remember the EU has promised to “make a public denunciation of developments to distance itself from "the lack of transparency, and assumed rigging" of the vote.

And that

Unless there is a "drastic reverse toward good democratic practice" the observer
team and EU "will have to publicly denounce the situation.
"Otherwise, the EU jointly with ex-president Carter will be held largely
responsible for the lack of transparency, and assumed rigging, of the

Can making up quotes attributed to the Head of the EU delegation by the Ethiopian government in order to undermine the election process be considered a “drastic reverse towards good democratic practice”?

Hey, these days, who knows? But EU must be sweating bullets right now because its reputation is at stake. The problem is, I don't think that the EPRDF has the shame to understand just what it means to be called a liar by an international organization.

This is why the opposition, more importantly, the rabid supporters of the opposition should sit back and watch the EPRDF destroy itself instead of going all hysterical about making Meles resign. Oh, please. Can all of you just please just take a chill pill, sit back and keep handing the EPRDF a long enough rope, and watch it tighten it around its own neck?

Seeesh. I have to do everything. The nutsoids on the opposition side will be the ones to lose the elections for the opposition… because they can’t shut their trap. As far as I am concerned, the EPRDF is doing a great job making itself obsolete. And how. But then again, it’s smart politics to play good cop, bad cop, and I suspect that the opposition is playing that game very, very well. What do I know?

Friday, August 12, 2005

How to Lose a Leader in 14 Years.

The EPRDF has claimed that it has won the election. Ho-hum.

Ooh, it’s great to be back and very soon I will let you know why I was off the scene for so long. Juicy, juicy.

The problem with being away for more than a week is that it inevitably leaves you with a backlog as to which dumb, dumber and dumbest EPRDF move to pick apart. Oh, EPRDF. You senile ol’ thing. Ah, to die without a modicum of decorum. So last millennium.

Okay, so I want to go back to the issue of honor in politics, something I explored earlier in That Thing They Call Honor and then I’ll come back with an update about EPRDF’s “Hey, looka he’a. We dooz believe we have won us an erection… no, election, comrades” affirmation. Boys, boys. Take a few Lithiums and go back to your coloring books.

So, here is the situation about the part of these great United States I live in: August is pretty much a dead month at work so that leaves a lot of us with plenty of time to listen to too many podcasts and watch entirely too much TV. Ay caramba! Podcasts! Has there been a greater invention since berad shai? I say no.

I’ve been having very interesting conversations about the blog about honor/values etc and politcs, and someone reminded me that the opposition should not be getting all the credit for the Ethiopian Renaissance, and that the Ethiopian people who waited hours to say “don’t let the door hee'cha where the good Lord split’cha” to the EPRDF should be lauded. Absolutely. Something that people coming back from Ethiopia recently keep telling me… there is no such thing as fear in the Ethiopian political psyche these days. The fear that used to debilitate us has dissipated, and that can’t be good for the EPRDF which depends on people to live in fear and terror. Hm. That is what they call irony, I do believe?

So, anyway. Good Governance and last time... But, not the Tony Blair version of Good Governance, thank you very much, which is very, how do you say it, malleable in its definition. How else do you explain Mr. Blair’s “La-la-la-la-la.. I can’t hear youuuuuu”’s when it comes to the question of how he can support a government like, … I dunno, Neo Marxist Ato Meles Zenawi’s, which just did a God awful job of stealing elections.

So I’m watching my husband’s TV... and truly it is his because I have no say on what we watch. Actually, even if I wanted to change the channel I couldn’t because the damn remote thingy has so many buttons that re-sizes things and PIP’s things that I inevitably end up stuck on some Geek TV that plays horrible techno music for no discernable reason. (Aside: Alas, I am addicted to Current TV.)

Anyway, so I’m trying to watch something… innocuous (okay, it was Footballers’ Wives, okay!) when my husband clicks a series of buttons and all of a sudden I’m looking straight into Charlie Rose’s face—something the faint of heart should avoid, by the way, especially direct eye contact on a TV screen that’s on steroids.

So Charlie from the Charlie Rose Show is interviewing Kim Clark, exiting Dean of Harvard Business School.

Okay, listen to me. Few things I believe in as stalwartly as my conviction that nothing good has come from Harvard ‘cept the Hasty Pudding Awards, the Crimson of the early 90’s and… my husband. (Gift idea for Harvardites: Ross Douthat’s “Privilege”. Read the WSJ review here.)

So, there’s Kim Clark on my TV and my husband, anticipating my howl of protest, hushes me with a swift craning of his neck in the direction of the TV with that peculiar reverence they all impose on you whenever their alma mater is mentioned. It’s a true “what-e’vr!” moment.

As I always do, I got sucked into the interview, which turned out to be brilliant. Summary: Mr. Clark is leaving his undoubtedly cushy position as dean of the
Business School after 10 years to teach at, ehem, Brigham Young University in, good-grief, Idaho. Yes, Idaho. Please, don’t ask.

Background: So, like so many Harvard freshmen, Mr. Clark’s first year was miserable. So miserable that he left Harvard and took two years to travel. A deeply religious man, he served in his church where he learnt the ABC’s of leadership.

… it’s a time when you learn how to be a leader… You learn the power that comes from working with other people. You lean how to teach, motivate, inspire, guide, and solve problems.

Hm. That’s what leaders do, apparently: teach, motivate, inspire, guide, and solve problems. Maybe someone should jot this down and fax it to Ato Meles who prefers a more, how do you say it, thorny but expeditious path to leadership: a little ethnic baiting here, a little double talk there, a little "neutralizing of anti-freedom" opponents here, a more refined way of begging for more aid from the guilt ridden west there, a little thuggishness here and there, add some cool cufflinks to your wardrobe, and voila, you are a leader of modern day Ethiopia. The very idea that leaders have to motivate, guide and inspire people has not yet enthused Ato Meles away from his Revolutionary Democracy. But on the other hand, that whole election stealing thing—I guess it could have inspired Robert Mugabe. Who are we to judge?

Back to Clark. So, Harvard messed with his head at first so he sought the advice of his uncle who told him, “Don’t take courses, take professors.” It was, Clark says, advice that saved his academic career. His uncle proceeded to give him a list of ten faculty members. “I don’t care what they’re teaching, if it’s an upper division course, in Latin or whatever. You take it. Don’t take courses. Take professors.”

This is the truest truism I’ve heard in a while, simple yet mind-bending-ly profound. From my discussions with people over the past few weeks, the idea that we Ethiopians have to start looking at the people who lead us from a human capital point of view is still as novel as the ‘time out’ style of parenting is to my father, who thinks that there is no problem with a child that can’t be solved with a stealth qunTiCha.

The idea that we should aspire to leaders who are honorable, smart and guided by a moral authority higher than ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ is considered naïve and implausible. Therefore, I’ve found myself having inane conversations about how the west is really responsible for corrupt African leaders because the west facilitates the corruption (by looking the other way while their black protégés torture people and siphon off aid money). Maybe so, and I certainly blame Tony Blair for coddling the likes of Ato Meles in such a garish manner. However, I first blame Ato Meles for his unabated moral turpitude. God. It’s almost like we are all suffering from Battered Woman’s Syndrome! If only we cower more, maybe our leaders won’t be forced to kill us. It does not occur to us that it is fundamentally wrong that our leaders beat the crap out of us. Amazing.

Basically, we Ethiopians don’t even think we deserve the right to have leaders who are beholden to us. We look at shiny buildings that have mushroomed in Addis, we mortgage our economy to a single, base billionaire whom we have canonized to sainthood/savior and we sit back wringing our hands, desperatly hoping that no one rocks the boat. We are happy with the little we are given. In other words, we continue to take courses and not professors.

I started reading through Ato Meles’ head-splittingly tedious ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ (a very ‘must-miss’ non-thriller on your summer reading list, but read ethiopundit’s awesome “Introduction to Revolutionary Democracy” to get the abridged version) to truly understand what our leaders have signed us on to. By the time you get to the definition of Revolutionary Democracy (bewildered diplomats had the damn thing translated):

the official doctrine remains the vague concept of "revolutionary democracy", which is regarded as an alternative to the "liberal democracy" practised by western industrialized states, for which the country is supposedly not yet ready...

you will be convinced that the professor of that course, in this case Ato Meles, inspired by the disintegration of communism around him, must have been on political crack when he penned such an underwhelming script.

Yet we still refuse to choose professors.

Back to Clark and what makes good leaders...

Clark further illustrates the importance of good leadership by citing a paper he wrote about two plants in Texas, five miles apart from each other. They were built the same year, were the same size, used the same technology, had the same product and access to labor market. In studying these two plants, Clark was stunned to discover that one of them was 70% more productive than the other. 70%!

Plant A: very hierarchical, very adversarial management. Huge gap between management and the workers. Hm. Who doth that remind us of?

Plant B: Very flat management that is connected to the workforce… there is a grievance process and a more systematic attention to issues people face.

Conclusion: good management makes a difference. A 70% difference kind of difference. Reeeally?

Next to its severe moral deficiency, EPRDF’s biggest shortfall is its unyieldingly feeble style of management, especially on the economic front—we’ll leave its heavy handed trigger happiness for another session.

For example, there is much bellyaching in Revolutionary Democracy (the part that makes sense, which is very sparse) about ‘the oppressed masses’ being exploited by the evil ruling class who lurk around, their evilness wafting through the land. So, basically, it is the Revolutionary Democrats’ God-given duty to protect, not lead, the ‘oppressed masses’. Yeah, yeah. Been there, done that, Mengistu gave us the T-shirt. There is a paternalistic tone throughout Revolutionary Democracy, indiscernible from your garden variety Marxist doctrines, that hints of major inferiority complexes. Oops. I think that just made me a… hold on while I look it up… oh, yeah… a ‘chauvinist’. Yay.

So read on and you’ll get the level of frothy-mouth anger and immeasurable odium at the horrid ruling class, which is not really defined per se, but look for no complexity in this novel. Ethiopundit is wise to conclude that no one really knows what the hell Revolutionary Democracy is. Me? I refuse to believe that people are dying for this so I trudge on through meaningless pages because I suffer from long attention span.

So, let’s look at how the EPRDF “protects” the oppressed masses. By most accounts, 80% of Ethiopia’s population is comprised of rural farmers. And yet none of them owns the land they till… oh, wait… major 70’s flashback… ‘Land to the Tiller’… Hmm. Remember that? To the EPRDF, “land privatization” immediately conjures up feudal nightmares. So what does it do to dispel the nightmare? It becomes the feudal landlord. There’s sound economic policy for you. And, really, doesn’t that make sense? Afraid of the big, bad, monster? Solution: become a bigger, badder monster. And thus Ethiopia’s economy runs. Well, who is protecting the opressed masses from this new and improved monster? Silly, the monster had to make itself bigger so that it could protect the opressed. Don't you kd?

On February 23, 2003 Ato Meles gave an interview to the BBC where he, what else is new, smugly blamed donor nations for the food shortage that had put 15 million Ethiopians in danger of starving to death. 15 million!

Oh, the blame game, how sweet your nectar.

In Ato Meles’ words:

We are not out of the woods yet. Quite a bit of the required food assistance has been pledged, but it’s not been arriving in time. Perhaps, more importantly, the total requirement for food aid is nowhere close to being fulfilled. Up to now, we have succeeded in avoiding mass deaths. But the expectation now amongst the donor representatives in Addis Abeba is that unless there is a rekindling of interest and shortfalls are covered we may run out of food by June, and that would be a very dangerous time because that will be the rainy season and it will be difficult to transport food to the rural areas even if it arrives.

Q: And what would be the consequence of that and how many people would be affected?

A: Anywhere between 11-15 million people. And the consequence of people running out of food during the rainy season in that number is not difficult for anybody to imagine.

Okay, let’s break this down. (Did the TPLF have a drama department while it was a guerrilla outfit, because I have a feeling that the prime minister dabbled in the dramatic arts in the bushes.)

How to effectively hold the world responsible for your economic missteps:

by: “M. Z”

Step 1: Start off with one, succinct alarming statement: “We are not out of the woods yet.” (But say it in monotone voice… don’t change the octave of your voice or nothing. Pretend you are reading ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ on a rainy day.

Step 2: Start the finger pointing, but passive-aggressively.

“Quite a bit of the required food assistance has been pledged, but it’s not been arriving in time.”

This way you are always blaming the bastards who said they’d give you aid, but the world should know that hey are breaking their word. Hold them accountable, and remember, deflect, deflect, deflect attention from yourself. You are a poor, innocent starving third worlder. Act like it.

Step 3: By this stage people should be feeling sufficiently guilty, so up the ante.

Perhaps, more importantly, the total requirement for food aid is nowhere close to be fulfilled.

Again, remember, monotone.

Step 4: Ka-bam! Bring in the death theme … now!

Up to now, we have succeeded in avoiding mass deaths.

i.e., no thanks to you idiots who are not running to our aid, we still managed to avoid mass death. What else do you expect us to do, awreaddi!

Huuuuh? You see where I’m going with this? So now they are remembering Ethiopia in 1984… images of starving babies pop, pop, popping in their minds. Donor countries hate it when that happens. Never been able to figure out why.

Step 5: But no time to linger. Let them know that their own representatives are also predicting much gloom and doom…

But the expectation now amongst the donor representatives in Addis Abeba is that unless there is a rekindling of interest and shortfalls are covered we may run out of by June…

Okay you see what you did here? You connected your pleading to that of the donors’ own representatives (irrefutable evidence) who are in Addis (location, location, location).

Step 6: Okay, now seal the deal. End with a bang.

… and that would be a very dangerous time because that will be the rainy season and it will be difficult to transport food to the rural areas even if it arrives.

A nice, elegant way of saying get your asses down here and feed these… these… oppressed masses who need.. the … food thingy.

Then wait for the gravity of the situation to so overpower the interviewer that he does not stop to ask you what in the hell you were doing while all hell was breaking through. Inevitably, he’ll hurriedly go on to the next question because he has a date with some hottie you set him up with at the Hilton. Listen, he doesn’t care about this, and he knows that you don’t care about this. He wants to move on, but make sure you get in one last prophesy of cataclysm.

Q: And the consequence of all of this…? How many people will die? That’s…

Step 7: Don’t be afraid of big numbers.

Anywhere between 11-15 million people.

You see? Big numbers are our friend. Ferenjies relate to big numbers. And big words.

Step 8: And just as a final exclamation mark, hint at how ghastly that number is. Just hint. Allow them to draw their own conclusion. If you can allow for a dramatic pause, do so … and then, wham! It’s a K.O.

And the consequence of people running out of food during the rainy season in that number is not difficult for anybody to imagine.

Sit back. Relax. Watch the west scurry to feed your people.

Thank you. Thankyouverymuch. Oh, really, no. You shouldn’t.

Annnnnnnd… curtain.

There you go. That’s Ato Meles’ entire 14-year economic policy in eight simple steps. Spiffy, ya?

So anyway, unfortunately the damn reporter asked about land reform. But not to worry. There is a playbook for that as well.

Q: Opposition parties in Ethiopia say that you haven’t done enough to engage in land reform, true land reform. You have small farmers which form the bulk of your population having to exist on very small plots of land they don’t own and they rent from the government, and this doesn’t encourage them to invest in these plots of land.

Meles: I recognize that there is a possibility of re-division of land and that could theoretically be a disincentive.

Theoretically? Excuse me very much, Mr. Meles, and I ain’t no big economic wonkette, but not owning the land is a huuuge disincentive. It’s been beyond proven that the farmer not owning the land he tills is… well, it’s a problem. You might remember the USSR? Basically, we have a little serf-landlord thing happening here, which I do believe was a sore point with you when you were an out-of-the-closet Marxist in the 70’s, hmm? But I interrupted, Mr. Meles. You were explaining something to us…

Meles: We are addressing that part of the land reform in our country…

We are? ‘Coz I do believe that you were quoted somewhere as saying that there would be land privatization in Ethiopia “over my dead body”, which… well, yes, technically that is addressing the land reform question, but maybe you should send out a memo… or… something to alert us when you finish addressing this issue. Do go on…

Meles: … but I do not believe that giving the peasants the right to sell their land at a time when something like 15 million of them are going hungry would create better food security. They would simply sell their land and go to towns where there are no jobs for them. And what you have is paupers with some hope of food security being transformed to paupers with no hope of food security.”

(All emphasis mine.)

What in the…? Okay, first of all, i swear to you i did not make up that quote. Thisis really what he said.

That, my friends, is what they call the money quote. No, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia did’n just relegate a large number of the population the unenviable position of being either paupers in the countryside with some hope, or paupers in towns with no hope, but paupers either way! That’s the best the EPRDF can do? We have to settle for 15 million of our fellow countrymen holding on to, eh, some hope that donor nations will tear themselves away from black-tie galas to throw some crumpets our way? Hm. Niger apparently didn’t get that memo. Sheeet.

How’s that for inspiring management! Wait. Are we in a time warp? Is this the same county whose leader steel-facedly confronted the League of Nations in 1936? Goddamn. Talk about marrying down.

Besides, note that Ato Meles talks about giving peasants the “right to sell their land” and not about their right to “own the land.” It does not cross the Prime Minister’s mind that not owning the land is what has led to this disaster. To the Revolutionary Democrats, peasants are little children who can’t really understand what it means to own land, and so these children would inevitably sell off their plots to the bad-ass …capitalists, oh, perish the thought, and then flood the town and… well, we all know that peasants should be seen and not heard. Way to go with taking care of the masses, Mr. Prime Minister. Great management. Meanwhile at the ranch, Ethiopians are perpetually seen as long-term beggars with five-star hotels.

In the same interview…

Q: What have you done about irrigation projects, because I do remember seeing at the end of last year many places where there were large rivers not far away from parched fields that had no water at all.

Meles: The resources are not available.

And then there is an uncomfortable pause where the interviewer must have given the prime minister an incredulous look because Mr. Meles deigned to elaborate on that trite little non sequitur.

Meles: The most abundant resource we have is labor.

Ehhh… ooookay. But Prime Minister... we were talking about irrigation? Any movement on that front?

Meles: And so we have chosen to… um, focus on labor based water management and [use those techniques] instead of damning our big rivers. So all the irrigation and the um… water harvesting techniques that we have put in place are family based instead of damming the major even minor [rivers].

Okay, grab your Advanced Bullshit-to-EPRDF dictionary, boys and girls, ‘coz this one is a multifaceted bullshit. So the question was, why are there parched lands next to body of waters? The answer in tortured Melesism is … “We have lots o’ labor. And we… yeah… we don’t have to dam rivers or nothin’ ‘coz we have all these paupers who can schlep water from the river—we call it the, ehem, ‘family based water harvesting techniques’, the rest of the world calls them buckets, but all technical terms and stuff."

Seriously, this is how ridiculous the EPRDF is. Why invest in any long term solutions when begging and um. 'family based water harvesting techniques' are two short-term and immediate elixirs? Next thing you know, the phrase “die of starvation” will be phased out (its already inched upwards to “food insecurity”), and eventually Ethiopia will be facing a simple case of … "population attrition from low-calorie nutrition." Welcome to the poor man’s "global struggle against violent extremism." Enjoy your stay.

Remember the absolute outrage and righteous indignation of Meles and Mengistu when the Emperor ignored the famine of ’73 and about 100,000 people perished under Emperor Haile Selassie’s watch? The Emperor was dragged out of office for his mismanagement and callousness. Well, even adjusted for “human life inflation” these days, 100,000 has jumped to 15 million people in danger of perishing while Mr. Meles tries to pass himself off as a sensitive reformer/renaissance man. Mr. Meles must think we all have collective amnesia. What was good for the Emperor must surely be good for our new Emperor? Tell me if I’m wrong.

I have learnt to be very weary of people who are all fire and brimstone about protecting the ‘oppressed masses’. Inevitably, they turn out to be people who are out to ensure that the masses are always oppressed because that way there will always be a need for a ‘protector.’ Say hello to co-dependency.

There is a lot of this kind of overbearing paternalism in Revolutionary Democracy. It was further highlighted by the pre-election rhetoric from Ato Meles and his menace-to-society sidekick/spokesperson/Minister of Disinformation, Ato Bereket Simon. In tandem they were touting the EPRDF as the harbinger of democracy to Ethiopia, and that they did it all for “the people.” [Get out your violin out. This is gonna be a long sonata.)

One of my favorite social commentators is Bill Maher. He has a long spiel about the art form of facile speechifying that those of us with children have to suffer through from snippety, self appointed “children protectors”. Everything is about “protecting the children.” For example, one of my daily battles … there I am, minding my own business, trying to pick up my kid from school when all of a sudden some desperate housewife in a Mercedes is losing her feathers about how we have to protect kids from Marilyn Manson. Yeahhh… although… Muffy, my child has a better chance of being hurt by the crap they serve at McDonald’s—which you took him to when you chaperoned his class trip-- than he will ever be from banging his head against the wall to the screams of an androgynous freak. Yes, they love me at PTA.

So, before I got sidetracked I was trying to make a point that those who lecture us about protecting some mass of people are the very ones hurting them.

There was something incredibly profound that super zany brainy major
Econ-geek Dr. Non-Engineer Berhanu Nega said in his speech in Sweden that made the terminally dull light bulb in my wonkettery light up. I’ll paraphrase:

People ask us if we are running for office because we want to bring democracy to the people. We are not. We are running for office because we want freedom for ourselves. We want to be the kind of fathers who don’t just leave money as inheritance to our children. We want our children to inherit freedom and democracy. So, we are doing this to free ourselves.

Bingo! That, my friends, is where it all starts. There is no grandiose sense of being the “freer” of people. We should all want to seek democracy because we want to be free and not because we have a need to free others. It was the most philosophically sound reckoning I have heard from an Ethiopian leader.

(Total aside: Hmmm… This Non Engineer Dr. Berhanu person…? Happily married, is he? I have a few friends who have wanted me to mention that they… like economics.)

So back to what I was saying about values and my new hero Kim Clark of Harvard Business School. Wasn’t that where I was before I descended into the intellectual abyss?

Charlie Rose, in his inimitably “I am shocked, shocked” saccharine-y way asks if the Harvard Business School teaches values? Clark answers, absolutely, which Rose somehow managed to find ambiguous because he leaaaaansss in and breathlessly whispers,

Are you telling me that men and women teaching at the school… you tell them that this is more than debits and credits, mergers and acquisitions, marketing and finance? You tell them, “We are about…

The famous Charlie Rose staring-down-guests ensues.

Clark, out of intellectual yluNta, elaborates:

Leadership. Leadership requires that you be about values because leadership is about inspiring trust. It is about establishing in those young people coming here a sense that character matters. Competence? Yes. They’ve got to know all the stuff you talked about. But they have got to have character. They’ve got to be able to operate with integrity so that when they say something, they act on it. They walk the talk. Deeply. Deeply.

And this, my friends, was what I was trying to say in my last blog. Seeking, nay, requiring someone of character to lead us should not be a third-tier priority.

If there is something that Ato Meles is proficient in is his almost stealth ability of not walking his talk. The ongoing blatant drama to thwart the elections is, unfortunately, not even his most ignoble endeavor. Ato Meles’ true character came unraveling during his cantankerous interview on BBC’s Hardtalk.

BBC: On the 8th of June, while police in Addis were faced with a large crowd, many of them students, what orders had you given the security forces?

Meles: Stop insurrection.

BBC: Simple as that?

Meles: Yeah.

BBC: Is that an adequate order, given slightly more nuances without how they should deal with children, young people, who might perhaps throw stones at them?

Meles: Well, you see, policemen are trained to control crowd...I do not presume to be an expert in crowd control and give instructions how policemen should do their job.

Oh… my… God! The sad thing is that the EPRDF and Ato Meles in particular will never know just how wrong that statement is. Never.

BBC - You are the prime minister. You are the leader of the country. The police had tear gas, they had water canon, the protesters had some stones, apparently. Why did the police need to open fire?

Meles - I'm told that they could not restrain the demonstrators with tear gas, or water canon or even shooting in the air.

BBC - Do you believe that?

Meles - Well, that is what has been reported to me until and unless an independent investigation proves otherwise, I have to believe it.

BBC - So will you apologize to the families of those who lost their lives?

Meles - If it's proved that there was excessive use of force, yes.

BBC - But you will not say here that you are sorry for what happened?

Meles - I'm sorry that people died but until an independent investigation is carried out, I'm not going to have a kangaroo court to judge the policemen. There has to be an independent investigation before I make the decision that there has been an excessive use of force.

[.. Ah.. an independent investigation…]

BBC: When will you publish the findings of the independent investigation?

Meles: As soon as the investigation is completed.

BBC : And how independent is it?

Meles: Well, in the past we've had independent investigations. And they have come up with results that we do not like.

BBC: Who is running this one?

Meles: We will make the announcement when we are ready for it.

BBC : What do you mean? You haven't started it?

Meles: We are studying the possibilities we are identifying the personalities.

BBC: What message does that send to the Ethiopian people? You haven't even selected the people to begin the investigation? This happened on June 8th?

Meles: We take our time, we study our case, and we make the decisions when we are ready.

As of yet, there has not been any kind of investigation into the deaths of those who were gunned down. Oh, but the Information Minister did take time out to call them “hooligans.”

“Leadership requires that you be about values because leadership is about inspiring trust. It is about establishing in those young people coming here a sense that character matters.”

Thankfully, not even the Ato Meles can bring himself to say that he is a man of character. What does it say to the Ethiopian people that he has yet to initiate an investigation? Aw, we’re used to the contempt he has for us, BBC, but thanks for asking.


So then Charlie Rose leans back and does that thing where he makes his eyebrows quiver.

Charlie: At Harvard Business School you teach people to make money.

Clark: We sure do.

Charlie: Boy, they make a lot of money. The top 10 people running hedge funds make about $200 million a year. Should we say to people that we have a responsibility, as members of this planet to do well, but that gives you a responsibility beyond your own family?

Clark: Absolutely. We have tried to instill in our students a deep sense of responsibility that with this privilege comes responsibility. Not only to go out and do well, but to give back and to make the world better. To do it in a way that has impact. At commencement speeches I try to help students see the difference between having a higher purpose guiding their lives and being guided by the love of money. “A lot of you are going to have money and power. But don’t let it get into your heart.”

Unless those of us in the Diaspora as well as those in Ethiopia who have been privileged enough to have somehow retained our sanity reconnect with Ethiopia, we will only be leaving our children a trust fund, if that. We would have willfully squandered their heritage. There are a lot of us in the silent majority who are happy with living under the radar. That can no longer be palatable to us. We have to understand that we have no less than a moral imperative, not just a passing fancy, to making Ethiopia better than she is. It’s an obligation and a long-term commitment.

It is often amazing to me that we are children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of people who actually won a war against fascists. Only a few generations separate us from those who won that battle at Adwa for us to accept a leader who now has mastered the art of begging for alms. Along with the privilege of being Ethiopians, we have to stand up and take the responsibility. We are already hyphenated Ethiopians. We can’t also be part-time Ethiopians.

Among Mr. Clark’s regrets during his tenure are:

a) Not having started on courses about values and leadership much earlier, and

b) “I wish I had paid even more attention than I have to developing people. It is fundamental stuff.

I’ve been trying to explain this passionately in discussions with some of you over email. Ethiopia can no longer afford not to invest in human capital. It is not only fundamental, but, for us, it is imperative. In short, where are the sane Ethiopians? Where? Why are we leaving the country to the mercy of the chemically imbalanced? (One of my favorite articles on Seleda, Addis Rhapsody, starts with the sentence, “Where the Ugly People at?” Beautiful piece. By the by, is Seleda kaput? Does anyone know? Can we start some sort of letter writing campaign? Big void.)

One place where the sane Ethiopian are at is at Ethio Corps. Thank God. What the kids at Ethio Corps have is extraordinary Emotional Intelligence. All of us, exhale. All is not lost.

Finally, Charlie, with that trademark wistful look of his that makes most people uneasy, asks of Clark:

What is it that so many of us do not maximize our potential?


Clark: It has to do with the society we live in… it is not inspired or passionate. It is passion. You may only get satisfaction from your job, but you have to be passionate about the organization you work for. And that’s what leaders do. Leaders instill in people a sense of purpose and they inspire people. They inspire people because they connect people to the larger purpose.

I wanted to reach out and kiss Clark.

To the EPRDF, anyone espousing unity and oneness, an easy “large purpose”(you’d think!), is a sure sign of some sort of ‘chauvinism’… Revolutionary Democrats’ favorite epithet, in case you haven’t been called one. I was stunned at the aversion to saying you were ‘Ethiopian’ in the 90’s… you had to Bantuize yourself into artificial ethnic allegiances. It was obscene. Only when the EPRDF got into a hissy fit with the other East African sociopath and former Ethiopian Isayass Aferwerqi did the EPRDF recognize that there was an Ethiopia. I remember the words of my father as he stuggled to fill out his immigration papers in Addis. “I never thought I’d see an Ethiopia where saying you are, simply, Ethiopian, was no longer acceptable.”

My heart broke for him.

Ethnicisizing Ethiopia, for EPRDF, was the only way to satiate its voracious appetite for power. It was a cynical and ruthless attempt to divide people, no matter how much it disguised its handiwork as helping ‘the oppressed masses.’ Ethiopia, for the EPRDF, was and remains an afterthought. Its Byzantine policy of dividing us through the blood that courses through our veins is something of a 15th century edict. It is absurd that in the 21st century, in the Digital Age, that the EPRDF managed to almost get away with its retarded ethnic ethic.

We need leaders who believe in Ethiopia, and who understand that we have a higher cause than who slighted our grandfathers in the past few centuries. Instilling pride in our identity is one thing. To revile us for wanting to be, simply, Ethiopians, was much more sinister. You realize how vile the EPRDF’s policy of ethnic politics is only if you are willing to glance back to just a few years back and remember how Mengistu divided us with his “feudal” vs. “oppresses masses” matrix (the now ludicrous “Adhari” vs. “Wez Ader” paradigm.)

Mengistu flourished on class clashes, Meles thrived on ethnic ethics... I want to be able to say that there will be no one else who will come up tomorrow with some other cockamamie idea (what's left... oh, yes, the religious warfare.) Truly, I am holding on to my favorite quote from Ethiopundit:

Ethiopians will remember who they have always been and not what they have been told to be at the point of a gun.

Shoot. That quote should be emblazoned all over Ethiopia!

Ethiopia is very low on the EPRDF’s priority. Too low. That’s not what inspiring leaders do, Ato Meles. You have managed to sap the passion out of most of us, but luckily there were people who had the stamina to stay in line for 17 hours to vote you out of office.

Leaders “inspire people because they connect people to the larger purpose.” Prime Minister Meles has worked hard for 14 years to make sure that Ethiopia would never be the “larger purpose.” We remember, Ato Meles, that it was once no longer acceptable to be just Ethiopian in our own country.

Donald Levine, in his interview with Chicago Public Radio brought it all home. Trying to explain Ato Meles’ ethnic ethic he said, and I paraphrase, “Can you imagine having to state whether you are an Irish-American or Italian-American before you get the right to vote?”

Oh, Professor Levine. Some of us had to state our ethnicity to get a Qebelle I.D!
Unfortunately, or fortunately, those are memories that refuse to subside.

Honor, value character. You see? I am not as dumb as I thought I was.

Sometimes, I wish we all did have collective amnesia and wipe away the memory of the EPRDF. But, then again, it might be better to always remember and chant out that comforting mantra: Never again.

And that, boys and girls, is how I spent my summer vacation: remembering the Ethiopia of yon and not the Ethiopia that was forced down my throat at the point of a gun.

… that and preparing my son for first grade.

It's great to be back!