Monday, October 31, 2005

The Milosevicization of Meles

Wonqville’s patented “Meles Terror Alert” has been raised from Lily-Livered Yellow to “Its’ time to clean house” Red… The situation is fluid—we might have to raise the level to “I’m On a Killing Spree” Burgundy in a matter of hours.

So, I guess the new Minister of Information guy, he who has stepped in the shoes of Ato Bereket Simon, the Darth Vader of Ministers of Misinformation, read up on his “How to be a good EPRDF Soldier” manual ‘cause here is his handiwork:

“Bringing Before Justice CUD Leaders For Its Anti-Constitution Stance Is Timely:

Oh, yeah. La Conzanostra has a new cap-ee-tayn.

The Ministry of Information said bringing before the court of justice the
Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), which it said, is a stumbling block for
the development of democracy because of its anti-constitution stance, is timely.

You see, for those of you new to the Ethiopian political scene, this is how we do Democranizzle under Prime Minister Meles: the Ministry of Information declares that the main opposition—an opposition which won all major cities in the country, an opposition that has been a royal pain in the government’s ass—yes, that same opposition is no longer an opposition, it’s “a stumbling block for the development of democracy.”

Aw, now that’s awfully cute. And yes, for the uninitiated, it means what you think it means-- the government no longer considers the CUD a political party. And that, in EPRDF-speak means that the CUD is officially, let's all say it together, an "anti-peace" force. And that means it has to be... mowed down. Thank you for playing "EPRDF-Speak. We have parting gifts for you at the door.

Meanwhile things are looking dim in the Gambella region, where the EPRDF, in a fit of Darfur-envy perhaps, had in late December 2003 to early 2004, ha committed, um, what’s the technical word for killing people who are … oh, yeah, genocide.

In case we need a refresher (From HRW- “Targeting the Anuak”)

“When the soldiers arrived they said to the villagers, ‘Now we come to make peace.’ The villagers said, ‘Why? Is there anything wrong?’ They said, ‘There are some bandits and anywhere we get them we will finish them.’ The soldiers stayed for three months. They were many. [One day when] the soldiers came back to Otiel from Boranger they met a man outside the village and killed him….We went out and found his dead body. He was shot in his chest and in his forehead….The elders of the village asked them, ‘You said you come for peace but now we have found someone whom you have killed. Why is that so?’ They said, ‘Anyone we find outside the village we will kill.’ We said, ‘Is this a way to make peace?’ They said, ‘You are lying to us. And in any case we cannot identify who is a villager and who is not. So anyone we find outside your village we will kill.’ After that, no one complained.

So, you see how that works? When the Ethiopian government talks about “Now we have come to make peace” it’s time to raise the Meles Terror Alert at least three rungs.

Look for another round of “peacekeeping” in Gambella. Ato Meles has a lot of pent-up frustration—he has had to play “democrat” in front of the prying eyes of his foreign supporters and media in Addis Ababa. It’s another story in Gambella where there are no ferenjies to tell Ato Meles that he’s being a bad boy.

(Read more on the massacres in Gambella here; and ethiopundit’s piece, Blood, Oil and Ethnic Rule in Gambella. You know where you can go NOT to read a word about the Anuak genocide? The Carter Center website. Mr. Jimmah probably does not yet know that his best buddy in Africa has… um, genocidal tendencies. Someone break it to him gently.)

So, what does it mean when the Ethiopian government says,

Though the leaderships of the CUD have been advised to abandon their day dream,
they refrain to do so due to their criminal obsession.Therefore, it is the
obligation of the government and people to take appropriate measures on those
forces who are advocators of street violence, the Ministry said.

Uh-oh. Yet another EPRDF “peacekeeping” mission. (It’s a thankless job.) This one is in direct response to the opposition calling for, yes, peaceful protests. (One of the methods being boycotting EPRDF-owned businesses.) But then the government takes it one step further… it’s not just the leaders of the opposition who are in its crosshairs… oh, no. That would be merely Genocidal Murder 101.

The government will take all the necessary measures on those people who follow
illegal path from now on wards. It also said those people who need to
participate in the violence to be incited by CUD intentionally or
unintentionally to think again and again before doing so otherwise they will be
accountable to law.

Intentionally on unintentionally? You see how that’s done? Make it broad enough so that practically anyone can be pointed at with a machine gun! Ahh, EPRDF… you wylee wascal, you!

EPRDFers… get out while you can. Once blood has been shed, you’re also going to be held culpable.

Meanwhile, can we all chip in to get ENA a new editor? I mean, if you are gonna hunt down people and kill them, you might as well use proper grammar in your “Death to the People” declarations.

Ethiopia could very well be, my friends, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Ato Meles’ revenge for unrequited love will be murder. It’s the only thing he does well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Once Upon a Letter

Very Engineer Shawel Hailu, Chairman of the main Ethiopian opposition party-the CUD, was in the United States a few weeks ago for medical treatment. Things started getting heady in Addis Abeba about whether the CUD should join parliament so he decided to fly back. Before he left the US he sent this letter to his colleagues:

(My translation… I very much apologize and am open to criticism here if I lost anything in translation.)

Our organization has been able to scale to these heights because we have been working though discussions, debates and consensus.

At this stage, the decision we make will require great accord. We will be accountable to history if we make this decision in haste, without the requisite debate but through sheer majority vote. For this reason, I am cutting short my medical treatment and have started the journey back home. Therefore, in deference to Ethiopian politics, development and CUD’s strengthening, I strongly ask that this final and important vote be postponed for two days. It is my hope that we go through this together.


Hailu Shawel.

It is a stunning letter.

Not even the most elastic of minds can imagine a scenario in which Prime Minister Meles would consider it worthy to hold his party members in such high esteem. The last time there was strife within the TPLF, Ato Meles’ opponents were either killed or are still languishing in prison.

The only way automaton TPLF/EPRDF cadres are allowed to exist is if they goosestep to every party line and squeal “how high?” when they are asked to jump. They follow edicts and raise their hands in unison to whatever prevailing bullshit shoveled their way. To Ato Meles and his messenger boys, concepts such as intellectual debate, consensus building and discussion is an anathema, a modern day heresy, punishable by being burnt at the stake. How else can you explain Ambassador Kassahun Ayele’s latest nauseatingly obsequious commentary in the Washington Times?

Our embrace of democracy is both principled and practical.


I find myself morbidly fascinated by how much people are willing to be humiliated in order to tow a party line. I am only comforted by the wistful hope that when Ambassador Kassahun eventually writes his memoir, he will be profoundly mortified by his paper trail.

I would be fascinated to know how the EPRDF nerfs reacted when they read Ato Hailu’s letter. Did they for one fleeting moment wonder what it would be like to be treated with respect by their leader?

Ato Hailu’s letter is historical documentation that Ethiopian politics has indeed jumped a major hurdle. A leader who sees his counterparts are equals? Who asks and not orders? Who measures his party’s success using “discussions, debates and consensus” as yardsticks instead force, guns and brutality? Wait. A political party that tolerates dissent? It is extraordinary.

But because he is blinded by power, Ato Meles does not have the wherewithal to assess how history will judge him. Whether it is three months from now or five years from now, Ato Meles will leave power, and will have to deal with the legacy he has left not just Ethiopia, but his children. It’s hard to imagine the Prime Minister living among civilians when he eventually leaves power. He will probably end up holed in a mansion in a foreign land having exiled his children from a land that will never love him or respect him.

But that’s never been important to the EPRDF. And it is not just Ato Meles who will be held accountable. His enablers and those who continue to venerate him as a messiah will also eventually be harshly judged by history… and the legacy they leave their children.

I hope Ato Hailu’s children have framed that letter. It heralded the true Ethiopian renaissance. To paraphrase ethiopundit, we Ethiopians have finally realized who we have always been, and not what we have been told we are by the barrel of the gun.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Beam me up, Melesocracy

So I see they are having a “buy one, get one free” sale on crazy pills in the Horn. Again.

Let’s see. We have the depressingly control freakish government in Eritrea, ineptly led by troubled dictator and former Ethiopian Issayas Afewerqi, who was sure that banning UN’s helicopter flights would force the Security Council to pay attention to his increasingly shrill screeches of “Look. Can’t you see? I’m gonna start me a war!”

Nothing doing. Kofi Anan was tied up washing his hair. Ato Issayas felt he had to save face. And how does a dissembling wanabee fascist save face? He limits UN night patrols. Atta boy!

Does the UN plead to have flights restored and take out Ato Issayas to a fancy restaurant to make nice-nice?

Ahh, no.

Nations participating in a U.N. peacekeeping mission on the Eritrean-Ethiopian border told Security Council members on Wednesday to pressure Eritrea to reverse its ban on U.N. helicopter flights, with some hinting they might withdraw from the mission.

Uh-oh. Meaning no buffer between Issayas and Ato Meles, who needs any and all distractions from a staged elections gone fantastically wrong? That, my friends, is the sound of merde hitting the fan.

Then you got your Somalis who took an unscheduled break from Ramadan to... hijack a ship. Yes, no rest for the Somali pirate, even the holy month of fasting, praying, and charity work.

And then of course we have own Prime Minister, who continues to gush out absurdities faster than we can say, “Melesocracy, Schlememocracy.”

Yes, I am afraid Ato Meles has been speaking to journalists again, blithely undeterred by the fact that he is sounding more and more like a particularly funny sketch on Da Ali G Show, except it ain’t Ali G. who comes off looking like a glib lunatic.

Remember Ali G. interviewing James Baker, President Reagan’s Chief of Staff and Bush I’s Secretary of State?

Ali G.: How does youse make countries do stuff you want?

Baker: Well, the way you deal with countries in foreign policy issues, I think that’s what you are asking me…

Ali G.: No doubt.

Baker: … is with carrot and sticks.

Ali G. (taken aback): But what country is gonna want carrots even if dey is like a million tons of carrots you is givin’ over dere?

Baker: Well, carrots… I’m not using that that term literally. You might offer foreign aid… Money. Okay? Money!

Ali: Ahh, money is better than carrots even if a country love carrots dat is like dere favorite national food, if they get given like billions of tons…

Baker: Don’t get hung up on carrots. That’s just a figure of speech.

Ali: Would you eveah send carrots?

(Incredulous pause.)

Ali G.: I mean, is there any situation…

Baker: No!

Ali G.: What... about... in a famine?

Baker: Carrot themselves? No!

It’s becoming apparent that Ato Meles has the same kind of grasp on democracy that Ali. G. has on foreign affairs. (Soon he, too, will gravely pontificate on Iraq's possession of "BLTs.")

So IRIN asked Prime Minister Meles why the government removed immunity from opposition members.

As far as the removal of immunity from some of the parliamentarians is concerned, legally speaking most lawyers in Ethiopia would tell you that the parliament need not have taken this step simply because of the fact that until they are sworn in they are not parliamentarians. They have not been sworn in; therefore they do not enjoy the immunity of parliamentarians. The immunity applies to parliamentarians so long as they are not involved in serious crimes.

Oookay. So you stripped people of immunity who did not technically have immunity in the first place?

Hm. Think back to the pointed question Ali G. threw at a bewildered Marlin Fitzwater, White House Secretary 1983-92.

Was it embarrassin’ workin’ as a secretary? Did it have the same kind of … stigmata? Like bein’ a male nurse?

Immunity… parliament…srtipping... To the Prime Minister they all just random words, pluggable and playable at his whim. Secretary? Yes, as in administrative assistant and Secretary of the State… same difference.

Let’s imagine Ato Meles as Ali G. He’d answer IRIN’s question thus:

Booyakasha! Immunity has nothin’ to do with immunization of parlimenta-tay-rians. They ain’t innit, so theyz can’t be widdit. We wuz sending ‘em a message: “Yo! Check yo’self before you wreck youself!” Like when the racialist constabulary ‘arrass the black youff for some ganja. Aiyit?

Okay. Stop let’s stop imagining.

And this was parliament’s first act… why? Ato Meles, we believe you are pining to opine:

The government plan was on the one hand to convey a very clear political message and on the other to avoid room for all sorts of interpretations of the law; to make sure that people understand what the consequences of their actions are.

So it was a political message. Aha. A lump of truth in a pile of … um, untruthiness. In other words, this had nothing to do with legal procedure or protecting the –say it with me- constitution. The Prime Minister just used parliament to send a political message to his opponents? That’s some kind of fancy democracy we have there in Ethiopia.

IRIN’s management, by the way, needs to spring for a journalist who asks … what is it called, follow up questions. None of Ato Meles’ remarks warranted a “come again?”, which leaves me to believe that either IRIN could not care less about the answers or that the reporter is way smarter than little me.

Moving on…

Q: Will the government take any action against the chairman of the CUD given that you have accused him of an act of treason?

Drum roll, please…

Our preference is not to be legalistic. Our preference is to seek political solutions to these problems, not legal ones.

Ya, man. Legalistic-ism is for the birds.

Yes, take a breath. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia did actually say “Our preference is to seek political solutions to these problems, not legal ones”?? So no legal definition of “treason” is needed? Or has it already been established that Very Engineer Hailu Shawel has committed treason but the EPRDF is not prioritizing treason as anything to be particularly perturbed about, at least not this week. Which came first: legal definition or political benevolence? Is Ato Hailu free despite being a traitor, or is he free because a “political solution” is being sought to address his treason?

Indeed, Melesocracy is a verrry fancy kind of democracy.

So far we have refused to be provoked into acting in a purely legal fashion. We have been patiently seeking a political way out. We shall be patient until patience exhausts its potentialities.

Be patient with me while I thumb through my Melesocracy-to-Democracy dictionary. I think what the Prime Minister is saying is… were he dealing with stuff on a “purely legalistic” paradigm, Very Engineer Hailu Shawel would have been “dealt with” a long time ago, but it is purely because of the Prime Minister’s and the EPRDF’s “political situation seek-iness” magnanimity that Ato Shawel still lives.

OR… was the Prime Minister bullshitting us in the first place when he called Ato Hailu a traitor? Hmm?

Well, let’s truly hope that patience does not exhaust its “potentialities.”

But what is this I see? Yet another lump of truth in a pile of more untruthiness?

So far we have refused to be provoked into acting in a purely legal fashion.

Ye-ah, baby.

So, this “not acting in a purely legal fashion”… does it extend outside of how the EPRDF deals with opposition leaders? I say yes. We could have all told you, Mr. Prime Minister, that you were never at risk of acting in a purely legal fashion… ever! All the way back when your security forces enforced bullets in some 42 unarmed people last June. And then the whole indiscriminately arresting of opposition supporters (well into 4,000 at one point)? Good thing you didn’t bog yourself down in legalistics then. Just the paperwork involved in that!

Question: Was the new Minister of Information responsible for coming up with that line, perchance, or did the Prime Minister just birth himself another improbably retarded idiom? Hopefully it was the new Minister of Information because that would mean he has potential to scale to spokesmanship heights beyond Ato Bereket’s now quaint “Anyone who incites violence, other than those elected, will have to face the law” avowal. And that means more fun for us.

Oh, whoever is in charge of new EPRDF logos… hurry: “EPRDF: We won’t be provoked into acting legally!”

It’s becoming hard not to wince when Ato Meles tries to sound cerebral. He betrays such a colossal lack of erudition. Luckily he has the same kind of Ali G. deadpan delivery when discharging lines such as, “So far we have refused to be provoked into acting in a purely legal fashion” and “we shall be patient until patience exhausts its potentialities” that (phew!) all his bluster is summarily diminished. Give it time and all of the Prime Minister’s edicts will soon start with “Booyakasha wagwan!”

So, regarding the immunity? What was the government’s intention?

So the intention of the government was not to take this action with a view to following it up quickly with the detention of those personalities involved. If it had been that we would have detained them and that has not happened. It was just a precautionary measure and it has not closed off any opportunities or options, whether it is dialogue or any other options.


So, stripping opposition MPs of immunity that they never had in the first place was not intended as an antecedent to arresting them because they never had immunity in the first place, but they’ve been known to have designs of toppling governments illegally and being traitors, so it is but a “precautionary measure” that allows arrest in case they do join the parliament and proceed to topple the government by joining parliament, in which case they do not most certainly have immunity… and oh, none of this closes off any opportunities to dialogue?

Confused? Don’t be. Here’s how to digest these kinds of unfortunate forays into logic by the Prime Minister:

Think again of Ali G. On how to handle terrorists… he leans into Professor James Ziglar from the INS (“The Immigration and Naturalized Society”), and with the same kind of campy Melesesque gravitas he says, “Could it be possible to work with the terrorists, to say, ‘Yo! Ere iz a buildin’ that we wuz gonna demolish anyway... Go.. ‘Ave yo’ fun with it. Do whateveah you want, and just… don’t do the other ones.”

Similarly, "I’m gonna take away the immunity that you never had, but as a precautionary measure I’ll take it away in case you join parliament and have immunity… which you don’t!"

You see how that works?

And what in the hell kinda government goes as far as stripping MPs' immunity (which is reserved for indictment after serious crimes) as a precautionary measure? Here's what I consider to be an example of a precautionary measure: taking Vitamin C so as to not catch a cold. Stripping immunity, even the one people did not have in the first place? Not so much a precautionary measure. Sorta like aborting black babies in order to reduce the crime rate. A bit... hasty, shall we say?

Let’s move on.

Ato Meles repeated my most favorite of his feeble defenses when asked about the new parliamentary procedures which effectively render the opposition useless. (See also How to know you Support the EPRDF.) And this time, he generously added gusto.

Q: Why have you introduced new parliamentary rules that mean you need a majority to put forward an agenda, which has been criticised for not being democratic?

A: These procedures were designed on the basis of the procedures of well-established parliamentary democracies - Canada, Germany, India and of course the oldest parliamentary democracy, the UK

It’s precious.

First of all, here I was thinking that the EPRDF suffered from acute “Parliamentary Democracy”-ities, for Ato Meles had once proclaimed,

"It would be the greatest nonsense to assume that the profound on-going revolution of the TPLF/EPRDF, the first transference of power from the hands of the exploiting minority to the hands of the exploited majority in Ethiopian history, could take place within the framework of the old bourgeois parliamentary democracy."

… which is why we went with the whole “ ‘Revulsion-ary’ Democracy” thingy. (read Dagmawi’s elucidation on this; Ethiopundit has written beautifully and extensively on Revolutionary Democracy.”)

I am confused again. It’s all so confusing. So, when does Revolutionary Democracy end and Parliamentary Democracy start?

When the opposition wins more seats than is tolerable, that’s when. You get it? You’re welcome!


What we have said is while the intention and the plan was to emulate the procedures of these parliaments…

So, now we like-ee the parliamentary democracies… so much so, we are going to emulate them? No, not the part that says individual MPs (Canada and England, called Private Bills) can sponsor bills. We don’t like that. The part where… where MPs sit in one room? Lovin’ the emulation of that part.

(Aside: Did the Prime Minister know that in England a bill cannot become law as an act of parliament until it has been agreed to by both Houses of Parliament and has received Royal Assent from the Queen. Uh-oh. Might have to emulate that? “King Meles Zenawi, Revolutionary Democrat of Revolutionary Democrats, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Revolutionary Democracy.”)

So what does it mean that we are emulating parliamentary procedures of the greatest democracies in the world without bothering to, um, actually have a great democracy in the first place?

Well, to the Prime Minister, who thinks we all function at IQs lower than his shoe size, it’ a sign of political sophistication. Let’s see. Does England sanction ownership of private property? Not being arrested without cause? … Equal access to the media? Freedom of assembly? It does? Oh, well. Does it investigate the deaths of its citizens at the hands of Special Forces in a timely manner without calling them hooligans? Hmm… let’s put a fact checker on that.

But, we do have almost the same proceedures, so that must be good enough. Yes?

One more time, to Ali G we turn.

Ali G., conducting a panel on medical ethics (“efficks”) with four distinguished experts:

Ali G.: Okay. Let’s talk about doctors. Does they have the right to end old peoples’ lives?

Dr. John Freeman(John Hopkins Medical School): That’s euthanasia.

Ali G. (taken aback): Why is it the responsibility of the youth in
Asia for killin’ someone else?

Ahh... the fog has cleared. At this rate, by the time the Prime Minister grasps the basics of democracy he will be sharing zip codes with Mengistu. Is it just me or are also getting the feeling that Ato Meles thinks that if he says ‘democracy’ enough democracy will magically transpire? (Someone please write the script of a conversation between Meles, Mugabe and Mengistu.)

Now it is only slightly ironic that the EU Parliament, which hopefully Ato Meles also considers at least a wee-bit democratic and worthy of emulating, had this to say in its resolution of October 10:

Expresses its serious concern at the [Ethiopian] government's attempts to reverse the democratic process, including the introduction of an absolute majority requirement to submit agendas in the forthcoming parliament, which render the opposition's gains meaningless;

Does no one read these things to the Prime Minister anymore? Isn’t Ato Bereket on personal, special PR duty?

So, and I loathe that it is I who is breaking this news to you, dear Wonqetieer, but does this mean that we were not emulating western democracies all these years the EPRDF has been in power? Oh, yes. Ambassador Kassahun covered that. Those were the dark days of “emerging democracy.”

Remember when Baker said, “Don’t get hung up on carrots. That’s just a figure of speech”? Well, to Ato Meles democracy is just a figure of speech. And he ain’t getting hung up on it. And to us, so is Melesocracy. And we won't get hung up on it either. It's expiration date is around the corner.

May the Prime Minister never stop granting interviews.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

To Blog is Human, To Parody Divine

Two superb biting satires I’d like to bring to your attention:

what we did at the parliament (by Right Said Meles) at Egoportal, and

Deep Thoughts at Aqumada

What is it good for?
Abbzolutlee nothing!

Except being lampooned.

Unfortunate Typos of the Week:

Aiga: “Fortunately Anna Gomez and her report were not to be heard, thanks to the Prime Minister’s slum dunk exposé that outlined the contradiction…”

Walta Disinformation Center: “The intelligentsia – A masquarade

I told you. Ever since our friend Ato Bereket left the Ministry of Information for a pro-demotion to “Public Relations Advisor to the Prime Minister” (it’s a ministerial position, thank you for asking, that might/might not entail being the prime minister’s personal beeyotch) things have categorically gone downhill.

Further evidence:

The, um, self-appointed EU Parliament came up with these bits of colonial viceroyish advice for the EPRDF and Ato Meles. Among the ultra-viceroyity points is this piece of uber viceroilty:

Calls on the government also to respect the fundamental principles of the constitution, especially fundamental freedoms and human rights;

All of Wonqville convulsed with anticipation… soon, very soon, a serialized 20,980-word tsunami will surely engulf the Ethiopian Herald, each magnificently vapid phrase beautifully crafted by the prime minister himself. Hunker down in the pleasure dome, boys and girls, this is gonna be…

Alas, no. The most the Ethiopian government was able to spit out was a sulky two-paragraph retort. Yeah, it was still intractably self-righteous and insolent… but it was disappointingly sans that certain … Melesesque joie de vivre the prime minister reigns on humanity whenever he is poked with a sharp stick.

The statement issued by the parliament of the European Union on the 13th of Oct. 2005 is regrettably based on the discredited report of Ana Gomez, Chief Observer of the EU EOM, and is a continuum of vilification campaign started by her.

Hm. Discredited? “Continuum of vilification” (what is that?)?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Ethiopian government’s entire response to the EU Parliament is… Ana Gomes sucks. Oh, and the EUP’s resolution is solely based on her wicked vilification and not on … say, the EPRDF’s douchebaggery-ness.

And here’s a sampling of what the EPRDF thinks is vilification:

Welcomes the opening of the dialogue between the government and the opposition on 2 October, and hopes that it will continue and be successfully concluded;

Dialogue? That’s the new “c” word in Ethiopia.

Welcomes the opposition’s commitment to working in the constitutional framework without resorting to violence;

What the hell kind of political organization does not resort to violence? It is positively undemocratic, unconstitutional, unacceptable. Unspeakably so.

Calls on the government to guarantee opposition access to the media, as was made available in the run-up to the 15 May election;

This is the worst kind of vilification!

Calls on all political parties to work towards a political solution that will secure the parliament’s democratic prerogatives and establish stable government that will last;

No you did’n go there, EU Parliament!

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Ana is sharpening her nails as we speak. Duck!

The EPRDF ends this teaser of a response with a vague semi-flaccid anticlimax:

The Ethiopian Government believes that it is high time for the European Union Parliament to honestly assess the objective realities in Ethiopia and refrain from such vilification campaigns, which do not in any way contribute to the democratization process in Ethiopia.

Yes. If there is an area the Ethiopian government needs no help in is in diligently not contributing to the democratization process. So please, EU Parliament… peddle your viceroyness somewhere else.

I am, however, intrigued by the recommendation that the EU “honestly assess the objective realities in Ethiopia.” Whatever could that mean? Surely, it’s not one of those masked threats? Something like, “You better back off, oh ye sodomite viceroits, lest we unleash carnage on the people you are responsible for feeding! Remember, we are the stabilizing force in the Horn, and a partner in the War Against Terror. Don’t make us kill our own people, because we will… ?


What are the “objective realities in Ethiopia” these days anyway?

So you see what I mean… no dismal pop culture references, no low-watt slurs, not even one dinky, existential “what would the peasant do” reference.

I am hurt.

Well, here’s hoping that the new Minister of Information will speed read through the “Bereket Simon Guide to Speaking Melesocracy, Version 5.” We can’t be treated this way.

If you are at all curious, here is Walta Disinformation Center’s complete list of ministers, with each one’s gender and, um, ethnic background. I wish they’d do that in the States:

  • Secretary Elaine Chao, Department of Labor, F, Asian-American
  • Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Department of Justice, M, One of them Hispanicky-Americans
  • Secretary Gale Norton, Department of Labor, F, WASP
  • Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Department of State, F, Afro-American (the civilized kind)
  • Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, Department of Health and Human Services, M, Half-German-half-Swedish-American (but looks like a Texan!)
  • Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Department of Defense, M, talks like an American-American, drinks like an Irish-American.
  • Secretary Michael Chertoff, Department of Homeland Security, M, has some “Stan” background—Uzbekistan/Afghanistan/MniTissiyo-stan

Now that the EPRDF has plunked Debebe Eshetu, famous Ethiopian dramatist and CUD public relations sage in the clinker, perhaps he can be talked into tutoring Ato Meles’ apparatchiks on Diplomacy 101 and Ityopiyawi CHewinet.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ato Meles Goes to Parliament

The train wreck that is the EPRDF seems to still be on the path to complete self destruction, thank God.

Outwitted by the opposition once again because Prime Minister Meles has neither the intellectual capability nor the deliberative competency necessary to deal with grown ups, the fearless leader introduced legislation lifting the parliamentary immunity of opposition MPs who are boycotting the Off-Off Broadway, agonizingly amateur third-rate production of “It’s My Parliament and I will Demean It If I Want To.”

It’s almost not fair that the opposition has this much advantage over the EPRDF, but the dexterous manner in which the opposition is handling Ato Meles as he waddles aimlessly, tightening the noose around his neck, has turned out to be a scintillating stage show, albeit in a really bad soap opera/guilty pleasure kinda way.

The whole thing played out with the finesse and aplomb of a nouveau riche redneck on a shopping spree for rhinestone studded acid washed jeans at a backwater mall. Ugh!

Explaining why he was introducing this legislation as one of the first acts of his administration, the prime minister did not stray from the painfully predictable EPRDF-sanctioned party line. Take out your violin.

"If they take illegal actions then this government has to see to it the constitution is protected," Meles told parliament on its second day.

"They want to use immunity to crash the constitution," he added. "Immunity is used to defend the constitution, not dismantle it, so this immunity must be removed for the sake of peace and stability in the country."


(Parliamentary immunity is a common practice geared to protect members from arrest or prosecution except when caught flagrante delicto- “the act of committing a crime.”)

It seems that PM Meles thinks that if he says it enough, some schlub outside of his court jesters will eventually believe that he is protecting Ethiopia from constitution raiders. Hopefully he will never abandon this tactic because it is the easiest to dismantle. The EPRDF has gone as far (and low) as banning hotels from renting space to the opposition. I assume that that might violate certain Freedom of Assembly clauses in the constitution. And I barely passed Constitutional Law, but killing, arresting and holding people without charge… also against the constitution. And this is the elementary stuff.

Being pithily lectured on upholding the constitution by Ato Meles is like taking advice on how to have a successful marriage from Elizabeth Taylor: absurd but amusing.

Luckily for Ato Meles he has the kind of acumen that allows him to follow anomalous logic. For example:

Problem: It’s finally dawning on the prime minister that the opposition is not just a pain in his ass, but actually way smarter than he can handle.

Solution: They need to be gotten rid of. Start with arresting their MPs. (Killing them out-and-out is so very Y2K.) So… arrest them.

Problem: But some idiot has given them parliamentary immunity.

Solution: (In Four Simple Steps)

Step 1- Intimate that the opposition is genetically predisposed to committing crimes. Note that the prime minister said “If they take illegal actions then this government has to see to it the constitution is protected.” Not that they have been caught in flagrante delicto, so strip them. It’s strip them first so that when we catch them in flagrante delicto we’ve already disposed of the burden of providing evidence to have arrested them in the first place. Simple enough? Don’t strain yourself, dear reader, it’s an EPRDF thing. You wouldn’t understand.

Step 2- Therefore, strip them of their immunity.

Step 3- Henceforth, charge them with a crime… say, “crashing the constitution.”

Step 4- Ipso facto, ergo and exempli gratia, arrest them.

Rinse and repeat as necessary.

Bonus: Going through these steps will make people with single digit IQs believe that there has been due process of law.

You see how it all comes together? 2+2=5.6


This is the peak of EPRDF's political sophistication. Again, sort of like a redneck re-wiring his trailer home to accommodate a 70-inch plasma TV. You just have to nod knowingly while trying not to laugh.

In a fabulous dramatic moment, Beyene Petros (who has joined parliament) and one Bulcha Demeqssa rose up to eloquently rebuke the legislation. (The VOA in Amharic broadcast on Tuesday covered the proceedings.) Alas, the parliament was not moved. Beyene and Co. walked out, 334 members voted for it, 35 voted against it, and 2 abstained. (The EPRDF has 327 seats. I haven’t been able to find the breakdown of the 35 who voted no.) Another fine moment for the EPRDF. You go, boys.

If you are wondering how the EPRDF is going to make criminal intent charges stick, please don’t. “Crime” has a very broad definition for the EPRDF. So does “crashing the constitution.” So does “defending the constitution.” Like magic and cheap, acrylic, fake fingernails, it'll somehow come together.

Very Engineer Hailu Shawel said it succinctly:

"We are prisoners here," he said after watching the debate on state-run television. "This means that we are going to be herded into jail. They will concoct charges against us."


The boys of EPRDF can’t seem to shed their monolithic, thuggish, Marxist backgrounds, even in a parliamentary setting. EPRDF supporters continue to be led by the nose and disgraced by Ato Meles. But, most importantly, Prime Minister Meles is letting the opposition portray him as a complete oaf with violent tendencies. It won’t take long for the arrests of opposition MPs and leaders to commence, bringing the EPRDF one step closer to its inevitable demise. Rock on, boys.

Tag Team is ethiopundit’s brilliant elucidation on how the opposition is mercilessly punking Meles and Co. It is a must read.

As I’ve said before, the only thing that can thoroughly dismantle the EPRDF is the EPRDF. Thankfully, for the first time in its unfortunate, miserable life, it is being efficent.


I end this entry with a very heavy heart. Our old friend Ato Bereket “Baghdad Bob” Simon, master warbler of malapropisms, ruler of perverted logic, slaughterer of the English language, proprietor of precious missives such as “Anyone who incites violence, other than those elected, will have to face the law", chief distributor of EPRDF half-truths, conquering lion of inanity, ruthless dispenser of dishonor, spokesperson extra-mediocre, and overall sketchy human being… is no longer the Minister of Information in the new EPRDF cabinet. Yes, all of Wonqville is in mourning. Say it ain’t so, Ato Meles. Say it ain’t so.

It so. It so so.

Ato Bereket is probably in a better place; probably in charge of the Department of Arresting Opposition Members, where he will be unencumbered with the minutiae details of everyday, um, thought. It is a great loss for Wonqettedom, but we hope he is let out once in a while to grace us with his unparalleled perception.

A proper tribute to Ato Bereket is forthcoming, until then we dedicate the song, "Every Time You Go Away, You Take a Piece of Me With You" to him. This is no easy grief. As a temporary elixir, we also dedicate "Wegesha's" Amharic poetry, Alas, (on Yeqolotemari) to hold us over. These are sad times.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The OCD of OSDs

When it comes to Diaspora politics, I am not sure which one is worse: rabid opposition supporters who are convinced they are smarter than the leaders, or lobotomized EPRDF supporters who have been convinced they are dumber than their leaders.

Can you tell? It’s been a revealing weekend at the Wonqette household. A wedding had brought a lot of family members together, and whenever someone lit the poletika match it usually ended in a mushroom cloud.

I am taking as an example my cousin, who has given me express permission to write about our tête-à-têtes, as long as he is afforded the opportunity to rebut. Yeah, sure.

Nothing makes my cousin’s earlobes perk up and quiver like the strings on Mary Armiday’s krar than the tired old question, “Should the opposition join parliament?” He’s like a radar planted in a room, programmed to chirp violently whenever he hears the words “parliament” and “boycott” strung together any which way.

I’m all for opinions. Hell, I am married to a man who bears battle scars from my pregnancies over giving our children multiple, polysyllabic Amharic names heavily emphasizing the “qe” and “che” letters.

What I am saying is… you don’t think the opposition should join the parliament? Okay. But, what’s with the proclamation rendering anything short of a boycott as political heresy? Listen to me, opposition supporters in the Diaspora: tone down the testosterone. Walk it off, people. Walk it off.

Esqueeze me very much, but is it me or have opposition supporters in the Diaspora (OSDs) morphed into policy wonks who think they can dictate what opposition leaders should be doing? It’s not me, right? OSDs are tipping the scale in self-importance? Ah, self-importance. It comes standard in the Ethiopian DNA. To hear my cousin speak, civilization will halt if the opposition joins parliament. So you know what that meant: a bunch of us kept ruminating about why the opposition should join the parliament. We had to stop when it eventually became clear that our cousin was on the verge of colliding with a robust heart attack. Misskeen.

And so the weekend went, my cousin teetering on the verge of a nervous breakdown, sable rattling against "anti-Ethiopian forces", while his loving, supporting family stealthily goaded him towards the brink of insanity. Yes, we are a functional family.

And when did it become chic to lob snide remarks about über econ guru and Weichegud-certified whiz kid Berhanu Nega? Oh, please, OSDs--- take a deep hit from the hookah.

The reason why I like radicalism is that it can be generously ridiculed, so when someone emails me a long, tedious letter ending with “Berhanu is working against the will of the people” I have to salivate.

What makes otherwise intelligent people act so peculiar? My cousin is an educated (if you call people who've attended tiny, northeastern, liberal arts colleges educated), well adjusted and generally affable. But like so many, he’s letting opinions become dictates. He is suddenly an upholder of “the people’s voices” and he is one Tuesday removed from being one of those people who sign off their emails with “Victory to the masses!” Oh, no.

We Ethiopians have a long way to go. We’ve traveled thousands of miles without moving an inch. We are still threatened by moderation and are discomfited by opposing thoughts. We mistake bombast for courage.

How is it that those of us who should be most familiar with the precepts of democracy are the least to exercise it?

There is something remotely heartbreaking about that.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Cheapened Talks

Besides God awful references to pop music when he writes bloated responses to international election observers, Prime Minister Meles has one other big weakness: getting outwitted every time he sits down to talk to the opposition.

The worst thing that can happen to Ato Meles is to be forced to sit down to talk intelligently, because he’s lost that war. Oh well. But the charade must go on.

So the EPRDF has been in talks with the opposition for three whole days; talks which have been brokered by the American and British ambassadors. Three whole days! Information has been tight about the nature of the talks, and I honestly find it amazing that anyone can actually talk to Ato Meles for three whole days about anything. But that’s just me.

But, BUT, the crack Weichegud research team, especially those on crack, were able to get a hold of the transcripts of the super secret talks, and boy, it’s never pretty.

First day of talks:

Meles: We are here to talk about not talking. So, welcome.

Bereket: Yes. Indeed.

US Amb: Huh?

UK Amb: Yes, that’s how all talks start with Mel. Sorry, thought you knew.

US Amb: So did not know!

UK Amb: Yes. Very 21st century African-Marxist.

US Amb: What the hell…?

UK Amb: This must be your first time mediating.

US Amb: You darn tootin’.

Berhanu: Ehem, you do realize we are in the room?

UK Amb: Of course, ol’ chap. Shall we?

Berhanu: We are gravely concerned about the current imprisonment…

Meles: Hell-lo! We can’t have any talks yet.

US Amb: Why not?

Meles: Not enough people have yet been arrested.

US Amb: What!?

Bereket: What his excellency, our most vulnerable leader means is that…

UK Amb: You mean venerated, Bereket?

Bereket: You are upsetting our most executed leader.

US Amb: Woah.

UK Amb: Exalted.

US Amb: Oh.

Meles: May I finish? Am I Allowed to finish? Am I allowed to talk or is this only for self appointed viceroyalits?

US Amb: Hm. Someone didn’t eat their Wheaties this morning.

Meles: I will not be ridiculed.

Bereket: Yes. He will not. Be ridiculed. He will not be. Ridiculed.

US Amb: Time out. So, why can’t there be talks, again?

Meles: Like I said, since not enough people have yet been arrested, there can’t be talks, yet.

Berhanu: Over 1800 people have been arrested and they are being held without charge. That’s against the constitution.

Bereket: So?

Meles: So?

Berhanu: You see what I’m saying. You want us to keep talking to this government?

US Amb: I’m still stuck on “not enough people have been arrested to start a talk.”

Meles: The good ambassador must be new to our culture. Explain it to him, Bere.

Bereket: Before the EPRDF starts talks, a certain number of people have to be arrested. It’s tradition. An ancient one.

Meles: Yes. Last time we had talks with the opposition, in… June… 3000-4000 people were arrested.

Bereket: So you see our dilemma.

Meles: We have not even arrested 2000 people yet.

Bereket: So there can’t be talks.

Meles: None.

US Amb: But, what kind of talks are talks held under threats?

Meles: Good ones.

Bereket: Even great ones.

US Amb: Tell me what I’m missing.

UK Amb: Well, traditionally, the EPRDF has combined arrests and talks.

Meles: They go together.

Bereket: Like Kitfo and meeTmeeTa.

Meles: He means, like burgers and fries.

Bereket: Yes. Like burgers and fries. You cannot have one without the other.

Meles: No arrests. No talks.

US Amb: So why are we here?

Meles: The good ambassador should brush up on his history of the EPRDF… we are here to talk about not talking. I had assumed that was clear. Wasn't that clear?

Bereket: It was very clear!

UK Amb: It’ll take getting used to, but you’ll get a hold of it, my American friend.

US Amb: Well, how long will it take you to arrest 1000 people so we can start the talks?

Meles: It depends.

US Amb: On what?

Meles: Stuffs. Many stuffs.

Berhanu: I just can’t believe you guys are asking us to talk to this government.

US Amb: Well, how long will it take you to have 1000 of your people arrested so we can start the talks?

Berhanu: Are you shitting me?

UK Amb: We shit you not.

US Amb: By the way, can you please join the parliament so we can all go home?

Beyene: What kind of parliament are we joining? We can’t bring up items on the agenda, and we can’t bring up any bill dealing with finance related issues. So, tell us? What are we going in there for? To sit and twiddle our thumbs?

Meles: Oh, and you can’t do that either. We passed new laws.

Beyene: Do what?

Meles: Sit.

US Amb: Whachootalkin’ about Meles?

Bereket: What our exhausted Prime Minister is saying is…

US Amb: Dude, exalted!

Meles: I am vexed. I am verily vexed.

UK Amb: What is this about the opposition not sitting in parliament?

Meles: The new rules forbid new MPs from sitting in parliament.

US Amb: Again, I seem to be lost.

Meles: The new MPs have to stand throughout parliamentary talks. It’s really not complicated.

US Amb: Ohh. You mean they literally can’t sit in parliament.

Meles: Did I not just say that? Literally, figuratively… they can’t sit, they can’t sit new. Beqa.

US Amb: Beqa? No beqa! Wait. This is a negotiation. Berhanu, would you mind terribly if your people stand during parliament? It’ll strengthen your calf muscles. Feel mine. Hard as a rock.

Berhanu: Do you stand all day in your job, Mr. Ambassador?

US Amb: Heck, no. That’d be crazy!

UK Amb: Well, it is rather unusual, but it’s not something to get wound up about. My government will provide all opposition members with jello-like foot inserts which will make the standing easier. Is that a deal?

US Amb: Sounds good to me!

Meles: The new MPs cannot also twiddle their thumbs.

Bereket: Yes. In fact…

Meles: They can’t have thumbs.

US Amb: Ouch.

UK Amb: Hmm. That’s going to be painful.

US Amb: Well, my government will provide clean instruments with which to saw off opposition members’ thumbs.

UK Amb: And mine shall provide them all with artificial thumbs.

Meles: No artificial thumbs!

Bereket: Absolutely not! It’s un-Ethiopian.

Berhanu: I don’t think this is how the talks are supposed to proceed.

UK Amb: On the contrary, I think we are making splendid progress.

US Amb: Yeah. I’m getting the gist of things.

UK Amb: Okay. In-soles, check. Thumb sawing off machines, check. Next thing on the agenda…

Berhanu: How can a government that proclaims itself a follower of democracy not allow people to demonstrate? How can you in the west ignore that travesty of…

US Amb: Instead of thumbs, maybe they can have fingers.

UK Amb: Nah. Too complicated. Let’s move on. I'm okay with no thumbs.

Berhanu: As I was saying, the foundation of democracy is to respect…

UK Amb: I’m hungry. Is anybody else hungry?

US Amb: Me, too!

Meles: We have kitfo.

UK Amb: You have meeTmeeTa?

Bereket: But of course.

US Amb: I’ll grab a burger later. But, yeah. I have to agree with Berhanu on this. You gotta let people demonstrate.

Bereket: Not if it means usurping the constitution.

Beyene: Aren’t you usurping the constitution by not letting people demonstrate. I mean, if you are secure in the belief that people love you, why don’t you let them demonstrate and…

Meles: Have we arrested Teddy Afro yet?

Bereket: Not yet, your highwayness.

US Amb: Your what..?

UK Amb: Your highness.

Meles: Good ambassadors! You are interrupting these talks.

Bereket: We ask you please not to interrupt.

Meles: BerE, can you add arresting Teddy Afro to your list of things to do as soon as we are done talking about not talking.

Bereket: You wish is my command to arrest.

Berhanu: On what charges is he being arrested?

Meles: On… stuffs. On usurping the constitution.

US Amb: Who the hell is Teddy Afro?

Berhanu: A pop singer.

US Amb: Uh-huh. And why are we talking about him?

Berhanu: Because this government is so petty that it has banned certains songs.

UK Amb: Is that the chap who sings “Ayne hulgizE?”

Berhanu: Yes.

UK Amb: I rather like him.

Beyene: Ethiopia is at a crossroads here. If there is no agreement on a unity government we have to think about the perilous state this leaves us in. We can’t have 71 million people continue to suffer. We have to start taking democracy seriously if this is to be a litmus test for all democracies.

US Amb: Yeah. Sure. So why do you want to arrest this African Teddy?

Berhanu: Oh my God.

UK Amb: He doesn’t mean any harm. My daughter saw him in concert.

Meles: Okay. We won’t arrest him. That’s as much concession as we can make.

UK Amb: Well, that’s very generous of you. Okay, now. Opposition, what are you willing to give up?

Berhanu: You mean besides our calves and our thumbs?

US Amb: Which we are paying for!

Bereket: They are ingrates. They didn’t even say thank you.

UK Amb: I noticed.

US Amb: Me, too.

Meles: You see? You see what we have to deal with? First they want democracy? We said okay. Then they want votes to be counted. We said okay. Then the want the votes to be counted accurately. I mean, there is no give. Only take, take, take.

Bereket: Our executed prime minister cannot give any more.

US Amb: Seriously, how hard is it to say “exalted”?

Meles: Now they want us not to imprison anyone before we start talks. It is mind-boggling. My mind is boggled. It’s been over-boggled.

Bereket: What the prime minister is saying is that the boggling of his mind has to stop.

Meles: He knows me so well.

US Amb: Well, how long will this guy African Teddy Bear would have to be in prison?

Meles: A few day… month… years.

US Amb: That’s outrageous! You can’t imprison someone for a few years without charge!

Meles: Why not?

US Amb: It’s just not done! This is outrageous.

Meles: I disagree. But because you are guests in our country we will say… a few… week… months?

US Amb: Okay.

Meles: You see how much we give?

US Amb: You are a giver. Okay, opposition. The African Ted will only be in prison for a few months. What are you willing to give for that? (This negotiating is hard. But is it our duty.)

Meles: Your what?

US Amb: Our duty.

Bereket: Hee hee.

US Amb: What?

Meles: I guffaw at that as well.

US Amb: At what?!

Bereket: You said… doo-dee.

Meles: He said doo-dee. Hahah.

US Amb: Are you done?

Meles: Yes. But don’t say doo-dee again. I forbid it!

UK Amb: It does get rather tedious, this negotiation business.

US Amb: What’s the next issue?

Berhanu: Well, we are very concerned about access to media. For the past five months the government has been broadcasting hate speech about the opposition without it giving us the opportunity to respond. Again, how can this government call itself democratic when it can’t even observe the very basic tenets of a democratic nation and…

UK Amb: Did you say doo-dee?

US Amb: No!

Berhanu: If I may, we are not even talking about equal access. Even an hour a day…

UK Amb: What did we decide about Teddy Afro? My mind wondered for a moment there.

US Amb: He’ll be jailed only for a few weeks.

Meles: Months. A few months.

US Amb: Yes. Months.

UK Amb: Sounds fair to me. And the opposition, what are you going to concede?

US Amb: They want access to state owned media.

Meles: That’s not going to happen.

Berhanu: Can you tell us why not?

Meles: Because giving you access to the media will…

Beyene: …usurp the constitution! We get it.

Bereket: This is the most we have agreed on. I am pleased.

Meles: I am still vexed.

Bereket: I was lying. I am vexed as well.

UK Amb: The hour is getting late. Let’s sum this up.

Berhanu: We haven’t talked about access to media.

Meles: I thought we covered that. It’s not going to happen.

US Amb: What kind of access?

Berhanu: A forum to refute what the government has been saying about us. And to counter the personal attacks.

US Amb: What kind of personal attacks?

Meles: We have not personally attacked anyone.

Berhanu: You said that we eat Ethiopian babies and drink their blood.

Meles: That’s not a personal attack.

Berhanu: What would you call it?

Meles: Upholding rule and law.

Bereket: And defending the constitution.

US Amb: Okay boys. Let’s do this… my government will provide the opposition with American babies to eat.

UK Amb: And, following that lead, my government will provide the opposition with British babies’ blood for drinking.

US Amb: Do we have a deal?

Berhanu: A deal on what?

US Amb: Access to media.

Berhanu: You providing babies and blood solves the issue of access to the media?

US Amb: Precisely. We’ll even add baby blood milkshakes.

Berhanu: This is crazy.

Meles: You see? You see? They are ingrates! How can you expect us to talk to them?

US Amb: Well, would you like the babies and their bloods?

Meles: Sure, if that means peace.

US Amb: Awwwright! Boys, I do believe we have a deal!

UK Amb: I’d say these talks were very fruitful.

US Amb: Me too!

Meles: Me three!

Bereket: Me five!

UK Amb: Okayyy. So tomorrow… let’s talk about human rights.

US Amb: Will you be able to arrest enough opposition members by then?

Meles: We will try hard.

Bereket: Yes, we will.

US Amb: Okay, gang. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.

UK Amb: Goodness. Will you look at the time!

Bereket: Phew! Yes, it’s late. I am exxxxalted!

US Amb: Hey! For the last freakin’ time….

UK Amb: Let it go, baby. Let it go.

US Amb: Okay. I’m going home. See you tomorrow.

UK Amb: I’m out of here as well. Berhanu, when do you think you will need that shipment of babies?

Berhanu: Good night, Ambassador.

Meles: Tomorrow, let’s not talk about not talking.

Beyene: Umm.

Berhanu: Whatever.

US Amb: Very fruitful talks.

UK Amb: Very.

US Amb: So this is how you negotiate with Africans?

UK Amb: Nothing to it, really.

US Amb: Nothing at all.