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.
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.
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?
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?”
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.
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.