Monday, December 05, 2005

Dedessa: The New Waterloo

I lost a bet this weekend. The terms of the bet were such that if I lost, I’d have to reveal I voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor. And the deal was that I could not put an “explainer” as to why I voted for Dah Tahminator. Now, if I were a lesser person I would skirt around the “no caveat” agreement with maneuvers that could argue the lack of stipulation that didn’t expressly state a couple of circumstances.

After all, the joke goes, "How does a lawyer give away a tangerine? “I hereby give and convey to you all and singular, my estate and interests, rights, claim, title, claim and advantages of and in, said tangerine, together with all its rind, juice, pulp, and seeds, and all rights and advantages with full power to bite, cut, freeze and otherwise eat, the same, or give the same away with and without the pulp, juice, rind and seeds, anything herein before or hereinafter or in any deed, or deeds, instruments of whatever nature or kind whatsoever to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding…”

Whatever. I voted for Arnold.

Moving on…

In a sign that Tony Blair has had it up to here with heating and re-heating Prime Minister Meles’ baby formula, UK’s Channel 4 broadcast this piece of reportage on "Ethiopia's Agony."

Uh oh.

The same reporter also filed a story for The Observer, Democratic Dawn in Ethiopia Fades as Abuses Come to Light.

Only the minds of the people who run the EPRDF could have thought no one would notice the arresting of tens of thousands of people and dumping them in a detention camp.

Five months after Ethiopia descended into political chaos following a dispute over the country's first democratic elections, details are emerging that give a disturbing glimpse into the scale of human rights abuses taking place.

Where are all these human rights abuses taking place?

Dedesa camp, a former military base, in the far west of Ethiopia, where thousands of detainees have been dumped in recent weeks as part of a massive and unprecedented crackdown by Ethiopian security forces.

It’s part of the democratization process. Ne’er ye shall worry.

Once there, [a former prisoner] says, several men, weakened by hunger and malaria, were beaten mercilessly by the guards even as they urinated.

He says he knew of at least 30 who died, their bodies taken away to an unknown location for burial. He discovered from overhearing conversations between two police guards that there were at least 43,000 detainees in the camp.

The prime minister only admits to only 6,000. And also, he'll have you know, only a couple of people who were already sick died en route to Dedessa.

You have a feeling the prime minister has stopped trying? What happened to the elaborate obfuscations? The lies wrapped in lumps of garbage... or whatever it was he said of Ana Gomes. It used to be so much fun unravelling his bullshit. Now you just have to quote him.

Moving on...

Here’s a most interesting quote:

[Meles] said the donor countries' demands to see opposition leaders in prison had been rejected because they were presented in an 'insulting manner'.

I’ve been meaning to say… I wish donor nations would put their requests to see political prisoners on scented paper. It would be insulting otherwise.

Ah, well. I see the prime minister has started to treat diplomats the same way he’s been treating the Ethiopian people for the past14 years. Welcome, diplomats. Welcome to Meles' World of Disdain. Take a load off. You have to be this tall to get on that ride.

And then, like clockwork, comes the money quote:

'I've always been convinced that democratisation in Ethiopia is not only a matter of choice but of survival. We shall persist with our democratic reforms, no matter the challenges we will face along the way.'

Sure thing, buddy. You go on ahead with your democratization self. The rest of us will be praying that you continue to use “democratization” to describe concentration camps. Much easier to shame your supporters with. But…I’ve said too much already.

Inevitably, more stories of what is happening in the name of democracy will come to light because nothing distends the intestines of renegade journalists more than rumors of a concentration camp. Talk about "shit hitting the fan." After all, “uncovering” atrocities and concentration camps is what Peabody Awards are made for.

The video clip of the Channel 4 news story is much more interesting

Some highlights…

Mr. Prime Minister, would your kind of democracy allow for people to visit La Camp De Meles, where guests enjoy chocolate mints and room service, no doubt?

As we speak there are religious leaders, journalists and NGOs visiting those detentions camps, but not foreigners. Not foreign embassies.

The journalist did not ask which religious leaders, journalists and NGOs have been allowed to visit but pretty much guaranteed they are:

  1. The Church of Melesocrasy- Open 24 hours. Please shut brain before entering.
  2. Two editors from the Walta Disinformation Center (headline: “Citizens voluntarily ashed to be moved to Deddessa in order to concentrate on democracy: Reports of government malfeasance very untrue.”)
  3. The Carter Center (Upcoming statement: “We are monitoring the situation carefully. While it appears that some in the camp may have been beaten senseless, the majority of occupants seem well adjusted. We urge the opposition to dialogue with the EPRDF and join the parliament so there is lasting peace in Ethiopia.”)

How do you think Jeffrey Sachs will respond to this? “I am shocked and appalled. No one wants to see a concentration camp. However, it should be understood that most of the people at Dedessa hold revanchist sentiments from an earlier era of Imperial domination of a former elite. Still, I am distraught”

Mm.. sounds about right.

In case you were wondering, the Chanel 4 reporter got personal assurances from Ato Meles that he would have access to Dedessa, which of course in Melesocrasy-to-English means, “Yeah sure. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”


Didja hear Tim Clarke? Speak, you bearded wonder.

It is extremely worrying. We haven’t witnessed anything like this in Ethiopia before. What worries us is this news blackout. We don’t know what is going on.

We’ve been hearing from Dedessa that there have been terrible atrocities committed taking place. I’ve personally had accounts of burial, mass burials of people who died of malaria, because of unsanitary conditions and so on. If these rumors are true as we hear them, then there are real, real, major human rights abuses that have to be resolved.

(Doesn't Jeffrey Sachs have a "eradicate malaria" program? Um, perhaps he can send some help... never mind.)

So, how do you solve a problem like “real, real, major human rights abuses”? Prime Minister, you have an opinion?

I have heard of the allegations. I will not take them at face value until they are investigated.

Phew. Good. They are going to be investigated. Maybe not by foreign journalists, but I am sure someone in the Office of Investigations will look into it. Right after they start the investigation of the June 8 killings. And after the November killings. It's been a busy few months.

A man caught up in the mass arrests recounts some of the horrible conditions of the camp and concludes with a statement that western diplomats have known since May. “[The EPRDF] will do whatever they want to survive. To rule Ethiopia.”

A quick check on Tim Clarke’s patience…

There comes a point where our patience as an international community is running out. We would like to see tomorrow, the media open up. Tomorrow, the political detainees being released. Tomorrow, the prisoners who’ve been taken without charge released. Tomorrow, the families and legal counsel get access. This, for us, is normal.

Normal is a state of mind. And tomorrow is just another day.

It will take a few more thousand deaths before the main stream media latches on to this story. That is inevitable. The world will be outraged. One of the imprisoned leaders of the opposition will die in prison. A couple of high-ranking government officials will resign/defect and spill the beans. In order to hide what has happened in Dedessa, the government will commit even more atrocities. And the rest will be history. It's a textbook case of an autocrat who has worn down the welcome mat.

That will be the legacy of Prime Minister Meles and the EPRDF: they brought back mass graves to Ethiopia. To Prime Minister Meles, it was always politics before country; avarice before goodwill; spite before reason. He will never again be able to walk the streets of Ethiopia holding his children’s hands. Instead, he will end up in a fortress somewhere, talking to walls while surrounded by mountains and mountains o’ things. Maybe then he’ll have time to learn the words to Tracy Chapman’s song, “Material World.”

All because he wanted to do whatever to rule Ethiopia. Dedessa is Ato Meles’ Waterloo. St. Helena is waiting.

"I felt that Fortune was abandoning me," Napoleon said. "I no longer had the feeling that I was sure to succeed."

Qrb new ye Ityopiya tnsaye.


Anonymous Buqaya said...

Since you're on a Bonapartiste revanchist roll…here are some apropos Napoleon quotes:"

- “When small men attempt great enterprises, they always end by reducing them to the level of their mediocrity.”

- “I can no longer obey; I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up.”

- "There is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous."

- "England is a nation of shopkeepers."

- "A Constitution should be short and obscure."

- "You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war."

- "France [read Ethiopia] has more need of me than I have need of France."

- "The act of policing is, in order to punish less often, to punish more severely."

- “In politics, absurdity is not a handicap.”

- “In politics stupidity is not a handicap.”

- “Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.”

- “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” [!]

- “A man will fight harder for his interests than for his rights.”

- “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”

- “He who knows how to flatter also knows how to slander.” [Watch out Mr. Blair!]

- “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”

- “I am sometimes a fox and sometimes a lion. The whole secret of government lies in knowing when to be the one or the other.”

- “Power is my mistress. I have worked too hard at her conquest to allow anyone to take her away from me.”

- “The French [read Ethiopians] complain of everything, and always.”

- “The great proof of madness is the disproportion of one’s designs to one’s means.”

- “The surest way to remain poor is to be an honest man.”

And what had some of his contemporaries to say about the Emperor?

“- "Napoleon has not been conquered by men. He was greater than any of us. God punished him because he relied solely on his own intelligence until that incredible instrument was so strained that it broke."
- Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, French general, king of Sweden (1818-44)

- "Napoleon never wished to be justified. He killed his enemy according to Corsican traditions [le droit corse] and if he sometimes regretted his mistake, he never understood that it had been a crime.
-Guillaume-Prosper Barante, French diplomat

2:09 PM, December 05, 2005  
Anonymous molqaqa imperial revanchist said...


this quote depot had me reeling. meles HAS been reading Napoleon's bio. (he can't democratize full time! esumma ne'wir new.)

Wonq, you are wrong. Jeffrey Sachs would say: "blahblahblah Travesty blahblahbla... But is should be noted that the people buried in mass graves in Dedessa died of MALARIA and not because the government killed them. I am doing my best to help your country."

2:29 PM, December 05, 2005  
Anonymous wegesha said...

I wanna know how etw has not yet written anything on the pros and cons of an armed struggle against Melesocracy? I would especially like these points addressed.

1)How long b4 people think it is about time to start an armed struggle? 10 years, 20 years, or 30 years or never.
2)Was the TPLF wrong in raising an armed struggle against the derg regime?
3)Is it always the case that great war time leaders flop in trying to govern during peace time?

I only raise the question because no one seems to even mention it as an option and it bothers me a bit when people ignore the elephant in the middle of the room.

3:47 PM, December 05, 2005  
Anonymous ETW said...

If this is "wegesha" from aqumada then meTalatachin new. Inday!

Armed struggle is so last century. The debate/conversation has moved on. (It's like the shoulder pads of the struggle towards democracy.) C'mon!

So the reason no one is bringing it up is not because it is the white elephant in the room, but because it is obsolete. It's like asking us to use a VCR. And if you think I will in anyway advocate an Ethiopian killing another Ethiopian you would have lost your wegesha mind.

(I am hoping this is not the same wegesha.)

Besides, the rule is simple: anyone advocating armed struggle should do so from the forefront WITH his/her children in tow. It's easy to send other peoples kids to war.

Ethiopia is better than that.

Let's move on.

4:26 PM, December 05, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just so you don't think it is all about should know that Gojam has its Birr Shelequo (with two of my nephews among the 50,000 or so other detainees), Gondar (or is it Tigrai nowadays) has Humera, north Shoa has Shoa Robit, west Shoa has the Fitche camp, the mid-south of the country has Zeway and of course, Wollo has that god forsaken place which had been filled to capacity since teh June episode of Meles' seisure.

I am sure I am missing many more including the AU's new premises which had been leased back to the city to be used as a temporary holding pen and Kaliti and TaTeQ and... Need I say more, the whole country is one large prison camp.

6:29 PM, December 05, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wegesha, regarding armed struggle, there's a few things to keep in mind.

First, a premise that current struggle is not working because of its peaceful nature is false. To the extent that the struggle is not working, it is because constituents in the struggle are disparate, have problems will collective consciousness, working together, seeing the long-term benefits of such, ... Obviously, these same problems would exist even if the struggle were armed!

Second, an armed struggle requires infinitely more resources than a peaceful one. So how can a people unable to generate the meager resources required for a peaceful struggle (for the reasons listed above), hope to carry out an armed struggle? They can't.

Third, an armed struggle, because it is so costly to its constituents, is 95% organic and 5% top-down, unless one has a huge benefactor like the US was to the Contras. So talk of the diaspora initiating or even encouraging armed struggle in any way is meaningless. It must begin on the ground, in little villages. Once it does, only then can the diaspora ponder helping or ignoring.

Fourth, from the above, we can deduce that the fact that there isn't significant armed unrest yet means the population is not yet ready for it. It seems things must get worse for the population to begin an armed struggle.

Fifth, not only does does armed struggle require plenty of resources, its social and economic cost is also tremendous. Its political cost is that the winners of an armed struggle will turn to dictators, unless we win the lottery and end up with a Rawlings. Highly unlikely.

Finally, the beauty of peaceful struggle is that it forces its constituents to work on social evolution, that is, to learn democratic norms such as empathy, inclusion, tolerance, social consciousness, collective thought. These are prerequisites to development of any country. For a peaceful struggle to work, they must be met. But an armed struggle can do without them. Better to take the short cut and go straight for peaceful struggle.

Finally, finally, we could do with a small armed struggle, say, somewhere in Amhara region, just to give the EPRDF another pain and force it to negotiate. Of course, the peaceful struggle would not only disassociate itself but condemn the armed struggle.

11:55 PM, December 05, 2005  
Anonymous wegesha said...

Readers, this comment is kinda long without any humor and addressed to ETW. Please skip to the humorous ones.

Dear ETW
meTalatachin enqwan aydelem, although your hopes that I may not be the same wegesha from aqumada are dashed.

I realize armed struggle may be so last century but I was living in New York city during the Sept 11th attack and witnessed first hand how cell phones were replaced by the use of land lines transiently. Land lines are becoming a thing of the past but not obsolete yet. There are so many things that are so last century but may still prove effective. The argument then will be to consider if it provides the most efficient way to accomplish a goal and hence the question "how long b4 one considers armed struggle to be a more efficient way?"

The other issue you raised was also the same issue raised by Brehanu Nega when he addressed the Ethio diaspora in Sweeden (or Belgium) shortly after the elections. When asked why the opposition is not asking the people to rise up against the government he commented on how wrong it would be to ask the kids of the poor to fight on other's behalf. This attitude is well reflected in that old Ethiopian adage "zihonoch siTalu sar yregageTal." That was point well made and point well taken but I can not say I agree with it wholeheartedly. If you are subjecting the kids of the poor to defend an idea they don't support then that argument holds water but you can't say it is only the elite that want to see change in Ethiopia, and at the expense of the poor at that. The mass turnout b4 the elections showed how displeased people were with the current state of affairs. It is not reasonable to assume people that turned up for that protest purely constitute the elite and the revanchist from the imperial era. So, to begin with, I am not convinced if it would be asking the poor to sacrifice for a cause they don't believe in.

On the other hand, during the same townhall meeting Brehanu Nega said the leaders of the opposition were not afraid to die. I find it ironic that death is not the issue in this political struggle but rather the manner in which you die. Death while peacefully struggling is acceptable (so 21st century) but death while struggling armed is a political faux pas. Protesters in Addis went out to the streets knowing exactly what awaited them so we can't assume leaders of the oppostion are the only people not afraid to die. The question is "what if I am willing to die for a cause I believe in but don't choose to die in a manner fit for the 21st century political hero."

I am also very doubtful if armed struggle is so last century. Knowing how history unfolds in Africa I will just wait a few months to be proven correct on this point. I am not saying it is the right way but merely mentioning that it is far from being obsolete. Countries still make their points, especially political, with the bullet. America runs Iraq and Afghanistan, Nigeria runs Liberia, Uganda and Rwanda run the DRC, God runs Somalia, we are only a few months away before Ivory Coast becomes a disaster, the struggle in the Sudan will keep going, so will the struggle in Palistine and Chechenya. I guess fashions and trends die hard in Africa and the rest of the world.

ETW, I don't expect you to advocate war but for the sake of intellectual masturbation, did you think it was ok for the TPLF to start an armed struggle aginst the derg? Is it easier to accept their decision because it was last century? Had it not been for an armed struggle, you think the derg regime would have come down?

Dear ETW, anchi Ke wegesha gar lemeTalat enkwan bitmokiri ene alfeKdeleshim.

I apologize to the comment readers for the length of my comment. Huletegna ayelemedegnem.

12:41 AM, December 06, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THE "DISAPPEARED" Where are they?

While discussing the death camps another, more grim reality appears to be sidelined.

The world is not yet aware of the thousands of Ethiopians who have simply DISAPPERED since the November massacre.
Friends of Ethiopia, Please let this information go to the International Community, human rigths organizatioins and civic society everywhere in the World.
Thousands of family members are just in a state of SHOCK.
The mainstream western media don't have those courageous journalists who want tospend a little more energy and time and eventually know the truth,( that is behind the body guard of lies from a government whose preoccupation is mass production of lies)
The World will soon, very soon ealize and regrete about what goes in Ethiopia Today?and then many people will say Why? Why

6:16 AM, December 06, 2005  
Anonymous Saturn said...

Wegesha… absolutely! it is the white Elephant in the middle of the room. It is a weak and silencing argument to suggest that if you are not willing to fight you can not talk about it. Most of us here are not willing to pay half sacrifices being paid by Dr. Yacob, Brehanu, etc… but nothing stop us from supporting them whole heartedly. It does not make your argument any right if you are willing to go to war tomorrow. That is beside the point. We are not a recruiting here, Wonqvillee is a centaury where smart habeshas and habesha lovers brainstorm. Anything and everything should be put on the table, except stupidity. I have seen this type of argument played out in US politics as well. Therefore, the question is, is armed struggle an option for the opposition? It may or may not be. I think the points laid out by Anonymous above carry a lot of substances. To her/his point I think the current non violent struggle is working. “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”. But for the sake of it let me poke a hole on one of the point.

Overnight Males and alike did not become dictators because they fought war. They are what they are. There are a lot of documented histories that Males killed his friends and foes all the way up. TPLF is undemocratic by nature. There is nothing to suggest they would have been democratic have they got on power with out violence. Likewise it is very hard to imagine a group that has a popular support let say lead by Brehanu will become a dictator or a monster just because they won war. Males’s TPLF/EPLF did not overthrow Derg by popular support. There are multiple reasons for that, one of the main one is the virus which starts infecting a section of our society in the 80’s may be earlier… you know the virus… AIDS? hmm… that too. That is the other Elephant… lets put that aside for now. Going back, Ethiopians did not found out about Males and Co. on May 16, 2005. They new it even before they got on power. On the other hand the current opposition won the peoples heart not because they are advocating non violence. There were and still are a lot of other opposition parties that are non violent but has not gotten the same level of support CUDP enjoys. I think the people felt the right mind people are in this group.

In history there are a lot of freedoms and democracies won by war and not became a dictatorship. One of the main exemplar would be the American Revolution. I am not saying war is the only option, it may likely be… but we have to let ourselves think a solution to our problem regardless what is the norm out there. We can not let other and others experiences paralyze us. If we just follow the norm we will always be one step (usually more) behind. By the time we board they jump the ship and we sink with it. That is what happened so many times… So whether it is violent or non violent or otherwise we should let ourselves think. I call it thinking inside the box.

lol to all.

7:39 AM, December 07, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yes, violent revolution does not automatically result in dictatorship. We often make this blanket statement because it is highly likely that violent revolution results in dictatorship.

Anyway, in Africa, any government is highly likely to be a dictatorship.

Coming into power via revolution amplifies this likelihood because:

1. Often such revolution is parochial, resulting in an exclusionary government. Why often parochial? It is rare in Africa to generate the necessary social cohesion required for revolution without using something primal like ethnicity.

2. Armed revolution is long and bloody, creates a lot of victims and enemies, and worse, a lot of people who think they are owed something.

3. Again, and as usual the low level of social development in Ethiopia makes violent revolution something akin to giving a Ferrari to 10 year old. It's a dangerous tool that Ethiopian society does not have th maturity to handle, and it has proved it. Repeatedly.

To reiterate, the main point is that peaceful struggle forces us to establish grounds for democracy, grounds which are necessary for any sort of development.

That's why peaceful struggle must always continue, even if some section of the population opts to fight it out. The peaceful struggle must reign supreme and must be able to put the armed struggle away as soon as change is achieved.

9:37 AM, December 07, 2005  
Blogger enaseb said...

ere gUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUd!!! you voted for whom????????????? semi wonqueye, i feel as if i entered some freaking bardo (tibetan book of the dead flashback). now i now which state you refugeein' from. since it is too close to home, i had to find some loophole in your betting "terms" simply because ...well....i gots to find my way out of this bardo. so, is there a loophole in your betting terms regarding the "explainer"? are the words never ever stipulated anywhere? be`seme`ab! gud eko new yih zemen...

"3. Again, and as usual the low level of social development in Ethiopia makes violent revolution something akin to giving a Ferrari to 10 year old. It's a dangerous tool that Ethiopian society does not have th maturity to handle, and it has proved it. Repeatedly."
enday! ere minew jal? sile man new werew? you sounding a bit like meles here buddy. this statement has that same type of condescension. the fact of the matter is nobody is above or beneath armed struggle. when a group is pushed past a breaking point - it is inevitable. and that breaking point exists within every soul (at varying points) during enduring crisis. the question of success is, well, a whole other discussion.
i, for one, know i am not above picking up a videotape regardless of how i might "feel" about the notion from the comforts of my diaspora living room.

2:39 AM, December 09, 2005  

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