Returnees Vs. The Diaspora
In what must be the most hypnotically dumb move ever committed by a bunch of bungling warlords in cufflinks, the Ethiopian government kicked out an AP reporter for “tarnishing the image” of Ethiopia. In case you were wondering, federal police who kill unarmed citizens don’t tarnish images. Foreign reporters who write about it do.
Seriously. I know as an Imperial-Derg revanchist/chauvinist/cyber warrior in the Diaspora I am in no position to be giving advice to the EPRDF’s unlettered apprentices, but… what the fuck! Which EPRDF apparatchik thought it was a stroke of brilliance to kick out Anthony? Now whenever the over-fraught, half-wit EPRDF schlemiels are paraded out to defend the government (or beg for food), they will be confronted by indignant ferenjie reporters who are outraged, I tell you, outraged.
Okay, pay attention EPRDF-ffers: the next journalist you decide to kick out shouldn’t be a member of an internationally revered media organization. See if there is someone from… Field and Stream, or… Dictator’s Monthly. Also, come up with something more substantial to justify the kicking out. “Mr. So-and-So was found to be trying to incite genocide and treason.” Hm. No. You tried that already.
Now journalists are going to think that there is a real story in
But I have another unstructured rant.
We were at a little party this weekend and perhaps it was the lateness of the hour, perhaps it was one too many glass of wine, but an elderly man with unsteady hands pointed at me and barked, “You! Weichegud! I don’t like you.”
I did what every self-respecting blogger would do in a similar situation: I pretended there was hair in my lasagna and proceeded to have an ardent conversation with my plate. I couldn’t get myself to confront a man my father’s age, and believe me I am no wallflower Ethiopian who shies from confrontation.
Later at home my husband noticed I was perplexed. Well, more confused than perplexed. Why hadn’t I at least asked the gentleman his beef? I’ve defended myself against more worthy opponents. “You know why?” my husband asked with that infuriating tone I have not yet convinced him is condescending. “You know why? Because however much assimilated you think you are, you are still restrained by that singularly thorny trait all us Ethiopians have trouble shaking off: yiluNta. It’s not in our DNA to cross certain lines because we are encumbered by yiluNta.”
I guess the best way to explain yiluNta to non-Amharic speakers is … that certain “what will people think” voice that ought to not be so loud in those of us who think we are more American than apple pie. For the life of me, I could not have an argument with a kindly, older gentleman because of a grossly inadequate reason: he was older, and I didn’t want him to think I was insolent. Yeah.
So all of this reminded me of an article I read in Addis Fortune a while ago, Ethiopian Returnees in Defense of Foreign Aid to Ethiopia. When the Brits recently decided to ‘withhold’ direct aid to the Ethiopian government, I figured the most unhappy people in
I have been fascinated by the article ever since I read it.
While a huge part of the Ethiopian Diaspora is known to have an uncompromising animosity towards the EPRDF-led government, their friends at home say they would rather take an objective view of the current political situation and agree on what is fundamental to
Woo hoo! a) We have friends b) we have friends who want to take an objective view, and c) we have “uncompromising animosity towards the EPRDF.” I hope you are taking notes.
Close to 35 returnees from the Diaspora gathered at the Sheraton Addis' Semien Hall, on Thursday, December 1, 2005, to make their voice heard against what they called a campaign waged by Ethiopians in the Diaspora who have appealed to the European Union, the U.S. and other donor countries to stop aid, loans, debt relief and lobby to stop people from traveling to Ethiopia.
I personally want to appeal to our friends to find a new venue for their meetings. Seriously, it makes us all look bad when we can’t seem to extricate ourselves from our “let’s meet at Sheraton” trademark.
They have created a committee of eight to advance their cause, comprising Mulugeta Tesfakiros, Mimi Sebehatu, Genenew Assefa, Biruk Buzuayehu, Biruk Fekade, Solomon Tadesse, Anteneh Tirusew and Daniel Tedesse; the last three will function as a caucus in North America.
Hello. There is such a caucus in
“This has negatively contributed to other Ethiopians who wish to come to and invest in their home country," said Solomon Tadesse, a resident of
Solomon is one of the two organizers and co-chair of the meeting, together with Mulugeta Tesfakiros. They say they were compelled to organize such a meeting at the Sheraton to hammer out issues that despite differences along political lines, Ethiopians should not fight over what is best for the country.
I guess this is an admirable gesture of “let’s find common ground other than politics”, and normally I would be all for it except I can hardly think of one good reason why the EU or the
Those campaigning in the Diaspora against the current government allege that the U.S. and other European governments should not give aid, loans and debt relief to Ethiopia on the grounds that it does not represent the majority of the Ethiopian people and has committed "a series of human rights violations of its citizens".
Quotation marks around “a series of human rights violations” duly noted. I guess it’s different from plain old violating human rights of citizens.
The unfortunate situation
"Urging donors to cut aid to
Note that this was in December. In June and November the government went a little Gin-and-Juice and shot and killed unarmed people. That don’t inspire a sense of peace in me, but then again I am known to be very picky about not investing my money where armed goons roam about willy nilly.
In fact, what our friends don’t understand is that we have been investing in
Most of the participants in the returnees' meeting were businesspeople who run their own companies in Addis, although a few of them are due to return. They returned to invest in the country and claim that the campaign to stop aid and loans to
Hm. Now I know the cynic among us are going to be disorderly and scream “You see? They only care about their own business”, but let’s all back off and breathe. In… out…in… out. It is inherently human to want to protect what you’ve worked for. In pre-election times we ignored the EPRDF and forged on ahead with business ventures in
The meeting has unanimously passed a resolution that states that the campaign against aid to
Now I would think that our friends back in
But the last two paragraphs of the Fortune article are what I found most fascinating.
Not every one of them was on the same wavelength in spite of the unanimous decision in passing the resolution. It differed from those who challenged, in the meeting, the administration they said violates the constitution while breaching it itself, to those who told Fortune that they were not fully aware of the nature of the meeting when invited.
A-ha. So there were dissenters. Well, I guess there were dissenters even though the resolution passed, um, unanimously. Here’s the money quote:
"We were literally coaxed into agreeing on the resolution," said a participant who said he had thought the meeting was called to discuss the problems the returnee community is facing during this time of crises. "If this is what they wanted, we were not in a position to go against it."
Whaaaa? People who have lived in the
Was that a mutated form of yiluNta? Did the dissenters think it would be insolent to go against the grain? "If this is what they wanted, we were not in a position to go against it." I am dying to know why.
It might be that I have stayed in the good old
Over Christmas holidays some friends of ours were hosting a returnee. Once a successful corporate cog, the returnee went back to
It’s true. Most of us don’t, but a surprising number of us do. And I can understand if an unemployed youth with no prospect said that. But for one of “us” to say it? What makes a virtual millionaire returnee so blasé? From where we see it, returnees have every advantage in the society. So what went so wrong? I guess that’s why I am grateful to people like Berhanu Nega. He represents the best of former Diasporans.
Since I am axe grinding I have been simmering about something: I’ve asked several people who are returnees who write passionate emails to me from
Prime Minister Meles’s lumbering government is bewilderingly incompetent. 14 years after it took power, we are still begging the world to feed our brothers and sisters. The EPRDF is morally bankrupt and marginalized beyond repair. It survives on fustian charades and seismic brutality. Telling us to keep investing in
That said, I still think we need to dialogue with some of our returnee friends on what is truly best for “the average Ethiopian.” Maybe one of them can start , I dunno, a blog.
It is perhaps some kind of cosmic joke that returnees lose their voices just as those in the Diaspora finds their's.
I found out why the elderly gentleman was unimpressed by me (as if he needs an excuse). He told someone that I use too many curse words. Oh shit.)
p.s. I will be on winter vacation from February 12-22. Guest bloggers can send me articles/vents . I'll be happy to put up.