Look Who's Talking
So there we all were sitting in semi-silence trying to eavesdrop on stilted leqso bet conversation. Occasionally someone would let out a long sigh and the domino effect of platitude washes over the room just like ‘the wave’ at a packed stadium. As it always does when two or more Ethiopians share airspace, the conversation turned to what’s going on in
No sooner had he clicked “done” on his computer, he tells us, his elderly aunt in Addis gets a call from a representative of the webpage: “We are calling on behalf of [her nephew’s name]. He has something from you. Please confirm your last name.” The aunt gets hysterical that her nephew didn't bother telling her he was coming for a visit,
True to refined Ethiopian hospitality, the aunt browbeats the rep into her house and force feeds him a five-course lunch. She asks the rep how he knows her nephew and how is the ungrateful bastard anyway? The rep re-re tries explaining e-commerce. The aunt is distracted by the medium sheep gnawing on her anemic rose bush. After four hours the rep insists he has to leave. The aunt reluctantly agrees but only after she makes him swear in the name of several angels that he will come back to see her before he leaves for
So, here’s my thinking: these websites should build in the cost of delivery on future orders:
Thank you for ordering from sheeps-hens-and-bulls.com. This is a confirmation email. Your order has been delivered. Following is your final bill.
1 medium sheep = 100 birr
1 small bull = 700 birr
Delivery (4 hours @ 5o birr/hour)= 200 birr
Thank you again. We look forward to serving you again.
The customer can then deduct his/her relative’s cost for receiving the gift.
I appreciate your prompt service. Following please find expenses incurred by my [aunt] whilst receiving the order:
House cleaning: 14 birr
Food: 59 birr
Tej/Tella: 25 birr
Thank you. I look forward to contacting you for Fasika.
So anyway, I didn’t mean to get distracted, and as always this blog is dragging despite the warnings/pleadings I get from the young and attention span challenged.
Annnyyyway…we all enjoyed the story which flowed seemlessly to, you guessed it, Ethiopian politics. Eventually the subject swerved to the intricacies of cutey-pututie Lidetu Ayalew, one of the opposition members who is mired in one big political mess.
A brief summary of the facts as I know them:
Lidetu was one of the dynamic young leaders of an opposition party, UEDP-Medhin, which is part of the four parties making up the largest opposition coalition, CUD. Post election, these four parties were supposed to merge into one- CUDP. Yay. Well, not so fast. EPRDF went a little unglued after the elections, and like all twingy sociopath organizations it started killing people and imprisoning opposition leaders after some of them refused to enter parliament. Others were arrested because… they scratched their heads with the wrong fingers. Woo hoo, Melesocracy at work. Lidetu was unhappy about even negotiating with the EPRDF during the frenzy of diplomacy last June, so he resigned as spokesperson of the CUD. Fast forward… Lidetu and party decided not to merge with the CUD—because of something as drab as paperwork, and decided to join parliament, thereby protecting the 63 seats they won in the Addis Abeba administration.
So keep that lame summary in mind.
W-hell! You know what that means… Lidetu is now public enemy #1 in Ethiopian circles, his name is said… no, it is spat with the correct level of rancor. Women’s eyes well up and they cross themselves whenever he comes up in conversation.
In it is this context that someone at the fancy leqso bet mentions Lidetu’s name, and very gratuitously I might add, as a means of finding a common enemy to focus on while we hide our pain. The rustling of lips smacking against gnashed teeth echo around the room. I brace for some bitter back and forth. Finally an elderly gentleman shook his head authoritatively and declared Lidetu a traitor. Usually, that ends all dialogue.
But something interesting happened at the fancy leqso bet.
Just when I thought people had finished signaling their agreement with that grand proclamation by either quietly nodding their heads in amazing synchronicity or biting their lips with studied abandon, someone in the crowd, an indistinct young man with impish eyes, bravely cleared his throat.
Although he does not agree with Lidetu’s tactic, the young man said, it might be… um, inappropriate to call him a traitor.
Yes, I do believe I now know the sound a pin makes when it drops.
Necks turn in slow motion towards the man who dared opposed pre-packaged thoughts. The guy squirms. His girlfriend buries her elbows in his ribcage and smiles apologetically at piercing, incredulous eyes. Yeeaww-zer! The young man is undeterred.
Oblivious to the engorged tension dripping in the air, he continues to elaborate. Lidetu probably was starting to feel marginalized at the CUD. He wanted power and to play a larger role in
I interrupt this story to insert my two cents:
I’ve never understood the whole foaming with anger thing that takes over people whenever they talk about Merera Gudina, Beyene Petros and now Lidetu. The former two thought it important to agitate the EPRDF from within and showcase the sheer ridiculousness of the EPRDF parliament. Exposing Ato Meles’ cerebrally impeded undertaking is actually a service, if you ask me, but you didn’t, but I’ll tell you anyway. And maybe, just maybe, the presence of Petros and Gudina in the imitation parliament can plant the seed of “Why am I such a gutless asshole?” in an EPRDF underling who yearns to be free.
Lidetu came to the realization that he doesn’t fare well in prison. He likes, what do you call it… not being in one. So he decided to “fight from within.” Or so he tells us. The way he did it might not be to one’s liking, and his strategy was unforgivably proletarian, but can we hold off on the vitriol and personal attacks? A traitor? What are we, the EPRDF? Can we wait to see which bills he votes for or against before we relegate him to the footnotes of Ethiopian history? Is that even possible in Ethiopian political dialogue? Does Lidetu deserve the kind of wrath unloaded on him? Walk it off, people. Walk it off.
I am doubly amazed that this kind of intolerance exists in people who live in a democracy. The best thing about the State of the Union presidents of these great
The main accusation is that he is “dividing” the opposition. If the CUD can’t handle the vagaries of political dissent then it is undeserving of the trust people have bestowed upon it. The thing is, the Ethiopian people came up with a great response: CUD is spirit (kinijit menfess new), meaning it is not just persons and their whims. Beqa! People in
And if you don’t agree with me, you are a traitor.
Okay, I know Mengistu and Melesocrasy and their respective bastardized Marxist-Leninist-Maoist hoopla have played havoc on the Ethiopian DNA, but we need to get the hell over ourselves before it is too late. People and organizations who are afraid of dissent always have a façade of strength, but they have so many weak points that they unravel at the slightest tug. And when you can’t handle intellectual dissent you resort to preserving your fragile “unity” by any means necessary… I give you the EPRDF. Ato Meles could not survive one single day in
Back at fancy leqso bet land, the young man finished his speech and the ominous silence that hung in the room resembled a taut balloon dancing next to a nail. My cousin, who I had gone to the fancy leqso bet with, looked at me threateningly. She has battle scars from these kinds of political discussions and was in no mood to add notches on her body. I bit my lips. (Besides, I was on the lookout for that man with shaky hands I wrote about: the one who had pointed his finger at me in the middle of a dinner party and yelled, “You! Weichegud! I don’t like you!” Take a number, GashiyE. Take a number.)
Finally the authoritative gentleman blinked. “Awo. Meches le Ethiopia minim alaregem mallet aychalim…” (“Well, we can’t say [Lidetu] has done nothing for
My cousin and I drove home in relative silence. “You realize what just happened,” she said. “The silent majority has started to speak out.”
Much thanks to the people from the Returnee Caucus who were kind enough to send me their press release. I promise to post next time so we can continue the dialogue.
p.p.s Just noticed that Dagmawi has excerpted Lidetu’s new book. It should make for an interesting review.