Friday, March 31, 2006

Exclusive! The Ethiopian Federal Police New Employee Handbook

Tonight is Advocacy Ethiopia’s event. Go see. If you have not yet joined the 20/20 campaign, please do so.

It’s Friday, so first a few notes on music:

I know I am late to the game but … Editors. Amazing band. Not Cold Play amazing, but pretty good. The track All Sparks is available for your viewing pleasure. And since I am having trouble unloading my love of 90s rock/alternative, I’ve downloaded Yellow Card on the old ipod. I’m a walking cliché.

On the Ethiopian music front, I was listening with undue rapture to the soundtrack of Broken Flowers and slowly falling in love with Mulatu Astatqe, when my cousin gave me a, um, old tape of his: Assiyo Bellema. Man. I don’t know where you can get hold of the… tape. My local Ethiopian store doesn’t carry it, but find it! A couple of the vocals on this thing will transport you right back to Ethiopia, on a breezy foggy morning. I think Teddy Tadesse is one of the vocalists on there. Hypnotizing.

So you’ve probably heard that there have been a few bomb explosions in Addis. There been a couple of explosions before, but no one had died. This time, though, casualties.

It used to be that the government of Ethiopia used to keep itself busy “diffusing” grenades, planted and imagined, to keep Addis residents in tow and to justify roving Humvees to donor nations. But people scoffed. And you know what happens when you scoff at the EPRDF… things have to go boom!

What dilemma. On the one hand… you need to show the world that things are going swimmingly and invite international investors to lookie here. And silly foreigners, a damn picky bunch, want to hear nothing of bombs exploding where their money lies.

But on the other hand… you’ve been telling everybody that you are fighting terrorism, and if it weren’t for you, Ethiopia would be another Somalia, what with all the Rwanda-style ethnic cleansers in your midst.

But on the other, other hand, you have you a population in Addis that needs reminding that, occasionally, it needs to be bombed.

What to do? What would Jesus do?

Anyway, the (on) crack Wonqville research team managed to get a hold of a copy of the Ethiopian Federal Police New Employee Handbook. The federal police force has been accused of… killing, torture and acting in a manner most resembling a garden variety thug. Ostensibly, the government can’t recruit federal police fast enough since unrest in the country is spreading fast and furious.

So imagine our curiosity…

Dear new recruit:

Welcome. If you have made it this far, it means you have met the tough criteria it takes to become part of the Ethiopian Federal Police family. Please make sure you’ve returned your plastic gun and Play Dough grenade before accepting the real thing.

Undoubtedly, you will be getting a lot of valuable stuff out of this experience, and we don’t just mean the looting when you get the honor of closing down businesses that support the “anti-peace” elements.

As you know, these are hard times to be a federal police. As Donald Levin rightfully noted on his latest writings,

For one thing, it has occurred to me that putting political opponents in prison is neither so outrageous nor unprecedented in the context of Ethiopia's history. At the very least, it is better than gassing them, boiling them alive, or burning them at the stake as happened so often elsewhere.

It used to be that we could gas, boil and burn at the stake our opponents. Alas, times have changed, dear new recruit. Please note the following procedures and take the time to familiarize yourself with the general landscape of the Ethiopian judiciary process:

I. Handling Political Opponents i.e. Terrorists:

a) arrest them

b) not charge them for at least 20 weeks but not more than 10 years

c) find evidence of “usurping the constitution” (your supervisor will guide you on how not to)

d) Bail denial

e) Delay of trial

f) Death penalty

Please make sure you follow this procedure. We don’t want democracy and human rights compromised.

II. Ensuring Peace

A large amount of your skills and time will go to securing the peace in an already peaceful Ethiopia. Again, please familiarize yourself with the following:

a) We no longer have a “shoot first, ask questions later” policy towards civilian ‘unrest.’ We shoot first, then we shoot again to make sure the first one took. We have suspended asking questions since it interferes with democracy and filling out paperwork on triplicate has turned into a major drag.

b) Make sure you carry a sufficient number of release forms for dead bodies. It is imperative that relatives of the dead sign and date Form THU-GI-- “The Opposition Killed My Mother/Father/Son/Daughter/Other” release form.

c) Groups of people congregating in one place is a sign of brewing terrorism. Please make sure no more than one person congregates in a congregation.

d) There are definite signs that Al Qeda has infiltrated Ethiopia. Watch out for people who make ‘V’ signs. It is a secret code for “we are going to bomb flower pots.” Keep your eyes open, your heart full and your finger on the trigger at all times.

e) The federal courts have imposed a minimum age for people to be arrested on charges of genocide. Henceforward, please make sure arrestees are at least 6 years old. If you have doubts about someone’s age, seek your supervisor’s sage guidance. But note, it might be easier to arrest them, then have the federal government run DNA tests. Just a suggestion.

III. Efficiency

The Federal Democratic Government of Ethiopia believes in efficiency. As a valued member of the federal police, you will be expected to adhere to the following Efficiency Mainstreaming and Competence Guidelines

a) Please be cognizant of gas prices when you roam in your government issued Humvee or truck. In most cases it is efficient to park your vehicle on the street and have trouble come to you.

b) Remember what you learnt in basic training: “Put the M’mm in Mass Arrests.” We have ample space at the bucolic Dedessa ‘interment’ camp. It is expensive to drive arrestees all the way there individually or in small clumps. When you make a sweep in the city, be generous… and considerate. Wait until you have arrested enough people to completely fill your truck.

c) We leave it to our new recruits to find new venues that are prime spots to arrest and or/’permanently extinguish’ anti-peace forces: universities and high schools are always seething with potential terrorists, but recently, religious holiday celebrations have also served as prime settings for efficiently conducting democracy raids. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination… funeral, weddings. Use your judgment and creativity.

d) So that we can maximize the aforementioned efficiency goals we have bellow listed the strict blame rotation for bomb explosions and any and all unrests. Please make sure you follow this order:

a. Jobless hooligans

b. Opposition members

c. The European Union

d. OLF

e. Eritrea

f. Al Qeda

g. The United States Congress

h. The EPRDF… just kidding! We were testing if you were paying attention.

Note: this list will be regularly updated so check your pay stub to find out who’s next on the “to blame” list. It is imperative we are all on the same page.

Again, welcome. If you have any questions or concerns we ask you to keep it to yourself since the Federal Government is currently backlogged in the moral turpitude department. There will be plenty of time for questions at your future crimes against humanity trial.

Please sign your name below (or stamp your thumbprint) indicating you have read and understood this New Employee Handbook.

We are delighted to have you!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Hearings- Part 1

Congressman Chris Smith held hearings on Ethiopia yesterday.

Here are a few observations on Donald Yamamoto’ s testimony. Speak oh Dean of Frequent Flyer miles to Bole Airport.

The United States believes that democracy is the best form of government
for stability – in
Africa and beyond.

Uh-oh. He’s not going to like what the EPRDF has been doing to the democracy.

Results have been mixed, and hopes for progress have been chilled, as
the government has clamped down on individuals’ right to assemble and
journalists’ ability to report events.

Didn’t I tell you he was na-ganna like it?

There is every reason to believe that Ethiopians want responsive
leadership, and the U.S. Government supports the efforts of students and
activists to have their voices heard.

Gulp. “All pharmacists please return to your stations. Entire EPRDF membership would like a refill on Lithium.”

Okay. Okay. Democracy good. Non-democracy bad.

Election observers from the United States (U.S.) and European Union (EU) recognized the National Electoral Board for its excellent job registering voters and candidates, and preparing for the elections. Even the state-managed media coverage was considered fair, giving the opposition 56% of the airtime exposure, according to the EU report, while the ruling party received 44% of the coverage.

Now, I haven’t had the stomach to check the Ethiopian New Agency or Walta Misinformation’s coverage of the hearings, but here, let’s help with writing the headlines:

US government says Ethiopian Elections Excellent!”
“Honorable Yahmimotto praises Ethiopian forage to democracy!!”
“ ‘CUD Discredited, State Media works’
US official”
“Democracy ain’t yo’ mama’s footstool!”

The Yamamoto was kinder to the National Election Board of Ethiopia (it was ‘overwhelmed’) than the EU was (“NEBE has lost control of the counting.”) Damn straight it was overwhelmed. So overwhelmed that it declared the EPRDF the clear winner… um, before all the votes were counted.

We all remember that the opposition contested the results, and thus the Complaints Investigations Panels was born. How did the CIP resolve this conflict? Gash Yamomoto?

The European Union report on the elections asserted that
over 90% of the CUD complaints were rejected as opposed to only 30% for the ruling party. It

That can’t be good. Mr. Yamomoto, your assessment, please, of these here CIPs:

It seems clear that the CRB/CIP process did not prove an adequate
means for a fair resolution of all electoral disputes.

Good day, sir! Since the CIPs (created under the NEBE) were miserable failures, any solutions? Perhaps from the Carter Center?

The Carter Center recommended that in this instance, and until the NEBE gains the maturity to resolve political disagreements, the opposition refer these cases to the High Court for adjudication.

Hm. Funny you mention that. Would it be at all a problem that the head of the NEBE is also president of the Ethiopian Supreme Court?

Picky, picky, picky.

Okay. Here’s the money quote:

On the overall assessment of the elections, we agree with the final report, which noted that the elections had credibility and that majority of the constituency results based on the May 15 polling and tabulation are credible and reflect competitive conditions.

If this isn’t the best “Don’t make me say these elections were rigged”—ever! Of course the elections had credibility. 80% of Ethiopians stood in line for hours, fergozsake. It’s the results that people are contesting. Note how he phrases the results: “that majority of the constituency results based on the May 15 polling and tabulation are credible and reflect competitive conditions.” Can you imagine how many State Department underlings agonized over that statement? Its eloquent reluctance, its purposeful half-heartedness, its magnificent lack of enthusiasm, its foreboding deniability index … lawyers everywhere are rejoicing.

Suddenly, I want to hug The Yamomoto.

So, what does this say to the Prime Minister Meles who promised us elections, “not just free and fair by African standards, but by any standards”? Don’t you worry your pretty little head. Two-bit spinners in Melesocracy will find comfort in those words. Heck, you remember all the euphoria about Tony Blair’s sound bite that these elections were “the most free and fair”? No one stopped to think that “the most free” doesn’t mean free.

In my humble opinion, the State Department has come a long way. Yamomoto’s words reflect the strongest stance the US has made on the Ethiopian elections and its bloody aftermath. Diplomatically, this seems the furthest the State Department is willing to go at this time, but the day is young. Someone will eventually tire of the EPRDF’s intransigence.

Despite our belief that elections results overall were generally credible the
United States was deeply concerned about the 31 seats that went to a re-vote on August 21. The ruling party won all 31 seats, even among constituencies where the opposition had won a significant majority during May 15 balloting.

Oops. It seems like someone has already started tiring.

While public protests aimed at destabilizing the country
are objectionable, there is no excuse for mass arrests and the use of lethal force against civilians who wish to express their opposition to their government.

This is a big shift, almost seismic, compared to the USChargé d'Affaires’ and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer’s frustratingly tepid handling of the Ethiopian government. And may I say, phew.

Of particular concern to the United States are the early-November arrests
of much of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) leadership, along with prominent members of civil society, journalists, editors, and publishers.

And in case you don’t think the upgrade is genuine, consider Ms. Frazer’s statements in December 2005:

But you also need oppositions to act responsibly as well; responsibly in terms of respecting the rule of law when they are demonstrating. There were some demonstrators who were pelting the police in Ethiopia with stones. Well, this is not acceptable, but freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, clearly.

But it is also important, as I said, for the opposition not to sort of push demonstrators to pick up stones and rocks and to pelt the police and to overrun the police and to undermine the sanctity of property and respect of the laws.

Pelting with stones… responding with live ammunition… you do the math.

But are you like me? Do you get edgy in the absence of platitude?

… the Administration calls on the Government of Ethiopia to ensure a fair,
transparent, and speedy trial for those charged, release of those who have not been charged, and protection of the human rights, health, and safety of all detainees while they remain in detention.

But who will mass arrest and generally terrorize the people while the Ethiopian government attends to ensuring human (cough!) rights?

Even Diaspora bashing was tempered.

Some interested groups, both within and beyond Ethiopian borders, seek
to undermine what is best for the nation of
Ethiopia, in favor of what they
perceive to be the best for themselves. They cast stones at their adversaries, while engaging in the very acts they accuse their rivals of pursuing.


If the Diaspora in the US sticks to moderates and keeps lobbying the US, soon there will be a Senate hearing and Condi herself might show up in Ethiopia advocating for democracy, Ayman Nour style.

Qrb new ye Ityopiya tnsae.

Other testimonies:

Dr. Meqdes Mesfin, Daughter of Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam of Ethiopia

Mr. Obang O. Metho , Director of International Advocacy, Anuak Justice Council (AJC)

Andargachew Tsege Central Council Coalition for Unity
and Democracy Party

Lynn Fredriksson, Amnesty International

His Excellency Mr. Fesseha A. Tessema, Minister (Head of Political and Press Division at the Ethiopian Embassy) was scheduled to testify, according to the Committee on International Relations website… but there’s no link. Did someone forget to call the Ethiopian Embassy?

Monday, March 27, 2006

How a country becomes a photo op

Here’s a statement I got from the Returnees Caucus. They have a four-point point to make so put down your ukulele, boys and girls. It’s hammer tyyyme.

So what happens when a group of “politically diverse businesspeople and professionals” meet at the Sheraton? They make four-point pointers. Such as? Such as… [All emphasis added.]

  1. Expressing our heart-felt appreciation of the donor community’s debt-cancellation measures, and acknowledging that the crucial elements of the Paris Club’s policy decisions will positively impact Ethiopia’s development efforts, we call on the international community to increase its generous support to this country as it wrestles against formidable of economic challenges.

Ex-squeeze me very much. Did you say increase? Yeah. Let’s ask the donor community for more money because the $1.9 billion dollars it pours into the country has worked so well. Poverty in Ethiopia has been alleviated, Ethiopia is not in the midst of yet another devastating famine, the World Bank’s assessment of the economy is not tragic… oh, wait. I’m sorry, that’s in the Bizzaro Ethiopian World. I am assuming that some of the returnees might have lived in the US at one time. I might be leaping to conclusions also, but I am also assuming that none of them was on welfare. Why is that? Because it’s an unending cycle of poverty? It is psychologically debilitating? The stigma of accepting crumbs was probably unpalatable to them? Just a guess. So why do they want Ethiopia to be a permanent welfare mother? International aid comes with more strings attached to it than Donald Trump’s pre-nup. Debt canceling might seem like an achievement until you realize you have a lower credit rating and no sane institution will let you borrow money ever again. And is debt cancellation the new form of fiscal responsibility? Again, do the returnees remember what happens when one declares bankruptcy in the US? Is there a bank that perpetually lends you money? (If yes, please send name and address, quickly.) My guess is that you guys worked hard to pay your bills because you didn’t want a negative credit rating. and because there is honor in hard work and self-reliance.

2. Similarly, confident that the efforts being made by the World Bank and IMF to ensure the continuation of the support provided to Ethiopia’s development scheme will succeed, we express our hope that multilateral financial assistance to the country will be augmented in the coming years.

Don't know how this is different from point numero uno except it is a more politely worded "send more money" SOS. Yeah, yeah. Except the World Bank is now headed by a strong neo-con who believes in the spreading of the democracy and attaching aid to good government. Paul Wolfowitz is actually eminently lobby-able by Ethiopians in the Diaspora. (Not to mention sexy in a ‘let’s preempt’ kinda way.) The tide has turned with the American people who are starting to get jittery that their tax money is being used to prop up governments who use aid to suppress democracy. The whole ports debacle has 'sensitized' our legislators, and goodness gracious, if it ain’t mid-term elections.

  1. Whereas international assistance is pivotal to help Ethiopia reach the Millennium Development Goal and help millions of Ethiopians break out of the poverty trap; and such positive external intervention is also beneficial to us returnees who have invested capital in many private-sector endeavourers, we call for the expansion of international aid to the country.

Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? Apparently there are all kinds of factors working here. It seems (could it be?) that international aid is a lucrative business. And why not? ‘Things We Should Have Written Down’ had an excellent post, Lords of Hypocrisy 2:

The estimated budget for an upcoming 17-day ‘research trip’ by an acquaintance working for an anti-hunger NGO:

SUV rental: 500 birr per day x 17 = 8,500 birr ($979)

Gas for SUV: 600 birr per day x 17 = 10,200 birr ($1,175)

Hotels: 200 birr (two people) per night x 17 = 3,400 birr ($391)

Miscellaneous supplies: 100 birr per day x 17 = 1,700 birr ($195)

Estimated Total Expenses: 23,800 birr ($2,741)

Destination: Several of the top tourist spots in Ethiopia

Justification for this trip: “Preliminary research for a future survey”

So on this feeding chain there are hoteliers, SUV rental enterprises, gas station owners, ‘miscellaneous’ supplies’ suppliers-- all ready to partake in fighting hunger. So there you have it. Except there’s a ‘but’. But surely, you might be compelled to think, surely Ethiopia has much more potential than being an NGO pimp? You would be wrong, my friend. Imagine all the private businesses in the US who supply welfare offices with computers, pens, pencils. Heck, I’d have a stake in increasing welfare if I were on the state vendor list. So now we understand the sentence “external intervention is also beneficial to us returnees who have invested capital in many private-sector endeavourers, we call for the expansion of international aid to the country.” I was a little confused as to why private business people would have so much stake in increased aid. I get it already. If the stakes are this high for a lousy $2,741, then imagine when we get to talking about millions, nay, billions, of dollars. I am not sure what the returnees are asking us to understand here. I am an intractable capitalist who believes in a thriving middle class. But… is the only thing Ethiopia left with poverty tourism? “Ethiopia, 13 months of sunshine: Come see how poor we are. Reserve your SUVs early”?

From my heart, ouch.

Please tell me we are on point 4…

  1. Finally confident that our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora will share our view that external aid to Ethiopia is critical particularly to the poor of our country, we will continue to make our voice herd emphasizing the need for the continuation of aid to Ethiopia.

Uh. Is there anything in points 1-3 that’s about the poor? Let’s be honest: no one gives a damn about the poor because even 1% of that $1.9 billion would have helped a lot of the poor. I am involved in a small scale project with a $50K annual budget. That small organization has been able to change a few lives here and there. We do what we can despite the bullshit bureaucracy. So let’s not get the poor involved in this ending poverty business.

I am not sure how often the Returnees Caucasus meets, but maybe next time it can tell us why we should reward a government that has been so blindingly incompetent and brutal. Most of us ignored politics and hunkered to do our part for Ethiopia. We thought that politics had nothing to do with our inherent responsibility to help Ethiopia. But politics is part of economics. As much as we didn’t want to see that, we were forced into it. Unless there is a half-way responsible government, there cannot be economic prosperity. If $1.9 billion doesn’t move us an inch, neither will 7 billion in the hands of a government that is careless beyond all reason. The Ethiopian Diaspora I hang out with has held a ‘No Confidence” vote on the Ethiopian government- which, by the way, makes us chauvinist, imperial-slash-Derg revanchist genocidal muck-mucks, thank you very much.

I mean, c’mon. Who charges political opponents with genocide and treason? Who the hell charges VOA reporters with trying to incite fucking genocide? It’s so bush league. But, at least there is something that coalesces the Returnees: more foreign aid.

Meanwhile, the Diaspora is saying that Ethiopia should not be a permanent beggar nation. We want to create our own solutions to problems that we make worse by thinking someone else has to solve for us. We think Ethiopians have the capacity to map their own destiny. Shoot us.

In the 80s NGOs thought they were doing us a favor by bombarding the world with picture after picture of big bellied Ethiopian children suckling on their dying mother’s breast. The world was outraged, I tell you, outraged. How many millions were raised? How much went to “the poor”? How much of the “external intervention” then was also “beneficial” to those who had a vested interest in “calling for the expansion of international aid” to Ethiopia? So Ethiopia became an ad campaign, and lately, a photo op for American celebrities with fledging careers. Yet the long term psychological effect on Ethiopia and Ethiopians has been incalculable. Aid has made us not only think we can’t solve our problems without foreign money, but that we are incapable of even thinking we can solve our problems without holding out a tin can. We used to blame the West for making us into a beggar state. But now we have to take it from our own?

Give me a break.

What the Diaspora is saying is that Ethiopian poverty shouldn’t just be a line on a policy wonk’s resume. Returnees are telling us to go back home and see what it’s like. Well, I have a proposal: we will if you come back to the US and agree to live on welfare for a year and see what that does to you. Live in government subsidized apartments, buy groceries with food stamps, stand on a soup line for kind ferenjies from the suburbs to hand you a soggy baloney sandwich and a bright smile. You do that, and we’ll return to Ethiopia.

The Diaspora is saying that Ethiopia is not a welfare mother. That’s all. We are saying that Ethiopia is better than that.

Okay. We probably won’t agree on the issue of foreign aid with our returnee brothers and sisters. But I’m sure we can find common ground… You all like Seinfeld?

Here’s some fantastic reading:

Comedy of Errors: Few of the commission’s ideas are new. Most have been tried before, including throwing money at Africa, with questionable results. Unfortunately much of that money has been given to regimes whose favourite pastimes include grand larceny. This, one knows, is a favourite refrain of right-wingers who care little for Africans; but, unfortunately for others who do love what is good and vibrant about Africa and the warmth of so many of its ordinary people, it happens to be true.

“Debt forgiveness creates a problem of moral hazard,” Mwenda argues. “One country borrows and invests the loan wisely and repays. Another borrows and squanders the loan, is unable to pay back and is forgiven. Such a scheme rewards incompetence and penalises good performance, and therefore creates a disincentive to better loan management.”

Cruel to be Kind: “Live Aid forced the world to confront the Ethiopian famine and raised more than £50m. But as Bob Geldof prepares his Live 8 reprise, aid expert David Rieff argues that guilt-stricken donations helped fund a brutal resettlement programme that may have killed up to 100,000”

IRIN interview with Berhanu Nega on foreign aid.

QUESTION: What do you think aid has achieved in Ethiopia?

ANSWER: If by aid we mean making a difference in the lives of people over the long term, helping people to live in a situation whereby they do not have to face those kinds of emergencies, then obviously aid has failed, because the number of people affected by emergencies has significantly increased over the years.

If you look at the famine the country faced in the 1970s, some one million people were affected, in 84/85 about six million, and now you have 12 million to 14 million. It is getting worse through time despite all these policy interventions trying to improve production and rural life. Aid in the short term might have saved lives, but in the long run it seems things are getting worse.

Lords of Hypocrisy: The opulence and inefficiency of the NGO in developing countries is well-worn territory, but it has become much more intimate for me now that I am in Africa. Now I see the White SUVs roar past every day, now I know what NGO employees’ salaries are compared to locals, now I’ve seen where the employees live.

Here are several recent examples that I have witnessed first hand that have left me sourly disappointed and disenchanted with the multi-billion dollar industry that is aid work.

Ethiopia: A ‘man made’ disaster: A government study made public on Thursday has condemned a much-heralded $200m a year aid programme aimed at ending perennial hunger in Ethiopia for failing to meet its targets and causing "a man-made disaster"…. As of the end of May, only 11% of cash and 44% of food had reached people in need, said the study by the government's emergency nutrition co-ordination unit.

"The inadequate implementation of the productive safety net programme is resulting in a man-made disaster in many areas of the country," the study said.

… On the same day, the European Union said it would augment its funding for the program by $72m over two years.

The 20/20 Campaign

Summary of the 20/20 campaign:

Tired of bitching? Exhausted by the verbal volleyball? Weary of wayward words? C’mere you. Group hug.

Join the 20/20 campaign. Advocacy Ethiopia to the rescue. No-nonsense, effective, crap and drama free and… and… low carb. Join fellow Wonqetters and donate $20.oo to AE, and then get 20 of your nearest and dearest to do the same.

20/20. See how you can't tinker with genius?

You’ve entered the no bitching zone. Do something.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Huh? Huh? You like?

So this is the kind of conversation that passes for conversation between me and my husband:

“I can’t figure out the html code for the new Weichegud look.”
“Why are you redecorating?”
“Hello, what? What hello?”
“It’s nearly been a near with the same look?”
“So??!! Excuse me, have we met? What are we? Godless communists? Same look for an entire year?”
“You realize your analogy makes no sense.”

And that’s when I remind him of how many hours I was in labor. Match, game, set.

Sorry for the leave without absence, but just as I was ambling to get back, goodness gracious, it was Fashion Week, people. The High Holiday. Happy to say things are back on track, but with a twist. The Wonqville family has expanded, literally and literally.

Point 1: I will be on maternity leave after I heave out another baby.

Point 2: I have managed to recruit a couple of writers, so now there will be four of us haranguing you. Their introductory blogs are coming up, but here are the basic stats:

Meskot- highly disillusioned, big city lefty who dabbles in pop culture idolatry. Has become ruinously political as of late. And a little something for the fellows on the east coast: she be single… and, if I may be the divulger of secrets, easy on the eyes…when she is not scowling… which, in these troubled times, ain’t that often.

Welafen- on a self imposed exile to a cave somewhere in one of those square states which the rest of us think don’t exist, Welafen will occasionally opine on social matters. WelE is smack in the middle of mending a brutally broken heart, so if he sounds unduly morbid, please, be gentle… Only the gentlest sprinkling of salt on his open wound will be acceptable.

Trendspotting Chiraq- will be the resident political satirist, which is very ironic considering that T.C. lives in the terminally humorless Bible Belt where they speak in a nauseating drawl when they deliver incoherent hate speeches.

And, of course, Gooch has an open invitation and a special place in our hearts.

Okay? Okay.

I’ve been mulling what Gooch said about functional diaspora organizations. Can’t We All Just Get Along is a must-must read if you are interested in channeling your energy.

I think I’ve been lucky in that the few Ethiopian-related organizations I’ve been involved in have been positive. Of course that’s because they’ve been grassroots, and the membership was an amalgamation of like-minded people who drink as heavily as they curse. I know. Where do you sign up?

There is an intricate psychology one has to be armed with to get involved in Ethiopian organizations: the kind of psychology that helps you cope when you don’t get a return phone call from an organization you are trying to help. Once you get over that hump, then things fall in line.

The fantastic thing about Gooch’s entries- especially “Give and ye shall be given”- is that it triggered helpful discussions on harnessing the energy of disenfranchised diasporans. That’s the thing about politics. If you don’t watch out you become a raving lunatic. Gooch was able to inculcate some direction to the rant. And, look. He did it in three short entries… without the assistance of four-letter words. Damn, he’s good.

Phiqr took the baton and started the ball rolling- read the comments. I lib Phiqr.

So about this forum leading in some kinda action… Seriously? Don’t givethat kind of boost to my self-aggrandizement ‘coz that’s not going to do anyone any good.

I am not being modest here. I know my place. There are some of us who are destined to be the ranters, the raconteurs, the people who sit in the back of the room and talk to imaginary friends. The “Guddu Kassa” of life, if I may be so bold. Then there are the Goochs of this world, blessed with clarity and pragmatism. Nirvana would be marrying the two, not asking one to morph into the other… i.e. I know my calling.

Here’s my take:

For Ethiopia to see better days, we have to be better Ethiopians.

Cue in the violin. Somebody? Anybody?

That out of the way, I agree with Gooch in trying to make existing organizations better. Being disillusioned by an organization is not intrinsically Ethiopian. Ask the democrats-- who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The aftermath of the brutality of post-revolution Ethiopia has left a whole generation socially retarded. There should be a post-communism psychotherapy that we as a society should go through because something went el-whacko there.

Social change has to precede political change.

Once we've re-glued our mental state, we’ll be able to seize the bull by the horn, the Ibex by the balls [insert less graphic and more appropriate metaphor here].

Until we calibrate our collective psyche, however, there are things we can do. I agree much with Gooch (I’m having a T-shirt printed that says that) when he says trying to start a new group, especially over the innernetz, might be duty heavy at this point. So here’s what I think:

1) Change our social behavior. Surround ourselves with the right kind of people. Yes, I said it. Hang out with people who are doers and result-oriented. A friend of mine tells people who call her to complain about the EPRDF that they have an allotted time for whining, and then they either STFU or she’ll hang up. That should be our policy. The time and energy expended bellyaching... please, people.

2) Start small. Join a civic organization, a political support group, edir, mehaber, whatever. Stay engaged knowing this will be for the long run. Activism is not a laxative. Start by calling friends and urge them to call friends, etc. Often we want to sprint before we learn to walk without stumbling.

3) I forgot number three. But rest assured it was a splendid point.

I’ve said this before- we need to align ourselves with moderates who have the ability to temper their anger and angst, Berhanu Nega style. (That excludes seething to make a point, which he does brilliantly.) I don’t believe in ephemeral alliances, no matter how politically expedient it might seem. Long term, it does not work. It sounds naïve and politically unsophisticated, but we need to realize that we have a right to ask for leaders who are honorable, above all. It’s not okay to settle for leaders who mistreat us less than Mengistu. Surely, that can’t be our yardstick.

So specifically we want to do something? Again, thank you Gooch for leading us to Advocacy Ethiopia. A friend of mine who is in the know about people who know people who are famously in the know also vouches for them so… whaddayawant? Gooch Certified, mother approved.

Hark, the “Wonqville $20/20 campaign” hath been born. Take out your credit card… steady now... and commit to donating $20.oo to Advocacy Ethiopia. (If you want anonymity, send the money order thing.) Twenty bucks. Then send an email urging 20 0f your nearest and dearest to do the same. The last part is equally important. 20/20. Get it? Wait. You hear the angels singing in C Minor? Yes, you do.

How can we keep track of how many of us participated? Geja? Can we email you? Or add it to the comments. We can use the honor system.

With a few friends, my family celebrated the anniversary of the victory of Adwa at the same place Mussolini declared war on Ethiopia. Adwa is our history; and people with that kind of legacy cannot squander it or, worse, settle for being led by refined mediocrity.

20/20. Advocacy Ethiopia.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

While I was out...

... did anything happen?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one… girl goes on vacation, comes back with some vicious Italian flu and spends several days acquainting herself with each vein on the marble floor in her bathroom… You have? Oh, well.

And guess what happens when you spend seemingly endless days staring down the porcelain throne?

Los loco compadres, Ato Meles’ and Ato Issayas’ pissing contest reached some kinda dingbat détente until both fill up on Gatorade; jailed Ethiopian opposition members remain in jail, but were not blamed for a series of bombs in Addis (that courtesy goes to (drum roll, please) the whawskly Eh-wee-treans); yet another drought looms over Ethiopia just as the guv’ment of Ethiopia rah-rah-siss-boom-bahs about ending ‘extreme’ poverty in twenty years. The EU delivers its final word on the Ethiopian elections, and… and… after 14 years of “proceedings”, guess which genocidal maniac’s, um, genocide trial verdict will be announced on May 23? 14 years to make a case against Mengistu? Guess that means the opposition leaders and journalists now charged with the same ‘genocide’ have to cool their heals even though our fearless leader promised his donors a “speedy and fair” trial. Good thing Prime Minister Meles is known for his honesty because I was starting to… what’s it called… panic.

I’ve been trying to catch up.

Here is something I’ve been trying to say but haven’t been able to because I start frothing incomprehensively whenever I start the argument with fellow ET-Americans… Time for Ethiopian Immigrants to Reconsider Alliance with Democrats. Hello, yes! Following up on HR 4423 by those of us in the States is crucial. Call your representative and senators, register to vote!

Hm. That wasn't hysterical or nothin'.

The World Bank’s Country Director ekes out a strategy for Ethiopia—in a few ‘salient’ points… which Professor Berhanu Abegaz (wonder if Jon Stewart took any of his classes) politely bitch slaps into the netherworld.

In Ethiopia’s case, donors can ally themselves with citizen movements to advance the twin causes of justice and development based on international norms. For this to occur, external restraints by donors must complement the nascent internal restraints by citizens to contain the abuse of power. The World Bank is by far the best development partner of the Ethiopian poor. It would be a great tragedy indeed if the Bank were to choose to continue to conduct business as usual and thereby lend credibility to a discredited regime.

Ye gads!

Three guesses as to which of my favorite Ethiopian Punditocrat wrote the following:

With international bureaucrats it is about the very best cocktail party post-modern faux economic intellectualism with the same silly failed theories onanistically and ritualistically re-exhumed in the presence of an 'African who really listens to us and gives some of our theories' another chance on his captive subjects.

Good night and, seriously, good luck.

Okay, I’m still catching up with news. Meanwhile here is something I found buried in my “things I want to talk about” file. A bit dated but what the hell. Thanks a million again to Gooch for filling in.

February 1, 2006

It’s been a hell of a time for those of us who have not grown up around the British people to understand if Tony Blair is cutting off aid to Ethiopia, or not cutting off aid to Ethiopia. We are used to Americanism. Vicki Huddleston: cut off ‘sales’ of Humvees? Yes! Cut aid? Not so much. You have yourself a great day.

Ethiopundit’s Perfidious Albion explains a lot. But there is one other source my friends and I turn to whenever we attempt to understand the Brits: a scholarly, most comprehensive, most multifaceted, most once-and-for-all source into the English psyche: the ably inimitable … Eddie Izzard. You’ll learn more about European history and what makes English people tick (and Lordy if there aren’t a million and one things that make them tick from Eddie than you will ever learn from …what’s that thing called… reading.

On political disposition:

“Pol Pot killed one point seven million Cambodians, died under house
arrest, well done there. Stalin killed many millions, died in his bed, aged
seventy-two, well done indeed. And the reason we let them get away with it
is they killed their own people. And we're sort of fine with that. Hitler
killed people next door. Oh, stupid man. After a couple of years we won't
stand for that, will we?”

He knows all this because, well:

I grew up in Europe, where the history comes from.

Of course, his classic routine:

"Cake or death?" That's a pretty easy question. Anyone could answer that.
"Cake or death?"
"Eh, cake please."
"Very well! Give him cake!"
"Oh, thanks very much. It's very nice."
"You! Cake or death?"
“Uh, cake for me, too, please."
"Very well! Give him cake, too! We're gonna run out of cake at this rate. You! Cake or death?"
"Uh, death, please. No, cake! Cake! Cake, sorry. Sorry..."
"You said death first, uh-uh, death first!"
"Well, I meant cake!"
"Oh, all right. You're lucky I'm Church of England! Cake or death?"

Thank you for flying Church of England, cake or death?

Consider yourself Anglophiled. You’re welcome. Oh, Eddie. The perfect antidote for disemboweled bowels.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Give and ye shall be given

His Goochness on money… mouth and putting the two together.

With much, much thanks Gooch for coming through.

Always and forever,



VOA writes that Ethiopia has a bit of a population problem. No kidding!

But, what has the EPRDF been doing for the last fifteen years? Failing on both factors that contribute to population growth - economic prosperity and social policy.

The population growth rate has not changed since 1991. The rate of poverty has remained unchanged since 1991. Economic growth has been stagnant at 1.1% per capita.

Why? The EPRDF spends too much energy suppressing the population to maintain power, rather than devising policies that would increase economic growth and help decrease population growth.

Reducing population growth is also about social change, and to bring about social change, the government needs to carry out public education campaigns. Public education campaigns only work when the public identifies with and believes the source of the information. The Ethiopian people do not believe nor identify with a government that calls them neftegna, chauvinists, parasites, narrow nationalists and that makes it clear that it does not represent them, but simply governs them. The EPRDF government does not have the moral authority to bring about social change.

So, in spite of feeble announcements that they'll undertake a new campaign to limit population growth, there is no reason to expect that the EPRDF will do any better in the future that it has done until now.

There, that makes me feel better!

But what have I accomplished with this rant? I've let off some steam, perhaps passed on a little knowledge to the few ETW readers who have endured my brief tenure! That's it. The EPRDF is still terrorizing the Ethiopian population, and I'm here in the diaspora, relegated to following the news like spectator at a football match, with absolutely no impact on the outcome. Helpless.

I don't feel so good any more.

Oh, how I wish we in the diaspora could coalesce and make a strong, positive contribution to
Ethiopia and ourselves. I wish we could have the same impact on Ethiopia as, say, the Eritrean diaspora has on Eritrea.

In a North American city of about one million, where about 800 Eritreans reside, during the last Ethio-Eritrean War, Eritreans raised over one million dollars for the war effort. In the same city, after the events last November, 2000 Ethiopians raised a few thousand dollars for Kinijit.

Now, it's probably true that after a few more years of poverty and excess population, if the repression gets harsh enough, after one or two 'Hawzien equivalents', people will be up in arms, ethnic identity will kick in, and another guerilla movement will hit full stride, replete with ample funds from the diaspora.

I don't want to wait for that. I'd rather invest the time and money into peace and democracy. I would rather raise a million dollars for Kinijit today so that it can develop the capacity to promote peace and democracy for all Ethiopians, rather than tomorrow, raise a million dollars for weapons for one LF or another. I would love for there to be an Ethiopian organization like the Armenian Assembly, Indian lobby; an organization that I know would advocate for Ethiopians in the diaspora and in

At this point, I always feel the need to address those with legitimate concerns about the capacity and competence of the Kinijit North America Support Group.

Let me put it this way: We have no choice. This is the only way the diaspora can have any meaningful impact. Besides, if we are going to wait for the perfect organization to appear out of the blue so that we can all confidently get behind it, we'll be waiting forever. There are deep-seated reasons why we have not managed to develop such an organization to date, as I discussed in my last post, and these reasons are not going to disappear overnight.

So, let's move ahead and take the plunge. Let's give our money, knowing full well that it may not be used efficiently.
Let us free ourselves from helplessness!