Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Don't Worry, Be Happy

First off, Coffeechilisun and Egoportal, can you send us smoke signals? The Ethiopian blogosphere is not the same without you two.

Secondly, here is another call to all of you back home to start blogging. History is unfolding and some first hand information for posterity would be helpful.

Thirdly, a few words from guest blogger Chraq.

Small victories: the new prescription for Ethiopian happiness.

I read something pretty amazing from a ferenjie blogger in Addis. Titled, ‘Small Ball’ in a blog called Addis Calling, Ethiopians are called upon to be… happy, to appreciate the small victories they’ve achieved.

The staggering part is that this comes from someone who seems to be against the Bush administration’s Iraq policy. I dare conclude someone from the American left.


The writer cites the DailyKos as an example of being thankful for small victories.

A great disservice is done when we ignore small victories or ignore their potential. When you become fixated on overall, total victory, you actually enable the very power you are so vehemently against.

If anything, it is the bloggers in America that have taught me this. The netizens of Dailykos are passionate small-ballers. They are obsessed with every victory no matter how trifling. They think long and zealously on how to bank as much as possible out of any victory. Losses, in their minds, are only small victories.

Hm. I am taking a leap in assumption that the writer is American, making the disservice of the “small ball” analogy even sadder. The writer either doesn’t understand, or even worse, doesn’t care that the atmosphere DailyKos operates under is diametrically opposed to the one the Ethiopian opposition has to live under. Imagine if the Bush administration jailed Kos and his Kosonostra for “attempts to subvert the constitution” and then added in a charge of “genocide” for expressing its opposition. Then maybe we can talk about being happy about small victories.

Hundred of people have been killed or are in jail in Ethiopia for the same thing Kos says and does every day. Why don’t we talk when 111 Koszis have spent a year in prison, under atrocious conditions, before we start grandstanding? Or, even better, let the Bush administration gun down 100 peaceful protestors in Crawford and see how good small victories feel.

When African Americans were finally allowed to vote in this country, would the writer have said, “be happy to be a small-baller” if the 1965 Voting Rights Act came with a clause that an African American vote would be counted as 1/4th a white vote. Or Brown vs. the Board of Education came with the stipulation that 10 African Americans a year would be allowed to cross the barrier of segregation.

Celebrating small victories is only possible in an atmosphere that allows it. When you know there is a remote possibility of a second chance at doing something better is when you lick your wounds and move on. When you know you will not end up in exile, in jail or dead if you express your views is when you can celebrate small victories. When you have confidence your opponent will play by the rules and not make it an “all or nothing” game is when you happily celebrate your small-baller status.

When the EPRDF knew it had lost Addis Abeba it immediately transferred the AA police jurisdiction under the federal government. All the major income-generating institutes that fall under city municipality were co-opted under the federal machinery. And then, when the EPRDF realized it has lost the elections, it changed the rules of the parliament. Perhaps the writer can point out to Ethiopians which part of all of this they should be celebrating.

Imagine if the democrats win back control of the Senate this November. And then imagine if President Bush declared it would now take 88 votes to override his veto. Certainly the democrats would be happy for the “small victory” of gaining back the Senate? Certainly, some measure of celebration of a ‘small victory’ can be extracted if Pelosi was thrown in jail because she called for a peaceful protest?

What the Ethiopian opposition achieved was no small victory. People died protecting ballots. Even more people were tortured because they supported the opposition. Even after all of this, the opposition agreed to join parliament if a measly eight point condition was accepted. What were those conditions?

1. The Election Board needs to be restructured and be able to operate independently

2. All forms of media should be free and available to all political parties.

3. The legal system must be able to operate independently without any coercion from the ruling party.

4. An independent commission to be established to investigate the June 8, 2005 killings of innocent Ethiopians.

5. Ensure the police and armed forces do not get involved in politics and take sides.

6. Recent laws that have been passed at the concluding sessions of the last Parliament that deal with parliamentary procedures and governance of the City of Addis Ababa should be rescinded.

7. All political prisoners should be released, and opposition party offices that had been closed should be opened.

8. Establish an independent commission, that is acceptable to all parties, to follow up that the above mentioned issues are resolved on a timely manner.

This is what makes the opposition intractable and unaware of how to celebrate small victories?

That an American, who from birth is taught above everything else to love liberty and zealously protect it, wrote this piece pains me. That it came from the left is not surprising. After all, it was Jimmy Carter who was one of the first people to condone the ban on post-election demonstrations imposed by the EPRDF.

In a previous post, the writer is anguished by the Bush policy in Iraq. Well, by the same formula he/she imposes upon Ethiopia, can’t the administration take credit for the three free elections in Iraq? Aren’t Iraqi’s “free people.” And “free people are free to loot” as Rumsfeld put it? Is the writer happy with the small victories in Iraq?

Somehow, Ethiopians yearning for the same freedom that has made this country great is still seen as a luxury. We have, after all, the American ambassador lecturing people who are dying and in prison about the virtue of patience.

It would be funny if it were not so colossally tragic.

It further highlights the importance of having Dr. Birhanu Nega’s book translated into English because he, more than I ever could, explains why people who have seen the rays of freedom, will never again settle for crumbs.

We can no more ask Ethiopians to settle for a third-rate democarcy than we can of ourselves.

From the land of Live free or die,



Anonymous mezgebu said...

Damn straight on point. But why would you think the left thinks any differently on the "3rd rate" democracy than the right?

5:06 PM, September 05, 2006  
Anonymous atlas said...

kwel. finally a reason to put pelosi in jail.

5:08 PM, September 05, 2006  
Anonymous Yohannes said...


It is worse when you have the conversation with this kind of dude in real time. (I just came back from Addis and I lived though it.) The same guy who was burning my ears about "warrantless evesdropping" and how Bush is subverting democracy in the freest land on earth was telling me that the opposition should just cool it.

Carter basically told Ethios the same thing: "Try again in 2010" and "Hope you do better in the woreda elections."

Well, the government has cancelled woreda elections. Do you see Carter turning red?

(welcome back, btw. your entry "16 days" was sublime. I didn't cry though, making me think I have yet to get in touch with my feminine side.)

6:02 PM, September 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a ferenji (not an American though) I could not agree more with Chraq. Unfortunately, I hear these kind of comments from western people all the time, suggesting that African people are somehow not 'ready' for democracy. If we truly believe in the unversality of human rights, we should not permit ourselves such double standards.

Keep blogging!
Hazel Goedhart,
the Netherlands.

7:52 PM, September 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Wonq,

The general filling of most of the so called "leftist liberals" in the west is as simple as this,
African people are somehow not able to understand democracy. Africans diserve the tyrants they get, because forse is what they respect. Sad but true! Anyway don't expect the "superiority complex" of the west to get to its rightful place very soon. "Humility".... They are truly under the illuion of there own lip servise. Deep seted fear of Africans will never allow them to come out and defend black people. Let's all forget about them and move on to do what we have to do. In my books they don't realy exist.

6:28 AM, September 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minew Kaltefa sim Chraq?

7:01 AM, September 06, 2006  

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