Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ethiopia : Woyineshet the Model girl

by Dimetros Birku
(borkena) Ethiopian Youth is not only a victim of minority ethnic based tyrannical regime. It is also a victim of global capitalist cultural conquest. A world view that nurture individualism, consumerism, greed, materialism and hedonism ,among other things, are being entrenched as social values in Ethiopia.

These challenges have combined to create unprecedented social malaise. Corruption is fast approaching to become a social value. Crime rate is on the rise compared to Ethiopia ‘s past. Prostitution, which is not by no means all about poverty, is on the rise. Addiction and alcoholism are on the rise. Despite stories of “economic growth,” Ethiopia is being consumed by those social malaise which obviously have economic and political implications.

The political project of the minority ethnic Tigray people’s Liberation Front (TPLF) with regard to the Youth is either to create a morally corrupted and unenlightened support base to echo propaganda related to “development,” which is supposedly a means with which the intent to build ethnic based power in all its forms is covered.

In fact, there is a narrative that some were enticed to join the ranks of the TPLF dominated ruling EPRDF not out of lack of knowledge about dictatorial nature of the regime in power but out of the conviction to struggle for democratic changes from within the ruling party, and of course with the anticipation that the party itself would evolve to an entity committed to principles of equality and democracy. It didn’t happen. The shock, seemingly, was not that there was no move along the path to democratization but that worsening,subtle and unsubtle, parochial power build up and outright repression came to be a pattern.

Account from those who left the party seem to confirm the notion that the ruling TPLF dominated EPRDF is all about ethnic supremacy and power build up with no intention to democratize Ethiopia. Folks like Ermias Legesse went into exile in the US and recounted first hand political experience within the regime in his new book, Ye Meles Trufatoch, a book which I have to read yet. Others like Habtamu Ayalew, who left the party earlier and whom the late Meles Zenawi is said to have hailed as insightful and visionary, decided to challenge undemocratic practices and apartheid like rule of TPLF at home by forming Youth Group Advocacy, Baleraey Wotatoch, which the regime began to see with a sense of enmity soon after its formation – perhaps a factor that convinced Habtamu to commence an outright political advocacy by joining Unity for Justice and Democracy (UDJ.) Now Habtamu, already tortured in Maekelawi, is in jail to face trumped up “terrorism” charges under the phony “anti-terrorism” legislation.

The anti-terrorism legislation took the level of repression to a new height. It fostered the project to repress the section of population that matters most: the Youth. Motive? To make politics, which is demanding human, constitutional and citizenship rights in the context of Ethiopia, sound like an act of terrorism. The only political involvement that is appreciated is to give a hand for repression under the cover of “developmental.”

The result of it all is not as intended. Yes, there are those who lend support to the regime either on grounds of ethnic affiliation or on grounds that they are reduced to be economically dependent on the regime in their very own country. And yes, there are those who are scared of being assertive and took refuge in pursuit of life styles that are perceived to be “cool,” those who live aspiration of hedonism and all those elements of cultural conquest projected “modern” and desirable. However, there are those who reject that and dared to stand up to resist repression.

Woyineshet the Model girl 

Woyinset Molla is a model girl – obviously not model in the sense of the fashion industry. she is the new “cool.” She is a model activist who defended her conscience. She is a model girl who is not distracted by any thing else and obsessed with what matters most freedom and her country. Not naive to give hand to the enslaving cultural conquest which comes in the form of “modernity.”

Not just that. Woyinshet practically rejected the reality that politics in Ethiopia is a dangerous business, what the regime wanted to project, not just for those getting involved in it but even for families. The regime is extremely unpredictable. Yet, she seem to have understood that silence in the face of repression has irreversible long term consequence for Ethiopia.

Woyinshet Molla is a very active member of Semayawi party, Amharic for Blue Party, relatively new opposition party in the country.

For about three years now every Friday, Ethiopian Muslims stage peaceful protest after their Friday prayer demanding for their constitutional right for freedom of religion be respected and the release of their incarcerated leaders. And they have paid in life for that too.

Yesterday was one of those days. They were interrupted in the middle of their prayers in the premises of The Grand Anwar Mosque, in Merkato neighborhood of Addis Ababa – where Woyinset Molla lives. Many were brutally beaten.

Woyineshet is not a Muslim. But she believes that the demands of Ethiopian Muslims is legal and constitutional. And she was not intimidated to show up in the middle of brutal attack against Ethiopian Muslims and show her solidarity. She was not assigned to do so by her party. She did it out of her own conviction to stand up for justice.

Already known for security forces for her unflinching stance against repression, a plain cloth Security who was reportedly videotaping the incident from a nearby building spotted Woyinshet close by the scene of incident. He did not take time to get her and attack her brutally. Apparently, other security forces had to give him a hand to attack Woyinshet and they did not leave her alone even after they unleashed brutal attack on her. She is jailed.

According to reports on Social Media, Woyinshet appeared in a closed court earlier today (it is not common for courts in Addis Ababa to hear cases on weekends). It is expected that TPLF government would charge Woyinshet, who is in fact a victim of state terror, with “terrorism.”

She is reportedly seen with big stitched cut on the left side of her head and with broken and bandaged arm. Worse, ruling party cadres on social media are trying to dehumanize, by way of Scoffing, youth with a defiance spirit to repression and Woyinshet is not spared either. Ostensibly, it is meant to be part psychological component of repression. It does not seem to be productive, though.

What the regime totally forgot is that that repression could have undesired consequence. It can have the very opposite effect of silencing and depoliticizing the Youth. In fact, it is evident that the more the regime is deepening repression the more it is politicizing the youth. And there is the awareness that the intention of the regime is sinister in the long term.

For sure, they will face many millions of the likes of the model Woyinshet in the near future and in many forms actually. They still do not get it that it is unthinkable to sustain ethnic based aspiring supremacist regime.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Clueless Hailemariam and the British hand in Ethiopia

Holding supposedly highest political office and being virtually inconsequential is obviously frustrating, more so for people who expected change –so to speak. It is in that light that I gave a room for speculative interpretation to unelaborated recent status update from a facebook friend: “Obama is an American fraud.” Apparently, Obama seem to have mastery of how to handle the reality of being powerless,or at least not as powerful as he is supposed to be by virtue of the power of the office, while in “power.” His communication skills which earned him a reputation as an eloquent speaker could be part of the trick.

In the context of Ethiopian politics, current Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegne is not only powerless but also he seem to be totally clueless in how to handle the embarrassment of being inconsequential. Unruly impulsiveness, confusion, mimicry (of the former prime minister) and worst of all shallow understanding of issues characterize his public appearances.

It is reached to a point, apparently, that it becomes news when he is not impulsive and able to speak as a politician. It happened in what is said to be “public-private consultative meeting” in Addis Ababa, as reported by Addis Fortune, which was attended by Hailemariam Desalegne and his cabinet members. In that note, Addis Fortune wrote, in its July 6, 2014 online edition, the following under the tile “Face the Business”:
    …In an unusually well attended meeting, with the entire cabinet of his administration in attendance, Hailemariam was seen being assertive and articulate [emphasis mine] in responding to all issues raised by chamber leaders and individual businessmen and women on Wednesday,July 2, 2014.
It’s public knowledge that normally Hailemariam is not assertive and articulate. To me,his problem is more than that. He is clueless on many issues of Ethiopian politics.
A few days ago, he had an interview with Emmanuel Igunza, BBC correspondent in Addis Ababa. A five minutes video clip of this interview, which is posted on BBC website, tells it all. Actually one of the question and his answer is worth quoting :
    Emannuel: You said that there is a distinction between opposition and what you call terrorist elements. That law [Anti-terrorism law]has been criticized by the International Community for having a broad mandate …that is why the security forces have been accused of arbitrarily detaining example opposition figures.
    Hailemariam: that is not true. What we did …We know this accusation would come.So we said let us copy from the British law. If you compare the British terrorist law and that of ours, it is almost similar
I very much doubt if Hailemariam even bothered to read British anti-terrorist law. He rather appeared to be as if he is memorizing a scripted text – much like a telemarketer-not like actively thinking prime minister. And from who else? Meles Zenawi uttered this same statement in the “parliament” in a response to critic against the anti-terrorist law.

In what seem to be a defensive comment,in the same interview with the BBC correspondent, to a question related to repression in Ethiopia, Hailemariam did try to give an impression that the “democratic modern process” is only twenty years young which is overused excuse even by the late Meles Zenawi. Even in the aftermath of the massacre which claimed the lives of well over 200 people in Addis Ababa in a matter of hours in 2005, one of the excuses was “Democracy is a process.” And clueless Hailemariam is reading that from the dead Meles.

Total repression is not a hallmark of starting point for democracy which Hailemariam is clueless about. More importantly, aspiring ethnic-supremacy which manifested itself in the form of creating wealth wealth both as a means and as an end, while controlling all key government structure, ranging from foreign affairs to defense and intelligence and what not, and while at the same time creating an illusion of giving the giving public service an appearance of mulch-ethnic public face to the extent of putting a ceremonial like Prime Minister and ceremonial president at the same time, to sustain real power behind stage and make inter-generational ethnic supremacy agenda absolute reality is in no way young democracy. it does not look like something that can grow into democracy. Hailemariam is also clueless about that too. As a matter of fact, right after the death of Meles Zenawi, the position of Prime minister was unconstitutionally chopped into three pieces in an apparent effort to put down discontent in the ruling coalition. However, TPLF took the slice that matters more.

Hailemariam was asked about skyrocketing price of Teff in the parliament about a year or so ago.Teff has always been a stable cereal crop in Ethiopia. But his reply was, “it is because people who have never tasted Teff, [and this is a reference to Ethiopia, not Teff consumption overseas] started to consume Teff.” Again, his response is literally what the late Meles Zenawi responded to parliamentarians except that Meles’ response was to a question related to sugar.

The British hand in Ethiopia 

Question is how did Hailemariam end up being prime minister? The death of the late prime minister Meles may appear to be full explanation for it but it is tricky. Yes, Hailemariam, unlike the anti-terrorism law, is not copied from current UK politics either.

He just happened to be a servant in an ethnocentric political system which reminiscent of British Colonial Administration – even that of apartheid South Africa except that in the case of Ethiopia British involvement appear to be in disguise and only in the form of technical advisory and mentorship in how to divide and rule which the ruling Tigray People Liberation Front’s (TPLF) elites enjoyed since, at least, it was about to take state power more than 23 years ago by forging alliance with ethnic based rebel groups.

TPLF had even business in the UK and US at a time when it was operating as conventional guerrilla force – a fact confirmed by one of the founders of TPLF, Sebhat Nega, during his interview with VOA Amharic Service some years ago.

In fact, it is now more like public knowledge that the British are confidant to the regime in power in Ethiopia. And there seem to be some degree of awareness that UK is conspiring with and for the regime in power.

Soon after UK government delegates found out that their citizen of Ethiopian decent, Andargachew Tsige (who was abducted by Yemen and forcefully extradited to Ethiopia same day in violations of all international norms), is in the hands of the regime in Ethiopia ,some time in early July, and at a time when the public was expecting that the UK government would exercise their lobby power to protect the legal rights of their extradited citizen, there was news in the state controlled ERTA that UK vowed to renew £300 million in annual financial support to “Ethiopia.” Andargachew is still living torture -physical and mental.

In total contempt to the repressed peaceful struggle in Ethiopia, British Embassy in Addis Ababa called Ethiopian Opposition parties for a meeting to discuss the situation in the country (this you can find it on Sendek Amharic Newspapwer). And this was during the week the British disclosed that they learned about the abduction and extradition of Andargachew Tsige, if they did not learn well before that, in fact. Same week, members of Ethiopian opposition were arrested in what looked like fresh crackdown on the opposition in the name of alleged terror plot related to the abducted British national. Who the British Embassy is kidding, only the British Embassy know.

Erstwhile, Ethiopian opposition appear lured by this idea of diplomatic campaign “ to expose the level of repression in Ethiopia.” The thing is the British diplomats are not ignorant about what apartheid regime looks like. And they are not oblivious to existence of an apartheid like system in current Ethiopia.

My suspicion is that perhaps they even helped shape it. And they are probably thinking in terms of using it sometime in the future to safeguard their interest in Ethiopia and the region. And, of course, what matters to UK is not development or democracy in Ethiopia but its interest- long and short term interest. In what appears to be an excuse for their alliance with the regime in Ethiopia, they seem to radiate the idea that the opposition is weak. But the excuse that Ethiopian opposition is weak is lame, rather. What was the role of the British and the Americans when the opposition was solid back in 2005? Didn’t even they conspire to with regime to weaken the opposition Kinijit?

On a different note, What I don’t understand is why there is no friction, it is not apparent, between British (and western) interest and Chinese interest in Ethiopia. Or is it just to early for the friction to happen? UK (and other western powers too) is spending money in Ethiopia and apparently providing other forms of subtle support to the regime. The fight against terror cannot explain that. China is not spending money. It is rather making money in Ethiopia, including from what western powers spend in Ethiopia,from infrastructure development while providing technological support for repression ( I think that is paid too) to the regime in Ethiopia. And Woyane wants to project its treason as recognition for development and economic growth. Surely, it sounds naive to tell it like it is but the story is rather points to neglected reality: uncolonized Ethiopia is deeply neocolonized and Woyanne, a wealth political entity with firm grasp of power, is a reliable partner in that project.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tenacious Andargachew Tsige shown on Ethiopian government TV

Probably, the last expression to expect on the face of someone who is subjected to over two weeks of unimaginable physical and emotional torture, someone who is still in the hands of his captors who already sentenced him to death in absentia, someone who is portrayed as a “terrorist” while he is the very victim of his captors horrific terror like repression, is smile.

When Andargache Tsige, an exiled Ethiopian with British citizenship before his abduction by Yemen security authorities and forced extradition to Ethiopia on June 23, 2014, is shown on Ethiopian government television, well there is no such thing as Ethiopian in the sense that everything is pretty much under total control of the ruling ethnic Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), he managed to smile.

True, clear signs of physical and emotional exhaustion are there. In the video, the synchronization of the audio and video may be poorly performed- probably for reasons of cutting out materials that do not serve intended propaganda value. Besides, the person talking to Andargachew is not visible except that we see only handshakes.

For the regime, it is customary to hold prisoners in front of Camera and force them speak something of propaganda value without their actual consent. Dehumanizing political dissension with torture and forced disgraceful statement is very common for the TPLF led government yet what makes headline in the international media outlet is a story of “economic growth.” Even in that regards, there seem to be less interest to inquire as to why Ethiopia still remains to be the leading recipient of aid in Sub-Saharan Africa and as to millions and millions of Ethiopians struggle to feed themselves- often times with little success for many.

In any case, even in the not unexpected forced TV appearance, Andargachew does not seem to bear any signs of remorse for his resolve to bring about change for the better for his native country Ethiopia – the very thing that make him appear “terrorist” for the regime in power. And his tenacity in the face of torture is inspiring many Ethiopians.

All that he uttered in Amharic is that he is at peace with himself, he is exhausted and needs rest. It amounts to pure political nativity of higher degree or ignorance or both to think that political persuasion and convictions of conscience vanish like that.

The ruling party’s perception of a “terrorist” is bizarre. Political dissension is “terrorism” for the regime in power. Members of opposition parties are “terrorists,” journalists are “terrorists,” bloggers are “terrorists,” among others. In consequence, it has become virtually impossible to engage in opposition politics in Ethiopia. And in an attempt to escape repression, many are thinking in terms of armed struggle out of the conviction that the regime understands only armed rebellion. It is not untrue that many of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front officials – who control key structures of government – bluff the opposition and take a great pride with the guerrilla struggle for 17 years. Intended message is despise for opposition parties.

Andargachew was not captured in a battle field. As indicated above, Andargachew Tsige, secretary of Ginbot 7 movement for Democracy, Justice and Freedom, was abducted illegally by Yemen security forces. And he was forcefully extradited the same day in violation of international legal procedures of extradition.

There are rumors that he was flown to Ethiopia with a military aircraft. And this is one of the reasons why possible case of corruption on the part of Yemen security forces makes sense.
Apparently, the Ethiopian regime feared that Andargachew could be rescued, simply by legal procedures of extradition or other means through anticipated involvement of UK government , had he been allowed to stay a couple of days in Yemen. In fact, Yemeni authorities were acting as if Andargachew is not handed to Ethiopian authorities the same day. Ginbot 7 was negotiating with Yemeni authorities for about a week, according to Ginbot 7 statement, to avert extradition of Andargachew to Ethiopia.

If the extradition of Andargachew to Ethiopia was averted, it would mean a big political loss for the regime in Addis. So their rush to complete the abduction in a day by forcibly extraditing him to Ethiopia is understandable. What’s not understandable is the rush on the part of Yemeni security to bypass all the legal processes of extradition. How is that possible without a big corruption scandal?
The life of Andargachew is still in danger. The fact that he is shown on TV might have something to do with UK delegation discussion with Ethiopian officials.

It may be alright to suppose that UK government intelligence was totally oblivious about an enterprise to abduct one of its citizen in Yemen before, during or after the incident. But would it be alright to suppose that UK government can not influence at least to make the detention a little bearable – for example ending incommunicado detention of Andargachew, a visit by human rights group and regular visit by families and friends at home? It is not just Andargachew who is a British national. His wife and his children are UK nationals too. Forget altruism. UK need to give, at least, a meaning to the notion of citizenship.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Business matters more for UK than human rights

Martin Plaut pretends to be a friend to many Ethiopians. And he actually knows what the political Ethiopia looks like these days. Yet, the report he published on theguardian regarding the abduction  of Andargachew Tsige, British national of Ethiopian origin, by Yemen and hand over to Ethiopia sounds rather a disservice to me. It is less than even a mediocre report. Not surprisingly though.

The thing is there is no such thing as integrity in business. And journalism is increasingly turning out to be a business by way of being a propaganda tool for the big business - among other things.

And the business of countries like the US and UK is the interest of, long term or short term, of their business people who are regularly looking for a means to make a lucrative investment overseas. It's their business interest that matters most for them. It's their cultural interest that matters more. It is not human rights issue or democracy that matters most to them, if it matters to them at all. And these countries do business with the regime in Ethiopia in different areas including in the area of military training.  

Yet, we still seem to think they could actually help. I am not asking for an official stand on this matter. But at least we need to be aware of the situation in regards to their relation with the regime in Ethiopia and understand the reality. And what they are doing is actually consistent with the record they have on the issue of Ethiopia. No policy divergence or paradigm shift. At least since the London Conference before the fall of Derg regime they have been firmly standing behind the brutal regime in Ethiopia - a fact we seem to fail to understand or overlook - which has a lot to do with problem of political consciousness.

Yesterday, a BBC journalist was asking a beautiful Brazilian girl regarding a collapsed infrastructure. Her response remarkably demonstrate political consciousness. "We didn't want it . We want quality life, education, health, job..." She is aware that Brazilians are not getting redistribution in the form of social services and insane spending on prestige project like infrastructures has little or no meaning for the downtrodden people.  

By any means it is not an attempt to compare Brazil with Ethiopia. The story is about her political consciousness. It is a story so prevalent in the rest of Latin America.

Ethiopian Youth talk a lot about infrastructure development and economic growth. Yet, they seem to barely understand what it means to them or to the greater Ethiopian mass. They seem to be unaware about requirements of economic exploitation. 

Much of the infrastructure in Africa was developed during colonial era and the purpose was to facilitate exploitation. South Africa is most developed in that regard. Yet, South Africa still has one of the biggest slum in the world and it’s facing renewed popular discontent because of problems of redistribution, and as part of the quest to meaningful freedom.

Coming back to the point, if averting the extradition of Andargachew Tsige was in the interest of the UK in light of upholding democratic principle, human rights or otherwise, they would have done everything to avert the extradition. It appears that they were actually informed about the development while Andargachew was still in Yemen.

The reality is that the administration in Ethiopia matters more to the UK in a number of ways - a reason that explain omission of the duty of the UK government to stand up in protection of their citizen of Ethiopian origin, and a reason that explains their all-out support to the regime in Ethiopia -from financial to military training and what have you.

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