By Abebe Gellaw (24 March 2009) In the majority of modern nation-states, even in today’s South Africa, where Apartheid had once caused so much damage and pain, discrimination is illegal. But in present-day Ethiopia, which has become one of the most anomalous nations in the world, ethno-racism is rampant and highly institutionalized. Under the leadership of Meles Zenawi, which came to power promising equality and freedom, Ethiopians are not encouraged to preserve their common values, history and bonds that unite them as citizens of one nation. Unfortunately, the ethno-fascist regime ruling Ethiopia has deliberately created a fertile ground for ethnic discrimination and hostilities to thrive in a bid to implement its myopic divide and rule policies. Discrimination based on ethnic origin and political views is commonplace in workplaces, schools, the army, public services, businesses and even in embassies abroad.
In the last seventeen years, the TPLF has systematically broken apart the fabrics of our nation. It has been summarily firing competent civil servants including judges and university professors using various pretexts and replaces them with incompetent and incoherent cadres that loudly claim to be ethnic liberators. It jails, maims, kills and drives dissidents into exile.
Even amongst the so-called “ethnic liberators” there are those in the first class, the real chosen ones with real power and there are those who have been wilfully reduced to servile puppets organised under fake ethnic liberation fronts such as the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation [OPDO], Amhara National Democratic Movement [ANDM] and South Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Front [SEPDF]. The puppet liberation fronts such as OPDO and ANDM have been created and co-opted to give the ethno-fascist “Tigrian front”, the rising monopolistic capitalist, a semblance of a national liberation movement.
The truth of the matter is that Meles Zenawi and his cronies are masterminds of a highly discriminatory system. Right at the top of the political apparatus, you find someone who calls himself “Prime Minister of Ethiopia.” And yet, the Prime Minister and his closest cronies, who were supposed to serve all Ethiopians equally regardless of their ethnic, cultural, social or linguistic backgrounds, are still leaders of the TPLF, an ethno-fascist group they claim to be a vanguard party of Tigray. Within the TPLF, the selected few, members of the central committee and polite bureau handpicked by the tyrant, are the people who are the shakers and movers carving out the Ethiopian tragedy, for the present and future generations.
It is with a great deal of pride that Meles and his cronies convene their exclusive ethnic conferences, create puppet ethnic liberation fronts for other linguistic and cultural groups, organise parties and telethons while professing to be advocates of equality. Even worse, the TPLF has been running illegal business empires that have preferential treatment, endowment status, import and export commodities tax free, win government contracts and bids with almost no contest, pay no penny in tax and do not even repay the loans they take out from the nation’s banks. This is true and well documented but nobody has a power to investigate such illegal and discriminatory operations. Though they declare that ethnic groups are now equal and aim to undo historical injustices of the past, what the TPLF is doing is far worse than the crimes of Mengistu’s brutal military junta and the ancient imperial regime.
The recent confrontation between fanatic operatives of the TPLF in London and other Ethiopians is a clear testimony to the fact that the ruling elite has been determined to export its discriminatory policies to wherever Ethiopians go. In London, the paid TPLF operatives are well-organised and even run a host of businesses, unregistered hawala services and own a string of properties to fund their illegal operations while the majority of them live rent free on state benefits weeping in pretence that they are political dissidents tortured by the very regime they are serving with utmost loyalty. They intimidate, harass, bug and attack anyone who has been voicing their concerns over the gross human rights violations being perpetrated by the regime. I personally have witnessed their rogue behaviour as I had a couple of encounters with the TPLF thugs in London who threatened and harassed me, but to no avail, for being a critic of the Meles regime.
At the heart of the dispute in the evening of March 19, 2009, was a discriminatory meeting called at the Ethiopian embassy, which was supposed to serve all Ethiopian citizens without any forms of discrimination. The speaker was Minister of Information [renamed Communication Affairs Minister] Bereket Simon, Meles Zenawi’s gift to the people of Amhara. Interestingly enough, Bereket, who is known much better for his anti-Amhara rhetoric than being an Amhara liberator, is a long time leader of the Amhara National Democratic Movement. But the man is an Amhara-hater who neither enjoys communicating in Amharic nor claims to be an Amhara, as it is an open secret that he is of Eritrean parentage. His ethnic background would not have mattered if the man had had a little respect for Ethiopia, its history and most importantly the people he loves to hate. Thanks to the video and photographic evidence posted on the Internet via Abbay Media, it was amazing to watch a handful of TPLF operatives blocking and preventing other ordinary Ethiopian citizens from entering their embassy. The incident was not the fist of its kind. It happened on so many occasions in the past. What makes this one a bit different was the shameul discrimination was captured on video and well substantiated with multimedia evidence. So many legitimate questions can arise from the incident? The first and the most fundamental one is, whose embassy is it anyway? Is it owned by TPLF operatives or the poor taxpayers of Ethiopia? That leads to many related questions. Why does the embassy and the expert liar and reality-denier, Berhanu Kebede, organise discriminatory meetings in the first place? Who gave the authority and the mandate to the TPLF operatives, the majority of them were supposed to be avowed dissidents of the regime as they are likely to have filed in their bogus asylum claims, to illegally block, harass, manhandle and intimidate fellow citizens at the entrance of the embassy? Can the embassy justify the reasons why ordinary citizens were barred from attending a public meeting where a “Minister” was speaking about economic and political situations in their country of birth? Why do the TPLF operatives and spies assemble in embassy premises at the expense of the poor people of Ethiopia? Do those who have been discriminating against fellow citizens realize the fact that they have been breaking anti-discrimination and human rights laws in the UK? Are the embassy and the TPLF gangs aware of the fact that those Ethiopians and British citizens who have been harassed and discriminated against have substantial evidence to take legal actions?
What constitutes discrimination?
I believe the majority of Ethiopian refugees living in the UK are aware of the fact that the British justice system, unlike the no-justice system in Zenawi’s Ethiopia, takes any substantiated allegations seriously.
According to the Race Relations Act 1976, direct discrimination occurs when “a person treats and discriminates against another person less favorably on the grounds of colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin.” [See 1(1) a and 3(1)] If the qualification for attending a public meeting, not a secret meeting in the Bahamas as some have mistakenly reported, at the Ethiopian embassy that concerns all Ethiopians is ethnic origin, that falls under direct discrimination. If the Ethiopian embassy in London has come up with a criterion of allowing in only those whose height is above 1.6 meter, it would be indirect discrimination disfavoring shorter citizens. But in this case, what happened was a leader of the TPLF-engineered “Amhara National Democratic Movement” was speaking in the Ethiopian embassy to the selected ones, excluding other Ethiopians including Amharas that the minister was supposed to “liberate.” This is outright racism that benefits neither the ‘privileged’ TPLF operatives nor those who were hurt and disappointed for being excluded and discriminated against.
It seems that TPLF members are confused and disillusioned. Encouraged by the ethno-fascist TPLF, many members of this cancerous and racist group think that they must control everything including embassies. But what must be made clear to them, the kinds of discriminatory policies that their ethnic front has adopted in Ethiopia is only a recipe to future disasters and tragedies.
Rejecting ethnic discrimination
Tragedies of biblical proportion such as the Nazi-orchestrated genocides, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur pogroms have left shameful scars on the face of humanity. They never happened overnight. They were results of simmering ethnic and racial discrimination and the resultant hostilities that erupted like volcanoes. Equality should be real, freedom must be unfettered.
The tyrants must stop their evil project of dividing Ethiopians and fanning hatred and hostilities among the poor people of Ethiopia which can have far-reaching consequences than the short term gain of divide and conquer or divide and rule tactics. Everywhere, at home and in exile, Ethiopians have been ethnically divided and the level of ethnic hostilities in increasing day by day. But we cannot afford another devastating cycle of ethnic hostilities and conflicts that can engulf the entire nation.
We cannot simply afford the consequences of discrimination and hostilities! Let us treat each other as Ethiopian citizens. Supporters of the ethno-fascist regime have no reason to feel superior and treat the fellow countrymen as second and third class citizens.
Let us all reject the Meles regime whose modus operandi is discrimination on grounds of ethnicity and political views. It is widely known that TPLF is an ethno-fascist group, committing genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations. The fanatic TPLF operatives should think twice about tomorrow than sharing Whisky and Vodka with those like Meles and Bereket, who will eventually be held to account for all the crimes they have been committing with arrogance and impunity.
As far as the good-for-nothing but expensive Ethiopian embassies are concerned, they should not be left to remain TPLF foreign branch offices at the expense of the poor taxpayer and donors. Nor should opportunist ambassadors and diplomats, whose main jobs are mainly denying the realities in Ethiopia and spying on fellow Ethiopians in exile, be allowed to undermine our unity and pit one ethnic group against another, misusing public resources at their disposal in a bid to implement TPLF’s evil and divisive policies. It is high time Ethiopians challenged them in a more concerted and co-ordinated manner from London to Washington DC, from Nairobi to Brussels, wherever they are.
Abebe Gellaw is a Knight / Yahoo International Fellow at Stanford University, California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.