By Yilma Bekele — Being an Ethiopian has always been difficult. The bad news is, it is not going to get any easier. Two weeks ago I found out it can be taken away too. It has come to a point where names and looks plus attitude can determine who is and who is not an Ethiopian. Welcome to Kilil in America.
The Ethiopian government reps. held a town hall meeting in a city not far from where I live. There were over a hundred of us protesting outside and two hundred plus were inside listening to the marketing. It was an out of this world experience. San Jose and other cities where the salesmen went were transformed in a new and positive manner. The intervention was definitely divine. Ethiopia stretched her hands to God and it was answered.
They came with their ethnic baggage in hand; we waited for them as one. They came to divide, we ended up together. They came to saw hate and discord but they made us see how beautiful our diversity is. They are programmed to think as one while we celebrate the many voices that enrich our discussion. It was obvious we were like oil and water. Woyane and Ethiopia don’t mix. Mengistu and Ethiopia did not mesh either. Too bad we ended up where we started.
The government is perfectly aware that there was no chance of holding a fund raising or any event in any western city. None. Why do it then? Why does a snake bite? It is embedded in its DNA. Hate and violence are imbedded in Woyane’s nature. They came specifically to stir the pot of hate and ethnic division. They knew they were going to set up a single ethnic group against all others. If it serves their purpose and they did not care for the consequences. They are cold blooded.
San Jose was one such place where this tragic theatre was played. It was financed by all but directed, stared by and played by a single ethnic group. It started late, sound and video were not set up and things never got any better. When it did start the presentation made you wonder why a meeting was called for. The presenter who later on the program introduced himself as Minster of Internet just read the power point presentation word for word. That was the whole shpeel. The question and answer were a wholesale situation where nothing of significance was asked or answered. It was a depressing display of weakness.
Looking at the officials made me think how much we all contributed to this madness. I thought of my cousins starving, their children not learning, the graduates not working and the mothers and fathers watching their kids wasting their productive years. Here we have a 35 people strong delegation visiting 10 US cites to stir trouble. It is not a cheap trip. Here is a very conservative budget for building a bridge to nowhere.
Round trip ticket 35*4500 157,500.00
Hotel 35*15*350 183,750.00
Per Diem 35*15*250 131,250.00
Hall rental 10*4500 45,000.00
Security 10*2500 25,000.00
US transportation 35*1500 52,500.00
Auto rental 15*750 11,250.00
Entertainment 10*5000 50,000.00
Total in US dollars $656,250.00
Total in Eth. Birr $11,812,500.00
Do you think the investment is worth the return? Or should the question be what exactly was the regime expecting from such an investment. I believe it was meant to deflect attention away from the current peoples uprisings in North Africa. It is also to cover up the ongoing economic melt down. As far as the regime is concerned both are very troubling issues currently eating up scarce resources to safeguard the status quo. The whole country is employee of the Ethiopian government. There is no branch of activity the government either directly or thru its proxies such as EFFORT is not involved in. Land, Communication, banking, insurance, import export, are all under the control of the TPLF party. It requires a lot of resources to run an illegal enterprise.
It requires constant injection of new capital. The economic downturn in the west and the Middle East is having a negative impact on the regime. The remittance cash is drying up. Expenses are going up. As usual the government is throwing up all kinds of solutions hoping one works. We have seen this before. You remember when growing for bio-fuels was the salvation or was it flowers? How does that compare to railway line to Port Sudan or was it to Mombassa? I believe even Hargessa was in the running. I do not think it was as dramatic as fiber optics wiring for good old Ethiopia and that was five years ago. A few weeks ago the PM was speculating about streetcars for Addis, hope he was dreaming of solar powered, you don’t want all those trolleys stuck in the middle of the road for lack of electricity do you? Menged be fereka.
The new scam to expropriate cash from the citizen is the millennium dam on the mighty Nile. The idea is so beautiful it takes your breath away. It is a very bold proposition that stirs the soul. Imagine a big dam holding our water just for us. As usual as far as TPLF is concerned the dam is done. The computer-generated design is awe-inspiring. You can almost touch it. That is all it is, pie in the sky. They will collect a few dollars and let it die a natural death. Just like the railway line to Kenya, the great highway to Sudan, broadband Internet all over Ethiopia the Millennium Dam will be allowed to evaporate. But, what a warm feeling it created in all of us. Thank you for the wonderful trip Woyane.
While the regime is in such a generous mood to modernize Ethiopia we have a few suggestions if we are allowed. It does not require a single penny from the government. Let us start with education. It is the key. Knowledge is what makes the world go round. Knowledge is what is needed in Ethiopia. Can we allow the privatization of the communication sector and unleash the power of the Internet to spread knowledge free of charge? The rewards are beyond our dreams. It will create thousands of jobs (service providers, web designers, programmers, sales and advertising) not to mention a smarter generation.
Let us also allow the private press to flourish. Private television, radio, newspaper and magazines inform and nurture our people. The government will collect revenues from all this enterprises while the citizen creates jobs and wealth. The San Jose participants were freely given beautifully printed brochures full of pictures, graphs and marketing all done by government-confiscated presses. How sad due to the artificial price of paper, ink and Communications department sanctioned use of violence, threat and other illegal acts the free press in Ethiopia is withering away as we watch. Today our country is the last in Africa in newspaper distribution, variety and freedom scale. Darkness is the friend of the totalitarian system. Knowledge and freedom go hand in hand.
The Ethiopian government means to keep the population in ignorance. Our country is the worst wired and the least digitized on the planet. The government is afraid of the citizen getting unbiased opinion. Independent Web sites are blocked, our satellite TV transmission is jammed (www.esat.com) even VOA and Deutsche Welle are victims of TPLF madness. How could such a government be trusted to do anything good? Why would such a system that degrades human beings be allowed to exist?
It exists because we allow it. It exists because we feed it. It exists because some of us have decided our personal interest is bigger than our love for country and fellow human being. It exists because we have knowingly decided to turn our face away. There are no two sides to dying of hunger. There is nothing to be said about being exiled from your homeland and finding yourself wondering in the deserts of Libya, the Jungles of Malawi, the ghettos of Rome or Frankfort the projects of America. But our silence makes all this happen. If not for us telling the world the trials and tribulations of our people who else?
Since the uprisings in the Moslem world the Ethiopian government has been experimenting with various responses to hold this tsunami of freedom at bay. I believe we are on response #5. It is good to notice that there has never been this flurry of activity in past crisis situations. This one is different. It seems to have a life of its own. No one has found the right combination of response. The one that has come close is Ben Ali of Tunisia. He left early, he left clean. The others, like patients on AID medicine are trying different combinations.
Ato Meles is trying hard. There is no margin for error here. If history is any indication his neck is on line. To his credit he sent Berket, gave a press conference, used the speech at the kangaroo Parliament, sent his delegates to Europe and America and created the Millennium Dam fiction. That is five different responses in two months time. For a person whose contract specifies eight hours a day this uprising business is creating over time situation. It is lonely at the top. He does not have any good will left with anybody. His old friends are more than happy to be called as witnesses for the prosecution, his Kilil servants will even the score at a drop of a hat, his foreign benefactors will send Ambassadors to meet the new guys in town and the reliability of family and close friends is not certain. This is not a happy Easter.