Editor’s Note: Zenawi’s insider and author, Tesfaye Gebre-Ab, in his recent book Journalist’s Memoir, unfolds that Meles Zenawi always gives prepared answers as specific questions are distributed in advance to his journalists. No Free Press journalist is allowed to attend his ‘press conferences’.
By Yilma Bekele (22 Feb. 09) Most of you know that Ato Meles’s has recently granted two interviews. We have all read the twenty-second sound bites offered by the media.In the interest of fairness to the interviewee and his subjects, I thought it would be better for all of us to look at it closely and peer into that murky brain of his. The first one lasting almost two hours (110 minutes) was with Ethiopian reporters (most of whom are his cronies probably wearing diapers scared of wetting themselves by asking the wrong question). The second interview was with the ferenjis, and lasted an hour and half (85 minutes).Given the length of the interviews my analysis will be done in more than one article. This is the first installment.
I hope most of you agree that two hours is a long time for an interview. It becomes specially long when the interviewee, the fearless one, if not an eloquent leader who repeats himself ad nauseam without even changing his wording. For him, twenty minutes should have been more than adequate. In addition, he is constantly looking to his right as if he has a little monitor that he is reading from or as if someone is feeding him talking points. If they were, it was an absolute waste because they were not telling him anything different or worthwhile.
He is not comfortable looking directly at the questioner or at the camera to reach his audience. His eyes are either down cast, moving around, or looking towards his desk on his right. His responses were longwinded and the ideas clashed constantly. If you remember Sarah Plain’s interview with Katie Couric, (youtube) you will get my point. After reading one of her interviews, Dick Cavett wrote on the New York Times “It’s admittedly a rare gift to produce a paragraph in which whole clumps of words could be removed without noticeably affecting the sense, if any.” Due to the length of the responses the listener can forget the question. It is difficult to defend what is universally agreed to be a fiasco and a monumental failure in the annals of the history of intervention.
In his interview with the local reporters he reinterprets the questions, demands more explanations in an attempt to intimidate the individual reporter. Follow up questions are not allowed, which allows him to get away by not answering the original questions.
On both interviews, he was unwilling to refer to Judge Bertukan by her name and referred to her as ‘the individual’ in English or ‘gelesbua’ in Amharic. I assume it is his way of trying to dehumanize her. I find it very disrespectful to refer to the leader of the largest opposition party, and a potential future Prime Minster of Ethiopia, in such way. Thus, to give him back his own medicine, I will refer to Ato Meles as ‘the individual’ in this article. I believe the correct way to address him will be Don Meles since he is the head of the TPLF crime family and I believe that this is the way that they the refer to each other in the syndicate.
I want you to know that sitting through the two interviews was one of the ugliest jobs that I have ever performed. As an immigrant, I have done plenty of ugly jobs that I would not want to repeat. But as one of my bosses used to say, “It is a dirty job, and some one has to do it.” In the interest of informing my fellow Ethiopians, I sacrificed myself. I also want you know that by the time I was done with listening to the interview my brain was a basket case, confused, angry and very sad for my country. So without further ado here is ‘the individual’ dispensing his ideology, world-view and clarification to the outside world regarding his misconceptions, ill conceptions and outright lies.
On the invasion of Somalia
Question #1 ferenji Reporter:
“The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement have described the intervention in Somalia as successful, I want you to elaborate more about that given that that Sheik Ahmed is now the President of the Transitional Government and was declared two years ago as a Jihad in Ethiopia and radical Islamists are in control of much of Southern Somalia. So has the Ethiopia’s intervention positively affected things on the ground there for Ethiopia and second could you define more clearly the cost to Ethiopia that the intervention. I know that Ethiopia has a highly developed statistical agency and if you go to the agency that they will give you the result of the harvest down to single last quintal so I was wondering if you could tell us how many causalities the Ethiopian forces suffered there both in death and injuries and the cost in dollars?”
Answer ‘the individual’:
“Our operation in Somalia has been highly successful for two reasons. 1st we made that clear when the intervention was initiated. We did not think that Al Shahab offensive…would be an isolated act. We indicated that there are three important forces involved. 1st the Eritreans government as the organizer of what we call ‘front of destabilization’ in the Horn of Africa. 2nd. The Jihadists in Somalia at that time who were with their victories achieved and appear to believe that nothing and nobody could stop them anywhere and 3rd it was those Ethiopian groups in Ethiopia armed groups who are supported, trained, equipped by Eritrea. The idea and strategy was that the Shehab will be the tip of the spear and some armed Ethiopian elements will join it this will be combined with the activities of the so called civil disobedience in Ethiopia and you have to remember it was a few months after the civil disobedience program in Ethiopia had subsided. This is happening nine months after that and it was hoped that this pressure begins to weaken the resolve of the government the final blow will come from Eritrea…I think two years after we can confidently say that the conspiracy has been successfully foiled…elements of destabilization inside the country…the Jihadists…and the Eritrean government are weaker than two years ago….let us leave the statistics to the statisticians….”
After this he goes on for another 15 minutes to talk about mounting and dismounting horses and the usual diatribe against terrorism.
That is his story and he is sticking by it. Unfortunately it does not jibe with reality. The whole theory and explanation is based on ideas that reveal themselves during deep hallucinations that can be a byproduct of chewing Kat. ‘The individual’ and his friends have conjured up an alternate reality. It is wrong on every count and there is no data that will support such a claim. The listener is forced to assume that the interviewee needs help. To say delusional is an understatement. It is a sure sign of paranoid personality disorder.
Ethiopia and Somalia’s enmity goes way back in history. Somalia gained its independence in 1960. Border disputes erupted into war in 1964 with the Imperial regime. Another war between the two countries was fought in 1977. It was a war that involved the two super powers toying with these two Stone Age nations. It was fought with Soviet and American weapons of destruction. Tanks and Soviet Migs were the preferred weapon of these two poor nations who cannot even feed themselves. The Cubans were thrown in to spice up the confrontation. Breznev flexed his muscle and Carter blinked. We were royally screwed. In 1977 the dictator Siad Barre died and Somalia started its downward spiral. It has never been the same.
The Bush administration and the war against ‘terrorism’ again converged on the horn and the Ethiopian minority government was happy to exploit that.
Thus when the TPLF regime invaded Somalia there wasn’t an organized and able force to contend with. The US was broadening the war against al-Qaida and it assumed that Somalia, due to its failed state status, could be used as a base. According to the New York Times ‘the operation was likely discussed during the visit …of General John P. Abizaid, commander of the US Central Command (Centcom), to Ethiopia. According to the New York Times, Zenawi assured Abizaid that Ethiopia could cripple the Islamists forces “in one to two weeks ….Abizaid was well aware that an Ethiopian invasion would “create a humanitarian crisis across the Horn of Africa” according to Centcom officials. US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Frazer has also admitted that, “If this thing goes to a military fight, it’s a bloodbath.”
The US decided to do preventive action and fight al-Qaida away from its homeland, the Eritrean government wanted to give their cousins to the south a bloody nose and the Ethiopian regime leveraged its front line status and sacrifice to silence the talk of democracy and human right at home. The foreign policy was made to serve the needs of the Defense Department’s war on terror. Ordinary Somalis and Ethiopians were caught in this ugly web.
‘The Individual’ allowed general elections in Ethiopia and lost miserably. He was forced to declare a state of emergency and his special forces killed unarmed civilians protesting his broad day light thievery of the elections in both June and November of 2006. He jailed over forty thousand civilians all over the country, including all the leaders of the opposition party that won the parliamentary elections. He imprisoned freely elected representatives of the people.
Due to protest by the Diaspora, the European Union, the US Congress and the silent protest by the Ethiopian people the minority government was cornered. The invasion of Somalia was a godsend. When ‘the individual’ says that they bought time and space, he is correct. His TPLF party was running out of options, and the silence of his US and European benefactors allowed him to tighten the reigns around the neck of Democracy in Ethiopia. The interviews were directed at the party of the faithful and not to the rest of us.
TPLF forces intervened to install the so called ‘transitional’ government by destroying the emerging ‘Islamic Court’ movement that was brining peace and stability to a war weary population. The invasion turned out to have unimaginable consequences to both Somalis and Ethiopians. We were both victimized. Our Somali brothers and sisters were condemned to hell on earth. According to the international aid group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), more than 10,000 people have died due to the invasion, and more than one million have been left homeless with over 3 million on the brink of famine. This is what the ‘individual’ calls a success story.
The TPLF army was forced to retreat back across the boarder with the Islamists at their heels. It was a very hasty departure with a lot of US surplus arms left behind. Woyane Generals were in Addis while their poor peasant southern army was left behind to fend for themselves.
If you notice the question regarding the loss of life and money was hush hushed. That is not important to our fearless leader. He has sacrificed thousands Tigreans recruited to fight for Eritrea’s Independence, he is responsible for the death of over eighty thousand Ethiopians for a worthless conflict over Badme and now god knows how many of our people perished in the deserts of Somalia in the service of the US and TPLF mafia.
In an emerging democracy the people are not mature enough to be told how many of their brethren died in the service of their country or how much of their money was spent towards carrying out their will. The few that govern on their behalf will decide on such matters. It is very unnerving to watch ‘the individual’ smiling while dismissing such an important issue, as if it is incidental matter.
Today Sheikh Sharif, who is the founding member of Islamic Courts, is the new President of Somalia. The Eritrean government is still in power and the Ethiopian oppositions are still waging all sorts of struggles to get rid of the minority TPLF government. ‘The individual’ is wrong on all points!
In a real Democracy leaders that miscalculate and bring disaster onto their nation, either bow out gracefully or are unceremoniously kicked out of power. Those with an iota of conscience will beg for forgiveness from their people and spend the rest of their productive live making amends. In a few traditional cultures, they commit Hara Kiri, as in Japan, or suicide, as Emperor Tewodros did Ethiopia to demonstrate enormous psychological courage, which is a way of winning back some measure of honor even in defeat.
Alas no such luck here. We are surrounded by paper tigers or wanna be dictators that present a fierce and brave image hiding behind their specially trained security forces, high walls and underground bunkers even in their lavish palaces. When the going gets tough, they fly the coop and leave their minions to face the music. I hope the minions are listening because there is no airplane big enough to haul your criminal behind out of Africa.
Resources used in preparing this article: