Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The European Council's decision on Ethiopia
Yesterday I noted the council's firm position on Ethiopia. The details are:
The council decided to make the withheld direct budget support permanent unless there is a visible sign of advancement in democratization and good governance. The so-called Provision of Basic Services which was designed by the World Bank was dealt with as well. Decision was made to make a thorough study on the modalities of execution. Europe is still skeptical about giving money to corrupt and inefficient Woredas. Project based support for major road construction will continue but with rigorous monitoring. 125 million euros is made available for the road works.
Meles Zenawi sent a two pages letter to the council before its meeting affirming his interest for dialogue. It seemed the members weren't impressed.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Meles, ill-health and the price of power
Meles Zenawi looked sick as he addressed Parliament today. He was pale, and looked dehydrated. There wereobviously good reasons for his ill-health. The European Union has stood firm on its former position of only helping the Ethiopian government only when there is a visible evidence of democratic progress. That was decided on the council's summit two weeks ago(I will come with more info tom.) He is also having a hard time governing the country in a peaceful manner with protests sprouting everywhere. Addis Ababa's elected councilors refused to take over the adminstration without the release of the CUD leaders. Meles had hoped if the city was governed by imposter Kinijit councilors, he would portray to donor's as a show case for the advancement of democracy here.
Ill-health, it seems, is too small a price to cling on an illegally usurped power for Meles Zenawi.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Explosion killed one, 14 injured
Muluemebet Woldayes, a civil servant, was travelling to her office. At 2:30 in the morning she switched Taxis at the Meshualekia. It was to be her immutabily lucky day. The Mini bus that she left blasted minutes latter killing one and injuring three. At the same time, another bomb exploded in Kera, the sound of the blast reverbrating upto the Sar Bet area but without causing fatalities. Hours latter bombs exploded in Akaki and Addis ketema. The later injuring a bystander.
While Addis Ababans were digesting the morning news, a story of another blast in the senga tera area started spreading like wild fire. Geg cafteria, frequented by the working class was the target. At least eleven were seriously injured.
These bombing show a clear pattern. They targeted places like lalibela hotel, Eyerusalem hotel and Geg cafe whose owners were regarded by the public as CUD symphatizers; or government buildings without causing serious damage. Who is the bomber?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Reports of the massive protests in Dessie are seeping through. According to sources, an elementary school child who was severly beaten passed away yesterday. Several are also reported injured.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The schedule for Tegbar's CD is over. In Addis, it was unimplemented. Security forces camped inside schools making student protests quite difficult. Some activists were also re-arrested. There was also awareness problem as the call was not broadcast on radios like Tensae. Outside Addis it was a partial success. There were road blockades in Fitche, Dessie and some places of Gondor. Student protests have also been conducted in many areas in oromiya and Amhara regions. ER reported rail blockade.
I expect that the organizers to come up with a thorough assessment of the call's execution. This is the first step. I am sure Tegbar's next move will be even more successful.
Vicki Huddleston, Meles's Post Woman
One wonders how a career-diplomat like Vicki Huddleston would put herself deep into the political mire thousands of miles away from her home. That Vicki staunchly supported the Meles Government was not her choice. It was a short term policy decision by the Bush administration which has made fighting terrorism an all consuming obsession. That Wilsonian ideal of standing for the freedom of man has been kissed good bye. Yet Vicki's gone beyond executing the foreign policy of the United States here. She's stuck her nose in the most mundane internal political matters in the most shameless way.
Two weeks ago, the charge d'affairs summoned Ethiopian employees of the American Center for Disease Control to talk about matters of domestic politics. Astounded employees heard Vicki explaining her attempt to create another Kinijit. "Don't expect the old Kinijit to revive. We are planning for the next election and creating an opposition with former Kinijit members like Ayele Chamiso," a friend of mine quoted her as saying. More was to come. She branded Eng. Hailu Shawel a "Violent man" and predicted that he would continue from where he left off if he was released from jail. She was also clear on the fate of prisoners. The Americans would try to get them released but it might not matter if they were released.
More in the store? Sure. The unfortunate Ethiopians were told to swallow the hard truth that Kinijit never won the May election. A disgruntled attendant left the meeting after daringly announcing that the Americans had never sided with the Ethiopian people when they need them most. Others followed.
In the absence of the press which would have scrutinized her moves, Vicki has transformed from an American diplomat to Meles Zenawi's no.1 henchwoman. She tried to force (not convince) elected members of the Addis Ababa City Government to take over the administration against the will of the jailed Kinijit leaders. An elected representative confided to me that she scolded Dr. Admasu Gebeyehu when he told her there was no way they could take over the administration while their leaders were in jail.
Vicki Huddleston has no self-respect. She sometimes act as a post woman for Meles, carrying his message from one opposition leader to another, or telling them Meles was irritated with one act or another and they had to quit it. Tell me; is this part of the job description of a US diplomat?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Birtukan Midekesa beaten...and more
Pyjama-clad, with enigmatic expression and forced to sit away from the other defendants, It was quite clear, at the start of today's court proceeding, that something terrible had happened to Birtukan Midekesa and the other female co-defendants. Court attendants had to bite their nails until the proceeding's final minutes to learn the truth. The CUDP senior vice-president stood up and told the court that the female defendants had been beaten by prison security men before they were brought before that court. The jittery presiding judge declined to listen to Birtukan's complaint. "The court is adjourned," he shouted and left the room in a hurry. My prison sources confirmed the story later.
Today's proceeding was loaded with more drama. A new addition to the prosecutorial team, former Tigray state prosecutor, Michael, was the unfortunate star of the show. "The man," a fellow attendant quipped, "does neither speak Amharic nor the language of the law." Every time this prosecutor stood and struggled to make a point, the court cascaded into laughter.
And the Meles Zenawi written and directed usual theatrics was also on show. The prosecutors asked the court to give them permission to drop all charges against 18 defendants. 14 years old Biniam Tadesse was one of the eighteen. It was a relief for most that the kid was through with this heartless opera. When the names of the other defendants were revealed, however, attendants were muttering with amusement as the list included the five VOA journalists. There was a sense of..."you see what the American can do when they want to do"... What would the state department officials who argued that they couldn't change the course of this fake trial say?
The prosecutors also asked the court to change the genocide charge to "attempted genocide" and dropped the forth charged for all of the defendants though the court declined the first request.
Today's show seemed to be an attempt to soothe western hearts. Meles Zenawi will now tell donors that he has given them what they wanted and they should give him what he wannts. Another court appearance...another stage show.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Update on Civil disobedience
Addis was very calm today. Students I talked to hadn't heard of the Tegbar call. There was no sign of protest in the streets or at work places. It beggars belief that tegbar didn't announce the call on the Mass media(VOA, Tensae etc). Do they think distributing a few thousand leaflets would organize people.
I am mad...Yet tomorrow is another day

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Coming up...all the news on the coming week long CD
If you want to get fresh information and eye witness accounts about the CD, this is the page you should click.

Why Meles Zenawi is doomed?
The much-maligned PM of our great country is adept at creating sound bites which are unceasingly repeated by his dimmest political friends. In the letter to European commission this week Meles was at it again. "What concerns the government most," he writes," is whether it is being evaluated with the same yardstick as others in the region." Mark my words; the reporter will soon start parroting this new sound bite (so feathery to call it an argument). So Meles wants the EU to doll out money to Ethiopia because his humanitarian credentials are more glowing than, well, stateless Somalia and genocidal Sudan. Why the hell should he care? Didn't he say that his government never thought the opposition posed "existential threat"?
Meles Zenawi had lost opportunity after opportunity to be our nation's great leader. Excluding the three years long Ethio-Ertirean border war, he had, unlike most past Ethiopian leaders, 11 years of relatively peaceful reign. Even the most nationalist Ethiopians accorded him benefit of time despite their suspicion that he longed to destroy Ethiopia. No more. He stole election; killed and jailed Ethiopian Heroes, assaulted the bulwarks of our society like the Orthodox Church, entrenched state-sanctioned corruption and so on and so forth. These days the closest thing that Meles has to a religion is wounding the Ethiopian dignity and sensibility.
So can this man continue to wield power, cooking sound bites and killing people? How many more years does he have? It seems very optimistic; but I think he has a maximum of 2-3 years left.
First, the regime's financial support is weakening. The eruption of more violence being a dead certainty, the support will decline even more. The civil servants who undertake the day-to-day government business here tell you how bleak the reality is. The country's foreign currency is dwindling. Export earning will surely go down if and when the expected campaign for the boycott of Ethiopia's exports start. I know this brings more misery on us. But ask many Ethiopians; and they will tell you that if economic collapse brings down the government, they will shoulder the misery. That is how much Meles Zenawi is hated.
Second, leaders of the people's movement are relentless in their quest for freedom even in jail. The way these leaders are handling their imprisonment has become morale-boosting for most of us.
Third, technology is fast-becoming the number 1 nemesis for our dictator...And he has no control on it. According to a study by one newspaper, 69% of the population which participated in May elections in urban areas are under the age of 30. This group is increasingly logging on to the internet, reading news, opinions and blogs. The country's rumor mill takes the web content and spreads it further. By jailing journalists, Meles thought he could control the flow of info. I can't deny that it had short term effects. But news and now slowly getting to the people. Tec. has also made wiring money easy. With the Diaspora ready to support the home front, the struggle will gain financial muscle.
Fourth, Meles Zenawi's pillar of power, the military, will crack when the killing increases by the day and the government suffers financial collapse. There are signs that it is happening (I will come back to the issue of the military in my other writings.)
I know many need more convincing to accept my arguments. I, however, keep them as articles of faith.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Will Tegbar's call be a success?
The arrest of almost all important CUD leaders has created a huge leadership void in the peaceful struggle against EPRDF's totalitarianism. As events have worked out, the Ethiopian Diaspora in the west has, collectively, stepped up to fill this vacuum. Ethiopians generally appreciate the role of their fellow country men abroad. Although a relentless smear campaign had been waged by the Likes of The Reporter against the Diaspora, it was largely ignored. We, at home, still think that our brothers and sisters in the west have as equal a right as ourselves. In these days when news travel faster and gets a way to be published easier, we don't believe in the myth that the Diaspora is distant to the reality here. If anyone is out of touch with wishes and aspirations of most Ethiopians, it is the members and supporters of the EPRDF who are living amidst us.
Tegbar's call for civil disobedience, I believe, demonstrates that the Diaspora is taking its leadership role seriously. So will the call be successful? The success can only be measured in terms of its stated goal. As clearly put in the flyers being circulated in Addis, the goal of the civil disobedience is ensuring the release of political prisoners. So to rephrase the question asked...will the call achieve the release of political prisoners?
I think if the call is properly executed, it will cause a major earth quake on the country's political landscape. A five days labor strike, withdrawal of resources from state banks etc will surely have other collateral effects nationally and internationally. EPRDF members and supporters are told that the struggle is reversed. A successful implementation of civil disobedience will force them to question such statements and doubt the government's capacity to ride the storm out. The same questions are going to be raised in the military. Civil servants who are working with the government because they think that it will last long will have second thoughts. Internationally, the legitimacy of the government will continue being questioned. Once they realize that the government is unable to control the people, vacillating donors will know which side not to support.
If Tegbar's call for civil disobedience is to be effectively executed, the organizers have to learn lessons from the near past. I know most Ethiopians in the Diaspora feel that the October civil disobedience called and led by Kinijit was a success. In terms of mass support and donor reaction, it was. Yet it didn't bring about the goal of the call - forcing the gov't accept CUD's eight preconditions. The kinijit call wasn't properly executed. The stay at home strike began before the date it was supposed to start. The boycott of goods and services hurt only very few companies as the crack down began before the names of many companies were publicized. A lot of people continue watching and listening to the state media despite the call to boycott.
So what went wrong? First, Kinijit miscalculated the destructive capacity of EPRDF. Kinijit leaders announced that they might call for civil disobedience way before october. The methods of disobedience were published on the free press. Mean while, EPRDF was making a thorough preparation on how to destroy the plan. Kinijit set the 14th of November as a date of the strike for two reasons. It didn't want to destabilize the holy month of Ramadan and it wanted workers to collect their salary before the strike. EPRDF came with a plan to obliterate both reasons by bringing the date forward. It lit a street violence. Members of the public were sucked into the violence unknowingly. People were forced to stay at home two weeks before the stated time. Most didn't receive their salary and were unable to sustain the lives of themselves and their families. So they returned back to work when the violence stopped. Young men and women who were committed to go on with the strike, despite the difficulties, were forced to go outside when door-to-door arrests began. By the time it started, Kinijit 's call had lost all its surprise element and the EPRDF was prepared to destroy it.
Second, in practice, most Ethiopians were unfamiliar with conducting civil disobedience. Two days after the boycott of state media was announced, for example, I met a lot of pro-kinijit people listening to Ethiopian Radio. When I asked them why they weren't heeding the call, some answered that they didn't think it was serious. Others said they were either listening to sports or music.
Tegbar's call is afflicted with the same problems and more. Many people aren't aware of the call. It lacked the surprise element. It was better if Tegbar had worked with different groups, trade unions, students etc, wrap up the organizational aspect and made the call through the mass media only days before the start. The clandestine organization would also have helped people learn the reasons for conducting civil disobedience.
I am convinced that Tegbar's call will be acted upon by some people. A prepared EPRDF will make its move. Violence may erupt here and there. Can we call that a success?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

State terrorism as a way of life

Mild-mannered, erudite and legalistic, Birhane Mogesse doesn't look like your typical "terrorist". On February 18, at 4.00 am, security forces climbed over the barbed-wired wall of his illustrious villa in the prosperous Atlas Hotel neighborhood, sneaked into his bedroom and pointed a gun at him while he was fast asleep. When one of the men woke him and his wife up, the Volvo driving hot shot was rocked to the toe. He must have thought he was hit by a freak tornado.
The story wasn't a scene from the many Ethiopian movies that are now mushrooming our beloved capital. It was a closer-to- fiction reality. At the time Birhane was arrested, another group of feds was rounding up a replica mission on Goshu Mogesse - deputy editor in chief of the now defunct weekly Lisane Hisb.
The government claimed that they were both taken into custody suspected of terrorist operation. The journalists at the ETV proudly displayed a Swiss Knife (I am not joking!) and a hand gun (Licensed) the police allegedly seized at Berhane's house as a proof that a terrorist plot was on the way. It was an insult to the intelligence of the good folks of Addis Ababa. Many of us thought this was a stupid foul play. We suspected that Birhane was arrested because he frequented prison in his capacity as the attorney for Messr. Shawel, public enemy no.1 for the Meles government. As to Goshu, he apparently remained one of the most outspoken critics of the regime, airing his views in bars and meetings even after his paper was shut down.
So who could blame the doubters? Whenever a 75 birr grenade exploded somewhere along the compound of some hotel or government institution, without hurting Adam, a sweep of arrests and nighttime raids took place in the capital. Frazer Negash, the skinny and smiley correspondent for the Ethiopian Review, was detained in one such sweep. Call us dumb or dim-witted if you want, but we Addis Ababans are yet to be convinced about the existence of such "humanist terrorists". This, we believe, is a perennial Nazi style disablement tactic. Plot a bomb and blame it on your opponent. Here is the EPRDF script for Jendayi Frazer....Believe it or not, the CUDites, Onegaties and Tegbarians are Terrorists.
The practice is old-fashioned and conventional among the most extreme mass murderers. While they were busy destroying buildings with rat-bombs to implicate communists and wreaking havoc throughout Europe, the Nazis said they were protecting the population from terrorist partisans directed from abroad, while the Japanese argued that they were laboring selflessly to create an earthly paradise as they fought off "Chinese bandits", terrorizing the people of ManchuriaThe Nazis and the Japanese, however misguided their causes, used state terrorism as a means. If, however, we are well-acquainted with the current Ethiopian reality, we would, surely, know that the Meles government has daringly taken terrorism to unreachable heights. Terrorism is no more the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain political or ideological goals. It's become a way of life, just as corruption.