Muzzling young democracy enthusiasts is not easy. Ask the Junta's leaders in Burma. Or Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia. Having failed to stop people using text messaging to organize during the election, the Meles administration had switched off the SMS service. It is back now; and so are the political exchanges. On Tuesday, just hours after the American House of Representatives passed HR2003, people started to text each other, expressing their delight. "Demachin Feso Aykerim. Enkuan Des Yalen Ethiopiayawiyan," one texter's message reads.
Since the Bill's passage by the International Affairs Committee of the house, a lot of young Ethiopians have turned into amateur commentators on the American law making process. Professor Al Mariam's statements about the Bill's progress on the VOA are qouted in the middle of conversations. Some are worried about President Bush's veto. But then they mention Al Mariam's analysis that Bush isn't a kind of leader who uses his veto power frequently and their faces flicker with hope. Some are concerned about what would happen to the Kinijit delegate members who supported the bill openly when they come back to Ethiopia. Some praise US congress members and marvel the democracy in America. They wonder how representatives from George Bush's party voted for the bill in the face of opposition from him. They know that in Ethiopia the law is what Meles says.
EPRDF supporters are furious. In their spin room at the Sheraton - the Office Bar - Costantinos Berhe and co. lampoon American politics. Rep. Donald Payne is a favourite target. His intellect is questioned. Ted Dagne's role in manipulating the congressman is mentioned. Self appointed investigators explain how Payne's sympathy for the Eritrean cause is what is behind his drive to see the Ethiopian government destroyed. But like the young democracy enthusiasts, the EPRDFites at the office bar aren't without hope. They claim that senators understand America's strategic interests in the Horn of Africa better than members of the house of representatives. They bask in the expectation that enough senators will say "Nay" to a bill which makes the Meles regime accountable to fundamental human rights laws and principles.