Hot air from Arat Kilo. By Yilma Bekele

June 24th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

Our new name is the Ethiopians in the Diaspora. ‘The term Diaspora (in Greek διασπορά – “a scattering [of seeds]“) refers to the movement of any population sharing common ethnic identity who were either forced to leave or voluntarily left their settled territory, and became residents in areas often far remote from the former.’ I really don’t like it. We used to be immigrants. I have no idea when we became the Diaspora.

I don’t like both terms. They have finality about them. It means that wherever we are, we intend to settle permanently. I would rather think of myself as a refugee. A refugee is some one in transit. I like that. Isn’t that what we are? We have scattered to all four corners of the world because we are seeking shelter from danger. We escape from our country because it is not safe. Some are political refuges. They left to avoid persecution. A lot are economic refuges. They are running away from slow death. Our country offers its population such choice as physical death due to starvation, mental and spiritual death due to forced ignorance.

Sometimes good can come out of a bad situation. This refuge business is one such instance. Our ancient country is always looking after us. It gave us a solid foundation to withstand the shock of settling in strange far away places. We were mentally fortified. Every nationality thinks they are unique. We don’t only think we are unique, we believe it. It is like Ethiopia said to each one of us ‘if you have to go, go but don’t forget who you are and please return.’

Where ever we have settled we have thrived. We seek each other. We congregate. All you got to do is find one of us. It is like opening a floodgate. You find one you find them all.

This has been a week of graduation in our area. A proud moment for a lot of families. A celebration of achievement. Sons and daughters of refugees feeling good about them selves and making their family proud. There is nothing like being free to excel.

So how did these offspring’s of destitute refugees get to attend some of the best institutions in this great land? It is simple. It is so because those refugee parents had to learn fast and adapt to the new situation. Most arrive with just their shirts on their back. They work hard. They work long. They study with passion. They aim high. They succeed like no other.

When one is far away from home and there is no one to lean on one learns fast. We learn to think beyond today. We plan and project far into the future. We become masters of our own success or failure. We stop being crybabies and assume responsibility for our actions.

We learn that there is no free lunch, no reward without effort, and no easy short cuts in life and if we are lucky we learn to be empathic to our fellow humans.

I, as a bona fide refugee and graduate of the ‘hard knock’ school of life I was highly disconcerted when I heard what the Ethiopian Prime Minster said to a Mr. Jason McClure of Bloomberg News. I don’t know how Mr. McClure took the news but I was forced to say ‘come again?’ Believe me I have made up a lot of excuses for my actions and I have heard some bizarre ones too but this one takes the gold. No question about it. Talk about chutzpah!

Ato Meles blames ‘the World Bank and international donors’ for the scarcity of Electricity in Ethiopia. Mr. Mc Lure wrote:

The World Bank underestimated electricity demand in previous years and failed to provide funding for new power-generation projects the government had wanted, leading to under-investment in the industry, he said.

“We could have avoided that mistake if we had the money or had we had the support of our donors,” Meles said.

I believe most of us were under the impression that Ato Meles and his TPLF politburo are in charge of Ethiopia. At what point did World Bank enter the picture? What else are they running besides Electric power? I want to know if the Somali invasion was their idea? Did they force Ato Meles to declare ‘state of emergency’ after the 2005 elections and gave the order to shoot to kill? Was that the World Bank that forced Ato Meles to arrest Judge Bertukan too? Frankly I never trusted the World Bank and Ato Meles is confirming my worst fears.

That ‘gotcha’ moment was short lived. It looks like the reporter talked to a Mr. Kenichi Ohashi, the World Bank’s director for Ethiopia. Well apparently Ato Meles did not clear his story with Mr. Ohashi, and Mr. Ohashi is not amused. This is what he has to say about it:

“The notion that because we didn’t finance power they have a problem, that’s bogus,” Kenichi Ohashi, the World Bank’s director for Ethiopia, said by phone today. “If we financed power that would come at the expense of something else”

Interesting. I don’t know what the choices were but it must have been difficult for outsiders to make decisions for a nation they have neither kinship nor strong bond. You can say the same about Ato Meles but today we are not going there. So where is the sovereignty Berket is always babbling about? Now since we all know who is running Electric power you know where to forward your complaints.

There is more. TPLF is the gift that keeps giving.

Power cuts might also have been alleviated if the Washington-based multilateral lender had provided funding for a 60-megawatt diesel generator the government requested this year, Meles said.

A lousy 60-megawatt diesel generator just to hold us over until the July rains and they said no! Those heartless bastards what do they care. Bankers are cold. They are willing to destroy the economic well being of a nation. Hold on that is not the story Mr. Ohashi is telling.

The World Bank didn’t finance the generator because the government’s contracting process didn’t meet World Bank standards and wasn’t “open and transparent and competitive,” Ohashi said.

Now I see it. The Bank wants ‘open and transparent’ process and EFFORT had already won the contract. Ato Meles was just asking for the cash and the Bank has the audacity to say no. May be the Bank thought diesel is not such a good idea considering the shortage of dollars to buy fuel. I get the feeling that Ato Meles leaves a lot out when telling a story. I have no idea if he forgets or it is pathological. Both issued he raised and answered he is proven wrong by the Director in no uncertain terms.

So when Mr. Ohashi’s outfit said ‘No” to the loan what did Ato Meles’s government do to mitigate the effects of the certainty of power shortage? You just don’t fold your hands and sit. I guess you can. They did not even ask their Abuna to urge the people to pray for rain.

There seems to be a lot of speculation with what the Prime Minster might do or not do regarding his future plans. He speaks in hyperboles and wants to sound mysterious. Listen to this:

“My guess is this is going to boil-down to plus or minus a year or two,” he said. “I’m simply thinking aloud. Now if it were to boil-down to plus or minus a year or two, I would probably say this is not a matter on which I ought to leave the party.” It’s also possible, “some would say very likely” that he will be succeeded as prime minister by a person from outside the Tigrayan ethnic group, Meles said.

I dare you to make sense of that. What does plus or minus a year mean? Boil down? Why he speaks in clichés is foreign to me. Here in the US politicians start running the day they are elected. It is a 24/7 job. You don’t hide in gated community surrounded by armed solders. If they want to be elected they mingle with their constituents. Not the supreme leader. He still thinks in ethnic terms. The notion some one capable without the ethnic baggage is foreign to him. It is possible the TPLF folks can sign petitions to force him to be Prime Minister again. May be he is being coy with us so we can start a nation wide campaign to crown him as Yohanes V. Anything is possible in Ethiopia. As I said we are very resourceful people.

What he said regarding Judge Bertukan is very mean. A head of state does not make a statement like that regarding the leader of the biggest opposition Party in the country. This is what he said:

Meles said there is “zero” chance that opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa will be released from prison in time to compete in the elections scheduled for next May. He also said Birtukan’s jailing is not a pretext to eliminate political opposition.

Judge Bertukan has been in jail one hundred seventy six days. That is five months and twenty-six days. She has been in solitary confinement. She is not allowed visitors except her daughter Hale who is four years old and her mother Weizero Almaz who is seventy-two years old. She is not allowed to see her lawyer, listen to the radio or visit by the Red Cross. Complete isolation in a dark cold room is torture. Ato Meles said the chances are zero that she will be released. On the other hand the chances are 100% that Ato Meles will be tried for torture, genocide and crime against humanity both by the Ethiopian people and International Court of Justice in The Hague.

It looks like the situation in Iran further complicates Ato Meles’s grip on power. It is obvious that there will be no repeat of 2005. The world is watching. Europeans will follow the US lead. President Obama’s administration is allergic to state sponsored killing. The Diaspora Ethiopians are loud and everywhere. The ‘Eight’ points by Kinijit are still the minimum demands. No party in Ethiopia will be accepted as legitimate contender with out the eight points being fulfilled. There is no such thing as a free election without a free press and the opposition’s right to free assembly and organization is respected.

Remittances from the Diaspora has dried up, commodity prices are plunging, inflation is spiraling, devaluation is over due, Ana Gomez, Donald Payne, Russ Feingold, Berhanu Nega are circling over head, what are you going to do? You definitely are not going to Disney land. I urge my hero Shambel to sing ‘Express train to Kaliti’

Resources used:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaspora
2. http://www.ethiomedia.com/adroit/2492.html
3. http://www.kinijit.com/content_JIL.asp?ContentType=Editorial&contentid=1079

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