Libya’s Gadhafi and Ethiopia’s EPRDF – Eskinder Nega

February 25th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Strange as this may sound, there is a mainstream in the unsanctioned confederacy of dictators. Whether of the present times or from the distant past, the mainstream dictator is usually decidedly understated, more often than not a loner, (more…)

Strange as this may sound, there is a mainstream in the unsanctioned confederacy of dictators. Whether of the present times or from the distant past, the mainstream dictator is usually decidedly understated, more often than not a loner, eccentric in private habits, and almost as a trademark, lives in a complex world of paranoia.

Moammar Gadhafi indeed shares some of these traits, but also markedly stands out as part of a glitzy species much disdained by the cool mainstream: the buffoon dictators.

Hitler and Mussolini popularized the buffoon species. They also represent its two sub-specious: the harmful and harmless genres.

History will remember Mussolini more for his absurd theatrics and blunders than the harm he caused. Hitler’s outlandish public tantrums and speeches, on the other hand, are a footnote to the epic tale of moral and physical damage he wrought on humanity.

Until Tuesday, Gadhafi belonged more with Mussolini than Hitler. Aside from the Berlin and Lockerbie bombings in a 40 years reign, the world tolerated Gadhafi with bemused indifference. The international media, for their part, seemed permanently enthralled by his blonde Ukrainian female nurse and gun-totting female bodyguards.

Come February 22, 2011, a day after Libya was overwhelmed by people power, however, the world was suddenly confronted with a new, murderous Gadhafi that was much more than a buffoon. Speaking from the doorsteps of his Tripoli residence once bombed by US air-strikes in the 1980s, he was at times shouting, pounding his fists on a podium, and intermittently losing his stream of thought as he scolded his nation’s democratic aspiration.

But his instruction to supporters, militiamen and thousands of mercenaries in his pay came out clearly. There was no haziness here. “You men and women who love Gadhafi….get out of your homes and fill the streets. Leave your homes and attack them (the protesters) in their lairs,” he thundered.

In a nation where tribal loyalties figure prominently in politics, it was also a subtle call to his kins to defend him. But those who
responded, according to eyewitnesses on Al-Jezzera, were disproportionately his mercenaries.(Sorry EPRDF!)

Divide and rule has lost its magic. A new era has dawned in Libya.

The Libyan protests began on the evening of February 15 by about 2000 people. The number of protesters roughly doubled as passersby and activists joined them. The regime reacted with a firm determination to discourage further defiance of its demonstration ban. Up to ten percent of the demonstrators were seriously brutalized. Many more suffered lesser injuries.

As has recently happened elsewhere in the Middle East, state violence unexpectedly and unusually bred fierce public defiance. There were more outraged protesters in Benghazi, Libya’s second city, the next day. And the protests spread to other cities.

As is the case in all authoritarian countries, including Ethiopia, Gadhafi’s security networks, though one of the most far-reaching in Africa, were simply not large enough—nor could they ever be—to contain simultaneous uprisings in dozens of cities across the country. They lost half the country in 48 hours.

Poor Gadhafi was stunned beyond belief.

This is the scenario that will most probably confront the EPRDF if protests are to break out in Ethiopia. A parallel event, albeit on a smaller scale, had already happened in November 2005 when half a dozen cities exploded at almost the same time. The EPRDF was almost, but not quite, stretched to the limit.

Add a few more cities this time around, and crucially, unlike 2005, with a public that will no doubt be adamantly determined to prevail, EPRDF will be hard pressed to control Addis Ababa, Dire-Dawa and Baher Dar, the nation’s three largest urban areas, at the same time.

With east Libya serving as the inspiring model, the specter of whole regions liberating themselves within 48 to 72 hours of protests breaking out is now entirely plausible. Ethiopians in Addis and across the regions are mesmerized by events in the Arab world as never before, and each dramatic twist of events seems to mischievously broaden the possibilities at home. More trouble than it could possibly handle is brewing for the EPRDF.

The reaction of Libya’s professional military to the rise of people power has by now become conventional in North Africa. Faced with a choice between mass murder and continued loyalty to the regime, it opted, as had its Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts, to switch sides.

Unfortunately, the balance of power does not lie exclusively with the professional military in Libya. Much to the delight of Gadhafi, his disdain of a powerful professional military has finally been vindicated. Wary of a potential coup, he had for long pampered and better armed his paramilitaries and mercenaries. He will only be convincingly beaten when they finally abandon him.( They most probably will.)

The military is all the EPRDF has in Ethiopia. There are no powerful paramilitaries or mercenaries to counterweigh the might of the army. Only its forceful intervention on either side in the event of protests, or its neutrality, as was the case in Egypt until the very last moments, will sway the balance of power. In the unlikely event that it will remain fiercely loyal to the EPRDF in the face of nation-wide mass protests, civilian fatalities that run in the low hundreds, as is offically the case for the 2005 post-election riots, will be too much for the international community. This is not 2005.

But whatever the casualty figures, perhaps no country will suggest the kind of military intervention which the British have proposed in Libya in recent days. Nonetheless, a belligerent EPRDF is doomed to a Pyrrhic victory, if that is indeed the final outcome, which will irremediably rupture its indispensable relationship with the West. And this will inevitably mark the beginning of the end for the historical enigma that is the EPRDF. There is no way for it to come out the winner from a violent clampdown.

Gadhafi used every means at his disposal to suppress the protests. Appallingly, artillery, helicopter gunship, and incredibly, even anti aircraft missiles were fired directly at protesters. But to no avail. In Bengahzi, hundreds of thousands of defiant protesters turned on the regime. In smaller towns, the frenzy of the people was harsher.

As casualty figure reportedly climbed to around a thousand, the surge of defections by once Gadhafi loyalists, which started in the military, encroached with no less ferocity to the civilian sector. Fuming Ministers, Ambassadors and religious leaders were soon urging rebellion against the regime.

EPRDF could count on even less officials to stay faithful to it. This will be particularly true of its diplomats. “Ethiopian embassies representing the people” will most probably pop up around the globe. Perhaps the only faithful embassy left will be the one in Beijing. But nothing is certain even there. After all, it is Gadhafi’s most dependable comrade-in-arms of four decades who defected first in Benghazi.

All in all, the message to the EPRDF from Libya is crystal clear: don’t fight change. You will not win.


God willing, come Tuesday, my first article in Amahric will appear on this website. The Amharic articles are primarily intended for readers in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian public is more than ever desperate to hear from the people it knows and trusts. I need your help to connect with thousands who know and trust me.

Facebook is the ideal way to reach readers in Ethiopia at the moment. All Ethiopian websites, including, of course, this one, are blocked in Ethiopia.

I urge you to post my Amharic articles on your Facebook pages. Post it on newsfeeds, send it by message to friends in Ethiopia, do everything to get the message in to Ethiopia. Do the same for other articles you like.

Fight tyranny from your PC!

The writer could be reached at

  1. Molla Gerageru eref ayazalkhim
    | #1

    Ethiopian!!!!You must be joking. Otherwise you’re insulting your own intelignce… unkowingly. A first grade student can easily tell Molla’s political stand__devisive and racist. I suspect you …You felt guilt and came under another name.
    You dared to write the following:
    “…If I were you, I listen carefully to what Molla has said in his comments. Instead of spitting out your hatred by accusing him of being this and that you will be better served if you fellow his wisdom. Don’t crown yourself as representative of all Ethiopians from the comfort of your living room. You don’t even come close to be a representative of one segment of the society which are living peacefully in the county…..”
    You must be a new recruit of mala and co.
    Have you ever read the constitution malas boasts about? ….
    You concluded your post with, : “…Long live Ethiopia and its’ true children.”
    Wow!Marvelous slogan.
    malas was telling us that he’s going to build a “new” ityopia. His imaginary ityopia is not yet built. You would be punished for your hasty declaration…
    As the old adage tells us there’s no smoke without fire. Why do you care about those of us who oppose malas since there is a great progrress you tell us is the order of the day? Why don’t you go and enjoy it? Why? ?????????

  2. Molla Gerageru eref ayazalkhim
    | #2

    derebew asks,

    “…Do you think any journalist in the west will be tolorated for a second if he/ she call for violence against their government?….” and answers, “Forget that and ask yourselves why is Julian Asange the wikileaks guy being persecuted and why would the USA want to charge him for the information he posted? …”
    What do you call this dedebit “INTELIGENTSIA”?
    The so called universities in Ethiopia are manned by such “INTELIGENTSIA”. God save Ethiopia before it’s too late.

  3. Weynes go to Hell
    | #3

    Kush Kush;

    Ethiopian people have had enough of being ruled by force. We are tired of TPLF’s divide and rule. We want a new Ethiopia where everyone of her citizen is free. At this point anyone who directly or indirectly telling us not to rise up is nothing but a weyane cadre. So tell your boss, to respect his own law first and stop killing ethiopians.

  4. Easier said than done
    | #4

    Eskinder has more bolls than all of you men put together. This brave man who has been put through by the hands of cold blooded TPLF could have fled his country with his family and live outside of Ethiopia like most of you , but he chose to stay and fight with his pen. It is easy to sit somewhere in a peaceful country and tell Ethiopians to rise up and risk their lives, and yet never ask yourselves what you have done for your country, even to your small villages where you came from. You are so afraid even to comment and you use screen names. Some of you people even have become disgustingly wealthy by looting Ethiopia to live large outside of Ethiopia and show your homes like a museum without a shame. I’ve heard from people who have been in some of these people’s home and the people talk behind their back and leave the party with disgust. You have no shame and have no room to criticize Eskinder. Havn’t he and his wife gone through enough at the hands of Woyanes, now to be criticized by any one of you? How dare you! He doesn’t need your criticisms, but your courage and your support. Don’t you people realize that this man is so limited in what he has and need to say in a place where gun is drawn at him and watched 24/7 by the brutal inhumane looter Woyanes? Come on!

  5. Tolagna
    | #5

    The reality in today’s world is that nothing is stationary,but dictators are out of in touch with this reality and stuck with the world that they created in their brain.You see,dictators are like addicts;first,they steal wealth and become extravagant then they begin to murder citizens as they like and when they want,they become outlaws and eventually nothing will matter to them.

    You see,Ethiopians have been living in a police regime for the last twenty yaars and have been unjustly treated,and now time comes and Ethiopians senta a clear message to Zinawi,enough is enough,but he reacted with anger and shooting.Eskinder has been noticing the injustice done to Ethiopians,as a journalist and as well as a citizen and he too sent out a clear message to Zinawi saying don’t try to stop Ethiopians from uprising against the injustice you have been doing to Ethiopians.But dictators are addicted to doing injustice to citizens and as other dictators never learned from what they had been doing wrong and injustice,zinawi too seems remained stubbern and refrained from doing things in the right way and doing the right things the right way.Therefore,what awaited Zinawi is the fate of Gadafi in a worst senario and the fate of Ben Ali and Husen Mubarak in a bad senario.

  6. Weynes go to Hell
    | #6

    Dude mr “Easier said than done”, Eskinder did not mind speaking his mind and stand for what he believes in. We all admire him for that. We also need people like him so that the people back home can feel empowered and get rid of the fear. Once the fear is gone. it means Weyane is done!

    So that is what is going on right now? Instead of trying to be critical of people, try to help out in anyway you can unless of course you are one of those cadres pretending to be a concerned Ethiopian.


  7. Maru Gete
    | #7

    People like Birhanu Demeke scare the hell out of me a lot. They are neither reasonable nor sane enough to walk on this earth. That to the extent they speak to the disgruntled few of the Diaspora bourgeois, make it clear to me how desperate and out of touch with reality they are. I think the EPRDF should be thankful for those juggernauts and their twisted views. It’s what keeps the real reform seeking, consensus building, and well meaning people out of politics. How can you tell a person about the failings of a government if you can’t even acknowledge the things being done, which are positive? Why is that we always try to start from scratch instead of building on what we have accomplished. The people of Ethiopia have no more use of war mongering or ethnic divisions. Start by accepting the fact that the TPLF fought tooth and nail with a brutal dictator and its massive arsenal with unprecedented resolve and determination. Accept also the fact that the Tigreans in general and TPLF/EPRDF in particular paid enormous sacrifice in the hands of Derg. Go ahead and thank them for what they did to get rid of that brutal regime. After that accept the fact the EPRDF is a multi layered, consists so many groups of different parties that come from all over the country, representative party. In turn all those smaller parties represent a bigger section of the population. You need also to be mindful of the fact that they got to power with no well-established institutes in place. They have to establish those public and governmental sectors from the ground up. I want you also to take in to consideration that they started out trying to establish a transitional government consisted out of many opposition parties – this includes parties that were not involved in the arms struggle. Then what happened? The opposition wanted to have the biggest share of the pie than they deserved. We all know the saying: “to the victor belong the spoils.” So, it’s should come as a surprise if the EPRDF sought a greater share of the pie. All the opposition parties needed to do were having a seat at the table and earn their stripes by being a viable alternative to EPRDF. Instead they went all out and demanded absolute power as to say power belonged to them in the first place anyways. This, of course, was the beginning of the end for a strong opposition. What they did in 2005 didn’t sit well with all Ethiopians as well. There were so many who regretted their support during that election cycle after they saw how dysfunctional the opposition were in the aftermath of the election. That’s why so many well-meaning folks turn to the EPRDF in the last election despite their so many disagreements with the governments’ policies. At least, they reasoned, the EPRDF is a well-organized and capable party to lead the country – that’s how they justified their vote. In other words, EPRDF was the better of two evils to so many. Unless and otherwise you can see through that dynamics, I’m afraid, the Ethiopian people will never take you seriously. They will never appreciate you for your advocacy of the suspension of foreign aid. They will never give you credit for your efforts to put the country in a bad image when ever possible. They don’t have a problem to see your efforts to stop all direct investments as backward thinking. They will never stand for what you stand if you can’t acknowledge the little progress that has been made under this regime. They will never tolerate your false propaganda and your painting everybody who doesn’t share your view as hodam and all the names you come up with. They rather choose to side with likes of Molla, Ethiopian and Alemu. Alemu put it wonderfully when he quoted Truman, “I never gave anybody hell … I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.” So, as long as you perceive any truth you don’t like as hell you will never get anywhere any time soon.

  8. derebew
    | #8

    @Molla Gerageru eref ayazalkhim
    God save Ethiopia from the likes of you, who are so concited that instead of debating the issue at hand, would like to condemn the whole university intelegencia. What makes you so supirior than the intlegencia in the universities in Ethiopia? Could it be because you live in the USA or other developed country? Who knows what you do? Could you be one of the taxi drivers, parking lot attendants etc.. who are know it all, or may be like Berhanu Nega, psedo intlegencia, who is a failed EPRP fighter, failed CUD/UCD/UDJ/JUD and Gibot 7 leader. No wonder every thing you guys touch stinks. Berhanu Nega could turn gold to sh….t. Hang your hope on him and good luck on fiesting, on what he and the likes of him will serve you.

  9. Samuel
    | #9

    Maru Gete,

    Two of my brothers lost their lives fighting the TPLF and EPLF. They were regular Ethiopian army members. They did not fight for Mengistu but they fought hard till their death as soldiers defending their country. The rest of us have been killed for a second time since Woyane took control of our country. What does that mean to you?

  10. Tolagna
    | #10

    We pay the greatest respected tribute to those sons who gave their lives to defending the motherland.All our dear sons are alive in our hearts and will always give us life to continue to be humankinds.We say thanks to all heroes of our brothers and sisters.

  11. Maru Gete
    | #11

    Dear Samuel, I feel sorry for loosing you brothers. But in what way were they defending Ethiopia? Do you mean what Mengistu was doing was to protect the integrity of the country or rather fighting to stay in power as long as possible at any cost? Were they enabling the Derg to kill in masses in the name of unity? I don’t know what the victims of the red terror will say about your take. That you equate what the current regime is doing with what Mengistu did, is in some way disingenuous at best. I don’t think you are doing a service to your deceased brothers by comparing apples and oranges to make a cheap political point. Please, let’s not loose perspective of the current reality.

  12. Molla Gerageru eref ayazalkhim
    | #12

    derebew !
    Thank you for taking your time and proving me right.
    You guys always entertain me much. But I would like one thing to make clear. I don’t know you personaly and I never had an intention of humiliating anybody. It looks like you’re offended.
    You asked me: “….What makes you so supirior than the intlegencia in the universities in Ethiopia? …” This is a good evidence that you felt offended. For the sake of your audience you were supposed to quote me. And you tried,invain to humiliate me by writing the following: “…Could it be because you live in the USA or other developed country? Who knows what you do? Could you be one of the taxi drivers, parking lot attendants etc.. who are know it all, o…”
    This part of your writing shows who you’re. You have no any clue of what you’re talking and to whom you’re talking. These jobs might not need much/any skill at all. One important thing here is atleastyou addmitted that we earn our daily bread, which we couldn’t under your rule. Your bravado of double economic development didn’t do us any good….Your failures are manifested here.
    Do me a favour. Please send those universities my post and ask their opinions. You would be amazed.
    You didn’t understand my post. I wasn’t talking about what diplomas or qualifications the “INTELLIGENTSIA” AT THOSE UNIVESITIES CARRIES…iF YOU REALLY KNOW THE MEANING & ROLE OF THE “INTELLIGENTSIA” you would have kept your mouth shut up.
    You accused me for not debating issues. I brought the issue to you to give us facts. Instead of refuting me, of course with your facts, if you have any you engaged yourself in character assassination.
    Why did you dare to ask the following:”…“…Do you think any journalist in the west will be tolorated for a second if he/ she call for violence against their government?….”
    Are you debating issues? hmmm

    derebew :@Molla Gerageru eref ayazalkhim God save Ethiopia from the likes of you, who are so concited that instead of debating the issue at hand, would like to condemn the whole university intelegencia. What makes you so supirior than the intlegencia in the universities in Ethiopia? Could it be because you live in the USA or other developed country? Who knows what you do? Could you be one of the taxi drivers, parking lot attendants etc.. who are know it all, or may be like Berhanu Nega, psedo intlegencia, who is a failed EPRP fighter, failed CUD/UCD/UDJ/JUD and Gibot 7 leader. No wonder every thing you guys touch stinks. Berhanu Nega could turn gold to sh….t. Hang your hope on him and good luck on fiesting, on what he and the likes of him will serve you.

  13. Birhanu Demeke
    | #13

    To the so called “Maru Gete”

    Listen to your self,who do you think you are? that you could be feared?are you a “Devin” power or entity?well sooner or later you might as well tell me and the rest of the oppressed Ethiopians that the TPLF has become God to all as such all have to worship it and you as one of its archangels.Let me remind you that one is born to live and die,and no self respecting patriotic and pro-democracy Ethiopian including me shall never be scared of a cowered like you who is an affiliate of a sworn number one enemy of Ethiopia and all its people.Don’t you dare vomit your cheap talk like as if you are brave and patriotic Ethiopian who is committed for the cause of Ethiopia,the general well being and collective progress of Ethiopia and all its people,because you are not,what you and your bosses in crime are,is simply anti-Ethiopia and anti-Ethiopian people by political objective,selfish and blood suckers by economical objective,ethnocentric or demons of tribalism by social interactive objective etc……

    Is it me or you and your so called bosses in top brass TPLF who are cowered?was it me who hand over a territory of Ethiopia(1600km by 30km to Sudan because of fear that Sudan may provide a military base for an arm struggle against TPLF so that handing over once national territory for the sake of maximizing its hold on power by committing treasonous acts,that is besides the territory the TPLF annexed from Gondar and Wollow in to Tigray as a token of a reward from the bigger pie at the expense of the Amhara people.

    Was is me or the Ethiopian people who lobbied and advocated for the independence of Eritrea? as if Ethiopia was a colonizer?and making it to be a land locked country? was it me who divided Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people based on ethnic affiliation,and was it me who incorporated article 39 of the so called TPLF’s constitution in order to dismember Ethiopia ?am I the one who has controlled every aspect of the lives of the Ethiopian people?am the one who is treasonous by selling Ethiopian fertile land for my cheap and selfish personal interest by evicting the fore bearers of the land and by deforesting it all in the name of foreign direct investment?was it me who is stealing the out come of the 2005 election and mass murder innocent Ethiopians who have opposed the the unlawful outcome?was it me who arbitrarily detained hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians who had protested the unlawful outcome of the election?was it me who have caused inter-ethnic conflict between and among the Ethiopian people for the sake of my hold on power?is it me who have detained/ing,physically torturing,and causing disappearance against those Ethiopians who are opposed against my rule?etc…..???

    Now let me ask you,who is the number one enemy of Ethiopia and all its people?who do you think you and your so called TPLF are? to do what ever harm against Ethiopia and all its people?and think that you would not be checked and balanced?

    Well call it a day,the days to fool any Ethiopian with your foolish ideology is over what is to come is your so called’s TPLF and the liberation of the Ethiopian people.That would be the ideal time that I would like to see your so called rhetoric.We those who are called names such as donkeys (hadgy’s)are no longer interested to hear any thing from those who, which claim to be hyenas because we are more than determined to take the battle against them.

    Keep your crap you mad dog,because we are coming after you take back our Ethiopia and our human dignity away from you.The foundation of our liberty shall be build on top of your demise,there shall be nothing you say or do which can stop us from trowing you to the garbage of the living Ethiopian history.Fire can be fought by fire.


  14. Ketema
    | #14

    I think the good Birhanu Demeke is about to loose his mind if he didn’t already. He’s reading his own book whilst he’s answering his own questions. What a looser. Please, please ignore such a mad dog and the rest of you continue to engage in a more constructive discussions. Wow, what a rant.

  15. Birhanu Demeke
    | #15

    Ketema,Why don’t you ask your boss about his “Timor”,tell me who has lost his mind me or the so called TPLF and all its hodam surrogates who are the most pathological liers on earth,don’t try to change your cyber name from Maru to Ketema,and act as a civilized debater and don’t you dare instruct us what to do Mr chair man of the TPLF cangaroo paliament,since when the Dedebit Mad dogs knew about constructive discussions.Time for discussion is over,it is time to slice the TPLF and trow it to the garbage of the living Ethiopian history by then we shall be saying we are free at last.

    What ever name you may label me and likes,nothing you say shall never deter us from standing by the cause of our country and our people in actual fact it would be people like you who should get your head checked since you are in the verge of losing you power and stolen national wealth.So save your advice to your self .I fill sorry for you because what is happening in north Africa and the middle east is really terrifying you and has deprived you of a good night sleep since it is now almost knocking the Minilik palace to bring an end to your day dream of ruling Ethiopia for a century sorry you not gonna make it!!!!!!!!! .You will be lucky if you manage to escape the wrath of the Ethiopian people other wise be prepared to pay heavy price.


  16. Tsadkan
    | #16

    I have real respect for Eskinder. He is one of a few journalist risking the threat of violence by the EPRDF, while speaking out for freedom and democracy. He is always reserved, accurate, and truthful. This is what Ethiopia needs form journalists. Above all he is on the ground speaking truth, even though he has been imprisoned for speaking out. Eskinder is a hero to many of us. He faith in freedom of speech is unyielding. We are all awed by his courage. Keep up the good work brother. We will help distribute your Amharic articles. There will be many who would want to read them.

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