Emerging Truth Changing Power Balance in Ethiopia SMNE

July 8th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter…(Isaiah 5: 20)

Ethiopia has become a land where Truth is the most feared and hated enemy of the TPLF/EPRDF. Regime supporters, from the top offices of Meles to the rural officials at the kebele level, have gone to great extremes of deception and injustice in order to repress truth, in any form, as well as to punish truth-tellers, by any means necessary.

Millions of birr have been spent by this authoritarian regime on countering the truth with lies, deceit, propaganda, secrecy and outright fraud. TPLF/EPRDF ambassadors of deception—distortion specialists—are sent abroad to perpetuate untruths about this regime. Services from pricey international lobbying firms are bought with foreign donor or Ethiopian taxpayer monies in order to sell a false image to the world of what is in reality a corrupt, brutal and dictatorial regime.

Any who attempt to expose the truth are at risk of harassment, intimidation, arrest, imprisonment, torture or even death. As a result, many of our most courageous, principled and outspoken Ethiopian brothers and sisters are forced to leave the country for exile. If they remain in Ethiopia, they are either forced to submit to silence or end up becoming targets of repression and injustice by the TPLF leaders and their co-conspirators of deception and injustice found in the courtrooms, ministry offices, police stations and government offices at every level and in every part of the country.

This sheds light on the arrest of Woubishet Taye, the deputy-editor of the Awramba Times on July 19th and two days later, the arrest of Reyot Alemu, from the Feteh newspaper. Seven others were arrested along with them, including Zeryihun Gebreegziabher, the chairman of the Ethiopian National Democratic Party (ENDP) and Dejene Tefera, a member of the party. All were charged under the new anti-terrorism law, which is so vague that, as intended, it can be easily used as a weapon against any whom this regime dislikes.

We in the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) strongly condemn the arrests of these people and call for their immediate release, along with our other political prisoners being held under a judicial system that will someday bring judgment on itself for rewarding wrongdoers and punishing the innocent. Meles is not committing such injustice alone, but depends on a web of countless co-conspirators whose time of accountability will come. We Ethiopians cannot overlook what is happening and must stand in solidarity with these people.

Why this new crackdown if this regime is not living in fear? During the Egyptian uprising, numbers of Oromo were arrested; but over the last few months, the stories we have heard are about food prices, price caps, inflation, the lack of basic staples, the growing hunger and starvation, the lifting of price caps, the jamming of ESAT, the VOA and Deutsche Welle, the leasing of Ethiopian land, the displacement of citizens and the overall hardship of life for the majority of people while the Meles elite continue to thrive; however, now there is this crackdown on the press. U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton may even have been a target of this repression when the lights went out during her speech to the African Union in Addis Ababa last month. Was this a reaction to her unwillingness to advance the false image of Ethiopia—an image that has so distanced itself from reality that it has become an absurdity?

For example, in a June 29th article by William Davison of Bloomberg News, Davison reported a phone conversation with the State Minister of Communications, Shimeles Kemal, regarding the arrests of these two journalists, stating that their arrests “should be viewed as a strong measure by the government to protect freedom of speech,’ since they are connected to alleged plots to destroy telecommunications infrastructure.” Does Shimeles Kemal really think anyone would believe this?

On the other hand, the re-invigorated TPLF/EPRDF crackdown on the people may be a sign of waning strength as exposure of the true nature of the Meles regime has reached a new point of penetration into general public knowledge. Now, “everyone knows” that “everyone knows” about how bad this regime truly is and this makes it harder to “do business” as usual with a dictatorship. Previously, there was an “acceptable level of suspicion,” but now, the truth has become far more blatant and the substance of the cover-ups, increasingly more preposterous. Attempts by the TPLF/EPRDF to do “damage control” are failing as the “word is out” on this regime. Association with the Meles regime has become a real liability; particularly in this “post Arab-Spring” climate.

As Meles loses credibility internationally, there are also indications that he and his regime are also losing credibility and authority within the Ethiopian military ranks. Information is being leaked regarding the growing division and strengthening power struggle going on behind the scenes in the military as disenchantment with this regime grows. According to reports (Ethiomedia), Meles has now purged the military of 747 top leaders—including 7 generals, 240 colonels and 500 senior officers—many of TPLF background. Meles no longer has the supporters he used to have when he did the same thing back in 2001 and this action may backfire!
Who would be surprised if this regime did not implode all on its own, even without any viable alternative in place that could help achieve a more peaceful transition? Ironically, even as Meles has closed off any space for the development of such an alternative, the vacuum created by the sudden fall of this regime could produce a far more dangerous outcome for the TPLF/EPDRF.

The TPLF/EPRDF has become like the African tree that produces inedible and poisonous fruit in such abundance that its branches will be overloaded and break. Even an entire tree, which looks strong, lush and healthy on the outside, will fall down on its own simply because the heavy burden of fruit it has produced has overloaded it beyond capacity. This may be what we are seeing with the TPLF/EPRDF regime. Their actions—deception, lies, injustice, greed, corruption, evil, brutality, robbery and destruction—have produced the poisonous fruit of hate, division, death, marginalization, hunger, suffering and anger; all of which could bring this regime down on its own!

The quavering of the tree can be seen in public places as TPLF/EPRDF propaganda specialists turn up wherever a crowd gathers to tempt outsiders to eat from the tree of inedible fruit. I met such a TPLF regime sympathizer Ato Tamrat G. Giorgis, Managing Editor of the Addis Fortune, in Germany when I recently spoke at a workshop at the Deutsche Welle Media Forum on June 21st. Prior to my workshop, we met and he gives me his business card and it says Independent News& Media Plc on the card.

We talked together and he claimed to be a member of the independent media. I asked him whether he really thought there was an independent media in Ethiopia and he said, “Yes, the Ethiopian Constitution created a law to protect this right which was based on the United Nations Human Rights Charter.” I told him that it did not matter how great the law was; if the law was not put into action, the law was meaningless.

He asked me, “Whatever happened to you to make you who you are?” I told him that it was the injustice done by the regime that was making me do this work. I told him that when Meles first came to power; lots of Ethiopians were thinking he might make the country better for everybody but it never happened. He responded, “What were you expecting? This is “highlander politics!” It does not matter who comes to power; whether Amhara or Oromo! Nothing changes! This is highlander politics!”
I told him, “We don’t need highlander politics or lowlander politics or tribal politics. What we need is the Ethiopian peoples’ politics where they are given freedom to choose who they want to lead them. That is why this cycle must be stopped! What we want is to bring lasting change and that is why I am doing what I am doing. We don’t need the tribal politics of ethnic hatred of Meles!”

Then he went on to defend Meles; asking why people in the Diaspora are so obsessed with blaming Meles; saying he was the “brightest guy” in the TPLF. He then blamed the opposition for failing to organize and be effective. I explained that Meles is the focus because he has used his cleverness to become the mastermind of this ethnic hatred and division.
In the evening, we met again and he was with another Ethiopian who then asked him, “Who is this guy?” He replied, “He’s an Ethiopian from Gambella and he’s a revolutionary!” I just smiled in response to this comment and the conversation ended.

The next day, after speaking at the workshop, Ato Tamrat challenged me during the question and answer period; saying, “I disagree with Obang because in Ethiopia this idea that there is no freedom in the media is a lie, but I won’t focus on that, instead, I want to say that I totally disagree with Obang when he says there are displaced people because of the land lease agreements. There is no land grab problem in Ethiopia and no one has been displaced. Ethiopia is a poor country and if people want Ethiopia to improve itself, they should allow the investors to come to the country to invest.”

My response to him was to run the video by John Vidal of the Guardian that I had already prepared to show. Please see the link for the video: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/21/ethiopia-centre-global-farmland-rush?CMP=twt_gu. For those who did not see it, Mr. Vidal does an excellent job of showing people living under trees after being displaced by Karuturi Global and Saudi Star. He interviews those affected; even though most were obviously afraid to speak openly. One man would only do so if his face was blurred due to fear of arrest or other punitive actions by the government.

After the video finished, I asked him, “Someone is lying, are you or is the video?” The audience was in total silence waiting for his response, but I went on.

“Those people you see are not people brought from Sudan or Kenya but are Ethiopians talking about their own government. You have seen it. Do not try to convince me about what is happening in Gambella! You might try to do so in any other region of Ethiopia, but you cannot do that in Gambella because those people you have seen are my own people and I am in communication with them. I know exactly what is going on. If you want to try to convince people, go to someone else because I know what is going on better than you do.”

I then asked him why he, as an independent journalist, claimed to be able to write anything he wanted without fear while some of the brightest journalists were living in exile; like the head of the Ethiopian Press Association or why he was able to live freely while most of the professional journalists who spoke their mind within the country were either in jail or were being intimidated and harassed? The moderator asked him if he had anything else to say and he did not try to defend his allegations.

The last comment was from a young Ethiopian student in Germany who stated, “Look, there is no freedom in this country. People are arrested. There is no political space. There are human rights abuses and Meles is selling off the land. Because of Meles’ partnership in the war on terror, he gets away with everything and the western nations are not speaking up. What is going on in Ethiopia is inconceivable!”

After the workshop, I spoke with Ato Tamrat again. He said, “You are trying to make me hate the government.” I responded, “No, I am not the one to make you to either hate or to love the government or the opposition. Your conscience should do that for you; telling you what is right and what is wrong.”

These conversations occurred on the same day Reyot Alemu of the Feteh Newspaper was arrested and only two days after the arrest of Woubeshet Taye, from the Awramba Times, which made this man’s claims all the more ridiculous; while at the same time, it was very sad because of the lives affected by these immoral actions. There is no question that I would have faced the same fate had I made my comments inside Ethiopia.

Another newspaper called “Addis Werie (tidings)” managing director Piniel Hailu who was taken when he was leaving his office and taken to some unknown place and harassed and beaten (slapped) by security forces. They told him to shut down his paper within three months and also forced him to open his email so that they can read his emails correspondences. Finally they interrogated him about what he knows about the diaspora movement and what kind of communication he has with opposition in diaspora. When he told them that all they are doing is against the law and they need to bring a court order they slapped his with the back of their hand.

As the Meles regime conducts the War on Truth with decreasing success, the balance of power is changing. The tree of the TPLF/EPRDF has produced a harvest of undesired fruit that is straining the entire system. Collapse may come from within without any need for an uprising, but without care, it could be dangerous.

We Ethiopians should be strategizing about a concrete plan and vision for transitioning Ethiopia from “serial tribal reigns,” which benefit only a few, to a healthy, well-functioning society where its entire people are valued based on their shared humanity and citizenship; putting humanity before ethnicity or any other distinctions for there is no freedom for one ethnic group until there is freedom for all.

As we look forward to that day, we want to warn any TPLF/EPRDF co-conspirators that truth is the foundation for our future freedom, justice and peace and part of that truth is identifying those who are now instrumental in suppressing the truth, committing human rights abuses, using corrupt practices to rob the country or perpetrating injustice in the courts or government offices.

Once this TPLF regime collapses, the people of Ethiopia will finally hold them accountable; however, even now, those TPLF/EPRDF supporters whose consciences convict them should know that there still may be a way out for those who genuinely regret any complicity with this regime.

Just like the pro-TPLF/EPRDF gentleman I met at the Deutsche Welle Media Forum, Ethiopians of every background have accepted as the status quo the nationally-destructive model of “my tribe first,” “highlander politics” or “lowlander separatism.” He basically thought I was naïve for thinking that Meles would be any different when he came into power; believing that it has always been like this and that no matter who came into power, it would always result in “highlander politics!” This is the unspoken truth that everyone knows. Compliance without challenge is an expectation; yet, this is the kind of thinking that has always held back Ethiopia from moving forward to a more united, peaceful and prosperous society!
What he did not understand is that the SMNE was formed to eradicate this kind of thinking for no one highlander, lowlander or tribal group will be sustainably free until all are free. When we fail to uphold the rights and well being of others, we alienate our own souls and fail in our human responsibility towards others. Suffering, marginalization and conflict are the inevitable results.

In Ethiopia, these principles of the SMNE may be revolutionary ideas, but they are the only road to revive the dying soul of our nation; dying because of the leaders of the country who are only there for the thriving of their own tribe at the expense of all other tribes.

We may call the Meles regime a terroristic government that has made Ethiopia into a prison; however, the true revolution for freedom is in our minds and hearts. The truth must challenge the status quo as never before! Examine yourselves and make your choices! We hope you will choose what is true, right, good, honorable and just!

May God help us eradicate highlander, lowlander and any tribal politics! May we be transformed by the truth!
Long live Ethiopia!

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Please do not hesitate to e-mail your comments to Mr. Obang Metho, Executive Director of the SMNE at: Obang@solidaritymovement.org. You can find more about us through our website at: www.solidaritymovement.org

  1. Genet Wodajo
    | #1

    The messengers and beneficiaries of the fascist and racist Meles Zenawi like Tamirat do not dare face truth. Shame on Tamirat for admiring and defending his fascist and racist master aite Meles Zenawi.

  2. lubaba
    | #2

    how can a liar preach about truth.you are liars and are accusing others of acting like you; as the saying goes…amed be duket yisikal

  3. aha!
    | #3

    This article from SMNE editorial misses like other elites of the podemocracy movements and those with ethnic agenda in their platform be it a loyalist opposition parties or liberation movement deception and injustice lies in the constitution starting from Article 46, where the country is divided into nine major ethnic groups with ill defined boundries, instead of leaving the provinces as they were with assorted ethnic groups leaving in each province by implementing ethnic and secessionist politics and/or policies in the constitution, directly supported by the teletafi parties and implicetly supported and become the bases of the platform for Medrek/fdd/fdre. This platform along with implementing totaliriansm has been the whole mark of the current regime of ethnic federalism self rule and separate development along with secessionist right in the constitution resulting in war skirmishes with the regime in order to secede upto self determination.

    Now comes this article of labeling this ruler as autoritarian, rather than ethnocrat, ethnic dictotor and totalitarian from the implementation of Marxist ideology from the Dergue regime, and its own Marxist movements of oppression of nations and nationlities, resulting in ethnic federalism and secessionism; to blame the lower officials at the region districts in the kebeles, rather than the the teletafi parties that directly supporting the TPLF/eprdfregime and the loyalist opposition parties are implicitely supporting it and incorporating it as their basic platform, instead of creating a platform based on Ethiopian Nationalism and Ethiopian National interests, economic and political fredom of the individual regardless of ones ethnicity, rather than ethnic rights.

    No matter how much you complain you complain about autoritarian rule and remove the individual at the top and blame the low level autorities, does not address to ethnic and secessionist politcs and/policies residing in the constitution, along with totarianism in the land pproperty holdings and exploitation, political and economic strangle hold of the country’s resources and its people by TPLF and TPLF affiliated enterprises. Normal functioning/simulation of supply-demand and the related models of production and growth models and the explanations for the cause effect relationships by the constitutional frame work of the constitution, along totalianism, ethnic federalism and secessionism, unlike other countries who have adopted pure capitalism and/or mixed economy with democracy. It is imposible to have the same outcome attribute to the western democracies and capitalism, with autocracy, ethnocracy/ethnic dictatorship and totalitarianism of TPLF/eprdf regime. Noris article has total grasp of the big picture in a modular context of the economic and political crises Ethiopia is in today, from the perspective you are presenting it.

  4. Kirubel Negash
    | #4

    What is said in the article is absolutely true. What concerns me more however, is the TPLF junta is strengthening its firm hold of the diaspora here in our backyard. 1)Most of the Ethiopian owned businesses have a direct or indirect TPLF investment contribution.( I am not talking about the genuine stores owned by hard working Ethiopians. )2)Money transfer dealers should be watched since they openly display positive attitude towards TPLF.3)Even some community organisations ( Ethiopian )are believed to have connections with TPLF.4)We know which media is/are on the list of TPLF payroll.The dangers to all Ethiopians in the Diaspora is widening beyond belief.So if someone do some research and identify this TPLF watch dogs to the community,it will help the democratic struggle against the dying but still the killing machine of TPLF. Mr. obang must be supported and hailed as a hero for all of us who want to see an end to the lying and concealing culture that TPLF and its Pseudo-parties that are subjugating the people in the bantustans states created by TPLF.

  5. Assrade
    | #5

    Okay! Mr Obang there is these barrage of accusations coming from all sorts of so called opposition groups coming from all directions and none of you can substanceate your claims. I understand no government is perfect and I am sure the government of Ethiopia is no exception, you guys who are crying fouls are absolutely beyond the paradigm of reality except that you wanted to get to power by all means necessary and or my way or the highway point of view. The Ethiopian populous don’t fill the same way you do. You are just trying to shove your degenerated and power hungry idiocy in to the minds of ethiopians. It’s all about power, you don’t care about Ethiopia nor about her people.

  6. John Lidetu
    | #6

    I want to say some thing to this man who wrote the above bulky, but irrelevant document! I am sure that you dont have any back ground to write this baseless passage! you simply killed ur time in creating the allegations that u made for the ethiopian gov’t. Ofcourse this lies are not new…why u always write this “white lies”, why you dont bring critical and basic ideas that can support for the dev’t of our country.
    what i understand is you are simply some body who do not know what to say and what to write!!! Please be wise and think twice. Dont be like a cart pulling by a horse! at least consider ur self as a human being, NOT an animal!!!

  7. aha!
    | #7

    Addendum: I conccur with the last terminorolgy of the last paragraph, the overarching concept to tribal politics being ethnic and secessionist politics and/or policies stipulated in the constitution. We are also in agreement if you are on the opposite side of that concept with goals for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians under liberal and/or social democracy to save Ethiopia from disintegration and empower the individuals with political and economic freedom and God given liberty.

  8. aha!
    | #8

    Assrade has made a keen observation of the Diaspora population falling into the following catagories: those that are implicated with the current regime and those supporters disinclined with TPLF/eprdf regime, those who put their self-interst ahead of the national interst and entangled in investment with TPLF/eprdf regime, those parties and party members engaging the regime in “Nochange but durable democracy” in a regime whose mantra is economic development before democracy in the East Asian style, and those parties and liberation movements, whose focus is ethnic rights, human rights and offcourse democrcatic rights, seeking more for polical space, as if if political space is a quatitatve measure, rather than a quantitative entity, those that are docile and peacefull that things take their own natural course, beleiving “Egizaer yametwin Egzaer iskimelsew deres min madreg yishallal”, and last but not least standing for the silent majority of Ethiopians in terms of the goals for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians to restore Ethiopian Nationalism and its interests along with economic, and political freedom of the individuals and restore the God given liberty of the individuals that are living in harmony with all other ethnic groups free of auto cratic, etthnocratic rule/ethnic dictatorship, totaliarinism, ethnic federalism of divide and rule in a colonial style and an apartheid system for the most part supported by security forces, federal police force and the army, promoting expolitation and political and economic strangle hold of the country’s resouces and its people by TPLF and TPLF affiliated enterprises, makinf the rest of the population “yebeyee temekach”, not participant and beneficiary econmic development of on the massive amount funding from IMF, budget support and grants from the western democracies, and further allowing the exploitation of the country’s resources to government and corporations of other countries at the expenses of resident farmers in the regions.

  9. Samuel
    | #9

    The aftermath of 2010 “election” in Ethiopia has generated an irony in which a party that claimed a “win” by 99.6% vote has gone an extra mile to muzzle any descent in the country as well as in the diaspora. It has resorted to an extreme form aggression by lying about every thing that is known in Ethiopia. A lady who just arrived from Addis is telling me that the harassment has gone wild and the people are now far more angrier at the TPLF government than at any time. This includes the elderly, the young, male female across all ethnic lines save the beneficiaries. No one knows why an aggressive offence. After the 2005 debacle the TPLF has learned that the people will not risk rising up against its rule. That may now be a miscalculation. Woyanes should beware of an angry crowd.

  10. aha!
    | #10

    Corrigendum: I meant to support the comment Kirubel Negash’s commentary, but not Assarde. I appolgise for that mistake. Now that his name been raised, and remains diametrically opposed to that of mine.After all a cry for political and economic freedom and liberty of individuals from autocratic, ethnocratic /ethnicdctatorship with totalirianism, ethnicfederalism of divide and rule policy is not a “foul cry” as you labled us.

  11. Idiota
    | #11

    @Kirubel Negash
    What you’re purposing is very scary. What are you trying to say. All those who disagree with you must be “watched”… then what….. harrassed, shunned, …..

  12. Truth
    | #12

    The reason Woyane stayed this long is because we now have a generation of young selfish people who are ready to trip each other than to fight for a good cause. In the old days University student fought for a higher cause such as “Land for the Tiller” and brought about societal change. I laughed when I heard, a few months back, of the news that AAU students went on protest to denounce the cafeteria condition in campus. They are more worried about their own belly. Today’s universities churn out “Hodam” by the thousands unlike a generation ago when students were more sensitive to freedom, justice and democracy.

    We the old folks are in similar predicament too. Instead of helping opposition organizations and free media like ESAT, we come here as cyber warriors and write about how woyane is bad and go to sleep thinking we have accomplished something. We do not need cyber warriors we want concerned citizens who can positively effect change and people tho support them financially and otherwise. Posting articles on the web will not bring any change.

    We have yet to learn how to use technology to bring about change. simply posting articles is not enough.

  13. qualebicha
    | #13

    Dear Ethhiopians,it is your country the enemy invaded and retailed it to internationl marketers;it is your country the enemy exploited and looted its resources,and it is your people the enemy jailed and murdered for twenty years.

    Ethiopians,victory is yours.Very soon you will participate in court hearing and listen to the jurors reading from the chargesheet every single crime the enemy committed on Ethiopians.You know precisely what the enemy will receive on judgement day.The testmony of the mother,your dear country whose sons and daughters murdered will be supported and witnessed by millions of Ethiopians.

    With regard to the personal criminal record of Meles Legesse Zinawi,crime-in-chief and member of the crimefamily has been well documented and will be present to the judges who would be precided in the court will read out the medical/legal report on the accused individual,Zinawi, who would be confined to the prisoner’s box on the right conrner of the courtroom,however at present,Zinawi remains at large.Psychiatric evaluation on Zinawi indicated that he is not only a robber,he is socially inhibited,lacking empathy,and has asoicial behaiour.Whether Zinawi committed the crimes by the reason of insanity or deliberation,he shall not be immuned to be perscuted;that,Ethiopians will guranty citizens of united nations.Amen.

  14. Somalityoppiyawit
    | #14

    “May God help us eradicate highlander, lowlander and any tribal politics! May we be transformed by the truth!
    Long live Ethiopia!”

    Thank you Mr. Obang Metho, for these fine words; I wish you had written them in Amharic, our national language. Ethiopians believe that we shall reassert our freedom when we all recognise our free-Ethiopianness or AMHARAnness: the Ethiopian people are a free people (Am Hara), and their language is the language of the free people: Amharic. We shall all be transformed by this truth. (We should only use English to communicate with the rest of the world, not among ourselves, Ato Obang.)

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