The Ethiopians and moral conduct. By Yilma Bekele.

October 13th, 2012 Print Print Email Email

I dreamt about my uncle. He has been dead for over ten years so I was wondering what brought him to my conscious now. It was a vivid dream and I woke both sad and happy. So all day long I kept wondering what is it that made me dream about him. I really think I was able to come up with a reasonable explanation why this memory was triggered in my brain. I believe it is due to what I have been reading lately that woke up this memory about service, integrity and today’s Ethiopia.

The night before the dream I read a very revealing article on (follow the link at the end to read the article) about the land grab in Oromia region. It is a very depressing tale of what those in position of power and authority do to our people. The story was told to give us perspective about Ato Jundin Sado who seems to find himself in a very precarious position lately. His problem that started before the death of the tyrant has escalated to his being dismissed from that TPLF satellite organization OPDO. It looks like this human puppet that has been serving his masters faithfully betraying the Oromo people is now paying the price for his sins.

I also have been reading about the Deputy Mayor of Addis Abeba Ato Kefyale Azeze defecting and moving to the US as a fellow refugee. I have also been informed about Ato Getachew Belay a high ranking TPLF official that decided to stay in the US abandoning his post. Ato Getachew has served his party as head of the Privatization Agency and head of EFFORT. Both are posts normally reserved for party loyalists.

The defections must have been that got me to think about service to people and country. That must be what triggered this deeply held memory to surface in the middle of the night. My uncle is one of the few people that have left a mark in my brain. I always think of him in a very pleasant manner. The earliest I remember of him from is the picture hanging on our living room wall. It was taken before he left for Korea as part of the United Nations peace keeping force. He was dresses in a greenish uniform sitting on a chair with medals on his chest. It was a serious picture but his boyish face betrayed the stern garish looking uniform and made him look like a kind solder unlike a warrior he was supposed to be. No question that picture impressed all of us growing children.

Upon his return from Korea he was recruited to work at our embassy in Egypt. He must have stayed there a long time because when we met next I was already in high school. He was working as administrator at Paulos/Pertos Hospital in Addis Abeba. He got married and built a beautiful bungalow in Gulele. My brother and I used to love going over to visit him in the weekends and spend the day listening to him talk and observe the disciplined and meticulous way he lived.

He built the house himself and for us it was like a Ferenji place. It has a beautiful bathroom with toilet, bathtub and bidet with working plumbing system including hot water. The house has a beautiful dining area and a living room for entertainment with couches and a radio. His flower garden was a marvel to look at. We sat and ate in the dining room and washed our hands in the bathroom without a maid fetching water and towel to our table.

A few years later he built an addition on his land to rent for income and help raise his three beautiful daughters. He was making an honest living and looking forward to enjoying his retirement. I finished High school and came to America.
The appearance of the Derg changed everything. The turmoil that followed affected my uncle and his contemporaries in a negative manner. The Derg expropriated all wealth created regardless of how it was achieved. My uncle became the victim of this haphazard and meaningless policy. The Derg became the landlord of his property and his tenant started paying rent to the government. My uncle was forced to retire due to the turmoil in the country.

When I visited him next I couldn’t help but notice how fast he has aged. He was still living in his house but there was no incentive to do any repair or make his house into his own castle. It was shocking to see the deterioration of both man and property. Such a vibrant and go getter of a person was reduced to spending his days on trifle affairs and mundane subjects. It was odd to see his previous tenant subleasing the house and making money. The coming of Woyane did not make things any better. They took over where the Derg left off. That is how much things have turned topsy turvy.

May be I am grasping for straws, maybe I am letting my imagination go wild but the truth is I saw a connection between my dreaming of yester year and the current news coming out of Ethiopia. My uncle’s life was a simple straight line of service and hard work with rewards of stable and fulfilling end until it was rudely interrupted. His achievement was on merit and his honest service is what makes the wheels of society turn in predictable manner. His honorable way of life was an example to all our family. We all learn by example and he was a proud mentor.

Why am I writing about my uncle is a good question. I wanted to tell you we have not always been the way we are now. Lawless, corrupt, shifty, no roots and void of faith, this is what has become of us. I believe this describes the new Ethiopia. Not long ago our country and people were different. Yes there was inequality, there was injustice and we were definitely backward. But we were not degraded, self-loathing and hopeless.

What do we have today? There is no sense of public service but public robbery, there is no sense of do the right thing but a sense of what can I get away with, there is no sense of pride in workmanship but cheap labor for fast money, there is no sense of us but it is all about me. That is what the TPLF regime cultivates. That is why they could do all kinds of damage to our people and at the end of the day abandon all and move out of the country.

When I read about the likes of Junedin, Kefyalew and Getachew I start to wonder about the future of my country and people. What do our people learn from such disgraceful action? What kind of society produces such individuals? How did our country find itself putting such people in charge?

Let us take Ato Junedin. Let us also remember the entire OPDO leadership was rejected by the Oromo people during the 2005 elections. They were restored to their position after Ato Meles ordered recount of the ballots. It was in the aftermath of this event that the OPDO leadership decided to teach the people a lesson. Land is the only wealth the Ethiopian peasant owns. He has no bank account, no capital in machinery and no stocks and bonds. People like Junedin robed the land from the simple peasant. The stolen land was leased to grow flower for the export market while some was used to build condominiums and town houses.

The same peasant that lost his land was recruited to work as a day laborer while his children were let loose in the green houses where they grew flowers. Fifteen and sixteen year old Oromo girls were exposed to chemicals and fertilizers without adequate or no protection. The land given to the developers with fancy names puts the children’s fable Alice in wonderland to shame. In a country where the per capita income is less than $700 a year our developers are constructing housing that costs five million to twenty million. That is what a company called Country Club Developers is building in Legetafo, Oromia. It is also true that over 95% of the residents of Oromia cannot afford to purchase their dream house in Legetafo. Ato Junedin made all this possible.
Folks like Kefyalew and Getachew are the engines that facilitated the working of the TPLF anti Ethiopian machine. Today they come to America as victims. They followed high officials of the Derg regime that left before the fall of Mengistu. Derg era criminals today are respected members of our community. I assure you in a few years Kefyalew and Getachew will join our Church, Mosque and Eder as ordinary fellows in exile. How could a lesson be learnt if yesterday’s criminals are today’s freedom fighters?
Do you think the problem is with them or with us? Do you think people like Junedin, Kefyalew and Getachew can exist with us? There is no ying without yang, there is no smoke without fire and there is no criminal without a victim. Our indifference our apathy makes people like the above flourish. When we keep quiet while observing injustice we encourage such evil act to continue. When we participate in buying stolen land, building on stolen land we facilitate the coming to death of our homeland. We mock our people’s plight because we ventured out and collected a fist full of dollars.
It does not require a fortune teller to predict sooner or later the injustice, the famine; the hopelessness will force our people to resort to force as they have done before. Today’s Ethiopia is reaching that boiling point. This is not because it is written but it is so because her children failed her, because her children refused to act because her children looked the other way. The solution lies in each one of us. We all know what is right and what is wrong. We all know we cannot judge the Junedins and the Kefyalews and the Getachews if we would act like them given the chance. The question to ask ourselves is would I be different? Am I a better human being aware, conscious, and keeper of my brother?


  1. Tecola W. Hagos
    | #1

    Thank you Yilma Bekele, for your sincere and heart-felt essay. It is rare that I read a piece that is predicated on clearly stated ethical principles, and your essay is a moral compass to us all lost souls. Your illustrative statements about your Uncle are far more profound than whole volumes of books on political science. Your judgment of our moral lapse and our deteriorating social responsibilities is on point. Without sounding patronizing, I must say that for a young person you have truly developed your perceptions of our Ethiopian reality and that of the world in general in a healthy and truly exemplary way. Thank you for your honesty and for setting for all of us ethical standards that we need to repossess in order for us to move out of the abyss of selfishness, opportunism, and lethargy of the spirit. You are holding a Dorian-mirror to our face that we ponder the hideousness that we have become.

    Tecola W. Hagos

  2. Mariam
    | #2

    Nice article, makes one think deeply. I think it is a global phenomenon there is no more self respect. I have been away from Addis for much of my life and I am always amazed at the lack of integrity when I return, there is no more culture of respect and “Yulinta” or consideration for others. All the good human qualities have been replaced by materialism. Those that rob the poor and the country know their days are numbered. They leave and find refuge elsewhere. No one can escape death though!

  3. Genzeb
    | #3

    Your message is so clear to those who want to look at themselves in the mirror and make changes. Ethiopians have seen this injustice go on for years. Hope they will listen to you.
    You ask yourself why the law in any country, for anyone caught with stolen goods, lead to prison, but when stolen goods come from Ethiopia is sold in every shop with a sign “Fair Trade Certified”
    As long as this is allowed to go on there is no incentive to change. They have green light to continue to do what they want to sell it.
    The losers are the kind people of the world, who see the starving baby and send their money thinking it will help. A farmer who lost his land was saved by the food sent there said “I wish you left me there to die” What they should do is stop buying stolen goods. This is the reality. I hope they read your message and change.

  4. Dawi
    | #4

    [[..we cannot judge the Junedins and the Kefyalews and the Getachews…]]

    Who asked you to? Leave the judgements to their party.

    Alleged defection of Ato Getachew Belay to the United States is not credible. We have read that Ato Getachew left Ethiopia for the United States in early July on an extended furlough and plans to pursue advanced studies…..he submitted proper resignation letter to the Office of the Prime Minister, to which his office was directly accountable.

    Junedin’s wife is accused of taking CASH from Saudi Embassy & the husband strangely defended it and rightly, OPDO demoted him from leadership position etc. I don’t know who Kefyalew is?

    But, my friend Yelma, what you wrote is a nice bed time story of a dream you saw but, as far the authoritarian government EPRDF is concerned their record of resignation is not bad at all. As Meles use to say, “we are not a government of the angels”. :-) For a mortal government they are doing ok is what he meant.

    Resignation is not their weakness is what I am trying to say. You wasted time on a non issue.

  5. kebe
    | #5

    Yes, you are right but where to start with whom is the biggest question most of us don’t understand how big is the Ethiopian problem some of us mare sited we care only about one ethnic group while the problem is almost common to all Ethiopian people one way or another. I believe in unity I love all my Ethiopian people as one society; yes ther is huge differences or gaps in ethnic cultures and devlopment; so we have to accept that; we can’t do any thing about the past what we can do is move forward and narow the differeces that exist to me this is main frame we have to hold on and fight for united Ethiopia love you all

  6. Dawi
    | #6

    I looked the site Yelma recommended it is a problem development brings. When you move from agrarian to urban there is no other way but transforming millions from rural to urban, who may not be prepared and it is very painful at times.

    How to deal with the changes is always a difficult matter but, we can’t stop change and development. On the other hand, environmental issues need to be dealt with as well. How to grow flowers safely to bring cash is what we should ask. Do we have alternative ways of getting out of poverty? We should look into it but, just criticizing and blaming those who are doing something is not enough.

    History of developed nations show that land acquisition takes place during urban development. Farmers end up becoming manufacturing workers. More and more people move to the city. Urban population increases rural population dies off. That is the way it goes.

    To get out of poverty, fast development takes place, it is going to be difficult for many to transform to the new environment and many get lost in the process. Systems are not set up yet. What ever compensation given may not fulfill the need. Once the compensation dries up they can’t go back home so they face problems.

    As land is State owned in Ethiopia there is no real market value for compensation because it is controlled by the state. Land use right is granted by the government and money is collected that way as a continuous revenue flow.

    A social security system using some of the land grant revenue to cover those who lost land for development is how other developing nations deal with expropriated farmers. We can do the same; so there are solutions to our problems.

  7. መፈጃጀት?
    | #7

    Do you think the problem is with them or with us? Do you think people like Junedin, Kefyalew and Getachew can exist with us?

    1. ችግራችን ክሌላው አገራት አይለይም
    የኛ ችግር ብዙና የተወሳሳበ ነው ሌሎችም አፍርካዊ ታዳጊ አገሮች ይህንኑ የኛውን ዓይነት ችግር ይጋራሉና በዚህ ብቸኛ አይደለም ኢሮፕም ቢሆን ግሪክ ስፔይን ጣሊያን የመሳሰሉት መሪዎቸቸው የሕዝባቸውን ጥያቄ መመለስ እንዳቃታቸው እናያለን
    አለም ላይ ሙስና ተንሰራፍቶአል ሕዝቦች መሪዎቻቸውንና መንግስታቸውን IMFና ሌሎች ድርጅቶች ያወርዱዋቸዎል ይሾማሉ
    ታዲያ ኢትዮጵያም ከዚህ ማእበል አታመለጥም ባይ ነኝ

    2. የኛ ፖለቲካ ድርጅቶችም ሆነ መሪዎች ወይም ምሁራን አይዲኦሎጂ ልዩነት እምብዛም አይታይባቸውም በውጭ ድጋፍም የሚመኩ ናቸው
    ለምሳሌ ኮሪያ አጎትህ ዘምተዋል ታዲያ አሜሪካንን ውጭ ፖሊሲ አልደገፍንም ነው የምትለው?
    በሌላ በኩል አንተም አሜሪካ ኑረህ አሜሪካ ደግሞ የውጭ ፖሊሲ ወያኔን ሲደግፍ ግራ አልተጋብህም?

    60ዎቹ ፓለቲከኞች ብናነሳ ሶሻሊዝምን ደግፈው አሜሪካንን ፖሊሲ ኮንነው ግን የአሜሪካ ፍልምና ኑሮ ባህል ተከታይ ሁነን ከፍተኛው ቂጥር ያለው ኢትዮጵያዊ ስደተኛ የሚኖርባት አገር አሜሪካ ስትሆን ለምን ብለህ አልጠየቅህም?

    3. ተክታይ ለማፍራት መስዋዕት መክፈል
    ለመሆኑ እውነት ፓለቲካውን እንምራ ስንል ሕዝብ ጋር ያለን ግንኙነት ምን ያህል ነው?
    ከሕዝቡ ስንቱ ነው የምንለውን የሚያውቀው?
    ስንታችን የራሳችንን ገንዘባችንና ግዜያችን ሰጥተናል? በበኩሌ ጥቂቶች ብቻ ናቸው እላለሁ
    መንግስትን ከላይ በመናድ እንጂ ሕዝብ ውስጥ ገብቶ መስራት እንደሚቻል አሁንም አልተረዳንም

    4. ጦር መሳሪያና የአገርንና ሕዝብ ጥቅም ለመጠበቅ ያላቸው ግንኙነት ግልጽ ነው
    ቢሆንም ታሪክንም ብንመለከት አሁንም የሚታየው ጦር መሳሪያ አናመርትም
    መሳሪያ ከውጭ ለምነን ይሁን ገዝተን ነው ድንበር ለማስከበር እንበል ሕዝብ ለማስገበር የምንጠቀመው ስለዚህም መጪውን መናገር ባይቻልም ያለንበት ሁኔታ ይህ ነው

    5. ራስን ለመቻል ምርትን ልማትን ለማሳደግ የሚያስፈልጉን ቴክኖሎጂችንም ብናይ
    ምርቱንም ሆነ ቴክኖሎጂውን በርዳታ ወይም በመግዛት ነው ሁሌም የምናገኘውና በዚህ ሁኔታ መቀጠል የምንችል አይመስለኝም
    ስለዚህም ትምህርታችን ፍልስፋናችንን አቅጣችንን ብንፈትሽስ?
    ለምን አስተዳደር በደል ለመዋጋት እንደምንፈልግ ሁሉ ቴክኖሎንም የኛ ለኛ የሚሆን ከየትን ለምን አንቃርምም?

    6. አገር የሚለው ትርጉምና የትግል አቅጣጫችን
    አዲሱ ምዕራብ ኢሮፕ በጀርመን ፕሮጀክት መሪነት ካለባቸው ቀውስ ጭምር እዚህ ደርሳል
    አንድ ባንዲራ አንድ ፍራንክ አንድ ፓስፓርት በአንድነት የተዋቀረ ጦር ሃይል መስረተዋል የፈጀባቸው ጊዜ አንድ 50 ዓመት እንበል ታዲያ እኛ ከነሱ ምን እንማራለን? በጦር መሳሪያ ውጊያ እንዳለመጡት ግልጽ ነው

    7. እንደ በርሊን ውል ሁሉ ፓሪሱን ሚሊየንም ጎል
    ተሰፍሮ ተሰፍቶ ሲሰጠን አጠረ ጨምሩ ሰፋ ይጥበብ እንጂ እንዴ የራሴን ጥብቆ እኔው ልቀምቅም አላልን
    አቤቱታ በማቅረብና በዛም ውጤት ይመጣል ብሎ ማመን ብዙ ተጎድተናል

    ስለዚህም በአጭሩ ምናልባት ችግሩ እኛ አመለካከት ጋ ነው ባይ ነኝ

  8. Anonymous
    | #8

    First I would like to say thank you to my brother Tecola Hagos, I am humbled. As for Ato Dawi I find your question very strange, your statement who asked you? is very offensive, remember we are discussing our country, If not I who is my response, I thought public employees serve the Nation not their respective party or TPLF. Isn’t that why we have a problem here, TPLF thinks we all serve the party and one person and look where that got us. It is not healthy and self defeating. Do you see the confusion in the ranks of TPLF cadres due to the death of one man? They have been so busy amassing money they forgot their organization and now it is terror time since they are gona lose it all. I am glad you’re well informed about the affairs of your friends, it is good to know the individual is on advanced studies, and Junedin’s wife is accused of money from the Saudis. I have no idea why that is deemed wrong now, I thought begging from individuals and organizations was a TPLF hobby, actually isn’t the whole country financed by borrowing, begging and fleecing the Diaspora? I am glad u enjoyed my nice bed time story and I will write more like that. @Dawi

  9. Dawi
    | #9

    [[... your statement who asked you? is very offensive...]]


    However, I guess I like to see you and others criticize EPRDF by the role it is trying to play; An authoritarian government of a developmental state; that practices political repressions but gives a lot of economic freedom. So if a developer constructs “five million to twenty million” house, that is the developers business and is practicing its economic freedom. They pay taxes for the land use etc. The income generated is partly used to improve social welfare of the “95% residents of Oromia”. Off course the poor can’t live in the 20 million house. Are you kidding me?

    So Junedin did what a red blooded Developmental State employee would do.

    Land belongs to the government/people and is leased not sold. If the government wants it for other developments it gives you other replacement or/plus some compensation; there is no market value compensation for land as in the capitalist countries. So you can forget of being a millionare with land value compensation; so stop confusing systems. It is a waste of time comparing apples and oranges?

    Land belongs to the People and folks have only use rights and what ever the government makes when in bids/leases and the revenue stream created there after, goes to its coffers. The money collected is/will be used to run the govenment and improve social well being of the population. Expropriated farmers should get the basic social benefit; nothing more.

    Market don’t care for people social entitlements to get health care, education, drinking water and other social services. Obama is still fighting for “Obama care” in the richest capitalist country?

    Between 2002 and 2010, the health coverage in Ethiopia has increased from 60 percent to 89 percent. Within eight years the nation has managed to increase its health coverage by 29 percent.

    That is a developmental state in action.

  10. ጉረኞች
    | #10

    Ethiopia’s literacy rate hit rock bottom 28% under your “wisest person Meles Zenawi’s” leadership. How do you think development will take place in Ethiopia with this shameful record. Or do you think education and development are not related at all. No need of literate people for development just like you are arguing democracy and development are not related.

  11. Zelalem
    | #11

    Thank you Mr.Yelma, for such illuminating and educational article. True enough weyanes and their affiliates have no comparison in the history of our country for what they are doing against the people of Ethiopia. However we Ethiopians need to look in our hearts and ask ourselves what in the world is wrong with us? How often and for how long are we let rationalize the national crisis? Why is it so hard for us to get along and in order to intervene against the onslaught directed by the enemies of Ethiopia? What is more, unless stopped by a unified opposition sooner than latter these people are capable of dismantling the nation on our watch. So fight we must fearlessly fight weyanes and their sponsors to bring respect and dignity in our society. That means we must fight all forms of corruption and dishonesty by holding people responsible for their misdeeds be it weyanes or pseudo opposition leaders such as Teseye.As well as those who pretend as opposition supporters while they secretly invest in weyan run economy, which is rampant with corruption and thievery.

    [Dawi]#4 and #6

    In response to Yelma’s article you said

    “Who asked you to? Leave the judgments to their party”.

    What an in lightning answer from a man who is known for his ‘morale rectitude’? It seems to me you are promoting here that TPLF (other wise known the exclusive club of Tigrian bandits) in and herself is the supreme law of the land.All else Ethiopians must under the order of the narrow villagers. From my perspective Yelam has not ‘wasted time on a none issue’.On the contrary, he brought an issue that is highly relevant to many among the Ethiopian opposition as well as to the people at large. You are the one who really need to be told you are a waist in this forum. If that was not the case you could have not been prone to argumentative temperament through multiple responses to the same issue.

    | #12



  13. tamitu
    | #13

    Dro Gud bey Gonder yebal neber zendro gud bey Ethiopia.

    I got really mad to read an article that Ethiopia has tried some kind of negotiation with ONLF in Kenya. First of all these people are not from prober Ethiopia. They come from Somalia as pastoralist following the end of rainy season. Second they are more affiliate to Somalia than Ethiopia. Third they are not the group that needs recognition as our diverse ethnic group who properly reside with in Ethiopia territory with out any kind of affiliation to their neighbor. Therefore, they must leave our territory without precondition if not the solution is that the government of Ethiopia and all those opposition party must unit for these common enemy of Ethiopia to give lasting solution. This is achieve by organizing specially trained force dawn from all ethic group with quotas whose main task is solely to track and derive them away what ever time it may take.

  14. Dawi
    | #14

    ጉረኞች :

    “..Ethiopia’s literacy rate hit rock bottom 28% under your “wisest person Meles Zenawi’s” leadership ”

    Primary education coverage in Ethiopia today is 88%; showed higher growth rate than the health sector, so the literacy rate of 28% by Wikipedia has to be bogus; they have South Sudan 99% rate?

    It just doesn’t make sense.

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