Distorted Reality – By Yilma Bekele
A façade is a false appearance that is more pleasant than the reality. Hollywood is good at this sort of stuff. They create illusion to simulate the imagined event. It is called ‘Special Effects’. Such movies as ‘Star Wars’, ‘Close Encounters of The Third Kind’ are the result of a highly refined use of special effects. Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) has brought a quantum leap in the creation of illusion. That is why movies like ‘Jurassic Park’ were able to recreate the Dinosaur as real as they existed 250 million years ago. In Hollywood, the line between realty and imagination is very thin. (more…)
A façade is a false appearance that is more pleasant than the reality. Hollywood is good at this sort of stuff. They create illusion to simulate the imagined event. It is called ‘Special Effects’. Such movies as ‘Star Wars’, ‘Close Encounters of The Third Kind’ are the result of a highly refined use of special effects. Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) has brought a quantum leap in the creation of illusion. That is why movies like ‘Jurassic Park’ were able to recreate the Dinosaur as real as they existed 250 million years ago. In Hollywood, the line between realty and imagination is very thin.
This brings us back to today’s Ethiopia, where the line between what is real and what is illusion is blurred. On one hand we have all the semblance of a legitimate functioning State and on the other hand we have all the telltale signs of a ‘failed state’. The distortion of reality is a full time endeavor that has been elevated to an art form. The TPLF regime cannot lay claim to this sophisticated ‘officially sanctioned’ practice of lying and façade construction. The ‘Weimar’ Republic of Germany was very good at it thanks to the likes of Herr Gobbles and associates. The Soviet Union raised the bar to such an extent that it was able to fool most of the Planet.
Pravda was announcing a ‘bumper harvest’ while the citizens was standing in line for a loaf of bread. The abundance of freedom in the Socialist Republic, and the love of the population for the ‘Communist’ system was told and retold while ‘Gulags’ were flourishing in Siberia, and the KBG was soldering the Iron curtain to keep the people in.
Back to the ‘Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia’ (that is our new name since 1995) where the regime has made an extensive study of rule by coercion, exile, murder, and co-option. This regime has adopted everything necessary to govern by negative means. The system has become as ruthless as Stalinism (concentration camps such as Dedesa, Shoa Robit, Zuai, Bir Sheleko), as meticulous as the East German Stasi (Agazi Force, Meakelawi Prision), as an endless revolution as Maoism (purges, tehadeso campaign), as a manufacturer of lies and falsehood as Nazi Germany (false economic reports, charges of attempted genocide, Interamahwe). Nothing has been left to chance.
The ‘Constitution’ (www.africa.upenn.edu/Hornet/Ethiopian_Constitution.html)
that was shoved down our throat in 1995 is a document which is open to amendment at the Prime Minister’s whim. Laws have been known to be enacted overnight to serve special purposes. Two recent examples are the re-imprisonment of Seye Abraha, and the declaration of ‘State of Emergency’ right after the 2005 general election. Both were delivered by the rubberstamp Parliament in less than 24 hrs. The ‘Constitution’ is at the service of the party in power, not the Nation. The façade of a beautiful ‘Constitution’ is to cover the reality of the ugly face of the Police State.
As far as the outside world is concerned Ethiopia is a multi-party state. In fact, according to the government there are eighty-one legally registered political parties (www.mfa.gov.et/Facts_About_Ethiopia/Government_Political_System.php), unfortunately that is the façade. The reality is that Ethiopia is a one party state represented by Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF). When you look at the composition of the Parliament there are seventeen different parties represented but that is an illusion. The fact is all the major parties are ‘clones’ of TPLF. We have Amhara National Democratic Front, the Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization, the Southern Ethiopia Peoples Democratic Organization, the Somali People Democratic Party, the Benshangul Gumuz People’s Democratic United Party, etc. All of these were created and are controlled by Tigray People Liberation Front. The cloned organizations owe their existence to the creator. The leaders of these pseudo parties are former prisoners of TPLF. They are nothing but dogs on a leash, and a very short leash too.
On the economic front Ethiopia is viewed as having a free market economy with IMF, World Bank, UNDP pumping loans and credits to encourage the emergence of a free enterprise system. A closer look reveals a different picture. Eighty five percent of the population is rural and exists on subsistence farming, yet the means of production (land) belongs to the State. The poor peasant is leasing the land where he can be evicted at a moments notice. He cannot sell it nor can he use it as collateral to borrow capital. The government and EFFORT (Endowment Fund for Rehabilitation of Tigray) are the two major players in all aspects of the economic life of the country. (http://www.ethiopianreview.com/articles/781).
The telephone systems, both land lines and cellular are the monopoly of the state. They are used as cash cows with no chance of reinvestment of the surplus to upgrade the system. As ownership of land is used to control the peasant, ownership of the communication system is used to spy on the citizenry. The single Television Transmitter is used by the government for misinformation and outright lies. Radio is a major government propaganda tool and no independent station is tolerated. All independent Newspapers were shutdown after the 2005 ‘General Election’ and their editors imprisoned or exiled. Even an incipient Internet is cause for fear. The government thinks it wise to spend the taxpayer’s money on foreign technology to block and deny free access. And recently our fearless leaders have started jamming the signals of both Voice of America and Deutsche Welle. Fear is the middle name of TPLF.
Thus when the government puts out the claim that the economy is growing in double digits and that Ethiopia will join the developed countries in a matter of years, it is just all lies. Their statistics are cooked and re-cooked that you can smell the stink all the way from space. As always the stark realty is the exact opposite. Inflation is in double digits and unemployment is hovering around 34%. The few high-rise buildings here and there look like oasis in the Sahara are there thanks to the much-maligned ‘Diaspora’. According to a report by UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Ethiopians in the ‘Diaspora’ sent a total of $591 million in remittance money. The amount is nearly 4.4% of total GDP. Remember, this are the official figures; the real figures must be much much higher.
The following chart shows where we stand as a nation as measured by the UN. They have no axe to grind. They just tell it as it is. Each year since 1990 the Human Development Report has published the human development index (HDI) which looks beyond GDP to a broader definition of well-being. The HDI provides a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life (measured by life expectancy), being educated (measured by adult literacy and enrolment at the primary, secondary and tertiary level) and having a decent standard of living (measured by purchasing power parity, PPP, income). (http://hdrstats.undp.org/countries/country_fact_sheets/cty_fs_ETH.html)
|UNDP- Human Development Index||Rank Out of 131 Countries/economies|
|Global competitiveness Index 2007-2008||123|
|Global competitiveness Index 2006-2007||116|
|Health and Primary education||123|
|Higher education and training||124|
|Financial and market sophistication||119|
|Quality of national business environment||113|
|Quality of electric supply||84|
It is not necessary to bring statistical proof to show that our country is poor, backward, and on welfare. All we have to do is talk to our parents, neighbors, or friends. When we see our little sisters being forced into prostitution to support the family, when we see our brothers feeling hopeless and helpless with no future and chewing kat to hide from reality we despair everyday, when we see our peoples body being washed on the shores of Yemen or being raped and hanged in Dubai; we know that our homeland is a troubled land. This catastrophe befallen on us is man made and it is correctable. This is what the TPLF regime has to show for over seventeen years of absolute power. They replaced a rotten military dictatorship and they were welcomed with open arms. They inherited a system that needed repair and they were given the benefit of the doubt. There was no organized opposition to derail their plans. There was no armed struggle to challenge their hold on power. Unfortunate for Ethiopia their paranoia and distrust of the people was too much to overcome.
Peasants in uniform were thrust into leadership positions with no education or experience to lead a nation of 70 million people. Let alone manage the affairs of a country most of our new leaders have never balanced a checkbook or worked for wages. Taking apart and reassembling an AK47 is not considered a qualification to run a nation. Our current leaders were trained to wage war not peace, create contradictions not consensus, instill fear not love, and resolve problems using the gun not the ballot. They are unwilling to change. This is where we find ourselves today, waging war on our neighbors so we can be a dumping ground for surplus arms and spare change.
It is never too late to change. We make mistakes and we all learn through experience. That is what differentiates us from lesser primates. We are capable of learning. Where we are today as nation is nothing to be proud of. On the other hand our potential knows no bounds. We can build on our negative experience. As people we have traveled out so far and so wide that we have accumulated enough knowledge to be able to transform our country in a short time to be able to join the family of nations who enjoy life to the fullest. The Ethiopian people are willing to let bygones be bygone. We can start a new chapter of cooperation and strive to benefit all instead of a few.
On the other hand for those who are intoxicated with power, need to know that the end is not going to be so pleasant. Nothing lasts forever. Some leaders surround themselves with sycophants and they are unable or unwilling to see their demise. Blinded with arrogance they do not see the writing on the wall. Look at the Shah of Iran who died alone in a Cairo Hospital, Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia who died of heart attack in his one room cell, Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania whose last view was a length of rope, and last but not least Alberto Fujimori of Peru who is waiting for justice in a small jail cell. Mr. Fujimori thought he could flee to Japan (his ancestral land) and avoid prosecution. Unfortunate for him in today’s world there is no place to hide. No amount of stolen dollars will protect them from the long arm of the law.
All this could be avoided. It must be avoided. It is not about revenge. It is not about being proven wrong or right. It is about a small piece of real estate we call Ethiopia. The time has come for compromise and consensus building. To quote Albert Einstein ‘the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.’ May God give our leaders the strength to do what is right!