“HE WHO HAS AN EAR, LET HIM HEAR” – By Girma Kassa, Chicago (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Couple of month ago I got a chance to meet a gentleman who recently came from Ethiopia to visit the United States. We had a long intense but civil chat on the current situation in Ethiopia. The gentleman seemed to be honest and very objective in his over whole assessment. Since our eyes usually see only the bad parts of the EPRDF, for a change I asked this gentleman to tell me if there are any good items that the regime has done in Ethiopia. (more…)
Couple of month ago I got a chance to meet a gentleman who recently came from Ethiopia to visit the United States. We had a long intense but civil chat on the current situation in Ethiopia. The gentleman seemed to be honest and very objective in his over whole assessment. Since our eyes usually see only the bad parts of the EPRDF, for a change I asked this gentleman to tell me if there are any good items that the regime has done in Ethiopia.
He said that he had been living outside Ethiopia for more than 5 years and returned back right one year after the May Election. He told me that the EPRDF has changed a lot the country. Mainly he was impressed by the various constructions all over the regions. “You can go to Diredawa in 6, Awassa in 4, Debre Markos in 5 hours from Addis Ababa. If you look at cities like Nazareth, Mekele, Bahir Dar, Awassa ….they all have developed greatly. Many building construction and investments are taking place. The World Bank and many western countries have waived loans to Ethiopia. Former Prime Minister Blair, Secretary Rice, the then Secretary Rumsfeld, the then Chancellor Schroeder, Chancellor Merkel, The Japanese Prime Minister, the World Bank president and many more and more prominent individuals have visited Ethiopia. This shows Ethiopia has become visible on the African map. There were famine dangers but the regime was able to maintain it. At least they did not have in their watch millions dying in starvation like the Derg and Haile Selassie era. Universities and colleges are being built all over the place. Do you know that there are Universities in places like Jijiga and Samara (Afar)? All these are positive changes” he explained.
I interrupted him and asked why then have the regime lost the 97 election and was so hated by Ethiopians all over the country? “Let me finish … When I tell you all these accomplishments, it does not mean there are no problems. You asked me for the good things. You did not ask me for the bad ones. If you want to know the bad ones and why they lost the elections the answer is very clear. Even though there are positive changes in Ethiopia, if you ask “who is benefiting from these changes” and get an answer you will understand why this regime has lost the trust and confidence of the people. Only handful individuals have benefited from all these changes. All investments somehow are directly or indirectly controlled by the TPLF. So there is inequitable distribution of wealth. The fact only very few from one ethnic group are benefiting more has made the bitterness, anger and hate even more acute. On top of that the brutal actions they took to silence the CUD, ONC and OFDM supporters …., the crimes they are currently committing in Ogaden, the innocent unarmed civilians they killed, the hundred thousands they barbarically detained, the villages they burn down to the ground …. have all put a big scar on the mind of millions Ethiopians.” the gentleman added.
“Ummm” I said listening to this neutral and enlightening assessment. The following day I gave a call to another person who also recently came from Ethiopia. I shared to him what the first gentleman told me and asked similar questions. I got confirmation that what I was told by the first gentleman was pretty much accurate. However the second gentleman explained to me the situation from a different angle. “If you go to Addis Ababa there are two cities. One City for the rich and the other for the poor. If you walk along the Bole road, it looks like you are in America. There are restaurants named under western cities..London Cafe, New York restaurant …Yes there are many house constructions …Houses are sold in millions of Birr. Who are the buyers? Rich merchants and those who came from the Diaspora. There are different groups- Boston Groups, Dallas Groups …who build houses in groups. As you see this Addis Ababa is for the rich and for those from the Diaspora. How could one expect ordinary Ethiopian buy a house with one million birr? That by itself shows how rotten and immoral the system is. There is another Addis Ababa where 98% of the population lives. That Addis Ababa is in a very terrible situation. There are many people who eat only one meal a day. There are many Young people who do nothing but chew “chat”. The situation there is terrible. One quintal of teff and other basic needs are out of control. Unless someone has a relative outside, you cannot live. At least during the Derg there were “hibret Souks” where you can get basic needs that you can afford. Now the life of the majority Ethiopians is getting worse. The regime is not hated because they are from one ethnic group. They are hated because the majority of Ethiopians are suffering and loosing hope. Unless some concrete changes are implemented I can guarantee you the whole think will collapse. Already robberies and thefts have grown exponentially. “he said.
Lately gasoline price has skyrocketed to almost 10 Birr per liter. The cost of Kerosene that regular Ethiopians use to cook their food has dramatically increased. 100 Kg teff is more than 680 Birr. One liter cooking oil is 62 Birr. Per the nazret Blogger Urael, loss of purchasing power has surpassed the 50% range due to inflation. “And the citizens of Ethiopia are feeling the pain directly. For as far as people had any purchasing power, they are loosing it, criminality is raising fast and the landowners from the north, as one minister called the Tigrayan beggars in Addis Ababa, have to share the generosity of the fortunate ones with many others. ” wrote Urael. Around Felluweha 18 fellow Ethiopians were seen surrounding a foreigner to get few coins. Kids are spending their time around hotels and restaurant to get “terefrafis” when they should have been sent to school and well cared for.
Our fellow Ethiopian brothers and sisters are living above the dead and below the livings. Their pride, their dignity their honor has been taken away from them. As Urael reported “It is this arrogance and probably also ignorance, that is pushing us down and only a small group of carefully selected ones, who are called the “elites” or the privileged, are celebrating and making profits out of the misery of the masses.”
Why would this ignorance and cruelty from the part of the leaders in Arat Kilo? Why the reluctance to take serious and drastic measures that moves our country to a better future? When do they stop working day and night, investing millions of dollars to preserve their power when our people are suffering? Don’t these people have also children of their own? Or are they doing all these on purpose?
On January 16, 2008 I wrote:” Emotionally, psychologically and economically weakening the populations they rule is the first major tool dictators use to preserve their power. They create the sense of hopelessness and fear within the mind of the people and create a false image of invincibility. They inculcate the complete submission to their authority. Therefore, people will be too frightened to share their hatred of the dictatorship and their hunger for freedom. They become often terrified to think seriously of resisting the regime. Instead, as Gene Sharp said, they face ‘suffering without purpose and a future without hope’ “
Could this be a systematic policy from the part of the regime to economically strangle Ethiopians at large by their neck, so that they only focus on getting bread but not their God given human and democratic rights?
If the answer is “yes”, then I would like to remind Ato Meles et company of the tragic story of the then King of France Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette. It was on October 5 1789, that regular individuals marched on Versailles to demand their voices be heard. They stormed the palace the following day, killing several bodyguards of the King. At the end both the King and his wife ended up being guillotined. Their associates and supporters were one by one apprehended and killed.
The EPRDF officials could also get another good lesson from Somalia. Their empty bravado led to the invasion of another country. They taught they are invincible and could calm down everything so easily. Well, as is openly known now by the whole world, they could not even control and stabilize the capital Mogadishu, a city with less than a million residents. How can they stabilize a country with more than 70000 millions people should the volcano erupts? THEY CANNOT.
I hereby advise officials in Arat Kilo and their supporters to again come to their senses, humble themselves and do the right thing by listening first the Ethiopian People. They must recognize that they cannot stay in power forever. Whether they like it or not one day their rule will be over. It might be in days or weeks or months. The policies and their politics of arrogance have already alienated and pushed millions to the edges. Many are losing hope. The rope is being pulled further and further. Unless some concrete and visible changes are quickly implemented, situations will surely be out of control.
Talking about development is not enough. Holding sham elections are laughable and offensive. There need to be real changes in ways the government functions. Immediate actions to provide the very basic need of our poor people must be implemented. The judiciary and the NEBE have to be independent. The Ministry of Information must be disbanded and closed to be replaced by a board consisting of independent minded individuals. Independent radio and TV stations must be allowed. Organizations like the CUD must be given their name and election symbol, and allowed to function freely all over Ethiopia. Exiled political parties like the EPRP, ONLF, and OLF must be allowed to be part of the mainstream peaceful political activities. Civic right leaders and many who are unjustly languishing for years in prisons (Netsanet Demissie, Daniel Bekele, Abera Yemane Ab, Tsegaye Gebre Medhin – Debteraw ….) must unconditionally be released.
If the EPRDF, as it has been always the case, gives a deaf ear to calls for change, it would be a monumental political blunder of a historic proportion. It is like playing with wild fire that may end up consuming everything that was accomplished for the last 17 years. The people know who is doing what. There will be serious consequences for anyone who stands against the will of the people. “He who has an ear let him hear” says the Book of revelation. I HOPE those who need to hear will hear this time.