Again? – Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired – By Fekade Shewakena
Yep, there you go again. The pictures of your shame and, for all practical purposes, your national identity, are running everywhere again. The terrifying pictures that show emaciated and famished children are popping up on our television screens and now thanks to the new media – the internet, more people are watching the pictures and reading heart wrenching stories of people trekking the land in search of food carrying their dying children. (more…)
Yep, there you go again. The pictures of your shame and, for all practical purposes, your national identity, are running everywhere again. The terrifying pictures that show emaciated and famished children are popping up on our television screens and now thanks to the new media – the internet, more people are watching the pictures and reading heart wrenching stories of people trekking the land in search of food carrying their dying children. Indications are that what we see is only the tip of the iceberg and only severe conditions and accessible cases are exploding on the media. God is the only one who has access to places like the Ogaden region, where government collective punishment, ban on international aid agencies such as the Red Cross, and the failure of the belg rains, have created a perfect storm for mass death. I hate imagining what it may look like there. See for example, this and this and this and this and this video for some latest devastating reports on big international media among many others.
The number of people going without food for days at a time and severe conditions of hunger come from all corners of the country, rural and urban, including Addis Ababa, where the majority of the city dwellers, we are finding out, are living under grueling starvation. Meles Zenawi’s government wants to make it look like that this is occurring in some “pockets” of the country, in a language quite reminiscent of the preceding governments. The TPLF and its cadres are angrily complaining that a report by international aid agencies that six million children are under severe malnutrition is exaggerated and think it is only 75,000 children and they are debating as if the number is static. But look at this to see how they lie through their teeth. Only last week TPLF officials said that there are 4.5 million people who need emergency food aid. From the governments own demographic statistics alone, we all know that children constitute the majority of the population. Now, make a conservative estimate that only half of the 4.5 million are children. You do the math. I am sure any nerd can see that no less than 2 million children are under severe malnutrition, and the number for all we know is rising. They can’t even lie sensibly. I don’t know how they differentiate the exaggerated from the unexaggerated. It appears that these sick TPLF politicians have a tolerable size of misery in their minds any way. If skeletal children are showing up around Shashemene and Arsi, in one of the most productive and wettest parts of the country, it is not hard to imagine what it would look like in the more arid areas where rainfall fluctuation is more recurrent. May be at this time people are not dying in mass and this may not be technically called famine, but it is not hard to imagine the magnitude of the suffering and the kind of hellhole most Ethiopians currently find themselves in.
The TPLF government blames everything and everybody but itself for the disaster created by its own misguided economic policies, their failure to strategically plan, their screwed up economic thinking, their criminal negligence and misplaced priorities. The same old debunked crap is being recycled to explain this shame again. The officials and their patronizing donors are still using the tired lie that “drought”, the failure of the seasonal rains, caused this tragedy. They use the words “drought” “dirq” in place of famine and huger, often interchangeably and in one sentence to help them conceal the hard truth. The fact that drought on one hand, and hunger and famine on the other, have no structural linkage has been an established knowledge now. For those of you who still get eluded, you can validate this by looking around the world where you will see countries that are hit harder by drought, or even are complete deserts, or even less resource fortunate than Ethiopia, but have no starving children popping up on your TV and computer screens. Drought is a source of misery, famine and hunger are rampant only in corrupt countries, those that live under dictatorships and intense internal conflicts and an unwilling to solve it.
The complaint for the suffering of our children and our people should be directed at all of us as a people and not against nature. Please get used to this notion that drought is not the natural cause of famine or hunger. Stop fooling yourselves. None of you are going to stop drought and make the rain fall. Rest assured that this problem is going to get worse as global climate trends show, but you can stop hunger and famine if you do the right thing – rise up against the real causes. Please stop dreaming that you can solve it by throwing a couple of dollars at it and it will get away. Many of us did that during the past famine cycles. I made the same noise five years and half ago (read it here). I am agonizing that I am going to do the same for this cycle again knowing full well that I will have to do the same during the next one. Those of you, who think you can fundraise your way through this tragedy, make sure to prepare to do the same for the next one.
In its excuse making craft, the TPLF has now added one more excuse -the global rise in food and oil prices. But they don’t tell you why this phenomenon chooses only Ethiopia for attack and picks our children for exhibition. In one of his regular lectures to those pathetic human beings sitting in his rubberstamp parliament, Meles Zenawi literally said that the current food crisis in Ethiopia is due to the fact that other people around the world have started eating more. According to his pervert logic the progress of other people is our doom, and for us to eat more, other people must eat less. Some of Meles’s people who think they are a little more clever are also using the word “malnutrition” in place of this acute hunger, as if to mean the problem is lack of balanced nutrition and make the problem look less severe. See for example, one TPLF pinhead trying to make this point here. This pitiful human being also has the temerity to blame Western journalists who spread the news to facilitate his beggary and people like me living in Diaspora who agonize in pain over this gruesome pictures instead of blaming his tribal chiefs who preside over the disaster. In his one page essay, this pinhead used the word “malnutrition” five times and fully avoided the real descriptive terms.
But ask these fair questions even if it means bearing the name callings by these apologists. Since they cannot argue the facts, they will resort to calling you extremist, hater, genocidal etc. But these are must ask questions. What happened to the double digit and near double digit economic growth statistics and the associated bragging that was being dished out over the last several years by Meles Zenawi and his cadres? Can’t we even pass a single seasonal failure of rainfall without seeing terrifying pictures of children with straw like hands and legs on televisions and the internet around the world? Or is it that we were being given the usual Meles Zenawi Tenquay economics and political crap? What has come off of our being the star aid recipient country in Sub-Sahara Africa and one of the most important destinations of Western aid in the world? What happens to nearly 25 billion dollars of aid pumped in the country over the past decade and half and the not so small amount of hard currency pumped in as remittance from a large Diaspora? What was that institution of beggary, the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency (DPPA), doing before the pictures of the skeletons of the unfortunate kids exploded on our faces? Weren’t some TPLFites making a mockery of bread lines in Asmara a few weeks back? We all know Eritrea receives virtually no aid from the lords of poverty. Why is it that I don’t see skeletal children from there? Why is it that even less resource fortunate African countries than Ethiopia, and hit hard by the same drought and global food price rises, do not produce these kinds of agonizing pictures? I have seen pictures of hungry people from Zimbabwe and we all know the country lives under intense sanctions. Why is it that I don’t see skeletal pictures coming from there on Ethiopia’s level? The last time I checked the volume of water in Ethiopia is more than what we find in most of African countries and many more around the world. Who chose Ethiopia for this exhibition, the angry Gods? The only reason, in my view, that may make God angry, if he gets angry at all, must be the abuse of the gift he gave Ethiopia, our failure to solve our problems by holding the real culprits for our disaster accountable. I feel a pity for the people who are praying and bothering God for more rains. It is the wrong question to ask of Him. He made us the Water Tower of Eastern Africa, and gave us resources more than our fair share. What else are we bothering Him for? I am afraid we can end up angering Him for a completely different reason.
The answers to the questions I raised above are pure and simple in my view. In the famous expression of the 1992 Bill Clinton presidential campaign, it is the governance and the economic policy stupid. And it is our allowing our beautiful country to continue to be ruled by these misguided, selfish, ruthless tribal barons who shortchanged our needs for their selfish end of clinging to power. It is because of TPLF’s policies and misguided priorities that alienated the millions of us from freely participation in solving the problem. It is Meles Zenawi’s bone headed thinking that government instead of free, creative and imaginative citizens can develop a country of complex problems and needs. It is the corrupt tribal and exclusionary politics where government positions of technical decision making are given to ignorant and mediocre political cadres whose only merit is their servitude to Meles Zenawi. It is the condescending attitude of the TPLF tribal barons towards the capability and long accumulated knowledge of the Ethiopian people to handle their problems – the very problems the solutions of which the people know more than anybody. It is the hubris and “I know what you need” attitude of the TPLF officials, their conviction that knowledge comes along with authority. It is the amazing self delusion that leads Meles to think he is a professor of theoretical economics and development model builder and the failure of his followers to differentiate between a tiraz neteq street smart and a wise man. It is the prevailing thinking in TPLF officialdom that the best custodian of agricultural land is the government and not the people. It is the tragic land degradation and environmental deterioration, the cultivation of even 60 degree slopes that sane governments often legally prohibit from cultivation assign for vegetation cover. It is because of a government which does not even obey its own laws and punishes dissent and alternative thinking sometimes by shooting you on the head. It is the instigation of one ethnic group against another as a means of security of power. It is the discrepancy between the rhetoric and practice on the equality of nations and nationalities within the country. The only substantive equality I see now is that the TPLF has successfully spread hunger and famine to places that have not had it before, Oromia and the Southern regions. This was unthinkable two decades ago. Now the Oromo and the people of the southern half are equal to the people of the northern half. Yeh, now they can understand how to watch a starving child dying on their hands. If we have a government engaged in meeting the needs of its people, as the TPLF pretends it does, what rational do you see in spending billions for the invasion of poor failed Somalia that has done nothing against us and killing children and women in Mogadishu and have the bodies your soldiers dragged on the streets. What poor country that is unable to feed its children does engage in such bankrupting adventure? For what, for heaven’s sakes? You know the answer. It is not to benefit Ethiopia. They did this to secure their stranglehold on power at whatever cost, including hunger and famine. It is interesting to note that the TPLF has just increased its military budget by $50 million, most of which will definitely go to kill dissenting Ethiopians, ourselves, in the same week that it launched its large scale beggary for international aid.
Look at the misuse of public resources and money begged and borrowed in the name of the people for spending in areas that are not a priority. Tell me why the public banks are lending money for the building of expensive high rise executive buildings that are mushrooming in Addis Ababa – What was it that people in Ethiopia say of such cases? “Qit gelbo kinibnib?” Tell me why the parents of these dying children have to subsidize the gas expanses of the Al Amoudi’s of Addis Ababa. Why do we need empty buildings around the country called Universities when the number of children dying of famine is more than the number that go to college? How about some micro-dams on some small rivers for irrigation and fill the empty tummies first? At least one education expert told me that these so called universities are good and expensive empty buildings without professors and more than 90% staffed with undergraduates that, with the exception of a few, nobody in his right mind would accredit as higher learning institutions. The brightest students that graduate from the better institutions are not even working in Ethiopia anyway. About 50% of the staff teaching in my department at AAU is here in the United States. There are entire batches of medical students from AAU medical faculty working in hospitals near where I live. Do you know for the price of some of these buildings, so called Universities, and a small fraction of the aid money we receive that we can build dams on some of the river basins, harvest rainwater, and cultivate three harvests a year, and get rid of extreme hunger and famine in a short order and once and for all?
Folks if you think I am putting all the blame at the foot of the government you are wrong. Look yourselves in the mirror. Every one of us who call ourselves Ethiopians carries this shame and disgrace. You can be anything, rich, educated, well fed and living the most comfortable Ethiopian of any citizen of any rich country of Ethiopian origin. You may pretend that you have conquered odds and made it. Please know that you are a shame and a disgrace for letting this humanly solvable tragedy continue unabated in the 21st century. If it was other people, and history including some of our own past, is of full of examples of this, they would have learnt from one disaster or two, deliberate over the problem, unite as one single whole and gotten rid of such a rotten system of governance that perpetuates this shame by any means necessary. Folks, it is foolish to think that this problem will go away on its own. It won’t. The only choice we have is rising up in unity against this crime against humanity. Stop this silly politics of chewing one another, the lazy bickering and get off your duffs and do the most sensible thing. Fight. Get up and have yourselves counted. Claim your dignity as a human being. Demand your legitimate right to be freely involved in the search for the solution. Democracy is the only solution. It is not a luxury. It the only tool. How can you not get sick and tired of this disgrace, ehhhhhhhhhhh.