Ethiopia needs no more puppets – By Abebe Gellaw

March 25th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

The latest drama in Meles Zenawi’s parliament has brought sharper focus on the arrogance of the boss once again. A member of the rubber stamp parliament asked the despot about the human cost of invading neighbouring Somalia. (more…)

The latest drama in Meles Zenawi’s parliament has brought sharper focus on the arrogance of the boss once again. A member of the rubber stamp parliament asked the despot about the human cost of invading neighbouring Somalia. Meles was clearly annoyed and told the “parliament” that the gentlemen and ladies assembled in the big hall need not know the figures. He told chided them like children that he is not obliged to disclose such information. In other words, he told them that they are just his puppets and he is not answerable to any of them. None of them!

As a matter of fact, Meles knows full well that the constitution, which apears to have been written on paper to impress Western donors, clearly stipulates that “the House of People’s Representatives is the highest authority of the federal government. [Art. 50 (3)] Article 54 (4) even declares that members of the house are representatives of the Ethiopian people. “They are governed by the constitution, the will of the people and their conscience.” Because this is one of the biggest lies contained in the so-called constitution, Meles did not have to respect any of the provisions. So he practically said, “You are not here to ask me any inconvenient questions. Period!” It is fair to say that the tyrant was right. This is not a real parliament, so why does he have to bother about answering a question that any member of the public is normally entitled to know. It is an extraordinary time, under an extraordinary ruler.

As far as Meles is concerned, parliament, cabinet, ethnic parties and organizations which have been created or controlled by himself and his cronies are all full of talking Muppets, teddy bears and all kinds of dolls that have no serious roles other than repeating whatever he utters and serving his sick fetish of power and repressive ego. His puppets, despite being given different titles like Minister, Ambassador, Commissioner or Speaker of Parliament can’t tell the truth, raise any serious questions or lodge complaints about anything. The deal is simple. Take it or leave it! Their job is not telling the truth but contradicting it.

A couple of weeks ago, Shitaye Minale, the Deputy Speaker of the nominal parliament was out and about in connection with March 8, the International Women’s day, to give talks about women rights. According to Walta, Shitaye said that the role of women in leadership and decision making was improving through time and cited the rise in the number of women parliamentarians from only 12 to 117 as a success. It is an open secret though that neither Teshome Toga nor Madam deputy speaker have real power except enforcing the will of the tyrant, who is the one who really makes and unmakes any laws. But Shitaye called on women to actively engage in the “democratization process.” As a puppet legislator without legislative right, Shitaye and her likes have no inkling about democracy or the rule of law. The puppets are not actually bothered about democracy, liberty or rule of law as they are only employed by the despot to pull the wool over our eyes. Surely, selling out ones dignity and rights to serve tyranny is far from a democratic system where lawmakers have a power to remove rulers like Meles who abuse their power, oppress and brutalize the masses.

During the Mengistu era, public officials could hardly make a speech in public without quoting the “Great Revolutionary Leader.” Every little speech used to be spiced up with the tyrant’s quotes and in extreme cases anecdotes of Comrade Mengistu. A junior official was once said to have sneezed while chairing a meeting where Mengistu was in attendance. “Bless you!” said someone in the crowd. Filled with anger and passion, the official retorted, “That is anti-revolution! No one but our Great Revolutionary Leader is gracious and merciful.” Everyone in the whole was wondering how to react as there was no correlation between his sneezing and what he said about the great leader. Suddenly, the dictator smiled nodding his head in approval. Then the rest of the crowd sprung up out of their seats and gave the speaker a standing ovation. The next day the opportunist official was appointed a cabinet minister. This may be a joke but it isn’t surely far-fetched in Ethiopian politics as there are still so many sycophants who are behaving in the same way.

Ambrose Bierce, author of the Devil’s Dictionary, defines a sycophant as “one who approaches greatness on his belly so that he may not be commanded to turn and be kicked.” How many competent ministers, ambassadors, mayors and commissioners, who are consciously serving no one but their country and the people, can we count? Among the most famous Zenawi’s celebrity puppets, the Ethiopian people are forced to watch on TV, who are real officials with real power? Who were the real officials who have earned their positions as a result of their hard work and competence? Could it be President Girma, who should have retired long ago, “Deputy Prime Minister” Addisu Legese, “Mayor” Kuman Demeksa, Teshome Toga, Shitaye Minale, Abadulla Gemeda, Girma Biru, Birhan Hailu, Tefera Walwa…Genet Zewdie, Dawit Yohannes , Samuel Assefa?….

In spite of the fact that we have counted over seventeen years since the demise of the Derg, autocratic rule is still in place. Every government official repeats whatever tyrant Zenawi says without making any efforts to reconcile his empty rhetoric with the reality. On many occasions he claimed that women were being empowered and cited the increasing number of women in ‘parliament’ as a success story. Not only that he has been telling the nation every now and then that ethnic diversity in his cabinet symbolizes equality of “nation and nationalities.” He also likes reminding us that the creation of nine “ethnic states” epitomizes the decentralization of power, a transition from a unitary state to a bona fide federalism.

“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves,” said Edward Morrow [1908-1965], an American broadcaster. That seems exactly our problem. Ethiopia is surely a nation of sheep. The meek people live in abject poverty thanking God for creating them in a “blessed country.” On the contrary, the succeeding governments have always been filled with wolves who have no regard and worries about the suffering of the masses who die in millions due to starvation and all kinds of diseases.

There are two kinds of political prisoners in Ethiopia. There are those who have willingly sold out their conscience, freedom and dignity in a bid to “approach greatness on their belly.” But there are those who have ended up in jails and dungeons because the have stood up against injustice and brutality. Birtukan Mideksa had a better chance than most willing prisoners of conscience to become the tyrant’s nominal minister, ambassador, commissioner or supreme court judge. But she never wanted to be a puppet, submissive to tyranny and injustice.

It seems to me that Meles Zenawi’s stooges should never take offense if anyone calls them a puppets and muppets. They need to liberate themselves first before preaching about democracy and rule of law. Only in the past few weeks, Teshome Toga and Weizero Shitaye helped the tyrant impose laws that forbid NGOs from receiving over 10 per cent their budget from foreign sources. Any local NGOs that receive over 10 percent of their budget are regarded as foreign NGOs. Under the new law, no NGO will be allowed to talk about democracy and human rights. They have also passed a law further curtailing the right to free speech.

Nonetheless, the Meles regime survives on beggary. It is a regime that receives a significant portion of its operating budget, per diem and hotel expenses from donors. If we apply the logic they used to cripple NGOs that have made a great deal of difference, the Meles regime is a foreign government ruling unfortunate Ethiopia. So when will this hypocritical foreign government that has ignored the realities facing Ethiopia will pack and go?

That ancient fossil called Lucy has done the nation a great favour than any of the tyrant’s puppets. She is currently touring the US promoting Ethiopia as a cradle of mankind. By any standard, Lucy the fossil has benefited Ethiopia much better than Meles Zenawi’s talking Muppets and puppets. While Lucy doesn’t claim a penny for the wonderful job she has been doing, it costs the poor Ethiopian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year to feed, clothe, entertain and send the puppets around the world to represent the tyrant at every little workshop around the world.

Who owns the rubber stamp parliament or cabinet? To be fair to tyrant, the answer is simple; Meles Zenawi. But we need to have sympathy to a few MPs who were elected but never wished to be in that house when they realize the depressing state of pseudo-democracy.

The only way to end the reign of succeeding dictators and servile puppets is to pave the way for the emergence of a responsible democratic government that is accountable to the people. As Abraham Lincoln once said: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” That is the only solution.

We need public servants who will fight for Ethiopians at large, promote our national interests and work hard to pull the nation out of abject poverty and the cycle of hopelessness. We are tired of puppet shows. We need no more puppets, please!

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