GOMA –DARFUR: OF COMPETITIONS APLENTY

By Hama Tuma

 

An Ethiopian proverb says: someone who has been out in the rain will not worry of getting wet. Having been out in the rain for far too many times than I care to remember I am presently unperturbed by the slack I may pick when I deal with weighty and sad subjects in what some may consider a lighter vein. Of course, satire being an altogether different ball game, some fail to grasp its core and often accuse me and others of trivializing “serious subjects”. Here goes anyway.

 

I contend that the present mayhem and havoc in Goma and Eastern Congo is caused by jealousy and fierce competition with Darfur. Someone claiming more knowledge than poor me, has authoritatively stated that jealousy first originated in Africa much like human kind– Dinkinesh or Lucy of Ethiopia being the first one to date. It is evident that this assertion is flawed, as jealousy and the rivalry engendered by it are to be found all over the world. According to Bush junior, the Al Qaeda attack on America was motivated by their jealousy and envy of America which suggests that at least Arabs are also jealous. Huntington’s clash of civilizations is really a jealousy theory. Most Ethiopians think the world is jealous of their beautiful country, the Japanese think they are a special race envied by others and the Chinese consider the whole world inferior and jealous of their aged civilization.  To come to the mundane or what the French, trying to be Anglo chic, call “people” topics, Madonna was red hot jealous of Angelina Jolie and when the latter adopted a small girl from Ethiopia/not an orphan but poor/ and so she went farther South and adopted a small boy from Malawi/not an orphan but poor/. Will Madonna next go to Asia to compete is not an issue that is riveting anyone’s attention but let it be said that even rich pampered dolls are jealous of each other.

 

That said, the contention that Eastern Congo became jealous of Darfur needs a reminder in that the havoc in the Congo predates the one in Darfur and is not comparable at all. Four million Congolese have perished in a free for all carnage that was ignored even by Kofi Anan and led to the Armies without Borders phenomenon when numerous African countries intervened in the Congo to destroy or prop up a regime and, in the process, rob the mineral rich country blind. The war in the Congo was sponsored or pushed ahead by multinationals like the British Anglogold Ashanti corporation and other gold diggers and Coltan chasers, with rowdy militias being paid by the companies to wreak havoc and assure the mineral extraction. Congo lost its patriotic nationalist son Patrice Lumumba in the same way when Washington and Brussels collided to have him murdered brutally and to bring in puppet Joseph Desiree Mobutu. You are rich and everyone bothers you, you are poor and no one lets you alone to enjoy your poverty–this has been the sad fate of our continent. Did anyone hear the two candidates for the American presidency mention Eastern Congo?  The Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise promised to give 20,000 dollars to a charity against hunger if and every time Obama or McCain mention world hunger–they did not. What chance could Goma have had then? Darfur is another matter altogether and there is why Eastern Congo has flared up in envy and jealousy. The problem of Darfur has a whiff of oil in its wake but it hogged the limelight because of the nature of the regime in Khartoum which, if truth be told, is not anymore odious than the mercenary one in Kinshasa. The hatred for the fundamentalists in Khartoum made Darfur very, very interesting. All of a sudden, right wing Christian fundamentalist groups and the White House got interested. Even Britain that has funded and still supports many a murderous group in Africa cried foul at Khartoum. Beshir of Khartoum was cornered and the casualty figures in Darfur went up. Well known actors like George Clooney chimed in. Who talked of Eastern Congo?  Maybe Ben Affleck from the actors group, no more. Ghanaian Kofi Anan talked more of Afghanistan than Eastern Congo where his UN troops were not protecting anyone but raping young girls. And so Darfur became a hit song….and every George and Brad was mouthing the word Janjaweed taken by some to mean ganja weed or marijuana. Poor Goma. Poor Kivu. Sad Eastern Congo. 4 million dead and no one to rile and cry– no one to pull out his or her hair and wail!

 

I am particularly sympathetic because my country Ethiopia gets little or no attention unless Mr. Famine visits it as it does, lucky us, every few years. Take the Enough Project of concerned Americans–they are concerned about Somalia but not Ethiopia. Take the International Crisis Group–the same. The stars in these bodies from John Pendergast to Gayle Smith were former groupies of the Meles Zenawi cabal who chose to castigate all opposition as Amhara chauvinist and the nostalgic of the deposed military regime. Ethiopia has had its massacres from Arba Gugu, Areka to Water and Gambella but not many bothered. The blood stained regime of Meles is presently dancing with joy at the possibility of Hilary Clinton being named as Secretary of State and with reason as she had hailed in the past the most ruthless dictator in the Horn as a democrat and was only topped by her husband who added the Great Lakes dictators as democrats too. Talk of the short end of the stick!  Eastern Congo lost four million–is this comparable to half a million in Darfur? Eastern Congo has many regimes and forces battling over it–is this comparable to Darfur where disparate rebel groups have to confront just one regime? Take any measurement and by all standards eastern Congo deserved the primary attention that Darfur was basking in instead. So, who is to blame if Eastern Congo raises the ante and calls on all of us: “hello, there is a bigger mess here, please take notice”? Does Darfur have flamboyant rebels like Laurent Nkunda of Eastern Congo, who changes chairs and uniforms and attire so often right there in the jungle and tells foreign journalists his idol is Charles De Gaulle of France , the very country accused by his backers in Rwanda of supporting the genocide in Rwanda? So, Eastern Congo had to explode and attract foreign attention away from Darfur. If only….! And then the Somali pirates had to appear, chewing their kat and swaggering in their “shirit” skirt- like wear, brandishing their ordinary Ak-47s. Given the fact that the Somalis have been at it for the last 20 years, Nkunda could not be expected to cope, could he? And where could the rebels around Goma find so many ships and super tankers to sea jack? And to cap it all, most of the Congolese of all hues in the East are not even Moslems !

 

Life is not fair in Africa. And so we simmer and boil in our jealousy and rivalry and competition and die in millions and not much changes. A half Kenyan has come to power in the USA but who said even full blooded Kenyans were ever sympathetic of anybody else. Obama will surely make some noises over Darfur and Somalia. Eastern Congo? They have to die more and hope for the best. And if Hilary Clinton becomes Secretary of State? Will a dove be hatched from an egg of a serpent? Between Nkunda, Kabila and Hilary… and Darfur and Somalia ….the Congolese will, if we can imagine it, be in a worse mess. Of course they can take solace in the fact that this is Africa as we know it and that there are others worse off than them that are forgotten even more.

 

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Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 2:25 pm  Comments (7)  

A Commentary on the approach of Ethiopian Diaspora towards the American new regime’s foreign policy

sayekeka

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 2:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Commentary: CALL ME BY MY NAME & ADDRESS:Solutions with DEBTERAW

By Obo Arada Shawl (November 23, 2008)

 

The Burning Issue or the Entertaining issue!

·        One was born in Eritrea’s village dominated by Catholics and the other was born in Gonder town dominated by Orthodox Christian

·        Both were Revolutionaries one in political science the other in artistic songs

·        One is a professor by profession and the other a singer by trade

·        Both individuals are Arada and from Arada – if you know what I mean!

·        One lives in NY, where anything goes and the other lives in Addis, where everything fails.

 

The professor is Mesfin Araya (PhD) and the singer is Tamrat Molla (Ato). Why are you comparing these two individuals, one may ask. One of them is my friend and the other is from my Kebele. Although I have personal knowledge about them, I do not wish to write something of a personal nature. My interest in writing this article is about issues that concern all of us, old, adult or young, male or female, literate or illiterate. I believe there is a missing link between what singers grasp and what theoreticians or Revolutionaries were supposed to understand and apply.

 

A week ago, two events have happened, one Online Web and the other on Radio Wave. My comments might help to educate readers and listeners.  Please, read the speech and listen to the interview.

A commentary on the Professor’s speech

Professor Mesfin gave a speech on the occasion of EPRP’s 36th anniversary. It was true that EPRP was a vanguard for the Ethiopian Revolution, because revolution by definition was anti establishment.  Notice, It was not about change!!! For that reason too many progressive student leaders, workers, trade leaders, teachers and progressive bureaucrats had joined the EPRP and of course, thousands if not millions had followed what EPRP was doing, saying and writing in the publication of DEMOCRACIA.

 

What about now? How do literate ምሁራን people like the professor show or lead EPRP members or supporters to get going, especially at a time when there is a rift or confusion in issues of names and addresses? A slogan to call that EPRP is the sole political leader for Ethiopia is not tenable. We do not have to be an EPRP apologist to feel a twinge of pity for the insult condemnation of the party. The Revolutionary Party had and has to tolerate all names and abuses. EPRP was and is not about leadership per se. It was about the burning issues of peace in Eritrea and dismantling the land tenure system in the rest of the country. Since all our bets were on democracy, EPRP since its inception to the current DEBTERAW’s dungeon prison and beyond has not yet to be fulfilled.

What is democracy? Call me by my name and address.

 

 

የዲሞክራሲ ለውጥ ለማምጣት፤ ያላረጥከው ወንዝ ያልውጣኽው ተራራ፡ ያላፈሰስከው ደም የለም” There is no river that you did not cross, no mountain that you did not climb and there is no blood that you did not split.”

 

The above may be a figurative statement but it does not beat to the tune. The statement sounds very militaristic. It has no democratic tone.

 

But EPRP was and is about democracy. It is about capital D not M. In fact, the infamous slogan coined against the works of EPRP was “ዲሞን በዲሞፍጠር”. Those who became enemies of EPRP were not only the DERG, the EPLF or the TPLF but it was and is WE – the civil society that had difficulty in understanding FREEDOM OF CHOICE. Is this not the same thing what the current opposition groups are portraying? Democracy is not embedded in our culture. It is a cultural thing – political at that. What is democracy and what is leadership?

 

Suffice to say at this time that Tesfaye Debessay (PhD), a Catholic, Tsegeye G.M. aka DEBTERAW, (an Aethiopian scholar) and Osman Ahmed (Engineer), a Muslim have worked together hand in glove with the understanding of common bond, balance and boundary (CBBB).

 

I do not want to go on commenting on professor Mesfin’s message at this time. There are too many flaws open for argument.

 

የሚበዙት ተቃዋሚ ድርጅቶች ትላንትና የተወለዱ ናቸው፡ በተለያየ መንገድ ብናየው፡ ኢሕ ብቻ ነው ሊያሰባሰብና ሊመራ የሚችለው፡ በዚሀ ላይ መከራከር እያስፈልግም፡

 

EPRP had plenty of educators and Revolutionaries but not plenty of business leaders – least political leaders. AEthiopia needs high-profile politicians, intellectuals and business leaders collectively what I call ጽንሐተ ምሁራን.

 

Professionals do not wear masks, however, history and politics is their witness.

 

Is the professor seeing miracle or mirage? All post discussions about EPRP centered on diversity of thought and vigorous debate on issues and being able to surround oneself with people with whom you disagree without being disagreeable, because we feel that it is going to lead to a better answer. What is the better answer? That is the burning question of the time. One possible answer is how to organize. If I were the professor, I would train and organize many EPRP members and supporters in his University, which would not be difficult for him.

 

A commentary on the singer’s speech

Although the purpose of the interview was meant to get financial and moral support for Tamrat’s deteriorating health conditions, Abebe Belaw, the radio monitor, raised issues of political nature. The singer was hailed as a hero for fighting against feudal titles or feudalism.

 

What is Feudalism anyway?

 

Feudalism is a term used in the early modern 12th Century long before Gondar was founded. It has legal as well as military obligation where lords (ጌቶች) tenants (ገባሮች) and kings (ንጉሦች) live not in the political system we know today. In feudal system, on the one hand, the status of a person depended in everyway on his position on the land, while on the other hand, land-tenure ( የመሬት ይዞታ) determined political rights and duties.

 

For almost 400 years, several Neighborhoods or Quarters have traditionally divided Gondarians. Those who claim power from the dynasty of king Solomon such as the Hamasiens and the Shewans usually had no fixed capital. By 1635 FASSILIDES had founded his rule at Gondar. Gondar became an old imperial capital of the historic BEGEMDIR (the land of the Beja tribe). For a singer as Tamrat feudalism may be difficult to define precisely as a working definition. I have no doubt though that Tamrat knew the social aspect of feudalism.

 

EPRP has defined feudalism by analogy as Semi-Feudal where there were ( ባላባቶች) aristocrats (አገልጋዮች) serfs in practically in all northern Ethiopia and landlords and tenants in the rest of the country. In short, oppression ( ጥቆና ) and exploitation (ብዝበዛ)

has become the norm in Tamrat’s days. He has seen it in Gondar and he has seen it in Addis Ababa being practiced.

 

In order to alleviate the political oppression and the economic exploitation, EPRP with its committed and dedicated members and supporters had gone into a territory where no man has gone before so to speak. The liberated and the conscious Gondarians fought Melaku Teffera to the bitter end.

 

Singer Tamrat – though technically rebelled against his father, he did not rebel against the root causes of the problem.  His song was just a reflection of the popular demand of the time, after all art is the reflection of the populace.

 

I have attended the ratification of the DERG’s Constitution in our Kebele. The meeting was scheduled to last for four hours. The Kebele cadres spoke for half of the time only on

ዲቃላ  and Tamrat was the top speaker on the issue of DIKALa. No wonder the DERG has to collapse on its own merit. Later on, we have learnt why the issue had become important as Menghistu Haile Mariam begotten a child out of wedlock. One wonders where this child is today.

 

The point I am trying to make is that the singer did not or could not have played a role model for eliminating feudalism. He was only an instrument who did not understand the feelings of his father let alone the source of feudalism. By the way EPRP has never fought a cultural war. It was very careful not to indulge on people’s culture. On the contrary, many individuals assumed names of minorities to diffuse oppression. I believe the famous name Hama Tuma must have come to be something to do with it.

 

 

Concluding Remarks:  One-Seven-Eleven

I have always believed in the process of democratization, which incorporates, conceptualizing-designing-planning-programming and budgeting (5 tasks).

 

In EPRP’s lexicon, መንቃትመደራጀትመታጠቅመጠበቅ እና መምራት (5 ዎች).

 

 Alternatively,

·        Information officer

·        Organizer

·        Strategist

·        Manager and

·        Leader

 

And by slow accretion of small changes over long periods, EPRP’s vision, mission and value has taken place as Professor Mesfin has pointed out in his speech. But it should be remembered that the contribution of EPRP was undoubtedly via DEMOCRACIA – the rule of the people, by the people for the people. Democracy is not about division; it is about Unity in a unique way. Neither the type of call by the professor nor the claim of the singer is warranted.

 

DEBTERAW has shown us all those Revolutionary steps progressively for almost 40 years and we should continue to uphold if we so desire to unite the whole country known as AETHIOPIA. DEMOCRACIA is the way and let us choose to pick one or two tasks as specified above but not grapping all of them at the same time.

 

For comments and questions: woldetewolde@yahoo.com

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Panaroma No.51

panoraman0-51

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 1:55 am  Leave a Comment  

OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA

By Wase Lehagere

 

Dear President-elect Obama,

 

Will You Keep America’s Promise to Africa?

 

First, I must express my joy at your election as USA’s 44th President which many believe is likely to be one of the most important events of the 21st century. By the way, if you have not met the 45th US President, I would like to introduce her to you: she is Michelle Obama! I believe that as you have become the first African/American US President, Michelle will be the first female US President in 2016. Mark my words!

 

I am writing this letter to you to ask whether, unlike your predecessors, you will respect America’s promise to Africa and also draw your attention to the continent’s  huge problems in governance with the hope that the “change” that you have been declaring will have a substantive meaning for Africa’s suffering masses. I will also indicate what specific and reasonable measures you, as the next US President, could take to fulfill the promise in the interests of USA as well as Africa.

 

America’s Broken Promise

 

President George W. Bush had made some high sounding promises that were never kept. For instance, he had stated:

 

           The expansion of Democracy in the world is a national security issue”.

 

            All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not

               ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your

               liberty, we will stand with you”.

 

Some people in Africa never doubted the US President’s words and came out in droves to exercise their democratic rights. An excellent example of this was Ethiopia where, in May, 2005, 90% of the electorate i.e. 26 million people came out and voted despite all the difficulties including the severe harassment and extremely harsh measures perpetrated by the ruling regime. In one of the most tragic events in Africa during the current decade, the Ethiopian regime led by Melles Zenawi simply declared that it won the election even before the counting was completed, murdered at least 200 peaceful demonstrators, and imprisoned over 100,000 people for no other reason than the exercise of their basic human rights. The leaders of the main opposition party, Knijit, were incarcerated under extremely harsh prison conditions for nearly two years simply because they won the election! According to credible reports, there still are thousands of political prisoners languishing in Ethiopian jails which are notorious for their torture and maltreatment of prisoners.

 

It is particularly sad to note that the Ethiopian defense force which is renowned for its valor in protecting the nation’s sovereignty including the defeat of the Italians at the battle of Adowa and the repeated vanquishing of Arab armies as well as its  valiant support for international security by partaking in Korean, Congolese, etc. conflicts has, of late, been relegated to the shameful exercise of killing Ethiopian citizens and bullying the neighboring small countries such as Somalia.

 

What did President George W. Bush’s administration do in the face of such a gross abuse of human rights? Instead of keeping the President’s own solemn promise, the Bush administration’s policy actually resulted in being an accomplice of the brutal regime in Ethiopia. It became obvious that to President Bush and his administration, the brutality of a regime against its own people would not matter as long as the ruling clique became subservient to latent US interests such as the preemptive strike against Southern Somalia which is still under Ethiopia’s occupation at the behest of the US leadership.

 

Africa’s “Democracy

 

I wonder, President-elect Obama, if you consider, even for a moment, what would have happened to you if you ran against one of the rulers in Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, etc. You would have ended in jail, if not killed. If President George W. Bush were an African leader in any of the countries mentioned above, he would have not graciously handed over his presidency to the winner. Like dictator Melles Zenawi, he would continue with his rule under any circumstances using the smart-aleck reasoning that his party needed him! That, in essence, is the current syndrome of African democracy with few exceptions (thank God!) such as South Africa, Botswana, and Ghana.

 

In most African countries, “democracy” is merely a game for the consumption of the deliberately gullible international community. The typical characteristics of African “democracy” usually comprise the complete control by the ruling clique of the election administration, the judiciary, and the media (both public and private) as well as most election observers. Therefore, election results are a foregone conclusion in favor of the dictators. Most African regimes have mastered the art of rigging elections with the relentless brutality meted out against any possible peaceful demonstrators.  It is thus a travesty of justice!

 

Role of the International Community

 

President George W. Bush’s promise notwithstanding, the international community has become a disinterested observer while the millions of African people continue to suffer under their brutal dictators. In fact, if it has any interest at all, it is merely to ensure that Africa’s immense resources such as the strategic security materials, oil, etc. continue to be available to the West at minimal cost. The other interest is also to make sure that Africa continues to be the dumping ground for goods manufactured in various countries.

 

As regards international organizations, the UN still needs to develop a capacity to establish performance standards and effective mechanisms for ensuring that member governments respect human rights, rule of law, and democracy. The African Union continues to be a club of the African dictators. The World Bank, the IMF, and EU always express high sounding words about the importance of governance but without any serious mechanism behind it to have any bearing on the brutal dictators.

 

With the exception of certain organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc. the international community has so far become a collaborator and a supporter of the brutal dictators.

 

Impact of the War Against International Terrorism

 

Smart dictators in Africa and Asia are taking advantage of the on-going fight against international terrorism to appear to be allies of the west for the mere purpose of getting away with the murder and brutality they are perpetrating against their own people. The West is turning a blind eye in the face of such atrocities by their “SOB”s (to borrow a US President’s expression) as long as a dictatorial regime complies with its bidding. Regrettably, the final outcome of such a myopic strategy could be to set these hapless countries to be the breeding ground for more international terrorism!

 

Why Should the US Be Interested in Africa?

 

Africa and USA are mutually interdependent. Although not touted much, the US is dependent on Africa for a variety of very important natural resources: strategic minerals, oil, gold, diamond, etc. Africa is also developing into a major consumer of US goods and services.

 

I must also state that you are a prodigal son of Africa. As such, Africa ought to have the opportunity, for the first time in its beleaguered history, to get rid of the West’s neo-colonial attitude and practice towards the continent. A new vision and strategy is needed so that policies based on long-term mutual benefits including a more fair trade practice would flourish.

 

What Can You Do for Africa?

 

First things first: I do realize that you face immense challenges at the beginning of your presidency, namely, the economic crisis, two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and your promises to US constituents with regard to health, education, energy, etc. that will occupy your full attention initially. I also realize that the primary responsibility for alleviating poverty and dictatorship from Africa belongs to Africans themselves.

 

Nevertheless, US interests in terms of its global influence as a sole superpower will also need your attention and action. This will have to include Africa.

 

What are the major challenges facing Africa? It should be stated at the outset that Africa, with its huge natural resources, is a rich continent. However, most of its people are suffering from a grinding poverty mainly due to the prevailing brutal dictatorship and rampant corruption in most African countries.

 

Taking Ethiopia as an example, here is a country that has substantial agricultural resources and many rivers including the Blue Nile that supplies 86% of Egypt’s water needs, but faces perennial drought and famine. The corruption by the ruling party, TPLF (Woyane), is horrendous: the party owns over 40 companies which operate with impunity competing against the private sector without paying any tax, and writing off billions of Eth. Birr borrowed from the nation’s banks! After 18 years of the current regime’s rule in Ethiopia, Ethiopia is 170th out of 177 nations in the UNDP’s human development index. In virtually all meaningful socio-economic indices, Ethiopia remains at the very or almost bottom of even the developing countries. In the usual quixotic exercises by the current regime, it is apparently considering an attempt to register the assets belonging to the government officials. However, it is obvious that the whole exercise is likely to be completely hollow because it is well known that the various substantial holdings in the hundreds of millions of US dollars by government officials locally and abroad are kept in the name of their spouses and children, which are to be left out of the registration exercise!

 

As confirmed by credible reports such as those of Amnesty International and the European Union, the current regime in Ethiopia rigged the election in 2005 and still continues to harass members of the opposition parties.

 

Africa is facing three fundamental, huge challenges: dictatorship, poverty, and an international community that has become an accomplice of the brutal dictators.  What could the Obama administration do in the context of US/Africa mutual interests?

 

Here are my suggestions for your consideration:

1.     There is a need to formulate an Obama Policy and Strategy for Africa focusing on an accelerated development and democratic governance.

2.     The Obama policy should issue a clear declaration, in consonance with one of your statements during your primaries, that US resources would not be used to support any dictatorial regime in Africa.

3.     The new Obama policy for Africa could be dramatically applied in Ethiopia in the context of the May 2010 elections in preparation for which, the US administration could simply call on the ruling regime there to ensure the following basic requirements:

(a)  The prevalence of an independent Election Board supervised by the competing parties;

(b)  The Ethiopian regime to stop harassing the private media and set it free;

(c)  The establishment of freedom of justice unlike the current circumstances whereby judges are known to be the regime’s political hacks;

(d)  The supervision of the security forces controlling polling stations throughout Ethiopia by a duly authorized independent commission;

(e)  The presence of international election observers in both urban and rural polling stations; and

(f)    The regime to cease and desist from its harassment of members of the opposition parties as well as civic organizations.

4.     There should be an effective US incentive for dictatorial regimes such as the one in Ethiopia to opt out for democracy, respect for human rights, transparency, and accountability, failing which there should be appropriate consequences at least in terms of the US resources deployed in that country.

 

I wish you, President-elect Obama, success in fulfilling your promise to America and its promise to Africa.

 

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 12:35 am  Comments (4)