By Alemayehu G. Mariam
“Oh! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”
The length to which the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation (T-TPLF) will go to scam, hoodwink, bamboozle, con, dupe, deceive, confound and flimflam the Ethiopian people never ceases to amaze me. This is not to suggest that I do not grudgingly admire the T-TPLF guys over their adept use of weapons of mass media distraction and disinformation. Not only do I admire them, I think they are slicker than a can of grease when it comes to using the mass media to manipulate, shape, distort and mislead public opinion.
But they have two problems in their media distraction game: 1) They have overplayed their hand pumping out lies, damned lies and statislies and today nobody gives a damn about anything they say. 2) The Ethiopian people are sick and tired of being taken for suckers and fools and simply scoff at the T-TPLF’s endless rollouts of one scam after another to pull the wool over their eyes.
The latest T-TPLF scam comes in the form of a “policy research report” directed, managed and produced by Abay Tsehai [hereinafter “Tsehai Report”], the erstwhile “special political advisor” to Hailemariam Desalegn. The report is a virtual indictment of the bicameral “Federal Parliamentary Assembly of Ethiopia” [hereinafter “parliament”] and the office of the “prime minister”. Tsehai unleashes a torrent of accusations against the deficiencies of “parliament” as a legislative institution and sneers at the ineptitude of the executive branch in proposing, coordinating and implementing effective legislation.
The Tsehai report was made “public” last week in a press conference held before an invitation-only group (groupie) of “journalists”. Only snippets of the report were released exclusively on T-TPLF-owned media. The full report is not publicly available for review and comment. (I hope to adjust and modify my review herein once the full Tsehai report is released to the public.)
The PR strategy in releasing only snippets highlighting the report’s findings appears to have dual objectives: 1) focus public discussion and debate on specific issues the T-TPLF believes will ingratiate it with the public, and 2) control the narrative on the make-believe political changes the T-TPLF has been talking about since the declaration of a state of emergency and and deliver maximum impact on public opinion.
At the press conference, Abay Tsehai ripped and shredded “parliament” as a lazybones assemblage of do-nothing, know-nothing and “toothless” nincompoops. Tsehai explained,
Things [legislation] are prepared in a rush, without adequate substance and planning and preparation. It [bills] is swiftly approved and enacted. Before a year passes, it crashes and smashes. Then [finger pointing begins] about the [law] having a problem here and here and there. That is because parliament members have not adequately deliberated over the legislation. They have not examined the potential problems that could result in implementation. There is no structure for implementation [of the law]. If we say parliaments should have teeth, they should first say [to themselves], ‘Let’s have teeth and then struggle to grow teeth.’ Let them pay a sacrifice.
Shitaye Menale, the shrill “assistant speaker” of the “parliament” chimed in:
I think the problem in our country is the uncertainty of the supremacy of the rule of law. First, the parliament is deficient [in its performance]. [Members] are not [assertive] and able to push forward. Second, execution of laws lacks transparency. For instance, after the parliament listens to reports [by the executive branch], it can reject it. It can raise the issue with the prime minister. This [parliamentary review] is a major power parliament has if we can exercise it. Sometimes if the prime minster does not take proper measures, so what is to be done [to accede to the will of parliament]?
Zeray Asgedom, the one-time head of the “Ethiopian Broadcast Authority” highlighted in his own befuddled and confused way the total confusion the reigns in the T-TPLF system of “ethnic federalism”.
Numerous problems have been created in the kilils (real life equivalents of apartheid-style Bantustans) and in the federal governments. Numerous problems. When these numerous problems are created in the kilils, we have never heard of parliament [kilil or federal] or executive body ever calling in [those responsible] and taking action. Whether it is [presented to a] kilil president or federal prime minister, [they] present [an issue] to the cabinet and promptly approve it.
T-TPLF puppet prime minister (PPM) Hailemariam Desalegn pretended to wholly dismiss the report stating, “I don’t know [anything] about the study. It does not concern me. The study does not offer a correct analysis.”
It is gratifying to know that finally, the T-TPLF brainiacs, guided by Abay Tsehai received enlightenment and amazing grace: “They were once lost, but now they have found the light; Were blind, deaf and mute, but now can see, touch and feel the crimes, corruption, lack of accountability and transparency and bad governance of their very own T-TPLF.”
Much ado about nothing?
Why is the T-TPLF presenting only snippets of this unprecedented “research report”? Why is a report on accountability, transparency and good governance released smack in the middle of a state of emergency when the constitution is “suspended” and the T-TPLF rules at the point of the barrel of an AK-47? Why all this talk of uncertainty about the rule of law when the country is presently under the rule of the gun? Why talk about accountability and transparency when the hallmark of T-TPLF rule over the past 25 years has been the complete and total lack of accountability and transparency?
To answer these questions one must take a hard and critical look at T-TPLF’s untenable and perilous situation in Ethiopia today. What exactly are the “objective facts on the ground” in Ethiopia today, to borrow a favorite T-TPLF mantric phrase?
Today the T-TPLF barely clings to dear political life sitting on a powder keg and holding by a thread it calls a “state of emergency” decree. Remove the “state of emergency” lid on the people’s anger, frustration and resentment against T-TPLF rule, and boom goes the powder keg.
The T-TPLF knows too well that the “state of emergency” lid can keep the powder keg steady only for a very short time. The pressure in the powder keg is building up by the second, minute and hour. There is no safety valve to release the pressure, only increasing compression and oppression.
The T-TPLF also knows for certain that the powder keg will go off, with only two questions remaining to be answered: Whether it will go off with a bang or a whimper, and whether it will happen in daylight or come like a thief in the night.
As the 26th anniversary of T-TPLF occupation looms on May 29, 2017, the people of Ethiopia have made it crystal clear that they are sick and tired of T-TPLF apartheid rule and do not want it to go on for one more second, hour or day.
The facts on the ground in Ethiopia are horrifying and desperate. The vast majority of the people of Ethiopia are suffering. They are dying from famine and starvation by the hundreds every day. They cannot afford the basic necessities of life. The cost of living is skyrocketing and inflation is transforming the T-TPLF birr into a Zimbabwean dollar. The “inflation rate in Ethiopia averaged 16.65 percent from 2006 until 2017.”
Foreign exchange and remittances have dried up. Millions of young people watch their youth and vitality waste away without education, training and employment opportunities. Their future is a void shrouded in a fog of hopelessness and despair.
The rank and file in the military is seething with anger and resentment against the T-TPLF brass and could break into mass mutiny and insurrection at any time.
Taxi drivers and others in public transportation are unable to afford the cost of fuel.
Tourism is dead. Just last week, the T-TPLF sacked the top leadership of the tourism agency.
The T-TPLF just announced that it will be “auctioning off” the Hilton Hotel in the next 90 days. That hotel has been in operation for over five decades. (That auction comes on the heels of auctioning off “Ethiopian Shipping Lines” and bankruptcy of rail lines, and “auctioning off” of hundreds of thousands of hectares of land and expected “auctioning off” of Ethiopian Airlines.) The T-TPLF needs foreign exchange and and they will kiss their grandmothers good bye to get it.
The Ethiopian economy has tanked, despite the bogus statistics of the World Bankliars and the shameless cackle of international poverty pimps sucking the blood of poor Ethiopians.
Ethiopians are showing not only their deep dislike of the T-TPLF, but are also silently resisting in a variety of ways.
Every day, since the 2005 election, the people of Ethiopia have been engaged in a quiet riot against the T-TPLF. Today, people are even staying away from T-TPLF sponsored social events and showing their resistance in stoic silence.
A few days ago, local residents of Kuriftu (Bishoftu), 40 kilometers south of the capital, made their position clear about a T-TPLF 600 birr a ticket dance concert called “Korenti” to be held on the same hallowed ground where hundreds of Irrecha Festival goers were massacred just a few months ago. The concert is said to be organized by Jorka Events, putatively owned by the son of T-TPLF godfather Sebhat Nega and Rowena Iyasu, the daughter of the late T-TPLF singer Iyasu Berhe. Young people in the Kuriftu area have allegedly vowed to disrupt the event and defend against the desecration of the ground where so many innocent people were massacred by the T-TPLF.
As the T-TPLF releases the Tsehai report, it finds itself between the devil and the deep blue sea (no pun intended for those who may think the aphorism is tautological as it applies to the T-TPLF.) Under Trump, the T-TPLF will no longer have free access to USAID’s “Free Candy and Cash Store” to rip off the American taxpayer.
There is no question the T-TPLF is scared about the cutoff of free American tax dollars. That is why they are spending nearly $2 million to wine, dine and scam the Trump Administration. It is becoming clear that Trump does not give a rat’s behind about the T-TPLF. When he sent defense secretary Jim Mattis to the Middle East and Africa a couple of weeks ago to coordinate counterterrorism strategy, the strategic partner Mattis went to visit in Africa was Djibouti, not Ethiopia. Can the T-TPLF take a hint? Take a hike!
T-TPLF desperation goes deeper than that. They are so desperate they are willing to use “elders” (consisting of washed-up and has-been athletes and academics) to intervene and save them from the people’s rage and fury.
The T-TPLF is so scared that it is losing control, it now wants to tether every citizen to a cell phone over which it has a monopoly on sales (making billions off of cheap Chinese cell phones) and operation. A mobile phone that is not bought from T-TPLF stores will not work in Ethiopia in the not too distant future.
It is not enough for the T-TPLF to have “virtually unlimited access to the call records of all phone users and to logs of internet traffic”, they now want to spy on and record every single conversation of every person using a cell phone in the country. The proud, the invincible, the untouchable T-TPLF is confused, anxious and clueless and scared _ _ _tless.
The T-TPLF old guard still blusters about their victory gained by “shedding their blood” and vow never to give up power, and certainly not in an election or negotiation. They vow to fight to the end, and now they find themselves at a dead-end.
In short, the T-TPLF Federal Republic of Ethiopia has become the Dystopia Republic of Ethiopia.
No matter, T-TPLF tycoons, moguls and plutocrats zip around town in their multi-million birr SUVs, Benzs and Bimmers sporting designer outfits. They simply cannot understand why the people of Ethiopia are starving? They wonder, sipping cognac, “Why don’t they eat cake?”
But the T-TPLF has tried everything, but nothing, including the “state of emergency”, has worked to placate the population and get the T-TPLF back to business as usual.
Now, the T-TPLF is trying to reinvent itself for the umpteenth time. It wants to reinvent a thugocracy into a democracy. This time the T-TPLF wants to dress itself up as the “Crusaders for Accountable, Transparent and Responsive Government”.
The Tsehai “research report” was fashioned and calculated to give new legitimacy and credibility to the T-TPLF. The T-TPLF head honchos believe that by trashing “parliament” and blaming it for the country’s political decay and degeneration, they could be seen once again as the white knights riding to rescue the Ethiopian damsel.
But is there anything new in the “research report”?
I dare say (with smug satisfaction) that the Tsehai report merely summarizes everything I have been saying for the last 11 years.
Just so I am not misunderstood, I am not craving credit or accolades. Is it possible that they absorbed my analyses and critiques of T-TPLF institutions through a process of “cyber-osmosis”. In how many commentaries over the past decade have I railed against the rubberstamp T-TPLF kangaroo/monkey parliament? How many commentaries have I written protesting the decimation of the rule of law and the misuse of the “law” as state terrorism in Ethiopia?
To be frank, I would have been jumping up and down with joy if the Tsehai report was about the T-TPLF kangaroo/monkey courts.
One of the collaborators in the Tsehai report complains about the uncertainty of the rule of law in Ethiopia. How much rule of law is practiced in T-TPLF law courts? How much torture is being practiced in T-TPLF prisons in violation of constitutional and international law?
Tsehai complained about a rushed and mindless legislative process and haphazard implementation of the law. How about the mindless judicial assembly line process, which haphazardly dispatches tens of thousands of innocent citizens to regular and secret prisons under the so-called anti-terrorism law?
If Tsehai and his crew want to know about the rule of law, all they need to do is watch Donald Trump slowly twist in the American constitutional wind.
There can be no rule of law without an independent judiciary. Mighty, mighty Trump is powerless against an ordinary federal judge who has the power to stop him cold in his tracks as he tries to snuff out long cherished constitutional rights. That is what the rule of law and an independent judiciary is all about!
What you read is not what you get in the Tsehai report. There is a far more sinister and mischievous purpose to that report. While appearing to be addressing issues of lack of accountability and transparency, deficient legislative performance, executive incompetence and turbulence in ethnic federalism, the Tsehai report is actually a calculated T-TPLF strategic move to accomplish other things.
First, the T-TPLF hopes its “research report” will serve to hoodwink the people into thinking that there is division among T-TPLF leadership. Expecting division in the unholy alliance of the T-TPLF is like expecting division in a prime number. The T-TPLF motto is all for one and one for all. The word “division” does not exist in the T-TPLF dictionary. Period!
Unfortunately, listening to and reading some of the commentary on the report from the opposition, it seems the T-TPLF has indeed succeeded in hoodwinking some opinion leaders who are now seriously talking about the existence of a real conflict and division within the T-TPLF. There are even some in the Diaspora media who seem to buy the T-TPLF hocus-pocus that there is an actual difference of opinion in the T-TPLF.
What I find totally hilarious is PPM Haile Mariam’s characterization that he knows nothing of the Tsehai report and disagrees with its conclusions. Of course, by pretending to repudiate the report, Hailemariam is suggesting that there is a real division of opinion.
But Abay Tsehai was Hailemariam’s “special advisor” before he became a savvy policy researcher. Hailemariam now expects us to believe that Tsehai prepared his report and made it public without so much as sharing a draft or a summary with him. If that is true, it means two things: 1) the research supporting the report is completely lacking and purely speculative because Tsehai has made no efforts to gather data directly from the “prime minister’s office”, and 2) Tsehai’s “research” outfit is a loose canon self-appointed freelance operation which can issue reports oblivious of the most elementary technical standards for rigorous policy research and analysis.
If Tsehai and Hailemariam think that are foolish enough to believe that they never talked about the “report” and “strategerized” (to borrow a phrase from Bush II) about the PR value before its release, they must also expect us to believe Elvis is still alive. But the whole object of Hailemariam’s pretended repudiation of the Tsehai report is to create the illusion of independent critical assessment and evaluation.
Second, the report is the perfect documentary setup to scapegoat “parliament” and saddle that institution with the crimes and corruption of T-TPLF leaders. The Tsehai report depicts members of “parliament” as a gathering of brain dead sheep who cannot tell the difference between a piece of legislation and a roll of toilet paper.
But the astute policy analyst fails to ask himself a few questions: Who totally controlled the parliament for the past quarter of a century? Who controls 100 percent of the parliamentary seats today? Why did Tsehai and his crew remain silent until now? Did they just notice the deficiencies of “parliament”? Does it make sense to talk about parliamentary accountability when the T-TPLF rules by a state of emergency decree? Would it not make better sense to talk about accountability and transparency in a state of emergency?
Tsehai complained about the rushed and confused and rubber stamp process of law making in parliament. Does that apply equally to the so-called anti-terrorism law and anti-charities law? Is Abay Tsehai saying the “state of emergency” decree was also rushed into enactment mindlessly and heedless of its consequences as are nearly all other laws?
Talking about making laws, in February 2012, Meles Zenawi explained how his “parliament” made laws: “In drafting our anti-terrorism law, we copied word-for-word the very best anti-terrorism laws in the world. We took from America, England and the European model anti-terrorism laws.”
Now, Tsehai wants to blame the parliament for rushing to enact cut-and-paste laws!
The implications of Tsehai’s critique of a dysfunctional “parliament” are manifest. The country has poor and haphazard laws because it has a mindless, thoughtless and unintelligent “parliament”. The problems of accountability and lack of transparency should be blamed on the “parliament” because they miserably failed to do their jobs. If they had developed a backbone, or as Tsehai says, “if they had grown teeth”, they could have been able to bite back and save the country from its present dire circumstances. In short, Tsehai wants to make “parliament” the sacrificial lamb on the T-TPLF altar and completely evade its own responsibility for the mismanagement, corruption and lack of good governance in Ethiopia over the past quarter of a century. If they think anyone will buy this line of crap, they must really think all Ethiopians are damned fools!
I am no fan of the T-TPLF parliament. But I must object to Tsehai’s categorical denunciation of all members of parliament. By objecting, I am not defending the T-TPLF’s “parliament”, but wish to pay homage to the awesome contributions of extraordinary opposition legislators such as Ato Temesgen Zewde, Prof. Merara Gudina, Ato Bulcha Demekssa, Ato Girma Seifu and others. These courageous and headstrong lawmakers have shown all Ethiopians a glimpse of the role of a dynamic opposition in a democratic system. I take my hat off to all of them!
But Tsehai’s complaints and self-righteous condemnation of “parliament” conceal his own hypocrisy.
Is it not true that the late and current “prime ministers” have treated members of “parliament” like a bunch of street beggars? Didn’t the late thugmaster Meles Zenawi intimidate, mock and dismiss members who mildly challenged him? Didn’t he mock them for their lack of enunciatory articulation of English words correcting one “honorable member” for confusing “fiscal” for “physical” when the member was discussing the economy? When members of “parliament” sought accountability for the deaths of Ethiopian soldiers in Somalia, didn’t Meles angrily bark at members that it is none of their business how many soldiers died in the invasion and occupation of Somalia? When members of “parliament” asked for accountability and transparency in public spending, didn’t Meles tell them that the “regional [kilil] administrations had the authority that could go as far as burning the money they received as subsidies from the federal government”? Didn’t Hailemariam stonewall and sandbag parliament’s efforts to investigate the T-TPLF land giveaway to the Sudan?
I am not a defender of the T-TPLF parliament but I have a moral duty to defend the truth.
Third, the T-TPLF hopes to present itself in the Tsehai report as a reformed and self-critical organization that has learned from its past mistakes and is ready to make fundamental changes by earnestly and diligently instituting accountability, transparency and good governance. The T-TPLF in its ignorant arrogance underestimates the intelligence of the Ethiopian people. The people of Ethiopia are decent, compassionate and sensible people. But they are not dumb and stupid. They can smell con men and con jobs from horizons away. They know, “once a thief is always a thief”. In 2010, the T-TPLF stole the election in broad daylight by 99.6 percent. In 2015, emboldened by its 2010 theft, simply declared victory over 100 percent of the seat in parliament. In 2017, the T-TPLF wants to preach the gospel of accountability, transparency and good governance. They must really think all Ethiopians are damned fools!
Fourth, the Tsehai report is also intended to be a trial balloon to find out what the people, and particularly the elite in the opposition, think about overtures for “real” change. Will they buy the new and improved T-TPLF rhetoric for accountability, transparency and good governance and give them just one more chance to get it right?
The T-TPLF leaders are willfully ignorant of one immutable fact: Game Over. Nobody wants them. Everybody is sick and tired of being sick and tired of them. Everyone is praying in the churches and mosques, fasting and petitioning for salvation from the claws of the T-TPLF and crying out to Heaven to get rid of the T-TPLF blight, curse.
But the T-TPLF does not want to hear any of that; instead they prefer to pontificate about good governance and crow about how they have “shed their blood to come to power” and will never give it up peacefully. They can have it their way, but must now come to terms with the admonition that “those who make peaceful change impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable.”
Fifth, the Tsehai report is intended to be seen as a direct challenge not only to “parliament”, but also to the authority and power of PPM Hailemariam (admittedly an oxymoronic proposition since a puppet could only move when moved by the puppet master) who responded to the report’s content with a mixture of feigned contempt, cold shoulder and outright rejection. At a certain level, the Tsehai report intimates that Hailemariam is so incompetent that he uses both his cabinet and the parliament willy-nilly and with casual indifference. But the report also suggests that Hailemariam does not respect “parliament” nor takes their role and input seriously. Indeed, the report falls just short of claiming that Hailemariam is infected by the deadly Meles-itus virus.
It appears that the Tsehai report wants to put out a hint of suggestion, a faint whiff of an idea, that Hailemariam may be on the way out. Is it possible that Hailemariam is becoming more uppity and cocksure about his position and showing defiance to his puppet masters? Is it possible that Hailemariam believes the T-TPLF needs him more than he needs the T-TPLF? Who could possibly replace him? Will the donors, loaners and international poverty pimps approve of his removal from office? Who could the T-TPLF bring forward to make another puppet?
Of course, the T-TPLF wants to hint that Hailemariam may be on his way out just to give credibility to the narrative that it is in turmoil, in conflict and divided. Buy they would not dare replace Hailemariam now. He is their only badge of “legitimacy” domestically and before the international community. They can always parade him around as the prime minster from a small minority group in the country. They want to exhibit him to prove how democratic they are. They believe they can cling to power longer by dangling Hailemariam at the end of their puppet strings. But if they think anyone will buy this crock, they must really think all Ethiopians are damned fools!
But Hailemariam also knows his limitations. He would never openly defy his T-TPLF masters or do anything to cause their ire. Hailemariam long ago surrendered any shred of human dignity he had when he enlisted to serve his T-TPLF masters. He knows he is at best the equivalent of a district commissioner in a colonial government carrying out orders from the faceless powers behind the wooden T-TPLF throne. Hailemariam is the gentler and kinder face of the T-TPLF, but everyone knows he is the step-and-fetch-it for the T-TPLF.
Hailemariam also knows the outcome of the Faustian deal he made with the T-TPLF. A deal with the T-TPLF leadership ends in only one of two ways: jail time on charges of corruption (that is what happened for former “prime minster” Tamrat Layne and former defense minister Seeye Abraha), or sudden and inexplicable disappearance never to be seen again.
I don’t buy the T-TPLF “research report” as anything more than a last ditch trick for political survival and a desperate attempt to get another lease on political life as the T-TPLF gasps on life support. I have had the (mis)fortune of dealing with crooks, scoundrels, rogues, criminals and assorted villains and lowlifes in my legal profession. I can smell con men over the horizon. Phew! There is no greater assortment of vicious and evil con men than the members of the of the TPLF gang of thugs.
To all the protestation about lack of accountability, transparency and good governance in the Tsehai report, I respond by invoking a few lines from The Merchant of Venice:
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”
The T-TPLF is an evil soul producing holy witness for accountability, transparency and good governance.
My response to the Tsehai report in ordinary vernacular can be summed up in two words, “horse manure!”
But what of Ethiopia?
I fear, I tremble, my lips quiver and my hands shake, my heart palpitates and my mind races as I contemplate the hard rain that’s gonna fall on Ethiopia.
I don’t know if the hard rain is going to be the equivalent of a nuclear winter without an Ethiopian spring.
But I am afraid a hard, hard, hard, hard rain’s gonna fall on Ethiopia…!!!