By Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam
Author’s Note: I have a tradition of reviewing the year in my last commentary of the year. It gives me an opportunity for a momentary reflection on some things that have happened and did not happen during the year.
If I were to describe 2017 in a short sentence, it would be “The Year of Ethiopiawinet, Rising”.
For over a quarter of a century, under the oppressive rule of the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF), it has been a crime to publicly acknowledge Ethiopiawinet, a system of beliefs which affirms the unity of the Ethiopian people in their humanity. Lemma Megerssa best defined Ethiopiawinet as “an addiction [deep passion]. It is in the heart of each and every Ethiopian. If there is a way to open and look at what is in the hearts and and minds of Ethiopians, what we see is EthiopiaWINet… EthiopiaWINet is to be free. Human beings being free to express their feelings… ”
2017 has been the year of Ethiopiawinet, a year in which courageous and patriotic Ethiopians affirmed not only in their hearts and minds but also in the streets that they have a common unbreakable bond, a unifying identity and a collective mission that can be realized only through the practice of Ethiopiawinet.
LONG LIVE ETHIOPIAWINET IN THE HEARTS, MINDS AND SPIRITS OF THE ETHIOPIAN PEOPLE!
I have selected one or two commentaries from each month of the year in my year in review below.
In my January 1, 2017 commentary, “Dare to Dream With Me About the New Ethiopia in 2017”, I challenged my readers to dare to dream with me about the New Ethiopia in 2017. I argued the key question for Ethiopians in 2017 will be to dream or not to dream of the New Ethiopia or accept the T-TPLF nightmare in Ethiopia. I believe in 2017, Ethiopians chose to dream of the New Ethiopia and bury the T-TPLF nightmare. They chose Ethiopaiwinet as the foundation of the New Ethiopia.
In my January 15, 2017 commentary, “Farewell, Barack Obama”, I said “Good bye!” to President Barack Obama. I posed three parting questions to him: 1) Is Africa better off today than when you became president on January 20, 2009? Is Ethiopia better off today than when you became president January 20, 2009? Did you stand on the right or wrong side of history in your policy in Africa? I am profoundly disappointed in Obama’s Africa human rights policy.
For eight years, Obama talked about being “on the right side of history, and for eight years he walked on the wrong side of history holding hands with Africa’s most brutal and corrupt dictators. As Obama bowed out to join the “kingdom of the has-beens”, I was left only with bitter words and hard feelings for him. I said good bye to Obama paraphrasing Shakespeare, “’So farewell Barack Obama to the little good you bear me./ Farewell! a long farewell, to all [your] greatness!’ But were you to ask me what your legacy shall be in Africa, my answer is this: You shall inherit the wind because you stood on the wrong side of history!”
In February 2017, I wrote a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to say “No” to U.S. Aid to African dictators. In that letter, I sought to alert the Trump administration about the T-TPLF’s multimillion dollar lobbying assault underway in the U.S. and offer tentative answers to the following questions posed by his transition team to the State Department: 1) “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen?” 2) “We’ve been fighting al-Shabaab for a decade, why haven’t we won?” 3) “How does U.S. business compete with other nations in Africa? Are we losing out to the Chinese?” 4) “Why should the U.S. continue the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act [AGOA] which provides massive support to corrupt African regimes?”
I also had my own questions for President Trump: 1) How long must Ethiopia remain a beggar nation panhandling for aid? 2) How long must Africa remain a beggar continent, the object of charity for the rest of the world? 3) How long must the US aid gravy train continue to transfer billions of American tax dollars to African dictators to maintain their empires of corruption? I insisted there must come a time when Ethiopia and the rest of Africa must be forced to kick their addiction to aid and charity.
In my March 24, 2017 commentary, “No Honor at Tampere University for a Dictator in Ethiopia”, I wrote a letter to Tampere University of Technology (Finland) president Mika Hanula and the Board to rescind their offer of an honorary degree to the T-TPLF prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn. I demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that Deslaegn’s honorary degree was totally inconsistent with Tampere’s tradition and practice in conferring such honor. I urged such honor should not be conferred upon one of the most flagitious human rights violators in the world. On March 29, 2017, Tampere University announced it will not award an honorary degree to Desalegn. In an op-ed piece in the Helsinki Times, I made the case to the Finnish people supporting Tampere’s decision.
In my April 16, 2017 commentary, “About Time for the T-TPLF to Get in Their Spaceships and Scoot Out of Ethiopia?”, I thought my ultimate dream had come true. The T-TPLF had gotten into their space ship and taken off to their home planet. The T-TPLF boldly announced it is building a space program. One-fifth of the Ethiopian population is starving and the T-TPLF claims to be building a space program? That is what I call “cruel thug joke”. That could happen only on Planet T-TPLF!
May 2017 was a busy month. I published a total of 9 commentaries, op-ed pieces and did one radio interview. The “artist of Ethiopiawinet”, Tedros (“Teddy Afro”) Kassahun released his globally acclaimed album “Ethiopia” album. Tewdros preached Ethiopiawinet with poetic eloquence, polished diction, passionate patriotism (love of country and compatriots), and unabashedly proclaimed his unseverable attachment to Mother Ethiopia by a primordial umbilical cord.
I am overawed not only by Tewdros’ unsurpassed musical genius and prodigious creativity, but even more compellingly, I am mesmerized by his committment to Ethiopiawinet. Tewdros is not just a musician, he is a deep thinker who speaks in lyrical poetry. Tewdros is a man who practices his credo of love, compassion and understanding, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation in his music. Tewdros Kassahun is a man for all seasons. Teddy Afro is a prophet of his generation.
In June 2017, the passions of Ethiopiawinet sparked by Teddy Afro were getting hot. The Governments of the U.S. and U.K. were advising their “citizens of the risks of travel to Ethiopia due to the potential for civil unrest and arbitrary detention since a state of emergency was imposed in October 2016. The Government of Ethiopia does not inform the U.S. Embassy of detentions or arrests of U.S. citizens in Ethiopia.” The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office also issued a travel warning advising its citizens to prepare their own “alternative communication plans when travelling in Ethiopia”. The warning strongly advised against travel to a number of locations in the country, including the “Bole area (in the capital) at night and in more secluded areas, such as the Entoto Hills” because of “incidents of violent assaults”. The warning urges against any travel in the “Amhara”, “Somali”, “Gambella” and other regions. The advisories were in reality declarations that things have gone beyond a point of return in Ethiopia.
In July 2017, the popular protest against T-TPLF oppressive rule was in full swing. There was uprising everywhere. The T-TPLF tried to pacify the Oromo people in Ethiopia by playing a name game for the capital. Is it Addis Ababa or Finfine?
In my July 9, 2017 commentary, I defended the human and land rights of Oromos against T-TPLF confiscation, expropriation and extrajudicial action against those who peacefully resisted. The T-TPLF has such deep contempt for Oromos that it believes it can deal with them with the three Ps: Pander, Pacify and Placate. The T-TPLF believes that by throwing crumbs at Oromos in the form of empty and hollow promises about “special interest in the capital” and symbolic concessions about naming the capital as “Addis Ababa/Finfine”, they can trick them just like crying children with cotton candy. The T-TPLF believes Oromos are so foolish they cannot tell the difference between a real and a Trojan horse. No one knows horses like the Oromos. They can tell a Trojan horse a thousand miles away. The fact of the matter is that Oromos want only first-class citizenship enjoyed by all free peoples throughout the world—the right to equality, justice, dignity, human rights, vote in a free and fair elections and live peacefully under the rule of law. They don’t need “priority”, “affirmative action”, “special privileges”, “special names” or free land given to them after it is stolen from them.”
In July, the T-TPLF also tried to impose taxation on the people of Ethiopia with oppression and without representation. The people won.
In August 2017, I wrote about the dilemma of U.S. foreign policy in Ethiopia: The T-TPLF is driving the country over the cliff into a cataclysmic civil war at breakneck speed. The Ethiopian opposition is fragmented, splintered, ineffective and disorganized. The country is in a massive state of quiet riot. The people of Ethiopia are engaged in mass acts of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance throughout the country. They refuse to pay the T-TPLF’s outrageous taxes and are resisting expropriation of their land. Every day the people are standing up defiantly and proclaiming to the T-TPLF, “Enough is enough! We ain’t gonna take it no more.” The quiet riot is getting louder and louder by the day. The T-TPLF created its own Frankensteinian monster when it established its kililistans. Now, it stands in the middle of the kililistans surrounded by hungry and angry wolves. Is Meles Zenawi’s mad prophesy about the big bad wolf coming to devour everyone in Ethiopia about to come true? What should/can the U.S. do about the hungry and angry wolf roaming the kililistans in Ethiopia? Has the die been cast? Has Ethiopia crossed the Rubicon, the point of no return?
In September 2017, I focused on foreign investments, particularly Chinese and Indian, in Ethiopia. I have long been leery of Chinese “investment” (or is it infestment) in Ethiopia and Africa. In February 2012, I wrote a commentary entitled, “The Dragon’s Dance with Hyenas”. In that commentary, I reflected on the $200 million dollar stately pleasure chit-chat dome (ironically represented in a building that looks like a gigantic inverted beggar’s bowl) for African dictators called the African Union (AU) [which I call the “African Beggars Union Hall”] gifted to Africa by China. I know it is not hip to talk about Chinese neocolonialism in Africa. “What neocolonialism?”, they ask. “China is developing Africa’s infrastructure. China is engaged in ‘win-win development’. They are building dams, roads, rail lines and on and on.”
I don’t buy the canard that China is Africa’s gift that keeps on giving. In 2017, China cares as much about Africa as the European colonial powers did at the Berlin Conference in 1894. 1) Does China use its mega transnational corporations and banking institutions to perpetuate colonial forms of exploitation in Africa?2) Is China’s “new strategic partnership” with Africa a fancy phrase for China’s kinder and gentler creeping neocolonialism through outwardly benign economic relations (domination) and exploitation of Africa as a source of cheap raw materials and cheap labor?
In antiquity, the warning was, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”. Today, in Africa, it is, “”Beware of Chinese bearing gifts”.
It was also farewell to Indian investor Sai Karuturi. Karuturi believed he had made the “deal of the century” when the T-TPLF handed him a “1,000 sq. km” slice of Ethiopia to “develop”. What Karuturi did not realize was “all that glitters is not gold.” When Karuturi set off on his quixotic mission in 2011 to “invent and discover commercial farming in Ethiopia”, he had no idea he was walking into a T-TPLF investment trap. The lesson to all other future investors with the T-TPLF, “Abandon all hope who invest with the T-TPLF! The T-TPLF vultures will pick your bones clean.” To Sai Karuturi, I had only one thing to say, “I told you so, but you did not listen!”
October. Aaah! October. The month I declared, “I, PROUD ETHIOPIAN.”
In October, I wrote a letter to President Trumpsupporting targeted sanctions against South Sudan and requesting similar sanctions against the T-TPLF. I explained to him that the difference between the South Sudanese regime and the TPLF regime on human rights is the difference between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Both regimes are peas in a pod. Thus, what is good enough for the South Sudanese regime is good enough for the TPLF regime.
In light of my letter to President Trump, the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front had the gall, the audacity to question my Ethiopiawinet on international radio. The T-TPLF said they have “doubts about my Ethiopian-ness”.
President Trump signed a targeted sanctions executive order applicable to all nations in December 2017. KUDOS, Trump!
Initially, I was offended that my Ethiopian-ness should be challenged by a gang of lowlife ignorant bush thugs who literally sold Ethiopia down the river (to Karuturi on the Alwero and Baro Rivers) and on the Red Sea when they declared the port of Asab belongs someone else and Ethiopia does not need a port. Thugs who sacrificed 80 thousands young Ethiopians to defend Badme and then handed it over to the enemy in arbitration were questioning my Ethiopian-ness? Thugs who used to travel the world over as citizens of Somalia, Libya and what have you “fighting their war of liberation” against Ethiopia itself were questioning my Ethiopian-ness? Thugs who ran into the bush to create a separate country called the “Republic of Tigray”, separate and apart from Ethiopia, were questioning my Ethiopian-ness?
Shakespeare wrote, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose./ An evil soul producing holy witness/Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,…” The T-TPLF devils citing the holy scripture of Ethiopiawinet and producing holy witness against me for being un-Ethiopian is like frigging bush thugs with smiling cheeks.
I challenged the T-TPLF to produce a shred of evidence to raise doubt about my Ethiopain-ness or apologize to me. They did neither. I am not surprised. As I always say, you can take the thug out of the bush and dress him up in designer clothes but you can never take the bush out of the thug. That is thug life!
But I did thank the T-TPLF. By doubting my Ethiopian-ness they gave me a new platform to advocate, defend and mobilize Ethiopians to rise up and assert their Ethiopiawinet and teach the true meaning of Ethiopiawinet. They helped me discover that Ethiopiawinet is the one and only thing that will save Ethiopians from the T-TPLF’s prophesy of civil war, ethnic warfare and strife.
In November 2017, I remembered, as I do every year, the Meles Massacres of 2005. I remembered Rebuma E. Ergata, 34, mason; Melesachew D. Alemnew, 16, student; Hadra S. Osman, 22, occup. unknown; Jafar S. Ibrahim, 28, sm. business; Mekonnen, 17, occup. unknown; Woldesemayat, 27, unemployed; Beharu M. Demlew, occup. unknown; Fekade Negash, 25, mechanic; Abraham Yilma, 17, taxi; Yared B. Eshete, 23, sm. business; Kebede W. G. Hiwot, 17, student; Matios G. Filfilu, 14, student…
In November, I offered an English translation of a speech given by Obbo Lemma Megerssa, President of Oromiya regional government and Ato Gedu Andargachew at the Amhara Oromo Discussion Forum in Bahr Dar. Lemma defined what Ethiopiawinet means:
Ethiopians are like sergena teff [staple foodstuff in Ethiopia made whose tiny seeds resemble poppy seeds eaten as flatbread called injera] (applause). [Grain] that is gathered together. Milled together. Eaten together (applause)… EthiopiaWINet is an addiction [deep passion]. It is in the heart of each and every Ethiopian. If there is a way to open and look at what is in the hearts and and minds of Ethiopians, what we see here today [EthiopiaWINet] is what have seen here today [our unity in our Ethiopiawinet]… [EthiopiaWINet] is to be free. Human beings being free to express their feelings… Our people did not heroically sacrifice themselves in yesteryears for our country because they were paid. Our people who gave up their lives for the one-ness (unity) of our country.
In yesteryears, our people shed their blood in major battles for [to defend the integrity] Ethiopia. Now it is expected of us to work (sacrifice) for our country. We cannot go forward looking backwards. Let us not dwell on the past. Now we must stand together collectively for our country… If we set out to count our differences, in this hall there could be numerous things to separate and divide us. But there are also numerous other things that we share that could bring us together. Why don’t we strengthen that as long as it is something that can be used to good end?”
Ato Gedu said:
Indeed, our diversity has been the amazingly distinctive feature of our Ethiopiawinet. The strong bond in the mosaic of our Ethiopiawinet is reflected in the diversity of our religions, traditions and cultural practices. The linkage of our unity over the ages has remained very strong. [Ethiopiawinet] is not something that dissipates like vapor in the air. It is not a thing swept by the wind and scattered or easily broken. It is a unity that is deeply rooted. It is great unity with [immeasurable] depth and strength.”
In December 2017, I reviewed the Trump administration’s human rights record in Africa. On December 21, 2017, with little fanfare, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order for targeted sanctions “declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States posed by serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world.” No president in American history has ever issued such an executive order!
No American president had ever classified “serious human rights abuse and corruption” as a “threat to American national security, foreign policy and economy”.
In my October 1, 2017 “Letter to President Trump, I had requested targeted sanctions against the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) regime in Ethiopia, and made the broader case why targeted sanction should be a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. Trump’s executive order was a full and completely satisfactory answer to my request.
Kudos! Trump & Tillerson.
2018: The Year of Total Victory of Good Over Evil!
I, PROUD, ETHIOPIAN!