A weekend with Ethiopians



By Yilma Bekele

I was thinking if by any chance an alien is to visit our planet and happen to land in good old Ethiopia, I am afraid the space traveler would be disappointed with earthlings and ‘It’ will engage Turbocharge and beat it back to where it came from in a New York minute. That is because today Ethiopia is not a pleasant place to be. It is supposedly the envy of the world with ‘double digit ‘ growth and an emerging Democracy. Well that story is fake. It is under Emergency Rule of the most draconian kind and the regime has declared war on its own citizens.

What our alien would encounter is a society that is malfunctioning in a spectacular manner and teetering on the verge of collapse. It will see famine and starvation in the 21st century, mass killings of peaceful citizens, and witness the vast majority of the population on the move just to get away.

In the north the soldiers are on alert made to believe of an impending invasion, in the west the land has been sold to outsiders so they could grow food for their citizens thousands of miles away, in the east war is a constant way of life, the south has become a highway to escape from hell and the central area is turned into a killing field. The only peaceful and serene place in Ethiopia is region 1 Tigrai. It is not #1 by name only. Schools are open and life is as normal as ever.

The picture in the other parts of the country is different. Both Oromia and Amhara regions that comprise 56 percent of the population are under ‘State of Emergency’ declared by the TPLF party. The leaders of this so called ‘Command Post’ are Abbay Tsehaye, Debretsion Gebre Mariam and Samora Yunus in other words the TPLF Politburo. The few have declared war on the many. This notion is nothing new. Domination of others is as old as human history. But in the 21st. Century? Well our ancient land breeds weird characters for they do not know any better.

On the other hand if our aliens have landed in the Bay Area of continental North America this past weekend and came to our gathering It would have seen Ethiopians in all their glory. It is clear that we are a different kind of people when given a chance to thrive. We would have showed our visited we are one enterprising people that travel far without guarantee and build a beautiful life that is the envy of all those that encounter us. We add value to any place we settle and start a family that would leave a mark for generations to come.

Ethiopians in Oakland and San Jose California got together and took an afternoon off to spend some quality time giving back to our mother. Our pow wow last weekend is testimonial to the generosity, patriotism and love of our people to their motherland. We agonized about the many that have sacrificed their life so our children can be free. We took heart in their sacrifice and vowed it will not be in vain. We prayed for peace in our land. We prayed for strength and begged for a kind heart not to turn out to be like those we despise.

We are aware that we all want to contribute to the struggle that is being waged by our people back home. San Jose and Oakland ESAT Support Groups decided to give patriotic Ethiopians a chance to showcase their love and support to our beloved free and independent media ESAT. Our friends did not disappoint us. We made sure it was not easy not to show up without a really good reason. We loaded the dice as they say in Vegas.

We brought out two outstanding Ethiopians that would make us all proud in their own peculiar way. Our friend Kebebew Geda is a natural born entertainer. You can tell he is a professional when he makes what he is doing look so simple. I have seen Tamagne do that. He senses the mood of the audience and shifts gear many times during the show. He made us laugh so much and so often while reminding us why we are gathered here. Did I say he is also a pick pocket? When he got done with some of us there was enough money left for Uber. But we were all smiling. ESAT support in the Bay Area sends its love and respect to Kebebew.

Reeyot Alemu was the scheduled speaker. Do I really have to tell an Ethiopian about Reeyot? The whole world is familiar with Reeyot Alemu. I have no idea how she achieved so much in such a young age. Some are born to shine and she is our Ethiopian star. I am sure she did not ask for fame but when she was faced with injustice she stood her ground joining the likes of Rosa Parks, Aung San Suu Kyi, Eskinder nega and others. We love and respect her because she conquered fear and shamed her jailers. She taught the mafia group a valuable lesson about the human spirit. They were internationally humiliated into releasing her. Reeyot has served as a high school teacher, a Columnist, Editor and Publisher until she was charged of being a ‘terrorist’ by thug master Meles Zenawi. Without any credible evidence she was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment that was reduced to 5 years by TPLF kangaroo court. She served four years.

Woyane gangsters used harsh methods trying to break her will but Reeyot survived. She was denied visitation rights, her family was kept away from her, she was kept in isolation and male guards followed her even to the bathroom. Reyot survived all that psychological warfare meant to humiliate her. That is the strong and righteous Reeyot that showed up in Oakland. She has won many International Awards including International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), Hellman/Hammett press freedom prize, UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize and the most important of them all the love and respect of her fellow citizens. That is priceless.

That is why I said we loaded the dice. How could anyone stay away from such a festival of love and purpose? It is true we Ethiopians are famous for not being on time. Being seen to act too eager is frowned upon. Last Saturday that notion stood on its head. Our people came early. An ‘on time’ Ethiopian is a rarity but an ‘early’ Ethiopian is not your everyday occurrence. It is a sign there is something in the air and it felt excellent.

Our Holy Father Abune Melke Tsedik opened our celebration and I experienced another deja vu moment. He was present during ESAT 3rd. Anniversary in 2013 in San jose and we all had a memorable time with Sheik Imam Khalid Omar sharing the dias and Tamagne and Shambel leading the chorus. How could I forget that especially when I had to borrow gas money to drive back home. Today I looked at our guests and smiled knowingly.

We also have one additional piece of diamond to add to our stage. His name is Tesfaye Sima and he is an Ethiopian actor. He always makes Oakland proud. He made our event feel like a stage play making the audience part of the show. When you have our Holy father on stage and our hero Reeyot sitting beside him while being entertained, educated and called for action by our two professionals the afternoon just flew away.

Raising money for ESAT is a laudable deed. This event made us see our potential to do more good for our country. We have the education, the economic resources and the time to give back to our homeland. It is no secret the ethnic regime currently in power used our potential as a cow to milk cash from. They based their economic development on selling stolen land to the gullible Diaspora, borrowing from China and international Banks. Today that short term gain is causing such upheaval that our people are in one big prison.

There was a time I used to fear and ruminate while twisting like a pretzel thinking about the fate of my country. I used to stay up nights stressed over the poisonous tree of kilil TPLF Woyane was planting in my front yard. I am an Ethiopian and is prone to worry about negative outcome no matter the circumstance is part of my programing. This is one time I am glad to be proven wrong. I underestimated the meaning of being an Ethiopian. I thought it was fragile. How mistaken I was just like the Woyane thugs that played with my feelings. They believed they can erase our collective identity and replace it with Kilil. It did not work. We Ethiopians are not capable of collective hate. That notion was buried a mile deep in Gondar and Bishoftu. Mekele, and Adua to come soon.

Programs like our meeting are showing us of things to come with the fall of Woyane. The operative word is going to be ‘We’ instead of ‘I’. What smart projects we can embark on for our country without the regime playing interference is going to be our mission. How to unite our people and stand for a single purpose of forging ahead in technology, economics and better farming is going to be our subject for conferences. How to get Internet to every village school free of charge is our goal for tomorrow. It is all within our reach.

We have started the smart healing process already. Functions like ours are attracting many people. There was an important and intelligent discussion prepared by Vision Ethiopia and ESAT titled ‘Road map for transition and constitution making in Ethiopia.’ It is an attempt to put the horse in front of the cart. It is recognizing that good results happen due to good planning. That is the new way of doing things in the future Ethiopia. We are planting the seeds of the future.

No need to tell you the regime is in disarray. The illegal by any standard action of declaring State of Emergency and jailing all our people except in Tigrai shows TPLF is circling the wagon. The Tigrai Liberation Front is willing to set one Ethiopian against another to stay in power and continue the abuse. They are refusing to believe the Ethiopian people are saying enough. The ethnic organizations they created and supervised are refusing to cooperate in the interest of the Tigrai ruling group. So what is left but try to make it look interethnic civil war. It is a good story for their western donors. That is irrelevant. When close to seventy percent of the population is saying no it would require a large army with supplies and an act of God to continue such a system.

Would the ethnic card work? Most probably not. Why would they pull that out now is a good question. They have always been like that is the answer. They shoot from the hip, they panic easy and strike hard. It worked in isolated rebellions. This current campaign almost Nation wide in scope has taken a political tone. The question being discussed is how to transition to a new order. The total rejection of single ethnic rule is universal. The opposition has embarked on many different ways to fight the regime. Both peaceful and violent means is on the table. No amount of denying is going to stop what is coming.

Unfortunately TPLF is not capable of responding to such demand of resolving the core problem which is transfer of power in a peaceful manner. It is not constructed to wither away like Lenin’s State. Meles did not write the end. Being faced with an existential threat they are forced to choose suicide instead of survival. Probability of failure is not part of the design. Aboy Sebhat, Abbay Tsehaye, Bereket, Debretsion, Seyoum, Getachew have a tiger by the tail. Let the chase begin. Thank you Reeyot, thank you Kebebew and especial thanks to Tesfaye – Oakland and San Jose people are still talking about you.
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