Archive for February, 2009

Sile Ewnet kaweran zenda..

You have heard by now how Author / Journalist Tesfaye Gebre-Ab wrote a memoir entitled “YeGazetegnaw Mastawesha”. The book, published last year by Sunnyside Publishers – Pretoria, has been described as one that “exposed TPLF/EPRDF crime”. I haven’t read the book myself. But from the little I saw of the copy forwarded to me by a friend, and the way it’s perceived by the various [mostly anti-government] Ethiopian websites & blogs online, I’ve understood it to be the kind of book that is going to be circulated among trusted friends, in photo-copy forms, back home.

So I won’t say anything about the book. But I’d like to make one fact clear about the writer’s identity. Of his being “Ethiopian”, as the “Intelligence Unit” of Ethiopian Review gullibly presumed. For some reason, that felt important. It felt like a truth that needs to be told.

Tesfaye Gebreab was born in Bishoftu (Debrezeit), a city one can tell he adores by the way he talks about it in his 2nd novel (“YeBishoftu Qoritoch”) and the humorous short story he published on one of the 7 “Effitas” he superbly edited (“YeQurQura Raiy”). Tesfaye also refers to himself as “yeBishoftu Lij”, sentimental like. But Author/Journalist Tesfaye Gebreab isn’t Ethiopian. He is an Eritrean who had a fall out with the Ethiopian government when the two countries went to war a decade or so ago! An Eritrean writer who, one can’t help assume, may have a score or two to settle with the party he once served with all his ability. An ability, a talent, that was used for evil not long ago.

“YeBurQa Zimta” is a good example of Tesfaye’s supreme talent as a writer and his previous devotion to the EPRDF cause. The most picturesque novel I’ve come across in Amharic based on the Oromo dream, “YeBurqa Zimta” isn’t a book you are likely to forget once you read it. “BurQa”, it says, is a river that once jumped wildly, full of dream & laughter, on the proud hills and through the fertile lands that once belonged to the Oromo people. Now, “BurQa” is silent. It’s become like an old man, with a broken back and bowed head. It neither laughs, nor sings, nor jumps. If it has any hopes or dreams of a brighter future, it ain’t saying much about it. And the book tries to explore how this came about.

Using myths and legends from the rich oral literature of the Oromo people, and borrowing real life events from the Anole-massacre to the well documented advance of EPRDF’s army, it forwards it’s rebellious theory as to why the great river chose to be silent and when this silence is likely to be broken.

Naturally, the book sings the praises of the Oromo people: of their proud spirit. Of their traditions and administration. Of their faithfulness to their wives and the fact that drunken men weren’t seen among them until the “AreQe” crossed borders into their fertile land in the hand Menelik’s “Neftegna” army. Above all, it sings the praises of one Hayelom Araya, a General-turned Tegadalai, who the reader is led to believe was the last man standing between what used to be EHADEG and the disappointing (but not totally irredeemable) party it became.

To Menelik’s “neft” carrying Amharas, however, the book spares no mercy. Using a language you won’t hear from a street urchin (“gimatam” comes to mind)  it pounds them to the ground. It talks about their cowardly hearts, their filthy culture, their foolish beliefs. Their cruelty, their unfaithfulness, their spoiled pillages. Concluding with a ‘let’s all live in peace’ line that feels like a bad joke in the face of the all-too-powerful hate-filled background.

Impressed though I was by the writer’s power of narration, and convinced that the “neftegnas” (among them my own grandfather) may have had it coming, I couldn’t help notice how an Editor could have healed much of the book’s ills. Upon the course of discussion regarding favorite books, I mentioned it to a journalist classmate who worked with a government organ back then. I asked, “What has the Amharas done to Tesfaye to make him hate them so, do you know?”.

My friend waved his hand as if to indicate I knew not what I was talking about. “It’s an EPRDF’s doing”, he said bitterly, “hultun hizboch lematalat hon tebilo beCentral komittew yetesera sira newu”.

My friend’s father died from a bullet wound he got in Asmara. He hates his job and the many illiterate politician he has to report to. So I take most of what he says with a grain of salt. Not believing every word, but not ruling out possibilities. Etcetera. This grain of salt I would use when reading Tesfaye Gebreab’s “memoir”. A memoir, I hope, has got his confession as well as their sin. If not, I would rule him out as one more Eritrean well lost. And his book, a lame attempt of trying to get back at an ex-lover employer.

An excerpt from “YeGazetegnaw Mastawesha”.

February 26, 2009 at 12:50 pm 59 comments

Need help with my checklist

Yes, I got the visa. [Thank you, Thank you ;)]. Planning to depart by the end of March, Insh Allah. And hoping you guys would give me a pointer as to what an abesha needs to make the transition easier.

Here is as far as I got:

checklist1

Related Posts:
Knock-knock-knockin’ on

February 20, 2009 at 6:39 am 27 comments

Is he losing it?

Things have been going rather well for Prime Minister Meles Zenawi lately, in the last two years to be exact. He’s effectively removed both internal & external threats [to his country and government] with not more than a scratch to his name. Has not only re-kindled an alliance with the greatest nation in the world but won a reputation for being one of the two or three influential African leaders. And managed, if you’d credit it, to “register remarkable developments at macro-economic level for the last five consecutive years” so that countries like Uganda are being advised by their media people to take lessons from Ethiopia on how to turn your developmental government to success. Hell, there is even a song made in his honor! A song one would have [wrongly] assumed the old Meles would die of embarrassment @ seeing 🙂 .

As a result, the prospect of Meles becoming Ethiopia’s Roosevelt seem more plausible than ever. He knows that. So he hasn’t missed an opportunity to award the various “developmental hero”-farmers from the four sides of the country, to visit a city that’s never been visited by a head of state in past regimes, and has gone so far as inviting newspaper people and ask what he can do for them.

On the last one of these interview/press releases held on Friday, one of the three hot issues of the year were raised: the imprisonment of Wrt. Birtukan Midekssa. “Many are our friends”, the Prime Minister said in response, “who voiced their concern over the young woman being sent to jail over something they felt doesn’t seem worth losing a hat over.” Some of them, those he labeled “good guys”, saw it as an embarrassment for his government, something it should have proved to be above of. Others simply felt sorry for the single mother.

The “bad guys”, on the other hand, saw it as a human-right’s violation. “Release the woman”, they demanded, “and do it now!!”. It’s at this juncture that the Prime Minister said something that made abesheet scratch her head in discontent: “Since this is the case of imposition”, continued his Premiership, “we’d say to them ‘This is our country. Thus says our law. If you like it, take it. If you don’t, beLimalimo Aquwartu’”.

*Pause*

It’s no secret to any of us how Ato Meles Zenawi made a fine job of turning all, except one, of Ethiopia’s 14 regions against him in the last 17 years: By saying and doing what he will without a care in the world. By needlessly antagonizing both friends and foes just so he doesn’t budge an inch. By showing himself to be a bitter individual who despised our ways, jeered at our values, and derived pleasure from seeing us wriggle and squirm. And although some of us feel these qualities, for they are qualities only the mighty and the loony can afford to exhibit, would have won him fans in a Television Host and/or Political Satirist position in a country like America (where people like to have the truth on the chin, and then laughed), they only helped him win enemies left and right in Ethiopia (a country where people like to have their truths doubly sugar-coated, thankyouverymuch, if at all!).

What’s more, he never pretended to give a damn, adding insult to injury. So he became, at best, an intelligent man who uses his intellect “for evil”, as they say. At worst – well, you’ve seen the cartoons!

To his reasonable admirers, however, P.M. Meles is and has always been an individual with a killer sense of humor (sometimes literally, other times only the funny bones). Traits, they regret to see, not many Ethiopians are capable of appreciating.

But lately, United Ethiopian Democratic Party’s (UEDP-Medhin, EDUP-Medhin, etcetera’s) Lidetu Ayalew seem to have more luck in cracking every Parliamentarian up than his Primershipness. Meles’ lines are no longer comical, funny, amusing; even when he wanted them to be. He looks serious and talks serious. As if he’s trying to respond and please. To earnestly win votes. At last becoming, it seems, what everybody would have paid to have him be Post-2005 Election: the People’s Prime Minister!

Gone are the days in which his sly remarks felt like a kick in the stomach, leaving us bruised and dissatisfied (for we knew not how to protest, and were too weak to protect ourselves from it). Remarks members of VOA’s Amharic “kifL” split in width and breadth and analyzed under the microscope. Remarks the Idiotas at ETV marveled over, and sucked the sugar out of, for weeks and weeks.

Is he, perhaps, losing touch with his cynicism, his “edge”, his ‘you-be-damned’ air that made listeners like the undersigned chuckle with delight every time he decided to turn on “the charm”?!. Has bad times taught him to start giving a damn, appreciate the way we were, or atleast pretend to?! And are we going to one day miss what Meles used to be, more importantly miss-out from it, and be forced to embrace (yet again) what he has become: The ‘Swan’ Prime Minister that started out as the ‘ugliest duckling’ known to [Ethiopia’s] history?!

Don’t like it. Don’t like it one bit!

February 16, 2009 at 7:53 am 8 comments

Why we don’t have a “Qidus ValenT’inos”

Valentine’s Day is one of those days that gives me the “ickys”. It’s not [just] because I do not see it as an Ethiopian holiday. Or because I am a cynic who hears “deceit” every time the word “love” is mentioned (yes, if you scratch me you’ll find a hopeless dreamer who had her head hanked out of the clouds by cruel men and God). Or because it feels more showy than seeing a “Qen’tegna” brother walking with a huge parcel on Christmas morning. But because it is done for the same reason engagement rings are being worn in Ethiopian nowadays, “lelaw yaderegew ayiQribegn” bemalet.

Surafel Wondimu, of “Seifu YeMastaweQiya Derejit”, is one of those people who wouldn’t suffer from the “icky” feeling come February 14. In response to his audience asking why he kept bothering them with a concept that isn’t “ager BeQel”, he explained how he isn’t calling the Holy Man’s name because the ferenjis are calling it. But because it’s his firm belief lovers deserve to have one day, out of 365, in which they can celebrate their good fortune. He tried to elaborate this by giving an example. “I have a friend” he said “who is preparing to ask his girlfriend ‘taGebignalesh?’ the day after tomorrow..”.

I cringed at this. [As I do every time a DJ-something disgraced us with his presence on one of the FMs. When I hear Birhanu Digaffe, of Degaffe Mastaweqiya Dirjit, read an English letter from his various Ethiopian fans on an Amharic program which supposedly attempts to help College-youth swap their experiences. And every time my late-to-the-coming-Rastafarian neighbour plays Bob Marley in a way that makes you wonder if “those crazy Baldheads” that need a chasing out of town live anywhere near].

An Ethiopian guy “popping the question” feels as detached from [Ethiopian] reality as the behaviors the above media people are trying to cultivate in the youth. Where I come from, when a girl and a guy are dating, it’s “understood” where they intend (or atleast are pretending) for it to go. Dating is not, and has a long way to go before being, what it is in the west: where you try people, like an outfit, until you make up your mind about which one fits best. It is a subtle agreement, with consequences. She is expecting to one day be wed. And brother-man is playing along.

These expectations are displayed in her attempts to take over and be incharge of his house: The hiring and firing of the maid servant. (more…)

February 13, 2009 at 11:21 am 11 comments

Knock-knock-knockin’ on..

Having been told I must present myself at the US Embassy to give a blood sample the previous afternoon, I’ve set my alarm clock for 06:00 in the morning. I wanted to make it back at the office by the time tea is served at 10:00 a.m, so I left my building before anybody else did, treading as politely as i could, the only form of apology available for the noise my shoes were making!

When, 45 minutes later, I arrived at destination’s end, four rows of the chairs that hold 5 person each were filled with individuals who look good and cold. Their eyes trailed after everybody coming through the embassy’s checkpoint: The [employee ID] badge wearing skinny girls who refused to acknowledge our presence. The badge-wearing young men whose walk reminds one of the slow-motion walk uniformed heroes walk with on TV. And finally the big bways who guard the gate that made gun-fire noises every time its opened. Neatly attired men and a woman who seem to enjoy the attention more than the subject under discussion, and laughed about it with a brief interruption in which one of them called out for the “stand by” and the stand by responded.

I took my place, on the row infront of the hall whose inside wall was bearing part of Lady Liberty’s head and a welcoming note. On my left sat a petit girl whose Motorola mobile phone, whose batteries she complained about later, seem to ring every other minute. On my right is a young man wearing the type of scarf that got Rachel Ray into trouble some months back. Soon we were friends. We started with the cold, the whether change and the respective clinics we went to. We then proceeded to what we were in for. The girl said she was giving blood sample for an immigrant visa which her Eritrean fiancée applied for in her stead. They met in Asmara, she told me, when she was there.

“So you are going as a Refugee” I said, driven to sarcasm by the VIP treatment these people are getting in a supposedly “enemy” territory, “I’ve heard on the news how our government is working over-time to facilitate visas for you guys”.

“I came here three years ago” she said with a shy smile (more…)

February 10, 2009 at 12:17 pm 17 comments

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The blogger tries to think outside the box, or wonder why she sometimes can't.

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"I will speak for you, Father. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint." - Antonio Salieri, from the movie "Amadeus"

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