May have begun back in 2005, when a promising young athlete who was “expected to be the next great distance talent off the Ethiopian production line” [according to The Scotsman] died. The 18-year-old, Alem Techale, who, two years previously, has won the world youth title at 1500m was engaged to Qenenisa/Kenenisa Bekele and due to marry in a three months’ time. “He was put in jail for a few days”, my mom [who lives in Addis, is Oromo on her mother’s side and whose love for “rucha” has been eternalised in my post More than Silver, More than Gold”] explained to me when I asked what people say the trouble with the double World Record Holder is. “Rumor has it she died because he beat her. But the official report is she died from a heart-attack”.
Then came, she continued, Qenenisa’s marriage to this “duriye” actress; one Danawit Gebregziabher [who you and I know he won’t have been able to land if he hasn’t proved himself “one of the greatest distance runners of all times”]. Kenenisa seems to have also borrowed a page from a fellow business-mogul turned athlete, Haile Gebreselassie, in the arena of investment. Only in his case, it failed to bring home the bacon. “He opened a hotel and people did not like it”, my mom added. A claim that seems to be corroborated by Tripadvisor, and the meager 2-3 star “Kenenisa Hotel” was given. Add to these the various maladies the athlete complained of [back pain, muscle pain, knee injury] before coming 4th at the 2014 Chicago Marathon, and the fact that he did not make it on the national Summer-Olympic team doesn’t come as much of a surprise. “I think his age is getting to him” she observed before finalizing our Skype conversation, “It would be good if they gave a chance to the younger generation instead of insisting on sucking the lemon until it is dry”.
Of course that wasn’t the reason put forward by Gregory Warner’s June 5, 2016 report. Under the catchy title “Ethiopian Runners Say They Face Discrimination”, NPR’s International Correspondent, East Africa, has stated how the “three time Olympic champion” claimed he was being discriminated against because of his ethnicity and how “Ethnic discrimination casts a shadow over Ethiopian track”.
If Mr. Warner has bothered to check his facts or went out to interview more than the one refugee he met in Nariobi, he would have learned that in the 50 or so years of Ethiopian Olympic track-history; 98 percent of the athlets have been from the Oromo ethnic group. And corruption, favoritism and nepotism; instead of “ethnic discrimination”, are the reasons why many a budding athlete left his/her country to run under a different flag.
And that, my friends, is my real objection to this piece. Like I said in my comment to Fetsum Berhane’s article on Horn Affair’s English’s, no one would debate EPRDF’s inability to learn from past mistakes, and its absolute mistrust of anyone except those near and dear to it. Reports of prisons over-flowing with Muslim intellectuals in general, and Oromo Muslims in particular, are “yeAdebabai mistir”. It is also an unfortunate reality how – when it comes to Democracy – people in third world countries seem to always have one of two choices: freedom or security. And that stability must come at the cost of having to live under a strong-man [or a central-committee] whose followers and/or tribally-affilliated members hope to silence opposition by labeling everyone who disagreed with them a “terrorist”.
Alas, trying to pass off a case of corruption as ethnic-discrimination is not only an embarrassment to the journalism profession, but an equivalent to a prayer of “tor awrid”. Maybe Mr. Warner and the likes of him wouldn’t mind seeing East-Africa burn to have something to write home about. But it isn’t something Ethiopia, with her poverty, fragile unity and the many dysfunctional governments as well as ill-wishers she is surrounded by, can afford.
I say kick the mother-fucker out.