Berhanu Nega should not go back to Eritrea.

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I am confident that he is highly regarded in his field as an economist, as one of the leaders of Kingit, and as chairman of Ginbot 7 , but I have doubts about his military acumen or as an effective military leader in the theater of military warfare. On the other hand, I have no doubt, that he can be a great political leader in uniting Ethiopians of all ilks in the Diaspora and at home once he pushes this effort on full time basis.  At home, organizing nationwide effort similar to the one organized by the Oromo students could go a long way convincing Woyanes that their time is coming to an end unless they sit down and negotiate with the opposition to form a transitional government than any military effort from Eritrea.

During a cursory telephone conversation a couple of years ago with a senior congressional staff, I was told that many Ethiopian political leaders including Dr. Berhanu rarely engaged the U.S. Congress to appeal their case. This is foolish, as the U.S. has the capacity to dictate the very well being of more powerful countries like Russia, China, Iran with a mere threat of economic sanctions to influence their behavior. Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world has little or no leverage to disobey or defy Washington. I know there has been some movement to engage Congress at a lower level, but so far, that effort has not been adequate.

Dr. Berhanu can do a hell lot of good for Ethiopia by lobbying Washington, especially Congressional members to influence White House behavior and use his economic knowledge to identify Woyane vulnerability as well as supporting and organizing  peaceful resistant movement in Ethiopia, while quietly delegating the military operation to one of the more seasoned former Ethiopian generals or others skilled in this field. Most successful organizations had military and political wings. For example, the ANC, the Irish Republican Army and others succeeded by utilizing both strategies. The political wing engages the ruling clique and other governments openly and peacefully to make its case.

With Andargachew Tsege in jail, given the behavior or unreliable nature of the regime in Eritrea, given the geopolitical configuration of the region, that favors the Ethiopian regime, the lack of major political or economic backers for Ginbot 7 (G7) in the region or in the world at large; it is very unlikely for G 7 to defeat Woyanes.

It has also been shown that those using peaceful means especially civil disobedience have a higher success rate for changing governments than those using force. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and under the current geopolitical situation, and Ethiopia’s dominant position in the region, it makes it difficult to conduct a very successful guerrilla or conventional warfare against TPLF regime.  The success rate for change of government using force does not bode well for groups like G7.

Since the Woyane will see a victory by any armed Ethiopians as an existential threat, they will fight to death. Furthermore, the Woyanes are bolder and more proactive for a poorly organized, poorly funded armed struggle organization like G7. For example, despite opposition from the U.S., Europe and many wealthy Arab regimes, Hafaz Al Assad of Syria remained in power even before the Russian intervention, because giving up power is seen as an existential treat to Assad and to his Alawite sects. The Woyanes with their strong lobby can maintain the support of the West unless Ethiopians setup a parallel lobby to counter their PR machine, which has been dominant in the U.S. for a long time.

Using peaceful resistance, it is more likely possible to sway Western support and avoid unnecessary bloodshed and transition Ethiopia to a democratic state. This scenario has a more likely outcome than any other alternative on the table today. Any chaotic collapse of the regime will create a scenario like Yugoslavia, where ethnic slaughter and bloodshed may be inevitable.

Mahatma Gandhi defeated the mighty British Empire without firing a shot. Of course, he was wise enough to know that he could not defeat the British army militarily, so he opted for civil disobedience. Dr. Martin Luther King reached for the same conclusion and succeeded in winning a number of victories for African-Americans.

Even media outlets that are sympathetic to G7 have been rightly regurgitating Woyane crimes and atrocities, but have failed in their editorial and other forums to articulate and promote civil disobedience principles because some of them claim it is against their editorial policy. At the same time, they are espousing and supporting armed struggle. What a contradiction?

For example, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, especially Fox news writes many editorials. In particular, Fox News thrives by crafting  biased anti-Obama, and anti-Democrat viewpoints to its conservative audiences even though the slogan or the mantra for Fox News is “fair and balanced”.

Ethiopian media outlets have an obligation to articulate a peaceful way to dislodge Woyanes, which in the long run will serve the best interest of all Ethiopians. Most of all, it will be less bloody and will save the country from fracturing into another Yugoslavia.

It was FOX news that galvanized the TEA party and other conservative group against Obama. Fox news besides galvanizing the TEA Party against Obama, but continues to educate conservatives how to win election and defeat the democrats. The point is Ethiopian medias do not have to lie or just regurgitate Woyane atrocities; they can also editorialize and galvanize the Diaspora and promote peaceful change instead of just supporting armed struggle to defeat Woyanes.

I do not think it is violations of editorial policy or a crime to educate the Ethiopian people how to use civil disobedience to bring democratic change  or to reform the system. It does not take a rocket scientist to think what Gandhi did in India can be duplicated in Ethiopia despite the barbaric nature of Woyanes. Recent events in Oromia have demonstrated that well organized peaceful resistance can work if conducted nationwide with a common and broad objective.

Waging a war from Eritrea will cost lots of blood and treasure to win a conventional or guerrilla war against Woyanes, but using civil disobedience, it could be done in a short time and without shedding unnecessary blood. Some people claim that you cannot organize in Ethiopia because 1-5 Woyane spying system. This is a Woyane propaganda to create fear and suspicion, unfortunately it is being broadcast as true by some Ethiopian media too.

This is patently false, illogical and does not make economic sense, but it served to create fear and suspicion among Ethiopians. Ethiopia is estimated to have close to 100 million people that mean 20 million of them have to be Woyane spies or cadres in some capacity and most of them have to be paid by Woyanes. Can anyone believe that Woyanes have this much resources to pay this many people. Let us say each 20 million spy on average gets $50 U.S dollar a month including all the spy equipment.  That will be $1,000, 000,000 or $1 billion U.S or $22 billion birr a month. The total Woyane budget for 2011 was $3.7 billion for the whole year without including foreign contribution and loans that brought it approximately to $7 billion. Instead of refuting such baseless propaganda, some media started corroborating it to scare Ethiopians into submission.

One-way to deafest the Woyanes is to form a lobby in the U.S. to stop U.S. support. The money that is going in support of G7 and other organizations that I assume is substantial would have changed U.S. support for Woyanes if part of this money were used to lobby.

What about educating Ethiopians in Wollo, Gonder, or Wollega  or just one of the provinces to engage in civil disobedience and fund such efforts. Closing roads, calling in sick, organized work stoppage, boycott of Woyane related businesses, defiance or peaceful disobedience, just stop fearing Woyanes can go a long way in influencing the behavior of Woyanes. This will break their superiority complex and break their morals. This is how apartheid was defeated and India became independent not with straight news or conventional warfare.

While I appreciate and respect those who want to give their lives for the sake of Ethiopia; however; I have also reservation about wasting money and blood by going to Eritrea. Albert Einstein or someone said, “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” One could argue that the money used in training and arming Ethiopians to fight Woyane in Eritrea could be used more effectively in organizing them in Ethiopia in civil disobedience and lobbying in Washington. For the first time, Woyanes were dealt a blow  or stalemated by poorly organized students in Oromia state using civil disobedience.  If such strategies worked in many countries in India, S. Africa, and North Africa, I am not sure why it would not work in Ethiopia despite the ethnocentric nature of the regime.

While people in India were allowed to engage in peaceful  demonstration under the British rule, it was much harder to do the same in S. Africa, thus South African blacks were forced to use other tactics of civil disobedience,  including penalizing those who defy the boycott. Thus, it was impossible for the Afrikaners to take 2 million Sowetans to jail or other millions who refused to cooperate.  This and other pressures broke the moral and political authority of the Afrikaners and eventually forced them to negotiate a peaceful solution and form a transitional government. Of course, ANC military wing used to drop mutative cocktail bombs here and there to scare the Afrikaners. The presence of G7 in Eritrea can be used as a psychological tool not necessarily a military vehicle for victory.

In Ethiopia, using just peaceful resistance or civil disobedience, economic tools, and with a strong Diaspora lobby, it is possible to bring the Woyanes to their knees and force them to sit down with the opposition and form a transitional government that will lead to a fair and free election.

The American gun lobby, the Israeli lobby, the homosexual lobby, the Armenian, the Cuban lobbies are very powerful because they organize themselves. For example, the 30 million blacks in America have no influence compared to 5 million Jewish-American or 1.5 million Cuban Americans because they have no lobby. The same thing is true about Ethiopians, even though we have the numbers, but lack of lobby, makes our voices lost in the crowd. Meles Zenawi knew the power of having a lobby in the U.S. in 1997 when Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, then a strong friend of the Ethiopian community slipped an amendment to put economic sanctions on Woyanes unless they stop human rights abuses. After the formation of that lobby, the Woyanes were able to hoodwink a number of U.S. politicians into their wings. We, as a community, have failed to collectively organize to make the Woyane a pariah state. Now, guess what if we do not put up a well-organized lobby, the Woyane will try to make sure G7 and other opposition organization as a terrorist organization and any contribution will be regarding as aiding and abetting a terrorist organization. I might be exaggerating, but if the Woyanes really want it, given Obama proclivity towards Woyane, he will be obliged to sign it. No proof needed.

Now, if we want to avoid this embarrassing episode from happening sooner than later, we need to do both, form a strong lobby in America, and educate the Ethiopian people in civil disobedience. All able bodied Ethiopians in the Diaspora should be willing to fund these efforts in a sustainable basis if they want Ethiopia to avoid calamity that awaits it if something is not done to dislodge Woyanes from power. That way, we will have a quick victory and peacefully transition in Ethiopia like South Africa and India into a working democracy. Dr. Berhanu Nega should stay in the U.S. and push these strategies instead of returning to Eritrea in hope of Pyrrhic victory or get killed for nothing.  It is not that I know Dr. Berhanu personally or I have any opinion or ill will towards him, but his capture or demise will further embolden Woyanes.

 

Have we failed the future generations?

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Our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia, their children, grandchildren and all future generations to come have been put at risk because the action or in-action of the current generation. Have w failed them and put their lives and their futures at risk?

Whether it was our making or that of DERG, EPLF, Woyanes, we let it happen by becoming mere spectators. Of course,  some helped or made financial donations to Kingit, EPRP, Ginbot 7 or other national or secessionist organizations with the believe that they will do the job or just to absolve us from guilty feeling.

Some of the actions that we have taken in terms of donation, chitchat at the coffee shop, at seminars, or writing articles  did not bear any fruits, as they have irreparably worsened the future and the plight of all Ethiopians.

We have failed them. Ethiopians because of our inaction or actions feel trapped; feel hopeless. There are secessionist like Eritreans that think divorce will bring them same solace, happiness or freedom; there are those who think the removal of Woyanes will bring them hope and peace; there are those who do not care. 

Despite these pressing and precarious times, most of us in the Diaspora have done little, despite our capacity to shape the direction and the future of Ethiopia. Of course, there are those who think the future of Ethiopia can be shaped by engaging in armed struggle because the Woyanes have repeatedly stated that is the only way they will relinquish power and there are those who gave up.

Unfortunately, most change in government does not come by force of arms. If they come by force of arms, they have to be taken again by force of arms. The only stable democratic transitions are those taken using civil disobedience. The recent demonstrations attest to this fact. Students in Oromia region did not use force to stalemate Woyanes, but civil disobedience and activism. If the rest of the country were to join them with a common purpose, the system could be brought to a standstill.

Those of us in the Diaspora can force Washington, as the Guy lobby did to listen to our demands and tell Woyanes to stop the killing and to listen to the people of Ethiopia.

Of course, we don’t want chaos to reign with an abrupt departure or collapse of the regime, but a formation of a transition government with a call for a fair and free election will bring some hope and peace to Ethiopia.

In order to do that, we need to win friends in Congress by creating a strong and broad PAN-Ethiopian lobby that can shape the transitional government and the future of Ethiopia politically and economically.

Ethiopians and African people face hopeless economic and political conditions with rampant corruption, religious and ethnic conflicts. The future appears dismal.  Africa has immense natural resources, but faces abject poverty due to catastrophic leadership. Using our PAN-Ethiopian lobby, we can advocate good governance, rule of law and establish a means to safeguard political, economic, and religious freedom. The objective of the PAC will include the promotion of transparency,  free and fair election, and lobby against leaders who undermine the rule of law.

In order to ensure that Ethiopia becomes a viable contender in the economic and political arenas of the world and safeguard the future generation, we have to challenge the existing political structure and bring it to an end by uniting, and organizing all Ethiopians at home and abroad.

 

 

 

Is President Obama the worst president for Blacks?

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President Obama addresses one of the criticism that was leveled in the following article that is the failure of his Office Technology to embark on a bold mission of addressing the digital and the economic divide. Below is the just of the message that came from Hadi Partovi, creator of Code.org .

“Today, the White House added its support to this grassroots movement, announcing a plan to help every student in America’s public schools learn CS, especially girls and underrepresented students of color. This is a big deal. This “CS for All” initiative proposes $4 billion in funding and additional support for training teachers to bring computer science to students. Watch the president’s full remarks here.”

This is good news.  Of course, as always the case the devil is in the details.

Dula

Abraham Lincoln left a lasting legacy by freeing Blacks from the shackles of slavery. President Lyndon Johnson passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill was another milestone event. President Johnson was able to pass such a bill despite facing a more hostile and racist congress than President Obama by co-opting Republican Rules Committee Chairman Howard W. Smith of Virginia.  Because of Lincoln and Johnson, Blacks achieved  high degree of political freedom, but they have a long way in achieving economic equality and overcoming poverty.

In Africa, President George Bush’s AIDS initiative saved or extended the lives of millions of Africans. President Bush help end many civil wars in  Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Congo and more through the leadership of Condoleezza Rice  and promoting democracy. Unfortunately, under President Obama there are simmering civil wars from Nigeria, Chad, Central Africa, South Sudan and more. Furthermore instead of making a serious effort to push for democracy, his laissez-faire policy encouraged leaders in Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Burundi and others to gravitate to a single party dictatorship.

Africans were optimistic for Obama.  Professor of political science, Alemayehu G. Mariam of California State University, San Bernardino, CA said in his latest blog that Obama has fallen from grace to disgrace especially after his recent trip to Ethiopia, where he praised the current dictatorial regime. The Washington Post characterized  recent visit to an oppressive regime like Ethiopia “unfathomable”.   Human Rights watch called his remarks and support of the regime in Ethiopia  ”shocking”

As far as Black Americans, the plight is even direr. The homicide rate, the number of blacks in prison,   high unemployment and police brutality has tarnished America’s image abroad.  Not of his own fault, most of the economic progress made in the past was lost in the last Great recession, which affected Blacks disproportionately. During the last Great Recession, according to NPR minorities experienced a 53% decline or loss of wealth.

To his credit, President Obama has attempted despite lots of oppositions to address some of the problems affecting the middle class and the poor in the area of health care and criminal justice.  The symptom that is affecting the majority of the poor especially Blacks is income inequality that is largely related to lack of skills necessary for the new economy. Strengthening the educational system, establishing technical and vocational schools in minority communities would have gone a long way in addressing the issue of income inequality, but it was never in president’s radar screen. Therefore, he is leaving the income inequality gap a lot worse than when he took over.

His other solution to police brutality was use of body camera, but that is not going to solve the problem. The solution is improving the economic condition of Black America by leveraging technology.  Most of the blacks killed by police are usually poor, unemployed or underemployed.

African-Americans make up roughly 12% of the U.S. population, but represent less than 2% of the workforce at most Silicon Valley and tech companies. In addition, the race gap in wealth between the median black family and the median white family has widened to 18 fold.

Eric Garner and many others are victims of economics, not just police brutality. Eric Garner was trying to make a living by selling loose cigarettes to support his six children and a wife. If he was trained in simple skills like welding, pipe fitting, wood working, air conditioning, plumbing or other high tech skills most likely he will not have been a victim of police brutality.

In 1999 under President Clinton we proposed putting technology training centers in the ghettos and barrios to train minorities and other economically disadvantaged groups as part of the Immigration Bill  that brought over one million tech workers from India and Taiwan to support the tech industries. The powerful technology lobby derailed the amendment and another opportunity to transform America and the Black community was lost.  The same initiative was suggested to Obama’s Office of Technology to free Blacks from the shackles of poverty, but it never got any traction.

With little time left in his term, Obama has yet to achieve any real policy victory for Blacks at home or in Africa.  Let us say, he will not leave any lasting legacy as the one left by his predecessors.

Ethiopia’s Great Run – Growth Acceleration

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I have written many pieces on Ethiopia’s economic progress or lack of it. However, for the first time, I am compelled to believe that the recent World Bank report shades a better perspective on Ethiopia’s economic conditions and achievement than the views that I expressed especially views arising from the lives of ordinary people in Ethiopia.  While infrastructure and other notable developments are undeniable, the plight of the average Ethiopian is still bleak despite the economic progress achieved as measured by GDP.

Click here to see World Bank’s Analysis: Ethiopia’s Great Run