Thursday, January 05, 2006

Tyranny doesn’t like Company

Back when I was a student, I worked for the university’s fancy catering company. Working at ‘the house’ as we dubbed it was my portal to the cream of the crop of Canada. From the famous David Suzuki to the infamous Mike Harris but one encounter with a famous canuck stands out the most. It was a banquet for law school graduates. The guest of honor for the lawyer infested (sorry wonk;) event was the future prime minister of Canada Paul Martin. For me coming from Ethiopia where we are use to behemoth leaders who fear their own shadow, it was a big deal to be in the same room as future PM Paul Martin. Besides a couple of RCMP officers who were busy chasing hor'dourves, the security was non-existent. PM Paul was going around mingling with every one, munching on every thing passing his way. It was an honor to serve those salmon rolls to PM Paul. that was until he gave me a rather powerful tug looking for more. At that moment, it wasn’t him that needed the protection, it was me and my plate of salmon rolls. Canadian PMs have a reputation for dislocating human jaw.

When we come back to Ethiopia; in my quarter of a century existence, I have lived to see two tyrants and only one situation I could say I came close to one. It was with Mengistu Hailemariam when I was a young lad of seven or eight. I was at the football stadium with my father to see the East Africa Cup final between Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. Mengistu was ~100m away. even for my maturing cortex the people between me and Mengistu did not seem like bone-crackin’-gun-slinging cadres. Most were regulars of the Addisaba stadium. I remember that moment when G/Medhin Haile scored the tie goal on the 91th minute, Mengistu was on his feet shaking his fist. Mind you, when Mengistu starts shaking his fist the next thing to expect is a bottle of red dye (or was it?) and if you know a thing or two about the Red Terror clearing the stadium at mach speed is the wisest choice. But the fist shakin’ that day was nothing but a tyrant expressing his joy.

The thing about Mengistu, despite his tyranny I could say he wasn’t afraid. Sure he had his KGB trained entourage but he still went around the country in his land cruiser visiting his brain children - resettlement villages and state farms. Where ever he went he got ceremonial welcome by kids holding flags and bouquets of flowers with the adults dancing before his face.

Meles has taken fear to a new level. especially ever since the election, going to the bathroom has become a perilous journey; eating has become a task only imaginable in Fear Factor and when it is time to leave his fortressed office and palace, the road of Addis Ababa become the river of Styx. Attending public gatherings is not an option; the people could be infested with a plague that transmits through eye contact. The amount of solders stationed on his path makes the city look like the buffer zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea in times of economic crisis. For his safety, cars get rerouted to unknown destinations and pedestrians get whooshed off the street like flies at GirGiro’s butchery. In Meles’ world children can’t be trusted with flags and flowers. Those items can easily be used as fatal weapons in the hands of the right kid.

Even those born during the EPRDF regime are already learning the meaning of absolute hate at an early age, what else would you expect after such scenes…

Thrust me they ain’t on no school trip [photo courtesy]

What makes all this fascinating is, despite the scarcity of real life contact, Ethiopians know the face of their oppressors like the palm of their hand thanks to the state owned TV station. Most of the time after the 8 o’clock news, there is a not-so-short reportage on the doings of be it Mengistu or Meles. As if they are trying to reassure us that they are doing something worth their position. Gods forbid they go abroad ‘cause then we get treated for a multi part full hour special on their useless trips.

Anyhu..before I finish I will share with you a recent example of tyranny at its finest. PM Meles was in Tanzania attending the swearing-in of the new Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete. Of course his departure and arrival was a pain in the bottom for any one who was around Africa Avenue (aka Bole Road) on those particular times. Unlike Meles, who celebrated his “re-election” not by firing bullets to the sky like any other warlord but by gunning down unarmed civilians, Prez Kikwete took the presidential oath in front of thousands of Tanzanians. You think Meles could learn a thing or two but he was too busy acting cool with his Raybans on. As per usual ETV journalists have tagged along to cover NOT the ceremony but Meles’s gallant trip. Like a local camera man at a 13year old’s bat mitzvah, all they did was follow the PM Meles around. Not only that, they got so distracted by PM Meles’s grace the commentator kept referring to the new Tanzanian president “Prezident Kikiweki”. I kid you not.

The only thing I learned from that particular ETV reportage is that PM Meles needs a...what do you call that thing ferengi's doo....tan. All that being an indoor captive of his own fear has ruined that African luster he had back when he was a "freedom" fighter.


Blogger Tobian said...

Hahaha! I really liked this one.

There was a point when I used to think that Meles actually had a dream for Ethiopia, and the only problem was that his vision, jaded by the many years spent in battlefields, had digressed from popular opinions. I've know reached a point where I'm simply ... baffled by the man. And the whole pack of them. What are they thinking? What do they feel about their current lives? What do they wish for their children? What do they teach their children? What do their children think? So many questions, so little answer.

2:06 PM  

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