By Dilwenberu Nega
6th June 2009
The recent warming of relations, not to say honeymoon, between Geemboat 7 and Shabia reminds me of two fictional characters – Tweedledum and Tweedledee – that appear on Lewis Carroll’s sequel to Alice and Wonderland, “The Looking Glass.” They also appear on numerous comics. Like Geemboat’s Birrhanu and Shabia’s Isaias, the two Tweeds always conduct their criminal activity in partnership. Consequently, therefore, Tweedledum and Tweedledee are names used to describe two people or groups who are almost the same as each other, especially when they are at their wits’ end.
We, in Europe and America, must have somewhat been on an emotional rollercoaster for the past 4-5 weeks as political developments in Ethiopia were nudging the avatars of hate politics within the Ethiopian Diaspora to upgrade their hate politics from toxic to radioactive. But like the dotcom bubble of some years ago, the Geemboat 7- Shabia pincer rise aimed at conquering the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian Diaspora was deflated and will continue to deflate until Birrhanu and Isaias will come to rue the day they agreed to destabilize Ethiopia.
One of the blowbacks of the foiled terrorist plot in Addis was the fact that it provided long awaited oxygen of publicity to Geemboat 7 whose catchment area then had hardly gone beyond Washington D.C. That explains why Birr and Andy were quick to avail themselves of this unique opportunity and fulminate on radio and TV. At all of their interviews they gave the impression that they were in total control of a clandestine movement that was ready to detail a guard of honour for the duo’s arrival at Bole International Airport after it had forcibly removed the EPDRF government. The rumour mill of the Diaspora, on the other hand, was working overtime with the Ethiopian community at-large being jet-hosed with naked lies. “The EPDRF Government was imploding,” and EPDRF was a Government of – as the Amharic saying goes – “one more Thursday.” Now the dust has settled and Ethiopians have seen for themselves that EPDRF is as firmly ensconced as it has been prior to the news of the foiling of the alleged terrorist plot, morale amongst Geemboat 7 has hit an all time low.
To make matters worse, much to the ire and chagrin of Ethiopians both in the Diaspora and the Homeland, the Triple Alliance of Ginboat 7, EPPF and Shabia has been made public. In fact, the very idea of twining Ethiopian oppositions in exile with whimsical Shabea has been in gestation since the morning after Ethiopia regained Bademe in 2000. The Reporter even exposed that notorious Kassa Kebede and Andargachew Tsige had been seen in what in recent years has become the mecca of terrorists in the Horn of Africa – Asmara.
Anxious to see, hear and decide for myself whether our ‘liberation leader’ has the Fidel Castro or the Che Guvera or the Yuweri Museveni or the Meles Zenawi in him, I bought my £20.00 ticket (burning with the thought that every pence of it was going to Shabea’s coffers) and legged it to London’s Irish Centre where Ethiopians had converged to hear from Birrhanu Nega when he expected to march into Addis. A few words about the arrangement of the public meeting with Birr are essential for it will speak volumes about Geemboat 7. There were between 300-350 Ethiopians with some 50 Ethiopians returning because they couldn’t afford the exorbitant entrance fee of £20.00. Security was very tight as the organizers feared the presence of EPDRF supporters with their cameras. The subdued atmosphere prior to the start of the various speeches made me wonder whether I had, indeed, entered a wake. How shall I best describe what was missing at a rally to be addressed by the very leader whom the Ethiopian Government had ‘elevated’ to a leader of an armed struggle other than the gathering lacked that oomph of a victor. Anyway, Birr entered the hall not to a rapturous applaud that I had anticipated, but entered like someone who had come to pay his condolences. Before the official opening, however, a onetime Head of Presidential Security of the Derg, Brigadier General Tamene, looked so enraged by the highly discouraging reception accorded to Birrhanu that he got up and admonished the gathering that Ethiopian convention demanded that we at least stood up and greet our guest of honour. The whole event smelled of Birr; I don’t mean Birr the liberation leader, but Birr the currency. Ethiopia’s ‘sacred’ tri-colour was auctioned for a mere £500.00. Dare we shout “Erri bey Ageray!” And, like at the end of a church service, a mudai was passed around which fetched a further £3.500. With the receipts from entrance fee Geemboat 7 got less than the £20.000.00 concert organizers got for an Easter concert night. And this from a London that witnessed unprecedented bravado from Geemboat 7 supporters the day the news of the foiled terrorist plot was announced!
The close to two hours that I stayed did, indeed, allow me to see, hear and decide for myself if Birrhanu has got what it takes to deliver his promise of dismantling what has painstakingly been put in place in Ethiopia – a robust union of Ethiopia’s peoples, nations and nationalities and replace it with his strong Ethiopian unity based, of course, on a unitary state which instead of celebrating ethnic differences will suffocate ethnic differences. In reaching my verdict, I was reminded of an article that I read on one of the Ethiopian web-sites in 2006 entitled “If Kinijit is a spirit then Ethiopia is a bon-fire waiting to happen.” Well, after listening to Geemboat 7’s green paper for the Ethiopia they are going to liberate in 4 years time, I was tempted to paraphrase the title of that article to read: “If Geemboat 7 is a government then Ethiopia is an ethnic inferno waiting to happen.” I didn’t see Fidel, or Che, or Yuweri nor tried and tested Meles in Birrhanu; though I have to admit I did see sparks of author Kebede Michael in Birrhanu which – with all due respect to the late Ato Kebede Michael – provides precious little by way of getting Birrhanu out where it really matters. To be a good sound-bite Ethiopian politician outside Ethiopia is one thing, to go out in the battle field where bullets and mortars rain on you on a daily basis quite another.
The month of May also ended with a four hour interview Isaias Afewerki gave to two political activists cum journalists, Elias Kifle and Sileshi Tilahun who were observed exhibiting an acute lack of the fundamentals of journalism by displaying their visceral hatred of the Ethiopian Government when posing to the sworn enemy of Ethiopia. President Isaias’ well choreographed interview and the subsequent barnstorming of Birrhanu as well as the visit to Asmara by Andy where synchronized in such a way as to mount a blitzkrieg on the hearts and minds of Ethiopians both at home and abroad. The opposition parties’ alibi for establishing an axis of evil with Shabea based on “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” line of thinking, is absolutely untenable. Shabea’s enemy is Ethiopia; Shabea’s opponent is EPDRF. And that has been the case since the inception of Shabea. Ethiopians will not be taken by the overtures of seemingly born-again Isaias Afewrki, for they have come to realise – and realise the hard way – that the mouth of Wedi Afo has always been the abode of lies.
There, therefore, is little real difference between Birr and Isaias – a case of choosing between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.