Zeru Hagos 07/28/09
If it is not an exaggeration some Ethiopians in the Diaspora are the worst abusers of technology. The internet revolution has truly transformed the world beyond the wildest imagination of the inventors-sorry Al Gore you are not the inventor! Way back when the concept was developed and the first messages were passed between the lab machine in Southern California and a PC in Northern California, Professor Leonard Kleinrock never expected it to be used outside of the military let alone by Ethiopians! The crude machine language of then is today connecting the world and changing the world! Today the internet has conditioned us how we play, interact and live! We are shaped one way or the other by the Yahoo’s, Google’s and Cisco’s and yes Pal Talk!
Ever since Kinjit with its vitriolic campaign came to surface on the Ethiopian political landscape during election 2005, the internet and its marvelous application that allows people to talk over the internet, bypassing the expensive relic technology of yesterday, has allowed all kinds of people with all kinds of political persuasion to chat and form voice discussion forums. Pal talk is now one such popular gathering place.
Over the years I have been a regular visitor and sometimes voice my opinion in these pal talk forums especially in those that deal with Ethiopian politics. I must say it has been an educational experience for me. For one thing I learned that many opposition leaders do not have what it takes to be a politician. I saw many leaders invited as guest speakers in these forums completely happy and elated about the hundreds of listeners on line whom they consider their followers! Second, I learned that although many Ethiopians have become adept in using the technology and many work in high tech companies themselves, some failed to appreciate the technology. Instead of using it to change their lives and their peoples’ lives they use it to insult and demean any one whom they do not like. I saw no single room that caters for technology transfer to the mother land or even one that caters to a sane political discussion! But all is not lost thanks to Kinjit Swiss Room.
Laureate Tsegaye owner of the Kinjit Swiss Voice discussion forum is probably one sincere individual who is making an effort to create a democratic dialogue among differing views! The man is truly a man of his word and completely transparent about his stand on Ethiopian politics. He does not like EPRDF politics but he is not chefen kinjit degafi (blind supporter) either! Many other rooms have seen their better days already and are dwindling down to few listeners. The many splits of Kinjit have hurt those rooms who claim to be Kinjit supporters.
However Kinjit Swiss has become a place to be every Monday! The room seems to have finally come to terms that Ethiopia’s beauty is in its diversity! Although many of Tsegaye’s old friends have been persuading him to purge EPRDF supporters from the room he has stood his ground to allow free speech to be exercised unhindered! For this Tsegaye is quoted to have said “if I am to be labeled a woyane so be it” many times! I could not hide my appreciation to the man when I heard Laureate Tsegaye say that. Especially since I know of another room that pretends to be a supporter of the Ethiopian government but was caught red handed purging Tigrean participants from her/his room so that Kinjit supporters would come to crowd the room! What it taught me is that imposters are the most dangerous, and my preference is to deal with people like Laureate Tsegaye who stands by his principle and bows for no one but has Ethiopia and its people at heart. Laureate is bold and confident and expresses his disagreement with the EPRDF openly but his main focus is on the people and the country and is very willing to hear opposing views. He, however, does not tolerate insult or undermining of any of the Ethiopian nationalities.
Not sure if Laureate has been this kind of a person all along but it seems there is light at the end of the tunnel for pal talk discussion rooms. When you add the many fund raising campaigns carried and spearheaded by Tigrai centric discussion forums to build libraries and help those who are in need and when you see Kinit Swiss as the model discussion forum to promote tolerance (mechahcal) I would say all was not in vain. Thank you for those who persevere to keep hope alive, thank you Laureate. You probably will hear many innuendos because of my congratulating you, but I know you are ready for any eventuality. And that is the spirit our forefathers left us…to be who you are and to remain true to the cause, an Ethiopian cause! Our diversity is our strength.