Saturday, October 18, 2008

From Machiavelli to Meles Zenawi, the Prince of Addis Ababa

Part I



Dear beloved disciple,

I have been observing your unseemly political career with fascination for the past three decades. Your astute political maneuvers have the hallmark of my half millennium old scriptures. Your capacity to outmaneuver your political peers and hoodwink the unsuspecting public; your rhetorical eloquence and the unsightly perversions of your regime had always captivated my attention. I am very grateful to know that you have been using as a reference manual, The Prince - one of my best writings on preserving and exercising brute power.

For the past three decades, I assigned Prince Enver Hoxa, one of my beloved surrogates, to enlighten and groom you as you keep climbing up the ladder. However, as you are approaching the end of your two decades term in office, I felt the need to become your minder for the way forward. On the eve of your re-election as the chairperson of the EPRDF party for the seventh time in a row, I wanted to provide you some guidance in executing and maintaining your power.

Throughout the annals of world history, greed and self-indulgence had been the cornerstone of political ambitions and policies of self-centered absolute rulers – the high and mighty who keenly adhere to my ideology. Greed is what prompted Prince Blair and Prince Bush to conquer Iraq. Greed is what impelled you to invade Somalia. In politics, greed and autocracy are intertwined and no tough and self-regarding leader can afford to forgo the expedient tools for self-enhancement. That's why I am so enthralled with your self-absorbing, condescending and patronizing style.

I dealt with ruthless and power-crazed monsters of every epoch. But my fascination with you is indeed unequaled. Remember the Commission for Africa? That was my Idea. I was the one who convinced Prince Blair to invite you to that short-lived Commission and to the influence-wielding Plutocratic Club – the G8. From a firebrand radical guerrilla fighter with no political credence, I leaped you into the limelight. Now you are a flamboyant aristocrat - a member of the glitterati, the well-heeled filthy-rich.

Your track record is somewhat extraordinary. You will go down in history as the first Ethiopian ruler to conquer the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. You have realized dreams that evaded your equally ambitious predecessors; Menelik, Haile Selassie, and Mengistu Haile Mariam. You will also go down in history as a ruler who unraveled the archaic medieval nation into fragmented and ill-governed, ethnic-based satellite regions. Your archenemies are envious of your impressive feat in vanquishing the irredentist Somalis while keeping Eritrea and the internal opposition at bay. Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam, one of your worst nemesis and author of Somalia: The problem Child of Africa is full of admiration for you these days. Thanks to the eminent professor, the Amnesty International – the renowned human rights watch-dog, is presently on your side, keeping lip-sealed silence on the appalling human rights records of your regime.

I understand that you are preoccupied with and haunted by feelings of guilty of the thousands of innocent persons murdered, incarcerated, maltreated and molested in your notorious torture chambers which are now widely known as “Africa’s Guantanamo”. I am aware that the boomerang of your profound and prolonged mission to silence dissent has had adverse effect on your rickety, paranoid throne. Reports of summary executions, electroshocks, grisly torture and terror in your detention camps and institutionalized brutality against your political opponents may ultimately effect spontaneous universal condemnations. But that is not something to be worried about. Your benefactor Prince Bush who committed similar crimes in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib is on your side and shall forestall any attempt aimed at putting you on trial for crimes committed against humanity.

To my delight, you have snatched the spotlight from other autocratic rulers, including your political ally - Omer El Bashir, who was found guilty of genocide by the International Criminal Court. Some in the West are already calling you the “world’s worst dictator” an accolade befitting to your narcissistic, egotistical disposition and ruthless temperament. Some in the West are also becoming acquainted for the first time with your primordial machinations, curmudgeon character and deeply ingrained genocidal passion.

High-placed officials of your key Western allies are quietly accusing you of committing war crimes and collective punishment in your “dirty secret war” in the restive Somali region. Your ethnic cleansing, scorched earth programs and shockingly heavy-handed tactics in that beleaguered region had alarmed the international court of public opinion. International aid agencies and key Western donors are accusing you of showing lack of concern in respect of the unfolding famine in the Somali region where your “troops are destroying villages and property, confiscating and forcing civilians to relocate”, according to Human Rights Watch. Your inhumane and brutal collective punishment against your own Somali population has been described by New York Times as “a starve-out-the-population strategy. If something isn’t done on the diplomatic front soon, we’re going to have a government-caused famine on our hands.”

Well, your honeymoon with the West seems over. At this point in time, do not try to play hardball to secure concessions from Washington or London. You have to look to the East for a new saviour – China. You need to backtrack on promises you made to the West in ensuring transparency, human rights observance, freer and fairer democratic practice, decentralization of governance and economic reform.

Unleash your propaganda machine! You need to revamp your political formula for manipulation of quasi-autonomous regional states in Ethiopia which has already served you well for most of your 18 years in office. Your life time acolytes, Addisu Legesse, Abadula Gemeda, Shiferaw Shigute, Abbay Sehai and Bereket Simon are already experts in the fine arts of the EPRDF’s monkey business – the expedient strategies of manipulation, divide and conquest and gerrymandering of regional elections. Remember that the end justifies the means. You have to do everything possible to get “re-elected” for another term of premiership.

Though Ethiopia’s Moslem population accounts to more than half of the population, you have successfully held them at bay throughout your reign. You have done well in making the EPRDF - your ruling party, an exclusive Christian Club. Prince Bush and I are thrilled to see that there are no Moslem names in the central committees of the TPLF and the ruling EPRDF party. As long as you continue treating your Moslem population as second citizens, the West will look the other way. You will not be made accountable to your war crimes and crimes against humanity.

And what is all this ridiculous babble about famine? You have better things to worry about than the dying of the impoverished, poverty-stricken, deprived, disenfranchised, systematically neglected poor peasants and nomads. Ethiopia was already synonymous with famine even before you took the reins. At Arat Kilo you are already far away to notice the lean, emaciated and starving fellow countrymen who are distressed by the sheer weight of the ongoing enormous natural calamities in Ethiopia. Honestly the only thing that I would like to caution you is the handling of the dead bodies. Avoid organizing mass graves for the deceased. Intrusive Satellites with powerful and penetrating lenses are hovering over Ethiopia ever since you started burning villages in the Somali region.

Beloved disciple, keep reading The Prince.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Dean, Machiavelli School of Leadership

E-mail: followmetohell.tohell3@gmail.com

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