I am Crying No
By Fekade Shewakena
Nov 14, 2002
It is hard to express the feeling that goes on in me right now. It certainly does not look like the feeling of empathy for I know how it feels. I have been there before and experienced it. I know how compassion feels but it is different from what I am in now. I was there more than once - there in, Bati and Kobo and Dessie and Kemisse and in the Gerado valley in the midst of a full-blown famine raging in full swing killing people like flies. I had wept then till I was drenched in my tears. At that time crying and sharing whatever coins I had in my pockets even if it was meaningless gave me some meaning. Who said tears donít help. I think it helps keep some sanity when things go so unimaginably tragic. It can help you elude yourself and gives you the feeling that you are helpful while you are totally helpless. I am afraid that I cannot cry now. I am not feeling like it at all. If anything, I now feel sick- sick down to the stomach and angry and outraged or may be a combination of these all. I wish I could cry but I am afraid that is not the feeling running in me now. May be I have ran out of tears. May be I am so far away across the Oceans to feel the real agony. My eyes are now as dry as the desert.
I just saw a pictures on my computer screen, of two beautiful children with their muddy faces fighting it on to survive for a day or two and the mother who waits for her child to die in her arms. I just saw a skeletal picture of a dying man staring with his piercing eyes on the Economist that carries the title Bad weather, bad government, worst leader . The old manís eyes are so penetrating that he seemed he wants to blame it on me or extract something out of me. I canít understand why he looks like intimidating to me and even scaring the hell out of me. Frankly I was afraid of him and felt like running away. I used to cry when I saw people like him and I think I saw at least one like him in 1984. I flipped to another website instead and saw the footages on the BBC website of the child who is reported to being resigned to even chase the fly sitting on his eyes and told the BBC reporter that he expects to die in a few days and before any food arrives in the village. I also saw the sorry face of my countryís Prime Minister and his begging mouth trying to seek out help from the world. The last time I saw his picture was when he was trying to outthink the thinkers of Addis Ababa University, my former workplace. (Thank you god for saving me the agony of sitting and listening to all that farce). Watching him beg, I felt like lashing out against him. But a part of the rational me said why should he take the blame alone. He is only the latest face in a series of begging leaders. And what about all the rest of us who have studied how other people solved their problems, even far more serious problems, and have allowed this to occur not once but so repeatedly? Shall we all go free blaming it on someone? I answered it no. If we are to solve this problem we have to begin by agreeing that a big crime is committed. People have died in mass of hunger and somebody or some entity must be held responsible and indicted. Somebody, some entity has committed a repeated crime against humanity in Ethiopia and we should not let it get away with mass murder. I am led to believe that this is the first order of business if we are committed to solve this degrading and shameful tragedy from happening again. I am not for the blame it on someone game. I will stand and get counted to take my responsibility. I am tired of making accusations but for one last time letís find the real culprit and make the indictment. What has gone so wrong and who is doing this to this beautiful country?
Donít add to my sickness telling me the reason is the weather. This is a tired and sick joke. This is a human failure, and humans have to take the blame. This is the real name of the problem. I believe this is the truth whether one likes it or not. In fact, one set of criminals are those that blame the weather in an attempt to try to hide the real culprit. These people are lying through their teeth and should be held responsible for their lie. In 1973 the dergue and all of us blamed the famine on the Emperor and the emperorís men blamed it on the weather. In 1984 I have heard the guys in power now speak full mouth blaming the dergue for the famine, the dergue blamed it on the weather. Now the Meles and his people blame it on the weather. The critics blame it on its policies. How ironic that the more things change the more they remain the same. The same television set the same pictures only new beggars. This is a sickening game and it more than stinks.
Frankly the weather has nothing to do with our famine. I repeat! the weather has nothing to do with our famine. I am a student of Geography and understand my trade very well and can argue this point successfully. I can point to you countries that do not see a gallon of rain dropping on their land but have not had famine. You donít have to be a food producer country not to be struck by famine for that matter. I have seen far more sever droughts that occurred in many parts of the world and have not caused a case of hunger let alone famine that kills people in mass. South East Asia lives under the same monsoon today as it use for very many years, but look at the long way they came trough to trash famine out of their system and that only in a few decades. I can go on and on and on with similar examples.
I am of the feeling that Ethiopiaís entire elite has to be on trial. Of course, first in the line of trial have to be the government officials who have made it their primary job to keep themselves in power rather than the welfare of the people. Of course, their crime is serious because they have been presiding over our misery in many cases tying the hands of people who want to make a difference. Their lies and sorry excuses must be punishable. I have heard EPRDF officials for example priding themselves for running a good early warning system of famine. These guys should be ashamed of it for their only job is preparing the country for early begging rather than fighting the root cause. Why canít they think of begging as something unacceptable and humiliating in the first place and use the resource in that direction. Why do we need that RRC, or what ever is its name today? Why do we need institutions that lord over famine in the first place? What have these institutions done so far except institutionalizing famine and beggary? Wouldnít it be a good idea to have an Institute of Famine Eradication instead of the Early Warning System or the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, which by the way consume huge resources themselves then becoming part of the problem rather than the solution? Why on earth should Ethiopia, the water tower of Eastern Africa, the land of hundreds of perennial rivers go hungry even for a day? Canít we spend ten years working on one or two of the big river basins, which can more than feed the whole country? Donít tell me that need capital and technology. Everyone knows that. Better beg for the damn technology and capital and squeeze the countryís resources once and work on both sides of the hand for ten years than become perennial and shameless beggars. Make it a policy priority and any average economic planner can tell us how to do it. Countries have dug their way out of this kind of messes. Why canít we? We have to dig ourselves out of this mud and, believe it or not, there is no other way out.
And there are those of us who only know how to complain and do not come up with a problem solving idea. I mean those of us who are educated and pride and congratulate ourselves with our educational achievements and success in life. Those of us who believe that our education is a license to escaping the fait of the unfortunate victims and an end in itself, particularly those of us in Diaspora who seem to have shed all senses of responsibility. How about those of us who have done nothing if any to stop the famine except playing the blame game? Donít tell me you have contributed money in the past or you have cried. That was not the way to become part of a solution. Criminal are also those of us who try to hide ourselves in Ethiopiaís history - in Yohannes, Menilik or Tewodros and the glory of the Battle of Adwa as if these can be turned into a slice of bread or a drop of water now.
And of course the demon that has possessed Ethiopia for so long has to be tried. The demon that makes the country eat her children? Donít ask me how, but I feel the demon that made us worship guns and hatred and cruelty has to be tried and punished one way or another. The demon that made the Abay River disgorge the mass of our soil and water outside of Ethiopia has now made another river out of airplanes that carry away and disgorge the countryís children in Europe and America. Here is my bigger fear. If everything and every criminal is left as is, I am sure there will be another, perhaps bigger, famine down the line. You ainít seen nothiní yet, as my American brothers would say.
Those of you who want to keep on crying you can go ahead and cry. Get drenched in your tears and you will see what you can get. May be it helps you get over it for now. Rest assured it wonít help you solve the problem. As for me, I have done that already. I donít want to look like an idiot any more. Even if I want to cry I have tears no more