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Before you go to Thugstan

Ethiopia _ thugstan
Abiy Ahmed greeting Jawar Mohammed ( Photo source : Garraw )

By Mahtot

Let me not mislead you into thinking that there is a country called Thugstan in the world, even though there is an imaginary one on the internet. The Thugstan I will be describing is more the state in which countries find themselves before they become failed states. In truth, all the symptoms of failed states begin to appear and take hold of the state machinery in Thugstan. 

The reason why I chose this name should be obvious to anyone familiar with word creation. It literally means “the land of thugs”; Stan being a Persian word meaning “land of”. Previously, prof. Al Mariam coined the word “Thugtatorship” to signify the worst kind of dictatorship; and he often used the word in reference to the government of the EPRDF. To be sure, Thugstan describes more the state or nation itself, rather than the governing cohort. In point of fact, the two, i.e. Thugtatorship and Thugstan go together swimmingly. Where one exists, the other will follow soon. Indeed, they often arise together.

The landscape of Thugstan is so familiar to all those who live in it, that it is obvious that I am not describing it for them, but to those innocent souls about to embark on a perilous journey to Thugstan.

Upon entering Thugstan, you will see all manner of welcoming signs, but in truth, you will be treated with suspicion at worst, and at best as a source of extra cash for your handlers and the government that pays their measly salaries. The same happens when you negotiate your transportation out of the airport. Nothing has a definite price; all depends on your wits. What is even worse, you could be at the mercy of gangsters if you venture outside the restricted perimeter. Be mindful of your steps. 

Once you have rejoiced in meeting and staying for some days with your relatives or old friends, you will most likely would want to visit some touristy places you never had the chance to visit before; or perhaps you need to conclude some government related issues that need your attention while you are there. This is when you will be confronted with the distressing ugliness of Thugstan: you will realize that not only the government is unable to protect 50 km of asphalt in any direction outside the capital, but the capital itself is virtually run by small groups of criminals that exact all kinds of “taxes” on the residents. To make matters even worse, many of these are government employees! If you are one of the unfortunate individuals who must go to some government office to apply for a permit, certificate, title, etc…you will very soon realize that you will have to grease your way from the lowly doorman to the head of the department, and even beyond if the matter is “unusually grave”. All this must be done with utmost humility and patience lest you offend their fragile egos. Remember you come from abroad, and any sign of frustration on your part is interpreted as arrogance. “Real foreigners” are usually forgiven because they do not know better.

Get rid of the mentality that bureaucracy belongs to the genus “public service”. In Thugstan, it has its own category: neither fish nor fowl. To describe it in most basic terms, bureaucracy is supposedly a body formed of several government organizations intended to serve the people in various modes to render their lives and interactions easier. In return, the people, native or residents, are expected to pay a reasonable amount of money for services to be rendered. In truth, however, what takes place in Thugstan, is anything but public service. There the bureaucracy is designed, or happens to be the place where political operatives and their relatives receive their “deserved” sinecures for services rendered to the power that be, or to the party. What moves the bureaucratic cogs is not the spirit of public service, but extortive bribes. How else can one explain the wealth of the bureaucratic elite and ministers in Thugstan besides graft money? Their salaries are but pittances!

If by any unfortunate circumstance you have been a victim of any kind of crime, you might as well cut your losses and run; do not waste your precious few days seeking redress, you will be subjected to Kafkaesque interrogation for nothing! Nothing incentivizes the police, judges, or that matter every government official, like cash in hand. If you have no cash in hand, then look for a long lost relative who might know somebody who knows someone in the police department, or some government agency. If you have neither, pack your things and leave. 

Since in Thugstan there is neither order nor rule, only political connections and wads of cash get you where you need to be. They are the only two currencies that are known and accepted. So, before you leave for Thugstan, even before you prepare to buy your ticket and prepare your luggage, measure the depth of your pocket and your relations.

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com  


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  1. You mentioned “Thugstan” 15 times in so short an article. You patted yourself on the back in so many ways for coining a new word that you simply forgot what you set out to write. Please try again. And please don’t use Thugstan again for the remainder of the year. And please don’t coin words unnecessarily. Thanks.

    • Oh, but you must be dyslexic. It’s crystal clear what the writer wrote i.e. Thugstan and all its markers, which is today’s Ethiopia (run by the maniacal, primitively medieval, and incompetent oromumma thugs).

    • It is a good idea to argue in agreement or disagreement. Just plain ridicule is no substitute for reasoned criticism. Don’t pat yourself on the back for writing absolute platitudes.


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