Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Leaderless Ethiopia Is No Singapore

Singapore _ Ethiopia _ politics

By Abebe Gellaw

A group of Abiy Ahmed’s yes-men and entourage recently staged a two-part televised spectacle on the state-owned EBC. The chat was to share the “lessons” they claimed to have learned from their two-night stay in Singapore. But their chitchat was, to say the least, cringe-worthy.

The “ministers”, hosted by Abiy Ahmed’s palace chronicler, Billene Seyoum, notably included Berhanu Nega, mediocre propaganda man and bedtime storyteller Daniel Kibret, and “minister of peace” Binalf Andualem. Peaceless Ethiopia is one of the only five countries in the world, along with the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, to have an Orwellian ministry of peace, a tool of repression.

Like kids in a candy shop, their clamors mainly focused on the mundane—the most colorful things of attraction. Oohing and ahhing, they eagerly took turns describing how pretty the tiny city-state was, mentioning the beauty of the plants, the flowers, the apartments, the zoos, the clean streets, and the glass towers. Among the crowd, a former freedom fighter-turned-sidekick of Abiy stood out as the most unsightly, lined up with the sycophants’ club, slowly pontificating and expressing exaggerated awe at something so prosaic.

To begin with, unlike Ethiopia, Singapore is often praised for its effective and unifying leadership, which is credited for spurring rapid economic development. In Ethiopia, the ruling party and numerous ethnic “liberation” fronts incite division and hatred continuously, whereas, in Singapore, incitement is treated as sedition. Every citizen identifies as Singaporean first. Under Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership, social harmony and national unity were placed at the heart of stability. Corruption was eradicated, and administrative structures were established based on meritocracy rather than ethnicity. Despite being labeled a “benevolent dictatorship,” Singapore’s strategic location, as one of the world’s busiest ports, small size, and effective policies have contributed to its success story. It is as simple as that. To understand this fact, reading a paragraph or two in a newspaper article could have saved time and resources for the tyrant’s entourage and the poor nation facing a severe foreign exchange crunch. 

How could these individuals miss the elephant in the room? The Ethiopian ruling party is designed to be a ruthless force of evil. Since 1991, ethnicity has been allowed to permeate every aspect of life. Let alone social cohesion and harmony, national unity and social fabric is deliberately destroyed to give way to divide and rule. Instead of a government that works for them, the people face a ruling tyranny and all sorts of extremist ethno-fascist groups that unleash their violently destructive powers upon the defenseless and most vulnerable sections of society, including children and women, throughout the country. Mass displacement, mass killings, mass detentions, and the insane destruction of public and private property, including schools and health centers, occur on a daily basis. Sadly, the ruling party is the worst perpetrator of such heartless crimes and looks the other way whenever the nation bleeds and weeps. 

Abiy Ahmed, who rose to power as a self-anointed reformer, has worsened these crises, affecting millions of poor people more than ever before. On the eve of the war in Tigray, which has erased the little progress made for decades, he declared war on the people of Amhara, escalating death and destruction to biblical proportions. Yet, he and his buffoons preach prosperity and development 24/7. Is it really necessary to travel to Singapore and South Korea to see that the regime is driving Ethiopia deeper into abject poverty with each passing day? Aren’t the criminal activities of those in power the antithesis of development? What is even more shameful is to go around and beg for money from foreign powers to foot the exorbitant bill of waging wars, and buying bullets and drones. 

It makes no sense to talk about lessons learned when none are relevant for Ethiopia. In our case, tyranny and criminality have been comfortably cohabiting for decades. Is it sensible for their “excellencies” to talk about the delusions of prosperity in a country where nearly 9 million students, i.e., 43 percent of the total student population, have been forced out of school? The minister of miseducation, whose performance in the last few years is less impressive than an F grade, is more visible than anyone in the room due to his background and expectations. Was he really serious about sharing the deep lessons he gained in Singapore, where education is the driving force of its developmental state? The irony is truly astounding.

The sad fact is that Ethiopia is a rich country with countless missed opportunities. While being rich in history, culture, natural resources, including abundant water, land, and manpower, it is condemned to paddle in the quagmire of poverty because of viciously malevolent and corrupt tyranny, the very opposite of the Asian Tigers. For Abiy and his goons, clinging to power at any cost, tormenting and destroying a poor nation, and causing incalculable destruction is considered the shortcut to development and prosperity. This situation raises serious concerns.

With an area of 728 square kilometers and a population of six million people, Singapore is almost the same size as Addis Ababa in both area and population. In contrast, Ethiopia, with a land size equivalent to Germany, France, and England combined (i.e., approximately 1.1 million square kilometers and over 1,511 times the size of Singapore), has immense potential for development. However, the reason this nation shamefully survives on food aid is due to myopic and idiotic leadership. This applies today as it did over three or four decades ago. That is why I found the chitchats and small talks of the stunted enablers of tyranny quite nauseating.

For these people, the best lessons are readily available, not in Singapore or Korea, but in their backyards. The unmissable lessons are lying under their feet. With open hearts and minds, they should visit the millions of internally displaced fellow Ethiopians. They should see the pile of charred bodies of children and women burned alive by drone and artillery attacks by the regime. They should visit the concentration camps where hundreds of thousands, including members of parliament and city councils, are illegally held and tortured. They need to have the courage to ask the reformer-turned-tyrant why 9 million school children are out of school. Why have their schools and clinics been destroyed? Do they really have the courage to learn why Ethiopia is on the path to Armageddon, not rapid economic development? Being part of a criminal gang, pretending not to have seen and heard what is going on, and having humane hearts and brains that function well with a moral compass are entirely two different things.

Sycophants and opportunists have played a crucial role in the rise and consolidation of tyrannical regimes around the world. In Ethiopia, from Mengistu to Meles, from Meles to Abiy, reinforcing the power of dictators, suppressing dissent, creating codependency, and institutionalizing destructive tyranny has been the role of the advantage-seekers. 

Historically, Ethiopia has witnessed all these. The enablers’ actions and motivations, driven by personal gain and fear, help create an environment where tyrannical behavior can thrive, often at the detriment of the welfare and future of the nation. The constantly clapping rent-seekers make the epic rise and rapid fall of the inept tyrant clinging to power partly possible by making it seem like every wrong is right.

Sycophants and opportunist enablers are bolstering the destructive tyrant’s sense of greatness and “divine” right to misrule by continuously praising his actions and decisions, creating a false sense of infallibility. A recent case in point is the publication of the tyrant’s useless speeches that contradict his actions in the form of a book by Billene Seyoum and Daniel Kibret. Such an echo chamber isolates the leader from the real state of affairs, making him increasingly reliant on such servile loyalists for validation and support. The reinforcement emboldens him to adopt more bloody measures, knowing he has the unwavering backing from his inner circle. Killings and destruction have become a norm. Additionally, these enablers actively work to suppress dissent by intimidating or discrediting critics and opponents, thereby silencing opposition that could challenge the ruler’s criminal behavior.

Unlike the People’s Action Party in Singapore, Abiy Ahmed’s sham “Prosperity Party” has exacerbated the country’s problems by waging endless wars, deepening ethnic divisions, and committing crimes against humanity at scale as a means to maintain control. The destruction wrought by these tactics is self-evident in the country’s ongoing conflicts and humanitarian crises. However, for the sycophants in power, these issues are of little concern. Their primary focus remains on pleasing their boss, and securing their own positions and benefits, even as the nation suffers and burns to the ground. This willingness to overlook widespread state-sponsored terrorism, criminality, destruction, and division underscores the deep-rooted corruption and moral bankruptcy that sycophants allow tyrannical behavior to persist and thrive in Ethiopia.

In any case, Ethiopia isn’t Singapore, as the nation has not been fortunate enough to have mature, responsible, and visionary leadership. There’s no need to bluff on TV about non-existent and irrelevant lessons from Singapore. Being part of a criminal mafia group unleashing tyranny is not something to be proud of. That is why they should hide their faces in shame. Commonsense is much worthier than televised buffoonery and chicanery.

The focus on colors, fake images, beautification, and aesthetics, besides comparing apples and oranges, cannot cover the reality of apocalyptic ruins, ashes, dead bodies, and maimed limbs beneath the surface. Well-managed Singapore is not the same as misruled Ethiopia. I hope this can be a bitter but better pill to swallow than savoring a fantasy world, far from the grim realities of Ethiopia.

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


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  1. The name Abebe Gellaw is a familiar one. I remember(correct me if I am wrong) his face as the one who protested during a panel discussion where the late PM Meles was in attendance. If it was him, then it shows he has a good rapport with influential persons/groups here in USA. It would be more rewarding for him and the people we all left behind if he uses office to press owners of manufacturing enterprises here in the USA and its allied countries to open their next overseas factories in the old country. That is the best individuals like him can contribute to the country and its noble people who produced us all. We have more than enough writers and talkative PhD’s among us. Enough already with that!!!

  2. When I mentioned Singapore as a poster child for industrialization and social transformation, its being a small city is lost on me. But still there is a lot that can be referred to for city developers in charge of metropolitan areas like Dire Dawa, Addis/Finfinne, Jimma, Awasa, Jijgije, Bahir Daar, Mekele and others like these. South Korea, Taiwan and even Thailand and Malaysia have a lot to learn from. I had written about this on comment sections on other websites going back to the early 2000’s. That is because I had the chance to witness their blindingly fast transformation on the spot during my several businesses there going back to the 1970’s.

    I’m aware that some of you may try to invalidate my suggestion using some facts such as the geopolitics of the 1960’s which was everywhere including Africa. Those Asian countries I mentioned were ruled by authoritarian regimes just like almost all of the then African nations. In my opinion, those African nations even had more motivating factors(reasons) than their Asian counterparts. Except Ethiopia, Liberia, Egypt and South Africa the rest of Africa had just tossed away the yoke of colonialism in 1960 almost the same time Singapore told Malaysia enough is enough and went on to going it all alone. But South Korean, Taiwan and Singaporean despotic leaders had a doable development plan. They said to the Western Powers ‘Yes Sir’ and absorb every adaptable technology like a sponge. Chiang Kai-shek was not only busy sniffing out sleeping cells of commies but he had launched the island wide ‘Great Construction’ of highways, railways and port facilities. He sent young Taiwanese in their tens of thousands to the colleges and technical schools in the Western countries and they did not disappoint. They absorb every technological skill they could put their hands on like a sponge. South Korean and those from Singapore did the same. When they went back to their respective countries, they found workable plan tossed on their lapse. It was like the best music to their ears. Some of you might also to dispute this suggestion by unknowingly to argue that Taiwan or Singapore did not have the ethnic issues and complexities like ours. How wrong you are about that. Chiang Kai-shek had tried everything to make Taiwan a monolingual nation by outlawing the Hokkien and Hakka dialects. My wife’s and mine longtime Taiwanese friend told how she was paraded in her classroom as a kid when she was caught speaking in the Hokkien dialect in stead of Mandarin. She was punished with wearing a dog tag that read ‘I was a dog today’. That was excessive and cruel but on the other hand his regime was building facilities for factories throughout that island. It all became just like they say ‘If you build it, they will come!’ That created a massive middle class population that end up being the grave digger of despots. The same happened in South Korea. Park did not disappoint no matter he brutal he was.

    But on the other side of the Indian Ocean, it was a different story. It did not take too long for the independence celebration to be abruptly over in every newly independent country in Africa. When those Asian rulers gave their citizens practical development plans tailored specifically to their nations, their African contemporaries were hatching one violent coup d’état after another. In our case of Ethiopia and Somalia violent overthrow of regimes, violent and destructive civil wars with all their massacres and killer famines have become the decals on their faces they are known for. Demonic Marxist/Leninist/Maoist literature became the guiding ‘light’ for the should-have-known-betters. Even their writings were scripted as photocopies of those by Marx, Lenin and Mao. I remember tracts with headlines like ‘Some Notes on’ and ‘On Questions of’ on this or that subject ala Lenin, Stalin and Mao. We were told ‘American Imperialism’ has been exploiting our old country since the first visit by US Envoy Robert P. Skinner in 1903. When I asked to name one American company controlling the old country’s economy, there were none, not even one. Those who wrote those tracts were just reciting their demonic idols/mentors, Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao demonic sermons. The same mumbling and jumbling was in full swing in the rest of Africa. By the time all is said and done once blooming landscapes had turned into scorched earth with millions death due to stupid wars and avoidable nature’s calamities. That is where the age old saying ‘We missed the boat’ perfectly qualifies. But is the boat now out of reach? Absolutely not! All we have to do is wake up to it, get into a state flux, focus on the economy, come up with a workable and go no-holds barred industrialization. Turn that country upside down with factories here, factories there and factories everywhere

    • Several years ago I was in Singapore for business trip and what I noticed is that the small city-country is still under colonization. Most of the well to do residents are European descent. What the dictator has done was allowed foreigners to live in paradize without any consequence. Ethiopia is totally different. What Ethiopia needs is a leader who is real Ethiopian who doesn’t discriminate the people Ethnically. A liar like Abiye doesn’t qualify to lead such a complex country like Ethiopia. To develop Ethiopia should abolish the jungle constitution and replace it with true democratic constitution and each region should be set based on size and geography among other things. That way no one will try to dominate as there will be competition among the regions.

      • I don’t think you have looked enough. Yes they have allowed foreign capital to come and invest in the manufacturing and service sectors. Back in the early 1990’s my wife and I were thinking about buying a condo as an investment but we changed our mind and invested our capital real estate here in the USA. Yes there are foreign billionaires who made Singapore their 2nd home. One of the founders of Facebook(Meta) lives in that city. He is a multi-billionaire. You don’t expect him to live in a studio. I have several Singaporeans I still keep in touch for decades now. They are not billionaires or multi millionaires but average citizens. For the most part they don’t spend their vacations in Singapore. One year they are here and next time they are in Europe, Latin America. Oceania or even on safari. When they come here, they don’t even think about migrating. They always go back. There is a reason why Singaporean passport is the most respected passport in the world therefore the most valuable one. Off course, if you look at that city state from ‘class’ spectrum, you will get a different jumbled up outlook.

  3. Prosperity for what? How this notion is ironic and how come to be? Given the all difficulties and what people and country have been through in the last four drcades , I never imagined myself I would see again another faux and authoritarian leader, who in 2024 misruling masses through One Party Orwellian system of repression, curruption butchery and lies . But I was wrong.

  4. Prosperity for what? How this notion is ironic and how even come to be? Given the all difficulties and what people and country have been through in the last four drcades , I never imagined myself I would see again another faux and authoritarian leader, who in 2024 misruling masses through One Party Orwellian system of repression, curruption, ignorance, butchery, duplicity and lies . But I was wrong.

  5. Ethiopia is a failed state and can never be seen as a functioning one. Tigray is the only nation in the region which can become the Singapore or tiger economy of Africa. When the Tigrayan investors, developers and functionaries were involved in Ethiopia, the country used to experience the fastest economic growth and stability. Direct foreign investment was increasing and poverty was to become history. The incompetent and corrupt Oromo and Amhara gangster in power are visionless and suffer from delusion when they talk about Singapore.

    • The trouble Ethiopia got it into was to correct what was done by TPLF in the 27 years in power. If the support given to TPLF by the international community was properly and equitably utilized we wouldn’t be where we are today. TPLF gangsters ultimate plan was to separate Tigry from the rest of Ethiopia but the almighty took their mastermind , Meles Zenawi, before the plan was realized. The left over leaders gave power to a deluded individual who doesn’t care for human life just like TPLF. Hence, a perfect storm for the Ethiopian youth to be slaughtered from left and right. SAD!

  6. Those of us who still care for the peoples who produced us all would like the current conundrum that caused so many deaths, destruction and displacements to end somehow and know how. We dream its end once and for all day and night. Let’s assume it ends a week, month or Allah forbids, a year from now. If it ends that means tens even hundreds of thousands of former rebels will go home or gather up in cities and towns. Then, you will ask the cardinal question. What awaits them to keep them busy and making a peaceful living? Toss some bones at them to make sure they are fed and clothed? But for how long? That has proven to be not sustainable in every continent before, especially after WWI and WWII. Reconstruction of factories and infrastructures provided steady jobs that provided sustainable income. Who will forget the Marshall Plan? Both Ethiopia and Somalia are in the best positions to go that route. Both have huge size of infrastructure to rebuild the destroyed and construct new ones. By hook or crook materials needed should be made at home which necessitates to opening of so many factories. I will keep elaborating on that one in the next pow wow.


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