Meles reaps the fruits of terrorism

By Abiye Tekelemariam, The Netherlands

A day can turn a kaleidoscope on its head. On September 10, our PM was a Tabbycat, wary of the unpleasant sound the bell on his neck could resonate if he were to move around. In the aftermath of his domestic troubles, his follies were glowing at the international stage. The tale of "a new generation African leader" was demystified, proven that it was no less absurd than a third-grader’s story about a six-legged man on board Eliajiahis Chariot, his Martian lover laying her hands on his shoulders. More prosaically, Post April, the US government had issued two strongly-worded editorials condemning the government’s woeful attempt to muffle free speech. The European parliament also came up with a critical resolution on human rights in Ethiopia. It was clear then that Meles had invested all his political capital.

Enter Osama Bin Laden. After September 11, the PM has transformed into a lumbering buffalo with sharp horns. Or so he thinks. When he squints through the Kaleidoscope now, he sees himself having a truly remarkable time. It hasn’t yet been a month since Ethiopia was made part of the HIPC initiative? And it is no coincidence that the decision was made just after US put a group acting in Somalia, Al-Itihaad, and a long time foe of the PM, on its list of terrorist organizations. Suddenly, no American is lecturing Meles about freedom of expression. The sharp criticisms have filtered faintly into the clouds and those dissidents locked up in jail under the guise of corruption have sunk into oblivion. Instead, the rhetoric is of solidarity against terrorism. And in the volcanic horn of Africa, hold partly by a

terror-sponsoring state, Sudan, and non-state, Somalia, and another target, Yemen, only a few blocks away, America needs an ally secular state, playing Northern Alliance in an area trooped by the Taliban. Step in Ethiopia. No wonder then that this master of trickery chooses the moment to intensify his harassment of the free press. It is a case of reaping what one didn’t labor for.

In many ways, America’s war against terrorism resembles the cold war. Needless to say, the war is all encompassing. US and its allies aren’t only confronting Al-qaeda in the rough and ragged terrain of Afghanistan. The battles go as far as the banks of Switzerland, the suburbs of Madrid, the studios of Al-jazera and CNN as well as the headquarters of the UN. And indeed, as the cold war defined America’s priorities with regards defense and budget, so does the war against terrorism. Equally important, as President Bush briskly noted in one of his most quoted verses: "You are with us or against us", the fight against terrorism determines who America’s

allies and foes are. There is already a fear that America is becoming less cautious in forging alliances of convenience with dictators as in the cold war days.

This is a disturbing thought. If for no other reason, this is because some of us have since the fall of the Berlin wall put faith in America’s help to bring freedom in countries like Ethiopia where democracy is used as sophism. Can you imagine it? America turning a blind eye to the deeds of a deceptive dictator like Meles? That reminds me of the Eisenhower formula, "Give no shit to a son of a bitch if he is our son of a bitch."But there is also another reason, which makes us jittery of Meles’ newly-acquired international status. By siding with the US against his autocratic, terrorist-harboring neighbors and showing that he has "the moral fiber and courage to take terrorists on", the man is trying to lend substance to his claim that he is a democratic leader. After all, the nuts and bolts of this war is to preserve the democratic values of the West, loathed and threatened by Osama Bin Laden and Co. Worse still, on CNN last week, in reference to his 1997 battle with Al-Itihaad and those who tried to assassinate Hosnni Mubarek in Addis Ababa, the PM was drawn as a lone Crusader who was, until September 11, fighting what looked like a hopeless cause.

But for those who share my concern about Meles Quioxte’s newly discovered windmill, here is a parting consoling wish. America will keep this pact with the devil until it is sure that it has kicked sand on the face of terrorists. Then as Tony Blair adumbrated in one of his much-trailed speeches, the democratic world will turn its face to the sources of terror - failed states and oppressive regimes. That is the day when Meles will turn into a straggling wildebeest, a day when Osama Bin Laden is truly and fully defeated.