Hama Tuma

The ongoing mass protest and popular change going on in North Africa, the Sudan and the Middle East highlights that the Western powers, for all their strutting, are in most cases paper tigers who cannot prevent a people’s revolutionary uprising. Paper tigers have no teeth and, as a Wiki leak cable revealed vis a vis Egypt, they have no ears either.

Years ago, an Egyptian activist of the April 6 group visited Washington and told the American officials that Mubarak would go before the 2011 general election but they found his information baseless, unrealistic and unsubstantiated by any other intelligence.1 Talk of being warned! The American officials did not listen and when the Egyptian people rose up to shake the regime to its dirty boots Washington had no other program other than to rush El Baradei to Cairo and conduct a media blitz to present him as a credible opposition leader (which he is not by any measure). Hilary Clinton said Egypt “ is stable” right after the Tunisian uprising started, then went on to call reform from Mubarak, changed tune to “ a transition to democracy” and so forth in confusion and all of it very late. The strongly organized Moslem Brotherhood organization may agree that Washington’s man el Baradei represent the opposition in the negotiations with the regime knowing full well that the main enemy is the Mubarak regime and El Baradei, with no organization behind him, would easily be dealt with. If the Brotherhood comes to power as Israel fears then the fault is Washington’s for backing a dictator to the hilt just as it had done in Iran with the Shah. Egypt under Mubarak has for long been the major US ally in the region (annual military aid US$ 1 billion) and one wonders how come Washington and Israel (the famous Mossad) were caught by surprise. For those who imagine these quarters to be all knowing and omnipotent this is a good lesson indeed. The same happened to France in Tunisia which under Ben Ali was for long the backyard of Paris (let alone the spies, more than a million French tourists visit Tunisia every year). The French were caught off guard, following the people’s protest almost just like you and me. Paper Tigers!

It has been a longstanding confirmed fact that Western powers hobnob with dictators and corrupt officials so much that they lose sight of the reality of the people no matter the number of their spies. Their persistent arrogance also covers their eyes and especially their ears and no matter how often you tell them the storm is brewing they tend to believe it is always a storm in the tea cup. They also rely on their own self declared experts who, more often than not, recycle their own pet conclusions and even prejudices. I remember a week or so into the February 1974 Revolution in Ethiopia, an expert and historian called Edward Ullendorff telling his BBC audience that the Emperor had everything under control. A week before the former prime minister (and now Pentecostal preacher) Tamrat Layne was to be thrown into prison by his former comrade (and now PM), Meles Zenawi, the French ambassador in Addis Ababa sent his government a cable affirming “ Tamrat Layne is on the rise and he is a good friend of France”! In short, they do not know and they do not listen. The more you appeal to the Western powers the more they think you are pathetic, weak, lying, besmirching the name of their favorite tyrant and, as the cable on the Egyptian activist’s warning showed, that you are dreaming and fantasizing of a people’s uprising. In Ethiopia, we have the propagandist Paul Henze and others who categorize every opposition as “remnants of the former regime and Amhara chauvinists” and sing nauseating eulogy of the petty tyrant. And then there are the lobbyists of K Street, down town Washington.

Money can’t buy me love sang the Beatles. The same in politics. The financial power of dictators can’t buy them popular support. Money can’t buy you love but sure can buy you scribes and trumpeters or mouth pieces. In our case, and in Africa as a whole, the tyrants are not so greedy as not to buy lobbyists. Still, America may be a super power but it cannot in the end block the popular revolt of oppressed people be it in Egypt or Ethiopia and beyond. Final decisive power is in the hand of the sovereign people. That this is not a cliché has been once again proven by the events in Tunisia, Egypt, etc and perhaps tomorrow in Ethiopia itself. The 2005 missed change in Ethiopia was sabotaged by America and Britain but the main culprits are the spineless leaders of the Opposition who sold out and brought defeat on the people despite the heavy sacrifice paid. If one imagines the heavy presence of America in Egypt and the massive backing it gave to Mubarak one would be excused to conclude that Mubarak would not be moved by any challenge. This appeared as truth to many so much so that Mubarak himself believed it and was conspiring to name his own son as his successor like in North Korea, Gabon, Togo and Syria. It is safe to conclude now that Washington abandoned Mubarak from the outset and is now trying to salvage the situation in one way or another. Salvage in their vocabulary means sabotaging the people’s struggle in ours. The tyrants who appear invincible are actually paper tigers when confronted by the people’s determined uprising. That is the lesson of Tunisia and Egypt for now and perhaps of Algeria, Yemen and Sudan tomorrow. And who knows of Ethiopia and other countries too. We can say with certainty that Mubarak would go the soft or hard way depending on how the situation, the uprising progresses. The Mubarak attempt to short circuit the people’s revolt through reforms and using the military is bound to fail too. The people are demanding an end to the regime and reform, sincere or otherwise, is not the agenda and would be coming too late. In the broader sense, the time of the tyrants is up. Egyptians gave warning in Mahalla in 2008 and other times too—too bad if Mubarak and his allies slept on their ears as the African tyrants that Washington still defends and supports are doing and failed to listen.

Alas, Ethiopian activists who were not easy dupes in the past –they were actually anti imperialist as they defined themselves—are in a worse situation than the hesitant Egyptian opposition from Wafd to the Nasserites and the Brotherhood. The new animal called politician in Ethiopia is a bizarre creature indeed. It is made up of some, whom we shall politely call naïve though their name is another, who seriously believe that Western troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan to bring democracy to those people and if we beg them hard they will do the same for Ethiopia and others too. The other part of this new animal does not even know who is the enemy and thus accepts the diktat of the local tyrant and the so called advice and “kurkum” of the Western officials. These hope that their patient knocking at the conscience of the West will melt its hard heart and merciless greed in their favor. They know not History. Those who have succeeded to achieve meaningful change or have sent the tyrants packing are usually those who opposed the politics of the Western governments in their countries. The go ahead and green light for a people’s revolution cannot come from Washington, London or Paris. It would be contra nature, a strange occurrence, a sad and never to happen wishful thinking. Won’t happen ever. That is the lesson of all Revolutions and of the events we are witnessing in Tunisia and Egypt. The outcome of the uprising in Egypt is still not settled but the Rubicon has been crossed. One hopes the aspiration of the Egyptian people would not be short circuited or sabotaged as was the dream of Ethiopians for change in May 2005.

1 For a full report on this check the relevant wikileaks cable at

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