Coup d’état? What coup d’état?

Dilwenberu Nega

May 03 2009

For the past ten days the eyes of the Ethiopian Diaspora had been fixated on one thing and one thing only: the so-called coup d’état or, to be precise, the putsch. On Ascension Sunday, at London’s St. Mary of Debre Tsion – which, unfortunately, had in recent times turned into the epicentre of opposition agitation in the UK, many were seen worshiping not the Risen Christ as they were meant to be doing, but were, instead, observed fretting about the possible consequences of the USD 500 they had contributed by purchasing a bogus “Certificate of Ethiopian Patriotism” published by what they have now punned ‘Gunboat 7.’

Now the Government’s Minister of Communications, Bereket Simmon, has cleared the miasma of confusion surrounding the “foiled terrorist operation,” by clarifying that the intent of the “desperadoes” was not to stage a coup d’état per se, but rather to create a sense of chaos and instability by indulging in a spate of assassinations of Government officials and bombings of public utilities, a kind of a witch-hunt has started taking place amongst perspiring Ethiopians in London as they vow to expose Ginbot 7’s agents who convinced them that it was “absolutely legal in the UK to contribute towards the mounting of a terrorist operation in a foreign country.” The truth of the matter, as can be verified by the pertinent British Immigration and Naturalization Act, is that no one – be they British citizens or Ethiopians residing in the UK, are allowed to use the UK as an abode to conspire to overthrow a foreign government or engage in terrorist activities. The circumstances surrounding Mark Thatcher (son of former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher), in connection with his role in the conspiracy to overthrow the Government of Equatorial Guinea in 2004, springs to mind.

A cursory look at how this particular news evolved over a span of one week is, therefore, indispensable in order to have a firmer grasp of the Ethiopian obtaining situation. At no time had statements by either NISS (The National Information Security Service) or The Office of Government Communication stated that security forces had “foiled an attempted coup d’état.” There, in fact, had been a display of exceptional uniformity of message on the part of the various government organs as all were witnessed echoing the unadulterated truth: “Terrorist operation foiled.” And a terrorist operation cannot possibly be construed to mean a coup d’état. If that were to be the understanding of such a headline, it follows then, would it not, that in the United States and the United Kingdom - two nations who had borne the brunt of terrorist operations in recent years – there had been repeated attempts of coup d’état. How is it, then, that “a foiled terrorist operation” was able to swiftly undergo a metamorphosis and became an attempted “coup d’état?” The catalyst for this had been the knee-jerk reaction – and not the Government of the FDRE - to what had actually transpired in Addis Ababa by the Captain and crew of ‘Gunboat 7.’ Oblivious to the fact that BBC’s Addis Ababa correspondent, Elizabeth Blunt, had indeed placed ‘coup plotters’ within a single inverted comma – as opposed to within quotation mark - in her 25th April 2009 dispatch headlined “Ethiopia arrests ‘coup plotters,’” Captain Berhanu Nega was quick to revert to his pipe dreaming mode by spouting a lot of tosh. When the dust settles, as settle it will, one expects that the Captain of Gunboat 7 and his crew will come to understand, rather belatedly, of course, that if a word or phrase is placed within a single inverted comma, like ‘coup plotters,’ it means that it must not be taken in its literal or metaphoric sense.

On a lighter note, my friend Kebede was stunned by his witty septuagenarian mother soon after she landed in London from Addis last Wednesday as he eagerly asked her about the coup d’état, to which good old Woizero Almaz replied: “Coup d’état?” “What coup d’état?”