What price have you and your motherland paid?
By Golto Aila , July 26, 2008
You may be an architect of the political order of the day, a professor of political science, an elementary school teacher, an administrator, a resident of another country, or an ordinary citizen living in Ethiopia, but you cannot escape the impact and consequences of the politics of your motherland! Whether one actively influenced (or tried to influence) or has been passively moving along with the political current, there are consequences of those actions or inaction and the impact is felt at personal, communal and national levels. I will describe the various players in the Ethiopian landscape with examples, not to condemn of disparage, but to state facts with the view to helping each of us to contemplate on the role we played, so that we may mend our ways if need be, before we kick the proverbial bucket! Taken in totality the politics of Ethiopia over the last 40 years have had led to the creation of the state of affairs that can be neatly summarized as follows:
1. Internal politics:
a. Multiplicity of liberation movements – endangering the lives of people they plan to “liberate” and destabilizing the nation and the region
b. Multiplicity of opposition parties that don’t see eye to eye with each other – they are as hostile against each other as they are against the dictator they want to get rid of! Individually they are incapable to remove the dictator yet they can master the courage to come together to work together as any people with functioning brains would!
c. Division of the nation along ethnic lines – the nation has fallen prey to the dictator’s devious scheme of dividing the ethnic groups against each other for perceived benefit of each, while in this is a ploy to divide and destroy! The entire nation has remained blind to this scheme!
d. Disenfranchisement of the population
e. Undemocratic governance
f. Muzzling of the press and opposition
2. Compromise of national sovereignty
a. Secession of Eritrea
b. On-going dispute over Badme
c. Ceding of territory to Sudan for and under dubious circumstance
3. Regional instability:
a. Stand-off between Ethiopia and Eritrea
b. Invasion of Somalia
c. Thread of spill over of Somali conflict into Ethiopia
d. Stand-off between Eritrea and Djibouti
e. Collaboration between the Ethiopian liberation movements and the regime in Eritrea
4. Economic chaos:
a. The country’s wealth in the hands of the few in the ruling party
b. Trade monopoly in the hands of one ethnic group
c. Use of the land to brow-beat farmers into toeing political lines and enrichment of the few while dis-incentivizing the masses!
d. Failure to develop agricultural land to facilitate self-sufficiency in food production
e. Lack of infra-structure
a. Recurrent famine, man-made and responsible for recurrent destruction of human life
6. Incompetent administration:
a. Tribalism: Secondary to lack of self confidence and primitive logic tribalism is used to administer Ethiopia thereby alienating Ethiopians against each other to the detriment of the nation and its people. The myopic view of the administration that this will protect them against the other hostile tribes, when in fact its action actually perpetuates hostilities.
c. Secessionism: The current administration is tribal and secessionist! The probable strategy is that it will pillage Ethiopia and degrade it so that when the time comes for them to declare their independence in the state of Tigray, there won’t be a formidable threat from Ethiopia. They forget that the enemies they have created all around themselves over the last 17 years are also waiting for the opportunity to strike back. So here is a strategy by a moronic administration trying to build a haven of peace for themselves while in fact the outcome will be hell on earth both for them all in the region!
As stated above, there are different categories of people who have played different roles in the evolution of Ethiopia’s politics over the last 40 years! The population was the silent majority during the Emperor’s era. They largely worshiped the emperor, revered his officials, toiled the land and never complained. Due to the lack of knowledge of their rights, fear or lack of opportunity to exercise those rights, they toed the royal line hoping for a better day to come, well they did not do anything to make it come, and the day did not come! The loyalists (royalists) of that era lived cushy lives! They lived in like royalties and rubbed shoulders with aristocrats like them all over the world. Now the red carpet days are over, only a distant memory! Many (not all) are nostalgic and cannot give up the hope that, by some miracle, the good old days will return at the sun-set of their lives so that when their days to depart come they would be escorted with full regalia befitting an aristocrat! Today, some at least, are playing very cynical roles as Ethiopia struggles to find its identity, not to mention the famine that threatens to wipe out its population! I am yet to see or learn any positive contribution today, by many in this category of Ethiopians in spite, of their wealth of knowledge and abilities!
Many who opposed the imperial rule have perished as a result of summary executions, some endured protracted imprisonments, and others went into exile. Those who opposed did so for different reasons: Some wanted secession, some wanted more democratic treatment of the population, some opposed for their own selfish reasons! Perhaps only those who wanted to secede partially achieved their goals eventually! Their victory is not what any sensible person would savor! Those who wanted freedom for Eritrea must be turning in their graves today – Eritrea jumped from the frying pan into fire! If they fought for independent Tigray (which the majority of our Tigrean compatriots don’t want), today they must be praying that won’t happen! Others who died fighting for or are still alive after suffering and toiling for similar causes have yet to see the fruits of their sacrifices!
Mengistu’s era: Again there were the silent mass of the population who were herded into socialist indoctrination! They were forced worship Mengistu and were terrified of his military machine that was ubiquitous and pervasive! Many perished under the yoke of oppression, many were wiped out one of the most severe famine in the history of the nation, and many ran into exile for their lives. Those who remained did so and remained subservient to one of the most brutal rulers in modern Africa! What was left over remained to serve yet another oppressor of a different kind. There has never been a let-up for them as they face yet another famine and devastation today! Oh, if only they knew the power they have! If only they know that waking up as a giant Ethiopia, acting in SOLIDARITY, they can wipe out oppression from Ethiopia in a matter of days, even while starving! Mengistu’s murderers and supporters have met with the fate they deserve, largely – whether by slaughter by current dictator, or justice by those who they tormented, by a life time of fear and insecurity wherever they are! They never thought their rule of terror would come to an end! Those who did not torture or kill under Mengistu, but supported that regime must live a life-time of guilt!
Many of those who opposed Mengistu were slaughtered, maimed or forced into exile. The majority fought valiantly for the well being of their motherland and fellow Ethiopians. Their dreams have not been realized. Their sacrifices have not been honored by those who were left behind to carry on the struggle for justice!
Meles era : Life under the current regime parallels the previous two eras as list below:
1. The silent majority
a. Toe the line
b. Subservient to the whim of the ruler
c. Some ran away
d. Victims of Famine
e. Victims of poor health
2. The loyalist functionaries
a. Owners of big businesses
b. Subjugation of the public
3. The opposition
b. Killed or maimed
The most disheartening aspects of the current state of affairs, is that the population who had not learned to defend itself against dictatorial rule in spite of many decades of subjugation allowed, mainly for selfish reasons, to be manipulated into divisive ethnic camps by the current regime. Inter-ethnic suspicion today is as great as or probably worse than the suspicion of the current regime! In spite of being witnesses to the rape and dismemberment of their country by a destructive, occupying power the population has lost the will to fight for their survival and the survival of their Motherland. The population is now wont to come under the spell of opposition redeemers who have yet to find the need to form SOLIDARITY in order to rescue their Motherland from the hands of most destructive regime ever to rule Ethiopia, and who have programs which are at best worthless and at worst likely to destroy what will be left after Meles’ departure!
The cost: Arguably the best of the last three regimes was the imperial era! Ethiopia under the leadership of Emperor Haile Silasie fought off the Italian occupation single-handedly and reclaimed its independence and dignity among the community of nations in the world. The Emperor gave Ethiopia the best there was at his time! Mengistu used savage methodology to impose Communism in Ethiopia for what he thought was for common good! Mengistu’s was a patriotic regime and believed in the sovereignty of Ethiopia! What we have in Ethiopia today is a secessionist enterprise set up to dismantle Ethiopia, before it declares its independence, LEGALLY, as enshrined in their Constitution! The cost of decades of misrule may be summarized as follows:
1. The masses
a. Remained down trodden
d. DEATH en mass by starvation and disease
e. Exploited by the administration who uses their aid money to create personal wealth
2. The royalist/aristocrats
a. Nostalgia for the good old days
b. Cynical about any effort to advance
c. Supportive of the representatives of the old order
d. In exile
e. Will never get what they were used to and that makes them bitter
3. The royal opposition
a. They did suffer and if they wanted secession then it is a mess today
b. If they wanted democracy they haven’t got it and the fact that the population and the opposition have failed to grasp the moment must be disheartening, and they must be resigned to the fact that they will not see the day that they suffered for, to realize!
4. The mengistu functionaries
a. Those who have tortured people are living in hiding all over the world
b. Those who were not directly involved in killing are living in shame all their lives –only consolation is a worse monster has come after them!
5. The mengistu opposition
i. Lived in opposition to Mengistu and against each other
ii. Lived their lives in permanent transit – taxi driver, janitor, bell boy etc while waiting for Mengistu to fall – When he fell they were far away and the prize went to Meles and Issayas Afewerki
iii. Did not learn the errors that left them by the wayside in Mengistus error, they are still shooting venomous arrows at each other, while the dictator in Addis Ababa watches this fratricidal sport from the comfort of his Palace!
6. The meles functionaries
a. Have thrived on the suffering of Ethiopians
b. They sense the party may be nearing the end
c. Have difficulty figuring where to go next
d. Some may not want to think about tomorrow
e. Some may have decided to take their destiny in their hands and destroy everything so that nothing is left behind after their departure!
7. The meles opposition
a. Loyal opposition living in the hope that MELES WILL CHANGE IS MIND AND LET THEM HAVE POWER - a breathtakingly idiotic day dream!
b. Opposition in diaspora:
i. Genuine patriots and uniters – sadly few and far between
ii. Party loyalists bent on domination – apparently the most important objective is to replace Meles. Thankfully they won’t succeed, since their success is most likely equivalent to the perpetuation of Meles’ rule!
iii. closet racists/ethnicists – I am sad to note that Meles is not the only ethnicist in Ethiopian politics. I believe the reason the multiple opposition groups don’t want to join hands is substancially because of ethnic consideration. What will destroy Ethiopia is Ethnic primitivity!
iv. Loosers who would not let others make progress because of mutual resentments.
v. People who have university education who have lived in the hope of returning home to rule and failed to make home where they live – now belong neither here nor there. Bitter, have thrown in the towel and belatedly trying to make up for time lost looking after themselves!
vi. Intellectuals who have difficulty to fit in with the rank and file – churning out criticism from high up
vii. Intellectuals who are genuinely interested in the welfare of their motherland but shunned or distrusted by a cynical and disillusioned rank and file
Salvaging a legacy! Let me briefly list the categories of the players in Ethiopia’s political life:
1. The rank and file Ethiopians
2. The royalists
3. The mengistu loyalists
4. The mengistu era opposition
5. Meles functionaries
a. Influence meles
b. Influence legislation
6. The meles era opposition
a. Loyal opposition
b. Diaspora opposition
It is now four decades since the end of the Imperial era! The average age of the young students that stood up against Mengistu in the aftermath of the Emperor’s fall is now mid-fifty’s! Those who were part of the imperial administration are now in their mid-seventies on average! Those who are actively engaged in a fight against current regime are probably average between 25 and 35 years of age! In spite this wide disparity in age (and era) and many other social parameters the common and important aspects these groups share are:
1. Apparently firm commitment to remove the obnoxious regime of the day
2. Ensure the sovereignty of Ethiopia (this of course excludes secessionists)
3. Abject failure make any impression on the regime of the day
4. Complete failure, over four decades to learn how to strategize against and remove a common enemy!
Here are some facts (no figures):
1. Ethiopia is a nation of about 70 + million people and the majority want to remove current regime from power
2. The regime in Addis Ababa cannot count on more than 4 million Ethiopians to support them when it comes to the crunch
3. Almost every political party wants to remove the current regime by one method or another
4. Almost every Ethiopian opposed to the current administration acknowledges the need of making a united stand and met with no success in that effort!
5. The country is being destabilized by internal conflict, regional conflict, debilitating poverty and starvation, piecemeal dismemberment of Ethiopia as the current regime bribes its neighbors with pieces of Ethiopian real estate in order to buy time in office!
6. A large and potentially formidable Diaspora which, if it flexed its muscle, can effect change in Ethiopia in very short time!
The most important and basic observation is item # 4 above! If only there is a success in the effort to unite and make SOLIDARITY, the rest is a matter of time and Ethiopians at home and all over the world can walk with their heads held high! But why have we failed to bring about that unity that we all acknowledge as necessary? Here are possible explanations:
1. We call for unity because, under the prevailing circumstances in Ethiopia, it is the politically correct thing to do, when in fact the intensions of some are actually to fragment! Example – the current fragments of Kinijit calling for unity!
2. Call for unity when, in fact, the calling group’s intension is actually to assimilate and dominate others
3. Total lack of interest by some organizations in bringing about any unity. Example – the Liberation movements
4. Mutual distrust among various groups because of previous clashes
5. Visceral hate between different parties and individuals who cannot put personal differences aside for the good of our Motherland.
6. Superiority and inferiority complexes!
7. SIMPLE LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF HOW TO TURN AN OLD ADVERSARY INTO A NEW ALLY FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL! We don’t need to scratch our heads here to find an example – Remember the Democratic primaries which ended last month - Hillary Clinton vs Barrack Obama? How many Ethiopians have spent 18 months and hundreds of millions of dollars attacking one political enemy every day and every night of those 18 months using hundreds of thousands of people, spending hundreds of thousands of hours on one single political adversary? We know how long it took Clinton and Obama to put all that behind and stand together to fight a common enemy! Ethiopians have more need for each other to salvage their motherland than Obama’s need for Hillary Clinton, but what did he do?
I am sure one can added many more to this list. The Ethiopian political landscape is pathetic and there is a mounting frustration everywhere. This frustration has led to all sorts of inconsequential efforts which invariably raise the population’s hope only to be dashed in no time – examples are the mushrooming of new political parties peddling same old contents in new wrappings!
When we started the debate on the need for a SOLIDARITY FORUM, it was because of the realization that, based on the experiences so far, and especially in the aftermath of Kinijit’s break-up, that direct approach between the political parties will not bring a meaningful progress for our people. The SOLIDARITY FORUM is an idea which utilizes a grass-root movement to affect the right kind of change! Unfortunately, while in principle the concept of the SOLIDARITY was largely accepted, the community has failed to come forward and claim it. On the contrary, there appears to a strategy of wait and see whether the concept will take hold, thereby denying the SOLIDARITY the most essential ingredient for its success – grass-root mobilization! In every human endeavor, whenever the individual efforts failed it is the united stand – SOLIDARITY which saved the day. We as a community reached here today not because of our individual efforts but because of the SOLIDARITY OF OUR PEOPLE to confront adversaries. So I have no doubt the only way our motherland will be saved is by our united stand, at the time we decide that we should stand together. That decision does not lie in Heaven, or with Meles, or with European Union, or with the USA! The decision to be united lays with all Ethiopians and nothing good will happen unless all Ethiopian stand together!
As some of you who are familiar with my writings know, I am single-minded about what is needed for Ethiopia. I am single-minded about the need of unity, and that it must be implemented sooner rather than later. I have identified here different categories of people through different eras and who have played commendable or despicable roles. My objective is not to condemn these people but to acknowledge facts. The truth is that most people all over the world, given similar circumstances that prevailed in Ethiopia over the last four decades, would most likely have done the same! For each of us and those who have been part of any atrocity, it is time to come to terms with ourselves, and ask what we shall have to do to atone for our wrong doing or our involvement in any impropriety!
What I am asking and have been asking people for the last two and a half years is not easy. I have been called all sorts of names including a foreigner, a CIA mole, a day dreamer, naïve, etc, but it has not deterred me from repeating, albeit with frustration, what I and most of you who read my writings know to be the truth – ETHIOPIA WILL FALL APART UNLESS ETHIOPIANS STAND IN SOLIDARITY! If you agree with me about the need for SOLIDARITY or UNITY (whichever sounds good to you), and if you also have reached the conclusion that we lack the skills to overcome past differences to talk to each other, then I ask all of you to consider the following:
1. Form an ad hoc committee to form a unity forum (e.g. Solidarity Forum/Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia) and all Ethiopians in and out of the country should bless this organ
2. The committee should do the following
a. Raise money to hire internationally recognized political arbitrators (e.g. Northern Ireland, South Africa)
b. Call a reconciliation conference to include all the stake-holders including the government of Ethiopia (at some point after the opposition has consolidated its position)
c. Discuss a transition administration while a new constitution is drafted with the help of international constitutional experts
d. Use the window of opportunity now available to campaign for the commitment of the Presidential candidates (both McCain and Obama!) before they take office. We can only get the deserved attention if we stand as credible representatives of the Ethiopian people. You can rest assured Meles is already in the two camps!