former Ethiopian President Dr. Negasso Gidada described how “an organized mob disturbed a public political meeting of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) in Adama, Oromia, and forced the discontinuation of the meeting.” Dr. Negasso explained:
Around 50 people started to disturb the meeting while Eng. Gizachew Shiferraw, Vice Chairperson of the UDJ was addressing the meeting. The disturbers were shouting, clutching and whistling from the rear of the hall. This mob came up running to the front and damaged a microphone while trying to grab it. They continued to shout: ‘This is Oromia’, ‘Oromo is our Language’, ‘You have to start the meeting by a blessing ceremony in accordance with Oromo culture’, ‘You can hold the meeting in Oromo language’, ‘If you do not speak in Oromo language, and you can not hold meetings in our country’. Several people tried to cool down the mob by promising that what is said would be translated in Oromo. But the mob would not heed the appeal. It even threatened to beat us up. Eng. Gizachew could not continue his speech. He was forced to announce that the meeting is adjourned because of the disturbance… The mob was not a spontaneous disturbing group. There were some OPDO/EPRDF cadres among the mob. I myself could recognize at least two OPDO cadres with whom I worked in the organization before I resigned from it in June 2001. It is obvious that the disturbance was an organized one.
In a separate Amharic piece on the subject, Seeye Abraha (the former defense minister and currently a member of Medrek (Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia) who attended the Adama town hall meeting pointed to a discernable emerging pattern in the use of thugs and hooligans by the “EPDRF” to disrupt opposition meetings. He identified two other similar disruptions a few weeks earlier, one at a UDJ meeting in Debre Markos and another at an Arena Tigray meeting in Mekele. Seeye suggested that a dual strategy is being used to prevent opposition elements from having public meetings: 1) Deny meeting permits on the basis of absurd excuses; or 2) Issue permits but disrupt the meetings using hired thugs and hooligans. Seeye declared that opposition elements will not be intimidated by thugs and “vigilantes” and their outreach efforts to the people will continue. He also put the dictators and the Ethiopian people on notice that should they be victims of thug violence at such meetings, the “EPDRF” should be held responsible.
Thugs and the Triumph of Kilil-istan Chauvinism (Tribal-based Ethnic Federalism)
“This is Oromia… Oromo is our Language… You have to start the meeting by a blessing ceremony in accordance with Oromo culture… You can hold the meeting in Oromo language… If you do not speak in Oromo language, and you can not hold meetings in our country….”
The sounds of such atavistic lyrics of ethnic chauvinism must make sweet music to the ears of Ethiopia’s dictators. It must bring them everlasting joy and ecstasy to have these divisive and truculent words become part of the lexicon of Kilil-istan chauvinism, which is the highest stage of ethnic federalism. No doubt, these words represent the purest expression of the capo dictator’s dream: An Ethiopia blinded, deafened and muted by ethnic, linguistic, tribal and cultural chauvinism. BRAVO!
For nearly two decades, the dictators in Ethiopia toiled ceaselessly to shred the very fabric of that ancient civilization and society, and sculpt a landscape balkanized into tribal, ethnic, linguistic and regional enclaves to establish their own version of a Thousand Year Reich (Reign). They crafted a constitution based entirely on ethnicity and tribal affiliation as the basis for political organization. Article 46 (2) of their constitution provides: “States shall be structured on the basis of settlement patterns, language, identity and consent of the people.” In other words, “states”, (and the people who live in them) shall be organized as homogenous tribal homelands in much the same way as the 10 Bantustans (black homelands) of apartheid South Africa were organized to create ethnically homogeneous and “autonomous” nation states for South Africa's different black ethnic groups, effectively wiping out their South African national citizenship.
The tribal homelands in Ethiopia are officially called “kilils" (enclaves or distinct enclosed and effectively isolated geographic areas within a seemingly integrated national territory). Like the Bantustans, the Killilistans represent territory set aside for the purpose of concentrating members of designated ethnic/tribal/linguistic/cultural groups in nominally autonomous geographic areas. Ethiopia’s dictators have used a completely fictitious and ridiculous theory of “ethnic (tribal) federalism)”, unknown in the annals of political science or political theory, to justify and glorify these Kililistans, impose their atrocious policy of divide and rule against 80 million people and scrub out any meaningful notion of Ethiopian citizenship.
Big Thugs, Small Thugs and the Rule of Law
Article 9 of the dictators’ constitution provides that the “Constitution is the supreme law of the land…. All citizens, state organs, political organizations, other associations and their officials, have the duty to comply with this Constitution and abide by it.” Article 29 of this “supreme law” guarantees that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression without interference. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers,…” Article 30 further ensures, “Everyone shall have the freedom, in association with others, to peaceably assemble without arms, engage in public demonstration and the right to petition.”
In Thugland, no one seems to be particularly concerned about constitutional rights. Dr. Negasso, Ato Seeye, UDJ members and the other community attendees were peaceably assembled at an authorized meeting to engage in important political discussions. They have an absolute right to conduct their meeting peaceably without being molested by thugs, hooligans, criminals, gangsters, hoodlums, delinquents and hustlers. It is the supreme and solemn duty of those in authority to guarantee that the constitutional rights of those peaceably assembled is protected from “interference” by anyone. To be sure, the authorities had a legal duty to arrest the disruptive thugs and “vigilantes” and prosecute them for their egregious violation of the constitutional rights of all those in attendance at the town hall meeting. But as we have seen time and time again, the “supreme law” of the land does not apply to thugs because thugs are above the law of the land; indeed, thugs are the law of the land!
Thugs Here, Thugs There, Thugs Everywhere!
Paraphrasing Mark Twain, one could wonder out loud: “Suppose you were a thug. And suppose you were a member of a dictatorship. But I repeat myself.” The use of rented thugs to disrupt public meetings is the oldest trick in the Book of Dictators and Corrupt Politicians. Not long ago, Robert Mugabe’s (ZANU - Patriotic Front) thugs in Zimbabwe disrupted the Constitutional All-Stakeholders’ Conference (organized to write a new constitution) at the Harare International Conference Centre by lambasting and unleashing a torrent of profanity and vulgarity against the Speaker of Parliament. They also attacked delegates and officials with plastic water bottles. In the early 1990s, organized thugs, galvanized by the political ideology of "Majimboism" (a Kiswahili concept for “ethnic regionalism” or “ethno-federalism”), instigated ethnic hatred against the Kikuyu. Recently, Prof. Maurice Iwu, Nigeria’s chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, reported to the Nigeria House of Representatives that the “sporadic outbreak of violence in several parts of the country [in the last election] was a fall-out of political thuggery.” The ultimate African thugs are represented by a militia known as the “Janjawid” – bloodthirsty packs of roving criminals armed and supported by the Sudanese government that have caused widespread atrocities including village destruction, massacres and rapes in the Darfur region.
Thugging it Out!
Seeye Abraha has noticed the Ethiopian people that should they be victims of thug violence, the “EPDRF” is to be held responsible. It may be overly optimistic to expect reason and respect for the law from thugs. The fact of the matter is that thugs will always be thugs; but law-abiding citizens can fight back -- thug it out, so to speak -- by doing the right thing: Always tell the people the truth, and speak truth to thugs. Unite the people where thugs try to put them asunder. Promote harmony wherever thugs sow hatred, division and enmity. Fight to win the hearts and minds of the people wherever thugs seek to crush their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Never lower yourself to the gutter world of thugs, but capture, preserve, protect and defend the moral high ground. Never, never, never abandon the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia. Always do the right thing, the fair thing, the just thing. As Churchill said, “Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Never yield to thugs! Never forget the truth that if we don’t stand up for the Land of Thirteen Months of Sunshine, thugs will gladly transform it into the Land of Eternal Darkness.
Inherit the Wind
In Proverbs 11 is written, “He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind.” Those who have wrought trouble on the Ethiopian family for the last two decades will in the end inherit a tornadic wind. That is foreordained! Their wicked efforts to destroy, dismember, deface and disfigure Ethiopia through the politics of hate and ethnic division will fail just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. Their diabolical plan will amount to nothing! Like East Germany, ethnic federalism will be there one day and the next day it will be gone forever. Ethiopia’s best days are yet to come because her destiny rests securely in the palms of her bright, patriotic, industrious, conscientious, humble, forward-looking and God-fearing young people.
Is it not ironic that those of us who profess to champion the cause of justice, truth and morality far outnumber those engaged in the practice of evil, yet the few evil doers seem to outdo us nearly every time. As Dr. Negasso pleaded following his confrontation with the Adama thugs: “I call on all those who stand for the respect of democratic and human rights, for peace and stability of this country and for economic development of this country do something TODAY and not TOMORROW!!” That is why we should take to heart the aphorism, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil (thugs) is that good Ethiopian men and women do nothing” TODAY.
The writer, Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. For comments, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org