May 27, 2014
Although the dangerously crafted and enforced political agenda by “our “ruling elites has spoken much more evidently and powerfully than words of any political literature for the last quarter of a century, what we are witnessing in several higher education institutions in the Oromia region at this moment in time is extremely alarming. The tyrannical ruling circle has once again unleashed its killing machine in response to those young students who have tried to express their concerns about those innocent citizens who have been displaced and are being displaced from their villages and homes, and exposed to a very gravely deep hopelessness under the cover of urban development. Not only this, but the ruling party is also trying hard to make the ethno-centric political agenda (the main weapon for its political power perpetuation) more dangerously inflammable. Needless to say, if we as a people are not seriously alarmed by and worried about this not new but the highest manifestation of the deadly political agenda of the last two decades by the TPLF/EPRDF, and if we do not do something that should go beyond political rhetoric as usual, there is no any sound reason not to face the worst we fear in our political and social history.
I am well aware that many fellow Ethiopians may see this fear as something that comes from a “pessimistic state of mind.” I am also aware that so many fellow Ethiopians may take our historical and socio-cultural ties for guaranteed for not to fear the worst. And I wholly agree that it is a great thing to remain optimistic and hopeful. However, mere optimism or hope remains mere wishful thinking without a well-thought, well- defined, well-strategized, well-planned and well-coordinated way of doing politics. Simply put, the tendency of pessimism could be negated by a real sense of hopefulness whenever there is a fertile or favorable ground on which a meaningful optimism could germinate, grow and develop. This process in its turn will take us to the next logical and consequential argument which critically addresses the very question of making things happen in such a way that they should help getting our objectives ( to live in freedom and prosperity) achieved. That is why the question of doing smart politics becomes much more critical than ever. What I do mean by smart politics is doing politics in such a way that it brings the huge gap between our rhetoric and action; and between our everyday words of promise and keeping that promise with a real sense of self-commitment at least to an acceptable level narrowing. I have no any illusion that this is a task that can be done as simple as anything. I would strongly argue that it has to be underscored here that this kind of critically desirable political task can be achieved if and only if we walk and act together as responsible citizens, opposition political parties and movements, civic organizations and other interest groups. There is no any other plausible and sustainable choice at all.An Ethiopian judgment and viewpoint
I have to underscore here that it would be not only very unfair but also terribly irrational to undermine certain progresses being made by some political opposition parties and movements which are trying to operate under dangerously hostile political environment. For instance, it is so encouraging to see and hear expressions of genuine concerns such as statements, interviews, panel discussions, vigils and demonstrations both back home and in the diaspora about the ongoing politically motivated and cold-blooded actions in those higher education institutions in the Oromia region. I want here to highlight very encouraging recent trends of togetherness in marching for freedom (peaceful demonstrations) organized by various genuinely concerned opposition political forces. I have an impression that these desirable trends could spark a sense of hope in the process of determining our common destiny and fate. I watched the march for freedom organized by Medrek on May 24, 2014 in Addis Ababa. I was deeply emotional (with my tearful eyes) when I saw Engineer Yilkal Getnet, chairman of the Blue Party and his deputy, Ato Selesh Feyessa right in the very front of the demonstration chanting slogans for freedom and justice. I was deeply touched when I heard that Engineer Gizachew Sheferaw (the chairman of Andinet), and leaders of the “thirty-three” have joined the march for freedom. My sense of emotion was a very powerful reflection of a very desperate aspiration for seeing a real sense of engagement among opposition political groups and make a meaningful difference that could shorten the untold sufferings of the people. Will these very desirable and truly encouraging trends get stronger and marvelously be successful and sustainable? Why not? But it must be noted that this sense of optimism depends heavily not simply on complaining who did that or this harm to us; but most importantly on the question of whether we did our part effectively or not, and getting ourselves ready to do what we should do and move forward.
Bernard Lewis, the author of a book, What Went Wrong: The Clash between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East, 2002 describes and analyzes the very question of why and how the countries of the region which are “the major centers of civilization” suffer from internal, regional and other external damaging factors. I found the following argument of which he states in his conclusion part truly universal and deeply powerful, and so relevant to our own case. He argues, “The question ‘who did this to us?’ has led only to neurotic fantasies and conspiracy theories. The other question: – ‘what did we do wrong?’ – has led naturally to a second question: ‘how do we put it right?’ In that question, and in the various answers that are being found lie the best hopes for the future.”
When it comes to our case, with all the challenges we have faced and mistakes we have made throughout our political history, we (Ethiopians) are one of the centers of ancient civilization, and with a very shining history of not-surrendering to external invaders and colonial powers. Unfortunately enough, this great part of our history has remained severely incomplete when it comes to the realization of the very essence of internal sovereignty of the people who had paid ultimate sacrifices for protecting and preserving an independent country, Ethiopia. Lewis has the following argument which I believe has a very strong relevant to our own case gain. He states his view point about how an ill-guided politics causes grave damages as follows: “…. Worst of all is the political result: The long quest for freedom has left a sting of shabby tyrannies, ranging from traditional authorities to new- style dictatorships, modern only in their apparatus of repression and indoctrination.” Needless to say, we Ethiopians have been victims of nostalgia for absolute and despotic ruling elites or families as the result of the worst military junta of seventeen years; and the incumbent ethno-centric tyrannical regime of TPLF/EPRDF for the last two decades. The very evil-driven apparatus of “kill on command for the sake of saving the revolution” by the military junta was straight-forward and naked political practice. The deadly notorious political apparatus of TPLF/EPRDF is multi-faceted and wickedly hypocritical. It is characterized mainly by the method of cracking down and eliminating any political opposition not only with open and naked force, but also with a highly systematic and dramatized methods of promoting, provoking and orchestrating dangerous hatred and animosity among nationalities not only in order to keep them apart but also to make them kill each other. This is exactly what we are witnessing at this moment in time. The evil-driven agenda of the ruling circle does not limit itself to the world of politics. It (the ruling party) has put its deadly hands on religious institutions and has caused a very severe damage that would be extremely challenging to correct what went wrong and bring back what is right unless we as a people go beyond making “wonderful rhetoric” about the dangerous political situation which is of course self- evident.
Have we as individual citizens, opposition political parties/ movements, civic associations and human rights advocacy groups taken significantly meaningful steps as far as the question of counter-challenging the deadly political agenda of the ruling elites is concerned? Needless to say, the answer is much more negative than positive. How about our seriousness about the ongoing alarming situations? Well, it is fair to say, as I mentioned earlier that we are witnessing some encouraging moves. However, we have to admit that we are still captives of “enjoying” wonderfully expressed words of mouths (rhetoric) than fairly sound actions. It is not uncommon to hear from any politician and even from ordinary citizen talking about the necessity of coming together in order to end the deadly ethno-centric politics of TPLF/EPRDF. It is uncommon to hear very interesting arguments about establishing a democratic country in which all her citizens live with equal rights, and her various ethnic groups and nationalities with mutual respect and shared prosperity. The very challenging question we continue to face are: what is the practical way out? Who is or are responsible for figuring out the road map towards achieving the goal we set (genuine political freedom, rule of law and socio-economic justice)? Why we terribly have failed to show the people (in practical terms) how to deal with the horrible situation they are forced to live in, not simply keep telling the horrible things being done to them (the people) by a tyrannical ruling elites of TPLF/EPRDF?
I am not a political strategist of this or that political entity. Neither I am a person to advise or tell those political parties and other human rights advocacy groups to go this way or that way. I am just one of ordinary persons (citizens) who strongly believe in expressing their view points about what is to be done to end the general (political, socio-economic, moral or ethical and even religious ) crises going on in our country. It is from this perspective of mine that I want to jot down the following couple of points:
a) As Dr. Merera Gudina and other genuinely concerned scholars and politicians repeatedly argue, the political culture of using terrible mistakes in our past (history) as playing cards for the present (short term) political consumption will have an enormous damage not only to this generation but also the generations to come. It goes without saying that although the politics of ethnic identity seems more serious because of the very political agenda and practice by TPLF/EPRDF, the mentality of preserving “Ethiopiawinet” that has no any room or tolerance for accommodating those who have different views and concerns is one of the greatest enemies of a real sense of togetherness as well as establishing a democratic Ethiopia in which all her citizens live with mutual respect and shared prosperity. I hear some fellow Ethiopians from both extreme sides trying to exploit the situations that have happened in different places of the Oromia region for their own ugly political agendas. Needless to say, those elements of unhealthy political environment can make many innocent citizens victims of their unhealthy political state of mind and ambition. Now, the question is: should we add fuel to this very ugly political game by engaging them (extreme elements) unwisely, emotionally, irrationally and with fierce and blind avoidance or rejection? Or should we challenge them if possible to influence them positively, if not to isolate them from the general public? I strongly believe that the latter is the right and the best way to deal with the political madness we are facing. How? By not only telling but most importantly showing the people what is good for all us and how we make it happen. Simply put, as what is terribly missing in our political activities is the very essence of living and leading by example, there is a very pressing need to figure out what went wrong and how we make it right. And I have to say that the signs we are witnessing from genuinely concerned opposition forces to handle the dangerous political games mainly by the ruling party and the very ugly contribution from the two extreme sides is truly encouraging. But, it has to be underscored that this kinds of handling the challenges we face should go beyond the politics of firefighting. I want to remain reasonably optimistic.
b) I earlier expressed my reasonably emotional impression when I watched leaders and members of political parties joining their hands and marching for freedom during the May 24, 2014 demonstration organized by Medrek. Now, the question that has to be reiterated is: will this truly inspiring start or trend pay the way for a more aggressive and sustainable way of doing politics? I am not naïve or unrealistic enough to expect those opposition political parties to iron out their differences over night and make a totally unified political entity. Not at all! But, I strongly argue that there is no any convincing reason or justification or excuse not to put aside differences that could be settled and/or managed through time, and work on and stand together around those big and critical national issues and common interests. The Ethiopian people deserve to have a political leadership that can take their legitimate causes a step ahead. And I sincerely believe that the need to do the politics of common issues in a much more collaborated and coordinated manner is the least that opposition political forces should deliver. I think one of the most notorious setback for a real sense of working together is our culture of making our political arguments and disagreements both within and between/among political parties stupidly personal. Yes, as soon as we wrongly perceive a political argument and disagreement against our way of ideas as personal moves and attacks, we become terribly victims of irrationality and static state of mind which in turn leads to frustration and of course the development of destructive behavior. Needless to say that this very undesirable, if not seriously harmful mentality has to do a lot with abnormally voracious egocentrism. Andualem Arage is powerfully right when he states in his truly remarkable book, YALTEHEDEBET MENGED (in Amharic , page 169) 2013 from the notorious Kaliti prison, “For most of us, any another position other than being in charge of party leaders does not make any meaning.” And I think that has been one of the major causes for miserable failures of many coalitions, alternative democratic forces, union of democratic forces and the like. I hope Andinet, Medrek, Semayawai, All Ethiopian, the ‘Thirty-three’ and the like will strive hard not to repeat very stupid and regrettable mistakes we have come across for the last two decades.
c) Politics in the diaspora? Yes, it has to be recognized that Ethiopian citizens abroad and Ethiopians by birth deserve due appreciation for what they have done and continue to do so. On the other side of the story, I do not think it is unfair to say that our political role in this regard is more disappointing than encouraging. This is true when we especially take the political environment (freedom) we live in and a relatively considerable number of Ethiopians or Ethiopian by origin who have financial and professional capacities to support the struggle back home. Although I do not have reliable and detail information about who contributes what and how much, I do not think the progress in the political performance and its influence on the effectiveness of the struggle back home is beyond the reach of our day-to-day observations. The culture of forming task forces, alliances, coalitions or shengos, transitional councils, community blocks, civic and advocacy groups and the like is a good thing. The problem is when it comes to the question of moving beyond holding regular and especial meetings, conferences, town house events and engaging in redundant and highly jargonized political rhetoric that has been the tendency for the last quarter of a century. I want strongly to reiterate that it is absolutely the right thing to make statements for or against that or this political force and wrong political agenda and actions. And sponsoring some of the ongoing marches for freedom (peaceful demonstrations) back home is truly encouraging.
But, what the very concern of my comment is about making a real sense of political integrity that could take the powerfully legitimate causes of the Ethiopian people a step forward; not doing certain symbolic things which are highly characterized by events. I am well aware that there may be fellow Ethiopians who take the formation of coalitions or shengos or councils or any other forms of political blocks as serious success stories and may perceive my point of argument as negative and destructive attitude. Well, I equally believe that as we cannot be on the same page and have same reading and perception and understanding, engaging ourselves in serious conversations is quite expected and healthy. What becomes abnormal and ugly is when we try to turn our conversations or arguments or debates into weapons of hatred and sheer personal attack. It is with this understanding of mine that I want to stress once again that compared with the terribly alarming situations in our country, the politicians in the diaspora in particular and we Ethiopians in the diaspora in general are not responding as effective as we should. Our politicians in the diaspora are still doing similar things over and over again: making more rhetoric, conducting redundant and jargonized interviews and conversations, calling for conferences and other forms of forums and telling their audiences the same stories of challenges, conducting annual meetings and other forms of anniversaries and producing press releases and communiques and so on and so forth. It is very unfortunate not see or witness significantly new steps in the real sense of political integrity and action. Once again, Andualem Arage is quite right when he says in his book on page 194, “…. Although it is not as great as the parties in Ethiopia, the number of parties in the diaspora causes not only astonishment but it also reflects their inability to solve problems through dialogue.” It is a good thing for the politicians in the diaspora to try to justify that the 13+ prominent individuals, political groupings, civic groups and committees have come together and form Congress (Shengo) because they basically and strongly share the same principles and objectives. What is astonishing is that they could not convince us why they could not go beyond doing things as usual (stay with the politics of talk show) if they are really in a state of strong cohesion of principles and objectives.
Let me sum up my opinion by expressing my hope for seeing a significantly meaningful way of doing politics in order to avert the danger we face and bring about the democratic change we desperately aspire.by T. Goshu
posted by Daniel tesfaye