Ethiopia: A Turning Point of Political Freedom and Prevalence of Peace?

Ethiopia: A Turning Point of Political Freedom and Prevalence of Peace?
May 17, 2015

by T.Goshu

1.Let me start with highlighting a few points why we need to have a well-connected, coherent, rationally critical way of looking at our past and present, and of course our future. Why? It is because : a) I strongly want to believe that in spite of the fact that the political experiences we have gone through since the early 1970s and we are going through at this moment in time are exceptionally horrifying, it is wrong not to rationally and genuinely look back serious short comings of our past in such a way that it could help what we are dealing with today as well as where and what we want to be tomorrow b) I am of the opinion that although it is not desirable to unnecessarily and redundantly stick with what went wrong with our past political experiences, it is quite important to remind ourselves where we came from and how before we jump to where we want to go and how c) I have my own impression that there is undesirable tendency of categorically blaming or appreciating where we came from and where we are now without making logical, rational/critical and constructive way of understanding of what happened yesterday, what is happening today and what we want to see happening tomorrow d) There is still a serious discontinuity that makes us victims of a political culture of starting from the scratch whenever ruling elites come and go; the non-existence of well-established system being the deep-rooted cause e) Needless to say, these tendencies have made us victims of being nostalgic for our past which has of course a very serious negative influence on the prospects of creating and shaping the much better tomorrow we desperately aspire. f) The political attitude of longing for the past because of the current political illness we are suffering from is worse than ever does mean nothing, but a very self-defeating declaration of “we do not deserve better.” This kind of self-victimization has its own huge negative impact on our efforts of making progress to achieve what we deserve in this 21st century. Put simply, the very mentality of longing for the past regardless of its ugliness because of our own failure to tackle what we are facing now is still deeply troubling. I strongly believe that there is a need to engage in rational, genuine, mutually respectful and constructive conversations if we have to learn from what went wrong in the past and what is going on now, and what is to be done to make our future as bright as it should be.

As a matter of fact, democratic elections and peace in their real sense have never been parts of our political history. Let what I mean by democratic elections and peace in their real senses be clear. I do mean socio-political environments in which citizens can live with their peace of mind that goes beyond the mere absence of wars and any other forms of physical conflicts. Needless to say, these very values of life are strongly linked with the very existence of the right to exercise civil liberties, the right to seek for better opportunities as citizens of a country. Peace in its real sense does essentially require not to be either politically or socio-economically enslaved by those ruling circles and their cronies as we do witness in our own country. Democratic election does not mean a matter of getting majority votes by hook or crook as our incumbent ethno-centric and highly cynical ruling elites have tried to fool the people for the last two decades and keep working hard to repeat the same if not the worst political drama .

Do not get me wrong that what I am trying to argue is about the existence of peace in its perfection which of course is simply unrealistic. What I am trying to express is that the political history of our country has never been characterized by a prevalence of peace in the real sense of the term the people should deserve. We, Ethiopians claim that we are the owners of a long and great history; and that is true especially with respect to the sacrifices paid not to be ruled and dehumanized by various foreign powers who repeatedly attempted to do so. Sadly enough, we could not escape from being ruled and dehumanized by our own native rulers who especially ruled the country in the 20th century and after. It goes without saying that our political history that has never been characterized by a real sense of peoples’ sovereign power has a lot to do with the current highly poisonous political situation we are suffering from.

Yes, our domestic political history has never been characterized by a real sense of the existence of peace and socio-economic fairness; and our external relations has of course been over-dominated by the history of wars. I am not blindly denying the existences of political systems in which relative peace and modernity have been made. I am not trying to make misleading comparison between the political cultures of before, during and after the era of princes either. However, I want to strongly argue that despite the fact that the politics of the 20th century (the absolute monarchy of Emperor Halie Selassie) had its own recognizable contribution more particularly in the arena of international and diplomatic relations, it had done very serious wrong doings as far as keeping the country just as simple as their God-given property was concerned. As one of millions of very young children of families of farmers in our country, I remember how especially the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s were extremely worse to the very majority of the peasantry because of the refusal of the Emperor to make some sort of sacrifice of his wild and voracious power –love (siltan eske meqabir). It is not an exaggeration to say that the very majority of the people were terribly mistreated to the extent of being considered as simple subjects of the “God- Anointed” royal family. It was very unfortunate to continue holding absolute power and wait for a very horrible demise instead of making some sort of reform by handing down the power to an appropriate member of the royal family or changing the system into constitutional monarchy. I strongly argue that unless we want to remain with a very self-defeating nostalgia of the past, the palace politics of the time had never been peaceful if peace does mean beyond wars and conflicts of killings.

Let me make my points of view more specific and sound in the form questions: How a society that had no any meaningful say about its own governing body could be peaceful within itself? How does it make sense to justify that millions of people who suffered from abject poverty in a country endowed with natural resources had a real sense of peace of mind? How a society that had to suffer from ignorance because of lack of educational opportunities could be said in a state of peaceful mind? How a society with no accessibility and affordability of very basic health infrastructures and facilities could be said in a state of peace? How does it make sense to claim that the prevalence of peace within a society of which a huge number of its members are left with a culture of poverty and begging said to be soundly peaceful? Does it make sense to talk about peace in the real sense of the term in a country where hundreds and thousands of children fight with vultures and stray dogs over searching something to eat at huge dumpsters? How it makes sense to argue the existence of real peace in a country where millions have not only gone starving to their bones but perished due to the recurrent of famine since the 1960s mainly because of those rulers who could not see things beyond maintaining their palace politics? How it could make sense to expect a real sense of peace in political systems in which people have been indoctrinated that freedoms were/are privileges offered by rulers, not rights to be achieved and protected by the people themselves? The list of deeply disturbing questions is very long.

2. Because what happened after the fall of the last absolute monarchical rule and the coming into power of the brutal military regime is recorded as one of the most horrifying parts of our political history, it is not necessary to say a lot about it. Needless to say, peace and democracy has nothing to do with the political reality of the time.

3. It is 20 years (since 1995) that the incumbent ethno-centric dictatorial elites of TPLF/EPRDF have grossly and severely abused the very essence of peace and democracy using democratic elections as nothing, but as deadly cover ups. And as the result of this, the people of Ethiopia have been deprived of experiencing what peace meant in the real sense of the term. It is deeply regrettable and painfully disturbing to end up with this kind of irresponsibly divide, attack and rule political system in a country in which the people had gone through a very brutal military rule for 17 years. Imagine, more than 40 years (18+22) is close to an average life expectancy by our standard in which people have gone through.

Given what the inner circle of TPLF/EPRDF has already done and is doing to maintain its political power, I do not think there could be any reason to suggest the benefit of the doubt let alone expecting something different from the outcome of this election(better to say waiting for declaration) . Well, there may be fellow Ethiopians who may argue that the ruling elites could allow those opposition parties which may decide to be parts of the game by offering them parliamentary seats without having any actual role of influencing any major policies.

And it is my observation that this kind of cynical and hypocritical political game might be something shared and even encouraged by those foreign powers which always carefully weigh the balance of power that would suite their own interests, not really based on the practical aspect of who is democratic or not democratic. This kind of hypocritical and conspiratorial politics is the reality we have to deal with cautiously, wisely and appropriately if we want to see genuine democratic elections and a real sense of peace prevail. I wish I could be deadly wrong to say that if opposition forces are going to be parts of this dirty political game assuming that they could make a difference simply by being good playing cards of the ruling elites, they will be going back to the terrible failure they had suffered by being parts of a rubber stamp branch of government before. I am not naïve enough of suggesting boycott the meaningless election and step up the struggle for the better, or accompany it and do the politics of good for nothing in the name of very clumsy excuse of “democracy is a process”. But given the very hard political reality in the country, I strongly argue that there is no any convincing reason to believe that it would be possible to bring a change that should lead to a political freedom and peace in the real sense of the terms by being simply politically correct (parliamentarians of great orators).

4. It is self-evidently true that all the objective realities for political freedom, soicio-econmic justice as well as the genuine prevalence of peace have reached at a point where they are waiting for a well-thought, well-planned, well-coordinated ,well-organized , well-directed and an irreversible civil disobedience . It must also be underscored that given the very political behavior and action of the inner circle of TPLF/EPRDF and what is happening at this eleventh hour of the so-called election, there is a need to courageously recognize that peaceful disobedience alone could not be able to make the turning points turn the direction we want to move. It is here that the role of those patriotic Ethiopians who are forced to engage in the political struggle of all-around means (armed and civil disobedience) becomes indispensably desirable. I hate to say but I have to say that unless we courageously, honestly, wisely and urgently engage ourselves in the business of serious and result-oriented politics, there is no any convincing reason not to see those already ripen turning points going back to square one . And it would be deeply regrettable for us to remain under complete enslavement (political, economic, social, moral, and the ugly mix of politics and religion, etc.) for more years. I hope we will be willing and able to correct what went wrong through our political history and particularly in this 21st century, and decisively move forward to bring about the culture of conducting genuinely democratic elections and the prevalence of real sense of peace, stability and shared prosperity.