Ethiopians: It Would Be Shame On Us From Now On, Not Anybody Else

By  T.Goshu

1. As an introduction

Let me from the out-set make clear that the very purpose of this comment of mine is to express my genuine concern about the question of how we are willing and able to deal with the shame on us and move forward from now on. When I say from now on, I am referring to this “election” which is of course the very outcome of a well- orchestrated dirty political game by the ruling elites of TPLF right after the 2005 election. When I say shame on us, I am referring to the political culture trying to deal with and solve the political challenge that keeps going worse with doing the same old way of doing politics.

Sadly enough, after a quarter of a century and five not just fake but terribly tragic elections, we once again found ourselves not only in a political quagmire as such but also in a much more sharpened killing political machine of TPLF/EPRDF. Yes, the ethno-centric tyranny has once again unleashed not only its dirty political drama but also its killing machine and has declared its “great and historic victory of winning this fifth election.” And the “victorious” ruling elites are lecturing (better to say fooling) the people of Ethiopia and the international community that they have won hundred percent because the people have fallen in absolute love with them.

By the way, do we expect any sense of shame from this mere political gangster-ism? If our response to this question is with any grain of the benefit of the doubt, not to mention the grain of positivity, the shame is not on TPLF/EPRDF but it is definitely on us. It was by the late mastermind of evil-driven political agenda, Ato Meles Zenawi that the people were told that those who insisted raising their two fingers (the symbol of peace/love and unity) would get their fingers cut off. And he did cut off not just fingers but many innocent lives so that he could continue his monstrous political power until his very last gasp. Unfortunately enough, his highly cynical and evil-driven political agenda and practice could not be effectively challenged partly because of our terrible failure to come and act together by doing things differently (not politics as usual).

It is now the turn of Hailemariam Dessalegn who is simply a messenger of the deadly political mission of his late mentor, Ato Meles Zenawi. In other words, he is nothing, but a living body carrying the very evil – mind of his late mentor. It goes without saying that what he is doing is just make sure that his surviving political bosses (the inner circle of TPLF) are happy with his role as their speaking tool. We are watching him struggling hard to show how loyal he is to his bosses as far as not only how to make this election another historic event but also how to crack down those who may try to challenge the outcome. He has just paraphrased his late “great role model” and warned that if any opposition force (be it peaceful or otherwise) would try to challenge the ‘land slide victory’ of TPLF/EPRDF as well as its political power perpetuity, his ruling front is ready to cut off those fingers which may be raised for peace and unity, and those legs which may try to march for peace and democracy in the streets of Addis and other cities of the country. And that is exactly what we have witnessed before, during and after this highly idiotic but at the same time dangerous political game (election).

I hate to say but I have to say that we have to admit that we were not willing and able to come together and deliver something that could challenge and dismiss the very sheer political intimidation by the inner circle of TPLF/EPRDF. I am not saying this out of neither mere desperation nor pessimism. I am just trying to reflect how our political culture of making great rhetoric and huge noises without practically showing how to deal with the general crisis (political, socio-economic, cultural, moral and religious) we have gone through years after years and tragic elections after tragic elections is the main reason to find ourselves where we are now.

2. Here we are now

Now, we are where we are. Our country is once again in a political dilemma which is extremely difficult to comprehend, and to foresee the direction in which things could take. Frankly speaking, it is terribly painful to find ourselves where we are now after decrying all the horrible political situations we have gone through. I strongly believe that there is a need for us to honestly and courageously admit that it is shame on us because we terribly failed to come together and make relatively better political works, not to mention making a breakthrough after ten solid years (since 2005). When I say we, I do mean we as citizens, as political groupings, as civic and community associations, and most critically as a people who claim to be proud of ourselves.

Let me try to make my points of view more specific and clear as follows:

A) I hate to say but I have to say that a political endeavor that is not designed, planned and being operational based on thorough and realistic understanding of the very nature/behavior and objective of an ethno-centric tyranny such as TPLF is not only unwise but it is also a political stupidity. Yes, let’s not feel shy of admitting that making inexcusable mistakes and practically failing over and over again cannot simply be described as simple as any political weakness , bit it is a political stupidity. I understand that it is unrealistic not to expect failure on the path of making our lives meaningful leave alone dealing with a political situation in a country like ours. Yes, dealing with politics in a society that never had a taste of real senses of democracy, justice, liberty and socio-economic fairness is expected to be characterized by serious ups and downs, if not huge sacrifices.

What makes our political struggle much more challenging especially since the coming of TPLF/EPRDF into power is the use of ethnic-based propaganda as the main instrument of staying in power. Unfortunately enough, we could not effectively make this evil-driven political instrument of the tyrannical ruling elites of TPLF unworkable. This was and is partly because of the very ugly political culture of “if not my way, let things fall apart.” I am referring to the very damaging politics of no-dialogue and no- compromise between those political groupings organized on ethnic line and those organized on multi-ethnic (national level). I do not think I need to go into detail discussion about how TPLF keeps manipulating and exploiting this ugly political culture by providing ethnic-based groupings with a fertile ground (incubator). Needless to say, our political efforts to bring about the desired change has suffered from this kind of identity crisis because of the absence of real senses of honesty, tolerance, selflessness, magnanimity and willingness to make a concerted effort aimed at achieving a common goal or destiny. It is when and only when the two political groupings honestly recognize that it is they themselves that can make their homeland (Ethiopia) either their heaven or a hell on this earth. There is first and foremost a need to truly recognize the concerns of all Ethiopian political actors regardless of the way they get organized, and then to amicably address issues that should be addressed. The problem is when one group categorically tries to present itself either as the guardian of national unity (Ethiopiawinet first), or as a victim of national unity (Ethiopiawinet). Believe or not, if we continue without rationally and wisely addressing this highly confused political identity (national or ethnic), it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to defeat the ruling elites whose political power source and instrument is an ethnic-based divide and rule. Whatever the methods of the struggle (non-armed or all-around) we may choose, we will never be successful if until we amicably and patriotically address this ugly aspect of our political challenge.

B) Do those opposition parties and movements in Ethiopia which have not only tried their best but also paid great sacrifices deserve due admiration and respect? Unquestionably! Do they deserve the continuation of necessary encouragement and support so that they could keep playing their role in the process of the struggle for the realization of political freedom and socio-economic justice? I sincerely believe they do! But, I want to argue that all concerned opposition forces must genuinely go beyond making clumsy excuse for the serious mistakes they have made over and over again. They desperately need to make serious and relentless efforts to correct what went terribly wrong. Put simply, they desperately need to be willing and able to see the shame on them when they say “shame on you” to others.

If those political opposition groupings and parties are serious about the causes they stand for, they necessarily need to be seriously concerned about the gross violation of the rights of others who stand for the same just cause. What did other opposition forces do when for example UDJ and AEUP were destroyed and their registration licenses were handed down to those who intentionally or unintentionally became mere playing political toys of TPLF/EPRDF? Did they go beyond issuing press releases and giving highly rhetorical interviews? Was it not desirably possible to make a real sense of togetherness that could effectively challenge, if not stop the ruling elites from keep going with taking any political action as they wished? How and why those political opposition groups and parties couldn’t do something meaningfully and effectively different instead of being victims of the deadly political arm of the ruling party one after the other? To my understanding, it would be disingenuous not to admit that we are still victims of the political culture of making our positions nice-looking when others fall apart. And this essentially emanates from our personal ulterior motives (voracious ego), to say the least. Let it be clear that I am not accusing of one party doing harm to another as such. What I am trying to say is that if we do not seriously consider that a political attack on those who stand for the same just cause we stand for is an attack on ourselves or on democracy itself, we must not forget that we are always in line of the next political assault by the notorious and ruthless ruling circle. Needless to say, that was the way we have gone through for the last two decades.

Let’s seriously and frankly remind ourselves of what TPLF/EPRDF did during and right after the 2005 election and what happened since then. Let’s be honestly critical of ourselves on the question of whether we as individual citizens, as political or civic entities, and most importantly as a people have tried to do things differently in the real sense of doing politics. Let’s take a moment of genuine and critical in-ward looking about what kind of political capital we built in the face of an evil-driven political agenda and action of the ethno-centric ruling elites for the last two decades and five elections. And let’s be courageous enough to admit that we either naively or otherwise did not see a serious shame on us when we decried the shame on others (be it TPLF/EPRDF or those foreign powers which do not see anything else beyond their own interests).

C) Let’s honestly and rationally try to look at whether the decisions by Medrek and Semayawi to be parts of “this election” was based on the very realistic assessment of the political environment in the country. We heard those political opposition bodies arguing that their decisions were not based on that TPLF/EPRDF would do something different what it did for the last two decades, but to expose its undemocratic nature and behavior and by doing so to create more public awareness . I respectfully want to argue that as the very nature and behavior of the inner circle of the ruling party has become totally naked for the last many years and particularly since the 2005 election and its tragic consequences, I do not think the justification of exposing its political madness does sound this much convincing.

Well, I am aware that the argument about the pros and cons of boycotting the so-called election is not something to beg for a common understanding. But, I do not know how not to consider boycotting the election that did not only reflect the very elementary standards of elections but sadly enough went to the extent of being the scene of political persecution and even deadly could be soundly justifiable. I am well aware that there may be fellow Ethiopians who may take this comment of mine as something that undermines the efforts and sacrifices those genuinely concerned Ethiopians have made. As I mentioned earlier, that is not the case at all. It is rather because I sincerely believe that it is the right thing to respectfully be critical of the politics of opposition if we are talking about how to get out of the political vicious cycle we continue to experience. I wish I could be deadly wrong with this straight-forward comment of mine. But the political game we came across and we are witnessing at this moment in time does not show us contrary to what I am trying to reflect. Despite all the serious weaknesses of doing politics, I want to remain optimistic that we as individuals and political entities will be courageous enough to see the shame on us and deal with it accordingly.

I sincerely watched the press conference held by Semayawi on the process and the result of the so-called election. Though it is not clear what Semayawi would have done something different if TPLF/EPRDF was “generous enough to offer” some parliamentary seats, I found the position taken by the party (not to accept the outcome and continue its peaceful struggle) is quite right and courageous.

As to Medrek, I watched Dr. Beyene and Dr. Merera saying they found the process and the result ridiculously meaningless and they will not accept it at all. But, given the deadly political determination by TPLF/EPRDF to stay in power, the idea of calling for forming an investigative committee sounds either mere political correctness (saying for sake of saying) or a very absurd assumption of getting few seats by negotiating through the would-be formed committee and doing politics of good for nothing. I hope that Medrek’s politicians would not become victims of an endless shameful politics.

D) I want to argue that despite the fact that it is understandable that the political crime committed by the ruling party is mainly responsible for the situation where we are now, it would be wrong not to admit that the repeated and clumsy failures of opposition political parties, movements, coalitions, fronts, shengos, councils in the diaspora have huge contribution to the situation where we found ourselves. I hate to say but I have to say that failing over and over and over again for two decades with no any convincing reason is not simply wrong but also terribly stupid way of doing politics. Do not get wrong that what I am saying is that those of us who might have been parts of those terrible failures are stupid as persons. No, I am not naïve enough about the difference between having an opinion about persons as such and being critical of the ideas and views of persons. What I am trying to say in the context of my comment is that the way we did politics for the last many years was overshadowed by self-defeating behaviors and practices; and that was a political stupidity, to say the least.

Do we really believe that as citizens, concerned groupings, and as a people in general played political roles to meaningfully challenge the evil-driven political orchestration by the inner circle of TPLF/EPRDF? I want to argue that unless we want to deceive ourselves, we wouldn’t have a positive answer to this very hard self- evaluating question. I do not think it is necessary for me to say more about what went wrong from the first so-called election (1995) and especially after the 2005 /2009 elections as they are self-evidently clear. I respectfully argue that those political groupings in the diaspora more particularly those under an umbrella of Shengo, Transitional Council and the like desperately need to explain/justify the reason for not being role models of creating a united force of which they preach day-in and day -out. Let me be straight –forwardly clear that staying with kind of amorphous shape (groupings) in the name of “the right to organize in any way we like” does not make sense as far as the very political reality in our country is concerned. Simply put, at this very critical moment, the people of Ethiopia cannot afford to entertain the existence of multiple of political entities with more or less the same agenda and objective but with no meaningful concerted practical efforts. Needless to say, watching this kind of political attitude and game especially in a relatively civilized and free world we live in is terribly disappointing, to say the least. I do not think a political tradition that could not go beyond making rhetoric about the plight of the people, issuing statements after statements on events, holding conferences after conferences, simply calling for united action without showing by doing, asking others to take initiative for meaningful collaboration without taking our initiatives to the very doors of others, and the like is not doing politics in the real sense of the tem.

E) Let’s genuinely recollect how many protests and demonstrations especially we in the diaspora held at various government offices, international institutions and diplomatic missions, and decried the dirty political game they continued to play with TPLF/EPRDF regardless of the untold plight of the Ethiopian people. Let’s with no any clumsy excuse admit that we have terribly failed to see the shame on us when we decry the shame on others for the last several years. Let’s courageously and honestly admit that it is shame on most of well-educated Ethiopians in the diaspora by being victims of avoidance of politics while they know very well that the challenge we face is beyond politics as we know. How many new faces we see and new voices we here even at this very critical moment as far as the roles of educated/intellectuals in the diaspora is concerned? Almost none. And that is not simply shameful but extremely worrisome. How many ex- government officials, ex-diplomats and other ex- military officers are there in the diaspora, particularly in North America and how many of them do show genuine sympathy to the people of Ethiopia leave alone doing anything they could do in practical terms?

F) Though I am well aware that there may be Ethiopians who may feel uncomfortable with, I want to say that our religious leaders, teachers /preachers cannot be immune from the failures we keep suffering from. I am not naive enough about their religious mission that should not directly meddle with struggling for political power. I think that is an ABC of religious principle and doctrine. But, I strongly argue that distancing ourselves from the situation in our country which is not just a question struggle for political power but most critically a matter of natural and human rights is terribly wrong and shameful. Mahatma Gandhi has to says, “ Men say I am a saint losing myself in politics. The fact is I am a politician trying my hardest to be a saint. My patriotism is subservient to my religion.” (Louis Fischer; Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World, 1954, 1982). To my understanding, a religious mission that is not practically relevant to peoples’ struggle to live with freedom, dignity, the right to choose what is good for them, the right to fight against those who try to take away their inalienable rights is characterized by a deep-rooted fallacy. This is because, I sincerely believe that the very essence of justice, freedom, dignity, peace and love were the reasons which brought Jesus Christ to this world. I do not think God has sent Jesus to this world just to preach us that we will be welcomed to heaven simply because we believe in His resurrection after His death. I strongly believe that it is when we lead and live by example in practical terms that we would be fortunate enough to enjoy our live on this planet and life after death. I hate to say but I have to say that most of our religious preachers/teachers do not seem as relevant and effective as they should be especially when people found themselves in a state of confusion and frustration. Are our religious leaders and other clergies simply keep telling us not showing us by being role models? I am afraid the answer is not encouraging unless we want to pretend, if not to deceive ourselves. As an ordinary follower of the E.O.C, I fairly try to attend Sundays services and teachings. I also try to listen to the preaching on various mass media. Most of them talk about Ethiopia as a country of great religions and a glorious history. That is true and great! However, falling short of practically showing how we get out of the very disgraceful situation we currently fund ourselves is a very disturbing trend. It is true that as human beings we Ethiopians have our own weaknesses as far as internalizing and practicing what the Great book teaches us is concerned. But, I do not think trying to assertively justify that the absence of political freedom, justice and decent way of life is due to the sin we continue to commit is convincing enough. This kind of teaching cannot go far if it is challenged with the question of to what extent we have done in practical terms and ask God to give us strength in our endeavors. I do not think we can answer this question unless we try to pretend to.

By the way, I want to recognize the efforts of our Muslim compatriots who have persistently and peacefully tried to advance their just cause. I am not saying all Muslim brothers and sisters of ours are equally doing what they believe is legitimate and right. There is no doubt that the majority of them have continued their efforts to the extent of making their cause part of the just cause of the general public. I strongly argue that there is a desperate need not to fall victims of divisive behaviors and practices of certain elements in both the two major religions of ours. Because our struggle for freedom and justice is ultimately for all, and that golden goal is unthinkable let alone feasible without creating a healthy environment in this regard.

To sum up, hereafter, if we are not courageous enough to see and admit that the way we have done politics for the last two decades and dealt with the five fake and tragic elections was terribly disappointing and get ready to move forward accordingly, there is no any convincing reason for not going through the same if not the worst vicious cycle after five years. And I want to believe that in order to break this vicious cycle of dehumanization, there is a need to strengthen any support to those opposition forces which are determined to pay necessary sacrifices for the realization the change we aspire and building a democratic system.