It is the way we say, not what we say that matters most

July 8, 2015

By T.Goshu

1. It goes without saying that what matters most is not what we say as such but the question of why and how we say it. When it comes to the existing political system in our country, we most of us agree on the main causes of the terrible political crime and the devastating socio-economic situation. I want to believe that we most of us agree that the root causes are the evil-driven ethno-centric ruling elites of TPLF/EPRDF. I do believe that we most of us also agree on the very question of what is to be done which of course is the logical and rational sequence of the root cause we agree on; that is to get rid of this ethno-centric tyranny, and bring about genuine democratic change and subsequently moving forward with ensuring sustainable peace and development. Needless to say, it is impossible to deal with all the serious challenges we face effectively and move forward without genuine sense of togetherness (inclusiveness) that should be governed by engaging ourselves in real sense of critical, rational, tolerant, constructive, controlled egoism, and forward-looking conversations and arguments. Bringing anything forward and saying about it in the name of the right to say or developing democratic culture without a real sense of civility, rationale, integrity, constructiveness, tolerance and creating a positive and fertile common ground does not make sense in the real sense of the terms.

No doubt that the very undesirable if not distractive side of our arguments and conversations is when it comes to the question of how and why we make our points of view that we believe are different from the views of others. Yes, what is the worst side of the way we argue or converse is making the people slide back to their past and stick with it instead of helping them learn from what went wrong in the past and move forward. There is something much more absurd. And that is the political culture of undermining the very efforts of those who choose their own method of doing things (all around means of struggle).I strongly argue that this kind political mentality or attitude is neither desirable nor interesting. Needless to say, having this type of political thinking and behavior is not helpful for advancing the efforts being made by some political opposition forces to create a positive and mutually advantageous future not only with those who believe are friendly but also with those who share making serious mistakes in the past including President Isaias Afewerki. I hate to say but I have to say that the political culture and sentiment of believing that those who were our “historical enemies” will never think and behave differently is irrational, if not a very stupid way of political thinking.

I remember a statement I read in a book (Managing Conflict through Communication) co-authored by Ruth Anna Abigail and Dudley D. Cohan. It says, “If you cannot disengage people from their past, you enslave yourself to an ugly emotional affair.” This does not mean that it is wrong to engage people in looking back what happened in their past and drawing contextual and teachable lessons that should help to take the struggle for freedom forward. It is rather to mean that encouraging people to mainly stick with the conversation about what happened in the past, not how to move forward, the chance to be captives of emotion –driven attitude or behavior is big and serious. And that is exactly what illegitimate and tyrannical ruling elites want to hear and see. They try to make sure that people stay with regurgitating what went wrong with all rulers and non-state actors throughout their political history. Not only this but they also want to make sure that one opposition force keep undermining or discouraging the efforts being made by another. I am sorry to say but I have to say that as our political culture is highly over- dominated by personal or group ulterior motives if not very ugly self-aggrandizement, the way how and why we argue/converse knowingly or unknowingly is highly vulnerable to failing the people over and over again.

Agree or disagree, this kind of political cultures or personalities of ours have been among the most effective factors for the continuation of ruthless ethno-centric political power. The evil-minded ruling elites of TPLF/EPRDF do try hard to convince the people that their political killing machine is better than those who ruled before them, and those whom they categorized as the threats of their existing political power in one way or another.

I want to underscore here that presenting our arguments in a critical and challenging manner is absolutely necessary in any subject we may be interested let alone the subject of the political crime being committed in our country. I strongly believe that it is the right thing to critically and rationally argue about who is who in the making of political and other forms of cooperation and friendships against the very dangerous ethno-centric tyranny.

There is no doubt that it is very difficult, if not impossible to engage in a healthy and constructive conversation if we are not courageous enough to make what we want to say clear and get it understood by the people whom we may argue or converse with. Needless to say, the very serious deficiency in this regard has made us pay a very huge price as far as the question of how to get out of the general crisis our country found herself for the last quarter of a century is concerned. What is painfully troubling is that we most of us, particularly those of us in the diaspora keep behaving and acting very far behind the political dynamism taking place in the world we live in . It is painfully unfortunate for us to remain victims of the political mentality of “those who did wrong or bad in the past remain wrong and bad, and there is no need to approach let alone engage them.” This way of thinking is not simply wrong but so irrational and terribly destructive, to say the least. I am not saying that those who did terrible wrong doings in the past and are not still in good terms with us must not be taken seriously. Absolutely not! What I am trying to say is that the political attitude of never approach those “historic enemies” whatever they say and whatever the positive trend they show is stupidly absurd.

As politics in the real sense of the term is both science and art, it is governed by its own dynamism. This dynamism of political reality desperately requires a dynamic approach and way of thinking. There is no static, at rest and fixed way of thinking and approach as far as the political arena of the world is concerned. And this is true in the case of the Ethiopian politics in particular and the sub region (Horn of Africa) in general. In other words, if the very essence of political art and science is not to deal with those who did commit serious wrong doings in the past and still are not in good terms with us, I do not know what else it could be. I wish the tyrannical ruling elites of TPLF/EPRDF could have a common sense of stopping their dirty politics, showing a real sense of regret, and the courage to open political dialogue, and subsequently coming to a real sense of reconciliation. Sadly enough, it couldn’t be the case. As if harassing, intimidating, jailing, torturing and killing members and supporters of dissenting political parties before the so-called election were not enough, they murdered those who were candidates of political opposition parties even after the “one hundred percent victory.” What is extremely horrifying for the families in particular and the people of Ethiopia in general is to be told that the murder committed was motivated by personal problems.

The reason why I am mentioning this is not to tell the stories of horrible political crimes that have been committed for the last two decades and the miserable situation we found ourselves in at this critical moment in time. It is just to show that as all the peaceful avenues the people of Ethiopia desperately aspired and tried are now turned to be dead ends, it would be foolish enough for us not to expect the need to confront the killing machine of TPLF/EPRDF with any legitimate and effective means so as to get the political dead end opened wide and safe. It is through this decisive move that we would be able to not the sacrifices of those innocent Ethiopians who decry this dead ends of peaceful political avenues especially at this “peaceful, free and fair election” have been gun down by deadly machines or arms of the ruling elites remain in vain. Now, the question is what is the legitimate and viable choice the people of Ethiopia left with and why and how we all genuinely concerned Ethiopians should do in this regard? I strongly believe we are at the point where we cannot afford either doing politics as usual or being disruptive of this effort because of either personal or group ulterior motives.

I hear those compatriots of ours who do claim having genuine concern about the behavior and role of the Eritrean government in general and President Isaias Afeworki in particular saying that it is absolutely wrong to use Eritrea as an organizing ground to launch the fight for freedom in our country. And the reason they base their argument is mostly on what went wrong in the past and from what some individuals claim themselves as “first hand informers” as they used to be members of Arbegnoch or Ginbot 7 . Well, it is the right thing to express our genuine concern any time and in any way we want to. But, it is equally if not most importantly desirable to do it in such a way that it helps to advance the just cause the people stand for. I would strongly argue that if we continue with the political culture of never try any effort of rapprochement toward those governments and individuals such as Shabia and President Isaias Afewerki because they are our “historical enemies” especially at this critical moment of the struggle for freedom is not just wrong but a terrible political ignorance as far as the dynamic political reality we live in is concerned.

2. I do not know how the mind set of whatever President Isaias Afeworki says about the necessity of putting serious mistakes made in the past in the right perspective, learning a real sense of lesson, making appropriate correction, and striving for the better future should out rightly be dismissed or rejected. It goes without saying that there is nothing wrong to be critical and skeptical, and constructively challenge those compatriots who genuinely believe that if the political danger being caused by the ruthless ruling circle of TPLF/EPRDF should be challenged and reversed, there is a necessity to get the fight for freedom organized and prepared somewhere, Eritrea. I want to believe that despite all the ugly political history we had to go through, there is no any other better place than Eritrea and the people of Eritrea. I do not think creating a relationship with the Eritrean government is merely because there is no any other choice. It is essentially a matter of looking at things from the perspective of long-term common and comprehensive mutual interests and destinies.

We live in a very dynamic world politics, not the world of socio-political stagnation. It is quite acceptable to argue from our point of view we may have about the need to be rationally cautious whenever we deal with any challenging political circumstance let alone dealing with the politics of national issues and interests. It is the right thing to present our arguments and counter-arguments seriously and strongly. It is desirable to clearly and loudly argue that genuine concerns of all Ethiopians deserve due respect, appropriate accommodation and serious consideration.

We recently heard some fellow Ethiopians arguing to the extent of considering those who are using Eritrea and seeking any assistance from the Eritrean government as traitors (refer the concluding remark of Ato Andualm Tefera in his article – Selepresident Isaias Afewerk Meskrenet / Testimony about President Isaias Afewerk, posted on Ethiomedia on 5/21/15). I do not want either to question or undermine his genuine concern about his country. I have no problem with his lengthy article of which most of it is about his political background. Leaving aside the question of whether non-state actors and state actors (rulers of the time) had made terrible mistakes in one way or another, I have no problem with being critical and skeptical about Ato Isaias and his ruling party. But I sincerely believe that way he argues does not reflect the political dynamism we have gone through for the last several years. Let me reiterate that the attitude and mind- set of “never any effort of rapprochement” does not sound politically wise, and tactically realistic as far as the general crisis we are facing at home is concerned. As I mentioned earlier, the very concluding remark of Ato Andualem’s article or comment is extremely emotion-driven if not terribly infantile. Because it is one thing to be rationally and constructively critical, but it is another thing to ask and propagate the people not only to condemn but also to consider those Ethiopians who are getting organized and prepared in Eritrea to confront the ethno-centric tyranny by any legitimate and effective means as traitors. I do not think Ato Andualem could claim himself more patriotic than those who are trying their best with all the challenges they encounter and the weaknesses they have.

As a member of a society which has never been fortunate enough to experience what a real sense of resolving issues through critical, rational, tolerant, constructive, accommodative and forward-looking manner, I understand the challenges of the political culture of “if I do not take the driving seat and navigate to the way or direction I want to, things are doomed to fail” does tell us that we have a long way to go. But to get to this long and endless process of political civility, we have to remove the deadly obstacle on our way. And that is of course the killing political machine of TPLF/EPRDF. There is a need to get rid of this monstrous political group by any sound, legitimate, effective (minimizing costs in terms of lives, material, finance, and other loses) means. Not only this, but also the question of not sliding back to the same vicious cycle of politics should be given at most curiosity and preparedness. I strongly believe that is the way we can help those who have already launched the fight to end the ethnic-based tyranny and bring about genuine political freedom, justice and socio-economic fairness. Needless to say, though there could be serious ups and downs, the fight for freedom will never stop as its driving force is not only because this or that opposition leadership but also the power of the people whose desire for genuine freedom, and justice, and dignity is at its highest degree . I hope all genuinely concerned Ethiopians will help the already launched fight for freedom and make the declaration of victory as near as possible.