Ethiopia: Vision vs. Delusion

Ethiopia: Vision vs. Delusion

By T.Goshu

It is only a couple of months since Vision Ethiopia has been formed by genuinely concerned Ethiopians abroad with a primary mission of coordinating and facilitating the deliberations of ideas, views, analyses, and forward-looking insights as well as feasible recommendations on the question of how to get out of the vicious cycle of political illness and socio-economic disaster in our country. Needless to say, creating an independent forum at which critical, rational, problem-solving and result-oriented way of thinking can be generated and developed is absolutely desirable. Put simply, the dream for a democratic, non-discriminatory and prosperous Ethiopia cannot become a reality without genuine, comprehensive, proactive, aggressive and forward-looking exchange of views and ideas that should pave the way for the ongoing struggle for freedom and justice move forward in a more dynamic and fruit-bearing manner.

To this end, no one else can be at the very forefront than intellectuals and professionals of various disciplines and expertise who are willing and able to interpret their intellects into martial forces of change for the betterment of peoples’ lives. When I say intellectuals, I am not simply referring to those well-educated Ethiopians who may believe that they have the capacity of grasping and analyzing complex concepts and ideas. I am referring to what Thomas Sowell (Intellectuals and Society, 2009) has to describe intellectuals as problem-solving role models of a society they belong to. He says, “Intelligence involves combining intellect with judgement and care in selecting relevant explanatory factors and in establishing empirical tests of any theory that emerges.” He summarizes the real essence of intellectual values by saying, “Wisdom is the ability to combine intellect, knowledge, experience, and judgement in a way to produce a coherent understanding.” Unless we want to self-deceivingly claim what we haven’t accomplished, our country has never been fortunate enough to practically be the beneficiary of the characteristics of intellectuality in a real sense of the term. I am not trying to undermine the role played and being played by very few prominent intellectuals and professionals in the process of the struggle for political liberty and socio-economic well-being. What I am saying is that the very efforts of those few intellectuals have never been and is still not yet reinforced by the majority of intellectuals and professionals as it should be. We may try to enumerate reasons and excuses for this painful failure of making the very purpose of being educated the means to appropriately deal with both natural and man-made catastrophe. Needless to say, the main problem that looks catastrophic if it is not dealt with appropriately and timely is man-made, the ethnic-based minority political tyranny.

Unless we want to remain victims of self-denial (the worst behavior within ourselves), the main reason for not making the power of education instrumental to peoples’ struggle against an evil-driven political practice is a highly chronic opportunism . It is from this perspective that I would strongly argue that when we talk about vision for Ethiopia, we are referring to the power of imagination that should reveal itself as a power house of change for freedom, justice, and socio-economic well-being of all.

Is the coming into being of Vision Ethiopia a breakthrough against the culture of intellectual dysfunction in the process of the struggle for freedom, justice and shared prosperity? No, it is not a breakthrough as such because the very concept of breakthrough refers to an event of transformational characteristics. The formation of Vision Ethiopia is an encouraging move of being part and parcel of the efforts being made to bring about a breakthrough of creating a society of freedom, justice, dignity, equal opportunity, peace and prosperity. I sincerely believe that it is an encouraging step taken by those intellectuals who at one point have become deeply cognizant of doing something feasible by pulling their intellectual capacities and abilities together under some sort of organized forum, Vision Ethiopia. What the founding members have explained about the very mission and objective they want to accomplish is clear. Needless to say, this very desirable undertaking will not be without with all kinds of questions and opinions that may come either from genuine concerns or disingenuous and delusional elements.

I also want to believe that the platform organized in collaboration with Ethiopian Satellite Television and Radio on “The Future Relations of Ethiopia and Eritrea” was a wise step forward because if we are really serious about bringing about sustainable peace and development with active participation of the people, there must be a genuine and realistic effort that could pave the way for feasible rapprochement as far as the very unique ties between the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea is concerned. I would strongly argue that this kind of initiative and practical step does contribute to the very justified and legitimate struggle to end a severe political illness and socio-economic destitution once and for all in our country, and expand the positive impact to the rest of Horn of Africa. Put simply, it is quite fair to say that this move is part and parcel of the movement that would manifest itself in the form of political and socio-cultural breakthrough that eventually paves the way for socio- economic advancement and the well-being of the people.

I sincerely want to believe that though the time we spent (especially the last ten years) and the opportunities we terribly missed are painfully regrettable, now we desperately need to start doing something that is compatible with the political and diplomatic reality of today’s world we live in. Yes, we have to start somewhere and somehow with no more delay and without making all kinds of clumsy excuses we used not only yesterday or for that matter a few years back, but all the way back to our domestic political history.

What makes every aspect of the lives of the Ethiopian people much more miserable year after year, and decade after decade is our terrible failure to learn from all the ugly and devastating political experiences we have gone through through-out the history of our political culture.

Wasn’t the devastating politics of red terror and “white terror” more than enough to learn and to stand together and bring about what we deserve? Wasn’t what we experienced for the last two decades, and more particularly the 2005 election and its tragic consequences more than enough to act together and make a difference? Wasn’t and isn’t being mentioned as typical examples of the people who could not feed themselves while sitting in fertile lands and surrounded by rivers and other natural and human resources more than enough to say enough is enough? Isn’t being treated as one of the most impoverished people on this planet in this 21st century enough to learn quickly and act accordingly? Are mere and unnecessary regurgitation, decry, and lamentation of past wrong doings and the painful consequences they had entailed parts of a solution or parts of a serious problem at this time of dynamically different circumstances we are trying to deal with? Can’t and shouldn’t we make our perspectives and concerns we may have with a real sense of reality/objectivity, rationality, evidence, sound and convincing alternatives? Can’t we express views and ideas we may have with a sense of responsibility and respect instead of trying to make the people captives of the past with all kinds of not only highly emotion- driven but also very crude and rude conspiracy rhetoric? How long and to what extent should we stand against any initiative because we either have the problem of giving a highly inflated and unrealistic personal ambition to ourselves, or simply because we don’t like what others do because we do not like them ? How we explain let alone justify the drought and hunger (no guarantee not to face famine) striking large areas of the country and 15 million (let’s hope it is not going up and up) to those “donors” whom we have already begging for rescue? Can we afford not to break the politics of keeping the very fabric that holds peoples’ togetherness fall apart by cracking down those who may try to put that very fabric back together and make a qualitative change? How do we explain what the horrifying situations in Oromia and north Gondar, and how are we determined not only say enough is enough as usual but to make it enough in practical terms? How long should we take blaming and condemning the ruthless ruling elites as if we haven’t known who they are and what they are for not only since they came to power but also all the way back to their inception as a political entity ?

In the midst of all political madness of TPLF/EPRDF and socio-economic destitution we continue to face, we are now facing a very wide-spread and severe hunger. There should not be any reason not to do what we can and should do to help millions Ethiopians survive the heal they found themselves and beg for help despite the donors’ fatigue which badly challenges our national pride we do claim. Yes, we have to deal with what we are facing despite being portrait by not only donors but also by others who themselves are receivers of massive aid, particularly African countries whom we helped them to gain their political independent.

Well, what is extremely puzzling and paradoxical is when we remain unwilling and unable to come to terms of mutual understanding and collective action against the very root-cause the untold suffering of the people. The politics of keep decrying the painful and deadly symptoms of our political illness is absolutely nonsensical. Needless to say, this very political illness could not be cured without forcing TPLF/EPRDF either to come to the negotiating table or getting rid of it with all means available. To this end, there is a compelling reason for us to play our parts by organizing ourselves in any way we believe is appropriate and productive. I think that is the very reason that brings Vision Ethiopia into being.

As we are now at the very critical moment than ever, any effort from all sections of our community or society aimed at taking our common cause to the right track regardless of small or big must be encouraged and supported. It is from this perspective that I want to look at the formation of Vision Ethiopia. I want to reasonably believe that despite all the notoriously delusional noises being made by some fellow Ethiopians, Vision Ethiopia will keep moving along with rational, critical, constructive, and most importantly forward-looking support from the majority of Ethiopians who are sick and tired of the political culture of playing disruptive games against the efforts being made by entities such as Vision Ethiopia.

As any genuinely concerned ordinary Ethiopian, I closely have followed what some individuals in the diaspora had to respond to the formation of Vision Ethiopia and its very first practical step of organizing a conference in collaboration with ESAT on 10/18/15.

Now, the very question we courageously must deal with is: how long and to what extent we have to remain victims of a very ugly political culture of launching delusional campaign against those who have taken the initiative for doing something at this critical moment in time?

Most of the “arguments” by those fellow Ethiopians who are against making any contact let alone any effort of rapprochement toward the Eritrean government are highly emotion-loaded and terribly overshadowed by what went wrong in history , not what is currently happening and how we should move wisely and cautiously . It is one thing to express the concerns we may have with a real sense of criticism, rationale, substance, the objective reality we are facing today (not mere decry the wrong doings of the past), and most importantly with sound and feasible alternative. But it is quite another thing to try to twist things with all kinds of conspiratorial campaign in the very name of freedom of expression and freedom of access to information. I do not know what else could be delusional and disingenuous if it is not this type of attitude or behavior. The people of Ethiopia cannot afford to continue listening to and watching an endless and delusional way of arguments that have significantly contributed to an extremely distressful situation we are facing.

I have read an article by Prof. Tecola Hagos (Aiga Forum) titled, “Ethiopia and Eritrea – Antagonists in Perpetuity: Cohen, Shinn and Witless Diasporas to the Rescue.” I was not surprised with his long article with no any substantive description of problem solving let alone analytical, rational and critical ideas of forward-looking. This article of his is just a jargonized revision of what we have been hearing and reading from “the late philosopher king”, Meles Zenawi and his surviving brain-children.
Prof. Hagos did not tell us that it was the late “philosopher king” who refused the suggestive views of representatives of foreign powers such Ambassador Herman Cohen to consider the idea of not to leave Ethiopia landlocked. Prof. Hagos did not dare to tell the truth that the late “philosopher king” and his cronies cannot escape the huge responsibility as well as accountability for committing crime not only against humanity but also against the very territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country; and of course responsible and accountable for the tragic war that had taken thousands of lives, not to mention the cost of other resources.

Prof. Hagos looks very treacherous as he did not want to at least be critical of the political crime and an incredibly rampant corruption from the very top to the very bottom of the ethno-centric tyranny. He instead declares that those who try to get rid of the ruthless ethno-centric ruling elites by any legitimate means are terrorists. Neither am I undermining nor questioning the academic qualification of Prof. Hagos as such. But when it comes to the way he characterizes those heroic and patriotic Ethiopians who are at the very forefront of the struggle for freedom and justice as terrorists , I have to say that he is terribly hypocrite and cynically delusional.

I do not know if he carefully reviewed his own way of argument he put in white and black when he says, “… delusional Ethiopians about Isaias Afeworki’s enmity …” I do not think any genuinely concerned Ethiopian denies the terrible wrong doings as far as how to handle the conflict of many years in that part of Africa was concerned. We may argue over the question of who or which side has caused more damage, and we may strongly blame Isaias Afeworki and his party with objective, fair, teachable and constructive way. But, trying to deal with today’s challenges with the political mentality of staying focused on what went wrong in the past and arguing that never any contact leave alone relations of any kind with Ato Isaias and his party is politically stupid. It must equally be underscored that trying to make rulers of Ethiopia immune from the responsibility for what terribly went wrong throughout our political history and the serious consequences of which the people have suffered from is irrational and self-deception, to say the least.

We are now in a different time and different political reality. The political attitude of insisting that Isaias Afeworki will never change “his enmity” toward Ethiopia and Ethiopians and accusing Ethiopian opposition forces in Eritrea of being subjects of Ato Isaias and his government is politically absurd. It badly overshadows the issue of what is to be done today and tomorrow not to repeat what went wrong yesterday and years back.

It is from this point of view that I would say unless Prof. Hagos wants to give his own suitable meaning, delusional is meant a person who remains notoriously non-convinced and noisy against all the facts or evidences or the realities on the ground at this moment in time. Needless to say, convincing oneself not to be convinced despite all the facts or realities on the ground and keep regurgitating the same old and unsubstantiated rhetoric is nothing, but terribly delusional.

He still regurgitates the mere rhetoric of historical enmity of President Isaias Afeworki toward Ethiopia with no any sounding and compellingly convincing alternative to the ongoing struggle against state – terrorism in Ethiopia. Instead, he declares, “the association or being an instrument of a hostile government to fight and change the Ethiopian current government by force is an act of terrorism.” I could say more; but let me conclude with the following argument by Thomas Sowell; “Imperfection or inefficiency can seldom destroy a nation. But the disintegration of its social bonds and demoralization of its people’s confidence and allegiance can. Intellectuals contribute greatly to both those processes.” Yes, it is those intellectuals such as Prof. Hagos who are delusional not only for themselves but they also try to put the people in a state of delusion. To undermine the very confidence and allegiance of those Ethiopians who are at the very forefront of the struggle for freedom and justice because they make contacts or relations with Isaias Afeworki and his government comes from a stupidity of arrogance. Needless to say, though it is quite necessary to listen to and genuinely consider the concerns of Ethiopians as helpful inputs in the process of creating mutually beneficial relations with the Eritrean government, it is equally necessary to straight-forwardly tell those fellow Ethiopians who insist on standing against any movement that has the name President Isaias Afeworki with it let alone making any contact with him is absurdly troubling.

I read another article written in Amharic by another person (Isaias Ta’ameno) from Germany and posted on Ethiomedia on 11/29/15. Basically, most of his view is not different from that of Prof. Hagos’s, especially his irrational and emotion-driven negativity toward the founding members of Vision Ethiopia. He could not even hide the level of his delusional state of mind when he declares, “Ethiopia is not the property of comrade (guad) Kassa Kebede, Dr. Getachew, Bereket, Sibehat Nega. Ethiopia belongs to all of us. Period.” Trying to put those who are determined to stay in power by any means including their killing machine with those Ethiopians who are trying to not to dictate solutions of their own but to take initiatives on how those Ethiopians with knowledge , experience and courage could come together and produce something impactful is horribly delusional , to say the least. He goes on with his terribly ridiculous conspiracy theory when he says, “The conference was organized and presided by those who were selected by an organization and they are subservient to Eritrea. It (the conference) was full of outright lie.”

I wish he could tell us or express his critique evidently, rationally, genuinely; and most importantly with a sense of morality, civility, respect, and constructiveness. Unfortunately, he couldn’t. I think it is because he did not set his mind in such a way that he could make his critical points view constructively helpful. That is he simply let his uncontrollably emotion-driven words of accusation and blame explode. Needless to say that the moment we lose making a sense of realistic or objective relation between our way of thinking and the reality we deal with, we end up with neither able to understand and deal with the problem we are facing nor to be parts of the solution. And this is nothing else, but a state of delusion.

Ta’amino quoted a German commentator (journalist) about the separation of Ethiopia and Eritrea; “unfinished divorce and troubling neighborhood.” Neither resisting the very hard fact of Eritrean independence after a quarter of a century nor making how Eritreans voted for independence our points of argument at this very different reality we are dealing with does not make sense of political reality.

He referred another “great journalist” of his, Demis Belete as his facticity of the enmity of Ato Isaias Afeworki and his party toward Ethiopia and Ethiopians. I read Demis’s series writings because I am of the opinion that by doing so one can make his or her own fairly rational, not emotional critique. I wish I could say more about his writings. But, as I found them (his writings) well-done in terms of trying to make things seemingly convincing with well-structured episodes of essay but terribly empty in terms of putting realties in the right context, I chose not to say much. The only thing I want to say is if anybody feels this comment of mine is unfair or wrong, it is good to go back and read them carefully. Fellow Ethiopians, I am not surprisingly questioning why some fellow Ethiopians behave in this or that way. I understand not expecting all kinds of nasty or messy elements of behaviors in any political interaction let alone ours is to be naïve. But, one thing is important. And that is the need to deal with them appropriately and timely so that they wouldn’t go beyond control and make infectious damage to the very interests of the people.

I carefully listened to the two interviews conducted by Abebe Belew of Addis Dimts radio, first with those who claim to be critical of Vision Ethiopia and then members of Vision Ethiopia (11/16/15 and 11/23/15 respectively). I appreciate Abebe for inviting both sides and make their respective views and explanations public. Abebe repeatedly comments that he has a problem with those Ethiopians who do not like to listen to opposing views and ideas on his radio show. Well, I do not think any person with his or her basic capacity of understanding would disagree with Abebe’s comment. Needless to say, the moment we oppose the right to express ourselves freely and independently, we end up with no real sense of argument and counter-argument; and subsequently no problem –solving progress. It goes without saying that this is one of the main serious shortcomings of our political culture we have to deal with appropriately.

However, having genuine, realistically critical, rational, not dominated with an obsession of personal ambition, and above all productively forward-looking argument is quite different from that of having argument for the sake of argument. In the context of the general crisis our country is facing, the political attitude of undermining if not attacking those who just try to do their part of moving the struggle forward does help tyrants, not the fight for the right cause. I do not think it is difficult to understand that this troubling behavior comes from not only from those who obviously are on the opposite side but also those who are unrealistically and highly obsessed with personal ambition of “if we are not leading stars, let things remain fall apart.” The moment individuals unrealistically convince themselves that nothing doesn’t work-out without taking the driver-sit for themselves, they end up with looking for any excuse for going with their delusional way of thinking through any opportunity they may seize.

To be rationally and constructively critical is quite different. It has a lot to do with nurturing and developing innovative ideas and coming up with sound solutions and new findings. It is quite different from just bringing up any subject and make wonderful rhetoric in the name of democratic values and practices. Yes, the right of self-expression has nothing to with the quality of ideas or views. However, if we are talking about fighting against the most dangerous political environment our country is facing, the people of Ethiopia cannot afford entertaining all kinds of very silly, cynical or disingenuous talk shows. Raising argumentative or debatable issues with a real sense of realistic, rational, constructive, problem-solving, and forward-looking manner is one thing. But going otherwise is nothing, delusion. This straight-forward comment of mine sound harsh. But, I sincerely believe that is the way it is.

As one of genuinely concerned ordinary Ethiopians, I carefully listened to any verbal expression of views and read any written words of expression as my capacity and time allow me to do so. When it comes to the two interviews, I have to say that the way those who claim to be critical of Vision Ethiopia expressed their views and comments were badly over dominated by the making of highly emotional sentiments that went to the extent of accusing and blaming Vision Ethiopia based on a highly distorted information. The interviewees were Kinfu Asefa, Aklilu, Kalid and Senay.

As Eritreans who are supporters (members?) Of the Eritrean opposition groups in Ethiopia being assisted by TPLF/EPRDF, I understand the feelings and positions of Senay and Kalid. That is why I was not surprised when they were trying to preach us that we Ethiopians enjoy freedom of speech and writing (freedom of expression). What they are trying to convince (better to say to fool ) us is that TPLF /EPRDF which uses freedom of expression to identify whom to intimidate , harass, detain, torture and kill is much better than Shabia which does makes itself clear that it does not tolerate freedom of expression in the real sense of the term. Senay and Kalid would have been fairly genuine if they told us that they have no problem with TPLF/EPRDF; but the struggle for a democratic change is up to the people of Ethiopia. Unfortunately, they sounded like the parasitic political cadres of TPLF/EPRDF. And this is an insult to those innocent Ethiopians who are languishing in notoriously terrible prisons, and to those who are forced to flee their country, and most outrageously to the people of Ethiopia in general.

As a matter of fact, I have never heard the Ethiopia oppositions in Eritrea such as Arbegnoch Ginbot 7 declaring that there is democracy in Eritrea in the real sense of the term. What I have heard and read is that Ato Isaias Afeworki and his government have shown their willingness and readiness to cooperate with those Ethiopians who are willing and ready to learn from what went wrong in past (history) and put it in the right context, and pave the way for the betterment of the future. Asking any person of politics, political group or government to become genuinely democratic before engaging in any contact and relation even if there is willingness and readiness to learn from what went wrong and move forward does not makes political sense.

I agree with Senay and Kalid that not accepting the fact that Eritrea is an independent state and bringing up this into the reality we are deal with today is nothing, but highly delusional. What is now desperately required is to face and accept facts as they are and deal with all the very challenging issues surrounding that very act on the ground accordingly.

I found kinfu’s and Aklilu’s argument of putting the case of how the Eritrean referendum took place and the issue of Assab on the table before moving to any attempt of making relation with Ato Isaias and his government is troubling in the context of today’s political reality . This is because we are talking about an internationally recognized state, not de- facto territory. Fellow Ethiopians, the challenge we are facing at this moment in time is not something to entertain this kind of unrealistic and emotion-driven talk shows in the name of freedom of thought and expression.

I hate to say but I have to say how Kinfu is cynically stupid when he tried to characterize those who organized and participated in the conference by saying that “those whites (he meant Herman Cohen and David Shinn) do not understand the intrigues of those Ethiopians.” I do not know how this kind of “do not trust those Ethiopians” mentality could be taken as part of productive process of confidence building among ourselves. He went to the extent of calling those Ethiopian intellectuals of Vision Ethiopia as players of “intellectual opportunism and running for short term interest. “ The only thing I would say is that making this kind of highly blunt statement in the context of the role of Vision Ethiopia and ESAT is not simply wrong, but stupidly insensitive and cynically negative.
Aklilu went to the extent of blaming Vision Ethiopia for “causing hatred between Ethiopians and Eritreans.” The very reason he used for this type of accusation is his belief that Ato Isaias and his government will never change their enmity toward Ethiopia, the very attitude being reflected by a considerable number of fellow Ethiopians. He informed us that he has written many articles on this subject of “historical enemy.” And I sincerely believe it is a great to do so. However, Writing on a certain political subject regardless of the dynamism of political reality and the question of how one could be a factor of making a difference is not better than being delusional. I do not know how it makes sense when Aklilu tried to justify his argument by saying that there are many Ethiopians who still believe that “Eritrea is part of Ethiopia by displaying the map of Ethiopia that includes Eritrea.” Another Aklilu’s terribly cynical speculation is when he said that the reason holding the conference in October 2015 is to “help Ato Isaias Afeworki getting the UN sanction lifted.” Alas! What an extremely absurd speculation!

With regard to the response from Vision Ethiopia (Professor Getachew Begashaw, Professor Minga Negash and Ato Yilma), the only thing I want to say is that though the way those Ethiopians who expressed their opposing views was full of wrong perception, being captives of what went wrong in the past, no alternative and sound forward –looking, disruptive , and highly cynical hearsay and speculation ; accepting Addis Dimts’s invitation and explain their own version of story was the right thing to do . To my understanding, this has a lot to do with not only to getting this either intentionally or unmentionably much distorted information and terrible obstructionism corrected but also as a teachable moment for engaging in rational and productive conversation.

Let me sum up by saying that it is absolutely necessary to initiate and develop valuable ideas and views in a critical, rational, objective, constructive and forward-looking manner. It is understandable that this is not an easy task in any social interaction let alone in our political culture that has always been characterized by the total control of ruling elites (palace politics). But, it must equally be underscored that it is absolutely wrong not to try hard to control, if not avoid the very undesirable political culture of mixing (especially with full intention) the vision for Ethiopia with delusional arguments in the name of freedom of expression. Let me reiterate once again that particularly the situation where we are now cannot and should not allow to entertain the culture of doing politics as unusual.