By Aklog Birara (D/R)
The people of Ethiopia have spoken loud and clear. The TPLF/EPRDF ethnic-elite dictatorship commandeered by the TPLF that kills with impunity and plunders with gusto must go. When a regime carries-out murders, maiming and wounding, massive jailing and enforced disappearances of tens of thousands of innocent people instead of listening and responding to their legitimate demands for justice, freedom, genuine equality, inclusion and democracy, it is time for it to go for good. Otherwise, the consequences for Ethiopia and its 102 million citizens will be unimaginable. By all criteria, Ethiopia is a failing state and will soon join the likes of Syria, South Sudan and others. We must do all we can to avert this scenario.
My estimation is that, if all the country’s fractured and weak political, social, religious and actors unite to work on a compelling unity of purpose and alternative governance for the country, they will avert the worst scenario. Strong bonds do not occur on their own. They require a new mind set of reaching out to one another; establishing mutual and common bonds and mutual trust beyond ethnic and religious division and elitism. This is the essence of the quote above.
All Ethiopians have more to lose from Ethiopia’s destruction. Equally, all Ethiopians have much to gain from unity within diversity, harnessing each other’s strengths, respecting and accepting one another and collaborating with one another for the common good. It is only when we tip the thinking process toward collaboration and inclusion that we will be in a position to offer Ethiopia and its oppressed millions a more promising option. I opine that, this narrative is the only viable formula that will also gain us respect of the global community.
It is time to argue in unison that, people who live in fear of their own government are never secure because they are not free. They are terrorized by their own government. Therefore, we can argue convincingly that American security and emergency assistance at this time of Ethiopia’s conflict-ridden condition is no longer defensible. Security and other assistance to a regime that kills children, a pregnant woman, a mother mourning her murdered son or parents who have lost their children who they expected would support them as they age is a moral outrage. It demeans Ethiopians and devalues Ethiopian lives.
I suggest in this commentary that, the TPLF preposition that only a heavily armed and well-resourced band can and should govern perpetually through the use of force is fundamentally flawed. I suggest the following reasons why this is so.
The Ethiopian people do not hate one another as TPLF hardliners claim. They do not hate Tigreans; they hate and despise the regime that keeps them oppressed and divided.
People together and not elites determine their political fate. Youth determines the future state. These are the social forces who are making history through sit-ins, boycotts, by refusing to pay taxes, through prayers, by supporting and caring for one another and by sharing information across regional lines. In the process they are making enormous sacrifices in life and property.
People have overcome the debilitating effect of ethnic divide and rule. They have overcome the no access to the internet, social media, telephone etc. policy and practice of the ruling party. In fact, they have become their own journalists and spokesmen and women. They use the creative genius of human connections; and connections are fundamental tools in changing a regime and in advancing democracy.
Despite 25 years of ethnic and religious divisions, common bonds are being restored faster than the TPLF/EPRDF imagined would be possible. Think of Oromo and Amhara and other students in both regions sharing their dreams with one another; supporting with one another; echoing slogans common to them etc. One year ago, we could not have imagined of such miracle in the midst of atrocities and a police state that is merciless and clueless.
Yet, there is a vacuum
The serious and alarming vacuum of national (Pan-Ethiopian) and multinational (diverse) political organization and farsighted leadership is self-evident. Despite the encouraging popular uprising that is shredding the ethnic-elite state and its institutions rapidly and irreparably, Ethiopian politics is still driven by self-selected and self-appointed political, civic, media and intellectual elites and individuals. These elites adhere to the Stalinist idea of political formation on the basis of nationality rather than on the basis of fundamental and challenging issues the country and its diverse population face. This outdated and divisive approach is no different from Wallelign’s borrowed thesis and mantra of irreconcilable differences among nations, nationalities and peoples. It is practically the same as the political, constitutional and institutional superstructure the EPLF, TPLF, OLF and their backers imposed on the Ethiopian people. The counter point is that ordinary people are fed-up with division and repression.
Here is my question to political and other elites as well as to individuals who still fail to comprehend the root causes of why thousands of Oromo, Annuak, Somali, Amhara, Gurage and other Ethiopian youth are dying, being maimed and wounded, tortured, flogged, marginalized, jailed and sent to concentration camps. What would happen the day after this brutal regime collapses?
Where are Ethiopia’s bold, honest, courageous and transformative opinion, spiritual, social, community and political leaders and institutions who ought to provide a compelling shared but national narrative that will move Ethiopia and its 102 million citizens from the current repressive, oppressive and plundering ethnic state to a just, fair, law abiding, inclusive and democratic state? Where is or are our Mandela or Mandelas?
There is now a consensus that the current TPLF/EPRDF regime must go. What we are compelled to respond to is this. The Ethiopian people as well as the international community that caters to the TPLF/EPRDF demand that elites and concerned persons meet, discuss, frame and agree on a well-reasoned and thought-out Transitional governmental arrangement and alternative that will mitigate the enormous risks the country and its people face.
This urgent task can and should happen through some kind of an All-Stakeholders Conference or Convention or whatever you call it. In this connection, civic organizations and prominent individuals have enormous potential to sponsor and facilitate this humongous task. I urge each and every one of us to push this agenda forward.