Ethiopia: The Runaway Patriots!

From left to right: Feyisa Lilesa (athelete), Znah-Bzu Tsegaye (actor) and Baye Tadesse (TPLF official) have defected the TPLF regime

By Eyassu Lebenu

A patriot fights for what is right and gives the last possible price to the cause he believes in than running away from challenges and adversity. But, reading below you might find how the ‘runaway patriots’ title best suit the nature and action of those Ethiopians who happen to escape from the dictatorship of the TPLF led Ethiopian government and reside as refugees in other western countries

Ever since the coming to power of TPLF led government in Ethiopia in May 1991 many able Ethiopians, including Journalists, Academicians, Human rights activists, Diplomats /including me/ and Opposition political party members who were unable to exercise their human and democratic rights or jailed, tortured, harassed and persecuted for doing so had been obliged to leave their nation. They were left with no chance at home to be treated as a free people and it became a necessity to go in exile to start a new life in a new environment from scratch. In the last two decades those who could have been able to lift the nation in social and economic development left their nation is countless being helpless and hopeless in the system in Ethiopia.

I have no doubt that making the decision to leave a system that does not let people to live as human being with all their Human rights and dignities respected is a decision that requires courage and conviction. A conviction to say no to be treated as second class citizen, the decision to resist being party to a system that cares most for its continuity than the progress of the nation, and the determination to express resentment to what is being done that does harm to the interest of the nation than benefit it is one quality any patriot would posses. This being the case, however, it is not the end in itself. Beyond saying no to injustice and undemocratic practices and depart from the system as a show of opposition it is imperative that action should be taken to obliterate the same system from the source.

It is a knowledge to all Ethiopians and other western nation that the ethnic based politics of the regime in Ethiopia that galvanizes ethnic tensions; the control of the nation’s military and security by one ethnic group; the inability of the regime to feed its citizens even after more than two decades in power; the coercion and intimidation of civil servants to be members of the ruling party, and the control of democratic institutions like, election offices, media and courts, by the party in power are some of the basis that brought many Ethiopians in contradiction to the regime. As long as its politics and policies are effective in perpetuating its hegemony and it clings to power the regime sees no reason to change them unless faced with an opposing force or pressure from western nations.

Before I made the decision to defect from my diplomatic post and go in exile this same dilemma has been bugging me. There were two options, one was to be silent and support the system disregarding the injustices and unfair practices or the other option was to say no and be a refuge. Like many before me, I took the second option of being a refuge to live as a free thinking human being. Many more have been following that same path up until now. So long as the system persists, it is no wonder many other will follow in the future.

Now, the question is not defecting from a regime that is unable and unwilling to change to the better is good or bad. The question is what and how much are we doing to change the system we defect from and embark on a safe ground. That is what I regard lies behind being a patriot. To commit to a cause no matter what the circumstances and no matter hard and tough the price we have to pay. It is worth mentioning this famous words by an American patriot Nathan Hale, before he was hanged for spying on the British troops on September 22, 1776, he said, ‘I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.’ Same kind of patriots from our own country had come and passed sacrificing their lives for the cause of freedom and justice in its long history. The problem is not whether we have people who exemplify what it is to be a patriot. The problem is are we able and willing to follow them.

We cannot be hypocrite and say the same like Nathan. Let alone wishing to die twice are we at least giving time to think about changing the system that detached our roots and made us face life away from the only place we knew. No adversity, no challenge or injustice could be won with silence or by running away from it. It requires courage and conviction through all means necessary to make what is wrong right. Our exile is not an end in itself for the injustice and human rights violation of millions back home. Rather, it should be a force to put pressure on the beast that long controlled the hills of power in Ethiopia for far two long unable and unwilling to unclench its fists.

Demanding nations to put pressure on the regime in Ethiopia through different means should be the task of those of us who are victims and are able to escape it and live in other nations where the long and deep hand of the dictatorship back home cannot reach. It is our task to make all known our plight and yearning for the respect of human dignity and freedom through medias and demonstrations as many already are doing. We have to demand the US and other influential nations to do their part in the fight to end injustice and human rights violation. It is very true as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

We have to both fight and pray until justice is prevailed and the rights of citizens, without regard to ethnicity and political opinion, are fully respected. However, to sit back and do nothing should not be an option. leaving the country or escaping from the tyranny and persecution of the Tigray government would be sensible. But doing nothing once one escape from the gulag makes his/her action senseless and make one to be called nothing but a runaway patriots!