[By Obang Metho] The sudden death of Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch Abune Paulos, following the disappearance of Prime Minister Meles, and now the illness of General Samora Younis, leaves three unexpected vacuums in the top leadership of Ethiopia. Who will replace them—a tribe or the most qualified leaders?
The sudden death of Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch Abune Paulos on August 16, 2012 has caught many Ethiopians by surprise. The loss of another TPLF/EPRDF top linchpin must be causing increasing anxiety and fear behind the closed doors of the regime. His death only compounds the leadership vacuum created when Meles disappeared over two months ago.
On August 17, 2012, information emerged that General Samora Younis, the top leader of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces was taken seriously ill and rushed out of the country for medical treatment, another shocking development that could weaken the regime’s control of the military. The TPLF/EPRDF faces some difficult and anxious days ahead as the crisis of leadership deepens within their ruling party; all worsened by the growing anger, fear and resentment from Ethiopians towards their 21-year long iron-fisted, one-party, ethnic-apartheid rule.
Yet, today, Ethiopia is in darkness. Anxiety is plaguing the hearts of most every Ethiopian as no one knows the future. Who will replace these leaders? Will the only contenders be from one tribe from one region or the country or the most qualified candidates? Ethiopians see no hope that the TPLF/EPRDF regime will change its nature as political space remains completely closed, as communication lines are monitored, suppressed or blocked, as crackdowns on the opposition and peaceful Muslim protestors continue, as the independent media is shut down and as land and resource grabs continue to threaten the survival of our vulnerable people.
The disappearance of Meles has only intensified the peoples’ anxieties for the future as a vacuum of leadership, which could have promised opportunity for change, remains unexploited because few, even within the TPLF/EPRDF, are prepared to step in. Meles and the TPLF/EPRDF, controlled by him, his family and his cronies, have worked very hard and successfully to destroy any competition. Even foreign partners who have invested in Meles, counting on his continued tight control of Ethiopia, must be highly concerned regarding Ethiopia’s shaky and uncertain future. Now add to it the death of Abune Paulos, who has been the unpopular leader of millions of Ethiopian Orthodox believers—as well as the absence of General Samora Younis, who has been the force of military power behind Meles—and the levels of anxiety over what might happen next only deepen.
The age of “one-tribe-take- all” is dying, but it may not end easily until we pull out the life-support of ethnic-based hatred which has been in a coma for the last 21 years. Along with it must go ethnic-based favoritism, ethnic-based entitlement and ethnic-based revenge that run too deeply within us and our society. It must be replaced with the moral and spiritual transformation which comes from souls that seek God’s righteousness. The only thing that will replace the ethnic-based dehumanization of “others” is a pure heart, not bent on revenge, but willing to forgive, to reconcile, to love, to care and to live in harmony with other human beings, all created by the same God.
Ethiopian Orthodox believers and all Ethiopians, including non-believers, who believe in freedom of religion, belief and thought, have a moral, ethical and spiritual duty to not allow another puppet of the TPLF/EPRDF to become the next spiritual head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Whoever replaces Abune Paulos should not be chosen because of village, family, ethnicity, regional biases or regime loyalty but by qualities of spiritual leadership, enhanced with competency. Now, by what seems to be divinely-orchestrated coincidence, the Orthodox are in the same position as Ethiopian Muslims, all who do not want the TPLF/EPRDF, or any other government—even a good government—to interfere with religious affairs. It is wrong and should be confronted.
It is time to prepare for the “unknowns of tomorrow” for when it comes, we must confront it, first as people of shared humanity and then as Ethiopians; not by our differences, but by what unifies us—our homes, the land we all share and the mixed blood of our ancestors that flows in our veins making it impossible to truly identify its sources.
In order to confront our “tomorrow,” we should all be standing together as one family to demand a New Ethiopia where everyone is included; where “my” justice will not come without the justice of my neighbor. As we demand this, let us not miss the bigger picture—our humanity that we share with the Tigrayan. They are our beloved brothers and sisters; valued and treasured by God Almighty who created all of us. They are us! Yes, those who committed crimes of destruction will face justice, but for anyone else, the New Ethiopia will include all our Ethiopian brothers and sisters in a more humane, more God-honoring Ethiopia.
GOD bless Ethiopia!