By Yilma Bekele (17 Feb. 2009) The economic downturn is taking a toll. There is a scarcity of capital. Both demand and supply are out of whack. Thus, factories are operating at reduced capacity. States and cites have their workers on forced furlough to save money. Here in California, the biggest and wealthiest State, the Governor had ‘ordered more than 200,000 state workers to take off the first and third Friday of each month without pay to help deal with the state’s cash shortage’ according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The recession is causing hardship across the world. The New York Times reports that the US “industrial operating rate was just 78.9 percent of capacity in April, the poorest showing in more than three years.” What does it all mean? Simply put folks are hurting. If the factories are closing there will be no jobs. If there are no jobs there will be no consumer spending. If consumers are not purchasing goods and services factories will stay closed. It is what is called a vicious circle. The solution that President Obama and responsible leaders are searching for is a formula to increase both demand and supply. They want the factories to operate at full capacity and the consumer to earn income so he can spend. That is all the ‘stimulus’ is all about.
What is clear is that ‘operating at half capacity’ does no body any good. It has to be avoided. We are faced with the same problem in Ethiopia. Our immediate headache is the lack of Democracy and a representative government in our country. Our main goal is to correct this imbalance in the body politic of our motherland. We have a sick country with a malignant tumor called the ‘TPLF’ infecting our body politic. If we consider our country as a human body, for such malignant tumor as the TPLF the possible treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these procedures.
When it comes to a nation and its social problems the possible treatments to get rid of this parasite must include unity of purpose and a clearly stated goal. There is no question that in the battle to get rid of the evildoer Unity is one of the pre requisite for success.
What is also true is that to achieve a quick and decisive victory in a short amount of time it is vital that one operates at full capacity. Why we in Ethiopia are operating at a quarter capacity to get rid of the apartheid regime is a good question to ask with the goal of finding ways to rectify the problem.
What is missing is the full participation of the Diaspora woman and the Diaspora church in this epic battle to regain our independence. I am not including the Diaspora mosque because I do not have first hand information regarding that body. What is very perplexing is that both groups, that is women and the church have always been in the forefront of the war against foreign invaders and local tyrants. What went wrong this time?
Starting with the legendary Queen Saba to the many queens through out the century to the beloved Taytu Betul women have played a leading role in our history. Empress Taytu was an advisor to Menelek and played an important role in formulating the treaty of Wuchale. When the Italians invaded our country, Taytu marched north with the imperial army. Empress Taytu took up position close to Amba Abba Gerima ‘commanding a force of cannoneers at the historic Battle of Adwa which resulted in a humiliating defeat for Italy in March of 1894’
Ethiopian woman have participated in the fight for democracy along side their male counterparts. Women were present in the student movement of the 60’s and led the call ‘Land to the Tiller!’ In the struggle against the Derge women were involved as leaders, fighters, mothers, nurturers in all the Liberation Fronts and Parties.
In today’s Ethiopia our women carry the burden of chauvinism both by the State and society. AID’S is rampant, due to the culture of prostitution around every corner and it is decimating the young population. Women are the primary victims. Even in the rural areas, Orphans are part of the landscape. There are not that many options for a young girl. Our sisters and children are flocking to the Middle East to work as maids. There is no shame in that. It is honest work. The problem lies in the fact that once they leave Ethiopia they have no protection to shield them from harm. So many have been abused and traumatized to the point of jumping from high-rise buildings. They preferred death to imprisonment and abuse. So many children without mothers are a sad testimonial to the incompetence of the current regime. Excuse is not a valid reason for failure.
In the political field women have managed to lead by example. Judge Bertukan is on such person whose integrity and solid character have won her the admiration of her fellow Ethiopians and freedom fighters everywhere. Like her sister Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, Judge Birtukan is setting the standard for Human Rights fighters everywhere. Publishers, editors and reporters like Serkalem Fasil who was imprisoned with no just cause and was forced to delivered her son while at the infamous Kaliti prison are examples for all our daughters and sons. Self less fight is in short supply in Ethiopia and then we have people like these heroines to make us realize that a few brave women are paying the price for all of to be free.
What is missing here is the voice and leadership of the Diaspora women. It is true that there have been a few that have been actively participating and leading the movement for democracy. Beautiful strong sisters like Ayalnesh, Meron, Lulit to mention a few are playing a positive role in the struggle against injustice. But when you consider that women make over half of the population their number in the struggle for Human Right leaves a lot to be desired. Most meetings and conferences are still a majority men affair. The absence of any large group from the decision making process is not healthy. A strong and vibrant women’s organization is a vital component of the struggle. Decision makers are always impressed by the diversity of the group advocating a change. Diaspora Ethiopian women’s participation will surely enrich the organization. It is not a lot to ask our successful and thriving Ethiopian women to please get involved and share the burden with their fathers, husbands and children. It is also important that men encourage and push their wife, sister or daughter to get involved in building the future.
The Diaspora Ethiopian church is another weak link that needs to wake up and assert its rightful place to save the motherland. It is true that there should be a wall between church and state. No one should insist that the church be involved in partisan politics. It is not correct for the church to support one party over the other. But the church should always be concerned about the value of human life. Like the Catholic ‘liberation theologians’ of Latin America the Ethiopian Church should defend the flag while advocating justice to all her children.
The Ethiopian Church has played such a role in our history. Arada Giorgis marched north to Adwa with the Emperor and the troops. That fateful day before the battle at Adwa ‘Archbishop Abune Mattiwos of St. Michael’s church stepped out of the Holy of Holies in the middle of the mass and announced that the time had come to lay down lives for God, Emperor and Country. The Imperial flag was dipped before the altar as the Archbishop held up his cross and blessed the people, and granted them absolution for their sins.’ Abune Petros was murdered by the fascists for refusing to bless their conquest. Our nation is indebted to the Orthodox Church for safeguarding our cultural heritage and independence.
It was with deep regret that we witnessed the despicable act by some church board members in Los Angles during the Temket festival that called the police against fellow Ethiopians for holding a candle light vigil on behalf of the many political prisoners. The same people who were dressed in colorful national costume, and holding our flag high were willing to turn a blind eye towards the abuse of fellow citizens in the hands of the petty tyrant. They wanted to criminalize the cry of their fellow Ethiopians for justice to all regardless of party affiliation or tribal allegiance. It is important to note that the Diaspora church is an orphan without a strong and vibrant Ethiopian nation. We humbly ask Ethiopian church board members not to lose sight of the bigger picture and let their members exercise their god given right to stand by their country and flag in this time of uncertainty.
The full participation by both groups will ensure the fight for Democracy and Human Right will be based on solid ground. The presence of women will bring commonsense and clarity of goal to the organizations. The involvement of the church will give moral strength and sense of hope for the future. There is no question that it will make the struggle short and decisive. One cannot enter a car race with only half the pistons firing, nor go to battle with half strength. We cannot enter a struggle against an evil force like the TPLF with a quarter of our capacity.
This is one battle where invitation is not necessary. Whether we like it or not we are all in the same boat. We survive as a vibrant country or sink as a bankrupt clueless Woyane nation and fail our mother during our watch. It is up to each one of us to be a positive force and get involved or sit on the side and lament the luck of a strong organization, trustworthy leader and such other nonsense. Never doubt that your presence will make all of us look good.
Please note that Judge Bertukan has been in Woyane prison for forty-nine days. She is in solitary confinement, with no sun light, cold concrete floor and unruly peasant cadres watching her every move and reporting to the Prime Minister’s office who seems to have deep seated need to reassure his grandiosity by inflicting pain and suffering on his perceived enemies. By our silence and indifference we sacrificed Professor Asrat. Are you going to let it happen again?