By Maru Gubena –
A Symbol of Pride and a Source of Unity for the Ethiopian Diaspora, and a Substantial and Commanding Influence in Ethiopian Affairs
As may be recalled, the issue of the Ethiopian Diaspora, its origin, and more particularly its potential role in and contribution to the process of political stabilization and democratization in Ethiopia, has been discussed relatively widely, if not as deeply as the community’s role and the extent of its involvement deserves. Some of my compatriots and others interested and involved in the subject matter have written and published their views related to the issues in question, and I personally have published a good number of articles, both prior to and in the aftermath of the 2005 Ethiopian parliamentary election. My most recent articles are cases in point: “Revisiting the Events, Sights and Sounds of the Aftermath of the 2005 Ethiopian Election,” which was widely published on the 4th of December 2010 and subsequent days http://ethioforum.org/?p=844, and “Reviewing the Damaging Effects of Ethiopian Diaspora Politics on the Wider Community and its Future Initiatives: The Search for Alternative Mechanisms,” published in February–May 2009 (also in four parts). In addition, I understand that a degree of interest in the subject matter has been planted in a few college and university circles, including international NGOs and even Ministries for Development Cooperation. Also financial resources continue to be allocated for study and research on the topic, especially in socio-economic and health-related fields. Further, given the widespread diversity of readers’ views in areas of political associations and ideology, it is somehow difficult to determine the genuineness of their opinions and judgments based just on brief and unelaborated responses and comments to published articles. It is nevertheless good and even a cause for rejoicing to observe that some of our articles are being incorporated in and used as discussion topics, teaching and research materials by some institutions and universities, which can also be seen as a direct contribution to students, teaching communities and societies in general.
Coming back to the main topic of this rather short paper, let me briefly reiterate the potential role and contributions of Ethiopian Diaspora politics to the process of democratization, and more particularly, to freeing Ethiopia and its people from the yokes and chains of the autocratic and divisive regime of Meles Zenawi. As stated repeatedly, loudly and unambiguously in my previously published articles, there were and still are multiple opportunities and choices that could allow Ethiopian Diaspora political activists to have an influence that is substantial and commanding, and therefore meaningful; and to be actors and factors in shaping both the politics and the future face of Ethiopia. To make this possible, political activists and their supporters must be willing to redirect their current disoriented convictions and approaches, such as “who is not with us is our enemy” and “go it alone,” which are unproductive. It is necessary to be prepared to speak with one firm voice. Even more essentially, we must all be able and willing to cultivate and spread a sense of confidence in each other, along with a collective courage to establish institutions that operate professionally and within legal frameworks, remaining neutral with respect to associations or affiliations with political groupings and political parties. My stance is even that those establishing and working in such institutions, in whatever positions, should be barred from any form of association with or membership in political parties, and in the event of regime change in our homeland should abstain from political ambition. Within maturely structured and established institutions of this sort, Ethiopian professionals trained in law and diplomacy can work together, design policies conducive to reviving and/or restoring the diminished morale and confidence of fellow Ethiopians, and engage tirelessly and responsibly in political and peace-oriented activities and peace building, including planting the seeds of credibility and integrity – not just in the land of Ethiopia and in our Diaspora community, but more fundamentally, within the global community, and its political and diplomatic circles in particular.
Institutions of the sort described will provide tools and opportunities that well trained, professional Ethiopians can seize to craft peace-oriented strategies that are careful and wise, and which will help to move towards engagement in various educational fields, to wage political and diplomatic wars directed at conflict resolution, and to work against our common enemies of family or group orientation and regionalism that have plagued us in relation to Ethiopian politics. Thus this institution can provide the most appropriate place for us to seriously engage in heartfelt reconciliation processes, bringing together Ethiopian political activists and working to resolve both long smoldering historical animosities and newly conceived resentments among various cultural, social and political groups.
Since the complex events of Ethiopia’s historical and recent past, including its multifaceted cultural heritage, remain unknown and unrecorded – not just for the international community at large, but also for Ethiopians – the institution to be established should also enable Ethiopians and others who work there to actively engage in this most fascinating research and data collection, chronicling and analyzing forgotten aspects of Ethiopia’s history and culture.
The paragraphs below, quoted from one of my previously published articles about two tragic events that have hardly been documented – the resignation of Prime Minster Aklilu Habte-Wold’s cabinet and the sudden murder of 60 civil and army officials by the brutal Dergue regime – are illustrations that make evident the extent to which we Ethiopians don’t mind, don’t seem to care, if we live in complete darkness about the actions and measures undertaken by our own ancestors, parents and even ourselves. These quotations clearly point up the urgent need to establish the repeatedly suggested institution, which I have referred to as the Ethiopian Diaspora House.
“Even worse and more painful, in addition to these unhealed wounds and unforgettable scars in our recent history, we also know so little about the sources and causes that contributed to the abrupt resignation of Prime Minster Aklilu Habte-Wold’s entire cabinet on the 26 or 27 (embarrassingly, no exact date of resignation is to be found anywhere) of February 1974. Although this became a fertile ground for the emergence of the people’s enemy, the Dergue, and the subsequent structural crisis within Ethiopian society, this has not been explored and written up. Except through verbal stories and jokes told in family get-togethers and around coffee tables, most, if not all, Ethiopians have had no factual account – for example, based on meeting reports or recorded videos showing when, at which date and time, or indeed the exact reasons that led to the resignation of the late Prime Minister Aklilu Habte-Wold’s cabinet. And who was or were precisely responsible for this resignation of then Prime Minister Aklilu Habte-Wold and his ministers? Many Ethiopians say it was the Dergue that forced the entire cabinet to resign. But surely there was no Dergue or military committee at that time of their resignation? There was not someone in Addis Ababa at that time by the name of Mengistu Hailemariam.”
The second quotation states that: “The story surrounding the tragic, untimely and sudden murder of ministers, together with their compatriot army generals and civil servants, by the power hungry and power intoxicated Dergue members under the leadership of the most inhumane, cruel, anti-social animal called Mengistu Hailemariam, has remained buried, in exactly the same way as the story of the resignation of Aklilu Habte-Wold’s cabinet. No books, no films or video recordings based on facts seem to have been produced. It is probably due to our resulting ignorance that most Ethiopians of my generation often feel uncomfortable, even embarrassed, to talk or engage in debates involving these two tragic events. Yes, since there are no written meeting reports or video records that might indicate why and how the members of the Dergue reached their extremely cruel conclusions and decided to murder their own compatriots, most of us know little or nothing about the precise facts behind the killing of those 60 Ethiopian citizens in just a few minutes on the 23rd of November 1974 – we only know that they never faced due process in a court of law for the crimes of which they were accused.
As time passes, later generations, including that of my daughter, will know even less. What is most remarkable of all is the lack of concern and the disinterest of Ethiopians in boldly confronting, exploring and writing about these painful events, the history of our own crises, which are also our own creations. Isn’t it tragic, even shameful, to realize that we Ethiopians still live without books, professionally produced films or video records of such important, fascinating but painful historical events?”. Maru Gubena in ethiomedia.com… “Looking at Forgotten Recent Events and Future Strategies Conducive to a Mature Political Culture for Ethiopia: Putting the Cart Before the Horse?” published July 2006.
In conclusion, I will boldly and unambiguously assert that an Ethiopian Diaspora House, if it were to be established and take root, would unquestionably be not just a place that would begin to revive our dysfunctional social relations, networks and diminishing confidence and trust in each other; would help us to educate ourselves; would be a place of diplomacy and reconciliation; but also would serve as a source of pride in ourselves, pride in being Ethiopians – indeed an undisputed source of strength and new unity.
Readers who wish to contact the author, Maru Gubena can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org