Unity as Key to Victory By Addissu Admas

Carpe Diem! (Cease the day) should be the injunction that must propel us into action before the clouds gather over the skies of Ethiopia again. This is the third time in nearly fifty years that the general discontent of the Ethiopian people has reached a point of no return. The first time, we experienced the only revolution – in the strict sense of the word – that has taken place on our continent. It brought radical changes as well as immeasurable suffering: while it destroyed feudalism, it massacred also the cream of the Ethiopian youth. It may have its denigrators, but everybody knew that change had to come. The outcome was not one we had hoped nor struggled for, but there was genuine desire to address and solve the needs of the oppressed masses and give voice to their grievances. As always, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. There is no question, however, that what has come after it was largely because of it.

The second time around, the rag tag “liberation army” of the current regime was able to occupy Addis Ababa and take over the state machinery not because of its superior military strategy, nor because of its winning message, but quite simply because a leaderless military crumbled like a house of cards. Perhaps even more to the point, the people of Ethiopia were absolutely exhausted and disgusted with the Derg’s repressive regime, endless wars, and constant state of scarcity. And indeed they gave up a lot for a reprieve!

Here again, in little over a generation, we find ourselves with basically the same issues that have plagued our nation for several decades past: the unsatisfactory solution to land distribution, the nationalities’ question, poverty, and most importantly lack of human and civil rights. It would indeed be too kind to say that the current regime has tried and failed to solve these issues. The fact of the matter is that while it may have given us a winning “performance” to convince us that it made earnest effort to resolve them, in reality it was never committed at all to their solution. The overarching goal of the current regime was to secure control of the nation, remain in power for as long as it could manage while benefitting those under whose name it has fought, and thus secure the hegemony of a group. Ethiopia’s progress has to be perceived only through this lens. How else can one explain the regime’s intense campaign to incite ethnic animus from the very moment it secured power? Why would one desire divisiveness if not for the purpose of ruling unimpeded? Those who naïvely sought earnest intentions in this regime must now awaken to the fact that it had none!

This regime has not only not found any solution to our perennial issues as I mentioned above, but it has exacerbated them to the point where we need and must return to the table to draw the very terms of Ethiopia’s survival as a nation. And now is indeed the time, let us not let it slip away!

During these past few months we have been deafened by all kinds of prognostication about the regime’s impending doom. We hear clamors of: look how they are freeing prisoners! Look how they admit their mistakes! Look at the resignations! Look how they are in over their heads and asking for reconciliation, advice! Etc.… In truth these are not signs of a collapsing regime, rather intimations of a regime that wants to be shored up to stay in power. Nothing more, nothing less! We should hold our celebration until the work is done.

There is a fundamental factor that brought about the end of Emperor Haile Selassie I’ reign, and Mengistu Haile-Mariam’s brutal regime that is not present in our present circumstance: In the case of the former, the military became the ally of the revolution, though it was not its initiator. In the latter case, the military’s virtual internal collapse made it easy for the current regime to take over the state apparatus un-opposed. Neither of these two situations is taking place today, nor will it indeed take place in the foreseeable future. And the reason is quite simple: we do not have a truly national military and security which stands for the rule of law, nor for the preservation of Ethiopia as unitary State, not even for the very constitution that the regime has promulgated. Its sole purpose is to maintain those who are in power. Unless, of course, internal discord and ethnic animus tears it asunder. But there is no indication so far that this is happening or will happen. Our only alternative is to summon all our efforts and resources and form a United Front.

Meles Zenawi, I have to admit, was an exceptionally shrewd politician; but he was no statesman nor a visionary. I suspect that some of his political tactics must have rubbed off on his less capable comrades. His was a policy of divisiveness that not only secured his unchallenged tenure as Prime Minister and de facto dictator, but the dominance of his party and his ethnic base. The TPLF will definitely continue to pursue his politics in order to confuse, frustrate and ultimately overcome all opposition. The guiding warning should be therefore that we should not succumb to TPLF’s siren call, but seek unity above all, and not separate accommodation nor, much less, reconciliation. Our unanimous goal should be to aim to replace this regime with a democratically elected government. Thus the call is for all internal and external opposition parties to unite to unseat and replace the current regime by all available peaceful means.

Let us be clear about one fact: the opposition has no reliable ally outside itself. The U.S. facilitated the take-over of the TPLF in 1991 because she knew that the TPLF would forever remain beholden to her. And indeed the subsequent history proves this point precisely: The TPLF regime has been more than a willing partner in fighting America’s proxy wars on terrorism, and become in the process a so called stabilizing power of the region. And for this it has been rewarded handsomely. America has never cared if a country was ruled by fascists or lapsed communists, or indeed even if it violated fundamental human and civil rights. The only requirement to be on America’s side and remain friends with her is to do her biddings!

We know exactly what the man sitting today in the White House thinks about our continent. As is his wont, he has expressed his contempt for our countries in the crudest of terms, unworthy even of a banana republic dictator, let alone of a president of the United States. And yet I don’t think of him as the cause but rather as the product of America’s attitude towards our continent and the Third World in general. With Donald Trump America has made it quite clear that she no longer is interested in upholding her leadership position in the world: She has ceased to seek prestige and influence through diplomacy and cooperation, but dominance through intimidation. Since her overall tendency appears to be to retreat into herself, we must voice our grievances to those who have a stake in Africa’s future.

I believe that we may find in Europe a willing and ready listener since our oppressed, disinherited, and persecuted masses are ending up, in ever larger number, on her shores. I must premise however that our alliance with Europe would be of convenience and mutual benefit rather than a request for a charitable contribution. Finding solution to our present impasse is not only something that will benefit us but also Europe. This is in no way to suggest that Europe will solve our problems and conflicts. The responsibility for achieving our goals rests squarely upon our shoulders. What I am intimating here is that Europe not choose to be “blind” or indifferent to the suffering and oppression of the Ethiopian people. It is in her best interest to exert necessary pressure and make demands on this regime. Or better yet withdraw her support. I believe that all opposition voices must make this known to the European Union through all available channels.

I am no expert in international law, but I wonder if the United Nations’ role is solely to clean up the mess left after a conflict, or to prevent one from happening. I say that the Ethiopian Opposition parties must really engage the U.N. for all its worth to somehow be involved in our demand for change for our country before she plunges into civil war. I am not sure what the U.N. can or cannot do precisely, but I am sure it may have a chance to redeem itself after Rwanda.

Ultimately, the only strength that the opposition parties have does not come from outside but from their unity and solidarity. More than three dozen opposition parties are operating today in and outside Ethiopia. This indeed is the big problem: the more fragmented we are the weaker and more vulnerable we become. The tendency should be towards unification since nothing benefits more the regime that the unabated proliferation of opposition parties. I say that the scattered voices of the opposition must now speak in unison and act on agreed upon agenda. This is not a request to relinquish their ideologies or their respective party’s agenda and goals. What is required of them is to consider as their sole and most important objective for now is the replacement of this confused and confusing, inept, divisive, oppressive and cruel regime. All other discussion should be remanded to a time after the overarching goal has been achieved. Otherwise, the opposition parties would be like those monks of yore who were engaged in the metaphysical discussion on “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” while their city was under siege.

If all opposition voices raise their voices as one and make their demands known clearly they are bound to find not only an audience, but also willing participants and actors. This is not a sentimental appeal to the opposition parties but a very pragmatic one. We are now faced with an opportunity which will hardly repeat itself any time soon. As the adage goes: strike while the iron is hot. If it cools it will never take the shape that you hoped to give it.

We have bargained too much for a small reprieve. We have given up our pride and dignity for a miserly gain. It is time to make the Ethiopian people’s will known by all means necessary.

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Posted by on January 26, 2018. Filed under COMMENTARY,VIEWS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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