By Imru Zelleke
Year’s end thoughts.
A year has passed leaving us with the nostalgia of things past, but also with the distinct feeling that this year been a turning point in Ethiopia’s destiny. The general lethargy prevailing over the mood of the Diaspora community, that had found comfort, distraction and even amusement in devotional practice, the restaurant/bar scene and gossipy rumours, has awaken with a surge of patriotic fervour.
What caused this high irruption and indignation was the loutish behaviour of the Saudis towards the Ethiopian citizens who had migrated to their country in search of some menial job which they could not get in their own land. Migration of Ethiopians to Arab and other lands has been going on for forty years. Beginning from our murderous revolution, which has denied the people of basic human rights, confiscated their properties, abolished law and order executed mass assassination and imprisonment of innocent unarmed citizens; then collapsed disgracefully and surrendered the country to a regime of ethnic servitude.
For those of us who were lucky enough to find refuge in civilized countries where we have lived in peace and freedom and even prospered, the sad fate of our unlucky compatriots is not new. What is surprising is this sudden awareness or “prise de conscience” and angry Diaspora manifestation against the Saudi Kingdom in particular. Ethiopian refugees are spread all over the Arab lands thus the selective indignation at the Saudis is rather bizarre, unless is it because of their enormous wealth. Anyway, it has caused the creation of a Global Alliance of the Diaspora to deal with the problem of Ethiopian immigrants. Most of the immigrants in Saudi Arabia being already repatriated back home, it is sending a fact finding mission to Yemen. However, sending an inquiry commission is a good gesture, it denotes a serious commitment from the Diaspora regarding the fate of Ethiopian immigrants. At least it might give some hope to those whose conditions are desperate. I also hope that it will not fizzle out into some publicity stunt, because it is a very grave problem that requires large amounts of funds and sustained logistical support.
The death of the venerable President Mandela and the contribution that Ethiopia has made to the struggle against the white racist regime in South Africa was discussed at length, and justly so. This gave occasion for some of our intrepid reporters to resuscitate and interview Mengistu Haile Mariam and some of his collaborators. Since Mengistu’s role in the Mandela history and his opinion of the present TPLF regime is utterly irrelevant, one would have thought that a subject of great interest, primarily for the young generation of Ethiopians, would have been his own murderous history. How with US assistance he arranged to hand-over the country to the TPLF, and himself escape with his family and friends, betraying the Ethiopian Army and the country. This was one of the most violent and horrific pages of Ethiopian history for which he is accountable, and worth remembering for future generation. I have a lot of respect for the valuable service that ESAT has given for the Ethiopian people in opening a free access to information that is denied to them by the present regime. Myself having had the opportunity to express my views on ESAT, I am grateful for the chance given to me. However, I was deeply outraged together with millions of Ethiopians, by the callous indifference shown by ESAT for the enormous suffering and crimes committed by Mengistu against the Ethiopian people. We all respect and aspire to a democratic Ethiopia where the freedom of expression will be a fundamental tenet of its governance, we also believe that freedom has also its limits when it is concerned with acts of genocide and crimes against humanity. Unless of total amnesia, seventeen years of lawless bloody mayhem and genocide cannot be ignored. A serious apology is in order.
The end of this year marks also the fortieth anniversary of the calamitous Ethiopian Odyssey. Four decades of pain and pangs, of terror and persecution that still continues. It should also be time to ponder over our lasting failure to bring solace and peace to our people. I don’t think that it is a mysterious phenomenon that impeaches our actions, but the lack of courage to face unpleasant circumstances in their real context. The TPLF came to power by a long and protracted struggle in the field by which they gained political power, and the recognition of major foreign nations. The opposition for its part being totally absent from the ground, was incapable to assume any role out of the debacle left by the Mengistu regime. The only opportunity that was offered to the opposition was the election of 2005 when it received a large public support, that was forcibly shanghaied by the regime, and against which the opposition had nothing to counter with. To add insult to injury the leaders of the opposition were sent to prison, a measure that still continues to be practiced against all opposition politicians, journalists and Human Rights activist .Yet, in spite of its blatant violations of all democratic principles of governance, international aid continued to flow in support of the regime. It was Senator Barry Goldwater of the US who said that “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue”, which might describe the criteria lacking in the spirit of the opposition and the cause of its chronic demise. Forty years of continuous failure to form a coherent and effective political movement cannot be explained otherwise.
This year was also the 100th anniversary of the passing of the beloved national hero Emperor Menilik II. His memory should remind us of the best patriotic character of our cultures and traditions. Recommended reading by Tekle Tsadik Mokria, Paulos Gnogno, Professor Sergewu H. Sellassie, etc. Ethiopia is not a Paper Tiger created by some fiction, it is a nation built by sweat and blood, with thousand years of heroic defence of its independence. Unfortunately, of late, her destiny had fallen into the hands of an alienated generation that has destroyed its great heritage with nothing to replace it. The rebirth of the nation will demand a lot of soul searching and a return to those basic values of our own. We are not Europeans, Asians, Arabs or others, throughout millennia of interactions we have evolved our own civilization and way of life. Our traditional manners and morals are second to none.
The fermenting affairs of the Diaspora never cease to distract us with new subjects and events. A formation of a Transition Government has been announced by a Transition Council who counts amongst its members a member of the former Imperial Crown, a high official of the Derg and sundry people of undetermined background. It would be interesting to know what this new government will be, and from where to where the transition will proceed. Whatever the case organizations created in the Diaspora, more than often, have a resonant name containing little substance. Therefore, it is wiser to check the personal history of the people in the leadership, and avoid embarrassments running after a ghost.
On the bread and butter side a lot of development projects are implemented in Ethiopia; in fact the amount of money involved is simply staggering. Foreign investors seem to have found a worthwhile environment for their business in Ethiopia, in spite of serious comments made concerning the viability and sustainability of a development dependent on foreign aid and deficit financing. China announced recently a 16.5 Billion project financing program, that may involve the influx of maybe a million Chinese citizens? In the meantime the same amount of money or more, is to have taken the high road out of Ethiopia. Having become foreigners in their own country, but for a very small minority, the Ethiopian people are estranged from all these developments.
To crown the year with unique originality the TPLF regime has put under arrest the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, an event that has not happened in the 1600 years of the Church History, but maybe once. I guess that the regime has taken this action out of a profound sense of fairness, to balance its own outrageous behaviour against our Muslim community. It could also be out of the profound paranoia and apprehension that things are getting out of control. Monopoly of power captured by a mafia ethnic cabal, dominated by pervasive corruption and inefficiency, that have little respect even for their own keen have doubtful permanency.
After many years of reflection a matter for which I have yet to find a rationale is our relations with Eritrea and Somalia. Years of bloody conflicts, misery and mayhem have brought neither peace nor freedom to anyone. We all have a good and industrious population, we each have abundant natural resources, and we have no external enemies. We had the opportunity and the time to build reasonably stable and progressive societies. Yet, we have failed our people and our countries. If we look at the progress that China has accomplished in the last three decades, ours conclusion would be comparable to marching backward during the same amount of time. Characteristic of our peculiarity the heroes of Eritrean independence Woldab Woldemariam and Issayas Afwerki are both Tigrean while the many TPLF leaders are Eritrean. Cost accounting resulting from their conflicts and contentions, millions in human losses, displacement and all round misery that still continues to keep our people in a quagmire of poverty, ignorance and backwardness. Yet, there are more Somalis living in Addis Ababa than in Mogadiscio, more Eritreans living in Addis than in Asmara. With some common sense in their leadership the Countries of the Horn could have realized an advanced and prosperous community that could have been an asset to World peace and stability.
Personally I have faith in our people and that they will overcome the obstacles that constrain their growth, and will emerge healthy and strong nations in the near future.
Let’s do it!!!
I wish all a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year.
ETHIOPIA LEZELALEM TINOUR.