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Perils and Opportunities ahead of Ethiopia

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08/10/12

  07:34:11 am, by admin, 2119 words  
Categories: Fekade Shewakena

Perils and Opportunities ahead of Ethiopia

Burhan Ozbilici/AP - Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi inspects a Turkish military guard of honor in Ankara in this photo from 2007.

Perils and Opportunities ahead of Ethiopia

By Fekade Shewakena

According to speculations and rumors Ato Meles Zenawi’s conditions range from he is resting to he is dead and anywhere in between. Thanks to the opacity of the officials in charge of the country, it is like they are telling us to take our pick. The inconclusive and contradictory official statements have only added fuel to the rumor mills. The kind of secrecy they practice makes you wonder whether these people ruling over us are really out of the woods of the feudal era yet. Strangely, these same officials have the audacity of accusing the rest of us of rumor mongering after setting us up to do just that. Had there been no African heads of states meeting on July 15, 2012 in Addis Ababa and that the Senegalese President, who happened to chair the meeting, did not do us a favor by announcing that Meles Zenawi’s absence at the meeting was due to health reasons, entire Ethiopia would have drowned in a wilder sea of rumors. The officials in charge don’t seem to see that, whether we like him or not, Ato Meles Zenawi is an employee of over 80 million Ethiopians who have every right to know where he is and what has befallen him when he fails to show up at work. For heaven’s sakes this is 21st century, not Menilik’s time!

Although I am one of Meles’s serial critics, who has criticized his actions on many occasions and, I might add, one of his earliest victims, I sincerely feel sorry for him at this time and wish him recovery. I don’t have ill wish for him as a person. In all sincerity, I don’t want him to die or even suffer in illness. If anything, I want him to live long enough to have private time to reflect on the bad and good he did to the country, particularly the harm and pain he inflicted on countless number of Ethiopians and see if he has anything to regret and feel sorry about. In my view, so much of the blood and tears shed because of the decisions he made was avoidable. Early on as the TPLF/EPRDF took power, I was their supporter and was happy that a person of Meles’s caliber was at the helm. I remember arguing in their favor and being ridiculed as naïve. I did not even blame them for the separation of Eritrea which I still believe is a collective failure of all of us as Ethiopians. I was proven naïve and wrong shortly after. I saw the savage beating and shooting and killing of peaceful demonstrating university students, some of them my own, on my own eyes on January 4, 1993. After watching the savagery, I went to my office and passed a sad and depressing day. Even then and there after, I never hated Meles as a person, I only despised him.

I am not sold on the he is dead speculation. But whatever the outcome of Meles’s health, we can presume at this stage that his tenure as the country’s supreme leader is ending. Even if he survives his illness, it is unlikely that he will go back to his position and lead the country and nurse his health at the same time.

Like all authoritarian leaders Meles has made a big shoe for himself that cannot be easily filled by those around him. This will make any smooth transition difficult. But difficult transition times often come with both challenges and opportunities to build a better future. The leaders and supporters of the TPLF/EPRDF may all want to bury their heads in the sand and deny it, but Ethiopia is on a perilous and unsustainable trajectory. The trajectory has sharply bended down particularly since the 2005 election. Ethiopia, a diverse country in all respects, has become a one party state. The Regime has gotten more control freak and all civil societies who wanted to work independently are decimated or controlled. The so called revolutionary democracy pursued by Meles and his party is turning out more of a social engineering scheme. The mass recruitment of people for party membership, often outside of the will of the individuals and with discriminatory privileges, speaks not to the strength of the party but to the kind of control-freakishness. Our people keep on suffering abject poverty in spite of a flood of record foreign aid that the country has ever seen in its history. Yes there is aggregate economic growth but the number of the destitute poor is also increasing. Ethiopia’s inflation, one of the highest in the world, is grinding down lives. Corruption is becoming an institution. The hopelessness is so much that our young people risk death to make unimaginably dangerous journeys fleeing the country in search of better opportunities. Many consider the gamble with their lives better than the hopeless future they see in their country. God knows how many are lost in capsized boats on the Red Sea and the Mediterranean and in locked containers of traffickers and those slaughtered by organ harvesters as they cross the wilderness. Our young sisters in the Middle East live and work in degrading slavery where their government never attends their conditions. There are no weeks that go by without hearing some tragic story of an Ethiopian maid in the Middle East. An Ethiopian airline crew once told me that on every flight he took from Jeddah to Addis Ababa, he has seen at least more than one mentally disturbed Ethiopian coming back home. And the part that boils my blood is that we bear all of this as if we don’t have a beautiful country that can feed more than itself.

The draconian laws promulgated to stifle civil society and all forms of dissent can look working for now but will eventually drag the country to further conflicts and poverty. Open eyes can see it. All observers of Ethiopia, including Ethiopia’s donors and organizations of international credibility have noticed this dangerous situation in Ethiopia. Only fools keep condemning Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and think they have responded to accusations of human rights abuse successfully and believe everything is ok. These are organizations who built unshakable credibility through hard and credible work in all countries around the world over time. Dictators have a unique ability to believe their delusions as the truth. I hope the people currently in charge of the country are not blinded by the groupthink they developed under Meles and open their eyes and see it. The zero sum game politics they have gotten used to playing is at a stage that cannot continue anymore. Ethiopia is a country that cannot be turned into China or North Korea. It is unique in many respects to fit into a model.

If the manner in which the current officials are handling the questions raised by the Moslem community and the closing of a newspaper of 30,000 copies (Fiteh) in a country of 80 million people are the tell tale of what is going to come, Ethiopia is going to have a serious problem on her hands. The government has made a culture of shredding its constitution and accusing others of not abiding by it. The current officials should realize that criminalizing all dissent and suppressing all questions coming from the people may take them only some short distance over a very limited time. The unwarranted label of extremism and terrorism put on people who have legitimate and clearly articulated questions, the use of force at places of worship and the incarceration of the Moslem community leaders is bound to be counterproductive. The crackdown can end up radicalizing this breathtakingly peaceful protest. It may even produce coattails throughout various sectors of the disaffected population. None of what the Moslem community is asking and doing over the last eight months does qualify as violence, extreme or any attempt to subvert the “constitutional order” as the government claims. Such accusations have now become an overused, one-size-fits-all, response to anyone peacefully dissenting for any reason - journalists, members and leaders of the opposition, etc. The Moslem community demanded to elect their own leaders in their own mosques and they protested government intervention in their affairs quoting the very constitution the government accuses them of defying. These demands do not require the use of force and a barrage of propaganda that accuses them of extremism and terrorism. We all remember what happened in Somalia over a short period of time. The Islamic Courts Union that we and the West referred to as extremist and helped chase out from power look like saints compared to the Al Shabbab that we ended up pulling off finally. Such accusations like these Ethiopian Muslims want to establish an Islamic State are off the charts and we all know that it is intended to alarm the unsuspecting none-Muslim population and instigate confrontation. All of us heard the leaders of the Moslem community say they would be crazy to demand such an outlandish demand in a country where more than half the population is non Moslem. The right and the courageous thing to do would have been to talk to the leaders and make them have their elections in their mosques. If they are really up to something more sinister as the government claims, then it would be easy for everyone including the general public to hold them accountable. Their question is a civil rights question. It has nothing to do with religious extremism. We have heard them. The non Moslem community is also getting it and supporting them. Any attempt to further narrow the political space in the country and continuing to shut these diverse questions by force and the language of force can sooner or later change the dynamics in the country for the worse.

The polarization in Ethiopia’s politics is at scary levels. We have become a country without statesmen. This is unlike our old tradition where shimagilles who make dispassionate judgments are heard and respected. I don’t know if we have statesmen that can straddle these differences and speak to all sides with moral authority these days. Part of the reason is our political culture and the main reason now is this so called revolutionary democracy whose central teaching states that if you are not with it you are its enemy.

The Sane thing to do now:

• The authorities currently in charge of the country should do an overdue thing that Meles himself should have done years ago. Begin a transparent dialogue with all political opponents in good faith on the future of the country on agreed modalities.

• The government should initiate a dialogue by starting out with releasing all political prisoners in the country - journalists, opposition politicians and community leaders etc. This should go along with decriminalizing dissent and revoking all this senseless classification of opposition groups as terrorists. There are no terrorists in Ethiopia. The only thing Ethiopians are terrorized by is poverty and their fear of government. Dissidence and demanding freedom is not terrorism.

• Opposition forces also must understand that they have a lot of housekeeping to do and need to work on cleaning their fragmented house and regroup and present clear and workable choices and ready themselves to solve the country’s impasses through peaceful dialogue.

• The Ethiopian Diaspora has a huge role but it should understand that its role is supportive and that what it can do from a distance does not replace what the people on the ground in Ethiopia can do. We need to support every bit of move towards democracy by anybody.

• We all should stop our traditional politics of trying to build a system over the grave of the existing. Ethiopia cannot afford violence but cannot avoid it if the regime cannot come to its senses.

I want to be wrong but I see our country teetering on the precipice. Every one of us, children of that country, irrespective of our political views, has huge responsibilities to help avoid disasters. By virtue of the power it holds, the ruling party has much of the responsibility. Any decision to continue on current trends is assuring a destructive future and the regime will carry all responsibility that comes with it.

Open Ethiopia up for democracy where all of us can be heard and hold a stake. And finally all of us Ethiopian living inside and outside Ethiopia will roll our sleeves, build the dams and bridges farm our lands on our own and pour whatever resources we have to drag our country out of poverty.

FekadeShewakena@yahoo.com

16 comments

Comment from: Abuye Enate [Visitor]
Abuye Enate

God Bless you Mr Fikade!!!Well balanced insight.I can’t thank you enough. But one thing to mention about the Muslim’s Gahanem is just the begining and it will continue till the goverment gets done the assaignment.God forbid I see very bad time in Ethiopia,specially coming around into its Muslim people in particular.The other point I want to ask can we find another term to replace ‘democracy’? Iam confused!!! May God save this ET2HIOPIA!!!

08/10/12 @ 09:21
Comment from: Kewle [Visitor]
Kewle

One of the best articles that I have read at this site, especially after the news about Prime Minister’s illness. I wholeheartdly wish and pray that the current leaders and opposition take the advise written in here and put Ethiopia’s interest first and make all the arrangements for peaceful transition. Let God bless Ethiopia. Amen.

08/10/12 @ 09:54
Comment from: Abeba [Visitor]
Abeba

Ato Fekede,You have got my respect to stand up and wish the PM for speedy recovery. If I am not mistaken this is the second time that I heard people on opposition side to wish him recovery. The first being is Seye Abreha.

08/10/12 @ 09:59
Comment from: Belay [Visitor]
Belay

“Although I am one of Meles’s serial critics, who has criticized his actions on many occasions and, I might add, one of his earliest victims, I sincerely feel sorry for him at this time and wish him recovery. I don’t have ill wish for him as a person. In all sincerity, I don’t want him to die or even suffer in illness. If anything, I want him to live long enough to have private time to reflect on the bad and good he did to the country, particularly the harm and pain he inflicted on countless number of Ethiopians and see if he has anything to regret and feel sorry about. In my view, so much of the blood and tears shed because of the decisions he made was avoidable. Early on as the TPLF/EPRDF took power, I was their supporter and was happy that a person of Meles’s caliber was at the helm. I remember arguing in their favor and being ridiculed as naïve. I did not even blame them for the separation of Eritrea which I still believe is a collective failure of all of us as Ethiopians.”
—-
wow shewa-qena you didnt know you have guts!

08/10/12 @ 10:34
Comment from: Belay [Visitor]
Belay

MAKE that I didnt know you have guts.

08/10/12 @ 10:38
Comment from: Shalom [Visitor]
Shalom

Dear Fekade,

There are issue you raised that I’m very much against to. But, sir you’ve my respect. This is what we need(both the ruling party and the opposition)to do. What a balanced and responsible approach. Hope the ruling party will try to be very much accommodating and listening to the other camp and also the opposition will come to its senses and stop hate politics and start sensible engagement. I simply Thank You!

08/10/12 @ 10:40
Comment from: here comes SEBEHAT NEGA [Visitor]
here comes SEBEHAT NEGA

The sad thing is those people who formed TPLF and are in power openly admit their anti-Ethiopian stand. they simply use Ethiopia as a trade mark to wheeling and dealing, to loot and plunder.

Read the following excerpt to understand the workings of the mind of the woyane from one of the woyane thugs called SEBHAT NEGA.

“We fought for Eritrean independence from the colonial rule of Ethiopia. Even now, if Eritrea is attacked, TPLF would jump into Eritrea, join the Eritrean people and engage the enemy.” – Sebhat Nega on Radio Woyane (May 28, 2007)

In a four-part interview with TPLF radio on May 28, 2007, TPLF chief Sebhat Nega said time and again that no one fought for Eritrean independence from an Ethiopian colonial rule like TPLF did. “We paid dearly to liberate Eritrea,” he said. “Even if Eritrea comes under attack today,” Sebhat warned, “I’ve no doubt the EPRDF-led government would jump into Eritrea, join the Eritrean people and engage the enemy.”

TPLF has since its inception been controlled by mercenary elements that fought against Ethiopia as their enemy. The group that wiped out so many lives and terrorized Tigrians into slavery and servitude, is still in power. If Ethiopia is turned into a failed, landlocked state, it is with a purpose. Read details from the historical facts presented by Asgede G. Selassie, author of Gahdi 1 and Gahdi 2. A survivor of the pogrom, Asgede was one of the 11 rebels who founded TPLF.

http://www.ethiomedia.com/atop/mercenary_tplf_rule.html

How can we expect anything good from Ethiopia’s nr 1 enemies like SEBHAT NEGA.
SEBEHAT NEGA has been serving his master Isayas for the last 21 years

08/10/12 @ 12:48
Comment from: wajjo [Member]  
wajjo

Outstanding article!!
It sound like a plan.

I am extremely pleased to read such an inclusive, result oriented and modest “stand” that we all afraid to
initiate.

I am sure this will disappoint most, if not ALL anti-Ethiopian forces, where ever they are; Mogadishu,Cairo or Asmara.

This is what we expect from an intellectual who fairly understood the dynamics of complex Ethiopian politics.

I hope TPLF, OLF, WSLF, and other ethnic based organization as well as our own opposition groups will came back to their senses and join the bridge ASAP.

Let mother Ethiopia start a new chapter of her own ancient traditional solution.

” Reconciliation ”

I do not think no other miracle will get us out this ditch.

Long Live Ethiopia.

DF

08/10/12 @ 12:53
Comment from: Lencho [Visitor]
Lencho

Ethiopians always have and will have a way out of very difficult situation successfully. History will witnesses how we will over come the current crisis. Heroes are born during the time of difficulty. We need heroes from both side of the parties to guide Ethiopia once again to a better ground. I hope history will repeat itself this time too, not only to fix,and mend tilted country to fall but to build a nation on concrete foundation that shelter all Ethiopians, benefit each person, and respect every once right.
Thanks Fekeda
God bless Ethiopia

08/10/12 @ 14:31
Comment from: Kasa [Visitor]
Kasa

Glad to see that you appeared matured.

I wish that you had at least this level of maturity at the time when you were too busy being used dismantling Kinijit.

By the way, you article contain several fundamental grammatical errors. Consider letting other eyes take a look at your piece before publishing.

Keep up with your maturity!

08/10/12 @ 18:56
Comment from: Abdi [Visitor]
Abdi

Ethiopia is not in difficulty position and things are OK so far. The ruling party, EPRDF, runs the nation smoothly without Zenawi.
Be like or not EPRDF is united and represents most of Ethiopians. Of course, some disagree its policy but I do not see any opposition party better than ruling party. The opposition parties are based on ethnic and the only thing they share is to hate Tigray people. What is more, their political agenda is Meles is ill and Ethiopia will collapse soon. Please leave the country as it is now or bring something better than EPRDF that suits all Ethiopians. Forget about Eritrea it is a past history, concentrate on how to hold together the rest of Ethiopia and move on right direction.

08/10/12 @ 20:05
Comment from: nebro [Member]  
nebro

Thank you for a most constructive view you put out forth for all open minded citizens to digest good and well. GOD Bless!!!

While I still wish good health and quick recovery tor our Prime minister’s health, I still urge everyone of us to look inward clean ourselves up first and think deep to what is best next to our most beloved nation on the face of earth ,regardless of its past or present happenings.

OUR BELOVEVED ETHIOPIA DESERVES MUCH , MUCCCCCH MORE!!!

Thanks for the best piece of work again!!!

08/11/12 @ 00:13
Comment from: koster [Visitor]
koster

Dear sir,

You are equally dangerous like the Tigrian fascists who are terrorizing the Ethiopian people. You want to be seen as not “AKRARI” and preparing yourself to reconcile with the fascists. Do you think the Germans/Jewish shed tears for Nazi Hitler and his collaborators. Do you really feel the suffering of your people like Ethiopian hero journalist Abebe Gelaw. Do you really know what is happening in Ethiopia particularily on the Amhara people although almost all are victims of the fascists. Please say no to Tigrian fascistm, economic, military and political dominance.

08/11/12 @ 03:25
Comment from: ZEMENAI [Visitor]
ZEMENAI

I honestly think we should see this breaking news and discuss comedy and activism in Ethiopia

08/11/12 @ 12:49
Comment from: Red Sea [Visitor]
Red Sea

to here comes sebehat nega or twice mind

I can see,you are foolish.If you belive any thing what woyanes leaders told you.any Eritrean pay huge price to get their indepandence.even the Eritreans live in Europe,us by send money to Eplf.we didn’t get our independance in table or treaty.you need to stop your non sense comments.Eritrean are unit people when you come to our mother land period.

08/12/12 @ 02:34
Comment from: masetewale [Member]  
masetewale

Don’t worry he will come come soon after getti.g betters his physical condition but don’t write depending on your simple speculation pleas if you want the development of Ethiopia join EPRDF because I can’t see any opposition to become overtake the power all are rubbishe and nothing for nothing

08/13/12 @ 02:54

rebtel

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