Ethiopia: Beyond the Politics of Hate
By Al Mariam
Statement of my credo: Hate is the one crumbling wall that now stands between the people of Ethiopia and freedom, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia. The T-TPLF has weaponized and politicized hate. But the mud walls of hate erected by the T-TPLF are today collapsing on the T-TPLF everywhere under the volcanic pressure of a popular uprising . The kililistans (T-TPLF’s equivalent of apartheid’s “Bantustans”) are dissolving before our eyes. The glue that made it possible for the T-TPLF to monopolize and cling to power for the past quarter of a century has been the politics of hate – blind ethnic and religious hatred. But everywhere the people of Ethiopia are breaking out of the prison gates of T-TPLF’s kililistans. The people of Ethiopia are rising up against the Masters of Hate. The young people of Ethiopia are raising and crossing their arms in resolute nonviolent defiance and proclaiming that no amount of violence by the T-TPLF will break their spirit; and they will continue to march in the spirit of “Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.”
As victims of T-TPLF hate, the people of Ethiopia have become united as one in their pain and suffering. When protesting Oromo children are massacred Amhara, Tigray, Gurage and all other parents cry for them because they are children of Mother Ethiopia. When Amhara, Tigray, Gurage children are massacred, Oromo parents cry for them because we are all children of Mother Ethiopia. Those who planted the seeds of hate are now beginning to see the harvest of unity against hate. The T-TPLF has long traded on the myth that its fate and destiny is in fact the fate and destiny of the people of Tigray. The truth is that the T-TPLF represents no one but its members, supporters and cronies from all ethnic groups and religions who feed at its trough of corruption.
Let me begin my commentary with the wisdom of a cartoon character named Pogo who appeared in a comic strip back in my day.
The funny animal characters in that comic strip lived in a swamp community, which figuratively represented the diversity of American society and issues facing it. That community began to disintegrate because its residents were incapable of communicating with each other over the most important and urgent issues facing them. They wasted time squabbling and bickering over non-issues.
One day, Pogo saw the swamp they lived in filled with debris and litter. In reflective frustration he sighed, “We have met the enemy. He is us!”
I want to declare, paraphrasing Pogo, in reflective frustration over the politics of hate the T-TPLF has created and nurtured in Ethiopia over the past quarter of a century:
“We have met the haters. They are us!”
I am gratified to learn that my commentary last week, “Ethiopia: Rise of the “Amhara Retards” and Oromo “Criminals and Terrorists” in 2016?” has attracted considerable attention from my regular readers and others. The reach of this particular commentary online and social media can only be described as beyond extraordinary. Why?
The reactions to my commentary from those who reached out to me have been varied and could be summarized along the following lines:
1) I should have dealt with the subject of “hate talk” and hate-mongers more delicately and should not have presented the issues in the media in its raw “shocking” and “ugly” form.
2) I should not have discussed or brought out such a long-avoided taboo subject of “ethnic vilification” and “ethnic hate” into public discourse because “it is not in our tradition” to talk about it in the public (“newur new”, poor taste?).
3) I should not have written the commentary because it could sour ethnic relations and “add fuel” to the fire of ethnic hatred.
4) I should have named and shamed the person who was ranting and raving in the audio included in my commentary since that person is a well-known T-TPLF operative in the Ethiopian Diaspora.
5) I should not have given attention to the rantings and ravings of “low lifes” who spew hate on the internet globally and radio stations in Ethiopia. By commenting on the “ignorant” tirades of the “low-lifes”, I have “validated” and “legitimized” them.
6) I have now made it possible for all hate-mongers to be more emboldened to spew their hate because they expect they will get the attention of the wider public through my future commentaries.
7) I should not have brought out the subject of hate and haters at this critical time in the country because it could make some people angry and incite them to “act impulsively”.
8) By writing the commentary, I am in fact promoting hate against specific groups because I am “wittingly or unwittingly” resonating the message of the hate-mongers.
9) I have now made it possible and acceptable for the T-TPLF to preach to its supporters and followers that “THEY” are ganging up on “US” and for everyone on the “US” side to circle the wagons.
10) I am myself a hate-monger by repeating the message of the hate-mongers; and also because I have long been a “harsh” and “dogmatic” critic of the T-TPLF and have “NEVER” given credit “for anything the government has done”.
11) I should have focused my commentary on “all haters”, and by singling out only one group of haters “for special treatment”, I was “unfair”.
12) It was courageous of me to talk about the subject of hate in public because it is an issue which most Ethiopians avoid talking about candidly even in private.
13) I am the right person to raise the issue in public because of my long “record of moral leadership” and should continue to do so.
14) Others should be encouraged by my commentary and deal with other “taboo” subjects.
15) I should write more commentaries on subjects that are usually avoided “such as harmful and outmoded traditions”, and so on.
I do not doubt that people reading my commentaries will interpret them consistent with their own agendas, views, preferences and prejudices. That is human nature and to be expected in public debates and discussions.
My short answer to many of the points above is that my commentary is about hate, not the haters that hate. As Mohandas Gandhi counseled, “Hate the sin and not the sinner.”
People in general avoid and fear to acknowledge the frightening power of hate.
Hate is the most powerful negative power in the universe known to human beings.
But hate resides in all of our hearts. We may deny it and pretend that is not so. But as we lay in bed, hate whispers to us in the dark language of revenge and evening the score.
No one is above suspicion when it comes to hate. No one or no society has a monopoly on hate.
There are Amhara, Oromo, Gurage… American, Russian, Chinese… haters.
Hate begins with “Us and Them” mentality.
I hate hate itself, not necessarily the perpetrators of hate. I will speak truth to haters but will not hate them.
For I know the history of mankind is that “Man is wolf to man” (Homo homini lupus est). I would say hate is the wolf in the man.
Donald Trump preaches the gospel of hate in America from the pulpit of his presidential campaign.
But the true Gospel teaches, “The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live.”
In my religious tradition, there is only one person who is beyond all evil and infinitely good.
But “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?”
As I contemplated many of the foregoing reactions and sentiments, it dawned on me that they all share one thing in common, intended or not: Censorship.
The kernel of most of the reactions, it seems to me, is that I should not have written about the subject of hate and hate-mongers. Alternatively, I should have maintained the unofficial code of social silence (the “Ethiopian Omerta”) and continue to pretend hate talk does not exist; and even if it does, it happens only in the netherworld of the “low-lifes”. I should ignore hate talk altogether.
In other words, I should have self-censored and not written the comment; or that the blogosphere and social media should have censored my commentary from wider dissemination.
Hate talk does not disappear or vanish because it is ignored or treated with contempt and indifference. Hate talk, like mushrooms, mushrooms in the dark. But it does not thrive in the light of critical analysis and inquiry.
Censorship, ipso facto, (by that very fact) is anathema to me.
I trace my absolute abhorrence to censorship to John Milton’s Areopagitica, in which Milton made the most soul-stirring philosophical defense of the principle of the right to freedom of speech and expression.
I have had my share of defending the right of hate-mongers to speak their hate in criminal cases and in public discourse.
I have spoken truth to haters whether they are U.S. Supreme Court Justices propagating hateful messages on young African Americans, presidential candidates arrogantly proclaiming the mass banning of people of a particular faith or rogue police officers who shoot and ask questions later because they believe black lives do not matter.
I have on a number of occasions called for the establishment of interfaith councils to combat sectarian hate in Ethiopia.
Most of my readers are familiar with my uncompromising and impassioned defense of the late Meles Zenawi’s right to speak at Columbia University in 2010. (See my commentary, “Mr. Zenawi Goes to College!”.)
Meles is widely regarded as the master tactician of hate by the Ethiopian opposition. He is credited for refining the use of ethnic division and antagonism to consolidate his power.
There was near unanimous opposition in the Diaspora Ethiopian American opposition to Meles’ “keynote address” at the World Leaders Forum at Columbia.
There was even push back from some prominent journalists in Ethiopia. It was agonizingly heartbreaking for me to break rank with my personal hero and heroine Eskinder Nega and Serkalem Fasil who wrote a passionate and moving letter asking Columbia University president Lee Bollinger to disinvite Meles. To put principle above people one loves and adores as generational heroes and heroines is painful beyond description.
Suffice it to say that I subscribe to Prof. Noam Chomsky’s admonition: “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” Even the master tactician of hate has the right to speak his mind.
As a student and practitioner of American constitutional law, my views on censorship are best articulated by the late U.S. Associate Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart:
Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime. Long ago, those who wrote our First Amendment charted a different course. They believed a society can be truly strong only when it is truly free. In the realm of expression, they put their faith, for better or for worse, in the enlightened choice of the people, free from the interference of a policeman’s intrusive thumb or a judge’s heavy hand. So it is that the Constitution protects coarse expression as well as refined, and vulgarity no less than elegance. A book worthless to me may convey something of value to my neighbor. In the free society to which our Constitution has committed us, it is for each to choose for himself [herself]…” (dissenting in Ginzberg v. United States, 383 U.S. 463, 498 (1966); emphasis added.)
My regular readers over the last ten years know that I have chosen for myself the motto, “Speak truth to power”; and also to the power-hungry, power-thirsty, the power abusers, the power misusers and the plain powerless.
I “speak truth to power” because I believe in the Scriptural wisdom that “The truth shall set you free.”
I take my inspiration in my “truth-speaking mission” from Prof. Edward Said and Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam, both peerless intellectual giants.
Prof. Said observed that in the 21st century, the intellectual has taken the mission of advancing human freedom and knowledge by “speaking the truth to power, being a witness to persecution and suffering, and supplying a dissenting voice in conflicts with authority.”
Prof. Mesfin took upon the cross of speaking truth to power in Ethiopia in the second half of the last century. (See my November 2015 commentary, Reflections on Prof. Mesfin’s “Adafne”: Saving Ethiopians From Themselves?)
When I began my human rights advocacy in Ethiopia following the massacres that took place in the aftermath of the 2005 election, I resolved to become a witness for the victims in the Meles Massacres.
I was initially outraged by the fact that the late Meles Zenawi could feel so powerful and so totally unaccountable as to direct his security and military forces to shoot at unarmed demonstrators indiscriminately. When my outrage subsided somewhat, I mulled the question: What kind of a human being would authorize the massacre of unarmed citizen protesters?
The conventional answers were not satisfactory to me. Of course, dictators will use all means at their disposal to cling to power. Dictators will kill, steal, cheat and beat to keep their hold on power.
I was not convinced that the conventional logic of dictatorship held true in the case of Meles and the T-TPLF.
As I delved deep into the history of the “TPLF”, studied the TPLF Manifesto, listened to hours of audio and video tapes of former TPLF members divulging TPLF secrets and reading scholarly analysis by former TPLF leaders, it became crystal clear to me that Meles’ and his organization’s lust for political power was driven above all by H-A-T-E.
From the very beginning, Meles and the T-TPLF have always cultivated and operated in an environment of “Us” vs “Them”. Hate coursed in the bloodstreams of Meles and his T-TPLF comrades.
Meles and the T-TPLF understood the power of hate and used it craftily in aggrandizing more political power.
At the slightest provocation, hate would ooze out of Meles’ mouth as maggots would from carrion.
Meles once told the esteemed and distinguished Ethiopianist and my good friend, the late Professor Donald Levine: “The Tigreans had Axum, but what could that mean to the Gurague? The Agew had Lalibela, but what could that mean to the Oromo? The Gonderes had castles, but what could that mean to the Wolaitai?”
What is the meaning and connotation of such questions?
Meles also said the Ethiopian flag is nothing more than a “piece of rag” and that “Ethiopia is only 100 years old. Those who claim otherwise are indulging themselves in fairy tales.”
Meles believed and his T-TPLF today conveniently believe that there is no such thing as Ethiopia, only a collection of “nations, nationalities and peoples” in an imaginary land, ideological garbage they snatched from the demented writings of Koba the Dread, a/k/a Stalin. (See my may 2016 commentary, “Does Ethiopia Need a Constitution?”.)
What Meles and the T-TPLF could not fathom is the simple fact that there is a real Ethiopia with a history dating back to Biblical times. (See my November 2014 commentary “The de-Ethiopianization of Ethiopia”.)
All Ethiopians have the moral and legal right to claim Axum, Lalibela, Lucy (Dinqnesh), Harar Jugol (considered to be the fourth holiest city of Islam by UNESCO), the “Gadaa” and “Gumii Gaayoo” systems of governance and many others.
The T-TPLF has always sought to deflect attention from its hateful and criminal actions by mythologizing the alleged hateful acts of others. They have tried re-write and miswrite history to conceal their own crimes against humanity. They have paid millions to erect a statue depicting Emperor Menelik II as a brutal king who lopped off women’s breasts and thereby memorialize for eternity hate between Oromos and Amharas.
When it comes to brutality, is there anyone more brutal and cold-blooded than Meles Zenawi and his T-TPLF?
Meles’ personally established Inquiry Commission laid full blame for the intentional and deliberate massacre of at least 193 unarmed protesters and the severe wounding of 763 others following the 2005 election at Meles’ feet.
Human Rights Watch laid full responsibility for the massacre of 400 unarmed protesters in Oromia in its June 2016 report, “Such a Brutal Crackdown”.
Meles personally ordered the massacre of over 400 civilians in Gambella, in western Ethiopia in 2004.
Meles personally authorized the bombing and strafing of villages in the Ogaden. Steve Crawshaw, the United Nations advocacy director for Human Rights Watch described the crimes against humanity committed by Meles and the T-TPLF in the Ogaden as “a mini-Darfur.”
Of course, the T-TPLF’s ethnic hate propaganda is completely bogus.
I challenge any Ethiopian who claims to have one and only one ethnic genotype. I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that if every Ethiopian gave a DNA sample, not only will they find out that they have genetic markers from every ethnic group within Ethiopia but also, much to their surprise, everywhere else in the world. These days for a measly USD$99, it is possible for anyone to trace one’s genealogy, if one is prepared to “handle the truth”.
There is no one who is “pure” Amhara, Oromo, Tigray, etc.
I have long preached that there is an ancient land called Ethiopia that is our motherland. Ethiopia cannot be sliced into “kilils”, diced into “ethnic federalism” or priced for fly-by-night investors or secretly handed over into a border “agreement”.
But for the T-TPLF the “Us” vs. “THEM” dichotomy has been a cleverly disguised strategy.
There is the “Us”, namely the leaders, members and cronies of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front”, of which they speak in glorious terms of military prowess, and then there is the implied “Us”.
There is the T-TPLF “Us” wallowing in corruption, crimes against humanity and abuse of power.
Then there is the implied “Us”, the ordinary people of Tigray, who like the rest of ordinary Ethiopians have suffered the slings and arrows of a bloodthirsty gang of thugs from the time when the TPLF was a rebel army.
The T-TPLF has taken the people of Tigray as hostages.
But do the ordinary people of Tigray have a say in whether the T-TPLF can use their name for its own criminal purposes? Do the ordinary people of Tigray freely, willingly and voluntarily support the T-TPLF?
To answer these questions, we must examine the evidence.
That evidence comes from none other than one of the original founders and former defense minister of the T-TPLF, Seeye Abraha.
In a “retrospective on the 2010 parliamentary election” (in which Seeye ran in Tigray), Seeye exposed the T-TPLF police state which controlled every aspect of the life of the ordinary people of Tigray. He documented the trials and tribulation the people of Tigray had to undergo in supporting the T-TPLF.
Seeye showed how the TPLF used state resources, institutions, cronyism, favoritism, bribes and corruption to force the ordinary people of Tigray to pledge allegiance to it and how the TPLF punished those who refuse to tow its party line or openly oppose it.
Seeye argued, “For the TPLF [in Tigray], there is no separation or distinction between partisan political work and official service as a state employee. Party work is carried out using government office facilities, transportation, per diem, etc. along with government work.” He explained:
In the Tigrai Region, the TPLF has created two structures, at the village level, which serve as the basic building blocks for the tightly-woven network of security and political structure in the rural area: the Wahio and the Development Gujille (DG). In the structural hierarchy of TPLF, the lowest unit is called Wahio and consists of up to 20 TPLF party members. In one village, there can be up to twenty Wahios, depending on its size. The chairpersons of the Wahios in a village are in turn organized in a primary group called Primary Widdabe (PW). They choose their own chairpersons and control all government and party activities at the village level.
The TPLF had conducted a study on every person in every village suspected of being in any way related to me. There are many veteran TPLF members who had participated in the armed struggle against the Derg but they were pushed out of the party’s fold during the TPLF split because they were suspected of siding with me or others like me. Moreover, there are many families that had sacrificed not one but two or three of their children during the armed struggle and who are now left without anyone to care for them. I have received reports on how TPLF cadres were manipulating the process to undermine the secret ballot. Voters were told that the TPLF had installed cameras in secret places that showed who voted for TPLF and who did not.
The election of 2010 was a travesty of democracy carefully organized and managed by the TPLF for the TPLF. Putting aside the claim of the Election Board as being neutral, the elections were under the strict control and supervision of the TPLF’s kebele and wereda administrators. The majority of the farmers in the rural kebeles and villages have been forced to become TPLF members. Wherever one goes TPLF members are everywhere. Practically every avenue of benefit is closed to those who are not members. Those who are not members are labeled as enemies and their lives turned into a living hell. The chains binding the people are Safety Net and Emergency Assistance programs. These programs are used to manipulate and intimidate the people into total submission to the ruling party.
Does the T-TPLF actually represent the people of Tigray? Do the people of Tigray freely and of their own will support the T-TPLF? Are the people of Tigray T-TPLF hostages?
Or are the people of Tigray just as helpless victims of the T-TPLF as the people of Oromiya or those in the Amhara region and elsewhere?
Let us further consider the evidence provided by Dr. Negasso Gidada, former state president under the T-TPLF.
Dr. Negasso described an identical situation in Dembi Dollo, Qelem Wallaga Zone of Oromia Region in September 2009. The T-TPLF applied the Meles Master Plan/ Playbook in Oromia and Tigray.
The police and security offices and personnel collect information on each household through other means. One of these methods involves the use of organizations or structures called “shane”, which in Oromo means “the five”. Five households are grouped together under a leader who has the job of collecting information on the five households… The security chief passes the information he collected to his chief in the higher administrative organs in the Qabale, who in turn informs the Woreda police and security office. Each household is required to report on guests and visitors, the reasons for their visits, their length of stay, what they said and did and activities they engaged in. … The OPDO/EPRDF runs mass associations (women, youth and micro-credit groups) and party cells (“fathers”, “mothers” and “youth”). The party cells in the schools, health institutions and religious institutions also serve the same purpose….
Do the people of Oromia freely, willingly and voluntarily support the T-TPLF?
The T-TPLF operates using the Meles playbook, the Meles Master Plan to steal elections by forcing people to vote for it, or else.
I could add much anecdotal evidence which amplify on these facts.
On the other hand, it has been argued by some that the people of Tigray have disproportionately benefited from T-TPLF economic largess in the form of infrastructure programs, investments and international aid.
What is the evidence to support this claim?
In 2016, the Tigray and Afar regions of Ethiopia were among the most affected by the “drought that is estimated to be the worst in 50 years.”
According to a March 2016 Foreign Affairs report, “Crop production in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray and Afar regions has dropped between 50 and 90 percent.”
What did the T-TPLF do to help the people of Tigray and Afar? Run to the international poverty pimps with its begging bowls. That’s what!
Of course, Meles in one of his first interviews after taking power in 1991 said, “he would consider his government a success if Ethiopians were able to eat three meals a day.”
Meles also said Ethiopia will be self-sufficient in food production by 2015. So much for MeLies!
It may be recalled that the T-TPLF touted SAERT (Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Rehabilitation in Tigray) as the silver bullet to make Tigray self-sufficient in food production by utilizing smaller dams and irrigation methods by 2008. Yet in 2016, the T-TPLF is out with its begging bowls to feed the people of Tigray?
According to a 2014 report of the Ethiopia Central Statistical Agency and the World Food Programme, the “highest prevalence of food energy deficient households was found in Addis Ababa (50%), Amhara (49%), Dire Dawa (42%), and Tigray (42%).” In terms of food poverty, “The highest regional prevalence was found in Amhara (35%) and Tigray (30%).” Nothing for the T-TPLF to brag about.
According to “The National Regional State of Tigray, Bureau of Planning and Finance”, “75% rural and 61 urban” population in the Tigray Region are “living below the poverty line”. Nothing to brag about for the T-TPLF.
It is claimed that Tigray is “the industrial powerhouse” in Ethiopia.
According to one report, there are said to be “66 companies [are] are owned and managed by ethnic Tigreans” with investment capital of over Birr 20 million in Ethiopia.
The Birr 20 million question is, “How many of them are in Tigray?”
According to a November 2015 United States Department of Agricultural Office Foreign Agricultural Service report, “Ethiopia aims to become one of the world’s top 10 sugar producers.”
The data on sugar factories under construction throughout the country and their estimated production capacity does not support claims that the T-TPLF has invested disproportionate amounts of resources to make Tigray an “industrial power house”. Quite to the contrary!
What is the investment data on Tigray?
According to Tigray Investment Process Owner Goytom Gebrekidan, in 2015, the “Tigray Regional State Urban Development and Construction Industry Office” licensed “over 800 projects with a capital of 10.5 Billion ETB.” Gebrekidan said, “829 industries have already registered operating in agriculture, social services, culture and tourism sectors in the past nine months.”
(The 800 projects happened when Santa Clause made a crash landing in Gebrekidan’s neighborhood after the GPS on the reindeer sled pulled by Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen malfunctioned.)
In 2009, the Millennum Cities Initiative and Vale Columbia Center issued an 80-page report on “investment opportunities in Mekele, Tigray State, Ethiopia.” What is the status of “investments” touted under that report in 2016?
Perhaps the answer to this question may be found in this report by Tigray Regional State, Industry and Trade Office.
It is not my aim here to refute every claim about T-TPLF propaganda and what it has “done for the people of Tigray.” That discussion will have to be reserved for another time.
My point is that the T-TPLF’s propaganda about what it has done for the people of Tigray should be taken with a grain of salt.
Simple truth be told, the T-TPLF power structure that is in power represents no one but itself, its supporters, cronies and friends.
The T-TPLF is using the people of Tigray as hostages as its crimes against humanity pile up.
The lesson to be learned is that it is morally and factually wrong to lump the ordinary people of Tigray with the T-TPLF and condemn them as though they are willing accessories and aiders and abettors of the T-TPLF.
This is not to suggest that many individuals and businesses with capital in the multi-millions are not ethnic Tigreans closely allied with the T-TPLF.
This is not to deny that the T-TPLF has used its patronage and nepotism system to give special advantage to its ethnic Tigrean supporters and cronies.
This is not to suggest that the racketeering organization known as EFFORT is not set up specifically to benefit T-TPLF leaders, cadres, cronies and supporters who happen to be ethnic Tigreans.
This is not to suggest that the T-TPLF has not handed out hundreds of millions of birr in public works contracts and non-repayable “loans” from national banks to its members who happen to be ethnic Tigreans.
This is not to suggest that ethnic Tigreans are not advantaged in getting public service jobs, enrollment in higher education, getting public benefits, etc.
This is not to suggest that T-TPLF members, cadres, cronies and supporters who happen to be ethnic Tigreans do not have to pay taxes, pay the least amount or avoid paying import duties.
The point is that anyone from any ethnic group who is willing to sell his/her soul to the T-TPLF Devil can get the same benefits.
The T-TPLF is willing, able and ready to make a Faustian deal with anyone, at any time in any place!
Goethe’s Dr. Faust made a pact with the Devil, exchanging his soul for wealth, success, worldly pleasures and power.
The T-TPLF is an equal opportunity Devil.
The T-TPLF will promise and deliver wealth, success, worldly pleasures and power to anyone, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, religion, etc., who is prepared to sell his soul.
The T-TPLF does not give a damn who you are and will make a deal with you at any cost provided, in the end, it gets your soul.
As Meles liked to say, loyalty to the T-TPLF is far more important to the T-TPLF than ethnicity, religion, education, work experience or anything else.
Loyalty to the T-TPLF is the Devil’s litmus test.
There are as many Amharas, Oromos, Gurages and others who have sold their souls and become T-TPLF’s loyal servants and hirelings. Can anyone deny that?
The most important fact I want to stress is that we must all be fair and refrain from finding guilty by ethnic association the ordinary people of Tigray for the sins and crimes of the T-TPLF.
Guilt by association is the most immoral and shameful because its logical outcome is a battle cry for collective punishment.
It is unfair to condemn the ordinary people of Tigray for the sins and transgressions of the T-TPLF Devils.
The T-TPLF leaders always present their perceived threats as a threat not to themselves per se but as a life and death threat to the people of Tigray. The T-TPLF tries to tie its fate and destiny with the destiny of the people of Tigray in a narrative of persecution and even potential genocide.
We must always see the ordinary people of Tigray as separate from the T-TPLF who live in Corrupt-istan.
What the T-TPLF leaders have done for the past 25 years in Ethiopia closely tracks what the Nazi leader Herman Goering once told an investigator during the Nuremberg trials:
Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.
The T-TPLF can bang its drumbeat of hate and loathing and try to tell the people of Tigray “they are being attacked” and that the “Amharas” and “Oromos” are “ganging up” against Tigreans, but it is not going to work.
Not this time, T-TPLF!
In July 2008, I wrote a commentary entitled, “We’ve Met the Enemy. They are Us”. It was a study in the word “enemy”.
In August 2016, I write that “We have met the hate-mongers; and they are us.”
The simple fact of the matter is that hate is a sickness of the soul. It is the other side of the coin of violence. To paraphrase philosopher and peace-builder Daisaku Ikeda, hate is
born from a wounded spirit: a spirit burned and blistered by the fire of arrogance; a spirit splintered and frayed by the frustration of powerlessness; a spirit parched with an unquenched thirst for meaning in life; a spirit shriveled and shrunk by feelings of inferiority. The rage that results from injured self-respect, from humiliation, erupts as violence. A culture of [hate] and violence, which delights in crushing and beating others into submission, spreads throughout society, often amplified by the media… From a healed, peaceful heart, humility is born; from humility, a willingness to listen to others is born; from a willingness to listen to others, mutual understanding is born; and from mutual understanding, a peaceful society will be born.
Ethiopia is now at the crossroads looking to a future beyond enemies, haters and the politics of hate.
It is a future that we can all shape, mold, create and build for our children, ourselves and generations to come.
It is a future free of fear, violence, hatred and religious and ethnic bigotry.
It is a future firmly founded on the consent of the people, the rule of law and vibrant democratic institutions.
It is a future very much similar to the one envisioned by Nelson Mandela for South Africa: “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.”
It is a future about a society where government respects the rights of its citizens and protects individual liberties; and leaders are accountable to the people and the law of the land.
It is a future where our young people will take over the helm of state and society.
Haters have no place in Ethiopia.
Haters, of course, have no race, no nation, no nationality, no ethnicity, no religion and no gender.
Haters have their own Planet Hate.
“Haters are gonna hate.” Our job is to make sure, they remain on their solitary, nasty and brutish planet as long as they insist on spewing hate.
To paraphrase Mandela, “Holding onto hate is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
We are wasting too much time and energy talking about things that separate us instead of bringing us closer together.
Our problem is a deficit of justice, denial of human rights, deprivation of liberty and theft of our voice to govern ourselves.
We should be talking about Us, the other Us, the Us known as the united people of Ethiopia.
We shoudl be talking about our cause, who we are and who we are not, what we stand for and believe in, how we can help each other and avoid harming ourselves, cooperate and collaborate with each other to help our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
We are all Ethiopians – a nation of brothers and sisters victimized by a brotherhood of gangsters.
Our victory in the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights is in our unity, not enmity.
Our victory in the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights is our united rejection of the politics of hate and our united embrace of the politics of inclusion and diversity.
We should be talking about brotherhood and sisterhood and how to complete the long road to a destination at the end of which is a rainbow of green, yellow and red.
We should be talking about the pot of priceless treasure at the end of that rainbow: human rights protected by law, democratic institutions sustained by the consent of the people and public accountability secured by the rule of law and law of the land.
But we cannot get to our destination trash talking hate against each other and traveling the same old road paved with accusations, recriminations and insults. Nor can we get to the end of that rainbow on the wings of bitterness and pettiness.
We must take a different road, the road less traveled. In the verse of Robert Frost:
… I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I — I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Now that we have met the hate-mongers, let’s hold hands in friendship and head into the future on the road less traveled by, the road not taken.
It will make all the difference for us as human beings! It will make all the difference for us as a people, and as a nation!
George Bernard Shaw wisely observed, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
Let us change our minds from the politics of hate to the politics of brotherly and sisterly love and “Be the change that [we] wish to see in the world.”
Hate begets hate. Love conquers all.
Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa wins silver at Rio Olympics but is too scared to return home
Source: Sydney Morning News
Feyisa Lilesa won the silver medal for Ethiopia in the marathon but is too scared to return to his country for fear he will be killed or jailed there.
Lilesa crossed the finish line with his wrists crossed high in the air as a protest. He also challenged the world community for supporting a killing regime in his country.
Afterwards he said he was protesting to support family members who were illegally jailed in Ethiopia for protesting the government there.
"I was protesting for my people," Lilesa said.
"It was for all my relatives in prison. I am worried to ask my relatives to talk in prison - if you talk you get killed."
He knew his protest would have consequences for him in his country were he to return now.
"If I go back to Ethiopia maybe they will kill me. If I am not killed maybe they will put me in prison. [If ] they [do] not put me in prison they will block me at airport," he said.
"I have got a decision. Maybe I move to another country."
He said that in the last nine months more than a thousand people had been killed by the government for protesting for rights and democracy.
He said the Ethiopian government had removed people from their land and then jailed or killed them for protesting.
"If you talk about this one it's very dangerous so another athlete (says to him) how can you speak this one? It is a very bad government. Now America, England, France support this government when they give this support it buys machine guns then they kill the people."
An Ethiopian medalist just led a protest that could land him in jail.
By Kevin Sieff
NAIROBI — When he crossed the Olympics marathon finish line, Feyisa Lilesa put his hands above his head in an "X." Most of those who watched Lilesa's spectacular silver medal performance didn't know what that meant — or just how dangerous a protest they were watching.
Lilesa was protesting the Ethiopian government's killing of hundreds of the country's Oromo people — an ethnic majority that has long complained about being marginalized by the country's government. The group has held protests this year over plans to reallocate Oromo land. Many of those protests ended in bloodshed. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 400 people have been killed since November.
For months, the Oromo have been using the same "X" gesture that Lilesa, 26, used at the finish line.
At a news conference following the race, he reiterated his defiant message.
"The Ethiopian government is killing my people, so I stand with all protests anywhere, as Oromo is my tribe," Lilesa said. "My relatives are in prison and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed."
It was a remarkable turn of events — within seconds, Lilesa had gone from a national hero to a man who might not be able to return to his home country. In addition to those killed, many Oromo protesters are currently languishing in prison.
In Ethiopia, the state broadcaster did not air a replay of the finish.
Lilesa was conscious of the danger. He immediately suggested that he might have to move somewhere else.
"If I go back to Ethiopia maybe they will kill me. If not kill me, they will put me in prison. I have not decided yet, but maybe I will move to another country," he said.
It wasn’t the first time an Ethiopian athlete had considered defecting after competition. In 2014, four of the country’s runners applied for asylum in the United States after disappearing from the international junior track championships in Eugene, Ore.
The plight of the Oromo and the Ethiopian government's use of force against civilians have received some attention recently, but nothing as prominent as Lilesa's defiance. Earlier this month, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa said that it was “deeply concerned” about the most recent killing of protesters. But likely because Ethiopia remains a U.S. ally in the fight against Somali Islamist group Al-Shabab, American officials have been reluctant to offer any further condemnation.
Oromo dissidents, particularly those outside Ethiopia, have been active on social media about their cause. As soon as Lilesa crossed the finish line, tweets and Facebook posts went up with pictures of their new folk hero. Ethiopia is one of Africa's fastest growing nations, and it seen by many as a model of economic potential. The government has played down the protests, saying earlier this month that “the attempted demonstrations were orchestrated by foreign enemies from near and far in partnership with local forces.”
Lilesa has been racing internationally for Ethiopia for more than eight years, and holds one of the world's fastest ever marathon times: 2:04:52.
Ethiopia doesn’t want you to know these things are happening in the country
By Paul Schemm
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — After going through its worst drought in 50 years, Ethiopia is again seeing rain. In fact, in some places, it’s falling too hard and has set off floods.
So while the number of people requiring food aid has dropped slightly from 10.2 million in January to 9.7 million, according to the latest figures, there is a new threat of disease in a population weakened by drought.
Measles, meningitis, malaria and scabies are on the rise. And most seriously, there has been an outbreak of something mysteriously called “AWD,” according to the Humanitarian Requirements Document, issued by the government and humanitarian agencies on Aug. 13.
“There is a high risk that AWD can spread to all regions with high speed as there is a frequent population movement between Addis Ababa and other regions,” it warned.
The letters stand for acute watery diarrhea. It is a potentially fatal condition caused by water infected with the vibrio cholera bacterium. Everywhere else in the world it is simply called cholera.
But not in Ethiopia, where international humanitarian organizations privately admit that they are only allowed to call it AWD and are not permitted to publish the number of people affected.
The government is apparently concerned about the international impact if news of a significant cholera outbreak were to get out, even though the disease is not unusual in East Africa.
This means that, hypothetically, when refugees from South Sudan with cholera flee across the border into Ethiopia, they suddenly have AWD instead.
In a similar manner, exactly one year ago, when aid organizations started sounding the alarm bells over the failed rains, government officials were divided over whether they would call it a drought and appeal for international aid.
The narrative for Ethiopia in 2015 was a successful nation with double-digit growth, and the government did not want to bring back memories of the 1980s drought that killed hundreds of thousands and left the country forever associated with famine.
“We don’t use the f-word,” explained an aid worker to me back in September, referring to famine.
Like many of its neighbors in the region, Ethiopia has some issues with freedom of expression and is very keen about how it is perceived abroad. While the country has many developmental successes to celebrate, its current sensitivity suggests it will be some time before this close U.S. ally resembles the democracy it has long claimed to be.
Ultimately, the government recognized there was a drought and made an international appeal for aid. The systems put into place over the years prevented the drought from turning into a humanitarian catastrophe — for which the country has earned praise from its international partners.
In the same manner, even though it doesn’t call it cholera, the government is still waging a vigorous campaign to educate people on how to avoid AWD, by boiling water and washing their hands.
Yet this sensitivity to bad news extends to the economic realm as well. Critics have often criticized Ethiopia’s decade of reported strong growth as being the product of cooked numbers. The government does seem to produce rosier figures than international institutions.
After the drought, the International Monetary Fund predicted in April that growth would drop from 10.2 percent in 2015 to just 4.5 percent in 2016.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, maintained, however, that growth would be a robust 8.5 percent, despite the falling agriculture productivity and decreased export earnings.
In the political realm, news of unrest and protests is suppressed. During a weekend of demonstrations on Aug. 6 and 7, the Internet was cut, making it difficult to find out what happened.
Human rights organizations, opposition parties and media tried to piece together the toll from the deadly demonstrations, which according to Amnesty International may have been up to 100.
The United Nations has called for international observers to carry out an investigation in the affected regions, which the government has strongly rejected even as it has dismissed estimates of casualties without providing any of its own.
“That is one of the factors we are struggling against with this government, the blockade of information,” complained Beyene Petros, the chairman of a coalition of opposition parties. “Journalists cannot go and verify. We cannot do that.”
Local journalists are heavily constrained, and as Felix Horne of Human Rights Watch points out, Ethiopia is one of the biggest jailers of journalists on the continent.
“Limitations on independent media, jamming of television and radio signals, and recent blocking of social media all point to a government afraid to allow its citizens access to independent information,” he said.
Foreign journalists do not fare much better, especially if they attempt to venture out of the capital to do their reporting.
In March, the New York Times and Bloomberg correspondents were detained by police while trying to report on the disturbances in the Oromo Region.
They were sent back to Addis Ababa and held overnight in a local prison before being interrogated and released.
In a similar fashion, a television crew with American Public Broadcasting Service was detained on Aug. 8 south of the capital trying to do a story on the drought conditions.
They and their Ethiopian fixer — an accredited journalist in her own right — were released after 24 hours, and they were told not to do any reporting outside of Addis.
In both cases the journalists were all accredited by the Government Communication Affairs Office, with credentials that are supposed to extend the breadth of the country but in practice are widely ignored by local officials.
The government spokesman, Getachew Reda, has dismissed the allegations about the information crackdown in the country and in recent appearances on the Al Jazeera network he maintained that there are no obstacles to information in Ethiopia.
“This country is open for business, it’s open for the international community, people have every right to collect whatever information they want,” he said.
‘A Generation Is Protesting’ in Ethiopia, Long a U.S. Ally
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN (NYT)
Is Ethiopia about to crack?
For the last decade, it has been one of Africa’s most stable nations, a solid Western ally with a fast-growing economy. But in recent months, antigovernment protests have convulsed the country, spreading into more and more areas. In the last week alone, thousands of people stormed into the streets, demanding fundamental political change.
The government’s response, according to human rights groups, was ruthless. Witnesses said that police officers shot and killed scores of unarmed demonstrators. Videos circulating from protests thought to be from late last year or earlier this year show security officers whipping young people with sticks as they are forced to perform handstands against a wall. The top United Nations human rights official is now calling for a thorough investigation.
“It was always difficult holding this country together, and moving forward, it will be even harder,” said Rashid Abdi, the Horn of Africa project director for the International Crisis Group, a research organization.
Ethiopia is the second most populous nation in Africa, after Nigeria, and its stability is cherished by the West. American military and intelligence services work closely with the Ethiopians to combat terrorist threats across the region, especially in Somalia, and few if any countries in Africa receive as much Western aid.
Ethiopia’s economy has been expanding at an impressive clip. Its infrastructure has improved drastically — there is even a new commuter train in the capital, Addis Ababa. And its streets are typically quiet, safe and clean. Though Ethiopia has hardly been a paragon of democracy — human rights groups have constantly cited the government’s repressiveness — opposition within the country had been limited, with dissidents effectively silenced. Many have been exiled, jailed, killed or driven to the far reaches of the desert.
But that may be changing.
“If you suffocate people and they don’t have any other options but to protest, it breaks out,” said Seyoum Teshome, a university lecturer in central Ethiopia. “The whole youth is protesting. A generation is protesting.”
The complaints are many, covering everything from land use to the governing coalition’s stranglehold on power. After a widely criticized election last year, the governing party and its allies got the last seat the opposition had held and now control 100 percent of Parliament. At the same time, tensions are rising along the border with Eritrea; a battle along that jagged, disputed line claimed hundreds of lives in June.
Analysts fear that separatist groups that had been more or less vanquished in recent years, like the Oromo Liberation Front or the Ogaden National Liberation Front, may try to exploit the turbulence and rearm.
Several factors explain why bitter feelings, after years of simmering beneath the surface, are exploding now.
The first is seemingly innocuous: smartphones.
Only in the last couple of years have large numbers of Ethiopians been able to communicate using social media as cheaper smartphones became common and internet service improves. Even when the government shuts down access to Facebook and Twitter, as it frequently does, especially during protests, many people are still able to communicate via internet proxies that mask where they are. Several young Ethiopians said this was how they gathered for protests.
Second, there is more solidarity between Oromos and Amharas, Ethiopia’s two largest ethnic groups. Oromos and Amharas are not natural allies. For eons, Amharas from Ethiopia’s predominantly Christian highlands flourished in politics and business, exploiting the Oromos, many of whom are Muslim and live in lowland areas.
But that is changing as well.
“We are on the way to coordinate under one umbrella,” said Mulatu Gemechu, an Oromo leader.
The biggest protests have been in Amhara and Oromo areas. Many Amharas and Oromos feel Ethiopia is unfairly dominated by members of the Tigrayan ethnic group, which makes up about 6 percent of the population and dominates the military, the intelligence services, commerce and politics.
The third reason behind the unrest is the loss of Meles Zenawi.
Mr. Meles, a former rebel leader, was Ethiopia’s prime minister for 17 years, until his death from an undisclosed illness in 2012. He was considered a tactical genius, a man who could see around corners. Analysts say he was especially adept at detecting early signals of discontent and using emissaries to massage and defang opponents.
“The current regime lacks that ground savvy,” Mr. Abdi, the conflict analyst, said.
Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, was plucked from relative obscurity to fill Mr. Meles’s shoes. Unlike Mr. Meles, who came from the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, Mr. Hailemariam is a southerner. Analysts say he does not have the trust of the Tigrayan-controlled security services.
The result, many fear, is more bloodshed. The last time Ethiopia experienced such turmoil was in 2005, after thousands protested over what analysts have said appeared to be an election the government bungled and then stole. In the ensuing crackdown, many protesters were killed, though fewer than in recent months, and that period of unrest passed relatively quickly.
Development experts have praised Ethiopia’s leaders for visionary infrastructure planning, such as the new commuter train, and measurable strides in fighting poverty. But clearly that has not stopped the internal resentment of Ethiopia’s government from intensifying. And it is taking a dangerous ethnic shape.
Last month, protesters in Gondar, an Amhara town, attacked businesses owned by Tigrayans, and anti-Tigrayan hatred is becoming more common in social media.
Analysts say the protests are putting the United States and other Western allies in an awkward position. The American government has used Ethiopia as a base for drone flights over neighboring Somalia, though it recently said it had closed that base.
While the West clearly wants to support democracy, it also does not want its ally in an already volatile region to crumble.
“That,” Mr. Abdi said, “is a very tight rope to walk.”
23 South Sudan refugees charged in Ethiopia murder case
A court in Ethiopia has charged 23 South Sudanese refugees with the April murders of 10 Ethiopians, local media reported Tuesday.
The murders took place in the Jewi refugee camp in the western Gambella region on April 21 after two South Sudanese children died when they were hit by a car driven by an Ethiopian employee of an international aid agency.
The accused are alleged to have killed two Ethiopian women and eight men working in and around the camp in a series of retaliatory attacks.
The discovery of their badly-mutilated bodies triggered 48 hours of intercommunal clashes in Gambella town, which lies on the border of South Sudan.
Buildings and vehicles belonging to the UN and medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) were also attacked by angry Ethiopians who accused them of helping the refugees.
The 23 defendants appeared in court on Monday and their next hearing is due on October 13, state-controlled Fana radio said.
Gambella town has a population of around 300,000 but also hosts more than 270,000 refugees who have fled the conflict in South Sudan.
Rivalries and clashes between the two groups are common.