The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
By Mulugeta Aserate Kassa
June 03 2011
While there appears to be a debate over copyright of the proverb which I am using as the title for my very short commentary on the significance of the Presidential Pardon which commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence of the 23 former top brass former Derg members, no argument can surface over its implied meaning. And it is the figurative meaning of the proverb which I am interest at the moment for it helps me shed radiant light on the process of healing which many believe the Presidential Pardon will set in motion throughout Ethiopia.
You might be right to argue - after viewing ETV’s “Never to be forgotten and never to be repeated” which was aired at prime time yesterday – that you find it so difficult to let go and that you do not have a ton of faith which is required to forgive a mountain of crimes. However, what you must not lose sight of is to look inwards in search of that biblical “faith the size of a mustard seed” for you to command that mountain to vanish into thin air.
While a sudden potpourri of emotions, mainly from survivors of the era of the trigger-happy and from friends and relatives of victims of the Derg is quite understandable, the general belief is one of accepting the undeniable truth: the time has come for the society to exercise a magnanimity of mind to the perpetrators of a catalogue of heinous crimes and then move on to greener pastures. We should never lose sight of the fact that in essence our real consolation comes not from becoming eyewitnesses to the death by electric-chair of 23 geriatric former members of the Derg, but from becoming an active participant in raising Ethiopia to lofty heights. This would be our collective revenge for the Derg system which had reduced Ethiopia to a mere geographical expression.
To be, therefore, asked to forgive but never to forget must surely be a small price to pay for the common good. This must be the price which we should pay out of our own volition for we owe it to the memory of all those who lost their lives in the brutal hands of the Derg. And we also owe it to a peaceful Ethiopia under whose ground rest in peace the hundreds of thousands of martyrs.
Twenty years ago, we planted what I call “a demo-mango tree” on the rough embers of the Derg from which we have been picking good yields of mangoes of freedom, mangoes of equality, mangoes of democracy, mangoes of health, mangoes of education and mangoes of economic growth. How else do you think we managed to salvage Ethiopia from a break-up similar to the dismemberment of former Yugoslavia in 1991? And, how else do you think we managed our umpteen national trials and tribulations all these years? And now when we are confident that the time is ripe, we plant a hybrid demo-mango that is strife resistant as well as pro-communal harmony to enable us catapult ourselves to the next level of our socio-economic development. The speedy Gonzales demo-mango has already started melting hearts and minds minutes after it was planted by President Girma W.Giorgis on the 1st June 2011. Accordingly, within the last 48 hours alone demo-mango has produced tones of mangoes of panacea, mangoes of peace and mangoes of forgiveness. As those who had a taste of the fruits from demo-mango tree agree, the Ethiopian society will never be the same again for they know that – to paraphrase one of Mahatma Gandhi’s wise sayings – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth would leave Ethiopia blind and toothless.
Ethiopia has out-South Africa-South Africa
Whenever the world talks about quality forgiveness, the South African experience is always cited as exemplary. There is no question that the manner with which South Africans came to terms with their gory and rebarbative past is worthy of praise by everyone who values the power of forgiveness. However, given the sheer magnitude of barbarism committed on Ethiopians by their own brothers – both in terms of skin colour and ethnic back-ground – there could be no doubt that Ethiopia’s recent amnesty to commute the death sentence of 23 top notch members of the former Derg to life imprisonment constitutes by far a superior act of magnanimity than its South-African predecessor.
When news of Ethiopia’s main Religious Leaders’ peaceful overtures to bring about pardon and reconciliation first made it to the headlines, it generated both light and heat. It is my earnest hope, today, that we, as a people do not allow ourselves to be the laughing stock of a world that now enjoys excellent relations with former Nazi Germany, by resorting to mud-slinging or tug of war between the generators of light and the generators of heat. The current watch-word, therefore, must be tolerance.
Now the Mother of all Laws in Ethiopia has spoken, it’s time for me and you to accept the outcome with grace. There is only one winner in this battle to win hearts and minds. And the winner is mama Ethiopia. Let us, instead, tell the truth and shame the devil. Let us, instead close ranks and remain vigil-eyed so that democracy will continue to prevail over kakitocracy – “government by the worst citizens.” (The Superior Person’s Book of Words by Peter Bowler, page 75)
May Ethiopia continue to remain at peace with herself and may her children reap the dividends of forgiveness.
God Bless Ethiopia
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