By Dilwenberu Nega London
Tigrai Onlne November 28, 2013
Reading Dr Teshome Abebe’s :“If we give up ourselves, we have no place to go, ” www.aigaforum.com 25/11/2013) and PhD student, Mezgebe Gebrekiristos’ response : “During Menelik ’s and Haile Selaisse ’ s era, luck was for the few, and silent death for the many,” www.aigaforum.com 26/11/2013) brought to mind some features of an ever-present issue among the Ethiopian diaspora. First, people care about it — the maltreatment of Ethiopians abroad is viewed as an attack on the honour of Ethiopia. Second, it is cyclical — whenever our nation is faced with a challenge, the politically minded tend to over-egg it and to politicise it. Third, more often than not we focus on the “who” rather than on the “what” of an issue — on who is right or wrong; rather than on what is right and wrong.
The ongoing plight of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia is an epitome of these features. Seldom has a single issue — apart from the day Eritrea blatantly invaded Ethiopian territory in 1998 - ignited Ethiopians to take to the streets in towns and cities across the globe. On the other hand, while to stand united against the barbaric treatment of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly a virtue, it would be a lapse of judgment to equate blind partizans’ attempt to exploit the anti-Saudi Arabia bubble and engage in a bout of anti-EPRDF sloganeering with the genuine outpourings of grief and anger of protesters outside Saudi Arabian Embassies. Such futile attempts are what I mean by the need to stay focused on the what is right and what is wrong; rather than on the who is right or who is wrong.
In the continuing saga of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia, a factor warrants acknowledgement. The GoE is not guilty of neglect of its citizens in Saudi Arabia. Far from sitting on its hands, as claimed by its vocal critics abroad, the EPRDF has been on top of the situation with all its might. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Tewodros Adhanom, who has received a number of international accolades for the care and concern for the needy in his capacity as a former Minister of Health, has taken it up on himself to play a hands on role in the repatriation and settlement of Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia. In a span of less than three weeks, Ethiopia has managed to airlift over 20.000 “illegal Ethiopian migrants from Saudi Arabia.” This he did in addition to MoFA summoning the Saudi Arabian Charge D’Affairs in Addis Ababa, and demanding an immediate and unconditional cessation of all forms of violence against Ethiopians in the Kingdom, and for the result of a thorough enquiry into the rape and killings of Ethiopians to be made available to the GoE without delay.
On the other hand, heaping criticisms on the EPRDF for not doing enough to reduce the rate of youth unemployment, stems from not appreciating the enormity of the challenges that confront the EPRDF. The EPRDF can take pride of the fact that it has been walking the talk of alleviating poverty in Ethiopia. Year on year, the number of people out of poverty is increasing. However, this doesn’t mean that EPRDF must rest on its past laurels. On the contrary, it is a stark reminder that more should and must be done to create jobs for the unemployed. But the irony in such a criticism is that those who criticise the EPRDF ( I am not in any way referring here to Dr. Teshome Abebe) are the very ones who have relentlessly opposed EPRDF’s policies by advocating the stoppage of aid to Ethiopia, as well as by opposing and blackmailing Ethiopians from buying GERD bonds.
There is no better time than now then for erudite Ethiopians, Dr Teshome Abebe and soon-to-be-Dr, Mezgebe Gebrekirstos, to avoid getting dragged into a never ending blame game, and to instead focus on a game plan that can address effectively the burning issue of illegal emigration, as well as assist in hastening the ongoing repatriation and settlement processes of returnees. Regrettably, I found nothing of the sort in both commentaries and in their respective rejoinders to alleviate my worry and concern.
Dwelling, instead, on a past which has no bearing on the obtaining conditions of today’s Ethiopia, would, therefore, be an exercise in futility.
I stand to be corrected, but in reading between the lines of Dr. Teshome Abebe’s nostalgia riddled commentary, I see an intellectual frustrated by the dearth of charismatic and inspiring leaders in today’s Ethiopia. It seems to me he has a strong yearning for a latter-day Menelik Haile Melekot or Teferi Mekonen to give an oomph to the Ethiopian in him. Whether we like them or loathe them, the two Janhoys have left their pluses and minuses in the annals of Ethiopia. Do we need a Menelikian or a Haile Selassian leader — to borrow from Shakespeare’s Henry V - “stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood?” By the look of things, I don’t think so. First, people don’t seem to have a penchant for a return to monarchial rule. Second, we are dealing here with a generation that doesn’t even know Haile Selassie, let alone Menelik II. So let’s leave the memory of the two Janhoys at peace; besides why take the trouble of exhuming a Janhoy and graft it on a Revolutionary democrat?
Dr Teshome’s yearning for a leader who speaks the people’s language and translates their dream of greatness, remind me of a story I read in a book, the title of which I now can’t remember. When Haile Selassie’s gregarious Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ato Ketema Yifru, realised that he needed to bring to the attention of the Emperor the inherent flaws, discrepancies and contradictions of his rule, he galvanised the courage to write a candid letter and lay it before the Emperor. Ato Ketema highlighted the urgent need for the Emperor to introduce a raft of reforms that would enable his dynasty to continue occupying his Solomonic Throne. Doing so, Ketema argued, would instantly change the Emperor into “The Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Ethiopia” — loved and adored during his term as the First President of the Republic of Turkey, and remembered and acclaimed for ever after his death. The following day an angry-looking Haile Selassie said: “First of all who told you Ethiopians need an Ataturk to lead them. Secondly, how do you make an Ataturk out of Haile Selassie.”
Mezgebe Gebrekristos, on the other hand has to work hard not to allow his hatred towards the two Janhoys affect his sense of balance. He is, no doubt, blessed with youth and intelligence which Ethiopia is crying out for today, and who knows, destiny may one day ask him to lead the Motherland. That is why I extend my fraternal advice to him: “Detox yourself from all forms of hatred, and there isn’t a better time than Thanksgiving Day for you to get started!”
Dr Teshome Abebe: “I beg to differ with you, because when an Ethiopian abroad, like you and me, loses hope with himself, he goes to get counselling from professionals; but when you and I lose hope on Ethiopia, we lose our identity and become stateless. That is why it is necessary to believe in Ethiopia whoever is the occupant of The Menelik Gibbi. Besides, don’t we both have good reasons to nurture our hope of an enduring Ethiopia? Have we not seen with our own eyes Ethiopia taking off from the embers of 17 years of brutal military dictatorship?”November 28, 2013