By Teweldebrhan Kifle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tigrai Online May 10, 2013
In one of its editorials, “The Reporter”, Amharic biweekly, came up with an interesting metaphor, የማይረጥቡ ዓሳዎች, which may be roughly translated as “Fishes that never get wet”. The gist of that message orbits around the then prevailing riddle of the Diaspora based opposition politicians that appeared barely learn neither from the democratic discourses of their respective adopting countries nor from their chequered past, a frustrating trend which is ever getting worse as we speak. It’s incontrovertible fact that they live in best governed states of the planet where equilibrium of governance is maintained through multifaceted watchful eyes of the governed, the media as well as the constitutional checks and balances within in different organs of governments.
So, we ask, after spending decades, what did these “Fishes” learn from the respective adopting countries with regard to the tenets of governance, building democratic institutions, rule of law, political engagement, loyal opposition, national interest, managing diversity, etc? If practice can be of any measure, they did learn absolutely nothing. Not only that they didn’t learn the complex mix of the art of governance that takes to lead a nation but also, unfortunately, unlearned the tinge of human decency they grew up cultured with prior to their departure. Of course this notion indisputably excludes the Dergue leftover criminals which had lost their character way before they retire to exile. The irony is they try to reappear in various shapes and sizes hoping that we would forget the appalling memory we carry from their notorious bloodletting era.
Notwithstanding the exposure to democratic discourses, their learning disability remained indelible. And what we see today is politicians with a penchant of neo-Nazi playbook roofed under the muslin of “democratic experience” which hardly percolate into their restless minds. In what follows, an attempt will be made to expound the principal causes of this seemingly permanent disability with a modest touch of the effect of the spillovers therein on the politico-social reaction of domestic opposition forces.
Lie is one of the major causes of this self-imposed disability. The reason why those self-anointed politicians keep lying and getting away with it is because of the perfect ambience created by dysfunctional audience devoid of reasoning and determined to hear what they want to hear. They represent a decided group retired to believe anything uttered against their perceived “enemy”. They lack the requisite aptitude and acumen for debating political issues pertinent to the homeland as they unfold in a civilized manner. In a way lying has become part of their lives and mode of engagement.
Two traits of lying may be constructed from the hitherto run-of-the-mill horn-tooting practices. One is fabricating entirely unfounded lies like the Waldeba-Zarema debacle, government initiated “import of an alien sect” in the Ethiopian Muslims, The insipid early July declaration of the death of the late Meles Zenawi (PBH), the routine battle victory pronouncement from the various “war fronts” under the “commandership” of the rascal, Berhanu Nega, and other centrifugal forces, the inexorable besmirch directed against the leadership of the ruling party and their associates notably by former tegadelties, the so-called assessment reports on Gibe III and Renaissance dams submitted to governments and international financial institutions based on bogus environmental impact findings in a bid to curb any remote chance of financing, the newly emerged catchphrase that “Tigreans turned to milliners in no time”, the Amhara people are in present and eminent danger, Tigray is preferentially benefited at the cost of the Amhara people(it isn’t even at the cost of Ethiopia),…the list is endless. High-end media technology is being employed to buttress their make-believe stories with seemingly plausible visual constructs morphed from various news channels world over.
The second type starts with petite grain of truth only to branch out to multiple distortions, self-styled retrograde analyses, incendiary snarls and charades, which in the end would metamorphose to the first kind of lying. In their search of Mohamed Bouazizi, of their own, the precursor of the Arab Spring who doused his body with fuel and willingly set alight, they consecrate “martyrs” and create heroes out of blue. In their world of charlatans, it has become a conventional “wisdom” for a criminal to claim innocence after proven of guilty. The bitterness and rage displayed on the imprisonment of Eskinder Nega, so-called Sweden journalists and the likes has nothing to do with the facts on the ground but is valuable because it sustains charged emotions in haywire and keep them ticking as political forces. Lying is the most applied tactic to cover up the hitherto unsuccessful terrorist collusions and plots too. They organize terrorist cabals with hopes high to replicate the “Arab Spring”. But when they fall under the hands of the ever vigilant security forces, their cacophony resonates in both sides of the Atlantic and the same is true with their connivers at home organized under a protected shell of the press law. It appears to me Ethiopia could be the first country to own people with madness of a kind that seek protection from the very constitution they abhor and admonish to the core.
Another blot is the extreme hate harbored towards anything EPRDF which has now attained new dimension to clutch the people of Tigray in entirety. It’s this assertion that the ruling party is propped up by unwavering solidarity of Tigreans and contemplating to do away with it short of quelling the “sea”, in which “the fish” is being nourished and thrived, would be nearly impossible: a typical intonation of the Derg killing apostates. Few Tigreans who happened to toe the line of the hate bandwagon are slapped on the face for being infirm in taking sides and for their failure to censure their own people despite the fact that they are regular goers to the rallies staged in the western cities, competent foreign good offices, and more importantly to the churches which have been the ultimate authorities in conferring political benedictions usually shrouded with dramatized religious charms. Suffice is being a Tigrean to fall into prey of this hate machine and labeled as “infidel” whether one is in the ruling party, the opposition (within themselves) or anything in between. Nothing appears redeeming either way.
Even more puzzling is the insatiable desires and hypocritical nature of the haters in handling the “neo-comrades-in-arms” who covered miles beyond call of duty in providing them with high-end “secrets” of the EPRDF/TPLF leadership kernel which they claim they know it inside-out attributed to their stint in the armed struggle. How unfortunate and lifeless those deserters have become when they allow themselves reduce to subservient poodles jibing with the chorus of hate in tune to the height of the too familiar mediocrity: “Tigre Geday”. The unruly vilification inundated on Meles and admonishing propaganda they unleashed against the front, which they helped create and blossom till the days of departure, gets them nowhere but the dead end. For the haters, they are nothing but a bunch of losers craving a leeway for the quandary of contradictions they get themselves in. In other words, they are labeled guilty by association and are always put under surveillance radar. Lying and hating the TPLF leadership alone couldn’t bring them any closer to the hearts of the “Fishes”. A principal task awaits them before they are accepted as a full-blown hate mongers: declaring that Tigreans as Enemies of Ethiopia.
A clearly visible cleavage and alignment of forces is emerging through a ultrafast conveyer belt of hatred which can be subsumed as one group fueling dissention against TPLF’s stature and another neo-fascist clamor targeting the superset, i.e., the entire Tigrean race. Both groups converge when it comes to the visceral hatred they nurse towards the incumbent while diverging, though wafer-thin, ostensibly on the stated characterization of the people of Tigray. Once again, history is repeating itself when racial chauvinism is put into test for the second time, in a span of decades, showing its true colors when the going seems getting tough and the power they dream about is moving further from sight.
3, The “Fishes” and the Domestic Opposition
The domestic opposition is beleaguered with the replica of problems that mired the exiled “Fishes”. It’s vacillating between peaceful opposition and violent modes of engagement in line with the Diaspora “Fishes” and for the same wrong reasons. The domestic opposition carefully simulates a resemblance of legal entity to cater for the appeals of supporters at home or as a mere necessity for survival, but changes its colors instantly when it deals with the “Fishes”: dancing to the same tune of hatred and lie. It’s torn apart by two irreconcilable demands where leaving one ostensibly leads to existential mess.
Most of the oppositions in the homeland serve as the “colonial viceroys” of the exiled “Fishes”. Their political track record is something indistinguishable so that it’s safe to assume that they are two sides of the same coin. Ask them for political programs, social bases for their struggle etc. and the answer you would most likely get is equivocation and wailing on side issues of less relevance. What brought them together is not the vision they share but their acrimonious view towards anything EPRDF. Ethiopia badly needs a strong opposition but not the type of their kind for they play inadvertently or otherwise against its strategic interests.
Unlike the views of the mainstream political pundits, the opposition lacks organic higher purposes clearly discernible from that of EPRDF. Whenever it differs from EPRDF, it appears too ridiculous grappling with numerous unsolvable fantasies and contradictions which the top-most two issues are Assab and Federalism. These are “problems” that they can do nothing about to undo and yet squander so much energy and investment for a sheer show off of the outmoded patriotic infantilism. There are people who hold a genuine opinion of annexing Assab by force as a strategy that best serves the national interest of Ethiopia. They are a little bit honest compared to those who speak of Assab while ignoring Eritrea but miserably failed to figure out that it was this very thesis that rendered us the hopeless and fractured Ethiopia we knew it two decades ago. Here comes the wisdom of the wises, as Benjamin Franklin put it: “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” pinpointing the intuitive observing capability of humanity which is a self-evident truth today as it was 200 plus years ago.
Leaving the legal hurdles aside, the reason we stick our ground when it comes to Assab (even the whole of Eritrea) is because, as practice has it, war is unsustainable. We are sure of the fact that Eritrea is capable enough (as any victim of injustice) to make hell out of it no matter how strong Ethiopia turns out to be. This is a fundamental truth inherent to all hearts that feel undignified and humiliated whether these hearts were to makeup of an Eritrean or anybody else. No amount of twists and turns would reverse the independence of Eritrea and that includes Assab and has nothing to do with the behavior of the regime in Asmara. So the opposition should untangle itself from such dangerous snares that the “Fishes” have laid for them just for frivolous pecuniary baits, if at all are truly meant the claims they brag about beyond measure.
Peace is the primacy of everything of value. Without peace the possession of the entire Red Sea coastline serves us of no purpose as was the case two decades ago. Unsustainable possession of Assab may give some quixotic veneer of fulfillment in the eyes of equals but will surely get us back to square one. Harping on how Ethiopia would have prospered had it possessed Assab is a preposterous narrative that is oblivion to our recent history and is tantamount to unscrupulous declaration of future war and mayhem. On top of it, it’s a bitter truth that Ethiopia had been identified as a nation of beggars, a colossal shame beyond the senile king and the despot could handle while the entire Red Sea coastline was under its fold. It would be a wise move on their part if they stop using Assab as a ploy for their failure in articulating what it takes to lead a nation as diverse as Ethiopia.
The other Achill’s hill of the domestic opposition is the federal structure that bestows self-rule to the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia as they see it fit based on shared values as enshrined in the constitution of FDRE. The vast majority of Ethiopians have vehemently demonstrated conviction to build the nation convinced that their destiny can best be served by rectifying historically unjust relationships and by further promoting their shared interests and values in continuum.
The opposition is allergic to the guts to hear these fundamental tenets of autonomy and managing diversity. They don’t even call it by its proper name as it is stipulated in the constitution. The fancy word that usually comes to their mouth is the medieval streak of የጎሳ ፖለቲካ, tribal politics, while federalism and tribal politics are as unambiguous as light and darkness. Instead of recognizing the fundamental bricks from which Ethiopia is made of, they pretend burying their heads under the sand and harping on beating the bush. The question at hand is extremely pristine: Ethiopia is a diverse nation, that it had been paying a prohibitive cost for the simple reason that successive leaders of the day failed her accommodate its diversity. Any opposition worth their salt oblivion to this glaring fact is doomed to fail.
After centuries of deep slumber compounded with a perpetual downward spiral, this century is destined to be a century of renaissance for this great nation. Ethiopians have every reason to hope for the best and to believe in themselves as their country strides forward surmounting all odds that come its way. The call of the hour is the consensus of citizens on major pillars of national significance recognizing the fact that the progress we aspire to achieve is proportional to the extent our political objectives converge. No one is capable enough to reverse the feat Ethiopians have displayed through mutual recognition and respect of their mosaic cultures, languages, believes, myths, traditions, art, relics etc. geared towards building common social, political and economic community. Nation building is an arduous uphill task and as such cannot be faked. For the sake of this beautiful country and its people, it’s mandatory that hatred and lying should be avoided as means to further ends. There are many ways opposition parties can fight the incumbent but first they need to disarm themselves from the incessant churn of hatred and lie. Let me live you with author and philosopher Ayn Rand’s “virtue of rationality” defined as “the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action”.