While they brag, the Government keeps silent, but not still
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While they brag, the Government keeps silent, but not still

By Dilwenberu Nega
Tigrai Online, Ethiopian News, August 2, 2016

Gonder protest photos

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A week is a long time in politics” said former UK’s Prime Minister Harold Wilson after realising the sheer weight of political challenges he was made to confront in one week in the late 1960s. Given the various challenges Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn had to face last week, he would be forgiven if he were to borrow today this saying by Harold Wilson’s.

For the Government there was the ongoing comprehensive effort to root out corruption, there was the ongoing engagement with the civil service to restore good governance, there was the Wekayit Crises, which, if the Government fails to be on top of the problem sooner than later, is bound to ruin the peaceful coexistence of the sizeable communities of Amharas and Tigreans in Wolkayit. But it was the Gondar demo which had posed great concern to the Government for it was none other than Prime Minister Haile Mariam who almost always reiterates the primary duty of his administration is “to respect and make sure others respect the Constitution of FDRE”.

Never in the long and chequered history of Gondar – not even during the Reign of Terror of that “Butcher of Gondar,” Melaku Tefera, when he used to mow down the children of residents of Gondar under the very nose of their fathers and mothers, – had the city witnessed such a huge and hyped up demonstration, nor had its residents showcased such a tumultuous celebration of collective valour like the events of 31 July 2016.

Two issues have however left observers of the Ethiopian scene bewildered and stupefied. The first concerns the dubious and leaderless nature of the demonstration. The second the lull and silence of the Government when such unrest takes place near Ethiopia’s belligerent neighbour.

Judging from the forest of placards, the jumble of rabble-rousers and the acute lack of a leader who commands the love and respect of the demonstrators, one finds it difficult to understand the motives, purposes, and desires of the demonstrators. In the chorus of disapproval by gung-ho demonstrators, there were calls for the removal of the democratically elected EPRDF Government; there were smear and sneer remarks directed at the TPLF, and from “The Children of Aste Tedros” a call for “One Ethiopia, One People and One Religion.” It is this sort of arrogance and chauvinism – which it must be noted does not represent Amharas-at-large – which smacks at the heart of the Constitution. Public display of the Ethiopian flag without the logo of FDRE, is a violation not of the Constitution, but The Flag Act of 2007.

The EPRDF has showcased remarkable patience under continual provocation. But we must not mistake the Government’s lull and silence by equating it to weakness, never mind to conclude that its days are numbered. As a cursory look at the history of Teflon EPRDF underlines, it is always the case, is it not, that when the going gets tough, it is the tough who keep going.

For sure EPRDF has kept silent these days, but rest assured EPRDF is not still. EPRDF is a Government which is regarded in high esteem both nationally and internationally, and it would be the worst form of naivety to expect EPRDF to stoop down to the level of Ethiopian quislings in Eritrea and brag about its achievements. EPRDF acknowledges that there is a pending self-determination issue in Wolkayit which it is prepared to address in accordance with the provision of the Constitution of FDRE. The issue of Wolkayit is slated to be resolved by the people of Wolkayit. No one else, particularly those who, out of their own volition, have forsaken their Ethiopian nationality and taken up foreign citizenship have any right whatsoever to intervene in the internal affairs of Ethiopia. One hopes that the EPRDF Government is reminded now of the oft-repeated Amharic saying, the transliteration of which is: The hubbhub of the market place is ideal for a robber!

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