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Freedom of Conscience

By Gezaee Hailemichael
May 30, 2007

Ethiopians need to undergo a radical thinking paradigm. Naturally, all humans are born bare and equal. No human is above another. In a just and civilized society, no one has dominion over another or no one is allowed to exercise such a character. Any human being has a right to speak or express her or his opinion without causing harm to any other party in a respectful manner. The indigenous wisdom of African culture is endowed with these type of freedom which tell us we African actually has had democracy before anyone else. For this reasons Africans are not only well known for their low heart attack, but also for their well known palaver or participatory dialogue.

The reason which has made me to jot down this piece is the article written on aiga website which is leveled at certain individuals of the Tigrean social group. I do not know these people or I do not know the story. However, I believe the writer must put down proofs for his accusation because we cannot take people's opinions as simple as such.

The dictum that we all have to think only in one way because we speak one language is an injustice. From my experiences, regardless the election 2005, many Ethiopians, almost 100% Ethiopians regardless tribe, ethnic, religion,... do not support the Ethiopian government's policy on Eritrea. When I say this I am saying without any bias or affiliation to any opposition. This is what I have been experiencing in everyday of my life. As such there are many bitter Tigreans like their fellow Ethiopians who oppose the government of the Prime Minister not at personal level, but his policies. There are well respected people who do not agree with the policy but they do not speak out. I am afraid those people may be called by their name as dergist or kehadi. It is unfair to call names because they do not agree with us.

This must change. As far as I know there is a division which in essence is rooted with the issue of Eritrea since the time the division emanated when Shabia invaded and Prime Minister Meles refused to respond.

To take you back, this issue of Eritrea has been taking the toll of Ethiopians lives. Professor Asrat opposed openly but he was thrown into prison. He died in prison. University students protested merely based on their grievances on the issue of Eritrea many times. But all the time they were rebuffed by live bullets. In the early years, about 40 doctors were chased from AddisUniversity based on the fact that they opposed on the issue of Eritrea.

Later, TPLF split because of the issue of Eritrea; they were chased from their jobs. In a just society no one has a right to chase anyone. In my opinion the cause of the division is not because people are betraying but it is because people are being betrayed. The Prime Minister has been chasing or imprisoning people who challenge or oppose him. If there is law in Ethiopia, the Prime Minister must be the first person to respect the law. However, in truth, he is the first person to breach his own law.

In a lawful society no one is above the law. However, Prime Minister has been above the law. He can arrest and throw people into prison but he himself out of bounds. How can justice, freedom, equity, transparency, all fairness, civility can be realized in this way. In hyperbolic speaking, how can in a lawful society, someone like Siye be kept in custody for no reason for six years and the judge was absent for 23rd time. Even if anyone commits crime he or she deserves the deliverance of justice in due time. The case of Siye is an indicator of a rotting and smelling justice system in Ethiopia. It is not acceptable, and natural to anyone with natural conscience. It it is this and others which has been driving away people and dividing people.

I think we all love our country. I believe those who claim they are more Ethiopians than the others is wrong.

As to the issue of Eritrea, one cannot bring a lasting peace by oppressing one side and favoring the other. This can only serve for short period of time. For a lasting peace to come, there must be a balance between both parties. Mutually exclusive thinking from either side is neither good for Eritrean nor for Ethiopian. Eritreans need to understand the rights and interest of Ethiopia regardless Ato Meles' policies. Ato Meles' policy is not benefiting either side. Eritreans are suffering by hunger and even dying on the way to escape to become refugees from their own home. Massawa and Assab is not serving as cash crop for Eritreans. It is neither serving Ethiopians. Massawa and Assab has become a depot of bullets instead becoming cache of commercial items. Ethiopians are dying regularly and bearing permanent injuries of timed bombs orchestrated by shabia . Life is so sacred why do Ethiopians has to die like this now and then? If one is getting used to abnormality, the abnormality becomes like normal. It seems the Prime Minister is accustomed to live with these scenario. It seems it is okay for him if Ethiopians continue to die and get injured as long as his power grip is okay . For how long is this going to be born by Ethiopians?

I do not support the Prime Minister in his policies. But this has nothing to do with kihdet or derg. I live in a society where my rights are revered equally with the rest of my other human fellows. I live with Chinese, Arabs, Europeans, Africans all my rights protected and cherished. Do you think I can afford to think like most Ethiopians who think by their tribe instead of by their brain.

All the above parallel narrations sum up to cause displeasure among our people. It is these problems which are the basis of the problem. These problem can only solved when we understand their causes and have a balanced system.

I therefore say let us get out of this vicious cycle of hatred, name calling, fighting,... Let us allow people to talk their grievances with freedom. It is their right. They have a right to think differently. Actually it is good to have opposing ideas because it triggers thinking and problem solving capacity. As such let us not condemn people because they speak out things which we do not like or do not expect to hear from therm because they belong to our social group. Why we cannot try to understand their grievances than jumping to judge them. We are human; we are not computers; we have own operating system and to think or to speak differently is not a crime.


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