Avengers neither forgive nor forget, and the naïve forgive and forget;
but victors forgive but not forget

By Mulugeta Aserate Kassa
Dec. 23 2010

The response to my “We must live for the future, and not for the past and in the Past” (Aiga and Tigraionline) has by and large been positive with a great majority of respondents believing that the time is now ripe to forgive the repentant former Derg officials who have remained behind bars for close to 20 years. I am however saddened by the fact that my own kith and kin – who, incidentally, used to curse me for attending the Derg officials’ court proceedings – have now deemed it appropriate to voice their opposition to the very idea of forgiving them.

I must admit I simply cannot stand hypocrites. Here you have my own kith and kin who usually attend regular church services in Addis, no doubt, beseeching God to forgive them, the very same God who demands of them, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive you."

According to the Amharic version of The Reporter of the 22nd December the Group Representing the families of the 60 officials – one of whom is my father - who were summarily killed without trial, has taken umbrage by the fact that it had not been party to the Religious Leaders consultative process. While this may be a cause for complaint, it does not in any form or shape prohibit them from exercising their Christian duty to forgive. I continue to have high regard to the leadership of this Group, but it cannot claim to be the inner voice of each and every member of the 60 martyrs. The call to forgive has to be answered individually. I, for one, do not require a spokesman to put into words what I passionately believe to be the core value of my Christian faith.

Some critics of forgiveness are also seen jumping to the wrong conclusion by claiming that the ‘invisible hand’ of the EPDRF Government is behind the planned freedom of the former Derg members. Nothing can be further from the truth. The role played by EPDRF in arresting former Derg members and in ensuring that they all were given fair trial in an open court is worthy of an international accolade. In point of fact, given the enormity of Derg’s acts of barbarism, many Ethiopians had expected or feared that EPDRF’s foremost task upon entering Addis Ababa on the 28th May 1991 would be to round up Derg members and mow them down and dance on their corpses. Even EPDRF’s die-hard critics to this day commend the above-board manner with which the Ethiopian Government had dealt with former Derg officials from start to finish.

The Government has so far not uttered a single word about the much talked about anticipated release of former Derg officials, leaving it the Religious Leaders to complete their bridge-building work before it gives its official response to the plea for amnesty. People are at liberty to speculate on the Government’s response, but to accuse EPDRF of bulldozing the role of the judiciary is as immature as it is irresponsible comment. But of one thing we can be cock-sure. If the Government was ‘salivating’ for fame, as some critics have opined, it would not have allowed the Derg’s case to travel through ‘religious route.’ The Government would, instead, have taken recourse to the Pardon Board. On the other hand, I am of the view that come what may the Government would not oppose the Religious Leaders’ Initiative to consult as many people as possible because the issue affects directly the people and not EPDRF Government per se. What the Religious Leaders are aiming at is, therefore, to strike not a judicial pardon, but “A Peoples’ Amnesty” leading to a national consensus on the need for a healing process to take root and branch the length and breadth of Ethiopia.

The execution of 18 Derg officials will not bring back our dear and near ones

The advent of Ethiopian Millennium in 2007 has ushered in a period of relaxation of tensions in Ethiopia. Politically, our patchwork nation continues to make inroads in broadening the horizons of multi-party politics with hitherto warring factions now basking in the dividends of sustainable rapprochement. Economically, breath-taking all round development has placed Ethiopia in pole position to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Historically, we continue to prove to the world that we are not a people who rest on past laurels alone, but a hardworking people determined to relegate poverty to bed-time story books for our children. In short, there is so much to look forward to in Ethiopia, and every reason to remain optimistic about the robust union of free, equal and willing peoples, nations and nationalities. The only thing which is missing now is the jewel in the crown – magnanimity of the finest order to follow our victory of man-eater-Derg.

Dig deep, then, to the Ethiopian in you and wipe out that gory and embarrassing chapter of Ethiopian history by forgiving the former Derg officials. Never lose sight of the fact that in the life of today’s Ethiopia which has triumphantly risen from the embers of Dergist Ethiopia, these people constitute the undead of the Ethiopian society. The people they have massacred have today become heroic martyrs of a strong Ethiopia, and those they imprisoned and tortured have picked up the pieces and bounced backed.

Children of Ethiopia forgive; you have nothing to lose but your resentment. But you have loads more to gain: inner peace, reconciliation with your creator, the dividends which come from a healing process. So why not join the wise and kind-hearted and let the Motherland enjoy her finest hour and magical moments.

Better die a peacemaker than live an avenger!