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Is Classifying Ginbot7, OLF and ONLF as Terrorists Infelicitous?
I Don’t Really Remember

By Hindeya Mebrahtu
June 26 2011

When Ego Plays the Daredevil

The recent classification of Ginbot7, OLF and ONLF as terrorists by the Ethiopian parliament has evoked emotionally charged debates among Ethiopian Diaspora. As usual, the opposition whose hallmark is disparaging every effort of the EPRDF, threw childish tantrums over such declaration. They say it is absurd to name the likes of Bithanu Nega as terrorists for he has spent enough time living and learning in the west.

I am not sure where these pseudo journalists and politicians have read a literature on terrorism that say living and learning in the west is by itself an assurance for one not to turn in to a terrorist. It would rather make sense if they were to tell us that Birhanu Nega wouldn’t have sacrificed himself to bring about casualty on the Ethiopian government given the comfort and spoil he has been subjected in the glittering cities of the west.

What is then that makes the leader of Ginbot7 a terrorist if he is not ready for self immolation? All his efforts that could culminate in grabbing power legally and peacefully have been shuttered by his imprudent choice. And this guy is suffering from a grandiose fantasy exalting himself as a leader. He always wants to stay in the lime light in the Ethiopian political drama. It is unacceptable for him to join the crowd and remain nameless. His ego is playing him the daredevil.

While the OLF and ONLF are trying to give their terrorist activity a nationalistic and religious identity, Ginbot7 has joined these forces in destabilizing Ethiopia with out having any semblance of radical identity. It is the sheer drive to remain an actor in the Ethiopian politics that joined Birhanu Nega’s Ginbot7 with OLF and ONLF. But is it possible for one to be a terrorist with out having any radical ideology?

It is not having radical ideas that make a person a terrorist. It is his acts that make one a terrorist. Simply because Ginbot7 is a non Muslim organization or non nationalist does not make it less of a terrorist as long as it is targeting non combatants and infrastructures in its fight to gain political power.

Juxtaposing Ethiopia’s and The US Terrorism Laws

Now let us see the interpretation by some quarters about Ethiopia’s pigeonholing of Ginbot7, OLF and ONLF as terrorists as the government’s heavy handed policy to suppress dissidents holds any water.

For starters, there is no any a universally accepted definition of terrorism. Even the United Nations does not have internationally agreed definition of terrorism. As a result every member state is left with the task of defining terrorism under its jurisdiction. And bearing this in mind, Ethiopia declared any act that is directed against civilians, institutions, properties and infrastructures by any organization or its individual member is an act of terrorism.

Where as the U.S State Department defines terrorism as “a politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub national groups, or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.” According to this definition, there has to be an actual violence or threat for any act to be considered as terrorism.

Let alone bombing people and destroying public property, a threat such as a phone call announcing the planting of a bomb is considered terrorism by this definition. In other words, the Ginbot7’s act of disrupting the meeting of Ethiopians in Washington, D.C to discuss the Five Year Growth and Transformation Plan last April by announcing that they had planted a bomb in the meeting hall is an act of terrorism by law in the U.S.

The other element of this definition is the presence of “groups that are non state actors.” Therefore any state, even shaebia of Eritrea that is terrorizing its people and the people of neighboring countries is out of the scope of the State Department’s definition of terrorism. A state can only be declared as a sponsor of terrorism. So the subjects should be groups or non state actors.

The third important factor in this definition is the act of terrorism must aim at “non-combatant targets.” Here it means the terrorist act must be directed against civilians, infrastructures or members of the military not in active duty.

The fifth criterion of the definition is the reason that precipitated the act of terrorism must be political. This politically driven act of terrorism must be done in the name of society with out considering the extent of participation from the people.

Now, if the U.S Department of State’s definition of terrorism were applied on the acts perpetrated by Ginbot7, OLF and ONLF, would these organizations be held accountable for terrorism? The members of Ginbot7 had orchestrated a plan to kill senior Ethiopian government ministers and to blow up power and telecommunications just to get caught in the nick of time. And it is common knowledge that the OLF and ONLF had killed unarmed Ethiopian and foreign nationals in Eastern part of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa and many other parts of Ethiopia. These organizations are causing this terror to grab political power or to secede from Ethiopia.

As the egregious acts of Ginbot7, OLF and ONLF are glaring; there is no need for some body to be extremely acuminous to reach a verdict that these organizations would perfectly fit the U.S State Department’s definition of terrorism. So, what is all the fuss about Ethiopia’s inclusion of these organizations as terrorists if their acts amount to terrorism by one of the Departments of the United States, a country that prides itself on the protection of human rights unless it is a case of “FES YALEBET ZILA AYCHILIM”?

For any comment, reach me at: hindeya34@yahoo.com