By Ephrem Madebo
New Year's Eve has always been a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the coming year. Every year, as the days of December dwindle, most of us state, say, or enumerate our new year resolution. A scientific trend analysis shows that many of us don’t live up to our new year resolution. This might look like less of a deal because most of us have many more new years to redeem ourselves. Well, a millennium resolution is different because it comes once in a thousand years. The scope of a millennium resolution is more than the individual, or even more than the sum of single generations. Millennium resolutions are longer in sight, wider in reach, and have depth in content, they embrace a nation and its vision for a thousand years. Therefore, we need to think twice before we sate our millennium resolution, and once we commit, we should honor our words because this time there is no second chance.
As I always do, I recently visited aigaforum.com and a link took me to another site where I read the following sarcastic statement: "The main difference between me- Meles now- and Meles 35 years ago is that Meles 35 years ago, as a young person, had the courage and ambition to storm the heavens. Meles now does not have the same type of ambition and courage". What an astonishing self assessment ! Meles says many good things, but he doesn’t mean them, he promises much, but never delivers, therefore, what ever he says should not be taken at face value. The main difference between Meles now- and Meles 35 years ago is that Meles 35 years ago, as a young person, had the dream and the ambition to disintegrate Ethiopia. Today’s Meles has already realized his dream; he doesn’t dream anymore because there isn’t much evil left to dream for. The jailing, the killing, and his recent hard to come back journey to Somalia are not new dreams, they are all the spillover effects of his original dream.
At the beginning of the first millennium, when Ethiopia’s merchant ships roamed the oceans and when its crafts men built beautiful churches and tall obelisks, Tigray was the cradle of the great Ethiopian civilization that attracted Greek and Roman historians. Today, two millenniums latter, as Ethiopians count down towards the third millennium; Ethiopia does not enjoy the same level of civilization it had two thousand years ago. Thanks to a man from Ethiopia’s cradle of civilization, today, Ethiopia does not have access to the sea and its 77 million people depend on the port of another country. Today, as the new millennium draws closer, most Ethiopians do not have time to reflect back on the last thousand years and plan for the next because they are preoccupied with the dread of war looming in the skies of Ethiopia. As a person who grew up in Colonel Mengistu’s regime, I really appreciate the patience with which my fellow Ethiopians submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by the Meles Zenawi government, but for how long?
In the last 16 years, Ethiopians have taken a fighting stance with the dictatorial regime of Meles locally, nationally, and internationally. Today, as we stand at the turning point of the second millennium, we should ask our selves - what is the alternative that we offer to the Ethiopian people? Ethiopians already know what Meles has to offer, do they really know what we have to offer? PM Meles, who started the last decade of the millennium with war is determined to conclude it with war. This indiscriminate killer who killed many Ethiopians, has at last vowed to kill the hope of people at a time many Ethiopians look for a new hope and a new beginning. How do we stop this mad killer and change the course of history in our country? This is not about CUDP, UEDF, OLF, AFD, OFDM, ONC,SEPDC or EPRDF. This is about Ethiopians now and about generation of Ethiopians to come. In the last forty years, we have manufactured a large number of political organizations, but none of them were able to lead us to the promise land. The Ethiopian people have successfully uprooted two oppressive regimes, but only to see them replaced by another brand of ruthless dictators. What should we do to correct this ugly trend?
In 1991, when the TPLF gangs controlled Addis Ababa, they promised to fully democratize Ethiopia. Before they had their first anniversary, they used their "dedebit" or "dedeboch" model of democracy to wipe out Assab from the map of Ethiopia. During the honeymoon of Mels and Esayas, Ethiopia was forced to finance what was prematurely called as the Eritrean take-off. In 1999 and 2000, fifty thousand Ethiopians paid the ultimate price for the ugly honeymoon that ended up in a quick divorce. Months before the May 2005 election, the same gangs allowed a multi-party election and claimed to be the fathers of democracy in Ethiopia. In May 2005, they lost the election, but they decided to stay in power anyway. Democracy in the Meles context is two hyenas and a donkey voting on what to have for dinner. For the last 16 years, Meles has been promising freedom and liberty, I wonder if this enemy of freedom knows that liberty is the highest political end, not a means to a higher political end. Recently, the Ethiopian PM was asked by the Washington Post reporter- Why do you think there is such a fear among people here? The pathological liar replied: "I don’t think there is such a fear". The only people that have no fear in Ethiopia are Meles himself and his commandants. The TPLF government is the most feared government on earth because it has no constitutional brakes on it, in other words, it is a legalized criminal government. Mr. Prime minester, if you have a heart like him, let me quote you Thomas Jefferson: "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty".
Article 50, sub-article 2 of the Ethiopian constitution states: "The Federal Government and the States shall have legislative, executive, and judicial powers" At its face value, the article says: The state is divided into three branches, and each branch has separate and independent power and areas of responsibility; however, each branch is also able to place limited restraints on the power exerted by the other branches. In Ethiopia, Meles not only exerts power on the other two branches, he also writes his own law and sends it to the rubber stamp parliament for approval. He jails his opponents and orders the judicial body to convict them. PM Meles is a man who has a gun and everything that a gun protects. As the old saying goes, when the same man holds the gun and the treasury, there comes an end to liberty. Yes, I am a vocal opponent of PM Meles, however, I have no problem with Meles as a person, or even as a commander-in-chief, but, I sure don’t like the sharpness of his command nor the swiftness of his army, if I don’t love what his army defends. The TPLF regime is a single-party state that imposes its will on the Ethiopian people by means of propaganda disseminated through the state -controlled mass media, regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism, the use of mass surveillance, and widespread use of terror tactics.
In 1775, Patrick Henry said "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death. In Ethiopia there is a saying that says: "A day with freedom is better than eternal slavery". It really doesn’t matter where, when, or who; people always prefer to die in liberty than live in constant servitude. For the most part, the history of mankind is dominated by People who die for freedom and by those who kill. The following is an excerpt from the Magna Carta: "No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him, nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land" King John, the 13th century monarch, did not have a matching democratic institution or favorable international conditions when he issued such a ground breaking declaration. Today, as the result of the Magna Carta; the Western world enjoys freedom of speech, justice, and advanced economic life. On the flip side, today, seven hundred ninety years after the declaration of the Magna Carta, a dictator in Ethiopia jails elected public officials, ruthlessly massacres demonstrators, and forces hundreds of thousands of freedom lovers to seek asylum in neighboring countries. In the presence of a plethora of governments and independent organizations that advocate democracy, especially, under the watch of the EU and the US government; it is unfashionable and troubling to see Ethiopians suffer under the yoke of a western anointed dictator who has no appetite for western democratic values.
I may be wrong, but I still think that between June and October 2005, the Ethiopian opposition had a shaky political upper hand over TPLF. I called it shaky because the on-and-off alliance of UEDF and CUD was unstable. As we all remember, in June, July, and August 2005, the group effort of CUD and UEDF earned the opposition some respect, and as a result obdurate Meles was forced to bow to the opposition’s demand of negotiation. However, as time passed, the opposition disintegrated when the UEDF chairman and CUD took a south and north stand on the issue of joining the parliament. Had CUD and the UEDF chairman used the principles of "Nash Equilibrium" while deciding the parliament issue, Meles wouldn’t have been able to fabricate any justification to jail the CUD leaders. Has our opposition learned form its indecisiveness?
For the last one thousand years Ethiopians lived in the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, backwardness, and war. Today, in many parts of Ethiopia people live in the same way their great grand fathers lived. As time, leaders, and regimes changed, the social and economic life of Ethiopians became progressively worse. Every successive regime or leader promised a better future, but Ethiopians who started the first millennium at the peak of civilization are closing the second millennium as one of the poorest people on earth. Ethiopians are sick and tired of leaders who promise prosperity, but deliver misery and hardship. Yes, we do believe we have better ideas and better alternatives than the TPLF regime. The caveat is, as the king of Reggae [Bob Marley] said, " you can full some people some time, but you can’t full all the people all the time". How do we convince the people of Ethiopia that we are not one of those opportunist thugs ?
As a nation, new beginnings present opportunities to renew and improve ourselves. If the tick of a new year can motivate us individually, the thunderous clap of a new millennium should definitely arouse us collectively. At the dawn of a new millennium, we should preach peace and hope, not war. Our resolution for the millennium should look at the bigger picture and the long term. That means all of us together as one indivisible nation should vow to wage war on poverty, disease, and backwardness. We should fight our enemies together with a more inclusive sense of belonging by widening the group to which we feel connected. The unifying effect of such a pledge is a strong sense of national cohesiveness that drives us to believe that all people next to us are important and worthy to be with. No matter how important we feel we are, we live in the context of each other. There is no me with out you, and there is no we with out them.
The last two hundred fifty years are exemplified by rapid economic, social, and environmental changes. The engines of change include new technology, global economic integration, and changing consumer preferences. Unfortunately, our country Ethiopia does not have access to the same economic and technological advancement that the western world enjoys, but 'she' is equally affected by global warming and deteriorating environmental conditions. Domestically, many Ethiopians do not have access to health care and to other social and economic services, but they pay taxes. Politically, Ethiopians participate in the democratic process and elect their leaders, but only to see them in jail. All in all, Ethiopians have little or no control of their own destiny. As the enlightened segment of society we have the primary responsibility of guiding our people to self empowerment. As the turn of the Millennium approaches, we should embolden people and enable them to be masters of their destiny, not create a national committee that plans for a single night of extravaganza for the few halves. People who know nothing, but war need peace. Socially disenfranchised people need an optimistic sense of belonging. People who live in a constant shadow of fear need hope. Can we bring peace, hope, and optimism to our land?
Can we honestly deliver what we promise? If yes, our millennium resolution should be: In the new millennium: We will be determined to establish a just and lasting peace in our country. We re-dedicate ourselves to support social and economic development, and uphold the principles of democracy and equality among all people. We pledge to seek peaceful means to resolve all disputes in conformity with the principles of justice. We will be determined to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We will respect the equal rights of all without distinction as to religion, language, race, sex, or political affiliation. We will spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law. We are determined to create a system where both government and the governed should be subject to the law. Our’s will be a system where power changes hands as the voted-in shake hands with the voted-out. We will be determined to make our country a better place to live, a better place to invest, and an attractive place to visit. Have we vowed to make this millennium to be the era of peace and development ? Perhaps are we considering a total attitude change, or are we having a change of heart to work together and value the idea of others? Are we determined to free our jailed leaders, and ultimately free our people? If our answer is yes, so help us God.