Thursday, July 24, 2008

Violence & Non-Violence: A Clash of Strategies

By Ephrem Madebo

In the early 1990s, many Ethiopians supported the argument for a peaceful struggle, not because peaceful struggle was the only viable strategy, but most of us believed that, though very slim, there was a political space in Ethiopia to wage peaceful struggle. Well, we were unpretentiously right, but today, that political space has faded away and accommodates only one party. Meles and his party have shunned away from pluralism and started a one man democracy where the electorate and the elected are one and the same. Mr. Zenawi has re-defined the concept of "peaceful struggle" in an utterly strange way, and by doing so, he has closed the room for peaceful struggle in Ethiopia. Today, some in the opposition have opted to knock on the closed door, and yet, others have determined to break the door and make sure it will never be closed again. If the knock opens the door, we all will be happy campers; otherwise, we will break the door and still be happy campers. Knock, or break; if our goal is to open the door, why fight on how to open it? The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads:

"Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human right should be protected by the rule of law"

When justice is manipulated to instigate violence, the masses have the legal and moral obligation to use all means to stop the manipulation of justice. When our enemy is so violent and has no value for peace and human life, we need to have two weapons: love and some sort of defense mechanism. Non-violent struggle does not necessarily mean failure to defend against violence. Any species that does not defend itself is doomed for extinction.

Today, three years after the May 2005 election, many Ethiopians seem to have been re-visiting the old debate of peaceful versus non-peaceful struggle. I guess, it is not a shocker that this debate has been on fire since the inauguration of Ginbot 7 movement. The 2008 Ethiopian soccer tournament in N. America officially came to an end on Saturday July 5. On the same day and a day after, two consecutive public meetings in Washington, DC ignited the Ethiopian public and re-opened the peaceful versus non-peaceful struggle debate of the 1990s. In the center of this debate are students, life long academicians, a plethora of bloggers, web sites, and radio stations. This article highlights some of the major issues raised in the Washington DC UDJ meeting.

Like many people of my generation, I do listen when Professor Mesfin speaks and read when he writes. However, I don't take everything he says as a settled thought or proposal, and I don't read his books the same way I read my Bible. On the July 6 Washington, DC meeting, professor Mesfin used the experience of Gandhi and Dr. King as a classic example of non-violent struggle to make a case for a peaceful struggle in Ethiopia. To be honest, if I was the 'Ephrem ' of 25 years ago, the speech of the professor would have elated me and I would have been an instant opponent of any alternative to a peaceful struggle. Well, his speech has still elated me, but for a different reason. This time his speech gave me an opportunity to disagree with him. Even though I disagree with him, I will never rebuff the enormous benefit I gained from the understanding of Professor Mesfin’s point of view.

I hope my readers will agree that disagreeing with the professor is not just my right, sometimes it is also the right thing to do. A sincere disagreement is a good sign of progress, and it is the beginning of thought. Therefore, I sincerely disagree with my one time college professor. I don't think the Professor himself wants us to change whenever he changes, and to nod whenever he nods; I think his own shadow does that much better than we do.

Before I make my own case for an alternative strategy, I want to point out some important facts that the professor omitted at his DC speech. Yes, as he said it well, Gandhi and King are the ideal examples of non-violent struggle. The courage and the determination of the two champions were similar, and so was the political structure of the two giant forces they fought. But, how about the two governments that King and Gandhi encountered, are they similar to the kind of government that we have in Ethiopia today?

Let’s visit the history of Nelson Mandela, a living legend of freedom. Like Dr. King, Mandela was influenced by Gandhi. King went to India and came back to the US equipped with the non-violent strategy of Gandhi. Dr. King was smart enough to see the similarities between the US and the British governments. He understood that the political space in the US was wide enough to wage a Gandhi like non-violent struggle. To our surprise, Mandela is a person who had more personal exposure to Gandhi than Dr. King because Gandhi himself started his non-violence struggle in South Africa. But, Mandela chose a different strategy than Gandhi. Why? Mandela recognized and valued Gandhi’s non-violence struggle, and he committed himself to non-violent struggle. However, he eventually changed his view when he understood that the enemy he was fighting was absolutely different than the enemies Gandhi and Dr. King fought.

The three heroes fought and won three enemies. Gandhi and Dr. King employed similar strategies. Mandela followed his predecessors and started his struggle in a similar fashion, but he eventually changed his view and co-founded the armed wing of ANC. Why can’t we Ethiopians change our view like Mandela did? We can always learn from the experience of others, but we can’t possibly bring the experience of others to our country. When we’re looking for a lesson to learn, we shouldn’t be cherry picking. We can learn from Gandhi, King, Mandela, or any other person, or country. When it comes to a strategy choice, we should definitely listen to Professor Mesfin and many other wise Ethiopians. However, we have to carefully digest their words before we swallow them. We have to ask questions and get answers before shaping our opinion. What does the TPLF regime look like? Does it look like the government of the United States, or the government of the late Peter Botha? Both King and Mandela were influenced by Gandhi, if so, what forced Mandela to change his view? Do we Ethiopians have just 1% of the weapons that King had? These are very important points that professor Mesfin failed to address in his public meetings. I do believe the truth must be told today, waiting for tomorrow is an emotional sleepless battle with yesterday's omissions, and of course the omission of good information is no less reprehensible than tampering with the truth.

In the 1940s, Gandhi, in the 1960s, Dr. King, and in the 1990s, Nelson Mandela immensely influenced their respective governments and led their people to freedom. These three examples of human excellence lived in different continents, countries, and socio-economic orders. Surprisingly, there is something that links the three together. Dr. King went to India and visited Gandhi’s family to get first hand information on Gandhi's peaceful struggle. Gandhi's first effective use of civil disobedience took place in South Africa when he as a lawyer represented the Indian community's struggle for civil rights. The three heroes won the Nobel Prize for peace though Gandhi’s award was post-mortem and no one took the prize.

In 1915, Gandhi moved from South Africa to India and started organizing peasants, farmers, and urban laborers to lead a protest against the excessive land-tax imposed by the British colonial government. From 1915 to 1947 Gandhi employed peaceful resistance (strike, boycott, refusal to serve, non-cooperation) as his weapon to paralyze the complex British social structure in India. In those 32 years Gandhi was arrested 4 times, but he didn't serve his full term in none of those times. As bad as the British were, they could have given Gandhi life, or perhaps even killed him to slow down India's independence. However, the British neither denied Gandhi his right to due process, nor they forced him to sign a self incrementing agreement that would have brought him back to jail. Every time when Gandhi was released from jail, he was free to continue his struggle that eventually ended the British rule in India.

The enemy Gandhi fought 60 years ago is very different than the enemy we Ethiopians are fighting today. The current leaders of Ethiopia are determined to kill as many Ethiopians as they can to stay in power than the British would have to extend their colonial rule in India. The Ethiopian opposition does not have any of Gandhi’s peaceful resistance weapons; in fact, those weapons are illegal in Ethiopia. So what is legal in Ethiopia? Well, the answer is easy. The only peaceful struggle allowed in Ethiopia is to verbally oppose the ruling party using a carefully crafted language, and coronate the TPLF party every five years.

It is evident that the current leaders of Ginbot 7 embraced a peaceful strategy in their quest for democracy and justice while they were in CUDP. There should be no doubt that these same leaders embrace the same strategy today as leaders of Ginbot 7. The significant change between Ginbot 2005 and today is that the TPLF ruling elites saw the determination of the Ethiopian people and banned the peaceful strategy perused by CUDP, UEDF and other parties. The ban was not the end of the game; they also published their own version of "Legal peaceful struggle" handbook. It is every word in this disreputable "handbook" that Ginbot 7 fails to accept. Hence Ginbot 7 employs every possible alternative to bring down the author of the "one man" democracy handbook and his moribund system. Ginbot 7 will never accept the TPLF prescribed "Legal peaceful struggle".

The leaders of Ginbot 7 did not avoid, or runaway from their strategy, they were pushed, or forced away from their lifelong creed of peaceful struggle. TPLF has drastically changed the rules of the game. I don’t think the opposition should be a rambling piece that forces itself to fit in the TPLF puzzle! It should have its own game, and its own strategy for winning the game. This is exactly what Ginbot 7 did, i.e. design a multifaceted (versatile) strategy to bring Mr. Zenawi’s dictatorship to its knee.

For Ginbot 7, or for all of us for that matter, peace is not the absence of war or conflict. Peace is not a gift from any person or government, it is something to be created and to be maintained by people. Peace is the triumph of principle, it is the product of faith, strength, will, sympathy, and justice. Peace will never be achieved by tameness or by extinction of the will. Ginbot 7 does not and will not agree with the TPLF prescribed peace that passes the human understanding; rather, Ginbot 7 will lead the masses to create a moral environment where peace reigns as a result of the human understanding.

As I have noted above, both Mandela’s and Dr. King's notion of peaceful struggle was rooted in Gandhi's principle of non-violent struggle. In the 1960's, when King and the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) applied the principles of non-violent protest, they had the freedom to choose the method of the protest and the places where the protests were to be carried out. All these freedoms that Dr. King and SCLC had are non existent in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, exercising a God given right is a treason that carries capital punishment.

A momentous peaceful struggle requires two or more opposing rivals that submit to the rule of law, to the democratic process, and to the fundamental legitimacy of the state. In a peaceful struggle, none of the rivals should be able to use force to cause harm on the other. The conflicting rivals and their supporters (including ruling parties) should have equal access to the media, and the role of the press must be impartial to all conflicting parties. Any kind of peaceful struggle is inconsequential in the absence of these factors. When Dr. King made his famous "I have a dream" speech, a speech that changed America for good, the US marshals and secret service agents were not shooting at him, they were protecting him from the KKK. Dr. King did not make his historic speech in a ghetto hidey-hole; he made his speech between the two symbols of American democracy, Capitol Hill and the White House; in front of 250, 000 people.

Mind you, just a few weeks ago, the TPLF gangs banned UDJ’s scheduled public meeting in a private hotel for no apparent reason. Last week, in one of its bizarre moves, TPLF turned down UDJ’s registration application citing outlandish reasons. This amorphous group of gangs has once more proved that it is against "Andinet" whether it is on paper, or in action. The following quote exemplifies the role the US media played in Dr. King’s peaceful struggle for freedom: "King correctly recognized that organized, nonviolent protest against the system of southern segregation known as Jim Crow Law would lead to extensive media coverage of the struggle for black equality and voting rights. Journalistic accounts and televised footage of the daily deprivation and indignities suffered by southern blacks, and of segregationist violence and harassment of civil rights workers and marchers, produced a wave of sympathetic public opinion that convinced the majority of Americans that Civil Rights Movement was the most important issue in American politics in the early 1960s"

The popular victories in India, the US, and in South Africa are the most celebrated and distinguished victories of the 20th century. The leaders of these victories [Gandhi, King, and Mandela] are not just heroes of their respective countries; they are heroes of the human race. We saw how Gandhi and King brought freedom to their people. What did Mandela learn from the two? How does he differ from them? Most importantly, what did we Ethiopians learn from the three champions of peace? To be honest, we in the opposition did not learn anything! If anyone has learned a lesson from Gandhi, King, or Mandela; it must be Meles and his bad guys. Yes, they learned a good lesson on how to block every possible path to democracy, and perform tubal ligation on every fertile uterus that gives birth to a hero like Gandhi, King, and Mandela.

Mahatma Gandhi was a moral leader and an inspiration for Mandela and succeeding generations of South African anti-apartheid activists. Nelson Mandela has frequently credited Gandhi for being a major source of inspiration in his life, both for the philosophy of non-violence and for facing adversity with dignity. Indeed, Mandela was initially committed to Gandhi’s strategy of non-violence, however, he changed his view when he was arrested and charged with treason in December 1956. Mandela attributes his move to a mixed strategy (Violence, non-violence) to the increasing repression and violence from the South African white minority regime. According to Nelson Mandela, he was convinced that many years of non-violent protest against apartheid had achieved nothing and could not succeed.

In 1960, Nelson Mandela, the late Walter Sisulu, and other South Africans formed the military wing of the ANC, and in 1961 Mandela became the leader of ANC’s armed wing, aka Umkonto We Sizwe (the Spear of the Nation). In the 1980s, it became clear that the apartheid regime was in an irreversible crisis and its economy was in recession. Though ANC’s leader [Mandela] was in prison, it was the activities of ANC’s armed wing (Umkonto We Sizwe) that forced the apartheid regime to talk to the liberation movements, in Particular the ANC. The following script is taken from the statement of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress on the 25th anniversary of the formation of Umkhonto We Sizwe: "By that time the demands of our people were loud, persistent and clear: all our efforts as a people, the whole record of relentless struggle under the leadership of the African National Congress, were being met with ever-increasing violence and repression by the racist State. The time had arrived when we needed to reinforce our mass political action with the hammer blows of an armed struggle"

The Ethiopian government is not an Apartheid government like the government of South Africa that Mandela fought, and it is not a democratic government bounded by a constitution like the US and the British governments that King and Gandhi fought. But, if there is any resemblance between the three, many of the acts of the Ethiopian regime are carbon copies of the South African Apartheid regime. The US and the British governments have a constitutional brake that limits the amount of power they can use on subjects. To the TPLF government, power is the only method of conflict resolution, and the constitution is nothing more than a piece of paper that can be repelled by a simple memo. Gandhi and Dr. King enjoyed the independent media that popularized their concept of freedom. In Ethiopia, there is neither free press nor independent media. These are important comparisons that the professor omitted in his speech here in DC. In fact, if he includes these facts in his public addresses, he would reluctantly make a powerful case for an alternative that he passionately opposes.

A culture of impunity is built into the DNA of the Ethiopian leaders, and some of the clearest examples can be found in the post 2005 election massacre of innocent civilians, and the recent treason size crime of giving undisputed Ethiopian territory to Sudan. My fellow country men, a debate for an acceptable strategy is necessary and constructive, however, the foul languages and the enemy-like attacks are destructive and totally uncalled. As long us we have a shared objective, let’s peruse the strategy that we think is right while supporting each other. If victory puts us together at the end of the road, we will jointly kneel down to praise God for the victory. If somehow none of us gets to the finish line; sadly, this simply means we both failed. Obviously, the Ethiopian people do not want us to fail again. We need to agree, listen to each other, and work together on the bigger issues of our nation even as we peruse different strategies. Amen!

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sir,

I have read your comment with very much interest. I do agree with much of what you have saied in the article. We ethiopians need to put our differences on one side and learn to work together to defeat the common enemy. This is not the time to debate about which stategy is more workable, this is the time to focus on taking out the EPRDF from the poletical arena and build a sustanable institutional democracy that will serve the people. Therfore, as long as we all want the same goal, i don't see any reasons why both stategies can not be fought at the same time. Lets support both side of the stuggle camp, because at the end of the day they both want the same thing, to bring about democarcy and the rule of low to our beloved country.

With rgards

Anonymous said...

Selam Ephrem,

Your article on violence versus non-violence is quite insightful. As you rightly indicated in your article "....a debate for an acceptable strategy is necessary and constructive....". I was truly appalled by the obscenities directed at Prof. Mesfin after his speech advocating peaceful struggle. It is very difficult to hold a civil discussion in our Ethiopian society. We have to exorcise the demons (within each of us) that induce us to ridicule and attack each other if we hope to create a common front to challenge tyrant Zenawi. The proponents of peaceful struggle still have my utmost respect. The culture of bloodletting should stop in Ethiopia. You don't stop it by spilling more blood. It is a vicious cycle that should be broken once and for all. And for those of you who think war is the solution, how many of you are willing to send your sons to fight in the war? How many of you are willing to leave the comforts of your homes in Europe and America and fight in the war? Or are you hoping that the children of poor Ethiopian farmers will do the bidding for you? Talking the talk is easy. Unless we are ready to walk the walk, we should refrain from bad mouthing the likes of prof. Mesfin who have devoted all their lives to the betterment of their country.

Ephrem Madebo said...

Anonymous,
A versatile multifaceted strategy does employ many ways of fighting the enemy. I don’t understand why every body sees that war is the only path of Non- violent struggle, and going to election every five years is the only path of non-violent struggle. There are multiple intra and inter combinations of the two, and an open war is just one of the combinations. Mandela’s ANC had and an armed wing, but it wasn’t like the army of EPLF or TPLF. It was an efficient army that took care of business within South Africa. ANC’s army operated completely within South Africa hiding among the people. They weren’t scared of dying, they knew some how some one should die and give life to others. We need to do the same. South Africa’s apartheid government was a much formidable enemy than TPLF, but, it still was forced to negotiate. We need to do our best to at least force Meles to accept and answer our demands. That is why we have to mix strategies. We shouldn’t accept a strategy designed by the enemy! Trust me, the current type of peaceful struggle will not take us anywhere unless we force a drastic change. How can you get what you want from a regime that doesn’t even accept the name of your party? They even try to name your party.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr.Ephrem;

I read your article with great interest,and it is a posetive and eyeopening thought.I agree with you on so many things you have mentioned,but I think you have also missed something very important that should be considered,which is:1.How many of us are willing to sacrifice? 2.How many of us are willing to pay atleast $20./month to support the kind of movement we want to accomplish? I will bet you in a city where 30,000 Ethiopians live you will not find 20or 30 people ,who have either the stamina,commitment or will to support such an honorable thing for our country.For those of you who want to follow another form of struggle,no one should have a problem with it,But the problem begins,when you try to convince me my form of struggle is worthless;while yours is the ONLY and right way.Finally I want to close my statment by saying let everyone participate in a struggle ,where he or she believe in and let the bad mouthing and harsh criticism of respected elders or leaders come to an end.

Ephrem Madebo said...

Anonymous,

Forget others, are you ready to do what it takes? What is your form of struggle? What ever it is, it is never worthless. Meles/his party will never go away in mere elections, we need to show them some muscle to have them come to some sort of agreement. Why do you think the S.African whites came in to agreement with ANC and the blacks? Is it because they felt bad or sorry? Hell no! They were forced. Lets do the same, lets force Meles. You are thinking about something on the sky, but the solution is at your foot step!

Anonymous said...

Dear Ephrem,
Thank you for the educative piece. In my opinion there is no clash b/n the two strategies. The clash is among people or groups who have special interests. As long as the goal is the same they can go side by side. By the way the armed struggle option is not a new strategy and it has been for a while. However, this strategy was denied or tried to be killed by the same special interest groups who now popularizing it. Any way the Ethiopian people is ready to act. What is lacking is leadership, organisation and management. If we have these, we can collapse the whole government just only with the latter option with in months.
Keep it up bro.

Anonymous said...

A thorough going analysis of peaceful versus non-peaceful ways of struggle. Such analyses are essential to understand and decide on a reasonable way of fighting a dictatorial rgime like the Woyane.Thank you for providing us such soul-enriching teaching on struggle strategies. We want more of this sort of discussion. God bless you and God bless Ethiopia.

Selam letana said...

It is nice that we Ethiopians are not short of people with vision and deep goig ideas. It gives hope and strength when people like Ephrem Madebo come up with such valuable ideas as to how we should channel our hatred to a government that does everything to undermine a nations interest, a nations exitence. It is time that we understand the grave political situation we are in and do everything to come out of this situation victorious. We have to employ all means of struggle and make use of any support available if we want to get rid of a government almost the like of a colonial power. No matter how long it will be on the political arena, I whole-heartedly support what Ginbot 7 stands for and wish it success. And success is sure to come if all political opponents of the current regime wage their struggle in the same direction, .e. against the common enemy of the Ethiopian people, Woyane.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous II

The author of this article took the speech of Prof. Mesfin as genuine peaceful struggle. The one stipulated by Prof. Mesfin is a campaign for 2010 election to win seats in the parliament, let alone the the many controversial statements made him, which you failed to discern, in the same way the diaspora was clapping almost incessantly, and failed to dicern the underlying statements made by him. I belive we have been gullible and failed to be introspective, and at times dogmatic unable to accommodate each others opinion and become fragmented into different factions, a division enjoyed by the current regime. Peacefull struggle could be made to run parral, indepenent but coordinated in a subtle manner to reach the same goal, but not in the manner and approach of Dr. Berhanu Nega and Ato Andargachew, depending who is behind the armed struggle. I presume, the peacefull struggle is being facilitated by the U.S congress, and the European Parliamentary Commission, and possibly by ICC,and UN security council on the Sudan Border issue at some point in time, and the the Ethiopian population, specially those who came out and voted for change and their leaders. For us to fail to perceive that silent force is unthinkable. The only effort we have to put is how to strategize and reinforce around the existing EPPF, not Ginbot 7, and the true peaceful struglle under a difficult circumstance as it currently exists.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting discussion. Let me share my 2 cents to add depth to the dialogue

Before choosing a strategy for violent or non-violent struggle, first there is a need to determine what will be the end goal of the struggle. Is it to remove one government to replace with another (violently or non-violently) or to participate in the democratic process thus awakening societal support for change (non-violently?) Whichever tactic is used we shouldn’t forget that the focus should not be fighting with each other but to pursue the broader interest of society. If that is the case then, involving people from the onset would be crucial.

I hope the ultimate goal is to have a democratic government that serve the interest of the people. Democracy by definition means the government by people. That means that the population of the country should be able to have their say in one way or another in everything that affects their lives. The people can exercise their right directly without mediators on issues into the decision making process or through representatives. Representative democracy would be fine if the representatives would really make all their decision only after consulting their constituencies on issues of the day or try to accommodate their views as best as possible. If the process involving people one way or another is not possible then representative democracies can not be true democracies, they will be just elected dictatorships.

If thoughts or action have sprung from the belief of democracy or the ultimate goal is to achieve it then democracy can provide the means for the peaceful management of different and competing group claims. It acts to prevent the tensions and conflicting interests that exist within society from erupting violently by allowing them to be managed peacefully through the democratic processes.

In solidarity

Anonymous said...

Mr. Madebo, your recent article “Violence and non-violence: a clash of strategies” has summarized what I have always suspected about your motives and your mindset on Ethiopian politics. Of course, no surprise, since it can not be any different than your generation of people whose sole slogan has been “my way or the highway”. Especially those who profess to be the disciples of Mesfin Woldemariam et al can not be any better since that is the mindset they developed in the formative days of their life. How many ever years they lived in the west, how many times they visited Virginia’s public libraries, how many ever times they listened to the Larry Sabatto’s of America does not matter. They always sing the same song of the last 17 or so years….”let us join hands to oust TPLF/Woyane”. Even when their political mentor teaches the futility of violence, they do not change from the principle of “my way or the highway”.

Just to make a passing comment on the title of the article, I do not see how the title applies to the G7 choice of strategy? For groups who believe in a non-violent strategy, violence is of course a clash but for groups like G7 that chose violence as a strategy non-violence can not be a clash of strategy. For example, if those groups who have agreed to follow the Ethiopian constitutional order mix violence in their strategy that would be considered as a clash of strategy, but not for G7.

Coming back to my main point, as some of the responders pointed out, what Ephrem does not seem to understand is that armed struggle can not be done from far away by crying foul or by holding repeated public meetings. It needs the courage and commitment of one’s life to be able to start it and of course more lives to make it successful. Probably, the best lesson is going to be found in the books of “terarochin yanketekete tiwled” not in the history books of South African Apartheid as Ephrem tries to tell us. So, to try to ridicule those in power who sacrificed dearly their youth life to defeat a military dictatorship and then build a functioning democratic system for G7’s something that does not stand the sun and rain of Northern America is ignorant at best and foolish at worst. One thing that G7’s strategy might be able to accomplish is, it would enrich the pockets of some in the same usual way.

It is very easy to write down “enemy defeating manuals” from Virginia like the following one:
“A versatile multifaceted strategy does employ many ways of fighting the enemy. I don’t understand why every body sees that war is the only path of Non- violent struggle, and going to election every five years is the only path of non-violent struggle. There are multiple intra and inter combinations of the two, and an open war is just one of the combinations. Mandela’s ANC had and an armed wing, but it wasn’t like the army of EPLF or TPLF. It was an efficient army that took care of business within South Africa. ANC’s army operated completely within South Africa hiding among the people. They weren’t scared of dying, they knew some how some one should die and give life to others. We need to do the same. South Africa’s apartheid government was a much formidable enemy than TPLF, but, it still was forced to negotiate. We need to do our best to at least force Meles to accept and answer our demands. That is why we have to mix strategies.”

But everyone would agree that writing a fictional manual and implementing it are different stories, especially when you are facing an “enemy” that has the utmost experience in the same game. Needless to say it, the only armed struggle in Ethiopia with a successful ending is the “Woyane” armed struggle and I am not sure how Ephrem et al would like to learn from it. If you keep reading books about Aparthied to solve the problems of Ethiopia, I think something is really wrong. I believe, the solution to a problem starts from a correct diagnosis of the problem and hence it might be worth to spend some good time learning the problem before embarking to write solution manuals.

More funny is Ephrem’s mantra:
“we need to show them some muscle to have them come to some sort of agreement. Why do you think the S.African whites came in to agreement with ANC and the blacks? Is it because they felt bad or sorry? Hell no! They were forced. Lets do the same, lets force Meles.”

Where is the muscle Mr Ephrem? Your pictures on Ethiomedia do not witness that you have been to the gym any time recently, so let me bet with you with whatever equity you may have developed over the years you have lived in the US. Even though I strongly advise you not to consider it, if you and your G7 would try to be at the battle front in the coming ten or so years, you win the bet for just merely trying. But, if you are depending on the good boys and girls of Ethiopia, trust me that would never work in the 21st century Ethiopia. Moreover, it would be a tragic exercise for your self and your family. I am not also sure about the US law with regard to US citizens in the leadership of a violent group against a friendly government.

Ephrem Madebo said...

Anonymous,
You said:
“Just to make a passing comment on the title of the article, I do not see how the title applies to the G7 choice of strategy? For groups who believe in a non-violent strategy, violence is of course a clash but for groups like G7 that chose violence as a strategy non-violence can not be a clash of strategy”

You mentioned the name of Larry Sabato of UVA, but unlike him [ the above sentence] tells me that you are a confused person by far more than the most confused person on earth. Recently, and as we speak now, there is a debate between violent and non-violent strategy. The word clash of strategies refers to this debate. It takes two to have a debate, you didn’t tell us which side of the debate you are. I don’t think you red my article and understood the essence of it. All you did is that you perceived it with the intent of ambushing and attacked me as a person than attacking my idea. To you, power is always related to muscle, if that is so, instead of telling me to go to gim , you do for yourself and develop your muscle. I will develop my thought, and we will see who will win. What do you mean by “Your way or my way”? I made a call to help each other as we differ, I guess you didn’t like this call because your loaded comment has the following one and only one hidden message: Meles is powerful!! This is what you said: So, to try to ridicule those in power who sacrificed dearly their youth life to defeat a military dictatorship and then build a functioning democratic system” So what? Because they sacrificed their youth life, can they give away Assab? Can they give away land to Sudan? Can they do what ever they want? Can they give and take away my God given right? Did you ask about the US law with regard to US citizens in the leadership of a violent group against a friendly government. My friend, the US government might be a friend of the Ethiopian regime as it was once the friend of Mobutu Sesseseco, but here internally, unlike the Meles regime,the US government has a break called constitution. I am not scared of Meles nor the US government as long as I stand for the truth. For those who blindly support TPLF , no explanation is possible, for those who don’t, no explanation is necessary. Sir, in your case no explanation is possible. My struggle is to free the Ethiopia people including you. As long as I believe what I stand for is right, power is not my motive, quick but dissatisfying victory is not what I want either. I will start my fight, I or my son will finish the job.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Madebo, thank you for taking the chance to respond to “the most confused of all confused people on earth”. Frankly, I got the few clues that I needed to answer some of the few questions that I did not have definitive answer about you. Clearly, you have admitted that you are a US citizen and are involved in a leadership position of a violent group to oust the government of Ethiopia. You have also conceded to my bet that your famous “armed struggle” might not start or end by your life time or even by your son’s life time. BTW, I am feeling very bad for the type of best wishes you have for your son to be a foot soldier of a violent group. I would always want to make the best of wishes for my kids…. like to be students in one of the Ivy League universities.

You have asked several times about debating on issues and I will tell you why I never dare to try to debate on issues with you. The foremost reason is because I do not see any real issues on your articles that have any debatable value. Your articles are very rhetorical and are usually based on your hate of TPLF or Woyane and anyone who opposes you is a blind supporter of TPLF. I am not also sure how you can find any relationship between South African Apartheid and the Ethiopian situation? I am not sure how you can compare Meles with Mobutu or other dictators? If Meles is what you think he his, why do you think he has been invited to the G8 meetings in the last several years? I do not understand why you can not see the improving (may be not enough!) political space in Ethiopia since 1991? I can not see why you can not acknowledge the socio-economic development that has been taking place in the last decade? I do not understand why you fail to acknowledge the level of dignity and respect your own people (kambata, hadiya, etc) got since after the Dergue? In addition to these, you have the audacity to write about stories that are based on hearsay (eg. the Sudan land issue). I can see why you would do the latter since it might help with your emotional readers. However, most of the contents of your articles do not invite for an informed discussion about political issues in Ethiopia and that is why you do not see any thoughtful response on your blogs.

Gooch said...

My fellow country men, a debate for an acceptable strategy is necessary and constructive, however, the foul languages and the enemy-like attacks are destructive and totally uncalled. As long us we have a shared objective, let’s peruse the strategy that we think is right while supporting each other.

That just about says it all, Ephrem.

Obviously, the question (in the abstract or concrete) about armed or peaceful struggle cannot be definitively resolved. And, fellow Ethiopians, believe it or not, in this world, there are questions for which there is no real right or wrong answer!! In the absence of such, normal people agree to disagree and move on, cooperating with each other to the extent they can. Easy!

Aside from strategical or practical issues, even from an ethical perspective, there is no definitive answer. I may prefer peaceful struggle, but ethically, I can't tell someone who feels so oppressed and disenfranchised that they wish to take up arms that they should not. If a farmer who's being abused by his local kebele administrators, or whose land is lost to Sudan, and has no legal recourse, resorts to rebellion, I can't fault him without being hypocritical. Or even an Ethiopian sitting in Virginia, who can't go back home because he'll be arrested for asserting basic human rights such as free speech - if he decides to sponsor an armed rebellion, I can't blame him. I can try and persuade him that it's a bad strategy, but that's all.

So the real issue here is not be whether one is on the side of armed or peaceful struggle, but whether one is on the side of being capable of agreeing to disagree and being tolerant of both sides or pronounces that his way is the only way. Those who can agree to disagree but work together, these are showing a maturity previously unseen in Ethiopian political culture. Those who insist that only their way, armed or peaceful, is right, and ridicule those with other points of view, display the same old backward Ethiopian mentality that has gotten us to where we are today.

The last anonymous poster, I'm afraid, has shown himself to be just another one of these old and backward types, as his posts are simply a mixture of personal attacks, polemics, braggadocio, and childish threats. On the one hand, he writes that armed struggle is no good because it won't work, on the other he claims that the EPRDF is good government (in which case we don't need peaceful struggle, either). He asks Ephrem to empathize with the TPLF struggle on one hand, but on the other hand professes incredulity that Ephrem could oppose the EPRDF so vehemently. Does he know what empathy means?!

Anyway, I'm afraid he's far from being alone. Such immaturity is widespread on all sides, hence the dissolution of Kinijit.

We have a very long road to hoe, Ephrem, the major struggle being rooting out this immaturity and dysfunctional behaviour in all of us, especially those of us professing to be part of the pro-democracy movement.

Anonymous said...

Gooch, what a hypocrite you are! You start by saying "foul languages and the enemy-like attacks are destructive and totally uncalled." and then read again what your last couple of paragraphs look like. More funny about you guys is that you consider yourselves the 'bright', 'enlightened' blah blah, alas you are what you are: cowards who can not make an argument based on facts.

I never asked you or Mr. Madebo to sympathize with EPRDF (his problem is actually with TPLF which is clearly based on hate), rather to make your arguments based on facts on the ground. Why wouldn't you try to answer any of the questions I posed instead of trying to misrepresent what I said? I never said because EPRDF is a good government you do not need peaceful struggle. Rather my point is to the contrary: we need peaceful struggle to build on what has been started!

In fact, if you also read my points carefully I am either calling for debate based on facts or I am challenging those who seem to advocate violence, if they are at all capable of doing it given who their enemy would be. Plus, history tell us that those who advocate for violence from thousands of miles won’t face its consequences, what they actually do as we have seen it in the 2005 election is to ask the good boys and girls of Ethiopia to die for them. I do not think there are many left who have not drawn a lesson or two from our recent past history.

Finally, please remember that when you point a finger the other three are pointing towards you. So, correct you vulgar language before you are able to correct me!

Gooch said...

Mr. Madebo, your recent article “Violence and non-violence: a clash of strategies” has summarized what I have always suspected about your motives and your mindset on Ethiopian politics. Of course, no surprise, since it can not be any different than your generation of people whose sole slogan has been “my way or the highway”. Especially those who profess to be the disciples of Mesfin Woldemariam et al can not be any better since that is the mindset they developed in the formative days of their life. How many ever years they lived in the west, how many times they visited Virginia’s public libraries, how many ever times they listened to the Larry Sabatto’s of America does not matter. They always sing the same song of the last 17 or so years….”let us join hands to oust TPLF/Woyane”. Even when their political mentor teaches the futility of violence, they do not change from the principle of “my way or the highway”.

Polemic, personal attack...?

One thing that G7’s strategy might be able to accomplish is, it would enrich the pockets of some in the same usual way.

Childish?

Where is the muscle Mr Ephrem? Your pictures on Ethiomedia do not witness that you have been to the gym any time recently, so let me bet with you with whatever equity you may have developed over the years you have lived in the US.

More childish...?

Even though I strongly advise you not to consider it, if you and your G7 would try to be at the battle front in the coming ten or so years, you win the bet for just merely trying. But, if you are depending on the good boys and girls of Ethiopia, trust me that would never work in the 21st century Ethiopia. Moreover, it would be a tragic exercise for your self and your family. I am not also sure about the US law with regard to US citizens in the leadership of a violent group against a friendly government.

Braggadocio and childish threats...?

If Meles is what you think he his, why do you think he has been invited to the G8 meetings in the last several years? I do not understand why you can not see the improving (may be not enough!) political space in Ethiopia since 1991? I can not see why you can not acknowledge the socio-economic development that has been taking place in the last decade? I do not understand why you fail to acknowledge the level of dignity and respect your own people (kambata, hadiya, etc) got since after the Dergue?

Good government? And, oops, I forgot, a good dose of condescension.

Wouldn't you call this immature?!

I have to admit, Anonymous, that I had a hard time finding 'factual arguments' in the midst of all the above nonsense. That's my fault - I should have persisted in careful sifting. But it's hard.

Let me suggest the following good 'factual' argument against violent opposition (you may think of more):

Rather than moving them towards positive change, it will cause the EPRDF to retrench, bringing about greater instability and perhaps civil war.

Try and expand on that without insulting anybody.

Anonymous said...

i am not to comment on the article u wrote,but to ask... are u Ephrem lejebo whoom i know in awassa? please if u are send me an Email ....d.mengesha @gmx de...i hope i will hear your responce soon

enset said...

Gooch,

I have read your opinions for a while. You are objective and I respect your views.

Regarding this guy you are trying to debate, I say don't take him seriously. He is the same person who called me "ye debubu geta" for supporting HR 2003. See here. And now he has the audacity to tell Kembattas and Hadiyas that the Woyane has brought them dignity! What dignity is he talking about? There was some semblence of pride among the Hadiya and Kembatta during the Dergue era eventhough they were equally opressed along with all Ethiopians by that regime. But they are now back to being second class citizens under the Woyane regime and that is a fact. Hasn't this guy seen the video of Meles' visit to Hossana earlier this year? Don't get me started.

As to the different methods of struggle, I believe any Ethiopian has the right to follow his conscience and persue whatever method he/she feel is proper in fighting the Woyane dictatorship. However, I strongly believe that this is not the time to abandon the peaceful route as it has not yet been fully tested yet in Ethiopia. Others have advocated this point of view much better than I can, but I will try to add my view some time soon.

Fikru

Gooch said...

Thanks, Fikru.

As to the different methods of struggle, I believe any Ethiopian has the right to follow his conscience and persue whatever method he/she feel is proper in fighting the Woyane dictatorship. However, I strongly believe that this is not the time to abandon the peaceful route as it has not yet been fully tested yet in Ethiopia.

I agree wholeheartedly! I think that it's the peaceful struggle, a major part of which is getting rid of the psychosocial enemy within, that should eventually claim the victory. The not-so-peaceful struggle will, at best, just help along the process.

Anonymous said...

What I admire about Ephrem is his guts to throw an idea, an issue which makes everyone to think and argue or discuss about. I believe that is what is happening on this article. I will say to you Bravo. You are one rare person who does that whether the point you want to communicate is shared by others or not. If we don't have some one like you and we all preach the same thing, it will certainly be boring. It is wise and intelligent to me to sensitize those who can't think deep and are confused of what to do next, or what to think further. Beyond that, you tried to back your strategy assesment with examples. That scarce some who think they are the best in their crowd. Even more scared if they are the pupet of EPRDF or the recievers of the wealth backed by TPLF. I would say again bravo and keep on posting what ever you feel is right for you.
The person who tried to intimidate you by invoking some legal issues maybe an illegal immigrant himself.
As for some who are worried about your position might anger or sadden Pr. Mesfin are so naive that the life long human right fighter will be happy to hear you and debate the strategy you posted. He is democrat, who is not afraid to debate and bring us all to concesus. I would say he "just like you". I didn't read anything which angers Pr. Mesfin or for that matter anyone. He himsef is a strong believer in open discussion and hate's running for power or those who does, at list from what I read.
I am sure you know that there are a lot of ethiopians who are afraid of identifying themselves as EPRDF haters, due to fear of retaliation. We all know that their foe's are around spying for them, infact spying for themselves as a financial beneficiaries. They need Meles in power. As soon as there is some sound idea's pop, they come out to scare you. It is sad to read these parasites, who live in this world just for self interest. When thing change, you will see them rubbing-backs with the new one. That is why I always said to close friends that we have to put these guys on our diary for the good of our country.
Everybody who visited home and talked with people of different income class will understand who is benefiting for the 17 year's of EPRDF rule. The "anonymus" is talking about the economic developement. He doesn't talk about the distribution of the wealth and the inflation. As to my experience from talking to people it is a total scam. They are selling everthing which brings money. The one who has the money, the so called HABTAM, is exercising the unbelievable, getting what you want through bribe. I asked one NEGADE,fairly wealthy, about what I should do if I needed to open a business. With all the precautionary advices, he concluded by saying, this can only happen if you know how to bribe the EPRDF, if not you better stay where you are. It is absurd and frustrating that there is no rule of law there.
so, it is for this rotten system that the Anonymus was hammering you. He is afraid today on what may happen in the future.
My conclusion is which ever strategy comes down to bringing democracy to the country. It is to put pressure on the government to talk to the opposition, to change the country for the good of the people and to have a government who puts his effort on changing the life of the poor.

OL

Ephrem Madebo said...

Anonumous (....d.mengesha @gmx)
please email me at ebini23@yahoo.com Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Gooch,

Your sarcasm and Halebo’s regurgitation aside, try to help me understand your position on the following issues.
i. How can you defend Madebo’s futile effort to connect the South African Apartheid and the Ethiopian situation?
ii. How about the comparison he tries to make between Meles and Mobutu or other dictators? If Meles is what you think he his, why do you think he has been invited to the G8 meetings in the last several years?
iii. Do you at all see any improving political and economic development in Ethiopia? What is your position on the contention that armed struggle is necessary because the political space is closed and because Ethiopia is in the path of socio-economic doom?
iv. Do you also share the views of both Madebo and Halebo that Ethiopian nationalities are now treated as second class citizens worse than during the Dergue? If so, enlighten me by giving simple examples.
v. How about the fiction stories that Madebo and others write about sovereignty issues which are totally based on hearsay like the Sudan land issue?

Finally, my challenge to Madebo to walk the talk is still on. You know what they say, talk is cheap!

Gooch said...

Anonymous,

Since you've worked so hard to stick to substance...

i. How can you defend Madebo’s futile effort to connect the South African Apartheid and the Ethiopian situation?

To be precise, the connection was made solely to explain how a joint peaceful and armed (or peaceful/illegal) struggle can be necessary. He could have used the Philippines or Chile or a multitude of other places for examples.

I think the question you're really trying to ask, if I may, is 'is Ethiopia as bad as apartheid South Africa'. Is Spain as bad as Zimbabwe? Is Kenya as bad as Northern Ireland? The extent to which one feels oppressed is subjective. Especially when it comes to identity issues - what it is to be Ethiopian, etc. For me, I much prefer the EPRDF's Ethiopia to South Africa or the Dergue's Ethiopia. But who am I to speak for someone else? I can't. And I certainly can't stand in judgement of those oppressed Ethiopians who vehemently hate this regime. The same for those who like the EPRDF - it's good for them, personally, that's all.

But the reality, as evidenced by the election, is that far more people hate this regime that like it, which is usually the case for such dictatorships.

ii. How about the comparison he tries to make between Meles and Mobutu or other dictators? If Meles is what you think he his, why do you think he has been invited to the G8 meetings in the last several years?

See above. I should add that obviously there are some objective criteria by which you can compare countries and regimes. By these criteria, in my opinion, Meles' Ethiopia is far better than Mobutu's Zaire. But it's still a difficult comparison. Zaire was richer, for example. The point is, both are dictatorships.

Let alone invited to G8 meetings, Meles' government receives 40% of its budget in aid! Isayas' government receives three times as much aid per capita as Ethiopia. Donor support is no indication of governance.

Besides, many diplomats remark that they enjoy chatting with Meles (this is, believe it or not, an important factor)!

iii. Do you at all see any improving political and economic development in Ethiopia? What is your position on the contention that armed struggle is necessary because the political space is closed and because Ethiopia is in the path of socio-economic doom?

The economic situation is the best it has been in a decade. The EPRDF, for a dictatorship, does a reasonably good job in providing especially highly visible public goods. But the fact is that the economy is still ruled by famine. It's not because the EPRDF are not trying - that doesn't matter. It's a dictatorship, but not only that, it is a dictatorship (unlike China, for example) which has very little support. Such systems can only bring about so much economic success. It's not the particular leaders, it's the system. Which explains to some extent why after seventeen years of EPRDF 'capitalism', the next full-out famine will put 25 million at risk of starvation.

The political situation is the worst it's been in a decade. Political space is closed - there isn't even free speech, for heaven's sake. The EPRDF is openly working on creating what Meles calls the 'developmental state', aka China, where the EPRDF will vanguard Ethiopia's development. A one-party state.

Again, this is not because the folks in the EPRDF are 'bad people'. That doesn't matter. It's the system and the incentives they are faced with that is the problem.

So we need a peaceful/illegal or maybe even an armed struggle to give the system the incentive to liberalize and embrace peaceful opposition.

iv. Do you also share the views of both Madebo and Halebo that Ethiopian nationalities are now treated as second class citizens worse than during the Dergue? If so, enlighten me by giving simple examples.

See above. If people feel oppressed in terms of identity, I'm not going to condescend and tell them everything's okay.

In my personal opinion, Dergue was an equal opportunity benefactor/killer. The EPRDF emphasize ethnicity ideologically - to solve identity issues - and politically - to divide and rule. So members of some ethnic groups may be happy, and members of others (Oromo, Anuak, Somali) may not.

I haven't taken a poll, but the results of the last election showed that the majority of people in most parts of the country weren't happy. Who am I to judge them?

Plus, no need to be politically correct, ask anyone in any corner of the country who's the first-class citizen, and they'll tell you people from Tigray (replaced Amhara). I'm not happy about this, it's not a good thing, but that's the perception. And it's not because of a three-month Kinijit campaign!! This sentiment has been around from the beginning. Can the EPRDF do anything about this? It's been trying for a few years, but unsuccessfully, and it won't be successful unless there is significant democratization, which in turn threatens its power. The EPRDF's in a bad spot.

v. How about the fiction stories that Madebo and others write about sovereignty issues which are totally based on hearsay like the Sudan land issue?

The Sudanese government acknowledged it. The VOA reported it. Seem like credible sources.

Look, it may be that an oil deal with Sudan is worth giving them this land. Maybe a democratic Ethiopian government may have done the same. But the point is, it will have only done it with the permission of the people. That's the problem. People get mad because they are alienated in their own country - they have no say in these matters.

Plus, the EPRDF's record on Eritrea and their pronounce hatred/ambivalence towards Ethiopian nationalism doesn't help.

Anonymous said...

Anonymus,
I have to tell this guy who took time to write down 5 questions: Respectfully, please do your homework before you answer to an article. It would be better to pose these questions first, read the response and take your position. Yours is "the horse behind the wagon". I believe you are trapped in the EPRDF's propoganda and is in denial of everything.
For your first question: Read what "Apartied" means. The white minority ruled the majority blacks, however both are SouthAfrican. Do you see a parallel. How about apartied in palastine (read Pres. carter's book). My advice to you is do not seek answer for you question. This forum is a discussion forum, but not to do your homework.
2nd question: Isn't it easy to understand the definition of dictatorship. One who kills 1 and 100 is the same. Mugabe killed about 90 (by some account), EPRDF killed 196 (accounted by EPRDF). Are you still in denial like your guys who say those are Huligans. Even the latter doesn't deserve. As to G8: going to that meeting is not his choice, it is an obligation. Eh, it is a way to thank for their assistance. Without them he won't be in power.
3rd question: I think I tried to answer in my previous comment (see OL at the bottom). The Economic developemnt figure show a positive trend. As the previous commentator said, it is better than Dergue. The point is Ethiopians can't eat that 8 or 10% number. You have to ask yourself who is benefiting of the success. How is the poverty level. Are people happy about their government? The answer is no and the beneficiaries are EPRDF foe's. This is not cheap talk but reallty. Doesn't it ring in your ears the famine (you remember when Melese said when took power: Our first and for most duty is to make sure all ethiopians get food 3 times a day). Leave alone the rural population, the urban poor is not having that empty promise. People's are begging everywhere for food and our government is begging the rich countries (40% of Ethiopian budget come from outside). I believe Melese is a communist, as he has been since. Land ownership is the corner stone of a market oriented society. Advice him to change the policy.
4th question: read the comparison between Mugabe and Melese for you 2nd question.
5th question about sovereignty. This is the question which motivated me to answer. Here is the response: do your homework, read varity of news, do not stick to the information you get from your crowd or Aiga Forum. Everything the writer said about Sudan land is true. Do you want him to ask EPRDF whether this thing is right or wrong (That is where you asked for).
My advice for you is GROW.
OL

Anonymous said...

ethiopians held a protest rally against the total human right violation by the woyanes in ethiopia on 24oct 08 in wahington dc.the struggle to bring about the real democracy must continue until the TPLF,woyanes accept the will of the ethiopian people.

Claire Peterson said...

Throughout history of every nation, it is excessive tax imposed on the public that sparks rebellion from groups.