By Ephrem Madebo
It is a shame and it is a dreadful indignity to submit our right, freedom, and our country to the few timid.
If we Ethiopians have any boundless resource, it is our unrealized potential!
The political fallout of the last four years and its consequences, such as the sudden crack in the opposition camp has left many Ethiopians in the dark looking an answer for the question – Oh my God! What in the hell did go wrong? For those who started the long journey well aware of the daunting path, there was no a single justifiable answer; hence they gathered the pieces of the crack, put it together, and continued the journey. Yet, for many of us, the past four years were times of perplexity and political hibernation. In general, for millions of Ethiopians who witnessed the genesis of a new era [in May 2005], the past four years have been times of hope and despondency, elevation and degradation, agony and short lived ecstasy. Today, the key question is not what happened four years ago, but what can and what should we do in the next four years. Don’t take me wrong, I’m not telling you to ignore yesterday. All I’m saying is let’s not allow our paralysis of yesterday rule over our analysis of tomorrow.
Thanks to our fathers and forefathers, the name Ethiopia has for long been synonymous with national pride and valor. For all of us, especially, for those of us who reside outside Ethiopia, this national pride has been our last hiding banner where we all sought refuge from television screens that showed Ethiopian hunger and from the cover pages that read “Ethiopia the Poorest Nation on Earth”. Today, our problems are not just hunger and poverty. In a matter of days, the land that bears the precious blood of our ancestors will no more be ours. Our mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers do not have a tiny fraction of the rights that we enjoy here in our adopted land. Ethiopia is as old as the word democracy itself, but thanks to the villains from ‘Dedebit’, Ethiopians have never tasted the fruits of democracy. Should this continue unabated and unchallenged? Well, it goes without saying that your answer as a reader is no, but “no” by itself has never been good enough. Some of us said no almost 50 years ago, some 30 years, and many of us 15 to 25 years ago. It is evident that no matter how toned our “no” was; it has been fruitless with out a coordinated action! It is imperative to know that strong words, opinions, and reactions are very important to our struggle, but without action they waste our time and ruin our soul.
In the last 18 years, in spite of our magnitude and superior cause, we as a society have been despised, ridiculed, and considered inconsequential. We have been called “Tooth less lions” and “Paper Tigers”. For how long do we allow this humiliation and suffering to continue? Where is our anger? Where is our rage? Where is our determination to be free? Where is the courage to say “enough is enough”, and where is the wisdom and the strength to vigorously follow our vision and live the life we imagined? It is very difficult to understand why our anger and teeth gnashing can’t grow into a rage! When our patience is taken for fear, and when our farsightedness is mistaken for ignorance, rage should be our source of energy that gives us the strength to overcome the bad guys. Make no mistake, rage is necessary to heal a nation that suffers from wounds inflicted by home made enemies. Our struggle for freedom and democracy lacks emotional reactions. Trust me, emotional reactions are not inherently bad, wrong, rude, or immature. They can often add valuable context to our struggle and give us the momentum when we think we are dozed off.
Over the past two decades many Ethiopians have increasingly been concerned over the human rights conditions of their people and the territorial integrity of their country. In particular, millions of Ethiopians have shown a grave concern on the ever worsening conditions of the country’s north western border with Sudan. During the last 18 years, a plethora of human rights activists, journalists, concerned citizens, academicians, foreign governments and international organizations have issued calls to action highlighting the dramatically deteriorating human rights conditions of the Ethiopian people. Today, after two decades of national and international outcry, human right conditions in Ethiopia are one of the worst in the world, and the challenges to overcome them have become accelerated and more acute.
How do we overcome these challenges? All in all, what should we do to free our people from the bondage of the TPLF gangs? There are so many things that we need to do, and the very first of all is, the willingness to sacrifice what we are for what we want to become. If we truly love our country, then we must understand that love always involves responsibility and sacrifice. Our country Ethiopia is a large nation where there are different stakeholders who have conflicting interests. In spite of size and past political history, we must treat every stakeholder equally and make sure that their voices are heard. We must be willing to compromise on our differences, and work collectively in areas of common interest. Most of us share a culture where compromise is usually a sign of weakness, or an admission of defeat. Actually, compromise is the art of coming together, and the science of avoiding conflicts. When we compromise we bend a little, but we fit in; without compromise, we break apart, and we stand alone. Remember, to move the sprit of a nation, we should first move our own sprit. Let’s move our sprit and shake off the ghosts of fear!
If there is anything so fundamental and anything so important that warrants a “do or die” urgency, it must be the unity of the Ethiopian opposition groups. This unity is not just between groups and parties; it should be with and within the different organized stakeholders and ordinary citizens. If the beauty of democracy that we fought for years means anything to us, and if we want to free our people from the ethnocratic rule of one man, we must utterly free our mind from the solo attitude of yesterday and start a collective journey with a collective sense of purpose. It is true that we have the option to do some things separately or individually, but still unity is not an option for any conscious Ethiopian that understands the calamitous circumstances of our mother land. Yes, we have the right to choose among alternatives, but we have to realize that our choice is not always the right choice. The day before yesterday, yesterday, and even today we chose a solitary journey, but we got no where. What about tomorrow? Well, we have neither the option, nor the ability to fix the mistakes of yesterday. But, if we are ready to make the right choice today, freedom and justice for our people are just a choice away. That choice is unity!!!
Sometimes the tiresome journey of freedom may burden us with the dire forces of hopelessness and helplessness; and such a burden is agonizing if we are struggling in our daily life. Sometimes we can be disappointed at people around us, sometimes death may claim the life of our comrades, and sometimes the pace of the struggle against tyranny may diminish our patience, however, in spite of all these adversities, we should never loose hope in our country, for hope is the only force that gathers our spirit for a new beginning. Even when we are confronted with seemingly hopeless situations, let’s hope that peace freedom, and justice will be the norms of our nation. Let’s all live in this hope and live for this hope. For the Ethiopian people, hope is more than just a democratic government; it is mending many broken hearts and healing many tortured minds.
As much as we love dialogues and as deeply as we are engaged in party politics; it is perplexing that we often are so committed to our own position and fail to consider the position of others. We also fail to reason out why we are holding this position, and whether such a position is likely to achieve our interest. Often, one of the parties defines its objectives in terms of negotiable interests while the other defines in terms must accept “Bible” like creeds that are not usually considered negotiable. Such disagreements make a resolution very hard to obtain. In general, obstinacy, lack of listening and the attitude of “My way or the highway” have always been the chronic diseases of our political establishment.
When we deal with others, it is very important that we have the courage to stand up and speak; and have that same courage to sit down and listen. Human beings are logical as well as emotional; therefore, as much as we like to deal with their logical side, we have to be thoughtful that there are many people who are emotionally charged. When we are engaged in dialogue(s), we have to be very careful not to hurt the feelings of others. Evidently, dialogues empower people and provide shared meaning; therefore, it is impossible to talk, or to even be in the same room when all parties start the dialogue with the assumption - “we are right” or “we must win”. It is so important to enter into dialogues with a willingness to change. The fruits of a dialogue must force our heart to open itself and replace the misfortunes of the past with the hope of the future. When we are engaged in dialogues, we have to honor all parties involved, we have to seek collective intelligence, develop a shared understanding, and embrace possibilities. The people in the dialogue may forget some of the things we said, but they will never forget how we made them feel and the respect we gave them.
It is not a coincidence that I selected “Unity” as the subject matter of this article; actually, it is a conscious move driven by the people from the blood lands of Bademe to the dry lands of Moyale and from the western cost of Assosa to the eastern tip of Jijjga. Unity is the loud spoken word that I heard from coast to coast, and of course, unity is the only vehicle that takes the north, the south, the east and the western parts of our country to the promise land as a single unit. Unity is the weapon that the TPLF gangs fear the most. The Meles machine doesn’t fight our superior idea, if it did or if it does, TPLF would have been a party in the opposition since May 2005. The TPLF gang fights our unity for it is our unity that makes this killing machine out of gas.
I don't think any Ethiopian would actually say that he/she supports oppression or injustice. Evidently, to what degree one supports or objects the TPLF regime may be debatable; what is not debatable is that the TPLF regime is taking our country to its grave. In order to stop this problem, we all need to come together. We can't ignore our differences; we need to work with them because our differences are the sources of rich idea. We can't discount the people next door, for all the work they do compliments ours; and we can’t ignore the idea of others, for that alone gives us width and depth. The day before yesterday we tried my agenda, yesterday we tried your agenda, today, it’s about time that we try our agenda. The survival of our nation depends on the willingness of our generation to sacrifice its time, finance, and when necessary, its life. If we don’t; our country dies, and we all die too. If we want to be remembered like our fathers and forefathers, let’s be willing to sacrifice ourselves for a cause greater than our life. Amen!