Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature…. If the next centennial does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.
James Garfield, the twentieth president of the United States, 1877
In this write I want to share my optimism about the current mass democratic movement that Ethiopians have been waging for the last ten months and continued to wage to get back their country from the incompetent and repressive regime that has crippled Ethiopia. My Optimism is based on a six point observations which include, its self-organized nature, its fearlessness, the peaceful struggle method it has adopted, its unifying attribute, its discipline and the application of modern communication technology. I conclude if the movement carries theses characteristics all the way, the movement will succeed to bring democracy.
History is full of records of people defying unjust and repressive political systems. In our own recent history, the 1974 popular revolution is a testimony of this type of popular defiance. We are now witnessing another popular resistance to remove tyranny. Now as then, the people rose up for justice, equality, liberty and their democratic rights, so that, they and only they decide on how they govern themselves. Now as then, the heterogeneous Ethiopians, regardless of their ethnic, religious or gender background, stood shoulder to shoulder to challenge and then to replace the current corrupt, incompetent, repressive and stagnant system. In its place, Ethiopians aspire to build a democratic political system where every citizen has equal say in the destiny of their country.
The EPRDF government has done all there is to do, from outright deception to the daylight mass massacre, to stay in power and forever. It has denied Ethiopians every democratic rights including those that its own constitution allows to exercise. At last, the people have decided enough is enough. As the result, the current mass democratic movement is taking place in the face of a repressive atmosphere. The regime did all it could to suppress the people but the people are prevailing. Ethiopia is at a historical juncture where the regime can do no more but to launch absolute massacre as the last resort before it get out of the way. When it should listen to the people, persistent to its ignorant pattern, it is squandering all the opportunities to be part the solution to the problem it has created. Instead it is continued resorting to its old and failed repressive and deception tactics. Guess what? This only is accelerating the certainty of its demise!
Now, the questions most hopefuls are asking are: 1. will the popular up rise increase its momentum to dismantle the outdated regime and 2. Can it be replaced with a government by the people and for the people? My answer is YES and YES! In what follows I elaborate as to why I think the mass resistance will succeed. I start by looking at the origin of movement itself.
The movement is self-organized one
The first reason that makes me optimist is the slick process that the mass movement is following to organize itself.
Before I get to the movement itself it is worth mentioning the regime’s claim that the resistance movement is exported from outside. This regime of the fools and the ignorant blames outside infiltrators (which it labels as Ethiopia’s enemies) for starting this democratic movement, when the struggle has emerged from within as the result of its own prolonged unjust economic and political policies. How in the world do outsiders influence the millions of Ethiopians (who have a long history of resisting any outside influence) to oppose its rotten administration? Only fools or deliberate liars can say this.
The current mass resistance to the repressive regime is not exported to Ethiopia from nowhere. It is home born and home grown out of the Twenty-five years of tyranny, and economic and political unfairness imposed on each and every Ethiopian (of course a small minority in power and their surrogate excluded) by the divisive regime.
As we know, society is a dynamic network of many interacting individuals. The individuals’ interactions are governed by a small set of simple guidelines which they themselves have developed from working and living together. In this case, as the result of repressions imposed on them, the guidelines each participant (of the resistance) has developed are: oppose repression and inequality, demand freedom, respect and fairness and collaborate with fellow neighbor who feels the same. Despite the limited capability of an individual movement member, the interaction of thousands of individuals who are following those guidelines can produce much larger complex structures. Note that, no one tells the individuals what guide line to follow. As mentioned before, the guidelines emerge from the individuals’ life experiences.
At times, it is not even obvious for the individuals involved to comprehend the powerful aggregate patterns that would result from their own collaborative actions. But they do it anyway as all other alternatives are exhausted. This is what is happening in Ethiopia. That is the oppressed individuals each resisting in his/her way networked to act united. This unity of the millions in action that created the popular avalanche has scared and shaken EPRDF to death. There is no Ethiopian enemy involved here because Ethiopians never work for their enemies (not in thousands or millions at least). It is not possible even for Ethiopians in the diaspora to command this type of mass resistance as the leaders of the regime want us to believe. It has to come from the citizens’ inner feelings and commitment alone. It has to be their own cause since they are the ones who will pay the ultimate price including their lives.
It is true that, in a heterogeneous social setting like Ethiopia, the levels of sensitivity of individuals to injustice, corruption and repression varies from citizens to citizens. This is to say, while the majority agree on the existence of injustice and inequality, some are more sensitive and take the initiative to act than others. But mass resistance is more than initiative by a few. For a mass movement to occur, there has to happen initiative action or catalytic reaction by many more sensitive members of the society from within.
It is natural, that individuals with the same sensitivity to understand each other faster and take a coordinated action. So when the members with the highest sensitivity take some action, others with similar sensitivity value will join. The action of the more sensitive members encourages other members that are less sensitive to join and participate. The action of these latter ones draw even more members of society to the cause multiplying the number of the participants. This is similar to creating the so called “the snow ball effect”.
In this process of mass resistance building, every attempt that the government makes to crash the resistance, increases the sensitivity levels of the citizens in favor of joining the resistance which in turn speeds up the down fall of the regime.
This is what is taking place in Ethiopia. It started in Oromia and wolkayit who faced endless repression to become defiant. This in turn, step by step raised the sensitivities of other citizens to cause mass resistance in 200 cities and towns in Oromia, Gonder, Bahirdar, Addis Ababa and many other cities and towns engulfing a large part of the country.
The movement is still young. At the same time, the corruption of the regime is everywhere, therefore, there is every reason to believe that it will spread throughout the whole country from south to the north and from east to west.
This kind of mass movement will never stop by mass killings with guns, tanks and war jets (as there is every reason to expect that the regime will resort to these) instead, it will intensify the movement. Violence and war machines have never stopped movements for just causes. Tanks and ware planes cannot eliminate Ethiopians from Ethiopia. Italians could not do it in two large wars. The tyrant EPRDF cannot do it too. The only way this type of grass-root, bottom up movement stops is when repression and injustice stops. This means the removal of the regime. That is why I am optimist.
Fear is Defeated
The second reason for my optimism is that Ethiopians are not afraid of the regime’s terrorist activities any more.
The past twenty-five years have taught the people that this regime has no desire to stand for the interest of the vast majority. It only serves itself and a small group that ally with it. Every attempt made by the people to improve their economic and political interests were encountered with bullets and garrison. The economic inequality and the political repression of more than two decades have put Ethiopians in despair leaving no option other than to fight for their rights even at the expense of their dear lives. And they are doing just that.
We have been observing for the last ten months during which time, many hundreds unarmed peaceful demonstrators were gunned down while other tens of thousands are languishing in prisons. The truth is that these barbaric atrocities of the regime did not stop citizens from voicing their opposition against it. On the contrary, every young and old are emboldened and determined to come out and save their country and each other from this destructive parasite. They are all telling the regime in loud and clear terms that its days are numbered. All indications are this popular resistance can only multiply in days and months to come or until the regime crumbles. The people are not afraid of this barbaric regime anymore! Ethiopians are determined and have chosen liberty over subjugation and are ready to make sacrifice including paying the ultimate sacrifice. Ethiopians are determined to face the state terrorism and repression all the way until its demise. The terrorist regime can no more use fear to prolong its unjust rule.
The third point that makes me optimist is the method of struggle that the movement has chosen. It is fair to say that the main method that this movement follows are peaceful struggle for equality and justice. Peaceful struggle is a viable method to paralyze a corrupt and repressive regimes and to bring justice and democracy. We have seen it that it works in Ethiopia as well.
The doctrine of peaceful struggle teaches that the two attributes that make peaceful struggle a potent method are: 1. Seeking the truth and fairness, 2. mass support and participation. Even if the cause is just, if there is no mass engagement, the method does not become effective. If the cause or causes are just and have mass support, the path may be longer than necessary, but there is no brutal power that can stop people from being victorious. Therefore, the key task of peaceful struggle is to win the mind and consciousness of the masses for common and just causes.
The other attribute that makes peaceful struggle a hopeful form of struggle is that it has many and various tactics in its tool box which people can tailor to different situations and apply.
It is true, corrupt and repressive individuals or governments are not going to change their behaviors and give up their economic power just because they are asked to do so. But if enough number of citizens are convinced to stand together against economic and political injustice, they can bring the change they wanted just by their sheer number and various tactics without violence. Yes, brutal regimes do not sit with their arms folded and watch as the peaceful struggle takes place. They instead kill, arrest and torture. But that does not stop their demise. Instead it accelerates it.
We are witnessing that the peaceful mass movement has shaken and disoriented the regime even as it arrests, mutilates and kills. The regime is yet to suffer from more peaceful demonstrations, stay-home protest, road blocking and economic boycotts and more all across the nation.
The non-violent, peaceful struggles that have been conducted so far, not only gained the full support of fellow Ethiopians at home, it also has galvanized Ethiopians across the globe. Besides, the peaceful struggle also revealed the true nature of the repressive regime in Ethiopia (who killed unarmed peaceful demonstrators) to the international community including those governments that have allied and supported it.
It is clear that Ethiopians are determined to apply this approach until this regime submits and democratize or dissolves itself. Peaceful struggle is powerful and hopeful path towards freedom.
Ethiopians are United
The fourth reason for my optimism is that, despite every attempt by this ethnocentric and divisive regime, Ethiopians are renewing their sense of unity and are forging a stronger cooperation.
Since its beginning, this regime has been playing the ethnic card to divide and rule the Ethiopian people. This divisive policy was particularly targeted at the two main pillars of the nation namely, the Oromos and Amharas who have a long history together and are intertwined by all kinds of humanly relations. To help it achieve its divide and rule scheme, the regime, covertly and overtly has been spreading hate and differences (which differences any two people with long history can have) among the two peoples.
Bad fate for the regime. The two people along with all the other Ethiopians are working together to shorten its divide and rule era. Ethiopians of all kind have shown the regime that they will not be fooled by its divisive propaganda and deception. All in the name of equality of all Ethiopians when in reality it is oppressing and exploiting all of the people.
Ethiopians also showed to the nay Sayers and doubters of all type that they can stand together to fight for a democratic and just Ethiopia. This movement testifies to the possibility that Ethiopians can and will work on their differences and resolve them to bring an Ethiopia that treat all her children as equals.
A Disciplined Movement
The fifth reason for my optimism is the discipline, wisdom and capability that the movement participants have shown so far.
The participants of the movement have shown discipline, wisdom and capability to build a strong resistance against the regime. They have shown that they can organize to make their voices heard even under extreme repressive conditions. They have shown us that they can stick together and push their causes even in the face of the blood thirsty regime that guns down their fellow compatriot. They have demonstrated that they can learn and adapt quickly to outsmart their killers. They are showing us that they are ready to be imprisoned or even die to bring justice and democracy to their country.
Ethiopians have begun a very encouraging journey towards democratic and just system. But it is just starting. We have a lot to accomplish yet. Our immediate task is to intensify the peaceful struggle throughout the whole country by building on the just causes peaceful struggle method discussed above. Ethiopians have demonstrated that they can take the democratic struggle all the way to victory.
If the people push for their democratic and just cause with their full force one of two things will take place. That the repressive regime comes to its sense and open the door for a democratic transition in which it can be part. This option has to be effected quickly as time is ticking towards the tipping point due to intensified repression and reciprocating anger by the popular mass. The second option is that the state remains diehard until it implodes on its own or crumbles by the sheer force of the masses.
In both cases, the movement and its participants have to make sure that they stay disciplined and far looking to build an Ethiopia where everyone belongs to. We have to be careful not to defeat our common purpose of building a just, democratic and prosperous Ethiopia in which everyone will be proud of. We all should strive to build an Ethiopia that is forward looking hand as a bright future but not an Ethiopia which is a prison of its past.
I want to believe that this movement has shown the capacity and discipline to emerge as a force that can bring such Ethiopia.
Last but not least, what makes me an optimist about this democratic mass movement is, the implementation of modern communication technology to assist its own advance.
Technology is one of a democratizing force of our time. For that matter, it has been a democratizing force of all times in human history. That said, even by Africa’s standard, Ethiopia is one the countries where communication or any technology, for that matter, is the least available. Yet, the democratic minded and the technology savvy generation of young Ethiopians, have made the best out of the meager technology to promote and implement its vision of a just, transparent and free Ethiopia. The new generation who have mastered the internet, facebook, twitter and Utube and others have used it to disseminate its ideals and dreams of a better Ethiopia among its own generation and to create a common vision and to coordinate activities of the movement. In this respect, the technology has played an organizing role as well.
The new generation has also effectively applied these technological tools to make information available not only to each other but to Ethiopians in the diaspora and to the rest of the world. In doing so, technology has played a big role to create awareness of the political unrest in the country and to expose the atrocities and brutalities of this deceptive regime.
The regime has done and will continue to do all that it can to curtail the availability of these technologies and suppress the movement. But it will never be successful because the new generation will always out smart it. And the movement for justice and equality will prevail and the repressive regime will sooner or later will get out of the away. Now as well as in the future, modern communication technology will play a vital role to enhance the resistance in favor of a just political system.
As We Move Forward
As mentioned earlier, the two key attributes towards the success of peaceful struggle are the just causes it is standing for and the huge mass participation in favor of the causes. The causes of the movement are clear. They are democracy, equality, justice, fairness and a nation of laws. What is remaining is to come together in masses from every corner of the nation and intensify the struggle and get rid of this rotten and good-for-nothing ethnocentric regime. Then build a new Ethiopia that treats all its children as equals and free.
The new Ethiopia will be built by a free, patriotic, fair, ethical and reasoned citizen who is joined by other individuals of similar values one at a time, to build neighbors, and neighbors to build communities, and communities to build towns/cities, and towns to build regions and reigns to come together to build the nation. Mind you, in this hierarchy of national building I just outlined, it is those patriotic, ethical, fair, free and wise individuals who are the foundational stone of the new structure which is the new Ethiopia. So, if we want to see a democratic nation, each and every one of us has to strive to be that individual, who, his family, neighbors, community, region and ultimately his country count on.
Judging from its past history, and its current brutality, this government has no desire to resolve the country’s problem peacefully and democratically. On the other hand, Ethiopians have made it known that they no longer will tolerate its corrupt and repressive rule and have begun the righteous democratic movement to take their country back. The reality on the ground is that, the struggle for justice and democracy may require prolonged efforts before this regime gives up. This means that, unfortunately, there may be many more sacrifices have to be made in the process. But if Ethiopians can capitalize on their gains and build on their strengths that made me an optimist as I outlined them above, there is no doubt that they will prevail.
So as we struggle to build a better future, let us be sure, that we all are, wise, persistent, honest, transparent, respectful, fair and caring to each other. These values will insure that the sacrifice that our martyr brothers and sisters have made will not be in vain.
Victory to Democracy! Victory to a democratic Ethiopia!!