by Robele Ababya
Lesson from the demise of the USSR
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov was in charge of KGB before he became President of the defunct Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) on 12 November 1982 following the death of Leonid Brezhnev whose era (1964 – 1982) of economic growth nearly came to a standstill due to lack of reforms. His successor Andropov was reported as saying that comrades candidly backbite the shortcomings of CPSU without fear as long as their number is not more than two but otherwise compete in glorifying the Party unanimously in official meetings comprising more than two participants. Is it not true?!
Andropov died on 09 February 1984 after only 15 months in office and the moment of truth came up when internal feud crushed and dismantled the monolithic Central Communist Party and mammoth clumsy government state machinery under the omnipresent tight control of the Party. This is in sharp contrast to cases in a democratic society where individuals are free to voice their free opinion without fear and changes of regimes take place in orderly manner through the verdict of the people casting their votes at the polls.
As a copycat of the Brezhnev era and Stalin-style grip on power, ultimate demise of the exclusive misrule Zenawi’s was never in doubt just like that of his predecessor Mengistu Hailemariam who was advised by Brezhnev himself to follow a policy of mixed economy to be implemented by an inclusive government with broad base.
The powerhouse of EPRDF built according to Stalin’s design is replete with mistrust instilled in it by its architect the late pathological liar. Therefore it would be naïve to expect the new Prime Minister (PM) as an accomplice to the heinous crimes of his former boss to denounce in his acceptance speech the destructive policy of the EPRDF of which he was one of the architects. He didn’t even mention God in taking oath of office.
Champions of liberty freedom and human dignity
The following fall in the category of outstanding individuals, with vision and exceptional acumen of great leaders rallying others with similar vision for the purpose of ending tyranny:-
1. Abraham Lincoln: One of the greatest statesmen in the world known for gallantly leading his divided nation locked in a bloody civil war that culminated in the abolition of slavery in the United States of America. From his famous Gettysburg Address commemorating fallen heroes we often quote: “… that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. He underscored the bedrock principle according to which the USA was founded, thus: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Note: Quotes are from the famous President’s Address made on 19 November 1863 (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania).
2. Emperor Menilik II: The victor of the famous Battle of Adwa that beacon of hope of the black people in the Diaspora; a truly beloved Great Leader of His people that dubbed Him Immye Menilik (Mother Menilik). Adwa is our hallowed ground where Ethiopians from all corners converged to defend their liberty by paying incalculable sacrifice in human life, spilt blood, and material resources. The Emperor was a magnanimous great leader who had elevated His captives in the battle fields to enviable top positions in His cabinet.
3. Mahatma Gandhi: Mahatma means “Great Soul”- an accolade given by the people to the Founder of the Indian Nation, the largest democracy in the world. Gandhi developed a method of direct social action based upon the principles courage, nonviolence and truth called Satyagraha. He believed that the way people behave is more important than what they achieve. Satyagraha promoted nonviolence and civil disobedience as the most appropriate methods for obtaining political and social goals. Among the tributes to Gandhi upon his death were these words by the great physicist, Albert Einstein: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood”. For the purpose of my writing this piece, I would like to add this quote by Gandhi: “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men. “
4. .Martin Luther King: Supreme champion of human rights who gave his life in the struggle for those rights. Here is one of his scores of quotes I chose for my purpose: “Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: – ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’.”
Nelson Mandela: The only celebrated Statesman of our time who had sacrificed his life for 27 years in prison during the Apartheid era to which he put an end and set up Truth, Peace and Reconciliation Commission to bury the past and lay the foundation for building the Rainbow democratic nation of South Africa.
I should be quick to add that the distinguished exceptional leadership of President Lincoln and Martin Luther King laid the foundation for the minority black people of the USA to hold positions of political power progressively culminating in Mr. Barrack Hussein Obama as the first black African-American. This is a highly commendable act of elevating merit above the ethnic origin, color or creed in electing individuals to high office.
Lincoln, Menilik II, Gandhi, and King dedicated themselves to the noble cause of either fighting aggressors or violators of fundamental human rights so that our common humanity shall be the centerpiece of a democratic and caring society without discrimination based on ethnic origin, creed, gender or political belief. Individual merit should be the sole criterion in public service as was vividly expressed in the Tenesa Teramed (Stand up and stride) rallying song that became popular in the aftermath of the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution. So it matters not to me where the new PM originated from.
Those among the above who held the reigns of political power at the helm did nothing to enrich individuals of their ethnic background because merit was their only yardstick in appointing individuals to higher positions. None are tainted with corruption or abuse of power. All of them fit the template of “Great Leaders” or “Great Statesmen”! Such accolades are validated after a long time and emerge from the masses expressed in various ways such as in poems, music, paintings, folk songs et al – as well as from the chronicles of historians and writings of scholars.
But Zenawi was a cruel despot who tried hard to “make dictatorship work; he is the antithesis of the above supremely stalwart leaders. It is almost certain that Bereket Simon and the EPRDF Party Secretary prepared the acceptance speech in which the accolade of ‘Great Leader’ was inscribed five times and asked the poor new PM to read it. The speech went as far as exalting the tyrant as a leader who cared about the poor of the world. That is how the Stalinist system works!
Giving time to the new PM?
The new PM vowed to retain the legacy of his former boss intact undiminished. One wonders whether it was really out of his own free volition or under duress that he made his acceptance speech given the repugnant legacy left behind by Zenawi, to wit: sellout of Ethiopia’s vital national interests such as active support for the separation of Eritrea; grisly heinous crimes including genocide, victims of torture, incarceration of peaceful protesters en masse; extra judiciary execution of peaceful protesters, the wailing of mothers, the agony of bereaved families, filthy jails in which hundreds of political prisoners are cruelly kept, toiling peasants in serfdom, interethnic hatred, dangerous interference with Orthodox Christian and Muslim religious affairs in violation of the constitution; daylight robbery of votes, pervasive corrupt practices, culture of pathological lies, demised free media, government monopoly of all pillars of democracy, blocked freedom of expression, poor educational standard, forbidden academic freedom in tertiary institutions, a land-locked country, fertile farmland ceded to the Sudan; leasing large chunks of fertile farmlands to unscrupulous foreign investors at tiny price; massive unemployment largely affecting the youth; demoralized youth addicted to psycho-thermal drugs; abject poverty; rampant unemployment; environmental disaster; rampant breach of the constitution; regional instability et al.
Given that the new PM did not make any concession for relaxing the Stalinist policy of the late dictator Zenawi, I oppose the costly traditional “wait and see attitude” and subscribe to the old adage of beating the iron while it is hot. In support of my contention, I provide this quotation by Martin Luther King, which directly applies to the current messy Ethiopian political environment: “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood”.
The cancerous legacy inherited from tyrant Zenawi that, among other of its atrocious components, relegates Ethiopians to live in divisive ethnic cocoons, and which his successor has vowed to implement, must be categorically rejected. The Amara and Oromo ethnic groups, previously earmarked by Fascist Italy and subsequently by TPLF regime for political extinction, should join forces in self-defense.
This is not the time to relax the struggle against the repressive EPRDF regime particularly when it is engaged in internal feud of the type that dismantled the former USSR and its monolithic CPSU; it is not the time to give it respite at this time when Andualem Aragie, Eskinder Nega, Reyot Alemu, et al are in prison in the face of the vow of the new PM to carry forward the policy of his former boss undiminished.
Four decades of creeping change to democracy has already resulted in incalculable cost in terms of human lives, human sufferings, and wastage of natural resources. The time is now for the Ethiopian people, all opposition forces and civic organizations to deal a heavy blow to the EPRDF while it is in disarray – at this time of internal feud and mistrust is dismantling it. Give no respite to a repressive regime while political prisoners languish in filthy jails and Ethiopia is on the verge of falling apart!
The Almighty God has done His part; he is not going to interfere in the remaining works that we can do in unison as Ethiopians for our own freedom, liberty, dignity, democracy and prosperity.
The legitimate Muslim-Christian joint demand for religious freedom should translate into nationwide peaceful civil disobedience for the sake of securing all liberties enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
President Obama should, in the best longtime interest of his country, reject the EPRDF policy in favor of change to democratic dispensation in Ethiopia that would be a reliable ally in terms of her strategic location particularly at this time of souring relations with Egypt and the Arab world and the rising global political ambition of China. Christianity, Judaism and Islam have lived in relative harmony for centuries in Ethiopia.
LONG LIVE ETHIOPIA!!!
Release all prisoners in Ethiopia including Andualem Aragie, Eskinder Nega, Reyot Alemu, et al