By Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam
In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. Attributed to George Orwell
At this critical time in Ethiopia’s history, I believe Ethiopian intellectuals must take a leading and active role in the public debate to shape the future of their homeland. But there is a deficit in the supply of transformational and visionary Ethiopian thinkers with revolutionary ideas to re-invent Ethiopian society. Alemayehu G. Mariam, June 21, 2010
Telling the truth, handling the truth
Today, we live in a time of universal deceit.
Many Ethiopians in the country and in the diaspora, and particularly the so-called elites sporting an alphabet soup of acronyms after their names, are living comfortably in self-deceit.
So, I am going to engage in a revolutionary act by asking – and throwing the gauntlet to one and all — one simple question which demands a declaration of the truth: If Abiy Ahmed is not to lead Ethiopia today, who will?
The members of the lunatic fringe who proclaim “there are two governments in Ethiopia and they can seize power in 24 hours if they want to?
The ruthless thugs that have been sucking the lifeblood of Ethiopia for over a quarter of a century and today are scheming to unleash ethnic conflict and steal their way back to power in the chaos?
The hoity-toity diaspora “intellectuals” who are abysmally clueless about what it takes to govern a long-abused and misgoverned country like Ethiopia?
The tired old Derg dregs who blow their horns in the diaspora while hiding their blood-soaked hands from public view?
The old fogies who find themselves marooned in exile pipe dreaming about the good old days?
The power-hungry ideologues who blather empty words about “revolutionary democracy”, “ethnic federalism”, the “national question”, the “ethnic question” and demonize leaders who kept Ethiopia free from colonialism when all of Africa was enslaved by European imperial powers?
The nattering nabobs of negativism who palm themselves off as the “media”, “journalists” and “reporters” by propagating fake news, lies and disinformation?
The ethnonationalist preachers of hate and their mindless mob killing, looting and burning homes, business and public facilities in an effort at ethnic cleansing?
The robotic “activists” whose slogan is, “I am against everything!”
The moles hidden deep in the bureaucracy, the military, the police and in the security forces working day and night to bring down the current administration?
The two-faced villainous politicians who smile as they murder and murder as they smile; who during the day hobnob with the administration and at night dig tunnels to bring it down?
The skunks and wolves in sheep’s clothing who work secretly with Ethiopia’s enemies to destroy Ethiopia’s epic national development project?
The myopic windbags passing themselves of as party leaders but cannot present to the public a single page of competing economic, political or social programs if they life depended on it? Or even respond to or offer a principled and robust critique of what has been proposed by the current administration?
The cyber crybabies throwing temper tantrum blogs whining and bellyaching?
The “experts” who returned to Ethiopia begging to be government advisors and when turned down turned their quills as guided missiles to attack the current administration?
The armchair politicians pontificating about what should be done while stuffing their faces with tre sega and washing it down with cognac and whiskey?
Let me make it clear.
There is no shortage of self-styled leaders ready to plunge Ethiopia into civil war to grab power.
There is no shortage of mafiosi leaders ready to plunder the treasury and rip off the people of Ethiopia.
There is no shortage of bloodthirsty criminals who will step on heaps of dead bodies of innocent citizens at the drop of a hat to seize the mantle of power.
The question is:
Is there any leader in Ethiopia today who has demonstrated the same level of courage, intelligence, vision, self-confidence, strategic thinking, honesty and integrity, communications skills, humility, passion and dedication as Abiy Ahmed?
If so, who is that leader? I challenge anyone, everyone, to name him or her!
We have a choice to make
Ethiopia today is at the crossroads.
We are at the fork in the road.
We can march forward confident in the future to a promised land of prosperity, dignity, fraternity, equality and humanity.
We can walk back and free fall into a bottomless vortex of poverty, the shameful politics of ethnicity and live in a society marked by inhumanity, cruelty, enmity and irrationality.
We can make a right turn and uphold human rights and undo human wrongs. We can be on the right side of history and do right by the people of Ethiopia.
We can turn left and be left behind. We can sit on the dock of the bay watch the ship of change sail into a brave new future. We can stand on the platform and watch the train of called prosperity leave the station carrying those who have confidence in themselves and the future.
We have a choice to make!
Do we want the Old Ethiopia mired in poverty, destructive politics of ethnicity, kililized territoriality and a government of no accountability?
Or the New Ethiopia of prosperity, community, civility and rationality.
We can choose the path of democracy and representative government or go back to the days of fake elektions and demokracy.
We can revert to ethnic apartheid or build true federalism.
We can choose between the rule of law and the rule of murderous men with guns.
Let’s face facts, the truth! Better yet, let’s be honest and face our consciences.
For the past two years, Ethiopia has shown a magnificent trajectory out of thugtatorship into multiparty democracy, rule of law and expansion of civil liberties.
No one but no one except those whose souls are fatally infected by the corona virus of self-hate and hate of others, the Forces of Darkness and the dregs of history can deny that.
The road Ethiopia has taken over the past two years has been bumpy but the road map remains clear: Ethiopia is rising above the petty politics of ethnicity, sectarianism and communalism.
The inert, comatose and useless practitioners of ethnic and sectarian politics should learn one lesson: “Ethiopia built and preserved with the blood, sweat and tears of illiterate patriots will not be destroyed by educated ignoramuses.”
We have a choice to make today. Now!
Choice is what makes a human being a human being. Of course, not choosing is a choice in itself. Choosing against one’s own self-interest is also a choice.
At this particular moment in Ethiopian history, there will be no fence sitting, flip flopping, vacillating, equivocating or waffling.
“I see nothing, hear nothing, know nothing, say nothing” is not an option.
“Let me see. I need to think about it. Maybe…” is no good.
Turning a deaf ear, blind eyes and muted lips are not options.
Hiding in the herd of the silent majority is not possible.
The one and ONLY choice is to stand with Ethiopia and Abiy Ahmed or to stand against Ethiopia and Abiy Ahmed.
I made my choice to stand with Ethiopia and Abiy Ahmed a long time ago
I made my choice to stand up and be counted for Ethiopia in 2005 after the Meles Massacres.
Before the 2005 election, I had completely written off Ethiopia. Ethiopia was merely of research interest to me. Nothing more.
When the late leader of the ethnic apartheid regime Meles Zenawi massacred hundreds in May 2005, I decided to stand up to that thug and stand by Ethiopia.
It came at great personal and professional cost.
In the course of human events, most people face their own “defining moments”. Often that “moment” is a point in time when we gain a certain clarity about things that may have eluded us in the past or cloud our judgment. It is a moment when they make a choice that changes their life forever.
The Meles Massacres were the defining moment in my life.
I made a deeply thought out and considered choice.
Deep in my heart I found a buried nugget of truth: “You can take the kid out of Ethiopia, but you cannot take Ethiopia out of the kid!”
I chose no longer to be indifferent to the pain and suffering of the people of Ethiopia.
I chose no longer to be detached, disinterested, distant, unsympathetic, uncaring and willfully inattentive to the crimes and abuses of power taking place in Ethiopia at the hands of the TPLF.
I chose to doggedly, single-mindedly, resolutely, steadfastly, tenaciously and unflinchingly do what I can to get rid of the TPLF cancer and usher in the New Ethiopia.
I chose to come down from my horse and walk with the people.
In short, that is how I chose to stand with Ethiopia.
I announced my choice on July 4, 2006:
The fulfillment of my boyish hopes and dreams was to return to the motherland one day and make a contribution, however small. But as you know, things fall apart, and so did my hopes and dreams. Perhaps, some of you may sympathize with me if I tell you that I carry with me a sense of guilt about the way things turned out. I should also let you know that I have been away from the motherland for many years now, perhaps too many to count. But I assure you that I may have left Ethiopia, but Ethiopia has never left me. My case is a simple one. To adapt an old saying: ‘You can take the kid out of Ethiopia, but you cannot take Ethiopia out of the kid!’ That is exactly how I feel.
I adopted my personal rallying cry, “Hey, hey, ho, ho the damned TPLF must go!
As I started my weekly commentaries (or some affectionately call them “sermons”), began to appear with clockwork precision week after week indicting, trying and convicting the TPLF, many thought I was losing it.
Everyone, including my friends, laughed at me. “You think you can drive the TPLF out of power with your pen and keyboard. They have guns, tanks and planes and your words are no match. They are invincible.” “What an idealistic fool you are!” “You are a hopeless utopian.” “The TPLF is armed to the teeth. They are invincible.” “Your words are useless against the invincible TPLF.” “You are going crazy. You will never succeed. You are wasting your time.” “The crazy professor is at it again and again and again…”
“Crazy?” Maybe crazy as a fox.
I learned from the theologian Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, the maxim, “If you want to change the world, pick up a pen and write.”
In my youth I read the story of the “Foolish Old Man” in Chinese folklore. That old man was unhappy because a mountain in front of him blocked the beautiful vista beyond. So, he started digging and shoveling away. People laughed at the foolish old man and asked him why he would undertake such an impossible task. The Foolish Old Man matter-of-factly replied, “Not to worry. I know I will not finish in my lifetime. But my children will take over after I am gone, and their children and their children’s children will continue. One day the mountain will be there no more. The gods moved by the hard work and perseverance of the foolish old man ordered the mountains separated.”
In June 2018, I said the time to sit on the fence, waffle and chew the cud is over. All of us must take a stand. It is time to lead, follow or get the hell out of the way! For the full 15-minute video, click here.
… We cannot hide anymore. It is better to be the living dead than to keep silent (and not support) when we have a leader like Abiy Ahmed. After this, we are not going to grow horns or anything. It is do or die! It is necessary that we stand with Abiy. There is no need to fear. It is an honor to stand with a leader like Abiy Ahmed and say “I support him.” I know many who waffle saying, “Well, let’s see how things are going to be and so on. There is nothing to see. This is it. What you see is what you get with Abiy Ahmed. There is nothing to add. Therefore, what I am asking you, to ask your friends and relatives and all on Facebook and the rest is the message, “We have to stand with Abiy! If Abiy falls, we too will fall! If Abiy rise, we too shall rise. There us no other alternative. We can’t go backwards. But when we march forward we can fall off the cliff if we do not have a real leader. That is the real problem. It is futile to go back and see what happened. The question is, “When we are marching forward. Who are we following?” … Either we will march forward with Abiy Ahmed or we need to shut up. Stop the complaining and bellyaching and teeth-grinding. My bottom line is, “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way!”
In April 2018, a foolish old professor, other smart old men and women, and a million-strong young men and women received divine intervention and witnessed the e TPLF paper tiger roaring on a paper mountain in Ethiopia vanish into thin air like the morning dew without a single shot fired.
Abiy Ahmed became prime minister on April 2, 2018.
I knew nothing of him at the time. In the weeks preceding his appointment, I had seen three or four short YouTube videos of Abiy Ahmed speaking.
His message of peace, reconciliation, unity, equality, human dignity, Ethiopianity and his eloquence, clarity of thought and vision totally confused and disarmed me.
I did not know what to make of Abiy Ahmed. No one in my circle knew anything about him.
I reviewed the few YouTube videos with extreme attention and used all my forensic skills to dissect his speeches and brought to bear my studies of African leaders. I spent countless hours poring over those videos trying to figure out if Abiy Ahmed is genuine and believes in the message he is preaching.
I wanted to find something that could raise reasonable doubt in my mind that Abiy Ahmed is just talking the talk to get to power and will never walk the talk. I spent a few sleepless nights asking myself, “What am I missing about this guy. His message resonates so deeply with me, is my judgement being clouded by my emotions?”
In the end, I determined with Abiy Ahmed what you see and hear is what you get.
(I later found out to my complete surprise that there is no private and public Abiy Ahmed. He speaks his mind the same way in private as he does in public. If you don’t like what he is saying, convince him otherwise. He will not lie or obfuscate the truth to get his way or curry favors. He is a man of his word. People mistake his straightforwardness, openness, humility, soft-spoken and matter-of-fact approach for weakness at their own peril.)
On April 2, 2018, Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister of Ethiopia.
On April 8, 2018, I published my 6,681 word “private letter” to PM Abiy Ahmed fully endorsing him and explaining in detail my reasons.
On April 16, 2018, I gave an interview to Voice of America- Amharic Program (audio clip at 12:23-13:21) and explained why I am giving my full and complete support to PM Abiy Ahmed.
In short, that is how and why I chose to stand with Abiy Ahmed!
Who can reinvent the New Prosperous Ethiopia from the old poverty-stricken Ethiopia?
Ethiopia today needs a “transformational leader”, a frequently overused phrase.
I wrote it in June 2020. The fact remains the same: “There is a deficit in the supply of transformational and visionary Ethiopian thinkers with revolutionary ideas to re-invent Ethiopian society.” Nothing has changed in June 2020! What a shame!
Today, Ethiopia has one transformational leader: Abiy Ahmed.
A transformational leader has clarity of vision and the courage to make tough decisions. S/he is inspirational and a strategic thinker. S/he takes calculated risks, is patient, listens and does not brook nonsense. S/he is creative, innovative, adaptable and flexible. A transformational leader is open minded, willing to meet his /her opposition half-way, humble and believes s/he is a servant of the people and nothing more.
I know for a fact that Abiy Ahmed believes in his heart, mind and soul that he is the humble servant of the Ethiopian people!
It is my moral duty to serve along, stand by and carry water for the servants of the Ethiopian people.
The people of Ethiopia (70 percent of whom are under 35) want a peaceful life and a one-way ticket out of poverty. They want employment, schools, health care, food security, clean potable water and the freedom to pursue their dreams in a just equal and humane society.
I have never met a man, woman or child in my travels throughout Ethiopia who told me they want war, conflict, death and destruction.
But I know there are a few who want war, conflict, death and destruction to sneak into power.
We will fight those war mongers, blood thirsty thugs, criminals and murderers on land, in the air, on water and in the valleys and mountains.
Then we will fight them in the bureaucracy, in the military, in the police and in the security agencies.
If we must, we will fight them in hand-to-hand combat.
We shall be victorious.
There is no earthly power that can break or destroy Ethiopia’s unity. For it has been written, “Ethiopia shall stretch her hands to God.”
We shall see the coming to pass of my 2013 poetic prophesy:
Ethiopia Africa’s hope and destiny
Shall rise and its tyrants shall fall
Their lies, cruelty and corruption
Buried with them in the steel coffin of history
For “justice will rise in Ethiopia like the sun, with abundance of peace forever.”
Abiy Ahmed is the change I labored for so long and sacrificed so much to bring about in Ethiopia
Over the past two years, Abiy Ahmed has not disappointed me. He has made real the things I worked tirelessly for nearly a decade and half.
Abiy Ahmed is just getting started. He will not stop until Ethiopia rises and towers over the nations of the earth. Go ahead. Laugh once more at the foolish old professor. We shall see who shall laugh last!
Throwing the gauntlet to anyone and everyone!
If Abiy Ahmed is not to lead Ethiopia now, then who!?
Can YOU take a stand, stand up and be counted in Ethiopia’s and Abiy Ahmed’s corner?
I stand by Abiy Ahmed because I, like Abiy Ahmed, am fully and unconditionally committed to peace, progress and prosperity for all Ethiopians.
I stand by Ethiopia because if I don’t stand by her, who will?