Lessons for Ethiopians from the Downfall of US-Supported Dictators: An Urgent Need for Mature Mechanisms
By Maru Gubena*
April 14, 2006 — Given the image that major western leaders, financial institutions and NGO communities have had of Meles Zenawi as a progressive leader, and given the massive moral, financial and military support he has received from donor nations over the past fifteen years, the measures actively undertaken taken against him by the Ethiopian Diaspora – staging demonstrations, writing letters and articles, organizing candlelight vigils, engaging in lobbying activities as well as waging this war on the diplomatic front – are indispensable tools and forces towards achieving the intended goals: public awareness, helping to show the ugly face of the repressive regime of Meles Zenawi to western governments and the international community at large. While completely believing that the progression of current engagements of the Ethiopian Diaspora are a crucial element of our broader resistance to help free our people from prolonged economic poverty, political repression by successive regimes and uninterrupted, multiple tragedies, it is also vitally important to realize
that the challenges to our struggle are many and complex, and the path we must travel may be painfully long
and hard. The disappointments and frustrations experienced and expressed by some compatriots in articles recently posted on various pro-democracy websites in connection with the persistent refusal of the US administration to stop supporting, financing and protecting the enemy of both Ethiopia and its people are therefore unfortunate and untimely. This is especially true given the historical record of the United States itself as the most violent nation on the globe, and given its historical record – which continues into the present – of supporting, financing and working hand in glove with unelected and undemocratic leaders, including both civil and military regimes and world dictators, as part of its own geo-political and military strategies and economic interests. This will be clearly shown in the following pages.
The cardinal objective of this paper is to take a close, critical look at the historical links and economic and
political relations of the United States with world dictators and mass murderers, including the provision of critical information to be used against the people ruled by those regimes, the deployment of highly specialized, high level CIA agents and even in some cases the deployment of United States Army Special Forces – also known as the Green Berets – in these countries to help hunt down and eliminate the so-called “enemies of US-friendly governments.” I intend to examine the relations of the United States with self-installed and repressive regimes by providing a few solid examples of well-known world dictators, such as Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Samuel Kanyon Doe of Liberia, and Mobutu Sese Seko’ of Zaire (now Congo), who ruthlessly and persistently committed the most immeasurable, appalling crimes and human tragedies against their own people – and did so with the staunch economic and military support of the United States, on grounds of political and economic interests, geo-military strategies and ideological reasons. My additional purpose is to illustrate to my compatriots who are currently expressing their frustration with the attitude of the US administration towards the unelected regime of Meles Zenawi that dictatorial regimes supported and financed by the United States in the past have never been removed from power by economic and military sanctions imposed by the United States, but rather have been defeated by uprisings among the oppressed themselves, by guerrilla warfare or by a military coup d’état. In an attempt to provide some insight into the involvement and role of the US administration in arranging for the demise of Kwame Nkrumah’s government in 1966, which dashed Africans’ hopes and expectations for the leadership and personal inspiration of Nkrumah, the case of Ghana, including the political and economic repercussions of the coup and the eventual achievements of the country, will briefly be assessed. Also – as predicted by various political experts on the Horn of Africa – Meles Zenawi has had to choose between sharing power and increasing repression. His choice – to rule my people with repression and the barrel of the gun – has been made abundantly clear, and may lead to the usual, unavoidable war, both internal and external. Therefore substantial attention will be allocated to the urgent need to devise, set up and expand organizational structures staffed by skilled and well-trained personnel and using mature mechanisms on a variety of fronts, from office work to lobbying and diplomacy.
Before addressing the forces inherent in the collective power of the oppressed – which has managed to vigorously remove world dictators who have been longtime US partners and friends, destroying the structures of their oppressive systems – let me, as one of the 131 Ethiopians charged with treason and genocide by the enemy of Ethiopia, the quasi-regime of Meles Zenawi, make some brief remarks in connection with recently held court proceedings and statements made by the cadres of this self-installed dictator.
Like many of my compatriot victims of Meles Zenawi, who have also been accused with creatively invented charges, I was astounded to come across and read the following text on the TPLF website, the “Walta Information Center:” on the 24th of February 2006, the day after the court hearing, it states – with the usual endless lies of the unelected dictator of Meles Zenawi and his cadres – that the court would “try in absentia the 36 defendants who had been summoned by the prosecutor, as they failed to appear before it.” My simple question at that time was: when and where did the prosecutor send his official letter of invitation to his intended victims? As far as I am concerned, I have neither received nor seen a letter, either directly from Addis Ababa or from representatives of the self-installed ruler of my country, requesting me to appear in court on the 23rd of February 2006. I am pretty sure that the story is exactly the same for the other victims as well – that they received no letter from TPLF cadres asking them to appear in court. If the prosecutor or the TPLF cadres did not wish to notify us by means of official, written letters instructing us to appear in court and informing each of us of the officially stated charges – explaining in detail the supposed crimes, including the specific individual victims upon whom the crime had been inflicted and the place and time where the said crime was committed, with names of possible witnesses – how could we have known that a court hearing had
been scheduled to try us, to say nothing of the nature of the official charges against us? It would be interesting to know why the TPLF leaders and cadres did not dare state the charges officially and publicly, in writing, under the letterhead of the responsible institution, and send it to us through their representatives. Aren’t such tasks, such as communicating with the Ethiopian Diaspora and with other foreign officials, departments and concerned institutions the responsibility of the Ethiopian Embassies and Consulates located throughout the international community? Why, if TPLF leaders are confident in their cases and believe that their charges are well grounded, was there no official request to the government of each country where one or more of us – the accused – is living, requesting that we be turned over to the TPLF leadership, just as Meles Zenawi requested of the government of Zimbabwe in the case of Mengistu Hailemariam, and as he requested of the United States government regarding the return of some former Mengistu cadres who had committed atrocious crimes in Ethiopia during the period of the Red Terror? It is indeed an interesting question why the TPLF leadership is not making use of the normal procedures to bring the accused foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin to their court, a body established by dictators and murderers of children, if they really believe that these cases are built on solid foundations.
The heart of the matter, as every rational person can see, however, is that the TPLF leadership is well aware that the charges in its cases have been built on sand; and that the intent is, if possible, to snatch and kill us with the gun bought with the money of Ethiopian and western taxpayers. If that is not possible, the next idea would be to intimidate us so that we can be silenced from speaking out, from writing and from making known the untold heinous crimes being perpetrated against the innocent citizens of Ethiopia – that is, from resisting a repressive, divisive policy and structural system. Yes, the TPLF leadership of Meles Zenawi is well aware that we, the 131 accused, as citizens of Ethiopia and foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin, did not commit any sort of crime, except that we have spoken to mass gatherings, to national or international media, or staged demonstrations; and/or have written letters and articles challenging and criticizing the cardinal foundation of the TPLF’s monopolistic, ethnocentric and undemocratic policy, which is a permanent source of political instability and persistent economic impoverishment. Indeed, the TPLF leadership of Meles Zenawi didn’t want and cannot follow the internationally arranged and accepted procedures and channels for the simple reason that TPLF cadres – the so called prosecutors – cannot effectively argue their cases with the officials of their donor countries. Yes, they know perfectly well that they cannot argue the foundation of their cases in open, fair face-to-face meetings, or major gatherings with the international media present, or in a fairly established court – in fact they cannot appear in public at all without the protection of guns. It is undoubtedly this lack of rational arguments that has made the TPLF leadership insistent in its refusal to even respond to written requests made by western government officials and human rights organizations to explain the specific crimes that the accused in the Ethiopian Diaspora are said to haven committed.
The TPLF leaders themselves know that in nation-states that are not ruled by an authoritarian regime, the ability to challenge and criticize a leadership, whether elected or unelected, in a public debate is in effect a right, a moral obligation and even a national responsibility of the concerned and involved individuals in the society. It is additionally true that in many regimes in world society with relatively democratic systems and cultures, political leaders who have confidence in their policy and administration don’t kill their critics, nor do they imprison a disproportionately high number of these critics’ supporters. Such leaders even make little or no fuss about those who challenge the policies of their government, preferring to leave judgement on the palatability, the acceptability or unacceptability, of the critics and their challenges to the public who elected them to govern.
A second point that deserves to be highlighted concerns the current political strategies and false charges that the TPLF is directing at the Kinijit leaders and at a large proportion – over 90 percent – of Ethiopian society, who are labelled narrow nationalists, ethnocentric and separatists. It is indeed surprising that, since the TPLF leadership itself has been repeatedly accused throughout its over thirty years of existence, not only by Ethiopians, but also the international human rights organisations, NGO communities and experts on the politics of the region of the Horn of Africa, of being a master in the use of an extremely divisive ethnic policy. This policy continues to be a permanent source of resentment, hostility and a cancer on the current and future development of Ethiopian society; the TPLF leadership is, as always, engaged in preparing the ground for war among various ethnically different regions so that they can play the policeman, the prosecutor, the judge, the wise man and act as an adjudicator among these groups and regions. The leaders of TPLF have in recent times begun to use the same words of war and charges against the leadership of the Kinijit and the rest of non-Tigraian society that others have used against them.
Being discredited and not having a good answer in response to questions and demands posed by major donor nations and NGO communities – upon whom the existence and the survival of the TPLF is exclusively dependent – about the atrocious, disproportionate crimes that continue to be committed daily against the innocent citizens of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi and his followers are creatively engaged in inventing a new set of characteristics, including personal and collective cultures and behaviours, for the Kinijit leadership and for Ethiopians who supported and voted for the Kinijit leadership to become the undisputed future leaders of their country. As outlined above, the TPLF leadership is now tirelessly telling its patrons as well as the rural population of Ethiopia that the Kinijit leadership – which is in fact made up of people from various regions of Ethiopia and is fighting to decrease and gradually end the increasing dependence of Ethiopia upon handouts from outsiders and their charity organizations; working for peace and lasting political stability, and for healthy and enduing relationships between Ethiopia with its neighbours, Africa and the rest of the international community; and striving to revive the evaporating morale, the dignity and the feeling of Ethiopian-ness among Ethiopians – is an ethnically oriented political organization with an apparent objective of imposing its rule upon the rest of Ethiopia and extinguishing the people of Tigray. This is the most shameless politics from the TPLF leadership, which as always, as a result of the inability of Meles and his cadres to employ logically constructed and palatable arguments, has had to be creatively invented. Additionally, these creative lies not only show how poorly equipped the TPLF leadership is to defend the multiple and most tragic and heinous crimes it is perpetrating against the unarmed population of Ethiopia, including women and children, but also indicate total disrespect towards the entire population of Ethiopian and international community as a whole.
In fact it is the TPLF leadership that comes exclusively from one region – Tigray – and which has forcefully imposed its rule upon the rest of Ethiopia by effectively employing tools of apartheid policy and methods similar to the Somali mothers and fathers who say “the Ethiopians are coming to devour you,” to scare their children when they refuse to go to bed or to stop crying. The question that deserves to be raised is what effect using such lies and methods – whether it is saying “the Amhara are coming to devour you” or that if it is ever allowed to take power the Kinijit political party will eliminate the people of Tigray from the map of Ethiopia – will have on politics in the future and whether it will be acceptable to the people of Tigray and Ethiopia at large.
Responding to Recent Unsubstantiated Statements of Meles Zenawi
Coming back to the cardinal issues of this article: one key factor has helped to motivate me to engage in producing this text, despite the promise I made to my readers in a recently posted overview of a coming article that I had intended to make available as soon as possible, and despite the students and readers who have sent e-mails asking me to send them the promised paper. I hope those who have been waiting for the expanded article will forgive me for deciding to engage with this piece, in which I intend to quickly and aggressively attack recent developments and suggest some of our immediate responsibilities that require urgency, including long-term roles and contributions that need to be made in a timely fashion on various fronts of our struggle, so that lessons that require urgency can be drawn and the intensity of our moral struggle to wage resistance against the ruthless regime of Meles Zenawi can be maintained, expanded and accelerated.
One of the motivating factors in writing this paper has been an article entitled “Ethiopia’s Meles can weather political storms,” which was posted on 15 February 2006 on the Reuters website. The statements in this article come from some of Meles’ analysts and lobbyists, who argue that, despite the heinous and untold crimes perpetrated by Meles and his followers, as long as major powers remain willing to give Meles their protection and use their financial and military assistance to kill, jail and silence Ethiopians who are demanding freedom from the yoke of subjugation, the dictator will survive the current upheaval. Many of the statements quoted in this article were probably made with the intention of damping down the intensity of Ethiopians who are struggling to end the prolonged repression of the TPLF. I therefore feel that it is necessary to respond by analysing and presenting some historical records, which demonstrate convincingly that even more powerful and well-known world dictators have not survived the collective judgement, will, resistance and uprising of their oppressed people, despite the repressive nature of those dictators, the lethality of their weapons and the lavish support and protection provided by the United States and its allies. In addition to the article mentioned above, on Saturday morning, the 25th of February 2006, there was a BBC radio transmission on Ethiopia’s current political turmoil, human tragedies and unlawful imprisonment of elected Ethiopian leaders, in which Meles Zenawi relentlessly and unashamedly told the world a considerable number of lies, expressed as arrogantly as ever. This has been an additional source of motivation and energy. Here again, I felt that such outrageously stated lies should not be left unanswered.
In this interview with well-known BBC journalists, there is a relentless, unashamed repetition of the usual lies. Meles Zenawi says time and again that he did not steal the election of May 2005, but he won it; he goes further, accusing the Ethiopian Diaspora and friends of Ethiopia of an “… unfortunate campaign of disinformation and vilification” of his victory and the rule he has in fact imposed by force upon the peace-loving people of Ethiopia. Meles Zenawi further insists that he will not be pressured by the measures that have already been taken, and which might possibly be expanded by donor nations and employed as a weapon in an attempt to end the killing of innocent Ethiopian citizens, including women and children, and to gain the release of the illegally jailed Ethiopian human assets – our leaders. He strongly believes that the decision to withdraw direct budgetary assistance to his regime has been made without a proper assessment of events and developments on the ground in Ethiopia.
This is indeed a shame, not just for Meles himself and his cadres, but also for the entire population of Ethiopia and the international community as whole. I cannot think of any logical reasons behind the submissiveness of Ethiopians who are willing to stay silent and be ruled by a man of his kind. Most of my compatriots, and colleagues who are Africa experts, might argue with this, even attempting to convince me that the TPLF leadership is ruling the country of over 75 million Ethiopians by force – by the barrel of the gun. Such an argument has been entirely true for a number of dictators; it can be temporarily successful, as illustrated in the following paragraph. As will be seen in the following pages, however, force alone cannot and does not determine how long dictators can impose their power or whether it is permanent. The passiveness, submissiveness and selfishness of some sections of the population is also an important factor. Ruthless rulers are able to prolong their repressive power structures only if this is tolerated by the oppressed themselves – by those being ruled.
As a large portion of Ethiopian society and others, including election observers from major western institutions, experts on the politics of Ethiopia, and national and international journalists believe wholeheartedly, it is a fact that the TPLF leader Meles Zenawi did not win the May 2005 national election; in fact he stole it by directing the barrel of the gun at the heads of our leaders and the Ethiopians who voted for democracy, for their freedom and for the future of their children. If we follow the usual rules of logic, there is not a single word that can be regarded as reasonable and acceptable in Meles’ arguments. It is only in his and TPLF’s twisted world of logic that his arguments are logical and acceptable and can be embraced.
In response to the Kinijit’s declaration that it won the election in the capital city, Addis Ababa, where due to the availability of manpower and the presence of the required international election observers the counting of votes was proceeding well and had almost come to a close – and understanding that Meles was losing the election – on the day after the election, the 16th of May 2005, Meles Zenawi’s then “disinformation” minister Bereket Simon declared that their ruling party, the TPLF, had won some 300 seats nationwide. This was despite the full knowledge of the TPLF leaders that in many locations outside Addis ballots had not yet even been collected from voting stations to be moved to the places where they would be counted. Meles and his cadres know quite well, just as do all Ethiopians and many of Ethiopia’s friends, that Ethiopia is rich in medium to high mountains and that our roads are long, rough and uneven. The simple question that can be raised is then how on earth was it possible that the ruthless TPLF leaders managed to collect the ballots and count them in less than 24 hours, and indeed with what personnel? This was however not the most unpleasant surprise for Ethiopians one day after the election of their rulers. The worst was to come.
Much to the shock and astonishment of all Ethiopians at home and abroad, as well as the international community, and in complete disrespect of Ethiopians and the international election observers, on the evening of 16 May 2005, with no grounds whatsoever, Meles Zenawi, declared a state of emergency, banned demonstrations including any public gatherings, assumed direct command of the security forces, and replaced the capital city police with federal police and special forces drawn from elite army units. Meles also ordered the suspension of the vote counting for some weeks, presumably with the aim of snatching the election in its entirety. Meles has never been able to provide tangible evidence to support his ban on gatherings and declaration of a state of emergency, for the simple reason that he did not have any. During and after Meles’ speech, most observers expected that Ethiopians would go out in their hundreds of thousands and challenge Meles Zenawi to either come up with acceptable reasons for his declaration of a state of emergency or lift the ban immediately and without delay. Regrettably, however, this did not happen. Ethiopians throughout the country remained passive and submissive, which in turn has helped to embolden the hearts and minds of Meles and his cadres to think that they can safely vomit continuously on the faces and heads of Ethiopians and the international community as a whole.
The TPLF leader Meles Zenawi has also made repeated statements directed at western leaders and the media saying that he is determined to remain engaged, as in his view as he has always been, with the course, direction and processes of democratization. As any sensible person can imagine, Ethiopians from border to border, including the Ethiopian Diaspora – a potential source of headache for Meles – wonder, trying to understand and asking themselves constantly what Meles might mean exactly when he says “to remain engaged with the process of democratization”? Which democracy and democratization is he talking about, actually, since he has never been engaged? Ethiopians wonder!
In wondering, we Ethiopians – including the allies of Meles – ask ourselves every day about some apparent contradictions. If Meles does not wholeheartedly believe that he was born to cheat and repress Ethiopians and continue to trick the donor community, if he is convinced that he has a democratic mind and wants to see Ethiopia moving in the right direction for a process of democratization, and believes that he has the confidence of the people of Ethiopia such that they would vote for him – that he could win an election in the land of Ethiopia without depending on the members of his own party, plus those individuals nominated by Meles himself as judges and chairs of certain institutions, to decide the outcome – why has he then steadfastly rejected, as he continues to do, the various and valid proposals and legitimate demands that have repeatedly been made by Ethiopians and major donor nations to restructure the four major Ethiopian institutions – the Election Board, the Media, the Judiciary system and the Armed Forces? Although these are the property of all Ethiopia, and their restructuring is a basic requirement for a process of democratization, they are treated as a monopoly by Meles Zenawi and his party – the TPLF.
Further, in responding to questions and comments made by professor Christopher Clapham and others in connection with the progressively unfolding political crisis, the everyday events and the heinous crimes being perpetrated by the forces of Meles Zenawi against Ethiopians and their elected leaders, Meles scornfully accuses the Ethiopian opposition parties, the Ethiopian Diaspora and friends of Ethiopia of engaging in an unfortunate campaign of disinformation and vilification of his totalitarian regime.
In brief, what this most arrogant enemy of Ethiopia and its people has been and is contemptuously saying is that Ethiopia is presently a peaceful country; no mass arrests, killings, daily harassments or crimes are being inflicted upon the people of Ethiopia. In Meles’ view, there have been only “minor disturbances” in connection with the May 2005 national election. Those minor disturbances were initiated by “anti-peace” individuals and groups – e.g. the opposition party, Kinijit – and his forces have already incapacitated these anti-peace individuals and groups. Therefore, the problems and tensions experienced by Meles’ regime in the aftermath of the May 2005 national election are a thing of the past. In other words, Meles Zenawi is doing his best to convince the world that the thousands of mothers weeping, wandering daily from one street to another and from one hospital to another to find the corpses of their murdered children, husbands, brothers, sisters and fathers, killed with bullets bought with their own money, are lying or don’t exist at all. The tens of thousands forced by Meles’ ruthless rule to languish in disease-infected concentration camps located long distances from the cities or towns where they once lived, so that these victims cannot be visited by their families, are just, at least in Meles’ view, invented stories. And, according to Meles, the terrorization night and day of innocent Ethiopians by the forces of the unelected quasi-foreign enemy is also just a series of stories invented by the friends of the “anti-peace” individuals and groups. These are the kinds of outrageous statements typically made by Meles Zenawi, in an attempt intended to confuse the world and convince the donor community. How come when Ethiopians and the international community have hard evidence, including evidence that Meles’ own TPLF-controlled media transmitted (after first denying that they held any prisoners at all) for their own purposes – to show the world that the huge prison population confined in Dedessa and other concentration camps in Ethiopia are being treated humanely, and specifically that the TPLF prison regime does not, as it had been accused of doing, use one and the same blade to shave all of its prisoner victims – does the contemptuous Meles dare to twist yesterday’s history? How on earth can Meles dare to charge Ethiopians and Ethiopia’s friends with disseminating “disinformation” when we have solid, incontrovertible evidence to substantiate the allegations made against his heinous crimes? Isn’t Meles the one engaged in disinformation, for example giving Ethiopians false hopes by telling them that their country – Ethiopia – has profited and made a huge amount of money – hundreds of millions of dollars – from leather exports that the country does not even have the capacity to produce.
Though I have not had the opportunity to study and grasp the entire history of Ethiopia’s previous leaderships and their backgrounds, I dare to say that my country has never had such a dictator, who appears born to twist facts and issues in an attempt to trick the world, with the sole purpose of remaining in power and subjugating my people for an unspecified period. This is indeed not just a dictator but an uncompromising enemy, determined to change and reduce the geopolitical face of my country, forcing Ethiopians to choose between being silently and helplessly ruled by him, or seeing the country being destroyed. It is then up to the Ethiopian people, both those inside Ethiopia and those living throughout the international community, to collectively resist, in an effort to unshackle Ethiopia from the entangled, heavy chains that tie it to Meles’ harsh and inhuman rule.
During the BBC radio transmission mentioned above, Meles Zenawi, who clearly believes strongly that the decision to withdraw direct budgetary assistance to his unelected totalitarian regime was made without a proper assessment of events and developments on the ground, reacted irritably to the measures undertaken by donor nations, saying that he will not be pressured by economic sanctions and possible diplomatic measures to release our undisputed leaders and to end the killing of innocent Ethiopian citizens. Meles said reaptedly that his regime will manage to successfully repress Ethiopians without the direct financial assistance, material and moral support of western nations.
Given Meles’ partial, if not complete, dependence upon handouts from outsiders, and given the substantial amount of moral support he previously enjoyed from the west, Meles’ statements concerning his means of survival are far from reality; they are just his usual lies, intended to trick Ethiopians and the international community. Like other Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi and his cadres themselves are quite aware that as soon as their current economic relationships with donor countries come to an end, as soon as the financial pipelines that pour the huge amounts of money into Meles’ pockets are closed, and as soon as the intended selective diplomatic restrictions against the dominant figures of the TPLF leadership are established and implemented, the entire structure and the very foundation of TPLF will be shaken and fractured, accelerating the demise of his repressive era to months rather than years. Meles Zenawi and his cadres know perfectly well that Meles is neither Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwen nor Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea. These two leaders, at least in the views of a good number of Africans and Africa experts, are nationalists and Pan-Africanists. And although Robert Mugabe and Isaias Afwerki are in conflict with the west, they can always lean on and find some solace among certain sections of their society and even among the people of Africa. But the same cannot be said of Meles Zanawi, who is seen by Ethiopians as their historical enemy and a contributor to the increasing weakness of their cultural pride, as well as the territorial disintegration of their country.
Lessons from the Downfall of US-Supported Dictators
Another important element in energizing my writing mood, as stated on the first page of this article, has been some signs of disappointment and disillusionment shown by my compatriots in recently posted articles in various pro-democracy Ethiopian websites, regarding the silence and unwillingness of the Bush administration to review its current policy towards the increasingly gross and unacceptable human rights violations underway in our country. While understanding and sympathizing with the feelings of my compatriots, I tend to believe that, perhaps due to the wide-ranging economic and other opportunities Ethiopians have been and are able to enjoy in the United States, the relatively comfortable life they lead there and their affection for their country of immigration, they appear to be somewhat naïve in their perceptions of its history, including the historical process of state formation of the United States and its economic and political relations with both previous and current world dictators – especially those who have committed and are still committing heinous crimes against their own citizens, with financial assistance and military support lavishly provided by the United States. Much to my disappointment and growing anxieties, Ethiopians living in the United States seem in particular to have misunderstood the historical and current views, attitudes and foreign policies of the United States related to democracy and the process of democratization in developing countries, especially in Africa. This has contributed to my feeling of urgency regarding the need to briefly reassess and review the basis of US foreign policy, also in historical retrospect, and to share this with my compatriots at home and those scattered throughout the international community – as far away as Tasmania, and New Caledonia.
As will be clear in the following paragraphs, the cardinal foundation of US foreign policy is its own multiple and complex interests. It might, therefore, not be wrong to assume that the views and disillusionments expressed by some Ethiopians towards current US policy towards Ethiopia, and its close ties with the unelected leadership of Meles Zenawi in particular, are based simply on beliefs that the United States is a democratic country, welcomes a disproportionate number of immigrants annually from all over the world, and assists countries to follow the path of democracy, even helping people to free themselves from totalitarian regimes; or that the US itself may invade a country and overthrow the seated and functioning government, and arrest or even kill the entire leadership as in Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), and Iraq (2003). The question that deserves to be raised here is then: when the US takes such measures and invades countries, is it to democratize the countries in question and help their people, or is it on behalf of its own many-sided interests? The majority of world society, especially those from developing countries who see this question clearly, would argue that the United States has always and is waging both diplomatic and physical wars against certain countries and leaders for it own economic interests and military and ideological reasons. It is additionally true that the effective implementation of a democratic system in a given country, including the decentralization of power, respect for human rights, the achievement of women’s equality, economic prosperity and political stability cannot be said to be necessarily in the interest of the United States and determinant factors in support to a seated government. Instead support depends on what the United States needs and the response to its demands by the country in question.
Let me provide an example to clarify the above argument. In Tanzania, the transfer of power from one governing party or individual to another based on undisputed decisions by the voice of the people has been an indispensable part of the political culture for the last decade. Though Tanzania is not a prosperous nation, the country has been politically stable since its independence from Britain in 1961. As can be recalled, the government of Tanzania has repeatedly declined US requests to cooperate fully in the war against the forces of Usama Bin Laden. The undemocratic and unelected dictator, Meles Zenawi, however, has enthusiastically and joyfully embraced these US requests, with the aim of being rewarded with substantial financial and military support from the Bush administration, which Meles can use to jail and kill more Ethiopian civilians. Due to the profound interest that the United States attaches to the unelected regime of Meles Zenawi, the Bush administration will not be willing to open its eyes to see the heinous crimes being perpetrated by the ruthless forces of Meles. But imagine: if five or ten students were to be killed on Friday by the police or special forces of Tanzania, the Bush administration would make all possible efforts towards an emergency gathering of all member states of the United Nations, and do its best to formulate a written, threatening statement agreed reluctantly by most member states, for possible economic sanctions to be imposed upon the country in question.
It should therefore be abundantly clear that for any US administration the determining factor in whether to finance and support or not to finance and support any regime in any country is not how good and honest or murderous the leadership is, or what the regime or leadership can do for its people, but rather, what that country and its leadership can do for America.
As the historical evidence makes clear, previous US administrations have never been willing to move an inch to review their foreign policy towards a nation-state where they are convinced they have a tremendous economic interest and political, geo-military strategic and ideological reasons – no matter what heinous crimes are being committed or detrimental socio-economic policies are being formulated and implemented by the leadership, and despite massive and uninterrupted protests by the people of the country in question against a seated totalitarian leadership that the US is financing and supporting.
It is for such deep rooted reasons, related to the glue that holds together United States foreign policy, that a goodly number of internationally well-known world dictators who have been financially assisted, morally supported and militarily equipped and trained have met their end not due to diplomatic efforts of the United States or sanctions it has imposed, but instead due to the rising up of effectively coordinated forces of the people – the oppressed – alone. Where diplomatic efforts and sanctions have been imposed, it has been because these actions were perceived as coinciding with US interests.
As can be recalled, during the Cold War, the United States was particularly fearful of the winds and ideological influences coming from the former Soviet Union and its allies. Consequently, attempts and efforts repeatedly made by the people of many countries to be rid of their repressive and self installed US supported dictators were persistently resisted and suppressed by every successive US administration. The historical records that will be briefly discussed below are cases in point.
Cuba. A memorable case is the Cuban revolution of the 1950s, led by Fidel Castro; he later met his future indispensable comrade, Che Guevara, who was originally from Argentina and a medical doctor by profession. The United States made no protest when General Fulgencio Batista quickly became aware that he was losing the election, interrupted the vote counting and staged a military coup d’état in 1952, and continued terrorizing the people of Cuba with his repressive rule for some seven years. Fearful of Moscow’s undesired influence in countries among its close neighbours, the US became actively engaged in helping the dictator Batista with the sole objective of interrupting the progressive expansion of the forces of the people’s revolution that was being waged against him. The United States worked hard to prevent the Cuban revolution, supplying General Batista with sophisticated warplanes, ships and tanks. Despite the incalculable material, political and moral support General Batista was able to enjoy from President Dwight Eisenhower, however, the coordinated people’s force – the revolution – was irreversible, and on 1 January 1959, Castro’s forces seized total control of Havana, and Batista was forced to flee the country with his entire family.
Chile. It is also true, as can be read in recently declassified US documents related to events in Chile, that the plans and strategies, including the organization of the armed forces led by General Augusto Pinochet to depose the democratically elected President Salvador Allende, were ordered and orchestrated by President Richard Nixon of the United States himself, with his Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, and well-known select CIA agents. The reason for the United States to initiate the overthrow of Allende’s government in September 1973 was simply Allende’s socialist orientation and his socio-political and economic programme. President Allende and many of his colleagues were immediately assassinated by the brutal new US-installed regime of General Pinochet. Thousands of Chilean intellectuals, students and youth were ruthlessly executed and their corpses thrown into the sea from military aircraft; huge mass graves have been uncovered. Some well-known opponents of General Pinochet’s government were hunted down and murdered with the full assistance of the US administration, in Latin America as well as North America, including Washington DC.
After General Pinochet lost the “yes or no” referendum to continue or discontinue his rule in 1988, which triggered the possibility of a multi-party election, a presidential election was held in 1989. This ended Pinochet’s long and painfully repressive rule in the land of Chile.
The Philippines. Having extended military bases to various places in the Philippines and played the role of a semi-colonial power in that country, where American citizens and members of the US armed forces have enjoyed a special, superior status above the people of the country, the United States also served as a staunch right hand to one of the world’s previous dictators. President Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines with an iron hand. He came to power as a democratically elected president of the Philippines through an election in 1965, and was reelected in 1969. In response to increasing civil strife in the early 1970s against his brutal rule, former President Marcos introduced a new constitution and declared martial law, imposing virtually dictatorial rule on the people of the Philippines. The early 1970s were additionally marked by a considerable and widespread corruption among government officials and by growing worldwide criticism related to the extravagance of the President’s family, especially that of his wife, Imelda Marcos. Despite the deteriorating economy, the accelerating tensions and the outcries of the people of the Philippines, the United States government continued to provide President Marcos with protection, including financial, military and information that was vitally important in helping to hunt down citizens of the Philippines whom Marcos considered a potential threat to his regime and his personal survival. The highly respected and loved opposition leader, Benigno Aquino was assassinated by the forces of President Marcos at Manila international airport on August 1983, while returning from medical treatment in the United States. This became a galvanizing force and a source of unification among opposition parties in support of the widow of the assassinated leader, Corazon Aquino, who ran against President Marcos in the 1986 presidential election. During this election period, the support of the general population for Corazon Aquino was well coordinated and mobilized. Having observed the irreversible course of the people’s power and of the revolution, the United States under the administration of President Ronald Reagan suddenly appeared to be in difficulty with respect to continued help to the dictator. Yet, despite the full and enthusiastic support Corazon Aquino received from the votes of the population of the Philippines, and despite the unexpected interruption in US support, the dictator declared himself the winner of the 1986 presidential election.
Hundreds of thousands of angry urban Filipino protesters were certain of blatant election fraud, and went to hunt down and hang the dictator. As they were attempting to storm Marcos’s residential palace, US diplomats plus US special forces arranged his safe departure, together with his immediate family, to Hawaii, where the he died three years later.
The same story is seen in many African cases. As will be briefly discussed in the following pages, United States involvement in the internal affairs of African countries has not been limited to the provision of unlimited support and personal protection to those African dictators who have become US favorites – with their most repressive policies, crafted to silence and rule their people for life – but goes as far as searching for and training those who will be willing to serve its multiple and long-term interests and deposing those whom US policy makers believe are unwilling to carry out US interests and orders as desired.
Ghana. Although the evidence of a direct US role in the organization and execution of the military coup d’état of 24 February 1966, which overthrew a giant of a leader and an African hero whose struggle and demand for immediate independence for his native country had been granted on 6 March 1957 by the former colonial power, Britain – making Ghana the first African nation to gain its independence – has not been as well-documented and abundant as in many other cases, recently declassified US and British documents indicate the involvement of US high officials and the CIA in the construction of arrangements for the demise of Nkrumah’s leadership, along with his inspiration for the political and economic liberation of Africa. For a goodly number of Africans who strongly believe there was US involvement in deposing their leader and cutting short his intentions and the hopes of the people for an enormous amount of work, however, the coincidence of the coup event with an urgent telegram is an obvious evidence of US involvement. This telegram was received by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah from the US President, Lyndon Johnson, a little more than two weeks before the coup, and stated that the United States would cease bombing Hanoi so that Nkrumah’s aircraft could land safely in Hanoi and he could continue his peace mission to end the American war in Vietnam. For many other African experts and western diplomats, this coincidence has remained a permanent source of bewilderment and continued to smolder in the hearts and minds of all politically conscious Africans. The untimely interruption of the work of an African freedom fighter was felt everywhere in Africa and continued to be a source of concern among Africans, due especially to the far reaching repercussions that the coup and the eventual death of Kwame Nkrumah himself on 27 April 1972 in Bucharest, Romania, have had on the progress of Africa’s political development and the intended unification of African as a single country under a single leadership.
The economic and political repercussions and the trauma of the coup have been heavy and hard to bear for Ghana and its people. Ghana remained politically instable and economically weak for over two decades after the coup, as must have been the desire of the United States and its allies. Its people were impoverished and in some cases were undesirable to the international community, and humiliated when they sought employment in foreign counties such as Libya or the west, or even as far away as Asia or the Far East, as a means of survival.
Thanks to the determination and strong leadership of President Jerry Rawlings, his love for Ghana and its people and for Africa in general, the political landscape of the country and the living standard of its people have changed in a dramatic fashion. The status of Ghana within the international community has also changed. Today Ghana is ruled by a democratically elected president. Under the current leadership of President John Kufuor, the country’s economy continues to grow, reaching an annual rate of over five percent in 2005, and the people of Ghana have gained a reputation as a hardworking people who are self respecting, peace loving and above all proud of their country and of themselves.
Starting in the late 1950s and early 1960s the struggle for political liberation in African countries coincided with the expansion of the Cold War, otherwise known as the East-West conflict. In this period, African liberation leaders and freedom fighters, especially those demanding not just political liberation but the complete independence of their countries and of Africa in general, continued to be victims of European colonial powers and the United States.
Congo. Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the then (and now again) Congo, truly an African nationalist and liberator, was one of the victims of conspiracies among the US, Britain and Belgium due to his ideological differences with the west, his love of his people and his country. The energetic and highly devoted African nationalist, Patrice Lumumba, was murdered on January 1961, just a little more than one and a half years after his objective of independence from Belgium for his country was realized on 30 June 1960. Four months earlier he had been overthrown from his position as Prime Minister of Congo by his own armed forces, led by his number one enemy, Colonel Joseph Mobutu (who later became known as President Mobutu Sese Seko), in full cooperation with the United States and the government of Belgium. Historical documents, including photos taken before the coup showing Colonel Mobutu with high officials in the US administration, demonstrate the physical presence of both CIA agents and US high officials, their involvement with the power structures and networks of Mobutu and work to strengthen these networks. An enormous number of books authored by Europeans and Americans also clearly demonstrate the involvement and role of the United States in organizing plans for the coup and the eventual assassination Patrice Lumumba himself.
According to historical documents, Mobutu Sese Seko was selected, trained and heavily rewarded by the United States, was made a personal and close friend of many high US officials, and was provided with information that was indispensable in hunting down, torturing and destroying his suspected opponents. Throughout his brutal rule of over two and a half decades, Mobutu Sese Seko executed his political rivals and secessionists publicly, in front of thousands of innocent children. With the sole purpose of setting examples and terrorizing the entire population of Zaire, youth and intellectuals who opposed the inhuman rule of Mobutu Sese Seko were hanged before huge audiences. Despite the many debacles facing the people of Zaire, including the heinous crimes perpetrated by Mobutu and his followers against them and Mobutu’s embezzlement of over US $ 6 billon – which was kept in secret European banks, specifically in Swiss banks – the United States remained the undisputed personal friend and supporter, financer and protector of Mobutu Sese Seko, the most cruel of African social animals, due simply to his fanatic pro-America and pro-western ideological stances and his hostile position towards communism and socialist countries. In addition, Mobutu Sese Seko was repeatedly heavily rewarded by the United States and Europe for his long and staunch support of the apartheid system and regime in South Africa – a system that was the enemy of the entire African population – and for his support of Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA.
The closing years of the Cold War are said to have been the most nightmarish period of his era for Mobutu. He realized that his service to western countries might someday be unwanted, so that the United States and its allies might cease their unlimited support. Moreover, it was during this period that the forces of the oppressed started to organize themselves, devising and strengthening their political structures and military strategies. And in fact, due to the end of Cold War and the intensity of the people’s war being waged against the regime of Mobutu Sese Seko, the United States and its allies told Mobutu that he was no longer welcome in most western countries. Even his phone calls to US and European officials were unwelcome.
As the now helpless dictator Mobutu Sese Seko become weaker as his health deteriorated day by day, and as the forces of the oppressed, led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, became more coordinated and stronger, the war intensified and the dictator was at last thrown from the back of the oppressed of Zaire on 16 May 1997. And as the internationally known brutal dictator Mobutu Sese Seko was no longer welcome in the United States and other European countries, he was forced to exile himself and his family to Morocco. He died in the same year, September 1997, in Rabat, Morocco.
It is therefore be emphatically emphasized that while the administration of the United States does not hesitate to engage in planning and organizing the overthrow of a democratically elected leader, including their elimination for ideological differences or to further its own interests, embracing and supporting an established repressive dictator who is willing to follow its footsteps is also an easy decision for the United States. Personal charisma and the devotion a leader may show to his or her country and the well-being of its people are not among the criteria used by the United States in deciding , to embrace and support a particular leader or country.
Liberia. Samuel Kanyon Doe, the former President and dictator of Liberia, a man with little or no personality whose personal and educational background and policies show enormous similarities to those of TPLF leader Meles Zanawi, is a case in point. Doe, having just achieved the position of a sergeant, staged a military coup on 12 April 1980, deposing and killing the democratically elected president, President William R. Tolbert, Jr. and his associates in the presidential palace. Doe, who originated from the Krahn ethnic tribe – characterized in Liberia as rural and deprived – quickly established a military dictatorship based on ethnicity called the People’s Redemption Council, and nominated himself as its head. Having openly declared that his ideological stance was pro the United States and the west in general, Doe himself and his ethnically based policy were quickly and fully embraced and supported by the United States. It made no difference that since the very day Doe came to power, Liberia had been marked by mass executions of those associated with the previous government as well as others perceived as opponents of his heavy-handed rule. Even his own associates, such as Thomas Weh Syem, the second in command of Doe’s regime, did not escape Doe’s ordeals.
As the massive, heinous crimes he was indiscriminately inflicting upon the innocent people of Liberia continued, some colleagues and allies decided to deny their cooperation and friendship; they escaped him to take up the gun to fight, with the intention of ending the brutal rule of Samuel Kanyon Doe. The downfall of Doe was followed by a civil war that cost over 250,000 human lives, and the dictator of Liberia was eventually captured and killed on the street in Liberia by the guerrilla forces of one of his rivals, Prince Johnson, on 9 September 1990. After 25 years of terrorization and trauma, Liberia is at last politically stable and since November 2005 has a democratically elected leader – a woman, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is seen by Africans and donor nations as the new hope and inspiration for African women and Africans everywhere.
Exploring the meaning of Ethiopian patriotism and love for Ethiopia: The Urgent Need for Mature Mechanisms
As the six historical cases above clearly show, unless the United States perceives that its own interests are at risk it will never move an inch on grounds of human rights violations or election fraud alone. Even if the victims of the untold crimes and the other oppressed arise and decide to collectively show their teeth, and no matter how many people have been atrociously murdered, mutilated or hung on a daily basis by the dictator of a nation-state, the key question is how the US perceives its interest. This is reinforced by the new phenomenon called “fighting terrorism,” which appears to have replaced the Cold War; if this comes to an end, there will be less reason to support the current Ethiopian regime.
The question is then: Can Ethiopians draw lessons and learn from the long and painful experience of the people in the cases above, especially from the people of the Philippines, Chile and Ghana? They, despite the enormous military superiority and the repressive nature of internationally known totalitarian regimes and despite the incalculable support provided to them by successive US administrations, at last managed to make the terms “coup d’état” and “unelected dictatorship” into history – a thing of the past. Further bewilderment, at least for me and perhaps for many other Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia as well, is provided by issues that include: why do some Ethiopians, especially those of the Ethiopian Diaspora residing in the United States, expect to see dramatic measures and actions taken by the Bush administration against the unelected TPLF leadership, when in fact we know quite well that the foundation of US historical and current foreign policies rests on its own multiple long-term interests? Why do we tend to lean so heavily on US foreign policy makers and Congressmen, while looking with depression at their body language, moods and goodwill? Why was it necessary for some of my compatriots in the resistance camp to express their disillusionment and anxiety towards the current US administration so loudly and publicly at this stage, instead of actively and inventively engaging in a search for mechanisms that would help to galvanize Ethiopians at home and abroad to action, and to link our efforts and skills – upon which our resistance against the unelected TPLF leader is entirely dependent?
It is undoubtedly true that engaging in a war against the violent regime of Meles Zenawi by focusing on the diplomatic front, successfully managing to convince the international community of the need to impose economic and military sanctions, including travel restrictions targeted to dominant figures among the TPLF leadership, is the easiest and most peaceful roadmap to follow with the idea of ending the undesired and unelected leadership of Meles Zenawi and removing its longstanding divisive and repressive systems from the backs of peace-loving Ethiopians. However, as various authors and my own previously published articles have clearly indicated, and especially given the multiple short and long-term interests that the US administration is strongly convinced it has in our country and in Meles’ repressive leadership in particular, war waged on the diplomatic front will produce little or no fruit and certainly no guarantee of achieving our desired goals, including the immediate release of our undisputed leaders who are currently languishing in the lawless justice and prison systems constructed by the TPLF leadership, and freeing our people from the yoke of this most vindictive regime, unless our diplomatic efforts and peaceful resistance become an effectively coordinated part of a more internal war directed at changing and reorienting our long-existing enemies – certain patterns of our own habits, attitudes and culture towards each other, including our ways of communicating and working together; and unless we make all possible efforts to revive the love and respect, the feelings of patriotism and unity our ancestors had as a group and for each other. We must manage to fashion new power structures and new working mechanisms that will help to strengthen and sharpen our teeth and make us into an immovable force, to be feared and respected by both our friends and enemies.
It is also undeniably true that the tasks and responsibilities of galvanizing our feelings of togetherness, nationalism and our sense of shared responsibilities are complex and difficult, especially compared to many of the activities we have been used to carrying out separately or with just a few individuals or friends and family members. But as we all can possibly agree, working in an isolated, individual way is not just detrimental: in fact it has been and is the common, deep-rooted enemy of all Ethiopians – probably, at least in my view, a more dangerous enemy than the TPLF leadership. The difficulty is especially clear when we are confronted with actual physical interactions, and when we are forced by events in our country to mold and incorporate our views into a single voice and work together side by side. It appears that we often prefer just to speak out about Ethiopia in general, about those we don’t know, and listen from afar to the crying voice of those who are directly affected – the local victims of the unelected TPLF regime – without facing those victims physically. Our conventional way of working on the individual level, in small groups or with family members, is a clear sign, a reflection, even an evidence of our inability to be tolerant to each other and work together hand in glove in larger groups. This has become not only a permanent bottleneck to the progress of our resistance and to the achievements of our intended goals, but also an obvious, almost insurmountable opponent that stands in the way of our unity and is responsible for prolonging the life of both our enemies and their unlawful rules. Since we have not paid attention to these issues, the problems – our seeming inability and unwillingness to learn to debate with each other and compromise, while maintaining mutual respect, loving each other as compatriots and friends who are concerned about common issues; and to be tolerant, able to differentiate issues from questions of individual personalities, while remaining committed to common goals – continue to expand and deepen in our hearts and minds in a fashion that may not be reparable, unless urgent and appropriate measures are taken by concerned and wise Ethiopian fathers and mothers.
It is unfortunately true that there is an urgent need to wage a new war on our own side of the front line. Yes, it is depressing to observe that for many Ethiopians of my generation and those who are younger, in recent times even the meaning of being an Ethiopian, of Ethiopian patriotism and of loving “Ethiopia” has become increasingly confusing. This is quite different from Ethiopians of previous generations. It appears, at least in my own personal observation, that many Ethiopians are simply fond of “Ethiopia” – the land, its flag, the mountains, the rivers, the rocks and stones, and of course, Ethiopia’s longstanding history – but have little or no feeling of attachment or affection for the present people of the country. Indeed, a disproportionately high proportion of Ethiopians today remain vindictive and full of bitterness about each other, persistently reluctant or unable to collectively craft and develop a common working ground and learn to respect and love each other, or to live and work hard not just for individual or family well-being or enrichment, but rather to build a larger “family” with a shared responsibility for collective well-being. Yet we walk and sleep with a profound feeling of pride, proud of and leaning heavily and irresponsibly upon the ceaselessly fascinating history of Ethiopia, and proud simply of being the children of those who fought gallantly and decisively against foreign powers, despite the relatively modern and deadly firearms of those powers. Instead it would probably be wise to remember that the reason our ancestors, even with their primitive weapons, were able to forcefully defeat their heavily armed foreign enemies and return them in humiliation to their fortifications, was that they were strongly united by the forces of Ethiopian unity and dignity; they were also deeply nationalistic, in the sense that they loved and respected their Ethiopian compatriots and every piece of land belonging to Ethiopia. This should make it abundantly clear that people cannot live and work together to create a country that is relatively prosperous economically and stable politically if they have not first established the cardinal components of a culture of mutual respect and love – a culture that helps to glue together the differing views, ideas and creativity of the people who live in this nation-state.
What can be done by the Ethiopian Diaspora who live in the “Land of the Free?”
As can be recalled, even though Ethiopian students were in Europe and the United States earlier, the history of the Ethiopian Diaspora began with the upheaval of the bloody 1974 Ethiopian revolution. This can be characterized as the beginning of the darkest years in the history of Ethiopia itself and its people. Over time, internal strife among individuals and groups seeking power continued and became a permanent source of political instability and a bottleneck to the formation of civil societies and the rule of law, including processes of democratization; the fragile economy continued to deteriorate considerably; the number of Ethiopians suffering from poverty and disease increased substantially; and the Ethiopian Diaspora grew to a remarkable level. It has grown not just in numbers but also in socio-economic potential and influence, which extends to both national and international bodies and to influence on both peace and war, through the roles those in the Diaspora play as scientists and academics and in discussions with diplomats.
Regrettably and disappointingly, however, and despite our considerable expansion in numbers, the increasingly percentage who have a high level of education, the economic resources we have been able to earn and are still earning – and despite the respect we have gained from our countries of asylum or immigration as honest, peaceful and hardworking people – the Ethiopian Diaspora lives in a manner comparable to rural or semi-urban Africans who work in industries located in a country ruled by a totalitarian regime where workers are not allowed to establish their own labour unions. Yes, even while living in the so called “land of the free” and in the face of needs that are enormous and urgent, to this day the Ethiopian Diaspora lacks professional organizations and institutions of its own that are capable of operating internationally from their own buildings, with office spaces and trained personnel where socio-economic and political strategies to further the well-being of the many-sided interests of the Ethiopia Diaspora and the complex issues facing our county can be discussed, developed, formulated and carried out. The Ethiopian Diaspora does not have such vitally important and respected organizations and institutions, although they would be conducive to reviving our morale and the lost feelings of patriotism, love and respect that our ancestors had for their country and for each other. They are also needed to help to restore or develop a culture of working and living together in a responsible way, so that we can directly influence and be an indispensable part of the forces of socio-economic and political change in of our country, playing a substantial role in defending each member of our community in times of unexpected difficulties. That is, our current situation is not because we lack the necessary knowledge, professional skills and economic resources, but rather due to the tragic division and disunity that began at the time of the cruel period known as the “Red Terror.” The forces of division and disunity that came into being during the early years of the Ethiopian revolution were gradually expanded and became rife in the hearts and minds of a huge section of Ethiopian society, both at home and abroad, after the failed struggle waged by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Party – the EPRP – in an attempt to crush and overthrow the fascistic enemy – the military regime known as the Derg (Committee).
While stressing with full conviction the urgent need to establish such organizations and institutions, I am absolutely not saying that we should attempt to dominate the societies in which we live, as some feel the western Jews have done. Nor am I saying that the Ethiopian Diaspora requires hundreds of office buildings with tens of thousands of employees in Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam, London and many major cities of the US. What I am simply suggesting is that given the slim prospects most, if not all, Ethiopians living abroad have of returning home, and given the increasing numbers of the Ethiopian Diaspora due both to new arrivals from Ethiopia and to children born into the Diaspora, the creation of means and tools to help in strengthening the bonds we have with our people back home and the culture into which we have been born is indispensable Establishing organizations and institutions to meet this need – at a minimum, one in Washington DC and one in London, with the necessary financial resources and personnel who are trained in diplomatic and other educational skills – can be a source of pride to all Ethiopians, and a source of hope for the future especially for those defenseless Ethiopians who have not had an opportunity to arm themselves with modern education. Above all, the establishment of professional organizations and institutions of our own will not only decrease the extent of our dependence on devoted volunteer compatriots for day-to-day activities and responsibilities, and serve as a focus a source of education, a meeting point and an adjudicator for community members in conflict, but also can serve the Ethiopian Diaspora in particular as an indispensable bridge with our people at home. This will be instrumental in accelerating the collapse of the unelected enemy of Ethiopia, and can be employed as a power base to challenge in courts of law those who are responsible for changing the face of our country, for killing many innocent Ethiopian citizens, and for the unlawful incarceration of our elected leaders.
* Dr. Maru Gubena, from Ethiopia, is a political economist, writer and publisher. Readers who wish to contact the author can reach him at [email protected]