Al Mariam’s Commentaries
April 21, 021
Rock the (boat) vote!
Gotta rock the vote to transition Ethiopia from dictatorship to democracy!
To: Ethiopian History, The People of Ethiopia, The Cheetah Generation of Ethiopia, The Women of Ethiopia
Subject: Importance of Registering to Vote and Voting on June 5, 2021
Date: April 21, 2021
Will you be in the Hall of Fame or carry a badge of shame to your grave?
On June 5, 2021, Ethiopia will have its first free and fair parliamentary election in its history.
I cannot vote on June 5 with you because I gave up Ethiopian citizenship and took refuge in America during the Derg’s reign of terror.
I could not return to the land of Ethnic Apartheid during the reign of terror of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
In July 2009, I asked myself, “What is it the Ghanaians got, We ain’t got?” I was frankly jealous of Ghana’s nascent democracy.
What the Ghanaians got was the right to vote in a free and fair election. Ethiopians had their elections stolen.
In October 2015, I asked myself, “Why Can’t Ethiopia be Like Ghana?” I wrote the piece to openly and publicly confess how much I envied the people of Ghana for choosing the Way of the Ballot.
I yearned — longed and bellyached and heartached — for the day Ethiopia too like Ghana will have a free and fair election.
That day is upon Ethiopia, NOW!
Since I cannot vote, the next best thing I can do now is to strongly urge all Ethiopians eligible to vote to register and vote.
There are just a few days left before the registration window closes.
Let me make it crystal clear.
I do not plead with you to vote.
Nor will I beg you to vote.
My aim is to convince you beyond a shadow of doubt that your vote on June 5, 2021 will make history. Glorious Ethiopian history!
My aim is to convince you to rock the (boat) vote.
You gotta rock the vote to transition Ethiopia from dictatorship to democracy!
What do I mean by “vote”?
To me, vote means V.O.T.E. (Voice of the Electorate).
Vote means people’s power.
When Ethiopians vote, their voices get heard. Vote = voice.
When Ethiopians vote, they take control of their destiny. Their country’s destiny.
The objective manifestation of the power of the Ethiopian people is their ballot, their vote.
Only the people have the power to delegate their power (their consent) to the government. By casting their ballot. And only for a limited period of time.
The government has no power to give the people power.
A government that rules without the consent of the people is a tyrannical government.
The government is the servant of the people, NEVER their master.
The people of Ethiopia are the masters and sovereign holders of all political power.
The people of Ethiopia entrust their power for a specific period of time to those who compete for their votes and convince them that they will best serve their interests.
No government is legitimate which has not earned the vote of the people in a free and fair election.
When the TPLF masters of Ethnic Apartheid stole elections for decades, I urged Ethiopians to vote, Vote Out Tyranny in Ethiopia.
People of Ethiopia! Whether you like it or not, know it or not, you will make history by voting on not voting on June 5, 2021.
Whether you like it or not, Citizens of Ethiopia over the age of 18 who meet the legal eligibility requirements, YOU have an appointment with destiny, with history on June 5, 2021.
Will you keep your appointment?
If you keep your appointment and vote on June 5, you will have performed an act that few Ethiopians have been privileged to do in their country’s three-thousand-plus year history.
Your name will be enshrined in the Ethiopian Hall of Fame for voting.
If you do not vote on June 5, you will be inducted in the Hall of Shame. You shall carry a badge of shame to your grave!
The ultimate measure of political equality is the right to vote. To choose one’s representatives.
The vote is the most important political tool invented by humankind.
Put differently, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
That is why every vote matters. In Ethiopia. In America.
Of course, the right to vote includes the right not to vote.
But those who choose not to exercise their right to vote have no right to complain about the way they are governed or misgoverned.
Let us learn from the experiences of African Americans and their struggle for the right to vote
In America, black people won the right to vote through centuries of blood, sweat and tears.
Having lived, studied, taught and practiced law in America for over one-half century, I know the supreme power of the VOTE.
Words cannot express the pride I take in the incalculable price my African American brothers and sisters paid to secure and assert their right to vote in America and relentlessly defend their political equality: One person, one vote!
Words also cannot express the shame of the white power structure in America that schemed and plotted to deny African Americans the right to vote and suppress their political voice.
President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 five years before I arrived in America.
It did not take me long to learn about the legalized oppression and systematic denial of the right to vote of black people in America.
Indeed, I learned about it in my very first college course, American Government 101, a course I proudly taught in college for over thirty years.
Historians suggest the first captive Africans arrived in the Jamestown Colony (later Virginia) in 1619 and that date marked the inception of the dehumanizing institution of slavery in colonial America.
America is called the “land of immigrants”, but free Africans were the only people imported into America as slaves involuntarily and against their will.
Of course, African forcibly enslaved were imported (like commodities) to the “New World” since the beginning of the “Middle Passage” in the second decade of the 16th century.
Africans were enslaved in the Americas because their white enslavers considered them subhuman, indeed no better than livestock.
The right to self-government was reserved for whites.
In 1620, English colonists commonly described as “pilgrims”, arrived at Provincetown Harbor, MA armed with the Mayflower Compact.
In that Compact, the men (not women) on the ship agreed to create their own elected government with the power to enact “laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices… for the good of the colony and abide by those laws.”
It is ironic that the English colonial settlers asserted and secured their right to elect and establish their own government before they even set foot on North America, yet it took over 350 years for African Americans to get the same legal right!
When the American colonists declared their independence from Britain in 1776, their liberation slogan was, “No taxation without representation.”
Representation! That is what election is all about.
Representative democracy (a republic) was what the American revolutionaries established in their Constitution.
But the American Constitution was tone deaf to the cries and wails of the African slaves and white women for representation.
Mrs. Abigail Adams, the wife of the future second American President John Adams, four months before the Declaration of Independence wrote to her husband pleading that he “Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.”
Mrs. Adams hoped against hope the American revolution could bring women the right to vote.
American women did not get the right to vote until 1919, 143 years after Mrs. Adams pleaded for women’s representation, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
When the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787, many of the American Founders, including George Washington, were slave owners.
They crafted the Constitution with lofty words that rationalized the economic necessity of slavery and went so far as to include slaves as “three-fifths persons” for the purpose apportionment (representation).
In other words, slaves can be considered “voters” for the singular purpose of giving more population to states with fewer whites to have more representation in the House of Representatives.
When you do not have the right to vote, you are not a full person. Only a fraction of a person. One-eighth, one-quarter, one-half or three-fifth person.
Perhaps not a person at all.
To become a whole person, one must exercise one’s right to vote.
It took the American Civil War and ratification of the Civil War Amendments to put a formal end to slavery and give black people the right to vote.
The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished “involuntary servitude”; the 14th Amendment provided “equal protection of the law” to any person in a state and the 15th Amendment guaranteed the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
The right to vote for black people was the greatest threat to white supremacy in America.
In the eyes of Southern whites particularly, the most dangerous person in America was a black man/woman determined to vote.
The vote is the great equalizer. The vote was the antidote to the poison of white supremacy.
Southern whites in America found all sorts of ways to keep black people from voting.
After the Civil War, they enacted Black Codes to restrict their voting rights of the newly emancipated black people and perpetuate the slave plantation system.
They enacted Jim Crow laws to enforce legal segregation to physically separate whites and blacks to ensure black people remained inferior to whites.
Southern whites used every trick in the book to deny black people the right to vote.
Eligible black voters were required to pay a poll tax before they could cast a ballot.
Eligible black voters were excluded in “white primaries” which allowed only white people to vote.
White state legislatures created legislative districts that grossly underrepresented areas with black populations. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court had to intervene to establish the principle of “one person, one vote” requiring legislative districts to represent people not geographical areas.
It took 345 years for black people in America to exercise the right to vote supported by law that has teeth!
In 1965, Congress, guided by the skillful hands of President Lyndon Johnson, passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a year after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
During the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, Johnson remarked:
The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”
Over three centuries and half, black people suffered lynching, terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists and systematic dehumanization in their struggle to assert their right to vote and secure the political equality guaranteed them under the supreme law of the land.
Once they began exercising their right to vote, it was a completely different political game!
Just one example: In Mississippi alone, the poorest state in the United States, “black voter registration ballooned from 7% in 1964 to 67% just five years later.” That meant “white politicians in Mississippi were wooing the most influential members of the black community.”
The most segregationist, dyed-in-the-wool racist politician had to respect the black vote!
The modern American Civil Rights Movement “the greatest mass movement in modern American history”, was about two things: the right to vote and ending discrimination.
In 1957, just as the civil rights struggle was gathering steam, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., made his case for the right to vote with the fierce urgency of now a speech at the Lincoln Memorial:
So our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote. Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights. Give us the ballot and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books of the southern states and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence. Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly citizens. Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will and send to the sacred halls of Congressmen who will not sign a Southern Manifesto, because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice. Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will “do justly and love mercy,” and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the divine. Give us the ballot and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court’s decision of May 17, 1954.
Lo and behold!
African Americans changed the American political landscape in 2020 with the ballot in hand!
Before the South Carolina presidential primary, everyone said Joe Biden is washed up and done.
After the South Carolina presidential primary, Joe Biden became the undisputed democratic presidential candidate.
Who made it happen?
African American voters!
The Republicans were convinced they had the Georgia Senate seats bagged and tagged.
But African American voters, including Ethiopian Americans, managed to pull off a miracle.
Georgia sent a black man and a Jew to the Senate.
African Americans in Georgia voted and determined the destiny of America for the next four years!
Georgia, home of Dr. Martin Luther King, made it happen.
Georgia, where I got my undergraduate degree and served as a “Governor’s Intern” in 1972 during the Jimmy Carter’s administration made it happen.
Donald Trump tried to steal 11,780 votes in Georgia so he can win the presidency!
True power comes from the ballot box and convincing ideas
My Ethiopian Compatriots: YOU NOW HAVE THE BALLOT IN YOUR HANDS!
It is the most powerful political weapon ever created by humankind.
The old slogan about political power growing out of the barrel of the gun has no place in the 21st century.
On November 3, 2020, the TPLF tried to grab power by the barrel of the gun and ended up in the trash bin of history.
Today, the TPLF’s hired guns kill innocent people believing they can grab power by the barrel of the gun. They too will be dumped on the trash heap of history.
So, there is only one way in and out of political power.
That is the way of the ballot!
That is the way of winning the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian people!
So, the collective task of all Ethiopians, including those in the diaspora, should be to ensure the June 5, 2020 election will be “free and fair”.
“Free and fair election” is not a campaign slogan. It is an objective standard.
I am proud to say I have my own standards for “free and fair” election in Ethiopia.
Reduced to its bare essentials, to have a free and fair election certain preconditions must be met: citizens must, as a civic duty and moral imperative, exercise their right to vote; the political space must be open for political parties to work and campaign freely; an independent election commission must be established to independently and impartially administer elections as well as an independent and impartial judiciary to deal with election disputes; political parties must be able to assemble peacefully; a robust, independent, professional and responsible media must inform the public on the issues and civil society institutions must support democratic practices (not act as unofficial political parties).
Of course, there are many other elements, constitutional and political, that must be met in order to have a free and fair election such as secret ballot, orderly voter registration process to prevent voter fraud, election observers and other similar requirements.
I have been waiting to see a free and fair election in Ethiopia for decades.
I have written about free and fair election in dozens of commentaries over the past decade and half. 
Let us be realistic.
The June 5, 2021 election will not be perfect.
In just the past few months, America with its touted 234-year democratic election process, has shown us how imperfect an election can be.
Donald Trump trumpeting his claim of “stolen election” nearly destroyed the temple of American representative democracy when his “Proud Boys and Girls” attacked the Capitol.
Trump made America the election laughingstock of the world.
Of course, Ethiopia is no stranger to stolen elections.
The TPLF has been Election Theft, Inc. in Ethiopia for decades.
The TPLF stole the 2005 election in broad daylight and jailed leaders and members of rival parties.
To add insult to injury, the TPLF claimed to have won 99.6 percent of the parliamentary seats in 2010. In 2015, the TPLF claimed to have won 100 percent of the seats and got President Barack Obama and his National Security Advisor Susan Rice to certify it as “democratic”.
It breaks my heart to realize that the right to vote should have been most sacred for a black president and a black woman advisor.
Unfortunately, when they reached the sky, they forgot their roots.
Ethiopians: Vote and defeat the enemies of Ethiopian democracy!
There are many domestic and foreign enemies of democracy in Ethiopia.
Today, the remnants of the dead and gone TPLF and their Western supporters, including the old guard corporate media “presstitutes”, “K” Street Washington lobbyists, inside the Washington beltway think tanks pseudointellectuals and others have weaponized lies and disinformation to sabotage democracy in Ethiopia.
Today, there are terrorists killing innocent Ethiopians believing they can stop the June 5 election and plunge Ethiopia into ethnic and religious civil war.
THEY WILL FAIL!
The ballot is the stake that can put to permanent rest the vampires who spill innocent blood in Ethiopia.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that,” said Dr. King.
I say, we cannot drive out the Forces of Darkness in Ethiopia by going to the Dark Side of the Bullet.
Ethiopians must be on the Light Side of the Ballot to drive out the Dark Side of the Bullet and become beacons of humanity, unity and prosperity.
Ethiopia at peace…: Let us build the New Ethiopia, the New City Upon the Hill, one ballot at a time
In July 2012, I wrote a commentary entitled, “Dreams of an Ethiopia at Peace”:
It is time to replace bitterness with reconciliation; hate with love that heals the community; revenge with forgiveness; despair with hope; hurt with healing; fear with courage; division with unity; doubt with faith; shame with honor; deceit with candor and sincerity; anger with reason; cruelty with kindness and caring; enmity with friendship; duplicity with openness; complacency with action; indifference with passion; incivility with gracefulness; suspicion with trust; selfishness with altruism; dishonesty with integrity; convenience with virtue; cunning with scruples; ignorance with knowledge; benightedness with imagination; acrimony with civility, desire with fulfillment and sniping and carping with broad national dialogue. The time to talk and act is now!
The time is at hand for our dreams of an Ethiopia at peace.
That is why every eligible Ethiopian must register and vote on June 5, 2021.
Let there be no doubt!
Democracy will come to Ethiopia just like we will finish the GERD.
The Forces of Darkness within and without Ethiopia cannot stop it.
The June 5 election will be held.
June 5, 2021 shall be the day we officially break ground for the building of the New Ethiopia, that City Upon the Hill shining over Africa and the world.
June 5, 2021 shall live in glory in Ethiopian history.
June 5, 2021 shall be a scared date when all Ethiopians – men and women, young and old, Christian and Muslim, rich and poor, the educated and uneducated, the urban and rural – will come together and take a vow to
beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; to pledge Ethiopian shall not lift up sword against another Ethiopia, neither shall future generations learn war; to commit to the Way of the Ballot and forever forsake the way of the bullet and build a rainbow nation at peace with itself and its neighbors.
I say to the People of Ethiopia, “Register to vote. Vote on June 5, 2021.”
Teach those who have chosen the evil path of the bullet, the ballot is mightier than bullet.
To the young people of Ethiopia, I say “ROCK THE VOTE!”
Rock the (boat) vote!
Gotta rock the vote to transition Ethiopia from dictatorship to democracy!
To the women of Ethiopia I say, “Get up! Stand up! Stand up and cast your ballot!”
Remember to help our Senior Citizens to register and to vote on June 5, 2021.
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE OF ETHIOPIA!
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE OF ETHIOPIA WHO VOTE ON JUNE 5, 2021!
[TO BE CONTINUED….]
“Ethiopia: The A B C’s of Stealing an Election,” March 29, 2010; https://almariam.com/2010/03/29/ethiopia-the-a-b-cs-of-stealing-an-election/
“Of Elections and Diapers in Ethiopia”, May 31, 2010; http://almariam.com/2010/05/31/of-elections-and-diapers-in-ethiopia/
“Cartoon Democracy: Ethiopia’s 2010 Election”, July 10, 2018; http://almariam.com/2010/07/08/cartoon-democracy-ethiopias-2010-election/
“What Does President Obama “Know” About Ethiopia’s “Election”? October 5, 2014; http://almariam.com/2014/10/05/what-does-president-obama-know-about-ethiopias-election/
“Laughing at Ethiopia’s 2015 Elektion”, July 31, 2015; http://almariam.com/2015/07/31/laughing-at-ethiopias-2015-elektion/
“Democracy, the End Game in Ethiopia: From EleKtions to Free and Fair Elections in 2020 (Parts I & II); https://almariam.com/2020/01/19/democracy-the-end-game-in-ethiopia-from-elektions-to-free-and-fair-elections-in-2020-part-ii/
“The Third Pillar of the Biden Administration’s Policy in Ethiopia: Sabotage Democratic Reform in Ethiopia and Undermine Confidence in the 2021 Election”, February 14, 2021; http://almariam.com/2021/02/14/the-third-pillar-of-the-biden-administrations-policy-in-ethiopia-sabotage-democratic-reform-in-ethiopia-and-undermine-confidence-in-the-2021-election/