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The Ethiopian Student Movement: A Rejoinder to Bahru Zewde’s The Quest for Socialist Utopia

April 12, 2024
15 mins read

Messay Kebede
University of Dayton, mkebede1@udayton.edu

Kebede, Messay, “The Ethiopian Student Movement: A Rejoinder to Bahru Zewde’s The Quest for Socialist Utopia” (2015).
Philosophy Faculty Publications. 44.

This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Department of Philosophy at eCommons. It has been accepted for inclusion in Philosophy Faculty Publications by an authorized administrator of eCommons. For more information, please contact frice1@udayton.edu, mschlangen1@udayton.edu.

The Ethiopian Student Movement
The Ethiopian Student Movement

Bahru’s book presents a historical account of the Ethiopian student move-ment from its inception to the crucial split into rival political parties shortly before the eruption of the revolution and the rise of the Derg. Though the account does not release new facts, it gives a detailed picture of the main events, circumstances, and actors that shaped the movement. The book narrates the important moments in chronological order and analyzes their contributions to the process of radicalization. One of Bahru’s conspicuous suppositions is that radicalization should be seen “as a process rather than as a sudden development.”1 This supposition enables him to weigh the inputs of external and internal factors on the radicalization process.

 

The book is not content with a historical account of the movement; it also briefly criticizes other authors, Ethiopian as well as foreign, who have written on the same subject. While most of the works mentioned are criticized for historical inaccuracies and a lack of primary sources, my book on the same subject, Radicalism and Cultural Dislocation in Ethiopia, 19601974,2 is singled out by virulent polemical attacks denouncing inaccu-racies and shortage of primary sources. Even the entire work is rebuffed on the ground that it is based on fallacious and malicious premises designed to discredit the student movement. Going beyond the characterization of my book as “dismissive,” Bahru removes my right—as a philosopher—to write on the issue because in his view the student movement “has to be viewed not as a philosophical issue but as a historical phenomenon.”3 He also looks for support in reviews of my book that were critical, but ignores those, significantly more numerous, that applauded the book for its theoretical inputs and original approach. Interestingly, Bahru refers to Richard Reid’s review as one critical appraisal but fails to mention the highly positive assessments permeating the review. The proof is Reid’s conclusion, which reads as follows:

 

Overall, this is a thoughtful, provocative and insightful book, essential reading for anyone interested in Ethiopia during the revolutionary years of the 1960s and 1970s, and the era of political radicalisation in Africa and Asia more broadly. This is a book which grapples with such fundamental themes as elitism, modernity, education and development, intertwining them and offering new perspectives on how revolution, broadly defined, goes awry, despite best intentions.4

 

My intention is not to defend the right of philosophers to theorize on social movements and changes; nor is it to defend the value of my work against Bahru’s attacks. Rather, I want to show that his criticisms of my book are either contradictory or express an inability to analyze from a level surpassing mere narration. In thus exposing the theoretical poverty of Bahru’s book, as well as the inconsistency of his project of shielding the student movement from criticism, I will explicate how and why Bahru intentionally misreads my book. I add that what Bahru calls “dismissive” is actually my intent to show the tragic nature of the Ethiopian student movement. Doubtless, the students had the good intention of correcting glaring injustices and modernizing their country, but they did it in such a way that it blew up in their faces and they themselves became the first victims. As the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” To expose this reversal—which Bahru occasionally recognizes in speaking of “tragic consequences”—is not dismissive.5 What needs to be explained is why Bahru is dead set on criticizing me even when I agree with his own views

The Ethiopian Student Movement EPRP
The Ethiopian Student Movement EPRP

Even as Bahru stigmatizes my book for being inimical to the student movement, his own dedication to the movement reads as follows: “To the Youth of Ethiopia who assumed a burden incommensurate with their intellectual resources and their country’s political assets and paid dearly for it.”6 The dedication does no more than echo the customary view of the then emperor and ruling class ascribing the movement to infantile impetuosity. Moreover, if the students did not have the intellectual capacity to understand the situation of their country, let alone lead it, it is plain that Bahru describes the movement as a pretentious, quixotic venture. Bahru is so keen to show that the movement was inspired solely by youth generosity that he dismisses any attempt to assign other motives to the students. The students, Bahru says, “did what they did in all genuineness and sincerity. They had no hidden agenda.”7 This statement is surprising in view of the transformation of the movement into radical parties ferociously vying for the control of power. What is more, the active and massive participation of Eritrean and Tigrean students, many in leadership positions, had to do more with resentment of Amhara rule than with social altruism, as witnessed by their massive involvement in ethnonationalist and seces-sionist movements soon after the collapse of imperial rule. Is it not naïve to attribute these major developments to youth generosity only?

 

Bahru misses the point that assigning a hidden agenda to the move-ment is to take it seriously, for it is to maintain that weighty motives rather than passing impetuosity inspired the movement. But then his contradic-tion is glaringly obvious: though he denounces my “underestimation of the structural causes that led to its [the student movement’s] rise,” he himself derives the radicalization of students from the biological notion of youth.8 When the whole issue is to understand what forces shaped the Ethiopian youth into a radical movement, Bahru proposes the biological features as-sociated with a stage in human development as an explanatory concept. In so doing, he completely overlooks the elitist impact that Western education has on students in a largely traditional society, namely, the belief that they are entitled to social leadership on account of their exclusive enlighten-ment. He also becomes unable to show concretely how the structural features of the imperial regime impacted on the radicalization of students. Though he speaks of the causal influence of the structural conditions, the predominance assigned to the biological state of youth significantly dilutes the determining impact of the structural conditions to the point of reducing them to the level of mere excuses. In thus turning structural causes into pretexts to oppose the regime, Bahru fails to show how the natural disposition of youth is shaped into a revolutionary consciousness. For instance, unlike Bahru, many authors have linked radicalization with such issues as the fear of unemployment, government repression, the absence of social mobility, ethnic animosity, and so forth.9 Because Bahru dismisses motives other than youth altruism, he misses the fact that the issue is not youth, but the conditions that radicalized it.

 

The objection according to which the attribution of political ambi-tion to the student movement is a view inspired by hindsight bias simply discounts the progress achieved by social sciences and philosophy in the comprehension of how hidden, unconscious motives exercise profound influence on human actions. In expressly rejecting the impact of hidden motives, Bahru takes us back to the time when everything was taken at face value, when youth was just generosity. Not only does Bahru support this naïve and uncritical approach, but he also makes it the mark of the superiority of his book over all others on the same subject. Indeed, after saying that the movement must not be “judged from the vantage point of the present,” he adds that “it has to be recorded first and foremost ‘the way it exactly happened,’ and not how it should have been.”10

 

Two major missteps occur here. (1) Bahru believes that his primary and secondary sources recorded everything without any bias or preconceived agenda. As such, they should be taken at face value and the work of the historian is to reproduce and include them in a sequentially ordered narrative. This utterly uncritical approach forgets that any attempt at an objective study of a social phenomenon rests on the distinction between real and apparent or seeming motives. (2) For Bahru, any assessment of the past from the present is mistaken, for it assigns motives that were in the past nonexistent. Yet the opposite is more likely, in that the disparity between declared motives and actual actions reveals the displacement of seeming motives by real motives. Actions speak louder than words, says common sense. Indeed, the true motive of a generation is revealed by what it does, and not by what it thinks about itself. The objectivity of a scholarly study depends on the effort it makes to unravel real motives rather than on how well it reproduces the illusions of the time.

 

Because Bahru is committed to a work merely reproducing what the Ethiopian youth said about itself, it is no wonder that his book does not utilize an interdisciplinary approach. Besides an almost journalistic reporting on the history of student movements in a global context, the book totally ignores the rich and varied conceptual resources that other disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, and others, offer for studying the motives, conditions, circumstances, and outcomes of youth and student movements. The characteristics of these studies is that they go beyond the work of echoing what students say about themselves in order to disclose underlying forces and motives.11

 

Among the scholars who have studied the Ethiopian student move-ment, the only one who receives leniency from Bahru is Randi Rønning Balsvik. He characterizes her book on the student movement as a “solid empirical work” and even suggests that his own intent is to build on that solid foundation.12 Such a project would have been promising if indeed it had been followed through. Unfortunately, Bahru leaves out the theoretical insights of Balsvik’s study, reducing it to a mere gathering of empirical data. For instance, Balsvik notes that the “moderate forces were still strong among the students” so that radicalization must be attributed to the repres-sive stand taken by the imperial government.13 One major implication of repression is that it promoted the few radical students to the leadership position by validating the need for a radical riposte to a government offer-ing nothing but repression to even moderate demands.

 

Radicalization did not emerge from youth but from the political, cultural, and material conditions of life. Unlike Bahru, Balsvik defines Ethiopia’s modern education as “an alien institution,” with the conse-quence that one factor of radicalization is cultural uprootedness, inspiring the desire to demolish everything and rebuild the entire society anew.14 To the extent that uprootedness leaves a void that cries for a substitute, Balsvik rightly conjectures that “for the majority of students belief in [Marxism] and commitment to socio-economic change can be said to have filled the void created by the erosion of their religious roots.”15 The upshot of all this is that “ideology had become more important to the students than the survival of Ethiopia as a state.”16 Clearly, radicalization does not spring from the youth factor only; it is also an outcome of the uprooting effect of modern education craving for a substitute belief. Unfortunately, Bahru pays no heed to these and other insights, which show that the issue of radicalization is far more complicated than the simple fact of youth generosity.

 

What is perplexing is that Bahru does not totally ignore the impact of the legacy of traditional culture. He thus mentions—once—the “anti-religious character of communism” but never raises the issue of know-ing how the fundamentally religious character of Ethiopian culture had vanished and so Ethiopians easily became infatuated with a militant atheist doctrine.17 Instead, he uses the religious issue to attack my work by saying, “contrary to Messay, I would tend to see in this canonical character of student radicalism not a negation of the past but its continuation.”18 The surprise here is that I agree with Bahru, since I say that there was “a transmutation of the religious orthodoxy . . . into a Marxist orthodoxy.”19 Moreover, I write that “the rejection of traditional beliefs and values as a result of modern education brought about an ideological void, which in turn activated the longing for substitute beliefs.”20 Precisely, to speak of “substitute”—a concept widely used throughout my book—is to suggest that the receiving culture did not undergo any renovation so that Marxism was absorbed with the traditional dogmatic mentality. The culture was in a longing state and, as such, devoid of any aptitude to critically appraise foreign influences or adapt them to Ethiopian realities. Accordingly, despite his attempt to denigrate the importance I give to the traditional culture, Bahru’s own appeal to the persistence of the traditional mentality makes my point, to wit, that neither structural causes, nor the global dominance of Marxist ideology in the 1960s, and still less youth idealism, are enough to explain radicalization. For radicalization to happen, the soil receiving these influences must be fertile, or as Bahru himself puts it, Marxism-Leninism became a dogma because “on the soil of Christian Orthodoxy were sown the seeds of Marxist orthodoxy.”21

 

Though Bahru criticizes my description of the student movement as a manufactured movement, he himself introduces a distinction between the movement and its radicalization, since he asserts that the radical core is “responsible for the injection into student debates of a degree of self-righteousness and dogmatism.”22 What this means is that, without this radical core, the movement would have remained a moderate one. But then, is this not to admit that the movement, as it ended up being, was a manufactured movement? Furthermore, once the distinction between the radical few and the majority is established, it is incumbent on Bahru to explain why the radical core was able to assume the leadership of the movement and how the majority of students followed a direction opposed to their initial intent. Unfortunately, Bahru does not even raise the problem, let alone provide an answer.

 

What Bahru misses when he denounces my “underestimation of the structural causes” and criticizes my approach to the movement as being manufactured is that my intent is not so much to explain a student rebellion, which was almost universal in the 1960s and early 1970s, as to elucidate an unusually radical mood. Such a degree of radicalization was indeed rare. I was in France as a student at the time and the only movement that showed a similar level of radicalization, apart from that of French students, was the Iranian student movement. Even African students were apprehensive of the extremist positions that Ethiopian students used to take. I note in my book Ali Mazrui’s characterization of Ethiopian students, after he gave a talk to university students in Ethiopia in 1973, as the “most radical African students [he] had seen.”23 My argument does not underestimate the impact of structural causes, but simply argues that these causes by themselves are not enough to explain such a high degree of radicalization. Other factors, for instance cultural, must have intervened.

 

The attempt to explain radicalization by structural causes only—I say “attempt” because, as stated previously, for Bahru, youth generosity is the primary factor—logically assumes that there was no alternative to radical-ization. Yet Bahru endorses the assumption for the purpose of concealing the derailment of the movement. That is why he is never clear on the question of an alternative. At times, he seems to suggest that radicalization was the only way out, a view that appears to emanate from a relapse into the dogma of Leninism. At other times, he seems to consider the idea of an alternative, when for instance he assigns great importance to the 1960 military coup against the imperial regime, as though to suggest that if the coup had succeeded, things would have been quite different. Also, Bahru states that many among the top officials of the regime were aware of the need for reforms, some even advising the emperor to move toward a constitutional monarchy with a prime minister heading the government. The noted readiness for reforms shows that there was another, reformist, alternative, one that did not materialize because it was opposed by the emperor, who understandably did not want to forsake his absolutism.

 

Let us go further: even students, according to Bahru, were committed to a reformist agenda. To quote him, “if there was one distinct orientation that most students had in the mid-1960s, it was clearly nationalist.”24 Termed Ethiopianism, the movement articulated an ideology opposing both the West and Communism. The fact that this ideology gave way to Marxism-Leninism requires an explanation that Bahru does not provide. In addition to showing the manufactured nature of the radicalization process, the availability of a reformist ideology turns radicalization into a complicated matter. It leads to the idea that factors other than mere structural causes must have intervened, for it was not necessary for students to become zealots of Leninism to denounce the imperial regime and propose a moder-ate course of change. What else does the existence of reformism among students confirm but that radicalization was a manufactured outcome? Yet, for Bahru, one cannot speak of a manufactured movement “unless one disputes the validity of the issues raised by the students.”25 Again, one need not be a Leninist activist to denounce the regime: reformism was another, actually more natural, possibility.

 

Here Bahru delivers his ultimate thought, since he goes beyond schol-arly criticism and accuses me of being nostalgic for the imperial time. Indeed, how else could one explain the real motive for my dismissive attitude? That I was a supporter of the regime is, according to Bahru, apparent, because “one searches in vain throughout Messay’s book for any substantial critique of a system that could not even tolerate the idea of a constitutional monarchy, let alone introduce any meaningful land reform or tolerate regional autonomy.”26 The true reason why Bahru is so enraged about the book is now in the open: I denigrate the generous movement and sacrifices of students by giving them hidden and detrimental motives because I am nostalgic for the imperial regime.

 

There is no need here to show in lengthy detail how Bahru’s biased reading overlooks the numerous denunciations of the imperial regime dispersed throughout my book, not to mention a whole chapter—chapter 9—titled “Objective Causes of the Radicalization of Students and Intellec-tuals,” in which I depict the serious flaws of the imperial regime. It suffices to give one quotation describing broadly the sociopolitical environment in which student protests took place to refute Bahru’s reading of my book. I write: Not only did the educational system become so dysfunctional that the number of university dropouts dramatically increased, but also the national economy’s sluggish growth could not absorb even university

 

graduates. Add to this major crisis the imperial regime’s complete re-luctance to enact reforms, and you will understand how progressively the majority of students came under the influence of the radicals, who wanted to destroy the system. As we shall see, neither the regime nor the university administration did anything to help moderates have some influence in the student movement. On the contrary, the way they handled protests and demands propelled the radicals to uncontested leadership of the movement.27

 

Granted all the social evils of the regime, there remains the question of why moderates lost the leadership to radical groups. In other words, the cause of the students was indeed legitimate, but it did not have to embrace a radical Marxist-Leninist ideology. Bahru is allergic to this way of formulating the problem because its theoretical content transcends narration, which, in his eyes, is the only appropriate approach to the issue at hand.

 

NOTES

  1. Bahru Zewde, The Quest for Socialist Utopia: The Ethiopian Student

Movement, c. 19601974 Woodbridge: James Currey, 2014), 135.

  1. Messay Kebede, Radicalism and Cultural Dislocation in Ethiopia, 19601974(Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2008).
  2. Messay, Radicalism, 8‒9.
  3. Richard Reid, “Review of Radicalism and Cultural Dislocation in Ethiopia, 1960–1974,” Reviews in History(review no. 758), http://www.history.ac.uk/ reviews/review/758 (accessed 28 February 2014).
  4. Bahru, Quest, 8.
  5. Bahru, Quest, v.
  6. Bahru, Quest, 280.
  7. Bahru, Quest, 8.
  8. The following are examples of books and articles (the list includes only those devoted to Ethiopian students) discussing the radicalizing impact of social conditions: Randi Rønning Balsvik, Haile Sellassie’s Students: The Intellectual and Social Background to Revolution, 1952‒1977(East Lansing: African Studies Center, Michigan State University, 1985); Girma Amare, “Education and Society in Prerevolutionary Ethiopia,” Northeast African Studies 6, nos. 1‒2 (1984): 61–79; Asafa Jalata, Oromia and Ethiopia: State

Formation and Ethnonational Conflict, 1868‒1992 (Boulder, CO: Lynne

Rienner, 1993); Kiflu Tadesse, The Generation: The History of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party, part 1 (Silver Spring, MD: The Independent Publishers, 1993); Tesfaye Demmellash, “On Marxism and Ethiopian Student Radicalism in North America,” Monthly Review 35 (1984): 25–37; John Markakis and Nega Ayele, Class and Revolution in Ethiopia (Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 1986); Teshome G. Wagaw, Education in Ethiopia: Prospect and Retrospect (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1979).

  1. Bahru, Quest, 9.
  2. The following list gives examples of such studies: Donald K. Emmerson,

ed., Students and Politics in Developing Nations (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1968); Seymour Martin Lipset, ed., Student Politics, ed. Seymour Martin Lipset (New York: Basic Books, 1967); Lewis S. Feuer, The Conflict of Generations: The Character and Significance of Student Movements (New York: Basic Books, 1969); Philip G. Altback and Robert S. Laufer, The New Pilgrims: Youth Protest in Transition (New York: David McKay Company, 1972); Anthony M. Orum, ed., The Seeds of Politics: Youth and Politics in America (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1972); Mark N. Hagopian, The Phenomenon of Revolution (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1974); James H. Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith (New York: Basic Books, 1980).

  1. Bahru, Quest.
  2. Balsvik, Haile Sellassie’s Students: The Intellectual and Social Background to Revolution, 160.
  3. Balsvik, Haile Sellassie’s Students: The Intellectual and Social Background to Revolution
  4. Randi Rønning Balsvik, “Haile Selassie’s Students: Rise of Social and Political Consciousness,” PhD diss., University of Tromsø, Norway, 1979, 491.
  5. Balsvik, “Haile Selassie’s Students: Rise of Social and Political Consciousness,” 266.
  6. Bahru, Quest,
  7. Bahru, Quest, 138.
  8. Bahru, Quest.
  9. Messay, Radicalism,
  10. Bahru, Quest, 271.
  11. Bahru, Quest.
  12. Messay, Radicalism,
  13. Bahru, Quest, 128.
  14. Bahru, Quest, 152.
  15. Bahru, Quest, 8.
  16. Messay, Radicalism, 21.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Messay Kebede is professor of philosophy at the University of Dayton, Ohio. He previously taught philosophy at Addis Ababa University. He is the author of five books: Meaning and Development (1994); Survival and Modernization—Ethiopia’s Enigmatic Present (1999); Africa’s Quest for a Philosophy of Decolonization (2004); Radicalism and Cultural Dislocation in Ethiopia, 1960‒1974 (2008); and Ideology and Elite Conflicts: Autopsy of the Ethiopian Revolution (2011). He has also published numerous articles in professional and other journals.

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4 Comments

  1. Prof , i have read both Prof Bahiru reviews of your book and your comments on his book. It seems to me the core of your disputes is that he accuses you historical incompetency and you accuses him philosophical or theoretical inadequacy. As result, it seems a confrontation between your two respective departments. To me it is also squabble between two scholars of “the generation” on how much they hate/disapprove/ the monarchy. On the whole, i do think that your formulation of that generation as dislocated/ alienated/ generation appropriate to their way of looking into their country and it’s problems.

  2. The 1974 revolution was a result of King Haile Selassie’s naivety, as he believed that the military representatives would abandon their insurrection and return to their camps in exchange for drafting a new constitution where he would have a nominal role similar to that of the English monarchy. To achieve this, Haile Selassie advised his ministers and nobility to remain in Addis and engage in dialogue with the military representatives instead of fleeing to the bush. General Abebe Gemeda begged Haile Selassie to allow him to arrest them where they were stationed in Meshalekia, but Haile Selassie refused to grant him that power.

    A 5-cent increase per litre in gasoline prices should not have sparked a revolution, nor should a famine in Wollo have been the cause for the king’s overthrow. Today in Ethiopia, the price hike at an unbelievable rate is astonishing. Mass killings and displacement isare alarming in today’s Ethiopia. No single person protests because it is not the King’s time. They will get bullets in the chest, not a sprinkling of cold water like in Haile Selassie’s era.

    Haile Selassie made significant efforts during his reign, rebuilding Ethiopia from the ground up. Today, it takes 10 years to construct a single condominium unit in Ethiopia, while Haile Selassie constructed Addis Ababa anew, including all asphalt roads, ministerial offices, authorities, ELPA, water resources, telephone systems, banking institutions, road authorities, mapping authorities, electric dams, provincial capitals, connecting roads, airlines, airports, defense forces, police forces, judiciary, and universities. Despite his numerous accomplishments, many fail to recognize his legacy. Disgruntled students, who enjoy free meals in university cafeterias and evade payment, protested against the king. Haile Selassie could have easily suppressed the movement, as Nech Lebash Wetrader from Menz alone could have subdued the entire rebellious military. However, he chose not to exert his power, displaying naivety, and the consequences now fall on us, the new generation. He was elderly and had already made significant contributions to his legacy.
    The student movement was a setback that hindered Ethiopia and impeded its development. It slowed down the agricultural revolution that was initiated in the early 1970s. Emperor Haile Selassie even commissioned research on the Abay basin for a large dam similar to today’s GERD. He was a visionary leader.

    Bahiru Zewdie, who harbors animosity towards the Amhara people, is likely to glorify the student movement and diminish the king’s achievements. I recall hearing him in an interview with Moges Tosheme on Yehasab Gebeta, where he expressed his biased views.

  3. Both Messay and Bahru were around in the 1960s and 1970s, the former as a member of the teaching Faculty of the Department of Philosophy of HSIU and Bahru as one of those hot-headed radical students who parroted Marxism-Leninism without any idea of the relevance and implications to Ethiopia. Hence, Messay was more of a seasoned observer, though a fairly radical practitioner, whereas Bahru was only shouting leftist slogans against an Emperor that had built backward Ethiopia with little or no resources to a level where the very youth he brought up rose against him. Bahru has continued to denigrate the imperial era, perhaps for lack of an inability to grow out of his youthful impetuousness. From the rejoinder by Messay and as one of those that has seriously examined that era, Messay’s multi-factor explanation of student radicalization is much more realistic, rational and meaningful than the simple approach of Bahru.

    • Andinnet Semere,

      You have hit a home run with your comment. I’m from that regrettable ‘sera of the 1960’s and 70’s. I was already out the country well before that and had paths crossed with the hot-headed young radicals you rightfully mentioned. I had the opportunity to learn what commies did in China and Russia told by the accounts of those who were lucky to survive and flee to safety. My British used to get periodicals and newspapers from Hong Kong(Then under the British rule) and those papers used to have stories of horrors in Mao’s China by those who swam to safety across the bay at great risks to their lives. Those were not ‘western spies’ as Mao’s thugs wanted the gullible youth of the rest of the world to believe but they were peasants, daily laborers, factory workers and even Mao’s own employees.

      So I was shocked how many of our youth was brainwashed by Mao’s and Stalin’s propaganda. I remember what one of our own young man told me about what Mao and his hoodlums achieved in China. He told me how every Chinese citizen never lost any one of his/her 3 meals a day even though their country was going through a devastating drought for 3 years. The real story of what was going on behind the iron curtained China as told by refugees to Hong Kong told a totally different story which was confirmed by commies in China themselves after the 1976 shakeup there. During Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ cockamamie alone, more than 25 million Chinese citizens had died of starvation. The latest estimate is close to 55 million. So one day during our conversation that gullible countryman told me Mao’s propaganda. He kept telling me that lie again and again. So one day I just had it and told him what was told by refugees who fled the deadly gauntlet. What he said in response showed how far he was really brainwashed. He told me all those refugees were Western Imperialist spies.

      You could see the brainwashing even in the writing styles of the leaders of our student associations in Europe, USA and where I was going to school in the Middle East. They catch phrases like ‘On The Questions of..’, ‘Some Notes on….’ ‘Rejoinder to….’. Those student leaders ran the associations and ran them to the ground. Later on they split up among themselves and insults were flying in every direction. They went back home slinging disparaging insults at each other and we all know what happened in the 1970’s. They killed each other like rival posses of lionesses and Mengistu sent close to 500,000 of the cream puff of the crop to their graves. But it was too late for that country which we hold very close to our hearts. They had poisoned the society with their evil philosophy which depicts every opposition is a mortal enemy. The golden rule of fraternal love is badly damaged among our intellectuals. In their twisted mind if I say something you don’t like I am your lethal enemy. I either have to shut up and die.

      Just look at how they are divided along the shameful lines. Is somebody trying to tell me that member of my Itu clan in Western Hararghe has completely different need from what that of the peasant’s or city dweller in Amhara, Tigray, Afar, Somali, Sidama, Gambela or any other region? No their fundamental need is the same. Their lifestyle may be different but at the end of the all they need is means to make a living in a peace and stable environment where no one is above the law. Period.

      Thank you starting the ignition in me. Keep writing and blessing to you and your family!!!

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