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The History of Ethiopian Politics – What Price Have You & Your Motherland Paid?

This article was originally published 15 years ago but, sadly, a lot of what is going on in Ethiopia today reminded me of what led to sharing those thoughts a decade and half ago!


You may be an architect of the political order of the day, a professor of political science, an elementary school teacher, an administrator, a resident of another country, or an ordinary citizen living in Ethiopia, but you cannot escape the impact and consequences of the politics of your motherland! Whether one actively influenced (or tried to influence) or has been passively moving with the political current, there are consequences of those actions or inaction and the impact is felt at personal, communal, national, and international levels. Taken in totality the politics of Ethiopia over the last 40 years have led to the creation of the state of affairs that can be neatly summarized as follows:

  1. Internal politics:
    1. Multiplicity of liberation movements – endangering the lives of people they claim to “liberate”, thus destabilizing the nation and the region.
    2. Multiplicity of opposition parties that don’t see eye to eye with each other – they are as hostile against each other as they are against the dictator they want to get rid of! Individually they are incapable to remove the dictator, yet they cannot work together to accomplish their goals as any people with functioning brains would!
    3. Division of the nation along ethnic lines – the nation has fallen prey to the dictator’s devious scheme of dividing the ethnic groups of Ethiopians against each other for perceived benefit of each group, and this is a ploy to divide and destroy! The entire nation has remained blind to this scheme!
    4. Disenfranchisement of the population
    5. Undemocratic governance
    6. Muzzling of the press and opposition
  2. Compromise of national sovereignty
    1. Secession of Eritrea
    2. On-going dispute over Badme.
    3. Ceding of territory to Sudan under dubious circumstance.
  3. Regional instability:
    1. Stand-off between Ethiopia and Eritrea
    2. Invasion of Somalia
    3. Threat of spill-over of Somali conflict into Ethiopia
    4. Stand-off between Eritrea and Djibouti
    5. Collaboration between the Ethiopia’s “liberation movements” and the regime in Eritrea
  4. Economic chaos:
    1. The country’s wealth in the hands of the few in the ruling party
    2. Trade monopoly in the hands of one ethnic group
    3. Use of the land to brow-beat farmers into toeing political lines and enrichment of the few while dis-incentivizing the masses!
    4. Failure to develop agricultural land to facilitate self-sufficiency in food production
    5. Lack of infra-structure
  5. Famine:
    1. Recurrent famine, man-made and responsible for recurrent destruction of human lives
  6. Incompetent administration:
    1. Tribalism: Due to the lack of self-confidence and primitive logic, tribalism is used to administer Ethiopia, thereby alienating Ethiopians against each other to the detriment of the nation and its people. The myopic view of the administration is that this will protect them against the other hostile tribes, when in fact its action actually perpetuates the hostilities.
    2. Nepotism
    3. Secessionism: The current administration is tribal and secessionist! The probable strategy is that it will pillage Ethiopia and degrade it so that when the time comes for them to declare their independence in the state of Tigray, there won’t be a formidable threat from Ethiopia. They forget that the enemies they have created all around themselves over the last 17 years are also waiting for the opportunity to strike back.  So here is a strategy by a moronic administration trying to build a haven of peace for themselves while in fact the outcome will be hell on earth for them and all in the region!

As stated above, there are different categories of people who have played different roles in the evolution of Ethiopia’s politics over the last 40 years! The population was the silent majority during Emperor Haile Selassie’s era. They largely revered the emperor and his officials, toiled on the land and never complained. Due to the lack of knowledge of their rights, fear or lack of opportunity to exercise those rights, they toed the royal line hoping for a better day to come – well they did not do anything to make it come, and the day did not come! The loyalists (royalists) of that era lived cushy lives! They lived like royalties and rubbed shoulders with aristocrats like them all over the world. Now the red carpet days are over, only a distant memory! Many (not all) are nostalgic and cannot give up the hope that,  by some miracle,  the good old days will return at the sun-set of their lives so that when their days to depart come they would be escorted with full regalia befitting an aristocrat!  Today, some at least, are playing very cynical roles as Ethiopia struggles to find its identity, not to mention the famine that threatens to wipe out its population! I am yet to see or learn any positive contribution today, by many in this category of Ethiopians despite their wealth of knowledge and abilities!

Many who opposed the imperial rule have perished as a result of summary executions, some endured protracted imprisonments, and others went into exile. Those who opposed did so for different reasons: Some wanted secession, some wanted more democratic treatment of the population, some opposed for their own selfish reasons! Perhaps only those who wanted to secede partially achieved their goals eventually! Their victory is not what any sensible person would savor! Those who wanted freedom for Eritrea must be turning in their graves today – Eritrea jumped from the frying pan into fire! If they fought for independent Tigray (which the majority of our Tigrayan compatriots don’t want), today they must be praying that won’t happen! Others who died fighting for or are still alive after suffering and toiling for similar causes have yet to see the fruits of their sacrifices!

Mengistu’s era: Again there were the silent mass of the population who were herded into socialist indoctrination! They were forced worship Mengistu and were terrified of his military machine that was ubiquitous and pervasive! Many perished under the yoke of oppression, many were wiped out one of the most severe famine in the history of the nation, and many ran into exile for their lives. Those who remained did so and remained subservient to one of the most brutal rulers in modern Africa! What was left over remained to serve yet another oppressor of a different kind. There has never been a let-up for them as they face yet another famine and devastation today! Oh, if only they knew the power they have! If only they know that waking up as a giant Ethiopia, acting in SOLIDARITY, they can wipe out oppression from Ethiopia in a matter of days, even while starving! Mengistu’s murderers and supporters have met with the fate they deserve, largely – whether by slaughter by current dictator, or justice by those who they tormented, by a lifetime of fear and insecurity wherever they are! They never thought their rule of terror would come to an end! Those who did not torture or kill under Mengistu but supported that regime must live a lifetime of guilt!

Many of those who opposed Mengistu were slaughtered, maimed or forced into exile. The majority fought valiantly for the wellbeing of their motherland and fellow Ethiopians. Their dreams have not been realized. Their sacrifices have not been honored by those who were left behind to carry on the struggle for justice!

Meles era: Life under the current regime parallels the previous two eras as list below:

  1. The silent majority
    1. Toe the line
    2. Subservient to the whim of the ruler
    3. Some ran away
    4. Victims of Famine
    5. Victims of poor health
    6. Poverty
  2. The loyalist functionaries
    1. Owners of big businesses
    2. Subjugation of the public
  3. The opposition
    1. Imprisoned
    2. Killed or maimed
    3. Exiled
    4. Disorganized
    5. Ineffective

The most disheartening aspects of the current state of affairs, is that the population who had not learned to defend itself against dictatorial rule in spite of many decades of subjugation allowed, mainly for selfish reasons, to be manipulated into divisive ethnic camps by the current regime. Inter-ethnic suspicion today is as great as or probably worse than the suspicion of the current regime! In spite of being witnesses to the rape and dismemberment of their country by a destructive, occupying power, the population has lost the will to fight for their survival and the survival of their Motherland. The population is now wont to come under the spell of opposition redeemers who have yet to find the need to form SOLIDARITY in order to rescue their Motherland from the hands of most destructive regime ever to rule Ethiopia, and who have programs which are at best worthless and at worst likely to destroy what will be left after Meles’ departure!

The cost: Arguably the best of the last three regimes was the imperial era! Ethiopia under the leadership of Emperor Haile Selassie fought off the Italian occupation single handedly and reclaimed its independence and dignity among the community of nations in the world. The Emperor gave Ethiopia the best there was at his time! Mengistu used savage methodology to impose Communism in Ethiopia for what he thought was for common good! Mengistu’s was a patriotic regime and believed in the sovereignty of Ethiopia! What we have in Ethiopia today is a secessionist enterprise set up to dismantle Ethiopia before it declares its independence, LEGALLY, as enshrined in their Constitution!  The cost of decades of misrule may be summarized as follows:

  1. The masses
    1. Remained downtrodden.
    2. DEATH en massby starvation and disease.
    3. Exploited by the administration who uses their aid money to create personal wealth.
  2. The royalist/aristocrats
    1. Nostalgia for the good old days.
    2. Cynical about any effort to advance.
    3. Supportive of the representatives of the old order.
    4. In exile.
    5. Will never get what they were used to and that makes them bitter.
  3. The royal opposition
    1. They did suffer and if they wanted secession then it is a mess today.
    2. If they wanted democracy, they haven’t got it and the fact that the population and the opposition have failed to grasp the moment must be disheartening, and they must be resigned to the fact that they will not see the day that they suffered for to realize!
  4. The Mengistu functionaries
    1. Those who have tortured people are living in hiding all over the world.
    2. Those who were not directly involved in killing are living in shame all their lives –only consolation is a worse monster has come after them!
  5. The Mengistu opposition
      1. Lived in opposition to Mengistu and against each other.
      2. Lived their lives in permanenttransit – taxi driver, janitor, bell boy etc while waiting for Mengistu to fall – When he fell, they were far away, and the prize went to Meles and Isayas Afewerki.
  • Did not learn the errors that left them by the wayside in Mengistu’s era, they are still shooting venomous arrows at each other, while the dictator in Addis Ababa watches this fratricidal sport from the comfort of his Palace!
  1. The meles functionaries
    1. Have thrived on the suffering of Ethiopians.
    2. They sense the party may be nearing the end.
    3. Have difficulty figuring where to go next.
    4. Some may not want to think about tomorrow.
    5. Some may have decided to take their destiny in their hands and destroy everything so that nothing is left behind after their departure!
  2. The meles opposition
    1. Loyal opposition living in the hope that MELES WILL CHANGE IS MIND AND LET THEM HAVE POWER – a breathtakingly idiotic day dream!
    2. Opposition in diaspora:
      1. Genuine patriots and uniters – sadly few and far between.
      2. Party loyalists bent on domination – apparently the most important objective is to replace Meles. Thankfully they won’t succeed, since their success is most likely equivalent to the perpetuation of Meles’ rule!
  • closet racists/ethnicists – I am sad to note that Meles is not the only ethnicist in Ethiopian politics. I believe the reason the multiple opposition groups don’t want to join hands is substantially because of ethnic consideration. What will destroy Ethiopia is Ethnic primitivity!
  1. Losers who would not let others make progress because of mutual resentments.
  2. People who have university education who have lived in the hope of returning home to rule and failed to make home where they live – now belong neither here nor there. Bitter, have thrown in the towel and belatedly trying to make up for time lost looking after themselves!
  3. Intellectuals who have difficulty to fit in with the rank and file – churning out criticism from high up.
  • Intellectuals who are genuinely interested in the welfare of their motherland but shunned or distrusted by a cynical and disillusioned rank and file.

Salvaging a legacy!

It is now more than four decades since the end of the Imperial era! The average age of the young students that stood up against the Derg in the aftermath of the emperor’s fall is now mid-fifties! Those who were part of the imperial administration are now in their mid-seventies on average! Those who are actively engaged in a fight against current regime are probably average between 25 and 35 years of age! Despite this wide disparity in age and many other social parameters, the common and important aspects these groups share are:

  1. Apparently firm commitment to remove the obnoxious regime of the day.
  2. To ensure the sovereignty of Ethiopia (this of course excludes secessionists).
  3. Abject failure to make any impression on the regime of the day.
  4. Complete failure, over four decades to learn how to strategize against, and remove a common enemy!

Here are some facts (no figures):

  1. Ethiopia is a nation of about 80+ million people and the majority want to remove current regime from power.
  2. The regime in Addis Ababa cannot count on more than 4 million Ethiopians to support them when it comes to the crunch.
  3. Almost every political party wants to remove the current regime by one method or another.
  4. Almost every Ethiopian opposed to the current administration acknowledges the need of making a united stand and admits there is no successin that effort!
  5. The country is being destabilized by internal conflicts, regional conflicts, debilitating poverty and starvation, piecemeal dismemberment of Ethiopia as the current regime bribes its neighbors with pieces of Ethiopian territory in order to buy time in office!
  6. A large and potentially formidable Diaspora which, if it flexed its muscle, can effect change in Ethiopia in a very short time!

The most important and basic observation is item # 4 above! If only there is a success in that effort the rest is a matter of time and Ethiopians at home and all over the world can walk with their heads held high! But why have we failed to bring about that unity that we all acknowledge as necessary? Lack of unity, and primitive hostilities based on ethnocentric exploitations risk the destruction of Ethiopia and its people at a time when then entire African Continent are yearning for its success!


Golto Aila.






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