Infantilism in Ethiopia
Fekadu Bekele (Ph D)
First of all, I would like to thank Mrs. Kidest and Mr. Andreas Spiess for the invitation to give my assessment about the political and social situation in Ethiopia.
As most of you might know, since the downfall of Emperor Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian people and the country could not live in peace. Until the downfall of the Monarchy, the Ethiopian people used to have relative peace almost all over the country; and people of different ethnic groups move from one area to another part of the country without any fear. For example, people from Gondar or Tigray, or Wollo region could go to the southern part of the country and settle there, and work without any problem. In areas where they did settle, they were not harassed or seen as alien. They could marry any woman with whom they fell in love, and live there as long as they wished. As far as I know and researched, during the era of Emperor Haile Selassie, we did not have ethnic problems. There is a false narrative that Emperor Haile Selassie and the entire ruling class had represented the interests of the Amhara, because they originated from this same ethnic group. Therefore, other ethnic groups were seen as second-class citizens. As a matter of fact, Emperor Haile Selassie and the persons surrounding him had advanced more the interests of certain groups. The Tigray, the Eritreans and the Oromo Aristocrats were part of the ruling class. As far as I know, in terms of economic development, the Amhara region was the most disadvantaged and underdeveloped in comparison with the other parts of Ethiopia. That was why the region used to experience hunger catastrophes from time to time.
Though the Ethiopian people used to have relative peace during the era of Emperor Haile Selassie, that does not, however, mean that the country did not face any challenges. Irrespective of relative peace the Ethiopian people used to have during the era of Emperor Haile Selassie, the Emperor, the aristocracy and the bureaucrats could not introduce political, economic and social reforms that could hold the society together. The ruling class and the bureaucrats did not think politically and strategically in a way that would benefit the country. They could not introduce institutional reforms in the country so as to mobilize all the available resources to enhance a comprehensive economic development. The economic reform the government of Emperor Haile Selassie had introduced at the beginning of the 50s, could not therefore bring the country out of poverty and backwardness. Since the bureaucrats had introduced a false industrialization policy, advised by the so-called international experts, the economic policy could not transform the country from an agrarian society to a more dynamic and self-reproductive economy that could be aided by science and technology. Though the country has abundant resources and fertile land, because of false investment strategies of the government, the people could not produce more to sustain their lives. The hunger catastrophe of 1973 that had cost the lives of almost half a million people, was due to the wrong economic policy of the government. On the other side, those countries, like Japan during the era of the Meiji Dynasty in 1868, later on South Korea, Singapore, and now China, because they had implemented the right economic policy, could eradicate poverty and could hold their society together. The fact that the economy of these countries is based on sophisticated technology, and governments invest massively in research and development, they have a well-developed home market. As we see today, they are also competitive in the world market.
From this vantage point, it is clear that without a wide range of economic and institutional reforms, and without political and social reforms, one cannot therefore wonder that if a country like Ethiopia faces complex problems as we see today. In other words, the root cause for today’s problems in Ethiopia were laid during the era of Emperor Haile Selassie. Knowingly or unknowingly, Emperor Haile Selassie and his government paved the way for the downfall of the monarchy. The revolts at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s, were due to the existing economic and social crises that the government itself had created. Because Emperor Haile Selassie had not prepared enlightened forces that could take care of the country, after his downfall, organized groups from the military, called the Derg, seized political power.
The Military rulers that seized political power, pushed by progressive forces had introduced land reform, and started alphabetization campaign. At the beginning, the majority of the people of Ethiopia were very enthusiastic, and had supported the revolution. The Military rulers indeed did get support from some parts of the progressive forces. However, because of misunderstandings, because of lack of adequate knowledge, and because most of them could not think politically and strategically, certain groups confronted the military government that had weapons at its hand. A part of the student movement, forces that claim, represent their nationalities and fight allegedly for freedom and independence, and certain forces that did not want real transformation, because they wanted to maintain the status quo, all these forces stood against the Military government, or against the political, economic and social transformations that were undertaken. Some of the forces were misled by foreign forces, because, the military government was trying to introduce a socialist system, which was completely false. Undoubtedly, the Military government and those progressive forces that were the driving forces behind the change, organized the people and tried to make them aware that they are human beings, and as such they could build a just and democratic Ethiopia. This kind of mass organization and mass education were not welcome by forces like America and England. They tried to subvert the political, economic and social transformations that were undergoing by any means. Hence, the military government was confronted internally and externally, that made it very aggressive. The Somali government led by Said Barre, invaded part of Ethiopia in the year 1977. The EPLF had intensified the war, and was near to capture Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea. Foreign forces knew very well that if they support all uneducated and not well-informed citizens, they could create chaotic situations. Out of these chaotic situations, the Eritrean Liberation Movement, the TPLF, that could later seize power with the help of America and England, the Oromo Liberation front, and others could be strengthened and waged wars against the military government. In fact, they were fighting a kind of proxy war against their own people who wanted true freedom and democracy. All these organizations, did not understand that waging war in such a country that were confronted by complex problems, could only aggravate the situation. Instead of political clarity, it could create chaotic situations that cannot be controlled easily. The Military rulers, under Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam had also played a part in creating political uncertainties in our country. Since all of them were brought up by a military doctrine that was imported from America, and since most of them had paternalistic background, they could not think rationally, and handle the situation wisely.
After the downfall of the Military government, in 1991, the TPLF advised and supported by the American and British experts, introduced the so-called Ethnic federalism, which had never been practiced in other countries before. Though America and England, as well as other Western countries have told us that they are promoting liberal democracy, individual freedom and the rule of law across the globe, in case of Ethiopia they supported a force that could not advance the Western ideals. America and England paved also the way for the secession of Eritrea. Undoubtedly, in a country like Ethiopia that faces economic and social problems, in a country that had undergone a bloody revolution, the changing of the political setup of the country will not be helpful in promoting the rule of law, liberal democracy, individual freedom and true market economic reforms. As we could witness later the practicing of ethnic federalism, brought not harmony among the Ethiopian people, instead suspicion and anger become part of their lives. Neither does ethnic federalism help the Ethiopian people to solve their actual problems, like economic and social problems. Ethnic federalism mostly helped the TPLF government, and the forces that control the various regions. The TPLF and other regional governors, instead of solving the economic and social problems of their people, began engaging in resource plundering. The introduction of the so-called market economic reform that was dictated by the IMF and the World Bank, in short by the so-called international community, produced oligarchic forces that began building hotels, and are being engaged in speculative activities. These forces, instead of investing their money in the areas where they could generate true wealth, like machine industry, and manufacturing, they participated in plantation economy, and trade activities for which they could gain quick money. As a matter of fact, such kinds of economic activities could not create job opportunities for the majority of the people. The aftermath of such a market economic policy that is detached from manufacturing, science and technology, is widespread poverty, social crisis, ecological and cultural destructions. At the same time the country had to experience trade balance deficit and debt problem. Under these circumstances, confronted by mountainous problems, after 27 years of rule, the EPRDF government, that was led by the TPLF, had to leave its position of power
When Abiy Ahmed took the power in March 2018, the majority of Ethiopians thought that they will see a bright future. They were fully convinced that they leave in peace and fraternity. Millions of Ethiopians, women and men, young and old, were attracted by his charismatic approach and handsomeness while they did not know much about his political track record or his intellectual capacity. They had one thing on their minds; they wanted to get rid of the TPLF government that had killed thousands of Ethiopians, imprisoned unknown numbers of people, and displaced millions of Ethiopians. In fact, the TPLF government was a predatory force that was supported by foreign forces. These kinds of attitudes of the millions of Ethiopians, as well as the intellectuals, became self-deceptive later
After he took power, Abiy Ahmed could not introduce major reforms, that could bring peace and stability in the country. Neither did he make institutional reforms. He could not abandon the neo-liberal economic policy of the previous regime. Because of the neo-liberal economic policy, the regime of Abiy Ahmed is practicing, today life is becoming unbearable for the majority of the people. Due to the constant devaluation of Birr, the Ethiopian currency, in comparison to the Dollar, prices of basic commodities shot up to an alarming rate. Abiy and his team are not interested to find answers for the burning issues of the ordinary Ethiopians. Instead Abiy Amed has consolidated his power by brining unenlightened forces. Abiy and his government, did not even want to punish the TPLF forces for their atrocities, that they made against the Ethiopian people. Instead, the Amhara, especially those who have fought against the TPLF are being seen as his main enemies. Abiy Ahmed is now determined to wipe out those forces that do not accept his destructive politics. The Fano, a militia group that vehemently fought against the TPLF, and the Amhara special forces are the main targets of Abiy Ahmed. For his effort to wipe out these forces so that the TPLF could have easy access to the region of Welkait and Tegede, that are part and parcel of the Amhara region, Abiy Ahmed will get the necessary support from the American administration. By strengthening the TPLF, the American administration thinks and believes that it can control the resources in the region, and at the same time it can block a holistic economic and social development that is based on science and technology. All in all, the main strategy of foreign forces that support such kinds of a predatory and fascistic organization like the TPLF is to strengthen underdevelopment in Ethiopia and make the people permanent recipients of the so-called economic aid. Ethiopia and its people should not develop an independent economic and social system that is outside the influence of America and its allies. At the same time by supporting and strengthening the TPLF, successive American governments, including the present administration show their true interests, i.e., they are not promoting genuine economic development and emancipatory democracy.
After Abiy Ahmed seized political power the TPLF forces that went to Mekele, tried by any means to seize power again. At the beginning of November, 2020, they murdered military forces that were stationed in Mekele. Almost over 800 officers and soldiers were slaughtered while they were sleeping. The TPLF forces began annihilating mostly the Amhara who lived in Tigray. In light of these kinds of atrocities, the government of Abiy Ahmed was compelled to wage a war against the TPLF forces. Within three weeks the TPLF had lost its main combatant forces, and was compelled to retreat. Because of unknown reasons, instead of finishing the war by totally weakening the forces of the TPLF, Abiy gave them the chance to reorganize. After the military left Mekele and the surrounding areas, the TPLF had begun attacking massively the Amhara, and the Afar regions. Over a million of people had lost their lives. The TPLF forces had destroyed villages and towns, and plundered materials, cows and unknown numbers of machines. The Soldiers of the TPLF, raped old women and girls. All these atrocities prove that, the TPLF was and is not a political organization. It does not even know what the term politics mean. As we understand, politics has to do something with science. It is the art of administrating a given country in a just and democratic manner. Since politics is a part of social science, one can only solve social and political problems that do exist in any given country only rationally and scientifically. Unfortunately, the TPLF people are far away from rational thinking. When they were waging a war against the military government, they have developed a unique mentality, that make them aggressive and irrational. In this case both the Tigray and the Oromo Elites have developed toxic mentality that is very difficult to heal.
After the TPLF had made all these atrocities, forced by America, Abiy Ahmed made a peace deal with the TPLF. Abiy and the TPLF become again friends, and now they are fighting against the Amhara. For unknown reasons, both the Tigray and the Oromo elite hate the Amhara. Both of them see the Amhara and the Orthodox Christianity as their staunch enemies. Especially, over the last three years, Abiy Ahmed and his forces have been fighting against the Orthodox Christian Church, and the ordinary Amhara, In the so-called Oromia area, thousands of Amhara were murdered by forces organized by the regime of Abiy Ahmed itself, and the regional administrator, Shimels Abdissa. Both Abiy Ahmed and Shimels Abdissa are determined to weaken the Amhara, and reduce their numbers. Though the international community knows very well about the war that is being waged against the Amhara, it focuses more on the province of Tigray. For unknown reasons, the international community, the NGOs, and human right organizations like Amnesty International, and other institutions and foundations are in support of the TPLF that has written on its banner to destroy Ethiopia as a country. As a matter of fact, all these organizations that have their offices in many western cities, and that they allegedly advance liberal ideals, like market economy, pluralism and genuine democracy, should distance themselves from such kinds of fascistic organizations like the TPLF.
Sadly, Abiy Ahmed and his friends are part and parcel of this agenda of destroying Ethiopia from within. They have been working over the last three or more years to occupy our people with things that make their lives more difficult. The Ethiopian people, especially the Amhara are living in permanent fear. The economic and social conditions of the majority of the people are worse than before. Instead of trying to broaden the economic activities so that employment opportunities are being created, Abiy Ahmed and Co. are being engaged in things that create more problems. Abiy Ahmed actually runs the country like his private property. Truly speaking there is no a functioning government in Ethiopia. The parliament that should control the function of the executive is practically dysfunctional. Quasi, Abiy Ahmed alone controls the government, and he does as he pleases. Abiy does not obey the rule of Law. We can definitely say that, Ethiopia today is being governed by one of the most ignorant and primitive leaders in its history. Abiy Ahmed and his group do not have any vision and principle by which they could systematically solve the complex problems that our people do face. Not any kind of political philosophy is the foundation of their politics, but pure hate and emotion. The main cause of pure hate is again lack of self-consciousness or lack of true knowledge. As we observe, pure hate compels Abiy Ahmed and his group to pursue contradictory things that worsen the political, economic and social situations of the country. Virtually, Abiy has converted Ethiopia into a war zone. If a given country is converted into a war zone, economic activity of all kinds is practically impossible.