After 17 years of Derg and 27 years of divisive TPLF-led misrules of Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abyi Ahmed was appointed to the office by the Ethiopian Parliament. Within 4 months of his appointment Ethiopia was caught up in a whirlwind reversals of the unpopular policies of the prior administration. This led to a protracted celebration by the unexpecting Ethiopians in the country and in the diaspora. My concern at the time was that the celebrations would come to an end, and that the people would be complacent, leaving the task of building on this wave of democratic changes entirely to the Prime Minister, not appreciating the fact that democracy in any situation is fragile and needs the citizens to protect and nurture it.
I advised friends and people in the positions of influence in the evolution of Ethiopia’s democracy to look at the turn of events in the Ethiopian history and the arrival of the Abiy phenomenon from archeologic, anthropologic, and historic view points, and urge every Ethiopian to step back and look at how we got to where we are! Archeologic studies tell us that the earliest homo sapiens walked in the Rift Valley of today’s Ethiopia. Anthropologic studies tell us that, while human beings from the different regions of the world have certain different physical features which distinguish them from those coming from other regions, the basic building block – the DNA has remained the same through millions of years. I explained the spread of human being all over the world on the basis of continent drift, like the one which is currently expected to spit Eastern Africa.
Sadly, because of the ethnic Federalism which was planted in Ethiopia by the TPLF, the country is divided along tribal lines. But as the archeological and anthropologic facts show, all human beings all over the world started from one source – today’s Ethiopia, and they just spread all over the world. Division of people against neighbors along tribal lines is a dangerous strategy of leaders who may be ignorant of the evolutionary history of the Homo Sapiens purely to exploit those who believe in them.
A phenomenon which is almost historically unique to Ethiopia is the co-existence of Christians and Muslims as peaceful neighbors and families. Many of us have Christian and Muslim relatives, and our beliefs never disrupted out relationships. Incidentally, it was an Abyssinian ruler, Negashi, who gave refuge to Muslim Arabs at the request of Prophet Mohamed, to protect them against eradication by the pagans in Mecca! Where would Islam be today if there was no such a humanitarian protection from a Christian ruler?
Prime Minister Abiy, comes with a lineage and religious background which should stop every human being from thinking about ethnic and religious division. Abiy’s father was an Oromo and his mother was an Amhara. Abiy’s father was a Muslim and his mother was a Christian. This mixture was what produced one of the finest, intelligent, and fair-minded Ethiopians of this era! What proportion of Amharas, Afaris, Oromos, Tigreans, Somalis, etc. are purely from their tribal labels. I will be surprised if more than 5% of Ethiopians are genetically one tribe, based on the genealogy of the last several generations. So, tribalism in Ethiopia and all over Africa is purely political, and a tool of using the language they speak to divide people against each other! It is particularly so sad that those who are using the tribe as a weapon to divide neighbors against each other in Ethiopia are the same people who have lived abroad in countries like the USA, Canada, UK etc., and benefited from their new homes without anybody asking them what tribe they belong to, but they continue gushing out toxic tribal hatred to make life so miserable for people whom the pretend to represent, instead of helping people to co-exist using their own experience of peaceful life abroad without being discriminated on tribal basis.
There many attributes of human nature which combine to define the character of an individual and these include but not limited to physique, appearance, intellectual capacity, temperament, respect, generosity or lack thereof…. etc. The most important features of human beings which make them survive and prosper are the ability to work together for the benefit of all, i.e. by creating a win-win environment. We do it in family situations, with friends, as communities, as nations ……ect. Often though the win-win situation is preserved for one or two of these groups, and others are considered adversaries, and with them the strategy is win-lose, i.e. you win and the other loses. So with this win-lose strategy you have an enemy because if he wins you lose. In fact, with that strategy there is no winner! How come? Well, if you win and the other loses it means you have lost a friend, and if you lose then you have lost both the price you are fighting for and also friendship! In a win-lose strategy you have no peace even if you win, because you are always on the lookout that the enemy may come back and hit against you, and if you lose you’re always looking for the opportunity to hit back and take a revenge. Think about where Ethiopia would be today if we adopted a win-win strategy between all the tribal entities in Ethiopia! What is shocking is the fact that we have not learned much from the last 40+ years, especially the last 27 years of misrule! It’s not too late to wake up and redress!
As I mentioned earlier, I warned about complacency and leaving it to the Prime Minster to sort out the mess that had been created in Ethiopia over the previous 40 years. But complacency prevailed! I doubt if the Prime Minster Abiy knows anything about me, but I give credit for all the efforts he has made to instill the concept of “One Ethiopia” in all of us. Running a country even in the best of times is a hard weight to lift, but it had been crisis after crisis since he took office and there is absence of meaningful support, especially when intertribal conflict keeps on multiplying instead of people uniting to protect the integrity of the nation. Hats off for the youth who volunteered and come from all over the country to fight for the preservation of the national integrity of Ethiopia in the war against TPLF. Pointing accusing fingers at each other will not solve any problem – that’s how conflicts are generated. Discussing and agreeing on solutions is the way forward.
Four months after PM Abiy came to power, I identified victims of the previous administration including their opponents, supporters of previous administrations; innocent citizens who happen to be of different ethnic groups; religious entities; and victims of own misplaced beliefs. I also discussed the expectations of the various victims and the likely obstacles to meaningful democratic reforms including. but not limited to, the TPLF desire to cling power, desire of other regional entities to fight for their autonomy, inter-ethnic conflicts created by TPLF, etc.
To allay fears of all of the groups mentioned above and gain the confidence of all Ethiopians, I suggested certain strategic steps which needed to be taken expeditiously to prevent the country from sliding into chaos! In the absence of a democratic framework, constitutional and legal checks and balances, I felt it was difficult to guarantee safe passage from where the country was to proper governance. Therefore, I proposed that it was necessary to have a practical framework to bring about a system which is palatable to all Ethiopians who are determined to protect their Motherland. These included decisive actions against those who would terrorize innocent civilians in any way, because indecision in these situations would lead the vulnerable civilians to lose confidence in the administration and, worse, embolden other troublemakers to victimize others.
I also suggested setting up the administration of national unity (ANU) composed of regional politicians, regional civic leaders, legal experts, constitutional experts and international legal and constitutional experts who would play advisory roles. I suggested the tasks of the ANU to be crafting a new constitution; setting rules for amnesty of the individuals in the former administration and rules for administration of justice to the criminals under previous administration; Introduction of democratic practice and culture in the local administrations; Drafting of the referendum at about 5 years following the formation of the ANU; and Crafting Ethiopia’s own version of what democratic culture should be and not to import what has failed in other places.
There is also a serious need for re-thinking by the political entities: Whether a part of the ruling coalition or in the opposition, the political entities must rethink their strategies! It was obvious from the out-pouring of support from the Ethiopian public, at home and in the Diaspora, that the Prime Minister’s message of Ethiopia as one nation and Ethiopians as one people, was the desire of the majority of Ethiopians! So, in this political climate and realities of life today, what is the relevance of any political “LIBERATION FRONT”? By the way, “LIBERATION” from what? Over the last 30 years, thinking people must have been wondering what purpose the word “LIBERATION” in TPLF is! If it served as a reminder that, when push comes to shove, TPLF would declare independence of Tigray from Ethiopia, one wonders what purpose such a strategy of self-imprisonment would serve – being surrounded by hostile neighbors, and why should Tigray Ethiopians want to be part of such madness? Well sadly, the TPLF attempted over-turn the government, and that caused untold suffering to the nation, and in particular to the innocent Tigreans! Every other “LIBERATION FRONT” must re-think their philosophy and change their names and priorities accordingly! For sure, Ethiopians, like every other nationality on the face of this planet, have many things to “LIBERATE” themselves from – diseases; hunger; poverty; lack of education; discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.
The previous regime had a definite strategy of creating and enforcing the ethnic-based federalism. Being a minority in numbers, the TPLF’s survival strategy to survive was by dividing other ethnic groups against each other. But what were they doing in Tigray? Almost certainly they were dividing the Tigray people against each other using the “clan” labels! Now that they are out of power, we are seeing the result of 27 years of dividing people against each other. Going forward, Ethiopians, while cherishing their tribal identities (just like families cherish their relationships), must eliminate ethnic LABELS from anything that may have political, geographical, national security……etc. negative consequences!
With Best Regards,