Monday, May 01, 2006

Me and Mike

Wanted to tie a few loose ends before my scheduled break.

A while ago I pontificated about LF Groupies where I portentously inducted Mike Clough into the ‘LF Groupie Hall of Fame.’ Mike was speedy in responding graciously. I, on the other hand, have been tardy in posting his letter and responding back because I’m lackadaisical like that.

If you need to catch up, his op-ed in the LA Times started it all. And then I mouthed off because I’m mouthy-offy like that.

Speak, Mike.

Hi Et wonkette

Nice argument about LF groupies. I agree with your general argument--and even some of your criticisms of my article. I can understand how, read in isolation, you could interpret my article the way you did. (When you write for an outlet like the LA Times, you never have the space to put all of your arguments in context and inevitably your views end up sounding less nuanced than they, in fact, are.) The main intention of the piece was to pressure US policymakers to break with Meles and recognize that the OLF, and more importantly the Oromo people, need to be considered part of the Ethiopian political equation. I have a high regard for some individuals in the OLF leadership who have been making valiant attempts to move the OLF away from separatism and armed struggle, but I would not want to see an OLF-dominated
Ethiopia any more than I wanted to see a TPLF-dominated Ethiopia. In fact, I was in Addis a month after Mengistu fell and argued directly with the US policymakers who were largely responsible for the US decision to anoint Meles and the TPLF. It was a stupid decision--and Ethiopia is now paying for it. My judgment that the OLF would have won a majority of the votes in Oromia if they had been in the country and able to campaign is based mainly on the research in Oromia done by Chris Albin-Lackey of Human Rights Watch just before the election. Unlike most "experts," Chris didn't just hang around Addis and talk to other "experts," he went to Oromia. But I don't think there's really much disputing the fact that the OLF is the most popular organization in Oromia--one of the leaders of one of the parties that did run even said to Chris that if the OLF had run they wouldn't have gotten a single vote--and its pretty clear that the OPDO would be routed if there were really free elections.

My only real problem with your argument is that you make the mistake of over- generalizing about liberation groups. As I used to emphasize before I moved away from
Africa policy in the early 1990s, very few governments of liberation movements are inherently good or inherently bad. (Obviously, there are some real thugs, but most governments and liberation movements contain a mix of people who are single-mindedly committed to their group, others who are genuine democrats and a lot of opportunists.) My greatest concern has always been the way in which US policy makers tend to reinforce the worst tendencies in governments and movements. That was the main argument of the book I wrote in 1992 which was harshly critical of US support for Mobutu, Nimeri, Doe, etc. It was also the reason that I wrote a series of articles for the LA Times in the early 1990s that were critical of Winnie Mandela and the undemocratic forces within the ANC. And it is why, if the OLF were to end up in a position of power in Ethiopia, I would be prepared to be as critical of them as I have been of Meles.

In any event, thanks for the thoughtful argument.

Mike Clough

And then me, again…

Dear Mike,

With most profound apologies for the tardiness in responding to your thoughtful letter, I hope I am able to clear up a few points.

I am not anti-liberation movements. Both my great grandfathers fought the second Italian invasion of Ethiopia, and my forefathers died in Adwa. My great grandfathers left their wives and children to fight for liberty and freedom. Similarly, my American forefathers fought against British colonial powers. They fought a war of honor for liberation. I’m sorry I gave the impression I am anti- liberation movements.

I am, however, unabashedly against ethnic based liberation movements, especially in the Ethiopian context. In fact, I generally have disdain for ethnic based politics. The reason being… it has not worked. Anywhere. EPLF, TPLF and yes, OLF. As someone who has had to deal with race issues in the US, I find it galling to judge and be judged by the most capricious of yardsticks, be it skin color or the type of blood in my veins. Yes, rather simplistic, but in the end, aren’t all things simple?

I am also a pragmatist wrapped in the warm gabi of a romanticist. What have been the results of ethnic and tribal based politics? Why is Africa the only continent which has gotten poorer in the past 25 years?

I read somewhere that Ethiopia’s economy in the 40s and 50s was more developed than Korea’s. Today, Ethiopia depends on foreign aid to an extent we should all find contemptible (although I urge you not to tell the EPRDF that since it thinks more aid is development) while Korea (the sane one) is exporting cars and finding ways to jam pack my cell phone with features I find irritating yet oddly necessary.

So how do we explain the seismic developmental retardation of Africa? Sure, luck might have something to do with it, but I can argue that an unhealthy idée fixe with ethnicity has set the continent far behind. Attitudes towards land ownership, entrepreneurship and good governance have been tied to who was born unto what tribe, and I find it more than a little distasteful that in the age of a digital revolution, where boundaries, even brick and mortar are fast becoming obsolete, Africans are still machete-ing each other over who’s grandfather raided whose village.

The BBC had a very interesting program on this issue.

In 1957, Ghana and Malaysia gained independence from Britain. Malaysia had to import palm oil trees and expertise from Ghana in the 50s, which has been harvesting palm oil for centuries. Production in Ghana was low, however, because tribal chiefs were territorial about releasing more land for production. Can you believe palm oil was not even grown in Malaysia 50 years ago? Well, according to the BBC (June 22, 2005 broadcast), Malaysia is now the leading producer of palm oil. Not just that, but shifting its focus towards industrialization has enabled it today to be in a position of manufacturing cars! (The Proton – terrible name withstanding.) How far do you think sub Sahara Africa is from manufacturing cars?

You see, Mike? You see where I am going with this? When we talk about ethnic based liberation movements, we are talking about tribal politics. And tribal politics makes no room for industrialization. No industrialization means being at mercy of rains that love sporadically and aid that comes with pretty chains.

Ethiopia missed the industrialization revolution, and is now poised to miss the digital revolution because tribalization is more important than burying fiber optic cables. Hence, my disdain.

Which brings me to the OLF. I will concede to you that if elections were held today in the Oromiya region that the OLF would win elections. Fair enough. But what would that mean? The EPRDF has such a vile human rights record that I am sure people would vote for Hitler before they vote for the EPRDF. But what does it mean that the OLF wins in that region under these circumstances? What has TPLF meant for the people of Tigray? (Ethiopundit has an excellent article on this.) What has Hamas winning against Fatah meant for Palestinians? What has a “99% vote” for seceding from Ethiopia meant for Eritreans? Probably one of the most devastating things I’ve read about the current Eritrean situation was about an older Eritrean gentleman who lamented how the Issayas government has been as bad for the Eritrean people as the Dergue. Can you imagine? It is a psychological tsunami that is withering in its indictment. All those lives lost, all those mothers who willingly gave up their children, and for what? It’s a terrible legacy not just for Ethiopians and Eritreans but for Africans in general.

Yes, I will concede to “over-generalization” of liberation movements (ethnic based ones) if you will entertain a certain weakness to over-romanticizing a presumed underdog. It’s the American way, Mike. I understand. We like underdogs. But there is nothing in the OLF that even hints it has, at its core, democratic tendencies, although I am relieved to learn you know some hardworking OLFfers who are trying to reform it away from separation politics and armed resistance. I hope they prevail. But from what I read on “we are the great Oromians not Ethiopians” websites, there is a lot of the same kind of blind tribalism we saw with the Eritreans. The OLF’s main recruiting apparatus depends on riling up 17th century rivalries without account to fact and history; it depends on a general concept of those pesky “Amhara rulers, colonizers”; it depends on people’s visceral instincts to hate rather than appeal to their more evolved sense of rational thought process. There is a reason why ethnic liberaton movements depend on weaknesses and not strengths. The OLF talks about “getting our land back” and thinks calling Addis Abeba ‘Finfine’ is actual policy. But that’s all ethnic based liberation movements have to offer: demagoguery and warlordism. That, to me, has impending disaster written all over it.

This is not to say there has not been ridiculous oppression of ethnic groups in Ethiopia, which I condemn with the same disdain. There has to be to be a way to address those grievances honestly and decisively. Ethiopia’s history has not always been fair, and sometimes it’s even been grotesquely unjust. But Mike, how do you feel about rhetoric about the reconquista of “Aztlan”? Should the US work on giving back the Southwest to Mexico?

I was intrigued by this paragraph in your wonderful letter:

The main intention of the piece was to pressure US policymakers to break with Meles and recognize that the OLF, and more importantly the Oromo people, need to be considered part of the Ethiopian political equation.

Mike, why not pressure the US to break with Meles and recognize an opposition which has most probably won the elections? That includes the Oromo people, by the way. I am still cloudy on why your piece was disproportional in its focus on the OLF. Why wouldn’t you bat for all Ethiopians who have been the bane of this government’s existence? Also, not all people of Oromo background support the OLF, as I am sure you know (ask my grandmother), just as all Tigrayans don’t support the TPLF etc. So, in the midst of an election gone awry, when innocent Ethiopians were being shot at, when leaders of the opposition party were being jailed, it was curious that you focused on why the US should be speaking to and recognizing the OLF and not all the voices of the Ethiopian people. Your “main intention” still puzzles me, but maybe I missed something.

It might be because when “you write for an outlet like the LA Times, you never have the space to put all of your arguments in context and inevitably your views end up sounding less nuanced than they, in fact, are.” But wouldn’t the fact that you are writing for the LA Times and that you have limited space be exactly why you should be very careful that your arguments are properly nuanced, it being a rare opportunity to raise awareness and all? For someone who doesn’t have any knowledge of the situation (which might be 95% of LAT readers), it appears as if there is this fantastic, democratic outfit called OLF that is fighting for freedom and democracy, but Washington is refusing to deal with it despite its “democratic traditions.” You probably didn’t mean that, but that’s how it reads.

I am sure you have by now read Professor Berhanu Abegaz’s article, Ethiopia: A Model Nation of Minorities. As you have probably realized, the question of neatly divided ethnic groups in Ethiopia is a bit of a myth, although arguing that “the Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia” is an easy missive that de-complicates complex matters. Without a deeper understanding of the history of Ethiopia (the entire history) we fall into ready made craters. Chris Albin-Lackey has been truly wonderful, but he does have a slight tendency to want to simplify ethnic realities in Ethiopia. I can site as an example his referring to the CUD as a “mostly Amhara” organization. C’mon.

One of the more interesting articles I’ve read about Africa and its continuing political and economic trauma was in this Christian Science Monitor article, How to Stop Africa From Backsliding. Money quote:

What has gone awry so soon after a decade of democratization? Meaningful political and economic reforms will remain elusive unless Africa's traditional political class is exorcised from the landscape. This will require both a complete renewal and a broad expansion of the political elite.

Second, politics must be detribalized. One ironic paradox of multipartyism and open political competition has been the tribalization of politics. African political parties - the only vehicles through which modern democracy is practiced - are barren receptacles for tribal barons and ethnic demagoguery. They are parties in name only, not substance. They do not mobilize the population and only heighten ethnic tensions and fragment the political landscape when they do. Political parties must be national vehicles grounded in political ideologies and economic philosophies.

Amen.

In the end, Mike (and you will forgive me for quoting Bonnie Raitt here--- Prime Minister Meles has made quoting American pop stars a necessary tool in discussing Ethiopian politics) “I can’t make you love me if you don’t.” If after a fair debate and analysis, people of Oromo background want to separate, let’s do it. Teddy Afro has a song that translates loosely as “if we can’t live together in peace, let’s try separation.” No one can tell me I am not Ethiopian, and I can’t tell anybody else that he/she is, especially by force. If you want to go, you should be able to go in peace. If Ethiopia had done that with Eritrea 20 years ago, Ethiopia would not be landlocked today. So, where Ethiopia ends and Oromiya starts will have to be mapped out amicably. What most of us want is for a prosperous Ethiopia that can harness its potential as an economic powerhouse. Anything that hinders that should be addressed. (I only hope when Ethiopia finally sheds its ethnic based politics, it won’t name the car it manufactures “The Electron.”)

I know what you are thinking at this juncture: that there is an inherent contradiction in my argument that OLF winning an election might not be a reflection of its clout as opposed to the opposition’s. I beg your indulgence. That’s why I said “under these circumstances.” If after a rational, democratic process that allows for open debates people choose separation, then I’ll be the first to say “God speed.” Hopefully, the moderates in the OLF you have high regard for will realize a strong Ethiopia is beneficial to all Ethiopians. (Something I don’t understand about ethnic politics: if I was half Oromo and half Gurage, and I disagreed with the OLF, do I become a full Gurage?) By the way, I argued for Ethiopia’s separation from Eritrea in the 80s, and if you knew the volatility of political discourse in Ethiopian circles at that time you would tell me what a brave little girl I am. And my position on Eritrea now (not that you asked) is: demarcate the border and let’s talk in 20 years. Until then, let’s forget each other’s numbers. When rational minds come of age, we’ll see if we can work together.

I am as puzzled as you by the US’ role in Ethiopia, Mike. The US should withdraw its support from the Meles government because affiliating the US with a discredited government is bad for US interests. Haven’t we established that through history? The EPRDF is self destructing, and US credibility can’t go down with it. More and more Ethiopians are becoming disillusioned with US policy, and having 77 million more people hating America is bad for America, especially in a volatile region like the Horn of Africa. (Redeem Ethiopia brilliantly lays this out in Ethio - US Relations: Going Anywhere? ) It’s simply bad policy that is working against the US’ self interest. Whatever you can do to shed light on that, Mike, will be welcomed. Trading tyranny for stability has never worked, and in a post 9-11 world, the US should be on the side of democracy. It’s the only long-term strategy that works. I am sure you, too, are as perplexed by the adventures of our Ambassador in Ethiopia. It foreshadows disaster. At a time in history when we are marching against genocide, it is unhelpful that the US is seen appeasing a government that was involved in the ethnic cleansing of the Anuaks.

Finally, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the time you took to write to me. I’ve been having meaningful discussions with a lot of people who have good will, and even when I disagree with them, it’s been intellectually enlightening. I don’t doubt you are well-intentioned, and HRW has been doing an incredible job chronicling the Ethiopian government’s dismal human rights record. I am especially touched by your contention that:

… if the OLF were to end up in a position of power in Ethiopia, I would be prepared to be as critical of them as I have been of Meles.

I know you will, and I think you are sweet. But by the time the OLF shows its true colors and by the time the LA Times asks you to write another op-ed, more Ethiopians would have died. That anguishes me. And maybe, just maybe, people in the Oromiya region will by then be waxing nostalgic about the EPRDF days. How sad would that be?

I am honored to be having this discussion with you.

Sincerely,

ETW.

36 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey wonq,

Personal question

.....what do you mean when u say

"my American forefathers fought against British colonial powers. They fought a war of honor for liberation........"??

9:05 PM, May 01, 2006  
Anonymous phiqir said...

Brilliant! just brilliant...

....in the midst of an election gone awry, when innocent Ethiopians were being shot at, when leaders of the opposition party were being jailed, it was curious that you focused on why the US should be speaking to and recognizing the OLF and not all the voices of the Ethiopian people. Your “main intention” still puzzles me, but maybe I missed something.

but you didn't, he just got it wrong.

I can't imagine anyone with a sense for liberty and cares about the issue can talk about anything else. This apply not just for Mike but to anyone who choose to ignore this level of atrocities and injustice. And also to those opposition members (cud, uedf and others) who are siting in a parliament waiting for their turn like a Senga at Kera. I won't be surprised a few month from now some of todays parlamentrians, especially uedf once, end up at Kaliti for stepping out of line. ...what would Jesus do? Don't fool yourself... learn from your history. Remember... abyote lijuwan tebelalech.

As the great leader said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." or you could say "Injustice to one (person, party, cud) is a threat to all (olf, uedf, even tplf members).

11:12 PM, May 01, 2006  
Anonymous D.Gizaw said...

Hi,

My understanding of the statement "Similarly, my American forefathers fought against British colonial powers. They fought a war of honor for liberation" is this. Let me explain. I am a naturalized US citizen. I was born in Ethiopia & lived for half of my lifetime there. And then I was forced to flee the country and came to the United States where I know live in freedom. The American Revolution and the declaration of independence, "We the People...." and The Constitution, made it possible for me to come here become a citizen and live in freedom. The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, The Bill of Rights that are the work of the "The Founding Fathers" made it possible for me and millions of others to come and adopt this country, (or this country took me and adopted me). George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Thomas Paine, and others involved in the writing of the Constitution are generally referred to as the "founding fathers". I proudly call these revolutionary and visionary leaders my forefathers.

[By contrast consider those tyrannical, autocrat, cruel and repressive regimes in Ethiopia/Africa. Even when they were claiming to be the "new generation of leaders" & when EPRDF came to power in Ethiopia, there was talk of a policy to deny people the right to vote, disfranchise a large segment of the population, in their own birthplace if Melees and his regime determined the voters were of other ethnic origin. I don't know if they actually carried out this policy then. I know the have carried out far more reprehensible acts]

So when I read the statement "... my forefathers..." that was my understanding of the meaning behind that statement.
Long way to convey my view/opinion on the matter, but hope others shares my view.

My first time commenting on this blog. I have been reading your blog for the past few months. I really enjoy your eloquent and powerful writings. I think, (and feel it) you are a beautiful person and I am proud of you! How would you say, " Blessed are ... Welaggoches YETEBAREKU NACHEW"

11:41 PM, May 01, 2006  
Blogger Honest too said...

Dear ETW,

Thank you for summerizing Ethiopia's problem with Ethnicity and for putting forth solutions in an eloquent way.

If your parents have a plan of writing a book on how to raise an Ethiopian/American child, I would be the first to buy it.

P.S. My family's prayers are with you as you have yet another child.

8:38 AM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous semonun said...

Why is it that when we talk about ethnic politics the only groups that come to mind are the TPLF and OLF? Why do we forgive the Southern People, All Amara, Kembata, Hadere etc. All the groups that gathered under ethnic umbrellas?

9:27 AM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous jiraff said...

semonun,

i think because we are talking about ethnic "LFs" and not just groups. (plus. mr. clough specifically talked about the olf.) i'm okay with ethnic pride, but unfortunately :>) i agree with ETW on this. unless we are ready to say we are congenitally pre-disposed to being backwards, we need to honestly assess why africa is in this kind of perpetual turmoil. tribalism is unaccomodating of progress. let's deal with it.

9:38 AM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous semonun said...

Thanks. That Makes sense. I agree it is certainly unaccommodating of progress. Removing ethnicity from politics is a good and necessary first step, but ignoring the existance of deep divisions and negative views will always mean that it will creep back into politics. I mean, how many of you have not heared stories of families flipping out about marriages between ethnic groups. And I'm not talking about great grandpa from some village; these are 'educated' folks from the 'urban' areas. I'm also talking about all the youth who say things that just shock the hell out of me at times. The 'dumb galla' jokes that people tell without a hint of irony after a discussion on the evils of ethnic politics. Everyone laughs and shakes their head, sucks air through the teeth and move on. We've got a lot of shit to take care of. At least with the removal of state endorsement it might be easier to deal with.

11:59 AM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Grouch said...

Ditto, Semonun....

dim-witted "galla," wily amara, thrifty gurage, irascible tigrean, conceited gondere, cliquish adere, savage gambelan, fraudulent somali ("Handsome Mengistu in Harare").... jokes.

i wonder why do we find "jokes" that dehumanize hilarious?

simple test of "funny." let's substitute the "protagonist" of each of these "jokes" with our spouses, parents, children, friends or family members and see if we find them funny. if we do, we need SERIOUS help; if we don't then it's time to ACT. tell the sauve raconteurs that they ARE NOT FUNNY.

On another note, why are MOST of our love songs about loss, betrayal and domination? What about rapture, possibilities and faith.....?

12:55 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Moya said...

Bravo Wonk!,winner As usual.
You were right on target on two critical issues, ethnicity and erroneous numbers on Ethiopian demography.Last night I argued with an "American expert on ethiopia"- on current situation in ethiopia, and he raised the issues you just eloquently described. I argued with him in disgust, because he was not willing to listen to my version of the story- which was- Dr Birhanu Abegaz`s note and told him this is the most authoritative document, he pulled his own, a CIA factbook exerpt and challenged mine- i said goodLord! and begged him to read more. I suggest that you write a book on the cult of triblal politics in Africa, esp in ethiopia.
i cannot have enough of your most recent posting.
Tribalism is a product of irrationalism,enormously ani-intellectual evil ,whose distiction is endless bloody warfare.
permanent warfare is the hallmark of tribal existence. tribalism with its rules, dogmas,traditions and stagnant thinking and mental development is utterly destructive organisation. War against other "luckier" tribes in the hope of looking some hoard is their chronic means of survival.the inculcation of ethnic hatred for the other tribes is a necessary tool of tribal rule who needs scapegoats to blame for the misery of their own subjects.
There is no surer way to infect mankind with hatred-blind, virulent hatred, than by splitting it in to ethnic groups or tribes. It is the most primitive, crude form of collective thinking ,denying man to be judged by his own character, moral and actions but by the character of his ancestors. a lot can be said how tribalism is idiotic and a cult, anit progress, savage and backward making its followers just like the rest of the animals where there is no merit or self identity.
WE must completely break from our past inorder the get out the gigantic mess Meles and co put us in. pursuing and fighting for individula liberty will solve all problems; if there are institutions to uphold it.

2:02 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eteye Wonk, You wrote quite a fascinating response.

You say “Ethiopia missed the industrialization revolution, and is now poised to miss the digital revolution because tribalization is more important than burying fiber optic cables. Hence, my disdain.” Isn’t EPRDF burying those things across Ethiopia?

You say “The EPRDF has such a vile human rights record that I am sure people would vote for Hitler before they vote for the EPRDF.” Granted – EPRDF doesn’t have the best human rights record. But to compare it with Hitler defies both logic and intelligence.

Or is it your contention that EPRDF deserve no credit what so ever and should be destroyed root and brunch? If so; they ain’t going nowhere anytime soon.

You say “This is not to say there has not been ridiculous oppression of ethnic groups in Ethiopia, which I condemn with the same disdain.” Through out the time I was reading your blogg, I’ve never read this condemnation. But, if I’m wrong I stand to be corrected (based on evidence ofcourse).

You say “the question of neatly divided ethnic groups in Ethiopia is a bit of a myth, although arguing that “the Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia” is an easy missive that de-complicates complex matters.” There are ethnic division in Ethiopia and the Oromo constitute the largest ethnic group. That is a fact.

You say “I can site as an example his referring to the CUD as a “mostly Amhara” organization. C’mon.” What is this C’mon all about? CUD represents mostly Amhara – and that is also a fact.

You say “No one can tell me I am not Ethiopian, and I can’t tell anybody else that he/she is, especially by force. If you want to go, you should be able to go in peace.” So I take it you don’t have a problem with Article 39.

However much I disagree with your interpretation of Ethiopian history and the remedies for its injustices, I tip my hat for your incredible ability in twisting facts to fit your view of Ethiopia.

The biggest problem with the rejectionist diaspora is – you do not seem to comprehend that EPRDF’s biggest strength is not military power but its ability to face head on Ethiopia’s ethnic history. If you want to defeat them, you’ve got to erode their strength not deny facts.

For a non-amhara your response reads “they should assimilate to the dominant culture of piss off!”.

Regards,

BTW - your description of nationalities as ‘tribes’ is losing you a lot of friends who would otherwise agree with your future vision of Ethiopia – that is future not past. And please do not stop writing as I enjoy reading you even amidst my frequent exasperation through it all. And ofcourse, I’m sure you are, unlike other bloggs, magnanimous enough to have a non-conformist like me as a commenter.

2:58 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Yohannes said...

Tribalism is a product of irrationalism,enormously ani-intellectual evil ,whose distiction is endless bloody warfare.

entiff, entiff, Moya.

The dawn of Ethiopian technocrats might be near.

A ferenjie "Ethiopian expert" was also trying to convince me about "ethnic realities" in Ethiopia. Ere be negessew. Professor Berhanu's article was great the first time around. It is downright brilliant on second reading. (Dessie in the haaaawse!) From Wonq's favorite punching bag (Jeffrey Sachs) to the Economist,it drives me crazy when they try summarizing Ethiopian ethnicity without knowing a thing about Ethiopian history. Sachs is consistently knuckle headed about this on the occassions that I have talked to him over email.

But honest discussion about ethnicity is the final step to healing.

Selamta.

3:14 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous "rejectionist diasporan" said...

Several years ago I sat in front of an Ethiopian Telecom official telling him about fiber optics. He listened to my proposal and when I finally thought I had "reached" him, his only question was "Hargerih yet newe?" (where are you from?) Being the neftegna/chavanist/colonizer and now "rejectionist diasporan" that I am, I said "Ethiopia." Wrong answer!

I wanted to speak to his boss who was on an extended lunch break (read: 3 hours.) I waited. Waited. Ato X finally comes in. I peddle my ware. Then I got: "Engidih enatenawalen." (we will study it.) There are 2 phrases in Ethiopian society that should send shivers down your rejectionist spine:

a) enatenawalen and
b) chigir yelem

any variation of these two and you are toast. Later I found out that the only "enatenawalen" that Telecom was interested in was my ethnic background.

Tribalism meets fiber optics.

(I admired the brand new lap top of boss man and he beamed. A donation by some NGO. It was unused, untouched, unopened. But like a trophy, it was someone's job to keep it clean.)

The EPRDF gets credit. So does the Derg. So do colonialists. But in the end, it is full of tribal warlords--- in suits and white sneakers.

Dagnaw.

4:17 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous trendsetting chiraq said...

Ye wenqette tadamiwech:-

................... I think I get it!!

that EPRDF’s biggest strength is not military power but its ability to face head on Ethiopia’s ethnic history.

so when the eprdf mowed down students in awassa, villagers in gambella, kids in addis it was loading the ak-47's with "head on facing of ethiopia's ethnic history" instead of bullets?

um. speaking of twisting facts.

the ONLY strength it has is military.

4:26 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous ye mankusaw welafen said...

as ye kibur ato bitweded Not Anonyomous' kbrt m'sht, Weizero Amakelech Tasse, put it: Ooou ootiyE.

article 39'iii? the eprdf doesn't even believe in article 39 let alone etewa wonqette. the eprdf doesn't believe in article 29 either-- freedom of expression.

it's not fond of article 14: Everyone by virtue of being human, has the inalienable and inviolable right to life, liberty and security of person.

it's komsi komsa about article 15-- Every human being has the right to life. No one shall be deprived of his life except by reason of his conviction in accordance with the law for a serious crime committed by him.

article 19? (Rights of person arrested) esumma tenzaza.

Article 24: Right to Human Dignity and Good Reputation... EXCEPT if you are an imperial and/or derg revanchist, a chauvanist, a diaspora rejectionist... wezeterfe.

article 26: right to privacy--- wedEt inTaT inTaT.

i could go on, but lij not anonymous and i are going hunting. i have to load up my mnishr with 32-caliber "head on facing of ethiopia's ethnic history."

ewnetm weichegud.

5:01 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Ere yibeqal! said...

Anonymous,

"There are ethnic division in Ethiopia and the Oromo constitute the largest ethnic group. That is a fact."

Is it? What do you base this "fact" on? And if it is, apart from governments and “liberation” movements who and what does this "fact" serve?

Granted it can be a strand that self-serving politicians (who claim one particular fore parent and hoard the others until the appearance of the next dominant "ethnic" government) can exploit to inappropriately deal with their neuroses and/or grab power but how does it really help us deal with the amelioration of our compatriots everyday problems.

Wellegés and Gojjamés have a lot more shared history than Wellegés and Borenas (who are both Oromos). Go to Gonder and see if you can distinguish a Gonderé from a Tigreyan. Picture the extremely diverse and mixed population in Wello or Dire Dawa. Should a person from Konso [south] form an alliance with a Beni Shangul [north] because they are “ethnic” minorities?

What is this fabled and à la mode Ethiopian ethnic history that you flutter over us? Ras Ali (an Oromo from Wello) and his followers controlled Gonder during the so called Zemene Mesafint; Itegue Tayitu [who was from Gondor but was “ethnically” an Amhara, an Oromo and a Tigreyan] threatened the Shoan [note regional and not ethnic appellation] leadership by elbowing her Gonderé relatives into the leadership clique; Atse Yohannes ruled from Makele but enforced Amharic as the court language; Emperor Menelik’s [an Oromo and Amhara] sent his multi-ethnic conquistadors against the thousands of “recalcitrant” multi-ethnic groups in the south but adopted and “Christened” Moreda Bekerie, the acquiescent head of the ruling house of Wellega; the Kings of Jimma captured and enslaved thousands of their immediate neighbors (Oromos) and had them shipped to Arabia; Atse Teowdros [a Gonderé] had the arms of the Shoan nobility cut off during a Shoan campaign; Dej. Jotte of Qellem (in Wellega) had seven sons of the Anfillo (neighboring ethnic group from the lowlands) leader killed before he married their sister; Emperor Lebne Dengel mother, the Dowager Empress Elleni (who was from Hadiya and born a Moslem) sent for the assistance of the Christian Portuguese to combat the forces of the Moslem Ahmed Gragn; Emperor Haile Selassie (who was part Oromo, Amhara and Gurage and was married to Empress Menen who was also Oromo and Amhara and whose grandfather claimed descent from the prophet Mohammed) married off his children and grandchildren to almost all of the larger “ethnic” groups. Negus Menelik [an Amhara and Oromo], Yohannes [a Tigreyan] and Teklehaimanot [an Amhara, Oromo and Tigreyan] of Gojjam all scrambled to help the Sir Robert Napier depose Emperor Teowdros. What we have is not ethnic history but a history filled with individuals who had no qualms crossing ethnic, religious, linguistic, gender or family lines in order to grab and hold onto power. They’re a lot more 21st century than the EPRDF’s ridiculous and reductionist “your arm moves right because you’re father is an Oromo” and “your eyelids bat six times because you’re aunt is an Amhara” thesis.

5:18 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous kezira said...

w/ro amakelu is right. u u tay, indeed. for a party that gets very prickly about even admitting the eprdf is controlled by the tplf, it always amuses me when eprdffers attempt to play the 'cud is amhara' card.

*** saying you are ethiopian, period = chauvinism

*** saying ethnicity is not a viable policy = diaspora rejectionism

*** calling for unity = closet revanchism

*** admiring someone for their ability to twist facts = PRICELESS.

5:22 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saying your ethnic group doesn't make you any less Ethiopian as stating you don't want to state your ethnic group doesnt make you any more Ethiopian. It is a nationality that encompasses ethnic groups. Ethiopia before Meles had ethnic groups. People were Oromo, Tigre, Amara, Adere, Gurage, etc... And after Meles they will still be Oromo, Amara, Tigre, Gurage, Adere.

Let us separate manupilating ethnic divisions for political ends, which is what Meles did/does from just accepting whoever wants to be identified as whatever they want to be identified and respecting their cultural norms.

5:37 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Kezira said...

Saying you are simply Ethiopian certainly doesn't make you 'more' Ethiopian. But in current EPRDF mores, it makes you a Chauvanist, a word the prime minister uses with ease.

Check out this incredible video:
http://bernos.org/blog/?p=103

5:44 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous mishu said...

Ere yibeqal! and Ye Mankussaw,

Don't you see? "Facts" are like fiber optics- they can be buried.

When Berhanu Abezag uses facts to refute carefully sewn assumptions, we get: Oromos are a majority, BEQA! Beqa, bury it. Along with logic. Beqa.

5:54 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waka

Aye anonymous! who had disdain for comparing Htler with Meles.
Do u know the number of people meles killed, imprisoned ,and put in concentration camps?? leaving aside
those vanished-in thousonds! where is the defying of logic or intelligence?- comparing the number of people? killed by these evils?
(or are you involved in it?. If you are not a mediocre, why don`t
you list the CUD senior officials and their Ethnic background?. The thought of it ,whatever you call it,any group or bunch of elites who claim to represent some one without his consent- are gangsters!

Can you elaborate on the differences, merit and definition of your stalinsque philosophy of nations and nationalities??.What is the basic difference with ethinicity or tribalism or racsim??. group right of any sort, is fundamentaly anti-individualism-which regards man as an independent, soveriengn entity, who possesses an inalienable right to his own life. Any doctrine that advocates group activity- tribe, etninicity, or nationality WITOUT the CONSENT of the INDIVIDUAL is nothing but mob rule.

6:01 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous wenqeTeNa said...

I think "uu tay" just changed into "U! U! U!" muTTTTTTTTiwech. ye sew muTiwech.

Anonymous, lijE.... ayzon. I liked the way you encouraged ETW to keep writing, though. Inde "p.s." tesheguTo. m'Ts, yene geta.

Besssssmeabbbbbbbbbb. Inante. Esti teregagu.

6:27 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Wonchif said...

Anonymous2,

Thanks for choosing the blogg commenting route to tell the other side of the story. Yes, you are a "non-conformist". Unfortunately others on your side of the fence on the issue chose incarceration and killing to force the same non-conforming view your are stating here. You may agree with me that a "non-conformist" will have little or no support to their view of the world. So no surprise to the out come of the May05 election.

By just reading your comment you seem to be a very thoughtful and capable person. I don't see any reason to doubt the comment is your own opinion. I can't imagine anyone would sell his sole and become a mouth piece to a tyrant, let alone a person of your skill who could do anything he or she want.

God bless.

7:59 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Gooch said...

Very nice, ETW, very nice.

There are always little things to argue with in a post this size, but I think the essence of your ideas is clear.

By tribalism, I think you are referring to the negative, parochial, defensive sense in which ethnic identity is manifested, rather than the positive, empowering, and inclusive sense of ethnic or national identity.

As Donald Levine and others reiterate, the EPRDF has too often promoted negative ethnicity as a tool for maintaining power, completely negating their efforts to improve ethnic equality.

There indeed is a positive way of asserting ethnic identity, examples of which can be seen in democracies throughout the world, the key word being 'democracies'.

And here, I commend you for supporting an allowance for secession in the context of democracy. Some asked, and I'd like to point out that this does not necessarily mean support for Article 39.1.

The Canadian constitution contains no provision for secession, for good reasons. Yet, if a large plurality in Quebec vote to secede, then the Canadian government would enter into some sort of negotiations, its stance depending on several factors.

That is how true democracy works - the people's wishes must be respected, even if they wish a divorce from the social contract. However, all parties would have a say on the terms of the divorce.

kezira, good one!

anonymous twist, I know it is now all too common in some circles to use the word 'Amhara' to label certain sets of ideas about Ethiopia.

This is, at best, demagogary, at worst, a promotion of ethnic strife.

Everyone, including you, knows that in Addis, where 48% of the population is Amhara, 82% of the population voted for CUD.

Would those non-Amharas who in majority voted for CUD be now prejoratively labelled 'Amharicized'?

This may be helpful for inflammatory rhetoric, but clearly anti-intellectual.

Nobody has been given a divine right to determine who is a 'real Oromo' or 'real Gurage'... People have the right of course to construct identities, but then they cannot insist that everyone conform!

Like it or not, there exist 'pan-Ethiopianists' from various ethnic groups. Call them 'pan-Ethiopianists'.

There exist ethnic nationalists of different shades from various ethnic groups. Call them 'ethnic nationalists'.

Make sense?

11:24 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous mengedegna said...

Ere Yibeqal,

Phenomenal! Your argument was absolutely phenomenal. The fluidity of ethnicity in Ethiopia is something that has not been properly examined. I was blown away by your reasoning.

With much thanks.

3:41 AM, May 03, 2006  
Anonymous meetmeeta said...

i'm begining to believe you, Et-W, about the intellectual dwarf-ism of the other side.

chiraq: lol! yibeqal: ditto on the incredible analysis.

those of us who watched the debates during pre-election know that without guns, eprdf would be a forgettable footnote.

9:14 AM, May 03, 2006  
Anonymous not anonymous said...

Yemankusaw,

yenewa Amakelu nat adebabay weta indih yebaT yeqoTun mitzebarq? ayderegm! Gud-gud-gud!

Indiaw lenegeru gn Aya Mankusaw, erso demmo Non-Conformist yimesil, EPRDF buried q'birTisso, buried “fiber optics" yemilut, of all that the EPRDF “buried across Ethiopia,” erson yasasebwo ye-fiber optics qebir new indE?

2:28 PM, May 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Fellow Commenters,

I thank all of you who found time to comment on my comment. Even though I don’t see myself as a provocateur-in-chief, it seems my comment have provoked thoughtful responses. I will try to address some of the points raised but, first, let me say I respect everyone’s opinion as their own and I urge people to read my opinion as mine and only mine.

First –the phrase ‘Rejectionist Diaspora’ seems to have fired a little bit of passion. Let me say that, I am not using the phrase to disrespect anyone but as legitimate description of the strategy pursued by Diaspora activism and its logical end game.

Trendsetting chiraq – you have listed EPRDF heavy handedness in various parts of the country. To the extent EPRDF was on the wrong - I join you to expressing outrage and calling for justice. However, I must say, we may not be in agreement as to what those outrages tell us about the big picture. But I don’t think dwelling on that would help constructive debate.

Ye mankuasaw welfen – I agree that EPRDF could a lot better in respecting the constitution in its totality. But I do not think they ignore it fully either; whether we like it or not people paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can have a constitution which I consider to be the best in Africa. However, in calling EPRDF to respect the constitution, the rejectionist wing will have to accept the document is the foundation of all laws in the country. And Sir, in engaging with each other, we neither need a mnishr nor a komeh-tebkegn or anything of that sort.

Ere Yibeqal – I couldn’t agree with you more when you say we have “a history filled with individuals who had no qualms crossing ethnic, religious, linguistic, gender or family lines in order to grab and hold onto power” nor could I have put it more eloquently. When I talk of Ethiopia’s ethnic history; I am not talking about the nobility (some brave, some people of good will, others who I would rather forget about) but the history of everyday people who identify themselves as a certain nationality and, had they lived in today’s Ethiopia, people who wouldn’t have a problem in seeing the wisdom of the future vision which, I would like to think, you and I share. I am of the opinion that we have a bit too much ‘bird’s I view of history’; but I must also say we are not alone in that. When historians of all creed write about this or that war, they go out of the way to elaborate on the General’s heart beat but don’t pay a scant attention to the sacrifice of the good old brave foot soldier. But, I thank you for the time you took to teach me about some facts I did not know about.

Kezira – granted you beat me on your precision (talking of your first comment ofcourse).

Mishu – I don’t know who ‘they’ are but I am not into burying facts, I’m into seeing them as they are.

Waka – nations and nationalities are not the product of some ‘stalinsque philosophy’ but the owners of cultural, linguistic and historic heritage of Ethiopia which you and I should equally be proud of.

Wenqetena – I wouldn’t want to see any of my compatriots, including yourself, go “U! U! U!” regardless of how much you may disagree with my point of view.

Wonchief – when I called myself a ‘non-conformist’ I meant it in the context of Diaspora politics. I do not presume to know which side of the fence each Ethiopian in Ethiopia stands, so neither should anyone who may disagree with me. And what ever side we may stand I would like to think of what ever there is between us as a round-table than a fence.

Gooch – you said “Everyone, including you, knows that in Addis, where 48% of the population is Amhara, 82% of the population voted for CUD”. Indeed they have voted for the CUD, but you shouldn’t forget Addis Ababans have had the opportunity over the decades to forge a common homogeneous mono-linguistic sense of identity, that is not something which can be said for most of the rest of Ethiopia. You accuse me of fanning ‘inflammatory rhetoric’ and being ‘anti-intellectual’, with respect sir, anything but. You urge me to recognise a ‘pan-Ethiopianist’, if you are talking about an Ethiopian version of pan-Africanism, I will have to remind you pan-Africanism thesis is based correcting historic injustices and building on diversity. As for those you call 'ethnic nationalists', I would rather call us Realists, and please do not confuse us with ethno-fascists with whom I have far more axe to grind than you ever will.

Yemankusaw – I really tried to understand your comment but failed. But let me tell you are the very first person to ever address me as ‘antu’ – MAN I LOVE ADULTHOOD!

Dear all, I have tried to comment on your comment on my comment with good faith and in the spirit of constructive debate. If I have misinterpreted any point of view, please allow me to assure only my limited brain cells are to be blamed. And once again let me remind everyone that I am not an apologist of this or that side but just happen to have my opinion – period.

Regards,

3:29 PM, May 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And something I forgot - would anyone be kind enough to tell me of any online sources where I can find Dr Berhanu Abegaz's book.

thanks

3:51 PM, May 03, 2006  
Anonymous diki said...

"The EPRDF has such a vile human rights record that I am sure people would vote for Hitler before they vote for the EPRDF.”

C'mon Wonq, you couldn't be serious, could you? I wouldn't even compare Sadam Hussein or Mengistu or even Bin Ladin for that matter, with Hitler. Stalin yes. Pol Pot sure. So after you made that assertion you lost me. If you can make such a leap in logic how can I take anything else seriously?

Anonymous,
Well Put.

Diki.

5:22 PM, May 03, 2006  
Anonymous Yeneta said...

Anonymous,
You said Addis Abebans was able "to forge a common homogeneous mono-linguistic sense of identity, that is not something which can be said for most of the rest of Ethiopia." Don't you think you would find such pan-ethiopianist outlook in other major cities of the country, or the country side as well, if they were given a chance to freely register their vote with no intimidation, or blackmail using fertlisers or essentials for day to day life?
I think you are underestimating Ethiopians. If they are so primordial or clanish as you think they are, why do you think lots of Ethiopians from the south or central region such as my farmer grandfather left their farm and made their trip all the way north to MAICHEW to fight Mussolini's occupying Army. What i want to say is that generations after generations, ordinary Ethiopians (not only the nobility) think beyond their clan, tribe, ethnicity whatever you want to call it, and they feel Ethiopian not as the sum of all but as what they are first and their ethnic, clan identity folowing that. The May 2005 election demonstrated that the ethnic parties who wanted to put Ethiopians back into ethnic boxes are discredited and spent force in the eyes of Ethiopians. Ethiopians regardless of their ethnicity know the only one benefited from this scheme of ethnicised politics is the ethnic lords who have enriched themeselves at the expense of the people they claimed to represent. Ethiopians know that what they got from this scheme of the ethnic junkies is victimisation and fragmentation. I will repeat my story again here. My Eritrean friend who grew up with me in TEKLEHAIMANOT area of Addis and who was enthusiastic supporter of LF groups back in 1991, is now victim of the moronic ideology, ethnically cleansed to Eritrea alongside his innocent parents and relatives. The pro-democratic opposition in Ethiopia did not say pride in language, culture and ethnic identity is wrong. There are those in the opposition parties who even spent their all their adult life championing for such causes. What the student movement of the 60s demonstrated was that the one is calling for respect to your language, culture etc. is not necessarily from your own ethnic group. You can be of the same ethnic group (even family) but in different ideolgical camps. Hence, the opposition believes in diversity of culture, language, religion etc. BUT it also believes such diversity should not be used for political purpose knowing the dangers to the nation as well as to the people. I would even argue, the Ethnic KILILS are not the issue, the danger lies on parties based on Ethnicity. Thanks to May 2005 election, Ethiopians have rejected such politics. What the May 2005 election demonstrated, there is no distinction between the desires of Ethiopian diaspora and the desires of Ethiopians living inside the country when expressed in freewill i.e refusing to legitimise the status quo and rejecting politics based on ethnicity.

6:07 PM, May 03, 2006  
Anonymous wonchif said...

Dear Anonymous,

you said, ... whatever there is between us as a round-table than a fence.
A round-table would be my wish too. But I found it very difficult to imagine a round-table b/n a prison gate, a dead body and the palace. Also an empty round-table is no use, can we put the 8 points on it too. I would think what is b/n us as a round-table when you call for the unconditional release of all political prisoners as I do. Then we got a gathering.

On your response you indicated that you agree with most of the criticism after someone point them out. But you seem unable to point the shortcomings of EPRDF(TPLF) by yourself and have an urge to support it with any possible argument you can come up with. So I suggest you ask yourself why?

7:18 PM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger ET Wonqette said...

Anonymous,

A few pointers here so you don’t have to do so much back pedaling next time.

a) Know your audience. You make the same mistake the EPRDF makes repeatedly: it is so used to not being intellectually challenged that it tailors its talking points to the choir.

b) Despite an endearing coquettishness in your second post, yes, you meant to be “provocateur-in-chief.” You didn’t quite do it right, though, because you find yourself in an awkward re-tooling of the term ‘rejectionist diaspora.’ What can I say? It’s like the prime minister lobbing “chauvinist”, or Jeffrey Sachs calling us imperial/Derg revanchists. Another name, another non sequitur. The trick to coining a phrase is that it has to be clever yet prevailing. And it shouldn’t need an explanation. But it was a valiant first try. Good boy/girl!

c) Your response to Trendsetting Chiraq’s argument is, um, it needs refinement. I don’t mean to tell you how to argue your point but, “let’s not dwell on it” is not an adequate riposte. To the extent EPRDF was on the wrong - I join you to expressing outrage and calling for justice. However, I must say, we may not be in agreement as to what those outrages tell us about the big picture. But I don’t think dwelling on that would help constructive debate. What does the “outrage” (example after example of a government gunning down innocent people) tell us about the big picture, exactly? That the EPRDF’s only strength is NOT military?

d) You might have missed Welafen’s point, so if I may… You make another classic mistake the EPRDF makes. Having a constitution and following a constitution are two different things. “I agree that EPRDF could a lot better in respecting the constitution in its totality. But I do not think they ignore it fully either;” The job of a government is to obey the constitution in total . Cherry picking something as sacred as a constitution is inherently illegal. Especially so when people, as you say, died for it. They didn’t die for just parts of the constitution. Arguing a government hasn’t ignored the constitution in its “totality” is not a good argument. It’s the “we are better than Mengistu” defense. Actually, a better argument would be, “which articles hasn’t the EPRDF violated?” (I think it is crass explaining jokes so I won’t venture into ‘splaining the biting satire in Welafen’s mnishr. reference. I don’t dare.)

e) I need to read Ere Ybeqal’s comment again because I thought what he/she was brilliantly pointing out was the fluidity of the concept of ethnicity in Ethiopia and how our leaders have been using ethnicity to at whim to power monger. Um, sort of what the EPRDF is doing now. Maybe you and I both need to re-read Ere Ybeqal.

f) Glad you like adulthood, but… did Ye Mankusaw call you “antu”?

g) Thank you for admiring the way I “twist facts to suit [my] view of Ethiopia.” I will make sure to convey your admiration at the next “Rejectionist Diaspora” annual meeting where we will be discussing how non-Amharas “should assimilate to the dominant culture [or] piss off!”

h) “ Dear all, I have tried to comment on your comment on my comment with good faith and in the spirit of constructive debate.” (Emphasis mine.) Like I said, Anonymous, know your audience.

10:39 AM, May 04, 2006  
Anonymous kezira said...

i'm having deja vous all over again... ato tekeda from the eprdf vs. prof. clapham

11:19 AM, May 04, 2006  
Anonymous Metasebia said...

Hi ET Wonquette –

Long time no speak – my reason? Frustrated with Ethiopian politics – outcome of so called “democratic process” – Angry about how the voice of the people has been suppressed. Outraged with the silence of the powers that be to secure justice for the unjustly condemned. I could go on… yet I am not so surprised. As the saying goes “plus ça change plus la même chose…” and no I am not a Franco-Lycée alum for those of you that are trying to second guess my identity. Incidentally, on the subject of identity (I digress…) I have noticed a rather interesting dare I say “loyal?” following of ETW readership. It got me asking why? I guess my answer would be that most people (note, I said most people!) respond favorably to reason and might I add seasoned arguments and discussion. For me personally, as an arm chair participant I have the luxury of rationalizing the events back home and patting myself on the back for some of those “ah ha” moments I get when I read the news or blogs like this.

In reality, my heart aches for the children and youth and Ethiopia and the older generation - - those people who took a risk and believed in the process – that did not achieve what they knew they were capable of. But as I read the 33 comments (including ET’s response to Mike) I did wonder about who all the writers and readers are. Much like people would (or probably would not) wonder who on earth I am. My name could denote a clue but obviously that doesn’t tell the whole story… assuming there is a story to tell.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, I think I was trying to sound clever about identities… You might say it doesn’t matter - this is cyberspace and no one really knows who they are talking to anyway. I agree. At the same time I see how relevant the issue of identity is. It seems important not only on an individual basis but also on a larger scale at the community or national/international level.

This brings me to the politics side of this discussion. Identity matters because individuals make up the parts that it takes to make a whole (Systems theory etc). Politics is no different than any other human endeavor that attempts to achieve a goal (families, schools, government, churches etc.) Having said this it doesn’t mean we can’t put our identities, tribalism and “gosa bashing” aside and work together as a whole. I wholeheartedly agree with the quote in ET’s blog “… politics must be detribalized. One ironic paradox of multipartyism and open political competition has been the tribalization of politics. African political parties - the only vehicles through which modern democracy is practiced - are barren receptacles for tribal barons and ethnic demagoguery...”

In order to be detribalized we need to make sacrifices. One way to do this is to let the other person or tribe make a significant contribution to the overall effort so people can take turns in claiming the glory or the victory. This seems like a simplistic solution but having each individual/tribe provide input prevents one tribe from dominating. In reality and especially in Ethiopian politics this task seems undoable. But then how do you think countries like the US and others did it? Don’t tell me they didn’t have tribes and clans (and they still do) but the difference is that they manage to control their egos and their power trips and have learned the secret of working together – for the greater good.

Perhaps tribalism is (literally) in our blood and we will never see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, the law of nature says change is inevitable so I say why not take advantage of those countries/peoples that have already passed through the same problems and learn a lesson or two from them?

P.S. I can’t pretend that I don’t want to know about ET going on some kind of break… what’s it all about? I haven’t read all the postings for a long time…something to do with having a baby? Can someone fill me in?

5:27 PM, May 04, 2006  
Anonymous jiraff said...

And something I forgot - would anyone be kind enough to tell me of any online sources where I can find Dr Berhanu Abegaz's book.

wedaj anonymous, just use google. and read the article.

wonq-wonq-wonq---- wonq. and i thought i saw it all in "emasculation proclimation."

6:30 PM, May 04, 2006  
Anonymous Ere yibeqal! said...

Anonymous,

In spite of the avalanche (of debris, boulders, snow and hot oil!) of responses to your comment you held your ground and replied with grace, tact and restraint. And I thank you for that….

But once again, you tried to support your thesis/argument with a dichotomy that reigned supreme during the Mengistu era (by the way, I am contextualizing your argument but not, in any way, taking a cheap shot by associating you with the person and policies of our very own Pol Pot): the adhari vs. sefi hezeb / elite vs. masses line of argument. However, there are no specifics to support your argument (that when “you talk of Ethiopia’s ethnic history” you are talking about “the history of everyday people who identify themselves as a certain nationality”).

I do not doubt that there are countless individuals who consider themselves a Tigrean, Adere, Amhara, Oromo, Gurage just as I do not doubt there are countless others who consider themselves as ye Kebena lij, DireDawan, Arrsian, Debre Taboran, Dembi Doloan…. But the problem comes when you extrapolate from this identification a “history of Ethiopia’s ethnic history.”

But where is this history to which you once again allude? Apart from the artificial political boundaries created by the Italians during the Occupation [for evident reasons] and their political heirs [again for evident reasons], the EPRDF, as far as I know, there was never a time in Ethiopian history when boundaries and divisions where dictated primarily by ethnicity. If there is, please share.

By the way, it’s easy to latch on to a particular theory/world view and dismiss many aspects our history as “history of the nobility.” But once again, if you knew enough about these “noble” leaders, you wouldn’t be as dismissive. The first thing to note is that most of these leaders came to power not by virtue of blood but by their abilities (good or bad). Apart from the Gonderine dynasty (which for the most part didn’t exercise power, i.e., they were controlled by “warlords”/ “parvenus”) you’d be hard pressed to find power resting in one family for more than two generations. Just in the last 150 years, power has shifted from Gonder to Gojjam to Tigraye to Shoa, to Wello (if you consider Lij Iyasu as first a Wolloye) once again to Shoa and then once again to Tigraye (note once again, the regional and not the ethnic supremacy). That, to me implies fluidity (but sadly, also, instability). Most of the leaders who came to power, first clutched the scepter and then had their chroniclers “prove” their centrality in the line of succession.

And these leaders set policy which in turn affected the “masses.” Just as the EPRDF’s policy is now very much affecting our nationals (as well as the “rejectionist Diasporans”) and conjuring what didn’t exist hitherto: Ethiopian Ethnic history.

If you prefer to isolate the “masses” from the “elite,” and if you haven’t read it already, please examine Gebru Tareke’s excellent “Ethiopia: Power and Protest – Peasant Revolts in the 20th Century.” You will find a multitude of disgruntled peasants but you’d be hard pressed to inject “ethnicity” as the driving force behind their discontent.

11:28 AM, May 05, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home