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Farewell Ethiopia!

Farewell Ethiopia!


Hailemariam Abebe



Some half a century ago, I was in Boston with my American foster grandmother, watching a documentary about the Holocaust of World War 2 (WW2).  As a teenager in the 9th grade and as a new arrival coming form that spiritual capital of Ethiopia, Axum, I could not believe that human beings could commit such horrific inhumanity on their fellow human beings.  I thought then and innocently sought solace, thinking that such a culture of horror might be unique to white people.  Once again, naively, I believed that black people would never do anything like that.  Then I grew up and learned more about the world and man’s capability for the unthinkable. 

I do not recall which book it was, but it might have been the “Mysterious Stranger” by Mark Twain or “Grendel” by John Gardner or it might have been themes in both books.  But whichever book it was though, I could never forget the classroom discussion and being struck by the notion of the character in the book, Satan, arguing in a court of law that man had maligned his name with accusations of everything evil taking place in the world!  In making his case against man, Satan reviewed man’s history throughout time showing (‘religious fanaticism, witch trials, burnings, hangings, deaths and mass hysteria’) that in fact man has done all those evil deeds, and that man was responsible for all that inhumanity that he accused Satan of doing!  Moreover, Satan argued that the history of religion such as Christianity has done nothing to make humanity more humane but that all it has done is perfected, over the passage of time, the killing efficiency of the killing tools man used to kill his fellow human beings!  Compelling case but it did not really sink in until I began to watch man’s inhumanity to man in Realtime.

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My high school years were the years of the final years of the Vietnam war and the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.   And it was too, when the brutality of man became so vivid and close to home, as the Derg unleashed a wave of “Red Terror,” that I realized that Satan had a point and that in fact there is in fact a devilish side to man! But in all these cases then, all the crimes were government driven and as such I dreamed with changes in governments, we could not only create a humane Ethiopia but also the United States of Africa!  And so, I took part in the movement against dictatorships, Apartheid and sang “pamberine chimurenga” in support of the struggle against the government of Ian Smith in then Rhodesia.

I was captivated by the thoughts Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X, Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, Agostino Neto, Samara Machelle, Bob Marley and every other Thought Power Houses that dreamed of a more united, humane and democratic Africa.  I might add also too, that my dream for that perfect world was inspired by my “field service” teachers of elementary school who spoke about “Meriet Learashu!”  But then, I grew even older, learned more and realized even more, and that is when my hope and dream was first shattered by the realization that such a perfect union may be impossible!  

It was first the Rwanda holocaust.  I could not believe my eyes!  I could not believe the cruelty and sheer inhumanity I saw on the evening news and read in the print media.  This was not the Nazis running the Ovens and making soap out of human beings, but it was ordinary black Africans incited to commit horrors which not only shocked the African continent but the world too! Interestingly, even though this was planned and executed by black people, I must admit I blamed it on the colonial powers which created the fault lines for such inhumane outcomes!  For some naïve reason then but I know now that I have been in denial, that black people are just as capable as white people in committing the most unspeakable crimes against their fellow human beings!  It might have been this denial which might have been responsible for my dream to work for the common good!

Many of you who used to listen to Dejen Radio know that I was one of the most vocal critics (Tigraway against Tigraway) of the late Meles Zenawi’s administration.  Do not get me wrong, he was brilliant, capable and a doer!  He and the TPLF have in fact transformed Ethiopia into a socio-economic juggernaut!  But what he did not do, I argued then, was create a fully functional democratic Ethiopia! I argued vociferously that the people of Tigray fought the seventeen-year struggle for something greater than the material; they fought for democracy and the rule of democratic law!  And I was not the only one. In fact, in the 1995 election, virtually all Tegaru in Addis Ababa voted for Kinijit, proving that Tegaru are always after ideas from whom ever it originates and are never bound by ethnic boundaries!  But once again, not only me but the whole Tegaru have been naïve!  We thought for the common good while others fought for their narrow interests!

In a world somewhere else, no doubt working for the common good would result in common bond and common destiny.  But in the real world that we live in, the world where Satan, in the court of law, could prevailed over man, self-interest at any cost, seems the way!  Had common interest was the way, the people of Tigray would never have been in the predicament that they are in now!  Afterall, they fought for seventeen years to get rid of the Derg, helped usher a Constitution for the common good, and launched Ethiopia into an economic tiger of global prominence.  But what did Tigray get in return?  We see it live now as the forces of self-interest go for its jugular to kill it dead!

Exactly like in Rwanda, they started with the demonization.  Even though ANDM, OPDO and SEPDM were the ones who administered their respective regions and responsible for whatever happened there, it was not only the TPLF but the people of Tigray, who had actually benefited less than the Amhara and Oromo regional states, that was accused for all the sin!  But it was not just accusation, but it ended up with the need to invite every killer they could find in the world, to annihilate Tigray!  Tigray which saved Ethiopia from fragmentation, ushered a constitution that captured the aspirations of all the Nations and Nationalities of Ethiopia, enabled the creation and recognition, for the first time, Oromia and the Amhara Regional state, shared power with the stake holders, and enabled Ethiopia to achieve a status never seen in the history of Ethiopia, Tigray which had endured the death of tens of thousands of its children and many times disabled for the cause of the common good, is now subjected to a life and death predicament!  If the world was a sane world and if the world was a world where the common good was the highest dream of the people of the world, Tigray would have been rewarded!  But because the world we live in is governed by self-interest, which is really a dog-eat-dog paradigm, there is no doubt that Tegaru have learned the lesson the hard way!

It is sad that humanity can not think in the way God had created the world.  It is truly sad that we could not thrive together as a bouquet, diverse and from many one!  But there is that Tigrigna proverb which says, “because of the dry twigs, the green forest burns!”  I think the people of the Nations and Nationalities of Ethiopia have shown that they can in fact live together sharing their common humanity and their shared common dream! Unfortunately, we have in our midst that “dry twig” which had served as the ultimate nemesis not only against our union but also against the peoples of each Nation and Nationality of Ethiopia!  There is no people of a Nation and Nationality in Ethiopia which has escaped the brutality and dehumanization of this contagion!

At this very hour this dry twig has not only joined hands with Ethiopia’s mortal enemies that is Isayas Afewerki but it has also joined hands with those in the OPDO whose ancestors it had devoured to nonhumans, Somalia, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia to go after one of its own that is Tigray!  At this very hour too, this dry twig is not only claiming territories that is someone else’s but it has committed genocide and continues to do so unabated!  Yet, it has no clue that let alone to claim the territories of others, the very territories it currently resides on belongs to someone else!  The question for Tigray and others is how long is it going to be for the peoples of the Nations and Nationalities of Ethiopia to let this contagion to deny them “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?”  How many of our people do we have to die before we say enough is enough and do away with this dry twig? 

This dry twig is like none in our midst; it is the ultimate evil and one without common denominator!  At this very hour, it is serving as a conductor in a symphony conducting the complete destruction of the Tigrayan people.  It is not only overseeing the killing of innocent people, destroying schools, hospitals, churches, mosques, residential houses, industries, burning crops, looting livestock and historical artifacts but also helping itself to all that it can get its hand on!  There are those who blame Isayas and Abiye for the horrific onslaught in Tigray.  It is true that these twin evils have committed those stated horrendous crimes.  But we must never forget that the emergence of both Abiye and Isayas was made possible or facilitated by that dry twig, which for years sowed the seeds of claiming fire where there was no smoke!  Given this historical record, the choice is whether to live with this evil, bleed for eternity or to cut it to size and expose it for what it is: a fraud conceived, born and condemned to live at our expense!  This is a creature without humanity and knows no norms or laws!  It is in fact the ultimate personification of one who lives for self-interest and nothing else!  And that it is as such, it has told us for over one hundred years not only in words but in blood with its death and destruction, unparalleled in Ethiopian history, upon each and every people of the Nations and nationalities of Ethiopia! 

For me, one thing is clear. Inhumanity is common to us all.  That the ultimate inhumanity is not the exclusive domain of white people has been proven by the footprints of the dry twig in our midst.  Secondly, I like to think that it is possible for the peoples of the Nations and Nationalities to build a democratic. egalitarian and prosperous Ethiopia. I like to think that with preconditions for such an outcome, living together is possible. I can imagine for example that the peoples of the Nations and Nationalities of Ethiopia could “defund” Amarigna, reallocate the Amhara Regional State to their original owners that are the Qimant, Agew, Tegaru and Oromos! I like to think that as a fraud and born for evil, if we are to have peace and prosperity backed by democracy amongst the peoples of the Nations and Nationalities, we could not only deny legitimacy to this dry twig but also we could deny it any breeding space for its progenies!  However, the facts of the last two months do not show that the peoples of the Nations and Nationalities could in fact rise to “defund” Amarigna and reallocate the Amara Regional state to their rightful owners!

There is no doubt that the peoples of the Nations and Nationalities of Ethiopia, unlike the dry twig, want the existing Constitution which has created the existing federalist system.  But as Tigray stood up to defend it, although the peoples of the Nations and Nationalities do support Tigray philosophically or in their hearts, they have not shown their readiness to pay the ultimate price in support of that Constitution.  And so, if we are not prepared to fight to death for that ideal which will give birth to the Ethiopia of all, of common good, bond, humanity, prosperity and common destiny, both its attainment and sustenance will never become possible and viable!  Given this reality, for Tigray, it is time to say farewell to Ethiopia! I have!


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