Ethiopia: Make Peaceful Change Impossible? Make Violent Revolution Inevitable![Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam]

Mourners of T-TPLF Massacre Victims 12 2015

In December 2015, there is only one question that is uppermost in the mind of every Ethiopian:

Will the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s  Liberation Front (T-TPLF) kill, massacre, slaughter, murder and unleash a campaign of bloodbath and bloodshed to cling to power in Ethiopia?

Most regretfully, the answer is in the affirmative.

For the past 24 years, the T-TPLF had every opportunity for peaceful change in the country.

At every juncture of peace and reconciliation, at every turn of political engagement and accommodation, at every twist of democratization and at every election, the T-TPLF has not missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

For the past 24 years, the T-TPLF made peaceful change impossible in Ethiopia.

Today, the T-TPLF has made violent revolution inevitable, unavoidable and inescapable!

In December 2015, the people of Ethiopia passed the tipping point between peaceful change and violent revolution.

In December 2015, the people of Ethiopia crossed the Rubicon, the point of no return.

The fact that they have crossed the point of no return is plain in their articulated hatred of the T-TPLF as a criminal organization that represents no one but its corrupt and murderous leaders, cronies and servile elites that feed at its trough.

The point of no return is manifest in the fact that the people of Ethiopia no longer fear the T-TPLF.

The people know the T-TPLF, hiding under the skirt of its international donors and loaners and and armed to the teeth with all the weapons of war, is not much more than a cackle of hyenas against lion-hearted Ethiopians.

The people are openly defying the T-TPLF.

They are openly demanding structural reform.

They are openly and massively agitating and mobilizing for the removal of the T-TPLF from power.

The point of no return is evident in the determination of the people that the T-TPLF must be removed by any means necessary.

The fuse connected to the powder keg on which the T-TPLF is sitting is lit. It is a very short fuse. The only question is when the fuse will reach the powder keg to ignite a fire.

The T-TPLF started a fire that has been burning in the hearts of all Ethiopians for nearly 25 years.

The T-TPLF today thinks it can stomp out the fire of popular uprising by killing and massacring children and young adults who articulate and present their grievances in peaceful protests.

The T-TPLF thinks it can the defeat and delay the people’s sense of the fierce urgency of now by promising to clean up its act tomorrow, next week and next year.

Last week, Human Rights Watch reported:

Police and military forces have fired on demonstrations, killing at least 75 protesters and wounding many others… The Ethiopian government’s response to the Oromia protests has resulted in scores dead and a rapidly rising risk of greater bloodshed. The government’s labelling of largely peaceful protesters as ‘terrorists’ and deploying military forces is a very dangerous escalation of this volatile situation.

Amnesty International similarly reported

Protesters have been labelled ‘terrorists’ by Ethiopian authorities in an attempt to violently suppress protests against potential land seizures, which have already resulted in 40 deaths.

A local publication, Addis Fortune cautioned,

But gunning down peacefully demonstrating university or high school students is not a solution. It aggravates a sensitive situation and can have a negative impact on the security of the country, not to speak of digging the graves of those who lost their lives and rubbing the bloody hearts of those who lost their loved ones last year.

The U.S. State Department issued the following earth-shaking statement:

United States is deeply concerned by the recent clashes in the Oromia region of Ethiopia that reportedly have resulted in the deaths of numerous protesters. We greatly regret the deaths that have occurred and express our condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives. We urge the government of Ethiopia to permit peaceful protest and commit to a constructive dialogue to address legitimate grievances…

Herman Cohen, former Assistant Secretary for African Affairs and the man who facilitated the takeover of power by the T-TPLF expressed puzzlement over T-TPLF massacres of unarmed protesters:

The political leaders of the Ethiopian Government have a policy of killing all opponents who take to the streets to demonstrate against them. Other opponents who do not demonstrate but make public statements instead, are sent to jail for long periods. I fail to understand why the Ethiopian regime feels it necessary to exercise such extreme control to the point of committing murder periodically against their own citizens. The government is receiving good marks from the international community for its investments in infrastructure and agriculture. If it could relax and loosen up its controls, it could become popular.Let’s face facts proven beyond a shadow of doubt!

Gunning down peaceful demonstrators and committing murders against citizens has always been the hallmark of the T-TPLF.

The T-TPLF gunned down nearly one-thousand people following the 2005 elections.

The T-TPLF gunned down over 400 Anuaks in the Gambella region in 2004.

The T-TPLF gunned down thousands of Ogadenis in 2007-08.

The T-TPLF gunned down tens of thousands of Somalis between 2006-09.

The T-TPLF has gunned down tens of thousands of Ethiopian in every part of Ethiopia since they seized power in 1991.

Murderous sprees for the T-TPLF should come as a surprise to no one.

The T-TPLF leaders mingle among civilized society today wearing military uniforms and designer suits. Remove the suits and uniforms, and lo! There stand “the best o’ the cut-throats”, as Shakespeare might have described them.

The T-TPLF is a vampiric organization which was conceived in bloodshed.

The T-TPLF is an organization born in bloodshed.

The T-TPLF is an organization that lives and thrives in bloodshed.

The only question is whether the T-TPLF will die in bloodshed.

It is obvious the T-TPLF leaders, cronies and bottom feeder elites have been rattled by recent protests and resistance movements throughout the country. The last time the T-TPLF was this badly rattled was when their capo di tutti capi  (boss of all bosses) Meles Zenawi dropped dead in 2012.

The flashpoint in the current uprising is the so-called Addis Ababa master Plan, a hare-brained T-TPLF scheme of land expropriation of farmers on the far outskirts of the capital. (Click here to access the “MasterPlan” in Amharic.)

A panicked T-TPLF puppet-minister Hailemariam Desalegn blamed outside forces for the protests:

We know destructive forces are masterminding the violence from the forefront and from behind and they have burnt down a number of government and people’s property. We have also seen that armed forces have killed and injured security forces and members of the public. This thing cannot continue like this. I would like to pass a message that we, in conjunction with the public, will take merciless legitimate action against any force bent on destabilising the area.”

“Merciless legitimate action?” Did Hailemariam mean “merciless murderous action”?

Hailemariam and his T-TPLF masters are perfectly capable of taking “merciless” action,  but they are totally  incapable of taking “legitimate” action because they are unacquainted with the “rule of law.”

Hailemariam and his T-TPLF masters confuse the rule of law with the rule of thugs!

What Hailemariam is told to say by his T-TPLF masters is this: The T-TPLF will mercilessly massacre their opponents and protesters and do whatever it takes to stay in power.

The demonically bottomless capacity of the T-TPLF to take merciless action against their opponents is  unquestioned. “Hell is empty because all the devils have enlisted in the T-TPLF,” to paraphrase Shakespeare.

Another cog in the T-TPLF wheel of misfortune by the name of Abiy Berhane in London echoed Hailemariam.  “The violence in some parts of Oromia region is instigated by foreign-based opposition groups who are determined to overthrow the constitutional order in Ethiopia by the use of force.”

Another T-TPLF huckster by the name of Getachew Reda, who talks like sleazebucket used car salesman, said the cause of the troubles were armed gangs opposed to the T-TPLF’s efforts to consult with the people of the region on the city expansion plan. “The security forces will be taking very responsible and measured steps to neutralize the armed gangs which are now terrorizing the people in the region in those localities.”

How ludicrous is it for a regime of thugs armed to the teeth to call unarmed student and youthful protesters armed gangsters?

T-TPLF leaders and their fawning and bootlicking bottom feeders will spare no effort to demonize, criminalize, scandalize, sensationalize, criticize and brutalize their opponents.

How the T-TPLF made violent revolution inevitable

Last week Ethiopia’s foremost heroine of free press, Reeyot Alemu, declared she had joined Ginbot 7, a political organization committed to armed struggle against the T-TPLF.

In 2012, the T-TPLF had jailed Reeyot on bogus terrorism charges and sentenced her to 14 years in prison. She was released in July and arrived in the U.S. a few weeks ago.

Reeyot explained why she decided to join the armed struggle against the T-TPLF:

I have been thinking of what I can do inside Ethiopia. If I write, I will be imprisoned. I will be jailed. That would be the end of it. I have to do something to oppose and change the regime.  To do so, I have to make a special contribution. My sacrifices have to be commensurate to the enormity of the task. I am not willing to be jailed for having written something. That is not commensurate. When I think of what I can do to bring about change, I thought I can do much better. They can shut down [political] parties anytime they want; they can shut down newspapers any time they want. If they were to jail a party member or leader, that’s better because the party could continue on. It is easy for them to shut down parties and newspapers and jail journalists. These days even little things like writing on Facebook is something one can be jailed for.  Even comedians cannot joke [about the regime].  So what can I do? Not much. I concluded in prison that I cannot do much in the country. After I was released I gave interviews and wrote pieces on Ethiomedia and tried to show what my stand is. I believe we have to cast off our fears and take constructive action, action whose results can be seen. Action does not come from wishful thinking. I say all this because I have no plans to return to the homeland. I know if I return I will be sent back to Kality [Meles Zenawi Kality Prison]. Therefore, I have to make a contribution to the struggle [from outside]. I decided in prison to join the Ginbot 7 movement. There is no opportunity for peaceful struggle. Even the little opportunities that existed when I was jailed, they do not exist today. There is no choice left. There is nothing left but armed struggle. That is why I have joined Ginbot 7.

Is there no “opportunity for peaceful struggle” left in Ethiopia?

Reeyot’s statement that there is no opportunity for peaceful struggle left in Ethiopia is a question of profound importance for every Ethiopian. It is a question whose answer will determine decisively and irreversibly the future of Ethiopia. (The future of the T-TPLF is already determined. It has no future!)

Reeyot’s statement raises profound questions in my own thinking and the struggle I have waged against the T-TPLF criminals ceaselessly for nearly 10 years.

First let me say that I have the highest respect for Reeyot. I have the greatest appreciation for her sacrifices. I have great admiration for her defiance of the T-TPLF.

Reeyot refused to kneel down before the T-TPLF gods and ask for pardon and mercy. She stood her ground and refused to be intimidated, humiliated and dehumanized by the T-TPLF in prison.

When I heard Reeyot said “there is no opportunity for peaceful change in Ethiopia”, I felt like I was struck by lightning.

If I believed Reeyot was simply articulating her personal views, I would have treated her statement as a mere  expression of her personal beliefs.

But Reeyot speaks for her generation, the 70 percent of young Ethiopians, like no one I know.

Reeyot resonates and echoes the despair, hopelessness, anguish, tribulation and resolve of her generation. She speaks for and is a messenger of Ethiopia’s young people.

When Reeyot delivers the message that there is no opportunity for peaceful struggle left in Ethiopia, that is a game changer for me.

As I contemplated Reeyot’s statement, I asked myself what the alternative choice is to peaceful struggle. Is it armed struggle?

When a gang of thugs publicly pledges to take “merciless actions” against unnamed protesters, indiscriminately shoots into protesting crowds, detonates hand grenades in the midst of worshippers, jails and tortures opponents, steals elections and claims to have won by 100 percent of the votes, the choice is not between peaceful and armed struggle.

No! No! The choice is NOT between peaceful struggle and armed struggle; the choice is between cowardice and violence.

I think Reeyot reached the spiritual tipping point Gandhi reached when he wrote, “The Doctrine of the Sword”:

I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.

I believe Reeyot reached the point where she was forced to accept permanent dishonor of Ethiopia by the T-TPLF or stand up and fight against the T-TPLF.

When facing and standing up to the military might, financial invincibility and total control of the T-TPLF, Reeyot re-proclaimed Gandhi’s declaration that “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

The indomitable will that has turned Reeyot away from the path of nonviolence is the courage of her convictions and her refusal to be afraid of the T-TPLF no more, to no longer accept humiliation and indignity from the T-TPLF.

Reeyot  reached a point of “Enough is Enough!” I believe all Ethiopians have reached a point of “Enough is Enough!”

Reeyot’s decision, and I believe her decision reflects the views and will of the vast majority of her generation,  to abandon the path of nonviolence and choose between cowardice and violence has caused me to question my own beliefs and relentless nonviolent personal struggle I have waged against the T-TPLF and its international supporters for nearly 10 years.

My long time readers of my very long essays will recall that I joined the human rights struggle in Ethiopia after the late T-TPLF leader ordered the massacre of hundreds of unarmed protesters following the 2005 election.

When I started my personal struggle for human rights in Ethiopia, I was convinced of three things: 1) Peaceful change in Ethiopia is not only possible but inevitable. 2) Meles Zenawi and the T-TPLF have set Ethiopia on fire, and fire fighters like me are needed to fight the fires of tribal hate, ethnic division, domination and antagonism and inequality and injustice. 3) Violence (the “law of the brute”) as a means of social change is immoral, barbaric and inhuman.

Gandhi taught that “nonviolence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law to the strength of the spirit.”

I believed and still believe the law of the human species is nonviolence. But I also realize that “merciless” violence inflicted on the human species can transform humanity to respond to the brute with brutish means.

In August 2006, I wrote a commentary related to HR 5680 (Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006) in which I declared my philosophy for political change in Ethiopia. I said we bring change by winning the hearts and minds of the people:

I believe we prove the righteousness of our cause not in battlefields soaked in blood and filled with corpses, but in the living hearts and thinking minds of men and women of good will… I believe we must undertake an internal struggle in our minds and hearts and cleanse ourselves of the poison of ethnic hatred.

Just a few days before ringing in 2016, I have come to realize that the T-TPLF has broken the hearts of the Ethiopian people  beyond repair by 24 years of abuse; inflamed their hearts by 24 years of injustice; hardened their hearts by 24 years of indignity and humiliation; embittered their hearts by 24 years of exploitation; sickened their hearts by 24 years of corruption and today steeled their hearts by 24 years of tyrannical brutalization.

The heartbeats of the Ethiopian people have been transformed into the drumbeats of armed struggle and war.

As I look back at my relentless nearly ten-year struggle against abuse of power, tyranny and for human rights violations and for democracy, justice and human rights in Ethiopia, I am overwhelmed by the feeling that all of my efforts for peaceful change have been for naught. They did not amount to a hill of beans.

All of the unsolicited advice and warnings I gave to the T-TPLF and its leaders to change their ways, to mend their ways have gone unheeded.

All of my pleas to the T-TPLF to let up on its repression, to become more humane and just and to listen to the people have all fallen on deaf ears.

The fire I tried to put out in Ethiopia is now smoldering in every part of the country.

Many of my longtime readers remember my 2007 allegorical piece “The Hummingbird and the Forest Fire”.

In that piece I likened myself to the tiny hummingbird firefighter trying to put out a forest fire by carrying water in her beaks.

… Believe it or not, our homeland is on fire. There is a pyromaniac on the loose… But the smoke carries a message: Thousands of our brothers and sisters have burned in the fire, tens of thousands more are burning in the fire now, hundreds of thousands are dying from gunfire, and 77 million are on the firing line!

When your home is on fire, you don’t stand around and talk a good talk. Like the hummingbird, you get in gear and run to the river to get your droplet of water.

But our young people in Ethiopia are in the fire, and on the firing line every day. They are shot down like rabid dogs if they protest. They are jailed if they speak their minds. They are harassed if they are considered disloyal. They disappear if they are considered subversive.

These Diaspora firefighters do not fight fire with fire; no, they fight fire with water. Like water on fire, these firefighters spray hope and optimism over the despair and misery inflicted upon our brothers and sisters; they sweep the wreckage of repression and tyranny with the broom of democracy and human rights; they plant the seeds of freedom and liberty on a land charred and ravaged by political violence, corruption, savagery and lawlessness.

These firefighters have a single mission: help build a new society guided by a national vision which embraces the indivisible unity of the Ethiopian people and rejects the bankrupt ideas of those who claim that Ethiopia is no more than an incoherent agglomeration of competing and antagonistic ethnic, linguistic and regional groups.

I concluded:

Let’s educate and train our young people in the peaceful but unyielding ways of firefighting, motivate them, support them and embrace them as they face the searing flames desperately trying to save the millions of fire victims and their future. Let’s assure them that in the end, like the molten steel that shines brightly having gone through the blast furnace, they will also shine and bring sunshine with them to the charred and scarred forest.

Let us never doubt that our young firefighters, though they may inherit a society devastated by decades of political repression and human rights abuse, will one day be able to build a City Upon a Hill — a just, humane and pious society — where no man or woman will fear his or her government, where government will dutifully respect the rights and liberties of its citizens, where every person can stand tall and freely speak his or her mind, and where no man, woman or child will ever lose life, liberty of property without due process of just laws.

Is peaceful change still possible in Ethiopia?

I do not know factually if peaceful change is possible in Ethiopia anymore.

What I know for sure is that my dreams of building  an Ethiopian “City Upon a Hill” are dissolving fast.

What I know for sure is that my efforts to educate and train our young people in the peaceful but unyielding ways of fighting the fires of ethnic division, human rights violation and tyrannical abuse of power are fast giving way to fighting fire with fire.

What I know for sure is the people of Ethiopia have resolved to get rid of the T-TPLF by force of arms because they have concluded the T-TPLF is impervious to reason, deaf to dialogue, discussion and debate and resolved in its decision to plunge the country and itself into the conflagration of civil war.

So it seems present events have made me the only person who still indulges in the illusion of peaceful change; the only person who believes in his wishes of peaceful change against overwhelming facts of change by force of arms; the only person who hopes peaceful change is still possible when hope has dimmed and defiant despair is becoming triumphant; the only person who preaches the ways of nonviolence to empty pews.

It seems I am the only person who still nurtures dreams of an Ethiopia at peace with itself and neighbors because it has undergone peaceful change.

In July 2012, when the late T-TPLF leader passed away, I wrote a commentary entitled, “Dreams of an Ethiopia in Peace”.

I called for the “beginning of national dialogue, not only in the halls of power, the corridors of the bureaucracy and the military barracks but also in the remotest villages, the church and masjid meeting halls and other places of worship,  the schools and colleges, the neighborhood associations and in the taverns, the streets and markets and wherever two or more people congregate.  We have no choice but to begin talking to each other with good will and in good faith.”

I dared to dream of an Ethiopia at peace because “Some men see things and say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’”

I dared to believe we can all walk in Nelson Mandla’s footsteps.

I dared to dream of a nation of utopian Ethiopians! Why not?

In my “Dreams” commentary, I cited Scripture to argue there is “a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.”

After over two decades of T-TPLF rule, “What time is it in Ethiopia now?” I asked.

It it is time for peace–high time to dream for peace. It is time to replace bitterness with reconciliation; hate with love that heals the community; revenge with forgiveness; despair with hope; hurt with healing; fear with courage; division with unity; doubt with faith; shame with honor;  deceit with candor and sincerity; anger with reason; cruelty with kindness and caring; enmity with friendship; duplicity with openness; complacency with action; indifference with passion; incivility with gracefulness; suspicion with trust; selfishness with altruism; dishonesty with integrity; convenience with virtue; cunning  with scruples; ignorance with knowledge; benightedness with imagination; acrimony with civility, desire with fulfillment and sniping and carping with broad national dialogue.

I said the time to talk and act is now! It is time to act now for peaceful change!

But my words, it seems have fallen on deaf ears and scattered to the wind.

As 2015 comes to a close, I think the people of Ethiopia hear the words of the great American revolutionary Patrick Henry more loudly and more clearly than my puny pleas and protestations for peaceful change:

It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Believe it or not, I still believe in the possibility of peaceful change in Ethiopia.

I so believe not because the facts in Ethiopia today support my view; not because my belief is supported in the opinion of the Ethiopian people; not because I believe the T-TPLF has learned its lesson in its 11th hour; not because I believe the T-TPLF will act in its own enlightened self-interest and seek to avert conflict and bloodshed; not because the great powers that be will intervene and pressure the T-TPLF to its senses, not because…

I still believe in the possibility of peaceful change in Ethiopia because I am a utopian Ethiopian.

To be continued…

Filed in: Articles & Opinions