So, You Think You are a Democrat? [Wondmagne Ejigu]

jenny_holmlund_untold_stories_human-rightsThe rationale behind the question is challenging. A democrat believes in the rule of people; it is a person who demands democracy, who advocates and protects human rights. Does it sound like someone you consider yourself to be?

My reason to ask this question arises from my curiosity about the paradox we see around us everyday. Why do we have human-made disasters all over the globe, while at the same time at least half of the world population claims to be democratic? How is it even possible that the atrocities we see all over the world exist, when half of us supposedly believe in the rule of law? All these human made catastrophes could be avoided, they are, after all, human made.

Thinking about this reminds me of a scene from the movie Hotel Rwanda. The film shows a glimpse of the horrible genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. One particular scene still lingers in my mind; a conversation between a cameraman and the manager of a hotel. The hotel manager had seen footage of the genocide, and explains that he believes the world would do something if they saw it. But the cameraman replies:

“If people see this footage, they’ll say ‘Oh my God, it is horrible’, and then go on eating their dinner.”

Sadly, the cameraman was right. This was exactly what happened. We lost a very large number of innocent people in Rwanda in the most inhuman way. If we gaze back at recent history and learn from our mistakes, it is possible to avoid the human-made disasters we are witnessing now. Syria could serve as a good example. Unfortunately, the world did not seem to wake up in time, and now, Syria has become a ground for a global proxy war. Why did not the world intervene?

I think that there is a huge misconception about democracy and the rule of law. It is naïve to think that democracy still prevails, while in some parts of the world people are literally killed just for saying their opinion. This delusion is a fallacy that fuels the already deteriorating situation of the globe. It is a grave misconception to think that we have democracy while people are raided, bombarded and shot just for holding a peaceful demonstration.

You see, concepts like democracy and the rule of law cannot be confined by borders. It is not logical anymore to assume that the “western” world is democratic and the rest is “undemocratic”. This is a fallacy that merely rests on vicious dualism thinking. The rule of law or democracy is not a virtue that you can automatically get because you are in a certain geographical location. It is rather an innate virtue we all humans are entitled to enjoy.

There is a nation at a crossroad, at the edge of a cliff. A nation that according to political analysts could be on the verge of disintegration and civil war. This nation is Ethiopia, a country with a population of over 90 million people. It is a nation that has been brutally ruled by a notorious minority dictatorial regime for the last 25 years. We have learned from the mess in Syria how dangerous it is when a diverse country like Ethiopia is ruled by a regime such as the TPLF, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. I will give you two scenarios:

  • TPLF has already committed numerous acts of genocide in various ethnic groups in Ethiopia. Millions of people from Amhara, Oromo, Gambella, Konso and other ethnic groups have been systematically exterminated. Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, has repeatedly warned the world about the possibility of a full-scale genocide in Ethiopia. This is not a mere warning from “bad wishers”, but scientific analysis. According to Dr. Stanton, Ethiopia has already surpassed the ten signs of genocide.
  • As alarming and dangerous the situation is in Ethiopia, the western world is still babysitting the sinister minority dictatorial regime by pumping billions of dollars to the direct benefits of its elites. This, even though the regime has put the country in a State of Emergency. This is a decision that strips the country of the most basic human rights. As long as the financial help is extended from the west, the regime will continue creating mechanisms like the State of Emergency, and thereby assert its true repressive nature. This is very likely to take the country towards a large scale civil unrest.

Luckily, there are a few initiatives coming from the western world against this dictator. A proposal has been submitted to the senate in the United States for supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia. It is an effort to stop the aid money from the US to the TPLF and to put pressure on TPLF to respect human rights. We all hope it will get passed and put into effect. An addition, in Sweden, a member of the Social Democratic Party of the Swedish Parliament recently questioned why TPLF is supported.

These initiatives are brilliant. But Ethiopia, having enjoyed a long as well as strong diplomatic relationship with Sweden, needs more action from Sweden. Sweden has previously taken significant measures to show Sweden’s unwavering commitment to democracy and the rule of law. When Ethiopia was under attack by the Italian fascist duce in the 1940s, Sweden supported Ethiopia by providing training for the Ethiopian air force. Brave Swedes have fought with Ethiopians. Sweden’s assistance was a huge support in regaining the Ethiopian legacy as a country that has never been colonized. As Ethiopians, this is the Sweden we know, a Sweden that could go exceptionally further for the sake of democracy and the rule of law.

There is a saying that goes “We are not free, until we are all free”. We cannot live in our bubble thinking we are democratic and open, and at the same time ignore when people on the same planet are denied their right to live. Trust me, any injustice, no matter where it is, will affect us. There will definitely be consequences no matter how hard we try to ignore it. Mass migration is just one example. This problem, as you can see, manifests itself through our ignorance. Moreover, as sad as it may sound, we contribute to the atrocities through our defining silence.

I therefore humbly request Swedes to break the silence and act. I wish for the good people of Sweden to question the Swedish government as to why they are supporting the Ethiopian dictatorial regime. Why has the Swedish government failed to denounce this regime?

Finally, I want to ask my question again in light of what I have discussed in this article. Dear reader, do you really think that you are a democrat? If so, you know what to do. But if you are still hesitant about whether or not you should act, I will leave you with this quote from a holocaust survivor:

“ The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference”.

Thank you.

Wondmagne Ejigu
Stockholm, Sweden.

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