By: Mulata Gudata
Though I promised not to come up with a long article, this one is a bit long as usual because in this one I am out not to spare any one. When I mean to hit I should hit hard and that made my article a bit longer than I wish. I urge everyone to read to the last line to see if you are on my hit list or not. If you have managed to escape, thank God you are my best friend. If you got the bashing it is not because I hate anyone rather I simply tell the truth as I see it. I don’t hate even the TPLF/EPRDF guys but the system they use against our people and the country. I hope no one hates me either but if you do I don’t care for I am not out here to look for love but to state the fact as it is and do what I can in the best interest of my country and its poor mass. Thank God the freedom of expression remains a trendy and timely thing to do at this time and age no matter how much our rulers are trying to stifle it. Enjoy the reading!
In all of my previous articles I have written focusing mainly on Oromo leadership by hectoring them to work with unity groups that are friendly and positive towards Oromo issues. In this one I will try to mainly look at what seems to make unity not only unattractive and difficult but also threatens to render it impossible. If some of us make unity a project of self interest by working it into a frame of sorts into which we expect everyone else to walk without any question or try to portray our self in an irresponsible self-righteousness and a holier-than-thou attitude in our defence of our past in spite of the wrongs in it, we leave a lot to be desired about our self. This is what I want to critically look at mainly issues surrounding the psychological aspect of it with the hope of creating some understanding around it based on how the rest of us look at these approaches. I know that most of us accept when I press hard on Oromo leadership, I challenge everyone of us to accept this one as well in equal measures.
We know beyond any reasonable doubt that virtually all Ethiopians accept the fact that our communities across the board are on the same level of development and no particular group has been favored over the other when it comes to our poor mass. The Amhara mass are as poor as the Oromo mass or the Tigre mass, the Sidama, Anuak, Gurage, somali and so on. Besides that our people as a society have no problem what so ever living together. In light of this reality the question remains: what is the fundamental problem that feeds and sustains our social and political conflict?
Before we look into any other reason something the significant majority of our people have come to realise, though after too long, is the fact that the hunger for power by individuals from all sides of the divide and their determination to use any means to achieve it with total disregard to the effect of their approach on our poor mass appears to be the primary reality behind the trouble plaguing our country for over two decades. Another fact underlying this has to do with our past which is the marginalisation of the cultural values of different communities in our history mainly that of Oromos contrary to the size of the population and the significant role the Oromos have played in our country’s national life from its very foundation. This is a fact which is not open to dispute but it is far from a case of a colony and a colonizer. To say Oromos are colonised simply amounts to saying the Oromos and Amharas from Shawa Province have colonised the entire country from South to North, from East to West which is simply absurd even to imagine and too outlandish to be true. This fact makes a highly reformed system in which Oromo issues are addressed to the maximum level possible within the Ethiopian broader union a mandatory requirement for the future security and stability of our country and for us to effectively shed the image of being the country of jailors and killers.
By putting the reform in place we will be able to have a political system in which power will be restored to the wider citizenry from where any group aspiring to lead the country should go begging for the mandate through fair and free democratic elections. The government that comes to power with such mandate with a term limit of specified period of time will stand to guarantee peace and stability by being a truly dedicated servant of the people with transparency and accountability far from the ‘Gods with plenty of evil spirits’ we have had over the last four decades in the name of governments. This very fact should act as the most coveted incentive to propel all of us to diligently work towards achieving it as it offers the opportunity of pinning down our system of government on unshakable foundation to ensure that gun-touting ‘whirl winds’ in the form of Derg and TPLF/EPRDF will never have the chance of running away with our country any more as it will make the duty of defending the country very much the concern of the citizens as it is of the government ensuring security and stability.
I strongly believe that no part of our society should have any fear of reform for any reason because in a thoroughly reformed system with a maximum possible recognition for every one’s rights in a diversely rainbow nation we will also be able to have political parties that are required by law to be multinational with tribal affiliated ones outlawed and citizens granted the right to work and live anywhere in the country so long as they abide by the law and pay tax on earned income as it happens anywhere in the civilised world. Of course, to ensure that before anything else we will have to put in place a transitional government that is charged with the task of overseeing the drafting and formulation of the constitution paving the way for a smooth transition to an elected representative government. We should not miss the fact that it will be a real transitional government which is not only all inclusive but also automatically earns the trust and respect of the significant majority following its formation when the fact on the ground calls for its existence unlike the one formed to drift in exile making a mockery out of itself by having the image of a group of self-assigned watchmen to a non-existent mansion. If this one is not a reckless ambition and pre-emptive strategising of self for a power-grab, what else is?
Having said that when it comes to our leaders, why do the people blame the Oromo leadership? It is because we need not make a pariah out of our self when we know very well that nothing can succeed without significantly involving us in our country which simply means after fixing our system in a truly democratic Ethiopia we will be sought after to be crowned and to crown others, this is a fact that waits for its time. Leaders do not qualify for singing the same populist song with the crowd but for standing out to see things differently and for being able to be progressive and timely. Many well-meaning Oromos hold the view that while Oromos as a community have everything it takes to work with others and benefit out of it we unfortunately seem to suffer from lack of an outgoing personality in the leadership with the quality of a principled statesman, and this left them pulling us to the corner as if the Oromo people are just a small group that should fear others instead of pushing to the centre with confidence.
This in turn leaves the leadership with the tendency of looking at TPLF/EPRDF as a better alternative than the other Ethiopians in the opposition while it is not true. Why? Because the Woyanes use a clever tactic of deception towards the Oromo leadership by saying we give you this and that while they have neither given nor will ever give anything in real sense of it until they will have given a true democracy to our country as a whole, which they will never do as we have seen for nearly a quarter of a century which is more than long enough to see and know them for what they really are – inherently undemocratic.
Why do we allocate blame to the extreme unity groups? It is because this groups realise the need of working with others as the only means of standing up to the challenges we face but want it to happen as they enjoy beating the drum of the past to ensure their psychological supremacy even as they are willing to significantly cede ground by breaking with the past in terms of the reality. Yet they fail to understand that behaving that way amounts to saying, I know I am missing on my drink which I am willing to accept but let me feel comfortable by hanging onto my hangover. What does this mean in the Oromos’ camp?
It comes out with a role of a put-off effectively triggering the psychology of ke-fitfitu fiituun (focus more on his facial expression than his golden offer, the saying in Amharic) effectively giving a good excuse for the Oromo mass not to look at the short-comes in the leadership as the leadership is also provided with a perfect scapegoat. Then all these twaddle left us all looking like the super proud girl who wants a suitor and appears to be not wanting at the same time only to put off a potential suitor practically making the most important job remain undone while there is no real and tangible problem stopping it, leaving the control freak parents (her Woyanes) scoring success hands down due to her own foolishness. Commitment matters in our current situation far from posturing as does image and substance since tribal issues ride very much closer to heart tied to emotions.
All this boils down to lack of cool minded visionary leaders from all sides who can command respect from their respective camps with more focus on the present and the future than the past. It is true that our past is the work of all of us with no group standing to claim exclusive credit for what is good about it or should be the target of blame for what is bad in it but the unfortunate fact is that the significant majority of our society appears to be revolting against it. Then when we know that our difference has everything to do with our past, indulging in anything of the past that is controversial amounts to being unrepentant of the wrong sides of it and irresponsibly disregarding the concerns of others practically making the unity we call for impossible.
Given a government that does not see anything wrong in erecting for us a statue with mutilated body parts, instead of getting it clear, any failure to go slow on our controversial past amounts to gleefully jumping into a pool-of-death laid out for us. Where do we think we can reach that way or what is the wisdom in it? If we call for unity at the same time we are playing the role of making it difficult and impossible that is not a great position to be in. It is wise to always remember that by choosing to indulge in our glorification or condemnation of our past we simply stand to destroy our future. This argument is by no means a call for discarding of our past altogether which is simply impractical and impossible rather it is a challenge to all sides of the divide to go slow on it until such time when we will be able to resolve all our issues of the present and the past through a comprehensive and all-inclusive national reconciliation.
Our past remains very ‘juicy and too sweet’ to put down for some of us, but unfortunately it comes out as a bitter taste that should be forgotten for most of us. In light of this fact if we really want to move forward, taking less on the past more on the present and the future is a must do at least in the interest of mending things in our current situation. Any failure to do this only means staying trapped in an endless cycle of self deception particularly for those of us who appear to be leading everybody else in calling for unity.
Given where we stand today, the only viable way forward is through heart and mind with a conscious effort of creating unprecedented atmosphere for love and affection as well as a relentless work towards mutual understanding, knowing that any one of these cannot succeed without the other. Commonsense dictates that you dress for the occasion and the task at hand – you don’t go to play a football-match in a three piece suit and tie as you need to get in the right gear. The message is short and clear, where we want to go we should go with everything it takes: the mood, the will, the determination, the dedication and the atmosphere that should surround it.
The Oromo leaders started the ‘Oromo first’ issues 40 years ago, the first half behind the scene and the over second half of it in the agora very much in every aspect of our public life. But unfortunately to this day the hard line unity groups seem to be unable to reconcile themselves with this very concept as they appear to be too reluctant to ignore it as we work hard on addressing its root cause once and for all. Regarding this particular thing, it is fair to squarely lay the blame on their heads for the social slogan that is sweeping Oromos’ social circles today under the ‘Oromo first’ mantra. I say this because nothing is too late even today.
Yes, as I write this article I am an Oromo first but I know I am an Ethiopian and I don’t see anything wrong in that. It is long time since we started acting as blocks of diverging views and interests towards our politics and that is not set to change any time soon. In other words, our politics have gone tribal two decades ago and none of us has the legal or moral authority to tell the other what to do or how to do it for in tribalism one does ones tribal issues the way one deems fit. Tribal issues are ‘up in the air flying high’ leaving us with the need for preparing a highly reformed political and social ground for its ‘safe landing’ where it should ‘self-dissolve’ and settle down forever when we will be able to provide it with enough incentive to do so. After that we will all become Ethiopians like never before. We need to overcome the simplistic attitude we have of it all in order to face it as the grave matter that it is and the potential danger inherent in it if mishandled as we teeter on the verge of a civil conflict. Please try to accept this fact and see my article under the heading ‘Tribal politics rides so close to heart’ at the links below.
Another case in point is the so called Hiber Radio which I am even personally asked by some guys why I do not write about it. Who cares about the dead fish? For me Hiber Radio does not exist because I never go there to listen to it. But enough to make me not to swear, the only time I came to practically know of its existence was when its window popped up among the mini windows in a YouTube video I just finished listening. I saw the window’s label ‘Hiber Radio’ and clicked on it out of curiosity during the second half of December, 2013. I even don’t remember what I heard on it apart from a news item it carried to do with Eritreans in Israel.
However, what I should say to the hosts of the said radio or any other radio in a similar business is, can you please look into some of your broadcasts that has the effect of fuelling our division for the sake of doing your part to help and enable our unity the only thing that we have to ensure our success in our quest for freedom and in the interest of the continuity of our country in one piece which I believe you also wish for. And above all in the interest of our poor mass whose life will be devastated by our indiscretion and its negative outcomes if we fail to get things right.
Never forget that we are working hard to walk away from tribalism into unity that will be the future ‘home’ for all of us. Given this fact, as you work in the name of unity you need to be extremely careful not to make our future ‘home’ look unpromising, ugly and unattractive by doing anything that ends up with a counterproductive effect of making tribalism more attractive. This means the burden of responsibility is heaver on you than those of us who are comfortable chanting our tribal songs pure and clean. If you are there to advance your own tribal issues in the name of unity, then you are simply as good as a coward who is hiding in what is good only to destroy it. If you think you are systematically hiding your motive in your pretence for unity, you simply forget that you cannot be too systematic to escape unnoticed. You should also take great care not to put yourself in the eyes of storm. The message for you is very short and clear: act responsibly, preach peace and love not hatred and war!!!
We all believe that our unity is of paramount importance for our success, at the same time we seem to be unable to see how some of our actions or inactions are effectively working against our desires. We remained physically united for over a century with a psychological division that brought us to where we stand today as we are facing the threat of a bloody fall apart. This is why I always call on all Ethiopians to pay due attention to the psychological aspect of everything we do in our politics if we really mean what we say when it comes to our call for unity. It is a simple common sense that we need to take extreme care especially by making conscious efforts to tune down our psychological warfare which has the most damaging effect for we cannot reach anywhere as we keep shooting our self in the foot. You cannot hope to plug a gap as you keep chipping off at the edge. As the saying goes, when you are in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging.
Last but not least, internet – the maker and breaker of our time is playing its positive and negative shares in our conflict. Unlucky for us, we have a highly complicated and terribly sensitive problem at the time and age when you don’t wish to have one where internet is acting as a field and horse for both constructive and destructive opinions in equal measures. Unfortunately, its destructive role by far outweighs the constructive ones in our case because it is open to everyone far and wide across the globe and few of us have the wisdom of taking all the negative ideas spewed out there lightly as it comes streaming into our bed rooms in its numbers literally in every second of our life. Since we cannot have control over the damages being done on the Face book and YouTube outlets, our short message to hosts of the Ethiopian web pages specially the ones open to forums is, please can you pay attention to edit out and block comments and opinions that come with negative tones to the entire communities and the ones which recklessly incite conflicts since you can do much better than you are seen doing today.
Before the finishing line, a saying in Oromo language to be followed by a question: Namtichi baduuf murteefattee ossoo deemu namtticha birraatti dhufe. Aboo, ee’issa karraan baddi? Jedhee gaafate, irruma jirtaa deemi, jedhee deebisseef. Roughly translated in English, it is about a man who was walking away after having decided to get lost. Then he met another man along the way and asked him: Sir, where is the way to get lost? Then the answer came: you are on the right one, keep going! Here follows my question: as things stand today we cannot say with certainty that we are on the right way when it comes to our country and its politics. Given this fact, should we keep going or stop, think a while and decide to turn around to what is good for all of us? I leave the answer primarily to our elites who seem to enjoy living in the past and then to our leaders of all calibre and backgrounds.
Finally, our message to our rulers should be, as a government in the 21st century you deserve to be opposed if not it is our worry as it should also be yours that you will be left unequal among equals in the democratic world of today that has practically moved away from the periods of stone-age when leaders were worshipped not questioned. Please don’t blame us for opposing you rather try to appreciate it and look at yourself, the errors of your ways and all the reasons that make us to oppose you. You are on the doing side while we are on the telling side. If you don’t like the truth that we tell about you the best thing to do is to stop doing it, and turn to soul searching with the sole aim of leading our country to a true democracy.
By being able to do the elusive soul searching on your part, you will realise the need for turning to the right path that will lead our people to national reconciliation, our country to peace and stability and all our citizens to hope. The moment the will comes from your side we will automatically start thinking and acting as brothers and sisters that we are. As the saying goes, when you go into the heart of the devil there is nothing there. Where there is a will always there is a way. Our country which is big enough even for foreigners should be more than enough for all of us when we manage to ‘shed the leafs’ of greed and overcome our exclusive approach to politics and the trappings of power to start thinking selflessly in fairness for all.
Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws. Plato
We should pray for the good to beckon to us and for our eyes to be opened to it as well as the wisdom to avail our self for it whenever it presents itself. Amen!!!
By: Mulata Gudata