As much as we have a highly complicated socio-political issues to grapple with, we are also lucky enough to have a sizable number of elites literally from all segment of our society who strongly feel about the worrisome situation of our country and commit themselves to loudly voicing their concerns. Tecola Hagos is one among them and I often enjoy reading his commentaries and analysis. However, after reading one of his last articles at this link: http://www.ethiomedia.com/100leads/4787 I came out with a feeling that a part of his analysis sounds a little bit overdone to the extent of standing the chance of being counterproductive. It is the part in which he has discussed at length the despicable madness visited upon poor immigrants in South Africa.
I believe it is good to always ask our self this crucial question before we start complaining the human right abuses we face outside our country. With what moral ground do we justify our inordinate outrage against foreign governments and individuals for failing to protect and respect our human rights as we cite myriads of international and local laws when the same human right stands denied to us in our country? With such excessive outrage we show our self off as if we are either demanding for something we never had in the first place or trying to deflect attention away from where it is due – the misrule prevailing in our land that has forced us to end up as immigrants elsewhere.
Three main factors have to be in place for immigrants to be welcomed and make a living with safety and security in any host country.
- Adequate political will from the host government to receive and accord safety and security to the immigrants.
- The potential capacity of the economy to absorb such a huge number of immigrants as have been going to South Africa from all over Sub Saharan Africa for over two decades, and the willingness of the locals to accommodate and tolerate such a large number of foreigners in their midst.
- The presumed positive contributions immigrants are perceived to bring with them.
Lack of any of these factors means the tragedy we have witnessed in South Africa as it had to happen when the locals turned against the immigrants with unforgiveable savagery. The best place for anyone to be is in ones’ homeland in an ideal situation. Had we had in place a government that would take its responsibility towards its citizens seriously, we would not have ended up there in such large numbers only to be seen as nauseas. The most dignified way of going outside of one’s country is either as a diplomat or as a tourist. This being the case we do better by desisting from trying to portray immigrating out of our country as the soundest thing to do.
We are expected to focus more on our domestic issues that has made corruption and unfair distribution of national resource a highly acceptable practice leaving the vast majority of citizens without any option apart from leaving their country at any cost, and less on the past or present issues of the people who host us as refugees. Particularly, it is the highest standard of wisdom for us to stay away from their undesirable issues as it is less of our business and more of theirs. We have every reason to call attention to where it is due by asking for change of the skewed system in our country that has clearly failed us to the extent of rendering over 40% of our citizens wishing to leave their country even astonishingly undeterred by the tragedy in Libya and the humanitarian catastrophe across the Mediterranean Sea.
Any one is justified for being outraged in the face of the barbaric act that took place in South Africa which the world has witnessed with utter shock. Yet making our anger sound as if we are laying claim to what is ours by birth-right, simply because we have played a part in South Africa’s struggle to defeat apartheid, sounds somewhat out of order. It is true Ethiopia had played a significant role in the struggle waged by Africans against colonialism in general and in black South Africans’ freedom in particular. But we should not forget the fundamental fact that it is their country not ours.
We helped them to have their God given right in their country not for us to use it as an excuse to go there and ‘overwhelm’ them in areas of opportunity they consider rightfully theirs. If they live up to their moral obligations and afford us a space in their midst, it is well and good, as we should also remain alive to the fact that such a welcome has a limit. I believe, the fact that South Africa has been saturated by immigrants partly explains the turn up of African refugees elsewhere in large numbers particularly from the Sub-Saharan countries as we nowadays see around the Mediterranean Sea.
If they consider us as a burden we have a country where we rightfully belong. We have every right to protest the barbaric action without demonizing them with excessive rage. In the same way we are very cautious not to project the gross misconducts of our tribal extremists onto the wider community they claim to represent in our country, we should also do everything we can to avoid projecting the barbaric acts of few criminal elements in South Africa onto the wider Zulu community; more so since we have seen some South Africans standing up to the criminals in defence of the victims. We should as well ask for the culprits to be brought to book without rubbishing the entire Zulu clan who are still hosting us in spite of such occasional unacceptable behaviour that is not representative of the larger Zulu community.
To get the real picture all we need is ask our self and reflect on how many South Africans live in our country. As the saying goes when we point one finger at others, the other four remain pointing at us. Over reacting to the tragedy that has unfolded in South Africa amounts to diverting attention from the unhealthy situation in our land that produces refugees on a scale never seen in our history. The irony lies in the fact that mass exodus outside our country runs parallel with a deafening decibel about economic development miracle. When people chose to leave their country in such high numbers as nearly a million citizens sleep rough on the streets across the country with millions more struggling to eat one meal a day, the right question beginning for answer remains: where is the development and who is developed?
It is us, owing to our troubled homeland, who went to South Africa to be of an inconvenience to them, as they see it, though whether their barbaric action in response to that is justified or not is a different matter altogether. By our presence in their country, we happened to crowd their space and leave them on the disadvantage leading to a gradual build-up of social tensions under the surface as it kept on flaring up intermittently along the way before it burst out on the scale we have witnessed this last time. South Africa has been receiving exodus of African immigrants since the defeat of apartheid in early 1990s with refugees from troubled countries like ours, Somalia, DRC and the next door Zimbabwe leading in numbers over the others. Considering this fact is enough to make us look at issues from their view point for us not to overdo our rage to the extent that we absolutely forget the good job they are doing by hosting us since the positive by far outweighs the negative.
I hold the view that the sheer number of immigrants has tested the resilience of their hospitality. There is a narrative that immigrants take jobs which black South Africans are not good at due to their apartheid past. It is natural that what one cannot do today one is likely to do it tomorrow or the day after as human beings are bound to learn from how others do things around them. That argument might have been true ten or twenty years ago but it cannot be true today in exactly the same way it was yesterday.
Seen as the closest and relatively easily accessible El Dorado for African immigrants short of Europe and America, South Africa has been the destination of choice for more than two decades. Having helped them to overturn the Boer domination, if Africans turn up there in great numbers to the level of being seen as replacing the Boer, the reaction immigrants received from black South Africans is somehow expected. As we condemn the brutality and barbarism of the response we should also not lose sight of their overwhelmed situation. That is why I saw Atto Tecola’s analysis as overdone especially in its aspects that focused on the history of the Zulus’ in relation to their apartheid past by rubbishing them as sub-humans. My preferred opinion is that digging deep into their uncomfortable past in such a way should not at all be our business lest we end up making the situation even worse than it was for the people who are still living there. I stand to be corrected if I am wrong but I simply don’t see the wisdom that informed the approach.
This sentence also caught my eyes in the penultimate paragraph in the same article by Tecola Hagos: “I read also, less now than before, some ignorant narrow minded individuals from some insignificant village from the back woods of Ethiopia trying to define my Ethiopiawnet.” Evidently enough, Tecola is on record dismissing some Ethiopians as ignorant and others as over-educated. One only remains wondering which ones he considers as normal and appropriate. Apparently he means to respond by this sentence to what he believes an unfair criticism of his Ethiopiawinet. But what he gravely missed here is the fact that responding to one mistake by another cannot make anything right. Rather the right approach for him, in my preferred view, would have been taking a deep breath and calming himself down before getting down to explaining his side of the matter to set the record right and clear the atmosphere surrounding the misunderstanding as he saw it.
It is good to see ourselves making every effort possible in striving to outshine each other in being good Ethiopians since that is a commendable quality and personal trait expected of any proud citizen. Yet, amid such endeavour we should always remember that any citizen is supposed to be judged on merit not on the basis of whether he or she hails from the centre or the periphery of our land. The mentality of classifying citizens as golden and central or marginal, irrelevant and dispensable fringe is the hallmark of Woyanes’ divisive policy that always reeks the air about it of Meles Zenawis infamous pose: “what is the Aksum Obelisk to the Wollaita man?” and the “unpleasant colour of their eyes…” nonsense.
If anyone comes from the wooded backyard of our country, that simply signifies verdant greenery and vegetation at face value which all the rest part of the country should have as a model and try to emulate far from anyone of us trying to make any attempt of coining it into an insult. As we all understand anyplace would be worrisome if it were to be remotely considered as a desert not as a wooded backyard. We should also learn and develop the culture of welcoming positive criticism from each other lest complacency amid the chorus of our opposition voice would gradually undermine the quality of our opinion.
Finally, one of the usual Woyanes’ self deceptions in the name of election is only few days ahead of us. It already stands out for the thousands of innocents being locked up under myriads of trumped up charges across the country. The world knows that the so called election is a farce, Ethiopians know it is a farce and above all the Woyanes themselves know it is an exercise in futility. As they aim to have as many citizens as possible behind bars before the Election Day not to mention the tens of thousands if not millions who have been forced to leave the country in a bid to escape the discriminative and oppressive system, with international observes having boycotted it with the exception of the dictators club called AU, the election can be anything except legitimate. As we wait to witness the farcical indulgence unfold before our eyes we also pray that the ruling junta comes to its sense and respects the voice of the people by surrendering power to the people peacefully.