Is Nonviolent or armed struggle for bringing democrcy in Ethiopia?

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By Yibeltal Gashu
As we know, Ethiopia is a home to  golden diversty of peoples, cultures, religions and langudges.  Ethiopia is as the origin of humanity that has a unique cultural heritage, own alpthabet, calander and where it has preserved its long independence through the patriotic struggle of its citizens. We shall remember that Ethiopia served as a symbol of African independence throughout the colonial period, and was a founder member of the United Nations and the African base for many international organizations and country that possesses a long history ranking among the great civilizations of the world.
Democracy EthiopiaBut currently, it has not been possible to have human and democratic rights guaranteed by the Constitution fully respected. The question of nations and nationalities is not properly addressed and resolved. In fact, the issue is presently being used as a tool for dividing and ruling the people. Citizens are being deprived of the opportunity to live, work and to do any kind of activities in the country whether socially, economically and politically. The integration process among the nation, nationalities and peoples are being disrupted. Now a day’s, Ethiopia is among the most backward countries in the world in three aspects which is political, economical and social growth because of the TPLF dictatorship.
It’s known that TPLF is a dictatorship ruling party and has never showed let down peacefully, and Woyane is doing shameful activities throughout the country since they took power through armed struggle. Such as, many journalists, politicians, activists, bloggers, religious have been imprison, thousands of peoples are dying and many people’s migrating every day, no single human right respected by TPLF. As the nature of TPLF I have doubt that nonviolent struggle would be successful in Ethiopia. I never shared the illusion that the TPLF will accept the verdict of the ballot-box and step down from power peacefully rather the TPLF play the democratic game under the name of democracy. Murdering, genocide, criminal, dictatorship, corrupting, selfishness, futureless, narrow thinking and no need solid unitary as a country (means follow dividing ruling system) are the main Characteristics of TPLF.
Due to the nature of TPLF, I just to reflect a few points of view on the question of peaceful or armed struggle as methods of achieving a political goal like to bring freedom, justice and democracy in Ethiopia.  In other words, the very challenging question is whether to apply peaceful or armed; or the combination of the two based on a given internal political reality, and external circumstance to bring sustainable democracy. Needless to say, this had been and continues to be an unavoidable challenge in a country like ours which has never experienced a political transformation characterized by a well- thought, well-planned, well-organized and persistent popular uprising and disobedience in line with the fulfillment of the interests of the general public.
I sincerely believe that we should be seriously concerned about our tendency of approaching the question of which method of political struggle should we apply in a very categorically defined fashion. Although raising the question of how to approach a given political struggle that aims at the realization of a democratic political system has never been uncommon, its intensity and urgency varies from time to time, and from situation to situation.  Because of our political culture which is characterized by mere inheritance, conspiracy within royal families and a bloody fight between or among groups (civil war), we are not yet fortunate enough to listen to each other’s arguments and counter- arguments in such a way that our differences on using not the same tactics or methods should not hamper our journey toward the same goal.
I strongly believe that it is absolutely necessary to seriously consider the advantages and disadvantages of a given method of getting the goals and strategies we set accomplished in a real sense of constructive way of doing things accordingly the Ethiopian political situation.  In other words, it is imperative to make sure that the methods being used by various political groupings (surprisingly there are more than 90 national and regional political parties) which are engaged in the struggle for the realization of a truly democratic society complement each other in pursuing for mutually respectful and shared prosperity.  Is this line of thinking as easy as anything? Absolutely not! And this is mainly because of our political history and which has been and still is characterized either by very deceptive monarchial rulers or get it at a bloody gunpoint like TPLF.  And this very unfortunate political culture of ours has a lot of to do with the argument that it is nonviolent/peaceful resistance not armed struggle that is ideal to bring about sustainable democratic change. Yes, there is no doubt peaceful public struggle is so desirable. The very challenging issue is when it comes to the question of what kind of ruling power we face – with a sense of civility and responsibility or otherwise? How the people are ready and determined to pay the sacrifices required forcing the brutal responses by the ruling elite even in the process of peaceful struggle; how various opposition political forces are willing and able to pull their efforts together and shake the balance of the existing political power?  Are the foreign powers (governments) interested and courageous enough to abandon “their bad guys “and choosing people’s interests over dictatorial regimes? To my understanding, the responses to these and all other critical questions are not encouraging at all.
Unless we want to remain wishfully optimistic, it is very unwise to waste our energy and time by continuing arguments and counter arguments to the extent of condemning each other’s tactics applied to get the same goal done. I am not saying debating or arguing on the prospective and consecutive of peaceful resistance and armed struggle or on how to effectively use both of them is a bad idea. What I am trying to say is that it is critically desirable to focus on how to make those methods of struggle vibrant forces toward achieving the same goal – the realization of genuine democratic society and fundamental human dignity. I understand that opposition political parties which are operating legally and pursuing peaceful resistance cannot openly recognize the use of armed struggle. I know very well that doing so is suicidal as far as the very behavior and practice of the illegitimate ruling circle is concerned. Yes, in a truly democratic system expressing one’s idea freely is a not only a political freedom but it is also fundamental human freedom. Sadly enough, it is a crime (terrorism) in our country, and we are witnessing the untold sufferings of innocent journalists and members /supporters of political opposition parties. But, I strongly believe that  although it is suicidal for those political parties  to openly  recognize those political  forces which believe in the use of both methods of struggle ,they should not undermine ,if not condemn each other .
Indeed, I have fully agreed with the nonviolent struggle because of the merits of it. Whatever it is your argument, Ethiopia is required a systematic and friutfull struggle to bring freedom, justice, democracy and all human rights respected. What is needed is political work to influence the army and bureaucracy to make them less obedient instruments of repression, or to become sympathizers of civil disobedience.
The peaceful struggle may be painfully slow for the impatient. Yet, it is may or may not  the only choice which truly induces the utilization of untapped artistic, cultural and intellectual wealth of the nation for the material and political maturity of citizens, essential elements for a successful establishment of a dynamic and democratic social order.
Nonviolent action used to:

  • Dismantle dictatorships
    • Defend against foreign invasions
    • Expel foreign occupation
    • Provide an alternative to violence in extreme ethnic conflicts
    • Challenge unjust social and economic systems
    • Develop, preserve and extend democratic practices, human rights, civil liberties and freedom of religion
    • Resist genocide since carefully applied the methods of nonviolent action or “nonviolent weapons.” The Albert Instinet institution has recommended almost nearly two hundred methods of nonviolent struggle. (See on aeinstein.org, list of 198 methods of nonviolent action and also The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Vol. 2)

Three broad classes of nonviolent methods are:

  1. Nonviolent protest and persuasion, (like formal statements, wider audience, symbolic public acts)
    2. Noncooperation and, (social, economic boycotts & strike, political noncoorperation)
    3. Nonviolent intervention, (physiological, physical, social, economic and political intervention)

Like others, Ethiopia has tried to bring freedom, justice, democracy and human rights respected by nonviolent struggle in different time but could not successful due to our politics nature as I mentioned above . For example, different kinds of revolution, during 2005 election, the movement of Muslims, many opposition parties doing that still now.
Finally, I recommend that calling and wake upping the peoples, farmers, workers, business men, students, teachers, polices and defense force to struggle for themselves that freedom and justice, education and health, academic and political freedom, pursuit of prosperity and other rights are our rights that we are entitled to as citizens. They are by no means any acts of generosity given to us by the rulers who have imposed their will on us. These are rights that we should never relinquish to anyone. And I encourage values such as civil dialogue, tolerance, understanding and respect for competing views not only to narrow differences but also to nurture and sustain the unity of shared purpose to bring freedom and democracy in Ethiopia by choosing the most convenient struggle methods.