BY Teodros Kiros (Ph.D.)
A few years ago, I wrote a set of sustained articles on the Idea of Ethiopianity, the corner stone of Ethiopian Pride, manifest in the classical battle at Adwa, where our Ethiopian ancestors gave their lives, so that we Ethiopians can live in dignity and prosperity. I would like to refuel the engines of Ethiopianity to which I have contributed.
I maintain that pride in our Ethiopianity even now in the turbulent and trying times in my beloved home. Much has happened since I wrote last. Much needs to be corrected by the existing regime, as it prepares the coming Ethiopian generation to assume power with a new national consciousness, that will free the country from negative ethnicity on which I reflected in my article Revisiting Two Concepts of Ethnicity, (ECADF, Dec,10, 2010) a few years ago. In that article, I distinguish two modalities of Ethnicity, Negative ethnicity and Positive ethnicity. Negative ethnicity is the modality by which an individual singles out his/her belonging to an ethnic group and believes that it is superior to all other ethnicities and that other ethnicities are inferior and must be treated accordingly. Positive ethnicity is a modality in which an individual humbly takes pride in one’s geographical belonging and celebrates the cultural ornaments of his/ethnic group, the language, the dances, the music and the cuisines, as expressions of diversity.
The present situation should not be manned by Negative ethnicity, rather New Ethiopianity watered by Positive Ethnicity must be our banner. We are not going to answer hate with hate. Rather, the ethnic hates which we have embraced must be replaced by national Ethiopian consciousness, which aims at ending class privileges and the abuse of poor women across the Ethiopian landscape. Our resolve to save our historic nation does not have to be propelled by the wings of negative ethnicity. However, hurt we are by the damages of negative ethnicity, we can still engage the enabling power of Ethiopianity to cleanse ourselves from the force of negative ethnicity.
Love is a healer, whereas hate is a destroyer. This is a proposition that our flawed nature definitely needs and which can humanize us. It is a practical proposition, that we must reflect on, deeply and seriously, to save a historic nation on the verge of a civil war. Now is the time to discipline ourselves and answer hate with love and strategic understanding. Now is the time that we must become Existentially Serious, as I argued for the past few years. By Existential seriousness I have argued in my book Ethiopian Discourse (Red Sea Press, 2005), I mean that as individuals we must be thankful that we exist and that this existence must be fully provided with food, shelter, health and clothing as a matter of human right and that all individuals must be reasonably equipped with these fundaments of human existence. Furthermore, that regime in power must procure these fundaments of existence by a constitutional mandate. I further implore the leadership to cement this moral imperative into the nerve center of its political being.
I am convinced that we Ethiopians have long internalized the unifying power of Ethiopianity, an Ethiopianity which marked our history with the rendezvous with victory at the famous battle of Adwa.
We must move forward with the progress that we have made and produce national policies which will spread the prosperity by the few to be the collective prosperity of all Ethiopians.
Dr. Ghelawdewos Araia’s has correctly suggested that,
By way of concluding and offering some advice to the EPRDF, I like to recommend the following: 1) The EPRDF must carefully diagnose the trends and patterns shown by African leaders who were self-proclaimed permanent rulers and who brought so much damage to their respective countries. The ruling party should not follow their example and should rather prepare itself an exit strategy; 2) given the complex Ethiopian political landscape, the weakness of the opposition, and the predominance of ethnocentric politics and values, it would be advisable that the EPRDF stay in power but with the sole purpose of giving a chance to a new leadership (“young blood”) via peaceful transition; 3) at long last, the pan-Ethiopian agenda and Ethiopian nationalism must be revitalized in such a way not only to galvanize country-wide sentiments, but also to purposely mobilize the Ethiopian people against the enemies of Ethiopia and transcending all narrow ethno-nationalist proclivities and political programs; 4) the EPRDF must be transparent not only in its routine government operations but also with respect to some suspicious incidents that have afflicted the Ethiopian larger society for relatively long time. ( Trends and Patterns in Contemporary Ethiopian Politics, Tigraionline, www.africanidea.org , ethioobserver.net,Dec 14, 2017)
The call for an exit strategy can complement the recent report of the EPRDF recent executive committee’s promising and serious proposal that highlights the rightly positive achievements of the regime in power, which are internationally recognized, have been marked by failure in three crucial areas (1) the economy (2) Administration and (3) the handling of the people’s protests.
(1) The transformational gains embodied in impressive infrastructure, schools and universities, clinics are all marks of development which have put Ethiopia on the map. The benefits of these gains however, have been punctured by corruption at the federal and local levels, and by the regime’s failure to recruit talented minds from all nationalities. This failure could destroy the economy unless it is immediately attended by identifying and systematically cultivating young Ethiopians who could be trained to carry forward the achievements of their elders, who have already done enough. The existing regime should have a transformational vision which reaches out to coming generations who could take these achievements to the next level of development. The regime must learn the imperative of intergenerational transformation of power and begin to practice it. On a philosophical plane these existential imperatives force us to admit our mortality and share our short life by nurturing those who will inherit our legacies.
Also, corruption at the highest levels must be exposed and severely punished by democratic measures. As promised by the executive committee’s report, educated Ethiopians must be invited by the regime to lead the way free of domination from the top.
(2) At the moment, the administrative sphere is contaminated by negative ethnicity. Power is being given to those who may not be fully qualified. Ethnic loyalty as opposed to merit is leading the way. This must end. Again, the regime could seek help from educated Ethiopians to carry out the needed research, identify the centers of corruption, make recommendations, weigh the recommendations and choose the best decision that reflects the idea of Ethiopianity. The needed empirical research cannot be conducted by the bureaucrats who are benefitting from the corruption. This important task must be conducted by objective outside professionals who are committed to making Ethiopia great.
(3) The grievances of the people have been badly handled by the regime for the past few years. This too could be handled differently. The regime should firstly separate media leaders who may be fueling hate by engaging negative ethnicity from youth and their parents who are mired in poverty and cultural dislocation and are appealing to the regime to recognize them and their needs and make every effort to spread the wealth and prosperity of the nation to them also. Here the cardinal virtues of equality and dignity, the distinguishing features of revolutionary democracy, must be honored, as promised in the Executive Committee Report.
Ethiopianity can be destroyed only when Justice is not the organizing principle of the regime. When the just treatment of all ethnicities and nationalities is practiced, Ethiopianity in concert with Positive Ethnicity, will give us the Great Ethiopia which we all desire. When Negative Ethiopia is the norm, the idea of Ethiopianity will be shattered and civil war will be the result, as Mr. Lemma Deresa recently pointed out in an interview on January 8 2018.
Concentration of wealth at the highest levels of the leadership, as admitted by the regime, is what is angering the Ethiopian poor. This anger, if uncontrolled, cannot be contained by imprisoning the leaders of the protestors, the cause of the anger must be removed by effective revolutionary regime policy. It is at this level, if the regime does its work well, that Ethiopianity could be watered by the abolition of classes, and the New Ethiopia of nations and nationalities could wear a revolutionary garb and silence those who are igniting the fires of hate.
In conclusion, I would like to make a few suggestions to the powers that be and the writers of the promising and serious report.
(1) I for one, am taking the promises of the report so seriously that I will be heartbroken if these promises are broken and the hearts of Ethiopians are again shattered. When Ethiopians are ready to forgive, and they might, then the regime must restructure and deliver the promises in consultation with the people and in concert with educated Ethiopians as the report emphasized twice. The educated with the right moral fiber must be given positions of authority with trust and respect.
(2) The regime must begin immediately nurturing and grooming new blood, as Dr. Ghelawdewos has wisely suggested while it is still in power. The regime must distinguish its admirable vision of Revolutionary Democracy from the fact that it is being operationalized by human beings who age and eventually die. The vision can be inherited by coming generations and that the vision does not die with the present leadership. New leaderships can give vision a permanence that a particular impermanent leadership cannot. That is why the regime should distinguish its vision from its mortal leaders. Well anchored Visions can outlast us, and that leaders should be aware of this existential fact.
(3) EPRDF, a party of New Ethiopianity, must do a better job of reintroducing itself to Ethiopians not as an Ethnocracy but as a living embodiment of Ethiopianity. This vision for which the armed struggle was fought must be reinvigorated by the able hands of educated writers who can help the regime while it is busily implementing its impressive achievements in the areas of education, health and infrastructure. At the moment, the party does not have committed and talented writers to popularize the vision of the party. This too must change, and those who know must lead the way. Knowledge must guide policy and those who know must be invited to provide solutions.
If the party wants to assume the status of an educator and a moral leader, it must search its soul and purify itself to the highest level of leadership. As the regime hints in the report it is not sufficiently ethical and that its bureaucrats are advancing their interests while three fourth of the population for whom and by whom the armed struggle was fought are living in deplorable conditions gazing at stars at night. The abolition of this wretched condition must be the central goal of the party. The armed struggle was fought to end the domination of classes and not the perpetuation of class and ethnic privilege.
(4) The regime must correctly be praised for the number of the universities that it has constructed, but the conditions at the places of learning must be revisited. As a starter, the party should not be in the business of competing with the professors who teach there about curricular matters. It should take its hands-off university life and discontinue offering positions based on ethnicity. The vision should be the development of an Ethiopian citizen for whom ethnicity is merely an accidental badge. Moreover, university students ought to exercise their Ethiopian rights and advocate for the poor and dislocated as a matter of being engaged students. The challenges which students raise should not be translated as ethnically motivated but as expressions of citizenship. The idea of Ethiopianity is an articulation of a concerned Ethiopian citizen. The regime should immediately follow this path, and in a few years, it will begin to witness a new era in Ethiopian politics. Students should and will continue to protest on behalf of the Ethiopian poor, not as members of an ethnic group, but as Ethiopian nationals. Ethiopian and national citizenship will replace tribal and ethnic identities, and positive identity will complement Ethiopianity.
(5) Finally, as a potential moral and strategic educator, the party must preach to its functionaries that politics is not dirty, nor is life short and brutish, as Neo-Liberals think; in fact, revolutionary politics is necessarily patient, generous, truthful and Just and that the leaders themselves must embody these virtues in order to lead.
To be continued.
BY Teodros Kiros (Ph.D.)