By Natnael Kabtimer, Oslo Norway
“True leaders are willing to die for their dreams. They don’t oppress with ignorance; they impress with visions. They live like Martin Luther King Jr,”
That was Nelson Mandela’s famous quote and everybody agree on the idea of having a leader that impress the people with a powerful vision but the reality in most African countries is an absolute inverse. Leaders struggle day and night to keep the power for life time and try so hard to be surrounded by their tribe members and finally after they make sure that the power is in full control they start preaching about how free and democratic their government is.
The problem of power consolidation and tribalism has been a plague in allover Africa for a long time from the oldest nation like Ethiopia to the youngest nation like South Sudan. Many scholars raise a common reason for this predicament, which is most of the leaders in Africa came to power through either with war or coup de tat. But most of those wars and coups bear a slogan of freedom and democracy but the question is what kind of freedom and what kind of democracy? Even those leaders who came to power with election suddenly stop preaching about free election and persist on oppressing opposition parties and lead them for civil war.
Being on power for life time can easily be associated with personal ego and refusal for the idea of subordination of personal interest from national interest. And to make sure to stay on power for life time the common formula for whole African leaders is to be surrounded by their own loyal tribesmen. When the government keeps on focusing tribalism as a main criterion for recruiting government positions, people will suddenly start to differentiate themselves based on tribe and suddenly tribal and ethnic incidents will arise.
When ethnic group become the primary criterion for government position democracy and free election will disappear and parties will start to reshape based on ethnic group and sense of nationalism will start to diminish.
It is not a crime for someone to show belonging for his or her ancestors and ethnic group but the problem is when one ethnic group began to oppress the other. Hundreds of thousands Africans have lost their precious lives and millions have displaced due to ethnic wars and conflicts. Even if there are many reasons that can be raised as a main cause for ethnic conflicts, personally I blame governments. A government is responsible for building up nationalism in the mind of the people and a government has to be an example in the idea of subordination of ethnic interest from national interest. A government is responsible to lead the people in a strong sense of putting the country first.
In Ethiopia ethnic and tribal issues started to overwhelm the minds of the people since TPLF came to power. TPLF by itself is driven by the idea of ethnic interest and established to free single ethnic group from a country with over 80 ethnic groups. For the sake of loyalty of ethnic interest almost all top government positions and majority of middle and lower level positions are granted to people from a single ethnic group.
Now almost all Ethiopians have learned how to differentiate people based on Ethnic group and surprisingly it has become quite normal. The government is fully responsible for the consequences of this severe problem because it has been used as a main policy for more than two decades without anticipating the complete negative result just only for the sake of keeping an absolute power.
Sometimes it is difficult to blame certain ethnic group for putting their ethnic group first after they suffered a lot based on their ethnic group. The Ethiopian government is the main reason for the problem of tribalism and its future consequences because it is the government that first throw away nationalism and started running a policy of tribalism.
As we all know Ethiopian government is not nationally elected government rather it is an ethnic group which came to power by force and segregate the rest of the people based on race and ethnic group. It shouldn’t be quite surprising if other ethnic groups start organizing themselves based on ethnic group but I am not saying it is right, it is completely wrong but what I am trying to pinpoint is the main source of the problem. The main source of the problem is the government. We should have stopped it years ago when the government started putting ethnic groups on our personal identification card. We should have protected our nationalism years ago when the government started to organize political parties based on ethnic groups. I don’t think it is too late we can get back our nationalism after we get rid of this undemocratic tyrannical regime.
Ethiopian government has to stop segregating Ethiopians based on their Ethnic group. For multinational country like Ethiopia Ethnic freedom will never be a long lasting solution, our freedom will become real when we get rid of this ethnic government. Our freedom will be real when we all become free together. Our people has been suffering with different kinds of problems for many years, enough is enough, we do not have to sit and watch when the so called Ethiopian government throw away our nationalism and cheer us kill each other.
By Natnael Kabtimer, Oslo Norway