Mikael Wossen, PhD.
Sunday July 10, 2018
“The revolution has overthrown the monarchy, true! But perhaps this means that the revolution simply has driven the skin disease inside the organism.” Gorky
A transitional period is the most momentous in a country’s history. Mere social reproduction comes to a grinding halt while the wheels of political change are in motion. One form of socioeconomic and political system is being transformed into another. This is the moment we refer to as a transitional period. The old system is ailing and on its deathbed, whiles the new one is struggling to be born. In the interim, all forms of conflicts erupt and the passage is uncertain and fraught with risks, including abortion attempts. Opportunists and troublemakers of all types raise their heads. The old guard and its regime will not give up without a fight and the new order will not emerge without a ferocious popular struggle by the people. The dynamics within society is difficult to predict. Ultimately, a decisive coup de grace or an act of putting the old system to death must be executed by the emergent regime, for the new order to materialize.
With this in view, the death knell of the monarchy was sounded in September 1974, when the Emperor was deposed, and the old system was effectively buried. Its major policy makers and officials were brutally executed in November 1974 by the military leadership of the new order. It is commonly believed that Mengistu himself killed HIM on August 1975. In turn, the imminent downfall of the blood soaked Derg’s system came in May 1991, when Mengistu abandoned his army and fled to Zimbabwe. The old Derg system was dissolved with the abolition of its cannibalized army and security forces by the new leadership. The old guard was jailed and some went into exile. Ethiopians fely jubilant, then the fascist EPRDF emerged. Its state terror gave the impression of stability until the people had enough of its treachery, repressive and murderous politics.
In the wake of the relentless insurrectionary activities by the Ethiopian people, Dr. Abiy Ahmed was selected by an exhausted EPRDF to lead the party. He was sworn in as PM on 04. 02. 2018. The promotion of Dr. Abiy Ahmed to the position of PM is a typical example of how the EPRDF had tried to convince Ethiopians that it was renewing itself. The young colonel had been appointed by the very people who have enslaved Ethiopians for over a quarter century. This was the TPLF’s act of reinventing itself. To the surprise of the old guard, however, unanticipated consequences began to emerge. Dr. Abiy’s rich Ethiopianist sentiments and patriotic invocations began to imprint themselves on the popular imagination, while the Woyanne’s brutal language of inter-ethnic hatred, looting and strife ‘up to separation’ has lost legitimacy. Soon, the TPLF’s tribal discourse was eclipsed and disgraced, yet its oppressive structures and virtual apartheid state apparatus remained intact. The genocidal cleansing of Amharas continued, the general absence of freedoms and justice was palpable. The dreaded supremacist fascist rule by TPLF’s old guard still prevailed, as did the atrocious and criminal legacies of Meles Zenawi. His evil creatures were still free and exercising power. The old hyena Sebhat Nega was pontificating on the impossibility of an imminent transition. The schools and universities are still infested with spies. Tribal politicians like Lencho Letta and Derg officials were invited home, while selected TPLF’s political prisoners like Mr. Tsige had been released. Notorious prisons were closed down and hundreds freed. The mafia-like larceny and rentier privileges of the fattened hyenas still continues. All the existing structural cruelty, however, is softened by the messianic sermons of Dr. Abiy. His charisma is accompanied by popular admiration/support from the citizenry. Ethiopians have begun speaking their minds. The new order is on the horizon, and Ethiopia seems en route to transition.
Dr. Abiy is a decent and compassionate human being. He is a principled man of conscience. That is not at issue here. It is the uncertain circumstances surrounding his premiership and the extent of his power to midwife the new order that are being interrogated here. His speeches may be inspiring in their invocation of love, unity, exoneration and long neglected Ethiopian values, but they offer very little by way of new national policy initiatives. Yes, we may all live and die as Ethiopians, but the unequal ethnic dispensation of power and the Killil-apartheid arrangements remain in place, and they determine the real lives of citizens. Ethiopianism may be addictive as claimed by his colleague Abbo Lemma Megersa, yet for all to live peacefully as Ethiopians; the forceful population transfers must end, as does the Tigrean land grab and the risky flight of Ethiopians into exile. The release of prisoners in far away Gulf countries is lauded, yet thousands of Ethiopians suffer torture and humiliation in their own country. The bones of those slaughtered by Libyan Islamic fanatics will be repatriated but what about those massacred by the ruling ethnic fanatics in Ethiopia? Who is accountable for their death by sniper fire and torture by the regime’s sadistic jailers? Foreign policy overtures to Cairo and Asmara are fine but what do they really have to do with initiating the popular democratic demands of Ethiopians for jobs, land, dignity and social justice. Rectifying internal inequities/injustices and making amends to the dispossessed must take precedence. The old guard must be neutralized before the new social order can fully emerge. We may forgive, but we cannot forget what happened in the last 27 years. Hegemony must be first won and asserted in civil society. If not, the distortions, factional infighting and mischief like the recent assassination attempt on the PM, will persist by the desperate old hyenas. Their incitement of inter-ethnic violence must be halted by law, if necessary. The retirement of some of the old guard’s functionaries is praiseworthy, but more is needed to galvanize the process and safe passage of the transition.
Intellectually, the new spokesmen must move beyond spouting old nationalist homilies and jargons regarding “economic development,” more privatization and announcing the discovery of new natural resources. A road map for the near future needs to be articulated. On the ground, the laws of economics remain subverted by the regime’s ideology of “revolutionary democracy” under the dictatorship of the TPLF. The ethnocracy’s monopolizes virtually every economic sphere. Millions are suffering from economic exclusion, stagnation, and inequalities have soared. One is wealthy because of ethnic descent; the other is impoverished for the same reason. What is to be done?
Amidst all this, to paraphrase the great Gorky’s critique: for over half a century, the compliant Ethiopian intelligentsia …has been kept busy embroidering bright patterns on the philosophical vestments of the despots – that old and filthy fabric besmeared with the blood of toiling masses. Now, new post-Marxist-Leninist ideas are crucial in order for individual Ethiopians to extricate themselves, once and for all, politically and ideologically from the identity politics (skin disease) of the dying regime. The intelligentsia needs to make itself relevant again.
The majority is cheering madly, as if democracy will issue from Dr. Abiy’s brave words and actions alone. Thankfully, there are rare exceptions, participating with coherent policy conceptions for the future. Also, the “addition” mantra must have a thorough ideological shifting mechanism to separate the’ hyenas in sheep clothing,’ from those who support genuine democracy and individual rights. The people has spoken clearly. Now, how much authority and strength of mind does Dr. Abiy really wield to finally break the bloody TPLF stranglehold on the people and resources of Ethiopia, and usher us into the new era? More feel good speech therapy for the masses, or genuine and concrete structural and constitutional de-Woyannefication/detribalization of Ethiopian politics? That is the question.
Mikael Wossen, PhD.