The Crisis of Ethiopian Political Organizations

17 08 2006

The following article was submitted by a reader and I offer it up here for consideration and debate. With this post, as with all posts, please use the comments section to post your thoughts or opinions.

Inhumanity toward Fellow Humans – Political Crisis of Ethiopian Political Organizations

Sewale Belew –
Boston, USA

August 8, 2006

Background to the problem

Overall the crises confronting the contemporary Ethiopian peoples are essentially of bent-political, economic, social and humanitarian magnitudes on the surface but equally they are of empathy and apathy mix deep down. Hence in what follows I would like to delineate and discuss the following major factors: (a) the nature of the crisis in Ethiopia, (b) the causes of these crises, (c) how people suffer under these circumstances, and what is to be done to revert the situation and arrive at a sustainable option.The clearest expression of man’s inhumanity towards fellow humans can be noticed in the horrific pictures of war ridden destruction and sunken bodies of people forced to occupy human wasteland of destitution wherever the so-called “… Peoples’ Liberation Fronts” run around and cause havoc. It is also manifested in the pictures of the disfigured bodies of skirmish and war casualties. Such pictures come also from victims of torture who often add tales of unimaginable brutality in the hands of their prison keepers of the rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist groups or of some secret police of the government to accompany their pictures. Newspapers, magazines, and television screens make such pictures available for our everyday viewing. As these gory scenes have become so commonplace and sensational, these days, we simply and seemingly expect and accept them with apathy, indifference and fatigued face instead of being shocked by them. If at all there is some humanity left in the human race, then this in itself is also illustrated by the quick partial response by some NGO’s who may show to such despicable scenes in the form of assistance for the war victims. Hence we can be glad that there still are remains of generosity and human compassion. Amidst all the events, however, certain shrewd rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist group fund-raisers make use of such human misery to make money or jobs for themselves. Event writers and photographers become famous and win prizes. Charity that relies on human suffering as its vital resource for existence becomes a renowned business venture.

At the depth of the overwhelming problems currently facing people throughout Ethiopia, the internal conditions remain to possess a natural propensity for conflict, violence, and most potentially for volatile political climate. Persistent actions and acts of violence and conflict settings fabricated, brewed, and spear-headed by confrontationist, warring, factionalist groups and spread from sources in Diaspora have become the precise defining elements. These dubious rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist groups continue to fuel more violence and conflict by trying to dissociate a given ethnic community from the rest of its neighborhoods. Actually, this mechanism has become a gold-digger-means for each of the factionalist group to make fortune by found-raising based on narrowly vested interest of money making ventures. Consequently, Ethiopia is endlessly embroiled in a series of crises caused by the intensification of different types of ethnic labeled violence that removes away the vitality of associating with other groups. It reproduces violation of human rights, internal displacement of people, and creation of apathy towards other fellow human beings other than their own narrow groupings. It breeds destitution, despair, deadly-diseases, and inequitable distribution of resources, distress on the natural habitat, famine, widespread insecurity and abject poverty.

The Crisis Put into Context

The crisis in Ethiopia is crucially of empathy and apathy mix; this mix is again blurred by some immature political understanding and handling by the factionalist political groups. It is common place for the factionalist groups to stick their nose in politics and make this a living means and a trade mark. Through political agitation that attempts to dissociate their claimed ethnic group from the rest of the society, they seem to mediate diverse economic, cultural, religious or ideological interests with intense conflict and competition, where each attempting to over-power the other. As a result of a ‘Mary-go-round’ type of discussions they conduct with each other, each factionalist grouping moves down the drain caught-up with the intertwined circles of political crises.

In essence, the struggle among the factionalist groups is based on who controls the society’s economic and cultural resources. Wherever we may be, it is a universal phenomenon that we all are affected by state’s tax, health and education policies; by regulations that restrict investment and employment opportunities; by government policies on private and public ownership, and by immigration control and movement restrictions. This is not unique to the Ethiopian contemporary circumstances.

Therefore, the question here is how pernicious polity could ruin the chances of progress. Among Ethiopian splinter confrontationist political groups (be it inside Ethiopia or in Diaspora), each is caught-up with serious apathy and empathy mix venturing with politics. This in itself is causing misunderstanding, destruction and havoc. At one time or another, most of the confrontationist political groups, continue to practice, each its own type of dictatorial and exclusivist politics simply out of ego-trip, contempt, sheer greed and self-aggrandizement. The ensuing engagement of poor marginalized communities and national groups by the confrontationist and conflict hatching groups for one’s own political aspiration simply continues to worsen the country’s abject poverty while at the same time heightening the competition for the control of limited resources and political power by means of violence.

Among almost all parties and groups, there are substantial segments of the national populations subjected to delineation, marginalization, exclusion and discrimination based on who steers the political group and to what end. Such induced discrimination leads each group and its idealized area of interest to a further deterioration in terms of economic and social life.

Among the so called educated, elite or enlightened Ethiopians in Diaspora, the problem of nations and nationalities is so populist and so critical for one’s own political gear to be put into market. Indeed this issue is at stake paving the way for the rise of national liberation fronts including the TPLF, EPLF, EPRP, OLF, SLF, and ONLF, Felege Ghion, ANDEM, Silte Liberation Front and the like. The momentary multiplicity of these fronts speaks for itself that there is a serious interest by newly created ethnic political shops to bear the trade-mark by considering a sensational political factor, or a grievance powerful enough to ignite the imagination of supporters both in Diaspora and inside the country. This underpinning factor becomes a sustained source of generating and regenerating money. From the outset, the factionist groups arouse sentiments on people who ultimately offer themselves when their sentiments are touched by the declarations being waged in their behalf. These poor people trust quick, follow suit and act accordingly to the dissociative – factionalist -confrontetionist group agitations that addresses them to resist under its banner. On the other hand, none of the confrontationist fronts actually stand for what they promise in their blue print. In reality, they have never been and they will never be able or are capable of addressing the fundamental problems facing their country and the people as they are so detached from the grass-roots at home.

The issues here are of both individual interests and that of mongering for power seizure. Each front dissects and splits hairs by pinpointing a given collective cultural, linguistic, and political and economic area for its own power-use rights with emblems tagged in certain parts of the country.

The conflict usually is disguised by and cast in terms of ethnicity, culture and religion and ultimately portrayed as the struggle for autonomy and reconstruction of a new state within the Ethiopian state. Each confrontationist group swears in the name of “its people” to offer one self till death but in vain. The dying ones are actually the peasants recruited by and standing for the rimmed factionalist splintering group. In the past many decades these rimmed factionalist splintering attempts have had devastating socio-economic impacts on the local people concerned and on the forgone economic progress of the country. The main protagonists to the conflict repeatedly failed to agree on the basic framework of solving the national crisis as each atomizes a given entity and looks at it from deductive, shallow and narrow perspectives. A series of meetings and negotiations under the auspices of various facilitators have failed to produce concrete outcomes as each rimmed factionalist splintering group looks at the national rehabilitation issue from an exclusionist stand point of view. On the surface the key points of disagreement are the separation of religion from state, the holding of referendum and the demarcation of areas that belong to each splinter-ethnic-group, and the like. The actual problems deep-down are different. They are based on the rimmed factionalist splintering group’s aspiration to continue soliciting funds in the name off one’s own rimmed factionalist splintering front, and make a business out of it through creating, phobic-fear and insecurity. Any attempt to come to the brinks of a negotiated settlement may mean surrender to the status quo, bankruptcy and losing one’s own free stance of business venturing.

As the result of crooked thinking and bent understanding of the national socio-economic cause and problems from the current globalization point of view, each exclusionist-confrontationist-front attempts to test the legitimacy of the national state mainly through coercion or liberation frontal actions in a designated atomized area. Consequently, upraise of unrest and repression cause reactions and resistance which in turn bread more violence. Obviously, with prolonged or intense apathy, frustration, dissatisfaction, and grievance, aggression is quite likely to occur. Violent confrontations became the dominant modes of existence of the rimmed factionalist splintering fronts claiming to struggle inside Ethiopia; and that of the sitting government claiming to over-power them under its constitutional conditions.

The expansion of conflict has multifarious implications. On the one hand, intra-fronts confrontationist conflicts take place, where each tries to legitimize its causes; and on the other, at times, confrontationist conflicts between the government and the rimmed factionalist splintering fronts expand to a wide spread war attracting the intervention of international agencies for what the conflicting parties regard as affecting their security. In effect, each group exports one’s own problems onto others creating political instability fuelling wars as a business to get pre-occupied with. It is evident that most fronts have visibly failed in their obligations to maintain the security of the people as the only means they know is to resort to conflict heightening circumstances.

These rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist groups have earnestly failed in their social and economic obligations to be productive. Most of their leadership is made up of individuals, who resides in Diaspora and aspires to make use of the deployment of domestic ethnic resources and foreign aid through corrupt and predatory executive elites assigned everywhere for purposes remotely related to the social and economic development needs of the people who they claim to liberate. Out of sheer apathy, selfish desire and power mongering, they further undermine the potential for improvement of human welfare of those who they claim to be fighting for. Their outlook or worldview is negatively charged as a result of which they are blind folded not to see things in humane and objective eyes. The consequent famine and related disasters that occur from time to time in parts of Ethiopia are all resultant factors partly caused by such selfish rimmed factionalist splintering groups who give priority to their own poor political mongering tactics than to the suffering of the people in whose name they swear, trade and raise funds internationally. In affluent societies such problems as indicated above do not occur. People steering communities instead have established mechanisms to compel the sitting government to address their felt needs and pressing problems.

In the Ethiopian case, tragically, negligent politically rimmed factionalist splintering groups aspire for their own interests by forgetting to help the people they advocate for. At the same time, inefficient and predatory politics driven by these rimmed factionalist splintering groups impose additional burdens on the rural poor who lack the reserve that carries them through natural and man-made hardship. The grass-roots are routinely forced to expose themselves to abject poverty due to unrest. Likewise, the urban poor will also be forced to face severe unemployment and misery. Eventually, vulnerability of the poor naturally results in perpetual dependence on food aid.

The political economy of crisis-led political-fronts

The centralization of economic opportunity in the eyes of Ethiopian rimmed factionalist splintering political groups – left or right – is governed by conditions of dissociation and exclusivity of other national groups contributing to the overall national economy. Out of bold contempt and empathy they try to dissociate and marginalize parts of the nation from their own respectively designed political maps and political-economic agendas. Their political microscope narrowly looks at the dissected area they claim to liberate. Such cross-eyed look at politics by the rimmed factionalist splintering groups, focused mainly on excessive centralization of economic and political activity to one’s own group while defying the historic, cultural and economic ties they have with others within the nation, does result in unexpected ethnic discrimination and competition that obviously escalates into unwanted conflict and discourages collective economic activities.

Out of sheer contempt the rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist fronts breed perverse discrimination and monopolization of economic sectors by each party. This in itself stifles the growth of entrepreneurship. The polity also fails to create alternative mechanisms to dependence on natural resources as all rimmed factionalist splintering groups are pre-occupied with conflict and confrontation against each other as well as against the government.

No wonder that an estimated 6-8 million people are at risk of starvation in conflict-ridden areas inside Ethiopia where the rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist fronts wage war against the government. No wonder that poverty is at rise. Given the pursuit of war and slow response by these fronts to come to the negotiation table, disaster is certain to strike. Rimmed factionalist splintering fighting have exacerbated food insecurity, internal and external displacement of hundreds of thousands of people who are now dependent on either food aid or cheap labor.

Factionalist friction intensifies the struggle over resources. In such circumstances no country can hope to prosper amid civil war and instability. Productive investment is hardly possible anywhere under conflict-ridden conditions. Even when they take place, they are in extractive activities such as mining or oil exploration whose value to the needs of the populations is of dubious value. It has been said time and again that the pursuit of war diverts vital economic resources to waste; whereas the resulting plight of people to escape war and lack of optional opportunities sap the economies of their vital energy. The Ethiopian poor are already stifled by brain drain coupled with the burden of debt which forestalls the chances for economic recuperation already handicapped by mismanagement and pernicious socio-economic policies. Notwithstanding these realities either consiously or otherwise, these rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist groups intensify this glaring crisis to their own vested interest.

As communities cannot cope with excessive burdens, social-break down and economic polarization are bound to occur. In some circumstances, tensions waged intentionally by factionalist-fronts are present in parts of the country where the sitting government, seems determined to conduct its flawed campaign under the so-called “Revolutionary Democracy” targeting the rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist-groups to fight what it calls twisted “narrow nationalism” and “chauvinism.”

The outcome is a complex curved quagmire that underlies chronic human insecurity. The question is how do we bring those rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist groups to justice for having caused and fueled such all-embracing crises inside Ethiopia?

The confrontationist legacy of factionalism (past and present) and its shady continuation bear strong effects on the Ethiopian people. The arbitrarily created jagged nominal borders by the rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist-groups have intensified the problems and at times contributed to wars ushering decades of misrule characterized by a sinister mix of apathy towards others, emphatic-claims, nepotism and an ignorant understanding of politics. The rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist groups’ legacy in common manifests exclusion of other people delineated outside the arbitrary borders of a given group by means of threats which was accompanied by marginalization, oppression and discrimination of these people they claim to stand for. Political crisis came at the centre of the national play as a problem because it translates into crises in other walks of life. When there is politically induced insecurity, instability, repression, obviously, peoples economic and social well being will be affected. When there is lack of freedom of association and lack of voice, there will also follow restrictions on economic opportunities. Misled and harmful policies carried out by factionalist-groups’ causes diversion and waste of resources.

Redressing the Mindset

The crystal clear redress to the above indicators of socio-economic polity crises lies in adopting holistic approach that starts with the overall Ethiopian national polity. Worn out strategies of ‘conflict management’ and ‘peace-building’ among intentionally bent conflict breeding factionalist groups will remain ineffective to address the basic issues that impact on the polity and economy in the region. As each rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist group emerged as the guardian of it and as it is preoccupied with its own security, the likely redress should come from the people themselves who toil at home. That means political and community-led opinion leaders in the region should recognize the seriousness of the ongoing crises spread by the rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist groups.

The legitimacy of resorting to violent and repressive measures to conflicts will only have devastating impacts on all involved. Be it factional group leaders or the government, each group should re-think what was not thinkable thus far. Amicable resolution of the demands for democratization will serve the political process better. It means the people who are eventually the sources of political, social and economic power should be crystal clear in their thinking and be determined to take their rights in their hands as well as get concerned about their demands and responsibilities. After all, it is they who bear the brunt of the political repression, the economic deprivation, and the cultural suppression; and not the rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist front leaders who live luxuriously in Diaspora by trading in the former’s behalf. It is the local people’s economies that are ruined by havoc skirmish, wars and bad governance; it is their future which is squandered by fraudulent factional and splintering politics.

The Ethiopian people need to be persistent to demand accountability from the polity and the rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist groups. Weak societies produce strong tyrannies and tyrants who trade in their names and on their behalf but to no avail of just political platforms.

In sum since both political-economy and the rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist political groupings interface with each other, a political problem that affects the national economy and its society should be drawn to the fore. Fundamental broad minded reform in politics is necessary to curb economic decline. Changes could be oriented toward making politics people-centered whose focus is human security rather than the rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist political groups’ own political security. Concern about the people avoids the possibility of venturing into awful-policies, into war and conflict. It encourages factional-leaders to consider helping their own people. It nourishes trust; it builds bridge between the people and the polity, between nationalities and the mother country.

However pitiful rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist groups have become, by their persistent failure in providing basic security to people, failed groups put forward for historical archives. The hope also remains empty in making and re-making them as they are rigidly deformed in negatively charged confrontationist and factionalist mentality. That is where the significance of political change needs to be understood, identified and highlighted. Without reforming one’s own vision on polities, the hope of building peace and democracy at a macro level is like building a castle on a sand foundation. It simply does not hold. The political direction of rimmed factionalist splintering confrontationist groups should be to show willingness for objective and positive thinking; to identify the problems at all levels including the village level where the ultimate brunt of structural and policy-induced problems lies and come up with a cohesive and sustaining national vision. This type of re-thinking may require a paradigm shift in our thinking towards the human condition in Ethiopia with humane heart-mind and soul, which promise to replace the vicious cycle of despair and vice by a virtuous cycle of hope and revival. Those who are attempting to make decisions today in different pretext and at all levels (be it inside or outside Ethiopia) must be prepared to live with the consequences of their decision in the future.

The Price of Free Speech

We will not find peace in our homes, communities, or anywhere as persons and groups are allowed to gather and preach hate. Since the late 1960s in Ethiopia we have been reaping the benefits and paying the price for the ‘Freedom of Speech’ to our Constitution, one the most challenged and, often times, abused of our freedoms as citizens for making free speech. The framers of the Constitution had admirable intentions when they used the term “speech” to address an individual’s personal voice.

However, we know today that speech is more than verbal expression, but includes non-verbal, visual, and symbolic messages. Our freedom of speech right does not permit us to cause panic, it does not permit us to showcase obscenity or defamation, it does not permit us to breach peace, to incite crime, to encourage fights, or to promote rebellion. These crimes are commonplace. For any person or group to gather anywhere, in public or private, and be allowed to offend the sitting government with illegal behavior such as the aforementioned is a moral and ethical crime that must no longer be allowed.

The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship. Where does this leave us as citizens when we are plagued with obscenity, defamation, breach of peace, incitement of crime, fighting words, and sedition in our society on a daily basis? In essence, the government protects the speech of all citizens – the peacemakers and those who hate. Where do we, as a peace-seeking people draw a line? The English philosopher John Stuart Mill articulated that, “… the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others,” but far too often we see persons and groups that are infused with hate preaching and teaching intolerance against other groups of people. Such behavior is taught to future generations and this leads to ongoing communal discord. The platforms of hate must retire, as they, undoubtedly, breach the highest law of Ethiopia. As citizens, we must work together to make our lives, our communities, our country, and our future inheritors greater. Love unites and hate separates; the concept is simple. We will not find peace in our homes, communities, or anywhere as persons and groups are allowed to gather and preach hate against other groups. Our freedom of speech is a right, yes, but when our expression becomes offensive and infused with intolerance and hate, society in general pays the price. It means we need to think twice before we aspire to spread hate and hate-mongering preaching.

Diversity as an Instrument of Conflict

In the context of discussing the cultural and societal diversity of Ethiopia, I have noticed two general trends. On one hand, there are those who praise diversity, and try to put it at the core of both internal and external policy in some sort of attempt to radicalize the concept. And, on the other there are those who accept and respect diversity without exalting the particularities of this or that group.

Therefore, while we are all different as individuals, and as groups, the premise is that we do share identical interests (at the very least, security and economic prosperity) that can — or as some say — should persuade us to peacefully coexist. This assumption takes into consideration what we would only have to lose in a state of conflict, distrust and possibly, war. These trends are direct consequences of the social, economic, and political conditions of today’s society, in addition to the rise of radical nationalism, and the crisis of identity within some factional ethnic liberation groups living in Diaspora.

The real issue at stake is the need to recognize the essence of diversity’s deeper concept of liberalism, freedom, individualism, free markets, and the right to free and open debate. Beside a few standard principles, which may differ from one group to another, everything else is questionable. We have come to Albert Einstein’s ‘relativist’ values because of our eagerness not only to tolerate, but also to put on a pedestal the cult of diverseness. It seems that was a mistake. When everything is relative, there is no limit, and fundamentalism moves in. Over the years, the fundamentalist groups waging war in the name of ethnic liberation have shown interest only in the free markets while retaining the belief that independent thinking is heresy. Some are still deluding themselves by thinking that, instead of looking at our differences (since this seems to be the problem); we should focus on our common values. It sounds great in theory, but is hollow in practice.

What we (I am referring to the common man in country) and the fundamentalist fronts lack is essentially the kinship of common values. Samuel P. Huntington began his widely read and commented upon essay by stating that: , ” … the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural.” He further wrote, “With the end of the Cold War, international politics moves out of its Western phase, and its centerpiece becomes the interaction between the West and non-Western civilizations” (The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel P. Huntington, Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993, Council on Foreign Relations). Ethiopians’ response to the arbitrary and sometimes ethnic fundamentalist-sponsored violence against their costly national identity and interests has been disappointing.

Our political correctness and veneration of multiculturalism has put us in the absurd position of having to tolerate the intolerable. It is worrisome that the fundamentalists living in our midst did not understand that we have run away from dictatorship and fascism, and that we are not about to welcome it under the guise of liberation front propaganda. It is as simple as that.




2 responses

15 01 2007

mmm, how much does this blog software cost? if i may ask.

16 01 2007

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: