Earn the Future by Playing Responsibly

I feel obliged to write this piece at this critical juncture in the Ethiopian political history. This is driven by an urge that stems in how the sincere demand of the Ethiopian people for change is being mishandled by some of the opposition political wing. I don’t want to say much about the need for political change in Ethiopia as it is self-evident simply because the status quo of the current predatory government is not sustainable. This is a government that has refused to obey the very constitution it created. Political change and/or reform in Ethiopia is hence inevitable. This is also apparent from the public unrest that has been undergoing for several years now in Ethiopia. It appears that the public unrest has started to take a sharp edge since recently. At this point, it is important to note that it is in the best interest of the country and of its people to ensure that the change is in fact coming for the better. We need to take time to calmly and wisely analyze the situation, study the interest of the different forces at play (both domestic and foreign) and determine the most viable/feasible approach for change. I don’t think we want to experiment an irreversible chaotic change that has already been proven, in many ways, as the worst historic political debacle made in some Middle East countries. We cannot gamble with the future of our country and our people. We need to channel the movement in Ethiopia into desirable outcome that will answer the fundamental political and socioeconomic questions that our people are dying for. A constructive role of the opposition political wing to galvanize and lead these public movements at this time is inherently vital for a successful change. This role of the opposition wing becomes almost indispensable when it is seen from the perspective of the current government’s lack of political willingness to make genuine fundament structural/systemic change.

What I am interested in particular in this piece of writing is that we need to ensure that hate politics is not playing a devious role. As this may lead to catastrophic change that cannot be channeled into a positive political outcome. More specifically, the question I want to address is, “what should be the role of the opposition political wing in mobilizing and leading the public movement in Ethiopia into the right path without playing a race card”? In this respect, what we are observing in some of the opposition wing in many instances is rather disturbing. For instance, we need to strongly detest any compulsory call for any segment of the Ethiopian people including the Tigray people by the opposition wing to join the riot in Ethiopia. Because, all segments of the Ethiopian people including the Tigray people have been dissenting against the tyranny of the Ethiopian government as appropriately as deemed to the people. For example, we can look at the pubic riots that have been transpiring in many towns in Tigray starting many years ago including in Temben, Atsbi, Wenberta, Enderta (Egri Hareba), Adwa (Nebelet), Shire, etc. Although these public turmoil never got enough/fair coverage by the opposition wing. This is where the continued inclination to play the race card by the opposition wing has been manifested. Often, the opposition wing has been marginally covering the resentment of the Tigray people against the current government. This has been done with the evil intention of creating a calculated pretext to blame the Tigray people as a collective supporter of the current government. This is indeed too dangerous and irresponsible game to play. This game has a potential to pose an imminent threat on the survival of Ethiopia as one strong and indivisible nation. I believe this is a compelling cause to stand firm against any racist political dogma no matter where it comes from.

To this end, shouldn’t joining a riot or not be left to the decision of the people or even (at best) to the individual citizen based on the level of one’s or any segment of the people’s understanding, and based on how the individual or the segment of the people see the situation? Where does the opposition wing derive the mandate to give orders to any segment of the Ethiopian people to join riots from? The only appropriate explanation for this question would be the opposition wing, like its current ruling party counterpart is undemocratic too, and hence it is dreaming to rule the people. Isn’t this shameful for the opposition wing, particularly some outspoken political party leaders to demand a segment of the Ethiopian people such as the Tigray people to join the uprising by attaching carrot and/or stick to it?

What kind of Democracy can we expect from these kind of leaders if they get the chance to come to power? It is evident that it will only be the worst; for action speaks lauder. After all, isn’t it the responsibility of these opposition wing mainly the opposition political leaders to explain and teach the people about the political situation in Ethiopia? Material persuasion must be the only right approach for the Ethiopian people to make the right decision/choice. Threatening any segment of the people by saying “if you don’t join the upheaval now, there will be a consequence” won’t simply work as it is not working for EPRDF. Neither did this approach work for Dergue unless we are forgetting history.

Indeed, this is a clear manifestation of the political incompetence and acute lack of political commitment by the opposition wing and some of its leaders. They simply prefer to play the easy game of the race card that doesn’t require anything but ignorance and arrogance. Clearly, it should be the job of the opposition wing and its political leaders to plan, strategize, and work hard to persuade and galvanize all segments of the Ethiopian people including the Tigray people into the right path for change. What we are seeing now is rather the reverse. The opposition wing is demanding the people to die for them whether the people believe in the cause or not. The opposition wing seems dedicated to grip a political power at any cost including by playing the race card irresponsibly. What inexorable shameful act of power seeking by some of the opposition wing! If this is the iceberg of the change that the opposition wing is envisaging to bring to the Ethiopian people, then why should the Ethiopian people die hard for this gloomy change when they don’t have to die to maintain the status quo they already know? In effect, playing the race card will only help the current ruling party to stay in power without being pressurized to make any meaningful reforms.

I think the remarkable paradox of the opposition wing’s approach and the quality of some of its leaders can better be explained by comparing them with the very ruling political party they oppose strongly. Even the current ruling political party (EPRDF), that many of us have several disagreements with, managed to plan, strategize, galvanize and lead the Oromo, Amhara and other segments of the Ethiopian people to join the fight to overthrow the Dergue regime. EPRDF did this around 35 years ago without necessarily playing the race card. For fairness sake, EPRDF did a very good job of persuading the Ethiopian people to stand against the Dergue regime which facilitated the fall of the Dergue regime. What we are observing now, to our demise, is a situation where we have an opposition wing and some opposition political leaders who could not do better job or even as good as what EPRDF did 35 years ago. What a perplexing failure! How could the Ethiopian people be expected to support the opposition wing if this wing couldn’t perform better than its rival (EPRDF) by playing responsibly/democratically? If the current opposition wing and some of its leaders lack what it takes to responsibly plan, strategize, persuade and mobilize all segments of the Ethiopian people to bring about the needed change in Ethiopia, which EPRDF did 35 years ago, then such opposition wing and its political leaders shouldn’t simply qualify to operate in the current Ethiopian political arena.
I think it may be time for some of the opposition wing and some of its leaders to exit from the Ethiopian political landscape. This way, other visionary individuals who are better equipped and have better level of understanding and commitment can handle the situation in a better way. Arguably, what we are seeing now in some of the opposition wing is the lowest level of political competence and commitment the Ethiopian people have had historically.

To sum up, I am not writing this piece because of the fear I have that any segment of the Ethiopian people including the Tigray people may get slaughtered if the dirty race game continues to prevail. If we need some lesson in this respect, it is suffice to look back at history. I am writing this because I am concerned that all Ethiopians and Ethiopia as a country will lose like never before. No one will benefit from this kind of shameful hate politics. If we fail to rise beyond the odds of race politics and if we continue to subdue our dignified humanity to our little emotional urges, then it is a matter of understanding a simple natural/social law to predict the expected outcome. It is not a matter of if, it is only a matter of when to start suffering the consequences of the current bad choices being made. Therefore, the larger opposition wing should stop making a historic mistake by playing race card recklessly merely to shorten the path to political power. The opposition wing has to be smart enough to understand that the best viable way to grip political power in Ethiopia is by playing diligently and responsibly. Else, neither will the opposition wing grip political power nor will there be a sustainable peace in Ethiopia. How foolish could be any opposition wing to play such a zero-sum-game in a serious national political issue which has the potential to shape the future of our people? It should be realized that the Ethiopian people deserve to have a better government system than the one instituted by EPRDF; not the worst. Working merely to overthrow the current government by hook or by crook without meticulously thinking about the future government system and without consulting with and/or persuading the Ethiopian people is an insult to the Ethiopian people. Any opposition that envisages to assume political power in Ethiopia should demonstrate better moral and political character than the current political system to earn public support. The opposition wing must earn (not demand) buy-in from all segments of the Ethiopian people through civilized political discourse (not through dirty race politics).

By: Yemane Halefom

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