The Late Great Nation of Ethiopia
It is 8:30 PM on a week night. You are hurrying to get the kids to bed. You know this will be a long night because your wife has gone to her bi-weekly night shift job and you are responsible to get your kids eat their supper, help them finish their homework and, time permitting, watch some T.V before they all go to bed. But today you are unusually tired and everything seems to run later than you expected. You stand in the middle of the living room where they are all watching the tube and declare “Kids go to bed, now!”
“But I did not take a shower or brush my teeth”, your youngest daughter replied.
“Never mind, I still have to fix your school lunch as well as prepare your cloth for tomorrow and I need you guys in bed pronto.”
Your oldest son seemed confused. He said something you did not quite get. He probably wanted to protest but grudgingly went to his room.
“Will you read me a bed time story daddy?” your little one asked.
“Go change and tuck yourself in bed, I will be right there.” You said.
After a few minutes you went to see your little girl in bed. She has her favorite story book on the pillow. The book is a birthday gift from Natasha, her friend at school. You picked up the book and examined it as if it was your first time to see a book like this.
“How is Natasha?” you asked absent-mindedly.
“Oh Natasha went to Jamaica to see her grannies for the holiday.” Your daughter replied. “She is half Irish and half Jamaican you know.” She added.
You started to look in the book for a suitable story to read. Suddenly your daughter called out with a curious voice.
“What am I half of?”
“You are not half of anything. You are wholly Ethiopian.” You yelled back but you know deep down there is no such country called Ethiopia anymore. May be back in 2010, but it is 2020 now. Your country has been sold off piece by piece to the highest bidders some three years ago. Poverty and lack of justice coupled with planned ethnic violence finally broke your old country to pieces never to be put together again. Whatever is left of the old country is engulfed with civil war. Your Ethiopia is the thing of the past. Ethiopia is now a figment of your imagination. How do you explain this for a six year old child who is born in the American Mid-West? You are the type who does not frequent usual Ethiopian gathering places such as places of worship or community associations. You and your beloved wife are struggling to make it in America and you both have no time for socializing. At least you believe such activities are a waste of time distracting hardworking people from vital work and prosperity. Thus your kids were hardly exposed to Ethiopian culture. However you are now at a loss. You do not even know how to answer a simple question posed by a six year old child.
“Do you want to know where your parents come from, my dear? I will tell you where. We came from an ancient country once called Ethiopia. Both your mother and I come from that country. But that was then now we are all Americans.”
“Daddy can you tell me all about Ethiopia?”
“It is not easy to explain. You see Ethiopia was one of the oldest nations in the world with lots of history. The country is made up of several ethnic groups who gave Ethiopia a cultural mosaic like no other country in the world.” You want to go on but your child interrupted you with a question.
“What is ethnic and what is mosaic?”
“It is the cultural and language group a person belongs to. Take for instance Natasha. One side of her family belongs to a group that came to America from a country called Jamaica and the other side of her family came from Ireland. In our case, although both your mother and I belonged to a great nation called Ethiopia, I come from a different ethnic group than that of your mother.
Ethiopia was ruled by monarchs for centuries. These monarch kings ruled as they wished and with absolute power. But some forty years ago the people of Ethiopia wanted to have a government that listens to them. They wanted change. The students of that time help to rally the people to demand for better treatment and justice. Eventually, the king was removed from power and a military leader started to rule the country. This new government eventually became arrogant and stopped listening to the people. It even became very violent and harmed a lot of people. The people started to fight back and successfully chased it out of power some thirty years ago. It was replaced by an ethnic based government. The new government divided the people by their ethnic background and practiced a divide and rule strategy. Even though the government was equally bad when compared with the previous forms of governments, it successfully ruled the country until Ethiopia was dismembered. What made this new government different from all previous Ethiopian governments is that this new government tirelessly worked to undermine the interest Ethiopia and its people.”
“How come the people did not fight back as before and get rid of it?” Your daughter asked.
“For one thing the people were divided into ethnic groups and start to fight amongst each other instead of focusing on the main problem, the government. This created an opportunity for the government to sell of the country piece by piece. It started by giving away Ethiopian land to other neighboring countries. Then it moved on to selling fertile land to any foreigner who wanted to buy the land. Then it continued to give certain Ethiopian international rights to other countries such as Ethiopian people’s rights to the country’s natural resources. By the end, the country was entangled with so many international treaties that are not favorable to it as well as ethnic bickering continued unabated resulting in Ethiopia’s demise.”
“Why would the government want to do that? Are they not Ethiopians too?” your child asked. You paused for a second and continued to answer.
“Some people doubt whether the leader was Ethiopian, for good reasons too. For instance, that leader has never called the country by its name “Ethiopia”, or he is never heard of referring the country as his own. He degraded the people and the nation’s flag. He never showed what some people call true Ethiopianism.”
“Whose fault is it, daddy?”
Whose fault is it really? You never thought of it before. You know the leaders were destroying the country and looting the national treasury like there is no tomorrow. You know all the atrocities committed by the government. You know there were some voices exposing the crimes of the government at the time. But you also know you did not help in any way. You left it to “good” people to fight your fight. After all you are only one and your participation or lack thereof does not add or take away from the struggle.
But wait a minute. If only you paid attention. If only you were not blinded by temporal gains. Gains that faded away with the demise of the nation. At the time you figured the regime favored your ethnic group more than other groups. Why your own wife tried to warn you. She told you while you are satisfied with the treatment of your ethnic group, others were suffering and you should have voiced your concern. Now all the people, including your ethnic group, lost their country.
Deep down you know the blame falls squarely on people like you and there is nothing you can do about it now. You dare not tell your daughter that. The guilty feeling makes you sad and unhappy.
“That is enough questions for one now night. Go to sleep now.”
That was all you could say.