Mr. Tesfaye, Speak the Truth! by Wondemhunegn Ezezew
Note: this article is a response to Tesfaye Habisso’s e-mail reaction to my earlier article on his argument about the convicted former Derg officials.
Thank you for your reaction. Actually when ever I raise an issue on Ethiopian economy or politics I do not expect any response from any TPLF/EPRDF supporter; even those who happen to drop me email have nothing to say except “chauvinist, ex-Derg, feudal, etc.” none of which has anything to do with me.
Though barking up the wrong tree is in our tradition, a person like you should not accuse me of discussing people as if ideas are inherently exotic and independent of one’s mental process. Good people have good ideas, good intentions and honest message. Crooked people emit bad ideas and present them to advance their greedy personal interests. My respect or contempt for people is based on their ideas, their outlook, and their mission which together define their personality. I do not say «I like Tesfaye, but I hate his ideas,” which is self-contradictory! Thus, if we follow your line of reasoning, we would conclude that the oppressed people of Egypt “respect Mubarak but hate his oppressive ideas and policies!” By the way, even after Mubarak promised reforms, the angry people still insisted, “Mubarak get out of our sight! Go! Go! Go!” Ideas and personalities are intertwined.
You may have heard of Thomas Carlyle, 18th century racist intellectual (a bizarre combination?), who believed that “blacks were subhuman (“two-legged cattle”), who needed the tutelage of whites wielding the “beneficent whip” if they were to contribute to the good of society.” His subhuman mantra was not limited to black Africans but at times was also applied to the Irish people in his immediate neighbourhood. Now, my question is that in what way should we respect the originator of these ideas while at the same time hate his ideas? Isn’t it the philosophy (ideas) of Hitler and a handful of his spin doctors that led to the worst crime against humanity ever? Did the Allied powers go after their ideas or the originators and implementers of those ideas? Please be honest with yourself. Returning to home, why don’t your comrades “convict the ideas” and set the Derg officials free? Does it sound sensible? But then, Mahatma Gandhi, as honest as he was, left us the following lesson, “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”
Though literally you have the inalienable right to express your ideas, you should have known that we also have the inalienable right to oppose your ideas—that is to say that you are lying, falsifying, concocting facts and figures ,etc. If to say that “someone is a lier,” is to attack one’s personality, it should be understood as that. One of your darlings was once overheard from Ethiopia that “not a single Ethiopian was taken up by Sudanese soldiers!” The following day 28 Ethiopians, who were taken hostages by Sudanese army, were telling the whole world on DW Amharic Radio that the Sudanese had occupied Ethiopian farms and captured whoever was working on the farms. So to say that such people are ‘wushetam’ is attacking their personality? I think you must be kidding!
That word in bracket (obscure) must have offended you badly and SORRY for that. By the way, I have no problem if you were the spearhead leader of that fateful Ethiopian Student Movement. Even Wallelign Mekonen is not my hero. What did we get out of that revolution? Personally, I have no ambition for political power, at least am not very hungry for it right now. All I scribble is out of my concern for my people as a whole. You may not have been to Debark (my home town) but the trials and tribulations my father underwent while working in Debark and Mekane Birhane was really unconstitutional and tragic. There are many other similar stories. My father’s experience was a turning point in shaping my political consciousness. You mentioned the word constitution 15 times in a country where people are arrested without warrant, arbitrarily demoted from their position and their properties confiscated without giving them the chance to respond or to stand for the peregrination of the typical court litigation.
On a personal note, please understand that I have no grudge because Meles or someone outside my ethnic group is in power. But I believe that we must sometimes risk our personal interests to speak the truth, at least once in our life. That is the only way that I can repay my gratitude to the bare-footed farmer in Simien or the clothless fisher in Debub, who for now do not know whether their sesame or coffee is the source of former Ambassador Tesfaye’s salaries and his other employment benefits.
I am your son and I will always respect my elders. But I want to remind you that seniority does not give us the immunity from criticism and I criticize not only the ideas but also the originator of those ideas. No hide-and-seek behind the tautology between ideas and personalities!
Regarding the Derg officials, in your latest article you said, “…Above all, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity are international crimes. These are crimes against international humanitarian and customary law. No one has the authority to forgive these crimes on behalf of all humanity. These crimes are both unforgettable and unforgivable in the realm of politics and international law.”
1. If no one gives you the authority to forgive them on behalf of humanity, who gives you the authority to pursue them on behalf of humanity? Did the dead choose you to represent them on their behalf?
2. If you believe that international laws and conventions are so sacrosanct, why cannot we see G. W. Bush and T. Blair being tried at the ICC for all the crimes against humanity in Iraq and Afghanistan? You may tell me that they were looking for WMD and dangerous terrorists who were threats for international peace and security. But where are the bogeymen? Where are the WMD? By the way, our former butcher Mengistu Haile Mariam would also tell you that he was fighting secessionist elements in Eritrea and Tigray, much like PM Meles Zenawi’s excuse for what has been happening in Ogaden.
As far as the former Derg officials are concerned, it takes soft hearts, not obsession with technical formalities. I think no amount of philosophical speculation or playing with words would diminish or magnify their crimes. If the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (I mean Woyane) chooses to evaporate them in jail, that is none of my business. But I still insist that it would be better for the common good to forgive, reconcile and move on. That would be a great lesson for the ethnically-intoxicated generation of mine. We cannot dwell on crimes committed two decades ago while Ethiopians, including women, are being tortured at Maekelawi RIGHT NOW.
Finally my message to you is speak the truth; the ordinary Ethiopians, I am sure 97% of them, have no appetite for power politics (according to psychologists 3% of the population in any society are “mad”). Most people need food, shelter, decent jobs, clothing and clean water. They need justice and freedom from arbitrary arrest and incarceration. As an ardent TPLF/EPRDF supporter, do you really believe that 20 years is not enough to deliver on these most basic necessities of life? Something is wrong with the philosophy of your rule and it is high time that you and your comrades made introspection and adopted major changes in governance and policies. Do you have the gumption to write on EFFORT and its devastating effect on resource mobilization, domestic production, competition and allocative efficiency? Would you ever venture to speak against torture in Ethiopia which has been the talk of the town recently? If and only if you raise such issues that I would believe your rhetoric that you are “a retired citizen who propagates his own independent views and not a ‘cheerleader’ for Meles or any other person on earth.”
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