The upcoming Ethiopian uprising does not need Leaders By Teodros Kiros

February 17th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

A dentist from Aswan… traveled 600 miles to be at the antigovernment protest. ‘I was expecting to find the Wafd were the leaders, or the Brotherhood were the leaders,’ he said, speaking of two of Egypt’s best-known opposition movements.

But what he found was far better, he said. ‘There are no leaders at all.’ … The only real leaders seem to be the young people who have returned to the barricades, again and again, for days now. …‘We don’t need a leader,’ said one of them, Amira Magdy, 22. ‘This system is beautiful.’ …[and from others] ‘We want the young people to be the ones to form a negotiating committee.’ “ [Kareem Fahim and Mona El-Naggar, 3 Feb.]

So will the upcoming Ethiopian revolution. It too will be led without leaders. The leading is the organization, as the protestors will lead and be led. The leadership is the sharing of responsibilities and obligations, the duties and the visions. Every protestor plays a role in the unfolding of events. Protestors take turns in directing the movement. Doctors will attend to the sick; lawyers will safeguard rights and document the people’s lives; janitors will clean the streets; nurses will attend to the anguished; priests will pray to the Transcendent; musicians will heal the afflicted; children will charm parents; bloggers will galvanize support; historians will document the world event; writers will imagine.

In the people’s revolution, everyone is a leader and a follower. Sovereignty is concrete. It is expressed as lived power. The people learn for the first time they will learn leading and following, managing and obeying, directing and being directed.

The qualities of sovereignty are internalized through practice. The essential attributes of citizenship: obligation, responsibility, duty and order are learned directly by doing. These qualities are not imposed from high on as in monarchies and tyrannies. They emerged directly out of the living movement of action, the people’s action as they fight for their life and defend the lives
of others.

These political qualities are practices of the self as they mature on streets, the streets of living democracy.

The people become powerful by practicing power on the streets of living democracy. The people’s revolution is an arena of practice. The streets are the nerve centers, and the practices are the engines of cultural and political transformation.

At the people’s agora, the future of the revolution is organized slowly. There the people originate power and seek to organize it-patiently and decently.

I assure my readers that I am ready and willing to lead the peaceful uprising in Meskel square, blessed by the Transcendent; surrounded by the majestic mosques calling us to prayer; the grand churches encouraging and leading their followers to the great march by a great people; and the poetic people of the south and the artists of Gambela gracefully singing hymns of redemption.

I pledge to my people that it would be the crowning achievement of my life to fight for the Ethiopia I love from the depth of my veins.

What a sight this would be as the living activity of voiceless people gently inviting tyranny to participate in dialogue free of domination.

I am ready and willing to spearhead the peaceful march for radical democracy. Only the Woyanes deliberately question my commitment and contaminate my Ethiopianity. To me, Lalibela, Axum, Adwa, the art and poetry of the South, the religious and architectural contributions of the Muslims, are all symbols of Ethiopian/African greatness.

The millions of Muslims, Christians, Jews and others heroically asserting their rights will enchant me.


Teodros Kiros
Professor of Philosophy and English (Liberal Arts)
Berklee College of Music

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