2012: A year of reckoning? By Msmaku Asrat
Yes, it has been foretold that 2012 was going to be a fateful year. It has been marked long, long, time ago. The Maya Civilization had marked their remarkable calendar by predicting that the world will end on Dec 31st, 2012. Many other sages and seers, including the Middle Ages seer Nostradamus, have predicted in a similar fashion- that the End of Times will be the year 2012. By Ethiopian reckoning we are in the second half of the Simintegaw Shih (8th Millennium). All things bad and strange will happen during this 8th Millennium. This of course is true. The two World Wars, the hundreds of regional wars, and hundreds of conflicts raging around the world now, attest to the prediction of the 8th Millennium. By Christian reckoning the End of Times could come any minute now, or in unforeseeable and unending future; that day being heralded by the return of Christ to Earth. Thus the people of the world (or the believers at least) would be in perpetual expectation and anxiety. Much similar to the Ethiopian Saga.
Ethiopia has been in End of Times since 1974. That year a group of soldiers took power, imprisoned the Emperor and his high ranking civilian and military official s. They massacred these officials in cold blood without trial in court and killed the Emperor a year later. In a sort of a voodoo macabre the leader of this motley murderous group, Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, had the Emperor buried under his office in Menelik’s palace. The Emperor was the most celebrated world leader of his generation as well as the next.
He has met and discussed with world leaders from Roosevelt to Churchill; from Nkrumah to Tito, to Nehru, and Mao. He was also the most decorated world leader as well as being designated as “Father of African Unity” by the unanimous vote of African Leaders meeting in Rabat , Morocco In 1972 (where I was also present as a member of the Ethiopian delegation)
Ethiopia has been going downhill since 1974. Their right to own land was taken away by decree and the state became the sole owner of land. They were told to forgo with their God and worship “scientific socialism” whose Trinity were Mark, Engels and Lenin, their portraits hung everywhere. The whole country was forced to learn the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism by rote, by instructors who had not even grasped the rudimentary building blocks of the ideology. This went on until the fall of the Derg. The Derg also wrote on a huge arch at the entrance of zemecha memria proclaiming that the Derg “will put under its control, not only Man but Nature as well.”. It was silently pulled down when people started dying from hunger, drought, and famine in the hundreds of thousands. All the time, the killing juggernaut called the Derg, continued killing hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians with the help of its civilian cadres who were running the Kefitegnas, the Kebeles and the Peasant Associations. Millions went into exile and about a million perished in hunger. Hundreds s of books and articles have been written about this.
The day of deliverance came when the Weyane defeated the Derg and took power. It imprisoned the Derg members and the civilian killing squad. It is said that only three Derg members managed to escape (one is in the US, another in Canada and a third in New Zealand). Among the hundreds of non-Derg Cadres who escaped and spread around the world only one (in the US) was apprehended with the help of three brave Ethiopian women living in US and Canada, and he was deported to Ethiopia. The Weyane released thousands of Derg political prisoners and imprisoned the cadre murderers.
My mother who lost two sons has been very grateful that the Weyane came to her house and asked her to name or identify who the murderers of her children were. She of course did not know and told them so. She died a few years ago. If she had known that the photos of her two teen aged murdered children is hanging in the Holocaust Memorial Exhibit of Derg Victims , she would have been doubly grateful , but she died before it was opened. When the first of her two sons was being buried she made a funeral oration saying that his father is a Resistance hero, a Patriot who fought Fascist Italy, for five years; that if he were younger he would have taken arms against this murderous Derg. She went on to say that the Derg can kill her on the spot where she stood, on hallowed ground of St.Michael’s Church , that what has happened to her now is also happening to many mothers all over Ethiopia, that unless you, his friends here do not rise up, tomorrow it will be your turn. Many of his EPRP friends left to Asimba soon after (I later heard about this). The Derg did not do anything to her then., The cruel Derg is not only an efficient killing machine but also unreservedly cruel and macabre; they killed her youngest son exactly a month later; assuring that she would be heartbroken for the rest of her life. The cruelty and the murderous nature of the Derg has no bounds. Even Fascist Italy did not commit as grievous and as massive a crime as the Derg. I write about my mother, not because she is particular but as an example of millions of mothers who suffered the same type of trauma during the era of the Derg, as well as it to be a cautionary tale for all Derg sympathizers and supporters who ceaselessly want us to forget the Derg atrocities and only talk about the Weyane. I say that we could do both.
Fast forward twenty years , the fate of Ethiopia has not changed . There is a French saying plus ca change, plus la meme chose – “the more things change the more they remain the same.” The Weyane has become more like its predecessor as time passes. Even though it has not killed a fraction of what the Derg has, nonetheless it has killed thousands, and this should be condemned in equal measure. The perpetrators of the crimes have to face justice. Human right abuse, slave trafficking, pillage of the wealth of the nation, forcing people to become unwelcome refugees all over the world, hunger, poverty, and running a police state, is the same like the Derg. The monumental difference is that the Derg was bent on killing while the Weyane is bent on stealing. MAN is the measure of all things. Human life is sacrosanct, everything else is secondary. Thus the crime of the Derg is monumentally more superior and infinitely more damaging to the human spirit, from which destruction the Ethiopian people have not fully recovered even after twenty odd years.
Why is the opposition so fragmented? Why is the resistance to TPLF rule weakening as time passes? The best example to illustrate this is what happened in Metropolitan DC a few months ago, soon after Yenesew Gebre torched himself to death in opposition similar to Buazzi in Tunisia. A group of youth who claim to have a following of thousands through face book , twitter, internet in Ethiopia as well as in the Diaspora organized for a huge meeting in DC where a thousand were expected to attend and several thousand to follow it in other ways. When the Great day arrived only eighty persons showed up. We have to think hard why such things happened. The Metropolitan Area of DC is estimated to have 300,000 Ethiopians. Among these 2/3rd , or 200,000 are considered to be the Youth. How can only 80 attend in spite of a massive call for them to attend?
The answer is one of the two. First, like all previous immigrants to America they have become part of the “melting pot” or the “salad bowl”(my preference) of Americanism and have become Americans and turned their back to their country of origin. Their only interest in Ethiopia is as a place of R&R (rest and recreation) where they go to spend their hard earned money for as long and as frequently as their money and time permits.
The second possibility is more frightening. They may have fully accepted the Weyane system of governance and are not willing to appear in places where the Weyane is condemned. If not so, why do they appear in the hundreds in cultural festivals, churches as well as social ceremonies and events. We have to assimilate the fact that the youth in the Diaspora ,and especially in the US , (except for the dedicated few ) are not prepared to stick out its neck in opposition to the Weyane. Sad but true . Another possibility is that the organizers are not in tandem with reality in Ethiopia and its exposure to it. Ethiopia is the most isolated and closed society in the face of the earth. It has only 0.5% of population internet penetration while even in the rest of Africa it reaches up to 28.3% of population. The rest of Ethiopia with that huge population is forcibly closed in and isolated from the rest of the world. Our immediate and most concerted effort should be to open this up by all means. Whatever internet or face book communication there is, it only services the leaders who are the top 0.4% .These are the Tigrean oligarchs and their camp followers. (the TPLF has claimed that it has won 99.6% of the vote in the last election. So according to TPLF. It was only opposed by 0.4%. I take the liberty to reverse this and say that only 0.4% voted for it.)
The so-called “Arab Spring” was not able to affect Ethiopia. Yenesew Gebre’s martyrdom was received with deafening silence at home. In any event , the “Arab Spring” itself has regressed to become the “Arab winter chill.” When Egyptian women went to Tahir Square to celebrate International Women’s Day they were driven away by the men saying that this was a revolution for men only and does not include women. Coptic Christians were told that the revolution is for Muslim men only, and they were massacred in large numbers. The country is going back to the Dark Ages unless another more humanist and more democratic revolution occurs there as well as in the entire Arab region. Ethiopians have to make their own revolution, not imitate anyone else’s.
Ethiopia has not been fortunate in bringing her criminals to justice. Fascist Graziani escaped judgment . Even though he was finally sentenced to 19 years he served only one year. He died peacefully in 1955. That is 14 years after Ethiopia drove away the Fascist occupiers. Italy admitted using mustard gas on Ethiopians only in 1995. Mengistu whose crimes against the Ethiopian people is a thousand times more severe than that of Graziani has totally escaped justice. He has now even written his memoires justifying his crime. Whether he wrote it himself or in collaboration with his close relatives (as it is alleged) he has taken over 20 years to perfect his lies and justify his crimes. No one except his die-hard followers would read his book. To read it is to relive the horrors of the past and be doubly aggrieved because this alley rat who is constitutionally incapable of telling the truth. But truth will eventually triumph. Even Armenians are now exposing the genocide committed on them by Turkey over a hundred years ago. They did this because they are now a nation and above all they are a democracy. Likewise, when Ethiopia achieves democracy the truth will come out. Justice could be delayed but will not be denied . Both the Derg and Weyane crimes will be exposed and then we will be able to say NEVER AGAIN.
So we hope that 2012 will be the end of the TPLF rule – before it sells all available land, sells our young women to slavery , divides the country into ethnic enclaves, and then abandon it. The aim of Meles is to forge a union with his mentor and boss Isayias and unite Eritrea and Greater Tigray. Finally, if possible, to start a religious war so that Ethiopia will be no more. We have to contend with these dire possibilities. We must be able to forge a unity of purpose and throw off the shackles of ethnic division and destruction.
VENCEREMOS! We shall prevail. A lutta continua! The struggle continues.