Ethnic Politics is No Other Than Institutionalizing Racism By Dubale Tariku

May 10th, 2014 Print Print Email Email

This article is intended to reach out to innocent citizens who might have been confused with political propaganda and underestimate the negative consequences of ethnic politics. It is to remind fellow citizens, as a concerned and responsible citizen that we need to take measured steps in our effort to support political parties. Simply stated people’s major interest is to have peace and equal opportunities in their own country. The interest of political elites is different, more than anything; it is to be on the helm of power. No amount of sugar coated words from political elites should dissuade us, citizens.

With a salt of grain, this saying clearly illustrates the feelings “Politicians are mostly people who had too little morals and ethics to stay as innocent citizens.” The only reason why political elites reach out to innocent citizens is because they cannot come to power without the help of the people which the elites claim that they have a vested interest.

In most of well developed countries where Ethiopians in diaspora lives there are two things that shall never mix with State governments. These are religion and ethnicity, although ethnicity is not much of a problem in these countries. Like in any other advanced countries, most people in under developed countries such as Ethiopia also agree that religion should be separated from State government. Even we hear the current government in Ethiopia consistently declaring that religion and state should remain separated.

Whether the Ethiopian government practiced what it declares or not is a different story. Why separate government and religion? The governments of advanced countries unmistakably understood and predicted the unique danger of religion for democracy. Religious disagreements have potential to escalate avoidable differences to serious strife that might lead the way to untold destructions and killings of innocent citizens. Many people are prone to violence and almost impossible to make peace so long as people oppose one another under the banner of their clashing religious doctrines.

In political recourse ethnicity is not different than religion. It should be treated like religion is treated in civilized politics. Experiences elsewhere tell that anything that keeps ethnicity away from politics is good. In Africa, as compared to religion, ethnic politics has proven to be even the worst killer. No matter how ethnic political elites sugar coated it, the undeniable fact is ethnic politics institutionalize racism. Citizens should not be gullible to think that ethnic ideology institutionalizes democracy. In multi
ethnic society like Ethiopia, it is only democracy not racism that will bring peace and order. Only democratic political relations offers ethnic relationships in a manner that is characteristic of the civilized societies of the world. Let the truth be told. The whole governance practice under ethnic political system is promoting inequality among ethnic groups as opposed to promoting equality.

The inequality perpetrates in institutions such as public government bodies, private business, media outlets, and universities (public and private). These government institutions do not provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their ethnic origin, just like what racism did in the western countries. No good governance could come out from ethnic political system which the philosophy of the relationship among people is based on nepotism. What Ethiopians noticed in the recent uprising is that ethnic loyalty has affected our nation’s dream for democracy. Over the past 20-years ethnic based governance, the EPRDF has increased gaps in social relations among ethnic nationalities and developed structural suspicions and hate for one another. The Oromo university student who has been phone-interviewed by VOA from a hiding place in Adama is an example. It doesn’t worth to die for or kill for ethnic political system that is corrupt and structurally incapable to institute democracy for its own ethnic group.

Political elites do and say anything to manipulate the people to achieve their ambition. They violate principles of democracy, override laws, re-write history and even care less for committing genocide in cold blood. That is what the world has observed primarily in Africa, like in Ruanda, Somalia, Congo, Central Africa, the former Sudan, South Sudan, etc… The gruesome incidences that happened in the countries mentioned above did not come from mysterious unknowable forces. It came from political elites who manipulate citizens’ emotions to provoke intense ethnic conflicts and cause unimaginable damage. It is neither to advance economic interest nor institute democracy, which they claim bring to its own citizens.

Just like any other countries, for peace to prevail in Ethiopia citizens’ political discourse should be constructive. The vision should be to have an Ethiopia that respects the right of all citizens without discrimination by ethnicity origin or religion beliefs. At this trying moments, Ethiopia needs a purposeful leadership that has a vision of how to place its citizens. A leadership that recognizes and respects the many ethnic groups that make up Ethiopia, and treats all ethnic groups as its constituency and thereby
alleviating the fear of ethnic domination. A leadership without recourse to ethnic chauvinism and which sees political power as not an end in itself but a means for serving the collective welfare of its people regardless of their ethnic origin. However, it takes skilful, committed and principled leaders to achieve just solutions that are supported by their followers.

Ethiopia shall prevail!!

  1. aha!
    | #1

    Thank you for bringing forth the narratives for ethnic and secessionist politics and/or policies, which is built into the constitution in the form of ideologies of ethnic federalism, secessionism and totalitarianism and/or state capitalism as root causes to ongoing turmoil in Ethiopia today with EPLF/TPLF as the major architects of the constitution, supported by the teletafi and loyalist opposition parties, security, federal police and military forces as well as killil administrators, in addition to hatred and mistrust it created among them, compounded by ethnic cleansing for certain ethnic groups. The only things the loyalist opposition parties were campaigning ever since were for opening up of political space as if it was a quantitative measure, ethnic rights and “yekilil mengistats iqulent mebit mekeber”. Therefore to make a paradigm shift from the current ethnic agenda, the constitution is major focus for ratification, since it is the main operating system out of which the current laws, including antiterrprism are derived in the absence of independent branches of government and an ethnic rule and/or ethnic dictatorship, rather than democratic rule with the individual, liberty and equality as the centerpiece of the constitution.

  2. Sam
    | #2

    Dubale has a very cynical view of politicians. And what is troubling most is he painted nearly all of them in the same brush. He wrote “politicians are mostly people who had too little morals and ethics to stay as innocent citizens.” What does this really mean? It is as a bizarre statement as you could get. Politics is a noble profession. Countless of politicians engage in politics hoping to make a difference. To say that politicians choose the profession because their morals and ethics does not allow them to “stay as innocent citizens” is the most bizarre statement that I read written about them. If Dubale was writing about a single politician– I might not be as careless with my words as he– I might not have a feeling about the article one way or another. But to imply that politicians choose the profession because they could not make a living otherwise not only sounds silly, but also irrational. One thing the writer should know: politicians are always needed. Since society has developed to form a government the profession is there. From here on also I could not imagine a world without politicians being part of any society.

  3. aha!
    | #3

    Dubale Tariku’s argumentative position on ethnic politics and thereby ethnic political elites (ethnic federalists as I label them) is encapsulated in his statements as: “In Africa, as compared to religion, ethnic politics has proven to be even the worst killer. No matter how ethnic political elites sugar coated it, the undeniable fact is ethnic ideology institutionalizes racism (ethnic minority rule as I put it)”. He went on to say ” Citizens should not be gullible to think ethnic that ethnic ideology institutionalizes democracy” Nor does supper imposition of democracy over ethnic rule could be a true democracy,where democracy is a rule by the people of the people by the people. We should not also fail to point out that ethnic federalism, (ethnic homelands) is also a prelude to ethnic secessionism/ethnic nationalism and an ongoing ethnic cleansing are points to consider in favor of Ethiopian Nationalism, and the sovereignty of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, a prelude to true democracy to save Ethiopia from disintegration.

  4. Dawi
    | #4

    [[…Over the past 20-years ethnic based governance, the EPRDF has increased gaps in social relations among ethnic nationalities ...]]

    When you say “gaps” are you talking about economic? If that is the case what did you base that on?

    I just read Reuters news that said, Fitch Ratings has assigned Ethiopia Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) of ‘B’. That is in par with Kenya and Uganda. That means the economics is not it.

    Some of this conflicts can be the result of modernization, relative development and relative freedom of expression as well that enhances some conflicts to come in the open but, may look to you that actual gaps have increased. The opposite seems to be true to me.

    Things may have actually improved but folks compare themselves to other groups who are historically & relatively had some advantage and now during completion/integration the inequality of the past comes out in the open on their face more than in say during semi isolation of the past with little development & less integration. How about that?

    Be that as it may, there are many factors that created the underlying problems of our countries but a couple of factors are known to be a good remedy to reduce conflict [ethnic included] that helps us move towards peace quickly.

    A study of 113 instances of failed states, civil wars, and related national crises from 1955 to 1994 tested 75 of political, leadership, demographic, social, economic and environmental factors to look for causes; what it found was three factors are the most strongly associated with underlying crises. They were infant mortality rate, the capacity of a nation’s trade and the extent of “democracy”.

    The first two are known to be systematic variables therefore the most important; they affect large numbers of people.

    A government policy that reduces or prevents these two often show better results in bringing peace to conflicts [ethnic included] in the long run.

  5. tsedale
    | #5

    I agree ethnic politics is probably to teach our people what racism is about from a distance, the true racism that our brothers and sisters experience in the white world is far, far, away, I also beleive to a certain degree our people needs to experience so they understand what other africans brother and sister had to indure for the longest time.
    God has his way to teach his people, God promise to ethiopia that he will never bring other people but will punish us with our own hand, I think we need to improve our relationship with all african decendent indeed.

  6. WSLF Somali
    | #6

    EPRDF’s Distorted Policy Aggar (Associates)
    The Somalis voice from Somali region of Ethiopia has finally been heard by the international community. The United States, the United Kingdom as well as the EU Parliament have in the recent past openly expressed their concerns over alleged humanitarian crisis in Somali Region. The U. S House of Representatives has particularly asked Ethiopia to provide human rights and humanitarian organizations with free access to its Somali region. It is about time that EPRDF listens, works hard to rectify its mistake and aligns a genuine federal system in region by dissolving the so-called ‘Aggar” associates concept.
    Similarly, Bruce, a social scientist of higher caliber, wrote that it must be recognized that although force can surely be used to protect the interests of a ruling elite (EPRD) against the agitation of subordinates strata, this is quite different from saying it can ensure social stability. In the same line of thinking, Abdi Mohamed, Somali Region President and its Liyu Police or ONLF, will not keep a lasting peace and stability in that region unless a rule of law prevails and democratic institutions is implemented and free and fair election is held( a warning to upcoming election 2015).
    EPRDF executive is so busy by assigning their satellite clientele such as the current President of Somali Region, Abdi Mohamed and hoping that miracle will materialize in terms of good governance, institution building and implementation of federal constitution in the region. In the last twenty two years, more than ten presidents were dismissed, forced to exile, and put in jail in Somali Region. The essence of this blunder is “ Aggar” policy of EPRDF. In other words, the four parties of EPRDF impose its will and check lists on the rest of “ Aggar” associates regions. The officials in that aggar regions are loyal and fulfilling the instructions of federal government officials than the people whom they govern.
    The outcome of this distorted policy is liyu police and the cajoling of secessionist ONLF as if they are the true representative of Somali Region people while it is isolating the true and genuine Ethiopian Somali. Luckily, the donors international countries have requested to access to Somali Region. The militias Liyu Police loyal to the current President of Somali Region, Abdi Mohamed, have killed innocent villagers. The inflicted massacres have been known, but this time the events unfolding in regional state have captured the eyes of the UN and other human rights organizations. In the meantime, the villagers have taken their rights in their own hands and fought back these roaming and wild militias ( Liyu police).
    Furthermore, historically Somali clans had clashed for century on grazing land and water wells; however, these days the regional government of Somali Region armed with sophisticated ammunition in the name of Ethiopia is framing others clans to be part of terrorist groups (the newly masterminded policy tool of EPRDF to silence its opponents) and fulfilling its duties to the federal government of Ethiopia that they are securing that region from rebels. This Machiavellian scheme of Somali Region officials was intended to keep the power exclusively in the hands of Abdi Mohamed and his clan, Ogaden, echoing Siad Barre dictator style of governance.
    The majority of Somali clans namely Issa, Issaq, Gadarbusi, Gururre, Shekal and others have adamantly expressed their grievances to the federal government so that they benefit from the economic growth and constitutional rights in Somali Region, but they ended up in death ears; that is why in Harshin, Gashamo, Shinelle and Lafa Isse pastorals’ armed themselves and routed the militia liyu police made up of ONLF, ex-soldiers of Siad Barre and other Ogaden clan recruited from Somalia.
    Ironically, the majority of Ethiopian Somalis are known to keep the territorial integrity of Ethiopia and fought along the line of other Ethiopian whereas ONLF(ogaden clan) wanted to secede so as to join their Kismayo brothers in Somalia where 11 execute members of ONLF were born. Having created and trained ONLF and the current ruling chief of Somali Region in 1984, the ex-dictator of Somalia, Ziad Barre, had thought them that force (i.e, the exercise or threat of physical violence ) is an instrument open to a variety of uses by individuals or groups within any Somali society. They have regularly employed to hold power to compel obedience and suppress the majority of Ethiopian Somali.
    To look into the crisis making in Somali Region, it is very important to analyze and go deeply into the question of who is Liyu Police and the clan makes up politics. Additionally, the militias had been formed in the last five to six years to counter attack the so-called threat posed by ONLF, but wait a minute; how come the Liyu polices are only composed of one clan, Ogaden and fighting to mitigate the threat against ONLF. Any person in the right mind would figure out that there are no difference of ONLF rebels and the police forces of Somali Region (Liyu Police); they are two faces of the same coin. Simply put, the majority of militias of liyu police are ONLF.
    The President of Somali Region, Abdi Mohamed, has been fabricating his own stories and fooling the Federal government officials that his regional state has been fighting with ONLF, which was far from truth. During the arrest of Sweden journalist, Abdi Mohamed has paid the money and put together the theater of these journalists crossing the border from Somalia to Ethiopia. His agents were following the journalist and videoing all along. Recently, as he exhausted all flying lies, he beats an empty threat of drum to separate from Ethiopia in case he is not allowed to do whatever he wants in Somali Region. EPRDF has created this monster that they should deal with him.
    Bruce, the leading Chicago’s school of sociology, narrates that discourse supplements force in several important ways, among the most important of which is ideological persuasion. For example, in the hands of EPRDF elites and of those professionals who serve them discourse (Revolutionary developmental state) of all forms not only verbal, but also symbolic ( the nations and nationalities celebration) discourses of spectacle, gesture, costume, edifice, icon, musical performance and the like strategically employed to mystify the inevitable inequities of any social order ( distorted policy of aggar) and to win the consent of those over whom power is exercised, thereby obviating the need for the direct coercive use of force and transforming simple power into legitimate authority.
    Recently, having celebrated nations and nationalities days in Somali Region, EPRDF had showered with praise the dictator Abdi Mohamed as if he is the only savior to keep peacefully Somali Region and to add insult to injury, all non-Ogaden Somali Ethiopian officials were not allowed to attend the ceremony. Divide and rule per excellence as colonizers of British and French used to exercise their myopic powers is practiced.
    Further, this will also lead us to embark on the idea why ONLF rebels’ soldiers are interwoven with the militias of Somali region. In other words, this is not different and is a typical segmentation of clan politics that destroyed Somalia in the last twenty three years. Today, Somali Region looks a “little Mogadishu”: the top advisers of Somali Region President are the ex-official of Siad Barre, the hegemony of one clan is omnipresent, the absence of rule of law is daily routine to citizens of that region, one man rule is echoing Siad Barre style of dictatorship, the killing and raping of innocent villagers are synonym of horror daily life, the dislocation of villagers from their lands are rampant, and the silence of Federal government is an excuse that Somali Region is backward and an insecure place to invest.
    Moreover, EPRDF bought into the lie of Abdi Mohamed, the one and only one clan of Somali Region dictator. They gave him the green light to dissolve the Execute party of Somali Region, they allowed him to select only his own clan (66 members of ministers only two are other clans), they did not question his corruptive style of governance and they did not listen to majority clans in Somali Region grievances. This rings the bell that EPRDF does not have any solution to right the distorted application of federal system in Somali Region, “Aggar”. The core principle of EPRDF is to look over the “ Aggar” regions while they will follow a checklist to rule them indirectly from Addis Ababa. The emperor has changed the cloth of centralization in its brutal form of state.
    As result of recent visit of Secretary Kerry, The U. S decided that Ethiopia must make sure that funds available for assistance of its military and police forces are not used unless the Secretary of State certifies to the Committees on Appropriations. Additionally, Ethiopia’s government is asked to implementing policies to protect basic human rights like freedom of expression, assembly and religion.
    The U. S. Congress declared, “That Funds . shall not be made available unless the Secretary of State certifies . Ethiopia is implementing policies to protect judicial independence; freedom of expression, association, assembly, and religion; the right of political opposition parties, civil society organizations.”
    The world power also asked Ethiopia to make sure that human rights and humanitarian organizations are provided free access to the Somali region of the country and journalists are allowed to operate without any harassment or interference. In addition, we, the original citizens of Ethiopia in Diaspora, are urging EPRDF to right its mistakes to implement genuinely the Federal system and removed the concept of Aggar and allow the majority of Somali Ethiopian to rule themselves democratically, fairly and judicially.

  7. Suliman
    | #7

    Ethnic based organizations and the ethnic elites who are shakers and movers of these organizations are indeed major obstacles for the state of affairs in Ethiopia. No body says politics is rubbish or politicians in general are immoral and wicked as I understood the article. Rather, ethnic organizations and their ethnic actors as it is seen in Ethiopian political land scape in the past few decades is proved a failure. This is not just true to the promoter of this agenda,TPLF but to all of them. Does anybody really cares for what is taking place in the country at the moment? Do we really understand what is hovering in Ethiopian Sky? If things continue in the way they are moving no one gains any thing. The very nature of ethnic politics is complex issue and it is based not on rationality but based on much of blame and not just ruling elites but the entire ethnic group rulers supposedly belong. That has been some of the ugly experience we witnessed in the past few , My message for ESAT is this please invite gusts from Oromo officials and other officials to send message that the people need to fight one mind weyane and not fall in to weyane trap to fight each other.

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