If only we remain united… – By Abebe Gelaw

November 12th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

I tried to scribble an article on the necessity of standing in unison to keep the momentum of the struggle to bring about a radical socio-economic and political change in Ethiopia. (more…)

I tried to scribble an article on the necessity of standing in unison to keep the momentum of the struggle to bring about a radical socio-economic and political change in Ethiopia. However, it was similar in content to an article entitled unity before victory that I published in October 2005. As I have found it still relevant to reflect the current reality, I shredded the new piece into pieces and decided to resurrect the old one with a little amendment.

According to an Asian fable, a donkey once found a skin of a lion and covered himself with it to disguise his true nature. He was treated with fear and reverence wherever he went. Other animals would not dare to approach this “lion”.

He mastered to act like the king of the jungle so well that he grew confident with his trick. He thought to himself that nobody would dare to fight with him and decided to scare off a pack of hyenas on his own. Off he went to frighten the hyenas. When the hyenas saw the scary “lion” approaching them, they ran amok. He became so elated with his victory over the hyenas that he wanted to roar like a lion. He took a deep breath and “roared” but alas… he could only manage to bray like a donkey. Realizing that they were tricked, the hyenas regrouped quickly and surrounded the “lion donkey” and made good lunch out of him.

There are a few individuals among the opposition, in and outside of Ethiopia, who play the donkey’s disastrous trick not realizing that at this momentous time of change, miscalculation is fatal.

The greatest political capital for the opposition is the people’s desire for freedom. Political squabbling and wrangling that can lead to serious divisions is like squandering the opportune political capital that needs to be managed with greater care and foresight. The emergence of a strong and unwavering leadership in galvanizing the popular demand for change is critically important. Ethiopia needs real lions and lionesses that can truly roar into action to throw off Legesse Zenawi’s despotic yokes, which have been prolonging the suffering of the masses.

There is nothing wrong with disagreement. One of our time’s great heroes, Mahatma Gandhi, once said: Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress. One can logically deduce that destructive disagreement is an obstacle for progress. Declaring disagreement in a way that can cause a serious rift among the masses without seeking solution through dialogue and compromise is a sign of weakness. A lot of negative energy is wasted on matters that are trivial. The resultant effect of that is nothing but undermining the long and arduous march to freedom.

The most essential role of leadership at the threshold of political change is unifying the multitude for the desired goals. The Ethiopian people have proved more than ever before that they set their heart on freeing themselves from the shackles of tyranny. The people wish to live in a country where they will all be treated with equality and dignity. They wish to live in a free land where the rulers become servants and the people masters of their destiny. They wish to live in a land where food in not a luxury but an ordinary necessity. They wish to live in a land where the tax they pay from their meagre incomes is not squandered to promote and protect the interests of the few who barricade themselves in opulent palaces and luxurious villas with high fences where they cannot see or hear when their fellow citizens die of hunger, diseases and abject poverty. There is nothing more dignifying than fighting for the emancipation of our wretched land from a regime, which has continued to obstruct a poor nation’s struggle for real democracy and development.

“Unity to be real”, said Gandhi, “must stand the severest strain without breaking.” The current discord among opposition leaders can only be positive if it solidifies their unity. They should always be mindful that the ruling party is also an angel of discord that capitalizes on division and disunity. The leaders of the popular cause should continue their efforts to unify themselves and the people to attain the ultimate goals.

There is no doubt that Ethiopians, from South to North, are desirous to see not only the leaders of Kinijit, but also all patriotic leaders of the opposition, who have dedicated a great deal of courage, time and energy to stand in unison and work in tandem to take the popular call for democracy to a greater height. Those of us in the Diasopra and the private press back home should desist from, deliberately or otherwise, undermining the real fight for liberty by condemning those who are still paying a great deal of sacrifice. The Diaspora should continue lobbying, demonstrating, expressing strong views and fighting the cyber war. All the good efforts cannot be discounted as worthless. And yet, we should acknowledge the onerous and tough challenges facing those at the frontline of fighting the real war against tyranny. Political miscalculations based on unrealistic estimates can only bring fatal bankruptcy like the donkey that wanted to fight a pack of hyenas armed with a mask.

The culture of intolerance to divergence of opinions is harmful not only to the opposition but also to the struggle for democracy. The importance of unity before victory is far greater than the distasteful debate on strategic issues, which need to be thrashed out by the leaders of each and every party behind closed doors. We should accept the fact that strategic issues and decisions are sole prerogatives of leaders. Decisive leadership sometimes requires taking unpopular measures. No matter what, it seems unhelpful to try to set the agenda for the opposition on cyber forums as some are trying to do.

Leaders of the opposition should be fully focused on the greater task ahead and be mindful of the unifying causes. They need to remember the words of Mandela, who said at a testing time: “We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender, and other discrimination. Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another… The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.”

Remember the day the nation stood still to vote for freedom. Remember the poor martyred fellow citizens who committed no crimes other than yearning to see the lights of freedom. Remember their blood crying out for justice. Remember the poor mums whose tears have not yet been wiped off their grief-stricken and bony cheeks. Remember those who are being tortured and languishing in the harsh jails of injustice. Remember the poor peasants displaced and dispossessed for voting against the slave masters. Remember the cause that millions have
joined across the nation and across the oceans.

We should also remember our tragic past and draw some invaluable lessons from it. As the philosopher and literary critic George Santayana aptly puts it: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The cost of disunity is far greater than we can easily estimate. If only we remain united, victory is inevitable. If not, it remains nothing but a far cry and impossible dream that is not worth dying for.

If Kinijit’s leaders are smart political animals that can outwit the tricky tyrant, they will, at any cost, pain and humiliation, forget the past, forgive each other and keep the unity of their party and people intact to hasten the demise of the despotic regime whose greatest hope for survival hinges upon the weaknesses of its enemies.

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