Dialogue, Outrage and Kinijit – By Fekade Shewakena

January 8th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

I agree with Professor Messay’s idea of dialogue as a potent tool of achieving greater societal good. (more…)

I agree with Professor Messay’s idea of dialogue as a potent tool of achieving greater societal good. I very well understand that dialogue is the best tool to resolve conflicts in politics. After all, as they say in the business, politics is the art of compromise, and compromise can come only when you engage in dialogue. Dr. Messay is also right to call on all of us to address the structural socio-cultural problems in our society that lend themselves to a lot of intolerance. Dr. Messay is one of few Ethiopian scholars who made a deeper digging to shade some light to help us explain many more serious anomalies in our society. I have respect for his views, learnt a lot from him and value his ideas immensely. I also understand that he is not trying to promote partisan interest in the current Kinijit crisis. Any accusation of him on that point is totally out of place. I am also happy that our debate has generated a lot of useful discussion and contributions from intelligent and good people likes Alethia, Teferi Mengiste and Miamire Mennasemay among others.

The Difference between Dr. Messay’s views and mine on the issue of dialogue verses outrage is basically a case of talking past one another. Part of it, it seems to me, is also a result of our attempt to address the issue from different sets of facts and personal experience. Dr. Messay himself admits limitations when he says he lacks “enough information to make categorical judgment”, although I still cannot understand why he can’t make such judgments from the dearth of available public information that may only need a little sorting and sequencing.

My call for outrage did not come out of impatience nor was I “substituting outrage for dialogue” as Dr. Messay seems to suggest. I believe in dialogue. I still insist that the best solution for the political problems in Ethiopia is for the opposition and the TPLF/EPRDF to engage in serious dialogue. You can call me a dialogue monger. But I am sure Dr. Messay would agree to the presence of instances and cases in life where we cannot dialogue our ways out. In my view the case inside Kinijit as I see it now is one of them. Dialogue is like a ping pong game. If you want a good game, you need another person on the other side of the table who knows how to hold the racket and play the game. My idea of outrage is not a call to have a march with machetes, or bows and arrows in hand or even using abusive language. For me outrage is something directed inward toward the self. Outrage to me is an expression of self respect. It is one way of dignifying oneself. When I call people to be outraged, I am simply asking them to assert their dignified existence and self respect, by refusing to have their intelligence and pride insulted and degraded. That is what I think we end up doing do by accommodating clearly destructive and abusive behavior like that of Ato Hailu’s. We all know that dictators, abusers thrive on silence and complacency. I have a general belief that some of what we have as a problem in our country is in part our own collective making. Yes some of it is structured in our culture. But a good part of it is also the cowardice of the Ethiopian elite that Professor Mesfin Woldemariam rightly calls “yeashkernet” mentality. I don’t have an English word for it- maybe it is only an Ethiopian thing. If you have a good look at the people around Hailu Shaul, you see them in abundance. They will never make a mistake of calling Ato Hailu without the adjective “kibur”. Have you watched his political forums? It is all about extolling him and denigrating others.

I have painstakingly observed the development of the crisis over time. I have witnessed many attempts at creating a forum for dialogue between Ato Hailu and the rest of the people Ato Hailu says he has problems with. I know the medieval clique that is surrounding him and some of their thinking and politics very closely. I have seen attempts to initiate dialogue by many people including elders, religious leaders, and many others end in frustration. All attempts toward a resolution through dialogue have ended in frustration by Hailu’s unbelievable selfishness and disrespectful arrogance and intransigence. I have personally worked to create such a condition for dialogue and failed. Whatever shortcomings the other side may have, I have not seen them stand in the way of dialogue or a civilized discourse to solve the problem. They tolerated and even endured Hailu’s disrespectful language directed at them individually and as a group at a cost to their pride and dignity. They exhibited a sense of responsibility. In many cases they refused to respond in kind to Ato Hailu’s accusations, most of which were blatantly false and defamatory. I know for sure, for example, that he was the one who was vehemently against the participation of none imprisoned council members in making decisions when they came out of prison. He later turned it upside down and shamelessly accused the others of making divisions between imprisoned and none imprisoned council members. In fact he is reported to have said he would not have a meeting with “kehadiwoch” when the question was first raised.

I don’t look at this problem from the perspective of any group interest at all. My entire concern, in fact, the reason for my outrage, is the damage Hailu’s actions are inflicting on the democracy movement in Ethiopia and the aspirations of our people and the chill this can send to young people who wanted to learn and move on from this experience. The time we are wasting on this stupidity and medieval politicking is simply disgusting. As we are discussing this, our people are recoiling in disbelief that the organization they went to war with for their freedom and democracy, the epicenter of the spiritual political force that they have shed blood and tears with, is engaged in this senseless self destruction leaving their cause in the middle of nowhere. I have many emails from Ethiopia that nearly broke me to tears. I think we cannot keep blaming the structure of our culture for all setbacks indefinitely and sit back.

I think there is a deficit of outrage in our midst. The “yebase atamta” mentality, that George W Bush may call “the soft bigotry of low expectations” is chewing us up as a people. Why is it that we are not saying we can do and deserve better? Why do we settle for the least best? Whatever its virtues the “Yilugnta” thing is also heavily working on us. I think politicians do anything they feel like if they think their people are none reactive and if they assume we can live with all their lies and crimes without revulsion. There are many people who think they have won their case when their critics tend to be submissive and don’t get outraged. Many of us have lived all our lives in Ethiopia under dictators and know how to leave in fear and degradation. I want the Meles regime to be the last dictatorship in Ethiopia. Any thought of another round of dictatorship should send a lot of chill through our blood. Ato Hailu has demonstrated to me that he can be one potential dictator if given a chance with his disregard for his own laws. Even if I want to accommodate him or engage in dialogue with him I must be honest to tell him that I am outraged by his actions. Who knows? By telling him his wrongs we may even do a favor for him.

In fact, I can make a case against dialogue on one point alone as regards this issue. The insistence of dialogue has ended up being counterproductive. It ended up emboldening Ato Hailu’s arrogance and his resolve to rampage though both the organization and the movement at will. I think it has made him delusional about his place and relevance in the movement.

How can anybody with good conscience tolerate Ato Hailu’s goons that barred the key leaders of the party, who lived 20 months in prison from entering the Kinijit office (their office) in Addis Ababa while at the same time the regime was intimidating hotel owners not to rent them a small room to give a press conference? How different are Ato Hailu’s goons from Meles’s security? How dare anyone do this abominable action and not hear an outcry from decent people? Do you know what happened when we were not outraged the first time they did this? They brought hired gangsters and attempted to beat the vice chair and the other leaders when they made a second attempt to use the office space. I am told Ato Hailu is proud about the action of these hired hoodlums. If you want to tell me to dialogue on this, I first want to see you a little angry. Come’ on, don’t tell me not to be outraged at this? Like many of you I have contributed money to pay for the rent of that office.

Dr. Messays also seems to have gotten some facts backwards. For example, he appears to justify Hailu’s stance by questioning the “urgency that justified the decision, all the more so as Hailu Shawl-I heard him on the radio-expressed his opposition to the trip”. Yah- I too have heard that on the radio a multiple times. But it is public knowledge that the decision to come to the US was made after deliberations and with enough justification presented at the meeting of 20 imprisoned council members Ato Hailu included. In fact, Ato Hailu agreed to a three man committee to facilitate the visit in the US; three people who were believed to be outside the factions in North America. I know at least one of the team members was Ato Hailu’s own pick. Dr. Messay should also ask why Ato Hailu did not express the same misgiving against the delegates who travelled to Europe and other countries if that was the case. In fact, the person he now illegally appointed as the acting chair of Kinijit in Addis Ababa was a member of the delegation that went to Europe.

I don’t see dialogue and outrage as contradictory needs. They are applicable in different circumstances. Often they can be complementary. But outrage can also be empowering and a first step to do something better.

Fekadeshewakena@yahoo.com

  1. azmera
    | #1

    Please dear abugida and the reader of this wave sight please see see seee seee Ethiopia.do you know what you are doing. I can show who wrt. birtukan and dr. birhanu are! these people are really Enemies of Ethiopia.Do you know the seventy (70) pages of EpDRFE’s plan that is the divide and … It says “Engineer Hailu is The real enemy of ETPLF/EPRDF” so the very objective of this paper is ignoring and avoiding Engineer Hailu from leadership. But the very instruments are Wrt. Birtukan,Dr.Hailu Araaya,Engineer Gizachew(to your surprise Engineer gizachew is binded by his personal case it is related to his family Things may be revealed for the future) and some other people.But you this media and the diasporas simply cry by Ato Hailu. If you are real ethiopians please collect evidences.Do you know who at the first time use the word “dictator” to engineer Hailu . He was Lidetu/Kihdetu. But simply you cry as echo………………..

  2. Habitamu
    | #2

    Dear Ato Fekade Shewakena I saw your argument. I am living in Ethiopia. All things that you have raised are completly wrong. That is not the fact. You preaching just woyanes Agenda. Engineer Hailu and his followers are standing in front of the truth and with truth . whether you belive or not the very next step of woyane is shooting them.Because Ethiopian people’s heart is with these leaders not as you have said. If you want more information contact me with the following email adress. tintag7@yahoo.com

  3. yetsedawke
    | #3

    You Americans and europians you did not know the drama done in addis Ababa at kinjit office on dec.20,2007.It was the all ethiopians died.Engineer Gizachew , Dr. Befekadu and others showed us their talent of doing politics. they came with about 20 youths with contract taxi to kinjits office.there was no body there but the youths disagree there and tried to make confussion with the people immidately at the same time Ethiopian review.com wrote a statement about the drama by suporting this gangster group . let me stop here . Really Eprdf is better than anti Ato Hailu group.

  4. wesenu
    | #4

    I was ashamed the type of talking Hailu Shawel and his gangs talked currently in minesota gathering,go and listen at

    http://www.kinjit.org

    Amazing,still everyone is concerned about hailus siltan.I am really,very ashamed to cast my voice for this gangs.They down them selves and our dream.

  5. benberu
    | #5

    To:azmera Habitamu yetsedawke

    Don’t U have a better lie to tell other than this nasty one U wish Ethiopians believe U. oops! Ur unfortunate fabric some thing else & try Ur chance.

  6. Anon…
    | #6

    FS: “Yes some of it is structured in our culture. But a good part of it is also the cowardice of the Ethiopian elite that Professor Mesfin Woldemariam rightly calls “yeashkernet” mentality. I don’t have an English word for it- maybe it is only an Ethiopian thing. If you have a good look at the people around Hailu Shaul, you see them in abundance. They will never make a mistake of calling Ato Hailu without the adjective “kibur”. Have you watched his political forums? It is all about extolling him and denigrating others.”

    Comment: In general, the fine line between respect and subservience gets confused in our cultural norm. In politics, the Derg’s reign was what it was, dictatorial and may be submit for fear of torture. Monarchy systems any where have their own hirarchy and protocol that had been widely known. Woyanne’s regime also falls in the catagry of oppressive rule specially considering it is a “democratic” system.”

    The kind of respect and honor bestowed you refered, given to Ato Hailu Shawel had been very much a culture of the times Kinijit seems to find fitting specially during their imprisonment. What is now two factions and followers in the two years Kinijit leaders were in prison, through vocal and print media had shown nearly worshiping the “leaders”. Chairman Hailu Shawel was not the exception, and addressed as Kibur Engineer Hailu, but also, Kibert Birtukan, Kibur Dr. Berhanu Nega, Kibur Mesfin Woldemariam. One interview I heard Chairman of Kinijit International Council Dr, Taye give to Ethiopiawinet radio, he was consistent in addressing the chairman as Ato Hailu Shawel. For those supporters you are refering to, it could be a cumulative out come of the experience, position, age of the person and even a testament to state, we believe in you and honor you. So It may not neccessarily be out of “yeashkerinet” mentality.

    FS: “I don’t look at this problem from the perspective of any group interest at all. My entire concern, in fact, the reason for my outrage, is the damage Hailu’s actions are inflicting on the democracy movement in Ethiopia and the aspirations of our people and the chill this can send to young people who wanted to learn and move on from this experience”.

    Comment: When a leadership of five exectutitive members of CUD chose to be directed by the principle of “collective leadership”, planned and operated its delegation by vote of the majority of the BB-5, that choice made right then and there, is a part, may be their young followers are adopting to, and a new way of thinking?.
    For others, young, middle age or old, when the other half of CUD’s support groups were disregarded let alone be reconciled in unity as Engineer Gizachew/BB-5 expressed to an interview with Ethio Zagol, it was the beginning of the outrage. Now, Ato Debebe Eshetu almost over lapping in time, date and states where the Chairman visits and meets the other CUD faction, could also bring the situation to be suspect and even trigger some outrage.

    FS: “I don’t see dialogue and outrage as contradictory needs. They are applicable in different circumstances. Often they can be complementary. But outrage can also be empowering and a first step to do something better.”

    That could be true. As you might know, many changes in history started from outrage. For some reason, you seem to have more hope to have a dialgue with EPRDF/TPLF than the “dividing Kinijit”.

    FS: “I still insist that the best solution for the political problems in Ethiopia is for the opposition and the TPLF/EPRDF to engage in serious dialogue. You can call me a dialogue monger. But I am sure Dr. Messay would agree to the presence of instances and cases in life where we cannot dialogue our ways out. In my view the case inside Kinijit as I see it now is one of them.”

    The jury will be out and it would take quite a few people from each side to make it work.

  7. Anon…
    | #7

    Why is it obvious to some of us, that again you are inclined to be one sided?.

    FS: “Have you watched his political forums? It is all about extolling him and denigrating others.

    Comment: ” It may not be many people who listen to paltalk forums including my self. The few times the transcript was posted on web sites, one finds a lot of character assasination and incrimination against Engineer Hailu Shawel.

    One widely viewed/ read web site ( now denounced by many), which is a mouth piece, supporter and an extention of the BB-5 Kinijit, had become a forum for a net work of people who seem deliberately to respond with incrimination against Ato Hailu Shawel. This same web site no longer posts comments that questions the BB-5 related issues. Four of my comments were declined to be posted by the web master. (There was no insult, incrimination or harsh critique in it. Readers are given to information and forum that extolls the BB-5 and denigrate Chairman and company/Kinijit, the public given space to comment and yet totaly censored. This is press and midia dictatorship on th rise).

    This has become the new “Kinijit 2 in North America” culture and the endless press release of the same faction’s support chapters in labeling the chairman, “A dictator”. Your concern is about the young, and mostly this faction has young recruits, and as Ato Andargachew Tsege concluded he and “his KIL/6″ would not join KIC under the directive offer of the chairman, and labeled Ato Hailu Shawel, “A dictator”. These young recruits followed the same pattern.

    In one of your articles which is on the millinnum celebration that over lapped with the VP’s and delegation visit to North America, you stated some thing to the effect, ” my friend don’t worry, the train has moved on”. In that very article, you exonorated the Vice Chairwoman Birtukan, as the “the lawyer of the country” which would be the equivalent of Attorney general. This may not be ” yeashker mentality”, but quite imposing on Ethiopians to accept a title and duty that did not fit the person. All due respect to her, and she could be well capable of the task in the future, but bestwing title which is actualy fitting is not limited to Hailu Shawel. Over all, there is an impression that, supporters and specially organizers of the BB-5 events, your self, and Dr. Berhanu’s call for “let each and all go its own way” /”hulum beyefinaw yehede” already are set on a split, and not limited to prior underground, motive driven movement.

    Dr.Messay Kebede’s analysis, “Outrage or Dialogue?.”, points out this important message towards reconcilation and healing.

    MK: “When one problem repeats itself with such determination and damaging implications, it LOUDLY ASKS US TO GO BEYOND THE EASY GAME OF BLAMING INDIVIDUALS. One must look for deeper causes, both structural and cultural. What individuals do is nothing but the expression of a deeper flaw that we need to identify and eliminate. That is why I called for dialogue rather than incrimination.”

    As your series of analysis on the subject of OUTRAGE AND DIALGUE conitnues to get responses from other authors and fitting the current circumstance, however one sided your view, you have contributed to a process which is thought provoking and ALLOWS US TO GO THROUGH A PHASE in understanding how OUTRAGE and DIALGUE can comlement each other.

    Please note that all my comments are from observation and a sense of my own OUTRAGE.. Not related to any side of the factions and support group members in any form. A believer in Ethiopia’s CUD, who admire both factions for what they try to contribute, but disappointed in some ways, with the BB-5 and faction.

  8. Messay Kebede
    | #8

    Fekade:

    I read your latest article and I tell you that I have enjoyed its arguments, as I had enjoyed the previous one. As you say, our debate has invited other people, which is good. This kind of expression of diversity is what makes up nations. I do not need you to agree with me and vice versa; and it is this very diversity that makes both richer. Our dialogue was civilized and respectful. I hope other people will learn from this and express differences without insulting each other.

  9. Anon…
    | #9

    Dear Dr. Messay,

    It is good to find your comment and feed back to Dr (?) Fefade’s view point. The stages of outrage by even an angry mob with weapons can lead into losses of lives. The verbal attacks and incrimination you suggested that needs to find the deeper roots of the problems and possible remedies is very important, as outrage repressed would be like going back to square one.

    In order to believe in the manifesto, principles and methods of peaceful struggle and trust in Ethiopian politics again,so many had labored hard, including politicians, journalists, Ethiopians at home and abroad and academia like your self and Fekede Shewkena.

    To make every effort to nip the outrage in the bud is important. There is the silent majority, and may be including myself who almost withdrew from the idea of CUD. When view points like yours and Fekede’s show up,in some direct or indirect ways recall us for attention to the subject in a continuous and “new ways” with an evolving hope. Dialogue does heal, and outrage can be real.

  10. Aha!
    | #10

    Quote from Shewakena, “I still insist that the best solution for the political problems in Ethiopia is for the opposition and TPLF/EPRDF to engage in serious dialogue”. I never bother to read in what context this terminologies like dialogue as oppose to debate , outrage as opposed to civility, problems as opposed to crisis, dialogue/debate among the public on crucial issues to gain awareness and consensus, as opposed to dialogue/debate with TPLF/EPRDF by the opposition. I find this line of thinking is the brain child of “KILL” and that of K-5, and that I presume is a diversion of the Kinijit agenda, a huge political rift created by the k-5 delegation. This line of thinking abandons the campaighn for enhancing the passage of HR 2003, and powering cold water at the home front of the peacefull struggle for unity, peace,freedom, justice and democracy in Ethiopia.

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