Fear And Hoplesessness From The Part Of The People Are Gifts To Dictators – By Girma Kassa

January 17th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

It has been 32 months since the people of Ethiopia have spoken for democratic changes, economic reforms and Ethiopiawinet. (more…)

It has been 32 months since the people of Ethiopia have spoken for democratic changes, economic reforms and Ethiopiawinet. Unfortunately its voice was not heard; its vote was rigged and a democratic system was not established in Ethiopia as was hoped for. It seems dictators in Arat Kilo may be drinking whiskies in the Minilik palace because of their cosmetic and tentative success in suppressing the voice of the people.

“What next?“ some Ethiopians may ask. The answer is easy and simple. We, Ethiopians must come out boldly and assert again our right. There is no turning back and the struggle for o our dignity and our country’s national unity must continue. Despair and hopelessness are out of question.

In order to bring democratic change in a country that is under a direct or systematic dictatorship (a dictatorship that looks democratic on the outside but is anything but democratic on the inside) , one need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the dictators or the tools they use to stay in power. Dictators major tools used to suppress the people are: weakening the population, dividing the democratic forces and destroying independent civic societies.

Emotionally, psychologically and economically weakening the populations they rule is the first major tool dictators use to preserve their power. They create the sense of hopelessness and fear within the mind of the people and create a false image of invincibility. They inculcate the complete submission to their authority. Therefore, people will be too frightened to share their hatred of the dictatorship and their hunger for freedom. They become often terrified to think seriously of resisting the regime. Instead, as Gene Sharp said, they face “suffering without purpose and a future without hope”.

One way to weaken the public is to create fear with the barrel of the gun. In June and November 2005, security forces directly commanded by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi displayed acts of terror and cruelty in day lights, on hundred of thousands on civilians in Addis Ababa, Dessie, Ambo, Ginchi … A 16 year beautiful girl, Shiberre Dessalegn and hundreds more were gunned down on the street of Addis Ababa. Concentration camps in Ziway, Shewarobit, Dedessa …were filled with tens of thousands young brothers and sisters of ours. The CUD opposition leaders, reporters, human right groups were one by one arrested and locked in Kaliti prison. (Some of the prisoners were in their 70th and some like anti-poverty advocates Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie are still languishing in their prison cells)

Why such cruelty? Why such barbaric actions by Ethiopians on fellow Ethiopians?

The answer is easy. They wanted to give a lesson that opposing the TPLF is equivalent to playing with fire. They wanted to instill fear within the mind of the people and force the people to bow down and accept the status quo. They wanted to send a clear signal that they and only they have power over everyone.

The second way to mentally enslave the public is to use economic powers. Tens of millions of our fellow Ethiopians in Ethiopia are living in harsh poverty. In exception to those who have relatives in the Diaspora or those who have some kind of connections with the regime most are living way down below the poverty line. When the very few are cruising the road of Addis Ababa with BMWs and living in gated houses comparable to houses in Beverly Hills, many eat only one meal a day. This is a systematic policy of the regime to economically strangle Ethiopians at large by their neck, so that they only focus on getting bread but not their God given human and democratic rights.

Any major corporation in Ethiopia is either government controlled or controlled by investors who are allied or are part of the ruling party. “We are the one who give you job. Don’t you want to feed your children? Don’t mess with us” they frighten Ethiopians.

On top of using, in parallel, the military and economic baton on the people of Ethiopia, the regime is also blocking any flow of information from independent media that may help the people knows the truth. Major pro-democracy websites are blocked. Independent reporters were denied license to function. The VOA and DW are being jammed.

Since information is power, such systematic blackout of the media is a third way of weakening the population.

A second tool systematically used by dictators is to divide the democratic forces. Making sure the solidarity of democratic forces did not happen is one of the top priorities of dictators.

The TPLF is currently trying to confuse the people by giving the name of Kinijit to Ato Ayele Chamisso and the election sign to Ato Lidetu Ayalew. Such move is mainly to portray a superficial division of Kinijit and block Kinijit executive from legally reaching out the people. (A similar tactic was also used two years ago on the ONC of Dr Merrara Gudina.)

As democratic forces are united, 100 % of the efforts will be focused on ending the dictatorship. The establishment of democracy and the deliverance of people from bondage is a noble cause that must be waged without division and with strong solidarity of all democracy and peace activists.

The third tool of dictators is to deny the people platforms over which they can communicate one another and empower themselves. Consorted and systematic attacks are done on social, political, economic and even religious institutions of the society that are outside of the government control. The independent civic institutions are deliberately weakened, subordinated or even replaced by groups that are affiliated with the dictatorial government.

All in all, in order to combat dictatorship all strategies must first focus on empowering the people. The empowerment of we, the people, start with one key item: believing in ourselves and having hope.

These days it seems the cloud of despair and defeatism has entered our territory. We have started believing nothing can be done. We have closed the book, accepted the status quo and decided to live under tyranny. THAT MUST STOP.

It is time to speak out and assert our freedom in our country. We are all created in the image and likeness of God. God has given us a country called Ethiopia. He has given us the right to live in peace and dignity in Ethiopia. The TPLF must not be allowed to continue taking away from us our right and our dignity that God gave us, and is only ours.

Let our silence end. We may not have publicly supported the TPLF. We may not have directly contributed to the gross human right abuses in Ethiopia. However, our silence is the reason the TPLF is messing our country. Our silence is providing bullets for the TPLF security forces.

In every struggle there are ups and downs. Some may say, “It is impossible to force change in the Meles administration”. Our effort may be seen as meaningless. The situation in Ethiopia may be “calm” with Prime Minister Meles at the helm of power. HOWEVER, WE SHOULD NEVER GIVE UP. Despair and losing hope from the part of the people is the major enemy in the struggle for democracy and the greatest gift dictators can have. It may take years. We might not see a free Ethiopia in our time. But our children will one day rejoice in a free, prosperous and democratic Ethiopia.

It is in this context that I call for a renewal of our mind and our spirit. Instead of being filled with fear and despair it is time to learn to believe in ourselves. “What is man without freedom” said Judge Birtukan Mideksa in her letter she released from Kaliti prison. A life lived in fear and despair is no better than death. A life lived without a purpose is a tragedy. A man who only thinks of himself and forgets where he came from, is a man who is spiritually weak and sick.

As Csiszentmihalyi said: “Repression is not the way to virtue. When people restrain themselves out of fear, their lives are by necessity diminished”. We can choose to live in repression and fear, and diminish ourselves; or we can be free from fear and assert our freedom. The Choice is all ours.

May The Lord Help us make the right Choice!

Girma Kassa

  1. Guenet
    | #1

    Thank you Girma,

    I just came back from Ethiopia, and I noticed every problem that you mentioned in your article. But what I don’t know is what is to be done and how can we do it.
    Personaly I love my freedom more than anything, and I would like that my people have the same.
    Perhaps we should discuss about what we should do. Thank you again.

  2. | #2

    Back in the good old days at the U of A , I read that a revolution is not a party ,writing an essay……I am more convinced than ever that a revolution starts from a barrel of a gun. The Ethiopian people have paid dearly under the brutal Woyanne fascists rule.There is no point of demonstrating in the streets when you are certain to be mowed by machine guns. What you decribed in detail is the modus operanda of the Woyanne tugs. HR 2300 is no much when your very srrvival could be decided by the hail of bullets in the streets in broad day light.May God give strength to our heroic fighters who are facing the Agazi army face to face…mano a mano. The end of Woyanne is in sight. The question is are we going to repeat the same losing stategy of fighting each other or rise for the occasion and save our nation.

  3. Allen 12
    | #3

    Dear ato Girma Kassa
    I read your artice and it is well written. we have to come and fight woyanne until the end.
    Death to zenawi

  4. lilly
    | #4

    i read your artice and it is well written. we have to come and fight woyanne until the end.

  5. AleQa Bru
    | #5

    Ato Girma Kassa,

    I read your article. The problem definition is well done: the 3 tools used by dictators to cling to power are well explained. I think everyone could guess that such tactics are used and perhaps there are more than 3 of these tools at any given dictator’s disposal.

    At the end of your article I was expecting–as I am sure many were–to see solutions by which these tactics of dictators could be fought. Unfortunately your article fell short of providing solutions other than a call for a renewal of our mind and our spirit not to fear.

    You seem to have forgotten the protesters were not afraid in June and November 2005 and during the many student protests after that. The people were not afraid, they marched to the streets knowing people died during the previous protests. But alas, they lacked the organized and diciplined leadership of the party they were dying for.

    While the people were protesting in support of them, Hailu Shawel and Lidetu started attacking each other over power and helped Woyane discredit the whole democratic movement as “armed violence.” They made it easier and for Woyane to kill and imprison the protesters.

    If there is anything that needs a renewal of our mind and spirit, it is not “NOT TO FEAR.” Because it was always there. Perhaps we need to think twice about the behaviour and ambition of our politicians before we support them. Imagine if the Ethiopians knew back in 2005 about who Hailu shawel was what they know about him now. I am sure the result could have been much different!

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