The time is propitious for peaceful struggle – By Robele Ababya, July 25, 2008
Self-defense is a natural right to which every human being is entitled. In fact every living creature exercises that right either individually or collectively as the case may be. The right to self-defense is universal and as such includes the UDJP in exercising that right, which may manifest itself in various forms and degrees of intensity within the ambit of peaceful struggle. The outcome of exercising that right however depends on the preponderance of power between the offender and the victim. (more…)
Self-defense is a natural right to which every human being is entitled. In fact every living creature exercises that right either individually or collectively as the case may be. The right to self-defense is universal and as such includes the UDJP in exercising that right, which may manifest itself in various forms and degrees of intensity within the ambit of peaceful struggle. The outcome of exercising that right however depends on the preponderance of power between the offender and the victim.
I realize that Ethiopians at home and abroad are faced with the difficult choice between armed struggle and peaceful struggle to stem the gross human rights violations and complete denial of our democratic rights by the Meles regime. It was against the backdrop of this difficult choice that I wrote my article entitled: “Amen to UDJP Covenant for Peaceful Struggle”, posted on the AbugidaInfo and other pro-Democracy websites on 11 July 2008. I follow up it with this piece to reiterate why peaceful struggle is the right strategy at this time and why I support the pursuit of that strategy by the UDJP.
The acronym UDJ embodies my basic values: Unity for which Emperors Theodros, Yohanes, Menilik and Haile Selassie fought but Meles is now dismantling under our gazing eyes; Democracy which had been, and is today, out of reach to the toiling masses; Justice which saw despicable abuse under the misrule Meles replete with acts of genocide, crime against humanity summary executions and incarcerations of tens of thousands of Ethiopians by security forces under his direct command. These heinous crimes are unforgettable.
The leaders of UDJP are hard-tested fighters for freedom and justice to allay any fear that they will capitulate to the whims of Meles; the values ingrained in UDJ are universal that no one has the power to defeat.
Therefore nothing will change my appreciation rendered without fear or pursuit of favor; I will as an Ethiopian-African remain loyal to the UDJP “Covenant of Peaceful Struggle” just like Gobena Dache of the birth place of my parents was to Emperor Menilik II in matters of unity.
Preponderance of power
Retaliation to marauding security forces of dictators requires careful weighing of balance of power – which the military calls analysis of preponderance of power. This is done for the purpose of selecting the best weapon at ones disposal to hit back at the enemy. In Amharic language I call it “Ye akim mizan tintena”. Bearing young readers in mind, and my long-held dedication to peaceful struggle notwithstanding, I wish to briefly present distinct scenarios for the sake of argument.
Italian Fascist regime
The Italian Fascists used all weapons in their possession including poison gas in order to break the backbone of Ethiopian resistance at all costs. The majority of Ethiopians exercised their rights to self-defense delivering heavy casualties on the enemy. But the Fascist regime prevailed, albeit for a short time, not only because of its superior military weapons manned by professional army but also due to international support the aggressor got due to the failure of the League of Nations. It is a matter of historical record that the then US Secretary of State urged the Fascists to rapidly enter and control Addis Ababa; it is a matter of record that the Vatican gave its blessings to Mussolini’s killing forces to invade Ethiopia; unfortunately, it is also a matter of record that some nobilities from northern Ethiopia traveled to Rome with gift and prostrated at the feet of the Italian dictator in submission.
It was in those dark hours that the Oromos of Shewa uttered the following moving eulogy expressing deep sorrow and intense anger:
“Simbiron mukara bate ramba ramba gote balira
Ferengin Salalle bute morma kamba gote Abara
“Abera ya elma Kasa baratu basa diga nama”
The stanza roughly translates: “Just like a bird climbed up a tree and shed its leaves; ferenjis descended on Sellale and beheaded Abera; Oh! Abera son of Kasa, time will avenge your blood”. Dejazmatch Abera Kasa was the son of the high-ranking Prince Ras Kasa Dargé, cousin to Emperor Haile Selassie and contender to the Ethiopian throne. Realizing the failure of all attempts to allure the Dejazmatch to their fold, the Fascists decided to behead the distinguished hero – ironically first cousin to Mulugetta Asrate Kassa now in the employ of the tyrant Meles.
My mother told me that this moving eulogy composed in Oromiffa was popular mantra evoking a deep feeling of sorrow for being powerless to retaliate instantly. The atrocities of the Fascists did not spare any ethnic group because all of them were represented in the united stiff resistance against the aggressor.
The Fascists tried to allure Ras Abebe Argay who was giving them hell in the north-east of Shewa. The famous patriot adamantly refused to fall into their trap. So the Fascists beheaded many patriots and stuck their necks on trees along the river Chacha in the operational area of the Ras near Debre Birhan so that people flocking to the city can see.
The intervention in their best interest of the allied forces spearheaded by the British helped Emperor Haile Selassie regain His power as absolute Monarch.
So, the point I want to make is that the moment is propitious to ask for the intervention of the US and British governments against the home born repressive regime. They are morally bound, at this time of worldwide call for change, to tell their ‘bright’ favorite Meles to respect his own constitution in earnest. I believe the UDJP will seize the moment.
The Dergue regime
The gruesome execution of officials, gross violation of human rights, killings and incarcerations to impose the communist ideology on the people, exodus of professionals and skilled personnel, and mismanagement of the national economy took heavy toll in weakening Ethiopia. It left the door wide open for mercenary TPLF to enter Addis Ababa to the visible displeasure of its citizens.
The huge armament supplied by the defunct USSR surely helped in repulsing the invading army of Siad Barre; breaking its backbone for good; ushering in the quick down fall of the dictator; rendering Somalia a failed state. Unfortunately, the gun was preferred in settling political differences at home. This must stop.
EPRDF versus proponents of armed struggle
Preponderance of power is certainly skewed in favor of EPRDF compared to the combined power of OLF, ONLF and other armed opposition forces. Meles has hundreds of millions of US$ worth of modern jet fighters, jet bombers, helicopter gun ships, sophisticated tanks, numerous artillery manned by over 200 000 men and women in uniform commanded by officers trained by the US military specialists adept at providing counter-insurgency support in line with the practice of its own admitted siding with dictators in the past. Incidentally, President Bush pledged to curtail the practice, but has so far failed to do so. The President has only six months to honor his pledge. In addition to his rentable huge army, Meles owns his imposed constitution, which he breaks or selectively applies as he deems necessary.
A responsible government with Ethiopia’s vital interest at heart would have used the military to break the back of Isayias; to hit back decisively at the Sudanese army encroaching on our land; to deter the mushrooming of parochial armed dissidents while calling them to the negotiating table. Such a government would not have rented the army to invade Somalia.
Let us look at the acronyms TPLF, OLF, ONLF. All three have the first letters (T, O, O) denoting their ethnic group and the letter “L” denoting liberation. As things stand now TPLF rules over Tigrai uncontested plus the rest of Ethiopia which is the bone of contention over which OLF and ONLF are barking. These two share the same attribute of ethnic-based policy with TPLF, which they accuse for not allowing them to realize their wild dreams. Meles accuses them as terrorist puppets of the Asmara regime bent on fragmenting Ethiopia. In this sense, both serve as useful tools for Meles to divert attention from his brinkmanship including breach of his own constitution imposed on the Ethiopian people.
EPRP and the dominant TPLF in EPRDF were on the same side on the Eritrean question and with Siad Barre during his aggression on Ethiopia. One wonders when the “R” in their acronym will disappear in favor of evolutionary change.
The point is that the field is crowded with ambitious actors locked in mutual mistrust. The scramble for power and the ensuing chaos is obvious when a power vacuum is created. It would be irresponsible to let that happen.
Priority in the war torn Horn of Africa region
The priority of three consecutive Ethiopian regimes was to consolidate their powers dispensing carrot or stick to their political opponents. This vicious cycle did not enable Ethiopia to become strong, democratic and prosperous power to act as a stabilizing force in the region. Meles, Isayias, Mengistu, and Siad Barre became a showcase of ruthless dictators. That is why the Horn of Africa region is in turmoil ready to collapse under the weight of frightening socio-economic and political catastrophe. The region needs dialogue among the countries in the region with the assistance of the international community.
Preponderance of power is extremely skewed in favor of Meles. As Professor Mesfin said, the oppositions have the Ethiopian people on their side, but fear the gun; Meles who has the gun fears the people. This being the case, the national army should be persuaded to realize that the people will outlast the Meles regime so that it will embrace the people and refuse being rented out by the repressive ruling regime.
I believe that UDJP will not be a sitting duck to any attack of the repressive regime; the Party will naturally react in self-defense by mobilizing the wrath of the people and the moral force of the international community, which has by now learned the treachery of African dictators in robbery of votes as done in Kenya and Zimbabwe emulating Meles’s the evil precedence in the historic Ethiopian election of 2005.
It is in the best interest of Meles and his party to respect his own constitution and relax the political space; it is time to stop renting out the national army and gross violation of human rights in Somalia; it is time to use the army to evict the invading Sudanese security forces; it is time to drain the pool of jobless youth.
Above all, it is time to show compassion to the millions of our citizens facing hunger; not merely a promise of ‘all-inclusive’ struggle aired on radios.
The time is propitious for peaceful struggle. The failed leader Meles can be brought to his knees through concerted civil disobedience at home and diplomatic offensive internationally. We Ethiopians in Diaspora can and must play our roles in the diplomatic offensive and all round support, including finance.
I say never forget all the martyrs including the number 193; never relent in bringing perpetrators of political crime to justice; never give up the spirit of self-reliance.
I end by saluting the home-born UDJP, its brave leaders and founding members.
LONG LIVE ETHIOPIA!!!