Getting rid of “The Enemy” – Afura Burtukana

July 30th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

I wrote an article under the title The Black and White of Civil Disobedience and Armed Struggle, some two years ago. The same article was posted on different websites again some months later. In the past week and the current, I have witnessed a growing and encouraging debate on the method of struggle against the tyrant regime in Ethiopia. Writers like, Ephrem Madebo, Robel Abaya, Andragachew Tsige, ‘Meles Cadre’, Tesfaye Maru, Amanuel Zelalem, Al Mariam and others have shared their opinions and/or the stand of the party the represent. (more…)

I wrote an article under the title The Black and White of Civil Disobedience and Armed Struggle, some two years ago. The same article was posted on different websites again some months later. In the past week and the current, I have witnessed a growing and encouraging debate on the method of struggle against the tyrant regime in Ethiopia. Writers like, Ephrem Madebo, Robel Abaya, Andragachew Tsige, ‘Meles Cadre’, Tesfaye Maru, Amanuel Zelalem, Al Mariam and others have shared their opinions and/or the stand of the party the represent.

This debate has been going on among politicians, activists, scholars, philosophers and citizens in general for a very long time. The common denominator for the debaters in both side of the aisle, and for those who see a middle way, is that there is an undemocratic, non-elected, tyrannical regime in power.

By the same talking, the writers above and others, have no ambiguity and dilemma about the nature of the EPRDF Regime in Power. Al Mariam puts it best. It is a regime that has committed “…crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide committed against the people of Ethiopia…”. “… massive violations of human rights and political repression, rigged and stolen elections, systemic corruption, economic mismanagement and the rapacious plunder of the country’s resources by a syndicate of criminals who try to palm themselves off as a legitimate “government”. …the top corps of the woyane leadership consists of cunning, ruthless, vicious and stone-cold criminals who maintain themselves in power by force of arms only…”

Yet, there seem to be a difference on whether or not to call the regime ‘The Enemy’. Al Mariam, very articulately, presented the two sides. I failed to understand though, how Al Mariam made the connection of calling the regime ‘The Enemy’ to imply endorsing an armed or violent means of struggle or not calling the regime ‘The Enemy’ to imply endorsing a peaceful, non-violent means of struggle. In any case, I believe the regime should not be called ‘the Enemy’. Whatever the means is, if the end is to have a peaceful, stable and prosperous nation; then there should be no one excluded from the forum; even the regime itself. As cruel, ruthless and vicious as the regime is they are just the opponent and not ‘the enemy’. There could be a debate on whether or not the top corps of the leadership should face justice or whether there should be a national reconciliation process for the sake of the country’s best. Still, the ranks and files of EPRDF should have an equally important role as the oppositions. The politics of zero sum game, of being exclusionary, of abolishing everything of the previous regime and going back to square one takes us nowhere, in fact takes us backward. The actual ‘enemy’ then is the mind set of being a tyrant, brutal and cruel. That emanates from the mind set of miss-trust, selfishness, hatred, the feeling of us vs. them. If this mind set is within us, then we are ‘the enemy’.

I argue that the only way to fight ‘the enemy’ is changing the mind set. It is imperative to understand that people for various reasons will most definitely have different ways of viewing the issues. Just because we do not agree with them, does not mean they are ‘the enemy’ we have to get rid off. We do not have to hate them. We do not have to fight them by all means necessary. We have to be bale to transcend our ego, self-first and self-only, and trust that, in fact, they are just opponents. I strongly argue and strongly stress that, the fight against all opponents, including the tyrant; brutal, cruel regime in power should be in a non-violent peaceful method. It must be a fundamental belief that changing the mind set of mistrust, selfishness, hatred that leads to cruelty and brutality should be only by a non-violent peaceful method. ‘The enemy’ is violent; more violence will only perpetuate that. There is no guarantee that the end result of the violent struggle will avoid ‘the enemy’, if at all it can guarantee a change of regime. Therefore, the non-violent peaceful struggle should be a matter of fundamental principle and not a matter of convenience.

The Ginbot 7 movement, Andragachew Tsige, Ephrem Madebo,Tesfaye Maru and others argue that, though they have nothing against the non-violent peaceful struggle, currently the conditions in Ethiopia has made it close to impossible, if not entirely impossible. I completely agree on the assessment of the situation at the ground. Especially after the May 15 2005 election, the regime is using every possible, sometimes silly, measure to close the door tight on the non-violent peaceful struggle. It is as if the government has had the ‘illnesses’ of committing a ‘mistake’ of slightly opening the door for its opponents and has now developed an ‘immunity’ from the ‘calculated risk’.

The above assessment though, should not be used as a justification of shifting the method of struggle. It misses the point, I argue, that the strength of the non-violent peaceful struggle and the success thereof depend by and large on the ability to organize and then galvanize the population for the cause and not much on the relative strength/weakness of the regime/opponent. There has to be a fundamental belief on the people that they are capable of engaging in a non-violent peaceful struggle; that they are capable of making a difference and bringing about change, if they have a cause to do so. Non-violent peaceful struggle will be successful if it is done by the people. That is why it should be a matter of principle and not a matter of convenience.

The non-violent peaceful struggle of 2005 in Ethiopia, led by the then Kinijit is a good point in case. The right thing that Kinijit rightly did at the time was awakening the people conscious that they in fact can bring about change, that they in fact can make a difference if they collectively decide to do so. Almost the entire population from East to West, from North to south; were not only seeking but also logging for change. In that regard the work was already cut out for Kinijt. Kinijit went out, told the people that it is possible to bring change through the ballot box, and while they do so it is only they and their creator that knows what happened in that ballot box. This galvanized the population, it put them to task. The entire population took that task, and did just that. Kinijit and the people of Ethiopia won the election. This is a pure case for a non-violent peaceful struggle, as best as it can get.

What happened after that is a different story. I share ‘Meles Cadre’s’ point that Kinijit is also to blame for the failure of the non-violent peaceful struggle. I can not however, at any circumstance, agree with him on being for the regime until something better comes. That is a code, which most probably comes from the mouth piece of the regime’s propaganda machine, to mean ‘let us all settle for the status queue’. However; I am one of those who believe that when the going get tough, when push came to shove, Kinijit blinked. They took their reliance from the people and put it on Diplomats. They relied on a group, that does not have an entirely same, if not an entirely different, agenda than what the agenda for the non-violent peaceful struggle was. The Diplomats wanted ‘Stability’ and once they were given the opportunity, they pushed for that agenda. Everything else after that is just history. My point here is that, the non-violent peaceful means of struggle did not meet the end because it was not pursued all the way. The success for that kind of method, as all other methods, largely depends on a careful grand strategy, strategies and tactics. Failure, do to lack of that, can not be concluded to be a failure of the method itself.

While Ephrem Madebo delivered a piece on violence and non-violence strategies, I read his article to be more of a rebuttal to Professor Mesfin W/mariam’s speech in Washington DC. It is more of a comparative historical analysis on why the non-violent strategy has not been the only one successful. Al Mariam also deliberated on the issue and compared and contrasted the historic struggles of ANC led by Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. But it is Andargachew Tsigie who gave a meticulous analysis on the method of struggles as applied to Ethiopia. In fact, if I have not missed anything, Andargachew Tsigie is the only one who spelled out the strategy the Ginbot 7 movement adopts. That gives me an opportunity to be critical about the movement.

As meticulous as it is, one has to read between the lines of Andargachew Tsigie’s article to figure out what strategy the movement is and is not adopting. Before I attempt doing that, however, let me dwell a bit on what ‘legal’ means and how it is used by Andargachew Tsigie.

John Rawls in his Theory of Justice, 1971 offers an account of justice as fairness. It begs to the very nature of human beings as a society to want others to have what it demands for itself. To have this kind of fair justice, one has to view it from neither side position but a position of neutrality that requires a veil of ignorance. The two governing principles argued by Rawls are equal basic liberties and fair equality of opportunities. “…This second principle ensures that those with comparable talents and motivation face roughly similar life chances and that inequality in society work to the benefit of the least advantaged”. Hence it can only be justice, and should be respected as the governing law of the society, if the law up holds the basic liberties of human being and fair equality of opportunities. In my article The Black and White of Civil disobedience and Armed Struggle, I quoted Saint Augustine saying “An unjust law is no law at all. One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly… and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law” . If we accept the characterization by Andargachew that ‘Meles is the Law in Ethiopia’, then being disobedient to that law is not being illegal and is no cause to go under ground. This is where I share the views of Amanuel Zelalem. But, I again, agree to the assessment made by Andargachew Tsigie et al, the ‘Meles Law’ situation makes the non-violent peaceful struggle ever harder. Yet that should be even more reason for us to be determined and resilient, and not to have a change of mind and/or heart. I stress again, therefore, the non-violent peaceful method of struggle should be a matter of fundamental principle and not a matter of convenience.

Going back to Andargachew Tsigie’s article, to figure out the alternate to the non-violent peaceful struggle offered by the Ginbot 7 movement, I used a method of elimination. Andargachew Tsigie presented four different possibilities. From the paper it can be learnt that the movement has opted out a non-violent peaceful struggle affirming its difficulty under present realities within the country. The paper also made it explicit that the armed struggle is out of option practically but will be put on paper to allow the movement to have a common ground for negotiation with those who are already fighting the regime on the field. (Quite honestly, Andargachew Tsigie lost me here). By elimination, then what the movements is opting for is a Peaceful but ‘illegal’ method of struggle. Amanuel Zelalem translated this to mean going under ground and adopting an EPRP style of struggle during the Dergue Regime. What escapes me is why the strategy is called ‘Hulegeb’ because it actually is selective. Berhane Mewa, the Ex-Secretary of the then KIL (Kinijit International Leadership) used to say the non-violent peaceful struggle encompasses every viable strategy except that involves fire arm. If the ‘hulegeb’ struggle does not include armed struggle, then the only difference between the ‘legal’ non-violent peaceful struggle and the ‘hulegeb’ struggle is then, the latter includes arm bearings and therefore goes under-ground. The justification for this method of struggle is that it allows the ‘foot soldiers’ to defend themselves. More over, it allows for the movement to have the upper hand, as it will be proactive, and will have an element of surprise while taking ‘action’ against the regime.

The biggest predicaments of the ‘hulegeb’ struggle, as defined above, I argue, are; while it goes under ground, it risks alienating itself from the population and hence at least at its early stage does not become a popular movement. It basically fails to recognize the capability of the people to be defiant and not only defend themselves but also compel the regime to negotiate, comply or even be removed. The risk of the ‘hulegeb’ struggle, as shared by Amanuel Zelalem, is it can make the regime react madly and ‘shoot every where, at every one’. It is very likely for the regime to react that way as it does not know from where, when and how an action against it is committed. There is the risk, God forbid, of the white and red terror, all over again. And worst, there is no guarantee for its success (success here meaning change of regime and not getting rid of ‘the enemy’). We all know the EPRP ‘lost’ for Dergue.

Tesfaye Maru goes beyond describing and analyzing the method of struggle adopted by Ginbot 7 movement, and makes an effort to explain that the formation of Ginbot 7 and its action will help the non-violent peaceful struggle in Ethiopia. This indirect benefit to the struggle is evidenced, according to Tesfaye Maru, by the regimes relative favoritism to wards UDJ. I argue that this analysis is off beam. The interest of the regime is to stay in power at all costs, even if it is just for one day more. The greatest treat to its power is the unity of the people, and no other power is a greater treat. What the regime is doing is creating a crack, and widening it if possible, in that unity. This apparent favoritism observed by Tesfaye Maru is nothing more than just that. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that Ginbot 7 indeed becomes a significant treat. I would not doubt that the leaders and rank and file members of UDJ will be the first to pay the price.

Before I put my pen, in fact my key board, to rest, let me sum it up. Al Mariam shade light for us what ‘the enemy’ is. It is not some one or a group who has a different point of view than us; it is not some one or a group that practices differently. ‘The enemy’ is the mind set of thinking that way. If we have that mind set, then ‘the enemy’ is within us. It is this mind set of selfishness, ego, fear, untrustworthy, which emanates itself by being brutal, vicious, tyrant, a dictator that we have to stand against. To fight this mind set, adopting a non-violent peaceful struggle should be a matter of fundamental principle and not a matter of convenience. The non-violent peaceful struggle, believes on the ability of the people to be defiant and make a regime negotiate, comply or even be removed. It encompasses every viable method except a fire arm and does not bend to what is labeled as ‘illegal’ by a regime. The end of the non-violent peaceful means of struggle is getting rid of ‘the enemy’. On the other hand a violent struggle perpetuates violent. While it may be able to change a regime, there is no indication if it will get rid of ‘the enemy’.

Finally, I take to task, the likes of Al Mariam and Abebe Belew of Addis Dimste (Washington, DC) to organize and moderate a forum of debate/discussion on the ideas of the different kind of strategies. While it clarifies the cloud in the sky about the issues, even better, it let us practice arguing and debating with out labeling each other as ‘the enemy’.

  1. Belay Zeleke
    | #1

    Dear Afura Burtukana,

    I read your lengthy article. As a reader I do appreciate any Ethiopian who has the courage to speak or write about the current crisis at home and the lack of unity among different school of opposition groups. However, your first paragraph reads “…Writers like Ephrem Madebo, Robel Abaya, Andargatchew Tsige, ‘Meles Cadre’, Tesfaye Maru, Amanuel Zelalem, Al Mariam and others have shared their opinions and/or the stand of the party the represent.”
    My question to you would is, could you be more specific who “Meles Cadre” is evidently the word “Cadre” in your article implies a specific individuals despite the multitude of TPLF cadres who are spread out within the diaspora community. If your implication is to say Andargatchew Tsige as a “Meles Cadre” I highly recommended that you revisit your own reflection in a magnifying glass for we all know Andargatchew is a practical man with cripple and determination.

    Long Live Ethiopia

  2. Cobra
    | #2


    Thank u for your timely and intelligent analysis of Ethiopian politics.

  3. Dil Le Ethiopia
    | #3

    Belay Zeleke,

    What Afura refers as ‘Meles Cadre’ is the author of the this article(

    That was my understanding.

    I don’t think he is referring to Andargachew.


  4. Belaye Zeleke
    | #4

    Dil Le Ethiopia
    Thanks for your responce. As your name says Dil Le Ethiopia !

  5. getachew
    | #5

    The problem with our so called intellects beit al Mariam or madebo or anybody we call educated
    we copy from other nations and try to impose it the people of ethiopia. EPRP copied from china and Latin America and tried it in Ethiopia and created a disaser and so many youngsters were killed.
    Now we are talking about calling Meles the enemy or not the enmey. You guys are insane. Meles the nuber one enemy of Ethiopia period.
    You are bastards do not kill our time and confuse us with useless garbage. If we have to get our country back we fight the region in everything that we could.

  6. aha!
    | #6

    This latest focus of the concept of the regime being atrocious has been documented under various reports and articles. The issue of the regime as an enemy/not enemy has been brought up by Prof. Mesfin as the probably policy issue of the UDJP platform on which it is running. This policy statement belongs to the newly formed paty that Prof. Mesfin represents, if he threw that concept as as a spokes person for the party, not as a citizen. It is another side track issue, similar to his previous labling of the problem of Kinijit is a power struggle between Eng. Hailu Shawel and Dr. Berhanu Nega, and promoting W/t Birtukan Mideksa. I do not understand of peacefull struggle outside the peacefull struggle the Kinijit party is doing through the legal process to to retrieve its name and emblem back which is the property of the Ethiopians.

    Peacefull resistance/struggle does not take place in a vaccuum or without a cause, and cause is freedom and democracy. There is a cuase effect relationship and Ethiopians the party represents. There is no enemity between the parties, but they are opponents to each other. Each has the right to exist to represent its constituency and if voted in to to govern the whole country.

    If the current regime leaves Office through peacefull struggle and/referundum for vote of confidence and does not cling to power as it alrady did, then the TPLF party or even as EPRDF, should for another election to govern Ethiopia, under fair and free election with independent election Board , independent Judiciary and neutral Army and Police Force, serving/favoring no single party, under international observers and free media reporters.

    When the peacefull struggle prevails, the current regime hands over power to subsequent party, and/or provisional governmentfrom parties involved as stipulated by enineer Hailu Shawel. I believe follow that up with reforming the constitution and bring people to justice following the ratification of the constitution, lifting the marshal Law, bring freedom of the press & media and Internet access, by proclamation. Then proceed with reconcilation among the political factions, and ethnic groups to revive one Ethiopian Nation with freedom and equality for every individual, where the land is for every Ethiopian to work and and own land where he desires, and the develop the land by geographical region not by Kilil/ethnic boundry.

    Basically, we should get out of this diversionary concepts and focus on the main agenda that save Ethiopia from disinegration. That in the best interest of the Ethiopian tax payers that educated all the elites both at home and abroad.

  7. Abebe and Mamo
    | #7

    Dr. Al Mariam, is a mixed race Ethiopian and he is our Tiger. He is just like one of all Ethiopians. It is for some of you, if at all race has a room, it does not. He is just an Ethiopian.

    All ethiopians are proud of Dr. Al.

  8. Nesanet
    | #8

    It is very ggod to an open discussion. Expressing opinion is the the fundamental principle of democracy. However, I have a big problem people who are trying to humanise the current occupiers in Ethiopia. Whetehr we like it or not I don’t see any difference between TPLF/Meles and the occupied army of Mussolini. I don’t see any difference between Meles and Dr Franca (if you know hime he was the cuvilian representative of Musolini). A political organisation that detrmined to destory my beloved country can’t be called an enemy then let us just forget about the struggle.

  9. Wro Akalu
    | #9

    Just a little common sense goes a long way.

    “The actual ‘enemy’ then is the mind set of being a tyrant, brutal and cruel. — The enemy’ is violent; more violence will only perpetuate that. — The enemy’ is the mind set of thinking that way. If we have that mind set, then ‘the enemy’ is within us. It is this mind set of selfishness, ego, fear, trustworthy, which emanates itself by being brutal, vicious, tyrant, a dictator that we have to stand against. To fight this mind set, adopting a non-violent peaceful struggle should be a matter of fundamental principle and not a matter of convenience”

    God only knows what type of nonsense “tsigur sinteka” crap is Afura Burtukana is up to. This is the biggest crock of crap that I’ve read in a long time.
    Afura Burtukana you are one confused soul a long awaiting appointment with a SHRINK, you’re as messed up as it gets,
    How do I to say this nicely! Some of those well educated Ethiopians so called “mhur” are the most ignorant when it comes to simple common sense like now Ethiopia is in the process of disintegration and Now is the time to get desperate not to lay back and tsigur mesentk for God sack.
    OK! For Afura Burtukana and the likes they have a job to tackle, for the non –violence group back home staying out of jail or even death but for non-violence group in the Diasporas just simple illusion.
    Afura Burtukan and company get this straight Ginbot7 movement is out of your league.
    The majority of Ethiopian with a common sense knows Ginbot7 movement is a God sent. We know “not think” who the enemy is. It’s out there. Thank God for Ginbot7 movement leaders they have common sense and are on target.

    God bless Ethiopia
    Viva Ginbot7

  10. Maleda
    | #10

    Ethiopias enemies were these useless Ethiopians who are good for nothing but talk and complain day and night tirelessly. Our Ethiopian government is doing what it can, do your part instead of compalining, and START THINKING POSITIVE AND ACT TO HELP YOUR PEOPLE. STOP COMPLAINING LIKE RETARDED. GROWUP !

  11. YONAS
    | #11


  12. Gambella
    | #12

    It is easy to talk while you are burden on society and hooked in government assisted housing and collecting welfare in canada and America and complain about Ethiopia.

    | #13



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