The IFs of History

February 17th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

Afura Burtukana February 19:-When I was a student in Ethiopia, some years back, I had a History teacher whom I respect to this date. He had just graduated and it was his first year as a teacher. Yet, unlike many others who has PHD’s and decades of experience; he was a master of the subject. Besides being alluring and friendly, he was sharp, bold and imaginative. That’s why he always used to have a pack of students in his class room. From this kind of teachers, you always take something, not only for the purpose of the class but for far beyond that, even for life. I remember, in almost each class, he used to say “˜It is Hard to Deal with the IF’s of History’.Among those who like to debate, there have been intensive and extensive debates on the importance of History for the modern/post-modern society. Politicians almost always want to spin history and use it in a way they think would benefit them. The “˜100 years 3000 years and beyond history of Ethiopia’ debate is a case in point. Some politicians, like Isayas Afeworki, would prefer to totally deny the importance of history by saying “History is a High School Boy Non-Sense”?.

But history does matter. If you are able to control your past, you are more likely to be able to control your future much better than those who are utterly confused. Simply put, understanding the past allows persons to learn from their mistakes. Without knowledge of the past, we would be forced to constantly relearn scientific discoveries, warfare tactics, etc. in a continuing recycle. David Crabtree from the institute of Gutenberg on his Essay: The Importance of History said; “History is a combination of thesis, antithesis and synthesis in constant motion connecting the past, present and future. It can also be understood as a widespread, intricate web that is interlocked through cause and effect as well as accident. “¦Society itself is constantly changing in a manner similar to Hegel’s thesis, antithesis and synthesis. History, the thesis, is combined with the modern day antithesis and produces the future, synthesis”?.

Ethiopia, historically, was at the apex of the development pyramid at the era of the Empire of Axum in the 5th century BC. Thereof, for a combination of reasons, the Business Cycle of the country’s development has been fluctuating but constantly declining.
Politically, we have been struggling, may be not successfully, to bring about peace and stability, democracy and the rule of law, and respect for humanity in Ethiopia. More recently, The Emperor introduced the First Constitution and amended it in his political life time. For whatever its worse, it was an attempt.
Would the country be in a different course now, had the King actually practiced what was written in the constitution? Would the country be in a different course now, hadn’t Italy decided / for the second time/ to invade and colonize Ethiopia? Would the country be in a different course now, hadn’t the emperor decided to flee and seek the assistance of the British Empire? Would the country be in a different course now, had there not been a quo attempt, by the Neway Brothers, on his government? Would the country be in a different course now, had the quo of the Neway Brothers been successful? Would the country be in a different course now, had there been no Popular Revolution in the early 70′s? Would the country be in a different course now, hadn’t the Military Junta taken power? Would the country be in a different course now, hadn’t the Dergue chosen to side with the Eastern Block? Would the country be in a different course now, hadn’t there been the White, Red or Terror of any color? Would the country be in a different course now, hadn’t the handful of peeved friends decided to engage in a guerilla fight against the Dergue? Would the country be in a different course now, had Mengistu not been at odds with his own generals? Would the country be in a different course now, hadn’t the quo attempted by the generals failed? Would the country be in a different course now, hadn’t the Dergue lost for Shabia and Woyane? Throw in any historical event that you deem to be important.
Would we have been talking differently now, IF Woyane/Meles didn’t allow the May 2005 election to be a bit free and fair compared to all the other “˜elections’ the country ever held; for whatever reasons he thought would help him but obviously miscalculated? Would we have been talking differently now, IF the four parties didn’t form the Coalition /CUDP/? Would we have been talking differently now, IF the oppositions had decided not to take part in the election? Would we have been talking differently now, IF the opposition had firmly demanded to have an independent Election Board as a minimum pre-condition to be part of the election? Would we have been talking differently now, IF there were enough election observers to cover not just the urban areas but also the rural areas? Would we have been talking differently now, IF Meles hadn’t taken the infamous pronouncement of putting Addis Ababa under military siege and the military under his command on the same night he learnt /surprising/ that he /his party/ lost? Would we have been talking differently now, IF Woyane/Meles hadn’t rigged the election? Would we have been talking differently now, IF the opposition /the majority of them/ have decided to join the Parliament? Would we have been talking differently now, IF there had not been any civic disobedience by the public at large? Would we have been talking differently now, IF the Agazi hadn’t been put in to action? Would we have been talking differently now, IF Meles hadn’t decided to incarcerate the leaders of Kinijit /many of whom were elected by the people to be Law Makers/, journalists and members of the free press, and human right activists? Again throw in any other important IFs.
Here is yet another Big IF. Would Ethiopian politicking, both in and out of Ethiopia, be different now, IF the second and other layers of leadership which the ranks and files of Kinijit were talking about before they were kept under lock was put in order, up and running?
Like my History teacher used to say repeatedly, it is hard to deal with the IFs of History. The country has experienced many IFs. Depending on who you talk to, some were opportunities and some missed opportunities.
Currently, we are in a time where history is in the making. Since all the back door peaceful negotiations failed, Meles/Woyane and the opposition have, once again come out face to face in public and every eyes and ears are on the ruling of the court come February 19. Meles has the military / from which he is loosing ground slowly as the support is fading and high ranking officials and foot soldiers are defecting/, the government machinery / from which a growing number of judges, diplomats and government officials are defecting/, the whole budget of the country, some foreign countries including the US and Britain / for all the wrong reasons/ and the support of some opportunists here and there, on his side. The opposition have only / but the most important one/ the support of the people of Ethiopia. The turn out will depend on how well both sides play their cards. So far, I dare say, Meles is playing it “˜smarter’ and the opposition has yet to organize, re-organize, stand united and be able to rally the public behind their cause at least to the level it was before the leaders of kinijit were arrested and put out of active action.
My yearning is for the country to come out of this as a winner. My desire is to see all the political and non-political concerned bodies, including Woyane, to come back to there senses, put the interest of the people before and after their own, and come to the round table of discussion. My wish is to see a united country irrespective of ethnic, religious, identity, ideology or any other kind of differences. My prayer is to see a prosperous and developed Ethiopia which has her rightful place in the socio-economic and political happenings of, mostly, Africa and the Middle East but even the world.
February 19, like all the other mile stone dates in the History of Ethiopia will come and go. It may happen that Meles/Woyane decide to postpone the ruling, for any silly reason as one of the judges felt “˜sick’ on that day. That will set another important date to wait for. It also may happen that the court rules for the incarcerated to defend themselves. That also sets another date to wait for. Another possibility is that, some of them, if not all could be set free.
In conclusion, will February 19, or any other date set for us by Meles/Woyane pass as one of the IFs in history? Will it be possible, this time around, for Ethiopia to emerge as a winner? Every people will have a government it deserves.
God Bless Ethiopia!!!

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