An Ethiopian Uprising is Now or Never


By Teodros Kiros

The great Machiavelli, the architect of political thinking spoke convincingly about virtu and Fortuna. Virtu is skill, the ability to be skillful and flexible, when time requires it; Fortuna on the other hand, is the tuning of one’s senses to the language of the right time. We must carefully listen to Fortuna as it directs us, to seize the moment, and act courageously and to the right degree and at the right time.

The Ethiopian world is now ready for action, except that the people might be weary, or simply waiting for a spark. The question then is not, “Are the people ready?” but rather, “Who is going is going to be the catalyst for the uprising, who is going to start the political action?

These are two separate questions, and they demand separate answers. The people are ready, but they are waiting for starters. Nor should the uprising be organized in order to start; it must start first and organization will follow. Leadership qualities are born and mature in the hands of action, of doing, of living practice. Once the uprising begins, the people will know what to do, or as I put it before:

In the people’s revolution, everyone is a leader and a follower. Sovereignty is concrete. It is expressed as lived power. The people learn for the first time they will learn leading and following, managing and obeying, directing and being directed.

The qualities of sovereignty are internalized through practice. The essential attributes of citizenship: obligation, responsibility, duty and order are learned directly by doing. These qualities are not imposed from high on as in monarchies and tyrannies. They emerged directly out of the living movement of action, the people’s action as they fight for their life and defend the lives of others.

These political qualities are practices of the self as they mature on streets, the streets of living democracy.

The people become powerful by practicing power on the streets of living democracy. The people’s revolution is an arena of practice. The streets are the nerve centers, and the practices are the engines of cultural and political transformation.

At the people’s agora, the future of the revolution is organized slowly. There the people originate power and seek to organize it-patiently and decently.

The people very much like rulers, for whom the distinctions were drawn and the advise of acting swiftly and intelligently were given, this shrewd advise also applies to the Ethiopian people.

I firmly advise the Ethiopian people to use Virtu, when real time needs it, and listen to Fortuna when it is gently blowing in the people’s ears. Wise are those, who listen to languages, the language of Virtue, which demands flexibility and the language of Fortuna, which requires stillness.

Fortuna is a woman argued the architect of politics, because woman admires heroes, those who overcome her by calculated force, when the time requires it, so is the Ethiopian real time demanding that we Ethiopians act now or never, for Fortuna is moody, its changes its mind quickly, unless we listen to its directions in the stillness of political action.

I have written a series of articles which appeared in the Ethiopian and all our other websites with concrete recommendations of what we must do to stage a civilized uprising not by the masses but by the Ethiopian people from all walks of life, in defense of dignity and liberty, the pillars of revolt and revolution.

Virtu and Fortuna are awaiting us to respond to their summons and act NOW, or NEVER. We have tried all other permutations, including waiting.

As I argued in “We cannot wait,” we have waited enough, and the more we wait both our existential rights and political rights are going to be abused.

(The writer can be reached at kiros@fas.harvard.edu)


23 thoughts on “An Ethiopian Uprising is Now or Never

  1. Trig-o-n-mo-tery1101 on

    Ethiopian leaders – I am not talking about the infiltrated castrated UDJ and ANdINET – I am talking about the people’s leaders, the un-addicted, enlightened youth in the woredas and kebeles – to take confidence building actions.

    Confidence building actions are actions which can never be considered criminal but are at the same time the basis of a revolt. For example, going to a social even in masse, wearing the same color cloth on a certain day, or buying the same item in mass. Something that build confidence. This is a necessary step due to the massacres that the people have endured since derg times.

    Totalitarian regimes survive by instilling fear in the population. Confidence building measure are done with the specific sense of overcoming that fear. Action without such measures will lead to premature division since people will have less confidence if they dont know what the other thinks.

    LET US GO ETHIOPIANS

  2. AneWediEre on

    There´re a couple of issues one has to consider when it comes to the difference between Ethiopia and the north african countries, inorder to act with determination in creating change. The differences to me are for one, the homogenous character of the north african revolution, same people, same language etc. and the fact that tyranny in those countries was unmerciful to all except the ruling few elite. In Ethiopia, the ruling elite has a few million people at its diposal, which are frightened to death if change comes. These millions are primarily from tgray region and most of them seem to have come to : “better the devil you know”, kind of conclusion, otherwise they´d have rebelled long time ago. These millions, need a strong movement in their region to wake them up and guarantee their safety before they join the uprising. That guarantee can come from none other but the TPDM. Secondly, the opposition leadership in north africa has been proven loyal to the people, even in hard times of incarceration and torture while the ethiopian opposition has proven itself to be primarily for self interest and hunger for power, after the uprising of 2005. That in turn, lead the ethiopian people to be fearful of the consequences if they rebel once more. But the most important factor, I believe, is the difference in agenda of the different ethnic groups in Ethiopia, most of them historically marginalized, which leads in the variaty of struggling means to depose the cancer of all. Some are militarily more advanced than other groups and their goal is different than the other groups as well. Some want a united ethiopia in a democracy and others desire full secession and some others, something in between. If these differeces are not somehow reconciled, the cancer of all, will use these differences to create schism and thereby continue to control and rule. I personally hope the revolution will happen and these differences would somehow be overcome when the cancer is removed. But to have them in consideration, can only help.
    Good luck to the ethiopian people and may their freedom come soon!

  3. If I may add it does not need to start only from Addis Ababa. We can spark it from anywhere and believe it it will not take a day for ADDIS to march to 4 Kilo and face the devil. Lets start it from Debrezit,Awasa,Agaro,Arbaminch,Shashemene,Kombolcha,Diredawa,Ziway,Mekele(???),Wolkite,Woliso,…. NO FEDERAL POLICE or AGAZI has the green light like 1997 to shoot and kill any single person. No one will give that order today. the 2011 world politics is a lkot different than 1997. He will be watched by everyone on the action he orders and trust me he will not put his life or his wife`s life in the hands of the Hague criminal court. SO ABESHA like Dr. Birhanu said do not burn your selfe burn fear first. Big lesson from Egyptian freedom fighters. Burn fear and burn it now. Then no police or gun will STOP you because you have NO FEAR. GOD BLESS ETHIOPIA.

  4. Treaty on

    Dear Teodros Kiros, thank you for sharing your view concerning this issue. Out of the many available choices, we may use different methods and means that are suitable,to Ethiopian conditiont.That means we need to be open and not insist one method or impose single text book theory to Ethiopian condition-we need to be flexible and adopt all that suits for Ethiopia.
    What ever we decided to do I am in favor for a planned upprising, as opposed unplanned and spontaneous one. I think owing to the special condition of the country, media block out, lack of freedom of assembly,it is imperative we pursue a planned and organized uprising, than to insist on calling the uprising firs and then rest on hope for it to take shape. In this matter, planning is every thing-it can break or make the whole event. We must learn to persevere through the event and strive to seccede, and the key to such success is to have meticulous planning in advance

  5. wey gud on

    God bless you for the timely, articulate , short to the point article
    indeed act now or never.

    wey gud

  6. Sontoga Henok on

    I agree 100% to the writer’s contention to the effect that the bygone and ongoing inhuman brutalities of the one man minority dictatorship is coming to its end point.

    The situation in Ethiopia is getting directly and indirectly worse and worse with each passing days and years as well as keep being rejected, hated and despised by all segments of the Ethiopian society helplessly waiting for the right time, the right catalyst and the right and the new organized transitional driving force acting as a strong motor that is sustainable and unbeatable.

    Yes, the writer just like all of us stated that the time is ripe and the right time for rising against the brutal unjust dictator. So far so good.

    But unfortunately when he came to the main issue and the core substance of allied and unified organizing background and foreground transformational shared leadership all what he can offer is the same old magical abstract phrase mongering such as the power of “Virtue, Fotuna, (but NOT even Bunaa which is even for real and more valuable than Fortuna), civilized uprising and of course NOT by the masses BUT by the Ethiopian people because the writer seems to be frightened by the masses but trusts in the Ethiopian people. What is this strange differentiation between the Ethiopian masses and the Ethiopian people because I am part of the Ethiopian masses and part of the Ethiopian people.

    Divisive phrase mongering to say the least. We NEED the winning approach and uprising of all, where all are for one and one is for all.

    And then again we need the Oromo peoples’ real and full scale participation both in the organizing and transformational leadership simply because of the fact that they possess long standing indigenous democratic and egalitarian social and cultural values for sharing and caring while the others such as the Amharas, etc. may contribute their needed organizational experiences.

    This last paragraph holds the KEY for success more than any of these endless writings, self repetitions and empty swan songs that led or leads NO where. Araat Nettib.

    Mind you I am neither an Amhara nor an Oromo but simply an individual realist looking at the background positions on the real ground beyond the well decorated but banal public rhetoric and the winning strategy that accompanies it but in its effect only helps the Wayane dictatorship getting over rich, overfed, over armed, over drunk, over killing, over jailing, over exploiting,etc. but soon completely gleaned and cleaned form its crime and conspiracy palace bunker.

    Absolutely NO disrespect meant to any body in any direction but truth MUST be told.

  7. 3#.Jimma,

    Thanks for saying the right thing. Fearlessness is half of the success. The other success factors are keeping the uprising SUSTAINABLE means that people can stay the course even when being gunned down, beaten and terrorized beyond imagination. flexibility and constant changing of on the ground strategy and using all of the unfolding dictator’s brutalities against the dictatorship itself can help. Don’t expect that the entire population will flood the streets in the first few minutes even though that can also be a possibility. People join the struggle piece by piece when they see that the activists are persistent, for real, serious, fair, viable, etc.

  8. I agree with you Mr. Teodros Kiros, we have reached to a “Now or Never Situation.” Now is the most convenient time as all eyes are on pro-democracy movements. The world/west will abandon Meles, as they did in the Egyptian and Libyan cases, if his people turned against him. It is easy for the west to turn their face away from dictators overnight when dictators start to lose support from their own people. The non-Tigrian ambassadors and ministers will desert Meles once a mass uprising starts. And there is no reason why the world will not take the same measures – measures that they are taking now on Gadaffi and his inner circles – against Meles if he starts to shoot peaceful demonstrators. And I am sure that Meles and his inner circle will end up in the ICC (international criminal court) to be persecuted if they take a single life when the mass-uprising starts. And as JIMMA said, the trigger place doesn’t have to be in Addis.

  9. I truly agree on what Dr. Kiros has stated or warned. If We Ethiopians lose this golden opportunity whereby the internal and external situations are ripe for change,it is assumed as if we have decided to live under slavery for years and years to come. Our Motto should be “Give me liberty or death”. The uprising should start at the main towns, villages and rural areas of all over Ethiopia at the same time, and will lead to or followed by residents of the capital city Addis to disperse the security forces of the country who will try to protect the status quo.

  10. Ainalem Yitna on

    Ethiopians uprising will happen any time but the main thing is there should be good organizers and means of communication. The uprising should start at the same time from end to end of the country so that the wayane Agazi or the whole army of the wayanes will never be able to stop or control. It shouldn’t be started to lose but win.

  11. According to CNN, “The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to impose sanctions on Libya. The approved resolution includes an arms embargo, asset freez and travel bans for Gadhafi and several of his key associates. It also refers the violent crackdown to the Internaional Criminal Court.”

    And the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “The text send a strong message that gross violations of basic human rights will not be tolerated and that those responsible for grave crimes will be held accountable. I hope the message is herd, and heeded, by the regime in Libya.” And We hope the message is herd, and heeded, by the regime in Ethiopia also.

    And Clinton said, “Moammar Gadhafi has lost the confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence. The Libyan people deserve a government that is responsible to their aspirations and that protects their universaly recognized human rights.”

    Does Meles has the confidence of the Ethiopian people? Do Ethiopians deserve a government that is responsible to their aspirations? And what are the aspirations of the Ethiopian people?

    I believe some of the aspirations of the Ethiopian people are: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government, independent courts, independent eloctoral board, democraticaly elected government using an independent eloctoral board, equal distribution of wealth, independent police & military which are represented by all Ethiopians in all ranks of the military, etc,.

    This is the right time for the Ethiopian people to rise and expel the rogue Meles regim that does not represent the Ethiopian people and creat a government that is responsible to their aspirations. We have reached to a “Now or Never situation” to reclaim our universaly recognized human rights.

  12. Russom on

    Who is the world to day technically it’s the US who is running the world and they have a key person
    in the UN also {SUZAN RICE} any other world is just a chain reaction what ever the us says goes
    1997 ethiopian uprising the US admn was the 1 one actor to help MELES stay in power they saw
    all the killing and did nothing . since MELES is their MAID they rather want him to stay in power
    no matter how much he kills at the same time we need to forget what the world US/EU/AU will
    do for us instead we need to figure out what should we do in order to overthrow the MELES govt
    will less blood shed and the key is UNITY and DETERMINATION..

  13. SHARIF ALGHAZI on

    I AM SURE THAT ETHIOPIANS WILL SEND A BITTER BACK -BONE- PARALYSING SIGNAL TO WOYANE’ THAN THE ARABS, IF THEY WILL UPRISE AND UNITED UNDER THE DETERMINED LEADERS WHO WILL STAND BY THEM IN THE STREETS OF ETHIOPIA.

  14. If not now, we may have to wait another 20 years. By then,there would be a no country called Ethiopia. Thank you Dr.Kiros for writing this.

  15. Flying Over Ethiopian Mountain Ranges

    Where horsemen’s blood runs sickly
    To the absorbent earth,
    The rose, unfolding quickly
    To give the canker birth,

    Reveals a wormlike beauty
    To the new ranks of youth,
    Their hands upraised in duty,
    Their heels unshod with ruth.

    Astride the bird of battle,
    Mingling their hair with cloud,
    They sit, and drop the little
    Bright shaft with death endowed.

    Look down, look down, young Victor,
    Upon the imperial dream!
    Stop well your ears with living,
    Lest one of the dying scream!

    The new world’s grim prospectus
    Is spread for all to read;
    And Man, once called Erectus
    Will crawl once more, and bleed.

    The Ethiopian horsemen
    Once more in light must die
    To make the rose of beauty
    for young men in the sky.

    Then earth from night shall borrow,
    And the strange chapter close,
    Where diggers of tomorrow
    Scratch at the fossil rose. -E. B. W. circa 1940.

  16. The above poem was inspired by the statement:

    “We arrived upon them (Ethiopians) unobserved and immediately dropped our loads of explosives…. I remember that one groups of horsemen gave me the impression of a budding rose as the bombs fell in their midst. It was exceptionally good fun.” -Vittorio Mussolini.

  17. mohamed on

    The U.S Goverment and the west in general has an finish besness in Somalia and they using Meles,So what ever is hapaning north A, will not effect ethopia even if he start shooting the peaple.sorry but is the true.

  18. It is ironic that T.P.L.F of all the resources used Machiavelli’s The Prince to tighten its grip on the people. T.P.L.F also applied tactics from half a dozen revolutionaries (primarily Alabania’s) from socialisms around the world as well as Quadaffism, Ancient Egypt, The West, Este Mefaqir Signets, wolvering instinct etc., to mention just a few, to bamboozle an already zombied out population unfailingly for the entire twenty years. Machiavelli’s book was probably the first non-socialist guide used as a mean to sophisticate.

    The Now or Never ultimatum is not a workable timetable. Because the Now has the people surrounded with tanks, bombs and whiskied and drugged Agazi troops ready to massacre and overwhelm, while the never is never an option.

    Ethiopians should pray and fast and seek answer from the Most High. The revolution is Africa’s own (So far only African revolutions have been successful), and the center of Africa and thus the Globe, is Ethiopia. Remember that no country invades Jerusalem twice, and when T.P.L.F (Ancient Assyria) is finally ousted, it is never to come back.
    Pray and Fast that another worse enemy would not replace the current one.

  19. umla on

    There is no the word Never in Ethiopians’ mind when they have been brutaly suppressed and oppressed by Meles Zinawi and the regime he erected on the future of Ethiopia and Ethiopians.For sure,Ethiopians will rise up.Ehiopians are the hopeful people of the oppressed people,as Tunisians and Egyptians are.Freedom has alwyas afinity to civil uprising;then,victory.Don’t freedom and victory go hand in hand? so do unity and Ethiopians.

    We shall definitely win!!!!

  20. Shashe on

    I 100% support the article,but how, where and when is important. I really can assure the readers of my comment by saying this “Bleive me the outocratic leader were dying for the money they accumulate, but this time there is no way to claim the money they rub the people becase the world is freezing their money”. This is my humble advice to Meles and its junta leader,leave the authority and remain in he country to claim the money, if you remover by people revolution, non of them is yours.At leaset to share half of it,act now and go peacfully and stay in your berved country.

    Second,I agree the comments say start from other region rather than Addis Ababa,Organsze base ground and start uprising at onece.

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