Why Ethiopians Must Unite

(Part one of three)
By Aklog Birara, PhD

As people, Ethiopians do not lack a history of courage and {www:resilienc}y or a culture of collaboration and mutual tolerance. This is how generations of Ethiopians fought side by side, sacrificed their lives and properties, and preserved a remarkable country with extraordinary values, traditions and diverse people. This is how Ethiopia became a beacon of independence for all people of African origin and beyond while most of the so called third world was under the yoke of colonialism. Just take a look at the flags of numerous African countries and reflect on the meaning of independence and the heritage Ethiopians passed on to their African sisters and brothers. The flag had meaning then and now.

This proud heritage does not belong to one or two ethnic or nationality groups. It belongs to all Ethiopians. Our willingness and readiness to set aside differences and accept our individual and collective identity as Ethiopians are fundamental for the advancement of freedom, equality of opportunity, unity in diversity, political pluralism and shared prosperity. If we do not bury our political and ideological or tribal differences and move and support the Ethiopian people, we have no one to blame but ourselves, both as individuals and as groups, especially as elites. Accordingly, we must reject any and all political orientations that divide us, and our diverse population who share a common future and shared destiny. Our division is the lead source of our weakness.

In this connection, I believe that the now and the future are more critical than the gyrations and {www:tribulation}s of history through which other peoples around the globe have gone through. Ethiopia and Ethiopians must not be treated differently. There is no country in the world that has not gone through ‘bloody’ national formations. Those of us who live in the United States ought to know this. America was not formed through a bloodless coup. Nor was Italy, Germany, China, Russia, Ghana or the rest.

As a country, Ethiopia is not poor. It is potentially rich; but has been ruled by a succession of brutal dictatorships, the current one being the most exclusive, greediest, discriminatory and oppressive. Just take a look at the statistics concerning the gaps in incomes and wealth and you will see that uneven development and inequality are among the worst in the country’s history. Ethiopia possesses all of the {www:prerequisite}s to make poverty history: ample arable lands and water resources, minerals, human capital and knowledge, strategic location, even financial resources. Yet, it is among the poorest countries in the world. It cannot feed itself. It is heavily dependent on foreign aid and the provisions of humanitarian aid to feed millions. Hyperinflation is among the worst in the world. The educated and uneducated, the middle class and students, the poor and the unemployed are unable to feed themselves. Those who were able to purchase food and feed their families 30 to 40 years ago are unable to cope with scarcity and daily price {www:escalation} today. Inflated growth rates have yet to make substantial dents on people’s lives. Ethiopia is still poor.

The governing party’s economic policy is heavily politicized and defines who eats and who does not; who purchases homes and who does not; who gets health care and who does not and so on. The one party state is the judge, jury and executioner in all aspects of social, economic and political life. This reality calls for a substantial paradigm shift in our individual and collective thinking towards greater collaboration and unity of purpose. Not next year; but today.

The country’s most recent history is not void of popular determination to change for the better, and to establish a firm foundation to achieve human dignity, political pluralism and sustainable and equitable development. In 2005, millions of Ethiopians showed national-level determination in asserting their inalienable democratic rights as people, in defining and controlling their destiny, and in shaping the future of their country. That year established the equivalent of an Ethiopian “Arab Spring” whose promises were not fulfilled. We saw that other countries that were not anywhere close are now on the verge of establishing durable institutions that guarantee human freedom as well as sustainable and equitable development in the decades to come.

At the start of October 2011, President Obama welcomed the rapid transformation in Tunisia and vowed to assist this evolving democracy in North Africa. “Tunisia has been an inspiration to all of us who believe that each individual man and woman has certain {www:inalienable} rights, and those rights must be recognized by a government that is responsible and democratic.” Tunisians would not have achieved this remarkable transition to democracy if they did not place singular emphasis on a unity of purpose.

Opposition groups know that the TPLF/EPRDF government does not recognize fundamental democratic provisions contained in its own Constitution. “Inalienable rights” of men and women, children and youth are alien to its political, social and economic dogma. Why do opposition parties remain as divided as ever then? What is the lead reason? It is lack of wisdom in leadership that fails to place the greater or common good above partisan, individual and group interest. The outdated political culture of ‘worshiping’ organizations over commitment to the interests of the Ethiopian people, and of the country must end. Organizations are irrelevant if they do not respond to real human needs.

The political organizational and leadership gap at the national level that persists since 2005 haunts the society, including the two million members of the Diaspora. Part of this trauma revolves around the Ethiopian elite tendency to ‘worship’ organizations and individual heroes over country and unity of purpose; individualism over community and team work; personal ego over the willingness and capacity to resolve issues in a detached manner. Why? Self and group interest is among the reasons why. The other is fear.

As a consequence, ordinary people at home and especially Ethiopian youth wonder whether the fractured political and civil opposition within and outside the country is not now a barrier to change. In June 2011, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) produced a thought provoking assessment of “risks and stability” in Ethiopia. Its findings and general conclusions should force each one of us to do deep soul searching, not tomorrow but today. Repression and authoritarianism have worsened since 2005. There is little indication that the situation will be any better over the coming decade or two.

Is the regime alone to blame? I do not believe so. As I suggested in Waves last year, a narrowly based ethnic elite has little choice but to divide and rule; to repress and close political and economic space; and to engender fear consistently and persistently. Permanent suspense is its formulae for command and control. Does this mean that the regime is popular? It is feared; but it is not popular. It rules by forcing loyalty through membership drives and through the provision of financial and other incentives. 1/

This forced ‘{www:conscription}’ of party membership to ensure regime longevity makes it shallow and highly vulnerable. Forced conscription is not the same as consent. People have to work in order to feed themselves and their families. It is a matter of survival in a hostile environment where ethnic and party loyalty is at a premium. “Authoritarian regimes without significant constituencies are not stable in the long-run. Longevity should not be mistaken for resilience.” 2/

Most fair-minded foreign and domestic experts acknowledge the fact that the regime is narrowly-based and rules through division, deceit and fear. This fear culture is widespread and affects the Diaspora. The Guardian quotes a senior official of the German broadcasting company DW who says, “The present climate of fear leads many of our prospective partners in Ethiopia, and even in the Diaspora, to decline our interview requests… In Ethiopia, the threat of imprisonment for political journalists is constant,” as it is for all freedom seekers and democratic activists. Repression is thus total. The regime identifies, arrests and jails individuals it considers to be a threat one by one. Fractured and weak opposition groups within and outside the country are unable to wage sustained and well-coordinated civil resistance against this onslaught. Filling this critical gap in organization and wisdom-based leadrship is the order of the day.

Part two of this series will discuss the pitfalls and impact of fractured and weak opposition groups on Ethiopian activists and their families, and on the moral and determination of the Ethiopian people. It concludes by stating the obvious namely, the urgency for genuine coalition-building and for a unity of purpose and actions among opposition political and civic groups within and outside the country. Part three will present practical suggestions on the path forward that is anchored in the social and political realities within Ethiopia.

I suggest that social and political activism that is not anchored within Ethiopian society may have emotonal benefits but cannot advance the democratization process in the home-front.

17 thoughts on “Why Ethiopians Must Unite

  1. Pocahontas on

    Every one knows as to why Ethiopians must unite. But the main question is the terms and conditions of unity within diversity in order to deliver the balanced and new justice for all that satisfies all the Ethiopian stake holders in a democratic and pluralistic Ethiopia.Most of all, all the background positions and long standing grievances must be opened, analyzed, negotiated and agreed upon in a satisfactory manner if not in an optimal manner. Otherwise, the repeat cry for unity without dealing with the background positions and long standing grievances will only fall on deaf ears since it resembles a farmers effort trying to sell A sick pig in a tightly closed bag.

    ከሰላምታ ጋር

    ፖካሆንታስ ነኝ

  2. Same sh*t different day. All these points have been said by thousands of individuals for 20 years. All those who said it have ended up fighting each other and leaving the stage disgracefully.

    Time to switch gears Mr. Aklog. We can’t have the same failing ideas over and over again, the same sh*t discovered over and over again by endless succession of individuals with the same stupid result.

    As I see it, Geography is the most determining factor in Ethiopia’s next political upheaval. And it is going to be an upheaval given how repressed the populace is. Whoever masters faster than the rest, masters the future.

    Rediscovering the same sh*t for 20 years will not move us forward. It is time to try novel approaches. THE MAIN PURPOSE OF ANY POLITICAL ACTIVITY IN ETHIOPIA should be very simple — that is the eradication of the TPLF curse and the bringing of its criminal elements to justice. We can sort out the outcome of this event afterwards.

  3. Atakilti on

    I support the professor’s call for unity in essence. The entire Ethiopian people from North to South, East to West has been making the same call for unity for decades now. They are determined to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and become a low middle income people in the next 4-5 years. We should shove politics aside for a change and unite behind our people’s well-deserved ambition to get out of such an abject destitution. They have vowed not to be associated with grim pictures of emaciated children. Enough With That!!!! Away With That!!! They Have Shouted!!!! All skilled and educated compatriots in The Diaspora are called upon to make themselves available for such sacred mission. Let’s Go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Eritrawi on

    Ethiopian must unite to finish evil minority tplf regime that is dividing ethiopian and creating problem in horn.

    We all know weyane tplf minority regime only stand for tigray.
    Ethiopian and eritrean have same common enemy.
    It is weyane.

    Weyane tlpf, we the people after u.

  5. Belete on

    Look at your words. Any unity starts with a good conversation. The problem of our society is unable to listen actively or digest the substance what others to say and unable to ponder before speaking. You see how some people prefer to stay home than participating in social dialogue. It is because people like you who are irrational and insulting with I know it all personality push them back. They prefer writing from a far distance than mingling with your kinds.
    Well, you might be the victim of the system and emotionally unstable. You would not be disrespectful for this gentle and knowledgeable professor. I am sorry for you. The professor took a time to teach us and it takes time and energy to write. The professor acknowledged the fallacies of the Ethiopian elite including his. I do not think this man needs anything from you and me and from the country called Ethiopia. …he just wished to see us unit, be a good country men, respected citizen in the eyes of the world. That is all. It is free education…learn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Mr. Pochahonta, you are abit delusional. Nobody has time to look back 3000 years of Ethiopian past. Just try to look today and tomorrow and solve the problem. To revenge and avenge the past, pls don’t wast your time on the internet, pick your Gun and go to bush and show us your muscle. Dialogue serves the present and the future and of course not to repeat the past.

  6. Tollesa Sesassa on

    Who is going to eat “Kitffo and Tibse Segga”?
    That is our problems,eating and enjoying teporary life,that is it.
    We need to be gutsy stop these nonsense and start the peacefull protest around Addis Ababa,Gonder,Diredawa,Bahardar,Jima and so on.”Woyane”regime can kill may be at a given time 1000 people,but brothers and sisters “Woyane” can’t kill 100,000 people,the whole world would come down on him.So our problems are we need be gutsy like mighty “Eritrean Brothers”.

  7. Pocahontas on


    Mind you that I am Pocahontas NOT Mr.Pochahonta. Your conclusion, “Dialogue serves the present and the future and of course not to repeat the past.” fits me very well like a nose fits to the face. :)

    Why is it that people are ONLY talking but NOT doing? That includes me and you.

  8. Ga'ee! on

    so what is it? Mortgage our political, economical and cultural future so we appear well-fed (but still imprisoned), or pay the ultimate price and be free-forever-united?

  9. Belete:

    Professor Aklog is not teaching us. He is participating in the political dialogue, whereby his ideas will potentially affect the lives of your relatives and also may be you as well. Therefore, everyone has a right to hold his feet to the fire and if he convince us his ideas are nevertheless good, then he will get a pass. If he can’t defend his ideas, his education is NO reason to worship him.

    I read Mr. Aklog’s writings now and then, and I find them to be more of the same. He seems to have mastered all that has come before him and he rediscovers the same ideas that were discovered by the same succession of people for the last 20+ years. These ideas, while ideally nice, are practically useless for they are extremely vulnerable to TPLF’s attack. This consideration might not be relevant to people like Mr. Aklog because if “their ideas are better than that of TPLF”, all that matters to them is the ability to say “we have better idea than you.” No matter how many times they are defeated, they never feel it because they are delusional and live in the “idea world.”

    The people, meanwhile, are looking for practical change. They need freedom from Tyranny. 20 years of the same sh*t is not going to bring that. New ideas, new methods, new approaches — are what will bring solution that is desirable to the people at large. People are NOT looking for a chance to be “rightfully indignant”, they are looking to be “free of tyranny.”

  10. Anonymous on

    There is nothing wrong with what professor Klog wrote. His point is that when people are united based on a common purpose, the road toward reaching the desired destination would be smoother and easier. One thing he needs to offer to us is that how do we go about bringing that firm unity based on matual respect and common goal. In my oppenion, there is some deep rooted and abstract thinking among people of the same country but with different ethnic back ground. For instance, why the oromos and the amharas can not unite, what keep them from doing it. As of now, there is no trust b/n these two major ethnic groups. Both groups need to do some critical thinking and find a way that bring them together. Meles’s biggest threat is the unity of these two major groups. Oromos need to discard the complet cessessionist doctrine and come up with the unifing doctrine and amharas also need to face a new reality that a single ethnic group will never be able to rule and suppress the others. True unity without common purpose can not be created. People some how have to trust one another in order to work together. The only way the current regime will crimble is if the two major groups unite on the frame work of creating one democratic counrty with a noble constitution that respect human right, individual and group freedom as well as govern the country by abiding to the constituion. People should not fear their government and should be able to change it whenever the govering bodies mismanage and abuse the law of the land. So, it is important that we do some sole searching and learn how to respect one another and develop trust in order to creat a true unity.

  11. United We Stand on

    When i was reading prof. Aklog’s piece, the “MY TAKE ON DR. BEREKET HABTE SELASSIE’S INTERVIEW’ on the ER forum suddenly cought my attention and invited me to add some comment on the blogger who stated regarding the Ethiopians of Eritrean orgin”…refused to return to Eritrea after independence mainly because they believed in their Ethiopian identity, infact they used to mock and redicule the leadership of the EPLF as war minded Goat Shepherds…”
    Ofcouesse, I can’t speak for all of the deportees, but a certain man by the name of Tesfay was a die-hard Ethiopian though both of his parents were Eritreans and not to mention his young brother martryed in the Jebha/elf organization. To be frank, He was born in Mekerka, the highland of Eritrea/anseba region; a little village where the beloved legendary singer Abrham Afewerki’s mother was born and raised him as Italian maid or Eseyas’s economic adviser Wolday Futur came from, another Eritrean beneficiary of Ethiopia’s free education.
    Ato Tesfai was from poor family and was a shepherd for better-off people’s goats& cattles after school but a brilliant student that eventualy won him a seat at Adis Abeba agriculture University and a gold pen from his excellency Janhoy. Later he became a good honest farming business man in the south of Ethiopia. He loved so much the locals and spoke fluently their oramo langoage; infact married the village girl who bore him a boy and a girl.
    He was one of the naive Eritreans who welcomed the wolf in sheep’s skin woyanes as alleged hero liberators from the derg dictatorship and gave them crush orientation as hopefully new better rulers about life in the heartland before they got thrown in the burning heat of Denkelia. ato Testay is certainly an exmple as one of the Eritreans until this date that never abrogated thier Ethiopianity even if he was an askeri son.
    In the movie ‘MISSISPPI MASSALA’ starring Denzel Washington that attepts potraying the cruel selfishness of deportation to the Indians by dictator Edi Amin regime from Uganda, the deportee at the end resigns saying ‘home is where the heart is’. That was his feeling toward Ethiopia too. The elderly’s final word before passing away was ‘i’m proud that i was always heavely investing in my children’s education’. His kids gratuated from the Adis Abeba University. Both are now medical doctors.
    However, Dr. Bereket’s standing and word is questionable. Like his new kitfo friends in the menelik palace, he has unprincipled record of greedness. As the saying goes ‘same feather flocks together’!

  12. Fashoda on

    Diffirent people at diffirent times, sing the same songs and beat the same drums, it will never take us far forward.

  13. Tesfa on

    Mamo You wrote,

    “People are NOT looking for a chance to be “rightfully indignant”, they are looking to be “free of tyranny.”
    wht is wrong cautiosly moving to wards the objective of the Ethiopian masses?In your two comments You have unsparingly criticized the message of Dr. Aklog.it is your right to do so provoided you had more practical solution than the one proposed by the Dr.I see no any such form of debate on your part.You are simply ciriticizing perhaps you might find the message crosing your self interest.Or perhaps due to fear.What ever your consern might be regarding the consistent them advansed by the able Dr.Aklog,one thing you can be shure Ethiopians will revolt against the regime in thier own time in their own terms.I don’t believe the Ethiopian oppostion have any lexury to give out the detail of its objective when ever the TPLF cyber intruders,posing as
    oppostion members,made all forms of commotion.

    We like to have it this way because we want our opponents to keep gusing.We want to keep you in permanent suspunse.I think this is what you need from me at this time.Had you been a conserned citizens by the flight of our people,and if you find the views expressed by Dr.Aklog unfit strategy for the removal of TPLF tugs you could have come up with
    your own alternative views.You have none,your first comment is filled with that F..word.What is the novlity in what you have said?What is your strategy to feree Ethiopians from the tyrrany of TPLF,big mouth.

  14. dictators must go! on

    Do y know woldai futur has a strong taste of the finest things in life who used to be a sevant of the late feudalist emperor Haileslasie before abondoning him by running away for America when no prestigious post was offered to him? Infact prof. Aklog might recall seeing him wholing in at his cubicle by the corner office while employed at the world bank. Again, he made second an alleged homeage trip in search of the tiny eseyas seat. Unfortunately the dictator has a pretty expert smelling sense whoever tries to knock at his beloved for life chair especially those coming from the west are most suspicious and ought to kept titless behind the scene. It’s too late now for the opportunist except saying “my only wish and hope before i die was to see myself sitting at the hottest top offices”. At this twilight yrs can’t even afford running anywhere now beside waiting god’s unblessed final call at any moment. As the saying goes “Impossible teaching new tricks to an old useless bastard dog”. Be warn that Dr. Bereket has the absolute right to say or believe in any thing. This is not sahel democracy and the shaebia cadres can kiss his still young at heart ass! Just suck it and go to hell, the good doc is here to stay!

  15. dictators must go! on

    The TPLF will continue to slaughter and plunder the more you dwell on past grievences. You will die talking about your grievances, bitter and unforgiving, and living in the past. Who have you grievances with?
    who is to blame that you have grievences?
    who is to provide you solution about your grievances?

    What you are saying is that ‘I have past grievances , and therefore until that is solved there is no point talking about the now and the future’.

  16. United We Stand on

    Dear bro Elias,
    I was rushing and missed the other day to make clear on my previous comment(above#11) regarding ato Testay. The point is the man wasnot an arrogant opportunist nor was he an old small version sort of the modern land grabbers. On the contrary, he was your typical decent Ethiopian guy who never forgot his humble background and deeply invested/shared with whatever success he was blessed in the local communities. This was by far the most admirable quality about him.
    As a matter of fact, he did not even got married into prominet family by design for he ddid not believe in materialism particularly that comes thru back messaging poletical associations. Like his fellow deportees, he was just leading an honest peaceful content family that relays only on merit by appreciating life to the fulest. I think this is the pure example at its best when ‘Honest Abe’, the 16th president of the U.S.A talked about the noblity of respecting the custom of the average common native folks.
    No wonder, weizero Hagosa, ato Tesfay’s fierce independent mother that tills her own plot land heard coplaining as well as praizing ” gud’do rekibe, ansti adi amharu wedey fewisen ember zemitenani’/alah bless the good women of mother Ethiopia, they gone maddly in love with my son/. Little did the poor lady who had a hard time signing at the right space using her inked-thumb, that the weapon of love is more powerful than the toxic jelousy.
    Unfortunately, at the end the concerned protest of the local natives even his own beloved Ethiopian wife failed saving ato Testay from forced deportation which was solely motivated by extreme greedness. For the record, he was hard core unionist(andnet)and never envolved in any poletical activities though this was not seem an issue; infact one of his relative, Weldezgi who trained as janhoy police commando in istrael had a doughter named ‘Ethiopia’.
    Well, status elevating adjustment was top demand on the expese of all other innocent peaceloving people’s human right violations in order to make themselves the wicked accidental stranger woyanes; an atractive divide and minority misrulers whom ironically helped by the very peope that advised and directed them to the rite path of thinking hard out of the tiny box by expanding thier horizons from the narrow greater republic Tgray for the sake of Ethiopian unity and equal justice/opportunity for all.
    However, the corrupt genocidal aparthied tribal clilsm regime in the honorable Menelik Place exploited the unnecessary border war to advance its own economic monopolization and other hidden ajendas that mainly serves its investors. To be fair, one can safely argue that the law abbiding Ethiopian people were fooled and played in this misguided missions as well.

  17. Let Mr. Aklog continue doing what he is doing instead of discouraging people in the campaigning of Ethiopia’s unity. Unity campaign must continue by any means. It seems we Ethiopians are the only nation who are advocating divison while the EU and Arab Spring nations, etc talk about their unity to oust dictatorships. As someone mentioned above, what made Ethiopia, Ethiopia is the participation of Amaras and Oromos. These groups are the majority. They have proven that their unity had made Ethiopia free from colonization. So once again they should do that. So what is standing in the way is the issues that they have not solved until this day. In fact unless they unite soon and later decide to unite after it is too late because they have opened doors to Enemies of Ethiopia, then they are the cause of their populations being affected. So when we indeed talk about unity we can’t keep avoiding these groups. Amaras have fear that they will be persecuted if ORomos took over. Oromos have fear that the Amaras as usual are going to dominate over them and it is time the Oromo prevent this. TPLF and OLF had 20 years to brainwash the average citizens of Ethiopia to resent one another. Such resentment is observed in Addis Ababa universities. So, what is the solution? These two groups need to form committees asap in diaspora and in Ethiopia, discuss what makes them similar and what makes them different. Of course the Oromos and Amaras should both not be extremists in the committee rather committees who are capable of professionally and with wisdom disagree or agree, the committee should not be emotional because they are there to bring soltuion not bickering. Extremist elements will not bring solution and will divert attention from unity. Based on the desire of the majority of Oromos and Amaras, both groups in the committees must list points of demands that are needed to better their people. The committee should always have conflict transformation experts available to recognize where disagreements and agreements occur and what must be done to solve this. Without conflict transformation experts the committee should not be formed of course and other groups of Ethiopians from other ethnic groups must also be present as witness and support system for both. The points of demands MUST come from the majority of both Amaras and Oromos not by extreme elements such as OLF and those die-hard Amaras who want the same status quo. Once the demand is listed, this must be announced to entire Ethiopians. Vote must be done based on Ethiopians on the demands, ONLY then the demands can pass and be implemented. I am sure the Ethiopians voting on it will be the most fair and balanced demands that will make everyone have in win-win situation. Such demand will be part of the constitution later on.

    At this point since both of Amaras and Oromos have been met, there is no reason for not having unity because both are guaranteed by the Ethiopian people. No one is going to hijack no one. The unity with the rest of Ethiopians will take place that will make the Arab Spring nothing compared to this unity. Extremists will be isolated and disintegrated as unity strengthenes. TPLF will start to piss on its pants when this happens and will do anything now even will guarantee the OLF its secession, will give Badme to Eritrea and will ask Eritreans to retake Ethiopia for its economy once again. The unity should be strong enough to quickly this TPLF entity before it damages Ethiopia any further such as the above even worse, will ask Egypt to occupy Nile to save itself.

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