Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ethiopia: Whose Prime Minister?

(Waridaad) - Most African nations are composed of several nationalities (ethnic groups). They say that the colonialists, besides being the main reasons for the formation of such mixed states, used to pity the ethnic groups (nationalities) against one another as a means of prolonging their occupation through divide and rule. I do not have an intention to refute or uphold this hypothesis in this brief article. However, I will try to demonstrate that the main present day African problems are rooted in the ill-manipulation of the diversity of the people of an African nation by the so called leaders. I will cite the Ethiopian case as an example.

Whether we like it or not and whether elected or a despot, a nation has just one leader. In diverse ethnic settings, this person belongs to just one ethnic group. In particular, when the power is snatched by guns, the leader’s fighters are pre-dominantly from his/her ethnic groups. This is the most widely observed scenario in Africa. The worst case is when the ethnic group constitutes the minority group. Since democracy is a majority rule, this minority class will never allow a functioning democracy; always sabotage the interests of the majority, and most importantly always believe in the gun since that is the only way for them to be able to rule. This is the scenario in Ethiopia.

Mr Zenawi’s ethnic Tigray constitutes a minority in Ethiopia. Ever since they took power in 1991, they never put down their guns; the interests of the majority ethnic groups such as the Oromos, Amharas, and Sidamas were harshly sabotaged while minority ethnic groups such as the Harare and Wolayta were made to be close allies and given lion’s share in political power. A simple example is the way Mr Zenawi’s government treated Sidama’s demand for the right to have their own regional state – mind you it is a demand for a regional state, not an independent state. This simple demand has been the cause for the deaths and imprisonment of thousands of Sidama elites, students, and farmers. The southern branch of Mr Zenawi’s party is mainly dominated by the Wolayta through which the Sidamas are subjugated. It is worth noting that the Sidama ethnic group is larger than that of Meles Zenawi’s Tigray which has its own regional state and benefited from multi-billion dollar industrial and other infrastructures through the party owned businesses established at the cost of the rest of Ethiopian people. The irony of the situation of the Sidamas is more apparent when we consider that the Harari, an ethnic group with a handful of population mainly dwelling in a certain part of the Harar city were given the right to have a regional state, the Harar city. Let alone in entire Ethiopia, the Hararis are minorities even in the Harar city.

I am focusing on these less discussed examples since it is widely known that the Oromos, the main Ethnic group in Ethiopia, are the most harshly treated and whose interests are always compromised by the Zenawi government. Until Mr Zenawi unleashed his crackdown on elected politicians following the May 2005 elections, the two main languages heard in the main prison centers in Ethiopia were two: Oromiffa, the language spoken by the inmates and Tigrinya, the language spoken by prison guards and the torturers. After the May elections, significant number of Amharic speaking inmates were added. Thus, the political prisoners in the main Addis Ababa prison are representatives of the two dominant ethnic groups of Ethiopia while the guards and the torturers are Mr Zenawi’s minorityTigreans.

The ugliest part of this kind of brutal minority rule is that it pushed the people to the desperation that there is no possibility of power shifts through democratic means as the government is determined to foil such possibilities as demonstrated by the aftermath of the May 2005 elections. Hence, the people are forced to believe that waging the war is the only possible means, leading us to vicious circle of violence, poverty and backwardness. Here, I would like to emphasize that this kind of problem is manifested in most African countries. The writer of this article has first hand information that Mr Zenawi’s and the Rwandan governments are allies – it is an open secrete that the Rwandan armies composed of a single ethnic group are trained at the Defense College in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia.. The common interests that Mr Kagame and Mr Zenawi share is that they both foment the ideology of dominating the rest of their countries’ population by the ethnic group they belong to. This domination is all rounded – political and economic. This kind of regional cooperation between governments with such ill-motives is, perhaps, the ugliest face of present day Africa that all citizens of Africa should be ashamed of and fiercely fight against.

The irony is that these leaders run elections, a process put in place simply to hide their ugly faces from the westerners so that they can get the financial support which enables them to run the oppressive government machinery. It is amazing that the westerners seem to behave as if they did not witness what is going on. However, it might be difficult to blame western governments as the sneaky nature of these African thugs is hard to predict at times. For example, noting that democratic elections is one of the signs of good governance which gives an African leader a grace before the western leaders, Zenawi introduced a system of elections but blocked a system of direct democracy in which a leader is elected by the entire population. Knowing that it is impossible to be elected by people of all ethnic groups, he introduced a new system of governance to Ethiopia – a system of governing as a prime minister which allows him to come to power through the back door. The most hated system of governance to Meles Zenawi’s tigray is the system of governance by a president elected directly by the people. They know that the only system that allows them to rule is the premiership which allows Zenawi to be the leader merely by being elected at his home riding which is easy for him given all the benefits he is generating for them at the cost of others. The only required criteria is, thus, to be a dictatorial leader of his party so that he always maintain party chairmanship and sucking resources from the rest of the people and favor his riding. This is exactly what Meles Zenawi is best at.

I conclude my writing by asking Mr Zenawi a simple question: if Oromos, Amharas, Sidamas, Somali’s, etc did not elect you, if you hate and punish them; and always stand against the interests of these major ethnic groups of Ethiopia, whose prime minister are you? I ask you this question so that you give your self the opportunity to use your unquestionable talent for beautifying Ethiopia and Africa, in stead of being its shame.

* The author is a resident of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Source : the S. Tribune

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