by Teshome Debalke
We stand before the court not because we expect justice but because we wanted to bear witness to history.
The powerful statement above was made by two brave Ethiopian leaders in front of the Tigray People Liberation Front led’ Ethiopian Federal Court’. What Abubaker Ahmed and Ahmedin Jebel as their compatriots before and after them said is the beginning of the end of the self-declared ethnic Apartheid regime of Ethiopia.
In reality, the cadres dressed up as judges presiding over the accused are on trial for subverting justice on behalf of the ethnic tyranny they serve. From the very beginning the setup of the kangaroo court and the cadres recruited to preside as judges was to deprive Ethiopians justice, freedom and democracy.
Therefore, unlike some misguided individuals want us to believe, the accused were not charged because of their faith but their very Ethiopiawinet. They never said they are prosecuted because of their religion but, their freedom as Ethiopians to worship freely. What Abubaker and Ahmedin told us was, the judges in front of them are the instruments of tyranny with no legitimacy to seat in the judgment of them or any other Ethiopian period.
But yet, the noises we have been hearing is the accused are prosecuted because of their Muslim faith instead of the freedom of Ethiopians; not only to worship whatever we choose but to elect our leaders on our free will.
The tragedy is, on one hand the regime targets them as religious zealots by charging them as Muslim terrorist (harboring extreme Islamic ideologies and working with terrorist group to overthrow the government and establish Sharia law). In another hand, some of the supposedly advocates of their ‘freedom’ claim they are prosecuted for their Muslim faith — reinforcing the regime’s agenda. The question is, why would their demand for justice and freedom in their own country portrayed as victims of their religion when everybody knows justice wasn’t meant to exist for anyone under the self-declared ethnic apartheid tyranny regardless of one’s religion, ethnicity, ideology…?
Speculation aside, one thing that can be said for sure is the rash to play hyphenated victims of the real and imagined enemy is the main cause that sustains tyranny. Instead of standing for justice, freedom and democracy regardless of differences; pleading tyranny to do right became the norm. In another words, the struggle as hyphenated Ethiopians under tyranny is essentially asking for preferential treatment form ethnic tyranny that isn’t capable or mandated to give or take anything. And, sadly to say, it empowered the regime further. It also safe to say, those that play hyphenated victim game have other agenda than justice, freedom and democracy for our people, including the people they claim to represent.
That leads me to say, the weakness of piecemeal approach for justice, freedom and democracy is not getting us anywhere. In fact, it is the primary reason that prolonged the people’s misery under a self-declare ethnic and atheist tyranny led by TPLF. The question is, does justice have religion, region, gender or ethnicity? If not, why do our contemporary ethnic and religious elites insist on it?
To answer the question we must first understand, there could never be justice, freedom and democracy for some but not for others. Nor it could be possible under tyranny infested nation as ours that segregate the people by ethnicity, religion and region. And, tyranny is not capable of rendering justice nor gives but take freedom as Abubaker, Ahmedin, Eskinder, Reyot Andualm and many more before and after them showed us by paying the ultimate price defying it.
Therefore, unless we are asking for preferential treatment as hyphenated group, expecting justices or freedom from ethnic tyranny that has neither the mandate nor the legitimacy is voluntarily surrendering our rights for an entity that held us hostage. Thus, in principle, we cannot claim different from the ethnic tyranny we despise except protesting for being on the receiving end of it. Then, why we do it?
Though there could be many reasons why we do it, it is exclusively among our self-appointed elites’ ambition– using their chosen identity to get ahead of each other. The competition to galvanize hyphenated victims is so intense; it seems the respective elites play us like the ruling ethnic tyranny to get what they want and care less for justice, freedom and democracy.
Therefore, confined in our hyphenated identity not to see further we failed to break out of our comfort zone to confront the ethnic tyranny in the struggle for justice, freedom and democracy for all. We are blinded to see the universality of justice and freedom and choose to be victims of hyphenated elites’ agenda that has nothing to do with justice, freedom or democracy.
To illustrate this phenomena, an opinion posted on Al-Jazeera titled: Ethiopia: Where conscience is constantly on trial- Awol K Allo tells a story of the obsession of the elites to play hyphenated victims of real and imagined enemy. By narrowly defining Ethiopians that are taken hostage by TPLF led regime as religious (Muslim) leaders he put their struggle for justice freedom and democracy in straight jacket — catering for his targeted audience. He began with a caption;
In Ethiopia, Muslim leaders are facing an unjust trial for crimes they did not commit’ implying they are religious leader when in reality the young charismatic men were elected to Mediate/prevent the regime’s takeover of their religion. He also insinuated; everybody else gets a fair trial in Ethiopia but not Muslims; contrary to the reality. He goes on;
“A high profile trial against protest leaders – intellectuals, activists and elected members of “The Ethiopian Muslim Arbitration Committee” – is shaking the Ethiopian political landscape. The government argues that the accused harbour “extreme” Islamic ideologies. It accuses them of conspiracy with terrorist groups to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state in Ethiopia’. And he ends with “This trial, however, is the complete negation of these principles. In fact, it is the most outrageous fraud imaginable. It is a fraud that best represents the vile baseness and moral bankruptcy of those in power who use the authority of the law and the devices of justice to mute peoples’ cries for truth and dignity. In the course of this trial, the government trampled on every facet of their fair trial rights, including their right to presumption of innocence, the right to open and public trial, the right to examine witnesses and contest evidence. It produced and broadcasted a fictitious thriller movie – Jihadawi Harekat – complete with tortured confessions, hearsays, and a nest of vile gossips – all in the name of fighting terrorism. This trial, however, is the complete negation of these principles. In fact, it is the most outrageous fraud imaginable. It is a fraud that best represents the vile baseness and moral bankruptcy of those in power who use the authority of the law and the devices of justice to mute peoples’ cries for truth and dignity. In the course of this trial, the government trampled on every facet of their fair trial rights, including their right to presumption of innocence, the right to open and public trial, the right to examine witnesses and contest evidence. It produced and broadcasted a fictitious thriller movie – Jihadawi Harekat – complete with tortured confessions, hearsays, and a nest of vile gossips – all in the name of fighting terrorism.”
Not a single word was mentioned about what the same ‘morally bankrupt’ regime in power’ did on many other Ethiopians regardless of their ethnicity, religion and political view since it came to power in the last two decades. Nor he cared to inform his audience the fact the Ethiopian Coptic Church is taken over by the regime’s cadres two decade ago as the regime is attempting to do the same through The Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council that sparked the protest. He also conveniently ignored there are prisoners the regimes ‘accuses ‘them of conspiracy with terrorist groups to overthrow the government’.
He essentially reduced the struggle of Ethiopians, (in this case Muslims) for justice and freedom between “Muslim leaders” Vs. The ‘morally bankrupt’ regime’ portrayed as representing Ethiopia. The author spins Muslims as victims of Ethiopia instead of the out of control and self-declared minority ethnic regime that is causing havoc on the people of Ethiopia for over two decades regardless of their identity.
It shows the equally questionable morality of our contemporary elites — reducing the struggle of Ethiopian leaders as victim of their ethnicity, religion… than advocates of justice, freedom and democracy for our people.
Thus, the elites’ selective amnesia to advance other agendas by using ethnicity, religion… is the primary reasons the ‘morally bankrupt’ ethnic regime is able to extend its rule and injustice on the expenses of justice, freedom and democracy of all Ethiopians. The zero-sum-game the elites choose to play helped the regime to continue its draconian rule and corruption for far too long.
Other factors including, foreign entities’ interest play important role in reducing Ethiopians’ struggle for justice, freedom and democracy into ethnic, religion, and region divide.
To his credit and in complete reversal of his above opinion Awol K Allo’s interview on ESAT on Wednesday April 16, 2014 said a different story for a different audience. He said, the struggle must not be defined by religion only (in this case Muslims) but, ‘civil right’. Why his opinion on Aljazeera didn’t reflect the same opinion and the background and context of injustice of the regime regardless of identity is hard to say.
Are our elites playing hyphenated victime a solution to bring about justice, freedom and democracy to our people?
Their behavior within their confined audience says otherwise. Contrary to our people’s desire, it is clear; justice, freedom and democracy for our people seem to be the last thing in their mind. In that regard, preaching ‘Us VS. Them’ brand instead of Tyranny VS. Democracy appears to be their only brand to segregate our people as hyphenated victims to avoid accountability of their undeclared agenda. In the process, they failed to establish the necessary institutions to bring about justice, freedom and democracy.
Therefore, the hyphenated elites continue to play a zero-sum-game for confined audience in piecemeal fashion to put justice, freedom and democracy of our people on the sideline until they get what they want.
Notwithstanding some elites’ ultimate goal goes as far as separating our people by ethnicity or religion, the whole exercises is a convenient way of avoiding individual freedom. For unsuspecting individuals it might look good from the outset but, it would guarantee no justice or freedom to anyone in the future; as the ruling ethnic elites finding out the cost of postponing justice, freedom and democracy for convenient of power and corruption. In fact, it became a deadly game that consumed the instigators as they scramble to find hideout for their injustice against the people of Ethiopians.
Ethiopians have come a long way to see what our contemporary elites’ ambition has done playing ‘Us VS. Them’ game to get what they wanted. None of it has anything to do with justice, freedom and democracy. We have gone through the communist elites’ version of justice, freedom and democracy of the Derg regime. At present, we are living under the deadly game of the ruling ethnic elites’ version of justice, freedom and democracy. What we failed to learn is how to make the elites accountable when they take us as suckers on the expenses of justice, freedom and democracy for our people by pitting one from the other.
Settling for anything other than justice, freedom and democracy for all our people is like playing with fire. Sooner or later it will burn us all one at a time. The sooner we realize we are being played again by hyphenated elites this time around the sooner we burry the ruling ethnic tyranny and the potential of any future tyranny to come once and for all to live free.
If we fail to make the elites that subvert justice, freedom and democracy for their convenient we can’t blame anyone but ourselves. Entertaining the idea the elites that have been playing us as victims of one another would have the moral capacity to deliver us justice, freedom and democracy is foolishness. We have no enemy but tyranny in whatever form it shows its ugly face. We must step out of our cages to demand justice, freedom and democracy for all, noting less noting more.
This article is dedicated for the 17 latest innocent Ethiopian victims in their struggle to free their religion from the ruling ethnic tyranny. They are leaders for justice, freedom and democracy. Reducing them by religious identity by itself does injustice to their sacrifice to free our people from yoke of ethnic tyranny.