The idea of reflecting this commentary of mine has come to my mind after I listened to the responses of Dr. Negasso Gidada to questions from listeners of ESAT radio Q and A program hosted by journalist Mesai Makonan.
One listener asked if Dr. Negasso believes that the late Ethiopian prime minister, Ato Meles Zenawi was a racist politician. Dr. Negasso tried to avoid saying Ato Meles was a man of the politics of racism and/or ethnicity. Instead, he tried to attribute the dominant power of TPLF to its dominant role during the struggle against the Derg. He further tried to explain his answer by saying that he does not believe that the late prime minister was a racist politician. Moreover, he tried to expound his response by arguing that to be a racist politician is necessarily attributed to the agenda and practice of exterminating certain race or ethnic group like what happened during Nazi Germany.
Before proceeding to the point I want to make, I have to make myself clear that it is not my intention here either to counter –argue or underestimate the personal observation and points of view of Dr. Negasso Gidada about the late prime minster, Ato Meles Zenawi. I also understand not only the very difficult political environment but also the very uncomfortable socio-cultural situation he lives in. Dr.Negasso could not call a spade a spade for a reason it might or might not be convincing. I sincerely believe that Dr. Negasso Gidada deserves due respect for being part of the struggle and his contribution to the success of a democratic change.
This said; let me express my points of view as follows:
1. I strongly believe that calling a spade a spade with a strong sense of objectivity, rationality, civility, and above all constructive engagement is not only the right thing to do but it is also critically necessary if we want to create and develop democratic and cultural values we desperately aspire. I have no any illusion of simplifying this as simple as any political work. This is because those ruling elites who are determined to perpetuate their tyrannical agenda and practice through the use of ethnical/racial divide, attack and rule have done a considerable damage to the historical, social and cultural fabrics of the people. I strongly argue that there is no any convincing justification for not coming together and act in a real sense of collaboration, and change this dangerous political and socio-cultural situation we are experiencing. For this to happen, the first thing to do is rationally acknowledge the existence of the dangerous political game, call it what it is and deal with it accordingly.
Yes, it goes without saying that the existence of disagreements and conflicts within our identity and proudness of belonging to that or this nationality/ethnic group on the one hand, and our identity and proudness of being Ethiopians on the other hand is part and parcel of our fact of life as people of multi-national/ethnic country. However, it is absolutely not only wrong but a very serious political crime to use racial/ethnic political card to the extent of making it institutionalized for the sake of perpetuating political power.
2. Unfortunately enough, using the politics of racism/ethnicity in our country is getting worse and gravely dangerous. I strongly argue that if we are not honestly courageous enough to recognize the existence of this evil-driven political situation and challenge/ attack its root cause, managing the total crisis it may cause will be extremely difficult if not impossible. Well, some fellow Ethiopians may argue that despite all external and internal conspiracies and challenges, Ethiopia has survived; and the mastermind of the politics of racism/ethnicity/tribalism (TPLF) cannot break that kind of historical bondage. Yes, to be optimistic based on what happened in the past is not a bad thing as such; but it has to be with a sense of objective realities we are witnessing and with our unity of purpose. Needless to say that unless we act together with utmost urgency and determination, the sacrifices paid by our forefathers/mothers for the sake of the survival of our country cannot be a guarantee for the continuation our survival as Ethiopians let alone making progress. That is why I strongly argue that we have to deal with the serious consequences of the political madness that is characterized not only by promoting racial/ethnic/tribal prejudice, discrimination and hatred but also by making it institutionalized.
3. I do not think the politics of racism/ethnicity is attributed to the horrible situations such as The Nazi Germany and other political action of the total extermination of one race or ethnic group only as Dr. Negaso tried to explain. Well, the very application of the politics of racism/ethnicity various from place to place, from one period to another, and from one circumstance to another. Martin N. Merger (Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives – 1994) sates “Racist thinking involves principles that lead naturally and inevitably to the differential treatment of members of various ethnic groups.” He supports his argument by acknowledging the works of other social scientists (Omit and Win -ant) who use the term racial formation as, “ the process by which social, economic, and political forces determine the content and importance of social categories, and by which they are in turn shaped by racial meaning.” Needless to say that is a very crystal clear reality we are witnessing in our country. Who is controlling all the three branches of government and all other agencies and commissions? Is not TPLF the real source/dominant power in the name fake ruling front (EPRDF)? To which ethnic group those intelligence, security and police and all other secret service agents who are instrumental not only to maintain the politics of racism/ethnicity but also causing the unbearable sufferings of the innocent people of Ethiopia belong? I understand that there may be many innocent fellow Ethiopians who are being deceived by the sheer number of officials, authorities, politicians and etc. from other nationalities/ethnic groups. But, we are not talking about how many. We are talking about who is working under whose absolute authority.
Let me conclude by saying that there is/was no doubt that the mastermind of the dangerous racial/ethnic politics we found ourselves was the late prime minister, Meles Zenawi who did not exclaimed his proudness for being both Tigre and Ethiopian but Tigre only . Well, I think unless we do not want to hear and see, the facts on the ground speak much louder and clearer than words. And if those facts are not the powerful evidences for the politics of racism/ethnicity we are facing, I do not know what else it should be.