November 11, 2013
by T. Goshu
Let me first make myself clear that this topic of my comment which I believe is straight -forward and fairly critical is aimed at the recent political argument on the question of how to advance the struggle against an ethnic –based tyranny in our country. I wanted to be straight-forward because I strongly believe that whenever it is appropriate and necessary, there is a need to address our concerns directly to which it belongs to. I also wanted to be fairly critical because I sincerely believe that forwarding our concerns and views in a critical and rational manner, not in an emotional and passive way of thinking is so desirable if there has to be a productive conversation that could move the struggle forward. Though it is not as easy as we aspire and talk, there is a need to have bold and straight-forward conversation, not going round about and make much generalized views and comments.
On the other hand, it must equally be underlined that our conversations should focus on ideas or issues we want to deal with, not on personal characterization and attack, especially among opposition forces who claim engaging in the struggle for genuine democracy and the prevalence of justice. I understand that given our political history of non-tolerance and undemocratic practices, this line of thinking (focusing on issues, not merely on personalities) has been and still is a huge challenge. But there is no any other way other than courageously facing all the challenges ahead of us by engaging in a dynamic way of argument that can help move our struggle in the right direction and with fairly acceptable speed.
This said; let me proceed to the view point that specifically refers to the recent conversation between Ginbot 7 and the Ethiopian People’s Congress for United Struggle (Shengo). There may be some fellow Ethiopians who may think that discussing on this conversation or argument any further is not necessary because of their “fear” that it may affect the situation negatively. My view is quite different in sense that the political argument between the two sides is powerfully relevant to the ongoing struggle against a dangerously irresponsible ruling circle in our country. Yes, the very ill-nurtured and ill-guided political agenda by the TPLF/EPRDF elites cannot be explained only in terms of dictatorial repression as we know. There is no doubt that the political madness of the ruling inner circle has put the very survival of the country at a very serious risk. I seriously believe that the attitude of staying away from the issues that could affect the ongoing struggle (be it peaceful disobedience or otherwise) is not a desirable political culture we need to advance. Needless to say, it is this kind of sentiment that has contributed to our terrible failure for the last quarter of a century and prolonged the unbearable misery of the people. Yes, it is this kind of very clumsy, if not self-defeating political “shyness” that has contributed to the continuation of the general crisis (political, socio-economic, moral and cultural) we continue to experience.
To show how a real sense of argument is an essential part of our lives, Gerry Spence, the author of a book, How TO ARGUE AND WIN EVERY TIME (1995) argues that we need to argue whenever and wherever “we see injustice, repression, inhumane treatment, the degradation of moral, national interest at risk.…” He further states, “Without argument a nation becomes a waste of land where nothing grows, nothing blossoms, nothing is created, nothing lives.” It is from this very powerful truth that the argument between Ginbot 7 and the Shengo is truly appreciated and commendable. The question is how far we have gone in making our political arguments critical, genuine, productive and forward-looking. Let me continue.
I found the interview conducted by Sisay Agena of ESAT (10/29/130) with Ato Aklilu of the Shengo truly interesting. Yes, it was interesting in a sense that the Shengo, leaving aside its power of argument, deserves sincere appreciation for its willingness and effort to clarify its line of argument to the public. What made the interview more interesting to me was the way journalist Sisay Agena of ESAT handled it. I was so impressed with the legitimate and professional intervention made by Sisay Agena. He intervened smartly and appropriately when he strongly felt that there was a point to be clear and sound. That is the way it should be! Great Job Sisay!
I also attentively listened to the conversation between Ato Aklilu of the Shengo and Ato Efrem Madibo of Ginbot-7 hosted by Abebe Belew of Addis Dimts Radio, on 11/02/13. Abebe Belew deserves sincere appreciation for extending his invitation to his guests and let them make their points of argument; and also let listeners ask questions and make their comments. Remarkable job Abebe!
When it comes to Ginbot 7, I do not have much to say because I believe that its leaders ( specifically Ato Andargachew Tsegie ,Dr.Birhanu Nega and Ato Efrem Madibo) have tried to make their points of view about the struggle; and why they reached a decision to get themselves organized and prepared in Eritrea as reasonable as possible. Well, expressing our concerns with this not only merely tactical choice but also with kind of strategic implication is the right thing to do. In other words, it is quite legitimate and desirable to not only remind but also to keep Ginbot 7 cautious in the process of advancing its political struggle. This is because although the struggle is first to get rid of a chronically ill political system of TPLF/EPRDF and subsequently create a democratic society in Ethiopia, there is a compelling reason to take the struggle towards the creation of common understanding and mutual respect between the people of the two countries (Ethiopia and Eritrea) in particular and in the sub-region in general is truly desirable. With all its weaknesses and difficulties as well as the very poor support from the community in the diaspora, I sincerely believe that Ginbot-7 as an opposition political movement has a relatively rational and understandable argument over the Shengo.
How about the Shengo? Well, I sincerely believe that the first thing that deserves due recognition and appreciation is the effort it has made to bring opposition political parties, civic groupings as well as individuals together so that they can play their part in a more concreted manner. The other one is its effort to get the voices of the Ethiopian people heard throughout the world in general and in the Ethiopian community abroad in particular. And of course, expressing its serious concern with the trustworthiness of the Eritrean government is something to be taken into consideration and should be dealt with appropriately. If we take the statement of October 2, 2013 by the Shengo which rejects any co-operation from the Eritrean government and the subsequent interview given to various media as well as the argument with members of Ginbot-7 leaders as helpful parts of the “dynamic” political process, we can say that the points of concern that the Shengo has tried to raise are legitimate.
The problem is when it comes to the question of whether our political thinking and performance is in line with the political dynamism of the country, of the continent and of the world at large. In other words, there is a need to adjust both our political thinking and actions to the very dynamic political circumstances of the time. Unfortunately, my impression about the way the Shengo performed in the above mentioned specific case (Ginbot-7 and the Eritrean government) has suffered from non-dynamic political way of thinking. I really do not know why a “Congress /Shengo” that comprises some members who claim to be members of the generation of the 1970s such as EPRP and Meison could not make its view point rationally and substantially relevant to the dynamically changing political arena. Let me jot down some of my specific points as follows:
Let me conclude by reiterating that the whole purpose of my comment is not either to praise Ginbot -7; and simply undermine the efforts of the shengo. It is to express my impression that the Shengo has suffered from a static way of thinking as far as the argument I tried to discuss is concerned. I hope we all will strive hard to engage in sensible and critical conversations and play complementary roles towards each other, not in an endless and mutually destructive tug of war.