Latest Information from Ethiopian Commando


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Latest Information from Ethiopian Commando At the societal level, the mood is as fractured as it has ever been. The North-South divide continues to grow. The demand in the North and the urban centers continues to be merely for just political and economic governance in which power and resources are fairly shared [20]. To them, therefore, fighting economic despair is the primary goal, albeit through the ballot. Standing their ground in the face of price hike, inflation, growing inequality, corruption, maladministration, and the sense of neglect that attend to these, informs the consciousness as they think about and think thorough this election. There is a sense of apprehension about what will happen to them if they resist EPRDF rule. (The past was a brutal tutor in this.) To this often misunderstood oppressed classes of the Abyssinian core, especially to the Amhara, the election can be an act of resistance. Of course, they do not have much irresolution about their place in the world. They do not experience a truncated identity as Abyssinians and as Ethiopians, for the two are made to overlap for them. They do not suffer from cognitive dissonance about their place in Ethiopia or about its state (even with its imperium). But as victims of an anti-democratic, authoritarian state that has also neglected them in the squalor of poverty, lack of social services, lack of access to economic facilities and continual political disempowerment, they have every reason to want a change of the status quo. They have a reason to desire an alternative utopia. Their rallying point could be the chronic lack of socio-economic justice and much less the state transformation project. For them, election 2015, once more, offers a moment of resistance to the dominant/hegemonic EPRDF narrative of closure, i.e., arrival at the Ethiopian utopia, of ‘paradise regained.’ They might seek to engage in it with a view to disrupting the EPRDF narrative of “development, peace, and prosperity” by bringing in their own story of suffering, the economic misery beneath the surface of historic political hegemony, and beneath the surface of EPRDF’s repeated proclamation of double-digit economic growth. Nevertheless, the ideological hold on the people of their past glory that romanticizes Ethiopia’s history of violent oppression of the south as a proud history of ‘nation-building’ not only alienates them from their equivalents in the South but also creates a tenuous relationship that even degenerates into horizontal violence. The radically different interpretation of the past and the fear of the future danger as coming not from the hierarchically organized political centre but from the sides (from the peoples of the south) who, in reaction to the atrocities of the past, may seek a radically different future apart from Ethiopia, precludes a sense of solidarity. This fear is immensely distractive to the task of democratic transformation of the old Ethiopian state. It breeds mistrust among the electorate of the north and the south, and it plunges us back into the original question of the problematic state form. This constituency, by seeking a mere tinkering with the imperial state form, falls short of transformation and genuine democratization that offers a new beginning to everyone in the Ethiopian territory. However, it is also a constituency that lives under an increased state of securitization owing to its being the constituency of the Ethiopian political class that poses historic opposition to EPRDF. Almost all of the opposition political parties basking in the support of this constituency (the late AAPO, AEUP, EDP, CUD, UDJ, Semayawi, Ginbot 7, Ethiopian Patriots’ Front, etc) faced incredible difficulties under EPRDF. As a result, a mass of supporters have suffered under the oppressive measures of the regime. At least, one of the parties is proscribed as a terrorist organization. Arbitrary arrests, detentions, trials, and intimidations by police, or security forces is routinely reported from the region. The mood in this constituency is also informed by more recent developments such as the beheading of Ethiopian migrants by ISIS (and the perceived defencelessness under the circumstances); the assault, the burning alive, killing, looting, vandalizing of Ethiopian migrants in South Africa; abuse and victimization of migrants in the Middle Eastern countries notably in Yemen and Saudi Arabia; the general urban restiveness (fed by the rising youth unemployment); the sense of disempowerment and complete loss of hope are all part of the mix of irritants that make the ‘mood’ sub-optimal. In short, the felt lack of social justice, of proper political governance (never mind the official ‘good governance’ rhetoric), and the rise of unnecessary human suffering (irrespective of the inequitable ‘economic growth’) has disaffected the mass. This breeds disenchantment that might lead to ‘protest’ vote against the incumbent (while it also equally multiplies opportunist and dependent votes). The general disenchantment and anger, the fear of EPRDF’s ensconcing itself in spite of how people vote the fear of state-led mass terrorization in the event of loss or near-loss of power (informed by the memory of Election 2005) tends to signal more fear than hope, more despair than anticipation. Most of the experience of the poor in the Abyssinain core, i.e., the Amharic speaking constituency, is also shared by the poor class of the Tigrinya-speaking population, especially the rural peasants and the victims of extreme poverty in urban centres (another grossly misunderstood and often maligned constituency which is trapped in the TPLF only choice in Tigray, mostly in fear rather than trust and hope). The discordant voices one hear from the Kunama, the Erob (alias Saho), and sometimes, the Raya (in relation to their rights as minorities) in Tigray are often neglected and invisibilized by the greater resistance to TPLF hegemony both in Tigray and—through EPRDF—in the wider Ethiopia. For the Oromo, 2015 can be a year of expressing a long contained anger. The Addis Ababa Master Plan Fiasco and the government’s murder of numerous young people (among them students, women, and children) is fresh in the minds of the voters. The continued displacement of farmers by rich developers and investors—in spite of continued resistance, even by the OPDO-led regional government—is a cause of many a suffering. Abay Tsehaye’s reckless words threatening Oromia’s regional and local government officials lest they resist the implementation of the Master Plan; his more recent ‘gaffe’ about the people being OLF-backed ‘narrow nationalists’ only inflamed the matter further. The continued classification of the region’s population as extremist, “narrow nationalist’, and even terrorist—a ploy to terrorize the mass into submission—has also further alienated the population from the regime. The long-held grievances about the deficit of equality in citizenship; the lack of linguistic justice (as part of the larger dispensation of ethno-cultural justice);the continued lack of justice for Oromo political prisoners, victims of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, and detention marked most notably by the fact that a disproportionately large mass of Oromos that populate the prisons, detention centers, and centers of torture; the disappearances, the dispossessions, and the retreat of many into exile; the follow up, the hounding, and the arrest, and return of Oromo refugees even from beyond the Ethiopian borders such as Kenya, Djibouti, Yemen, etc, (Tesfahun Chemeda’s case is only an example);the continued occupation of about 30-40 % of the land by the Federal Government, or the party-affiliated companies, 24 years after what used to be state farms were supported to the peoples and government of Oromia; the chronic lack of autonomy in the governance of the region and the rising lamentation of this lack of state autonomy even by the OPDO officials; the perceived nominal presence of the Oromo in the federal institutions of shared rule; the unmet demand for articulation of the special interest of Oromia over Addis Ababa; the sense of agitation over the future of Addis Ababa and the integrity of Oromia as one constituent unit of the federation; are some of the issues that are in the back of the mind of Oromo voters as we head into this election. The SNPPRS, the federation within a federation, has always been the embodiment of all of Ethiopia’s problems. I sometimes say that Ethiopia deceived itself into believing that it has resolved the ‘national question’ by devolving it, and consigning it down to Hawassa. Although the people of the South—as the quintessential ‘other’ peoples of Ethiopia—had a shared experience of oppression under the Abyssinian empire, the impact of that oppression was experienced differently and the reaction to that oppression also took different modes. As a result, the reactive nationalism born in the communities of these peoples are fairly divergent both in their content and form. Proper account has not been taken of these differences in lived experience and divergence among the ‘competing nationalisms’ in the SNNPRS. This arbitrary assemblage of over 62 groups in one Regional State has made the elites from this region repeatedly express their resentment saying: “South is a direction, not a people!”


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