Los Angeles Times
Wall Street Journal
Beyond Politics and Innuendo: Preserving Our Humanity and Salvaging Ethiopia from Moral Decadence
Ghelawdewos Araia & Teodros Kiros
August 6, 2012
By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to you, my brothers, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose. I Corinthians: 1:10
The two of us have written several books and hundreds of articles and essays, and we have addressed important and timely issues pertaining to contemporary Ethiopia. We have addressed topics with themes that include justice, ethics and morality, famine, national reconciliation, freedom, democracy, tolerance, ethnic politics, unity and sovereignty, and political economy and development etc.
In this brief viewpoint, we address the frightening scenario of the breakdown of Ethiopian values and traditions and the escalation of innuendo, disinformation, and unfounded allegations that we found to be contrary to the Ethiopian ethos and more so a betrayal of trust of Ethiopian integrity.
The degeneration of cultural values among Ethiopians, especially amongst the Diaspora is alarming, to say the least. It is alarming, because it is for the first time that we have witnessed religious leaders-turn-politicians use the pulpit to foment discord among Ethiopians instead of preaching the Gospel to reunite the already fragmented Ethiopian communities in the Diaspora. We are astounded that these religious leaders would not take initiative to reconcile Ethiopians who have found their own ethnic enclaves and churches and denominations of the same faith. Instead of helping Ethiopians iron out their differences, the religious leaders promote hate politics and division among Ethiopians.
We also say alarming because the so-called media outlets (websites, blogs, radios, TVs etc) post baseless, false, and unfounded “news” with respect to the condition of Ato Meles Zenawi. Some even said that he is dead; others (in the Washington DC metro area) have been celebrating the ill health of the Prime Minister, reflected in poems, one of which reads, “Lets dig the ground, pitch the tent, lament for and eulogize the Man”. What have we become as a society? Is this really what the Ethiopian culture is all about? The Ethiopian moral grounding and ethical values that we grew up with instructs and reminds us that we as humans must extend sympathy to the sick and/or the deceased. But celebrating somebody’s death? What have we become? Yet, other groups have already laid out the groundwork for a transitional government, and very much like the proverbial ‘Ethiopian hyena that grabs the horn’, they have already made up their minds to expropriate the property of some officials! Is this a gold rush for power or an honest reactive politics devoid of robust political program? Whatever the mission of these groupings, we want to make a passing remark by way of advice: history is replete with revolutions, reforms, changes, and transformations catapulted by the internal dynamics of a given society. It is the internal factors that ultimately determine the outcome of any political agenda in relation to Ethiopia; external factors can only cushion what takes place on the ground in Ethiopia, and ultimately, whether we like it or not, the fate of Ethiopia will be decided by Ethiopians at home.
When we write, we write our minds. We are neither propagandists nor opportunists, and as a result we scribble opinions vis-à-vis egregious mistakes and falsehoods; we also write vis-à-vis constructive achievements and heroic deeds. In light of this stance of ours thus, we have criticized the Government of Meles Zenawi when it has faltered and gone wrong in policy matters in general and in its unwillingness to accommodate the opposition and pave the way for democracy in Ethiopia, but we have also acknowledged its accomplishments. This is what scholars should do.
We believe the current innuendo amongst the gossip-infested Diaspora would have not taken place had the Ethiopian officials clearly reached out the Ethiopian communities at home and the Diaspora and simply announce the condition of the PM in no uncertain terms instead of presenting themselves in vague and mixed signals. There is nothing wrong in being sick and even in passing away and we all know that death is a common occurrence.
The insanity that has enveloped the so-called Diaspora “opposition” is unfathomable to us, but we believe (based on some empirical studies and plausible educated guess) hate mongering and disinformation trigger it. However, we also believe that there are some Diaspora group that are well-meaning at least in their overall thinking and the political agenda they wish to promote, but they too are bedeviled by incessant cleavages and schisms that, in turn, effectively paralyzed their activities.
Therefore, we believe that the best bet for Ethiopia, the country of our birth that we love all, is to foster a national reconciliation agenda that we have addressed time and again in the past. Well-meaning patriotic Ethiopians should come together to salvage the Ethiopian society from moral decadence, and in this initiative the seating government should be involved as well. If this happens, Ethiopians will mutually benefit, the country will prosper, and the welfare of the Ethiopian people will be guaranteed.
Some disgruntled Ethiopians, responding to our earlier writings and proposals, have stated, “No, we will not reconcile with the government of Meles Zenawi; we must topple it and form a new government instead.” And we retorted by saying, “You are entitled to your opinion but you are wrong, because you neither have a sound political agenda nor the support of the Ethiopian people, and most importantly you are not united; moreover, you cannot topple a government by remote control from Ethiopian restaurants and/or Starbuck Coffee corners.”
We suggest to all Ethiopians that they should seriously consider the agenda of salvaging Ethiopian society from further cultural degeneration, and in order to achieve this important historical task, they must be able to initiate dialogue for the sake of the Ethiopian nation. Diaspora Ethiopians have to come to their senses! One does not initiate dialogue with his/her friend, but does negotiate with its real or perceived foe, and that is the essence of national reconciliation.
Beyond politics and innuendo, thus, we must be able to preserve our humanity and salvage Ethiopia from its current predicament; we must be able to wish well to all Ethiopians, including to Meles Zenawi, regardless of ideology, creed, gender, religious affiliation, and ethnic background. Above all, we must wish well to Ethiopia, the mother of all of us, in which our umbilical chords are buried and to which we wish to return.
If we are sincere in our deliberations and we truly love the Ethiopian people, and we want to contribute to the development of Ethiopia we must practically engage ourselves in implementing I Corinthians 1:10, and we use this opportunity to challenge our religious leaders to preach the ‘call for unity’ conveyed in Corinthians.
In one tense moment, some courageous and patriotic Ethiopians committed altruistic ventures on the condition that the heart felt move leads to a disciplined struggle by the people themselves to invite the regime to either get out of the way or lead fundamental reforms guaranteeing the ordinary Ethiopians the right to food, shelter, clothing and health and to this day neither the regime in power nor the people on the ground have acted. We understand the reason. Our people are tired of senseless wars, meaningless dialogues, vacuous calls for armed struggle, and endless ethnic dirt.
Instead Ethiopian life has become a plaything for oppositionists and insiders. The Ehtiopian poors are forgotten. Their miserable lives remain unattended. The arrogance of the powerful, the comfortable bureaucrats, the ethnic lords of the Ethiopian countryside, and the resentful self-acknowledged opposition in the Ethiopian Diaspora tread their existential rights. They now say no to dirty politics and yes to dialogue, discourse and critical constituional discussions and public assessments of failed national policies.
The wretched of Ethiopia demand that those of us, who are comfortably living outside of Ethiopia concretely and sincerely contribute to changing the presently moribund ethnic consciousness by a genuine Ethiopianity unmarred by Ethnic hatred, opportunism, name calling; instead, we appeal to the regime in power to start a reconciliation on the behalf of the silent Ethiopian poor and initiate intelligent discourse free of domination.
We are ready and willing to serve as the consciousnesses of our historic Ethiopia and save the nation from the suicidal path on which the nation is embarking (e.g. the recent skirmish between Somali Ethiopians and Oromo Ethiopians in southern Ethiopia), although we also acknowledge some remarkable achievements made by Ethiopia especially in infrastructure, the expansion of higher education, and economic growth.
Reasoned dialogue, guided by a more loadstar, and propelled by the public reason of the Ethiopian people must lead the way. The precondition for our proposal, however, is the unity of the Ethiopian people and as per the wisdom of Corinthians and our forefathers, we urge our fellow Ethiopians to be “completely united with only one thought and one purpose.”
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