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GeoAlaska: Theatre & Film
Jan. 14, 2000Dear Atnafu,
as you know by reading what I write, I do not believe in governments and there is no "democratic government" can possibly exist, only a democratic society, which forces its government to behave democratically. If you leave the US government unchecked, it's too destined to become tyrannical. My friend, any government wants this "MONOPOLIZED POLITICAL POWER and wants to perpetuate its dictatorship for many years to come." That is what "state" does, it's in state's nature. But the government officials are made out of citizens. When people who are not in power are bad citizens, it bad, but then they are in position of power it is very bad. And that is what we have.
I quoted "evolutionary" and "revolutionary" approach to changes, because one excludes the other. It's a choice, your and my judgment call. If you do not believe that evolution of the government is possible, there is nothing left, but the armed struggle. Do I believe that the present government can be overthrown by force? No, I do not. I didn't see it in Ethiopia, I do not see it abroad.
Will the government fall apart by itself? May 1998 proved that it won't.
Will this government evolve by itself into a "democratic" body? No.
Ethiopia's problems are not the strong government, but the weak society. The society itself is not united; you can even see it on this very Forum. In order for Ethiopian society to change its government, this society has to be the POWER.
Anybody who makes the choice not to fight the government with arms, by default chooses the evolutionary way. Not only I do not believe that there is a force to do the revolutionary job, I personally will not call for another revolution in Ethiopia. The Great Ethiopian Civil War entered its last stage and I wrote already about "depolitization" of the Ethiopian society, which I do see in positive light as a liberation from any ideological mindset.
I believe that out of this non-political mind not new revolutions will be born, but the MAKERS of the new Ethiopia. The half of the population of the country is the children under 14 years of age. In ten, fifteen, twenty years they will be running Ethiopia and if raised right, they will do it well. They are the power and should be treated as such. They are the ones to bring the change and be invested in. (Good textbooks for them (especially history books) I would consider a practical task).
If you follow my recommendations on how to deal with the US government, you probably understood that I believe that, if you are in opposition (not underground), the only way to change the government's behavior is to MAKE them change it. And there are many ways to do it.
I am not a priest to change Meles' mind and, frankly, I do not care for his personal convictions. He could read Mao in his spare time, but when he is on job, he should act for the benefit of Ethiopia, as any man in a position of a prime-minister should do. He could be Tigrean nationalist and Marxist at home, but at work he must act as Ethiopian (even if he is not or doesn't want to be). When I get on a plane, I do not know about the politics of pilots and this subject is irrelevant -- their business is to bring me and others safely from one place to another, because we PAY (and professionals should know how to do it). Without the people who PAY for EVERYTHING there will be no jobs for them and no government.
Do they know what they are doing? This war is the best answer -- NO. Why do you think they try to suppress others (any government is an apparatus of suppression)? Because they are weak. They do not know what to say and how to answer. In fact, there is no strategy or vision in this government. This government represents the state of mind of the Ethiopian society, which has no PLAN for the country.
This government is RE-active, too. Things "happen" to them, they react to history, instead of MAKING history. This most recent story with the statements of the congressman Gilman is a good example. What did they in Addis expect? Look, Americans do not know Ethiopians, but the people in the Menelik palace do not know Americans, too. They are the government, they have to...
What to do? MAKE them understand.
Listen, I was sentenced by the Soviet government after my defection, Esther was rescued at the height of the Red Terror -- I cannot compare this government with the Dergue, regardless of my disagreements with them. And this is why I did support both Eritrean and Tigrean military fight against the Dergue. In my view, only the revolutionary tactics were practical. Not today.
We spent six months in Addis Ababa, we went to see it for ourselves, we met a lot of people and my conclusions are based on this experience and understanding of history. I do not live in Ethiopia, the millions do live there every day and they are, not the government, is my address.
Let me explain my position. Do I support the Action League's cause of the human rights defense? Yes. Do I believe the protests are effective? No. Do I believe that they are true Ethiopians? Yes. Because everyone who DOES something for Ethiopia, regardless of my agreement or disagreement with him or his tactics, IS Ethiopian. The Ethiopians who do nothing are NOT Ethiopians.
When Wondimu posted his letter, I signed it. When I read the Letter to Sudan's government, I knew that I can't sign it, because it's not about refugees but the Meles' government. All 300 thousands in Sudan are not political refugees, most of them are women and children and they are in Sudan, because the International aid programs were in place to support them.
What is ahead for them in Ethiopia? Not the persecution by the government, but being on streets without any support. Is there a resettlement program in place to accommodate them? Is there even a plan to have it? They were there five years ago, it's not news -- why didn't the government work on bringing them back?
It's all reactive, all after the fact.
Could the Ethiopians, not the government, put in place the system to help the refugees? I believe -- yes, and you will find a lot of big non-governmental organizations ready to work with you.
Should people, who want to return to Ethiopia, have a chance to do it? Yes. Should people, who want to immigrate to other countries, have a chance to do it? Yes. Should Ethiopians stay in the camps in Sudan forever? No. Should the Dergue's criminals be brought to justice from Sudan? Yes. If the Ethiopian government would put in place the program for returnees, they will screen them, and if the Western agencies will have the program for those who wants to immigrate, they screen all too -- do you know who will be left? The Dergue's criminals who should be brought to justice.
Let me tell to those who do not know how it works from my own personal experience. I asked for an asylum at the US Embassy in Rome. The panel which reviewed my case had not only Italians and Americans, but representatives from EU, Human Rights Organizations, etc. The same could and should be done with the repatriation of Ethiopians from Sudan to ensure that nobody is forced against his will. This system already exists and all what is needed is to put it in place for the Ethiopians in Sudan. What will it take? WORK.
When I wrote "What Is To Be Done?" I pointed that the weakest wing of the Ethiopian society is not even the legislative, but the judicial system. There are not independent courts in Ethiopia, they are the government's courts (which is un-democratic and un-constitutional, you can see it simply by reading the existing constitution). There is no plan for judicial reforms and not even a campaign for changing it.
I lived through it, when we went back to Russia and at the request of the government I brought a superior judge Klienfeld with me (his son was my student). The first thing he did -- he brought with him a few hundred copies of the US Constitution and gave them to the people in my seminar for the government officials in St. Petersburg. Then he asked for the new Constitution of the Federal Republic of Russia... Never mind, that they have to look for the text, most of them never read it.
Democracy without a system of justice is just a word. Who will put it in place? I rather if it will be done by the society, not government -- than this justice system has a chance to be independent of government. There is a Constitutional Committee in the Parliament (I put on the page @ Constitional Committee with the names), why not to write to them and MAKE them work.
You do not believe that they will... than only two conclusions. One is to overthrow the government by force. Another is to join the camp of whose who believe that "Nothing Could Be Done" -- I do not write for them, but it's all a matter of personal choices as always.
Dialectics, Ethiopian Politics and the Government(notes & facts)
I am not sure how to aply dialectics here, but the "cause-n-effect" principle can help.
I think that I wrote already that in normal (democratic) conditions, both governments would fall in May 1998. They didn't.
I also wrote that in my observation Meles' government benefited from the situation, which is understandable since the country does need any unity at times of war. For the same reason Eritreans would continue to support Issayas.
It's not the war those leaders should fear but peace. And here in peace situation they differ.
Ethiopia is a market in itself, Eritrea is not.
Ethiopia has this economic "critical mass" as each big country (poor or not).
Now, unlike Haile Sellassie, the present government will fight to stay in power.
Very much as Mengistu did; his regime collapsed, because it lived for too long on life-support from the Soviet Union. But today even if the Americans will stop their financial aid to Ethiopia, it can't effect the army much, the power-base of non-democratic governments.
Analysis is not about my or your preferences, but numbers. 1998 was the crisis -- and Issayas' biggest gift to Meles, who became a defender of Ethiopia by default. This is why now I do not expect big changes in Ethiopian government after the elections, but I think that the changes do takes place in the parlainment and local administrations in the country. This is why I used the term "evolution" -- a gradual change.
I didn't fogget the numbers and I hope Ethiopians still remember how many people died within the few years of the Dergue's rule and I do not think that the present government or even any other government in the past can match it.
The most recent evidence: If the Meles' government indeed was on the brink of collapse, they would play alone with the American wishes. The recent replacement of the US Embassador was an indication that the Americans have to readjust themselves.
My comments regadring congressman Gilman were to demostrate that US didn't know what to do with Ethiopia since the Nixon's confusion and still have no idea about it.
No, I haven't seen the signs of the near collapse of the government in 1995 and I do not see it now. This is why instead of waiting for changes, I advocate MAKING changes. And I do not have to take sides, I rather concentrate on defining my own position and therefore I have to understand what I see.
When I write about future conflict between the executive and legislative powers in Addis Ababa, it's not my hopes or prophecies, but observations.
The acceptance of an evolutionary model means that opposition cannot be always against everything government does. In fact, this non-revolutionary opposition is what British call "shadow cabinet" -- the second government. This is why I recommend that this second government must be developed. Regadless of my problems with the present government, I can not be against it when it serves, defending Ethiopia. My criticism was that it does do it badly.
I wrote about the evolutionary mode, because I see that too many are still in this un-productive revolutionary over-drive. My observations and, yes, my hope that majority of Ethiopians are tired or revolutions. That is what I saw and what I see.
Endnote. There is such "lost generation" in every national culture. The entire Ethiopian generation is lost in the civil war and the new generation should have a different midset, different sense of the future.
... And speaking of dialectics, the sythesis means overcoming the contradictions of the opposites. Not one or another -- but the third, new stage. I believe that Ethiopians are ready for dialectics.
Friends, I do not know in how many words I can put this simple fact that ANY government is a "neccessary evil" and this is why every democratic society tries to keep it small and under control. Ethiopia lacks this powerful society to do the job. This is where we can look for answers -- the ideas, which Ethiopian minds have.
Dear Nebiy Ezekiel, I am about to direct another show (Twelfth Night) and as always I know that a few dozen individuals can't possibly be agree with me. And I am not looking for it. More so, I don't want them to be agree with me, because than there will be no their imput. Unity is not in being all agree on something, but working together despite of disagreements.
Finally, there are things this government doesn't do and this is a blessing. They will do it badly, non-governmental organizations will do it better, organizations you can form and run. Will this mean that you support this government? No, you will support Ethiopia. Doing nothing is definitely a big support of the existing government and status quo.