It was a show the invited African tyrants put at Mandela’s memorial in South Africa. Watching them tripping over each other to pay homage to a man, who, if truth be told, would have banished or put to death, given the opportunity, was incredible. As if that was not enough, ESAT gave the stage to Mengistu to “honor” Mandela.
At the time, curious minds have asked the questions: What if Mandela was not a South African? In fact, what if he was an Ethiopian? Would he have walked to freedom and mourned and eulogized upon his timely death, or would he have been tortured, killed, at a much younger age, and his corpse thrown into the streets for all to see, or buried somewhere in an anonymous grave?
Attempts to resuscitate the tyrant and his minions from their political deaths are neither new nor isolated phenomena. They speak to a culture that denigrates and devalues the lives of everyday Ethiopians, and contemptuous of their struggles to be free. Who forgets the self declared “democrats” defending the colonel’s right to sell his book and profit from his crimes under the guise of free speech? Who also forgets the professor who unabashedly condemned Ethiopians, under the same guise, for demanding the host institution rescind its invitation, to the now dead, head of the TPLF, Meles Zenawi?
Even at face value the democratic ideals that the domesticated Ethiopian elite claim to uphold are fake. Democratic ideals are not neutral ideas. They do not confuse killers with their victims. They do not blur the distinctions. They take sides.
What is also at issue is a question of identity- a glaring cultural rupture between this elite and Ethiopia. The two don’t speak the same language. They don’t share the same space. Their goals are diametrically opposite.
For the domesticated Ethiopian elite, 1991 was no tragedy, but a business opportunity. So, it was ready to exploit the anti-Ethiopian campaign. It hailed the London conference as the birth pang, and the coup, as a transition to democracy. . It cheered the separation of Eritrea and the ethnicisation of the rest of Ethiopia. It went along with the massacres at Gondar, Arbagugu, Water, and the Anwar Mosque; kept silent when Professor Asrat was thrown to jail, when Assefa Maru was gunned down in broad day light and when Aberash Berta was kidnapped and disappeared.
If it invoked Mandela and Gandhi, it was not because it believed in their revolutionary ideas, but because, it knows they are safe bets to hide behind, and attack the home grown heroes-the likes of Colonel Asnake, Tesfaye Debessai, Tsegaye ( Debteraw), Dillai, Gaim… If it glorified faraway revolutions from faraway countries, it is because it wanted to erase the traditions of Yekatit and the revolutionaries who made it happen, from our consciousness. And if it finds itself in the opposition, it was not because of principle, but because it was kicked out.
Particularly, the non-Tigrean domesticated elite has found out that no matter how much it tried hard to be on the good side of the TPLF, it is expendable. It thought it was immune to TPLF’s racism, and forgot that it was an excess baggage. Even in its attempt to use the fallout between the TPLF and the EPLF, to its own advantage, it found itself becoming the collateral damage.
The domesticated elite is a captive elite. It is everyone’s proxy (the TPLF, the EPLF and/or their backers), but, the Ethiopian people. It serves as their Trojan horse. It is alien to national consciousness and national pride.
The domesticated elite sees politics as business, and behaves and acts on this imperative. So, it has no Home to fight for. Hama Tuma describes this species as root-less. Ama Ata Aidou calls it, Afro-Saxon. On their part, the everyday Nigerians have a name for it. They call it “Johnny come home”. Mandela highlighted this, upon his release from Robin Island, when he ignored the plea from the apartheid puppet Chief Gasha Buthelezi, to meet him in person. The national struggle is antithetical to this elite, because it is anchored on Ethiopia’s proud anti-colonial history. It is home grown, organic, independent, and accountable to no one, but, Ethiopians. It is a struggle that honors Ethiopia’s patriotic children of the past and the present. Its goal goes beyond dislodging the TPLF from power. Its goal is to reclaim Ethiopia for Ethiopians.
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