‘If the Ethiopian government does not protest the invasive bill, Ethiopia will be a colony for the first time in history.’
Between 1977 and 1978, tens of thousands of Ethiopians died in a nightmare labeled the “Red Terror.” In this bloody period, where Ethiopia’s former leader Mengistu Haile Mariam dictated a military state, some analysts say that up to 150,000 Ethiopians might have been gunned down in the streets of Ethiopia.
However, that period was ironically the most peaceful and successful period under Mengistu, because in the mid 1980s around 600,000 Ethiopians died in that world famous famine under Mengistu. Out of those dead, about 317,000 of them were said to be the victims of the dictator Mengistu’s revenge on the peasant population. The dark episode was not just risking starvation, because such risks have been normal in Ethiopia. Even during Emperor Haile Selassie, 200,000 Ethiopians died in the 1972 Wallo famine while millions were lucky to be in risk of starvation. The episode was not just negligence either. Instead, it was labeled an “economic war” where Mengistu purposely starved 317, 000 Ethiopians to death (while the remaining died due to natural causes.)
So much death, so much misery, it was a catastrophe filled with hate and brutality. After Mengistu’s government was overthrown by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front in 1991, many people standing and looking at the ruins wondered, how a person could be so cruel and cause so much destruction. The families of the victims were quick to conclude that Mengistu and his ministers were sheer devils and demons. But, that certainly was not the case, for Mengistu was not born evil. He grew up as any ordinary person.
Close relatives of the dictator say that his childhood was normal and nothing could forecast the destruction he would end up causing. But as he grew older, Mengistu adopted the same Ethiopian centralist and extremely patriotic policies that have never been compatible with democracy and tolerance during the last century in Ethiopia. The State of Ethiopia, as any ethnic Oromo refugee Minnesotan will tell, is a diverse country created by various conquests and black colonization of other black people of different ethnicities. Thus, naturally, to have a centralist policy in Ethiopia is suicidal.
Large ethnicities like Oromos are too big not to become their own countries, let alone be divided into four exploitable small provinces under Mengistu’s centralist policy. Only deep federalism and even better, ethnic federalism has been the antidote to keep all ethnicities united while keeping the formerly colonized ethnicities under one umbrella nation of Ethiopia.
Despite the centralist policy being disastrous, it has been famous and accepted by the people of Addis Ababa. Despite the death of 150,000 Ethiopians during Mengistu’s “Red Terror” and the death of 300,000 more people in his economic war, the pro-centralist population cried and complained when their hero Mengistu was deposed. No matter, the 85 percent rural Ethiopia overpowered the people of Addis Ababa in 1991 and destroyed Mengistu, along with his devastating centralist policy.
So in the last 35 years, two Ethiopian groups intensely have advocated this suicidal centralist policy. One was Mengistu’s government and the other is the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), a current opposition party in Ethiopia.
The CUD is ironically led by one of Mengistu’s favorite ministers, Hailu Shawel. Despite being an old man, Shawel found emotional strength from the same place that loved Mengistu, Addis Ababa. Shawel also found financial strength from the same people who used to work or support Mengistu and other Ethiopians who share his centralist policies in the Mengistu Diaspora. Just like the people of Addis Ababa, the Mengistu Diaspora living in Washington, D.C., and consisting mainly of people who fled Ethiopia during the civil war, cried and complained when their hero Mengistu fell. Thus, it was not a surprise that they quickly embraced Mengistu’s minister Hailu Shawel and his CUD opposition party when Mengistu resurrected in 2005 under the CUD disguise.
Just like Mengistu, the CUD leaders were not born evil but they possess those same famous policies that brought Ethiopia to the brink of self-destruction during Mengistu. Yet unlike Mengistu, the new EPRDF ruling party in Ethiopia brought the first multiparty elections in Ethiopian history, the first free press and the first multiparty parliament in Ethiopian history.
All of these new developments meant that the Mengistu disciples, CUD, did not need to use violence to express their grievances. (Unless, of course, they still prefer the old fashion way of violence to snatch power.) Indeed, dozens of other opposition parties joined the multi party parliament recently formed, with a sad exception of Shawel and his party who decided not to join the parliament. The excuse they gave was, “joining the parliament makes the ruling party appear democratic.”
So, indeed, the best way to make the ruling party appear very undemocratic was to start riots and use the Mengistu Diaspora resources for subsequent propaganda when the ruling party harshly responds to the riots. As expected by analysts, the CUD certainly used every Diaspora tool including initiating a U.S. House Bill HR 2003 to – as Ethiopian U.S Ambassador nicely put it – “employ the U.S. Congress in support of a partisan Ethiopian political agenda.”
Now, if the Ethiopian government does not protest the invasive bill, Ethiopia will be a colony for the first time in history. Historically even the powerful Ottoman Empire, Egyptians, Mahdists, Italians and others failed to colonize old Abyssinia and modern Ethiopia. The Mengistu Diaspora and engineers of the riots have finalized their revenge bill with the leadership of Donald Payne, the famous New Jersey congressman leading his Newark District towards one with the highest crime rates in America.
The United Nation monitoring group’s report this year revealed that many Gulf and other organizations and nations including Eritrea have been arming and supporting the insurgency in Mogadishu and in other places to harm Ethiopia.
Ethiopia desperately needs the support of the United States, since many nations are arming anti-Ethiopian rebels everywhere in East Africa. By considering, let alone support, such a bill by the Mengistu Diaspora and its CUD party amounts to crimes against the state of Ethiopia. The bill attempting to reduce security assistance is one disastrous thing and the bill playing partisan politics is another thing. Security is very important for Ethiopia. And the fact that the Meles Zenawi government has tolerated such a confrontational group like CUD, all equipped with Mengistu’s policy and with an openly anti-state attitude, has itself become a miracle.