We are witnessing a wave of change in Africa and the Middle-East for the better. As many have said this is an epic change that started unfolding with the series of changes in the East - the fall of the Soviet Union, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the emergence of the colour revolutions. The change in Egypt was rightly guessed by some as to what it was leading to while others thought it was only a storm in a tea cup. Today, it is conventional to think that this change would not be limited to the Arab world but would knock on the doors of many if not all dictators all over the world.
However, the latest turmoil in Libya has brought a new division between the West and the East in outlook over armed intervention. This is increasingly signifying the new division has its bases more in a world struggle for economic power rather than on issues of freedom and democracy.
However, for politicians in the West there is more to say. Politicians such as Foreign Secretary William Hague believe that “this year will be seen in centuries to come as a key one in the development of human history”. However, Mr. Hague “warned that if the situation in the Middle East and Africa went wrong, the effect on the world economy would make the recent financial crisis seem like a "mere prelude" to greater problems.
We very much agree with Hague on the epic nature of the changes that have started in the North of Africa, swiping the Middle East, soon heading to sub-Saharan Africa and according to the views of John McCain blowing to the East as far as Russia and China. However, we believe the change will not stop knocking at doors of dictators of nations all over the world but will also be knocking at the doors of the ‘democracies’ of the world where the same people who are watching changes unfold in the south and East on their television screens would be asking the very nature of their own systems - the unfairness in society especially with regard to the distribution of wealth.
We hope the awakened people in the South and East will not only rid of their dictators and oppressive regimes but with the same energy and awareness fight the roots of under development.
In other words, Mr. Hague, this change following the Arab-African awakening is heading for a global transformation where an unprecedented new world order has started to take root with a forceful participation of the ordinary folk. Thus, we should have less fear of extremism and terrorism spreading in the present situation as Mr. Hague warns, as long as people are left to own their direction of change and any support or intervention is genuine. The basis for significant and sustained extremity remains to be the very lack of freedom in society and undue foreign interference. With freedom people have real choices and they should be trusted to know what is best for them.
With this positive note we would like to look into the future of our beloved nation, Ethiopia, hopefully the next in line to receive the torch of change from North Africa. Our country has been much supported by Britain for the last two decades in developmental and humanitarian aid as well as diplomatic and military aid (including training for the police force). But, unfortunately Britain has been turning a blind eye to atrocious killings and human right abuses taking place in Ethiopia. Despite this, the Ethiopian people expect to receive genuine support from the West in deciding over their destiny and hope Britain will not disappoint them.
Ethiopia hopes to gain the support of the West when the people rise to take control of their destiny. Tatek Movement for Freedom, Democracy and Unity for Ethiopia (Tatek) is a clandestine movement which uses all means, except terroristic means, to undermine the government and force it to concede to the people’s will. It is at present preparing with other compatriots to engage the current undemocratic government peacefully. We have been in the struggle to bring about a democratic government in Ethiopia for over a decade and have never been closer in real terms to bringing about what we all struggled for than now - thanks to all Ethiopian martyrs and those who continue to struggle for democracy despite the increasing repression and harassment from the government and also thanks to those martyrs in North Africa and the Middle East for being the new beacons of change re-motivating our people and maybe also for making it half difficult for us.
A Call on the Armed Forces
We are optimistic of Ethiopia’s future. We would like the inevitable change to take place peacefully and constructively with the minimum loss of life, division in society and violence. As a movement embedded in the people, we see the realistic measures or limits of achievable change and thus are willing to discuss on the nature of the new direction of change to achieve genuine freedom.
Learning from the changes in Egypt and understanding the history and very composition of the Ethiopian armed forces, we recognise the key role the armed forces can play in bringing about genuine change.
It is true that the armed forces of Ethiopia are well trained, disciplined and patriotic. They are also composed ofmany of the ethnic groups of Ethiopia. However, there are issues with the armed forces’ top brass which is totally dominated by the TPLF- the unofficial ruling party. First of all, as we well understand the historical and political developments that gave rise to the balance of power within the armed forces, we choose not to consider this as a barrier to develop positive relationship. After all, many of these military leaders once stood against oppression and sacrificed their life for freedom and change. Therefore, we choose to appeal to them to understand and sympathise with the rest of the Ethiopian people, including the ethnic group they come from. They should no more be used as tools for the interest of a small group of people in the political leadership of the ruling party.
In the inevitable uprising that will soon engulf Ethiopia, we believe the military will have a key role to play. In this situation Meles Zenawi – the dictator who ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist for the last 20 years- attempts to use all means of division in society. Everyone knows that Meles’ government has no mandate to rule as it run a series of unfair and undemocratic national elections. Under his rule there is no justice in the country. Nepotism and corruption is rife and that the country’s human rights record is bad, to say the least. For the sake of fairness we may give the government some credit for its contribution in developing some of the country’s infrastructure. However, despite this the armed forces would share with us the view that the undemocratic and repressive nature of Meles’ government is a great risk for the unity, wellbeing and future of the country. Thus, we urge the leaders of the military, who may be more experienced and battle hardened than the Egyptian army, to show professionalism and resort to tolerance and wisdom embedded in our great traditions and culture in the circumstances of a people’s uprising or protest. However difficult it may be, we implore the Ethiopian military to separate itself from the leadership of the EPRDF when the people arise for change, in the interest of national unity, democracy and stability.
The opposition has to work harder to strengthen relationship with the Ethiopian armed forces and work with them for a peaceful transition. We appeal to them to recognise that what is to come is a challenge much different and maybe difficult than what they have ever confronted before. They have to give priority to national interest and help the Ethiopian people gain power for the first time through the ballot box. They should help the people of Ethiopia achieve what they once had aspired when waging a people’s war.
Thus, we plead with them again and again to use this opportunity to bridge the gap between themselves and the Ethiopian people; give a chance to the Ethiopian people; allow a blood less change in Sub-Saharan Africa and be the new beacon in Africa for democratic change.
A Call on Members of the Ruling Party - EPRDF
We believe that many members of the ruling party, EPRDF, find themselves in the unfortunate circumstance of present day Ethiopia where free will is undermined by a ruling clique that has total control not only over political outlook but also on economic livelihood. On the one hand, many of the members of EPRDF would be happy to see peaceful change take place to bring about a society without fear and corruption. But on the other hand, it would not be surprising if they would be worried of their association with the party in power in times of change. We want to reassure them that we understand their circumstances and welcome them to the camp of change. We offer them the hands of peace, friendship and most of all fairness. We want them to have the opportunity to correct the past and build a new future for their children.
A Call on the Tigrian People
Meles Zenawi is infamous for many things in Ethiopian politics amongst which creating fear in the Tigrian people is typical of his Machiavellian machinations in trying to prolong his rule. The Tigrian ethnic group is, rather used to be, the power base of Meles. In the national elections of 2005 when Meles was under the threat of losing the elections, he made a case for a similar incident about to happen in Ethiopia to that of Rwanda and identified the opposition with Interahamwe, the notorious anti-Tutsi movement that went into committing genocide of massive proportions. It can be said that this worked well for Meles to some extent, as some people from the Tigrian ethnic group believed in the propaganda. Meles took the opportunity of the presence within the opposition of a few unbridled chauvinists who ruined the day for all and also of some minor and isolated incidents of violence involving people from the Tigrian ethnic group. At times, those few chauvinistic and biased elements in the opposition seemed to have the loudest voice dominating a section of the opposition and giving it a wrong image. This is regrettable. The great majority of members of the opposition groups are seasoned and good meaning people who dedicate themselves to the cause of all peoples of Ethiopia irrespective of their ethnic, cultural, political or economic origin. Their persistent call to work with everyone who is a victim of the repression of EPRDF has not fallen on deaf ears. It is encouraging to know that more and more Tigrian intellectuals and personalities are joining the opposition. Early entries to the opposition of prominent Tigrian personalities include Aregawi Berhe, Siye Abraha, and the members of Arena Party who are also members of Medrek - the major opposition alliance in Ethiopia.
Tatek has Tigrian members as much as people from all other nationalities in Ethiopia. Our core value of genuine unity based on democratic principles (including the respect for individual and group rights, the rule of law, separation of powers, and equality) and Meles Zenawi’s unabated oppression of the Tigrian people are increasingly attracting Tigrians to the opposition. We welcome all who adhere to democratic values and respect all differences.
Thus, we call on our fellow citizens from Tigray to reject Meles Zenawi’s xenophobic rhetoric to dissuade Tigrians from participating in the inevitable national uprising or have them at loggerheads with other ethnic groups. We call upon all Tigrian democrats to see the struggle for change in the light of national interest where Tigrians are part of the core.They should join us without any reservation in the efforts being made to see the back of Meles Zenawi and his small group of henchmen and build a new democratic and united Ethiopia.
On the eventual upraising of the people of Ethiopia, the military will most certainly have a key role to play and the opposition will have an obligation to find a way of working with the armed forces to bring about a peaceful transition to a united and democratic Ethiopia.
We call on all our members, supporters and fellow Ethiopians, to think of one another as a family; to show understanding and tolerances; to work on how best to reconcile differences and move forward together, because that is what families do! This way we shall prevail – save our people from bloodshed, win our rights, plant the seed for growth and be an example to others. Violence, anger, revenge and general negativity towards each other will bring the opposite and generations to come will blame us for not even applying wisdom of our forefathers and mothers at time of such great opportunity. Meles Zenawi’s attempt to seclude the Tigrian people and use them as cannon fodder for his ‘war’ on the Ethiopian people will be foiled and we shall show the world that Tigrians are not only participants of the struggle for change but are also equal beneficiaries.
Tatek is working with others in building up a united front of the opposition and the drawing up of common strategy and tactics for unified action. We believe that such a massive undertaking should not be left to ad hoc measures – it should be well planned and organised. As the government is already in its initial attack phase against the opposition, i.e. in order to pre-empt the opposition’s calculated move, the opposition needs to be even better organised and plan to defend the people and make change happen. It should neither act slowly nor allow itself to be rushed into action risking the lives and livelihood of many unnecessarily.
On their part, we expect the Ethiopian people to express their views without fear and reservation; to respond peacefully to all provocations and violence; to ignore differences and stand together; to be understanding and readily forgiving to those who want to change sides; to be tolerant and aim to make the repressors accountable rather than be revengeful, biased or aggressive to them. Such practices have their benefits even more so under the unfortunate circumstance of Meles taking the country in the route of Gadafi’s government in terms of minimising the human and material lose and in working our way in the most difficult journey of unifying and democratising the country.
In order to give a peaceful democratic change a real chance of success and also to avoid a potential pretext for the government taking more coercive
measures against the people, Tatek is at present considering the suspension of armed self-defence against the oppressive government.
We shall wage the struggle for freedom, democracy and unity in a new spirit of change in unison with other opposition members and the people, to see Ethiopia continue to be, in the words of a living legend, “A land of many that has always found a way to move forward as one”*.
United we triumph!
Victory to the people of Ethiopia!
Tatek Movement for Freedom, Democracy and Unity for Ethiopia
*Speech made by President B. Obama after Democrats and Republicans in the United States have agreed a stoppage deal with the White House to avert a government shutdown - 9 April 2011.