Ezana Sehay 05/28/16
May 28th is a very special day in the contemporary Ethiopian calendar. It is the day Ethiopians pay homage to an occasion that set a new dawn in the nation and infuses it with meaning and orthodoxy, which in turn triggered a title wave of fresh change and idealism. It is a day to celebrate the story of how the nation once left for dead, turned its adversities in to an opportunity and come back roaring. It is a day of celebration of the country’s transformation and renaissance – the reborn of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is an old country with rich history and great civilization to be proud of. However, the decades of pre-EPRDF were not fair to the nation to say the least. Haileselasie’s [emperor] five decades of backward authoritative rule was considered the “dark years” figuratively and literally.
According to political historians, the only positive development that came out of the Haileselasie- era was the emergence of an exceptionally social conscious student generation in the 60s and 70s. It was that student movement which spear headed the mass revolution that led to the eventual collapse of the backward Haileselasie kingdom.
Unfortunately, what replaced it was much worse than expected. The military junta a.k.a. Derg, in no time set a new standard for mass incarceration, killings, coercion etc. To put it another way, those were the days when morality was defined by a selfish needs, when individualism had overtaken communal values, when the underpinning human rights were eroded, when tyranny in the name of ideology had turned the country upside down.
The Ethiopian people whose revolution has been snatched [hijacked], and whose aspirations for democracy, freedom and equality has been crushed by the genocidal Derg regime felt betrayed, and yet helpless to do anything about it. They accepted their misfortune as a fate – a cursed one as that. In an attempt to find solace for the day’s misery they [the people] turned to history. They went all nostalgic and misty about past glories - events that took place centuries ago.
There was an unquenchable thirst, a kind of in built narrative, desire to go back to history of all things. To punch history’s reset button and start all over.
The debate about our relationship to history and the degree to which it impinges upon our present, has unfolded across many pages. That has led to the long standing question within the Ethiopian socio-cultural mind; Are our fates ever truly circumscribed by what has come before or are we, too, free to simply reboot our political circumstances and start again?
In the great F. Scot Fitzgerald work The Great Gatsby – when Nick Carraway warns Gatsby “to go easy on Daisy.” “I wouldn’t ask too much of her.” Nick warns, “You can’t repeat the past.”
“Can’t repeat the past,” Gatsby cries incredulously, “why of course you can! I am going to fix everything just the way it was before.”
So is Gatsby right? Can one repeat [the past] history? To most Ethiopians of the Derg-era the answer was no. their mindset, like that of other people’s national myths imagined themselves as the peak or culmination of a long passage of history good or bad. But to the members of the revolutionary generation [the Ethiopian student movement], the answer was yes.
But not all of them were willing to commit to a struggle that will take to realize the desired change. Put differently, members of this faction would’ve liked to go to heaven, but none was willing to die. And eventually, some of them joined the Derg while others abandoned the people and fled the country.
However, the other half of the movement from which the great tree of EPRDF sprouted had remained faithful to the popular cause [revolution]. They had nothing but disdain for that moaning and lingering about the past. They demystified the country’s past anthological legacy and become convinced that they are masters of their destiny that they too can make history and bring back the glory days.
Consequently, those revolutionaries who refused to conform to the exclusive feudal serfdom conventions were not willing to succumb to the rites prescribed by a barbaric junta either. They realized it would take a revolution of unimaginable scale to defeat the fascist Derg regime. Nevertheless, they were determined to forge a head may come what.
It took 17 years of arduous and grueling armed struggle for those revolutionaries [EPRDFites] to defeat the demonic regime [Derg].
But as difficult and backbreaking the armed struggle was, it didn’t compare to the quandary they faced in rebuilding the ravaged country. The country EPRDF inherited was, in every measure a failed state sinking in to the abyss. But thanks to the ingenuity, stubborn determination, and novel idealism of the Revolutionary Democrats, the nation has managed to overcome those multitude adversities and thrived.
25 years ago, Ethiopia resembled a piñata being kicked from every direction by myriad of problems. But thanks to the EPRDF leadership and the people’s resiliency and tenacity; like a diamond all the pressure around the country has turned it in to a strong and beautiful nation. This not only kept the country alive, but has also catapulted it to the forefront of respected nations.
In the last 25 years, Ethiopia has delivered miracles large and small. Although much has been said about the nation’s economic miracle, the story of EPRDF’s Ethiopia is a social and political success as well.
But the most potent monumental change the Ethiopian society has undergone comes cutesy of the fundamental administrative and political structural change the country adopted in congruity with federalism. The new ethno-regional federalism has adequately addressed the centuries old grievances of nations and nationalities.
This system which reflects the rich tapestry of the nation’s society, not only has led to a new perspective on the beauty of diversity, but also revitalized the sense of unity and nationalism.
In today’s Ethiopia, differences among citizens, be ethnic or religious, are respected, honored, and celebrated, rather than ramped down, shunned, or shut out like in the yesterdays.
As a consequence, Ethiopians have come to embrace their unity wholeheartedly. They realize that their greatest strength is in each other and they are stronger together. Equally, they understand they are untied, prosperous, and free to the extent they collectively ensure the peace and stability of the nation.
The secret of the nation’s regeneration is no doubt thanks to the people’s determination to free themselves from the yoke of economic and social destitution. But the leadership of the EPRDF deserves much of the credit.
Whether during the armed struggle or after assuming power the Revolutionary Democrats encourage the people to see life and history as just beginning – or, perhaps in a continued process of beginning all over again. EPRDFites in essence were individuals emancipated from history, untouched and undefiled by the usual inheritances of legends and myths, monotonous and exclusive history of past Ethiopia. They were individuals standing along self-reliant and self-propelling, ready to confront whatever awaited with the aid of their unique and inherent resources.
Such notion of living outside history – which powers the narrative logic of the rebooted national consciousness, is profoundly optimistic. Most obviously, it implies that, at least as far as national mythos go, Ethiopia can always start again. There is no mistake that can’t be undone no wrong that can’t be corrected.
It is this principle and spirit what made the EPRDF one of the most successful political institution and government.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying everything is good and dandy in the country. There are obviously troubling developments, especially, in the area of governance which is beginning to embellish the hard-earned achievements.
Nevertheless, most social metrics: living standards, life expectancy, health-care coverage, education expansion, infrastructure expansions are trending in the positive territory. In other words, the country on the whole is in the best shape it’s ever been.
I know, some of the changes have come too quick for some, may not come quick enough for others, we may continue to disagree on the best path forward and that society will always remain imperfect, but there is much to be proud of. Few countries have experienced such a dramatic shift for the better over a relatively short period of time.
To be sure Ethiopia is reborn after the bleak and calamity of the past millennium. Ethiopians'’ pride and faith is renewed. Therefore, May 28, is the day when Ethiopians display reverence of this milestone.
To sum up, EPRDFites have validated, not all of the nation’s histories are ever entirely fixed, a new beginning is always just up ahead. History itself – as something indelible, fixed, traumatizing is a limited re-invention.
So to those of you who say one can’t repeat history, I say nonsense, of course you can. EPRDF has proven it, only it made it better.
Shout Out To Genbot 20!