Tik-Tok: Rising to the Occasion
The time is ticking for Derg 2.0. The last supper of this regime, October 5, 2020, is fast approaching. This clique of jokers has a few days to ride or die. It has one last chance to wake up from its Machiavellian slumber. This clique has, inter alia, one major delusion: it assumes every political actor is a pseudo-Machiavellian like itself. Shimelis Abdisa said politics was like gambling. This delusion deceives Derg 2.0 to see every political maneuver in terms of a poker game. Well, the Tigrean election, conducted against all odds, proves not everyone has a poker face. Bluffing is opprobrium in Tigrai’s culture! It means what it says, and vice versa.
The Federalist Coalition, encompassing the TPLF, issued a serious statement a while ago. If Derg 2.0 thought this statement was just a bluff, it is in for a rude awakening. Game theorists like Axelrod experimented on a hypothesis termed a prisoner’s dilemma in the 1980s. This game investigated the behavior of two prisoners. These criminals committed a crime in tandem and got caught. The police separated these criminals and encouraged each to snitch on their counterparts. The payoff of the criminal lacking conscience was the highest (the least sentence) as he snitches on his partner in crime. But the incentive falls apart if both criminals snitch simultaneously. Cooperation is the best strategy for the criminals given their lack of information. Game theorists tell us that reciprocity is the best strategy for interdependent actors. The eminent historian, Harrari, showed us that Sapiens erected civilizations on the foundation of cooperation. All prophets and philosophers from East to West advise us to “Do on to others what others do on to thou!”
The leader of Derg 2.0, like Susenyos, Lij Iyasu, and Teklegiorgis, is doomed to stay in power for a few years (2018-2020). He will, like Hailemarriam, be forgotten as an inconsequential actor in Ethiopian history. Ethiopians have never remembered leader for the elaborate castles they built or renovated them, took so many selfies, and were unable to walk their talk. Tewodros and Yohannes gave their lives lest they broke their promise. They could have opted to spare their lives by breaking their promise and lead a leisurely life. These leaders never left descent portraits, let alone decorate castles. Ethiopians respect these leaders more than others known for their lavish castles.
Menelik and Haile Selassie left so many photos. But that was not their primary occupation. They had pictures primarily because they ruled in the 20th Century where technology became easily accessible. The world respects these individuals because they resisted colonial incursions. Menelik presided when Ethiopians prevailed in Adwa. Haile Selassie confronted Fascism at the League of Nations. These Shoan monarchs, despite promoting reactionary domestic policies, earned international accolade for advancing progressive foreign policies.
Derg 2.0’s leader is trying to emulate Septimius Severus (193-211AD) whom Machiavelli admired. This emperor, as Machiavelli described him, had mediocre leadership skills. But he did manage to rule the Roman empire for 18 years, ensure his son takes over after him, and died in his bed. Septimius, per Machiavelli, was a selfish, cruel, and deceitful individual who persecuted his competitors relentlessly. He understood that he was unfit to lead Rome. But he was bent to do whatever it took to retain power. Machiavelli, by the way, was not all about deceit as some scholars portray him. But dictators tend to misappropriate his writings. Prof. Fear summed up how these dictators decoded Machiavelli:
The dictator does not want power so that he can do good things. He wants power for its own sake. The leader must possess several characteristics.
· He must be cunning, not wise. For the leader, understanding people and how they behave is worth all the lessons and philosophy in the world. The leader is not searching for ultimate truth; he is searching for what works,
· The leader must be stingy…Power is about force and the money to buy that force and sustain it.
· The leader must be cruel. Being hated and feared is better than being loved…
· The ability is to lie to a key to success. The leader should never keep a promise unless it is convenient. He should say whatever is expedient at the moment, then do as he pleases.
Anyone that glanced at Irkab & Menber would immediately realize what Diraz learned about Machiavelli. This author compared Tewodros to ISIS. Reputable commentators also mentioned how the PP cadre gets trained on Machiavellian tactics. The leaked audiotape of Shimelis Abdissa confirms how PP’s core leaders (OPDO) employed a “convince and confuse” strategy to dismantle the EPRDF. This strategy seems to have temporarily worked against the ANDM until the leaked Shimelis audiotape surfaced. But it utterly failed against TPLF at the outset.
All political actors in the country, including anti-Constitutional forces, have awoken from the two years’ long hypnosis. Domestic and foreign stakeholders have concluded that Derg 2.0 is incapable of leading Ethiopia. Even the handful, yet outspoken, supporters of this regime have express doubts on the regime's ability to execute any given plan. That is why Ethiopia needs a new government.
The Federalist Coalition Forces (FCF) have proposed a way out of the Derg 2.0 quagmire. OLF-led coalitions have also issued a statement calling for international intervention. The FCF proposal, on the other hand, focuses on domestic actors. It does not pass the main responsibility of saving the country to foreign actors but anchors the responsibility in the hands of all domestic players.
Many do question the practicality of the FCF proposal. Well, the task of relieving Ethiopia from the Derg 2.0 mess is daunting because the damage this clique inflicted is enormous. The reckless tendency of certain top brass military officials serving a dictator reflects the scope of the decadence. Despite all, however, it must be clear the fate of the country ultimately rests in the hand of the masses, especially the domestic political actors. Given the pandemic, the international community has too much on its plate to deploy and redeem Ethiopia.
Hence, the only option is for domestic political actors to assess the FCF proposal and respond accordingly. Better yet, they could provide their own version of post-Derg 2.0 transition roadmap and initiate a dialogue. Deaf silence during this critical junction in Ethiopian history will inevitably reduce political actors to irrelevance. Political actors incapable of assuming leadership at this historical moment cannot be expected to govern the country in a manner that is different from Derg 2.0. History shows us many political actors that have expired because they failed to heed the call of a country crying for leadership. By contrast, the few political actors that rose to the occasion at critical junctures prevailed despite their initial strength. Hence, political parties that do not wish to become irrelevant in Ethiopian political landscape should speak up now or forever remain silent.