Democratization and the Promotion of Tolerance: Combating Hate Groups

(MoFA, 03/26/09):-In the last few years, in some Ethiopian communities abroad, mainly in European and North American cities, a number of fringe groups have appeared, dedicated to try to poison relations between these countries and their own. With the use of intimidation and force, these “hate” groups have at times succeeded in imposing their views on the majority. All too often, the silent majority of the Diaspora have kept themselves out of political activities in disgust at the levels of acrimony and hatred propagated by these groups. Equally, at times, the majority does break its silence and marginalize the extremists. Last week, there was an attempt by a few hooligans to disrupt a meeting at the Ethiopian Embassy in London.  They hurled abuse and threatened guests going into the Embassy, and even went so far as to attack religious leaders, later attempting to use a video of this event to encourage attacks on those attending. The police quickly deployed to control the situation as these thugs tried to force themselves into the Embassy. But they should not have been allowed to go that far in the first place. Such actions cannot be taken lightly. Ethiopia will continue to work closely with relevant authorities to ensure appropriate protection of Diplomatic Missions and their personnel in accordance with international law, and violators should be brought before the courts of these countries.

These are certainly no more than small-minded acts of few hooligans, but they do highlight the path these few individuals have chosen - hatred and violence. These individuals cannot simply be dismissed as instruments of foreign backers or unrepresentative extremist groups or desperate young people dying for attention. And, indeed, as Ethiopia moves ahead with democratization, they are likely to become even more extreme. They do in fact represent a malaise within a section of the opposition, a refusal to accept the progress towards democratization. Some, the most extreme elements, are simply beyond the pale and should merely be left for the law to deal with. Community associations and other groups should work purposefully to isolate these elements and promote tolerance and understanding between different groups, to provide for a durable solution. It is necessary to reach out to young people, to explain that these “hate” groups do not represent any sections of Ethiopian society. It is also important to make sure that they know being politically active does not require the taking up of violence or extreme positions. There are many ways of meaningful participation to demonstrate political positions, whether in opposition or not, including, for example, the Internet which should be used for sane political discourse not, as so often today, for propagating hate and disinformation. Such hatred and violence must be made irrelevant through the increasing democratization of the country. Equality, mutual respect for the different cultures and history of each nation, nationality and people, is the surest way Ethiopia can deal with these “hate” groups and their backers.

It is indeed saddening to see some Ethiopians continue with such madness while others are doing everything they can to scuttle Ethiopia’s development endeavors. The recent documentary by Peter Greste of the BBC on the Hydro-Power Dam on the Omo River was of course an example of how the efforts that the government exerts to transform the country’s economy and to improve the lives of its peoples are negatively portrayed. The building of the dam has nothing to do with harming the people of the region. Should it be indicated that everything that is stated by the BBC has no ground, and that as the Ethiopian Prime Minister has said to the BBC, hydro dams intended to generate electricity could in fact contribute to regulating the water levels of the river which is highly critical in times of flood? But the likes of Peter Greste are far less inclined to look at that aspect of the reality for reasons only known to them. What is paradoxical, however, is some Ethiopians abroad are wasting their time to echo these same allegations, apparently unmindful of the fact that this indeed stands in the way of their country’s progress. Sadder still, these same Ethiopians are mounting negative campaigns against  Prime Minister Meles’ participation in the upcoming G-20 Summit merely because he was chosen by his African peers to represent the continent. That people calling themselves Ethiopians should resent their country’s success so vehemently is a conundrum indeed.