Born-again Ethiopia may not be a utopia yet, but she certainly is not a dystopia

By Dilwenberu Nega

8th September 2009

Two attitudes, two mindsets which are diametrically opposed to each other attracted my attention on Ethiopian websites.   The first is an Amharic article written by that all-things-to all-men demagogue Wodimu Mekonen, (“Enat Ager Tetaralech” and the second one is Mehretab Assefa’s “Crisis in the International Crisis Group” (

My intention of picking up these two articles, or better still, these two writers is to demonstrate how two Ethiopians – clearly belonging to two different schools of thoughts – react to developments in Ethiopia.

In a language of a bye-gone era, Wondimu Mekonen’s mawkish and histrionic appeal to the Ethiopian Diaspora to converge to the ill conceived and, therefore ill fated, Washington D.C. March on the 13th September 2009 is a product of a hate nudged opposition to a revamped Ethiopia which is on track to speedy development.   This completely unwarranted ‘march to the White House’ comes at a time when Ethiopia is making real progress in building a veritable democratic order as well as at a time when the people and Government are leaving no stone unturned to get out from the quagmire of poverty at the earliest possible opportunity.   More particularly, The March coincides with the unravelling of an unprecedented level of common understanding being forged amongst Ethiopian political parties to ensure that the 2010 National Elections are held in a transparent, free and fair manner.   But for the avatars of toxic politics, like Wondimu Mekonen, positive developments emanating from Ethiopia is something that he deliberately turns a blind eye to, or better still, gives him all the more reason to treat us to another bout of his tear jerking.   In fact, observers of the antics of the Ethiopian Diaspora have very rightly concluded that when things move on smoothly in the Homeland, the avatars of hate politics become so jittery and histrionic simply to quench their thirst for publicity.   That is why Ethiopian observers of the antics of the choleric Diaspora use the Amharic saying in its figurative sense: “Shir seal alwedem” – “I don’t like it when it is all quiet!”   The September 13th March is, no doubt, one such instance where the primary goal of the march is to offer the toxic Diaspora a life line by offering it a much sought after oxygen of publicity.

The funny part, however, is the way the organisers are canvassing for the so-called “Big March.”   No one is clear in their mind as to what they are meant to be opposing; it’s like the right-hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.   Take Wondimu Mekonen, for instance.   Here is a man who had no compunction in standing next to a convicted Derg official at that haphazard House of Commons meeting last June (refer to “The choleric Diaspora’s Meeting in the House of Commons” and accusing Ethiopia of gross human rights violations.   What an irony, isn’t it?   Now he is breast-beating about a “diminished Ethiopia.”   He implores, to the point of beseeching us, that unless he and his likes in the Diaspora do something now; Ethiopia is doomed to “wither away.”   In his vain attempt to convince us to jet it to Washington in time for the Big March, Wondimu Mekonen pontificates on how geographically big Ethiopia used to be under the Empire of Ethiopia.   It was at this point that I was reminded of an instance I read on Winston Churchill’s biography where Winston Churchill had replied to an Indian school girl’s statement: “You know Prime Minister the British Queen is Queen of India too” (because Queen Victoria was the ‘legitimate Queen of India’ during Britain’s colonial rule of India years before).   Witty Winston Churchill replied, “Yes, my little one, but those were the days!”

Yes, good-old Wondimu Mekonen, those, indeed were the days! What planet does Wondimu live on?   Time has changed and with it values and the demands of society too.   Born-again Ethiopia has risen from the embers of imperial rule followed by a military dictatorship with her unity revamped so as to cushion the ever-growing demands for self-determination by her nations, nationalities and peoples.   Not changing the configuration of Ethiopia in 1991 would, therefore, have resulted in the country becoming an ethnic inferno.   But today Ethiopia has managed to avert the apocalyptic vision which Wondimu and his likes keep on nurturing to the Ethiopian Abroad.

And I am glad to note, here, that this type of analysis constitutes the genre of Mehereteab Assefa’s highly honed rebuttal to the so-called International Crisis Group’s ‘study’ which had concluded that Ethiopia is in for an all out ethnic violence before the May 2010 National Elections.   My gut feeling tells me that ICG is being nudged by pro Eritrean lobbyists.   Otherwise, there is no way that the ICG can plummet down the ignoramus scale so fast.   As Meheretab had put is so finely, the fact that Ethiopia is an ethnic federalism cannot be deemed to be news; it is history.   The landmark decision of the representatives of Ethiopia’s nations, nationalities and peoples in 1995, once and for all, put an end to the interminable frictions of nationalities by democratically adapting The Constitution of FDRE.   By a stroke of a pen, present day Ethiopians managed to do what no previous generations dare attempt to do for fear of setting in the balkanization process.   Indeed, the ‘Ethiopian module’ has now become the envy of African states who still encounter problems attributed to ethnicity.

In conclusion, Ethiopians must not lose sight of the fact that as far as sovereign Ethiopia is concerned the March to Washington is a March to Nowhere.   We, Ethiopians, are not a protectorate of the United States or any super or ‘unleaded’ power on planet earth.   We, Ethiopians, are also masters of our destiny.   The choleric Diaspora is free to march to White House or White Hall, but they will be well advised to know that no power is capable of frogmarching Ethiopia into doing their will.   Give way, istead, to the Ethiopian in you!