Mehretab Assefa (09/12/09)
Even though many Pressure Groups in the West, both Whites and Ethiopians, who claim to have stakes in Ethiopia argue that Ethnic based political structure is a recipe to disaster waiting to explode at any time. They warn that the eruption will be so violent and overwhelming it will put an end to everything Ethiopian as we know it. They resolve that as long as the social-political landscape of Ethiopia is defined along Ethnic Federalism, it is a matter of time before the country evaporates into nothingness. Because the materialization of the cataclysm is incontrovertible, they contend, deterring the deluge calls for nothing short of erasing Ethnic Federalism altogether. As far as they are concerned Ethnic Federalism has sealed the fate of the country. Ethiopia will disappear and everything Ethiopian will vanish from the face of the earth. Evidently, armed with such unambiguous certitude, no wonder the pundits’ have no difficulty in forecasting the future of Ethiopia with minutiae precision.
Foretelling what is going to take place in the future is neither extraordinary nor unprecedented. To the contrary, it is one of the cardinal tenets of modern thoughts sanctioned in terms of different rationales. Whether it is authenticated through Calvinist Predestination; rationalized through Marxism teleology of historical materialism; or validated through the progressionist worldview of Liberalism, the future is prophesized with unabashed conviction. Predicting the future also entails its alter ego, which the invention of the past. Calvin’s faith in salvation is intimately tied with his fanaticism in original sin. Marx’s prophecy of communism is tied to Hegelian dialectics which is anchored in primitive communism. And liberalism’s commitment to continuing progress and perpetual growth is rooted in permanent immobility and chronic decomposition.
Hence forecasting the future and fabricating the past is a compound undertaking, two sides of the same coin, primarily designed to deal with the present. So the real issue is neither what is going to take place in the future, nor is it what took place in the past. It is rather what is at stake in the present worthy of inventing the past and foretelling the future. The obvious issue regarding Ethiopia that troubles Western pundits and infuriates expatriates is the social category of Ethnicity and the political organization of Ethnic Federalism. The not so obvious subject that really concerns both the pundits and expatriates is the social category of Race and the political dynamics of Racism.
As far as the pundits are concerned Ethiopia is a strategic threat. The so-called adages of Democracy, Human Right, and Transparency etc. are primarily political rhetoric sugar coated with moral imperative. If indeed the West was serious about their moral underpinnings why would the U.S. representative in Afghanistan calls for calm in lights of apparent vote rigging? Why the president of France sends a congratulatory letter to the new president of Gabon in the midst of controversy and mayhem? Why was Gaza subjected to sanction by the West after Hamas not only won what was considered to be fair the election? As far as the West is concerned the moral arsenal are means to political ends. They are unleashed because they have discursive hegemony. Who have the nerve to oppose Democracy, Human Right, and Transparency? The power of the West is in monopolizing the terms of political discourse.
In Ethiopia, through Ethnic federalism, the discursive emptiness and moral poverty of the West is exposed. Unless the Ethiopian experience is stifled at its infancy, the West reasons, it poses danger. It has the capacity of liberating Africa from the discursive hegemony of the west. It is unimaginable to that West to see Africa with its own rules of engagement; free of implicit innuendos or explicit verbiage of racism. Unless we understand the seriousness of the subject matter, we wind up confronting the assault by the same defunct hegemonic discourse. As far as the West is concerned better have a chaotic Somalia and despotic Eritrea than having Ethnicized Ethiopia. From the vantage points of the West Somalia and Eritrea are boxed and pose no viable threat to the status quo ante. To the contrary they are living testaments of the calamity that befalls Africans unless they accept the moral superiority and consent to the political discourse of the west.
The building of Hydraulic Dams on the Gibbe River has transpired in an organization called “Friends of Turkana” in California. A state where not only hundreds of Dams are operational, but also where the water demand by the city of Los Angeles is depriving access to people living downstream in Mexico. When one sees this one wonders whether the Turkana or the Mexican is closer to the self-proclaimed environmental racists. Just as it had discovered labor in the abstract in the 19th and 20th Centuries, the West has discovered the environment in the 21st century, albeit in the abstract. When Ethiopia is chosen to represent Africa on the environment, not as an abstraction but as an economic and ecological phenomenon, it has also triggered the West to unleash its wrath. The West’s attempt to monopolize the environment issue is to have the cake and eat it too. For instance, is we look at the cell-phone industry, the indispensable component in building mobile phone (coltan) comes from Eastern Congo; a region wherein the people are subjected to untold misery. Yet the commodity is extracted and finds its way through the commodity chain of the most profitable sectors of the world economy. As far the industry is concerned, it is a win-win state of affair. The exploitation of Coltan is cheap because it is undertaken by the most repugnant characters terrorizing the entire region. Yet the West after having coltan cheaply states publicly that it concerned about the peoples and of course the gorilla population too.
The vocal Diaspora is also enraged by the Ethnicity and its political arrangement. Unlike the Western pundits who are mobilized to emasculate the voice of Africa, The Diaspora is fighting because of its emasculation in the West. The West has a clear-cut agenda. Monopolizing the moral and political discourse is an integral part in maintaining its power. The Diaspora does not have a clear-cut objective. Although it appears to be obsessed with political development in Ethiopia, its real concern is the predicament that it finds itself in the West. The vocal Diaspora is existentially challenged not because of life in the West because of the choice it has in the West. For example it has no problem in being an Ethiopian-American, but it cannot stand the notion of Oromo-Ethiopian or Amhara-Ethiopian. This reveals the fact that the Vocal Diaspora’s real problem is not with the hyphen, it is rather with the hyphenated categories. It believes that it is commendable even appropriate for one to be attached to America, but not to Ethiopia. Since he does not believe in equality, he accepts the fact that the hyphen is a contraption attaching two unequal categories. He accepts that his Ethiopian side is inferior to his American one. He cannot help but see the Ethiopia reality through the prism of his own imagined misery. Because he embodies an inferior Ethiopia and a superior America simultaneously, he also has to see every hyphenated Ethnicity to be inferior to Ethiopia. He refuses to entertain the possibility of the equality between the hyphenated entities.
The vocal Diaspora not only sees hyphenated Ethiopian to be inferior to American, he sees all hyphenated categories in America with contempt. To add insult to injury, he finds himself being black; a discovery of self acrimony that no amount of medication can cure. The only option he has it to entertain a ridiculous notion of “Pure Ethiopian”. It is only a person who believes that he is dirty who aspires for purity. But Pure Ethiopian is a weapon that the vocal Diaspora wields in the hope of attracting the attention of his imagined counterpart of Pure American. In its pursuit to attain American purity by presenting himself as a pure Ethiopian, he inadvertently insult all hyphenated Americans that he believes are not pure. In the end, he is nothing but a miserable soul that hates not only those he deems impure, but also himself because in his mind he his dirty when attached to the pure American. It is to absolve his impurity and to show how pure he is that he engages intermittently in ludicrous demonstrations and preposterous political gatherings. Sadly, as much as the plea is for White America to see his purity, it is also an upfront to the African Americans community. After all, is it not because of the latter’s struggle that the vocal Diaspora enjoy life in the U.S? My advice to the vocal Diaspora is to come to terms to his existential predicament first. Otherwise it would be farcical to entertain the idea of a psychologically unstable and morally reprehensible crowd bringing any kind of positive change in Ethiopia.