By Zena Mewael (Zenamewael@yahoo.com)
I have read your recent piece entitled “An Open Letter to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi”, posted on AIGFORUM. In that letter, you argued against the perception that all the Diaspora Ethiopians are politically identical; and that there aren’t people among the Diaspora who espouse the ongoing development in Ethiopia under the leadership of Prime Meles Zenawi. Buried under the stack of vocal Diaspora, you contended, there is that ‘silent majority’; therefore, your call for his stay in power for the next five more years. I second your genuine request for Mr. Zenawi to stay in Office at least until 2015. By then, I hope Ethiopia will have joined the league of developing nations; her people will have enjoyed the middle income life-style; democratic institutions will have been strengthened; and a viable replacement for His Excellency will have emerged.
However, I don’t concur with your assertion that the ‘silent majority’ have bona fide reason for staying mute for such an extended period of time, especially at a time when the ‘vociferous minority’ are causing untold damage to the good image of our country, Ethiopia, in the name of ‘the Diaspora’. You said, “Believe me, they have very valid reasons for not expressing their views publicly.” Give me a break! Real men and women should stand up for what they believe in, and what is right, regardless of the consequences. After all, these people you call ‘silent majority’ live in countries where there is full fledged freedom of expression.
What, then, is preventing these ‘silent majority’ in the Diaspora from acknowledging the positive socio-economic changes from which they and their family members in Ethiopia are benefiting? Why don’t they stand tall and bear witness for what they see, touch and hear in open air? These are a million dollar questions, and the real answer lies in the ever-changing behavior of the seemingly ‘silent majority’. The so called ‘silent majority’ are not silent in the real sense of the word. They stay silent only when the going gets tougher, otherwise, they are the first people to knock at the door when a high official shows up at the Ethiopian embassies abroad, albeit secretly. But they are shockingly absent from public forums; pro-government rallies; and media outlets. Worse yet, they can be seen attending opposition rallies hoping that they may not be recognized. That is their indelible right, but why are they manifesting the double standard, and going it, at times, secretly?
The truth of the matter is that the ‘silent majority’ is not silent for the reason that doing so would land them in the harsh hands of ‘cyber-tigers’ and ‘Shabia’s lap dogs’. They are silent because they are torn between two things; maintaining their relationship with the Ethiopian government officials, and keeping their friendship with people in the opposition. This is opportunism at its best. Therefore, it is time to call ‘a spade a spade’; hence, the ‘silent majority’ is named as the ‘opportunistic majority’, and they have earned it.
In closing, of course, it would be unfair to label all those who are silent as opportunist for there are many people living outside of the radar of Diaspora politics. These people are silent because they lack the resources and the skill to express their true feelings in writing, and don’t have the time to rally in the streets of America and European countries for that could mean losing real income. Therefore, these people are silent due to their life circumstances, and not out of fear of reprisal from the opposition, and/or Shabia agents. I am against those who are willfully silent, and yet manipulative individuals in their own way, and that is where I disagreed with Dilwenberu’s cozy treatment of the ‘silent majority’.