After the Gondar Breakthrough
By Tesfaye Demmellash (PhD)
September 26, 2016
Gondar shattered the no-war, no-peace status quo in which the Ethiopian opposition to Woyane tribal tyranny had been stuck for so many years. The rise of Gondar and, more generally, the Amhara people in Gojjam, Shoa, Wollo, and elsewhere in Ethiopia could be a decisive first step in the contemporary Ethiopian struggle for national survival and freedom.
Having rocked the TPLF regime to its narrow sectarian and tribal foundation, the Gondar breakthrough and its wake could evolve into a protracted patriotic struggle for the liberation of Ethiopia from what can only be characterized as internal colonialism.
But the critical question now is this: how can the heroic actions already taken, the sacrifices made and are still being made, and the limited gains achieved by popular uprisings in Gondar and Gojjam and in Oromo regions be defended and sustained as an Ethiopian freedom movement that transcends regional or ethnic grievances, issues, and resistances?
The question urgently suggests itself because the Amhara resistance in particular is in a dangerous interregnum, vulnerable to massive reactionary crackdown by a wounded, vindictive, expressly anti-Amhara TPLF regime as the resistance waits for strategically minded yegobez aleqoch of yegoez aleqoch to chart the way ahead for it and to lend it overall direction.
Prolonged gaps in the uprising or in its development into a sustained, strategically led nation-wide movement are likely to give the avowedly anti-Amhara Woyane dictatorship time to leak its wounds. They could afford the dictatorship an opportunity to regroup and unleash on Amharas in Gondar, Gojjam and elsewhere in the country systematic repression the likes of which we have never seen.
Relative lull in resistance activity, then, could embolden the TPLF tribal empire to strike back with extreme prejudice, vengeance, and violence. This is not an abstract possibility and fear but a practical prospect and concern, given the Woyane regime’s murderous past and its present nearly boundless brutality, treachery, greed, and aggression.
Let’s not forget also that Amharas have long been explicitly marked by the TPLF as an “enemy” to be wiped out. As improbable as it seems, the TPLF might attempt to make good on its threat. The Woyane cabal, whose ritualistic charge of Amhara timkitegnanet rings hollow in the light of its blatant reverse chauvinism born, it seems, of deep-seated inferiority complex, is not above enacting a coordinated campaign of massacres against the Amhara people, particularly in Gondar and Gojjam.
This means that growing resistance struggles in these and other Amhara regions cannot afford to let their guard down at all. They must remain ever vigilant, ready to defend themselves by all means necessary. More broadly, hesitation or indecision in extending and consolidating popular movements across localities and ethnicities constitutes a clear and present danger for the Amhara-Oromo resistance in its regional as well as national operations. The resistance has crossed the Rubicon; having reached a point of no return, it can only go onward.
With an eye toward the near and distant future, a major issue worth considering thoughtfully and strategically has to do with what the heroic people of Gondar and Gojjam can do, not just on their own but as leading or integral parts of a broader, trans-ethnic patriotic and democratic movement of national salvation. As someone born and raised in Gondar, I may be biased but I believe that the region has blazed a trail in new, militant forms of regional and national resistance against Woyane divide-and-dominate tribal politics.
The rise of Gondar is instructive nationally in one crucial respect in particular. Namely, it has shown the country as a whole the promise and potential of a self-organized Amhara mass uprising constituting itself in broad Ethiopian spirit without losing its regional or cultural edge and autonomy, without sacrificing its attentiveness to issues and problems that may be specifically its own.
Here, I have taken issue with some of my fellow Gondares who argue that our region should focus on the immediacies of its struggle for survival in the face of an aggressively expansionist Woyane enemy. Some contend that Gondar cannot afford to divide its attention between its pressing existential concerns as a distinct region and the concerns of Ethiopian national resistance as a whole.
The argument is not without merit, since Gondar, specifically the Welkait region, has been subjected by the TPLF party-state apparatus to direct, colonial-like acquisitive expansion and to neo-neftegna armed Tigre settlement orchestrated by the Woyane regime in a way or to an extent no other region of Ethiopia has been. Certainly, the good people of Gondar have urgent issues of their own to settle with TPLF tyranny by whatever means they deem necessary.
That said, I don’t believe that attentiveness to matters of Amhara solidarity, and more broadly Ethiopian unity, in resistance against TPLF dictatorship need be developed at the expense of regional focus. As Amharas and Ethiopians at once, the people of Gondar are enlightened about their regional self-interest. They have shown that they can act locally while thinking, believing, and aiming nationally.
Gondare freedom fighters realize that regional and national levels of struggle are not related in a zero-sum game, whereby gains on one level necessarily mean losses on the other. I contend in agreement with their realization that resistances waged on these distinct planes of engagement can in fact be mutually supportive, constitutive, and sustaining.
Social Protests’ Wake: Fundamental Questions and Issues
To restate more broadly the question I posed earlier in the discussion, how could heroic popular resistance movements within Amhara and Oromo communities be developed into a sustained integral Ethiopian struggle for national freedom and renewal? Ethiopian integrity has to do with the wholeness, authenticity, and validity of our shared national life in both historical and contemporary terms.
In addressing the question, it is essential to be clear about three things. First, the unity we as a nation now want is not to be conceived simply as the sum or association of ethnic groups or parties. It is rather the oneness of citizens enjoying equal rights as Ethiopians, regardless of their ethnicity; and it is the unity of regions whose specific regional character or autonomy should not be equated with exclusive tribal identity.
In our commonly shared Ethiopian life, at the regional as well as the central level, we move on an entire national terrain which is familiar through felt and lived experience. We are anchored and feel at home in the wholeness of Ethiopian nationality as we attend to particular regional interests and concerns and as we articulate political ideas. This is one of the vital lessons that we can draw from the current Amhara resistance in Gondar and Gojjam.
The second and related thing that has to be noted clearly is the need to rethink regions or ethnicities, defining them not statically in isolation, as so many disparate self-enclosed tribal kilils, but in a more open and dynamic relation to Ethiopiawinnet. All political projects or movements in which a particular Ethiopian region or community seeks to address issues and problems specific to it are undertaken inevitably in the context of trans-ethnic Ethiopian national being and tradition.
That potent national context may be denied, negated or temporarily suppressed, but it can never be undone or wished away by the external political-ideological operations of an entirely “self-determining” tribal entity or partisan group. Rethinking ethnic or regional identities in Ethiopia in this connection involves dispensing with primordial, race-like, characterizations of ethnicity in terms of immutable physical or cultural differences, adopting instead a more flexible “constructivist” view resonant with not only our shared national life but the actual social and cultural self-identifications of distinct Ethiopian communities.
Basic conceptual change and innovation here have to do with moving away from rigid, overpoliticized constructs of tribal or regional “identity” that are passed off as naturally given and toward the specifically Ethiopian mode of existence and self-identification of distinct communities, like Afars, Amharas, Gurages, Oromos, Tigres, and so on. From this perspective, we understand ethnic or regional identity and Ethiopian nationality as mutually constitutive and supportive; and we value our cultural autonomy as well as our national solidarity.
Put differently, we see Ethiopia containing within itself, as the transcendental nation which it is, the possibility of a broader and deeper realization of national self and value in cultural diversity and political pluralism. We note that particular ethnic and cultural communities are never merely existent in Ethiopia, but are of Ethiopia, constitutive not only of their own distinctness but of our shared nationality as well.
The third important point that is worth stressing is that, in the emerging movement for national freedom and renewal, Ethiopians affirm our integral nationality with honest intention, not as a tactical subterfuge to pursue narrow partisan or tribal interests and projects, say, those of the TPLF or the OLF. We need unequivocally to acknowledge and affirm our common Ethiopiawinnet as something different from and greater than the sum of ethnic groups or parties. We can do this even as we value and celebrate our distinct ethnic or cultural heritages.
These imperatives particularly concern Oromo and Amhara Ethiopians not because these communities are the only ones putting up popular resistance against the colonial-like tribal empire of the TPLF. They concern Oromos and Amharas in particular because the two largest intersecting communities have remained, in the broad sweep of the nation’s history as well as in its contemporary struggles for freedom, the core of the Ethiopian experience. The hesitation of some westernized (Latinized?) Oromo politicians and mihuran in embracing Ethiopiawinnet, or in adopting it merely in an ethnocentric mode of political concern and calculus, does not make the experience any less real.
Although in principle or formally equal with other Ethiopian ethnic entities, Oromos and Amharas are not just two among many other regional and cultural groups in the country. The two largest communities have been the foundation for the formation and development of the modern Ethiopian nation-state, the hub of Ethiopian national integration. Interspersed and overlapping, they have been central to the current social resistance against the TPLF regime and will remain so to Ethiopia’s future.
While their relations have not been free of tension and conflict, the secession of either community from the nation or its separation from the other is not only in principle undesirable but highly impractical and improbable as well. God forbid, should it come to pass, it is very likely to be counterproductive for everyone involved, a source of interminable conflict, instability, and hardship for both communities and for the Ethiopian people as a whole.
Given the centrality of the Amhara-Oromo dynamic to our contemporary national movement for freedom and renewal, then, Ethiopian patriots and democrats of both cultural backgrounds need to ask ourselves a fundamental question. The question is this: how much tribal insularity or identification with a particular language or place of dwelling have Amharas and Oromos needed historically in order to flourish as the two largest Ethiopian communities, how much “identity,” “region” or “nationality” that is singular, separate, and exclusive?
I would say not a whole lot, certainly much less than the hyper-politicized, often monolithic, ethnocentric “national-self” foisted on Oromo and Amhara Ethiopians by TPLF and OLF partisans and ideologues. The fact is a basic constitutive feature of Oromo as well as Amhara community is that it is not fixated statically on tribal or cultural difference and on localities of dwelling. On the contrary, it has had historically a dynamic moving, expanding, intersecting, and mixing character.
The distinctness and strength of both communities have a lot to do with this shared fluid, flowing, mutually adaptive and enriching Ethiopian constitution. It is in large part in the context of this common vital character that the Gondar uprising has proven itself not to be merely an ethnic or regional Amhara struggle, although it is partly that.
The declaration of Gondar Amharas that Oromo blood shed by the Woyane regime is also Amhara blood was emblematic of this broader, more inclusive regionalism beyond ethnicity. And so has been the civility of the Gondar mass protestors towards innocent Tigre residents of the city even while rising up against the TPLF tribal machine and its privileged operators and beneficiaries in Gondar.
By the way, the civility the Amhara people of Gondar have shown towards ordinary Tigre inhabitants of the region has, sadly, not prevented Woyane boss Abay Tsehaye from stoking groundless fears of Rwandan style “genocide” against Tigres, as it did not restrain Meles Zenawi from doing the same thing in reaction to Kinijit’s peaceful democratic movement during the 2005 elections. Unless he is in a complete state of denial, Abay Tsehaye should know full well that genocidal tribalism is alien to the Amhara people.
What is involved here may be, as Professor Al Mariam has shown, a calculated “disinformation campaign” by TPLF bosses aimed at scaring Tigres into continued submission, as a captive people, to Woyane dictatorship. But I think it is more ominous than that.
Combining in their exclusive, nationally self-alienating, partisanship the worst forms of unenlightened petty-bourgeois “radicalism” and raw, hateful and vindictive tribalism, Abay Tsehaye, Sibahat Nega and other demonic Woyane figures are not above contemplating making Tigres under their domination agents and accomplices rather than victims of genocide. But, whatever their evil intentions may be, there is no doubt that Woyane bosses are using the people of Tigrai as a collective pawn, a blunt instrument of their treacherous sectarian agenda and propaganda.
Clearly, they are holding not only the Tigre community in particular but Ethiopia as a whole hostage in order to perpetuate themselves in power, asserting with gross, unwitting irony and delusional self-importance that Ethiopia desperately needs their nationally divisive politics for its continued survival as an integral nation-state. If this is not a blatant display of contradictory chauvinist arrogance by a small minority party hailing from a minority community, what is?
I here understand that the people of Tigrai, a region at the core of the historic and contemporary Ethiopian experience, are in a particularly tight TPLF dictatorial grip. I realize that, while all Woyanes are Tigres, not all Tigres are Woyanes. Nonetheless, it is about time that a significant section of Tigre community, in whose name the Woyane cabal commits all the evil acts it commits against the Ethiopian people and against our shared national heritage, rose up en mass and said No, not in our name. Tigrai produced Ethiopia’s Woyane problem and Tigrai should play a major part in “solving” the problem.
It is high time, then, that Tigres who love their country dared to express their solidarity in words and deeds with protesting Amharas and Oromos, their fellow citizens and patriots. Ethiopian solidarity in the struggle against Woyane dictatorship means sharing the risks and costs as well as the rewards of patriotic resistance. It signifies a common unequivocal opposition to tribalism and separatism in all its divisive political and regional forms.
Renewed Ethiopian Solidarity against the Old Progressivism
In seeking answers for the question posed above, what is also essential is a clear and firm commitment to Ethiopian national unity and integrity. Such commitment is necessary in developing regional resistances in thought and strategy into a sustained nation-wide movement for structural and political transformation. Several reasons can be adduced for its necessity, but let me state just one that is highly relevant, indeed urgent, from the vantage point of current social protests and struggles.
The turbulence and uncertainty which exists in Ethiopia today at a time of regional rebellions, social upheaval, and anxiety about possible civil strife require robust stabilization by shared Ethiopian values and commitments of national solidarity. Put differently, there can be no sustainable transformation or peace in particular regions of the country unless there is a vital national whole that is preserved and protected as a source of stability even as transition to a new political order takes place.
It bears stressing here that popular movements in Amhara, Oromo, and (potentially) Tigrai and other regions of the country cannot maintain Ethiopian unity through political ideology alone (“democracy,” “federalism” and so on) without relying on integrative national culture, values, and experience. The rationalist illusion of the revolutionary era that they can is just that, an illusion. The present popular patriotic-democratic movement has no place for such illusion.
In this connection, it is also worth noting and debunking a particular strain of “radical” or “progressive” thought, which continues to have residual currency among promoters of identity politics within TPLF and OLF circles. This paradigm of political thought and practice is in part an efflux of ideology from our deeply flawed revolutionary legacy, going back to ultra-leftist strands that dominated the Student Movement.
The thinking is that, if Ethiopia is to exist at all, it must be created from whole cloth as a collection of “willing” ethnic groups and parties. This is so because, since the era of the Student Movement, Ethiopian nationality has borne the stigma of “empire” and “colonialism;” it has been caricatured as a “prison of nations, nationalities, and peoples,” representing “Amhara expansion and conquest,” nothing more.
In the spheres of politics and ideas the TPLF and OLF have more or less continued to operate with this historically uninstructed, obsessively negative, partisan image of “Ethiopia.” The odd position taken here (odd, given Ethiopia’s long-established national identity and tradition) is that Ethiopia is to be brought into being, if at all, merely as a contemporary political construct. It is to be created in an absolutely new beginning, starting entirely from scratch. Since this vulgar “revolutionary” fancy has absolutely no resonance in Ethiopian consciousness, it deserves summary debunking. It is totally out of gear with our national civilization and lived experience as Ethiopians, with the historical depth and cultural richness of Ethiopiawinnet.
And so it is against this persistent philistine “progressivism” or “radicalism” that we have today to commit ourselves in good faith to Ethiopian solidarity. We need to do so as a condition of developing regional resistances against TPLF dictatorship into a new forward-looking national movement for lasting transformation and development.
The commitment is essential not only for ensuring agerawi unity at a time of national crisis and change, but also for establishing true regional autonomy and self-government. The latter can never be realized in terms of the old, conceptually inert and unprincipled Stalinist dogma of “national self-determination up to and including secession.” Nor can it be achieved through some watered down formula of partisan identity politics adopted from the original revolutionary orthodoxy.
It has to be made clear particularly to Oromos critical of Ethiopian national culture and to the Ethiopians generally that, even in questioning the culture in a thoughtfully progressive vein, we already stand on our own shared historical-national ground. More or less felt and lived, our national tradition is open to critique, change, and improvement. But, in being questioned, it is not to be approached in an external, overpoloiticized fashion, as TPLF and OLF partisans have often approached it, depicting it from outside through hostile ethnocentric polemic in a shallow, negative objectification.
So today more than ever, a revitalized Ethiopian unity has to overcome a basic paradox of our legacy of revolutionary politics. Namely, seemingly progressive ideas and values have operated largely outside and against the national tradition whose fundamental change they were supposed to have brought about. In its “radical” form and content, particularly in its ethnocentric character, our politics has been merely rejectionist rather than transformative towards Ethiopian national culture. It has often been framed with a lot of formulaic, Stalinist “theory” but with little or no actual thought in the Ethiopian context.
Consequently, overcoming the flaws and limitations of our tradition of progressivism is necessary as a condition of lending renewed national shape and direction to social protests presently raging against the TPLF partisan-tribal machine, in resistance to the “revolutionary democracy” of the Woyane regime. Ethiopian solidarity is of central importance to this process of struggle. It involves dismantling nationally divisive ethnocentrism and building relationships among diverse communities of Ethiopia based on actually functioning egalitarian and democratic principles.
Looking and Moving Forward: Social Protest and Political Direction
Self-organized and possessed of their own issues, ideas and tegadlo, ongoing social protests in Ethiopia are a welcome gust of fresh energy and élan that can only breathe new life into the generally sluggish Ethiopian opposition to Woyane dictatorship. They are exemplary and inspiring in their vigor, vitality, and activism. We can see them as blazers of new trails of popular struggle through the political jungle of proliferating, often ineffective, opposition parties, groups, coalitions, forums, congresses, media, and “national reconciliation” outfits at home and abroad.
However, as resourceful and courageous as they have been, the regional protest movements on their own can only do so much in resisting TPLF dictatorship and in exerting effort to drive the tribal ruling party out of power. They are necessary but not sufficient causal forces for systemic political transformation in Ethiopia.
So the question arises: how can social movements in various regions of Ethiopia be guided in thought and strategy by a more organized and sustainable nucleus of national-political resistance? We have a pressing need today to chart, by means of critical inquiries, hypotheses, analyses and exchanges of ideas, pathways for the development of a coordinated national struggle for Ethiopian freedom and renewal.
This need can be met if social movements are not approached, following the old progressive model, as ciphers or focal points of narrow partisan-cum-tribal agenda and action, merely as extensions and objects of the political projects of authoritarian elites. It can be fulfilled if a new set of forward-looking conceptual and practical questions, perspectives, and categories are articulated to help the Ethiopian people openly and democratically express their felt concerns, interests, and aspirations as free citizens and communities.
Popular protest movements do not operate in a political and cultural vacuum; they are not empty vessels passively waiting to be filled with the ideas and communications of the political class. They are capable of transmitting messages among themselves and to the outside world using more or less available modern information and communication technologies. They are also able to bring into play the resources of traditional and local culture; Amharas, for example, make effective use of shilela and fukera to motivate and embolden themselves for combat.
In these and other ways, social protests can, within limits, energize themselves and coordinate their activities regionally, framing issues and slogans and mobilizing participants. In undertaking such missions, they rely, as a matter of necessity as well as tactical reason, not on visible, centralized, hierarchical organization but on dispersed, clandestine networks and nimble mobile groups and teams.
Still, looking and moving ahead, we need to gain a better understanding of the possibilities, challenges, and effects of the protest activities. Relevant questions here include: How can social protests make use of resources and instruments of Woyane regional power that are formally set up to control and oppress them, turning the resources and tools the TPLF commands against itself?
Or how can social protesters take advantage of gaps and contradictions in the Woyane system of domination, utilizing varying spaces and opportunities to maneuver both within and outside the fraying system? What are some of the ways in which they can appropriate the public spaces within which local agents of the regime operate, say, in the Wogera and Dembia regions of Gondar, subverting regime operations, including deflecting and redirecting or evading its repressive movements and measures?
Concerned Ethiopian mihuran and political groups should feel compelled to reflect in concert on these and other related issues. The massive resistance of civil society groups, including spiritual leaders who are openly speaking up against Woyane tyranny as never before, should stimulate systematic efforts of critical thought in the areas of politics, culture, identity, and Ethiopian nationality.
For, beyond constituting themselves as effective agents of resistance against Woyane tribal tyranny, contemporary social protest movements in Ethiopia have produced conditions in the country that invite far reaching change. Namely, they have created yet another historic opportunity for us as a nation to clean up the massive political mess created by the old revolution, to begin to undo the great damage it has done to our shared national life. The protests have given us another chance to bring about much needed systemic transformation of our politics and government. They have done so by shaking up, indeed by throwing into crisis, the TPLF regime in particular and oppositional as well as ruling identity politics in general.
A crisis, like what we as a nation are currently going through, can be transformative, offering risk and reward, generating problems as well as opportunities. It all depends on how we respond to it in thought and practice. We cannot be so fearful of the danger or of the potential risks involved that we fail to take advantage of the opportunities, namely, the openings for change that have transpired and the uncertainties that accompany those openings in the wake of the recent social protests in Ethiopia.
The protest movement has changed what we thought we could and should do to regain our national integrity and freedom. The movement is in effect testing, debunking even, old and tired paradigms of politics, ideology and identity, compelling us to question our assumptions and conventions of progressivism, our habits of thought and belief. In this characteristic lies the forward-looking transformative potential of the movement.
With actual and possible impact of such magnitude, political opposition as usual or “reformist” capitulation to the TPLF regime in the name of “national reconciliation” is bound to be not only woefully inadequate, but also out of alignment with the trajectory and transformative implications of social protest movements presently raging in Ethiopia.
A significant political and intellectual response that is commensurate with the change inducing possibilities of the social protests will include renewed critical and systematic engagement with politics, ideas, and regional or ethnic identities. It will deconstruct our received “revolutionary” truths and beliefs along with the oppressive political-ideological structures that they have helped to entrench in Ethiopia over four decades.
These structures ultimately enabled the Woyane cabal to monopolize state power and to accumulate so much ill-gotten wealth while keeping disempowerment and bare subsistence the lot of the vast majority of the working poor in Ethiopia. This has got to end; and now is as good a time as any for Ethiopian patriots – citizens, intellectuals, cultural and political groups – to finally come together and respond to the nation’s crisis in well-conceived thought and strategy.
The purpose of political thought and strategy is to give broad national form, content, and direction to regional social protest movements and activities, not to pre-empt them through the pre-cooked agenda and projects of narrow partisan and tribal outfits. It is to give expression to the felt needs and legitimate demands of citizens and communities whose actual dominated status within our flawed progressive tradition is formally concealed by meaningless Orwellian references to them as “self-determining nations, nationalities, and peoples.” Being politically enlightened and purposeful means knowing the limits and perversions of politics, recognizing that ideologically and in practice, political power can be a bad master rather than a good servant of a free society and a sovereign nation.
It is to be admitted that in Ethiopia as elsewhere, the definition and resolution of societal or national problems cannot be absolutely dissociated from politics. But what today or at any given time we see as such problems and what we do about them are not questions for our politics only or matters which can be approached in terms of political ideas and projects alone.
National and regional realities themselves, even in crisis situations, lead to the definition and, potentially, the resolution of the issues, including their innovative perception and framing. This is, as already noted, a vital lesson or implication we can draw from the ongoing popular protest movements in Gondar and Gojjam. The movements instruct us that in responding to local crises and struggling around particular regional issues, even in defending ourselves as regions and distinct communities from existential threats using all means necessary, we do so as vital parts of an integral nation, culturally diverse and politically plural yet one united, sovereign nation.
Let me conclude by highlighting the importance of Ethiopian solidarity for the current Amhara and Oromo regional uprisings and for social protest movements in the country more broadly. National solidarity is not essential only as a counterpoint to the uncertainties of local struggles and as a way to mitigate the risks of destructive civil strife. It is also necessary as a condition of addressing broader structural problems of development and underdevelopment the Ethiopian people commonly face regardless of their regional or ethnic identities and differences.
Such fundamental problems cannot be adequately defined, let alone solved, if they are approached through fragmented ethnocentric projects of regional or local “self-determination.” What is basically at issue is not the agency of particular subjects or groups in determining themselves but transforming the structural conditions of individual and collective action, changing the socio-economic, political, cultural, and institutional contexts of agency. Ethiopian unity is essential as a point of departure and basis of such transformation of the country in the general interest of all its citizens, communities, and regions.
It is worth stressing here that the internal obstacles to Ethiopian unity, namely, the nationally corrosive TPLF tribal tyranny in particular and oppositional as well as ruling identity politics more generally, often draw sustenance from various external sources. For the Woyane regime, the principal supporters include the neo-liberal capitalist West and the authoritarian, still formally communist, Chinese state. Unprincipled and ever the opportunist, the TPLF cultivates close ties with both in hanging on to power and continuing to inflict its brutal dictatorship on the Ethiopian people.
As an obstacle to the realization of integral Ethiopian political transformation, the neo-liberal approach to development and democracy is of particular concern. Maintaining Ethiopian integrity and solidarity involves contending with or guarding against perspectives, ideas, and practices associated with the approach as they are mainly designed to advance the priorities of established global capitalist interests, institutions, and centers of power rather than to address the needs of the Ethiopian people for systemic political and social change.
Neo-liberalism speaks an apparently neutral technocratic language, using terms and concepts like “good governance” and “development” but it has a definite political interest in maintaining the existing order of things in Ethiopia. In effect, if not always in express intent, it is all about stabilizing and rationalizing TPLF rule, such as it is. For all its rhetorical or theoretical concern about “good governance,” for example, neo-liberalism has done practically nothing to reduce the endemic corruption of the Woyane regime, let alone to suggest a credible alternative to the unsustainable Woyane partisan-tribal dictatorship.
The neo-liberal project is particularly challenging to Ethiopian solidarity in the current resistance against TPLF tyranny because the project has outposts in the minds of Ethiopian intellectuals, technocrats, and political groups at home and in the Diaspora. Even in “dissent” from the Woyane state, these elements often operate largely within the neo-liberal paradigm of development and government rather than critically questioning the paradigm, either in its conceptual thought or in the Ethiopian context.
Consequently, rebuilding Ethiopian solidarity today in the struggle for our national survival and renewal also entails recognizing this challenge and meeting it effectively. It entails realizing how even individuals and groups critical of the TPLF regime on some level may be contributing, knowingly or not, to the global neo-liberal project, often being complicit in the promotion of “development” ideas and designs that are not nationally our own.
These groups include those at home and in the Diaspora that continue to make an abstract call for “reconciliation” with the incorrigible Woyane ethnocracy and whose opposition in thought to Woyane domination rarely ventures beyond invoking conventional moralism and political platitudes. If such groups have their way, we as a nation could lose the current opportunity for meaningful change, born of recent and ongoing social protests, like we lost chances in the past.
We should not allow this to happen again. Instead, let the spark of Amhara-Oromo protest set off an integral Ethiopian national resistance. In the wake of the Gondar and Gojjam popular uprisings, the opposition to TPLF oppression has reached a point of no return; the only way now is forward. Let Ethiopian freedom ring!
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