The time for change

No bullet can stop the spirit of justice and democracy!!!

Berhanu Nega should not go back to Eritrea

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I am confident that he is highly regarded in his field as an economist, as one of the leaders of Kingit, and as chairman of Ginbot 7 , but I have doubts about his military acumen or as an effective military leader in the theater of military warfare. On the other hand, I have no doubt, that he can be a great political leader in uniting Ethiopians of all ilks in the Diaspora and at home once he pushes this effort on full time basis.  At home, organizing nationwide effort similar to the one organized by the Oromo students could go a long way convincing Woyanes that their time is coming to an end unless they sit down and negotiate with the opposition to form a transitional government than any military effort from Eritrea.

During a cursory telephone conversation a couple of years ago with a senior congressional staff, I was told that many Ethiopian political leaders including Dr. Berhanu rarely engaged the U.S. Congress to appeal their case. This is foolish, as the U.S. has the capacity to dictate the very well being of more powerful countries like Russia, China, Iran with a mere threat of economic sanctions to influence their behavior. Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world has little or no leverage to disobey or defy Washington. I know there has been some movement to engage Congress at a lower level, but so far, that effort has not been adequate.

Dr. Berhanu can do a hell lot of good for Ethiopia by lobbying Washington, especially Congressional members to influence White House behavior and use his economic knowledge to identify Woyane vulnerability as well as supporting and organizing  peaceful resistant movement in Ethiopia, while quietly delegating the military operation to one of the more seasoned former Ethiopian generals or others skilled in this field. Most successful organizations had military and political wings. For example, the ANC, the Irish Republican Army and others succeeded by utilizing both strategies. The political wing engages the ruling clique and other governments openly and peacefully to make its case.

With Andargachew Tsege in jail, given the behavior or unreliable nature of the regime in Eritrea, given the geopolitical configuration of the region, that favors the Ethiopian regime, the lack of major political or economic backers for Ginbot 7 (G7) in the region or in the world at large; it is very unlikely for G 7 to defeat Woyanes.

It has also been shown that those using peaceful means especially civil disobedience have a higher success rate for changing governments than those using force. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and under the current geopolitical situation, and Ethiopia’s dominant position in the region, it makes it difficult to conduct a very successful guerrilla or conventional warfare against TPLF regime.  The success rate for change of government using force does not bode well for groups like G7.

Since the Woyane will see a victory by any armed Ethiopians as an existential threat, they will fight to death. Furthermore, the Woyanes are bolder and more proactive for a poorly organized, poorly funded armed struggle organization like G7. For example, despite opposition from the U.S., Europe and many wealthy Arab regimes, Hafaz Al Assad of Syria remained in power even before the Russian intervention, because giving up power is seen as an existential treat to Assad and to his Alawite sects. The Woyanes with their strong lobby can maintain the support of the West unless Ethiopians setup a parallel lobby to counter their PR machine, which has been dominant in the U.S. for a long time.

Using peaceful resistance, it is more likely possible to sway Western support and avoid unnecessary bloodshed and transition Ethiopia to a democratic state. This scenario has a more likely outcome than any other alternative on the table today. Any chaotic collapse of the regime will create a scenario like Yugoslavia, where ethnic slaughter and bloodshed may be inevitable.

Mahatma Gandhi defeated the mighty British Empire without firing a shot. Of course, he was wise enough to know that he could not defeat the British army militarily, so he opted for civil disobedience. Dr. Martin Luther King reached for the same conclusion and succeeded in winning a number of victories for African-Americans.

Even media outlets that are sympathetic to G7 have been rightly regurgitating Woyane crimes and atrocities, but have failed in their editorial and other forums to articulate and promote civil disobedience principles because some of them claim it is against their editorial policy. At the same time, they are espousing and supporting armed struggle. What a contradiction?

For example, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, especially Fox news writes many editorials. In particular, Fox News thrives by crafting  biased anti-Obama, and anti-Democrat viewpoints to its conservative audiences even though the slogan or the mantra for Fox News is “fair and balanced”.

Ethiopian media outlets have an obligation to articulate a peaceful way to dislodge Woyanes, which in the long run will serve the best interest of all Ethiopians. Most of all, it will be less bloody and will save the country from fracturing into another Yugoslavia.

It was FOX news that galvanized the TEA party and other conservative group against Obama. Fox news besides galvanizing the TEA Party against Obama, but continues to educate conservatives how to win election and defeat the democrats. The point is Ethiopian medias do not have to lie or just regurgitate Woyane atrocities; they can also editorialize and galvanize the Diaspora and promote peaceful change instead of just supporting armed struggle to defeat Woyanes.

I do not think it is violations of editorial policy or a crime to educate the Ethiopian people how to use civil disobedience to bring democratic change  or to reform the system. It does not take a rocket scientist to think what Gandhi did in India can be duplicated in Ethiopia despite the barbaric nature of Woyanes. Recent events in Oromia have demonstrated that well organized peaceful resistance can work if conducted nationwide with a common and broad objective.

Waging a war from Eritrea will cost lots of blood and treasure to win a conventional or guerrilla war against Woyanes, but using civil disobedience, it could be done in a short time and without shedding unnecessary blood. Some people claim that you cannot organize in Ethiopia because 1-5 Woyane spying system. This is a Woyane propaganda to create fear and suspicion, unfortunately it is being broadcast as true by some Ethiopian media too.

This is patently false, illogical and does not make economic sense, but it served to create fear and suspicion among Ethiopians. Ethiopia is estimated to have close to 100 million people that mean 20 million of them have to be Woyane spies or cadres in some capacity and most of them have to be paid by Woyanes. Can anyone believe that Woyanes have this much resources to pay this many people. Let us say each 20 million spy on average gets $50 U.S dollar a month including all the spy equipment.  That will be $1,000, 000,000 or $1 billion U.S or $22 billion birr a month. The total Woyane budget for 2011 was $3.7 billion for the whole year without including foreign contribution and loans that brought it approximately to $7 billion. Instead of refuting such baseless propaganda, some media started corroborating it to scare Ethiopians into submission.

One-way to deafest the Woyanes is to form a lobby in the U.S. to stop U.S. support. The money that is going in support of G7 and other organizations that I assume is substantial would have changed U.S. support for Woyanes if part of this money were used to lobby.

What about educating Ethiopians in Wollo, Gonder, or Wollega  or just one of the provinces to engage in civil disobedience and fund such efforts. Closing roads, calling in sick, organized work stoppage, boycott of Woyane related businesses, defiance or peaceful disobedience, just stop fearing Woyanes can go a long way in influencing the behavior of Woyanes. This will break their superiority complex and break their morals. This is how apartheid was defeated and India became independent not with straight news or conventional warfare.

While I appreciate and respect those who want to give their lives for the sake of Ethiopia; however; I have also reservation about wasting money and blood by going to Eritrea. Albert Einstein or someone said, “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” One could argue that the money used in training and arming Ethiopians to fight Woyane in Eritrea could be used more effectively in organizing them in Ethiopia in civil disobedience and lobbying in Washington. For the first time, Woyanes were dealt a blow  or stalemated by poorly organized students in Oromia state using civil disobedience.  If such strategies worked in many countries in India, S. Africa, and North Africa, I am not sure why it would not work in Ethiopia despite the ethnocentric nature of the regime.

While people in India were allowed to engage in peaceful  demonstration under the British rule, it was much harder to do the same in S. Africa, thus South African blacks were forced to use other tactics of civil disobedience,  including penalizing those who defy the boycott. Thus, it was impossible for the Afrikaners to take 2 million Sowetans to jail or other millions who refused to cooperate.  This and other pressures broke the moral and political authority of the Afrikaners and eventually forced them to negotiate a peaceful solution and form a transitional government. Of course, ANC military wing used to drop mutative cocktail bombs here and there to scare the Afrikaners. The presence of G7 in Eritrea can be used as a psychological tool not necessarily a military vehicle for victory.

In Ethiopia, using just peaceful resistance or civil disobedience, economic tools, and with a strong Diaspora lobby, it is possible to bring the Woyanes to their knees and force them to sit down with the opposition and form a transitional government that will lead to a fair and free election.

The American gun lobby, the Israeli lobby, the homosexual lobby, the Armenian, the Cuban lobbies are very powerful because they organize themselves. For example, the 30 million blacks in America have no influence compared to 5 million Jewish-American or 1.5 million Cuban Americans because they have no lobby. The same thing is true about Ethiopians, even though we have the numbers, but lack of lobby, makes our voices lost in the crowd. Meles Zenawi knew the power of having a lobby in the U.S. in 1997 when Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, then a strong friend of the Ethiopian community slipped an amendment to put economic sanctions on Woyanes unless they stop human rights abuses. After the formation of that lobby, the Woyanes were able to hoodwink a number of U.S. politicians into their wings. We, as a community, have failed to collectively organize to make the Woyane a pariah state. Now, guess what if we do not put up a well-organized lobby, the Woyane will try to make sure G7 and other opposition organization as a terrorist organization and any contribution will be regarding as aiding and abetting a terrorist organization. I might be exaggerating, but if the Woyanes really want it, given Obama proclivity towards Woyane, he will be obliged to sign it. No proof needed.

Now, if we want to avoid this embarrassing episode from happening sooner than later, we need to do both, form a strong lobby in America, and educate the Ethiopian people in civil disobedience. All able bodied Ethiopians in the Diaspora should be willing to fund these efforts in a sustainable basis if they want Ethiopia to avoid calamity that awaits it if something is not done to dislodge Woyanes from power. That way, we will have a quick victory and peacefully transition in Ethiopia like South Africa and India into a working democracy. Dr. Berhanu Nega should stay in the U.S. and push these strategies instead of returning to Eritrea in hope of Pyrrhic victory or get killed for nothing.  It is not that I know Dr. Berhanu personally or I have any opinion or ill will towards him, but his capture or demise will further embolden Woyanes.

The writer, Dula can be reached at:

posted by Geremew Aragaw

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