Sunday, January 8
In Whose Name?
Details of Mekele Martyr's Monument from Andrew Heavens.
We are all so familiar with monuments that the anti-monument that is Washington's Vietnam War Memorial from the 1980s is more evocative in significant ways than the massive Battle of Stalingrad Monument in Russia from the 1950s or even the Arch de Triomphe in Paris built during the 19th century.
One must wonder if a process of maturation is represented in the progression noted above or one of changing fashion. An evident truth is that the more democratic a society is the more human in scale and personally experienced are its monuments.
Monuments reflect in any society how its builders want themselves and history to be remembered and interpreted. They are worth looking at because they hold vital clues about the natures of the socities that they represent.
One monument that, at first glance, seems to embrace those traditions and to become to us one of the most affective ever is the monument from Mekele in Ethiopia pictured here.
The presentations of the people, their pain and perseverance against odds is stunning. The young are reassuring the old as they head into an uncertain future determined by their will and sacrifice. The colors are of the native soil and their scale is near human creating a moving whole of purpose and respect.
We have started with the human figures although the main part of the monument, which should be all theirs by definition, towers far above them to unreachable and inhuman heights in both symbolic and actual meaning. Observers are certainly being asked to find grandeur and majesty in the soaring modernist columns but we find only tragedy.
It is certainly a cliche to speak of betrayed revolutions but that does not make cliches into lies. This monument tells the whole story.
All the way at the top is a gear, a familiar and eternal symbol of communism and the enslavement of reality to pseudo-science beloved by totalitarians everywhere. Mengistu once said that "we shall place creation itself under our control" - the gear was a symbol of the ideology shared by both past generations of Ethiopian dictatorship.
We aren't sure about the orb. Perhaps it is a representation of the divine power that rests by the throne of Marx in Communist Paradise. (That is assuming that Lenin has not yet managed the schemes necessary to overthrow him.) The point is that humanity, here the Tigrayan people who gave of their blood, sweat and tears to change the world, have shrunken before an idea.
That idea, that invariably became a nightmare everywhere it was seen, took on the nature of a jealous religion whose sacred books required interpretation by a priestly class. That priestly class became the current polituburo with the Prime Minister at its head and as a matter of definition they alone know what is good for Tigrayans, Ethiopians in general and the world (although they lack the power to do anything about the last).
What is to us the beauty and significance of the human figures in the Mekele monument are dwarfed by the self-justifying ideology of their unelected leaders. It is seldom that symbols can be interpreted this easily but the Mekele Monument was very obviously built for Meles Inc. as a justification for the eternal rule of a few.
The principal message seems to be that people - the individual men, women and indeed children who brought about change don't matter but what does is their nebulous destination determined by a few who allegedly speak for them. Just as profoundly offensive to us as the idea that Ethiopians by definition support the government is the idea that Tigrayans necessarily support the government.
Have no doubt - there is no grouping of humans of any size however similiar of different that all think the same way. The idea that all Indians in Uttar Pradesh or Puerto Ricans in Spanish Harlem think alike would be considered highly offensive as would the idea that one voice spoke for all of them.
However, there seems to be some degree of acceptance abroad that is greatly encouraged by the government that the TPLF speaks for Tigrayans. We absolutely reject this idea - indeed, Tigrayans have far less political rights than any other Ethiopians. The Politburo sees the estrangement of Tigrayans from Ethiopians as their ulimate insurance policy and guarantee of power.
Tigrayans may be used involuntarily against Ethiopians by tribal manipulation and the structure of the state but most importantly the government seeks to have Tigrayans become hated by other Ethiopians so that they have no other place to turn for security and common cause than the original authors of their misery who may look and sound like them but who only care for themselves.
The myth of absolute Tigrayan support of the TPLF and its policies is one of the most insidious and damaging lies that are the foundation of Meles Inc. and its rule. It is not logical and acceptance of it is immoral.
Here is an example of the idea of eternal rule of the priestly class and tribal manipulation in action:
Treason charges filed in Ethiopia
Prosecutors in Ethiopia have charged 131 jailed opposition leaders, reporters and aid workers with crimes ranging from treason to "genocide". ... Under Ethiopian law, some of the crimes carry the death penalty.129 opposition activists remanded in custody
Prosecutors added that Tigranians [sic, read Tigrayans], who form an ethnic minority group and perceived to be the holders of power in the country, were victims of stoning and arson.Ethiopia charges opposition members with genocide
Under a section entitled "genocide", the charge sheet seen by Reuters specifically accused the CUD of trying to isolate the Tigrayan people of Ethiopia, who are largely supporters of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's victorious Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).Is the Ethiopian government protecting Tigrayans from genocide? No. It is abusing their good name in the service of the lethal will to power of a tiny professional and permanent revolutionary feudal aristocracy. Tigrayans were just the first and are among the most constant victims of the current government.
"The accused organised under the CUD umbrella and conspired with the intent to cause physical and mental harm to the people of Tigraya region and the attempt to isolate members of the EPRDF from society," the charges presented in court read.
According to the Ethiopian government, the opposition has been planning genocide since long before the election and according to the Prime Minister in his BBC interview after the first set of massacres in June, the election was carried out with that certain knowledge of planned genocide by the opposition.
Actually, genocide and such labels of absolute evil are a matter of original defining sin staining the souls of anyone who opposes the government in any way and they deserve to die for it. It is a matter of definition - as certain as the laws of gravity - that the Ethiopian people and indeed providence support the eternal rule of the Prime Minister.
Observers can be occasionally forgiven for reading or hearing words like 'constitution, law, court, treason, genocide, election, election board, parliament' and assuming that there is some reasonably sincere simalcrum of those civilized concepts in existence in Ethiopia. There are none to be found.
All are simply cover for dictatorship and justifications for barbarism. Take the government charges against the oppostion. Literally no one on this entire planet believes them to any degree. It is only the lethal reality of despotism, however dressed up that makes their meaning clear.
Essentially what is being said is that the Prime Minister and his Politburo will never leave power voluntarily and they are busy making that point clear to all at home and abroad who thought otherwise. Policy has made accountability in Ethiopia a matter of relations between the government and Western aid donors - 70 million Ethiopians are excluded from consideration in that civil contract beyond knowing their place and keeping to it silently.
Before any discussion of the charges of genocide and treason against over a hundred opposition leaders, journalists, and leaders of civil society we should make a comment about the crude traps set by tribalism in any Ethiopian discussion. Professinal tribalists set these traps to isolate Ethiopians from each other and particularly to isolate Tigrayans.
Tigrayans have far more in common with all other Ethiopians than their self designated ethnic elite that oppresses everyone together regardless of ethnicity.
The rulers of Ethiopia are popularly imagined to have their roots in an ethnic liberation front and in Marxist-Leninism. This is only half true. The former is only an excuse for a small like minded group to draw others to their own cause by trick or by force. The latter is proven means of focusing their own will to power
Such atavistic ties to ethnicity and ideology serve only the cause of power. The Ethiopian Constitution reflects that atavism as does the whole of a decade and a half of Ethiopian governance of the country.
ethiopundit is not denying the importance of ethnicity. It is a profound and necessarily respected aspect of every person. However, that aspect of identity is more often than not manipulated for selfish ends with the classic aim of divide and rule.
By falsely wrapping themselves in a tribal mantle ethnic politicians seek to protect themselves from legitimate opposition. Thus involuntary enmities and artificial loyalties against self interest are manufactured. Ethnic politics does serve the interests of a very few whose security in power trumps all other considerations.
To paraphrase Samuel Johnson - for the Ethiopian rulers
'ethnicity is the last refuge of a scoundrel'.ethiopundit will not fall for the baited trap of assigning millions characteristics that are shared only within a ruling class that misfortune has placed in everyone's way.
One thing for Ethiopians and foreigners to be constantly aware of when considering ethnicity in the recent past and present is the minefield set by ethnic opportunists. When ethnic politicians say that their party speaks for a whole people, it is always without the consent of those people.
By demanding absolute conformity and national discipline of the variety of Lenin's 'democratic centralism' today's rulers want Tigrayans to be isolated and unable to look outside of the party structure for common cause with anyone.
The 'leaders' contrive and manipulate enmity and then cynically charge critics with being the real tribalists. Revolutionaries of every stripe think that 'the people' (be they Ethiopians in general, Tigrayan, Oromo, Amhara or others) are a fundamentally ignorant herd that must be defined by the passing fancy and personal interests of the revolutionary class.
Ethnic / tribal manipulation is just another destructive aspect of Marxist-Leninist politics and Ethio-radicalism. It was adapted by Lenin a century ago to cripple rivals within and without his own party by creating or exacerbating societal divisions for use against potential rivals who called upon patriotism, nationalism, tradition or any other notion inconvenient to the Bolshevik mission.
How about the continual invocation of the martyrs of the war against the Dergue? Remembering them should not be abused by a few to form a holy shield that is used to defend every crime committed by a few decades later. Those martyrs did not die in their tens of thousands and others did not suffer by their millions so that the Revolutionary Feudal Aristocracy of today could rule forever atop a pyramid of suffering as policy.
On June 22, 1988 the Dergue criminally bombed a market place in Hawzen claiming great numbers of dead and wounded. The Dergue met its just fate for that horror and countless others. However, we firmly believe that all of the jealously guarded villas and Range Rovers, the hoards of hard currency in foreign banks and all of the party businesses and monopolies held by a few atop a pyramid of suffering and despair are not the appropriate legacy for those or any martyrs.
They did not die for anyone's board chairmanship nor for their executive office suite. They certainly did not die to one day justify the killing of fellow Ethiopians.
Never forget that Tigrayans are Ethiopians first and that the forces united against the current government and its stolen election represent a unity unseen since the wars against Italian fascism or colonialism. The very idea that Tigray is so united behind the party is by necessity a lie. No group of humans, certainly millions of them so passionately believe in any cause or person to the exclusion of all else.
One might ask the people of Tigray if an opportunity were ever given
In March [of 2004], the residents of Aby Adi, a town in Tigray region, conducted a peaceful demonstration, protesting the lack of electricity, usable roads, and running water. Three members of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) Central Committee reportedly threatened to arrest the organizers of the demonstration if they did not apologize.We know the Prime Minister ran unopposed in the 'election' where he voted with a bunch of reporters and THREE EU election observers on hand. What don't we know about the 'election' in Tigray and the aftermath? The party approached the Tigrayan people with the lie that they were not communists until it was too late to do anything about that fact. This was done because Tigray is where rights of private property have been traditionally strongest in Ethiopian history. In addition the ethnic agenda of TPLF rule was kept from Tigrayans who historically have most consistently held the banner of Ethiopian unity aloft.
According to reports, the Government also sent security agents to prevent any further protests. The Government rejected requests to hold similar protests in the Tigrayan towns of Maichew and Samre.
Professor Levine reminds us that in the 1970s the TPLF's ideological and horrific real battles to make Tigrayans submit was directed such that
the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray ... conjoined the principle of class struggle with that of self-determination of nationalities. Like other radicals of the day, they appropriated the myth that Ethiopia was the invention of Minelik in order to legitimate the independence of Eritrea, and the principle of self-determination within Ethiopia.The brutality used to try and divorce Tigrayans from their identity, history and traditions so that they could not make common cause with other Ethiopians can not be forgotten. One anecdote from an international bureaucrat looking to set up a pilot development program is revealing.
This ethno-Marxist sentiment drove the most ambitious elements of the TPLF movement. It led those who took political control of the TPLF to turn against Tigrayan political elements who did not support Eritrean independence. Before long that led, evidence suggests, to a policy of liquidating those elements.
Tigray became, survivors of those horrific years aver, a "killing field." According to many reports, which must be investigated further by future historians, Tigrayan civilians were slaughtered right and left–in many cases following gruesome torture, according to eye witnesses.
One veteran of those killings confesses that when he told another, early in the fighting "the number of people we have killed thus far has reached 10,000," his comrade replied: "So what, Red China had to kill a million people in order to become victorious."
In every region of Ethiopia, the group had around them government officials or friendly 'minders' who they suspected were there to prevent them from hearing anything directly. When they got to Tigray, they met groups of peasants and farmers without interference.
Later, their embassies in Addis explained to them, "that is the one place where no one even dreams of dissenting or complaining - the fear is set so deep that it looks like agreement and that makes the government confident [at least it used to do so]." This is certainly a more likely explanation than believing all residents of Tigray love the government. Any group of humans is too complex for that to be true.
At first glance the charges of treason and genocide against the opposition seems to be the only story in the news or the only one that matters. The death threats being held over the heads of the opposition leaders are not only a threat and warning to the known opposition but just as importantly to Tigrayans everywhere.
All of the crimes of the past decade and a half have been done in the name of the good people of Tigray by Meles Inc. who does not speak or act on their behalf. From the loss of Tigrayan neighborhoods in Addis that we know about in the 'election' to the total absence of opposition allowed in Tigray proper it is evident that the government fears for the support of the original hostages of its power, the Tigrayan people.
All government actions and words including in particular the threats to kill opposition leaders are also clearly directed at Tigrayans. They are being told "without us you will be targeted and even if you know we are lying about that you had better believe that we will create the conditions for the lie to become truth - unless you give us your absolute support."
Tigrayans and all other Ethiopians already know their way around the government lies and manage as best they can to live lives of dignity and courage against great odds. The truth should be equally obvious to observers of every kind everywhere - don't believe the government except when it threatens to be brutal - that mission it will certainly carry out.
Tigrayans were not at the forefront of a general Ethiopian struggle and sacrifice against the Dergue for
*the TPLF / government business empire,
*the government / TPLF economic monopolies,
*the eternal dictatorship of Meles,
*the creation of a permanent feudal revolutionary aristocracy of unprecedented historical wealth and power
*the abuse of their good name to serve the lethal will to power of a selfish few whose policies of tribal divide and rule would estrange Tigrayans and all Ethiopians from eachother
Simply put, Tigrayans were the first victims of the TPLF. Many Tigrayans have always been opponents of the TPLF. Other Tigrayans are either initial, long time, conditional or even current supporters of the TPLF.
However, it must be remembered that any people have a right to change their minds at any time of their choosing in any direction that they want for whatever reason that they want. Support of any political movement should not be a life sentence nor should any political movement demand blood oaths of eternal subservience.
Actually the issue here is not the TPLF as much as its current leadership. Reform of the TPLF is vital to all because it has within it a great majority of vital Ethiopians concerned for all other Ethiopians. Unfortunately their better instincts are tainted by the structure of corruption above them.
The revolutionary feudal aritstocracy making all of the bad decisions wants to dig an even deeper hole (i.e. La Lutta Continua!) and drag all Ethiopians, particularly Tigrayans in it with them to perpetuate as long as possible a morally and financially corrupt system designed for the benefit of a tiny few.
If the walls of the new Lutta's trenches cave in on all Ethiopians one day - as they surely will - the elite of the professional revolutionary class will not be around to deal with the consequences.
Accelerating 'externalization' of funds through and into shell companies, into property in the names of lawyers, relatives and friends, non-transparent bank accounts and political favors worldwide have been preparing a soft landing for the top ranks of Meles Inc. for over a decade and a half now.
In 'The EPRDF and the Crisis of the Ethiopian State' Aregawi Berhe one of the founders of the TPLF details his vision of the complexities of the modern Ethiopian state and the Tigrayan relationship with the ruling organization named for it.
In 'The Origins of the TPLF' Aregawi Berhe traces the history of the TPLF, places its history and the rise of Meles Inc. in historical context and shows how early Marxist-Leninist roots and ethnic seperatism was carefully hidden from the Tigrayan people until it was too late for their opinions to matter.
In a 'A Flourishing Democracy in the State of Tigray' Dagmawi makes some of these points quite clearly and lays bare the tribal excuses of contemporary dictatorship.
In 'Not In My Name', GK makes the point more eloquently and personally than we ever could. A reader let us know about this article after reading our post above, sorry for any similiarity in the titles at least. Link from Solidarity Tigrai.
In 'Crime and Nourishment in Ethiopia: American Taxpayer's Money at Work' by anonymous presents a strong and comprehensive case is made for the withdrawal of American and British support for Ethiopia's dictatorship. Link from EthioMedia.Com.
There are too many intelligent, witty, on point and thoughful posts from Weichegud to note any one in particular. Suffice it to say that it remains consistently one of our absolute favorites and wishes that 'we should have thought of that'. It is a source of constant amazement for us as we see the nimbleness of the author's mind and the breadth of the author's experience.
The reporter Andrew Heavens at Meskel Square is another excellent source of wry commentary and clear observation that is well worth visiting. He has also managed an ability to write short significant posts that we really envy.