By prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam
Author’s Note: This is the first installment in a three-part series on prospects “mediation”, “reconciliation” and “negotiation” with the ruling Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF). In part I, I discuss why the current discussion on “mediation”, “reconciliation” and “negotiation” with the T-TPLF is of the utmost important to me personally, why it makes me jittery and extremely concerned and at the same time amuses me. In Part II, I aim to examine why it is impossible to engage in “mediation”, “reconciliation” and “negotiation” with the T-TPLF. In Part III, I aim to sketch out my views on a path that could make possible “mediation”, “reconciliation” and “negotiation” with the T-TPLF and avert the creeping civil war from engulfing the country.
The general aim of the series is to raise fundamental questions about the current fashionable talk about “reconciliation” within the framework of a T-TPLF-centered political dialogue and to urge caution and help inform those who, in good faith, seek to promote a “reconciliation process” as a way out of current dire situation in Ethiopia.
I dedicate the series to all of Ethiopia’s youth that have made the ultimate sacrifice to free their country from minority ethnic apartheid rule and establish a democratic society based on the rule of law.
Ethiopia’s youth (Cheetahs) united can never be defeated!
Ethiopiawinet TODAY, Ethiopiawinet TOMORROW, Ethiopiawinet FOREVER!
Of “reconciliation” with the “wounded beast” in Ethiopia
Of late, there is a great deal of talk among the bosses of the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF), some Ethiopian opposition parties and groups, human rights activists, foreign diplomats and others about “reconciliation” and the urgent need for “reconciliation process” to avert a creeping civil war rearing its ugly head on the Ethiopian horizon.
Last month in a Voice of America- Amharic Service interview (for audio of original English interview click here) former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and U.S. Ambassador, Herman Jay (Hank) Cohen, called for U.S. “mediation” and “reconciliation” among stakeholders in Ethiopia to prevent the “collapse of law and order” in Ethiopia. He said, “I think now is a good time to do the right thing and have a national reconciliation exercise.” In his January 2, 2018 blog, Ambassador Cohen wrote, “if reports of the regime inciting cross border conflict between Somali and Oromo states are true, then it is clear that Ethiopia’s prospects for national reconciliation within a democratic dispensation are still a long way over the horizon.” Ambassador Cohen mediated the takeover of power by the T-TPLF in 1991.
Last week, T-TPLF prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced he will release political prisoners in the country “to establish a national consensus and widen the political sphere.” Is “national consensus” the same as “national reconciliation”? I know phrase mongering, sloganeering, cutting and pasting laws is a T-TPLF specialty. So, I am not sure what Desalegn means when he blathers about consensus and political sphere.
Truth be told, I have no idea about the “reconciliation”, “mediation” and “consensus” Ambassador Cohen, Desalegn and others are talking about. These words are so overused, they have become almost meaningless. “Reconciliation” is an emotionally loaded word. A closer examination of the word suggests “reconciliation” has an ordinary and technical meaning. In general conversation, “reconciliation” is often used as a substitute for the platitude “forgive and forget, let bygones be bygones”. There is a general sense of impunity for wrong-doers and a feeling of “kumbaya” (let’s just get along) in such application of the word.
For the experts, reconciliation is a “method to prevent further conflict in war-torn societies” and a “societal process that involves mutual acknowledgment of past suffering and the changing of destructive attitudes and behaviour into constructive relationships toward sustainable peace.” The experts say “reconciliation” is a multifaceted “process” involving religious, socio-cultural, economic, political, psychological, and juridical aspects. For those in the legal profession, “reconciliation” generally entails prosecution for serious crimes and wrongdoings in society. Regardless, “reconciliation” for some means the end, a point of closure for horrendous crimes committed by the state. For others, it is just the beginning of accountability and justice for the victims of state crimes. Still for others view “reconciliation” as a process of discovering the truth about state crimes eventually leading to general amnesty for some who may be responsible for serious and gross human rights violations.
From what I have read and gathered, much of the current commentary and discussion on “reconciliation” on Ethiopia impresses me as sloganeering and empty rhetoric. Many of those who talk about “reconciliation” aim to convince and persuade by phrase trying to persuade people by phrase mongering instead of offering clear and coherent explanations. The word in current discussions is used almost as a euphemism for impunity for those who committed heinous crimes in the name of the state. In other words, it seems to me many of those peddling “reconciliation” in Ethiopia today are really talking about nailing shut the dark chapter of the last 27 years, letting the T-TPLF regime off the accountability hook for its crimes against humanity and letting bygones be bygones and “making peace” in the interest of “avoiding a potentially bloody civil war.” In other words, they seem to be arguing for reconciliation without truth-finding.
I am aware of and various occasions participated in the Ethiopian tradition of “Irq” (reconciliation) where the operative reconciliation phrases among the elders are, “Beqa yiqir (let it be)”, “Antem tew, Anchim tey” (each one of you, let it go), “Yiqir Legzaber” (let’s leave it to God”, “Gid yelem, yihun lahun” (It’s OK, let it be for now), qusil mekfet ayasfelegin (not necessary to open wounds), “min yidereg, yalefe neger new” (nothing can be done, it is all in the past) and other such attitudes in pursuing reconciliation. The great tragedy of this tradition is that it sweeps serious grievances and injustices under the rug in the interest of making “peace” and promoting “harmony”. It never solves the underlying problems, only kicks the can down the road until the problems arises again.
My view is that the “Irq” process falsely aims to achieve peace and harmony by deliberately suppressing the truth about the underlying dispute, whether it is between spouses or social groups. I hear many in the Ethiopian community talking about “Irq”. I do not know if they are talking about traditional Irq but if they are proposing such Irq with the T-TPLF, I wish to register my implacable objection to it now.
There can be no healing unless the wound inflicted over 27 years are opened and cleaned with the antiseptic of truth-finding. To paraphrase Langston Hughes, a wound that is left uncleaned “festers like a sore and then run. It will sag like a heavy load, and then explode.”
My unwavering position is that there can be no reconciliation without truth-finding.
Having said that, I raise a simple but fundamental question. Is the T-TPLF in any position today, given the historical forces at play in Ethiopia, to “mediate”, “negotiate” and “reconcile”?
I find the whole idea amusing and laughable. The truth of the matter is that the T-TPLF today is in no position to mediate, negotiate and reconcile with anyone.
First, as Frederick Douglas observed, “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” The endurance of the Ethiopian people to prolong their suffering under the T-TPLF rule has completely vanished. They can no longer endure living a nightmare under ethnic apartheid T-TPLF rule. Their patience is exhausted and their endurance completely drained. They have nothing to “mediate”, “negotiate” or “reconcile” with the T-TPLF. Only the terms of T-TPLF disengagement and departure from power are negotiable. That choice is entirely in the hands of the T-TPLF bosses. They can choose to depart with a bang or a whimper. The resolve of the people of Ethiopia is to end ethnic apartheid once.
The time for romance with the T-TPLF has long been gone. There are irreconcilable differences that have been brewing for 27 years. The people of Ethiopia want the T-TPLF OUT, Out, out of power, NOW!
Second, the T-TPLF “beast is wounded”, very badly, and is no position to “mediate”, “negotiate” or “reconcile”. Like any wild wounded beast, it has only one choice: expire quietly or react impulsively and cause as much destruction as it can before it expires and is dumped in the trash bin of history.
History is repeating itself in Ethiopia. The T-TPLF today is in the same exact position the Derg military junta was in just before the TPLF marched into Addis Ababa in mid-1991. Back then, the T-TPLF walked in and seized power simply because there was no other organized alternative force, and whatever force existed at the time was in total disarray as that coward Mengistu Hailemariam scooted to Zimbabwe to save his skin.
In its last days, the Derg leader Mengistu Hailemariam tried all kinds of tricks to cling to power. But the people were sick and tired of Derg abuses and tyranny. They let the TPLF’s rag tag rebel army to come in and seize power without any resistance. Today, the T-TPLF leaders are racking their brains to figure out a way to cling to power in the face of massive, defiant and unbreakable popular resistance and civil disobedience. The T-TPLF bosses are playing musical chairs every day assigning and reassigning each other to different political positions. They issue proclamations and announcements every day pretending that they are making basic and fundamental changes. They even announcedthey will release political prisoners which they claimed they never had for a decade and half. In an act of shameless con job, a day before the announced political release, the T-TPLF railroaded to long prison terms 19 persons suspected of having links with Ginbot 7 Movement. The T-TPLF has tried to cling to power by imposing a “State of Emergency Command Post” Decree suspending their own constitution.
The T-TPLF bosses today are at the end of their ropes, on their last legs. They do not know what to do to continue to cling to power and maintain the ethnic apartheid system they have enjoyed over the past 27 years. Today, T-TPLF leaders spend most of their time fretting and confused about what to do next as the peoples’ will and steely resolve increases by leaps and bounds everyday made desperate by runaway inflation, skyrocketing cost of living and a paralyzed state whose sole concern is clinging to power.
People who are angry and hungry are not in any mood to “mediate”, “negotiate” or “reconcile”.
Mao Tse-tung used to talk about U.S. imperialism as a “paper tiger” which appears powerful “but in reality it isn’t because it is divorced from the masses of the people and is disliked by everybody. Outwardly a tiger, it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain.”
Mao’s prescriptions to deal with the paper tiger required simple persistence, determination and resolve. He said, “When we say U.S. imperialism is a paper tiger, we are speaking in terms of strategy. Regarding it as a whole, we must despise it. But regarding each part, we must take it seriously. It has claws and fangs. We have to destroy it piecemeal. For instance, if it has ten fangs, knock off one the first time, and there will be nine left, knock off another, and there will be eight left. When all the fangs are gone, it will still have claws. If we deal with it step by step and in earnest, we will certainly succeed in the end.” (Emphasis added.)
The T-TPLF is a paper tiger that is universally disliked and despised by the Ethiopian people. It has many claws and fangs. But the people of Ethiopia united around a strategy of Ethiopiawinet have shown that they can remove the T-TPLF’s claws one at a time, de-fanging it and snipping its forked tongue one at a time. We are witnessing their victory today and every day!
Talking about tigers, John F. Kennedy was right when he said, “Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.” I prefer to replace the tiger with the Cheetah in this metaphor.
Does the angry and hungry Ethiopian Cheetah want to “mediate”, “negotiate” and “reconcile” with the one riding him ragged for 27 years?
Third, it is impossible to mediate, negotiate or reconcile with a shell corporation pretending to be a state or government. The T-TPLF regime is not and has never been a government or a state. The T-TPLF regime has always operated as a shell corporation for its leaders and elites to plunder the country’s economy, engage in corruption, fraud, money laundering, racketeering and other criminal enterprises. That is why I have always called the TPLF a thugtatorship. It is a kleptocracy, a government of thieves, for thieves, by thieves.
In a thugtatorship, the purpose of seizing and clinging to political power is solely to accumulate personal wealth for the ruling class by stealing public funds and depriving the broader population scarce resources necessary for basic survival. The T-TPLF has created an empire of corruption in Ethiopia and operate sophisticated criminal business enterprises to loot the country’s treasury and resources. The T-TPLF’s flagship conglomerate, EFFORT (Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray), is nothing more than a racketeering organization. According to EFFORT’s former chairman, “EFFORT companies receive preferential access to limited credit and/or foreign exchange stocks, or treatment on government bids and contracts, customs clearance import/export license.”
It is often said that EFFORT and the T-TPLF have lavished riches and glory on the people of Tigray. As I demonstrated in my August 2016 commentary, “Ethiopia: Beyond the Politics of Hate”, the evidence does not support the claim. The T-TPLF and EFFORT have scared the people of Tigray into supporting them by invoking all sorts of boogeymen who will come after them without the protection of the T-TPLF and EFFORT and eat their lunches. They have used the people of Tigray as pawns in their ethnic politics chess game.
The fact of the matter is that the T-TPLF and EFFORT elites are interested only in themselves, and no one else!
Today EFFORT is the “Endowment Fund to Rip-off of Ethiopia”.
In 2012, the “Federal First Instance Court at Lideta “ruled that one of EFFORT’s companies, Mega Entertainment Center, which was led by the widow of the late PM Meles Zenawi, Azeb Mesfin, has been running its business in a fraudulent manner by reporting more expenses than the actual and without paying value-added taxes collected from its customers during the preceding eight years.” There is a documented list of T-TPLF EFFORT business entities which today have a chokehold on the Ethiopian economy.
A couple of days ago, it was announced that the same Azeb Mesfin opened her “billion-dollar goldmine” in northern Ethiopia. That would make Azeb Mesfin the second African woman billionaire after Isabel Dos Santos, the daughter of the corrupt Angolan leader. Perhaps Azeb Mesfin is the poorest African billionaire as she told an interviewerin 2011. She said she runs her household on a shoestring and that she “does not have a penny in her pocket. I give away everything I have.” That is the way Azeb Mesfin, the T-TPLF Mafia Queen became a billionaire!
The T-TPLF leaders are godfathers or heads of crime (Mafiosi) families. They use their party apparatuses, bureaucracies, military and police forces to maintain and perpetuate their corrupt financial empires.
The late Meles Zenawi was the mastermind who kept things going for the T-TPLF. When he died, he took the password with him and his minions over the past five years have been running around, literally, like a chicken with its head cut off. Those who survived him are nothing more than a bunch of bush yokels who have no idea what governance or administration is all about.
The point is simply this: The T-TPLF today is an empty barrel government. They talk loud about “national consensus”, “widening political space” and promise a whole boatload of nothings, but I can confidently say that if there was an organized and united opposition political force in Ethiopia today, they could simply walk in and take over the reins of government as did the TPLF itself back in 1991. This is a fact, not exaggeration!
Mafia bosses do not “mediate”, “negotiate” or “reconcile”. They do whatever it takes to keep their criminal empire alive and thriving.
Fourth, the T-TPLF can read the handwriting on the wall all over the country: “Leave before sundown, or there will be showdown!”
The T-TPLF leaders may foolishly believe that they can cling to power simply by killing, jailing and massacring any and all opposition. They have tried that time and again and it has not worked. In fact, it has inspired more audacious defiance of T-TPLF rule and steeled the resolve of the people to free themselves from ethnic apartheid. If the T-TPLF bosses believe they can kill and massacre their way out of the mess they have created over the past 27 years, they are sorely mistaken. They believe their ace in the hole, their ultimate weapon, is their security and military forces. They are foolishly confident that the military is at their beck and call and will do their bidding at the snap of their fingers.
There is no doubt that the T-TPLF has complete and total monopoly over the officer corps in Ethiopia. According to a 2014 study, there were 64 “generals” in Ethiopia with the following ethnic distribution: 49 (“Tigrie”), 4 (“Amhara”), 8 (“Oromo”) 3 (“Agew”), 1 (”Mixed”) and 0 (SNNPR). However, the vast majority of the rank and file in the armed forces are “Amhara” and “Oromo”. How long will it be before the rank and file turns its AK-47s on its generals? How many millions of Ethiopians must the T-TPLF generals kill before they must drink from the same cup?
Are these the generals with whom “mediation”, “negotiation” and “reconciliation” could be had?
Let’s face facts. Better yet, let the T-TPLF face facts. The choice has never been clearer than now for the T-TPLF: Swiftly transition the country to democratic rule or take a chance on winning an impending and inevitable civil war to cling to power and continue to impose your rule with the barrel of AK-47s.
The T-TPLF has a very narrow window to cut a deal and save itself. But like sand through the hour glass, so are the numbered days of the T-TPLF.
As I explained in my February 2016 commentary, the T-TPLF today is a Beast with feet of clay. When gazed upon, the T-TPLF appears awesome, formidable and infinitely powerful. It has guns, tanks, rockets, planes and bombs. Though the T-TPLF has legs of iron, its feet are made of clay. The mighty T-TPLF has all the bayonets, tanks, guns and planes. But when groups of young people confronted the bayonets, tanks, guns and planes (helicopters), the T-TPLF was thrown into complete panic.
Do I not speak the truth?
Fifth, I find it very offensive to hear the reconciliation peddlers pontificating about the “reconciliation process”. I believe they speak out of turn. I do not believe in reconciliation stage-managed by the elites inside or outside of Ethiopia. If there is going to be reconciliation, it must organically emanate and evolve organically from the people, the young people of Ethiopia who represent over 70 percent of the population and are paying the price in blood, sweat and tears. Any “reconciliation” effort that does not reflect the needs, demands, dreams and aspirations of the young people of Ethiopia is doomed to fail.
Why all the talk of “reconciliation” only makes me jittery and anxious
I am the accidental Ethiopian human rights activist. Until 2005, I was doing my own thing. Until 2005, my involvement in Ethiopian affairs largely consisted of editorial contributions to Ethiopian publications and occasional commentaries. I had written a couple of commentaries on the TPLF regime in the 1990s in the monthly “Ethiopian Review”. I have discussed my involvement in Ethiopian human rights advocacy in my June 2015 commentary in some detail.
Following the May 2005 parliamentary election in Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, on June 6-8 and November 1-4, 2005, the military, police and security forces of the T-TPLF under the personal command and control of the late Meles Zenawi committed unspeakable crimes against humanity on hundreds of unarmed protesters exercising their constitutional right (Art. 30) to “assemble and to demonstrate together with others peaceably and unarmed, and to petition.”
I came to call those massacres, the “Meles Massacres”. Every November, I dedicate a commentary to remember the Meles Massacre Victims.
I resolved to get involved in Ethiopian human rights advocacy after the Meles Massacres hoping to gain a measure of justice for those victims and help prevent future massacres. I have never had any political ambition; indeed, on many occasions, I have expressed my contempt for those driven by political ambition. But for the Meles Massacres, it is unlikely that I would have been involved in any meaningful way in Ethiopia affairs at all.
Of course, lack of any political ambition has given me the privilege to speak my mind and speak my truth unburdened by the demands of political correctness or fear of criticism. I call it as I see it. I support my arguments with evidence and data. I am sure some will find my ideas provocative, challenging, outrageous and even offensive. Others will find them inspirational, stimulating and even fresh and unorthodox. But I do not write for political effect or expediency. I write for one reason only: To speak truth to power, to power abusers and misusers, to the power-hungry and power-thirsty and to the powerless.
When it comes to justice for the victims of the Meles Massacres and so many other massacres that have been committed by the T-TPLF over the past 27 years (and indeed even beyond that), I do not hold back, and I will stand my ground demanding the truth and justice for them. In the slightly paraphrased lyrics of that old Tom Petty tune, “I won’t back down… I will stand my ground… I won’t let no one push me around… There ain’t no easy way out… I won’t back down… I will stand my ground… And I won’t back down…”
Justice for the massacre and torture victims of the T-TPLF is a non-negotiable issue for me. I have spent 12 years of my life – indeed committed 12 years of a labor of love — seeking justice and speaking on behalf of the massacre, detention and torture victims of the T-TPLF.
Justice for the T-TPLF victims specifically means to me exposition of the whole truth about each and every one of those who authorized the massacres, each and every one of those who directed the massacres and each and every one of those who committed the massacres before the Ethiopian people and court of world public opinion. The same applies to torture and detention victims.
Justice for the victims means to me accountability for all suspected of involvement in crimes against humanity before an impartial court of law, with those accused given the highest levels of due process protections under international standards and the presence of international observers.
For those who may say I am just too obsessed about those who are long gone, and we should let bygones be bygones, I ask them simple questions: Would you be satisfied with “Let bygones be bygones if your loved ones were victims of T-TPLF massacres and crimes against humanity?” Do not the poor, the voiceless and defenseless victims of T-TPLF abuse of power deserve justice?
For those who say I am tilting at windmills and my efforts will not bear fruit, I say they are missing the point. As Elie Weisel observed in his book “Night”,
For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time. The witness has forced himself to testify. For the youth of today, for the children who will be born tomorrow. He does not want his past to become their future.
I make no apologies when I say I am obsessed with bringing out the truth about the massacres, tortures and abuse victims of the T-TPLF. It is that obsession that has driven me to speak out every week for the last 12 years, without missing a single week.
So, when I hear talk of reconciliation without truth-finding about T-TPLF crimes and abuses, that sounds to me like, “No justice for victims”.
Justice is based on truth. Falsehoods, avoiding the truth for the sake of political expediency and convenience provide no foundation for justice. As a lawyer, I know all too well that the truth is often elusive, subjective and conflicting. No one has a monopoly on truth. The truth, to the extent it can be found, must be discovered in an orderly and fair process.
So, I am serving notice to all who want to do “reconciliation” with the T-TPLF without truth-finding that I am prepared to fight you in the court of public opinion at every turn. I will not stand idle as justice for the T-TPLF massacre and torture victims is sacrificed on the altar of reconciliation and political convenience. The truth about the victims of T-TPLF crimes against humanity will not be forgotten, hidden away, bargained off or negotiated into oblivion.
I have always believed and said that history is like a train delayed. As I observed in my August 2016 commentary, the Justice Train has been long overdue in Ethiopia; but I have been hearing the distant rumble of that train for years. Chugging silently. Chugging slowly. Chugging relentlessly. Chugging unstoppably. Chugging audaciously… I can see it entering the station. But I don’t know who is aboard the train. Does the Ethiopian Justice Train carry the messengers of peace or the harbingers of civil war? I still don’t know the answer to this question.
It has taken 27 years for the Justice Train to arrive in Ethiopia. Such is the schedule of all Justice Trains.
South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established to “bear witness to, record, and in some cases grant amnesty to the perpetrators of crimes relating to human rights violations, as well as reparation and rehabilitation.” The TRC processed a total of 7,112 amnesty applications, of which 5,392 were refused and 849 granted.
The victims of former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s regime eventually got restorative justice through truth-finding.
The victims of Argentina’s Dirty War conducted by the military got “truth and partial justice”.
Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s dictator for over three decades, his sons, his interior minister and others faced justice in an Egyptian court only to have the ends of justice subverted.
Hissène Habré, former president of Chad, who was deposed in 1990 finally received life in prison in April 2017 for torture and murder after decades-long fight for justice for his victims.
Reinhold Hanning, an SS guard at Auschwitz from 1942 to 1944, was convicted of facilitating the killing of at least 170,000 people at age 95 in June 2016.
There are dozens of prosecutions of suspected war criminals and concentration camp guards over the age of 90 underway today in Germany.
Prosecuting these suspects over 70 years after the fact is not about putting decrepit old men in jail. It is about building a national consciousness about the scale of the war crimes.
It does not matter how long it takes but justice must be done for the hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens who suffered crimes against humanity at the hands of the T-TPLF. It is important to hold their abusers accountable so others in the future can learn that they cannot commit crimes against humanity with impunity and to raise and maintain a national consciousness about crimes against humanity in Ethiopia.
Accountability for crimes against humanity and the need to build a national consciousness and public awareness on crimes against humanity is how I embarked on my 12-year odyssey of Speaking Truth to Power.
So, when I hear talk of “reconciliation” detached from talk of truth, I become upset, disquieted and rattled. Truth be told, I get sick to the stomach.
But many of those who talk of “reconciliation” in Ethiopia today conveniently overlook truth. Truth and reconciliation are two side of the same coin. There can be no reconciliation without truth. Reconciliation that does not grow out of truth is a travesty, a joke, political drama, a complete waste of time.
When Bishop Desmond Tutu was appointed co-chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995, he said,
I hope that the work of the Commission, by opening the wounds to cleanse them, will thereby stop them from festering. We cannot be facile and say bygones be bygones, because they will not be bygones and will return to haunt us. True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness which is costly. Forgiveness in turn depends on repentance, which has to be based on an acknowledgement of what was done wrong, and therefore on the disclosure of the truth. You cannot forgive what you do not know.”
I agree fully with Bishop Tutu.
There can be no reconciliation without the truth of T-TPLF crimes exposed to the Ethiopian people and before the court of world public opinion.
There can be no reconciliation without the T-TPLF taking full responsibility, not merely by throwing some of its leaders under the bus, but as an organization, for its crimes.
There can be no reconciliation without the victims of T-TPLF state terror, abuse and mistreatment having their day in a public forum facing and confronting their abusers and torturers.
Seeking truth does not mean seeking revenge or retribution.
I do not believe in revenge or retribution.
Martin Luther King said, “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
Mandela said, “I am not the only one who did not want revenge. Almost all my colleagues in prison did not want revenge, because there is no time to do anything else except to try and save your people.”
It has been said that “Man is wolf to man.” It is revenge, retribution and vindictiveness that transforms man into wolf.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” I do not ever want to see Ethiopia full of blind people. I want to see an Ethiopia blinded by the light of truth.
Questioning and urging caution in dialogue and discussions about reconciliation is not an implicit call for retribution.
Forgiveness and dispensation to wrong-doers who are willing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about their crimes on a case by case basis is appropriate to temper justice with mercy. But there can be no blanket amnesty for pretended avoidance of imagined harms.
Truth and reconciliation is the only way we can realize the dream of a beautiful Ethiopia.
Nelson Mandela said, “If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.”
So, it must be for Ethiopia.
My aim here is not to rain on the “Reconciliation Parade”. My aim is to drill down to the bedrock and inform the Ethiopian people, particularly the youth, who have laid their lives on the line to liberate Ethiopia from T-TPLF tyrannical rule.
I owe it to Ethiopia’s young people to know there can be no reconciliation without truth-finding.
To be continued… Part II, Why I believe reconciliation (without truth-finding) with the T-TPLF is impossible
Ethiopia’s youth united can never be defeated!
Ethiopiawinet TODAY, Ethiopiawinet TOMORROW, Ethiopiawinet FOREVER!
Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino. His teaching areas include American constitutional law, civil rights law, judicial process, American and California state governments, and African politics. He has published two volumes on American constitutional law, including American Constitutional Law: Structures and Process (1994) and American Constitutional Law: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights (1998). He is the Senior Editor of the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies, a leading scholarly journal on Ethiopia. For the last several years, Prof. Mariam has written weekly web commentaries on Ethiopian human rights and African issues that are widely read online. He blogged on the Huffington post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/ and later on open.salon until that blogsite shut down in March 2015.
Prof. Mariam played a central advocacy role in the passage of H.R. 2003 (Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007) in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007. Prof. Mariam also practices in the areas of criminal defense and civil litigation. In 1998, he argued a major case in the California Supreme Court involving the right against self-incrimination in People v. Peevy, 17 Cal. 4th 1184, cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1042 (1998) which helped clarify longstanding Miranda rights issues in California criminal procedure. For several years, Prof. Mariam had a weekly public channel public affairs television show in Southern California called “In the Public Interest”. Prof. Mariam received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1984, and his J.D. from the University of Maryland in 1988.