By Prof. Seid Hassan
Boycotting is one of means for non-violent struggle. It has been effectively used in many parts of the world, particularly against the apartheid regime in South Africa. It is about time for all Ethiopians and freedom loving people to put pressure by boycotting products and services offered by the government, its supporters and particularly those businesses owned by the EPRDF. By boycotting government services, party-owned parastatals (such as EFFORT) and the businesses owned by its staunch supporters, we will effectively be reducing (even incapacitating) the financial wherewithal the regime uses to buy weapons, pay the Agazi killers, the federal police and the military.
Part I. Generally Known Tactics Which Make Boycotting Successful
[Note: Those who may be uninterested in reading/knowing the modalities of effective boycotting can skip Part I and jump to Part II without much loss. Just make sure to do your part by participating in boycotting. Boycotting cannot be effective without everyone’s participation, which includes, you!]
1. Try to have a vision and make sure to follow through. Thomas Edison, the brilliant American inventor (who invented light bulbs, photography and motion picture), is known to have said this: “Vision without execution is hallucination.” How true!
2. Try to be organized and, if possible, include a clearly defined goal. That is, try, if possible and whenever possible, to have a timeline, guideline, and to provide strong leadership. Try to send clear messages, whenever possible, to the offending company, government, country or party with a request for a CLEAR and VIABLE policy change. If they renounce their wrong doings, use them as an example. Remember, when you do that, you are sending multiple messages (both to your allies and the potential enemies) while at the same time, reducing the number of enemies that you would have to target. Don’t forget that boycotts require the dedication and work of energetic activists, the support of enthusiastic consumers, and lots of planning.
3. Do your homework before targeting individuals, companies, or governments. Study them well before targeting them.
4. Be consistent and don’t weaver.
5. Be organized and try to have more backers who would help you and in case something happens to you (take a vacation, be away for a while…etc.)
6. Don’t let consumers second guess you- especially in case they happen to see you wavering or you don’t know what you are talking about.
7. Be careful not to buy the product that you asked others to boycott. Avoid being a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing something else that contradicts the spirit of the campaign effort. I happen to know members of the Ethiopian diaspora being hypocrites and indirectly assisting the regime for too long. Enough is enough!
8. Make Boycotting to be Surgical (hitting where it hurts the most): Focus on a few products, companies, stores, or persons and hit them hard, repeatedly. It is actually better to hit a few targets and be successful rather than trying to do everything at one time. It is better to be up against smaller fish than bigger ones, too. If you target many of them at once, you will reduce your effectiveness. You will also lose many followers and consumers. In fact, you may even want your target to aim at some smaller fish and kill them. You can build on that success and go to the bigger fish next.
9. At the start of your campaign, choose a company or its product that is the “most visible, easy to identify, vulnerable, image conscious, and clearly guilty of the grievance.”
10. If the target is the government, pick an industry or company that is crucial and dear to it, so that the company could pressure the government agents.
11. As a leader of the organized group, don’t be disappointed if you found out that some consumers were lying to you – telling you that they would follow your advice but you see them doing the opposite. It happens all the time, especially with the Ethiopian community. Some consumers also want to be free-riders- they want to be a part of the boycotting success even though they refuse to participate.
12. In some situations, it may be useful to make sure that the product or business you are targeting is already known to the consumers. When this happens, consumers would be less confused and more focused and would know whom to target. If the boycotting is targeting a new product or entirely a new business, the negative publicity MAY have the undesired effect- introducing the product to the public in a positive way.
13. If some consumers still continue to want to buy the product that you are targeting, try to provide them with a Clear Alternatives to the Boycotted Product. If some Ethiopians still want to buy injera, for example, find an alternative seller that you know is not allying itself with the enemy. In some cases, you can ask supplier of the alternative to pay you for advertising their product and steering (luring) more consumers towards their businesses. Do this in a secretive way and with those whom you trust a lot so that they will not be a conflict of interest.
14. If the efforts of boycotting become successful, share these facts with your followers. Allow them to be owners of the effort. Raise their spirits and ask them to do more. Show leadership and tell them where you are going. At times, it is necessary to show your followers the road map. At times, it is important to share with them some success stories.
15. Ask your followers to pass on the success stories via email and tell them to spread the good word. The spread of the information will then multiply thereby making the effort more effective.
16. Once you become successful in your campaigns, take your campaign a step further and introduce it to bigger organizations and ask them for their support. Share your successes with other potential sympathetic followers such as specific NGOs.
17. At some stage, it may be worthwhile to ask corporations/companies to support your campaigns. However, don’t expect them to overtly support your efforts since doing so could be a little too risky for them.
18. Try to make the boycotting activity less spontaneous. Try to make the campaign sustainable and long lasting. Boycotting that are based on spontaneity are known to fade away quickly. Remember that, even though timing could be everything, patience is always a virtue.
19. Ask boycott participants for their contributions, while at the same time being wary of them. For example, they may ask you to target the company that they individually want to attack or have some kind of enmity. Ask them to tell you and your listeners which company/group/person should be the next target. Ask them to do their own investigations and report to you privately.
20. Be aware that the boycott may take time to show any effect. Never try to think that your efforts will be fruitful right away. Be prepared for an extended battle.
21. Don’t hesitate to collaborate even with those you don’t agree with in regards to other issues. Be tactful and always try to keep your eyes on the ball, which is being successful in the campaign effort! Give them credit if and when necessary. Never try to attack them or hinder their efforts even if you don’t like them. If indeed their campaign is similar to yours, don’t contradict them at all even if you don’t like them. Remember: you can always collaborate with them indirectly and tacitly.
Part II. Which Specific Ethiopian Government Services, Products and Companies to Boycott- some ideas
Some of the government owned (effectively TPLF/EPRDF’s cash cows) which have used to exploit the Ethiopian people with poor service, exorbitant fees, extraordinary nepotism include Ethiopian Airlines, Ethio Telecom, National and Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. Furthermore, numerous anecdotal evidence indicates that some Ethiopian Airlines employees have committed criminal acts against Ethiopians, particularly against those tens of thousands who were expelled from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, by intentionally disappearing their languages and products. This writer has heard horror stories from expelled Ethiopians whose smartphones have been expropriated by Ethiopian Airlines employees. The airline employees are alleged to have made tens of thousands of dollars with such criminal acts.
1. To all Ethiopians and Members of the Diaspora: Carefully identify staunch supporters of the TPLF/EPRD haunting and socially ostracize.
2. Foster Discourse/Dialogue with Care while Boycotting. Try to communicate with those who became wealthy either by being supporters of the TPLF/EPRDF and collaborators of a corruptive scourge and/or by being ethnically affiliated, particularly those who have not committed economic and political crimes. Let’s understand that the TPLF/EPRDF is also hated by its own members and the ethnic groups it purports to represent. Avoid a national and/or seemingly all-inclusive divide that the TPLF has used and is still currently using, pitting Tigrayans against the Amharas and/or the Oromos. Let’s try to create conditions for those genuine TPLFites/EPRDFites who want a way out, showing them our shared interests. We should be vigilant hardcore TPLFites/EPRDFites using the dialog/discourse as a delaying tactic and/or as their means to continue business as usual. And/or buy time.
3. To the Diaspora: Stop visiting Ethiopia for a while unless it is absolutely necessary. If you must travel to Ethiopia, fly other airlines.
4. To all Ethiopians and Members of the Diaspora: Boycott all services and products provided by TPLF-owned EFFORT and companies. In addition to being cash cows for party leaders, my research strongly indicate that these companies were illegally established and were (and continue to be) deeply involved in corruption and suffocating monopolistic practices.
5. To all Ethiopians and Members of the Diaspora: Boycott all services and products provided by MIDROC-Ethiopia. Research and anecdotal evidence indicates that the owner of MIDRO-Ethiopia not only has been collaborating and supporting the dictatorial regime but it is known to be deeply involved in corruption. The own Diaspora
6. To the Diaspora: Stop buying imported products from Ethiopia, particularly products and services imported and provided by the Ethiopian government and its supporters. Shun those companies, restaurant, grocery stress and foreign exchange (remittance) services owned and operated by the TPLF/EPRDF and the GOE.
7. To the Diaspora: Stop new investments in Ethiopia for now. Doing so will deny the regime the foreign exchange reserves it so desperately needs.
8. To the Diaspora: Be careful about the remittances you send. Send remittances only if necessary.
9. To all Ethiopians and Members of the Diaspora: Stop buying land Ethiopia. As showed elsewhere, those who have been buying land in Ethiopia have effectively immersed themselves in corruption. The day of reckoning is getting closer for those who have been a part of the corrupt activities of the TPLF/EPRDF!
10. To all Ethiopians Back Home: Refuse to Pay Taxes if at all possible.
11. To all Ethiopians Back Home: The use of property damage as a means of non-violent struggle is an unsettled issue. As Adam Rothstein, argues, whether property destruction is non-violent means of struggle is an unsettled issue, since, “[w]hile we all hope that we avoid violence, at all costs, the facts of history is that power is not relinquished just because the people ask for it…” It can be argued that, particularly for very greedy business politicians such as the TPLF/EPRDF, destroying their properties, in a limited way (surgical but not wholesale), could be a very effective tactic while at the same time a means to boost the morale of protesters (see also, Louisa Dean). In some respects, if the desire for change is to be taken seriously, such a measure may be acceptable such as, as reported by ESAT, the setting ablaze of a home belonging to government informant and/or a federal police who shot and killed peaceful protesters. My suggestion is to avoid the destruction properties as much as possible, while at the same time trying to surgically sabotage the sources of funds for the ruling party and its corrupt supporters. Ethiopians have to understand a few facts in regards to this issue: (1) Even those they may now be in hands of the ruling party and/or its supporters, at the end of the day, some of these same government and party-owned properties that have been pillaged by the TPLF/EPRDF, maybe repossessed by the Ethiopian people; (2) Any country, let alone poor Ethiopia cannot afford to lose any properties/resources. Though it is understandable (as I fretted and predicted it to take place in recent article) why Ethiopians may be tempted to destroy some ill-gotten properties and resources, Ethiopians must refrain from doing so while using a multitude of other tactics at their disposal in order to deny the ruling party and its supporters economic power. Destroying properties denies protesters the moral high ground as well.
Gandhi wrote: “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a responsibility as co-operation with good.”
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