The Mastermind of Ethnic Federalism Ethiopia
As long as people believed in ‘a bright future,’ they fought side by side irrespective of nationality – common questions first and foremost! But when doubt crept into people’s hearts, they began to depart, each to his own national tent – let every man count only upon himself! The ‘national question’ first and foremost! – Marxism and the National Question— J. V. Stalin
The T-TPLF constitution is designed to destroy the very idea of one Ethiopian nation, one Ethiopian people. It is founded on the quintessential doctrine that there is no “Ethiopian Nation”. There is no “Ethiopian People.” There is no “Ethiopian culture”. There is no “Ethiopian history.” There is no “Ethiopian national identity.” There is no “Ethiopian flag” as a symbol of national identity. There is no “Ethiopian Dream”. There is no Ethiopia! There is only a collection of “nations and nationalities”, trapped in an arbitrary geographic territory known to international law as “Ethiopia”, just waiting, yearning and itching to breakup into tribal chieftaincies and principalities. There is only a make believe confederation of “nations and nationalities” in a mythical land called “Ethiopia”. The Poison of Ethnic Federalism in Ethiopia’s Body Politic— Alemayehu G. Mariam
Author’s Note: This is the second installment in my series, “Ethiopia-win-et: Deconstructing the T-TPLF’s Ethnic Federalism.”
The series aim to debunk the phony ideology of “ethnic federalism” and prove beyond a shadow of doubt that it is a diabolical system designed and created by the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF) to scam, hoodwink and bamboozle Ethiopians into believing ethnic apartheid supremacy is actually federalism, autonomy and self-government.
The series also aim to present thoughtful and provocative analyses and arguments supporting my view that “ethnic federalism” should be dumped into the trash bin of history and the groundwork be laid for a real federalism in the post-T-TPLF New Ethiopia. I shall vigorously argue in favor of “classical federalism”, the theory and practice of governance based on divided sovereignty and the constitutional division of power between a national and sub-national governments.
Moreover, by deconstructing the intellectually and historically bankrupt ideology of ethnic federalism, I aim to challenge others (including the T-TPLF and its minions to come forward and put up a defense) to offer competing perspectives, ideas and views on the theory and practice of federalism. A robust debate on federalism today could serve to intellectually empower young Ethiopians not only to question the bogus ideology of ethnic federalism but most importantly to help them think creatively about a real federal system for their post-T-TPLF Ethiopia.
In Part I, I explained why I decided to tackle ethnic federalism focusing on the fact that it is a colossal con job contrived by T-TPLF leaders to perpetuate their virulent form of internal colonialism and ethnic apartheid supremacy. The T-TPLF took the old Stalinist rancid wine of “nations, nationalities and peoples” and put it in a new bottle of ethnic federalism to justify and ensure its unrivalled ethnic supremacy and domination over 100 million Ethiopians. Ethnic federalism serves only one purpose: The perpetuation of T-TPLF minority ethnic apartheid rule by any means necessary or unnecessary.
In Part II, I aim to explore the dark mind of the man who resurrected ethnic federalism from Stalinism (the 20th century symbol of state terror and totalitarian rule).
The late thugmaster of the T-TPLF, Meles Zenawi, is the quintessential symbol of state terror and totalitarian rule in Ethiopia. Just as Stalin used his notion of “nations, nationalities and peoples” to establish and maintain Bolshevik communist supremacy, Meles used the same notion to establish and maintain his ethnic apartheid supremacy.
Stalin understood the irrepressible power of nationalism. He argued, “A nation is formed only as a result of lengthy and systematic intercourse, as a result of people living together generation after generation.” Stalin found the intergenerational evolution of shared consciousness of people living together (nationalism, shared loyalty and devotion to a nation, a sense of national consciousness) an insurmountable obstacle to his plan of Bolshevik communist totalitarian rule. Stalin had to create a fiction of “nations, nationalities and peoples” as a powerful antidote to “bourgeois nationalism”, which the ruling classes assumedly used to divide their citizens by nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, etc., and rule over them while preventing unity and solidarity among the working class.
Likewise, Meles Zenawi and his T-TPLF cabal understood the irrepressible power of nationalism. They understood that Ethiopian nationalism could create a unifying consciousness for “a bright future” and serve as a mechanism to harness the collective energies of all sectors of Ethiopian society to work and fight together for one destiny – the New Ethiopia — irrespective of their ethnicity, language, religion, etc.
Meles and his T-TPLF minions adapted Stalin’s fiction of “nations, nationalities and peoples” as an antidote to a supposed “Amhara nationalism, oppression and supremacy”. By dividing the people of Ethiopia into “nations, nationalities and peoples”, Meles and his minions sought to use ethnic federalism as a uniting force to overthrow their Amhara oppressors. They managed to create a Kililistan Solar System around which 9 kilils revolved around the pentagrammed T-TPLF star.
Like Stalin who sought to ensure the supremacy of Bolshevik rule on the ashes of “bourgeois nationalism” in Russia, Meles Zenawi set to destroy any consciousness of Ethiopian-ness by creating an Amhara boogeyman to ensure the supremacy of his ethnic minority rule.
Meles’ ethnic federalism has become a deadly poison in the Ethiopian constitutional body politic. The T-TPLF constitution is designed to create perpetual disunion among the Ethiopian people by dividing and corralling them like cattle into insular “nations and nationalities” or Kililistans. By corralling the people of Ethiopia into communal, linguistic, cultural and regional groups, the T-TPLF put a constitutional scheme in place that would permanently and irreversibly destroy the social glue of tolerance, harmony and understanding that has kept them united as a people for millennia.
Understanding the mind of the mastermind who concocted the poison of ethnic federalism
Since I plunged headlong into the Ethiopian human rights struggle following the 2005 election in Ethiopia, I have been trying to understand the mind of Meles Zenawi and his T-TPLF minions and the evil they have perpetrated for over a quarter of a century.
Understand the mind of evil?
In my April 2013 commentary “The Audacity of Evil”, I tried to “understand” the problem of evil in Ethiopia. I made an attempt in that commentary to get some insight, a glimpse of the moral makeup of Meles and his T-TPLF minions who live in a completely different moral universe than myself. Meles and his T-TPLF created an Orwellian world where ethnicity trumps humanity every time.
When I speak of the triumph of evil in Ethiopia, I realize that there is nothing I can say by way of reasoned argument or presentation of evidence to persuade those in power to forsake their evil ways and deeds. I have concluded that those in power in Ethiopia live on a planet shielded by the equivalent of a moral Van Allen radiation belt that keeps out all cosmic rays of virtue, decency and goodness.
Of course, there is no such thing as “understanding” evil.
Is it possible to “understand” the Holocaust, the Rwanda or Darfur Genocides?
Is it possible to “understand” the recent genocides in the Oromia, Amhara, Ogaden and Gambella regions of Ethiopia?
To “understand” the deaths of millions, hundreds of thousands and tens of thousands of innocent human beings is to implicitly to justify evil, and somehow diminish its enormity.
It is impossible for me to see the world through Meles’ eyes.
It is impossible for me to see Ethiopians as nothing more than “nations, nationalities and peoples.” That is because I cannot see their ethnicity, only their humanity.
I cannot see Ethiopians as a people divided by religion. I see them all created in the image of God.
I cannot see Ethiopians as a people trapped in a Tower of Babel eternally condemned to become strangers to each other. I see the diversity of languages in Ethiopia as “forms of life” in the Wittgensteinian sense: “We do what we do because we assume a given form of life, which gives our actions, ourselves, and the world meaning.”
To me, language is essentially a powerful weapon in the battle for hearts and minds and the medium by which anyone who can muster courage can speak truth to power.
I do not know if some people are born evil.
Philip Zimbardo of the (in)famous 1971 Stanford Experiment and author of the “Lucifer Effect”, says all humans are susceptible to the lure of “the dark side”; and exposed to the right (wrong) situational forces and group dynamics, they could be transformed from ordinary decent human beings into monsters. Zimbardo argues people themselves are not necessarily evil but if put in a system where they are compelled to exercise their power in an evil way, they will do evil. He defines evil as “exercising power to intentionally harm (psychologically), hurt (physically), destroy, or commit crimes against humanity.” Could that explain the genocides in Rwanda, Darfur (Sudan), Cambodia (Pol Pot), Bosnia-Herzegovina and so many others.
Are some people born evil? Norman Mailer, arguably the most brilliant American writer of the second half of the 20th century, in his novel “The Castle in the Forest”, a study of the childhood of Hitler, posed the question, “When did evil enter Hitler’s soul?” His answer, “At the moment of conception”.
When did evil enter the souls of Meles and his minions?
Are the individuals in positions of power in Ethiopia evil by nature or was evil thrust upon them?
Were they victims of evil themselves and now seek to avenge the actual or perceived evil done to them and ended up being evil themselves?
Did they become the very (“Amhara”) evil monster they slew?
Is the gratuitous evil Meles and his minions practiced as business as usual a psychological illness, an incurable sickness of the soul?
I do not have answers to these questions.
What I believe is that hate is learned. Hate is learned in the family, in the culture, in the ethnic consciousness. I agree with Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Hate is like greed. I am reminded of Gordon Gekko’s credo in the 1987 film “Wall Street”: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.”
For the T-TPLF, “Hate, for lack of a better word, is good. Hate is right. Hate works.” Hate divides the people of Ethiopia. Hate makes possible ethnic apartheid supremacy. Hate is profitable. Hate, like greed, is good.
But I know, without a doubt, ethnic federalism is the intellectual product of the evil of hate. Ethnic federalism by its true name is ethnic hate. Ethnic distrust. Ethnic fear and loathing. Ethnic enmity. Ethnic revenge. Ethnic discord and strife. The ultimate and full expression of ethnic federalism is ethnic supremacy, which will inevitably result in ethnic civil war.
Ethnic federalism is an evil garbed in political language. To paraphrase George Orwell, ethnic federalism is designed to make lies about the division of power between a national and subnational governments sound truthful and murder to enforce those lies respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
Truth be told, ethnic federalism is the African version of “Aryanism”.
Meles Zenawi and his T-TPLF minions believe they have a birthright to rule Ethiopia. Trapped in their own echo chamber, they have convinced themselves that they possess infinitely superior capacities for valor and bravery in the field of battle, for intellect, for civil administration, for economic planning, for entrepreneurship, for social organization, and for advancing civilization. They truly believe they are the Ubermenschen (“supermen”) who are destined to rule over a primitive collection of Untermenschen (subhuman) “nations, nationalities and peoples”. That is the Mind of the T-TPLF!
Hitler and the Nazis were obsessed by their demented racial theory that Jews were the cause of all the troubles in the world. Their “final solution” was the extermination of the Jewish people. They chose the most ghastly and horrific means to achieve their objectives.
Meles and his T-TPLF today are obsessed by their ethnic theory that Amharas are the cause of all the troubles in Ethiopia. Their solution is the extermination of the Amhara people.
In their Manifesto, Meles and the T-TPLF declared, “Ethiopia is a country created by Emperor Menelik and since there are many nations and nationalities invaded by Menelik, these groups must gain their freedom from what is now called Ethiopia and establish their own country.” Meles and the T-TPLF argued, “Amhara are the enemy of the Tigray people. Amhara are not only enemies but also double enemies. Therefore, we must crush Amhara. We have to destroy them. Unless Amhara are destroyed, beaten down, cleansed from the land, Tigray cannot live in freedom. For the government we intend to create, Amhara will be the main obstacle.” That is the Mind of the T-TPLF!
The T-TPLF demonized and vilified Amharas as monsters and waged virulent vilification campaigns against them for 26 years. In the end, they became the very “Amhara monster” they set out to slay. Indeed, they have become the “New Amhara”. The hate they cast on the Amhara has boomeranged on them. They should have heeded Friedrich Nietzsche’s admonition, “He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster.” The T-TPLF fought an imaginary Amhara monster and in the end became a real monster detested by every segment of Ethiopian society.
Meles Zenawi and his minions concocted ethnic federalism as the ultimate poison to kill off the Ethiopian nation.
As I explained in my March 2015 commentary, “The Poison of Ethnic Federalism in the Ethiopian Body Politic”, ethnic federalism is a toxic political combination with a valency that includes such deadly political chemicals as, “There is no Ethiopian Nation. There is no Ethiopian People. There is no Ethiopian culture. There is no Ethiopian history. There is no Ethiopian national identity. There is no Ethiopian flag as a symbol of national identity. There is no Ethiopian Dream’. There is no Ethiopia!”
If there is no Ethiopian nation, then there will only exist “nations, nationalities and peoples” under the total control and domination of the T-TPLF. That makes it possible for those who claim to represent one “nation, nationality and people” to control a whole country.
Meles calculated that to kill off Ethiopia and on its ashes establish his minority apartheid ethnic regime and ensure it survives, thrives and flourishes, he needed a scaremongering strategy for the various ethnic groups. So he invented the Amhara boogeyman: “The Amhara boogeyman will get you. He will come and take your land. He will forbid you from talking in your language. He will enslave you.” To ensure the other ethnic groups will not create solidarity and demand their rights, Meles and the T-TPLF spread their gospel of ethnic federalism. “For the first time in history, we have given you the right to learn in your own language. We let you govern yourselves by creating your own legislative bodies. You can choose your own president, as long as he does what we tell him to do. You are free to do anything you want in your kililistans as long as we approve! But dig this! We own your land. We can take it, sell it or do whatever we want with your land. Capisce (Capeesh)!”
Ethnic federalism was conceived in Meles’ mind as the perfect “poison pill” which can incapacitate the majority ethnic groups into political paralysis, alienate them from each other, create antagonisms between and among themselves and prevent them from uniting and creating solidarity against T-TPLF ethnic supremacy.
Meles calculated that for his ethnic federalism to work it must be constitutionalized. The Preamble to the T-TPLF constitution declares, “We the Nations, Nationalities and People of Ethiopia…” have written the constitution to 1) “secure the right to self-determination” for “people of the nations and nationalities”, 2) ensure the territorial insularity (separateness) of the “people of the nations and nationalities” so that they can “live with our rich and proud cultural legacies” 3) “rectify historically unjust relationships”, and 4) facilitate “liv[ing] as one economic community”. Note: Not one political community!
Is it possible to understand the mind that is threatened by the pens and keyboards of young Ethiopians posting their opinions of social media and websites and sentencing them to long prison terms?
Is it possible to understand the mind that practices torture on innocent citizens simply because they are political opponents or dissenters?
For instance, convicting an innocent young journalist on trumped up “terrorism” charges, sentencing her to a long prison term and throwing her into solitary confinement is evil because such acts cause great physical and psychological pain and suffering.
Is it possible to understand the cold-blooded massacre of thousands of unarmed demonstrators time and again?
Is it possible to understand the mind that actively promotes the displacement of large indigenous populations from their ancestral homes and selling their land to fly by night operators?
Is it possible to understand the mind that insists each person must be identified by ethnicity, language, region and religion to receive public service?
Is it possible to understand the mind that proclaims to the world that stealing elections in broad daylight by 99.6 percent or 100 percent?
Is it possible to understand the mind that rationalizes the daylight theft of billions from a poor country’s treasury while 20 percent of the population is starving to death?
Is it possible to understand the mind that it is perfectly acceptable to cheat, rob, steal and kill with absolute impunity and without accountability?
Is it possible to understand the mind without a moral compass and operates on the principle that there is no evil but in the eye of the beholder?
The late Meles Zenawi has left a dark and bleak legacy of ethnic hate which is now bubbling into a creeping civil war. The evil he has done and his T-TPLF continue to do lives on in the prisons they built, the justice system they corrupted and the lives of good young Ethiopians they destroyed.
I remain optimistic that in the end good shall triumph over evil because the ultimate battle between good and evil in Ethiopia will not be waged on a battlefield with “crashing guns and rattling musketry”; nor will it be fought and won in the voting booths, the parliaments, the courts or bureaucracies.
The battle for good and evil will be fought, won or lost, in the hearts and minds of ordinary Ethiopian men and women who have the courage to rise up and do good and fight evil.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Perhaps the most difficult question of all is this: “Is it possible to understand the mind that believes the best way to resist evil is to remain silent, to turn a blind eye, deaf ears and muted lips?
Perhaps there is a clear answer to that question. Martin Luther King taught, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Evil lurks in all places.
ETHIOPIA-WIN-ET is the only antidote to the poison of ethnic federalism, ethnic apartheid supremacy.
To be continued…
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.