January 31, 2012

The 2011 Arab Springs: Lessons for Ethiopians


There were a number of popular uprisings against dictators that erupted in 2011 in the Middle Eastern and North African Arab countries: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Jordan, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. So far we have witnessed that at least the dictators on Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are gone, with Gadafi for good.

The 2011 Arab Springs: Lessons for Ethiopians

There are many common features in all these countries: the dictators ruled the people for decades with absolute power, stifling democracy, imposing state of emergencies; whether they were monarchies or otherwise, the rulers were closely knit by kinship, affinity and kleptocracy; they killed, maimed, jailed and forced into exile all those who dared to dissent; they divided their people and opposition along ethnic, tribal and sectarian lines; looted their countries’ resources and became tycoons on the back of their impoverished people.

Doesn’t this sound familiar to the Ethiopian dictators? Aren’t they their mirror images?

What else is common in those countries? Despite the sufferings of their people the dictators were all being propped up by Western democracies, in exchange for their oil or other security considerations.

People had to rise up and many lives had to be sacrificed, even just to attract western media attention. The people of those countries had to demonstrate that they have reached the point of no return to induce any regional or global intervention.

Unless they see any potential shift in the balance of power on the ground, none of the western powers will come to our rescue just on moral grounds. In politics and international relations, national interest takes precedence over morality. Even when there is an uprising and determination on the part of the oppressed people, they will not intervene until they see the signs of power tipping on the side of the opposition (Bahrain and Saudi).

Dictator Meles Zenawi, “the Ethiopian Caligula” is today the “darling of the West”, a “friendly tyrant” being propped up with injections of billions of dollars aid money and military support. Despite the siphoning of billions by the tyrant for personal enrichment, in amounts unheard in Ethiopian history, money is still being pumped into the dictator’s coffer. They might even rescue him, as they did with Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s deposed dictator, when the day comes.

But we still have to come together and rise up, learning the lessons from the Arab Spring. Change in Woyane’s Ethiopia will not come through elections. Never! We have to rise up!


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