Ethiopian Housemaid attacks employer, disabled girl in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Gazette report, saudigazette.com.sa

QATIF — An Ethiopian domestic worker would have almost killed her employer and her 16-year-old disabled niece had it not been for Civil Defense rescuers who arrived just in time, Al-Hayat daily reported on Thursday quoting the police.

The Ethiopian woman allegedly tried to gouge out the eyes of her employer, a 36-year-old Saudi woman, on Wednesday in the city of Al-Awamiya, said police spokesman Lt. Col. Ziyad Al-Ruqaiti.

She inflicted severe injuries on the disabled girl and then locked the girl and her employer in a room.

The employer called the police from her cell phone.

The girl was rushed to the Safawi General Hospital where she is lying in critical condition while the employer was treated for her injuries and is listed in good condition. Her alleged attacker was arrested.

Al-Ruqaiti said the Ethiopian woman also beat up the disabled girl and her aunt.

Investigations are ongoing to find out why she tried to kill the girl and gouge out her aunt’s eyes.

The employer’s sister, who locked herself up in another room for fear that the housemaid would attack her, broke down and collapsed when she saw the woman beating up her sibling and niece, he said.

This attack comes after an Ethiopian house helper allegedly stabbed a Syrian girl in the head, killing her, while another one slit the throat of a little girl. The suspect in the Syrian girl’s murder told police during investigations that she stabbed the victim because she did not like her and she would bother her a lot.

She stabbed her with a knife in the head several times and watched her bleed to death.

The Ministry of Labor has recently imposed a moratorium on recruitment from Ethiopia after a spate reports about crimes involving workers from the country.

The ministry will conduct a study on the crimes committed by Ethiopian domestic workers before making a final decision about recruitment from Ethiopia.

In response to the Saudi move, the Ethiopian authorities halted the processing of 40,000 visas that had been approved earlier.

Egypt’s mass struggles, the coup and its regional implications

Will Tunisia, Libya and other states follow a similar pattern?
Abayomi Azikiwe

Although the United States has refused to condemn the military seizure of power in Egypt and is sending another four F-16 fighter jets to Cairo, the White House, Pentagon and State Department are obviously concerned about developments in this North African country and throughout the region.

An envoy from Washington, William Burns who is deputy Secretary of State, was dispatched to Egypt during the week of 14 July in an effort to stabilize the political situation in a way that will not conflict with US interests. Egypt is the second largest recipient of direct foreign assistance from the White House falling behind only the state of Israel.

Egypt's Mursi calls for dialogue

Egypt’s Mursi calls for dialogue

The political structures of both Egypt and Israel serve the foreign policy objectives of world imperialism headed by the US. The $1.3 billion allocated to Egypt is designed to keep the country within the political sphere of Washington and Wall Street and to bolster the military apparatus in an attempt to ensure that the people will not seize control of the state.

Despite the tens of billions of dollars that have been turned over to the military and other forces within the national bourgeoisie in Egypt, the country still remains in a restive state. Millions have taken to the streets since January 2011 demanding jobs, income, democratic rights and a shift in the relations between Egypt and Israel that has been frozen since the advent of the Camp David Accords signed in 1979.

Egyptian workers and youth have played a pivotal role in these struggles through mass demonstrations, strikes and rebellions. Just recently workers in the utility sector and the arts have staged occupations demanding better wages and conditions of employment.

With the recent military seizure of power and the virtual re-banning of the Muslim Brotherhood, unrest is continuing inside the country. Supporters of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which is allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, are holding a sit-in near the Republican Guard headquarters in Nasr City where ousted President Mohamed Morsi is rumored to be held.

A shooting incident at this location on 8 July resulted in the deaths of over 50 people. The supporters of the FJP called it a massacre whereas the military said the deaths were the result of provocations by opponents of the coup.

Nonetheless, there are no indications that the FJP, the Salafist parties such as Al Nour and others, are willing to give up the fight against the 3 July seizure of power by the army. Although the military leadership announced on 13 July that it was nearing completion of forming an interim governing council, there is still a serious question of credibility and legitimacy that this new body will have to overcome in order to be able to rule Egypt without serious disruptions.

WILL OTHER STATES GO THE WAY OF EGYPT?

Although the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East began in December 2010 in Tunisia resulting in the forced exile of long time President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, due to Egypt’s larger population and closer links to the US., much of the focus on developments in the region were centered on Cairo. The removal of President Hosni Mubarak by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on 11 February, 2011 did not return power to the people.

During the course of 2011-2012 there were huge demonstrations and other forms of resistance against military rule. By the time of the national presidential elections in June 2012, most Egyptians were committed to sending the army back to the barracks.

With a second coup by the military on July 3, speculation has arisen over what impact this will have on Tunisia and Libya which were also subjected to changes of government albeit under drastically different circumstances. Tunisians elected a moderate Islamist government which took power after Ben Ali’s ouster by the military and security forces, although this regime collapsed after the assassination of a leading human rights lawyer Chokri Belaid who opposed their policies.

Nonetheless, all indications are that the military in Tunisia is not interested in seizing power. The nationwide response to the assassination Chokri Belaid saw strikes and mass protests which the authorities are not eager to repeat.

The largest electoral bloc within the Tunisian government, the Ennahda Party, has strongly opposed the overthrow of President Morsi. Demonstrations were held in Tunisia on July 4 demanding the restoration of the elected government in Cairo.

Ennahda Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi said of the political dispensation in Tunisia that ‘In order to avoid ideological polarization and to achieve compatibility, we adopted a serious strategy of compromise, especially between the Islamist and modernist currents. This move spared our country the evils and dangers of division.’(Magharebia, July 14)

Tunisia has started its own Tamarod (rebel) movement whose spokesman Mohamed Bennour states that they are dissatisfied with the existing coalition government. The organization says that it has collected over 250,000 signatures.

‘We want to dissolve the Constituent Assembly because it squanders public funds, produces a mined constitution and establishes a state that is not civil and eliminates rights and freedoms,’ the activist said. The Ennahda Party has denounced the Tamarod movement in both Egypt and Tunisia.

According to Magharebia, ‘Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, said in various press statements that a repeat of the Egyptian scenario in Tunisia was not possible. In his opinion, Tunisians tend to agree more, pointing out that the country was a democratic country that knows its potential and relies on the awareness of its youth, civil society and political parties when assessing the higher needs of the country.’ (14 July)

In Libya, where the Pentagon and NATO engineered the removal of the Jamahiriya, the political system under the assassinated leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, the political situation remains very unstable. Militia groups that were financed and coordinated by imperialism in the 2011 war of regime-change remained divided and engage in deadly internecine conflicts on a daily basis.

Responses from the existing Libya political parties that participate in the US.-installed General National Congress (GNC) regime have been restrained or non-existent. Constant unrest among workers in the oil industry and within the general population does not bode well for a similar scenario of military control as enacted within Egypt.

Recently the GNC has requested NATO assistance in stabilizing the situation in Libya. The US military and intelligence presence in Libya is formidable with Marines guarding Washington’s embassies and diplomatic outposts in the country.

The Guardian newspaper reported recently that ‘Hundreds of British troops are being prepared to deploy to North Africa to tackle al Qaeda-inspired extremists. Under secret plans being drawn up urgently by top brass, UK soldiers would be sent ‘within months’ to the region to help train the Libyan army.’ (1 July)

This plan will involve at least 2,000 Libyan ‘soldiers’ who will be trained in an effort to counter so-called ‘terrorist’ threats in Libya and throughout the region.

Developments in Turkey and Syria have prompted different responses to the Egyptian coup of July 3. The government of President Bashar al-Assad welcomed the military seizure power in light of Morsi’s hostility towards Damascus through the avowed support of the rebels and the breaking of diplomatic relations.

In Turkey, which is governed by the moderate Justice and Development Party (AKP), the government has rejected the coup and called for the restoration of civilian rule. Turkey has been the scene of large anti-government demonstrations and strikes which have been severely repressed by the regime of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

REAL REVOLUTION NEEDED THROUGHOUT THE REGION

With the government in Egypt still remaining within the orbit of US imperialism, the situation illustrates the need for a real people’s revolution inside the country and throughout the region. The military-led transitional interim council says that it will prepare the people for elections in early 2014.

However, a number of political questions remain outstanding. Will the FJP and other Islamic parties be allowed full participation in the proposed elections?

Also will conditions improve for the Egyptian workers, farmers and youth under the interim governing council? In all likelihood the problems of massive unemployment and poverty will continue with no program aimed at empowering the majority within society.

In order for Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Turkey to move forward there must be a revolution led by the people and not controlled by the military which represents in Egypt the interests of the national bourgeoisie in league with US imperialism. When such a revolutionary movement takes power in Egypt it can influence the political atmosphere throughout North Africa and the Middle East.

*Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor of Pan-African News Wire

Typologies of National-isms in Ethiopia

Over the last several weeks, a lot has been said on both sides of the “I am Oromo first” and “I am Ethiopian first” divide. But very little about why people choose those positions.

This piece is inspired by Abebe Gelaw’s commentary on Jawar Mohammed’sstatement. In “I am Ethiopian First”, I thought, Abebe presented a sensible and sober contrast to a catalogue of pieces with vulgar and repulsive sentiments from many Ethiopian writers. His call for calm among Amhara activists regarding their sudden Jawar mania as well as his plea for consensus and compromise between the two communities were commendable.

However, Abebe’s characterizations of the typologies of national-isms in Ethiopia were rather troublesome. He writes,

My understanding is that Jawar is an ethno-nationalist. As an ethno-nationalist, he says he is an Oromo first. Unlike him, I am a nationalist. But that is not the major problem. The problem is the way he has chosen to articulate and present his views in question that have been widely perceived as inflammatory and divisive. I firmly and fervently believe that I am an Ethiopian first. I do not wish to allow the ethnic origin of my predecessors and parents to define me as a human being and overshadow my Ethiopian identity. Jawar said Ethiopian identity was imposed on him. On the contrary, I argue that such a position is fundamentally flawed. Nowhere in the world is anyone given choices of national identity.

While Abebe sees no problem in this statement, the notion that “I am a nationalist” and “you are an ethno-nationalist” is central to the simmering tensions between Amharas and Oromos. For starters, there is no such a thing as “I am a nationalist.” One can only be a nationalist in some defined group. As such when Abebe says I am “an Ethiopian nationalist”, it begs the question, but which Ethiopia?

The Euphemism

Oromos and most non-Amhara Ethiopians have a clear understanding of the existence of an Ethiopia with dual identity. The first is mythical Ethiopia, which is sufficiently described in Ethiopian history books. In this ancient Ethiopia with 3000 years of history, everyone speaks Amharic and is an Orthodox Christian. In its heyday, mythical Ethiopia’s geography stretched to the oceans before it was reduced to the current existence in recent centuries.

The second one is what I call the real Ethiopia where two minority groups dominated the majority of people within its borders in literally all spheres of life – politics, economy, culture, language, etc for more than a century. This Ethiopia, created only during a time span of less than a century and a half, is made up of diverse nations with unique historical and cultural backgrounds.

If you are still reading, which Ethiopian nationalism do you embrace: the mythical or the real Ethiopia one? I relate to the real Ethiopia. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, activists like Abebe often go to great heights to camouflage the facts. I have not heard them advocate for Oromo’s or other groups rights. They do not write about the immense sufferings of nations and nationalities in Ethiopia’s south, never mind admitting or even mentioning past atrocities and historical injustices. We often hear “free Eskinder Nega!” but rarely “free Bekele Gerba!” although Bekele is being treated harshly at the malaria infested Ziway prison. Read More

Ethiopia’s Resurgence: Integrating Patriotic and Progressive Movements

By Tesfaye Demmellash (PhD)

In the course of the Revolution and in its wake and over the last two decades of ethnic feudalism, being an Ethiopian patriot and a progressive at the same time has been difficult. True, many of our revolutionaries were patriots, and identity politics may not always be unpatriotic. But our political culture of progressivism as a whole has been marked, be it in effect or in intent, by indifference, hostility even, toward Ethiopian nationalism. As teramajoch, we have often embraced modern political ideas like democracy, self-determination, and equality in a way that is incongruent with old-fashioned love of country, seeing political modernity as the simple reverse or negation of the Ethiopian national tradition. We have generally not carried patriotism with us in our revolutionary consciousness.

On the other side, as patriots, we are inclined to stress historic Ethiopian nationality or identity in a manner that does not always resonate with the contemporary, ideas-based, development of Ethiopiawinnet in the context of social and cultural diversity and globalization. This is particularly true today in that we find ourselves in a defensive patriotic position in the face of an externally assisted systematic assault of Woyane state ethnicism on our national being and on our sense of ourselves as Ethiopians. In giving free rein to the immediacies of our patriotic passion, we tend to limit our ability to practice longer-term, strategically attuned politics and to function on a broader, more enlightened level of national engagement.

I have personally felt a tension between critical, forward-looking conceptual thought on the Ethiopian tradition and on its transformation and development, on the one hand, and the lived experience and joy of simply being Ethiopiawi, on the other. Ever since the Student Movement, I have been troubled by the mutual exclusions and oppositions of politics based on progressive theory and Ethiopian national sentiments and values rooted in history.

I believe this incongruity between sensuous Ethiopian nationality and progressive intellectual and political socialization to restraint of patriotism is not merely an issue that I personally have grappled with. I am convinced that it is a problem many Ethiopians of the revolutionary generation have had to wrestle with as well, although many others of that generation have simply and unaccountably walked away from the problem. More importantly, I see the tension between a firm patriotic heart and an equally firm progressive mind as a dialectic which will figure centrally in the realization of Ethiopia’s resurgence.

Imperative of Patriotic-Progressive Ties

Connections between historically rooted national allegiance and pride and contemporary articulate ideas and goals of teramaj politics are crucial in the Ethiopian struggle against TPLF partisan-tribal dictatorship and for a more just and democratic political order in the post-Woyane era. The meeting between real, experienced Ethiopiawinnet – manifested in meaningful sentiments, values, images, symbols, and cultural practices – and forward-looking political conceptualization, agenda, and action is a vital encounter which has great promise for Ethiopia’s comeback.

Now, whatever its past achievements or present potential, teramaj politica has created a lot of disenchantment among Ethiopians. We are hesitant today to identify ourselves as “teramajoch” because the label has had such troubled and troubling association with hostility toward Ethiopian nationalism. We now know painfully well how far over the top the old model of progressive politics has gone in criticizing and opposing the Ethiopian national tradition. A follower of the model in its own narrow ethnonationalist way, the TPLF party-state machine is the last and uniquely most anti-Ethiopian link in the chain of “radical” teramaj political forces that stretches back to ultra-left dogmatic factions within the Student Movement. This chain of political forces has kept Ethiopia in shackles for decades now.

To note the deep flaws of the supposedly radical form of our progressive experience as I do here, to be fully aware of its excesses and limitations, is not to discount entirely the ideas and goals which inspired the experience. The ideas and goals as such still have wide appeal in the country today – among opposition parties and coalitions, intellectual strata, activists, civic organizations, and media groups. So any political force that seeks to galvanize the Ethiopian people and lead the country’s resurgence must develop a broad national consensus that blends patriotic and progressive movements. But, as a condition of possibility of their dynamic, mutually energizing integration, patriotism and the progressive way must be understood and approached anew, distinctly and in their ties and relations.

Patriotism

Love of country is an ideal or emotion that makes progressives and liberals anywhere uneasy. They generally associate it with jingoistic nationalism, xenophobia, and unthinking loyalty to the nation-state. Separatist ethnic fronts in Ethiopia have imagined and portrayed Ethiopian nationalism simply as Amhara chauvinism and oppression of other ethnic groups. Some of the most repulsive actual features of nationalism include colonialism, fascism, racism, and certain forms of tribalism.

However, we cannot equate patriotism as such with its abhorrent variants or features. We cannot say it is the sum of its flaws and problems, nothing more. The fact is that patriotism, as a set of attitudes, values, sentiments, and dispositions makes itself felt in different contexts and modalities of activity, including varying forms of civic and political engagement. There are alternative, more or less desirable styles of national allegiance and loyalty, ranging from the least informed, most emotional and exclusive to highly enlightened, disciplined, and accommodative forms. Love of country can assume progressive or reactionary shape, democratic or authoritarian style.

Thus ethnicism or chauvinism is not a necessary feature of Ethiopian nationalism, just as separatism or kililism is not a necessary part or condition of the self-determination of distinct ethnic and cultural communities in Ethiopia. Alternatively, patriotism need not be associated exclusively with a particular ideology or religion, say, liberalism, socialism, Christianity or Islam. It could instead be based on a common national culture which integrally accommodates pluralism and difference. Seen in this light, the separatist tribal grudges the TPLF and OLF bear Ethiopia spring from two sources. One source is a politically oversimplified, obsessively anti-Amhara, resentful misapprehension or willful distortion of Ethiopian national experience and accomplishment. The other is underestimation of the potential of the ethnically diverse Ethiopian people for a more perfect union.

For many citizens of Ethiopia, the deep historical origins and development of national identity may not be as significant as its more contemporary form and validity. And for many other citizens of the country, Ethiopiawinnet may be less a modern, Western-inspired political achievement and more an indigenous heritage sedimented over centuries and generations. Given these distinct strands of Ethiopian national sensibility, traditional patriots have to be careful not to aggravate, rather than lessen, the difference by overly stressing narrative sources of national identity to the neglect or near exclusion of present issues, themes, aspirations, and agenda of Ethiopian nationality.

On the other hand, more liberal or moderate Ethiopian patriots need to avoid receding from affirmation of their national heritage, recognizing as a matter of both principle and strategic necessity in the struggle for Ethiopia’s democratic renewal, that love of country can be a motive force, a source of uplifting energy, passion, and commitment. This is particularly important when the survival of the nation is at stake, as has been the case over the last two decades under the divisive dictatorship of the TPLF. If we suppress or neutralize our patriotism, we lose our national vitality, inspiration, and purpose. We become passive or weakly connected to Ethiopian affairs and to the Ethiopian people themselves for whose betterment the revolutionary generation shed so much blood, sweat, and tears.

Granted, patriotic passion is not without its pitfalls. If not tempered with reason it can get out of control and become counter-productive. The point is that the remedy for Ethiopia’s ills lies within us as a people, in our rekindled national energy and spirit. We must come to terms with, and value, who we are as a nation and act accordingly. This does not mean that we lessen our commitment to progressive change and development, that we detach our national interests and values from the outside world, globalization and all, which is neither possible nor desirable. Rather, it means we carry progressive change and the experience of the world within our national being. It means we look and move forward as one people, one nation, diverse but united and indivisible.

In short, love of country can signify deeply felt and experienced national consciousness capable of galvanizing the Ethiopian people across ethnic, cultural, and regional lines. It can be a vital part of not only our resistance against the tyranny of Woyane tribal feudalism but also our democratically inspired national affirmation. Yet we should not expect patriotic feelings and values to relieve the resistance from the burden of strategically attuned progressive thought, commitment, and struggle.

Change of Progressive Culture

If we as “progressives” want to change Ethiopia for the better, we must first change ourselves. From the Student Movement through the brutal tyranny of the Derg to the tribal dictatorship of the Woyanes today, charting a progressive path for Ethiopia has been problematic. We embrace democratic and egalitarian ideas as simple and ready formulas instead of developing them through open argument, dialogue, and discussion. We subscribe to global values in a way that does not resonate with our own national experience and context. We confuse intellectually inert ideological positions and sectarian discourses of self-definition, propaganda and polemic with broad-based, reflective and critical thought, speech and debate. We equate dogma with principle. We use imperious partisan-cum-authoritarian politics to simulate civil society, fabricating a multiplicity of constituencies, groups, and institutions that are not self-organized and so do not have the look and feel of true agency or real autonomy. This, sadly, has been the tradition of progressivism in Ethiopia for nearly half a century.

And so the questions arise: what shall we do about it? How shall we change it? Without attempting to address these complex questions adequately here, let me make a few general observations. It seems to me that doing something about our troubled progressive inheritance entails first understanding it clearly, in all its flaws, excesses and limitations. We should recognize that far from being a ready solution to our national problems, the legacy has itself become problematic, an unbearable contemporary burden on the Ethiopian people regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. We need national consensus on this or some such diagnosis, since many of us who cut our intellectual and political teeth on the Student Movement still cling to assumptions and perspectives of old-school teramaj politica in some form or other. And ethnonationalist offshoots of the old and tired tradition of progressivism are still operative among groups like the TPLF and OLF factions and spinoffs, specifically the ODF.

I have argued in an earlier piece that, as a necessary condition of a new Ethiopian national consensus, the existing model of forward-looking, transformative politics has to be rethought. Here, I just want to add that critical rethinking begins by deconstructing the terms, categories, and values of the old model, before the arrival of alternative ideas and answers, or in the process of working out such ideas and answers. It begins on the ground, in our lived experience, beneath universal theoretical abstractions and ruling or partisan ideological formulas, in what we see and feel as well as in observable reality generally.

The point of this effort is to prepare the Ethiopian political ground so that the seeds of a new, more open and democratic progressive culture can be planted, take root, grow, and thrive. It is to come into contact with Ethiopian realities that are not pre-emptively and one-sidedly politicized, “theorized”, and ethnicized, to wrest the realities from the suffocating grip of supposedly progressive categories in all their sectarian and tribal forms. The point, finally, is to approach Ethiopian issues and problems by restraining our limited partisan and ideological impulses and engaging ideas nationally as sources and tools of broad-based enlightenment and development.

All the conceptual and political renovation effort we exert here is worthwhile because, notwithstanding the flaws and limitations of the particular form of teramaj politics which gained dominance over the Revolution, progressive ideas as such remain central to contemporary Ethiopian political culture. It is undeniable that any national opposition force in Ethiopia that wants to keep pace with current socio-economic, political, and cultural developments in the country and around the world and hopes to influence the course of Ethiopian events must regard the progressive ethos a valuable ally.

In a broad sense, the new progressive Ethiopian political ethos can be said to represent willful, ever forward national movement in thought and action towards definite aims, a movement centered on the universal ideas of freedom, justice, democracy and equality, and on real concern for the working poor and the most disadvantaged and vulnerable strata in Ethiopian society . In advancing these ideas in various sectors of social life in the country – the economy, government, culture, education, and so on – specific goals and policies are formulated and enacted in a spiral form that allows them to “escalate” into one another, cumulatively resulting in the all-round development of the country. The new-fashioned progressive path is to be distinguished from the old way not in its professed universal ideas and values, but in the way it approaches and handles them. Instead of confining the circulation of the ideas within exclusive or dominant partisan and authoritarian intentions, terms, and formulas, it would allow and facilitate their broad understanding through unfettered public discussion and debate. The alternative forward-looking political way would empower citizens to freely and actively engage universal values. In short, the new way, would permit progressive ideas to gain relatively autonomous currency in various sectors of Ethiopian social and public life, to convey meaning in part in their own terms.

This means we recognize that the substantive or practical significance for Ethiopian citizens of ideas like democracy, the rule of law, federalism, and civil and political rights is more important than the limited organizational or tactical serviceability of the ideas for particular parties and tribal fronts. For example, we would gain greater awareness that the ideals of democracy, self-determination, peace, and stability in Ethiopia are indivisible – they cannot be realized by particular ethnic groups while their realization is denied to the nation as a whole.

And so to be a good ally or partner of Ethiopian patriotism, our progressive vision today must “address” the nation as an integral self or whole. In the old and still operative tradition of teramaj politics, applying the idea of a national self to particular ethnic communities is a commonplace. Attributing national identity or subjectivity to Ethiopia, however, has generally been problematic for the tradition. The problem issues from the “radicalism” of the tradition itself, particularly its concern or that of its more extreme ultra-left founding members and ethnonationalist elements today, to delegitimize the very idea of Ethiopian nationality, characterizing the country entirely negatively as “a prison of nations,” hardly anything more.

Addressing Ethiopia integrally from a new progressive perspective does not necessarily entail a prior elaboration of democratic ideas and values or constitutional principles and arrangements. Instead, it means first listening well to the Ethiopian people, being truly attentive to their diverse and common concerns to the greatest extent possible, allowing the people to express their perceived interests in a way they have never been allowed to express them before.

This means letting the nation “speak,” revealing in its own voice its massive social dislocation, the degradation of its cultural, spiritual and intellectual life, its unmet basic needs, the systematic violation of the human and civil rights of its citizens, its colonial-like domination by a sectarian regime which inhabits its own parallel “national” universe, and its reduction to a collection of insular tribal kilils, all in the name of “revolution,” “democracy,” and “development.” Only then can we transform our troubled progressive legacy and credibly begin to create a new, more democratic political order attuned to the Ethiopian national experience.

Symbiosis of Patriotism and the Progressive Ethos

Does the heat of patriotic emotion coalesce with the light of cool progressive reason? The problem with this question is that it sets up an unwarranted dichotomy between sensuous national experience and ideas-based politics. It assumes that patriotism excludes political engagement informed by conceptual thought, that it is not susceptible to alternative interpretation and enactment. This assumption is mistaken.

Political ideas like freedom, democracy, and self-determination have an impact on the Ethiopian patriotic sensibility. And the meanings of such progressive ideas in turn cannot gain effective currency in Ethiopia in isolation from our historically specific common national culture, in contradistinction to our national allegiance and loyalty. The meaningful contents of the ideas cannot exist or come into play in Ethiopia merely as universal abstractions or tribal constructs, but must take concrete Ethiopian form. It is the function of progressive reason to place our immediate patriotic sentiments and localized community activities in the context of broader national ideas, goals, and movements. Yet it is in being politically attentive to the immediate and the local that larger, relatively distant and more abstract goals and tasks of Ethiopian national-democratic struggle are most effectively set and accomplished.

However, as amply demonstrated in the troubled Ethiopian revolutionary experience, particularly in the unforeseen dominance of its separatist ethnonationalist spinoffs under TPLF hegemony, patriotism and progressivism can be mutually undermining rather than supportive. The latter can be overly partisan, self-conscious and controlling, bent on denying or neutralizing the broad-based cultural contents and social bases of Ethiopian nationality while making “radical” identity politics the sole source of national meaning and value. The former, when not able to avoid an overreaction to the ethnonationalist excess, can be politically artless and engage in a counter-denial of difference and pluralism, specifically the relative autonomy of ethnic, cultural, and religious communities in the country which may realize Ethiopiawinnet in their own distinct styles as well as in commonly shared ways.

The new progressive ethos would take shape and come into play in part by overcoming the mutual exclusions and oppositions of patriotism lacking in broad national-political influence and “revolutionary-democratic” identity politics inimical toward integral Ethiopian wholeness.

Reckoning with Ethnonational “Others”

Like national traditions everywhere in the world whose formation has involved military conquest and expansion and is marked by a structure of historical events, facts, myths and narratives and cultural growth and political development, the Ethiopian experience has its native dissenters and detractors. We can here distinguish between progressive objectors, who engage the Ethiopian national tradition, seeking to transform it and realize ideas of freedom, justice, democracy and equality, and more “radical” critics and opponents, mainly the Woyanes and other practitioners of separatist identity politics, that have willfully alienated themselves from the Ethiopian experience as such and are bent on undoing it. It is the latter that I refer to as “ethnonational ‘others.’”

The distinction has implications for the development of broad-based national agreement in the resistance against TPLF dictatorship. Ethiopian consensus can be developed among and through progressive objectors who operate within the parameters of common Ethiopian nationality and whose dissent may be variously centered on matters of public policy, ideology, ethnicity, religion, region, economic interest or some other concern. It is helpful to recognize that criticism based on difference and diversity is not a problem for Ethiopian patriotic-progressive solidarity – it reflects the fact that the interpretive understanding of a common national tradition is variously influenced by the situational needs, interests, and grievances of particular communities and social groups within it. In supplying their own identities and forms of life, their own issues, concerns and questions, particular communities and groups in Ethiopia enrich our national experience.

This means coalitions of patriotic and progressive forces gain national resonance and validity mainly in proportion to the range of social and cultural bases to which they can appeal and by which they can be supported without sacrificing their principled consensus and coherence. The broader the socio-cultural range of their appeal and support, the greater their national resonance and validity. We recognize here that Ethiopian solidarity is gained and secured not by denying or suppressing difference and pluralism or by silencing voices of dissent, but through their mediation and regulation by means of progressive ideas, principles, and institutional practices. We understand that broad Ethiopian agreement could arise from the contingencies of local and particular needs, issues, and interests instead of being “precooked” through an ideological agenda elaborated ahead by an authoritarian regime, party, or front behind the backs of the Ethiopian people.

What are well-nigh impossible to accommodate within an Ethiopian patriotic-progressive consensus are separatist political entities, ethnonational “others” bent on the undoing or emasculation of the nation’s integral wholeness. This impossibility is most evident both in the ruling ethnonationalism of the TPLF and in its oppositional variants within OLF factions, though the two ethnic political fronts have their own irreconcilable differences and conflicts. Operating from antagonistic governing and opposing positions, the TPLF and OLF have commonly adopted an external inimical attitude toward Ethiopian nationality. As colonial-like rulers of the country, the Woyanes in particular are parasitic on the Ethiopian body politic, eating away at their national “host” without killing it, taking advantage of the political and material benefits it affords while undermining its vitality from within.

We may not categorically say that the TPLF is incapable of reforms which will entail a lessening of its monopoly of effective power, but there is no reasonable hope that the Woyanes will significantly change the nature of their rule if left to their own devices. The Woyane tribal regime cannot realistically be expected to enter willingly into good faith talks with opposition forces in search of national reconciliation and compromise. Nor can we be optimistic about hard-core separatist OLF groups leaving behind their ethnonationalist self-alienation from Ethiopia and moving in a new, more conciliatory and democratic, trans-ethnic national direction.

But why is there little or no prospect of patriotic and progressive Ethiopian opposition coalitions even reasoning with TPLF and OLF ethnonationalist elites, engaging them in principled, ideas-based dialogue, discussion, and debate? Aren’t the “revolutionary” partisans that run these ethnic political organizations themselves supposed to be practitioners of teramaj politica committed to big, universal ideas like freedom, justice, democracy, development, and so on?

Part of the explanation lies in the fact that the universal ideas which the TPLF and OLF formally profess cannot be opened up for fruitful debate, discussion, and negotiation since they are deployed instrumentally as ideological weapons used by the fronts for separatist ethnonational self-definition and self-assertion. The ideas cannot be articulated meaningfully outside the dominant party hierarchy or front itself, beyond its authoritarian, separatist intentions, dogma and maneuvers. And the narrow, exclusively partisan formulation of the ideas within the hierarchy assumes a false formulaic exactness because it is isolated from broad, varying social-historical contents, forms and interpretations.

Hence, ideas like democracy and federalism formally espoused by the Woyane party-state machine cannot be understood as relatively open, communicative and debatable signifiers whose meanings can be discursively established through discussion, negotiation and compromise. Their articulation and workings are better grasped as the exclusive operations of the dominant party-state machine itself. So TPLF and OLF political theory doesn’t need the minds of learned elites or ordinary citizens to engage it actively. More to the point, its logical questioning or probing from outside is unlikely to produce any reasoned response from the TPLF and OLF, since critical questioning affords no purchase on the authoritarian, exclusively partisan structures of power within which the fonts’ theory of “national liberation” has taken shape, mainly in an immediately instrumental and tactical mode.

At a deeper level, the explanation for the aversion of TPLF and OLF ethnonationalism to consensus-seeking reasoning with patriotic and progressive opposition coalitions has less to do with political philosophy or ideology than political psychology. Though given ideological impetus by the Ethiopian Revolution, separatist ethnonationalism began in resentment and hatred toward Amharas in particular and Ethiopia generally, which it simply and falsely equated with the oppression of other ethnic communities in the country by Amharas.

The antipathy and bitterness in certain Tigre and Oromo elite circles toward Ethiopiawinnet then became increasingly political in the course of the Revolution and in the post-revolutionary period. The resentment has now become the form, substance, and horizon of ethnonational self-identification within the TPLF and OLF. Consumed by negativity, such self-identification says no to all that is not immediately and narrowly “itself,” to what is integrally Ethiopian about the Tigre and Oromo communities. It says no to Ethiopian nationality. As a result, TPLF and OLF political ethnicism gets neither added national value through sensuous Ethiopian experience nor the benefit of broad, forward-looking political thought. Tigre and Oromo partisans of “radical” identity politics are simply too consumed by raw tribal resentment and hatred to be moved by trans-ethnic Ethiopian patriotism or to be adequately enlightened by progressive reason and ideas.

It is for this reason that TPLF and OLF partisans approach political issues and problems in the country in disproportionately psychological terms, ever looking backward, obsessing about being victims of historical injustices, resenting those who are supposed to be victimizers, and striving against Ethiopia toward an exclusive, insular ideal of “national liberation” that cannot be realized. Under these circumstances, the attention of separatist ethnonationalists groups is nearly wholly focused on partisan identity politics. The terms of TPLF and OLF intellectual and political discourse are so focused in this way that the fronts don’t have political vocabulary to express truly national issues and concerns, not only in the context of Ethiopia generally, but also in relations to the Tigre and Oromo communities in particular. This, then, more fundamentally explains why separatist ethnonationalist groups in Ethiopia are impervious to dialogue, discussion, and negotiation with opposition forces that could lead to sorely needed national reconciliation and consensus.

So a broad-based coalition of patriotic and progressive opposition movements has no alternative but to do battle with these groups on various fields and fronts and by various means and actions in the most critical, systematic and sustained manner it can. Opposition forces should call the TPLF regime, the primary adversary, on its lies and pretenses, pressing its political and structural flaws, contrasting its rhetoric and ideal promises with its actual performance, capitalizing on the shallowness of its social bases and tribal alliances throughout the country, and circumventing its coercive and intelligence capabilities and maneuvers.

The struggle requires serious commitment in thought and action and will exact sacrifice in a variety of ways. But the coalition of Ethiopian patriotic and progressive opposition forces engaged in the resistance against TPLF tyranny should learn a vital lesson from the ancient Chinese warrior-philosopher, Sun Tzu. To paraphrase one of his maxims, “knowledge and strategy” are most effective to the extent they make combat, particularly violent conflict “altogether unnecessary.” In so far as the ideas, goals, organization, and planning of movements of Ethiopian resistance forces are well thought out and enacted, they discredit the enemy’s ideology, weaken its alliances, and neutralize increasing parts of its armed forces. When the strategy of the resistance is “deep and far-reaching, then what [it] gains by [its] calculations is much, so [it] can win before [it] even fight[s]…” And the enemy loses before it goes to war, or goes to war already a loser.

In sum, as patriots, we can best defend Ethiopia and facilitate her resurgence not by treating her national tradition merely as a museum-like repository of cultural heritage and treasures, but also a vital site of contemporary development of Ethiopiawinnet which is capable of integrally accommodating progressive ideas, social and cultural diversity, and political pluralism. We should more fully understand that the country has evolved over the ages, undergoing continual shaping and reshaping of its internal forms and its relations to the outside world while enduring as a recognizable national entity.

As progressives, we should avoid slavish translation of Western revolutionary or liberal modernism that is hardly resonant with or workable in the Ethiopian historical context. We must adequately recognize that Ethiopia’s national being is the horizon of our entire progressive thought and project. Moreover, Ethiopian national consciousness cannot be reduced to contemporary political ideas, beliefs, and aspirations, for it makes itself felt not merely in articulate concepts and values but also, and primarily, in sense-forming lived experience and culture, in the clarity of historical events and deeds, in the immediacy of sentiments, symbols, and images, and in the power of collective memory.

— The writer can be reached at tdemmellash@comcast.net

Eritrea: Trespassing boundaries: the challenges for Eritrean historiography

Uoldelul Chelati Dirar

University of Macerata

[The following are excerpts from two sections of the article only. To fully grasp the content of the article please press Trespassing boundaries. The challenges for Eritrean historiography for the FULL ARTICLE.]
2. Problems in Eritrean history

Writing in 1994, in a period marked by shared enthusiasm and optimism about the future of independent Eritrea and the Horn of Africa at large, Prof Bairu Tafla analysed in very clear terms some of the limitations that Eritrean historiography had to deal with and, at the same time, he laid out possible new paths to be explored by present and future generations of historians. With impressive visionary words, Prof. Bairu stated that it was high time for historiography in the region to stop playing the role of “liberation history” and start moving toward a liberated history, acknowledging the complex web of connections and exchange that has linked the history of the Horn of Africa and giving voice to the plural narratives emerging from the undeniable interdependence that has shaped the history of the region since time immemorial.

Along a similar track, Prof. Irma Taddia has been insisting on the idea that, though it is legitimate do develop national historiographies, especially for a young and identity-craving state like Eritrea, it is also crucial not to loose the broader perspective of the complex, continuous and strong connections that have been unfolding on regional level. The underlying assumption was that the excessive emphasis on the national (some time just nationalist) perspective, would have led to a rather narrow hermeneutical approach, missing the broader and more articulate historical picture.

Unfortunately, some 20 years after these inspired and visionary suggestions, it seems that Eritrea has yet to reconcile with its own past. History, in the region, remains an arena where political conflict is carried out with other means. In spite of the above mentioned enlightening suggestions, it seems to me that we have been unable to take stock of previous experiences and mistakes and, paraphrasing a famous, powerful pamphlet by Roman Jakobson, I would say that our generation has squandered its historians and even the new generations, which could have taken over the task of building a new and vibrant historiography, are now scattered in exile all over the planet, but in Eritrea. It is therefore not a futile exercise to try to make sense of those persisting fragmented visions of the Eritrean past and to untie the knots that still keep Eritrean historiography and society tied up. …

4. Choices for Eritrean historiography

On the grounds of the statements above, I therefore believe that Eritrean historiography is now at a crossroads and important epistemological decisions have to be taken. Te choice to be made is basically between simplifcation and complexity. In other words, the choice is between a domesticated and simplified reading of the Eritrean past, which would eventually amount to a fabrication of the past, and a much more articulated and not predictable reconstruction o this past which could eventually bring about healing and reconciliation among communities, thanks to a dispassionate and open acknowledgment of the existence of plural and not necessarily harmonised voices.

There is a strong need for new historiographic perspectives, capable of challenging empty ideological smokescreens such as those epitomised by the slogan “unity in diversity” as well as the many mythological representations of Eritrean nationalist movements and to produce new and plural knowledge and understanding of the Eritrean past. Unity in diversity has been the constant jingle of Eritrean nationalist narratives during the long years of the Liberation struggle and a cornerstone of its approach to nation-building in independent Eritrea. The broad meaning of this slogan was that, though Eritrea presents a rather differentiated, ethno-linguistic, cultural and socio economic landscape, this diversity should not be perceived as a source of troubles and internecine strife as it would be bound by a stronger and more intense feeling of national belonging nurtured by the shared experience of the liberation struggle against Ethiopian rule. …

Similarly, Eritrean nationalist narratives have built a Pantheon of founding fathers of the nation that are presented as iconic models to the young generations. Again, very little historiographic work has been done to study in depth the life stories, social background, education and political fortune of many of those figures. They are just assumed to be the uncritical and rather zealotic object of national reverence with little room for any serious doubt or criticism about their real life story and their political agendas.

A case in point is Hamid Idris Awate, totemic father of the Eritrean liberation struggle acknowledged by all liberation movements in Eritrea as one of the pioneers of Eritrean nationalism. In fact, it would have been him the one who shot the first bullet against Ethiopian forces on September 1st, 1961 which marked the beginning of the protracted armed struggle against Ethiopian oppression in Eritrea. All Eritrean history text-books as well as political publications would agree on that and take it for indisputable historical truth. However, very little research has been carried out, up to now, on Idriss Awate’s life and on his political views and perception of nationalism.

To this regard, it has been enlightening to follow the vitriolic debate flared recently among members of the Eritrea’s National Council, an umbrella organization coordinating different Eritrean opposition groups, after a member questioned the iconic figure of Idris Awate. Interestingly enough, Kornelios Adolay Osman, the highly controversial chairman of the Democratic Movement for the Liberation of the Eritrean Kunama (DMLEK or, in its Kunama version the “Kunama Koibisha Dimokratika Sungada”) a Kunama based opposition group, challenged this picture saying that Idris Awate has committed many atrocities against the Kunama people based on ethnic hatred and, therefore, has labelled him as a criminal. What is more interesting is that the leaders o the Eritrea’s National Council reacted rabidly, calling for the expulsion of Kornelios Adolay Osman from the Eritrea’s National Council to later change this request into the suspension of the membership of the Democratic Movement for the Liberation of the Eritrean Kunama (DMLEK)and its chairman, Kornelios Adolay Osman. In other words, all otherwise often litigious and fractious opposition groups coalesced without hesitation to protect the aura surrounding Idris Awate.

However, what really speaks volumes is the argument used to justify such a dramatic disciplinary action. In fact, the main charge was that Kornelios Adolay would have smeared the name of a hero and martyr that died for the cause of Eritrean independence and this, of course, was sanctioned as simply unacceptable. Apparently, nobody among the leadership of the coalition bothered to counter Kornelios Adolay statements with as actual evidences and opposite arguments. On the opposite many web-sites state posting anlogous charges of atrocities attributed to the above mentioned Kornelios Adolay . Having this debate going on among opposition forces based abroad, and therefore not being subject to the fear and anxiety of the heavy handed intervention of Eritrean security forces one cannot help but thinking that this zealotic approach toward the Eritrean past and its main actors is so deeply entrenched into the Eritrean political culture that major historiographic change need to be made in term of research themes and methodologies. It is in fact really puzzling the idea that one of the characters enhanced to the status of icon of Eritrean nationalism could be considered by a segment (no matter how much a minority could it be) of the Eritrean population as a war criminal. This by itself is evidence of some flaws in the allegedly inclusive project of nation-building developed both by Eritrean Government and opposition. …

[Please press here for the FULL ARTICLE: Trespassing boundaries. The challenges for Eritrean historiography …]

(Source: academia.edu)

S.Africa: Malema slams universities

 

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has criticised the planned enrolment of 290 students at two new universities.

The two new universities, in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, are set to begin operations next year.

“It is no secret that the worsening situation of unemployment is directly linked to the question of higher education, which has been limited and denied to the black child for centuries,” City Press quoted him as saying at a press briefing.

Malema claimed that the government’s target of 20 000 students over ten years showed no commitment to transforming the country’s past.

“The way the government has started with these universities is the same way the apartheid government started the University of Fort Hare, confirming attitudes when it comes to education of the black child,” Malema reportedly said.

Zimbabwe elctions credible, says AU’s Obasanjo

Harare – Zimbabwe’s election was credible and fair, the chief of the African Union observer mission said Friday, but the bloc’s report noted some problems with the voters’ roll and of people being turned away from polling booths.

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF appeared confident of a sweeping victory, while the rival Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said the “sham” polls would plunge the country into crisis.

“We are very happy this morning. We are very confident and excited. We think there is a sense of victory for us,” Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said.

He said the party expected to get between 130 and 140 seats in the 210-member parliament.

Results from about 30% of seats in parliament showed Zanu-PF taking a strong early lead, with 52 to the MDC’s 10.

Mugabe’s party managed to wrest control of some urban constituencies previously held by the rival MDC.

The final results of Wednesday’s election must be announced by Monday.

Local elections observers noted there were serious problems with the voters’ roll in urban areas – long considered MDC strongholds.

Vote rigging

Tsvangirai has declared the elections to be “null and void” because of allegations of vote rigging.

Zanu-PF insists the polls were conducted in a “free and fair” manner, as does the Zimbabwe Election Commission.

In the 2008 election that was marred by violence, Tsvangirai won the first round but did not get enough votes to avoid a run-off. Widespread intimidation, including the deaths of some 200 of his supporters, forced him to pull out of the runoff.

4958cf5757574b2ab5867faa9a2fac81The presidential poll results are only expected in the coming days. If no candidate gets at least 50% of the vote, a second round will be held September 11.

The 89-year-old Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since 1980, has vowed to step down if he loses.

Africa’s oldest head of state presided over a decade-long economic collapse, in part blamed on his policy of grabbing white-owned farms without compensation and fuelling hyper inflation

Zimbabwe Presidential Election Result: Mugabe ahead in early count

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addresses a meeting of the ZANU-PF party in Mutare 275km east of the capital Harare, December 17, 2010

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe addresses a meeting of the ZANU-PF party in Mutare 275km east of the capital Harare, December 17, 2010

ROBERT Mugabe’s rivals have rubbished his claim to election victory, branding the vote a “sham” and urging “passive resistance” as early results showed the Zimbabwean president’s party taking a clear lead.

A top member of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party claimed Mugabe had trounced Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Wednesday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

“We have romped (to victory) in a very emphatic manner,” said the party member who asked not to be named.

“We have won all of them, including the presidential and parliamentary” (votes).

First official results from the disputed national assembly elections showed Mugabe’s party storming ahead, winning 52 of 62 seats announced.

Zimbabwe’s 6.4 million eligible voters were choosing a president, 210 MPs and municipal councillors.

But Tsvangirai, who is making his third bid to end 89-year-old Mugabe’s 33-year rule, quickly slapped down the victory claims.
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“It’s a sham election that does not reflect the will of the people,” he said, pointing to a litany of alleged irregularities.

“In our view this election is null and void,” he added. “This election has been a huge farce.”

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says the count has been completed and results are now being collated from the first vote since bloody polls in 2008 led to an uneasy power-sharing deal between Tsvangirai and Mugabe.

Tsvangirai stopped short of claiming victory himself, a move that could have inflamed tensions in a country where political violence is common.

But top MDC official Roy Bennett called for a campaign of “passive resistance.”

“I’m talking about people completely shutting the country down – don’t pay any bills, don’t attend work, just bring the country to a standstill.”

“There needs to be resistance against this theft and the people of Zimbabwe need to speak out strongly.”

Foreign diplomats and independent Zimbabwean election observers also expressed grave misgivings about the conduct of the poll.

“Up to a million voters were disenfranchised,” said Solomon Zwana, chairman of Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which has 7,000 observers.

“The election is seriously compromised.”

The Catholic Church – which has 3,000 people on the ground – said it was premature to call a winner but there was a “strong feeling” across the country that Mugabe would lose.

Since no Western groups were allowed to monitor the polls, the view of observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) may now be pivotal in deciding how the international community reacts.

The SADC said it would deliver its verdict on Friday.

Final results are expected within five days of the election and police had warned that anyone trying to release unofficial figures ahead of time risked being arrested.

Mugabe shot to prominence as a hero of Africa’s liberation movement, guiding Zimbabwe to independence in 1980 from Britain and white minority rule.

But his military-backed rule has been marked by controversial land reforms, a series of violent crackdowns, economic crises and suspect elections that have brought international sanctions and made him a pariah in the West.
AFP

Nigeria’s 2015 Election: 10 govs threaten to dump PDP

By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
ABUJA — A major setback to the re-election bid of President Goodluck Jonathan is looming, as no fewer than 10 governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP have served notice of their intention to leave the party ahead of the 2015 election.

The governors, according to competent sources, have already communicated their decision to jump ship, to President Goodluck Jonathan, who is the leader of the PDP.

PDP

It remained unclear, however, at press time if the aggrieved governors were moving over to the newly-registered All Progressives Congress, APC, or working to float their own party with a view to presenting one of their colleagues as a presidential candidate in the next election.

But Vanguard gathered authoritatively that the five governors of Sokoto, Niger, Adamawa, Kano and Jigawa, were among those ready to dump the party. An impeccable source told Vanguard that the five governors communicated their threat to quit the party to President Jonathan when he summoned them for a peace parley last week.

It was learnt that the Rivers State Governor, who was also at the Villa penultimate Friday for talks with the President, confirmed to the President that he was aware of the threat by his colleagues to jettison PDP as a result of the way he, Amaechi was being treated by the Presidency and the party.

The source explained that the meeting between Amaechi and the President was facilitated by the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (Rtd)who reasoned that the escalating political crisis in Rivers State and the raging security challenges in the North, if not checked could trigger a national upheaval.

“It is true that the NSA’s office facilitated the meeting, which enabled Amaechi to meet with the President last Friday but there was a snag because the governor refused to open up to Jonathan on his grievances with the party and the Presidency,” a governor familiar with the meeting, said.

“What he told the President was that he was not fighting for himself and that there were other governors who were angry over the way he (Amaechi) was being humiliated and harassed by forces close to the Presidency for no just cause.

What Amaechi told Jonathan

“Governor Amaechi told the President that there were indeed 10 governors who were so upset that they were ready to quit the PDP because of the persistent attacks on him and his administration,” the governor said.

Amaechi was said to have assured the President that he was ready to support him and work for him if the other governors, who were aggrieved over his treatment in the hands of government agencies, decide to work with Jonathan. President Jonathan was said to have been taken aback by the decision of the 10 governors to dump PDP, when five northern governors, who met him a day after Amaechi’s meeting with him, repeated what the governor had told him.

One of the governors, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed that they were ready to meet the President again before taking a final decision on whether to leave the party for the opposition or float their own party.

Asked to comment on what the grievances of the group were, the governor said they were angry over attempts by the Presidency to weaken the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, since Amaechi courageously contested and won the last election by defeating Governor David Jang of Plateau State by 19 votes to 16 votes.

The governor said they were also opposed to the move by the Presidency to cause unnecessary chaos in Rivers State so as to drive away the elected governor because of his unsubstantiated political ambition.

Despite being taken aback by the action of the governors, the Presidency last week described the aggrieved governors as agents of the opposition in the ruling PDP and warned them to desist from continuing to engage in acts capable of heating up the polity and distracting Mr. President from delivering on his promises to Nigerians.

The Political Adviser to the President, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, who made the allegation, said the governors were arrogating to themselves roles not assigned to them by either the President as the leader of the party or the party leadership.

“I can tell you that the five governors do not mean well for the party and the country. They are acting the script of some elements bent on distracting Mr. President and causing confusion where none should exist in the country.

“A discernible pattern from what the five governors are doing is that their grandstanding is not about a genuine concern to put things right in the country as they claim but how to bring down President Jonathan so that one of them can step in.

“But what I can assure them is that they are bound to fail woefully because Nigerians know that they don’t have any genuine concern for the country,” the political aide had said.

Via Vanguard

Nigeria: How Asari-Dokubo became a VIP

by Ebenezer Obadare

FORMER Niger Delta activist, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari

A while ago, Mujahid Asari-Dokubo’s visceral defence of the Jonathan regime against all real and perceived enemies left many observers bewildered. Is this not the same individual, it was widely asked, who had made a name for himself by his charismatic leadership of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force and vocal enunciation of the cause of Nigeria’s oil-producing riverine minorities? How did Asari metamorphose from a feared Mohammedan of the creeks (complete with the elaborate head gear) to a megaphone of state power? This is the question I propose to answer here, and my very simple thesis is that to track Asari’s movement from the swamps to the corridors of the state is to apprehend a sociological dynamic: the particular mode by which social agents gain entry into the domain of the state, via, in this specific case, the instrumentality of violence.

Analytically, there are two immediate targets. One is Asari himself, particularly the gradual but symbolic evolution in his personal profile and self-presentation over time. Second, there is the theme of violence, its effectivity as a means of negotiating access to material resources and social certification as a member of the political elite.

For a proper appreciation of this dynamic, in particular the latter idea of the social utilisation of banditry, it is important to understand, first, an idea captured here as “violence entrepreneurship.” As a framework, violence entrepreneurship avoids otherwise legitimate questions like, for instance, how endemic insecurity threatens the short-term stability and long-term existence of the Nigerian state. Instead, it prioritises the need to make violence coherent as a political phenomenon, meaning that the most ostensibly unrelated acts of violence are understood and made meaningful solely in relation to politics and the dominant ethos of the political order — and not just the current political regime — in Nigeria. For example, the unusual spate of carjacking and violent armed robbery, the festering hostage-taking industry, prohibitive auto-mortality, the insurgency in the northern half of the country, resource militancy in the oil producing region, and sundry examples of routine violence, all become perfectly explicable as effects of politics and political choices.

Second, the notion of violence entrepreneurship demands that violence be seen as an agential strategy; a currency of exchange between the state and agents within civil society. One implication (and Asari’s ongoing political evolution is a great illustration) is that even when the violence deployed is visceral, and the rhetoric of threatened exit from the state is prohibitive and inflationary, ultimately, violence tends to function as a means of negotiating access. Access, of course, can be understood in various ways, but my basic concern here is to show how violence entrepreneurs enter into and become part of the orbit of the state. In this regard, particular attention must be given to how such entrepreneurs attain ethical equilibrium with state officials, eventually assuming the moral and material paraphernalia of the state. When examined carefully, it becomes evident that this is the sociological trajectory that Asari has assumed.

This is not to say that the productivity of violence is always one-sided. Historically, the Nigerian state too has functionalised violence in various ways. One well-worn modality is through the development of relations of patronage between state functionaries and political godfathers, many of whom are often surrounded by thugs and other individuals with a history of difficult relations with the law. Think here of the showdown between Rasheed Ladoja and the late Lamidi Adedibu in Oyo State on the one hand, and that between Peter Obi and Chris Uba in Anambra State on the other. Following the same logic, the state can use the prevalence of violence in a particular region of the country to leverage both resources and moral sympathy from various international agents, a good example being the mobilisation of external resources to fund the pacification of civil unrest in the Niger Delta. Last but not the least, the state has been known to surreptitiously develop its own extrajudicial killer squads, either as an alternative to, but in most cases in simultaneous existence with, regular apparatuses of violence authorised by the law. Here, think of revelations early in the year concerning the alleged use of killer platoons by the Obasanjo regime; and Sergeant Rogers’ credulous testimony that the late Gen. Sani Abacha actively maintained a killer squad and that it, i.e. the squad, was responsible for the murder of Kudirat Abiola.

Be that as it may, the key point to be emphasised is the structure of engagement between the state and armed militias, and the main idea I am trying to develop is how, in the long run, the threat or actual deployment of violence, one, transforms the relationship between the state and armed militias, and two, tends to eventuate in the incorporation of leaders of such militias into the orbit of the state. Mujahid Asari-Dokubo (and the Odu’a People’s Congress’s Gani Adams no less) is a perfect encapsulation of this logic, precisely in his sheer transformation from radical revolutionary and purveyor of violence, to a more or less bona fide member of the state nobility, complete, as I claimed earlier, with all the conceits and appurtenances of the Nigerian political class.

Now, this is a very complex process, and yes, the last chapters have yet to be written. Nevertheless, certain details in Asari’s transformation seem instructive for my analysis. First is his (Asari’s) emergence from a proper order of injustice: the crisis of oil exploitation in the Niger Delta. Second is his astute reading of the social mood and readiness to capitalise on a glaring leadership vacuum. Here, you have to go back to the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa in November 1995 by the Abacha regime, the emasculation of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, and the overall tranquilisation of opposition throughout the region. Finally, there is his personal rebranding and self re-presentation. For instance, the distinctly Islamic turban has been jettisoned, though the bushy beard (part Mohammedan, part Che Guevara) is still in place. Furthermore, although there is a notional forswearing of violence, this is strategically counterbalanced by frequent threats to “return to the creeks”, as seen in the example with which I began this piece.

Finally, there is of course the desperation to undo the obvious disadvantages of class cum educational cum professional pedigree, often through regular appearance in social circuits (weddings, burial ceremonies, etc). In short, there is an enactment of the whole “Big Man” repertoire, complete, it goes without saying, with personal channels of patronage. The Dr. or Chief prefix is just a matter of time.

•Obadare teaches sociology at the University of Kansas, United States (obadare@ku.edu)