Opportunities: Ideas on How to Transform Vision and Mission to Reality
by T. Goshu
This is the third and final part of my comment on the subject of seizing opportunities, at least whenever they make themselves available. In my first part, I have tried to mention some missed opportunities for the last half a century and how the very unfortunate history of ours is continuing in a very hypocritical and extremely divisive fashion at this time in point. In the second piece, I have tried to reflect my points of view on the question of what is to be done in order not to miss many more opportunities. I have tried to raise certain general issues which I sincerely believe are important to succeed in the process of meeting challenges and subsequently changing them into opportunities.
In this third and final part, I would try to express my points of view on the question of how we need to move forward in a much more feasible and effective way of doing things. I sincerely believe that the realization of our vision and mission critically depends on making the question of what we want to do, where we want to be and how to get there crystal clear; and subsequently communicating them with the people not only who want to go along with our perspectives but also with those who have different views. I want to start with a few statements to make myself clear about the connection I want to make between my points of view in all my three pieces of writings. I am not intended here to deal with the definition of these big and complex concepts. I just want to make a sense of relevance between my points of view and these valuable concepts.
Yes, our vision is in our state of mind which is a real sense of willingness and ability to pursue what we want to accomplish in our long- term journey. There is no doubt that our vision becomes more complex and challenging when it comes to the issue of promoting and defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country as it manifest itself in safeguarding and advancing our national interest which of course in its turn is a matter of ensuring the well being of the people. It is at this critical moment that people who can play the role of leadership in a real sense of statesmanship comes into the picture. Visionary leadership belongs to the character of statesmanship that is necessarily willing and able to see the future beyond its own generation and after. In other words, this political character is completely different from the very ill-guided political games we witnessed for the last several years, and we still continue witnessing in this 21st century. As far as the vision that the innocent people of Ethiopia desperately need is concerned, it is a matter of seeing all her citizens living in a truly democratic system which accommodates and ensures a real sense of justice/rule of law, respect for fundamental rights and human dignity, entertaining unity within diversity, enjoying shared prosperity, and the like.
What about our mission? Be it as great and inspiring as it might be, our vision remains simply a big idea without a mission that must take it to a stage where it has to be interpreted into practical terms. Yes, mission is a serious task which entails a huge responsibility that our visions (the great ideas we envisioned) can come realities. Yes, great challenges should be changed into great opportunities through a well-thought, well-defined, well- planned, well-communicated, well- coordinated and a resolute way of doing things.
Now let me proceed to relatively more specific elements which I believe need to be taken into account in a much more serious manner if the challenges we face should be met appropriately and subsequently if the opportunities should be seized as they represent themselves.
- I want to begin by saying that individuals either as leaders, activists and/or participants need to deeply and truly internalize the very essence of getting along if the change they desperately aspire should become a reality. In other words, a real sense of integrity and commitment has to start from within (as individual) to succeed in any purpose of life let alone in the process of the struggle for the realization of genuine democratic system in a country which has never been fortunate enough to provide her people with a real sense of living with fundamental political freedom, human rights and human dignity. I am bringing this point of view in because I sincerely believe that it is absolutely necessary to deal with the question of why we are not making significant progress in the area of persuading tens and thousands of fellow Ethiopians in the diaspora to engage in the struggle for political freedom, socio-economic justice, and sustainable peace and shared prosperity. I strongly argue that there is a problem to be dealt with as far as the issue of creating meaningful public awareness which begins at individual level is concerned. I sincerely believe that there is a pressing need to address this concern through appropriate means such as discussion forums, consultation with individuals and various groups (political, civic and advocacy), and conducting public opinion surveys . Yes, individuals may have their own reasons/justification for not coming forward and expressing their serious and genuine concerns they talk about within themselves, with their close friends and fellowmen/women, and around social events they participate in. Is this simply because of a matter of being indifferent to an open and practical engagement? Is it the problem of not being well informed? Is it the attitude of avoidance of politics ( boletica ena corenti beruqu)? Is it frustration because of the repeated failures we experienced in our political performance in the past several years? Is it because of wrong perception and expectation that those individuals and groups are responsible for our success or failure, not we as people? Is it because of our fear that if we make the concerns we talk about in public, it will be unsafe if not dangerous to go back home and visit our families and friends? Is it because we have property or business back home and if we try to exercise our basic political rights even in a very peaceful and constructive way , the ruling party will take any measure including confiscation? The list of some seemingly genuine concerns and several clumsy excuses as well as deadly self-disarming justification is long. I want to stress here that the tyrannical ruling circle’s main strategy with regard to the diaspora is first to convince the “silent majority” by offering various benefits (carrot) and make strong supportive force of its dirty politics; and if this does not work, make that “silent majority “to remain silent about the very ugly political agenda and practice going on in their beloved country by using both perceived and actual fear tactics (big and painful stick). I want to conclude this point of mine by saying that addressing this very dehumanizing situation in an appropriate and timely fashion is one of the very critical aspects of the struggle.
- There is no doubt that individuals play a significant and exemplary role in advocating and promoting the cause of political freedom, human rights and socio-economic justice. I want to recognize here that although there are individuals who devoted themselves for the right and just cause of the people, I sincerely believe that artist Tamagn Beyene is a great example in this regard. The reason why I am bringing this in as one of the important things to be considered is to raise the issue of doing things in a more shaped and organized manner. I strongly believe that this kind of great task (political and human rights activism) will be much more effective when it is done in a consultative and coordinated way. I am not talking about getting these great assets (activists) under an organization in the strict sense of the word. What I am trying to suggest is that it is good at least to initiate the formation of a kind of getting together that promotes the value of fighting for a common cause in a sense of shared responsibility and coordinated fashion. Imagine folks what happen to this great mission if it depends on one or a couple of individuals only, and if the task becomes so intensive and extensive and difficult to be managed by one or few individuals; Or if something happens to those individuals. I am raising this concern just to create a sense of awareness. I have no information whether there is any attempt in this regard or not. If there is, it has to be strengthened. If there is on one, I think it is desirable to take it into consideration.
- The creation and strengthening of various means of communication in general and independent media in particular is indispensable when we think of any human activity leave alone the process of a struggle for democratic political system. This is the question of freedom of expression which is part and parcel political and fundamental human rights. It is a matter of searching for truth .It is inseparable from the struggle for having a generation of critical thinking, not a generation of passive or yes to whatever happens to it. Unfortunately enough, our political history has been and still is quite the contrary. Well, I do not want to go back to 21 years and beyond. What is very worrisome in this 21st century is that dictatorial regimes in general and TLPF/EPRDF in particular claim that they have a constitution which guarantees freedom of expression that has of course nothing to do with what the regime is doing on the ground. They simply use this as a cover for their dirty political game. They want to suppress the truth by intimidating, torturing, jailing and even killing those citizens who try to exercise their basic political and human/natural rights. Yes, it goes without saying that although it is impossible to kill the truth as such, killing an innocent citizen or any person for that matter who holds a grain of truth has a lot to do with trying to kill the truth. Punishing and killing someone who tries to share the truth he holds with his compatriots has a very huge implication to those who aspire for sharing the truth and winning with the truth. And that is the challenge we are seriously facing. That is what we are witnessing at this time in point in our country – not only destroying all independent press products (newspapers), but sadly enough sentencing journalists several years and throwing them into jails under the very ridiculous charge of terrorism for the simple reason that they tried to exercise their freedom. Is there something we in the diaspora can do in this front line of the struggle? Absolutely yes!
a) I strongly believe that those compatriots who host radio talk shows, publish regular publications, administer web sites, and do various blogs have to deeply and critically evaluate the sense of urgency we are facing ,and need to seriously consider working in a much more coordinated and efficient way and help the people out . Do not get me wrong that I am saying that there are no individuals or groups who work in this area relatively well. What I am saying is that the situation back home is in need of an at most concerted effort. But I do not want to pass without mentioning that some radio talk shows are either monolog type (non- participatory) or one man talk show. And some hosts have a trend of avoidance of politics – even when our country is at a very cross road. And there are some who engage themselves in the culture of repeating and repeating all kinds of theoretical rhetoric, storytelling, reading books on Ethiopian history as far back as the Italian invasion and the like without any view of comparison with our current situation. I am not saying this is wrong. I am just expressing my observation and concern, and suggesting that as media claiming themselves promoters of the very urgent common cause of the people, there have to be a sense of understanding to give reasonable level of focus on the challenges the Ethiopian people are facing.
b) As concerned listeners and participants, we need to support those who are doing their best in any way we can, and encourage others to do the same. But, I strongly believe that our support must be with our constructive critics; not a kind of passive, irrational and emotionally motivated sentiment.
c) I sincerely believe that those genuinely concerned media people have to consider the importance of organizing kinds of workshops or symposiums which are helpful in enhancing their knowledge as well as their performances. In other words, it is desirable to organize events which can go beyond fund –raisings. And of course, they need a meaningful support from all concerned Ethiopians and especially from professionals /intellectuals/experts of various areas of subjects.
4. The roles of religious institutions with all their positive and negative aspects are parts and parcels of our history in general and our political history in particular. I am not intended here to go far back and talk about it. What I want to raise here is that our religious institutions particularly the Ethiopian Islam and the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian have recently become victims of the agenda of dividing the two and keep them in conflict. Not only this but also to the extent of dividing them within and make them parts of the ugly political game; or else keep them extremely weak. That is what we are witnessing at this point in time. I don’t want to pass without acknowledging and appreciating the efforts being made by our Muslim compatriots to peacefully fight back the dirty political intervention by the TPLF/EPRDF. Concerning the efforts being made by Orthodox Tewahido , I have to say that things do not sound as they should be. I strongly argue that there is a huge gap between for what purpose Jesus Christ fought and fight and to what extent our present religious leaders, preachers /teachers, and even followers are doing. There is no doubt that the great teachings of Jesus Christ and his disciples are very much in line with fighting for the causes of the underdogs who are oppressed and exploited to their bones by the top dogs .In other words, they are essentially linked with the existence of democratic freedom, respect for human rights and dignity, justice, reconciliation, love, peace and the pursuit of happiness. That is what makes religion great and practically meaningful. Are there religious leaders or teachers who are devoted to this glorious mission? Yes. But they are very, very few. Sadly enough, most of them are not behaving and acting to live up to their God-delegated mission. It is safe to say that especially in our country in which people are living in the darkness of illiteracy in all most all aspects of subjects; and consequently being vulnerable to all kinds of disingenuous and hypocritical political agendas, policies and practices; things become worse when religious institutions become either part of the ill-guided politics or unwilling and unable to reflect the very essence of democratic freedom and respect for fundamental human rights in their teaching s let alone engaging themselves in practical terms. Should we need to be concerned about this kind of trend and do something about it? I strongly argue we need to do so!
5. What about the roles to be played by civic and community organizations at this time of urgency? No matter how individuals and other entities I tried to use as my illustration above and the political groupings which I am going to raise next try hard, it is unthinkable let alone having success story without a meaningfully effective participation by various civic and interest groups . Former leaders of teachers association in exile, association of journalists in exile, association for the right of women, International women’s association, youth and student associations , association of former Ethiopian soldiers and /or military officers , and community associations ,march 4 freedom, advocacy for Ethiopia, global civic movement for change in Ethiopia (Beqa) Ethiopian boarder affairs committee and others which I am not able to remember are very desirable efforts as far as how we can go along and make a difference is concerned. I have to mention here that efforts being made to move in a relatively right direction by some of the groupings in the above list are something to be encouraged. But I want to argue that compared with the very urgent and serious challenges we face, and the critical issue of not missing one opportunity after another, I have to argue that our organizational performances are still suffering from a kind of amorphousness and lack of aggressiveness. And there is no doubt this will have undesirable impact on our great interests to see the opposition political parties moving forward and making a difference. So, I strongly believe that there has to be something to be done in a much more resolute and persistent manner in this regard.
6) Well, it is self-evident that at the end of the day, it is political parties which should be at the forefront of the struggle. Yes, it is the political parties that are responsible for coordinating all the resources available and leading the struggle in the right direction. I do believe that although it is necessary not only to remind but also to put pressure on the opposition political parties to move forward with a real sense of unity of purpose and coordinated action, the most critical element required from all genuinely concerned individuals and other advocacy groupings for democracy and civic organizations is to stay seriously and meaningfully engaged in the process of the struggle. Let me say the following couple of points about the leaders of the opposition political parties:
a) I sincerely argue that the quality of leadership starts with our courage to resolve the conflicts within ourselves. I am not saying we should be conflict free which is unrealistic. What I am saying is that we have to try our best to understand and control the conflict within ourselves through appropriate means of resolution before it goes beyond our control and cause damages not only to ourselves but to the very mission we want to accomplish. In other words, the conviction and commitment we develop within ourselves has a lot to do with the very goal we want to achieve.
b) The very essence of personal conviction and commitment towards democratic practices should be nurtured and advanced within a political party which claims itself a credible alternative political force. As we argue that one of the very important elements of democracy in any political system is the right of the people to freely elect their leaders, hold accountable and change them whenever they believe that they are not up to their expectations; a genuine opposition political party leader has to honestly and courageously accept the application of this fundamental democratic rule of game.
c) It has to be reiterated that without the a coordinated effort among various political parties and movements around the very critical and common issues of the time, and mutual understanding about how to deal with the question of political power sharing ,it is unlikely to meet the challenges effectively and to seize the great opportunities available. For example, the transformation of Medrek to a more effective stage (front) is really commendable. But this courageous move should be strengthened by additional step. For example, with all its leadership problem, the All Ethiopian Unity Party has a relatively better contact with the rural areas of the country, and this can be a good opportunity if the two (MEDREK and AEUP) and all other genuinely concerned groups create some sort of cooperation and coordination .
d) No matter how political parties commit themselves to keeping their vision, mission and action intact, there is no success to be envisioned without active and tireless participation from the people themselves. So, unreserved but critical support to all forces who are trying their best to bring about the change we desperately aspire by any means they believe in is absolutely necessary.
I would like to conclude my pieces of comment by saying that missing opportunities a couple of times because of some justifiable and excusable reasons make sense as it can be taken as teachable experience. But repeating it multiple times is absolutely nonsensical. I think our country and her people had enough horrible experiences and they now have to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!