The Revitalization of Ethiopia’s Most Tragic, Nightmarish and Painful Memories of the 1970s: The Clash of Generations (Part I)

By Maru Gubena* 

Before you – my readers – commence reading this article, let me just say a few things about it, its objectives and the complex issues that are assessed. 

The writing of the paper was completed in early October 2006, when the political temperature within the Ethiopian Diaspora community was dangerously heated, even explosive; and when a good number of politically active Ethiopians were – as they are still – being intimidated by plans of the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and AFD militants and supporters to hunt them down.  

For various reasons, including the long-anticipated split of the Kinijit Diaspora leadership into two factions, but mainly due to the Commemoration Day – one year after the jailing of Kinijit leaders – the posting of this paper has been delayed for some weeks. 

Because of the length of this article, the paper has been divided into two parts to make for smooth reading. However, to clearly comprehend the complex sources, processes, problems and issues articulated in the article, it is advisable to read parts one and two together.   

Apart from examining the on-going destructive roles of the self-installed Kinijit Diaspora leadership, the AFD, and their militant supporters in the politics of Ethiopia, along with their intimidating behaviour, this important paper analyses the many interlinked historical factors and actors that are the immovable sources of our unhealed wounds, divisions and obstacles – obstacles not just to a search for possible solutions to our longstanding and persistent socio-economic and political problems, but even to our living side by side and working together. However, because of the date it was written, this article does not assess either the sources of the most embarrassing of the recent crisis or the division that emerged within the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, which became public after the second week of October, 2006.    


 

The overall purpose of the paper is twofold. Firstly, to attempt to examine the role of the complex mechanisms used by the Dergue regime to encourage the image formation they wanted in the War Born Generation (defined in more detail in part two; see the section on “Distinguishing the Two Generations and their Socio-economic and Political Conditions”) which I see as an important source of the clash of generations. The second purpose is just to share my observations, views and experiences with you – my Ethiopian compatriots and friends of Ethiopia – regarding the increasing and worsening divisions among individuals involved with the many issues of our country, including Ethiopian opposition parties and in the Ethiopian Diaspora community in general. It is, however, not my intention to suggest that the targeted victims, the individual artists, political activists, or other individuals like myself and other Ethiopians, are in need or require your immediate physical, legal, or professional action or assistance. 


 

It is also appropriate to use this opportunity to thank friends and colleagues who have been helpful to me, including those who recorded and sent discussion messages, or passed on statements and written texts from the various paltalk rooms. Thanks also to those who notified me when discussions related to my work were underway in one or more paltalk rooms.  

Finally, this paper has been written in memory of my generation – the youth of the Ethiopia of the 1970s, particularly those who were inhumanly exterminated, to their families and to those who managed to survive the ruthless death squads of Ethiopia’s historic enemy, the Dergue, which left irremovable scars on the body of my generation, our country and its people. 

Maru Gubena

24 November 2006


 

One Year After: An Overview of the Rise and Fall of the Ethiopian Resistance 

One thing all politically conscious Ethiopians can agree on now is that last year around this time a disproportionately high number of us thought Ethiopians had somehow been united by the processes of the May 2005 Ethiopian parliamentary election, by the election events and indeed by the turmoil that followed the election. It is also true that most Ethiopians at home, as well as those forced by the forces of power, greed and evil to leave their country and go in search of relative freedom, including freedom of self expression, thought “oh, at last, we have managed to come back to our senses” and were ready to collectively engage – not only to directly and indirectly resist, fight and attack as aggressively and progressively as we could against the historical and current enemies of our country and its people, which are directly responsible for the territorial disintegration of our country, for the prolonged internal tensions, armed conflicts – but also to work together in an attempt to assess and reassess the multiple and complex sources of our differences and conflicts, and to go forward with one voice, in a focused and harmonious fashion, with concern, deep involvement and consistency. Many of us thought that we all wanted and had agreed to rise up against our common enemies and do everything in our capacity to build an unbreakable bridge that would be most conducive to enabling our country and its people to test and face the fruits of our resistance and its overall outcome – freedom in a democratic system – a system which means simply, above everything else, living together side by side, peacefully, in a community or society with tolerance and respect for the values and views of one another. These were the desires and wishes we had in mind and the agreements we reached last year, even though unwritten and not officially ratified.  

A good number Ethiopians, including myself, have strongly and convincingly been arguing throughout the past eleven or more months that without first engaging in a confidence and trust building process among ourselves; without cultivating convincing and immovable common grounds – as a cardinal foundation for our resistance and unity; without revitalizing the feelings of patriotism, respect and love our ancestors had for each other; and without nurturing a relatively tolerant and harmonious Diaspora community, the perceptions, convictions and wishes outlined above, which most of us had last year around this time could not take root. Much to our dismay and regret, this has come true. Although we are the children of a single mother, we have failed to travel on the same track and the same road, because a few among our compatriots have chosen to advance their socio-political and economic position within the Ethiopian Diaspora community undemocratically and forcefully, based upon the feudalistic ways of thinking and the cultural logic traditional in our country, before our unity and resistance (see also Sharing the Sources of my Anxiety.) 

Yes, indeed, quite contrary to the perceptions and convictions Ethiopians had last year around this time, something more, something unthinkable, undesired and very disturbing, at least under the international standards, norms and values and contrary to the wishes and desires of the general public of Ethiopia, is in the making within the politics of the Ethiopian Diaspora community. It is also undeniably true that most Ethiopians, especially those of my generation who are residing in the Western world after experiencing the unforgettable, painful periods of Mengistu’s era, have never in our wildest dreams thought that the nightmarish terror of Mengistu Hailemariam’s era would follow our footsteps as far as to our countries of asylum and immigration, coming to haunt us – to terrorize us once again – after the long period of three decades. But however unbelievable, shocking and terrifying we may find it, the nightmarish events of the 1970s, which forced my generation to be the first victims of other Ethiopians in the long history of our country, are again coming to the fore within the Ethiopian Diaspora community.  
 

Indeed, instead of engaging those individuals with views critical of the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and its big brother – the OLF dominated Alliance for Democracy and Freedom (AFD) – in discussions in the spirit of our jailed leaders, of the original political path, ideological thinking and political programme of Kinijit itself, and in a democratic and civilized fashion, the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, in collaboration with OLF and its militant media outlets and paltalk rooms, have chosen to openly and publicly intimidate, scare, terrorize, and aggressively attack those democratically-minded, peace-loving and highly concerned Ethiopians who reside throughout the international community, simply because of their differing views and because they decline to agree and accept the recently founded Kinijit Diaspora leadership and the AFD, who have wanted to impose their ideas upon us by force. Those individuals who have sacrificed their entire lifetime, energy, financial resources, resisting repressive regimes whenever and wherever they could, using all available means at their disposal, who have lived with little or no attention to themselves, and have been forced by the conditions of the struggle – combined with a feeling of guilt and responsibility – to lead a solitary life, without even creating the sort of family they deserve and without having a single child of their own, have not only been denied the right to express their democratic rights: we have been denied access to the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and the AFD controlled media outlets, so we have been unable to add our voices to the heated discussions and debates around the issues and problems that have faced our people for decades, including the future geopolitical face of our country, and have been told to be silent – not to write articles and not to give interviews even to other media outlets interested in our work, or to those who have views that differ from the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, the AFD and their militant supporters. Serious suggestions to the Ethiopian “pro-democracy” media outlets and websites to impose a permanent gag upon those individuals with views critical to the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and AFD have been submitted and, in fact, some of them have already been published. An article authored by “Gemechu Megersa,” which I take to be the pseudonym of an AFD and OLF activist, posted on the Ethiomedia website on the 12th of September, 2006, is a case in point. 

What is shocking, appalling above everything else, is the engagement, involvement and cooperation of former Ethiopian journalists who left their country of origin in search of individual freedom, freedom of self-expression, and to maintain respect and independence for their voices, who with the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, AFD and their militant supporters are actively participating in the process of silencing – making voiceless – those actively involved, innocent and concerned Ethiopian artists, political activists and political leaders. It is particularly disturbing, even embarrassing to observe the limited or non-existent self-respect and sense of independence of journalists among Ethiopian Diaspora websites, such as Ethiomedia, Ethiopian Media Forum (EMF) and Addis Voice, who have openly and publicly shown their intoxication and affiliation with the OLF and the Kinijit Diaspora’s futureless and fruitless partnership under the name of the recently founded AFD. The submission of those with backgrounds in journalism to the wishes and destructive strategies and policies of the OLF/AFD – including the decision not to include the highly respected and loved voices, views and writings of a good number of highly devoted and hardworking Ethiopians, just because our views differ from those of the anti-Ethiopian OLF and the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, and because our work includes terms and paragraphs that stress and signify “Ethiopian Unity” and “Ethiopia’s territorial integrity” – is most astonishing and indeed depressing. Such behaviour from Ethiomedia, EMF and Addis Voice directly contradicts not only the principles of “fair journalism,” but also the motives those involved had for leaving their country of origin. 


 

The saddest and possibly most damaging of all that we have been forced to observe is the recent creation of red or green dividing lines between the Ethiopian pro-democracy outlets, simply on the basis of their association and affiliation with the Ethiopian political parties and with those engaged in armed confrontation against the unelected regime of Meles Zenawi. The ugliest aspect of these dividing lines is that one gets the impression (especially since the OLF has managed to convince and control Kinijit Diaspora leadership members, supporters and media outlets) that the division suggests an increase in tensions between the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and OLF/AFD – who are making every effort to avoid the phrase “Ethiopian unity” – and those who would like to see our country, Ethiopia, as intact as it was before May 1991, who would like to stress the terms “Ethiopian unity” and “Ethiopia’s territorial integrity” as often as possible.   For example, in formulating and producing texts for an announcement, fliers or folders to be distributed to the Ethiopian Diaspora community, calling them to come in mass to demonstrate and collectively challenge the tyrannical TPLF leader, Meles Zenawi, during his appearance at United Nations Assembly in New York on the 22nd of September 2006, representatives of the Kinijit Diaspora leadership were worried and uncertain about the reactions of OLF; this made them reluctant to work cooperatively with other political and civic organizations who wanted to produce flier texts in the spirit of Ethiopianess, or “Ethiopiawinet.” Consequently and most embarrassingly, for a single objective – to demonstrate – two different fliers were produced. The one from the representatives of the Kinijit Diaspora leadership was written in the spirit, political ideology and strategies of OLF and AFD, and does not include any sense of Ethiopianess. The text produced by Kinijit representatives was posted on AFD controlled websites, such as Ethiomedia and EMF.  

In contrast, the other fliers, written in the spirit of Ethiopiawinet and including the phrase “Ethiopia’s territorial integrity” couldn’t be posted on Ethiomedia and EMF. These fliers were posted only on the Debteraw and Ethiolion websites. Isn’t this extremely depressing? Was this really necessary? Does this reflect the spirit of Kinijit and its jailed leaders? Why do we need such divisions? Why and again why? We have also been receiving information about serious and unpleasant confrontations in New York between the predominantly OLF/AFD and EPPF supporters on one side and those representing other political parties on the other, along with those who just came to support the Ethiopian people in the fight against the unelected regime of Meles Zenawi.” 


 

The Revitalization of Ethiopia’s Tragic, Painful Memories of the Dergue Era  

As part of the fruitless, ineffectual attempts of the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, the AFD and their blindly militant supporters to silence highly concerned and involved Ethiopians and make them voiceless by boycotting their work, direct warnings and threats have also been reaching our e-mail boxes. Some frustrated and irresponsible individuals have even been doing their best to intimidate us, with the single objective of keeping those with views different from their own silent and isolating us both from the issues that we find most important and from Ethiopians, whether the mass of the Ethiopian Diaspora community or elsewhere. Sometimes this is done directly, by making phone calls, sometimes with the pretext of “journalism” – saying they would like to interview their victims, just to induce us to start talking with them on the telephone. Within a few seconds, however, the real purpose of these “interviewers” who are inspired by the Kinijit Diaspora leadership or who are AFD militants becomes more than obvious. The Kinijit Diaspora leadership and AFD radical militants who are currently so sleeplessly engaged in the process of revitalizing our most tragic, nightmarish and painful memories of the appalling years of the 1970s and the early 1980s move immediately from their original stated purpose of fixing a date and a precise time for an interview to a direct confrontation with their victims, questioning the integrity of the very person they initially said they wanted to interview, giving repeated warnings and threats, asking us to stay away from any political activities and issues related to our country, or join hands with their militant surrounded camps – the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and AFD – immediately, before something undesired, unpleasant and ugly occurs to their victims. A few of the victims of such intimidation by the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and AFD radical militants have already reported their experiences to law enforcement authorities in their respective locations, with evidence in their hands. The publicly made complaint of artist Solomon Tekalign during the interview he gave to theEthiopians in the Diaspora Discussion Forum on Monday, the 18th of September and Saturday the 7th of October 2006 and his report to law enforcement authorities in the area where he resides is a case in point. 

Much to the dismay and disappointment of both the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and a few AFD founders, and more particularly their actively militant paltalk rooms known as the “Ethiopian Current Affairs Discussion Forum” and the “Ethiopians in Switzerland Discussion Forum,” together with “Negat radio” and “Radio Kaliti,” however, the individual Ethiopian victims have continued to resist, arguing and even striking back as boldly and aggressively as they can by employing every media opportunity they can find to publish or post their articles and giving powerful interviews to media outlets of a democratic mind, saying that they cannot so simply be intimidated, silenced and prevented from exercising their democratic rights by threats and warnings from the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, the AFD and their radical supporters. In the articles they have posted and their interviews with various Ethiopian Diaspora outlets, these victims have insisted, arguing eloquently, that they would prefer to die rather than end the role they are playing and their engagement with the issues due to threats and the cold war being waged against them by some individuals seeking revenge, who were directly or indirectly affected by the changes of power either in May 1991 or thereafter, following the removal of the dictator Mengistu Hailemariam’s regime from power and the complete disintegration of the Ethiopian armed forces due to the rebel forces of Ethiopia’s enemies – the EPLF and TPLF.  

The victims of the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, the AFD and their media outlets and militant supporters have included well-known artists, intellectual politicians, academics and others who have been working hard with the aim of witnessing relative freedom and democracy taking root in our country of origin – Ethiopia – in our lifetime. Going beyond defending themselves and taking some urgently required measures conducive to protecting themselves and their family members, both at home and within the Ethiopian Diaspora community, the victims of the self-installed Kinijit Diaspora leadership and the AFD militants have accused the two organizations and their supporters not only of being undemocratic and feudalistic in their thinking and self-centred in their behaviour, but also potentially dangerous to the future image and peace of Ethiopia and to its territorial integrity. In responding to the many attempts of the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, the AFD and their militant media outlets to inflict untold damage on their political and personal reputations, some of the well known victims have further accused the two self-installed organizations, the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and its other rebel partners – who are said to be the creation of, and supported morally and assisted financially and militarily by Ethiopia’s historical and current enemies, OLF and Shabia – of lacking a legal basis for their existence, and being not only uninterested in helping Ethiopians cultivate the habit and culture of democracy in their country and enabling them to test the fruits of freedom and democracy and face its challenges, but instead concerned only with the immediate removal of the unelected tyrannical regime of the TPLF leadership and its replacement by themselves – by another unelected Dergue-type regime. Their critics, on the other hand, find it essential to begin now to create tools and mechanisms that will be conducive to changing and democratizing our attitudes and habits. 

According to inside sources, recorded discussions and interviews given to the militant paltalk rooms of the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, the entire intention and most fervent desire of this leadership – whose members and supporters have personally and directly been affected by the unelected leadership of TPLF, both during the armed struggle and after the defeat of the Dergue regime in May 1991 – is to mobilize and redirect every resource they can find to provide money and manpower for the warfront in a war that is in preparation, which is to be waged under the leadership of OLF, with the supervision and cooperation of the regime of Eritrea. This will have a single objective: not to free Ethiopians, but to use every available means to revenge the members of the entire leadership of TPLF before they die by immediately removing the TPLF regime from power. It does not matter what follows, or what happens to the people of Ethiopia. They simply want to instantly – today rather than tomorrow – remove the unelected regime of Meles Zenawi. That is why they are not doing the sort of planning and political programme that takes into consideration the future face of Ethiopia and the safety and security of its people. 

A further remark, which should be stressed and articulated as effectively and often as possible, is in regard to the overall outcome of the short-lived – and, to any conscious and concerned Ethiopian, tragic, saddening and extremely hurtful – marriage committed between the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and its boss, the OLF. This marriage was celebrated from 19 to 22 May, 2006, in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands – but with no invited witnesses and guests. As has already been stated in my previous article, Holding Back Sobbing Children at their Mother’s Untimely Death and Not Explaining what Happened is both Wrong and Unfair, posted in the first two days of September 2006, the marriage between these two organizations –which are totally unequal and have no common ground or common vision at all, and whose overall objectives towards the future geopolitical face of Ethiopia are entirely remote from one another and irreconcilable in all respects, except in their efforts and campaigns to force their undemocratic desires and strategies upon the Ethiopian Diaspora community – the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and AFD, together with their radical militant supporters and paltalk rooms, have managed not only to destroy the motivation, energy, morale and relative unity that existed among the Kinijit Diaspora community last year around this time, and with this the many vitally important activities and projects that were expected to be carried out in support and on behalf of our jailed leaders, the political programmes and generally the broadening and strengthening of the forces of the Ethiopian resistance, but also they have revitalized the complex mechanisms that were previously employed by the most hated and cruel regime of Mengistu Hailemariam as indispensable tools to hunt down and annihilate the youth of Ethiopia – a good portion of my generation, which the Dergue saw as its potential enemy.  

Due to their increasing frustration and inability to either convince the Ethiopian Diaspora community to accept and support them, or to silence and isolate their most outspoken and well-known critics, these two self-installed organizations, the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and the AFD, have embarked on a horrifying plan: they are organizing and assigning a large number of individuals among their militant members and supporters as undercover agents, who are to engage in the heavy task of following in the daily footsteps of those with critical views of the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and the AFD or unwilling to give moral and financial support to their objectives and activities. This is taking place not in Ethiopia, but, shockingly, in our countries of asylum and immigration – on European and American soil, in the cities, towns and villages where we work and live. Some of the main tasks of the undercover agents are to be physically present in the areas where we live and work, to observe our physical appearance, movements, family members, our educational background, and the kind of job we engage in. Moreover, they are to make a complete list of our names.

According to statements of some individual members of the two political organizations in meetings and discussions held around the end of August and in early September, 2006 on the two extremely vocal and militant paltalk rooms mentioned above, the overall purpose of the undercover agents in collecting names of actively involved individual members of the Ethiopian Diaspora community is to charge those listed of treason and see them convicted, with charges as harsh as possible, by new judges who are yet to be appointed and by new courts that are to be established when the Kinijit Diaspora leadership (Ato Andargachew Tsigie) and the OLF, together with other small rebel groups such as EPPF, ONLF and SLF, succeed in intensifying the war under the leadership of AFD, defeats the unelected regime of Meles Zenawi, and establishes a new government in Adds Ababa and throughout the rest of Ethiopia. When that would take place, no one knows. 

Ideas and measures like those broadly discussed above have been undertaken by the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, the AFD and certain Ethiopian Diaspora media outlets, including their militant paltalk rooms, with the aim of intimidating and silencing a good number of innocent hard working Ethiopians who are themselves an indispensable part and parcel of the Ethiopian Diaspora community, and who could be an important contributing force to activities beneficial to the well-being of our community. These actions are not only divisive and dangerous to Ethiopians – who are generally peaceful and peace loving – and to the activities of the Ethiopian resistance against our common enemy, but are also horrifying. Such ideas and measures should immediately be denounced and condemned by all Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia. 

It is probably healthy and even wise to convey to you – to my readers – a positive reverse side of the coin that could be very comforting to those targeted victims: the two political organizations and their militant paltalk rooms will not be able to hurt any of us, since their power bases have continuously been and continue to become weaker and weaker, and all of the individuals involved have empty hands – no guns and no bombs, nor any other tools to harm any of us directly. And, even though the radical militants may not like to hear it and will possibly not accept it, it is also true that the leaders of the two organizations, their members and supporters will soon be disappointed, because these organizations will soon cease even holding their usual empty, arrogant talks with one another. This is especially likely given the limited or non-existent common ground and common agenda, to say nothing of the lack of political power and capacity within the two organizations. They lack not only military power but also organizational structures, including leadership, feasible policies and viable strategies.  It is on the other hand true, that despite their limitations with respect to political and organizational structures, the socio-political and psychological damage the two organizations and their militant supporters have inflicted, including the divisions, fears and anxieties they have caused among the Ethiopian Diaspora, in particular for politically active Ethiopians, cannot and should not be underestimated; it will have an enormous impact on the community for at least some years, and will not be easy to reconcile and redress. The damages and divisions inflicted by these two organizations is already having an effect. For example, the enormous difficulties being experienced today by the community and the Ethiopian opposition parties in attempting to successfully move H.R. 5680 (the Ethiopian Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act) from the hands of certain powerful individual(s) to the floor of the U.S. Congress for a final vote is a clear sign of the problem; it is a direct repercussion from the antagonisms and animosities that permanently smolder in our minds and hearts, increased by the tensions, anxieties divisions among us that have recently emerged and are growing day by day.  

As has often been observed, millions of Ethiopians – those who torment themselves with the heaviest questions, such as why do we Ethiopians seem to be incapable of working and living in relative peace with each other? Why is it that we behave so disrespectfully, so destructively – as we have been doing and still do – towards one another, as if we have been born to be detrimental, not just to others but to ourselves as well? Remember that if one conspires to eliminate others, they will definitely do everything possible to conspire in turn and strike back. Further, what might be the sources of our deep-rooted animosities and hostilities?  

Also, as we have often been told, a good number of Ethiopians appear to be well aware of the historical reasons behind our most tragic enemy: divisions and lack of confidence between and among ourselves. Unfortunately, however, many of us persist in arguing that the causes – especially the sources of our resentments and animosities, which have been created and expanded by the propaganda machines and the well crafted traditional mechanisms such the institution of the family, the media and, since the 1974 Ethiopian revolution, our educational system – are too sensitive and difficult to discuss. The big, unavoidable question then becomes: when the effects of such enemies are comparable to a huge foreign force coming towards us, armed with complex and highly advanced weapons, how long can we simply keep them inside our hearts and minds, without attacking them as aggressively and progressively as we can, without debating them or going in search of possible solutions? How long can we do this? Further, apart from asking about the causes, whether historical or recent, of our current sickness and deep-seated animosities, we need to think about whether there may be the logical reasons behind what has happened to some of my compatriots, who have become disinterested, unwilling and even allergic to the idea of joining in intellectual discussion on ways to tackle the most damaging repercussions of the Ethiopian revolution, the effects it has inflicted upon Ethiopians and inculcated deep in the minds and hearts of the “ Dergue Generation” – a generation born some five years before and after the ousting of the aging Emperor Haile Selassie on 12 September 1974. What can these reasons be? And what were the roles and contributions of the then military regime and its propaganda machine in moulding its “newly born” generation, which I will call the War Born Generation,” so that it became so resentful and hateful – a persistent enemy of the previous generation, to which I will refer as the “Golden Period Generation?” More explanation regarding these two generations will be provided in the subsequent pages.  

Finally, why is it that we Ethiopians continue to be, and even seem addicted to, establishing associations, organizations and political parties, while knowing how good we are in making them ineffective; while knowing perfectly well that we are people who live side by side, but without a sense of confidence or trust in each other; and while we clearly know that the organizations we quite often want to establish never become functional and operational, due also to our confrontational and suspicious behaviour towards one another, as well as our habits and cultural orientations – orientations that are predominantly centred on ourselves, our families and our groups?   While I will make every possible effort to examine and assess the questions raised above, I may not be able to cover the extremely complex and indeed sensitive factors involved in the clash between the two generations, including the historical sources, as effectively as many of my readers would like and expect. Therefore I sincerely hope some of you will help me in responding to them, since in recent times these questions have become a source of persistent concern and anxiety not only to me and a few of my generation, but to a large number of other Ethiopians as well.  
 

Reviewing Historical Causes behind Ethiopia’s Painful Memories: The Clash of Generations 

Even though it is difficult, if not impossible, to speak with confidence, and even though the 1950s, 1960s and the first few years of the 1970s could be characterized as “golden periods” – relatively stable and peaceful, compared to the periods Ethiopians were later forced to experience – I would boldly argue, and I believe that Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia of my generation, including a good portion of the generation of my parents, will not hesitate to agree, that in the early years of the 1970s there were growing needs and fervent desires among the majority of Ethiopians for new socio economic and political changes, including a change of leadership. Again, this was despite the fact that the territorial integrity of Ethiopia was intact and respected by all of Ethiopia’s neighbours and the international community at large. It is also true that the international community and world leaders respected and loved Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Entry or travel visas were not required for Ethiopians to Israel and to certain European countries. The periods were also marked with a sense of Ethiopianess and Ethiopian nationalism among Ethiopians and indeed, with relative respect and love among Ethiopians. 

Further, it would not be wrong to insist that as in many African countries the need for political and leadership changes in Ethiopia were concentrated in Ethiopia’s major cities, particularly in Addis Ababa. As far as my recollections go, from the stories and jokes told in family get-togethers and around coffee tables, from educational institutions and from the Ethiopian media outlets of the period, the needs and demands of the Ethiopian urban population for a change of leadership began in the 1950s. The December 1960 military coup d’etat launched by the Officers of the Imperial Guard, led by their Commander, Lt. General Mengistu Newaye, and his brother, Girmame Newaye, was a result. Regrettably, however, due to three or more critically important mistakes in the planning of the coup, which is nostalgically remembered and referred to as the “December 1960 coup d’etat,” was soon put down by the forces loyal to Emperor Haile Selassie.

Although there is little or no recorded, verifiable evidence in our hands or on our bookshelves, a good number of my compatriots argue that the 1974 Ethiopian revolution should be seen as an extension of the failed December 1960 attempted coup d’etat. Even though the resignation of Aklilu Habte-Wold’s cabinet was sudden and unexpected, the ousting of Emperor Haile Selassie was a relatively gradual process. The 1974 Ethiopian revolution was began as a people’s revolution, despite that it was forcefully snatched by the Ethiopian armed forces. There were increasingly intense and growing opposition from the Ethiopian left, especially students and youth in general, who were in the forefront in challenging the uninvited, unexpected emergence of the fascistic enemy of the military regime known as the Dergue or Committee, which came to be known as the Provisional Military Administrative Council and became the uncontested and most ruthless ruler of my country and the oppressor of my people. Therefore there was soon not only, for the first time in the history of Ethiopia, the most appalling urban bloodshed, with indiscriminate executions of hundreds of thousands, mostly of my generation, in their own houses, in offices and in the streets, day and night, without any charge or trial; accompanied by a forced mass exodus of Ethiopians into neighbouring countries in all directions, using all available means of transportation, whether cars, horses, donkeys or of course, on foot; but also the regime was fully engaged in fashioning a new propaganda machine, with mechanisms intended to create and expand hostilities and animosities among Ethiopians. This propaganda machine included the “Zemecha” programme, a programme purposefully constructed to disperse all politically conscious Ethiopians, including the entire body of Ethiopian students, throughout the rural Ethiopia, to avoid the continuous direct challenges faced by the Dergue from the politically conscious urban student population. The Zemecha programme was intended to teach the Dergue philosophy, inculcating it into the minds and hearts of the rural people of
Ethiopia as well as those forced into the countryside or remaining in urban areas. The Dergue’s cruel propaganda mechanisms rapidly and forcefully imposed its programme on every household, family, school, college, university and on the Dergue controlled media, to help remodel the minds and thinking of the “Golden Period Generation” – those who resented and hated the rule of the Dergue, who were challenging it and demanding immediate resignation. Extremely hostile political propaganda and all available channels were used to carry out the process of implementing the political ideologies of the Dergue in an accelerated fashion. These who appeared to be reluctant or unwilling to be oriented, reoriented and remolded to accommodate the fascistic ideas and ideologies of the Dergue regime were automatically and mercilessly executed by the cadres of the Dergue – cadres who are living with us today as members of the Ethiopian Diaspora community and who are active leaders and members of Kinijit Diaspora leadership and the AFD. Others among the Golden Period Generation were forced to leave their country and go into exile, leaving their loved ones behind.

Then came the “War Born Generation,” born from families who either were an inseparable part of the Dergue regime, worked with or were indoctrinated by it. They are the main victims of the dramatic campaign, the imposition of the ideologies and hateful propaganda of the cruel and hated Ethiopian enemy – the Dergue. Apart from being directly responsible for making our country a battlefield among various rebel groups and for the disintegration of Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, this is the worst remnant that the Dergue regime left behind: this generation – the War Born Generation – which was molded to think and envision the world in exactly the same way as the former members of the Dergue regime and its cadres, and who are therefore convinced that the regime of Mengistu Hailemariam did nothing wrong to Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Consequently, the ever-growing clashes and tensions between the two generations – the Golden Period Generation and the War Born Generation – continue to be not only a source of daily conflict, but more worryingly are a potential obstacle to the resistance against the tyrannical regime of Meles Zenewi. As will be clear in part two of this article, it is the War Born Generation, together with those who served the regime of Mengistu Hailemarim, who have skillfully and successfully managed to paralyze all of the engagement planned by the Kinijit Diaspora and Kinijit itself. 


 

*   Dr. Maru Gubena, from Ethiopia, is a political economist, writer and publisher. Readers who wish to contact the author can reach me at info@pada.nl

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Published in: on November 26, 2006 at 12:59 am  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dr. Maru,G.
    This article is a very important one so far I have read,beceause it touches the most important factors that is puzzling us all why people in diaspora are getting miserable besides they have the best chances to get together and save our country, Ethiopia from distructive woyane forces and their teletafis.

    I think the diasporas are also getting funds and other promises from the woyanes.

    Don`t you suspect that the woyane is involved in the division of the kinijit in diaspora through andargachew Tsige and Berhane Mew ex-woyaane collaboraters.

    However your is beautiful and important,

    Yours

    Ketema Demie

    Sweden

  2. Dr. Maru G

    Why the Ethiopian legal experts are not taking the woyane leader zenawi to the international court of justice for the violation human right and genocide he has committed against the people of Ethiopia.

    Don`t you think that the time is running out and the zenawi continues to massacre more Ethiopians and destroying the Country.

    It is very important to to indicte this criminal creature.

    Yours

    ketema Demie (Aba Jaffar in Diaspora rum)

  3. Dear Dr. Maru,

    First of all thank you for your effort in enlightening us of your subject matter. I would like to point out that I’m only in my early 20’s and therefore could be ignorant of all the facts to fully comment on the subject matter. But here are my observations nonetheless, of about your article and the general discourse of Ethiopian politics/history.

    I think it is naive and detrimental to our communities and Ethiopian social commentaries at large, to try to classify the early Ethiopian social and political struggles for regime change. Doctor, you pointed out that those who fought for regime change in the ’60s and ’70s should inherit your generously offered title of “Golden Generation.” I beg to differ! Since time immemorial, those who are included, with the title of “Golden Age” or “Golden Generation” earned their title and deserved their place in history. Just as an example, the Greek Pericleus has given us the great monuments, art, philosophy, architecture and literature which are the building blocks of our own civilization. Hence, he rightefully earned his title in the anals of history.

    Coming back to our own backyard, I ask you, what have these people that you included as being the Golden Generation of Ethiopia done that is so profound and lasting? No disrespect towards our forefathers, but I tried many times to witness their legacy but found nowhere! These are the same Generals, with fighter planes and tanks, that were subdued by palace guards. So Doc, have I failed to see the light? Doc, I think 46+ years is ample time to bring change for our suffering peoples if the so called Golden Generation indeed existed!

    As for the War Born Generation, simply put, they are all victims. First victims of the ‘elite’ and second victims of circumstance/s.

    In conclusion, lets be simple about it. We are simple people, lets look at simple solutions to our many ailments. Let all work to mobilize at a grassroots level. Doc, the Americans started out by mobilizing the farmers and organizing militia troups. Chairman Mao’s mainstay was the poor peasants. Pol Pot continued likewise. So, Doc, why should we be different. Unless there is a strong and capable grassroots body, we are all doomed for generations to come!

    ‘ts the season for the new generation of Ethiopians who come from mixed tribes, mixed nationalities, mixed religious backgrounds to lead our Motherland over to Mt. Zion!

    Eagerly anticipating Part II

  4. Dr. Maru,

    First I would like to thank for you well written article. Although it is distasteful I am able to finish reading it. In this long essay you wrote, I could not find a single line that would convince me why AFD is bad for Ethiopia. What is wrong if people come together and talk? What is wrong if the Oromo brothers become leaders? Does one have to be a Godere to lead our country? Tell me if EPRP the only oppositions political party that can lead Ethiopia toward the right direction? Please help us understand why ONLY EPRP members are opposing AFD?

  5. Dear Dr.Maru

    First thank you for writing this intersting and timely article. In my opinion your attempt to explain the chasm between the so called “Golden generation” and “War generation” might be used as a divisive political tool to weaken the already fragile relation among the pan-Ethiopian and pro-democracy groups. It has been all along the policy of some groups whose leadeership consisted of former members of the defunct feudal and Derge regime, to blame the “Golden generation” for all of the political,economic and social disaster that happened in Ethiopia since 1974.

    The military regime led by dictator Mengistu until the last days of its demise was scapegoating this militant and selfless generation as responsible for disintegration of the country. Some members and functioneries of the regime who fled to the west and US has continued this policy of scapegoating. The willingness and eagernes to forget and forgive these elements in the ranks of the Ethiopian diaspora by the militant and Ethiopian nationalist groups gave them enough time to regroup and strike back.
    The sudden change and danger of Ethiopian existance as we know it, make it more difficult to focus attention and due process to these divisive and criminal elements among us. However we wish to forget and to reconcile for the benefit of saving our beloved country,they never ceased to fight the last war even after they fled the country cowardly to the comfort of the West or US.
    Hence your article is timely and should help to openly debate to distingush who lost Ethiopia.

    Best Regards

    Tulu Forca

  6. The exile politics of Ethiopians for the last fifteen years have not produced any change for our country and this has nothing to do with the formation of AFD few months ago.

    It is not wise to ignore the past many years of failurity and attribute it only to the last six months of AFD existance.

    Your allegation of fight between AFD “militants” and other “unionists” in raly at New York in September is exaggerated, and those who showed up to denounce Melese Zenawi and the release of All political prisoners including Ato Abera Yemane were together without any incident.

    This demonistation was infact televised to Ethiopians back home, and you may not liked the TV station who trnsmitted it and for us the message is what matters.

    I agreee with you that Diaspora has been a disaster, but I am very confident that our people are the one that matters the most, and the formation of AFD has helped to neutralize Melese’s agents instigation of fights between Oromo and non Oromo’s in higher education and in the army.

    Melese knows for sure that AFD is a threat and he confirmed it on his own parliament, and the sad thing is that many in Diaspora, including you , who are anti-Melese have the same fear for what you call AFD militants.

  7. Hi Maru,

    Your article is a clear demonstration of a frustrated political attudes. Maru, your article is a clumsy political reflection of EPRP. Why? Because I don’t see any thing new in your article, that as usual you told us there is only one truth, one history and that is all as defined by EPRP.

    All other perespectivies or views are either Dergist, anti-people and eventually enemies of the people. This makes your article fill with stink of EPRP, very strongly.

    All oppostion forces in Ethiopia are very well aware about who has been the main obstacle to any meaningful alliance among themselves and who cries loud about the lack of that very alliance.

    Maru, your attempt to divide the generatrions reminds me of the famous cote of the Wayane chief “BEWORK KETFETENE HIZB” that he decended from a proved golden gene… It is amazing that EPRP still assumes that power naturally belongs to itself alone because its members were brutally attacked by almost all non-EPRP forces in Ethiopian political history (be it Derg, TPLF, EDU, SHABIA…. According to Maru his “Golden Generation” was far-sighted, tolerant, peaceful, and what else …killer? Maru completely forgotten that any generation is a product of its predecessor and didn’t tell us how “Gold” gave birth to “Bullet”…The self-deception is still lingering in the political leadership of EPRP.

  8. To Dr. Maru.

    what did the So Called “Golden Generations” Contributed to the Present Ethiopia? Here please also not that it is not to discreated their Struggle to deffend our Country from The Colonial powers. But these who were defending Our Country from the colonizers are not of you Generation, rather the Forefathers of our Fathers and Mothers and not Your EPRP generation

  9. Dear Dr. Maru

    I do not agree with your idea the so-called War Generation etc.. As a doctrate holder, please try to write an article based on scientfic way of writing with evidence and book references. I think you have written this bla bla article with mirkana(Kahat-Cheewing). Please donot insult Generation and People without scientfic analysis.
    Thanks

    Visitor from BERLIN GERMANY

  10. […] This article is part two of my contribution entitled “The Revitalization of Ethiopia’s Most Tragic, Nightmarish and Painful Memories of the 1970s: The Clash of Generations.” As you may remember, the first part of this article has already been published on various Ethiopian websites, including other websites engaged with the historical and current issues of Ethiopia between the 26th and 28th of November 2006.   As stated in the preface to part one, it is this important part – part two – that provides a clear definition of the two generations under discussion; distinguishes the socio-economic and political conditions these generations have experienced; assesses the many interlinked historical factors and actors that are the immutable sources of our unhealed wounds, divisions and obstacles – obstacles not just to a search for possible solutions to our longstanding and persistent socio-economic and political problems, but even to our living side by side and working together. It is also this part of the article that examines the role of the complex mechanisms used by the Dergue regime to forcefully inculcate the images they preferred into the minds of the War Born Generation.  […]


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