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

By Maru Gubena 

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. 
To obtain a clear picture of the complex sources, processes, problems and issues involved, it is advisable to read parts one and two together. 

Distinguishing the Two Generations and their Socio-economic and Political Conditions 

Before tackling the remaining issues of this paper, let me first attempt to clear up the clouds surrounding the two generations, including my definitions and the reasons I have found it necessary to introduce these two concepts – the Golden Period Generation and the War Born Generation. 

To begin with, our current difficulties seem to me to be explained by the “Cold War” these two generations are waging against each other, with devastating and destructive effects to the path of the Ethiopian resistance. Therefore it is necessary to make a clear distinction between them. Additionally, the concept of the generations that I am suggesting can, I believe, be helpful in assessing the impact of the socio-economic and political experiences and backgrounds in which each generation was born and brought up. 

Each generation encompasses a range of ages. The Golden Period Generation, for instance covers those individuals who were born between 1938 and 1966, with an average age of 22 in 1974 and 53 in May 2005 – the year that marked the first national parliamentary election in the history of our country – Ethiopia. A good number of the Golden Period Generation are said to have been contributing forces to, and in some cases instrumental in, the upheaval of the bloody 1974 Ethiopian revolution, which marked the end of Emperor Haile Selassie’s forty-four year rule and the disintegration of the long established feudal system, including the suspension of Ethiopia’s constitution; they came predominantly from rural Ethiopia and belonged to rural families. The War Born Generation, on the other hand, encompasses those born between 1967 and 1986, with an average age of 14.5 in 1991 – the year that marked the end of Mengistu Hailemariam’s era – and 28.5 in May 2005.   

I prefer, however, to define these two generations not in terms of years, but rather on the basis of Ethiopia’s political conditions, relationships or affiliations, and in relation to the experiences of the two generations with the country’s rulers, including the process of victimization some experienced, inflicted by certain regimes. This determined their ability or inability to participate in political activities such as demonstrations, and the chance they ran of being picked up and arrested, or being gunned down by the security forces of the regime in question. As has already been said, and as might be expected, there are thus substantial differences in the experiences and ideologies of the Golden Period Generation and the War Born Generation, as in other many aspects.  

First and most essentially, the time in which the Golden Period Generation was born and grew up was relatively stable, with few or no rebel groups. The Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) was still in an organizational phase. The number of active ELF members, including the founders, was small; it had not yet even reached one hundred. At that time, most well known founders and some members of the ELF lived in the Middle East other Islamic African countries. The entire Ethiopian population, including the Golden Period Generation, was free to move from one border to the other, all the way across the country. In fact, at that time Ethiopians had never seen a compulsory identification card, something they were suddenly required to carry with them. This requirement was introduced for the first time in Ethiopia’s history by the regime of the Dergue. Even in the first few months of the Dergue era, permission was not required to travel from one border to the other, for example from Moyale to Massawa. It was also true that life in the entire nation of Ethiopia was extremely cheap and it was easy. In relatively small restaurants in Finote Selam, Bahir Dar, Dessie, or any other medium or small Ethiopian cities and towns, it was for example quite normal to order an extended lunch or dinner for just ten cents in Ethiopian Birr.  

As the educational system of Ethiopia had been seriously and carefully established, aimed at producing well trained graduates with a bright future, the students of the Golden Period Generation were loved, respected and regarded by the general public of Ethiopia as the future representatives and symbols of the country. Wherever they went, all Ethiopian mothers and fathers – in both urban and rural areas – always welcomed Ethiopian students and youth of that memorable period. Indeed, throughout the youth of the Golden Period Generation the educational system was complex and exams were tough to pass, especially the two ministry exams (from 6th to 7th grade, and from 8th to 9th grade) and the third so-called “matrix exam,” which enables students, if they pass, to enter one of the Ethiopian universities. The quality of Ethiopia’s educational system and educational outputs were extremely high. During the generation of the Golden Period it was not strange, for example, to hear little children in the fourth or fifth grade speaking English well and helping foreign visitors. As the result of the relatively professionally established educational system of the time, the attitudes and views of the Golden Period Generation were and are far broader and more international than those of others.  

As the name clearly suggests – and in strong contrast to the environment and socio-economic conditions in which the Golden Period Generation was born, grew up and lived – the period of the War Born Generation was and still is marked with external wars, conflicts and internal armed confrontations among an increasingly number of rebel groups, each with a lengthy list of demands for independence. The War Born Generation is the first in the history of Ethiopia to experience living in officially registered locations (called “Kebeles”) with house numbers, and with a requirement that individuals who would like to have visitors – even family members and friends from other Ethiopian cities, towns or villages – must register their names and the duration of their stay in advance, and ask permission.
Moreover, the War Born Generation has had little or no freedom to move from city to city, or from a city to certain regions of rural Ethiopia, without proper legal permission and without carrying an ID. It is also undeniably true that the socio-political and economic conditions in which the War Born Generation has been born and brought up have been torturous – isolationist and impoverished. The impact of the worsening economic conditions on social relations among Ethiopians has been heavy, and has resulted in persistent increases in hostilities. Due to the substantial decreases in the quality of education under the Dergue regime, the educational level of the War Born Generation is exceptionally low. For example, a disproportionately high number of the War Born Generation who have completed high school, even among those who have attained the second or third year of university, don’t speak English. Many of those among the War Born Generation who are living today with us in Europe or the United States, when applying for political asylum, could not manage to articulate their own profile or the reasons for applying for asylum to an immigration officer without the help of an interpreter. 

Further, as the result of the intensity of the war between the then two guerrilla rebel forces – the EPLF and TPLF forces – and the regime of Mengistu Hailemariam, the War Born Generation has continued to be both a direct and indirect potential victim of the parties involved in the war. An indirect victim, because there is not a single person among the War Born Generation whose family members were not affected, who could escape from being forcefully snatched, conscripted by the fascist regime of Mengistu Hailemariam to go the warfront and sacrifice his or her life. And directly, in the case of those who were themselves conscripted to fight the war – a war created and expanded by the regime of the Dergue itself. And finally, for children of Dergue members, and of those who served the regime of Mengistu Hailemariam in one way or the other, including members of the former Ethiopian armed forces – it is certainly and undoubtedly this generation, the War Born Generation, that has been and is directly and badly affected and victimized by the defeat and eventual ousting of Mengistu Hailemariam from power by EPLF and TPLF forces in May 1991. Most lost their loved ones, close friends and colleagues as well as personal property and other essential belongings. 
Due to their ages and because they were the children of the Dergue system itself, the War Born Generation was vulnerable: it could easily be molded in accord with the desires and wishes of the system and leadership of the Dergue regime. It is additionally true that given the complete lack of educational alternatives, the War Born Generation had no choice but to listen to their parents, go to school and learn from their school teachers. The schools, together with the Dergue controlled media outlets – an indispensable tool in molding this generation – were the only institutions available to provide information. It is also true that not a single person in the world can stand and watch when his or her parents are being criticized or attacked – it doesn’t matter how bad the parents might be. So the repeated denials and defense by the War Born Generation of the Dergue, even given the atrocious crimes committed and the damage inflicted upon the people and the territorial integrity of Ethiopia are understandable. The problem, however, does not end with these denials of the appalling crimes of the parents, other family members and the War Born Generation itself. The problems and the clashes between the Golden Period Generation and the War Born Generation are much deeper and are getting out of hand: we are at a point where the War Born Generation is ready, not only to politically outsmart and socially silence the Golden Period Generation, but, appallingly, is also working day in and day out to physically eliminate all individuals who belong to the Golden Period Generation. The big question is: why are such great cruelty and creatively invented, unsubstantiated charges necessary? Who is really going to benefit from this intensified, volatile war of words? What are the historical sources of the clash between the two generations?

Looking at the Historical Sources 

As widely recorded evidence clearly shows, from early in the 1950s the Golden Period Generation was an active force in resisting and challenging, directly and indirectly, the policies and government of Emperor Haile Selassie, demanding socio-economic, political and leadership changes. It was seen as an indispensable symbol and voice of the people of Ethiopia. However, despite well-researched historical evidence on the incalculable influence and contributions of the Golden Period Generation to relative improvements in areas related to health, education, agriculture and basic infrastructure in various regions of Ethiopia, and while knowing perfectly well that the 1974 Ethiopian revolution had been partly or fully the result of the uninterrupted concerted efforts and sacrifices of this generation, the Dergue, with its
unpatriotic and greedy members – and which later became the uncontested, most ruthless ruler of my country and oppressor of my people – conspired against the Golden Period Generation and the Ethiopian people in general, and decided to snatch the socio-economic, political and leadership changes from them all. The months that followed the end of Emperor Haile Selassie’s rule were to be the beginning of urban and city dominated war, terrorization and self-destruction among Ethiopians themselves – with the new military rulers and those supporting military rule against those emphatically opposing the imposition of power and rule by an unelected military dictatorship. The new self-installed fascistic military dictatorship was also quick to take inconceivable, cruel and irreversibly destructive measures against the Golden Period Generation as well as a large section of other Ethiopians who rejected the idea of military rule in the
land of Ethiopia.  

Indeed, the Golden Period Generation was seen not only as a potential enemy, but also a direct threat to the long term desires and plans of the Dergue to forcefully impose its oppressive and repressive rule upon our country for an unspecified period. These new rulers were faced with increasing and spreading challenges including dangerously escalating resistance in both urban and rural Ethiopia, and were unable either to convince or silence the concerted opposition to military rule by political means, rationally and wisely devised mechanisms and instruments, the parents of the Warn Born Generation – the members of the fascistic dictatorial military regime declared open war on the Golden Period Generation and its political party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) – a war aimed at exterminating the entire Golden Period Generation and those associated or suspected of being involved with or related to EPRP members, activists or their families.  

To help sharpen its teeth, and in an attempt to justify its appalling war policies and strategies to the Ethiopian people and the international community, even though these were exclusively directed at its targeted victimsthe Golden Period Generation and its political party, the EPRPthe then military dictatorship, the Dergue, publicly accused the EPRP and the civilian left of being anti-peace and anti-Ethiopian unity. By employing the Dergue-controlled Ethiopian media outlets as effective and indispensable propaganda machines in the war against my generation, the Dergue accused the civilian left organization, the EPRP, whose activists included students, the entire body of Ethiopian intellectuals, teachers and trade union associations, the Ethiopian business community and even some members of the Ethiopian armed forces, of being a political organization that was working hand in glove with the growing number of newly emerging separatist rebel groups engaged in terrorist activities and working towards the disintegration of Ethiopia’s territorial integrity. The accusations and charges made by the then Ethiopian military dictatorship against my generation were not only entirely politically motivated and disproportionate, but were also totally unfounded.  

Contrary to the unfounded accusations and charges declared against my generation by the fascistic regime of the Dergue, the EPRP’s suggestions and proposals – as can be read in well-documented records – were presented as a lasting solution to the conflicts arising between the new military dictatorship and the new rebel groups of the period, were entirely and exclusively focused on peaceful, immediate resolution of the issues and problems raised by a few of the rebel groups, before they become more organized, grew and expanded and before their ideas and strategies took root in the land of Ethiopia. Because the demands of the rebel groups were straightforward, the EPRP believed that sitting together and talking with even one rebel group – the EPLF – could help to bring a lasting solution, stop the emergence of other rebel groups and clear up the heavy, dark cloud of possible protracted internal and external conflicts and wars hanging over the head of Ethiopia.  

Regrettably, however, the Ethiopian army officers who had forcefully snatched power from Ethiopians who had struggled over many painful years, attempting to cultivate the habits and culture of democracy in our country and to create an opportunity for our people taste both the fruits and challenges of freedom and democracy, were unconvinced. They continued a ruthless and fascistic policy of war, intensifying the process of extermination of the most irreplaceable Ethiopian assets, along with the destruction of the many complex and most valuable Ethiopian cultural and patriotic symbols, along with norms and values including the deep respect and love Ethiopians had for each other. Yes, indeed, the greedy, power thirsty, irresponsible and arrogant Dergue members who ruled my country during those nightmarish years chose for prolonged internal and external wars in preference to engagement in discussions and an attempt at a peaceful resolution to the newly emerging armed confrontations and conflicts. 

Although the responsibility for the decision to eradicate my generation rests entirely with the Dergue, since Dergue members themselves made this decision, the conflict that arose within the civilian left during the early and mid 1970s – for strategic reasons plus ideological differences and convictions, and which led to the eventual split, to irreconcilable animosity and to further self-destruction of one another – served not just to embolden and radicalize the hearts and minds of the Dergue, but also led them to escalate and expand the war machines against the civilian left. The decision made by the All-Ethiopia Socialist Movement, often referred to by its Amharic acronym, Meison, to form an alliance with the Dergue regime and work cooperatively with the most ruthless regime of the period (in the expectation of diverting the revolution from within) was indeed an unforgivable historical error of the then leaders of Meison, Mr. Haile Fida and Dr Negede Gobeze – a painful memory to the Meison figures and activists who finally managed to escape the cruel and deadly war machine of Mengistu Hailemariam.  

A major reason behind the irreconcilable disagreement of Meison with the EPRP and their alignment with the repressive regime of the Dergue was the use of arguments by the then leaders of Meison based on a theory that asserted the positive contributions of military dictatorship. This  presumably was borrowed from the well known social scientist, Andre Gundar Frank, who is best known as the post-Second World War exponent of his dependency theory – the idea that despite the undemocratic nature of military rule, in countries such as Ethiopia, the deep-rooted feudal mode of production and relations among the members of society cannot be simply eradicated and fundamental structural socio-economic and political change cannot be implemented just by ending the rule of a monarchy and replacing it with a democratically elected leadership. The Meison leaders concluded with confidence and certainty that if Ethiopia were not to be ruled by a well-organized and armed military leadership, the people’s revolution would not survive, and the old rule that had been deposed would certainly revive, once again forcing its feudal system upon the entire population of Ethiopia. Therefore they insisted on the importance of military rule in Ethiopia for an unspecified period.  

Emphatically rejecting both the stated arguments of the then Meison leadership and the collaboration between Meison and the new military dictatorship in Ethiopia, the EPRP leadership challenged the Meison leadership on grounds of practical experience in countries that had been ruled by fascistic military dictatorships. In making clear its case to the Ethiopian people, the EPRP leadership of the 1970s stood firm, saying that the reasons given by Meison were unjustifiable and in contradiction to the history of military dictatorships. According to well established historical documents covering military dictatorships, argued the EPRP leadership, where such dictatorships have come to power in a nation state not a single country has witnessed a peaceful and democratic transfer of power to an elected leader or leaders. Military dictators have by nature little or no respect for their people or country. They are allergic to the idea of being replaced by an elected civilian leadership.  

Not surprisingly, the persistent self-incrimination and escalation in the wars of words and deeds between Meison and EPRP became an energizing force for the military regime of Mengistu Hailemariam in the radicalization and escalation of its own war, not only against EPRP, but also against everyone who did not express his or her unreserved, loud and clear support for the war and the destructive policy of the Dergue. As not publicly supporting the war policy and the war machine of the Dergue became tantamount to committing a crime, being accused, charged, hunted and gunned down became a daily urban phenomenon in all cities of Ethiopia. Again, not surprisingly, after sharpening its teeth and firmly reorganizing the foundation of its power structures, the ruthless dominant figures of the Dergue turned the barrel of the gun towards the entire leadership of Meison, who had been working hand in glove with the Dergue itself towards the destruction of my generation. A few among the active leadership of Meison who managed to escape the killing machines of the Dergue – killing machines they themselves helped to create and sharpen – live today with horrifying memories and never-ending nightmares.  

What is more interesting in this connection, however, is this: it is these same rebel groups, newly born at this earlier time and each founded in the land of Ethiopia by three to seven individuals, concurrently with the emergence of the new military dictatorship, that eventually became – after 17 years of protracted war – a source of the complete destruction of the Dergue itself, including the loss of life of the most dominant leaders of the Dergue, those who initially so emphatically rejected sitting and negotiating with the small rebel groups to resolve the emerging problems of the period in a timely fashion. 

Incidentally, it is probably worth noting that the falsely and creatively invented accusations and charges declared by the Dergue regime against the Golden Period Generation more or less resemble the treason and genocide charges more recently imposed upon Ethiopian elected and jailed leaders, Ethiopian Free Press Journalists and many other Ethiopians by the tyrannical unelected TPLF leadership that is currently ruling our country and its people with its repressive machine and with the barrel of the gun. The obvious major difference between the victims of the Dergue and those of the current unelected TPLF leadership is that a disproportionately high number of the Dergue’s victims didn’t have an opportunity to be arrested, imprisoned and visited by their loved ones, by journalists and international leaders, or to challenge the illegally and falsely made charges against them. Those of my generation who were charged by the Dergue did not have the prospect of being released someday after serving two to fours years of prison time. They were simply hunted and gunned down wherever and whenever they were found. The elected Ethiopian jailed leaders who were forcefully picked up in their houses, offices or on the street since the 31st of October 2005, however, are alive and are challenging their charges in the courts, even though these courts are simply the mouthpieces, the personal property, of the unelected TPLF leader, Meles Zenawi. It should in addition be obvious that for most, some 98 or more percent, of the Kaliti prisoners who have been imprisoned under politically motivated charges the prospects of being released are not clouded, although the duration of their imprisonment is almost entirely dependent upon the political heat and dust surrounding the future political stability or instability of our country. In other words, if the uncertain, dark clouds surrounding the political power and leadership structures of the TPLF leadership begin to stabilize, then the prospects for the release of Kinijit’s jailed leaders will be brighter than is the case today. Again, the timeframe for the release of all Kaliti political prisoners will depend heavily upon the speed of the process of stabilization in the power and leadership systems of the unelected leadership of Meles Zenawi, unless something miraculous happens, such as a military coup d’etat or any other event that deposes the regime.  

As discussed in the sections above, it appears that the socio-psychological damage inflicted upon the War Born Generation has been overwhelming, to the point that we have become unable even to live side by side in foreign countries – in our countries of asylum and immigration. Although I may be wrong since I have not been in Ethiopia for some time, the clash of the two generations – the conflict currently underway between the Golden Period Generation and the War Born Generation – I would argue that this is more clearly manifested in the Diaspora than in our country of origin. I also dare to argue that the impact of the clash of generations is more obvious within the Diaspora political organizations, more specifically on the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and its active members, than in the Kinijit we knew in Ethiopia. 

The Direct Repercussions of the Clash of Generations: The Kinijt Diaspora Leadership as a Prisoner of the War Born Generation 

Although the lifeless Kinijit Diaspora leadership persistently and blindly denies the obvious huge differences between the Kinijit we knew in Ethiopia and the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, the well-known, respected and loved Kinijit led by Engineer Hailu Shawel, which won the 2005 Ethiopian parliamentary election, was founded and functioned upon a cardinal foundation of Ethiopianess: it embraced and involved all Ethiopians from all regions without discrimination based on religion, sex or age group. The jailed Kinijit leaders were leaders for everyone, every single Ethiopian. The jailed Kinijit leaders loved and respected the old and young, the wealthy and the poor, the powerless and defenseless as well as the powerful. The house and the entire Kinijit family was always open and willing to shelter every child, man and woman who needed its help, its protection or its defense. “Every Ethiopian belongs to Ethiopia and to the family of Kinijit.” was the Kinijit motto. Yes, Kinijit in Ethiopia was radically different from the Kinijit Diaspora leadership. In my recollection, in Ethiopia Kinijit was a political organization in which everyone was welcome to actively participate and contribute to its growth and development. Every generation, old and young, had the opportunity and in fact the responsibility to become a leader and spokesman as well as a sympathizer, supporter or member of Kinijit. For example, it was quite normal to find members of three different generations – my father’s generation, my generation and my daughter’s generation – among the individual leaders, activists, members and sympathizers within Kinijit in Ethiopia. It is further true that the spirit, policy frameworks and strategies of Kinijit in

Ethiopia were all consistent with an aggressive attack on the factors dividing us, and towards a revival of the unity, harmony, love and respect among all Ethiopians. There was little or no sign of a clash of generations to be seen in the house and family of Kinijit in Ethiopia – Kinijit as it was under the leadership of Engineer Hailu Shawel,

What about the Kinijit Diaspora leadership? But what is it – what is the Kiniji Diaspora leadership? The Kinijit Diaspora leadership came into existence in the final weeks of the spring of 2006, not through the collective voice of the Ethiopian Diaspora community, but due to the initiative of a few individuals. Despite the lack of a collective voice, the Ethiopian Diaspora community was willing to accept and support the coordination of the Ethiopian resistance by the Kinijit Diaspora leadership.   And still, despite persistent complaints and accusations related to ineffectiveness and ongoing refusals to coordinate multiple projects and lead the Ethiopian resistance cooperatively, working closely with civil organizations and other political parties, the Ethiopian Diaspora remains reluctant to openly criticize the Kinijit Diaspora leadership. Much to the sadness and disappointment of many Ethiopians and to the terrible embarrassment of our jailed leaders and their families, however, the now lifeless Kinijit Diaspora leadership has became a prisoner of a single generation – the War Born Generation, who have been directly affected by the war that defeated the regime of Mengistu Hailemariam. Completely contrary to the spirit and principles of Kinijit as we knew it in Ethiopia, the Kinijit Diaspora leadership and about 80 percent or more of its active members, supporters and sympathizers, with their aggressive and militaristic character and behaviour, are a part of the War Born Generation. Consequently, the Kinijit Diaspora leadership has today become an open battlefield in a war being waged by the revengeful children of the Dergue regime – the War Born Generation – not only against the tyrannical regime of the TPLF, but mainly against the civilian left of the 1970s, whom the War Born Generation sees as the historical enemy of their parents.  

The direct effects and repercussions of the clash of generations are growing rapidly, worsening by the day and getting out of hand. They have effectively paralyzed not just the Kinijit Diaspora leadership, but the entire Ethiopian resistance. 

Indeed, the long-standing clashes between the two generations, the deep-seated hostilities and animosities of the War Born Generation towards the Golden Period Generation, have in recent times been transformed into a total, open war. Although the exchanges are not systematically structured, the Kinijit Diaspora media outlets and their paltalk rooms, Ethiopian Current Affairs Discussion Forum, and Ethiopians in Switzerland Discussion Forum, which along with Negat Radio and the newly born station called Radio Kaliti, focus entirely on the favorite talking points and interview channels of Mr. Andrachew Tsigie, have openly declared war against the Golden Period Generation and flatly denied that any crimes were committed by the Dergue regime. The revengeful children of the Dergue have argued emphatically that not one of the Ethiopian armed forces, police or cadres during the era of Dergue regime killed a single person. While admitting that atrocious crimes were committed against the Ethiopian people during the terrible, painful period of the 1970s, and while admitting the shameless obliteration of over a half million of my generation, the paltalk room participants who support the radical militant Kinijit Diaspora leadership, especially those who are themselves former members of the armed forces of the Dergue regime, instead charge the EPRP with responsibility for the atrocious crimes committed against more than one-half million Ethiopians. Unfortunately, however, the militant paltalk room participants provide absolutely no information about how the EPRP managed to kill so many Ethiopian youth of the period, what weapons were used or with whose permission.  

For example, on the first of October 2006, the radical Admins (Administrators) and participants in the paltalk room called the “Ethiopian Current Affairs Discussion Forum,” such as those nicknamed Green_Yellow_Red, @balwe_1, VIVA MINILIK, @selamhunu and others have shamelessly stated that few if any Ethiopian youth or students were killed during the Dergue era with the knowledge or by the order of Dergue government officials. The Ethiopian youth of the period were eradicated by EPRP leaders and activists, says VIVA MINILIK. VIVA MINILIK added that “EPRP leaders and their cadres killed a large number Ethiopian youths, compared to the number of Ethiopians killed by the regimes of either Mengistu Hailemariam or Meles Zenawi.” In explaining the impossibility of future cooperation between Kinijit and UEDF, VIVA MINILIK, who is said to be the undisputed boss of the paltalk room mentioned, poses the following question to himself and the other participants in the room: “how can Ethiopians work and cooperate with such cruel people and such cruel behaviour? How can we do that? We can’t! We cannot work and live with those who have committed the most terrifying crimes on earth,” insists VIVA MINILK, himself a former soldier under Mengistu Haile Mariam’s regime. 

While VIVA MINILIK was still engaged with his endless, totally unfounded accusations against my generation, “tadeaa,” another active participant in the Ethiopian Current Affairs Discussion Forum, proudly wrote in. He expressed his joy to VIVA MINILIK, saying that his voice, behaviour and way of speaking are exactly the same as the former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Hailemariam. VIVA MINILIK in turn responded to “tadeaa” in an extremely loud voice, showing deep emotion and a feeling of enormous pride in tadeaa and the other participants in his room, to whom he said that they deserve such a bold nationalist, with a most courageous voice, to motivate paltalk room participants and energize their mood and feelings of Ethiopian nationalism.  

Hearing such statements made by former members of the armed forces under Mengistu Hailemariam’s regime, whose hands are covered with the blood of the Ethiopian youth of my generation, reminds me of an Italian politician named Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of Benito Mussolini – the cruel fascist dictator who ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943 – who continually argues that her grandfather was never a fascist dictator and never killed a single person, or even a single bird for that matter. Alessandra Mussolini also says that her grandfather was in fact a loving person, valuing all human beings, and a well known humanist.  

For the Ethiopian Diaspora as a whole, apart from the question of how we will be able to reconcile with each other, given the views and convictions of individuals who talk like Alessandra Mussolini and the above mentioned Admins of these paltalk rooms and media outlets, what is more worrisome, even most depressing of all, are the immediate effects and repercussions of the clash of generations – the war currently being waged by the War Born Generation against the Golden Period Generation. And since we Ethiopians have never given the required attention to these issues and problems, which should be seen as the equivalent of a big foreign enemy advancing towards us, armed with complex and highly advanced weapons, the Ethiopian Diaspora community will soon not be able to work collectively to support the Ethiopian resistance against the common enemies of our country. The politics of the Ethiopian Diaspora, it seems, is in its closing pages, at least for the coming few years, until the previous wounds that have been revitalized, given a new life, by the War Born Generation are healed a bit, and until certain individuals those who are currently faced with memories of pain and nightmare of the 1970s are recovered. 

A final note. 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 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. 

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

Published in: on December 16, 2006 at 7:05 pm  Comments (18)  

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18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I donot know when you guys from the old days will come back to your senses. I yearn when you old guys will rid of yourself from arrogance. You keep on telling us that your egenration was bright while the post-1974 generation which you labeled as the War Born Generation are bucnh of idiots who cannot even speak English. Despite the trauma and suffering we experienced, I can assure you that there are brilliant young scholars from my generation who can outsmart your generation in anything. Arrogance will never bring us anywhere nearer to the solution to our complicated problem.

  2. Maru Gubena, you are the most notable person I have ever notice. You have countless followers for your courage. You are writing and tellig the truth. We do n’t have to take a revege or retribution, but we have to agree the crimes committed by the Dergue Junta. We just can not ignore it or forget what hapen during Mengistu the sadist. Because, we lost unforgetable people of that era.
    Good job MAru Gubena!!

  3. The article looks a bit harsh and exclusive while professing for inclusiveness. I suggest that you read
    the piece written by Ewunetu Feleke at
    Hopefully, you will come back with better thought out

  4. You guys, “the golden generation”,we are sick and tired in your imbecile credo. You don’t have any moral to return back in Ethiopian political arena. You are the loser! enough is enough. You, Are the subset of the MONARCH,, EPRP,MIESON,DERG,OLF,TPLF,EPLF, should and must be retired,if not obliterate. I believe, Ethiopia will be better off without you as long as you guys shut up your big but empty mouth. How dare you call yourself “golden generation” after yield up all this misery to that beautiful land.


  5. Dear Dr. Maru Gubena,

    Thanks for your great artciles!

    Yes there was a genration which lit a candle to Ethiopian politics; It is sad to realize that it was campaigned against them through out the three governements inseated of deserving some houner. This is unfair, simply becasue it is the denial of TRUTH!

    I am young and not politician, however, trying to learn a bit, I found your articles great. I may need to revisit the first part though.

    Yes as U said, we Ethiopians in Diaspora, soon we may not be able to have coffee cup together. It is so scarey and NONE ETHIOPIAN charcter. Two things I found might be contributing a lot for this!

    (1)this one more or less you included in the article: comparing the Eras of the two generations you are talking about, your Era was not as distant to ours to the Era of our strong Ethiopianism which we cultivated during our foreign invasion resistance wars. these wars had positive impact on strengthening ETHIOPIANISM I believe, b/c we were all against outsider. In the other hand quite contrary to that, in our Era, recent decades, the INTERNAL wars and rebels are dominating. In this case one Ethiopia is killing another; not an outsider. I believe this contribute to causing lasting hatred among us, is might be gradually deteriorating the historical Ethiopianism sense!( especially whene the rebelions are ethno centric

    (2)It seems there is a huge threat to our marvelous, deep rooted, well developed cultutral, traditional & Ethical values due to a relatively improved exposure into foregn media compared to the past Golden Era; Adopting every thing from the west as the best’is becming common phenemona, this especially typical to the youth back home. this is confronttation!I found it might be contribtuting to the widening of the Generation gap and quality (depending on your specific evaluation criteria)

    I would love if you could apear in some of the paltalk rooms and could exchange ideas in on your papers! (Diasopra or Assimba rooms)

    Thanks agains for your contribution!

  6. Dear Dr. Maru Gobena,

    I am some what familiar with some of your articles published on Diaspora’s Pro Democracy web sites, your out look in general and a brief profile.

    It is not too common to find papers such as this, whose author’s insight, observation and historical “facts” reflect and calls for understanding of what you termed as “ The Golden Generation” and the “ The War Generation”. Papers such as this are very important and hope that more will be published to UNDERSTAND GENERATIONAL and POLITICAL DIFFERENCES THAT HAVE SOCIO-POLITICAL BASIS.


    “Golden Generation”

  7. Can you tell me the purpose of posting your young age pic with your clumsy articles?

    My glinch is that you are desperately seeking attention that you couldn’t found at your mid age. You have been in love with yourself as you lack any outer appereciation in your life. I don’t think you’d succed to secure one at this moment in time.

  8. Sir,

    Could you explain to me how EPRP is not the main cause of the red terror that wiped out almost a generation of youths. For your party to have credible voice they have to aleast acknowledge thier past mistakes instead of painting a picture of the perfect party.

  9. To Dr. Maru Gobena


    You are sharing an important paper, however, we may hate to start from quoting your remarks, but hope that it serves a purpose in the end.
    “…which along with Negat Radio and the newly born station called Radio Kaliti, focus entirely on the favorite talking points and interview channels of Mr. Andrachew Tsigie, have openly declared war against the Golden Period Generation and flatly denied that… “
    -Radio Kaliti is fairly new and we refrain from commenting on them.
    -We never listened to Paltalk and Ethiopian current affairs room media and refrain from commenting on them as well.
    -Negat Radio can not necessarily be put all in the same pot since they are considerate of issues broadcasted to Ethiopian Community world wide: and their guests for interview vary in their political positions which also includes civic orgs. Human right advocates etc. The back ground and profile of its active promoters and tone of the station could be a mix of “Golden generation” and “War generation”. It is obvious that it is an opposition pro democracy station, and the news segment could reflect that firm stand. Some of the callers to that program could be members of different net works and at times can be annoying as well as a diverse audience whose opinion is informative, center, left, right and extreme. It is a radio broadcast, and the diversity is actually unavoidable and in fact good. What completes to define it, is how the producers and hosts address the issues and that is open to each person’s judgement….

    -Most people are aware that, media and its contributors can not always be taken at face value, including, your self, Negat Radio and various others, pro regime or opposition.

    -You are as well informing us of the clashes and hostilities and historical back ground of the two mentioned generations as the author of this part two paper.

    The most important lesson in this is to have enough information on both generations and have a broader understanding FOR RATIONAL REASONING as to why people behave the way they do. That leads to tolerance and problem solving instead of hostility which can be painful and could create unnecessary obstacle among people of the same nationals specially those who reside away from their own country.

  10. Tena
    Great job Dr. Maru Gobena!
    Keep up this great work; this well reserached & full of fact article will help the youngst generations to understand what was going on for 17 years rule of the military junta.

  11. Dear Dr.Maru Gobena,

    “Finally, this paper has been written in memory of my generation – the youth of Ethiopia of the 1970s,…”.

    Thank you for the DEDICATION AND THE CLOSURE that have stayed in our memories, whether the young promising victims were demonstrators against the Monarchy,Dergue,EPRP and others… Ethiopian youth of that generation who HAD A GENUINE DEDICATION TO BRING A POSITIVE CHANGE have left their marks in their own ways. Your article reinforces different thoughts and we try to get a grasp of what went wrong and what can be prevented from past mistakes.

  12. Dear Dr. Maru Gubena,
    Here I come again. I wrote a reply to your first article and to the point you proved me right. I do not want to speculate where you are coming from. I do not want to think about your objective for writing this. All i want to say is you got it wrong. I am not going to drag this into a contest of any kind for it does not help anyone of us. What I would like to do is continue what I started before.
    look Dr. Maru, do you really see the “War Born Generation” bringing the war to the “Golden generation’?
    Who attacked the “Golden Generation”? Roberto Jigana, Haile Fida, Negede Gobeze, issayas Afeworki, Meles Zenawi, Senai Li’ke, etc. ? Which generation do these belong to? Look deep. Who were the killers of the Derg? Were they nor your and my friends? Does the fact that they belonged to the killer group make them not belong to our generation? Let me make you happy that EPRP was full of young revolutionaries from the “Golden Era”, does that make all those killers from Meison of the “War Born Generation”? Come on!
    The young soldiers, the Derge cadres, the present TPLF tugs all belong to the same generation. Why are you afraid to call the right names? It is not a generation war, it is a war of ideas – the one that says the people are the supreme and the other that says we the greedy few are the owners of everything. Put is that way. Do not discreadit the young fighters not only of your “War Born” generation but the new one too.
    For your information dear Doctor, every generation has its historical call. the present new kids in the elementary school, the fight against Woyane has brought them to be the golden age kids. The fight agaisnt agazi with their bare hands. like the derg soldiers who thought killing the youth as a heroic act, these agazi woshoch consider shooting at the head of elementary kids as a heroic act. And here you are telling me our generation is the “Golden One.” STOP it!!! Every generation has its pluses and its minuses. In the last fifty years it is the generation that you and I came from that has been responsible for the worst and the best acts of the time. Yes it has championed the cause of the people and on the other hand it too is the one that stood on the other fence. STOP bringing another division into this struggle, what we have has put us in this mess and enough is enough let you and I work on bringing everyone to the camp of athe people. Do not divd us. I hope you and your EPRP of the presentday will let every generation do what it can in spite of your effort to the contrary.

  13. Dear Dr. Maru

    I read your articles both part I and II. I understand your attempt to solve the alleged problems or clashes of generationals political outlooks. The frustrations and dismay that we encountered since the 1974 popular uprising can not simply be explained by lumping together one generation as “golden” and the other as “War”. Every time one tries to simply define complex social and political events in terms of Black and White, Good and Evil will inevitably adds to the problem or muddy the political water. I am afraid this article,in spite of correct and accurate historical records what happened during the Derge regime,will only encourage the state of denial in the part of the perpetrators.
    The lack of correct analysis or just simply lump all the so called “Golden” generation together with out explaing which class or socio-economic group stood for revoulationary or reformist change. This “Golden” generation contained with in itself the most reactionary and vile form of human beings. Colonel Mengistu,Melese Zenawi,Issays Afeworkp are all the children of that generation. The musle and enforcers of these brand new tyrants,the “Bandas”,”Hodams”,and multitude of wanna be local despots are members of that so called “Golden” generations. If any thing to be said about the “war” generation, by and large they are the victims of the horror that be fallen the nation.
    Derge’s 17 yrs of ceaseles propaganda and indocatrination was mainly targeted the young and come of age sector of the population to pacify and direct all the political,economic and social ills towards the oppostions particularly against EPRP. EPRP was portrayed as the mother of all things that goes wrong. The party’s capacity to respond and reach millions of Ethiopians had been curtailed, in fact, non-existant in populated urban centers. These circumstances coupled with equally negative propaganda by Shabia and TPLF had a multiplier effect.
    EPRP as the first major pan-Eihiopian party,the most inculusive and visionary,as symbol of selfles and tireless,patriotic in the best Ethiopian tradition will
    continue and is the most important part of Ethiopian political history in the past 35 yrs. However,EPRP is not immune from crticsim. Some of its former members had conspired with the enemy and causes of much agony and disaster. The party’s Urban gorilla struggle was poorly concieved policy contiributing and exposing the members and supporters to the murderers of Derge and local suppresives elements the “revoulationary squad” of the Kebeles. This policy is probably the most damaging to EPRP as a viable and alternative force and left the country and its ever suffering people to choose the lesser of two evils,TPLF/EPRDF or the Derge.

    Dear Dr.Maru, I am from your generation was actively involeved in the struggle. I share some of your anylysis particularly the role of Kinijt International leadership and the diaspora politics in general. Some right wing and ultra nationalist individuals in the ranks of pro-democratic organisations and their undue influence has been with us since the incepation if CODEF. THE DEMISE OF THIS UNIONIST AND DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT IS A STARK REMINDER OF POLITICS WITHOUT ANY IDEOLOGICAL PARAMETERS. NATIONALIST POLITICS BY ITS NATURE IS EXCLUSIVE AND REFUGE FOR RIGHT WING ELEMENTS IN THE NAME OF SAVING THE MOTHERLAND.

    In conculisions every generation produces its heros/sheros and villians. I am hopeful and belief we have more in common than appears to divide us .

    Best Regards


  14. Dear Dr. Maru Gubena,
    Here I come again. I wrote a reply to your first article and to the point; you proved me right. I do not want to speculate where you are coming from. I do not want to think about your objectives for writing this. All I want to say is you got it wrong. I am not going to drag this into a contest of any kind for it does not help anyone of us. What I would like to do is continue what I started before.
    Look Dr. Maru, do you really see the “War Born Generation” bringing the war to the “Golden generation”?
    Who attacked the “Golden Generation”? Roberto Jigano, Haile Fida, Negede Gobeze, Issayas Afeworki, Meles Zenawi, Senai L’ke, etc.? Which generation do these belong to? Look deep. Who were the killers of the Derg era? Were they not your and my friends? Does the fact that they belonged to the killer group make them not belong to our generation? Let me make you happy and say that EPRP was full of young revolutionaries from the “Golden Era”, ( I do believe it then and now )does that make all those killers from Meison of the “War Born Generation”? Come on!
    The young soldiers, the Derge cadres, the present TPLF tugs all belong to the same generation. Why are you afraid to call it right? It is not a generation war. It is a war of ideas – the one that says the people are the supreme and the other that says we the greedy few are the owners of everything. Put it that way. Do not discreadit the young fighters not only of those you call “War Born” generation but the new ones too.
    For your information dear Doctor, every generation has its historical call. For the present new kids in the elementary school, the fight against Woyane has brought them to be the Golden Age Kids. The fight against agazi with their bare hands. Like the derg soldiers who thought killing the youth as a heroic act, these agazi woshoch consider shooting at the head of elementary kids as a heroic act. And here you are telling me our generation is the “Golden One.” STOP IT!!! Every generation has its pluses and its minuses. In the last fifty years it is the generation that you and I came from that has been responsible for the worst and the best acts of the time. Yes it has championed the cause of the people and on the other hand it too is the one that stood on the other fence. STOP bringing another division into this struggle! What we have has put us in this mess. Enough is enough. Let you and I work on bringing everyone to the camp of the people. Do not divid us. I am sure you and your EPRP of the presentday will not stop every generation do what it can in spite of your effort to the contrary.

  15. 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.

  16. First Please allow me to tell you how awesome I think your site is, you also know how important linking is for rankings and I would greatly appreciate it if we could link to one another, thanks and have a great day, greg

  17. I wish I had some other venue to debate and refute what you said point by point. However, true to the nature of cowardice, which your likes are very well known for, you hide behind some blog or a fake name.

    You had the audacity to talk about today’s generation of young Ethiopians, because they didn’t conform to your archaic, old fashioned and poisonous political madness? Never mind that it was your generation that was killing each other like mad dogs and throwing their fellow “revolutionary comrades” corps on the streets. Never mind that it was your generation that came up with the bizarre “self determination to all ethnics of Ethiopia” crap, which is now threatening to disintegrate the country. Never mind that it was your generation, that gave a good excuse and open the flood gates for mentally retarded and incredibly backward army officers to roam around the country and kill anyone they want. In fact some members of your “revolutionary” generation buddies joined the army gangsters and participated fully in the killing and maiming of Ethiopians. Remember? It is your “generational buddies,” who got lucky today and occupy the Arat-Kilo palace. You’re just happening to be not one of them. It seems that is why, you blame my generation for not carrying you on their back and sit you on Arat-kilo’s “zufan” with your friends. You coward! Where were you when my generation stood in front of EPRDF’s tanks? Where were you, when my generation’s young were confronting the federal police and got killed, because they had courage to demand justice. The bravest of your generation “revolutionaries” had to confront was the water hoses of Haileselassie’s police. When the chips went down, and Dergue came to them with rifle, what did they do? They run away to Assimba, and never heard from again. Oh…sorry. I forgot. The ones that their friends have not finished them in the name of “Red and white terror” came to America and aged. Now all they can do is to blather about their old glory and about the new generation. I hope I am not the first to tell you this. Your time is long gone, buddy. Make a better use of yourself. Learn from the best. From my generation, who prefers compromise over declaring terror and naming them “Red” or “White”. We are not blood thirsty, as you were during your prime.

  18. Please do not entangle our our mind in favor of others political merits.

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