An Open Letter to the Organic Intellectuals accross the Horn of Africa

Dr. Mesfin Araya, York College, The City University of New York

            January 29, 2008

                                     

“ It is a curious thing with national hatred….Yet there is a stage at which it vanishes altogether, where one stands above the nations, so to speak , sharing joy or sorrow of a neiggboring people as though they had been encountered by one’s own ‘’ 1

The Age of Enlightenment in Europe has made a profound revolutionary change in the history of humanity.  As history, however, is ultimately indeterminate, the Enlightenment has paradoxically brought humanity blessings as well as continued social crises .

With its central governing philosophical principle—The Mind, Reason, as the sole supreme authority—it has opened our eyes to the hitherto impenetrable secrets of nature; and  behind the modern day of individual freedom and the unprecedented material comfort in the Western world lurks the historical role of the Enlightenment , although ‘The Third World’ frighteningly remains marginalized.

On the other hand, its heartless logic has unleashed unbridled ecological racism, resulting in a scaring environmental decay ;  socially ,  it has aggressively eroded and narrowed the ethical-moral sphere:  The debilitating poverty in ‘The Third World’, the   accelerating fatal North/South divide, largely along the racial line ,  the morally disturbing   global proliferation of the sex industry, etc. are indeed indicative of the unquestionable products of a civilization apparently singularily driven by The Mind, Reason, that has  never  tried to engage the Heart,  as the latter has invariably been dismissed as a mere locus of emotions, irrationalities.  

We need to understand, however, that behind the distortion, pollution of the historical role of the Enlightenment has been the critical role of its own twin products :  The nation- state and capitalism .

The worst crime in the modern history of humanity occurred when  a selfish minority elite in society invented the nation-state ; but the great tragedy unfolded when humanity itself blindly believed and followed the enterprising , destructively selfish , nationalists. 

The nation-state–driven by its inherent mechanics of Us/Them syndrome and by its no less inherent logic of profit motive–has been central in the unfolding agony of humanity. . AS early as 1862 Lord  Acton had predicted that ,  when he wrote that nationalism

“…does not aim either at liberty or prosperty, both of  which it sacrifices to the  imperative necessity of making the nation the mould and measure of the state. Its course will be marked with  material as well as moral ruin.’’2 

Behind the notorious history of the transatlantic slave trade and the cruelest institution of slavery in The’New’ World was the logic of the nation-state.  The primary culprit in the late 19th century European scramble for the ‘The magnificent African cake’ —under the holy alliance of the politician , the merchant , the army , and the church— was the nation-state itself.  The two destructive World wars , and the heartless Jewish Holocaust– “ …the mass sacrifice of human beings to the idol of nationalism . ’’ 3 —  were no less the products of the nation-state; the unending suffering of our Palestinian sisters and brothers  is rooted in the nation-state, this time parodixically, with a Zionist accent .  Behind the Rwanda ethnic mayhem was also the role of the nation-state, with an African accent .   

With the pessimism of the mind and the optimism of the heart, our dear Democratic Left, Eric Hobsbaum, tells us that– like  ‘ The  owl of Minerva—which brings wisdom—flies out at dusk ’– the nation-state,  with its nationalism and selfish interest, may be on its way out under the onslaught of globalization.  If so , its departure does not appear seamless.  In its apparent death-bed, it seems to have engineered a destructive agenda.  Among its targets is the Horn of Africa . Currently , we are watching the alarming military buildup  along the Ethio-Eritrean border, where “ the threat of war is very real . ” 4  ;  and we all know that wars –as Goethe would would say  “… make many unhappy while they last and none happy when they are over . ” 5

The great question of our time is :  Can we frustrate its agenda?  Certainly, the answer must be yes ;  as the alternative is mayhem , as an end in itself.

Awate.com had– on December 2 , 2007– released ‘An Open Letter to Eritrean and Ethiopian People’  with its encouraging and enticing slogan:  ‘Together, we can do it!’ —i.e. ,  to avert  the impending  Ethio-Eritrean war, which has been conducted so far as a proxy war in the Horn.  Indeed, it is a welcome call, especially coming from Eritreans in whose homeland  “ Even the stones  [ let alone human beings- M.A. ]  were burning”  under Mengistu Haile Mariam’s brutal war of ‘Greater Ethiopia’ nationalism .   But their call ought to go beyond simply preempting the war to include the defeat of the twin tyrants :  The incorrigible dictator in Asmara , Isaias Afwerki, and  Meles  Zenawe in Addis Ababa ,  the shameless  Musharraf of the Horn of Africa .

The Oromo Liberation Front [OLF] had also issued —on December 3 , 2007— a public statement ,  calling upon resisting forces in the Horn of Africa to rally around the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy [ AFD ], in order to realize  peace , democracy , and prosperty .  But it is one thing to appeal for the  need to initiate a united front across the region in which OLF itself —like all other opposition forces— would participate as an equal partner  and totally quite another and disappointing thing to call upon resisting forces to merely circle around the would-be umbrella organization, the AFD .  This is not the time for competing in leadership, it is rather the defining moment for creative collaborative efforts.  

I call upon the organic intellectuals across the Horn of Africa—those who are deeply committed to the welfare of  ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ in the region– to close ranks and mobilise their capacty to unleash a social movement to defeat the twin tyrants  .  As a social movement, they can popularize democratic ideas that can be transformed into a formidable material force to bring Peace, Democracy, and Social Justice .  I submit that I have little doubts that  once these rare and indespensable social values are realized, ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ of the Horn of Africa—who have for long undergone lived experience of abject poverty, oppression, and a vicious cycle of tyrannical rule—are likely to vote with their feet to bury the twin tyrants, the nation-state, and inaugurate a peaceful and democratic transition to the union of the countries in the region . 

The organic intellectuals of the region can restlessly expose the servile role of opportunist intellectuals, the advisory councils  behind the merciless tyrants;  they can educate and show an alternative emancipatory vision .  Indeed, history is settled at the present moment ;  and if they ever opt to remain as a side observer ,  they will never escape their de facto complicity with the wantonly destructive designs that the twin tyrants have in store for their people .

I call upon  our Ethiopian and Eritrean sisters and brothers- where ever they may be- to join the struggle against the tyrants . I also call upon our Oromo, Ogaden, and Somali sisters and brothers- whose legitimate grievances have yet to be addressed – to join the collective sruggle. Indeed, the need for a united Front has never been more timely !  This is the time for all of us to exit from our respectve ethnic wombs and assert our humanity. We ought not forget– as Goethe would remind us—- that  The world advances only because of those who oppose it .’’ 6

May the spirit of Ra, God, Allah, and that of our ancestors find us courage and resolve to make a difference .  May the spirit of EPRP members—who bravely marched to their death ,  holding ‘ Democracia’  high in the face of the merciless ‘ Red Terror’ ,  and  may equally the spirit of the Eritrean martyrs— who heroically sacrificed their lives for freedom that never saw the light of day—sustain our collective sruggle for Peace, Democracy , and Social Justice . ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ in the Horn of Africa shall triumph !!!


P.S.

To my dear friends — wherever they are , who may still be not embracing ,  but rather embraced by emancipatory vision—I would like to recall our memorable years as undergraduates in Addis Ababa : We were young dreamers then—long before the process of living tried its best to undermine our collective dreams for our people .    Do you remember when in the depth of the night we formed a circle and swore :  ‘ Only death do us part ? ’ .   Our dear friends , Wallelegn Mokonnen, Yesehak Debretsion,   Yohanes Sebhatu , Tselote Heskias ,  Meles Gebre-Mariam , Tesfu Kidane , and many more , were there ;   Debteraw [ Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin ] was obviously at the center with us .  I, for one, remember vividly  ! 

Debteraw  remains an exceptional friend.  We ought  not  forget his critical role , especially in the darkest years of EPRP : When doubts and hopelessness prevailed, he asserted  courage and resolve! When the narrow individual interest prevailed, he affirmed the broader vision and the collective interest!  When sheer expediency prevailed, he held cherished principles high ;  when merciless Reason prevailed ,  he asserted the optimism of the Heart !  When some sold their souls to the Dergue , and then to Wayane ,  he resolved to struggle– regardless of the price to be paid .   Indeed,  Debteraw–  ‘ The Black Lion’ of the rugged mountains of Ethiopia– shall always live in our hearts .

In the great African tradition  the departed are not dead ,  as they continue to participate in the lives of the living .  To die in the African tradition is to change one’s address.  Our dear Debteraw has only changed his address ;  and what really matters on our part is never to discontinue contact !  May his indomitable spirit guide us all in this stormy, Suname—like political weather in the Horn of Africa !

Notes

1.      Frederick Ungar [ ed. ] . Goethe’s World View, [ New York : Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1963 ] :185

2.      Edward Hallett Carr .  Nationalism and After . [ London : Macmillan ] : vi

3.      Ibid . ,p . 34

4.      Herald Tribune, December12 , 2007

5.      Goethe , p . 187

6.      Ibid . , p 113

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Published in: on January 30, 2008 at 9:02 am  Comments (27)