By Obo Arada Shawl (November 23, 2008)
The Burning Issue or the Entertaining issue!
· One was born in Eritrea’s village dominated by Catholics and the other was born in Gonder town dominated by Orthodox Christian
· Both were Revolutionaries one in political science the other in artistic songs
· One is a professor by profession and the other a singer by trade
· Both individuals are Arada and from Arada – if you know what I mean!
· One lives in NY, where anything goes and the other lives in Addis, where everything fails.
The professor is Mesfin Araya (PhD) and the singer is Tamrat Molla (Ato). Why are you comparing these two individuals, one may ask. One of them is my friend and the other is from my Kebele. Although I have personal knowledge about them, I do not wish to write something of a personal nature. My interest in writing this article is about issues that concern all of us, old, adult or young, male or female, literate or illiterate. I believe there is a missing link between what singers grasp and what theoreticians or Revolutionaries were supposed to understand and apply.
A week ago, two events have happened, one Online Web and the other on Radio Wave. My comments might help to educate readers and listeners. Please, read the speech and listen to the interview.
A commentary on the Professor’s speech
Professor Mesfin gave a speech on the occasion of EPRP’s 36th anniversary. It was true that EPRP was a vanguard for the Ethiopian Revolution, because revolution by definition was anti establishment. Notice, It was not about change!!! For that reason too many progressive student leaders, workers, trade leaders, teachers and progressive bureaucrats had joined the EPRP and of course, thousands if not millions had followed what EPRP was doing, saying and writing in the publication of DEMOCRACIA.
What about now? How do literate ምሁራን people like the professor show or lead EPRP members or supporters to get going, especially at a time when there is a rift or confusion in issues of names and addresses? A slogan to call that EPRP is the sole political leader for Ethiopia is not tenable. We do not have to be an EPRP apologist to feel a twinge of pity for the insult condemnation of the party. The Revolutionary Party had and has to tolerate all names and abuses. EPRP was and is not about leadership per se. It was about the burning issues of peace in Eritrea and dismantling the land tenure system in the rest of the country. Since all our bets were on democracy, EPRP since its inception to the current DEBTERAW’s dungeon prison and beyond has not yet to be fulfilled.
What is democracy? Call me by my name and address.
“የዲሞክራሲ ለውጥ ለማምጣት፤ ያላቋረጥከው ወንዝ ፡ ያልውጣኽው ተራራ፡ ያላፈሰስከው ደም የለም” There is no river that you did not cross, no mountain that you did not climb and there is no blood that you did not split.”
The above may be a figurative statement but it does not beat to the tune. The statement sounds very militaristic. It has no democratic tone.
But EPRP was and is about democracy. It is about capital D not M. In fact, the infamous slogan coined against the works of EPRP was “ዲሞን በዲሞፍጠር”. Those who became enemies of EPRP were not only the DERG, the EPLF or the TPLF but it was and is WE – the civil society that had difficulty in understanding FREEDOM OF CHOICE. Is this not the same thing what the current opposition groups are portraying? Democracy is not embedded in our culture. It is a cultural thing – political at that. What is democracy and what is leadership?
Suffice to say at this time that Tesfaye Debessay (PhD), a Catholic, Tsegeye G.M. aka DEBTERAW, (an Aethiopian scholar) and Osman Ahmed (Engineer), a Muslim have worked together hand in glove with the understanding of common bond, balance and boundary (CBBB).
I do not want to go on commenting on professor Mesfin’s message at this time. There are too many flaws open for argument.
“የሚበዙት ተቃዋሚ ድርጅቶች ትላንትና የተወለዱ ናቸው፡ በተለያየ መንገድ ብናየው፡ ኢሕአፓ ብቻ ነው ሊያሰባሰብና ሊመራ የሚችለው፡ በዚሀ ላይ መከራከር እያስፈልግም፡
EPRP had plenty of educators and Revolutionaries but not plenty of business leaders – least political leaders. AEthiopia needs high-profile politicians, intellectuals and business leaders collectively what I call ጽንሐተ ምሁራን.
Professionals do not wear masks, however, history and politics is their witness.
Is the professor seeing miracle or mirage? All post discussions about EPRP centered on diversity of thought and vigorous debate on issues and being able to surround oneself with people with whom you disagree without being disagreeable, because we feel that it is going to lead to a better answer. What is the better answer? That is the burning question of the time. One possible answer is how to organize. If I were the professor, I would train and organize many EPRP members and supporters in his University, which would not be difficult for him.
A commentary on the singer’s speech
Although the purpose of the interview was meant to get financial and moral support for Tamrat’s deteriorating health conditions, Abebe Belaw, the radio monitor, raised issues of political nature. The singer was hailed as a hero for fighting against feudal titles or feudalism.
What is Feudalism anyway?
Feudalism is a term used in the early modern 12th Century long before Gondar was founded. It has legal as well as military obligation where lords (ጌቶች) tenants (ገባሮች) and kings (ንጉሦች) live not in the political system we know today. In feudal system, on the one hand, the status of a person depended in everyway on his position on the land, while on the other hand, land-tenure ( የመሬት ይዞታ) determined political rights and duties.
For almost 400 years, several Neighborhoods or Quarters have traditionally divided Gondarians. Those who claim power from the dynasty of king Solomon such as the Hamasiens and the Shewans usually had no fixed capital. By 1635 FASSILIDES had founded his rule at Gondar. Gondar became an old imperial capital of the historic BEGEMDIR (the land of the Beja tribe). For a singer as Tamrat feudalism may be difficult to define precisely as a working definition. I have no doubt though that Tamrat knew the social aspect of feudalism.
EPRP has defined feudalism by analogy as Semi-Feudal where there were ( ባላባቶች) aristocrats (አገልጋዮች) serfs in practically in all northern Ethiopia and landlords and tenants in the rest of the country. In short, oppression ( ጥቆና ) and exploitation (ብዝበዛ)
has become the norm in Tamrat’s days. He has seen it in Gondar and he has seen it in Addis Ababa being practiced.
In order to alleviate the political oppression and the economic exploitation, EPRP with its committed and dedicated members and supporters had gone into a territory where no man has gone before so to speak. The liberated and the conscious Gondarians fought Melaku Teffera to the bitter end.
Singer Tamrat – though technically rebelled against his father, he did not rebel against the root causes of the problem. His song was just a reflection of the popular demand of the time, after all art is the reflection of the populace.
I have attended the ratification of the DERG’s Constitution in our Kebele. The meeting was scheduled to last for four hours. The Kebele cadres spoke for half of the time only on
ዲቃላ and Tamrat was the top speaker on the issue of DIKALa. No wonder the DERG has to collapse on its own merit. Later on, we have learnt why the issue had become important as Menghistu Haile Mariam begotten a child out of wedlock. One wonders where this child is today.
The point I am trying to make is that the singer did not or could not have played a role model for eliminating feudalism. He was only an instrument who did not understand the feelings of his father let alone the source of feudalism. By the way EPRP has never fought a cultural war. It was very careful not to indulge on people’s culture. On the contrary, many individuals assumed names of minorities to diffuse oppression. I believe the famous name Hama Tuma must have come to be something to do with it.
Concluding Remarks: One-Seven-Eleven
I have always believed in the process of democratization, which incorporates, conceptualizing-designing-planning-programming and budgeting (5 tasks).
In EPRP’s lexicon, መንቃት–መደራጀት–መታጠቅ–መጠበቅ እና መምራት (5ጠ ዎች).
· Information officer
· Manager and
And by slow accretion of small changes over long periods, EPRP’s vision, mission and value has taken place as Professor Mesfin has pointed out in his speech. But it should be remembered that the contribution of EPRP was undoubtedly via DEMOCRACIA – the rule of the people, by the people for the people. Democracy is not about division; it is about Unity in a unique way. Neither the type of call by the professor nor the claim of the singer is warranted.
DEBTERAW has shown us all those Revolutionary steps progressively for almost 40 years and we should continue to uphold if we so desire to unite the whole country known as AETHIOPIA. DEMOCRACIA is the way and let us choose to pick one or two tasks as specified above but not grapping all of them at the same time.
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