With perhaps 100,000 people detained in the six months of the State of Emergency declared by the Ethiopian government, it boggles the mind how Prime Minister Desalegn came up with the figure of 82 per cent of Ethiopians who want the Emergency extended. No amount of repression will permanently suppress the peaceful struggle of all Ethiopians for freedom, human rights and majority rule.
On October 9, 2016, the puppet prime minister (PPM) of the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF) Hailemariam announced a “state of emergency” (SoE) in a 20-minute televised statement. The PPM argued “anti-peace elements”, allied with foreign forces, had incited strife and undermined the peace and stability in the country. He claimed “anti-peace elements” had destroyed private and government property and waged economic boycotts. He asserted extreme measures were necessary to deal with an extreme emergency. Curiously, he emphatically assured that the SoE would not violate fundamental human rights. The PPM further promised deep and extensive governance reforms and pledged to re-engage opposition parties and civic society organizations in a broader dialogue “to expand and deepen our democracy.”
Surprisingly, the PPM failed to explain why it was necessary to have a nationwide SoE when the alleged violence by “anti-peace elements” occurred in only the “Oromo” and “Amhara” kilils (apartheid style-Bantustans). Did the PPM and his regime fear that the other seven kilils were also about to explode in acts of civil resistance to his regime?
The PPM also failed to explain why his regime had resorted to a complete state of emergency which clamped down not only on potential disturbances in two regions but also a complete national shutdown of the press, the Internet and all forms of mass communication for the maximum period of six months permitted under his regime’s “constitution”.
On October 15, 2016, the “Ethiopian Cabinet of Ministers” issued its “State of Emergency Command Post” Decree imposing sweeping prohibitions against “incitement and communication that causes public disturbance and riots, communicating with terrorist groups, unauthorized demonstration and public gatherings, conducting strikes in educational institutions and sports facilities, obstructing vehicles’ movement, disturbing and causing incitement in religious, cultural, and public holidays and acts against tolerance and unity”, among others. Among the “measures to be taken” to enforce the Decree included “detention without an arrest warrant”, keeping detainees incommunicado, “warrantless searches and seizures and arrests”, among others.
So much for PPM Hailemariam’s emphatic promise of no human rights violations in his televised announcement!
On March 19, 2017, the T-TPLF “defense minister” announced that his regime had lifted three elements of the SoE: 1) arbitrary stops and searches of suspects, 2) warrantless searches and seizures of homes, and 3) dusk-to-dawn curfew on access to economic installations”. The “defense minister” explained: “These measures were lifted because it is our belief that the ordinary security arrangements are sufficient enough to maintain calm.”
On March 30, 2017, the T-TPLF-owned, -managed and –operated “parliament” (the T-TPLF controls 100 percent of the seats) in Ethiopia authorized a four-month extension of the current SoE. PPM Hailemariam Desalegn told “parliament” that “82 percent of Ethiopians want a partial or full continuation of the state of emergency.”
It remains a mystery how the PPM derived the “82 percent” figure. He offered no evidence of a national poll to support his claim of “82 percent” of Ethiopians supporting the idea of living under a state of emergency where they can be arrested arbitrarily and held incommunicado and tortured. The “82 percent figure” is manifestly cooked just like the T-TPLF’s economic growth mantra figure of “double-digit for the past decade”.
Suffice it to say that “more than 25,000 people suspected of taking part in protests were detained under the state of emergency.” The T-TPLF itself admitted detaining over 11,000 people as of November 12, 2016. The actual figure of current detainees in T-TPLF prisons is likely to approximate 100,000.
Over the past six months, the T-TPLF has tried to project a state of normalcy and firm control in the country under a state of emergency. But T-TPLF leaders know that the SoE has only shoveled dirt over the volcanic ambers of anger, frustration and defiance burning furiously under the surface. A declaration of a state of emergency is not likely to permanently suppress the peaceful struggle of all Ethiopians for freedom, democracy, human rights and majority rule. Such is the “objective condition on the ground” in Ethiopia, to borrow a favorite phrase of the late T-TPLF thugmaster. Despite empty promises of dialogue and outreach, the T-TPLF’s preferred method of conflict resolution has been and remains to be massacres, butchery, carnage and murder.
The popular uprising of 2016 demonstrated that the fear of T-TPLF butchery and brutality has not marooned the Ethiopian people on an island of despair and submission. But the T-TPLF leaders believe they have capped the volcanic eruption of the people’s anger and frustration permanently by their SoE. That is self-delusion. Volcanoes often remain dormant for decades without giving the slightest signs of an impending eruption. Likewise, oppressed societies may remain dormant for decades without giving the slightest indication of the pressure and heat buildup of deep, widespread, sweeping and pervasive dissatisfaction, anger, resentment and rage. But societies, like volcanoes, explode; and when they do, the outcome is just as catastrophic as an erupting volcano.
Who is really in a “state of emergency”?
The proposition that “Ethiopia is under a state of emergency” is a true statement.
The proposition that “The T-TPLF is in a state of emergency” is an equally true statement.
Ethiopia has been under a state of emergency since May 28, 1991, the date the T-TPLF rebels marched from the bush on the capital Addis Ababa.
Ethiopians have been under an undeclared, de facto state of emergency police state for the past 25 years. The T-TPLF has imposed its will on the people of Ethiopia through brute force. In 2005, following the election that year, the T-TPLF gave new meaning to savagery and brutality by massacring hundreds of people and jailing over 30 thousand others. Over the past decade, the T-TPLF has operated a police state. When Erin Burnett of CNN visited Ethiopia in July 2012, she described what she saw in stark terms:
“We saw what an African police state looked like when I was in Ethiopia last month… At the airport, it took an hour to clear customs – not because of lines, but because of checks and questioning. Officials tried multiple times to take us to government cars so they’d know where we went. They only relented after forcing us to leave hundreds of thousands of dollars of TV gear in the airport…”
Since 2009, the T-TPLF has used its so-called anti-terrorism law (Proclamation No. 652/2009) to impose a de jure (by law) state of emergency. Under that “Proclamation”, the T-TPLF has been able to do exactly what it is doing today under its SoE decree. The only, and only difference is that the T-TPLF now calls its opponents “anti-peace elements” instead of “terrorists”. Everything else is the same!
Under section 5 of that “Proclamation”, the T-TPLF can arrest any person it classifies as a “terrorist” for providing “a skill, expertise or moral support or giving advice” to anyone opposing its rule. The same is true under the current decree.
Section 6 criminalizes as a terrorist act publication of “a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public as a direct or indirect encouragement or incitement to violence”. The same is true under the decree.
The “Proclamation” authorizes warrantless searches and seizure of homes and offices, interception and surveillance on the telephone, fax, radio, the Internet, electronic, postal and similar communications under Section 14. It further allows any “police officer to make a sudden search” of any vehicle and pedestrian. Ditto for the decree.
Section 19 of the “Proclamation” authorizes any police officer to “arrest without court warrant any person whom he reasonably suspects of terrorism.” Section (20) allows the court to grant endless continuances and postponements to the police/prosecutor “for sufficient period to complete the investigation.” Section (23) allows the admission of unverified intelligence reports, hearsay or indirect surveillance evidence including those gathered by “foreign law enforcement bodies” and “confessions of suspects, including coerced confessions.” Section (25) authorizes the “House of Peoples’ Representatives” the power to list and de-list an organization as a terrorist organization. Section (37) allows the “Council of Ministers” to issue “regulations necessary for the implementation of this proclamation.”
Ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto… for the October 5 T-TPLF Decree.
The T-TPLF is the one in a state of emergency
Why would the T-TPLF extend its SoE for another four months if it indeed believed “ordinary security arrangements are sufficient enough to maintain calm”? If such a claim is true, the SoE would have simply terminated. The opposite seems to be true. The T-TPLF extended its SoE because it knows that terminating the SoE will re-stoke the righteous anger and indignation of the people. In fact, the very reason the T-TPLF went for the maximum six-month duration of the SoE was a futile exercise aimed at bottling up the popular resistance from spreading like wild fire. But the fire of resistance is still burning in the hearts, minds and souls of all patriotic Ethiopians who abhor living in an apartheid system.
The T-TPLF has been riding the Ethiopian tiger for over a quarter of a century. The hard truth the T-TPLF learned over the past year is that the day for it to dismount the tiger is at hand. It can try and prolong its ride by a SoE decree and increasing its use of armed violence, but the die is cast: The T-TPLF’s days of riding the Ethiopian tiger is fast coming to an end. When the T-TPLF dismounts, by hook or crook, it will be looking at the sparkling eyes, gleaming teeth and pointy nails of one big hu(a)ngry tiger! So, the only way the T-TPLF can remain in power from day to day is by running its killing machine 24/7/365 and by dividing the people along ethnic, religious, linguistic, regional and other lines.
The T-TPLF today is gripped in a “siege mentality”, a psychological state of emergency. The T-TPLF leaders believe they are completely surrounded by enemies. They feel they are in constant danger from everything and everyone. They are frightened to death by the very people they rule with an iron fist with a trigger finger.
Deep anger and loathing have replaced the people’s fear of the T-TPLF. That is the second hard lesson T-TPLF leaders have learned. As Robert Holmes argued, “power dissolves when people lose their fear. You can still kill people who no longer fear you, but you cannot control them. Political power requires obedience, which is fueled by the fear of pain to be inflicted if you refuse to comply with the will of those who control the instruments of violence. That power evaporates when the people lose their fear.”
The immutable truth is that the T-TPLF could try, but will never succeed, to rule by brute force. The T-TPLF leaders should heed a hard political truth: Regardless of how powerful a dictatorship is, it cannot rule without some degree of genuine cooperation and support of the people. Popular support for the T-TPLF in Ethiopia, if it ever existed, vanished long ago. No one but T-TPLF cronies and supporters recognize any legitimacy in T-TPLF rule.
The T-TPLF cannot expect to remain in power indefinitely without accepting the absolute necessity for change, massive and radical change. The time for incremental change at a pace dictated by the T-TPLF is gone. Long gone.
It has been said that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.
It does not matter how many soldiers, guns, tanks and warplanes the T-TPLF has to lord over 100 million people. Unless it is able to adapt to the urgent and emergent circumstances in Ethiopia, it will not survive. It could prolong its rule at most by a few years, but survive and thrive as the masters of Ethiopia forever, it will not.
The T-TPLF is using apartheid South Africa’s strategy to prolong its rule, and is doomed to fail
What the T-TPLF is doing to cling to power and add one more day to its rule is remarkably similar to the strategy pursued by the apartheid white minority regime in South Africa. That regime used declarations of states of emergency to crackdown against opponents and tried to suppress the mass movement demanding majority rule. Just like the T-TPLF’s “proclamation” and “decree”, the South African apartheid regime decreed states of emergency authorizing police, security and military forces to detain for an indefinite period anyone (any black person) for vague and dubious reasons, without any judicial review or appeals. (For a comparative analysis of “anti-terrorism” law by apartheid South Africa’s regime and the T-TPLF, see my May 2016 commentary, “The “Law” as State Terrorism in Apartheid Ethiopia”.)
The apartheid parliament in South Africa declared a state of emergency in 1960 during the Sharpeville Massacre and in the wake of the 1976 student uprising; and in 1986 on the 10th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising. Indeed, the 1986 declaration seems to have inspired the T-TPLF SoE decree. In that emergency declaration, the apartheid regime banned all meetings and public gatherings, imposed curfews, imposed a blanket prohibition on media coverage and authorized mass detentions.
After the apartheid SoE ended in 1986, the unraveling of South Africa accelerated. The minority white regime was doomed. The minority white apartheid rulers came to appreciate the maxim: It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. Four years later, Mandela was released and a South Africa teetering on the cliff’s edge of a civil war was saved.
The masters of apartheid in South Africa decided to change, just in the nick of time.
I do not believe the masters of apartheid in Ethiopia will wake up from their slumber of arrogance and ignorance and change. They think they can outsmart, outfox, outmaneuver, outgun and outplay 100 million Ethiopians any given day of the week. They believe they can rule forever so long as they maintain a chokehold on the economy, the military, the bureaucracy and the judicial and other institutions in society. The T-TPLF crew would rather go down in blazing glory than change.
I predict the T-TPLF is doomed to suffer the fate prophetically spoken by President John Kennedy. “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
As I ponder the T-TPLF’s SoE, I am reminded of the sublime speech of the Jewish barber (Charlie Chaplin) in the Great Dictator:
… Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world [Ethiopia], millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear [and read] me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.
Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural.
Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world [Ethiopia], a decent world [Ethiopia] that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will!
Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world [Ethiopia]! To do away with national barriers [kilils]! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance!
Let us fight for a world [an Ethiopia] of reason, a world [an Ethiopia] where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.
Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite! The clouds are lifting! The sun is breaking through! We are coming out of the darkness into the light! We are coming into a new world [Ethiopia]; a kindlier world [Ethiopia], where men will rise above their hate, their greed, and brutality. The soul of man has been given wings and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow! Into the light of hope, into the future! The glorious future, that belongs to you, to me and to all of us [Ethiopians]. Look up, Look up! [Wake up! Wake up!]
The people of Ethiopia UNITED can never be defeated!!!