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African Intellectuals

George Ayittey’s War on African Dictatorships

Alemayehu G. Mariam

George AyitteyGeorge Ayittey, the distinguished Ghanaian economist, and arguably one of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” (a person of ideas who stands for things far larger than one’s academic discipline) worldwide who “are shaping the tenor of our time” has been at war with Africa’s tin pot dictators and their lackeys for at least two decades. In 1996, he told African intellectuals exactly what he thought of them: “Hordes of politicians, lecturers, professionals, lawyers, and doctors sell themselves off into prostitution and voluntary bondage to serve the dictates of military vagabonds with half their intelligence. And time and time again, after being raped, abused, and defiled, they are tossed out like rubbish — or worse. Yet more intellectual prostitutes stampede to take their places…”

No one tells the truth about Africa’s dictators or their Western sugar daddies better than Ayittey. Recently, he was in Oslo at the World Freedom Forum skewering African dictators and mapping out battle plans. He reminded his audience:

In the 1960s, we got rid of the white colonialists, but we did not dissemble the oppressive colonial state. We removed the white colonialist and replaced him by black neocolonialists, Swiss bank socialists, crocodile liberators, quack revolutionaries and briefcase bandits. Africans will tell you, we remove one cockroach and the next rat comes to do the same exact thing.

Africa’s “briefcase bandits” run full-fledged criminal enterprises. Sani Abacha of Nigeria amassed $5 billion, and the Swiss Supreme Court in 2005 declared the Abacha family a “criminal enterprise”. Omar al-Bashir of the Sudan has stashed away $7 billion while Hosni Mubarak is reputed to have piled a fortune of $40 billion. In comparison, Ayittey says, “The net worth of 43 U.S. presidents from Washington to Obama amounts to 2.5 billion.”

How Do You Fight and Win Against African Dictators?

Ayittey’s “law” of African dictatorship says African dictators cannot be defeated through “rah-rah street demonstrations alone.” To purge Africa from the scourge of dictatorships, Ayittey says three things are required:

First, it takes a coalition to organize and coordinate the activities of the various opposition groups. It is imperative that you have a small group of people– call them an elders’ council to coordinate the activities– [composed] of eminent and respectable personalities who have no political baggage. They must be able to reach out to all the opposition groups. We formed one in Ghana called the Alliance for Change… Second, you got to know the enemy, his modus operandi, his strengths and weaknesses… You find his weaknesses and exploit it…. All dictators [operate] by seiz[ing] the civil service, media, judiciary, security forces, election commission and control the bank. They pack these institutions with their cronies and subvert them to serve their interests. For a revolution to succeed, you have to wrest control of one of more of these institutions. Third, you have to get the sequence of reform correct…

Last year, there were ten elections in Africa. The dictators won all ten… Why? Because the opposition was divided. In Ethiopia, for example, there were 92 political parties running to challenge the dictator Meles Zenawi… It shouldn’t be this way. The council should bring all of the opposition into an alliance…

What Can Ethiopians Learn from Ayittey?

Is Ayittey right in his assertion that “dictator Meles Zenawi” keeps winning “elections” because the opposition is divided? Why is there not a “coalition to organize and coordinate the activities of the various Ethiopian opposition groups”? Is it possible to set up an “Ethiopian Alliance for Change”? What are the weaknesses of the dictator? These are questions that need to be discussed and debated by Ethiopians in Ethiopia and in the Diaspora.

Looking Through the Dictators’ Lenses

Ayittey is absolutely right in his prescriptions on how to remove dictators. In understanding the modus operandi of African dictators, one must necessarily go beyond an examination of the dictators’ actions, decision-making processes and command-and-control relationships and try to see the world through the dictators’ lenses. I believe it is equally important to have a sophisticated understanding of the mindset of African dictators, the motivations that drive them to commit unimaginable acts of cruelty, the perverted logic of their thought processes and why they cling to power when they are totally rejected by the people.

Analysis of the psychodynamics (mental, emotional, or motivational forces especially at the unconscious levels) of African dictators shows some act out of hate and others from greed and the need to dominate. Still others act from painful early childhood impressions which  “tend to coalesce into a natural view of the world”. They spend the rest of their lives trying to get even against those who may have slighted them. All of Africa’s dictators are sociopaths. They have no empathy (no emotional capacity for the suffering of others) towards others. They are devoid of ethical and moral standards. For them it is normal to lie, steal, cheat, kill, torture and violate the rights of others. It is vitally important to have a clear and objective understanding of the mindset of African dictators to anticipate their likely responses in a variety of situations and their tactical adaptations to actions taken against them by their pro-democracy opponents.

My view is that “if you have seen one African dictator, you have seen them all”. African dictators manifest three basic traits: 1) denial of reality, 2) narcissism and 3) paranoia (fear). African dictators have difficulty accepting reality, that is, the world as it objectively manifests itself. They see only what they want to see; and to avoid what they don’t want to see, they manufacture their own convenient world of illusions out of the whole cloth of their personal beliefs, opinions and fantasies. When they win elections, they win by 99.6 percent. When unemployment and inflation are skyrocketing, they see annual economic growth of 15 percent. When people are starving, they see “pockets of severe malnutrition”.  As they continue to abuse power without any legal restraints and convince themselves that they are above the law and accountable to no one but themselves, they transform their world of illusion into a world of delusion where they become both the “lone rangers” of the old American West and the sole custodians of the Holy Grail, with miraculous powers to save their nation.

African dictators are narcissistic. They believe they are the center of the universe and everything revolves around them. Because they are narcissistic, they are limited in their thinking, selective in their views, narrow in their vision, intolerant of dissent, solicitous of praise and adulation often surrounding themselves with yes-men, distrustful of everyone (except those in the small close group of people who feed them only the information they want to hear). They remain rigid and inflexible and their approach and attitude towards their opposition is never to compromise or negotiate. At best, they see their opposition as wayward children who need constant supervision, discipline and punishment to keep them in line. Their mantra is: “It’s my way which is the only way, or the highway, ain’t no way or you-are-on-your-way-to-jail!” To their way of thinking, conciliation and reconciliation with their opposition is humiliation, and a deep wound on their pride.

African dictators rule by fear, yet they and their henchmen and cronies live in a state of fear. It is true that those who are feared by the people in turn fear the people who fear them. They are afraid of their own shadows. They are afraid of criticism, and most of all they are afraid of the truth. They interact only with those in their inner circle (the “state within the state”, the “knights of the roundtable”). They often find out that their trusted and loyal lackeys have little real understanding of the outside world or the complex domestic issues and problems. Even when there are a few in the inner circle who might have some sophisticated understanding, they are often afraid to tell the dictators the truth.

Coalition Against African Dictatorships

Unless pro-democracy elements understand the psychodynamics of African dictators, they will likely remain on the defensive and inherently reactive mode. The fact of the matter is that African dictators study and know their opposition better than the opposition knows itself. They know how their opponents think, at what price they can be bought and sold and that many of them would rather join them to rip off the people than fight them. As Ayittey observed, they know even Africa’s best and brightest can be bought and sold like those in the world’s oldest profession. African dictators are always making psychological assessments of their opposition. They know what to do to exploit the smallest disagreements among their opposition. They know the leadership of their opposition is fixated on strategies that will bring quick results and avoid tactics that will work but take longer time to produce results. They know their opposition cannot prevail because they do not have the youth on their side, or have the willingness, readiness and capacity to mobilize and engage the youth. African dictators know the meaning of the statement made by their patron saint: “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”

Know Thyself, Not Just the Dictators

To defeat African dictators, pro-democracy forces must do a great deal of self-introspection. Why do many in the African opposition do things that will help dictators become stronger? Opposition infighting is the greatest source of strength to African dictators. Why can’t opposition leaders get along with each other if they are irrevocably committed to the causes of freedom, democracy and human rights? Often opposition leaders can’t see the forest for the trees. Why don’t opposition leaders actively work to build trust, cooperation and camaraderie across party, ideological, ethnic, religious lines?  Perhaps a code of conduct for opposition groups is needed to promote a culture of truth-telling, fair and ethical dealing, tolerance and loyalty to principles and causes than individuals regardless of their leadership role.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a commentary complaining about the disarray in the Ethiopian opposition and pleading with opposition elements to put the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights above partisan or individual interests.

Those genuinely in the opposition must accept responsibility for their inability to come together and articulate a vision for the country. They deserve blame for squandering valuable opportunities to build organizational alliances, develop alternative policies and train young leaders… But that is no excuse for not closing ranks against dictatorship now, and presenting a united front in support of democracy, freedom and human rights.

When we understand the dictators and ourselves, we can devise strategies and tactics to replace the “vampire African states” that Ayittey often speaks about with democratic governments that operate under the rule of law and with the consent of the people. Ayittey said, “Africa is poor because she is not free.” I say Africa remains under the boots of ruthless dictators because her best and brightest children are the shoe-shiners of the dictators. It is time to close ranks against African dictators.

Previous commentaries by the author are available at: and


Ethiopia: Speaking Truth to the Truth-Seekers

Alemayehu G. Mariam

This is my third commentary on the theme, “Where do we go from here?”, following the rigged elections in Ethiopia last month.[1] In this piece, I urge Ethiopian intellectuals to exchange their armchairs for the public benches and leave their comfort zones of passivity and silence to become advocates of peaceful change and democracy in their homeland.

Where Have the Ethiopian Intellectuals Gone?

The Greek philosopher Diogenes used to walk the streets of ancient Athens carrying a lamp in broad daylight. When amused bystanders asked him about his apparently strange behavior, he would tell them that he was looking for an honest man. Like Diogenes, one may be tempted to walk the hallowed grounds of Western academia, search the cloistered spaces of the arts and scientific professions worldwide and even traverse the untamed frontiers of cyberspace with torchlight in hand looking for Ethiopian intellectuals.

Intellectuals — a term I use rather loosely and inclusively here to describe the disparate group of Ethiopian academics, writers, artists, lawyers, journalists, physicians, philosophers, social and political thinkers and others — often become facilitators of change by analyzing and proposing solution to complex problems and issues facing their societies. Their stock-in-trade are questions, endless questions about what is possible and how the impossible could be made possible. There are engaged and disengaged intellectuals. Those engaged are always asking questions about their societies, pointing out failures and improving on successes, suggesting solutions, examining institutions, enlightening the public, criticizing outdated and ineffective ideas and proposing new ones while articulating a vision of the future with clarity of thought. They are always on the cutting edge of social change.

The purpose of this commentary is not to moralize about the “failure of Ethiopian intellectuals”, or to criticize them for things they have done, not done, undone or should have done. The purpose is to begin public discussion that will make it possible to find ways of making them a powerful force of peaceful change in Ethiopia. I make no attempt here to conceal my agenda with the Ethiopian intellectual community; in fact, I proudly proclaim it. I believe Ethiopian intellectuals have a moral obligation not to turn a blind eye to the government wrongs in their homeland, and an affirmative duty to act in the defense of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. I see many of them religiously practicing self-censorship and self-marginalization. I would like to see them enter the public arena and take on the issues. I see an artificial deficit in the supply of transformational and visionary Ethiopian thinkers, with revolutionary ideas to re-invent Ethiopian society. Such thinkers are out there but have chosen to remain disengaged. I would like to see them engaged more. At this critical time in Ethiopia’s history, I believe Ethiopian intellectuals must take a leading and active role in the public debate to shape the future of their homeland. I am unapologetic in demanding their intense involvement in teaching, inspiring and preparing Ethiopia’s youth within and outside the country to build a fair and just society and forge a united Ethiopian nation. I always pray that Ethiopian intellectuals will never become “whores” to dictators as the distinguished Ghanaian economist George Ayittey has warned of African intellectuals in general.

As a member of the Ethiopian “intelligentsia” and now its humble critic, I do not want to sound “holier-than-thou”. I will admit that I am just as guilty as any other for the sins of commission or omission I ascribe to others. Truth be told, I was just as invisible and silent on the issues in Ethiopia as those with whom I plead here until dictator Meles Zenawi slaughtered 196 unarmed demonstrators, and shot and wounded nearly 800 more in the streets after the 2005 election in Ethiopia. That act of total depravity, cold-blooded barbarity and savagery, vicious inhumanity and pure evil was a pivotal point in my own transformation from a complacent armchair academic to an impassioned grassroots human rights advocate, as the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 in which apartheid policemen opened fire on a crowd of unarmed black protesters killing 69 was a transformational event in the lives of so many South Africans

Role of Intellectuals in Africa

An old Jewish saying teaches that “A nation’s treasure is its scholars (intellectuals).” Unfortunately, in Africa that “treasure” has taken a decidedly loathsome character. Well over a decade ago, George Ayittey, the distinguished Ghanaian economist, and arguably one of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” worldwide who “are shaping the tenor of our time”, likened African intellectuals to “hordes of prostitutes.”[2]

Time and time again, despite repeated warnings, highly “educated” African intellectuals throw caution and common sense to the winds and fiercely jostle one another for the chance to hop into bed with military brutes. The allure of a luxury car, a diplomatic or ministerial post and a government mansion often proves too irresistible…

So hordes of politicians, lecturers, professionals, lawyers, and doctors sell themselves off into prostitution and voluntary bondage to serve the dictates of military vagabonds with half their intelligence. And time and time again, after being raped, abused, and defiled, they are tossed out like rubbish — or worse. Yet more intellectual prostitutes stampede to take their places….

Vile opportunism, unflappable sycophancy, and trenchant collaboration on the part of Africa’s intellectuals allowed tyranny to become entrenched in Africa. Doe, Mengistu, Mobutu, and other military dictators legitimized and perpetuated their rule by buying off and co-opting Africa’s academics for a pittance. And when they fall out of favor, they are beaten up, tossed aside or worse. And yet more offer themselves up.

The Crises of Ethiopian Intellectuals

Perhaps Prof. Ayittey takes poetic license in his analogies to provoke serious debate over the role of intellectuals in Africa. I much prefer to think of Ethiopian intellectuals as their country’s “eyes” in the sense of the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The office of the scholar (intellectual) is to cheer, to raise, and to guide men by showing them facts amid appearances. He plies the slow, unhonored, and unpaid task of observation. He is the world’s eye.” Though I will not challenge the fact that some Ethiopian intellectuals have “sold themselves off into prostitution and voluntary bondage”, I do not believe that the vast majority of them are the wretched members of the world’s oldest profession ready to “hop” in bed with the dictators lording over Ethiopia. I do believe, however, that many of us in the Ethiopian intellectual community could be fairly accused of turning a blind eye to the injustices in our homeland, not having a vision for our people and walking with blinders on so as to avoid making eye contact with the unpleasant facts of the current dictatorship in Ethiopia.

Many of us in the Ethiopian intellectual community have lost our “eye” sights because we are in crises. Some of us are mired in a moral crisis of knowing what is right but being afraid to do the right thing, and ultimately doing nothing. When Zenawi massacred hundreds of unarmed protesters and jailed tens of thousands more, few of us stood up to publicly protest. When elections are stolen in broad daylight and the country sold in bits and pieces and given away, far too many of us stood by in silent indifference. It seems many of us have developed titanium-clad consciences to keep out the reality of corruption and brutality of the dictatorship in Ethiopia.

Some of us suffer a crisis of critical thinking. We are quick to make conclusions based on hunches and speculations than rigorous analysis based on facts. We are given more to polemics and labeling than evidence-based analysis. We rarely examine and re-examine our assumptions and beliefs but cling to them as eternal truths and propagate them as such. It is embarrassing to admit that the rigorous intellectual challenge to Zenawi’s neatly packaged lies has come not from Ethiopian intellectuals but from the empirical research and analysis of foreign social scientists, researchers, journalists and human rights organizations. By failing to take a rigorous approach to the study and analysis of the myriad issues in Ethiopia, we have made it possible for Ethiopia’s dictators to write a gospel of lies and erect monuments to celebrate the living lies of non-existent accomplishments.

In one form or another, many of us in the Ethiopian intellectual community suffer a crisis of self-confidence and a deficit of intellectual courage. We criticize and castigate the dictatorship in private but are afraid to repeat our strongly-held views in public. Even in the Diaspora, some of us feel compelled to use pen names to express our opinions in the blogosphere. We would like others to admire us and accept and act on our ideas while we hide our real identities behind aliases and fictitious names. Many of us are afraid to make our views known because we fear the ridicule and ostracism of our associates and peers. We are afraid to take ownership and responsibility for our ideas for fear of being proven wrong and mask our intellectual cowardice with meaningless dogmas and abstractions. Lacking self-confidence, many of us have resolved to live out our lives quietly and anonymously on remote islands of self-censorship and self-marginalization.

Most of us also suffer from a crisis of foresight. We can argue the past and criticize the present, but we do very little forward-thinking. As Ethiopia’s “eyes”, we are ironically afflicted by myopia (nearsightedness). We can see things in the present with reasonable clarity, but we lack the vision to see things in the distance. We can see the potential problems of ethnicity in Ethiopia, but we are blinded to its solutions in the future. We see the country being dismembered in pieces but lack the vision to make it whole in the future. We can see ethnic animosity simmering under the surface, but we have been unable to help create a new national consciousness to overcome it. We can articulate a present plan for accession to political power but we lack the foresight and contingency planning necessary to ensure democratic governance.

We have a serious crisis of communication. Many of us talk past each other and lack intellectual honesty and candor in our communications. We pretend to agree and give lip service to each other only to turn around and engage in vile backbiting. We speak to each other and the general public in ambiguities and “tongues”. Often we do not say what we mean or mean what we say. We keep each other guessing. We do not listen to each other well, and make precious little effort to genuinely seek common ground with those who do not agree with us. We have a nasty habit of marginalizing those who disagree with us and tell it like it is. We hate to admit error and apologize. Instead we compound mistakes by committing more errors. We tend to be overly critical of each other over non-essentials. As a result, we have failed to nurture coherent and dynamic intellectual discourse about Ethiopia’s present and future.

We have a crisis of intellectual leadership. There are few identifiable Ethiopian intellectual leaders today. In many societies, a diverse and competing intellectual community functions as the tip of the spear of social change. In the past two decades, we have seen the powerful role played by intellectual leaders in emancipating Eastern Europe from the clutches of communist tyranny and in leading a peaceful process of change. No society can ever aspire to advance without a core intellectual guiding force. The founders of the American Republic were not merely political leaders but also intellectuals of the highest caliber for any age. They harnessed their collective intellectual energies to forge a nation for themselves and their posterity. Their conception of government and constitution has become a template for every country that aspires for the blessings of liberty and democracy. Despite some major shortcomings, the Americans got it right because their founders were visionary intellectuals.

Ethiopian Intellectuals Through Zenawi’s Eyes

Zenawi regards himself to be an intellectual par excellence based on the available fragmentary corpus of his written work, numerous public statements and anecdotal narratives of those who have interacted with him. In August 2009, the Economist magazine described him as silver-tongued conversationalist with a “sharp mind, elephantine memory and ability to speak for two hours without notes. With his polished English, full of arcane turns of phrase from his days at a private English school in Addis Ababa, the capital, he captivates foreign donors.” Jeffrey Sachs, the celebrated shaman of Western aid to Africa and Columbia University professor, often patronizes Zenawi for his “intellect” and “vision”. (In January 2008, Sachs expressed euphoric fascination over “Ethiopia’s 11 or 12 percent economic development year after year [which makes] people say oh…what’s going on there?” under Zenawi’s leadership. Zenawi is said to be an assiduous autodidact. He reputedly harbors much distaste and contempt for the Ethiopian intellectual community in much the same way he does for his political opposition. His attitude is that he can outwit, outthink, outsmart, outplay, outfox and outmaneuver boatloads of Ph.Ds., M.Ds., J.Ds. Ed.Ds or whatever alphabet soup of degrees exist out there any day of the week. He seems to think that like the opposition leaders, Ethiopian intellectuals are dysfunctional, shiftless and inconsequential, and will never be able to pose a real challenge to his power.

Regardless of the merits of Zenawi’s purported views, the fact of the matter is that few Ethiopian intellectuals have bothered to scrutinize his ideas or record in a systematic and rigorous manner. When he made manifestly false and outrageous claims of “economic growth” and “development”, few Ethiopian economists challenged him on the facts. It took foreign scholars, researchers and journalists to undertake an investigation to expose Zenawi’s fraudulent claims of success in health, education and social welfare programs. Few Ethiopian historians, political scientists, sociologists and others have come forward to challenge his bizarre theory of “ethnic federalism”. Nor have there been any rigorous analyses of the slogan of “revolutionary democracy” palmed off as a coherent political theory. Few Ethiopian lawyers have examined his constitution and demonstrated his flagrant violation of it. Given these facts, all that can be said in defense of Ethiopian intellectuals is: “If the shoe fits, wear it!”

The Challenge: Becoming Public Intellectuals

The challenge to Ethiopian intellectuals is to find ways of transforming themselves into “public intellectuals.” In other words, regardless of our formal training in a particular discipline, we should strive to engage the broader Ethiopian society beyond our narrow professional concerns through our writings and advocacy efforts. We should strive for something far larger than our disciplines, and by speaking truth to power metamorphosise into “public intellectuals.” Here are a few ideas for this enterprise:

Get involved. I hear all sorts of excuses from Ethiopian intellectuals for not getting involved. The most common one is: “I am a ‘scholar’, a ‘scientist’, etc., and do not want to get involved in politics.” Albert Einstein was not only one of the most influential and best known scientists and intellectuals of all time, he was also a relentless and passionate advocate for pacifism and the plight of German-Jewish refugees. Others plead futility. “Nothing I do could ever make a difference because Ethiopia’s problems are too many and too complex.” The answer is found in an Ethiopian proverb: “Enough strands of the spiders’ web could tie up a lion.” Let each one do his/her part, and cumulatively the difference made will be enormous.

Articulate a Vision. Ethiopian intellectuals need to articulate a vision for their people. It is ironic to be the “eyes” of a nation and be visionless at the same time. What are our dreams, hopes and aspirations for Ethiopia? What are the values we should be collectively striving for? Why are we not able to come up with an intellectual framework that can provide a bulwark against tyranny, and restore good governance to a nation of powerless masses and broken institutions? As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

Create and Maintain a Think Tank. Think tanks are “policy actors in democratic societies assuring a pluralistic, open and accountable process of policy analysis, research, decision-making and evaluation.” There are thousands of them worldwide. It is necessary to establish such organizations for Ethiopia to conduct research and engage in advocacy and public education. On various occasions, I have publicly called for the establishment of an informal policy “think tank” to research and critically evaluate current and emergent issues in Ethiopia. Would it not be wonderful if there could be union of concerned Ethiopian scholars, scientists, intellectuals and professionals who could come together as the tip of the spear in seeking to institutionalize democracy, human rights and rule of law in Ethiopia?

Create a Legal Defense Fund. Frequently, I am asked why Ethiopian lawyers do not get together and from a legal action group to study and litigate human rights issues. Wherever I give a speech, I am always asked the question about why “you Ethiopian lawyers are not doing something about human rights, political prisoners, violations of international law….in Ethiopia? There are many examples in the U.S. of global campaigns for human rights undertaken by groups of dedicated lawyers supported by dozens of cooperating attorneys across the country. Ethiopian lawyers need to step up to the plate.

Establish Expert Panels. We have few experts available to serve as resources on issues affecting Ethiopia. Many Ethiopian experts are unwilling to come forward and give interviews to the media or to offer testimony in official proceedings. We need a roster of experts to represent Ethiopia on the world stage.

Teach the People. Zenawi often claims that Ethiopian intellectuals, particularly in the West, do not really understand the situation in the country and are merely speculating about conditions. He says our notions of democracy based on Western models are fanciful, desultory and inappropriate for Ethiopia and an “ethnic basis of Ethiopia’s democracy [is necessary] to fight against poverty and the need for an equitable distribution of the nation s wealth: peasants must be enabled to make their own decisions in terms of their own culture. Power must be devolved to them in ways that they understand, and they understand ethnicity….” It our role as intellectuals to discredit such manifestly nonsensical political theory by teaching the people the true meaning of democracy based on popular consent. We must teach the Ethiopian people that it is a travesty and a mockery of democracy for one man and one party to remain in power for 25 years and call that a democracy. We must find ways to empower the people by teaching them.

Act in Solidarity With the Oppressed

As intellectuals, we are often disconnected from the reality of ordinary life just like the dictators who live in a bubble. But we will remain on the right track if we follow Gandhi’s teaching: “Recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man you have seen and ask yourself whether the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he be able to gain anything by it? Will it restore to him a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj (independence) or self-rule for the hungry and spiritually starved millions of your countrymen? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away.” Let us always ask ourselves if what we do and whether our actions will help restore to the poorest and most helpless Ethiopians a control over their own life and destiny.

As I point an index finger at others, I am painfully aware that three fingers are pointing at me. So be it. I believe I know “where all the Ethiopian intellectuals have gone.” Most of them are standing silently with eyes wide shut in every corner of the globe. But wherever they may be, I hasten to warn them that they will eventually have to face the “Ayittey Dilemma” alone: Choose to stand up for Ethiopia, or lie down with the dictators who rape, abuse and defile her.


Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. He writes a regular blog on The Huffington Post, and his commentaries appear regularly on,, and other sites.