Author’s Note: This is the fourth commentary in a series dealing with land, land use, misuse, overlordship and ownership in Ethiopia. In my first commentary, I examined the decline and fall of “Karuturistan”, the hundreds of thousands of hectares of land “owned” by Karuturi Global, in Western Ethiopia. In the second commentary, I questioned if there is any country left for Ethiopians to live in after the T-TPLF sells off or gives away millions of hectares to neighboring countries or land-grabbing international scammers. In the third commentary, I called attention to the fact that the so-called Addis Ababa Master Plan is actually a clever T-TPLF masters’ plan of urban removal into the surrounding areas so that T-TPLF crime families and their cronies could expropriate prime urban and semi-rural land.
The outrage never stops!
Last week it was reported that the
Ezdan Holding Group, chaired by Qatari royal Dr. Khalid bin Thani bin Abdullah Al Thani, wants to capitalise on Ethiopia’s strong economic prospects by building a resort in Addis Ababa covering 150 sq km, which is more than a quarter of the city’s current area… Prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn expressed ‘strong support’ for the plan in face-to-face meetings in Ethiopia, Ezdan said on 31 January, and promised to ‘resolve any obstacles or challenges that may be faced’ by the scheme.
Let’s face the brutal facts: Are they “building a resort” to make Addis Ababa the “sex tourism capital” of the Middle East? Or is it Africa?
Is “sex tourism” going to be the new foreign currency generator for the T-TPLF? It is not enough to sell the land, now they want to sell Ethiopian women’s bodies!
What the hell does it mean to say, “Hailemariam Desalegn expressed ‘strong support’ and promised to ‘resolve any obstacles or challenges that may be faced’ by the scheme.” Is it a “scheme” or a scam? Pimping a scam?
I can smell a rat from 9 thousand miles away. Let me tell you, I smell a humongous rat in the Qatari resort deal.
For crying out loud, when will the rape of Ethiopia stop?!!!
Doggone it! They make me sick to the stomach!
Uprising from under the boots of a Beast with feet of clay
In this commentary, I aim to draw the major lessons from the ignominious “defeat” of the “Addis Ababa Master Plan”, or more accurately, the T-TPLF Master’s Land Grab Plan (Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front).
For the record, the “Addis Ababa Master Plan” is not dead. Anyone who believes the T-TPLF propaganda that the Plan has been dropped and abandoned, and its planning offices closed and that the whole thing was only a conceptual design is doggone damned fool. No apologies!
But what are the important lessons to be learned from the popular protests and acts of civil disobedience to T-TPLF’s predatory land-grabbing in the outskirts of Addis Ababa?
What are the implications of the successful popular resistance against T-TPLF land-grabbing in the struggle against T-TPLF oppression and most importantly for a post-T-TPLF Ethiopia?
Did the “defeat” of the T-TPLF Master’s Land Grab Plan prove that massive and coordinated national acts of civil disobedience can transform the political landscape in Ethiopia?
In March 2007, I wrote an allegorical commentary entitled “The Hummingbird and the Forest Fire”. In the manner of that proverbial humming bird, for the past ten years in my weekly Monday commentaries, I have tried to put out the “forest fire” of ethnic hatred and division and sectarian conflict stoked by the T-TPLF and prevent political implosion. I have been as successful as the proverbial humming bird that tried to douse out the forest fire with droplets of water carried in its tiny beak.
But I have always believed the job of firefighting was best left to Ethiopia’s young people. That was what I prescribed in 2007:
Let us never doubt that our young firefighters, though they may inherit a society devastated by decades of political repression and human rights abuse, will one day be able to build a City Upon a Hill — a just, humane and pious society — where no man or woman will fear his or her government, where government will dutifully respect the rights and liberties of its citizens, where every person can stand tall and freely speak his or her mind, and where no man, woman or child will ever lose life, liberty of property without due process of just laws.”
The “forest fire” that I spoke about in 2007 is today a five fire-alarm fire fast consuming the “Ethiopia House.” If good and patriotic Ethiopian men and women do not come together in aid of their country, there will only be ashes left. That would be a dream come true for the T-TPLF, but it will be an epic tragedy for everyone else.
Ethiopia’s young firefighters today are jailed wholesale. If they speak up or write, they are persecuted and prosecuted. If they protest, they are shot in the streets like wild animals. If they proclaim political neutrality or independence, they are denied job and educational opportunities. If they want start a business, they are scalped and forced to pay bribes and sell their souls to the T-TPLF. If they stand up for their rights, they are forced to kneel before the T-TPLF overlords. Ethiopia’s young people are leaving the country into exile by the tens of thousands every year. They are harassed, intimidated and persecuted if they fail to slavishly serve the T-TPLF masters.
Who can save the burning “House of Ethiopia”?
Who can cut the fuse on the Ethiopia powder keg?
Dreams of an Ethiopia at peace with itself
I am inspired by dreams.
I am inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of an America at peace with itself and the world. I believe in his dream of “hew[ing] out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope” and “transform[ing] the jangling discords of [a] nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.” I believe this to be true, every word of it!
Nelson Mandela said, “I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself.” He said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” I believe this to be true, every word of it!
When Dr. King talked about his dream, he was speaking in the African American prophetic tradition. It is a tradition that simply says in the face of the catastrophe of white supremacy, slavery, segregation and discrimination “we’ve got to analytically understand it, we’ve got to prophetically bear witness, and we’ve got to generate forms of fightback that organize and mobilize” against oppression through united action across the color, ethnic and racial lines with integrity, honesty and decency.
I am also inspired by prophetic dreams in Scripture. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon dreamt of a gigantic statue made of gold, silver, bronze and clay. Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream a stone “not cut by human hands” destroying the statue and becoming a mountain filling the whole world. I believe Dr. King was referring to the same mountain when he dreamt of “hew[ing] out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope”. Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar that the statue represented four successive kingdoms beginning with Babylon, while the stone and mountain signified a kingdom established by God which would never be destroyed nor given to another people.
The T-TPLF has been a nightmare in Ethiopia for the past quarter of a century. The T-TPLF has visited the nightmare of ethnic division, sectarian conflict, human rights violations, corruption, stolen elections and wholesale persecutions.
My dream is to see the T-TPLF swept into the dustbin of history and the rise of a truly democratic society in Ethiopia that is at peace with itself. In July 2012, I wrote about my dreams of an Ethiopia in Peace. I also made a prediction:
There is volcanic pressure building up slowly but surely in Ethiopia. We see small precursor eruptions here and there. Public dissatisfaction with the status quo has turned to utter public desperation. People cannot afford the basic necessities of life as inflation and cost of living soar to new heights. Corruption, abuse of power, massive repression and poor governance are about to blast the dome on the grumbling volcano. The situation is deteriorating by the day. One has to assume that against the backdrop of the “Arab Spring”, Ethiopia’s iron-fisted rulers must be a little worried about the winter of discontent of the Ethiopian people being made glorious by a democratic Summer.
Is the T-TPLF nightmare coming to an end?
What are the lessons to be learned from the “defeat” of the “Addis Ababa Master Plan”?
Lesson No. 1: The T-TPLF has feet of clay.
I believe the T-TPLF to be that evil Beast with feet of clay. When gazed upon, the T-TPLF appears awesome, formidable and infinitely powerful. It has guns, tanks, rockets, planes and bombs. Though the T-TPLF has legs of iron, its feet are made of clay.
The massive popular resistance to the “Addis Ababa Master Plan” proved the T-TPLF has feet of clay. The T-TPLF also got a glimpse of the one thing it fears and dreads the most, the one thing that keeps the thugs awake and sleepless all night, every night: Massive popular resistance!
The T-TPLF tried to ram down the throats of struggling farmers living on the outskirts of Addis Ababa its “master plan”. It was a plan devised by minds most evil, an insidious plan calculated to rip-off land from hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of poor subsistence farmers.
But the T-TPLF Beast was powerless against people power. The T-TPLF went out and shot hundreds of unarmed protesters and jailed hundreds more. But they kept on coming here, there and everywhere. The T-TPLF finally faced the fear that resides in its bone marrow: The people united can never be defeated. When the going got tough for the people of Oromia, the tough people of Oromia got going. The people of Oromia showed they were infinitely tougher than the T-TPLF Beast with feet of clay.
The Beast sent out its flunkeys servants to make a public confession: “There was not a plan that had taken shape following discussions with the people. There was not a [plan] that was designed in a professional way or scientifically prepared for a final political decision.” Like hell there wasn’t…
Practical lesson No. 1: When the Beast is confronted by people power, the Beast backs down, stands down and in the end is run down.
Lesson No. 2: Mass civil disobedience and peaceful resistance can defeat the Beast.
It is a lesson Winston Churchill knew all too well:
You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police … yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home — all the more powerful because forbidden — terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.
The mighty T-TPLF has all the bayonets, tanks, guns and planes. But when groups of young people confronted bayonets, tanks, guns and planes (helicopters), the T-TPLF was thrown into complete panic. If the T-TPLF is so terrified of words and thoughts that it is willing to imprison journalists, is it that difficult to imagine the terror and panic it felt when young people fed up with land rip-offs showed up defiantly in the streets to fight for their land?
When the T-TPLF faced young people power, it made a killing field everywhere massacring hundreds of them without batting an eye. When the T-TPLF got the clear and simple message, “You will steal our land over our dead bodies.”, it backed down. The T-TPLF Beast left with its tail between its legs, temporarily.
The T-TPLF knows it is doomed because it does NOT have the hearts and minds of the people. No oppressor, no tyrant can continue to rule only through brute force. The T-TPLF is not concerned about the people who aim to resist it by force of arms. The bloodthirsty T-TPLF has infinitely more arms than its adversaries. But the T-TPLF stays sleepless trying to figure out what lurks in the hearts and minds of the tens of millions under its suffocating boots. The T-TPLF knows a powder keg with a short fuse is buried in the hearts and minds of its adversaries.
Practical Lesson 2: When faced with the young people’s wrath and steely determination, the T-TPLF Beast showed it had cold feet of clay.
Lesson 3: The T-TPLF Beast is the most cunning, conniving, wily, scheming, evil, crooked, vicious, diabolical, wicked, shadowy and Machiavellian political organization to be found anywhere on the planet.
Those who may delude themselves into believing that the T-TPLF will simply walk away from its land-grab fest are sorely mistaken. There are two compelling reasons why the T-TPLF will continue its land-grab in the jurisdictions surrounding the capital by any means necessary.
First, the T-TPLF believes its long term survival depends upon completely neutralizing and dispersing all opposition to its rule in the capital. Following the 2005 election, opposition parties won all 23 seats in the capital. The T-TPLF realized that the only way it can survive and consolidate its power in the capital was by completely destroying historical settlements, community networks and neighborhood patterns. Using the pretext of urban planning and metropolitan development with funding from the World Bank, the T-TPLF began a massive urban removal program in Addis Ababa uprooting populations and displacing and scattering them in semi-rural areas surrounding the capital. A scattered population is incapable of exerting pressure or acting collectively to assert its rights.
The first prong of the T-TPLF’s strategy could be viewed as a sophisticated gentrification program in which the kleptocratic T-TPLF overlords and their cronies and parasitical elites would gobble up poor neighborhoods in the capital displacing low income families.
The second reason is that the T-TPLF must have its crime families own as much of the physical space of the capital as possible. Because Addis Ababa is the soci0-economic and political crucible of the country and diplomatic center for the continent, the T-TPLF wants to maintain a complete monopoly on all economic activity. The more physical space the T-TPLF controls in the capital, the more construction it can undertake and the more money it can make hand over fist.
For the T-TPLF to have any chance of long-term political survival, it must completely destroy Addis Ababa’s social fabric, community network and life style and reinvent the capital in its own image. The T-TPLF will do whatever it takes to grab that land in the areas surrounding Addis Ababa. After all, if their plan works the T-TPLF will eat up some 36 cities and towns surrounding Addis Ababa. That’s a lot of moolah (cash) for the T-TPLF overlords!
The ONLY way the T-TPLF can accomplish its political and economic objectives is by removing people from the capital into the surrounding areas which in turn has the cascading effect of more displacement in the surrounding areas creating in-migration into the city from surrounding areas.
The T-TPLF Land Grab Plan B has infinite parts and it will be implemented quietly, unofficially, invisibly, unstoppably and without fanfare. Here are some of the elements of Plan B:
1) lull everyone into thinking there is no master plan and bide their time until the people in the affected areas let their guards down;
2) reinvent the master plan by some other sweet-sounding name such as “Oromia Urban Development Project”;
3) pretend to “work” with the people of Oromia to get another community project (not plan) implemented;
4) masquerade as private developers partnering with locals to do different “projects”;
5) use local frontmen and bagmen to secretly buy land for later transfer.
6) land-grab piece by piece in a random pattern so the people in the affected area won’t even blink;
7) create make-believe cover projects to acquire land; and
8) systematically and methodically neutralize those who oppose their land-grab by a) buying them off, b) scaring them off, c) threatening and intimidating d) jail and torture them and e) killing (massacring) them. In other words, use standard T-TPLF operating procedure.
Practical Lesson No. 3: The T-TPLF will be back with a vengeance to implement its Master Plan B to grab and consolidate the same areas designated in the “Addis Ababa Master Plan.” The T-TPL has no choice but to continue the land-grab in areas surrounding the capital because it cannot survive politically or economically without it.
Lesson No. 4: Massive nonviolent resistance can defeat the mightiest and most brutal oppressor. The T-TPLF knows its day of reckoning has arrived.
Everyone now knows that the massive acts of civil disobedience against the T-TPLF’s Masters’ Plan have produced stunning results. What if such acts of civil disobedience and non-cooperation were replicated in every hamlet, town, city and region in Ethiopia?
Dr. King taught that there comes a point in every society when people are no longer able to tolerate injustice. The oppressor will not set his victims free willingly or give up his privileges voluntarily. Freedom is never freely given by the oppressor. The oppressed must demand their freedom. That point in time has arrived in Ethiopia!
I know that there are many in the Ethiopian community at large who say even a massive non-violent movement will not dislodge the T-TPLF from power. They appear to believe that one must fight fire with fire and exact an eye for an eye. Gandhi said, “I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.”
It is obvious to me that violence only begets violence in an unending cycle stoked by hate, revenge and retribution. But to those who believe the cause at hand is about defending the honor of Ethiopia and the only choice is between cowardice and violence, I say, “Have it your way.”
I should like to think that an exception to the rule does not make the rule. That force may be necessary in an extraordinary circumstance does not mean it is necessary in ordinary circumstances. The inverse appears to be true at least logically.
My view is that those who make peaceful change impossible make violent revolution inevitable. So ultimately, I believe the choice of whether change will be peaceful or violent is exclusively in the hands of the oppressor, not the oppressed. By refusing to allow peaceful change and serve the hopes and aspirations of the people, the oppressor forces the oppressed to force violent change upon it.
The purpose of civil disobedience is to bring about change in unjust laws and build a just and fair society. It is a political act performed in the cause of justice and to justify what is good for the whole, not a group or an individual. An act of civil disobedience is necessary to overcome a long train of abuses and deprivation of the rights of political citizenship.
Dr. King taught there are four basic steps in a nonviolent (civil disobedience) campaign: “collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action”
What is the purpose of direct action? Dr. King said the purpose of “direct action” is “to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue… the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.”
Civil disobedience is one mode of direct action. The essence of civil disobedience is that there is no moral obligation to obey “an unjust law” which is “no law at all.” It is a pretend law; it is the law the oppressor uses to oppress and inflict injustice on his victims. Any law that denies a person basic human rights is an unjust law and worthy of no obedience. In fact, disobedience against an unjust law is the moral right and an imperative of the oppressed.
For Dr. King, all segregation laws were unjust because those laws were in disharmony with the natural law or God’s law. Segregation laws had the singular aim of dehumanizing their victims and empowering the perpetrators. That is why Dr. King urged protesters and all forms of civil disobedience against segregation laws.
The oppressor will always try to crush any acts of civil disobedience by overwhelming force. The oppressor will unleash extreme violence. The oppressor will try to paint peaceful protesters as thugs, gangsters, hoodlums and criminals when they protest. The more the oppressor uses force, the more the oppressed will use counter-force of resistance, non-cooperation and civil disobedience against the oppressor.
Practical Lesson No. 4: Civil disobedience by definition must be civil because civilized civilians in disobedience of the laws of the bush are motivated by the concerns of civilized citizens against brutes and savages.
Those who change peaceful change impossible will make violent revolution impossible
The T-TPLF is fast approaching its day of reckoning. What happens to the T-TPLF is in T-TPLF’s hands. It can choose the path of peaceful change or it can invite violent revolution.
Regardless, the T-TPLF Beast will soon be carried away and “become like chaff from the summer threshing floors.” It will be “carried in the wind so that no trace of them is found” and those who have troubled the Ethiopia House “shall inherit the wind.” It is so written!
TO BE CONTINUED….