Recently, Naom Chomsky, MIT Professor of Linguistics and arguably America’s foremost public intellectual, gave an interview to Al Jazeera on the social (ir)responsibility of American academics and intellectuals. Chomsky, 84, has been raising hell for over four decades, getting into the faces of the powerful and mighty and whipping them with the truth. He recently excoriated President Obama as lacking a “moral center” for using drone warfare to “run a global assassination campaign”. Chomsky has been called a “left winger”, a “radical activist” and even a “communist”, and has been on the receiving end of a few distasteful epithets. But the firebrand octogenarian is undeterred and as strong, as plain-spoken and outspoken as ever. He remains a relentless critic of capitalism, neoliberalism, globalization, warfare, corruption, repression, abuse and misuse of power and human rights violations in America and abroad. Along the way, he has continued his scholarly pursuits in linguistics.
In his Al Jazeera interview, “Noam Chomsky: The Responsibility of Privilege”, Chomsky chafed at the social irresponsibility of American intellectuals and denounced the greedy and rapacious elites for using their power to disempower ordinary people, confuse and render them intellectually inert, servile and defenseless.
Al Jazeera: Is it the responsibility of academics and other intellectuals to be engaged politically?
Chomsky: Or every other human being. Responsibility is basically measured by opportunity. If you are a poor person living in the slums and have to work 60 hours a week to put bread on the table, your degree of responsibility is less than if you have a degree of privilege.
Al Jazeera: If you have privilege, are you more obligated to give back?
Chomsky: Yes. The more privilege you have, the more opportunity you have. The more opportunity you have, the more responsibility you have. It is elementary.
Al Jazeera: So why don’t we see that in the U.S.? There has been so much talk about people getting richer, many, many more people are getting poorer, and yet the rich are seemingly resistant to giving more of their time, more of their wealth and talent?
Chomsky: For the most part, that’s why they are rich. If you dedicate your life to enriching yourself and those are your values and you don’t care what happens to anyone else, then you won’t care what happens to anyone else. It is self-selecting. It is also institutional. In its extreme pathological form, it’s Ayn Rand’s ideology: “I don’t care about anybody else. I am just interested in benefitting myself and that is just and noble.”
George Ayittey, the noted Ghanaian economist and one of Africa’s foremost public intellectuals, has long been chagrined by the social irresponsibility of Africa’s best and brightest. He argued that Africa’s intellectual class is in bed with those who have built “vampire states” to suck billions of dollars out of the pockets of their impoverished people to line their own pockets. 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…” Ouch! Ouch!
So why don’t we see more Ethiopian intellectuals engaged in politics? Are they merely following in the footsteps of their American counterparts? Could they be followers of Ayn Rand’s ideology: “I don’t care about anybody else. I am just interested in benefitting myself and that is just and noble.” Could Ayittey’s mordant criticism apply to Ethiopian intellectuals?
In a June 2010 commentary, I asked: “Where have the Ethiopian intellectuals gone?” I had no answer at the time, nor do I have one now; but I was, and still am, bewildered and puzzled by their conspicuous absence from the public square and the cyber square. Their absence reminded me of “the Greek philosopher Diogenes who 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.” They are nowhere to be found. They seem to be shrouded in a cloak of invisibility.
Truth be told, I was once a member of that invisible empire of Ethiopian intelligentsia– disengaged, silent and deaf-mute. I was forced to uncloak myself when Meles Zenawi’s troops slaughtered 196 unarmed demonstrators, and shot and wounded nearly 800 more in the streets after the 2005 election in Ethiopia. I suppose there comes a time in a man’s or a woman’s life when s/he has to step out of the shadows of sheltered anonymity and silence, remove the veil of smug indifference and proclaim outrage at tyranny and crimes against humanity.
But there are tens of thousands of Ethiopian intellectuals who have chosen, made a conscious decision, to take a vow of silence and inhabit the subterranean recesses of anonymity. When they see elections stolen in broad daylight, they become afflicted by temporary blindness. When they hear innocent people being arrested and convicted in kangaroo courts, they become stone deaf. When they witness religious liberties trashed and the people crying out for freedom, they don’t try to stand with them or by them; they assuage their own consciences through a ritual of private grumbling, moaning and groaning. Above all, they have made a virtue of silence. They live a life of silent anonymity.
It is rather difficult to understand. Could it be that they are silent because they believe silence is golden? That is to say, if you want to be given the gold, stay silent? Do they not know “oppression can only survive through silence”? Could they be thinking that their silence is a manifestation of their contempt against those they consider ignorant and barbaric? Is it not true that “the cruelest lies are often told in silence” and the cruelest acts overlooked in silence? Is their silence a practical expression of Ayn Rand’s ideology: “I don’t care about anybody else. I am just interested in benefitting myself and that is just and noble.”
But silence is not golden; silence is a silent killer. Pastor Martin Niemöller expressed his silent outrage over the silence of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. admonished, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
The Social Responsibility of Ethiopian Intellectuals?
It is said that the voice of the people is the voice of God (vox populi, vox dei). But silence is no way to communicate with oppressed people. The intellectual is to privileged to think, to speak, to imagine, to create, to understand and to envision. But silence is never the privilege of the intellectual. Silence is one of the few privileges of the oppressed, the persecuted and the victimized. Silence is the ultimate survival technique of the weak, the powerless and defenseless.
The intellectual has the moral responsibility to speak up for the silenced. S/he does not have the privilege to stand by idly and shake her head in dismay or mumble complaints under one’s breath. Those who have been privileged to study, to think, to write, to innovate and to create have the duty to give back to the people, particularly those people who have been dispossessed not only of material things but also their human dignity.
The silent Ethiopian intellectuals are missing the point. It is a privilege, not a burden, to be a voice for the downtrodden. It is a distinct honor to be the voice of the voiceless. It is a priceless gift to speak truth to power on behalf of the powerless.
The silent intellectual — without a sense of moral commitment or obligation to something other than the pursuit of happiness through greed or without some sacrifice of personal interest — is merely a well programmed robot of higher education. Nietzsche once remarked that all higher education is “to turn men into machines”; they did not have robots in his day.
I believe the intellectual has the responsibility not only to make a moral commitment but also to act on them. In other words, when one commits oneself to a cause, one must accept the fact that the pursuit and fulfillment of that cause will involve a measure of sacrifice of one’s self-interest. Many Ethiopian intellectuals have professed moral commitment to human rights but they are not willing to speak, write or do anything meaningful about exposing human rights abuses or defending against abuses of power. Some are timid, others are downright fearful. So they speak and sing in the language of silence.
In 1967, Chomsky wrote, “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions… It is the responsibility of the intellectual to insist upon the truth” and not to “tolerate the deceptions that will be used to justify the next defense of freedom.” It seems to me that Ethiopian intellectuals must shoulder the same burden. It is their responsibility to challenge not only those in power but also each other. It is their responsibility to critically think about issues and problems facing Ethiopian society and to offer and imagine better alternatives and braver futures. It is their highest moral duty to fight tyranny with the power of ideas. History shows that an idea whose time has come cannot be defeated; it cannot be stopped.
The Internet has been the great equalizer in the struggle between the practitioners of tyranny and champions of liberty. The Internet helped end the winter of discontent for millions of disenfranchised peoples in the Middle East and ushered in a glorious summer which continues to simmer. Mubarak, Ben Ali, Gadhaffi, Gbagbo and many others were simply no match for the ideas of freedom that had penetrated deep into the psyches of their citizens. Despite the complete monopoly over the press, telecommunication services and electronic radio and satellite jamming technology obtained at great cost, the tyrants in Ethiopia have not been able to censor the truth or filter out ideas they do not like from wafting into the ears, heart and mind of any Ethiopian interested in alternative perspectives. But Ethiopian intellectuals have not been able to take full advantage of this ubiquitous medium. As a result, the Internet is used by the younger generation mostly to seek cheap thrills and entertainment and conduct mindless chatter on social media.
Ethiopian intellectuals have the responsibility to be the vanguard of social, political and scientific change. They must use this burgeoning medium to provide real education to the young people and as a forum for serious discussion of the major issues facing the country. The real struggle against tyranny is for the hearts and minds of the young people (70 percent of Ethiopia’s population), and the irresistible weapons in this struggle are not guns and tanks but new and creative ideas. Until Ethiopian society, its economy and politics become knowledge- and ideas-based and its intellectuals play a guiding role in the process, that country will have great difficulty escaping from the clutches of a benighted dictatorship.
Ethiopia’s intellectuals should focus their energies and invest their efforts on Ethiopia’s young people (the Cheetah Generation). They should pitch new ideas to the younger generation; plant and cultivate the seeds of critical thinking in thier minds; promote free thinking and inquiry; encourage them to always be skeptical of not just authority but also themselves; preach against hatred, herd mentality and groupthink; give young people the intellectual tools they need to examine themselves and their beliefs; encourage them to change their minds when confronted by contradictory evidence; help them look at old problems in a new way; teach them (after learning it themselves) to admit mistakes when they are wrong, apologize and ask forgiveness; urge them to speak the truth, defend what is right and stand for human rights. They should inspire them to be all they can be.
The examples the intellectuals are setting today are disappointing and discouraging, to put it charitably. The message they telegraph to the younger generation is unmistakable: When confronted by abusers of power, be a conformist and remain silent. When faced with the arrogance of power, be submissive and obedient. When you can ask questions, seal your lips. When faced with the truth, turn a blind eye and deaf ears. When the opportunity for free thinking is available, be dogmatic, doctrinaire and obdurate. When you can speak truth to power, forever hold your peace.
In my June 2010 commentary, I urged Ethiopian intellectuals to act in solidarity with the oppressed. Since I wrote that piece, the silence of Ethiopian intellectuals has been deafening. I wish I could close this commentary with a more heartening message; but restating the last paragraph of that commentary still captures my disappointments and hopes:
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 whether our actions (and words) 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.
To whom much is given, much is expected.
Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino and is a practicing defense lawyer.
Previous commentaries by the author are available at:
Amharic translations of recent commentaries by the author may be found at:
Alemayehu G. Mariam
Waiting for the Dawn of “Africa’s Spring” in 2012? How about an “Ethiopian Tsedey” in 2012?
In 2011, we witnessed the “Winter of Arab” discontent made glorious by an “Arab Spring” followed by an increasingly hot “Arab Summer” and deeply troubled “Arab Fall”. Bashir al-Assad continues to massacre his people by the dozens daily in plain view of Arab League “observers”. The Egyptian junta is increasingly baring its teeth and mauling protesters guarding the Egyptian Revolution, and raiding the offices of human rights organizations in that country. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia “arm-twisted” Ali Saleh in Yemen to accept a deal to give up power in “return for immunity from prosecution” (he will not face justice for any of his crimes) and “medical care” in the U.S. When tens of thousands of Yemenis expressed outrage over the deal, Saleh unleashed his Republican Guardsmen who responded with the usual deadly gunfire. Tunisia, the cradle of the “Arab Spring”, is wobbling on its feet as the Constitutional Assembly approved a new caretaker government tasked with drafting a new constitution to replace the original one that has been in place since independence in 1956. Libya’s National Transitional Council is facing the daunting task transitioning Libya from Gadhaffi’s madcap Jamahiriya system (“direct rule of the masses”) to a functioning multiparty democracy against a backdrop of entangled tribal politics.
Is an “African Spring” Looming on the 2012 Horizon?
No one predicted an “Arab Spring” last Fall, and hazarding a prediction of the arrival of “Africa’s Spring” this Winter may be like predicting the arrival of the Spring season by watching the proverbial groundhog watching his shadow. Is an “African Spring” looming on the 2012 horizon? There is a short and a long answer to this question. The short answer was provided by Albert Camus, the French philosopher and Nobel laureate, in his book “The Rebel”, over one-half century ago. “Africa’s Spring”, like the “Arab Spring”, will arrive when Africans rebel. “What is a rebel?”, asked Camus.
A man who says no… A slave who has taken orders all his life suddenly decides that he cannot obey some new command. What does he mean by saying ‘no’? He means, for example, that ‘this has been going on too long,’ ‘up to this point yes, beyond it no’, ‘you are going too far,’ or, again, ‘there is a limit beyond which you shall not go.’ But from the moment that the rebel finds his voice—even though he says nothing but ‘no’ —he begins to desire and to judge. The rebel confronts an order of things which oppresses him with the insistence on a kind of right not to be oppressed beyond the limit that he can tolerate.
In other words, “Africa’s Spring” will arrive when enough Africans wake up, stand up and say, “No! Enough is Enough!”
The Power of the Powerless is the Power to Say “No, Enough is Enough!”
Africa’s great independence struggle against colonialism was essentially a reification (realization) of the rallying cry, “No! Enough is enough!”: Enough of colonial exploitation, colonial dehumanization, colonial discrimination, colonial segregation, colonial division, colonial ethnic fragmentation, colonial polarization and colonial corruption. In his independence speech in 1957, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, the leader of the first sub-Saharan African colony to gain independence declared, “We have awakened. We will not sleep anymore. Today, from now on, there is a new African in the world!” A succession of “new Africans” followed in Guinea, Cameroon, Togo, Mali, Madagascar and 39 others countries on the continent.
If there is to be an “African Spring” in 2012, there must be “new Africans” in Africa who must awaken from the forced hibernation of dictatorship and oppression, stand up and say to the ruthless dictators, “No! Enough is enough!”. Enough of African dictators exploiting Africans, dehumanizing them, dividing and ruling them, ethnically balkanizing, polarizing and fragmenting them, and enough of robbing them — of elections, the public treasury and peace of mind (terrorizing them) — blind.
The Calculus of an “African Spring”
In his study of resistance and rebellion, MIT professor Roger D. Petersen asked: “How do ordinary people rebel against powerful and brutal regimes?” Petersen was interested in understanding “ordinary people and the roles they come to play during times of rebellion and resistance against powerful regimes.” He wanted to know how and why do individuals (not the “nation”, the “people”) decide to take a variety of risks by participating in a struggle against an oppressive regime.
Using an interdisciplinary approach, Petersen examined the threshold or decision points of an individual within the broader context of his community and socio-economic system. Petersen identified seven threshold points of individual roles in a rebellion against or in collaboration with an oppressive regime. At Zero level, the individual remains neutral and does nothing for or against the repressive regime or the uprising/ rebellion. At Plus one, the individual is engaged in relatively low risk anti-regime activities such as attending mass rallies and protests, graffiti writing, passing out or seeking out anti-regime literature and participating. At Plus two, the individual becomes involved in locally based armed resistance units or providing direct support for such a unit. At Plus three, the individual becomes part of an armed resistance group.
Conversely, individuals may also collaborate with oppressive regimes. At Minus one level, the individual is involved in low level cooperation with the repressive regime by participating in such activities as officially sponsored mass rallies and working in some capacity for the repressive regime. At Minus two level the individual could be involved in locally based armed militia units organized to protect the regime. At Minus three level, the individual participates in extreme actions such as extrajudicial killings and torture on behalf of the regime or chooses to join the regime’s armed and security forces.
Facing extreme repression, individuals undergo a dual-stage process “moving first from neutrality to acts of nonviolent resistance and then to participation in community-based rebellion organization.” Petersen concluded that “whether individuals come to act as rebels or collaborators, killers or victims, heroes or cowards during times of upheaval is largely determined by the nature of their everyday economic, social, and political life, both in the time of the upheaval and the period prior to it.”
African Dictators’ Calculus of Individual Control
African dictators are fundamentally “briefcase bandits”, as George Ayittey describes them. These dictatorships function essentially as Mafioso-type criminal syndicates and cartels and are run and operated by and for members of the dictators’ families, friends, cronies, tribal, ethnic and religious group members. Stated simply, African dictatorships are kleptocracies or thugtatorships whose principal aim is to cling to power so that they can freely plunder the public treasury and the national economy. They cling to power by disempowering individuals and denying and violating their human rights, including universally-recognized and internationally guaranteed rights of self-expression and due process of law.
The power of fear is the supreme power in the hands of African dictators. The entire society is monitored by a vast network of secret police enforcers and informants (police state) who operate completely outside of constitutional or other legal constraints. For instance, dictator Meles Zenawi assured high level American policy-makers that “We will crush them [opposition leaders] with our full force, and they will vegetate like Birtukan (Midekssa) in jail forever.” Uganda’s dictator Yoweri Museveni echoed the same message when he told a press conference: “There will be no Egyptian-like revolution here. We would just lock them up. In the most humane manner possible, bang them into jail and that would be the end of the story.” Such resolute expressions of brutalization are intended to strike fear and trepidation in the heart of every individual in society. The message is clear: Resistance by any individual is futile. All resistance will be crushed.
African dictators understand that charismatic and ideologically driven individuals and small dissident circles are often “first actors” in the streets and catalysts for uprisings and rebellions. They understand that such dissidents could lead large numbers of dissatisfied citizens cross the bridge of fear to the land of freedom. They do not want a repetition of the Bouazzi syndrome in Tunisia. When Yenesew Gebre, a young Ethiopian teacher in Southern Ethiopia burned himself to death protesting human rights violations, the dictatorship paraded his alleged family members on the airwaves to testify that Yenesew was crazy as a loon. Yenesew was only mad as hell at those who had denied him his basic human rights. Gadhaffi said the young people protesting his regime were dope fiends who were being manipulated by outside forces.
Africans dictators maintain their kingdoms of fear through a system of informants, secret police forces and security agents. They create and maintain a pervasive climate of fear and loathing in society, and use every means at their disposal to completely disempower, disenfranchise and dehumanize the individual. They penetrate every nook and cranny of society to monitor fully the activities of each individual and household. Spies and informants are planted in village-level organizations, schools, universities, civil and religious institutions, the bureaucracy and military and beyond. Dr. Negasso Gidada, former Ethiopian president and presently the leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, has documented that in his parliamentary election district “the police and security offices and personnel collect information on each household using structures called “shane” in which five households are grouped together under a leader who has the job of collecting information on them. Each household is required to report on guests and visitors, the reasons for their visits, their length of stay, what they said and did and activities they engaged in…” Robert Mugabe’s notorious Central Intelligence Organization maintains a similar system of monitoring and surveillance. The irony of it all is that African dictators who rule by fear and are feared by the people in turn fear the people who fear them.
One of the prominent Founders of the American Republic said, “This will be the best security for maintaining our liberties. A nation of well-informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins.” Africa’s dictators understand that an ignorant population is the most fertile soil upon which they can plant themselves and flourish. Controlling a society teeming with ignorant individuals is much easier than controlling a nation of well-informed and inquisitive men and women. “Ignorance is bliss,” is the slogan of the high priests of African dictatorships. They toil to keep their subject population as ignorant as possible while providing and reserving extraordinary educational and learning opportunities for themselves and their supporters. It is a well-known fact that a young person in Ethiopia is unlikely to have access to higher education unless s/he becomes a party member and supporter of the dictatorship. Upon graduation, civil service jobs are generally off limits to non-party members. Banks will favor party members in giving out loans for business enterprises or other ventures over all others. African dictatorships aim to entrench themselves by cultivating their own enlightened elites while plunging the rest of society in a state of blissful ignorance.
On the other hand, African dictators will spare no effort to keep the population ignorant and benighted. They shutter independent newspapers and block any potential sources of critical information, including filtering of internet communication to prevent dissemination of critical information and jamming of external radio and television broadcasts. Zenawi jammed the broadcasts of the Voice of America (Amharic program), an official agency of the U.S. Government, by claiming that the VOA was advocating genocide. “Ethiopia has the second lowest Internet penetration rate in sub-Saharan Africa (only Sierra Leone’s is lower).” Equatorial Guinea’s dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema has done exactly the same thing by banning the independent press and blocking the foreign media. Such extreme actions are taken to keep individuals in society dumb, dumbfounded, uninformed, unenlightened and ignorant.
George Ayittey’s “Law” on Defeating African Dictatorships
George Ayittey, the distinguished Ghanaian economist argues that 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…
Before an “African Spring”, an African Reawakening From Hibernation
The power of the powerless individual is the power to say “No. No More! No Way. No How! Enough is Enough!” As Prof. Petersen suggests, each individual has a tipping point when s/he will fight or collaborate. For Bouazizi in Tunisia and Yenesew in Ethiopia, they reached their individual tipping points and, tragically, burned themselves to death. The question for every African living under a dictatorship is not whether to remain neutral (for there can be no neutrality in the face of evil), but whether to become or not to become part of a system of oppression, brutality and injustice. The university professor makes that choice when s/he waxes eloquent justifying that dictatorship is indeed democracy. The judge makes that choice when s/he imposes a judgment directed by the political bosses. The police or security officer makes that choice when s/he is ordered to shoot innocent civilians. The soldier make that choice when s/he occupies a village in search of “rebels.” The bureaucrat makes that choice when s/he uses official power to empower the powerful and disempower the powerless. The man and woman in the street will make that choice every day in everything s/he does and thinks about.
Kwame Nkrumah was right when he declared in 1957, “We have awakened. We will not sleep anymore. Today, from now on, there is a new African in the world!” Nkrumah himself, the international symbol of African freedom and Pan-Africanism, could not bear to see an awakened Africa. In 1964, he declared himself president-for-life, banned opposition parties and jailed labor and opposition party leaders and judges. Justifying his dictatorial actions he wrote, “Even a system based on a democratic constitution may need backing up in the period following independence by emergency measures of a totalitarian kind.” The great Nkrumah was fatally infected by the terminal disease known as “absolute power”. But Nkrumah was right before he started roller skating on the wrong side of history; and like all dictators who came after him, he underestimated the will and resistance of individual citizens and their ability to unite and wrest their freedom.
All African dictators mistake decades of fear-enforced silence for surrender and resignation. Their arrogance blinds them to the palpable anger, loathing and pent-up rage of their citizens. They ignore and sneer at the immutable law of history: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Africa’s Spring will arrive when Africans “have awakened; [when Africans] will not sleep anymore; [when] today, from now on, there is a new African in [Africa]” who is willing to stand up and say, “No! Enough is enough!”.
Previous commentaries by the author are available at: www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/ and http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/