Yonas Biru, PhD
Ethiopia has two existential threats: Its tribal Constitution and its dinosaurian intellectuals of a tribal peasant’s mind and of a solitudinarian tradition. The problem is the former CANNOT be resolved before the latter is cured of its ills. Wise women say every dark cloud has a silver lining. It appears in the self-destructive DNA of Ethiopia’s tribal Constitution and its hermitized and tribalized intellectuals reside the seeds out of which a new hope is poised to sprout. We are in the proverbial Phoenix moment. The stars are aligned for Ethiopia to rise out of the ashes.
The adages that “every dark cloud has a silver lining” and “the stars are aligned” signify a next to impossible deliverance from the power of darkness, followed by a restoration of a natural and divine order. But Neil de Grasse Tyson, the famed American astrophysicist and award-winning author tells us that the “stars never get aligned.” For our purpose, let us ignore Tyson and go with the notion of the possibility of impossibility (at best) or with asymptotic possibility to reach impossibility (at the very least) as a part of God’s natural and divine order.
Speaking of Ethiopia in the proverbial Phoenix moment, we should note that the Phoenix phenomenon is born out of an ancient Greek folklore. The story has it that a giant bird symbolizing the sun of god lived for 500 years before it died and came back to life. There is a pinch of impossibility and some degree of dubiousness in the story of a bird that outlived the Biblical Abraham by 325 years. Students of ancient Greek folklore are yet to settle whether the godly bird sprouted to life out of combustible flames or natural decomposition. For our purpose, it does not matter whether Ethiopia rises out of the flames or decomposed bodies of its Constitution and hermitized and tribalized intellectuals.
What matters for our purpose is knowing that Ethiopia is a land of contradictions. What the world expects to be routinely possible proves impossible in Ethiopia. Yet again, what the world sees as impossible is routinely possible in the land of Abyssinians. Either by interplanetary curse or by divine order that has gone awry, our demons and angels are intertwined. Our challenge is to separate the two so we can be able to nurture our angels and fight our demons and, in the process, sort out the possible and the impossible.
The source of TPLF’s destruction was a saddening mix up of the possible and the impossible. Tigrayan exceptionalism was packaged, wrapped, and sold as a permanent part of nature like gravity, inertia and the sun rising in the east. But faced with hard reality, Tigrayan exceptionalism proved neither natural nor exceptional. Its colorful and fast-talking champion, Getachew Reda, whom TPLF true believers affectionately call “the sanitizer” was sanitized and silenced by the vagaries of a contemptuous hard reality. “Reality is a Bitch” as Brad Young’s song suggests. The story of TPLF became a failed attempt at outbitching the bitch (reality) with a little pinch of fairy
dust. የወደቀ ዛፍ ምሳር ይበዛበታል እንዲሉ the fairy dust proved to be ashes of destruction. Reality is not the only bitch in town. Karma, some say, is the queen of bitches.
Squeezed between two bitches – Reality and Karma – TPLF is turned to a dust. Tigrayan militarism was said to be invincible and impossible to defeat. They were defeated twice in a year by the Ethiopian defense forces whose abysmal performance and “strategic retreats” in almost every war theatre will forever be etched in our memories and our history books.
Once again, Ethiopia is a study in contradiction. PM Abiy promoted General Birhanu Jula to become Sub Saharan Africa’s lone Field Marshal for reasons not even God’s angels have figured out after a year. On the other hand, TPLF touts General Tsadqan who lost the war twice over and carried 300,000 body bags back to Tigray “as one of Africa’s best military thinkers and strategists.”
Where am I taking this story? I wish I knew. As you may know some books are written not by the power of the Author’s pen but on the strength and charm of the lead characters in the book. So let us pick another character and let him lead us where his path may take us. Let us summon Jawar Mohammed to help us rescue the storyline and throw light on it.
After 50 years of an unholy liberation theology, the concept of Greater Oromia seemed to have won against all odds when Jawar reached the pinnacle of the Oromo tribal political castle. The young leader was supposed to bring Oromo’s long struggle to a trilling climax. Instead, he proved anti-climactic.
In his heydays, Jawar was seen as the Oromo man-god who popularized the contemptuous “Ethiopia out of Oromia” creed. He tried to erase Adwa from Ethiopian history to rebrand Ethiopia as Oromia-plus. He dictated a narrative to create a hegemonic Oromo and gave the PM an ultimatum to fall in line or expect to meet Ethiopia with “an expiration date.”
What Jawar designed and marketed as possible proved impossible. In the end, Jawar expired in less than two years, along with his dream of expanding the horizon of Greater Oromia. His project to deEthiopinize Ethiopia went down the drain as his followers sung Brad Young’s “Reality is a Bitch” song in Afan Oromo.
Today, the glamorized image of Greater Oromia has given birth to a diabolical reality of bestiality and monstrosity. It exists as a fugitive in the forests of Wellega, sleeping by day and spreading terror and barbarism by night. Seemingly, it also gave birth to Jawar the realist who is in quest of liberating himself from his past. Whether he is a learned man shaped by an unfriendly experience or a turn coat seeking an entry point into Ethiopian politics is immaterial. What matters is that he epitomizes the impossibility of Greater Oromia.
With two of Ethiopia’s arch detractors (Team Jawar and Team TPLF) having bit the dust, one would think its children will hoist her and each other to the top of the mountain. Sadly, Ethiopia’s children are predisposed to eat each other up like spiders in a glass jar. The cannibalistic spiders are manifested by accidental twins in the personas of Dawit Woldegiorgis and Mekerem Aberra (Amhara tribalists); and Habtamu Ayalew and Zemedkun Bekele (extremist ሙአዘ ጥበባን), among others.
As though our accidental analysts and extremist ሙአዘ ጥበባን are not enough, Ethiopia is cursed with self-anointed political and military warriors in the genre of Zemene Kassie and Masresha Setie. Even worse, the intellectual class on the home front and in the diaspora has been reduced to a cheerleading squad like a new convert teenage evangelist. They dance for accidental misfits and political and military clowns in the Amhara tribal land. This is our story as narrated in Hailu Gebre-Yohanes’ “በረከተ መርገም” poem.
We must remember that the gods of politics are always on the side of Ethiopia. What they have accepted as a fact is that they may be able to weaken her enemies. Uniting and strengthening her children is the challenge they are yet to figure out.
The silver lining in Ethiopia’s dark moment is that its enemies are all but dead. Their wobbling, staggering, and cacophonic noise signify their death rattle and gurgling of last breath in slow motion. God has done its part in planting the seeds out of which a new hope can sprout.
What is left to hoist Ethiopia out of the darkness is our part. The constitutional problem cannot be resolved before Ethiopia’s children are cured of their ills. We are in the proverbial Phoenix moment. The stars are aligned for Ethiopia to rise out of the ashes only if its children oblige.
We need to find it possible to deal with accidental analysts in the Amhara tribalist universe, sanitize the idiotic warriors of the bygone ages, and challenge tribalist intellectual cheerleaders to rise to the occasion and stop dancing to misfits in the Amhara tribal land. Most of all, we need to impress upon our Prime Minister that his extraordinary vision is undermined by his administrative gross
negligence that is bordering on national malpractice.