CALL ME BY MY ADDRESS: A commentary on Marathon and Sprint

Demo a fait accompli too

By Obo Arada Shawl alias Wolde Tewolde – August 27, 2008

“In America, if you have a name, an address and a phone, they say you are in business; in Ethiopia, if you have a title, a family and a community, we say that you are an entity


In America, there are over 60, 000 baby names while in Ethiopia there are less than five thousand baby names averaging one name for 5,000 and 12,000 respectively. What about addresses and phones, I will leave these to my readers to figure it out. As for me, I have my name though I am still searching for my address. My address is where Debteraw and many others have disappeared.

Last two weeks, I have viewed two phenomenal events one in China and the other on Ethiopian websites. The Chinese, of course was about sports but the Ethiopian was about politics – of leadership.

The Beijing event was exceptionally phenomenal as it was watched by the sports fun and world leaders who were perhaps interested in the way China functions. The other phenomenal event was the proposal by a professor lawyer who went on rampage to nominating leaders for Ethiopia.

The Chinese have displayed their past and their future using the number 8 i.e. E-3

The name of Obang Metho is familiar not in real Ethiopia but in the Ethiopian websites. I appreciate him for using his native name unsparingly. He is one of the few individuals who are courageous enough to be addressed by given names. Call me by my name. What is in a name?

However, despite Ato/Mr Obang’s effort to blend the past and the future, he has failed to show how to blend them. It would have been much simpler had he resorted to the past history of Gambella, where the Ethiopian tourist organization promoted the number 13 i.e. B. I hope Mr. Obang admits that Ethiopia is a country of the 13th months of sunshine. I believe that the number 13 is the solution for Ethiopia’s past and future, in spite of the incident that happened on December 13, 2003 – the cause for the Anuak massacre.

Although I do not know how Ato Obang thinks about the use or abuse of Gambella as a tourist center during the Monarchy time, or how he sees the Bridge of Gambella that was built foe no economic value. Menghistu Haile Mariam personally supervised to build a bridge – the longest bridge at that – with 210 m. in length. The Gambella bridge was not only the longest bridge in Ethiopia but it also the only bridge flooded by neon lights. I do not know much about Ato Obang except via the Internet but I know way too much about his birthplace. Does Mr. Obang know that his birthplace is the Center of Africa as studied by the Russians?

I am not writing to demean the lawyer professor but to remind him that he is unintentionally assisting to destroy the bridge that is intended to connect the Afar, to Gambella via the highlands of Ethiopia, i.e. the beginning to the future (A-G). This is the Marathon political struggle of Ethiopia. Mr. Obang seems to prefer a struggle of Sprint.

At the Olympics, the sprinters of America (both men and women) have failed but the Marathons of south of Ethiopia have prevailed. So the wind is not coming from the west as in Gambella, it is coming from Kenya, to the south of Ethiopia. A big O is coming from the south too. In the name of harmony, I advise Ato Obang to follow the spirit of Baro and Sobat rivers. They just flow smoothly. We have had enough resistance from the North. But the Northern have history, some positive others negative. I am not sure the use and abuse of Ethiopia’s name in Obang’s literature. Is Mr. Bang referring to the Biblical Ethiopia, Minilik’s Ethiopia, Haile Sellasie’s Ethiopia, Menghistu’s Ethiopia, Zenawi’s Ethiopia or the citizens of Ethiopia? Which address is he interested in? Ato Obang writes about Anjuak justice. What about others justice? If there is no moral or legal law in the entire country of Ethiopia, how is it possible to acquire justice for the Anjuaks? Mr. Obang by implication is accepting the dictatorship of the ethnic minority. What is normally or internationally norms of justice is through the recognition of the rule of the majority and the rights of the minority. If I am wrong, please, Mr. Obang I am ready to listen and learn.

The main reason I am attempting to remind Mr. Obang is to challenge his article on nominating or suggesting the would be Ethiopian leaders at the disposal of those who spent their lives to solve problems of Ethiopia be it oppression or exploitation. What kind of leaders is Ethiopia looking for, Mr. Obang? Moral leaders, business leaders, social leaders, religious leaders, military leaders and so on and so forth, who are you looking for? I think you were referring to political leaders or national leaders. I also think Mr. Obang wanted to build a bridge, a bridge of reconciliation and harmony. As Mr. Obang knows the physical bridge of Gambella did not bring harmony between Menghistu and citizens of Ethiopia. Was that why Mr. Obang was unable to nominate leaders from the Menghistu era, from the aristocracy, from the Fronts, from political parties and from the military veterans? Mr. Obang’s reasoning seems to me that he does not like those people who struggled to change the feudal, bureaucratic and the imperial (both socialist and capitalist) systems. Mr. Obang should focus on his pastor Christians not meddling in politics, economics, sociology, engineering etc. etc. Or is there something Mr. Obang is after. Let us hear from his side, particularly we want to know how Mr. Obang Metho understands the word Debtera least to know the whereabouts of DEBTERAW.

I hope the professor will read the following article, which might help him to connect the past to the future. The article is on the nature of Ethiopian marathon of political struggle in the hope that Mr. Obang might revise his nominations for political power or abstains from it.






This article was written on the eve of the London talk before the TPLF and the EPLF were handed or assumed political power. It was submitted to IMBLTA magazine but the editors never published it. Some revisions have been made to reflect to the current condition.

It is to be recalled that the Imblta groups were advocating that democracy was a fait accompli with the coming of EPLF and TPLF. Currently the then editors of Imblta have become president of Addis Ababa University and the ambassador of the Ethiopia to the United States of America. With their appointments, democracy is halted. Indeed a fait a accompli! This is a lesson for Mr. Obang and others. The Imblta group was minority in the community of Ethiopian intellectuals and they could not bring justice but injustice.

Demo a fait accompli too?

Points of Departure: Myth/Reality

  • Zonal habitation – occupational territory

  • Multinational – museum of people

  • Oldest nation – first man’s settlement

  • Christian Island – tolerance of religion

  • Colonialism – Democratization

Societal Change: The means justifies the end

  • Coup d’etat (classical style)

  • Insurrection (Russian/French style)

  • Protracted War (Chinese style)

  • Rose/velvet/yellow/Ginbot 7 Revolutions (untested style)

  • DEMOCRACIA (Ethiopian style)

The new World Order: The end justifies the means

  • Truth

  • Faith

  • Peace

  • Democracy

  • Prosperity

Concluding Remarks




Demo a fait accompli too?


Without comparison to make, the mind does not know how to proceed

Alexis de Tocqueville


Nothing is more common these days than the idea that the people living in Ethiopia are eminently sane given the fact that a great number of individuals in the midst suffered from severe form of hunger, revenge and desperation. Is this because of AEthiopian societies have become politically conscious as a result of their bitter struggle for revolutionary change or because of their human conscience deeply rooted in their long history and culture (²`)?

For whatever reason, the Ethiopian societies have proven themselves in a time-honored manner to be saner than was expected of them. Some displayed extreme discipline for not fighting over the distribution of food aid, a probable result of a philosophy deeply ingrained in ‘man does not live by bread alone’. Others showed mercy for not shooting their fellow men. Further, the soldiers turned their guns against their rulers who became unruly arrogant. In short, the AEthiopian populace showed restraint and magnanimity towards their fellow men. To the present day, all acts of provocation of ethnicity, regionalism or religiosity are being rejected.

In this article, an attempt will be made as to how AEthiopian intellectuals, particularly Revolutionaries, have theorized to seize political power. After all it is in the area of politics and economics that the AEthiopian people need clarification, as they are well aware of their cultural, historical, linguistic and religious differences.

Points of Departure: Myth/Reality

AEthiopians because of their heavy dependence on oral tradition have been subjected to oral myth/reality syndrome, particularly since the onset of the revolution. Many points of departure prominent among them are an issue of colonialism vis-à-vis democratization. As a result individuals and groups have varied facts and opinions on the following issues:

  1. That AEthiopian society live in three distinct zones of climate, DEGA (2400 m above sea level), WEINA (1700-2400 a.s.l.) KOLA (below 1700 m a.s.l.)

  2. That their country is inhabited by many nationalities making it a museum of people

  3. That their society is as old as the Bible dating back to the creation of AE (Adam-Eve)

  4. That their country is a Christian Island surrounded by Islam making it a nation of religious tolerance.

  5. That an alien concept of colonialism and national self-determination has deeply wounded them.

For the common people of Ethiopia, the above points are simply a matter of observation and belief. However, on the part of the intellectuals, the above assertions require thorough research and study especially the fifth dimension of colonialism and self-determination.

What about the émigrés intellectuals at large? Why do we keep repeating social blunder? Is it because of a false step (faux pas) in the idea of progress that is implicit in the myth of the left – which feeds on the idea of a continuous movement or is it because the new world order including its philosophy is in catastrophe?

Was Ethiopia a nation of immigrants melted in a traditional way? Is it as old as Japan and Iran? If so could it have been as rich as Japan or as independent as Iran? Or is AEthiopia as old as any African country? Do AEthiopian people live along religious lines or climatic zones? Without fully answering these questions can we be so sure that by claiming part of these societies we are not deceiving ourselves? It is therefore unnecessary and unwarranted for the intellectuals to try to conclude about the myth/reality of AEthiopia before they can answer the previous questions satisfactorily.

Many a neurotic believes that his/her compulsive rituals, or his hysterical outbursts are normal reactions to somewhat abnormal circumstances that occurred in Ethiopia. How do we view ourselves? Have we shown any wisdom in keeping the equilibrium of Ethiopia? The balance between politics and religion; between names and address; between transport and communication and the marathon and sprint and of myth/reality is still hanging on a tight rope.

Broadly, the intellectuals are of two kinds: One group is that which follows the wish of the people and the other which became if not inconsiderate of its peoples’ misery and its country’s degradation, at least, inconsistent with its actions.

For fifty years now, our intellectuals have seem to be saying “give us problems, we can create enemies”. Without knowing what AEthiopians actually want, or what is essential to them; whether it is money-sex-pride; whether psychoanalysis or Marxism: whether to live individually or collectively, our intellectuals’ chose categorically either of Marxism or confusion.

Why? Daily humiliation of the colonized Eritrean, Oromian, Somalian or Tigrian, his/her objective subjugation is not merely economic. Even the poorest colonizer thought himself to be – and actually was superior to the colonized? That too is part of the colonial privilege. May be this is true, but isn’t the motivating force of the colonization economic? Deprivations of the colonized are the direct result of the advantages secured to the colonizer. The Eritrean, the Oromian, the Somalian and the Tigrian nationalist have all claims that colonial privilege is not solely economic. However, EPRP has taught tirelessly the difference between oppression and exploitation.

SOCIETAL CHANGE: The means justifies the end

At the onset of the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974, by and large, the majority of Ethiopians aspired for a societal change, perhaps for a revolutionary one. This can be testified by the fact that only few people stood by the side of the collapsing Imperial rule. It is safe to assume therefore, that the majority of AEthiopians had supported the revolutionary change. What fascinated me most was the line-up of the domestic forces, organizations in overt and covert forms to follow the direction and instructions of DEBTERAW’s DEMOCRACIA calling for a REVOLUTION and the present outcome of the effort for a second round of change.

What are revolutions and why do they occur? Why do some succeed and others fail? Are they necessarily violent upheavals, or can there be non-violent revolutions? Why do people rebel? What motivates them to risk their lives for such a cause? For centuries, the main question in revolution has perplexed social scientists, philosophers and even rulers. No one can answer these questions satisfactorily. A revolution may succeed or fail-the emphasis is on the effort – on the part of the revolutionaries and may choose as its object of a political/social transformation, or simply a change of rulers.

Perhaps the most useful definition of it is that which combines questions of success, violence and the object of revolutionary change.” A revolution is any attempt by subordinate groups through the use of violence to bring about (1) a change of government or its policy (2) a change of regime, or (3) a change of society, whether this attempt is justified by reference to past conditions or to an as yet unattained future ideal.”

What then, is a revolution in the AEthiopian context? The AEthiopian Revolution is a mixture of all three and it has both a success and a failure story. It was not only purposive but also developed ideological justifications and invariably entailed violence. Although the outcomes are not yet documented, the anti-feudalistic rule as reflected in the “land to the tiller” and the bureaucratic rule as portrayed in the “Amharanization” process seem to be over. The socio-economic inequality as proclaimed in the fight against “both imperialist” has yet to be redefined.

The national/nationalities question was ill conceived and poorly debated. Most of us were inclined towards optimism that once our people are enlightened (agitated), the natural order of things would assert itself. That is, the old tradition, prejudice and fanaticism that were prevalent in Ethiopia would be put aside. The problem was how to enlighten (inform), organize and arm the Ethiopian nationals/nationalities.

It is in this process of politics/economics (T”nƒ& TÅ^˃ ン“ TcÖp mankat, mastatek ena mastatek) that AEthiopian intellectuals have failed to spell out to the Ethiopian people. Political/social transformation or a simple change of ruler was at the cornerstone of each struggle. Undeniably though, all agents of change have adopted the three classical (historical) method of taking power by means of: –

  1. Coup d’etat

  2. Insurrection and

  3. Protracted war

  4. Ginbot 7

I will deal with each of them in the manner of my observation, experience and judgment.

Coup d’etat (Sð”pK S”Ócƒ mefenkle mengst)

A coup d’etat is an attempt to change a government by a sudden attack against the actual machinery of administration. Under proper condition, a comparatively small number of determined men can capture the state. It is for men who could never hope to raise or equip armies for a civil war, or with no chance of calling forth or controlling the wave of a revolution. Normally, a coup d’etat is considered in three stages; the preparatory stage; the attack phase and the consolidation phase. The preparatory phase begins with the first tentative plotting against the existing regime and continues until the first shot is fired on the day of the coup. The attack phase, beginning with that of the first shot, lasts until the old government has been overthrown and the new one installed. After the violence of the coup is over, the consolidation phase continues until the rebel regime is firmly established in power, with its opponents neutralized and the country pacified. A classical example of a coup in Ethiopia was the attempt to topple the imperial rule by the Neway brothers during December 1960.

We have witnessed many coup d’etat plots initiated from within and outside of Ethiopia. Ethiopian repressive circumstance forced the leading conspirators to plan and exile, but there were also many disadvantages to this. The coup d’etat émigré leaders of Ethiopia have drifted out of touch with political realities in Ethiopia and so miss the moment of opportunity. It is also true that when leaders are separated from their followers by national and international boundaries, problem of liaison and communication often became acute, effective control is hared to maintain, and the intelligence available to them is usually out-of-touch. Another failure of our émigré leadership is that friction and jealousies have developed between those who break the dangers of underground work at home and those who live in the comparative comfort and safety of exile. Even though, a coup possesses decisive advantage over the civil war and revolution, in the Ethiopian case it did not succeed (though some sources have registered three successful coups in Ethiopia. Could the source of failure emanated from the Ethiopian proverb Ñ<M‰ u=kÁ¾` ¨Ø ›Á×õØU (gultcha bikeyaer wet ayataftim). I.e. the use of different ovens will not change the taste of food.

As the peak of the Revolution, there was a story of the DERG’s dream that it wished that all Ethiopians functioned via a unitary throat so as to chop easily with its “Revolutionary Sword” when the need arises. All those who hope to overthrow a government by a sudden violence of coup d’etat may take this dream for a motto. The techniques of a coup d’etat is not new, it is as old as government itself. It seemed not to work in the Ethiopian societies though despite its unpopularity there are some people residing abroad willing to initiate and perpetuate it.

Insurrection (u¯Sî am’ez)

The second type of taking power is through insurrection. It is a rapid mobilization of military force, accompanied by mass action. The Paris Commune and the Russian Revolution of 1917 usually epitomize it. This is different from a coup d’etat in which a select and restricted band of conspirators seize power without mass participation. In the Ethiopian case, insurrection has never taken place despite some people’s claim of EPRP’s brief attempt of it so as to supplement to its guerrilla rural warfare. What about TPLF’s power taking in Addis Ababa? Could it be classified as insurrection or a coup d’etat or what?

Urban guerrilla war is possible only if the strength of the establishment has deteriorated to the point where armed bands can move about in the city. Such a state of affairs has occurred only on very rare occasions and it has never lasted for any length of time, leading within a few days either to the victory of insurgents or the incumbents. A normal use of “urban guerrilla” is a euphemism for urban terrorism, which has a negative public relations image. Because of this, EPRP always advised its members to dissociate themselves from “traditional terrorism” although a few fringe groups openly advocated terrorism solely against their true enemies. True urban terrorism can undermine a weak government, or even act as a catalyst of a general insurgency but it is not an instrument for the seizure of power. Urban terrorists cannot normally establish “ liberated zones”, their operations may catch headlines but they cannot conduct mass propaganda nor build up a political organization. Despite the fact that modern society has become more vulnerable than in the past to attacks and disruptions of this kind, urban terrorism is politically ineffective except when carried out in the framework of the overall strategy of a political movement, usually sectarian or separatist in character, within an already existing mass basis.

It is believed that EPRP unlike many other guerrilla movements did not regard itself as urban guerrillas; its assassinations were largely symbolic acts of “punishment” meted out to individual members of the forces of oppression – they were not usually part of an overall strategy.

Initially EPLF and TPLF guerrilla operations were mainly directed against the armed forces of the enemy and the security services, as well as installations of strategic importance. At a later stage, however, modern urban terror became less discriminate in the choice of its targets. Operations such as bank robberies, hijacking, kidnapping, and of course, assassinations were expected to create a general climate of insecurity. Such actions were always carried out by small groups of EPLF/EPRDF people; EPLF and EPRDF units of an urban guerrilla groups could not grow beyond a certain limit as the risk of detection increased with the growth in numbers.

Protracted Armed Struggle (¾}^²S ¾ƒØp ƒÓM yeterazeme ye’ttk tigl)

The methodology applied to usurp political power in almost all Ethiopian cases was through a protracted armed struggle. Their basis of claim, however, was radically different from each other.

EPLF has waged protracted war on the basis of a ‘colonial theory’.

TPLF is waging wars for power on the theory of ‘ethno-nationalism’

EPRP is struggling for politics on the theory of ‘multinationalism’

OLF is waging war for democracy on the theory of ‘ethno-colonialism’

Guerrilla warfare has consistently been the choice of the weak that oppose the strong, for it enables them to avoid direct decisive confrontations and rely on harassment and surprise. It is different though in that it is a military tactic aimed at harassing an adversary, whereas revolutionary war is a military means whereby to overthrow a political regime.

In revolutionary war any guerrilla action that needs explaining to the people is politically useless; it should be meaningful and convincing by itself. To kill an ordinary soldier in reprisal for the assassination of guerrilla is to descend to the same political level as a reactionary army. Far better is to create a martyr and thereby attract mass sympathy than to lose or neutralize popular support by senseless killings without an evident political goal. To be victorious in a peoples’ war one has to act in conformity with the interests, sentiments and will of the people. A military victory is worthless if it fails to be politically convincing. Only time will tell whether the Ethipian Fronts have played their cards well.

Following are some of the tenets that I believe were used in their guidelines, which perhaps have heavily influenced them in their struggle to bring a societal change in Ethiopia.

  • “The object of war is to preserve oneself and annihilate the enemy” as preached by Mao Zedong and practiced by EPLF

  • “The Chinese communist party claimed to power through its military arm, political power grows out of the barrel of the gun” as practiced by TPLF

  • “ We must emphasize politics. Our army is an army in the service of politics and politics must guide the military in its day to day work” as preached by Lin Piao and practiced by EPRP

  • “ A hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the best of the best; the best of the best is to subdue the enemy without having to fight” Chinese proverb as practiced by OLF.

  • Let us demonstrate to the world and seize political power as has happened during the Soviet collapse (Kinjit style)

On the basis of these strategies of struggle for liberation and the means to achieve their objectives, which one is the right choice for AEthiopia and AEthiopians? The reader should take a pick and discuss its merits and demerits as for me; DEBTERAW’s EPRP was the right path.

Many readers will raise their eyebrow because so far EPRP has failed to seize political power. But the fact of the matter is that tactical victory is not equal to strategic defeat. The tactical victory in AEthiopia is kept by the use of combatants instead of peacekeepers.

The new world order: The end justifies the means

The majority of Ethiopian revolutionaries had emphasized on the means of a struggle rather than on the end. Even the DERG initially had accepted the motto (ÁKU”U ÅU ßq“ è<ÅU yale m’n’m dem chikona ywdem). But it proved futile that it resorted to the end product rather than the means. Is it not true that we greet one another by saying( cLU peace)? It may show that we love peace. Somebody has to come up with an insight why we love peace in words but not in deeds. The catchword these days is peace. The choice between the gun and the platform must be spelled out. War does not end unless it immediately follows by communication and dialogue. May be the bridge of Gambella will help provided that Ato Obang is wise to incorporate the number 13 in his quest for political power.

Unlike many AEthiopian understandings, politics at its best is a civilized activity. Politics can preserve the peace, protect human rights, advance economic well being and encourage excellence in the arts and science. Politics at its worst though, leads to war, tyranny, economic ruin and barbarism particularly for those on the losing side of the struggle for power. No one should assume that EPRP is a loser. EPRP was and is on the side of justice be it for Anuak, Darfur or Agame.

Politics according to EPRP is a process, within or among political communities whereby Ethiopian

  • Values are articulated, debated, and prescribed.

  • Diverse political actors as individuals, interest groups, regional or local governments cooperate and struggle for power in order to protect their fundamental interest and advance their personal desires and

  • To advance public policy for the entire national interest of a nation called AEthiopia.

The history of EPRP according to DEBTERAW, as written in DEMOCRACIA is as follows: –

  • To identify the problem and pick the question to be solved

  • EPRP’s main questions were political injustice and poverty

  • Identify the necessary conditions of justice and prosperity

  • EPRP had/has a target to shoot and a goal to achieve

  • EPRP made a conscious choice to adopt DEMOCRACIA

DEMOCRACIA, according to DEBTERAW, is the government of the poor and the free. The choice of EPRP was a polity of democracy from the beginning while others had/have a choice to by lead by one Monarchy or a Tyranny, by a few Aristocracy or Oligarchy. Everyone and everybody should have a choice in promoting his ideas but to have ideas one has to be free to be creative. In Ethiopia, there were and are still killers of ideas. The new world order cannot be new to EPRP. Checking in hindsight and foresight, it is of paramount importance to consolidate the search for DEBTERAW’s whereabouts because with him lies justice for all including for the Anuaks.

Concluding Remarks

In the past, nationalism, ideology, ethnic had dominated the life history of AEthiopians. Today in the global strife, we seem to be lost in the rank of prioritizing to listen to or to follow the Priest-Evangelist-Imam-Rabbi (PIER) teachings. What an aberration? What has happened to the leaders and managers of the Eway Revolution?


For comments and critics

A+E = Ethiopia plus Eritrea (›?)

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