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Asking ‘Why’ in the land of ‘No Way’
Only Boethius – that Roman philosopher of fickle fate and the
vicissitudes of fortune – could have consoled a puny man in
Ethiopia, who woke up to the malignancy of fate on the first week of
Boethius sat at the pinnacles of power in
before treachery brought him down. Accused of treason, he was
imprisoned and horrifically executed within a year of his downfall.
But, not before he wrote “The Consolation of Philosophy”, a
monologue between himself and “Lady Philosophy” in which he recounts
his experience. The allegorical Lady consoles the fallen consul of
the Ostrogothic king – the Master of Italy – by “discussing the
transitory nature of fame and fortune, and the ultimate superiority
of things of the mind”; the gist of her counsel being do good when
you can, never trust fate.
will answer for the crimes I have committed. … But, why my family? …
Why? What have they done? …what kind of a country are we turning out
words of a man with a name difficult to pronounce: Gabrewahed
Gabrewahed was the feared Deputy Director-General of Ethiopian
Revenue and Customs Authority. He was also something more relevant
to this discussion. Gabrewahed was the political “advisor” of
successive Presidents of Somali Regional State of Ethiopia in late
1990s and early 2000s, before he was given more enriching portfolios
in the Federal Government. An advisor in name, a decider in deed,
Gabrewahed was the mentor and the political God-father of many of
today’s young stooges in the region.
Gabrewahed was arrested on 12 May 2013 in
Addis Ababa, as part of a highly publicized
crackdown on corruption. A week later, Ethiopian TV reported that
Gabrewahed’s wife – a certain Colonel Haimanot – was arrested for
obstruction of justice. The TV alleged that she was apprehended
while trying to hide or destroy incriminating evidence. It displayed
caches of local and foreign currencies and bags full of land title
deeds and ownership certificates of building complexes, which it
said were exhibits on the move to safe houses.
the rotating wheels of fate indifferently pushed Gabrewahed from the
cliffs of absolute power – acquired on account of affinity and
lineage association to the Palace and the ruling tribe – and threw
him down headlong to the forbidding prisons of Addis Ababa, the
tumbling man rediscovered vocabulary which he has not known nor used
for decades. He asks ‘why’! He remembers ‘why’, in a land that
has long suspended the use of this word; among people who have long
erased questions of reason from their daily language.
This immanent amnesia of abusers of power invokes the words of the
thoughtful George Steiner.
“Grammars of Creation”, Steiner posits that “when barbarism
becomes so domesticated, it can only change our language for the
worse”. Steiner highlights the example of a thirsty prisoner in one
of the death-camps of Nazi Germany, who having watched his torturer
pouring water on the floor asks, “ why are you doing this?”, only to
be told “ there is no ‘why’ here’.
There is no ‘why’ in Ethiopia. There
has not been ‘why’ for a long, a long time. Enveloping and erratic
fate has finally woken Gabrewahed – a mere rider of this malignant
wayfarer – to the real master of life’s ebb and flow. It is not Ethiopia that changed. It is
Gabrewahed’s circumstances that changed irreversibly. Fate has
uncaringly turned its wheels, in the process taking one more man
down, lifting some others up.
Otherwise, Ethiopia is the
same country. The rules of the game are intact. The status quo has
not vanished. TPLF’s
is not evolving into a monster that is has not been before. It
remains a land where injustice and oppression reign. It is a country
where the proverbial enigma of “suffering good men and successful
bad men, ironically in a world overseen by God” is lived every day.
It is not a different Ethiopia. We are
living in the same Ethiopia Gabrewahed’s TPLF built. We are living
in the same
where the medieval rule of vicarious liability applies in the 21st
century; a country where one is hanged for the real or perceived
crimes of his kin.
Only a series of equally poignant ‘whys’ can answer Gabrewahed’s
tragic ‘why’, and his subsequent question ‘what kind of a country
are we turning out to be’.
Why were students who protested election results in Addis Ababa massacred on a broad daylight in
2005? Why did Professor Asrat Woldeys die in prison for speaking his
mind? Why have you, Gabrewahed, fired from their jobs through shoddy
‘evaluation sessions’ and ordered the arrest of men and women –
whose only crime was to be brothers or relatives of perceived
political opponents of the regime you served – in your prime days in
Somali Regional State of Ethiopia? Why were and are Ethiopian
Somalis, mainly from the Ogaden clan, killed? Why were and are
Ogaden women raped? Why is Sultan Fozi Ali Abdi rotting in
detention? Why is Bashir Dool suffering in a prison in a lifeless
village? Why is Abdi Bakool not seeing his children for once? Why
did the elderly Nadiir die in prison?
These and many other ‘whys’ will lead the distressed Gabrewahed, and
the wider terrified Ethiopian public, to the answers of the
ostensibly esoteric ‘whys’. These answers, will hopefully help us to
solve more substantive ‘Whys?’, which we – the oppressed people of Somali
State – grapple with every
is a psychopathic clown, anointed as our ‘leader’ and ‘king’, and is
arresting and killing our elders and intellectuals? Why are mad men
controlling the means of mental production through their control of
material production (resources), thereby sowing the seeds of moral
degeneration in our youth? What kind of a society will emerge when
social rejects shape society’s values? Why are rowdy children in
Palaces and the mature men in prisons?
are abusers of own people hailed as leaders by diaspora members of
the same people they abuse, while those who speak for the weak are
labeled malcontents? Why this inexplicable transposition of fates?
is every small road that gives a veneer of progress and economic
development being broadcasted, blown out of value and touted for
phenomenal notice, while the rampant atrocities and violations of
human rights in the Somali Region and the wider Ethiopia are not
covered by media and are not causing a global outcry?
what is wrong in Darfur is right in Somali (Ogaden) region? Why what is
good for the goose is bad for the gander?
do only guests, who come from far lands, like Asli Hassan Abade, see
good things in a house whose hosts swear is a hell? Why are some of
our elders and intellectuals turning into a modern-day Coriolanus –
the vengeful Roman warrior who vowed to destroy the same
Rome which nurtured and revered him, out of
hubris, out of foolhardy conceit? Could they not have departed
without deserting the cause they fought for so long? Why did they
discard the noble ideal of self-determination, or at least the
attainment of genuine autonomy? Why embrace puppet politics, simply
because you disagree with the strategy of a struggle? Why forfeit
communal aspirations to “address” failures of a liberation front?
do they glorify a petty thief and market him to his victims through
enforced endearment? Why speak loudly about the roads built but
remain silent about the violations of human rights? Why erase the
language of justice and dignity from our daily use and affectedly
recite grammars of ‘development’? Why give new and opposite meaning
to old words? Why make ‘peace’ a subterfuge for submission? Why make
‘struggle’ synonymous with confusion and delusion?
Even more frustrating, why do our liberation leaders cling to
doctrinite politics – a politics dictated by inert conviction, not
by realism and attendant flexibility in policy and strategy?
too, have many unanswered ‘whys’.
are equally confused, Gabre.