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Monday, February 13, 2006

Message to the Youth

(By Golto Aila)

If you are an Ethiopian under forty, you probably don’t recall much of Emperor Haile Silasie’s reign. You will have lived under dictatorial rule for all your adult life, or you may have run away from your country to live in peace somewhere else. Even though you are thousands of miles away from all the turmoil , you are still restless; for you are mindful of the terrible life your loved ones whom you left behind go through day in and day out. you are physically in a free country, yet remain a prisoner in your innermost core.

If you are in your mid to late teens, you are most likely preoccupied with avoiding pit falls of an ever expanding net which has been cast to trap a youth like you. A trap set by your own government whose job it was to provide you with opportunities for your future success. Unlike the past, it is not the white man that is trying to enslave you but your own government, which considers your very presence a threat to its existence. Instead of nurturing you, protecting you, and strengthening you, your government is eliminating, imprisoning and undermining you. You have lost parents, siblings and friends.

History books tell you wonderful stories about your country’s glorious past and its old civilization. While all this knowledge fills you up with pride, the reality you are in makes it impossible for you to relate. Your country is blessed with natural resources, yet it is perennially begging for food.

Man’s selfish and primitive desire to dominate others through impoverishment, has led Ethiopia down a slippery slop it finds itself in today. Ethnic based regionalism: uses the old “divide and rule” tactic implemented by the colonial rulers, under the guise of providing development and cultural tolerance. Diversity which in a healthy society is a sign of strength, has been used to weaken our country, for a selfish, myopic and short- lived objectives.

These are the pitfalls my generation has fallen prey to, but you the hope of our new Ethiopia, must avoid at all cost:

· Ethnocentric jingoism
· Intolerance for political dissent
· Cultural insensitivity
The current TPLF Government has shown it will not hesitate to use ethnicity as a tool to advance its narrow political agenda. Even if it negatively affects the constituencies it purports to represent or the country as a whole. Ethnocentric views are not only tolerated but also encouraged, because the longer the divide between the people, the longer TPLF stays in power.

The most persistent pernicious problem in Ethiopian politics is the fact that opposition is not tolerated. Expressions of opposing views are taken as an insult. Differences in political opinions are taken personally and interpreted as a commentary on the person rather than a repudiation of an idea. Expression of opposing view points is the strength of civilized and progressive people. The western world is what it is today because of the freedom to express one’s views. It is the height of ignorance that leads to rejection of this ingredient needed for social and political advancement.

For the sake of your generation and the generations to follow, stand up and be counted. You must change the paradigm of Ethiopian Politics. Vow to create something new today, while you have your youth, your vitality; your prodigious imagination and daring. Then you can look back with pride at what you have accomplished for posterity. Today’s generation is looking at a waste land which looks unrecognizable by the day. It’s unbearable to watch what is unfolding. Promise yourself not to let this be your fate in the coming years.

Organize, mobilize, create a forum that facilitates exchange of ideas, learn your history with all the good plus the bad and progress forward. Be active politically and support the organizations which are committed to a unitary Ethiopia. Be culturally sensitive. For the sake of yourself and your Ethiopia, avoid idiotic notions of ethnocentrism; avoid the jokes, the fables and sayings that purport the superiority of one over the other. While you’re at it, don’t forget your Eritrean brethren who are victims like yourself. Construct the image of the new Ethiopia first in your imagination and then work towards that dream in unity and tolerance.