Today's exclusive guest is Taye Bogale, an author and history teacher. These days, Taye is at the forefront in advocating the virtues of Ethiopiawinet, unity and accountability. He passionately speaks for Ethiopian unity, fraternity, liberty, identity, dignity, nationality and authenticity.
The Ethiopian Herald made a short stay with him. Excerpts:
Herald: Since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has come to office a number of changes have been evident. Several people have also appreciated those changes witnessed as the result of the reform while a few people say the reform is not producing any fruits. Which opinion do you support? Or how do you view the reform?
Taye: Actually the reform has exhibited a very profound change in the political scenario, in the economic arena, in the social facades as well as in the cultural fabric of the lives of the Ethiopian society and eastern part of Africa at large.
As you already know, in the past 27 years in the so-called Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Party (EPRDF) regime, Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) led period, there were different sources of exploitation, marginalization and domination of a certain group. It was really a sort of monocracy during the period of late Meles Zenawi.
Monocracy refers to the rule of one person against others. All the others were amenable, submissive, and adaptable. In terms of economy, it was a sort of oligarchy. That means rule by few, few individuals. Actually, I can explicitly say a few individuals from Adwa, a town in Tigray State dominate not only the Ethiopian people as a whole but also ultimately the Tigrians themselves.
Secondly, there was a divide and rule way of administration particularly focusing on the people of Amhara and Oromo on one hand and dividing the Oromos themselves on the other. To cite a classic example, I was born and grown up in Negelle Borena, in the Guji zone. I am well aware that they deliberately divided the Borena and Guji on one part and Guji and Borena on the other part. One part is known as Borena - Guji zone and the other part is Guji - Borena zone.
In terms of federal administration, the Borenas ought to come under the same umbrella; likewise, the Gujis had to have their own sort of administration because both people have their own democratic Gadaa system. But the rulers deliberately split the people into two and that led to a sort of not only discrimination but also bloodshed between the two brothers who speak the same language and who share the same identity over the years.
Similarly, they divided Amhara people among Shewa, Gojam, Gondar and the like. And ultimately TPLF system cultivated hostility and animosity among the Ethiopian people. But since Megabit 2010 E.C., after the inauguration of Dr. Abiy Ahmed as a prime minister, there were significant changes. The first one was, during the Weyane period, the Oromia, the Amhara and different regions were administered by TPLF clique. The leaders in different regions were only nominal and puppets. They were made and unmade on the interest of TPLF.
Currently, however, the legislative, executive and judiciary organs in all regions function by their own merits without interference from the TPLF thugs.
The Somali, Afar, and different pastoralist peoples were labeled as people who were unable to shoulder revolutionary democracy and they were totally segregated, marginalized as well as outcast in the last 27 years. But currently, they become part and parcel of the system and were integrated as an integral part of EPRDF. This is a very significant change.
In addition, different media outlets were mushroomed to unearth their opinion without any limit until the recent political upheaval and turmoil that created the spilling of blood of innocent civilians and destruction of different towns. So in terms of economy, in terms of politics, in terms of culture and in all aspects, there is a very significant change. That is why, in my opinion, Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed had obtained a Nobel Peace Prize.
And there was mutual suspicion between Eritrea and Ethiopia. For 20 years, it was a total shutter no war and no peace situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea. This was totally alleviated by the active role of the prime minister in particular and prosperity party in general.
So, in short, in my opinion, there are changes but I have to underline that democracy is not a revolutionary process, it rather is evolution. So, it is very difficult and cumbersome to bring about democracy within a matter of two years because the Ethiopian politics for over a longer period of time was a subject of controversy among different politicians and scholars. Regardless of this, there is a very profound change since the introduction of the reform with all its limitations.
Q: As TPLF was professing it's implementing a federal system, were there fair distribution of resources and power?
Taye: Extreme corruption and contraband were rampant. A few number of individuals controlled not only the rein of power but also the economy of this country in Gambela, Benshangul Gumuz, Afar and Somali.
If you go from north to south, west to east, the people were in a sort of cast system. There were layers. There were upper groups known as TPLF while individuals from Oromo People Democratic Organization (OPDO) and Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) served only the interest of the TPLF who take the lion's share in the economy. Now, the current system of administration does not allow similar extreme corruption. It seems that economic progress is on the right track regardless of certain challenges.
Herald: Why do you think that TPLF focused on the two peoples: the Amhara and Oromos, to implement its "divide and rule" tactic?
Taye: Actually, as I said it was a sort of oligarchy, aristocracy or rule by few. They know very well that people may not accommodate their system. So, just as the British did during the Colonial Era, divide and rule mechanism was the ultimate tactic that they devised and implemented by creating animosity between these two peoples.
As you know England or Britain is an island but at the end of the 19th century they controlled 1/4th of the surface of the globe and boasted of their large empire stating that "The sun never sets over the British isles." Likewise, these weyane thugs (TPLF) ultimately focus on indirect or divide and rule policy for the sake of convenience of their own system at the expense of the Ethiopian peoples.
The Amhara and Oromo elites, who joined the party, were as I said initially submissive totally. They were running after their own belly than improving the people that they represent and they served as a watchdog or a lesion officer for TPLF than their own peoples.
But that does not mean that the Oromos and Amharas as well as different peoples simply sat and looked at the situations. They fought utmost gallantry with almighty and strength that God can give them.
But the TPLF-led government used a coercive force by organizing its own army known as Agazy as Hitler did during his reign. So, the problem is that there are individuals still now that run for their own belly, for their own advantage at the expense of their own peoples. And this is the main reason why they just dominate the reign of power for a longer period of time in the Ethiopian regions.
As you see intellectuals were labeled by different nicknames. For instance, the Amharas were considered as chauvinists; the Oromos as narrow nationalists; the southern peoples as people with an inferiority complex and loyal to the Amhara dynasty.
Amhara dynasty is their labeling. I don't agree with this. There is no dynasty in the name of people. In world history, there is the Hohenzollern dynasty in Germany, the Habsburg dynasty in Austria-Hungary, the Romanov dynasty in Russia and Solomonide or Solomonic dynasty in Ethiopia. But they deliberately labeled the past regimes as the Amhara dynasty, the Amhara rulers.
Herald: How do you see the teaching of the nation's history in the last 20 years? It seems that some historical facts have been perverted and they became a source of conflict as a result? Unlike other subjects, history does not have plasma transmission for high school students? Why?
Taye: Actually, in order to just argue, whether the historical facts during the last 27 years are plausible or not, it is important to see the ultimate objectives or the cardinal objectives of teaching history and the way it was implemented on the ground.
The ultimate objectives of teaching history are: first, by studying the past in order to vividly or clearly understand the present and to foresee or forecast the directions of future development. Secondly, it would enable us to play a vital role in politics, economics, social life, cultural life, religious life and the like. And thirdly, by studying history, we can develop ways of collecting data and processing that into information and finally to build it up into knowledge and reach into the level of self-actualization and wisdom.
There must not be interference from the government side in history. It has to be the ultimate or exclusive duty of historians to preserve the authentic history of the nation. Unfortunately, the governments did not allow that; not only the EPRDF but also the previous regimes were also interfering unnecessarily in the works of historical chroniclers.
There was no plasma program transmission of history lessons for the high school students while the other subjects had their own plasma transmission program. The main problem is on one hand, the government has no interest to appreciate history.
On the other hand, it was really a subject of controversy among scholars. There were divergent views. There are four different types of scholars as far as history is concerned. The first type of historians applauds for the existing government. They don't want to write any agonies of the government. They want to glorify that respective government. These historians dominated the arena.
Secondly, there are Marxist Leninist historians. TPLF by itself is a Marxist-Leninist party. And they consider history as a whole history of class struggle; the struggle between the oppressed and the oppressor ones; the exploited and the exploiters. As a result of this, they don't want to see history in its own right or merit.
The third ones are ethno nationalist historians. The ethnic nationalist historians from Amhara, Tigray and Oromo want to chant for their own respective group than the history of the 80 nationalities of Ethiopia. As a result, the students were not interested in joining the history department in Addis Ababa.
In addition, as you see for the last 27 years, there was only political history. There was not economic history, cultural history, and military history in the textbooks even the religious history is not treated per the line or the interest of the discipline.
Herald: Who must be responsible for all these distortions?
Taye: In my opinion, the lion's share relies on the government part because they impose their own will against the history of Ethiopia. Instead of allowing scholars to exercise their academic freedom, they interfere in the history and appraise their own interests. This is one of the major problems.
The other one is the scholars themselves lined towards this or that circle instead of serving the purpose of history; instead of focusing on the objectives of history. The objective of history is just to ameliorate or alleviate problems. But they add fuel to the burning fire of the problems. In other parts of the world, history is the major subject from primary to tertiary education.
Herald: What should be done to correct the perversions of facts? Is there a way to converge the divergent views so that the nation would trade a path to democracy?
Taye: In the first place let us put all our differences aside and focus on the subject matter and let us make a compromise. Compromise means accommodating others views and ideas without being overridden by our own dogmatic belief. My way or no-way should be avoided. They have to think in terms of 115 million people than their own circle. Whenever there are disagreements, why we do not learn the patterns of different countries? For instance, American history is also a subject of controversy; but through discussion, they solved their problems.
Whenever there are divergent views, we need to put them aside for a time being and we have to write first what is agreed by all the concerned parties.
Herald: Nowadays, people are engaged in conflicts based on an orally narrated history of their forefathers. People are being killed; property is being destroyed as a result of the orally transmitted history that narratives some group had committed the crime against the other? Do you think that there is a way to correct these problems by writing a reliable history based on authentic facts?
Taye: Actually for the purpose of peaceful coexistence, first we have to underscore that this generation has no involvement in all the past wrongs. The main problem that we have is our history highly relies on oral history because the society is oral. We can get written literature in the northern part of Ethiopia for some practical reasons.
So, my interest to ameliorate this problem is first, we have to come together and understand one other whenever there are divergent views. We have to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of putting the real or fabricated bloody history in the new generation's textbooks. The best remedy for these controversial issues is discussing on a round table with an open heart, with integrity and passion.
Herald: How do you see the current federal system of Ethiopia? Some people argue that there is no true federalism, unlike the last 27 years. How do you see their view?
Taye: There are actually three systems in the world; unitary, federal and confederation. Today, only 28 countries in the world follow a federal system of administration. The rest follow the unitary system of administration.
In the last 27 years, the so-called federal system was enacted. Practically, however, the system, in my opinion, was not really federal. In most parts of the country, many minority ethnicities were dominated by the majority ones or merged together. This is not geographic or ethnic federalism. There is no such sort of federalism in the history of the world.
Secondly, as I said earlier, the economy was totally dominated by TPLF. Almost all regions had no full right to administer their own resources without the decision of TPLF.
But after the inauguration of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy into office, we can argue that the legislative, executive and judiciary organs in Oromia State have started to work independently. For instance, there is no interference from the federal government on the Oromia's issue. Even a 10th region, Sidama, has recently come into existence. [Previously marginalized] states like Somali, Afar and others are also administering their own economy without any interference.
Herald: Following the resent conflict and unrest, the government has imprisoned some political leaders who were suspected of leading the conflict. Would this have any negative impact on the fledgling democracy of the nation?
Taye: Democracy has its own limitations. The government has allowed for these political actors to exercise their right of freedom of assembly, media and different democratic elements. In the context of the third world country, for instance, those political prisoners were allowed to say whatever they want. But, in this situation, because of a lack of democratic experience in this country, in both parties, the government and the opposition parties; the conditions went from bad to worse and tensions highly escalated.
Besides, there were some inflammatory expressions from the opposition party leaders and even some went to the extent of saying that 'We can overthrow the government'.
In order to sustain the state peacefully, the media has to work properly and the federal system has to be implemented efficiently, without the involvement of the federal government.
For instance, the budget has to be administered by the respective region. Each region has to utilize its own resources; thereby, the people would benefit according to their number, and different methods and the federal grant formula have to be exercised appropriately as well.
Herald: What would you suggest as a solution to the current problems?
Taye: The government has to be transparent because mutual suspicious are common these days. So, to alleviate this problem, transparency and accountability of the government is the most important thing. Everyone has also to act like a human being and respect the principles of their religions.