By Engidu Woldie,
In one of the largest political gatherings by Ethiopians in the Washington, DC area, the leader of Ethiopia’s struggle for freedom, Prof. Berhanu Nega, said the multifaceted sufferings faced by Ethiopians could only end when the people come together and launch a coordinated struggle against the corrupt and tyrannical regime.
In an impassioned speech often interrupted by applause and standing ovations, the chairman of the Patriotic Ginbot 7 Movement for Unity and Democracy, Prof. Berhanu Nega outlined the road map for the country to come out of the current state of social and political crises.
He warned Ethiopians that the regime in power could potentially disintegrate the country in its attempt to fight off resistance and hold on to power forever. He said Ethiopians need also to be ready to reconstruct their country after the fall of the minority regime.
The Professor said his party, Patriotic Ginbot 7, has now stands on a stronger foundation both at home and abroad. He told the gathering that the fight with the TPLF regime is on Ethiopian soil, not inside Eritrea, as some might misconceive.
Prof. Berhanu, who said the Eritrean government is providing strategic and other support to his group, underscored that there is no better country than Eritrea for Ethiopians to stage and base their struggle for freedom. The people of the two countries share common culture, climate, geography as well as long history; hence there is no better country than Eritrea, to work and prosper together in mutual respect and understanding, he said.
Unlike what naysayers believe, the government and people of Eritrea wish to see an Ethiopia that is democratic and a country that has reconciled with itself, resolving all its multi-faceted problems.
Prof. Berhanu also spoke at length on the ongoing protest by the people in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. He underscored that Ethiopians in other parts of the country should emulate and join the struggle.
“The demand by the people in the Oromia region of Ethiopia is not secession; their struggle is to stop the plunder of their land by the corrupt regime.” The struggle launched by the people of Oromia, he said, is laying a favorable situation for a wider struggle to free Ethiopia of the minority rule. He also said his group is in dialogue with members of the Oromo community and Oromo political groups to coordinate the struggle.
The root cause of the problem, he said, was the land tenure system that is currently in place where all land belongs to the government. The regime and its cronies use this land system to plunder the land and displace farmers and indigenous communities. The land plunder, he said was not limited to the Oromia region of Ethiopia. He mentioned the displacement of thousands of Ethiopians in Gambella, Afar and even in Tigray, a region where the minority regime claim to represent. He mentioned Gambella as a region that has seen the cruel hands of the regime more than any other region in the country.
To settle the problem of land in Ethiopia, Prof. Berhanu said, the country need a major policy change that should be formulated by a government that is elected by the people and a government that serve all people equally.
Speaking about the politics of ethnically dividing the people employed by the TPLF regime, the Professor said the strategy is now threatening the very survival of TPLF itself. He said a number of ethnic groups are now demanding self-administration and recognition for their identity, something that the regime would not and could not give a favorable response.
The regime came up with ethnic politics, not to give real rights to the people, but to divide and rule, he said. The question of self- administration is a democratic question, something that the regime could not resolve, considering the behavior of the regime in handling democratic rights in the country. The TPLF regime, he said is obsessed with absolute power which it utilizes for unbridled plunder of the country’s resources.
Prof. Berhanu said officials of the minority regime do not care for the sovereignty of the country as seen in their dealings with neighboring countries. He mentioned the huge tract of land that the regime is planning to giveaway to the Sudan. He said the only way to stop other countries taking Ethiopia’s land is to remove the minority regime from power and replace it with a popular government that would respect the territorial integrity of the country.
He said officials of the corrupt government are busy in internal strife as to who takes the lion’s share from the looted resources of the country. He characterizes the corrupt officials, in economic parlance, as bandits who transformed themselves from “stationary bandits” to that of “revolving bandits,” referring to the widespread looting of land, bribing, and nepotism, to mention few.
“Embezzlement on the one hand and posing as a developmental state on the other, when they couldn’t even finish a single project due to serious shortage of foreign currency, as a result of the widespread corruption.”
One of the issues that troubles him, the Professor said, is the indifference of the educated elite at a time when the country is in deep quagmire. “There is no other country that’s abandoned by the educated elites like Ethiopia,” he told the audience. “The struggle could not bring the desired result without the meaningful participation of the educated elite.” He said the educated elite should be part of the struggle instead of standing on the sideline when other Ethiopians are fighting to bring a democratic change.
In conclusion, he told the gathering that he had no doubt that he would come out victorious. “I don’t believe that evil will win, I am more Christian on this. Evil will be defeated.”
Prof. Berhanu left his teaching and research post at Bucknell University to lead his armed group based in Eritrea. A leading political figure and defender of rights, his former party the Coalition for Unity and Democracy won the 2005 election which the regime in power rigged.