A misplaced advice as ‘the other-side of the Ginbot 20 celebrations’

[By Fetsum Berhane]

I accidentally came across an article is titled “Celebrating Ginbot 20: Two Sides of the Same Storywhich is in-fact presents one side of the story – the losers’ side. If it was written by one of those extremist “intellectuals” in the Ethiopian diaspora, I would have forgotten about it by now. But it was published on Ezega.com and the author, Seble Teweldebirhan, as her photo hints, is a young woman whom by default expects not to carry ideological or emotional baggage, well…at-least an ideological baggage. Therefore, I found it necessary to reply.

The author amazingly says “it is always possible to argue that Dergue as a regime followed a wrong path that might have endangered the country and its people”. I thought that is not a “possible argument” but a fact confirmed by bloods of innocent Ethiopians and even by the recently pardoned top Dergue officials. Well, maybe the author is not yet convinced.

I concur that the presentations of those narrations of May 28 can be made less painful to some by simple editing of gruesome graphic details of the war, since it also doesn’t serve the purpose of commemoration of the victory and the remembrance of the martyrs. However, this is far from the demand of “Let’s forget the past history and move on”. That sounds good if it was not used selectively. To quote Nelson Mandela “Not passing history to the next generation is not only foolishness but a crime…..We forgive but we won’t forget”.

The author claimed “the Dergue soldiers were…who either believed they were defending their country from destruction or they didn’t have a choice in the matter except to do what they were told to do“. I believe both statements are valid but are only the half truth. If the author cared a little bit to look into “the other side of the story”, if she took the trouble of talking to those who were raped, tortured and killed by those soldiers; she would have found that the crimes committed by the soldiers in Tigray, Eritrea, Gondar….. hardly fit the picture of patriotic soldiers. No adult solider in his right mind find it hard to know the difference between defending a country from “thugs” and committing crime against civilians who happen to be his fellow countrymen/women. In-fact they were clearly told by their “decisive” leader Mengistu that the “final solution” (remember Adolf Eichmann?) was “in order to kill the fish, we have to dry the sea”. I think the author won’t fail to understand the meaning this. That’s why many abandoned the army and some joined EPRDF forces. Yet, I sympathize for those who were victims of Dergue’s deceitful nationalist propaganda.

I couldn’t overlook the author’s use of the word “claims” every-time she mentions EPRDF’s victory’s while she writes in certainty when talking about the ‘innocence’ of Dergue soldiers. Isn’t the war a recent history? Is 20 years that far to find historical records and living witnesses to be sure of the winners and losers of battles? If that is the case, I won’t be amazed if I find an Italian article calling the battle of Adwa and Dogali as “the place where Ethiopians claim to have smashed the backbone of Italians”. It is History 2.0, take your take.

What showed me the author’s real bias is the fact that she is so used to thinking that EPRDF is synonymous with TPLF that she couldn’t even notice writing TPLF when the theme of her article was 20th anniversary of EPRDF’s victory (Ginbot 20) and not TPLF’s birthday (Yekatit 11). What would the author think the mothers and sisters of those other Ethiopians who fought under the banner of ANDM, OPDO and SEPDEM feel when they read this article only to find out that the author didn’t not care enough to include them in the “one side of the story”? I do not wish to inquire why the author singled out TPLF instead of EPRDF, since I don’t have sufficient information to speculate on her motives and orientations.

Unfortunately, the author dashed my faint hope that it was a genuine ignorance when she quoted some writer trying to make a joke of the remembrance of tens of thousands of young Ethiopians who died for her freedom to write even mocking them. I can’t call that insensitivity, it seems far beyond that.

Let me try to help her understand that her final statement that – EPRDF is obsssed with the victory and the celebrations should be stopped – is utterly misplaced.

The winners, the Ethiopian people and EPRDF, are not ‘obsessed’ with their victory over Dergue at all, in-fact they have “moved on” to fighting another stronger enemy, poverty, and if you wish to see it, they are gaining more ground day by day. While doing that, they will continue to remember those brothers and sisters who selflessly gave their life to the same goal. Moreover, We cannot fail to honor the bravery and sacrifices that made Ginbot 20 reality, just because there were Ethiopians on the wrong side of history.

I hope I will not read another article from the author about “the other side of the Adwa victory” that suggests halting its celebrations as there were Ethiopians who collaborated with Italy.


The writer, Fetsum Berhane, is an Economist, currently engaged in research and an IGO. He can be reached at [email protected]

Fetsum Berhane is an Ethiopian resident, economist researcher and a blogger on HornAffairs.