Peaceful and Armed Struggles: They Are Not Necessarily and Mutually Exclusive or Inclusive
This very brief commentary of mine is just to reflect a few points of view on the question of peaceful or armed struggle as methods of achieving a political goal set by opposition force (s) in Ethiopia. In other words, the very challenging question is whether to apply peaceful or armed; or the combination of the two based on a given internal political reality, and external circumstance. Needless to say, this had been and continues to be an unavoidable challenge in a country like ours which has never experienced a political transformation characterized by a well- thought, well-planned, well-organized and persistent popular uprising and disobedience in line with the fulfillment of the interests of the general public. Let me make clear myself here that it is neither my interest nor intention to discuss this very deep and complex subject matter in length. But I strongly believe that it would be great if intellectuals and other genuinely concerned Ethiopians could come forward with their own critical views and solution-oriented recommendations, and help the people how to deal with this seemingly very argumentative issue.
I sincerely believe that we should be seriously concerned about our tendency of approaching the question of which method of political struggle should we apply in a very categorically defined fashion. In other words, the argument of either exclusiveness or inclusiveness is not only undesirable but it is also distractive as far as the huge and deep political challenge we are facing is concerned.
Although raising the question of how to approach a given political struggle that aims at the realization of a democratic political system has never been uncommon, its intensity and urgency varies from time to time, and from situation to situation. Because of our political culture which is characterized by mere inheritance, conspiracy within royal families and a bloody fight between or among groups (civil war), we are not yet fortunate enough to listen to each other’s arguments and counter- arguments in such a way that our differences on using not the same tactics or methods should not hamper our journey toward the same goal.
I strongly believe that it is absolutely necessary to seriously consider the pros and cons (advantages and disadvantages) of a given method of getting the goals and strategies we set accomplished in a real sense of constructive way of doing things. In other words, it is imperative to make sure that the methods being used by various political groupings which are engaged in the struggle for the realization of a truly democratic society complement each other in pursuing for mutually respectful and shared prosperity. Is this line of thinking as easy as anything? Absolutely not! And this is mainly because of our political history which has been and still is characterized either by very deceptive monarchial rulers or get it at a bloody gunpoint. And this very unfortunate political culture of ours has a lot of to do with the argument that it is peaceful resistance not armed struggle that is ideal to bring about sustainable democratic change. Yes, there is no doubt peaceful public disobedience is so desirable. The very challenging issue is when it comes to the question of what kind of ruling power we face – with a sense of civility and responsibility or otherwise? How the people are ready and determined to pay the sacrifices required forcing the brutal responses by the ruling elite even in the process of peaceful struggle; how various opposition political forces are willing and able to pull their efforts together and shake the balance of the existing political power? Are the foreign powers (governments) interested and courageous enough to abandon “their bad guys “and choosing people’s interests over dictatorial regimes? To my understanding, the responses to these and all other critical questions are not encouraging at all.
Unless we want to remain wishfully optimistic, it is very unwise to waste our energy and time by continuing arguments and counter arguments to the extent of condemning each other’s tactics applied to get the same goal done. I am not saying debating or arguing on the pros and cons of peaceful resistance and armed struggle or on how to effectively use both of them is a bad idea. What I am trying to say is that it is critically desirable to focus on how to make those methods of struggle vibrant forces toward achieving the same goal – the realization of genuine democratic society and fundamental human dignity. I understand that opposition political parties which are operating legally and pursuing peaceful resistance cannot openly recognize the use of armed struggle. I know very well that doing so is suicidal as far as the very behavior and practice of the illegitimate ruling circle is concerned. Yes, in a truly democratic system expressing one’s idea freely is a not only a political freedom but it is also fundamental human freedom. Sadly enough, it is a crime (terrorism) in our country, and we are witnessing the untold sufferings of innocent journalists and members /supporters of political opposition parties. But, I strongly believe that although it is suicidal for those political parties to openly recognize those political forces which believe in the use of both methods of struggle ,they should not undermine ,if not condemn each other .
I want to conclude my commentary by saying that as the news about” elections “have begun flying around, so is the argument on the question whether peaceful struggle is working or not. I sincerely believe that it is so desirable to treat this very unavoidable and critical part of the political struggle in a very meaningful and constructive manner. I finally want to mention that the approach by Dr. Negaso Gidada of UDJ/MEDREK is commendable from the perspective of those parties operating in Ethiopia under a very harsh political environment.
Folks, let’s engage ourselves in discussing and debating on big issues in a rational, critical and constructive fashion at this very critical moment of Ethiopian politics.