My dream of Ethiopia at peace and her enemies in pieces


Author’s Note: Over the past week, the suspension of prosecution and release of certain high-profile individuals held over for trial has been a source of confusion, disappointment, incredulity, exasperation, acrimony, anger and outrage across communities in Ethiopia and in the diaspora.

Those objecting to the suspension and release offer various arguments:

The timing is wrong. Why now? Why on Ethiopian Genna (Christmas Day)? The legal procedure for the release of the individuals is unclear. Neither is their legal status given the fact “amnesty” and “pardon” have been used interchangeably in describing their release. The individuals should have gone through the trial process and granted reprieve after conviction.

There is a lack of transparency in the decision to release the individuals. The government should have prepared the public for a decision it should have known will be very controversial. The release of the individuals makes a travesty of their victims’ pain and suffering. The release sends the wrong message of impunity for criminal wrongdoing.

There must be legal accountability for those who commit crimes that have resulted in deaths and destruction of property. The release undermines confidence in the judicial system and criminal adjudication process. The release is based on improper political calculation which subordinates justice to expediency. The decision disregards intense public opinion for prosecution and undermines the rule of law. The decision was made to appease the West and reduce pressure.

And so on.

Given the nature of the criminal charges leveled against the individuals, I can certainly understand the range of emotions and views expressed from different segments of the Ethiopian community.

But I look at the government’s decision to suspend prosecution not from the layman’s point of view but from the perspective of a criminal defense lawyer with three decades of experience in American state and federal courts.

Resolution of criminal cases in the pretrial phase or even after trial has begun using a variety of procedural techniques is not unusual.

Indeed, there is a manual of U.S. “Principles of Federal Prosecution” which may appear to the lay person to be a complete travesty of justice. The fact of the matter is that 97 percent of all criminal cases (certainly in California) in the U.S. are resolved in plea agreements which may include suspension of prosecution or even non-prosecution where the government believes doing so serves a higher purpose. I also look at the suspension of prosecution from a broader political perspective.

In 2018, the Ethiopian government dropped charges and released more than 6 thousand individuals from pretrial detention and others convicted and serving time on serious allegations. Indeed, two individuals recently released by suspended prosecution were also released from prison in 2018. One prominent individual sentenced to death was also released in 2018.

The government sought to promote peace and harmony in society by releasing thousands of suspects and prisoners. I can certainly understand why people unfamiliar with the criminal law and the adjudicatory process are confused and disappointed.

While I appreciate and respect the views of those who wish to criticize the government for its acts and omissions in suspending prosecution and releasing suspects, I have decided to use the opportunity to share my dream of Ethiopia at peace at this critical moment in Ethiopia’s history.

As a “diaspora Ethiopian” who has fought relentlessly for democracy, human rights and peace in Ethiopia for over a decade and half with nothing more than my pen/laptop keyboard, I find it necessary to share my dreams for Ethiopia at peace with the people of Ethiopia.

I am in Ethiopia now. Over the past couple of weeks, I have talked casually to people in the street, cab drivers, shopkeepers and students at the university about what should and should not be done to make things better for all Ethiopians. I have also talked to professors and intellectuals, officials, soldiers and police officers, faith leaders, business leaders, diaspora Ethiopians and many others.

I have gone to the countryside and seen various major infrastructure projects underway and talked to the technical personnel managing the projects. I shall continue to speak to others.

One lesson I have learned from all my conversations, formal and informal, is that all of those I engaged wish to see Ethiopia at peace. Just like me!

In a series of commentaries to follow, I hope to contribute ideas that may prove helpful in transitioning Ethiopia from war to peace, strife to harmony and discord to unity. I believe in the maxim, “Ethiopian solutions for Ethiopian problems.”

I have full faith that Ethiopians can solve their problems and differences through genuine national dialogue and the ballot. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “With this faith [in dialogue among Ethiopians and the ballot], we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

Dreams of a “Utopian Ethiopian’s” Ethiopia at peace

I am a dreamer. Indeed, long ago I declared myself to be a “Utopian Ethiopian”. In my January 1, 2017, commentary, “Dare to Dream with Me about the New Ethiopia in 2017”, I said, “I dream of two things today. I dream of seeing the T-TPLF swept into the dustbin of history. I dream of a New Ethiopia, a truly democratic society at peace with itself, rising on the ash heap of the T-TPLF.”

In my January 9, 2012, commentary, “Africans Unite! Ethiopians Unite!”, I argued, “Each one of us must now take our own small steps for our Ethiopianity (humanity before ethnicity or nationality).”

Unity is the foundation of peace. A nation divided is a nation defeated, in decline and collapse. America is strong and powerful because it is the United States of America. But peace is becoming ever elusive in the United States of America.

The U.S. is as divided as it has been for at least 100 years. America today is divided between those with enormous wealth, prestige, intellect and power and an ever-growing underclass of the minority, the poor and dispossessed. A recent poll found that 54 percent of Americans “say the biggest threat to our way of life isn’t economic collapse, natural disasters or foreign invasions — but our own fellow Americans.”

America is so divided; a year ago a mob invaded the U.S. Congress to prevent a peaceful change of power. The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution today stands in shambles: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a perfect Union…” A house divided cannot stand is a Scriptural maxim.

Since the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) came to power in Ethiopia in 1991, the principal aim of its leaders has been to keep Ethiopia divided and weak. They created a so-called ethnic federalist system to institutionalize Ethiopia’s structural division. The TPLF managed to create an ethnic apartheid system in Ethiopia.

Truth be told, I have been dreaming of Ethiopia at peace for decades. My dreams of Ethiopia at peace have been so all-consuming; I even managed to have many imaginary conversations with Nelson Mandela who spent decades in prison to save South Africa from a racial apartheid system.

So, it should not be surprising that I should have imaginary conversations with Mandela on how to bring peace to a land sweltering under an ethnic apartheid system.

I reported one of those imaginary conversations with Mandela in my May 9, 2011, commentary. In my imaginary interview, I asked Mandela, “What is your dream for Africa and humanity in general?” He answered: Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another. If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.

Mandela was talking about South Africa after the end of the white minority apartheid government. When I asked Mandela that question, I was dreaming of a beautiful Ethiopia at peace after the overthrow of the TPLF and extinction of its toxic ethnic apartheid system in Ethiopia.

How ironic! In post-TPLF Ethiopia, we now stand at the edges of two roads that crisscross the country. One road runs from North to South and is called “Forgiveness”. The other one runs East to West and is called “Goodness”.

There is also a third well-travelled and well-trodden road that beckons called “Road to Perdition (Destruction)”, also known as “Endless War”. I have stood on the side of those two roads for decades watching, talking, reflecting and mulling. But I never walked the talk.

Why? I was scared. Goodness and forgiveness are frightening things. It is so much easier to hate, to exact vengeance and retribution. It gives so much momentary satisfaction and gratification. Sure, the letdown after the momentary ecstasy is unbearable. But my dreams of Ethiopia at peace have been dashed time and again by the nightmare of war, discord, ethnic conflict and strife.

In my July 22, 2012 commentary, “My Dreams of Ethiopia at Peace”, I argued my case with eerie prophetic vision:

Truth be told, we should be concerned about a nation that has been in intensive care and on life support for the past 21 years and beyond. We should pray for the healing, speedy recovery and well-being of Ethiopia. We should be searching high and low in our hearts, minds and souls for the best medication to heal Ethiopia from the cancer of tyranny and dictatorship and the pathology of hate and narrow-mindedness. We should work tirelessly to detoxify the Ethiopian body politic from the poison of ethnic domination, sectarianism and bigotry.

To restore Ethiopia to good health, we must begin national dialogue, not only in the halls of power, the corridors of the bureaucracy and the military barracks but also in the remotest villages, the church and masjid meeting halls and other places of worship, the schools and colleges, the neighborhood associations and in the taverns, the streets and markets and wherever two or more people congregate. We have no choice but to begin talking to each other with good will and in good faith.

Editor’s Note: The views entertained in this article do not necessarily reflect the stance of The



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