The Ethiopian Muslim Civil Rights Movement: Implications for Democracy in Ethiopia

By Alemu Tafesse

[http://indepthafrica.com] The fourteen-month old Muslim civil rights movement in Ethiopia has so far had some spectacular implications for the development of democracy and democratic political culture in the country. It has affected both the cultural as well as the institutional dynamics of the country’s political situation. In the following lines, I will examine just three very inter-related, but immensely broad, points where the Muslim activism has left great impacts on the contours of the current and future democratic possibilities of Ethiopia. I will deliberately be sketchy and short, as I don’t intend to render this piece of writing a journal article.

1) Forced a deceptive government show its true nature more than any other time

Many 20th and 21th century dictators pose a modicum of conundrum to anyone who studies the nature of their power. They belie any traditional categorization of regime type. On the one hand, they style themselves as democratic and constitutional. They conduct elections, draft democratic constitutions, establish “human rights” institutions, and tirelessly speak of the need for and their commitment to democracy. On the other hand, they rig elections, embezzle public funds and intimidate, round up, torture and kill their opponents unconstrained by any notion of the rule of law. Such governments strive to have it both ways at the same time: they wish to get the benefits of holding two apparently opposite faces.

The EPRDF has been akin to this type of rule, a master of this Janus-faced game (it isn’t a game for the victims, of course). On its “democratic” face, it has deafened us with its rant of the need for the rule of law; enshrined a more or less democratic constitution; conducted several elections, and installed a parliamentary system. On its autocratic face, however, it defiled the constitutional system and the rule of law by violating the basic political and natural rights of citizens with impunity. By any standards, it has never been serving the law and the state. In fact, it has been the state and the law.

How have the two faces of the EPRDF gone along together? They have been meant to deliver certain political functions internal and external to the state. And in principle, they are supposed to be exploited in their proper places, times, and context, and hence are not expected to be contradictory. But in practice, their relationship has usually been precarious, and tense at times. The democratic face has been used to garner “democratic” legitimacy from those who have been expected to have had any voluntary reason to side by the government. Moreover, this face has also helped these supporters to gratify themselves about the “democratic” cause they have been helping being fulfilled in Ethiopia. Finally, it has helped these same people to self-boost their moral status while engaging in a heated debate with the detractors of the regime.

But the most important function of the democratic face has had to do with the international community (to be precise, major international powers). For the sake of obtaining either diplomatic or economic or military assistance or all, building such an image has always been crucial for any regime in the world that has grabbed state power since 1991. The EPRDF has not been an exception, and it has maximally used—and in many cases succeeded—in styling itself as a pioneer of democracy in this otherwise troubled region of the world we call the Horn of Africa.

But democracy and “EPRDF-cracy” do not by nature go well with each other. As a minority – based party, the EPRDF can’t afford to genuinely liberalize the country and still stay in power. Here comes the need for the second face, which has been at the heart of the persistence of the party’s reign since 1991 well into the 2010s. It has to mortify the psyche, inflict fear in the mind, torment the body, and take life in order to ensure its survival. These mechanisms have been pushed through on those who have refused to be socialized into the regime’s propaganda. The same mechanism has also been applied to those who trusted the regime’s propaganda and, taking it at its words, plunged themselves into public contestation with it. When they appeared threatening, they received the strong message–physical or otherwise–that they should back down.

But the crucial thing in assessing the Janus-faced political order of things is the one related to the balance of the two faces. The balance is very delicate, and with any disturbance, it may lead to either near regime collapse or full-blown regime brutality. When the democratic side is allowed to thrive more than the autocratic one, the EPRDF regime is bound to lose power. However, if the autocratic tactics are put in place with more severity or duration, then the benefits of appearing to be democratic withers away. Hence, striking a balance between those two apparently contradictory aspects of the regime’s image has been of phenomenal significance for ensuring its political longevity.

The regime’s capacity in maintaining this balance has been put to test many times. It has emerged successful few times, but failed in many others. Especially at the international level, the EPRDF has managed, at least in the first couple of years after its cling on to state power, to make an effective use of its “democratic” credentials in order to get multi-faceted support from the major powers of the world. But the internal dimension has quite frequently oscillated from one extreme to another.

The challenge from the numerous oppositions has largely forced the regime to emerge more brutal than democratic, although the trend has not been quite linear. The regime has expectedly turned more autocratic as challenges have mounted and gotten threatening, and it has resumed its democratic discourse when they have subsided. As a minority-based party, the ruling party could not defeat the ethnic or the Ethiopian nationalist oppositions on a peaceful political stage. The need to secure its regime at all odds has repeatedly led the party to use force or the threat of using it to silence its oppositions, something that has seriously damaged its democratic credentials. But at least in one occasion, the ruling party also oscillated in the opposite direction. In 2005, it opened up the political system, and wished to stage a more credible democracy-like contestation from which the new rulers could emerge. The results went rather disastrous to the political life of the EPRDF. It learned the lesson—which it had assumed for long—that democracy is its nemesis. Exposing too much of the democratic face might lead to the replacement of the very body of which the face is a part. As a result, the reversion to brutality has been effected once again in the aftermath of the election.

But this brutality had to wait for yet another—undoubtedly the most significant –phenomenon to emerge as the only pillar of regime survival and to appear in its darkest, most unambiguous, form than ever before. This most significant challenge that has impacted most on the image of the government is the Muslim civil rights movement that has been going on since December 2011. All the developments leading up to the challenge and the form of government response to it have most severely weakened the democratic status of the regime, and laid bare its true unbridled authoritarian nature. The rights movement has altogether shattered the ever-strong desire of the government to be seen as democratic and forced it to discard its hypocritical behaviour. With the looming danger of a critical mass awakening, and the speed at which it has been spreading, the ruling party could not help but throw away its “nicey” grab and take up its most merciless stick.

True, this is not the first time the EPRDF is being challenged, and it is not the first time it responds to challenges with impunity. Right from its contentions with the Oromo Liberation Front, to the most recent threat it sensed from Ethiopian nationalist forces, the government has responded violently. Tons of innocent people—including journalists– have been unfairly victimized, according to a plenty of independent sources. But the regime had never been, I argue, so much involved in the amount of hooliganism that it has been involved in for the last one or so year. Hence, I submit that the rights movement’s one great achievement is that it has brought to a serious end the little possibility that the EPRDF had had of running the politics of hypocrisy.

In the first few responses to the simmering Muslim opposition to its anti-secularist policies, the government tried to play it legal. It acknowledged that the Majlis (Ethiopian Islamic Supreme Council) problem was a legitimate concern and also was willing to negotiate with the committee that was representing the angry crowd. It praised the demands of the representatives, and declared that an election would be held to form a new Majlis. It was true, however, that genuine democracy and the full realization of any kind of right is against the controlling behavior of the EPRDF. Hence, the apparent opening needed to be neutralized by other means. Accordingly, it was soon announced that the Majlis election was to be held in an obviously highly controlled environment (the ulama council, a Majlis affiliate, in charge of the elections, which in turn were to be conducted in the government-controlled kebeles—both contrary to the demands of the protesting masses).

These were the kinds of government responses we’ve been used to since 1991, and there is nothing surprising about them. There have been, however, some other turn of events—some happening quite early, others very recently– that would seal the record of the ruling party as a democracy-free, totalitarian-to-the-core, group of gangs. It all had begun shortly before the Muslim activism set in and actually had led to its break out. A new chapter in the history of Ethiopian state repression began with the state-orchestrated religious indoctrination and forceful imposition of a highly controversial, arguably foreign, religious doctrine on Ethiopian Muslims. A deliberate state imposition of religious outlook on its people was I think the first of its kind among the many anti-democratic deeds of the EPRDF. It was not only deeply anti-democratic, anti-secular and totalitarian, but also incredibly rude, unintelligibly ambitious and utterly perplexing. It was an unprecedentedly bizarre experiment.

But the emergence of the unique forms of totalitarianism of the EPRDF never stopped there. Some of its reactions to the attendant activism have been most strikingly brutal as well. That some people in Harar and Asasa were shot and killed; that people in the thousands have been constantly intimidated, detained and tortured; that the whole movement is denigrated as terrorist and Islamist etc—all these are not quite staggering. But unprecedentedly staggering are, for example, the most recent developments like the state-devised night-time house break-ins and blatant robbery. Many Muslims have by now confirmed that masked thugs accompanied by security officers have broken into their houses without search warrants, intimidating them, searching for materials and taking away some of their valuables. Unconfirmed but numerous reports of highway robbery by government-sponsored thugs especially targeting Muslims with laptops have also been reported.

It is also quite odd for security officers to break into places of worship and desecrate them beyond imagination. Although this is not without precedent (think of the first Anwar incident in the early 90’s, for example), the scale of what has happened this time around and the severity with which it has happened is quite unique. It has been reported by different sources, for instance, that people were preparing food for a Sadaqa session when tons of security officers barged into the Awoliya compound in one night of July 2012, fired tear gas on the people who took refuge in the mosque, rushed into the mosque shoe clad, and deliberately messed up the praying precinct and hurled the Holy scriptures inside it. Since then, other similar incidents have been reliably reported to have occurred in other Addis Ababa mosques, too.

Moreover, security officers have also forcefully prevented the Sadaqa gatherings– that brought together people from diverse backgrounds (and sometimes even faith groups) for sharing food and sending across messages of peace, unity and the protection of citizens’ rights– from taking place. Some of the measures taken by the Police to this end have been both simply outrageous and/or ludicrous. In some occasions, they have confiscated the animal to be slaughtered, and the food ingredients to be used, for cooking. In other occasions, commercial cooks have been impeded from conducting their daily business of selling food items to the Sadaqa organizers. Still in other instances, grand mosques have been unusually closed in the morning hours for fear that Sadaqa sessions would be conducted in them. Finally, and perhaps most outrageously, many intercity busses have been stopped and “Muslim-looking” people have been forced out of the busses by security officers. The reason given: they might be travelling to attend a Sadaqa session in another town!

Also, unprecedentedly, the government, in perhaps the most glaring instance of the breach of the rule of law, has unilaterally revoked a court-issued decree to ban the broadcast of a documentary on the government-owned Ethiopian Television (ETV). The lawyers of the detained Muslim committee members had demanded that the documentary that would allegedly violate the presumption of innocence of the defendants be taken off the air, a demand that the court endorsed and issued a ban on the broadcast. According to the lawyers, however, soon after the letter from the court reached the ETV, the President of the Supreme Court unilaterally reversed the court injunction and the documentary was accordingly released at prime time on Feb 5, 2013. With utter shock and disgust, the lawyers then demanded that the ETV representatives appear in court and expound their decision to release the film in contravention to the court-issued ban. The TV station officials have never felt obliged to appear in court, though.

What do all these examples tell us about the capability of the regime in maintaining a two- forked, ambivalent image (of the kind mentioned above)? They tell us that in this particular sense, the government has been getting remarkably weak in the face of the impending Muslim opposition to its policies. It has failed—and miserably so– to put an end to it without losing the delicate, albeit much-needed, balance between its two faces. The challenge has been so strong and so persistent that it has been forcing the government to come out in what is left of its hither- to hidden authoritarian skin—all naked. The ever-flimsy attempt at justifying the EPRDF’s rule from the point of all those rosy stuffs we have been deafened with—group rights, individual rights, democracy, equality —has now been permanently laid to rest. In short, although we have always known the ruling party to be brutal, the Muslim movement (its immediate causes as well as the government reactions to it) has helped us know what the brutality looks like when it reaches its limit—completely deprived of its “humane” cover.

2) Introduced an alternative path towards democracy

The political culture of Ethiopia has been deeply beset by the politics of exclusion and the psychology of rebellion. On the one hand, the successive governments of Ethiopia have uncompromisingly held the belief that their political survival largely depends on the political death of those they see as their opponents. The exclusion of a significant portion of the voices from the mainstream political system has been at the hallmark of the governments’ power. The excluded might have been earmarked in ethnic, gender, religious, regional or personal terms. This has been an exclusion that bases itself on the self-identification and the political and economic interests of the ruling class, as well as on the personal idiosyncrasies of its members. Opposition, even more than difference, has needed to be “solved”, rather than incorporated and managed. Unflinching on their grip on the bar of certainty, they have never swallowed the virtue of plunging oneself into the unknown that inclusion brings with it. Bent on saving the regime from a lurking threat, exclusion has been the normal and first procedure that has been applied to disagreement.

Exclusion usually breeds rebellion, and persistent and absolute exclusion breeds persistent and absolute rebellion. This has been largely true throughout the political history of this country. Different reformers might have started out to air their critical views in moderate terms, but many of the organized movements in much of modern Ethiopian history have been radical. They have been radical in the sense that they have been anti-system and mostly violent. This system that they have targeted has ranged from the existing political order with all its traces and affiliates to the very entity we call Ethiopia. In other words, while some have violently rebelled against the regime and everything associated with it, and demanded its complete displacement, others have fiercely demanded nothing short of the dismemberment of Ethiopia itself. In either case, the movements haven’t just looked for change, but a radical change supposedly wrought about in a radical way.

The politics of exclusion paradoxically married to the psychology of rebellion has had disastrous consequences for the democratic record of the country. Democracy both as a historical process and as a theory is about compromise, inclusion, diversity, and toleration. In a society, on the one hand, where the balance of power between the rulers and the ruled is highly skewed against the latter; where the rulers feel insecure to hear dissent from the ruled; where the usual mechanism of regime stability is not pulling up, but pushing out, as many voices as possible; and on the other hand, where the ruled do not aspire to bring about a culture of loyal opposition in the country but one of unbounded rebellion; where they refuse to see a possibility for change coming with the least cost, but with the excesses of violence; where being an anti-system is seen as the only way of making the system work better; where the anti-regime movement itself becomes exclusivist and narrow—in a society where these are the noted manifestations of its political culture, democratic culture will have really hard times to foster. Such has been the problem with the political culture of Ethiopia. I hasten to add here that I’m not necessarily and generally blaming the anti-government forces in Ethiopia or elsewhere for operating as rebellious folks, as radicalism may be justifiable in some senses and in certain cases. What I’m offering here is a general tool for understanding the elements of a political culture that is unfavorable to the flourishing of sustainable democracy. It can also help us to question the “natural-ness” of human endeavors (reactions to oppression, for example) by putting things in a cultural context. Finally, in the specific Ethiopian case, it can slightly account for the never- ending replacement of political exclusion by itself.

It is my belief that the current Muslim rights movement has gone an unprecedented distance in transcending this dichotomy. Under fire from a highly exclusivist regime much frequently and for so long, neither the leaders of the movement nor the major actors in it have (yet) developed a (n ultra) radical consciousness or behavior. It is simply surprising—but perhaps explicable– for any seasoned observer of Ethiopian politics that people in their millions, from so diverse backgrounds, consistently demonstrating so loudly every week for over a year, and receiving all sorts of brutal reactions from government forces, would be so consistent in their demands and conduct. There has so far been no evidence of radicalism, disorganization, or confusion in the ranks of the protestors. The unflinching obedience they have showed to their leaders’ injunctions before the latter’s arrest, and the unwavering commitment to their last words after their arrest should appear as something baffling to those who have always witnessed the opposite in the political history of Ethiopia. The movement has been consistently demanding for the protection of democratic and constitutional rights and nothing more or less. It has couched its demands in the most legal and legitimate manner, and has staged perfectly non-violent rallies. It has never, on the one hand, asked for, or worked towards, the realization of religious interests beyond or independent of the constitutional framework, nor, on the other hand, has it demanded, or sought, the displacement of that framework by a new secular system. This is very significant for the development of an inclusive and non-violent democratic culture in the country, as I will further elaborate later.

The government, just like its predecessors would, has responded to the opposition in an exclusivist manner, trying to relegate the voices of dissent to the margins. The voices, however, refused to be marginalized. The barrage of formal and informal, overt and covert, physical and verbal pressures that have been put on the protestors to keep them silent and endure all that comes from the government have been blatantly rejected. The movement has kept going— unabated—for so long despite the cravings of an otherwise highly repressive regime.

But the fact that it has rejected the call to be silenced is just the first instance of saying no to marginalization. The movement has also refused to be plunged into the margins by taking a radical turn. Radicalization is a gamble with very high stakes. It might succeed to bring on board many people, or end up alienating many. It is something uncontrollable especially during its early stages, and might not have the stability or the sustainability that proper mass recruitment requires. It is also liable to be defeated as government violence is usually more refined, more disciplined, and more brutal than that of its opponents. The Muslims’ movement in this sense refused to commit suicide by transforming itself into what the government wants it to become: a supra-constitutional “pariah”. It has been very critical of the government, but very respectful of the constitutional order at the same time. This doesn’t mean that it has been supportive of the ruling party or of its policies in other areas. It simply means that its aim has been the full realization of democratic and secular order with the minimum cost that may come along constructive change, but with the maximum effort that such a change requires. This is a very economic use of mass power against the state.

In echoing a loud and critical, but non-radical, voice, the movement has contributed a lot to the development of a new stream of culture in the politics of this country. First, it has helped us to assess the possibilities and potential outcomes of a non-violent democratic struggle for constructive change in Ethiopia. Bearing the brunt of a set of violent responses from the government, the Muslims’ movement has taught us that at least a strong public sphere that aspires to change the status quo can be established with or without the existence of a repressive state structure. Part of this contribution is that it has widened our horizons to, and raised our hopes in, finding solace in peaceful struggle against dictatorship. Yes, a very unique Ethiopian non-violent struggle is unfolding before our eyes, and we’re being forced to re-think some of our assumptions about the way we understand the mechanisms of effecting political change in Ethiopia.

Secondly, it has also helped us to understand the vulnerability of authoritarian rule. Apart from its vulnerability in the sense I mentioned towards the beginning of this paper (forced to shed its “democratic” face), the regime in Ethiopia has also failed in keeping under control the momentum of the opposition it has been facing for about fourteen months. Contradicting the academic assertions that accord undue historic value to state power against the people, the Muslim struggle has proven to us that state violence is not always effective in putting an end to opposition. This won’t really be congratulated as new information for those of us living in the age of the Arab Spring, but I think it is quite unique in Ethiopian land. Someone might pose the disagreement that counter-regime movements have succeeded in Ethioipia’s past, too. My rejoinder is that, yes, they have succeeded in ending regimes, but they have done so only by either carrying arms or getting the military on their side or both. Nothing of these things have been happening in Ethiopia for over a year now. There hasn’t been a violent Muslim– anti- regime or even rights’ –struggle in Ethiopia, nor has the security apparatus of the state showed any sign of siding with the civil rights movement. Be that as it may, the quest for freedom has been loud and rampant, frustrating the wishes of the government from coming into fruition.

The maintenance of a loud quest for freedom at the face of state repression also means something else. The Muslim activism, by demonstrating authoritarian vulnerability, has taught us that all marginalization is self-marginalization. Many structuralist accounts on this topic have contributed a lot to our understanding of the wider forces in play on our societies, but some of them have been unfairly neglectful of subjective and agential forces that are otherwise very important in explaining political outcomes. As already mentioned, the Ethiopian government has always required that no opposition “disturbs” its “proper” functioning, and its response to the Muslim demands has been underpinned by the same logic. But all the efforts at silencing people have failed to bear fruits. While the power of the state should indeed be considered in accounting for the muting of opposition, we need to consider as well the will of the receiving end of that power. Power resides not just in the state, but also in the subjectivities of the individuals whom the state targets. In other words, the locus of power is not to be sought just in the material, mundane objects of repression, but also in the minds and souls of the forces of anti- oppression. If an opposition (in this case, in the form of mass movement) to a state rule becomes silent, it may not only mean that it has been silenced by the government; it may also mean that it has silenced itself. The will power of individuals comes in between the repression of the state and the act of being silent. State-centric accounts of power mislead us from this very important fact.

The Muslim activism is therefore very significant in affecting the political culture of the country. It has brought about a strong, consistent and yet moderate opposition to dictatorship. Most importantly, it has relocated our focus of the paraphernalia for building a democratic state. We have been, in the past, fixated on changing exclusivist systems, but ended up bringing/witnessing other exclusivist ones. This time around, perhaps we need to be fixated on democracy itself—the idea, the culture, the way of life. When the ultimate and major goal of activism is changing regimes or changing territorial borders—however much democratically couched the discourses for those ends could be– there is no guarantee that the new regime or the new country will adopt a democratic system. But I think when the ultimate goal, and the way towards that goal, is democracy, equality, inclusion and freedom; and when the masses behind such a massive change are thoroughly democratized in mind and spirit; and when retaliation has no place in the minds of the wider public, I think we are a step closer to bringing about the system we have cherished for long. I think Ethiopian Muslims have offered us a lesson in this regard by democratizing their discourse and behavior, in remaining steadfast in both aspects for so long, and saying no to radicalization. At the same time, they have effectively morally defeated the Ethiopian regime by forcing it to become the darkest it can be. By volunteering to risk their precious lives, they have experimented (and are experimenting) the different alternative paths to democracy—alternatives we Ethiopians are not very much used to. Ethiopian Muslims have charted for all of us a new path towards a new Ethiopia.

3) Became an the alternative location of democracy

I have already discussed the implications of the Muslim struggle in both exposing the nature of the Ethiopian government, and in showing an alternative way towards building a culture of democracy, or, more strictly, an alternative way towards setting up a democratic framework through the establishment of a culture of democracy. In the following lines, I will take the second point further, and argue that the Muslim rights movement has not just demonstrated a different way towards democracy, but it has itself become perhaps the most reliable venue for democratic outburst in Ethiopia. At this rather bleakest moment of the EPRDF’s era, the civil rights movement has remained to be the foremost locus of democracy.

Struggle for freedom and democracy has not been new for Ethiopians; many have been doing it at least since the second half of the 20th century. But the struggles, among other things, have felt short of developing a critical mass and sustainable Ethiopia-wide public that can act as dependable reservoir of democratic crucible in the society. They have been either non-pan- Ethiopian, or unsustainable and/or authoritarian, or any combination of those. Some freedom fighters have fought just to save their ethnic groups from government brutality; some Ethiopia- wide movements couldn’t succeed in their peaceful struggle, and hence have had to go underground, thereby (usually) developing clandestine non-transparent, centralized, structures that have rendered them authoritarian themselves. Or when they have escaped the establishment of a clandestine centralized rule, they have faded away from the public and couldn’t remain strong refuges of democracy. The fact that nothing of this sort has yet developed with regards to the Muslim activism is worth-noting. By its very nature, the Muslim activism has been trans-ethnic and trans-regional, and hence it has had a modicum of pan- Ethiopian trait (despite the obvious limitation of its being religion-based). But it has been not only pan-Ethiopian, but also “Ethiopia-centred” in the sense that its discourse-framing, its actors, its visions etc have been very Ethiopian, not international or regional. The government’s accusations notwithstanding (which are not to be taken seriously by any sober observer), there hasn’t been any trace of foreign involvement in the struggle.

The democratic activism has not only been Ethiopia-centred, but, as already mentioned elsewhere, also has been sustainable for so long. This is indeed an indication that in a country where NGO’s have been severely crippled, press freedom dying out, religious institutions tightly controlled, and professional associations effectively co-opted– in short, where civil society is in grave danger of extinction, there has been one starkly different arena of visible democracy: the arena of the protesting Muslims. They have been the last –but interestingly the most vibrant– bastion of democracy in the country. Their voice has been the only remaining dependable, independent and loud voice of liberation–uncontrolled and uncontrollable by the government. Their unsubduable behavior has created an immensely empowering political climate in the country. Their unshattarable unity has given many a good reason to imagine a post-divided Ethiopia. Their freedom-induced fury and chaos-phobic discipline are the very marrows of democracy. The Ethiopian Muslims are coming out of this year-long journey as a new brand of strong, assertive, post-violent, and unified locations of anti-authoritarian force.

Conclusion: A Plea

I have raised a few, but broad, points by way of showing the democratic implications of the fourteen-month old civil rights movement of Ethiopian Muslims. I have considered it to be of phenomenal significance in the socio-political history of Ethiopia. But I also believe that it will play its full potential only when two actors join it wholeheartedly: the rest of Ethiopians, and the international community. By the former, I specifically have in mind Ethiopian Christians in Ethiopia. It is true that many of them have disclosed their support for the Muslim rights movement, and have helped in sheltering, feeding and morally supporting the elements therein. But total democratic transformation requires more than this. The struggle for democracy in that country has gone through several stages, and has now reached one of its most promising ones. As such, I don’t see it wise at all to leave this struggle just to Muslims, and by doing so, deliberately limit the fruits of a potentially far-reaching and holistic transformative experience. Christians should join the movement bringing with them their own demands for freedom from government interference in religious matters (that they have a lot to complain about), and later on jointly escalate the democratic demands, chanting for those great ideals that all self- respecting humans have always called for throughout history. I think most of us who have supported the Muslim struggle should from now on expand on this proposal—the need for it, the challenges to it and the mechanisms of doing it.

Another proposal is to the big players on the world stage. My message here is deliberately short since I prefer to reserve the elaboration for another piece of mine and others’ to come. I’d now say, paraphrasing Condoleezza Rice, many of you have dreamt of and at times have sought to help (create) what you thought were forces of stability even at the expense of democracy, and as a result have failed on both accounts. One path towards realizing both valuables is to stand by and protect non-radical, massive, persistent and daring forces of unity and anti- authoritarianism from below. Start with the protesting Ethiopian Muslims!

One Response to The Ethiopian Muslim Civil Rights Movement: Implications for Democracy in Ethiopia

  1. […] Tafesse recently published a highly profound article – The Ethiopian Muslim Civil Rights Movement: Implications for Democracy in Ethiopia. In it, he argued that the 14-month old Muslim civil rights movement has had remarkable […]