Observing the mayhem that is unfolding in Ethiopia, I am reminded of the tribulations that the Jews went through after escaping bondage from “Egypt”. Instead of thanking God for salvation and putting their faith in Him for direction, they turned away from their spiritual connection and embraced secularism. Out went trusting the Lord and in came idolatry; lust for power and super-sized narcissism led free people to walk in circles for two generations stranded in the desert of their own egos.
There is one particular part of the Jews’ saga that mirrors what is taking place in Ethiopia even more acutely. Just like the Jewish elders who should have known better pleaded with the Prophet Samuel for a leader—in the process letting vanity cloud their better judgement—Ethiopians today are being misdirected by vanity in choosing self-interest over the collective whole. Samuel warned the people that the leader they yearned for would put them right back into bondage and induce strife upon their children, but they were so eager to emulate what everyone else was doing that they opened up the door to a tyrant who became their new pharaoh.
It is this same desire to chase modernity at the cost of our heritage and the need to satiate egos above the needs of the collective good that has Ethiopia running head first into the abyss. A country that survived for more than 3,000 years and endured endless attempts to vanquish us from external foes is now in danger of disintegration because too many would rather care for their own tribe instead of realizing that the suffering of one leads to tribulation for all. Our unity as a nation, the very strength that enabled us to overcome would be colonizers and endless strife throughout our history, is being frittered away by myopic tribal leaders who enrich themselves while impoverishing their followers.
We have become a people without a compass sailing in the troubled waters of zeregnenet (tribalism), self-centeredness and nihilism. Instead of turning away from hateful politicians and poisonous demagogues, more and more are embracing senseless ethnic grievances that do nothing to solve the vexing challenges that we are facing as a nation. We would rather bicker about the past instead of working together, in this race to monopolize pains too many are reaching for their own resentment whisperers. Just like the Jews who wanted to trust man rather than trusting the One who set them free, a critical mass of Ethiopians are putting their faith in ethnic politicians.
At the root of this treacherous paradigm that Ethiopia is facing is a system called “ethnic federalism” that was implemented in order to pit Ethiopians against one another. The TPLF junta were chosen at the London Conference in 1991 precisely to implement Ethiopia’s version of apartheid, a diabolical scheme to create ethnic homelands no different than South Africa’s Bantustans for the sole purpose of inciting sectarianism. In the span of 27 years, that is precisely what has taken place as an “every man for himself” mindset has loosened the virus of #MeOnly throughout the land.
What could not be accomplished during two attempts to colonize us is now being done at the hands of Ethiopians; a land that could otherwise feed the entire continent has been reduced into a beggar nation fighting over crumbs as foreign interests fleece our natural resources. People have been deceived into thinking that they are better off on their own than they are in joining hands with other Ethiopians. While the rest of the world realizes the value of collaboration, we are withering because we refuse to work together as a people.
I fear this fever of selfishness and making Gods of our egos will not end until we see the full devastation that tribalism can unleash. I pray that we come to our senses before Ethiopia meets the awful fate that befell Rwanda, it took the death of more than a million people in the most savage way before Rwandans put away tribalism and believe in their common humanity above ethnicity. If we keep listening to radicals who preach from the pulpit of animosity and vengeance, we too will know what mass graves and pervasive sorrow feels like.
I write about the perils of pride and wrath from first hand experience, it was only four years ago that my life was turned upside down because I insisted on getting the last word instead of humbling myself before the One who redeems all. It took two years of mind-bending adversity and losing everything before I gained the wisdom to put my faith in Him above the arrogance of self. A wise man once told me that ego means “easing God out”, we are about to learn the hard way what happens when we ease God out and let ethnic politicians be our supposed saviors. Or we could choose a different path and understand the true meaning of Psalm 68:31 that notes “Ethiopia shall quickly turn her hands back to God.”
It is up to each one of us to choose a different path. Instead of reacting to the latest outrage with anger and taking up a defensive posture every time some unhinged zealot spews insults on social media, pause and reflect whether adding acrimony on top of rage will do anything else other than increase the animus that threatens to engulf Ethiopia in an inferno of tribal resentment.Instead of amplifying the voices of extremists by paying attention to them, let’s turn to another path and choose the sanity of kindness and the wisdom of grace towards others who are struggling just like us. #Ethiopia Click To Tweet
If we are going to redeem Ethiopia from this grave predicament, we cannot do so from a place of ego but with a spirit of forgiveness. We are a people that have been deeply traumatized for more than 45 years, if not even longer, the turmoil that we are witnessing is generations in the making. If we are to heal and leave a better future for our children, our only hope is to turn back to God and to turn away from vengeance. I pray for Ethiopia and all of our people without bias to our differences.
It is easy to dispense advice to others, the harder task is to follow one’s own admonitions. For too long I’ve been writing in the hopes of affecting some type of change for the country that I love with all my heart. Yet along the way, all too frequently, I have let the tumults of this world distract me from my own spiritual journey. I am powerless to do anything about global injustice but if I look inward and let love be my guiding light at all times, and if each one of us follows that same process, the change we all have been looking for will come from within and wash away injustice without. In the end, just know that the quest for justice is not about me but about all of us.
Lij Teodrose Fikremariam is the Chair of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. He is the direct descendant of Atse Tewodros II, the once Emperor of Ethiopia who united a fractured nation during Zemene Mesafint (age of princes) and imbued Ethiopia with a sense of togetherness that enabled them to eventually defeat Italy at the battle of Adwa. Lij Teodrose was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia but grew up in America. He has a Bachelor of Arts from George Mason University and an Masters of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. Lij Teodrose believes in one Ethiopia and that a nation can only be judged by the wellness of the least among us.