It is now more than 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. But also other countries have their Berlin Walls to fight and bring down and in Ethiopia it is the ruling party EPRDF. The fall of the Berlin Wall seemed impossible before it happened. The author argues that it should be used as an inspiration to Ethiopians who are now fighting for freedom and democracy and against the EPRDF in Ethiopia.
The aim of this article is not to discuss the fall of the Berlin Wall in full length even though it will be briefly discussed. Nations across the world have had and still have their share of Berlin Walls to fight and bring down. In USA it was the racial segregation, in South Africa it was apartheid and in Ethiopia it is the EPRDF. Therefore, it is the intention of the writer to encourage people, especially Ethiopians to continue fighting tyrant regimes with great resilience and resolve believing that what seems impossible at first is attainable and looking back in to history can only prove that.
In the history of South Africans, apartheid seemed unbeatable at a certain point in time but with visionary and determined leaders and committed citizens it ended, but as documented in “The Long Walk to Freedom” the sacrifices were beyond imagination.
The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 during the cold war and separated East and West Berlin. It symbolized ideological differences between the two camps of capitalism and communism, respectively spearheaded by USA and the former USSR.
A quarter century ago the Berlin Wall came down. While its demise is celebrated around the world, we must remember that it had once seemed impossible that the Wall would ever disappear. Today, the Berlin Wall seems like a historical absurdity, a perverse division of one of the world’s great cities that effectively imprisoned the population of an entire country. But after the construction of the Wall in 1961, it was considered as a permanent structure on the landscape of Europe and even though of as a stabilizing power of the Cold War itself. Yet, this seemingly permanent structure came to pass and one writer put it as follows:
“How the impossible became the inevitable should remind us of history’s ability to surprise, and of liberty’s enduring appeal”.
Therefore, despite the seemingly impossible task ahead, regardless of the ruthlessness we face and the vicious attacks on our conscience we must carry on the struggle and hope to see freedom in its real sense in Ethiopia and if not keep on fighting and pass the baton to the next generation hoping and believing that one day Ethiopians will experience the real freedom that has eluded them thus far. And it is this message I want to convey to my fellow Ethiopians that the impossible will one day become the inevitable and we must carry on until that day arrives.
On November 9, 2014, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago should be regarded as a sign of hope for people suffering in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq. Of course the people of these countries went through and still are going through a great deal of ordeal, but what the German Chancellor is unaware of is that Ethiopians are suffering in the hands of their own government through persecution, imprisonment, torture and killing.
The Ethiopian government does not tolerate dissent, can’t stand challenge of any kind, and demands absolute submission from Ethiopians. If anyone dares to oppose, the actions taken will be severe in nature in the hope that future opposition will be deterred. When individuals are critical of the government in their speeches or writings, they are labeled reactionaries or terrorists and immediately dealt with in the most brutal way. As a result, students, teachers, business men and women, church leaders, community leaders, personnel from the humanitarian sectors and various professionals have been at the receiving end of EPRDF’s merciless and brutal force. Due to the EPRDF’s greed for power and wealth we live in a country rocked by mounting protests against the government, where vicious military crackdowns have resulted in countless deaths, and where dissident journalists and bloggers are imprisoned without any charge. Therefore under these circumstances it is almost impossible to say if democracy has a future in Ethiopia under the current regime. The future of democracy depends on our ability to deal with complex social problems, on our success in getting along and our capacity for tolerance. On the contrary, instead of dealing with problems such as poverty, unemployment, HIV/AIDS, brain-drain…, the EPRDF has placed upon us the immense task of fighting tyranny which is a difficult but not impossible task. The regime also makes sure that the different ethnic groups don’t get along with one another by reminding them about the past as a result of which tolerance (religious and ethnic tolerance) have become rare commodities in the country.
But what the EPRDF leaders have failed to grasp is how the impossible can instantly become the inevitable, how unpredictable history is and how dictators are overthrown in the most unorthodox of revolutions or sometimes simple demonstration (Burkina Faso, a recent example). Just a quarter of a century ago the Berlin Wall was perceived as a permanent structure but eventually dissipated, and so will the EPRDF one day.
Hence, the fall of the Berlin Wall offers some insights we can learn from 25 years after the Wall’s demise.
1. The resilience of liberty: people were made to think and believe that dictatorship was the natural and stable condition for Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The thousands of East Berlin residents who poured joyfully through the open gates on Nov. 9, 1989, bore witness to liberty’s persistent appeal, even among societies where it cannot be expressed openly.
2. Sometimes the people who matter most are the least known: in 1989 the headlines were dominated by such world leaders as Gorbachev, Bush, and East German dictator Erich Honecker, but less popular figures such as pastor Christoph Wonneberger and Hans-Jurgen Sievers, played indispensable roles in the drama that unfolded on Nov. 9, 1989. Therefore Ethiopian religious leaders are expected to voice their concern and have a clear standing point rather than echoing the government’s redundant slogans of “equality of peoples, nations and nationalities,” “our differences are our beauty” and so forth.
3. History’s persistent capacity to surprise: at the beginning of 1989 the Berlin Wall was considered permanent and the Cold War was thought to continue indefinitely. But in November of the same year the Wall was in pieces and Eastern Europe was free.
Hence Ethiopians should be persistent and resilient in their pursuit of liberty for resilience is the nature of liberty. And we Ethiopians should recognize that we are strong people and strong people don’t need strong leaders for they can find leadership among and within themselves. In addition, by acknowledging the capacity of history to surprise, we should be ready to step up to the plate when history presents us with surprises.
Finally, the surprises of history do not enable us to predict the future, but they certainly help us prepare for it.