Bekele Gerba’s latest message: Resource allocation as a tool for struggle – call for boycotts

1 Sep

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
Translation by Michael C. Mamo*

In the soon-ending year, we have lost huge numbers of our young children, tens of thousands have been imprisoned and the whereabouts of several others still remains unknown. We had recently announced a three-day national mourning to pay homage to the lives lost, to which the public gave an exceedingly positive response. This has left our adversaries in a state of shock and, needless to say, it has us -we and the people- beaming with pride. We appreciate the huge sacrifices you have paid and your sense of camaraderie to stand alongside the people. Please accept our gratitude and respect for your selfless acts.

If we listen to one another, stick up for each other and stand in unison, it should not take long before the collective humiliation we are subjected to comes to an end. And it must end! We ought to continue to stand together and listen to each other to get rid of the ‘snake that has wrapped itself around our necks’ and gain our freedom. With that underlined, the ongoing sad state of affairs has required us to issue a new set of calls.

As you already know, killings have not stopped; mass incarcerations have continued unabated; ambulances obtained with relentless appeals for aid from foreign governments are now roaming townships to nab and transport the youth to detention centres, in a manner falcons prowl the skies waiting to strike on their prey; mothers are shedding perpetual tears over the loss of their sons and daughters ; and, with or without the mention of the Addis Ababa Master Plan, authorities have not ceased evicting the Oromo from their ancestral lands. In complete disregard of our demands that those who mercilessly massacred our young children be brought to justice, Prime Minster Hailemariam Dessalegn has sung their praises on national TV.

Also, in a meeting held from 24-28 August 2016, the EPRDF Council discussed the border dispute between the Tigray and Amhara Regional States and passed a resolution to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, the Council entirely shunned the topic of the Addis Ababa Master Plan despite it being the most contentious issue of the past one year, the cause for loss of numerous lives and, surprisingly, in spite of it essentially being a boundary issue like that raised in the Amhara region. That the Council failed to even mention the AAIDMP reveals at least three things:

    · Firstly, it lays bare that the government considers the incessant killings to date as acceptable and indicates that a decision has been reached to continue along this course of action in the future.

    · Secondly, it shows that those in positions of power view the mounting outcries for justice as nothing more than a nuisance and their belief that the people are powerless to effect change.

    · Thirdly, it is a conclusive proof that the Oromo do not have a genuine representation in the EPRDF coalition and that there is no one that stands for the interests of the Oromo within this administration.

At the moment the so-called leaders of the country and their lapdogs are preparing to celebrate the arrival of the New Year in much fanfare, self-indulgence and profligacy with wealth they have stolen from the people through the years. How are the rest of us planning to welcome the New Year? If early indications are anything to go by, it is utterly evident that the situation that our people are in will continue to remain the same next year. We have absolutely no reason to dress for the occasion, to over-indulge in food and drinks, to wish each other a ‘Happy New Year’ and to blissfully join the chorus of celebrations outdoors. Being part of such merry-go-round would be as good as desecrating the graves of our fallen youths. To engage in festivities while being in servitude will only diminish us in the eyes of others and does not look good on us at all. Who does every penny that we spend empower? And what do they do with it? The same money that we spend goes into purchasing the bullets with which security forces gun down our fellow young men and women; finances the construction of prisons where our children are kept; strengths those in power and delays our freedom.

Hence, our resources need to be redirected to supporting our fight for freedom. We must stop handing a stick to our enemies and begging them not to hit us with it at the same time. We should not spend a penny if it means that it will impede our struggle. It is about time that we showed what we are capable of to this government that considers us toothless and has completely ignored our right to be heard. There are plenty of ways with which to put pressure on the fiscal base of the regime. Thus, in the name of the Oromo who have paid the ultimate price fighting for our freedom, we call on you to express your civil disobedience in the following forms.

1. Market Boycott

Historically, periods of holiday celebrations have been times where our people would wilfully agree to their own economic exploitation. This has been going on for ages and needs to stop. From the moment you hear about this call, join hands in refusing to take your produces to the market and avoiding any purchase of goods. To draw on experiences from the American civil rights movement, we can take inspiration from how Rosa Parks’ arrest for refusing to give up her seat led to a boycott of city busses for 381 days by black Americans in Montgomery, Alabama. We should also note that Mahatama Gandhi had employed a civil disobedience tactic of boycotting British clothing before eventually leading his people to freedom. As a people facing humiliations rivalling these, we should put our resources to better use instead of squandering them. Hence, we should refuse to take our grains, khat, coffee, livestock, honey, butter and other produces altogether to the market, and avoid the purchase of goods, clothing, food and drinks (from businesses benefiting from and supporting the system).

2. Ethio-Telecom Service Boycott

Let us for a moment imagine the amount of money we spend on any given day, particularly on a holiday, making phone calls to friends, participating in long chats and conversations, dedicating songs, asking and responding to questions, wishing each other ‘happy holidays’ and fulfilling our other communication needs. Let us now assume that at least 15 million of us have daily expenses of this sort and proceed to estimating the amount of money we add to the coffers of the state telecom provider as a collective unit. For a people seen as ‘subjects’ rather than citizens in the eyes of the state, this is not a judicious use of resources at our disposal. Money spent in this manner is one that the government will potentially use to purchase the next batch of bullets or to reward our own killers within the military. We should also remember that intelligence officers secretly tap telephone communications, which prosecutors present as evidences against our youths whose lives have been reduced to a trip from prisons to courts and vice versa. Therefore, we call on you to boycott Ethio-Telecom except in circumstances where an emergency situation may arise which requires you to make a phone call.

3. Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) Service Boycott

If we use other private banks instead of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia for our banking needs, we can reduce government revenues to a certain extent and weaken its capacity to exert control. We also call on those in the diaspora to use alternative ways of sending remittances home than making transfers to CBE accounts. Let’s boycott CBE!

4. Lottery Boycott

One of the ways in which the government augments its financial strength is by targeting your very own pockets through the sales of lottery tickets that come in different names and types. Therefore, we call on everyone to boycott both the national and bingo lottery tickets.

One of the ways in which the government augments its financial strength is by targeting your very own pockets through the sales of lottery tickets that come in different names and types. Therefore, we call on everyone to boycott both the national and bingo lottery tickets.

5. Transport boycott

From 1-5 Pagume 2008 (6-10 September 2016), we advise the public to stage a sit-in strike and to avoid the use of transport services: cross country busses, taxis & three-wheelers and vehicles transporting goods and passengers from the countryside to towns and vice versa. If the need to travel arises in these five days, we urge you to walk where possible or stay home with your families. Also, we kindly call on private fleet operators and vehicle owners to show solidarity with the people.

As you are well aware, we have not utilised civil disobedience techniques widely and to the fullest in this country considering that the sacrifices from this form of resistance appear to be smaller by comparison. We may not like an old outfit for the New Year- especially when one can afford to buy a new one- but let’s wash our old wardrobe or even patch it up if necessary and don it for the day. It may feel strange to welcome a new year without chicken stew, an assortment of traditional food and lots of drinks but change has to start now. What is expected of us is rather effortless in the grand scheme of things: to curtail our excessive needs; to liberate oneself from cultural and societal pressures; and to be an active, politically conscious and purpose-driven member of society. It is not a new thing to have to pay sacrifices to gain one’s freedom and nobody is going to hand it to us on a plate. We need to earn it! While what our people have done in unison this year is historic, we must not let up until such time that we have completely removed the oppression hanging over our heads. Such a concerted economic civil disobedience will continue to be part of our future struggle and the youths have a responsibility to inform the people the rationale for adopting this form of struggle.

If it hinders the Oromo quest for freedom, don’t spend a dime on it!

* This is a translation of a letter by Oromo political prisoners secretly smuggled out of Kilinto Prison on 30th of August 2016. The original letter is in Afaan Oromo.


From TPLF prison, Bekele Gerba write in support of Saturday’s Grand Oromo Demonstration

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