Saturday, April 4, 2009

Marginalization of the Youth from Politics: as imposed and self-inflicted By Dimetros BirkuJanuary 15, 2004-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Some times the norm "doing things in the order of importance" mightbe dysfunctional precisely because things might be equally important.By the same token writing on topics in the order of priority may be difficult for the same reason. What is more, writers on Ethiopian politics have been writing on issues of national importance for the last,at least, ten years and I was a bit apprehensive that the topicI pulled for discussion might have been discussed, already, which iswhy I was dithering to select a topic that should be given priority .The idea to pose my observation regarding marginalization of theyouth from politics, and the over all mood the youth is in convinced me as an area of priority.

An observation from within might not be as critical as it should be since I am a member of the generation I am observing. It is not as easy as we think to be critical in public about a group to which one belongs. Nonetheless, I opted to raise the issue out of the conviction that the issue has reached at a point where others parties [the outgoing generation, the elder generation,opposition parties and the like] should step in and do something about it.I am terribly concerned not only about marginalization of the youthfrom politics but also the very enervating and otiose activities theyouth is engaged in. It appears to me that some of the activities aretantamount to suicide. Normally, the issue should have been theprimary concern of a government but I omitted that out of theconviction that the `government' in power is neither attentive norwilling to be attentive to issues of concern to the life of thenation and have a negative impact on the future of the country. Insuch a situation opposition parties must take up and activate theissue. In fact writers might have raised this topic some time beforein some way. Nonetheless, We need to re-approach, I mean if that isthe case, the issue and recycle the relevant ideas in way sensationalso that the issue could be in the limelight and win the concerns ofthose who should be concerned about it. This was the prime pullfactor to write this article.

The section of population regarded as "Youth" is bigger, longer orthicker in the demographic graph of Ethiopia. Paradoxically, theParticipation of the youth in the political life of the country ismeager while the youth is the very first section of the population toshoulder all the shortcomings of bad governance on the notion thatall the political mess in the country bears its impact in the futureand the future primarily belongs to the youth, not even to thecurrent politicians who are mainly out of the domain of thiscategory. With regard to the magnitude of the problem(marginalization of the youth from politics), we need to underline thefact that the case is not that the youth is offstage but involved inpolitics. The case is that the youth is offstage, inactive inpolitics and engaged in some other otiose activities on a daily basis[I am not asserting that the Youth is not involved in politics ;whatI am asserting is that compared with the number and the role thatcould be played by the youth in the political arena, theparticipation is insignificant].There seems to be a negative relation between involvement of the youth in politics and engagement of theyouth in activities I mentioned above as otiose: while the essence ofworking for the cause of the nation or at least the tendency ofremaining with some ideas of national importance is dwindling, thetendency of living with irrelevant activities , gauged either onindividual , family or community basis, is spiraling up from time totime. To mention a few cases, the question of having `chiat' is coming to be a cardinal subject among hundreds and thousands, if notmillions, of youngsters on a daily basis. And those out side this domain are flocking to this or that form of religious congregationthere by primarily engaged, on a daily basis again, in multiplyingthe number of followers in their respective congregation. Still theremaining section of the youth is concerned with following up andupholding the various events in Europe - soccer, music and the likeon daily basis- at the expense of ignoring the very important issuesat home that concerns the youth. I am arguing that all these are themanifestations of political frustration which gave birth tomarginalization of the youth from politics.

So, I think ,we don't need to raise the question -is the youthmarginalized from politics as it is beyond doubt and/or a vivid phenomenon .If that is the case, the key question could be -Why isthat and/or what is the root cause of marginalization of the youthfrom politics-from historical and contemporary perspective? Is itsomething imposed (from above) or self inflicted, or both- imposedand self-inflicted? And what are the implications of politicalfrustration and marginalization of the youth from politics in thefuture of the country-culturally, politically, socially andeconomically? What has to be done vis-à-vis this problem? The why ofthe problem is interwoven to and can be elaborated in connection withthe second question. The underlying factor that has been hinderingand/or discouraging the youth from taking part in politics was/is thesubsequent frustrating actions inflicted by the subsequent regimesafter the `Revolution' .Probing the attitude of the government/stowards the youth with an alternative political view or towards thosewho were/are advocating the political view of the opposition couldprovide us with a clear picture as to how the subsequent governmentseroded and then affected the spirit of politics which at some pointflourished among the youth-there by imposing marginalization.

Imposed marginalization:

Many people, whom I talk to, harbor the view that the 1974 revolutionwas the main factor in demoralizing the youth not to think aboutpolitics ,let alone to involve in. In deed, the yearsof `revolutionary Ethiopia' contains a lot of information essentialto explain as to why the youth declined to involve in and pushedaside politics and issues connected with politics as well. The notionof a `revolution' is to bring about a fundamental change in thevarious aspects of the life of the nation -politically, economicallyand socially. And the notion of `change' has always been moreattractive to the youth than the other section of the population.That is the rationale behind the fact that the youth is all the timea dominant component in the course of a revolution. And in the courseof a revolution a struggle for political power (either to retain orto attain) is common not only between the antagonist groups but amongthe revolutionary group/groups themselves, who claim as working withthe notion and in a spirit of bringing about a `fundamental change'.To put it differently, the struggle is not only between the forcesof `change' and the forces of `continuity' but with in the circle ofthe forces of `change' as well.

In consequence, among other things, emotion, fear and suspicionprevail and remain high among the revolutionaries through out thecourse of a revolution( though they are not the rules of thegame).That is why revolution is all the time expensive in terms ofhuman life and hence a bloody phenomenon. And the sword of arevolution is merciless even to the very people who initiated theidea of changing the way the nation is being driven in variousaspects. This is a typical hallmark of a revolution not only in theEthiopian context but from the experiences of other nations as well.The French bourgeoisie revolution of the 18th century was one of thebloodiest revolutions which even weeded out the harbingers of therevolution. And ultimately, it gave rise to the dictatorship ofNapoleon. The Great October Socialist Revolution of Russia at thedawn of the 20th century was not less bloody and ate up, brutally,brilliant people like Trotsky. At the end of the day and in virtuallythe same way (though this one is a socialist revolution) it gave riseto the dictatorship of Stalin. We can mention some other revolutionsas well. Coming back to Ethiopian situation, the youth was both theharbinger and the very motor of the revolution, like elsewhere be itin a bourgeoisie or socialist context, in the sense that the youthpaved the way, brought about the revolution itself with a visionpalpable to the majority and oppressed section of the population.Less than half way to accomplish their goal they found themselvesindulged in a bid for power and/or they unknowingly and unconsciouslyturned out to be a tool for this or that group of `revolutionaries'.The scenario after this tells us a lot about what was happening tothe youth in the country and/or what the youth was doing. Therevolution itself turned out to be like a wild beast and the veryvictims of the revolution, apart from those in the antagonist camp,were those who fell in love with it [sic]-the youth.

Thousands of youngsters lost their lives while what they strove forwas not even pushed to half way [land to the tiller and formingpopular government were the significant components of the objectiveof the revolution- unfortunately neither of them are achieved. Nopopular government is in place and land is not still in the hands ofthe tillers with full ownership rights and still it is an importantpolitical tool for the men in power]. Others were tortured. Therewere instances where a family lost two or more sons and/or daughtersat a time in connection with the revolution. The manner in which theyouth was massacred, from different direction and by differentgroups, was brutal with a deliberate move of either winning the youthas a support group or frustrating the youth from taking the oppositeside. This brought about frustration among the youth and amongfamilies as well. That is when taking part in politics, be it offstage or on stage, came to be equated as Electric shock, "Korenti".This thinking was grounded on the fact that While those who reviledand spoke out against the system were eliminated those who kept quite(didn't touch the `korenti') saved their lives. Then avoidinginvolvement in politics, onstage or offstage, came to be a virtue anda way of guarantee to the important question of the time- security -and that is when parents became happy about their sons and daughters.

That was a landmark as far as marginaization of the youth frompolitics is concerned. The generation that came in to being in theaftermath of the revolution was told, by parents and/or neighbors,about the tragedy in the years and/or in the aftermath of therevolution. We grew up hearing families and/or neighbors mourning ontheir lost sons and daughters. On top of that survivors of the swoopon "Counter-revolutionaries" transplanted their trauma and victimmentality to their younger brothers and sisters and they wereconquered by this or that forms of addiction while the remainingyouth began to incline and adhere to this or that form of faith:mainly the various Protestant sects. I will try to portray ,later,the current trend and its impacts as far as the project of creating ademocratic Ethiopian where every body can have the opportunity toenjoy the rights of being human and of being a citizen, and tacklingall the pertinent national issues in the interests of the nation, isconcerned. Yet the political spirit among the youth was notcompletely depleted. There was a spasmodic political involvement oractivities. Though it was not displayed directly in reaction to thepolicies of the men in power then and the way the country's politicswas handled, it was displayed, at least, as a move to combat the thenguerrillas when the then regime in power made a clarion call atdifferent times and this same spirit was displayed towards the lastdays of the Derg when University Students called the then head ofstate, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, to the University campus andrequested him on issues of national importance and on how to do awaywith the guerrilla forces who were on their way to take over power.This clearly depicts that there was a concern for the cause of thenation even amidst political frustration. If we are to conceptualizethe idea that a concern for the well being, in whatever dimension oraspect, of the nation gives rise to political interest which in turnevolved in to participation in politics we ought to definitelyincline to the judgement that the youth was to some extent involvedin politics. In fact, there were instances when the regime was forcedto impose a national service system when the youth appeared reluctantto join the defense force and the refusal, I think, could be regardedas an offshoot of the marginalization -which deprived the youth ofawareness and hence concern, as in most case concern springs fromawareness.

The trend of marginalizing the youth continued with the ascension topower of TPLF/EPRDF. The regime in power coined the term `Anti-peaceforces', in a manner the Derg used the term `counter-revolutionaries', to eliminate those who were/are at odd with thesystem. Theoretically, the regime claims that it has provided everycitizen with the right to demonstrate a political belief so long asthe demonstration is peaceful. Practically, the regime in power wasengaged in thwarting the Youth not to demonstrate, meaningfully andadequately, any political opinion other than the political creed ofTPLF/EPRDF. This had been displayed in a number of occasions and indifferent parts of the country. And thousands had been killed,tortured or exiled. Institutions of higher learning, in particular,have been closely monitored by the agents of the regime in power withthe move to avert any possible opposition from the student community.The TPLF/EPRDF regime, for instance, has committed repeatedatrocities against University students only because they wished todemonstrate their opposition to the policies of the regime in power.The same action was taken outside the institutions of higher learningand elsewhere against the youth.

As a result, more and more youngsters avoided involvement even in theoff stage politics. Then after questions in various places came inthe form of social appearance or some other non-political cover. Forexample, there have been hunger strikes in the various institutionsof higher learning and they were all a request either for theimprovement of meal or other facilities in the campuses. At onepoint, and may be still, it was quite common to hear thecomment "generation of bred" as a typifying tag of this generationfrom the previous generations. My take on this issue is that it wouldbe a derogatory remark to assert that the strikes were, indeed ,aboutmeal and improvement of other facilities. Many students were from thecountryside and they understand very well what the country can offerin terms of facility and for that matter they (we) understand thetorment condition under which the peasantry was/is languishing. Theunderlying cause of the strikes was political frustration and all thestrikes were about politics. But forwarding demands in a purelypolitical form was expensive and could only be paid, in most cases,in life, torture, arrest or exile. That was why students werecompelled to wrap their feelings that way. There was, for instance, aserious hunger strike at Kotebe College of teachers' Education in1996 and the first thing students mentioned to the Collegeauthorities who came to the scene to attend to students' demand wasthat the strike was not political in nature-Let me use the termitself -"we demand bread and our demand is not political" and theplacard was written in four languages-Amharic, Oromiffa, Tigrigna andEnglish. But that did not mean students, who are part of the youth,did not have a political question as a student, as member of theyouth and as an Ethiopian, but they knew who the authorities were andthe expenses of political demand. On top of that, students' councilwas completely filled with cadre students and they are the ones whohave the access to the media. [By the way I am using theterms `Youth' and `students' interchangeably with the intention thatstudents can at the same time be part of the Youth and that can betaken as a sample of the Youth. The other reason is that in mostcases questions raised by students in the institutions of higherlearning are taken up by the other sections of the Youth]

To sum up this point, the regimes after the revolution have beendoing relentlessly either to make the youth support their policies orto remain in a neutral position. And they all did this brutally andin blood thirst manner. In the end this created a victim mentalityand the youth started to conceptualize politics with a deadly diseaseor electric current there by distancing itself away from politics.This can be taken as imposed marginalization - from above. Thenegative impact of this is immense. And it is unlikely the mencurrently in power can understand the long term impact of the trend.After all, who are the leaders to analyze all these and more? Thewheel of the government machinery is in the hands of either ignorantor selfish people like Tefera Walwa, Addisu Legesse and even MelesZenawi himself.

Self-inflicted Marginalization:

In a situation where the government is unwilling to accommodate theYouth in the political life of the country, not only as proponentsbut as opponents and members in the opposition quarter as well, it isindispensable to exploit all the opportunities arising from anypolitical activities of opposition parties or the government itself,to make sure that the government feel and recognize the inclusion ofthe youth in politics as a vital point and that is when it ispossible to make the government feel the impact of marginalizing theyouth. Putting it differently, all the opportunities of taking partin politics while offstage should be given due emphasis and value. Ihave the conviction that remaining active in offstage politics couldlead to an active involvement in onstage politics. It appears thatsuch an approach is not given the attention and commitment itdeserves.

For instance, no matter how nominal they were, TPLF/EPRDF had beenorganizing elections at different times and that should have beenexploited as a possible way of resisting the regime in power. As manypeople agree, it would have been useful in the sense that no roomcould have been left for TPLF/EPRDF to claim a landslide victory (Iam not saying TPLF/EPRDF won a landslide victory. never!). I had theopportunity to observe the last `woreda' and `Kebele' election, onbehalf of Ethiopian Human rights council-EHRCO (The principles ofelection were not observed at all and the election was s all fake, onthe side of the government). What is pity is that the youth did notpop up to polling station and that has helped TPLF/EPRDF to fraud thevoting process. It was only those who were working with TPLF/EPRDFwho- meaningfully and with commitment -participated in the votingprocess. I have requested friends who were observing the electionsome where else and the trend was virtually same-the youth did nottake part in the election as much as it should. Had there been anactive involvement of the youth in the election as voters the resultwould have been otherwise (the question would the regime in poweraccept the result is another thing). This, among other things,demonstrates that the youth has a share to take as far asmarginalization from politics is concerned and this can be termed asself-inflicted marginalization. How could that happen? Is it becausethe youth was/is not in a position to realize the fact that takingpart in events like election process is another possible avenue toremain active, at least, in offstage politics and counts towardsreinforcing the opposition and challenging the regime in power? .No!! The reason is, as I mentioned at the outset, that the youth isengaged in some other activities on a daily basis. And my concernhere is that the activities the youth is engaged in are problematic-dimensionally and - both in the short term and in the future of thecountry. Being inactive in politics per se is not healthy, especiallyin a country like Ethiopia where there is a chronic political crisis-brought about both by the government and some political groups. Apartfrom this, the activities currently attracting the youth more andmore bear a devastating upshot in the country in a number of ways.

Features of political frustrations and their implications:

May be the discipline political psychology could provide us with auseful tool necessary for the analysis of what political frustrationis all about (and I expect this from those in the field). But for thetime being it is not difficult to pull some explanation fromdevelopmental psychology to explain as to why a considerable portionof the Youth is behaving the way it is behaving currently. Accordingto Lahey, Parents are classified into three categories depending onthe way they raise children-authoritarian, permissive andauthoritative (this differs from the first one). Authoritarianfamilies are very strict and they stick to "because I say so"approach [sic] and they implement their rule by punishment. AndChildren from this kind of family are very frustrated and it islikely for such a child to go bad or behave badly (Psychologistscould correct me for wrong). This kind of relation represents theexisting situation regarding the way cross section of the youth isbehaving in Ethiopia. A considerable portion of the youth is goingbad because it has been living under authoritarian government andwith strict instruction of "because I say so" approach. However, Ithink it is possible for children from authoritarian family to be aresponsible and visionary individuals by assuming responsibility,envisaging a bright future in a situation when parents failed to takegood care - rather than responding by enervating himself/herself andindulging in practices that can not bring about solution and/oraggravates the problem. Now let us look at some of theexemplification and features of frustration.

Addiction to `chiat' as a political anesthesia:

I can not exactly trace as to when the habit came to be part of theday to day activity among a considerable section of the Youth. But Ican certainly speak out that the addiction has become a way of lifeand an important subject in the lives of thousands of youngsters inand becoming ubiquitous event in the country. It is also very visiblethat the number of addicts is mounting from time to time at alarmingrate. The situation in the various institutions of higher learningcould be taken as a sample to portray the magnitude of the problem.The number of students claiming the impossibility of studyingwithout `chiat' is increasing annually or biannually. Includingstudents coming from the rural part of Ethiopia are being conqueredby the addiction since it is deemed as a style of living amongyoungsters who claim the title `arada'. It is not uncommon to observeyoungsters, from upcountry, trying to emulate those who areenshrining the `norm' of living in the world of `arada ` and alsoclaiming the title `Yegebaw'( with the existing application among theyouth the term connotes some one with a clear vision of what life isall about).In actuality ,that is a misnomer and the terrible thingabout it is that the term accurately denotes the opposite. Amongother addictions, `Bercha', a prestigious name given to the practiceof chewing `chiat', is one of the measuring unit to label some oneas `arada' or `Yegebaw' .In consequence many are ending up being avictim to the addiction. Putting it differently, joining the worldof `arada' is coming to be a virtue among a cross section of theyouth. Tackling my intrinsic feeling of being a member of thisgeneration and regretting (about all the downsides of my generation),at this point, I want to make a general comparison between the youthin history and the contemporary generation. Simply, stretching something like a century and a little more to Ethiopia's past, we noticethe nation faced with the task of maintaining its independence in theface of colonialism. Very fortunately, dedication to the cause of thenation and courage were among the established virtues in the societyin general and the youth in particular and they successfully didmaintain the independence of Ethiopia paying in life. Some fortyyears later, Ethiopia the independence of the country was challengedagain. Courage was still there among the youth was invested to resistthe occupation and the youth was emulating their elders. And allother virtues were still there (In fact we had some IgnobleEthiopians who stood on the side of colonialism). If you are to readHaddis Alemayehu's `Tizita', you can observe a humble, strong,freedom loving, courageous, kind Ethiopians, and with integrity andwith extreme dedication to the cause of Ethiopia .For me, thoseEthiopians are the acme and paragons of what being human is all aboutbecause these objects elucidate the essences of being human and cannot lose importance with time [I am conscious about the fact thatwhat is a virtue in one society may not be a virtue in anothersociety. But there are qualities which all human beings share byvirtue of being human and they are Universal in character just likehuman rights] I believe the objects emanated from the values andvirtues in the culture and were important components of the virtuesof the society.

The generation in the aftermath of evacuation of Italians was the onewho fascinated with and fall in love with the concept of a revolutionand were/are far better in terms political consciousness and devotionto the cause of the nation compared to my generation -though theireffort remained sterile, viewed from the perspective of forming apopular government dedicated to the interest of the nation and/orpeople. They were discussing now and then on various issues ofnational importance. It was in this spirit that they were dragged tothe mood of political extremism, there by killing each other. I amnot condoning the way they handled things. What I am saying is theywere at least on the track with matters of concern to the nation. AsI have explained above, now the virtue and concern of the youth areturning out to be activities harmful not only to the individual youthbut to the future of the country as well. The controversial matteramong the youth is coming to be "chiat" and other related issues. Toyour surprise, I have come across, in a couple of occasion,youngsters who get annoyed when you discuss about the impact attachedto "chiat". For me this is tantamount to moving hundreds of milesaway from our culture, which in some form has been vigilant to thewell being of the nation, and only to fetch something harmful. It isalso tantamount t to suicide though the effect can not be feltovernight. What would have happened if this was the generation inplace and time, something like 150 years or a little less, faced withthe task of maintaining the independence of the country in the faceof colonialism?!

The question of implication of this particular practice - what doesit mean to be attached to this addiction-chiat- in such a manner -economically, socially, politically and culturally?)- requires anintensive research just for the sake of portraying the problemvividly. Yet it is not difficult to realize that a culturalrevolution -perilous and in the wrong direction-is being carried outby this generation. It is also visible that an economic, political,and social crisis is hovering, provided that the number of those whoare being a victim to it is growing at the current rate. I have theopportunity, both in Ethiopia and here in Kenya, to look closely therate at which the number of addicts is growing and it is reallypainful to think about the repercussion it bears in the future.Nearly a year ago I sent an email to the producers of `Mestawot'Programme of VOA -Amharic service- regarding the addiction under thetitle "the ignored challenge" hoping that they would give it weightand invite the youth for discussion. Unfortunately it didn't happen.However, the issue is still my prior area of concern to the extent ofmy concern to HIV-AIDS. I was, and still am arguing that at somepoint the addiction is a partner to HIV-AIDS. Just visualize theseries of events after `chiat' and you can clearly see the pointwhere the addiction and the epidemic are working together. I was alsopointing out that the addiction has some thing in common with HIVepidemic in that, like HIV -AIDS, it is affecting the productivesection of the population .On top of that the addiction is affectingmillions and still catching up more youngsters. And I was suggestingan approach of containing the addiction just like HIV: preventingthose who are not addicts from joining the camp (susun balebetmakom). Anyways, this must be a point of discussion and with nowastage of time.

Getting back to the political impact of the addiction, my position is that "chiat", in the Ethiopian context , is serving as a politicalanesthesia for the men in power. The youth is spending much of theday chewing chiat and chiat has attained an honorable place in theminds of the youth. Such political questions like installing in placea democratic government, Ethiopia's rightful claim to access to thesea, poverty alleviation and the like are out of the circle of theattention of the youth. In other words, a growing number of the youthis not so much concerned-either theoretically or practically -aboutthe current situation or the future of the country as it is concernedabout `chiat'. As mentioned, the youth is preoccupied with thequestion of having `chiat' and with a spectacular determination toit. This reminded me of the event `rice riot' in the Japanese historywhich was caused by an increase in the price of rice and I am afraidthe question of chiat might arouse such a riot in the future, apartfrom currently serving TPLF/EPRDF government as a politicalanesthesia. Naturally, the youth was/is a potential threat to badgovernance and a motor in the opposition movement. .Practically theyouth, in Ethiopia, is in a mood of deep sleep with `chiat' and thatis so advantageous to the regime in power.

Religion as another political Anesthesia:

First of all I would like readers to understand that the idea is notdrawn from the materialist philosophy of Marx-`religion is an opium'.It has nothing to do with that. The argument here is on the basis ofmy observation of the generation to which I belong. I do believe thatthere is nothing wrong in embracing a faith, whichever form weprefer. But I do also hold the view that embracing faith, which ever,should not hamper from discussing political issue and about thepolitical life of the country. Tendency is a high among those whoembrace this or that form of faith to avoid discussion on politicalissues (with some exceptions) and they hold the belief that they cando nothing about the things going wrong to the nation but prayer.This is the thing I can never or ever accept because it is wrong.While commitment is so high to multiply the number of worshipers intheir respective congregation, it is zero or even negative to havediscussion on the fate of the nation. Unfortunately, the number ofyoungsters with such a belief is increasing with the swelling size ofthe worshipers in the various Congregations.

At the height of Apartheid policy in South Africa, the situation wasmore painful to the young blacks and it was unbearable for a youngman. Then many black youngsters were frustrated with the situationand swung to embrace the various forms or sects of Christianity,there by sticking to the belief that this world does not belong tothem and they wrapped their suffering with this cover. A considerableportion of the youth is in the circle of this thinking and this hasretarded the struggle for freedom. The trend was later changed afterrelentless effort and the tribute to this goes to ANC and otherparties in South Africa. It appears to me that the same thing ishappening to the Youth in Ethiopia (applicable for those who areoutside the domain of addiction to chiat).

This sentiment is not in line with the principle of Christianity.Christianity has been there since ancient time and it has served asan ideology for emperors -Christians have been serving both theirreligious faith and at the same time their nation. Catholicism hadbeen an ideology in the Roman Empire, Orthodox Christianity in theByzantine Empire, Protestantism in Germany after the period ofreformation. This is also true with Islam in what is now the MiddleEast. The term caliph implies both a religious and spiritual leader.Neither in the past nor in the contemporary world religion had everbeen at odds with national affairs of political nature, as to myunderstanding. Buddhism, Judaism and what have you can not be freefrom this trend .To mention some example from the contemporary world,Kenya, next door, is dominantly Catholic -with a considerable numberof Muslim and Protestants and yet Kenyans are active in politics,even the prelates. Currently, for instance, the constitution reviewprocess has turned out to be a bone of contention in Kenyan politicsand religious leaders are directly and indirectly involved in anactivity to twist any possible acrimony and at the same time to win anew constitution for Kenyans. Religious leaders are even initiatingthe Mwai Kibaki government to finalize the process with in a possibleshortest time. Majority of the population in the U.S. is protestantand it is at the same time active in politics. We can mention a lot.

Coming back to the situation of Ethiopia, the tendency of embracingand committing oneself to the embraced faith should not be at oddswith and at the expense of discussion on the fate of the country,having an opinion in the way the country should be handled andattaining political awareness. Emphasizing on the essence and primacyof politics in human relation and interaction, Kwame Nkrumah ofGhana, astoundingly stated "seek ye first your political Kingdom andall things shall be added unto you" (General History of Africa, Vol.III- UNESCO edition). This may appear an extremist opinion for manypeople. But there is still a point of crucial importance - workingfor freedom from political oppression is not at odds with religiouscreeds. It also implies the importance and possibility of seeking thekingdom of God and favorable political atmosphere and working towardsit concurrently.

Soccer and Music:

This is still another domain making the youth busy and still at theexpense of political awareness there by serving, again, TPLF/EPRDF asa political anesthesia. A considerable and growing number youngstersare being attached to either to music or European soccer. Somesection of the youth from this domain is living and breathing Reggae,others are living and breathing rap, still others are living andbreathing the English primer league. I want to underline that I amnot claiming any one of these should not be a component of our hobby.My position is that it should not be the only or the dominant subjectin our day -to -day life as if we don't have something else to engageourselves in.

What is the remedy for all these?

Here I am not talking about what the government in power could orshould do. No! There is no point in that. I am talking about whatopposition parties could and should do. Opposition parties have beenworking to aware the people on the project of installing a democraticgovernment, regaining what the country has lost -in the political,economic and social sector -under TPLF/EPRDF administration. And theproject requires the participation and commitment of the populace andthe larger section of the populace is the youth. The mood a crosssection of the youth is in, on the other hand, does not fit with theproject for reasons mentioned above and also for reasons notmentioned. Which is why opposition parties have been lagging behindsuccess. So opposition parties in general and the newly formedpolitical alliance in particular, should do something about it. Theproject of many of the opposition party is lofty and if the projectis not to be sterile, the new coalition should carry out its programof action, having in mind the task of arousing political interest andawareness among the youth as an area of priority. Interest andawareness are all the time indispensable to achieve any kind of goal.Then follows dedication and that is the threshold of success.

The good thing about the youth is that it is fast to understand andrealize something valuable if guided. And this is specifically truewhen it comes to the cause of this great nation-Ethiopia. This hasbeen proofed in a couple of occasions. The Gashi Abera Molla projectcan provide us with a good example of this .No assistance wasprovided by the government, when hundreds and thousands of youngstersin Addis Ababa responded to the clarion call of this noble artist toclean the dump in Addis Ababa. In the recent confrontation ofUniversity students with TPLF/EPRDF regime (in 2001), the motor rolewas still played by the youngsters in Addis Ababa and other towns.The events in Addis Ababa on the arrival of victorious athletescontains a lot of message regarding the interest and commitment ofthe youth when it comes to something connected with the cause ofEthiopia. It is up to the opposition parties to arouse and exploitthis potential and they need to know that it is a good startingpoint. Let they not start with an endeavor to discuss about Liberaldemocracy, not with the issue of regaining access to the sea andthings like that. Rather, the parties should enable the youth tovisualize the fact that every youngster is valuable to the countryboth at present and in the future. And every youngster should feelthat way. When that one is achieved, it is automatic that issues ofnational importance would be interesting objects among the the youthand be a point of discussion. And that is when parties shoulddiscuss, with the youth, about installing democratic government, thevalue of taking part in election, regaining access to the sea, thekind of government structure Ethiopia should have. After this theyouth could be given an assignment and responsibility so that it canbe more dedicate to the cause.

Is it feasible to achieve the task of arousing political interest andawareness among the youth? Of course!! The task may appear a bit difficult but definitely not impossible. And there are a number ofways to attain the objective. I can see,for instance, that Artists,by virtue of their profession, do have a large follower among theyouth and hence access t to the youth. There fore, they can be auseful tool to aware the youth. And I have recognized that there arevery dedicated artists to the cause of Ethiopia and I don't thinksuch people would refuse to devote their talent if approached wisely.The discouraging factor was the bickering in the opposition quarterand now it appears that is gone and I hope it won't be back at leastbefore the downfall of the regime in power.


To generalize, the youth has been marginalized from politicsprimarily because of the policy of governments that came to powerafter the `revolution'. And also because the political frustrationgave rise to some mal-practices which came to dominate the lives ofthousands and millions of youngsters there by depriving the youth ofthe commitment and dedication which should have been invested tobring about objects (political, social and economic) which are in theinterest of the nation. Many of these objects are robbed by theregime in power. If opposition parties do have a project of forming ademocratic Ethiopia and regain every thing Ethiopia has lost underthe previous regime and the regime in power, it can only be achievedwith the active participation of the Youth. For that to happen it isimportant for the opposition parties to deal with victim mentalityand/or hangover of political frustration among a cross section of theyouth as far as involvement in politics is concerned. We need to freeourselves from ourselves and then we can free the country from everymal- administration born diseases-politically, economically andsocially.Therefore, I strongly believe that clearing off thefrustration among the youth and/or waking the youth up from the moodof deep sleep should be the prime concern of opposition parties andit is a good starting point for opposition parties in general and thenewly formed political alliance -UEDF -in particular. A policy andstrategy of combating the imposed marginalization (from above) bypolitical activation from below is of burning importance. Thisobviously leads to success.

Yet, the task should not be left only in the hands of oppositionparties. Individuals, civic organizations and other stake holdersshould be involved in this task. Diffusing the concept about theessence of being active in politics in a way that can be visualizedby those who are inactive counts towards achieving the goal and thiscan be done even by every conscious individuals from all walks oflife. Quoting, Eldridge Clever, Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, in hisbook `the road less travelled' mentions " If you are not part of thesolution, then you are part of the problem"-the saying was famous inthe U.S. in the sixties. I think the saying works well in oursituation and now. Responsibility may be something given. But moreimportantly, responsibility is also something we assume.

By Dimetros Birku,Nairobi,Kenya

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