The Ethiopian Diaspora!

The Ethiopian Diaspora are making seminal contributions to socio-economic and political realities back home. Their support ranges from making financial contributions to opposition parties at home to communicating government's and oppositions' deeds to the international community. 



I argue that the Diaspora should also be held responsible for part of the political mess for various reasons. By "political mess", I mean the lack or absence thereof of genuine  democratic practices and the rule of law. What we have in Ethiopia is, I firmly believe, pseudo-democracy that does not support transparency and accountability, peaceful rallies, independent media, professional associations, and generally freedom and justice. Although the regime and the opposition at home should take the lion's share, the Diaspora should also take part of the blame. Unknowingly or by design, the Diaspora adversely impact socio-economic and political dynamism in Ethiopia in diverse ways.     

One, their support does not discriminate between democratic and authoritarian opposition parties back home. They funded several parties which are as autocratic and dictatorial as the ruling party. They failed to demand transparency, accountability, and impact while making donations. 

Two, the Diaspora are taking part in the endless divisions of political parties. Rather than taking a non-partisan and evaluative stance following the fall of Kinjit, for instance,  several got involved in the divisions and helped maintain different factions. The Diaspora support and sustain divisions and divisions. 

Three, they do not initiate and maintain a culture of debate that involves both EPRDF and opposition members and supporters. One is an alien to the other and if by chance they happen to meet in an event or a meeting, things just change for the worst. Rather than resorting to civilized debate and discourses, they usually throw nasty words and sometimes stuff against each other.

Four, this polarized view of politics and Ethiopia is maintained by the media in the Diaspora. Websites and blogs are as battlefields as Badme and Shiraro were years ago. Media maintained by EPRDF sympathizers never post a paper that criticizes government, no matter how genuine and constructive the argument the paper makes. Media run by opposition sympathizers are also reluctant to publish papers a) that seem to have EPRDF flavor, or 2) that do not champion their editorial statements. It is not uncommon to read papers that are full of insults and character assassinations. 

Five, Diaspora associations, political parties, and discussion forums do not appear democratic and change prone. Rather than waging a protracted political struggle against the governing party, several keep fighting each other. Several keep on cloning themselves and confuse the public. I have written a paper on this issue and is available at http://tekluabate.blogspot.no/2012/10/d-day-ethiopian-type.html.

Six, the educated Diaspora do not often get involved in discussions that target at bringing final consensus and change. Only a handful of the intellectuals actually take their time to write and communicate discussion papers. Bad is that those limited writers do not read each other; each forwards his/her own ideas on different topics. And there are times when they write on a single topic without making reference to or citing each other. Follow up discussions and then at last broad agreements are thus hard to come by.

Seven, part of the Diaspora try to draw a rosy image of Ethiopia. Following the visits they make to Ethiopia, they authoritatively argue that Ethiopia is growing by qualities and quantities much like what happens in middle-income countries. The evidences they provide for their conclusion relate to the infrastructure under development. To them, condominiums, villas, roads, dams schools,  health centers, and hotels are the measures of socio-economic development. They, knowingly or unconsciously,  ignore how inequitable and inadequate are the changes considering the Ethiopian mass. They put aside the level of corruption, abuse, persecution, imprisonment, and generally lawlessness. Other parts of the Diaspora  deliberately ignore in their discourse the infrastructure under development, one reason why several people argue that the Ethiopian Diaspora are paranoid and extremist. To me, these two groups of the Diaspora do not contribute any to the betterment of politics and overall change in Ethiopia; they just complicate it.   

From the aforementioned arguments alone, one could conclude that the Diaspora hardly significantly and positively shape the political field in Ethiopia. It is fair to say that we the Ethiopian Diaspora have, by design or by tradition, done and are doing a lot messy things that retard political advancement. If not as huge as the mess created by the government and home-based opposition political parties, our problem is big enough to be addressed. We seem to play so wild on the political playing field that even autocratic officials back home and elsewhere make fun out of us. Making politics in a barbaric way while living in and working for some of the most democratic societies on earth is hard to explain.

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