Reeyot Alemu: Why Her Decision MattersPublished Posted on | By TZTA News
By Prof. Alemayehu G Mariam
December 21, 2015
Last week Ethiopia’s foremost heroine of free press, Reeyot Alemu, declared she had joined Ginbot 7, a political organization committed to armed struggle against the T-TPLF.
In 2012, the T-TPLF had jailed Reeyot on bogus terrorism charges and sentenced her to 14 years in prison. She was released in July and arrived in the U.S. a few weeks ago.
Reeyot explained why she decided to join the armed struggle against the T-TPLF:
I have been thinking of what I can do inside Ethiopia. If I write, I will be imprisoned. I will be jailed. That would be the end of it. I have to do something to oppose and change the regime. To do so, I have to make a special contribution. My sacrifices have to be commensurate to the enormity of the task. I am not willing to be jailed for having written something. That is not commensurate. When I think of what I can do to bring about change, I thought I can do much better. They can shut down [political] parties anytime they want; they can shut down newspapers any time they want. If they were to jail a party member or leader, that’s better because the party could continue on. It is easy for them to shut down parties and newspapers and jail journalists. These days even little things like writing on Facebook is something one can be jailed for. Even comedians cannot joke [about the regime]. So what can I do? Not much. I concluded in prison that I cannot do much in the country. After I was released I gave interviews and wrote pieces on Ethiomedia and tried to show what my stand is. I believe we have to cast off our fears and take constructive action, action whose results can be seen. Action does not come from wishful thinking. I say all this because I have no plans to return to the homeland. I know if I return I will be sent back to Kality [Meles Zenawi Kality Prison]. Therefore, I have to make a contribution to the struggle [from outside]. I decided in prison to join the Ginbot 7 movement. There is no opportunity for peaceful struggle. Even the little opportunities that existed when I was jailed, they do not exist today. There is no choice left. There is nothing left but armed struggle. That is why I have joined Ginbot 7.
Is there no “opportunity for peaceful struggle” left in Ethiopia?
Reeyot’s statement that there is no opportunity for peaceful struggle left in Ethiopia is a question of profound importance for every Ethiopian. It is a question whose answer will determine decisively and irreversibly the future of Ethiopia. (The future of the T-TPLF is already determined. It has no future!)
Reeyot’s statement raises profound questions in my own thinking and the struggle I have waged against the T-TPLF criminals ceaselessly for nearly 10 years.
First let me say that I have the highest respect for Reeyot. I have the greatest appreciation for her sacrifices. I have great admiration for her defiance of the T-TPLF.
Reeyot refused to kneel down before the T-TPLF gods and ask for pardon and mercy. She stood her ground and refused to be intimidated, humiliated and dehumanized by the T-TPLF in prison.
When I heard Reeyot said “there is no opportunity for peaceful change in Ethiopia”, I felt like I was struck by lightning.
If I believed Reeyot was simply articulating her personal views, I would have treated her statement as a mere expression of her personal beliefs.
But Reeyot speaks for her generation, the 70 percent of young Ethiopians, like no one I know.
Reeyot resonates and echoes the despair, hopelessness, anguish, tribulation and resolve of her generation. She speaks for and is a messenger of Ethiopia’s young people.
When Reeyot delivers the message that there is no opportunity for peaceful struggle left in Ethiopia, that is a game changer for me.
As I contemplated Reeyot’s statement, I asked myself what the alternative choice is to peaceful struggle. Is it armed struggle?
When a gang of thugs publicly pledges to take “merciless actions” against unnamed protesters, indiscriminately shoots into protesting crowds, detonates hand grenades in the midst of worshippers, jails and tortures opponents, steals elections and claims to have won by 100 percent of the votes, the choice is not between peaceful and armed struggle.
No! No! The choice is NOT between peaceful struggle and armed struggle; the choice is between cowardice and violence.
I think Reeyot reached the spiritual tipping point Gandhi reached when he wrote, “The Doctrine of the Sword”:
I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.
I believe Reeyot reached the point where she was forced to accept permanent dishonor of Ethiopia by the T-TPLF or stand up and fight against the T-TPLF.
When facing and standing up to the military might, financial invincibility and total control of the T-TPLF, Reeyot re-proclaimed Gandhi’s declaration that “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
The indomitable will that has turned Reeyot away from the path of nonviolence is the courage of her convictions and her refusal to be afraid of the T-TPLF no more, to no longer accept humiliation and indignity from the T-TPLF.
Reeyot reached a point of “Enough is Enough!” I believe all Ethiopians have reached a point of “Enough is Enough!”