By Alem Mamo
Authoritarian regimes are very skilled in elevating the concept of denial to a whole different level. Their standard play book is almost identical regardless of geography, political orientation or culture. First, they begin with their over-inflated self-worth, that is followed by their exaggerated accomplishments, and when the end is near they view themselves as messianic saviors with the mission to save the country and its people. This is the natural growth process of authoritarian regimes. Among many one particular trait is the most common in their mind set, which is denial and self-deception.
In 2011, during the Libyan uprising, Muammar Gaddafi was asked about the rebellion engulfing the country to get rid of his regime. Gaddafi’s response was pure self-deception. He said “I am loved by all my people, and there are no protests in Tripoli.” He also said true Libyans had not demonstrated but those who had come on to the streets were under the influence of drugs supplied by al-Qaeda and they are thugs and mercenaries.
At a news conference on Monday, October 10, 2016, the TPLF regime’s spokesperson, Getachew Reda, denied there was a locally organized uprising in the country. Instead, he singled out Eritrea and Egypt as sources of backing for “armed gangs”. He further elaborated stating, “we know for a fact that the terrorist group OLF has been receiving all kinds of support from Egypt.” “Armed gangs”? Those young and aspiring university students, pregnant women, fathers, mothers, professionals murdered by Agazi are now being labeled as “armed thugs”? This is sad – the dead, as well as the living, don’t have respect in Ethiopia.
This kind of response to a popular uprising that is demanding nothing less than fundamental change could only be defined as self-deception. According to Stanley Cohen, this kind of pattern of behaviour can be observed in an organizational or government structure when “people, organizations, governments or whole societies are presented with information that is too disturbing, threatening or anomalous to be fully absorbed or openly acknowledged. The information is therefore somehow repressed, disavowed, pushed aside or reinterpreted. Or else the information ‘registers’ well enough, but its implications – cognitive, emotional or moral – are evaded, neutralized or rationalized away.”
The blaming of ‘foreign enemies’ or ‘thugs’ is language we are accustomed to hear from authoritarian regimes time and again. As part of their self -deception and delusion, their minds continuously manufacture parallel stories completely opposite to the reality.
Susan Rice, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said “When he can laugh in talking to… journalists while he is slaughtering his own people, it only underscores how unfit he is to lead and how disconnected he is from reality.” She added that Col. Gaddafi was “frankly delusional”. Sadly, the same Susan Rice also gave a glowing eulogy to another tyrant and one of the architects of the current mess in Ethiopia. Speaking at the funeral of Meles Zenawi, she said, “He was uncommonly wise – able to see the big picture and the long game, even when others would allow immediate pressures to overwhelm sound judgment. Those rare traits were the foundation of his greatest contributions.” Well, I wonder if Ms. Rice would stand by her words after seeing where Ethiopia is today.
The declaration of the so-called ‘state of emergency’ is nothing more than a comical show. There is nothing the regime was not doing before the declaration of the state of emergency that it is going to do now. It is well documented by credible human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, that the regime arbitrarily arrests, search homes with out a warrant, exercises extrajudicial killings, torture and a whole host of human rights violations. So, what is left? What different authority or power would be given to the security forces? The declaration of the ‘state of emergency’ is a comedy, except we can’t laugh!
TPLF is a regime that has overstayed a welcome that it didn’t have in the first place. Twenty-five years of repression, polarization and institutional terror is the only mechanism that kept it in power. Now, the people of Ethiopia from all corners, age, religion, and identity have spoken in one chorus: Enough! The declaration of a state of emergency is the last card all authoritarian regimes play while they are being shown they way out. In essence, the state of the emergency is the last gasp of a dying regime to feed their own self-deception and denial.
In the end, neither the self-deception nor the glowing words of their external supports can save authoritarian regimes from their demise. Any government can only govern with the consent and mandate of the people. A regime that absurdly claims that have won 100% of the vote has neither the consent nor the mandate to govern. In Ethiopia we are witnessing the last sequence of a brutal authoritarian regime, state of emergency and the end!
The writer can be reached at [email protected]