Tuesday, December 7, 2021
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Condemned for transgressing the “sacred norm”

Tariku Gankisi (Photo : from YouTube official video screenshot)

By Kedir Ahmed

Tariku Tariku Gankisi , known for his very popular song, “Dishta Gina”, has done something considered to be a taboo in Ethiopia’s political discourse. That is expressing your opinion without fear of a backlash. The unwritten “sacred norm” is that people with alternative views are vilified, ostracized, and punished just because they don’t conform to the status quo. Most of our political problems stem from not giving a chance to different and opposing ideas to be heard, and laying out alternative options so that we can find a common denominator to work around with.  We refrain from speaking our mind for fear of not being labelled as an “outsider.”  Consequently,  we suffer from the adverse impact of groupthink that “causes blindness to potentially negative outcomes, inability to see other solutions and obedience to authority without question.”   

It takes courage to show your independence in front of a large crowd without succumbing to peoples’ expectation, and a direct pressure to unanimity.  I admire Tariku for not being bound to the “sacred norm” and showing his true colors despite the organizers’ effort to shut him down at the rally held in Addis Ababa for the ongoing war against TPLF . He simply said, “no more to war and let’s give a chance to peaceful negotiations.”  I later found out that he apologized for it due to negative comments and undue pressure directed at him from social media.  I felt sorry for him for being subject to public humiliation and abuse. 

In my opinion, Tariku owes us no apologies. On the contrary, we should have applauded him for being a man of his word, and having a firm belief in peace and love.  Acting as a drum-beater to the narrow political narrative of the government would neither benefit us nor our country. 

We should ask ourselves, “ do we have the moral ground to stand up and criticize him so aggressively and put his life in danger?” 

Tariku was a soldier in the Ethio-Eritrea senseless war in which more than 100,000 brave men and women lost their lives.  He saw first-hand the horror and destruction of war unlike many of us who hide ourselves behind social media, and sensationalize war in order to get more views and likes.  After he left the military, he worked as a day laborer, and lived on the street because he couldn’t afford to rent a house. He then got tired of the city life, and moved back to his home town and became a farmer.  He has been conveying the message of love and peace since then through his music, and used his fame to preach humanity and unity.  “Dishta Gina” was born out of his life’s story and experience.    

I am sure that if he only sang the song and left the stage without making any speech, no one would pay attention to the message of his song.  But, uttering those words that didn’t go along with the purpose of the public meeting got him into big trouble.  We missed to realize that the words of his remarks were very similar to what the song is all about.  It doesn’t make sense to approve of and reject the same thing at the same time. Also, why did the organizers invite him knowing that the rally was held to motivate people to take up arms and join the fight?  It was clear that the event was not intended to galvanize support for peace. Or, was it? Who knows?!  We have been lied to so many times that we have no idea what to believe or not. 

Finding someone else to fill the void created by the inaction of our elders and religious leaders before our country enters into a complete chaos is a blessing to innocent people who suffered the most due to the brutal war currently unfolding before our eyes.  Tariku has played that role. He became a voice for the voiceless.  We should emulate his kindness, and follow his steps in expressing what we feel is right without hesitation.  Things may not turn out to be in our favor but don’t let setbacks rob us of our courage from speaking our mind.   

Ethiopia will always prevail, Insha Allah!!
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