A LETTER TO ETHIOPIA’S PROTESTORS
From an American Friend
The brave people of Ethiopia, especially the youth that are standing up for freedom and a better life, have earned the respect of the world as they restore to their country the dignity that its glorious history and culture deserve.
But courage is not enough. A successful resistance movement also needs a complete strategy and carefully chosen tactics.
The deaths and injuries caused by the dictatorship suggests that other tactics may prove more advantageous. In America, we have a saying, “he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.” Using this idea, resisters in other countries facing similar challenges sometimes use more so-called “dispersed methods,” in which they do not make themselves into easy targets and avoid direct confrontation with security forces. Instead, they undermine the government in more secret and private ways when they are physically safer and harder to observe.
In addition to blocking roads, civil resisters sometimes use methods like the following on property, businesses, buildings and vehicles belonging to the dictatorship and its supporters:
- Don’t do maintenance work properly on vehicles and machines
- Work slowly, delay tasks
- Hide, steal or damage tools
- Damage inventory and supplies of the dictatorship and its supporters
- Pretend to be sick to avoid work
- Leave lights on
- Steal and hoard food from the government
- Plant their own food on land belonging to government supporters
- Spread rumors
- Leave gates open for livestock belonging to government supporters
- Spill liquids
- With disposable cellphones, anonymously threaten oppressors of the people and call in false emergencies
- Drop and damage computers and other machines
- Plant errors and viruses into computer systems
- Divert assets and services to the Opposition
- Set off fire sprinklers and fire alarms
- Release snakes and rats among the audience at government sponsored or affiliated public events
- Lose, rename or destroy computer files
- Overload administrative systems
- Unscrew light bulbs, put a small coin into the socket, then replace the bulb to cause short circuits (being careful not to leave fingerprints)
- Damage books and documents
- Break light bulbs and windows of buildings
- Cut phone lines and alarm system cables.
- Wet a sponge and wrap it tightly with a string to compress it. When the sponge dries, remove the string and drop the compressed sponge into toilet and sink drains to cause plumbing problems
- Paint anti-government slogans and complaints on walls
- Put dirt or water into gas tanks or carburetors and distributors of vehicles (being careful not to leave fingerprints)
- Put nails next to tires of parked vehicles
- Break vehicles’ windshield wipers or headlights
- Cut tires
- Break vehicle distributor coils—cutting the coil cables or stealing the rotor cap.
- Put dirt or candle shavings into fuel tanks
- With a sharp pointed object, puncture vehicle gas tanks, tires or radiators
- Reverse battery cable connections, put nails in battery cells, cut battery cables
- Start fires (only when human life will not be endangered). Place a cigarette between two rows of matches from a matchbook. Tie it directly to the matches tightly with a string and wrap it with paper. Light the cigarette and walk away.
Resisters explain to the people that they can secretly perform sabotage while avoiding confrontation, and how to form cells for such actions that minimize the number of people who know about it. They emphasize the need for secrecy. They are careful not to harm the property of any innocent people.
Add the soldier’s and policemen’s grievances and need for specific improved conditions to your list of demands to help them understand that you are on their side. To non-Tigrayan security forces, explain that, when the government falls, promotions in the security forces will be based on merit, not ethnicity.
Find people who can speak and write the language of the soldiers and police sent to repress you. Print leaflets in languages the government’s soldiers can understand explaining that you are fighting for them, too, warning them not to attack demonstrators, and leave these materials in places where government soldiers can read them. Create posters and graffiti with the same message. Use such media to warn the soldiers that the EPRDF is misleading them about the democracy movement, that the government is falling and they will be held accountable soon for their actions, but “professional soldiers” who refuse to harm demonstrators will have a secure future under new government.
Practice techniques for the rapid distribution of leaflets, posters and grafitti and escape before the security forces can arrive.
Explain how representative government is best for the soldier and policeman, for example, democracy will allow the people and the soldiers land titles and building ownership when the government falls. Explain what that means for retired soldiers and their families: they can borrow against it and bequeath it to their heirs.
Warn soldiers and police that many hidden cameras are held by democracy protesters, instantly sending the pictures of abusive soldiers throughout the world.
Emphasize the government’s corruption. According to a UN panel chaired by for South African president Thabo Mbeki, the political elite is stealing US $2 billion every year, more money from the country than it receives in foreign aid and investment, while the people are hungry. The stolen money could be used to help the soldiers’ families and the people.
Publicize a Diaspora address where the public can mail the names, addresses and photos of human rights abusers, along with details of their crimes, for future prosecution. Instruct the public to use a fake return address and mail the information through a Diaspora third party of their own choosing for forwarding to the reporting address in order to evade detection by the postal authorities.
Use the slogan, “They are finished!”
When you see a soldier who is off-duty or not being aggressive, talk to him in a friendly way and explain how he will be better off when the country is democratic. Call soldiers and police “brother.” If possible offer him a bit of food, a drink or a cigarette. Explain how the dictatorship is corrupt and enriching itself while the soldier suffers to protect the leadership’s theft of the country’s resources. Tell him that you understand his own problems and are struggling to make a better life for him and his own family.
In rural areas, prohibit sending food out of the area, forcing up food prices, and hoarding and cornering. Prohibit paying rents and loans; agitate for reduced rents and interests. Prohibit cancelling land/building tenancies or denying aid. Seize land from wealthy landowners if they acquired it through corrupt means or are exploiting the poor. Give it to the needy.
No one should work for coffee exporters unless they are helping the resistance. Resisters can find different ways to disrupt exports that are funding the regime.
Resisters urge relatives in the diaspora to send money only through black market channels. Their foreign exchange supports the government.
Resisters encourage friends and relatives in other parts of the country, especially throughout Addis Ababa, to adopt similar, non-confrontational actions.
In general, focus on interrupting the financial, psychological and logistical ways the government controls your region, using methods that minimize your physical risk. By using such non-confrontational methods, you can encourage more of your fellow citizens to join your efforts and minimize casualties.
Continue your valiant efforts to remove the pillars of support on which the dictatorship relies until it crumbles. The day of your freedom approaches and your country depends on you.