When autocrats are praised as visionaries, war criminals as pan-Africanists: Considering historic responsibility and the power of societal dynamics.

It is always noteworthy how every dictator, every autocratic government, every warmongering self-styled great leader, has irrationally arguing, misguided defenders, who believe the leader they still support is a ‘great man’ (usually they are men) who stands for noble principles – be that ‘a strong, prosperous Germany’, ‘socialism’, ‘pan-Africanism’, or other lofty, idealistic politics; and that, when they are too many – within the society, within the region, and internationally – and their ‘opponents’, the regime critics, the exiled opposition figures, the conscientious institutionalists, are too fragmented, or not strong or united enough, to effectively counter the autocrat’s narrative, the resulting societal dynamics mean that the regime will remain in power.

As long as these dynamics persist, there is typically little to no hope, and so the regime’s atrocities will continue, often for years or decades, until, at some point, the dynamics start to change, and those who oppose the autocratic or dictatorial regime become too many, too united, too strong, and – as it were – ‘drown out’ the voices of the regime loyalists, at home and abroad, and the autocratic government itself is swept away by societal developments it no longer can control.

This phenomenon of the relation of societal dynamics and the power of dictatorial or autocratic regimes can, in various forms and contexts, be observed throughout the world, and is particularly powerfully illustrated in the well-documented more recent history – from Stalin and the Soviet Union, to Hitler and the Third Reich, to Honecker’s East Germany, right up to the present-day autocrats.

The fact that it has been illustrated in the context of the Tigray war – for instance, by social media comments praising Isaias’ mass mobilisation, or the brutality of the Abiy regime, as a ‘pan-Africanist position’, and declaring those who perceive Abiy and Isaias as war criminals guilty of massacres and genocide to be ‘anti-African’ – is as disheartening as it is unsurprising.

We are, yet again, confronted with the reality that, though we wish it were different, humanity just never learns. That phenomenon will exist, as long as humans exist.

Having considered thus, however, this is, by no means, a reason to despair.
On the contrary. Our duty – whether as journalists or soldiers, as former public-servants-turned-refugees or partisans fighting in various battlegrounds and on different war fronts, as politicians or voters, as concerned citizens or businesspeople – is, therefore, to contribute, in whatever way we can, to the development of a societal dynamic that, ultimately, might lead to the fall of the regime, and to the building of a better, more democratic, more secure society with strong institutions.

At this time of unprecedented danger and uncertainty, it now falls to us – the lovers of society, peace, stability, and democracy – to face up to this historic responsibility, and courageously do our part – just like heroes from decades and centuries passed once did theirs, and so contributed to a better world.

We all have a part to play, contributions to make. And, indeed, we must. We cannot escape this historic responsibility, neither should we want to. It is a responsibility, placed upon us now, as it was placed upon others in decades and centuries passed. We must strive to fulfil it with pride, as once did those now considered to be among society’s heroes.