Leader of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), one the groups that formed the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) largest opposition party in 2005, condemned the Ginbot 7 organization’s support for armed struggle ideology in Ethiopia. In a statement to journalists in the Ethiopian capital, EDP’s chairman Lidetu Ayalew said peaceful struggle is the only way to change government.
The EDP, together with the All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP) and other CUD factions that have recently formed the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party, won nearly 20 percent of parliament seats during the 2005 national election. The founder of Ginbot 7, Dr. Berhanu Nega, was part of the CUD leadership until he separated from other CUD Executive members including Lidetu Ayalew.
Lidetu doubted whether Berhanu geniunely supported the ideology of peaceful struggle in the first place. He explained that Berhanu’s limited and conditional support for peaceful struggle was inherently undemocratic as well as a source of mistrust between parties and tension during elections. Since the 1990s, Lidetu has been one of the opposition leaders most frequently persecuted and imprisoned by the government. He asked whether Berhanu Nega had the patience and whether he was ready for the bumps and big challenges that comes with engaging in a peaceful struggle, in the first place.
However, Lidetu Ayalew and his party were criticized by many Ethiopians after the 2005 election for joining the parliament. The CUD leaders accused the ruling party of rigging the election and some of them refused to join the parliament unless the government satisfied some pre-conditions. The European Union (EU) said the elections did not meet international standards and most of the CUD leaders opposed Lidetu party’s decision to enter the new parliament.
But Lidetu stated that more Ethiopians are beginning to support his position when they saw the CUD leadership fight eachother and split into five groups after they were released from prison in 2007. Lidetu also says the new position of his CUD critics in favor of joining the parliament has justified the original position of his party.
Lidetu stated that his EDP is the real opposition and alternative party in Ethiopia because other active opposition parties like UEDF and OFDM support the “ethnic federalism” policy of the EPRDF ruling party. However, OFDM and UEDF say ethnic federalism under EPRDF is only on paper since officials from Tigray and Addis Ababa interfere in the affairs of the regional states.
This week, Lidetu announced that his EDP is holding a large meeting in Addis Ababa on Saturday afternoon to launch the party’s campaign in preparation for the 2010 national election. He admitted that he has less followers due to some of his controversial positions and the harmful rumors his party was facing the last five years. According to Lidetu, more people are slowly beginning to support EDP’s “Third Way” philosophy. He said his party does not want supporters based on emotions but based on substance. Lidetu asserted that he does not simply say what people want to hear and does not “blindly oppose or blindly support” the ruling party. He defended his party’s opposition to the ruling party on the prevailing inflation and human rights concerns as well as his support for the ruling party in 2006 by voting in favor of sending troops to Somalia.
The EDP established the new philosophy that Lidetu labeled the “Third Way” in 2006 and his party claims to be a vanguard of a new political culture in Ethiopia that he says is similar to that found in developed nations, particularly in Western democracies. Lidetu asserted that groups like Berhanu Nega’s Ginbot 7 are an obstacle to dialogue and democracy in Ethiopia. But He doubted whether the US-based Berhanu is capable of organizing meaningful opposition and he said Berhanu merely used Ginbot 7 as an excuse to stay out of Ethiopia.
- Jimma Times
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