By Wondem Tilahun
The flashy title on Ethiopian Review (ER) website reads … “Mersha Yoseph makes a fool of himself”. For those of us who are regulars and fans of ER, the title and the message is not a surprise. ER several times has flipped flopped its position within the opposition camp. In 2005 Dr. Birhanu was the enemy and Engineer Hailu was the champion of democracy. Now that is reversed. Dr. Birhanu is the darling and Engineer Hailu the sore looser. Two years ago, Mersha was the champion of democracy and Iyasu was the no good dictator. One 10 minutes VOA interview changed the mind of ER and the position is now reversed. Iyasu is the darling of ER and Mersha the trouble maker. That is probably why at the outset ER started the article with “there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics …” popular quotation.
In the past when people get furious at ER’s similar unwarranted attack on other opposition groups or their leaders, I strongly defended ER. Citing ER’s unwavering stand on TPLF and its persistent effort to expose the common enemy, Woyane, I honestly and passionately argued that we need to look at the bigger picture and tolerate marginal political immaturity. Even when this one hit a nerve very close to home, I promised myself to continue to do so by pointing errors. Hence, my individual opinion on what I believe is a misguided review and suck up political reporting.
ER’s article appears to evaluate and judge the VOA interview on only one factor. This factor seems to be what the two individuals said about Eritrea. ER condemn Mersha because he mentioned Iyasu’s, self initiated clandestine trip to Eritrea. Iyasu is praised because ER found some commonalities with Iyasu in their separate trip to Eritrea. ER probably drew an illogical conclusion that if Mersha is accusing Iyasu for the trip, it would be logical to assume that Mersha would also accuse ER for its trip to Eritrea. The missing logical link in this assumption is that Mersha was not really accusing Iyasu for making the trip. He was condemning the fact that Iyasu made the trip without consulting his other leadership comrades. He was giving the trip as an example of Iyasu’s totalitarian leadership within the organization. This should not lead to a condemnation of Mersha and commendation of Iyasu.
At this point in time EPRP (both sides) treat TPLF as the sole enemy of Ethiopia and its people. Both factions state that the small exclusive group of TPLF leadership must be held responsible for all democratic repression, economic and social suffering of the people. In its most recent publication, EPRP (d) loudly called for the collaboration of all opposition groups to topple TPLF’s hegemony and formation of new democratic national Ethiopian government. This means that EPRP (d) is willing to work with all anti TPLF organizations including those that have political ties to Eritrea. Is this ‘hypocritical’ and ‘contradictory’ as ER put it? I don’t think so. It is rather sophisticated, rational and prudent politics. Because, when it comes to the lasting interest of Ethiopia and its people, most Ethiopians don’t think Isaias and EPLF give an iota of care for it. After all, was it not Isaias’s EPLF who referred to everyone south of the Mereb River as (donkey) adgee? Therefore, the relationship with Isaias and EPLF should be reconstructed with caution. This position does not undermine the natural brotherhood of the people. It just means that the strong brotherly relationship that was eroded by EPLF needs some time and lots of positive actions to be built back to its historical status. Let’s not forget that for 30 years EPLF deceitfully had poisoned the minds of Eritreans with empty superiority ego, like Hitler fed ‘Pure Aryan blood’ garbage to the Germans. It takes some time to clean the minds from that poison. Therefore, While it is both admirable and necessary that ER and other organizations take the initiative to build that natural brotherly relationship, it is prudent and in the best interest of our people to move with caution without loosing respect and independence.
When evaluating the interview, I am at a loss to why VOA chose now, almost two years after the split, to make the interview. I also cannot see a political gain for either group to come out after two years and choke each others throat. They need to move forward and spend their valuable time and resources fighting the common enemy. ER also needs to respect the fundamentals of journalism and stop its vacillation within the opposition camp.
Beyond that, I beg to differ with ER in that Mersha was clearer, concise and conciliatory on the given agenda. Considering the limitations of a radio interview in terms of time and presentation, he actually pointed the core differences correctly, truthfully and accurately by stating that the differences were nothing but lack of internal democracy; while Iyasu lamented again and again that the reason for the split is that Mersha wants to work with TPLF. That is what is known as bold and blatant lie. Which means it is in complete opposition to the truth in the ground. Forget that Mersha said repeatedly that he is against TPLF, what is he doing in exile for the past two years, since the split, if he wants to work with TPLF?
Another white lie, told by Iyasu in the interview, is when he answered the interviewers question about his Eritrea trip. Instead of answering the question directly, Iyasu gave little white lie by saying “he has not seen Isaias since he met him in the 70s in Sudan’. As if going to Eritrea is the same as meeting Isaias. Iyasu evade the real question, and instead he reminded us when he met Isaias long time ago. I wonder how and why ER missed this crucial evasion.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)