Democratic EPRP vs. Reactionary EPRP

Elias Kifle | November 5th, 2007

Ethiopian Review Editorial

The news of EPRP’s split last week was received with great interest, even enthusiasm, among supporters of the pro-democracy camp. It would have been even better had a united EPRP transformed itself into a genuinely democratic party. But with the reactionary forces led by Ato Iyasu Alemayehu firmly in control of the party’s financial and other resources, a split up was an inevitable outcome.

The EPRP split occurred last week at the party’s congress that was held in the Washington DC Metro Area. There were about 200 delegates who came from as far as Australia to participate in the congress, which was convened to discuss and resolve strong disagreements inside the EPRP leadership.

As reported on Oct. 10, the two camps inside the EPRP leadership that have now gone on their separate ways are: The one led by Iyasu Alemayehu, Fasika Belete and others who wanted to maintain the status quo, and the other faction that is led by Ato Mersha Yoseph, Ato Solomon Gebreselassie, Dr Getachew Begashaw and others who wanted to institute openness and financial accountability in the leadership. The Mersha faction that calls itself “Democratic EPRP” also demanded that the EPRP leadership stop meddling in the internal affairs of Kinijit and other parties.

When the EPRP congress convened last week, the Iyasu Alemayehu faction (aka “Reactionary EPRP”) started to raise all kinds of procedural questions to block discussion on the proposals by the Mersha faction. After a long, heated debate on questions of rules and procedures, such as who is allowed to vote, over 65 members of the Democratic EPRP faction got up and walked out of the congress in frustration, after coming to the realization that the Iyasu faction was not willing to even hear their argument. Among those who did not walk out, there were many who supported or are part of the Democratic EPRP, but believe that walking out was not the right strategy at that point. After the dust has settled, it became clear that EPRP is now almost evenly divided into two camps.

After the split, Hibret Radio in Washington DC came under the control of the Democratic EPRP, to the great relief of Kinijit supporters in the DC area. The short wave Finote Radio remains under the control of Iyasu’s Reactionary EPRP. The Washington DC office also remains under the Reactionary EPRP’s control.

Ethiopian Review’s Research Unit has learned that within Democratic EPRP itself there are serious differences over strategy. For example, Ato Mersha Yoseph agrees with all of his comrades in the Democratic EPRP camp that the party must be democratized, but he differs with Dr Getachew Begashaw and others in that he advocates unilateral dialogue with Woyanne. Other members of the Democratic EPRP abhor the idea of unilateral dialogue with Woyanne. Instead, they prefer to strike a deal with Eritrea’s Isayas Afeworki and regroup the EPRP’s armed wing, EPRA, to launch military offensive against Woyanne. They believe that the only way Woyanne can come to the negotiation table without any condition is by force.

Democratic EPRP may split in to two camps over this very issue. It is not clear how much influence Mersha Yoseph has over the group, and whether he is in the minority on this issue.

From the Reactionary EPRP side, Iyasu Alemayehu is said to support the idea of working with the Eritrean regime, but his allies, Fasika Belete and others, disagree. In any case, it does not matter what the Iyasu faction believe any more, since it is all downhill for them from here on, taking Hailu Shawel with them to the ash bin of history. Iyasu’s Reactionary EPRP is an ideologically bankrupt group with no reason to exist as a political party. The only leverage it has right now is that it is in control of the party’s finances. But money alone without workable ideas is useless in a political organization.

Instead let’s focus on Democratic EPRP — which has the potential to emerge has a strong politico-military force. It seems this group is willing to learn from past mistakes, adopt new strategies, and do not see other organizations such as Kinijit, OLF, ONLF and others as enemies, but as partners.

In a matter of few days, it may become clear if the so-called Democratic EPRP is for real, or merely a result of power struggle between Iyasu and Mersha.

It should be noted here that what had just transpired inside the EPRP was no doubt influenced by Kinijit’s democratic ideals, or what Wzt. Bertukan Mideksa referred to as “Kinijit’s spirit.” Hopefully this spirit is currently working its magic on Woyanne as well. Do not be surprised if you wake up some day soon with the news that Woyanne is also split into two camps — Democratic Woyanne vs. Tribal Woyanne, with Democratic Woyanne having the upper hand. As Victory Hugo said, nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.