This time around we may make it The AFD is created in response to the crying of the Ethiopian people for unity and democracy

Elias Kifle | September 4th, 2006

This time around we may make it

By Lealem Yitayew

The recent development in the alliance of forces in Ethiopian politics has initiated hot discussions among Ethiopians. The emergence of AFD has divided Ethiopians into opposite camps. Many Ethiopians see the AFD as the Ethiopian people’s prayer answered. Others have mixed feelings ranging from outright rejection to wait and see attitude. The constituents of all the parties involved have aired their concerns and hopes about the future. The issues of contention and the comments on the Memorandum of understanding from the different stakeholders seem to be minor compared to the monumental issues of democracy, the international alliance of forces, and what the strategy of our united struggle should be to salvage Ethiopia. It is my belief that any political leadership that doesn’t have a vision that defy conventional thinking is not going to succeed in getting the Ethiopian peoples out of this boundless tribulation and lead them to democracy. The steps taken to form the AFD exhibits all the unconventional steps which one would like to see in such an organisation. It is a step that unhitches our minds from the past and invites us to look forward to the future. Who would have expected an alliance between a pan- Ethiopian CUDP and the nationalist organisations OLF, ONLF, SLF would come true based on issues of democracy and freedom? Neither the TPLF nor many Ethiopians had dream of it. The emergence of AFD was a shock that the TPLF and its supporters hadn’t expected would come. It is their worst dreams come true. Their core strategy was anchored on dividing and pitting the Ethiopian people against one another, branding all organisations as either chauvinists or narrow nationalists. The opposition seem to have learned a couple of lessons and above all they seem to have listened to the crying of the Ethiopian people for unity and democracy.

The state of the EPRDF

The pillar of EPRDF’s politics rests on:

•Dividing the Ethiopians according to ethnic lines and keeping them in perpetual antagonism so that it can keep them at bay,

•When it comes to organisations this politics was anchored on two dimensional pillars. Organisations are classified as chauvinistic or narrow nationalistic and thus persecuted according to this criterion as soon as they seem to be a threat the ruling clique, and

•Misleading the international public opinion and giving the semblance of a regime that is democratic, and progressive which stands for the very existence of Ethiopia.

The politics of EPRDF is primitive and backward that it is unprecedented in modern day politics around the world except a few exceptional cases.. In the age of globalisation the world has become a global village. Unfortunately, the EPRDF is working hard to confine Ethiopians from natural cultural and economic intercourse both internally and externally. In countries where democracy and liberty prevail elections are held to confirm existing political regimes or to bring about a change of government. In such a process democratic institutions are strengthened and the general public’s trust on these institutions grows and increases. For EPRDF, democracy is something that one could pay lip service to. It is a means to mislead the international opinion to extract political and financial resources which the beneficiaries are of the ruling clique. It is something one holds mock election every five years to give itself a semblance of democratic government. In the EPRDF’s Ethiopia elections are held as a window-dressing exercise to give itself a semblance of legitimacy. These election exercises have alienated the population from the regime and widened the gap between the rulers and the ruled. This was vividly demonstrated in the May elections. The ruling group had never dreamed that it would lose the elections having the state apparatus, the massive superiority of material and monetary resources. This is a huge testimony to the gap between the ruled and the rulers.

The EPRDF are among the rulers in Africa who are most dependants on foreign aid. Such being the case they were eager to get their credentials renewed as a democratic government by the donor nations. It is thanks to this set up that they had to accommodate, with huge reluctance and massive distress, opposition parties and international election observations and to go along with a more or less free election. This setting gave the Ethiopian opposition the chance to campaign and present their vision of the future Ethiopia and the kind of governance the Ethiopian people deserve and are entitled to. Ethiopians holding election cards in their hand were biding their time. We all know how it went on Election Day. When they got the chance our people went out and voted out the regime they have been dissatisfied with for the last fifteen years. At the same time our people showed to the whole world how civilised and matured they are in exercising their democratic rights.

Now the prayers of Meles Zenawi for a strong opposition were answered. He had never thought that day would come. If such a broad based alliance as the AFD sees the day and can mobilize and stand with the Ethiopian people, this tyrannical ruling group has nothing to justify its rule.

The aspiration of the Ethiopian people, “do they have food in Ethiopia?”

The Ethiopian people have been crying for united struggle to get rid of this horrendous regime for the last fifteen years. The May election is an expression of the peoples resolve for change. Through voting cards Ethiopians made it clear to all political forces that they don’t want and can’t be governed the way the EPRDF governs them. Dividing and pitting them against one another was the melody of the Italian colonialists. One would have expected that this generation should have learned that lesson. But the malicious TPLF group has tried to repeat the act. Fortunately the good students of Italy, the TPLF leadership, has tried and failed precisely as their teachers did thanks to the staunch resistance of the Ethiopian people. People have explicitly shown that the only way to come to power and stay in power is by democratic means. For demanding these inherent natural rights the people are paying a very high price. They are being killed, muzzled, tortured and imprisoned. Under these circumstances the emergence of the AFD is a moral lift and the crowning of our people’s struggle with success provided that the AFD can contribute in a substantial way in enshrining these fundamental rights. What the Ethiopian people are crying for is peace, harmony and the chance to work and feed them selves. The precondition for such a development is democracy and liberty. Ethiopia is the origin of human race, and a symbol of freedom for the black race. Thanks to the mismanagement of subsequent regimes it is now reduced into a laughing stock of the whole world. The other day I saw an American film where the actor invites his darling for a dinner to an Ethiopian restaurant. The feminine actress asks her friend “do they have food in Ethiopia?” He in return answers “we will order empty dishes.” It says it all. The film was supposed to be a comedy but it inflicts a mortal wound on our pride.

Ethiopia has every potential to be a developed nation given an honest and benevolent regime that can give its people a chance to live in peace and harmony. There are a huge natural resources and the human capital necessary for sustainable development. What is lacking is an honest, democratic and accountable government. Surely Ethiopia will reclaim its place in the history books that it deserves sooner or later. No doubt that Ethiopia is mentioned over thirty times in the bible and the Koran. It will be a country that Africans and the black race can again be proud of. On our way to that end we need all kinds of forces who can make a contribution and I would like to believe that the AFD can be one of them.

Democracy in practice
Democracy is in a multidimensional crisis in Ethiopia emanating from the totalitarianism of the regime. Some of the major contradictions which have erupted and erupt now and then among the ruling group have been “solved” by throwing the opponents into jail or by simple physical elimination. The major contradiction that has its source in the totalitarianism of the regime and the concentration of power in the hands of one man is however the contradiction between the ruling elite and the Ethiopian people. This concentration of power in the hands of the dictator and totalitarian elite has been stifling the Ethiopian people politically, culturally and economically since 1991. This is the major democratic crisis that is threatening the country and the rest of Eastern Africa. The May election was the best opportunity lost to solve this crisis. On the contrary, the daylight robbery of the peoples will by the regime has exacerbated this crisis. This major crisis of democracy needs to be resolved in order to salvage our people and country.

Another aspect of the crisis of democracy in our country is the discord, disunity and lack of democratic experience in tackling and resolving political differences and problems among the opposition groups. This problem has been the stumbling block in our struggle for democracy and justice. Thus any attempt for a solution to our problems and contradictions has to include the resolution of the problem of democracy even among the opposition. The emergence of AFD seems to be a good start in resolving this outstanding contradiction. The nature of the organisations that formed the alliance is markedly different from one another. The very attempt to come and work together for the common cause, democracy and freedom, is an achievement. It is a sign of maturity and sign of embracing democracy. To give and take and to agree and work together for a common goal is real democracy in practice. Democracy entails compromise. These organisations that have done that seem to have learned important lessons from past experiences and the May elections.

The international alliance of forces
As we are all aware this horrendous regime can only stay in power thanks to the support of the donor nations. Between 30 and 50 percent of its annual budget is covered by budgetary supplements from the western nations. This generous flow of financial resources and support to the EPRDF has its roots in our past history and the cunning nature of the regime. One of the greatest disservices of the military dictatorship of Mengistu was the annihilation of one generation of young and dynamic Ethiopians. The frustration and demoralisation that emanated from this campaign of annihilation forced the remains of that generation of Ethiopians into exile or passivity. This cleared the way to the TPLF and other forces that worked for the weakening and eventual destruction of Ethiopia as a country. In the late 80’s the west in its competition with the communist east was winning the terrain in the whole world. The collapse of communism started with the sacrifice of Ethiopia. It was in one of the summits between the US and the Soviet the fate of Ethiopia was sealed. Soviet Union conceded to leave Ethiopian to its fate while in turn it bought time for an orderly retreat from the rest of its empire. History repeated itself. As Ethiopia was the first victim to be sacrificed to appease fascist Italy in the Second World War, it happened this time again and Ethiopia was sacrificed to appease the west. The first victim of the collapse of communism became Ethiopia. At that point of history Ethiopia stood alone in front the almighty west. Their fate was decided with out their participation. They were dragged out of the mouth of the wolf Mengistu and thrown into the mouth of the hyena Meles.The Albanian communist party oriented TPLF turned itself into a “democratic” TPLF overnight. The ferocious MLLT/TPLF animal and the EPLF coalition presented itself as the best possible alternatives to the Ethiopian problem. This should not be surprising since we all know that deceit and lie is the trade mark or enigma of this clique. But we have to take part of the blame for this development. We could not produce any viable alternative to the TPLF/EPLF coalition at that point of time. After taking power the clique has played it smart.

•They have always aligned their foreign policy to correspond to the interests of the west in general and the US in particular while giving a semblance of democracy while working hard to achieve their aim of a weak and divided Ethiopia.

•The disunity and hostility among the opposition groups has made it easy for these myopic elite to present itself as the guarantor of the existence of Ethiopia as a nation.

•Due to the sensitive nature of the East African geopolitical situation and the US perusing its national interest, the fight against terrorism, has appointed TPLF to axel the role of a fighter against terrorism. The TPLF has joyously accepted this role. It is even overexploiting the situation as it is doing now in Somalia. It is surprising that the US is still sticking to this group despite all facts speaking against them. Dictatorship is the mother of terrorism and the TPLF regime is a typical example of that.

Despite all the setbacks, we Ethiopians in the Diaspora are trying to make ourselves heard and present the case of our people to the international public opinion, governments and Human right organisations. From what I observe we are making progress and gaining a lot of powerful friends for the Ethiopian cause and the cause of democracy. The TPLF is exposed and its true nature is being exhibited for the wider world. I believe it is even possible to bring more change in the opinion in the west in favour of the Ethiopian people’s cause provided we work a bit diligently and united. The emergence of the AFD is an important leap in this work. The west has been putting an immense pressure on the opposition to show flexibility and willingness for dialog. If the AFD can prove that it is a strong and reliable partner to do business with, I am convinced that the west is matured and interested to completely change its stance on the question of Ethiopia. In our struggle to show the whole world the intransigency and dictatorial nature of this regime it is pertinent to stand united and the AFD was just the best thing we ever have produced. We have to show the world

•That we are united in the in our struggle for freedom and democracy and we are capable of uniting the Ethiopian people and can shoulder the responsibility of leading our country into a model democratic country.

•We must be able to show that a democratic Ethiopia can be a factor of stability to the whole region.

•That we are flexible and reliable

•We are democratic and respect the rules of democracy.

•The problem of Ethiopia and the region as a whole can only be solved when the EPRDF accepts the will of the people.

•We should prove beyond all doubt that we are not the weak and the extremist groups as the EPRDF is trying to portray us in the face of the whole world.

Concluding remarks
In the ideal world the best solution for all of us, even the EPRDF, would have been the solution of the May elections. Ethiopians went out and exercised their inherent right and voted for the party of their choice. Unfortunately that ideal did not materialise as the ballot was rigged and election results hijacked by the EPRDF. From now the struggle for democracy and freedom must start afresh. Next time when freedom and democracy is achieved we should make sure that it works and pass the tradition for generations to come. It is in this context that the AFD must play a prominent role to achieve this goal.

The reason beyond my many ifs and mays is the bitter experience I have had from the Ethiopian political struggle. The Ethiopian opposition has not proved itself to be consistent and democratic, that is willing to wage an inner struggle in a democratic way and stay and work together to achieve the goal of democracy. This time around, if we fail to materialise the goal of a united struggle we will be giving the best gift we ever have given the EPRDF and we would have done the biggest damage we could have inflicted to the struggle of the Ethiopian people. I hope that

•We all democratic and humane Ethiopians would like to see our country as a democratic and a land of righteousness where nobody is wronged for his ideas and convictions.

•We would like to see a country where organisations are free to work and mobilise the people to their idea and win political power by the means of ballot box.

•We would like to see a country that is blooming with economic development and freed from the shackles of famine and starvation.

•We would like that our ancient country reclaims its right place as the cradle of the human race and as a symbol of black pride.

One anticipates that the AFD will be relevant in building a democratic Ethiopia. It is in this hope I raise my voice to support this incipient organisation. I hope this organisation will work in a dynamic and prudent way and mobilise its supporters for the cause of unity. I hope this organisation will speak loud and clear the principles of one man one vote and the alienable rights of the Ethiopian people to decide their own destiny. I hope the AFD will show in practice that it has drawn the necessary conclusions from the May elections and it will respect the will of the people. Finally I hope the AFD will be transparent and open to accommodate constructive opinions which flow from different direction.

God bless Ethiopia!

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