A Response To Maru's “ Rethinking Ethiopia’s Opposition Kinijit”

by Andinet Semere

Dear Dr. Maru:

First of all, let me thank you for your May 11 article in Sudan Tribune on “ Rethinking Ethiopia’s Opposition Kinijit”. The very fact that you have written that long and in that tone shows that you are one of the good sons of Ethiopia. I share your frustration with TPLF, but I do not share many of your views regarding Kinijit.
Under “Does the opposition need to employ the methods of the TPLF leadership ?”, you refer to (i) “ the repeated transmission of unsubstantiated events and ‘news’” in pro-democracy media outlets, such as Tensae radio and various outlets”, (ii) “…conflicting views, misunderstandings and confusions circulating at this very early stage of our resistance ?”, and (iii) “Chapters… Support Groups of Kinijit …submit unsubstantiated , one-man reports and resolutions from small get-together meetings and events and often extremely exaggerated or inflated , to pro-democracy media outlets…”

Dear Dr. Maru:
As a good son of Ethiopia, is it not your duty to be transparent and tell us exactly about the unsubstantiated transmissions , the conflicting views, the one-man reports, etc… so that we may all join hands to correct them ? Do you realize that you may also be accused of exaggeration or other designs when you do not substantiate your accusations ? Please also remember that you have a doctorate !
Do you also realize that most activities in most places are one-man or a few men shows since the great majority will often stay away leaving the labor to a committed few even in Ethiopia where time is aplenty ? Do you also appreciate that you folks in the Diaspora are short of time and hence cannot attend to such business as often as the occasion may demand ? How much do you participate yourself ? How often do you go to Kinijit offices ?
I have seen in all my dealings with the elite that the great majority are passive and join in only when it is absolutely safe and convenient, but this may not apply to Ethiopians in the Diaspora, including you. Indeed, I hope this will not apply to the Diaspora, especially at this critical time, but one cannot forget that all those in the Diaspora have to eke out a living and they cannot be expected to attend all meetings called by Kinijit Support Groups. They have to work to help themselves and kinijit, and hence attendance at meetings is bound to be small. But then, when such meetings are poorly attended, primarily possibly for such economic reasons, do you want to cancel the meetings or tell TPLF’s ambassadors and spies that that the meeting failed ? I hope not !
I am at home, and I have been always at home. I have very little knowledge of your meetings in Europe and America, but I can tell you we love them and we love our fellow countrymen in the Diaspora, including you, for all that they are doing today. They need to do still more !
You accuse Kinijit for following TPLF in generating lies, and you also claim that Kinijit is changing for worse over the last few months. I again call on you to substantiate your accusation. It is not fair, given your doctorate, to make such a damaging statement without substantiating it.
Kinijit is not employing TPLF methods and techniques to communicate with its supporters. There is absolutely no need to do that since Kinijit’s supporters know all that there is k to know about Kinijit’s problems since May 15, 2005. Sure, they don’t know all that you folks in the Diaspora are doing, and they do not know about the pre-1960 division of the elite and their mud slinging to get an upper hand in a vacuum. I am glad they do not know about those things since they are a disgrace and a shame for the elite of my generation.
On your “ Missing Elements in Ethiopian Opposition Camps”
I am not a member of Kinijit or any other political party, but I am a very well-informed member of civil society, residing all the time in Ethiopia. I also have strong connections with rural Ethiopia where e I have very deep roots. Further, I have closely followed all local developments in all political parties, except EPRDF, since 2003. Needless to say, I also voted on May 15, 2005 for Kinijit. I have no interest in power at any time !
As for education and experience at home, I can claim a modest share, perhaps as good as nay. Hence, I am in a position to make the following remarks on your “Missing Elements in Ethiopian Opposition Groups” to genuinely advance the cause of democracy in our Homeland. It is a good opportunity to comment on “missing elements”.
You accuse the local opposition of going into the elections “… without the necessary preparations, and indeed without establishing the necessary power bases,…”. I am surprised you could say that, given the fact that by October 2004, AEUP had well over 1,200,000 members in all regions of the country; UEDP-Medhin had some 150,000, and others, particularly Merera’s ONC, had several thousand supporters in Oromia. How can they have so much support and yet be accused of not having a power base ? As for preparations, there is where the Diaspora created a mess, hopefully inadvertently and sheepishly !
As you may very well know, on the eve of the unity conference to establish UEDF, AEUP, UEDP and SEPDC of Dr. Beyene had a fairly active alliance called “Joint Action for Democracy in Ethiopia”( JADE). It was primarily financed by AEUP and it was established at the initiative of Eng. Hailu Shawel to get the opposition together to address issue like the election board, election law, the public mass media and security, which were common to all parties. To activate this alliance, AEUP went to great lengths to prepare a common platform and proposals for action by those three parties. They were on the verge of acting on them when an EPRP-driven group called a conference to establish UEDF in July 2003. As you know, AEUP was one of the organizers of that conference.
As soon as the idea of the UEDF conference came up, Drs. Merera and Beyene stopped to work for JADE, claiming that it was time to prepare for the conference since pushing JADE forward might otherwise be divisive. On the other hand, AEUP argued that members of JADE can still continue their work and use it as an input to the organizing Conference. However, Beyene and Mereara refused to budge, probably under pressure from EPRP or MEISON or both.
AEUP thought JADE was dead, but Beyene went to the Conference with the same political proposal prepared by AEUP for discussion in Addis Ababa to serve as a subsequent input to the Conference. Beyene latter presented it to the Conference without consulting even its author, AEUP, falsely claiming that they had prepared it at home, and AEUP did not comment since the whole purpose of preparing it in the first place was for use as an input after agreeing on it in Addis Ababa, which did not happen, and it was accepted out of three proposals on the table, but was quietly thrown out after the conference by EPRP.
The UEDP conference was held, and the political program of AEUP, presented by Beyene, was approved, but the byelaws were not. Beyene was elected Chairman, with Merera as 1st Vice-Chairman and Fassika as the 2nd. Vice-Chairman. There was no mention of the Head Office, and no byelaws at this stage. The conference ended, and UEDF was established, without byelaws, with ten parties in the USA and Europe, and 5 from home, each contributing equal votes in all decisions and in all organs. That was a disaster since the Diaspora parties were give the license to decide on all issues while the work to be done was at home and the local parties were, at best, left second guessing what new directives would come from abroad through Beyene. Clearly, that was nonsense, and AEUP quit after pleading with the Diaspora parties and the nominal leaders for discussion, after failing to get a positive response.
Then in September, the byelaws came out, and they were, to sum it all, bad, and very crudely prepared by Beyene, Fassika and Merera, leaving out AEUP completely ! They provided for the President and the Vice-Presidents to function, each for 6 months, and the leadership will continue to rotate among those three only. There was several other serious problems, and UEDF had an automatic abortion !
The chosen leaders, Merera and Beyene, finally dumped UEDF and the opposition camp, as expected all along by many of us here, in October 2005, and that was particularly improper for Beyene who was hand-picked by king-makers to be President at the Ghion Conference in 1985, and latter in Paris and then again in the USA in 2003. Clearly, the king-makers had made consistent errors of judgment, and that was in the Diaspora, scuttling the unity of the opposition at home! Please ask Fassika Belette of EPRP and he will confirm them to you since he is not a liar ! This was a golden opportunity lost to effectively prepare for the elections.
Then came the division at home after UEDF in July 2003. Beyene and Merera began mud-slinging at UEDP and AEUP, and they could not even talk to Engineer Hailu Shawel or to Admasu Gebeyehu, presumably on account of their earlier instructions from EPRP in Washington DC. In fact, there was a time when Merera publicly labeled AEUP as a right-wing party and EPRP’s folks ( Solomon and Begashaw ?) referred to AEUP as the new AAPO in articles on some websites.
Hence, when the critical issues of the election board and election laws were finally accepted for discussion by Meles Zenawi in August or September 2004, the opposition was divided, primarily at the instigation of those abroad. Hence, Beyene and Merera went to discuss with Meles in February 2004. In an interview in March with the Reporter, Beyene clearly showed he had said nothing substantive to Meles the week before since he was so badly prepared, including lack of knowledge of the Constitution which he had with him as an MP for well over 9 years. Apparently, EPRP and MEISON did not help him to prepare either since they probably did not see any sense in the upcoming elections. All that Beyene had was his tongue for blabbering. Please see his March 2004 interview with Reporter.
UEDP-Medhin did submit some 24 points for review in connection with the electoral law; some of them were irrelevant, but surely better that that of UEDF’s leader who had practically nothing, by comparison. AEUP also submitted a detailed review and proposals for upgrading the electoral law, and proposals on how to restructure a credible and independent national election board. Furthermore, a detailed draft of an electoral law of international standard was circulated to Merera and Beyene in 2003 but there was no response.
In 2004, Meles picked what suited him out of the three proposals, and ignored the rest, and a sheepish Beyene claimed victory for the shoddy amendments of the Electoral Law 111/1995 of January 18, 2005. I don’t blame him since he knows no better !
In addition to such divided attention to the legal framework for the elections, all three parties had broadened and deepened their support in both rural and urban Ethiopia. Perhaps, AEUP was the most successful, developing strong support in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, Afar, Ogaden, Harari , Gambella and Beni-Shangul-Gumuz and Addis Ababa where UEDP-Medhin had an edge. By October 2004, AEUP was clearly the strongest opposition in the country, and then came CUD in October with several of Ethiopia’s distinguished and respected sons in its leadership. CUD had very little time for new preparations since it had to go into political campaigning right away, and it did a super job at that. CUD’s top leaders were confident, well before the elctions, that they would win comfortably. Hence, the outcome on May 8 and latter on May 15 was not a surprise to CUD and its member parties and it was also expected by several honest and informed supporters in the Diaspora. Hence, I do not agree with your statement that the Diaspora was “ still in bed” on the eve of the elections.
However, it was a great surprise to UEDF’s foreign-based leaders who had, all along, advocated that we should only prepare for the next elections in 2010. Please read Neged’es ill-timed and purposeless book on that and related matters.
You talk of the Diaspora’s support to CUD after May 15, 2005 “… without any sort of organizational structure and strategy, and without the development of an effective leadership that could support our elected leaders or even take their places if they are arrested or killed, and a leadership that could serve as the voice of the entire Ethiopian people.”
This cannot be true since the victory of May 8 and again of May 15 would have been impossible without structure and organization of the Diaspora before may 15, 2005. AEUP, UEDP, and SEPDC had support groups of varying strengths in Europe and America, perhaps the strongest being that of AEUP.
If you mean to say that they were not all organized under an umbrella, then that is a different story. That failed in Ghion in 1985, again in Paris in the 1990s and again with UEDF in 1993, primarily because foreign-based compatriots who were very much out of touch with the reality at home, wanted to control the opposition from abroad. Hence, unless there is a drastic reorientation and rethinking in those elements and their “ I know all” mentality, a single organization is but a dream.
In fact, a single organization, as repeatedly advocated by some single-track minded leaders of UEDF, is not necessary for effective collaboration and cooperation between all parties in the opposition. A good example is ANC from 1990 to 1994 and the joint historic achievement of some 27 opposition parties in contributing to the birth of democratic South Africa in April 1994. The agenda for collaboration should not be that of building Ethiopia as prepared by EPRP and MEISON in 2003, but only how to win the upcoming local elections. People need to stop and think instead of simply talking about failures and repeatedly failed techniques.
You also talk about a shadow cabinet, an alternate leadership to be announced in public, and an alternate Headquarter for Kinijit. There is an alternate leadership already and Addis Ababa continues to be Kinijit’s Headquarter, if you read the press releases. If you are saying that you do not know the names of the alternate leaders, then, believe me, Meles also wants to know them and where they are to send Federal Police to carry them off to jail. You are, in effect, writing like a ferenj. You need to come home and get re-cultivated. Kinijit’s leaders are accused of treason and anti-constitutional crimes for simply making ordinary speeches to their supporters in 2004 and 2005 !!!
To make it even more dramatic, you also advocate “… possible strategies for supporting and assisting the military struggle inside Ethiopia.”. That qualifies you, I am afraid, for a possible spy for TPLF/EPRDF, but I cannot suspect you of that since you appear to be innocent. This whole idea is unacceptable to Kinijit and it has never ever been entertained by Kinijit. If this were Kinijit’s idea, Meles will have had solid evidence for hanging all Kinjit’s leaders and then killing as many followers of Kinijit as Agazi can manage before it runs out of bullets.
Our leaders want to win through the ballot box and the ballot box alone. If you folks have war-like ideas, then it is, of course, your idea and not that of Kinijit. Our leaders, including their supporters like me, have chosen to take the democratic and peaceful path all the way so that those who want to fight must do it on their own and at their own risk. Kinijit wants to break the vicious cycle of jumping from one gun-slinging regime to another !
It is comforting that you agree that the Diaspora has some great achievements: demonstrations, letters to US and European officials, numerous articles in the electronic media, candlelight vigils and lobbying activities. Actually, you are doing much more; HR 4423 is also a result of such active support ! What you need to do is to intensify that further, and it is bound to lead to the release of Kinijit’s leaders and their other associates and finally to negotiations with EPRDF. What is lacking is still more political pressure in all important capitals, in the World Bank, and at the UN.
Lastly, you appear to worry that Kinijit will be destroyed. This is a perception of a person who does not know what Kinijit means to Ethiopians these days. How can you destroy a spirit that resides so comfortably in the minds of Ethiopian in millions of homes all over the country ? There is no way ! If you are worried that lack of official recognition will destroy Kinijit, I suggest you read about ANC which was formed in 1912 and went from strength to strength right up to the release of Mandela and other leaders in February1990, and it was banned all the time right up to February 1990 !
What we need to do to further strengthen Kinijit is to stop back-stabbing Kinijit and do away with all other divisive tactics against Kinijit, follow the alternate leaders, the support groups, and their proposals for action, and further intensify the international lobby and related support to bring such capitals as Washington, DC in line with the objective reality at home. You have failed to do that effectively so far with the US Department of State though there is some slow perceptible progress even along that line, again thanks to all of you there.
Let me conclude by advising, if I may, that Kinijit’s alternate leaders do not have to rethink. Given the caliber of Kinijit’s leadership, it is, I presume, all given to them already by our leaders before going to prison. What they need to do is to follow that up, and for our compatriots in the Diaspora to help in every way possible to implement them without any mud-slinging at the “Support Groups” which are all your organizations, and without any divisive strategy to create another false center for the opposition. Competition for political power should come after we have prepared the political space in Ethiopia to accommodate a level playing field for all aspiring political leaders in the Diaspora and at home, including the leaders of Kinijit.
Thank you for your concern for Ethiopia and please help to have us unite around Kinijit, and not try to outwit each other for petty gains, as we have seen several times since the 1960s, and play into the hands of Meles Zenawi to help him prolong dictatorship, poverty and national misery over Ethiopia’s great majority.
If you have any explicit suggestions, for sure, I have copied Kinijit's leaders abroad so that you you may also send any explicit instances of failures directly to them or to other support groups, duly substantiated, of course. Taking good criticism with pleasure is Kinijit's way !

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at12:51 AM

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