A Surge In Political Dialogue Is The Only Solution

By Lulit Mesfin
"The future is not a gift, it is an achievement Every generation helps make its own future. This is the essential challenge of the present." ---Robert F. Kennedy
On February 19, 2007, the court of Meles Zenawi is set to hand down verdicts against Kinijit leaders. Obviously, Mr. Meles wants to hoodwink the international community that Ethiopia has a functioning independent court but, the international judicial observers who were present at the show trials have a different story to tell.
Mr. Zenawi, whose memory is short on Ethiopian history and long on revisionist history, is, true to form, absolutely clueless about the symbolism of February 19th (Yekatit 12. Martyr’s Day) On February 19, 1937, Fascist Italy’s viceroy, Rudolfo Graziani went on a killing spree that resulted in the massacre of 30,000 Ethiopians, half of them young and very well educated. The “Butcher of Ethiopia” who ordered the massacre of educated Ethiopians whom he considered as a threat to his rule and a thorn on his side, of course, ended up being indicted as a war criminal. History never forgot his deeds.
Like the fascist viceroy Graziani, Mr. Meles’ aversion to brilliant minds is legendary. In one bold stroke in 1994, he fired 41 learned men from Addis Ababa University. Again in 2005, when the learned men who ran for parliamentary elections trounced Mr. Zenawi’s candidates, they were rounded up in “Operation Clean Sweep” and sent to various TPLF jail houses. This penchant for firing and jailing intellectuals — top notch economists, brilliant judges and lawyers, engineers and successful businessmen who could do so much for the common good — is a bad habit Mr. Zenawi finds very hard to break.
It will be utterly ludicrous to expect any type of rational decision to come out of Art Kilo on February 19. However, for the first time in 16 years, it behooves Mr. Meles and the TPLF politburo to think clearly and act wisely. It is a no-brainer that TPLF has no legal case against Hailu Shawel, et al. What TPLF has against the CUDP leaders is an old fashioned vendetta against political opponents who legally evicted all the Prime Minster’s men from the “people’s house.” Mr. Meles has been unable to accept this devastating defeat. Therefore, he is willing to take the calculated risk of locking up the viable opposition. Of course, in Africa, lawlessness is permissible when one controls the guns and the treasury.
The question is, at least in the Ethiopian context, for how long? Political vendettas are as Ethiopian as arenguade, beecha, qey ( the tri-color Ethiopian flag), except that Meles has refined it into a fine art form. From patriotic Ethiopians such as Professor Asrat Woldeyes to civic society leaders, Dr. Taye Woldesemayat, to his own comrade-in-arms, Seye Abraha, none have been spared Mr. Zenawi’s wrath.
Yet, no one, however formidable, can rule by sheer terror indefinitely. All the bravado and posturing for foreign consumption aside, Meles knows in his heart of hearts that he has trampled on the constitution time and time again by criminalizing dissent and brutally suppressing the will of the Ethiopian people. It is high time Mr. Zenawi understands that ultimate political power resides in the people.
What next for Ethiopia? What is the right thing to do? What is the pragmatic approach to follow? February 19th and beyond, a surge in civil political dialogue, not a surge in political repression and extra-judicial killings, is going to solve the political impasse. The only way forward is to release the elected leaders of CUDP-Kinijit and work together to find common ground to resolve the intractable problems facing our nation.

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at6:53 PM

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