Much Ado about Nothing – Messay Kebede

November 20th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

Articles fulminating against Hailu Shawel’s signing of the code of conduct proliferate on Ethiopian websites. For these articles, the unilateral and hasty agreement with Meles while other opposition groups, such as Medrek, are still in contention about some important issues, constitutes nothing less than betrayal on Hailu’s part. This act of sabotage suggests, according to some articles, a prior agreement with the Meles regime promising Hailu a post in the future government in exchange for his contribution in dividing and weakening the opposition.

I am not yet ready to endorse this kind of analysis, though I admit that the agreement looks fishy indeed. I also wonder why those who used to oppose Hailu’s leadership of the AEUO are surprised at the “betrayal”: not only they should have expected his reversal, but also they should have seen it as a blessing in disguise finally precipitating his discredit among his own followers. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that the agreement rests on a common interest: as it stands, it keeps Birtukan in jail to the delight of the EPRDF, Hailu, and his cronies; it also handicaps the rising multinational opposition known as Medrek.

Rather than adding to the general consternation, I would like to express my surprise at the ferocity of the criticisms, as it seems to reveal an expectation that I thought people had put behind them once and for all. To give a huge importance to negotiations with Meles strikes me as a naïve attitude. If anything, the reversal of the 2005 elections, the violent crackdown of protesters, and the imprisonment of the leaders of Kinjit have underscored the futility of reaching agreement with the present regime. So long as an autonomous power able to enforce mutually agreed documents is not in place, negotiations mean nothing. Those who blame Hailu Shawel seem to say that a fair and just election is possible in Ethiopia provided that the correct agreement is reached. In other words, it is hoped that tough negotiations will force Meles to respect the agreement. Is there an Ethiopian of sane mind really ready to give Meles such a vote of confidence?

The only broker that could have forced Meles to stick to the agreement is the international community. That is why some commentators argue that the signing of the code of conduct removed the possibility of obtaining more concessions in the direction of fair election from Meles through the pressure of the international community, not to mention the fact that said agreement with a major opposition group provides him with some “democratic” respectability.

I find the argument weak. The 2005 elections have taught us that the international community is unwilling to accompany its verbal condemnations with concrete punitive measures. Meles know this more than anybody else, especially now that the American administration seems again reluctant to add deeds to words. As to the democratic appearance that Meles might put on, I don’t think that Western governments are so gullible that they will fail to see that the agreement is yet another maneuver to divide and cripple the opposition.

Does this mean that the best option is not to participate in elections that we know are but fake? Such a conclusion would miss that elections have their own dynamics that even the most repressive regimes cannot totally control. They create events that lead to unforeseen outcomes, as witnessed by the 2005 elections and the recent Iranian elections. Moreover, fake elections generate deep frustrations that compel people to look for alternative forms of expression, perhaps even to show their discontent through non-cooperative forms of resistance, such as strikes and demonstrations.

My position is thus the following: let us continue to play the game of elections, but without creating the illusion that something decisive that would have brought victory was jeopardized by Hailu’s “betrayal.” Such an implication entertains the illusory hope that fair elections are possible under the TPLF. Instead, the elections should serve us to emphasize the extent to which the TPLF government does not even respect its own constitution. For, negotiations would have been unnecessary if the constitution had any force of law. Repeated exposures of the regime’s inconsistencies can convince people to try alternative means so as to have their voice respected.

One thing is clear: everything depends on the goal that each opposition party sets to itself. If an opposition party targets the toppling of the TPLF, then I understand that it sees negotiations as a means of creating the optimal condition for its success. Unfortunately, such a goal is unrealistic: assuming that victory is still possible, it will only lead to a repeat of the 2005 crackdown. By contrast, if an opposition party pursues the modest goals of increasing its seats in the parliament and becoming an opposing partner of the government rather than an expeller standing outside it, I understand that such a party sees negotiations with the TPLF from a different angle. This political option looks more realistic: it is based on a long-term strategy of being part of the government that it means to influence while strengthening the party and removing insecurity from those who now control power in the case of a loss of majority in the distant future.

I am not suggesting that Hailu Shawel has opted for the long-term strategy for the simple reason that I have no information concerning his motives. I raise the issue because I want us to be clear about our expectations. Put otherwise, when opposition parties decide to participate in elections, they must tell us clearly what their objectives are. If, under the present conditions, their main objective is to oust the TPLF government by winning the majority of votes, I tell them that they are obviously using the wrong method, and so should adjust the means to the end by, for instance, embracing armed struggle. Hence my question to those who castigate Hailu Shawel: What do you expect from the coming elections?

  1. Debalke
    | #1

    I think Dr. Mesay has missed one point.

    Increasing parlament members do nothing under Meles rule. When meles understands that CUD could get substatial seats, he changed his one party constitutioin stating that any ageda cannot be discussed if not approved by 51% of the seats. In other words getting in to parlament serves only those lame parlament memebers to get paid(salary) as the expense of the people they betray.

    Therefore, you do not expect any thing from Meles. The solution is to get rid of such type of henious government by any means.

  2. AFDist
    | #2

    Two of the hitherto successes of the Weyane cadres are the influencing of EDP and AEUP to join Weyane camp! What made these two AAPO branches to join Weyane bloc? I think both Eritrea-factor and Oromo-factor played big role for the two parties to join Weyane. In the year 2005 their party aka CUD failed just because of their position on Eritrea (not accepting the independence and wanting to have Asseb back by any means) and on Oromia (rejecting kilil-federation and planning to dismantle Oromia in to 10 pieces). Now Medrek, which respects Eritrean independence (claims Aseb in only legal and peaceful way) and accepts Oromian autonomy, came out as a major opposition force. According to the view of the conservative unitarist AAPO-Amharas like Injera Hailom Shawid and Kihdetu Afyalew, keeping the status of the fake-federation of Weyane is better than to see in their life time an autonomous Oromia. So they chose to sleep with Weyane by rejecting Medrek!!

    Now we do have in the empire only two blocs with their respective supporters:
    I, Weyane bloc which includes TPLF, ANDM, OPDO, SEDM, AEUP, EDP…etc
    II, Medrek bloc including ATSD, EDUM, OFC, SDFC, UDJ, UEDF…etc

    Aite Hailom Shawid and Aite Kihdetu now think that Weyane is the “lesser evil” as far as their mantra of unitarist and amharanized Ethiopia is concerned. They are against Medrek, for they thought that Oromo people may achieve more cultural, economical and political Oromian autonomy by using Medrek than what they hitherto could by using Weyane!!

  3. Binyam
    | #3

    I see Professor Messay’s article interesting, something to think about.
    Yes, the opposition as divided as it is, may not have a chance to replace EPRDF during this coming election. Therefore, the only choice they have is try to have some kind presence in the parliament. That may give them a window of opportunity to know each other and may be, may be form a strong opposition block. Other than this I don’t see any other option while there is a government in power which doesn’t have respect for its own constitution leave alone so called code of conduct. As to Mr. Hailu, what choice does he have? He hates his old friends of CUD, he is too old to think of the future and yes, too rich to take a risk.

  4. Basamen zare
    | #4

    Thank you professor, by now you should decide what you are going to do in this political quagmire. Woyanes illegitimate game of politics .
    Even Though, once you used to be a former communist manifesto MATCHO MAN at AAU the diaspora has forgiven you long before you know it,

    Even the YEKATIT 12 cadre students, whom you screwed up over and over have forgiven you long time ago, even the USA have forgiven you .
    But here is the deal : please we beg you to come up with a better name than GINBOT 7 , and stay away from Berahnu Nega (political nightmare of Africa) .
    Dr. Bado kitun kere B. nega, has tough time to convince the diaspora that he is a better politician than Woyane. Rather he reminded me of a kid who lost a ብይ (marble) game and stood alone and weeping in the middle of a dusty road just to be only ያደረ አፋሽ .

    I urge B. Nega to Go to Zimbabwe and to talk to Morgan Changeri , may be he will learn something there, I urge B.Nega to take similar action into having a conversation with world peace figures.. the pope, the Dali lama, N. Mandela and even Banki Moon . ከክትፎ ቤት ክትፎ ቤት እየተረማመሱ ሃበሻን ማዋከብና እንደ ታዋቂው Holly wood ፈረስ እኝ ማለት ምንም ጥቅም አይሰጥም ::

    200 የቅንጅት በጥብጣዊ/ሰላማዊ ሰልፈኛች እንዳልተሰዉ! ይኽው ልክ ከስር እንደወጣህ የ Burger ናፍቆቱ አላስቻለህም ከተፍ አልክ: የውጭ ጋዜጦችን አስገረምክ :
    እባክህ ለትንሽ ጊዜ ተደበቅ! እረፍት ውሰድ ! የጎደለህን አምዋላና ተመልሰህ ና እያልኩ በምትወድው ታቦት እጠይቅሃለሁ (እንጠይቅሃለን)

    Mr. Nega biggest mistake was under estimating Woyane

  5. JIGSA
    | #5

    the writter of the above article main purpuse is to bad mothing ENG.HAILU SHAWEL nothing else.Thereis no substance in it other than character assasination this is cheap politics.LET ME REMAIND YOU ONE THING IN CASE YOU FORGOTEN ENG.HAILU SHAWEL DID NOT BETRAY NO ONE INFACT ENG.HAILU SHAWEL PAID THE ULTIMATE PRICE FOR ETHIOPIAN PEOPLE SHORT OF BEING KILLED BY THE CURRENT BRUTAL REGIME OF ETHIOPIA.ENG.Hatilh shawel spent 2 years in prision for ethiopian people cause.the above article writter if asked what he did even to support the opposition no one knows it is wise to think twice before bad mouthing some one for what he is not.LET IT BE CLEAR FOR ALL OF YOU WHO ARE WRITTING FALSE STORY ABOUT ENG.HAILU SHAWEL DONT FOOL YOURSELVES HAILU SHAWEL DIDN’T BETRAY NO ONE STOP SPREADING WRONG STORY.HAILU SHAWEL IS FIGHTING FOR THE PEOPLE OF ETHIOPIA PERIOD.

  6. Anonymous
    | #6

    ‘…Does this mean that the best option is not to participate in elections that we know are but fake?…’Yes.Why? Simply because you don’t realistically gain anything out of this election.That is for certain.As for the potential gains to be accrued in the future by participating in this fraud election,these are matters of remote conjectures and idle speculations.Leave that to astrologers or people with crystal balls in their hands.Just stay at home and allow TPLF to
    sit at the table alone and ‘consume the food it has self-admiringly cooked.The irony of this feast is not lost on anyone.

    Poor Basamen zare,#4
    These two guys,Berhanu and Mesay seem to get into your skin,don’t they? It appears that your irate language betrays some deep seated anxiety.What is bothering you buddy boy?

  7. Anonymous
    | #7

    JIGSA before you reach to such conclusion, examine the profile of your eng. Hailu . He had been systematically betraying and dirupting the struggle of the Ethiopian people over the years. Who elso would be responsible for the disintegration of CUD next to woyane than Hailu. It is beeter if you say that he has been fighting for his own feudalistic personal ego and for his own business empire. It is an open secret for most Ethiopians now.

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