Crystallizing the issues, bringing focus to the discussion of Alliance formation and the very nature of the Ethiopian Identity post TPLF/EPRDF By GEZEW DERESE
In the last few months, the focus of discussion within the involved Diaspora has and remains to be about forming alliance among the opposition. This issue has unraveled fundamental differences and hot debates among many regarding the necessity and practicality of alliance formation, national unity, ethnic politics and the very nature of the post-TPLF/EPRDF Ethiopian identity.
The campaign for the hearts and minds of Ethiopians is in full swing. It is, hence, imperative to raise some hard questions at this juncture in our history so that we may all make informed decision on the choices in front of us.
For now, I would like to focus on what I would characterize as unclear direction being pursued by Ginbot-7, OLF and ONLF. In my opinion, the time has come to stop the free ride and demand a clear vision to the fundamental questions openly and unequivocally. It is my sincere hope that by so doing, it will help us to see clearly the strength and weaknesses of each vision.
Today is hardly the time to continue giving our leaders the benefit of the doubt and a “leap of faith”. For democracy and justice to prevail, now or in the future Ethiopia we envision to build, we must demand openness and accountability from the actors in the filed. Demanding clarification and debating on pertinent issues with respect is good for democracy. And it is in this spirit that I will highlight some of the issues that I believe require an honest examination and response from the responsible organizations.
1. Are ONLF and OLF pursuing “freedom /separation” from Ethiopia or just freedom from injustice within a united Ethiopia?
One of the major concerns of Ethiopians about the ONLF and OLF has been and continues to be the stated goals and desires of the two organizations. Based on their programs, their stated positions as articulated by their leaders on many occasions, it is evident that both are fighting to “liberate from the colonialist Ethiopia”.
Irrespective of what the G7-leadership and some unofficial spokespersons of the same tend to claim, the two organizations have not yet refuted this fact.. Nevertheless, G7 and some of its supporters seem to be passionately engaged in a campaign to paint a new picture, minimize its relevance or outright force us to turn our attention away from this reality.
Two recent articles that were released to the general public almost the same day by Ato Efrem Madebo – member of the leadership of G7 and by Dr Getachew Begashaw – the unofficial spokesperson of the current G7, OLF, and ONLF project, beg more questions than answer.
Part of Ato Ephrem’s article reads, I quote: “It’s bizarre and it’s really unfortunate that most of the recent naysayers and scribblers read what is not written and try to tell us their faith than what they think. For example, they are all over OLF, but they don’t even know what the acronym OLF/ ኦነግ stands for – they try to be more catholic than the pope by giving the OLF a new name. OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) is not የኦሮሞ ነፃ አውጪ ግምባር – it is (የኦሮሞ ነፃነት ግምባር). The difference between the two is as opposed as black and white (I’m talking color, not people). Please don’t tell us what you believe in, tell us what you think that and only that is what we can share and grow with.”
In this article, Ato Ephrem is clearly telling us, although timidly, that “OLF’s desire is not to liberate/separate Oromiya from Ethiopia but to have an Oromiya that has achieved freedom from tyranny subjugation, etc.” In a way, we are told they are fighting for justice and equality and not necessarily separation.
On Sunday, August 14, 20011, during an interview on Alula AbaNega Paltalk room Dr Getachew Begashaw reiterated the same message when he said “ኦነግ ነጻ ኦሮሚያን እመሠርታለሁ ሲል ሰምቼ አላውቅም” “I have never heard OLF stating that they want to form an independent Ormiya” (see Allula http://www.abugidainfo.com/amharic/?p=6954 ),Well, contradictions notwithstanding, nothing can be further from the truth. Let us see a few facts:
1. The OLF program clearly declares that: “The Oromo Liberation Front [OLF] is a political organization that is struggling for the realization of the national self-determination for the Oromo people and the establishment of independent state of Oromiya”. http://www.oromoliberationfront.info/objectives.htm
More recently, in a letter addressed to the UN Secretary General B. Moon, Mr, Daud Ibsa of the OLF wrote and we quote: “The Oromo people’s struggle for freedom is the natural outcome of occupation by an alien force – the Ethiopian regime. Such right, the struggle against foreign occupation and for self determination, is recognized by international community including the UN.”(OLF letter to Ban Ki-Moon, August 9, 2011)
2. Regarding ONLF, the following is what is openly stated in their web site “Fundamental Considerations of the ONLF”
A) The Ogaden cause is not at the heart of a dispute between the Republic of Somalia and Ethiopia. It is one of the visages of European colonialism in Africa. It is the cause of a nation betrayed by Britain and other colonial powers and annexed by Ethiopia in a manner contrary to the agreements concluded between the Ogaden people and Britain and in conflict with International Law and the Charter of the United Nations.
B) The struggle of the People of Ogaden and the aim of their movement is to obtain the right of self-determination rather than a struggle aimed at realizing the identity of a nationality. This is because Ogaden has never been historically or politically part of Ethiopia. http://onlf.org/?page_id=14
If the above is not a clear statement for separation, if this is not የኦሮሞ ነፃ አውጪ ግምባር; if this is not a vision of establishing an independent Oromiya and Ogaden(ia), what then is it?
In my opinion, what is required from a political figure is a straight talk, look at the painful facts and tell it as it is. When it comes to such important issue as a sovereignty of a nation, no one should be allowed to play with definition etc. I submit that the public has full right to demand full accountability from politicians I this regard.
I would like to invite the readers to look at the facts and be the judge themselves.
Interestingly, here is what Ato Efrem Madebo wrote in 2006 conflicting his present position on the same subject and get perplexed:“ As we all know, in the last twenty five years, the armed wing of the OLF was in action to separate Oromia from Ethiopia…(Enset: Article 39, AFD and the Oromo Liberation Front. Efrem madebo, 2006, www.enset.org/2006/06/article-39-afd-and-oromo-liberation.html
So, why would it be “bizarre” in 2011 to repeat what Ato Ephrem wrote in 2006? Have the facts on the ground changed since? Why try to present OLF as some thing that is other than separatism? Based on one’s own present political stand, it appears that Ato Ephrem and Dr Getachew are simply negating their past by simply applying the old saying that runs in Amharic as “መልከ ጥፉን በስም ይደግፉ”.
The fact of the matter is as they say in Amharic “Azelem Alu Akefe, hulum teshekeme new” whether you say የኦሮሞ ነፃ አውጪ ግምባር OR የኦሮሞ ነፃነት ግምባር OLF’s mission is to “liberate Ormoia from Ethiopian colonialism”. In plain language OLF’s and ONLF’s stated goal is to dismantle Ethiopia. This is the fact and G7 has the duty and responsibility towards its members and the general public to state this fact in no uncertain terms and stop sugarcoating the real desire of these organizations. It is time to come clean.
This issue becomes even more important and highly curious hence demanding of an immediate response when G7 leaders like Ato Andargachew Tsgie clearly state that” we should not use the phrase “Ethiopian unity” while perusing collaboration with different political forces. According to Ato Andargachew, a lot of crime has been perpetuated in the name of unity” (debate on ESAT between Meto Aleqa Ayalsew Dessie and Ato Andargachew). Therefore, according to him, we should not use this phrase as there are those who would be offended by the term “Ethiopian unity”. I find this statement to be insulting to the overwhelming majority of Ethiopians who stand proudly behind “Ethiopian unity “.
And I believe, it is imperative that G7 provide clarification on this issue without delay.
2. What about Art. 39, have we not listened to the people’s message yet?
Another issue that requires immediate clarity is the position of each political party ( or movement ) on the issue of “self determination up to secession”.
The core policy of the TPLF, as enshrined in its constitution under Article 39, is the article of separation into fiefdoms and kingdoms.
As seen in the last 20 years, Ethiopians passionately hate article 39 for it is divisive and inconveniently chokes the people’s aspirations of unity and territorial integrity of their country. A clear evidence of this and the rejection of a separatist agenda became clearly apparent in Ethiopia in 2005. Openly, the CUD put a political platform stating that they fully reject article 39 and declared that if they won the election and form the next government, they would make it null and void. Weyane on the other hand campaigned for the continuation of its policies including the preservation of article 39.
As we all know, Ethiopians overwhelmingly rejected Weyane and gave mandate to the opposition to govern. Clearly, they spoke that they do not want article 39. Simply put, their word was loud and clear: “no more YERASIN EDIL BE RAS MEWESEN ESKE MEGENTEL, NO MORE REFERENDOM TO SEPARATE FROM ETHIOPIA. We are all Ethiopians within a united and indivisible Ethiopia.” Among other things, this was one major message of the 2005 election.
Additionally, in 2009, MEDREK, a coalition of seven organizations operating on the ground in Ethiopia has completely rejected article 39. This is clearly stated in MEDREKS political program. The highly respected elderly politician Ato Bulcha Demeksa articulated this as follows “Oromos do not want secession from Ethiopia and his party has declared its opposition to the corresponding Article 39 of the current government’s constitution. He told Voice of America (VOA) that his OFDM party, various Oromo and other Ethiopian opposition groups inside the new FDD coalition have put this policy as one of their several uniting causes. Mr. Demeksa added that Article 39 was enforced into the constitution by Meles Zenawi’s TPLF in the early 1990s without the wish of Oromo people and political groups active during the transition period. He said Oromo people want democracy, equality and self-governance “
Let us not forget that OLF and ONLF were on the side of TPLF/EPRDF in their advocacy for article 39 in 2005 too. And that idea of article 39 which is shared among the three was rejected in 2005.
I am not surprised that the OLF and ONLF continue to demand self determination. These two organizations wrongly believe they are colonized by Ethiopia. Therefore, what they are asking for (self determination) is to “get their freedom from the colonizer”. In a way, what OLF and ONLF are asking now is what EPLF had been asking before 1993 As Petros Tesfagiorgis wrote, the reasons for the support of Eritrean born students to the then struggle of the Ethiopian progressive forces was rooted in the following thinking: “the Eritrean progressive students realized that if the oppressive feudal system is replaced by a socialist government the problem in Eritrea could be resolved peacefully based on the right of people to self-determination” (The Role of Haile Sellassie University Progressive Students: Excerpt From The conspiracy theory: Part 2, Petros Tesfagiorgis, Nov 27, 2007, Source www.awate.com )
Clearly, just like the Eritrean separatist groups wanted to use the “progressive force” in the 70’s to implement their dream of liberating Eritrea through self determination, today, OLF and ONLF are trying to do the same on the back of G7 and other Ethiopian forces.
Both in their political programs and in many of their public speeches, OLF and ONLF have said that they are willing to collaborate with other Ethiopians provided they agree to implement “the right to self determination” for the people they say they represent. This is straight forward. What OLF and ONLF want as a condition for working together with the pro Ethiopian groups is the acceptance of “the right to self determination implementation “ or in other words the implementation of TPLF’s Article 39 post-the TPLF regime.
Now, if we are all clear with the goal of the two organizations and their bottom line and/or their pre-conditions for agreeing to work with other organizations, then the issue is to clearly understand what G7’s position is on this issue. When G7 starts to work with (or collaborates with) ONLF and OLF, what have they agreed to regarding holding a referendum as articulated by OLF and ONLF? This is a question that G7 should clarify with no delay whatsoever.
In the article I quoted above in 2006, Mr Ephrem Madebo has said the following about article 39 or the “right of nations to self determination up to secession” Article 39 explicitly endangers Ethiopia’s existence as a nation, and it is included in the constitution against the will of the Ethiopian people. The social and economic development of Ethiopia is highly dependent on the unity of the Ethiopian people, therefore, no Ethiopian would be happy to see an article in his/her constitution that could reduce the size, political, and economic importance of Ethiopia” Enset: Article 39, AFD and the Oromo Liberation Front. Efrem madebo, 2006, www.enset.org/2006/06/article-39-afd-and-oromo-liberation.html
As member of the leadership of G7, does he now support this same concept “self determination “ put forward by ONLF and OLF.
On Sunday August 14, 20011, in an interview with the Alula Aba Nega paltalk room, Dr Getachew Begashaw has openly declared that he supports the referendum demand as articulated by OLF and ONLF ( see Allula http://www.abugidainfo.com/amharic/?p=6954 ), Well, let’s just hope that this was a mistake inadvertently uttered during the heat of the moment or, if not, let’s just hope this becomes clearer down the road.
During the recent ESAT interview with Meto Aleka Ayalsew Dessie, Ato Andargachew has said that while G7 is currently in discussion with OLF and ONLF, at the end, the alliance will be formed only among those who support the unity of Ethiopia. Now it is time to be clear and clean on this issue. Does G7 agree or not with the OLF’s and ONLF;’s demand for self-determination up to and including secession? If the answer is yes, will they also agree to a similar referendum for other Ethnic groups like the Sidamas, Amharas, Gurage’s, Afar’s etc? If this is about the right of one or two “ethnic groups”, does G7 think that other ethnic groups too have the same right? Where does this referendum stop? Does this mean then G7’s vision for post EPRDF/TPLF Ethiopia is to ask all ethnic groups whether they want to be part of Ethiopia or not? Is this the way to build or destroy Ethiopia?
I think it is time for G7 to come clean on this issue too without delay. I believe that this could happen only if we the people demand such clarity and hold the politicians accountable.
3. Awra dirijit “one strong leading organization” or an alliance of equals; are we laying the ground for pluralist future or for dictatorship?
One important issue that is increasingly becoming clear in this debate is whether it is necessary to form an alliance among Ethiopian forces (alliance of equal partners) , or whether alliance formation should revolve around one major leading political party AWRA DIRIJIT
During a debate with Meto Aleka Ayal Sew Dessie on ESAT, Ato Andargachew Tsigie was asked whether his organization, G7, would be willing to start a parallel process of unity /alliance formation with pro Ethiopian forces while continuing its engagement with OLF and ONLF. His answer was simply evasive and derogatory at the same time: “the poor Ethiopian forces are just useless elements”.
While the G7 leaders try for soft landing on this issue, Dr Getachew puts it bluntly in his article entitled “ Why engage in dialog with OLF and others ethno centric organization on the issue of Ethiopian Unity” http://www.abugidainfo.com/amharic/?p=6775
Well, the biggest question in this regard is, so how is this different from the TPLF’s concept of YEABITOYAWI DEMOCRACY leadership?
Few weeks ago, Dr Getachew quoted Eskindir Nega on OLF related issue. I want to remind Dr Getchew that Eskinder has also written about the Stalinist nature of the concept of “Awra/ Mmeri Detigit” or “vanguard party”. This concept of vanguard party has been related to the dictatorship of one party and the manipulation of the political process. Clearly, the concept of “Meri detejit” is a recipe for dictatorship. I believe that Ethiopians are not only interested to remove the TPLF/EPRDF dictatorship and replace it with a new one.I do not want to speculate and say that G7 is preparing to establish dictatorship in Ethiopia. But surely the concept of Awra / Meri Derejit is a recipe for the vicious cycle of dictatorship/s.
So the question that follows must be: do we need an alliance that fosters plurality, or do we really want to build “one strong party” that will lead “every one” to victory and establish a possible dictatorship. History has shows us that whether it comes from TPLF or the opposition “Awra/ Meri Derejit/vanguard party” eventually leads to dictatorship. I would rather stand for pluralism with all its messes than for any form of dictatorship. We have had enough of this for the last four decades! I stand for pluralism with all its challenges and oppose any form of “AWRA / MERI DEREJIT “.
There are also additional questions that could be raised for further clarification. This will include issues such as the relationship with Eritrea, the issue of What is cooking up there and why is G7 implicated on way or another?
The move forward
In my opinion, there are a number of issues that G7 has to clarify without delay. If it wants to enjoy the public support and backing, it is essential that G7 clarifies its position on the above and other major issues pertaining to the current engagement with ONLF and OLF.
The request for clarification should not be seen as an attack on or the provocation of G7. I see G7 as a unity force that has the potential to contribute tremendously to the struggle for the elimination of the TPLF/EPRDF’s dictatorship and replacing it with a democratic system. Unity between G7 and other unity forces is a nightmare for the TPLF’s regime and a sigh of relief for all Ethiopians who want to replace the current ethno-centric regime.
Public participation is the bedrock of citizen empowerment, a democratic culture and the prevention of abuse of power. It is the means by which political leaders and organizations are held accountable. This participation by the public can take many forms including actively writing on topics of interest, engaging in discussion forums and providing opinions on proposed agendas of political organizations and public leaders.
Organizations are led by people and as they say “People learn best when they are fully accountable and when they experience the consequence of their work”. I have no doubt that the current debate will help a lot in shaping and advancing an agenda of common interests among Ethiopians. So I would say, let us keep the debate in a respectful and constructive manner.
God bless Ethiopia