MEDREK or the End of a Political Masquerade? Messay Kebede

April 8th, 2014 Print Print Email Email

It is now abundantly clear that the project of creating a strong multiparty opposition by uniting unitary parties and ethnic parties is anything but feasible. The inability of MEDREK to achieve unity despite numerous attempts as well as Dr. Negaso Gidada’s––who stepped down from the chairmanship of the strongest unitary party, namely, UDJ––recent convoluted declaration in which he said, “I oppose secession but support the right to secession,” seal the definitive collapse of the project. The sticking point, if one can decipher it in the maze of attacks and counterattacks, is the irreconcilable position of ethnic and unitary parties on the right to self-determination up to secession of the various ethnic groups composing Ethiopia. Another sticking point deriving from the right to self-determination is that parties have no right to campaign for political support or vote in regions that they do not represent ethnically. While the right to self-determination up to secession keeps Ethiopian unity in life support, the implication that regions are reserved for ethnic politics only does no more than remove the very purpose of unitary parties. Under these conditions, it is no surprise if the project of unity could not but fail completely.

I was among the many Ethiopians who hailed the formation of MEDREK as a new and very promising beginning reconciling the imperative need for national unity with the legitimate demands for ethnic recognition and equality. What the inability to achieve unity clearly demonstrates is the persistent prevalence of ethnic nationalism over the demand for equality. Sadly, ethnic parties in Ethiopia seem to be stuck in the Stalinist dogma of self-determination up to secession as the only path to achieving equality. It never crosses their mind that there are more than one ways of rectifying past injustices without jeopardizing the unity of the country. The reason for this predilection for self-determination is not so much the commitment to democracy as the pursuit of narrow elitist interests.

No sooner did I come to this conclusion than it dawned on me that the ethnic parties are actually no different from the EPRDF. They share the same premises ideologically and politically, the only difference being that they are not part of the ruling elites. Not only these so-called opposition parties have no alternative politics to the EPRDF, but they also view the ethnic partition of Ethiopia as the formation of legitimate reserved territories for ethnicized elites. Accordingly, their aspiration is to accede to the ethnic power system by preventing unitary elites from competing. In thus defending the ascriptive right to the status of being the sole representatives of their ethnic groups, they are but saying that the groups are not Ethiopian and that they must not have the choice between alternative proposals on Ethiopian unity and ethnic diversity. People are essentially defined by their ethnic belonging: they form homogeneous and exclusive groups and, as such, have no individuality and rights transcending the groups to which they belong.

Both the defense of reserved ethnic territories and the refusal to compete in a non-ethnic field testify that ethnic opposition parties are committed to a version of politics that is utterly undemocratic and ascriptive. It is hardly consistent to speak of democracy and exclude people from competing on the basis of ethnic belonging. Our spontaneous belief is that individuals become politically active and create political parties to correct injustice and defend freedom. In reality, what Ethiopia’s modern history has invariably staged is the struggle of disgruntled elites for the control of power in the name of the working people or ethnic groups. That is why the political system they generate, when some of them succeed in prevailing, is invariably undemocratic. It is never about empowering the people; it is about seizing power in their name so as to advance sectarian interests.

The inevitable conclusion is that unitary parties must no longer waste their time, energy, and credibility in trying to form an inclusive party with ethnicized elites. My suspicion is that ethnic parties brandish unification with unitary parties just for the sake of gaining time to firmly plant the seeds of ethnonationalism in their respective regions by providing it with the aura of opposition to a failing government. Unless ethnic parties officially and without ambiguity drop the right to self-determination up to secession, they are no more no less than the Trojan horses of the EPRDF deceptively disguised as opposition parties. Instead of courting them into unification, unitary parties must focus on the task of gathering and organizing national forces and presenting their own alternative policy and vision. In addition to recognizing the equality of all ethnic and religious groups, the policy must lay out the conditions for its effective realization in harmony with the unconditional unity of Ethiopia. Where ethnic parties advocate division and exclusive enclaves, unitary parties must promote unity and equality through the democratic empowerment of the people. The motto must be: democratic unity versus sectarian politics.

  1. aha!
    | #1

    Professor Messay Kebede, I fully agree to your latest assessment about Mederek, a conglomerate of loyalist opposition parties with ethnic agenda forming a coalition, but not a merger over the national agenda, with UDJP, against the wishes of some in UDJP, with subset of the national agenda for unity, territorial integrity sovereignty of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, where the last item refers to individual freedom, liberty to have precedence over ethnic and secessionist rights. Whreas those parties including TPLF/eprdf have the goals for respecting human rights, ethnic, secessionist rights and democracy, while sustaining the constitution with the ideologies of ethnic federalism, a division of Ethiopian land mass by major languages for the most part, secessionism and totalitarianism and or/state capitalism as an economic modelgovernig Ethiopia and Ethiopians under ethnic dictatorship with socialistic economic model as regards the silent majority of Ethiopians, while affording free market capitalism to TPLF/Political, TPLF/EFFORT, TPLF affiliated enterprises and foreign corporations much like the Dutch Boers of the ex-apartheid South Africa, having economic and political strangle hold of the country by way of ethnic dictatorship and its resources by the mentioned entities.

    That situation would not have much different with Medrek/OPDO/EFDF/fdre, in the 2010 election, had Mederk had won a sizeable seat instead of one in the parliament, forming a bicameral chamber of parliament with ethnic agenda instead of the national agenda of the positive forces of integration of Ethiopia as one nation state with the original provincial boundaries in tact and a constitution with individual freedom, liberty and equality, being ahead of ethnic and secessionist rights, where the Ethiopian society have eighty ethnic groups serving as a mosaic, where the Amhara/Oromo ethnic group serve as the roots, the Amhara/Oromo serve as the stem and the relatively bigger ethnic groups as bigger branches and the small ethnic groups serving an smaller branches and leaves, performing their vital functions of one organism, as opposed to the current ideologies of ethnic federalism and secessionism, a prelude to future boundary conflicts, a prelude to secessionism, genocide and now ethnic cleansing of the Amhara ethnic group from location other than the Amhara region, which is inhabited by various ethnic groups and imposing on it through ANDM to think of themselves as their ethnic first and Ethiopiawinet second much like those with ethnic agenda in ill demarcated ethnic zones of Oromia, Ogaden Somalia , Amhara region, etc., where the Amhara region had been the seat of four kings and the Tigrai region have the seat of one king ruling Ethiopia, as one great nation state upholding the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ethiopia for centuries under Monarchic System of Governance, much like Geat Britain, which the Ethiopian elites chose to end it than reform it to give way to EPLF/TPLF revolutionaries of oppression of nations and nationalities by the previous Emperors of Ethiopia.

  2. Konjit Kassa
    | #2

    MEDREK was and is synonymous with EPRDF. It is a collection of ethnocentric
    parties. If you deeply look any member of MEDREK issues a statement only when its ethnic area comes up with an issue due to TPLF/EPRDF negative act.
    I haven’t so far heard the organisation’s BLUE PRINT for ETHIOPIA that genuinely supports UNITY over SECESSION. Case in point, recently it kicked
    out UDJ or ANDINET from membership. So far the vision of the GROUP is not
    that different from EPRDF,i.e, ETHNIC BASED FEDERATION OR NO ETHIOPIA.
    Correct me if my conclusion is wrong.

  3. Belay
    | #3

    Yes, you are wrong. MEDREK does not support cessation and you can read its 67-page program. It does not support the Amhara’s (UDJ, AEUP, Blue Party) version of unity as well. Those are reminiscent of the older Ethiopia. Amhara poltical organizations do not have a program to address issues raised by Oromos, Tigreans, Southern people, Ogadenis …etc. They still want to rule by one language, one religion and one country dictated by the Amnharas of Ethiopia. They have wrapped Amhara poltical parties with “national names”. There are no fools now.

  4. Maru
    | #4

    MEDREK —–> Reformed TPLF Ideology “Ethnic Politics)

  5. aha!
    | #5

    Konjit Kassa! Your description of Medrek reminds me of one lady had to say about Medrek prior to 2010 election: “kengidih wedih mircha yemibale neger waga yelewim inezihma yalew mengist (TPLF/eprdf) glilibach nachew”, a notion from which Medrek has been described as mirror image of TPLF/eprdf, where TPLF is the Politbuerro driving the teletafi parties with a leash based on ethnic rather than national agenda in terms of political model and master architect of the constitution with EPLF as the spearhead of ethnic agenda as a prelude to its secession up to independence, with direct support of the constitution by the teletafi parties, now scrambling for cabinet positions in the TPLF/eprdf regime, and the loyalist opposition parties, which lately formed a coalition/front known as Medrek/OPDO/EFDF/fdre (federal democratic repuplic of Ethiopia)/eprdf with ethnic agenda, capaigninig for political space, “yekilil mengistats iqulent mebit mekeber”, respect ethnic rights, and human rights, where human rights is the common denominator for all ethnic groups. The disgruntled Oromo liberation fronts, from the current ex-liberation fronts, campaigning for secessionist rights up to self determination over the demarcated Ethiopian land mass from borena Negelle to Sellale, from Harrar Kotu to Nekemtu, from Jimma to Adama, the capital of Oromia with a contest for finifine over addis abeba as the capital of Oromia boundary have succumbed to a fantacy-land created for them by EPLF/TPLF, has created a prelude to secessionism, a prelude to future boundary conflicts and the incidence for genocide in the recent past, not rehashing about the distant past with a monument and an ongoing ethnic cleansing are the focal points to be gutted. Apart from what has been created for them they have in the past have naturally spread all over Ethiopia, as on going mix of Nilotic, Cushitic, Semetic, and Hametic tribes over thousands of years into not so unique or distinct Amhara, Oromo, Tigre, Gurage, Hadya, Sidama,Afar, Somali, etc., which share the same piece of land called Ethiopia under a monarchic system of governance, in the same the 50 feudal kingdoms came under one kingdom of Germany, and East and west were unified as one nation state under democracy, nor is there, except for Indian Reservation, there is Spanish speaking, African American, Irish American, Asian American, etc. homelands in a democratic country of the USA, the constitution of the TPLF/eprdf regime emulate and voluntarily ratify the constitution to have peace and genuine democracy.

  6. Gizie Siyasay
    | #6

    The very foundation of ethnic politics is no one but me in my region. From here one can go no where but the TPLF camp. It was futile and time showed.

  7. Tariq
    | #7

    In any nation building or formation of a country inevitable authorities were committed by those were on power at the time on those were resisting. In many countries those who were resisting defeated and assimilated or reconciled for comment benefit or continue resisting in few corner of the world. In Ethiopia it is mixed filling due to that there is few of all other than reconciliation. We also note that denial and exaggeration of the past taking their spree in opposite directions which creating uncertainty in the country benefiting the regime on power instead of those benefiting the population that both ethnic based and unitary advocate parties are claim to represent.

    After 23 years if we are not coming to our cense people of Ethiopia may take their fait into their hand. It may be chaotic, but what if there in no choise?

    Quebec (Canada) provincial election result is a good learning example for those preaching separation without listening to the people they pretend to represent. The separatist party of province of Quebec (one of the province of Canada) Party Quebecois keeps preaching on separation and on controversial Quebec Charter of Values on election campaign without lasting to the people. Finally the people of Québec spoken by showing red card not only to the separatist party but also to the leader of the party by denying her their vote, Canada is where people put their will in practice, democracy. How many time people of Ethiopia shown red card to TPLF/EPDRF? Countless. No independent referee to take a note and to tall the looser, you’re the looser give way to the winner, tyranny doesn’t understand the language of loosing by ballet.

    For those also preaching unity without diversity and respect of others have to woke up to the reality to build Ethiopia for all. Come up with clear and inclusive vision for all with honesty and humiliation. If not as I mentioned above we are making fertile environment for longevity of the power of tyranny in Ethiopia.

    Allah the Almighty Bless Ethiopia and Its people

  8. ፍሥሓ
    | #8

    So clear an articulation of the enigma we find ourselves in, indeed a caesura that is just deep enough! While thanking Prof. Messay for this brilliantly penned piece and hope everyone gives heed to his striking words of orientation.

  9. yekuno mesfin
    | #9

    Hi there, I am very disappointed in you Dr. Akolg birara. First you misstated the fact that medrek agreed on the nation and nationalities that cessation is not the solution. White lie. Second, you loose the whole point on ethiopia. Yes it started as meahad. And still cutting itself day in day out in to many pieces. That is a fact also you know well. I dont think you can tell me what is the real deference between udj and semayawi? Mead and bale raaie party. Mead and udj. Yes it is all about power grab. We all know way ato shiferaw came back. We all know way udj eject Dr. Negasso. So, Dr Aklog we all know you guys have the same name same people want to control ethiopia with out recognizing the rsal people. Please you should act as an independent and reconcilatory to all concerned parties. If not I must say you and likes want to do exactly what eprdf is doing but will never happen.

  10. mohamad
    | #10

    Can somebody explain why is ethnic federal and art 39 working in Switzerland ,belgium and Canada and not in ethiopia?
    What is missing in ethiopia is genuine self rule and real democracy.But the ideology is the only one who can hold ethiopia unity.

    State building of menelik and haile selasse failed we have to adjust our politic to the reality on the ground we are first ethnic amhara,oromo,somali, afar ….. then ethiopian.

  11. Tecola Hagos
    | #11

    Professor Messay, I am glad that you have resolved this nagging issue between unitarism Vs ethnic federalism in such well written and pointed piece. I had decided a long time ago that ethnic federalism for a country like Ethiopia is untenable. Already what one observes in the current Kilil politics and posturing is the systematic and slow dismemberment of Ethiopia. The Oromo Kilil and the political organizations involved thereby seem to be playing a very dangerous game of softening the ground for a breakaway move at some appropriate time—when Ethiopia is in some crisis. I hope that political organizations like the Southern Group and huge national projects like the Renaissance Dam would be the antidote (or counterforce) against such destructive political disease. I too am disappointed by the position taken by Dr. Negaso Gidada on the concept of ethnicism and secession. Ethnic politics is never constructive. It is even worse than religious conflicts. Messay, thank you again for such profound and transformative article.
    Tecola W. Hagos

  12. Konjit Kassa
    | #12

    Judas sold out Jesus and in the end hanged himself. At that moment the
    Jew clerics and Romans were the executioners with an objective of getting
    rid of Jesus. But for Judas the only gain was killing himself,i.e, Jesus
    lived on ever since in the hearts and minds of his followers.Who was the
    only LOOSER and FOOL? JUDAS.Those who are knowingly or otherwise purport
    ETHNOCENTRIC FEDERATION need to learn one or two things from Judas before
    selling out ETHIOPIA to TPLF/EPRDF poison that is fooling them.

  13. mohamad
    | #13

    the question is why do unitary parties such as andnet, ginbot7 etc.. merge with ethnic based parties, the answer is one and only one, which is to fight the current government and bring it down, but what happen when that fails. they break up into pieces as there is no principle or political program binding these two groups so all the government has do is wait them out. the problem with the unitary group (messay group) is they mainly attract and represent one ethnic (amara), so instead of doing some thing about that (reforming), they took the short cut of merging with ethnic parties. so the bigger question is why is this unitary parties not attracting oromos, tigres, somalis etc etc.. and what can they do about it.

  14. Erba
    | #14

    It is no secret the ambition of the ethnic based organizations ,no matter what guise it takes, is to secede.Each one of them stack to uniquely appealing dream of Banana Republic. These ethno-centrist leaders on each organization is just waiting on the wing to see what will happen to TPLF and take it from there. They are so committed to their idea of secession they are satisfied to substitute the current inactivity for future indulgence. That explains why they choose to be mute ,at the present, to the ongoing gross violations the rights of citizens. Ethnocentric politicians are not concerned about violations of individual rights. After all, if opportunity permit they are prepared to repeat what TPLF, and EPLF are doing so why criticize TPLF’s policy. For them the only thing that matters the most is to move subtly and not compromise their ambition of secession. Ethiopians need ,with out any hesitation need to expose the motive of the ethnic elites to be boss of their own ethnics. In the mean time the people need to be told what they need is freedom from every form of manacle.

  15. aha!
    | #15

    Mohamed #13, I can not help noticing your understand of “merging” and “coalition/alliance in frame work of agreements between UDJP with subset of the national agenda and loyalist opposition parties with ethnic agenda, and Ginbot 7 with national agenda accommodating the secessionist movements to form an alliance (AFD2, alliance for Democracy and Justice). In both cases it is not a merger, but a coalition/front/alliance, nevertheless to counter the TPLF/eprdf regime.

    The concept of a merger carries the implication and has been demonstrated in businesses and politics is to unite over common goals and strategies to achieve those goals namely unity, territorial integrity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, where the last item refers to individual freedom, liberty and equality to have precedence over ethnic and secessionist rights, a concept that is hard to swallow by ethnic federalist and ethnic secessionist and/or ethnic nationalists, but not by the silent majority of Ethiopians who hold dear their Ethiopiawinet first and their ethnicity second to restore Ethiopian Nationalism, the sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. It is then and only then democracy and democratic rule takes a foot hold.

  16. Dawi
    | #16

    As there are no good alternative out there, supporting the developmental state concept that is running the country today for a long time to come is imperative for Ethiopians. The system should continue to recruit the best and the brightest Ethiopians to run the bureaucracy of the existing system.

    As Prof. Endreas pointed out Meles’s vision unlike the Asian Tigers envisioned injecting a democratic twist in the authoritarian developmental state theory, a historically new phenomena of the first kind in such huge developmental experiment in our African setting.

    Then all the secessionist and chauvinists will be downsized to size as the country prospers and that will give equal footing & playing field for the common Ethiopian.

  17. Gembe Wollegaa
    | #17

    I support EPRDF, because they are the most Organized and smartest politically party in Ethiopia. Of course some may disagree, the truth is there is no other organized alternative political party that could replace EPRDF, beside I am an an Oromo why should I join Amhara dominated political opposition ? The last 90+ years The Amhara dominated governments had ruled ETHIOPIA, what Ethiopians gained from Amhara leadership is division,oppression,Poverty,war and discrimination against non Amhara Ethiopians.

  18. BEWARE!
    | #18

    Gembe Wollegaa, how shameless and delusional you people can be!
    Here is an example of undercover typical Tplf/Woyanes using their same old propaganda to continue to divide Ethiopians by spreading hate against one ethnic group. TPLF have been peeing on Ethiopians for the last 25 years and still trying to put the blame on Amaras. Even Mengestu seems an angel compare to TPLF.

  19. aha!
    | #19

    Dawi#16! The on going campaign/struggle is for political and economic freedom, political freedom from the current ethnic federalism and/or ethnic secessionism/nationalism inscribed in the constitution, and economic freedom from the current totalitarianism and or developmental state/state capitalism with free market capitalism undertaken by TPLF/political, TPLF/EFFORT, TPLF affiliated enterprises and foreign corporations, where the economic model, denies the silent majority of Ethiopians of free market capitalism with private ownership of land as one of the means of productions.

    In a democratic system, government has no place to own land, but serves as steward of the land resources and environment with eminent domain to ex-appropriate land for the common good. So “there is no good alternatives out there, supporting the developmental state concept” unless you are implying, perhaps OPDO/Medrek/EFDF/fdre, a mirror image of TPLF/eprdf regime as not being “a good alternative, supporting the developmental state concept”, I presume. Although they may be capable of handling that concept, that is not what the positive forces of integration for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty of Ethiopia and Ethiopians are campaigning for or supporting the developmental state concept a-priori to economic and political freedom to the silent majority of Ethiopians.

  20. Sigut
    | #20

    Gembe Wollegaa,

    That is a remarkable idea ! You might as well bow down and lick the dust of the feet your TPLF masters. No doubt you must bee under a TPLF pay role. However, not every Oromo s all our hares your servitude. For the rest of us ,the only way forward, is forge resources and man power of all Ethiopians and remove TPLF. The ethnic elites are out of touch with reality. Let them indulge their dream of a tribal state .Which amounts to “Lam Alenge besemay wetetuanem ye ma Alaye”.

  21. Dawi
    | #21

    aha said,

    “..In a democratic system, government has no place to own land, but serves as steward of the land resources and environment with eminent domain to ex-appropriate land for the common good…”

    What “democratic system” is you’re talking about? Messay is telling you that you’re not even capable of forming a one united party thus far.

    Meles was known for demanding your kind of “neo liberals” to know how you would define “democratic system” and seek a feasible path to it, in a political economy dominated by patronage and rent seeking?

    As most folks agreed allowing the market to rule was one dead end for Africa in the past and today therefore, we need an “active state” that will allocate state rents in a productive manner. That is what developmental State theory is all about.

    “TPLF/EFFORT, TPLF affiliated enterprises” are some of the vehicles that allocate-rents in a productive manner under Ethiopian sky. Making sure that they do that today is HD’s and others responsibility.

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