Kinijit – the democratic armada – to sail back home from US – Ethiomedia

October 29th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

WASHINGTON DC – A 50-day political odyssey Ethiopia’s most popular opposition party carried out across the United States came to a grand finale on Sunday at the luxurious Grand Hyatt Hotel here in downtown Washington, DC. (more…)

WASHINGTON DC – A 50-day political odyssey Ethiopia’s most popular opposition party carried out across the United States came to a grand finale on Sunday at the luxurious Grand Hyatt Hotel here in downtown Washington, DC.

By the time the six-hour meeting had ended, a band was joined by a chorus of over a thousand souls who filled the air with national songs (Tarik Yefareden by Shambel Belaineh and Ethiopia Hagere by female vocalist Alem Kebede), songs that moved even the sober Kinijit leaders who graciously stood on the podium, wore broad smiles, waved hands and flags, flashed Vs, and gently swayed sideways to touch base with the sea of fans making waves in front of them.

Despite the glamour of the closing session, the delegation has also been – in the course of meeting with members of the US Congress, Senate or other local officials –the target of a coordinated attack that saw its future lies in destroying Kinijit.

The Kinijit delegation to United States encountered but successfully overcome several hurdles, one of which is the consistent and toxic campaign waged by individuals and groups who say are affiliated to Mr. Hailu Shawel, the president of Kinijit, who is also in the US but has distanced himself from the delegation headed by the brilliant 33-year-old Bertukan Mideksa.

Once respected as the charismatic leader of the opposition party, Hailu Shawel fell from grace when he turned down frequent invitations from the Bertukan-headed delegation to join them, and instead aligned himself with Kinijit International Council (KIC), a group he single-handedly created while he was in prison but lacks recognition by the rest of the Kinijit leadership, and from bad to worse, is largely seen as a corrupt group alleged to have squandered Kinijit funds.

Given that the powerful Kinijit North America Support Chapters and the Youth League of Ethiopian Americans for Kinijit are firmly behind the Bertukan-led delegation, KIC’s negative campaign had no or little effect on the visit of the delegation which includes such notables as Dr. Berhanu Nega, Dr. Hailu Araya, Engineer Gizachew Shiferaw and Mr. Brook Kebede. Ethiopia is once again at the crossroads: democracy versus dictatorship.

The opposition leadership that endured nearly two years of imprisonment at very appalling conditions in Kaliti has – during its itinerary in the US – moved swiftly past any resentment in the hands of its jailers, displayed an unshakeable faith in democracy, rallied a sizable part of the Ethiopian Diaspora behind it, and is on the verge of going home to test whether Meles Zenawi’s ruling party would be a genuine partner in re-starting the engine of a functional democracy that briefly roared off in the run-up to the ill-fated May 2005 elections.

“We know violence has been the modus operandi of resolving conflicts for generations in the past,” said Brook Kebede, one of the Kinijit delegates who addressed the audience yesterday. “Our hope is to bring about what they call a paradigm shift, the attitude to try to resolve conflicts not the old way – by violence – but through new means, and that is peacefully, through dialogue.”

The delegates time and again stressed that they don’t take regime change as an end in itself. They said their ultimate goal is to lay down the foundations for a democratic governance so that future generations of Ethiopia would be spared of the violence and concomitants that has been the hallmark of Ethiopian survival in the past.

How do they go about it? Engineer Gizachew says before moving into any elections, they need an independent electoral board, an independent judiciary and an independent press, among others things. “In other words,” Gizachew said, “Kinijit’s eight-point resolution is still on the table.”

May be the violent nature of the ruling party was very clear in the minds of some of the Kinijit supporters that one asked bluntly how would Kinijit react if the TPLF regime throws them into prison again?

“We will take that gracefully,” came the quiet voice of Dr. Hailu Araya, who was joined by Brook, who said: “We don’t see EPRDF as our enemy. As Kinijit we oppose dictatorship. We oppose dictatorial ideas and practices. We are opposed to any form of repression. When we say we are going to work with EPRDF, it doesn’t mean we will be a coalition partner.”

But to work with EPRDF, Kinijit or any other opposition party needs a political turf that also accommodates their needs. “There should be a space where Kinijit would also play its part,” Bertukan said, adding that EPRDF may delay but cannot deter the “Ethiopian people’s drive for the rule of law, the reign of democracy and juistce.”

Spicing his ideas with humor, Dr. Berhanu also reminded the audience that the key to pulling Ethiopia out of sordid poverty into an economic prosperity is by establishing democratic governance.”

The speakers said the issue of building democracy is not limited to securing economic growth. “Building democracy avoids conflicts now raging in the Ogaden, Mogadishu and threatening to erupt along the border with Eritrea,” Dr. Hailu Araya said. “If the governments in the region were democracies, there would have been no war, no bloodshed as two democracies don’t go to war.”

While how EPRDF would react to Kinijit’s legitimate demand is a matter of wait-and-see, there is no doubt Kinijit has done its homework in the Diaspora as evidenced by the huge support it enjoyed from members of the powerful Kinijit Support Chapters in North America and the budding Kinijit Youth League in United States.

The meeting hall was packed to the maximum capacity.

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