A Tumultuous Month, Magnificent Leaders, and Superior Supporters – By Mesfin Tabor

November 1st, 2007 Print Print Email Email

October is a turbulent month, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a month of transitions. Summer grudgingly gives way to fall. (more…)

October is a turbulent month, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a month of transitions. Summer grudgingly gives way to fall. The leaves turn yellow. The weather is at times harsh, and at times mellow. It can be rainy out there; stormy and thunderous.

So turbulent was also the month of October to Ethiopians everywhere. The five Kinijit delegates were on everyone’s mind. So was Ato Hailu Shawel as well. They all were on everyone’s face, on everyone’s ears. Many of the encounters with the leaders were joyous occasions – - heroes’ welcome for democracy champions who put their lives on the line for their convictions. Other encounters were not. The meeting in DC that hosted Ato Hailu was in large parts an exercise in make-believe and quixotic meanness.

It is most unfortunate that Ato Hailu’s estrangement from the five delegates spiraled out of control. I wish he didn’t have so many bad advisors on his side. They may have succeeded in turning a potential national hero into an embittered and petty schemer. I will be very pleased if events prove me wrong.

Can there be a turbulent time for Ethiopians without Professor Mesfin having some part in it?! And yes, in the middle of it all came roaring from a hospital bed in India the voice of the well liked and well respected senior statesman. He had some harsh paternal words to dispense, but also a middle ground to offer in order to diminish polarizations and to keep the Kinijit family tightly together. His prescription: Birtukan is the way! The professor called on all of us to support our Lady Liberty at this time of great challenge to her personally and to the country as a whole.

All in all, October was not a bad month at all. There was actually a silver lining in all the tumultuous events. Three points need to be underscored.

First, the conflict demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of Kinijit’s supporters are genuine Ethiopian democrats with no regard for their leaders’ ethnicity. When they oppose Ato Hailu’s stances, they do so not because of any ethnic motives. Nor is ethnicity a factor for their embrace of the five delegates. Leaving aside a certain bigoted medieval professor’s myopic musings on the notorious kinijit.org, the overwhelming majority of Kinijit supporters stand above ethnicity. Regardless of whether they are of Amhara, Oromo, Tigre, Guraghe, etc origin, they are progressive Ethiopians who are guided by a humanist paradigm of the dignity of the human individual, of equality and justice. They support or oppose the various leaders based purely and solely on merit, i.e., on leadership skills as well as on commitment to unity and democracy, the two indivisible causes that the party champions. Whoever offers enlightened and principled leadership gets the backing of Kinijit’s supporters. Whoever fails to do so, loses their favor — irrespective of ethnicity. The events of the last few weeks have proven beyond any shadow of doubt that Kinijit has debunked the regime’s central myth about Ethiopians as primordial ethnic hoards.

Second, Kinijit continues to electrify the Ethiopian youth. Clearly, Kinijit’s supporters belong to every generational group. But no other political organization attracts the youth as Kinijit does. Seeing the multitude of young Ethiopians who flocked to meet with the delegates throughout the US and Europe, one can not fail to realize that the spirit of Kinijit has indeed become contagious to the youth. As a matter of demographics and evolutionary law, whoever is credible and inspiring to the younger generation of Ethiopians, to him/her also belongs the future.

And last but not least, Ethiopians still trust Kinijit with their money. Despite the shameful fact that hundreds of thousands of Dollars that Kinijit supporters contributed to the party over the past three years remain unaccounted for, Ethiopians are not holding it against the five delegates. They are able to distinguish between the corrupt and backward elements on one side, and, on the other, the truly dedicated and forward looking ones who pursue politics with a sense of integrity and honor. The enormous monetary contributions that Ethiopians made throughout Europe and the United States over the past few weeks is a vote of confidence to this latter type of politics.

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