The New, the Old, the Ethiopicide: Rising to the challenges of a stark configuration – BY Workie Briye
From jailhouse to organizational Agility: Although, the foul smell gushed out of the “split” within KINIJIT seems to have slowly dissipated, its negative (or positive) impact will continue to haunt KINIJIT in particular and the democratic struggle in general. (more…)
From jailhouse to organizational Agility: Although, the foul smell gushed out of the “split” within KINIJIT seems to have slowly dissipated, its negative (or positive) impact will continue to haunt KINIJIT in particular and the democratic struggle in general. Despite numerous attempts by political analysts, commentators, and editorial notes of many blogers over the last four months in search of a root cause behind the “split”, there still have figured out not one single theory that conclusively explains the discord to the satisfaction of members, supporters and observers. However, no matter what the reason behind the split may be, there is by now ample material regarding the whole episode for all of us to make sense of it all and its political repercussion. According to this writer, the whole episode related to the “split” has one significant import when viewed in the context of the political phenomena observed over the last three years.
The last three years of the pre and post May 2005 period can be treated as a unique chapter in our long quest for democracy. A two and half years’ time may be considered a very short span in terms of social transformation; but from the point of view of the speed and intensity of the events, the time lapsed in this period is not so short. With in this short period have glimmered hopes as well as dashed numerous anticipations. This time has revealed to us lots of tragic events: it has also been a period of countless setbacks, some of which could attributable to objective factors but others purely avoidable. During this time, our quest for democracy has sustained quiet sever blows, few of them explainable but many purely self inflicted. In short, the pre and post Election period is a time studded with luminous achievements as well as smogged with humiliating losses.
What came into sight from the KINIJIT “split” ?: Let’s take just a slice of the three years time pointed out above to aid us as a specimen for zooming into the variety of those events and the contrasting mix of the medal table of this period. One of the happiest episodes of the last two and half years took place on July 20, 2007; tearful joy of millions greeted KINIJIT leaders when released from their two years captivity. Not longer than few days after the herald, however, the disquieting rumor of a split within the top leadership broke out. The fear and speculation soon turned out to be real; the whole episode ushered in a load of spin-off that soon escalated to spiteful propaganda warfare. The “split” unleashed a chain of scenes packed with foul play and lasted as months-long drama that made us all feel embarrassed and humiliated. Today after four months of its outbreak, though the ugliest chapter of the fight seems to be dying away, it is still the dominant headline in the political pundit. The recent statement from Ato Hailu Shawel is not only part of the long trail of foul campaign wedged by his group but also one that seems to have the effect of sealing the split to its inevitable ending.
Upon their release from the 22 month captivity, KINIJIT leaders were greeted with the. It is still this same predicament that dictates us to raise the diagnostic question of what factors could have afforded a background for the split. According to some observers, those judgmental views expressed about KINIJIT uttered early in 2005 might shade some light into this investigation. To a degree, the events of the last four months proved the doomsayers right in their earlier assessment of KINIJIT as a fragile forum with daunting tasks a head before emerging as a unified party. The post “split” rancor employed by the Hailu Shawel group provided these observers with some trophy to claim vindication of their prophesies on the organizational solvency of KINIJIT early in 2005.
In connection with the “split”, one of the most FAQs was whether or not there existed a political or strategic difference between the two groups. The various interviews given by individuals from both sides have not given much help to resolve this query. One thing however seems to be lily clear: the repeated assertions made by several interviewees that there was no political or strategic difference, other than one related to observance or implementation of organizational bylaws, does not seem to hold much water. Because, the various scenes that followed the split provided ample material sufficient for observers to portray the political doctrines and the contrasting personalities in play behind the split.
First and foremost, given the covenant and the ideals KINIJIT outlined in 2005, members, supporters as well as observers expected a minimum standard of ethics to be observed by any one within the leadership under circumstances such as the ones followed the “split”. Accordingly, the way the two groups handled the split have spoken volumes and revealed the character, competence, belief, integrity, and leadership style of the respective groups. From this perspective, inspite of the repeated assertions that no political or strategic differences existed, the post-split drama has revealed the existence of a huge spasm between the groups in terms of substantive agenda as well as strategy to be employed for executing these agendas.
Upon his arrival in the USA, the then president of KINIJIT allied himself with political groups, individuals, and talk radio hosts, all with dubious organizational standing, questionable motives, and suspect reputations, to say the least. This group did not spend much time before engaging in wild charges against few of the most cherished individuals, especially Dr. Berhanu and Wt. Birtukan. This group opened a 24/7 smear campaign against the other group by fabricating and reproducing rumors. To prove these spurious charges, they organized false and exaggerated testimonies, replete with nauseating small-talks, by individuals raged by envy, driven by personal vendetta. The campaign wedged by the pro Hailu group choreographed by Dr. Taye proved it self to be incapable, shallow, callused, backward, out of the time, mean-spirited, and corrupt. This campaign master-minded by Dr. Taye, perhaps endorsed, certainly acquiesced by Ato Hailu, caricatured these two individuals themselves as persons not having a hint of elementary civics and civility let alone a higher education with extensive experience in civil service, management, international business, diplomacy, and real time politics spanning over several decades.
On a substantive level, this group has presented us with ample material indicating that the group doesn’t believe in the method of peaceful struggle. The group does not display any vision as to the kind of change it craves for our country. The crowd gathered around Ato Hailu does not at all seem to have a clue as to the major variables at play in the national politics and the various challenges facing our country today. By and large, what we heard time again from this groups is a reminiscent of the violent, combative, intolerant, divisive, and destabilizing style of politics that we had over the last 40 plus years, with a negative impact on the unity of our country.
On the contrary, the vision, the competence, mastery of the country’s subtle and intricate political problems, and the overall demeanor we observed from the other group is a reinvigorated essence of the 2005 KINIJIT with even deeper thoughts and clarity of vision. While the Hailu-Taye crew engaged in a 24/7 smear campaign against individuals, the group against whom the campaign was targeted carried out a different type of campaign, made purely of substance related to challenges we faced, opportunities presented, and principles to be employed to achieving the goal of democracy. Throughout their three-month US criss-cross and dozens of community meetings, they haven’t been observed wailing on the shortcomings of their opponents. Accordingly, within this group of KINIJIT’s leadership, the mass of membership and supporters saw a team equipped with the mastery of the gear that is needed to chart their way through the difficult phase in the democratic struggle. Due to this stark difference in substance and form, the delegation led by Wt. Birtukan was met with a receptive audience, stayed amidst warm compatriots and loving hosts, and finally seen off by an army of reliable support for the mission waiting back home.
In terms of being up to the job, a titanic gap in the mastery of local as well as global issues has been observed between the two groups. The stateswomanship qualities and disarming modesty of Birtukan vis-à-vis the commandeering arrogance displayed by personalities on Ato Hailu’s side; the apostolic style of egalitarian team-work displayed by Birtukan’s group contrasted with the oligarchic tendencies displayed by the other side have spoken for themselves to reveal to the entire membership who their true leaders are. From the point of view of these stark contrasts between the two groups and individuals, what was surprising is not the “split” emerged but how a leadership team made of such contrasting fabrics managed to travel thus far as a team and delivered on some of the land mark decisions passed during the pre and post election difficult periods.
KINIJIT vs. (KNIJIT + EPRDF): All things considered, what has taken place within KINIJIT under the open rubric of “split” is not merely an internal problem of a single political group. This episode holds a much wider meaning on the struggle and emerging alignment of major forces in the politics of our country.
In the beginning of October 2007 and no sooner than we returned back to a track of recovery from the nightmare passed by the split, the TPLF regime unleashed yet an other all out propaganda war against KINIJIT and its leaders. Kicked off by the regime’s routine technique of plucking assortment of ploys and maneuvers, the campaign drama got intensified convoyed with yet another of TPLF’s tasteless soundtrack; this time with even more idiotic tactic of likening the Treaty of Wuchale with HR 2003, the Human Rights bill passed by the US Congress. (Many analysts and ordinary Ethiopians considered this TPLF whimper not merely as another filthy trick of topping wicked plots with pious hymns, but also another instance of mocking at Ethiopian history.) It is well known that the whole purpose of the scam is to defraud Ethiopians by masquerading the regime’s myopic political agenda with one sensitive episode from the country’s history. However, every time the regime tries its luck at filthy tricks, it seems to miss one palpable fact about Ethiopians: out of being exposed and subjected to TPLF’s lies, double talks, and a mannerism typical of gangsters for a long time, Ethiopians have developed a deep and sophisticated sense of truth and falsity; they have acquired a canine skill of detecting validity out of a maze of deception. It has now become instinctual for every Ethiopian to apply a measure of skepticism to any claim by the regime and its media. Applying this wise judgment, Ethiopians have proved in 100% of the instances correct that what is “True” for the regime is “False” for Ethiopia and vice-versa.
Just to recap the highlights of the last four months: the release of the leaders, the split ensued by the ugly smear campaign, followed or accompanied by the regime’s war cry against the leaders. Here, one might be tempted to suggest that the stand off, the in-fight, and the heavy use of incendiary language in the confrontation sounds a familiar scene from political plays we had watched countless times over during the bygone era. This line of thought may sound valid on the surface. However, a close scrutiny reveals that the events transpired over the last four months bear at least one significant hallmark. These events have unambiguously demonstrated the emergence or the ever lucid realignment in the Ethiopian national politics of three categories of political philosophy, represented by three political groups, speaking three different political languages.
The three categories include: the ruling click spearheaded by TPLF, the second category represented by KINIJIT, and the third is composed of the group rallied around the former KINIJIT president Hailu Shawl (a group establishing itself on a support mainly from elements nostalgic of Hailu’s former party of AEUP, some remnants of EPRP, few blogers and few freelance individual politicians). In terms of ideology and political belief, the KINIJIT leadership represents a new thinking on our politics. Hailu Shawel’s group on the other hand is rehearsing and roaring old slogans in a bid to resisting new and futuristic modus operandi and vowing to turn the political clock back through vague slogans and conceited catchphrase of “Ethiopiawinet”. The TPLF-led regime, as a third force in the configuration, is the force that bulldozed everything of past and vowed to abort the birth of a new Ethiopia in the future.
It is this configuration what has taken a clearer shape and seen in action since the last four months. In this new chapter, the political onslaught against the novel and emerging KINIJIT has been jointly carried out by the government on the one hand and the group that growls in the shadow of Hailu Shawel on the on the other. Given the political context and the content of their campaign, it is hard to take that this joint operation by the two groups against the visionary KINIJIT is a result of pure coincidence. Therefore, it is not farfetched to believe that the tale-tale campaign wedged by some of the Hailu Shawel backups was not only welcomed and enjoyed by the regime but also schemed and financed by it. These new backups are not the first to serve the regime as Fifth Column units against KINIJIT. There has been other primordial traitors who served (and still serving) the regime as loyal members of the task force employed by the regime to create implosion within KINIJIT. Similarly, in an apparent pursuit of opposite but coexistent goals, a well synchronized pincer attack by these unlikely allies–Hailu Shawel’s “KINIJIT” and the regime–against the new KINIJIT has been going on in earnest since the last four months.
Therefore, the events of the last four/five months have ushered in the beginning of an end of a long political process– a stark political and ideological configuration is emerging in the political scene of our country. From the point of view of political thinking, the three groups represent the past, the future, and a third one that is hostile to both the past and the future. The group representing the old paradigm of our politics tends to stick to a medieval time prescriptions to a 21st Century problems of our country; the second group is trying to articulate and offer new and reasoned solutions to our old problems and new challenges. The third force in this confrontation is the government that carries neither old sentiments nor new vision for the country. According to this third force, the country had no past reminiscence, neither would it be allowed to have any future. This force views the country in the prism of present power, present use, and present value. According to the treat analysis adhered to by the government, the incoming new element is more dangerous than the nostalgic convulsions of the outgoing old. In line with this analysis, the TPLF government is driven by a power impulse that rather wishes and is raving for the total destruction of the country than letting see the emergence of a new Ethiopia that benefits all of its children. Therefore, it is not hard to comprehend that all opposition elements that are attacking the true KINIJIT are considered strategically useful by the regime. Because, in the eyes of the regime, while the outgoing old is considered an enemy in the past, the incoming new is seen as a dangerous foe at present and hence a real threat to the halfway house occupied by members of the regime. That explains why the regime focused its offensive against the true KINIJIT leadership while enjoying the companionship presented by the other group.
What might seem anomalous in this scheme of things is the fact that both the old group and the terminator regime allied against the visionary KINIJIT to the extent that they plan and execute a pincer attack against the latter. The old naturally feels threatened by the new, the terminator is always scared of the just, the popular, the capable, and hence a symbiotic relationship between the old and the incumbent regime.
Viewed in hind sight after the events of the last four months, emotional reactions of members and supporters of KINIJIT to the split have passed through three. First it was a shock—something hard to believe that the KINIJIT that was founded on the very values of civility, love, compassion, accommodation, and dialogue lacked the conviction and stamina to resolve its own problems; hard to swallow that the KINIJIT that survived the brutal onslaught of the regime now faced extinction as a result of internal conflict. Thereafter, the shock gave way to hope—hope that the leaders in their wisdom, assisted by wise and elderly men, aided by the Almighty would be able to resolve the problem. In the third phase, after observing the way the two groups handled the problem and how they composed themselves vis-à-vis the “split”, shock and hope gave way to a judgement of “a blessing in disguise.” Now, the clear majority of KINIJIT’s membership believes that the split was inevitable, it was timely, and happened for the good of KINIJIT. What was once a prayer for a providence intervention to solve the problem and unite the estranged groups once again, now it is uproar against entertaining any idea of KINIJIT associating itself with the types of individuals observed on the other side of the “isle.” After weighing the pros and cons of the split, the writer shares this majority view of the KINIJIT family. For some time to come, KINIJIT might loose the synergy it had enjoyed before the election. But this will be a set back only of short run. Ultimately, KINIJIT and Ethiopia benefit from a political party having clear vision and competent leadership.
This writer opins that the “split” was inevitable and its outbreak was a matter of time. It is for the good of KINIJIT that it surfaced relatively early. The new challenges in our politics need enlightened leadership. With Hailu Shawel and his groups in KINIJIT, it would have been difficult for the party to act according to the dynamics of the problem. The common denominator between the two types of personalities would have been doing nothing in the face of the growing challenges. However, it is incumbent upon supporters of KINIJIT to maximize the long term net benefits of the split. We can do this not only by offering our direct support to KINIJIT but also impressing the other group on civility by practicing civility, the way the leaders displayed through out the heydays of the split.
The next part of this article deals with the impact that the “split” and the new configuration would have on AFD and the way forward.