Outrage Continuum! – By Tefferi Mengistie
Although it has invariably plagued almost all political parties in Ethiopia for the past four decades, intra-party conflict and the inability of Ethiopians to work together has been accorded little attention than it deserved. (more…)
Although it has invariably plagued almost all political parties in Ethiopia for the past four decades, intra-party conflict and the inability of Ethiopians to work together has been accorded little attention than it deserved. Desalegn Assfaw in his well thought article entitled “Time to Declare War on Dysfunctional Beheaviors” argued strongly that intra-party conflict as well as the absence of conflict resolution mechanisms to remedy this affliction as a fundamental reason for the absence of democracy in Ethiopia. It is very true, among other things, of course. Kinijit as an emerging, vibrant political party could not stay immune from this set back, either.
I agree with what Kebede’s eloquently stated conclusion in his recent article, albeit my discomfort with the timing and paucity of facts to substantiate his argument. The advent of true democracy in Ethiopia and its sustainability highly correlates with the way political parties resolve their differences and their capacity to work with other parties, in spite of their differences. Without a doubt, dialogue helps the principal actors find a way to resolve their differences, though, I am afraid the timing of Kebede’s article draws us back at least four months. Was he comatose for this long? The current Kebede’s deafening silence when we were crying for sanity to prevail and his untimely reappearance has become a pattern as he had been visibly absent during the election time and its aftermath.
In a quest to identify the root cause of the problem, we have listened to numerous interviews both sides of the leadership of CUD have given on various media outlets. We have attended town hall meetings and when we could, we have discussed with them in smaller circles. The much needed outrage Shewakena alluded to, is not ‘impatience’ as Kebede put it but a mounting frustration reaching a critical mass after the failure of sanity to prevail. You may refer to some of the articles written by Shewakena himself before he reached this critical point. He didn’t out rightly condemn one party and supported the other but patiently waited and even went further trying to bring the two sides to come together and resolve their differences in a civilized manner. Please, listen to the many speeches and interviews the leadership led by W/t Birtukan Midekssa has done and the interview Hailu Showl has given for the past four months and find out where the truth lies.
I recommend you to read the recent KIL report to give you a head start. The crack started long before their release from detention when the chairman issued a letter to establish KIC with out consulting the other four of the five-men collective leadership established in the prison walls of Kaliti. KIL was established with the responsibility of providing political leadership in the absence of the legitimately elected leaders. On the other hand, KIC was later created by Hailu Showl, alone, as recommended by four of the twelve splitting leaders of KIL and the two friends of the chairman whose mandate it was to finding facts and reconcile the quartet and octet splitting with in KIL. Not more than three weeks after the birth of KIC the leaders were released. In a few days after their release, with a press release signed by Hailu Showl, the elected leaders thanked all the leaders in the Diaspora and disbanded both of them. One of the factions(KIL) accepted and did so but the other faction(KIC) refused to do so, despite the official press release and stern message on VOA from the spokesperson of CUD. From the get go, KIC with its reluctant-to-resign leader at the fore front has been the problem child of CUD created by Hailu Showl. After coming to America he told us he didn’t disband KIC. The other most important factor worth mentioning was the convergence of diverse interests of different parties in weakening the CUD.
EPRP was one such group. Refer to a number of articles written by its leader Eyasu( Hamma Tumma) which widely dealt with trivial issues ranging from his beef with people openly showing their love and respect to their leaders( I am at a loss to explain how the simple adage ‘respect is earned’ has eluded a self professing experienced leader of an old party such as EPRP) to unsubstantiated conspiracy of all sorts. Never mentioning, even once, his difference with the many substantial issues they raised during their visit to the US. Surprisingly, the stone he threw away has fallen back to hit him, as it became one of the causes of EPRP’s further splinter.
Dr. Taye as a means of survival and as an agent of EPRP, allegedly, trying his best and I think he succeeded, to pull the leaders of CUD apart. In the process he lost the respect of many Ethiopians, both here and at home. CUD has to go through this ebbs and troughs as a political party to come out stronger and with a better vision. However, Dr. Taye has fallen from grace never to recover from the blow he handed himself by showing his true-self. By the way, I am yet to come across any scholarly work he has done.
Shalequa Yosef and co.’s interest lies on pushing Hailu Showl away from the other leaders so that no proper investigation would take place regarding the alleged $1.2 mill squandered by his group.
Last but not least, EPRDF, which thrives not by doing the right thing to lead and govern but by eliminating any viable opposition party – by any means necessary – in the country to ensure its survival.
All along, the-group-of-five were open and inviting Hailu Showl to take his chair and provide the leadership. They convinced their Diaspora supporters that they would resolve their differences based on the party’s principles and bylaws that govern the officials. They implored, flew across the country to meet with him, invited him to the meetings and to their credit never lowered themselves to resort to name calling as the other party did. On the other hand the chairman and company showed their true color and what they are made of. You only have to listen to the numerous farcical interviews Hailu Showl, Taye, Bedru, and Nigist have given for the last four months to believe this. I will expect you to write, dialogue, pass judgment and may be get outraged because that is what most of the Kinijit supporters were doing and much less of everything since the release of the leaders from prison.
For your information, arbitration hasn’t escaped the likes of Shewakena; believe you me, they have left no stone unturned to persuade Hailu Showl to come to his senses (if he has one) but to no avail. As the ‘esteemed’ leader has already made up his mind as to how he runs the ‘company’. And no force would dissuade him to do otherwise. There was no ‘out right condemnation’ as you put it but treated it as a family feud that would be resolved through mediation.
The only ‘fact’ you tried to bring forth was that Hailu Showl had played a great role in the formation of CUD and later on the famous election 2005, and get frustrated when the other leaders got recognition by coming to America without him. For starters, it is hard to exclusively ascribe the success for a specific party among the quartet that formed CUD. It was a case of the whole being greater than the pieces. The two older parties(AEUP and EDUP) among the quartet has never enjoyed the support of so many people before May 2005, and the new ones( KesteDamena and EDL) were never there for the fourteen years before that point, either. Yet, no one from both sides denied the role Hailu Showl (in rural areas) and Lidetu played in the run to the election. The problem started to unfold when they tried to pass beyond the rudimentary stage of unity and create one party with one heart and soul.
As opposed to times gone by, we have acquired a new found wisdom of supporting the leaders when they do well, criticize them when they are doing not so good and hold them accountable for their deeds. As supporters, we expect the leaders to adhere to the party’s rules and regulations. One’s contribution doesn’t count on a cumulative average way where the good things one has done to the party serves as a cushion to protect him/her when he/she is out of line. I beg to differ with the notion that HS- for that matter any leader- is good for life because he did something great at one point in the long political life of the country. Rather he ought to be upheld with high esteem so long as he is doing the right thing- here and now- and not supported when he transgresses the party’s principles. If he damages the party he has created I see no reason why I shouldn’t be outraged as a supporter. It is an acceptable to abuse your child just because you are the father. Only dictators live by telling us what they sacrificed in order to be a leader. Not in a democracy! You remember the famous case of Churchill after WW2.
It is unfortunate that HS did get sick; however, it is ludicrous to suggest that the party has to stop functioning because the chairman has fallen ill. The right leader would have delegated power to the next in line who happens to be the first vice-chairperson, as opposed to naming, yet another of his buddies citing a non-existing article from the bylaw he seemingly never comprehended. When he was sick, the young leaders went out of their way, as if they were employees of his company, to brief him at his house the daily chores of the executive committee; while he was conspiring behind them to take Kinijit back to his old party, AEUP, where he used to run things by giving orders. It was an acceptable to Hailu Showl that the executive committee seamlessly runs the party’s daily activity without him. It was uncharted territory for him to be told ‘no’ when he is doing the wrong thing. It must be frustrating for the poor chairman to realize no one person is ‘indispensable’ for the party. The party has to go on doing its daily business when he is pretending to be sick and do cowardly things behind his friends, when he is truly sick, when he is in a retreat in Minnesota, and even when he dies. A good leader has got to be happy to know that he is leaving what he started, in capable hands.
I wouldn’t be in a minority to believe that today, unlike any other time in our history, a score of capable young leaders are emerging, determined to bring the much more needed paradigm shift in the political landscape of Ethiopia. At the same time, now more than ever, a few relatively older leaders have come to realize that the Zero-sum-gain politics that has dominated the country for the past 40 years, has been obsolete. It is reassuring to see them work day in day out to impart their age-old wisdom to the former, to effect that change; basking with joy in the process. The flicker of hope ignited by the confluence this two forces is miraculously engulfing a wide spectrum of the Diaspora, like a wild fire, unstoppably.
Regrettably, what the esteemed Dr. failed to see is that the group, who stood behind the party’s principles, strongly believes the fact that the party striving to bring democracy in Ethiopia ought to be democratic itself. The cornerstone to achieve this lofty aim, as they aptly pointed them out in their 8 point demand to join parliament, was to establish institutions of democracy. The same holds true for the party. Kinijit, they believe (and rightly so), has to institutionalize democracy within itself in order to bring democracy to the country at large. Thus, in the absence of one person -temporarily or permanently- the party will not cease to function.
The role of the supporters of kinijit, in my view, is to stand behind leaders who are unwaveringly promoting the principles of the party, understanding and respecting the law they themselves have written. No one elected official is more important than the other. I see nothing wrong in warmly welcoming- in the Chairman’s absence- the other delegates with love and respect. By the way, meeting them was surreal – surpassing any joy I have experienced in my adult life. Listening to them, be it live in a town hall meeting, sitting across from the table or in a media was a captivating experience comparable to none. If one approaches them with open mind, each one of them has their own unique quality; working in tandem with out necessarily agreeing on all things all the time, to baptize one with the ‘spirit’ of Kinijit. They are extra ordinary people with a mission! They were accessible to their supporters and adversaries alike, they answered every question earnestly (sometimes with a great sense of humor), they talked extensively about their vision and they finally won the hearts of quite a number of Ethiopians and that of some foreigners. They in deed achieved their objective. They miserably failed in one respect, though, either by choice or lack of capacity, they hardly responded in kind to what Hailu Showl and his hired hoodlums were saying about them, as W/t Midekssa once confessed. Their motto was “let them talk; we will continue to work.” And, work they did!
I don’t share Kebede’s skepticism regarding the urgency of the rest of the delegation to come to the US, without Hailu Showl. Of course, there was a valid urgency, for a couple of reasons. One, they needed the fund, according to the finance head of the party. The money the Diaspora had sent (in the vicinity of $1.2 mill) was spent unaccountably by the supporters of Hailu Showl and most likely by Hailu Showl himself, as he failed to exonerate himself by making a legal and transparent auditing. Secondly, as the good leader himself said they needed to come here because of lack of basic freedom of assembly and of media at home to convey their messages to their supporters. The undisputed fact is that the decision to come to the US was approved and signed by the chairman. The million dollar question is why the change of heart? It is ironic, neither Hailu Showl nor his supporters made any noise about the wisdom of sending delegates to Europe and Africa.
Given the reasons to come are valid, why would Kebede expect them to cancel it because Hailu Showl has apparently fallen ill? Do you expect them to run their party based on pity? Do you expect the department of Philosophy to close if you happen to be sick tomorrow? Do you realize how silly it sounds? Especially, coming from a person who most people look up to? No wonder, diminished respect for the intellectuals is on the increase among the general populous, who, for long, have been considered to be the saviors of the country.
I challenge you to listen to the many diatribes of Hailu Showl on the media and come up with an iota of truth and well founded reason not-to work with the other guys. It is conduct unbecoming of a heavy weight philosopher of your stature to dialogue with insufficient facts at your disposal. Or, dare I say without knowing the facts? Listen to all the facts and read all the commands of Hailu Showl with an open heart and you will be outraged at yourself for having believed he was a better leader, and at the other kinijit officials for babysitting him for so long.
From what I have listened so far, Hailu Showl lied repeatedly; failed to adequately explain the difference between a political leadership and a support group; talked disdainfully of his compatriots and fellow prisoners; he exposed his dubious character in many ways; shamelessly failed to readily cite a non- existing article in the bylaw of the CUD that he claimed empowered him to fire the five delegates; he acted like a king when he demanded the other delegates to be on his welcoming ceremony; and he further cited a wrong article when he delegated his power to his buddy other than the one next in line to him according to the bylaw of the CUD. It is also worth mentioning Hailu showl didn’t stop the culprits, when they took the CUD supporters to court for using the Kinijit logo which was created by Debebe Eshetu. If the above mentioned reasons were not enough, he hit rock bottom when he unleashed his gangsters to physically stop the CUD officials from entering their office in Addis Ababa and just a week ago the hooligans he sent manhandled Dr. Hailu and Eyuel. If this doesn’t outrage you I don’t know what will!
I fully concur with Shewakena in saying that the relationship is no more salvageable. The best option for the two groups would be to go their separate way as their time to work together has come and passed, never to meet again. Two generations are at a crossroad; one hanging to the old, feudal way of doing things and the other trying to midwife a new way of doing things. This had to happen! For democracy to prevail in Ethiopia, it would be necessary for Woyane to change but not a sufficient condition. The later would come only when all stake holders in the Ethiopian politics start to change themselves before trying to change a government. That is both in terms of vision and implementing the vision.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org