UDJP signifies change in more ways than one – By Robele Ababya
I start with this quotation from the famous “Letter from Kaliti prison” written by Judge Birtukan Mideksa” when she was in that hell. It reads: “What is man without his freedom?” Indeed, the urge for freedom is unstoppable. It will gather momentum for we live in the information age where, on the basis of historical facts, it can not be argued otherwise than admit that only a free and democratic society can effectively underpin sustainable economic development. Freedom is the key word here, which despotic regimes deny to the people they misrule. (more…)
I start with this quotation from the famous “Letter from Kaliti prison” written by Judge Birtukan Mideksa” when she was in that hell. It reads: “What is man without his freedom?” Indeed, the urge for freedom is unstoppable. It will gather momentum for we live in the information age where, on the basis of historical facts, it can not be argued otherwise than admit that only a free and democratic society can effectively underpin sustainable economic development. Freedom is the key word here, which despotic regimes deny to the people they misrule.
I write this piece by expressing my genuine pleasure on the formation of the UDJP in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia named by our brilliant Empress Itegue Taitu. As an Ethiopian committed to the emergence of a powerful, democratic, and prosperous Ethiopia, I express my views in this piece without fear or pursuit of favor.
I have been, still am, and will be, an advocate of peaceful change to the best of my ability as an ordinary citizen demanding a decent government in the service of its owners, the people of Ethiopia. I am cognizant that political parties vie for power according to set principles in a fair and free competitive election. I also understand that when it comes to such cases as for example when the Sudan army occupies our land and the regime in power fails to defend and protect its citizens, that is a different ball game altogether; it is an issue above politics justifying all modes of retaliation in self-defense.
It is in the above context that I congratulate from the bottom of my heart all those who had labored so hard against all impediments to make the creation of UDJP on the Ethiopian soil a spectacular success.
That said, I now proceed to elaborate on the title of my piece and in so doing thank in advance my esteemed readers for their indulgence.
Wisdom to save gains made in harsh political environment
There is no doubt that the historic election of 15 May 2005 marked the debut of insatiable thirst of the masses for peaceful change. That thirst was inherent for centuries in the minds and hearts of the forbears of the over 25 million voters, comprising all ethnic groups, who inundated the polling stations to deliver their powerful message. The magnificent display of decorum, patience, courage, and perseverance of the voters made us proud and won international accolade for its exemplary phenomena to the rest of Africa.
The mammoth public rally by 2–3 million people in Addis Ababa on 08 May 2005 foretold a bad omen for the ruling party in no uncertain terms. So, on the eve of the historic election, I argued with my colleagues in Diaspora that Meles Zenawi will accept defeat with magnanimity. I argued so because I sincerely believed that EPRDF was more interested in assuring its place in history as the first to usher in the era of peaceful change thus putting an end to the series of intrigues and bloodshed of the past. My friends thought I was naïve; and they were right for it turned out that Meles did not have the intention to give up power. Events in the aftermath of the historic election proved that he had a contingency plan to keep power at all costs – including intensifying his venomous divide-and-rule strategy.
Meles once said that Ethiopia will find its place in history in the new millennium. He then shocked me with his secret deal of land to the Sudan – to our neighbor that never failed taking advantage of our internal problems to realize its own expansionist policy. This betrayal and lie is the latest in the series of his pathological lies. Who knows whether a secret agreement has been made with the Bush Administration to host AFRICOM on our soil. This elusive stance of the tyrant notwithstanding, it is important not to give him the excuse he wants in order to destroy the gains secured in harsh political environment. External aggression shall of course be repulsed with all the means at our disposal. So, I would not be surprised if homegrown opposition parties support the government of the day to use arms to evict an army of any neighboring violating our land. I would respect responsible homegrown parties who disapprove of the unprovoked invasion of Somalia which is taking a heavy toll on our resources and, above all, eroding our moral values.
The Zenawi regime is now in dire situation caught in a juggernaut due to his heinous crimes committed in the last seventeen years of his misrule. The regime has irrecoverably lost the trust of the Ethiopian people; has squandered its own credit that would have been indelibly written unblemished in the annals of history for enabling the holding of a fair, free, and democratically contested election for the first in our long, often chaotic at best and at times bloody, transfer of political power.
The time to account for heinous crimes committed by the security forces under the direct command of Meles is coming fast. He has to act for reconciliation with his opponents before it is too late.
Above all, Meles should know that the martyrs in the aftermath of the historic election shall never be forgotten.
Peaceful change scares Meles. It is the best choice of weapon with which to force him to see reason and genuinely relax the political space in the spirit of reconciliation.
It makes sense to me that saving the gains earned in harsh political environment through peaceful struggle is a wise choice.
UDJP Vision for peaceful change
UDJP has the vision that vicious cycle of grabbing power by dint of force is bound to end one day. It almost died on 15 May 2005, but was resuscitated by Meles declaring a state of emergency. The Bush Administration supported his illegitimate regime. Nonetheless, Ethiopians caught a glimpse of the beginning of the new political culture, which the legendary Professor, Mesfin Woldemariam so brilliantly articulated. Unlike the Biblical Mosses who never set his feet in the Promised Land but only saw it from distance, the Professor and his illustrious colleagues, who suffered in the infamous Kaliti dungeon, and the rest of us caught and savored the victory of the masses in the historic election. We have the right to reclaim that stolen victory through the ballot box at the coming election.
Peaceful change is a winning option
The world is craving for change because something has gone wrong in the management of its resources and respect for universal human rights. Our world has indeed become a dangerous place to live in because of multiple problems some bordering catastrophe – climate change, limited source of energy, environmental degradation, famine, armed conflicts due to bad governance, rampant crimes, abject poverty, deadly deceases, rampant corruptions et al. There are no quick fixes to these colossal problems. There is no military solution to these ills of our modern societies. What is required is sober thinking in a peaceful environment which only democratic leaders of free people can facilitate.
The people of the United States are gripped with intense desire for change. The unpopular President Bush has only a few months to remain in office, for that matter as a lame duck executive. He will leave office with his oft repeated promise to end the long practice of alliance of US administrations with dictators unfulfilled; leaving the global political landscape in chaos; the issue on climate change on the backburner; the world economy in disarray; the moral authority as a leader of the free world substantially diminished.
President Bush’s coalition partners will follow suit. Our peaceful struggle for peaceful change will find new and vibrant allies committed to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Conducive political environment is in sight in which the UDJP shall thrive. Election 2010 will restore justice and the spirit of Kinijit inherent in UDJP will reverberate to the delight of Ethiopians at home and in Diaspora.
Bad omen for beneficiaries of war
The only beneficiaries of armed struggle are warlords like dictator Isayas Afeworki and Meles Zenawi, each tyrant harboring so-called opposition forces inimical to the other. The Ethiopian people are not so naïve as to expect their liberators to march on Addis Ababa under the command of their headquarters in Asmara.
Opposition political parties and independent civic organizations were not allowed to operate throughout our history. Still worse, organized representations were not allowed under the Dergue or TPLF brutal regimes.
Dictators are usually the architects of their own disgraceful downfall:
• The Provisional Military Government easily toppled the Imperial regime only because the absolute Monarch did not permit any form of organized independent opposition; it believed it ruled by divine right, perhaps ignorant of time-induced popular demand for participation in politics. The Monarch stubbornly believed that political opinion of subjects was irrelevant. This attitude finally put an end to the rule by divine right.
• Mengistu’s Communist Party proclaimed itself as the sole leading force in all aspects of life. The voice of the people did not matter for the party was there to do all the plans and thinking on their behalf. As such no opposition of any sort was permitted. At last when in the face of mounting opposition the coward fled the country to Zimbabwe, the TPLF moved in to fill the vacuum with the encouragement and support of Western democracies, the US and the UK in particular who had prepared exit strategy for the coward;
• All pillars of democracy are under the tight control of Meles. His Stalinist Party clad with western democratic garb pervades all aspects of the lives of the citizens under its yoke. So Meles will be forced to relinquish power.
• Isayas will soon drop from power because of the heinous criminal acts he is committing on the Eritrean people. Add to this his increasing isolation in the international community civilized world
Dictators are on the run for their lives. The unity and inviolability of Ethiopia is not negotiable. The protagonists of instability in the region of the Horn of Africa are on the fall from power.
Propitious moment to act
Isayas fought toot-and-nail for thirty years, weakened and destabilized Ethiopia and separated Eritrea from her motherland which it rejoined in 1952 through valiant struggle of patriotic Eritreans. He arrogantly uttered that he would give Ethiopia for the coming hundred years. His strategy is therefore to create mini-sates as one can see by his giving shelter to dissidents seeking separation from Ethiopia. But time is on our side because the sun is setting in his tiny brutal kingdom. It is a propitious moment to accelerate his downfall.
Time is ripe to pursue political goals peacefully because the international community is increasingly in favor of this ideal. There is no military solution to the gigantic multiple ills of the world.
Time is changing in favor of Ethiopians that crave to see a powerful and democratic Ethiopia. Addis Ababa as a melting pot of diverse cultures shall remain a capital city for all Ethiopians. UDJP and other opposition political parties shall confront intruders. A mammoth demonstration like the one of 08 May 2005 will inundate the squares and cities in support of parties like UDJP created and nurtured to grow in our homeland. Of course, we in the Diaspora can play significant roles in multiple ways in supporting this noble process.
Time is on our side to tell dictator Isayas that none of the hallucinating dissidents he is harboring in Asmara will enter Addis Ababa nor create their mini-states. The dictator should know that the overwhelming majority of Ethiopians of all ethnic groups had unequivocally opted to live in harmony in a prosperous and democratic country united in diversity under the rule of law.
First Woman opposition leader
Makeda was real in our history; Itegue Taitu was real in our history; heroines of the stature of Showareged Gedle and others made us proud fighting Italian Fascists in the battle field on our sacred soil. A woman opposition leader, who has captured the minds and hearts of millions of Ethiopians for her intelligence, charisma and courage, has emerged on the political scene of our beloved country for the first time in our long history. Judge Birtukan Mideksa bears the spirit of Kinijit in the difficult journey ahead in leading the UDJP to victory.
My belief in the ability and strength of women to take positions of responsibility emanates from experience in the tiny world of my family. I recall the huge presence of mourners at the funeral of my mother in Addis Ababa. Albeit a single parent of modest means, she lived a dignified life in harmony with members of practically all ethnic groups in our village. In retrospect, I can say that this mix of ethnicities had one problem in common, poverty. They had one value they all shared, freedom under one flag secured at great sacrifice. My mother spoke to her children only in Oromiffa; interestingly, her children spoke with each other always in Amharic. She knew famous Ethiopian patriots by names and often recounted their valiant deeds with adoration. She loved the Ethiopian flag so much and made sure her children emulated her example. Such was the environment in which I grew up. It was an environment that gave me confidence in the ability of the Ethiopian women to lead a country; to fight the enemy in the battle field, and to raise their children under severe circumstances.
I salute the women of Ethiopia!
Change in more ways than one
The UDJP has a young leader at the helm. I commend the architects of the Party for their brilliant recognition of the role of the youth in carving their political future through active participation. The leader is a young woman who will effectively represent the interests and aspirations of her gender and the young generation. She is a judge with demonstrated quality of upholding the principle of justice.
The leadership in the UDJP comprise illustrious personalities tested for their endurance in the harsh political environment prevailing in Ethiopia. They have shown the example of perseverance and set standard of courage for young generations to emulate. The elders in the Party have wisely elected a young woman on merit setting their ambitions aside. That is splendid!
In my opinion, armed struggle as a way of toppling dictators is losing steam in the contemporary world. Source of financing armed conflicts is drying up. The young in this information age will not readily join armed struggle in order to crown a dictator. Instead, they opt to use their brains in attacking bad policies of their leaders. The UDJP is wise in opting for peaceful struggle for change keeping all other peaceful options open to challenge the regime. The international climate is conducive to this method of struggle.
So, I contend that UDJP reflects change in more ways than one.
Focus on development in a free society
The EPRDF policy has failed to deliver. The famine in Ethiopia in my opinion is mainly attributable to this failure. For it is known that no democratic country in the world has ever faced the scourge of hunger. Dr. Seid Hassan, in his paper entitled “Is Ethiopia Really Enjoying Economic Development?” – posted on Ethiomedia website on 16 June 2008 – brilliantly articulates what is really wrong with the policy. He lists eight determinants that “play prominent roles in determining the growth and development of an economy”. I note that the emphasis is on quality of human capital, avoiding ethnic conflict, and governance and the rule of law among others.
I am confident that the UDJP leadership is quite competent to engage the long-term economic development of Ethiopia bearing these determinants in mind while doing its level best to draw its supporters to the present gruesome food crisis affecting our folks at home.
Faith in the covenant
I liked the concluding paragraph of the masterpiece Editorial entitled “The art of denial (lying)” posted on Ethiomedia | June 16, 2008. It brings out the essence of self-reliance and belief in Higher Power to avert endemic begging from earthly powers. Indeed, as the Editorial puts it, “This time Ethiopia must stretch her hands to a much Higher Power, the only Power that can save her. And Ethiopia will be saved — let there be no doubt about that — because we believe, as written in Psalm 68:31, “Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” And He will hold and lift her tenderly by her hands and raise her from the depths of despair, privation and misery, and deliver her from the plague of oppression!”
I have always believed that we have only God and ourselves to ensure our right to liberty, prosperity and pursuit to happiness. We have to pay the price for these values; one component of that price is to support and nurture the growth of UDJP for it contains the ingredients of Andinet, Democracy and Justice as well as the hopes and aspirations of the youth in this information age.
In closing, I wish to reiterate my unequivocal support for UDJP and pledge to unconditionally contribute to the success of its noble undertakings.
LONG LIVE ETHIOPIA!