Thinking and Looking Ahead: The 2010 Election in Ethiopia Balancing Arguments for Boycotting or Participation? – Network of Ethiopian Scholars (NES) – COMMENTARY. No.28

December 31st, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Inspiring quote!

“Free unconditionally and immediately UJDP chairperson Weizerit Birtukan and call for a worldwide protest movement for justice against this current outrage by the arrogant regime that exists mainly because Ethiopians have not learned to unite and the great powers of Europe and USA give it support with their usual double standards and organised hypocrisy.’’ (NES)


Inspiring quote!

“Free unconditionally and immediately UJDP chairperson Weizerit Birtukan and call for a worldwide protest movement for justice against this current outrage by the arrogant regime that exists mainly because Ethiopians have not learned to unite and the great powers of Europe and USA give it support with their usual double standards and organised hypocrisy.’’ (NES)

“How can one ever believe that Ethiopia’s most distinguished scholar, the elderly and ever untiring Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam whose stand for human rights has earned him international respect and recognition be victimised with a crude and rude abandon by being assaulted physically by the regime’s security personnel? How can this ever be tolerated to see in broad day light, that an elderly scholar who devoted his life to the education of the generation that also include who currently rule the country today be treated with such ugly infamy? Such outrages must be condemned and an Ethiopia where such practices can never be tolerated must be created by all of us standing and saying as free and equal citizens: Never again to such humiliation!!” NES

“Mankind will never see an end of trouble until… lovers of wisdom come to hold political power, or the holders of power… become lovers of wisdom…” Plato, the Republic

1. First a Call for a world wide free Birtukan justice movement!

The Greatest Glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising any time we fall…”-Nelson Mandela

As we were going to wish all Ethiopians a happy New 2009 and call them all to unite to prepare for a democratic and free election in 2010, we got rudely awakened by the unexpected news that w/t Birtukan has been thrown back to jail and Professor Mesfin has been roughed up by the regime’s rude security forces. Whilst this episode has not changed our call for all Ethiopians to use all their resources to make the country to enter a genuine democratic civilisation in 2010, we have to admit this unexpected news was a shocking reminder that all is not well in that old still much too much abused country.

When is the soul of Ethiopia to ever rest, we wonder, when is it ever going to establish a predictable democratic system? Why choose to victimise w/t Birtukan, a single mother with a little child and an old mother who lost her son to the Red Terror in 1977, and like most of us who probably have not properly grieved the loss of her loved one? Why has the suffering to be prolonged when we all can do better! Why? What is the ‘crime’ of w/ t. Birtukan? Is her ‘crime’ only her appeal to her nation as a young, humane, articulate and thoughtful aspirant and emergent popular leader of the newly constituted UJDP from the debris of Knjit? NES calls on all Ethiopians throughout the world to form a free Birtukan world wide movement and fight back this outrageous and reckless insolence with confidence and total mobilisation. w/t Birtukan must be freed in time to make sure she leads her party as the EPDRF leaders have their right to do the same so that the contest where the choices and votes of the people is fully expressed can takes place with real alternative programmes rather than the current line up to assemble kiosk-like small parties that have risen apparently over 80!

NES calls solemnly on those who were involved in the mediation efforts and who are still alive to speak the truth on their mediation efforts. If indeed there is foul play by the regime, and the mediators honestly tell the world the truth, then those who must go to jail can very well be the regimes side and not w/r.Birtukan. Let their version be known. Their silence is in the face of such gross acts of injustice makes them culpable to injustice. We call them to come out clean and explain clearly what they did and who is responsible for using mediation to exonerate themselves.

Until the situation is clarified, release w/r. Birtukan immediately and unconditionally!

2. Introduction: Back to the Happy New 2009 for a democratic Ethiopia!

In 2008 we witnessed a momentous election concluded in the USA. In 2009 there will be an election in South Africa where there is anxiety that it may or may not be concluded well.

In 2010, there will be an election in Ethiopia. There is big doubt that the latter will be concluded both peacefully and fairly, if lessons have not been learnt or drawn from the 2005 election experience to prevent violence and charges of electoral malpractices.

Whether one likes it or not or whether one participates or boycotts, whether fair or unfair, peaceful or non-peaceful, another election is bound to take place in Ethiopia in 2010!

The question is: will it be a repeat of the 2005 election or will it be different? In 2005 it is now very clear that those in power had no intention to honour popular verdict on whether they should continue to stay or leave public office. Will the lessons learnt from the mistakes and wrongs of that election make a difference in 2010 at all?

Will all those who choose to enter the electoral race participate and compete mainly for the sake of them or for the nobler purpose of contributing to creating a democratic system for Ethiopia’s future?

We are venturing to tread into territory where the devil will fear perhaps to enter. Let us then muster the courage to try to be venturesome and think and look ahead possibly to see what may likely be in the Pandora box for Election 2010 Ethiopia as the New Year in 2009 begins!

First and foremost we in the NES say happy New Year 2009 to all Ethiopians irrespective of political, religious, ethnic, racial, linguistic, gender, age and any other differences! May we all united with our differences, and also in spite of our differences make a New Year resolution for Ethiopia to enter into a new democratic civilisation? Let us think deep and look far ahead to the future in and by coming to a shared understanding, a shared process and shared project to sustain and develop people, nation and country for generation after generation with peace and security in freedom and unity for eternal time. Let justice ring and grace Ethiopia to achieve for the first time in 2010 what it never achieved in its long history: a democratic system of governance that will be sustained with wisdom, high public ethics, regularity, civilised and peaceful competition by all those choosing and organising as parties to participate and influence change in Ethiopia’s public life. May those who are currently politically estranged who have chosen to boycott election fearing it will never be just, free and fair, and those conducting various forms of armed activities, and the current rulers that seem very arrogant and unable to appreciate the need to accommodate political approaches different from what they think is right and currently privileged- let all these forces become solution providers to the health, education and well being to people and nature in Ethiopia and indeed wider Africa and the rest of the world- rather than being additional painfully burdensome problem creators on top of the mounting and complicated problems that exist already!

It will be indeed another historic blunder to squander the 2010 election because of greed for power to extend current tenure by frustrating once more genuine democratic opposition from emerging and competing on a level playing field in order to create a peaceful mechanism of legitimate and orderly transition of power from one political party to another to allow the country to experience a historic first in its long millennial history.

May all specially those who are organised in parties think first for Ethiopia before they think for them and their party to bring about together by learning to cooperate even when they are fiercely competing to create a democratic system and democratic transition that is worthy of catapulting the country into the 21st century’s distinguished, vibrant and promising new Ethiopian- African civilisation.

When it comes to the election of 2010, there are three options. The first is not to go through the election motion at all fearing very much a repeat of the 2005 election debacle. The second is to boycott, if the election is going to be a face-saving legitimating of existing power holders and the tragically fragmenting ethnic-federal ethnic politics imposed by the selfish elites to oppress and misdirect the destiny of the Ethiopian people. The third is to participate knowing the election would take place and try to do all possible even if it means being killed, harassed, jailed and all the other horrible obstacles that are likely to be pervasive as the election heat grows the light dims under the inflammation of the nervousness and stress of electioneering! There should be substantive and honest debate which of these three options is likely to promote democracy in Ethiopia without prejudice and polarising expressions of black and white opinion.

3. Over 80 registered parties to compete?

It looks interest to run to capture public office is strong in Ethiopia judging by the growing number of registered parties or is it individuals passing as parties? Not sure though whether all these small parties, are built for the purpose of serving sectional and group interest or the highest call for national public service. Are these large numbers of miniscule parties really necessary? Mind you, these numbers exclude all those that say they have given up on electoral politics as they expect it to be rigged, unjust, closed, unfair and un-free no matter what numbers of parties are supposed to run to try to capturing public office. Some have openly said that the regime will never allow a peaceful election to make it leave public office allowing those who may be winners of a given election any time to replace it peacefully and in orderly and civilised fashion. They say it is a regime which cannot see to it under normal and peaceful manner to leaving power.

Moreover, they argue that such fear make the regime to engage in all sorts of trickery. They say the regime strives to make the political water as treacherous, murky and as difficult as imaginable in order to trap opponents and fabricate ways of ensuring its longevity in office. They say in 2005 the regime used law as force instead of protecting the rule of law as a just custodian of the law. It manipulated the Electoral Commission instead of guaranteeing its independence. It muzzled the press instead of freeing them. The accusation in 2005 said the regime spied, divided, blackmailed, intrigued and engaged in deception to confuse, trap and trip up opponents instead of allowing an intellectually, politically and morally honest and open democratic debate capable of generating and contributing to raising public awareness of the real issues to make informed choices of those that should be voted to serve the public purpose.

The way the 2005 election went and the subsequent killings, incarcerations, threats against those who tried to bring genuine democratic culture are used by those who argue for boycott to warn those of us that no matter what as long as the election is going to take place those that are registered must do all they can to do what may be possible with the principle expect the worst and hope for the best.

Those who argue for boycott say the 2010 election will turn out to be no more than mainly another show to make the regime look it is doing a democratic thing or two when it actually is doing the opposite both by its intention and deed. Some of the opposition that had hope of peaceful competition in 2005 has now chosen to pursue other forms of struggle. Some that have been pursuing armed forms for a long time even before the 2005 election say they see no reason to make them change their chosen path. They say that the regime has closed the public space for debate even more so than earlier in 2005, and they do not expect the regime to welcome them and by opening and freeing the public political space to accommodate them to pursue their particular politics with peaceful means.

4. The Major Internal Obstacle to Democracy in Ethiopia is the Constitutional Framing of National Citizenship!

Internally in Ethiopia political and economic power is distributed along ethnic vernacular lines. This has been constitutionally enforced. The regime protects ethnic federalism by rejecting any view that stands against the ethnicisation of public life and citizenship in Ethiopia. It has created a tautology. Opposition to etthnicisation is tantamount to opposition to the constitution. The latter is not subject to amendment or revision at all costs let alone rejection. It is like some form of divine law that no one can challenge, question let alone to change or revise or reject. (See the quote in Ethiomedia, Minga and Tsion Negash December, 2008)

The core problem of Ethiopia is the constitutional enforcement of ethnicism to dominate public life and fragment citizenship that has made it possible for ethnic elites to manipulate identity cynically such as language and ethnic differences to enrich themselves and pauperise the Ethiopian population hailing from all the diverse and mosaic communities.

The constitution is not divinely ordained by providence. It is made by power; a result of a particular constellation of power relations in 1991 after the Derg was overthrown at a particular moment and juncture. It is not a document sanctioned by divine providence! It is a result of a particular outcome of the balance of political forces that favoured ethnic fragmentation over national unity of Ethiopians as Africans. Any new reconfiguration of the balance of forces will and should be able to release legitimate political support to amend, revise or reject and write a new constitution. Even the US Constitution should be revised despite the fact it has been built to embody American citizenship par excellence. There is a case for the USA to amend the’ pursuit of happiness’ by the individual to the pursuit of solidarity between people and people to nature!

5. Civic National Citizenship Undermined by Imposing Ethnicism!

The regime has divided Ethiopia along the ethnic-vernacular identities by the subordination of common and integral citizenship to ethnic framing of entitlement to citizenship rights. The motive was ostensibly to redress inequalities of ethnic groups in the country. But in the effort to redress ethnic inequality of rights, the ethnic framework created unequal citizenship entitlements within the ethnic states by creating a hierarchy of who gets what first and who belongs to the ethnic state and who does not. The vertical rights distribution within the ethnic states comes at the cost of distribution of the right to equal access by all the citizens hailing from the diverse communities that need affirmative support. The poor are horizontally distributed and cross inter ethnic differences and spaces. Affirmative action must focus to support all the poors from all the ethnic communities and not privilege the ethnic elites and the richer ethnic group of each of the designated group in each of the ethnic states.

The regime’s conceptual framework that is also jealously enforced constitutionally ostensibly to equalise rights of one ethnic group with another was paradoxically purchased by denying equal access to all as national citizens first and foremost within the newly framed ethnic based states. National citizenship is differentiated instead of remaining integral. For example, an Amhara living in a Tigray state can have access to rights only after all Tigryan speakers have theirs and conversely a Tigrean in an Oromo area qualifies after the access of the Oromos has been done unless that person has power to violate the ethnic framing of hierarchy of rights.

What then comes first with the ethnic fragmenting framing of citizenship is the ethnic rights of the group first and whilst others from other ethnic groups are not! This means that citizenship rights are skewed, jaundiced, ranked and graded. First those in the defined ethnic state have right before those coming from other ethnic states. It is not an entitlement as free and equal citizens, but as groups with rights prior to the rights of a civic national Ethiopian citizen. So the rights of ethnic groups come first subordinating and even degrading their right of belonging to Ethiopia as equal citizens with free formal access to movement and services anywhere in Ethiopia. The right is acquired at the expense of the equal opportunity that national citizenship would have conferred formally to all irrespective of any difference. Instead of building from a common and shared framework of citizenship, the starting point is the privilege assigned to differences of ethnicity and language. It is much easier to go from an integrated conception of citizenship to fulfil all the demands for equality rather than start from difference and wish to attain integrity.

Granted, this ethnic-vernacular difference principle may have been chosen by the regime perhaps to redress inequalities as affirmative action. But it is the wrong way of redressing historic injustices and inequalities by creating new inequalities and an even steeper hierarchy of vertical rights entitlement based on ethnic-vernacular qualification degrading or even destroying horizontal cross-ethnic equalisation of common citizenship rights. Redress that will not bring new injustices and unequal rights that degrade citizenship is, for example, dealing with the poverty, income and other injustices of citizens’ experience regardless of what language they speak what region they come from, and ethnicity they belong.

The assumption is that a civic national framework is not able to redress injustices such as social distributive and commutative justice, which is entirely an untenable proposition. It is the ethnic principle that tries to redress by creating even more problems for redress. The citizenship principle is open to address with equality, and fair and just policies of redress starting from the least advantage of all those coming from any ethnic group.

The civic citizenship framework can and should provide the legal, social, economic and political shared framework for the production of equal rights. The common citizenship framework is far superior to redress injustices without creating new and unequal rights amongst equal and free citizens. In South Africa, they have had perhaps worse racial injustices than perhaps any place in the world, but they have overcome the ethnic Bantustan system and created a civic national framework for both equalising rights and establishing racial and other redress to address various injustices in the country.

6. Ethnic Internal Dynamics Distorts Democratic Debate

This ethnicism-based internal dynamics does not augur well to create the conditions for free democratic debate. It mars the possibility of generating intelligent debate. Social capital or trust capital is woefully inadequate for democratic debate not to be personalised and misused. When the debate in the election brings out the issues of ethnic favouritism and inequalities, those who hold both political and economic power become sensitive and react often by using their divisive intelligence forces to split and create quarrels amongst colleagues or even using outright force as the case may be. They get scared that if they lose political power, they will lose their economic power. They fight back and respond with real violence to the verbal betting that is often tolerable in any other normal context that often transpires in the heat of an election, exactly a repeat of what happened in 2005.

This is more likely to continue to happen unless those engaged the over 80 parties and their members can build a way of presenting their cases without raising the fear and anxiety of those whom they oppose in the treacherous and ethnic sensitive and explosive political water, where all are on the edge monitoring what others are saying to find faults and fish for possible ethnic slurs. See the current attack on w/t Birtukan.

Why these number of parties anyways? Is this to claim the more the number of parties the more the country ranks in some notional democracy index in Africa or else where? Does Ethiopia need all these parties?

Even the richest country, the USA does not have these many numbers of parties. Ethiopia too does not need this large number of parties that seem to have mushroomed for other reasons rather than the will to anchor a democratic system in the country. Are all these 80 odd parties interested to win a portion or share of the votes for this or that party they own as a private firm or kiosk (Some say the number of parties has now reached nearly 90 and may continue to grow over the next year!)? Are these many parties willing and open to show resolution and commitment to make Ethiopia achieve a historic moment? Will we be ale to say: after the conclusion of the election that the world sees that for the first time in its long life, Ethiopia has a free and fair election acknowledged duly by both the contestants and the observers as having been found fully free and fair! That will be indeed an epochal history in its own right were it to have taken place. But the signs currently point to another electoral farce! Either a repeat of 2005 or even worse in 2010! There is also the danger that 80 parties may just turn out to be confusion spreaders than enlightenment promoters. It will be very difficult to the population to get to know over 80 parties and their programmes in less than two years time. It took even a long time for Barack Obama to be known in the USA where there is hardly any confusing bewildering variety of parties manufactured to confuse people rather than enlighten them. This may be deliberate to make those who hold power to return to power again and again by confusing the voting population. This is not an encouragement to people to learn to choose and exercise the franchise. It looks more like the opposite seems to be the case, confusing to deny real choice and real democracy.

In other words, are those clubbed in the over 80 parties and are hoping to compete or join indirectly the election process prepared to make history or will their selfishness blinds them to remain for this or that little group trading loyalty to their self-interest, their ethnic group, their friends, their family and their foreign allies first, rather than standing up to serve the greater good of Ethiopia, the public and the generations to come by creating a peaceful road to political and power transitions in Ethiopia for the first time in recorded historical time with Platonic wisdom?

If major political ideas and philosophies were to be the organising principle and selection device to group the parties, these eighty odd parties should perhaps fall into no more than two to three or at the most four main parties as allies or partners in coalitions. We can see one major idea that many who are not ethnically contaminated and infected can fall under: the pan-Ethiopian and Pan-African parties that can come together. The ethnic parties can fall also under more or less one broad grouping. Those who register must not only validate personalities and scramble to realise the selfish desire to occupy public office to capture state power for capturing and accumulating resources but also ideas and programmes. They should then encourage those that are similar to co-register together, if indeed the plan is to create a democratic contest and environment. No stone must be left unturned in order to make the contest as free and fair as humanly possible. It will be very important to see what the people may be able to choose given were they to be presented such stark and different alternative programmes such as Pan-Ethiopian/Pan-African vs. ethnic fragmentary federation enforced by the current constitution.

7. Can Ethiopia Learn Lessons from the 2008 US ELECTION?

In November, 2008 the whole world was witness to history having been made in America. A major election after having been fought for two years brought a consequential victory to an African-American providing the election a world-civilisation turn and epochal significance. The debate was electric. The process was tough. The road was tortuous. But the final result came as a redeeming brightest star illuminating America by sending a message to all with universal spirit of possibility and hope to the rest of the world never seen before in living memory.

In 2008 America had its election, and it went beyond expectation. In two years of electoral fierce and at times treacherous fighting we know no one who was killed despite so much hyper emotional engagement of those engaged in fierce electoral competition. It went remarkably well and Americans must be congratulated and Americans must justifiably feel proud too!

8. And from South Africa’s Coming Election in 2009?

In 2009 there will be another important election from the rain bow nation of South Africa. The country has strong democratic energy and spirit. But the ruling African National Congress has had internal disagreements and divisions. Some of the language used by the factions within the ANC is scary. But let us hope South Africa does not turn to be fragile like others in Africa. In 2004 its election was concluded without any incident. We expect the election to take place and to be a proudly South African election making Africa proud also by the way it will have been concluded, i.e., without major problems, having been free and fair as were the preceding elections.

9. And Ethiopia’s own failed 2005 election for the coming 2010 Election?

In 2005 the election started well and ended badly. One who saw the way the initial debates were conducted could have been only proud that the country achieved this level of sophistication and maturity. Alas it did not last long. Those who opened this space took fright and closed it. The opposition got over excited and some uttered statements and bravados that fuelled the fear of the power holders. The consequence is what came afterwards, killings, incarcerations and even threats to those of us who were only arguing to get a democratic system and transition to transpire in the old country.

The question is will the 2010 election be any different? What are the lessons learnt both by those in power and those who think they should be in power from the opposition?

What we know for sure whether some boycott and others participate, in 2010 Ethiopia is probably likely to go with another election, not because those who run with it believe in election, but they have to have it for all the other reasons mainly to defray and forestall the cost of not doing it.

The big question is how will the election go? Are those who play the election game committed to playing fair and square? Can we expect them to act like statespersons who think for generations and not enter the electoral foray to occupy offices to help their family, friends and their ethnic groups and their foreign allies first before all else as it keeps happening sadly in much of Africa? Is it fair to build the peoples expectations like the 2005 election only to disappoint them by trashing the outcome with violence and charges of fraud? If indeed the regime which calls the election does not have in its heart to run a fair and free election, why does it have to go through the electoral charade? Is this to do more to appeal and appease the donors, to meet the EU’s Cotonu political partnership agreements and others such as the Paris and International Financial Institutions conditionalities?

Why not be honest and say openly to Ethiopians and the world: ‘we are here to rule because we have the military and the police. There is no chance in hell, power will leave from us to go to others until we die or choose to leave when we decide.’ If deep down that is the belief of the ruling elite, for heavens sake, spare us all another lethal electoral spectacle. Our sincere advice is that if you do not mean it, do not do it. Not to go through the election motion at all is much better than turning an election into a big lie. The 2005 election turned Ethiopians to be cynical of change through the ballot to a point some have decided to use other routes to change Government.

If in 2010 the election becomes another reason to kill people and retain the same politics and same people, all it would have done is to increase the country’s cynicism index sky high. The people must not suffer additional political repression on top all the other suffering they continue to endure daily from economic to periodic natural disasters. The option of not running with the election, if it is not going to be carried out from the open possibility let the people choose, express voice and vote whom they ought to see in public office and parliament, will avoid violence and cynicism in the end. Better not to indulge in something one is not genuinely prepared to let the people have their judgment and choice with justice, fairness and freedom.

It looks the election will probably go on and it will be probably as restrictive or even worse than the 2005 election in the way the true opposition may be treated. Should the opposition boycott or participate in the 2010 election given the hurdles it will inevitably face?

10. What process will lead to a fair and free election in Ethiopia?

What happened in America and likely to happen in South Africa is more or less predictable.

Firstly, both countries believe in democracy and have a record of having gone through democratic transitions forty four times in the case of the USA and three times in the case of South Africa since 1994! Their elites have learnt the hard way to circulate themselves in and out of power through election and not the bayonet.

Secondly, those who win or lose above all are expected to respect the democratic process and bow with humility and grace respecting fully the choices, votes and voices of people. The persons that compete in the election are people who know that entering into electoral competition also holds the possibilities of winning or losing and not only winning or if losing, they know refusing to recognise own defeat and an opponent’s success is not acceptable. They must accept defeat as the done deal without any plot or foul play.

Thirdly, they also know that losing can be a moment to demonstrate greatness, not only winning. The very fact they had the opportunity to put across programmes and help raise public awareness of the issues they care most about is in itself a great public service. That is why when one wins; one thanks the loser for putting up a great fight. And when one loses, there is no recrimination, no bloodshed, no acrimony, only a gracious and gentle acceptance of defeat and an expression to help the winner to do worthy historical things for the country they fought so hard to lead by entering the electoral race in the first place. All the scurrilous, virulent and heated exchanges and insults are left behind, civility replaces recriminations and society waits with anticipation to welcome the newly elected public servants voted and legitimised as leaders to lead the country, the people and the nation with high moral and political purpose!

Fourthly, those who enter the electoral race prioritise and respect the democratic process and know entering into this process leads to either a win (if lucky) or lose (if unlucky). Regardless of winning or losing they know that those who win will have to know it is even more important to make an exit when their terms end. They cannot resort to intrigue, the use of the military and other back handed tricks, such as changing the constitution, creating an unworkable unity government, making a putsch or military coup and so on to stay on more than their own term permits legitimately. The knowledge that it is even more important to exit power gracefully than to enter into it triumphantly is what gives enduring stability and systemic behaviour to political development to move along peaceful trajectories. What distinguishes democracies from dictatorships is above all the election of public officials who understand it is even more important to leave office peacefully and gracefully than to occupy public office for the terms in which they are legitimately voted for to stay in office.

A peaceful transition is the hallmark of democratic achievement and civilisation. That is what have eluded much of Africa to this day: to create a political system that is capable of generating peaceful transition where those who lose elections are not exiled or taken to court or jailed but remain free to pursue other professions after leaving public office.

11. Concluding Remark

What we cannot say sadly about the coming 2010 election in Ethiopia is that those on the regime side especially who enter into the competition appreciate the above four considerations. Some parties like UJDP and others seem to appreciate at the intellectual and moral levels the above four values as necessary to bring about a democratic transition.

If those who enter into election and who manage the electoral process do not share these values, the likelihood of having a fair, free and predictable election is zero. Judging by the way things have gone in the past and especially since 2005, it is very difficult to see how an election will take place that all entering will be confident of both its fairness and freeness, unless there is a miracle that we do not know of yet. Will the election start out well at all? Will the process be orderly? And above all will the outcome be non-controversial? We can hope for the best, but sadly what may likely to happen be the worst. But let us expect the worst and hope for the best.

At the moment in Ethiopia, the young lawyer Weizerit Birtukan seems to be gaining popularity and recognition. It is very likely that in a free and fair election her pan –Ethiopian and possibly Pan-African party may likely attract considerable number of Ethiopians from all ethnic groups to vote for it in spite of the prevailing disillusionment that the needless betrayals in Knjit wrought over the Ethiopian public both at home and abroad. The regime singles her out for attack and harassment and has sadly thrown her back into jail, two years before the election. We must condemn this outrageous injustice and do all we can to get her immediate and unconditional release so that the country gets the opportunity to hear and judge the dreams and aspirations of this young female judge turned politician.

Imagine in the USA outgoing president Bush going for Barack Obama to prevent the latter from launching his campaign on a sure footing. It looks the regime in Ethiopia does not want any viable opposition that is not armed to contest its power despite claiming it wishes a peaceful election to take place in the country. Instead of discouraging those who wish to fight with arms, which frankly the country is very tired of and will not be able to sustain any more armed blows, by attacking and jailing innocent and democratic leaders like w/t. Bertukan and disrupting the UJDP or any other registered party for that matter, it only encourages those who lose any hope of peaceful transition in the country.

No guarantee also that the election process and preparation will be owned by all those entering the electoral race to avoid complaints. What does it take for the preparation to be both free and fair and is seen by all those who compete and those who observe that it would be free and fair? Judging by the way the 2005 election went and the subsequent tightening of the public sphere, it is very difficult to predict that a fair and free election can be made in Ethiopia.

We would like to use the New Year for all Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia to think and look ahead to make a democratic system to shape a bright future for Ethiopia. Let 2010 not become another 2005! Let the competition be based on clear alternative programmes and choices. Let the opposition that is Pan-Ethiopian unite. Let those who believe in ethnicism unite. Let there be a clear contest and who ever wins should be able to form Government.

NES Demands!

1) Free UJDP chairperson w/t Birtukan immediately and unconditionally!
2) Appeal to all people of conscience to help form the biggest and most united movement for justice in Ethiopia!
3) Stop making the 2010 election another 2005!
4) Create a playing level field for all opposition, armed, peaceful, boycotting or all else, to enter the election in 2010!
5) May the New Year Hope bless Ethiopia with a democratic system and Civilisation!
6) Free all political prisoners of conscience!

Mammo Muchie is holder of NRF/DST research professor of innovation and development at IERI, TUT, Pretoria, South Africa & concurrent Professor and coordinator of DIIPER at Aalborg University, Denmark, and chairperson of NES. Contact:

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