Reclaim the spirit of Kinijit

November 24th, 2006

By Fekade Shewakena | November 22, 2006

The current impasse in Kinijit North America and Kinijit International Leadership is not a sudden occurrence and, frankly, the reasons for the problem are not difficult to understand. The solution is also relatively simple but there is a serious need for some honesty. It is ok for the glitch to occur. It happens in any organization or organized activity. Conflicts in an organization are normal in many cases inevitable. The sky will not fall because of that. The most damning task it to solve it, learn from the mistakes and move on.
Tewodros Mekebeb

Photo by Tewodros Mekebeb.

Click here to see more pictures of the November 18th DC Event.

The various explanations and blame games being peddled now as reasons for the problem inside the Kinijit Diaspora leadership are excuses to cover the larger problem and are pure sham in my view. What we need to do is check some facts, investigate, find out if some allegations are true, ask wrong doers to account, remove them if we must and keep them if we have to and then move on. I am sick to my stomach by the disgusting, silly, insulting and backward way being pursued as a way for solution by some. We have followed the peddling of conspiracy theories and the attempt to create mistrust among fellow compatriots, including attempts to destroy individuals who paid dearly for Kinijit. This should stop. It is not provable and will not take us anywhere. Some of these techniques being used to drag the organization in the mud are actually the very things that Kinijit has promised to remove from the face of Ethiopian political discourse altogether. We should be ashamed to accommodate them here.

Remember, Kinijit is the party of Ethiopia’s best and brightest – that worked hard, dreamt big, and paid heavily to bring civilized 21st century politics to our country. This is the vision we are defending and the Ethiopian Diaspora is widely supporting in a passion unheard of in our political history. This should continue and with strength. Too many have died and suffered for the cause and our country needs a different path from where it is now. With each passing day our country’s problems are getting complicated and we have to have good ideas on how to solve them.

We have to get to the bottom of this problem and get it over with. But all problems are better solved through a bottom up approach. Usually the perpetrators of a conflict inside an organization are hardly the people that can bring a civilized resolution to the conflict. In many cases what they do is cover their wrongs and prepare to do more wrong. It is doubtful if they even tell us the actual problems inside the organization. Come’ on folks, this should end soon and we should move on and go back to work.

The reason for the impasse made simple

From the outset the Kinijit North America Support Leadership (KNASL) was set up with flawed structure and a composition of leaders that were totally incompatible with both the tasks the organization professed to accomplish and the huge responsibilities it had to undertake under current political circumstances in Ethiopia. The KNASL was totally devoid of democratic practices and operated much like a semi private entity. It lost the advantage of the tools that democracy and democratic ways of doing things provide from the beginning. It would have corrected the impasse a long time ago before it imploded had there been the tools of democracy. Transparency, accountability and mechanisms for wide and quality participation were completely lacking. Too many resourceful and capable Ethiopians are not given a chance to involve and contribute their share.

It is possible that every individual in the leadership could be well meaning good Ethiopians. I think most of them that I know are. But they were unable to put the tools in place to do a good job. Some of it is negligent and a good part of it is incompetence and unwillingness or inability to learn new ways for the challenge. Some of them have not only taken responsibilities that they can’t accomplish, but also refused to seek advice from competent and professional Ethiopians who have expert knowledgeable. They could not use the intellectual and professional power that Kinijit can easily garner from the Ethiopian Diaspora.

I know for fact that a large number of Ethiopians both in academia and other industry who have specialized skills and knowledge and capability as well as strong support for the Kinijit movement are not encouraged to participate, despite their willingness to do so. There was no outreach mechanism and I doubt if the leadership even wanted to reach out to these resourceful Ethiopians. All grassroots activism like the HR5680 activity and other civic activisms are initiatives handled outside of Kinijit North America or even the International leadership. In other words, there was no system in the organization’s structure and set up that could allow this kind of contribution to come in and sadly some in the leadership were resistant to efforts to correct this. Some in the leadership have taken multiple responsibilities like being a part of both the international political leadership and the North America Leadership. Why? Is it because there are no other people? No. There is some power monopoly and a tendency to privatize the activities of the organization, greed, if you like. I personally have tried to give these suggestion and openly expressed misgivings to many of the individuals in leadership positions long before the current implosion. The only thing I earned is a bad name and presumption that I am interested in taking their position although I know the places where I could make myself useful and any of their positions is the last thing I wanted.

The KNASL was a lawless entity that did not even have basic governing laws to manage its resources and activities. It was accountable to no one. That is the reason for the problem. All other baloney being peddled now is a complete canard. Now how do we solve it?

The solution

The solution to this impasse should begin with an outrage that this should happen in the midst of a very educated Diaspora that understands modern ways of organizing, managing and planning the best course for the support of our people suffering under Zenawi’s murderous dictatorship. Our people and we deserve more and far much better than what we have now. Young and energetic Ethiopians have to take center stage. I applaud what the Conference of Kinijit Chapters in Atlanta did in this regard. All ex KNASL leaders were asked to leave and a bright well experienced and energetic young man, Ato Aklog Limenih, is elected to lead the North America committee with other young and competent Kinijit supporters. They have instituted laws that help transparency and accountability and inclusiveness. This in my view should be applauded.

In my view the leadership of the North America support committee that is trying to drag the good name of Kinijit should leave without any further delay. Some of the chapters that are being led by self-appointed leaders or hand picked by members of the North America committee should be replaced by elected leaders or get elected. Can’t we at least learn from our people back home on how to freely elect leaders?

There is a good amount of lesson to learn from the Washington DC Metro Kinijit Support Chapter. It was democratically elected only six months ago and within six months it has accomplished a lot and is on the right track to be the most modern organization of the chapters. It is organized and run with full compliance of all the laws of the country, it is open for wide participation, it is creative in its methods of promoting the cause of Kinijit and our people and ready to go to a fully computerized management and communication system ““ 21st century.

The KNASL should not be a huge bureaucracy and should not have fifteen officials and an office where nothing is done. This is a burden and will only add to cost. It doesn’t have to have bank accounts since each of the chapters have accounts that money can be drawn from when required. The job of the NAKSL is to coordinate the activities of the chapters and no more than 5 or seven individuals are needed for the job. It is very wasteful. Sometimes three and four people are made to fly from state to state for a job that can be done by one individual, or something that could be accomplished over the phone, wasting money that can be used to support victims of atrocities back home. Look at announcements on Kinijit.org. It is not uncommon to read announcements with a list of three and four people visiting city after city to address the community? Imagine the cost. Is this fair? This should sicken every kinijit supporter and the people who contribute hard earned resources to support the struggle in Ethiopia.

I think some of the problem is contributed by us, the community, and to some extent it is a collective failure. The community of Kinijit supporters should ask the leaders to account and be held responsible. I am sure the prisoners in Kaliti would want us to do this. I think we are failing them and it is a shame. I don’t think they want their hands involved in solving our internal problems here in Diaspora, contrary to the assertions of some. They will be perfectly happy if we make everything on our own initiative. We don’t have to drag their names into our problems and make it look like they support on group over the other or that they are divided while they are not. We as a community have allowed this and we have to be ashamed. The Diaspora Kinijit problem should not be a problem of Ato Hailu, Berhanu or Birtukan or Eyoel. We know the problem first hand and more than they do and we alone should solve it without involving and bothering them in their prisons. They have enough on their hands in addition to the chains.

Some people think they are taking a higher ground by saying “antem tew antem tew”? and pretending they are in the middle, demanding reconciliation or condemn both sides to the conflict in the leadership. This is sheer opportunism and nothing to be proud of. It is not the right thing to do. The right thing to do is to ask for through investigation, get to the bottom of the problem, and hold the individuals or groups responsible for the impasse to account. If there is embezzlement or corruption as alleged by many, it should be investigated and if true, the people responsible should be reprimanded. If this is not true the people who made the allegations must be made to account and reprimanded. In my view there are no people or conflicting ideas to reconcile here. There is only some wrong to correct. The principle is more important than the individuals in the conflict.

We will all loose the moral ground to expose the corruption and dictatorship of the regime ruling our country if we are at the same time tolerating, aiding and abating corruption and dictatorship in the organizations we support. Let’s get over with this quickly and come out stronger than before.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ethiopia shall soon be the land of the free.

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