Response # 1
This is a short comment on an article titled "Ethiopia Needs a New Political Arrangement, Not a Leader", authored by Apee Ojulu, which appeared on the Sudan Tribune, on Tuesday 28 March 2006.
Dear Mr. A. Ojulu, I have read your contribution critically and with a lot of interest as it alleges its source to be a Gambella national, whose people have suffered massive brutality, repression and pillage under the current TPLF [EPRDF] leadership. At the out set, I admire your courage and determination for getting the gut to open a cyber dialogue on the political situation of Ethiopia. I believe dialogue is the culture that we desperately lack and we all need to start it somewhere so that we could continue to develop it as a major means of resolving our political, social, economic differences and disputes of other nature. As you would agree, it has always been difficult for us, Ethiopians, to reach a national consensus model that would enable us to govern ourselves through tolerance and mutual respect. As you have rightly pointed out, our past history, which is marred with inter-ethnic animosity, deep mistrust and even at times, fierce military bouts have prevented us from advancing foreword in the stride of democracy and development as many other nations were able to do.
Before I move on to commenting on your article, let me also leave you with one important footnote so as to help you read and understand my reaction dispassionately, being free from emotion and bias. Currently, I am not a member of any political party nor I reside in Ethiopia. So, I am an observer from a distance, so to speak, as far as the current situation in Ethiopia goes. Besides, I do not subscribe to an orthodox/Coptic Christianity as my religion. Not do I support any political view based on ethnicity appeals. I just do not find it to be so convincing and appealing to my reason. As a matter of fact, I abhor ethnic politics very much. Last but not least, by ethnic composition, I am Amharo-Oromo, but I would always prefer to be identified as a proud Ethiopian.
To come to my comments on your article, first of all, I beg to differ with your view regarding the current CUD leaders against whom you piled up baseless charges and unwarranted labelling. As you attempted to reveal the true nature of these leaders of the opposition political parties, you have even got the courage to go as far as accusing them of being "theocratic revisionists", whose ultimate objective is restoring the Amhara-Orthodox Dynasty/Hegemony that ruled Ethiopia for Centuries. I must tell you that this idea is simply inept, - a stillbirth. It contains nothing new but a plain Xerox-copy of the TPLF [EPRDF] policy that has been vigorously pursued in the past decade since its ascension to power through the barrel of the gun and not through the ballot box, as you know. I don’t blame you for repeating the same, for, it is crystal clear, at least to me, that you are clearly one of the victims of the TPLF divide and rule ploy and tactic.
Dear Mr. Ojulu, let me pose one simple and straightforward question to you. As a genuine Ethiopian, do you honestly believe it to be fair, strategic and in the long-term national interest of the peoples of Ethiopia to let Ethiopia loss its sea outlet altogether? Do you think Ethiopians should be punished for accepting the independence of Eritrea by continuing to pay an expensive and prohibitive amount of port-fee, at least a billion dollar/year for a port service, be that to Eritrea or Djibouti. I do not think so. Accordingly, securing sea outlet, through peaceful and more equitable arrangement, for Ethiopia seems to be not only very legitimate but also marvellous and noble political objective and lofty goal for political parties to take up and rally citizens to support it. Ethiopia -a nation of nearly 80 million populations, the majority of whom live in dire state of abject poverty - needs to ensure fast economic growth, in a short span of time, and this is vital for ensuring the continuity and survival of the nation. So, I do not see anything wrong with the policy of the CUD in advancing the port claim. Unless you are an economic ignorant and foolish, you could have easily appreciated the simple economic logic that securing a sea outlet for Ethiopia is a vital national economic interest that is worthy of support and sacrifice, if need be.
As you may recall, during the 1991secessassion of Eritrea, the TPLF [EPRDF] rendered Ethiopia landlocked for the simple reason that it was not ready to face up to the challenge of ensuring national interest. Besides, it was also handy and short-cut to fulfil its sole ambition at the time which was ensuring its soft landing in Addis Ababa, and smooth entry to Arat Kilo, the National Palace, and that was it. So, please do not mix the good wine with water. The intention of the CUD behind raising the port claim has nothing to do with reincorporating the ceded Eritrean territory with Ethiopia. It is only a matter of ensuring national survival and economic interest. It should not be forgotten that access to the sea outlet is also a legal right sanctioned under international law. Hence, the CUD as one of the genuine representatives of the peoples of Ethiopia, unlike the TPLF [EPRDF], can not afford to ignore or forfeit it for the sake of political exigency.
Secondly, you have also attempted to baptise the CUD as an Orthodox Christian force. This is also completely baseless fabrication and superficial accusation portrayed mainly by the TPLF [EPRDF] to stir religious violence among the peoples of Ethiopia as its ethnic card seems to be clearly failing to achieve the same result. Again on this point, you seem to have fallen pray of the TPLF [EPRDF] PR ploy and machination by echoing its infamous propaganda. A few months ago, Tefera Walwa, the incapable TPLF [EPRDF] Minister for Capacity Building, was on a mission to Awassa, attempting, but vainly, to play the Muslims against their Christian brothers and sisters. He blamed the Orthodox Church for establishing unholy alliance with the CUD and warned the Muslims to be vigilant of this CUD-Orthodox Church plot against their religion. Unfortunately, not a single Muslim heeded his call as the peoples of Ethiopia are already aware of the sinister motives and deeds of the TPLF [EPRDF] regime. Dear fellow Ojulu, I am afraid that you are the only person who is still sleeping. The CUD never had any overt, as you allege, nor covert, program to be a religious crusader. Hence, I humbly advice you to wake up from your deep confusion and nightmare and listen to the heart of the peoples of Ethiopia, which is constantly beating for political change, democracy, equality, unity, and development.
The third point you have raised on your manuscript relates to the ever-controversial article 39 of the supposedly federal constitution of Ethiopia. I challenge you right on the face if the existing Ethiopian Constitution was the true expression of the will of the peoples of Ethiopia. As we all recall, the process of drafting and adoption of the constitution was totally undemocratic as only representatives hand picked by the TPLF [EPRDF] did participate in it. There was never any serious national debate or enough alternative views submitted for open debate and discussion. Viewed in retrospect, having come out of civil war that persisted for decades, Ethiopia and the TPLF [EPRDF] should have given priority for national reconciliation than the hustle and bustle of drafting a constitution. However, the EPRDF [TPLF], who was keen to legitimise the independence of Eritrea considered the speedy drafting and adoption of the constitution more important than the pressing need for national reconciliation and that was the whole purpose and intention behind inserting article 39 in the constitution.
Hence, Mr. Ojulu, you should not be mistaken by considering the existing Ethiopian Constitution as a good starting point which we can continue to build democracy on. Right from the beginning, Meles Zenaw, and his TPLF [EPRDF], for that matter, was not interested to address the domestic issue of national oppression in Ethiopia by genuinely recognising the right of self-determination/administration or autonomy of nations and nationalities. However, as I see it, the insertion of that awful article has made no less damage to the unity and integrity of Ethiopia as there existed a Constitution of any nation in the world, which professed to grant the right to cessation. Therefore, I would want us to underline that the Ethiopian Constitution is the only exception in the world in recognising the right to secession of nations and nationalities. To my knowledge, there has never been any nor will there be any country that voluntarily calls up on itself the dooms-day scenario of dismemberment and disintegration, except PM Melesl Zenawi, the Lucifer of Ethiopia. This is an awfully bizarre story, unheard of so far.
By that as it may, my problem is not with the argument in favour or against maintaining or deleting the awful article 39, that recognised the right to secession, on the constitution. The real issue relates to the actual translation in to practice of this particular provision. It is common knowledge that the TPLF [EPRDF] controls the kitchen and toilet of every regional administrations despite the pseudo-autonomy they are presumed to enjoy under the constitution. We know full well that it takes only a telephone call for PM Meles, to make or unmake a king in every region in Ethiopia. To say it modestly, the current regional administrations are no more than the banana republics established by Meles without the consent of the poor and oppressed peoples of Oromia, Gambella, Sidama, Somali, etc. Mind you, all regional administrations, with no exception, drew power not from their constituencies but directly from the office of PM Meles who run them indirectly from his office. Besides, it is not uncommon practice to see these leaders of regional administrations frequently rotating from one post to another; some become overnight corrupts and thrown to jail, depending the wishes and whims of the omnipotent PM. If the people make demands for better leaders, then you know the reaction of the PM, and TPLF [EPRDF] - silencing decent by brut force.
Dear Mr. Ojulu, if you are telling us this is the type of Federalism and self administration that the oppressed peoples of Gambella and other ethnic minorities in Ethiopia aspired for and deserve to have, I think you have a real political sickness called opportunism that you needs immediately rectification. However, the fact of the matter is clearly contrary to what you want us to believe. There are ample instances and vivid confirmations of growing public discontent towards the superficially federalist system of PM Meles in Ethiopia. It is hard to contest that the current leadership at the helm of power in Ethiopia as well as its political philosophy is deeply parochial, divisive and repressive intended to ensure the perpetuity of Tigrian minority dominance and rule. To say the least, the existing federal arrangement is a big fiasco as far as democracy is concerned. Accordingly, popular resistance movements for freedom and democracy are mushrooming at breath taking speed, all over Ethiopia. Unless you want to deliberately distort facts, we all know too well that determined battles are being wedged between forces loyal to TPLF [EPRDF] and that of the peoples of Gambella, Oromia, Sidama, Somalia, to mention but few to get rid of the TPLF [EPRDF] from power.
Hence, Mr Ojulu’s appeal for readers to consider the existing flawed federal system in Ethiopia as the first step in the direction towards ensuring genuine democracy and federalism in Ethiopia could only be construed as an expression of loyalty and servitude to PM Meles Zenawi. In deed, I deeply suspect that your wrongly articulated premise and badly written article, is intended to please the PM in order to fulfil your aspiration for political appointment, at the expense of the poor and oppressed peoples of Ethiopia. Nothing else than this seems to be clearly your ultimate target. Truly speaking, this would reduce your personal dignity and stature down to the level of an actor who plays comic in an ugly political theatre taking the role of a mad man who has fallen in false, short and utterly misplaced infatuation with the TPLF [EPRDF].
Dear Ojulu, your view that the CUD is up to dismantling the Constitution in favour of "supplanting it with a centralised and unitary government is anything but a "fanatic dream", to borrow and bit you back with your own expression. Your view reminds me of one famous quotation: " I prefer the most unjust peace than the most just war". Dear Mr. Ojulu, I hope I wouldn’t be misquoting R. Cicero, if I use it to describe your opportunist behaviour. I mean, one who is never touched and does care little about the suffering of his own fellow citizens as long as he continues to share a small portion from the huge spoils of despots. You know full well that PM Meles and TPLF [EPRDF] have been on the shoulder of poor and innocent citizens only to spill blood and ransack their resources. In true sense, allying oneself with this excessively savage and greedy regime is opportunism at its best and cannibalism, at its worst. Hence, dear fellow citizen, Ojulu, for heavens sake, I beg you to, please, come back to your sense and wisdom. Please, do not pile up your baseless and fabricated allegations to tarnish the implacable image of CUD leadership for the sake of prolonging your conformable life in the EPRDF power echelon by expressing your total subservience, blind loyalty and allegiance for the ever dwindling and eventually dying TPLF [EPRDF] regime.
Mr. Ojulu, if you have a rational mind, you would not have got the courage to deny that most, if not all, at the top leadership of the CUD are persons with impeccable intellect and discipline. Persons like Professor Mesfin and Dr. Berhanu Nega and others in the CUD leadership and membership are not arrogant Amhara chauvinists as you try to depict them to be. They are courageous Ethiopians who would always be remembered and cherished by the peoples of Ethiopia for their courage and determination to stand against tyranny. They are the makers of history. They are also national icons, widely renowned for their genuine love for the peoples of Ethiopia, for their unflinching dedication to the good cause of democracy, and for their superb personal achievement and many decades of service to their nation throughout their entire life.
Finally, Mr. Ojulu, you need to develop a more constructive attitude that would you to appreciate the reality. The unanimous demand of the peoples of Ethiopia at the moment is "New Leadership for new political arrangement" - the exact opposite of your conformist attitude, as the title of your article reveals. Accept it or not, the result of the election held on 15 May 205, is clear expression that the peoples of Ethiopia need, and would settle for nothing less than, change - a clear departure from the past. This does not mean a new political arrangement, while the TPLF [EPRDF] leadership is left as is. Let me also remind you what Donald Yamamoto, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, recently said to the U.S. Congress. He warned that Ethiopia is "currently at a crossroads", from which it can either continue to move forward or it can lapse into the sort of government that is best encountered in the history books. Fellow, Apee Ojulu, if this latest word of caution from a top US official does not mean anything to you, I can safely take it that you have deliberately preferred to remain blind not to see the fact. Unless you change your current course and adapt to a new political behaviour, you would hardly be able to positively contribute to support and encourage the relentless struggle that the peoples of Ethiopia are courageously waging against tyranny and repercussion. Nor would it give you ultimate peace of mind and personal satisfaction as your are unable to indefinitely escape from your own consciousness, which would keep haunting you for the rest of your life, for turning your back against the truth.
* The writer is an Ethiopian Diaspora in Europe. He is a close observer of political developments in the Horn of Africa, in general, and in Ethiopia, in particular. He may be contacted at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org