November 23, 2014
by T. Goshu
As one of millions of genuinely concerned Ethiopians (by birth or citizenship), I have tried to reflect my view points about the recent political trends which I considered them as encouraging on the one hand ; and the very existence of challenging tasks ahead of us on the other hand. It appeared on ECADF web site on November 2, 2014. That point of view of mine refers to a relatively encouraging change within the leadership of Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ); and the signing of the memorandum of understanding by nine opposition political parties aimed at coordinating and subsequently collaborating their political struggle for freedom and justice in Ethiopia. I strongly expressed my conviction that these kinds of desirable political steps deserve our rational, critical, constructive and forward-looking support; and I still truly believe.Unity for Democracy and Justice Party ( Andinet)
I also have expressed my view point that these encouraging political trends were not and still are not without our rational sense of being cautious. I have tried to point out that so many terribly repeated political failures in this regard for the last two decades are very strong reasons for us not get ourselves into a state of self-deceiving and self-defeating celebrity. Needless to say, our political culture of being victims of not taking rational, critical, appropriately constructive, and respectful corrections with regard to some very clumsy and worrisome political arguments of some members of opposition political parties’ leadership has a lot to do with our repeated failures. Put simply, not to call spade a spade and deal with it accordingly whenever it is appropriate has been and continue to be one of the self-defeating factors in our political discourses. It goes without saying that this way of doing politics is not party politics; but it is kind of association of friends and likes which has no firm principles and governing mechanisms in the real sense of the terms. Do not get me wrong that I am foolish enough who believe that political engagement and work is and should be free from all kinds of messy, if not terribly damaging elements. I understand that this type of way of thinking does not reflect the reality of any human interaction let alone the very reality of politics going on in our country. What I am trying to say is that being victims of terribly repeated and senselessly self-defeating failures, and keeping going back to square one do not make sense at all. Absolutely it does not! The very common saying, “Failure is the mother of success” does not mean it is okay to make stupid mistakes now and then and going back to the same horrible failure, and then expect success. This is absolutely nonsensical! It is rather a matter of learning a painful lesson from what went wrong and taking painful but necessary steps that should help us to move forward, not slide back to the same or the worst political quagmire which we have come through a long period of our political history. We need to strive hard to find ourselves in a relatively better standards of doing politics, not to mention making our big and wonderful words of “enough is enough!” meaningfully practical.
Individuals who were supposed to play their leadership role in the real sense of the term have terribly and regrettably failed the Ethiopian people, particularly for the last quarter of a century (the tyranny of ethnic politics of TPLF/EPRDF). I strongly argue that if those opposition political parties which are relatively popular and with a fair sense of courage want to make a difference at this critical moment in time, they should try hard to make appropriate and constructive measures with regard to some of their colleagues/members whose political tendencies seem going stupidly and terribly wrong. I am well aware that some fellow Ethiopians may feel very uncomfortable when I mention some bad political players in our political discourse, particularly during and after the 2005 election. But I strongly believe it is necessary to make things straightforwardly clear so as to remind ourselves not to be victims of these kinds of horribly disgraceful and deeply damaging political games over and over again. The very serious political damages done by some political personalities (both at individual and grouping level) and their effects are still seriously hurting the struggle for freedom and justice. Let me be specific and clear.
The very shameful and harmful political damage done by Ato Lidetu Ayalew and few of his easy- going political- mates has helped a lot TPLF/EPRDF to survive at the very expense of the untold sufferings of the innocent people of Ethiopia. The very outrageously stupid political personalities such as Ato Ayele Chameso and his self-dehumanized colleagues have caused an incredible damage and a huge disgrace to the country and her people. The very rigidly arrogant and stupidly unsystematic political personalities of Ato Hailu Shawel and his own small circle have contributed a lot to the terrible political failures in our country. The political personalities of those who are being used as fake partners of TPLF/EPRDF (political robots) are typical examples of factors for miserable failures and the continuation of ethnic-based tyranny we are facing in a much more dangerous scale and intensity.
I do not think it is something that needs kind of investigative study or research to know that involving in the politics of our country is not only difficult but extremely dangerous. In other words, the dirty and deadly political agenda and practice by TPLF/EPRDF is a self-evident business. And it is not difficult to understand the political environment in which political opposition parties such as UDJ are trying to do their best. And I still sincerely believe that they deserve due recognition, critical appreciation and necessary support.
However, it is neither desirable nor helpful for us to remain silent when any damaging political behavior/tendency surfaces itself within the party’s or parties’ leadership. It is absolutely wrong for us to have a mentality of wait and see and being frustrated and devastated when things reach at a point where it would be difficult to prevent the horribly repeated failures we came across for the last two decades. Let me proceed to a very troubling case which has motivated me to come up with this piece of writing. It is about Ato Girma Seifu’s response to the question in relation to prisoners of conscience in the country, more specially members of opposition political parties during the press briefing he gave on the occasion of announcing the party’s decision to participate in the upcoming “election”.
I read the news about the decision by UDJ to participate in the upcoming “election.” I watched a video clip taken from awarmbatimes.com (?) posted on zehabesha .com; and I listened to the audio clip broadcast on ESAT Radio and a very brief interview by Mesay Mekonen of Esat with Ato Girma Seifu (deputy president of the party and member of the rubber stamp parliament of TPLF/EPRDF.) By the way, I sincerely admire Journalist Mesay the way he tried to politely but seriously engage and challenge Ato Girma. That is the way it is and it should be! Great job Mesay!
I am not here intended to say that the decision to participate in the upcoming “election” by UDJ is wrong or right as it is up to the party to decide what is the right strategy and tactic to advance its political mission. But I do not think it is wrong to remind UDJ and other opposition parties that at the end of day whatever the strategy and tactic they may choose have to be meaningfully in line with the very long- term national interest and the genuine prevalence of freedom, justice, human dignity and shared prosperity. I strongly argue that conducting a press briefing and declaring the decision to participate in the upcoming ‘election” instead of discussing how to put pressure on the tyrannical ruling elites to open the political space does not sound doing serious politics. I am sorry to say but I have to say that if UDJ is giving us a signal that it would take part in the “election” and sending a couple of members to the Parliament and be part of the ugly politics as usual (a good playing card of TPLF/EPRDF), that won’t be different from going back to the political vicious cycle we have come across for the last several years. I do not think the people of Ethiopia can afford keep sending a couple of opposition politicians not only to a hugely parasitic parliament but also the most disgraceful political arm of the ruling party and continue languishing under the same, if not the worst political drama. Yes, the people desperately need a genuine representation through which they could make their voices heard and have concrete impact on their political lives and socio-economic well-being. Yes, I strongly argue that the people of Ethiopia cannot afford to watch a couple opposition politicians sitting in meaningless parliamentary sessions and keep making good for nothing political rhetoric in the name of their endless plight. I once again want to be clear that I am not against taking part in election to run government offices as it is the most desirable political means to bring about a fairly just system. What I am trying to say is that elections should be instruments to make a difference or have opportunities of choices, not for the sake of merely participating in elections and sharing few seats that cannot have any effective influence in the making of policies.
I said Ato Girma Seifu is a member of a rubber stamp branch of government, not a legislative body in which honorable members are doing honorable tasks. I am sorry to say but I have to say that for me it is an insult to the country and her innocent people to address those attendees and admirers (parliamentarians) of the dirty, if not deadly political drama authored and performed by the very inner circle of TPLF as honorable members. Because I believe that it is stupid enough to honor those who have no any sense of honoring their own conscience or they have no any sense of speaking their own minds and hearts.
But I have to be honest that I used to be one of those fellow Ethiopians who genuinely believed that Ato Girma Seifu deserves to be exceptional because he belongs to an opposition party and he is the only dissenting voice that makes the voices of the people heard. It does not mean that I had and have an impression about the very real sense of his political character without reservation. Not in this sense at all. I have tried to read his commentaries, listen to his interviews, and his arguments in that lifeless political drama of “parliamentarians.” And I also carefully attended his town hall meetings he had with Ethiopians during his working visit in America (Washington DC metropolitan area) a couple years ago. And I have to say that I had and still have a fair sense observation about his political view and position. Let me be clear. I am not a student of psychology or political psychiatrist (if there is such a profession). But this does not prevent me from using my personal observation .Without going around the bush, I have an impression that he has kind of genuine political personality but with a difficulty to pinpoint where is his selflessly strong center of political gravity. I am not saying this because I want to foolishly undermine and blackmail his political career and his role in the party. It is to express my impression about his certain views and arguments he intentionally or unintentionally advances. I hope he would be willing and able to look at things the way they are and they should be, not the way he personally wanted to be.
I was not deeply shocked when I listened to not only what he said but also the way he said about prisoners of conscience in our country. But I have to say that I felt very sad about citizens who are victims of a state terror being victims a very naïve but painful words of mouth of Ato Girma who claims himself a politicians who stands for justice for all. I am not exaggerating when I say that what he said and the way he said both in the audio clip and during his very brief and nervous conversation with Mesay Mekonen sounds like a representative or spokesperson of the TPLF/EPRDF government, not a higher ranking member of an opposition party which struggles against all injustices being committed under the cover of national security, stability, and anti-terrorism. Is it an emotion-driven slip of tongue, or lack of articulation, or some sort of personal ulterior motive, or something else? It is not clear yet. And it will be clear enough when Ato Girma comes forward and make himself clear enough. And I hope he will be doing so before it is too late and things open themselves for any kind of speculation and highly undesirable damages of personal character. Gerry Spence, the author of a book, How to Argue and Win Every Time (1995) says,” Truth is never arrogant. …. To open the other to your argument, tell the truth. Be yourself. That is enough.”
There is no doubt this will have its own negative implications on the political performance of the party itself. Because Ato Girma has said that all what he said was not his personal view, but the view and position of the party. And it is necessary for the party to conduct an internal discussion and come up with genuine, constructive and teachable response. As I tried to reflect in my piece of writing I mentioned in my introductory part, I am still one of those cautiously optimistic fellow Ethiopians about the trends UDJ is moving with. The way Engneer Gizachew stepped aside from his position and the coming of relatively young and energetic members to the top leadership structure was and is truly encouraging. I strongly believe that this encouraging trend/ effort should not be negatively affected because of certain very undesirable, if not distractive words of mouths of members of the party’s leadership. Let’s not be shy of taking critical and rational inward-looking and keep going dynamic in this very dynamically changing world. Going otherwise will be nothing; but facing untimely or gradual death. I am reasonably optimistic that UDJ and all other genuinely concerned opposition parties will not only simply survive but will be able to lead the people in the right direction and bring about the change we desperately aspire.