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Gabcast! Gotoota Oromo Haa Yaadannu. #17 - Wallee.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A note to CUD leadership and the neo-chauvinists from a concerned Oromo. Part III

A note to CUD leadership and the neo-chauvinists from a concerned Oromo. Part III

I have no problem if these lawyers defend the detained CUD members invoking every possible justification but if they want to invoke "professional ethics" then it should not be discriminatory. From the human rights point of view, one can't invoke the principle at will to defend CUD leaders and keep silent when it comes to the defense of victims from other ethnic groups. Defending victims of human rights violations or other persons who are deemed to be disadvantaged on pro bono basis is a known practice but they were always invoked on a non-discriminatory fashion. This fact that you kept quiet when non-Amharas were arrested en masse and thrown in to jail, summarily executed or sentenced to death for committing political crimes etc, reminded me of a belated confession by one German pastor who was a by-stander during the mass killings by Hitler's security forces. This is what he had to say: first they killed the Romas (Gypsies) and I did not care because I was not a Roma. Then they killed the Jews, again I did not care because I was not a Jew. Then they came after the communists, and even then I did not bother because I was not a communist. One day they came to kill me. By then there was no one left to care for me. (not a direct translation) If you were not raising your concern and invoking "professional ethics" when our people of all walks of life were mistreated, detained, and got killed, how do you expect us to raise our voices now in support of the CUD leaders who are detained for exactly the same reasons - political crimes (even though Meles categorized both as treason) ? We rightly feel betrayed. You were never there for us when we needed you the most and it is difficult for us to convince ourselves to forgive you and stand by you. A friend in need is a friend indeed - goes the saying. We the Oromos have serious doubts that you are a friend indeed. The burden of proof is on you and you had ample time to prove just that. Now back to the two main issues, where I have serious concern about your sincerity and the real content of your political agenda. The first one is your strategy to unseat EPRDF (which has an indirect relation to the cause of the Oromos) and the second one is your never clarified agenda regarding the oppressed people of the South in general and the Oromos in particular - directly related to the Oromo cause.

I understand both deserve elaboration and independent approach but for the sake of time saving I took the liberty to place both of them in one basket. Here they are. Your strategy to unseat EPRDF: You are talking about being elected by 70 million Ethiopians. Of course as a politician, especially one from a third world country, you have to exaggerate (a politically correct word) to gain more or maintain the support you already enjoy. But we do know for sure how much vote you got and from where. To begin with, among the 70 million population of Ethiopia, only 26 million qualified to cast their vote. According to the information available to me not a single electoral district in Oromiya and the South voted for you except in one or two places where you capitalized on the disagreement between the different Oromo organization i.e. OPDO, OFDM and ONC. You also did not get a single vote from the entire Tigray region (population of more than 3 million). Hence your entire vote came from Amhara region and Finfinne which does not constitute more than quarter of Ethiopian population. It is also a public knowledge that among those who caste their vote in urban areas especially in Finfinne, people of different ethnic background voted for you not necessarily because they liked you or your agenda but because they hated Meles. Whatever the case was, and despite the widely reported election frauds, you won an unprecedented number of votes and managed to secure nearly one-third of the nation's parliament. The wonder work that you won 100% seat in Finfinne administration is something which you and your supporters should be proud of. Despite all the success, you turned around and told your constituency that you are not going to join the parliament or take over the administration of Finfinne unless Meles admits total defeat.

Here is where I totally disagree with you and why from the very beginning I was against your mode of struggle. Many of my friends did not agree with me then and I even lost my friendship with some of them. But look at what has happened now. Following your call for civil disobedience a la CUD, nearly one hundred families lost their loved ones and in the end you also ended up in jail. Do you think you achieved your goal? The menu on the plate has changed now. During and after the election, your supporters were talking about democracy and betterment for Ethiopia but now they are all engaged in fighting for your release. You see how the attention can easily be changed? And the world does not care. You totally misunderstood Meles, it seems. This is the man who did not have mercy on his closest friends and comrades the likes of Siye Abraha and Tamrat Layine. Why did you think he would be different to you? In addition to being at the head of a minority government, which by nature can only stay in power with the help of guns, Meles has never been a democrat in his entire political career. Then why did you think that he would sit and negotiate with you on power sharing? The mother of all political struggles by an individual or political party is to assume power, because political power is the key to implement whatever designed projects a person or a party may have promised to the people during the campaign. Power is so important and without being there on the top, there is no way one can change or improve domestic or international policies. One cannot introduce and implement economic reforms either. Among the many ways of achieving political power the most common and globally recognized "civilized" way is a democratic means i.e. legal forum.

Despite all these vivid advantages of being at a legal forum, Ethiopian politicians were seen to repeatedly withdraw from a legal forum and prefer the "illegal forum" thus exposing themselves and their supporters to an agony while the fate of the nation is left in the hands of the very brutal regime which was meant to be removed in the first place. You told the Ethiopian people that you were neither joining the parliament nor taking over the administration of Finfinne because you said your constituencies did not want you to do so. Whether they actually told you so or not, I am not privy to that discussion but from my personal point of view your refusal to join the parliament was a fatal mistake. I dare to say so because there were precedents similar to this episode - and very catastrophic ones which we witnessed since the removal of the imperial regime. I want to present two of them where organized groups refused working on the legal forum and ended up in disaster. a)One is the case of MEISONE. In 1977-1978, this organization composed of highly educated Ethiopians of that generation, was enjoying an enormous popularity and support from the peasants especially after the February land reform declaration. Although not to that level, it also enjoyed quite a convincing support from the workers in Finfinne and other major "industrialized" regions of the nation. There was no doubt that they (MEISONE) were the new rulers in the making had it not been for the Derg which did not give them free ride. These intellectuals of MEISONE were very confident in what they were doing and the overwhelming support they were enjoying from the population. Mengistu did not want to share power and at one point he even realized that MEISONE was a threat to him and hence he started pressing them to accept his superiority. To cut the long story short, MEISONE, complained that it could not enjoy the legal forum anymore and hence decided to leave Finfinne to embark on new struggle from the field. It chose an "illegal" forum because it fully counted on the peasants with the help of which it thought could have returned to Finfinne as their true representative. It did not work out.

The peasants betrayed them for different reasons and these cream of the society - leaders and members of MEISONE were hunted like wild animals and were killed without due process of law. The organization collapsed like a sand hill within a very short period of time even though the Ethiopian people especially the peasants who were the direct beneficiaries of MEISONE's political / economic agenda were truly supporting it. b)The second event was the withdrawal of OLF from the Transitional Government in 1992. Because of the facts which were not disputed then and now, that EPRDF soldiers were harassing OLF supporters, ransacked their offices, killed their members and supporters it decided to withdraw from the Transitional government and opted for armed struggle. In doing so it fully counted on the full support of the entire Oromo nation form Haraghie all the way to Denbi-Dollo and Kamisie in Wollo and the support was indeed overwhelming. OLF, totally undermining the strength of EPRDF and over-estimating its capacity and capability, decided to leave Finfinne. It was difficult in those days to come across a single Oromo soul not supporting OLF except the very few OPDO members. Few months down the road, OLF forces were crashed, sent to jail or summarily executed en masse. Its supporters i.e. the entire Oromo mass was subjected to an unprecedented degree of repression, arrest and killing which some even equated it to a genocide. Today, OLF is trying to get back to the legal forum because it realized now more than a decade later that it is difficult to achieve political objectives by using force especially after 9/11 where armed struggle is almost equated to terrorism. Now tell me if your decision to resort to "illegal" means of struggle by boycotting the parliament was is the best choice? Do you think that you are really doing service to the Ethiopian people by subjecting them to further abuse and killing in the hands of EPRDF forces simply because you were not given the top political seat? It is true that there were precedents in contemporary political struggle where political parties opted to withdraw from the legal forum and return to the bush but that was doable if and only if one can count on a well-trained and equipped army and material resource i.e. cash crop or mineral/oil to finance the war.

That is what Savimbi did and despite its short-lived re-appearance as a guerilla leader, it created a head ache for the ruling MPLA party. In your case you have neither an armed group nor financial power to justify your latest course of action. I don't blame you. We Ethiopians grew up full of ourselves and that we belong to a nation of "the heroes". Because we never had peaceful transfer of power in our history, any political power gained short of using force is considered to be unworthy, cowardice and a sign of weakness. That stereotype assertion still runs in the minds of most of our Amhara elite politicians and pseudo-politicians alike, that power should be assumed only through force. Otherwise, how can one explain the fact that an opposition party who gained such a large seat in the parliament and full control of the nerve-system of the nation - Finfinne, refused to join the parliament? In my opinion, your decision not to join the parliament and the Finfinne administration is not the right one and for the following reasons: a)You un-necessarily expected too much from the international community. History of modern Ethiopia shows that the West was never interested in the establishment of democratic government in Ethiopia. During Haile Selassie, they were interested in geo-political advantage, during Derg, they were for the sphere of influence and now for global fight against terrorism. In all these years, neither the fate of the Ethiopian people nor democracy was at the centre of their attention. What matters for them is their national interest and not the well-being of Ethiopians. Blair and Bush live in glass houses and therefore they cannot throw stones especially after what they have done in Abu Gharib. And when it comes to their national interest especially fighting global terrorism, Meles is fully meeting their demands and hence you have no added value whatsoever. Just look at the recent Bill introduced to the House of Representatives of the USA by Congressman Smith of New Jersey under a title "Ethiopia Consolidation Act of 2005". Among the four justifications presented to assist Ethiopia, not a single mention is made about human rights, democracy, poverty or under-development in Ethiopia. The main reason remains "America's national interest" in the region.

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