By Meatu Derese
In my short article in Amharic a bit earlier I have tried to highlight the tragedy of the successive Ethiopian dictatorial regimes. Although the brutal dictators and their foreign sponsors are the main forces to blame, many pseudo opposition groups have also contributed to that tragedy by extending the lives of those dictators on power and the sufferings of our people. Sooner or later, however, all of these forces have culminated in great shame. The sad fact of the matter, however, is the failure to learn from past mistakes, and repetition of similar tragedies from regime to regime.
I am trying to make the following comments, in good faith, for a constructive criticism to encourage learning from those sad mistakes to pave the way forward for a united, meaningful, genuine and effective opposition that can shorten the lives of dictatorial regimes and facilitate democratic exercise, peace and sustainable prosperity for our people. I would also like to beg sincere apologies if some of my comments are found to be a bit offensive.
1. The mistakes of some opposition groups during the Brutal Military Dictatorship
MEISON is one of the notable opposition groups during the brutal Military dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam. It chose to allay with the dictators against the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and the Ethiopian people at large. It shared power. It joined hands with the brutal military dictators and hunted down, beaten up, imprisoned, tortured and murdered the genuine and innocent members of the EPRP, especially children and young people.
If the MEISON did not join the Derg, the military dictators would not have been able to:
Consolidate itheir power;
Strengthen relations with the Soviet Block social imperialists;
Butcher hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens; and
Prolong the reign of terror.
History will never forget the brutal terror that had befallen those innocent victims, the type of extremely brutal terror that were beyond any possible human comprehension and imagination, hitherto never heard of. I dont want to go into the details of that shameful fascistic terrorism as lots have already been said or written about them.
Although their objective of weakening the EPRP was fulfilled, they were not able to outsmart and topple the Military dictators to establish their own political power. Once the Military consolidated its power, it annihilated MEISON and similar civilian allies, throwing their leaders into mass graves. That was a typical consequence of the unwillingness of many opposition groups to strengthen their solidarity to struggle to bring about fundamental changes in a shorter period of time.
2. The mistakes of some opposition groups in supporting the TPLF Dictatorship
It appears that the Western Powers brokered a deal with Mengistu who peacefully fled the Country and settled in Zimbabwe with his whole family. A pseudo peace conference was arranged in London that never included any Ethiopian multi-national party. The Conference that was planned for 3 days was completed within half a day the American Representative called Herman Cohen who organised and chaired the Conference read out a ready made declaration the EPLF and TPLF to take the control of Eritrea and Ethiopia, respectively. It was a fait accompli, engineered by the Western Powers for their usual divide and rule policy.
2.1 The role of the EPLF
Needless to say that Eritrea was the integral part of Ethiopia for time immemorial. Over those long Millennia, we shared together all the joys as well as the sufferings. The Eritreans are very nice, kind and proud people.
Italy came to invade our Country but was defeated at the catastrophic Battle of Adwa. Due to serious logistic and similar practical reasons, however, the heroic and victorious popular army of Emperor Menelik was not able to chase the Italian forces out of the whole Country. Italians run to the North and lingered in Eritrea until they were eventually crushed and humiliated, thanks to the heroism and selflessness of our Patriots. Due to the unfortunate long stay of the invading Italian forces in Eritrea, the United Nations brokered a referendum to establish the feelings and wishes of the Eritrean people. An overwhelming majority of the population voted for a Federal relationship with their mother land, Ethiopia. This arrangement worked perfectly well for some 10 years until Emperor Haile Selassie flagrantly violated the Agreement and abolished the Federal arrangement. It was from that time that a revolt started, first by the ELF, and overtaken by the EPLF, to restore the Federal agreement. Through the long course of the struggle, however, the EPLF changed the slogan and pushed for a complete cessation from Ethiopia, supported by external forces that always wished to weaken the Ethiopian unity and strength.
I am not against the wishes of the Eritrean people and their democratic natural rights to decide on their destiny, including cessation. However, as far as I am concerned, the EPLF committed the following historical and major errors that had some devastating consequences:
It was not fair to mislead fellow citizens, especially the Eritrean youth with an endless wrong propaganda postulating Ethiopia as a Coloniser, and the Ethiopian people, especially the Amharas as major enemies;
Sponsoring and collaborating with the TPLF to weaken genuine Ethiopian opposition forces, especially the EPRP;
Crowning the TPLF in Ethiopia, forming an independent Eritrea and thinking that they will continue to have an unlimited access to the Ethiopian resources;
Believing the Western powers and the TPLF to achieve its short-sighted and misguided ego, and leaving the Eritrean people in a worst current situation.
2.2 The role of the OLF
The OLF joined the TPLF administration and signed a Charter. If the OLF did not join and sign the TPLF Charter, the Western Powers would not have been able to boast as some indication of legitimacy. Once the TPLF consolidated its power, it kicked out the OLF and facilitated an immediate exile for the OLF leaders. They left in an utter humiliation and shame.
The Oromo people are the most humble, innocent and hard working good citizens. Just like the other similar national groups in the Country, the Oromo people have suffered during the successive repressive Regimes, notably under Emperor Haile Selassies Feudal System, Mengistus brutal military dictatorship and the current ethnic-based brutal dictatorship.
The heroic Ethiopian student movement and the EPRP led ferocious struggles for:
Land to the Tillers;
Equality of all national groups;
Paid precious life sacrifices that history will never forget.
It is very sad to see the OLF failing to unite with the opposition multinational groups for more effective struggle to shorten the political lives of those repressive regimes and bring about a democratic system for a peaceful and sustainable economic prosperity for our troubled great people. It is even more unimaginable how the OLF that refuses to cooperate with the genuine Ethiopian opposition forces chose to trust and ally with the TPLF to share power.
2.3 The roles of individuals
There were also some notable individuals who rendered their support for the accession of the TPLF to power, with their uncalculated and empty rhetoric statements such as:
They are the children of Ethiopia;
They deserve support and chance;
It is beyond my possible human comprehension to see those learned notable elders failing to understand the true nature of the Woyanes and the usual negative roles and plans of the external forces for the decline of our Great Nation.
2.4 The Collapse of the UEDF
In 2003, 15 opposition political groups united to form the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) to carry out a strong peaceful struggle. Among the agreements of the Forces, the need to ensure the formation of an independent Election Board and the presence of independent internal and external observer groups was underpinned, without which the UDEF would withdraw from participation in the pseudo election drama and call for a peaceful popular revolt. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to groups and individuals, including the EPRP that facilitated and sponsored this historic Conference, and true Fathers such as Abune Merkorios and the late Laureate Tsegaye Gebre Medhin, for their constructive advices and blessings
Two of the founding members, the All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP) and Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) sadly pulled out of the UEDF before too long.
A Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) was formed parallel to the UDEF. A dangerous decision was made by the CUD and two members of the UEDF (notably Doctors Beyene Petros and Merera Gudinas respective political Groups) to participate in the 2005 National Election under the Woyane partisan Election Board. Their unwise decision to do so was a big blow to unity-hungry Ethiopians as this was a flagrant violation of the most fundamental agreements they all signed to at the formation of the UEDF to boycott the National Election and lead a peaceful popular disobedience if the regime refuses to allow free and fair election.
The CUD and the UDEF still agreed to cooperate in the peaceful struggle. The CUD and the UEDF made sweeping victory at the 2005 National Election. However, the Woyane/EPRDF dictatorial regime claimed victory through vote rigging, mass murder, torture and intimidation, as expected. The Ethiopian people urged and warned the CUD and the above mentioned two UEDF members, in an unequivocal manner, not to even think of joining the Woyane-led fake Parliament, as doing so would lead to a more disaster than the gross sufferings seen over the previous 14 years. But they did.
The Ethiopian people in general and the Addis Ababa population in particular were ready to show an earth moving and mountain shaking peaceful civil disobedience in respect of their voices. Instead of leading that effective struggle, the CUD actually recommended restraints, castrated the struggle and frustrated the nation. Even then, Meles sent the whole leadership into prison and took further fascistic revenge on the innocent population that voted for the opposition.
Following the rigged election, popular peaceful protests and the fascistic measures taken by the Meles regime, joint task forces were established in the Diaspora, composed of the support groups of the CUD, UEDF, the Civic groups and other concerned Ethiopians. Those joint task forces carried out political meetings, vigils, demonstrations and hunger strikes almost all over the world and made an invaluable contribution to the struggle for the respect of human rights and democratic process.
Despite the above-mentioned historical victories during the struggle of the joint task forces, the CUD support groups in the Diaspora shamelessly isolated themselves, pulling out of those joint task forces and weakening the struggle. The votes at the 2005 National Election in Addis Ababa was counted fairly due to the presence of independent Election Observers, in which the CUD won the majority. Similar victories wedged by the UEDF in the rest of the Country where independent observers were not present were stolen by the TPLF. Due to that victory in Addis Ababa, some naive members have neglected the strong alliance with the UEDF and were preparing to take the control of Addis Ababa, including the Municipality.
We have all been deeply concerned and angered by the decision of the CUD that was not willing to cooperate with genuine Ethiopian opposition groups such as the UEDF to become the founding member of the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD), an Alliance of cessation groups that was brokered by the EPLF.
3. Concluding Remarks
Are we ready to learn from those past mistakes? If not, what alternatives are we prepared to leave behind? Our people have got thousands of years of history and civilisation behind them for the formation of systems of administration and survival mechanisms. We should not shy away from the fundamental fact about the capacity of our people to put in power any political party of its choice or to replace it when necessary in a peaceful free and fair election. The responsibility of all genuine political groups and individuals is only a strong commitment to facilitate the setting up of a democratic platform to empower our people. Taking into account, the strength of the internal dictatorial forces and external enemies, this task requires a very strong cooperation, collaboration and unity among all genuine political and civic groups as well as individuals on the most fundamental question of a common concern, i.e. the removal of dictators, facilitation of a democratic process and abide by the choice of the people. If the opposition joins hands and leads a protracted struggle, no force on this Earth can stop people from bringing down any repressive regime. If this is too much to ask, I wonder about the meaning of a political struggle.
There is a very famous Ethiopian saying: DIR BIYABIR ANBESSA YASSIR. There is also a similar English saying: THE UNITED WE STAND, THE DIVIDED WE FALL.