Friday, June 30, 2006

A Drill for False Alarm, the Solitary Journey of UEDF

Ephrem Madebo

In the last fifteen months the political reality of Ethiopia has constantly been changing. The dynamic emergence, fallout, and re-emergence of events have forced both the opposition and the TPLF to change their strategy and adopt to the daily changing political environment. In my opinion, all the major political parties have sensed the dynamics of the Ethiopian political situation, but none have paid due attention to the changing events like the OLF and TPLF.

Political victory is unthinkable in the absence of battle seasoned leaders and a proactive party leadership. I have a great respect and appreciation for CUDP, but with its entire leadership suffering in jail, the ability of CUDP to stay proactive in Ethiopia's fast paced political life is minimum. In fact, the recent creation of CUDP international leadership is a wonderful move that shows the political maturity of the CUDP leaders in keeping the party ahead of events. Evidently, the CUDP international leadership was created to align the party's strategy with the changing political conditions. With all due respect to UEDF, I do believe that UEDF is a reactive party that suffers from a self-inflected wound. UEDF proudly presents it self as a pioneer party that started a political dialog with OLF, yet the same UEDF blames OLF and CUDP for forming a forum for dialog. According to my understanding, the purpose of the OLF-UEDF dialog was to forge a unity. If so, why run away when the foundation for unity is laid down?

On Sunday June 25, 2006, I was one of the many people who ignored the formidable rain and flood of the Washington, DC area to attend the much awaited meeting called by UEDF. As eager as I was to hear UEDF's position [on AFD] from the mouth of the horse, I was shocked and simmered in total disbelief when I heard a poor unedited essay that lacked coherence and thesis statement. Most of the participants of the meeting challenged and questioned the solitary journey of UEDF and demanded reason for such an act, but instead of reason, the audience was given a sermon that black mailed and repeatedly accused CUDP. According to the sermon on Sunday, UEDF is the only party that cares for Ethiopia's unity and challenges the TPLF constitution.

Most of the six point contentions of UEDF are technical in nature and could have been solved in the AFD forum. In fact, the contentions were good reasons to join AFD, not to run away and cry like a child who spills his own food. My advice to UEDF: All the time that you spent analyzing the Ethiopian political problem is greatly appreciated, but no matter how devoted and how courageous you are in analyzing problems, your effort will not bear fruits unless you match your time of analysis with synthesis. Remember, both analysis and synthesis are group efforts. Please join the group and work together with CUDP, OLF, ONLF, EPPF, and SLF.

As we all know, for the good part of the past thirty years the OLF carried a secessionist slogan and distanced itself from most mainstream Ethiopian political parties. In the other side, most mainstream Ethiopian political parties treated OLF as an ordinary terrorist organization and made no attempt of political cooperation with this giant thirty three years old organization. As a result of this meaningless and cold standoff, the Ethiopian people journey to justice and democracy lost the synergy that could have come from the political co-operation of OLF. The historic May 2005 election refuted the use of force [Gun] to achieve political goals in Ethiopia and gave a nice lesson to the ubiquitous ethnic liberation fronts. To be honest, in May 2005, when most Ethiopians went to the ballot box, they knew less what the vision of the opposition really was, however, they voted for a start-up party in a larger proportion because they were dead sure that the alternative was evil and they were eager to see a peaceful transfer of power.

In May 2005, the majestic appearance of CUDP and its young visionary leaders captured the imagination of many Ethiopians. As a result many urban Ethiopians gave their vote to CUDP. In Ethiopia we don't have a rural urban political divide, therefore, it is odd to have a landslide victory in urban centers and a disproportionate loss in rural areas. Large urban centers like Addis Ababa, Awassa, Jimma, Nazereth, Bahar Dar, and Dire Dawa are places where true Ethiopian diversity is expressed. Why would Oromos that live in Addis Ababa and other urban areas vote for the Opposition, and those who live in the rural area vote for the EPRDF? It is the answer to this kind of statistical and sociological question that forced the OLF to reconsider its long standing and obsolete colonial question. In deed, in the last six months the political tone of the OLF has changed dramatically. High ranking OLF officials have started envisioning democracy and justice to the Oromo people in the context of a united Ethiopia. Here are recent excerpts from two OLF officials:

"The future is doomed only for those who fear equality, democracy and freedom, and for those who uphold and condone injustice, inequality and dictatorship. I say freedom now, equality now, democracy now for all peoples of Ethiopia, and Freedom and Democracy for all" Dr. Shigut Geleta, OLF Head of Foreign Relations in Europe

"If the international community and the others in Ethiopia are ready to be serious and to seriously look to resolve the complicated problems in Ethiopia, OLF is ready to be a leading partner in this change" Dawud Ibsa, OLF Chairman

For a long time OLF was obsessed with the creation of Oromia state while other political parties were tormented by every move of the OLF to make the state of Oromia a reality. In this destructive zero sum game where neither the OLF achieved its goal nor the pro-unity parties faced their fear, the only beneficiaries were the enemies of Ethiopia. Retrospectively speaking, the short lived pre-election democratic face of the TPLF regime was a tantalizing empty promise. Currently, we as a society are so close to freedom and democracy, but we are guarded afar by TPLF from concretely holding to it. There is no question that TPLF is a voracious predator, but in the face of a united opposition, TPLF is not a formidable enemy. Our dreadful enemy is our inability to unite.

Ethiopia finds it self at a time where the unity of the opposition parties is a necessity, not a choice. Our nation is at the verge of disintegration; if Meles realizes his diabolic dream, the OLF would have no Oromia to separate, CUDP would have no place to unite, and UEDF would have no country and constitution to brag about. UEDF, CUDP, and OLF should understand that they exist in the context of each other. Accepting and exploring the rich context of their differences does not imply defeat or loss. Nor does it mean surrendering their own intellectual, aesthetic, or moral perspective. It simply means that they gain a deeper and broader understanding of where their own views fit in with society. That, in turn, helps them to navigate society more effectively.

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