By Fikru Helebo
October 10, 2005 will be remembered as a dark day in the annals of Ethiopian history. A year ago on this day "electees" of the highly disputed parliamentary elections of May 15, 2005 took their seats in the House of Peoples' Representatives in Addis Ababa, thus setting the stage for one of the most repressive periods in modern Ethiopian history.
A day earlier, on October 9 2005, the main opposition grouping, the CUD, presented eight preconditions for joining parliament, a parliament which resulted from an election that most Ethiopians considered to be neither free nor fair. Sadly, CUD's preconditions were flatly rejected by Meles Zenawi, the head of the Tigrean ruling oligarchy that has ruled Ethiopia since 1991.
CUD's reasonable offer for compromise may have been the last opportunity for the Tigrean clique to begin to redeem themselves from the harm they have done to the Ethiopian people and nation. Now, a full year removed from that infamous day, the likelihood of a compromise between the Tigrean clique and the opposition is highly unlikely. Highly unlikely also is the chance of the Tigrean clique ever getting the benefit of the doubt from the Ethiopian people.
A year ago today I thought there was still a window of opportunity left for a compromise. But my hope for a compromise quickly faded a week later when I learned that the person whom I thought would serve as a bridge between the CUD and the Tigrean clique, Beyene Petros of the UEDF camp, had abdicated his leadership responsibility and was, in fact, secretly wishing for the dismemberment of the CUD camp.
Beyene has gotten his wish to some extent -- the CUD has been weakened as an organization. CUD's entire pre-election leadership is in jail and it is suffering from a leadership vacuum. In spite of its weaknesses, however, the CUD is now more popular than it was before the election. Beyene, on the other hand, has managed to transform himself from one of the most beloved politicians in the country before the election into one of the most hated ones.
Beyene claimed that he joined parliament not out of principle but as a tactical move to save the livelihood of his party while at the same time continuing the negotiattions on the outstanding issues of the May 2005 elections. So far, he has nothing to show on both counts and he will probably never have anything to show in the future. His party, the SEPDC, is now a former shadow of itself, at best, and "waging" a parliamentary struggle has not made any difference in solving the outstanding issues of the elections. On the contrary, his conscious choice to abondon his opposition colleagues has made things a lot more worse!
October 10th is a sad day, indeed, and the past year has been a difficult year for all those who would like to see Ethiopia avoid the path to self-destruction she has been on. But all is not lost. In fact, the odds of getting rid of the Tigrean oligarchy out of power through the ballot are increasing by the day. The reputation the Tigrean clique had carefully cultivated in western capitals of being progressive has been dealt a severe blow as a result of its own miscalculations, and any way you look at it, this is a dying regime whose prospects to survive beyond the next four years is in serious doubt.
Another positive news is that the OLF seems to have finally realized that its agenda for a separate homeland for Oromos is not going any where and has recently taken steps to coordinate its efforts with other pan-Ethiopianist opposition groups. There is no mistaking that the result of the May 2005 elections and events which transpired since then have affected OLF's thinking on the role it wants to play in the Ethiopian political discourse. Pan-Ethiopian political groupings have the responsibility to nurture this positive move by OLF in addition to coordinating efforts amongst themselves.