By Concerned Members and Supporters
For Immediate Release
February 22, 2006
A seriously concerned group consisting of members and supporters of the Southern Ethiopia People's Democratic Coalition (SEPDC), residing in North America, advanced a series of recommendations to the SEPDC leadership in the wake of the ongoing political crisis in Ethiopia. The group is deeply concerned about the integrity of the Southern Ethiopia movement and the organization that currently represents it, in view of the recent behavior of the leaders, particularly the non-transparent and divisive manner in which they joined the parliament.
The group believes that the Southern movement is guided by the need for equitable and full participation of the peoples of the South in Ethiopian politics and its fair contribution to the social and economic development of the country. As such, the movement should be aligned with the popular struggle in Ethiopia that is currently under way. In this spirit, the group convened a couple of telephonic meetings in November and conveyed the following to the SEPDC leadership:
- Immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners arrested in connection with the May 2005 election controversy and recent protest by the opposition.
The SEPDC leadership responded to our letter on time, but the group found it entirely unsatisfactory. Consequently, a follow-up and extended telephonic meeting was held in December. After a lengthy discussion, a decision was taken to send a follow-up letter [see below] detailing the group's reasons for finding the response unsatisfactory and then asking the SEPDC leadership to reconsider its position. There were 15 individuals from various states in the US whose names were appended to the letter as signatories. The group consisted of long-term members and supporters of SEPDC, including some members of the organization's central committee, who are now residing in the United States.
The group has particularly been known for its continuing support of the SEPDC under the leadership of Dr. Beyene Petros and his colleagues. However, Dr. Beyene and the other members of the executive committee kept the letter hostage on procedural grounds, and the letter was not even presented to the SEPDC leadership (Central Committee). We are deeply disappointed that the letter continues to be held hostage, and at this stage we have no choice but to go public with our collective effort to salvage the Southern Ethiopian movement in the face of the misguided approach that the SEPDC leadership has adopted. Hereby we are releasing our second letter in its entirety. We wish to emphasize that we are forever committed to the advancement of the peoples of Southern Ethiopia and will continue to support their rightful participation in the struggle for democracy, justice and the rule of law.
December 15, 2005
The Central Committee of the Southern Ethiopia People's Democratic Coalition (SEPDC)
C/O Dr. Beyene Petros
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Dear Committee Members,
Pursuant to your response to our recommendations, we have held two telephone conferences. The final telephone conference (TC) group attracted twenty-four individuals and it involved two hours of heated exchange. The TC group came to the following conclusions and action items.
1. The TC group appreciated the manner in which the CC took our recommendations seriously and discussed them in full faith.
2. The essence of our letter to you was to urge the SEPDC leadership and the MPs to fully participate in the popular struggle for democracy in Ethiopia and to withdraw from the parliament if certain minimum conditions were not met. The TC group concluded that the SEPDC CC rejected our recommendations. Further, the group observed that the CC's meeting to reaffirm the decision of the Executive Committee to remain in the parliament was convened despite and after the TC group submitted a set of recommendations to the organization.
3. The group is dissatisfied with the reasons adopted for rejecting our recommendations. While the group understands that the SEPDC leadership is in a better position to know the exact details of the challenges and the opportunities the organization and the people are facing, there are facts and developments that are readily available to all of us regarding the current political situation in the country, the government's anti-democratic actions, and popular response against them.
4. On your decision to remain in the parliament, you wish to base it on the future events that may affect the extent to which you will be productive in your struggle. You may then consider leaving it altogether if you find it hard to function through the parliament. The group, however, seriously doubts if anything of a measurable value can be achieved in a parliament where a new regulation requires 51% of the house to put an item on the agenda. In fact, the mere presence of an opposition in a parliament deemed unlawful by the people can only be considered as passive acquiescence with the actions of the regime that has resorted to repression and force to stay in power.
5. SEPDC is a democratic organization that advocates democracy and practices democracy in its decision-making processes. It is the belief of the TC group that the way the executive committee of the SEPDC decided to join the parliament was not transparent and was divisive.
6. The SEPDC leadership considers joining the parliament a mature tactical political move, but the TC group is yet to see any accomplishments thus far, particularly in reversing the procedural rules of the parliament that was decreed by the retiring MPs and in securing promises from the regime to release political prisoners jailed during the most recent popular uprising. In fact, SEPDC must establish a working relationship with CUDP to assist them secure release of their leaders and advancement of the demands of the opposition, including the establishment of a government of national unity and an independent election board.
7. The TC group initiated these discussions to address SEPDC related issues as they relate to the political situation in the country and government actions against the people's movement for democracy and rule of law. The outstanding issues within the UEDF did not and do not constitute the core of our communications. The TC group is constituted by individuals that have supported the SEPDC and the people of the south for years, and have the knowledge of the intricate relationships within the Ethiopian opposition. Thus, we reject any suggestion that the TC group may be acting as a conduit for political interests of other groups outside the Southern movement.
8. It should be recognized that the role of members and supporters of the SEPDC and the Southern movement is not limited to financial resources, but it should also include input to tactical and strategic issues facing the organization and the movement. The TC group strongly believes that the Southern movement should be completely aligned with the popular Ethiopian movement, including with those civic organizations that promote democratization, at this critical juncture in the country's history.
9. As a result of our recommendations being rejected by the SEPDC leadership and our dissatisfaction with the reasons given to us, we are asking again the leadership to reconsider its position and accept our recommendations, the essence of which is stated in item #2 above. We would appreciate your response to this letter by January 8, 2006. If you continue to stay in the parliament, we believe you should initiate a public debate with the people that you represent on the benefits and adverse consequences of your actions.
10. We sincerely hope that the leadership will reverse its approach. Otherwise, we think this misguided approach carries the danger of derailing the southern movement that has been nurtured over a decade, while misaligning the struggle of the Southern Ethiopian Peoples with the rest of the Ethiopian movement at this critical juncture. At this stage, we (TC group) have no choice but disassociate ourselves from the leadership's misguided approach. We will, however, continue to support the struggle of the Southern Ethiopian peoples and quest for democratization in Ethiopia.
Concerned Members and Supporters (list of names of individuals included in the original letter)