By Ephrem Madebo
So much of the long history of the struggle between autocratic regimes and the good people of Ethiopia can partially be explained by critically analyzing the essence of good and evil. It is an absolute truth that in every generation of Ethiopians, good citizens seem to clearly outnumber those who are evil, yet those who are evil seem to prevail far too often. It is utterly mystifying and frustrating to see few evils control the economic and political structures of a country for a long period of time. Intellectually, morally, or even statistically, it is appalling to have few evil people stand victorious over the good people of society despite the latter’s lop-sided numerical advantage. In Ethiopia, good and evil have been in a constant fight for many generations, sadly, the good people of Ethiopia have always been in the losing side. In the real world, the out come of the encounter between good and evil is not determined by how good one fights to win; it is determined by how bad one wants to win. The history of the world vividly shows that unless those who claim to be good are willing to stand up and fight for what they believe to be right, they will always be controlled by the few evils.
On Friday July 20, 2007, the struggle of the Ethiopian people for justice and democracy completed its long and twisted chapter when the TPLF regime released 38 high caliber leaders of CUDP. The news of the release sent many Ethiopians around the globe in to a town-hall hand clapping euphoria and all-night long “Eskista” extravaganza. Some jumped for joy, yet others cried hugging and kissing anyone that stood on their way. The July 20 weekend was the only time in memory that brought an unblemished smile on the faces of all opposition leaders. It was a day of jubilation, a day of solace, and most importantly a day of re-grouping. Yes, we completed one ugly chapter in our struggle, but let’s remember that we have a long and treacherous journey ahead of us.
It’s just a week since the CUDP leaders were released, but the question of why the CUDP leaders sign such a controversial document has already been the focal point of discussion among Ethiopians. Why did TPLF release CUDP leaders? Who were the released prisoners? When were they released? How were they released? What do these released leaders intend to do? These are first-class questions worth asking and answering, but to any human being who is conscious of the current political reality of Ethiopia, some of these questions are not even worth considering. In November 2005, evil prevailed over good and the CUDP leaders had to go to jail. Today, the shoe is on the other foot, CUDP leaders are out because good prevailed over evil. There is clear-cut truth here: Guilty, or not guilty, the release of the CUDP leaders is crucially important to the otherwise crippling popular movement. This by no means should imply that our struggle for peace and democracy will die with out CUDP. But, as any mindful person would observe, no single party captured the imagination of millions of Ethiopians in such a short time; and of course, no political imprisonment paralyzed the popular movement like the imprisonment of the CUDP leaders. From November 2005 to July 2007, TPLF was the only visible player in the political scene of Ethiopia, all others were dormant. In the last two years, the only big thing we saw was the formation of AFD, in which Kinijt played a major role, but still condemned, ridiculed, and hacked by the high-pitched elements of the old guard.
So, how should one answer the above five question? Well, it all depends upon who we are talking to. Idiots would answer all of the questions, but they do not make use of the answers. Like the idiots, earsplitting politicians would answer all of the questions and use the answers to make sure that they have enough rumors until another big thing happens. A wise person would consider all of the questions, but answers only the most relevant question(s). Today, some of the important questions to all Ethiopians are: What should be done to make Melez Zenawi the first Ethiopian leader to concede defeat and walk out of the Menelik Palace? How do the released CUDP and all other political leaders steer the popular movement to victory? How do our leaders make use of this momentous time? When do opposition parties stop mud slinging and forge a political alliance? What is the role of civic organizations, the media, and individual citizens in helping the political parities achieve their objectives?
In the last 16 years we vociferously condemned and denounced Meles Zenawi’s regime. Well, good job; but frankly speaking, it is much easier to denounce a wicked man than understanding and ultimately dealing with him. Today, time and momentum are in our side. Let us fully understand Meles and talk to him in the language of his choice. We have repeatedly heard Meles and company boasting to have been the fathers of democracy in Ethiopian. To them, the May 2005 voting process was the ultimate stage of democracy. To us, and to the people we fight for, “it's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting”. If democracy was all about voting, since the majority voted against them; by now, Meles Zenawi and Bereket Simon would have gone to their own country, and Sebaht Nega would have been collecting social security checks.
So what is the next big thing? The next big thing is all about trusting each other, working together and building grass root movements in every locality of Ethiopia. I will repeat my creed of the past. OLF, UEDF, CUDP, SEPC and the many other parties exist in the context of each other, therefore, accepting and exploring the rich context of individual differences does not imply defeat or loss. Nor does it mean surrendering your own intellectual, aesthetic, or moral perspective. It simply means that you gain a deeper, broader understanding of where your own views fit in with society. Evidently, Ethiopia has a huge amount of complex social and economic problems; however, the remedy for Ethiopia’s problems does not warrant the existence of such a countless political parties and ethnic liberation fronts (LFs). The next big thing requires extended dialogue that brings the multiethnic parties and the LFs towards a single common objective. Temporary disagreements and some procedural impediments should not discourage the different parties and the LFs from attending dialogues. After all, isn’t it the mark of great minds to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it?
The multiethnic political parties and the ethnic LFs might have some deep-seated differences, but I do believe, they all agree that TPLF is an evil that should be dealt with. Hence, they need to understand that the life of TPLF is extended by the things they do and the things they don’t do. To work together, dialogues are inescapable tools that curb differences, not to just get rid of TPLF, but to establish a true democratic and united Ethiopia. So, will our political parties stand together and fight the TPLF regime collectively, or, continue their never ending individual race to “Arat Kilo”? Will CUDP, OLF, SEPC and UEDF do something different, or keep on playing the mind numbing “do nothing” type political game of the 60’s? We need to understand that more than 75million good people are sill suffocated by a handful of evil people. Let’s never forget that the only necessary condition for the triumph of the wicked is that good people do nothing.
Fortunately, we find ourselves at the dawn of the third millennium. Let’s celebrate this once in a thousand year moment by Laying the foundation for a stable state of Ethiopia in which all citizens are equal before the law. If we accomplish this noble task, our names will be immortalized in the history books. In deed, our names will be written in a completely different tone and page than Meles and company. At the end of 2999, we will be remembered just like Nelson Mandela, George Washington, and Kamal Ataturk. Are we determined? If yes, so help us God!