Friday, August 10, 2007

The better of the “Devil’s Alternative” is the right choice

By Ephrem Madebo

In the last two years, so many of us have repeatedly compared CUDP leaders to Nelson Mandela, arguably the best visionary leader of our time. Well, sometimes our emotion rules over our intellect and we do so many things that don’t give sense. Nelson Mandela is the wisest leader of this era and a living symbol of black excellence. To be honest, the only similarity between Mandela and the CUDP leaders is that both went to jail for crimes committed by their respective governments. In anything else, they are different. To a person who skimmed his article, Dr. Solomon Terfa’s recent commentary on ethiomedia seems to be comparing the CUDP leadership to Nelson Mandela.

I may be wrong, but Dr. Solomon’s inciting and incisive critique on the Shemagles is a what-if-analysis that implied what the CUDP leaders and the Shemagles should have done in the recent Shemagles brokered negotiation. As Dr. Solomon himself admitted, his article is hypothetical, i.e., there could be many imaginary answers as to what Mandela would have done if he was in the shoes of the CUDP leaders. Hypothetical scenarios or questions can be speculated in so many different ways, but it is very difficult to conclusively state them as reliable statements of truth. Let me use Dr. Solomon’s own words: “This hypothetical-scenario is an exercise that is routinely done in political science and international relation courses”. This is a correctly stated statement, and I have no second thought, but I just want readers to realize that even political scientists or seasoned political analysts would take a highly polarized stand on what Nelson Mandela would have done had he been in the shoes of the CUDP leaders.

Based on the then objective condition of South Africa and the organizational strength of the ANC party, in the 1970/80s’, Mandela made the right choice when he rejected Peter Botha’s offer of nominal freedom. It was a wise and matured decision in the South Africa of the 1970/80s’. Well, what would have Mandela done in the Ethiopia of 2007? This is a genuine, but hypothetical, a compelling, but speculative question. So why be consumed with a question that doesn’t serve our cause or purpose? Why can’t we deal with a practical question that sheds light in our path? My argument is intuitive and simple. It is very difficult to answer the “what would” Mandela has done question because we can’t read Mandelas’s mind, even if we think we can, there are significant domestic and international differences between South Africa of the 1970s and today’s Ethiopia.

“The what" should question is an opinion inclined question that can be answered by observing objective conditions on the ground and making “a what-if-analysis”. We can answer such questions in so many different ways without worrying for the risk of being wrong. “The what” would question could also be answered in many ways, but every answer has a higher risk of being wrong. In the latter case, we are answering a question by reading Mandela’ mind [which is difficult, or impossible], where as in the former case, we’re doing nothing other than expressing our opinion on how Mandela should have dealt with the issue. Opinions may be poor, so-so, or good, but they are neither wrong nor right on events whose outcome is yet to be decided.

When N. Mandela was arrested in 1963, his ANC Party was 51 years old, with a long time history of struggle in its pocket and many veteran leaders in its power structure [O.Tambo, T.Mbeki, J.Zuma, Ramaphosa, and Maharai]. Mandela enjoyed un-paralleled international support when he was in jail, while the CUDP leaders were forgotten by the international community until the day they were found guilty. In November 2005, when Meles arrested the CUDP leaders, CUDP was not even one year old. Yes, almost all of the CUDP leaders were true intellectuals, but their combined political experience was not at the level of ANC. Mandela’s incarceration might have appeased proponents of the apartheid regime, but it did not slow down the struggle of black South Africans for freedom and equality.

In the contrary, in the summer of 2005, the reckless action of Meles Zenawi dimmed the hope of democracy in Ethiopia. In late Fall of the same year, when the entire CUDP leaders were arrested, the fragile pro-democracy movement became paralyzed and went in to a coma state. Given the time & space difference, and such diametrically opposed economic, social and political conditions, it would absolutely be unrealistic to demand the CUDP leaders to behave the same way Mandela behaved when he was offered a deal by the apartheid regime. There was ANC before Mandela, but there was no CUDP before Professor Mesfin, Dr. Berhanu, Dr. Yackob, Dr.Hailu, Brtukuan, Muluneh Eyoel etc.

Evidently, hypothetical scenarios or questions are good because they give rise to a realistic question. So instead of speculating on what Mandela would have done, I think it would be wise to take Mandela out of the picture and consider a slightly different, but very relevant question. How differently should the CUDP leaders have acted and still secure their release? A critically analysis of this question will augment our subjective judgment and enable us to make informed decision. Otherwise, our judgments and decisions will be subjective reflecting our own ambition. The CUDP leaders could have dealt with the negotiation in many different ways, but as far as the Ethiopian people are concerned, there were only two out comes. Get out of jail, or stay in jail. This by no means is an issue of good, or bad; it is the matter of being right, or wrong.

In a pro-basket ball game, a last second call against a one point leading home team is usually considered a bad call even if the foul was committed, but it is the right call. Definitely, the referees understand the call silences more than 20k cheering home fans, but should they be emotional and not make the call? If they do, it is good for the home team and the supportive crowd, but doing so is not only wrong; it is also bad for the game of basketball. The referees have two options: 1) Make the call and do the right thing for the game of basketball. 2) Ignore the foul and appear to be good for the home team. I will leave the judgment and interpretation of the example to the reader. In the light of this example, let’s consider the following three important conditions: 1) Our country finds itself in a decisive time where the important task of keeping her unity and territorial integrity is left to those who vow to fight alongside her enemies. 2) We have elected leaders in jail and a partially aborted popular movement in coma. 3) The fourth parliamentary election is coming in less than three years time.

As to me, if the benefit largely out weights the cost, I will happily incur the political cost of any decision that stops the disintegration of my country. Here is what Abraham Lincoln said on unity: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that" If Lincoln was that determined to save the Union at the cost of a continued misery of black people, what is our empirical, moral, or historical foundation to demand how & why the CUDP leaders secured their freedom? Why can’t the elected leaders of Ethiopia do what they think is right to stop the bleeding of their country? To begin with, the crucial question is- Why are they in jail? Not how they were released!

The two years of relative silence and frustration in the opposition camp has clearly demonstrated how bad the popular movement missed the CUDP leaders. So when a condition that re-unites long separated “lovers” is created, what should be the right choice? Stay behind bars for the rest of their life, or come out of jail at a cost and energize the otherwise dormant opposition politics? Save the unity of the swiftly disintegrating Ethiopia, or stay in jail with no hope of passing the Ethiopia they inherited to the next generation? Lead the opposition for the next election in 2010, or sit in Kaliti/Kerchele and guarantee Meles Zenawi and his gang secure an easy fourth term? Social cost-benefit analysis is a good thing to consider here, but I will rather skip it to protect the innocent.

Once again Dr. Solomon said: “Let us recall that Mandela was in the dungeon of apartheid for over twenty five years. I should point out that prison did not deter the leaders of ANC from discharging their historic responsibility” (emphasis added by me). This is an absolutely true statement, but in the Ethiopian case, the prison not only deterred the free CUDP leaders, but it also created multiple Kinjit factions that crippled the popular movement. All in all, the Mandela-ANC experience and historical setting is totally different from the recent experience of CUDP leaders. Therefore, shouldn’t Mandela-ANC and CUDP be viewed independently? While the Mandela-CUDP comparative analysis is an absolutely right task to consider, imposing Mandela’s action on the CUDP leaders is an out-and-out denial of reality. Remember, too much analysis is paralysis! Currently, we all are eagerly expecting to have a town-hall meeting with the CUDP leaders, and here are some possible discussion questions: What is your plan to re-vitalize the struggle? Why did you listen to the Shimagles and bend to the will of Meles? What different things will you do in the next election? Why did you sign a document that makes you look like guilty? What do you do to create a strong political alliance? The CUDP leaders shall definitely entertain all of the above questions, but in the face of the current political crisis of our country, and the tight schedule of the leaders; some of the above questions are inconsequential to all of us individually, and to our country at large.

Obviously, the release of the CUDP leaders by itself does not give us hope for the future; however, their freedom is a vitally necessary factor to resuscitate the chocked hope of our people. The political discourse of the last fifty years did not take us anywhere because we dwelt too much in the past. Let’s change our course and give more emphasis to the future. The Ethiopian farmers, artisans, and working people want to hear our vision for the new millennium. Let’s be intelligent and brave enough to face the Ethiopian people with a vision, and ask their cooperation for its realization. If we can’t prove we’re good enough, let’s quietly leave the forum for the brave, the good, and the able people.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

insightful analysis, bravo!

Anonymous said...

There was no letter of guilt thatw as signed. You are jumping to conclusion without having all the facts.


If they signed the letter that Meles wrote to Meles and attached their signatures, they would have been out a long time ago.

Ato Ephrem, you are disrespecting
the brave and defiant Muluneh at the very least by your very newregna statement

Tesfa said...

Very good counter analysis! Only issue I have is you are also making a very different analogy from Abraham Lincoln. You were not only mentioning an example but imposing the same analogy with the dilemma of Abraham Lincoln. "Save the unity of the swiftly disintegrating Ethiopia, or stay in jail with no hope of passing the Ethiopia they inherited to the next generation?" This statement I quote from you seems unrealistic especially as forcing the signing of CUDP leaders, if they signed it. If they really signed it that does not seem to be the strongest motive. Probably saving CUDP and energizing it for the next election in addition to avoiding unfair incarceration of the leaders may be the strongest motivations. Nonetheless, it was a good point especially your casting of intentions in the game theoretic setting is very useful to understand leaders actions in realistic context of politics. But I would not dismiss out of hand, Dr. Solomon's attempt as it dared to raise those contexts and prompted you to map out not only "what if" questions (counterfactuals) but also what is next issues.
Keep it up, man.

Anonymous said...

It is always good to give ones thought on any issue that shades light on the critical junction of Ethiopia. Guys, the main thing is trying to secure the future of Ethiopia. In what ever way the CUDP leaders secure their release, it is welcome. No one gets hurt as a result of their action. No political compromise took place as a consequence of their release. Just get on with the real work, which is the revival of democracy in Ethiopia. Political debate is great. That is what we are lacking. Let our brain rule us not the nitty-gritty emotional politics.

SHENQATAW said...

I HAVE A SERIOUS DOUBT ABOUT YOUR WRONG ASSERTIONS OF CUDP LEADERS' INTERGRITY AND DETERMINATION TO CONTINUE THE STRUGGLE.IT SEEMS THAT YOU HAVE LITTLE KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE SHIMAGILES DIRTY TRICK TO GET CUDP LEADER SIGN THE "AGREEMENT" WHICH LATER WAS REVEALED AS BEREKET SIMON'S FORGED LETTER. FOR YOU, THE COMPARISON OF KINIJIT LEADERS' ENCARCERATION DOES NOT EQUATE WITH THAT OF NELSON MANDELA, BUT FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN THE FIELD OF STRUGGLE WITH WEYANES, IT IS A WORTH COMPARISON. THE COMPARISON PEOPLE ARE MAKING IS THE DETERMINATION TO STAND FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVED IS RIGHT, TO STAND AGAINST WEYANE'S SHREWD TRICKERY AND SHOW THE PUBLIC THAT ELECTED THEM. THE SIMILARITIES ARE NOT COLOR OR IDEOLOGY OR RACE, BUT THE PRINCIPLE, TO DIE FOR THE PEOPLE. IF YOU LOOK AT THE ORIGINAL LETTER THEY WROTE TO THE SO-CALLED SHIMAGLES, THEY REASONED OUT THAT THEY WERE FORCED TO LESSEN THE PAIN AND SUFFERING OF THOSE FAMILIES OF PRISONERS AND THE ETHIOPIAN PEOPLE AS A WHOSE AND ALSO LOOK AN ALTERNATIVE TO RE-IGNITE THE STRUGGLE BY SHARING RESPONSIBILITIES WITH WEYANES. FOR THOSE OF US WHO ARE IN THE DIASPORA, IT IS EASY TO CRITIC AND MOCK IN ORDER TO SHOW HOW FAR WE ARE EXCELLING IN CRITIQING. IT REMINDS ME OF WHAT FREDRICK ENGELS SAID ABOUT PHILOSOPHERS AS IF PHILOSOPHERS INTERPRETED THE WORLD IN DIFFERENT WAYS, YET THEY COULD NOT CHANGE IT (NOT EXCT QUOTATION, BUT SAME CONCEPT). I HAVE NO IDEA WHETHER YOU CRITICIZED THOSE WEYANE CLAPPERS WHO CONSTANTLY TRIED TO COMPARE MELES ZENAWI WITH NELSON MANDELA, EVEN THOUGH MELES NEVER WENT TO JAIL EXCEPT BEING DETAINED FOR FAILING TO EXECUTE ARMED GORRILLA AMBUSH AGINST DERGUE GARRISON.

Ephrem Madebo said...

Mr.anonymous,
With all due respect to your opinion and CUDP’S leaders, I still believe that they signed a document that makes them look responsible for Meles’s crime. If you have public information that says otherwise let me know, I will correct myself. If you can’t, your comment is baseless. I do wait your response! Let me know your Newer "yelelew" statment. Please let me know the nature of the statment they signed!

Ephrem Madebo said...

Tesfa,
I will still stand corrected if you convince me, but here is my logic for using A. Lincoln’s words in my article.

To A. Lincoln, saving the union was the only right choice, which to me is wrong. You don’t save a Union that enslaves human beings, in fact you kill it. So he had two options, he selected the wrong at the expense of enslaving Blacks. In 2005, when CUDP was formed its first unifying factor was the endangered Ethiopian unity. So, in my opinion, the CUDP leaders were forced to sign what ever they signed (may be bad to them individually) to save the nation’s unity which is right to Ethiopia. Let me know what you think. Thank you.

Ephrem Madebo said...

Sure as you said what matters is the future, and the responsibility for that falls on me and you. If you read the last two pragraphs of my last article, it asks some questions and recommends what to be. If we ask the CUDP and other party leaders those questions and if we collaborte arround the parties and the answers , I am sure it answeres your worries.

Anonymous said...

Mr Shenqataw,

You seemed to be confused. I can’t see any credible argument in your comment apart from slapping and fouling the Shimagiles. Have ever seen or read the later thy signed? Or you are just blowing the wind. I till see Madebos’s article is a good article to Dr. Tefera’s comment. May be you thought that Madebo doesn’t like CUDP leadership. If you read his analysis and augments carefully, you may find that he actually admire them for what they did for the people of Ethiopia. On the other hand he is right by saying comparing CUDP leaders with Mandela. As statisticians usually say you can only compare apple with apple. They will be judged by the people of Ethiopia and history. Don’t rush to praise them because they just begun the “long walk to freedom”. I can understand that you have a deep hatred of the government to your bone. Let me tell you my brother, hate seldom blackouts rational thinking.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your own way of analysis. It is interesting.

Just to add few points:

1. ANC as the name stands was not just by the South African for the South Africans. When it was founded in 1912, its main purpose was to “unite African people against the rule of white minority and to act collectively for the creation of a non-racial and democratic South Africa”. I believe this had helped the organization to gain an undeniable international support. CUDP is just by the Ethiopians for Ethiopians – indigenous!

2. When Mandela was imprisoned it was just him who spent 27 years in jail (although some of the leaders were in and out of jail). This shows that the leadership was relatively intact contrary to what happened to the CUDP.

3. Back in the 70s the politics of that time was East vs. West ideology unlike what we have now - terrorism. From what we’re witnessing everyday, the socialism/capitalism ideological struggle was by far different from this terrorism issue. The former was more conventional and predictable (there were numerous nuclear arms negotiations and meetings) while the latter is even sometimes hard to define what it is.

4. ANC had an armed wing - Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) which cannot be even compared to what the CUDP stands.

In light of these facts and others which you have mentioned, I believe it is very difficult to compare Mandela with the CUDP leaders. One fact that resembles them is they both believe in non-violence struggle and as you have mentioned they both were thrown to jail. So, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to relate what happened to Mandela to that of the CUDP leaders. Therefore their acceptance of the “shimgilina” deal cannot be compared to what Mandela was offered.

I hope I have made myself clear.

Lafiw

Gooch said...

Good analysis, Ato Ephrem.

Of all the factors you have outlined, the key factor was that the democracy struggle seemed to get progressively weaker while the leaders were imprisoned. One of the main ideas behind becoming a prisoner of conscience is that this tends to galvanize and strengthen movements, but in this case, quite the opposite was happening. So the value of their remaining in jail was significantly lowered.

enset said...

Hello Gooch,

I think you hit the nail on the head. This point you highlighted was probably the main reason why the CUD leaders accepted the mediators deal at the time they did, and rightly so, I might add.

There was another fascinating analysis on this topic by Mesay Kebede of the University of Dayton where he stated that "Meles alone comes out victorious from the ordeal of CUD leaders". Mesay makes some pertinent points, but the bottom line for me is the fate of the democracy movement and whether or not the release of the CUD leaders will help the democracy movement.

If it helps, as I hope it does, then Meles' "win" that was articulated by Mesay will have been a blessing in disguise for the democracy movement. If it does not and the CUD leaders blow this opportunity to build on what they achieved in the last two and a half years, then I will concede to Mesay that Meles has definitely won. We shall wait and see.

Fikru

Anonymous said...

Hi There!!

I do agree on the release of the leaders on what ever way. But the main point is to build on this and try hard to bring about a change. They realy need to put together a well thought political program and adgenda to be effective and sucessfull.

Anonymous said...

You newer statement is you parroting woyane's lies. The so called letter that Meles wrote to himself and posted on Walta is bogus. These are people who live and die with their integrity intact.

Why don't you just hold you horses until the truth comes out. And stop being so damn defensive.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ephrem:

I thought you articulated your argument in a more realistic analysis than Mr. Tefra, not withstanding his choice of ‘hypothetical’ as his entry point. For a moment, I thought he was being insensitive to the miseries of the CUPD members and supporters in and outside Kaliti and other jails. I wonder if ‘Mandela’ would have fled his country had his big boss fired him; just another hypothetical question. Here is a humble word of advice for you: When mean and hateful people try to hurt you, just consider them like sand paper. They may rub you and scratch you many times, but ultimately you will come out smooth and polished. As for them, they will end up warn out, ugly and useless ‘sand paper’.

Keep up the good work and do not waste too much time on some unproductive/counter-productive comments from ‘your readers’.

God bless our beloved country and the people!