By Ephrem Madebo
Our country Ethiopia might be as old as the earth it self, and the Ethiopian state might be one of the oldest on earth, but despite this inspiring historical and political background, dualism and Party politics are new phenomena that have eluded generation of Ethiopian intellectuals who dreamed multi-party democracy for Ethiopia. One month ago, I vowed to not dip my hands in to the internal conflict of Kinjit, however, after a month of speculation and shuddering political roller costar, I decided to end the silence because without debate, or without criticism, no party, no government, and no country can succeed -- and no democracy can survive. In the last 40 years, the Ethiopian political spectrum has entertained a plethora of political parties and political alliances, but none of the parties has stood firm to celebrate its 10th birthday without dividing and sub-dividing like an amoeba. Sadly, this has been a shocking truth of the Ethiopian political parties from the infamous EPRP of the 1970s to the flamboyant CUDP of the new millennium.
Evidently, no political party has captivated the imagination of young Ethiopians like EPRP did in the 1970s. The Ethiopian youth of the late 1960s and early1970s (the golden generation), was more loyal and obedient to EPRP than to its parents. I remember, I had a distant cousin who used to carry a potassium cyanide capsule whenever he was out on the streets on a party mission. We had such a determined youth that preferred its death than compromising party secrets. Today, party confidential is compromised on VOA and other media outlets by those who are at the top of protecting it. In the middle of the 1970s, EPRP crumbled and so did the morale and fighting sprit of the Ethiopian youth. When EPRP ceased to exit as a viable political force, the Ethiopian youth saw no reason for everything it did in the past, and lost the courage to stand for the future. Therefore, the youth resorted to substance abuse, alcoholism, and jolly-jackism.
It took 30 years to see another party that fascinated the Ethiopian youth and heaved it out of three decades of political retirement. This party is Kinjit. Though Kinjit has its own problem from its inception, many Ethiopians gave it the benefit of the doubt to be the party that gathers the momentum lost decades ago. As a result, many young people gave their life, savagely beaten, went to jail, and persecuted believing that the “sprit” of Kinjit shall muster them to realize their life long dream of freedom and justice. Any political miscalculation, sabotage, or mistake that creates any life threatening damage on Kinjit tears apart not only Kinjit as a party, it also obliterates the sprit of Kinjit from the minds of millions of Ethiopians. There is no doubt that our country Ethiopia is a very old country, but its population is comprised of a higher proportion of young people. We can not afford any EPRP like mistake of the 1970s that discourages our youth and alienates it from the political affairs of its nation.
Unfortunately, today, a paternal figure of the opposition camp is playing the most dangerous game of his political life. Engineer Hailu Shawel, the very person entrusted for his patriotic leadership of Kinjit, is on the verge of reducing Kinjit in to useless factions that will easily melt in the blistering heat of the TPLF political furnace. Engineer Hailu’s awkwardly designed moves and acts seem to constantly oppose his public words. The Engineer has repeatedly been heard saying “Kinjit shall never be divided”, but his acts and strange behaviors ever since he arrived to North America have jeopardized the life of Kinjit as a political entity. Should we beg Engineer Hailu to keep himself away from the riff-raffs of history that surrounded him and put his money where his mouth is? If that helps, I will definitely beg!
Ethiopians have unequivocally said no to dictatorial rule and supremacy of any kind. The following is what I heard from an extreme right wing radio station here in Washington, DC: “Kinjit as a party must implement the decisions of its chairman” (Dr. XX). If this is what the doctor is dreaming to Ethiopia, and if this is the kind of leadership Engineer Hailu insists to impose on Kinjit; I guess, both Ato Hailu and the doctor have few countries left in the world (China, Cuba). This is nothing, but the Nicolae Ceausescu type of party leadership. Engineer Hailu, or any leader of Kinjit has the responsibility of executing the majority decision of Kinjit regardless of which side of the decision the leader stands. In a recent Washington DC meeting, Engineer Hailu suggested that he would replace the “renegades” by others willing to work under his leadership. What is a party to Engineer Hailu? Isn’t a party a place where people of dissenting ideas work together? I’m sure it’s not a place where one exchanges an orange for another orange and end-up with the same orange. In a party one exchanges ideas and end-up with more ideas. I wonder if the Engineer thinks that his mere existence makes his side a majority regardless of the number of people in the other side.
Engineer Hailu’s inability to respect those who disagree with him is a sign of a quick descend from cynicism in to dogmatism. Don’t call me rude, for I am a true believer of reason. If Ato Hailu’s stand was honest, but erroneous, I would have stood with him and used reason to correct his error. This is not peculiar to me; most of us would tolerate error of opinion if reason is left free to combat it. But, the Engineer who himself was a hostage of tyranny a few months ago is holding ‘reason’ hostage, and making a nonsensical argument that would make Plato puke from the heavens.
Leaders unite people of different ideas, not create a rift. Leaders motivate people, not discourage them. Leaders rally followers around a common objective, not diminish the hope of people. Ato Hailu Shawel, the long time paternal figure of Kinjit has denied fatherhood to his political sons and daughters by reducing himself from a graceful leader of Kinjit to a discourteous leader of “petty politics”. The Renaissance Hotel meeting where Ato Hailu unveiled his degenerative vision was chaired by Dr. Taye Woldesemayat. My pen has written much about Dr. Taye when he was important to our struggle; I will not spoil that same pen by writing about this person whose public misdeed increases in direct proportion to his age.
The existence of Kinjit as a political entity benefits all Ethiopians regardless of party affiliation. I am not a kinjit member, I haven’t been, but I fight for its existence for I do believe that Kinjit and the political organization that I associate myself exist in the context of each other. The failed political parties of yesterday are campaigning day-in and day-out to justify their failure and attract others to their side. I’m afraid Ato Hailu seems to be the latest victim of these political rattle snakes. The unprecedented Public gratitude to Kinjit leaders in Washington DC, Dallas, Los Angles, Seattle, Boston, New York, and Atlanta must have sent an ambiguous message to Engineer Hailu and the handful of cacophonous singers around him.
If the beauty of democracy that Ato Hailu fought for years means anything at all, it means the undisputed right of party members to disagree with him, and his moral duty to execute the decision that he disagreed with. Just two months ago, Engineer Hailu was a person we all depended on to change the political landscape of Ethiopia. I want to say it loud and clear to the Engineer that no progress is possible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. No matter how patriotic and how anti-TPLF one is, acting against the fundamental principle of democracy is not a virtue, it’s a vice! Viva to the majority of Kinjit leaders who are fighting to keep the party in-tact. I salute your unwavering stand for the truth, and I applaud your initiative to include the many forgotten voices in Kinjit. I want to remind you that the truth you stand for might be ridiculed, or even violently opposed; but at the end of the day, it shall be accepted as self-evident. Trust me, one against all shall never win! Do not be anxious for the loafers, stand above all conditions, rise to every occasion, and most importantly stand for what is right. If you do, you will transcend the current party shortcomings, and lead us in to the promise land like Moses, not to the other side of the Red Sea, not far from it either, but within and to itself. May God bless our Ethiopia!