By Ephrem Madebo
"Every time I plant a seed, he said kill them before they grow". This is a living lyric from the late vibrant Reggae singer, Bob Marley’s classic - “I shot the Sherriff". If Marley was alive, I am sure he would have sang another song with the same lyrics to the "Ethiopian Review" editor who like a bad tag boat shoves away every new idea that he doesn't agree with. I had a close association with the Ethiopian Review editor years ago in the heydays of "Tigbar League". In fact, I joined the "Tegbar League" group discussion forum at the request of the moderator [Ethiopian Review editor] and I was expelled out after a while when I openly criticized Lidetu Ayalew for his 2002 crude action. Mind you the ER editor is the very person that blames Meles Zenawi for muffling the free press, but he himself didn't even think twice before he silenced me in his little world. What a hypocrisy! Regardless of the nature of the ideas, I usually keep small ideas at the personal level. This week after I read two indiscriminately misguiding articles on Ethiopian Review website, I decided to go public because I thought total silence does not do any good to the public.
Towards the end of last week, I read an article on Ethiopian Review that brought to light a covert negotiation between OLF and Ginbot 7. The article inadvertently reveals a possible political breakthrough that has the potential to change the course of history in Ethiopia. If the information that came to light is authentic, I applaud the investigative cleverness of the ER sources for digging deep and informing the public on what is to come, I also appreciate their effort in trying to directly or indirectly put pressure on the leaders of the opposition camp. Here is the part that I totally disagreed and demanded an explanation. For those of you who didn't have the chance to read ER’s article on the clandestine meeting of Ginbot 7 and OLF, here is the warning of the ER editor to the two organizations [OLF, Ginbot 7] and to the rest of us: "ER sources in both Ginbot 7 and OLF are not ready to disclose where the secret talks are being held, but for maximum political effect, any agreement that they reach needs to be signed in Asmara. Any one who doubts the significant role the Eritrean government can play in destroying Woyanne is either politically ignorant, or a closet Woyanne sympathizer, or does not fully comprehend the severity of the crisis our country is facing".
I'm not sure whether the editor is acting from his inner feeling, or out of his imagination, but at least I do understand that when people act under the influence of imagination, there is no boundary for their passion. Imagination is the formation of a mental image of something that is not perceived as real and is not present to the senses. It is good to allow the image of the outside world have an input in our way of thinking, scheming, contriving, remembering, creating, fantasizing, and forming opinion, but we must understand that politics and everything we do must be accompanied by passion and driven by principle because too much imagination kills both principle and passion.
I wonder what in the "Hell" Asmara has to do with the likely outcome of political events in Ethiopia. Isn't Asmara the home of Esayas Afewerke, a man who never sleeps before he makes sure that Ethiopia is dwindled in to multiple mini states? Had there been an inch thick of a heart that worries for Ethiopia under the chest of Essays, Asmara wouldn't have opened its door for separatist elements that fight to dismantle Ethiopia, and for EPPF; an organization that firmly stands for the unity of Ethiopia. If there is anything that the opposition gets from Asmara today, it will definitely be paid back at an exorbitantly high rate tomorrow. The question of Assab, Bademe, Tsorena, and other border areas that I can’t even name are issues that face the current opposition in the future when it assumes power. If we believe that Esayas is willing to raise a lion that may ultimately devour him, we’re not just lying through our teeth, but we are also simplifying very complex national issues.
Another very important issue that the Ethiopian Review editor must understand is that we Ethiopians can respectfully disagree with him in many issues without he calling us “Politically ignorant, or a close Woyanne sympathizers”. As an editor, he must strike the balance between the flow of ideas and the interest of the public. An editor must appreciate dissent and accept criticism. By the way, isn’t the very essence of our struggle built on the values of respectful disagreement and on the principles of working together for a common cause? When an editor seeks freedom of speech for himself, he/she becomes captive of his/her desire and misguides millions of people. But, when an editor seeks discipline, he/she guides the freedom journey of the masses to victory. The era of blanket condemnation and character assassination is over. Editors, or readers, what we do and what we say should clearly identify which part of the isle we stand.
Here is a script from ER editor’s message this week:
“Let’s go straight to the crux of the matter: UDJ by its actions and positions had demonstrated itself to be a political party without a popular base. It is a fake party without popular constituency”
How do we measure the popularity of political parties? What makes some parties real and others fake? I might not give you the answer for these two questions, but I can at least say the following: The ER editor has neither the moral background nor the empirical authenticity to publicly declare that UDJ is a fake party with no political constituency. How dare a man who like me enjoys burgers at the comfort of a “drive-in” calls UDJ a fake party with no political constituency? Which constituency are we talking here? Isn’t UDJ a party that collected more than 10,000 signatures in few days when the government required 1500? Isn’t Birtukuan a lady who with no fear confronted Zenawi’s wicked legal system in her professional life? Didn’t this same relentless defender of democracy waste two years of her precious young life in Kaliti prison for our common cause? Regardless of their choice of strategy, Birtukuan and other members of UDJ have demonstrated their undeterred will to endlessly stand for the true cause of democracy.
There are many people in Ethiopia who preferred to live a quiet life than confronting Meles. Again there are many of us who raced out to the Western world because Meles screamed at us. Members of UDJ are still in Ethiopia knowing that they might be targets of Zenawi’s killing squads. These people need support and protection, not abuse and senseless mortification. UDJ has taken its first step; let’s give them the necessary time and support to have them shows us the whole staircase. If we have no patience of looking deep into the future, then we need to take a lesson from the Biblical story of Noah. Remember, there was no rain when Noah built the ark. He built it anyways when others ridiculed him because he had a good vision of the future. Criticizing our political parties is the right thing to do, but killing them before they grow is wrong. There are many things that we can do to collectively get closer to victory. If anything else, please let’s avoid any felling of bitterness towards others because bitterness is a cancer that eats upon the host.
Evidently, the proliferation of political parties has a tendency to water down the strength of the opposition camp, but this does not and should not imply that we as a nation should be limited to one party. Even if we believe in the idea of one party, we just don’t have to kill existing parties when we embrace new comers. Our belief is ours and ours only, we can sell it to others, but we must not impose our belief on the general public. UDJ has chosen to stay in side Ethiopia and wage a peaceful struggle. To those of us who have a different strategy, UDJ can be our good ally inside Ethiopia. Some of us might not want to have UDJ as an ally, so be it; but this doesn’t mean that UDJ is our enemy. We must make a distinction between a friend, a potential friend, and a foe. In politics, there is neither permanent alliance nor permanent animosity.