I had a conversation recently with a friend which made me say: "oh my goodness, how much more lucky can Woyane get!" Here is how my conversation with the friend went:
Me: It looks like Beyene is trying hard to rehabilitate his political fortune through his involvement in the newly founded group, Medrek.
My Friend: Yeah, he is trying, but the Ethiopian people will never forget what he did in 2005 and will not be fooled.
Me: Yes, I agree. But, it is good that he is trying.
My Friend: Most of them in that Medrek group are enemies of Ethiopia. They should not be allowed to fool Ethiopians again.
Me: Well, I think that some of the folks in Medrek have some accounting to do with the Ethiopian people, but I do not think this is the time for it.
My Friend: I think the time for accounting is now. If they don't confess the crimes they committed against the Ethiopian people now, they can't be trusted with leadership positions. And Medrek is infested with Woyane agents.
Me: You have a point to some degree, but I do not agree with labeling them as Woyane agents and as enemies of Ethiopia. Doing so won't accomplish anything. If anything, this kind of politics will only help the Woyane. I do not have high expectation for the Medrek grouping, but I am all for anyone trying do what they can to challenge the Woyane and, in particular, I find challenging the Woyane in its own home turf as Medrek seems to be doing to be a positive development.
My Friend: I totally disagree with you. Medrek is a collection of Woyane agents and they must be exposed.
Me: Do you think the UDJ (Andenet) would join Medrek if they think Medrek is a tool of Woyane?
My Friend: Andenet itself is also infested with Woyane agents. Birtukan herself is a Woyane agent.
Me: Hold on a minute. Are you telling me that Birtukan is going through the hell she is going through to help the Woyane?
My Friend: Yes, I think so. Here are the reasons why I thnk she is a Woyane agent:
- She deliberately said that there are only 100 political prisoners in Ethiopia in her testimony before the US Congress in 2007.
- She apologized to the Tigrean people on behalf of Kinijit on her visit to Minnesota in 2007 without being authorized to do so by her party.
- Her statement in Sweden that led to her re-imprisonment was timed to help Woyane.
Our conversation got a bit heated at this point, but I am happy to say that we ended it in an amicable way.
My point of relating to you this story is to show how self-destructive the Ethiopian political culture has become. The story above is a conversation that took place between two individuals. Multiply that thousands of times and that is how we end up with this self-destructive political culture that does not tolerate criticism and where moderation is an undesired political currency. This, my friends, is one of the main reasons why Woyane has survived for this long and has a good chance to continue on ruling with iron fist for the foreseeable future.
As of today, the Woyane have ruled Ethiopia for 6501 days, and this is 1 year and 1 month longer than the time the Derg ruled Ethiopia. Lucky Woyane!
Woyane has, indeed, been one lucky political machine. The main reason for the longevity of its rule has, of course, been its implementation of the strategy of divide-and-rule along ethnic lines, which has worked to almost perfection, up until now at least. The self-destructive nature of the opposition, however, is without question another big reason for why Woyane's rule has lasted this long. Here are a few of the main episodes from the self-destruction of the opposition:
The COEDF Debacle
The COEDF was the first Ethiopian real coalition of Ethiopian political parties. It brought together most of the major political forces that were excluded from the London talks of May 1991 that was brokered by the Americans and the subsequent conference in Addis Ababa. Although COEDF set a useful precedent for coalition building in Ethiopian politics, unfortunately it was riddled with factionalism based on party affiliation and personalities and could not achieve cohesiveness as an organization.
The Alternative Forces Fiasco
The Alternative Forces was born out of the Paris Conference of 1993 that attempted to bring all the political actors together in the spirit of reconciliation. It had good will but no clear strategy on how to mobilize and lead the people. As a result, it died a long and miserable death orphaned by its own creators.
The UEDF Debacle
The UEDF was a valiant effort made by Ethiopians for Ethiopians to bring most of the opposition around a minimum political program in the hope of challenging the Woyane peacefully and constitutionally. It had laudable goals, but it was also dicapitated as soon as it was created because it was unable to bridge the trust gap among the different factions and its organizational structure had no binding effect on its members as were the structures of the coalitions before it. Some of the dissatisfied groups left UEDF within a short time and formed their own coalition (Kinijit), but only to devour each other a few years later.
The Kinijit Fiasco
The seeds for the demise of Kinijit were sown during the process when some of its member organizations left the UEDF. Kinijit's downfall was a classic case of self-destruction. Some of its leaders saw one another with more suspicion than they did vis-a-vis Woyane. They preached tolerance, transparency and reconciliation just like all the other opposition groups do, but they failed terribly when it came to practicing these tenets of democracy amongst themselves. As a result, they have made it more difficult than it was before for the public to have trust in their political leaders.
And so it goes.
What could be the opposition's next gift to Woyane? Cannibalism within UDJ (Andenet)? Character assassinations on folks like Yacob Hailemariam, folks who are doing their level best under very difficult circumstances and whose motive in getting involved in politics in their golden years is to give back to the country that has given them so much? We shall find out in the not too distant future. But I hope the opposition will learn from its mistakes and avoid giving Woyane more life lines. And, I hope I don't ever have to say "Lucky Woyane!" again.