Abandoning Kinijit 8 points is abandoning democracy

23 mins read

By Gemeda Humnasa
June 22, 2007

According to Washington Post, some of the CUD/Kinijit opposition leaders, earlier found guilty, have now signed a document accepting partial responsibility for the violence in exchange for their release. This is definitely a very good news and executive powers should be utilized to pardon the convicted prisoners for the sake of political stability. Some hardcore opposition groups that are advocating guerrilla wars will definitely feel betrayed. But it is the right move to peace & democracy, especially since several police men were killed and hundreds of security forces were injured during the riot, which common sense says, a human being must have initiated. In this world, things don’t just happen without someone doing them and CUD’s provocation of the riots & subsequent bloodshed is clear. That’s why we have nouns and not just verbs. It took courage for the offenders to accept responsibility for their actions. This development is also yet another blow to the credibility of Amnesty International’s work in 3rd world countries where it often accepts any information (both accurate & inaccurate) as long as it is anti-government. Unlike other exposed failures of Amnesty International where it didn’t apologize, the government should demand Amnesty to apologize for its bias work exposed internationally. Discredited Amnesty International still thinks all prisoners are “prisoners of conscience.” (Note to Amnesty: giving the benefit of doubt to one-sided source is also NOT part of your stated policy.) Anyhow, the important question in Ethiopia now is whether or not the freed opposition members will abandon Kinijit’s 8 point demand which is probably the most important for democracy to take a big step in Ethiopia. Seeing the prisoners released from jail soon would be good but the fundamental question is having fully democratic institutions, which is what the Eight-point Kinijit precondition to enter parliament was all about.

Some of the eight point recommendations have been addressed recently. For instance, the first point that states that the Election Board needs more independency has been mostly forwarded by the current parliament. The opposition parties in parliament like UEDF, CUDP, UEDP-Medhin, OFDM and others have already proposed plans for the next election. But further discussions on the composition of representatives at the polls as well as foreign observers are necessary for future elections to be fair and free. Other than the lively parliament debates on inflation, the arrangements of representatives in the election board has been the second widely discussed topic between the ruling party and most opposition parties. Point number four, which demands investigation of the June 2005 killings, has also been carried out. This question is also related to the current trial of Hailu Shawel & Co which can be solved if more agreements are made to free the convicted prisoners for the sake of reconciliation. In general the whole violence and riot spectacle is mostly related to the “massacre politics” going on in Ethiopia where an opposition group provokes violence, then the unprepared security officers respond,then rioters die and lastly an opposition group cries out to Amnesty International to point fingers. This cunning strategy by some members of the opposition is used to harm the reputation of the government and is often effective, but it is inhumane, undemocratic & this kind of politics will need to stop. Otherwise the same tricks & games can be played by any side – enough to paralyze democracy in Ethiopia for decades to come.

With the exception of those two points that have been partially addressed already, the rest of the 8 points should be the focal point of future discussions. For instance, Kinijit’s point number two precondition that says “all forms of media should be free and available to all political parties” is one of the most important elements of the recommendation. The freedom and availability of media is obviously vital for democracy. One aspect that some Ethiopian leaders might not notice is that having free media is like having twice an army. It is a win-win situation unless the ruling party plans to abandon the progress to democracy and/or unless the media gets abused by the opposition. Otherwise free media reduces dissident and most of all gives a voice for dissidents to keep them away from taking up arms against the state. Even though the likes of Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)are not lead by children and can control themselves enough NOT to plant bombs everywhere, it is well-known that having suppressed media helps the likes of OLF validate their “struggle.” So having the media available to all parties contributes to the marginalization of such radical organizations. In general, especially having looked at the extremely one-sided coverage of some media outlets inside Ethiopia, more free media is necessary and this should stay as the central topic of discussions.

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Equally important are the Kinijit recommendations to make the legal system as well as the armed forces more independent and detached from the ruling party. The various extrajudicial killings of opponents, both of the peaceful and violent opposition members, need to end if the ruling party’s dedication to democracy is expected to be taken seriously. Another part of Kinijit’s 8 points regarding the recent parliamentary laws (allegedly unconstitutionally) passed need to be debated on to reach a compromise. Also recommendations asking for the opening of opposition party offices have already been addressed, despite some remaining restrictions.

More points of preconditions to be added for Kinijit

Before further negotiations between the freed opposition and the ruling party begins, Kinijit/CUD and all opposition parties should add more to the 8 point recommendation. For example, the source of capital for election campaigns and other activities needs to be cleared. The ruling party is often accused of having used tax payers’ money for its campaigns while the opposition parties remain under funded. To relatively balance this problem, most opposition parties often depend on their Diaspora supporters. But this has its own dangerous side-effects. All of the sudden, the opposition parties are becoming dangerously reliant on the Diaspora politicians for their financial survival.

In more ways than one, Diaspora politicians have harmed the development of democracy in Ethiopia and the democratic future of 80 million Ethiopians should not be in the hands of Diaspora politicians. Many came to the West via political asylum and some of the most active ones are convicted criminals living in West, who would go straight to jail if they set foot in Ethiopia. Many Diaspora politicians also finance rebels and liberation front-turned-terrorists. For many of these highly active Diaspora politicians, a peaceful change of government is actually an unfavorable scenario since the regime that convicted them becomes legitimized instead of being violently overthrown. Even the moderate Diaspora politicians have minimal patience and tend to favor the violent change of government. The Diaspora is a mess and ethnic tension between Ethiopians is at its greatest level in the West. In fact only ethnic communities exist in the West and there is no such thing as “Ethiopia” for many immigrants who would have been identified as “Ethiopians” in Ethiopia. Particularly most of the Oromos and Somalis have their own communities, organizations, pseudo-human rights organizations, parties, festivals, churches etc. They all fundraise for their little armies and militias to liberate their ethnic groups from “abyssinians,” “crusaders,” “habeshas” etc. Those who would be labeled Somali-Ethiopians mostly don’t even have any connections with non-Somali Ethiopians in the diaspora. They carry the flag of Somalia, not Ethiopia. Likewise the Oromo diaspora carry the flag of OLF, not Ethiopia. In most cases the hatred of Oromos in America towards “Habeshas” (Amharas/Tigreans) is extremely deep. Most of their “liberation fronts” are back in the bushes because Article 39 has not been implemented in order to secure various small republics. These ethnic communities have all their hopes set on their perspective liberation fronts and they are flexible to use dissident “habeshas” in the pretext of the “enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Yet the mostly Amhara or Amharized Ethiopians have never attempted to unite the extremely dis-united “Ethiopian” immigrant population in the West, but they ironically belittle the unity inside Ethiopia. There is not even ethnic federalism of Ethiopians in Europe or America where “unity in diversity” is preached, because there is no such country called “Ethiopia” at all for thousands of Oromos & Somalis (in some cases Sidamas as well.) In general, there is no real attempt to solve fundamental differences or to have all-inclusive dialogues inside the Diaspora enough to give Diaspora politicians the privilege to influence politics in Ethiopia. Certainly, not enough to hold parliamentarians financial and media hostages.

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Other detrimental aspect of the Diaspora politicians has been regarding the Ethiopian economy. In contrast to the case in Western countries, where corporate stakeholders and others who contribute to a party’s campaign financially are either negatively or positively affected, Diaspora Ethiopians simply go ahead with their daily lives no matter what happens in Ethiopia. They are not economically affected. So Diaspora politicians wake up one day and ask for the boycotting of investment in random sectors in Ethiopia. They have often advocated for the withdrawal of Western foreign aid to Ethiopia. Let alone food aid, even when military aid is reduced it means more of taxpayers’ money goes to the military to fill the void. Thus all foreign aid reduction directly affects the people of Ethiopia. There is no such thing as selective sanctioning of aid that doesn’t harm the people. Many of the Diaspora politicians have also campaigned to boycott Ethiopian airlines, the Millennium, financial institutions and many businesses. Some have even tried to block international corporate agreements including Ethiopian coffee with Starbucks in order to portray the government as the only beneficiary of such deals. Most of these activities by the Diaspora politicians are inhumane acts that directly affect the poor citizens of Ethiopia. But the fact that some of these same Diaspora politicians were staunch backers of the previous Derg government (or its policies) which was famous for punishing million of Ethiopians in famine using food aid as a political weapon might explain why such Diaspora strategy has become a second nature and very famous. In fact, Human Right Watch says that the previous Derg government was responsible for up to 317,000 deaths out of the total famine causalities in the mid 1980s, a period that made Ethiopia famous for famine worldwide. In general, both the economic and political influence of Diaspora politicians on Ethiopia can be summarized as being highly unhealthy and potentially disastrous for Ethiopia. The opposition parties in Ethiopian parliament would need to liberate themselves from depedendence on the Diaspora financially. In general this is important so that (1) opposition parties in Ethiopia are not held hostage politically and (2)opposition parties would be free to condemn anti-Ethiopia activities by the Diaspora politicians without fear of losing funds as well as de-associate from such groups when necessary. The government can also play a major role in this case. Firstly, the ruling party’s exploitation of tax payers’ money for campaigning and other events should stop. Ethiopian businesses and stakeholders INSIDE the country should proceed in covering such campaign costs for both the ruling party & the opposition parties, but if they can’t do so the government must step in to give equal financial assistance fairly. Western nations like Germany use a combination of public financing and private (donation) financing for political parties and their campaigns. In general, such liberation is important so that the opposition frees itself from being held hostage by Diaspora politicians and so that the ruling party can take public financing seriously & fairly. Thus an addition to the Kinijit 8 point precondition should be transparency and fairness of such financial distribution to keep the opposition parties free from dependence on Diaspora financial assistance and to demand an end of ruling party’s exploitation of public taxpayers’ money.

The ruling party should come up with its own 4 point demand

The ruling party should also craft its own demands & preconditions before it accepts the 8 or rather the 9 points demands of Kinijit. The EPRDF should demand the likes of CUD to condemn the terrorist alliance in Eritrea, better known as AFD. A CUD faction is known to be a member of the AFD which is a group that doesn’t even recognize Ethiopian unity. The military superior members in the AFD are OLF and ONLF (groups that consider Ethiopia as a crumbling Empire and groups that are back in the bushes for the sake of Article 39’s unconditional implementation) thus putting even the survival of Ethiopia in a big question mark in case such a terrorist alliance succeeds in toppling the current government. Certainly OLF has not struggled for more than 30 years to crown CUD and erase Article 39. So the freed CUD prisoners condemning and disassociating from OLF and AFD will create a win-win situation. The EPRDF should ask the CUD to condemn the alliance as well as condemn the evil acts of the architect – Eritrean government. The second precondition presented by the EPRDF should be demanding the condemnation of the infamous bill “Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Act” conducted by Rep.Chris Smith and Congressman Donald Payne. Despite Ethiopia having fast economic growth recognized by various international institutions as well as holding its first ever multi-party elections in its history, all under the leadership of PM Meles Zenawi, the infamous congressional bill ignores all reality, ignores all progress made and also supports only one side in condemning the acts of the security forces in 2005 without condemning the architects of the violence. This is a recipe for disaster. A recipe only for permanent divisions, bitterness and political instability. Unless it is condemned by CUD, no progress will be made for reconciliation. Thirdly, the EPRDF should demand the independent journalists to stop all political campaigning, inflaming and defaming activities. Certainly, the independent media and domestic pseudo-Human Rights organizations have been the mouth piece of the opposition for many years. The domestic Human Rights groups are very good on reporting ruling party’s faults but they are often blind for abuses of journalism (that leads to crackdowns) abuses of freedom of speech and massacres/attacks by rebel militias. {See FIGURE 1 above that shows an EU organized chart indicating 70% anti-EPRDF coverage by “private” & “independent” media outlets in 2005) In order for the EPRDF to accept Kinijit’s precondition on the media access improvement, Kinijit and its pseudo-journalists must abide by media independence and basic journalism ethics. Lastly, EPRDF should demand the freed Kinijit members to condemn both “rejectionsm politics” as well as condemn those who practice such in Diaspora and solicit suspension of foreign aid. For instance, Mr. Hailu Shawel of the CUD party often plays blind and hate politics. In some cases, Mr. Shawel even claimed Meles Zenawi’s government is worse than the previous DERG government in which around 150,000 Ethiopians were executed in the Red Terror of 1970s, half a million were dead via a massive famine of the 80s and when half the nation was a war zone (which led to DERG’s eventual downfall & Eritrean independence.) Such blind allegations and also rejectionism politics should be eliminated to keep the country going forward. Also Diaspora politicians who often ask foreigners to boycott investment, boycott banks, boycott the Millennium and oppose foreign aid (while the Ethiopian government pays large amount of money just to promote investment and change the country’s image) should be formally and constantly condemned by all Kinijit members.

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These 4 points of preconditions must be demanded by the EPRDF before EPRDF addresses any of the 9 point Kinijit preconditions. Since ERPDF will have less pressure after the release of Kinijit prisoners in Ethiopia, all other opposition parties should show solidarity with the freed Kinijit supporters by demanding the EPRDF to abide by Kinijit’s 9 points as soon as Kinijit members abide by EPRDF’s 4 point of preconditions. Foreign dependence is often one-sided and creates bitterness, thus the pressure should come from inside Ethiopia. If EPRDF doesn’t abide by the basic demands, the other opposition parties should make Kinijit’s 9 point precondition, their own as well. All opposition parties like UEDF and UEDP-Medhin should boycott the parliament (if necessary) to put pressure on EPRDF until EPRDF and the freed Kinijit leaders finish their negotiations based on the 9 point and 4 point preconditions.

EPRDF demanding Kinijit to stay away from politics or Kinijit demanding some type of transitional government are not just impractical demands but also outlandish. Such unrealistic demands from both groups should be avoided, and with an inexhaustible dialogue, most political differences can be and should be solved for the sake of Ethiopian unity & democracy. Otherwise abandoning such vital agreements to develop democratic institutions and schools of thought would be forsaking the advancement of democracy in Ethiopia.

 

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