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Ethiopia: CUD is Spirit, So is OLF !!!

By Addis Ababa

November 18, 2007 — When I first heard the phrase ’Kinijit is spirit’, I was not impressed
at all. I took it to be a strategic catch phrase to remain in peoples’
heart, if not self promotion. It took me months to realize Kinijit is
indeed spirit. For different people, this spirit means different
things. Without being very judgmental or controversial, let me try
characterize this spirit.

The Kinjit spirit has won the hearts of millions of Ethiopians in
build up for Election May 2005. It was a symbol of democracy,
accountability, prosperity, victory, unity …. Above all it
symbolized hope and renaissance for many, after years of
disappointment. In a very short period of time, it achieved what can
only be described as a ’political miracle’. It has inspired and moved
even those who equated ’politics with electricity’. How much of the
votes really went to Kinijit being a separate issue, the number seats
in the regional and national parliaments attributed to Kinijit by the
election commission could only be taken as an astounding victory.

What made Kinijit so successful would lead us to endless debates. Here
are some of the points for me, in decreasing order of significance

1 – The attitude of many towards ethnic politics
2 – The failings of EPRDF (both real and perceived)
3 – The eloquence of some of its leaders (specifically Dr. Birahanu
Nega and Lidetu Ayalew)
4 – The short time span between the establishment of Kinijit and the
election date (I saw this only in hindsight)

I have consciously avoided the idea of this spirit representing or
being supported by all Ethiopians. The election results clearly show
that the support came from regions where people tend to support
’homogeneous Ethiopia’ as opposed to regions where people would rather
enjoy their own autonomous rule or even secede. That would roughly
amount to half of the population. Kinjit was a ’spirit’ for these
people, rather than a political entity. Whoever carries this Kinijit
torch would surely have a big negotiating power; that is exactly what
is going to keep the ’kinijit spirit’ alive for a long time to come.
Any individual / group would be fool to disassociate themselves from
this ’high valued political brand’.

Let’s take the two biggest regions of Ethiopia – Amhara and Oromia.
While Kinijit ’won’ the election in the former, EPRDF ’won’ in the
latter. Many in the Kinijit camp conveniently avoid to explain why
this came about. Do people in Amhara region have more resentment
towards EPRDF – I hardly think so. The actual reason behind is simply
the conditions in Oromia did not allow a viable opposition to form or
to operate in the region. This is by no means belittling the works of
ONC and OFDM; I actually appreciate and respect the people behind
these organizations very much. Beside the conditions not allowing them
to be as successful, they were and and will continue to be shadows of
the equivalent of the ’kinijit spirit’ in Oromia. This spirit is
called OLF. The ’OLF spirit’ represents all the good values the
Kinijit spirit represents; though for its followers – in my humble
opinion – the big majority of Oromos.

As much as the Kinijit spirit is not one and the same as CUD, the OLF
spirit is also not necessarily the political party (liberation front)
OLF. I could say the same thing about the ’somali spirit’ in Ogaden or
other regions in the country. As size always matters, the Kinijit and
OLF spirits would always continue to be at the fore front of political
discussions in our Ethiopia. It is in fact a pity that the OLF spirit
does not enjoy as much coverage as it deserves. That can also be seen
as a strategic failure of its leaders.

I see the basis for the formation of democratic and stable Ethiopian
only when all all stakeholders representing different people (and
ideologies) sit together and start talking about what is best for the
people they claim to represent. The population dynamics dictates that
these two spirits are the ones to contend with. Efforts like AFD and
commendable only in the sense that people with such contrasting
agendas sat together. Otherwise, the principle upon which they are
formed (the enemy of my enemy is my friend), does not take anyone

As an Ethiopian caring for his / her country, I would not like these
two big spirits fall on to the wrong hands. While it is difficult to
define what ’wrong’ is, I pray that the leadership struggle in these
movements produce reasonable leaders who are at least willing to
acknowledge the overwhelming existence of the other. To be fair, this
is more of a problem in the Kinijit spirit.

As the Kinijit spirit is the one in a bigger trouble right now, I
would try to post a few more words about its leadership crisis soon.
Whenever I think of the historic responsibility the leaders of this
movement carry, I wonder how they manage to be willing to carry so
much burden. I could not formulate it in better words than what Dr.
Birhanu said about him being taken to jail.

Though they may have not realized it at that time, the CUD leaders
were indeed right to say that ’Kinijit is spirit’. Well I say, so is

The author is a Ethiopian who keenly follows the country’s politics
and advocates for tolerance and farsightedness. He can be reached at Also, he maintains an
occasional blog at

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