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Ethiopia: Kinijit Diaspora problems, lessons to the opposition

November 12, 2006

By Zerihun Tesfaye

November 10, 2006 — It has now become evident that the rumblings heard around CUDP members and support groups in the Diaspora for the past few months has resulted in two groups claiming to be the real torchbearers of the CUDP and its agenda of having its leaders released and the struggle for democracy continued. One may claim to have more chapters or much more members than that of the other, but two groups fighting to get the attention of the Diaspora, nonetheless. Given the very short history of the CUD and an even briefer history of the CUDP as an organization, the current difficulties the organization’s members and supporters are going through is understandable. What is not understandable and incomprehensible is the amount of airtime and write-ups spent in the various media by various individuals and or groups, allied or not, in fanning the flames, recriminations and sometimes even worse. One also needs to be aware that regime agents and provocateurs are always sniffing for potential trouble, available cracks and openings where they could smuggle their divisive poison so as to create havoc among opposition forces.

Sadly, instead of closing ranks we have witnessed in the past year or two how differences among opposition groupings had been handled and how detrimental it has been to the overall struggle. It is high time we learn from past mistakes, assess the situation soberly and make a stop to the hemorrhaging from the inside.

In times like these, efforts need to be made to heal the wounds and to play a constructive role in bringing bickering individuals or groups together, where possible. If these groups are not able to narrow their differences and work together, at a minimum, they have to be able to find an acceptable mechanism whereby they part amicably and more importantly, keep the big picture of how to get rid of tyranny in mind. Each group should be allowed to contribute towards the realization of this objective in the best way it could without creating a hindrance to the activity of others.

For at the end, it is the collective strength of all groups working towards the same goal and their ability to organize the greatest number of people in the struggle against tyranny that will assure us of success. Further, it helps greatly to understand that what ever advance or victory being achieved at any given time is not only an attribute of the given leadership at the time, but, is a combination of all the little victories achieved in the course of the struggle.

If we look at the major victory that our people achieved in the May 2005 elections, while acknowledging the catalytic role the CUDP played, we can say with absolute certainty that the combined struggle of all groups and organizations in the previous fourteen years against tyranny were the fertile ground upon which this victory was achieved. Or to paraphrase what Sir Isaac Newton once said, if the CUDP leaders were able to see further and advance the cause it was because they stood on the shoulders of giants. It is, by all means important to look back to our immediate history, – our history of success and failure, struggle and betrayal, hero worshipping and hero demolishing, …etc, for we need to pick up a lesson or two if we want to advance in unity and achieve victory.

We all remember the amicable working relation between Hibret and Kinjit in the months leading to the May Elections and how it gave a great impetus in creating a great sense of hope and desire among the people to participate in the electoral process and to help usher a new democratic era. The greatest arena of cooperation in this respect, we fondly remember, was the systematic emasculating of EPRDF’s inner bankruptcy , laying bare its dysfunctional nature, from policy conceptualization to implementation in the series of nationally televised and radio broadcasted debates the two organizations conducted with the supposed stalwarts of the leadership of the ruling party. Unfortunately, the great success with which the May 2005 Elections were conducted and in which millions made their voices heard and made their choices clear could not be crowned with the ultimate prize of ushering in a democratic era.

For, once the regime found out what the verdict of the people was going to be, it took it upon itself to not only deny the votes of millions, but also to use all the instruments of coercion and terror in its hands to reverse all the other gains made in the people’s struggle in the previous fourteen years.

The positions taken by the different parties and groups in response to the brazen actions taken by the regime was initially more or less identical, in that, all groups demanded for the respect of the vote and the popular verdict. However, as time passed and the repression at large intensified and started putting additional pressure on the opposition groups, fissures began to show in the hitherto united front of organizations and even within the groupings that comprised the coalitions that formed the organizations and responses began to differ accordingly.

With the appearance of these fissures within the opposition camp old habits that had been haunting the movements for many years began to crop up, and bickering and recriminations amongst each other resurfaced with a vengeance
sometimes equaling the vehemence one expects towards the main culprit for the mayhem and repression engulfing the nation that is the EPRDF. The spirit of cooperation that permeated every endeavor leading up to the elections was thrown by the way side to be replaced by vicious campaigns of vilification against particular individuals and organizations, which had differing approaches in continuing the struggle against EPRDF.

In this regard the campaign of slander and vilification against, yesterday’s heroes, Beyene Petros, Merrera Gudina and to a lesser extent Lidetu Ayalew could be cited. To minimize the contributions that these individuals made to the struggle against the EPRDF regime in the past fourteen years, and even more, to lump them together with regime diehards just because they happen to adopt a strategy that does not correspond with ours, is to put it mildly a disservice to the struggle of our people.

The monumental role Beyene and his group played in sustaining the struggle, by holding fast to principle even when it meant further repression and to have shown to our people that the EPRDF could be beaten in the ballot box despite its machinations, were a harbinger to the seemingly national electoral victory achieved in May 2005. The personal sacrifices he, his immediate and extended family had to endure just because he dared to fight against the regime, should at the very least be recognized and appreciated, and not be demonized just because one doesn’t see eye to eye with his current activities and political positions.

The same must be said about Merrera and his group who were able to galvanize millions during the elections and were able to cause the greatest of shame to the EPRDF by decisively beating the big guns of the regime like Aba Dula Gemeda, Junedine Sado and the like by relative unknowns, (though, the people do know them!) not to talk of years of actively organizing and educating the people about the bankruptcy of the regime in a myriad of interviews given, teach-ins conducted, conferences held and a book published.

Oblivious to these facts, and making these gentlemen and their organizations the focus of our attack, was indeed a great disservice to the struggle. If we believe that the road being traveled by these gentlemen and their organizations will not lead us to our preferred destination, it is incumbent upon us to come up with a road map that will, and organize and mobilize millions in this endeavor, and not waste much valuable time and energy in attacking forces that are within the opposition camp and as a result demobilize thousands in the process.

With the exception of the ephemeral euphoria commonly seen during such eventful periods, demobilization is what seems to be going on at this time within the CUDP support groups. If we persist in such a campaign of rancor and vilification within the opposition camp we will be assured to achieve the following undesirable results.
 One, we will alienate these forces that otherwise could be a great asset in our struggle against the regime, with the undesirable effect of undermining the opposition ·
 Two, the vehemence with which we tend to attack yesterdays’ friends and allies will make others shy away from the struggle for fear of what would befall their lot if they happen to have differing views down the road · Three – as a result of the above, a divided and weakened opposition will not have the requisite organizational presence and muscle to be able to reach and organize the people in the fight against tyranny, and more importantly our actions will give relief to the regime and extend its tyrannical rule further than otherwise would have been possible.

If we desire to shorten the days of misery our people are facing and want to see the dawn of freedom sooner than later, the combined wrath and fury of all opposition groups ought to be directed against the tyrannical regime of EPRDF headed by the Meles clique. Our people and country are at an important historical juncture. We currently do not have the luxury of taking ‘uncompromising’ stands carrying out ‘resolute’ fights within the people’s camp. We will have plenty of time to debate, differ on specific policies of governance, or lecture each other on the advantage of this or that type of organizational structure ‘till the cows come home’, once the Meles clique and the danger it represents is removed from our country’s political scene. Though we recognize the issues the factions are fighting for are dear to the hearts of members of these CUDP support groups, one must realize the recklessness of it when looked from the stand point of the interest of the people. It is imperative that we ‘keep our eyes on the prize’. Removing the tyrannical regime and democratizing our country is the primary duty history has assigned us, let us all work in tandem as we are indeed capable of doing and with the combined strength of our people, we shall move mountains.

* The author is a retired educator residing in California – USA. He can be reached at senbete@hotmail.com

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