“It’s not the voting that’s democracy; it’s the counting.” – From Tom Stoppard’s philosophical play Jumpersfirst produced in 1972* * *
“It doesn’t matter who votes; it matters who counts the votes.” – Joseph Stalin
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“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy
Most international and national political analysts and observers of political discourse in Ethiopia weren’t the least surprised that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) regime would declare itself a winner in the May 24, 2015 ‘election’. What surprised most observers was the brazen nature and audaciousness of the regime to claim 100% of 547 seats in the parliament. This, even by the standard of Africa’s electoral practice, is unprecedented. In recent years, authoritarian regimes in Africa (with a few exceptions) have given directives to their electoral commissions to trim election victories away from the traditional 99.9 – 100% victory. In this regard, the TPLF’s ‘victory’ defies any form of mathematical algorithm and logic including common sense.
In effect what this means is that TPLF has officially removed its democratic mask and joined the rank and file of North Korea’s Workers Party that declared 100% in 2014 election, Iraq’s Bath Party under Saddam Hussein, which claimed 100% victory in a 2002 referendum on whether or not to continue Saddam Hussein’s decade long rule. Raul Castro and the Cuban Communist Party earned 99.4% votes in the 2008 Cuban election. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad claimed 97.6% of votes for his 2007 presidential referendum. Turkmenistan’s Saparmurat Niyazov and the Communist Party of Turkmenistan declared 99.5 % in the 1992 national election, and most recently Sudan’s Al – Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), declared 94 % victory in national election.
The political reality in Ethiopia can no longer be described as a ‘nation at a crossroad’. The fact is that Ethiopia has crossed the road into a path of inevitable conflict involving multiple players, groups and citizens disenfranchised and excluded from the political, economic and social discourse of the country. For those who have been keenly following the political atmosphere in Ethiopia over the last two decades. This new emerging direction of conflict, unfortunately, is by no means a surprise. In fact, some would argue that it is long overdue. As we have seen in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt over the last few years when citizens are denied of their dignity, fundamental human rights and stake in the political and economic process of their country they are left with no option but to rise up. Thus, it is a choice imposed on the people of Ethiopia by the TPLF led regime that makes a mockery of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Twenty four years is a very long time to promote national reconciliation, build democratic institutions and guarantee citizens’ rights under the rule of law, and most importantly to create a political environment where citizens determine in a free and fair election which political party should govern them. Sadly, TPLF has squandered the last twenty four years for personal gain, ethnic nepotism and belligerent authoritarianism.
The rumblings of conflict in Ethiopia has been on the horizon for a long time, including sporadic skirmishes between different resistance groups and TPLF defense army. This time, however, the dynamic and nature of conflict has different complexities and magnitudes. This unfolding situation could have a reverberating effect for the country, as well as the entire Horn of Africa/East Africa region.
No one for certain can predict when and how the emerging path of conflict would be resolved. What is certain is the proud people of this ancient land have been humiliated, abused and collectively traumatized under the TPLF rule of the last twenty four years. This humiliation and suffering has led them to the place where they are now, which is full out resistance to reclaim their dignity and change the meaning of citizenship to its true definition.
No one should celebrate conflict, but one must also remember the wise and powerful words of President John F. Kennedy: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” In the end, the historical autopsy of the last twenty four years will show the fact that TPLF’s criminality and belligerence. TPLF is not known for resolving conflicts through peaceful negotiation and diplomacy, and it’s not in the regimes DNA to do so. However, the regime must be forced by the international community not to lead the country into the abyss of conflict with serious and unpredictable consequences. Regardless of the regime’s opposition to peaceful conflict resolution and national reconciliation, all peace loving citizens and the international community must realize and advocate for a comprehensive national reconciliation.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org