Girma Kassa (Chicago)
[email protected]

April 10, 2008

(This is an amended article to the one I wrote on July 19, 2007)

For the 9th time, TPLF officials are squandering another opportunity to reconcile themselves with the Ethiopian people.

In May 1991, the former TPLF rebels entered Addis Ababa and other major cities in Ethiopia without any major fights. The Ethiopian People allowed them in their cities, hoping a better Ethiopia would come out after a 17 years bloody, repressive and brutal reign of Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam.

Unfortunately the TPLF officials offended Ethiopians by implementing a backward and medieval ethnic politics and making Ethiopia a country with no sea outlets. These, added to many arrogant comments of disrespect towards the Ethiopian green-yellow-red flag by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, exasperated the mistrust and disapproval against the TPLF. (First opportunity lost)

In 1998, Ethiopians, setting aside the past serious mistakes of the TPLF, rallied behind Prime Minister Zenawi to defend the aggression of Shabia (The Eritrean regime of President Issayas Afeworki). “This could be a chance for TPLF to undo its past mistakes” many thought.

Again, after the death of tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters, the Ethiopian defense forces reached the gates of Asmara and could have removed once and for all the long time trouble of Ethiopia. Prime Minister Zenawi and his colleagues in Arat Kilo reversed the victory, signed the Algiers agreement, unconditionally accepted the decision of the border commission that exclusively gave Badme to Eritrea and squandered again the good will gesture they got from the People. (Second opportunity lost)

In May 2000, during the first relatively democratic election, the ruling party has gotten praises and admirations from different angles of our society, for allowing democratic exercises. The public media was relatively free. Peaceful demonstrations against the government were held without harassment. International elections observers were allowed.

The election results were not what the regime expected. The TPLF then started destroying what it have built. Had officials accepted the decision of the people, they could have written their name in the history book and earned the respect and love of the people for being humble and true democrat. It could have given them the opportunity to come back again in power in next elections.

By rigging the election and killing our unarmed civilian’s brothers and sisters they, nevertheless, lost for a third time a very golden opportunity to be respected and loved by the people. (Third opportunity lost)

From June 2005 to November 2005, many were hoping the negotiation between CUD and UEDF on one side and the TPLF on the other would bring some sort of understanding among all parties, and the country would be spared from political crisis and instability. The CUD postponed the first civil and peaceful disobedience campaign it called for, to give peace and dialog a chance, agreed to enter parliament and decided to focus on the future. Their only demands were demands that strengthen democratic institutions so that Election 97 would not be repeated in the next 2010 election. Power was not the agenda of the CUD.

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To the surprise of many, the TPLF leaders took the compromise of the CUD as a weakness and refused to come to the table. They continued their intimidation. In November 2005, in an unprecedented barbaric show of force, security forces directly under the command of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, indiscriminately fired on peaceful demonstrators and killed more than 200 innocent civilians. They brutally detained more than hundred thousands from their kebeles (small communities) and weredas (districts) and placed them hundreds miles away from their home in more than 4 concentration camps across Ethiopia. (Ziway, Shewarobit, Kolfe, Dedessa ..) Reporters, human right activists, anti poverty campaign advocates and CUD leaders were arrested and sent to prison. (Amnesty International called these prisoners prisoner of conscious.)

These totalitarian actions of the TPLF added fuel to the hatred and disgust the people has against it and closed another opportunity that could have brought stability and turn around the political crisis. (Fourth opportunity lost)

For the last two years, efforts were being made to secure the release of prisoners of conscious and bring peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia. The European Union, the United State Congress, International civic groups, the US ambassador Donald Yamamoto and Ethiopians from different angles called the regime in Arat Kilo to take concrete actions for peace and democracy. They called for the government of Ethiopia to unconditionally release the prisoner of conscious and come to the negotiation table to solve the political crisis of the country in a dialog.

On March 23 2007, the government controlled kangaroo court was to give its preliminary judgment on the merit of the case against incarcerated prisoner of conscious. Many of us hoped this time the TPLF leaders would do the right thing and learn from their past mistakes. We hoped the case would be dismissed and the regime would start undoing its damage.

“Mon Dieu” – The cadres of the regime in black robe allowed the court proceeding to continue and showed their disrespect to the rule of law they were supposed to uphold.

Three month later this same court found the popular and loved prisoners of conscious guilty of ridiculous charges and sentenced them with life imprisonment. (Opportunities five and six lost)

After heavy pressures from the international community, from some rank and files within the TPLF itself, from Ethiopians in the Diaspora and for fear of the anger and bitterness of the Ethiopian people that may explode and possibly devour them alive at anytime, the TPLF rulers released Kaliti prisoners of conscious. The release of prisoners could have opened a new era of rapprochement and a new beginning. It was a very good opportunity to, once and for all, open the door for peace and reconciliation. But officials in Arat Kilo killed the great efforts of the elders and started a campaign of deception that does nothing but build up tension with the main opposition, CUD.

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Dr Merrara Gudina, a prominent opposition leader from the UEDF expressed his dismay and frustration towards the latest campaign of misinformation against CUD leaders by the government controlled media. He said:” It is not a normal national reconciliation. It looks like the government tries to humiliate those CUD leaders, rather than stretch its hand for national reconciliation. So that is what makes me skeptical, whether we are moving forward or not. “

It would have been prudent and wise for TPLF officials to admit mistakes, offer olive branches to all their opponents and be ready for a true reconciliation that is based on honesty, love, forgiveness and “ethiopiawi chewanet” . They could have used this opportunity to redeem themselves from their past. But, their forged letter and their massive campaign to humiliate the “dear ones” of Ethiopia have made them the sole looser at the end of the game. The “Shemgelena” process (mediation) was supposed to be a win-win situation for all. Now it has ended as a WIN-LOOSE situation, with the EPRDF being the loser. (Opportunity seven lost)

In September 12 2008, it was not only New Year but new millennium in Ethiopia. Many of us were hoping a new beginning with the new season. This could have given the regime a golden opportunity to honestly have a fresh start in a new direction. Unfortunately what we are seeing in 2000 is the continuation of failed policies of 1999, 1998, 1997 … (Opportunity eight lost)

Recently Ethiopia will hold a “bi-election”. The most popular opposition leaders are not allowed to exercise freely their political activities. The CUD executives and their supporters were systematically intimidated from mobilizing the people. Their legal name and election symbol were illegally taken away from them and given to other groups. (Half dozens, weak, TPLF bribed individuals are now called as “CUD” officials). The Tigray Arena Party members, who are former TPLF leaders, were enormously harassed. It took 8 month for the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia to give them a license to legally function as a party.

According to the chairman of the OFDM, Dr Bulcha Demeksa, out of 6000 candidates they originally planned to field for the election, only 100 were accepted by the NEBE. “Most are unwilling to put their names for fear of being persecuted. Once, 4 supporters of us showed themselves to register as a candidate in Yaya Negelle. The Police arrested them. Then additional 8 who were supposed to register later declined to show up to the authorities for fear of being arrested” complained the OFDM chairman.

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The United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) has been facing problems in registering its candidates in Oromia and Southern Nation and Nationalities People States. Candidates could not be registered for the upcoming elections in Yem Special Woreda and in all woredas(districts) of Kembata Zone as well as Jeldu, Ambo and Tokekutare Siraro woredas. According to Dr Beyene Petros the UEDF was not able to register candidates in its full capacity because many of them have been jailed, harassed and abused.

The popular CUD (now called UDJ) which was believed to have won the 2005 election does not participate in this bi-election. The second most popular party next to the CUD, the UEDF, and the newly formed Tigray Arena have both officially boycotted the election. No-one is interested in this “election” for it is not an election but a joke, a mockery of democracy.

“The local elections are an opportunity for advancing democracy in Ethiopia. If they fail to achieve this goal, it will be an enormous lost opportunity” says a former US ambassador in Ethiopia, Dr David Shinn. I believe this bi-election is not advancing democracy. The regime could have used this election, as a big opportunity to heal the nation and build confidence within the people. They failed. (A 9th enormous lost opportunity)

I for one have always hoped for the better. I have always believed that people have the capability to change. What I cannot comprehend is why the men and women in Minilik palace could not open their eyes for their own sake and allow themselves not to be dragged deeply into wild fires that will ultimately destroy them all. When would we see cool headed people from among them came out to at least guide the TPLF to the truth and the reality?

I believe the TPLF grass root members ought to think hard and deep. Instead of zealously following their corrupt leaders, they must start asking big questions. They must hold Mr. Meles et others accountable for their actions and bring back their party to the people. They must recognize that they are the only hope to save the TPLF. They have the power to force changes from the bottom up. If they do not take actions now, misled by the temporary economic benefits they have under Mr. Zenawi, they will dearly pay the consequences of their silence, inaction and collaboration with corrupt officials. Ethiopia needs them now. It is time for them to act.

May God open their eyes to His Wisdom and to His Understanding!
May God Bless Ethiopia!

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