by Kirubeal Bekele
Thank God, Zenawi is out of the picture for good. But the impact of his death, slowly and surely, and as expected, is unfolding. TPLF may be going through its baddest (worst) days ever but Zenawi’s death may have also brought an unexpected and somewhat negative impact on the opposition. A few has erroneously equated Zenawi with TPLF even though his overwhelming influence on the organization is unquestionable. They have developed a false sense of security that it is going to be a cake walk ahead of them in the struggle for democracy and freedom in Ethiopia.
A very few minority are contemplating and testing the waters to use Zenawi’s death as an excuse for surrendering and bowing to opportunism. They have already started singing TPLF’s song of “Diaspora’s extremism” even though until now they have been part of the Diaspora and the opposition in general. They have already started bashing the Diaspora of intolerance and extremism while at the same time seeking dialogue with TPLF without putting any legitimate preconditions.
Many of us seem to give little attention to TPLF’s minority status and its very weak political base that ironically have served the organization very well in the last 20 years and more. Besides being able to keep secrets, these vulnerabilities have helped TPLF to stick together despite many disagreements and even splits that have occurred among them. These two weaknesses mentioned have put them on a survival gear to avoid any dangerous moves against each other. Even after Zenawi’s death, we can see it clearly how they are navigating with caution through their greatest crisis ever. They know they survive or die together. In the final analysis and despite the popular assumption, we may witness their survival with their top gun out of the picture. And I have no doubt, they will continue to depend on their relative unity and their determination to stay in power by any means necessary. And they have the means as well as the experience to do it unless they meet a stiffer and a more determined resistance from the opposition.
And some of us in the opposition may have already started to make TPLF’s job easier by borrowing their fairy tale and song of “intolerance and “Diaspora extremism”. Yes, the Diaspora opposition is intolerant to ethno-centric fascists, racism, and plunder. Yes, the Diaspora opposition is intolerant to lack of freedom of speech. Sure, the Diaspora is intolerant to the despicable act of TPLF that executed 200 young Ethiopians in broad day light. Even as we speak, Eskinder Nega, Andualem Arage, our Muslim brothers and thousands of others are being tortured in TPLF’s prisons. Is vehemently opposing this evil act “intolerance” or “extremism”? What is intolerant about rejoicing over the death of our killer? What is extremist about responding aggressively to a lose US diplomat who insulted us in public? Why would any body who considers himself an opposition member makes a big bone about our legitimate response to Susan Rice and criticize the Diaspora?
As has been demonstrated before,TPLF will negotiate only if it finds itself in a vulnerable situation such as the one it is passing through now. Until TPLF once again becomes stable down the road, it will negotiate as it is doing now with ONLF, or send Shimagles (Professor Isaac, Haile Gebreselassie) to opposition figures, Muslim detainees or show some temporary measures such as releasing Wubshet Taye and others from prison who they consider relatively harmless. All these measures are insignificant prices to pay to help them get out of the crisis Zenawi’s death has thrown on them. And they are getting a good break from the opposition with new opportunism springing up among its ranks that starts sounding like TPLF and claiming Diaspora’s “intolerance” and “extremism”.
Even though we have some suspicion, it is not clear who is (are) involved in this campaign. It looks like a coordinated effort to pacify and possibly to divide and conquer the Diaspora and it has began with the name calling such as “intolerance” and “extremism” of the Diaspora. This unconditional and unprincipled conciliatory gesture toward TPLF is taking place even before putting any preconditions to negotiate with TPLF such as an immediate release of all political prisoners and journalists, freedom of the press and a free and fair election, to say the least. Hopefully, the Diaspora opposition takes a good look at these unintended consequences of Zenawi’s death on the Diaspora politics and carves out a timely and wise strategy to keep itself intact and intensify the genuine struggle for freedom and democracy in Ethiopia more than ever.