By Abate Kassa
Does the opposition’s strategy need a strategy? Do we have a consensus that we should try to bring about change in Ethiopia by peaceful means if we can, by force if we must? Yes, electoral politics is dead in Ethiopia. But, even though we should not deny the right of any group to conduct an armed struggle, why do we go into war before we exhaust the peaceful means first? We cannot sit idly while social issues of war and peace are raging. We are in dire need of guidance through public dialogue, as this ought to concern all of us.
I am aware that war is the continuation of politics by other means (Clausewitz), but it ought to be the last resort. I also remember Lady Thatcher’s mantra that “diplomacy without force is like music without instruments,” but we have yet to attain neither the skills nor the means to be even effective diplomats. Yes, we have learned from the U.S. Declaration of Independence that, “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of (their unalienable rights) it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.” But our opposition groups have not developed an organized social force that could defeat TPLF’s military force. Remember, even when we had the mighty social force/people power in 2005 (that drove MZ out of town), the opposition wasted that political capital because it was unprepared to unleash that power. Moreover, how soon do we forget the bitter experience that we learned from the Derg and TPLF of the danger of the military turning tyrant? What is the guarantee that this time it would be different? Where is the evidence that they can be trusted to respect the will of the people?
We seem quite capable of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Historic opportunities were missed like when the Derg hijacked the national uprising in 1974, the breakup of EPLF and TPLF, the senseless war of 1998-2000 that resulted in the death of over 70,000 citizens, the failure of Kinijit leaders in 2005 when the election was stolen and 193 unarmed demonstrators were massacred, the death of dictator Meles Zenawi in July 2012, and finally the 100% election victory by the ruling regime. The people have been ready for change but opposition parties remain polarized and paralyzed, yet leadership is the cause and everything is the result. ስላልተደራጀን እና ስላልተዘጋጀን ብዙ እድሎች አመለጡን።
Mission and Strategy
In a country of 82 ethnic groups, the ethnic federation that TPLF formed with only nine ethnically based regions is bantustanization a la apartheid South Africa. It is TPLF’s ‘divide and rule’ strategy. Ethnocentrism is exclusive, undemocratic, and hate-driven politics with dangerous long- term consequences.
የኢትዮዽያ ሕዝብ የዘውድ ሕገ-መንግሥት፣ የደርግ ሕገ-መንግሥት እና የወያኔ ሕገ-መንግሥት ተፈራረቁበት። ዛሬ ሕዝቡ የሚፈልገው እና የሚጥረው “በኢትዮዽያ ርእስ-ሕግ” ሰብአዊ መብት እና የሕግ በላይነት በሚከበርበት እና የሕዝብ የሥልጣን ባለቤትነቱ በሚረጋገጥበት ዲሞክራሲያዊ ስርአት ለመተዳደር ነው።
What is the alternative political economy that we envision for Ethiopia? The opposition forces have never told us or educated us as to which policy would be better for Ethiopia, such as, presidential system or parliamentary system; federal state or unitary state; liberal democracy or
social democracy; bicameral or unicameral legislature; ethnocracy or ethiocracy, etc., etc.? What is the wisdom in the opposition’s declaration that their mission is to overthrow TPLF/EPRDF? How is that achievable by military means? Will they be engaged in the traditional armed struggle or have they devised an innovative military action specifically suited for the task of overthrowing an incumbent military regime? On the other hand, shouldn’t the priority mission be TO DEFEAT ETHNIC APARTHEID IDEOLOGY? In the light of the fact that TPLF/EPRDF is an existential threat to Ethiopia, wouldn’t that be a worthy cause that could be achievable by devising strategies such as not to fund opposition parties unless they work in solidarity for the common cause of the national interest rather than party interest? Opposition leaders need to reframe their direction and craft a unifying platform for the common good of all Ethiopians. Couldn’t an Ethiopian solidarity movement empowered with a countervailing force be able to extract concessions from TPLF and negotiate a grand bargain to amend the constitution to form a transitional government of national unity respecting the rule of law and equality of all ethnic groups? This is the time for collaboration to save Ethiopia first, and not competition for political power because democracy and the rule of law do not exist in Ethiopia today. ዛሬ ትብብር፣ ነገ ውድድር።
The impact of a divided strategy
Those of us who are opposed to TPLF’s tyrannical rule are divided into two camps of peaceful and armed struggle. How can an armed struggle engaged in parallel with opposition political parties that do not share a common political agenda work? Where is the united front of a national liberation movement that is trustworthy to bring about genuine democracy in Ethiopia? What happened to the lessons learned from IRA and ANC? Are we not being inefficient and ineffective in the way we deploy our resources? Why don’t we first debate and convince ourselves which one is the viable and realistic strategy? Why not pursue the lower cost method that will not waste the human lives that we treasure? If our alternative to TPLF’s tyranny is going to be pro-people policy, why do we want to waste our most valuable human resource?
Evolve or die
The U.S. Government provided TPLF/EPRDF the scaffolding with which they climbed to power and continues to sustain them in power by forging alliance under the pretext of the “war on terror” and allows them to terrorize and torment their own people for 24 years with impunity. TPLF/EPRDF has been incapable of evolving or transforming itself from a guerrilla movement to a governing political body and it has also been blind to the existence of other Ethiopians. When TPLF/EPRDF makes peaceful change impossible, a popular uprising will be inevitable.
The status quo of despotism in Ethiopia under TPLF/EPRDF is not acceptable because the ethnic apartheid regime is a personification of our common enemies of tyranny, poverty, famine, disease, war, and corruption. The destiny of Ethiopia is too important to be left only to the politicians. Therefore, we need to rise in solidarity with our people and exercise our natural right of self-preservation. Let us be mindful of the fierce urgency to save Ethiopia from the regime’s polarizing ethnic-apartheid policy. Ethnocentrism is reviled by majority of Ethiopians. You recall that the people of Ethiopia repudiated ethnic apartheid in the 2005 election by voting for Kinijit and Hibret overwhelmingly. If we take pride in our ancestors’ victory over colonialism, why don’t we make our own glory by defeating TPLF’s hateful ideology of ethnic apartheid?
“All for One Ethiopia and One Ethiopia for All”