Tuesday, June 06, 2006

In Defense Of The Alliance: Perspective From Home

A lot of mental energy has been expended dissecting the concept and provisions of the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD). Some of the inches in web journals and blogs are filled with anti-alliance jeers. Others champion it with pious zeal. Thinkers have groped about, stumbled and sometimes fallen in the dark to grab the tail of the issues; understand the nature, full meaning and limits of the alliance. The temper and tone of the fervent debates is inviting and reassuring. It is with this spirit of tolerance and respect that I join the inspired forum and expound my views. As the title of the article suggests, I intervene on the side of the alliance.
The context and meaning of the alliance
A careful reading of the statutes of the alliance reveals its loose nature. Its aims and functions are stipulated in very general terms. It has no specific programme. Its name is a derivate of this nature of the alliance. The Italians have a more appropriate term for loose political alliances. They call them Ammucchiata. Parties in Italy use ammucchiata when their power is threatened. As it is a mechanism of not loosing power, it may sometimes have a disparaging tone in Italian politics.
Terminologies like coalition and integration which are used by some critics interchangeably with alliance are, therefore, way out of the mark. The threshold of the alliance is clear. Since the ideology and political strategy of the parties under the umbrella is dauntingly unbridgeable, they chose a loose approach to definition. They seem to agree that it is unnecessary and, indeed, impossible to state a more precise definition of the alliance than its rough working ideas provide. To criticize the alliance of lacking a detailed programme and ask probing questions as Andinet Semere did on Ethiomedia reminds me of a tale of a student in my philosophy 101 class. Our instructor asked us to come up a well-reasoned refutation of one of Nietzsche's works. One of the students bragged with a claim that he had found the German philosopher to be irrational. The teacher rebuked him saying that his was not a refutation as Nietzsche never pretended to be rational. The alliance never claimed to have "a common political and governance framework" and, thus, criticizing it for not having one is making it what it didn't pretend to be.
The purpose of the Ammucchiata
The most obvious question flowing from my argument above will be "if the alliance is so loose, what is its purpose?" I contend that it has both symbolic and practical purposes.
-It says a lot when in a country where blood-curdling wars have been waged due to political differences, such political groupings of contradictory objectives and strategies sit down and agree to design ways of resolving disputes in a manner that respects democracy and freedom. Just a year ago, it would have been quite scandalous for the CUD and OLF to do that. They are now trying to make the scandal the new orthodoxy in Ethiopian politics.
-Practically, the alliance helps reduce the suspicion between the supporters of these organizations and undermines the divide and rule strategy TPLF uses to maintain its power. As an Oromo and passionate CUD supporter, I have a close experience of this suspicion and mistrust. During the election and after, I have traveled to many parts of Oromia region and learned the force of OLF in the minds of many Oromos. The fact that it didn't participate in the election may not quantifiably confirm the extent of its support. Yet the same could have been said about the CUD before the election. EPRDF thought its win was done and dusted before May 15. We shouldn't underrate OLF's support in the region. The suspicion many OLF supporters harbor towards CUD had seriously hampered grass root mobilization, opposition infiltration of the army and security etc. The AFD isn't an immediate answer to such suspicion. It is a start nonetheless.
AFD and all inclusive conference
Daniel Assefa has written a wonderful article on the all inclusive conference. On one of the paragraphs of that article he wrote:
A transitional (caretaker) government or a power broker is the usual proposal that comes out of such large all inclusive conference an issue that is more than the eight point proposal of CUD. That is eventually what all the “stakeholders” end up demanding. Such approach becomes a practical alternative in a country that is highly unstable and where the oppositions are evenly matched. In such situation, the overriding factor that brings them together is the realization by the involved parties that, a compromise is better than a mutually assured annihilation. Demonstrative examples include our neighbor the Sudan and Mozambique. The situation in Ethiopia is very different. Ethiopia is relatively stable country and has a constitution that is functional though unpopular. It was after conceding this fact that CUD and friends nearly wrestled power away from the government. In addition, many opposition groups are not in a position to demand a “rightful” place since there is a marked disparity between groups in terms of support, membership or military capability. In situation like this, a transitional government is seen as destabilizing move and is not always popular as it is a way of giving “ye mariam menged” to groups that do not have a mass base and could not have a any significant political impact otherwise
I agree with Daniel's assertion that there is a great likelihood that a transitional government will be the end product of the all inclusive conference the alliance craves for. My disagreement lies with his overall assessment of the situation of Ethiopia. Yes, Ethiopia was relatively stable and the constitution was functional. Yes, CUD conceded this fact and competed in the election and won. Yet this assessment doesn't reflect Ethiopia's situation post May; particularly post November. There is no political space to operate in at the moment. Opposition groups who are working through the parliamentary process have no role other than lending legitimacy to the TPLF government. The constitution is suspended. I can't see a genuine election politics as long as TPLF stays in power. It is, therefore, incumbent upon CUD to find alternatives to its pre-election position. One such alterative is to accept the possibility of forming a transitional government with other groups - the possibility that it rejected before.
The all inclusive conference may create transitional government. That doesn't mean all political groupings will have the same say and same power in such a government. Daniel's examples, Mozambique and Sudan, are cases in point; and this is where the alliance (particularly CUD and OLF) have to ponder over and come up with a fair power-sharing framework.
AFD and CUD's eight proposal
AFD kills and at the same time rekindles CUD's eight point proposal. The memorandum of understanding of the alliance states:
While maintaining their political programs, organizational independence and autonomy, the parties will refrain from entering into any unilateral negotiation or agreement with another party that could jeopardize the alliance.
Since CUD's eight point proposal is a call for the TPLF government, it will be structurally dead as long as the AFD exists as CUD can't make unilateral negotiation with the government.
Structural death doesn't mean total death. CUD can still make the eight point proposal an agenda for the all inclusive conference and to the transitional government latter. Most of the eight points demand institutional reform and as long as the transitional government is "a government for the establishment of democratic institutions", they will be answered. Again this is something CUD should press in the AFD.
AFD and the Ethiopian Constitution
Some of the critics of the alliance are puzzled as to how the CUD accepts to work within the framework of the present Ethiopian constitution. One should not have raised this argument if one followed CUD's politics closely. The party accepted to work under the constitution way before the AFD. It competed in the election with the constitution's framework. It wants to amend and change some of the provisions of the constitution but the change is to be made according to the rules of the same constitution. The AFD just about restates that commitment.
Coming up ...The politics of "vanguard" parties, CUD's democratic principles and AFD


Anonymous said...

Simply brilliant. For me, this is the best analysis of the Alliance so far. Keep up the great work. I am one of your fans. I enjoy your
blogs very much. My all time favorite was the detailed court reporting.
God bless and stay safe

Anonymous said...

I love you man. Extremists from both sides want to see Ethiopia that will not be better than the TPLF of today. If extreme OLF people assume people, they will wipe out the Amhara people. If extremist CUD people assume people, they will take us to the Dergue area. CUD is the best Ethiopia has ever got. OLF was destructive in ochestrating genocide against the Amhara people. That is recorded and will remain on the record forever.

But the alliance between CUD and OLF is the best it could happen for us. We have to give up past remorses and work for a truly federal Ethiopia. That is possible only when OLF is part of the solution. People who say OLF is terriorist and does not represent Oromia do not know Ethiopia. For CUD to succeed and for a better Ethiopia, compromise between them was a must. That is what the alliance ia all about.

What is happening back at home? People have given up any hope of pressurizing the release of our leaders. CUD NA has failed to organize the struggle at home. They are doing nothing. Our true leaders are suffering there while these people in America are fighting in power struggle. They are too selfish that they want to steal the CUD achievement.

I think this CUD NA people are a bunch of people who apsire only for power. They have contributed money but have killed the momentum of the struggle.

Anonymous said...


አሊያንሱ የሚንቀሳቀሰዉ በነጻነት እስከሆነና ሊያዘጋጀው የሚፈልገዉ የዉይይት መድረክም ለኢትዮጵያ ችግር መፍትሄ ለመፈለግ የሚያስችል ከሆነ ዘንድ አሁን ያለዉ ህገ -መንግስት አንዱና ዋነኛዉ የችግሩ መሰረት መሆኑ እየታወቀ እንደ መነሻ ለመዉሰድ ለምን አስፈለገ ???? ልብ ልንለዉ የሚገባ ነገር ቢኖር የአሊያንሱ እንቅስቃሴ አገር ዉስጥ በሚደረግ ምርጫ ለመሳተፍ አይደለም :: ይህ ቢሆን ኖሩ አስፈላጊነቱን መገንዘብ አይከብድም ነበር!!! ቅንጅት በምርጫዉ ለመሳተፍ ሲል ህገ - መንግስቱን መቀበል የግድ ስላለዉ ተቀብሎአል , አሸናፊ ሆኖ ከወጣ ግን ለማሻሻል እንደሚፈልግ በግልጽ አስቀምጧል ::

የኢትዮጵያን ችግር ለአንዴና ለመጨረሻ ጊዜ ለመፍታት የሚጠራዉ ጉባኤ ህገ - መንግስቱን እንዲቀበልና በዚያ መሰረት እንዲመክር ለምን ይገደዳል ???? Why the final solution for peace and stability is not allowed to break the ethnic killil fire walls??? Why the final solution is forced to legitimize the killils and the ethnic barriers without questioning its inevitability !!!

What is funny is, the current constitution was designed and imposed by TPLF and OLF, the then armed groups, in a way that favours them!!! ይህንን ህገ -መንግስት [ በዘር የተከፋፈለች አገር ] እንደመነሻ ይዞ ሊመጣ የሚችል ያገሪቱን ችግር ላንዴና ለመጨረሻ ጊዜ የሚፈታ መላ ምት በእኔ በኩል አይታዬኝም ::ፍትሐዊም ይሆናል ብዬ አላማንም ምክኒያቱም ኢ _ፍታሀዊ በሆነ መንገድ የተደነገገ ህገ - መንግስት ወደ ፍታዊነት ሊወስድ አይችልም :: የዘር ፖለቲካ ዘላቂ ሰላምን እንደማያመጣ በኢራቅ ዉስጥ ያለዉን ሁኔታ በማዬት መረዳት የምንችል ይመስለኛል ::

Anonymous said...


No hype please! Where was all this Oromo support for OLF that you are talking about? What did OLF deliver to the Oromos in 15 years except brain wash them into believing all the lies concoted in Asmara?

Just like TPLF, OLF has become a victim of its own lies and now it has found the opportune time to ride on the coattails of Kinjit.

OLF needs Kinijit more than Kinijit needs OLF.

Anonymous said...

This is a good start but there is a long way to go to rationalize the alliance. Your arguement estabishes some important but yet unproven theories. Among which your assertion of the death of peaceful and legal struggle. I believe this proposition needs more debate. I for one do not agree. You practically argue for abondoning the struggle from the inside. I think otherwise. I believe the long term solution which also is the shortest distance to objective - democratization - comes by struggling within the system primarily but assisted by those outside the system. Remember the objective is not only to get rid of TPLF to replace by another LF but to democratize Ethiopia.

Good job and keep it up

ethio-Zagol said...

To the anonymous above;
My argument regarding the changing situation of Ethiopia was made in relation to Kinijit's rejection of transitional government during the election.It doesn't mean, however,that the present situation calls for an armed struggle. My arguments should not be read in that way. I am totally against armed struggle( but not against creating symbolic alliances with armed groups.) Yet I feel that the current situation doesn't allow working within the system as there is no constitutional rule; there is total absence of freedom of speech,etc(The system is totalitarian dictatorship). Non-violent struggle can be made within or outside the system. Kinijit tried to work within the system post and pre-election.Now is the time to think about working outside the system.This may iclude infiltrating the army, silently organizing grass roots, labour unions, students etc. These things are outside of the present system.

Anonymous said...

Your analysis is refreshing. Just like you I was in the southern regions at the time of election and there afterm mostly in Oromia. Your observation coincides with mine. Here in the west people seem to feed each other with unrealistic pictures. This alliance did not indicate the death of peaceful resistance. In fact it did not call for resistance. It is proding the incumbent regime to seriously consider the situation of the country and become part of the solution. Such far sighted rationals for bringing different groups together is an encouraging development in my 30 years of poltical experience in Ethiopia. We have to abondon the old way.
Thank you man. That was beautiful. Keep up with the good work.

Anonymous said...

I have no quarrel with your piece, but let’s face it man, this is a far cry from the earthquake you predicted. How did the eminent category five hurricane get downgraded to a symbolic, practical and defensive ammuchiatta? If you are correct in your downgrade, then the whole alliance thing makes even less sense. I am no strategist, but why on earth would so many personalities (including our northern neighbor) with so little in common get together if they don’t mean to tango to a war beat? I am not advocating war, but without one, the friendship makes little sense. Without coordinated offense, it is too bitter a compromise to swallow just for symbolic and practical gain. If you are saying the opposition in general and CUDP in particular is feeling this threatened, we probably have much larger issues besides the alliance to worry about. I was not all that convinced the alliance was a good thing; strangely enough your argument in its defense only added discomfort to ambivalence.

Look forward to your next piece.

Anonymous said...

It is refreshing to read your calm and insightful analyisis of issues. Thanks for keeping it real.

Daniel Assefa