Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Saturday, October 20, 2007
What does the EPRDF's Beyonce mania tell you about the state of the party? This is a party which governs a poor country with countless problems and at the brink of yet another war. And yet all the state media and party's outlets are talking is about the sensational singer. Shameless!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
- On the professor's claim that there is a power struggle between Hailu and Brehanu.
-Competition for power and influence is the classic job description of politicians. What is unhealthy in a democratic system is
- What evidence can the professor give us to substantiate the allegation of political power struggle between Hailu and Brehanu?
-Which power are they struggling for? Hailu Shawel is the president of the party. Is the professor claiming that Hailu got to that power after a power struggle? Or is he claiming Brehanu is trying to unseat a legitimate leader and Hailu is fighting to preserve his power?
-Brehanu isn't the member of the executive committee of the CUD. Is he trying to usurp Hailu's power without even being in the executive committee or is the professor implying that Brehanu is trying to gain power and influence outside of the party's structure?
-Professor Mesfin asks us to work with Birtukan Mideksa as she is an able leader. What does that mean? Is the professor suggesting that Birtukan should be the chairwoman of the party? Is that compatible with democratic ideals? Or is he saying that we should in democratic manner remove Hailu Shawel and replace him Birtukan Mideksa?
-Can Birtukan lead the party when the giants who, with professor Mesfin himself, formed Kinijit are sidelined?
(More questions to come)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I agree with Fikru that the South will be the battle ground state in a lot of future elections. This is a region where integrationists have more support than unitarists and disintegrationists. This means that many people have unwavering commitment to both Ethiopian unity and self-administration.
I think if Kinijit works hard in the region, it can come out top. I have observed the last election very closely. Kinijit did get a fair number of seats in the South without a lot of hard work and organization. Kinijit should aspire to be a 50+1 party. In the last election using a charitable estimation (with the rigged constituencies shared between UEDF and Kinijit based on claim and prima facie evidence), Kinijit would have gotten 259 seats. That is 16 seats short of the majority needed to form a government. It could, of course, have formed a coalition government with UEDF. Kinijit can become a 50+1 party if it has an appeal to all Ethiopians beyond the cities, the Amhara region and some parts of the South. To make inroads to those constituencies, Kinijit should show that it is inclusive of the many in its appearance and policies.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
A government official admitted that soldiers had supplied ammunition to militiamen recruited from non-Ogaden clans.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Sunday, October 07, 2007
The magnificient and unanimous passage of H.R. 2003 in the House of Representatives received a HUGE media splash! The BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, and others reported on the great success of Ethiopians, Ethiopian-Americans, and all American friends of Ethiopia (See an excerpt of the many articles here: http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/ethiopia/hr2003.html ).
We heard from the media, now it's time that the media (and through them, the world) heard from us! The international media did a great job bringing attention to the big Yes vote on H.R.2003. As is the norm, they quoted both proponents of the bill (Payne, Smith, and others) as well as opponents of the bill (Ambassador Samuel Assefa). The ambassador's main talking point, which he regurgitates at every opportunity, is that the bill hurts Ethiopian-American relations, and that it fosters instability. Unfortunately, ill-informed Americans could easily buy it. So it is important to write to the papers to refute that! Let them know that:
- The relationship between the United States and America is more than the relationship between Bush and Meles. Rulers come and go; the Ethiopian people are here to stay! Remaining silent when Meles brutalises Ethiopians is not the way to win Ethiopian hearts and minds – Condemning his brutality, as HR2003 does, will increase prospects of long-term and sustained strong relations between the two countries.
- What breeds instability is to coddle an authoritarian government. Moderate critics of the regime will see US failure to stand by the side of the people as a signal that the only way to remove a tyrant is through violent means, which can't be what the US wants! What breeds instability is when EPRDF, with the tacit consent of the US and the international community, starves Ethiopians in the Ogaden in order to root out a rebel group. Armed groups will then get sympathy, support, and recruitment. H.R.2003 seeks to encourage a democratic space in which Ethiopians can hold their government accountable through means other than the barrel of the gun.
Choose any one newspaper that published an article on the bill (and that published the ambassador's reactions), and Write the Newspaper a letter Now. Each newspaper outlet has
- Many, Many should Write: If the papers get flooded by letters-to-the-editor, they will be sure to publish one or two of them!
- Keep it Short: 200 words or less. That will increase the chance of publication
- Write ASAP: News becomes old fast in the media world. The sooner you write, the greater the chance you'll see your letter in the paper.
- Stay polite: Our problem is not with the paper, but with the ambassador's illogic. Refute his talking points in a factual, straightforward manner.
- It doesn't have to be a piece of art! Don't be too worried whether each word is perfect. The most important thing is that the newspapers hear from as many as possible, then they will know that this topic is a big deal, and will feel more compelled to publish one of the letters flooding their inbox.
For more ideas how to write a highly effective letter and increase your chances of getting published, see the Media Toolkit at http://eacamoveon.org/communicate.php .
Use the following links or information to send a letter to the editor to one of the following outlets:
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/edit/letters/letterform.htm
Financial Times: Email firstname.lastname@example.org
New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/lettertoeditor.html
International Herald Tribune:
Voice of America: http://www.voanews.com/english/contactVOA.cfm
Friday, October 05, 2007
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Monday, October 01, 2007
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Please write a letter to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, expressing your support to the legislation. Get a sample letter here.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
We hold no grudges against our jailors or any body for that matter. Our only wish as always has been, together with our compatriots at the ruling party EPRDF to devote our energy to the betterment of our country and people and rededicate ourselves to the cause of democracy , respect for human rights and peace in our country and even beyond. Our journey may be long and our task hard. But to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr. again we are confident that the long arch of history will eventually bend towards justice in Ethiopia.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
We think Kinijit should start preparing itself for the main elections in 2010. To do that:
1. The leaders should avoid sentiments and change the name to avoid the legal obstacles
2. All of them should return home as soon as they finish the trip that has threatened to destroy the party. If the top leadership can settle their differences, it is good. We believe though that without each party leader firmly committed to the principles of democratic leadership, the settlement will just be postponing the problem. If they can't settle their differences, both groups can compete in the next election. To be a strong opposition doesn't mean pursuing the instrumental value of unity at the expense of all other values. In fact for one of the groups, we think this crisis is an opportunity to create a more inclusive and representational (in ethnic, religious and gender terms), more democratic, less confrontational and more resourceful political organization.
3. They should start working on alternative policies and programs. Kinijit had a manifesto during the election. That was that – an election manifesto. Now is the time they should come up with detailed policy alternatives on land, agriculture, education, health, media etc…
4. They should reorganize their base at home.
5. Start dialogue with the EPRDF if it is willing and use the slightest of political space it opens. They should make sure that they dialogue with caution but with optimism. There is no supporter or politician in the Diaspora who suffered as much as the supporters of Kinijit at home. There is no need to shun away dialogue and reconciliation when the ones who suffered significantly here are ready for reconciliation. Don't fear getting the "Woyane" and "Kaladi" labels from the most vitriolic of "Kinijit supporters" for stretching your hands for reconciliation. Leadership needs tough decisions.
6. Root out the cynicism that is creeping even among the most moderate leaders in Kinijit.
We thank ER for starting the debate. EZ Post doesn't want to lend credence to the kind of ugly discourse that is going on in some of the websites. Thus, we won't post anything relating to the internal problems of Kinijit. We apologize for not posting the second part of our article on the problems.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
During the election, Hailu wasn't in the forefront. He wasn't seen in the debates and public gatherings a lot. As a man who isn't adept at electrifying crowds or scoring points against opponents in debates, that was probably a good decision on the part of Kinijit, and Hailu didn't seem to complain. After the election – when Kinijit started to contest the ballots – Hailu started to be seen in press conferences and newspapers more and more, giving defiant interviews and outlining Kinijit's plans to instigate popular protest. His trip to NA in August was chronicled daily by Addis Ababa based newspapers. But it was at that time that his first major conflict with some of the top Kinijit officials started. In one of the speeches in NA, he said the party wouldn't join parliament. The party had not made the decision. A lot of Kinijit supporters applauded him for that. But in the party, there was anger. A lot of Kinijit officials thought the debate was hijacked. Kinijit didn't enter parliament, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The first three months in prison was the moment of solidarity between Kinijit leaders. Decisions were debated and taken together. EPRDF sensed that and dispersed the leaders into different cells. The troubles started then. In January and February 2006, massive crack downs led to the total incapacitation of all layers of Kinijit's leadership. Kinijit activists in Ethiopia lost leadership and direction. During their meetings in court, the leaders started discussion about the leadership gap, and on May 14, 2006 a letter was sent appointing six people in the Diaspora to fill the gap. This letter prompted a serious row between two groups. A group led by Shaleka Yosef Yazew raised serious objections to it. These were the objections:
-The letter isn't authentic
-The appointment of the six means Kaliti leadership is replaced
-Some people who had been mobilizing the diaspora even before Kinijit was created weren't included in the leadership, and three out of six who were assigned to the position were Dr. Brehanu's friends
-The wording of the letter doesn't reflect Kinijit's leadership.
Shaleka Yosef and others have also expressed that there was no need for these committee as Kinijit NA can do it.
On May 26, a clarification letter was sent to NA from the prisoners. It says this:
This political leadership committee is by no means a replacement of the Ethiopian leadership. It is a delegation of authority to fill the leadership void which has been created locally and internationally. It is no more than a power of attorney which can, at any time, be revoked.
There has been a serious misinformation and disinformation regarding this matter. Therefore, we plead the above individuals rectify the divisive and damaging campaign immediately. Any dispute in the designated committee should be resolved internally and based on democratic ideals of Kinijit.
But the letter did more than that. It asked the six to add six more persons based on party lines (the three parties as EDL has no representative in the diaspora)
A day after this letter more clarification request comes from NA. The request was about:
-specific responsibilities of the committee
-and the committee's institutional relationship with Kinijit NA
On May 29, the reply to the request was sent from kaliti. This was not communicated via third parties. It was written by the chairman in his own hand writing. These were the issues that were addressed:
-The method of selecting the chairman of the committee
-number of members of the committee (again)
A week later another letter was sent from Kaliti asking the committee to start its operation. Still with a lot of protest from Shaleka Yosef, the committee which was called the Kinijit International Leadership (KIL) started working. Shaleka Yosef continued writing to Hailu Shawel with claims that Brehanu's group had the grip on KIL and, therefore, Kestedemena(the party of Brehanu) was controlling Kinijit. While that was on, Brehanu Nega's Book, Ye'netsanet Goh Siked was published.
Brehanu criticized the democratic procedures of AEUP(Eng. Hailu's party) in two places. Ato Hailu couldn't read the book because of eye sight problems. It was left for Bedru Adem to read the book to him. In the book, Brehanu had written about how Bedru Adem left the party when he wasn't elected to kestedemena's executive committee. Bedru had before being imprisoned told journalists that it was Brehanu's opposition to him that made the Kestedemena members not elect him to the executice committee. Those who were in the same cell as Ato Hailu said that Bedru, the foe of Brehanu, wasn't reading the book to Ato Hailu; rather he was interpreting it.
With Ato Hailu fuming about the book, and with disgraceful letters carrying gossips coming into the prison from some diaspora activists, the personal feuds were aggravated. EPRDF sensing the problem made court breaks shorter and shorter so that the prisoners wouldn't talk to each other and sort out the problems.
Then appeared the problem in KIL. Shaleka Yosef who was stung with allegation of corruption etc(which we have no knowledge about) left KIL with three other members and they formed their own KNA. Two mediators were by the leaders who were in Eng. Hailu's cell. This led protest from the other cells that weren't consulted about it. Upon arrival in Washington, the mediators sent a recommendation to the cell that sent them to add 12 more individuals to the international leadership. Even though Hailu Shawel accepted that recommendation, the other leaders opposed it. Then the one that prompted the biggest explosion happened. When Hailu Shawel was taken to the Police Hospital for treatment, he sent a letter confirming the addition of the 12 recommended individuals. Kinijit International Council ( KIC) was formed. Six KIL members protested that the decision wasn't taken collectively by Kaliti and, thus, wouldn't accept it and didn't join KIC. Hailu Shawel's decision to accept the recommendation of Shaleka Admassie, one of the Shimagles, was probably the last straw in the relationship between him and some of his colleagues. His endorsement of Dr. Taye Woldesemait, a very popular figure in the struggle against the EPRDF, but nonetheless, one who on all occasions during and after the election opposed Kinijit's strategies and leaders didn't go well even among some of the chairman's strongest allies. The chairman, however, claimed he has emergency powers to make such decisions. Kinijit's internal working procedural law doesn't address emergency conditions. Hailu Shawel argued that this power comes naturally with chairmanship. The argument didn't persuade a lot of his colleagues.
Not long after the Formation of KIC, the leaders signed EPRDF's paper of apology. Just before they were released, they agreed to deal with the problems behind closed doors. They also agreed not to give any interviews to journalists before they met and solved the problems and other outstanding issues. But these agreements were unwrapped the day they were released. Hailu Shaewel's interview to the Associated Press infuriated some members.
From then on it was down hill in Kinijit.
Among the imprisoned, the members of the council started to have meetings and making decisions. Hailu Shawel didn't attend all except one of the meetings because he was sick. In the first meeting, the council decided to disband both KIL and KIC. Hailu Shawel signed that and was sent to the members of both groups and the media. But later on, KIC claimed that it wasn't disband.
The second decision was about constitution of groups which would travel outside of Ethiopia. Even though Hailu Shawel didn't participate in the meeting, what he wanted wasn't exactly what the council approved.
The chairman then changed his mind and asked the council not to go before the millennium. The council rejected that by majority vote. Then the issue of legalization was raised. The Hailu group claimed that because of there are problems in legalization, former parties (AEUP, Kestedemena etc) should form a coalition. The others group rejected that. The council decided against Hailu again. More, in the reconstitution of the council, the Hailu group wanted some of the former council members who weren't imprisoned and who showed suspicious behaviors not be called back. The other group suggested that there is no basis to evaluate suspicious behavior and the council should be reconstituted by all people who were members before the November crack down. Again, the council decided against the Hailu group even though the vote this time was very close.
In the past month and half, the chairman unlike the old days has persistently found his views in the minority in the council. With some people in NA calling and telling him that a coup de'tat is being orchestrated, he didn't want to accept the council's decisions. For example, he didn't want to join the delegation leaving to NA. His former party opened a bank account at the Abyssinia bank.
I have to say that a lot of the problems would have been solved had Ato Hailu been allowed to receive symmetrical information from all groups. All attempts to communicate to him from the non-Shaleka Yosef group had been unsuccessful. He was constantly told by this group that Brehanu was plotting his coup. There is no way Brehanu could replace Hailu because according to the organization's rules, only executive committee member of Kinijit can be a chairman. Brehanu isn't the member of the executive committee. He is just a member of the Kinijit council. According to the organization's rules, Hailu has twenty more months as a chairman. These are the kinds of facts Hailu Shawel is denied from getting.
(More on this to come)
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Meanwhile, book vendors in Addis Ababa are now banned from selling Brehanu Nega's book. Yenetsanet Goh Siked was republished after Brehanu's release from prison.
Now to my point. I have been hearing and reading stories regarding "dictatorial tendencies" or non-collective decision-making by some Kinijit leaders. I take in these stories and think of a couple of things.
The first is that, as this is the first genuinely inclusive opposition party that really integrated itself into the fabric of Ethiopian society, people have made it more than what it is. They seem to have forgotten that this party is made up of individual human beings who are fallible. It has and will, stumble, fall, fracture, make mistakes, and go through all the follies other human-formed organizations must, at one time or another. Therefore, it should not surprise anyone when Kinijit fumbles. Somehow though, because of their amazing ability to galvanize the Ethiopian people before and during the 2005 elections and their fearless confrontation with the government, leaders of Kinijit have been elevated to the status of super-human beings who can do no wrong. Some of the leaders, sadly, have also come to believe this. As recently as a week ago, one of the leaders has said that the party made no mistakes! This is the type of belief that will fracture Kinijit even faster. ( If you ask me, the mistakes that Kinijit made actually extended the life of a regime that was on the verge of committing suicide. But I leave this discussion for another day.) Also, let's not forget that these are politicians with big egos. ( People with small egos don't get into politics. If they do, they stay on the fringes performing supporting roles. For these folks, the view is always nice from the cheap seats.) So, when one politician with a big ego feels that his/her name is not seen in as a bright a light as the next politician with a massive ego, all kinds of dynamics occur, including leaking stories such as "so and so is a dictator, while I, on the other hand, am a true democrat who believes in 'deliberative democracy'." Some of the rumors about 'dictatorial tendencies' certainly emanate from such petty attitudes. One thing we must convince ourselves of is that we do not elect politicians for their purity in every aspect of their lives. We follow them for their ability to bring people and resources around worthy causes and getting the right things done to help their constituency/country.
Second, this thing about the so called "deliberative" democracy needs to be looked at seriously. There is no proof that communal deliberation is always a good thing. However, the generation that cut its teeth when socialism was in vogue seems to think that every decision has to be deliberated upon. Veering slightly off tangent for a second, one of the worst sins of Kinijit was its need to 'deliberate' with the public whether it should join parliament or not! How ludicrous was that!! At that time my thought was, "if these people get to power, are we going to have to meet every other day at Qebele to tell them how to decide on every issue?"
Therefore, Kinijit, as unbelievable as it may seem to those with eyes deliberately wide shut, will fall prey to individual fallabilities. Remember, even Lidetu Ayalew was once a member of Kinijit. It is as certain, as the day is long, that others will also leave the party and new ones will join. This is not weakness. It is just how the life of the party will continue (no pun intended here)
Thank you for the comments. You have certainly raised three very important issues. Let me first deal with your skepticism of deliberative democracy. I didn't use deliberative democracy as a synonym to public deliberation. Neither did the CUD during the election. Obviously, if the concept of political equality is taken in its fullest sense, it may call for direct mass participation. But that undermines the value of deliberation - political discourse based on information, attention to the issues and understanding of the interest of others. Political equality taken in that sense also puts another ideal - non-tyranny of the majority- at risk. It endangers the non-political rights of the minority - freedoms of the moderns - unless we put those rights as trumps and, therefore, as constraints to democracy. During the election the CUD, I remember, had proposed putting those rights as inviolable values. Yet it didn't go far with that because putting rights as trumps needed the total overhaul of the constitutional provisions which clearly deny the judiciary the power to interpret the constitution. So the choice for the CUD then was to adopt the conception of deliberative democracy, a conception which reconciles deliberation based on the idea of public reason, political equality and non-tyranny.
The devil, however, sits in the details, and I have to agree that some of the application of that conception during and after the election was rather messy even though I don't count the example you raised - the public debate about joining or not joining parliament - as one of those messy applications.
Now to your second point. I fully agree that there is a tendency to grandiosity among us, the pro-democracy camp. We may have made Kinijit, as you said, more than it is. I think it is the nature of the other camp and the history of other political groupings which have caused this tendency and the tendency has definitely fed the egos of some politicians in kinijit. That is why we have to be very careful in avoiding the equation I raised in my earlier article when we analyze something like the recent problem in Kinijit. An important personality in the organization may have serious complaints against the democratic decision of the council or any authoritative body. We may side with him on that, and criticize the decision of Kinijit as a party. But that doesn't reduce the value of democracy as ultimately on balance the decisions that are made democratically are better (whatever the value) than the decisions that are made undemocratically. That doesn't also mean that the person who has serious complaints can make the party hostage to his whims. If you remember, some of the grievances Lidetu aired against the democratic decisions of the council were rather serious, and at least demanded our investigation. Yet he made the wrong move in his attempt to split the party, and was finally shown the exit door.
I also take your third point about the value of strong individual leaders to heart. We need them. The party needs to give them power and resources to organize and rally people around worthy values. But the power has to come from the party. The leaders shouldn't assume it by themselves based on self-evaluation. That is usurpation of power.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The deliberative conception of democracy reconciles three seemingly irreconcilable principles of democracy; deliberation, political equality and non-tyranny. Reconciling these three principles has always been the central problem in democratic theory and practice. Political philosophers call that "The Democratic conundrum." There is no political party in Ethiopian history which has tried to define and address this problem as Kinijit had done before and after the election. Other political parties freely chose one of the principles over the others; or haven't even cared to choose any of the principles.
As an opposition group in a country where political parties and their leaders have little credit and confidence, Kinijit has got popular support less for its claims of deliberative democracy than its practices. During the election period, I had witnessed a growing procedure in Kinijit where members regard each other with equal respect and concern (as equals). In debates and discussions, they put forward views that others have reason to accept (not merely the views which one considers are compelling). And in the end, once the decision was taken, it was accepted as authoritative and the ultimate basis for cooperation. This procedure captured ideals of deliberative democracy. There was no time during that period – except in the case of the Lidetu saga - where any sense of self-importance and tyranny was existent even for the sake of sloganeering.
Now an equation - X = Kinijit; X representing a single person or group of persons who are far less than half of the party's council - is creeping into the party's discourse and procedure of decision making. Political literatures are awash here and outside of Ethiopia tabulating and debating the value of personalities, and how without them, the party, and even the movement, is doomed. Decisions are becoming less and less the basis of cooperation than division. Tell me… what then has Kinijit to offer if deliberative democracy is turned on its head? I care enormously to the party that has given me hope and aspiration, and to the movement, I have sacrificed my security, property and freedom. I will be the first one to stand up and be counted in the fight to protect the Kinijit ideal of democracy from the recent assault.
(My respect for all of the leaders who suffered in the EPRDF dungeon is boundless. I have worked day and night for their release. But my bonds are principles, not individuals.)
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Strangely, we continue to witness the deterioration of the free press at the hands of the few correspondents in this country who remain truly free.
The official restrictions on national press have been well-documented by human rights watchdog organizations, but little has been written on the shameful contributions made by Ethiopia's foreign correspondents. I am continually amazed by what I have observed here among this small circle of journalists—at the perpetual politicization of the news, and appalling distortions of the truth so easily excused by self-interested editors and comfortable journalists.
To shed some light on the workings of the Addis foreign press corps:
To secure accreditation, certain leading wire correspondents are encouraged by their editors to assure the appropriate Ministers of their intentions to write exclusively “happy” stories, which portray the country in a “favourable light”. Despite the blatantly inappropriate nature of such negotiations, these correspondents have, nevertheless, proven willing to go to great lengths to uphold this ludicrous promise to the Ethiopian government (the current social and political climate notwithstanding)—scrambling to uncover the happy stories in a place where, for so many, true happiness is found only in precious fleeting moments, development in a land where economic growth is virtually stagnant, and isolated incidents of political leniency in one of the world’s most repressive regimes.
Consequently, in Ethiopia, stories are routinely ignored or intentionally killed by the international wire services, whose journalists are even, on occasion, encouraged by bureau chiefs to re-interpret, or “contextualize” the more inflammatory responses of government spokesman (with a suggestive, “surely that is not what he actually meant!”)!
Even more worrying, is that Ambassadors and State Department officials also influence which events ultimately make it to print, ordering correspondents into silence or spinning stories for diplomatic advantage (recent examples being the arrest of NY Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman in the Ogeden region, which was deliberately suppressed by Ambassador Yamamoto for nearly a week, before finally being reported by blogger Ethio-Zagol, and the premature leaking of the ongoing political negotiations between the government and political prisoners).
Perhaps I am merely naïve, but something seems intrinsically wrong when major news outlets are encouraging their journalists to perpetually wine and dine government officials on the company expense account, while strictly advising them to avoid socializing with known opposition members and supporters, whose activities are to be regarded as automatically subversive.
It is simply unfathomable to me that the few foreign correspondents granted permission to work at length within the country (all citizens of free and democratic societies, lest they forget) could somehow begin with a "necessary, temporary effort to placate a hostile government", and in only a few months time end up functioning as government stooges—consciously neglecting subjects certain to upset the ruling party, and reluctantly investigating instances of widespread government brutality only upon official approval, with state-sponsored escorts.
The most popular justification amongst African press circles is clearly the claim that their organization would otherwise be expelled from the country. But, it seems to me, that if their primary agenda is actually to deliver unbiased regional news to their readers, the expulsion of their organization for merely documenting events as they unfold, is also, in itself, a strikingly accurate indication of national conditions. Regardless--since when did tailoring the news to suit the temperament of a brutal dictator become an acceptable compromise?
Yet, this has become more than acceptable practice here in Addis; in fact, it has become routine. And, naturally, when other publications (such as the Economist, New York Times or the Washington Post) break a controversial story first, the local correspondents can usually be found grumbling over drinks at the Sheraton Office Bar, berating said papers’ “unethical” means of gathering information and the “dangerous” community of in-country fixers, stringers, freelancers and bloggers on which they rely.
EZ thinks: The service's restoration is a good first step towards opening the political space. Now what about the private press and the blocked websites?
See What has happened to holy Joe?
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
Gizachew: The tour is part of the wider political activity we are undertaking now. We have to thank for the great effort and commitment Ethiopians living abroad showed both to the struggle for democracy and our release from prison. What Ethiopians abroad did when we were in prison was incredible. In 2006 and the beginning of 2007, there were massive demonstrations all over the world. They-children, the elderly, people with tremendous work and professional responsibilities- withstood the harsh weathers and made their points. They put pressures on host countries; made the media to pay attention. I haven't seen or heard the Diaspora of other countries showing such commitment.
EZ: But why wouldn't you just wait here until they are released?
Gizachew: We can do a lot of things at a time. Our trip is short. The South African group stays for ten days. They will come and continue what we have started. We also have a lot of council members who won't go abroad. They will also do the task. I don't see any reason why we can't do two things at the same time. We are a political organization. Our tasks are vast. We should be able to do a lot of things at the same time.
EZ: There are divisions in the Diaspora. Part of the reason for your trip is to solve that. How are you going to do it?
Gizachew: Our direction and vision regarding that is very clear. There will be no more appointments from Addis Ababa. It is a cliché; but I have to say it: Power belongs to the people. Ethiopians abroad will choose their own representatives for the chapters and kinijit support groups – at city, state, national and continental basis. It is each constituency which determines what its leaders will be.
EZ: That is for the future. But what about the past? There are serious allegations; allegations of embezzlement of incredible amounts of money collected in the name of Kinijit? Allegations of authoritarianism? Can you talk about the future without addressing the past?
Gizachew: We have started to address that. What we first did when we got out of prison was to take away the political powers of groups who were acting in the Diaspora on our behalf
EZ: Does it mean both KIC and KIL? Are they both disband?
Gizachew: Yes, both of them. Our task now is to investigate the allegations you mentioned in the fairest, transparent and accountable manner. The investigation will have policy and technical issues. On the technical side, for example, we have allegations relating to finance. The investigation will be done based on accounting rules, the laws of that country and other relevant rules. We will see that. On the policy side we will see issues relating to the respect of Kinijit's democratic principles. People make mistakes when they do things. We will see both sides: The positive and the negative.
Finally, after the investigation, based on the democratic principles of Kinijit, the constituencies will decide what they will do with the people. So this is also part of what I said before. We are going to investigate the matter and send our results back to the constituencies.
EZ: Do you expect a fall out from this investigation?
Gizachew: I don't. But if the constituencies, based on the investigation, decide that they don't want the people, we accept that. The decision is that of the people.
EZ: Will KIC and KIL be formed again after the investigation?
Gizachew: No they won't. Former Members will have to go back to their constituencies and be elected.
EZ: Which are the constituencies? In some cities in North America, there are two chapters representing different groups.
Gizachew: There is no reason that two chapters in one city should represent Kinijit. One of our tasks will be to solidify these chapters. I think the problem is not with the Kinijit supporters living in those cities. The divisions were created because of the alignment of the leaders. It is easy to bring the people together, and then they will elect their leaders. If one doesn't accept that, that is one's right. But one won't be part of Kinijit if one does that.
EZ: If the Diaspora is going to be organized in the way you suggest and if the rules of party discipline are not applied strictly, who is going to represent you in the corridors of power in North America and Europe? Will you appoint special representatives?
Gizachew: We won't appoint special representatives. The support groups can do it. The support groups may have party members and those who aren't party members. We will encourage our party members to be active in those groups, to seek election and so on. But more than that, I think even though I said party discipline isn't going to be strictly applied, it doesn't mean the support groups aren't kinijit. They are. They are Kinijit support groups and they will work with our foreign affairs committee in Addis Ababa. If they need expertise and political experience, they can hire professionals. But that is up to them.
EZ: There are civic groups who aren't Kinijit but share many of Kinijit's principles and objectives. They were doing a lot when you were in prison. There are some in the party who think that these civic groups should work under the coordinating umbrella of the party. There are others who think the party should completely be independent from them and vise versa. What do you think about your relationship with them?
Gizachew: They are different in nature from a political organization. They have issues which might overlap with ours. On those, I can't see any reason why we won't work together. We have to give them space. But that doesn't mean one should be a subordinate to the other.
EZ: You don't still have a legal recognition. What are you doing in that front?
Gizachew: We have agreed in principle that we should return to the status quo created after the merger. There are divided groups who were all part of Kinijit. We are trying to bring all of them together. Those who joined parliament have registered the name of Kinijit at the election board, but they didn't receive the certificate. They have a problem of calling the general assembly because there is a division in them. But both groups say they want to hand power to the kinijit leadership. We are talking with them. But we are concerned about the delay.
So we are thinking of another option. If you remember, after the merger, we have applied to the election board for registration. We had then elected the president, the vice-president, the secretary. We have followed the electoral laws of the country. We believe that we are legal. What remained was publication, acknowledgement by third parties. That is why we applied for registration. We have now asked the election board to give us a response. Based on that response, we will proceed to the other steps.
EZ: What if both options fail? Do you have a fall back plan? Changing name for example?
Gizachew: We believe we have a right to the name. We will exhaust all legal possibilities before we think of other options. It is premature to speculate about name change now.
EZ: Before the merger, Kinijit was a coalition of four parties. Is there a possibility that you will return to that status?
Gizachew: That is unthinkable. The four parties are dead. We don't think about them. Kinijit is the party of Ethiopian people. There is no way we are going back to the four party era.
EZ: Kinijit's support comes for its stated commitment to democracy, economic and political liberty and Ethiopian unity. Without internal democracy, it is impossible to say that Kinijit will fulfill its commitments if it gets to power. Is Kinijit's internal democracy reassuring? Rumors and gossips about the problem of democracy inside Kinijit are rampant.
Gizachew: Kinijit wouldn't have committed itself to democracy in Ethiopia without being democratic itself. Our decisions are made collectively, and the principle governing us is the principle of majority vote. There are different opinions in Kinijit. The one with the support of the majority wins. Without having full internal democracy, we won't even contemplate getting into power. If Kinijit doesn't respect internal democracy, I will be the first one to oppose its working rules.
EZ: Are you talking about principle in the normative sense? Or are you implying that at this moment, there is internal democracy in Kinijit?
Gizachew: We are implementing them. Our attempts during decision making deliberations to reach at a consensus or to convice a dissenter before a vote shouldn't be taken as a toleration of anti-democratic culture. It is a way of making people feel that their views are seriously taken, and that even though they have dissented; they are part of the decision. In the end, if those attempts fail, we will make decisions based on the principle of majority vote.
EZ: Election 2005 has created stars in Kinijit. People have a lot of confidence in them. They are the faces of Kinijit. When they play constructively, they have enormous positive impact. But there is a problem with stars. They have an equally enormous destructive capacity. Do you take them as threats to the internal democracy of Kinijit? Will the Lidetu phenomenon be repeated in Kinijit?
Gizachew: Kinijit has many stars. I don't think it is only one. People may have different views about their role and status, but the truth is all of us in the leadership have one vote. As I said before, we try hard to accommodate different views, make people feel that they are part of a decision they even oppose. But if a person thinks his star shine brighter than other and tries to flout collective decision making principles, I think he is in a political football where he will certainly lose. In that sense, the Lidetu phenomenon will be repeated. No one is indispensable.
EZ: Two Shimagles were sent to America when you were in prison. There were a lot of people who were uncomfortable with the decision making then. Was that contrary to the principles of collective leadership?
Gizachew: That was decided under special circumstances. I was part of the decision. In addition to me, there was Hailu Shawl, Hailu Araya, Befekadu Degfe, Yacob Woldemariam and Tamarat Tarekegn in the decision making. All of us were in the same prison cell. I think we should have given it more time and included other people in other cells as well. Even though it was a special circumstance, we should have tried to get more views. The request for the shimagles came from the eight who were the majority then. So we thought if it wouldn't hurt. So the seven of us decided to send Shaleka Admassie and Dr. Bezabeh. It is partially a collective decision, but not fully.
EZ: Do you regret the decision?
Gizachew: What I regret is that we should have stopped their mission when they failed to mediate.
EZ: What do you think was the point of no-return during the mediation? At what point should you have stopped their mission?
Gizachew: The role of the Shimagles wasn't fruitful. We should have stopped them when we knew about it.
EZ: Did the Shimagles have clear objectives?
Gizachew: Yes, it was to mediate between the two groups (the eight and the four) in KIL.
EZ: Another group was formed after they arrived in Washington. Was forming it part of their objective?
Gizachew: No. Their role wasn't to create a new forum. It was to mediate between the two groups I mentioned. They proposed that. But we clearly told that their role is different. We wrote a letter addressed to each of the twelve members requesting them to see the bigger picture.
EZ: Let's see the bigger picture. Kinijit offered itself as an alternative to EPRDF. Now you are consumed with internal issues. What about your relationship with the EPRDF? What will the direction of your relationship be?
Gizachew: We have posed serious challenges for the EPRDF. When we debated about taking our parliamentary seats, we all wanted the seats. But we said what is the purpose of taking the seats if the questions of democracy, economic liberty and freedom aren't answered by the EPRDF. The eight principles are the results of that deliberation. Media freedom, independence of the judiciary, human rights etc… are still Kinijit's cardinal principles. So our relationship with EPRDF will be governed by our interest to see these principles reign supreme in the country.
EZ: Will your approach change? Do you think you were confrontational after the election?
Gizachew: Tone changes with time. But that doesn't mean our tone will swing wildly from one end to another. In Ethiopian political culture, direct criticism is taken as confrontation. That has to change.
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