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)