The previous July, UEDF was formed with EPRP and AEUP as the principal organizers, and several Ethiopians, reportedly 1000 or more in the conference hall at the time and hundreds of thousands in Ethiopia, had pinned their hopes of seeing an effectively united political opposition in UEDF. Sadly, though, that did not happen. This is not to deny recognition to EPRP and AEUP, the principal organizers of the conference.
We must critically examine why the Ghion Conference in1993 and that in Paris and in Washington, D.C, some years later, failed so miserably. Why? Are our people incapable of learning from failures?
This is not a condemnation of the principal actors of those conferences, but rather one made to generate some discussion with the aim of making the next one at the end of this month effective by assisting UEDF conference organizers to see the absolute necessity of unity based on transparency, fair play and accountability. We need to ensure the success of the struggle for the revival of a strong, united and democratic Ethiopia after the national elections in 2005.
Indeed, our elite has badly failed so far to even come close to our patriotic “feudal” forefathers of 1896, or to those that gallantly shed their blood and brought us glory in Dogalli, Gura, Gundet, Korahe, Kufit, or to those that gave their lives at Maichew 40 years after Adwa. All that the elite has managed to do so far is to pick up some ferenji texts, slogans and fantasies and memorize them very poorly, claim to be all-knowing and anointed by some human idol to rule us with an iron fist, and lead the unfortunate masses, where I also originate, to still more poverty, war, division, famine, misery and destruction, which is all that we have seen from our elite since the 1970s.
EPRP and other members of UEDF should realize that times have changed since the 1960s, and Ethiopians are no more tolerant of dictatorial methods of organization or management. They very much respect educated people, but that respect is bound to be rejected fast if the elite continue to be self-centered. The Marxist view that one can organize the masses against other masses to implement any self-serving agenda cooked up centrally by a few “we know all” individuals is totally unacceptable today. That is also EPRDF’s problem!
The opportunity to make a huge difference for Ethiopia was squandered away for over 12 critical months which have now been wasted by an inflexible UEDF leadership that fabricated a management structure, bye-laws and objectives after the conference, and attempted to impose it on its members against the decisions of the conference.
Yet, that same leadership has kept lecturing about democracy, fair play, transparency, accountability and free and fair elections throughout the globe. What makes today’s UEDF leaders any better than Meles and his clique since they have also resorted to threatening founding members, and employed delay tactics to postpone a frank and public discussion and resolution of outstanding UEDF problems?
Right to this day, the bye-laws of UEDF are not public, but the leaders trotted round all over Europe, America, Australia and South Africa to plead for assistance to UEDF which is far from transparent, accountable or internally democratic. These are serious problems and those UEDF leaders directly responsible for this mess should be removed if the public is to regard UEDF as a credible and democratic association of independent opposition political parties.
From the various communications in the local press, UEDP and AEUP have repeatedly complained that UEDF has failed to be transparent, accountable and democratic:it has behaved like a party instead of being an association of independent political parties, and it has repeatedly intruded into the domain of activities of member parties both in Ethiopia and abroad :
· It has not clearly come out with an objective consistent with the upcoming elections in 2005; whatever it has is largely irrelevant or otherwise designed to serve a different purpose.
· It has adopted an organizational structure that has appeared to shy away from the national and regional elections in 2005, thereby ignoring the principal cause for its formation and the only principal concern of all Ethiopians at this time.
· Its leaders have prepared rules to monopolize the leadership by denying any leadership role to some of the most prominent and active founding members of UEDF, contrary to the decisions of the General Assembly in July 2003. Clearly, such power monopoly is frightfully undemocratic.
· It has not yet come up with a program or bye-laws which have been approved by all members of UEDF, and, clearly, therefore, neither supporters of UEDF nor founding members see such vital documents at this time on the otherwise crowded UEDF website.
· It has cooked up an unworkable and intricate committee structure and management which gives EPRP an unbelievably dominant role.
· The political struggle cannot be led from Washington, D.C. or from any other city outside Ethiopia.
· It is not possible to repeat the experience of 1935-1940 since there is no Emperor Haile Sellassie this time.
· It has failed to see that the political opposition in the Diaspora and that in Ethiopia can play vital complementary roles, the first by spearheading the international lobby and providing other essential support, and the latter by improving coordination and effectiveness among opposition parties to ensure that
(i) Electoral Proclamation 111/1995 is revised urgently to make it impartial,
(ii) the National Election Board is reconstituted to serve all competing political parties by creating a level playing field, and
(iii) victory of the political opposition empowers all Ethiopians at the national and regional elections in 2005 and pave the way for the unconditional return of all Ethiopians in the Diaspora to their Motherland.
With 10 US-based parties, largely based in the USA, and only 4 from Ethiopia, each having an equal vote in the General Assembly in July 2003, it has failed to see that the General Assembly of July 2003 was very highly biased in favor of parties in the Diaspora with 67% of the votes. However, the constituency of the 10 foreign-based parties is no where near that of the smallest of the 4 home-based parties( UEDP, ONC, SEPDC and AEUP).
Is that a democratic set-up for an association that is fighting for democratic rights? Does it make sense to allow the foreign-based parties to decide everything when the blood and toil is generously offered by those based within Ethiopia ? Does decision by majority vote make sense in this case? Votes are equal only when they have the same content.
This issue is not one of power-mongering but one of fair play and public confidence. It is outright undemocratic and discourages unity, especially given the fact that it is engineered by men who have many degrees or more than equivalent qualification, and by men who tell us time and again that EPRDF is undemocratic. Fellow countrymen, charity begins at home!
This lopsided decision-making body needs to be restructured in the upcoming conference of UEDF to give much more voice/representation to the 4 independent parties from Ethiopia so that they lead UEDF, and not vice-versa.
The question of power sharing, which is an academic issue at this time, can also be discussed openly, and parties like AEUP have already made it known publicly in their political program that a post-EPRDF government will be a GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL UNITY. However, if the elite are truly committed to Ethiopia and Ethiopia alone, even such a discussion is premature.