"The thing that lies at the foundation of positive change, the way I see it, is service to a fellow human being." - Lech Walesa

Sunday, 28 December 2014

“Freedom for Free and Fair Election!” is About Breaking the Vicious Cycle

Ethiopian national electionDecember 27, 2014

by T.Goshu
1. We are about five months away from the “national election” expected to take place in May of this year. Whether we
 will keep doing the same way of doing politics and oddly wait for things to happen by themselves (if there is such happening in real life), or we should play a dynamic political game and make things happen in favor of freedom and justice is still a very tough challenge to face. I do not think the issue is really our shortcomings in theorizing – explaining the importance of election and how to do it. For that matter, the current constitution (“the supreme law of the country”) does not have serious deficiency in out lining the basic values and principles in this regard. The very deep and serious challenge we are facing is the total absence of constitutionalism. What we do really have is a constitution or a document used by an ethno-centric TPLF and its brain-children (members of the Front) to attack and eliminate all opposition parties and dissenting political movements. Needless to say, the document (the constitution) of TPLF/EPRDF is not used as the supreme legal document either to check and balance the powers of the three branches of government or to regulate the relationship between citizens and the government. There is no need for us to go far in search of evidence as this deadly notorious political game is part of the day-to-day lives of the people. It is because of this kind of chronically ill political environment that it is quite safe to say that it will be a very stupid political mistake to announce and decide to participate in the upcoming election instead of working in unison and force the ruling elites to open the political gate and door they closed on peoples’ face for the last two decades. And I think that is the very powerful purpose of “Freedom for Free and Fair Election! “campaign.

The most acute shortcomings come from our highly egoistic political mentalities and the very backward political culture (devoid of democratic values) throughout our political history which seriously affect the very necessity of having collective vision for common destiny. Simply put, the very puzzling part of our way of doing politics is our terrible weaknesses to make the relationship between our theories (words) and deeds as meaningful as it should be. I am not talking about perfection which is unrealistic in dealing with politics in general and the Ethiopian politics in particular. What I am trying to say is that making very wonderful political rhetoric that cannot be tested with actions (deeds) is doomed to fail. In other words, whatever and how much we may theorize and argue about what the problem is and how and why we deal with it , they remain great theories and arguments until they examined or tested in practical terms. And this examination and testing requires the wisdom and courage to pay any necessary price in order not to compromise our fundamental principle and values, and to accomplish the desired goal we aspire and set. True, the path of our political struggle may terribly be full of up and downs to the extent of paying ultimate sacrifices , especially in countries languishing under ruthlessly tyrannical regimes such us ours.
One of the great Greek Philosophers, Socrates (before the birth of Christ) powerfully challenges us when he argues, “Unexamined life is not worth living.” Yes, we should honestly and courageously acknowledge the unfortunate situation in which we are living after thousands of years if we want to bring about a change that would make our lives worth living. Needless to say, the very issue of choosing or electing our representatives through a process which we as a people set up and have a sovereign power over it is the only means to break the vicious circle we have come through and to make our lives truly worth living. In other words, joining the deadly notorious drama of election which has been tested and tragically failed for the last two decades in the name of peaceful political struggle will not only keep the vicious cycle going but it will also make our lives much more dehumanizing or not worth living. This may sound to some fellow Ethiopians very harsh and kind of pessimistic. But that is what it is unless we want to deny and avoid it instead of face it, deal with it and overcome it.
I strongly want to argue that the announcement by some opposition political parties to participate in the upcoming election without public mobilization which meaningfully do put pressure on the reckless behavior and deadly political game of the ruling elites sounds not encouraging. I do deeply believe that the general crisis (political, socio-economic, moral/ethical, cultural, religious, not to mention identity) we are facing desperately requires the very feasible political strategy and perseverance, not the other way round.
It is my strong believe that there is a need for us to be deeply and genuinely self-critical if we have to make the upcoming election the turning point for good that should be bound to our desired common destiny: the prevalence of peace, freedom, a real sense of equality, justice, socio-economic wellbeing, and human dignity all of which are of course the sources of our national pride.
Needless to say that given the very ugly and deadly political drama of the inner circle of TPLF/EPRDF on one hand; and the outrageously senseless weaknesses of the political opposition organizations on the other hand for the last two decades, it is with a very mixed feeling that I have to express my view point about the very approaching election. I strongly believe that we cannot and we should not take the upcoming election business as usual or as a political game of “go for it and try it.” Yes, the ongoing political crime being committed by the inner circle of the ruling party on one hand, and the making of more rhetoric than action about the necessity of genuinely meaningful collaboration and unity by the opposition forces on the other hand should be taken much more seriously than ever. One of the truly patriotic members of this generation and who is paying a huge sacrifice, Andualem Arage strongly argues, “For anyone who is truly thoughtful, it is possible to understand how the problem is deep-rooted by looking at how certain political parties both in the country and abroad with a long period of existence are divided into several spaces of division.”(Yeltehedebet Menged, 2005, Eth. Calendar, p. 304).
I am quoting him (Andualem) because I am one of those who still have genuine concern whether we are witnessing the courage and determination by opposition political forces to do things differently and to force the ruling party to end the continuation of its evil-driven political game through free and fair election. I want to underscore here that given the relative freedom they enjoy and the relative advantage they have in terms of financial and human resource capacity, the unwillingness and inability of the political groupings in the diaspora to become a unified force is very unfortunate, to say the least. What we continue to witness is a very undesirable tendency of self-satisfaction because dozens of independent small entities and “prominent” individuals are getting-together and talk about the political challenges the country is facing. I do not think the politics of naming and changing the names of their groupings (Shengo, Transitional Council, etc.) but doing more or less the same thing over and over again makes a meaningful sense as far as the very critical and urgent challenges the country continues to face is concerned. I am not trying either to undermine their existence or blindly discredit the input they may add to the struggle. I am not naively saying “unite or break” either. What I am trying to say is that preaching about advancing the same agenda and objective, and decrying the total absence of freedom and gross violation of human dignity in our country, but keeping small circles under an umbrella that does not bring a much more unified entity is something we should be worried about and do something about it. I wish I could express my genuine concern otherwise. But that is the way it should be described as far as not only my observation but also the realities we have witnessed and continue to witness in our country is concerned.
2. I sincerely want to acknowledge and appreciate that the critical and timely political theme “Freedom for Free and Fair Election” by thousands of young sons and daughters of mother Ethiopia ( Semayawi) being at the forefront of the struggle lifts up my hopefulness and fights back my sense of deep frustration.
I also truly appreciate the very timely and critically inspiring political theme, “Millions of Voices for Freedom” by another relatively popular and credible party (Andinet). I am reasonably optimistic that the new leadership of the party will move forward in the right direction as far as the ongoing struggle for “Freedom for Free and Fair Election” is concerned. Although the party has already announced its decision to take part in the upcoming election with its very “unqualified” and/or general arguments through various media out lets (including press conference which I believe was not necessary), I hope there will be a much wiser and highly systematic way of doing politics at this critical moment in time. And I want to genuinely reiterate my opinion that one of the most effective way is to take the critical importance of making a concerted effort not only within but also with all other opposition forces that are genuinely and patriotically fighting for the opening of a political space before the actual casting of votes.
The steps being taken by UDJ (Andinet) newly elected leadership to challenge the so-called National Election Board is truly courageous. It is a very wise political move for the party to challenge the Board which has proved itself an entity with a mission of advancing the political agenda of its creator, the inner circle of TPLF/EPRDF. Put simply, this very fake entity is nothing but an extended political arm to legitimize the illegitimate by issuing a license of “land slide victory” of the ethno-centric tyranny over its competitors in the face of the international community. And there is no doubt that those officials of the Board are nothing but merely bought by the ruling party or sold themselves to serve as simple as speaking tools of the dirty , if not deadly political game. I wish I could have any other better expression to describe who they are and what they are for. But that is who they are and what they are for as far as the very hard political reality in our country for the last quarter of a century is concerned. And that is why I strongly believe that the ongoing courageous and wise move by UDJ fighting back the very desperate attempt by the Board in preparation of issuing the same, if not the most shameful victory silence is truly encouraging.
And I also want to say that with all their problem of not showing significant progress for the reason they themselves know very well, the efforts being made by political groupings such as Medrek deserve due but cautious recognition. Do not get me wrong that I am trying to create kind of unnecessary and unfounded suspicion about Medrek when I say with caution. But I do not want to hide my impression that the grouping may end up with kind of decision to be “passive” participant of the so-called election. I wish I could be stupidly wrong. Time and circumstance will tell.
I read written comments and hear verbal comments (interviews) of some fellow Ethiopians about Madrek. I strongly believe that it is the right thing to have our opinion (critiques) towards Medrek; and Medrek should be willing and able to deal with them accordingly, appropriately and constructively. What I do disagree is with those commentators who just forward their comments blindly, unproductively or unconstructively. I do not know when and how we should be politically matured enough about how the political mentality of “we” and “they” especially among opposition political parties is damaging and try to play for good.
In general, it has to be underlined that with all the efforts we recently are witnessing, we as a people or as opposition political forces are seriously lagging behind as far as getting the preparation before the actual voting time is concerned. When we think and talk about competition for political power in a real sense of the term, we are thinking/ talking about a process that keeps moving forward within a given a society of intrinsically bound with the same destiny. We are not talking about an event or just few bunch of events which simply do recycle themselves within certain time interval. Simply put, a democratic political set up is characterized by pre-election activities aimed at preparing ; conducting transparent/responsible/fair and free casting of peoples’ votes; and accepting the result and transfer of power to the winner with a real sense congratulation and well-wishes. As a democratic system is a never ending process, the winning party never takes its victory as an opportunity to undermine and neglect the very rights of the losing party and its constituencies (the minority). It is a human nature to get tempted to use winning elections to advance self- centered interest by oppressing the minority and at the expense of the people in general. It is the politics of constitutionalism that prevents this undesirable temptation from manifesting itself as a practical behavior. It is this kind of well-set up system that gives the people the right and the responsibility to protect their sovereign power from either being undermined or totally violated. Sadly enough, the efforts being made to start and develop this kind of very fundamental political process are ruthlessly being crashed by those ruling elites who came to power illegitimately and trying hard to keep it by any means including the killing machine they keep standby.
I wish I would not sound kind of pessimistic about conducting effective election campaign and registering a result that should bring about a historic change of which the people are desperately seeking for within the coming couple of months. I strongly argue that if we are not realistic and honest enough to critically and rationally look at what and why we are lagging behind and what we have to do about it urgently and wisely (as we have no time to waste), there is no any convincing reason why we would not see the continuation of tragic political game as the result of conducting election where there wouldn’t be choices for electability.
It is an open secret that the inner circle of TPLF /EPRDF has made its oppression network and killing machine much more notorious as it desperately has felt that its political power and economic plunder is seriously being threated. Given the very dangerous move by the ruling elites we are witnessing throughout the country, what is once again under a deadly assault is peoples’ aspiration for democratic and peaceful change. Simply put, the very desirability of values of democracy, justice, peace, human dignity, morality and even our age old social fabric are under ruthless attack.
It goes without saying that the very critical question at this very critical moment in time is: how we as a people, as genuinely concerned individuals, as groups for advancing the right cause, as opposition political forces for democratic change can and should make an unprecedented political break thorough? What is that breakthrough? Not allowing the vicious cycle of evil-driven political agenda and a highly deceptive and tragic cycle of election of the last quarter of a century to continue. How? By planning, organizing and leading a very dynamic and irreversible movement around the very theme of “Freedom for Free and Fair Election!”
Yes, we are witnessing truly encouraging and inspiringly patriotic political steps being taken particularly by opposition political parties which recently have agreed to work in a real sense of collaboration. I am referring to the leaders and members of the coalition of “the Nine” who have paid huge sacrifices and patriotically vowed to move forward with determination, not retreat because of the total political madness of the ruling elites of TPLF/EPRDF. I am truly inspired when the leaders of the coalition of the Nine who are paying all the necessary prices in a very dangerous political environment express their patriotic reaffirmation by saying that, “As the very reason that brought us into being as opposition parties /a coalition is the untold sufferings of the people under an ethno-centric dictatorship, it does not make sense for us to either give in or step back until the very legitimate and right cause we stand for is met.”
This reminds me the very deeply inspiring devotion of Andualem Arage for the struggle to bring about a political system in which his children, he himself and the people in general should live with freedom and dignity. He says “…although the blessing to bring my two children to this world makes me greatly joyful, the very fact that I brought them to the world without the real meaning of freedom and democracy has made my responsibility much more heavier, not lesser. I always understand that there is no any other honorable thing than struggling for democracy and freedom for the sake of my children, for myself, for the people who educated me without the opportunity to educate themselves. For the sake of this honorable natural right, I have never missed (forgotten) for a moment that I could be thrown into Kaliti prison and to the extent that death could be the worst fate awaiting for me.” (In the introductory part of his book I cited earlier)
It is an ABC of politics that election is a component or means of a democratic process, never and never an end by itself. It is part and parcel of getting the people prepared for exercising the full rights of casting their votes. It is also intrinsically intertwined with empowering the people to safeguard the result they bring about through the ballot boxes they cast their voices in. Anything less is either the mockery of dictators or oligarchies on democracy in the name of election. We are living in the world in which undemocratic, not to mention ruthless dictators stupidly claim that they are elected democratically. Needless to say, the very reality of this kind of political tragedy in the name of democracy must end in our country once and for all. As I always do, I strongly argue that the people of Ethiopia cannot afford to elect and send those few members of opposition parties to the rubber stamp branch of government (parliament) and watching them simply decry their endless misery. The people are sick and tired of this kind of dirty political game or drama in this 21st century. They cannot afford to honor some members of the leadership of opposition forces who may be obsessed with joying the rubber stamp parliament through an un-honorable way of doing politics.

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