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  Which way to build Democracy through deceit or election?
Editors: of Ethioobserver. 

The seed of change and hope is being challenged by fear and fragmentation to give the world a negative image about our first ever-democratic baby step. Nevertheless we are left with the undisputed fact that our first ever election was not intended to be the hotbed of instability, but a soul of Ethiopia's quest to democracy. Various arguments have been advanced as to the May 15, 2005 Ethiopian election by friends and foes for the most ambitious election in a century. While we realize there are flaws and weaknesses in our political system, many countries are able to contain damage and build a democracy. Are we able to pull forward to the challenges that confront us or exacerbate the political situation and add fuel to the still simmering conflict?

Were the opposition and their supporters blind or was their intolerable pursuit of their agenda going to keep them on course to the better end? Whatever, their motive, there seems to be no end in sight. Perhaps it could be that the ruling party had misguided the height and breadth of the steps leading to this dais. Some opposition clacked in the guise of Democracy (election etc.), selling deceptively, with a concealed agenda hatched in North America and Europe and financially backed by a few who have an axe to grand. We must always guard against a distractive slide into national arrogance, xenophobia or aggressiveness. Such a cancerous polarization resulted in more wasted life. It can be argued that the opposition network organized in Diaspora by handful exiles intensified the growing paranoia.

Our country is one of the poorest and less developed nations in the region. Are we doing what we should in order to develop a democratic institution and political development? Ethiopians in Diaspora need to understand what a hectoring tone evokes in dealing with a people that have managed hardship and endurance for the last 100 years. In a bid to rekindle the old emotions, many bashers are reverberating on the web and on the streets of Europe and North America. Cynical, manipulative self-serving dishonest opportunists and untrustworthy advisors spearheaded under the cover of the opposition, combining efforts in and out of Ethiopia, are trying hard to undermine the electoral process. We have seen enough already how far they will march to grab power. This ill advised campaign is part of an orchestrated assault as well as being both misguided and misplaced and a detriment to democracy. The Ethiopian community in Diaspora cannot be an observer of the situation when ex-Derg officials are trying to revive the failed politics of Mengistu and Negede Gobeze. Cheating and running highly sophisticated political scams will not advance their case.

They are widespread and legitimate concerns about the tactics of the opposition and the flip-flop positions from the outset of the election. We need an examination of the opposition members' credibility. So far complaints lodged by the opposition about the election were baseless except for a few irregularities that will not change the outcome. In those areas the government expressed its commitment for holding a recount and is full cooperating with all legal proceedings. All top officials have repeatedly promised to fully respect the result of any legal recount. What can we say with certainty about the opposition's political behavior resolving the election? With the EPRDF still whining as we enter July, it appears that EPRDF is safely installed in office for another term. It also weathered an attempt to blackmail the election. One of the opposition's (Hailu Shawel) morbid charges is losing ground. An abundance of deceitful political double talk is not strange to Ethiopians. The coalition must recognize that democracy requires more than just an election. Ethiopians must design a political and legal structure to guide Ethiopia’s journey to democracy.

Politically expedient maneuvering is resulting in the growth of an unnecessary split at home and abroad. It is our duty to unmask conspirators, opportunists, chauvinistic elements and the personal ambition of a few hungry for power. We seem to have reached the pinnacle of an unending, irresolvable social conflict pitting one group against another and leaving enormous bitterness and disillusionment in the wake of first ever May 15, election. The May 15, election has brought hope and dignity on a vast scale, where previously none existed. Now the work of democracy has began to march.

The non-negotiability attitude on the part of the opposition provokes an angry reaction from the public. Operating within a paradigm by any means to cling to power is disastrous. It has been seen as irrational and politically incompetent, with tactics that are counterproductive to Ethiopia and to Ethiopians. It looks as if they cannot negotiate because they don’t have anything to offer, or they lack some of the properties of political organization, or a coherent set of ideological principles. There is a sharp contrast between an organization representing societal interests and a political party concerned with winning votes for office. Both the ruling party and the opposition have lost sight, and are caught in a vicious cycle. Those who see change through a protest vote rather than politically divine ideology favor the argument to take power by any means necessary. The opposition party must make efforts to establish an active dialogue in order to overcome the crisis, and create a more promising vision for the future of democratic participation. Lack of readiness for cooperation is a threat to the realization of the democratic forces for building peace and stability. Indeed, the outcome will determine what kind of country future generations of Ethiopians will grow up in. All those demonstrations and petitions have failed to change the final outcome or draw a majority vote for the opposition. It did, however, create a political order and perhaps could emerge strengthened from the crisis. The democracy-based legitimacy has survived a major challenge, and also played a role steering the country to a better future, despite the cry of a few.

What began as an open election to promote democracy has morphed into a campaign of cries by the Diaspora in the streets of North American and European cities petitioning against the interest of Ethiopia to stop debt reduction and AIDs. This campaign against the Ethiopian people by the “true Ethiopians” really horrifies and hurts many of us bystanders, observers and neutral bodies knowing the simple fact that the price to be paid for the debt is not by the fat-man-hamburger-eater of the Diaspora but by the poor, living in abject poverty. Hence, such an attitude could very well provoke strong opposition in the near future. Moreover, the May election needs the full support and flexibility from the international community and perhaps, most importantly, the U.S government. The continuing attack has generated the usual sort of stories by claiming the May national election may not have succeeded in weakening the EPRDF. Demonstrations by the opposition supporters has caused lose of lives. Although those demonstration are technically illegal, the government must adopt a tolerant attitude and refrain themselves in order to prevent further inflaming the situation.

Whatever one thinks, the cost of failure will demonize the election process and does nothing to resolve the situation, So far it has been a disappointing performance of the opposition coalition. It has to be seen whether their tactics will succeed in making the country more united than their predecessors. So far the EPRDF is making a big comeback and hope could go far in moving the country collectively forward. Also the opposition must re examine its own behavior and insensitivity to other nationalities.

The sobering fact is that there is not much the supporters of the opposition in Diaspora can do abroad to change Ethiopia’s future. Begging and harassing foreign politicians to meddle into the internal affairs of a sovereign nation might also have the distasteful effect of aligning the freedom loving Ethiopians to line up and condemn such bargains. What we can do to help our country is to support the mechanisms that allow the various political and social forces to dialogue with one another with the aim of resolving the current impasses and establishing peaceful and lasting democratic institutions. This call also includes those who admit to be advocates of democracy and champions of human rights.

Editors: of Ethioobserver. 7/19/2005



Point of Interest

A Sobering Lesson: The Menilik Factor and the New Defeatism "Alebabsew Biarsu Barem Yimelesu."


Emperors Tewodros II, Yohannes IV, Menilik II, and Myth of Colonialism

King Sahle Selassie, Emperor Menilik II, and the Betrayal of Ethiopia.


Treaty of Peace With Italy (1947), Evaluation, and Conclusion