Is there a case to renegotiate AFD? Part 2

November 7, 2006

multi-ethnic Ethiopian Nationalism; a new era of Pan-Ethiopianism! As a multi-ethnic party that transcends ethnicism and ethnic politics, CUDP won most of the seats contested and outshined all the other parties including UEDF. It is to be remembered that Dr Merera’s and Dr Beyene’s ethnic-based parties represented UEDF in Ethiopia, which in effect gave good reasons for pan-Ethiopians to elect CUDP.

Let me refresh your mind by taking you back to the election time. It is public knowledge that no ethnic-based party could join the CUDP. Only multi-ethnic parties could join CUDP. CUDP essentially perceives Ethiopia’s problem as poverty, lack of democracy, the rule of law, respect for Human Rights, etc (see CUDP Election Manifesto, 3.1). CUDP believes in Liberal Democracy that gives primacy to individual rights over the rights of nations and nationalities which in turn is a group-based right.

CUDP Election Manifesto, 3.1, paragraph one reads: ‘…..In all respects, individual freedom would be given the leading place as it is the dearest value of humanity.’ In simple language, as far as CUDP is concerned, the question of nations and nationalities is still perceived as a problem but a problem that will be resolved when the problem of individual rights is resolved. That is why CUDP firmly believes that ethnic politics can not solve Ethiopia’s many and various problems. This is the stand of the CUDP that the Ethiopian people cherished, respected and elected.

By the same token, one thing which the May/05 General Election made absolutely clear is that OLF, ONLF and EPPF were made marginal almost to the extent of being redundant by the CUDP and UEDF. During and after the election, have any of you heard about the OLF and ONLF up until Kinijit leaders were arrested or until the formation of AFD for that matter? Absolutely not! They were left in the dark and rudderless. They simply were forced to passively observe while the Ethiopian electorates were making history. Make no mistake that OLF & Co were shocked of being left out of the popular movement and the very people they claimed to represent. As would be rightly expected, the twin enemies of Ethiopia, EPLF and TPLF, were also very worried and panicking. This is because, CUDP and UEDF won seats even at the very heart of OLF’s base and strong hold which is Wollega; not to mention other parts of Ethiopia. Put simply, the election proved that, the forces of unity have won decisively over separatist movements.

Regrettably, rather than keeping and building on the election momentum and marginalizing ethnic-based political parties once and for all, KIL vis-à-vis AFD has arguably brought, yet again, ethnicity and ethnic-based politics, to the forefront. In light of the central and decisive role of the separatist movements in the AFD, forming the Alliance might have been tantamount to giving a new lease of life for ethnicity or being instrumental in reintroducing ethnic-based politics through the back door.

The question we need to ask ourselves then is that: is KIL recklessly giving a new lease of life for OLF and all other ethnic-based parties including the TPLF through the instrumentality of AFD? Is it true to say that while CUDP and to some extent UEDF succeeded in effectively relegating ethnicity and ethnic-based politics to almost redundancy, the AFD is sort of re-introducing ethnicity and ethnic politics to the forefront via the back door? We have to examine the merits/demerits of this assertion carefully.

In summary, so long as the secessionist forces are on the driving seats of the AFD, Pan-Ethiopians should make sure that they are not recklessly giving a new lease of life for OLF and other ethnic-based parties. Pan-Ethiopians should make sure that KIL is not recklessly throwing away the hard won decisive victories of CUDP. Pan-Ethiopians should endeavour to strike the right balance between the crucial need to form the AFD on one hand and resuscitating ethnic politics that was overwhelmingly mariginalised by the majority of Ethiopian electorate on the other.

F. Why did CUDP fail to use their strength gained from the May/05 victory?

It is true to say that CUDP and relatively to a lesser degree, UEDF, have won the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian people. That means, unlike any other parties in the history of Ethiopian politics, CUDP and UEDF have the unprecedented clear mandate and legitimacy to spearhead and lead the popular struggle.

On the other hand, unlike CUDP and UEDF, the OLF, ONLF, SLF and EPPF can not claim conclusively this very mandate or legitimacy from the people they assert to represent as there is no any empirical data to support their assertion. Not after the May/05 General Election and not until they are tested in free and fair election any way!

Thus, Pan-Ethiopians would have liked and felt reassured if KIL and UEDF were/are to play a leading role in the AFD as mandated and supported by the majority of the Ethiopian people. Because of their legitimacy and mandate from the majority of the Ethiopian electorate, it should not have been construed as asking too much if KIL and UEDF were playing a central role when AFD’s agenda, direction, terms and conditions were set.

I say this because, unless it is political incompetence or naivety, on the part of KIL, they should have negotiated from a position of strength. That is what every stronger party will do during any negotiation. That was what TPLF and EPLF did during the 1991 Anti-Ethiopian July Conference. More importantly, this was exactly what the CUDP argued to the TPLF and UEDF when they proposed the formation of a Coalition Government reflecting the number of uncontested seats won by the UEDF, CUDP and EPRDF after it finally became clear that the vote recounting process was frustrated by the partisanship of the Ethiopian Election Board.

It is against this back ground that Pan-Ethiopians should look at the marginal role of KIL in the AFD. Leave alone playing a role reflecting their actual strengths on the ground as argued above, it is alleged by the UEDF that AFD’s Statutes and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) were solely prepared in advance by the OLF and distributed to other parties for comment on the opening date of the conference. It is also alleged that AFD’s agenda was set by the OLF in advance. It is further alleged that there wasn’t any discussion what so ever on who would chair the meeting, take minutes, etc. as these roles were taken and assigned by the OLF single-handedly. These are very serious allegations. In its right mind, it is suicidal for KIL to be silent about it. Timely and unambiguous clarification on the matter is long over due from KIL. If these allegations are true, why on earth did KIL accept this marginal role?

Equally more worrying and frustrating for Pan-Ethiopians is that, in the AFD’s Statutes (MOU), public meetings and press releases so far, it is heart breaking to note that the hard-won May/05 election victories and the campaign to release the detained leaders are at best mariginalised and at worst completely ignored. Ignoring the hard-won May/05 election victories and the detained leaders is tantamount to ignoring the Ethiopian electorate, the ultimate bearer of power, which in turn is a mockery of democracy. Remember periodic election is the very cardinal manifestation of democracy. It just can not be right to throw away the people’s hard won victories. This document is technically ignoring the historic May 15th election. The Ethiopian electorate, the ultimate bearer of power, deserves better.

It is submitted that, for the reasons elaborated above, when we look at it from Pan-Ethiopians point of view, KIL and UEDF should have played leading roles and should have argued for the hard-won May/05 election victories and the campaign to release the detained leaders to have a very central-place in the AFD. I believe that, it is not too late and is still possible for both KIL and UEDF to renegotiate the future of AFD in order to regain what they lost at the original negotiation and maintain their influential role in the struggle.

G. Decision making and admission in the AFD

AFD’s Statutes, Chapter V, Article 2, reads: ‘A political organisation with a proven track record of struggle, recognised leadership, political program and constituency which is deemed to be able and willing to fulfill the provisions of this statute may be invited or may itself submit application to become a member. Admission shall be based on the majority vote of the existing members.’

AFD’s Statutes, Chapter VI, Article 4 (d), reads: ‘Each member organisation shall be entitled to three representations on the Governing Council, and each representative shall be entitled to one vote. The head of a member organisation shall be one of the representatives on the Council.’

AFD’s Statutes, Chapter VI, Article 6, further reads: ‘Subject to the provisions of this Statute, all resolutions of the Governing Council shall require a two-thirds majority vote of the representatives.’

Let us list the parties which constituted AFD. They are: Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP), Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), Sidama Liberation Front (SLF) and Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF). I did not mention the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) as it is not currently a party to AFD.

OLF, ONLF and SLF are separatist movements. Moreover, it is a public knowledge that OLF, ONLF, SLF and EPPF are armed, financed, backed and supported by EPLF. They have no independent existence outside the EPLF. As a party masterminding and bankrolling their activities, EPLF have a greater say and control on them. It will be very difficult for the above parties to act contrary to the interests of the EPLF. Then, it is clear to note that the only party which is multi-ethnic and independent of the EPLF is CUDP.

What is obvious from the above AFD Articles is that:

1. All resolutions of the Governing Council will require a two-thirds majority vote of the representatives.

2. Admission of new members will be based on the majority vote of the existing members.

3. Each member organisation will be entitled to three representations on the Governing Council and each representative in turn will be entitled to one vote.

4. When considering new membership applicants, it isn’t clear how AFD is going to decide which political party has a proven track record of struggle, recognised leadership, political program and constituency?

Put simply, EPLF controlled parties have 12 votes out of the 15 votes. Separatist movements have 9 votes out of the 15 votes. CUDP has only 3 votes out of the total of 15 votes. Admission of new members and all resolutions of the Governing Council will require a two-thirds majority vote of the representatives. Hence, during voting, when the worst comes to the worst, because of their ideological similarities and their master’s (EPLF’s) influence, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see the real possibility of OLF, ONLF, SLF and EPPF ganging-up against CUDP and do what ever they like to frustrate CUDP if they wish so. Unless CUDP gets the blessing of the other four natural allies in the AFD and their master EPLF, how is it going to get a 2/3 majority to do anything? How did the KIL fail to see this? What is KIL trying to achieve if it can not get a 2/3 majority?

H. Does KIL have the mandate to negotiate on behalf of CUDP?

To the obvious disappointment of some who do not believe in a fair and free election or who are willing to compromise a free and fair election for what ever reason/s, Pan-Ethiopians need to stress that the struggle should not only be limited to removing TPLF from power but more importantly it should as well focus to replace TPLF with a democratic governance. It is clear that removing TPLF per se will not necessarily result in establishing democratic governance.

Thus, whenever Pan-Ethiopians support or oppose any body/action/matter, the benchmark should be those democratic values and principles, which would lay the very foundations for democratic governance in Ethiopia. One of the fundamental principles of democracy is a belief in a free and fair election and being led by leaders that are freely and fairly elected by the electorate. That is why the May/05 election is rightly lauded as an historic achievement in laying the foundation for building democratic governance in Ethiopia. It was a covenant by the Ethiopian electorate never again to be led by unelected officials or self-appointed officials. Pan-Ethiopians should be very firm on this. There shouldn’t be any compromise in whatever name and for whatever reasons on this cardinal manifestation of democracy.

If we agree on the above premise, I think, there is an obvious case for examining whether the representation of Kinijit in the AFD by Kinijit International Leadership (KIL) is contradictory to the fundamental principles of democracy. We should further examine whether or not the representation of Kinijit in AFD by the KIL is against Kinijit’s Election Manifesto.

It goes without saying that the pressing issue with KIL is that of a mandate i.e. appointment or election? KIL is elected by nobody. KIL is at best appointed by the detained Kinijit leaders if one is generous enough to accept the appointment method used at face value. Nevertheless, in democracy, there is a hell of difference between an elected leader and an appointed leader. Correct me if I am wrong, in a democracy, I have never seen or heard a political party led by appointed individuals. More importantly, my concern is not whether KIL is appointed or not. For the sake of argument, let say KIL is in fact truly appointed by the detained Kinijit leaders. Then the question Pan-Ethiopians should ask is the following: is the appointment of KIL right in democracy? With all due respect to the detained Kinijit leaders and their enormous sacrifices they are paying, in democracy, do they have a mandate to appoint KIL in the first place?

To begin with, in democracy, members do indeed elect their leaders and if necessary, members are also empowered to remove their leaders during elections or during vote of no confidence. That is the alpha and omega and ABC of democracy. It is also worth noting the following in Kinijit’s Election Manifesto (Last paragraph of the introduction) regarding the same – CUD has been struggling for the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Ethiopia in which power will be held and relinquished by free and fair election, by the will of the people and through peaceful struggle……..People do respect and stand by the detained Kinijit leaders solely because they are elected by the people to lead them; thus, they have a very clear and unambiguous mandate to lead the struggle. The detained Kinijit leaders have the moral authority and legitimacy to negotiate on behalf of the people with any body.

But, KIL is not and can not rightly be held accountable to the people because it is not elected by the people. Members can not remove KIL because KIL was not elected by them. KIL can only be removed by the detained Kinijit leaders because it is appointed by them; thus, KIL will only be accountable to the detained leaders. Please see Mr. Andargachew’s (one of KIL leaders) argument to this effect in his recent letter to editors of Debeteraw Website. In his letter, I recommend you to read it, Mr. Andargachew expressly said that he is appointed by the detained leaders; as a result, no one but only the detained leaders can remove him from the post. You see, this simple scenario upsets the very fundamental principle of democracy. In democracy, unless I am mistaken, the ultimate bearers of power are members and they have the ultimate power and the final say.

Furthermore, WHAT WILL BE THE ROLE OF THE 90+ PARLIAMENTARIANS WHO WERE ELECTED BY THE ETHIOPIAN PEOPLE FOR CUDP? What role are they playing in the decision process taken by the detained leaders? As far as I understand it, more than 90% of the elected members of CUDP are still in Ethiopia. Why is it necessary to appoint international leadership while the legally elected members of CUDP are still in Ethiopia? One can argue that the situation in Ethiopia isn’t conducive to conduct the political struggle in a free and fair manner. Therefore, it is necessary to find an alternative. But does this mean that a decision have been made to transfer the struggle from Ethiopia to the Diaspora? If that is the case, this major change in strategy has been made without any consultation with the public or the rest of the party members. This is very interesting because, while the majority of the party members and elected officials are still there, the leadership have over passed them and transferred authority to a few unknown and unelected appointees who live thousands of miles away from Ethiopia. To me this isn’t democracy at work rather it is the antithesis of democracy. This also doesn’t help the struggle to free our people from the bondage of dictatorship, establish the rule of law and democratic governance.

In any case, the anomaly in this context is this: in democracy, members can remove the elected leaders because they have the clear mandate to do so if they wish to. However, even though members are capable of removing the elected Kinijit leaders, members can not remove the appointed KIL because they have no mandate to do so. What kind of democracy is this? What an anomaly?

Let me stress the importance of election and member’s voice in a democracy by citing two examples from Britain.

1. There was a bye-election, I think, in Richmond (South West London) recently. The elected leader of the Conservative Party, Mr. David Cameroon, wanted to short list the Conservative candidate for the bye-election against the wishes of the local Conservative Association. The local Conservative Association was furious on the matter. The local Conservative Association argued they are best placed to nominate the candidate as they are best placed to judge the local issues and the competency of the candidate for the local job. Thus, members forced the elected Conservative leader, David Cameroon, to back off and he rightly backed off. This is democracy in action. You see, in democracy, even elected leaders are chastised by the electorate whenever deemed necessary.

2. The second example is the relation between the House of Lords and the House of Commons. In 1940’s, there was a very big dispute and confrontation between the two Houses. The reason for the confrontation was the House of Lords were blocking some of the legislation which they did not like the then government was intending to enact. This was nearly collapsing the constitutional arrangement. The House of Commons was very frustrated and angry about the matter. Thus, the House of Commons passed an Act called the Parliament Act. On the Act, the House of Commons made it clear that, as Britain is a democracy and in democracy, the ultimate bearer of power are the electorate and since the House of Commons are the only elected body and the final say should only rest on the House of Commons. Mind you, if we are talking about having the necessary time and expertise to scrutinise any legislation, the House of Lords are best placed and more competent to do the job. Thus, after the enactment of the Parliament Act, the House of Lords can ONLY DELAY AN ACT BUT NOT BLOCK IT. Why did this happen? I argue, in democracy, being elected means a lot.

Thus, to me, even if KIL have the necessary expertise and competency, so long as they are not elected, they don’t have the mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Ethiopian people. They lack the mandate and legitimacy like the House of Lords in Britain. Thus, if we agree that election is one of the fundamental benchmark of democracy and if we insist that we are fighting to bring about democratic governance in Ethiopia, I submit that we should see the representation of Kinijit in the AFD by KIL in light of this. Why should Kinijit members and supporters be represented in the AFD by the UNELECTED KIL against Kinijit’s Election Manifesto? We should be very careful not to send conflicting signal’s to the Ethiopian people. In matters of principle, we should stick together like a rock. It can not be right to mend and bend cherished democratic values and principles in order to cope with temporary problems.

Is there any option other than appointing KIL? I say yes. Why is it not possible to elect KIL from Kinijit Support Groups all over the world? First and foremost, we have to admit that these Support Groups were doing the very job KIL is appointed to do, well before KIL came into existence. Second, Kinijit Support Groups will not have mandate and legitimacy problems as they are elected by members who know them better than the detained Kinijit leaders as it was the case in the by-election in Richmond where the local Conservative Association was better placed than the Party Chairman to nominate the right candidate. Third, it is perfectly in line with the democratic values and principles. Fourth, all KIL members are in Diaspora and are actually members of Kinijit Support Groups in one form or another. If this is the case, why appoint them rather than the Support Groups members electing them?

It seems to me that, for a party like Kinijit which is known and respected for its unswerving and principled stand on democratic values, the representation of Kinijit in the AFD by KIL is a mockery of democracy and against Kinijit’s own Election Manifesto. Why on earth should Kinijit members and supporters be represented by the unelected KIL in the AFD particularly when we take into consideration the far-reaching implications of the AFD agreements? Nominated and appointed leaders should not really have a place in a democratic Ethiopia any more. Not after the May/05 General Election any way. Thus, it is submitted that, mistakes in this regard have to be rectified for Kinijit to be represented in the AFD by elected officials only.

I. The Way Forward:

In any sound and fair deal, one would expect the agreement not only to be mutually beneficial to all concerned parties but also to reflect the actual and perceived strengths of the parties in the deal. However, as shown above, in its present form, content and composition, the deal is far from being a good deal to Pan-Ethiopian forces. The agreement terribly failed to reflect the actual and perceived strengths of Pan-Ethiopians on the ground. Put simply, in AFD’s present form and composition, the balance has by far tipped in favour of the separatist movements. This can not be acceptable to Pan-Ethiopian forces. The basic flaws of the AFD have to be corrected in such a way to fundamentally address the concerns of Pan-Ethiopian forces.

Thus, from Pan-Ethiopians perspective, there is a pressing case for re-negotiation on AFD’s Statutes and Memorandum of Understanding. In addition, if and when there is re-negotiation, Pan-Ethiopians should demand the hard-won May/05 election victories and the campaign to free the detained Kinijit leaders to take a central place in all AFD’s activities. Pan-Ethiopians should further demand to be represented in the AFD by an elected body but not by the unelected KIL by any means. Pan-Ethiopians should also argue for the inclusion of the UEDF in the AFD. Remember UEDF is a unity force and a natural ally for CUDP. Pan-Ethiopians can not afford to exclude UEDF from the struggle.

It is submitted that, if there is no urgent re-negotiation on AFD to address the flaws and concerns expressed above, I think, AFD is doomed to fail and will die its natural death eventually. There is no reason why Pan-Ethiopians should support AFD in its present form and composition. Finally, if AFD dies its natural death, because of the failure to address the concerns of Pan-Ethiopians then, AFD supporters can’t blame anyone else except themselves.