The Role of the Diaspora Politicians as Organisers of Defeat
I am not trying to be holier than holly. I am part of the Diaspora and I have no plan of packing and going home for a “fight” or for good. So I am at liberty to have a laugh at our contributions towards the struggle with the sole purpose of helping my colleagues understand the inherent problems of the Diaspora. I hope this discussion will help to put the Diaspora activity on pragmatic footings.
Perception of the Diaspora
As many of our compatriots agree, we all had unrealistic and high expectation of the Diaspora when we were in Ethiopia. We used to listen to VOA, EPDA and EPRP radios with a hope of being librated soon. Looking back, my view towards the Diaspora wasn’t that different from my Grand mother, who used to think that one day the Americans, British and Portuguese included will chase the Russians (whom she considered as the biblical “Gog – Mangoog”) and their evil Colonel to restore the Monarchy. Being born before the battle of Adwa and living through the pain of defeat and the exhilaration of liberation from Italian occupation, we admired her optimism but never bothered to explain that neither Portugal is a formidable power nor America give a toss for the son of the King:- ).
In effect even the young generation was so desperate or you may say, so pathetic, to hope to be librated by someone else, instead of librating itself. Self deception clouded by exaggerated claims of radio stations was to blame for most Ethiopians unrealistic expectation of liberation coming from the Diaspora. So we lived through fantasy of being librated by brigades composed of professors, colonels, Engineers and Astronauts from London, Paris, DC…
Looking back, the only thing we had close to reality was a woman warrior princess called Ayalnesh in Gojam, which we refused to believe, while our hopes were pinned on the professor’s brigade. When the reality hit back, it was too late to find our Xena, the Warrior Princess. (Off topic I just wonder where Ayalnesh is? When I was a freshman at University, some of my friends who went to Metekel Zemecha to build huts and resettle starving Ethiopians, had many fascinating stories to tell. At the time Ayalnesh had a mythical status like that of Xena, the Warrior Princess from Greek mythology. Hope she is safe somewhere and may God protect her)
Coming to the point, it wasn’t with altruistic motive that Meles and co. started printing more passports and pay overtime for immigration officials to stamp exit visas to whomever wish to leave the country. Naively, when we get the chance, we grabbed it and left Ethiopia on the first flight to Europe, US, Comoros Island or Ukraine to “join the struggle abroad”, as the late comers like Dr. Admasu reminded us recently.
Again when another wave of reality hit back, that there is no Professors’ Brigade, we began to scream to our friends and relatives back home not to expect liberation from the Diaspora. Of course, they didn’t believe us. It took them many years to realise that neither Col. Goshu’s virtual army nor Ato Mersha’s had any chance of knocking down the gates of Addis Ababa. It is this realisation that led to the birth of pragmatic parties, like EDP, than sit on their hands and wait for the professors’ brigade to liberate the people.
The birth of new parties with pragmatic view of the Diaspora was unsettling to Diaspora politicians, and this led to hostility towards parties within the country than co-operation. When the Diaspora was told that its contribution is limited to support the domestic struggle, many felt insulted. Finally home-grown parties have no option but to ignore the Diaspora to go their own ways to create the May/05 election victory. Regrettably, they failed to protect their victory from being hijacked by the Diaspora and assault from Weyane.
Post May/05: The Role of the Diaspora as Organisers of Defeat
Though CUD had control over events before the election, it was in no position to stop the Diaspora from hijacking everything. This was particularly sad as it came after 3 million people marched on Meskel Square.
Six months before the election, talking about election was a blasphemy. Whoever wanted to use the election as a means of struggle was accused of being a “ShaMa Yaje” (candle carriers) for Meles’ coronation, by Diaspora politicians. Finally, when the forces in the country were on the march, the Diaspora has to adopt a new strategy to beat the domestic parties on home ground.
The Beginning: Setting the Agenda
While election-related debates were taking place and EPRDF officials were routed, Dr. Negede wrote a book on how to overthrow the government through street uprising. Ato Bereket Simion was the first to read the book and wave it at Dr. Merrara Gudina as co-conspirator to overthrow the ‘constitutionally elected government’ through street uprising. Dr. Merrara, oblivious to what is in the book, has to deploy his sense of humour to wriggle out of the trap laid for him, but no one denies the agenda was set by the Diaspora.
Did that book help the opposition or Weyane? How come that Dr. Negede with his infinite wisdom and close to half a century political experience missed that the government too can read in Amharic? May be this was not the first contribution of the Diaspora for the subsequent disaster to follow, but it was certainly a notable one. As you know, one of the material evidence used by the prosecutor against the leaders in prison is none other than Dr Negede’s book.
The Diaspora’s Fight for Control
Once the 3 million people were seen marching, everyone jumped on the bandwagon to make decisions, instead of supporting it. Even those people who used to accuse the opposition for taking part in election have to change tactics. On the first sign of weakness, Diaspora politicians have to jump to discredit the opposition within Ethiopia. No negotiation while the people’s votes are stolen “LeSeltan MeModamode” set the headline. Then a clever trap after trap was laid to set CUD against the people and CUD against the regime. Wannabe leaders from the Diaspora, and political opportunists (Yedel Atbiya Arbegnoch,), who thought Weyane is defeated started to lash out at the opposition with their “no negotiation with Weyane” slogan.
Between May and October/05, the TPLF regime and the Diaspora politicians appeared to be taking turns as a role of pace makers to take CUD across circuit. Finally when CUD was gasping for air, the Diaspora had to by-pass CUD leaders to call the people to come to the street and protest. Date, venue and time were set without consultation with any of the leaders within the country. The Diaspora did not show any concern for the safety of the people and political parties. At this point some of the Diaspora cookies must have punched the air to say I Gotcha!
Then of course, CUD and UEDF leaders within the country had to do a bit of somersault and little magical “hocus-pocus” to cancel that march. By taking these desperate measure CUD leaders appeared cowards and less of a man compared to those who called the march from 6000 miles. In the eyes of the people, CUD leaders were made to appear as leaders who were ready to trade the people’s votes for safety. Here you go again, CUD was put second notch down!
The Diaspora’s “Home Run”
Once CUD was seen to have difficulty of keeping its balance, it was then followed by the order of “Don’t Get into Parliament”. Ato Andargachew Tsege, one of the current leaders of KIL, wrote 15 pages document on why CUD should not join the Parliament, which was presented on Tensae Radio. To borrow his own words, he told CUD leaders to look into the eyes of Meles and say “Who the F** do you think you are”. Appologies, these words are not mine. Ato Andargachew was one of the few Ethiopians who had a chance to closely work with Ato Meles and he had the chance to look into Meles’s eyes and tell him right there rather than asking CUD to deliver his message. It is another example of Diaspora delusion. It is a shame that, we ask others to do things that we had no gut to do it.
At that critical time, Dr. Berhanu travelled to Europe to sprinkle a bit of cold water on Diaspora expectation and cool it down. In a meeting held in London he admitted the existence of mysterious forces working hard to benefit from chaos, but he couldn’t lay a finger on it. Rather than cooling down the Diaspora, the Diaspora politicians turned the table and set fire on his tail. The Diaspora immediately called for the dismissal of Dr. Berhanu from CUD. The headline reads “Show Berhanu the door”.
In fact some called for a “Veto power” to be granted to some of the leaders to dismiss their colleagues from the struggle, on the assumption that the struggle was over and their service was no more required (Banking power in few hands was considered the right strategy rather than spreading it wide, so that it could be easier to snatch it).
Those who administered this kind of justice were neither voting members of the party nor were mandated to speak on behalf of the people. Of course, they had the means to reach to the people and have to abuse their privileges. Call for veto-power is another idiosyncratic revelation of the Diaspora’s understanding of democracy.
In democracy, it is the grassroot members who have the veto power to sack their leaders, not the other way round. This kind of veto power exists in an absolute dictatorship which we have been trying to get rid off in the last 30 years. But the advice from the Diaspora to a young political party that was aspiring to learn the ABC of liberal democracy was to hand over absolute power to few individuals rather than abiding by a majority vote.
The Final Lap:- Mercy Killing
Then the Diaspora threat towards CUD grew from emotional blackmailing towards physical one. Finally we were told that there were no Machetes, Axes or shovels left on the market since people were arming themselves for the battle to come. I suspect the rumour mill may have been started by the regime to justify the Interhamwe accusation, but the Diaspora took it another notch up.
Then CUD found itself trapped between the Diaspora and EPRDF like a Rabbit engulfed by floodlight. To wriggle out of this trap, it called open town hall meetings. So far, there is no a single evidence to corroborate the contention that the people who were asked to make a decision in town halls were either paying members of the party or known to have voted for CUD. There CUD met its fate. EPRDF cadres and individuals influenced by the Diaspora have to castigate CUD leaders as cowards, who are bent on compromising the people’s vote. That was a finial moment that gave the sledge hammer to the Diaspora politicians. CUD was finally got beaten at its own game by the Diaspora.
By giving it a spin the Diaspora radios and paltalks began to speak in absolute terms saying the people have spoken and ordered CUD “Don’t get into Parliament”!
This is, to say the least, the most bizarre or unique form of democracy that has yet to be discovered. On the one hand the Diaspora talks about 20 million people out of 26 million registered voting for CUD, on the other hand the Diaspora speaks in absolute terms by taking the views of less than 500 people who attended in each of the 4 town halls as an expression of people’s will. With a bit of spin those people who attended the meeting were portrayed as representatives of 20 million people who elected CUD.
Interestingly, the party members and MPs who were elected by their constituency were cast out of the decision-making process, while the Diaspora has its day. I am not sure whether this is supposed to be similar to what they called as “Hizbawe Mengist” in late 70’s.
Today no body can identify anyone who allegedly spoke on behalf of the 20 million people in the town hall meetings. I do not know where and when the 20 million voters were consulted to say “Do Not Join the Parliament”, but the Diaspora still echoes it as an undisputed fact.
In effect, under the ostracization of the Diaspora, CUD made the most foolish decision in the hope of appeasing them. The people who voted to get rid of cadres never had a chance to have a say. Instead the Diaspora politicians in DC had the final say and last laugh.
Finally, to make sure the Diaspora decision is implemented, Diaspora politicians raised the threat one notch up to tell us, people who are carrying Machetes and Axes had surrounded the meeting hall of CUD, in case CUD leaders make a decision to join the Parliament. God forbid, what could have happened if the decision was passed to join the Parliament? Well, this is how the Diaspora politicians contributed to liquidation of political parties in Ethiopia.
Those people who made all the decisions are back to their 9 to 5 jobs while those people who were intimidated to bend backward to accommodate the Diaspora are languishing in prison. If you think this is Diaspora’s love for CUD, then it could be a new kind of “Mercy Killing”
Conclusion: “We Met The Enemy, It Is Us”
Surprise, after taking all of us through merry-go-round, we come full circle to where the Diaspora politicians wanted us to be before the election started. Boycott! Diaspora politicians have tried everything in their rhetoric book to force home grown parties not to take part in the May/05 election. When that is not possible, they made them run for their money and force them to boycott the hard won victory.
Since the arrest of CUD leaders everyone is happy to say “our leaders” in Kaliti. In the last year and half no machete carrying brigade of the Diaspora attempted to rescue the prisoners or no KIL leaders are heard of saying “who the F* do you think you are” to Meles, even through video link.
The role of the Diaspora as organisers of defeat is now complete. Instead of helping the parties inside the country to stand on their foot, Diaspora politicians pushed them into extinction. Today it is not organised political parties but elders and athletes who are going back and forth to negotiate the wording of apology to secure the release of political prisoners. Finally, the struggle itself is made to leave the country and apply for asylum in Europe and DC in the form of KIL. Rather than empowering the people back home to regroup and fight back, they are made to live on daily diet of Tensea radio and fantasy of being librated by the professors’ brigade.
While the Diaspora is fighting each other, the Reporters Weekly editorial made a mockery of the May/05 anniversary with headline of “Ye-Duba Tigab” The Reporter Editor wrote, a man who eat pumpkin for dinner does think that he would never get hungry again. He refuses to carry snacks (Chibeto) before starting a long journey. The strategy deployed by the Diaspora did not only bring defeat but also insult to injury.
That is where we are. The May election should give a lesson to the Diaspora to adopt a realistic political strategy for the sake of Ethiopia. Desire to lead the struggle from far away is going to be a major hurdle to those who are trying to bring about change in Ethiopia.
NB: Looking forwards to Asefa Tola’s reply.