The Rise and debacle of Kinijit, critical appraisal (Part Three)

December 17, 2007

6. KIL (the nemesis of Kinijit):

i. KIL, was it Kestedamena’s brainchild to control Kinijit?

The establishment of KIL was first leaked via Ato Berhane Mewa, citing the email message he received from Kaliti prison as evidence. The moment the news of the establishment of KIL was in the public domain, many people rightly questioned the very authenticity of the document.

After the release of Kinijit leadership from prison, it now seems clear that KIL was indeed established with the blessing of some of the detained leaders. Very few of the detained leaders seem to be the architects of KIL’s project. From what follows later, I suspect, not every leader including Engineer Hailu, was fully consulted about the matter and foresaw Kestedamen’s hidden grand agenda behind the formation of KIL. Allow me to elaborate my point further below.

First, of the six people whose name was first listed to represent KIL, Ato Andargachew Tsige, Ato Birhane Mewa and Ato Daniel Asefa are from Kestedamena. Shaleqa Yoseph and Dr Gebreye W/Rufael are from AEUP. Dr Moges G/Mariam is from UEDP-Medhin. In light of its actual strength, there can not be a single justification for Kestedamena to be given the lion’s share of representation. Was it by coincidence or design? If it is by design, who was behind this clever move? It seems pretty obvious that Kestedamena was working behind the curtain to dominate KIL to eventually control Kinijit.

Second, who could possibly email KIL’s appointment document from prison? Who had access to email while in prison? Why was it emailed to Ato Berhane Mewa while the person in charge of Kinijit’s Diaspora leadership was Shaleqa Yoseph? Why did Shaleqa Yoseph and his AEUP colleagues have to learn the establishment of KIL via Ato Berhane Mewa suddenly in the middle of a meeting? Why was every body in the Diaspora Kinijit leadership, apart from those who were very loyal and close to Kesedamena, left in the dark about KIL’s formation? What was cooked behind the closed door and just why? This also gives the clue as to who was masterminding and executing KIL’s formation.

Third, it is also good to bring some relevant matters at this point which will enable us to come to an informed decision. How did Dr Birhanu manage to evade the attention of TPLF security forces when writing his 614 pages-long book while in prison with in a very short period of time? How was it possible for Dr Birhanu to smuggle out his book’s draft bit by bit with out coming to the attention of TPLF’s tight security for a single day?

How was it possible for Ato Andargachew Tsige to call Dr Birhanu three times in a single day at Kaliti as boisterously disclosed by him to the public during the May/07 meeting organised by UK’s Kinijit support group? By the way, Ato Andargachew conveyed the verbal message from Dr Birhanu to the public on the meeting which he claimed receiving it by telephone.

If Ato Andargachew was telling us the truth, can we conclude that Dr Birhanu used to have unlimited access to telephone while in prison? If yes, was it a granted privilege or can we believe that Dr. Berhanu was in possession of James Bond type spy gadget?

Is it realistic to believe that TPLF security personnel were totally ignorant of such activities or can we safely conclude that there must have been some sort of collusion with the TPLF security forces? How come the TPLF security officials didn’t react to such breach of security and try to find the culprit in the security force? Why did the TPLF security let the book to be publicly sold in the streets of Addis Ababa? Did we miss any thing or can we ask who is exploiting who knowingly or unknowingly? Of course, the ease at which Kestedamena could ‘evade’ TPLF’s security at Kaliti gave it the extra advantage to realise the formation of KIL in a manner it wanted.

I believe, in light of TPLF’s security ‘lax’ to the Dr Birhanu buden at Kaliti, Kestedamena’s unfair and unproportional representation in KIL and the leak of KIL’s formation through Ato Berhane Mewa (one of Dr Birhanu’s lieutenant-in-chief in Diaspora) while the Shaleqa Yoseph group was left in the dark about the matter until the last minute, leads me to suspect that KIL was conceived by Kestedamena with the intention of controlling Kinijit by the Dr Birhanu buden.

Particularly, if we look at KIL’s main architects, Ato Andargachew and Ato Berhane Mewa, ending up siding with Dr Birhanu after the recent Kinijit leadership crisis along with their new website www.kinijitethiopia lends some credence to my suspicion. Add to it, Ato Andargachew using the cover of KIL to tour around all over Europe and Australia to organise new Kestedamena support groups

ii. KIL, an anomaly to democratic principles & Kinijit Election Manifesto?

The bench mark for my critical assessment of KIL will be that of Kinijit’s Election Manifesto (last paragraph of the introduction) which reads: ‘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……..’

Let us now turn our attention to the compatibility of KIL’s appointment with that of Kinijit’s Election Manifesto as quoted above. In simple words, was the appointment of KIL to give political leadership both in side and outside Ethiopia consistent with democratic principles and ideals? I would argue no.

Whenever we 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. Thus, 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.

Is it not for the same reason why the May/05 election is rightly lauded as an historic achievement in laying the foundation for building democratic governance in Ethiopia? Wasn’t it a covenant by the Ethiopian electorate never again to be led by unelected officials or self-appointed officials? Why then Kinijit leaders wanted custodians to their power in far away land than encourage the rest of elected leaders to step in, regroup, lead the struggle and pay the sacrifices necessary to keep the flame burning? There shouldn’t be any compromise in whatever name and for whatever reasons on this cardinal manifestation of democracy. If we are serious about laying the foundation for democracy, I believe, we should be firm on it.

If we agree on the above premise, I think, there is an obvious case for examining whether the appointment of KIL was contradictory to the fundamental principle of democracy and Kinijit’s Election Manifesto.

KIL was elected by nobody. KIL was simply appointed by some of the detained Kinijit leaders by violating the basic premise of people’s right to be led by the people they elected. In a democracy, I have never seen or heard a political party led by appointed individuals. Rather, members do elect their leaders and if necessary, members are empowered to remove their leaders. Members can also hold their leaders accountable. This is the ABC’s of democracy. This is also clearly stated in Kinijit’s Election Manifesto as quoted above. That is where Kinijit leaders derive their clear and unambiguous mandate, moral authority and legitimacy to lead the struggle.

But, KIL could not be held accountable to the people because it was not elected by the people. Members could not remove KIL because KIL was not elected by them. Strictly speaking, KIL could only be accountable to the detained leaders as it was appointed by them.

It is interesting to note Ato Andargachew’s argument to the editors of Debeteraw Website to this effect in his letter one year ago. In this letter, I recommend you to read it if it is still in archive, Ato Andargachew expressly stated: ‘he is appointed by the detained leaders; as a result, no one but only the detained leaders can remove him from the post.’

The anomaly in this context is this: in democracy, members can remove the elected leaders if they wish to. However, even though members are capable of removing even the elected Kinijit leaders, members can not remove the appointed KIL. It will make the notion of members as the ultimate bearers of power a mockery! What kind of democracy is this?

If this is so, was the appointment of KIL right in democracy? With all due respect to the detained Kinijit leaders and the enormous sacrifices they have paid, in democracy, did they have a mandate to appoint KIL in the first place?

I submit, 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, why should Kinijit members and supporters be led by the UNELECTED KIL against Kinijit’s own Election Manifesto?

Shouldn’t we need to be very careful not to send conflicting signals to the Ethiopian people? If we write a manifesto and program to violate it ourselves, how can we accuse others for violating the constitution which they wrote and approved? It can not be right to mend and bend cherished democratic values and principles in order to cope with temporary problems. It seems to me that, for a party like Kinijit which claims its unswerving and principled stand on democratic values, the appointment of KIL was a mockery of democracy and against Kinijit’s own Election Manifesto. Hence, those leaders who either masterminded or/and gave blessing to KIL are guilty of violating Kinijit’s election manifesto. Nominated and appointed leaders should not really have a place in a democratic Ethiopia any more. Not after the May/05 historic election, any way!!! Now as a result of this misjudgment, even those people who appointed KIL found it difficult to remove it.

Was there any option other than appointing KIL? I say yes. It was possible to elect KIL from Kinijit support groups all over the world. First and foremost, apart from giving political leadership in Ethiopia, we have to admit that these support groups were doing the very job KIL was appointed to do, well before KIL came into existence. Second, Kinijit support groups would not have mandate and legitimacy problems as they would be elected by members. Third, because of their close encounter, local support groups would be better placed than the detained leaders to nominate the right candidate for the right job. Fourth, such an approach would have been perfectly in line with the democratic principles and Kinijit’s election Manifesto. Fifth, 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 facilitating support group members to elect them?

iii. On KIL’s power to by pass the non-detained elected Kinijit Parliamentarians and Regional Government Representatives:

When the formation of KIL was first announced, most of us thought its mandate was only to give ‘political leadership” in the Diaspora. However, KIL started arguing as having the mandate to give ‘political leadership’ even for Ethiopia. I am not still sure whether this was also the intention of the detained leaders.

It did not take that long for KIL to flex its muscle in intimidating, blackmailing and coercing Kinijit elected officials. When Dr Admasu Gebeyehu (Deputy Mayor-elect of Addis Ababa) took the initiative to consult those Kinijit members who were elected for Addis Ababa administration before the deadline to takeover Addis Ababa expired, he was branded as ‘teletafi ‘ and lashed on VOA radio by Ato Berhane Mewa to cease any activity. Though Dr. Admassu was a leader of one of the party and elected Deputy Mayor of Addis Ababa with full mandate to engage with Kinijit elected Addis Ababa councillors, he chose to take a command from the unelected Ato Berhane Mewa and abandon the responsibility entrusted up on him by millions of Addis Ababa residents.

When Dr Bezabeh Demisse and Major Admasse Melaku (elected members of Kinijit’s council) came to the US to play a shimgilina role between the then two warring factions of KIL, some of the KIL members openly rejected their recommendation. In spite of their clear mandate from the Ethiopian electorate, as to why the likes of Dr Admasu, Dr Bezabeh, Major Melaku, etc. who are elected Kinijit leaders found it easy to succumb to the unelected KIL’s coercion and accepted a subservient role to KIL is beyond my imagination!!

Lastly, Ato Andargachew (the unelected official who lives thousands of miles from home) openly talked on Paltalk that he would not accept the letter of Engineer Hailu (the elected chairman of Kinijit) which recommends the formation of KIC (Kinijit International Council) as a solution to KIL’s crisis. Where does Ato Andargachew get his mandate to reject such a recommendation from the Kinijit chairman? Here is a consequence of violating one’s own principle. Once principles are violated and a bad precedent is set, there is no ending to the problem.

Now I will say a few words on the legitimacy of by-passing the elected leaders in Ethiopia. As far as I understand it, when KIL was formed, more than 90% of the elected members of Kinijit for both Parliament and Regional Government were still in Ethiopia. If this was the case, why was it KIL mandated to give “political leadership” to these legally elected Kinijit officials in Ethiopia? Weren’t these elected Kinijit officials supposed to be continuing the struggle? Like the ruling party, are we saying the people have made a mistake by electing these 90% of kinijit’s leadership who are not either fit for purpose or can not be entrusted to be custodian of the power?

One can argue that the situation in Ethiopia wasn’t conducive to conduct a political struggle in a free and fair manner. Therefore, it was necessary to find an alternative. But, did this mean that a decision had been made to transfer the struggle from Ethiopia to the Diaspora? If that was the case, this major change in strategy had 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 were still there, few of the detained leadership had effectively bypassed 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. It is rather the antithesis of democracy. I submit, in democracy, there can not be any democratic basis for them to be ignored and sidelined by the KIL.

iv. On KIL’s negative contribution to the struggle over and above its positive contribution:

Below are some of the fundamental problems created by KIL to the detriment of Kinijit:

  • KIL was instrumental in splitting the Diaspora Kinijit into two vis-à-vis AEUP and Kestedemena supporters.
  • KIL’s reckless involvement with the AFD ended up dividing the Pro-Unity forces into two.
  • KIL up rooted the Kinijit struggle from home by making the popular struggle to claim asylum in the US and Europe.
  • KIL took the decision-making of Kinijit thousands of miles away from Ethiopia and some of its decisions were unrealistic. Just to mention an example, KIL called for a strike in Ethiopia but no Ethiopian took it seriously to act up on it. It was embarrassing and a total failure.
  • KIL overstepped its mandate when it made such a far reaching deal at AFD (Alliance for Freedom and Democracy).
  • KIL was instrumental to eventually erode the cohesion among Kinijit leadership.
  • The most tragic thing was that no one could make KIL accountable for any decision they had made because no one elected them. No constituency could have removed KIL from office. KIL simply existed in its own right while the public reaped the consequence of their bad decision.

v. Conclusion:

In conclusion, the appointment of unelected individuals to lead the public was undemocratic and in violation of democratic principles as well as Kinijit’s election manifesto. Like wise, KIL’s mandate to give ‘political leadership’ to the legally elected Kinijit officials in Ethiopia was undemocratic and in violation of Kinijit’s election manifesto. If we are serious about fighting for democracy, such actions should never be tolerated again by the people.

By any reasonable standard, KIL’s negative contribution to the struggle outweighs its positive contribution. May be the main architects of KIL have created it for a different hidden agenda in mind. Looking at Kestedamena taking the lion’s share of KIL’s representation, when KIL was mandated to give ‘political leadership’ to the Diaspora and even to the elected leaders in Ethiopia, it seems to me that it was born out of a desire to control Kinijit’s leadership by Kestedamena.