The Rise and Debacle of Kinijit, Critical appraisal (Part Four)

December 25, 2007

7. AFD, the final straw which broke the back of Kinijit Diaspora:

i. Was/is AFD a necessity?

In principle, an all-inclusive and the widest possible opposition alliance against the incumbent TPLF regime is a necessity. Since no single party alone is currently capable of challenging TPLF and its coalition (EPRDF), opposition political parties do desperately need to pull their meager resources together. The opposition forces uncoordinated and scattered struggle is not going to get us anywhere. There can be no illusion about it. In light of this, I think, it is rationally wrong to oppose the formation of AFD or any other alliance for that matter.

In addition, for a lasting peace, democracy and stability in Ethiopia, separatist movements like OLF, ONLF and SLF can not be ignored and sidelined from the mainstream of Ethiopian politics any longer. From their peripheral position, they need to be encouraged to come to the centre ground of Ethiopian body politic. It is wise to accept their place and role in Ethiopian politics and start negotiating with them as soon as it is practically possible. Whether we like it or not, they have their own constituencies and as such are forces to reckon with. We can not indefinitely postpone the problem. We need to face the problem sooner than later. Put simply, any would-be lasting solution to the many and various Ethiopia’s pressing problems should take into account the role of the separatist movements and genuinely try to address their concerns and insecurities squarely and fairly.

However, in simple terms, AFD is essentially an agreement between Pan-Ethiopian forces and separatist movements i.e. those who have an unwavering stand on Ethiopian unity and sovereignty, and those who utmost reject or at least question the very existence of the Ethiopian nation in the first place. If this is the case, one would not only expect the agreement to be mutually beneficial to all concerned parties but also to reflect the actual and perceived strengths of the parties to the deal.

For the reasons which would be addressed below, I argue, the agreement in its present form and composition was far from being fair and sound to Pan-Ethiopian forces. The balance greatly tipped in favour of the separatist movements to the detriment of Pan-Ethiopian forces, if not a total surrender of Ethiopian unity by the Pan-Ethiopian forces. That is why I oppose not the formation of AFD as such but the unfair, unjust and unequal deal that totally goes against the desire of the Ethiopian people to create a strong and united country.

ii. The Basic flaws of AFD from Kinijit’s perspective:

First, AFD’s Statutes, Chapter I, Article 4 (a), reads: ‘The documents of the Alliance shall be in English. Certified translations can be made in other languages.’ What is wrong using Amharic with its unique Ethiopian alphabet? Is it because the secessionist movements consider Ethiopia as a ‘coloniser’ and Amharic as the language of ‘Amhara colonisers’? If there is hatred towards Amharic language, why not use one of Ethiopian languages, say Oromigna, Guragigna, Tigrigna, etc as the language of AFD?

Unlike Kinijit, for secessionist parties like OLF, demolishing and dismantling all the common ties, values, cultures and threads of Ethiopian people is very fundamental to promote their secessionist policy. It is perfectly in line with the very objective of separatist movements to carefully single out and magnify our differences while at the same time downplaying or even branding our common identities as myths or fabrications. Thus, using English as the language of AFD instead of indigenous languages cannot be in the best interest of Kinijit in light of its values that were promised to the Ethiopian people before the election.

Second, it is no secret that secessionist movements do not consider themselves as Ethiopians and nor do they believe in the very existence of the Ethiopian nation. They do what ever they can to undermine and distort the name and place of Ethiopia. Whenever they mention Ethiopia, they only talk of the ‘Empire Ethiopia’ or the ‘invention’ of Ethiopia or the ‘coloniser’ Ethiopia. Judging against this background, unlike to the secessionist forces, leaving aside the name Ethiopia in the AFD can not be in the best interest of Kinijit.

On the preamble of the AFD’s Statutes, it talks about Ethiopia and the region. What does Ethiopia and the region mean? Why is it necessary to include the word region? Does Ethiopia stand to represent the Amharas and Tigreans as usually referred as Abyssinian and sometime as Ethiopian while Oromia and Ogaden as regions in this context? It is not clear and it may be subjected to different and opposing interpretations depending on where one stands.

Third, AFD’s Statutes, Chapter III, Article 1 (2), reads: ‘The Alliance shall convene an inclusive conference to establish a workable arrangement on the basis of the present framework of the Ethiopian constitution.’ But, thanks to the instrumentality of TPLF’s Constitution, we find the legal basis for ethnic politics, bantustanisation of Ethiopia via ethnic enclaves and a recipe for future balkanisation of Ethiopia via the rights of ‘nations and nationalities’ to self-determination up to and including secession.

On the other hand, Kinijit’s Election Manifesto, 3.1, paragraph one, states: ‘The existing constitution has not been formulated in such a way as to be the frame-work in which the variety of interests, desires, attitudes are accommodated. Rather, it is so shaped to reflect the ideology, belief and political programme of a single party. It would therefore, be necessary to reform/amend it by freeing it from partisanship and transforming it into a document of long-term validity with which consecutive governments need not tamper…..’

This in effect means Kinijit is actually struggling to change the Constitution by mobilising the Ethiopian people behind it. In fact, Kinijit had promised to review around 19 Articles of the constitution if it could get a 2/3 vote in the Parliament. It is on this basis that the people voted for Kinijit and abandoning this election manifesto at a stroke of a pen by unelected KIL is nothing but a betrayal of the people’s trust.

Thus, TPLF’s Constitution which ‘is so shaped to reflect the ideology, belief and political programme of a single party’ is the very anti-thesis of Ethiopian unity and sovereignty. If we believe that Kinijit is a vanguard for a democratic and united Ethiopia, there can not be any sound justification for KIL to accept TPLF’s Constitution as the basic framework of the AFD against Kinijit’s Election Manifesto.

Fourth, AFD’s Statutes, Chapter III, Article 1 (8), reads: ‘The Alliance shall actively promote good relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea based on the agreement to be reached between the two sister countries.’

While Kinijit’s Election Manifesto (3.7, paragraph five) talks about neighbours in general, why single out Eritrea for this proposed good relationship with Ethiopia in the AFD document? Is it because AFD is solely created and financed by EPLF with a hidden agenda as believed by some Pan-Ethiopians? Is it because, all the other parties in the AFD other than Kinijit, are based, financed and controlled by EPLF? What is the exact nature of EPLF’s involvement with AFD and why? We need to have clear answers for the above questions so as to grasp the very essence of the AFD.

Let us leave aside the above probing questions for the moment and focus on the compatibility of AFD’s stand with that of Kinijit. Kinijit vehemently argues for Ethiopia’s natural, historical and legal rights to access to the sea (Kinijit’s Election Manifesto, 3.7, paragraph three). In unambiguous language, this claim is from Eritrea. If this is so, is it not obvious that Kinijit’s and EPLF’s interest would necessarily clash in this aspect? When one also takes into account the question of the legality of Eritrea’s separation from Ethiopia and the sympathy of Pan-Ethiopians with the plight of Ethiopian’s of Afar ethnicity who are forcibly denied their Ethiopian identity by the EPLF, there will always be a fundamental conflict of interest between the EPLF and Kinijit. How is AFD going to solve these inherent conflict of interests? Is it possible then for AFD to address these issues squarely and fairly if it is particularly created, based and financed by EPLF?

Fifth, 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.’

Of the five political parties which constituted 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 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 with in AFD which is multi-ethnic and independent of the EPLF is Kinijit.

One can safely conclude from the above AFD articles that: EPLF controlled parties have 12 votes out of the 15 votes. Separatist movements have 9 votes out of the 15 votes. Kinijit 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 Kinijit and do whatever they like to frustrate Kinijit if they wish so. Unless Kinijit 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 KIL fail to see this? What was KIL trying to achieve if it could not get a 2/3 majority? Above all, why a political party that had a majority vote in all regions in Ethiopia and supposed to be forming a government chose to become a minority partner in a club led by groups which only claim representing this or that ethnic group?

iii. Resuscitating ethnic politics?

During the May/05 election, the Ethiopian people have spoken their mind clearly. The people unambiguously reaffirmed their support for multi nationalism and rejected TPLF’s ethno-centric policy. What transpired during the election is that, it is not only TPLF that was defeated but also its long held ideology of divide and rule using ethnic politics. As a multi-ethnic party that transcends ethnic politics, Kinijit won most of the seats contested and outshined all the other parties including UEDF (a coalition of ethnic and multi national parties). In short, Kinijit’s election victory heralded the dawn of a new era; a new era and hope for multi-ethnic Ethiopian nationalism; a new era of Pan-Ethiopianism!

Kinijit believes in Liberal Democracy that gives primacy to individual rights over and above the rights of nations and nationalities which in turn is a group-based right. Kinijit’s 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 Kinijit is concerned, it essentially perceives Ethiopia’s chronic problem as poverty, lack of democracy, the rule of law, respect for Human Rights, etc. 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 Kinijit firmly believes that ethnic politics can not solve Ethiopia’s many and various problems. This is the stand of the Kinijit that the Ethiopian people cherished, respected and elected.

By the same token, one thing the May/05 election made absolutely clear was that ethnic- based parties like TPLF, OPDO, APDM and SEPDM and their ethnic politics were rejected by the people. In fact, by extension, it was also a defeat of the policies of OLF and ONLF. In simple terms, OLF and ONLF were marginalised almost to the extent of being redundant by Kinijit and UEDF. During and after the election, have any of you heard about OLF and ONLF recognizing the vote and will of the people? Absolutely not! In fact, until Kinijit leaders were arrested, the press releases issued by OLF were condemning the victory of the Ethiopian people as the coming back of a “Neo-Neftegna” force.

So what has changed for AFD to claim custodianship of Kinijit? I believe, separatist forces were simply forced to passively observe while the Ethiopian electorates were making history. Put simply, the election proved, the forces of unity have won decisively over separatist movements. Make no mistake that the likes of OLF were shocked of being left out of the popular movement since Kinijit 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. Thus, separatist movements have to somehow halt this dynamism before ethnic-based politics eventually becomes a thing of the past!

Regrettably, rather than keeping and building on the election momentum and respecting the will of the people with regard to the role of ethnic-based ideology in Ethiopia, 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. Above all, it is a betrayal of the trust of the Ethiopia people who voted for unity, equality and democracy. Against all logic, it was heartbreaking to note some of the arch supporters of KIL lauding AFD as the union of Amharas and Oromos by effectively reducing Kinijit to that of an Amhara party and elevating OLF as the sole representative of the Oromo people.

The question we need to ask ourselves then is that: did KIL and its arch proponents recklessly end up 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 Kinijit and to some extent UEDF succeeded in effectively relegating ethnicity and ethnic-based politics to almost redundancy, AFD is sort of re-introducing ethnicity and ethnic politics to the forefront via the back door? It seems to me that, it is exactly the case so long as the secessionist forces are on the driving seats of AFD.

iv. Competency of KIL to negotiate on behalf of Kinijit in AFD:

In addition to the basic flaws of AFD documents, the hard-won May/05 election victories and the campaign to release the detained Kinijit leaders were at best mariginalised and at worst completely ignored. Ignoring the hard-won May/05 election victories and the detained leaders were tantamount to ignoring the Ethiopian electorate. It just can not be right to throw away the people’s hard won victories. As to why the KIL delegate, led by Shaleqa Yosef, failed to notice all these and accepted a marginal role in the AFD is a mystery. If missing all these is not pure incompetence on the part of KIL, I do not know what better describes political incompetence!!

v. History repeating itself?

It has been quite a while since Ethiopian politics has started being led not by a clear vision but by a short-term maxim of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. Those students who hated the Emperor rule had to fall in love with Eritrean secessionist movements to work hard to become an instrument of Ato Isayas Afeworki. The same goes to those who hated Colonel Mengistu. Rather than standing for unity and democratic rights of all Ethiopians, they had to submit to EPLF’s will and barter Ethiopian territorial integrity for ascending to power.

Now history seems repeating itself in front of our eyes. All the people who hated the TPLF/EPRDF government overnight claim to fall in love with EPLF, OLF, ONLF and even with an extreme fundamentalist force in Somalia. The tragedy is that even the media has to do a U turn on the question of Ethiopian unity to serve as an instrument for its breakup.

It is heartbreaking to see the likes of Ethiomedia and Addis Voice, the two popular pro-unity websites, ending up being the voice of OLF and ONLF after the formation of AFD. Now every ONLF and OLF press releases and meetings are getting prime coverage on these websites. The defection and the subsequent joining of the army to OLF is proudly reported by the Websites. You can also get OLF’s links on the websites. I really doubt if they have seen the long term implications of their actions on Ethiopian unity. What concessions have we got from OLF and ONLF to warrant doing all these? I can not see any.

vi. Conclusion:

Generally speaking, it is suffice to say the terms and conditions of AFD were not in line with Kinijit’s election manifesto and the people’s desire who voted for it. If people were interested in ethnic politics, they could have easily voted for OPDO, TPLF, APDM and others. The AFD agreement neither recognizes the victory achieved by Kinijit nor show any respect for the people’s right to choose. In short, it was pure incompetence on the part of KIL in failing to see AFD’s basic flaws as argued above and accept a marginal role in the AFD. KIL should have also argued for the hard-won May/05 election victory and the campaign to release the detained Kinijit leaders to have a very central-place in the AFD.

On the other hand, OLF effectively outwitted KIL by using the instrumentality of AFD to put ethnic politics to the forefront to the detriment of multi national politics. Thanks to AFD, some of the notable pro-unity websites also ended up being a mouthpiece for secessionist forces. Most annoying of all is that, as explained by Mrs Birtukan Mideksa, Kinijit-Ethiopia was/is not part of AFD and it is the UNELECTED KIL who took it to AFD. Above all, except making many pan-Ethiopians a fan of OLF, I submit, AFD achieved or delivered nothing. It was a failed project from the start. By the way, was the intention of those who masterminded AFD to relegate Kinijit to a junior partner and making ethnic-based political parties the center of attention?