Cut to the Chase: What is noble about Ginbot 7 party?

May 22, 2008

We have been recently told about the formation of a new political party called Ginbot 7. Cut to the chase, it is not a new phenomenon that a political party has been formed. However, one can make three fundamental observations about this party. Namely:

  1. The founders are ex-leaders of Kinjit
  2. They claim to have discovered “Weyane” at last and
  3. They go against the sprit of Kinijit, as they used to tell us, to advocate “removal of Weyane” by all means necessary.

Actually the most interesting thing about Ginbot 7 founders is not that they were leaders of Kinijit until recently but their claim to have discovered “Weyane’s true nature” after it has been in power for 17 solid years!

To rephrase the ‘new’ discovery in clear and unambiguous language, the Ginbot 7 leaders argue that “TPLF has turned into a worst beast after the election defeat”. Hence, “the peaceful struggle cannot work anymore”. The evidence cited as a conclusive proof for this “U” turn of strategy is “TPLF’s unprecedented and heavy-handed crackdown on the Opposition, the Free Press and any sort of dissent right after the May/05 election defeat”.

Now, I do not want you to get me wrong. I am not in any way trying to split hair but does this assertion hold water? Is it for the first time that the ruling party has acted in such a manner? Are the recent actions of  TPLF really unforeseeable or unlike the nature of the pre-election TPLF? If the ruling party is proved to be consistent in the last 17 years, then, did the Ginbot 7 leaders make a convincing case for the recent change of heart to dismiss peaceful struggle as obsolete and embrace armed struggle as a plausible alternative instead? I shall be discussing the matter briefly below.

1. On the Nature of EPRDF: When the Opposition decided to run for the May/05 election, they very well know the inherent nature of EPRDF and its potential to be brutal to protect its power and privilege. It was clear that there would be persecutions. It was clear beyond doubt that there would not be a free and fair election without having an impartial Election Board, Judiciary, media and law enforcing bodies.

If we were indeed expecting a free and fair election, then Ethiopia would have been considered among the league of democratic nations and EPRDF as a democratic party, like Republicans or Democrats in the West.

It is surprising, to say the least,  if Ginbot 7 leaders had joined the election expecting a free and fair election and a peaceful and democratic transition of power. Well, probably, with the exception of Ginbot 7 leaders, what has happened after the May/05 election was a common knowledge that the election result would be rigged, the security forces would terrorise the public, and opposition members would be arrested, tortured and even killed.

It was with this mindset that the opposition went into the election fully aware of the necessary sacrifice in peaceful struggle so as to lay down the foundation for democratisation of Ethiopia. If there were anybody from the opposition who thought otherwise and there would be a civilised election contest with the former guerrilla leader, he/she could have been only a late comer to the struggle who was totally oblivious of TPLF’s intent and capacity.

Thus, what has happened immediately after the election, is consistent with TPLF’s inherent nature and it  is neither new nor it should be a surprise for those who have lived in Ethiopia for the last 17 years. It would really be the surprise of the century if the  Ginbot 7 leaders claim to have no knowledge of what happened to Professor Asrat Woldeyes, his AAPO colleagues, Dr Taye Woldesemait, Ato Assefa Maru, Addis Ababa University students during the then UN General Secretary’s visit, what happened in Bedeno, Areca, Adebabay Eyesus, etc!

So which bit of EPRDF’s actions after the May election was new and unexpected which warranted for a change of direction to declare armed struggle? What is that TPLF has been doing after the election which it was not doing before the election? To be frank,  no body said there wouldn’t be any sacrifices in peaceful struggle. In fact, unlike armed struggle, peaceful struggle was selected fully aware of the fact that  it is the leaders, not the foot soldiers,  who would pay the ultimate price in non-violent resistance.

In short it is suffice to say what the EPRDF has been doing after the election was neither new nor unexpected. I perfectly understand those who formed the Ginbot 7 Party who are currently calling for armed struggle may have joined the struggle on the 11th hour and may not have enough grasp of the necessary implications of peaceful struggle. Most importantly, they may have underestimated and miscalculated EPRDF’s potential for brutality.

It might have been a shock to them as a result when TPLF showed its true nature during the crackdown.   But, for those who were in the struggle since the beginning, I argue, there is absolutely no new discovery about TPLF after the election which warranted a call for armed struggle.

2. On Peaceful struggle: For those who were following Ethiopian politics for so long, it was approximately about 7 years since the argument in favour of peaceful struggle got a consensus over the case for armed struggle. The merits and demerits of both armed and peaceful struggles were critically discussed and assessed both in Ethiopia and in the Diaspora. After a long and lively debate, for the following compelling reasons, the argument  in favour of a peaceful struggle was finally made.

  • The main reason was that, unlike peaceful struggle, there is neither a guarantee nor a precedent that a government who assumed power under the barrel of the gun would be any different from any dictatorial regime such as the TPLF/EPRDF. So, peaceful struggle was cited as a guarantee to disrupt the vicious circle of power transferring from one dictator to another.

  • Kinijit Manifesto reaffirms the case for peaceful struggle as follows: ‘Kinijit 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 means. No matter how heavy the sacrifices, Kinijit stand for a peaceful struggle. Kinijit accepts as true notion that a peaceful peoples’ struggle that is properly guided and directed could create miracles in transforming a society enclosed by distressful and cruel circumstances into a better situation.’
  • Article 1.4 also states the following: ‘the method chosen by Kinijit to wage the struggle it has started and to achieve its ultimate objectives is a peaceful political struggle. The party chose this method of political struggle not because of the calculation that the amount of sacrifices it requires is less compared to the sacrifices that an armed struggle might entail. Like an armed struggle, a peaceful form of political struggle also requires sacrifices to be paid. The peaceful struggle is chosen precisely because it has a far greater result. Achieving political aims by armed means does not guarantee or insure that power emanate from the people. It only sustains the cycle of practice of one warlord changing the other by force. A peaceful political struggle does not accept the advancement of political aims by armed means, it does not replace one strong man by another.  On contrary, what it does is to win the minds of people through the struggle of ideas, with the winning ideas serving as a basis for ensuring that sovereignty of power rests with the people.’ http://www.kinijitethiopia.org/docs/kinijit/kinijit_manifesto_eng.pdf ]
  • Leaving aside the inevitability of armed struggle parachuting yet another dictator to power, there is no guarantee that it would be a success. It is enough to note that there are forces which chose armed struggle to get rid of TPLF since 1991. However, none of them has succeeded so far in the last 17 years. This is an obvious fact which the founders of the Ginbot 7 Party may have overlooked it.  Thus, the question we need to ask ourselves is that why do they think that it would be working this time when they wage armed struggle when the attempt by others for the last 17 years has not been fruitful?  We need seasoned arguments and solid facts, but not spin and hearsay to take them seriously. Particularly, it seems to me that leading armed struggle from the safe haven of Washington DC or London as proposed by the Ginbot 7 Party leaders is amateurish, to say the least.

So, it seems to me that the change of strategy is more to do with lack of resolve to achieve one’s goal and lack of full grasp of the necessary implications of peaceful struggle than to a ‘new’ discovery of the nature of the ruling party. As the above passages in the manifesto testifies, non-violence resistance was chosen because it ensures the sovereignty of power rests in the hand of the people than a person commanding semi-private army.

Finally I would like to draw your attention to the cause of Kenya and Zimbabwe’s to show how sustained peaceful struggle can push dictatorship to the end.

In my view, Kenya’s and Zimbabwe’s recent experience is a sign of the beginning of the end of dictatorial era in Africa. I think, the recent election-related experience of Kenya and Zimbabwe, will have its far reaching implications all over the world.  It seems a good precedent is in the making. After the Kenya and Zimbabwe experience, it may not be that easy any longer for any dictator to rig election results that easily with out instigating internal disorder and drawing international condemnation. I am sure, this will be true to TPLF/EPRDF as well.  I do not think that Ato Meles is stupid enough to miss this. This, I think, is a good thing for those who believe in peaceful struggle and may herald the beginning of the end of armed struggle!

To conclude the matter, those who are passionately advocating for armed struggle at the moment by citing their ‘new’ discovery about TPLF’s ruthlessness has failed to make a compelling case for it. Where is the ‘new’ discovery? There can not be really a new discovery about TPLF/EPRDF. TPLF/EPRDF has been consistent all along and foreseeable.

Having said this, I accept, those who formed the Ginbot 7 Party who are currently calling for armed struggle, may have joined the struggle at the 11th hour and may not have enough grasp of the necessary implications of peaceful struggle. Moreover, they may have grossly underestimated and miscalculated EPRDF.


19 comments on “Cut to the Chase: What is noble about Ginbot 7 party?

  1. “The peaceful struggle is chosen precisely because it has a far greater result. Achieving political aims by armed means does not guarantee or insure that power emanate from the people” Article 1.4

    Thank you Asrat, for cut to the chase and tell the truth. It is exactely for the above reason Article 1.4 that peaceful struggle was adopted.

  2. The author hit the nail on the head. peaceful struggle is a risky business that only few dare to lead it. So I am not surprised if Dr Birhanu and most of the late comers including Ato Andargachew preferred to stay away from it. When peaceful struggle is mentioned there are few persons that come to my mind: namely the great Professor Mesfin, Professor Asrat, Dr Taye Woldesemayat, Ato Lidetu, etc.
    Thank you sir for the article.

  3. Armed struggle is an old game that can not work in today’s world. People have little appetite to do it.

  4. Thank you Asrat, you said it right. From all the people, Birhanu and Andargachew to lead armed struggle? Hard to beleive.They are the ones that put ice water on the peace full struggle and peoples popular movement.It must be a revelation after meditation on top of mountain, who knows.

  5. I agree with your statment that non-violence or peaceful resistance is a powerful tool to bring about change. However, to write-off armed resistance or armed struggle as a dangerous or improbable to people’s sovereignity is misleading at best,and a disarming option at worst. We have a substantial empirical and historcal evidence to suppote the short comings and legitimacey of both method of struggles. The American revoulutin for independence and the sub-continent of India can be cited as armed resistance and non-violent one respectively.
    “The right of resistance brought to the forfront of political theory the idea of contract,the trustship power of rulers, ultimate sovereignity of the people,a law higher than that of the state,a public right of resistance” (The great political theories-vol.I pp 263) What method of resistance apropriate to the prevailing condition of each situation is what matters, if the ultimate goal is checked and balnced to insure the sovereignity of the people concerned.
    The “ginbot 7” is a trojan horse to mudddy the legitemacy of armed resistance;as they undermined the none -violence resitance their next stage is to do the same to the other side of the struggle. This time they won’t succeed.

  6. The leaders of G7 are the same people that destroyed KINIJIT. Kestedammena was formed when it was announced that elections were to held. They had no popular base, they piggy-backed on MEAD and rode on the deep discontent of the people. They are still pretending to oppose the regime at the expense of someonelse, while they are sitting abroad collecting money.
    If they real mean what they why they don’t go to Ethiopia and lead the armed revolt they are advocating? It is pathetic, we should not be fooled by such opportunists.

  7. The argument for peaceful and creative non-violence struggle is the way of Martin Luther King and Ghandi.It was the peaceful protest,fasting and marching that broke Apartheid and brought ANC to power ,-(yesterday’s ANC of Mandella, Oliver Thambo, Walter Susulu and maria Mkeba who did not have a trace of xenophobia like the current ANC). Mandella met Deklerk half way leading to national reconcilliation. If it is done with care and insight peaceful struggle can do miracles.It is more powerful than a nuclear arsenal. We must believe in ourselves and confident of the future. If the Dali Lama challenged the foundation of the powerful Chinese Nomenklatura representing only 6 million Tibetans, imagine what we can achieve with all the educated people Ethiopia has, its resourceful humble people who “stretch their hand to God “.But creative non-violence has to be lead by sober people, people who are ready to liberate the oppressor and the oppressed, people who are not afraid to nogotiate, people who think beyond sound bites, slogans and vengeance, politicians who work by consensus to create unity instead of division. THERE HAS TO BE AN ALTERNATIVE CIVIC MOVEMENT OF CREATIVE NON-VIOLENCE THAT IS A BIG TENT, WITH A VISION OF “YES WE CAN” AND YES WE MUST / WILL WIN, which is matured and practical. We have to think beyond tantrums, insults and kids stuff. Sometimes I wonder if the opposition is the direct mirror image of the current Ethiopian regime. Both need each other to hype their base. Both practice pitting one group against the other. Their mentality is ONE by virtue transference. It is like the husband and wife who hate each other for 17 years and argue every hour, by conditioned cohabitation of Stolkholm Syndrome. In this case the abuser and the abused accept each other for a reason. Thank you for your article. We have to be able to learn from each other. Let our discussions be civil and enlightening, more over, let them guide us to bring true prosperity and peace to Ethiopia, our beloved motherland. Please give credit and source when you quaote me.

  8. Thank you Mr. Asrat for this excellent article.

    Ginbot 7 is a farce and another distractive move by the two fame seeking individuals.

    These two individuals by the name Tsigie & Dr. Nega has been the source of trouble and instability in the democratic movement of Ethiopia for a while. The action, the suffering, the struggle, the battle field (for what ever method one chooses) is in Ethiopia but not in Washington DC & London, England. They had a remarkable chance of contributing to the struggle at home but they run abroad to the comfort zone when the going get tough.

    What is heart breaking is that great people, who has been in the struggle for over 16 years like the late Asrat w/s, Hailu Shawel and Taye w/s have been insulted on a daily basis by the new comer and their followers. Taye w/s has spent 6 solid years in prison for standing up for the people, when Tsigie and Dr.Nega was serving the Tyrannt in the early ’90s.

    Mark my word, this is going to be a repeat of Keste Damena. As it can not stand by itself, soon Ginbot 7 will start begging, intimidiating and sabotaging poltical parties that have an armed wing, to create some kind of coalition with it. With that mechanism, they will start seeking to be a leader of the coalition in the aim of controling it. I don’t think the OLF & ONLF are that stupid to be fooled by Dr. Nega and Co. I believe they will draw a lesson from what happened to the AEUP and EDP-Medhin. The duo trouble makers have nothing but they will approach you with their tounge with the aim of taking over the hard work of others.

  9. SewKibur New:

    I very much liked your commnet. It is educational and enlightening.

    Keep it up.

  10. With their all shortcomings, i think, Dr Birhanu and Ato Andargachew are entitled to their own opinion.

    Of course, i do not agree with their advocacy of armed struggle. Not only because i am a firm believer of peaceful struggle but also i believe they came up with this idea of armed struggle out of frustration and hopelessness. Thus, as far as i am concerned,they have not thought well about it; thus, it is going to be yet another disappointment to their blind followers.

    Having said this, no matter what, i still belive that it is their absolute right to choose the nature of struggle they want to persue.I wish them good luck.

  11. Thank you Asrat.

    I could not agree more with you. You just hit the nail right in the head in the following paragraph: ‘So, it seems to me that the change of strategy is more to do with lack of resolve to achieve one’s goal and lack of full grasp of the necessary implications of peaceful struggle than to a ‘new’ discovery of the nature of the ruling party. As the above passages in the manifesto testifies, non-violence resistance was chosen because it ensures the sovereignty of power rests in the hand of the people than a person commanding semi-private army.’

    Thank you Asrat again.

  12. Tito:

    Thank you very much for not only taking your time to read my article but also to do a comment.

    You said: ‘I agree with your statment that non-violence or peaceful resistance is a powerful tool to bring about change. However, to write-off armed resistance or armed struggle as a dangerous or improbable to people’s sovereignity is misleading at best,and a disarming option at worst.’

    Just to make myslef a little bit clear: what i am saying in brief is that it is extremely difficult to argue that armed struggle will bring about a democratic government. It may definitely bring about a change of government. However, it is absolutely impossible to account a government which assumed power under the barrel of the gun. When the public is unable to account their government,i think, it is very difficult to talk about the sovereignity of the people. It is with this in mind that i argued armed struggle will not put the public as the ultimate bearer of political power. Otherwise, i am well aware that armed struggle is one option to get rid of TPLF/EPRDF.

    Hope i am clear now.


  13. Selam Asrat, Sorry to respond a little late. I was tied up in other matters.
    I guess we are in the same boat, if I correctly understand you, you are not totaly against armed resisitance as I am not at all against non-violence struggle. I perfectly understand your consern or reservation about armed struggle. An armed struggle that is not controlled or commanded by democratic party, in other words if the armed wing of the party is not one of the defense/offense institutiions of the policy makers of the party leadership which enjoys the support and dedication of the Ethiopian people, it is de ja vous all over again a la Woyne/TPLF regime or Shabia/EPLF.
    For my argument ANC is a good example. I do not have to go into details how ANC managed its armed resiatanc in taqndem with oter forms of struggle. I bet you are well aware of it. To put it in nutshell, THE CIVILIAN LEADERSHIP OF THE PARTY,FRONT OR ALLIANCE COMMANDS AND CONTROLS HOW THE GUN SHOULD BE USED.Hence, our political motto against Woyane is by any means necessary.

    Lastly, nothing is guaranted in life – in political struggle. Dictators can come to power through democratic or non armed struggle . Hitler seized political power by demcratic election and momoplized the German parlament and state etc. Liberty requires constant vigilance even after peoples power.

    Ethiopia will prevail

    Thank you.

  14. There is no room for peaceful struggle in the present day Ethiopia.We need to confront EPRDF on all fronts and in a language they can understand.

  15. Tell me if there is a new political party in Ethiopia not previously having to do with the old one , Just tell me , one!
    Ginot7 can be an alternative to CUD or what so ever other parties are called. Peaceful struglles should go parallel to arm strugle. How do you thing India get its independence from UK. we shouldn’t forget that one side was Ghandi and the other side disturbing the British soldiers was ” Chrisna Musti ” if i’m nos mistaken who was the first to organize the peoples’ riot . Please, stop kiding !!!!!

  16. serke mamare,
    Ginbot 7 can not be an alternative to CUD. Unlike Ginbot 7 which aims for armed struggle,CUD entirely believes that any government change should be using peaceful struggle, not armed struggle.

    Those who were preaching about Kinjit, especially the late comers, left the peaceful struggle when they realized the risk and sacrifice associated with it.

    Ginbot 7 was formed by the opportunists as a face saving and to extract money from the diaspora, otherwise Ginbot7 is a worthless party.

  17. Brother Ted,
    I have no party which I support in Ethiopia and mine was only my own oppinion how I see things are working not only in Ethiopia but in the world.
    Mine was not to say that armed struggle is better than peaceful struggle. But, we need both to win against Woyane. There is no other means.
    I’m not talking about Ginot7 or CUD. Find me one party in Ethiopia not formed by the opportunists.We know very well thos e who are either in Ginbot7 and CUD.
    I’m afraid that Ethiopians in diaspora want to decide the decisions for those who are in Ethiopia. Our discussions are only a DEMAGOGY and a show business presentations. There is no time to wait. Both peaceful and Armed Struggle must go side by side as the two rails of train to reach its destination.
    Best regards.

  18. Hey guys,

    There is a difference between armed struggle and talking about armed struggle. One needs to declare that he is going to fight to fight. You just go and do it. Dr. Berhanu’s and Andargachew’s arm struggle is a joke. One does not go 6000 miles away to start arm struggle or declare it in public. You first act and then your action speaks for itself. Berhanu is playing Ye-Merkato political. He caters for stories for his customers. In 2005, he was saying there is no other way than armed struggle. He was saying he wouldn’t make himself and his kids once again refugee. Then when he put him in prison, he said he love Seye to soften and chopped Ethiopia map to send a coded message to Melese and his Tigrian supporters that he is with them. i.e he loves Tigreans and he even agree with TPLF treacherous act of cutting Eritrea from Ethiopia. No one sold a chopped Ethiopia to core of the unionist force like Dr. Berhanu. That is why Meles’s security forces let the book sell like hot cake on traffic lights of Addis Ababa. If that book with chopped Ethiopia was published by Melese or anyone, no body would have bought the books. Then he signed his apology, run to London without saying a word, just in case TPLF guys change their mind. Once in US, he demanded a red carpet as part of CUD, even though he knows he is going to be CUD for long. Now when he decided to stay and have a comfortable life, raising his kids to privet school and may be one day to Harvard, he came up with deceptive strategy of waging arm struggle. Berhanu more than anyone knows why Arm struggle did not work in the last 17 years and why it will not work in ethnically divided society. It is good to go and read all his writings. He knows that after saying he said he is going to fight, no would ask him why he is not going back home to join his colleagues. In a year or two times, he either not answering any call from his followers or he will send them a new version of his old writing why armed struggle will not work in Ethiopia. Berhanu and Andargachew are political animals and I would not think they would put themselves in line of duty to pay scarifies be it for Ethiopia or for Ethiopia people. If anyone has any illusion, I say, good for you. Go and follow them and you will get your pay back.

    Thank Asrat for your usual thought provocking article.

  19. I dont believe on war but I need change, the deaft of hunger.which is a major manifestation of Woyane.Pleasse remove this ugly regime by any means except war.
    From Ethiopia
    Addis Ababa University
    With Regards

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