Cut to the Chase: What is noble about Ginbot 7 party?
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:
- The founders are ex-leaders of Kinjit
- They claim to have discovered “Weyane” at last and
- 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.