Commentary on Ato Lidetu’s interview with the Voice of America

March 22, 2009

Regrettably, most of the valuable airtime was wasted with repeated questions that were based on hearsays (alubalta) than devoting sufficient time to discuss relevant political issues.

It is understandable that EDP was the most popular and the most vilified party in recent Ethiopian political history. The mere fact of mentioning EDP and its leader Ato Lidetu still triggers emotions from all sides. To some, it is a miracle that the party has survived from the last 3 years sustained attacks. For others, it is a testimony of the party’s resilience and strength of character of its leadership that made it survive the assaults.

Leaving all these aside, there were many interesting and valuable points that were raised during the interview. To encourage further discussion, I have highlighted some of the main points below.

1. On the allegation of EDP  being a Teletafi party:

Ato Lidetu with his usual oratory skills gave a very convincing answer to some of these labels thrown at it from various corners.  He explained that what he used to hear so far about his party was Tamagne Tekawami but not teletafi. Having said this, he went on to concisely explain the difference between loyal opposition “Tamagne Tekawami”“and “teletafi” party.  He said EDP as a party does not mind to be called a loyal opposition, since it is an accepted term in Western politics. He said the term loyal opposition describes parties that are opposed to the actions of the government without being opposed to the constitution or rule of law. But if the label is meant to say “teletafi”, then that is a different matter.

In fact, he was quick to capitalise on the issue by stating that of all the opposition parties in Ethiopia, only EDP has a clear and distinct vision, political and economical programme which are fundamentally different from that of EPRDF. Interestingly enough he didn’t stop there. He turned the table on his recent critics, particularly Dr Beyene’s and Ato Gebru’s parties saying that they are more close to EPRDF than EDP. If Teletafi is measured by similarities of political programmes and economical policies, then he sees no differences between Medrek and EPRDF. He highlighted the prevailing facts that those parties have very identical ethnic-based political ideology, a belief in the supremacy of group rights over individual rights, and economic policies and political programmes similar to the government. He also reminded listeners about the role of some of his critics in enacting the infamous constitution including Article 39 which incorporates the right up to and including cessation. These parties may oppose personalities in the ruling party but it is not possible for them to oppose the ideology and vision of EPRDF since they work towards the same goal.

The minor error by Ato Lidetu though is that it is not only EDP but at least also AEUP and UDJ from home based opposition parties which have a clear and distinct political and economical programme different from that of the EPRDF. The VOA journalist, Tizeta Belachew, should have done her homework properly to point such a mistake to Ato Lidetu rather than focusing on hearsay or Alubalta.

2. On the issue of not joining Medrek

Ato Lidetu said, to begin with, EDP was not invited to join Medrek. Even if EDP was invited, it wouldn’t have joined Medrek on two fundamental grounds. First, EDP as a party will never join parties that restrict or exclude membership on the basis of ethnic origin and have no inclusive national visions. Second, the party will only form alliance with parties that have similar political programmes and visions.

On both cases, Medrek does not fulfill EDP’s requirements for alliance. Ato Lidetu further stated it was for the same reason that Dr Beyene and Dr Merara weren’t invited when Kinijit was formed. Since then nothing has changed as far as EDP is concerned. Nevertheless, Ato Lidetu left it open for a broad co-operation with them.

3. On  Leadership’s term limitation:

One very positive thing that came out of the interview is that Ato Lidetu will step down as EDP’s leader during the next EDP’s leadership election. It is true that this is unprecedented in Ethiopian politics. Be it the ruling party and its affiliates and all the opposition parties this is just unthinkable. From the ruling party to the opposition, leadership is for life with no term limitation in their constitution. Assumption of power for life is inherently anti-democratic that need to be changed.

I think, if we are serious about building a democratic society and bring about peaceful transition of power, then the ruling party as well as the opposition parties need to limit their leaders’ term in office. Who ever is refusing term limitation while in opposition is unlikely to give up power through a democratic process. The public too need to put term limitation as pre-condition for support. Limited term of leadership is the way forward.

4. Is the door for Peaceful struggle closed?

Ato Lidetu was asked whether the door is closed for peaceful opposition in Ethiopia. He replied by making a clear distinction between struggle and democratic election. If there were rule of law, free and fair election, no human right violation, arrest, or extra-judicial killing in Ethiopia, the process wouldn’t have been called a struggle. The process would have been called a democratic contest like most democratic countries.

This is an important distinction that the opposition parties need to make. In that respect, I agree, his answer was reasonable and informative. We all should take a lesson that the purpose of the Ethiopian opposition forces is to struggle to stop extra judicial killings, arrests, tortures, disappearances, disregard to Human Rights, the Rule of Law, Freedom of Press, Assembly, and Association and bring about a democratic and peaceful transition of power. Until that has been achieved it is a “struggle” that demand scarifies.

Complaining that it is not possible to wage a peaceful struggle is at best lack of understanding what peaceful struggle means in the first place and at worst it is self-defeating. As Lidetu advised, if the opposition parties say publicly that it is impossible to wage a peaceful struggle in Ethiopia, then there is no point in asking the public to rally behind them.

To support political parties which have no will to wage a sustained fight and prevail will be a waste of resource and may lead to unnecessary sacrifices. That is why the opposition parties need to inspire their supports saying that they shall overcome through organized and persistent peaceful struggle. Not through a defeatist attitude.

In part two, I shall review Lidetu’s explanation of the third way and issues associated with Ethiopia’s intervention or self-defense in Somalia. Both issues need to be properly discussed to have clarity of thought.



16 comments on “Commentary on Ato Lidetu’s interview with the Voice of America

  1. I read the commentary on the recent VOA interview of Ato Lidetu Ayalew. I salute the writer for his critical and balanced analysis of the interview from different angels. I can’t wait to read part two of the commentary. Thank You.

  2. It is a good commentary even though it is one sided. I am sure there must have been points Ato Lidetu screwed but the commentary chose to ignore them.

    We need balanced commentary.

  3. Ato Lidetu’s political life is dead and buried since he left Kinijit in 2005. He is history now.

  4. Very good piece. Can’t wait to read the 2nd one. Lidetu is maturing by the day. He is very honest and brilliant politican in Ethiopian politics. Ginbot 7, please leave lidetu alone unlike you boss birr ahun bandaw who ran to DC, lidetu is with his people fighting for the people. Long live EDP.

  5. Good luck to Lidetu if he thinks his party will succeed in Ethiopian politics. But to me peaceful struggle is nonsense because all the doors for peaceful struggle are closed.

  6. I agree that the interview was not conducted professionally. It dwelled too much on hearsays that were thrown by lieutenants of the so-called Ginbot 7 party and other big kids who seem to lack complete growth.

  7. “The minor error by Ato Lidetu though is that it is not only EDP but at least also AEUP and UDJ from home based opposition parties which have a clear and distinct political and economical programme different from that of the EPRDF”

    I think Lidetu is right. I have read most of the writings of AEUP and UDJ and I have not seen a consistent, deliberate and well thought out political and economic program. What they have is a general framework that resembles slogans.

    All in all I liked your comments

  8. One can be Andargachew’s or Iyasu’s cliques; it is her/his right. But journalists are expected to behave professionally and be fair to everybody.

  9. Engida, I haven’t seen UDJ’s political programme. But because UDJ calls itself Kinijit inheritor (Kinijit Worash) we might consider Kinijit’s political programme as UDJ’s. As far as I know Knijit had only election manifesto that was generously presented by EDP or formerly known UEDP-Medhin. So we can safely conclude that EDP is the only party that has a political programme that is completely different from the ruling party’s political programme.

    By the way, AEUP guys were telling us that there is no more AEUP but Kinijit.

    [b]To wolde[/b]. you are right. A publicly funded media shouldn’t be used as a platform to promote one’s hidden political agenda.
    Thank you

  10. I liked your commentary. Lidetu is more consistence than others for the cause he fight for. Keep on!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. To Ginbot 7
    Ledetu political life is not dead forever!! Ledetu never run out of his country! he still struggel his way! But some political leder who try to discredited Ledetu you can see them what they are doing!They not doing nothing except runting out of there country!!!!

  12. I lately discovered the article and it articulate most of the point I had in mind. Ato Lidetu and his party proved to be resilient and survive. If the last 3 years did not discourage them to quit poultices, nothing will. They have been tested through hard time to come out more responsible and farsighted. The article has captured most of the issues raised and I congratulate him for capturing our sentiment.

  13. Be it he is right or wrong on his stand and ideology, at list Ledetu has the guts to stay in his own country, face his critics and fight the fight. Those who start struggle and runaway when the kitchen gets hotter should do the same.

  14. I appreciate the party, EDP, for its active involvment in the politics and its contribution regardless of massive attacks. During the crackdown of kinjit people including me pointed fingers on ato Lidetu and tried to make him responsible for the crackdown of Kiniji. NOW i personally regret for my limitless emotions and hatred on him. Today We must evaluate everything from its content than what others say. today i believe if kinjit shared the idea of him, Ethiopia politics wouldn’t be dead as today. I personality appreciate ato Lidetu for his contribution for the Ethiopian politics.

  15. i really appreciate Ato Lidetu Ayalew.I wish all other political leaders to be like him.

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