A Comment on Zeru’s: Rule of Law
An Alternative Approach
Kelemu Smeneh March 3, 2009
I read Zeru Hagos’ point of view on how he sees the activities of Medrek/UDJ regarding the proposed demonstration (‘selamawi self’).
I agree with all the legal aspects of Zeru’s argument. However, I suggest that the political aspect side which Zeru did not consider in his argument is, in my judgement, more important than the legal aspect at this time in our history.
I. In my assessment, despite the stated purpose, MEDREK/ UDJ planned demonstration is not geared towards securing the release of Ms Bertukan Medeksa. It is meant or planned to raise the political profile of these opposition groups. There is only one way for them to raise their profile – keeping the controversy alive in the world media. This can happen only if the government denies them a permit to hold their planned demonstration.
II. These groups are not capable of either inciting violence or drawing a large crowd. People have learnt from the past. They have seen their destructive role in the 2005 deadly ‘demonstrations’. It is my considered view that not many people save their die-hard supporters and some city folks fond of gathering, will heed to a call for demonstrations.
III. The government will be making repeated mistakes of creating heroes when the fact is that heroes are nowhere to be found. The fact that the government chose to exercise its role as a protector of the law by imprisoning Bertukan was a political mistake. It has given life to an organization that was on a verge of collapse.
IV. The government, by creating a fertile ground to non-constructive groups to lament and accuse the government using petty issues is to some extent detracting positive elements from providing constructive inputs to the betterment of the lives of Ethiopians. It gives unnecessary excuses to outside forces /foreign governments/ to question the Ethiopian government and the ruling party and make it explain itself. This should not happen. The best way to do this is to allow non-constructive opposition elements to die a natural death. When they run out of complaints, complaints which make them breathe life, they will suffocate and be no more.
V. The existence of such groups undermines the vision, mission and activities of alternative parties that want to give the Ethiopian people a choice. Parties such as EDP find it hard to put forward agendas that have substances forward because sensational news such as those of the Medrek/Kinijt is catchier.
Let the groups be allowed to demonstrate and ‘show of their force’ by gathering as much crowd as they can. This maybe a demonstration that can help them wake up from their slumber and face reality. No one in Ethiopia and for that matter Addis Ababa is interested in their dream of yesterday’s Utopia Ethiopia. The task of the government is to make sure that the rules of demonstrations are strictly observed and that it is peaceful.
Finally, a different perspective to Zeru’s following statement:
“Ethiopia’s democratic process can only move forward if and only if the extremists in Diaspora stop meddling in the life of the legal opposition forces in Ethiopia. And, legal opposition forces respect the rule of law no matter what”.
I beg to differ on the first part. Ethiopian democratic process will move forward at its own natural pace. There are and there will be parties who are not going to be swayed by Diaspora politics (extreme or not). Democracy of the western kind will not happen in our country. It will be adaptive. Diaspora’s role is extremely minimal in this respect. It may help speed the process but the opposite is almost always not the case.
The onus is on the legal opposition respecting the law no matter what. The disruptive nature of the Diaspora politics will not have any influence in an audience that respects the rule of law of the land.
I loosely said democracy is adaptive. But the message that it carries is more involved. Foreign policy makers in the developing world should be more understanding of this concept and reject any notion by Europe and America on how we practice democracy.
Hope we will discuss on this topic at a later date.