Talk to anyone in Addis; be they the man in the street or a political analyst, and you just cannot fail to be amazed by the common views that they share of Ethiopian opposition parties. They are not only fed up with their infighting, with their divisions, with their back stabbings and oh yes, with their altercations as well, but what’s even more worrying is voter apathy has now started rearing its ugly head among mostly town and city dwellers as a direct result of the conduct of the “good-for nothing opposition parties.”
Despite the broadening of the political space and heightened public awareness in politics, Ethiopia still suffers from a dearth of a viable opposition which is in pole position to overturn EPDRF’s majority in the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR). Whenever I pen an article on the merits and demerits of political forces in Ethiopia, opposition supporters on the blogosphere accuse me of not being fair, of not being independent-minded and of being a “weyanay-hugger.” I only wish they could come up, instead, with a convincing argument to prove that a Medrek which is at war with itself primarily because its internal organs have rejected its politically antipodal constitution has what it takes to lead a complex nation like Ethiopia.
A few months ago a light at the end of the tunnel was observed when four major political parties signed a Code of Conduct for the next National Elections. Unfortunately, however, this wholly innocuous and timely process was boycotted by Medrek on a flimsy ground by refusing to give in to its preferential treatment demand from the State. The Code of Conduct, nevertheless, got the approval of no less than 60 parties before making it to the Statute Book. While refusing to take part in the Code of Conduct negotiations can be regarded as exercising their right of opting out from negotiations, tolerating statements which head on collide with the Constitution, on the other hand, is unwarranted complacency on the part of law enforcement agencies.
You only have to analyse the ‘sabre-rattling’ of the “Medrek Quartet” (Merara, Siye, Gebru, and Negasso) and reach your own decision. After shilly-shallying on whether or not to enter the election, Medrek went ahead and registered with the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). Here lies Trickery no.1: why bother to register with the NEBE in the first place if Medrek is sincere in its belief that the next elections are not going to be free and fair and that he NEBE – as it robustly continues to claim - is not an independent body. How is it that in the much vaunted home of “learned amalgamated” common sense is in short supply? Nowhere do you witness such a ridiculous anomaly where an opposition preaches one thing and practices quite the opposite as in Medrek’s leadership. If Medrek believes that the Ethiopian electoral process is not free and fair, its best bet would have been to boycott the elections all together rather than deafening our ears with its interminable wail of sirens. Moreover, it would have rewarded itself with a badge of integrity.
Now it has registered with NEBE, Medrek has no choice other than toe the constitutional line without ifs or buts. Any hesitation or deviation from this should spur the full weight of the law to rein in Medrek’s waywardness. Then we have Medrek’s Trickery No 2: hiding behind euphemisms at a time when sincerity is very much in demand by voters.
Usually pre-election campaigns are known for politicians’ braggadocio fest, but Medrek’s recent utterances take the biscuit. When one vain popinjay shouts “if the people of Tigrai don’t vote for Gebru and me, then you can conclude that the elections had been rigged”, the other expert in gaffes fulminates “what Ethiopia needs now is a Government of National Unity to extricate it from the severe crises (what severe crises) she finds herself in.” Such statements, of course, are a fine blend of a state of affairs which is divorced from the reality on the ground, and a veiled intention to mug the next election process.
Medrek has surely failed to see the wood for the trees when it refused to come to terms with the sea change which had taken place in the political life of Tigrai since out of their own volition Siye and Gebru exited from the TPLF. It is worth noting here the anger Engineer Hailu Shawel encountered among Tigreans during his recent canvassing in Mekele. Many demanded a public apology from the Engineer for Kinijit’s undisputed role of fanning the flames of Tigrainophobia during the 2005 elections. You can imagine, then, what the reaction of Tigreans would be like when they see Siye and Gebru standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the very men who were out hounding Tigreans. A let bygones be bygones attitude can only work when there exists mutual understand and determination on the need to ensure that the next elections are as peaceful as they are free and fair. The onus of defending the Constitution by safeguarding our democracy rests solely on the ruling party. The Government is duty bound to rein in Medrek’s penchant for resorting to violence by applying the full weight of the law preferably in advance of Medrek’s anticipated recourse to an encore performance of the 2005 takeover binge.