By Mamush Beyadglign
In any country, or in any political system when people of similar political interest come together and work for a common cause, they should know their goal, the goal of their political foe, and the difference between the two. The ultimate objective of a political conflict is to take power away from one group, or faction and give it to another. The important thing that should always be noticed is that politics in an imperfect way that we consciously coordinate individual actions for mutual or strictly personal gains. Whenever we join a political group and commit our resources for the group, we need to fully understand the end result of the political group and the personal agenda of the leaders of the group. Charisma, passion, conviction, energy, and strength are all necessary for any political mission. But anyone who has all of the above will simply be a tool for the elite if he/she clearly doesn’t understand the true cause of what he/she is passionate for. Moreover, even when there is individual agenda behind it, politics is always a group effort, and working in a group environment needs iron discipline, trust, vigilance, openness, and patience.
The last 18 years political struggle of the Ethiopian Diaspora has produced many heroes and villains, patriots and traitors, determined fighters and noisy bystanders. In my part, I have seen many hard working politicians, but I don’t remember an individual as energetic and as passionate as Elias Kifle is, and in the mean time, I haven’t seen any reasonable politician who shoots indiscriminately, at friends and foes alike, like Elias Kifle. Elias is a politician who employs passion and uses full force energy, but makes no use of reason and logic. I myself being a person of great passion, I do love passionate people; and I do understand that nothing great has ever been accomplished without passion. However, passion should be driven by principle and surrounded by reason, otherwise; too much passion with no principle or reason will make us blind fighters. This is exactly why Elias waists his precious energy fighting friends and enemies because with no reason and principle, he is a blind fighter.
In 2006, when the CUDP leaders were in prison, he was all over Dr. Berhanu; and in 2007, when Dr. Berhanu and his colleagues were released from jail; he invited himself closer to Dr. Berhanu and called Engineer Hailu a “useless” politician who should immediately retire. In 2008, when the former members of CUDP formed “Andenet” party, Elias called the new party “a fake party without popular constituency”. Mind you, this name calling came less than 48 hours after the party made its formation official. I wonder if our “Prophet Elias” has the same power of foretelling the future as the Biblical Elias did about three millenniums ago! Evidently, there are people who adore Elias, for what he does, and some who don’t. Here I beg all readers to give reason a chance and understand where I am coming from. Our victory is pushed afar by those who fight us to deliberately delay or avoid our victory, and by those among us who innocently, or stubbornly work against our collective cause. Yes, we have to be careful as to how we should respond to this group of people, but we should fight both.
Regardless of some political and strategic differences between them, Dr. Berhanu Nega, Engineer Hailu Shawel, and Judge Birtukuna Midekssa have been the symbols of the opposition camp for the last 5 to 10 years. In my opinion, the only person who has a real problem with all of these three people is Meles Zenawi. Don’t you try to put words in my mouth! I’m not equating anyone with any body. If I would, I would be a hypocrite, and I shouldn’t have been writing this commentary. My problem is that how can we as a group defeat the TPLF thugs when a man who owns a prominent Ethiopian web site and a man whom we trust as one of us shows his disdain for Hailu, Berhanu, and Bertukuan? If we indiscriminately throw a stone on every leader, then who will lead us? If we don’t differentiate our sworn-in enemies from our true friends, whom are we fighting? This is a very important issue that Elias should consider if he logically and physically wants to be with the opposition.
A year and half ago, I went to the US and met Elias for the first time. We were in a group environment where we took shots on many important political issues of the time. I almost always comment his miscalculated political blunders in his web site. As a moderator, I am sure he reads my comments, but most of the time, he doesn’t let others read them. As I saw Elias, I think Elias seems to be a politician who leaves everything for luck. Well, he is half right because half of political life is luck, but the other half is discipline, and Elias must understand this important half, for without discipline he wouldn’t know what to do with luck. Elias is a seasoned politician who is trapped by his own experience to tragically find himself far behind the finish line. Elias has passion and energy, but he also has a highly animated dismissal tone that makes no difference between a foe and a friend.
The only political leader that enjoyed the praising of Elias is the disgraced Lidetu Ayalew who like Elias is endowed with a graceful passion, but was nowhere around when wisdom and discipline were given to humans. By the way, isn’t Lidetu a person whom Meles sent to jail when Lidetu was a threat to his power, and latter made him his “Tea Partner” at Sheraton Addis when Lidetu became a threat to democracy? Sadly, he is! In this good and bad, and hero and villain relationship where is the place of Elias Kifle? Elias might be a person rambling with political fortunes, but I want to warn him that when he comes to the end of his good fortune, no strategy whatsoever saves his drifting soul. As a good fellow countryman, I also want to remind Elias that he doesn’t have much of a fortune left in him.
This past Friday, I visited the Ethiopian Review website as I usually do. Among other things, I was attracted by the following “breaking news”: “Ginbot 7 Secretary General held talks in Asmara”. Honestly, as attracted as I was, I was also anxious and impatient to know how this important piece of information about one of Ethiopia’s most promising and resourceful political movement [Ginbot 7] would be public by another media that has nothing to do with the movement. Here is another statement in Ethiopian Review that puzzled me: “Ginbot 7 hopes to setup a temporary headquarters in Asmara, sources informed Ethiopian Review”. This is gossip; this is urban legend, and journalism at its worst. Mind you, I am not saying that the whole story is gossip, but any able person can easily notice the tones and the extra facts added by the Ethiopian Review editor, Elias Kifle. According to my reliable sources here in Frankfurt, folks at Ginbot 7 are worried how and where Elias got the information about Ginbot 7 hoping to setup temporary headquarters in Asmara. They should be worried because nothing pours cold water on their strong desire and determination to win than Elias Kifle’s reckless and speculative journalism. It is one thing to say that the Secretary General of Ginbot 7 held talks in Asmara; and it is completely another thing to put together the pieces of this truth and bake a “white lie”. Such out-and-out recklessness and back door gossip is the work of tabloids, not a website that carries the word “Ethiopia” in its name.
No matter how little his mind is and how poor his analytical capability is, for the sake of many members of Ginbot 7 in side Ethiopia, Elias Kifle should know better how to act responsibly. He can’t officially fight Meles Zenawi and unofficially give him important intelligence information that he badly needs. From Alexander the Great to Napoleon and from Emperor Libne Dingel the Ato Awalom of Enticheo, great wars are won by good intelligence. Ato Awalom was a patriotic Ethiopian in the Italian ranks who gave key intelligence information to Ras Alula. What is Elias doing here? Is he the modern day Ato Awalom, or just another “Askari”?
Elias must understand that the Ethiopian opposition is composed of different bodies with converging spirits. The opposition achieves its goals when many spirits do the job as one mind, and achieves nothing when there are millions of bodies with million disjoint minds. If there is anything that Elias should do, he must bring together the detached minds of the opposition, or get out of the way and enjoy his hamburger. He should never and ever put his hulking body between the folks of Ginbot 7 and their kudos beginning.
As erratic as Elias is, one can conclude form his public statements that Elias is not at odds with Ginbot 7, but as far as his importance to Ginbot 7 is concerned, this is as close as he gets. Elias, I’m sure the good guys of Ginbot 7 don’t expect you to solve their problem, but they definitely expect you not to be a stone on their way.
Weather it is with Ginbot 7, or any other party, Elias; you must acknowledge and identify your role as a journalist, as supporter, as a leader, or as a member. You cannot be all at once for you have physical limitations, and for sure you can’t be a leader for you lack character. Even in your new role with the EPPF, you must remember that in your struggle against the TPLF gangs, your followers regard you as their soul, but if you get side tracked, as you always do, and lose your heart, your followers would become cowards because there is no courage where here is no heart. Finally, I can unambiguously say that you have a matchless energy, but you miss a little heart, a little modishness, a little discipline, and a little patience. To answer my own question, Elias is neither a hero nor a villain; he is a naïve minister who deludes his own parishioners.