The need for soul searching by the opposition camp


The need for soul searching by the opposition camp


Dibaba Regasa (03-19-14)



In my previous posting back in 2009, I informed readers why the extreme opposition inside and outside of Ethiopia should leave their false hopes aside and honestly evaluate the history of past US administrations and the  new Obama administration’s relations with the Ethiopian government.  Some people were hoping that the new Obama administration and the Democratic Party will strangle the EPRDF and the party’s days in power were numbered.

Since 2009 however, what we have witnessed is that, in order to advance its national interest, the US administration had a very good reason to cooperate with the Ethiopian government which was and is still considered to be the anchor of peace, development and stability in the region.  Even though EPRDF’s democratic developmental state policy  continues to give a headache to  the US neo-liberal camp, the inner circle of the US administration believes that, EPRDF  is a pragmatist, engaging and far sighted party not only in Ethiopia but in the whole continent. The US government insiders admit that EPRDF’s developmental state policies are working for the betterment of the country  and are also reducing poverty and American tax payer’s money is directly reaching the poor. Not only that, the US government is also aware that EPRDF has publicly said that a dominant party system(not a single party system) is in place in Ethiopia and will continue for the foreseeable future and the chance for the existing disgruntled opposition parties  to take power in the near future is impossible. One former high official of the US administration told me recently in Minnesota  that the opposition parties inside and outside of Ethiopia should now make a soul-searching in their policies and strategies instead of cursing and blaming the EPRDF for decades with no tangible result at all.He also said that the opposition parties should not rely on those international color revolution campaigners like the National Endowment for Democracy(NED),International Republican Institute(IRI),Freedom House,etc to bring change in Ethiopia.

 He gave me an example of the US Republican Party’s recent soul-searching conferences held to evaluate the GOP itself. As demography changes in the US, he said, the roles of women, youth and immigration issues are shifting the whole electorate in the US and the GOP cannot continue to rely on old white electorate who cannot carry it to the White House.GOP should evaluate its policies and adjust to the reality of the US electorate. The Ethiopian opposition parties should engage  themselves in soul searching and evaluate their past policies and if they don’t do that, their relevance in the Ethiopian politics will be insignificant. He has a good point.


On the other side though, he told me that the US administration believes that EPRDF’s domestic power hegemony in its current form should not continue forever and should somehow be minimized and some other opposition parties should peacefully contest and take some seats in the parliament for checks and balances. I did not disagree with him but I told him that they should work hard to earn it.


Why does the US government which believes in neo liberal policy prescriptions “trust” the EPRDF which opposes neoliberal policies in the current Ethiopian context? Some opposition in the Diaspora and neo-liberal think tanks and advocacy groups say that the reason for that has to do with convergence of interests in geopolitics like, anti-terrorism and peace and security in the region. However, it is not that simple.


It is true that the US administration always criticizes the EPRDF on its handling of human rights, substantiated or not. At the same time though, the US administration also knows that the current opposition parties and the extremist Diaspora are much worse  than the EPRDF in all forms and contents. The consensus within the US administration regarding the opposition in Ethiopia is that most of them are a bunch of Mengistu followers, racists, religious extremists and hate groups. The Obama administration and the US establishment do believe that Ethiopia has a responsible government   which is a partner to work with.  Even with all the challenges in fighting poverty and the road ahead in installing democracy, the Republicans and Democrats know that the EPRDF is a principled Party that is taking Ethiopia out of the woods.


For the US, losing Ethiopia which is governed by the EPRDF is like losing the whole sub-region.  Please look at what kind of governments are in the Horn.  The Republic of Sudan and South Sudan are at cross roads. Somalia is improving but is still not out of the woods. Eritrea, a rogue and a pariah state  is on its way to be a failed state. Therefore, the US administration is  very pragmatist and wants to stick with  Ethiopia and the EPRDF whether it likes it or not.


The US needs a strong and stable country in the Horn that can take a responsibility to pacify the region. If one asks the Republican and Democrat gurus in the US establishment as to which country is qualified to play a stabilizing role, Ethiopia shines. To be honest with you, Obama and John Kerry may spend about 15 Minutes a month to discuss about the Horn. But when they do, among the Horn countries, Ethiopia’s role comes first.  This is because Ethiopia has a predictable  and a truly committed government for peace and development. Its pro - poor policies are showing results that cannot be ignored by the West. This is not propaganda. Ethiopia is now one of the seven fastest growing economies in the world accompanied with fair distribution of income. To the surprise of the US administration, Ethiopia’s democratic developmental state policies have been successful and the future is bright.  No negative and fundamental foreign policy change against Ethiopia will take place in the US because Ethiopia is too important for the US in the region. There is and will be a growing non partisan US support for Ethiopia.


However, according to some diplomats in Addis and Washington, since the 2015 national election is approaching, the convergence of several domestic and foreign forces that are highly critical of the EPRDF and who advocate color revolutions  will now come in unison to discredit the EPRDF. Those are the usual suspects like the disgruntled opposition, the Wahabists, the Eritrean and the Egyptian governments, HRW, AI, CPJ, Oakland Institute, Freedom House, IRI,NED, etc. Even though these forces have tried to instigate people to revolt in the last 23 years, particularly in 2005, what makes their current subversive activities different from the past is that they are now totally frustrated because the EPRDF has stayed in power for so long against their wishes and they will try to use their arsenals to create havoc in the country.



 Therefore, at the end of the day, critics of the EPRDF will be very busy lobbying in Congress and the Whitehouse in the coming 15 months. Fabricated and exaggerated accusations by the opposition, wahabists and the neoliberal think tanks and advocacy organizations  will be sent to the congress. Law makers in Congress will ask the EPRDF  to address alleged human right abuses. In return, investigative responses and reports will be sent by the Ethiopian government to the congress. That is it. Nothing  more. Life continues. US-Ethiopia relations will continue to be healthy based on the two countries national interests.

Once again, may I kindly ask the extremist opposition to come out of day dreaming and engage in  soul searching so that they can be relevant in the politics of Ethiopia? If not, they will be marginalized for ever.




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