Kitty, come down to earth!


By: Desalegn Lidetu  05/14/10


How marvelous to see lesser animals putting up camouflage to fend off assumed or real danger coming in their ways! Have you observed closely how, for instance, some cats puff their bodies up in the face of a sneering dog close by? It’s a whiff-whiff vs. raf-raf standoff, which often ends up in dog chasing cat.


One of these days I saw a cat in the act of doing a double trick against a really big dog. It perched on top a stump while at the same time keeping its body inflated to such an incredible proportion that it somehow managed to appear nearly as big as the dog. In any case, it was trying, I suppose, to persuade its adversary of both its size and its importance. Its object, I guess, was either to scare the dog away or to bore it to death.


The dog didn’t budge but rather kept on with its scrutiny. This might be – may I presume? – due to its awareness the cat wouldn’t be able to hold on to that awkward position for to long. For such should take it to exhale through the ears and eyes sooner rather than latter, which would be too painful for the faker to bear. This was proved right when suddenly the cat puffed out its body back down to normal, jumped off the stump in what seemed a failed attempt at somersault and run away showing what some cats have been made to really look like.


(But I’m sure many of us are used to seeing cats and dogs lazing their days on same ground. Oh, kitty, kitty, how it makes you look more ugly than a bulldog when you bloat your butts up! Know thyself and you’re just fine.)


At any rate – and I’m just warming up to talk about one aspect of our current politics – it doesn’t rain cats and dogs without a thick cloud hanging low in the sky for a foreboding. Or, does it?


Camouflage in politics, I’m afraid, is more irksome than marvelous.


A minor incident though it was, the scuffle that occurred two weeks ago between two groups of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), a.k.a. Andinet, can be looked at as portending what may go amiss. In less than two weeks now, Ethiopians will’ve mandated a party of their choice for a five-year term.


If there is one thing citizens hate to see in this 4th-round election, that is violence or any sign of it. The more so because what came in the post-2005 polls is still fresh in our minds. We’re in a crossroads and we can show the world our true salt.


In this regard, one can only hope that the clash between two groups of Andinet party is not a dress-rehearsal. There’re some signs to fear it may be, though. Because the fight in which two people were reported injured did not occur out of the blue, though abrupt. And it would be foolish to think that the clash or at least the major cause for it was limited to one party alone. This writing tries to add a perspective or two to the relevant background analyses on the issue at hand.



The fight broke out when Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam led a group to Andinet’s (UDJ) headquarters and tried to take over office from the party’s existing leadership. This came several months after the professor, one of Andinet’s founders, was banished from the party’s leadership. By that time Andinet was already brought under the fold of the Unity for Justice and Democratic Dialogue (UJDD) which is a coalition of eight parties. Evidently, there have been a number of long-standing causes that Andinet seems unable to address. It turns out, the unsettled issued around Andinet’s fallouts are becoming more complex at the passing of each day.


This means, we could not longer see disputes arising from within Andinet party as being confined to it. In fact, When Andinet sneezes, UJDD cries. This has been the case for well over a year now, ever since shortly after the formation of Medrek. This was the reason behind the public statements the members of the leadership of Medrek have given in the aftermath of the clash. And theirs was a barking up of the wrong tree because their accusations were misdirected. It is not surprising, therefore, that the stand the leadership of Medrek has taken on the matter was visibly eschewed to one side. They had to speak in defense of the group who’re still holding Andinet’s office as top echelon execs of the party. It’s no secret that most of these high-ranking Andinet party execs are also holding most of the key positions in the larger coalition.


The question of how much of or to what extent the events that led up to last week’s stand off could be looked at as an entirely intra-party affair is thickly shrouded in a haze.


The immediate cause to the clash obviously began at a controversial assembly Prof. Mesfin summoned a week earlier. The assembly convened on the premises of a secondary school ended up electing the professor as vice president of Andinet party. Though the existing Andinet leadership called the assembly illegal, the professor moved on to taking over the party’s office. Confrontations ensued resulting in feast throwing, stone throwing.


But the root causes runs deeper; the genesis of it began much earlier. Far and beyond, one need not forget the very grounds on which the very seeds for Medrek’s existence as a coalition entity had been sown. They were sown on controversial grounds and under precarious circumstances. It came into being in the face of objections and at times uncertainties as reverberated across Andinet’s rank and file. From the outset, prof. Mesfin seemed to have represented this side of the divide. It seems that he left no stone unturned to nip the coalition in the bud. He failed. Because stakes were high.


Almost from day one of the formation of UJDD, there has been division in the leadership of Andinet as to the future course of UJDD as well as on the issue of terms by which the party should’ve been able to use its prerogative to part with the coalition. The leadership dent in Andinet which had been there for long was ever widening until around the end of last year. At some point when the rank and file of the party began to express their doubts as to the plausibility of the coalition, or at least the wisdom of Andinet’s joining the political marriage, a two-prong division became more visible. The party supporters on a couple of occasions including during a meeting in Debremarkos not only posed questions but had brought forth some strong arguments against the move, which the party’s leadership had already taken without having adequately consulted with the members at the grassroots level. As it were, one of the most strong points raised was the diametrically opposite agenda some of UJDD’s member parties pursue concerning a number of fundamental political issues as against that which ANdinet says it upholds. What has this party has in common, say, with UEDF or OFDM or ONL. This and several other predicaments and anomalies have been being cited in the writings by pundits as well as by local newspapers. Prof. Mesfin represents this side of the picture.


Apparently, he was in for defeat, though he might not know it initially. In order to get a clear understanding of the relationships between the professor’s stand in this matter and the consequence he would soon be facing in lieu of his having insisted on a need for the party to at least consider members’ voices that the coalition held in store more cons than pros, we should glance towards those very grounds on which the idea for what would later come to be Medrek was conceived.


The present election was the core issue and there were a few p[arties feeling apprehensive of the challenges ahead vis a vis the realities of their standing as separate entities, which each knew full well didn’t compare with the organizational strength of the ruling party.


Hence, the first germ was born of a loom which we can name for now as Commonly Shared Apprehensiveness.


Another most compeling factor was a zeal the leaders of Andinet, UEDF, OFDM and ONL have been feeling to do something either to see EPRDF off as a majority government or to get it in a power-sharing deal. To achieve the former goal takes what each of them is far short of having entering the electoral contest as separate entities. They knew they would need to join forces and to attract as many more as they could find, and thereby to expand their electorate base by sewing across their separate selves into a singly brand. What else could be a better way of shattering the ruling party in the field of electoral contest than a coalition? After all didn’t they have 2005 to look back to to see what a coalition can do? What a four-party coalition in 2005 can do, one in 2010 can do! And for this, the more the member parties the better. Also the bitterer sounding voices, the better. Incidentally, there were a few parties to easily lure into the mix. New comers such as Arena Tigray would be quick-footed to be part of a coalition for obvious reasons. There were also two prominent individuals who would leave no stone unturned to be part of a stronger political muscle, whose flexing should result in their being vindicated against EPRDF, from whose bosom they had come to be known as public figures, from whose bosom they were uprooted. It seemed that these individuals never called to mind what should’ve been a more dignified way of kissing the doors of politics goodbye. (“To err is human,” is alright. But how many times must a politician err before he or she would’ve felt the need to retire, if not the need to do so with an expression of public apology. Where is the line drawn which should set the limit for acceptability of one’s remaining active in one’s political career?)


At any rate, a year-and-a-half ago, the forenamed parties and two individuals seemed pretty much to have felt a need to put up a much tougher electoral challenge under a coalition against the ruling party than they could as separate entities. Knowing that they would have nothing to lose but everything to gain in being part of a larger political grouping, the two individuals have been credited with putting most of the groundwork on which the coalition as we know it today finds its cradle. One English-language weekly in one of its most recent issues published an article in which these two ex-government officials are described as “mavericks” of alliance formation.


Hence, a second germ born of a loom which we can call Commonly Felt Desire for taking over executive power.


Now combine the two germs and we get a Coalition of six parties and two personalities of renown. This was the predecessor to what soon latter came as UJDD, a.k.a. Medrek, in a final shape of a coalition of eight parties after inclusion of two more parties, plus baptism of the two individuals as new comers into Andinet’s ranks, minus a chunk of Andinet made irrelevant.


A chunk of Andinet made irrelevant? Yes, indeed! Without a need to go into detail, one can see that those two “mavericks” did not work their ways through the formative days of UJDD for naught. They would kill – note the metaphoric use of “kill” – to keep their Medrek intact. It’s their only ticket to we know where. Any voice against the coalition would be hushed. Any move for a member party to go its separate way would be stopped. In this connection, one can see, therefore, that if those two individuals should be called “mavericks” it is more for their being able to gag and drag as many influential voices as they could around and get them to stand put than for their being able to help form a strong and credible political organization.


With regard to the latter, all the founding members have utterly failed. There have been a number of inherent factors which had rendered their coalition a very weak political formation, if not a miscarried one. After all, it came through a solely elitist exercise and against the clock ticking away. They knew it had to be rushed. To hell with democratic procedures! To hell with constituents’ concerns! The apparent irony was that the leaders of the coalition’s parties were to find themselves risking the loss of voters’ confidence in their frantic bids to come out a challenger against a widely and deeply fortified EPRDF, the party which spent the best of the past four years holding open consultations with urban voters including in Addis Ababa where it had received the “red” card and in the few major cities where it had faced “yellow” in 2005. In this regard, the talk about Medrek’s being a sole electoral challenger seems to hold little water, if any.


“Not so,” would say the likes of EDP, which says its repositioning and re-branding efforts have paid off after the consequences of what had become of the former CUD in the aftermath of the 2005 elections. Whatever the case may be, one thing is for sure. Ethiopians have come to understand better than mere external allurements being offered by the sorts of coalitions that had come and gone. If EDP and AEUO have grown averse to any prospect of joining forces in another coalition, their aversion is well justified. EPRDF cannot sound more convincing in saying it faced no challenger that it can really reckon with. This means if there be a second best among the oppositions in the current contest, it is way far behind on the trail.


Apparently, though, the present coalition that came in the shape of UJDD does not seem to have the kind of strength comparable even to that which the former CUD had appeared to have in the pre-2005 polls. If the former CUD, which was generally assumed to have had a measure of harmony in terms of policy matters did not survive disintegration, how can the electorate this time around be expected to believe in a UJDD, whose member parties stand world’s apart in fundamental policy issues. Hush!


This was exactly what the leadership of Andinet was called to answer by the party’s own ranks and files as well as by its presumed supporters in a couple of places for a couple of times. This was one of several points raised by pundits, independents as well as the media in criticizing the very edifice of UJDD’s existence? Hush!


How can the electoral put their trust in a coalition with a half-baked alternative agenda in the evident existence of basic difference, whose detail the leadership elects to keep in secret from the public? Hush!


Many unsettled issues. As many hush,hush, hushings plus a “rejectionist” attitude, plus a show of disdain for competing parties, plus an overdose of negative campaigning, plus quick-footedness to Embassy portals ….


But the professor knew from the start that what was looming was an inherently flawed, predominantly elitist practice that brought the coalition about. He was in it – or was near it. His open cries against came only after the leadership of Andinet was called to answer for its decision to join Medrek. In fact, Medrek would not have come as we know it today, had it not been for Andinet’s self-promoted “renown” as the “true heirs of CUD”. See the irony?


At any rate, professor Mesfin’s sudden shift from elitist to populist in the issue of Andinet vis a vis Medrek did not seem to have emanated from his love for “principle” or “democracy” or “the rule of law” as he would like us to picture the person behind the persona. There must’ve been a deeper play of political intrigues. He seemed oblivious to what his peers and those staunch keepers of Medrek were capable of doing. He didn’t seem to sense that once brought under the fold of Medrek – or ever since a little earlier than that – his brainchild Andinet already lost much of its clout. When he ventured to pull Andinet out, he was threatened with being made altogether irrelevant. And there were these two individuals more than willing to take up the task of making the professor irrelevant. He insisted on “principle”, “prerogative for Andinet”, and he was told to go bite the dust. He didn’t know the shifting allegiances that already took place within Andinet’s leadership. When he resisted and look back for backing, he saw instead Engineer Gizachew closing ranks with Dr. Negaso For a proof this is what Eng. Gizachew had to baptize those two “mavericks” with. And he said, “You two guys are more than individual persons. Each of you is as big as a party in his own right.”


Fast forward to about a fortnight ago. TO the Wednesday prof. Mesfin tried to reclaim their lost party. Before police intervened and calmed the situation, two people were injured and a front windshield of a car battered from a stone thrown.


The assembly which the prof. summoned a week earlier might or might not be legal. The appointment of the prof. as vice president of Andinet might or might not be legitimate. That is for the courts to determine. But earlier on, NEBE gave legitimacy to the current office holders implying a proceeding that saw the professor out of the fold of Andinet or UJDD was accepted. The professor had a right to appeal but he didn’t bring the case to the courts. In stead, he chose to lie low for quite some time after he had been purged. Then came the assembly, which the professor claimed was legal and held in full quorum. Within a week, the scuffle for office.


Two questions: Why didn’t the professor wait his belated moves until after polling day? If he felt he couldn’t, why didn’t he seek endorsement of the assembly and its purported decision from the competent organs of justice?


For all intents and purposes, it is imprudent to just barge in people’s office and stir a fight.


To top it all, leaders of UJDD gave a statement a day after the incident. They accused the government of proxy interference while on the other hand accusing police of indifference.


This is a white lie, double tongue, outrageous.


But, a whiff-whiff, all the same. Kitty, come down to earth!