By: Dilwenberu Nega
19th May 2010
Much to the chagrin of all those who continue to look down on Ethiopian farmers’ sense of awareness, the words of wisdom of a farmer from Awramba Wereda in the Regional State of Amhara comes as a rude awakening to many Ethiopians. The farmer, who was taking part in a public awareness session organized by the local NEBE, reminded the large gathering that “a burnt nation dreads the fire.” Watching him yesterday on Amhara TV from the comfort of my home thousands of air miles away was a pleasant surprise to me. Here we are, I said to myself, with the vocal Diaspora interminably deafening our ears with their unjustified claim of being “the voice of the voiceless.” Yet, little have we come to realise that in actual fact the voice of the voiceless is the real antithesis of the voice of the Ethiopian farmer.
This farmer was, of course, giving vent to his pent up feeling of apprehension that the outcome of Sunday’s elections may be mugged by the hastily cobbled together Coalition of mongrelised political parties. His concern and warning are fully justified. Hardly a day had passed since electioneering officially got underway, without one of Medrek’s cantankerous quintet either grumbling about the electoral process or making a veiled threat to the smooth and orderly outcome of the elections. The clearest threat yet to the electoral process was detected in Merara Gudina’s call for the establishment of a government of national unity before a single vote was cast.
Ethiopia was truly a nation which had unnecessarily got burnt on the very aftermath of the 2005 National Elections, precisely because we had allowed the whimsical leaders of the then CUD to play havoc with the lives of vulnerable and gullible youngsters in towns and cities. I am reminded here by what a former member of the then CUD’s high command ( whose I can’t remember now) recently said in an interview with ERTV following his sentence to prison term for his part in the foiled Geemboat 7 terrorist activities. In reminiscing CUD leadership’s incredible obsession with putting personal interest above that of national interest, he said: “I had become confident of God’s plan not to forsake Ethiopia when I witnessed the total disintegration of the CUD. The inference couldn’t have been clearer: Ethiopia under CUD would have tobogganed into an ethnic inferno.
The blessing in disguise in Ethiopia’s veritable trial and tribulations was the fact that the people and Government of Ethiopia had succeeded in picking up the pieces of the 2005’s sanguinary episode and have managed to plough ahead secure in their resolve that they will never again backslide to violence in any form or shape. The litmus test of this resolve, then, will be the 2010 National Elections on Sunday and beyond Sunday.
The overwhelming majority of contending parties at this year’s National Elections have explicitly pledged their allegiance to the constitutional order as well as to free, fair and peaceful elections. Medrek which had turned its back on the Code of Conduct Agreement, on the other hand, continues to yo-yo between paying lip service to the prevalence of the rule of law, and its refusal, so far, to fully commit itself – with no ifs and buts – to free, fair and peaceful elections. When you hear a party issuing statements to the effect that the only scenario they would accept would be a Government of National Unity on par with Kenya before a single vote is cast, you do not need further proof that that party is up to something untoward.
On Thursday nationwide election campaigns will formally come to an end, offering the electorate a much yearned for respite from the hurly-burly of electioneering. One hopes they will use this break to take stock of what the different parties have been offering them in their respective election manifestoes. Voting can only be “a fiesta” if people go out and vote, so let all registered voters go out and vote for the party of their choice. Whomsoever we decide to vote for on Sunday, do not let us lose sight of the fact that Ethiopia’s oasis of peace status, and Meles Zenawi’s rise to international prominence offers not inspiration but perspiration to anti-peace and anti- democratic forces both within and without. And they would leave no stone unturned to scupper the elections. Unblinking vigilance must be the watchword for Sunday and beyond.