It’s too early to call Prosperity Party bad news to Ethiopia (A rejoinder to Awol Allo)

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Ephrem Madebo (emadebo@gmail.com)

On November 30, 2019, Awol Allo tweeted the following: “Lemma is not alone. In fact, there are very few Oromos beneath the ornament of the sky who do not see that the Prosperity Party is a highly problematic, unnecessarily risky, and untimely initiative” The following day, I responded to his tweet challenging him to substantiate his claim. Here is my reply to his tweet: “Risky and Problematic? You’ve said this so many times. Anyone can say the PP is risky, I don’t except this from you. I want you to spell out what the problems are, and especially what the risks of the new party to the Ethiopian people are. May be this can convince many of us” Awol stood up to the challenge and wrote an article on the Al Jazeera website. But, instead of substantiating his claims with facts and evidences, he came with more hearsays and stereotypical stories that the ethnic lords have been telling us for the past 40 years.

In his article to Al Jazeera, for some odd reason Awol argues that ethnic interests are represented only by ethnic parties, and according to him, multiethnic national parties cannot directly represent ethnic interest. To me, this is one of the weakest argument of Awol that vividly displays his intellectual blatancy of mixing facts with conformist beliefs and of course his hasty generalization. What is ethnic interest and what do ethnic groups want? Is there ethnic interest that doesn’t include economic and social interest, or put in another way, is there a group that enjoys economic and social freedom in the framework of self-administration and yet suffers from other types of oppression? These are questions that Awol should have asked himself before uttering his unsubstantiated assumptions as facts.

I do understand that some group rights need special protection, and there are group rights which are held by the group as a group rather than by its individual members severally (aka Group- differentiated rights). One of the most compelling example of group-differentiated right is the right to self-determination without which other group rights such as the right to speak one’s mother tongue and the right to free cultural exercise and preservation become meaningless. The Ethiopian constitution has already granted nations and nationalities the right to self-determination, and there are nine regional governments in Ethiopia with Sidama joining the federation as the 10th region and some more regions in the pipeline. I think it’s up to these self-administering units to take care of their cultural, religious and language rights.  So even if Awol is right, what is the ethnic interest that only ethnic parties can represent that national parties don’t or can’t? What does the history of other countries tell us?

India and Nigeria have 2000 and 250 ethnic groups respectively. There are 36 parties in the current Indian parliament, but only three parties assumed power in India since independence representing the interest of over two thousand ethnic groups and numerous religious and cultural ensembles. The Nigerian experience is not that different. There are 10 parties in the current Nigerian House of Representatives. Since 1999, the 4th Republic, Nigerian politics is dominated by People’s Democratic Party (PDP) though currently All Progressives Congress (APC) is in power. Both PDP and APC are multiethnic national parties that represent the interest of Nigeria’s Muslims, Protestants, Catholics and 250 ethnic groups. Dear Awol, why can’t multiethnic national parties represent the economic and social interests of Ethiopia’s 80 ethnic groups once the most important aspect of group rights (Self-determination) is taken care of, which it is? What is it that India and Nigeria with far more population and extremely larger number of ethnic groups are capable of doing that we Ethiopians can’t?

There is another speculative and fictitious statement of Awol where he makes three outrageously wrong claims in a paragraph of just 90 words: 1-The “Ethiopian nationalists” block is a fast diminishing political bloc.  2- The “Ethiopian nationalists” block sees self-governance as the source of Ethiopia’s troubles. 3- The “Ethiopian nationalists” support for the PP is driven less by a careful assessment of Ethiopia’s social cleavages and political fault lines and more by their fixation on a homogenizing conception of “unity”.

I’m not sure if this is a researched fact or his own statement of wish, but Awol says that the Ethiopian nationalist political block is a fast diminishing block. Awol believes that there are many Ethiopians to whom their ethnic identity is primary. Just like he does, I also believe that there are a good number of Ethiopians, including myself, to whom ethnicity is important, but not primary. I think both of us are correct in our own way, but I don’t know why Awol thinks my block, the Ethiopian Nationalist block is fast diminishing while his is flourishing. In fact, the Ethiopian Nationalist block is a group the ethnic lords led by the late Meles Zenawi wanted to burry alive, but it’s a block flourishing and shining after 27 years of forced hibernation.

Awol seems to be on a mission to denigrate the Ethio-nationalist block. He harshly accuses this block and presents it as a threat to self-governance in Ethiopia. This is an out-and-out flagrant accusation because this group knows more than anyone that the real danger to Ethiopia is denying people their God given right of administering themselves. In fact, it is the only group that currently is advocating slef-adminstration at zone, city and district level. I don’t think there is a political party or politician that would on purpose or without dares to take the self- administration right of people in Ethiopia. Why would Ethio-nationalists see the right to self-determination of nations and nationalities as the source of Ethiopia’s troubles, the very right that they’ve been fighting for since the heydays of Wallegn Mekonnen? I consider myself as Ethio-nationalist, and of course I have a serious issue the way federalism is structured in Ethiopia, but not with federalism itself and the right to self-determination of nations and nationalities. To be honest, I wouldn’t have been working with a group I worked for 11 years had we had even a remote disagreement on self-rule and shared-rule. I’ve no doubt that Awol understands very well the difference between questioning the structuring of federalism in Ethiopia and disrespecting peoples’ right to self-determination. I expect such unjustifiable accusations from the loud-mouthed Mekele outlaws, not from a respected college law professor.

There is nothing repugnant and dishonesty like when the very person that blames others for “poor assessment” turns around and writes an article full of mythical stories. Does Awol know who is responsible for bringing down Emperor Haile Selassie’s homogenizing regime? Does he know who brought the question of nations and nationalities to light in Ethiopia for the first time and paid his life for it? Who were in the forefront of the famous slogan “Land to the Tiller”? At the center of each of the above questions are many names from the very class of people whom Awol Allo unashamedly framed as mere elements of “homogenizing unity”. There is no reason that a person of Awol’s caliber fails to understand that reasonable people don’t fight to bring a homogenizing system that they fought hard and died for its disappearance.

Awol is very clear that he doesn’t like the whole idea of the birth of PP as a political party because PP doesn’t represent ethnic interest, and it is a threat to the multinational federation. But, he still doesn’t want it to lose the election to the opposition because to him PP losing the election and handing power to the opposition is tantamount to throwing the country to uncharted territories because there is no capable political party that can take the responsibility of leadership. Imagine this is the same guy who didn’t utter a word when Obo Dawud Ibsa, a vocal advocate of ethnic interest, proudly said policy is not important to the Oromo people, but still his party OLF is ready for the upcoming election (though I really don’t know the actual things the OLF is getting ready for). Awol also has a warning for us that the government will signal the end of democracy in Ethiopia if it decides to stay in power after losing the election.

This is really fun and here is the fun part. Awol starts his article by telling us that the whole idea of the EPRDF merging into a national party platform is wrong. Then he comes up with two premises. According to his first premise, Ethiopia will be thrown into uncharted territories if Prosperity Party loses and hands power to the opposition; and according to his second premise, if a losing PP doesn’t hand power to the opposition that will be the end of democracy in Ethiopia. Awol doesn’t like the existence of PP, but he also doesn’t want it to lose the election and hand power to the opposition. Awol doesn’t also want PP to stay in power after losing the election. The conclusion of the two premises of Awol is that, the very opposition that may take Ethiopia to uncharted territory if PP loses the election, will also enhance the prospects of a democratic transition and mark the beginning of a new era in Ethiopia if it wins the election. The game of words or the riddle here is PP losing or opposition wining the election. This is where Awol loses coherence and gets lost in the emotional world of ethnic politics, and this is precisely the very spot where ethnic politicians throw reason out of the room and start galloping their emotional horse.

With the merging of the EPRDF into a new national party, Awol somehow sees a risk to the multinational federation. I’m not quite sure if this is analysis or paralysis; but to me, it’s not even something worth commenting for it’s absolutely nothing more than the usual boogeyman game the TPLF has been playing ever since it bought a one way ticket to its final dugout in Mekele. Talking about a unitary state in the current political environment of Ethiopia is a grave sin that throws you directly to hell, let alone undoing the multinational federation. Besides, the federal form of government seems to be a unanimous agreement among all political stakeholders of Ethiopia. So how and where is the risk to the multinational federation coming from? My other issue here is that the so called “Federalist” forces call Ethiopia’s federal system “Multinational Federation”. Is Ethiopia a multinational federation? The answer is a big no! Ethiopia is a class room example of Ethnic Federalism. If there is anything that resembles multinational federation in Ethiopia, it is only the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, and with the Sidamas already out and many more following route, even the SNNPR is crumbling making Ethiopia a perfectly ethnic federal state.

According to Awol, the most immediate challenges to PP is to win a competitive election as a pan-Ethiopian party where ethnicity remains the predominant political cleavage. So what? Winning election and forming a government is a challenge to every political party including to parties in your own backyard such as the Tories, Labor and the Liberal Party who have been in politics for over a century. Not winning the election may be a problem to PP, but does this say anything that PP itself is a problem? How many parties are in UK and how many of them won election and assumed power in the last 75 years? I leave the answer to you, but I want to let you know that political parties are unavoidable propellants of democracy whose existence is crucial whether they win elections or not.

Sometimes Awol’s argument is not just shallow, it is self-defeating. He sincerely tells us that the EPRDF is dysfunctional, it has a crisis of legitimacy, has a fractured image, tarnished reputation and many more.  But, he still wants the EPRDF back to power as-is than in the current form of Prosperity Party. To him, the political, social and economic vision of eight ethnic organizations that formed the PP and all other stakeholders who have no taste for ethnic politics are nothing more than enemies of federalism because he sees Ethiopia only in the framework of ethnic politics. In fact, to Awol and to all advocates of ethnic politics, those of us who do everything to free Ethiopia from ethnic politics are enemies of ethnicity and federalism. This is a fundamentally wrong assumption used by all kinds of ethnic politicians to emotionally mobilize their gullible base.

According to Awol, once the current EPRDF structure is dismantled and ethnic groups lose direct representation within the PP, their ability to advocate for their specific groups will be diminished, and they could lack influence over policy decisions. Well, whether it is good or bad is subject to public debate, but the only two parties that have publicly come with a wide range of policy options are Prosperity and Ezema. Surprisingly, the party that publicly questioned the purpose of policy and claimed to have no policy is one of the oldest ethnic organization in Ethiopia that claims to represent the largest ethnic group in our nation. So what policy is Awol talking about that ethnic parties themselves don’t know about? In fact, Awol should have been thankful for PP, a party that assembled eight ethnic organizations and drafted political, economic and social policies that the public can look at and have its say.

I’ve followed Awol Allo on tweeter and heard him on Aljazeera for a long time. To me, he is the voice of reason and one of the moderate voices that Ethiopia badly needs.  But, he loses all these good virtues and moves from the center to far right on the issue of Prosperity Party. Here is one of the most thoughtless and unscholarly statement I’ve never heard from him: “The structural vulnerability of the PP means that the risks of anti-federalist forces taking over the party and dismantling the federal structure cannot be ruled out”. Who are these anti-federalist forces and where are they? ODP has already made it public that it would never negotiate on federalism, let alone dismantling it.The regional representatives of Somali, Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, Harari and Afar have also made it very clear in their respective general assemblies that, the federal structure that gave them sovereignty over their region is non-negotiable and it is here to stay. So who is this ghost like invisible enemy of the federal structure? Is it PM Abiy, or his deputy Demeke Mekonnen? Whether it’s at the federal level or regional, among opposition parties or activists, no one whatsoever is a risk to the federal system in Ethiopia. This scare tactic used by Awol and many in the ethnic camp is nothing more than trying to control people by making them feel afraid.

I have a message to Awol and ethnic politicians of all sorts. Ethiopia is a country of different ethnic groups, religious communities, cultural ensembles and of course a fast growing population of over 100 million, all with different political, social and economic interest. There is no “One fits all” model of Ormo, Amhara, Somali, etc; economic and social interest. Social and economic interests vary within and between communities and these interests are usually manifested at the individual level. This is why Ethiopia needs large national parties, and this is precisely why EPRDF grew into a national party to represent these diverse interests. Dear fellow country man Awol, if you think there are special ethnic interests that cannot be represented by multiethnic national parties like PP and Ezema, please go ahead and mobilize all those who recently announced their candidacy, forge your own ethnic party and let’s meet in the upcoming election and leave the rest to the Ethiopian electorate. Other than this, please stop playing the boogeyman game that scares people. The federal structure of government, self-rule and shared-rule, the right to speak one’s language, the right to exercise and preserve one’s culture, and the right to worship one’s religion are here to stay regardless of who is at the helm of political power in Ethiopia.

Let me conclude by repeating the infamous quote of Duad Ibsa, the quintessential symbol of ethnic politics in Ethiopia: “The policy issue is very secondary for the Oromo people to our knowledge” Look Awol, this is the most important problem of ethnic politicians. They speak on the behalf of people that they don’t know and never lived with, they promise the impossible, and they make a totally unfounded false and idiosyncratic claims. Tell me how in the hell did Dawud Ibsa know that about 35% of the Ethiopian people (The Oromos) don’t care much for policy?  If the Oromo people don’t care for education, healthcare, agriculture, food security, roads, bridges and transportation, then what else do they care for?  If all these basic life necessities are secondary to them, then what is primary to them?  Why would an ethnic voter or any voter for that matter vote for a candidate that has no policy of any kind? To be honest, the names of political parties or independent candidates that have no economic and social policies should not even be allowed to be on the ballot paper let alone get elected and lead a nation. If all that matters to people is ethnic interest like Awol Allo said, and if policy issues are not important as Dawd Ibsa said, then Ethiopia badly needs national parties that offer a variety of policy options to the electorate. I strongly believe that we have to pull the current toxic ethnic politics to the center where it belongs because ethnic parties are what they say they are. To them, policy issues are very secondary. This scares me to death because I don’t know what is primary to them. Dear reader do you?

 

 

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12 comments

  1. Why Majority of people support Dr. Abiye Ahmed.

    More about how Ethiopia has changed under Abiy:

    The leader promising to heal a nation
    Bold reforms expose Ethiopia’s ethnic divides
    Find out more about Ethiopia
    Presentational grey line
    Ethiopia’s federal constitution, introduced in 1995, created ethnically based states. The arrangement puts a disproportionate emphasis on ethnic identity and ignores other forms of identity like gender and economic class, Mr Abiy says.

    But he also recognises that historical injustices against some ethnic groups could be behind the increased tensions.

    In fact, the prime minister, who is from the Oromo ethnic group, came to power on the back of a wave of protests from the Oromo community, who had complained of economic and political marginalisation

    Nevertheless, medemer calls for ethnic groups to voluntarily come together in a union that celebrates and promotes diversity. Mr Abiy argues that ethnic nationalism can go hand in hand with what he calls “civic nationalism”, which focuses on individual rights.

    How this can happen practically is harder to see.

    But in recent months, the prime minister has spearheaded the transformation of the country’s ethnically based governing coalition into a single party. In a sign of how hard medemer might be to achieve in practise, this move was immediately rejected by some groups.

    Nitin varia.

  2. ኤፍሬም
    አቶ ሁሉንም አዋቂ! ከኢዜማነት ወደ ፒፒነት መቼ ነዉ ክርስትና የተነሳሀው/ ለመሆኑ አንተ ደግሞ ማን ሆንክና ነዉ ስለ ኦሮሞ የምትናገረዉ? ያንተ ጌቶች አያቶችህን በባርያነት የሸጡ እንኳን ቢሆኑ ያምርባቸዋል። አንተ ለመሆኑ ማን ነህና ነዉ? ፈረንጆ እንደምሉት አንተ ሀፍረተቢስ ጥምብ “shameless skunk” ነህ። ደግሞ ኢትዮጵያዊ ስላልሆንክ የኢትዮጵያ ነገር አያገባህምና አፍህን ዝጋ። ዝም ካላልክ እንደ foreign terrorist ትከሰሳለህ።

  3. አቶ ኤፍሬም አግዜብሄር ይባርክህ ባለፈዉ የዚህን ሰዉዬ አንብቤዉ ሆዴ አርሮ ምነው የሚመልስ ጠፋ ብዬ ነበር- እኔ ማንበብ ነዉ እንጂ ጽሁፉ ላይ የለሁበትም- አንጄቴን አራስክልኝ- እንዲህ ልክ ልካቸዉ ካልተነገረ እነሱ ጋ ብቻ አዋቂ ያለ ይመስላቸዋል

  4. Efrem Madebo is one of those who grew up and shaped with the self denial behaviors. His mentor Befekadu Degefe has mentioned some time in his statement at the conference of the Amhara elites in Bahir Dar about some kids from southern Ethiopia who go to school to become Amhara. Most probably his reference is Efrem Madebo. 

    Befakadu Degefe is an economist by training. But still he thinks with his Debtera mentality. He said shamefull Amaharaism is spirit. The main burden of Ethiopia is such poor individuals with backward and uncivilized mentalities

    No one knows better than Befekadu Degefe how the life hard is in his birth place for the ordinary families. In general, the people from Wallo, Gojam and Gonder were misused by the greedy Neftengas of Shewa during the eras of Menilik, Haile Selasien and Mengistu who promoted their objectives  in the name of those innocent human beings. Thus, don’t forget that your families having been still suffering a lot as Walloye, Gojames and Gonderes under those inhuma systems of that empire state. From all these systems you have inherited only pseudo prides, bad mentality and cultures under which you are still in custody. I wish that you will become free from that mentality as a good and cultured human being. 

    My advice for Efrem Madebo:

    Please don’t commercialize the human rights of your own  people for the sake of financial and moral support which you get from anti-unity individuals and organizations. All what you says and writes here and there are a nonsense philosophy of others, in particular those who claim unity without diverseness. 

  5. Timb and Gamada, all efrem did is he responded to Awol Allo’s article. In your comment you just insulted Efrem. Why? If you think Awol is correct and Efrem is wrong then respond to efrem’s articel. If you can’t write in English, write in Amharic. If you can’t run then shut your mouth don’t insult people here. efrem did not insult Awol, he just responded in a civilized way. But you two savages and barbarians you insult like a foolish

  6. “If all these basic life necessities are secondary to them, then what is primary to them?” ANSWER: FREEDOM!
    Freedom from a century old political, economic and cultural subjugation! Freedom from tyrannical repression of despots and military dictators! Freedom from the overlording of self-acclaimed, conceited, and hypocritical I-know-for-you elites, that consider themselves to be entitled to rule, and thus are driven only by their hunger for power and influence!

    Yes, a policy crafted by such groups just for the sake of appeasement of the masses is secondary to us. A free people can devise and put into action a policy that would empower itself in political, economic and cultural spheres. So, as Dawud Ibsa has rightly put it, our priority is the LIBERATION and empowerment of our people! Capito?

    Your EZEMA or PP is just a club of the type of elites described above. You stated, “There is no “One fits all” model of Ormo, Amhara, Somali, etc. … This is why Ethiopia needs large national parties,…” This is typical hypocrisy of your types of I-know-for-you elites. There is no “one-fits-all” policy model but yes one-for-all political party with exactly that one-fits-all policy is the only right party??! Audacious!

  7. Aren’t there or shouldn’t there be moderators on Zehabesha.com?
    None of us readers should be subjected to reading such despicable language and “opinions” that are devoid of content and substance. Decent and cultured people do not insult others. Insult is an instrument for bullies and the ignorant. How sad!

  8. Indeed the menbers of the EZEMA put off their fake Ethiopiawinet and wear their true ultranationalism of Amahara elites. No more disgusting the Somali, Gambella, Afar, Sidama, Walayita, Gamo, Agewo, Qimant and many  others peoples in the name of  “ture Ethiopiyawinet”. EZEMA is just another version of ABiN and the so called Addis Ababa Balderas of Eskinder Nega.This group of ultranationalists may try everything under the sky to fulfill their political ambitions. But it is futile. Now we are in the era of Qerroo. There is no place any more in Finfinne where they can gallop as it pleased them. The Oromo people and its associates will not allow the proxy wars of the Amahara ultranationalists in Finfinne.

    On the other hand Finfinne is not an island which can stands by itself. It depends in all aspects of life on Oromia. Don’t dream unrealistic wishes! They should have to accept the reality that Finfinne is an integral part of Oromia. No miracle will change this reality. 

    The Ethiopian peoples have been suffering from the the Neftegna-made political syndrome of a century old which was created by greedy politicians all the times so far. All these politicians have never cared about collective and individual rights. That is why we are still struggling against all sorts of odd ideologies,  mentalities and thinking. The century old struggles of the peoples in Ethiopia have produced most of the political organizations like TPLF, OLF, ONLF, SLF and EPLF. No one of them were created by default or by accident. Therefore, Ethiopia cannot go back to the old era. Nobody can impose it’s hagemoy more in Oromia and elsewhere in Ethiopia. The integrity of Oromia including Finfinnee will be untouchable. The Oromo nation has been fighting injustice and subjugation in it’s homeland, Oromia in order to regain it’s human dignity as one of the great nations of East Africa.

    The  persistent stubbornness of the ultranationalists (the children of the ex-Neftegnas) will help even more as a fuel in strengthening and speeding up the de-Amaharaization of the whole Ethiopian politics in order to substitute it with the politics of a true multinationalism. Watch out! We will have at least the following additional federal languages soon: afaan Oromoo, afaan Sidamaa , afaan Somalee,  afaan Afar and Tigrenga.

    The politics of one language, one culture and a single nation cannot be accepted any more in Ethiopia. Don’t forget that such demands have no room in today’s Ethiopian politics. But now temporally you can make noise here and there. That is all what you can do right now.

    De-Amharanisation of the whole Ethiopian politics is indispensable and absolutely necessary in order to reform and reshape Ethiopia as a country of multinational state. The politics of one language, one culture  and a single nation cannot be accepted any more. Also there is no Ethiopian identity as some idiotic individuals try preach us those like the chameleon Ermias Legesse. It is a fake identity and ridiculous. Dissociating Ethiopia from the politics of Menilik is indispensable for emancipation of all  the nations and natinalitis in Ethiopia.

  9. Timib has accurately described Epherem. Ephrem is an attention seeker and a lost diaspora. It is all about himself. When he was in Awassa, he used to beat women and men in the pretext anti revolutionaries. He now pretends to be a democratic. Having said that, this is his best article to date.

    Oromo extermists are all about themselves. They now that ethnic politics is wreaking hovoc in the country and yet they want the the system to continue. They don’t have any alternative. They operate in implus rather than reason. Unless we completely dismantle ethnic politics, Ethiopian as a country will cease to exist.

  10. Shame on you guys. You have run out of reasons to challenge Ephrem only left with what you are good at-foul speaking!
    We have been following you for many years you don’t seem to mature. Something is seriously wrong. You are stuck!

  11. Gemeda is a bigot and die-hard who spell out his preconceived bias about Ethiopia and her people.Persons like you are comfortable to live in their past for all their appointed time in earth.Either that or you realized, your political agenda is losing appeal.And the only way you can keep your bankrupt idea alive is by resisting change and reminding compatriots about the past.

    However,no matter how often your repeat your diatribe nothing stops stoical transformation and change.Not to mention the fact, you like it or not there are always people,even within your enclave, who will dare to think for themselves.Actually this notion of collectivist idea appeal ,in some way or another,for the social misfits.

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