By Damo Gotamo
The flawed constitution of Ethiopia stipulates that a national election is to be held once in every fifth year. Under the TPLF dictatorial regime, the country held four sham elections. In all those farce elections, the EPRDF won by huge margins, the last one by a hundred percent. The cutthroats from Dedebit didn’t realize that by winning elections all the time and mocking the people of Ethiopia every five years, they were digging their own grave. In the end, the lies and crimes of the TPLF members caught up with them. The mass protest that engulfed the country chased them to their home, which they didn’t have to leave in the first place.
Leaders of the new government have promised to conduct a real, fair, and free election next year. To this end, a new Election Board chairwoman has been appointed, and competent people have been filling vacant positions to strengthen the capacity of the institution. Furthermore, in March 2019, one hundred seven political parties in the country signed a code of conduct that will govern their operations.
The Election Day is fast approaching, and the members of different political parties are expressing their opinion, whether the election should be carried out as scheduled. Some are suggesting that the coming election should take place as slated. Others are saying it should be postponed.
Under the current situation n the country, it is impossible to hold free and fair election next year. The leaders in power are in a damage control mode and holding an election next year is a recipe for disaster. Therefore, the government should postpone the next year’s general election until peace and stability prevail in the country. Since he came to power, Prime Minister Abiy has encountered many lingering issues that will make holding free and fair election in 2020 very difficult.
After Abiy became PM, he has been dealing with a multitude of problems he has inherited from the TPLF regime and new obstacles that emerged after he assumed power. Disgruntled TPLF criminals and their vassals have been trying hard to undermine the PM and thwart the ongoing reform process. From their hideouts in Tigraye, the TPLF ruffians have tried everything to destabilize the country.
A few months after he assumed power, an assassination attempt was made on Abiy’s life. The former criminal in chief of the TPLF and a fugitive from justice Getachew Assefa, through his hired mercenaries, tried to kill the PM. The failed assassination attempt killed and wounded innocent people, and shocked the people of the country. The mastermind of the heinous crime is still at large, protected by his crime partners, who themselves are escapees from justice.
Using their networks and the money they have plundered from the country, the TPLF hoodlums have trained and marched their foot soldiers in all corners of the country to instigate ethnic conflicts. They have also reactivated their cells and partners in crime to fight the central government.
One of those partners, the former president of the Somali region, Abdi Mohammed Omar aka Abdi Iley, using his death squad, tried to secede the country. His effort was met with deadly force, and he was thrown into jail. The failed effort of the former hitman unnerved the new leaders.
On October 11, 2018, four months after the Meskel Square’s failed assassination attempt, several soldiers, wielding their guns, marched into PM’s office under the pretext of requesting pay raise. The PM summoned his man management skills to diffuse the situation and ended the confrontation peacefully. However, a few days later, he revealed to the public that there was nothing innocent about the uninvited soldiers’ intrusion into his office. He said the soldiers went to his office to kill him. The country would have been in flames if the mission of the rogue soldiers had succeeded.
Ethnic entrepreneurs haven’t given a moment of respite to the new leaders either. They have tried to take advantage of the leadership change to advance their political interests. In a short period, they displaced millions of people from their homes and killed thousands. From the Oromia region alone, one million people were dislocated. The Guji Oromos extremists forced close to a million Gedeons to leave their homes.
The Gedeon plight unleashed a public-relations crisis against the Ethiopian government for its notoriously sluggish response. After the public fury, the government interfered, but the situation is still precarious requiring the full attention of the government.
According to a recently released report by the Internally Displaced Monitoring Center(IDMC), Ethiopia topped the list of internally displaced countries in the world. Nearly three million people have been internally displaced in Ethiopia due to the flawed ethnic federalism of the country. The majority of the people have been displaced from the four largest regions (Kelils) of the country, namely Oromia, Amhara, Somali, and Southern regions.
Another major source of challenge to Abiy’s administration came from groups and people who received amnesty from his government. Those who were in Eritrea, and in prisons in Ethiopia have presented significant challenges against the government that set them free from exile and jail.
No sooner had its members arrived in the country, the OLF, a gathering of blinkered tribal lords, unleashed its terrorist activists against innocent people and government officials in Wollega and Guji areas of the country. During its crime spree, the OLF robbed more than seventeen banks, ones again needing the government’s intervention. The rogue group hasn’t ceased its destabilizing tendencies, and it is still a threat to the peace and stability of the country. Its members just killed a high raking security official in Wollega.
Prisoners, who received amnesty from the government have posed one of the most daunting challenges to the Abiy leadership to date. A few weeks ago, a general who was freed from jail by the new leaders after years of incarceration, allegedly tried to topple the government that sets him free. The senseless act cost the lives of the Amhara region leaders and the top generals of the country. This ill-conceived senseless act has further weakened the fragile peace and security of the country the new leadership has been trying to restore.
In addition to the above challenges, the PM is at loggerheads with ethnic extremists in the Southern region of the country. Motivated by their parochial interests, the Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs have been challenging the new leader and testing his resolve since he came to power. They are morbidly obsessed with Kelil that no rational argument can change their thought process.
Unqualified to any position, ethnic entrepreneurs, who have assumed key government positions in Awassa, have been harassing people and disturbing the peace of the city for a year. Within a year, they have destroyed the economic activities of the second largest city in the country. No longer able to tolerate the lawlessness, many people left the city, closing their businesses and selling their properties.
Ones economically vibrant and the most sought after city in Ethiopia to live and do business, Awassa has become a ghost city. The price of the city’s real estate market, which was rivaled by Addis Ababa only a few years ago, is now the cheapest in the country.
The obsession of Sidama extremists with Kelil is out of control that no advise will stop them from trying to declare Kelili illegally. Their confrontation with the government seems inevitable. They are driven by their own self-interest and don’t fully grasp the magnitude and consequences of their illegal action.
Other nine zones in the Southern region have shown their desire to have their own Kelil. But, they chose to do so legally, responsibly, and in a civilized manner.
Truth to be told, some of them problems in the country have been caused and exacerbated by the new leadership. Abiy administration’s inability to be open in his dealings with some groups and its failures to maintain law and order in the country has made matters worse. For example, the new leaders were unforthcoming in their dealings with the OLF and didn’t disclose to the public the content of their agreement. It is also unclear why it took too long to take action against the OLF troublemakers when they were killing people and robbing banks.
The government showed similar ineptitude in the Southern Kelli when the Sidama extremists got out of control for a year long. Nothing was done when they killed innocent people, shut down various institutions, and beat government officials in a broad daylight. The government chose to keep silent when the Sidama entrepreneurs have destroyed the economy of one of the largest cities in the country. The silence of the government baffled many people and allowed the Sidama extremists to break the law with impunity.
In the midst of myriad problems and challenges mentioned above, ethnic based political parties are putting unnecessary pressure on the government to hold the upcoming election next year. The members of TPLF, OLF, and NAMA are leading the way among the groups that are vociferously expressing their views in favoring of holding an election next year. They argue, if the election is not carried out as scheduled, it will be the end of the world.
The TPLF megalomaniacs who were chased away to their dugout by the popular movement are one of the vocal advocates for the election to take place on a schedule. The TPLFites, who conducted four sham elections and ruled the country with an iron fist for twenty-seven years, are crying daily that the government respects the constitution.
Career criminals, who killed, jailed, and tortured Ethiopians for more than two decades with impunity are demanding the new administration conduct election on the date slated no matter what the reality is on the ground.
Corrupt tribal lords, who plundered the country dry, left an empty coffer to the new leaders, caused unparalleled economic hardship, and plunged the country into political crisis are demanding the election to be held next year.
A group that violated its own manual (many aren’t comfortable to call it a constitution) and imposed it on the country is asking the government to respect the constitution. Apparently, members of the TPLF want to mount another comeback in the middle of an election violence. They must say something to feel relevant.
Plato’s classical quote comes to my mind when ever I hear what the TPLF ruffians have to utter. He said, ‘Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.’There are no greater fools than the TPLF criminals.
Another group that demands the election to take place next year is the OLF (there are more than five OLF parties). Most of the OLF leaders are in their late sixties and seventies.
Some have spent more than thirty years as leaders of their party, and because of old age, they barely walk without the help of others. Time isn’t on their side to hold on meaningful political position to show to the people they claim they have been struggling for. When ever they get the opportunity to appear on their favorite TV shows, the tribal lords try to tell people how important it is to hold the coming election on time.
The fact that they are one of the problems for the ongoing instability in the country doesn’t concern them at all. If the election is extended by a year or two, their dream of assuming power will evaporate. When they failed to unsettle the government through violent means, they have resorted to insisting that the election be conducted next year. They want to seize power as quickly as possible by any means necessary to further plunge the country into lawlessness.
There is another group that insists on the election to take place next year. The leaders of these parties are so desperate to be seen as relevant in the eyes of the people they claim to represent they are openly telling us that they have been jailed because they wanted to run for public office.
Nothing is wrong if people interested in running for public office. The problem is the members of these groups are scary bunches. They are famous for making very controversial and outrageous statements. Recently, one of them advised the Oromo businessmen to sell their products to people who don’t speak the Oromo language.
People in this group are so desperate to grab power right away that anyone who advocates the extension of the election is an anathema to them. Their concern partly has to do with the fact that if the reform process strengthens and people distance themselves from ethnic politics, their dream of assuming power will evaporate. Therefore, they argue that there will be an Armageddon if the election is extended by a few years.
Similar to the majority of the Oromo political organizations, the Amhara parties such as the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) are advocating the election takes place in 2020.
The members of these parties, who are mostly returnees from Eritrea, are giving the most preposterous reason for their claim. They say the reason for the ongoing ethnic violence, and massive displacement in the country is the absence of a democratic government in the country. According to them, if the election is held next year, all the problems of the country will vanish into thin air. Like their Oromo counterparts, the members of NAMA are adamant about their stance regarding the date of the upcoming election.
Before the election takes place, a lot needs to be done in training and instructing the member of the EPRDF. Many members of this party are doing business as usual. They are still abusing and displacing people in all the corners of the country. If the election takes place next year, they will do the same things they used to do in the past, rigging elections.
We have seen in places like Arsi the members of the ruling party chasing away members of the opposition parties. Free and fair election means a threat to their long-held power. The reform hasn’t reached to the lower level of the government structure. In many places, the old TPLF structure is still intact. Therefore, a lot needs to be done ‘taming’ the EPRDF cadres before conducting the race.
The recent incidents in Amhara and Tigri regions provide a stark reminder that the country is way off from conducting a free and free election next year. Ginbot seven members were chased away from Bahir Dar by young people who were wielding Ak47. A few days ago, the members of Tigraye Democratic Party Coalition (TAND) were assaulted and jailed when they set foot in Tigraye to attend the funeral of the late generals. The TPLF in Tigraye is jailing and killing the Arena Tigraye members.
As we have seen many times, even in peaceful times, elections in Africa are very controversial and often lead to violence. What happened in Kenya in 2008 serves as a stark reminder to us that in countries where parties are divided along ethnic lines, election aftermaths often lead to deadly violence. When President Mawi Kibaki was declared the winner of the 2007 national election, deadly violence erupted in Kenya. Relatively a peaceful country compared to Ethiopia, Kenya engulfed in unprecedented ethnic violence that caused the death of thousands of people and destruction of properties. The current ethnic animosity and rhetoric in Ethiopia have to cool down before rushing to an election.
Peace and stability must prevail in the country, to conduct a free, faire, and peaceful election in the country. People are still being killed and displaced in all corners of the country. Those who lost power and privilege are working day and night to undermine the reform process.
Members of opposition political parties can’t move freely in all corners of the country to meet people and introduce their programs. A few who tried have been chased away by thugs wielding guns. Furthermore, rushing to hold an election without strengthening democratic institutions such as the election board and independent judiciary will put the election result into question. The new Election Board is still in the process of filling qualified people to enhance its institutional capacity to oversight the election effectively. At this time, it isn’t fully prepared to carry out its duties effectively.
Ethiopians at this time give paramount importance to peace and stability than an election that will deliver nothing to their lives. To them, peace and security are priorities over any other issues. Any party that is rushing to grab power at this challenging time doesn’t have the peoples’ interest first.
The TPLF criminals stayed in power for twenty-seven years, by manipulating and violating their own working manual they dubbed it as a constitution. They carried out four fraudulent elections.
To those who say that extending an election by a couple of years to ensure peace and security is breaking the law, I tell them to slow down and think about the people in the country.
We have waited almost for three decades to free ourselves from abuse and exploitation.
We mustn’t allow the second coming of power hungry ethnic lords to disintegrate our country into small sates by rushing us into an election. Let the naysayers cry wolf. The government should postpone the upcoming election at least by two years from the slated date to insure peace and stability in the country.