By Berhane Kahsay
Tigrai Online, October 08, 2013
Last Sunday’s demonstration in Addis Ababa, which consumed three months of intense ground work, was a complete and utter failure. Thirty-three fringe opposition parties and Unity for Democracy & Justice (UDJ) organised the rally, and only a few thousands turned up according to the accounts of Reporters without Borders. ‘’Millions March for Freedom’’ that was highly publicised at home and in the Diaspora was simply pie in the sky.
The fiasco has badly hurt UDJ and it is just a matter of time before terminal recriminations commence within the leadership. To divert attention and buy time , Ato Girma Seifu, who is UDJ’s sole parliamentary representative , has written to the Prime Minister indicting plain cloth security personnel’s of momentarily detaining a couple of their members for questioning.
All the Honourable member of House of Representatives had to do was visit the relevant authorities and request an immediate probe into the alleged incident and leave the hectic PM to plot the demise of poverty which is the arch enemy our country. No doubt Ato Girma is aware of this rudimentary etiquette but deliberately opted to disregard it in order to deflect focus away from Sunday’s humiliation.
The low turn-out in Addis Ababa, Amhara and Southern regions thoroughly indicate that UDJ is a peripheral player in Ethiopian politics although this has not dissuaded leaders of the minuscule party from trying to punch above their weight. UDJ and the other 33 marginal parties call for the repeal of the Anti-terrorism Law and release of political prisoners, as if there were, every time they held public rallies. The vast majority of the electorates are unaware of their policies and strategies; we have yet to hear of a proposal that they reckon would mitigate the complex and multifaceted problems of the country.
It is hardly surprising that the combined support for the entire opposition at home and in the Diaspora is so inconsequential despite their involvement in politics for the last two decades. By and large, political parties the world over win elections on the strengths of their manifestos and not by exclusively highlighting the perceived weaknesses of the party in power. This is exactly what is taking place in Ethiopia and its predictable outcome is a Perpetual opposition which unlikely to alter in the immediate future.
Lack of policy is not the only aspect that is preventing the opposition from getting through to the electorates. Persistent infighting, bickering and double dealing that takes place on daily basis is also having an adverse effect. Recently, Semayawi Party was expelled from the consortium of 33 parties for publically undermining the other members of the group. UDJ which is a member of Medrek is also at logger heads with its partners and it is just a matter of time before they part company. On numerous occasions, Professor Beyene Petros and Dr Merara Gudina censured leaders of UDJ for not towing the alliance’s line.
Even within UDJ there appears to be a schism between Dr Negasso and Ato Girma. The latter’s letter that was addressed to FDRE Prime Minister should have been written by the leader of the party which is the correct protocol but it was not. Why? Lately, the only opposition MP has become very vocal and many people believe that he is conspiring against Dr Negasso in order to assume control of UDJ. Seye Abraha received similar treatments from the die-hard chauvinists and is now believed to be working for the UN. It is simply tripe for UDJ to claim that it is above ethnic politics when it is actually immersed in it up to its neck.
At present UDJ is in a very precarious situation and it is feared that this may tempt the party to collude with the terrorist organisation G-7 as Eskinder Nega, Andualem Arage and a few others did. The lack of strong and visionary opposition since the advent of democracy in Ethiopia is a very serious concern. Equally worrying is the EPRDF might become complacent and arrogant in the absence of stern challenges from its rivals, and fail to continue to perform to the highest standards that the public are accustomed to. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), would rise to the occasion and give the EPRDF a run for its money.