On: the passing fad of Repentance; On: the Dream Ticket’s prospect and more...

By Dilwenberu Nega
Nov. 28 2009

Repentance without confession is a Land Cruiser without its engine
Politics, by its very essence, is in a constant state of flux, and nowhere is this more evident than in the current topsy-turvy world of Ethiopian opposition parties.   As if witnessing what was a dogma on Monday become a heresy on Tuesday, was not hilarious enough, we are now in for something very special: a circus by repentant opposition politicians.

Former Prime Minister Tamerat Laynay is credited for being the harbinger of public repentance into Ethiopian politics.  His unfeigned gestures touched the hearts and minds of many Ethiopians who readily attributed his hitherto unknown sense of deep humility to his born-again experiences. After listening attentively to Tamerat’s unadulterated confessions, the public was more than willing to forgive him, and grant his overture a ‘let-bygones-be-bygones’ status.

However, the current public parading of repenting opposition politicians on the very eve of Ethiopia’s National Elections, has, not only all the hallmarks of a soap-opera but, worse of all, it’s a fine portrayal of an eerie act of political expediency.   Hence, for the public to regard these acts of repentance as a genuine expression of regret for wrongdoings committed in the past and to bestow trust on repentant politicians, two requirements have to be fulfilled:

1. Repentance can only come after confession.  Whilst, in religion, salvation is guaranteed to those who confess and repent; in politics, however, neither of the two, guarantees a win at elections, let alone a meteoric rise to power.   In both cases repentance by itself serves no useful purpose, other than, of course, offer oxygen of publicity to a repenting politician while the electorate remain all the more wary of the politician’s new-fangled approach.

As a ranting preacher once tried to hammer this very point wittily to Bole’s Church of The Saviour’s congregation in Addis Ababa, “Repentance without confession; and confession without repentance are both good-for-nothings. They are as useless as a Land Cruiser without its engine.” What the troika of repentant Doctors, Yacob Wolde-Mariam, Merara Gudina and Negasso Gidada, have so far done is welcome; but it falls far short of making the electorate place their trust on them.   The public, on the other hand, is prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to Yacob Wolde-Mariam because, by unequivocally stating that he has had enough with politics, he has managed to allay fears that he might have an axe to grind by following the foot-steps of Tamerat Laynay.

2. Repentance has to be offered in a disinterested manner; for only then would a cynical public be prepared to give the repentant an iota of their trust.  Still on the subject of cynicism among Ethiopians, are you aware of foreigners’ assumption of there being a doubting-Thomas in every Ethiopian?  This, of course, cannot be an ill-founded assumption:  it is this scepticism, is it not, which has helped us ward off colonial incursions in the past; and it is this cynicism which is today making us extra-vigilant of wolves in sheep’s clothing in our developmental gallop.   That’s why, long before the British introduced their now ubiquitous English proverb “the secret of the pudding is in the eating”; Ethiopians had succeeded in ‘exporting’ to the world their equally ubiquitous “The cowl does not make the monk” (yetemeteme hulu keyes aydelem).

Even more so in Ethiopian politics, we are made to observe the jittery acts of doubting Thomases the moment a politician utters a word, let alone repents publically.   Therefore, they seek tirelessly for reassurances, not to say cast-iron guarantees, that repentant politicians are not hoodwinking them with a hidden agenda.

Merara Gudina’s braggadocio-laden barnstorming speeches in America have been couched with make-believe offers of apology for a ‘perceived’ wrongdoing at having served as a Member of Ethiopia’s Constituent Assembly some 15 years ago.    Why would a Member of a historic Constituent Assembly, through whose drafting of a bespoke Constitution, Ethiopian unity was able to be salvaged from the grip of centrifugal forces, would find it imperative to apology for being party to the drafting of the Constitution, simply beggars belief.
What is even more mind-boggling is that this offer of apology is made by the Chairman, ad-interim, of the very coalition which claims sole custodianship of Ethiopian unity.   Meanwhile, Merara’s alter ego in Addis, Negasso Gidada, offered a similar apology, as he and Siye had their baptism of fire as UDJ’s new members.

It is ludicrous then, is it not, that the very man who presided over the Constituent Assembly and later became FDRE’s First President, is today seen denigrating himself by offering an apology where an apology is not warranted under any stretch of the imagination.   Mind you, all this is on top of Negasso Gidada’s aggro-laden “Ich bin nicht aus Athopien” (I am not an Ethiopian) public remark in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1982.

If all these indices don’t point to signs of mental derangement and proof of UDJ’s somnambulism, I want to know what would.   It’s high time that these make believe apologists are told “Mogn bella” – “Tell it to the marines!”

One very interesting point has crystallized from the various utterances of these disenchanted and confused UDJ members: God forbid, if UDJ wins the next elections, it would reverse all the accomplishments of the past 18 years.  Therefore, under ‘the wise and able leadership’ of the Union of Disenchanted Januses (UDJ) Ethiopia’s current federal structure which has so far kept the union of nations, nationalities and peoples intact, will give way to an Ethiopia where “the chosen few will lord it over their loyal subjects.”

MEDREK’s Dream Ticket: the electorate’s nightmare scenario
To find out that Siye and Negasso constitute MEDREK’s dream ticket isn’t rocket science; the writing has been on the wall for us for some time.  The plan to first remove the carpet from under the feet of well-known MEDREK figures before appearing as the ‘Jemal Abdel Nasser’ of MEDREK is no one else’s, but Siye Abreha’s brain child.  His extensive knowledge of military operations and most particularly his alleged fixation with how the late Egyptian President Nasser very slyly replaced the front-man of the Egyptian coup d’état, Negib, is believed to have given him an edge over his current political bed-fellows.

But Siye Abreha suffers image problem as the public continue to regard him as not only aloof, but as one driven by a vanity of the worst order.  So negative is public perception of Siye as a future leader of Ethiopia that one Axumite fulminated not so long ago: “To die under Meles is a virtue; while to live under Siye is a vice.”   To Ethiopia’s elite, too, Siye doesn’t come out as forcefully as Meles does.  While Meles’most ardent opponents and critiques readily accept his wit and intelligence, not many can vouch for Siye’s intellectual attributes. The very little we have come to know of Siye are limited to his swashbuckling years as a liberation fighter and later on as Minister of Defence.  His new-found belief of Ethiopian unity is something which runs counter to the belief he had held for over 20 years: belief which made him fight against those fighting under the banner of Ethiopian unity: ironically identical to his current main election plank. People tend not to believe a word Sieye says about Ethiopian unity.  How could they? Was it not Siye himself who endearingly stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Isaias Afewrki as Eritrea celebrated its independence from Ethiopia?  It is simply because he wants to unleash a vendetta on those who exposed his corrupt practices that he has now concocted a plan which he hopes would catapult him to the Menelik Gibbi.  He is in for a rude awakening.  Negasso Gidada is not worth analysing as he is Siye Abreha’s puppet-on-a-string.

Why Siye shunned ARENA
In an ideal world, ARENA would have been Siye’s ‘natural habitat.’  ARENA’s founder, Gebru Asrat, comes from the same stable as Siye, and the birth place of ARENA, the Regional State of Tigrai, is the ancestral home of both men.  On the face of it, therefore, there could not be any justification for a prominent son of Tigrai to turn his back on the very people he tried to liberate from the iron-grip of a brutal dictatorship.  But turn his back he did; not so much now as at the peak of the last TPLF crises.  The people of Tigrai in general and TPLF supporters in particular are still reeling at Siye’s refusal to remain in an on-going meeting convened to trash-out the confrontation which was threatening to split the TPLF.   Despite the elders’ frantic efforts which even made them lay the sacred flag of TPLF on the floor in an attempt to block his exit, hubris-fuelled Siye, committed the unforgivable crime of stepping over the tri-colour for whose sanctity hundreds of thousands of TIgrai’s sons and daughters have died.  Therefore, it was becoming clear from the very outset that Siye could not possibly be a member of ARENA.

One can, therefore, see that the only environment where Siye can be lionised is nowhere but politically semi-zombified UDJ where he cannot be accused of overshadowing UDJ’s largely geriatric leadership.  Soon Siye will position himself to receive the leadership of MEDREK from Merara Gudina.
If folly were grief, everyone at MEDREK would weep.

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