Reviving AFD (Alliance for Freedom and Democracy)!

Fayyis Oromia – To get rid of the TPLF regime, there is no other way as an alternate to the reorganization of AFD! Now it seems there is a hint to do it. As I heared from an interview given by Ob Daud Ibsa in VOA Afaan Oromo programme, certain liberation fronts are working together as an alliance: OLF, ONLF, SLF, BPLM and GPLM. It is a good restart. Such an alliance is the only way for ward. MEDREK aka Forum for Democratic Dialog in Ethiopia, FDDE, at home and TIBIBIR aka AFD in diaspora and the cooperation and coordination of these two alliances is the best method to get rid of the dictatorial regime!! 

It is clear that the above liberation movements do have no problem in finding a common ground to forge an alliance. They all do believe in the right of nations to self-determination, so that they take this as a precondition for fostering the alliance. The problem is when these freedom fighters try to make an alliance with democratic forces in diaspora such as G-7, EPPF, EPRP, TPDM and UEDF, who do want to have an unconditional Ethiopian unity as a precondition for the alliance. How is it possible to solve this problem? I tried to discuss with some people about this issue in forums and per e-mail. All concerned people believe in the necessity of such an alliance against TPLF regime, but they do differ on the precondition, which is required for the alliance. We can classify all of them in to two blocs. One bloc argues that accepting and respecting the right of nations to self-determination must be the precondition for the alliance, whereas the other bloc insists on the precondition to be unconditional Ethiopian unity. Let’s look at the arguements of the two camps: the camp of self-determination and the camp of unconditional unity.

1) Those in the camp of unconditional unity like Prof Messay Kebede insist that unconditional Ethiopian unity is very mandatory for the alliance and even for the future union of nations we want to forge in the empire or region. Here is how Prof Messay argues:

“Far from promoting free union, the right to self-determination actually blocks it. It is when union becomes unconditional that it forces peoples to find a form of accommodation that suits them all. Here is an illustrative analogy: if two competing individuals decide to build a house together, their cooperation makes sense if the house becomes their common interest, that is, if both intend to live in the same house. However, if one of the partners is at the same time building another house, whatever partnership they had becomes so suspicious that it comes to an end. The right to self-determination cannot provide the common goal for a lasting union. Moreover, nobody is inclined to make serious concessions if the outcome is so precarious. It is when we decide to live in the same house, no matter what, that we would be inclined to better the house. While Stalin recognizes the right to secede, Rousseau maintains that a nation means an indivisible unity for only indivisibility creates a common goal. Obviously, a conditional unity is hardly able to produce a serious commitment to the idea of a lasting union.

The Stalinist approach has no historical foundation as nations did not emerge as a result of peoples exercising the right to self-determination. The politics of either lumping people together or splitting them apart according as they want or do not want to stay together is too artificial to be anything more than a manipulation of political elites. Instead, modern nations have come into being through inner movements smashing the oppressive structures of conquests and empires. With the exception of overseas colonial empires––whose difficulties to modernize relate to the absence of organized democratic movements in the pre-independence phase––the resolution to build a common house guaranteeing freedom and equality for all is the cornerstone of modern nation, not the right to secession.

Those who truly care about democracy and freedom must understand that the refusal of self-determination alone can bring about the changes that they hope. What the refusal means is that we make unity unconditional so that everything else becomes negotiable. But if the union is conditional, the blackmail of secession seriously jeopardizes the exercise of democratic rules. What is more, a union is formed without the equal alienation of rights since one of the partners reserves the right to secede. As Rousseau puts it, the condition of modern democracy is “the total alienation of each associate, together with all his rights, to the whole community; for, in the first place, as each gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all; and, this being so, no one has any interest in making them burdensome to others” (The Social Contract). It is clear that the act by which a people join a political union is also the act by which it ceases to consider itself as a nation. It becomes part of an organic whole and its distinctive characteristics, such as language, religion, customs, etc., become regional expressions of a larger union. How the specificities integrate into the union is negotiable, and various forms of arrangement can ensure their protection. By contrast, union defined as a collection of autonomous nations is a Stalinist aberration and a contradiction in terms.

…….The best alternative is to renew the commitment to unconditional unity, thereby creating the conditions of a satisfactory solution for all. If the union is abiding, then serious talks can start on how to build the common house. …………I recommend the term “ethnic groups,” with the understanding that the Amhara and the Tigreans are no less ethnic groups than the Oromo, the Gurage, the Somali, etc. In so doing, we define Ethiopia as a multicultural nation rather than as a multinational state, a feature that requires a federal arrangement with large autonomy and self-rule. In this way, we avoid the present impasse without, however, sacrificing those rights necessary to realize the full equality of Ethiopia’s ethnic groups.”

2) Those in the camp of self-determination like me argue that taking unconditional unity as a precondition is dictatorial and doesn’t garantee a union as a long lasting solution and it will be the perpetuation of the hitherto unification at gun point. Some of the points of view in this bloc, which are necessary to be mentioned here are the following:

To achieve the durable alliance of the two forces (pro-unconditional-unity forces and pro-self-determination forces) against TPLF, the two need to forge one common ground as a common goal. To be recommended as a common goal is: union of independent nations, for example independent Oromia in an integrated Ethiopia as a result of a self-determination of each nation. Till now, it was very difficult to get a common purpose on which the two forces could agree. Pro-self-determination forces argue that nations must be free from domination by any meanse and then build a union based on free will. The mistrust between the pro-unconditional-unity forces and the pro-self-determination forces is the God-given opportunity for TPLF, so that its regime is using to rule over the country as long as possible. Unless these two groups come to term and cooperate against Meles adminstration, all nations in the empire have to settle for the rule of the regime not only for few years, but for many decades to come. The two groups should agree on the common ground. Union of independent Amhara, Tigrai, Afar, Oromia, Ogadenia, Sidama, Gurage…..etc as a result of their respective self-determination and even the union including Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland, Puntland and Somalia (if they agree based on free will) is the noble cause for which all can fight together. Not accepting this model meanse unconditional separation of these independent nations as an alternative.

In 2006 pro-self-determination forces formed AFD together with some pro-unconditional-unity forces and with that they took away the very important instrument, which TPLF used to rule over Ethiopians aka designating pro-unconditiona-unity forces as centeralist chauvinists and pro-self-detrmination forces as narrow separatists, so that they be polarized and fight each other. Since then this instrument is dead and Meles’ adminstration is under co-operated attack from both forces. The question yet to be answered is, what was the precondtion on which AFD was forged or was it fostered with out any precondition?

Further more there is difference between a unity and a union. Pro-unconditional-unity forces seem to support the first and pro-self-determination forces tend to accept the second, if it is the result of public verdict. The first is pre-modern, whereas the second is post-modern. In summary here is the difference between the pre-modern unity and the post-modern union. I don’t remember his name, but certain British scholar classified countries in the world in to three: 1- pre-modern chaotic states like the artificial constructs/countries in Africa, such as the Ethiopian empire, which the Amhara pro-democracy forces seem to love, 2- modern nation-states like some mono-national-states in Asia and Latine America and 3- post-modern union of free nations like those in European union. So, the Amhara pro-democracy forces should see that African nations, including those in the empire, are kept as pre-modern due to the arrangement made by the European colonizers and this is still being perpetuated further by AU-dictators, who are dedicated not to change it. But we Africans need to leave the artificial nations like Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Djibouti, Somaliland, Somalia and Kenya behind and forge the productive natural nation-states like Tigrai, Amhara, Afar, Oromia, Hausa, Yoruba, Somalia…etc in order to be transformed our selves from the present position (pre-modern), passing through the stage of modern status like an independent Oromia without a union, further to the post-modern situation like an independent Oromia in a union with neighbouring independent nations. This last status is the most beneficial one, which the Europeans them selves are enjoying now.

The two positions, i.e the position of the pro-unconditional-unity vs the position of the pro-self-determination (union based on free will) should be discussed and debated before attempting to forge an alliance against the ruling party. Even when nations give their vote to an independence within a union, then it will be mandatory to decide secondly on which type of federal arrangement is to be accepted as suitable. Pro-unconditional-unity forces like those in MEDREK believe that this can be decided by public verdict. Now the question to be directed to them is: can’t they extend this philosophy they do apply for deciding on which type of federation, also to the arguement: independence within a union vs independence without a union? Doesn’t this require self-determination of nations to decide on which type of sovereignity peoples can have? Can’t they imagine that the public can also decide on this issue per a referendum? Doesn’t their democracy rhetoric include this option? Can’t they accept and live, if certain public decides for independence without a union? Or do they go to the forest and fight for the union they want to see?

Regarding the dictatorial unifiers who are advocating unconditional unity without the option for a public verdict, it should be known that they do take the freedom of the concerend public by advocating such dictatorial position. For example, when they say “be Ethiopia andinet lay anideraderim!”, they are sending the message: you people either accept this andinet or we will deal with you. They don’t say, we advocate for Ethiopian unity and then let the public decide. Their approach is arrogant, dictatorial and uncompromising! To such people, pro-self-determination forces also should say: “be Biheroch netsanet lay anideraderim”. Now how can the two groups who do say “anideraderim” deal with each other democratically? The only solution will be a bullet, as it has been till now. Till now the pro-unconditional-unity dictatorial forces won for the last 150 years and they “united” us by force. The pro-self-determination forces call this as colonization, for it is not a union based on free will. Some people with similar dictatorial ideology ( e.g TPLF) do now want to continue the status quo at gun point. That is why pro-self-determination forces dare to say: such forces are not open for the lasting solution, but they are still the causes for the misery in the Horn region.

The question yet to be answered is again: do we see any possibility and any common denominator for an eventual alliance between the above mentioned two blocs against the ruling party? It is good to suggest again that the only common denominator is acceptance of a common strategical goal aka a union based on nations’ right to self-determination. Now coming to the call for alliance, it will be the alliance of the two blocs, who can at least theoretically agree on establishing federal democratic Ethiopia per public verdict to decide firstly on the type of sovereignity: YES to a union vs NO to a union and then if the choice is YES, secondly to decide on the type of federation: language based federation vs geography based federation.

If rightly excercised, the genuine ethnic federalism based on free will is the good common ground for both the pro-unconditional-unity forces and the pro-self-determination forces. Therefore if the pro-unconditional-unity camp gives up its stand of having Ethiopian unity as a precondition for the possible alliance, the move of the two camps to struggle together for freedom and democracy in Ethiopia is very smart and timely. Yet the two blocs need to build a middle way compromise solution to their apparently irreconcilable goals. I think any alliance similar to AFD is the best way for both self-determination of nations and the democratization as well integration of the resulting union of nations in Ethiopia/Horn as a region (a national independence with in a regional union). The result will be independent nations in an integrated region (Ethiopia). This is not just a fancy, but a fact which can be realized.

I am personally against any sort of dictatorial unity and a supporter of a union of free nations based on free will. Any unity without public verdict will fail, take it only 1 year, about 10 years or as long as 100 years. That is why I do advocate for a lasting solution based on free will of all stakeholders, instead of the temporary hoyaa-hoyee of unity as a wishy-washy solution. MEDREK seems to have chosen unconditional-unity as a precondition, which will surely never persist long for it is not based on self-determination of peoples, but on pre-determination by only few elites. TIBIBIR aka revived AFD must be based on a solid ground and take self-determination rather than unconditional unity as the precondition! Last but not least the issue of self-determination of nations is not stalinisitc as Prof Messay and co try to discredit, but it is part and parcel of the UN charter in this 21st century modern politics!

The writer Fayyis Oromia can be reached at:

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Posted by on August 29, 2009. Filed under NEWS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.