(By Demisew Tessema) It is apparent that opposition political parties in both developing and developed countries have an insurmountable task in ensuring and strengthening democratic processes. They are the very institutions that are central in paving way for development in the political, economic and socio-cultural arena. Moreover, democracy in practice is highly reflected over the expansion of political space for all opposition to be part of the social struggle. In Ethiopia, democracy is facing great danger with the way and manner opposition parties are treated by the dictatorial regime of Meles. The regime has deceived the international community and the Ethiopian people at large as if it promotes democracy by adopting some democratic principles in the constitution. In practice, however, there is no democracy as such and the regime has used these laws as an instrument of deception against the opposition with the view to stay in power. Nowadays, the regime’s banana cut democracy become an open secret and both the Ethiopian people and the international community know the true picture of the regime as repressive ,non-democratic, criminal ,lair and aggressor. For Meles Zenawi, the time has come to an end to deceit the international community .No more to deceit the Ethiopian people or the opposition parties. And also, Meles Zenawi’s deceits have gone to the extent of failing to deceive even a three year old-child.
The dictatorial regime is determined to stay in power indefinitely. The regime purposely establish party-militar relations to solidify its unlimited rule. It also control the legislature, the judiciary ,the army, the police, the election board, and the treasury in one way or another.The process of changing the ruling party through election under such circumstance has been very remote. If this is the case, why do the dictatorial regime in one-party hegemony states conduct multiparty elections? The main reason is to legitimate its rule in the eyes of its subjects in the name of fake democracy. Of course the number of parties that appeared with the opening to democratization is not a demonstration of increased participation, but rather of fragmentation and divided and ineffective of the opposition. Secondly, it is motivated by its desire to secure international aid .This foreign aid has been used as a means of a short cut to rapid personal wealth to Meles and his loyal elites. This economic benefits make the ruling party unwilling to be opposition party due to its over-dependence on the benefits available to the ruling party. Therefore, the ruling party is ill-equipped to become the opposition.
It is well noted that the opposition parties are the victims of legal and political restrictions crafted by the ruling party, which usually force them to use armed struggle. Even those oppositions determined to struggle peacefully have reached a point of difficulty to continue in their way and opt to turn in to armed struggle. Ethiopia is now in a situation where the ethnic advantage of one political party vis-à-vis the other may lead to the opposition becoming impatient and resorting to the military as a way of advancing civilian politics. In fact, the refusal of the ruling party to hand over power peacefully most opposition parties felt that unless the army stages a coup it is not possible to remove the dictatorial regime democratically.Realizing this, Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy has decided to use “everything possible” and “every means” including armed struggle to overthrow the ruling party. “Ginbot 7 has laid the ground work for others opposition to join by developing a comprehensive political vision. And it is a non-ethnic opposition movement that understands the true nature of the ruling party and working hard to overthrow the dictatorial regime with the view to transform itself to a legitimate political organization. Here, it is not to argue that oppositions that choose armed struggle to overthrow the ruling party have a better chance to overthrow the regime from those opposition groups that prefer peacefully, or otherwise. At this point, I can say that although the strategy employed by each opposition might differed, it is time to work in cooperation and coordination with the view to overthrow the regime with strong political competitive motive among themselves. It is time to each party to do at most to this effort.
The likelihood of winning the ruling party by opposition with peaceful struggle is highly dependent on the willingness of the ruling party to handover power in case of losing an election. However, the dictatorial Meles regime has shown its unwillingness to hand overpower even if it is defeated in the 2005 election. This chronic problem is power fixation. However, irrespective of its power fixation, the Meles regime has to transfer its power to the public elected governments. Of course, the fundamental question is, when do the ruling party handover power? There are two possible ways the dictatorial meles regime yield power. The first is internal factor: the ruling party would be forced to handover power in case of electoral defeats when splits occur within the dictatorial elites among themselves. The EPRDF has always been dominated by TPLF and advances the interest of small group of elite .When loyal officials to Meles disagree and reach confrontation on wealth distribution among themselves, these loyal political elites ,Meles and their business affiliated individuals start fighting within and among themselves. The conflict of interest among the elites would result a split within the leadership .Because of the split within the elites, the fake coalition EPRDF no more to exist .Each splited elite run his /her own party and will participate in election at its own capacity. At this time, there is no way the minority group TPLF to win an election. It is in such circumstance that the ruling party forced to hand over power to opposition party. This happening looks remote but its realization is unavoidable phenomena.
The second is external factor: the direct actions of the opposition could force the ruling party to yield power. Knowing the behaviour of the regime, one may think how this is possible and may ask the question ,what tactics and strategies opposition parties should employ to take over the power? In Ethiopia, there are two categories of opposition parties. These are; opposition groups that struggle to take political power peacefully and those Oppositions that choose armed struggle. In both categories some promote ethnic based politics and some others promote non-ethnic national wide politics. Regardless of the difference in the way of struggle or regardless of the difference to which category of people they are struggling for, all opposition parties should show cooperation and collaboration among themselves with the view to overthrow the ruling party. The time is now to form coalition among opposition parties having similar political agenda. Such coalition has to be made not only among opposition parties that follow peaceful struggle, but also among opposition parties that choose armed struggle. If coalition is unlikely to occur because of the difference in the party’s program or strategy or any other reason, all parties atleast show interest to cooperate and work together on their common area of interests with the view to overthrow the dictatorial regime. All parties must always remember our unity in diversity. Parties must stand together for the common good and do respect their differences .Therefore, the joint actions of opposition that follow armed and peaceful struggle would result power transfer.
So far in Ethiopia, the democratization process has been curtailed by the dictatorial regime of Meles .The main factor for the absence of democracy goes to the ruling party itself. The reason is simple, its limitless interest to stay in power. On the other hand, the fake democracy the regime employed has deceived the opposition parties to believe that there is democracy in Ethiopia. In this regard, opposition parties have complemented some more problems in the democratization process. Without being pedantic let me mention the major problems that have been existed among the opposition groups that struggle to take political power peacefully or through armed struggle are the following. The first problem is intra-party conflicts: a problem within the party itself. Almost all opposition parties have been engaged themselves in very destructive intra-party conflicts that threatened their own survival. Intra-party conflicts not only further fragmented opposition parties, but also greatly damaged their image, and frustrated the hopes of millions of people who overwhelmingly voted for the party. It is interesting to note that in Ethiopia, opposition parties wasted most of their time fighting each other and were busy in intra-party power struggle.
The second one is inter-party rivalry problem among the opposition parties. It has been common among the opposition that one opposition party made a ferocious attack on another party and allegedly tried to sabotage, condemn and undermine the other. For example, ethnic based opposition parties, like the ruling party, have used ethnicity as a weapon to blame and intimidate the non-ethnic opposition parties. In my opinion, however, if we focus and extend the issue of ethnicity beyond its limits by putting aside the main national issue, then the evils of ethnicity (violence, genocide and so on) might shatter the country’s socio-economic conditions as manifested in Rwanda. The other problem is personalistic nature of few opposition. Some opposition parties rely on the charismatic appeal of single individual or few individuals, and decision making is highly centralized. As such, it is the enemy of democracy, and also it will be an obstacle to for coalition, cooperation and to work together with other oppositions. These kinds of parties face split whenever another rising star challenges the founder or the leader of the party. So personalistic nature of few opposition have contributed the existence of many fragmented political parties that we see both at home and in abroad. Of course, the “divide and rule” and the “carrot and stick” policies of the ruling party is the main reason for the existence of fragmentation in the opposition. To this effect, the ruling party has gone to the extent of giving the party name CUD to individual opposition members ,Ato Ayele Chamisso ,with the aim of dividing and weakening the opposition party CUD.
In addition to this, opposition parties have never properly addressed trade unions, teacher associations, labour unions, women ,youth and peasants associations. Even if these unions and organizations are under the control of the regime ,there are many things still to be done by the opposition. If it is not late , still there is the possibility to make them part of the struggle. In countries where labour unions are autonomous they can play a very important role in opposition politics . On the other hand, in countries where opposition parties maintain close relations with labour and trade unions the political picture is different. Therefore, the support of these unions and other mass organizations are crucial to opposition parties to overthrow the regime.
Apart from the dictatorial nature and power fixation of the ruling party, the problem of intra-party conflicts, inter-party rivalry and personalistic nature of both opposition groups that follow armed or peaceful struggle have undermined issue-based politics and reinforced the power of the regime. So far ,the opposition parties both in the peaceful and armed struggle categories have failed to take a unified stand and miserably failed to coordinate their efforts, giving the dictatorial regime a chance to use fake elections to perpetuate its rule. Right now, it is the time for all opposition to take note of the aforementioned problems and refrain from doing them again. Also it is not the time to argue the existence or not of democracy in Ethiopia. And it is not the time to raise the past misdeeds .It is not the time to form new opposition party. The time is now to put aside all that might separate or distract us and focus on freeing Ethiopia as the top overriding goal to achieve. It is right now all political parties to start dialogue among themselves to reconcile their difference with the view to form coalition, if possible or to show willingness for cooperation and collaboration with the aim to free Ethiopia from the dictatorial regime. The cooperation and coordination of opposition parties is vital to expose the misdeeds of the ruling party, at the same time, facilitate the struggle against the regime The grand strategy of coalition, cooperation, and coordination accompanied by actions of opposition parties will help much their preparation the situation requires ,which in turn shorten the time for the down fall of the ruling party. Moreover, the time is now even for “phony opposition” sponsored by the ruling party to join in the opposition category and comeback to the right truck to collaborate with others to free Ethiopia.
Listen! The time demands unity in diversity, ranging from coalition to cooperation, among opposition parties. The time further demands practicality, no more talks or silence. To this effort, each opposition as a party and each of us as an individual should play a practical role with the view to breath oxygen in to the struggle.
God bless Ethiopia and its people!