Monday, 15 October 2012

Medrek: An Insider's View

My latest post "Medrek: Challenges and Issues" also appered at Ethiomedia, from where I got several comments including one from an Executive Member of Medrek. Overall, my commentators seem to generally concur with the issues I raised. I also get some comments that seem to offer new insights. A very interesting comment came from a member of Medrek in Addis. I found it useful as it reveals new information about Medrek's activities on the ground. I thus decided to post it as it stands- with no edition. I have asked the commentator, Ahmed, for his permission and he is willing to see his response posted at my blog. 

I have to highlight two things. One, I must underscore that I am not particularly concerned about Seye and Gebru Asrat as such. My point is that the opposition camp should not be used as a safe haven for those who, by any means and for whatever reason, run from EPRDF. They must held themselves responsible and should publicly ask for a genuine apology. Two, being responsible and being apologetic are different things. A notorious dictator may assume responsibility for his crimes but still may refrain from asking an apology. Ahmed lamented that Ato Seye Abrha clearly took responsibility for his past deeds as Executive Member of EPRDF. That is true, he repeatdly said that. But I am demanding that that responsibility must translate itself into a sincere public apology. That will help him and the public a lot. By the way, some of my commentators indicated that they so far are not Medrek members simply because of this issue; they want a clear "I am sorry for these and that doings" kind of words from Seye and the likes. 

 Enjoy reading Ahmed's response below!


October 15, 2012

Dear Ato Teklu Abate,

I am writing this in response to your timely, inspirational and challenging article entitled “Medrek: Challenges and Issue” that appeared in on the 13th of October, 2012. I must first admit that yours stands in sharp contrast to the content of the average Ethiopians on the same issue, which needless to say beats around the bush, showers insults or heaps undeserving praises and approbations on the opposition leaders. To be honest, I agree with most of what your article illustrated as challenges and issues to deal with as far as Medrek is concerned. Hence let me skip over to your eight challenges on which I need to reflect from an insider’s point of view.

Public Apology

I understand that this is an absolutely essential aspect of the peaceful struggle as far as the opposition is concerned. Since the fact that Medrek embraces some of the dissenters from the ruling party and these same people were involved in the machinations and repressive policies of the regime, Medrek has to make it clear that they have atoned to those crimes and are willing to take the responsibility for doing so. I appreciate the fact that you acknowledged what the President of Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) and former FDRE President, Dr. Negasso Gidada, did—namely recanting his statement to the daily Addis Zemen back in January 1996 about the “democratic” nature of the constitution making process condemning the exclusive and dictatorial manner in which the Constitution of 1995 has been drafted and eventually ratified. As far as most people are concerned it is Seye Abraha, former Defense Minister and Executive Committee member of EPRDF, now a leading member of UDJ, that stands as insincere. But I say Ato Seye has already made similar statements, taking responsibilities both as an individual for what he specifically in his party and government capacity did and as a member of the large EPRDF group. Speaking to supporters and the public gathered in Woreda 23 Constituency of Addis Ababa on 8 May 2010 as part of Medrek’s election campaign, Ato Seye said the following in response to a similar question and I quote from what I recorded. 

‹‹ቀደም ባለው ጊዜ እንደ ግለሰብም ሆነ እንደ በኢህአዴግ ለተፈፀመው ግፍና መከራ ሁሉ የማዝን እና የምፀፀት መሆኑን እገልፃለሁ፡፡ በድርጅቱ ውስጥ ሆኜ ለሰራሁትና አሁን ከቆምኩበትም ሆነ ከአቶ መለስና ከግብረ አበሮቹ ጋር ለመለያየት ከበቃንበት ጊዜ በኋላ በሕይወቴ ከደረሰውና ከተማርኩት አንፃር የኢትዮጵያ ሕዝብ ቀድሞም ያወገዛቸውን ነገሮች በሙሉ ኃላፊነት እወስዳለሁ፡፡ ይኼን የማላደርግ ቢሆን ፊታችሁ ለመቆም ድፍረቱ አይኖረኝም፡፡ ከተቃዋሚው ጎራ ተቀላቅሎ ኢህአዴግን ማውገዝም ሆነ ከኢህአዴግ ጋር በመለያየቴና ይህን አቋም በመውሰዴ የሚደርሱብኝ ጫናዎችና በደሎች ደግሞ ከተጠያቂነት ፈጽሞ እንደማያድኑኝ አሳምሬ አውቃሇሁ፡››

Ato Seye made his way to the UDJ because party leaders put several dimensions into considerations and especially the fact that he has indeed regretted and has consistently shown willingness to take responsibility for the crimes committed by the EPRDF of which he was a part. They also allowed Ato Seye to join them since they know the value of forgiveness on which nations like South Africa under the leadership of Nelson Mandela thrived. But as far as some of the recent public meetings are concerned, some of those who hurled accusations against Seye and Ato Gebru Asrat were none other than agent provocateurs masked as EPRP but sent by the EPRDF agents working in the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC. Frankly speaking, I doubt if the EPRP itself has atoned to the grave crimes it has committed in the 1970s and 80s. As the saying goes, struggle starts from inside and goes outside—the inside-out approach.

Leadership Composition 

As far as the composition of the leadership of Medrek is concerned, we had younger ones in the Executive Committee. Ato Andualem Arage, now thrown in jail over a trumped-up “terrorism” charge and his counterpart from OFDM, Ato Bekele Gerba, who languishes in much the same way, were members of this committee. Medrek should make concerted efforts to rectify this unwelcome domineering by the elderly—I completely and absolutely agree. Medrek is working hard on this issue by organizing the youth. Medrek should make concerted efforts to rectify this unwelcome domineering by the elderly—I completely and absolutely agree. 

Front as Success? 

It definitely is a success but I see no reason to brag about it. I don.t think Medrek leaders went as far as doing that nor did they devote “every resource” towards that cause. The party operates on a multidimensional basis and we do have several area of operations—departments if you like. So none of the other issues were relegated to the position of standstill while we were working hard to pass to the level of front. You said, “Keep the fighting. while creating unity among the opposition” I agree. It is well-taken

Evolution as Revolution? 

This is also another strong and commanding side of your article. I was one of those who were subjected to insults, cheers, jeers and even stigmatization over daringly opposing CUD.s boycott of parliament. This by all accounts was a grave miscalculation to which unfortunately almost none of the leaders took responsibility to this date. Medrek is different. We definitely learned a lesson from CUD.s blunder and avoided them at all costs. 

Rural vs Urban 

Although I agree with the general idea that the struggle should mainly embark upon the rural majority, I doubt if it was based on a thorough assessment of Medrek.s support base. A glance at our member parties easily reveals that Medrek draws on both the urban and the rural people. I don.t know why on earth you reached to the conclusion that, Medrek is snailing around some of the major towns and in Addis. Considering that over 80% of Ethiopians resides in rural areas, this will lead the party to nowhere. Arena Tigray.s nearly 90% of registered members and supporters live in Tigray, most of them in rural constituencies. OFC draws a large majority of its support base from rural Oromia. UDJ enjoys support from both camps and in most regions of Ethiopia. ESDP, led by Prof. Beyene Petros, mostly draws on support from rural areas of Kembata Tembaro, Gurage, Wolayita and Hadiya Zones. Same goes to Ato Tilahun Endashaw.s party. So Medrek snails more around the rural areas had it not been for the provocations and overpowering of the militia, cadres and the harsh executive.

Your article further argued, "Sporadic and even intensified campaigns at eve of elections will surely not suffice". Of course, not, but Medrek is the only opposition party that vigorously campaigned in both rural and urban Ethiopia in the post-2010 election period. When the TPLF saw that our members increased by leaps and bounds, it closed nearly all doors. So as it now stands we have held 4 public meetings in rural SNNPR, two are on the way (most likely to be barred by the cadres) and 6 are planned in Tigray and Amhara. We don’t rush when election time draws near. That’s not our style. Admittedly that’s the traditional objection against the opposition (which unfortunately applies to nearly all of the opposition) but not exactly to Medrek. Several public meetings and other forms of expediting the peaceful struggle are planned in 2005 E.C. if not blocked by force.

Going virtual 

This is a point with which I must agree 100%. It’s brilliantly raised and elaborated by the writer. It is well-taken and I’ll surely be an agent for its realization as far as my membership in Medrek is concerned. 

By way of summing up let me state that your article stands as a well-informed and timely report for an Executive Committee meeting. I’m certain that as Medrek, we do have lots of worries, challenges and rectifications to deal with. Your article has gone quite a long way to show how much public opinion on political parties has grown and progressed. Instead of blind support and empty bravados, it is quality and sustenance that matters most. If Medrek heeds to the calls made by you and the likes of Prof. Mesay Kebede (well, surely not all of his calls. Some of them are doubtful as far as the changed political landscape and body politic of Ethiopia is concerned), it will surely avert swift regression.

I thus would like to extend warmest gratitude for your challenging and thought-provoking ideas, to which Medrek leaders must pay utmost attention. Ahmed Abagissa Abaurgessa A member of Medrek Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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