The Hypocrisy of the Call for Armed Struggle in Ethiopia at this Time

March 22, 2008

The political struggle against the TPLF/EPRDF led Ethiopian government in the past 17 years has gone through different phases. In 1992, the OLF and other political organizations boycotted elections and left the then TPLF/EPRDF led Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE). The OLF's public pronouncement for boycotting the elections and leaving the government was that the TPLF/EPRDF declared war on it and that it needed to defend itself and its political position through the armed struggle.

Several other Ethiopian alternative political organizations were formed and organized inside and outside Ethiopia before as well as after that time. It was clear that these political organizations were generally led and financed for a long time by Ethiopian political leaders living in exile. The ineffectiveness of such political leadership was questioned by many observers after which a rift started to show between the alternative political leaderships based in Ethiopia and in the Diaspora. This rift became obvious in the run up to and after the May 2005 legislative elections in Ethiopia.

The preparations for the legislative elections and its results were a manifestation of a long time struggle by the various alternative Ethiopian political groupings. The result has irrefutably altered Ethiopia's political landscape for the better. The U. S. Department of State press statement on June 13, 2005, commended "the Ethiopian people for their peaceful and democratic expression of political will on May 15, [2005]," adding that "The elections have immutably changed Ethiopia's political landscape and broadened that country's democratic horizon."

There are already signals of the benefit of the change in the political landscape. The arrogance of the TPLF members and supporters has been deterred. Their admission of having learned their lessons the hard way is now in public domain. Meles Zenawi, the TPLF leader and Ethiopia's Prime Minister, is reported to have authored a book titled Dead Ends and New Beginnings. In his address at the Ethiopian Millennium celebration, he spoke about the Ethiopian Renaissance, after having led for a long time the TPLF that was set out to liberate the Tigray region from Ethiopia. Seyoum Mesfin, another TPLF leader and Ethiopia's Foreign Minister, recently said the following on his visit to South Africa: "We have learnt the hard way that disputes, be they over borders or other issues, between states cannot be resolved by war and conflict."

The current Ethiopian Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Samuel Assefa, another Ethiopian official from Tigray, if not a member of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), had the following to say in an interview with Robert McMahon in November 2007: "Clearly, undeniably, a huge, huge progress has been made over the past few years in respect of democracy in particular. Very dramatic events have taken place since 2005. In 2005, we had really the first competitive, fiercely competitive, elections in the history of our country. And it has been marred in its aftermath by very, very tragic incidents, tragic violence, that has cost lives and this is a deep source of sadness for all of us. But there is no doubt that it will be remembered as a watershed. There is no going back."

Whether it is expressed as a "dead end," or learning "the hard way," or a "watershed," arguably these expressions are new in the political lexicons of these top Ethiopian political leaders from Tigray since the TPLF took power in Ethiopia about 17 years ago. While the crimes that have been committed in Ethiopia under the TPLF/EPRDF rule in Ethiopia during this time is fresh in our memories, critical evaluation of the situations prior to the May 2005 elections and since then demands questioning the vision of the call for armed struggle at this time against the current Ethiopian government.

Armed struggle has been the fashion in many corners of Africa in the past before the era of the internet. The ammunition used is mostly manufactured outside Africa, imported, and used by Africans against Africans on African soil. People raise arms because of well founded or perceived lack of justice. However, there is no more powerful struggle than the pursuit and disposition of the truth, which cultivates justice. Modern communications technology has made the pursuit and disposition of the truth very fast that the propoents of armed struggle of our times don't appear to have taken into account while echoing the old method that was clearly started before the emergence of this technology. The pursuit and disposition of the truth done by members of the Inquiry Commission of the post 2005 legislative elections violence in Ethiopia has helped pass unanimously in the U.S. House of Representatives a human rights accountability and democracy bill on Ethiopia. The current political landscape in Ethiopia appears poised to lay a more fertile ground for the strengthening of the rule of law. Documenting the crimes that have been committed and are likely to be committed in the future may be more important than the call for armed struggle so that the criminals face justice when the rule of law prevails over dictatorship in Ethiopia. In addition, another round of armed struggle in Ethiopia is likely to open the door for more crimes.

Therefore, the call for armed struggle at this time is hypocritical in two ways. First, it fails to critically evaluate the path that has been traveled so far and the fruits it is starting to bear. Secondly, one would have thought that for those who still think that armed struggle in Ethiopia is the preferred way to solve the political problem in Ethiopia, the decision wouldn't be made through discussions on the public media. It would have become apparent if there names became absent in those media, or if the media they control went down.

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