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June 19, 2021
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Time for talks between ABN (NAMA) and Ginbot 7: the urgent needs of the time

by Mekuria Gize

Smart politics is the art of  rallying people and getting one’s party political program accomplished. That program can be beneficial or harmful to a nation. Drafting the path of political strategies and tactics leading to victory requires careful understanding of the surrounding, and the people politicians come from.  At this time in our political history there are three parties that can shape the future of Ethiopia in a better direction (skipping the TPLF, the architect of wicked politics that landlocked Ethiopia and devastated its people): ODP, Abn (NAMA) and Ginbot 7. It is very crucial at this time to foster friendly cooperation among these three political groups.

The political reality for ODP is that it is going to meet stiff resistance from regional parties in Oromiya. Therefore the political programs ODP devises springs from its base in Oromia. Keeping the current federal system is a significant election manifesto in Oromia. The recent release by ODP is fundamentally a reflection of this reality, and ODP seems to understand this very well. Ethiopian politicians, and amateurish activists should be cognisant of these facts.  ODP is not going to dismantle the current federal system because pan Ethiopian parties or politicians wanted it. The fact that Lemma Megerssa and PM Abiy stressed about Ethiopianism does not mean they will change the federal system. They wanted strong Ethiopia with the federal system maintained (it is different from TPLF which is Tigray first). At no time they promised that. Pan-Ethiopianists, you have to win an election and earn it. Your  only demand should be a levelled playing field.

Since election 2005 (the last relatively more open election), the political environment in Ethiopia has been obliterated. With the passing away of aged citizens, an increase in the number of politically agitated literate youth, increasing repression by EPRDF (since 2005, based on ethnicity, particularly in the last 4 years, when Hailemariam Desalegn was in charge – due to his willingness to do the dirty job for TPLF) has profoundly changed the political equation in Ethiopia.  In simple terms, Ethiopians political understanding of their country has been to a large extent radicalized. The Oromo youth are more inclined to believing in the necessity of exclusive self rule; their last four years’ continued struggle has shaped that approach, added with the day to day bombardment of fundamentalists on social media.

Pan Ethiopian politicians, largely consisting of elites with higher level of education, and activists that rally around them were very energetic pre 2005 (1997 E.C.)  These groups come from every walks of ethnicity and their guiding principle is in the model of western civilization and in the foot prints of western democracy  where citizens should equally be treated  across every spectrum of the nation. According to these groups, party programs, ability and love for one’s country, public legitimacy by voting were considered to be the mechanism to assume political power. Following the devastating defeat of the EPRDF in the 2005 election, this group have seriously been weekend by killings, imprisonment, migration (due to persecution) due to the repressive government of the late Meles Zenawi and Haile Mariam Desalegn.  Exiled political activity nevertheless continued unabated which became energy for the protesting youth; eventually the TPLF fell to its knee and has lost its  political leadership in Ethiopia since April 2018. This group still enjoys strong support among the educated and those living in bigger cities in Ethiopia, and the Diaspora. However, support from the youth in rural villages  and towns seemed to have been eroded seriously since the days of the  CUD, a pan Ethiopian party that either was in par or defeated the Oromo National Congress, the South Peoples parties in their own political turf. That level of influential acceptance now seems to have dipped.

The  Amara known for their pan Ethiopian thinking have recently started to feel the pain inflicted upon them by the ethnically federated Ethiopia. The fact that there was practically no development in their region, becoming  at the bottom of the ladder  by development index relative to other ethnic groups has brought serious dilemma to the Amara way of political thinking. Today, the Amara are the most impoverished people who largely depend on agrarian economy. Electric power, road networks, school system, health stations, industrialization are all at the very low level. For instance when Tigray regional state built 7 top-level universities for 6 million people, the Amara for 30 million people has far less and most inferior. Meeting basic needs in Amara region is a struggle. For this reason there was a strong resentment against the then Amara party, ANDM ( a coalition to the ruling party,  TPLF). The  cruel treatment of Amara by the TPLF created grievance and day to day resentment. Moreover the Amaras were scapegoats for all perceived maladministration of past governments. Like the Oromos,  the Amara youth started to resist TPLF oppression, mostly armed insurrection, and practically coordinated their rebellion with the Oromo youth without communication in person. The resistance in Gonder by an Amara ex-military and the support he was given from the Gonder youth was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. This was the first sign of  the loss of TPLF invincibility and legitimacy. It exposed TPLF was a mere paper tiger. Both the Oromo and Amara youth sensed that TPLF was for sure to fall. This was the final turning point for the Oromo youth. Their protest came in waves; ultimately TPLF’s economy came down to its knee.

Well educated Amara youth who had no peace of mind in the continued death and imprisonment of their people gathered informally and formed Abin shortly before PM Abiy came to Power. PM Abiy brought profound reforms;  a wave of Diaspora politicians came to Ethiopia including the strongest and well organized Ginbot 7.  Abin and Ginbot 7 are now in a  competing mode for votes in Amara region. This situation is not useful in any way to advance Ethiopian political landscape. My humble advise for both parties is they should quickly assemble and sort out the way forward. For instance a couple  days ago Ginbot 7 held a massive rally in Debre Markos. For sure if Abn comes to Debre Markos, there will be another massive rally as well. None is  a winner from this except the radical groups. For instance the G7 chairman’s speech that highlighted Gojam’s resistance for freedom may be well deserved in terms of highlighting Gojam’s contribution in the past. But this kind of narration is not useful for Amara people now. It is this kind of politics that marginalized Amaras and empowered ethno centrists in Ethiopia. Our people should not be fooled by this kind of politics. On the other hand, Abn (NAMA) and its supporters should run seasoned political campaigns, and in no way come on the way of Ginbot 7’s activity in Amara region. There are numerous arguments Abin can have upper hand in Amara region simply using season politics.  If at the end of the day you lose,  accept the will of the people. But you have numerous talking points to have the upper hand except you have to prepare for it from this time on.  In all its efforts, one thing Abin should not follow is to give legitimacy to ethnic politics. In no way Abin should pronounce that organizing by ethnicity is right. All you have to mention is the  pain our people underwent, the reality on the ground,  and that Amara people should handle their affairs for a better deal as well as for current obstacle Amaras are facing. In the end Abin’s destination is pan-Ethiopianism.

My advice for Ginbot 7: It is useful for Ginbot 7 to work together with Abin. Amara parties always have pan Ethiopian mentality. Ginbot 7 can be more effective in Addis Ababa and the South. The South is the only region that has strong pan Ethiopian thinking next to the Amara. Considering many members from South Ethiopia, and Addis Abebans love for Ginbot 7, I am optimistic Ginbot 7 will get swiping votes in Addis Ababa and the South. Ginbot 7 should not waste much energy in Amara. So it is high time now a memorandum of understanding be signed between Abn and Ginbot 7 for a coalition either for a seat in parliament, or governance provided they get the winning votes, or for a possible coordination with ODP for working together. This coalition avenue by the three parties (ODP, Ginbot 7 and Abn) in my opinion is the road for a strong and peaceful Ethiopia. My other humble advise for Ginbot 7 and its leaders is to minimize the lobbying work at Arat Kilo, and get  fully engaged in  party and organizational tasks in Addis and south of Addis. Up to now you have not opened an office or visited single electoral regions south of Addis Ababa.

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