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Review of Ethiopian Transition Period Politics: An Eritrean Perspective.

The new Prosperity Party 


Review of Ethiopian Transition Period Politics: An Eritrean Perspective.

By Abel Kebedom

Although Ethiopian Politics is an internal Ethiopia’s affair, the historical reality indicates that it affected Eritrea in the past and will continue to affect it in the future. Accordingly, each Eritrean citizen needs to follow the current alignment and discourse of political forces in Ethiopia and examine its effect on Eritrea and its people. It is based on such understanding that I decided to write this short article that entirely reflects my own perspective.

In February 2018 the combined forces of the internal youth revolt, foreign-based Ethiopian media entities and activists, and the Armed groups based in Eritrea and Ethiopia toppled the TPLF Ethnic based apartheid system in Ethiopia. The change has pushed TPLF leaders to hotels in Mekelle and Aksum and brought Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to the helm of power in Ethiopia. Since then several changes have been introduced in Ethiopia. Concurrently several real and aspiring political groups have been formed. Such emergence of organized forces in the Ethiopian political field is good for the approaching election and future political health of the country. The Prosperity Party (PP), Ethiopia Citizens for Social Justice (ECSJ), An Umbrella of an Oromo, Somali and Amhara parties (Federalist Forces), The Tigrai Liberation Front (TPLF) and The Balderas Group are among those that are currently active in the Ethiopian political landscape. Next, I will try to explain the political agenda and the constituents of each group and its impact on the future relationships between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The Prosperity Party (PP) and Ethiopia Citizens for Social Justice (ECSJ).

These two parties have more similarities than differences. Both parties believe in a form of federalism that leads to strong Ethiopian nationalism. They argue that strong ethnic-based federalism is a threat to the continuity of Ethiopia as a united country. Accordingly, they want to suppress the prevailing strong ethnic-based thinking and embolden Ethiopian nationalist feelings. Both parties have an agenda to create a strong, prosperous and unified Ethiopia that will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the greater horn of Africa. They believe Ethiopia can change itself through peace than conflict with its neighbours and beyond. Both parties have the potential to change the long-running border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea into peaceful coexistence and development based on political and economic synergy. However, due to the prevailing strong ethnic politics in Ethiopia that lasted for 27 years, both parties face many challenges that they must resolve successfully. Regionalism, playing victim, extremism, mistrust, and greediness for power and sabotage are some of the challenges the two major parties currently facing. If there is no clear winner in the upcoming Ethiopian election, these two groups are more likely to form a unity government.

An Umbrella of an Oromo, Somali and Amhara parties (Federalist Forces).

This front is a loose coalition of ten big and small parties that come from Somali, Amhara, and Oromo ethnic groups. The three big parties in this group are the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Ogden National Liberation Front (ONLF), and Oromo federalist Congress. The federalist forces are suspicious of a strong central government and the thinking of united Ethiopia. They suspect that the united Ethiopia mantra is an effort to bring back the previous Ethiopian ruling systems that concentrated power at the federal level and oppressed the rights of nationalities to govern themselves. Accordingly, they oppose any effort to suppress the ethnic feeling by the PP and ECSJ. Overall this group comprises many factions with different agendas, but in general, does not have any ill-feelings towards Eritrea. However, compared to longstanding Eritrea’s stand on one unified Ethiopia, the aspirations of this group may be aligned to TPLF’s political outlook than that of Eritrea’s.  Eritrea believes dividing Ethiopia through ethnic lines is like planting a bomb that is waiting to explode. Infact, although the current Ethiopian government was able to withstand it, recently such Eritrea’s prediction has almost become a reality and drove Ethiopia to brink of collapse. Jawar Mohamed’s political ideology aligns with the federalist groups and his has already joined the group. The difference is on the question of who should lead the group and that may continue to be a problem of the party in the future..

The Tigrai Liberation Front (TPLF)

Recently the TPLF decided not to join the Prosperity Party (PP) that is believed to be the offspring of the EPRDF. Accordingly, TPLF’s future is unknown. However, there are clear signs that show it may come up as a federalist force. The problem with TPLF is although its political stand aligns with the Federalist forces, none of the ten parties that formed a coalition may want it as a member. This is because they believe its tainted history makes it a liability and its membership could damage their credibility and success in the coming elections. If that is the case, then TPLF may gather other unknown political entities in Ethiopia and may present itself as a mute federalist force limited to Tigrai only. Such a strategy is going to follow a similar model to the one that helped TPLF to create the OPDO and ANDEM during the 1980s. The strategy may help TPLF to show its presence in the Ethiopian political landscape, but ultimately even TPLF knows that it is a futile attempt to regain power in the federal government. If TPLF were to play a meaningful role in Ethiopian politics, it could have joined the prosperity party. The problem is its long-standing twin mentality did not allow it to accept Abiy’s offer to join the party. If TPLF were to join the prosperity party, its long-standing strategy to establish a Tigray republic would go into the flames. As a result, its hope is solely dependent on the future improvement of its relationship and reconciliation with Eritrea. If TPLF reconciles with Eritrea, in addition to the economic benefits, it could have more flexibility in determining its future political life and overall future of Tigray. Although it is difficult to say it is totally impossible for TPLF to reconcile with Eritrea, it is safe to say that such reconciliation depends on the relationship between the Eritrean government and the Ethiopian central government.  Given TPLF’s long term aspiration to establish a Tigray republic, bringing Tigray closer to Eritrea not only runs counter to Eritrea’s long-held belief of one Ethiopia but also could be a source of friction with the central Ethiopian government. As it stands right now the future of TPLF seems hanging in midair. There is not any other time in history than the current one that exposed TPLF’s lack of strategic thinkers in its leadership. If TPLF continues to undermine the Federal government and especially with blocking other competing parties to campaign in Tigrai then a deadly conflict between Tigrai and the federal government is inevitable.

The Balderas Group.

This group is a combination of personalities with different interests and tendencies. The official objective of this group is to fend off the Oromo special interest in Addis Ababa. The group created a lot of political noise when it alleged it found a video of Lemma Megrssas’s speech that explained how the OPDO was trying to settle Oromos in Addis Ababa. It is possible that the claim of the Balderas and subsequent popular meetings in Addis Ababa and negative media frenzy damaged Lemma Megerssa’s popularity as the undisputed father of the prevailing change in Ethiopia and ultimately his Tenure as Governor of the Oromo administrative region. However, it is difficult to say if the proponents of the Balderas group are interested in pushing back the special interest of Oromia in Addis Ababa or also, they believed they found a popular cause that would give them a political lifeline in Ethiopia. It is highly likely that the latter is true. Recently this group is planning to elevate itself into a political party. However, because it has not major constituents other than some in Addis Ababa, its role in the coming Ethiopian election is more of a spoiler than a significant player.  The unique characteristic of this group is it detests the current Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahamed, and it is vowing openly to make sure that people in Addis Ababa will not elect the prime minister’s party. What is surprising with this fragmented opportunist group is even though it claims it is for untied Ethiopia free of ethnic divisions, it seemed to base itself on the Amhara Ethnic group. Another surprising side of this group is not only it hates the current government but also those associated with it. For instance, its foot soldiers and affiliated media are anti-Eritrea and its president. More likely such stand may have emerged from their anger about the unwavering support of President Isaias to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Unless this group corrects its contradictions and comes with a feasible political outlook that transcends beyond Addis Ababa, it has limited success in becoming a formidable political party in Ethiopia. However, it could play a spoiler’s role in Addis Ababa and its destructive potential is visible to those who are willing and ready to see it.

Conclusion

Ethiopia is in a transition and as a close neighbour Eritrea’s contribution is indispensable to its success. Eritrea must continue supporting the Ethiopian transition for the sake of the bright future of the two sister neighbor countries. However, our history also shows us that we have been betrayed more than once by our Ethiopian brothers. First when Hailelassie, who agreed to Eritrean federation but later embolden by the support of western powers, single-handedly demolished it and declared Eritrea as the 14th administrative region of Ethiopia. It took 30 years of armed struggle and bloodshed to correct such injustice and betrayal. Second, it is TPLF’s betrayal of the trust of the Eritrean people. It is obvious to everyone that TPLF benefited from the continued support of the Eritrean people for about two decades.  Recently, in a difficult time since its inception as a country, Eritrea hosted and supported many Ethiopian armed groups and played a modest neighbourly role in the change in Ethiopia. With the coming of the Abiy Ahmed government, they were able to return to their country to contribute to the transition process. In principle it is Eritrea’s neighborly gesture to the Ethiopian people that has the potential to improve the future relationship between the two sisterly countries. However, despite such support by the Eritrean people and government, there are still some worrying signs that show anti Eritrea groups may emerge and make Eritrean people and its sovereignty as a political pawn in the coming Ethiopia’s election. Some of these groups are extremist Amhara nationalists and their affiliated media, dis-strangled TPLF ex-generals and officials, the Balderas group and its media affiliates like the Ethio360 Zare Minale, Dereje Hailes’s Benegrachin Lai program, Addis Neger etc. These groups do not have meaningful constituents but have a strong anti-Eritrea voice. Therefore, Eritrea needs to predict some scenarios and prepare accordingly. Above all, we already know that these extremists were, in part, responsible for the 1998-2000 TPLF’s aggression against Eritrea.

Awet N’Hafash
Eternal Glory to our Martyrs.

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Review of Ethiopian Transition Period Politics: An Eritrean Perspective. Reviewed by Admin on 7:16 PM Rating: 5

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