Posted: Ebla/April 28, 2015 ·
Report by an Observer* | April 26, 2015
On the 23rd of April 2015, a high-level conference, entitled “Cartoon Democracy – Authoritarian Rule and Elections in Ethiopia,” was held at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. The conference was organised by some members of the European Parliament from different parties and Member States, and UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization). The conference was unique in a sense that it was standing against the established mindsets and traditional working systems of politics in the Ethiopian Empire. It managed to assemble a diversified gathering that included various opposition leaders, journalists, international experts, politicians and human rights advocates. The conference was aimed at consulting and coordinating various voices on the ever-worsening political landscape in Ethiopia.
The conference was held a week after the U.S. official Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman praised Ethiopia as a democracy – suggesting Ethiopia made great strides toward an open and inclusive electoral process. Despite the U.S. official’s pre-election endorsement of the outcome of Ethiopia’s traditionally fraudulent National Election, on the other side the Atlantic Ocean, the Europeans are showing a firm stand against endorsing the sham and ceremonial election. The keynote speaker of the conference clearly indicated that assisting the authoritarian one-party rule might lead the country into a formidable civil conflict. The current prevalent inter- and intra-regional armed conflicts, popular uprisings, desperate repressive acts of the regime against civilians, rampant corruptions, mismanagement, famines, population growth, environmental degradation, displacements of peoples as a result of land grabbing, alarming expansions of pandemic diseases, government-instigated ethnic conflicts as an instrument of divide-and-rule, etc. are all indicative for Ethiopian regime’s authoritarian nature and lack of democracy in the country.
The political organisations, which participated on this conference, were the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the Sidama Liberation Front (SLF) and the Patriotic Ginbot 7 Movement. From civic organizations, such us from Anywaa Survival, Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA), Reprieve, Oromia Support Group, Ogaden Youth and Women Association, African Rights Monitor and Create Trust, had participated at the conference. Individual activists, freelance journalists, and ex-member of the Ethiopian Parliament and the ex-Executive Member of the Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM) Dr. Getachew Jiggi also gave witness accounts of the pre-election, the election and the post-election processes in Ethiopia – taking the 2005 National Election as an example.
As far as the Oromo issues were concerned, OLF was represented by Dr. Shigut Geleta, Head of the Diplomatic Division; Dr. Baro Keno’s presentation focused on the Addis Ababa Master Plan and the Land Grabbing issue in Oromia; Dr. Alemayehu Kumsa from Charles University presented on the human rights consequences of the conflict between the Ethiopian State and the Oromo People, as well as Dr. Getachew’s presentation on the electoral process in the Ethiopian Empire. Dr. Trevor Trueman of Oromia Support Group (OSG) dealt with the refugee crisis of Ethiopia in general.
The following is an excerpt from Dr. Shigut’s speech on various issues concerning the Oromo people and Oromia. He was very articulated in defending OLF in particular, and the Oromo national liberation movement in general – exposing the atrocities committed against the Oromo people and outlining the general challenges of the Empire so as to attract the attention of the international community. He won the attention of his audiences. Nowadays, when most of Oromo politicians and elites engaged on internal matters, Dr. Shigut has proven being, consistently and persistently, the instrument for bringing the Oromo issue to international fora. Some extracts from his speech are presented below.
Excerpt from the Speech of Dr. Shigut Geleta, Head of the Oromo Liberation Front’s (OLF) Diplomatic Division
On Violations of Human Rights:
” … Since EPRDF came to power, its conduct regarding human rights violations is characterized by mass massacres, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, tortures, displacements and forced conscription of the productive forces to non-ending wars on political opponents. Wanton killings of Oromos, Anuaks, Ogadeni, Sidama, Shako-Majenger, Omotic peoples and killings of Oromo students at various occasions are a few out of many atrocities to be mentioned.
“To mention some, the March 1992 massacre of Oromos along the streets of Watter town in Harrarge zone; the February 1994 massacre of Ogadenis in Wardheer; the massacre of Oromos at Babo Gambel village in West Wollega in April 1995; the massacre of Oromos at Sigmo and Gattira districts in March 1995; the massacre of Shako and Majenger people on 11 March 2002; the Looqqe, Sidama, Massacre of May 2002; the December 2003 mass killings of Anuaks; the massacre after the turmoil of 2005 National Election in Addis Ababa; the massacre of Oromos in Gara Sufi in February 2007; the 2009 mass murders of Ogadenis in Kabiribayah Ogaden; the massacre of members of the Suri tribe (Omo) of December 2012; the massacre of Muslim protesters April and August 2013 in Asasa and Kofele Oromia; and the massacre by the Special (Liyu) Police 2013/2014 on Ogadeni and Oromos – are some of the living testimonies of the state terrorist acts of the TPLF regime and are true historical records. These violations of human rights have been reported by various human rights organizations. The TPLF regime has never put into practice the recommendations given to it during many periodic reviews of UN Treaty bodies, such as Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and charter based covenants …”
On the Role of the International Community:
“… TPLF conducted general elections in 1992, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010. By doing so, it has claimed that it has transformed the Ethiopian state from authoritarian, one-nation dominated empire with command economy to a democratic federal society with free market economy. To the contrary, the EPRDF-dominated empire is controlling the political and economic life of the peoples of Ethiopia. In 1992 EPRDF claimed to have won 96.6% of the vote that aimed to establish elected local and regional administrations. Eighteen years later, in the 2010 National Election, the TPLF-led EPRDF claimed another landslide victory with 99.6% of the votes. There was not time where the election has been free and fair. Moreover, Oromo and Ogaden peoples, among other nations and nationalities of Ethiopia, are targeted with extrajudicial killings, tortures, sexual violence, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances.
“The 2005 parliamentary elections in Ethiopia were monitored by a large observation mission deployed by the EU and led by a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Ana-Maria Gomes. The overall report was without doubt the most critical of all. International observer missions, concluding that “the elections fell short of international principles for genuine democratic elections” (EU Election Observation Mission 2005). The 2008 local elections were perceived to be noncompetitive due to strong pressure by the ruling party on the people to vote for or join the ruling party. International observers were not allowed during these elections, and the international community remained silent about the conduct and results of the poll. Although the 2010 parliamentary elections did not bring about the same kind of violence as in 2005, the EU concluded that the electoral process “fell short of international commitments for elections, notably regarding the transparency of the process and the lack of level playing field for all contesting parties”.
“The partnership between Ethiopia and the EU is based on the African-EU Strategic Partnership, which gives emphasis to peace, security, good governance and human rights. Regarding the governance and human rights under the strategic priority (b) it says, “the promotion of democratic governance and human rights constitutes a central feature of the Africa-EU dialog and partnership.” Moreover, the Cotonou agreement defines relations between the EU and ACP countries. Despite the fact that all of Ethiopia’s elections were flawed with severe deterioration of human rights, the EU did not invoke Article 96. Ethiopia represents the fourth largest recipient of EU’s finance aid in the world, and the EU is currently the country’s single largest trade partner.
“The European Union is one of the five major donor partners of Ethiopia. The EU institution contributes for about €230 million a year, representing 10% of the total official development aid received by Ethiopia. Together with the EU Member States support, the European Union makes available around 34% of the total aid assistance to Ethiopia. Consequently, the EU has significant leveraged over the regime, which in turn represents an opportunity and responsibility to encourage the Ethiopian government to be more accountable, show readiness to resolve outstanding political problems, promote freedom of speech, develop democratic institutions, respect human and peoples’ rights and the rule of law. On June 19, 2014, in Nairobi, EU and Ethiopia signed the European Union aid in favour of Ethiopia in an amount of 745.2 million Euros to be made available to Ethiopia for the period 2014-2020.
“By providing help to the dictatorial regime in Ethiopia, the EU has breached:
“1. The Africa-EU Strategic Partnership, a joint Africa-EU strategy policy adopted in Lisbon in 2007/ Lisbon, 9 December 2007 16344/07.
“2. The EU International Cooperation and Development policy, which is primarily based on good governance, and respect for human rights, their national country’s laws and international human rights standards,
“Currently, we have learned that EU is not sending an observers’ team for the May 2015 election despite the outcome seems highly unlikely. Unanswered question is what will be the next strategy of EU? …”
On Difficulties of Alliance and Coalitions:
” … Experience told us the stumbling block lies on the question and respect of the rights of nations and nationalities.
“On the one hand, the policy that TPLF pursues in this regard is unfortunately the policy that was based closely on Stalin’s theory of nationalities, applied in the Soviet Union – under which each nationality would have only a nominal right to internal self-government, with secession as an ultimate resort. In fact, the policy has a dangerous mismatch between the development of social and political forces on the one hand, and the opportunities for these to be incorporated into the political structure on the other.
“On the other, the opposition political forces that see themselves as pan-Ethiopians still remained in their traditional juxtaposition of individual versus collective rights – in which case they uphold the first while rejecting the latter. This means, they fail to appreciate what has been achieved, even on paper – as far as the right of nations and nationalities is concerned. For this position of theirs, they often refer to the authority of liberal conception of democracy in which the individual is considered to be the only real agent of society, and hence, bearer of rights. Be the liberal theory as it may be, in reality, there is no individual without certain basic social traits, such as language, social habit, custom and ways of life, to say the least.
“This means, by virtue of the fact that a human individual is brought up by a certain family under a given social structure in a certain way, he is already a social animal. Individuality is inseparable from that social environment in which he/she is brought up. Had it not been the case, there would not be Ethiopianness/“Ethiopiawinet” for this Ethiopiawinet itself is anchored in a certain collective identity. As much as Ethiopiawinet is the social source of nourishment for the individual, individuals are the perpetrators or the agents of Ethiopiawinet. So there is no way to mutually separate the individual from the social self, and vice versa.
“It is precisely because of this conceptual impasse, that modern liberals have come to recognize the dialectical dimension of democracy as to be anchored both in the agency of the individual and the contextual significance of the collective identity. According to some contemporary liberals, such as Kymlicka (2002), collective rights are consistent with liberal pluralism if they meet two conditions: they protect freedom of individuals within the group, and they promote relations of equality (non-dominance) between groups.
“This comprehensive political view could be the stumbling block to forge a very meaningful alliance between the pan-Ethiopian and various nationalist forces. It is not the ideological difference like that being of Conservatism, Liberalism or Social Democrat for the main difference of political forces operating in and out of Ethiopia, but the issue is how we interpret past – how we understand the ongoing conflicts and – how we anticipate the future in nation building …”
On the Way Forward for Co-operation:
“… Our recommendation to this concern and change the extreme asymmetry of power between the ruling party and opposition movements in order to attain the long lasting peace can only be achieved by genuine collaboration of opposition political forces in forging common understanding on the right of nations and nationalities. OLF believes that cultivating democratic culture of working together closely, without interfering the internal matter of the other. In the course of this collaboration process, not only alignment of political forces, but also the similar democratic traditions of some of the peoples of Ethiopia have to be explored and geared in the way they have served for centuries for peaceful coexistence of these nations …”
On the Independence of OLF, and Other’s Orchestration of the Oromo Question by Creating of Oromo-Named Satellite Organisation – One Bullet-Point for All Stakeholders:
“… Any attempt of stakeholders, be it the international community or/and political forces in the Ethiopian Empire, to weaken the Oromo national liberation struggle by isolation, marginalization and splitting of OLF will never bring the aspired peace, democracy and development. Either the TPLF as it is now or opposition’s attempt to create Oromo-named “Comprachicos” will never help in solving the problem of Oromo’s vis-a-vis Ethiopia’s. To attain stability and peace in Ethiopia, the Oromo’s demand for freedom, equality and democracy must be met. The Oromo are not only the largest group in Ethiopia, but they are also the most centrally placed with whom the unity of the country would be under question …”
On the Importance and Sensitivity Oromo National Liberation Issue:
“… This simple fact lends the Oromo issue a peculiar sensitivity. Without sustainable peace in Ethiopia, regional peace is inconceivable. Therefore, to bring genuine peace and stability to the Horn, the starting point is to deal with the dynamic situation in Ethiopia by resolving peoples’ demand for the right to self-determination. As long as this is ignored or orchestrated, sustainable peace in Ethiopia and the region will continue to be very elusive …”
On the Issue of Demography, Resources and Dilemma of Western Countries:
“… The Oromo national liberation struggle is not directed against the masses of a particular nation or nationality, nor against individuals, but rather against oppressive system of successive Ethiopian regimes. Oromo’s quest is the quest for freedom, democracy, justice and peace as the case with most colonized and oppressed peoples. I loudly say that empowerment of the Oromo people for fulfillment of their aspiration is support for justice, but suppressing the will and quest of the Oromo people because of fear for their demography and natural resource is fear of democracy and justice. Assisting a minority regime for the sake of this fear is paradoxical, and it is negating the very basic democratic values on which western countries are founded. Regulating minority rights, collective rights and individual rights of humans are the main objectives of international bills upheld by democratic governments. Therefore, if principles are our guidance, I don’t see any obstacle in our own way not to stand united against the TPLF/EPRDF brutal and undemocratic regime …”
* Report compiled by an observer who participated at the conference at the individual level.