Like many other Ethiopians, it was with a mixed feeling of ambivalence, curiosity and a bit of optimism that I went to attend a meeting in Dallas organized by UDJ/medrek. The meeting was part of UDJ/medrek’s fund raising and campaign tour targeting the Ethiopian Diaspora in North America. The Dallas delegation was represented by Seye Abreha, the most puzzling, at times confusing and interesting –to –watch figure in Ethiopian politics and Aklog Limenih, chairman of the North American support group for UDJ.
Over all, the meeting was a good one. I had a chance to sit next to a man who was once one of the most powerful person in the country. Once the leader of the most feared (perhaps also most hated) political organization, was being asked question and challenged by ordinary people like me with out fear. That was part of what made the meeting more curious for me. The other take away from the meeting, which is more important for me, was that the meeting reinforced the thought I had all along about Seye: like most people, he understands the country’s problem right, but he got the solution (specially his role in it) wrong.
I have read many of Siye’s Articles and listened to his speeches closely. The recurring theme in his speeches and writings as well as in this meeting has been that Ethiopia has complex problems, that too much blood has been spilled in the last four to five decades, that we should end the vicious cycle of the politics of exclusion, revenge and intolerance. These are noble causes and I applaud Seye for doing this. In fact, it is my belief that for Ethiopia to be reconciled with itself, for our country to be free of the vicious cycle of the ugly politics of the past decades as Seye himself said, the first group of people that should be liberated are the TPLF/ EPRDF leaders. They are not physically in jail but they are in a very severe mental imprisonment. They live in the worst prison of hatred, revenge, ethnic bigotry and now, fear. If they not stopped, they are taking the country in to an irreversible course of destruction and it is becoming almost too late. Although Seye’s talk of reconciliation is timely and one that we should all support, I find his insistence that this can be done after defeating the regime at the poll, a very troubling proposition. This is not just because I obviously doubt (gravely as that) whether there will be any free and credible election. Let me explain.
Let us assume for a moment that there was free and fair election, a very unrealistic assumption to begin with .Let us also further imagine for the purpose of argument that UDJ/medrek won the election and forms a government, generous and naively optimistic expectation. If this happened however, it would be largely because of Seye’s involvement in the election which presumably makes the TPLF/EPRDF leadership feel safe and convince them not to steal the election and kill people as they have done in the past. This might also include some behind- the-scene effort by Seye (and his TPLF-turned-opposition friends) to soften the hearts of their former colleagues.
My point is if Seye can and want to do this, it will be even easier for him to convince the regime to come to the table now (before the election) and take the country in a comprehensive reconciliation path that includes all political players that are both in and outside the country. This will not only make everybody a winner because no one will be cursed for past misdeeds, but it puts the country in a truly democratic transition for everyone will look to the future rather than the past. When and if this happens, there will be enough psychological and practical grounds for the Ethiopian people to do what is almost unimaginable: forgiving even the worst criminals like Meles for the sake of the country’s future. No amount of winning election has the power to do that, if at all realizing victory thorough election is possible in the first place.
It has long been my firm belief that Ethiopia’s problems are so complex that only reconciliation at the national level can solve the problem once and for all. Some people may say that this is a wishful thinking because the TPLF/EPRDF regime has consistently refused to accept such call in the past. Well, the regime has also made it abundantly clear that it will not give up power through election, not by any means for that matter. If Seye Abreha believes, as he said he does, forgiveness (including for those in power) is the only way forward for the nation out of the insurmountable political crisis it finds itself in, it is my judgment that he will be more credible and more successful if he calls for national reconciliation rather than participation in an election whose result for many is predetermined.
Although Seye was the architect of every sinister policies of this ethnocentric and evil regime, he was also its victim. I feel it will be more fitting a role for him to work hard and bring about reconciliation and forgiveness first and election next, not the other way round. I am all for giving Seye the benefit of the doubt and victory is victory even if it come sin the wrong order. But my fear is the fact that he got his priorities wrong may cost us the victory.