Referendum and election – the real benchmarks for democracy in Ethiopia (Negasso Gidada, PhD)
I read today that a new Oromo political organization was formed in the U.S. these days, called Oromo Democratic Front (ODF). I understand that this organization is the 4th Oromo organization in the Diaspora. There are also Oromo organizations at home.
All these organizations demand for the respect of the right to self-determination for Oromo people. There are movements in Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Ogaden, Gambella, South Ethiopia Region and Benishangul which demand the same for their peoples. This Declaration supports my view I expressed that the national question in Ethiopia is not yet resolved. We cannot simply close our eyes as if matters are not serious however we have differences on the ultimate goals of some of these organizations and even if some of us do not support organizing oneself on ethnic basis.
…I have nothing with the ODF and that I cannot also speak on behalf of Medrek and the other members of Medrek. I can speak only for UDJ. As for ODF I first read the news about and the declaration of ODF. The national question in Ethiopia is still alive and needs to be resolved. And that there are organizations who demand self-determination for their people. I respect the right of ODF members to get organized and express their program. The ODF programmatic perspective is one of the different perspectives among different Oromo organizations. Personally, I do not understand why the members do not join OFC as I see not much difference between the programs of ODF and OFC.
As for ODF working with Medrek, as for that to happen, ODF has to be registered legally in Ethiopia and then join Medrek according to the bye-laws of Medrek. Once ODF is registered Legally in Ethiopia, it can join the group of 33 even if it is not member of Medrek.
As long as we claim to be democrats, I believe that some differences we may have, or appear to have, on the interpretation of democracy should not be the bases of distancing ourselves from each other. I hope and wish we shall continue to hear from each other in one way or another whatever differences we have at the moment.
But…to say a few words before ending my comment on this subject…
1. To repeat what I said many times before, I am against secession and stand for the unity, independence and sovereignty of Ethiopia. This is the position of UDJ/Medrek in which I am member and am proud to be. This is what I teach now and this will be my position in the future too when confronting secessionists.
2. As a democrat I respect the right of secessionists to organize and express their views in a peaceful, democratic and legal way. This is the position of UDJ expressed in its program in Article 3.1.5.
3. As a democrat I respect the right of the oppressed people for self-determination. Supporting this right of people and supporting secessionists are two different things. People’s right to determine who should be their government by electing whichever party they like in a democratic, free, and fair election should be respected. This is not given at the moment). In addition, people’s right to determine their fate by choosing between secession, confederation, federation or unity must also be respected if the question arises should be respected. We cannot deny that there is the national question which needs an answer still). Genuine democrats respect the right of people’s to self-determination. This is what Article 3.1.5 of UDJ program provides.
For me the bench mark of real democracy is whether the rights of the people are fully respected or not, i.e. through election and referendum.
UDJ supporters, members and leaders are happy and are proud of adopting and being committed to these three points. I am also. If there are people in UDJ who are not proud of and are not committed to this position, I doubt if they are genuine democrats or if they have clearly understood the program of UDJ.