Why Only TPLF? The Other Ones in the Coalition May not Even Deserve Denouncement
By Gizaw Legesse
Today I watched the dialogue between two journalists – my friends Fanuel Kinfu and Dawit Kebede – posted on Awramba Times, entitled “Why was only TPLF singled out and being target of denouncement in recent protests of Oromia and Gondar?”
Though I really admire their initiation to have an open dialogue about the recent unrest and protests in different cities of Ethiopia, I don’t think they touched the real issues. As Dawit stated on the video, the objective of that program was to raise and discuss issues openly. And as I can understand, it should mean to talk about the current situations differently than the government media is broadcasting them.
I hope there will be subsequent dialogues, but this one does not fully meet the objective.
To start with, their dialogue generally and by default assumes the recent protests are because of lack of “good governance”, which the government is loudly admitting. But the government is also using this political jargon as a response while choosing not to echo the questions which are either difficult to be answered or thought to have side effects if discussed.
For example, both Ato Getachew Reda (on Al Jazeera) and the Communication Head of Amhara Region (just after the first Gondar demonstration) did not mention the word “Wolqayt”. Nor did Fanuel and Dawit in their dialogue. The answer to Wolqayt’s issue may not be easy, but still it was the main question (in fact the cause) in the Gondar public demonstration. If we don’t bring it openly, how can we expect solution? Fanuel and Dawit were discussing why protesters were denouncing only TPLF. I believe the word “only” was not necessary unless it is meant to set aside the real issue.
If the protesters were condemning TPLF, it could be because they are certain that TPLF is the dominant in the EPRDF coalition. If we have to use the word “only” and ask why condemning TPLF only, that might be because the other members of the coalition are seen as barely shadows of TPLF – that do not even deserve condemnation. Therefore, when “only” is inserted, the question becomes an answer by itself. So let us leave it, and proceed to the real issue – why do the people sense TPLF’s dominancy in the coalition? Why do the protesters in Oromia felt that it is TPLF which is in power in their region than OPDO? I believe this was the issue Fanuel and Dawit should have raised, because this was the real fact we observed from the Oromia protests.
Now, don’t give me that usual phrase of the government media – “small number of people”. No matter how small their number is (though I think no one counted the protesters), they are still people. These people practically felt that TPLF is not only in charge of the Federal Government, but also is ruling their regional governments using symbolic ethnic parties, such as OPDO. That is what we learned from the Oromia protest – the people does not feel they have real political representation. Therefore to give a response to their people and to show that this is not practically true – that they are in charge, what the other parties should do is not to defend TPLF’s condemnation (as suggested on the video), rather to make bold decisions which can show they are (or will be) equal in the coalition and in charge of their regional constituency. And that also would mean they are solely accountable for whatever bad governance for more than two decades.
Re-gaining public trust might require a great deal of effort, but without it the future will even become harder for any of the parties, including TPLF. Fanuel and Dawit did not raise many other relevant questions. In the government media, and even in the dialogue posted on Awramba Times, it was said that the protesters are instigated by a few outside forces who wish to destabilize the country. But why do the people inclined to listen these outside forces, while the government owns and are using every medium to tell its side of the story? Why do the people continue to trust those media outlets than their own government?
These are the questions which should be dialoged. I am not a fan of any politics thrown from outside, but it can be said that it is because of these outside forces that the people inside protested about lack of “good governance” which the government resulted in admitting it. So why do the people trust them than EBC? Admitting that there is lack of good governance or there are a lot of grievances from the people might be understood as a good character of a government in power. But it also certainly means bad performance. In a democratic country, it would mean you are either ready to resign or to commit yourself to make things right until the end of your term.
Yes, Ato Getachew Reda told us that the government admits the grievances of the people. But is the government ready to make the grievances (at least most of them) go away in the next four year? Because that is the end of its term in power. And, for those of us who deeply wish stability and constitutional order in the country, this boldly visible, self-admitted and huge bad governance means no vote.
My point here is that Fanuel and Dawit, in their dialogue, didn’t discuss the meaning and implication of admitting bad governance; they simply stated it as what it seems admiration. Another major issue neglected was the killing of protesters. For the sake argument, let’s us say that some of the protesters were not peaceful - they threw stones, they burnt cars, they destroyed buildings. But what is the government’s procedure in handling this kind of unrest? On the day of the Bahir Dar demonstration, the Mayor of the city expressed his sadness for the seven people died due to the protest. Many of my friends admired him for saying that; I to saw his courage to bring the situation to public. But one should ask, was there no other alternative than shoot to kill? What about below the waist? Can’t our country afford using rubber bullets? Again does our government have a formal procedure in responding riots in which our security forces are adequately trained with?
How do we evaluate proportionality of measures by security forces? These are the questions which independent media should ask? There are a lot of issues that should be discoursed through independent media like Awramba Times, and I hope Dawit will continue to do that.
Generally, what I wanted to say in this short Article is that bringing things openly will help us to realize the alternatives and to understand what is at stake. And I thank the two journalists and Awramba Times to start on this. I believe we all want our Ethiopia to stay strong, I believe we can do that.