OPINION : Lessons from from the 2010 Ethiopian Election

By Magn Nyang –  June 9, 2010 — For some, the result of 2010 election in Ethiopia was a surprise. For some people, it was not. When those of us who early on saw the fake nature of the 2010 election and called for boycott of so-called election by the opposition groups, we were not believed and further, we were called all kinds of names— extremists, radicals, and so on by Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)


I knew all along that the 2010 Ethiopians’ election was a big joke. The question was: why legitimize a false election by taking part in it? Some said “it is better to participate so that one can fight to change things once inside.” I believe that it was a painful waste of time to have participated in a fake election by the opposition groups.

To me, the so-called elections (a total of four since 1995) that the Meles’ regime arranged were artificial in that they were responses to donor countries’ pressure rather than to the dictates of the internal problems. Everything the EPRDF does is directed at and appeal to the donors’ conscience. In other words, the elections were never about the bringing of democracy and freedom to Ethiopia. These elections were arranged in such a way that the ruling party, the EPRDF, retains the majority seats and as a result the parliament that is formed is a one-way course, with the EPRDF doing all the talking and the oppositions the listening.

From this it becomes clear that as long as the oppositions are artificially kept under 1% of the Ethiopians’ parliament, they are useless as co-architects of a normal society where freedom, equality and liberty shine. Hence what is necessary as a prelude to anything else that may come is a very strong grass-roots build-up of the mass consciousness such that the mass can learn to assert themselves and stake their rightful claim. The mass has to know that the EPRDF main goal is to stay in power. The EPRDF leadership is claiming a monopoly on intelligence and moral judgment of Ethiopians and is now setting the pattern and pace for the realization of Ethiopians’ aspirations. The EPRDF builds roads here and there and dispenses fertilizers to countryside populace for its’ own deceptive purposes. The grass-root build-up of the mass consciousness that I am calling for has to teach the Ethiopian mass, especially, the countryside about such values as freedom, equality, and liberty.

The myth of “fighting the system from within” must be cracked and killed because it makes people believe that something is being done by the opposition parliamentarians when in actual fact the artificial parliament provides Meles Zenawi and his friends the much needed bragging right of bringing democracy to Ethiopia. It works on a false premise that because Mengistu Haile Mariam’s regime did not have a representative parliament, therefore achievement of this is in itself a step forward towards the total democracy rule in Ethiopia. Nothing could be more irrelevant and therefore misleading. Those who believe in it are living in a fool’s paradise.

First, the so-called elections (so far, four of them) were all the creation of the EPRDF. The so-called opposition parliamentarians have no real voice. As a testimony to the EPRDF’s claim of complete identification with the Ethiopians’ farmers and peasants in the countryside, the leadership builds few roads, schools, and distributes some amount of fertilizers and tells the farmers and peasants “the EPRDF is the only legitimate party that works for your interests.” What the farmers and the peasants do not know is that their interests are not simply few roads and few schools here and there and fertilizers, but their interests are freedom, equality, and liberty. The more the EPRDF brainwash the farmers and the peasants (85% of Ethiopians) in the countryside, the more it looks legitimate in their eyes. A game at which the EPRDF leadership has become masters is that of deceiving the farmers and the peasants. If you challenge them to change the way they are playing the game and instead involve themselves in all-out attempt to bring freedom, equality, and liberty to all Ethiopians, you are dismissed or thrown in prison.

Secondly, the parliament formed as a result of these elections is with neither real goals to achieve nor real direction. The same questions are asked and the same naiveté exhibited in answering them. The real concern of the leadership is to keep ruling rather than being useful. This sort of leadership is a danger to Ethiopians. Thus, the opposition leaders who join the EPRDF’s parliament are as guilty of the arrest of Ethiopia’s progress as the leadership of EPRDF for it is from such a groups that the theory of gradual progress toward freedom, equality, and liberty for Ethiopians emanates and this is what keeps Ethiopians confused (as we just saw at the recent election) and always hoping that one day God will step down from heaven to solve their problems.

Does this mean that I am totally against joining and working together with current regime in Ethiopia? If by working together you mean an assimilation and acceptance of one into an already established set of working norms and codes of behaviors set up by and maintained by EPRDF, then yes I am against it. I am against the “we know what is good for all Ethiopian” attitude currently being exhibited by EPRDF leadership. I am against the intellectual arrogance of EPRDF leadership that makes them believe that their leadership is the only progressive in Ethiopia and that they are the divinely appointed pace-setters in progress. I am against the fact that Meles Zenawi and few of his guerrilla warfare days’ friends should impose their own style of leadership on the entire Ethiopian people.

If on the other hand by joining and working together you mean there shall be free participation by all participants, catering for the full expression of the self in a freely changing society as determined by the will of the people, then I am with you. For one cannot escape the fact that the values of leadership shared by the majority in any given society must ultimately determine the broad direction taken by the leadership in that society. Thus, Meles and few of his friends should not determine the broad direction, we, the Ethiopians must take.

What of the claim that it is now the norm for the Diasporas educated to oppose the EPRDF? This is a favorite pastime of frustrated EPRDF leaders and their supporters who feel challenged. These self-appointed trustees of all Ethiopians interests boast of years of experience in their fight for the betterment of Ethiopians’ lives. They claim that they have been doing things for the Ethiopians, on behalf of Ethiopians, and because of Ethiopians. When some educated Ethiopians point out that their claim is not based on facts, the EPRDF leaders and their supporters accuse the diasporas educated of being extremists.

What is learn from the recent so-called election in Ethiopia was that Ethiopia has effectively now became a one party state. The recent election was embarrassing. I can only compare it to what Saddam Hussein did in 2002 when the United States was preparing to invade Iraq. He arranged a referendum in which 100% of Iraqis voted for him.

Dr. Magn Nyang can be contacted at magnnyang@yahoo.com