28 May 2010

The Election that never was

“Mankind will never see an end of trouble until lovers of wisdom come to hold political power, or the holders of power become lovers of wisdom.” Plato.

It is very unfortunate that Ethiopians have not had the luck to have such leaders; they have rather been under the siege of TPLF/EPRDF for the past two decades which is on the verge of going to the third. Though the Ethiopian constitution has the following clause in its Article 38 (1) (C) “Every Ethiopian national, without any discrimination based on colour, race, nation, nationality, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion or other status, has the following rights, To vote and to be elected at periodic elections to any office at any level of government; elections shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors. The clause remains only on papers as TPLF/EPRDF can translate the constitution in whatever way it wants to satisfy its power addictions and consequently quell dissenting voices. All leading human rights organizations and independent journalists had long made it crystal clear that the May 23 election in Ethiopia was going to be neither fair nor free. That is what the international community has once again witnessed; sham election which would give a rubber stamp to the power addict depots in Arat kilo who tell us that their achievements especially their double digit economic growth was the reason behind their dubious victory. All credible election observation groups have made it clear that the election was not free and fair; excepting the toothless African Union which has hailed the election. What can democracy and justice aspiring people expect from such an organisation which is a place for a cluster of African dictators. How can we say there was a free and fair election in a situation where there was no level playing field for the all the parties that chose to be part of the game? I wonder how we can have free and fair election in a situation where every thing is controlled by a ruling clique. How can we expect to have free and fair election where the electoral board, the security forces, the judiciary, the media both TV, Radio and printed are run by the ruling party. How can we have such an election while the leader of the main opposition is in jail and leading political figures are forced to go into exile and those at home threatened with imprisonment? How can we have free election while forcing independent journalist and human rights defenders into exile or threatening them with imprisonment? Of course beneficiaries of the governing party may tell us that the election in Ethiopia was free as far as they can achieve whatever they need and fill their hungry bellies. If someone genuinely believes that Ethiopia needs respect to human rights, democracy, independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, and all other themes of democracy, then the argument would be whether the pre-conditions for these basic themes are available or not? Whether there is a level playing field for all political parties that choose to go to the polls. If those conditions were available, we know where the dictators would find themselves by now; not least The Hague. If those conditions were put in practice, then the tyrannical group would get its lessons from the Ethiopian people who are fed up with one party system which is not even different from the very secretive style of leadership we see in North Korea.

We have now seen concerns from the US and EU about the sham election. That is a good sign but not an end by itself. We want them to stick to their ideals and stand up to the truth. It will be very unfortunate if the government that clings to power through such a sham election is given a recognition by the West and everything goes ahead as normal in the not too distant future. Of course all the leading international human rights groups had long made it clear that the political space was so limited that there could not be a credible election in the Ethiopia; though their cries had fallen on deaf ears. It is high time for the West to stop its rhetoric and act for justice. Of course the Ethiopian government has made it clear that it wouldn’t bow to any pressure from the international community. But it still knows it can not live without their dollars, euros and pounds. The Ethiopian government says it wouldn’t bow to pressures because it knows that the west will get back to it sooner or later. It is only if such dictatorial regimes are punished for their hubris that they could learn. It is only by standing up to dictators that we can have a better world, where every one can relish his/her God given human rights. After all it is our own right that is being eroded by dictators and hence we must retake it. We need to seek the truth that our hearts know. As Mahatma Gandhi once put it, “Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of truth.”

The Global Refugee Forum – time for meaningful participation of Refugees

  As the Global Refugee Forum takes place between 13 - 15 December 2023 in Switzerland, it is vital that we have meaningful participation of...