December 5, 2013
The authoritarian system that has been built by the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is in apparent crisis. It is now evident that panic and nervousness within EPRDF is increasing with the passing of each day, and there is ample evidence that indicates towards this major behavioural shift within the ruling EPRDF party. For example, the sudden death of its leader, the ever increasing popular resistance inside and outside the country, and the customary uneasiness of the regime as national elections approach are some of the main indicators. The long-standing political behaviour the EPRDF regime demonstrates that whenever EPRDF is cornered or finds itself in a crisis situation, it uses negotiation as a quick way out or crisis management tool. We believe EPRDF’s most recent call for “negotiation” is not different from its established political behaviour.
Ginbot 7: Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy has repeatedly affirmed its strong allegiance towards a democratic change in Ethiopia in a peaceful way through dialogs, discussions, and negotiations. It is EPRDF’s stubbornness and arrogance that pushed Ginbot 7 to look for alternative means and strategies of fighting for justice, freedom and democracy.
The Executive Committee of Ginbot 7 has thoroughly deliberated on EPRDF’s call for “negotiation”. The committee has concluded that this issue concerns the Ethiopian people as a whole, not just Ginbot 7 as a movement. Ginbot 7 strongly believes that the negotiation and its outcome has direct impact on the struggle for freedom and democracy that the Ethiopian people have already waged, and the sacrifices that they are paying. Therefore, Ginbot 7 has decided to exploit the convenience of this opportunity to reiterate its position on negotiation in general, and EPRDF’s current call for negotiation in particular.
1. On negotiated change
As we have repeatedly made it very clear to the Ethiopian people, our primary choice or the most preferred way of struggling for democratic change in Ethiopia is through peaceful dialogs and constructive round table discussions. It is the arrogance of the EPRDF, and particularly its use of force to settle political differences that forced us to look for alternative strategies. G7 has made it clear, time and again, that if the choice presented to us is between living in tyranny and fighting for our liberty, our choice always is dying in dignity while fighting for liberty. We deeply believe in these sacred values, and it is this fundamental principle that attracts our members in Ethiopia and all over the world.
Our principal standpoint on negotiations has two aspects. The first has to do with the process itself. We are always open for a meaningful negotiation to settle political problems. The second has to do with the expected outcome of such an exercise. The outcome of the negotiations should lead to the establishment of a genuine democracy at the minimum possible cost. Ginbot 7 is not interested in negotiations that will jeopardise the aspiration of the Ethiopian people for justice and democracy. We welcome negotiations that can insure sovereignty of the Ethiopian people to decide and shape their destiny through free and democratic process. We cannot negotiate against our principles and the will of the Ethiopian people.
- Full recognition of the sovereign power of the Ethiopian people and laying the foundation for a democratic political dispensation should be the ultimate outcome of any and all negotiations. This being the primary goal, there might be several other valuable goals that come in the process, such as the immediate release of all political prisoners. However, other goals, valuable as they may be, cannot substitute the primary goal of establishing a genuine democratic dispensation. The primacy of the will of the Ethiopian people is not negotiable. Ginbot 7 shall not negotiate with EPRDF, or any other force for that matter, unless it accepts this primary objective.
- Such negotiations should be conducted not only between EPRDF and Ginbot 7; but with all other stakeholders – political and civic organisations—. EPRDF’s preference to negotiate with individual organisation emanates from a short sighted tactical calculation; it does not show that it seeks long term sustainable solution to the multifaceted challenges facing the country. There is no democracy that is good for one organisation only. All efforts to establish a democratic order should include other political and civic organisations in Ethiopia. Deciding who should run the country, or who should get how much power are not the principal objectives of such a negotiation. The negotiation should be how to empower people to elect their own leaders in a free and fair election and ensure the basic rights of citizens. The issue should not be power grab but starting a genuine process that will establish an acceptable, just and democratic system of governance in Ethiopia.
- As explained above, this is a national issue and cannot be conducted behind closed doors. There is no reason why it should be kept secret from the Ethiopian people.
2. Confidence building measures to ensure that past mistakes are not repeated
Based on our past experience in negotiating with EPRDF, which emanate from lack of sincerity on the part of the EPRDF, negotiations should take the opponent’s behaviours into account. Negotiating with an untrustworthy entity requires a different approach to that conducted with a credible negotiating partner. The later requires a set of precautions to ensure that there is a good faith effort to negotiate as well as a rigorous mechanism of verification and implementation to avoid backsliding. In the absence of such precautionary measures, the negotiation cannot be expected to be fruitful.
This is not the first time that EPRDF sought negotiation. So far, we do not know a single instance when EPRDF faithfully implemented agreements reached at negotiations. Rather, we have observed time and again that it in fact cherishes violating negotiations as bravery and cleverness. Nothing is more important to EPRDF than clinging on to power. It hasn’t shown any willingness in the past to sacrifice even a fraction of its power for the long-term benefits of the country.
We, in Ginbot 7, do have first-hand experience with EPRDF’s bogus negotiations. We cannot allow this to repeat itself.
Therefore, we need to make sure that the following actions are taken by the EPRDF government as a confidence building measure and as an indicator of its genuine interest in finding a negotiated solution to the country’s multifaceted political problems:
- All political prisoners, journalists, human right activists should be released. This should include those who are detained in secrete prisons;
- Intimidating people, especially members of the opposition political parties should stop immediately. The rights of every Ethiopian should be respected and protected;
- All politically motivated verdicts of the Kangaroo courts should be nullified. Files that are currently active should be dropped;
- All repressive laws that are aimed at terrorising and silencing people should be annulled;
- Negotiations should be conducted in the presence of third party mediators. All the process should be filed and kept in hands of the independent mediators. The negotiation place itself should be negotiated. The whole process should be open to the Ethiopian people.
If EPRDF is not willing to take these actions, we would not believe that it has any genuine interests in any negotiated settlement. Until then, Ginbot 7 and other democratic forces will continue their struggle in line with their respective strategies. Ginbot 7 will not be distracted by a negotiation proposal and process that lack substance towards tackling and resolving the longstanding challenges facing Ethiopia and in line with the aspiration of the Ethiopian people for a genuine and democratic change.
December 2, 2013
The Executive Committee