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Yohannes Gebresellasie (Ph.d) Addis Ababa


Recently, I had a chance to have a short political discourse with few of my colleagues at the workplace. National politics had never before featured in our daily encounters, scheduled meetings and routine inter-office interactions. Discussions on national politics are often discouraged at the place of work; staff is prohibited active participation of national politics and in making public their political views on sensitive national issues. Yet, these days it is almost impossible to steer clear of the intense debate. Our rather impromptu conversation of this fateful day centered largely on latest scoops on politics regional and national politics, political maneuvering and counter-maneuvering of the different political parties and the ruling party and sensational gossips circulating within the popular grapevine avenues. A desultory but interesting exchange of information often interjected with occasional descriptive accounts of a subject under discussion expounded by one the participants of this informal discourse.


The conversation slowly shifted towards the troubling polarization of national politics and its possible ramifications on ethnic rapport. The astonishing rapid inroads made by the emergent opposition parties into national politics and their potential bearings on the future direction of the country were also dealt with in detail. The salient political differences between the opposition and the ruling party were earnestly explained to the rest of us by a well-versed fellow colleague, an avid supporter of the opposition parties. His explanations were quite opinionated, though. The colleague blamed the EPRDF for sowing the seeds of disintegration of this ancient country through the introduction of ethnic-based federal system of government. Trivializing the importance of the EPRDF introduced constitution safeguarding the equal rights of all the ethnic groups within the country, the colleague accused the ruling party of increasingly devolving authority to the regions at the expense of the Centre. The colleague contended that by “inflaming the latent passion of certain ethnic groups” that the EPRDF is encouraging the regions to brazenly defy the Center, at will. In reply to my query on his views on the opposition parties, my colleague elatedly elaborated the rather controversial political program of the opposition parties. “The agenda of the opposition”, he explained, “is to scrap the current constitution, abolish the system of federation, and strengthen the authority of the Central Government and to bring back Eritrea to the fold”. He also stated that the opposition parties will reintroduce Amharic as the sole official language of the country. Lastly, my colleague emphatically depicted the opposition parties as the “embodiment of the traditional ruling class” that allegedly enjoyed the “God-given mandate to rule”.


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Until that day, I have never contemplated the possibility of coming across anyone, or any group for that matter, that staunchly espouse to or accept as a well-founded truth the notion of a certain ethnic group with divine mandate to govern the numerous nations, nationalities and peopes that call themselves as bona fide citizens of this august country, Ethiopia.

These stated objectives of the opposition parties seemed to me as a mere nostalgic yearning than plausible political program. Despite all of its flaws and shortcomings, any attempt geared towards the revocation of the current federal system in Ethiopia is bound to fail. The opposition parties or any other Centralist political group that intends to push forward an anti-federalist agenda would face stiff resistance from erstwhile neglected regional states that are determined to defend the gains of their decade-old self-governance.  In view of that, I asked myself why the opposition parties should gamble on such a sensitive and highly controversial issue


I have lent receptive ears to the comments and arguments of my fellow colleagues and had remained reticent throughout the course of this informal discourse. As a matter of fact, I have eagerly attended the entire discourse, largely to enrich my limited knowledge of the political developments in the country, particularly events taking place at the nation’s Capital City. For the most part, lack of sufficient in-sight on the subject of discussion has contributed to my reticence. However, the very last remark of my outspoken colleague simply roused my curiosity.

The message of my colleague, the zealous supporter of the opposition parties was ominously laud and clear. The noble aristocratic class is back with a vengeance. That Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples that are currently enjoying their hard-won democracy, economic and political stability, will be reduced to downtrodden subservient populations. That the traditional oppressing class with “God-given mandate to rule” is back to unleash bloody wars of conquest (towards the warm waters of the seas) and stifle, bully and terrorize ethnic minorities.


In the aftermath of that discussion, I started to have a close look at the opposition parties’; intently observing its inherent characteristics, monitoring its official pronouncements and carefully studying the political disposition of its leadership. However, I have only been able to observe and assess the overt aspects of the party, since much of its body politics remain shrouded in mystery. Notwithstanding the efforts of many political pundits in this country who are earnestly trying to unearth the true self of the party, the enigma surrounding the opposition would be hard to fathom, at least in the near future, due to the secretive nature of its political business. By the same token, it will be difficult to understand the political mission of the opposition without understanding both the personality traits and psychological motivations of the ideologues who engineered it as a political outfit. In view of the ambiguity surrounding the subject, I have intentionally restricted myself to mere empirical observations..


The real strength of the opposition lies in its leadership’s skillful articulation of disinformation and application of the fine arts of demagoguery. Taking advantage of the largely unethical and unprofessional opposition newspapers in Addis Ababa, the propaganda unit of the opposition has demonstrated elements of both ingenuity and intrigue in feeding the public with selective, overstated, misleading and distorted information. Unbounded by any restrictive government action and completely relieved of censorship checks, the opposition tabloid newspapers frequently bombard the public with unfounded, inaccurate, tasteless and quite disgusting reports. Many of the so-called independent newspapers that stream into the major streets of Addis Ababa are in essence rumor-mongering substandard tabloids than serious journalistic work. Their editorials impart biased political messages and extreme views that reflect the opinions of few vested interests. Bereft of objectivity, they are neither informative nor engaging. As far as one can tell, they are disgrace to the ethics and ethos identified with the fine arts of journalism. The poor content of these papers and their inadequacy on substantive facts, lack of accountability and breach of established journalistic standards merely reflect the personality traits and psychological motivations of the editors and their proprietors.


It is indeed perplexing to understand or speculate about the political agenda served by the malicious propaganda spewed out by opposition media day after day. The distorted, unsubstantiated and often misleading reports, articles and editorials of the ubiquitous opposition media outlets are evidently intended to serve as a lethal catalyst for the revival of old tensions and the incubation of new ones. The fragile ethnic bond that had been painstakingly cultivated during the course of the past years is threatened by the venom of ethnocentric politicians and unregulated opposition press.


The prognosis is not promising. The political manifestations of the opposition and its rabble-rousing and seditious propaganda presage a future of uncertainties for the people of Ethiopia. The political demagogues of the opposition parties have the tendency to exploit public vulnerabilities to ethnic or religious sentiments. Exploiting the latent ethnic passions of their constituencies, political opportunists at the helm of the opposition are ruthlessly sowing the ominous seeds of discord and disintegration - driving a wedge between ethnic groups. Indeed, trouble is brewing on the horizon.


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