By Lebenu Feleke | May 24, 2011 |I am a former Ethiopian diplomat who defected from the system when the rule of the jungle prevailed and EPRDF started to engage in mass membership of Ethiopians from all walks of life against their consent and free will.
Just as I did, other true and genuine Ethiopians have followed that path and left their diplomatic post to live in exile rather than giving in to the pressures and threats directed against them to be a member by cadre EPRDF members. I dedicate this article to all those diplomats and civil servants who resisted this pressure and remained true to their beliefs and conscience by saying “Over my dead body” to membership to EPRDF. I have listed some of them below to be a witness to their bravery and commitment to the truth and what is right. Unlike others who prioritize their stomach before their mind these people have at least took the step to express their resentment to the governments’ undemocratic moves designed to perpetuate the hegemony of EPRDF for two more decades with out and democratic changes and economic progress.
The Meles Zenawi administration has been openly engaged in mass membership of the civil service, farmers, teachers, students with out their consent and request. The Ethiopian diplomatic service, both at home and in missions, is no different. It has been under a strong pressure and 100% of the staff at the head office have become members under the direct order of the minister d’etat Nega Tsegaye who is apparently directed to do so by non other than the chairman of EPRDF, Meles Zenawi. In the foreign missions similar moves have been taken to co-opt those very small numbers of non-member diplomats, the majority are members, who were doing their job with the belief that they are serving their country. Recently, however, these non-member diplomats were obligated to be a member with clear and unequivocal terms. And as a result they have taken the other, and of course humanly better, decision to resign from their posts and defect.
No matter what their political opinions and persuasion every one is expected to get in line with their ethnic based parties even if he/she does not agree with the party doctrines and policies. Amharas are supposed to get in Amhara People Democratic Movement; Oromos in Oromo People Democratic Organizqation; those from the South in to Southern Ethiopian People Democratic Movement; Tigray in to Tigrayan People Liberation Front and others… Many friends of mine working at the head office and missions have followed the order of the day and have become the new members of EPRDF by joining their respective ethnic based parties. They have started attending meetings and contribute money to EPRDF monthly even if they are members against their will. Those who have managed to flee from the system are those blessed. Because they have escaped from the worst form of subordination – mental servitude.
Even though government institutions were supposed to be free from party domination and politicization the fact on the ground in the case of Ethiopia is different. Government institutions in Ethiopia are instruments to protect the security and interest of EPRDF rather than serving the interest of the people. Government offices are considered EPRDF offices and employees are expected to endorse EPRDF policies no matter what their personal opinions and preferences. The finance and resources of government offices are used to promote and implement the ill-conceived EPRDF party politics and propagandas rather than promoting Ethiopian interests.
The Woyane led EPRDF government took the measure of mass membership of the civil service, diplomats included, since the period leading up to the may 2010 election. For me personally, and some others, to be a member of EPRDF was so condescending due to the fact that it would require us to adopt those policies and values of the EPRDF that are detrimental to Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Beyond that when you are a member the facts and ideas that you are fed is from the book of “Abiotawi Democracy” and the twisted version EPRDF understanding of Ethiopian history. For example, the cadres regard Emperor Menilik as the biggest Neftenya who oppressed others. They give him no credit to his effort of unifying Ethiopia and defending it from colonial encroachment. Even if they know that they do not dare to say it as cadres and if some one says otherwise he will be considered Chauvinist. They seem to believe that when they speak the truth and give credit to whomever deserved it they feel that they loose legitimacy to rule and control Ethiopia. That is why am saying to be a member of EPRDF is condescending. You would be obliged to sell your conscience and live on deceit and fabrication.
Therefore, the basic reason why people defect from the EPRDF administration is to live with clean conscience and free mind. We have abandoned the life of luxury that people are afforded by the regime once they are a member. And those who have preferred exile rather than mental servitude deserve appreciation to their patriotic action of standing with truth and following what is the right path. It is my belief that others will follow that direction and become the force in the fight for freedom and justice in Ethiopia rather than being part of the problem. Diplomats who recently defected, including Bethel Belay and Ayalew Nigussie from Austria-Vienna; Eyassu Gebrehiwot and Bruk Tesfamariam from Frankfurt-Germany, Asefa Delil from Washington D.C; Ambassador Kadafo Mohammed Hanfre from Kuwait missions should be congratulated for standing in dignity and free of guilty-conscience.
The writer can be reached at Girma.firstname.lastname@example.org