In politics, crisis is an opportunity

By Abebe Gelaw / September 25, 2007
The Vice President of Kinijit has shamed her critics with an extraordinary display of humility, magnanimity, maturity and wisdom in her very touching appeal to Engineer Hailu Shawel. Judge Bertukan Mideksa's appeal to the Honourable Hailu Shawel to heal the festering wounds, which has attracted all sorts of opportunists, fifth columnists, infiltrators, myopic extremists, conspiracy theorists and wolves in sheep's skin, just to mention a few among so many, is testimony to the fact that the leader has to rise up to the challenge of leading the most popular but vulnerable political party in Ethiopian history out of the terrible storms. Her words were measured; her voice unfaltering, her composure unfailing and above all her appeal came from the bottom of her heart.

In politics crisis is an opportunity to scrutinize weaknesses, weed out the chaff, mend the fence…reassess the past and envision the future. When Kinijit comes out of this sad episode in its short life, it will be a much stronger party with a clear mission and vision provided the crisis is exploited to the full as an opportunity. The current crisis engulfing Kinijit has indeed unmasked the vulnerable side of the party. As we have now been witnessing, Kinijit has yet to find a strong and visionary leadership that can ride through the storms. The storms are too many, they come from every direction, from friends and foes, but the leadership has to be sturdy enough to ride out of the daunting rough stretch ahead of it.

Having been in the same batch at Addis Ababa University in the 90s, I have a vivid memory of a devout Christian with a burning passion for her faith. The young student has emerged as a leader in her own right. She is nobody's puppet and is very unlikely to be one. Bertukan is probably the only woman political leader in modern Ethiopia history that has emerged to lead our nation at a critical time. Nonetheless, she has to make herself ready to fend off attacks from left and right especially from the ambush of extremist elements who are still living in the times of the Byzantines. These elements are good at spreading rumours, innuendos, conspiracy theories and accusations of treason. Hidden in every corner of the world, the cowards will accuse and counter-accuse every leader of Kinijit of being Woyanne. For these myopic preachers of hate and intolerance, anyone who does not accept their orders and edicts is an enemy that must be destroyed. Such is the challenge of being a political leader in Ethiopia, one has to have a unique quality to lead without faltering at every frustrating moment.

No matter how frustrating it might be to have differences with Bertukan and other members of Kinijit's executive council, Engineer Hailu Shawel should not give up and retire from a job well done in an unceremonious fashion. It is high time to heed the impassioned appeal of Judge Bertukan Mideksa and her colleagues. The orange is ripe and it is time to take up the challenge from a good daughter and beloved compatriot who humbly addressed Ing. Hailu as Gashe. Engineer Hailu can no longer ignore the olive branch of a woman of substance who chose to go to the hellish jails of the tyrant with him and other men of conviction refusing to surrender her people's will to be masters of their own destiny.

The need for leadership is, among other things, to manage crisis. If leaders abandon their leadership roles at any critical time, then it is the leader who takes the responsibility and the blame for any foreseen and unforeseen disasters. The legacy of Engineer Hailu Shawel to Kinijit must be as glorious as the May 2005 landslide victories that have permanently cracked and shaken the firmament of tyranny in Ethiopia.

"Freedom is not worth having," said Ghandi "If it does not include the freedom to make mistakes." Any crew member can make a mistake but it doesn't cause the captain to abandon the ship in the middle of a stormy sea. Ignoring the destructive elements in the Diaspora, who are enjoying the moment to create more chaos, rift and turmoil, the leaders of Kinijit need to work together to put their party back on track.

The first action that the leaders should take is to eradicate the bad legacy of KIL and KIC. Even if there have been some good men amongst both groups, which have caused migraines to the leaders at their worst times in jail, their legacy in the annals of Kinijit will go down as friction, rift, conflict, feud and spin. That is the very reason why there must be a complete end to this horrible episode in the farcical political circus of Kinjit Diaspora. There are even those who declare their love for Kinijit. But the trouble with them is that Kinijit is a popular brand they want to show off at ever opportunity and raise some money just in case... rather a political movement that calls for a little bit of sacrifice.

In any case, the leaders of Kinijit, men or women, must remember that they cannot be leaders, and ask other people to follow them, unless they know how to follow too, as the late US Congressman Sam Rayburn (1882-1961) once said. They should follow the people's desire for change and they will defiantly emerge as winners. Anyone who disappoints the people will remain a loser despite their experience and credentials of victories and successes.

Kinijit must practice what it preaches. It can never bring about democracy unless it is truly democratic in and out, free from Byzantine politics, which according to historians, was characterized by intrigue, infighting, distrust, subterfuge, suspicion and paranoia. The choice is clear on the plate; either to make or break it all at a time when doom and gloom has created much more despair than hope to live for.

The writer, Abebe Gelaw, is editor of Addis Voice.