The opposition must unite - now! |
By David Steinman | July 15, 2012
News of Meles' illness highlights the general unreadiness of the opposition to assume power upon his departure.
This state of affairs is because no one-- whether it's the EPRDF, the military, the international community or even Ethiopia's people themselves, respects a divided opposition. But a united opposition will create a coalition sufficiently large and broad as to create a serious alternative to EPRDF rule. There is no shortage of well-known historic examples, and even simple fables, demonstrating the power of unity.
Despite these unassailable facts, why has the position failed to unite? Stubbornness, fear or ego among its various leaders.
Whatever the reason, no excuse is sufficient and the opposition leadership collectively bears responsibility for this disabling lack of unity. Now, more than ever, it faces a stark choice: unify now, urgently, or allow itself, once again, to be passed over and miss this emerging historic opportunity.
There are real policy differences among the various opposition groups. But the opposition is already united on one, overarching goal-- the end of undemocratic EPRDF rule and its replacement with genuine democracy. It can achieve this if its leaders meet on an emergency basis and, for the good of the nation, subordinate all other differences to form a unified action front under a coordinated command for the purpose of this single objective. Once the dictatorship is gone, they can submit their differences to a democratic process.
Unification will require settling on a common leadership. The existing leaders, whether they are currently talking to each other or not, can collectively succeed if they all get into a single room immediately and not leave until this is resolved.
If they cannot agree on common leadership, they can, alternatively, elect one or more neutral figures to lead. This can be a non-political person, such as a respected academic, businessman, journalist, religious leaders, NGO administrator, royalty, athlete, technocrat or some combination. Almost anybody is better than nobody.
If the opposition leaders are unwilling to do this quickly, Ethiopia's long-suffering people will benefit by demanding they do so. The Diaspora can guide the way, if necessary, by uniting its various factions here in a similar manner and conditioning further support on the in-country leadership doing the same.
A rare chance for the opposition to move into the coming political vacuum is emerging, but the opposition so far shows every sign of blowing it by failing to unify. Opposition leaders will be foolish to continue on this track and, if they do, they'll have no one to blame but themselves.
When overthrowing a dictator, opposition unification must come above all else. Now is Ethiopia's time to do it.
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