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I am also a member, but I am really not Print E-mail
Written by Getachew Demeke -   
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
In one of a string of editorials advising EPRDF, The Reporter, recently warned the dangers of over increasing the number of its members, and it went as far as implying as if the decision to do so was done by some low ranking officials. Prior to this it came up with what seems an advice on election strategy for EPRDF as to why it lost Addis Ababa in 2005 and what it should do to win it back. First of all it begs to question why the issue of membership is presented now as if it happened yesterday.  Everyone knows that it was in the making ever since the rigged election of 2005. Even the regime itself has publicly stated its objective of increasing its members to 4 million before the upcoming election. And it would be really insane to assume that a decision as big as this one is made by low level officials.

In country where the regime is so hated and doesn't have the trust of even its own members, and yet wants to increase its members the only way to do so would be to put different kinds of pressure. As a result of this membership has become the single most important criteria to secure a job, to join a school, to get career promotion, to get access to financial institutions, fertilizer and even to be part of the safety net program entirely financed by donors. Succeeding in its coercive method of recruitment the regime has reached to the point where it doesn't need any more members.

But, does the increased membership provide any more leverage for the regime and should people be blamed for joining the repressive regime?  My answer for both is No. Let me explain. The only benefit the regime might get is increased financial subscription from its members. However, for Woyanes, who run multi-billion birr business, finance has never been an issue. The historic election of 2005 has clearly exemplified the fact that membership is meaningless when people are given the freedom to choose their allegiance. For instance, according to The Reporter itself, EPRDF which was boasting to have over 200,000 members in Addis Ababa alone received far less number of votes, even after including assumed other non-member voters.

Let alone ordinary members we have witnessed when the overwhelming majority of hard core palace guards voting for the opposition. The countless number defections of high level officials who didn't return back home from their visit abroad is additional evidence. Given the chance for freedom, as an insider, I personally believe that it won't take a day before EPRDF is reduced to TPLF. The only reason why they keep on repeating the same mistake is based on their usual wishful thinking that through time it is possible to win hearts and minds of so many of us who are forced to be one of them. In a clearly discriminatory system entirely based on ethnicity, and in favour of only one ethnic group, there is no way of winning the real support unless people are left free to choose their sides.

When I say that people shouldn't be blamed if they are forced to be members I am not in any ways encouraging others to do so. I applaud those who stood firm even when their livelihood is threatened by the brutal regime. But, when a regime ties every thing that it has control over with membership the short-term solution would be to say yes I can be one of you. When a starving farmer is required to be a member to secure food, there is no other alternative other than starving to death. Though it is remotely comparable to this that is what I did when I was told that there is no way of joining school if I don't sign up to them. That is what 90% of non-TPLF EPRDFs did in our graduate class. This doesn't mean that any of us subscribe to their ideology, neither does that poor farmer. When we are called up on, as others before us clearly did in 2005, we will be the first ones to be on duty to free ourselves from the cruel dictatorship. Are we doing any good for the regime by being members? I don't think so. It won't be long before the artificially built organization crumbles before their eyes. Numbers don't really matter. There are some signs of frustration.

The Reporter seems concerned of the violation of human rights associated with the way EPRDF recruits its members. It rightly pointed out the fact that in the present day Ethiopia citizenship is literally reduced to membership. But, what concerned, The Reporter, more is the danger it poses on EPRDF. The message is clear and simple: EPRDF clean up your house before the election; every member is not a supporter. By doing so once again it has shown its unwavering support for the regime, especially when it is needed most. This time as the so called election is approaching. My message to The Reporter: Yes I am also a member, but I am really not. And, you are not a member, but you are.

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