Sunday, September 30, 2007

Beware of Mediator Bias and Mediation as a Tactic: A word to the Wise

In a news piece titled “encouraging reconciliation” and posted on its web site on Sept. 22, 2007, The Reporter informed its readers that “the panel of elders … have now their eyes on bringing the government and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) together and start a dialogue.” (Read HERE)

The Reporter, of course, is owned and published by Amare Aregawi who once was a TPLF official. The news paper is known for its close relationship with the clique currently in power in Ethiopia. “The panel of elders” it referred to is a group of Ethiopians which purportedly secured the release of CUDP (Kinijit) leaders from TPLF dungeon after they were convicted by Melles Zenawi’s court and applied for clemency.

This blogger would have dismissed the news as TPLF propaganda had it not been for the source cited in that news piece. That source is none other than Prof. Ephrem Isaac, the man who heads the supposed “panel of elders” and who also declared “My mother is an Oromo.”

However, given history of the mediator(s) and past TPLF behavior during negotiations /mediations, there is a need for acute awareness of the risks involved in moving into mediation with the TPLF particularly with the good professor and his team as mediator(s) for two reasons.

First, it has often been said that one major factor determining the success of third party mediation efforts is the perceived impartiality of the mediator(s). One of the Standards of Mediation Practice is that “A mediator shall avoid conduct that gives the appearance of partiality towards one of the parties.” As you will see below, the good professor has already failed to meet this standard of mediation practice and has shown partiality toward TPLF.

Second, if the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, then mediation with TPLF will get no where but will harm the opposition parties and benefit TPLF. In the seventeen years it has been ruling the Ethiopian Empire, the TPLF regime has initiated or held negotiations with various internal opposition groups and liberation fronts. All of these efforts have two things in common. First, none of them came to fruition. Secondly, they all resulted in splitting and weakening the opposition parties and presenting TPLF to the international community as a regime interested in peaceful resolution of conflicts. In all these efforts, mediation was used as a tactic by TPLF without any genuine desire at all to settle the century old political problems of the empire and only to attempt to split the opposition into 'hawks' and 'doves' and force the 'doves' faction of the splintered opposition to join one of TPLF’s PDOs or join TPLF parliament. As you will see shortly, this has happened or has been attempted in almost every mediation/negotiation between the TPLF and its oppositions.

The mediator(s)

So, who is Prof. Ephrem Isaac? Imagine this.

It is the 1940s. You are born from an Oromo mother. You are uprooted from your birth place in a small town in Oromia at about 13 years of age and taken away to Finifinnee for “education.” At the educational institution you joined, you are probably the only Oromo boy. You are forced to learn the Amhara language because it was the medium of instruction and without it you cannot communicate with others around you. You look all around you and find out that no one speaks your language. Those that you hear speaking it once in a while are ridiculed and laughed at. At such a tender age, you are not old enough to have formed and be comfortable with your identity. You grow up with the feeling that your culture and language are not as good as theirs. No mention of your people’s history in your history class while the Habasha history is glorified. Then you start believing your people have no history or you find your people’s history embarrassing. You want to be like “them.” You try as hard as you can to dissociate yourself from this “embarrassing” history, culture and language. Before you know it, you have become an assimilado. You have become more Habasha than the Habashas around you. They, the habasha masters, are so happy with your performance (academic and assimilation wise) they ship you off to America for further education. You are very grateful and want to make them happier. Once in America you “fall in love with Ethiopian [habasha] culture” all over again. To you Ethiopian costume is the Habasha shammaa, Ethiopian history is Habasha history, Ethiopian food is the Amhara dooroo wax, Ethiopian dance is the Amhara skisttaa, etc …

In short, this is the story of Prof. Ephrem Isaac as gleaned from an interview he once gave to Ethiopian Television Network (ETN) in the Amhara language and other sources. (Listen HERE)

In this interview he proudly talks about “his history” - Abyssinian history. He reminisces about Minilik’s, Yohannes’ and Tekla-haymaanot’s culture of reconciliation with each other but no mention of their crimes against the Oromo and other Southern peoples in the empire. No mention of Oromo peace loving and reconciliation traditions either. Regardless of whether his mother is Oromo or not, Prof. Ephrem’s bias against the Oromo and for the Habasha is in the open.

Even with in the Habasha society, I doubt Prof. Ephrem can be considered an unbiased mediator.

In the same interview, the good professor rains praises on Melles Zenawi as a very bright, intelligent and “libbe saffii” leader. This is a man who presented the heads of the CUDP leaders on a silver platter to Melles Zenawi. He has also been lobbying the united states congress against “H.R. 2003- Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007” (Read about it HERE)

It is one thing to move into mediations with the help of well-meaning and impartial intermediaries and quite another getting involved in one mediated by a third party like Prof. Ephrem Isaac who really is not a mediator but a messenger for one side.

Mediation/Negotiation as a tactic to split the opposition

In 1995 the ONLF split into two over negotiations with the EPRDF. The “hawks” under the leadership of Sheik Abrahim Badalla continued armed struggle, while the “doves” led by Bashir Abdi Hassan joined the EPRDF after merging with the Pro-TPLF Ethiopian Somali Democratic League (ESDL) of Abdulmejid Hussein. “TPLF succeeded in fragmenting the ONLF by engaging its more moderate members in negotiations and into the region’s patronage and spoils system.” (Read HERE)

In 1997, TPLF engaged ARDUF in negotiations. The negotiation resulted in splitting ARDUF. The “hawks” continued the struggle, while the “doves” led by Muhyadin Maftah Kedir (The Deputy Secretary General of ARDUF who was arrested in Djibouti where he was undergoing medical treatment and spent one year in TPLF prison.) signed peace agreement with EPRDF. The peace agreement died after TPLF tried to force this faction of ARDUF to merge with the pro-TPLF Afar People’s Democratic Organization (APDO).

After many failed attempts at splitting the OLF, TPLF succeeded in 2001. According to observers of Oromo politics, the 2001 OLF split traces its roots back to a letter signed by the ‘doves’ group of the OLF leadership in early 1998 accepting TPLF pre-conditions in an effort jump start negotiations. The two preconditions TPLF always insisted, and continues to insist, upon are acceptance of the TPLF constitution and renouncing armed struggle. When the “doves” signed the pre-conditions, the “hawks” opposed it and convened OLF general Assembly in “Southern Oromia.” But by then the damage has already been done. The “hawks” vs. “doves” dichotomy has already set in. It is said that OLF never recovered from that division. Then, in 2000, came another olive branch to TPLF from the “doves” in the OLF leadership in the form of “Agenda for peace.” OLF’s “Agenda for Peace” became the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and led to its final split.

Then there is Kinijit. First came the UEDP-MEDHIN (Lidetu Ayalew’s party) split from CUDP (Coalition for Unity and Democracy.) According to many observers, Lidetu was engaged in negotiations with TPLF long before the split. Eventually, Lidetu and his party joined the TPLF parliament.

A word to the wise

Obviously, mediation/negotiation is a civilized way of resolving differences. In politics mediation/negotiation can be brutal. However, that is no reason to avoid them. On the other hand, past dialogues and negotiations with TPLF achieved nothing and undermined the oppositions’ organizational unity. Conversely, they strengthened TPLF politically and diplomatically. If you are going to engage in negotiations/mediations with TPLF, obviously; (a) The need for unbiased and impartial mediator(s) is paramount; (b) the risk of exposing your group to the danger of internal splits should be upper most in your minds.

Remain united to win.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Kinjit Factions Fight It Out in a Toronto Court

It is now a public secret that Coalition for Unity and democracy party (CUDP, a.k.a. Kinijit) is coming apart at the seams. Just when it thought it has left its legal saga behind, it is now facing a fractured leadership and a divided constituency both inside and outside the country. After simmering under the surface for a long time, the conflict with in the CUDP leadership erupted soon after their release from TPLF prison. North America is now one of the battle grounds for the political/propaganda and legal fights between the Hailu Shawel group and the Berhanu Nega group. Since their arrival in North America a couple of weeks ago, they have both been utilizing every communications media they can to win the hearts and minds of the Habasha (Abyssinian) Diaspora.

The first bullet in the legal combat, however, is fired in Toronto, Canada.

Kinijit Ethiopian Cultural and Relief Organization in Toronto has filed a lawsuit against Kinijit Canada council, Kinijit for Human Rights and democracy and Kinijit Waterloo for “infringing the plaintiff’s rights in the Kinijit design trade-mark.” From the little information this blogger has, it looks like the plaintiff is on Hailu Shawel’s side while the defendants are on the side of Berhanu Nega and Co.

It is to be recalled that the Asmara Group of OLF had filed a similar lawsuit against TA-OLF.

The allegations in Kinijit lawsuit are almost exactly the same as that of the Asmara group of OLF’s against TA-OLF in a Minnesota court.

Both lawsuits allege the defendants (a) Infringed the plaintiff’s exclusive rights to use the organizations’ logo, trade-mark, etc …; (b) Passed their services off as that of the plaintiff’s and in the process confused the public; (c) Seriously hampered the plaintiff’s ability to raise funds.

Both plaintiffs plead with the courts to (a) Grant them permanent restraining orders against the defendants; (b) Award them compensatory damages; (c) Award them their legal fees arising from these disputes and other costs.

It is very interesting that both lawsuits do not allege the defendants distorted the plaintiffs’ political messages, or educated their audiences against plaintiffs' objectives. Both lawsuits are silent when it comes to whether they agree or disagree with the contents of political education provided by the two defendants to their audiences. All the lawsuits allege is that defendants impinged on their “economic advantage” and their “ability to fundraise.”

It looks like these two plaintiffs have taken politics for business, and political organizations for business firms whose primary raison d'etre is NOT political education and political struggle but fund raising and amassing money. What is the world coming to? This blogger has no sympathy for CUDP, but don't they have better things to do rather than dragging each other in the courts? Don't they see that this is a dream come true for Melles and Co.?

Read Kinijit Ethiopian Cultural and Relief Organization in Toronto’s statement of claim HERE. You may have to download the document as Kinijit seems to have removed it from their web site. Many thanks to those who informed this blogger of the removal.

Have your say!

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Asmara Group of OLF Takes TA-OLF Back to Minnesota Court

If you think you have heard the last of the OLF legal saga, then think again. The Asmara Group of OLF has re-filed its lawsuit against TA-OLF in a Minnesota court.

It is to be recalled that the same lawsuit was “dismissed without prejudice” by a Minnesota court in mid August of this year. According to legal experts, a complainant whose complaint is dismissed without prejudice has the option of re-filing the same complaint or dropping it altogether. It looks like the Asmara Group of OLF has opted for the former. That this is the case has been confirmed by this blogger’s contacts in both the Asmara Group- and TA-OLF.

After confirming the re-filing of the case, this blogger’s contact in the Asmara Group of OLF goes on to say “the case is expected to be heard in court in the next four weeks or so. While no one can tell how long it will take to receive a judgment, the [Asmara Group of] OLF expects the proceeding to be short and therefore less costly than is believed out there. This, I believe, should put to rest the minds of those who criticize this lawsuit on the basis of how much it will cost. The QC group is NOT the OLF and we are confident we shall prevail.”

The TA-OLF contact, on the other hand, writes “Once a case is filed against an individual or a legal entity, that entity is a defendant and is incumbent upon him/her to hire a lawyer, to appear in court and answer allegation(s) against him/her. Otherwise, s/he would be breaking the law of the land. [TA-]OLF is a reluctant participant in this retarded drama with Shanee Qinijjit [Asmara Group.] As has been said in [TA-] OLF’s press release on this matter in August 2007, the ultimate judge of this case is the Oromo people for whose judgment we are willing to wait patiently. I am not sure what the rush is for on Shanee Qinijjit’s side.”

In an effort to help his readers understand the reasoning that went in to conceiving, initiating and defending this case, this blogger has drafted and sent the following questions to both contacts.

  1. What do you think your group will gain or lose for being a party to this unpopular lawsuit? Financially, politically, …
  2. What do you think your group will gain if it wins this case? Financially, politically, …
  3. What do you think your group will lose if it loses this case? Financially, politically, …
  4. You both have members all over the USA. If you win this case in Minnesota, does that mean ONLY your group can operate as OLF just in MN or all over the USA?
  5. As you know, other parts of the world have their own separate court systems. Whatever the judge rules in MN, it is almost certain that Europe, Canada, Asia, Africa, etc … will not enforce it. To the plaintiffs, I ask: Do you plan to file complaints in other parts of the world as well? To the defendants, I ask: would you defend such cases in other parts of the world as well?
  6. How much have you spent so far on lawyers and where did that money come from?
  7. Had you not been engaged in this court case, what would you have used the financial and other resources you are currently expending on this lawsuit for?
Stay tuned for their answers. That is, if they respond.

Do you have any questions, or advice for one or both of the groups? If you do, please have your say.



View blog authority