The Enduring Legacy of May 15th (Ginbot 7)
15 May 2010
May 15th 2005 will forever be remembered in Ethiopian history as a shining moment in the nascent struggle for democracy in Ethiopia. It was a day millions of Ethiopians (90 percent of registered voters) peacefully brought down the one–party ethnic dictatorship of the Tigrai People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) but, on the eve of Election Day, Meles Zenawi violently changed the election outcome.
The vast majority of Ethiopians who had given the rebel group the benefit of the doubt since 1991 had become weary of the growing poverty, mass unemployment and the hegemonic power of a tiny minority over Ethiopia’s diverse population.
In its 15 years in power, the TPLF’s policies and administration was an abject failure that had antagonized broad sections of the population and lost the regime whatever scant legitimacy it had in the eyes of the Ethiopian people.
The economic monopoly, military domination and brutal suppression of the rights of the majority of the Ethiopian people by the TPLF had contributed to widespread resentments.
The resentment was due to the fact that a small group of Tigrians were benefiting significantly from their dominant political and economic position, in proportion to their numbers and their region’s contribution, thus giving them unfair advantage over the control of the country’s resources.
For instance, on the political and administrative front, key ministerial and non-ministerial positions within the federal government have become the exclusive reserves of ethnic Tigrians. Like wise, the army’s top brass is filled with generals and high-ranking officers from the same ethnic group. As a recent study by Ginbot 7 into the army’s ethnic composition showed 96.5 % of the top military generals are Tigrians.
The May 15, 2005 election was meant to serve as a public relations stunt for Meles Zenawi to further cultivate his image as a progressive democrat and earn his regime glory and increased foreign aid. For Ethiopians, it was the opportunity they have been waiting for to send a clear message to the TPLF that Ethiopians are badly in need of democratic change and they are ready to make it happen.
The people spoke in one voice and decapitated the government by voting out the majority of the senior officials of the regime. In Addis Ababa, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) won all the contested 23 seats for the federal parliament and 137 of the 138 City Council seats, hence, obliterating the regime’s claim of legitimacy as the ultimate authority over Ethiopian affairs.
The stinging loss, obviously, sent shockwaves through the TPLF. A jittery and panicky Meles Zenawi, resorted to desperate and diabolical waves of atrocities, incarcerations of political activists and their supporters regardless of age, gender and ethnicity. The
TPLF’s indiscriminate acts of repression of the entire population further propelled mass opposition to the level unheard of in Ethiopian history.
The overall consequences of the systematic emasculation of the non-violent political opposition by the TPLF resulted in unleashing a new wave of anti-TPLF backlash that has engulfed practically all sectors of the society. The unanimous view being that TPLF’s time is up.
The enduring legacy of May 15 is that there is no going back to things as they were before 2005. There is a profound desire for democratic change among the Ethiopian public, and no amount of repression is going to undo the self-evident truth that Zenawi’s regime has lost its “mandate to rule” Ethiopia.
Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy
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