By Seifu Adem
Politics and teaching are different professions. In politics you can act; in teaching you perform. Questions are handled differently in politics and teaching.
In politics you can answer questions if you have answers and think doing so will advance your policy or politics. But you dodge them if you don’t have the answers, or have them but think answering them will cost you something.
But in teaching you are expected to answer all questions. Even if a teacher doesn’t know the answer, he/she should be honest about it and promise to come up with the answers next time. But this costs dearly in politics.
On Al-Jazeera’s UpFront, Lencho Bati performed well over all. He did a good job by explaining how Ethiopian government is controlled byTigrean minority group although it was brought up by Mehdi Hassen. Lencho also hammered Getachew on the 100% parliamentary seat and the narrowing of political space for opposition parties in Ethiopia. He also went further by pointing out that human rights organizations have been publishing reports about the plights of Oromo for the last 25 years. On these points Lencho approached the questions politically.
However, Lencho made a terrible mistake when he talked about ODF and OLF. As a politician, he should have dodged these questions. He shouldn’t have spend that much time to tell Getachew Reda that his party accepts the Constitution, it broke up with the “terrorist” OLF, and the government told its president, Lencho Lata, to leave the country two days after his arrival. This kind of talk are good when you talk to diplomats who try to mediate ODF and EPRDF, if there are any, not the media. Here, I think Lencho approached these questions as a teacher.
On the other hand, Getachew Reda lost the debate terribly. He didn’t answer any of the questions he was asked in a way that help his government politically. He just practiced his insanity, ignorance, and arrogance. In a way that defies logic, he seemed to argue that you can win 100% parliamentary seat in democracy.
But Getachew scored a point against Lencho by pushing him to talk about his own party, ODF. When the issue as big as #OromoProtests is the main agenda of the discussion, it doesn’t make any sense to talk about a party. As the saying goes, on some issues, “never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” That is what Getachew Reda did to Lencho.
But Oromo people are the winners in the debate because of Mehdi Hassen; through his questions, he drew international community’s attention to more salient issues.
Lesson to be taken: in politics some questions are answered, others are dodged. #OromoProtest and people’s cause is always bigger than the interest of a single political party.
June 27, 2016
Hope you’re well. Let me know if you need anything else to feature this heated debate on UpFront.
For Immediate Use
Ethiopia’s Communications minister, Getachew Reda, and the Oromo Democratic Front’s Lencho Bati speak with ‘UpFront’:
- Reda says, “The government is more than ready to welcome ODF” into Ethiopia and “I don’t see any problem for [ODF] to come here”
- Claims that Oromo opposition groups, like the ODF and the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) “have never done anything for the Oromo people”
- Denies the claims of a recent HRW report on the government’s brutal crackdown on Oromo protests across the country: “Human Rights Watch is not interested in the reality on the ground”…“They just pluck their numbers out of thin air”
- Bati expresses worry if the government refuses to meet the demands of the Oromo protesters: “They must open the political space, otherwise Ethiopia is sitting on a time bomb”
In an interview with Al Jazeera English’s current affairs show, UpFront, Getachew Reda, Ethiopia’s Government Communication Affairs minister and an aide to the Prime Minister, said he welcomes the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) to come back to the country.
“I don’t see any problem for [ODF] to come here,” Reda told UpFront host Mehdi Hasan.
Also joining the show was Lencho Bati, a former Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) spokesperson and a current executive committee member of the ODF, who pushed Reda to confirm the government’s willingness to negotiate: “Do you publicly today declare that the government is ready to welcome ODF to the country to participate in peaceful political struggle?” asked Bati.
“The government is more than ready to welcome ODF,” Reda responded. “As long as ODF breaks its ties with the terrorist organisation called OLF.”
Reda, however, went on to express his criticism of Oromo opposition groups.
“The problem with these people… not just ODF, but the OLF… They have never done anything for the Oromo people,” he said.
Reda also responded to a recently released Human Rights Watch report entitled, “Such a Brutal Crackdown: Killings and Arrests in Response to Ethiopia’s Oromo Protests.” The report claims at least 400 people have been killed, and thousands detained, since protests broke out across Ethiopia in November 2015.
“Human Rights Watch is not interested in the reality on the ground, nor does it have any representative here on the ground,” Reda said. “More often than not, they just pluck their numbers out of thin air.”
During the debate, Bati warned that the government’s failure to address Oromo grievances could be disastrous.
“They must open the political space,” he said. “Otherwise Ethiopia is sitting on a time bomb.”
Watch and embed the 11-minute debate at:
Kevin Kriedemann & Joy Sapieka
AL JAZEERA MEDIA NETWORK