October 22, 2009

Rejection of self-determination: Medrek's weak point! (Fayyis Oromia)

Rejection of self-determination: Medrek's weak point!

By Fayyis Oromia

MEDREK (The Forum for Democracy and Dialogue – FDD) is not bad compromise alliance for the involved political organizations representing most of the nations in the empire. It can be a good alternative to replace the Weyane regime. The only weak point, where the Weyane can capitalize on, is Medrek’s stand on the right of nations to self-determination. Ironically, Medrek has in the introductory part of its Mini-Political-Program (click here to get the Amharic version – Ethiomedia.com) that it strives to accept and respect all human rights, which are part and parcel of the UN Charter and have been ratified by the government of Ethiopia. But, why did it exclude this important right of nations?

It was always clear that all Abesha politicians, who do want to act as popes of democracy, keep silent when it comes to the right of nations to self-determination, which is part of the democracy they all talk about. Is there any half-baked democracy? Their version of democracy includes everything, which helps them to keep the empire intact, but not self-determination of nations and peoples. To the clarity of my opinion, let me quote here what “self-determination” is all about, in short, from the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) website.

All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

What is Self-determination?
Essentially, the right to self-determination is the right of a people to determine its own destiny. In particular, the principle allows a people to choose its own political status and to determine its own form of economic, cultural and social development. Exercise of this right can result in a variety of different outcomes ranging from political independence through to full integration within a state. The importance lies in the right of choice, so that the outcome of a people’s choice should not affect the existence of the right to make a choice. In practice, however, the possible outcome of an exercise of self-determination will often determine the attitude of governments towards the actual claim by a people or nation. Thus, while claims to cultural autonomy may be more readily recognized by states, claims to independence are more likely to be rejected by them. Nevertheless, the right to self-determination is recognized in international law as a right of process (not of outcome) belonging to peoples and not to states or governments.

The preferred outcome of an exercise of the right to self-determination varies greatly among the members of the UNPO. For some, the only acceptable outcome is full political independence. This is particularly true of occupied or colonized nations. For others, the goal is a degree of political, cultural and economic autonomy, sometimes in the form of a federal relationship. For others yet, the right to live on and manage a people’s traditional lands free of external interference and incursion is the essential aim of a struggle for self-determination.

Self-determination in International Law
The principle of self-determination is prominently embodied in Article I of the Charter of the United Nations. Earlier, it was explicitly embraced by US President Woodrow Wilson, by Lenin and others, and became the guiding principle for the reconstruction of Europe following World War I. The principle was incorporated into the 1941 Atlantic Charter and the Dumbarton Oaks proposals which evolved into the United Nations Charter. Its inclusion in the UN Charter marks the universal recognition of the principle as fundamental to the maintenance of friendly relations and peace among states. It is recognized as a right of all peoples in the first article common to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which both entered into force in 1976. (1), Paragraph 1 of this Article provides:

All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

The right to self-determination of peoples is recognized in many other international and regional instruments, including the Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation Among States adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1970, (2), the Helsinki Final Act adopted by the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) in 1975, (3), the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights of 1981, (4), the CSCE Charter of Paris for a New Europe adopted in 1990, (5), and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of 1993. (6), It has been affirmed by the International Court of Justice in the Namibia case (7), the Western Sahara case (8), and the East Timor case (9), in which its erga omnes character was confirmed. Furthermore, the scope and content of the right to self-determination has been elaborated upon by the UN Human Rights Committee (10), and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (11), and numerous leading international jurists.

That the right to self-determination is part of so-called hard law has been affirmed also by the International Meeting of Experts for the Elucidation of the Concepts of Rights of Peoples brought together by UNESCO from 1985 to 1991, (12), it came to the conclusion that:

(1) peoples’ rights are recognized in international law;
(2) the list of such rights is not very clear, but also that
(3) hard law does in any event include the right to self-determination and the right to existence, in the sense of the Genocide Convention.

The inclusion of the right to self-determination in the International Covenants on Human Rights and in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, referred to above, emphasizes that self-determination is an integral part of human rights law which has a universal application. At the same time, it is recognized that compliance with the right of self-determination is a fundamental condition for the enjoyment of other human rights and fundamental freedoms, be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural.

The concept of self-determination is a very powerful one. As Wolfgang Danspeckgruber put it: “No other concept is as powerful, visceral, emotional, unruly, as steep in creating aspirations and hopes as self-determination.” It evokes emotions, expectations and fears which often lead to conflict and bloodshed. Some experts argued that the title holders should be or are limited in international law. Others believed in the need to limit the possible outcome for all or categories of title holders. Ultimately, the best approach is to view the right to self-determination in its broad sense, as a process providing a wide range of possible outcomes dependent on the situations, needs, interests and conditions of concerned parties. The principle and fundamental right to self-determination of all peoples is firmly established in international law.""

Oromo Federalist Parties in Medrek Lost the Middle Position
So, if Medrek claims to accept and respect international law, which is ratified by Ethiopia and why, in this case of the right to self-determination, which has even been acknowledged by the Weyane regime, has Medrek opted to the rejection? Can this really bring the heartily support from the oppressed nations, such as Oromo and others, for Medrek? Maybe just the hatred against Weyane might persuade the people to vote for Medrek, but is that a long lasting support to its political programme?

Actually, self-determination is the middle position for both forces of unconditional unity and fronts of unconditional independence. It simply suggests: let the concerned public decide in referendum, instead of imposing the two extreme positions (’unconditional unity’ and ‘unconditional independence’) on the peoples. I think here Oromo freedom fighters have already done their homework in the last ten years by abandoning their far left position of demanding ‘unconditional independence’ and opting for the self-determination, whereas Amhara democratic forces still pray their far right mantra of ‘unconditional unity’.

In Medrek it should have been the Amhara democratic forces, such as UDJ, which should have moved from their far right position to the middle position of accepting a ‘union based on self-determination’. Paradoxically, it is the federalist Oromo parties that have abandoned the middle position that they should have insisted on, and now, they have moved to the far right position of Amharas. Is this good compromise? From Oromo point of view, it is just equal to a surrender, not an optimal compromise. In my last article, I just said Medrek was the hitherto good compromise solution, but not optimal. The optimal compromise solution is that which brings both sides of far positions (far right ‘unconditional unity’, and far left ‘unconditional independence’) to the middle position aka self-determination.

If we look at the politics of the empire very exactly, the main conflict areas are not on the issues, such as democracy, individual freedom, justice, equality, human right, peace, good governance, rule of law, development. The actual difference the Empire’s political elites do have is only on the following three issues:

- type of unity (’unconditional unity’ Vs ‘conditional union’)
- type of federation (kilil-federation Vs xeqilaigizat-federation)
- type of method to be used for the decision on the above two (force Vs consensus Vs referendum)!

*Conservative Amharas like AEUP say ‘unconditional unity’ with xeqilaigizat-federation by all means.
*Liberal Amharas like UDJ try ‘unconditional unity’ with xeqilaigizat-federation per polity’s consensus.
*Weyane/TPLF wants ‘unconditional unity’ with fake kilil-federation by force.
*Medrek tries ‘unconditional unity’ with true kilil-federation per polity’s consensus aka per predetermination.
*AFD will try ‘conditional union’ (union based on free will) with true kilil-federation per public’s referendum aka per self-determination.
*ULFO member organizations want to achieve ‘unconditional independence’ of Oromia by all means.

As far as the above three very important criteria are concerned, UDJ is not yet true part of Medrek! Both of them are on the same page regarding the type of unity and the type of method, but they do differ in the type of federation. So, it is right to classify UDJ separately as done above. Then, the question to be answered is: which one is the legitimate regarding the interest of the public at large? I think firstly AFD’s position as an optimal compromise solution, and secondly, Medrek’s as an unfair compromise solution!

If AFD’s optimal position is hard to swallow for Abeshas at the moment, Medrek is the good compromise they can live with and for Oromos, of course, Medrek’s position is the minimum we can accept. Let’s now live with it temporarily since Amhara’s wish of ‘Ethiopian unity’ and Amharinya as the federal language as well as Oromo’s desire of Oromian autonomy and Afaan Oromo as the federal language are accepted and respected. It is actually good for uniting most of the opposition groups at home to forge an alliance against Weyane. For Oromo parties, it can be a good tactical move, but not a lasting strategical solution for the complex problem of the empire. The main political conflict at home seems now to be consolidating into a struggle between kilil-federalists and xeqilaigizat-federalists; it is good news to hear/read that both federalists in the opposition have started to work together like in Medrek against the fascist Weyane. So, Medrek is a good start for coming together of the opposition, but for the optimal solution to be realized the lasting common denominator of the opposition must be self-determination of nations. Otherwise, it will be seen in the near future that Weyane will start to capitalize on this weak point of Medrek and will try to rally oppressed nations, including Oromo, behind its puppet organizations like OPDO!

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