Semayawi Party – the Newest Opposition Sensation – Raises New Hopes


Seattle is one of the hotspots of American cities that attract Ethiopian opposition groups.
For instance, the latest visitor to Seattle was Yilkal Getnet, chairperson of Semayawi Party, the newest and youngest opposition sensation that has raised the hopes of the Ethiopian people for change.
Semayawi Party has also sparked questions like will it succeed in the place where others failed? Will it endure, and eventually remove the hopelessly corrupt and ruthless TPLF/EPRDF regime?
Answers may be mixed but one glaring credit to Semayawi Party is that its defiant actions have helped wake up the opposition party Medrek from its deep sleep. It was Semayawi Party that held an opposition rally in Addis Ababa, despite ruling party threats of arrests and beatings. It was also Semayawi Party that travelled to Benishangul Gumuz to show support to those who were being uprooted from their homes because of their Amhara ethnicity. It was a wake-up call for others.
There are marked differences between Semayawi Party and the other leading opposition party known closely to the Diaspora, and that is Medrek.
One difference is while Medrek is led by veterans of the non-violent form of struggle during EPRDF’s 23 years of rule, Semayawi is a new comer that was born out of the womb of Andinet, which until recently was a Medrek founding member. And Semayawi is almost exclusively a youth organization, a major asset given that 70 percent of the Ethiopian population is under 35 years of age.
The toddling Semayawi Party has already won the endorsement of Alemayehu Gebremariam, a prominent political science professor at University of California in St. Bernadino. “I’ve thrown my trust behind Semayawi Party because I believe that they are capable to bring about the desired political change in Ethiopia,” Almariam said, when he addressed Seattle on January 12.
For the young Semayawi Party, it was an accolade that came at the right time and was rare among other opposition parties.
To the Ethiopian Diaspora, specially to Seattle, Semayawi Party was embraced as a force promising to effect change. This is felt, among others, when the fearless Yilkal wisely addressed some thorny issues such as Emperor Menelik as well as the merits of a non-violent form of struggle as opposed to the destructive armed struggle which, even if won, favors the coming to power of an armed group, and hence the vicious cycle of dictatorship.
The Seattle audience rewarded Semayawi Party by raising $14,500 right away, and this was a generous amount given that it was Semayawi’s first-ever visit to North America, and yet the outcome has been better than what Medrek had experienced in Seattle.
Medrek’s last delegation consisting of veterans Seeye Abraha and Merera Gudina didn’t leave a good taste in the mouth of the Diaspora opposition. The time coincided with the death of the tyrant Meles Zenawi. So, Medrek’s delegate Seeye seized the moment and lectured about how Meles was respected by the Ethiopian people.
“When the body of Meles arrived at Bole Airport at night,” Seeye said, “the residents of Addis Ababa came out en masse, wailed in public, and despite a heavy downpour, escorted the coffin. By the time they got to the palace, it was 2:00AM.”
Seeye’s remarks raised the eyebrows of the audience. He didn’t stop there either, and continued to pour lavish words of praise over the ruthless tyrant who reduced Ethiopia to a landlocked nation that he successfully tormented along ethnic lines.
“The Ethiopian people have relatively prospered during EPRDF’s peace-time rule of over 20 years,” Seeye said, without blinking his eyes.
Is this really Seeye Abraha or Shimelis Kemal? The audience was confused. He said much more but what’s already mentioned is suffice to give the reader a clue.
Merera Gudina, long known for his incisive remarks against the EPRDF regime, also joined the Seeye chorus, and looked timid and subdued.
“We don’t go by the interest of the Ethiopian Diaspora,” Merera said. He told the audience in Amharic: “Benante Wuha Lik anihedim; Ager Bet Balew Wuha Lik Enjee!” (በእናንተ ውሃ ልክ እንሄድም፣ አገር ቤት ባለው ውሃ ልክ እንጂ!)
The message was clear. It is ‘We don’t listen to you.’ If so, why the trouble of coming to the Diaspora?
It was very clear Medrek, or in Seeye’s case Andinet, was in big trouble. Seeye was much more sounding like EPRDF I wonder how his former comrades in the ruling party failed to roll out a Red Carpet upon his arrival at Bole Airport.
But wait? Hasn’t he already quit Andinet for a high-paying job with the UN Peacekeeping force? [The Americans had reportedly asked Meles if there was a problem hiring Seeye for the job. Meles said he had no problem. Some say Seeye’s eulogy, despite his suffering in prison for years, was a tribute for Meles].
Medrek had sent two delegations to America. Seeye and Merera to the West Coast, which was a disaster. Medrek’s image was saved thanks to the accomplishments by the charismatic Temesgen Zewde of Andinet and Gebru Asrat of Arena as Medrek’s East Coast delegates. This writer was in Washington, DC as well when the two veterans addressed the audience which was very much appreciative of the way how Temesgen and Gebru addressed key national issues as ‘opposition leaders.’
Today Andinet has pulled itself out of Medrek, and with the return of Engineer Gizachew Shiferaw as chairperson of the party, one new question everyone asking is “Again?”. Well, will Gizachew be a comformist to the decadent EPRDF rule, or a born-again defiant figure in the face of EPRDF ruthlessness? Time will tell.For now, it looks like Semayawi Party has had an auspicious moment in North America. Kudos to the youth!

Posted by Alemayehu Tibebu
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