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NewsEZEMA's founders jump ship

EZEMA’s founders jump ship

 How Internal Rifts and External Pressures Sank Ethiopia’s New Party

The once promising Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice Party (commonly known as EZEMA) appears adrift in a sea of political turmoil. On May 25, 2023, seven of EZEMA’s founders jumped ship, resigning from the four-year-old party they had worked to build.

EZEMA was established in 2019, merging political groups across districts to “develop a political system based on citizenship.” But the vision of its founders has seemingly capsized.

“We fought to reach the same stance along the way,” the resigned members said, “despite our efforts to expand the political playground, it could not be fixed due to various internal and external reasons.”

The split comes ten months after Berhanu Nega and Yohannes Mekonen were elected leader and deputy leader. Minor differences with the new leaders, the members hoped, would “gradually close over time.”

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Instead, “disagreements reach[ed] to the point where [they] can no longer work together.” They accuse leaders of cozying up to the regime, rather than championing the people. EZEMA was to differ from the former government that “left scars passed down generations,” but “the will to bring the party back on track has not reached its goal.”

First to bail was Andualem Arage, a founder and ex-deputy leader. After losing to Berhanu, Andualem decried his “too much support” for the ruling Prosperity Party and EZEMA’s “confused” ideology.

Though initially conciliatory, saying “Democracy entails not only celebrating victory but also gracefully accepting defeat,”

Andualem signaled cracks widening into chasms.

Everyone could tell that there was a massive crackdown on the candidates competing for leadership. This is especially true on the eve of the election, it was easy to see the disparities between Andualem and Berhanu. The media strongly criticised their reactions to one another. Different media sectors disclosed a brief impression of where the party was headed to.”

Soon, the seven other founders resigned, saying the vision had gone overboard. Forty-one more district members followed, calling the leadership incompetent. But the executive committee claimed “no factions,” dismissing the resigned as “expendable” and “cowards” who “fail[ed] to complete daily responsibilities.”

“Everyone is expendable,” said Wassyehun Tesefaye, “There is no faction in the party. Those who left have left the areas from which they were represented from”

EZEMA aimed for “citizenship-based politics” and “meaningful” opposition. But Berhanu, its leader, serves in the Prosperity cabinet. While some objected his appointment and close relations with the ruling party, the assembly approved cooperating with the ruling party.

The party called a general assembly and debated whether or not to accept the viewpoint. The decision was made even though several members disagreed with the plan but later acknowledged the assembly’s decision.

In the end, EZEMA’s once bright future has become shrouded in uncertainty as the party struggles to maintain its integrity and vision. The party’s founders had envisioned a political system based on citizenship, but internal disagreements and external pressures have caused rifts that may be irreparable.

While there are those who still believe in the party’s potential to bring meaningful change to Ethiopian politics, it remains unclear whether EZEMA can overcome its current challenges and regain its footing. As the party navigates these turbulent waters, its supporters and critics alike will be watching closely to see what lies ahead.

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Video from Enat Bank Youtube Channel.

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