by Muluken Gebeyew
This is a summarised English account of four parts article I wrote in Amharic (one of Ethiopian language) for people who don’t read Amharic on what should I think to be taken in to account for successful political transition period to benefit all or most Ethiopians.
Ethiopia is undergoing a political transition period in the last one year following a peaceful popular struggle against the 27 years brutal and dictatorial TPLF (Tigry People’s Liberation Front) led EPRDF (Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front) regime. Although the struggle took decades to reach to its final phase, the reform oriented new leaders emerged with in regime in the last 2 years who managed successfully to assume the leadership position of the regime though still the regime that ruled Ethiopians still exist. These reform oriented new leaders have taken the responsibility to lead the political transition period without forming a transitional government comprising of all oppositions political parties or stakeholders despite a call for such. As the new leadership made very bold promises in the early days to the Ethiopian people to transform the country towards democratic society and they have taken the popular measures which needed to be done at the start of every transition ( for e.g. releasing political prisoners, inviting opposition political parties, allowing relative media freedom etc), the public have given them support (not letgimacy) to “led” the transition period.
As this reform oriented transitional leaders are still part and parcel of the regime that brutally ruled the country and their failure to form all stakeholders transitional government, they are not able to process the transition process in the speed the public demand as desired. Although there are great visionary leaders among these leadership, they haven’t clearly spelled out transitional road map. They have been also to some extent hijacked by some former banned ethnic based political parties and activists who are allowed to exercise in the country without any legal restraint or orderly fashion. These created tension as this new groups are engaged in hateful, ethnic oriented media sensational claims and terrorizing actions in different part of our country which resulted in several death, displacement of people which don’t belong to certain ethnic members. Most of these actors were part of 70’s political culture who were convinced on oppression of one by others, reinvented themselves with Ethnic based political parties to achieve their ill fated desire to assume power through intimidation, fear and coercion. The transitional period leaders are confused and flag blustered by the agenda of this groups. They chose to engage in competitive mood for setting or meeting agenda set out by this groups instead of leading the transition. . As result, the country is once again on the cross road.
The transitional leaders were expected to facilitate a peaceful national reconciliation process among the people and political parties ( like the South Africa post apartheid period) on the crimes committed in the last half century on Ethiopian people to close the past chapter. The victims and perpetrators to forgive, reconcile and live in a country with no return to the past habit. Unfortunately, this must do top priority agenda haven’t been yet addressed. This failure have resulted further unwanted animosity, tension, displacement among our people during this transition period in the last 11 months mostly orchestrated by the hateful ethnic propaganda from the new comers with simultaneous synergic action of the old TPLF guard who are sought to account for the crime they committed on Ethiopians people in the last 27 years. This could further darken the fate of the transition if the General Election is to go a head as planned as the new comers plan to fuel further ethnic tension based hate speech and campaign focused on people difference, false and exaggerated historical accounts instead of what kind of political or economic policies that will change the life of Ethiopians.
So what are the best measures that will help this transition to success?
Though the political transition has been derelict from its path, there is still time to bring it back to right course provided that all the stakeholders come to realize the big picture and prepared to do their share.
The fundamental truth for all stakeholders should acknowledge and work is the realization that people should be treated as an Ethiopian citizens with fundamental individual human rights respected and not to be defined and categorised based on their ethnicity as if they are a heard of cattle. The stakeholders and the people have to be aware of there are opportunist groups who have well prepared strategies to hoodwink the people struggle to change it to ethnic based balkanization to return back to TPLF kind era, mainly to achieve their hidden aim of personal political ego, power, wealth rather than to help the people they claim represent for. They refuse or fight against political society based on citizenry and individual rights. In order to achieve their ill fated aim, these groups wouldn’t stop division only by ethnicity but region and village they hail from. They have secessionist agenda to declare independent country based on the ethnic enclave and map the TPLF regime draw for them. This opportunist ethnic agenda followers do not realise that people also differ in religion, gender, ability, age, body size, height wealth etc in which case by their logic all this can be basis to form a new a country or secession from Ethiopia, which is illogical.
Ethiopia is a rich country of people with different language, culture, custom, religion which we inherited from our forefathers. We can further preserve and develop these for better but we make sure that this difference shouldn’t be a source of our conflict or basis to form or assume power. If we form a society where individual human right is respected through independent judiciary, police, army, election board, free election, independent mass media and etc, most of the social ill of the people which resulted in subjection of oppression for decades can be solved. Citizenship-based politics which also respect our difference and guarantee our individual freedom will be an essential political necessity for the our multi ethnic, religious and cultural country.
In order to achieve successful political transition, the leaders need to have and explain to the public a clear and bold Road map. The measures they have been taking shouldn’t be based on the willingness of the top leader or trouble shooting for the agenda the new comers give them. They have to come out from this confusion and quagmire they are in competing with new comers to get political support for post transition public support. They should work with stakeholders and the people to focus on the big picture of peaceful national reconciliation among people and political parties, dismantle the divide and rule policy of the TPLF poisonous system and then ensure we can reform what is to follow.
Following the national reconciliation and people to people negotiation or discussion, we can easily identify the policies and laws that were put up on us by the former regime to divide, weaken us and easily to be ruled by ethnic and opportunist dictators.
One of the legal frame work TPLF led regime enforced up on us is the country’s Constitution which was adopted as ruling means by TPLF which can not serve as the supreme law of the land to serve for generations. By thoroughly examining it, we can identify and rectify those articles which would pose us for future problems that create rift among ourselves. Or we can adopt a new Constitution which should be discussed and ratified by the Ethiopian people.
Following this, the regional boundaries that are drawn by TPLF for divide and rule purpose which created pseudo identities will be abandoned. We can build a state structure of federal nature that would promote people to people relation, economic development and growth.
All the stakeholders, media, and the leaders of the reform should make several discussion and meeting with all parts of people with aim to dismantle ethnic based political parties which are segregationists, tribal and aim to force its wish against other fellow human being. We can by law forbid such association as it is divisive, anti-people and create tensions among Ethiopian people.
We can build a state institution (like a Minstery office ) that can promote and preserve our culture, language, folklore, customs etc of every part of Ethiopian in way that would benefit Ethiopians. This shouldn’t be the basis to form a fence and wall among ourselves.
We can follow presidential system of government for a country like us where all citizens will have direct vote to elect their leaders, governors and mayors. We need to build and expand different regional towns and cities including the federal government representation in each cities instead of accumulating everything in the capital city of Addis Ababa. This would reduce the tensions in Addis Ababa and also give opportunity to other cities to grow and develop.
It is also good to discuss our fear and potential future risk as discussing such will enable to combat our fear and examine the substance that entails such risk. As the opportunist ethnic politicians are dominating the agenda and the transitional “reform leaders” are confused by them and preferred not to combat their illegality, such groups have created fear of secession of regions as independent country.
Lets assume the region Oromia which is created by TPLF in the last 25 years secede from the rest of Ethiopia and form independent country based on the map or boundary the TPLF artificially drawn to fulfil its oppressive regime. (You can also assume another region to secede and form a new country like Amharaia, Ogadenia etc).
The artificial map drawn by the TPLF for these regions will be the source of conflict with neighbouring regions as the map is not true representative or factual. Oromia will be in war with Ethio-Somlai region on its 1000km boundary, Oromia will be on war with Amhara region or country on the north due to these disputed territories, the same in the South and West with Southern people nations. There are more than 15 millions non ethnic Oromo Ethiopians in Oromia whom either they will be treated as second class citizens or leave the country or deported. This is definite war issue as most people were born, raised and lived their for many generations.
The Ethiopian people are mostly mixed heritage, related by blood. It is difficult to say any one “I am pure Oromo or Amhara” specially in central Ethiopia, the same in Northern Ethiopia among Amhara and Tigre people, for Ethiopia Somali and Eastern Oromo people. The outcome will be eventual unending war that resembles that of Somalia, Rwanda, Yemen, Yugoslavia etc. Those opportunists who are pushing for such will not entertain this but runaway to USA, Canada, Europe or Australia where they have a passport or citizenry. It is going to be the mass as usual that will be on fire. So it is important all Ethiopians know this fact and clearly discuss their fear in which case it will reveal the opportunist ethnic politicians aim.
The ethnic enclave politicians have made well studied strategies to achieve either or agenda. If it happens that the people will not go for their secessions agenda, they will use the ethnic political ambition against others as being the next rulers in Ethiopia as it is “our turn” with claim that as the Amahars’ had such historically and the Tigray’s had the last 27 years. The opportunist are troubling the new transitional leaders with several demands, trapping them and dominated the political agenda. This is clearly what is happening in the media and public gathering run by the so called activists and ethnic political propagandists.
So the Ethiopian people and different stakeholders of this transition have to be patient, smart and work together to jump this obstacles and pit holes on the road towards successful political transition.
As our country is currently on cross road, we have to take measured, smart and well thought measures in the next few months as its implication will affect many years to come. Decisions we make should be inclusive, less divisive, democratic, reconciling, promote good relation among people and specially not to fall in the trap towards the divide and rule tactic . As per the reknown veteran professor Mesfin Wolde mariam said in his book, we shouldn’t allow to continue the usual habit of Ethiopian people holding grudges while being suppressed and when time is ready to cooperate to dismantle the ruling regime but return back to home without new regime that will guarantee it will not subject them again to another suppression.
A well known young Ethiopian politician also raised an important issue in regard to the need to change the political culture of those who are on power and those who are in opposition as their political traditions of not flexible and not up to the people’s demand or quest. Some are engaged in personal ego, power, wealth and dominance instead of focus on the people’s quest. This bad political culture have to start to change.
If we analyse in simplistic way, things can be much more clearer. Either through the will of God or fate of history, we are born or created in country called Ethiopia. Most countries in the world are made through generations of people movement or migration, war that defined their boundary and identity. Ethiopia is not exception from such facts. We can learn from history but not live in past history. When you study society’s development and historical facts, and specially the last 50-100 years, people/political parties/country can sit, negotiate peacefully and make great difference in their life for good and benefit from such. We can witness this from European countries which had been under difficult two world war in the last one 100 years and defined their future through peaceful means.
Ethiopia is a home for all its citizen. It should serve as mother for all of us equally, some should not be left out, or Ethiopia be as their step mother. We can all ensure equal under the law when we form a society and government which is based on fundamental individual human rights. If we fall towards our difference in terms of language, ethnicity and culture as means of rift, superiority or division; we will lose the country we inherited from our forefathers (despite they managed setting as side the oppression experience among themselves to do such for us). Our home will be taken by the other superior force. We will fail to hand over our country to future generation.
So What are the solutions expected during this political transition?
As I have stated firmly above, a society and government system based on citizenship would serve our multi-cultured, ethnic and religious country better than other system. Such system can help us to benefit from our differences for good instead of division.
Every Ethiopian citizen should feel as right citizen when s/he is able to move and live in any part of the country and earn her/his means through lawful means without any subjection to the origin of ethnicity. In order to realize this right, the measures we take during this political transitions really matters.
I emphasis here what have been stated as above and the need for significant focus to be paid by the transitional leaders and all stakeholders.
Though I have elaborated most of the measure that need be taken during this transition period in this article above, I have listed them here as concluding remark.
- As the current leaders of this political transition are part and parcel of the former oppressive regime which risks them to hinder from making decisive and transformative decisions; they need support from all rounded, well learned elders, intellectuals who would promote what is best for our country and people. They should also consult and report to a council made of different political parties and stakeholders in the country.
- There is an urgent and must do priority that National Reconciliation and people to people discussion in our country to face the past 50 years of misdeed and crimes, so we can close the past chapter and define common future without the past ill.
- The root cause of the suffering of our country in the last 27 years are the divide and rule policy and related TPLF led regime imposed political sanctions which should necessarily be dismantled.
- The Constitution which is adopted by TPLF for its divide and rule polices, forced up on us for as legitimate Supreme Law need to be scrutinized, and Articles that will create problem should be removed ;If necessary we should ratify a new Constitution that the whole public fully participated with.
- Following good detailed consultation with people and stakeholders, we need to ban organising political party based on ethnicity as it is segregationist, divisive and prone for suppressing one against other.
- Those who are at the responsibility of running the country should fulfil their responsibility to maintain law and order in the country. Those opportunist criminals and bandits who carry weapon and terrorize the public in the name of ethnic army. Those who preach hate, division and monger war in their media need to be accounted as well.
- We need to entertain any facilitate different political opinions and position of any colour as long as no hate, or division and war agitating that would risk the country to war and the people in to significant distress.
- Those on power either in the regional or federal states should know that they are not legitimate leaders voted by the people as they were put there under shambolic election organised by the previous regime which was not representative. Their role at present is engage in peaceful transition of the political process and refrain from taking divisive actions, propaganda, hidden or overt political agenda that displace and hurt the country and the people or citizens of our country. Those who do such should be accounted and face the full force of the law.
- Although TPLF’s old guards and cadres take the lion share in TPLF led regime in the lat 27 years, many with in EPRDF and other affiliated political parties committed several crimes and should be equally accounted and face the full force of justice.
- The people of Tigray should be part and parcel of the reform and transition and they should play pivotal role in the process for successful transition
- Those political governmental appointments given by the current transition leaders should be scrutinized to rule out any nepotism and intention to run covert political agenda. As the current parliament is not yet fully independent and legitimate representation of the country, a special neutral scrutinizing committee can do such with the help of free independent media in exposing any such ill intentions.
- Those major democratic infrastructure like independent judiciary, police, army, election board, human right commission etc should be reformed in open and transparent way so they can’t be a tool to the government on power but for all Ethiopians and any elected government.
- We should not rash to wards General Election before we make national reconciliation among the people and political parties and agree on banning any divisive, war mongering political agenda off from the election campaign slogans. Election campaign should be based on policy how to change the fate of Ethiopian citizens life from poverty and etc instead of revisiting past divisions and controversial histories and past misdeed.
- Those who are on power either at Federal or regional states should be aware the fact that they are not duly elected by the public in democratic genuine election but the public gave them support to led successfully this political transition. They need to be accounted for every measures and decisions (Actions or Commissions or Omission) they have to take or taken. People and history will reckon them for their good work.
In general, this political transition has to yield genuine outcome as people have been struggling for the last 50 years yearning for a democratic, inclusive, citizen based, human right respected society where majority represented. A society and governance that treats citizens equally, ensure law and order, ensure genuine election and people exercise their citizenship right by working and living in any part of the country without any restriction . In order to reach such goal, we have to support each other during this political transition period and not set aside and criticise those sisters and brothers who are working for such.
May God help us to achieve this and make once again our country great!