WISH LIST FOR SUCCESSFUL OPPOSITION AND GOVERNMENT NEGOTIATIONS
fact that the TPLF/EPRDF regime initiated a negotiation proposal with the
opposition inside the country regarding the multi-faceted problems of the
country is commendable. The regime further stated that it was dropping its
stubborn demand from years past that MEDREK sign its civic charter as a
precondition to negotiate. This is also a welcome sign.
not all the legal opposition invited by the government to the negotiation
are genuine opposition parties. Some are clones of the regime, and still
others have a high negative rating by the people. And then of course there
are opposition groups that are not part of what the government calls
“legal”, a few of which have even been categorized as terrorist.
all these caveats and markers, the fact that there is going to be a
negotiation gives rays of hope. Following
the recent massive anger of protest, the regime has been taking patchy and
inadequate steps to address the people’s grievances.
Many are not convinced by the regime’s contemporary slogan of
“deep rejuvenation”. Some
of the invited opposition have correctly warned that this time around this
call for negotiation should not be a ploy for cheap political scores and
vacuous exercise. The warning is based on recent history, and the regime
should heed of the warning. Similarly, the invited opposition should not
shy from raising the basic and main political problems that have been
gnawing at the country’s fabric for a quarter of a century. The
opposition should be mindful of the fact that the unrest in the
last 2 years in particular, and generally the protests of citizens
over the last 2 decades indicts the opposition as deep and as wide as it
does the regime.
most pressing problem needing immediate attention is national dialogue and
reconciliation. Sadly in the past, TPLF/EPRDF has been utterly dismissive
of this notion when it was presented with the demand and the opportunity.
It is no secret that a large segment of the Ethiopian population resents
the Tigrean community at their real and perceived possession of the
lion’s share of the socio-economic pie. While a case has been made of
such favoritism for those aligned with TPLF and EPRDF, it is unfortunate
when the resentment is extended to a blanket indictment of a whole
community, including some victims in their ranks. The cyber wars that have
turned Ethiopian chewannet on
its head by stereotyping whole
communities is but a surface symptom of what is bubbling in society and
what has reached the boiling point. This was not the case in the long
history of the country, and it can be reversed with the implementation of
dialogue and reconciliation that has at its core some concrete corrective
measures. For instance, the fact that the army and security brass in
Ethiopia is dominantly by members of the
Tigrai community needs to be corrected swiftly. Torture victims of this
regime routinely complain at their Tigrean torturers, and this has
immensely contributed to the resentment. TPLF/EPRDF should be able to rein
in their die hard and extremist ethno-racist members and supporters that
believe in a lion’s share entitlement in Ethiopian resources. As General
Tsadikan reminded them, this is a no-starter for peace and a
non-sustainable enterprise. The fact that up to 60,000 TPLF fighters died
in the struggle should be viewed in the context of the deaths and murder
of all Ethiopians who valiantly fought against the Dirgue that is 7 times
or higher than that number. All sacrifices are equal, and it is neither
logical nor legal to claim permanent favoritism based on one-sided notion
are other disagreements that should be subjects of dialogue and
reconciliation, such as religious animosity within and between religions,
on the history of Ethiopia, between the regime and the Moslem community,
etc. Religious leaders could play a crucial role in leading these
dialogues and resolving the problems.
there is the issue of famine and undernourishment. Although this
government has done a commendable job to deal with famine and
undernourishment, the problem is a recurring one. Currently up to 200,000
pastoralists and millions of hinterland citizens are facing famine and the
regime has made a plea (once again) to the international community for
help. This is a huge shame for Ethiopia. The patriotic Ethiopian Diaspora
alone would have been able to deal with the preparation, prevention, and
alleviation of famine in Ethiopia even in the face of unpredictable global
climate that may deny our country of necessary rain from time to time, or
flood our crops. The Diaspora has the financial and technical resources to
deal with this scourge that has permanently blemished Ethiopia.
Unfortunately, the regime and the Diaspora are like hodna
jerba. This can be resolved through a national dialogue and
is also the question of inequality and corruption. Again it is no secret
that a large segment of Ethiopian society believes the regime’s top
officials are deeply corrupt, and that they have robbed billions of the
country’s resources, and they protect their minions from facing charges,
and only the fleas are hauled to courts while the tigers are untouchable.
The prime minister’s recent answer to a question on this issue where he
said there simply is no evidence is regrettable and, had not the case been
directly related to the livelihood of our people, laughable. Through
dialogue and national reconciliation, an independent committee has to be
established to provide the Ethiopian people fact-based investigation
results for a solution. There may be honest and unblemished TPLF/EPRDF
leaders whose names might be entangled with the corrupt ones. Only an
independent investigation sheds light on this dark secret. While millions
of Ethiopians survive on scraps and without a decent meal every day, it
simply pricks one’s conscience to see corrupt officials and their allies
selfishly gobble up the nation’s resources.
the Ethiopian political system: Even many ardent supporters of the regime
admit that while the regime has made tangible results in the economic
arena, there is a lot of blame on the slow and negative rate of
democratization in the country. One of the biggest impediments is the
ethnicized politics introduced by the TPLF/EPRDF. The results are here to
see after 25 years of experimentation and self-congratulations. We have
seen the shameful expulsion of Ethiopians from their birth places or
abodes because they are considered as “Others”. Mainstream Ethiopian
politics says the rights of ethnic groups have to be respected and
codified within a democratic and united Ethiopia. Ethnicity is not the
end-all, be-all, organizing principle as it has been for 2 ½ decades
under this regime and its disastrous results amply show. Mainstream
Ethiopian politics says Ethiopiawinet, as understood unity in diversity,
has to be affirmed and not weakened as its fate has been so far.
should not be seduced by the allure of the here and now. Ethnicity as the
end-all, be-all organizing and inspiring principle has led the country to
a zero sum game. In the 21st century, there are more modern,
non-primordial methods of democratizing and organizing themes. To start
with, TPLF/EPRDF has to agree to unconditionally stop hounding and
restricting independent and lawful civic and professional organizations.
EPRDF has historically leaned towards cloning puppet organizations and has
been intolerant of independent organizations. The zero sum game of ethnic
gamesmanship will be diluted if multi-ethnic and profession-based
organizations like the following were to be set in motion:
journalists association – independent journalists have unsuccessfully
attempted in the past years to form such an organization. Because they
were persecuted and prosecuted, they were exiled en masse leaving behind a
government media to which few pay attention. We have seen a glimpse of the
power of unfettered investigative journalism in the Diaspora. An Ethiopian
government would be helped tremendously by a free media to correct the
ills of society, and to focus its attention on the nation’s priorities.
of Ethiopian workers and laborers: This is akin to a labor union. Workers
in industrial and service sectors would be organized to negotiate for
better wages and working conditions, and as citizens of a modern nation to
volunteer in woreda, kebelle and school board councils.
women professional associations: this would not include degreed
professional women only, but also house maids and street cleaners and sex
workers. They would fight for the recognition of women’s role in society
and better working conditions.
of pastoralists and land workers; This would include the coastal people of
our country, and they would focus on grazing land rights, land grabbing
issues, fair compensations, etc.
types of associations and others may be how the foundational bricks for
democracy are laid, and where the whole society would be stakeholders with
mutual recognition, equality and pride. Dividing Ethiopian administrative
regions not exclusively by languages, but also by ease of management and
service provisions, historical geographic divisions such as rivers, etc.
would complement the democratic foundations.
confidence building measures between the regime and the opposition should
include releasing all political prisoners, doing away with undemocratic
laws and regulations used to stifle democracy, legalizing all political
parties and establishing an independent electoral commission. Any party/ies
that wins the first democratic free and fair election should pledge to
form a coalition government with members of the opposition that lost in
the spirit of charity and national reconciliation. This would create a
precedent for understanding and country-first worldview.
Africa has become the beacon of hope in Africa as recently witnessed in
pressuring the autocrat that lost election to cede power. There is no
reason democratic Ethiopia cannot be the steward for democracy in East and
north-east Africa. But it has first to get its house in order and bury the
foolish zero-sum game of ethnic rivalry.