Our country Ethiopia is in a turmoil with a specter of being a failed state under our eyes! The displacement of fellow Ethiopians including children, elderlies, women, and men in different parts of the country, conflicts between different ethnic groups, demands by different ethnic groups for regional (‘kilil’) status, destruction of churches and mosques, lawlessness, mob justice, the beatings and deaths of innocent citizens and looting of property have become day-to-day phenomena.
Parochialism is at its peak due to its propagation through social media, television, radio and press, some of whom are allegedly financed by foreign powers as well as by the defunct TPLF genocidal and kleptocratic criminals who are hiding in Tigray. Not only do these thugs have been sponsoring all sorts of terrorism on the people of Ethiopia but also beating the drums of war lately. Extremist elites who have never been given any mandate by a section of the Ethiopian people that they purport to represent seem to call the shots and be in the conductor sit of the train. Essentially what they have been doing lately, one of whom, Jawar Mohammed, glorified by the current Prime Minister as a “Freedom Fighter” during his visit to the U.S. simply fits the maxim of “the tail wags the dog”.
Some members of the so called change agents who the Ethiopian people embraced over the past nearly one year seem to change their color like a chameleon. The recent statements given by the Oromia Democratic Party regarding Addis Ababa, which is the capital city of our beloved Ethiopia and seat of the African Union and many other international organizations and diplomatic missions, claiming to own the city, the resettlement of fellow Ethiopians who were displaced in the Somalia region in and around the capital instead of returning them to their homes, and illegal issuance of Addis Ababa residence ID cards to people from their ethnic group with the aim of changing its demography show their ulterior motives. All the analogy between Ethiopianness and addiction and revival of “Ethiopia” into the political discourse have simply vanished into thin air!
Now the question is what is to be done? It is worrisome and greatly concerning that, in spite of all sorts of the mayhem that is taking place currently and the looming danger hovering on our country, no concrete action that could avert the peril is being taken either by the current government or political parties, civic organizations and our people. Few political parties and civic organizations have come out and condemned, for example, the recent bulldozing and eviction of our fellow Ethiopians in the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Legetafo. Some political parties, in whom the Ethiopian people has vested its hope have astonishingly kept silent toward such horrible acts of the Oromia Government, whose political party, ODP is headed by the Prime Minister.
One wonders whether, unintentionally, the leaders of such parties have gone into the Prime Minister’s pocket!
It seems that a focused and concerted effort should be made by all concerned Ethiopians inside and outside of the country to prevent the worst immediately. We seem to be running out of time, “quarter to 6 p.m.” before the worst happens. Below are recommendations that could help in averting the impending danger; however they are by no means conclusive or even others could point us to other better and more effective solutions. As such, this article aims at sparking a discussion and debate among all concerned Ethiopians so we all play a part in preventing the danger.
The Government of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed: Dr. Abiy was embraced by the Ethiopian people since he ascended to the highest office in the land a year ago. Our people accepted him almost all at once after his inaugural speech because he seemed to change the political discourse, preached love and peace, narrated the glories of our beloved Ethiopia after its trampling for decades by the secessionist parochial TPLF lords. The release of political prisoners en masse, opening of the political space, return of exiled political parties and leaders, restoration of peace with Eritrea are but some of the notable actions made by his Government.
This does not mean however that all that he has done so far are not without major flaws. Dr. Abiy ignored the calls by many to form a transitional government stating publicly that he alone would transition the country. Furthermore, when people realized that he was adamant in his stance, some recommended the formation of a transitional council composed of all stakeholders that would play an advisory role to his government; however this also fell on deaf ears. His government was not inclusive by any stretch; he made major decisions affecting the country on his own despite the fact that the country is in a transition period. The call for by many for a road map of the transition period was ignored. His government lacked transparency; agreements made with Eritrea and some Arab countries are cases in point. His party orchestrated the political appointment of a non-resident of Addis Ababa as its mayor, a typical TPLF-style maneuvering. More can be said about his speeches at different venues but it seems unnecessary to go any further. In spite of all that, however, our people gave him and his team the benefit of the doubt.
One thing that should not be overlooked and which is inexplicable is his recent “diplomatic shuttles” in East Africa while giving little concrete attention to what’s going on back home. It was pathetic that some touted it as dwarfing Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy. No one disputes the fact that an effort by any leader of a nation to bring about peace, security and socio-economic integration in their region should be commended. However, it is “First things First”. In normal times the Prime Minister’s actions would definitely be commendable. However, our country’s situation is not at all normal; it does not take genius to say Ethiopia can become a failed state unless a preventative action is taken immediately. Social activist Marcus Garvey once said, “Charity starts at home.” Ignoring one’s home and appearing to take care of others is
simply preposterous. It fits the Ethiopian proverb “stirring someone else’s pot while one’s own dish is getting overcooked.”
Unless the Prime Minister is in denial, his “emotional bank account”, the popular support he garnered among our people since he came to power is diminishing fast since extremist nationalists such as Jawar Mohammed (it is alleged that he and his OMN are financed by foreign powers who do not wish well for our country) have hijacked his party. The extremist parochial measures that his party has taken recently have dazzled millions of Ethiopians!
In spite of all the above, I believe that Dr. Abiy and his government have still a chance to regain the confidence of our people provided he and his government take tangible measures such as the following:
- Take concrete action to restore peace and security throughout the country as this is a major responsibility for any government.
- Work closely with and provide the necessary support to regional governments to restore peace and security and return displaced citizens in different parts of the country to their homes, including those who have been resettled in and around Addis Ababa maliciously immediately.
- Issue a press release to rectify the recent press release issued by his party on Addis Ababa and unequivocally declare that Addis Ababa belongs to the people of Ethiopia and not to one ethnic group. To preach and equivocate without taking concrete action would be a sign of arrogance and contempt for the people of Ethiopia.
- Outlaw hate speech and propaganda that pits one section of the Ethiopian people against another. Hold individuals such as Jawar Mohammed to account through the court of law.
- Hold to account through the court of law any media such as television, radio and newspaper that entice ethnic division and promote conflict among the people of Ethiopia immediately.
- Postpone the population census indefinitely until peace and security is restored in the country. Unless there is a hidden agenda, census cannot be conducted under the present circumstances.
- Convene all political parties, leaders of religions, intellectuals, elderlies and Abba Gedas, civic society leaders, prominent individuals, students, teachers, businessmen, etc. to start a series of serious discussions that focus and councils on the current socio-economic and political situations of the country and develop
a road map for a peaceful transition toward a genuinely democratic system that benefits all people of Ethiopia equally.
- Out of the stakeholders mentioned above, form a transitional body that plays an advisory role and works closely with the current government.
- Discuss with all stakeholders the viability of the election which is scheduled to take place in about a year. Given the current political situation, it is safe to assume that a free and fair election cannot be held in such a short period and postponement seems to be inevitable.
- Become transparent to the people of Ethiopia in all dealings with foreign nations and other international entities.
Political Parties: At present, there are a number of political parties operating in our country. Some of them have been in existence for decades mainly providing company and legitimacy to the brutal TPLF regime in and out of the parliament without any meaningful leadership to their base in the struggle against the regime.
Some have returned home from exile and have been in the country for about six months. There was a great hope and expectation particularly from those parties who advocate a citizen-based as opposed to ethnic-based politics however their muted response to the human right violations across the country has perplexed many. It seems kind of a common question these days, “Where is Patriotic Ginbot 7?”
Some members of ethnic parties under the shadow of extremist individuals such as Jawar Mohammed have left no stone unturned to create havoc in the country. They have done everything they could to realize their hidden secessionist agenda by promoting mob justice and driving the youth to destabilize the country (‘girgir le leba endimech’).
Whereas it is understandable that the current political climate which is poisoned by ethnic politics is difficult to operate in, it seems that those parties who genuinely struggle for our country’s freedom could have done much more under the circumstances. No one with clear conscience doubts and underestimates their intentions and sacrifice for the people of Ethiopia. However, they should and could have done much more than giving company to the “change agents” and presenting papers. The problems of our country are real, palpable, and require working with a great sense of urgency. In light of this, below are recommendations for what they are worth. As noted above, this is not to be prescriptive; however they are recommendations from a concerned citizen, which may be improved, developed and/or added to:
- Start robust inter- and intra-party discussions in assessing the current socio-economic and political situation of our country and come up with recommendations to solve problems. It is clear that the parties have differences
in their policies and programs; however, they need to keep such differences aside for an election season when it is due. Now is the time to save our country from the danger it is facing not for inter-party rivalries.
- Engage Dr. Abiy’s government, support any genuine endeavor that it takes to bring about a democratic system and constructively criticize when it goes off track.
- Enhance discussions with the public to the extent circumstances permit. This includes discussions with civic society organizations, leaders of religions, elders and Abba Geddas, youth, students, intellectuals, businessmen, civil service employees, etc. Show the people that you genuinely stand for and with them. That ultimately broadens the base. Discussions may be made in town hall meetings and through media such as television and radio.
- Guide and support the youth to organize under various civic institutions (youth associations, women’s associations, professional associations, etc.) for them to engage in their own country’s affairs civilly and peacefully.
- Collaborate and work with media outlets that work for the unity and freedom of our people across the country. Promote Ethiopiawinet through all possible media and beat the evil narratives of parochial groups and individuals.
- Issue press releases and hold press conferences regularly to update Ethiopians where things are in the struggle. This will keep our people informed of the political process, develop the culture of transparency in our society that has been subjugated by secretive dictators, and promote the culture of accountability.
- Engage Ethiopians in the diaspora to support the struggle for freedom, justice, democracy, and equality for all Ethiopians. The diaspora community could be of great resource in the diplomatic front as well as raising funds needed for the struggle. Since the “change agents” ascended to state power it seems all political parties have disengaged with the diaspora as if our quest for a free and democratic system has materialized.
The Ethiopian Youth: Since the past six decades, the Ethiopian youth have been at the center of the struggle for freedom, justice, democracy and equality for all Ethiopians across our country. Thousands upon thousands have paid the ultimate sacrifice for Ethiopia’s bright day that has yet to be realized.
The TPLF brutal regime did its utmost over the past three decades to divide our people along ethnic lines and our youth have been victims of such division. In spite of that, however, we have also witnessed during the struggle over the past three years when the youth in the Amhara Region came out shouting “Oromo’s blood is my blood”,
which was reciprocated by the youth in the Oromia Region. Our youth in all parts of our country must realize that Ethiopia is for all of them and they are the ones that are most affected by what happens to our country since not only today but also the future belongs to them. Recognizing this fact, they should declare “No to ethnic politics!”, “We are brothers and sisters regardless of our ethnicity!”, “We are one people of Ethiopia!” and never fall victim for infantile lunatics such as Jawar Mohammed. They should take responsibility for their country and their future, organize themselves in different civic groups, stand together and continue their PEACFUL STRUGGLE until Ethiopia is genuinely democratic for all Ethiopians regardless of their ethnicity. A parochial mentality particularly in the era of globalization, in the 21st century is simply madness!
In this globalized world, people from different parts of the world live and work together harmoniously. For example, according to some reports, in New York City more than 8 million people live and about 800 languages from all over the world are spoken in the city. Despite such enormous diversity, people are able to live peacefully together since there is a rule of law and generally all people enjoy freedom, justice and equality. Our youth must learn from this and stand together hand-in-hand and continue their struggle peacefully until a truly democratic system is established in our country.
Leaders of Churches and Mosques: Our religious leaders have served as a moral compass for our people for thousands of years. As all of us know, Ethiopia is one of the few countries who accepted Christianity early before others in the world. Similarly, our country was chosen by Prophet Mohammed as a refuge for his followers when they were persecuted. Since then Muslims and Christians in our country have lived together as one family. We shared our happiness and griefs together. Our forefathers fought foreign enemies together paying the ultimate sacrifice for the independence of our country. The roles of our Popes and Priests, Imams and Sheiks in such harmonious relationships have always been paramount.
Our religious leaders have a huge responsibility at present in educating our people in Churches and Mosques about the importance of living together as one people despite our differences in religion and ethnicity. They should intensify their teachings that we are all one people under God more than ever before to eradicate the evil spirit that is causing destruction across our country. In addition, I recommend that they declare a Prayer Day for the Unity of Our People across Ethiopia. The prayers may be held on a Jummah (Friday) and one day later on Elete Senbet (Sunday).
Prayers may also continue during this Kudade season for Christians and upcoming Ramadaan that begins in early May.
I hope and believe that their concerted effort in this regard could pre-empt and minimize the evil actions sponsored by TPLF lords and others who are suspected of getting support from foreign powers who have ill wish for our country.
Ethiopians in the Diaspora: Ethiopians abroad who feel responsibility for our country have supported the struggle for freedom, justice, democracy and equality at home over the past 27 years. They have been voice for the voiceless of the Ethiopian people through demonstrations and knocking at the doors of foreign government offices and international organizations and exposed the crimes against humanity and genocidal actions of the brutal TPLF regime. Furthermore, they have supported political parties and families of victims at home financially. Last but not certainly least is they have financed media organizations such the Ethiopian Satelite Television (ESAT) over the years.
I believe that Ethiopians in the diaspora should continue to support the struggle at home; given the current political climate support from the diaspora community is all the more important. In this regard:
- Create urgently discussion fora across the globe, including in Europe, United States, Asia, Australia and Africa. The purpose of such discussions should be to assess the current socio-economic and political climate of our country and play a role in preventing a political crisis and state collapse. Organizations such as Global Alliance, Vision Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Advocacy Group, the Ethiopian American Council and other civic institutions, as well as media outlets such as ESAT, Voice of America, Deuce Velle, etc. could be instrumental in organizing and facilitating such discussions.
- Continue to provide support to the struggle for freedom, justice, democracy and equality in our country. Details of the types of support and how those support can be given should be a decision of the diaspora community.
- Continue to seek the support of the international community, particularly the U.S. and U.K. governments, the European Union, and other international organizations such as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in bringing to justice those who committed crimes against humanity and genocide on the people of Ethiopia. We all know that the process to hold Getachew Assefa under the Magnitsky Act accountable is a matter awaiting decision with the U.S. Government. The TPLF lords who committed such crimes with impunity are still beating the drums of war to commit other similar crimes and they should be deterred. Our Western allies know it all too well that given our geo-politics, any unrest and war could destabilize the region and have a spillover effect beyond the horn of Africa. And it is in the best interest not only of our country but also of the Western world to prevent any war and this provides an opportunity to make a legitimate case with those countries and institutions. Furthermore, continuing to seek the support of Friends of Ethiopia such as the Honorable Anna Gomez, member of the European Parliament and the Honorable Anders Österberg, member of the Swedish Parliament will help in this endeavor.
Finally, the responsibility for taking our beloved Ethiopia out of the current extremely difficult situation falls on the shoulders of each and every Ethiopian. Elders, Abba Geddas, prominent individuals, businessmen, intellectuals, students, teachers, farmers, civil service workers, carpenters, plumbers, men, women, and all of us from all walks of life have a role to play in this regard. Let’s hold each other hand-in-hand say in unison “NO!” to the evil operators who try relentlessly to divide us and use our division to grab state power! Let’s support our religious, political, and civic leaders who promote our unity and lead us to a genuine democratic Ethiopia in which the rule of law, democracy, equality and justice reign supreme!
As it is written in the Bible, Ethiopia stretches her hands to God! And God in His Mercy will protect our people and country as long as we align our hearts to what He desires for us all, His children! Let’s unite and stand together! Let’s speak in one voice for freedom, justice, democracy, and equality for all of us! Let’s all pray to God so He will free us from decades of division and destruction!
May Almighty God protect our people and country!!!
The writer can be reached at [email protected]