An honest opinion for dialogue-
By- Sirak Zena
November 15, 2020
Ethiopia has become fragile and weak by the very constitution, claiming to form the nation and the government. The country is haunted by killings targeting ethnic heritage, unsettled border issues, and economic problems. The security problem with foreign enemies has hit its height. The country’s unity is increasingly threatened by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) splinter groups.
We all live at the center of the problem; It is not a minor problem by any means. It frequently affects us, threatens our life and the country’s unity. We do not need any help to grasp the issues of such a magnitude and identify the solution.
To have a tangible solution to our objective problems, we do not need outside resources. The facts on the ground tell us the challenges and reveal the answers. The only thing expected of us is to look at these facts—without a filter—to find the right solutions.
To reach a solution, we have to be pragmatic in our thoughts and actions. We must be reasonable and realistic. We need to be aware of the facts and the reality on the ground. Whim or emotion should not guide us to prescribe a solution. We should also not allow objective reality to be colored by the narrow lens of favoritism or hatred. These two intimate biases will obscure our thoughts and lead us to the wrong conclusion.
Political will is another crucial element in addressing our challenges. The key decision-makers must achieve a consensus on the solution to the current crisis. Political will and a pragmatic approach are essential tools for achieving the clarity and the decisiveness that the situation demands.
We must be authentic and genuine. Our analysis and reflections, independent of others, should emanate from our reasoned deliberations. Our decisions ought not to be polluted by thoughts in the vein of “they think this way” or “this is the most accepted idea.” To be authentic in our thoughts, we must first rid ourselves of herd mentality. The unevaluated ideas and values of others should not cloud our judgment.
Love for one’s nation is not only emotional, but rational. Who we are—our very being—is rooted in our country. One may deny it or even legally change citizenship, but it is impossible to detach oneself from the country of origin. It is deep-seated in our inner being.
We cannot exchange a country for our ethnic extracts. Our diversity is our beauty. It is beautiful to see a diversity of people brought together under one country’s same unifying framework. We have to give top priority to the country’s unity, above and beyond our political issues. We can only sustain democracy and political activities in a nation that has peace and harmony. Let us break out from our ethnic cocoon and prioritize the unity and sovereignty of the country.
Is it not sad? When our survival is contingent on belonging to the same ethnic group in every region of the country?
For over two decades, it has been an oppressive group governing Ethiopia. In 2016, the Ethiopian people struggled to remove the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), not knowing the exact outcome. The idea of populist reformers within the EPRDF, however, resonates with the demands of the people. As a consequence, people allow the same party to maintain power.
The political shift that happened two years back was political liberalization. The liberalization lifted the bans on exiled political parties, social media, and activists. Political prisoners were released, and press regulations relaxed.
The liberalization emerged under a constitution that is not embraced by most citizens. It is a constitution representing the political program of the TPLF. The constitution is inherently divisive, designed for the execution of a few ethnic parties’ political agendas. They injected articles into the constitution to attack specific groups by corrupting the law. In the capital city case, articles were vague and sinisterly added to divide and rule the Oromo ethnic group with the rest of the people.
They formulated the preamble as if they were talking about another nation. The TPLF fabricated a new story in complete denial of Ethiopia’s long and rich history. They also designed it to besmirch and label Amhara’s social group as the enemy of the people.
The constitution is oblivious to history. Most people did not endorse it, and there was no expression of the will of democracy. The people of Ethiopia would like to see a substantive change to the constitution.
The serious disagreement between political parties focuses on the constitution. Moreover, the parties do not have the same view on federalism that the nation actualizes.
The government was immediately committed to restructuring in response to the people’s complaints. It started with various organizations, including the federal defense force and security services.
The federal defense force is one example of the nonsensical efforts in restructuring. Restructuring based on the population of ethnic groups may balance the ratio or the proportionality. Yet fundamentally, it lacks any insight of wholeness and fidelity to the country.
We have a nation organized by several ethnic sovereign states with their constitution. Each member of the defense force is loyal to his ethnic group. Therefore, we would be inclined to question whether this person can stand in the nation’s interests alone. Let us assume the government has to take legitimate military action against the ethnic group leaders that this person belongs to. Will he display loyalty to the nation or his social group? In most cases, the commitment is to his ethnic origin. This is the painful truth; we must sadly pronounce it. “To be silent is worse; all suppressed truths become poisonous.”
We live in a climate of negatively charged ethnic nationalism politics. It is naïve to disregard each army’s emotional and personal psychological ethnic allegiance to its ethnic group.
The same applies to national security agencies and other bodies. This is the legacy of an imposed executive federalism. The federalism adopted in our country has not taken into account the nation’s history and social structure.
The government has treated liberalization as an ethical and moral practice. As a result, many outlaws, radicals, and armed groups emerged like a mushroom. Extreme and divisive activists sowed discord against the government across the nation. When this occurred, the government had no corrective action; instead, it gave them protection and notoriety. Armed groups could successfully mobilize and now threaten the country’s stability. They create tremendous problems in people’s daily lives, all while the government lies dormant to protect its citizens.
The distribution of illegal arms is prevalent in all areas. It has become custom to see illegally armed groups and gangs in most regions. They take hostages, impede free movement, rob, rape, kill, and massacre innocent people.
The security forces do not address the needs of people in many regions and operate poorly. Let us give the devil its due; the only area relatively safe is the region of Tigray. The TPLF has used oppressive controls and propaganda, all of which have suppressed people’s rights. I state this not to reproduce it, but to underline a region that can only afford relative safety and protection through such means.
We know that the TPLF uses scare tactics to divert people’s attention from themselves. They use lies and propaganda and agitate the people to defend their identity and protect themselves. We well know their line of deceit: The government and neighboring ethnic groups are threatening our region, and they are coming after us.
The latest local elections in the Tigray region are inconsistent with the law of the land. This is an act to show their defiance to the Federal Government. It is emblematic of the challenges Ethiopia faces as a fractured nation.
The nation, after democratic liberalization, is like a two-headed hydra. The region of Tigray does not comply with legitimate legal government demands. It pretends and behaves as a quasi-independent state.
The TPLF builds its military and creates propaganda, saying enemies surround Tigray. They indoctrinate the people to take up weapons and defend themselves. The TPLF seduces people that it claims to protect and represent, all the while leading them toward danger and destruction. Their actions are no more than a cover-up for over two decades of economic and political crimes. These master manipulators play on divisiveness, resentment, and anger to take back the honor it lost.
As we all know, very few parties are organized by their ideological line. Instead, the ethnic lines structure most of the political organizations. Each ethnic group has three to five parties vying for their ethnic group dominance. The lack of transparency of a few ethnic parties over their nation’s unity is alarming.
The ruling party is a coalition of ethnic groups from most Ethiopian regions. The party wants to keep the nation unified while representing the rights of each group. So far, it remains true to its word. This gives us a glimmer of hope and lets us benefit from the doubt of the ruling party. Nevertheless, this hope is under continuous verification.
Meanwhile, issues like COVID-19, locusts, droughts, and a foreign currency shortage have an ongoing impact on an economy. Civil unrest and global economic trends strongly affected the economy.
We can consider the peace deal with neighboring Eritrea to be a crucial achievement. However, no one knows what the two governments are doing to solve the problem of the border. Our issues of politics and borders with Eritrea appear to be hijacked by the TPLF.
After many diplomatic battles, starting to fill the great Renaissance dam’s water is a significant victory. It was done at a high cost to keep the national interest and preserve national pride.
Significant political and diplomatic tensions with the United States have also been developed. Such pressures invariably affect our foreign funds and loans and endanger our national security. For a few pre-agreed international funds, we have already seen a cutoff with consequences.
Be that as it may, we should commend the government for standing for its principle and the people’s will. For this alone, we should stand with the government on this national issue. We are all aware of the consequences it has brought to the nation’s security.
Political and military activities in Egypt, Djibouti, Somaliland, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan should receive special attention. Ethiopia should evaluate military bases’ appearance in neighboring countries. Of equal priority is to monitor the fundamentalist activities in neighboring countries and their impact on our country.
Our geopolitical position is undeniably sensitive. It is an area that has seen many nations attempt to generate power, both in the region and globally. As a result, our position induces security vulnerabilities and political uncertainties.
Our foreign relation requires robust policies and skilled and steadfast experts. Our experts should make keen observations, analyses, and act to offset potential security problems.
A synopsis on the Failures and weaknesses of the government-
1–A government should keep order, provide national security, and safeguard its citizens.
The Ethiopian people have concluded that the government does not prioritize their protection. The people’s anger is mounting, but we do not see corresponding concrete action from the government. On this crucial question, alongside others, scholars classify the Ethiopian state as a failed state. They are right; the government cannot fulfill its primary responsibility.
Traveling to different regions is a risk to life and is unofficially sanctioned. It is almost impossible to live and carry out business in areas away from one’s ethnic group. Ethnic heritage sees citizens murdered and their property burnt down.
Roads are blocked by armed gangs who murder and rob at will. When these atrocities are committed, they are minimally spoken about by the federal and local governments. The nation still awaits an apology for their weakness in defending the people. More and above, they are hesitant to call such crimes by their proper name, which is massacre and genocide.
The failure of the party to represent the victims of these crimes is a disgrace. Remaining inactive on such issues is akin to betrayal and dereliction of duty. It is beyond comprehension.
As seen by residents and human rights defenders, many of these crimes have been brutal. The same group has given light to the reality that average citizens are not only responsible for these crimes. The organization and magnitude of ethnically motivated crimes are directly linked to the local police and security forces’ cooperation. Ordinary people are forced to live in fear of the very people responsible for protecting them.
The government to pay lip service to good intentions and vague wishes of resolving issues will take no one anywhere. The nation desperately needs leaders with the will to manage issues; to act intelligently and promptly. A leader who focuses primarily on projecting a good personal image is an imminent danger to the country’s future.
In all humankind’s history, a passive and meek leader has won nothing. History profoundly instructs us all to fail. That does not mean leaders should be autocrats. However, they must act with integrity and great urgency against any threat to their people’s human rights and legal rights.
A leader cannot think only of themselves and the convenience of passivity. That convenience comes at the cost of many citizens’ lives, to the degree of genocide in our country. It also drives the nation to the proximity of ultimate chaos. We have witnessed that no good thing can be born of weakness and inaction.
The federal government should make it top priority to ensure peace and stability in the country and safeguard its citizen.
2-Procrastination in action-
Once a global world political figure said, “procrastination is death.” This government’s procrastination to act against the people and nations’ enemies provides living proof of this statement. We watch and listen to the endless news of lives lost, properties demolished, and banks robbed. The ransom abduction and killing of people in broad daylight has become a daily phenomenon in many places. In Wellega, the students’ elusive abduction is a wound in the parents’ heart the country over. Each instance occurred under the watch of our government.
All the while, the government and the regional authorities dig in their heels. The government preaches to the people, “Killing marks defeatism.” It takes this as a higher ethical value and has become light-handed on the enemies of the people. The county needs real political leadership, not the words of a preacher. If we want to survive as a nation, this illusion from the government side has to stop.
The price of procrastination is paid in human life. With no resolution, long-standing divisive thinking takes root in people’s psyche. As people die on the street and the country is in chaos, talk of free and fair elections— lip service to democracy—is almost laughable. There can be no freedom and fairness when Ethiopia people cannot even access their fundamental human right to life and liberty. There can be no such thing as a democratic nation in the presence of a total failure to safeguard people from such extremes of violence every day.
Democracy will thrive when the country and the citizens thrive. When the country’s solidarity is in calamity, it is wrong to be a gatekeeper of democracy. Without peace, democracy does not exist.
The government must not give a chance to the enemies of the people and the country. It must act on time and with the necessary deliberation and take the required measures as the situation warrants.
3- Manipulating the law-
EPRDF’s overnight enactment of legislation is still fresh in our minds. It was a process of creating a legal tool to punish an individual or party. The current ruling party now uses these tools to suppress journalists and intimidate political opponents.
Placing people in jail without evidence has become customary. While people are indefinitely held in prison, the government spends time and money fishing for their wrongdoings. The law is tampered with and abused for political vendettas and grudge settlement.
However, the government seems to have difficulty producing evidence against political figures. Only a few are found guilty, and most do not qualify for the charges against them. Or, more often than not, they are freed based on a political decision. It is a testament to how the law can be used and abused to silence opponents.
When the legal system can be used as an instrument, such abuses of power are standard. Security forces have blocked political parties from conducting meetings in their own offices. They will imprison and release a journalist as they wish. The most alarming thing is that a person freed by the court can remain indefinitely in jail at the hand of a scandalous system.
When the legal system fails, impartial action by judicial chiefs is scarce. There can be no freedom alongside such a broken judicial and legal system.
One of the government’s duties is to respect and make the law known to the people, but not to deprive the personal freedom, life, and liberty by manipulating it.
4-Extending the federal military power’s duty-
The federal government defense forces should solve all security issues in most regions. Each area spends significant amounts of money to train local armed special forces. However, they cannot defend themselves and protect people from armed criminals.
There are major dual problems with this pattern of engagement of the federal forces. 1- The Federal defense force is acting as a police force and grows fatigued. 2- The regional administration has a mindset of dependency.
If the nation faces a foreign foe—heaven forbid—the homeland will be in chaos. It is not hard to imagine; killing, ethnic disputes, and violence growing ever fiercer, leaving the country in deep crisis. For every simple and big issue, the Federal Government has taken care of the regional administrators and special forces.
It makes one wonder the reason behind the training and equipment of all these special forces. If they cannot fight aggressively, the enemy kills their people; so who are their enemies? Why spend all this money instead of investing in the broader community of the people? Is there something that we do not know? Are they there for pride, symbolism, intimidation? The mind boggles.
Regional authorities are not questioned or held liable by constituents. The federal government also enables dependence. The pitiful thing is that before the federal forces reach the affected area, many people die. The amount of private and government property destroyed is enormous.
It becomes an absolute necessity that people in all regions find the courage to hold their leaders accountable. Empty political dialogue that does not lead to their security must not sway them.
The Federal Government sorely needs to evaluate the general security issues. The first choice is for the government to enhance each region’s ability in training and organizational capacity. As a consequence, self-sufficiency in solving local security problems is created. The second choice is to merge all the special forces in all regions into the federal defense force. This is the most optimal and preferred solution for the current and long-term problems of the country.
Also, each region should establish a disciplined and well-trained police force. Having a strong police force is an essential requirement to care for citizens’ day-to-day safety and security.
The army is expected to stay out of politics, including ethnic politics and ideological affiliation. In reality, this is in our wish list in our context. To achieve this aim, we should stray from the constitution and work hard to bring unity around a federal system and a single nation that respects all ethnic rights.
5-Lack of interest to create Political Consciences with The Opposition Parties-
There is a saying in Amharic, “welcome him not to be faulted, but force him out not to take part.” The leadership in Ethiopia appears to apply this to opposition parties. Political tensions are not just ethnic; they are about grievances, lost opportunities, and the need to be heard.
Our politics should move from destructive dispute to constructive disagreement. To do this, we need to have a platform and mechanism for genuine dialogue and conscience building. Political goodwill is the solution to exit the current political impasse.
In underdeveloped countries, the policy framework for national unity is not the result of consensus. The one who retains the power dictates the structure and the agenda. The reality is that elite political conflicts influence the nation’s stability, as they can escalate into ethnic strife. The profound ethnic divide between the elites in our country needs considerable attention.
It is a fact that the ruling and the opposition parties cannot share the same blueprint on all facets of the agenda. However, they can discuss common priorities, such as national and regional security issues. Natural disasters and epidemics can be a common problem for all. Other areas of cooperation could be in the creation of employment and youth engagement. Sadly, none of this is happening.
The leading party gives support to the parties with words of affirmation and lip service. Nevertheless, what we see in practice is the ruling party’s tentacles in all regions, pushing the opposition parties to the fringes. It seems that an intractable disagreement is at the center of the ongoing political dispute. Unhealthy competitive relations between the parties and the government, marked by disagreement and mutual perceptions of risk, hostility, and mistrust, are the colossal failure recipes. They regard each other with profound distrust. When distrust and negative views take root, where is the opportunity to promote a common agenda and political goodwill?
They have to demonstrate that they are standing for people, not selfish and arrogant power and influence. The parties, including the government, should aim to address these differences through civil dialogue. In order to restore peace and unity, the ruling party should candidly engage the major opposition parties in the country.
6-Lack of Transparency and The Media-
Transparency is an act of disclosure and exchange of information in the public interest. What we see in Ethiopia is secrecy, veiled in the name of transparency.
One example is crime detection and law enforcement. We have seen many monstrous criminal activities in the country. First, the prime minister’s attempted assassination and the assassination of the Amhara region’s leaders. Second, the killing of the military chief of staff. Thirdly, the mass targeted killings in Gedeo, Shashemene, Benshangul, Arsi, Wollega, and several other areas. Fourth, the kidnapped students of Dembi Dolo university students and many more crimes. The public, though, learns little about the culprits, motives, or the legal processes.
The illicit circulation and proliferation of arms and ammunition in Ethiopia are unbounded and at a colossal risk. When illegal weapons are widespread, citizens are endangered, and many lives are lost. Again, the public is unaware of who is supplying the arms or what is happening to the detainees.
The treaty with Eritrea has become a mirage of a political and diplomatic simulacrum. From what we see, the relationship between the two leaders is transparent. When the peace treaty was declared, the world saw both nations rejoice.
There is no sign of progress at present, and after two years, it has not shown us its fulfillment. Normalization halted with the closure of Eritrea’s border. From what we know, it is not unusual for the Eritrean government to blindfold its people. Unfortunately, the same is happening to the Ethiopian people.
In a country that claims to be democratic, independent, and transparent, the media is fundamental. It must inform the people and hold the government accountable. In Ethiopia, the common practice is the opposite of these basic tenets of media. Newspapers and TV act as government mouthpieces. They run a cover-up function and divert people’s attention from reality.
They are well-versed in painting the gruesome situation with flowery language. Appreciating whatever the government’s action may be, is their forte.
The government’s modus operandi trickles down to private media. The only difference here is that fear for the government. Anyone who stands their ground and upholds their profession faces harassment and jail time.
In reality, the government apparatus filtered accounts are the official information of the people.
The government should refrain from throttling the independence of the media and put journalists in prison. This is a great danger to the nation that has just begun the journey of democracy. However, the government should take a closer look at and weigh those who intentionally and purposely divide the country, cause a dispute, and take legal action sooner.
The Conundrum of the Tigray Region and What is to be Done-
After losing power, the TPLF used the dialogue of ‘Them and Us’ to mock and label, sheltering themselves in Tigray. According to them, it is between the Tigray people and the Federal Government and the Amhara region. The labeling “Us and Them” is a coward’s farce. They brand the region of Amhara as expansionist for asking for the land taken by TPLF underhandedly. The current government, who pushes them from power, is considered an enemy.
They created this problem for political purposes upon utterly false grounds. Though it has a fake foundation, undermining the problem’s magnitude is not a solution. A circuitous slander against the problem proponents is an amateurish and infantile approach. It is not constructive and brings no suitable resolution. Furthermore, the use of force—on both sides—guarantees only mutual destruction.
Four critical things to note—
1- The preference of the people of Tigray is not what TPLF advances;
2- Tigray region and the people are the historical and cultural root for most of Ethiopia;
3- The Tigray issue stems from the grudge-led vindictive notion of TPLF returning to power;
4- The claims of TPLF and the objective reality are not the same.
They know that they have no potential or the hope of seizing national power on their own. They are reckoning with the harsh reality that they cannot win. For them, it becomes a “poison,” the remedial “medicine” they created to hold power forever. The constitution, which was once idolized, is given only lip service. Through their activity, they have also become hostile to the constitution.
We want our leaders to use the most effective methods and techniques for conflict resolution. By identifying the essence of the problem, they should aspire to make things better, not worse.
Here political goodwill is much needed. Speculating on the thoughts of one another does not provide a solution. They must be determined to solve the problem, setting attitude, and emotion aside. Only through constructive dialogue—focused on solving the contentious topics at hand—can better outcomes be achieved.
Accountability, political will, and openness to competing ideas can contribute to the consensus. They should adopt these mechanisms to bring reconciliation for the country’s benefit. To keep the nation together, the social norm of tolerance is essential. It requires courteous discussions and political will to bring unity to a fractured country. Both should understand the sensitivity, immensity, and volatility of the issue at hand.
Most of the time, there is a disconnect between the claim and the reality of political issues. What is claimed by the TPLF and the facts do not go hand in hand. However, both sides should also treat the problems cautiously, accountably, and responsibly. The Ethiopian people are eager to see the situation resolved by peaceful means.
The constitution reminds us of the Greek mythology of Pandora. “Zeus, the king of the gods, took vengeance by presenting Pandora to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus. Pandora opened a jar left in her care containing sickness, death, and many other unspecified evils, which were then released into the world.”
A TPLF and OLF Pandora’s box gift to the Ethiopian people is the constitution. In the name of federalism, to mention a few, discord, animosity between social groups, destroying history, using the word peoples rather than people in the constitution as a silent weapon for division, creating nations, and allowing them to secede are the poisons created by TPLF and OLF.
Until now, we could not get an antidote to these poisons. There is no solution to our problems unless we pass a constitutional amendment. The disappointing thing and what we should also acknowledge is that even after having the amendment, the post-social problem syndrome will persist for a long time.
To establish a fundamental shift in the country’s policies, the policies’ very source, the constitution must change. We know there is an enormous challenge, and we have to struggle to amend the constitution. There is no other way than to fight with the struggle itself.
In order to establish permanent peace, we must make a considerable effort to change the constitution. Otherwise, peace and unity can be nothing more than wishful thinking. The current constitution is not only filled with poisons, but they strew it with land mines, just waiting to detonate. In the pursuit of peace, it must be our mission to demine the constitution.
Constitutionality is assumed, theoretically, to be the secret of political stability. Democracy is also oriented towards all causes of human conflict being resolved. However, we see that the dominant power uses the constitution to influence legislation, and chaos is typical. The coalition of parties monopolizes the judiciary, the executive, and the parliament. As a consequence, in our country, the balance of power is at risk.
Federalism and power-sharing are needed to control state brutality. States are not only for the dominant ethnic group; they are also for the safety of everyone. Sadly, we see the polar opposite of this fundamental concept in our country.
History and present political trends suggest that democracy and the constitution alone can do nothing. They are affected by the one in power, either for their intended intention or for individuals or parties’ interests.
We need a constitution to bring unity in diversity, embody the people’s will, history, and shared heritage. Otherwise, our path will be one step forward and two steps backward.
Constitutional reform is the primary guarantor of our future and the country’s unity. With the existing constitution, even celestial bodies could not help us.
Let us Uphold Unity and Trample the Division-
Every day, our debate is bogged down in the swamp of day-to-day affairs and government blunders. Failure to be mindful of national unity in our dialogues creates a rift in our unity. We have to show ethnic sensitivity in our comments or views. In our rhetoric, we should avoid divisive commentaries that divide the people.
Negative labeling and categorization of any ethnic group damages and extends the pre-existing divisions. All political and economic activities can produce excellent results only when we have a strong and unified country.
“Politics is, at heart, a battle of narratives, a competition over human consciousness.” Our narratives should instill unity in the people’s consciousness, not division. It should guide us on the path for the nation’s peace and harmony, not nurture animosity.
We have a weak government that makes us anxious. Divisive political parties and activists threaten our unity daily. The nation maintains its unity with none other than the Ethiopian people’s goodwill. If it were not for them, we could have lost it long ago with such a poorly binding constitution.
We may claim that Ethiopia is a Confederate nation with many more states to come. We must aspire to a real federal government established by a people-ratified constitution. Only then can there be a stable base for each ethnic group’s needs and the nation’s overall stability.
A little over two years ago, most Ethiopians were filled with despair and anxiety in their psyche. It was a time when the country was nearing collapse. As a result, we were overtaken by the deterioration of the situation, pessimism, and optimistic marks of pretentiousness. Neither pessimism nor optimism saved us from the problem. It was a mere chance—or some unanticipated outcome—that saved the nation from collapse.
Let us not hope or assume that chance is going to save us from failure once again. Only we can keep ourselves. We have to act intelligently and work for our unity, with evident conviction and resolve.
We see, in our country, the paved path to mass genocide.
1- Classification – The Us and Them rhetoric;
2- Bigotry and dehumanization – Minority groups cannot live peacefully in the place they have lived all their lives;
3- Polarization – Each region incites hate towards the other through its media;
4- Preparation – Each region trains special military groups;
5- Persecution – People are persecuted and killed on the grounds of different ethnicity and religious views.
All these despicable actions and indications of a breakdown should sober our thoughts and actions. To curve what is coming, we have to strengthen our sense of responsibility and act now.
The typical nature of federalism is quarantining public unrest and conflicts at the regional level. Let us be mindful that this may not last long. A national crisis bubbles beneath.
Unemployed youth and people under economic constraints will lose patience, waiting for the good to come. The people whose security is robbed by armed groups will not remain passive. Those targeted because of their ethnicity cannot live under this circumstance indefinitely.
This issue will spill over to national and regional levels, creating chaos. The government has to act now with a great feeling of urgency. A government created by power-sharing should execute its responsibility ethically. It should not try to maximize its control and expand its horizons by undermining others. It should work with great care.
Parity between groups should be respected; proportionality should be favored above dominance. If groups feel excluded, they will clash and generate internal conflict. Cultural pluralism should receive the utmost respect of all parties. The party who has a majority should not enforce its culture on others. The government should aim to bring unity—not discord—in all its actions.
Soon, we are heading into the election. Theoretically, elections are a foundation of democracy and good governance. We are not fortunate with political parties based on ideologies that compete. We have reverted to ethnic identities as foundations for political competition. As a result, ethnic interests will play a significant role in the election process.
The political debate mainly focuses on the best policy for ‘my community’ or ‘my ethnic group.’ Narratives based on this vilify the opposing group or ethnic group, even if it creates division in the same ethnic group. Under these conditions, it is challenging to create a cohesive nation as we wish. We have—and will have again—elections of mere ethnic vote censuses for the ethnic parties.
It is challenging to have elections after all these years of political polarization. Polarization is a zero-sum game that we need to exchange for a win-win game. To escape the chaos, we have to be vigilant and extra conscious. Our country, which is the one common thing we all have, is the only way to create a cohesive identity. We may be from various ethnic groups, but we belong to the country we are all trying to build.
We are amid a stream of political challenges. Looking at the big picture, let us unite to build our country and trample the divisions between us.
Should We Support the Current Government?
Thus far, this article deals with the government’s failures and unpolished political exercises. It attempts to deliver a concrete and constructive critique. Truth and integrity have taken favor over diplomacy and timidness.
The Ethiopian political situation would throw any objective person into a political dilemma. Two mutually compounding issues are at hand: the country’s unity, which is at stake, and a weak state that cannot keep the people safe. The first is that we treasure and give our lives for, and the second is that which we consider taking out of power.
There are legitimate reasons for those who advocate ousting the government. If it were normal political circumstances, one could join them to remove the regime from power. Unfortunately, our situation is not normal.
However, still, others give the government a carte de passage, a free pass. Although this article does not entirely endorse their theories, it agrees skeptically with the stance. When considering the alternatives and their danger, it is the lesser of two evils.
The objective political reality we are in compels us to choose the path of least resistance. Despite all its deficiencies, the current government is the best leading choice for the nation’s unity by virtue of being the only choice. Thus, we are forced to compromise. The unity and sovereignty of the country come before politics. However, we should not lose sight of the people’s will, the issues at hand, and the nation’s priorities.
We have very few national political organizations with good intentions and ideas for the country. However, they lack popularity and organizational ability to win the majority in parliament. Most parties are ethnic-based and have no vision or influence at the national level. Their primary focus is regional ethnic issues and ethnic nationalism. Neither of them has the hope of gaining the majority vote and becoming the governing party.
To free ourselves from the current political muddle, we do not have an alternative party. We live and deal with what we have. There are two scenarios that we expect in the coming election. The first is that the current leading party will win big and become the nation’s ruling party.
A second is that a group of ethnic parties, national parties, and including the current ruling party, may form a coalition government.
In the second option: –
1- It is difficult to legislate anything. This kind of power-sharing leads to deadlock and dysfunctionality. Political conflict and stalemates are inevitable. Rendering the government immobile and unable to act. This is like keeping enemies in the same cage.
2- Again, it will restructure the defense and the rest with a new representation number. As a result, it would lead to further discord within the same ethnic groups. It would form multiple loyalties within the organizations and individuals.
3- We have federal agencies that are populated by current ruling party cadres and cadre-technocrats. It would be a struggle to unseat some of them and reorganize the institutions. It is not hard to guess that the government would be undermined by sabotage and intrigue.
4- Frightening, above all else, is that there are groups that do not abandon their secessionist mindset. Some of them have no definite position and do not give us any sense of faith in Ethiopia’s unity.
For some of them, the Ethiopian unity and nation-state building agenda are conditional. According to them, the idea can be ‘considered’ as they control their ethnic group and gain influence at the national level. We do not understand what they will do, on the off chance that they gain charge.
5- We have outstanding critical agendas, to name a few-
A- Completing the peace deal and the Eritrean border settlement.
B- Resolving the conflict between the government and the TPLF.
C- The Pending Issue of the Capital city – Addis Ababa.
D- The outstanding border issue between Tigray and Amhara regions.
E- Amending the Constitution
The agendas alluded to above—and many more besides—will be very complex and divisive agendas for a coalition government of all minorities.
These problems and other issues are impossible to solve unless the existing leading party gains the majority.
As the saying goes, “Swapping horses while crossing streams is not appropriate.” After much difficult reflection, this article concludes that—despite significant weaknesses—the current government is the only and best way forward. To make such a decision, at such a critical moment, has one noble reason at heart. That reason is the unity and integrity of the country. With no satisfactory alternative, now is simply not the time to change hands.
Our days of naive emotional support of the government are long gone. It was the innocence of faith, of complete trust, hope, and optimism. Now we live with distrust, confusion, fear, anxiety, and worry about our lives and our country.
There is a twilight-like description of the state in which we live. The question is, is it dusk or dawn? It is the dawn of a better era for the government’s supporters. It is dusk for the opposition parties and individuals.
Sadly, there cannot be a bottom-up solution in Ethiopia; if we want it to be, it is revolting and destruction. For over two decades, the ruling party deprived citizens of active political participation. As a result, it was impossible to be organized under civic associations or professional organizations.
Until now, free and fair elections have been less of a function and more of a concept. We may also argue that the people are not organized and have no say in the Ethiopian political processes.
The bad news about Ethiopia is both frequent and nauseating. However, for the sake of Ethiopia and its people, unity considers supporting the government. Is there any other alternative?
We should embrace and support the political pundits’ idea to sue the current government at the international court. Our conscience should not allow us to stay quiet after watching what has happened. How can we rightly object to openness and accountability that brings justice to the nation and the people? However, these are not the thoughts of one who displays corpse-like allegiance at all costs.
When we face a complex problem to solve, we have to be pragmatic. The best way to go is by seeing our situation clearly and logically and doing what works best. We may construct theories to form and shape our thoughts, but they are useless if they do not base on objective reality. We can look for values, but values are not complete in themselves. We use-value in order to value other values.
Therefore, we should not go for abstract concepts, but concrete and focused ideas that come out of reality to find a solution. When we try to find a solution, it may not be the way we want it; it should be as the objective reality demands and dictates. The situation calls on us to follow the necessary political strategies and resolve the issues urgently.
We are in the worst-case scenario than in 2016. Then, the minority social group is in control of most of the population. Now, the majority of social groups are in power. The alignment of the country’s political parties has changed and has distinct priorities. In 2016, it was all against one, and all wanted to see the same outcome. However, now there are different aspirations and political priorities of the parties.
Egypt has become a major potential security threat, and the relationship with the US is weakening. We are in a different ball game.
All the political issues mentioned—alongside the new daily crop-up problems—should alarm us that we are in a dire situation. Whether the government is aware of the case, we do not know. Or is it like other doomed governments waiting for their collapse, hoping that things are okay?
Is the government committed to retaining its dominance and not paying attention to the desperate situation we are in? When one’s power is threatened, it mostly thinks through a muscle, not a brain. Power is a tricky thing. It makes one invincible, but it has an illusory character, not knowing when one will lose it.
The concerns we have cannot be fixed solely by the government. While it is not impossible to fix them, it will be difficult for both parties and the government to be together. If we are willing to solve the problem, unity and collaboration are the solutions.
Would our concerns be eradicated—or our pessimism eased—by giving critical support? The answer, emphatically, is No. Nevertheless, that does not entail the death of passion for our country. It is to this extent that we are trapped, becoming vulnerable in the present political situation.
If we say ‘it gets worse before it gets better.’, it would be like an unanswered prayer. It is wishful thinking based on a fallacy. Are we willing to avoid the chaos that is coming? If, with a sense of urgency, the necessary steps are taken with a mind to the problem’s immensity, then it can be done. It can be achieved by the one in power, with the people standing behind the cause.
We must acknowledge that our nation is mainly driven to disintegration by ourselves, not by external enemies. This self-destruction must cease and end immediately. Otherwise, after destroying the country, each of us loses our being.
What we are now seeing is a slow-motion of self-destruction in progress. If it gets out of hand, call it the civil war or ethnic conflict that will be the most devastating in its scale from what the world has seen so far. This is not to be an alarmist; the facts on the ground clearly warn us to save ourselves now. We should better resist the delusion that this will not happen to us.
We have to come to our sense of responsibility to find a solution through a peaceful means and civil dialogue. The elites and leaders of political parties and the government should play an essential and responsible role for peace and unity to be realized. In the Ethiopian context, the responsibility and the accountability fall entirely on the elites and political parties if it goes wrong.
Our situation has no place for a foolish optimist. However, let us focus on the country’s unity, and we can fix the rest through dialogue. Knowing we are without an alternative, let us shape and force the government to act with our country’s peace and unity in its heart and action. In the end, we, the people, are the agents of our fate.
I’m not trying here to sanitize the weakness and failure of the government or defend its actions. I have tried to describe the apparent reality that is recognized or perceived by many. I know some will wonder how such a weak government can be supported. I agree with their humble query and respect it. Let them show me, however, the other way out and the alternative. I’m living to learn.
I am also not saying this government will solve all our problems. I am not so naive to believe this. Unfortunately, we will stay at the core of the problem for a long time, even if we can correct the government’s flaws and succeed in reforming the constitution. Yet, we will be haunted by racial sentiment-regionalism-hatred the arbitrary residual elements of the issues.
These elements stem from the structural, emotional, and significant psychological effects of the current constitution on the people’s mind for almost three decades. They have subjected us to these problems from the very beginning through the constitution.
Finally, I am mindful of the stance taken, and the emotionally supercharged national unity idea in this article. I have spoken sharply, but I am transcribing the voice of my heart. I know few may weigh this article as anti-federalism. Others may say it is antiquarian thought that looks back and that I am a pacifist. There will be people who think I do not have concern for the people’s suffering and death.
None of these are right, and I do not need to explain myself beyond what I put in this article.
The article’s first draft was completed before the war broke out. I add the postscript about the war, not to affect the article’s flow and cohesion.
TPLF – Betrayed the nation
Shortly after finishing writing this article, the news broke that the TPLF forces launched a military assault on the Ethiopian Defense Forces in Tigray. We may claim this is a direct assault on Ethiopia and its people. The Defense Force is the embodiment and protection of Ethiopia. It is unprecedented to see but, sadly, is not shocking. This kind of action is in their Defective Natural Attitude — the DNA of TPLF.
They made this surprise attack on the defense force defending Tigray’s people for over twenty years. In moments such as this, the EPRP forces slaughtered by TPLF do not go forgotten. They murdered them in their sleep, under the pretense of a meeting with the TPLF.
From the beginning, TPLF has shown a complete disregard for Ethiopian unity. They followed secessionist’s ideas, and they still do. They have not changed their name, still claiming to liberate the people of Tigray. When they found a moment to seize national control, they posed as keepers of Ethiopian interest. When they lost power, they showed their true nature once more.
The Tigray people are being held hostage by their sons and daughters. Given the means, they would surely free themselves from such bondage. Unfortunately, by the hand of false propaganda and force, they remain paralyzed.
There are two scenarios. TPLF may plan a protracted struggle to weaken the central government and allow the problem to spill over nationally. If the government cannot end this war swiftly, could there be any peaceful resolution instead?
We should not ignore such an intolerable act of violence against the defense force. Their secessionist aspirations and the country’s destabilizing acts should be confronted. However, Ethiopian people cannot afford a drawn-out battle with these evil actors.
Assuming the government has viable intelligence information on the ground to decapitate TPLF — and end the war quickly, then war could be supported. However, this requires significant deliberation over the situation on the ground and evaluating various warfare items. The military force’s effectiveness for the mission should not be taken on assumption and instead requires serious consideration.
In any war, what matters is the outcome. If the outcome will be prolonged and make it a campaign, it will hurt the Ethiopian people and exacerbate the civil strife.
Of course, this war may provide a solution to the threat to national unity from the TPLF. Otherwise, all the problems will stay with us, some of which will increase exponentially. The economic downturn will widen; criminal activities like murder and kidnapping will be escalated.
The TPLF and OLF supported armed groups in the western region to continue to carry out barbaric and criminal ethnic attacks in the area. When the defense forces’ attention focuses on the war, illegal arms smuggling will increase more than ever.
In the defense and security forces and other organizations, we will see more broken loyalties. As a consequence, there will be a regular practice of sabotage and defection. It is also a moment when people, groups, and parties will be judged for their commitment to the nation’s unity and dedication to justice.
While the focus now is on the war with the TPLF, the government should not overlook the other agendas. We know any war is based on deception; thus, what the people informed and the actual circumstances are always different. Indeed, the government has to walk through between national security breaches and public records. However, people are the source of power and victory and should get adequate and truthful information.
I strongly recommend the government be honest with itself, and people should not react emotionally and reactively. Emotions, vengeance, and past and present bad feelings should not cloud our actions. Instead, it should see the cost and benefit of war and the time to end it. A rational and realistic idea should guide military muscles.
If it is protracted, the government should examine the peaceful means of resolving the issue.
Let us hope the outcome favors the Ethiopian people’s side.
Let us hope the out
 Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Translated by Thomas Common
The modern Library Edition
 Politics is, at heart, a battle of narratives, a competition over human consciousness.