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The Way Forward: National Reconciliation

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By Abel Asbneh Asfaw
Ethiopia today is at a defining moment in histoNational Reconciliationry. The hope of transitioning the country to a democratic system peacefully has faded away as the years passed under the current Ethiopian government. The EPRDF with its affiliates has declared a 100% victory in the May 2015 national election. That is a clear message by the ruling party that multi-party democracy is neither its priority nor an item included on its to-do list in the near future. As a result, the opposition camp that believes in changing the government peacefully and legally is increasingly being forced to join with those struggling to overthrow the regime by force.
Recently, Semayawi party chairman Yilkal Getnet, said at a press conference “we should not be surprised if people join armed groups in Ertirea” when asked about three members of his party who traveled north of the country to join Arbegnoch Ginbot 7 movement but were detained by security forces. The lack of political freedom coupled with mounting repression and high unemployment can be a fertile ground for the birth of another revolution in our country’s history. This has been the case as recently being witnessed in The Middle East and North Africa that claimed the lives of thousands of people and caused massive displacement, chaos and economic turmoil.
Although all political parties and civic groups have the responsibility to contribute in creating a favorable political system where power can be peacefully transferred in an election, the ruling party holds the lion’s share in this regard as it virtually controls all government institutions in Ethiopia. There is no reason why our country should go down the road of violence and chaos when negotiation, based on mutual benefit and respect can be a win-win strategy for all parties involved. It is true that the idea of national reconciliation has been presented by numerous concerned individuals and groups to the ruling party with no success. However, I believe the democratic opposition should keep on pressuring the EPRDF for a genuine national reconciliation not just simply because it is the right thing to do but because it is the only viable alternative we have to save our beloved country from total disintegration.
The regime has recently freed some bloggers and journalists which is a commendable action. There are many more journalists and political leaders who are in jail currently who should be freed as well. This can be a good start to begin a genuine national reconciliation process whereby all political parties are allowed to participate in a national conference that can shape the country’s political future. The EPRDF, opposition parties, civic groups and concerned individuals, intellectuals, elders and religious leaders should all participate in the process focusing on finding the ways and means of brining about democratic system whereby change of a government only occurs through the ballot box. This would put an end to violence once and for all and open the door for civilized politics, stability and economic development. However, it is clear that national reconciliation requires the willingness of the ruling party, especially in our case since the regime has total control over any political affair in the country, to prepare the venue for a genuine reconciliation process with all concerned parties. National reconciliation benefits members of the ruling party as well because it provides them protection from any vindictive action that might be directed at them from anyone.
The great Nelson Mandela managed to say no to hatred and embraced forgiveness in order to put all the past behind and move forward to a better future as a nation for which he will be remembered throughout the ages. He forgave his enemies and actually included F. W. de Klerk, president of South Africa under apartheid rule, as first Deputy President in his new cabinet. Madiba, as South Africans affectionately refer to him by his clan name, in his book titled Long Walk to Freedom beautifully stated that, “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” I urge the government of Ethiopia and all opposition groups to embrace wisdom and follow Madiba’s way!
Abel Asbineh Asfaw, Toronto, August, 2015