Gone are the days where one could sweep under the internal fault lines of the Ethiopian state as setbacks that have to do with “lack of good governance” or “lack of progress in democratization”.
Such cavalier statements ignore the fact that:
a) one needs a stable and orderly state to democratize,
b) people need to be citizens of such a state with the basic human, civil and political rights,
c) institutions of representation and participation are imperative to govern.
For all the rhetoric of the incumbent regime, these mechanisms do NOT exist in present day Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s current predicament entails:
- A regime that has lost popular support and legitimacy throughout the nation.
- The ruling party (TPLF/EPRDF) has failed to address the fundamental political plights and demands of the public. It has also failed to offer what could be modest confidence building measures. The future of the country is therefore hanging in the balance.
- The ruling regime employs indiscriminate and excessive violence against civilian protestors and private citizens who attempted to air out their grievances in peaceful demonstrations.
- For over a decade, the ruling party has silenced dissenting voices and undermined the legal, and constitutional course for a free and democratic order. It has deeply narrowed the political sphere where peaceful, non-violent and democratic forces found it almost impossible to operate under.
- Much of the loose rhetoric about past grievances and the discourse about guaranteeing equality between various ethnic groups (“nations” and “nationalities” in the Ethiopian parlance) had the consequence of heightening up tension and mistrust between the various ethnic groups. Inter-ethnic coalitions and civic forms of solidarity that transcend linguistic and ethnic affiliations waned by design.
- Much of the “labelling” done by the ruling elite of the TPLF and its indiscriminate use of force against others has now backfired. The level of resentment and anger the Tigrians elite and, in some circles, Tigrians in general, is on the uptick. The TPLF elite, on its part, has labored to cultivate suspicion and distrust between the Amhara and the Oromo elite.
- The lack of political good will on TPLF’s part to resolve the country’s problem has a lot to do with denial. All forces should, therefore, muster their voice and influence to pressure the TPLF to recognize Ethiopia’s tragic state of affairs and force it to be a part of a genuine, inclusive effort for a negotiated political outcome.
- True, opposition party leaders, civil society organizations, the independent media and others do play a critical and constructive role when a nation arrives at such a critical and historic juncture. But history is also replete with examples of how the ruling elite of authoritarian regimes have played a key and constructive role for negotiated political outcomes if the ultimate goal is genuine democratization. With this in mind, focus should also be given to approach, dialogue, and bear upon the leadership corps of the TPLF/EPRDF.
To underestimate how dire our circumstance as a nation is foolhardy and irresponsible. The Ethiopian state does risk total state collapse, ethnic strife or a full blown civil war.
It is therefore incumbent upon every Ethiopian to act with a sense of urgency and resolve to: 1) make sure these calamities do not come to pass, and 2) a free, and democratic society that guarantees the rule of law and equality for all is ushered in Ethiopia.
It is with that sense of urgency and mission that Wazema Radio puts forth the following Call for Action to all concerned Ethiopians.
A. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us to approach, dialogue and persuade members of EPRDF and the TPLF, in particular, that the status quo is untenable and that violence is not the answer.
B. We need to approach, dialogue, and lobby to persuade individual members of the federal and regional police force members, the Federal Army, and the intelligence to stop summary arrests, detentions, torture and imprisonment. The lower ranks of these forces should be encouraged and urged not to cooperate in such illegal and immoral acts.
C. Wazema Radio believes that the fundamental solution out of Ethiopia’s present political crisis is, i) when opposition party leaders from all political dispensations come together to dialogue and forge a common front, ii) develop a minimum political program that charts out a political roadmap for democratic transition and, iii) build a national consensus on the program.
D) Wazema Radio believes that such an undertaking should factor in the following caveats. First, we do not have to reinvent the wheel when such negotiations are held. Second, the next political order should be a democratic one with firm constitutional checks and balances. Third, a Federal arrangement is inescapable and indispensable for Ethiopia’s political prospect.
E) Both private citizens, and civil society organizations play an indispensable role if we are to ensure genuine democratization in Ethiopia. We also urge such initiatives to resist the temptation of peddling the interest and voice of political parties but hold the latter accountable. In fact, the political elite and their establishments should be constantly scrutinized, critiqued, and consulted by a wider critical mass.
Here, Wazema is referring to the broad gamut of associational practices and networks inside Ethiopia and abroad such as Idirs, Mahibers, Religious Foundations and Associations, Trade Unions, Professional Groups, and Chambers of Commerce. Private Citizens should begin to play an active role in these networks for genuine democratization to take place.
F) We urge all Ethiopians to show solidarity and togetherness across religious, ethnic, class or other differences. This is time to build bridges, to start dialogue, to strengthen our social ties and rekindle neighborliness. Such “organic” communities, we believe, guarantee us order and civility even if the formal institutions of law and order break down following tensions and conflict.
G) Ordinary Ethiopians yearn for a nation where their dignity is respected, their rights are protected and their dreams are validated. Each citizen needs a reassuring voice that one cares for another; that one’s pain is the other’s; that we have more in common than how different we are. Each citizen yearns to hear that what holds us together as ordinary Ethiopians is far stronger than what drives us apart. Wazema pleads every Ethiopian man and woman to be that voice of hope, trust and optimism for fellow other Ethiopians.
H) We cannot drive out hate with hate. We need to be vigilant against words and narratives that invoke hatred and violence against a specific ethnic group, religion or person. In fact, the biggest challenge for progressive forces of change in Ethiopia is, to make sure we do not fall in the same cycle of ethnic stereotyping, scapegoating and demagogy as our detractors. We urge every Ethiopian to uphold these values even when passions run high and injustice glares.
I) The International Community is better served to realize that Ethiopia is on an inflection point. The government has lost its legitimacy. Unleashing sheer violence against its own citizens has now become its only modus operandi. The status quo is simply untenable. Ethiopians in the Diaspora should constantly remind their host governments that silence and inaction on the part of the international community means bracing for a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions in the Horn of Africa.
J) We hope and expect that Ethiopian journalists in the country and abroad to join us in our call for action and also telegraph similar messages at this critical juncture in our history.
Wazema Editorial Team.