March 28, 2013
Ethiopia’s ruling party, EPRDF, has held its 9th General Assembly this week. It elected Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Ato Demeke Mekonnen as its chairman and vice chairman. The late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi’s spouse, Azeb Mesfin, who herself was elected as a Polite Bureau member of the party, made a spirited appeal to selflessly serve the people with humility, clean corruptions and develop Ethiopia.
I applaud the emphasis given to development. The objectives to seeing Ethiopia prosperous and getting rid of poverty are indeed noble objectives.
However, I would like to challenge EPRDF leaders, by asking what benefits, waging an intense campaign of incarcerating peaceful civilians can bring to the developmental efforts. How could they be able to achieve their noble objectives, by undermining at the same time the basic foundations that are necessary for the anti-poverty campaign? How does incarcerating anti poverty advocates, democratic, peaceful and honorable citizens, like Eskinder Nega, Andwalem Arague, Bekele Gerba, Reyot Alemu help the war against poverty?
Key ingredients needed for economic developments are stability and the rule of law. For investors to invest more there need to be confidence in the political system as well as the Judiciary.
Currently there may be many investors who took risk and started businesses in Ethiopia. However, the moment these investors start seeing clouds of political instability and uncertainties, they will surely take action to safeguard their investments by relocating to other countries, ultimately leaving many buildings and factories in Ethiopia empty. Development without good governance, the rule of law and respect of human rights are not real developments but mock developments that are not lasting and benefits only the very few.
By incarcerating peaceful political leaders and reporters, by closing down newspapers, by blocking peaceful opposition’s protests, by unraveling medieval and cheap propagandas on government media against citizens, officials may think that they would create a stable atmosphere for development. They may think that the God-given inherit needs and demands Ethiopians have for freedom and democracy may die. They may think that they are untouchables.
However, such sense of security is false and illusionary. The wrongly perceived weaknesses of the oppositions are only temporary and cosmetic. As Dr Martin Luther King said: “unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. The temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
Unless we come together and reconcile our differences today, no one will be safe tomorrow. As Frederick Douglas stated: “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
The supreme court of Ethiopia is expected to make a decision on April 8 2013 on the case of Eskinder Nega, Andwalem Arage and other prisoner of conscious. Per the Ethiopian constitution, the Judiciary is supposed to be independent. However, there are reports that one of the judge was summoned to the council of Ministers to discuss what decision he needs to make. Therefore whatever decision we will hear that day, it shall be the decision of the Council of Ministers.
I think the EPRDF officials have a choice to make here. They can either build up on some of their visible accomplishments they had and make peace with the people; or they can decide to continue being on the opposite side of the majority. They can either be part of the solution or be obstacles for Peace and Democracy. They can either earn an honorable place in history or they can be despised and vilified for generations. They can achieve their noble developmental goals by lining behind those who politically oppose them as well; or they can let constructions of buildings and infrastructures start but not end.
I therefore, respectfully call for Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, W/r Azeb Mesfin and others, to make the right and godly choices and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscious. (UDJ leaders, prisoners from OFC, reporters, human right activists …). By doing so, they will show a clear gesture to all Ethiopians, that the EPRDF, contrary to what it has been perceived, has clear commitment to developing peaceful, democratic political system in Ethiopia.
I highly recommend also that they start genuine dialog with opposition groups within Ethiopia as well as groups like Oromo Democratic Front, a group that has recently led out a its own peaceful vision to solving the political impass , and showed willingness to have dialog with the ruling party.
It is my hope and prayer that the leadership of the EPRDF will heed the call of many reasonable people from among themselves as well, look beyond the horizon and above their individual prides, and take historic steps at this historic moment, in this historic country of ours. Let democratic reforms start by releasing Eskinder Nega and others. Let dialog with the oppositions start.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools” said Dr Martin Luther King. Let us choose hope over despair, peace over war, love over hate, dialogue over confrontation, so that we can be able to live in dignity in that great land of ours, ETHIOPIA.