By Birhanemeskel Abebe Segni
The Ethiopian government, i.e., the EPRDF, has two options: to either heed and answer the demands of the Oromo Protests and get back the trust of the Oromo people or risk the total collapse and breakdown of the governance system. It seems that the EPRDF is entering its ““Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin” moment of the Bible. (The Book of Daniel Chapter 5)
Institutions and systems of governance are established on the social contracts of trust, accountability, impartiality, the creation of values, and delivery of broader societal goods and services. Laws are enacted and supporting institutions are created to enforce these social contracts of trust, accountability, and impartiality, the creation of values, and delivery greater societal goods and services. Governments, even the most authoritarian ones, stands and only exists on these cardinal principles and values of social contracts.
The Ethiopian government has breached and violated almost all the pillars of the elements of social contracts in its dealings with the Oromo people. The Oromo people have lost trust and confidence in the Ethiopian government run institutions, policies, and practices which are almost exclusively enacted and enforced to hurt and harm the national interests of the Oromo people.
In any country, laws and orders are enforced not because of the existence of courts and police on the streets or laws in books, but because of the societies trust in the values and virtues these social contracts; trust and integrity in the institutions that are created to enforce these social contracts. The higher the societal trust in the integrity and impartiality of those institutions, the higher the society functions and operates orderly based on these social contracts of trust, accountability, impartiality, the creation of values, and delivery of social goods and services to advance orderly, prosperous, and peaceful society.
The moment the government starts violating and breaching these social contracts of trust, accountability, impartiality, the creation of values, and delivery of goods and services; and erode the integrity and impartiality of institutions created to enforce these social contracts, the governance system collapses and the society disintegrates.
In its 25 years of increasingly abusive and repressive rules, the EPRDF government has created a situation where the total collapse of the governance system and societal disintegration are inevitable. It has breached and violated almost all elements of the social contracts underlying the foundation of the Ethiopian society in general and the Oromo society in particular.
Let’s look at the legal system. The EPRDF government has replaced the concept of the rule of laws with administrative discretions and legal violence of political cadres. Under the EPRDF, the law enforcement branch of the government and the court systems are operating based on the administrative discretions and violence of the political cadres, not the rule of laws.
The legislative branch, the parliament, exists to legislate laws not to advance societal goods and services and advance communal wellbeing but to limit the creation of values in a society and enhance the repressive arm of the government.
The institutions of law enforcement and court systems are not systems of justice, equality, fairness, and equity anymore. They are systems where political cadres exercise administrative discretions and violence to abuse, repress, and exercise political retribution, expropriate and dispossess the property of the poor, and reward the politically favored, all under the façade of legality.
The dispossession and impoverishment of Oromo people over the last 25 years through consciously enacted land and wealth transfer laws and policies to others whom the system favors; and the Oromo political prisoners languishing unjustly in Ethiopian prisons are primary and living examples of this policy of governance by violence and administrative discretions.
The education system is another center of this system of governance by violence and administrative discretions. The situation appears to be the same throughout the country. But, the extent of repression and brutality in Oromia based educational facilities and institutions finds no parallel anywhere in the country. As the #OromoProtests showed the entire world, Oromia based academic institutions are killing fields of Oromo students. University campuses were turned into military and police camps instead of becoming centers of teaching and learning, and research and knowledge production.
In the education system, competence and intellectual curiosities are being punished while retarded and inept political loyalists are highly esteemed and rewarded. Research and knowledge productions are replaced with propaganda works and cadres who parrot these lies. Academic freedom and productive debates are criminalized while the intimidating and pervasive environment of fear and insecurity of the student population, the next generation this country rests its hopes on, are considered as a virtue and noble tools of governance by swarms of security forces.
The Ethiopian government’s refusal to heed the demands of the Oromo people to offer makeup classes and postpone the national examination of 12th Grade Oromo students due the lost months of educational time as a result the nationwide ongoing #OromoProtests; and the eventual leakage of the exams which lead to its cancellation are just one manifestation of the Oromo people’s protest against the Ethiopian government’s policies and practices of hurting and harming the Oromo people.
The Ethiopian government must change the containment policy it currently follows on the Oromo people. The Oromo people, the people that account a significant portion of the Ethiopian population, cannot and will not be contained and exist on the political, economic and social periphery of Ethiopia. The Oromo people want to be at the center of the show, at the heart of the economic and political actions. It is important to note that in a country where the nationalism of other ethnic groups are skyrocketed, organized, and mobilized by their respective elites to scavenge on the land and natural resources of the Oromo, the Oromo people will not continue to be passive victims and bystanders. The Oromo people will fight back and defend their political and economic turfs.
Unless the EPRDF government changes its current policy of governance by violence and administrative discretion, the Oromo people will certainly resort to actively and consciously undermining these institutions and systems of violence and repression; and will collectively defend themselves from those who are encroaching on their lands and natural resources.
In short, sooner or later, the Oromo people and the disadvantaged others will take the law into their hands to survive in this world of the survival of the fittest the EPRDF government created. The Ethiopian government have two options in these scenarios. The first and the better options will be to heed and answer the demands of the #OromoProtests and renew its social contracts with the Oromo people. The second option will be to continue with the current system of governance through violence and administrative discretion and wait for the nationwide revolt against this corrupt, oppressive, and repressive system that will lead to the total and complete collapse of the system and societal disintegration.
The only question that remains is whether the EPRDF government will heed the call, and reform and transform itself and avoid the handwriting on the wall that reads “Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin” or not?