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Today: June 19, 2024

Is it not the time of Ethiopia’s Renaissance?

May 19, 2024

By Said Goto Osman

 

Introduction

Over the last 50 years, Ethiopia was ruled by three governments: the military rule which lasted 17 years (1974-1991); the EPRDF (TPLF) rule for 27 years (1991-2018); and Prosperity Party rule of 6 years (2028-present). The military revolution leveraged the civilian unrest in the early 1970s to take power from the Imperial administration. But after taking control of the country, the military turned against the population and killed, imprisoned, and force thousands if not millions to flee the country and seek refuge across the globe! So, the military used the opportunity provided by the public to take power but instead of respecting the rights of the public to participate in a democratic governance it suppressed the public to maintain an autocratic rule! That’s what usually happens when military powers take control of a nation!

Having repressed and alienated the public, when famine, economic decline, and the impact of the Ogaden War hit, the Derg had no where to turn other than relying on the foreign handouts. That created the opportunity for the liberation movements to coalesce and, with foreign support, eliminate the Derg and take power under the TPLF. So, the WIN-LOSE strategy of the Derg ended up with LOSE-LOSE – the public lost, and they lost! The power and confidence with which the military leadership took power waned over time, and in the end the rag-tag army of the liberation fronts just walked into Addis Ababa and took power. If the Derg leadership appreciated their power would not remain the same despite the harm they were doing, they probably would have survived longer!

The TPLF after taking power, crafted the policy of dividing the nation along ethnic lines and thus established the divide-and-rule policy, which was applied by the colonialists in Africa, including in Ethiopia’s southern neighbor, Kenya! The strategy was presumably designed to protect the minority state of Tigray to maintain dominance. But in the end the community that suffered the most under the TPLF rule and afterwords were innocent Tigray people! Their suffering continues to this day! Did the TPLF learn anything from the experiences under the Derg, or Kenya’s experience under the British rule? Change came in Ethiopia in the last decade, people rose up against the TPLF and its surrogates. That opened the gate for the emergence of the Prosperity Party under Abyi Ahmed.

What has Abyi Ahmed learned from the Derg regime which killed his brother and led him to join the liberation movements as a teenager? What has he learned as a military officer and other roles in the TPLF administration? What has he learned as a parliamentarian, and as a member of ODP? One thing is for sure, he became adept at crafting an image for himself which makes people trust him as a transformative political figure in Ethiopia and the African landscape. That is how he managed to take the world by storm with a series of reversals of policies and actions of the TPLF-led government, thus, earning the Nobel Peace Prize! But as Einstein said, however he tried to pretend who he was not, the truth eventually came out, and today he is leading the most dangerous administration in Ethiopia with the potential of disintegration of the nation! So, what is the solution for Ethiopia? Repeat what Mengistu Haile Mariam, or Melese Zenawi, or Abyi Ahmed did? Should we not heed what Einstein said about repeating the same experiments and expecting a different result?

Today Ethiopia has a population which has been victimized over the last several decades, and especially under the Abyi Ahmed’s administration.:

  1. Who are the Victims?
    1. People targeted as enemies:
      1. Political opposition.
      2. Civil rights advocates.
      3. Media personalities.
    2. Victims of the clashes between the administrations and their opponents:

The vast majority of people fall into this group although they don’t get involved in politics etc. – because of their ethnicity, religion, wealth, education etc.

  • Victims of divide and rule, the strategy which turned neighboring ethnic regions against each other. Examples: Oromo vs Amhara; Amhara vs Tigrayan; Somali vs Oromo.
  1. What are the expectations of these various victims going forward?
    1. The various opposition groups may want to assert themselves and push their agenda. They likely will feel it is their turn to take control and punish those who have tortured them for decades!
    2. The majority need to see democratic changes and live in peace – they have suffered enough and live in the hope that better days will come.
  2. What are the likely obstacles to democratic reform?
    1. Abyi Ahmed’s desire to cling to power, while creating chaos!
    2. Desire by the opposition parties to take control of their own destiny – like Eritrea did – and plunge the country into chaos!
  • 30+ years of divide-and-rule has generated so many hostilities between the neighboring regions and ethnic groups!
  1. Land-grabbing by the few in collusion with the PP administration.

My thoughts about the Ethiopian Renaissance

On August 5, 2018, I published my opinion about the Ethiopian Renaissance, about 4 months after Abyi Ahmed came to power. While celebrating the whirlwind positive policies he had implemented within 4 months after coming to power, I was concerned that after what the country had gone through during the previous 44 years, the same would be repeated if the population do not stand up and protect freedom, justice, and security of the nation. I also shared my thoughts about how to avoid the tragedies which occurred under the preceding administration. Here is the link for those interested in reviewing the paper:

https://zehabesha.com/ethiopias-rennaisance-cradle-of-mankind/

Today, as we all know the entire world-order is in turmoil! International institutions on which we have heavily depended over the last 70+ years are no longer reliable. Advanced governments on which the third world have depended hitherto for support, whether man-made or natural disasters, today those nations have their own potentially catastrophic conditions to worry about. So, crisis-prone nations which have for inexplicable reasons thrived on creating destructive strategies to hurt their own population will have only verbal support from the traditional external supporters. Change is the most constant fact in life and if we rely on what worked so well for us in the past, we are in for surprise!  Just think about what is going on in the Gaza Strip. It is not as though Israel and Palestine have no friends in the world, but why should they expect the world to come in and solve the problems they have been nurturing for the last 50+ years. Please, look at the short list of basic facts of life as you ponder on where Ethiopia should head from where she is today:

  1. Einstein’s definition of insanity: repeating the same experiment over and over again and expecting a different result (e.g. strategies of previous admins).
  2. Change is the most constant fact of human life, but humans resist change when it is inconvenient (e.g. cultural values which resist the evolution of new ways of addressing problems or interacting with each other).
  3. The circular path of human history. In other words, history repeats itself. While we cannot change the pattern of the circular path, we can change the trajectory from perfect circle to a spiral (positive = progressive, negative = retrogressive).
  4. Humans make progress for the benefit of all when they join hands and work together to achieve a common goal, that is a WIN-WIN strategy. When humans WIN at the expense of fellow humans, the victory tends to be temporary since the victim will hit back at some point, i.e. LOSE-LOSE strategy (e.g. how prior admins ruled in Ethiopia).
  5. Arthur Schopenhauer, 19thcentury German philosopher described 3 lives lives of a new fact: First it’s ignored; second – because it persists all, attempts are made to destroy it; third – it is accepted as a given (e.g. those who first discovered inconsistencies in Abyi Ahmed’s behavior must have ignored them as non-event, then tried to change him by various means, I am sure many have perished, and today the entire country is on a brink of disaster because his narcissism, incompetence, authoritarian style is a given).
  6. Crisis-prone nations are ones that repeatedly create crises and rely on the international community to resolve the problems.

 

What is the Appropriate Path of Provisional to Democracy for Ethiopia?

Four models of Provisional Governments have been identified as more acceptable governance are explored, and the choice depends on the participating entities and the environment of the negotiations. As I mentioned above, changes in governance and the environment of the country occur constantly and, therefore, modifications of the existing types of Provisional governments become necessary for the best fit of the environment. Here are the types of Provisional Governments and my thoughts regarding the pros and cons of each system:

  1. Revolutionary Provisional Government. This is formed by overthrowing the existing government by the revolting group, e.g. military overthrow. Opinion: Today there is only one group of armed forces which can potentially, with the assistance of entire nation be able to remove the current administration out of power. But knowing the history of such assumption of power, it may turn out to be a repeat of the Derg and TPLF led administrations.
  2. Power-sharing Provisional Government. The current government and its opposition made an agreement with the opposition forces to form the transition. Opinion: So far what the nation has learned about Abyi Ahmed is that he is narcissistic, and under his government ethnic division has worsened, the nation is in serious economic decline, he has silenced or eliminated meaningful opponents, and incarcerated or forced media personalities into exile. Furthermore, he has created a hostile environment with Ethiopia’s neighbors including Eritrea and Somalia. Given all these credentials, one cannot expect meaningful progress with this type of provisional governance, assuming he remains in the leadership of PP.
  3. Incumbent Provisional Government. The existing government agrees to become a transitional government as the new regime is being formed. Opinion: For the same reasons I gave under #2, no progress can be expected with Abyi Ahmed, or his team being involved.
  4. International Provisional Government. The international community takes charge during the transition period. This scenario will be relevant if the current situation of inter-ethnic conflict, famine, corruptions, economic collapse, etc., bring the Ethiopia to the category of failed state. Because of the importance of regional stability, internation organizations may intervene and set up a Provisional administration. That has not worked well in Somalia, and because of ethnic divisions in Ethiopia, I doubt this will work!

Of course, in the desperate situation Ethiopia finds herself in today, any of the above option can work temporarily, but as situations improve, as the country experienced even under the current administration, abuse of power will most likely re-emerge as long as elements of the previous administrations participate in the transition.

 

Given the current realities on the ground, in my view a modified variety of the Revolutionary Transition Government is the most promising of all options. Today there is one armed force, the Amhara FANO group, which does not declare itself as a liberation movement (although it is determined to liberate Ethiopia from the current regime) which gives it some credibility across the ethnic entities. But as I mentioned earlier, the history of Revolutionary force taking power does not have great track record as a reliable path to democratic governance. Here are some modifications which can make the Revolutionary pathway more palatable:

  1. Fano to team up with other movements (including members of the current ENDF) and change its name as an Ethiopian movement instead of Amhara movement. The team should encompass as many ethnic groups as possible. That way trust is built fairly quickly, across the nation.
  2. The Revolutionary force should only serve as defense force for the protection of the country.
  3. A transitional Administration of National Unity should be formed as I suggested in my paper of August 2018:
    1. Set up the administration of national unity:
      1. National transition committee to select Administration of National Unity (ANU) composed of:
        1. Regional politicians
        2. Regional civic leaders
        3. Regional religious leaders
        4. Legal experts
        5. Constitutional experts
        6. International legal and constitutional experts playing advisory roles.
      2. Tasks of the ANU
        1. Draft a new constitution.
        2. Set legal rules and regulations for administration of amnesty/judicial oversite of the individuals in the former administration and liberation movements.
        3. Introduction of democratic practice and culture in the local and national administrations.
        4. Draft and hold a referendum at about 5 years following the formation of the ANU for the acceptance of the draft constitution.
        5. Craft Ethiopia’s own version of what democratic culture should be and not to import what has failed in other places: Egypt after “Arab Spring”, Iraq after Sadam Hussein, Afghanistan, etc.

No one can claim to have all answers to the complicated and chronic problems facing Ethiopia, in this world which is in turmoil. Those of us who have lived in the diaspora and benefited from the kindness, fairness, and humanity of our adoptive countries like the USA, owe it to our motherland, to come together share ideas so that we contribute positively to her future. Differences of our opinions used to help us contribute positively, will only help Ethiopia advance fast and get out of the current mess she is in.

 

Said Goto Osman

 

4 Comments

  1. Said:-
    Have you ever considered the South African model that operated successfully during 1992-1994 ? ANC, the Zulu faction, NP, SACP, and 22 others, with civil society, installed a democratic system in Apartheid South Africa at one stroke. The Apartheid President of South Africa ( i.e.. NP) was also a member of the Transitional Council that oversaw the transition of a miracle in South Africa. The armed groups have had to be in the Council to ensure that no armed group will create turmoil in the transition. In Ethiopia, we have such armed groups: the Government, Fano, OLA, ONLF, and others that need to be controlled by a similar Council to give birth to a democratic Ethiopia for us all and for Arica. I had proposed this to Imbylta.

    • Thanks, Andinnet,

      No question, the South African model should be used to serve as a guide for the resolution of Ethiopia’s problems! There are a lot of differences in the histories of South Africa and Ethiopia. The control of parts of South Africa started as early as 1652 when the Dutch East India Co. took control of a port in South Africa, before the occupation expanded and violence against the local communities intensified. ANC was established in 1912 and despite the struggles against injustice, Apartheid rule was established until transitional administration was established 50 years later. The campaign against injustice and for freedom intensified. Congress Alliance was formed in 1950 between ANC, SA Indian Congress, SA Colored Peoples Congress, SA Congress of Trade Alliances, and other entities. The international support and sanctions were established via Internation organizations, governments, activists, and diplomatic pressures. These actions played important role in bringing the De Klerk’s Apartheid regime to the table to discuss transition. The icon of South African freedom, Nelson Mandela was in prison and from that location he made life under Apartheid impossible, so, De Klerk was in effect Mandela’s prisoner!

      Mandela, after finding out that peaceful demonstrations would not achieve ANC’s goal, established and armed movement – Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) to put more pressure on the Apartheid regime. From the Anglican Church, Bishop Desmond Tutu, helped focus the international attention on the injustice and cruelty his people were suffering under the Apartheid. Don’t forget, by 1992 when the Transition Council was formed, the entire African Continent has gotten rid of colonial rules. So, the South African Black community, Asian and other colored communities, national and internation business communities and governments, including those which had previously stood with Apartheid government, all came together and applied pressure that forced the whites to relinquish power. So there was unity of purpose against Apartheid from all participants!

      But as I mentioned in the article, the basic instinct of people who have suffered for centuries under a foreign power would be to take revenge and mete out similar humiliation and injustice on those who caused so much harm, but the leadership of the negotiators, including all the smaller opposition groups like the Inkatha Freedom Party, decided to use a WIN-WIN strategy for all, while at the same time the past injustices were addressed in a manner that went a long way to satisfy the victims and the perpetrators of injustice. The President of the Apartheid South Africa became a member of transition council, his role in that position was to make sure the white South Africans got fair deal like all South Africans. So, they set up Truth and Reconciliation Commition to address the atrocities under Apartheid; Multiracial Transitional Executive Council, to govern the country and ensure free and fair elections while dismantling the legal framework of Apartheid and establishing democratic governance; and finally free elections and majority rule.

      The history of Ethiopian governance is very different from what South Africa experienced. About 128 years ago Ethiopians fought and repulsed a European colonizer, and the WW II would deny the Italians take power. But there have been conflicts between various ethnic groups throughout history. The TPLF-led administration took advantage of the ethnic difference and established a divide-and-rule system for nearly 30 years. Today 70% of Ethiopians have only the experience of that system of rule and their mindset, especially among the more populous groups. So, it will be challenging to bring the FANO, OLF, ONLF together and work as a team to bring justice for all, using the South African example of how people of completely different backgrounds and privileges can come together and build a democratic system which will not discriminate against anyone.

      In my write-up, where I suggested the transitional Administration of National Unity, what I am proposing mirrors what was done in South Africa during her transition from the Apartheid system. A lot of the effort needs to be invested in this journey. Educating people to embrace their historic enemies is not easy, but the cost of repeating the historic damage must be openly discussed. Again, South Africa stands as an excellent example where people who have been hostile against each other for centuries have embraced each other, and even Ethiopia, the nation which stood with ANC during Apartheid regime had to travel to Pretoria to resolve its internal conflict!

      In order to ensure that the desired goal of One Democratic Ethiopia with equal justice, freedom, and equality for all to be achieved, the right people should be at the table to hammer out the age-old challenges – liberation movements, ethnic divisions, ethnic-based conflicts, marginalization of minorities, National Official language, establishment of democratic institutions, Law and Order, constitutional changes, etc. To work amicably and respectfully to achieve these goals the negotiators should be averse to conflict with each other, be prepared to give-and-take, collaborate instead of competing with each other, be comfortable asking and answering questions, plan proactively, be able to see the other’s perspectives, and understand when trust should or should not play a role in the negotiations. So, it takes more than having master’ or PhD degrees to be an effective negotiator. It requires appropriate personality characteristics to make it work. An argumentative, distractible, impractical, procrastinator, quarrelsome, insensitive, intolerant, and unreliable personalities should never be involved in this type of life and Nation-changing discussions because their presence at the table is a guarantee the effort will fail. So, a lot of research by qualified professionals needs to be conducted in the choice of participants. God Save Ethiopia!

  2. Establishing a transitional government in Ethiopia is crucial at this time. The current administration has struggled to uphold the rule of law, leading to widespread insecurity and incidents of theft across the nation. There are concerning connections between government armed forces and rebel groups like the OLF, as well as defections to organizations like the Fano fighters. The notorious perpetrators of these crimes, often associated with the group referred to as “Shene” by the government (though rejected by the OLF), continue to afflict suffering upon our people.

    It’s imperative to promote the noble idea of a transitional government comprising representatives from all active groups, including the current government, and to facilitate dialogue among them. Such a government should work towards drafting a constitution that respects the rights of all citizens, ensuring that decisions are made through majority vote while safeguarding the interests of minority groups.

    Together, let us advocate for this necessary transition towards a more stable and inclusive governance system.
    Pastor Degone Moretew

    • Thank you Pastor Moretew,
      You are right, it is crucial to establish a Transitional Government urgently before the situation in Ethiopia gets totally out of control! As I stated in the article, the time and circumstances are very different from where SA was under the Apartheid rule. Apartheid stood out globally as an unacceptable White dominance in an African nation where the native black people were treated worse than second class citizens! There was a united front nationally and internationally against the system at a time when there was a much higher level of collaboration across the world.

      There is no White rule in Ethiopia, and the nation is divided along ethnic lines. The administration appears to be working in cahoots with terrorists and “liberation movements” and as you hinted, really there is no effective governance. As Dr. Suleiman has been telling us repeatedly, external entities are interested in the Horn of Africa because of its significance geopolitical significance and for their own national interests, and the leadership of nations in the region are, sadly, acting as servants of those foreign interests. Thus, sadly, there is no united international stand here, unlike the Apartheid situation!

      It is important that every relevant Ethiopian regional and professional entities participate in the Transitional Government, however, as I mentioned in my article, one cannot expect a meaningful outcome with some of those people who are presiding over the dismemberment of Ethiopia today being at the table to support the crafting of a true, unbiased, functional democratic system. But that does not mean everyone in the leadership position of the current government should be excluded from participation in the process! I am certain that there are leaders there who believe in true democracy, peace and prosperity for all Ethiopians. It is crucial to do thorough investigations into the relevant entities and pick the right people for this work. Independent international experts from organizations like UNO, AU, etc. need to be engaged as referees to make sure the choice of the Transitional Government will lead to the resolution of Ethiopia’s current disfunction.

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