Liberia (Daily Observer) — The Ethiopian government has done a remarkable job in economic recovery. From one of Africa’s poorest nations, it has emerged in the past several years as one of the world’s fast growing economies.
At last count, Ethiopia has been growing at the rate of 10% per annum. That is even greater than the mighty China and most other advanced economies.
Not only that. Ethiopia has a fast growing industrial enterprise. It is manufacturing beverages, sugar, and steel, and grows and exports coffee, cut flowers, oilseed and cotton.
These are in addition to the mighty Ethiopian Airlines, a world leader in the business, reputed to be almost crash-free, and also time-conscious.
Recently, with the help of the People’s Republic of China, Ethiopia inaugurated a railway from Addis Ababa to Djibouti, giving the empire direct access to the sea, from which to export its products. This is a critically important new development since Ethiopia lost its access to the sea through Eritrea’s Asmara seaport. Eritrea gained its independence in 1993; and in 1998, war between the two nations broke out. But after Ethiopia, with the upper hand in the conflict, entered Eritrea in May 2000, a peace treaty was signed.
But all of Ethiopia’s impressive accomplishments have been marred by conflict with her two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and the Amhara. Both groups feel they have been marginalized by the Ethiopian government. The Amhara are the ethic group of the late former Emperor, Haile Selassie who, along with Liberia’s President W.V.S. Tubman,
Ghana’s President Kwame Nkrumah, Guinean President Sekou Toure and Nigeria’s Prime Minister Tafewa Balewa, laid the foundation for the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU—now African Union).
Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974, followed by the ascendancy of the ruthless and brutal dictator, Menghistu Haile Merriam. He was later overthrown and sought exile in Zimbabwe, where he still lives.
We urge the Ethiopian government to negotiate immediately a ceasefire with the Oromo and Amhara and begin talks with them toward ending their marginalization, bringing them into the government and reaching out to their areas with education and development.
This marginalization, we submit, is the root cause of the conflict, and the Ethiopian government must develop the political will to sit with the leadership of the two groups toward reconciliation.
The Ethiopian government must remember the experience of Liberia, its closest ally in Africa over many decades since the Second World War. Ethiopia and Liberia were the only two independent African nations that helped form the United Nations, and were part of the decision making leading to the formation of the major UN Agencies, including the United Nations Development Program, the UN Declaration on Human Rights, World Health Organization, and the Bretton Woods organizations—the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the International Finance Corporation, etc.
What is happening in Ethiopia is exactly what happened to Liberia. The settler elite which founded Liberia in 1822, led by the American Colonization Society, wielded power exclusively, especially since the founding of the Commonwealth of Liberia in 1839 and more especially since Independence in 1847. This was done to the exclusion of the indigenous majority, comprising Liberia’s 16 ethnic groups.
All of this lasted until April 1980, when a bloody military coup d’état occurred, overthrowing the government of President William R. Tolbert Jr. A military dictator, Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe, emerged. He, along with 16 enlisted men, had staged the coup. They killed President Tolbert and his topmost officials. Unfortunately, Doe proceeded to exclude most of the other coup makers, except those of his ethnic Krahn group. And this helped lead the country to civil war.
It was marginalization that led to conflict in Senegal, when the people of the Casamance region took up arms against the Senegalese government. The Casamance people felt excluded, contending that all the development was taking place only in and around the capital city, Dakar. Fortunately, the government has finally commenced fruitful talks with the Casamance leadership, leading to peace.
We pray that Ethiopia’s main partners, especially the African Union, People’s Republic of China, United States and the European Union, will diplomatically engage Addis Ababa towards forging reconciliation with the Oromo and Amhara. The key to this is power sharing and bringing the benefits of development to all parts of the country.
Without this, all of the admirable development gains taking place in Ethiopia will not be sustainable.
Remember the prosperity of Southern United States, created on the backs of African slaves. Was it sustainable? No! It led to civil war and the total destruction of southern civilization, classically epitomized in Clark Gable’s epic American movie, Gone With the Wind!