A Necessary and Timely Move


The series of breaking news we have been hearing over the last few weeks were about the latest progress on military victories of the gallant Ethiopian forces fighting the enemy in Northern Ethiopia. But the one we heard last Wednesday on the national TV was different. It was not about the war. Instead, it was something related to peacebuilding.- The passing of a bill by the parliament to establish the National Dialogue Commission. A shift from war-breaking news to peace-breaking news.

A few days ago, the honorable Ghanian and Kenyan MPs made breaking news throwing punches and bottles at each other. And Ethiopian MPs made their first breaking news in several months approving a timely and crucial bill, which has been anticipated for so long by citizens and various political parties.

The news we heard from parliament is worth great attention because it has a symbolic value in signaling the arrival of a time of genuine change for the country that has been and still is experiencing a devastating war. It marks the beginning of the end of the war period; and the onset of the era of lasting peace and reconciliation.

The introduction of the new law serves as proof of the government’s commitment to building the country’s future with the shared vision, beliefs, and consensus of citizens. It stands as a testimony to the fact that the government means what it says, as it had delivered what it promised a few months ago when the beginning of its five-year term, that is, its commitment to inclusivity and building national consensuses.

Needless to say, citizens are not supposed to have the same outlooks on all aspects of national age issues of their country. However, there are some fundamental points that citizens should share a common understanding with minimal differences. These may include the narratives on the making of the Ethiopian state, what the future holds for Ethiopia, what sort of governmental structure and political system would be best for Ethiopia, and so on.

Thanks to the divide and rule colonial-like policy of TPLF’s 27 years rule, Ethiopians are not currently seeing each other eye to eye on several questions surrounding the past, the present, and the future of Ethiopia. There is a perceived undercurrent of conspiracy theories and tensions among various political groups and elites. From the design of the national flag up to the contents of the supreme law of the land, The Constitution, Ethiopians have several points of discord.

The Dialogue Commission could bridge the widening rift among the various narratives and outlooks regarding  the fundamental national issues. It is incumbent upon the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission to facilitate an inclusive dialogue and reconciliation process, build a consensus on the key issues and help the country to solve its complex problems.

The national dialogue would help bring about a framework for a new political dispensation, which recognizes the full and equal legitimacy of Ethiopians’ different identities and aspirations. And at the same time, it would give citizens a cause and shared vision to stand united and work together for the good of their country, Ethiopia.

The Commission could create a conducive platform for Ethiopians to discuss the sticking points in the reconciliation process that are a potential cause for tensions and instability of the nation. It would also collect and organize constructive opinions from the participants, and work towards their implementation through reforms by the different organs of the government.

In an interview he gave a few weeks ago, a senior government official underscored the government’s high expectation of the national dialogue, and its readiness and eagerness to give due consideration to the recommendations coming out from the dialogue. “The new inclusive dialogue will solve any discord that we may be having. We can amend our constitution, so all Ethiopians would see themselves as relevant to participate in this broader process. With the political sphere broadened, all elements of the Constitution being open for discussion in the coming national dialogue, there is no moral reason to pick up an arm,” he said

The success of the National Dialogue Commission would go beyond transforming the political landscape for the better. It would also be a trigger for the Ethiopians in the Diaspora, the untapped powerhouse of Ethiopia, to get confidence and reassurance to return home and inject their financial resources and hi-tech skills into the economy.

Several reasons can explain why it is logical to be optimistic about the Dialogue Commission’s chance of achieving its missions. It would work independently from the influence of the government bodies. In a clear departure from previous practices, the 11 members of the Commission would not be appointed by the Premier. Instead, they would be nominated by the citizen and civic societies and later approved by the parliament.

Similarly, strangely enough, the regulations required to implement the proclamation are to be prepared by the parliament, not the executive branch of the government[the council of Ministers].

 These arrangements would create a good start for the commission to have a free hand and unbiased mind to execute its task independently.

A platform for dialogue of such sort has been unheard of in Ethiopian politics. For almost half-century, generations of Ethiopians have been aspiring for it, since the demise of the imperial regime. Unfortunately, differences in outlooks among the public that could have been reconciled with dialogue were muffled with the brutal repression of the ruling powers. And they later exploded into conflicts and civil strife, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives; and destruction of the county’s wealth.

The rival political groups of the 70s, most of which were basically Marxist, could not have a dialogue to reconcile their differences. Instead, they chose the violent means of settling their differences, which ultimately led to the White and Red Terror that claimed the lives of thousands of educated citizens and caused an exodus of others out of the country.

The muffling of ideas during the 17-year rule of the Derg regime and the avoidance of political dialogue among citizens has only intensified the divisive political undercurrent. That has helped those political entities like TPLF, who thrive in chaos and division, to take roots and propagate their false narratives.

Since the purpose of national dialogue stands contrary to the basic tenets of its colonial style of governance[divide and rule], the idea of building national consensus has been frowned upon during the 27 years of the TPLF administration. Now the time has come for Ethiopians to discuss their desires, grievances, narratives among themselves, clarify the myth from the truth, and discard the divisive false narratives undermining their unity.

It is the first time for Ethiopians to get a chance to have a dialogue to check the validity of records of the past, and to frankly deliberate and reach consensuses on the best possible ways to structure, manage and lead Ethiopia into the prosperous future.

While patriotic Ethiopian Forces continue to defend their country against the aggression of the terrorist TPLF and its allies, the rehabilitation of the war-affected towns and displaced compatriots is well underway. Similarly, reinforcement of the foundations for national unity, lasting peace and reconciliation through dialogue would go hand in hand. When noticing all these happening at once, it would be logical to hope for the end of Ethiopia’s violent days and the damn of peace and harmony.

The January 2/2022

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