A promising start towards inclusive, open national dialogue


Lately, the Ethiopian Prime Minister appeared before parliament to respond to questions raised by lawmakers. Among the different matters, the issue of national dialogue has been at the center of the premier’s speech. Prior to Abiy’s appearance in the parliament, the House of Peoples Representatives (HPR) approved a Proclamation recently to establish the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission with a view to bringing national consensus, sustainable peace, and reconciliation in the country through an inclusive dialogue.

Ethiopia has been making an extensive preparation ahead of the planned national dialogue which is expected to mend centuries of political and other discords. With the election of 11 commissioners of the national dialogue finalized, the country is preparing for what the government calls an inclusive and transparent platform.

The national dialogue needs to be all-inclusive, participatory and there is no society that is going to be excluded from the dialogue. It is all about building the future of Ethiopia by healing the wounded history of the country which is beyond the party and individuals. It is not about the interest of a single party, individual or political party. The country which we are going to build is beyond our power or political party’s power and that’s why inclusive national dialogue is crucial, Abiy added.

The newly established National Dialogue Commission is to ensure peace and stability throughout the country by addressing the pressing problems from the grassroots, underscored Prime Minister.

Premier noted that the commission is established with a view to creating national consensus by narrowing the major disparities among the nations and ensuring peace in the country.

Abiy further stated that the elected commissioners of the national dialogue commission have no other roles other than facilitating a stage for all. We should not doubt the integrity and independence of individuals. “For us, negotiation is the proposed national dialogue. The people will have the ultimate and the final say on the major issues of the national dialogue through referendums. We need to make sure that all voices are heard and represented in the dialogue. The controversial issues that claim the lives of many people should be settled through discussion.”

As to him, the most important thing needed in this inclusive national dialogue is honesty; the whole process needs to be clear; it must not be the system that opens the door for suspicion. Negotiation is a method of identifying problem-solving options and it is the upcoming all-inclusive national consultation and the appointed commissioners have simply been given the task of coming up with proposals; the Ethiopian people will make the final decisions.

National dialogue would play a fundamental role in resolving differences over a range of national issues. It means that the dialogue helps narrow down disparities concerning ideological differences between individuals, attitudes, and realize trustworthiness among the community as well as ensure good culture across the country, said an economist Shefraw Adilu (Ph.D.) in an interview with local media.

Different countries have utilized such type of dialogue to solve their problems and recorded significant changes. For example, Senegal, Kenya, Central Africa Republic, and Tunisia are successful nations by taking significant measures in this regard. He, therefore, said that the dialogue should be transparent, fair, reasonable, participatory, and credible to realize the expected result in Ethiopia.

To be clear, different countries used national dialogue in escaping from their heaped challenges. However, national dialogue requires effective managerial systems to solve the given problems in a reliable manner thereby ensuring sustainable peace as well as good culture in Ethiopia,” Shefraw noted.

Ensuring the inclusivity of the National Dialogue Commission and encouraging the diversity of thoughts would enable the commission to attain the intended goal of addressing Ethiopia’s longstanding political disagreements amicably.

In a similar vein, another economist, Zelalem Teklu (Ph.D.) highlighted that the commission should open the door for non-political figures including religious institutions, activists, and public figures.

Moreover, lessons should also be drawn from other countries that went through similar processes regarding the national dialogue commission.

Noting challenges that Ethiopia has been encountering cannot be solved overnight, Zelalem stressed that concerned bodies including the media are expected to create a positive public attitude and trust in the outcome of the negotiation.

By the same token, the public should not let only the organized groups lead the way and have to make active engagement in the discussion and express their view.

About the commission’s overall impact, Zelalem indicated that if the dialogue meticulously addressed the main sources of conflict including disagreements including ethnic strife, it would undoubtedly restore peace and maintain economic growth.

“Let alone the final outcome, the current phase of the commission would contribute greatly to revive Ethiopia’s investment and tourism sectors,” Shiferaw opined.

“Even though, the political economy is deficient, the fact that the commission is set to resolve the challenges in a win-win approach thereby contributing significantly to address multiple challenges of the nation”, he remarked.

To make the dialogue a success, drawing international experiences are important is imperative.

International experience would be studied with a view to conducting a viable and all-inclusive national dialogue in the country. Apart from experience sharing, the ENDC would also collect research papers related to the issue and boost the skills and knowledge of its members to discharge its entrusted responsibility, said Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission (ENDC) Chief Commissioner Professor Mesfin Araya told the Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA) that.

The chief commissioner further noted that by designing meticulous programs and viable guidelines, they are intended to identify and analyze the most pressing issues that are worth to table for the national dialogue. There could be millions of ideas raised from different stakeholders and if we try to deal with them all, even thirty years could not be sufficient, let alone our three-year mandate to conduct an all-inclusive dialogue.

As to him, the commission will do a better job by identifying the causes of major disagreements in the country and prioritizing them. “If we want our country to be suitable for all of us to be safe and pass the same from generation to generation, all should cooperate.”

The commission is not the sole body that will decide the future of Ethiopia but it facilitates the condition for a better future, the people of Ethiopia need to support the establishment professionally and in other ways, Professor Mesfin made a call.

It was stated on the ENDC establishment proclamation that countries use different methods to bring about national consensus when they face the same problems that Ethiopia is currently facing. And, one of these methods is making a national dialogue, which is currently being implemented and becoming more effective in many nations.



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