There are times bonds in society get to be challenged or political systems got loosened or broken due to various reasons. The loose bond may result in widening of division and eventually to recurrent conflicts and political instability. National dialogue in such circumstances would be very much indispensable. It would provide solutions and create a clear path a way forward.
Many nations have gone through this stage to mend their bond, in effect their system, and thereby realize peace and democracy. Tunisia is the latest example of successful national dialogue. The national dialogue saved a nation from political and economic turmoil that was first ignited ten years during the Arab Spring (revolution). The success of this national dialogue emanates from its success in incorporating civil societies and other relevant stakeholders.
The 2015 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.” The committee praised the Quartet for its “alternative, peaceful political process at a time when the country was on the brink of civil war.”
In the same token, Ethiopia is getting prepared for a historic and decisive national dialogue. The inclusive national dialogue was among the promise of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in his inaugural speech last September. The Premier said: “The coming years would be the time we will fly high embracing our diversity, reconciling issues that can be reconciled, respecting differences that deserve respect, and strengthening our multinationalism. For this to be achieved there would be a national dialogue that narrows our differences. The national dialogue would involve those people who can solve problems round the table. It wouldn’t be among political elites but recognize the participation of all segments of people.”
Like Tunisian National Dialogue, Ethiopia has already been laying basis where civil societies, exiled politicians, public figures in various fields, and other relevant stakeholders could take part in the process. Different laws have been amended and activities that would strengthen civil societies have been carried out for the past three years. Exiled politicians and critics have returned and are doing their preparation to play a considerable share for upcoming dialogue. The government also established the national reconciliation commission in 2019. Not to mention civil societies have played role in the recent election. So, there are chances they would play a huge role in facilitating the process and forwarding constructive ideas in the process.
Furthermore, lawmakers recently passed a draft proclamation to establish an independent National Dialogue Commission. The commission would usher a role of impartially leading and facilitating the national dialogue by incorporating politicians and actors from all sides. The commission would ultimately help politicians and the public to have a common understanding and stance on national unity and national affairs. The resolution is expected to be endorsed by the House of People’s Representatives after its deliberation and recommendations.
National dialogue can work if it includes key political actors, civil society groups, and other relevant stakeholders. National dialogues in Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya have suffered from a lack of inclusivity and impartiality. Ethiopia shouldn’t learn to repeat the mistakes of its neighbors. The integrity, strong principle, and conviction of participants are also other determining factor for national dialogues to be successful. Therefore, vetting and selection of the organizers would be the primary task of the commission that would be set up after the parliament’s decision. If only this is successful that the process would be trustworthy and its outcome would be positive. It is significant to recall Ethiopia had a national dialogue three decades before though it wasn’t fruitful. The lack of representation in some groups of community and imbalanced power in the commission hamper the process. Thus, it is vital not to repeat the same mistake and exacerbate Ethiopia’s current situation. The commission is accordingly expected to understand this and take the only constructive and candid path to the meaningful national dialogue.
Unlike Tunisian National Dialogue, Ethiopian National Dialogue will also feature local ways of problem-solving and involve people in different strata. “The whole process would be participatory and as chaired by Ethiopians it would incorporate domestic ways of problem-solving,” said the premier. Given its diversity and entrenched problems that is plaguing the nation for centuries; the road might not be all rosy. That is why the inclusion of people in addition to political elites and other prominent figures would be significant.
Participation of people will help provide unseen solutions and prevent the process from being affected by unfaithful politicians. The premier said: “We understand it is hard to solve political problems that were doubling up through time single-handedly. We have to stand together and build synergy to face and solve these increased problems.” If this is attainable, there would be a chance the national dialogue to provide a durable solution not only to Ethiopia’s current challenge but also age-long. It would also draw for other African nations to look into themselves than always imitate practices abroad.
As this give highlights on the government’s commitment for building a strong and united nation, politicians, prominent figures, journalists should play their share of duties for the process to be right and accepted by all sides. Readiness to compromise interests by all sides that participate in the discussion will also determine the result of the dialogue. Political groups, different ethnic groups, or classes of society should boldly present their demands and be ready to stop resentments once for all when solutions are provided.
Ethiopia is a beautiful country with a beautiful landscape, rich history, culture, and wisdom. But at the same time, it is among the poorest nations in the world with unstable politics. Nothing other than lack of understanding and national consensus contributes to its present-day paradox. For decades, arguments among various actors prevented the country to focus on things that really matter such as improving the well-being of citizens and realizing prosperity and democracy. Arguments kept the nation to sit on its treasures than tapping it to its development. The national dialogue should thus be held with this fact in mind. There won’t another perfect than this to solve this problem once for all. It could positively contribute to nations its aspiration of peace, democracy, and prosperity.
The dialogue, as auspicious it is, would be a cure to its age-long wounds, build consensus among people and government and pave the way to internal unity. It would also build the image and increase the influence of the nation on the global stage.
The planned national dialogue is meant to bring real impacts on the country’s future wellbeing. The dialogue is also expected to table all public queries without pressure from external influences and government interventions. So far, the process is undergoing a democratic and independent process. In fact, the public is the primary driving force to make it more sound and acceptable among all. This helps to bring each and every voice to the national platform. The dialogue is receiving public acceptance and many are pinning hope on it to cement Ethiopia’s democratic path and prosperity.
With the proclamation independent commission expected to be elected by the public, the dialogue is poised to take a new turn in the history of the country. The national platform is also a genuine and millstone attempt to reconcile differences and find a middle ground and lasting solution to national questions. The steps taken so far to ensure transparency in the early works of the national dialogue would lay a foundation for future undertakings.
The dialogue is by Ethiopians for Ethiopians and is being carried out in Ethiopian sentiment. It came amidst unwarranted foreign pressure that seeks to undermine the sovereignty and integrity of the nation. The legitimacy and the outcome of the dialogue are solely to be endorsed by no one but the Ethiopian people.
The purpose is neither to please the outsiders nor to doge international criticism. While Ethiopia is ready to consider constructive supports, the world has no choice but to stand by the will of the Ethiopian public.
Ethiopia has shown the world and proved naysayers wrong by holding a historic and credible poll with important lessons drawn from the national success. The sweeping reforms that have been taken by the incumbent to pave the way for democratization and national healing would have a great deal of contribution to make this tall order a success.
BY KFLEEYESUS ABEBE
THE ETHIOPIAN SUNDAY EDITION 13 JANUARY 2022