Inclusive national dialogue for closing animosity chapter


Ethiopia is now undergoing lots of changes; there is evident vibrant dynamism in the country. It has been involved in a devastating conflict in the north due to basically and principally disagreements and controversies that came to be created along the years between the Federal government and the terrorist TPLF leaders. It was inevitable as many had anticipated that ever since Ethiopia has been made to follow the ‘federal system’ based on ethnic origin and language, there could have incited multiple causes of conflict, which would affect the unity and peaceful coexistence of the various communities in Ethiopia.

It is well known that dividing the country along ethnic lines has been deliberately conceived and implemented for the political convenience of the ruling group. Ever since the TPLF EPRDF came to power in 1991, it has nurtured its survival and legitimacy by preventing people from believing in one united country. Instead they were busy fueling differences and weakening the cohesion and harmony among communities. Values of union were made to erode, as were a sense of belonging to one nation. All this was done to advance the political objectives and projects of one party.

The famous ideology of ‘self-determination of peoples’ as once advocated in the socialist camp was directly adopted by emerging forces such as TPLF and other ethnic based groups. Their intent was to create ‘independent states’ ruining the age old cohesion of communities in Ethiopia. Many say this idea of self-determination has been misunderstood by the then youths who considered the issue from only one point of view. Experts say the idea of freedom from oppressive government could be realized only through a truly democratic order and not by necessarily resorting to dividing the country into multiple weak and unsustainable entities. They would end up being ‘puppets’ to the bigger nations.

No records show that Ethiopia has ever had a democratically elected government. But Ethiopians have now reached such a stage in their modern history that it is time to form one. Their efforts have started bearing good fruits even in countries recently formed. They also realize that there should be no need of dismembering the nation into tiny fractions. As a country of more than 115 million and as one of the most influential countries in Africa, Ethiopia deserves to establish itself as a strong democracy, capable of responding positively to the desires and aspirations of its people. The prospect of trying to divide it into multiple small states based on ethnicity could only delight its enemies.

Ethiopians should realize that they are being challenged by new problems and need new solutions, not to be prisoners of past narratives. The past can only serve us as a warning or a lesson to learn from; not repeat it today; or allow it to determine our future. Nor is it reasonable or useful to try to take revenge based on past deeds of past leaders or communities. That sort of retributive justice does not subscribe to any logic nor is it helpful to solve our current problems. Ethiopia needs to be up to the times and not be a slave of the past to benefit a few modern day dictators who are ready to take advantage of divisive politics!

TPLF has clearly demonstrated to all of us, if in case we had doubts, that it is distant from being a ‘democratic body’. It hardly believes in equality, justice or rule of law. It has shown us that it wants to use crude force to rule, not only to the people in Tigray, but also in the entire country! That is why it has built up a huge army and unleashed the attack. What else could it be except a result of decadent mind set prisoner of the past? Clearly a party that has not evolved throughout out its existence and continues to be led by the old guards must tell us what sort of party it is.

Socialism has withered away in many ways and those who used to entertain the same ideas as TPLF have changed through time. Along with TPLF there are other forces with more or less similar parochial ideas and never subscribe to up to date ideas of democracy and equality among communities. They abhor and dread democracy; they reject free and fair elections because they know they are destined to be outvoted. Hence, the only way they can continue to prevail is through force and intimidation; and this is nothing else but fascism. And fascism cannot be an ideology for 2022. It was a formidable force a century ago, but not now. The modern world has stricken out fascism as a guiding ideology although there are still some splinter groups in certain countries trying to revive it.

Today Ethiopia finds itself once again at cross roads because it knows that if it cannot reach a sort of compromise among its peoples in a satisfactory and convincing way, the consequences could be interminable conflicts. People cannot continue to live like their forefathers did. Destroying one another is not only sad but is also a source of mockery against us by the outside world.

The so called developed world has more or less come out of such vicious cycle of violence after realizing that wars never settle issues permanently. They now prefer to sit down and talk to iron out disagreements. And when they see countries such as Ethiopia whose nationals do not even have enough food to eat and yet resort to building huge armies to fight one another, they may pity us; but they also define us in derogatory epithets. And we have seen that many times!

We ask for assistance and grants and we continue to allocate every resource we manage to raise to kill each other and destroy our livelihoods! This is a tragic story that has repeated itself from the days of the students’ movement in the nineteen sixties and seventies to the days of the military government in the nineteen eighties across TPLF and now the current political landscape. It is clear that we have not yet learnt from our past mistakes and misperceptions. How long can we continue being prisoners of past narratives?

Ethiopians need to sit down for a moment, ponder a bit and try to find out a solution for their perennial problems. They should select their representatives to lead this dialogue and try and find a path towards progress and peace rather than endless use of force against one another. The use of force and fomenting conflicts has only been destructive not serving any viable purpose. Those who appeal to the emotions of the people to rise up and use arms against their own brothers and sisters just because they happen to talk a different language are not doing any good to anyone, not even to themselves. Violence begets violence and vengeance, and the cycle never stops rotating. At a certain point we need courage to say, stop.

The national dialogue will consider this point as a fundamental landmark. Those who were detained for political reasons have been freed so that they can contribute positively to the dialogue. All options are considered and a democratically chosen system is adopted without threats. Ethiopians should all be given the chance to have a say in their affairs and no one party or group of parties must decide the fate of millions using violence or other intimidating means. Stocking hatred and false narratives or rhetoric has led us nowhere. Unfortunately, this has been more or less the strategy adopted by many political groups in order to gather cheap support. But this has transpired as a result of lack of new ideas.

Many people believe that this could be the last chance to catch up with the times and not continue to be prisoners of old fashioned ideas that were never challenged strongly due to threats. We remember how much bloodshed the country has gone through due to students’ rivalry and lack of sense of compromise. They never accepted to sit down and talk. They were stubborn and this mentality has deprived Ethiopia of a brilliant minded generation. The so called Red Terror and White Terror of the seventies can only be consequences of such mentality and it is shameful when think about it with composure!

Ethiopia has lost the cream of its society in those years and those who managed to flee became exiles and refugees. Indeed this is a story that we must all be ashamed of and it would be another shame if we did not learn from it.

The history of Ethiopia now needs to be refreshed doing away with past narratives and striving to satisfy the current needs and aspirations of its citizens. Ethiopia must re-invent itself in a manner that can do justice to all its citizens and be proud of their nationality and not be discriminated against due to differences in origin, creed or social status. That is why everybody should sustain the idea of a national dialogue to rectify errors and project a bright future.

We need to set certain objectives and operate in a way that we can take the right direction and the right path and not be a victim of our own past. Ethiopians need to carve an avenue that can take us where others have reached. We have the advantage of learning not only from our past mistakes and misconceptions but also from others’ experience, only through peaceful and frank discussions among all stakeholders. Our society must abhor inequality or suspicion or hatred and decide to be a country based on justice, equality and rule of law. That is why we should all pull into one direction so that we can find solutions to our problems.

The February 3/2022

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