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The Current State of Ethiopian Democracy

By Berhane Kahsay
Tigrai Online, July 21, 2013

The recent demonstrations in Addis, Dessie and Gondar by supporters of Semayawi Party, and Andinet, have clearly illustrated how far Ethiopian democracy has moved on. The gathering in Dessie was peaceful; but there were elements within them that were hurling abuse, and had the temerity to insinuate that the death of Sheikh Nuur, who was assassinated by Wahabian extremists outside a mosque, was a drama orchestrated by the government.       

A year long stand-off between the government and the Awelai Group that cajoled hundreds and thousands of people to the streets, also amply indicate that tolerance to dissenting views and beliefs has become the norm rather than the exception in today’s Ethiopia. Federal Police force and other agencies performed their duties throughout the concocted disputes with utmost regard to the law of the land despite the glaring and intense provocations posed by the militant Islamist leaders.

Private newspapers such as The Reporter, Fortune, Daily Monitor, Sendeqe, Capital and Addis Admas are functioning freely and whenever necessary criticize the government and high ranking officials without mercy. The rest who claim to be ‘private papers’ are opposition party organs and invariably flout the press law of the land with impunity; their contributions towards the development and consolidation of democracy are literally insignificant.  

Ethiopian democracy is moving from strength to strength and investors from Brazil, China, India, Turkey and European Breweries such as Heineken and Diageo are taking full advantage of it. The American giant super market Wal-Mart is also very keen to make use of the attractive investment opportunity created by a stable, peaceful and significantly pluralistic country. So long as the status quo is maintained, the inflow of foreign capital is a certainty. And in the not too distant future, Ethiopia would be rubbing shoulders with the BRIC countries.          

Semayawi party and Andinet have been campaigning for the Anti-Terrorism Law to be repelled forthwith. They have threatened to continue with their demonstrations until the EPRDF administration succumbs to their demands. It is to be recalled that this piece of legislation was openly debated in parliament and unanimously ratified by members of the House of Representatives. Recently, the leader of G-7 unwittingly admitted that the terror group has been on the payroll of the Eritrean dictator who is hell bent on dismembering Ethiopia by all means possible. This is precisely the reason for having the legislation as it would severely deal with leaders of proscribed organisations who take instructions from foreign enemies to precipitate chaos and bloodshed in their own country.         

As far as the government is concerned, the Anti-Terrorism Act is not up for negotiations and it is here to stay for good. Discarding the law would only be feasible if its opponents triumph at the next general election as they would then be within their rights to amend the legislation. Any other way is beyond the realm of possibilities and threatening to take to the streets if their demands aren’t met is frankly a waste of time and resources. But is this the actual issue or their ulterior motive is to bring down the EPRDF by foul means, and assume power that they weren’t able to obtain through successive general elections?

Previously numerous calls for some sort of upheaval were made by the disparate opposition groups but these were vehemently rejected by the Ethiopian people. The public clearly understood the implications of snatching power from a democratically elected government by violent means. What we are witnessing in Egypt at this moment in time is a classic example. Removal of Morsi who had a popular mandate to govern Egypt has resulted in the paralysis of the Arab nation as a consequence of the intractable confrontation between the opposing factions. Mr Mohamed Elbaradei whose political ambitions got the better of him is solely responsible for the Egyptian crisis. The creators of Semayawi party Professor Mesfin and Dr Yacob are also engaged in similar activities behind the scenes in order to quench their lust for power. 

The stalemate between the Islamists and the Liberals shows no sign of abating. Egypt’s economy is on a free fall and the country is on the verge of a civil war. Muslim Brotherhood supporters have made it abundantly clear that they would not rest until their leader is restored to power while the opposing sides are resolutely determined to stop his restitution. In the meantime hundreds of people are being killed in various parts of the country on daily basis and business activities by and large have come to a screeching halt.

The Liberals lost the last general election but they have now managed to come to power unconstitutionally with the help of the West. A great miscourage of justice has been committed by the intelligentsia and the damage they have caused to their country is incalculable. Their best option should have been to wait until the next general election where for sure the electorates would have sent the Muslim Brotherhood packing for their divisive and dire management of Egypt.

Tunisia, the precursor of Arab Spring, which was ruled by a dictator for over a quarter of a century, is not performing that well either. The country is held to ransom by the Salafist Ansura al-Shari a group which is considered to be close to Al-Qaeda. The Salafists advocate an ultra-conservative strand of Sunni Islam and is led by an Afghan veteran who does not recognise the authority of the Tunisian state.  In Libya various militias are freely roaming the country and making it completely ungovernable.

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Syria is in the middle of a brutal civil war and over the last two years more than 90,000 people have been killed on both sides. The country is utterly destroyed and the war is unlikely to subside in the foreseeable future. Syrian government, Syrian Free Army and foreigners linked to Al-Qaeda seem to be determined to prolong the suffering of millions of innocent Syrians. To make matters worse, the war has now spilled over to neighbouring countries such as Turkey and Lebanon. Clearly the Arab Spring has been turned into an Arab Nightmare and is unlikely to spread any longer; other dictators in the Middle East who were expecting their own demise must be greatly relieved.

The Anti-Terrorism legislation that was voted into the statue book is secure no matter how often some of the opposition groups hold public demonstrations. Its existence will ensure that political parties act within the law; it also helps to stop terrorist attacks; and prevents people from becoming terrorists or supporters of terrorism. In Britain there are four major laws related to terrorism including the Terrorism Act 2000, Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 and Counter Terrorism Act 2008. In America there are 13 Anti-Terrorism legislations. We have to be mindful of the simple fact that without peace and tranquillity, the stubborn poverty in Ethiopia can’t be meaningfully impacted. Hence the need for Ethiopia to have Anti-Terrorism Act as it happens to be located in a very hostile neighbourhood and has ‘opposition’ groups that want to grossly harm their own people on behalf of external enemies.

Arab Spring uprisings were long overdue as the people were ruled by corrupt dictators such as Al-basher, Mubarak, Kaddafi and Ben Ali, who were at the helm for over 100 years between them, and cared very little for their own citizens. On the other hand, democratic Ethiopia has been endowed with an administration that is relentlessly working, with great success, to improve the lives of its people by hugely investing on elementary/secondary/ higher education, health, infrastructure, rail transport, social housing and renewable wind and hydro energies.

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