Root and Immediate Causes of the Recent Protests in Ethiopia
By Hadgu Ataklti
Tigrai Online, Ethiopian News, Sept. Oct. 17, 2016
Introduction: This article seeks to open a discussion about the recent social resistance, protest and their ranges in Ethiopia. It focuses on the growing dissatisfaction in Ethiopia in recent times in order to deal the protests. Let me deal some theoretical back ground/details.
Motive, Will, and Action: A particular will must has a motive behind it. Easy like, I will to have a son and the internal motive of will-to-have a son. Likewise, most of the time, an action is a manifestation of an internal will. However, some actions are not based on a real internal motive and a will-to-act the action in question. In case, one could be forced to act a particular action against his will/internal motive. Thus, internal motive and will are logical predecessors of most physical action like a protest, despite the oddness of forced actions.
Protest: It is not easy to standardize a conceptual definition of protest. The same is true of political protest. However, protest could be defined as a form of objection to some sort. A political protest is an objection/disobedience to established political affair. As a form of conflict, it usually used interchangeably with other forms of intrastate conflicts; opposition, resistance, uprisings.
Political protest is, mainly, a physical action. It is a manifestation of some sort of will. It is a logical successor of motive and will. A protest affiliate could be persuaded/forced participant to do so or motivated by his will-to-protest. The motive of an agent in a protest could be internal, or external, or both. Many external agents have the power to force or persuade to do or to join a protest. In any means, a particular protest must have a motive and is an expression of a particular will. In its essence and magnitude, protest is a negative action. It is an expression of negative feeling to a particular sort. The initial motive and will that drive the seed of the protest is a negative attitude towards some established or perceived sort(s).
Recent Protests in Ethiopia
Having the above discussion, some recent resistances and protests in Ethiopia proved, at least, the existence of some public dissatisfaction and some growing negative feelings. Various individuals/groups taking an active role in an attempt to ensure that the protest is deep-rooted. Some forces got pretext to entertain and wave their agendas in public sphere. Some Medias including social Medias create a huge lies out of some real conditions. In the other case some Medias refuse to report some of these real conditions to the general public. Both are very harmful and unnecessary issues. The respective intents to galvanize and mitigate those protests are crystal clear to perceive from the approaches those Medias. However, in real terms, I deduce that any media is neither free nor impartial. Almost all, what they give coverage is one that intertwined with their interest and goal or one which is really fabricated sort. But, to some extent, there were also relatively impartial Medias throughout the protests.
On Root and Immediate Causes of the Protests.
There are a number of factors and activities that contributed to the development of the protests. Lack of responsiveness, transparency and corruption are some of the root factors. I thought that these create a negative feeling in some groups/individuals. These have the power to create a will-of-protest in the mind of individuals. That is a source of dissatisfaction and discontent in the ground and a critical condition in the political climate of our state. That growing condition also allows several politically, economically, historically motivated groups to wait and join the protest and to lead the protests. It was becoming a good condition to create a critical political climate for the cyber activist and other forces. Perhaps, the protest may have been lead from government offices too. Probably, in a subtle way by those who are less committed civil servants and officials. First they enhance the discontent in the public by using their image of bad office representatives and later they call the public to protest based on the discontent they eventually created. It could be a subtle attempt of interstate color revolution, instead of a direct coup.
Transparency: The ruling party is a coalition party. They must remain transparent among themselves, to their subordinate units, to the public on strategies policies, plans and other decision making processes. Policies, strategies and plans shall be exposed to critics before their executions. Inclusive discussion on policies, strategies and plans pay a real dividend. The ruling party must allow civil society, independent Medias, genuine professional organization of people and other concerned bodies to participate and share ideas in inclusive discussions. In relation to the recent protest started in Oromia lack of transparency take its own share as a cause. The pretext was the damped plan of AA, I depute that as a real cause and it has been proved that was no longer the real question. Despite that, the government did very little to persuade the concerned bodies in a real and genuine manner. There was lack of transparency on how when and in which manner was discussed about the plan and with whom? I thought that there was no constructive discussion and transparency around that issue. That is one instance, there are many such cases and issues that incite public dissatisfaction.
Corruption: It becoming a working norm for many officials. We should not only grand corruptions in higher level. There are plenty of mini corruptions and bunch of corrupt officers/leaders almost in every level. It is not only their corrupt activities and behaviors of individual, officials but the less responsive system they created and the worst is the actions and measures to address those issues. In almost every office you go it become a norm to observe individuals who are not loyal and not committed to the service they assigned to serve. They appear to be careless to the public and government. They have no political spirit, no political commitment, and are less committed to the system. They seem only responsible of presenting themselves as bad officials. Those seem the causes for many dissatisfaction among many groups. Those requiring attention as public dissatisfaction and discontent seem to continue to attest.
Responsiveness: There is lack of responsiveness in administration, both in regional and federal. For example the question of wolqayite identity issue has been a pretext to some protests in Amhara region areas. Former to those protests I knew some individuals/groups who reported their threat to the Amhara regional state and federal offices, both in person and in written forms. They were very serious to report threats of their security (life and property) and forced expel out of their residences in some Amhara areas. Eventually the reported threats happened after around four/five months. There are also countless examples but to raise it as a general problem. I wish I had seen that the government responsiveness to save some unnecessary outcomes of the protests.
Other Factors: There are also many contributors to the escalation of the protests. New communication technologies-especially social media by the internet- have become important resource of information. But recently it serves as a web-fueled public mobilization. Some social media call for a collective action and subsequent creation, organization and implementation of physical protests and movements. Irresponsible fabricated ideas, information and feelings enhance the protesters and the range of the protests. So that social media galvanized the recent protests. I am critical of the contents of ideas, information and posts, that they entertained
There are a number of individual activists who have sufficient knowledge of social media resources to bring people with different motive to the protest by fabricating lies. In majority, they are lie creators to unify unsatisfied and discontented peoples into their final cause. They are good at fabricating a good lies that belong and has a power to motivate some unsatisfied sides. At the end they have create a hoax that unifies these different groups to be a protest affiliates. But I have no intention to undermine the genuine and legitimate issues.
The members who lead the protest from cyber and protesters in the ground have share of responsibilities. However all affiliates have no common background and approach to the development and end of those recent protests. Some might have a common force that backs them for a different reason/end. Some may have intent of regime change as their inner will. Some may have intent of total destruction, destabilization, and disintegration of the state. Their feelings and intentions have been reflected in some views of activist and leaders of the recent protests. Meanwhile, majority of the public have many questions and waiting for reforms and remedies. In the meantime, I observe some unsatisfied groups to join ill-calculated protests. Even to protests which seem opposite to their real questions. Probably that tells you something about the level of their dissatisfaction.
The destruction, internal crises, destabilization, and disintegration goals of some forces got some space to galvanize dissatisfaction into sever protests and vandalism. Meanwhile that is not a good way of addressing public interests and values. Those protests contradict with long term values and interests of the state/its peoples. Thus, I can conclude my view that the protests are creating and developing as two poles of different forces are colliding. There are forces who question real problems in one side. Based on that, there are also forces who back, misconstrue, and galvanize those questions. In the other word, real unsolved problems and questions on one hand and negative forces who capitalize on those issues in the other side got accidental marriage. So, it seems a coalition of different forces, internal and external, for different reasons and ends.
The Nature of the Protests
(EBC) is a national television of Ethiopia. It is a credible state media outlets for the general public. In the early stages of the protest based in Oromia region, the television appear to display destruction of public service facilities (public hospital’s ambulance, ATM machines…) and materials during these protests. In other case, regarding the protest in Amhara region, Bloomberg another media outlet (Sep. 1 2016) reads, “A Dutch run flower farm in northern Ethiopia was among a series of foreign-owned plantation attacked by anti-government protesters…” and “Militias are also clashing with the army in parts of Gojam and Gondar areas.” It also reported, foreign-owned firms (from Dutch, Israel, Italy, India, Belgium) were also targets of those protests. Based on the evidences of state television, Bloomberg and other media outlets as well social media resources the target of those violent protests are business and service firms (both local & international and private & public). The recent lost lives in the stampede during Irreecha celebration and general destructions of factories are also the worst forms of those protests. Based on the evidences the protests are highly violent and destructive. That justifies and assures the eventual state emergency.
There were some conditionally legitimate causal factors of protests despite the nature, slogans and the weird actions they used to have during those protests. Waving… unrecognized flags, vandalism……! There were many weird slogans, signs, aims and actions. It forces me to think that whose interests and values are questioned in those protests? As an Ethiopian it is heart breaking observation to see human lives are passing in demonstrations and protests as some aiming some other values at the expense of human lives. Those movements appear as herd-morality governed human movements. What those protests wish at the expense of human lives? What is the value beyond human lives? What is the value that aimed out of vandalism? I argue there are no real considerations of long term interests and values of Ethiopia and Ethiopians.
What I like to question
There is a real perceivable leap of developments in economy, regional and international diplomacy, infrastructures, despite I am not a technical expert on these areas to confirm the standard of their qualities. The recent initiatives for the construction of EGRD, Sugar firms, dams or irrigation sites, industry zones… The strategies and policies as a factor for the growing economy and the diplomatic approaches of the regime are also good. In general, based on a grand image of our state and government, one can have hope of seeming a progressive, advanced and responsible state to its citizen in a near future. I question that, didn’t our government carried away by those successes.
I like to question the power and authority relation among the coalition of federal government and their regional and other lower political units. I feel that, there is a sense of loss of power, authority, and loyalty among different levels. Regional states and subordinate units must reinforce their political commitments to the coalition. The federal government must also deepen the credible and reliable ally and partnership with the people. Government and people must discern and recognize sides in the political system, who double-trade from the system and the people. It seems that, there are groups of so called loyalist to the system but still conspiring the system by promoting public dissatisfaction. I feel that the apparent loss of power and authority relation allow some groups to conspire a pilot against the regime.
Having seen the nature of the protests, who is there to guard the security (lives and property) of the citizens? I am asking how much disturbance, violence, destruction must be committed before the government is willing to stand up for public guard. Who is there to guard the status of peace from any perceived threat? A government has both a legal and moral duty to protect me and my property. I think the same goes to you and the general public. And the government must be remedial and effective to silence every threshold of threat and violence, both internal and external. We as a public must urge to support a government to do so as quickly as possible. We must also question areas that need improvements and adjustments in a civilized manner.
What to learn and Aware?
A protest will not be continuing by these who do it from the cyber, but by these who accept, allow and support it to prevail in the ground. That means, if there is responsiveness, transparence and less corrupt system in the ground, it is very tight angle to have protest affiliates. We all need to avoid holes in the public sphere as a protective method for the penetration of other forces into our ground.
The public must aware the real organizers of the protest and the real motives and support behind the naively calculated protests. Subsequently the government, politicians, intellectuals must approach it from a remedial point of view.
All peoples, government, and protest affiliates should recognize that we Ethiopian shall no longer entertain all of that type of violence in a public environment. In the same issue, Media communities, media outlets including social media outlets must base their information on official, credible and trustworthy accounts. And as remedial issues they must call for a constructive dialogue and consensus than hate and galvanized speeches and ideas. After all we have the right to see and hear the truth from Medias. Truth serving Medias!!!?
Eritrea is a tiny state almost in the same category of development to Ethiopia. The persistent accusation of Eritrean regime by Ethiopian authorities is weak. That is a recognition and vote of confidence for that regime to do the same. In fact the regime is that evil to same extent. But it is up to our government to silence threats. Peace? War? No peace no war? All means tried and none of them worked till my time. It is not enough to blame as such the regime in Eritrea. How is that state after all being omnipresent and omnipotent to us? How come we, as a state, sleep in a comfort chair having tough region?
There is always shadow of externals that remain constant threat to ‘Ethiopian existence, essence, and renaissance until their dominance make sure that Ethiopian and Ethiopians are at their arms distance. Based on the historical, political, and strategic relations and experiences we had as well based on the current conditions in our region Eritrean regime and Egyptian authorities remain the most suspected external forces to back those protests. The will of internal and external forces to conspire some historically, economically, politically dissatisfied groups and individuals has a nature of color revolution. Despite these all internal and external conspiracy agendas against the state, government and people must be tackled early.
How is prudent to create a hate politics, unorganized protests, ill-calculated tensions, fake representation of groups at the expense of public security, peace, values, interests, hope. Aiming to get undue political profits at a means of human lives is the absurdity of absurdity. The government must deepening its heartfelt relationship with the public, must strengthen its social base as ever. Reactive measures to those protests and conspiracy agendas are short term remedies. To identify and address immediate and root causes, genuine and fake questions behind every threshold of threat and violence are very important.
Indeed, Ethiopian can identify a moment at which notions of and access to development, democracy and freedom were re-created in a new spirit in our history. Let us look the conditions of development, democracy and freedoms of the average public relative to our history, regional and global background, social-economic conditions and time frame we have. The current federalism oriented state structure and administration won hearts of many peoples and ethnic groups. Many groups, peoples thrived as Ethiopians and cultivated many values, interests thought that system of the ruling party. The ideas of the ruling party, mainly the idea of ethnic federalism, might be difficult for some of us to swallow, but there it is. The party has also many viable and better social, political and economic ideas than other political groups in our country so far. And those ideas, policies, strategies of the party could be the means to win public heart and the inertia to stay on power.
In the other side, let us look on to different levels of governmental units and civil servants. There are bold observations of unnecessary bureaucracies, mini corruptions, and lack of political responsiveness and commitments… As years passed, we Ethiopians began to blur the lines among general notions of development, democracy and freedom with particular instances of bureaucracy, corruption, lack of political responsiveness and commitments among different levels of government and officials. Despite that, we Ethiopians have little choice other than to paint with the same improved brush. A call for improvement and reformation is a real noise that shall incite determination, effectiveness to improve the system.
I didn’t wonder that how some forces challenge the ruling party and the state. Consider that, some have motives to revive the ideas that challenge the government/its political system from its very history. Where, others always wish a regional power balance to be in their side. Both forces always wait for conditions that allow them to do their will.
The cyber based activists intend to create an intense political climate. Any physical movements and protests lead and fueled by cyber based resources lack a clear direction, organization and implementation. That way of doing protest is less organized; lacks leadership, lacks party platform, and has no physical space and structured local recruitment to be positive force of change. Therefore, it is ill-organized and ill-planed and its end is far from positive. Threat of intrastate or foreign based color revolution and intents to create a hub of terrorism/crises is our state must be tackled at its infancy.
In the last two centuries, mostly in the last fourteen years I was in a buoyant mood about the improved peace, growing capability and economy, improved diplomatic relations and overall developments of our state. Being at the center of geopolitically strategic area and tough region those shows the strength of the regime to challenge all sorts of threats. Still I rely on the current government and its capability to turn the recent issues into normality.
- Note: Despite I reflect some general views and ideas many social media outlets it seems unnecessary to site each pages and posts, however I would like to give them a general credit.