SOME PENDING ISSUES OF DEMOCRACY IN ETHIOPIA
Root Causes of Under-development in Ethiopia ?
A Paper Presented at the Goethe Institute, Addis Ababa , Ethiopia On June 29th, 2006
By Dr. Negaso Gidada
Presented by: Dr. Negaso Gidada, former President of FDRE
A Paper Presented at the Goethe Institute, Addis Ababa , Ethiopia on June 29th, 2006
Negaso Gidada was Chair Person of the Constitution Assembly in 1994 and President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from 1995 to 2001. Since October of last year he is Member of the House of Peoples Representatives as the only independent deputy.
Before he came back to Ethiopia after the Dergue he lived in Germany for more than two decades, where he did his Masters degree and his PhD at the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University at Frankfurt .
Dr. Negaso wrote his dissertation on the History of the Sayyo Oromo 1730-1886, was Editor in Chief for the Organ of the Union of Oromo Students in Germany and Europe from 1975 to 1981, Member of the OLF from 1979 to 80 and of the Union of Oromos in Europe from 1985 to 1991. He is born on 1943 as a son of a Presbyterian pastor in Dembi Dollo, Oromia.
This presentation is not an academic one. Nor is it a political propaganda material. It is a simple expression of what I feel about politics in Ethiopia. The paper is also not a scholarly work and nor diplomatic. I just put my ideas on paper as they occurred to me. My writing is not done with the intention of harming, disappointing or blaming any body. My comments and views are rather about systems and principles. There are principles which are universal in nature which I like and would also like that my fellow human beings adopt. There are traditions, cultures, and systems which I believe are harmful and damaging. I wish that Ethiopia becomes free of them. It makes me really sick to see our people living in such poverty. I am, as many of fellow citizens are, helpless in face of the terrible misery our people are suffering. But I am not yet powerless. I have still the power to say some thing. I will use this power as long as nature does not hinder me from using it. God save me only from those human forces that try to stop me from using this power, expression of words. I express these words to contribute to the efforts of changing Ethiopia into a healthy country where there is better life for the people, a country where people are proud to be its citizens because of this and not because they are citizens of the empty "country of 3,000 year's civilization".
I. The Socio-Economic Situation
When speaking about social questions, it is important to remind ourselves, again and again, that Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries on this globe. We do so, and have to do so, not because it is a fact but because we wish that this situation changes. We must do this, also because it is a paradox that 31,000,000 of the 72,000.000 people of such a rich country endowed with enough natural and human resources are living under the poverty line, meaning, are earning less than 45 cents a day.
179 out of 1,000 children die before they reach the age five. 49 of our people are malnourished. Maternal mortality is 871 of every 100,000. When it comes to education, only 42 of school age children are enrolled in primary schools.
Imagine that 82 of the population is dependant on the 18 of the people in the productive age, which is 14-64. Only 24 of our people have access to improved water compared to 58 in Sub-Saharan Amca. The listing of the social problems in Ethiopia can go on and on. But the figures given here can be enough as indicators for the socio-economic situation in Ethiopia.
It is natural to try to explain why the situation is so when looking for a solution. This country has produced thousands of educated people. All Ethiopians both at home and in the Diaspora want to contribute what they can to bring our people out of poverty. Billions of tax-payers money has been flowing into the country from all over the world. Millions have contributed money to us through development organizations. But all this did not help. Was it because we lacked suggestions for development policies, strategies, programs and project planning? No! We did have free market and capitalist way of development, during Emperor Haile Sillasie's regime. The Dergue government thought that socialist way of development was the way out, although I personally question the credibility of that system being socialist. Then followed the era of revolutionary democracy after 1991.The idea was to initiate a system through which an economic development path will benefit the vast majority of people through the leadership of the so called revolutionary intellectuals, with the participation of mainly the peasants and the workers. The original idea was that this path would then lead to the socialist system. This idea was dropped in 2001 when a pro-capitalist way of development was taken and strategies were adopted to integrate the Ethiopian economy into the global economy.
All these different types of economic development policies were supposed to be the correct pills for Ethiopia's illness. Of the recent, forces of liberal democracy have appeared on the scene and are convinced that the only remedy for Ethiopia is full fledged market and private economy. Forces of social democracy have also come into picture recently. International mends of Ethiopia represented particularly by the World Bank have tried to introduce the STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT PROGRAM now replaced by the PROTECTION OF BASIC SERVICES. The question is, since we have all the conditions mentioned above, why the socio-economic problems are still not solved. My view is that the root cause of the problems is not economy, it is politics.
II. Politics- Symptoms of Instability
The government claims that there is peace and stability in the country. This is what all governments do. No government admits that there is no peace and stability in the state. The reality, however, is different. Certainly, the situation is not that the government has reached the level where one can say it is falling immediately. But the situation is like an active volcano which may erupt sooner or latter. The killings in Awasa, Shaka Majanjir and Gambella a few years ago; ethnic based clashes in some University Campuses and in Arsi, Dilla, East and West Harar, and eastern part of Amhara; conflict between Guji and Borana Zones of Oromia; the June and November 2005 upheavals in Addis Ababa; disturbances in Oromia from November 2005 up to April 2006; other incidents and sporadic clashes between armed groups and the government security and defence forces; and an increase in the population of the unemployed that caused different social and economic problems in the towns are like a volcano which can explode at any time if political solution is not found. The problems may even lead the country into disintegration if fundamental political solution is not found soon.
III. Politics Is the Root Cause of Ethiopia's Socio-Economic Problems.
1. Up to 1974 Ethiopia was ruled by monarchs and had feudal economic order. Besides, slave owning system did not completely disappear. There were some pockets of the country where some members of the society kept slaves till very recently. Capitalism has also begun to sprout in Ethiopia during the reign of Emperor Haile Sellassie I. All these systems were based on economic exploitation. Exploitive systems are never democratic and just. The exploiter uses force to have this wishes get through. The exploiter oppresses and suppresses the exploited politically and culturally. The free will of the vast majority of the people was not respected.
2. Ethiopian society was and is, to some respect, even now a patriarchal and male dominated. Exclusion was normal. The culture of destructive mentality of the winner takes all and the habitual indifference towards the excluded prevailed. Those who did not conform and did not submit were to be forced to do so or to be eliminated if they resisted. Only through total submission could the victim survive. Patrimonial relations, nepotism, and bribery which are forms of political corruption were the order of the day. These relations between the victor and the victim in our long history are symbolized by the KALLACHA among the Oromo and the AXUM STELE in Tigray. That culture was naturally undemocratic and inhuman. It is why I argue that it is not helpful to hide these inherent problems in our societies for the sake of nationalism to resist or liberate oneself from internal-Ethiopian or external colonialism I believe that we have to admit the prevalence of this culture and tradition and rather cultivate the values of compromise, tolerance, inclusion, mutual understanding and reconciliation and end the underlying causes of repression, bloodshed, insecurity, exclusion and political instability in Ethiopia which are inflicting severe hardships and suffering on our people and definitely hamper the prospects for development. This must be done if we want to attain equality, justice and prosperity.
3. Political instability and conflicts are hindrance to accelerated and sustainable development. Development forces can not concentrate on economic activities if there is political instability in the country. The recent Ethio-Eritrean war; and the on going fight between the government and resistance movements in Tigray, Amhara, Gambella, Oromia and Somali regions all have and are costing us resources which could have been and could be used for development. How much money was and is being spent by the regime? How many people in their productive age were killed? How many have become handicapped? How much material destruction took place? How many have been displaced, become refugees and have gone into exile? What effect do these conflicts and their negative results have on our youth and the future generation. Is it possible to have sustainable development, growth and accumulation under an instable condition such as ours? I think it is better to solve the root causes of instability and conflicts politically as soon as possible instead of postponing them.
4. The Nafxagna system was-and is- the major cause of instability, conflict and underdevelopment in Ethiopia.
The description of the atrocities committed during "unite Ethiopia" movement in the 19thCentury from Theowodros to Menilik, the number of people killed, and how much property was destroyed is not the subject of this paper. But what is clear is that force was used to conquer and subdue new areas. The forces which were involved in the making of the modem Ethiopia and the system they established had to be defended by Force. The people who were subdued never do not give in free willingly nor did they accept the system established. There was resistance during the time of conquest and persistent revolt against the system established. The term which can describe the conquest and the system which was established can best be expressed in Amharic: NAFTANYAA SIRAAT, THE NAFTANYAA SYSTEM.
NAFT in Amharic means gun. The bearer of the gun is called NAFTANYAA. It was the bearer of the gun who conquered, occupied and enforced his socio-economic and political system on the victims. The term NAFTANYAA can not be attached to a colour or race. The NAFTANYAA can be white, black or red. It can be African, Asian, European or American. It can be Oromo, Amhara, Tigray, Somali, Gurage, Walaita, Sidama, Anuak or Gumuz. Thus NAFTANYAA does not have ethnicity or language. Nafxanyaa simply means some one who forcefully subdues some one else and forces this some one to accept and remain under subjugation using the power of the gun or force. The NAFTANYAA can not even be attached to a particular class. The victor enforces his will on the victim. The victim loses his sovereignty, the right to free will and the right to self determination. The victim is at the disposal of the victor in all aspects of social, economic and political life.
Of course, the NAFTANYAA can have nationality, ethnicity, language and class depending on the area from where he comes, at what historical time, what language he speaks, and what socio-economic system he enforces on the victim. The NAFTANYAA may come from far or near. He may be from the same race or ethnic group or may even speak the same language as the victim. The NAFTANYAA invents and imposes the best bureaucratic system which better serves its interest. It uses the police, the security, and armed forces to have its wishes accepted. It uses family, the schools, and the media to indoctrinate the people to accept its ideology. Even religious institutions are used for this purpose. The NAFTANYAA is convinced that what he does is the right and the best for the subjugated. This is the sad side of it. He never bothers to ask the victim what he wishes. The NAFTYANYA actually despises his subjects. For him nothing good comes from the victim. He thus never bothers to listen to the people, let them chose what they want and express their will freely. The NAFTANYA is without the slightest scruple in imposing and defending his interest and wishes. It is because of this that awful acts of violation of human rights take place under the NAFTANYA SIRAAT.
One interesting character of NAFTANYAA SIRAAT is that it is a system in which the dominant group is the minority. The ruling class is always a minority in the society. If in the NAFTANYAA SIRAAT the dominant group is from a certain ethnic group the NAFTANYAA is a minority in a sea of a multi-ethnic country. The minority group has to use force to dominate over the majority. Besides, it has to recruit collaborators from the subjugated for survival. How can a minority survive without the help of some people who have the hope of getting some kind of advantage which the system may offer or who aspires to become member of the new ruling class? An interesting and important point here is the role of powerful outside forces in the survival of the NAFTANYAA SIRAAT. Foreign powers always stood on the side of the dominant minority group in Ethiopia. The British supported Emperor Haile Sellasie after the end of the Italian occupation. The US came in around the middle of the 1950s and remained the major supporter of the Monarchy up to 1974. Soviet Union replaced the US during the military regime, but it is an open secret that the US is helping the government since 1991 again.
Opponents of the NAFTANYAA SIRAAT have tried to describe, that the conquest of Menelik was black or African colonialism. They have attached the conquest and the domination imposed on the victims as Amhara colonialism. There are some who today argue that Amhara Colonialism has been replaced by Tigray Colonialism. Others argue that there can not be African
Colonialism. Colonialism, they say, is attached only to European Colonialism. What ever the case, modem Ethiopia was created and is maintained by the barrel of the gun or by force, the NAFTANYAA, and not by the free will or self determination of the peoples of the country. This was and is the root cause of political problems in Ethiopia. We can thus never expect such a state to be democratic unless a radical change takes place and the NAFTANYAA SIRAAT is replaced by a system which fully respects the right to free will and self determination of individual citizens and of the peoples who lost their sovereignty after the end of the 19thcentury- the era of imperialism and colonialist expansion. Economic exploitation and social deprivation of the majority by the minority is the order of the day under NAFTANYA SIRAAT. Human rights violation is rampant under a system which was enforced and is maintained by force. Sustainable economic development and growth which are necessary to get rid of poverty and backwardness will not come true in such a country.
IV. Attempts to Get Rid oft he NAFT ANYAA SIRAAT
Late 1950s and 1960s were years when the wind of anti-colonial and independence movement was blowing in Africa. The people of Africa have begun to demand for the respect of their basic freedom democratic and human rights. Although Ethiopia was nominally an independent country, social economic deprivation, economic exploitation and political suppression under the NAFTANYAA SIRAAT reached an unbearable level. Some sectors of the society blamed the Monarchy as cause of the problem and there were attempts to chase Emperor Haile Sellasie away with the hope of getting rid of the NAFTANYAA SIRAAT. The 1960 coup d' etat can be mentioned as an example. There were armed revolts and resistance movements against the system in Rayya, Eritrea, Gojjam and Bale. The student's revolts and the activities of the teachers and labor unions of the 1960s and early 1970s were all directed against the gun bearer system. These movements demanded basic change and for the replacement of the NAFTANYAA with a system which is democratic, free from economic exploitation and end the oppression of different nations and nationalities.
V. The Beginning of Organized Political Movements
The worsening of the social-economic condition of the masses of the people and the carelessness of the ruling c1ass in the NAFTANYAA SIRAAT became vivid namely during the 1973 drought and hunger catastrophe in northern Ethiopia. The social economic and political problems of the country no more issues to be raised by isolated armed resistance, isolated peasants' armed revolts or matter to be left to the civil organizations only. Thus began the popular uprising of February 1974. The Monarchy simply ignored the cry ofthe people. But the NAFTANYAA SIRAAT became shaky. The Emperor was loosing control as it is known. It was in this situation that the army led by few officers, organized in a council or DERGUE, took over power initiating the 17 years of dictatorship. On the other hand, different c1andestinepolitical organizations have begun to prop up from 1974. Major among these are organizations such as the EPRP, AESM, EDU and OLF, TPLF, SLM, ONLF, ALF, EPDM, and OPDO. Except AESM and those parties affiliated with the Dergue all others opted for armed struggle.
The years after the February 1974 revolution are years in which different organization put down on paper, the tactics and strategies they believed could help in solving the social, economic and political problems of Ethiopia namely how to once and for all get rid of the undemocratic system deeply rooted in Ethiopia, i.e. the NAFTANYAA SIRAAT. It is not only putting their programs on paper but also publishing by laws describing how to recruit members and what the rights, duties and responsibilities of members are. Thus they began to recruit members and win mends for their causes. All thought that their programs were the correct and the only correct ones. To implement their programs, they were convinced; their parties must by any means conquer political power. Slogans like "One Can Not Get Rid of an Undemocratic Government System without Force, or Armed Struggle" came up.
One can however state that the era was generally dominated by organizations who could be described leftists of different variations. All claimed that genuine democracy is a democracy in which the masses of Ethiopia, i.e. the peasants, the workers, women, the petty bourgeoisie and other oppressed classes can benefit from the economy. As the working class was numerically insignificant and as the peasants were generally looked on as petty bourgeoisie, the leadership came from the so called revolutionary intellectuals, soldiers and leaders of mass associations (women, youth, peasants, workers, teachers etc.) which all the parties organized to serve as recruiting ground of members, as tentacles of the parties to reach the people and get moral, material and financial support from the people. However, I would describe the nature of the leadership of these forces as elitist with the touch of the spirit of the know-it-all convinced that they are the only ones who are predestined with the mission of saving the people and the country. This character is observable in all political forces be it the right or the left or the Ethiopian nationalists or national liberation organizations. The tragedy of Ethiopia can thus be traced in this character inherent in the elite and who thus are not willing to tolerate others and who do not want to submit to the people's choice and will.
The other ideology connected with the Ethiopian State is Nationalism. Here one can categories the political organization into Ethiopian Nationalist and National Liberation organizations. Ethiopian Nationalists can be described as those organizations which are committed to the existence of the Ethiopian State by any means. "INNAAT HAGERAACHIN ETIOOPIYAA WAYIM MOOT" (OUR MOTHER COUNTRY ETHIOPIA OR DEATH) is the slogan of these groups. They tend to be repressive inside the country and ardent anti-colonialists and anti-imperialists towards the outside. They are absolutists in the sense that they want to have a centralized system. "ONE COUNTRY, ONE CULTURE, ONE LANGUAGE, ONE FLAG" are their slogans. They do not tolerate the introduction of freedom of languages and cultures. They do not tolerate federalism based on historical, territorial and linguistic circumstances. Anyone who opts otherwise is, for them, "ENEMY OF ETHIOPIA" and must be fought vehemently and should even be whipped out. But there are also leftist Ethiopian Nationalists. These base their philosophy or policy of Nationalism on their social and economic ideologies. They argue that all Ethiopians whether Oromo, Amhara, Tigray, Sidama, Somali, Afar and etc. are all Ethiopians. They claim that all have suffered under the NAFTANYAA SIRAAT. As all have commonly struggled against it, they should continue to do so to build a democratic Ethiopia. Some of them tolerate the existence of ethnic based organizations while others do not. Some are for some kind of autonomy for the different nations and nationalities while some are opposed to guaranteeing these rights. Some respect the right of self-determination, but nominally while others are totally opposed to the idea.
What ever the case, these so called leftist organizations are for the preservation of the Ethiopian State in some form or another. Common to all of them is the fact that they are vehemently opposed to the conservative (or reactionary) Ethiopian Nationalists (calling them Chauvinists) and denounce them as NAFTANYAA, while at the same time denouncing the National Liberation organizations as separatists. The latter, they argue, are elements which work to sure division among the oppressed masses of Ethiopia. Nationalism of the peoples which lost their sovereignty at the end of the 19th century appeared in the 1960s and took the form organized and armed political movements mainly after the 1974 revolution. The anti-colonial movements in Africa had motivated the rise of this kind of nationalism. The popularity of the UN Charter' s call coupled with Leninist/Stalinist propaganda supporting the respect of the right to self-determination of oppressed peoples appealed greatly to the elite of the oppressed peoples in Ethiopia. The Jomo Kenyata Mao-Mao in Kenya and the Somali independence movements did contribute much to the moulding of the thinking behind the programs of the national liberation movements. Many of the leadership elite in these organizations were also participants in the civic organizations of the 1960s, particularly the student movement. The interpretation and stand of Ethiopian nationalists be it from the right or left to oppose or win over the elite of the oppressed, were mostly counter productive. Their direct or indirect propaganda against the question of the right to self-determination of the oppressed peoples rather pushed the libertarian nationalists further away from the Ethiopian Nationalists. The latter went to the extent of complete intolerance of the former. They developed a character of inherent suspicion of any body or organization which comes forward with the name "Ethiopia", "Amhara" or "Tigray". The last two are termed "Habasha" and are looked upon as proponents and defendants of the NAFTANYAA SIRAAT with all its ugly face. But I do believe that National Liberation Movements do have democratic contents in that they stand for freedom of the oppressed and exploited. But the problem is that nationalist ideologies could be dangerous when they are based on racial or ethnic suspicion and hatred. The situation up to now is that the movements have not able to prove that they are free from this negative aspect of nationalism. This, I believe, is what discredits the positive aspect of the libertarian movements. This circumstance has created a situation where in intra-ethnic suspicion and hatred prevails and some times erupting in indiscriminate attack on people. Depending from which ethnic group the politically and economically dominant group originates, members of that ethnic group are targets of indiscriminate hatred and attacks. Such a circumstance has therefore made it difficult to bring about tolerance, dialogue, compromise and building of confidence between organizations who genuinely struggle for the democratization of the Ethiopian State and Society.
At another level, we have also witnessed that the different liberation organizations have been unable to cooperate among themselves Internal divisions also exist among the liberation movements as is the case among the Ethiopian Nationalists. The cause of the divisions has the nature of competition on who should take political power. Having political power is related to taking that political power for ones advantage and using it for social and economic interests for one self and friends. The experience in Ethiopia so far has been that the winner takes all. Only those who declare allegiance or who get the favour of the winner through bribery could get some kind of social, economic and political concession. Thus completion among and inside groups is very intensive to get hold of power, because power is the gate way to resource and resource expansion.
The role foreign forces play in complicating the political situation in Ethiopia should also be stressed. It is to be remembered that the territorial definition of the States of the Horn of Africa was done during the era of European imperialist and colonial expansions. Peoples of the region were separated and forced to be ruled by the newly created States. The Tigray, Kunama, Saho (Urub) and Afar peoples were separated by the Ethio-Eritrean boundary. The same is true of the Afar and Issa Somali. Some live under Djibouti State, while their brothers live under Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Somali were forced to be divided by the boundaries of Ethiopia, British Somali Land, Italian Somali, and British Kenya. Similarly, the Oromo (Borana) and other peoples have been force to live on both side of Ethio-Kenya border. The Anuak and the Nuer live on both side of Ethio-Sudan boundary line. The Sudan-Eritrea boundary did also affect peoples such as the Beni Amir etc. This circumstance created by the territorial expansion and definition at the end of the 19thcentury has and is contributing to the instability of Ethiopia. When speaking about the involvement of foreign forces, we should also put in mind that the Super powers and their allies had and have their shares in the sustainability of conflict situation in Ethiopia. The cold war between the byegone Soviet Union and the US is over. But the global front in the war against terrorism and Islamic Fundamentalism led by the only super power, U.S.A (the era of "PAX-AMERlCA"?) does affect us. The Ethiopian government receives "silent blessing" in its crack down on political organizations who refused and refuse to be "loyal oppositions" to the EPRDF and the war on areas in which armed liberation organizations ("terrorists" as the EPRDF calls them) are active. "PAX-AMERlCA" in Ethiopia demands "the respect of the constitutional order and the rule of law and becoming loyal opposition". What we have seen so far since May 2005 election is that "loyal opposition of PAXAMERlCA" has nothing to do with being loyal to the country, to the constitution and one's conscious but loyalty to the EPRDF. With backing of the US at least diplomatically, the government ignores the call of the liberations organizations for talk at round table without putting preconditions and for negotiations. This kind of atmosphere naturally pushes the liberation organizations in the direction of hardening their stands and activities.
VI. The Way Out
The catch words these days, particularly since 2001 are:- - Order - Constitutional order and the rule of law -Civil Service Reform -Good Governance
The government, legitimizing its actions with these beautiful sounding catch words, has deployed its security, police and armed forces massively to have things under control. Lives are lost including that of members of government forces. Hundreds have been imprisoned. Many have gone into exile, while many young people have joined the armed struggle. It is possible that some young people have become desperate and frustrated so that few may have been tempted to attack individuals on ethnic bases or throw hand grenades or plant explosives causing harm on innocent people. The government has of course the duty and responsibility enforcing order, the constitutional order and the rule of law. Security of citizens and the country must also be defended by the government. However, question should be paused whether the government's behaviour has been and is helpful in solving matters. Some issues conceiving the government's behaviour in this connection are as follows.
A. Government's policy on those imprisoned is:-
Imprisoning suspected people and let them undergo long time of investigation.
Letting people to their fate at the court. The court proceedings
are very slow because of the way the attorney general works.
In general one can say that justice is delayed. Justice, as the saying goes, delayed is justice denied. The government refuses to change this situation claiming that it is respecting the independence of the judiciary because it wants to have the rule of law prevail.
B. Government/ Oppositions Relations
When it comes to the government's relation to political organizations, it puts pre-conditions to start dialogue or negotiations with opposition political groups. The pre-conditions are a) declaration of acceptance of peaceful struggle, b) respect of constitutional order and the rule of law c) surrendering of army and arms of the armed resistance movements. Even those who submit to these pre-conditions get some kind of political massaging through different ways, including the use of some diplomatic communities resident in Addis Ababa, to prove that they are "loyal oppositions"
C. Persistence in the policy of exclusion and unwillingness to let the will of the people prevail.
i. The government led by the EPRDF follows the policy of political exclusion. The London meeting of May 1991 excluded the OLF, EPRP, AESM and other organizations then known to have existed as opposition to the Dergue government. The EPRP and AESM were excluded from the Addis Ababa Peace Conference and the Transitional Government. These, the OLF and many others were also not able in the process of making the constitution. The elections of 1995 and 2000 were also not inclusive. The ruling party used the state financial, material and human resources and the state media to compete against the opposition. But the opposition did not have this kind of government support. The government did nothing to correct this situation.
ii. The same is true during and after the May 2005 election. Beside, the government's declaration of a quasi-curfew on May 16, 2005 is a violation of the constitutional provisions on the right of Assembly. The imprisonment of leaders and members of the CUD can be seen as violation of the right of association guaranteed in artic1es31 and 38 of our constitution. Besides, the people of Addis Ababa are forced to be led by an administration which they did not elect.
iii. There have been consistent calls for the respecting of right to self-determination of oppressed (actual or perceived) by several organizations including the OLF and ONLF in accordance with Article 39 of the constitution. This call has been intensified in Oromia since November 2005 in a popular movement called Fincila Diddaa Garbummaa (FDG) -Revolt against tyranny. But the government has shown deaf ear to this calls and the willingness of these organizations to sit down to sit down and negotiate without preconditions. It rather continues to denounce these organizations as "anti-peace, anti-development, and terrorists" .
D. Opposition organizations are not without fault
The known opposition organizations armed or not, up to now, persist in the old way of struggle. They think that the only way to save Ethiopia is by overthrowing the government through insurrection or by the barrel of the gun. The spirit of tolerance, compromise and reconciliation is absent in these organizations and their supporters. They promise that democracy would be introduced and protected once they come to power. But they forget that power is very sweet and that this sweet thing, power, which is taken by force, has to be defended by force. We in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Eritrea and Ethiopia have experienced that the high sounding promises of armed organizations about democratization have only been means to come to and stay in power. This is why people see the newly formed Alliance for Freedom and Democracy sceptically. It is thus imperative that new born child, the AFD, proves to be tolerant, inc1usiveand reconciliatory in accordance with its dec1aration.
E. An alternative way to get out of political impasse.
I have so far tried to show that Ethiopia is in a political impasse. This political problem stems from two pending questions of democracy. The first issue is whether the basic and constitutional freedoms and rights are respected or not. My observation is that two elements of these freedoms and rights are so far not fully respected by all political parties of the country. The politics of intolerance and exclusion still prevails. The second problem is that the political forces are not ready to willingly accept the verdict of the people expressed through their votes in election.
The second major pending question of democracy is, 1believe, the question of the right of different peoples in Ethiopia to self-determination. Question of self-determination has been there in Ethiopia since the creation of the state and is still current. I believe that denying the prevalence of this question or deliberately avoiding it will not be a solution. The question must be answered politically sooner or latter. But we witness that some of the political forces are allergic to the issue.
These forces want that the question is not raised at all. Others argue that the question is already answered by the constitution and its implementation through the present federal arrangement. Still others point out to the process of formation and preservation of the Ethiopian State and argue that the question is not yet answered. These political forces are at the same time not willing to tolerate different choices between centralized structure, federal arrangement, confederation or independence. The pending issue here is not the problem of intolerance and exclusion between the parties. The problem is whether the political forces are ready to submit to the choice and will of the people or not. One can not imagine that there will be peace and stability in this country as long as we are in this political impasse. It is a simple logic that it is not possible to mobilize the entire forces of development as long as there is no peace and stability in the country. We all know that underdevelopment in Ethiopia and lack of peace and stability here would certainly affect the whole of Horn Africa. It is thus imperative to solve these pending questions of democracy. It should be demanded from all political forces to accept and adhere to the principles of basic human and democratic freedoms and rights provided in our constitution. Among this, respect of the right to association and tolerance for other's views. Next comes the crucial point. That is the readiness to submit to the will of the people. The people's right to choices must be guaranteed. The people and the people alone should be able to decide which party should govern them. Self-determination of the different peoples on their fate must also be respected. Therefore, there should be free, fair, and democratic election carried out by a real independent election institution.
The question of self-determination can be answered in a similar manner. Choices in the categories of internal or external self-determination can, for example be presented by different groups and then be decided upon by the people, say, through referendum. Such a referendum should be witnessed by the international community. The result of the referendum should then be the bases for a treaty signed at the presence of witnesses.
I know that some sectors of our society are allergic to the term self-determination or Article 39 of our constitution. For some, those who demand self-determination are separatists who want to destroy Ethiopia. Some sectors who demand the implementation of the right to self-determination understand it as being the realization of separation and founding their own independent and sovereign states. However, self-determination means to chose by one self between different alternatives, to decide for one self and to determine by one self without being forced to do so by some one else. Isn't this the essence of democracy? A democracy short of this right is no true democracy.
As mentioned above, there are forces, including the ruling party, who argue that priority should be given to economic development and growth to bring out Ethiopia from poverty. Issues of human rights and democracy seem to come to picture at second level. I argue that healthy and quick economic development can come only under a democratic Ethiopia in which all basic rights and freedoms are respected.
I am a son of an evangelical pastor. I did learn much from my father. One of the truths I learned from him is the teaching of Jesus which approximately says "Man lives not only of bread, but from the word of God also". Efforts made to bring about quick economic develop¬ment and growth must be coupled with respect of the basic freedoms and rights of the people be it individual citizens and groups. My conviction is that Human and Democratic rights should be given due attention as pre-condition for economic development. Liberaliza¬tion of the economy does not work without political liberalization. This may be an influence from what I learned from my father. Bread alone is not enough for life.
What ever the case, I believe that it is expected from the civic society and the international community to persistently call on all political forces including the government to come to dialogue and negotiation table without pre-conditions to pave the way for a peaceful and political solution for the pending issues of democracy, issues which are crucial for the solution of economic and social problems.
This article was first published by capitalethiopia.com and sent to Tigrai Online by Dr. Sisay Asefa.