| Joint Statement of Various Ethiopian Communities in the Greater Toronto Area
December 19, 2005
· The Ethiopian people have lived under the yoke of repressive regimes and as a result suffered severely for decades from wars, famine, ethnic and religious discrimination; sever human right violation and deprivation of basic education to the majority. Democracy, equality and development eluded the nation for so long. Instead, internal conflicts, fear of absolute power, poverty and dismal economic performance remained its identifying features. There is increasing evidence that underdevelopment and poverty in developing countries are mainly the result of the failure of governments to discharge their responsibilities. Ethiopia as a developing country has been a victim of the failure of previous regimes in respect of political reform and economic progress. Modern political reform and a visionary economic policy lie at the heart of the solutions to the country's chronic problems.
· The current constitutional order was established with immense sacrifice by the Ethiopian people and their triumph over the ruthless criminal regime of the durg. The nation for the first time in its history saw a new form of organization of political authority-constitutional parliament. This institution opened up a new era for the country - the era of stability, peace, and democracy, equality of nations, regional self-administration and economic development. We strongly believe that a democratic system cannot succeed without the scrupulous observation of the rule of law by all. It is important to understand that trust, respect, understanding and harmony can be cultivated and nurtured if all stake holders act in good faith and allow political differences to play out according to the rules of the game. In this respect, credit goes to those individuals and parties that participated in the May election and contributed their share in strengthening the democratic process. While we appreciate the efforts of all participants, we would also like to underscore that in any political contest, particularly in a developing country like Ethiopia where experience in the practice of democracy is minimal and voter sophistication is lacking, three things must be off-limits for any player: peace, stability and continuity of development. The future of the people of Ethiopia depends heavily on whether or not the nation is able to guarantee unshakable peace and stability and on whether she creates an environment conducive for the next generation to continue the mission of progress and harmony. No reason whatsoever should thus be used as an excuse to override these long term interests of the people. The guarantee for this is the law and if Ethiopia is to succeed in its endeavor of building a just system she must strictly enforce the law. Any group or individual involved in violence and other unconstitutional activities should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This sends the right message to anyone and everyone interested in the political future of the country.
· We do not only condone but strongly condemn any form of provocation or incitement of violence by any group or political organization and strongly encourage all current or future political players to act according to the provisions of the constitution and exercise their democratic rights within the bounds of the law. As they say "we are in bondage to the law so we all can be free". We understand that in an emerging democracy, tension tends to crop up between the rule of law and the exercise of democratic rights. The way out of this kind of impediment is for the government to enforce the law and for parliament to investigate the actions of the government through an independent commission. If the commission's findings show that the government used excessive force in enforcing the law, parliament holds it accountable. This is the standard practice in the advanced democracies and we believe that democracy in Ethiopia would be served best if all stake holders abide by this principle.
· Our communities earlier condemned the recent violence and other unconstitutional activities in Ethiopia that were organized and executed by the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and its supporters. We believe that such move by the concerned party is irresponsible, insensitive, immature, unproductive and most of all outside of the rules of the game. In a constitutional system any party that resorts to violence for whatever reason cannot be trusted for the highest public office of the nation, for that matter, for any level of public office. We also vehemently denounce the CUD for unleashing violent mobs deliberately to create havoc and mayhem on EID UL FITR holiday which shows the true color of the leaders - contempt, disrespect and insensitivity to Muslim citizens. There should absolutely be no room for this kind of behavior in the new Ethiopia. The organizers and leaders of the violence should be held accountable for the loss of life and the destruction of property.
· It is our belief that peace and stability will prevail in Ethiopia if all concerned up-hold and protect the new Ethiopia. The new Ethiopia is for all its citizens and not for a specific ethnic group as it was in the dark ages of the past where the people were violated and treated as second class citizens in their own homeland. We believe those dark ages are gone and stand no chance of reincarnation. Under the current constitutional order all citizens are treated equal and are able to exercise their rights within the rule of law. The new era of democracy, freedom and equality pioneered by the EPRDF is critical for the future of the people and needs to be given a chance to flourish and mature so the nation can continue to expand its development and social progress. We urge the people of Ethiopia to guard and protect their hard - won constitutional order and send the right signal to any group that might venture into the business of ethnic tension and incitement of violence as recently observed in the capital.
· We thank the Ethiopian people for their resilience in absorbing the shock and for being able to withstand and resist all the destructive measures taken by the violent mobs. We also extend our condolences and sympathies to families who lost their loved ones in the confrontation. We also wish wellness and health to those injured. While we encourage the government to bring to justice the culprits and all those who masterminded the recent violence, we also welcome the establishment of an independent commission by parliament to investigate whether or not the government's response to the violence was unreasonably excessive.
· It is to be recalled that based on its track-record with regard to its pro-poor policies, vital economic reconstruction and good governance Ethiopia has been selected to be in the first round of beneficiaries of the debt elimination and expanded aid programs initiative of the G-8 countries. Just in 2004 Ethiopia, with investment rate of 18 percent and inflation rate of 2 percent, registered 12 percent growth rate in GDP and 9 percent growth in per capita income. Ethiopia has also improved its food security and is geared to fulfill its poverty reduction goals. This, by any standard, is an encouraging performance if not spectacular. But we also know that 50 percent of our people still live under the poverty line. Ethiopia's current external debt is about US$3 billion. Total elimination of all its debt and expansion of aid will therefore give a substantial boost to the country's domestic investment rate and spending on infrastructure, education and health care which are critical for poverty reduction and growth. This also creates conducive environment for foreign investment, foreign trade and the acquisition of modern technology. In short, the impact of complete debt cancellation, expanded aid programs and access to foreign markets on poverty reduction and growth are enormous. We reiterate that because of the rampant and pervasive nature of poverty, Ethiopia needs to keep the current momentum on development to make a significant dent on poverty in the coming years. In this context, debt cancellation and aid would play a significant role in promoting growth and reducing poverty. In contrast to this novel mission, some individuals in the Diaspora have chosen to campaign against debt cancellation and aid for Ethiopia on the grounds that they do not like the EPRDF or that they support this party or that group. This is at best short sighted and immature and at worst a betrayal to the nation and its people. We strongly denounce such activities by any group and encourage western governments to examine carefully the history and motive of those who stand against the long term interests of the Ethiopian people. We understand that the support of Ethiopia's development partners would go a long way in promoting growth and alleviating poverty. We also know that Ethiopia's development partners have contributed significantly in putting the country on track for which the people are thankful. In this light, we appeal to the donor community to continue their efforts in collaboration with the nation to bring to its conclusion the unfinished business of making poverty history.
Various Ethiopian Communities in the GTA
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