The Current Crisis in Ethiopia and the Urgent need for a National Dialogue


                 Ethiopia has suffered from a crisis of state legitimacy for decades unable to install accountable and legitimate government that has the confidence and support of the majority of its diverse population. Consequently, it has not been in a position to address the serious domestic and external challenges it has been facing. The country has been especially in turmoil since the 1974 Revolution. The current regime, which came to power in the wake of the collapse of the military regime in 1991, suffered from a huge legitimacy deficit from the very beginning due to its sectarian, partisan nature and its many controversial policies. It came to power through a military conquest and maintains it by sheer use of force. As a result, the popular struggle against the regime intensified during the last three years, especially in Oromia, and also Amhara. The sustained mass uprising has created a serious crisis, including divisions within the regime and instability in the country. Given the situation, in which the people have refused to be ruled in the old ways and the regime is unable to rule as usual, or change course, there is an urgent need to address the deteriorating political, security, economic and humanitarian crisis, and put the country on a path of stability, democracy, and prosperity. Ethiopia’s predicament is compounded by the fact that the ruling elite is devoid of reason and political logic; it is self-serving and has no idea of the national interest. Yet, addressing these challenges requires a process of dialogue and national accommodation.

                  The Ethiopian people have spoken clearly and loudly, but the regime has to be encouraged and pressured especially by its international partners to start this process sooner, rather than later. The Ethiopian National Movement (ENM) will do all within its ability to mount internal and external pressures to bring the regime to the negotiating table. If the intransigence of the regime persists, the ENM would employ all nonviolent means of popular resistance to bring an end to the authoritarian and divisive regime, so that the country is put on a path of transition towards a sustainable, stable, and democratic order. Whichever way the end of the over a quarter of century misrule of the current regime is achieved, Ethiopia can no longer afford to repeat the disastrous experiences of past transitions of power. It is the conviction of the ENM that this regime should be the last tyrannical regime in Ethiopia.

            However, the transition from authoritarian rule towards an inclusive, accountable, and democratic governance requires not only commitment by all parties, but also carefully calculated and crafted steps and measures to affect a smooth transition towards a lasting           and sustainable democracy. Democracy is more than the procedural minimums of free and fair elections under conditions of universal suffrage. It has more substantive dimensions, including effective citizenship, popular empowerment, the rule of law, and functioning and robust institutions providing a range of public goods fairly and equitably to all citizens without discrimination. The path would be tortuous, sewn with obstacles, but given goodwill and adopting a culture of tolerance and accommodation, the obstacles are not insurmountable.

            In order to avoid the pitfalls, three major characteristics of transitions that determine success or failure have to be taken into account. Firstly, we should not only avoid but also be clear on uncertainty about outcomes, especially the fear of regression. At the same time, we cannot afford the constant flux in how the rules of the political game are defined, and we should be open to utilizing divisions within the ruling elite. Secondly, the core tasks of the immediate post-authoritarian regime are critical. This includes reforming the armed forces, removing them from politics, establishing procedures for dealing with human rights abuses, and organizing mechanisms for political participation, including channeling pent up public demands, and creating consensus as to the rules regarding how political power is exercised. Thirdly, there is a central role ascribed to the behavior of political elites and competitive elections. On this point all factions of the elite, including those in the opposition share enormous responsibilities. We should be cognizant of the fact that the outcome of the 1974 Revolution, and the transition towards a possibly new and better order was thwarted not just by the military officers who staged a counter-revolution and seized power, but also by the irresponsible actions of the civilian groups that were vying for supremacy. Hence, the transitional program should be crafted in such a way as to avoid these pitfalls by building a broad enough consensus around the core goals.

II. Stabilizing the Country and Confidence Building

1. Any political solution must start with restoring peace and security in the country. This can happen only when the government removes its command posts, military and secret police units, especially from Oromia and Amhara regions, but also other regions where the confrontation is intense.

2. The government should unconditionally stop politically motivated imprisonment and killings, harassment of civilians, fostering animosities and pitting communities against one another; and should release all political prisoners, journalists and civil society activists unconditionally and immediately.

III. Convening a National Conference

3. With the people in rebellion and the ruling party itself in disarray, and the government discredited, the regime must realize that it is not in a position to manage the crisis by itself. It is an extraordinary national crisis that requires an extraordinary national solution. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the current government to agree to convene a national conference of all stakeholders, including political organizations and civic groups inside the country and all those forced into exile.

4. The national conference should deliberate on the future governance of the country, and interim measures that have to be taken to stabilize the country and usher in a path of freedom and hope. Its major task is to draw up and agree on a transitional program and a roadmap to achieve it.

5. Based on the conditions established by the national conference, the current parliament and government should be dissolved, and a broad-based transitional government of national unity established in its place.

IV. Establishing a Transitional Government of National Unity

6. The Transitional Government of National Unity, whose makeup shall be determined by the agreement of the participants to the national conference, shall take responsibility for the governance of Ethiopia during the transitional period;

7. However, its main task would be implementing the transitional program agreed upon by the national conference, carrying out institutional and legal reforms, building the political, legal and institutional infrastructure, and making other preparations for conducting free, fair and credible elections, thus laying down a firm foundation for an open, just, inclusive, stable democratic order;

8. The current legal, constitutional and administrative framework shall remain the basis for the governance of the country during the transitional period; but all laws that have been designed to stifle the rights of citizens shall be rescinded or replaced;

9. Depending on the program set by the National Conference, the term of office of the Transitional Government of National Unity shall not exceed four years;

10. The Ethiopian Defense, Security and the Police Forces both at the federal and state levels shall continue to serve the country, but with necessary reforms carried out. All other armed combatants in existence shall be gradually and systematically integrated into the national army or supported to return to civilian lives;

11. The Transitional Government shall gradually reform the Ethiopian National Defense and Security Forces, to ensure that all the echelons are broadly representative of all the peoples of Ethiopia and to ensure these institutions are non-partisan, professional, competent, and answerable to the will of the peoples.

A. Immediate Tasks of the Transitional Government

12. The transitional government shall immediately declare null and void all legislations, designed to restrict the basic freedoms and liberties of people including freedom of assembly, association, expression, and movement;

13. The transitional government immediately begins a process of national reconciliation and healing; an independent, credible, transparent Commission of Inquiry shall be established to look into gross violations of human rights, abuse of power, and crimes against humanity, with the support of pertinent international bodies;

14. The transitional government shall tackle the humanitarian crisis on a priority basis, and also help in the rehabilitation of political prisoners, journalists, civic society activists, and returning refugees and exiles;

15. The transitional government shall immediately start the process of economic recovery, rehabilitation, and stabilization, by promulgating policies and issuing guidelines to encourage economic activities, rapid economic growth, and create employment opportunities in general and for the youth in particular; it shall set up appropriate bodies and instruments for these purposes.

B. Building the Foundations for a Democratic State

16. The transitional government shall immediately commence the process of thorough reforms of the national defense and security forces, judiciary, civil service, and electoral bodies, to make the institutions competent, professional, nonpartisan, and reflective of the country’s diverse population;

17. A system of transitional justice shall be instituted to investigate violations of human rights and other abuses of power; the commission shall also look into corruption and embezzlement of public and state resources; assets embezzled from the people of Ethiopia and kept in domestic and foreign banks and property holdings will be investigated and returned to the rightful owners;
18. The transitional government shall set up a constitutional commission from broad sections of the people and experts to look into constitutional issues, and come up with a document owned and defended by the people; moreover, it shall create bodies to deal with all outstanding issues, including the national question, languages, capital city, and the carrying out of a credible census;

19. The vast majority of Ethiopians being rural farmers, and land being crucial for their livelihood, the transitional government shall set up a land commission to look into unlawful evictions from land, illegal land deals, and the restoration of land rights; the commission shall also recommend a land tenure system that protects the rights of indigenous peoples, farmers, pastoralists, the environment and future generations, encourages sustainable equitable development, balancing current needs and future growth.

20. The transitional government shall overhaul the state-owned media, to make them public bodies independent from the government as well as ruling parties, so that they equitably serve the general interests society.

V. Principles for the Transition

21. No right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights shall be abridged by the Transitional Government and the people shall have the unrestricted freedom to exercise their rights without interference and molestation by the state;

22. The right to assembly, organization, and free expression of opinion shall not be suppressed under any circumstances, and no permission, whatsoever, shall be required to assemble or organize peaceful protests and to petition the government for redress of grievances; notifying appropriate authorities for purposes of public safety should be enough;

23. All political organizations have full rights to peacefully organize and campaign for their programs; and the transitional government should encourage the growth of a strong and healthy civil society, and viable, credible political organizations, as part of laying a strong foundation for democracy;

24. The transitional government shall safeguard the interests of all the people who live, enter or reside in the country; this includes foreigners, residents and refugees;

25. The Transitional Government, as much as possible, shall honor all international agreements that Ethiopia has entered into, save for those agreements that violate the country’s sovereignty and national interests; it shall foster amicable and friendly relations with all neighboring states and promote inter-African and international cooperation.

Freedom and Justice for All!

Patriotic Ginbot 7


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