Source: Ethiopia Insight
19 April, 2021
Ethiopia’s election should be postponed and a transitional technocratic government installed to avoid unimaginable strife.
An overly simplistic narrative of the past three decades is that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) taught Ethiopian nations and nationalities to express their political consciousness.
However, calls for ethnic justice were at the heart of the 1960s Ethiopian Student Movement, years before TPLF’s founding. In particular, it was Wallelign Mekonenn’s article “On the Question of Nationalities in Ethiopia,” published in the student movement’s journal Struggle in November 1969, that brought ethnic politics to the center.
But, even before that, ethnicity has been a common way of identifying Ethiopians. For example, in 1956, the Ethiopian representative at a student debate on prejudice was introduced by the interviewer as “Amhara by race.”
The Oromo Liberation Front, formed out of a self-aware Oromo nationalist movement, was established in the early 1970s. It wasn’t until 1975 that the Tigrayan nationalist party, later known as the TPLF, was formed.
Hence, blaming the rise of self-determination movements rooted in ethnonationalism solely on TPLF is at best a sign of ill-informed analysis, and at worst a sign of underlying prejudice.
At the same time, the way TPLF tried to resolve the age-old questions of nations and nationalities in Ethiopia can be criticized severely. Over 27 years, so many of the social aspects which are essential for nation-building were neglected or attacked for the sake of consolidating power over contenders.
Now, we have come to the point where division along ethnic lines is causing the country to unravel at its seams.
There is an immense effort needed to strengthen social relations across all groups in Ethiopia. This can only be achieved through processes that nurture trust—especially in institutions that are supposed to maintain law and order.
While ethnic federalism has been one way to address issues of ethnic justice and rights, we have also experienced its destabilizing effects. Therefore, alternative ways for imagining Ethiopia’s political organization are necessary. Indeed, there should be gradual steps away from the current federal system. But this requires serious and concerted attention to resolve the conflicts that have been created by an imagined juxtaposition between two visions of Ethiopianism—roughly, ‘unified, one Ethiopia’ and ‘multinational Ethiopia.’
There are two core political questions in Ethiopia today: one is the quest for real self-determination by nations and nationalities, and the other is the quest for strengthening national identity. Although these may appear conflicting, they shouldn’t be seen as such.
Currently, the ‘One Ethiopia’ camp is pulling apart threads at the opposite end of the political spectrum. This group consists mostly of Amhara elites and other Amharic-speaking urban Ethiopians who are from mixed backgrounds. People clustered around this pole have been listening to a specific narration of Ethiopian identity that they keep dearly to their hearts.
This ‘One-Ethiopia’ group poses an existential threat to the country as long as it continues to force a one-sided Ethiopian identity narration. In a country so diverse, one cannot expect any unanimous adoption of historical narratives. It is only natural to have a multifaceted understanding of historical events.
For example, with regards to the legacy of Emperor Menelik II, the victory of Adwa, and atrocities committed during the military campaign to the south, public discussions, debate, and further study are essential. There is no reason why opening up the historical conversation and widening the narrative should be an obstacle to nation-building.
Dealing with conflicting narratives and nation-building requires wise leadership: leadership that is willing and competent to conduct an all-inclusive national dialogue to try and reconcile competing versions of nationalism.
Tragically, the current leadership in Addis is chaotic and is increasingly becoming a liability. Abiy seems inclined to respond to the question of national identity with his philosophy of ‘Medemer’, which critics rightly note lacks depth and clarity.
Abiy also responded to the dilemma through his actions during the reformation processes of the ruling party. What was initially presented as a process of democratization ended up as a repressive process where dissenting voices on the side of self-determination were squashed.
The activists, politicians, and political parties who have vocally defended and fought for the rights of nations and nationalities have been effectively dismantled and jailed. This represents a miscarriage of the process for consensus-based reform that began in 2018.
The current leadership and its Ethiopianist supporters hope the upcoming election will be a source of legitimacy for implementing the vision they have for the country. However, the signals we see within the regional and federal governments are distressing indicators of what is to come.
For example, in the last parliamentary session, Oromia Prosperity Party representatives openly accused Amhara security forces of conducting ethnic cleansing on Oromo people in North Shewa. Meanwhile, the narrative of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Tigray has taken hold in international media, damaging Ethiopia on the world stage, and possibly even threatening our ability to receive necessary aid in a time of serious and widespread economic hardship.
Considering the raging war in Tigray, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) insurgency in Oromia, growing land disputes and communal conflicts elsewhere, and the increasing division within the ruling party, this next election could collapse the state as we know it.
Yet, rather than working towards viable solutions, people in positions of power such as Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonen call for arming civilians. This prepares a fertile ground for a civil war.
Given all these factors, the installation of a transitional technocratic government with a clear mandate can avert imminent disintegration.
The Prime Minister, his party, and the federal government have a central role in this process. They must recognize the multifaceted problems that could lead to total state collapse and initiate the path towards the formation of a transitional government.
Indeed, by abdicating some power for the sake of necessary national stability, Abiy and his government would demonstrate wise and humble leadership that would show Ethiopians that they are worthy of managing the exceptional needs of our country at this time.
The technocratic government can be established with ministerial cabinets formed by independent and non-partisan experts from different fields and backgrounds. The experts must not belong to any political party and should be citizens widely respected by society.
The transitional authority should be established both regionally as well as nationally. Moreover, for the solution to properly work, military power must be consolidated.
While the transitional technocratic government focuses on ensuring stability in the country, the Prosperity Party, as well as other political parties, can prepare to compete in a fair and democratic election. The vote would take place once some basic degree of national stability has been achieved. Now, however, is not that time.
Below is a bold, nine-point action plan that outlines national priorities and suggests solutions to address the crisis we face. The legalities and practicalities of the action points below—including establishing a transitional technocratic government—should be assessed and elaborated on by experts before the situation worsens.
1. Postpone the upcoming election and establish a transitional technocratic government that can prepare the ground for a free and fair election. This is absolutely crucial in order to avoid unimaginable conflict. The lifespan of the technocratic transitional government shall be a maximum of three years.
2. Assimilate all regional forces under the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) as soon as possible after passing a decree through the House of Federation. Conduct reform and capacity-building processes to strengthen unity within ENDF and allegiance to the constitution.
3. Remove Eritrean and regional forces from Tigray. Given the state of the conflict and the role that various forces, including ENDF, have played in perpetuating targeted violence against civilians, it would be best to allow an international peacekeeping army to establish order in the region. Nonpartisan international peacekeepers would need to disarm or integrate Tigray Defense Forces into regional or national security forces.
4. Establish a technocratic transitional government in Tigray. As with the representatives in other regions, this temporary government should consist of well-respected and widely accepted members of society who can build consensus and work towards reconciliation.
5. Release Oromo political prisoners, including Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba, and their allies. Then, initiate a peace and reconciliation process in Oromia, providing a path for the OLA to reintegrate with regional or national security forces. The Oromia region shall also install a transitional technocratic government.
6. Complete similar peace and reconciliation process in Amhara and other regions with all opposition parties involved. Similarly, install regional transitional technocratic governments.
7. Start the process of national reconciliation and dialogue, which should include every region and representatives from all sectors of society. This process is necessary to establish a clear vision for Ethiopian nationalism and national identity. The process should be rooted in the principles laid out in the constitution, which should be respected by all until it is amended. Importantly, attempts to amend or change the constitution should not begin before a free and fair election is conducted.
8. Take appropriate measures to institutionalize and formalize the peace deal with Eritrea and nurture appropriate economic and political relationships. Integration with our neighbors, including Eritrea, should be based on the principles of mutual economic interests and development as well as a commitment to human rights and democratization. The Eritrean government should stay away from the internal matters of Ethiopia, and a healthy distance between the politics of Asmara and Addis Ababa should be maintained.
9. Negotiate a realistic and honest deal with Egypt and Sudan regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Hire neutral expert consultants whose assessments are accepted by all three countries. This third-party monitoring organization can conduct appropriate follow-up throughout the filling process of the dam and specify data exchange requirements.
Dear Emmanuel Yirdaw,
If you think your are really concerned about the current Ethiopian politics and it is also a matter of humanity, please try to acknowledge first the Tigray Genocide and the betrayals of the Ethiopian people, Ethiopian Fed Gov, Amhara Reg Gov and other Regional Gov on the Tigray region and its people.
From your analysis, I can see that you have come with the above nine-plan after all the Tigrayan enemies failed to achieve their plan of eliminating the existence of Tigray people.
We can argue on whether the plans you proposed are doable or not for the Ethiopians. But as a matter of fact, I can be sure that many of the proposed points are totally irrelevant to the demands of Tigray people.
Any ways, I see that Tigray people wish to have a peaceful neighborhood in all directions.
I could agree with the historical facts, but not with the solutions
1-The Prime Minister, his party, and the federal government shouldn’t have any role at all in the reconciliation as they are “Quislings”. The act of “Quisling” is unforgivable- recommend the readers to google if they don’t know what “Quisling” means. Even Norway, worlds peaceful nation doesn’t tolerate crime of “Quisling”.
2- Quisling Abiy and his followers don’t have the will as well as the capacity to recognize the multifaceted problems of Ethiopia. They actually initiated the process of a total state collapse and we are at the point of no return at all as to the aspiration of a United multinational Ethiopia- mainly due to the ill oriented ideology of one assimilated Ethiopia-which Abiy is promoting
3- I would have proposed nr. 3 of the nine point proposal as priority nr. 1- at the same times establishing technocrats government is not a solution at least for Tigray. The fate of Tigray is going to be determined by the people of Tigray, not by some reconciliation process to be initiated by “Quislings” that sold out their own to their ultimate enemies. Tigray is done with Ethiopia once and for all for that same reason Eritrea became a sovereign state.
What I mean is that the solution still insinuates a solution for Tigray from the government and people that already has committed treasonous act over Tigray.
4- establishments of technocrats in Oromia and Amhara is not going to help either as the solution seems to excludes the importance of other regional states
Tigray might to consider confederation to the minimum, but I believe that will never happen as long as Quisling Abiy Ahmed and his slaves are the part of the Equation.
Abiy has already demonstrated that he is not wise and humble leader at all.
Tigray will decide for her self and leave Ethiopia for the rest under Abiy- dialogue is a necessity in the process for the sake of good neighborhoods.
Taking appropriate measures to eventually normalize the relationship beyond the war has to be handled by Tigray and Ethiopia separately- that applies also as to the relationship between Ethiopia and Tigray based on the principles of mutual economic interests and development as a de facto state scenario is inevitable for Tigray if Ethiopia create fuss about the self determination option.
Good point, but it require Love for your Country, right now everybody is tribal and no body wants to Save Ethiopia
Very well written, it goes through most of the problems and solutions Ethiopia has and needs. You should do a similar one with Eritrea and what it needs to rebuild and start developing as a proper country with a non-partisan supported-elected parliamentary government and constitution that uses major social and economic reforms; that focuses on social development, education for (careers, medicine, agriculture etc.), semi-free market based economy, infrastructures (schools, hospitals, water services, electricity and powerplants, roads, upgrading ports, factories etc.). Which would be done after the illegitimate and corrupt mafia-like dictator and government are gone, and a parliamentary transitional government is rightfully in charge.
Good point. The amhara hardliners are the main problematic forces distablizing the country.
pipe dreams! very unrealistic. can/will never happen. makes for a nice bed time story for the hopeful children, though. PP/Abiy released the ethnic genie out of the bottle, and it shall not go back until after a coup d’etat by Amhara elite, mass national civil war, and the short, horrific, tenure of the Amhara dynasty is brought to an end, likely by TDF/OLA.
look out below… Yugoslavia * 4, as Plaut put it back in the day…
I agree. I have enjoyed Mistir Sew’s previous articles but this seems to miss at least 3 other key points relating to Tigray war, namely:
1) ethnic cleansing in western Tigray. It’s happening, Amhara region admits with excuse that it is supposed to be Amhara land (ignoring facts and history but let’s leave that for now). I don’t believe either Amhara or Tigray will just give up the fight for it now! Talk about irrendentism.
2) No mention of independent investigations of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and, most importantly, reparations and the huge debt that is now owed by Eritrea.
3) What is Isaias’ goals here? How will you convince him to withdraw.
And sadly, I don’t see how you bring Tigray back into the fold. All trust is gone from them to the rest of Ethiopia. See fine article by Temesgen Kahsay on that about language employed against Tigrayans over last 3 years. Remember that Tigrayans have been streaming back to Tigray from the rest of the country because of harassment and blockage of roads from Amhara to Tigray. And now this, not just a war but an extermination. Once Tigray goes, I fully expect many in rest of Ethiopia will also vote for independence.
And I would just close with an advice to minority populations all over Africa and Asia. You have seen what good the UN is. You have only yourselves to rely on. Make what preparations you need.
Though I agree with the historical facts the nine point plans are something that didn’t consider the status quo of Ethiopia as we speak. Here is what I mean
1- The central role of the Prime Minister, his party, and the federal government for facilitating the establishment of techocrat government doesn’t exist at all. The prime minister and his followers don’t recognize the multifaceted issues of the country and are the initiator of the process of irreversible collapse Ethiopia has entered.
2- I have used the phrase “irreversible collapse”. The reason for that is the “Quisling” act the prime minister, his followers and people in other parts of Ethiopia have committed over Tigray. In case readers are new to the word “Quisling”, I recommend them to google it. It is originated from Norway, where I live now- Even Norway, the symbol of peace in the world, doesn’t tolerate “Quisling” act. By selling out Tigreans to their ultimate enemy, Abiy Ahmed and Ethiopia as a nation has said loud and clear to Tigreans “We don’t need you”. Tigray has started “thank you, we are not coming back either”
3- Taking the “Quisling” act in to consideration, a technocratic government is not then an option at least for Tigray. Further it is only the people of Tigray who decides what they want beyond the war. Any suggestions that comes from the central Ethiopia has no place in the minds and hearts of Tigreans anymore-. Such suggestions will imply the continuation of Tigray as a part of Ethiopia. One thing is clear as to me by now “Tigray will not have time for “Quislings”. Looking back Ethiopian history for the last 140 years, all the major wars, with the exception of one, started in Tigray. That is not good for Tigray and Ethiopia. The solution is try to coexist as good neighbor with Ethiopia and Eritrea. Eventual acknowledgment of Tigray right for autonomy and self rule, at least a real confederate state might work, If that will be unacceptable for Ethiopia, the establishment of a de facto state is inevitable, just like Somaliland and Taiwan
4- Technocratic government in Amhara and Oromia region are not feasible either as long as the plan doesn’t propose a similar set up in the other 7 regions who are not included in the proposal
For me Abiy is not a wise and humble leader at all, rather a Quisling psychopath that doesn’t care for anyone or anything, but himself. Dialogue that leads to the emergence of leaders that understand multifaceted problems of Ethiopia and can initiate a reconciliation process is a necessity. However not as proposed by the contributors. It has also to be without Ahmed Ali and his prominent followers who has to be held accountable for the war crimes In Tigray and other parts of the country.
Such leaders has to be also wise enough to not touch the constitution to start with, but has to be brave to respect the rights of regional government specified in the constitution. People in different Regions has to decide as to how they want the future Ethiopia shall look like and how it should be led. As I mentioned above people of Tigray don’t see themselves in the future Ethiopia which might also be true for many other regions too.
Probably Ethiopia will emerge as a confederate state and regions will have a kind of arrangement like countries we see under the umbrella of the “United Kingdom”
“by abdicating some power for the sake of necessary national stability, Abiy and his government would demonstrate….”
You mean like give ministerial position to TPLF. Bullshit. They are criminals and should go to jail!