— Part III of III
By Aklog Birara (Dr)
“ያልተማሩ ምሁራን ያቆዩዋትን ሃገር፤ የተማሩ መሃይማን አያፈርሷትም” አቶ ታየ ቦጋለ
My hypothesis in response to the question under the sub-tile is that Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed may not revert to the TPLF model of repressive and ethnic governance. Because, this reversal of history would only strengthen repression, ethnic-cleansing and ultimately Balkanization of Ethiopia and deepen or worsen poverty. It will be a mortal blow to his government; and undermine the aspirational narrative he used to mobilize millions of Ethiopians.
I have no doubt that there are ethnic and religious fundamentalists behind the ‘throne’ who are determined to remake Ethiopia only in their own image or to disintegrate it completely. Amharas are especially most vulnerable from several fronts. In the North, the TPLF has snatched and incorporated large tracts of the most fertile farmlands into Greater Tigray. In the North East, Oromos claim that a large part of Wollo is Oromo land. In the West and South West, strategic and fertile lands and water basins have been taken away and incorporated into the newly created Beni Shangul Gumuz region.
In almost every part of Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, Awassa, Arusi, Dire Dawa, Harar, Kaffa, Sidamo and other locations where hundreds of thousands, and in some places millions of Amharas work, live and own property, they are being harassed, expelled and dehumanized at a level never seen in Ethiopia’s long history. The barrage of hateful propaganda against the Amharas, often buffeted by the fabrication and dissemination of false historical data constitute a most diabolical narrative that Amharas and the world community must heed to. As far as I can discern, there is no red line or demarcation to speak of that might mitigate risks for the Amharas.
Regardless of how much I (we) love Ethiopia and Ethiopian identity, the existential threat against the Amharas is real and compelling. From the mid-1960s up to now, I have devoted my intellectual capital Ethiopia’s rightful place in the world. I have also felt strongly and urged Ethiopians not to fall to the never ending and dangerous trap of ethnic identity as a destiny. The reality of ethnic-based hatred, suspicion and division on the ground that is supported directly or indirectly by external push to dismantle Ethiopia show a valued target, namely, the Amharas. This group and other like-minded Ethiopians of my generation have always embraced their country and their identity as Ethiopians. I am part and parcel of this embrace.
In my generation, at least and despite ideological differences among intellectuals, efforts were made to diagnose core problems honesty, objectively and in a balanced manner. Declarations such as the number of people in each ethnic group were not made. Today, declarations are given as facts and are imposed on others. Denials are given as facts. How else would one explain the narrative concerning Emperor Menilik? When truth is abandoned for political gain, the room for dialogue is also minimized or completely curtailed intentionally.
Going back to my hypothesis I opine that there is no contradiction between defending the rights of the Amhara population to exist as human beings and to defend themselves; and defending Ethiopia and Ethiopiawinnet. This is because of the fact that the struggle for Ethiopia’s durability and the assertion of citizenship identity as an Ethiopian would have little meaning if the very people who fought for these national values are made scapegoats for the country’s multiple ills and are attacked constantly. If we do not speak up today, history will judge us harshly.
In this connection, I am reminded of what happened to the Jewish people. They were accused and demonized in all parts of Europe. Demonization, harassment and other forms of psychological warfare against Jews was then followed by “crimes against humanity and genocide.” In his highly acclaimed book, “East West Street,” Philippe Sands argues persuasively that the barrage of defamation, harassment, character assassination, individual and group abuse of Jews that preceded genocide showed intent.
Targeting Amharas shows intent.
“Imagine the killing of 100,000 people who happened to come from the same group…. Jews or Poles.” He suggests based on concrete evidence that “the killing of individuals, if part of a systematic plan, would be crime against humanity,” the body of international law identified and articulated by the distinguished human nights lawyer, Professor Hersch Lauterpacht. At the same time and in connection with the Nuremberg Trials, another legal mind, Professor Rafael Lemkin opined that “the killing of the many with the intention of destroying the group of which they were a part” constituted the body of law that is now known as genocide.
Sands clarifies the contrasts and interrelatedness of the two bodies of law that the international community now applies. “For a prosecutor today, the difference between the two was largely the question of establishing intent: to prove genocide, you needed to show that the act of killing was motivated by an intent to destroy the group, whereas for crimes against humanity no such intent had to be shown.”
Since providing genocide is difficult, I urge those concerned to collect evidence meticulously and systematically. Cases covering Yugoslavia, Rwanda and allegations of crimes of genocide in Chechnya, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay illustrate that no individual or group can get away with genocide. I underscore intent. Part of intent is the propagation of ethnic hatred, suspicion, division, harassment and wholesale incarceration.
I suggest that the Amharas were and still are among the most avid supporters of democratic and fundamental change in Ethiopia. Despite this fact, the attempt to reverse the infant but popular change process is all around us. Among the reversals is the deliberate targeting of Ethiopian national institutions and icons of identity under the pretext of holding back resurgence Amharas. Assertiveness to survive is not the same as that of the propestrous claim to reassert “hegemony.”
Those who present the make-believe thesis of “hegemony” target both symbols and persons. Their intent is total dismantlement or destruction. Jewish synagogues were symbols and targets.
Why else would ethnic and religious zealots “torch” Ethiopian Orthodox churches? Why would there be targeted massacres and other human rights abuses in nationally leaning areas of not only the Amhara region but also in Addis Ababa, Awassa, Beni Shangul Gumuz, Dire Dawa, Gambella, Gedeo, Guji, Harar, Kaffa, Sidamo, Kaffa etc.? Why would the TPLF continue to garrison itself in Mekele instead of negotiating and guiding the future of Ethiopia so that everyone, including Tigreans would benefit from fundamental policy and structural change?
Ethiopia continues to suffer from misinformation and the distortion of historical facts by instant “historians, activists, fundamentalists and extremists.” In one recent episode, an individual claimed that he does not know “Emperor Menilik,” the Ethiopian hero who mobilized hundreds of thousands and defeated Italian colonialism at the Battle of Adwa. Unlike this person who subordinates the freedom of black peoples to narrow ethnic identity and an uncertain future, Italians in Rome celebrated Ethiopia’s Emperor chanting “viva Menilik.” If he denies Menilik, he will have the proclivity to claim that Amharas were not massacred because of their ethnicity.
A group of learned folks, including at least two professors who have written books, went out of their way to critique a communique that was written thoughtfully and signed by 145 people. The signatories represented a cross-section of views and mixed ethnic groups. Instead of stating their positions, the critics identified the signatories as “super racists” without a shred of evidence to support their assertions. Further, the same cohort made a sweeping conclusion that the assassinations that occurred on June 22, 2019 in Bahir Dar were linked directly to a plot by the Amharas to overthrow the government.” The failed coup in the Amhara state was an attempt by ethnic nationalists (that is Amharas) to restore Amhara hegemony over Ethiopia.” this assertion constitutes deliberate intent.
This accusation mirrors a narrative echoed by government authorities as well as by Herman Cohen, whose Anti-Amhara position is well established. There is no material or forensic or other evidence to support this false narrative. It never occurred to the critics, for example, that the plot in Bahir Dar of cold-blooded murders of Amhara leaders might have been conceived and implemented by a party or parties inimical to the Amharas. My estimation is that, this hypothesis is dismissed outfight to make the Amharas responsible for Ethiopia’s growing pains; and to pave the way for the reshaping or reconfiguration of Ethiopia by marginalizing the Amharas even more. I pose the question of what comes next?
The dire consequences of this well-orchestrated false narrative are evident each day. Numerous Amhara youth continue to be arrested; and those incarcerated are accused of terrorism.
Whose agenda is being paraded?
It is sheer madness to accuse the Amharas of plotting a coup d’etat against the Abiy Ahmed -led government for the following reasons:
- Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed won the premiership with strategic and methodical support of the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP);
- An overwhelming number of Amharas came out of their homes, villages, towns and cities in support of the reform process;
- Amhara youth sacrificed their lives and helped dislodge the Orwellian regime led by the TPLF; and called for unity among the Amhara and Oromo peoples; and,
- The ADP leadership continues to support the Abiy government.
Against this historical and positive role of the Amharas, the least beneficiary of the EPRDF federal budget based on size of population and need is the Amhara region. Equally telling is the recurrence of ethnic-cleansing, marginalization, harassment, persecution and disproportionate incarceration of the Amhara population, especially youth.
In the same vein as the “historian/anthropologist” who claimed that he did not now Emperor Menilik , group of “concerned” people who claimed to represent the “majority of the Ethiopian population,” went out of their way to accuse and demean the Amharas who defended Ethiopia’s independence over centuries of “super racism.” This is a sinister term and concept that has been implanted in the minds of ethnic elites whose proclivity to imitate alien terms and apply them as widely as possible to achieve their goal is indisputable. In this regard, it is vital to remind ourselves why Amharas are targets of ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses.
In the twentieth century “The Nazis of Austro Hungary had already in the 1930’s targeted Ethiopia as a threat against white supremacy and white colonialism in Africa…. And a threat to “Western Civilization,” wrote the distinguished late historian Professor Alem Eshete. “In the case of Ethiopia, the classic work on the subject, which we have repeatedly introduced to the Ethiopian public, myself and the Ethiopian patriotic Diaspora in Germany, was , of course, the book by the Austrian Nazi, Baron Roman Prochaska’s “Abyssinia the Powder Barrel” (Vienna 1935), translated in all the major Western languages (including American English,) before the Italian invasion in 1936. Baron Roman Prochaska was posted for two years as Austrian Consul in Addis Ababa until his expulsion in February 1934. The Italian translation of Prochaska’s book entitled ABISSINIA PERICOLO NERO meaning “Abyssinia the Black Threat or Danger” was published in 1935, which is a year before the Fascist invasion.”
The ethnicization of Ethiopian politics that has been normalized and legalized through the 1994 Ethnic and language-baaed Constitution traces its roots to fascism and its ideologues. “Starting from the first page, Prochaska alerts his white public by stating that for four years that Emperor Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia, in “close co-operation with Japan,” was engaged “on a life and death struggle with the white race, the consequences of which are incalculable. The targets are the colonial powers in Africa without exception. It is hardly possible to imagine a more unhappy situation of a white man than to have to live under the oppression of an Abyssinian grandee. The prevalence of this contemptuous invective is characteristic of the mentality and attitude of the natives who imagine themselves to be infinitely superior to the white race.”
The accusation by the critics of Amharas as “super racists” that I underscored above emanates from this narrative, an inheritance that fundamentalists and extremists now use liberally to target Amharas including intellectuals. Italian fascist ideologues conceived the theory that the Amhara nationality was far too independent, dedicated to freedom and to the sovereignty of Ethiopia and proud of its rich and diverse cultures and institutions including its Orthodox Christian faith, its written alphabet and unit calendar as well as its ability to welcome and to serve as home to Muslims at a time of their greatest needs.
The critics fail to recognize this enduring legacy. Ethiopia became a beacon of freedom for Black people throughout the world. Italian fascists and the rest of Europe felt strongly that Ethiopia was a competitor and should be subjugated in order to dominate all of Africa. It is this legend that ethnic elites and Ethiopia’s traditional adversaries resented and still resent the most.
Amharas are targeted constantly not because of their history as “colonizers, as chauvinists and as oppressors” but because of their unmatched dedication to Black African freedom, independence and their commitments to fairness, justice, inclusion and national identity as Ethiopians. It is ironic that, having fought the most and suffered the most for the freedoms, rights and independence of all Ethiopians and the rest of Africa, Amharas now face an existential threat.
The first and foremost priority for Amharas is to organize across regional boundaries; and defend themselves. Their survival is a prerequisite for the survival of Ethiopia as a country. Amhara youth should be careful not to be hoodwinked by the sinister machinations of either the TPLF or the OLF. They both thrive by planting seeds of division among the Amhara population.
Whether within Ethiopia or outside, Amharas have no other choice but to speak with a unified voice against ethnic hatred, suspicion and division. Those of us who live outside Ethiopia have a special responsibility to dispel false narratives and to defend rights. Words and narratives matter a great deal. For example, most of those murdered in cold-blood and most youth arrested since the tragedy in Bahr Dar are Amharas. Political assassinations are so common in Ethiopia that it should be the exception and not the norm that should shock us. Equally, coup d’etat in Ethiopia is so frequent that Ethiopians take it as part of their political culture.
In an interview released on August 4, 2019 “ETHIOPIA IS ON THE BRINK OF DISINTEGRATION” Hassan Jabhad of the Ogaden National Liberation Front warned us all of Ethiopia’s potential disintegration by pinpointing flash points. “Others like Sidama people are calling for an independent region of their own. Worst of all, there have been five coup attempts in the country during the past year.” This number is not validated by anyone else. The point is this. From 1916 to 2018, there were 8 unsuccessful coups, one every 18 years. Excluding the alleged coup in Bahir Dar, the most recent took place after Prime Minister Dr. Abiy took power in April 2018. Amharas should not be blamed for these attempts.
What is the reason for blaming the Amharas for the alleged coup? The straightforward answer is to contain the resurgence of Amhara nationalism and pin the blame on the Amharas as a pretext to subjugate them. Amhara resurgence is predicated by one single motive, survival.
Asymmetrical treatment is unfair and unjust.
The alleged coup in Bahir Dar does not meet the criteria. Rather, it is a plot to create a false and misleading narrative in order to hit the Amharas hard. Regional squabbles and changes in leaderships that are common in Beni-Shangul Gumuz, Oromia, Somali, Gambella, SNNP etc. regions are taken as normal; while one that took place in the Amhara region is linked mysteriously with a coup attempt. Why this stark differentiation?
I find no difference between this assertion and that of Herman Cohen’s. It is a narrative to hit one specific ethnic group. It is propestrous to claim that the Amharas ruled Ethiopia for 500 years. On the contrary, 500 years ago, the Amharas were almost annihilated. The narrative of a coup linking it to the Amharas is make-believe. For the culprits behind this façade, there isn’t any difference between the fascist narrative of Amhara dominance and oppression; and the resurfacing of Amhara “hegemony” as a mantra.
The folks who called the signatories of the July 19, 2019 communique “super-racists” have their own agenda. They used a term that is intended to reinforce the TPLF thesis of “Amhara chauvinism” and to encourage onslaught of the Amharas. History will judge which narrative prevails in Ethiopia. Is it governance by capturing state and government by ethnic-elites and taking turns to assert hegemony in the same manner as the TPLF and its core ally the OLF did for 27 years? Or is it to struggle for participatory democracy based on the rule of law and citizenship rights that assure each and every Ethiopian the right to live, own property, vote etc. in any part of Ethiopia? I believe that the later will prevail at the end.
I also believe and contend in this commentary that what distinguishes Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed and his team is their dedication to Ethiopia’s durability and to Ethiopiawinnet (ኢትዮጵያዊነት መንፈስ ነው). In this sense, they are on the right side of history. It is therefore pathetic to try to alienate them from the vast majority of Ethiopians; and to try to own them as if they are private property. Oromo and Tigrean intellectuals and activists should not try to own or disown Ethiopia’s leaders in order to serve their narrow agendas. Leaders should also not allow themselves to be traded like a commodity.
Remember this. Ethiopia is a country of more than 86 nations, nationalities and peoples. Each of them belongs to this great country. The exercise of freedom and socioeconomic and political rights for one is tantamount to freedom and socioeconomic and political rights for all. The only regional state that accepts these values is the Amhara reginal state. The future belongs to those who include.
Why would the dissenters to the July 19, 2019 communique not call for parity and equity instead of following the TPLF logic of demeaning Amharas? What makes them believe that the current government can govern Ethiopia without the representation of this huge population and other non-Oromos? It is simplistic to dismiss numbers and to fabricate number for political end. Ethiopia had an Amhara majority under the Dergue. Where did they disappear since the EPRDF?
Has there been a census in Ethiopia under the TPLF and its allies allowing and encouraging that those surveyed can and should identify themselves freely as Amhara etc. wherever they live without fear of retaliation? In fact, millions of Amharas disappeared into the thin air under the EPRDF. Have critiques asked themselves how 2.5 million withered away in a single census; and how millions more Amharas “disappeared” from Ethiopia’s demographic data?
I urge Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Amhed to live-up to the promises he made; not to flinch; and not to reverse the progress made so far. Instead he should push for fundamental changes. He should not alienate Amharas who constitute a bulk of his base of durable support.
Preserve human rights and the rule of law
The world is no longer isolated.; and Ethiopia should not be shut-off again. On Monday July 15, 2019 CNN critiqued the Abiy government for reverting back to the old days of Ethiopian oppressive politics. “Ethiopia’s leader promised to protect freedom of expression. But he keeps flicking the internet kill switch.” In an ominous sign of reversal of freedom and the protection of human rights “Access to Facebook, Twitter, What-is up, Instagram, and some VPN apps remain blocked by the government. The continued blocks represent a significant barrier to freedom of expression and the right to information.” It is true that the Internet has been restored.
In this century, closing or restricting internet access entails enormous economic costs. “During the shutdown, businesses were forced to close, events were canceled, and families were unable to communicate. Popular taxi service Zay-Ride was also affected by the shutdown, leaving their drivers with no work for a week. Combined, the effect of internet shutdowns on the economy is staggering. According to the internet monitoring NGO, Netblocks, each day of an internet blackout costs the Ethiopian government nearly $4.5million.”
Ethiopia suffers from foreign exchange shortages. Therefore, shutting down the internet makes no economic or social sense. The Internet “switch on and switch off” habit should not become a frequent occurrence. CNN quotes the executive director of the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia who said: “People want to know the well-being and safety of their family… the internet shutdown is putting people in fear again.”
Reversal to the TPLF dark days of shutting down every media outlet in order to punish Ethiopians will be an Orwellian act that Prime Minister Dr. Abiy promised won’t happen again. CNN quotes another activist who said “Since 2016, the government of Ethiopia has had a habit of shutting down the internet whenever there is political unrest or demonstration [and] after a few months the new administration took office they returned to their old habit.”
The argument by federal authorities that shutting down the internet is intended to quell unrest following the alleged coup is reminiscent of what happened under Meles and under Hailemariam Dessalegn. Protests and dissent were always followed by repression, command posts, killings and incarcerations. “It is a move that is highly reminiscent of Desalegn’s tight control of the media” in which, according to Human Rights Watch, there was a “strategy to manage and control information flows, including the media, and ensure that its policies are promoted but not critiqued.”
This time too it is intended to enforce a narrative that is flawed. A flawed narrative has consequences regardless of who reins.
The promising political environment of freedom of the press and political pluralism that elevated Prime Minister Abiy’s status is diminishing fast. Wholesale arrests and incarcerations of Amharas are reminiscent of the harsh political realities of 27 years under TPLF that some non-TPLF members now support without questioning who is hurt. Their rationale for support is the same as that of Herman Cohen, namely, alleged resurgence of Amhara hegemony.
It is not the various positive options offered that the critiques of the July 19, 2019 communique address. They use their ethnic lenses and accuse and oppose “super racist Amharas” in the same way the TPLF demeans all Amharas of “chauvinism.” There isn’t any distinction except for the superlative term “super racists” they threw like a badge of dishonor or honor. Apartheid may be labeled as such; but labeling any Amhara as “super racist” lacks imagination. It borders outright madness and mania.
This hysteria of the Amhara ‘phantom’ chasing its victims is a tired and worn-out phenomenon that diminishes all Ethiopians. Why not learn a little from President Isaias Afewerki? Why not learn from the transformative leader of the Somali region, Mustafa Omer. He represents a future and promising Ethiopia. He is reputed as a human rights defender. As such, he stands for human dignity, honor and inclusion.
Mustafa Omar exemplifies a person with humility, curiosity to know the truth and a person who has an ounce of empathy to overcome sheer ignorance in advancing the common good and not to resort to the term of “super racist.”
Ethiopia lacks such leaders as Mustafa Omar who are endowed with the intellectual and moral acumen not only to debate incessantly but more important to build a multiethnic nation by bringing all its members closer in such a manner that at the end, they fulfill their human potential and become stronger. As Omar noted in his speeches and in his interactions with Amhara youth in Bahir Dar, the Amhara agenda is a human and humane agenda.
Today, Ethiopia is on the brink of collapse. This is why it needs leaders who build bridges and not ethnic elites who accuse Amharas of “super racism and ethnic chauvinism; and Oromos of narrow nationalism.” Ethnic hatred, suspicion, fear and division are at an all-time high. The ethnic federal system is no longer capable of holding the country together. The overarching narrative that guides political elites, including federal government authorities is identity politics.
At the heart of ethnic disparagement, relentless psychological and physical conquest is primarily the Amhara nationality. Evidence from other countries shows that ethnic hatred that often leads to ethnic cleansing and genocide have no boundaries. It is like a communicable disease such as Ebola. Untreated, it spreads far and wide and infects anyone and everyone eventually. Today it is the Amhara; and tomorrow it will be the Gurage, Annuak, Wolayta, Somali, Tigray or Oromo etc. “ነግ በእኔ” (Tomorrow it will be me) is apt to remember. Remember intent.
The wholesale arrest and incarceration of the Amhara, especially youth, activists, journalists, intellectuals, business men and women, military officers exceeding 1,000 is a dangerous trend to undo Ethiopia. The argument these wholesale arrests and incarcerations are linked to alleged coup d’etat and the horrific assassinations of June 22, 2019, in Bahir Dar and Addis Ababa is, at best, indefensible and arguably sinister. One tragedy was followed by another tragedy. The victims of both tragedies are primarily the Amharas. So, why blame the victims?
The press statement by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) following the tragedy and accusing the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP and the Amhara nationality of “chauvinism” shows the existence of direct involvement in the tragedy that triggered mass arrests and jailings that continue to this day. The latest statement by the TPLF on Amhara “chauvinism,” ነፍጠኛ and other attributes amounts to a call of Tigreans and other ethnic groups to rise up against a specific group of people. It is the resurrection and the enlivening of the 1968 Manifesto. This vitriol by a specific ethnic political group that is still a member of the Ethiopians Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is an affront to humanity and a mortal threat to Ethiopia’s durability.
Here, I should like to remind the reader of the tragedy preceding the first and second world wars when the Jewish people were targeted and set-up for what is now known as “crimes against humanity and genocide.” As far as I know, no rational political leadership anywhere in the world this century trumps up plots and schemes to stimulate crimes against humanity and genocide. However, the deliberate targeting of Amharas is intentional.
It is not rocket science to deduce from the tragedy of June 22, 2019 and the targeting of the Amharas in the TPLF 1968 Manifesto of this specific population as mortal enemies of the Tigrean people and others as a plot that is being resurrected with a level of vitriol that no sane political leadership anywhere on this planet would espouse in the 21st century. We need to join hands and stop genocide before it happens.
Tragically for the Amhara and ultimately for Ethiopia, ethnic hatred, suspicion, fear and division has been propagated by ethnic elites over the past half century. This is the reason why I hypothesize in this commentary that Ethiopia lacks a team of statesmen as leaders. With a few exceptions that I have highlighted above, the bulk of EPRDF leadership is incapable of transcending its ethnic silos and ethos; and has failed to bring more than 86 ethnic groups to work together.
The Amharas are not Ethiopia’s enemy; and can’t be blamed for its multiple problems. It is the system that failed all groups. It is the structure and policy architecture imposed on 110 million Ethiopians in 1991 in general and under the 1994 ethnic and langue Constitution that needs urgent and immediate transformation.
The current ethnic and linguistic federal structure is broken. It is broken because it is artificial and conflict-ridden. It is broken and infested with religious and ethnic extremists who burn churches and investments and massacre innocent civilians including spiritual leaders.
Change the Constitution and the administrative structure.
Why not be bold enough and allow “100” flowers to bloom? Nigeria is more diverse and has a larger population than Ethiopia. It is home to 250 ethnic groups. The most populous and politically influential ethnic groups include: Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%. Nigeria decided to reconfigure the country into 36 states and a federal capital city, Abuja.
It is high time to commission an expert group to restructure the Ethiopian administrative system using a set of criteria that enhances human freedom and accelerates economic and social transformation. The Nigerian federal system is an option and there are other options too. Ethiopia deserves a modern, efficient, manageable and democratic federal system that gives the population direct voice and makes officials accountable to citizens not parties. In addition, the possibility of expanding the number of self-governing cities from the current two to a greater number based on diversity of the population should be explored.
The contention on Addis Ababa should cease. Addis Ababa should serve solely as a federal city with no special privileges or rights bestowed to any ethnic group. It should be given the same status as Abuja or Washington D.C.
In summary, I suggest the following:
- The single most important challenge and opportunity for Ethiopia is to create jobs for over 3 million young people each year for the coming decades. This investment will pay huge dividends by boosting incomes, raising GDP, creating resiliency, transforming human energy to productive use, reducing dependency, empowering the young to build bridges across ethnic and generational boundaries etc. etc. etc. The value added is immense. This is where the federal and regional governments, foreign aid and the Diaspora should focus.
- Those of us in the Diaspora should stop fighting with one another. We should grow up and act as a model of change for Ethiopia by breaking ethnic silos holding forums and dialogues that reflect Ethiopia’s rich diversity.
- Those of us who love Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people as a whole should continue to support the change agenda in our homeland and push for fundamental policy and structural changes.
- The Ethiopian federal government’s top priority is to safeguard the safety and security of all Ethiopians; to release all political prisoners of conscience; to restore freedom of the press and other basic rights; to hold every person or group that murders innocent civilians and burn churches and properties in any part of Ethiopia accountable; and to apply the rule of law impartially and consistently.
- Authorities should assemble representatives of Addis Ababa and iron out differences in administering and managing this multiethnic city, the seat of the federal government, the African Union and numerous U. N. agencies.
- “ስንኖር ኢትዮጵያዊ ስንሞትም ኢትዮጵያዊ (When we live, we are Ethiopian; and when we die, we are Ethiopian”) are eternal values that we hold dear wherever we live and pass. These eternal values must, however, be translated into action on the ground. Federal and regional authorities have an urgent obligation to translate these values by ensuring that each and every Ethiopian has the right to live, own property, vote and identify himself or herself as Ethiopian, Afar, Gurage, Tigre, Amhara, Annuak, Somali, Oromo, Muslim, Protestant, Orthodox etc. anywhere and anytime. Ethiopian citizenship is a common denominator that defines who we are us and not ethnicity.
- The government’s responsibility with support from the global community, the Diaspora and the private sector is to resettle all internally displaced persons; to agree on specific criteria to avert future displacements; and to hold any regional official or non-governmental entity or person accountable for displacements and ethnic-cleansing. Demeaning any ethnic group shows intent and must be made illegal.
- The parallel priority I am recommending is to convene a special emergency meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dr. Abiy to discuss and come up with a solemn covenant that leaders of each Kilil agree that their first loyalty is to preserve Ethiopia’s territorial and sovereignty; to safeguard the personal safety and security of each Ethiopian; to implement the rule of law; and to cooperate faithfully with the federal government in bringing any person accused of crimes against humanity and identified as thief of state and hold each and every one to account in a court of law.
- The government of Ethiopia must convene an All-inclusive National Conference of national consensus, peace, reconciliation and agree on an interim transitional arrangement and period with a specific time frame that will pave the way for a free and fair election. To have teeth and credibility with the Ethiopian public such a conference must go beyond elites; and must involve each of the 80 plus ethnic groups and representatives of all stakeholders including youth, faith groups and civil society.
- In the long-term, the current ethnic and language-based Constitution must be overhauled; and the unequal and uneven political party structure that excludes viable multinational opposition groups must be addressed and streamlined. In this regard, I recommend the establishment of a high caliber Constitutional Commission consisting of a cross section of Ethiopian experts within and outside the country and vetted by the public on the basis of integrity, impartiality, independent thinking and professional competence. The Terms of Reference (TOR) of such a Commission should be disclosed to the public.
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