For a healthy election in 2020 or later, and a smooth transitioning of Ethiopia to democracy, a levelled playing field needs to be in place by establishing a transitional government (led by the existing prime minister) and an interim constitution as it was the case in South Africa. If a transitional government is to be established, PM Abiy can then be required to prepare a roadmap to members of the transitional team and the Ethiopian people at large. Otherwise, only EPRDF is in authority to ask PM Abiy to prepare a road map.
The first general election in South Africa took place in April 1994 following 4 years of intense negotiations that chartered the roadmap to transiting South Africa’s political administration, after years of suppression of black South Africans. A transitional provisional constitution was organized in September 1993 prior to the establishment of an independent electoral commission in October 1993. The interim constitution served South Africans until February 1997.
PM Abiy, in his premiership anniversary, made a very good speech that probably pleased many (including myself) in the country. He promised that he will vigilantly work to the expectation of the public in areas where he did not achieve a milestone such as rule of law. But here is the problem. The prime minister did not bring progressive administrative personnel to his government. All the men and women in his government are old wines in new bottles. Worst some are big time criminals or public resource robbers. The regional parties either did not recruit any significant progressive forces that can independently manage the changes taking place in the country. The oppressive constitution is still at play. People in various regions do not have the right to be elected unless they belong ethnically to a particular region. There are numerous flaws in the constitution. Opposition parties cannot have any control of the election process from these old wines without having a role in the government, and not having their representatives in the regional governments. The prime minister and the military apparatus may remain at work but there should be some modification in the Government of Ably to accommodate opposition parties and remove bad apples. The absence of opposition parties in the government has left PM Abiy unchecked like in maintaining law and order, even some illegal elements within his administration took the law in their hands to cause displacement of people, committed fraudulent ID card distribution to win the next election. A bad constitution has to change. PM Abiy’s remark that he does not want to change a constitution for the sake of one region is inherently a mistake. You do not keep slavery because it is not rejected by the majority. It does not work like that. The ODP is not a credible party to lead the transition and PM Abiy alone won’t be effective to transition Ethiopia from within an ultra-nationalist ODP.
Among other things, the interim constitution should be amended to include a presidential system of election (with substantial presidential powers including vetoing parliament provided they do not have 2/3 majority), unhindered rights of individuals, criminalizes ethnic displacement, and a national unity government proportional to parliamentary seats and not the winner takes it type of arrangement. Going into an election without amendment to the existing constitution or a new interim constitution is a disaster for the opposition in general and to democracy in particular. A national unity government must be the governing principle as long as ethnic federalism is the guiding principle if peace and security have to be maintained in the country. PM Abiy and his team should always maintain high calibre by being candid on every issue, should not shy away to tell the public what he can do and what not.
The administration of PM Abiy is not fully committed for a fair and free election based on the type of people it is recruiting. This is manifested by people surrounding him who have years of experience in vote rigging, embezzlement and low morality. I am the first to cast my vote for PM Abiy if he is really a Pan Ethiopianist whose only interest is for the betterment of all Ethiopians regardless of ethnicity. First I am not sure he is committed in that direction, second, he has no partners around him to lead a transition except the corrupt and criminal EPRDFites. It is immoral to elect these people. Giving a mandate to a remnant of an apartheid government simply because there is one progressive leader is not fair. It is like electing d’Klerk instead of Mandela in 1994 simply because de Klerk is a good man. The opposition must rise up, or people must compete as individuals to kick out PM Aby’s coalition from power in the next election.
Mr Eskinder Nega clearly spelt out his intention that his council will not seek a mandate to lead Addis Abeba as a political party. Up to now, there is no single party that is in defence of Addis Abeba that is being threatened by Oromo nationalists, its deputy mayor and ODP. Under such circumstance, Eskinder’s council alone cannot manage to get the interest of Addis Abebans. Therefore Eskinder should help to form a credible party that is in defence of Addis Abeba. Alternatively, Eskinder and his group should look for renowned personalities within every district in Addis Abeba that can be good candidates for Addis Abeba administration. NaMA is a good party to take care of Addis Abeban residents’ interests but that it is a regional party may give it less chance to win an election. Therefore, it is probably better for NaMA to look for a partner that can organise a strong and committed Addis Abeban party.
Why Amara youth are fierce against Ginbot 7
The Amaras have been victims under the ethnic-based TPLF led EPRDF. Their region is at the bottom of every development index relative to other regions in Ethiopia. Worst the TPLF vilified the Amaras publicly and encouraged other ethnics to demonise them simply because they are jealous of them. That the Amaras can mix with other ethnic groups in Ethiopia and have a stronger appeal for unity in the country has been an age-old cause of jealousy for the TPLF and almost all Tigray elites. For this reason, anything good done by Amaras has to be destroyed. A unified country has to be weakened and destroyed. Fraternity and cooperation among people have to be undermined. Even Ethiopia under TPLF has to lose its ports because they were arranged by the Amaras even if that line of thinking and decision is harmful to Tigray too. TPLF fought to give away territories of Ethiopia, and almost all Tigray elites approved Meles’ Zenawi decision to hand over Ethiopian ports simply because they are hateful of Amaras. A lot of disguised TPLF insiders that are Tgrawai in ethnicity or are affiliated with TPLF, infiltrated the ANDM as being Amara or having a false Amara mentality. In practice, they were controlling Amara nationalism and making sure Amaras remain poor so that they won’t be competitive to TPLF and demand their rights. For instance, Bereket Simon, a Tigrawai by ethnicity has been the kingmaker in Amara and effectively enslaved Amara leaders to obey TPLF and deny their people. For a long time, ANDM top Amara leaders were in siege mentality to take any action against Bereket Simon even long after PM Abiy took over power in April 2018. After Abiy’s government came in, the Amara youth got motivated demanding the removal of Amara oppressors that infiltrated ANDM. After a bitter struggle, ANDM had no choice except to submit to the demands of the Amara youth. Now any Pan Ethiopian party campaigning in Amara region is not seen as a health political competitor. For one thing Amara elites think that in a country where ethnic federalism is the rule, it does not make sense a pan-Ethiopian party comes to compete with them. They fear that pan-Ethiopian party members will again become obstacles to their region’s developments and be a bottleneck at the country level by blocking the chance they can play a role in country-level politics. For example, Dr Berhanu of Ginbot 7 (G7 hereon) has been heard as saying, to a question posed to him by an OBN journalist, he is not, in particular, to serve Amara region when he is entering the race in the 2020 election. This is worrying to the Amaras because Amaras were victims of gross Ethiopiawinet sentiment when other regions are organised ethnically; they complain the big picture of Ethiopiawinet, although an ideal they will not walk away, has made them to be neglected and as a result, their immediate needs were compromised in the region they reside. So the angry reaction to G7 meeting in Bahir Dar in this regard is not surprising. A similar rejection of G7 happened in Awassa and almost in every part of Oromia. The memory in some Amara youth of the then CUD is still fresh about Dr Berhanu Nega role, where they allege his divisive approach at a time unity was needed, brought down the CUD. They accuse he was instrumental in creating a faction within CUD, in collusion with Andargachew Tsigie, by rallying Diaspora Ethiopians, carrying overseas passports, where he went as far as disobeying Chairman Hailu Showel under the disguise of internal democracy in a country where the chief struggle is freedom from TPLF. What kind of democracy you want when you fight fascist Italy short of liberation, they ask? They worry that the coming of G7 to Amara will divide them besides not standing for them. On top of that Dr Behanu and his party are nowhere defending the residents of Addis Abeba when they are threatened by hardliner Oromos and the ODP. Instead, they have gone to the extent of demonizing the Eskinder movement when in fact, as an opposition party, Dr Berhanu and his party should have played their role. Amaras who observed this situation now believe that Dr Berhanu and his party G7 are pretenders who are engaged in uplifting PM Abiy’s personality instead of being real opposition leaders. Amara youth now have a deep suspicion of G7 and its leader as a party working for EPRDF; for this reason, they do not like to see them in their region.
Parties for Amara
At no moment parties that stand for Amara interest should not be ignorant in regard to TPLF, and most Tigray elites. Their internal motive and general psychological makeup is built on demonising the Amara and taking away what is of Amara. Reconciliation with Tigray elites is unthinkable and non-productive for Amaras. With that knowledge, the big issue should be how to defend the Amaras from intransigent TPLF and OLF attacks and sabotage, as well as from hardliners within ODP. They have no sleep when it comes to destroying what is conceived of Amara footprints. ADP and NaMA should not waste time to following the call of PM Abiy for reconciliation with Tigray. NaMA instead must strive for a coalition in other regions to form a political front like EPRDF. Addis Ababa, Afar, Gambella, Benishangule, respected Oromo elders, Somali and the South. Arena is no different from TPLF. G7 is a failed party. Ethiopians need a formidable party to depend on. So coalition is a key element now!
The big challenge now, is the ADP capable of maintaining law and order, and protecting its people from attacks? People in Kemisse and Ataye notified the dire situation to the ADP but they ignored the warnings because the ADP is a collection of slow people. It failed to safeguard even small attacks by OLF in Shewa. ADP is much resourceful relative to OLF, and had greater people to rally behind. Yet it was nowhere to respond to OLF attacks. It is really sad that a nation that once had notable leaders like King Tewodros and King Minilik now has weeds. If the ADP cannot maintain peace in Amara, it has lost its legitimacy. I do not know why the ADP cannot learn from TPLF’s strength. Up to now, no single person was displaced in Tigray. Tigray has many capable leaders and has successfully protected the interest of their people. I am not surprised if they say TPLF means Tigray people. It is a shame for Amaras to be lead by substandard people!! How come the OLF is allowed to enter Amara region in the first place? It is a million dollar question the Region’s president, Ambachew has to answer although Gedu Andargachew is to blame for all this mess. Gedu let Kemisse deal with Oromia instead of effectively administering it. These people think their land does not belong to the Amara, and the ultimately conspired with OLF. Amara leaders are entirely responsible for failing to protect their people. A leader like Ambachew should think ahead to protect his people and it is a shame to say. “We did not expect this.” NaMA should take note of the failure of ADP to keep security, as one of its election platform now and during the campaign. The Kemissie zone and Ataye administration should be dissolved and be held accountable. Amara security personnel should now realize that they primarily carry the mantle of protecting Amaras and should work with ordinary Amaras bypassing the political wing.
Modest ODP an asset
Millions of Ethiopians came in a union to support PM Abiy and president Lemma without much consideration for their ethnic background. The ODP must remain committed to the expectation of the people of Ethiopia. It will remain credible when it maintains a good relationship with ADP. The two parties alone represent 2/3 of the Ethiopian population. They can pass any laws as long as the two parties work in union. Any friction between the two parties means a danger to the reform, instability to Oromia and Amara regions. One needs the other. There cannot be unified Oromia without unified Amara and vice versa. An attempt to work secretly with radicals is betrayal and not seen as a good spirit in the eyes of the people of Amara and Oromia. The ODP should not be greedy to take all positions. There is now destabilization everywhere in Amara because Amara region is under-represented in military leadership. This politics of conspiracy should end once and for all.
The ODP must revoke its earlier press release that asserts its ownership over Addis Abeba. It should accept that Addis Abebans are in charge of their city, and all Ethiopians own it. It should also get ready to work in coalition with ADP if they are well intentioned. Short of these situations, the ODP cannot be credible and a party worthy of support, or to work with.
1. A transitional government and an interim constitution are fundamentally needed to transition Ethiopia into Democracy.
2. PM Abiy and his team should not shy away to tell truth to the public about his intentions and plans and where he stands on issues without fear of backlash. He should avoid vague or generalized answers to confuse the public, as in the case over Addis Ababa.
3. Eskinder should strive to help credible parties come to the national stage to represent Addis Abebans. Otherwise, his movement will have no credible parties to elect.
4. NaMA should focus on looking for a viable coalition to come to the national political stage. It should come out of the outbox thinking to be an alternative to EPRDF. Besides, it should help a party come on the spotlight in Addis Abeba. PM Abiy’s party with corrupted officials should not get a mandate to lead Ethiopia for 31 years. It is like electing de’Klerk, a good man, but surrounded by apartheid system officials. NaMA should know that PM Abiy’s next move is looking for partners from agar dirigitoch and possibly TPLF to win the election. Winning 30% of the Ethiopian electorate in Amara won’t take you anywhere; so not going into a coalition is not a choice.
5. It will be helpful for G7 to focus campaigning in Addis Abeba and the south, most strong constituents in line with G7 principles. The south is highly fragmented and they need an organising party now. In the end, it owes us to work out for a formidable coalition with NaMA and ADP.
6. It is shameful for G7 to sit waiting for an election when in fact it should push for constitutional change prior to the election. Meles Zenawi first changed the way provinces were organized before conducting an election. The same should have been negotiated now. G7 is entirely consumed promoting EPRDF’s leader instead of doing its own homework.
7. PM Abiy needs to surround himself with good people like Ambassador Suleman Dedefo to help advance the reform. Otherwise, his work will be lipstick on a pig.
8. Thorough research is required to study the magnitude of life and property damage incurred as a result of the massive displacement under PM Abiy.
9. Opposition parties should prepare their own roadmap instead of blaming EPRDF for not having a Roadmap. It is shameful to look a roadmap from EPRDF. Have your own roadmap and bring EPRDF to the discussion table. The EPRDF already told you that its road map is preparing for an election.
10. Short of declaring that Addis Abebans are in charge of their city and that Addis Ababa is a city for all Ethiopians, the ODP cannot be a trusted party to be supported, and by extension its chairman. At this time in Ethiopia’s history, the risk is indeed high. Patriotic Ethiopians must stand alerted for any eventuality.
11. While I agree Ethiopia is heading towards a failing state, I do not agree with the analysis that Ethiopia is failing because the central government is weak. Ethiopia’s security and military force is still strong and intact ready to maintain law and order. It is the leader and his party, the ODP allowing things to fall for reasons we have not yet estabilished concretely. If things progress with the current pace, we should expect a military takeover, or Oromo parties taking over Addis Abeba. Lema Megessa has recruited thousands of well-trained police forces and has stationed them in Addis Ababa, whereas the ADP is watching ignorantly, not even preparing its people to defend themselves.
12. PM Abiy has poor understanding of economics. When people are displaced it is a double bankruptcy. They stop production and they need help. Ethiopia is poor to do that. Worst, PM Aby’s government is not seen helping these forced displaced.