The Startling Disconnect between the Ethiopian Citizenry and Political Activists

February 17, 2010

From the Ethiopian Student Movement (ESM) that started nearly half a century ago to the present day, much has been discussed about Ethiopia's political problems and ways to solve them. Perhaps, from the Marxist-Leninist discussion in its early days to the latest Ethiopian Renaissance Agenda, this discussion may be the single most important undeclared social project that exhausted the country's human and capital resources during the said time.

It continues at a full-blown speed, so to speak, in today's internet era with voices heard from around the globe. A clearer picture of its general direction appears to have emerged from these voices, especially since the events of the 2005 legislative elections in the country. Utilizing our age old wisdom traditions as our virtuous guides, employing a governance system that is responsible and accountable to its actions, and to be governed according to the rule of law, and resolving conflicts in the court of law are some of the demands of the Ethiopian citizenry.

These demands appear to be the benchmarks that are giving clarity to this emerging picture while the tried and failed ideologies of communism and destabilization that were imported haphazardly are fading down to go in the pages of history books.

In the midst of this general picture, an interesting question was raised recently by the Ethiopian Review, an online newspaper, about what one would do if one were elected as the leader of Ethiopia. After so much debate for nearly half a century about Ethiopia's political issues, it shouldn’t be surprising if any observer expected a general broad consensus about the general direction of Ethiopia's politics across the spectrum of the various persuasive Ethiopian political activists around the world.

A quick glance over some of the responses of several people who reacted to the question leaves a large gap between what one would expect as the general broad consensus of Ethiopia's political problems and the desired solution process for an Ethiopian mainstream politics. The differences in the responses, which range from building on the existing structure to “drastic and revolutionary solutions” that go as far as the removal of the African Union seat from the Ethiopian capital, are so wide and expose a startling disconnect between the Ethiopian citizenry and political activists. One theme that appears to sprinkle many of these reactions is forgiving the criminals under the current and previous governments, presumably including those who have committed capital crimes.

If the current ruling party in Ethiopia were to come up with the single most damaging political ammunition to the alternative voices of political activists and organizations, the question raised by the Ethiopian Review would probably stand out as the most damaging to these voices. Even though it did not and we have no reason to believe that it has come up from the ruling party or its functionaries, the question has managed to create a squaring off of political frameworks between the alternative voices and organizations on the one hand and the ruling party on the other hand.

On the one hand, one could ask how these alternative voices and organizations that have been acting on behalf of the Ethiopian citizenry failed to readily bring out a general broad consensus on the issue when they were provided a hypothetical opportunity to take on the task they have been demanding to do fervently for so long. On the other hand, one could ask why the ruling party itself failed to forward such questions to its critics and take them to task instead of living and leading in political insecurity, especially before the events of the 2005 legislative elections.

If the said general broad consensus had been built, perhaps, all those who responded would not fail to provide the single common framework that the quest for democracy demands. Arguably, this single framework that the quest for democracy demands would be starting the process of creating a government of the Ethiopian citizenry by the Ethiopian citizenry for the Ethiopian citizenry. Seemingly an extension of Abraham Lincoln's famous wisdom of government of the people by the people for the people, this framework idea is also at the core of the egalitarian values of the Oromo Gada system. If this wisdom could not have been borrowed from Abraham Lincoln, it could have been drawn from our age old wisdom tradition that gave birth to the Ethiopian Renaissance Agenda that many have subscribed to consciously.

If either were employed in the responses, and assuming the hypothetical scenario the question is predicated on as a realistic alternative instead of the emergence of a meaningful democracy in Ethiopia from the current relatively leveled field of Ethiopia's mainstream politics since the events of the legislative elections of 2005 and thereafter, one would expect the hypothetical leader to do the following. This hypothetical Ethiopian leader would perform along the ten point general principle listed below to effectuate the process of creating a government of the Ethiopian citizenry by the Ethiopian citizenry for the Ethiopian citizenry. As a matter of fact, these ten points may well serve the existing state structure that is being managed by the current ruling party to build legitimacy.

1) Express his or her utmost respect to the Ethiopian citizenry for giving him or her the privilege to start and oversee the process of rebuilding the government of the Ethiopian citizenry by the Ethiopian citizenry for the Ethiopian citizenry and demand of them a solid cooperation and active participation in bringing this process to fruition. Declare all current institutions provisional but functional until those who run them are replaced or affirmed as fit through a thorough value based assessment.

2) Ensure internal stability using the police force institution and security using the defense force institution. Immediately create job openings, with reasonable pays to minimize corruption, for the positions of the commanders of the police and defense force institutions. State specifically the duties and responsibilities of these institutions. Allow any qualified Ethiopian to apply for each of the positions by submitting a clear explanation of his or her qualifications and job experiences as well as clear statements of how he or she plans to undertake his or her duties and responsibilities.

3) Facilitate a process of creating a framework for naming all crimes and shaming all criminals at all levels of the government. Let law enforcement institutions and those directly affected by the crimes, be a community or loved ones, deal with the criminals. It is utterly insulting to the loved ones and Ethiopian civility to let criminals, especially those who have committed unlawful capital crimes, get away with it in the name of forgiving from the government.

4) Create a fully democratic mechanism to reach the Ethiopian citizenry down to each Kebele level to jumpstart the process of gathering in a short time and in as a concise manner as possible, preferably in no more than two pages for an efficient process, a) what their political demands are, both that are pressing issues and long-term goals, and b) how they want to accomplish them both materially and socially. Allow them to hire anyone, including their educated ones from Harvard to those toiling in Kakuma Camp, to have a say in their political demand that specifies what they want and how they want to accomplish them. Call the document they prepared the blue print of the political demand of the Ethiopian citizenry from the specific Kebele.

5) Collect all the blue prints of the political demands of the Ethiopian citizenry from each Kebele, put them in frames, and make them available to public viewing at the Kebele, Zonal, Regional, and country levels.

6) Prepare an executive analysis summary of the political demands of the Ethiopian citizenry. To do this, start job opening early on for the duties and responsibilities to prepare the executive analysis summary of the political demands of the Ethiopian citizenry. Again allow a reasonable pay for this job opening to minimize corruption in the process. State specifically the duties and responsibilities of this position and allow any qualified Ethiopian, preferably a social scientist, to apply for the position by submitting a clear explanation of his or her qualifications and job experiences as well as clear statements of how he or she plans to undertake his or her duties and responsibilities. Make sure that the person in charge has a demonstrated propensity to detach his personal sentiment from his intellectual ability in overseeing the preparation of the executive summary of the analysis of the political demands of the Ethiopian citizenry.

7) Based on the executive summary, conduct a referendum within a short period of time.

8) Based on the results of the referendum, start the process of creating a government of the Ethiopian citizenry.

9) Conduct free and fair elections if the results of the referendum call for it, an obvious scenario, or be crowned as the Emperor of Ethiopia, if the majority of people choose it to be so, a hypothetical scenario but one that can be let to rest for good.

10) Based on the results of the elections, facilitate the formation of a government of the Ethiopian citizenry by the Ethiopian citizenry for the Ethiopian citizenry, see it to the end, and resign by honoring the privilege he or she was given and asking for forgiveness if he or she inadvertently erred in executing his or her duties and responsibilities.









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