The state of peace has worsened in Ethiopia today more than any other country
BY HABEN TEKLE
Following a spasm of violence, Ethiopia faces a critical choice between endemic instability and slow but steady progress toward political reform. The most sensible way forward is to launch a new, genuine dialogue with political opposition parties, in which they are unfairly represented.
In order to create an environment in which such talks could succeed, the regime should take immediate steps to address the human rights crisis, including by releasing political leaders jailed for peacefully expressing their views, and reverse the alarming sectarian polarization that has occurred.
Protesters are calling for political reform leading to a Democratic federalism. They steadily began to embrace the moral radical demand for the regime’s replacement. This popular movement is aimed at a different future; they demand cultural, economic and political change. Further repression and violence will not defuse this combustible situation.
The Oromo people’s struggle accommodates the reality of their colonization by few Juntas of Weyane and the immense loss it entailed, to envision a new accommodation that will be necessary for justice to be done. Once a military regime came into power in 1991, state policies became increasingly focused on industrialization, and over the years, millions of farmers had their land taken away by the government, so as protests against unequal distribution of land were met with repression.
Under a counter-terrorism law that human rights activists and lawyers say is used to stifle criticism, dozens of politicians, protesters, journalists, and bloggers have been jailed, along with critics of the land deals. More than 50 foreign investors, from India, Turkey, Pakistan, China, and Sudan as well as Saudi Arabia, have leased Ethiopian land. Yet only 35 percent of the leased land has been developed, according to official figures.
Native communities of Ethiopia has been ill-treated and subjected to misery due to the policy of large-scale land acquisition. The Oakland Institute underscores to this situation as the wrong matched south-south co-operation among Ethiopia and India.
There is a reason to fear that Ethiopia is heading for a prolonged political stalemate, enforced by a heavy security presence backed by government troops and punctuated by protests when circumstance permits. The consequences could be costly.
Already, divisions among different ethnic groups notably between Oromo and Somalia are deeper than ever.
The regime is erecting regional boundaries; by closing off any avenue for reforming and targets moderate opposition groups. This is laying the groundwork for a potential future uprising. In this tense atmosphere, any further provocation or violent action could trigger an explosion; unfortunately, hardliners in all regions seem to be preparing for precisely this.
Things must be done:
- The regime should take a series genuine negotiation with opposition parties and implement confidence-building measures, including freeing those arrested for their participation in the peaceful protest.
- The government should abolish policy of stigmatization which favors the elite highlanders.
- The government should stop land grabbing immediately. A policy of large-scale land acquisition has a severe impact on the enjoyment of human rights of the local population, particularly on their right to adequate food. So the government must be abided by the relevant obligation imposed on states under international human rights law. Here is the full report of Olivier De Schutter the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
- Western states and notably the U.S. have a key role to play. Washington in coordination with influential allies such as the EU, UK, and other financial institutions need to impose on taking dramatic action, including a reduction in its financial support to the government.
- Donors must incorporate strong accountability and oversight measures in state capacity building and security sector programs in Ethiopia and be willing to defund projects if the government fails to include corruption prevention safeguards.
It is clear that EPRDF/TPLF (Weyane) cannot fix the plethora of crises that they caused. Reforming the system will require dedicated work on all sides and a new way of seeing the problem.