The way forward: challenges and opportunities for Ethiopia; truth and reconciliation

The ascendancy of Dr Abiy to the premiership in Ethiopia brings unprecedented, and to many fellow Ethiopians, unexpected hope and excitement to the possible formation of a democratic system in the country. The central galvanising messages are unity, forgiveness,  love, inclusiveness (medemir) and a robust Ethiopian nationalism sentiment.

There are some indications that various committees are working on a number of initiatives including the revision of the existing laws such as the terrorism and other similar laws.  There is a need to include the revision of the controversial Ethiopian constitution because all other laws originate from the constitution. There should be a strategic plan on organising the changes. There is a need for dialogue on how the country should be governed, including on the federal structure, the current federal structure clearly have shortcomings, including fragmenting the country, and claim and counterclaim of many areas.

This article proposes how we can transform the country on the foundation of peace, justice, truth and reconciliation and lay the foundation to build democratic systems. This helps to create an enabling condition for all Ethiopians to live in harmony based on democratic system of governance. Dr Abyie’s current strategy is to forge a broad-based alliance based on love, reconciliation and forgiveness, include all who want to be part of the solution (medemir)  for facilitating the transformation of Ethiopia into a democratic country. The central point is that the key component for forgiveness must include truth, which need to be told and recorded. We Ethiopians need to formulate truth and reconciliation commision, the South African case a good example to have a closure on traumatic past and to start build the future.

Furthermore, there are challenging tasks for forming democratic institutions in the country which is a mammoth undertaking that needs to be supported by all Ethiopians especially those who are expert in these fields.  The formation of democratic institutions are the most important work to establish a long-standing peace, security, rule of law and respect for the individual freedom.

Dr Abyie, at the moment, enjoying a universal support of many Ethiopians including the opposition politicians and political parties. However, if the transition is not handled appropriately answering the fundamental issues, the support he enjoys at the moment will not continue in the future.

There are some worrying signs, for example, the appointments of new ambassadors who are suspected of gross human right violation will alienate the victims. It is understandable there are some political horse-trading is going on to isolate the barbaric TPLF from its supporters, at least for a short-term strategy will help the P to strengthen his power base. However, the strategic advantage depends on the level of atrocities committed by these individuals that are appointed ambassadorial posts.

What are the criteria one uses for inclusiveness (medemir), recently the Somalia president Mr Abdi Mohomud Omar has stated that he has included himself (tedemerialhu), the question is that sufficient to continue as a head of the region, or possible ambassadorial appointment to another country?

On the other hand, those who openly oppose Dr Abyis’s premiership are left unchecked; their actions are creating more significant challenges including armed insurrection, for example, what is reported recently in Wellega is a case in point. This will test anyone’s patience, and a robust response becomes a necessity to protect the innocent, the weak and the vulnerable from this naked aggression.

Closing our traumatic chapter:

The importance of truth as the facilitation of forgiveness and reconciliation is paramount for a country like Ethiopia, with many documented cases of human right violations, this chapter of our history requires proper closure. To be inclusive (tedemern), to forgive and start  the reconciliation process we have to formulate a truth and reconciliation commission for the following principal reasons:

  1. In Ethiopia, we know that a physical genocide: mass killings of a targeted group has been committed;
  2. Cultural genocide has been committed: the destruction of social institutions of what constitutes to be Ethiopianism;
  3. Spiritual leaders (both Orthodox and Islam) are persecuted, land is seized, objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed: For example, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is considered the sacred pillar of  Ethiopiawinet and as a result become a target by the previous government;
  4. It is only the truth that can bring healing and reconciliation;
  5. For families whose loved ones have disappeared for many years, the truth set them free and give them some a sense of closure and start the healing process;
  6. This is part of our history that need to be properly documented and reported; it will be the source of painful stories that our future generation learn from our mistakes and it will be a good reminder not to repeat the mistakes of this generation.

This is not about the past; this is also about the future, we learn from our experience to stop future conflicts in Ethiopia.

Concluding remark:

For a country like Ethiopia, the process of reconciliation is an essential element to have a proper closure on the past and to pave the way for a better future. True forgiveness and reconciliation only possible when we know the truth, “አደባብሰው ቢያርሱ በአረም ይመለሱ”.

The proposed truth and reconciliation commission requires a legal framework that need to be agreed on its scope, power and terms of reference. The process requires time, money and patience; it takes seven years for the South African Truth and reconciliation commission to complete its work, so we have to prepare that this will take a long time.

The independence of the commission from any outside influence is paramount for creating public trust. Other crucial element is the organisation of the commission, and the members’ selection need to be done wisely to provide legitimacy and trust to the processes.

Long live Ethiopia!

Wegene Demeke (PhD)
The writer can be reached on wdemeke@mail.com


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