The Ethiopian ruling party, for the first time in its quarter of a century in power, declared a state of Emergency following over a year of protest that claimed thousands of lives and a huge damage of property. Every day people are dying or jailed in connection with the civil disobedience that is going on in different parts of the country. The government, initially, down played the protest as a local issue that can be dealt with local governments. As the protests got momentum, the government started to acknowledge the problem but was confident that it can be solved with the existing status quo. Now when the civil disobedience reached a critical stage, the government declared a state of Emergency as a last resort to keep the status quo.
What does the Ethiopian State of Emergency decree constitute?
Under the State of Emergency decree, the following activities are prohibited;
PART I: Prohibited Activities
Part 1 A. Activities Prohibited Nationwide
Article 1— Agitation and Communication to Incite Violence and Unrest: Covert or overt agitation and communication that could incite violence and chaos including: printing, preparing and disseminating any content that incites dispute, violence, conflict among people; importing or sending out any publication without prior approval; the exchange of messages via Internet, mobile, text, social media, and radio.
Article 2— Communicating with Terrorist Groups: Communicating in any manner with designated terrorist groups or anti-peace forces; storing and disseminating text or storing and promoting emblems of terrorist groups; listening to, watching, or reporting information from Ethiopian Satellite Television, Oromia Media Network, and other terrorist groups outlets is prohibited.
Article 3—Unauthorized Demonstrations and Town Hall Meetings: In the interest of protecting the safety and security of citizens, it is prohibited to stage any demonstration and town hall meeting without CP approval.
Article 4—Denying the Provision of Public Services: Closing shops and businesses with licenses, or government institutions, or refusing to deliver public services or being absent from work without sufficient reason is prohibited. Threatening public or private employees from going to work is prohibited.
Article 5—Strikes in Educational Institutions: Strikes in any schools, universities, or other higher learning institutions or closing educational institutions or damaging property are prohibited.
Article 6—Strikes in Sports Facilities: Inciting unrest, disturbances, and violence in sports venues is prohibited.
Article 7—Disrupting Movement of Vehicles: Disrupting the movement of vehicles or pedestrians or other means of transportation by blocking roads or any other means, or increasing transportation fees is prohibited.
Article 8—Causing Damage to Infrastructure and Religious Institutions: Causing damage to or looting on private, public, and government property or infrastructure, investments or any other institutions or religious institutions is prohibited.
Article 9—Disrupting Public and National Holidays: Disrupting public and national holidays in any way or advancing any political agenda or chanting slogans unrelated to the holiday is prohibited.
Article 10—Incitement During Religious, Cultural, and Public Holidays: Inciting in sermons and teachings in religious institutions to induce fear among people or incite conflict is prohibited.
Article 11—Disrupting the Functions of Law Enforcement Bodies: Refusing to comply with any order given by law enforcement bodies, disrupting their duties, non-cooperation with searches, or attacking or attempting to attack law enforcement bodies is prohibited.
Article 12—Wearing Unauthorized Uniforms: The unauthorized wearing, storing, selling or transferring of official uniforms of law enforcement units is prohibited.
Article 13—Firearms or Flammable Materials: Bringing firearms or flammable or sharp materials into market places, religious institutions, or public places is prohibited.
Article 14—Transfer of Firearms: Any law enforcement officer or any individual with legally owned firearms is prohibited from transferring the same to a third party.
Article 15—Activities That Undermine Tolerance and Unity: Committing acts that undermine tolerance and unity; any attacks based on identity or ethnicity or speech that could incite such attacks is prohibited.
Article 16—Undermining National Sovereignty and Security: Any exchange of information or contact by any individual with foreign governments or nongovernmental organizations in a manner that undermines national sovereignty and security; any political party is prohibited from briefing local or foreign journalists in a manner that is anti-constitutional and undermining sovereignty and security.
Article 17—Restricted Areas: Leaving refugee camps without permission from the authorized body or entering the country without visa is prohibited.
Article 18—Unauthorized Movement of Diplomats: In the interest of their safety and security, diplomats are prohibited from traveling no farther than 40 km outside of Addis without prior notification to and approval from the CP.
Article 19—Duty of Law Enforcement Officers: Any law enforcement officer is prohibited from resigning from their job or take leave during the SOE unless and otherwise forced by a situation.
Article 20—Contributing to Public Unrest and Instability: Providing, money, materials, shelter, encouragement, or any other support to those who commit illegal activities is prohibited.
Nowadays, democratic governments declare a State of Emergency in a time of natural and man made disasters, or when a country is in international armed conflict, or when there is a disease outbreak or health epidemic that threatens the welfare of the people and the situation can not be remedied with the existing status-quo and resources. State of Emergencies main objective in such situations is to coordinate and channel resources in an effective way to solve a problem at hand and it is temporary. It is uncommon for democratic governments to declare a state of emergency to deal with domestic political problem.
But undemocratic governments declare a state of emergency when they face uprisings. In such situations, governments try to quell any opposition by force, bypassing all national and international laws and due process of the law. But most of the time, as we can learn from history, these governments ultimately left power after causing a huge loss of lives and property.Trying to solve a political problem by declaring a state of Emergency may prolong the demise of undemocratic governments, but surely, can not be a panacea.The main objective of a State of Emergency in a dictatorial regime is to override basic civil and political rights and mostly they are prolonged for the life of the regime and are mostly followed by Marital Law that give the military greater authority.
When we see the situation in Ethiopia, the government says it declared a State of Emergency in order to preserve law and order which can not be done with the existing structure. According to the Prime Minister,”the state of emergency was declared following a thorough discussion by the Council of Ministers on the loss of lives and property damages occurring in the country. And the objective, according to the head of state, “We want to put an end to the damage that is being carried out against infrastructure projects, health centers, administration and justice buildings”.
The problem with the Ethiopian government is that it still claims that “the civil disobedience and armed resistance is being carried by the few anti-peace elements in collaboration with their diaspora supporters and funding from foreign enemies of Ethiopia.” If a government declares a national state of emergency and law and order can not be sustained with the existing law enforcement bodies, then we are talking about not ” few anti-peace elements”, it is a widespread national civil disobedience and this kind of movement can not be coordinated or instigated by foreign elements and opposition parties in diaspora, unless there is a widespread dissatisfaction among the people.
For almost a year, the two largest federal states of Ethiopia, constituting more than half of the country’s population, is under an On and Off civil disobedience. Thousands have died, tens of thousands are in jail, and huge property damage has occurred. Even before declaring a state of emergency, the government has deployed the army to quell the opposition, but to no avail. The party officials tried to talk to the people, the military tried to terrorize the people, the party promised reforms, but all the efforts are unsuccessful so far because they are not backed by the right actions.
What started as an opposition to the Master plan of the capital has progressed to the question of fair and equitable share of political and economic power and also a question of nationality. A localized opposition can not progress to a widespread civil disobedience in such a short period of time unless there is accumulated dissatisfaction that has reached the point of explosion. And when such a widespread civil disobedience occurs a year after the government claims that it has won 100% of the vote, it shows that the problem was accumulating and has reached a critical stage where the status-quo can not continue by farce elections.
At present, in Ethiopia, whether the government agrees or not, the country is under acute political crisis that can not be solved by a state of emergency. Denying all civil and political rights, to the extent of prohibiting the use of social medias on your phone, and jailing thousands of people with out due process of the law, will not help anyone. Definitely, it is not a political solution, it is rather opening an opportunity for the military to take over power. And the more the military is involved in this matter, the more the people will be alienated, and more opportunities for the extremists to flourish. In such situations, the country will slide to ethnic conflicts and the result would be to anybody’s guess.
A military dominated by one minority ethnic group trying to restore law and order in the whole country would be a futile exercise, it might help to prolong the regime’s life, but at a cost of huge loss of human lives and property, and ultimately, leaving the country in a political turmoil, that would cost another generation.
Authoritarian rule will force the youth to join armed struggles, as our “leaders” did and will subject the country, once again, in a protracted civil war.
In fact, by declaring a state of emergency and giving the military and security apparatus more power, EPRDF did a favor to the armed opposition groups. Now they can claim that their way is the only way and their supply will be in abundance.
The way out of this crisis is not declaring state of emergency. EPRDF once again missed an opportunity to bring about a democratic and lasting solution to the country’s problems. The promised renewal movement by the ruling party should not have started in this direction. The actions by the government shows that there is no chance of a paradigm shift.
So What is the solution?
The way out, in my opinion, and as many advocate ,and as can be learned from history, is an all-inclusive dialogue to chart a path to national reconciliation and political reform. And this can not happen by organizing a workshop through Radio Fana and invite a few elites to “ventilate” the public frustrations. A genuine national reconciliation and political reform conference has to be organized by an independent committee. The committee should be organized from independent individuals representative of the cross section of the society. And it should be open to any political forces, inside and outside the country, and the basis for attending the conference should be only respecting the constitution.
Controlled political reform, as indicated by EPRDF recently, would not work, because there will not be a genuine dialogue dictated by the ruling party. On the other hand, a political reform without EPRDF, would be costly, given the realities of the present Ethiopia.
Once again, let me repeat what I have stated in one of my previous articles:
At present, in Ethiopia, we have a government with strong Army who is adamant to quell any opposition by force and we have a people, almost half of the population, who is also determined to bring a change by any means necessary. The confrontation is escalating than subsiding, infused with ethnic sentiments. Opposition groups, armed and non-armed, are not strong enough to fill the vacuum and are far from narrowing their differences to come out as a strong viable force.
In such a situation, I believe, the starting point should be to try to have an all-inclusive dialogue. The ruling party should take the initiative and call for a national reconciliation conference to be attended by all political forces, inside and outside the country. The basis for attending this conference should be only respecting the present constitution of the country. The framework should be the constitution and any body who wants to change it should do it constitutionally.
In the mean time, the government, has to show its political will by releasing all political prisoners, suspend all the laws and decrees that are in question and take other measures that build confidence and shows that it is seriously determined to negotiate. If there is a paradigm shift on the part of the ruling party and if it shows it’s political will, there is no need for a State of Emergency, the existing laws and law enforcement mechanism are enough to preserve law and order. On the other hand the opposition movements should denounce any actions of destruction, because it helps no one. They should also abstain from propagating extremist messages and try to iron out their differences and come to the negotiating table as a united and strong opposition. Agree on what is agreeable and agree to disagree on the ones that should be left for the people to decide. Dialogue also should be the norm within the opposition.
The people too, should start to organize themselves. They should explore new avenues to advance their interests in a better way, they should not be confined to the existing political parties only, they should examine the situation to exclude opportunists, they should not let their struggle be hijacked by forces who are interested only for political power. Instigators with hidden agendas, those who are looking for short cut to political power should be exposed and left out. Those groups who are really advancing the interests of the people should be supported. Non-political social organizations should also play a role in the national reconciliation process.
Actions which lead to ethnic tensions should be avoided by all means. The people of Ethiopia are greater than the current problem. Any opportunities that give way for the existing crisis to develop to an ethnic conflict should be discouraged. Those groups that advance narrow nationalism,those who work day and night to instigate one ethnic group on another, should be denounced. Revenge-born-extremism should not get the opportunity to grow.
Concerning EPRDF, even if it lost political legitimacy, among the majority of the population, it is not just easy to relegate it to irrelevancy.EPRDF still controls the military and the security apparatus with strong economic capacity with its party affiliated businesses. It is a party that ruled the country for almost a quarter of a century with all its defects and achievements. At the same time, EPRDF has to realize that it can not solve the problem by itself and by force. The problem has become bigger than EPRDF, and it is a nationwide problem that needs national reconciliation. It is a futile exercise on the part of the EPRDF to try to solve the problem with power. EPRDF needs to make a paradigm shift, needs to unlock itself from the chains of the few die-hard leaders, and prepare itself for sharing political power.
In short, political dialogue is the only option that is to the benefit of the people, and the country, and the opposing groups themselves. Current positions will lead us to a political disaster that would cost another generation.
A win-win political reform is a workable solution than a Zero-sum game,given the realities of Ethiopia, in my opinion. National Reconciliation may be difficult but not impossible.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, you better listen to what your fellows from the great nation of Welayta told you on V.O.A. They have put in question your conscious and personality. They are waiting to see if you are a God-fearing person that upholds the truth.
Tigrean Elites, especially, former liberation fighters, you better think above your personal comfort and contempt, your military thinking doesn’t help the Tigrean people, think about the next generation, don’t play on the fears of the people and lead them to disaster. The people of Tigray, liberate yourself from being the captives of TPLF. Tigrean intellectuals, use your enlightenment for the benefit of the people. Instead of congregating and wasting your time and energy in arguing about the strength and weaknesses of American Democracy, tell your brothers the truth, tell them to learn from history, enlighten them to join the 21st century thinking rather than trying to forward intellectual back-up for a failing government. It is time to show that TPLF is not Tigray and the great people of Tigray is greater than TPLF.Otherwise, silence can be considered as accomplice.
To all other members of EPRDF, make a real change, you are fooling no one but yourself, in thinking that your present renewal movement and policies will bring a lasting solution to the country’s problems. If you think only about personal gains, you will loose them sooner or later. You need to do some soul searching.
To All Ethiopians, Please do not take part in any extremism, which will ,undoubtedly, lead to disaster. Extremism in any form will not make us great again. It is time to rally yourself around national movements with Ethiopian vision, a democratic society for all by all, based on equality, justice and freedom. We need a movement with a vision beyond the current problem.
Sooner or Later, the demise of the status-quo is inevitable. Wiser to think beyond.
Above all, EPRDF, once again, the ball is in your court. Time is running out!!! Might is not Always Right!!!
A personal reflection for public discourse by firstname.lastname@example.org.