The leaders of the four member parties of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) announced this Wednesday that some leaders and members of opposition parties sentenced to prison terms would be pardoned from prison while charges against those undergoing trial would be dropped. This comes on the heels of a statement issued a week ago by the Executive Committee of the Front claiming that it had passed resolutions demonstrating unity of thought and mutual trust following its 17-day long evaluation of the current political situation in Ethiopia. The Committee noted that it had deliberated at length on the nature and solutions to both long-running and contemporary problems facing the country and pledged to tackle them. It also assumed full responsibility for the problems that had plunged the country and its people into a crisis.
There is no denying that owning up to the errors of one’s ways and setting out to address the root cause of problems is a good start. Such commitment to make amends deserves to be commended if it is heartfelt and accompanied by credible action on the ground. It is of the essence to forge national consensus in order to navigate the complex set of challenges confronting Ethiopia so as to, among others, restore political stability, create favorable conditions for the democratization process as well as accelerate growth and prosperity. Though the decision to release opposition party figures is a step in the right direction, it is compulsory to undertake a holistic and sustainable political reform.
Although the EPRDF embarked on a “deep renewal” some two years ago in the wake of the unrest which rocked Ethiopia, it has abysmally failed to live up to it repeated promises to respond to the demands of the public. In fact the simmering distrust between member organizations has wreaked havoc on the nation. The Front has acknowledged as much in the various statements it has issued. And now it has announced that the executive committee meeting wound up successfully by forging unity of thought and mutual trust. As for the part of the statement dealing with internal party politics there is no need to say much about it. Suffice it to say however that any feuding within the party or with external forces is bound to have a detrimental impact on the daily life of citizens and the country given it is in charge of the federal government as well as the four largest regional states and is allies with the ruling parties of the other regional states. As such the public expects a lot from it. It has had enough of platitudes and wants concrete action.
The EPRDF Executive Committee’s declaration that it had reached an agreement which enables it to arrest the threats prompted by the leadership’s weakness needs to be backed by action. Harmless disputes regularly take place within any political party in power. But when they escalate to acrimonious rifts and lead to factionalization it is the public which will bear the brunt of the fallout. The accumulation of unheeded demands for the recognition of political and economic rights, the lack of intra-party democracy and infighting for political and economic dominance, and the violence stoked by corrupt elements have engendered deadly conflicts which have led to the death and injury of thousands of innocent people, the displacement of hundreds of thousands displaced, the destruction of both public and private property. It is imperative to bring the ensuing political instability under control in order to protect national security and the welfare of citizens. This calls for a commitment to suit one’s word to action.
Ethiopians aspire above anything else for law and order and for the execution of a people-centered national development plan. If this aspiration is to be realized the government is duty-bound to guarantee that the people are the ultimate repository of political power and equitably share the national cake; to improve the delivery of such basic services as housing, education and health; to facilitate the condition whereby professionals can effectively manage the youth entrepreneurship initiative and to put an immediate stop to mismanagement and graft. A fundamental prerequisite for the achievement of these goals is to empower citizens to exercise their basic liberties enshrined in the constitution. A country where democracy and development are dissociated cannot fulfill the needs of its population. Naturally, respecting the rule of law is essential to ensuring that democracy and development go hand in hand. This requires on the part of all stakeholders to demonstrate that they are committed to abiding by the rule of law.
The EPRDF has made frequent promises to the public. Its inability to replicate the efforts it made on the economic front in promoting human and democratic rights has precipitated the current crisis. The Front’s Executive Committee has conceded that a lot leaves to be desired about the state of intra-party democracy, particularly at the leadership level. It has also declared that the Front and its coalition parties had been weakened by the emergence of an unprincipled relationship driven by parochial group interest instead of engaging in a transparent and principle-based political struggle. It’s shocking to hear a party which has been in power for over twenty-five years admit that it is quite sick. The gravest disease afflicting the Ethiopian political landscape is the prevalence of undemocratic practices. Had the landscape been democratic the country would surely made greater leaps as the conditions that gave rise to the present crisis would have been dealt with long ago through the strict application of the rule of law. It also would have had such political dividends as creating a level playing field which allows the will of the people to be expressed freely in democratic elections and enabling political parties to develop the culture of give-and-take with a view to ensuring that true power is vested in the people. The opportunity to taste the benefits of these dividends was squandered owing to the flawed relations. It is obligatory therefore now to rectify mistakes straightaway and respond to the needs of the public.
Ethiopia is a nation which has a proud history and is home to patriotic and far-sighted people. Its citizens can do miracles if they are rallied around a cause they believe in. The important thing is to display the willingness to work hard at securing the peace, unity, democracy and prosperity that everyone agrees on. Ethiopians have the utmost love for their country and always fret about its fate. This is why they have coexisted in peace and harmony for centuries. Such bond can be deepened insofar as networks of individuals bent on fomenting division in a bid to advance their evil agenda are brought to heel. A nation can neither be united nor prosper with ethnocentrism as its governing ideology. All Ethiopians must therefore sincerely believe that Ethiopia is a home we share and reject any system of governance where some are more equal than others. If Ethiopians come together to build a stronger nation they can accomplish anything they put their mind to. They have had enough of empty promises that gave them false hope. What they want to see is action. Actions speak louder than words.