“Transitional justice” has lately been bandied about by all and sundry in Ethiopia as a mechanism to deal with the after-effects of the civil war in northern Ethiopia. Whatever the provenance—not to mention feasibility—of this concept, the apparent goal of the ensuing exercise appears to be that of potentially dispensing a semblance of justice and ensuring accountability.
Whereas one would have ideally witnessed the launch of a massive recovery and rehabilitation effort in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, i.e., following the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement on November 2, 2022, the country has of late found itself lurching from one crisis to the next.
Though by no means exhaustive, the roster of crises that have beset the Ethiopian body politic over the past few months includes the eviction of residents and the demolition of their houses on the peripheries of the capital. The purported reason for this action is to make way for a new city, already christened “Sheger.” The other is a conspiracy to create schism within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) by clergymen hailing from the Oromia region. This heretic act appears to have originally enjoyed tacit and overt support from the powers that be at both the federal and regional levels.
The outrageous adventure has had the potential to throw the country into a whirlpool of turmoil, and it can only be imagined where it would have eventually led to. Thankfully, the crisis was defused thanks to a timely intervention by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), who convened a panel of “wisemen” who managed to broker peace between the leadership of the EOTC and representatives of the splinter group.
The 127th Adwa Victory Day celebration also became a bone of contention. There were confrontations (verbal and otherwise) on March 2 as regards the venue of the event, the hoisting and display of the national tricolor, the wearing of T-shirts, bandanas, etc. by citizens gathered to mark the occasion. This is to say nothing about disputes over the role of the then Emperor Menelik II and his consort, Empress Taitu, in bringing about the momentous victory.
Furthermore, there are ongoing attempts to stifle the creation of a new ethnolinguistic region by members of the Guraghe ethnic group. It’s too early to tell how this one will play out, but it’s worthwhile to point out that, ever since the incumbent government assumed power in April 2018, two separate regions have “seceded” from the SNNPS (Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples State), thereby birthing the 10th and 11th federal states, viz., the Sidama and Southwestern Ethiopia regions. However amicably the Guraghe question is addressed, only time will tell how rump-SNNPS will look, say, in a decade or two.
Some argue that the above is among a host of diversionary tactics employed by the government. Nonetheless, a country that just emerged from the pangs of a vicious, two-year-long internecine war would rather embark on ensuring accountability side by side with efforts aimed at recovery, rehabilitation, and, ultimately, reconciliation.
In order to reach this goal, the warring parties must start the process by apologizing to war victims and the public as a whole. Thereafter, an impartial body could be set up with the mandate to establish facts pertaining to the conflict. This fact-finding team would conduct a rigorous investigation to determine, among other things, the identities of the war dead and wounded (both combatants and civilians), the number of internally displaced people (IDPs), the number of orphaned children, particulars relating to victims of sexual violence, starvation, diseases, etc., as well as damage to infrastructure and facilities and the disruption in people’s lives as a result of the conflict.
It would be pointless to engage in anything remotely approaching justice without first establishing the facts outlined above. A comprehensive report published pursuant to the investigation would be significant not only for its virtue as a historical record, but it’d also serve as an essential input in the process of dispensing justice as well as the work of recovery and rehabilitation.
Contributed by Wagaye Berhanu