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NewsStudies implicate private sector in violent conflict, war profiteering

Studies implicate private sector in violent conflict, war profiteering

Commission expects private sector contribution to USD 900mln rehabilitation efforts

Studies conducted by the National Rehabilitation Commission and the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations implicate the business community in the chain of conflicts that have been plaguing Ethiopia.

The studies claim businesses and the private sector have been entangled in violent politics by sponsoring warmongering media content, including music and on-screen performances.

The Addis Ababa Chamber (AACSA) and officials at the Commission (NRC) held a public-private dialogue on the role of the business community in a peaceful and resilient economy on January 25, 2024. The studies were presented during the event.

Researchers urged the government to include a vision of disarming the “militarized mentality” of both the general public and the business community.

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Yonas Ashene (PhD), a political analyst, presented a study titled ‘The Role of the Business Community in Peace Building.’ He highlighted the need for dismantling a militarized philosophy among the masses, which he argues is an undeniable factor in violence.

“In a country like ours, the civil war mobilized the public into a war psychology, and, although the public was not armed with military equipment, it engaged in the war using several other means,” he said. “The public was angry and motivated to support either side of the war. Now, we need ontological disarmament that will allow the public back into its just and orderly way of life.”

His research paper discusses ties between the business community and violent politics via the sponsorship of inciting media content.

“The process of peacebuilding is a moment for soul searching. This community should clean its own house.  It is in deep need of auto criticism on whether its participation in conflicts is through omission or commission. Its role must be identified,” said Yonas.

He urges the private sector to contribute at least one percent of its profit margin to peacebuilding and rehabilitation efforts.

Shanko Delelegn, head of National Rehabilitation Commission Secretariat, disclosed close to 372,000 ex-combatants in eight regional states have been registered. The Tigray region accounts for 274,000 of the former fighters registered.

Data presented by the Commission reveals the implementation of the demobilization and rehabilitation strategy requires more than USD 900 million in financing. The vast majority of the funding is needed for reconstruction projects, followed by demobilization (109 million), and rehabilitation (63.4 million).

“It is a three-year project, but the money raised thus far is an insignificant amount,” Shanko told The Reporter.

The Commission was established in December 2022 and is already one year into its three-year tenure.

The Commission has communicated its needs to the Chamber and the business community. These include money, material support, employment opportunities, and social engagement for the rehabilitation and training of ex-soldiers.

Melaku Hailu, an attendee from the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), urged the Commission to focus on demobilization.

“The demobilization process in Tigray Regional State is not fully completed, and ex-combatants in Amhara Regional State are worried about it. The disarming project is not fast-paced,” he said.

“We haven’t begun demobilization yet; we’re still in the preparation stage,” replied Teshome Toga (Amb.), head of the Commission.

Members of the Chamber also expressed frustration at the impacts that conflicts have been having on their businesses.

Moges Kassa owns and operates a car rental and tour service provider. He observes the tour and travel industry has been at a standstill as a result of conflicts compromising security on roads.

“Being part of the peacebuilding is a must, if we mean to get back on the roads,” he said.

Daniel Mekonen (Assistant Prof.) presented a study on the role of business in peace. He revealed that of the last 1,600 years of Ethiopian history, at least 329 years were spent embroiled in civil wars.

“This means there was combat once every four days,” he said.

He cautioned the traditional, profit-oriented understanding of business’ role in peace, which was prominent until the 1970s, can no longer apply as evidence of costliness and detriments of not investing in peace become more apparent.

Other members of the Chamber had more personal anecdotes about the threats posed by violent conflict, and the methods they use to avoid them.

“I am a victim,” said one. “A house of mine was burned down in an instance of violent conflict. I am now rebuilding, but this time I am hiring militia in my kebele, and this has helped my work.”

The member claims it would be simple for the Ethiopian business community to engage ex-combatants in their respective workforces.

“They are trained and disciplined. With rehabilitation, we could hire them as security personnel, storekeepers, human resources personnel, and so on,” he said.

Yohannes Woldegebreal, director of the Chamber’s Arbitration Institution, wants to see more private sector involvement in peacebuilding.

“All of the Commission’s members are from government institutions,” he said in a comment directed at the NRC. “The private sector needs representation.”

The Commissioner concurred on the need for the inclusion of the private sector.

“I have taken note. We will work more on getting the business community involved as members of our board,” said Teshome.

Mesenbet Shenkutie, president of the Chamber, and Teshome signed a Memorandum of Understanding that would enable them to work together on economic projects related to ex-combatants.

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