The Times are dire, but solution is within our reach–only if we want it enough!


The Times are dire, but solution is within our reach–only if we want it enough!

By Dr. Tsegaye Ararsa, January 6, 2019

This afternoon, someone asked me what I think of the prospects for a peaceful democratic transition in Ethiopia in the face of the ever more deteriorating relationship between the Government of Ethiopia and the OLF.

Almost off handedly, I said that the problem is awful and gravely concerning but a solution is still within our reach.

While I acknowledge that the problems are complex and require sophisticated set of responses (and that, in an extremely difficult and trying context), I believe that there are some simple concrete steps we can take in order to ease things out.

The following is a list of such steps I could identify:

  1. GOE ought to start talking face to face, directly, with the OLF leadership. They need to do so as the Ethiopian Government engaging the OLF-SG, not as a party or a regional government official.
  2. Be transparent about the terms of your agreement and/or disagreement. Issue a joint press release and let the leaders (i.e., Dr Abiy and Jaal Dawud) do a joint press conference so that, in an open discussion in front of the journalists (and the public), they iron out the points of difference and identify actionable steps on the points of agreement.
  3. I believe both parties are fully committed to military non-confrontation and nonviolent political competition. We have seen both parties vowing that they are. If so, then they should sign a protocol on demobilization and/or integration of OLF’s soldiers into the national army. Once they have agreed on the protocols, then the specific tasks are:
    1. encamping all of the OLF soldiers in military training centers for (re)orientation and for immersion into the practices, codes of conduct, and honor traditions of the military.
    2. if there are soldiers who seek to pursue a non-military life, then modalities of providing them with necessities of life must be designed, negotiated, and readily executed. These necessities may be training/education, for which they need government scholarship funds. Or they may need access to plots of land so that they can resume farming (if they so choose). Or they may need a civil government employment depending on their qualifications. Or they may need benefits such as access to medical care, public housing, pension, etc.
  4. In line with the non confrontation pact, both parties should completely desist from actions or statements that suggest that they are trying to trick, overpower, outdo, or otherwise exclude one another from the democratization process. This can be easily done through a general, all-inclusive Consultative Inter-party Platform where all political parties are equally represented and their voices are equally heard on all the requisite components of securing an inclusive, competitive, free, fair, and credible election come 2020.
  5. In the absence of such common platform, the Government and the OLF must agree on a minimalist set of protocols (or a short but precise rules of engagement) for the duration of the transition. In particular, the Government must, if possible, show readiness to include the OLF political leadership in institutions that assist the realization of democratic elections (eg. Electoral Board, Census Board/Commission, boards of of CSOs observing election, boards dealing with utilization of public media for political campaigns, boards/teams dealing with campaign finance, etc, etc). In addition, it would go a long way to boost mutual trust and confidence (thereby aiding the transition process in general) if the Government involves OLF’s political leadership in some government/public institutions so that the latter can begin to have a stake in the system. (And there are many more such places than all the parties, let alone OLF, could demand.)
  6. In the negotiations, they should also clearly agree on minimal political points of engaging with each other until the time of the election.In my view, points such as the following are vitally important:
    1. complete demilitarization of the politics (by distancing the national security system–army, intelligence, and police–from the government and the politics; complete disarmament of all hitherto armed political groupings such as OLF, G7, ONLF, etc; and complete stoppage to arms deals, trafficking in weapons, and unregulated (re)arming of civilians anywhere in the country);
    2. total commitment to democratic election in 2020 and beyond;
    3. readiness to collaborate in the endeavor to address the popular demands of the protest movement;
    4. willingness and unswerving commitment to work together to address the plight of displaced people by restoring stability in the areas afflicted by TPLF’s proxy (border) wars;
    5. general willingness to respond to overarching historical injustices by unraveling the truth in such a way that injustices are acknowledged, atoned for, and forgiven so that the polity is transformed through a continuous work of reconciliation;
    6. mutual commitment not to tinker with the federal set up, state powers, the constitution, and the constitutional institutions and processes until a government with a democratic (i.e., electoral) mandate is in place and all the constitutional-legal requirements for constitutional amendment are met; and
    7. the need for separation of party (OPDO) and Government and/or State (thereby allowing for equal distance/closeness between the Government on the one hand and the political parties on the other);
  7. OPDO should recognize that all political parties brought home from exile are primarily invitees of the Government of Ethiopia (not of OPDO or other political parties in the coalition). The body that legitimately partners with the invited parties to facilitate the transition is therefore the Prime Minister himself (or a delegated Federal Minister), not OPDO or any regional official. As a host, the Federal Government should attend to all logistical needs of its guests (e.g., housing, security coverage, transport facilities, etc)– however small these may be–in order to disallow irritants and/or excuses.

PS. Oh, by the way, the GOE-OLF crisis is an Ethiopian crisis; it is not an OPDO-OLF (or Oromia only) crisis. After all, both are the problem children of Ethiopia.


  1. Dr. Tsegaye Ararsa, I agree with most of your points.

    The change are nothing short of seismic, proof that nothing remains the same forever.
    In just over few months Ethiopia’s new prime minister Abiy Ahmed has taken radical steps aimed at dismantling the country’s troubled past and paving the way for a new future.

    After years of protests, state killings, ethnic violence, internet shutdowns, and emergency rules, Ethiopia has made an astonishing and promising turnaround for the better.

    Yes, there are still challenges ahead but let’s not forget the demands of 110 million peoples could not be full filed in a short period of time, the poison of hate and division created by TPLF are unravelling yet, these mafia oligarchy are working day and night to divide Oromo with Amhara, Somali and Benishangul peoples.

    Leadership of all concerned and political parties in particular OLF and Ably’s government should be vigilant and set a road map to resolve their differences around the table.

    The security Situation in Oromia, right now is a result of armed conflict between OLF and the defence force of the government of Ethiopia. OLF soldiers should stop deliberately targeting helpless civilians.
    There seems in the general public including Oromo elite that the cause of the ongoing conflict is the failure to implement the ‘Asmara Convention’ by OLF, OLF is terrorising the public at large and should be legally held responsible for not immediately and unconditionally laying down arm.

    OLF should maintain the political will rather use of force and participate in the ongoing transition wholeheartedly.

    Ethiopian security force is under ongoing reform to serve all Ethiopians, OLF leadership, of course, should embrace this rather rejecting this winner-loser scenario. On top of this, it has to be noted that a source of threat to security in Ethiopia are non-state armed groups; Thus, ‘ OLF to transform the current situation towards a sustainable peace and democracy by laying down arms.

    Post conflict disarmament, demobilisation, and integration programs effective in achieving economic rehabilitation where ex combatant more likely to reintegrate politically and socially. This has been achieved in Burundi, Serial Leon, Rwanda, Philippine under the international actors’ especially United Nations and World Bank.

    Ethiopia has found herself at a crossroads so many times. Unfortunately, we were unable to tap into those opportunities to choose the right road toward genuine democracy, prosperity, and peace. We stumbled again and again. We have failed to manage changes. Here we are yet again at a crossroad struggling to implement a change smoothly.

    Democracy in Ethiopia overdue, now we have the chance not to lose this golden opportunity to unite all Ethiopians to build a prosperous country for all.

    I appreciate Abiy for the reform he brought, and should do more removing those corrupt and evil killers from their positions and bringing them to court.

    TPLF criminals who are hiding in Mekelle should be dragged out of theirs hiding cave and should be brought to justice and also those associated with them.

    These criminals are still sabotaging the peace process, recently Blocking Ethiopian troop’s withdrawal from the Ethio-Eritrea border by locals in Tigray was unconstitutional and the government should take measures against those who hatched the hampering of Ethiopian troops withdrawal from the Ethio-Eritrea border.

    The move by the locals was a serious violation of the constitution which clearly stipulates that the army would only take orders from the Prime Minister and his defence chief of staff. The blockage of troops withdrawal by the local people was a result of conspiracy by elements in Tigray that stood against the ongoing political reforms in the country.

    Finally there should be clear lesson from other transitions — to facilitate eventual transition to substantive democracy. Indeed all political parties including OLF should show initial willingness with wholeheartedly involving in the political space more likely to become more democratic and shows readiness to compromise and build a democratic culture for the future.

    Peace and victory for all Ethiopians
    There is more that units us than divides us

  2. @Taddesse Challa,

    Are you Taayye Danda’aa of OPDO/TPLF puppet?

    You are repeating what TPLF has been doing for over 27 years! The current chnage is the result of the precious sacrifices paid by Qeerroo/Qarree and Oromo nationalists and the Oromo peole at large. The struggle was aginst the so-called reformists of today who are equally responsible for the blood that has been shading in Oromia and in the empire for the last 27+ years. Therefore, don’t make Aboiyi or OPDO the owner of the change or the leader of the change process. They are trying to snatch the victory of the people and the war they fought wholeheartedly along with TPLF against the just struggle and lost.

    How did you know or what is your evidence for allegedly accusing OLF for the ongoing conflict as the failure to implement the ‘Asmara Convention’ by OLF? What is your evidence for saying OLF is terrorising the public at large and should be legally held responsible for not immediately and unconditionally laying down arm? Who is killing innocent civilians in South, Eastern and Western Oromia? Who is burning houses and kids along with houses, livestocks and Oromo farmers’ produces? It is the Ethiopian government Defense Force! All these crimes of wars are being waged on Oromo in a day light.

    What are the contents of the ‘Asmara Convention’ ? Do you know any? Did you hear any from your reformist gov’t of Abiyi? We. atleast heard, in the mass media the points of agreement of the ‘Asmara Convention’ from Mr. Dawud Ibsa in his recent interview with OBS & OMN television stations. Can you make public any of such efforts from the government side to make the ‘Asmara Convention’ contents being made public, if there is any? If the contents of the ‘Asmara Convention’ can not be made public from the government side, it creatse a suspicion that something is being kept secrete from the public from the government and it is not made public how on earth did you know that the OLF broke the ‘Asmara Convention’ ?


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