Ethiopia in Quagmire: the regression of the transition

By Buli Edjeta Jobir, June 6 2020

1.      INTRODUCTION

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Police beating taxi riders on the street of Addis Ababa, June 6, 2020

Since the declaration of Abiy government’s postponement of the May 2020 general election of Ethiopia and the subsequent presentation of the four ‘constitutional options’ on how to elongate the life span of the current government on 30 April 2020 by the Deputy General Attorney, legal experts, politicians, and ordinary people have engaged in hot debate on meetings and virous media outlets. Political parties have forwarded their options. However, all, but few, largely assumed that the ‘constitutional crises’ was real. The debate assumed as if the so called ‘constitutional crises’ has sprung overnight. The current constitutional debate, this paper argues, dwells on the purposefully designed and fabricated ‘constitutional crisis’.

Diachronic rather than synchronic approach to the problem reveals the real picture. A careful look at how events unfolded since April 2018, when Abiy government came to power, shows that the so-called transitional leaders, despite the immense rhetoric and fallible promises, were unwilling or unable to transform Ethiopia into the long cherished democratic order. Whether one calls it political or constitutional, the crisis has been brewing since long. The paper calls for a diachronic understanding of the current political crisis of Ethiopia, where it argues that the ‘constitutional crisis’ approach does not give the full picture as itself is the result rather than the cause of the crises.

Researches in various parts of the world that looked at transitional process have provided tools or frameworks for assessing the conditions that contribute to the success and failures of transitional period. Even if there are couples of such frameworks, without long a do, this paper relies on the one developed by Lowenthal & Bitar (2015). According to Lowenthal and Bitar, the success and failure of any transitional period is conditioned by three major process. First, a conscious and strategic actions of leaders which requires the end of violence; building trust and legitimacy; proper use of technical capacities and presence of political will; maintaining balance; initiation of transitional justice; ensuring the independence of media and the judiciary. Second, the disposition of the leaders, which includes their capacity and willingness to avail strategic vision and sense of inclusion; expansion of their support base; compromise and accommodation; reliance on competent associates; ability to persuade; and their capacity to galvanize external support for the good of the transition not for personal aggrandizement. Third, the proper role of key actors such as the military, political parties, non-state and international actors.

Using this framework, through diachronic approach, this paper tries to show how the political crisis of the transitional process of Ethiopia has gradually but surely led to the current crisis. The applauded crisis was largely political crisis rather than a constitutional one as such. The paper argues that the political failure or unwillingness of the leaders to manage the transition in way that empowers the people and bring democratic order, were crafted to provide a ‘constitutional crises’ facade. Such a tendency was no less similar than the rise of dictatorial regimes in other parts of the world, especially Africa, which, for mere political end, use the constitutional element to retain power in their hands at the expense of democracy and accountability. Thus, arguing on the constitutional incorrectness of the government per se misses the processual development in which the current crisis unfolded throughout the last two years.

2.      CONSCIOUS AND STRATEGIC ACTIONS OF TRANSITIONAL LEADERSHIP

The current ostensibly constitutional crisis is not accidental but the result of a long process of denial and betrayal perpetrated by Abiy government. A close scrutiny of the transitional process, the actions and behaviour of the leaders shows extreme lack of genuine political will despite their deceptive rhetoric of commitment to transit Ethiopia from authoritarian rule to a democracy system.

Lowenthal & Bitar (2015) argue that to make the transition successful the powerholders have to do the following:

2.1.   End violence

According to Lotnthal & Bitar the prime concern and action of the leaders of a transition should primarily focus on ensuring civil order and end violence. The leaders should be able to put the intelligence and security agencies under the civilian control and guidance. This action is one of the conditions which ensures the success of the transitional period. Yet the existing facts shows that the government of PM Abiy Ahmed could not fully ensure a civilian control over the security agencies such that the whole process of the transition was ravaged by violence.

The violence that erupted along the broader between Somali Regional State and Oromiya regional states. The main National Regional State after the PM took power was the bloodiest conflict which challenged transitional period from the outset. According to the existing data, several people were killed at least 1,073,7642 displaced and made home across the borders of the two[1]. The culprits of the conflict were allegedly the Somali Regional State special police. Even if the conflict was abated as the result of the deposition of the former President of the Somali Regional State, Abdi Muhammad Omer, nick-named Abdi Illey, the violence has left a lasting impact on the people of both regional states and put the transitional period in a state of anxiety. The transitional leaders waged a propaganda campaign against their former ally, TPLF, for fomenting the conflict, which, even if it could be true, showed the transitional leaders’ inability to win friends than multiplying enemies.

Conflict in Amhara Regional State has also left a gloomy picture on the transitional process. Among several incidents of violence, the one which occurred on January 10, 2019, in Metama Yohannes, the town on Ethio-Sudanese boarder left unprecedented scene. According to reports by Voice of Justice[2] several people died including children and women, when their houses were set in blaze. Subsequent small clashes were reported on several social media outlets. The boarder conflict between Tigray and Amhara Regional States over Wolqite went beyond a scale one can anticipate to happen between regional states of the same federal entity. The two portrayed themselves as if they were totally independent entities from the central federal government of Ethiopia. Despite the peace deal between the then president of Amhara Regional State, Gedu Andergachew and the Deputy president of Tigray Regional State, Debre Tshion Gebremichael, on September 2019 in Mekele, the underlying issues were not resolved leaving the claim to foment any form of conflict any time. This pitted the two-regional state against each other and left a huge challenge against the transition. It further alienated the Tigrain Regional State which has already took a position to distance itself from the direct control of the Federal Government.

From the western flank of Ethiopia, in a conflict that took place between Benishangul Gumaz and Amhara Regional State, series of violence claimed several lives.  Dozens of people lost their life as the result of a conflict that took place on April 26 2019, which cropped up due to disagreement over cash between laborers coming from either side. It soon developed into rampant conflict, leaving many dead. The two regional state accused each other for enticing the conflict, each one labeling the other as expansionist [3]

The most conspicuous security challenges and the inability of the Abiy government to end violence and smooth the transitional process was his reckless handling of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). According to the Asmara Agreement of August 7 2018[4], the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) head by Dawud Ibsa and the delegate of the Ethiopian Government headed by Lemma Megarsa and Workeneh Gebeyew, agreed that OLA, the then armed wing of OLF, would amicably be integrated into either the Ethiopian Defense Force or Oromiya Special Force. To this effect they created a committee from both sides. About 1300 specially trained OLA members were traversed across the Tigray Regional State and were settled at Ardayita military camp. From the beginning, right after the agreement in Asmara, there was lots of evidence that shows the government of Ethiopia’s attempt to forestall the peaceful accomplishment of the demobilization of the troops. It reversed its promise of flying the troops to Finfinnee/Addis Ababa. The troops traversing through Mekele to Finfinnee were met by TPLF leaders unnoticedly, which the Abiy government used as a propaganda compaiagn against OLF of allying with the TPLF. After the army settled in the military comp different ruses were employed to debilitate the morale of the army. OLF leadership, contrary to the agreement, were denied access to their own army; ruling party political teachings were made to be part of the training curriculum which the soldiers were severally opposed to; the welcome-gift of more than 70 bulls given by the local people to the army were confiscated by the government; insults and mistreatments hugely annoyed the troops who were  from the beginning, suspicious of the overall agreement. Any form of international standard of integration, demobilization and rehabilitation were not attempted at all. At the end of the ‘training’, more than half of those kept in the camp joined their kin in the jangle. That exacerbated the security predicament of the transitional process.

Not only this. The government mishandled the demobilization and reintegration of those OLA who remained in the jangle and continued fighting. In the first place, the government did not declare cease fire when the OLF did while it was in Asmara. Instead military deployments continued to build up in Western and Southern Oromiya. Purposeful provocation and skirmishes continued unabated. Several OLA camps in Western Oromiya were attacked by the government troops. A call for a truce from armed guerilla remained unattended by the government. Yet talks on peaceful integration between the OLF team and the government deceitfully continued in Finfinnee. But government officials on mainstream and social media called for forceful disarmament which the OLA members perceived to be a disgraceful act. Hamulating the armed OLA as ‘shifta’ (bandit) and reckless fighters continued to awash the social media. When the OLF Chairman Dawud Ibsa went to the West to discuss with Commander of the Western Section of OLA, on the possibility of demobilization and integration, the government attacked the OLA wing from the other side. That signaled to the armed guerillas that the government move was for humiliation rather than honorary demobilization and integration. That meant a huge blow for the armed guerillas who have been fighting for what they thought to be a just cause for which they gave their whole life. That move of the government risked the transition’s peaceful process.

Another move to disarm the OLA was tried by traditional leaders called the Abba Gada and a Technical Committee was another utter failure due to the government dishonest move, and poorly conceived plan of the team.  The committee were made up of teams from the government and the OLF. Bekele Gerba, a politician and Jawar Mohammed, an activist by then, led the technical committee. The committee and the Abba Gadas vowed to demobilized the OLA in there weeks. In a ceremonial event that took place in Ambo, a small-town west of Finfinnee, the deal seemed to be sealed[5]. Yet halfhearted government appeared with a low profile and non-responsive members giving a look-warm gesture to the deal. About 800 armed guerillas fighters were said to have been ‘surrendered’ as it was termed in the government media adding another anger to the feverish guerillas. Many of them taken to Tolayi Military Comp in the hot Gibe Basin, southern Ethiopia. After a while a report came out that they were poisoned on a morning breakfast. The fainted and sickened picture of the fighters engulfed the social media. That brought further anger among those fighters who remined in the jungle. This calculated ploy alienated the fighters who solemnly vowed not to ‘surrender’ at all.

Even if the move of the Abba Gadas (the traditional leaders) and the Technical Committee was ill planned and short of international standard of ending sustained conflict and demobilization of longstanding guerilla fighters, the major impediment for the demobilization was the wile and cunning of the government to abort a genuine demobilization and reintegration of the armed wing of the OLF.  Later, a report from the Technical Committee confirmed that the government did not only do what it ought to do but deceitfully aborted the process. For example, the government did not provide required and sufficient logistics including vehicles and subsistence to those technical committee members and the Abba Gadas who were deployed to the field to accomplish the demobilization. The mistreatment, humiliation and mysterious poisoning of those OLA members in the camps, the death of OLA commander Hunde Dheeressa also known as Dinaras Dheeressa (who accepted the demobilization attempt by the traditional leaders and began to work with the government)  in Bishoftu; the planned and coordinated social media attack on the guerilla fighters who expected honorable reintegration were some of the issues that aborted the peaceful solution of the process.  The failure to ensure peace through reintegration become the major setback to the transitional process.

Why did the government choose not to effect reintegration properly? It is just simple. They wanted to securitize the political land scape. It was pretty much clear for the government that it could not withstand the giant OLF in peaceful political competition. First, the only way they could sideline or weaken the OLF is by keeping its armed wing at bay and accuse the OLF for having connection with the armed wing. In fact, the OLF officially declared that it has disconnected itself from its armed wing. Currently, what we are witnessing is that the government is using the OLA as means to destabilize the political actions of the OLF. Second, after the abortion of the Abba Gadas and Technical Committees move, the government put eight zones of Oromiya under unofficial and illegal state of emergency. The civil administration of these zones fell under the military command, where any peaceful political move of political parties including the OLF is curtailed. When the Covid-19 State of Emergency was declared on April 08 2020[6], it was just an extension of the already existing one. Third, in those zones, hundreds and thousands of people got detained, torched, and killed. This made any peaceful movement of political action impossible. Violence does not contribute to a positive move to a successful transition. Thus, a failure.

Concomitant with the inability or unwillingness to end violence and the attempt to securitize the political land scape came the horrifying human right abuses perpetrated by the Ethiopian Defense Force, regional special and regular police, and militias. On 29 May 2020, Amenity International (AI) has released a hilarious report of gross human rights abuses of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearance, arbitrary arrest, and eviction that took place in 2019. One of the most gruesome reports of Amnesty International, among many others, was a man by the military on a meeting when the phone of the victim rang. On of the hilarious beating was the one perpetrated against a pregnant woman in Finca’a town who pleaded for her life telling the security persons that she was a pregnant[7]. Another report by HRLHA, which came out on 25 May 2020, covered the latest human right violation in 2020, which left uncovered by the AI. The HRLA report exposed the cruelest act of the Ethiopian defense force. On May 14, 2020 they kidnapped, killed and thrown the body into a jangle. The victim was Mr. Mohammed Amin, residents of Harar in Eastern Oromiya working in the East Hararge Agriculture Office, a father of five and a wife.   Another teen-ager, ‘Bona Habtamu who is a resident of Western Wollega, Lalo Assabi district, Barko kebele, arrested on May 23, 2020 by National Defense Force and taken to Wanjo camp. A day later, on May 24, 2020 he was brutally killed and thrown into Birbir River’[8]. Likewise, as an act against freedom of expression, the Ethiopian government has arbitrarily arrested journalists like Dassu Dula, Waqo Nole and a media employee Ibrahim Abdurazak and kept them in prison despite the courts repeated release order[9].

The crux of the matter is, the so-called transitional leaders were unwilling or incapable to transit Ethiopia. The inability to end violence, and their stealth and mischievous act to securitize the political landscape to harass, arrest and kill members of opposition parties, is one of the factors that put transition into a near-demise.

2.2.   Trust and Legitimacy

Another important measure of success of a transitional period is the extent at which a transitional leadership build ‘domestic trust and gain international legitimacy’. The major part of this goes to the ability of the leadership to create inclusive, fair and neutral electoral organ and electoral procedures.

One of the critical issues that the government embarked on in the bid to reform electoral organ and procedures was the reorganization of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). The government brought-in a new leadership when it appointed Birtukan Midheksa, who was an avid political actor for a long time. Her involvement in the 2005 election as a member and leadership of Coalitional for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party attests to her partisanship. Her name rings in any Ethiopian citizen as a partisan political actor than a neutral person. Yet she got the position of chairmanship of National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). That was the first move that put the fairness and neutrality of the electoral process in question. Second the credibility of the NEBE, was tested with its miss-carriage of the Sidama Referendum. According to some sources, the election board put some preconditions such as ownership of Hawassa City, sharing of properties by the regional party (SEPDM), and its request of guaranteeing respect for the rights for non-Sidama Ethiopians living in Sidama land. The counter argument held the view that the precondition treated the ‘Sidama nation as the only nation in Ethiopia that has got regional statehood’[10]. In a similar tone, the un-procedural (some also argue that it was unlawful) merger of independent parties of the former EPRDF into Prosperity Party and its subsequent acknowledgement and legalization by the NEBE has raised some concerns and critique against the electoral organ. TPLF argued that the dissolution of the EPRDF and merger of different parties did not follow the constitution of the coalition such that NEBE takes all the blame to endorse the new party. In fact, many observes questioned if it was legitimate at all if a party could mutate itself into another party after it had already seized power in the name of another party. Those question legitimately raised eyebrows with regards to the neutrality, fairness, trust and legitimacy of the NEBE. Another setback and lack of legitimacy of the leaders of the transitional period, and a set back to the transition.

2.3.   Technical Capacity and Political will

Other criteria for a successful transition are the technical capacity and political will of the transitional governing bodies.  The new leaders should assure that those who took office would be well prepared, technically and politically, for their new governing responsibilities. Even if it is not straight forward to measure the technical capacity of the transitional leaders  of Ethiopia who took different responsibilities in the government, it is possible to estimate from some proxy indicators. The way the government bodies handled critical issues such as the border conflict and the relationship between the State of Eretria seemed to indicate lack of technical capacities in handling issues of conflict and conflict resolution. The relation was marred by lack of formality and international principle of diplomatic etiquettes.

Lack of political will to attain the promised political reform was evident in all aspect of leaders’ dispositions. Mentioning the most recent ones suffices.  The way the PM handled the so-called the meeting with political parties on the postponement of the election and the four legal options presented were handled incompetently. The parties were neither informed about nor told the agenda of the meeting beforehand. They were made to listen to the predetermined lists of decision of the government and were not given the chance to present their own views. Funny enough, they were denied the paper presented by the Deputy Public Prosecutor when the parties requested the copy so that they would be able to refer to and present their own option. In many of government deliberation, opposition parties were not given enough room for participation. The political will was largely overshadowed by hollow rhetoric.

2.4.   Balance

Balance refers to the need to make appropriate weight for the actions and performances of bureaucratic, technocratic, security and judicial expertise against the aim to limit the influence of the previous regime and those who want to sabotage the transitional process for their own interests. Looking at Abiy’s government, it seems that it did not recognize the threat of this factor to the transition. In fact, no systematic actions were taken to create the balance between the forces that vie for control in the transitional process. The bureaucratic institutions were not sufficiently reformed in way that can address the importance of maintaining balance. The primer appointed new faces of people who neither have the capacity nor proved their proficiency in areas they were assigned to. New ministers, so young, whom very few folks could hardly trust for their capability overwhelmed the government positions.

What is really disappointing was, in the acclaimed transitional period, the judicial sector was largely overtaken by the supremacy of the police and the military. Despite the rhetoric, the prime minister waged war against what he called shifta, referring to the Oromo Liberation Army, and its supporters in Oromiya. Huge military deployment securitized the political land scape. Responses to peace fell in the hands of the federal and regional special forces than resolving conflicts through soft means. That led to the widespread use of unproportionate forces against the civilian.

The judiciary especially the court and public prosecutor offices role has been diminished to the status of on-lookers. Police continued to detain individuals without court warrant, and the constitutional rights and freedom of detainee were grossly violated. Among several examples, the case of high-ranking OLF leadership shades lights on this issue.  The police in Addis Ababa, on February 29 2020, Kolfe Kifle Sub-city, rounded up their house in the midst of darkness[11], mistreated them and fired at their bedrooms which seemingly attests to assassination attempt. According to an OLF press statement released on March 04, all of them were handcuffed, shackled together, kept waiting for a lengthy period of time in the rain before being transported to a police station. The press release also revealed that the homes of the nine were ransacked by police officers on the morning of March 1st, after detaining the individuals[12]. Currently, one of the leaders[13], former army commander, Mr. Abdi Raggasaa, who came back to the country along with other colleagues to engage in peaceful political process, is still kept in unknown place. He had no access to his family, and no one knows his whereabouts. Other 5 members of OLF members and central committee members were detained in a similar way. The public prosecutor freed them of any wrongdoings. The court in Burayu Town, after long time of confinement, based on the report of the public prosecutor, freed them. The police, refusing to execute court order and decree, has kept them in detention until the publication of this article (for more than a month). There are several hundreds of these kinds of cases across Oromiya which could not be listed here due to the scope of this article.  When the State of Emergency declared on April 08 2020, as the result of the Covid-19 pandemic, things gotten worse.

Within the government structures, mysterious killings ravaged the transitional period. The Bahir Dar  killing of Amhara Regional State Officials including President Ambachew Mekonnen by the purportedly internal strife among the security personal on the one hand and the bureaucracy on the other on June 22, 2019; the assassination of high-ranking  military leadership, Chief of Staff, General Sehere Mekonnen in Finfinne on the same day and other mundane and repetitive killings here and there were the instability that passed over from the previous regime’s unresolved contradiction.

The point here is that balance between law-making bodies and law enforcements institutions and the bureaucracy was destroyed by overcontrol of the security personnel of all the rest of the government major branches which jeopardized the transitional process. The transitional leaders failed to maintain balance.

2.5.   Transitional justice

A successful transitional process should encompass a systematic, principled, standardized, legitimate and internationally recognized way of executing transitional justice (Ladisch, 2018).  A series of violence and ensuing human rights abuses like the one that has been perpetrated by the Ethiopian security forces for the last 27 years, leaves an immense scar on the victims and perpetrators of the crime. It is true that healing those scars could be so tough, but its instrumentality for the peaceful transitional process is incalculable. Part of this work rests on reparation of the victim and holding the perpetrators accountable.

The value of transitional justice for a successful transition and building a just and democratic society is acclaimed by many scholars and practitioners of governance. Transitional justice is:

rooted in accountability and redress for victims. It recognizes their dignity as citizens and as human beings. Ignoring massive abuses is an easy way out but it destroys the values on which any decent society can be built. Transitional justice asks the most difficult questions imaginable about law and politics. By putting the victims and their dignity first, it signals the way forward for a renewed commitment to make sure ordinary citizens are safe in their own countries– safe from the abuses of their own authorities and effectively protected from violations by others[14]

Human rights abuses, tortures, killings, detentions and disappearances disrupt families, communities, groups and nations thus put any country in a fragile condition. That was what happened in EPRDF era. Ignoring these atrocities disrupts values on which any society is built[15]. Before the ascendance of the Abiy regime, the revolt and the abuse of human rights have weekend the judiciary, security system, bureaucracies, etc. and shocked the whole system. Mending the social and political system should have been the priority of the transition. Yet the ‘transformation’ has ignored this, and embarked on incarceration of what it labeled as ‘perpetrators of criminal acts’. The transition has not instituted an independent, legitimate and neutral body to redress the injustice of the previous regime itself[16].  Due to this and given the nature of the process by which it was handled, the incarceration of the officials of ma’ikalwai and National Security and Intelligence Agency was merely a political action rather than a redress for justice. The majority of those incarcerated from the notorious prison house, Ma’ikalwai, and National Intelligence Security Agency, were largely from one ethnic group who had been at the helm of power. Since legitimate, acceptable and neutral transitional justices was not instituted, the detainee perceived it as partisan political attack on themselves and their ethnic base. That further exacerbated the delicate and already fractured relation between the Abiy government, the TPLF, and the Tigrayan ethnic group creating further societal cleavage. The fear of politically motivated ‘justice’ further alienated the TPLF which led them to a position of defense by instituting de facto independence under the Tigrayan National Regional State. Anther fragility.

Likewise, the expectation of the Oromo people at large, the OLF, and other Oromo organizations was that the transition promised by Abiy Ahmed would embark on the process of instituting transitional justices. One of the points of Asmara agreement between OLF and the Ethiopian government in 2018 was to address the issue of injustice perpetrated in the EPRDF era through sufficiently putting in place all aspect of justices such as addressing the grievances of the families of the victim, restoration, and accounting the perpetrators in the interest of smoothing the transition and create a stable socio-political conditions. However, to the dismay of all, the issue of justice was not embraced by the transitional actors. Transitional justice, according to experts is the basis of legitimacy, accountability, and acceptability for the leaders. It is almost like a panacea for societal integration, peace, and stability (Adityavarman, 2018). The basis for successful transitional process largely depends on addressing past injustice through transitional justice. Abiy government desolated all this chance. Let alone instituting transitional justice, lack of accountability and the free ride ethos that has resurged among government power holders and the security apparatus exacerbated the human right abuses more than before, to this very day, putting the legitimacy of Abiy government and the transitional process in jeopardy.

2.6.   Independence of media and judiciary

According to IDEA, the establishment and protection of independent media that could hold the executives and others accountable; and at the same time, encourage the free flow of ideas is an important element in the success of transitional period. Overview of actions by the Ethiopian government since the coming to power of PM Abiy Ahmed in April 2018, however contradicts this principle. In 2018 the government released journalists like Eskinder Nega, Zone 9 journalists and others. As a gesture of new beginning the country also hosted World Press Day in May 2010. Yet that hysteria was short-lived. The government arrested Getachew Ambachew and Berhun Adane of ESAT. Five Young journalists of Sagalee Qeerroo Bilisummaa who had been instrumental in the Oromo youth protest beginning from 2011, were detained in October 2019, accused of ‘inciting terrorism” quoting articles from the fictitiously banned draconian anti-terror law. On March 7, 2020 two journalists of Oromia News Network (ONN), namely Dasu Dula and Waqo Nole, were arrested for merely visiting OLF Executive Committee member Mr. Abdi Raggasa in prison, who was detained without due process of law, in Burayu Town, west of Finfinne/Addis Ababa. After two weeks, the public prosecutor reported to the court that the detainees did nothing that equates with any form of criminal charges. The Court decreed to free them off any criminal act since no evidence was produced by the police. Yet, the police, in unparalleled contempt for the court and undermining the rule of law, rejected repetitive court decrees and orders and kept the innocent journalists in detention. The police has moved them to another detention center in a bid to disguise their where-about. Up until the publication of this article, they are still in prison.

In January 3, 2020, the authorities have disconnected mobile phone networks, landlines, and internet services in western Oromia’s Kellem Wellega, West Wellega, and Horo Gudru Wellega zones, which apparently crippled citizens’ right of access to information. The blockage caused a huge threat to the millions of people at the onset of Covid-19 pandemic. Families were disconnected, business crippled, report of human right conditions curtailed, schools disrupted. It was finally opened up on 03 April 2020 as the result of immense campaign on social media and human rights groups[17].

The most worrying action taken by the government and its parliamentary wing is the promulgation of the law on what it regarded as hate speech. The government argued that the conflicts that had been fomenting here and there in the country was instigated by social media’s ‘irresponsible’ campaigns. However, according to AP, the law ‘will not meet its goal but will discourage free expression and may eventually target people who make innocent mistakes. —-but most importantly, legal actions are usually used by the state to stifle dissent in the country’ (AP, Feb 23, 2020)[18]. Human Rights Watch clearly indicated that the law ‘significantly curtail freedom of expression’, while Laetitia Bader, senior researcher of the rights group emphatically underlined ‘—-an ill-construed law that opens the door for law enforcement officials which violets rights to free expression is no solution’[19].

Beyond the legal and human rights aspect of the law, the very promulgation of the law in the very moment when the Premier vowed to open up the political space and conduct free and fair election angered several people who began to question the transitional process. In fact, in a country where the court’s independence was severely threatened as a modus operandi, it is highly likely that the law would be used by the ruling party to punish opponent. The trust in transition is drained.

The transitional period’s success was also measured by its ability to establish or protect the autonomy and authority of independent judiciaries. As indicated above, despite the Primer’s popular promise that ‘we never investigate after detention; we first investigate and detain’, the abuse of the law enforcement agencies against citizens began to resemble the earlier conditions under PMs Meles Zenawi and Hailemariam Desalegn. The writer of this article, in January 2018, himself and his other four collogues were kidnapped on their way home, detained without appearing to the court for fifteen days, an act which was against the constitution. The Constitution clearly puts a limit of 48 days within which the detainee has the right to appear before court of law. Detention became rampant without due process of law. In the country side, disappearances, torcher, killings, destruction of villages, etc. continued. Court’s independence and enforcement power eroded. This jeopardized the legitimacy of those who promised to take the country to a democratic order.

3.      LEADER’S DISPOSITION

The success of a transitional period is directly linked to and dependent on the capacities, performances and attitudes of the leaders. The traits and performances of the leaders of the successful transitions, according to Lowenthal & Bitar (2015) includes the following key issues.

3.1.   Strategic Vision and Sense of Inclusion

This refers to the leader’s capacity for ‘strategic sense of direction towards more inclusionary and accountable governance, and a fundamental preference for peaceful and incremental transformation’ (Lowenthal & Bitar, 2015, 50-51).  A close scrutiny of the behaviour and deliberation of the current Ethiopian transitional leadership is devoid of this strategic sense of direction and inclusive approach. In the first place the transitional leaders, except their public speech and oratory, did not produce any document that gives direction or road map to the transitions. There is no clear and written document that provides time-bound strategies and activities that leads the actors and the people to walk through the transition. Second, the leaders totally forgot that they are temporary leaders who were not to govern but were entrusted to transit the country to democratic order. The very cause of the protest that brought the current transitional leaders to power was that there had been gross monopolization and abuse of power, sever lack of democratic practice, election rigging and unparalleled proportion of human right abuses. That implies that the heirs of that rogue government could not prevail as if they were democratically elected leaders. The only thing they were allowed to do were to work on transitional activities only. Third, as an extension of the above, the transitional leaders, rather than becoming an inclusive and transformative agent, they purposefully and tactically began to marginalize the opposition parties. Opposition parties were only consulted to endorse the decision of the ruling party. They were barely given space for active participation. This again contributed to the regression of the transitional process.

3.2.   Expansion of Support Base

Successful transitional leaders are supposed to diversify and expand their support base. They are expected to understand the interests and vision of multiple power centers and interest groups (Lowenthal & Bitar, 2015). Right after the accession to power, PM Abiy Ahmed, managed to galvanize the largest majority of the Ethiopian people to his support. Different interest groups and power base unequivocally supported him. His acceptance speech especially his emphasis on the return to the nostalgic Ethiopian unity accorded him a huge support from the unitarist political parties and grass roots, specially in big towns and communities that buy this idea. In Oromiya region the rhetoric and appeal to Oromummaa and the ethos of the Gada system and self-assertion of Oromo nationalism (many argued from the beginning that this was superficial) helped him at lease to win the hearts and minds of many people at least for a brief period. In Tigray region, his appeal to the people by emphasizing the ‘region’s role in the civilization of Ethiopia’, and his speech in Tigrigna gave him a commendable level of applause.

But all these were, unfortunately, short-lived. It uniquely raises lots of questions for students of political science on how such hysteric support for a leader diametrically dwindles in such short period of time. Though not conclusive, some reasons could be attested to as follows. In Amhara region, the death of Amhara Regional State leadership including the president in June 2019, even if the identity of the perpetrators were not conclusively known, and especially the incident that took the life of General Asaminew Tsige, began to erode the support base of the transitional leaders. After couple of months, shocking demonstration opposing the government rocked Bahir Dar, signaling the end of the honeymoon. The rise in popularity of the Amhara National Movement was also another reason for the sinking of the transitional leaders’ support base in Amhara Region.

A peculiarly plummeting support base is the one which occurred in Oromiya. People began to shy away when the leaders of the transition extensively began to venerate the old-model-Ethiopia which symbolizes unitarism and centralism under the dominance of a single cultural supremacy troubled the Oromo nation for more than a century. The erection of Haile Selassie’s statue in the premises of the African Union, and renovation of Menelik’s palace which is again the old symbol of imperial dominance of Menelik, was repugnant to those who have a disturbing historical memory towards the creator of Ethiopia by iron feast. The Prime Minister’s avowal on the Oromo nationalism where he once ridiculed as saying ‘Oromo nationalism has belittled the Oromo’ was a blow against his support base in Oromiya. The derision by one of the leading party’s higher officials towards the Anole massacre as ‘an invented story’ and scorn against the popular book of Tesfaye Gebreab, called ‘Ye burqa zimita’ has, as many agreed, unveiled the ineptness or unwillingness of the leaders to understand and address the Oromo cause. Many Oromos argued that the leaders are markedly against or ignorant of their national historical memories which underpins the quest for national question. The unwillingness and lack of action to resolve the Oromo quest on Finfinnee was also a severe blow against the transitional leaders in Oromiya. The successive expansion of Finfinnee/Addis Ababa and displacement of indigenous farmers in Oromiya and later the introduction of the notorious Addis Ababa Integrated Masterplan in March 2014 was the immediate cause of the Oromo revolution that brought the current leaders to power. Thus, the expectation of the Oromos from the leaders to resolve the claims they have on Finfinee and ensure their rights was so high. But nothing came through. Again, even if the Oromos have not ever endorsed or legitimized the rule of EPRDF all along the last 27 years through fair and free election, dissolution of EPRDF in favor of the more unitarist Prosperity Party (PP) was perceived as a step towards building the centrist-old-Ethiopia. That negatively defied the success of the transitional process.

3.3.   Compromise and Accommodation

Compromise and accommodation are another momentous trait of successful transitional leaders. Evaluating the behaviors and policies adopted by the Ethiopian transitional leaders, however, reveals that such imperatives largely remained an issue of public consumption only. In fact, at the beginning of the transition, the government allowed several political parties that were engaged in armed and peaceful political struggle to come back to the country and engage in political process. However, that did not last long for many of the political parties that transitional leaders perceived to be a threat to them if the political space were sufficiently opened and fair and fee election are conducted. Some political parties, who largely propagate centrist political agenda and opposed to the multi federal arrangement were allowed to open offices and engage in political activities while those who largely apostle the multinational federalism and have strong mass base such as the OLF were practically forbade and began to be pushed out of the political arena. That was a precipitous double standard, which negatively affected the transitional period.

As indicated above the open betrayal of the Asmara agreement that allows the OLF to freely engage in peaceful political process and subsequent limitation of its movement was clear lack of compromise and accommodation. The sheer ploy to keep the integration of OLA into either regional or federal security forces as per the Asmara agreement and the resultant securitization of at least two third of one of the biggest regional state of the federal arrangement is clearly a violation of the principle of compromise and accommodation.

Likewise, the infringement into the personal and political space of one of the prominent activist Jawar Mohammed is another example of lack of appetite for accommodation.  Jawar’s political role in the time of protest is unquestionable. Yet his role in the pacification of the vigilant Qeerroo in his popular call ‘let give them time’ for the leaders, was instrumental in helping the transitional leaders to consolidate their seat in the early months of their power. He actually, I think from genuine concern, helped them to sustain the last wave of qeerroo onslaught on the new transitional period. The point is, he was not, at least in those early months of the transition, their enemy. Yet the transitional leaders, imbued with their lack of tolerance to any potential competent party and individuals, could not wait than launching an attack on him. On the night of 23 October 2019, the government armed personnel encircled Jawar Mohammad’s residence and tried to push his security details to leave the compound. Luckily enough, his security personnel remained vigilant not to leave their boss unattended. A telephone conversation record between the security force and his personnel showed an adamant guard to stick himself with Jawar. That raised a wave of Qeerroo, around midnight, who run into Jawar’s house to rescue him. The next morning political party leaders showed their support for Jawar at his residence. To the dismay of the impotent transitional leaders, Jawar emerged, once again, a public hero. Till today, it seems that Jawar is standing on the other side of the spectrum: he joined OFC, and remained a vocal critique of the transitional leaders. Here, it suffices to say that the transitional leaders’ inability to compromise and accommodate to lead the transition into fruition, has proved to be a failure.

3.4.   Reliance on Competent Associates

Transitional leaders, research shows, as the issue of transitional process are so complex, do not run alone. The ingenuity to fully use the competencies of others, the specialties of capable individuals and groups to deal with contentious issues is a strong plus for any transitional leaders. This requires listening to advisees, constructing consensus, forging coalitions, buidling political bridges, and communicating consistently with key constituencies and the general public. However, even if conclusive data are not unveiled today, it seems that the premier who leads the transition, barely focus on this issue. One of the indictors is that those individuals such as top senior political leaders from ODF, at the beginning declared that they dissolved their own party to fully engage to advise the premier. Reports shows that these guys were distancing themselves from the PP because no one is listening to them. Another indictor was that the new leadership had put the old guards, those who had key role in the EPRDF regime, in key advisory roles and high-ranking party and government leadership positions, which demonstrates that the leaders of the transitions opted to listening to their own voices rather than building bridges. Moreover, the apparent mushrooming of religious personnel around the leadership and the attempt to influence the public through religious symbols, points to the inability of the leaders to give sufficient emphasis to expertise knowledge and advises, but to some sort of idealist ethos.

Some people argue that the creation of PP, by merging different parties, is one indication of the leaders’ tendency to forge alliances and build consensus. Yet this is insubstantial perception of the real picture. The majority parties that came together to create PP were the old EPRDF members with little or no change in the old leadership and the tiny and weak parties of the peripheral regions, who were called ‘aggars’, or ‘supporters. The creation of PP was not a way to forge alliances and consensus among different parties with differing ideologies which was an important element of the transitional period, but the agglomeration of a uniquely the same but ostensibly fragment parties. Thus, one can again add that the imperatives of creating alliances, forging bridges with people of differing opinion, expertise on the one hand and parties of alternative ideologies on the other to smoothen the technical, ideological and public base of the transition is immensely defeated, adding to the quandary of transformation.

3.5.    Ability to persuade

The power of genuine persuasion but less deceptive one is invariably important. Persuasion does not involve verbosity of public speeches. It involves the art of persuading others to accept your decisions by understanding and responding to the core interests of diverse actors, including adversaries. The leaders of the transition tried, as soon as they came to power, to visit different regions of Ethiopia, by even using overt symbols such as dressing the costumes of different people they visited, and appealing to the local historical, cultural and personality cult of particular regions. That gained them lots of claps from the crowd in all the events. But, soon, that all dissipated. The people began to see that the action was only to ‘win the moment’. Some of the public speeches of these kinds were understood by different groups or nations as values that opposes their own. One example was the Premier’s utterance at Bahar Dar to please the Amhara public as saying ‘Oromo nationalism belittled the Oromo’. That was understood by the Oromos as an insult. Appreciation of of the old Menelik was perceived in a similar way among members of different nations and nationalities. The leaders’ manipulative tools that adhered to artistic show-up, which they staged as ‘love night’, ‘unity night’, ‘poetry night’ which actually seem to be superficial did not win the hearts and minds of the critical and politically active groups.

The leaders of the transition, at the rhetoric level, talked about the core interests of different groups but in practical terms little is realized so far. The public speech they conducted which resembles persuasion was self-defeating.  That is a setback to the transitions

3.6.   External Support

Successful transitional leaders, even if they need to give primary attention to domestic relationship, they are usually artful in mobilising external support, but sufficiently cautious not to fall into the traps of foreign actors.

In the few months of his reign, the Premier exceptionally managed external support from Arab World in a level unseen among different government regimes of Ethiopia in recent history.  Saud Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar have lent their hands specially in the time of hard currency shortage. Surprisingly, one of the Arab countries provided a bullet proof vehicle for the Premier and the palace escort. Americans, right before the weeks Abiy Ahmed took chairmanship of the EPRDF, showed their public support for the would-be transitional leader. They provided multitudes of dollars for support. The IMF which had been so reluctant to lend money for longtime, pulled-in huge resources in support (see section 3.4 below). With Eritrea, the Ethiopian Prime minster Abiy Ahmed, made an important leap to end the longstanding war, surrendered Badime, flew to Asmara, walked on Asmara avenue, with defiance of formality, diplomatic flout, and gesture of ‘love’.

What is the impact of the external support for internal power transition elsewhere in the third world countries in general and Ethiopia in particular? It is an elementary knowledge that external support is based on the core interest of the donors who largely, despite the rhetoric, less interested whether a third world countries are democratized or not. That is vividly seen in the recent Ethiopian history. In 1991 the American government, the then African Region Head, Herman Cohen, emphatically uttered that ‘no democracy, no support’ in reference to the new EPRDF government. That was it. It did not go further. The more brutal the EPRDF became, the more the American support grew. In the bosom of the Americans, the EPRDF regime had proved to be one of the world’s dictator.  Currently, in similar fashion, gross human rights abuse is being perpetrated by PP regime. Innocent people are being incarcerated without due process of law. Hundreds are being killed. Offices of political parties are closed.  Reversal of the transition is looming. Yet the Americans have not said a ward about the predicament befalling this nation. To cut the long history short, external support has never democratized a third world country. In fact, the western powers prefer dictators in the third world countries. It is a dictator which can serve their interest. A democratic regime would be accountable to its people which it aims to serve. A dictator would be accountable to the external western support.  The early indicators of Ethiopia’s transitional government shows this scenario.

4.      KEY ACTORS AND THEIR IMPACTS

4.1.   Military

The role of the military in the transition can impact on the success of the transition. In Tunisia, the military played a key role in distancing itself from any of the political parties and interfering into politics. The military officially declared its neutrality and ‘apolitical and legalist’ stand even if it provided an important role in facilitating logistical needs of the election (Droz Vincent, 2012, p. 123).

In Ethiopia, the neutrality of the military and law enforcement agencies like the police (which are instituted at different level of government such as the federal, regional, and in the forms of special police forces of regions) has never been materialized. Currently they are the ones who raid and demolish the offices of opposition parties. Despite the rhetoric, like any other form of Ethiopian civil service establishments, the military institutions are directly linked to the ruling party. The Minister of Defense this time is one of the members of upper echelon of the ruling party. Even if the constitution upholds apolitical institutional set up of the militarily, the characteristics and the disposition of the military leaders gives a little clue of this.  On one of the ‘Oromo intellectuals meeting’ organized by ODP in Adama in October 2019, the Ethiopian Defense Ministry Chief of Staff accompanied ODP leaders and addressed the meeting in similar disposition with the political leaders. He vehemently showed his support for the ruling party. He openly characterized one of the opposition party as an ‘enemy’. The military leadership as a whole, very often, used a marginalizing and derogatory term such as ‘shane’, ‘shifta’, ‘destabilizers’ to refer to an opposition party, the language consistently used in the propaganda campaign of the ruling party against one of the opposition parties.

Similarly, the national defense force did engage itself in the illegal war in the Western and Southern part of the country, in the name of wiping out the so-called ‘Shane’. The government set up unconstitutional military rule by replacing the civil administration by a what it refers to as a ‘command post’. The command post that was put in place in six zones of Western Oromiya and three zones of Southern Oromiya was unconstitutional since it did not follow constitutionally sanctioned due process of law. According to the Ethiopian Constitution (article 93) any form of state of emergency should be officially declared by council of ministers and approved by the parliament, where its terms, conditions and temporal span needs to be delineated clearly. Being clearly aware of this, the military remained not only complacent to the subterfuge but engaged in putting the illegal command post into action. It overtook the civilian establishment of these zones. Human rights abuses became rampant under the command post. This shows a clear politicization of the military, which, in one way or another, jeopardized the transitional process. It foiled any possible peaceful process of the transition. The military became the force in which the ruling party could reckon on against the opposition parties.

4.2.   Political Parties

Transition from authoritarian regime to democracy has three interrelated stages. First, elimination of authoritarian regime; second, holding free and fair election, third, provision of public service and public goods. In Ethiopia, political parties have played a great role in fomenting a protest before the coming to power of PM on April 8, 2018. They, clandestinely, organized armed insurgencies, urban and rural protests, provided ideological guidance to the social movement. However, they could not fully topple the existing regime such that instead of a transformation, a reform ensued.  Had the political parties had been stronger, the regime could have been toppled and ensuing phase could have entered into a transformation or a revolutionary change where a brand-new leadership could have taken the state power.

Be that as it may, the weaknesses of the opposition political parties were both external and internal to them. It was external that the political parties that have been registered legally during the EPRDF regime were systematically purged, stifled, weekend by the EPRDF. EPRDF, despite its rhetoric of multi-party democracy, in practice, its functioning was anti-democratic ethos. In the first place, EPRDF is ‘ambivalent in its attitude towards parties not associated with the regime and also to the idea of political opposition as such’ (Abink, 2000: 156). It labeled the opposition political parties with ‘significant followers as chauvinists, narrow nationalists, or servants of the neftagnas’ (Merea, 2007a 15). In fact, it grossly criminalized them as rent seekers, worthless, archaic thinkers, ‘anti-development’, ‘forces of distraction’ or ‘anti-democratic forces’ (Gudeta & Alemu. 2004: 4787).

On his inaugural address, PM Abiy vowed and promised to reverse this perception and approach towards the opposition parties.  He preferred to use the softer term ‘tefokakari’ rather than ‘teqewami’ to refer to the opposition parties.  Sooner or later, however, the government mainstream and social media outlets began to label some of the opposition parties that have stronger popular support as enemy. OLF was labeled as ‘shifta’ and ‘shane’[20]. Recently, the government media outlets began to label opposition parties as banda (traitors). Collaboration with the OLF was ruled out, and ‘wiping out OLF’ began to be the motto of the government security agencies.  When the Covid-19 pandemic erupted and the state of emergency become a reality on 1 April, 2020 the transition further entered into a gloomy phase.

On the other hand, the action of some political parties, those one my label as the ‘favored child of EPRDF/PP’ such as Amhara National Movement and the new coalition called EZEMA were given a safe-haven. They were allowed to freely engage in political mobilization. Their members can move freely, their offices function without any impediments. In the recent publication of Amnesty International report, no single supporter and member of these ‘favored child’ were mentioned to have faced any challenges.

In sum, the political culture, attitude and treatment of the opposition parties that prevailed during the EPRDF has not significantly changed during the Prosperity Party.  Despite the official promises, in the hands of the PP, the opposition parties were divided into two. Those that one could refer to as ‘favored child’ and those perceived to be ‘disrupters’. The first ones were given sufficient political space while the later were not. This creates environment of suspicion, unhealthy competition and lack of cooperation among the parties, such that the role of opposition parties as partners of the transition period is significantly weakened.

4.3.   Non-State Actors

The role of non-state actors in the success of the transitional processes is so crucial.  Even if there are variation, Labor Unions are a pivotal agent in many countries. The Tunisian UGTT (Tunisian General Labor Union) for example, played an important role in the transition ‘mediating political divisions between Tunisia’s political parties’ (Dina, 2014: 8). In Egypt, even if the transition could not lead to democratization, the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) and the Egyptian Democratic Labor Congress (EDLC) which were established in 2011, tried hard to push the transitional forward.

In Ethiopia, such scenario is hampered due to the harsh political space under the EPRDF regime. In the second half of the 1990s, the EPRDF intimated, imprisoned and evicted the leaders of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association such as Dawi Ibrahim, who finally left the country and forced to leave a life of a refugee abroad. Afterwards, a proxy teachers association was institutionalized by the EPRDF through coopeting the leaders into its party rank and files. The simple criteria for leading a labor union became a loyal party membership. Likewise, this practice is extended into Ethiopian labor association and other mass organization. Through its ‘league’ such as the women’s and youth league, cooption and dominance become the rule of the day. The ruling political party dominated all organizational life of citizens. This clearly continued in the transitional period. Any attempt of mediation, between political parties or armed groups is severely obstructed. The recent attempt by an organization called Furtu led by a lawyer named Lami, who came out public to mediate between the Oromo Liberation Army and the government was brutally silenced when the government cadres launched a negatively charged propaganda campaign on the media against the attempt. Later, Lammi was detained, for allegedly engaging in ‘illegal land acquisition’, which many commenters critiqued that, such a move by the government was just a simple scam to silence the ‘peace maker’.

The Ethiopian civil society engagement has long been devastated through the promulgation of the Ethiopian Charity and Civil Society Law (2009). As a prelude to that, in 2005, the EPRDF has detained several leaders of civil society organization including Daniel Haile of Action Aid who afterwards, left the country. The issuance of the law (Civil Society and Charity Law) further cornered the action of civil society organization. It curtailed the engagement of civil society and charity organization in areas of governance, gender, human rights, etc., which surely intimidated and weakened the capacity of the organizations’ engagement in civil and political rights. Even if the law was eased in the transition period, in 2018, the hangover, is still recurrent. The growing dictatorial persona and disposition of the Prosperity Party, in the current political transition, has endured a deleterious reminiscence of the EPRDF time such that civil society and charity organization have become reluctant to engage in the transition. They remained silent and inactive, which negatively affects the transitional process.

4.4.    International Actors

As soon as Prime Minister Abiy came to power, international economic and political support began to pour in. Few of the assistances and the latest ones are as follows. In February 2020, the USA generously provided $37 million to support the country’s election board[21]. In December, Ethiopia singed $ 2.9bn IMF programme which was one of the biggest in IMF’s funding history in Africa as part of its approval of Ethiopia’s so-called Homegrown Economic Reform plan[22]. In December 2019 the European Commission declared that it provided Ethiopia with a financial support of €170. From this amount 10 million was caped to go to strengthening the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia. The World Bank, an important partner of Ethiopia, earmarked $ 500 million funds in support of Ethiopia’s Homegrown Reform Agenda. It was reported that the newly $250 million was packaged as grant while the other $250 million goes to the country as credit[23]

International economic assistance can be crucial when it is provided in response to local needs and in cooperation with local actors (Lowenthal & Bitar, 2015, p. 38).  Experience has shown that international organizations, governments, foundations and non-governmental organizations play important role in supporting a transition to hit its goals. Such support achieves a positive goal when social and economic needs of the transition is properly targeted in response to local needs in cooperation with all actors of the transitions.   According to IDEA:

Democracy can only take root in a society once it becomes the most accepted way to contend for political power. International actors can achieve a lot to encourage progress towards democracy, but they cannot replace domestic actors, and should provide support at their request. International actors should ‘avoid impatient, ineffective and counterproductive interventions and instead contribute more consistently over the longer term.’ Instead they should ‘listen, raise questions that arise from comparative experience, and encourage local actors to consider issues from various perspectives, instead of promoting pre-packaged answers’ (Lowenthal & Bitar, 2015, pp. 38-39).

It is true that the economic leverage that was availed have helped the government to contain the sever financial crises manifested in the shortage of foreign exchange right at the beginning of the transition.  But there is no indication that the international actors have produced sufficient political leverage. During his February 2020 visit to Ethiopia, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo exclaimed that ‘“A free and credible vote will show that there is no false choice between democracy and security and it will ensure that everyone has a choice”[24]. This was reminiscent of Herman Cohen’s cliché, the then African Region Department Head of USA State Secretary, in 1991, when they helped EPRDF to mount to the Ethiopian political apex, that reads “No democracy, no support’. Despite Cohen’s exclamation, the USA has stood beside one of the world’s rogue state until 2018.  Ethiopian history and experience show that international support has entrenched dictators rather than helping transition to democracy. In the current condition of Ethiopian transition, the international community is standing beside Abiy’s government despite its ride towards dictatorial entrenchment. In the last two years, we have not seen any form of political pressure from the international community to bring the transition back to the track.  Rather, the financial, political, and moral support extended to Abiy government by the international actors gave it a sense of liberty to marginalize the opposition parties.

5.      CONCLUSION

The current debate on the so-called constitutional crisis is a fabricated ruse to manipulate the public will for individuals’ and ruling party’s power longevity. It is not a crisis that inherently emanated from the constitution’s inability to solve the challenge. At the same time the challenge could not be fully understood by dowelling on the ‘constitutional crisis’ as such. It should rather be seen as a processual development of events that should be evaluated by critically looking at the ruling party’s behaviour diachronically. The ruling party leadership have not shown sufficient will or capacity to carry the transition to its desired goal. Assessing their action in line with the indicators of successful political transition as provided by the framework developed by Lowenthal & Bitar (2015) reveals that the Ethiopian transition is utterly in regression, i.e. it has already been in quagmire.  The framework reveals that the leaders of the transitional process have not have had the will; did not envision clear goals and strategy; they have no personal or party culture and disposition to lead the transition into success; and key actors such as the military and security are politically coopeted by the party such that the neutrality required from the military and security agencies for successful political transition is diluted; political parties are weakened by long process of stifling and marginalization; civil society were crippled and traumatized, and lost trust in the transition; and international actors  are only blinded with their narrow interest and partisanship, as they did with the EPRDF.

As a way of recommendation, thus, one may forward that, since the current leadership is not willing and incapable to leading the transition to a democratic order,  new political arrangement where all political parties have proportional share should be constituted; transitional justice inaugurated;  external support transparently channeled and meant to address the burning needs of the transition; violence abated; and all political parties given equal opportunity and allowed to engage in free political atmosphere.

Bibliography

Abbink, J. 2000. The Organization and Observation of Elections in Federal Ethiopia: Retrospect and Prospect. In J. Abbink (Ed.), Election Observation and Democratization in Africa (pp. 150-179). London: MacMillan Press Ltd

Adityavarman, R. (2018). The Cornell Policy Review. Retrieved 1 January, 2019, from http://www.cornellpolicyreview.com/transitional-justice-drc-sierra-leone/

Adityavarman, R. (2018). The Cornell Policy Review. Retrieved 1 January, 2019, from
Dina, B. (2014). Labour movements in Tunisia and Egypt: Drivers vs. objects of change in transition from authoritarian rule. Berlin: Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP). https://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/comments/2014C01_bishara.pdf

Droz-Vincent, P. (2012). The role of the military in Arab transitions. Barcelona: European Institute of the Mediterranean. http://www.iemed.org/observatori-en/arees-danalisi/arxius-adjunts/anuari/med.2012/droz-vincent_en.pdf

Gudeta Kebede Asfaw and Alemu Kassa Reta.2014. ‘Ethiopian Opposition Political Parties In The Post-1991 Political Structure’, International Journal of Current Research, Vol. 6, Issue, 01, pp.4784-4799, January, 2014, http://www.journalcra.com

Levitsky, S. & Way, L.A. (2010). Competitive authoritarianism: Hybrid regimes after the Cold War. Cambridge University Press.

Lowenthal, A.F & Bitar, S. (2015). From authoritarian rule to democratic governance: Learning from political leaders. Stockholm: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).

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[1] https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/ethiopia-oromia-somali-conflict-induced-displacement-situation-report-no-4-20-june
[2] https://wlka.wordpress.com/2019/01/11/350-kemant-families-burned-to-death-metema-yohannes-ethiopia-by-regional-militia-and-paratroops/comment-page-1/
[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-07/ethiopia-region-demands-probe-into-killings-near-sudan-border
[4] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-politics-idUSKBN1KS1KR
[5] https://addisstandard.com/news-breakthrough-as-government-olf-sg-agree-on-immediate-ceasefire-encampment-of-rebel-army-in-20-days/
[6] https://www.nation.co.ke/news/africa/Covid-19-Ethiopia-declares-state-emergency/1066-5518038-13m797u/index.html
[7] https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/AFR2523582020ENGLISH.PDF
[8] https://www.humanrightsleague.org/?p=16544
[9] https://cpj.org/2020/05/ethiopian-police-ignore-court-orders-to-free-journ/
[10] https://kichuu.com/news-electoral-board-unveils-sidama-referendum-signs/
[11] https://addisstandard.com/news-unlawful-arrests-reminiscent-of-ethiopias-unchanged-politics-olf-chairman/
[12] https://addisstandard.com/news-unlawful-arrests-reminiscent-of-ethiopias-unchanged-politics-olf-chairman/
[13] OLF party members who were arrested and released include Mikael Gobena, Dr. Shugit Geleta, Kenessa Ayana, Muhe Raya, Tesfaye Meko, Selemon Teshome, Gamtessa Boru and Abdulkarim Abdurehaman
[14] https://www.ictj.org/about/transitional-justice
[15] https://www.ukessays.com/essays/politics/relationship-between-transitional-justice-and-political-transition.php
[16] Many countries, such as South Africa and Rwanda have instituted neutral justice and reconciliation committees. 
[17] https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/09/ethiopia-communications-shutdown-takes-heavy-toll
[18] https://apnews.com/1a159efee95f5eaaf9cbcfb6e177c07e
[19] https://apnews.com/1a159efee95f5eaaf9cbcfb6e177c07e
[20] The term ‘Shane’ was actually a venerated term in the Oromo culture. It refers to an Oromo administrative unit in the gada polity, which was variably used as shanacha. That was taken by the OLF to refer to its executive organ. Out of ignorance, the EPRDF/PP use it in a negative connotation, which is actually not.
[21] https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/pompeo-ethiopias-pm-discuss-countrys-dramatic-reforms-69043877
[22] https://www.ft.com/content/b0c2963c-5e1a-11ea-8033-fa40a0d65a98
[23] https://ethiopianmonitor.com/2020/03/21/world-bank-approves-500mln-to-support-ethiopias-economic-reform/
[24] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-pompeo-ethiopia-idUSKBN20C14V

 

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