Ethiopia: The Government should negotiate with the Protest Movements

(Tefaye Debella)

It is crucial for Ethiopians of every stripe to express our thoughts on the current and future Ethiopia. It is with urge that I wanted to add my voice. My brief reflections to a large extent will be focusing on what should and shouldn’t be done by the major and minor, albeit potent, actors inside and outside Ethiopia.

The risk I see is as much from the ruling party in the form of a government as it is from the informal actors. The danger with those who claim to be in a struggle to get rid of the government is they have no qualms in doing all they can silence any voice but theirs.

These elements don’t want people to consider the risk associated with the current leaderless movement in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia. They are quick to label those who compare and contrast the protests in Amhara Region and Oromia Region and present the later as peaceful and legitimate as divisive.

Notwithstanding such an accusation, I am going to do the same.

Photo - Oromo protests 2015
Photo – Oromo protests 2015

The government of Ethiopia has done the Ethiopian people in general and the Oromo people in particular a big disservice by not addressing their peaceful request in a timely manner. We all owe the prevailing patience and tolerance in Oromia Region to the Oromo people who have consistently been peaceful despite the fact that they have seen on average a killing or two every day for the past ten months. They remained largely calm and peaceful defying local and diaspora calls that demanded the protestors to be more aggressive and confronting.

It is still high-time to address the demands of the people of Oromo and put in place a process where their day to day aspirations are fulfilled both in the short and long run.

That said, the EPRDF-led government should find a way of dealing with the current crisis in both regions. A way that is different in content and structure from the usual way of back-to-back meetings within the different organs of the party followed by a series of meetings with the people the party usually discusses with. This time it should engage those opposition parties that can represent different parts of the society as well as representatives of the different movements in these reasons.

The later will understandably be a tricky one as it is not easy to put faces to a clear local organizer of these protests. However, if the government is willing, it can easily do it through mediators and those in the know about the organizers etc.  It should, first of all, guarantee the safety of those who would participate in such negotiations.

It should also approach these kinds of negotiations in good faith with no tendency of pressuring or positing to skin-deep discussions about symptoms. It should rather go to the real reasons and causes of such level of dissatisfaction.

A meaningful solution beseechs a meaningful commitment from the government. It should look beyond the interest of the ruling party and its politicians. Negotiating with those who are behind the protests shouldn’t been seen as a weakness. It should rather be considered as laying a strong foundation for building a sustainable solution that transcends the life time of the negotiators from both sides.

It is with this mindset that the government should approach the whole issue of settling the declared and undeclared demands of the protests. It is too late and too little to search for a remedy to the grand ills the country currently suffers from merely within the shelves of the ruling party and the government only.


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