Pluralism is not a Fault-line

(Dejene H.)

In this incidence, the author prefers the term plurality to diversity because the latter may conjure up poles apart difference which does not define the Ethiopian reality. Harmony and tolerance more explains the Ethiopian social fabrics and values. The concerns, interests, needs, demands and problems of all Ethiopians are same or similar though in different languages. They have similar cultural values, tradition, psychology and history while plenty in linguistics. In addressing the concerns, interests, needs, demands and problems of all Ethiopians, the Grand National strategy should be identical and stable while tactics may be flexible towards the success of the defined grand strategy.

The grand strategy solution for plural interests is pluralist approach. Single approach cannot serve all for no one cape fits all. Social pluralism can positively contribute to build effective and sustainable democratic governance with pervasive strength in a civilized society. Nation building in its original version instead describes the sense of trampling over the social, political and cultural plurality that may have been previously existent within the national territory in favor of the devastatingly leveling homogeneous force of national unity which could not be a way out for everything. Chauvinist nationalism does not work in today’s Ethiopia. Nation building concept should be defined properly in the prevailing national context. Its traditional definition cannot apply uniformly across the board. One definition does not fit all because definitions and their interpretation vary indifferent contexts. National unity cannot be built based on false consciousness of populist sentiments exploiting emotional resonance.

Pluralism is a broad concept thus specified here to a system in which two or more states, groups, sources of authority, etc., coexist. Pluralism is the theory that a multitude of organizations, not the people as a whole, govern the country. These organizations, which include among others political parties, trade unions and professional associations, environmentalists, civil rights activists, business and financial lobbies, and formal and informal coalitions of like-minded citizens, influence the making and administration of laws and policy. Pluralist system is defined as a society where multiple peoples, groups or entities share political power. An example of pluralism is a society where people with different cultural backgrounds keep their own tradition, where professional societies, labor unions and employers share in meeting their respective needs. Since the participants in this process constitute only a tiny fraction of the populace, the public acts mainly as bystanders.

Pluralism is the view that in formal democracies, power should be dispersed among a variety of economic and ideological pressure groups and should not be held by a single elite or group of elites. Pluralism assumes that plurality is beneficial to society and that autonomy should be enjoyed by disparate functional or cultural groups within a society, including religious groups, trade unions, professional organizations, and ethnic minorities. It is the recognition and affirmation of plurality within a given political space, which permits the peaceful coexistence of different interests, convictions and lifestyles. While not all political pluralists advocate for a pluralist democracy, it is most common as democracy is often viewed as the most fair and effective way to moderate between the discrete values. Pluralism tries to encourage members of society to accommodate their differences by avoiding extremism and engaging in good faith dialogue.

Pluralists also seek the construction or reform of social institutions in order to reflect and balance competing claim concerns and interests. Pluralism is connected with the hope that the process of discourse will result in a consensus for common good. This common good is not an abstract value or set in stone, but an attempt at balancing competing social interests, and will thus constantly shift given present social conditions. The global governance system is based on free market economy and multiparty political system on the conjecture that competition among massive alternatives is a natural necessity for creativity and innovation in all aspects and a vehicle to sustainable development. The global governance system professes plural power structure. Power is loaded with implications that must be fully grasped if one is to understand it correctly.

In the first place, power is not an identifiable property that humans possess in fixed amounts. People are powerful because they control various resources. Resources are assets that can be used to benefit for the people and force others to do what is required. Politicians become powerful because they command resources that people want or fear or respect. The list of possible power sources is virtually endless: legal authority, wealth, prestige, skill, knowledge, charisma, legitimacy, free time, experience, celebrity, and public support.

In a pragmatic interpretation of power, the reason why there is such fierce competition to get into government and stay in power is that once you are in the palace, you have a license to virtually print money and it is conventional wisdom that money makes the world go round. Motivation and commitment to serve people and country does not require such a fierce competition more than announcing election intent and proposal to the electorate. The tenacity for national unity is not a naïve pursuit for a mere great empire. It is on account of the whole is more robust than the sum of its parts metaphor. The quest for unity is a pursuit for more and better common bread based on mutual respect, liberty, magnanimity and decent citizen practices answerable to law and order. National unity is most welcomed and thought of with regards to core democratic values which are fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles of the peoples, nations and nationalities of Ethiopia. Building a single polity and economic community means nothing but building Ethiopia as a unit.

For a country of social plurality and ethnically spread society, pluralism in the political arena and decentralized federal administrative structure is imperative and a natural necessity. Ethnic plurality per se cannot be a fault line and source of any problem. In fact, it can be a source of proud identity and robust national power in all aspects when united, as the saying goes ‘united we stand; divided we failed’. Federalism is good for many countries and not for others. Similarly, unitary system is good for many countries and still not for some others. Ethiopia has come across both unitary system and federalism with the latter being relevant and important or useful. Ethiopians are cognizant of the demons of federalism and unitary system.

Today above 25 countries accounting more than 40% of the world population follow federal form of government system. Federalism is successful in Ethiopia. Every nation, nationality and people in Ethiopia promotes its own identity, culture and language respecting each other with larynx of plurality. At the same time the spirit of the people about national unity as a single country Ethiopia is very strong. Ethiopians are living in unity through plurality because the federal arrangement is a voluntary union of equal peoples, attesting unity does not necessarily mean uniformity. In fact, the challenges in the way are government failure, regulatory capture and the impact of rent-seeking behavior as well as organized crimes within the democratization process loom inimical stumbling block obstacles and distraught to the genuine part of the state effort which are inevitable particularly in early stages. With all these, we are experiencing the federal system is going through its natural course and phases of development process. The plural socio-economic structure of Ethiopia deserves it equivalent plurality in the political arena.

Some people understand decentralization or federalism as borders created to fracture races and smash nationalism, creating multiple regional states to be hotbeds of ethnic rivalry ultimately preventing ethnic groups from uniting against corrupt and a dictator ruling of their own and other common problems. Because it is usually observed unitary-federalism or pseudo federalism with patrimonialism and the attendant wasteful duplication of bureaucracies is in place all over a country. This is what we have confronted to tackle patiently.

Democracy is a process not an event. Building a well functioning, established legitimate democratic system is a protracted usually non-linear process that experiences considerable fluctuations and setbacks. Building democracy is not easy as damaging it. The bloating democratic institutions may be hollow, weak and ineffective in the outset conveying that to oust a dictator is easier than to establish a functioning democracy- a process that is likely to be rocky and far from linear. Active and sustained citizen participation and engagement in public policy making and implementation process is one of the core elements of democracy. If we are to keep democracy on its feet and walking, not imposition or suppression, but dialogue, negotiation, understanding, tolerance, magnanimity and consensus building public discourse that should be the way of life.

Basic civil liberties guarantee the democratic process is inclusive, free of repression and enables citizens to participate in an informed and autonomous manner. Political and civil liberty embraces freedom of speech and assembly/association, free of suppression and the right to vote and to be eligible for public office. Freedom of speech and the press embodies the right to hold any view and to express it. In fact, economic freedom and political freedom as well as property rights and civil liberties are the many in one basket or two sides of the same coin.

The protection of freedom of information and human rights is identified as a means of bringing about improved governance. Plural media landscape plays essential role in building sturdy democratic system. Pluralistic media landscape in the electronic, digital (online, broadcast) and print media empire is decisively important for the promotion of freedom of expression and free flow of information and exercise the right of the public to be properly informed on matters of public interest. The media play a critical role in the maintenance of democracy by providing a bridge between all of the different elements in society. Social pluralism can positively contribute to effective and sustainable democratic governance in a civilized society.

Pluralistic media landscape in the press, electronic, digital and print media empire that ensures access to alternative sources of information that are not monopolized by either the government or any other single group is decisively important for the promotion of freedom of expression and free flow of information. The public seek independent commentary on information sources and controversial cases. There are provisions that guarantee the right of the public to be properly informed on matters of public interest and enable citizens to participate in an informed autonomous manner crowding out to partially motivated mouthpiece media service. The role of the journalism community is paramount importance in the media empire. For their nobility role journalists are designated as credible truth tellers and bestowed with great honor, however, those who abuse the profession are no more in the domain of honor.

Freedom from arbitrary arrest and seizure as defined by the concept of the rule of the law recognizes that a person is accounted innocent until proved guilty. It includes freedom of choice where to live, where to work or invest. There is an organic link between political freedom and freedom from hunger, ignorance, disease and much more as Amartya Sen defined freedom (freedom from the three evils of want, ignorance and squalor). This concept is emerging as human right and food sovereignty movement these days. Eventually, freedom is nothing else but the chance to be better, and used for better of the common good or for better of the greater public good. Promoting democracy is basically a political process and it cannot afford to ignore the central issue of state power. Yet discretionary power of the state should be restrained.

Citizens should be able to identify between genuine efforts and hoax commitment as well as empty promises for maneuvers. The rules governing social and economic interactions should be predictable and stable. The people and all actors must comply with the governing rules. Any personality and identity status should not be above the governing rules of the democratic game. Compliance requires strong institutions of democracy and the rules of democratic game ensure responsibility and accountability. Transparency in role assignment and accountability is fundamental to alleviate problems of elite capture and local capture. The absence of transparency guarantee, transparent and predictable institutional frameworks allows discretionary interpretations that could give rise to rent mismanagement, rent seeking and corrupt practices which undermine accountability, credibility and legitimacy of the governance system. More worse, public confidence in the integrity of the policy and regulatory frameworks is diminished and the operation of the market is distorted.

The rule of law covers the principles that laws should not require people to do the impossible, the requirement that similar cases be treated similarly, the principle that there is not an offence unless there is not a law dealing with the matter, the demand that laws be known and expressly promulgated and precepts involving the notion of natural justice. For example that judges be fair and impartial, and that people may not be judges in their own case. The other important thing in relation to the primacy of rule of law is that justice of victor does guarantee rule of law because the victors may distort justice either to revenge or pardon. In all cases, honesty is the best policy on earth, because the truth is always fair. Everybody should champion the truth. Cheats never prosper; In fact, old tricks do not work these days. There are hidden tricks that you cannot distinguish in this wicked world. If one believes in reason and the supremacy of law and applies it consistently, all the rest follows. A freer and more democratic world helps create a virtuous circle of improved security, stronger economic growth, and durable alliances—all of which better serve the long-term national interests.

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