Ethiopia: Expanding the Political Terrain, State of Emergency

by Zelalem

The to dos that flared up here and there recently has made Ethiopia put in place a State of Emergency (SoE) once again.

There are different views regarding the measures taken to expand the political landscape as well as the SoE approved by the parliament and which will run for six months.

A former member of House of Peoples Representative Girma Seife harbors fear when the SoE is exercised for six months in areas where to dos surfaced things may not be in consonance with the move to expand the frontier of the political terrain.

He says the step forward the government taken to discuss and reach on consensuses with opposition political parties towards the required political landscape as well as the willingness it showed to release prisoners are laudatory.

Hence, declaring SoE after blessing the expansion of the terrain may encumber the bold measure towards the flowering of democracy. It may be impracticable to reflect opposite political views within the framework of a SoE, he notes. “The SoE will run for half a year. During this period, fearfully, there could not be enough political activities. Thus, why the need to release prisoners?” he challenges.

“Of course, there are reasons why the SoE proves plausible,” reflects Girma and adds “In order to let the new ideas the next prime minister brings into play, regarding extending the political terrain, internal harmony and tranquility must be there. Intentions of demonstrations must take into consideration the tangible situation of the country. Quests for the same should also be tidy from marring peace. Though SoE has its own advantages, I am afraid it may cast a shadow on expanding the frontier of democracy. The two may not have a common boundary.”

According to president of the Ethiopian Social Democrat Party Professor Beyene Petros, what is beneficial to the country and citizens is not declaring SoE but implementing the political decisions the government pledged to take. SoE may not be a solution. As the government has not placed focus on issues begging for sustainable solutions, petty instances of elephantine hurdles are crystallizing. Causalities and destruction are conspicuous. This trend conjures up in mind difficult times.

“The measure EPRDF took to release prisoners is a decision that shows it is determined enough to ensure change,” said Dr. Beyene and added that this has flickered a ray of hope on the country’s democracy. In light of this fact, the SoE is quite an unexpected unfolding. According to him, the government has to press ahead with discussing and reaching on a consensus with influential political parties. As development is not a six month issue alone, SoE may hamstring the continuation of any development. To me this clashes with the SoE.”

Head of EPRDF’s Office Ato Shiferaw Shegute says as development is unthinkable without peace, the SoE rather harmonizes the peace and development move than put them at loggerheads indicating that the problem of the government and the sources of the problem.

The contradiction within the system is one between those who have rent seeking mind set and those with a positive outlook. Moreover, there are questions raised regarding across the board distribution of wealth and maladministration. Enough time is required to troubleshoot such problems because structural set ups and procedures have to be there. EPRDF has noticed that democracy has not yet sent roots deeper in most citizens’ psyche. To handle such problems a lot of things have to be done among the society. The SoE affords ample time to do these things. Such stalemate offers a chance to see things with a cool head as citizens engage in routines in a peaceful way.

In the absence of this, it is impossible to see to the sustenance of the changes for the better already afoot. In a situation where maintaining peace is a hard nut to crack, it is impossible to give answers to the quest for democracy and peace.

Thus, says Shiferaw the two cross fertilize than contradict each other.

Girma says though peace is decisive for development, as a warrant, solely leaning on SoE to ensure peace without giving due consideration to other options doesn’t work”

“When EPRDF made public its political decisions after its 17day long meeting there was no disturbance of peace. But it tardiness in releasing prisoners as per its words had provoked resentment and despondency. Hence, the reason to the to dos is attributable to the sluggishness of the government in giving response to problems.

FDRE Defense Force Minister and secretariat of the command post of SoE Seraje Fergesa says the two issues though presented simultaneously their aims are quite far apart. “The SoE is part of the effort to ensure peace!”

It is meant to foil the conspiracy to hijack the constitutional order through violence. Accordingly says Siraje in so far as those prisoners released from prison by political decision support the peace and stability in the country the two could not be contradictory. Yet, still anti peace elements will not evade detention. Because ensuring the supremacy of law is a number one task.

Regarding solutions Girma says “Even now it is not too late!” First the next prime minister must come up with a clear political reform plans. During public forums, he has to give a heeding ear to the broad-array of political outlooks raised by citizens and strengthen citizens’ provocativeness in discussing issues untrammeled by political membership.

Also giving all due liberty to media outlet, he has to promote the exchange of ideas. On the global arena he has to discuss with those who say Ethiopia’s case concern us.

Professor Beyene who is of the opinion “The development in the country belongs to all Ethiopians” says during the coming six months the government has to work hard to create consensus to make the tranquility of the nation sustainable. Conducting a free and fair election it has to further expand the political terrain.

Instead of focusing on and addressing basic political problems, the SoE that run for ten months last year was focused on returning quiet. That is why this trend is ascribed to the insufficient answers to unsolved problems now raised.

Girma who seconds this idea says during the former SoE the government could not chalk out political plans and do probing works. Works done after the SoE date expired was not one that made change possible.

According to Siraje as the former SoE was the first of its kind for the incumbent, it was not one that made changes possible. Gaps evident then were subject to different bridging tasks. Taking lessons from the past experience better human rights and political improvement works will be done.

As interviewees note, to give a solution to the current political situation in the country, the government has to use the SoE properly.

Unless the political reforms before the SoE are translated into action, the country’s peace could not show tangible changes.

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