As we remember that a year ago, Ethiopia was one of the miserable countries in the world. Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) led by minority group Tigray People’s Liberation front (TPLF) was controlling every aspect in the country: the economy, social and political. The last 27 years can be noted as the darkest time in the history of Ethiopia. The world has witnessed the unimaginable dictator and the cruelty of mankind in torturing what they think is the opponent and mismanagement of resources by using the government platform. The atrocity the Ethiopian people suffered was difficult to describe.
The country under dictator TPLF government was dominated by corruption. Everybody in the government structure tried to take ones part of the share. Land was the main resource in Ethiopia where the scramble for the most arable and fertile land in Oromia and Gambela was the main focus. Especially, the fertile and strategic land both economically and for urbanization, the Tulama land around Finfinne (Addis Ababa) was the main focus. The turning point reached when TPLF decided to eradicate Tulama farmers around Finfinne by the so called ‘Addis Ababa Integrated Masterplan’. The plan was to annex 1.1 million hectares of farmers’ land to Finfinne city. That is the time the Oromo youth (Qeerroo and Qarree) demonstrated and stood against the odds, being killed in day light, tortured and dehumanized. They continued their campaign with assistance from diaspora and through time got support from other regions like Amhara-Fano, Gurage-Zerma, Konsos, Somalis, Sidama-Ejjetto etc. The revolution reached the whole country even if the eruption center was Oromia.
The unexpected happened in January 2018 when EPRDF realized that they have to accept the reality on the ground. By then, around 5000 Oromo youth were killed in three years (2015 -2017) revolution time. TPLF learnt the hard way that they cannot win the war. Then OPDO led by team Lemma started to gather support and created alliance with ANDM. OPDO also got support from the Southern People, Nations and Nationalities. EPDRF elected Dr Abiy Ahmed as a new leader and assign him as a prime minister. This was to calm down the revolting Oromo youth. Dr. Abiy is good speaker and a man with a mission. He started his medemer legacy (meaning unity). Though his references to Minilik disappointed Oromos, he is accepted by the mass. He released political prisoners and surprised the world by dismantling the dictator’s principles.
He held meetings in different regions of the country and met diaspora, which was known as opponent of the government. He was warmly welcomed by all, both domestic and in abroad. His releasing of thousands from the prison and his invitation of the opposition politicians from abroad to come back home gave him a big applaud from the western world.
But although he was respected by all, Oromos still speak of their grievance about his holding to Minilk history and downplaying Oromo culture (Gadaa), and his political move. He echoed mostly the “Ethiopian unity paradigm” and many say that is not fair when he got power as the expense of Oromo youth.
The current challenge in Ethiopia:
- Unjust resource sharing
Farmers have lost their land. Especially Tulama farmers around Finfinne have lost their land by the name of development. The corrupted officials dismantled the villages and sold the land farmers were sustaining on. Though paid little compensation, the farmers were exposed to poverty and became homeless. Oromos protested the land grab. So, Abiy’s government should give priority and reestablish the farmers to their land and solve the Finfinne City boundary issue. Very few people have controlled the resource of the country in unfair and unjust manner. This should be dealt with and resource sharing should be in just and fair distribution. The corrupted officials should be brought to justice and the public property they looted should be brought back to public ownership.
- Inequality in religion, social and political aspect
There was inequality of social, religion and political aspect. While 40% of the population in the country are Oromos, Afan Oromo (Oromo language) is not the language of the federal government. This is the question of the Oromos for many years. The Oromo indigenous religion, Waqeffanna, was neglected and forbidden for many years. Though currently allowed to operate officially, its has no necessary facilities. Forbidding it for many years has created the gap difficult to fill. Politics was dominated by a certain group for many years in the country. Ethiopia lacks culture for democracy; therefore, many people have problem to understand their right and obligation as a citizen.
- The current fight on resource
Today, the fight in Ethiopia is vivid: it is to get the lions share on resource. The resource is based central, around and in Finfinne. Land is the basic resource. Scramble for Tulama land is the current ball in the field. Churches and mosques are occupying land plots. Groups occupying land taken from farmers and trying to legalize it by different mechanisms. Government officials, activist etc. use all the chances to occupy the land. Unless this is stopped soon, it leads to difficult situation in the country. Looters should be exposed and brought to justice. Unless the government brings looters and corrupted officials to justice, the new officials follow the same route and there will not be change.
Today, groups come together and organize themselves by the name of a group of people, ethnic, region, religion etc. to grab their share of resource. We have witnessed within the last one year that the political groups are not worried for the people they say they struggle for. Not at all. They occupied hotels and fight for resource scramble. They do not represent the suffering farmers and laborers. They do not speak for the people. They fight for their share of the small resource. They ignite conflict among the ethnic groups, create misunderstandings and try to show that they are important and needed. This shows that the ethnic based politics has lost its credibility. It has lost its importance by exposing itself that the nationalists are selfish. They are self-oriented and self-appointed.
- The future of Ethiopia
Dr. Abiy has started his next move. He brought team Lemma from regional administrations to federal government. He assigned Lemma Megersa (Former president of Oromia regional state) as minister for defence and Gedu Andargachew (Former president of Amhara regional state) as minister for foreign affairs. He has repeatedly said that he will abolish ethnic based political parties and establish nationwide (multi-ethnic) political parties to include the peripheries like Afar, Somali, Benishangul and Gambella regions in the politics of the country. He mentioned this in public meetings few months ago. I believe this could be the way forward only after some preconditions are fulfilled.
Before abolishing ethnic based political parties, Dr Abiy should do the following:
- Change the unjust resource sharing in the country. Bring the corrupt officials to justice and clear the political level field.
- Change the inequality in social, politics and religion. Let the nation feel that everyone is equal, can freely speak ones language, practice ones tradition and culture and use the resource fairly.
- Compensate and resettle the farmers back to the land taken from them and stop the land grab once for all.
- Make the major languages the federal working languages.
- Establish institutions and form governing laws.
- Develop a policy for the use of resource, especially the land policy.
- Eliminate ethnic based political parties and allow only multi-ethnic political parties. Develop a policy that forbids ethnic based political parties.
- After all these are in place, hold elections and democracy can be practiced. The process may take some time.