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Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Hard Choices Confronting Ethiopia

Network of Ethiopian Scholars (NES)

Scandinavian Chapter
Press Release
July 30, 2005

How to deal with regime Defiance of Vote and Voice: The Hard Choices Confronting Ethiopia

Sudan Tribune -- Amartya Sen when making the case for democracy as a universal value suggests three characteristics of the democratic process. The first is, an intrinsic value, in the form of social and political participation in decision-making. He says that to be barred from such participation is a major deprivation. Second: he sees an instrumental value in democracy, as it offers people a hearing and helps direct political attention to their claims and needs. This is done through communicating people’s demands effectively to political leaders. Third: he posits that democracy has a constructive value, where its necessary dialogue allows citizens to learn from each other and thus helps society to develop. The constructive impact of democracy depends on the quality of dialogue that citizens engage in among themselves and with the agencies of the state, and together form society’s values.

Nobel Prize winning Economist, Amartya Sen, Paraphrasing his thoughts on people’s entitlement to democracy

“By stealing votes through sheer violence, the ruling party has declared war not only on the opposition but also on the Ethiopian people.”

Dr. Merara Gudina, President of UEDF

1. The Significance of Democracy

The struggle for democracy is on in earnest. Democracy as A. Sen puts it is central to enhancing a society’s learning and development. In Ethiopia the regime understands or misunderstands the country and democracy only with instrumental reason. Even its instrumentalist understanding is not consistent. For example, it brags that it stands for the right, claims or needs of self-determining communities without allowing the very same communities from realising these claims. It claims it has solved the problem of nationalities by imposing its rule; but during this election it kept beaming films of the Rwanda genocide trying to frighten communities that they face danger. It was particularly cynical in the way it used the Ethiopian people from Tigray. It tried to frighten them as if they were endangered when in fact it is only the ruling elite that was in danger. The regime has no understanding of democracy as intrinsic and constructive values and senses. It prefers to rely on violence and foreign aid and not on the intrinsic and constructive values of democracy to mobilise the nation’s mental, human, physical and natural power to be equal to the task of unleashing the intellectual and physical energy to eradicate poverty. When the democratic forces threaten to sweep it out of its power, it declares war by resorting as Dr. Merara Gudina frankly puts it without mincing his words to stealing and declaring war on the opposition and the people. We in the NES believe that the struggle for democracy must be pursued without compromise, as we believe that the regime’s strategy and plan for the country will not remove poverty and national humiliation. The nation cannot afford to be forced to live in a state of humiliation by a ruling elite that has de-sensitised itself that begging is a normal state of affairs. We say the people have come out, they have voted, they have expressed their voice and they deserve not to live with a regime that has violated their trust, lied, stolen and abused their votes, in addition to intimidating and killing members of the public and the opposition parties. No one has the right to say to the people stay abused, not least Meles and his die-hard cronies. Meles has no moral authority or right to say to the people and the opposition parties accept our theft, live with it or else you cannot enjoy the heat of the fire, we will burn you. The people and the opposition parties must call his bluff and demand that he accepts with humility to undertake along with the people and the opposition a national reconciliation perspective of governance during the next five years.

2. The Current Situation

We are at the stage where the NEB has announced an election result awarding nearly two-thirds of the seats to the ruling party. Prior to doing that it pre-empted the demand for a nation-wide re-run by limiting the seats to be re-run to 15 or 20 that included the seats of the information minister and the chief of defence, and a few other top officials to be finalised by August 21,2005. All along the opposition parties found the investigation process blatantly unacceptable and deceptive, having pronounced the entire “ investigation process a complete failure.” (EUDF-CUD 19 July 2005 Joint Statement). In their July 27,2005 joint statement, they have called for a re-run of the election in all the seats where complaints have been lodged.

Though the NEB has not declared finally the full results of this election, regime and NEB have worked hand in gloves to make sure that the announcement of the final result has no bearing on their episodic announcements that the ruling party should carry on as if it has a ready and sown up election result in its favour ever since the election has been reported by the opposition to have been misdirected by the forcible intervention of the military and the militia. It is indeed strange how NEB’s supposed investigation was converted into yet another support to the ruling party by the NEB having undermined or even trashed the numerous reported cases showing this or that election irregularity made by the opposition parties. Some of the opposition parties have reported witnesses killed, and NEB officials switching roles as advocates and witnesses for the ruling party in these investigations. According to the opposition parties, the protestations they made on numerous occasions by them have fallen on NEB’s deaf ears. It looks more and more that the opposition has been manoeuvred to a corner where the ruling party wants and forces the opposition parties to withdraw from the process of the subsequent post-election result. It is to their credit that the opposition parties have firmly withstood all the intimidations and harassment and stayed the course as part of their commitment to use all peaceful means to achieve a democratic and liberated Ethiopia from the yoke of their current oppressors. We think they should turn every possible gain as a launch pad for intensifying the struggle for democracy, and every unfavourable and forced situation into a site for contestation to imbed intrinsic, instrumental and constructive citizen democratic engagement to mobilize the nation to solve all the key problems it has confronted. It is not aid, it is not debt, and it is not grants that come in and go out that will solve the country’s problems. It is democracy that mobilizes the nation’s vital energy to define a better future from the least able and least advantaged. The ruling elite begs from the outside and sees democratic presentation as a tactic to entice donor funding, much as a prostitute entices its victim by appearing enticing. The struggle for democracy is not to be taken lightly. It is fundamental to the way a society wishes to approach all its key problems. We cannot pull ourselves from poverty without a total and capability enhancing democratic mobilisation of all the citizens of the country. We must leave no doors closed and avenues unravelled to realize fully a democratic transition in our country. The nation is close to it thanks to the free votes of the people, but also far from it due largely to ruling elite myopia and lack of historical and moral imagination.

We, in the NES, put the main responsibility on the regime for its widespread violence, intimidation, state of emergency, media control to misrepresent and abuse the opposition and their elected leaders, and its loyal and partisan NEB. It is abundantly clear that the regime has used force, intimidation, monopoly of information and above all the NEB too to direct the election process to go against the voice and choices of the people. These grave actions are not isolated incidents. They reflect the core behaviour of the ruling party that has been born in violence, grown in violence, and used any treacherous means to come and stay in power. The ruling party only understands the language that it alone is entitled to propose and dispose and anyone else must accept and submit to its diktat. Those that refuse to submit to its dictations and power are defined paradoxically as pursuing goals that contravene the rule of law, the constitution, the stability and the democracy it brags about so much of having bestowed as a gift to the people.

All major responsibility for what has gone wrong in this election lands principally and firmly on the footstep of the regime. The combination of violence, intimidation and sporadic killing, heavy and ominous military presence in the main cities even after the emergency law has lapsed with uncontrollable and a daily barrage of media attacks against the opposition without a right of reply, and the unscrupulous and shameless rigging by the NEB has worked to change the election tide in favour of the regime. We have known all along, whether the final result is declared, known or not, under NEB’s management the outcome in favour of the ruling regime is beyond doubt. This outcome was to be expected when the regime violated the rule of law, declared a state of emergency and killed students. But there is a big price that the regime will pay in front of the judgment of history and the people of Ethiopia and the rest of the world who genuinely stand for human rights, democracy, honesty and integrity inside and outside Ethiopia. The alternative choice of realising a democratic transition has been severely aborted, and there is no doubt that the people have been robbed on broad day light despite protests inside and outside the country. NES believes it is critical that the struggle to genuinely ‘de-dectatorize’ the country’s present and future must accelerate, and all the democratic forces must unite and coordinate their varied struggles to make sure the democratic birth comes sooner rather than late.

3. The Choices and Implications

The nearly two-thirds seats to the ruling party is likely to embolden the Meles regime to maintain its double face of repression and authoritarian rule at home and using a public relations stunt to keep the wider world believing that the country is undergoing a democratic experiment.

Given the outcome of the election that has been rigged to favour the ruling party, the opposition and the people have to prepare to struggle without flinching and steadfastly by peacefully building on the gains they have achieved and trying to deepen and broaden the achievements scored already in order to re-gain the democratic initiative, and unlike the ruling party, go for embedding and making a national reconciliation inclusion of all the significant actors in order to prepare the ground to solve the country’s major problems. The ruling party has shown by its actions, intentions and policies that it will not voluntarily accept to enter into a national reconciliation social contract. The people, the opposition, civil society and those from the international community from the wider world outside who genuinely are keen to see Ethiopia achieve a free and fair democratic transition must intensify their struggles to create national reconciliation. Given the people and the opposition are engaged in peaceful struggle, NES strongly suggests that they should not be pushed by the riggings, tricks and attacks of the rulers to be tempted to not build on the gains they have scored. They should preserve the gains and turn every gain as an arena of struggle. All peaceful forms of struggles inside and outside should be employed to bring pressure on the ruling party that it cannot get away with rigging the election result, and bring it to accept the strategic demand that the nation pass through a period of national reconciliation. We expect the people, the opposition parties, civil society and genuine friends of the people of Ethiopia from the international community who would like to see democracy implanted in the country to struggle with justice, and without fear and favour and speak peacefully and clearly truth to power.

The two choices bear thus starkly different consequences. The ruling party would use the outcome from its violence, riggings and the deliberate mismanagement from the national election board to extend its authoritarian dictatorship with democratic fa├žade. The people and the opposition will build on the gains they have scored to turn every gain as an arena of struggle to realise the elusive dream of scoring a historic achievement for the first time ever in the nation’s long life: democratic transition that prepares a national reconciliation condition to prepare the nation’s total energy to eradicate the chief source of its humiliation: conflict and poverty. The political situation is evolving fast into a new level of contestation. Until the regime accepts the principle of peaceful democratic transition and national reconciliation, the people and the opposition parties must use every legal and peaceful arena to intensify the struggle. There is no alternative to such a struggle unless the regime accepts it is right, necessary and desirable that Ethiopia achieve democratic transition by stopping from indulging in threats, deception and mounting attacks and smears against the opposition parties.

4. Resolutely Oppose Regime Actions to Undermine Opposition Gains

The regime has used NEB to employ the strategy of continued stalemate and the endless procrastinations, delays, and probing and suggestive announcement of episodic partial results always crafting carefully to make the ruling party ahead of the counts, and finally inching to an election result of a nearly two-third majority to the ruling group to obviate the need for a final declaration of results. There is no need for surprise or ceremony as the ruling party has orchestrated the crafting of its slow majority by nudging the NEB to do its bidding. Finally the regime and NEB working with lip and teeth oneness have managed to pull the rug under the feet of the opposition parties. Under the cover of a stalemate and the NEB-led investigations, the regime has been busy using the time to undermine the opposition parties. The opposition parties in their July 27 statement have admitted that it is not the free vote of the people that won the day, it is the force of the regime that won out in the end. It is violence, intimidation; even killing that changed the tide against them. Even in the areas of the opposition parties’ unchallenged victory, the regime is busy to disable them from effectively undertaking the administration of the areas like Addis Ababa.

The election situation did not deter the ruling group from carrying out measures that have bearing on how the next five years would be run. For the regime it has been business as usual and continues to be so. Its parliament went into recess after having continued to strip off Addis Ababa by reducing its budget, by moving authority on transport upwards to the federal system, providing permission for the headquarters of a regional administration to be transferred to the nation’s capital, reducing drastically taxes and generally trying to create a minimal and skeletal structure that will make it difficult for the winning opposition parties to run the affairs of the country’s premier capital city. The regime has withdrawn its federal subsidy to Addis Ababa literally forcing the new administration to find financial resources to run the city elsewhere. If the city administration has no finance, how can it pay for municipal workers? If it is forced to make workers redundant, the city administration will be forced into conflict from day one of its putative take over. It is not fair that the regime imposes such a situation on the new administration. It is the most unwelcoming welcome one can imagine, as it is also essentially a mean and demeaning action at the same time. It is indeed strange that the regime can do this and leave the new municipal administration with zero cent contribution from the Government!!

We suspect similar actions are probably being taken elsewhere in the regions since the ruling party seems to follow a vindictive policy that can litter the ground with spikes for the opposition takeover. As a reluctant loser, the regime does not wish to relinquish power even in Addis Ababa at a time when it has lost and, when the most prudent thing to do is not to mobilise a rubber stamping parliament to carry on with a logic of business as usual but to include the winners and negotiate an orderly transfer.

In addition, the regime has been busy changing the parliamentary rules expecting possible opposition party representation. It has changed the rules on the regulation for presenting motions from 20 members of parliament to 50 + 1. There are also new rules that will make it difficult for opposition members to conduct debate without worrying that the regime supporters will accuse them of violating disciplinary procedures. All the regime moves seem to discourage the invitation and welcome for the opposition parliamentarians to participate. In fact, it appears to dissuade them to go for a boycott of parliament and even leave the municipal administration. It looks expectations of smooth and civilised transfer will not be easy given the ostrich- mentality by the regime as if nothing has changed and the opposition victory is inconsequential.

On the wider country level, the regime also behaves as if nothing has changed and its rule will continue. The regime says it has lifted the state of emergency, but the military presence in major cities is visible and intimidating of citizens in carrying out their daily lives.

It looks that the regime seems to have neither the intention nor the patience to accommodate the opposition with its substantial backing from the people. This action by the regime is increasing the hostile mood against it by the population. It seems oblivious to the signs of the silence anger and sorrow of the people who feel cheated by the regime of their voices and votes. The media ridicules routinely the opposition rather than showing a willingness to invite them to work with the regime. This hostile approach and attitude by the regime against the opposition is so ingrained in the mentality of regime elements that it would be hard to see them enter seriously into any negotiation for national reconciliation. Though we called for the latter we recognise unfortunately for the country that the ruling party is not prepared to accept national reconciliation. We have no illusion about the regime which has a swollen ego relying on its military prowess and boasting of its friendship with Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair for pausing itself as their allay in the war on terror unless the latter were to put pressure on Meles to behave in the larger good of the country. NES thinks that this arrogance, intolerant mentality, attitude, habit and routine that are entrenched in the way the regime conducts itself is the biggest obstacle to change.

5. NEB is responsible for the electoral mess

Just like the regime, the national election board has been universally reviled by all the opposition parties for behaving with 100 % loyalty to the regime. Opposition parties believe that the election that they won has been stolen from them thanks to the unscrupulous behaviour of the national election board. Its methods of announcement of results have been regime- favouring and partisan. The NEB has already announced a number of times, and revised a few times the partial results. The number of seats it is investigating has also been changing. The investigation has turned out to serve the regime’s need to recall more of most of the de-selected cadres than trying laying to rest the credibility of the election process by doing justice by preserving the integrity of the election process.

Meanwhile the opposition parties with a united voice have declared the investigation a complete failure. The regime has read this declaration of investigation failure by the opposition parties as showing “violent tendencies” by them. The regime has declared that the “joint statement was nothing but an official declaration of their intent to switch from legal and democratic path to that of violence means.”(July 23, 2005). What NEB did by botching up the investigations is open the opposition parties to ruling party attacks where the regime deliberately misrepresents and reads the peaceful as violent, the legal, as illegal, the constitutional as the un-constitutional, and the democratic as anti-democratic. The regime will try to frighten and intimidate the people and the opposition parties to accept gross injustice and to live by the edict of the NEB. It has been thus a foregone conclusion for a long time now that the NEB will approve and award the required two-thirds majority to the ruling party on a delayed silver platter. It has done that now for all intents and purposes. By engineering such an action, it has not only betrayed the Ethiopian people, but also democracy, and the opportunity for Ethiopia to have a vibrant parliament where democratic public debate matters and laws are made after a thorough scrutiny and argument by a properly functioning parliament. If the ruling party is in a position to ignore opposition views because of its two-thirds majority that has been ill-gotten under heavy rigging, what kind of docile parliament can the NEB feel proud of engineering by its rigging handiwork?

The people who voted for the opposition parties are entitled to oppose peacefully against the regime and the NEB. The main responsibility for any impending national crises lies in the ruling party and the NEB and the lip and teeth alliance that they have forged that made it impossible for the fresh air of democracy to breathe through the veins and arteries of our old, dictatorially crippled nation.

6. Country-wide election re-runs to stave off election crises?

Given the strong protest by the opposition parties that the investigations are a failure, the most sensible option to follow would be either to undertake a nation-wide re-election or invite the parties, the people and civil society to forestall national crises by creating national reconciliation. If the regime continues to be frightened by any popular demonstration that happened like the pre-election demonstration, the alternative is for the regime to go for national reconciliation and not retreat from it. At the moment what people know is wide scale rigging, and the subservience of the NEB to the regime, any outcome that favours the regime would be seen at best with mistrust or with strong opposition. Any peaceful protest is likely to be confronted by threat or actual military action by Meles and regime elements that have much to lose by any threat to their position and the status quo.

One way to renew trust on the election is to go once more for the nation wide re- runs of the national election. The July 27 statement by the opposition parties calls for a re-run of a new election. If the election re-run is accepted by the regime, it will be more or less a nation-wide re-election given the seats range 300. The re-run will probably cost the same amount of energy as the 3rd national election itself. The problem is how it would be possible to clear election we think it should be a country- wide re-run and not just on the seats where alleged irregularities have occurred. According to the opposition, the NEB and the regime have undertaken a completely flawed investigation. At the same time they are against countrywide re-election. The NEB has announced 20 seats to undergo fresh re-election and most of these appear tailored to bring back loyal members of the regime. Given the charge against the NEB, the best option should have been not to carry out such an incremental, arbitrary and selected re-election, but a new re-election with observers to be fielded all over the country and minimize the risk of rigging once again. Such a limited re-run appears to show disregard of opposition demand that full revalidation of the election process be mounted.

If for any reason nation-wide re-election cannot be agreed by regime and opposition, we shall continue to suggest the alternative that can bring back possibly peoples’ trust, and that is nothing else but the implementation of a national reconciliation conception of governance in Ethiopia. It is either a nation wide re-runs or a commitment to create an all-inclusive national reconciliation approach to Ethiopia’s democracy, freedom, peace and stability.

7. National Reconciliation Strategy: the commonsense alternative to put behind the endless cycle of violence and dictatorship

We in the NES have been advocating (see Press Release 8)- to turn the problems created by the NEB and the regime in allowing the voting, but not being able to count it and also in not being able to investigating properly all other allegations of irregularities, and now releasing figures awarding a near two third majority to the ruling group- into the opportunities for national reconciliation. We think that the country’s troubled history merits a period of at least five years to sort out the modalities that will permit the normal implementation of democratic competition by parties. This period where opposition parties have shown strong popular backing, and the parties backing the regime also have support can result in creating the necessary condition for joining together to form a national reconciliation government. The important thing is for all the parties to accept in principle a minimum condition that is, a national reconciliation conception or perspective to the country’s major problems. Each of the parties can bring in a national reconciliation conception to all their existing perhaps contrasting plans. We expect that all those parties that accept national reconciliation will also have people in them who are strongly in favour and those that may be lukewarm to the idea for one reason or another. The best way to overcome party sectarian interests is to build a cross-party unity on the shared principle of going together to carry out national reconciliation conceptions of the nation’s principal direction. All the enthusiasts of national reconciliation from across all the parties should be given the opportunity to bring about a national reconciliation development and milestone in the country. Granted, the parties might have diametrically opposed positions on many issues, but as long as they are prepared to take national reconciliation perspective and conception as a strategic necessity at this stage of the country’s political history that will bring about broad healing of the nation and prepare the country to enter into a productive and predictable democratic era, there is an excellent basis for them to work together and even agree to form a government of national concord to steer the national reconciliation process. A national reconciliation perspective, conception and framing of the major problems of the country that have defied resolution to date is critical to induce in all the programmes, policy and behaviour of all old and new political parties in Ethiopia. It is also important that all the parties take extra care to nominate their authoritative (not authoritarian, please!) members willing to implement sincerely and with integrity a national reconciliation conception of democratic governance, and pursue the realisation of their party sectional-interest through the perspective and prism of fulfilling enduring national reconciliation. If that happens, it will not be difficult to create an environment conducive for negotiation, reflection, argument, reason and logic to move even an agreed national reconciliation agenda forward.

We think the opposition parties will not create problems, but the ruling party will. The ruling party has been insistent that they got power through sacrifice and even if the people choose other parties, their sacrifice has priority over the verdict and voice of the people. The ruling party thus shuns national reconciliation deriving entitlement to rule not from the consent of the governed but from the abstract, and indeed, what has now been sold to the public and donors as a self-serving fact of sacrifice. It is highly instrumental to commensurate staying in power by the quantum of sacrifice made when the ruling party and others were busy to come to power and impose a policy set that has now been rejected by the democratic expression and voice of the people. It is critical that people who are committed to national reconciliation from the parties are nominated and given freedom to carry out the agreed tasks for the five- year period. The main issue is the realisation of the national reconciliation conception of Ethiopia’s problems and trying to address them imbued with that spirit. So the main issue is to embed in the environment the letter and spirit of national reconciliation. The formation of the government of national reconciliation is mainly an instrument. What would remain enduring is tackling the nation’s intractable problems with a conception of national reconciliation. Parties must enter into the process not because they want to valorise positions, but to translate a concept and lay a foundation for a predictable democratic governance system that will endure the test of time. NES strongly believes, as we argued in our release on Ethiopia’s Future for the Next Five Years: Seize the moment and seize the time, that this option is the best and necessary route to take, if not the sufficient route to solve our problems. It will certainly assist to forestall a national crises based on an outcome in favour of the ruling party that the people profoundly and disdainfully mistrust. The only way to change a possible danger of national crises into an opportunity is for all the parties to agree a national reconciliation strategy and bring together forward all the forces from the opposition parties that strongly back such a strategy to precipitate and route a national reconciliation implantation in Ethiopian soil. If all the parties that agree to national reconciliation create a common front, others that wish to stay outside will be drawn sooner or later provided the momentum for national reconciliation deepens. NES thinks this is the best option and appeals to all the parties, and especially to the ruling party to grasp the critical historical political moment and act to create a new history, new possibility and new cradle -democracy in the comprehensive sense of a universal value and sense for societal learning and transformation.

8. The Way Forward

During and around the polling day of May 15, 2005, the opposition parties were confident and certain that they have won the election. The opposition parties said that the ruling party was alarmed by the way the opposition parties emerged victorious. They said that the ruling party engaged in a three- pronged strategy to stop and reverse the snow bowling opposition momentum and gains even before polling day by declaring a state of emergency, tightening information and media control, moving threatening armed militia in the rural areas, and deploying the national election board openly to undertake a partisan policy and implement the regime’s moves of re-gaining the initiative to win this election hands down or with a majority that will not threaten the regime to pass as law any policy that Meles wishes to push. This has generated a confidence crisis in the way the election has been handled, and the Government bears the main responsibility, and is in fact in the dock for the gross mismanagement of this election.

• Rather than showing humility and try to work with the opposition parties, the Government and the NEB have botched the investigation of the 300 or so irregularities reported as cases by all the parties. The credibility of the NEB’s announcement awarding nearly a two-thirds majority to the ruling party is in tatters in the eyes of the Ethiopian people. The Ethiopian people will see any move or temptation to accept this result as a betrayal of the people, the country and democracy. Any acceptance based on fear of intimidation will not go well with the people. The people who will feel betrayed will not forgive aggressive threats by Meles. Meles must understand that the opposition parties will not trade their credibility to rescue his skin and applaud a rigged election that they must denounce instead. Any small concession like media use will not suffice to quench the peoples demand to realise democratic values in their country and national affairs.

• The most impudent activities carried out by the regime is related to how it has rigged the parliament to make any opposition to function with a vibrant public debate of issues that is central to the claims and needs of the people. The parliament must remove all the draconian regulations that the lame duck parliament passed before opposition groups can remotely contemplate functioning in it. The regime has to withdraw all the silly rules that it forced its rubber-stamping parliament to enact before the new parliament can reasonably have a chance to convene. It is thus up to the regime to remove all the laws that have been passed to push the opposition parties to boycott parliament. The onus lies entirely on the Meles regime.

• The same is true with the administration of Addis Ababa municipality. Nearly most authorities including policing the city have been removed and accumulated in Meles’s hands. What will the new opposition administration do if there is nothing to carry out administration with? Again the Meles regime must take huge responsibility for trying to complicate vindictively opposition party take over of the capital city. The opposition parties must demand that their gains must not be stolen by the regime and continue to struggle that the regime bring back the ex ante the situation and return, financial, transport, police, security and other functions to the city administration as it used to be. This has to be honoured. If the regime does not oblige, the struggle for democracy must continue to make sure the city is governed with resources and authority during the next five years not with hostile central authority breathing over the neck of the new administration officials.

• There are two viable alternatives: a re-run of the election to restore trust and credibility in the election process with hopefully water tight and much more scrutiny this time to make sure the election is not only free but it is also fair. This option is open and the opposition parties demand to realise it is just and legitimate. We hope the international community will stand firmly on the side of justice, the side of human rights and the side of democracy. Only then can it be said that it is standing on the side of the Ethiopian people.

• We in NES prefer an agreement of all the parties to diffuse the situation by entering into a national reconciliation grand social contract by making sure that representation is not dominated and threatened by the ruling party. We think this national reconciliation strategy will be the best response to the current challenges and hard choices confronting our country. We trust this alternative will save the country, win back the trust of the people and will provide an honourable and non-humiliating way out for all the parties engaged in this struggle to shape and articulate Ethiopia’s future.

• We call on the Meles regime not to threaten, not to blackmail, not to brag, not to humiliate, but to understand the importance of working together with the opposition parties that have shown genuine popular backing. We call the regime to stretch its arms and welcome the opposition parties, the people, civil society and patriotic individuals to formulate a concerted national reconciliation conception of the country’s problems and set the foundation together and erect the values of democracy and governance in Ethiopia. If the Meles regime fails, not only does it fail the country, the people and democracy, but also its own credibility and its own opportunities to attain maturity and stature in the eyes of history. We hope it will defeat its own sense of defeat, that a national reconciliation Government that includes its views along with others, is not possible now. A national reconciliation government is right, necessary, desirable and possible, and it is high time that the regime lives up to the sacred task of reaching for this larger good to avoid the country entering an uncertain period.

• We urge the opposition parties to remain united and through this epochal struggle develop and test their mettle to learn how to work together, overcome all sorts of problems and obstacles and stick to principles and carry forward the mandate that has been entrusted to them by the vote and voice of the people.

• We call the international community to continue to put maximum pressure on the Meles regime to hear sense and go for the diffusion of an impending crises rather than enflaming opposition and popular passion by its constant threats and eventualities. It is critical that the international community do not see both opposition parties and the regime as equally wrong or right. The regime has to carry the main burden of guilt for the way the election has been mishandled, for the unconstitutional state of emergency, for the killing, for botching up the investigations and riggings. The opposition did not do all these things. The opposition parties are not guilty. The kind of symmetry proposition that diplomats try to apply because it looks diplomatic to present it that way is not fair. The international community must call a spade, a spade, a human rights violator, a human rights violator. We urge the international community, USA, UK, EU, AU and others to put maximum pressure on the Meles regime to listen to reason and accept either a re-run of the election or a national reconciliation government in order to restore the trust of the people. Meles has to do this not for anybody else, but for the sake of the country and the people. We trust the international community will stand on the side of the people, democracy and history. It will be hypocritical to admit the irregularities and put pressure on the opposition to live with and accept regime wrong doing. The international community must stand on the side of truth and fairness and should not send signal that vote and voice tampering by the regime can be tolerated.

• Finally, the last word goes for the Ethiopian people. Never in the country’s recorded history have you shown so much courage for democracy as on May 15, 2005. You are right to struggle against those who would like to deprive the historic moment created by your collective imagination. You are right to back those who support the moment and show reverence to your greatness. We call upon you to remain steadfast and prevail over the politicians to carry out the will you have so magnificently displayed on May 15, 2005 and continue the struggle for substantive democracy that encapsulates learning and development as values to guide Ethiopian society and future.

We all play different roles from inside and outside the country, all who have chosen to struggle for substantive democracy in Ethiopia. We think different types of conversations, seminars, teachings, conferences, symposia and other activities should continue to clarify and consolidate a shared view on the issues that matter to country, people and nation.

Professor Mammo Muchie, Chair of NES-Scandinavian Chapter Berhanu G. Balcha, Vice- Chair of NES-Scandinavian Chapter Tekola Worku, Secretary of NES-Scandinavian Chapter

Contact address:
- Fibigerstraede 2
- 9220- Aalborg East
- Denmark
- Tel. + 45 96 359 813 or +45 96 358 331
- Fax + 45 98 153 298
- Cell: +45 3112 5507
- Email: mammo@ihis.aau.dk or berhanu@ihis.aau.dk or tekola.worku@bromma.stockholm.se

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