Communique that Hit Bulls-eye

There have been multiple calls for political inclusiveness, but more often than not they have remained just that. But the recent communique by the Oromia People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO) seemed to have some sincerity to it for it found acceptance even with opposition members based overseas. It called for dialogue that would stretch across the political sphere.

After a series of meetings between the leadership within the Oromia People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), it was decided to make several requests to members of the Ethiopian communities. It included those who live outside the country to come and work together, the target being “saving Ethiopia”.

The request was at first taken as a normal elevation of gimmicks designed to fool protesters. But the assessment meeting was not a framed drama or gimmick. No, it happened to be an unexpected call that targets serious demands.

The unexpected call made by the leaders of the regional states was not akin to the one made by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), who have not been great at keeping their promises. It was a well-intentioned call which also invited all those members of the community.

What made it unique was that it addressed a larger audience, and showed a will to reform for the better. It was made in a very distinct presentation, in an orderly manner to include all people from all walks of life. The Communique was well articulated and respectfully communicated in a way that seemed like it was too good to be true.

The interesting part of it all was the resolution to work for national peace and unity. A similar declaration that has been reiterated by the ruling coalition, there is more sincerity in the effort by OPDO in that the leaders have already started mapping the right path to reform. That path is dialogue, even with those that have become too alienated and have chosen to close down roads.

The Communique is the sort of achievement that shows maturity within the leaders, despite the length of time they have been in office. They seem to have understood that without a vibrant opposition party, there can be little in the way of democracy. The Communique had understood that a means of creating the needed transparency and accountability in the equitable distribution of wealth is, as Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn put it, widening the political space.

It is a pity that such offers are made in the face of the actual reality, after lives have been lost and properties have been destroyed. It has been at least a couple of years now since embassies have been issuing travel warnings on-and-off and investor confidence has been coming down. Imagine the amount of loss that has been incurred within these years.

But, of course, it is better late than never. Ethiopia is not the first country where public discontent has brought about political unrest. And with the Arab spring not that far long ago, we are well versed in the sort of disaster that can arise if things are left unattended, or if leaders show no will to change their ways.

The Communique received a warm reception by the opposition, even those based overseas. But just last week, towns in the Oromia Regional State undertook a three day long sit-in. The current state of affairs in Ethiopia could be the opposite of the calm before the storm, where influential opposition leaders that were released recently could work hand in hand with the government to make things better. The opposition members that were released included the likes of Bekele Gerba and Merara Gudina (PhD).

As the Communique’s message was meant for all Ethiopians, and those of Ethiopian origin, all must heed the call. It is a good indication that most opposition leaders have reacted positively to it, for it was a serious call made by leaders including Lemma Megersa. What remains now is to see how much of the call ruling coalition will take seriously and implement.

It is a notable fact that if there is one thing the past couple of years have taught us, it is that hollow promises will lead to further discontent. Economic growth by itself cannot bring the sort of peace the Oromia region needs. The government needs to understand why people migrate, and why people choose to go out on the streets. The ruling coalition needs to walk the talk on political inclusiveness, and widen the political space.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Feb 17,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 929]



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