In Pursuit of Democracy

The Integrated Master Plan between Addis Abeba and Special Zones of Oromia has been a cause for public disappointment and protest. Reports show that about 140 people lost their lives due to the protests. Yet, the Master Plan is just one of the drivers of the protests. Much of the protest has to do with the lack of good governance that seems to have become a typical trait in Ethiopia.

The Integrated Master Plan of Addis Abeba and the Special Zones of Oromia has, of late, become a front page topic that has taken toll of over a hundred lives of peaceful protesters. It has become a whistle blower in the struggle for democracy all over Oromia. The last two months have put the leadership of the ruling party to test for abiding by the Constitution.

The protests may have been brought to halt, albeit the sanity has been in relapse, on and off. The underlying points of the search for sustainable peace and democracy are still on the go.

All the concerned parties should strongly insist on sitting around the table for a negotiated settlement in at least drawing a road map for a peaceful and lasting solution. The ruling party has so far done little more than spew rhetoric that never materializes in a trustworthy way.

In fact, some of the statements made by members of the ruling party, including the President of Oromia Regional State, Muktar Kedir, are fuelling the fire lit by the protests. Last week, for example, he paid tribute and praised the security forces who shot down many students, including a young student who had fled to his home and hid in the arms of his mother. Both were brutally killed. If that was not excessive power and atrocity, I cannot understand what else could be.

The President may have felt, deep down his heart, some guilt, while praising killers of his own people. Compare that with the President of the most powerful nation in the world, President Barack Obama addressing the gun carrying licence issue. The eye-watering speech was made in front of the cameras as he was not expected to be overtaken by emotion. But he was. When it comes to issues dealing with human life, it does not matter whether one is the President of America or Oromia.

But we cannot be surprised with such betrayals now. We recall the last decision given by President of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, Merga Bekana (Prof.), when he announced which faction of the Unity for Democracy & Justice (UDJ) Party was legal. He may have spent all these past six or so months in a nightmare. Although the President of Oromia has not been a big figure to talk about in comparison with others, especially in fully grown countries, the humanity question is the same everywhere in the world.

The peaceful demonstrations that bubbled up wherever they did are just manifestations of cumulative and suppressed oppressions starting to explode. They are not only about the Master Plan. Instead, they signal the realisation of what has been going on for the last 25 years after the downfall of the military dictatorship.

There is no denying the fact that the economic growth of double figure magnitude has been achieved so far but only among the rich few. The facts on the ground reveal the truth and a very different story. Strategic measures include inhibiting the freedom of the private press. The EPRDF leaders know more than anyone, the unreserved powers of radio and television during their years of struggle. They can never let the intellectuals challenge them by engaging in talks and debates.

The pursuit for genuine truth and democratic right is not just a media indulgence. By the same token, any effort exerted by the security forces to calm down demands presented in accordance with the articles enshrined in the Constitution may succeed only for a little while.

Fire that is watered down by killing law abiding citizens lasts only for a short while. The impacts go out and about. Be it in attracting foreign investment or tourism, lasting peace is essential.

Staggered incidents that take place every now and then spell adverse impacts on the national economy, both in sustaining development and curbing the debt issues.

The dialogue could draw plans to examine the actual issues and find lasting solutions. It may be possible that controlling the military power, the financial powers, the main powers of the growing industry, the utilities and even the telecommunication services may give the leverage of conducting the pace of the development movement. The ruling party, using its leverage of leadership, has the opportunity to utilize this moment, free of the atmosphere and mood of fighting for liberation, to create history at this point in time.

It should be understood that the Master Plan issue is just one case in point. There are other accumulated resentments that need to be addressed in common.

Both the rural areas and the capital are interdependent. One cannot live without the other. We should plan far ahead and open our eyes to see the opportunities we can benefit from in common. The capital is both the supplier and the purchaser of goods and services. That way we can plan ahead streamlining the available resources to make our development growth sustainable.

Oromos and other ethnic groups have this country in common. It is with rightful adherence to the Constitution that this commonality can be maintained. And that is what the public is demanding, and the ruling party should make sure that is what happens.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Jan 18,2016 [ Vol 16 ,No 820]



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