Reprieve Delay, Reprieve Deny

A decision by the EPRDF's Central Committee sent both social media and the mainstream ones into overdrive. Ma’ekelawi, the infamous facility, is to be closed, and political party members held there are to be pardoned. For some, the decision proved too little too late, while for others, especially international observers, it was a welcome step forward. But since it is only a promise, there is still fear that it would not be met with action.

It is not for lack of a better term that I chose such a headline. It is merely best expressive of the truth. If at all the executive members of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) are willing to put their money where their mouth is, and drop charges against some political party members, it should realise sooner rather than later.

For all the peace-loving people of the country and the world, the decision’s implementation is being awaited with fervent anticipation, and thus far, no tangible change is evident. Hence the headline.

The members of EPRDF’s Central Committee, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD), Lemma Megersa and Demeke Makonnen announced the decision last week, which went on to reverberate on social media platforms. The Prime Minister said that the facility known as Ma’ekelawi will be closed, and reopened as a museum and members of political parties held there would be pardoned.

Even the internationally reputable British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and other international news outlets took note of this – remaining a major point of discussion for much of the week.

The popularity and assertiveness of some leaders within the four coalition parties that make up the EPRDF do not seem to be going well where the need for central leadership is concerned. For much of the unrests that have been rocking the country, the EPRDFites have few others to blame for it: first in their leadership style, and second, in their failure to find a possible solution for what afflicts the nation.

What the government failed to exemplify is that nations and nationalities are more united than they are diverse. The regional states are interdependent just as much as countries around the world are. Ethiopia, for instance, tries to sell coffee and other cereals to get some foreign currency, while other nations sell what Ethiopia wants.

Import substitution will reduce the strain but not entirely. Trade will continue. The movement of people and goods across borders and administrative demarcations will always proceed, and for the better. The federal structure of government was meant to realise this, but for lack of good governance’s sake, has failed to do as such.

At any rate, now that what most citizens and international advocacy groups were asking has come true, it is time we see tangible outcomes. Who will get a pardon, and who does not, remains a mystery. As far as Ethiopians are concerned, they are still only promises, which when they come from the ruling party do not have a good track record of realising.

When the Prime Minister announced the decision, he did not mention names. That delay has cast doubts that the decision was just a slip of the tongue. But we cannot leave it there. That will take us to an essential issue of credibility and trust.

The question of trustworthiness is a very sensitive one to pursue. It is not something that comes out of the blue. It requires great patience and several years of work to build that trust within constituents. Without it, there is no glue to hold the contract between the government and the people.

From politicians such as Lemma, who is president of the Oromia Regional State, we have had the luck to find a sense of accountability and responsibility. That is a pure virtue in itself. Likewise, parliamentarians’ challenge to the Prime Minister, when they refused to attend sessions unless Hailemariam answered some fundamental questions, is a commendable effort by those tasked to represent Ethiopians. People want answers; it is only right that members of parliament demand it too.

Perhaps the EPRDF and its affiliates in charge of legislative seats should convene once more to contemplate who should benefit from this pardon.

During Ethiopia’s monarchy, democracy was a far-fetched prospect. But even then a promise meant something. It does not matter who is in power, just as the importance of the decision should not matter; if it is not complemented by actions, then there is no meaning. This is a trend of this government that has eaten away at their credibility and has led to much discontent.

It is thus critical that the pardons come sooner than later. It would be a measure of their trustworthiness, if not allow the prisoners to breathe fresh air and serve as a peace of mind for their families and relatives. It is imperative to ensure the healthiness of both the economic and political states of a nation that

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Jan 13,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 924]



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