The debate over the Integrated Master Plan of Addis Abeba & Special Zones of Oromia has continued. In the aftermath of destructive protest, government has suggested its own way of looking at things but this outlook has its own problems. A major gap within the governmental declaration is that it does not start from recognition of individual rights.

There are times when various issues crop up at the same time, cramming the political venue to a scale where it becomes very difficult to discern the implications and establish priorities to solve them. The launching of the Second  Growth & Tansformation Plan (GTP II), the Paris Conference on Climate Change, the drought-driven threat of food insecurity and the protest and the killings related to the Integrated Master Plan of Addis Abeba & Special Oromia Zone are but a few of them.

I would like to take up the Master Plan issue and examine its implications by way of posing some questions. About a year and a half ago, the same issue was cause for a huge peaceful protest by students of Ambo University and others, that culminated in a blood bath when students were killed by armed forces. The Speaker of the Upper House, Abadulla Gemeda was on site to cool down matters, promising that further investigations would be conducted to bring those accountable before the law.

Himself an Oromo, the Speaker, a person involved in making laws on behalf of the nation, would stand by his words. Yet, he only kept his words true to the oath of office.

After a  year and half, the foregone conclusion of the issue of the Master Plan has once again resurfaced to be one among the current issues, consuming lives and property of a higher magnitude. The Head of Government Communication Affairs Office (GCAO), Getachew Reda, successor to Redwan Hussien, who was transferred to the Ministry of Youth & Sport, does not seem to be reading the same page as Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. I will not blame him for not telling why the Sudanese Vice President paid a visit to Ethiopia and discussed a border demarcation timetable as written in a Sudanese newspaper.

But at a time when external sources confirm the death of some 75 people and the US Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister expresses concern about the situation, the Communication Minister, in defiance, downplays the atrocities and reduces the number to only five as if these five were not human.

I would like to pose a pertinent question to my readers.

How would be Oromia’s issue be valued from the perspective of the individual?

Before I look at the issue in a greater detail, I would like to cite a symbolic example in Getachew’s rehearsed parlance of development. There is no denying the fact that the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is one of the major undertakings the country has ever engaged in. The first step would be to have the idea of generating power. Then comes the design and the construction process.

Take the building blocks; each stone is essential.  It is not a question of piling up of stones at random. Each block has to be shaped, cleaned and put in order, one on top of the other, to be cemented. At present over 47pc of the Dam has been completed. Labour is deployed 24 hours a day by turn. The financial resource is self-mobilized. This means, after some years, the Dam will become a reality.

Take this analogy to compare what is going on in various sites in Oromia. Just like every block is essential in the construction work, each individual’s rights written in the Constitution, bind all the people of Ethiopia as one and together for the future as in the past. Without the rights of the  individual, we cannot talk about a nation. Individual rights are the basics for the building of a nation and hence a federal government.

Now back to my query. From the point of view of the youth of Oromia and other states, their future prospects in every aspect of life, be it property, inheritance, culture, language, history and identity, cannot be separated from the past. What has transpired so far is only that those in power and their few associates want to have the lion’s share of resources, including land.

The Master Plan, according to Oromo intellectuals, exits and chased away the poor farmers from their land as it did from eastern Addis Abeba. The same fate is a threat now, the argument goes.

Would falsifying facts and trying to hush opposition help solve the problem and bring all concerned parties to the table for negotiation or dialogue, or would killing be exacerbating conflict?

Another serious problem we face presently is the repeatedly mentioned rent collection, maladministration and corruption . At the end of the line lies the issue of grabbing resources using the leverage of power, call it by whatever name you like. The bottom line is the quest to have more money or a pile up of money as if one lives forever. The problem should be seen in its right perspective.

With less fluency and undiplomatic language, it must be said, Getachew, in an interview with Voice of America’s Amharic Service, said that the Oromo student’s protest against the pretext of opposing the Integrated Master Plan was only the workings of a plot backed by members of terrorist elements to destabilize the political machinery of the country. That, of course, is a short-sighted statement to make at this moment in time, not unexpected from inexperienced politicians who might think outright denial will only help to postpone what is the unavoidable inevitability.

The unavoidable is only what is inscribed in the Ethiopian Constitution in the article that specifies the rights of federal governance as a dominant principle that embraces the rights to freely express one’s thoughts in assembly and demonstration. People hope members of the ruling party, including the Minister, as well as the security forces read and know what is written in the document. Not abiding by the constitutional rule of law is tantamount to transgressing the law.

We pose the inevitable question: where does all this lead us? To the beginning of the end? Let us hope not.

Published on Dec 28,2015 [ Vol 16 ,No 817]



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