Eschewing politics of deception in Ethiopia

21May 2019
The Guardian
Eschewing politics of deception in Ethiopia

There is a broad consensus that party politics in Ethiopia, which dates close to half a century, has by and large been the anti-thesis of democracy.

From left-leaning parties responsible for Red Terror, one of the darkest chapters in modern Ethiopian history, to the parties existing today the vast majority are alien to the fundamental principles of democracy.


Parties that live up to their name are wellsprings of policy alternatives; they are institutions articulating the views and interests of the public and the birth place of future leaders; they enable individuals and groups to pursue different political goals in an organized manner; they serve as platforms for the unfettered expression of diverse ideas; they are forums guided by a certain school of thought and course of action which gain acceptance after critical discourse; and they epitomize transparency and accountability. Are present-day parties prepared to embody these attributes? Do they possess the capacity eschew the politics of lies and deliver good governance. These and similar other questions demand an answer.

Though it's undeniable that political parties play a vital role in the process of democratization, the fact that over 100 registered parties are operating in Ethiopia has sparked an intense conversation. The merger of like-minded parties in recent weeks has given rise to hope that such consolidation will eventually result in the survival of a few strong parties and bodes well for the country and its people.

This said political parties of all stripes must first and foremost practice democracy internally. Preaching about democracy without living it first is the height of hypocrisy. It's an open secret that practically all parties are the personal properties of their founders or leaders. Such a state of affairs needs to be fundamentally changed if they are to become democratic themselves and adopt a pragmatic program reflective of the reality on the ground. The journey to democracy cannot succeed with the usual politics of lies.

A party conversant with the tenets of democracy and is committed to their implementation continually strives to deepen the political consciousness of its members and keeps abreast of local and global developments to help it make the right decision; its door is always open to frank discussions so as to forge a unity of purpose and action among members; it institutes a transparent and accountable system which has no place for rumor-mongering, conniving and backbiting; it enlists professionals and researchers to generate policies and strategies that appeal to voters; and it engages in a deliberate effort to purge itself of outdated habits and takes up attitudes and action in keeping with the times.

This is instrumental in ensuring that its members are informed, principled and set a positive example. Ethiopia has no need for ignorant parties that are intolerant of anyone who does not subscribe to their belief. An uninformed politician is akin to a rudderless ship. Sticking with the tired politics of deception is bound to rob one of credibility. A party lacking credibility can barely survive as a viable entity let alone accomplish its objectives.

These days the proponents of citizen politics and ethnic politics are engaged in animated discussions. It's sad and indeed a weakness to turn the differences between the two ideologies into an acrimonious battle. Isn't it possible to conduct a civilized dialogue among the advocates of both sides without name calling or labeling? Can't the divergence between them be accommodated democratically?

There is no reason why these rival schools of thought need to become sources of intractable conflicts. As the public is the ultimate arbiter of which one it wants to go with the defenders of each camp ought to best the other with superior ideas. It's impractical to engineer the hegemony of one of the ideologies but try wipe out the other. The objective conditions in Ethiopia now allow the free expression of all sorts of ideas.

Given the relatively broader political space prevailing in the country therefore resorting to bigotry is essentially not only undemocratic, but also irrational. Neither the public nor the nation has any use for parties which brandish democratic-sounding names but in practice reek of totalitarianism.

Ethiopia does not need a plethora of feeble political parties. The member parties of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its allies are in preparations to form a single national party. Meanwhile, some seven parties merged last week to create a new national party and a further five parties did the same this week. The consolidation is expected to continue apace and in due course winnow down the number of parties to a few.

This goes a long way towards ridding Ethiopian politics of archaic attitudes and traditions and putting an end to the long-running politics of deception perpetrated at the hand of parties comprised of cheats and self-serving individuals with an axe to grind. What Ethiopia needs are a few strong parties committed to serving the public, not a horde of weaklings that thump their chests whenever elections come around and disappear when they are over. If Ethiopia is to steer on the right path which benefits its people the politics of deception must be eschewed.

Ethiopia  officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a country in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. With over 102 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent. It occupies a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi), and its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa.  

Some of the oldest skeletal evidence for anatomically modern humans has been found in Ethiopia.  

It is widely considered as the region from which modern humans first set out for the Middle East and places beyond.

According to linguists, the first Afroasiatic-speaking populations settled in the Horn region during the ensuing Neolithic era.   Tracing its roots to the 2nd millennium BC, Ethiopia's governmental system was a monarchy for most of its history. In the first centuries AD, the Kingdom of Aksum maintained a unified civilization in the region, followed by the Ethiopian Empire circa 1137.

During the late 19th-century Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia was one of two nations to retain its sovereignty from long-term colonialism by a European colonial power. Many newly-independent nations on the continent subsequently adopted its flag colours. The country was occupied by Italy in 1936 and became Italian Ethiopia (part of the Italian East Africa) until 1941.

Ethiopia was also the first independent member from Africa of the 20th-century League of Nations and the United Nations. In 1974, the Ethiopian monarchy under Haile Selassie was overthrown by the Derg, a communist military government backed by the Soviet Union.

In 1987, the Derg established the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, but it was overthrown in 1991 by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has been the ruling political coalition since.

Ethiopia and Eritrea use the ancient Ge'ez script, which is one of the oldest alphabets still in use in the world. The Ethiopian calendar, which is approximately seven years and three months behind the Gregorian calendar, co-exists alongside the Borana calendar.

A majority of the population adheres to Christianity (mainly the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and P'ent'ay), whereas around a third follows Islam (primarily Sunni). The country is the site of the Migration to Abyssinia and the oldest Muslim settlement in Africa at Negash.

A substantial population of Ethiopian Jews, known as Bete Israel, also resided in Ethiopia until the 1980s. Ethiopia is a multilingual nation with around 80 ethnolinguistic groups, the four largest of which are the Oromo, Amhara, Somali and Tigrayans.

Most people in the country speak Afroasiatic languages of the Cushitic or Semitic branches.

Additionally, Omotic languages are spoken by ethnic minority groups inhabiting the southern regions. Nilo-Saharan languages are also spoken by the nation's Nilotic ethnic minorities.

The nation is a land of natural contrasts, with its vast fertile west, its forests, and numerous rivers, and the world's hottest settlement of Dallol in its north. The Ethiopian Highlands are the largest continuous mountain ranges in Africa, and the Sof Omar Caves contains the largest cave on the continent.

Ethiopia also has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. Additionally, the sovereign state is a founding members of the UN, the Group of 24 (G-24), the Non-Aligned Movement, G-77 and the Organisation of African Unity.

Its capital city Addis Ababa serves as the headquarters of the African Union, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Standby Force, and many of the global NGOs focused on Africa.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Ethiopia experienced civil conflicts and communist purges, which hindered its economy. The country has since recovered and now has the largest economy (by GDP) in East Africa, having the largest population in the region.

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