Addis Abeba, September 30/2020 – “Ethiopia has entered a new year with all its heavy political burdens – with both hope and despair. And without a shadow of doubt, the hoped-for democratic transition is disturbingly failing,” said the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) in a statement.

The statement, released on September 28, called the political “road map unilaterally drawn by the group in power should be immediately replaced by a commonly charted road map by all major stakeholder;” and said “the ruling party should start immediately genuine dialogue to to avert the coming danger.”

Below is the full statement sent to Addis Standard

A New Year Call for Genuine National Dialogue

Ethiopia has entered a new year with all its heavy political burdens – with both hope and despair. And without a shadow of doubt, the hoped-for democratic transition is disturbingly failing. If we have to draw a balance sheet of the Ethiopian new year just ended, much of Oromia, the country’s largest region has been in turmoil where the Qeerros are back to streets while Tigray is increasingly becoming a de facto state within the larger Ethiopian state. To be sure, the elections in Tigray, which defied the decision of the central government is a worrisome development for the party in power. Big or small crises are all around us across the country.

At the center of the all rounded crises is the governing party’s reluctance to engage the opposition in a real national dialogue and following its own road map – if it has got one. No less bad is its unilateral decision to extend the term of the current government without reaching any reasonable national consensus with the major stakeholders. Clinging to power at all cost and by any means necessary is the whole mark of the regime in power. To put it differently, the ruling party is persistently refusing to lead the country through the tortuous road to democratic transition. We are at a point in time when drawing a common road map and real national consensus over the basics of the state transformation are much needed for successful transformation.  To be sure, most of the measures taken by the existing government to lead the country to a democratic trajectory are half-hearted at best and political posturing at worst. Consequently, the country’s complex problems have remained unsolved and new ones are being created – with the resultant effect of putting the future of the country and the hoped-for democratic transition at a critical crossroad.

To us if the country is to avert the looming danger and if we have to pull out of the political dead-end country is in, the following actions should be taken as urgently as possible and without delay:

  1. If the hoped-for democratic transition is to succeed, the road map unilaterally drawn by the group in power should be immediately replaced by a commonly charted road map by all major stakeholders. The arrogated role of one group whatever level of claiming to be holy and ‘I know what is good for the people’ cannot and should not be taken seriously given the empty promises of the past. We believe that practical actions not political posturing should be the best way forward.
  2. We strongly advise the ruling party to stop its divide and rule policy, which has been disastrous for the country and its peoples. Such policy should be replaced by an inclusive democratic discourses and constructive engagement between and/or among the country’s political forces. As we been saying all along, resorting to use force for resolving our political differences did not work in the past and will not work in the future either. We should not forget that countries in the civilized world have been successfully solving their political differences with ‘ballots and not bullets’.
  3. Our country has been paying very dearly because of the endless political polarization between and/or the competing elites for political power since the last days of the imperial regime. Especially the lust for power by the successive Ethiopian regimes brought to the country and its peoples incalculable damages in which millions lost their lives, millions were displaced, and millions have become refugees. Hence, it is time for all of us, especially the leaders of the ruling party to stop the follies of the past and work for aggregation of interest rather than mutual destruction.
  4. Politically speaking, Ethiopia has reached a critical crossroad and/or make or break point. We believe the Somalia scenario or the Rwanda scenario is around the corner. Averting such a scenario should be the position of the responsible political parties and their leaders. In this regard, as the ball mainly in their court – leaders of the ruling party should think twice about the consequences of their policy measures and act responsibly. They should know that their follies can cost both the country and them as well very dearly.
  5. The ruling party should start immediately genuine dialogue to avert the coming danger. To us, short of honest national dialogue political posturing alone cannot pull the country out of its partial crisis, which has made our transition ‘from crisis, through crisis to crisis’.
  6. We think, genuine national dialogue is sine quo non both for addressing the hitherto historical injustices as well as for making historical compromises to build the country on a new democratic foundation. Without a shadow of doubt, trying to gloss-over it is not going to be helpful to anybody.
  7. We also believe that democracy cannot be built under a condition of gross violations of human rights and growing prison population. Hence, we strongly advise the ruling party that peace and stability cannot be achieved by detaining political opponents. To put differently, both releasing political prisoners and stopping harassments of opponents hugely help to conduct a peaceful democratic transition and ease the birth pang of democratic Ethiopia. To us, short of that may well be a recipe for further political instability and disaster.
  8. Lastly, we say the aspirations of the Ethiopian peoples for genuine federalism, democratic governance and meaningful economic development under a stable political environment can be achieved through ‘genuine, free and fair elections’. The ruling party should know that political rhetoric and demagogy cannot deliver genuine elections that reflect the free will of the various peoples of the country. And as the upcoming elections may well determine the future of Ethiopia as a united polity, we ask the ruling party to act responsibly in preparing the country and its peoples for a peaceful, free and fair elections. We also call upon the friends of Ethiopia to make their historic contribution to the making of new democratic Ethiopia by exerting real pressures on those resisting fair game and real national dialogue so as to lift our country out of the political quagmire we have been quiet for long.

Office of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC)

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