Press Statement from the Ethiopian Dialogue Forum (EDF)
The Ethiopian Dialogue Forum, a not-for-profit think-tank established more than a year ago, represents a cross-section of intellectuals, academics, civil society activists and others residing in Ethiopia and in the Diaspora. It has sponsored a dozen public forums on critical policy issues such as ethnic-federalism in Ethiopia and its pitfalls as well as prospects.
Over the past few months, EDF has studied the governance environment in Ethiopia and identified numerous policy and structural issues that affect the country and its diverse population adversely. Among these are the top-down, opaque and exclusionary policy, decision making and budgetary allocation processes that bestow enormous power and privilege to a few while marginalizing and dispossessing the vast majority of the Ethiopian people.
Ethiopian citizens are alienated from the policy and decision-making process. For example, 99 percent of Ethiopia’s rubber stamp parliament is dominated by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Aside from its façade, the EPRDF does not consult with or seek feedback from Ethiopian citizens on any substantive policy issue. The outcome of this dictatorial system of governance is that citizens do not trust its leaders or its institutions.
EDF is deeply concerned about the escalation of ethnic-based conflicts throughout the country; and most prominently in the Oromia and Amhara regions. EDF
recognizes that the current wave of popular resistance against oppression began in earnest in November 2015 and has continued unabated since. Sadly, the root causes for the popular uprisings namely, the politically motivated, mechanically designed and flawed ethnic-federal system, recurrent and gross human rights violations, the suppression of civic, political and religious freedoms remain unresolved. For all practical purposes, the ruling party is detached from the people.
During the period 2015-2016, peaceful protests for justice, the rule of law and democracy were met with brutality in the Oromo, Amhara, Konso and other locations. More than 1,000 innocent people, most of them youth were killed through extrajudicial measures. More than 11, 000 Ethiopians were jailed. No one really knows the number of disappearances. No one has been held accountable for the atrocities.
The popular resistance was temporarily contained by security and military command posts, mechanisms deployed during the State of Emergency that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) dominated regime imposed throughout the country. Extrajudicial killings, tortures and arrests became routine. The rubber stamp parliament said nothing and did nothing to question brutality by the state on citizens.
The unwillingness and inability on the part of Ethiopian authorities to acknowledge the core governance problems of the country and its 105 million people, absolute closure of civic, political, social and religious space; nepotism, bribery, corruption and massive illicit outflow of capital and, the competing interests of elites and political parties dashed the hopes of millions. Pent up anger and frustration led to the current wave of protests, killings, arrests and inter-ethnic conflicts, most notably in Oromia. Compounding the deep-rooted socioeconomic problems are deliberate incitements of ethnic-conflicts between the Amhara and the Tigray ethnic-groups in the north and between the Oromo and Somali ethnic groups in the south and southwest. In the later, scores of innocent Oromo and Somali were killed. More than half a million Oromo have been displaced. Villages were burnt.
There is a plethora of evidence that shows that atrocities against Oromo and Amhara nationals have continued unabated since November 2015. The number of Oromo and Amhara political prisoners keeps climbing. Promising political and community leaders, human rights activists, journalists and others including Professor Merera Gudina, Andualem Aragie and Journalist Eskinder Nega continue to suffer in jail.
The most recent flares are, in fact, a continuation of unresolved grievances. In November 2017, 30 Amhara, including children and women were hacked to death in
Illubabor, Oromia. On December 11, 2017, federal troops commanded by Tigrean officers massacred 16 innocent civilians in the town of Chelenko, Oromia. Of those murdered, five were from the same family. Reports show that these federal forces came to the town and region uninvited. We do not know for sure who instigated these massacres; but someone should be held accountable for crimes against humanity.
The murders of innocent Oromo in Celenko worsened the ethnic-conflicts between Oromo and Somali Ethiopians who have lived side by side peacefully for generations. This conflict resulted in the deaths of large numbers of Oromo and the tragic so-called “revenge killings” of more than 30 Somali.
Earlier in December this year, Amhara and Oromo students in Adigrat, Tigray were targeted, selected and killed. Many colleges and universities have since closed their doors and those that are open are sealed off by TPLF-led forces. The TPLF’s exclusionary policy has deepened and worsened ethnic polarization.
EDF is especially repulsed by the instigation of deliberate policies and programs to divide Ethiopia’s youth that constitutes 65 percent of the population. Following the killings in Adigrat, the TPLF-dominated and managed Ministry of Education informed non-Somali students in the Ogaden region to vacate colleges and universities. Ethiopians in the Diaspora attend institutions of higher learning in Scandinavian countries, in Europe and North America, in Australia and New Zealand, in South Africa, in Israel and other countries with a level of freedom that they are unable to enjoy in their own homeland. This is simply shameful for the proud Ethiopian people.
EDF condemns targeted and selective killing of innocent students, their expulsions from schools of higher learning anywhere in the country; and demands that Prime Minister Hailemariam’s government stop assaults on students and education.
EDF appreciates the courage of a cross-section of Ethiopians who continue to demand justice, freedom and the rule of law. In small and large towns in the Oromia and the Amhara regions protestors, including farmers, businessmen and women, taxi drivers, children, girls and boys and the elderly have joined hands together demanding an end to “TPLF rule and hegemony.” The hashtag “NO MORE TPLF” has become a national slogan.
EDF is outraged again that the popular and ongoing peaceful protests have been met with cruel and inhumane treatment by federal troops and security, most prominently by the feared Tigrean Agazi. As a result, insecurity, fear and hopelessness permeate Ethiopian society.
Atrocities are underreported or not reported at all. The regimes bars foreign and domestic media and independent journalists access to conflict areas and to victims of atrocities.
EDF appreciates the attention given to the Ethiopian insecurity situation by the European Union and the government of the United States; and their urgent call on all Ethiopian stakeholders to begin serious dialogue towards a national consensus on the future of the country, on peace and reconciliation, on all-inclusive, just and democratic governance.
Accordingly, EDF draws attention to the following principles:
- Calls for serious and all-inclusive dialogue, conversation, consultation and negotiation on an appropriate transition of government that will ultimately lead towards a free and fair election;
- Calls for unfettered support to the people of Ethiopia and their struggle to achieve justice, genuine equality among all citizens, the rule of law and democracy;
- Condemns ethnic-based, targeted and selective killings and conflicts and urges the Ethiopian people to continue their distinguished history of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence;
- Calls on Ethiopian political elites, opposition parties and the governing party to listen to the demands of the Ethiopian people; and demands that the regime stop inciting ethnic violence, hatred and division now;
- Demands that Ethiopian authorities meet their primary and historical obligations to the Ethiopian people; and remove draconian proclamations such as the Anti- Terrorism Proclamation;
- Urges members of Ethiopia’s armed forces and security to side with the people and desist from serving as an agency of the TPLF and its loyalists;
- Urges Ethiopian teachers, professors, researchers and students to continue their principled struggle for justice and democracy and unify their efforts beyond ethnic and religious affiliation;
- Urges Ethiopian faith communities and leaders to reflect on their obligation to serve as a bridge for national consensus, peace and reconciliation;
- Urges civic societies, professional organizations, political parties and others to set aside minor differences and coalesce around a national unity of purpose that will lift-up Ethiopia from its current morass; and,
- Calls on all opposition groups within and outside the country to set aside their differences and unify their talents, wealth of experience and expertise and offer the Ethiopian people a compelling alternative in governance;
EDF believes that the donor and diplomatic community can no longer afford to pay lip services to the unfolding tragedy in the second most populous country in Africa.
We therefore call on:
- The European Union, the government of the United States, the African Union and China to heed to the demands of the Ethiopian people for freedom, justice, the rule of law and democracy and translate their statements into concrete programs;
- All foreign stakeholders to push for the convening of an all-inclusive dialogue for a transitional government of national unity that will ultimately lead towards a free and fair election;
- The diplomatic and donor community to urge Ethiopian authorities to stop ethnic- violence, conflict and extrajudicial measures as well as in lifting the draconian Anti- Terrorism Proclamation without delay; and,
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to send special Rapporteurs to conduct an independent investigation on killings, maiming, tortures and other crimes against humanity in
Long Live Ethiopia!
Long Live the Unity of the Ethiopian People!