Post-TPLF Ethiopia and the Need for Peace-building and Reconciliation

“The Fierce Urgency of Now”

By Alem Mamo

Whether we base our argument on historical evidence or the current political temperature in Ethiopia the question no longer is not “if” the wind of change and the popular discontent can be stopped, but it is “when” the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that ruled the country with a brute force for the last 24 years will be forced out. The other question one must also consider is how far would the regime go in using violence and instigating intercommunal conflict to suppress the popular uprising that is engulfing the country.

All regimes that climb the ladder of power through violence and rule by institutionalized form of state-terror speed up their own expiry date, and TPLF is no exception. Such regimes are their own worst enemies more than anyone or anything else. Their inflated version of self-worth and ‘greatness’, along with extreme arrogance wrapped in a blinding hood of ignorance, prevents them from seeing the reality of their surroundings. They only listen to their own voices and see the fictitious image they created in their own mind. No other ideas, no dissent, no divergent views, which are of a significant value in the building of democratic culture, are tolerated.

While the demise of such an authoritarian rule brings a new hope and optimism to the people of Ethiopia, who endured so much suffering and hardship under the regime, this is also a delicate time that requires responsible navigation from political leaders, as well as the average citizens. The political discourse of the last 24 years under the TPLF has been one of extreme polarization and dangerous play with large group identity. In the process, the regime tried to create permanent fault lines between groups to advance its political agenda. By in large, this attempt hasn’t been successful, thanks to the long standing tradition of peaceful coexistence, shared sense of community and belonging.

At the same time, however, it is important to acknowledge the fact that, the divisive policies of TPLF have dislocated the social equilibrium of the society. Large group identity in Ethiopia has been manipulated with an objective of preventing inter-group collaboration and in the process eliminating centripetal political discourse. Therefore, the post-TPLF political process must be strongly and clearly anchored on a sustained and long term initiatives of political and social reconciliation agenda.

Currently, there is an urgent need for a symbolic demonstration of collaboration between leaders of various political parties. Such symbolism could include leaders of political parties appearing together in public to signal to their members and followers that they are committed to working together and facilitate a sustained and long-term social reconciliation.

While the symbolic demonstration by political leadership is an important and valuable currency in persuading their followers to foster a spirit of inclusivity, collaboration and partnership, the long-term emphasis should be on the substantive aspect of reconciliation, which encompasses multiple aspects. Long-term reconciliation takes place both at the grassroots, as well as national level. The key components of the reconciliation process include political, economic, judicial, social and cultural tracks. The reinvigoration of social cohesion and the strengthening of damaged social bridges could only be successful if we address all aspects of the underlying causes.

The global Ethiopian diaspora must play a vibrant and visible role in promoting peace and reconciliation both at home and abroad. The role of the diaspora in this regard could be both symbolic, as well as substantive. Different diaspora organizations could display their solidarity by organizing unified cultural events and organizing workshops and seminars together. By making a clear and unambiguous statement about a common and shared future under a democratic, just and inclusive political system, they nurture peaceful transition while proving to the TPLF regime that the divide and conquer policy has failed.

The future of Ethiopia is intrinsically tied to the ability of its future leaders to once and for all establish a democratic political system where the rights of citizens are respected and all are equal before the law. Equally important is the nation’s future leaders’ ability and willingness to design a reconciliation process that steers the country in the right direction. The intent and goal of any reconciliation process is to address the past ills while focusing on making the future distinctly different and better from the past.

On April 16, 1963 in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made one of his most powerful arguments for racial justice and inclusion in American society. In his magnificent oratory and intellectual master piece he highlighted what he called the “fierce urgency of now” warning those in power to address the demands of the African American community and the failure to do so could have a serious consequence on the nation. His sharp and uncompromising voice was clear in “The Letter” he warned “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” The unfolding political, economic and social situation in this regard, demands two immediate actions. First, the demands of the people MUST be addressed with out any delay and second all political parties and groups must began formulating a reconciliation process with out any delay. As Dr. King articulated there is such thing as being late.

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