Hundreds of thousands of protesters call for a regime change in Ethiopia
Ethiopiawinnet: Council for the Defense of Citizen Rights
After issuing so many press releases urging respect for the internationally-recognized human rights of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, Muslim protestors, Amara victims of ethnic cleansing, Ethiopian immigrants in the Middle East, and the border giveaway, we are impelled to issue yet another one. But this time, the stakes are much higher. It is no less than the impending demise of the totalitarian TPLF/EPRDF regime—arguably the only rabidly anti-Ethiopian regime to hold state power in our long historical memory. A sober assessment and a bold declaration is, therefore, in order.
The facts have been crystal clear for some time now. Ethnic-based faux federalism has by design proved politically polarizing. It has recklessly endangered the social fabric of a resilient and special country which, until very recently, has gone further than most African countries toward establishing a meritocratic civil service and a professional military. Ethnocentrism in its retrograde forms has instead facilitated minority rule under a Tigrean supremacist dictatorship. Its myopic divide-and-rule nature has also facilitated capture by the TPLF and its satellites of the upper echelons of the civil, military and security services, the modern economy, the state enterprises, valuable urban and rural real estate, and much of the urban-based private sector.
The deeply insecure, narrowly-based, and widely despised regime has been answering the demand for “voice” by citizens, petitioned peacefully through the legally-sanctioned process, with unmitigated and unprovoked violence. As many international and national human rights organizations have meticulously documented, any attempt to exercise the basic freedoms of speech, assembly, petition, voting, religion, and the like has been answered by a dictatorship claiming 100 percent of the parliamentary seats accompanied with unprovoked killings, targeted evictions, and mass incarceration—the most recent examples come from Addis Ababa, Ogaden, Gambella, Bahir-Dar, Konso, Oromia, and Gondar.
We are compelled to underscore the point that proper diagnosis of the predicament Ethiopia currently faces is essential for proper action. Ardent supporters of the ruling party try mightily to hoodwink us into thinking that the regime is eminently reformable: ethnic federalism and revolutionary democracy are what the country needs to stem disintegration; and that what is wanting is the faithful implementation of the tenets of the Constitution and the so-called development and transformation programs. Ethnic federalism is not reformable. It has to go. For all its hyperbole about ‘rights’ and ‘equality,’ the defective Constitution that was callously imposed on the country does not, in both theory and practice, recognize Ethiopians as sovereign citizens or embrace our broadly-shared national unity. It cannot, therefore, serve as a foundation for a democratic Ethiopia.
Ethiopiawinnet: Council for the Defense of Citizen Rights, on the other hand, proudly upholds two fundamental tenets: (a) an all-embracing Ethiopian nationalism and (b) full respect for internationally-recognized human, civil, and political rights. As we spelt out in our non-partisan Citizens Charter for a Democratic Ethiopia (http://www.ethiopiawin.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Citizens-Charter.English-2012.pdf), we believe in certain core principles that are the foundations of a democratic order and will enshrine citizen rights. They are: unconditional respect for Ethiopian unity and territorial integrity, the primacy of the constitutional rights of the individual citizen over group rights, the right to life and food security, at least one national or official language, a non-sectarian devolution of state power, an inclusionary security and civil services, a full-fledged market economy, freedom for civic and political organizations, and checks and balances among the organs of the state.
Needless to say, deeply-rooted and pressing national problems require thoughtfully bold solutions. Neither polarizing primordialism nor minority rule can serve as viable bases for freedom and lasting prosperity for all. Neither are fuzzy programs, imported ideologies, or empty populist rhetoric. Given the complexity of the country’s problems and the need for Ethiopia-based solutions, Ethiopiawinnet has been organizing a series of research-based symposia on what a post-EPRDF national agenda and transition process should look like.
Ethiopiawinnet has so far organized two symposia with papers by 12 Ethiopian scholars and a number of discussants and commentators. The 2015 Symposium was devoted to the case for a new constitution and a new economic strategy, and identification of the major stakeholders and the modalities of the transition process to a post-EPRDF Ethiopia. The lead papers were published in the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies (Fall 2015), and the opening remarks are available from our website and from YouTube. The just-concluded 2016 Symposium focused on the historical origins and contemporary significance of our national identity of Ethiopiawinnet, three options for restructuring the system of government in Ethiopia, and the lessons from previous models of regional administrative systems for redesigning territorial self-administrative units in a post-Killil Ethiopia.
With a shared understanding of the alarming developments in and longstanding predicaments of Ethiopia along with the credible alternatives, we will know better than to simply continue to make the naïve call for free and fair elections, or the removal of the odious anti-terrorism laws and the draconian charities laws. It should be clear to all by now that the irredeemable TPLF/EPRDF is patently incapable of honoring these calls without endangering the foundations its “occupation” and merciless plunder of the country. Radical but appropriate change in the political order which is called for.
The Ethiopian people are now making the clarion calls of Kitet and Beqa—enough is enough to tyrannical minority rule! In 2016, there are unmistakable signs that people in various parts of the country, from Gondar to Harrar and Gambella, are finally overcoming their fears and defiantly engaged in a remarkable civic engagement of disobedience (Embitegnet). There is now a collective appreciation of the fact that democracy and rights cannot handed down to the people; they must be grabbed with the long reach of united and self-assertive citizens. Hundreds of peaceful demonstrators have already been gunned down in the streets by the Agazi sharpshooters and more are likely to be martyred in this final phase of the struggle for freedom.
We, therefore, humbly urge all Ethiopians of good will to support the people’s struggle with great care and understanding. The regime will go soon either through implosion or popular uprising. Our task is to do all we can to minimize the fallout to our national unity, and to offer well-considered ideas for a concerted resistance and for the new political and economic order. How we struggle against totalitarianism is as important as what we struggle for.
Ethiopiawinnet hereby recommends that:
- The Citizens Charter for a Democratic Ethiopia and the outcomes of the two symposia (as well as those of similar efforts by others) be widely shared and promoted to help forge a common national agenda for meaningful change.
- Political and civic organizations as well as patriotic individuals must relegate their partisan agenda to fully respond to the mantra of “Zare Tibibir, Nege Wudidir.”
- Diaspora Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia should engage the political processes in their host countries in order to mount effective advocacy on behalf of our common and just cause.
- The various Ethiopian movements in Ethiopia and abroad must strive to transcend local perspectives and lock hands with other compatriots in an all-party coalition in order to solidify the united national struggle on the basis of a “national agenda.”
Ethiopiawinnet also calls on the U.S., Canada, the European Union, and China:
- to unequivocally refrain from the tiresome practice of turning a blind eye to this odious ethnocratic system in the myopic hope of advancing the war on terrorism or making quick profit.
- to immediately suspend providing lethal aid to a nationally rejected regime which is deploying it to terrorize innocent citizens whose only “crime” is to ask for respect of their constitutional rights. The Horn of Africa does not need yet another failed state, and the voices of 100 million people are worthy of due attention by the rest of the world.
Unity shall triumph over division!
Ethiopia’s cries for freedom shall be heard across the world!
Ethiopia’s freedom-loving people will surely be victorious!
This Declaration was adopted unanimously at the E-CDCR general assembly meeting held on August 7, 2016 in Tysons, VA (USA).