Consensus has to be established first within ethnic ....
Consensus has to be established first within ethnic groups before national unity can be achieved in Ethiopia.
Dr. Adem K Abebe, advisor and commentator on the #African Union, and governance and democracy in Africa.
Abiy’s rise to power that positioned #Oromos at the centre of #Ethiopian politics did not quell their historical grievances over their perceived dispossession and victimization at the hands of the historically dominant Amhara elites. Therefore, they continued to make demands. including "ownership" of the national capital as well as territorial claims over parts of the #Amhara region.
Following the rise of #Abiy to power, the Oromia regional state has witnessed intense political contest among parties vying to win popular support, which has resulted in increasing #intraethnic tensions, Dr. Adem pointed out.
As to him, a similar rift in the Amhara regional state between different Amhara political forces was the cause of the alleged attempted coup in June this year.
Considering Ethiopia's first-past-the-post electoral system, which focuses electoral contest at the district and regional level, intraethnic rivalry is likely to intensify as the 2020 #national elections approach, he accentuated.
These intraethnic tensions, according to Dr. Adem, threaten the stability of the country, so curbing them is a fundamental precondition for moderating interethnic politics and preserving national stability. Abiy has to work on both levels to push for #national unity, he added.
The advisor and commentator on governance and democracy in Africa highlighted that the official recognition of ethnicity as the principal instrument of political organization was, perhaps, inevitable in Ethiopia, considering that the armed groups that overthrew the communist Derg regime in 1991 were organized along ethnic lines.
The principal armed group, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (#TPLF), merged first with the Ethiopian/Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM - now #ADP), and subsequently midwifed the formation of the Oromo People's Democratic Organisation (OPDO - now #ODP) and the Southern Ethiopia Peoples' Democratic Movement (#SEPDM) and these groups formed a formal coalition called the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (#EPRDF), Adem said.
Dr. Adem indicated that #TPLF's hold on power started to loosen following the death of Prime Minister #Meles Zenawi in August 2012. Riding on the waves of popular protests that started in October 2015, OPDO and ANDM joined forces to orchestrate an internal party coup that brought Abiy to power in April 2018.
The maneuvers that brought Abiy the premiership were a continuation, rather than reversal, of the ethnic foundations of the political, social and #constitutional framework.
As to Adem, though Abiy’s rise to power positioned Oromos at the centre of Ethiopian politics, he did not quell historical grievances over their perceived dispossession and victimization at the hands of the historically dominant Amhara elites. Oromo ethnonationalists, as to him, therefore, continue to make demands. including "ownership" of the national capital as well as territorial claims over parts of the Amhara region.
The rise of #ethnonationalist forces and their opposition to more moderate parties have caused tensions not only within the Oromo community but also within other ethnic groups in the country. They threaten to exacerbate interethnic strife even further.
Abiy continues to face strong criticism from Oromo ethnonationalists who accuse him of belittling perceived past injustices, dispossession and humiliation of Oromos.
Non-Oromos, notably Amhara ethnonationalists, in turn, claim the prime minister is too soft on the Oromos, while reacting strongly to perceived security threats involving other groups, including the Somali, Amhara and Sidama.
To try to address interethnic tensions, Abiy is currently pursuing the goal of transforming EPRDF-the-coalition to EPRDF-the-party, Dr. Adem asserted. This transition has faced stiff resistance from the TPLF.
Nevertheless, the fate of the #merger hinges more on intra-ODP unity than on TPLF compliance. It is far from certain if there is a thin, let alone, critical majority within the ODP that supports the merger.
The recent incident involving #Jawar and signs of rejection of Abiy and his philosophy of #Medemer (an Amharic word for synergy, unity through recognition and cooperation) in Oromia are a manifestation of and may further encourage resistance to the merger.
As per the advisor, even if ODP manages to overcome the internal rift, policy differences between ODP and ADP, including notably over Oromo claims of "ownership" of Addis Ababa as well as Wallo areas, pose another hindrance. Any compromise on these issues would weaken the two parties vis-a-vis ethnonationalists in their respective regions who have taken strong populist positions on these matters.
Meanwhile, the prime minister has also embarked on building intraethnic consensus. In early October, he mobilized the three prominent Oromo parties, namely, the ODP, Oromo Federalist Congress, and Oromo Liberation Front, to agree to work together, which was seen in some corners as a putative power-sharing arrangement.
Details remain sketchy and the meeting was perhaps nothing more than a signal of willingness to engage further. Nevertheless, the idea that dialogue and consensus must start among the disparate political forces within each ethnic group, notably the Amhara and Oromo, is profound. Each ethnic group must find peace within itself before it can engage in dialogue and find peace with other groups, he underlined.
Moreover, Adem, under his piece ‘A presidential system VS proportional representation’ has also assessed Abiy’s intention to establish a presidential system. Abiy has suggested a possible shift to a presidential system of government, replacing the current system where parliament selects and can remove the prime minister, he pointed out.
In this regard, he said, it is thought that the move could bolster the legitimacy of the state leader, enable him to stand as a unifying figure in a divided society and widen his executive powers.
There is nevertheless no historical, normative or practical reason to suggest that a presidential system would deliver such results more than a parliamentary system, he underscored. A prime minister with parliamentary support, as per to the advisor, can wield more power than a president with an unsupportive parliament - which is not an uncommon occurrence in presidential systems.
Furthermore, trying to build national unity around the popularity of a single political leader can backfire. A presidential system significantly concentrates power in the hands of the leader, weakening his party and making politics more prone to ethnicisation.
According to him, a more reasonable move to help build national cohesion would be to establish an electoral system of proportional representation for regional legislative councils (parliaments), which would ensure that smaller parties get seats proportionate to their share of the regional vote and provide political leverage to ethnic minorities.
In addition, the law may require that a party that wins above a certain share of the votes in a region would be entitled to a cabinet seat, and establish a salaried Leader of Opposition position.
Other rules could provide that political parties would be granted equitable access to state-owned media throughout the year, beyond the short electoral cycle, he further asserted.
Establishing a proportional electoral system for regional councils would not require a constitutional amendment, which Abiy has ruled out prior to planned elections, as it can be achieved through quick legislative processes.
Such change also would not burden the management of elections. In fact, it would ease it by allowing the printing of regionwide electoral ballots, rather than the districtwide ballots that the current electoral system employs.
If pursued, this electoral system change would temper the paradigmatic winner-takes-all politics and reduce the stakes of electoral contest. This would enhance trust and confidence and channel the energy and competition of the 2020 elections into heralding a new culture of cooperative politics founded on the recognition of the legitimacy of all political groups, Adem Emphasized.