By Dr. Achame D Shana
1 Introduction to the subjugation of southwest Ethiopia people
1.1 An insight to the unique suffering and subjugation of Southwest Ethiopia People – presented for discussion, understanding and joint solution seeking
The southwest Ethiopia people are officially known as ‘’oppressed nations’’ (ጭቁን ሕዝቦች) in Ethiopia. In the past, the region has been used as a detention center for government critics such as the well-known figure as Abe Gobegna, and many other offenders from other part of Ethiopia. The southwest Ethiopia people are citizens in the peripheries, whose existence doesn’t count in Ethiopia.
In reality, the Southwest Ethiopia people are highly advanced industrious societies who produced commodities such as, Gold, Silver, Bronze, Ivory, Honey, Wax, Coffee, Grains and various types of Spices. They even invented and introduced the use of Coffee to the world. They once had a vastly developed trading posts (until 1885) stretching from Andracha, Maji, and Bonga, that is connected to Gojam, Gondar, and port of Zailla, Aden, Middle East, Asia and Europe.
However, for the last 133 years, they have been deliberately cut off from the outside world; this region has been left to decay. Since then, the people have been pleading for their proper integration in Ethiopia and the relaxation of the policy of prolonged siege and isolation, but their plea has been ignored by successive regimes in Ethiopia.
Furthermore, particularly over the last 43 years, the horror of Villagization and Resettlement policy of the Derg regime plus the current Land grab policy of TPLF have brought more miseries and have decimated the social fabric of these people.
When TPLF took over Ethiopia in 1991, it requested all Ethiopian political communities (Ethnic groups) to organise themselves and join the transitional government. Accordingly, the Southwest Ethiopia people joined TPLF designed transition government with a hope and expectation of building an all-inclusive and constituency based democratic Ethiopia.
According to the transitional government arrangement, the Sheka, Kaffa, Bench-Maji Dawuro and Yem people were assigned independent Zones each. This new development was very welcomed by them because they saw this as devolution of power to the local people, which could give them the freedom to do a business again.
Unfortunately after a while, TPLF abolished the devolved independent Zones of Sheka, Kaffa, Bench- Maji, Dawuro and Yem people. Instead, it crafted a collective zone known as Southern Nations and Nationalities, which serves all 56 political communities (ethnic groups) in the region. TPLF arbitrarily selected Awassa town in Sidama Zone as a capital of this artificially created zone.
Existing indigenous political parties and social-economic structures in these areas were dismantled; in the process TPLF killed, hanged and tortured number of innocent citizens. TPLF instead crafted a pseudo political party groups named as People’s Democratic Organizations (PDOs) of its own and employed them as its local agents; the PDOs constitutions were prepared by TPLF in Addis Ababa and faxed. It also appointed its own Generals to oversee these newly incubated and hatched political parties.
In this way the Southwest Ethiopia people are forced to travel to Awassa without single functioning road, to obtain vital government services. For example, the Sheka, Bench-Maji, Yem Dawuro and Kaffa people have to make a long distance return journey ranging from 1140 – 1322 Kilo meters.
For example, for a return journey, a Shekacho Farmer has to pay a travel and accommodation fees when passing through numerous towns such as Gore, Metu, Bedele, Jimma, and Addis Ababa to Awassa and back. On the basis of this hardship, the Southwest Ethiopia people detest the creation of this punitive zonal arrangement in Awassa. For TPLF, this negation of power devolution to southwest Ethiopia people area was seen as a cost cutting exercise where the government fund required for developing these areas were instead diverted. A special funding formula based on Ethnic population numbers was formulated and implemented; this funding formula totally excluded the people of Southwest Ethiopia.
As a result, for last the 27 years, the Sheka, Kaffa, Bench-Maji and Yem people area had no single functioning road or Hospital. All pre-TPLF era roads are left in ruins (for example, see Figure 1 in Appendix 1). In contrast, TPLF built mega cities, roads and other infrastructures in Tigray using the fund that supposed to be equitably distributed among all Ethiopian people’s areas (for example see Figure 2 and Table 1 in Appendix 1). No outside help is available to southwest Ethiopia people; no NGOs are allowed to work in the region. All international aid is given to other regions, but not Southwest Ethiopia.
Therefore, the last 27 years have been a nightmare for the Sheka, Kaffa, Bench Maji Dawuro and Yem people. Their land and resource looting has been rampant and the area has been under military occupation. As such the people are being watched and are not allowed even to protest or speak up about the condition they are asked to live in and they are deprived of their right to access to basic government services. Death by road accidents due to bad road surface and from easily treatable disease is common. The authorities who supposed to represent the Southwest Ethiopia people are often locked into a patron-client relationship with TPLF. On numerous occasions, the people of Southwest Ethiopia had been peacefully appealing for leniency and change, but the TPLF’s response always has been belittling and ignoring their suffering. TPLF has totally deprived the people, their proper political representation and economic development.
Today, under the pretext of “Land for Lease law, TPLF has been selecting, and issuing most productive tracts of land (a land area as big as Singapore) to individuals and groups, who have ties to itself. TPLF implements this and other policies using its colonial rule and occupying army.
On the basis of the suffering they endured, the Southwest Ethiopia people believe that their suffering is much greater than that of anywhere in Ethiopia. However, they also believe that over time, the TPLF system of subjugation and suffering has knocked everyone’s door in Ethiopia – we all face a common problem and that needs a common solution.
The Southwest Ethiopia people believe that the Ethiopian national unity involving all ethnic groups (political economies) is essential if our sufferings had to be eliminated and our shared future built in Ethiopia.
2 Cooperation and trust building among diverse political Communities in Ethiopia
2.1 Reasons for the overall lack of cooperation and trust among diverse political communities (ethnic groups) in Ethiopia – The Southwest Ethiopia people perspective
In Ethiopia, there is a deep sited division or segregation among various Ethiopian political communities such as Oromo, Amhara, Tigre, Afar, Somali, Kaffa, Shekacho, Sidama, Kambata, Hadiya, Wolayta, Gambella, Dawuro, Yem, Bench-Maji, Hamar, Konso people. Here, it is fair to note, that these ethnic division existed well before TPLF, but TPLF just exploited and used to its advantage.
In our view, this ethnic division is toxic and it is fuelled by the following reasons:
• The superiority of certain ethnic group over others emanating from their long held toxic beliefs and values those are indoctrinated through culture, faith, education, and mentoring. This group feels of ownership of Ethiopia and they have the mentality that they are the only defender of Ethiopia. Once an individual or group accepts these beliefs as a truth and he/she becomes a defender and protector of that belief system. This causes one to be politically and economically biased towards his/her political community at the expense of others as well as the whole country. They accordingly seek to dominate the Ethiopian political and socio-economic life. In doing so, some curve Ethiopia and Ethiopiawinet (Ethiopian citizenship) in their own group image, while in the process depriving the human rights of others in Ethiopia. Though, this group might not be aware of how their action negatively impacts others or for that matter the whole country.
• Another group of contesting political communities in Ethiopia, however, believe that the original palace of Ethiopia (throne) belonged to their ethnic group because the throne was unlawfully taken away from them. They, therefore, in return sought to restore it by force and in the process created their ethnic supremacy over others.
• Third types of frustrated political communities have abandon their Ethiopiawinet altogether and have fought to create their own independent state (s).
• The fourth, remaining majority of political communities would like to see a fair and just Ethiopia, where our shared future exists, but these groups are often belittled and forced to go into a patron-client relationship with a winning political community in power. Even after that patron-client relationship, the subject communities are brutalised and subjugated regardless of regime change in Ethiopia. In the eyes of this group of Ethiopians, the ruling ethnic group loves Ethiopia as a land (territory) without its people and they brutalise inhabitants just to enrich the few in the ruling clique.
On the basis of the above account, the past and current Ethiopia governments have been struggling to maintain a united and democratic Ethiopia due to their inability to reconcile between the aspirations of building all-inclusive citizenship centred united Ethiopia with that of their urge to impose the ideology and will of their ruling ethnic group on others. This shows that the ideology of Unity and Ethnic supremacy are not compatible.
Almost all past and present Ethiopian governments have created a single privileged political community over others and this was a primary cause of disunity and luck of trust among ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The existence of a single privileged political community in Ethiopia, which is supported by the state, is widely detested by the disadvantaged political communities and rivals alike.
Furthermore, the privileged ethnic group members often remain comfortable with the way the country is being run, while injustice takes place in all over the country. They never spoke up, even for the sake of the unity of the country that they claim to love. This often creates huge barrier, mistrust and disunity between communities as well as political parties.
As long as highly politicised political communities exist in Ethiopia, there will be no guarantee for all-inclusive and democratic Ethiopia, after TPLF, unless the toxic ethnic domination based power arrangement system was radically changed.
3 Lack of credible political alternatives in Ethiopia
3.1 Explanations for the lack of credible political alternatives in Ethiopia and abroad – Southwest Ethiopia People perspective
The southwest Ethiopia people believe that the source of the lack of cooperation and trust among Ethiopian political opposition groups both at home and abroad is linked to their respective highly politicised political communities (ethnic groups).
In the past there has been a repeated call for cooperation and coordinated efforts among various Ethiopian political parties and civic organisations, to create a credible alternative to the current regime in Ethiopia. These calls didn’t come to fruition mainly because of the deep sited toxic ethnic (political community) division among Ethiopians in Ethiopia and abroad. Past calls for all-inclusive political activities didn’t materialize because of the following reasons:
• First, the members of some Ethiopian political parties often display etiquettes of ethnic supremacist, nationalist or narrow nationalist ideologies. These are barrier number one for the political party to political part cooperation and trust building.
• Second, some political parties have agendas that are camouflaged with an overall Ethiopian national agenda but in practice they stand to serve their respective privileged political communities over others. This is barrier number two for political parties’ cooperation and trust building.
• Third, lack of learning from past mistakes and understanding the root causes of lack of cooperation among political parties. This is a barrier number three for building a meaningful cooperation between political parties
• Fourth, being nostalgic for the past (hanging-on on the past) brutal regime systems and seeking to restore them without reflecting why they failed first place. This is a barrier number four for building a meaningful cooperation between political parties
• Fifth, ‘’them and us mentality’’ and intolerance of opinion difference displayed by negative behaviours and attitudes to each other. This is a number five barrier for building a meaningful cooperation between political parties.
We believe once all the sources of our problems were properly examined and understood, it could be possible to put a mechanism for problem solution and for proper cooperation among various Ethiopian political parties in Ethiopia and abroad. Therefore, there is a need for developing a properly designed strategic Roadmap for transitional order in Ethiopia, which will in turn facilitate for the establishment of an all-inclusive democratic united Ethiopia.
4 Strategic roadmap for a transitional order in Ethiopia
4.1 A proposal for the development of a strategic Roadmap for a Transitional order in Ethiopia – A Southwest Ethiopia People Union (SWEPU) Perspective
This strategic roadmap is a comprehensive framework that envisions, develops, guides and measures the performance of a programme or initiatives for creating conducive condition for cooperation of different political parties, the creation of transitional government and hence ultimately for the establishment of all-inclusive democratic state of Ethiopia:
• Establishing a strategic vision for transitional order in Ethiopia (showing an end state) and identifying objectives and goals for a transitional order in Ethiopia is urgently needed. Working to create a transitional government that will facilitate for establishing all-inclusive democratic and United Ethiopia.
• Finding and learning from other existing successful roadmaps such as that of South African’s Truth and Reconciliation roadmap or that of Liberia.
• Assessing the past (in radar), but all-inclusive current state of political and socio-economic situation in Ethiopia, learn from it and planning for positive change. This includes, creating a platform for listening all grievances, concerns and views of all Ethnic groups. Enable differences to be brought out, acknowledged, and dealt with in a way that permits them to exist without threatening cooperation and trust building. This involves open debate, argument, disagreement, compromise and cooperation – functioning without resorting to violence.
• Identification of risks and challenges for creating a transitional order in Ethiopia such as toxic ethnic division, ethnic domination, hatred, violence, and legacy issues – put mechanisms and corrective action plans in place. Past experiences and relationships are based on antagonism, distrust, disrespect, hurt and hatred and this is barriers that need to be understood and solved. We need to examine and address our previous relationships and our past without fear.
• Addressing the pain and suffering of victims, understanding the motives of offenders, bringing together divided ethnic groups and trying to find a path to justice, truth and peace.
• A need for developing a mechanism of voluntary Ethnic politics detoxification programme in all political communities and religious institutions alike; this is priority number one and requires matching rhetoric with implementation and practical results
• Recommendation for the implementation approach for the transitional order in Ethiopia such as the establishment of non-partisan institutions that have established proper code of conduct, performance monitoring and corrective actions plans for the benefit of all Ethiopian citizens.
• No win-lose solution of conflict – creating democracy which becomes the practical manifestation of cooperative, win-win solutions
• Creating a serious mechanism of transparent corruption and nepotism control procedures in Ethiopia – authorities and officials living beyond their pay and means must be audited because national asset stewardship doesn’t warrant illegal loot!
• Creating a free movement of goods and services in Ethiopia and lifting the siege and isolation of oppressed nations in Ethiopia; allowing them to access national and international market without national barrier.
Therefore, SWEPU believes that using the above suggested roadmap steps, creating an all-inclusive transitional government that can assume a care taker position as an alternative to the current oppressive regime in Ethiopia is essential. Such a roadmap must involve all Ethiopians regardless of Ethnic origin, race, colour and religion in the process of building a democratic united country, Ethiopia; no one should be excluded.
• The southwest Ethiopia people are highly advanced industrious societies, but they are one of the most oppressed people in Ethiopia. For the last 133 years, the Southwest Ethiopia people have been deliberately cut off from the outside world and they have been under prolonged siege and isolation by the Ethiopian state. The Southwest Ethiopia people are Ethiopian citizens in the peripheries, whose existence in Ethiopia doesn’t count.
• Today, the system of Ethiopian government subjugation by TPLF has spread to all of Ethiopia and the suffering has knocked everyone’s door – all Ethiopians face the same problem and it needs a joint solution.
• In Ethiopia, there are highly politicised ethic groups (political communities) and most Ethiopian political parties in Ethiopia or abroad are ethnic based. This makes cooperation among these political parties difficult and hence the functioning of democratic order in Ethiopia.
• Often Ethiopian governments and institutions are Partisan and stood to benefit the ruling Ethnic group – the culture of single Ethnic domination is rampant in Ethiopia and this need to change if all-inclusive and democratic Ethiopia had to be established.
• There is a need for a roadmap for a transitional order in Ethiopia in order to create conducive condition for cooperation among Ethiopian political parties, and for the establishment of an alternative to the current oppressive TPLF regime in Ethiopia. Within this road map, there is also a need to build a mechanism of voluntary DETOXIFICATION of highly toxic ethnic politics that is based on intentional or non-intentional indoctrination of the population in Ethiopia. This is a crucial step for the creation of non-partisan transitional government and non-partisan institutions in Ethiopia for the benefit and prosperity of all Ethiopian citizens.
ካፋ ሚዲያ kaffamedia