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Is Ethiopian government begging for more protest with too little appeasement?

No meaningful reform yet. Can Ethiopian government get away with too little political appeasement?

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Chairpersons of the four parties during the brief
Credit : EBC

January 4,2018

The chairpersons of the four parties ( ANDP, OPDO, SEPDM, and TPLF) that make up the ruling EPRDF coalition appeared for a televised brief to update the public about the changes they will make as part of their response to the country’s deteriorating political condition.

Unexpected as it may seem, they announced that Ethiopian government will release political prisoners in an effort to “widen the democratic space for all.” For the sake of avoiding political shame and make it face-saving political measure, the release of prisoners is presented as an act of benevolence on the part of the government and it is to be pursued through the legal and administrative process of a government amnesty. For a government known for jailing and brutalizing opposition politicians and that prided itself with a hundred percent win in the last national election, speaking in terms of broadening “democratic space” is a positive step worth mentioning. But it came so late to consider it as an act of goodwill or benevolence. And there is no doubt that it is the fruit of people’s relentless struggle for which many have paid in lives for years.

Despite a positive political gesture, it should also be noted that the promise to release political prisoners does not amount to reform a measure. It is an appeasement and it is too little. To address the political and economic demands in the country, it takes, to the least, significant structural reforms which the regime does not seem to afford – which in turn means that government can get away with the appeasement measures. In fact, the appeasement promise itself is murky in the sense that there seem to be an intention to release prisoners selectively. For example, nothing is known so far if Ethiopians who were arrested and tortured for resisting the imposition of Tigray identity and Tigraization of Wolkait are part of the prisoners to be released.

Another important political gesture from the government is its move to close down notorious torture chamber in the capital Addis Ababa, Maekelawi. Obviously, Maekelawi is not the only torture chamber in the country. There have been reports in the past that TPLF has clandestine torture locations in Tigray region where Ethiopians whom TPLF considered as “enemy” are tortured to death.

The above mentioned positive political gestures could only be meaningful in so far as the regime is ready not to arrest or hassle Ethiopians ever again because of their political convictions. Anything short of that is likely to be a strategy to buy time until TPLF completes its attempt to re-consolidate its power which is an illusion. Ethiopia will never be the same for TPLF again. It is high time for TPLF to accept that change is inevitable. In fact, the more TPLF attempts to sabotage change and reviving Ethiopian spirit, the more dangerous it will be for the party and for its supporters. Further, political manipulations of using one people against the other might backfire. That is exactly what happened with Amhara and Oromo.

It has to be clear for the government that the movement across the country demanded change and little appeasements are not good enough to stop the wind of change. In fact, if this is all that the government has to offer for Ethiopians, it is certainly begging for more protest and the consequence will be disastrous not only for the party but for Ethiopia as well. OPDO’s chairman Lemma Megersa made a very good point when he appeared in the televised brief today. He dwarfed the importance of power compared to the existence of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people – and that where TPLF failed time and again. There is still time to make important changes that are capable of making post-TPLF Ethiopia ready for reconciliation.

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