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Ethiopia’s Crossroads: Dialogue or Transition?

Ethiopia _  politics _ crossroad
Google map of Ethiopia and the region

By Essayias Lesanu 

Ethiopia, a nation steeped in a history both deep and compelling, finds itself grappling with a crisis that threatens to cast a long, ominous shadow over its future. The socio-political fabric of this East African nation is being pulled apart at the seams, rife with escalating ethnic tensions, notably those aimed at the Amhara community. A simmering cauldron of discontent couples with an increasingly eroding rule of law, creating a landscape of uncertainty and discord. Amid this crisis, the integrity of the nation hangs in the balance, its stability like a flickering flame in the wind. Swift, decisive, and constructive action is desperately needed, but a clear path forward remains elusive.

In this swirling vortex of complexities, two compelling discourses have emerged. One school of thought urges for the establishment of a transitional government, perceived as a beacon of stability and hope amidst the tumultuous storm. On the contrary, others advocate for initiating a national dialogue, a crucible for discussions that involve all stakeholders in shaping the nation’s present and future. Both these alternatives hold merit and have the potential to catalyze meaningful change. However, choosing between them is fraught with complexities and requires the utmost thought and consideration.

Complicating matters is the apparent indifference of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s regime, seemingly deaf to the urgent calls for change. Much like the proverbial piper, the administration appears to be playing its tune as the nation is engulfed by the flames of discord. The stark contrast between the government’s seeming indifference and the impending disaster casts a deepening pall over the nation. It’s as if the melody of the piper’s flute is merely an echo lost in the wind, offering no comfort or direction in these troubled times.

At this critical juncture, Ethiopia’s path forward is shrouded in uncertainty. The decision between a transitional government and a national dialogue is far from abstract. It’s a reality that will profoundly shape the nation’s destiny. The need of the hour is not just action, but a well-informed, considerate, and inclusive plan of action. Only then can Ethiopia hope to rise from the ashes of its present turmoil, reigniting the spirit of unity and peace it urgently needs.

Historically, both national dialogue and transitional governments have proven successful in navigating nations through periods of immense distress. Tunisia, for instance, offers a shining example of national dialogue. In the aftermath of the 2011 Jasmine Revolution, a national dialogue in 2013-2014 brokered a successful compromise, leading to a peaceful transition to democracy and the establishment of a new constitution. Similarly, South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy is a testament to the power of dialogue and negotiation.

On the other hand, Liberia’s post-civil war stabilization under a transitional government illustrates the potential efficacy of this approach. After a gruesome civil war ended in 2003, a transitional government took charge, ensuring stability and guiding the nation to successful elections in 2005. However, this success was heavily dependent on international assistance and support.

In Ethiopia’s context, it’s imperative to understand that clinging to the status quo might not be an optimal solution when the nation’s integrity is at stake. An elected government, if unable to maintain peace, stability, and rule of law, or if it becomes a source of division and conflict, might necessitate a search for new solutions. As the saying goes, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The economic realities only add another layer of complexity. Ethiopia’s strained economy, coupled with the specter of a civil war, adds fuel to the crisis. As the renowned economist Thomas Sowell noted, “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

Thus, it’s incumbent upon every Ethiopian to grasp the magnitude of the challenge at hand. Echoing the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” This sentiment underscores the urgent need for a collective understanding, a shared vision, and a united effort to navigate this storm.

Both national dialogue and transitional governments have demonstrated their potential in various contexts. The choice between these approaches – or perhaps a blend of both – requires a deep understanding of Ethiopia’s unique circumstances. It also demands a willingness from all stakeholders to participate with sincerity, keeping the nation’s best interest at heart. The road ahead might be daunting, but history reassures us that with the right approach, even the most formidable challenges can be overcome.

The role of intellectuals in Ethiopian society is of pivotal importance during these trying times. Intellectuals wield the power of influence and understanding, and it’s essential that they channel this towards focusing on solutions rather than merely dissecting the problem. They are the torchbearers of enlightened discourse, equipped with the tools to dissect complex issues and forge forward-thinking solutions. Their voice is needed more than ever to drive a constructive conversation that can help alleviate the nation’s woes.

The need of the hour is a solution that serves the interests of the nation as a whole. An all-encompassing solution that transcends barriers of language, ethnicity, tribe, and religion. Intellectuals must promote a spirit of unity, a dialogue that emphasizes Ethiopia’s shared heritage and future, rather than being bound by differences. As the saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall”. This unity is imperative for the survival and prosperity of Ethiopia.

Moreover, political elites must also be encouraged to shift their focus from narrow, short-term, or class interests to a broader vision that encapsulates the long-term health of the nation. Politics should not be about gaining the upper hand for a particular group but should be about the collective good, about building a nation that stands tall and proud, one that respects and cherishes its diverse voices.

As Ethiopia navigates this tumultuous period, the collective prayer remains that divine intervention will guide the nation and its people toward a resolution. May God grant wisdom to its leaders, intellectuals, and citizens, enabling them to put aside their differences and work together to secure a harmonious and prosperous future for this great nation.

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of  


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