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Quantum Physics and the Quest for the Elusive National Dialogue in Ethiopia

Ethiopia National Dialogue Problems

Yonas Biru, PhD

The 2015 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.” Anyone who succeeds in cracking the proverbial Da Vinci Code for the elusive national dialogue in Ethiopia is worthy of consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize and then some. Quantum Physicists may be the most viable candidates for the challenge.

This article has two purposes. First, it aims to draw readers’ attention to salient points about the elusive issues of national dialogue and reconciliation in Ethiopia. Second, it seeks to broaden the discourse bringing to focus the elemental components and micro dynamics of Ethiopia’s perennial political conflicts in quest of understanding its macro phenomena and the resultant challenge in herding the political herd to a democratic dialogue table. 

Being cognizant of the failure of sociologists and political scientists in managing the nation’s socio-political crisis, the article attempts to re-imagine the elusive national dialogue and reconciliation through the prism of quantum physics. 

Quantum physics aids scientists to discover the properties and interfaces of the elementary building blocks and subatomic particles of the universe in pursuit of the ultimate macro challenge of sorting out the alpha and omega of all things. Its principles and applications have led to the birth and rapid growth of quantum economics and quantum politics. Quantum economics is in an advanced stage with decades of research under its belt. Quantum politics is in its early formative stage. 

As recent political developments have proven, traditional political and sociological tools of analysis are not capable of explaining Ethiopia’s perceived and/or real socio-political phenomena that have many moving parts that are constantly crisscrossing and disrupting each other. Each moving part cannot be analyzed independently without simultaneously having a micro-level insight into its character and interface, and macro-level understanding of how it affects other moving parts and in turn it is affected by them. 

In writing this article my intention is to present the lay of the political landscape with the hope of seducing quantum physicists and their disciples (quantum economists) to shed light on Ethiopia’s political challenges. 

The Lay of the Political Landscape

Four important factors shed light on the vexing issues of Ethiopia’s perennial conflicts that are spiraling toward a point of no return. 

First, the government is increasingly getting irrelevant. It owes its very survival to the fact that the conflict between Oromo and Amhara opposition camps is increasingly stronger than the conflict between them and the government. Those who believe there is no difference between the government and its Oromo opposition forces should stop here and go out of their dark basement to watch birds fly, see the wind sway trees, and marvel as the cloud slides through the sky. 

The fact that the conflict between Ethiopian opposition forces is stronger than the conflict between them and the government has made it impossible to form a coalition to engage the government, much less to create a critical mass to challenge it. If opposition forces manage to create the 2018 equivalent of team Lemma-Gedu with a broader, more inclusive, and unifying agenda, their adversarial focus will shift from going to each other’s throat to challenging the government. If this were to happen it would spell dooms day to the Prime Minister and his administration.

One can even say the absence of a democratic dialogue and the failure to reconcile differences within the Amhara opposition camps is as elusive and as tenuous as the absence of a national dialogue and reconciliation. In fact, the Amhara political elite harbor stronger negative sentiment against each other than against the Oromo-PP. For example, Achamyeleh Tamiru, one of the prominent Amhara intellectuals is on the record calling for the eradication of PP-Amhara as a matter of first priority. “በቅድሚያ ብአዴንን ማጥፋት አላማው የማያደርግ የአማራ ተጋድሎ የውሸት ትግል ነው.”  

Sadly, since the beginning of the Fano uprising, Amhara political elites have been frantically and futilely trying to sweep intra-Fano conflicts under the rug. An adage says, “what exists without my acknowledgment exists without my consent.” What exists finds a way to reveal itself. Eskinder Nega’s recent speech drives this point home

Speaking of his Amhara Popular Front’s (APF) adversaries, Eskinder identified two groups that he characterized as “Amhara’s external and internal enemies.” The external enemies are “በንፁሃን ደም የሰከረው መንግስታዊው ሃይል (government forces drunk with innocent blood).

The internal enemies are “በሃገር ውስጥና በውጭ ሃገር ሆነው ገንዘብ ማምታታት እንደ ቁዋሚ ሰራ አድርገው በግንባሩ [መፈጠር] የገንዘብ ምንጫቸው አደጋ ላይ የወደቀ የመሰላቸው የደም ነጋዴዎች.” Thy are Amhara Fano forces and their diaspora support ecosystem who oppose the APF and operate outside of Eskinder’s sphere of influence and control. He characterized them as money-driven traders in human blood. On their part, Gojam Fanos chased Eskinder out of their home turf. To top it off, their political leader (Zemene Kassie) went public accusing him of betraying Fanos who were organized under the ህዝበ ሃይል Fano. 

There is also a potent conflict between Amhara forces who aim to remove the Oromo-PP led government by any means necessary and those who believe a negotiated settlement is a more viable and less costly option, provided the government meets certain preconditions. 

We are also bearing witness as some Amhara political forces springing forward with full speed to reach a new milestone in tribal politics, while others fall back in the reservoir of history and cling to Amhara’s presumed role as the central pillar of Ethiopian nationalism. 

The Amhara inability to reconcile differences among its political forces has weakened it, tilting the power balance in favor of its adversaries. Prevailing conflicts within the Southern People tribal homeland is no less in breadth, depth, or scope than the above noted conflicts within the Amhara tribal land. 

Considering the above, any effort to bring the government and the varying opposition forces to a national dialogue table is a futile experiment. It is tantamount to seek solace in a mixing bowl of entangled web of intra- and inter-tribal conflicts driven by divergent interests, clashing ideologies, tribalized and hermitized intellectual culture fermented with hate and score setting impulses, and lack of trust to each other. The international community’s failed effort to set up a national dialogue over the last five years bears witness.

Second, the success of a national dialogue depends on a sequential and model-based process with a robust feedback mechanism. The first step in this regard is a dialogue between political factions within each tribal land. Consensus building in each tribal land can filter out extremist elements. It is only after weeding peddlers of irreconcilable discord in each tribal land that the proposed sequential dialogue process can advance to the second stage.

This is particularly important in the Amhara tribal land for two reasons. First, its sheer population size and its being the primary target of government atrocities makes it the epicenter of the opposition enterprise around which anti-government forces from all tribal lands can coalesce. This requires winning the confidence and support of non-Amhara forces through the moderating effects of inclusive dialogue. Second, the gathering storm surrounding the Fano establishment makes it a potentially formidable force in the eyes of both national and international stakeholders. This strengthens the Amhara vis-à-vis the government and can put the broader opposition in a position of strength during the third phase of the sequential process – a national dialogue between the unified opposition and the government. 

The challenge the Amhara tribal land has is silencing extremist forces who throw hoots of disdain and temper tantrum to stifle any dialogue that aims to build consensus outside of their dogmatic extremism. 

Who are Amharas extremists? They are an off-grid and high-bandwidth network of activists who aim to dial back the time to when the Amhara played a dominant role in state politics. The network’s ideological doctrine coalesces around Amhara nationalism at its nucleus from whence a unitary mindset radiates outward and expresses itself as a national identity. The network has neither a written manifesto nor an organizational platform. Instead, it pushes a passive-aggressive strategy to take the Ethiopian political center stage, using grievance politics both as the power cylinder and transmission belt of its political machinery. 

Its grievance politics has undercut the Amhara historical political wisdom that relies on the art of diplomatic flexibility to transcend differences and build consensus. Gone are the days of Amhara subtle and strategic powerplay and coalition forming. The network’s mantra-like response to legitimate criticisms about its lack of strategy in coalition building and organizing a political powerbase is character assassination of anyone who opposes them. Their trademark is radicalizing the Amhara political agenda and normalizing hostilities within the Amhara forces. 

Yesterday, I appeared on Moges Zewdu’s የሃሳብ ገበታ YouTube Channel with Professor Girma Berhanu – a known quantity in the Eskinder Nega and Shaleka Dawit extremist universe. The debate was heated. The firework started with a question the host directed my way: “ፕሮፈሰር ግርማ ካስቀመጡት ልጀምር እንደ ጥያቄ፤ ምን አገባህ ስለ አማራ ህዝብ ተብለሃልና እሱንም አብራርተህ ብትሄድ ጥሩ ነው.” The question was regarding Professor Girma’s questioning of my right to write about Amhara politics.

The context of the Professor’s statement was my August 2023 proposal titled “The Fano Manifesto.” My reply that I still standby was: “ይሄ ከመሃይምነት የሚመጣ ነው. ጥያቄው ራሱ መሃይምነትን የሚግልጽ ነው” (the question manifests a state of ignorance). During the discussion, he repeatedly labeled me as “ፀረ አማራ” and threatened me with a lawsuit as “a genocide denier” and upped the ante by calling me “a sub-human genocide denier.” 

His comrade in arm, Professor Wondimu Mekonnen, wrote in the comment section of the discussion, stating “Prof. Girma, please don’t engage Dr Yonas. A man who called the victims Amhara Shene.” 

I have written several full-fledged articles on Amhara Shene. I have never called “the victims” Amhara Shene. I have not only made it clear that my reference to Amhara-Shene is exclusively focused on extremist Amhara intellectuals who do not entertain alternative ideas outside of their brand of dogmatic radicalism. 

When the likes of Professor Wondimu fail to move the needle on the intellectual seismograph, they lie and attack. This is the state of Amhara Shene intellectuals. They have perfected the art of በጭንቅላት ቆሞ በእግር ደረት መምታት. The science of strategy and the virtues of truth and morality elude them like a mirage in the Ethiopian political desert. 

Third, international intervention with a clear incentive structure and constraint matrix is critical in the second stage to of dialogue, bringing different oppositions from various tribal lands to a negotiating table. Unfortunately, international interventions are lackluster in bringing to bear their power of influence against those who are hellbent on standing in the way of a democratic dialog and consensus building. The international community must take a lesson from the unmet expectations of the Pretoria agreement that proved no more than a secession of hostility between two war-fatigued forces. There has not been genuine dialogue for a sustainable peace. 

Fourth, understanding the institutional deficiencies and fault lines of our political system is necessary but not sufficient to get to the root causes of the intrinsic disinterest in national democratic dialogue and consensus building. It is important to zoom in on the primary opposition groups and figure out the elements of discord and centers intra- and inter-tribal conflict and create international pressure to deal with their baggage of pathology, idiosyncrasy, and extremism. This is a critical step before ushering all opposition forces to the national dialogue table. 

Institutional Factors

The question that commands attention is: What are the elemental foundations and attributing factors that make Ethiopians prone to perpetual conflict? The short answer is: It is the Constitution, Stupid. But the solution is not necessarily in abolishing the constitutional order here and now. 

In principle, a constitution is a social contract through the voluntary consent of a nation’s citizens. Its purpose is to set out the rules of social engagement in making collective decisions to create an equitable, tranquil, prosperous, and durable co-existence. Therefore, the preambles of the constitutions of federalist nations such as the US and India start with We the People. The ultimate sovereign power is bestowed to We the People ” as a unified whole. Consequently, the US, as a union, is “indivisible” and India as a nation is “indestructible.”

The seed of Ethiopia’s political conflict is planted in Article 8, Sections 1 and 2 of the Constitution that bestow sovereignty to tribal homelands and the people therein who are seen distinctly different from the people in the other tribal homelands. Section 1 promulgates, “sovereignty resides in the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia.” Section two adds “This Constitution is an expression of their sovereignty.” 

Pay attention to the term “peoples.” The Ethiopian constitution is the only constitution in the world that pluralizes the term thereby segmenting the people with differing interests. This is neither an inadvertent action nor an innocuous verbiage. It is a constitutional doctrine that oxygenates and sustains the life of the document. It is repeated 90 or so times in the 104 Articles strong social contract. The doctrine turned into a seed of constitutional disenfranchisement as it percolated down to the various tribal lands. 

For example, the Constitution of the Benishangul-Gumuz tribal land dictates that the region belongs exclusively to five tribes (Berta, Gumuz, Shinasha, Mao, and Komo). Others including people of Amhara heritage who constitute the second largest tribe in the region are accorded residency permits without constitutionally guaranteed citizenship rights.

In like manner, five prominent Oromo political parties demanded the federal government to acknowledge that Oromos have exclusive ownership rights to Addis Ababa and non-Oromos will only have the privilege of residency without citizenship rights. 

According to official census figures, Oromos account for only 19 percent of the City’s population and Article 49 of the Ethiopian Constitution grants Addis Ababians a self-administrative authority and hold them accountable to the federal government. 

The argument advanced by the above-noted five Oromo political parties is that (1) since the Constitution notes “the presence of the city of Addis Ababa within the state of Oromia”, and (2) because sovereign rights reside with the Oromo tribal land and the people of Oromo, non-Oromos living in the Oromo tribal land have neither constitutional citizenship rights. 

Furthermore, Article 39 of the Constitution grants the various tribal homelands “unrestricted right to self-determination including the right to secession,” leaving the door wide open to dismember the nation. The notion of the indivisibility of indestructibility of the nation is a concept explicitly rejected in the Constitution. 

Imagine the Oromo tribal land seceding and forming a new nation called Oromia. Two things will happen that undermine the rest of Ethiopia. First, five tribal lands (Gambella, Sidama, South-West Ethiopia, South Ethiopia, and Central Ethiopia) will be completely cut off geographically from the rest of Ethiopia. Ethiopians in these tribal lands will require visa from Oromia, South Sudan, or Kenya to travel to the rest of Ethiopia. Second, Ethiopia will be without a capital city (if the new nation of Oromia takes Addis Ababa) or Ethiopia’s capital city will be in a neighboring Oromia (if Addis Ababa stays within Ethiopia). 

The point that Addis Ababa may stay with Ethiopia is grounded on the Constitution, not on a wishful thinking.  The Constitution seems to have a poison pill to save the capital city from Oromia. First, Section 4e of Article 39 states that in the event of succession “property is partitioned in accordance with the law.” In other words, If Oromia is to secede, it must compensate Ethiopia for federal properties in the Oromo tribal land “in accordance with the law.” The attendant law (proclamation) is yet to be drafted or enacted 30 years after the ratification and adoption of the Constitution.

Further, the Constitution promulgates: “The city of Addis Ababa shall have complete powers of self-administration” and “Residents of the city of Addis Ababa shall be represented in the Council of Peoples’ Representatives of the Federation in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.” 

This means, even if the representatives of the Oromo tribal land in the Council of Peoples’ Representatives of the Federation vote to secede, their decision is not binding to the people of Addis Ababa. Addis Ababians are constitutionally empowered with “complete powers of self-administration” and have their own representatives in the Council of Peoples’ Representatives of the Federation. With only 19 percent Oromo population in Addis Ababa, the probability that Oromia will get majority vote in Addis Ababa in support of its secession is not much higher than a pig flying from Menilik’s Square in Addis Ababa and landing in Canal Park in Minnesota. 

Simply put, the demands of the five Oromo political parties, like Professor Girma’s insinuation that I have no right to talk about Amhara, ከመሃይምነት የሚመጣ እና መሃይምነትን የሚግልጽ extremists’ folly ነው. In this resides the seeds of Ethiopia’s intrinsic perennial political conflict.

Be this as it may, reforming the constitution or altogether abolishing it by an administrative decree or armed uprising will not bring peace to the horror-stricken country. To the contrary, in the short term the medicine maybe more harmful than the disease itself. 

An oncologist surgeon does not cut out a cancerous tumor no matter how life-threatening it may be before stabilizing the patient and getting him/her strong enough to survive surgery. The doctor also needs to address other primary and secondary ailments that may exacerbate the cancer and/or be exacerbated by it.

Ethiopia’s problem is complex and deep rooted. It requires thorough analyses of micro and macro conflicts, it demands dealing with fault lines, releasing stress points, and disentangling hard knots of entrenched conflicts. Most of all, it needs facilitating deliberations of cooler heads. Herding hot-headed and self-centered opposition forces with their baggage of intra- and inter-tribal conflicts to a national dialogue table is doomed to fail. 

Quantum Economics, Game Theory and Methodological Individualism

There is an important reason why economists are increasingly becoming reliable political analysts. Economists are well tooled in quantitative studies to marry quantum physics and economics. Economists have also benefited from the mathematical marvels of game theory that has helped them understand human behavior in the supply and demand science of እሰጥ አገባ (give and take). 

One hundred years ago, economic journals hardly contained any equation. Today, economic journals read more like a scientific journal rich with mathematical concepts and models. One important development of this transformation is the introduction of some of the basic principles of quantum physics into the field of economics. 

Quantum economics helps us to understand the elemental constituents that impact our institutions and social interactions much as quantum physics helps physicists to discover the physical properties and behaviors of the building blocks of our physical universe. At the core of quantum economics is the philosophy of methodological individualism and the science of game theory.

Methodological individualism owes its origin to the German sociologist and political economist Max Weber’s first chapter of Economy and Society (1922). The methodology looks at complex social problems from the point of view of individual actors without losing sight of the bigger social phenomenon. The approach is enriched by the science of game theory – a mathematical modeling endeavor that analyzes the strategic decision-making behaviors of individuals within the incentive structure and constraining matrix of the institutional framework under investigation. 

Unfortunately, political scientists are slow in catching up with the rapid advance in quantum physics and game theory. In Ethiopia, the problem is compounded by its intellectually stunted political elite that is hampered by the weight of the nation’s archaic and hermitized culture. 

Professor Al Mariam, a prominent Ethiopian political scientist (PhD) and constitutional lawyer (JD) with a ponytail and cowboy hat epitomizes the phenomenon. This is manifested in his article that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called a “seminal treatise” titled “Clash of Civilizations: Ethiopia and the US at a Crossroad.” In his presumed “seminal treatise,” the good professor left no doubt that Ethiopia’s problem resides with the US and that Ethiopia shall win because “God is with Ethiopia.” 

In the 21st century Ethiopia, mythology, theology, folklore, and antiquated customs from centuries of distant past remain prominent political tools. This phenomenon is epitomized and personified by Eskinder Nega whom his followers affectionately call “ታላቁ እስክንድር” (Eskinder the Great). He often tells his flocks of political herds that when the political going gets tough, he asks himself “አባቶቻችን እንደዚህ አይነት ችግር ቢያጋጥማቸው ምን ያደርጉ ነበር?” 

It seems to me that chances are higher that they would have sought refuge in ክራራይሶ rather than considering quantum physics or quantum economics as a guiding principle to understand politics. 

Political conflict in the 21st century is fought with social media that has revolutionized information transfer and management. On the battlefield, drones are being instantaneously revolutionized by Artificial Intelligence. We are living in a world where missiles can be redirected to change their target long after they were fired. 

In a comical display of idiocy, our politicians seek parapsychological guidance from our long dead አባቶቻችን (forefathers) on how to navigate the 21st century. We are one sorry society of clowns. I sometimes wonder if God created Ethiopians to entertain his angels when they are bored. 

Call Quantum Physicists and Psycho Analysts to the Rescue

Ethiopia needs quantum physicists to help her connect the dots between political phenomena that we understand in full or in part and expected occurrences and unanticipated outbreaks whose dynamics remain discrete and obscure to our senses. 

Ethiopia also requires the help of psychoanalysts to understand the sources of its political elite’s predisposition toward hate and violence and to deliver us from the voices in our heads. 

Above all else, we need the Almighty God’s answer to the quantum question: WHY? 

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

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1 COMMENT

  1. A few days ago, I listened to a debate between the respected Dr. Girma Berhau and Dr. Yonas Biru, moderated by Moges Teshome. I am pondering whether Dr. Girma Berhau should participate in a debate with Dr. Yonas Biru, who still maintains the belief that Abiy Ahmed is a visionary leader. When questioned about his stance, Dr. Yonas Biru cites the Chaka project as his primary example, claiming it benefits millions of Ethiopians. It wouldn’t be surprising if Dr. Yonas Biru views actions such as blocking Amhara access to Addis Ababa, demolishing Amhara residential properties in various parts of the city, and displacing Amharas from Oromia as visionary ideas, as they result in a stronger and monoethnic Oromia. According to Dr. Yonas Biru, these actions align with Abiy’s vision to marginalize Amharas from Ethiopia’s political landscape and deny them their rightful place in the country. Is this a grand vision? Should Dr. Girma present the Fao document to Dr. Yonas Biru? What does he aim to achieve by doing so, especially when Yonas does not even acknowledge the genocidal atrocities committed against Amharas by Abiy Ahmed?

    Dr. Yonas Biru consistently brings up political programs and manifestos in discussions about Fao, emphasizing its political nature. However, the reality is that Fao is not a political entity but a freedom fighter. Reflect on historical examples like Russia, Vietnam, and the Taliban, where political manifestos were not the driving force behind their struggles for freedom. Yonas seems determined to undermine Amhara leaders like Eskider Nega, who bravely fight and sacrifice for the Amhara cause, while Dr. Yonas himself remains comfortably in the USA. Engaging in political discussions with someone like Yonas may not lead to positive outcomes. Despite being invited by Abebe Belew (in an interview with Addis Dimits media outlet) to join Amhara organizations and contribute to the struggle, Yonas declined. Is it really worthwhile to engage in discussions with such an individual? To the elustioary Yoas, he is the sources of special theory, economics and political understanding while the rest of Ethiopia and in particular the Amhara intellectuals are idiots who should only listen to what he has to say, a prescription for Ethiopia.

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