Thursday, June 13, 2024
HomeOpinionChallenges and Controversies Surrounding the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission

Challenges and Controversies Surrounding the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission

“A dialogue meeting for eating
Also, set up another meeting for eating.”

Isael Ze Etiel                                                                                                     

The Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission (ENDC), an initiative of the government, was established in 2021 by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed with the stated goal of promoting national dialogue and consensus building. The Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission (ENDC) is a government initiative with a mission to create conducive conditions for national consensus by identifying the root causes of deep division and discord in Ethiopian society through research and public dialogues. It aims to conduct national dialogue, present recommendations to concerned bodies, and design an implementation monitoring system. However, the establishment of the ENDC has been controversial (especially prominent political parties like the Oromo Federalist Congress, the Oromo Liberation Front and others) among Ethiopians and civil society organizations, who accuse it of being a government-controlled body that is not representative of the Ethiopian people. Critics point to the fact that the ENDC has not been able to bring together the major opposition groups in Ethiopia, and that it has failed to address the root causes of the country’s political crisis. 

Concerns and Criticisms

The major concerns and criticisms of the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission are as follows:

  • Some members of the ENDC are suspected of being affiliated with the ruling Prosperity Party and the process of their selection has been questioned. 
  • Abiy Ahmed’s government has been accused of using the ENDC to maintain its power and appease the international community.
  • The Abiy government is accused of using the ENDC to maintain power, persuade the international community of positive changes, secure loans, and conceal war crimes and genocide against the Amhara, Tigray, and Wollega peoples.
  • The government has not adequately engaged with a large group of actors who could contribute to a meaningful dialogue and peace process.
  • The ENDC’s focus on technicalities rather than addressing the root causes of the conflict suggests that it is not a sincere attempt at resolving the country’s problems.
  • The ENDC has also been accused of being used by the government to whitewash its human rights abuses.

According to OCHA’s 2024 Humanitarian Needs and Key Figures, there are 21.4 million People in Need (PIN) in Ethiopia, particularly in regions such as Amhara, Tigray, Ethiopia Somali, Afar, and Oromia regions. Years of conflict and recurring climate shocks have led to a prolonged humanitarian crisis and political tensions in Ethiopia. A cycle of multiple, often overlapping crises over the years in Ethiopia is continuously deepening humanitarian needs across the country, with 21.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection services in 2024, including internally displaced persons (IDPs), returning IDPs, crisis-affected communities, and returning migrants. About 2.3 million children remain out of school in northern Ethiopia despite last November’s peace agreement ending two years of conflict, with reconstruction of damaged buildings yet to commence. Save the Children called for urgent funding to help re-open classrooms. Across the country, more than 3.5 million children are out of school – or 1 in every 16 children – in what has been called one of the world’s worst education crises. In the strife-torn Amhara region alone, where clashes between government security forces and Fano militants have been ongoing since April 2023, a staggering 2.6 million students are now out of school. Conducting national dialogue without considering the humanitarian situations means leaving millions behind, this would not bring any peace to the country.

Based on the above data, who will participate in the national dialogue? The simplest guess would be that they will bring members of the Prosperity Party from across the country to participate. The outcome of the dialogue would likely be for image-building to cleanse their crimes in the name of national dialogue and transitional justice, potentially protecting war criminals.

 They also point out that significant portions of the country are currently affected by conflict:

  • Amhara region: Under war, with mass killings, arrests, and imprisonments.
  • Oromia region: War between the Oromia Liberation Army and the national defense force, resulting in civilian deaths, torture, and mass imprisonments.
  • Tigray region: Not yet represented in the ENDC.
  • Gambella region: Ethnic conflict and attacks by South Sudanese militant groups.
  • Somalia and Afar regions: Conflict along border areas.

Exclusion and Polarization

  • Conflict groups fighting for their rights and survival are not included in the national dialogue. Political parties that do not support the ENDC and influential diaspora groups are also excluded.
  • The ENDC’s credibility has been further undermined by the government’s continued crackdown on dissent. In recent months, the government has arrested dozens of opposition leaders, journalists, and activists. Prominent political leaders and journalists have been arrested based on their political views and ethnic affiliations. Government propaganda and hate speech exacerbate tensions, undermining the legitimacy of the national dialogue. This has created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, making it difficult for Ethiopians to participate in the national dialogue in a meaningful way.

Government Strategy

  • The government has adopted a strategy of “convincing and confusing” the public. It maintains a façade of working for the people’s interests while suppressing dissent. The ENDC is seen as part of this strategy, aimed at concealing the government’s true intentions and looting the country’s resources.

Conclusion

The ENDC has failed to address fundamental issues of division and conflict in Ethiopia. Its lack of inclusivity, government interference, and disregard for human rights compromise its credibility and ability to achieve meaningful national dialogue. The evidence suggests that the ENDC is not a genuine initiative aimed at solving the country’s problems through dialogue. Instead, it appears to be a strategic tool employed by the government to “convince and confuse ” rather than engage with a wide range of actors to bring about peace. The ENDC has been criticized by many Ethiopians, who see it as a tool of the government to maintain its power. They argue that the ENDC is not representative of all Ethiopians, and that it is not committed to genuine dialogue and reform.

The ENDC is facing an uphill battle to achieve its goals. The government’s lack of commitment to genuine dialogue and reform, its human rights abuses, and its crackdown on dissent have all made it difficult for the ENDC to build trust and credibility. However, the ENDC still has the potential to play a positive role in Ethiopia’s political transition. If the ENDC can overcome these challenges and become a truly representative and inclusive body, it could help to pave the way for a peaceful and inclusive future for Ethiopia.

The lack of inclusivity and transparency in the ENDC’s operations, coupled with the government’s track record of using violence and repression against dissenting voices, further reinforces the perception that the national dialogue process is being manipulated to serve the interests of the ruling elite rather than address the root causes of conflict and division in the country.

In light of these observations, it is crucial for genuine dialogue initiatives to prioritize inclusivity, accountability, and respect for diverse perspectives in order to build trust and foster sustainable peace in Ethiopia. The current approach of using the ENDC as a political tool to control the narrative and suppress dissent is unlikely to lead to meaningful reconciliation and lasting stability in the country. The Prosperity Party is by no means allowing a national dialogue and transitional justice in the country, as this could lead to their loss of power and bring them to justice.

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

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