‘What Makes or breaks’ the National Dialogue in Ethiopia 

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National Dialogue _ Ethiopian Politics
National Dialogue opening session in Addis Ababa (Photo : PD)

Part 1

By:  Abe Lema

National Dialogues can be complex and delicate processes, and several factors can either contribute to their success or impede their effectiveness. Here are some key elements that can make or break National Dialogues:

Factors that Make National Dialogues Successful:

  1. Inclusivity and Participation: A wide range of stakeholders should be involved, including political parties, civil society organizations, marginalized groups, and representatives from different sectors of society. Inclusivity ensures that diverse perspectives are considered and enhances the legitimacy of the process. Tunisia’s experience with national dialogue is often cited as one of the most successful examples of peaceful democratic transition in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The National Dialogue in Tunisia brought together a wide range of stakeholders, including political parties, civil society organizations, labor unions, business leaders, and representatives of marginalized groups such as youth and women. This inclusivity ensured that diverse voices were heard and represented in the dialogue process.
  2. Neutral Facilitation and Mediation: Neutral facilitators and mediators play a crucial role in managing the dialogue process impartially, ensuring fairness, and building trust among participants. Their neutrality helps create a conducive environment for constructive dialogue and negotiation. The dialogue process in Tunisia was facilitated by neutral mediators and facilitators, including civil society organizations, religious leaders, and international mediators such as the Quartet (Tunisian General Labour Union, Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, Tunisian Human Rights League, and Tunisian Order of Lawyers). Their impartiality helped create a conducive environment for dialogue and negotiation. The Quartet won Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.
  3. Clear Objectives and Agenda: National Dialogues should have clear goals, objectives, and a well-defined agenda. Clear objectives help focus discussions, prioritize issues, and guide decision-making, ensuring that the dialogue remains productive and results-oriented.
  4. Commitment to Non-violence and Peaceful Resolution: All participants must demonstrate a genuine commitment to non-violence, peaceful coexistence, and the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and negotiation. A commitment to peaceful means sets the tone for constructive engagement and collaboration. Despite deep political divisions and tensions, stakeholders in Tunisia demonstrated a commitment to non-violence and compromise. They recognized the importance of dialogue and negotiation in finding peaceful solutions to political differences and were willing to make concessions for the greater good of the country.
  5. Consensus-building and Compromise: Successful National Dialogues prioritize consensus-building and compromise over confrontation and zero-sum politics. Participants must be willing to engage in dialogue, seek common ground, and make concessions to reach mutually acceptable solutions. The National Dialogue process in Tunisia focused on consensus-building and compromise, rather than zero-sum politics. Participants engaged in constructive dialogue, identified common ground, and reached agreements on key issues such as the adoption of a new constitution, the formation of a caretaker government, and the scheduling of democratic elections.
  6. Transparent and Inclusive Decision-making: Decision-making processes within the National Dialogue should be transparent, inclusive, and accountable. Transparency enhances trust among participants and ensures that the outcomes reflect the interests and concerns of all stakeholders.

Factors that Can Break National Dialogues:

  1. Exclusion of Key Stakeholders: Excluding relevant stakeholders, particularly those with significant influence or grievances, can undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of the National Dialogue. Exclusion may lead to resentment, mistrust, and a lack of buy-in from excluded groups.

Fact: OLA and FANO armed groups as well as some political parties including OFC , EPRP, and Enat party are not included or not willing to join. Key political leaders, journalists and activities known for their wide influences are still in prison. Some are persecuted and forced to the country for asylum. 

  1. Lack of Neutrality and Impartiality: Perceived bias or lack of neutrality among facilitators or mediators can erode trust and credibility in the National Dialogue process. Neutrality is essential to ensure that all parties feel heard and represented fairly.

Fact: The national dialogue commission itself is appointed by the state. The leaders are known for their close relationship with the prime minister and have been witnessed to positively support the current regime for its ideologies. Several critics were questioning their neutrality. 

  1. Failure to Address Root Causes: National Dialogues may fail if they do not address the root causes of conflict comprehensively. Ignoring underlying grievances, inequalities, or structural issues may result in superficial agreements that do not address the core issues driving conflict.

FACT: One of the fundamental problem of the current crisis of the nation is its ethnic based politics as repeatedly pronounced by scholars , politicians and elite groups. How can an ethnic based government and political parties who outnumbered the agenda creator group come up with a lasting solution ?

  1. Lack of Political Will and Commitment: Without genuine political will and commitment from key stakeholders, National Dialogues may struggle to achieve meaningful outcomes. Political leaders must demonstrate a willingness to engage in dialogue, implement agreements, and prioritize peace over narrow political interests.

FACT: In his opening speech the prime minister stated that there will not be any transitional government as a solution to the current political differences as seemingly responding to key critics of his governance. He predestined the outcome of the dialogue. He should have left this for the process of the dialogue instead of locking doors for a prejudged process. 

  1. External Interference or Manipulation: External interference or manipulation by foreign actors, regional powers, or other vested interests can undermine the autonomy and credibility of the National Dialogue process. External actors should respect the sovereignty of the dialogue process and refrain from exerting undue influence.
  2. Escalation of Violence or Instability: Escalation of violence or instability during the National Dialogue can disrupt the process and make it difficult to achieve meaningful dialogue and negotiation. It is essential to create a safe and secure environment for dialogue to take place.

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

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2 COMMENTS

  1. You are trying to belittle the commitment of the government in this high time. Voice of the extremist group.

  2. Any effort to promote understanding among citizens and thereby peace should always be commended and supported. There is always those at the gate trying to nullify such critical endeavor with the evil notion that ‘If I don’t lead it, to hell with it!’ Nothing is more noble than utilizing any and all opportunities to bring lasting peace and stability to those beleaguered people. It is reported that more than a million people have perished and millions have been driven out of their homes since 2020 alone. For some of us in our comfy and safe homes here in the Diaspora, we may take that just as another walk in a park. It is not funny, okay!

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