I am not upset you lied to me, I am upset from now on I cant believe you.(Friedrich Nietzsche), German Philosopher
The key is to get to know people and trust them to be who they are, instead we trust people to be who we want them to be, and when they are not, we cry.(Anonymous)
Time flies. In comes 2008! Yet another year is replaced by a new year in the eternal dance of time. Our country had a new year in September 2007. It shares also the New Year on January 2008 with the rest of the world. It has the opportunity to pause, reflect, interrogate, evaluate and select what would work from what would not twice, as moments like New Years help concentrate a nations priorities and map and shape its future.
The time from the Ethiopian millennium in September to the current New Year has been unsettling to say the least to the vibrant democratic movement that emerged after the May 2005 election. What we expected was the release of the elected MPS that were sent for 20 months in jail will stimulate and invigorate the democratic movement, solve with maturity the difficulties in the Diaspora by displaying the moral authority of the released MPs and move into a higher level of clarification and mobilisation united to build systematically the movement. Unfortunately what happened was a lack of unity and division by those who came out from jail leading to a split that appears to have gone beyond any attempt to repair and rescue. The split is unfortunate as there are wild allegations that would have been very good to clear up. With the split the truth will not be known. We now know who has been rude and who has remained civil through the ordeal, but we will not know who is culpable and who is not, concerning the issues that triggered this destructive turn. This will not be cleared as long as each side remains with its sectarian narrative unexamined and protective of its story. For the moment, there appears to be no way that there can be unity within knjit. It is time in the New Year to resolve and re-think how a post- knjit powerful social-democratic movement and realignment of social forces can be forged. This commentary will attempt to show the obstacles Ethiopians must overcome and put forward a few proposals to strengthen and build the democratic movement for debate.
2. The Obstacle: Social Capital Deficit despite Ethiopias Age!
Our readers may recall previous NES commentaries that by some accounts the likely origin of the Ethiopian state formation has become now 7,000 years or even 8,000 years depending on which myth of origin one takes to begin the count!! China has 5000 years of such history. For Ethiopia seven or eight thousand years indeed makes it the most ancient country in the world. If we take the 4000 years that used to be 3000 years until last Septembers Ethiopian millennium, it still makes Ethiopia belong in the oldest groups of countries such as Egypt, Persia and China. Even the 2000 years that Ethiopia entered after celebrating its millennium in September 2007 makes it yet still amongst the oldest groups of countries in the world. This is not to suggest all can or should agree on this age of Ethiopia. Those who think very often look back in order to see how far to look ahead into the future.
The question we must ask is this: Given such long historical memory, why has the country failed to invent an ethically anchored, consultation rich politics that works and constructs the nation rather than the divisive, cantankerous and cruel politics that destroys and unsettles all to a point where we all worry whether we can ever evolve a shared national direction to shape Ethiopias sustainable future that beats the fear of time? Even after the people made choices, voted and expressed their voice, why is that the very persons involved that helped to bring about this creative trajectory are at each others throat trying to undo what seemed to all indeed a record historical achievement gained also in a record time? Why are we back to the drawing board every time history opens a historical possibility to move in more constructive directions? Why is the seed planted often threatened with such desire to cut and pluck it out and even kill it? When are we going to stop wondering whether the particular way politics plays out in the country may or may not deliver an Ethiopia that will endure? When are Ethiopians to be liberated from the tyranny of a particularly uncongenial politics that disrupts all from mustering and sustaining the ability to relate and interact with each other to undertake substantial coordinated and collective action that is productive based on a shared project for freedom, equality, human dignity and justice for all in order to build and improve comprehensively the welfare of the people, the nation and the country?
3. Counting Age comes with a price of an oppressive inter- generational tyranny!
We continue to repeat reminding all concerned Ethiopias old age and historical longevity not to celebrate the few and far in between successes such as the epic African victory at Adwa in 1896 for example, but more as a call to all to reject and extricate the country from the oppressive litany of horrid failures that have existed from time immemorial to the present and threaten to continue to the future. We invoke the long gone past to bring home forcefully how much age old problems continue today to persist and threaten to pile up in the future by imposing something like an inter-generational tyranny over the people and their successive progeny rather than freedom and development. There can be no complacency by retelling the age of any country. We recall historical age in order to review a particular communitys national history where the secret of unleashing the opportunities to shape the future are locked. In order to appreciate the transformations that can make a difference, we must always examine and reflect on the complexities of a countrys historical journey and national history.
Ethiopias accumulated historical memory-the good, the bad and the tasteless- can be a source of learning to find the knowledge and the way to help prolong Ethiopias life hopefully by injecting a positive transformation dynamics of its age-old static society. That is to say, having lived for so long, one can only hope that this country will live on and on with an age that defies the law of gravity, solving the twin persistent problems of hunger and governance for good with justice and fairness to all.
In and of itself, counting years of vegetative existence of a countrys life, as well as a person may not be interesting. What would be most interesting would be, if indeed, when there is quality to the life-world for an individual as indeed also similarly to the strength, dynamism and self-reinforcing vitality of the system-world that has been driving the specific Ethiopian national history. There is no intrinsic value in counting ages per se however long and rich they are. What is of value is in what each age, as indeed each generation bequeathed to future ages and generations. Problems unsolved or newly created ones, more often than not, can pile up to a mountain top and become additional burdens on the generations that come after previous generations.
In Ethiopia it seems the country has suffered from a syndrome that has subjected generations into an inter-generational tyranny over the ages. By the latter we mean that throughout history problems have a tendency to pile up rather than being solved in Ethiopia. What a generation inherits is not opportunities but compounded problems that have been left unsolved by successive generations. Unsolved problems naturally remain as problems yet to be solved being always transmitted from generation to generation throughout the ages. Politicians seem to bring more new problems than solving old and transmitted problems from earlier generations. For example, had Ethiopia had turned into a republic after world war II as some of the anti-fascist patriotic resistance fighters thought at the time, then the problems to solve today would have been different. Even when in 1974 a transition came from the monarchy to the military, the country moved from one problem to inherit a violent military turn. And when in 1991 the transition to ethnic based government came, again a problem gave rise to another problem of ethnic division and the split of the country into two hostile states whose long term consequence is very hard to predict to the very existence of the country. What clearly emerges is that those who leave and those who come- each in its own way leaves behind a hybrid combination of old and new problems for others to come to solve. That has been the pattern. There is not yet a new model of politics where such compounding of new problems on and with old problems is not recurrent.
This inter-generational tyranny is a reality that threatens to stay with us unless society and people learn to build social capital to know how to relate with each other to bring cooperative action in order to solve problems and not transmit them selfishly to the yet unborn generation to try to solve and pay for it in life, limb and resources. Such oppressive legacies of failure to solve the problems and challenges, threats and dangers from the past must be ameliorated and the work to challenge intergenerational tyranny and convert it into inter-generational liberty must be unyielding. Those who enter into politics must be people with the moral stature and intelligence to solve the twin problems of hunger and governance, and who take seriously their responsibility and believe that to pass on these problems on to the yet unborn to solve is very unjust and unfair. Those who come to power to compound problems for this and next generations must be rejected as liars, cheaters, arrogant, selfish and self- centred and vain persons, money and power seekers. People and society must wake up and scrutinise these power seekers and demand what is it that they offer in practice and not just in words: inter-generational tyranny or liberty? This is an important yardstick to identify, criticise and institutionalise a political system with a constitutive world view that works to transform and stabilise the country at the same time.
4. We Must Learn to Build Social Capital for Ethiopia to Survive!
If there is one critical matter that we Ethiopians must learn to do that seems woefully in dearth in the country is for all of us to strive very hard and create, build and sustain social capital. What is social capital? Social capital is the intangible, invisible glue that is also the productive value constituting relationships amongst people. Social capital deals with intangibles such as: for example, what brings social or membership gluing, bonding, linking and bridging various divides by creating cooperative connections, networks, norms and social trust to generate opportunities for better organisational coordination and cooperative action that promotes all those engaged in a particular social activity from the individuals, families, groups to political parties and governments. Active cooperative action that benefits is often a consequence of connections that are anchored with networks of trust, mutual understanding, sympathy, norms of reciprocity sharing values to bind the interaction of members in any network willing and engaged to make a difference in the missions they care to pursue and advance.
The historical environment, values, and cultural conditions including the way the political and power structure operate and function influence how members of an organisation are engaged in a project by building relationships and allies for realising fully coordinated and cooperative effective action. How the members bond is not merely a matter of the dynamics within an organisation. It also depends on the environment, historical situation; culture, belief systems and language games members deal with and respond to in their interactions with and from their surroundings. For example, when we look at the political history of Ethiopia over the last hundred years, one matter stands out over the rest. Every power seeker has always done two things that are hugely embarrassing: fought a potential rival by plotting and often lying and organising secretly against a rival together with seeking a foreign ally that would weaken the opponent. Look at who supported General Napier to defeat Twedros. Look at who supported Menelik to defeat Yohannes. Look at how Teferi defeated Lij Eyasu.Look at how every political group today in the country is backed by one or another foreign power overtly and covertly. As soon as one decides to ascend to power and started manoeuvring to do so, the urge to enlist foreign backers become irresistible and the cruel and dehumanising attacks against opponents spread like wild fire. This misdirection makes it impossible to solve problems within a national context with national dialogue. It is a recipe to recreate the countrys problems rather than seeking a national mobilisation and conversation to understand the priorities and create national consensus to address them with foresight, imagination, intelligence and vision. With an external factor playing so negatively how can quality relationship between people in the country with trust and empathy in order to undertake a mission together ever be carried out?
Thus, to be sure, in Ethiopia both the environment and culture- both historical and contemporary, and the way the political and power structure have been organised and functioned in reality through the ages have not engendered or encouraged the development of social capital. Of all the deficits the country suffers from, the one that is even more worrying than any material deprivation is the low or underdeveloped level of social capital throughout the ages. We still suffer and may even suffer more in the future from lack of social capital necessary to undertake effective coordinated cooperative actions. For social capital to be promoted the internal culture to address any problem however complex and intractable with dialogue, consultation and conversation however long it takes to talk must be a preferred strategy and route. More importantly, the desire to enlist external actors to subdue internal opponents must also be curbed if this comes at the expense of social capital building to solve the countrys major problems. Lack of social capital is at the heart of the collective failure of the countrys institutions, leadership, talents and ingenuities to solve the countrys problems. Only breakdown of natural capital is as severe as the lack of social capital. Both are very difficult to create or reproduce.
5. Significance of the absence of Social Capital
In Ethiopia, when the country suffers from the breakdown of natural capital, it is because of our lack of imagination, capability, resources and inability to stem deforestation, change our rain fed agriculture system into diversified agriculture, and our allowing the contraction of arable land due to soil erosion and desertification. Although the World Bank has reported that the size of Ethiopias economy is growing, the country still lacks financial capital to create the human capital to feed into building education for all, health for all and multimodal infrastructure (physical capital) and manufacturing to move people and goods and services with ease and speed. It may have financial capital to build individual capital, but that is not the same thing as making the country wealthy. The wealth of a country is broader. It includes the health, education, the state of nature repair of a country and the economy of a country. It is not thus just the economy that matters as the economy in fact is the instrument to bring about individual, ecological and social wellbeing development. It includes the social, natural and cultural aspects of a countrys wealth. Wealth is not to be reckoned simply as income in the pockets of individuals. If Ethiopia and indeed nearly all African countries had financial capital, they would not be in the loan-grant and aid system where they keep looking to the external world, i.e., to the donors to beg finance to support our economic growth and development.
Social capital is at the heart for capacitating collective citizen action. It requires trust, civic sense, engagement with social problems as citizens expressing their social consciousness and ability to network the self in a web of relationships and interactions with others to achieve pre-imagined and pre-planned activities, actions and projects. When social capital is low, a society suffers from all kinds of negative fall outs. Networks of interactions, relationships based on observing shared norms, rules, procedures, and institutions suffer. This in turn leads to limiting our abilities for mustering the required solidarity, sympathy, norms of reciprocity and courage to undertake collective action. Without the ability to sustain collective action, it will be hard to change Ethiopias millennial static society. In Ethiopia, the ability to take specifically triggered collective action and even spectacular action is in abundance, but the ability to sustain such collective actions by overcoming threats, dangers, challenges, complex and intricate problems with long-term solidarity to maintain coordinated, organised and cooperative action appears to be unimaginably inadequate. The recent dramatic example is the infighting within knjit that has seriously depleted the energy and momentum of one of the most promising social-political movements with demonstrated popular support behind it that emerged after the national election campaigns in 2005. Inability to solve the problems whatever they were seem to us related to the lack of social capital within the Knjit and the fact that lack of social capital amongst the members allowed what appears to be massive infiltration by all those this promising movement threatened in one way or another..
How can one then explain this: That what appears to be an innocuous and a mere trifle of casual and perhaps seemingly untrue gossip appears to break hard-won unity or even solidarity, disrupting the opportunities to continue and sustain coordinated collective action. The viciousness with which the quarrel degenerated is beyond anything anyone can fathom. The recent infighting within the knjit or CUDP circle of ex-incarcerated popularly elected MPs is not a problem because there were differences amongst them or even competition for leading the democratic movement. There is nothing wrong at all for a number of the MPs coming out from jail to try their luck to lead especially if they think they have good ideas to steer the countrys destiny. Everyone knows such competition and expression of difference can be useful and healthy. Conflict can also be creative. What comes as shocking is how frivolous the conflicts or differences turn out to be to any casual observer and even worse how a snowballing logic imposed itself worsening the situation beyond any imaginable repair. It is unfortunate that the conflict escalated into antagonism with hurtful attacks freely exchanged in the print, and voice media suffocating the political space by turning it into an arena where mutual recriminations and insults either were freely traded by those involved directly or those who wish to protect one side by demonising another. It is this degeneration that shows if there is anything to show that social capital is in short supply even amongst those that voluntarily joined as a team in the 2005 election to win only to undo whatever positive results they attained including the moral authority gained in the process. It shows there was no depth to their unity or trust amongst each other to come out so hard against each other, the latest being a statement by one of the estranged elected MPs executing the dismissal or suspension of the other elected MPs! Had the social capital amongst those who took together collective action in the 2005 election had been high, there would not have been this degeneration to such level of unspeakable insults and campaigns to discredit one another with such cavalier abandon. Where their supporters expected sympathy for each other, the opposite was displayed, disrespect was freely traded in the media and cruelty against each other was forcefully and invasively displayed. Supporters expected fellow prisoners to demonstrate genuine fellowship and sympathy to each other rather than what they ended up showing for friend and foe to see a hidden nature the public never knew they had with their willingly volunteered self-exposure to treat their friends turned opponents with the harsh hostilities that flew back and forth with such ferocity and demonising force! All advice to contain the problem was brushed aside. And the problem has escalated to a point where it is hard to see how these persons can ever come together and work together. Time has arrived to reflect beyond this harsh mistreatment and think what new possibilities may be open for encouraging democratic politics afresh in Ethiopia.
6. Social Capital in relation to other capitals
When natural capital breaks down a countrys geo-ecological system will be irreparably damaged. Once nature breaks down, just like social capital, it is hard to fix that easily. It is hard to reproduce and regenerate natural capital and social capital. That is why human-nature relations observing pre-cautionary principles will be critical to prevent nature break down and preserve natural harmony anywhere in the world for that matter. Physical capital is reproducible. If a building is destroyed, it may even give the opportunity to rebuild a better building site provided the cost can be defrayed in some way. Financial capital is also replenish-able and can even be supplemented by central bank strategy to covert interests into debts, loans and credits as many African states have learned to do to continue to rule over the people. The World Bank has reported in one of its numerous reports on Africa that more money has been pocketed by African leaders throughout decolonisation than the amount of foreign aid that has flowed into Africa. Imagine this crime against Africa which has not stopped to this day! It is Africans who undermine Africa doubly by stealing its own resources and by making it a victim of donor aid, grants and loans!!!
African Governments often run into macro-economic difficulties and they quickly go and beg donors to help them fix their financial insolvencies and not look into how they themselves are squandering whatever resources Africa has. The point we are making is that though finance looks difficult to have, it is not that difficult to regenerating it by various means!
Human capital subtraction too can be reversed by attracting new trainees and learners though it takes time to build skills and knowledge. Once knowledge is degraded, it is not difficult to upgrade though naturally it is costly to re-skill. Similarly individual capital can be built up and lost and re- made. Manufacturing and infrastructural capital is also reproducible after degrading. They can be mended and rebuilt! Cultural capital is also reproducible. The original can be duplicated especially with current digital technology creating wonders.
Social capital is different. It is built from such intangible matters as trust, norms, observance of rules and procedures in relationships following principles, submitting to institutional logic and not to personalised and egoistic pursuits. Each of these elements (e.g., rules, procedures etc..) in and of themselves may be practised in isolation but the human interaction, networks and relationships to generate predictable, irreversible and sustainable solidarity, coordination and collective action is dependent on a combination of the intangible elements that constitute together social capital. When such social capital breaks down it is not easy to fix and reproduce.
When there is high social capital, the tendency for breakdown to undertake effective social action is very low. Conversely when there is low social capital, the tendency to quarrel over little irritating matters is very high. Thus the building and the existence of social capital is a necessary condition to undertake sustainable transformation and development in any environment, cultural and power context. All those that have developed have built over a course of time strong foundations, institutions, citizenship, trust, norms and rules whose interactions together result amongst members in organisations to undertake effective collective actions. They have internalised values of social capital that allows them to function with coordination and cooperation. They have built the culture and ability to deal with effectively against corrosive actions both internal and external that undermine social capital.
7. The Significance of Building Social Capital in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, we have to learn to build and infuse society with social capital on all fronts. Instead what we seem to see is the opposite. The agenda that drives the countrys system- world (the public realm) and life-world of the citizen (the private realm) is the ethnic philosophy, agenda, policy, discourse and narrative. If the individuals existential life world is interpreted with the ethnic variable and the system of government and constitution is also based on vernacular and ethnic foundations, how can constructive social capital that composes, unites and creates solidarity amongst citizens grow? How can civic solidarity, civic expression and civic-based political, social, economic, scientific and cultural engagement be fostered and promoted? It is hard to see how Ethiopias social capital can be expected to be growing with the current ethnic dispensation.
If politics is parcelled along ethnic fault lines, how can people vote for citizens with the best ideas, best programmes, best policies and best strategies for delivering service? How can people vote for those that are ethically, intellectually and politically committed rather than those who may be ethnic entrepreneurs? How can norms of reciprocity and networking based on citizenship be fostered when ethnicism dominates and undermines politics based for citizens rights and development? How can social capital grow under such constraints? How can building social capital within the ethnic enclosure help the trans-ethnic social capital amongst the citizens?
One of the appealing consequences from the rise of knjit was the possibility of re-framing national politics on the foundation of citizenship and not ethnicity or vernacular specificity. Knjit appeared to promise the emergence of social capital based on a movement that involved citizens votes, expressions, voices. It created a new political space that fired the national imagination.
Knjit and its ally Hibret to a large extent appeared to reverse the prevailing logic of current Ethiopian politics. The ruling idea says that ethnic and vernacular identity is the basis of politics. Knjit reversed this logic by appearing to say: Only on the basis of the foundational principle of free and unconstrained citizenship by vernacular and ethnic fences can the rights and freedom of ethnic nationalities and vernacular expressions find constructive manifestation without undermining social capital. The reverse logic of starting with the specificities of ethnicity and vernacular identity will not add up to the non ethnicised and non-vernacularized citizen for the promotion of social capital for creating a web of trust, norms, reciprocity, sympathy amongst the networks of relationships the people form in carrying out their economic, social, political, cultural and scientific pursuits.
Knjit may have run into problems that may not make it live as it was before, but its powerful message must live on and ways must be found to make sure the message continues to fire the popular imagination even though the messenger may be distracted for one reason or another. There is thus a great stake in reenergising a strong post- knjit movement that aims at building citizenship at the core driving the freedom and development engine of the Ethiopian society, economy and politics by building social capital but not destroying it as it is happening now.
8. Fragmented Opposition Undermines Social Capital Development
One serious problem in Ethiopia is creating a political system where political society is organised by principles shared by those parties who govern and those who wish to mount opposition in order to govern. This system cannot be mimicked from outside. It must be home grown. The competition of political parties under norms, rules and procedures that permit legitimate debate and consultation amongst the parties to create a political process that is capable of generating lawful, legitimate and self- sustaining changes and transitions in government with the sole aim of building the infinite well being of the people and their wealth and happiness is a priority of priorities. Politics must start to create and improve the livelihood and well being of the people. All those who agree to do this and wish to devote their lives and sacrifice should enter into politics. If these noble minded people enter politics, there will be hardly any of the spectacles we see today in Ethiopia. There is no need to have all the ethnic entrepreneurs running amuck. There is no need to see all those who use ethnicity to oppose ethnicity. All the fragmented opposition should in principle converge. Those around the ruling party can evolve into a nation-wide unified cohesive party where the core of the party can collect other lesser parties as its allies. The party that emerged after the 2005 election with a popular mandate Knjit could have evolved as another nation-wide national party naturally with its allies. Major two parties that occupy centre stage could have emerged- and could potentially emerge for the 2010 election- clearing the ground for the novel emergence of a new politics that can deliver a predictable and sustainable national direction and transition in Ethiopia. This will provide a historical milestone in the nations age-old history. This would be indeed a real dream come true.
The worst scenario is the continuation of fragmented opposition, each seeking external ally to increase its own chances and decrease the chance of its real and perceived or ill-perceived opponents. In Ethiopia, the ethnic entrepreneurial project has multiplied many opportunists who wish to carve out a political niche or space by using an ethnic perspective to the countrys politics. This has fragmented both the concept and reality of doing politics in Ethiopia and created a situation where politicians appeal to their specific ethnic group and try to collect votes as ethnically certified leaders. The contestants become an ethnically validated political entrepreneur whose main platform is contaminated with the primordial politics of blood is thicker than water. This direction will embolden voting along ethnic lines and will undermine citizenship and the emergence of the best and most suitable person from being elected to public life. This is indeed a disease in Africa where multiparty elections imposed by donors in the belief that good government can come through such elections create a situation where such elections degenerate along ethnic voting lines and can even be violent. In Ethiopia the ethnic arrangement has made it a fact that people will vote not as citizens for the best candidate but for the person who belongs to their ethnic affiliation. This degrades citizenship and emboldens ethnic sectarian voting patterns. When this is entrenched it may lead to fostering a backward political culture.
There is a need to think long and hard to go over this ethnic trap and bring out a system of politics where at least for a country like Ethiopia two major parties are encouraged to compete with each other by also engaging with each other in a consultative process even when they compete against each other.
The parties from the ethnic groups should be allied to these major parties that are based on spreading a voting pattern on the basis of Ethiopian citizenship.
The real challenge is not to destroy knjit and create ethnic parties or parties with narrow social bases. The real challenge is to create a post knjit political development to create a national party that is capable of effectively competing with the ruling coalition party. The creation of two national parties is the missing link to practise democratic choice and solve the following problems: a) bring transition from one party to another, 2) create separation of powers juridical and factually where the executive executes policy, the legislators legislate independently, and the judiciary judges without looking for executive license. 3) create freedom to express and freedom to associate with a vibrant promotion of civil society, 4) where minority right to dissent is protected by law, 5) rule of law, 6) build strong social capital, 7) fight corruption by a system where no official can stay in one position or one place more than 5 years without rotation and re-deployment to serve the public, 8) accountability so that never can governing be a means to accumulate economic power.
The creation of two functioning, competing parties that also enter into consultative processes by sharing a national direction together will be the best outcome that we hope will emerge in the post-knjit period. Ethiopia cannot afford many parties nor many ethnic- based parties. This will not bring freedom or development contrary to such claims. Democracy does not mean freedom or development. They are separate concepts. A democratic election can bring forces that do not believe in the freedom of citizens.
What Ethiopia and indeed much of Africa need is not to get many parties scrambling, scheming and fighting. What Africa needs is a few main political parties that can talk with each other, consult each other even when they compete and present their programmes and get elected on a platform that the electorate will hold them to account. All smaller parties can exist but the two main parties must be institutionalised and the people must get used to them.
8. Some Proposals to establish a framework for a workable political system
In 2008 the time should be used to create a broad consultative process to form unity and shared approach on how to prepare a fair and free election where two main strong national parties can be locked in a political dynamics to compete and consult, compete to consult and consult to compete. Whichever party comes will confront formidable challenges and it is not clear how much difference the parties can make. The most important value is to create a political system that creates predictable and sustainable ideological and political stability that all those who have differences agree to construct because this is what the country needs most as a public good to forge ahead and work well.
1. In principle all the political forces from those that rule currently and those that fight with arms should be encouraged to enter into a national conversation. All those that are fighting must be invited to join broad national consultation and encouraged to join nation wide parties or remain as minority parties with the opportunity to ally with at least two chosen national parties that can evolve through a deliberative participatory and patient process.
3. It will help hugely if the ruling party coalition can evolve into a national party and work to engage in consultation with all the parties to assist them to come up with a plan to form an opposition that is based on national citizen- based membership. If the ruling party invites and prepares the ground for a national consultative process and gives amnesty to all those that are currently pursuing their plans with violence against it, an important milestone would have been open. The broad framework must be consultation to create the terms and conditions for creating a national space for legitimate competition to circulate the persons and parties that can govern for a specified time.
5. The opposition parties should call congresses both at home and abroad to bring as many of the forces as possible to come under one minimum programme and form a broad people- based opposition party. Instead of engaging in the destructive response to mutual provocations, it is better to aim higher and look at the needs of the country and try to bring about how all engaged can contribute to the creation of a viable system.
6. There is a big role for civil society sand think tanks that should present programmes for uniting the fragmented opposition to present their recommendation to the parties and on that basis congresses should be held to chart the way forward and avoid risks and peacefully try to bring change. The political parties should seek independent advice from the countrys home grown thinking forces and should not fear independent advice.
7. If the political opposition cannot meet and organise conference, civil society groups and support groups should form pre- congress caucuses and plans to encourage the parties to do that which will stimulate the creation of a political system of competition based on consultation and not adversarial and brutal attacks against one another. They should reach out to as many of the forces as possible to bring them and hear their grievances and plans for shaping a future.
8. The message that was endorsed by 2005 election in supporting Knjit should be revived by a post knjit social movement to create a political system that promotes strong social capital and create a new political culture aimed at creating real participation by the people and accountability by making sure that two major parties function with the dialectical logic of consultation to compete, and compete to promote consultation to expand freedom and development for all in the country.
9. Appeal to all the political forces to realise the value of prioritising the people of Ethiopia, preventing to put their destiny away from harms way and enter into a broad concept where they learn to identify the common challenges and opportunities, interrogate their current actions that is bringing violence rather than an intelligent commerce with policies, internalise new values to be broad minded and begin a national conversation and institutionalise a system that can deliver freedom and development.
10. Appeal to the ruling coalition to open the space and invite all the forces that need to be engaged to enter normal political life where the principles of competition and consultation are to be observed as a prelude to bringing all to a system that all will be willing to submit and observe in the end.
11. Appeal to all those who pursue their goals through arms to give a chance to enter into a process for the creation of at least two major citizens- based parties and join the conversation in order to bring out the broad programmes, values and visions that they share in common with others.
12. Appeal to all the supporters to realise the value of supporting the development of at least two main functioning political parties that compete and consult to create a predicable future for all Ethiopians and end the political uncertainties of millennia with a new commitment by investing to get it right un forced by any outside forces entirely through internal debates and conversations.
9. Concluding Remarks
When the power of justice and ethics overcomes the love of power and money, Africa will end its humiliation by not installing governments that are costly and officials that act like stationary bandits no different from roving bandits in search of power and loot and who see ruling as an entitlement to fill their pockets with robbing rather than seeing governing as public service. Government is not business. Governing is not to make profit. People who wish to govern must not run for office to make profit, but to serve the public. If they wish to make money, they should go for business. Society must make governing nothing else than what it should be to serve, people, nation and country. Society must oppose turning governing into a means to accumulate wealth and profit to oneself, ones family, ones friends, ones ethnic group by soliciting backing from external actors rather than build support from the people and citizens.
The time is ripe to enter into a national conversation where the main purpose is to create a sustainable future by creating a political system that is citizen- centred for the citizen by the citizen for the production of freedom for development and conversely development for freedom and wellbeing that is inclusive and centred in improving the livelihood of the people. Let the conversation be conducted in the spirit of coordination to bring about sustained cooperative action to shape a future that works for the people by learning to build social capital.
Physical capital is wholly tangible… human capital is less tangible, being embodied in the skill, knowledge acquired by an individual, social capital is even less tangible for it is embodied in the relations among people. (J.Cohen, Foundations of Social Theory, Belknap Press, Cambridge, USA, 1990. p.304)
Professor,Director of Development, Innovation and International Political Economy Research (DIIPER)