Democratic Transformation From within:Hope or Mirage?

Democratic Transformation from within: Hope or Mirage? The OPDO-ANDM Alliance and the Prospect of Reform
Tsegaye R Ararssa
18/11/17
1. Introduction
No time has been more eventful in the last couple of decades in Ethiopia than the one we are living in. Years of peaceful protests in Oromia, later also augmented by flashes of resistance in Konso and the Amhara region, seem to have shaken the regime to its core and have brought the country to a cross roads once more. People have started to ask if this is going to be an opportunity for the regime to, FINALLY, transit to democracy and for the state to, at last, transform itself into a fairer, a more just, a more equitable, and a more peaceful—if only redeemed—polity. The recent OPDO gesture to reach out to ANDM in the spirit of solidarity and collaboration has occasioned a renewed hope in the possibility of this much sought after transformation. What does this gesture of solidarity promise? Will the democratic transformation promised in these gestures and the democratic aspirations expressed throughout the season of the protests be delivered or will they remain a mirage? Prospectively, beyond these gestures of alliance and the populist rhetorical flourishes, what can be done to see to it that the promise—if any—is delivered, or the hope is turned into reality? The following is a reflection pointing in that direction.
2. The OPDO-ANDM Alliance: What does it mean?
The OPDO-ANDM gesture of alliance is viewed by many as heartening. To be sure, more than anything else, it is a political alliance quickly put together to edge out TPLF in the raging power struggle within the EPRDF coalition. Yet, it has emboldened what democratic dividend can be harvested if—beyond the parties–the elites of the two populous regions start to work together in the spirit of ensconcing democracy and transforming the state-society relations in the country. From the side of the OPDO, beyond sending the message to TPLF that the OPDO are not alone in resisting its patronage, it is also an attempt to calm down the Amhara elite’s eternal suspicion and fear (albeit largely irrational and groundless) of the perceived Oromo threat to “the unity and territorial integrity of Ethiopia.” Regardless of the tacit endorsement of the (warped) attitude that the Amhara elite is the sole guardian of the ‘unity and integrity of the country, it is a gesture that also indicates the resolve of this generation of Oromos to take the bigger responsibility for the larger country in trying to bring others to the Ethiopian fold.
It can be taken as an attempt on the part of the OPDO to do their side of the responsibility and leave the others to do their part if they so choose. The other-regarding political ethos embodied in this gesture has also a far-reaching consequence for the future of the country. As such, OPDO’s carefully ‘calculated’ choice to focus on and consider others’ fears rather than dwelling on the injustice inflicted upon their people, now and in the past, is a signal that they want to be larger than their resentment of their ‘present-absence’ in Ethiopia thus far. Their act of claiming the country’s problems (and natural endowments) as their own (saying “Xaanan keenya”)–or even the more ridiculous rhetorical excess in saying that they are “addicted to ‘Ethiopianism’”–is suggestive of the place of the Oromo in the Ethiopia to come. In a sense, this could as well be a way of ‘presenting’, i.e., bringing back, those who have so far been rendered absent. A way of making themselves legible in the political vernacular of the country to which they have been illegible so far.
For ANDM, to accept OPDO’s initiative, just as much as it is a political tactic of edging out TPLF in its own bit of the power struggle within the EPRDF, signals the choice to move on by accepting the present reality on the ground. It is also a recognition that the demands of their people at the grassroots level is legitimate and needs to be met as such only democratically. They seem to have finally realized that in order to give in to the democratic demands of the people, they first need to realize democracy within their party (EPRDF) in which TPLF has so far been the sole maker and breaker of games, as it were. They seem to understand that mere common sense—and basic democratic thinking–suggests that the parties with larger members and larger potential constituencies deserve more hearing than they are getting so far. And they don’t see a political overreach in raising this simple question of fair hearing and treatment both in Oromia and in their own region. Of course, the implication is far-reaching for their people, their region, and the larger country. The demand simply unleashes the logic of equality in the political party thereby signalling the beginning of transformation from within.
Consequently, both OPDO and ANDM seem to have finally realized that in order to effectively respond to the democratic impulse hitting at their doors daily from outside (from their peoples), they need to answer the inner democratic urge from within, bypassing the hierarchic tradition of EPRDF politics that made them subservient so far. If seen in this light, the alliance is already a signal for more democratic mandate to act more autonomously for these hitherto ‘junior partners’ of the TPLF. At another level, the alliance may be seen as an immanent critique of the state on behalf of democratic transformation. But it is more. It may be a sign that effective democratic transition and state transformation may finally be coming from a corner least expected to be a site of democratic performance, i.e. from within (i.e. from within the constituents of the EPRDF system), rather than from without (i.e., the opposition political organizations cum the pressures of the international community).
The question now is what can be done to make this hope of transformation real? What of this ‘inner reform’ can be done right in order to bring about the much sought transformation? If this gesture of inter-party alliance is going to yield anything more substantive, what should we expect them to do in the near future?
3. What is to be done? And Quo Vadis, EPRDF?
What should be done? And where should they start it? Top in the to-do list is the introduction of democracy to EPRDF as a party. Or, more precisely, the alliance must push back to the undemocratic instincts of TPLF and put it in check. That should be followed by the alliance to take position of prominence to seek more mandate in Parliament. What remains after that, as we will see in the sections to follow, is a mere concatenation of this basic premise of democratization.
3.1. Democratize EPRDF, or Free it from the TPLF Suzerainty
The first task is to push this democratizing impulse in the two organizations to the level where it can effectively democratize the broader EPRDF internally. That is to say to ensure internal democracy within the coalition. Which means the parties with larger membership and larger constituency base ought to be given the voices and the votes they deserve. This in turn leads to the democratization of the key political institutions such as the Federal Parliament (the House of Peoples’ Representatives, alias HPR). The parties that have the larger number of seats in the Parliament will come to seize positions of prominence. This makes the OPDO-ANDM alliance a veritable force in the formation of a new government chiefly from the ranks of the OPDO and ANDM but also the SPDM and TPLF. In this process, they may choose to assign the premiership to one of their members or keep it in the hand of the SPDM in the interest of continuity and of not alienating the SNNPS all too quickly. (All this needs to be done through an intense process of negotiation keeping an eye on the ultimate democratization of the entire country.)
3.2. Free the Parliament and the Government from TPLF Domination, but keep the Government accountable to the Parliament)
Once the OPDO-ANDM alliance achieves position of prominence in the Parliament, what follows is freeing the parliament itself from TPLF’s repressive—and even unconstitutional–rules of procedure that muzzled Members of Parliament (MPs) in the name of ensuring party discipline and ‘democratic centralism’ (which in practice has more of centralism than democracy). They must understand that MPs know their priorities in the hierarchy of loyalties: to their conscience, their constituency, their country, and their party in that order. Accordingly, they must ensure the accountability of the Government to the Parliament in line with the constitutional provision that the HPR is “the supreme political authority” in the country thereby effectively subordinating the Executive to the Legislature with due respect to the principle of ‘separation of powers’ afforded in the Parliamentary system that ours is.
3.3. Free the People from Fear: Restore order and the ‘rule of law’
Next, the newly configured Parliament should resolve to lift the TPLF-imposed rule by Command Post by bringing an end to the undeclared state of emergency. It must also resolve to restore inter-State peace, especially around the borders. It should resolve to reinstate and/or resettle the over 600, 000 persons evicted from the Somali-Oromia borders and (from the Somali region). In this, they should demonstrate a compassionate governance the time demands.

3.3. Demilitarize the Politics, Depoliticize the Army
In a first gesture of demilitarizing the politics—and depoliticizing the army in the long term–in Ethiopia, they should call the army back to its barracks. They should make sure that the forces that have perpetrated violence and atrocities on the people in the course of the most recent protests are made accountable politically, administratively, and legally. The leadership and members of the Liyyu Police that committed massacres should be brought to justice. This includes the leader of the regional government, Abdi Iley and the leaders of the Federal Army that worked in tandem with the Liyyu Hail to commit the aggression on Oromia. The institution of the Liyyu police should be disarmed and disbanded.
3.4. Animate Constitutionalism
They must animate the constitutional institutions of dispute settlement in order for them to respond effectively to disputes over borders (Oromia-Somali; Benishangul-Oromia, Afar-Amhara, etc), local self-rule (e.g., Konso), identity (e.g., Walqayit, Qemant, Matakkal, Harari, region, etc), and other forms of internal self-determination (e.g., the long-standing Sidama demand for Statehood in the Federation, or of the Gamo to its own Zone/Special District). This requires the active engagement of the House of Federation (and its Council of Constitutional Inquiry), the Conflict Departments of the Ministry of Federal Pastoralist Affairs, and even the regular courts (over justiceable matters and cases that need to the activation of judicial accountability).
3.5. Free Political Prisoners, Repeal Repressive Laws, Counteract Corruption
Extending the work of restoring the rule of law, the alliance in Parliament must resolve to free all political prisoners. They should also resolve to repeal all repressive laws or the repressive provisions thereof (on the basis of legitimacy of purpose, necessity, rationality, proportionality, etc). In particular, they should revisit the overtly counter-democratic laws (counter-terrorism laws, the rules on media freedom, the laws on political parties and civil society associations—all of which have long stifled freedom of speech, expression, assembly, and association). They should also repeal the list of parties proscribed as ‘terrorist organizations’ purely on political grounds in order to silence dissenting voices. In the interest of further strengthening the ‘rule of law’ (forgive the RoL fetishism here!) and ensuring a degree of economic justice, they should activate the antic-corruption commission in order to prosecute corrupt officials, business people, and their associates who have been complicit in illicit ‘investment and trade’ activities. The Commission must be put to a rehabilitated use of pursuing justice rather than attacking dissidents.
3.6. Perform Compassionate Governance
The first act of compassion as a government is of course to resolve to extend humanitarian assistance to people displaced from hot spots of recent conflicts (over 600,000 in Oromia alone). People must get shelter and basic necessities. They should be brought out of the military training camps they have been put into. They should be provided with basic means of survival. But they should also be given their life back—be it where they have been evicted from or in a place of their choice where basic social services are effectively provided.
Moreover, the wider society, especially in Oromia and Amhara regions, has been affected by dislocation that resulted from the protests. Thousands have been subjected to mass arrest, detention in concentration camps, tortures, fake charges, and patently political trials. This has greatly put families in economic distress as mostly the breadwinners are sent to jail or have gone on exile.
In addition, in terms of performing compassionate governance and bringing about economic justice in line with the demands of the protests, all land grab schemes must be brought to halt, including the draft proclamation on the so called National Master Plan. All persons evicted from their land must be restored to their plots and/or given a replacement house and/or farm as appropriate.
3.7. Address all the Political Demands of the Protestors
In Oromia, addressing the demands of the #Oromoprotests is a matter of high priority. The demands are clearly articulated in the course of the last three years. No amount of cosmetic change, including in styles (such as new styles of doing public relations and communication via social media or one’s own conventional media), or a change in rhetoric, can satisfy an awakened public. The questions of abbaa biyyumma (the entitlement to rights and benefits in ones’s own country as citizens), of equitable resource distribution (and protection from an unfair tax), access to economic facilities (e.g. to land, mineral resources, water) and opportunities (e.g. education), linguistic justice (having Afaan Oromo as one of the working languages of the Federal Government), release of political prisoners, repeal of unjust administrative and economic laws and policies (such as the Oromia urban development law, so called Addis Ababa Master Plan, etc), more self-rule at the regional level [or non-interference of the TPLF overlords from the ‘center’], etc, etc. The regional government should also work more expeditiously to ensure the Oromo interest in Finfinnee (the so-called constitutional ‘special interest of Oromia over Finfinnee/Addis Ababa’). The fact that the economy has come to a standstill already must be taken into consideration and, next to pacifying the country by ‘getting the politics right’, must in time inject dynamism to the market. Without it, the difficulty of life gets only worse and the suffering of the poor will continue to rise. Price hikes must be brought to a halt. Still, jobs need to be created. Livelihoods must improve. Conditions necessary for enhanced productivity (i.e., stability) must be established.
4. Towards a Democratic Transition and a Deeper Transformation
Simultaneously, the government must start a comprehensive dialog, engagement, and negotiation in good faith with all political parties and stakeholders to ensure that there will be a genuinely democratic election in 2020. In the course of this dialog, they should not be afraid of demands for constitutional amendments, or revisions, needed for an effective transition of the politics to democracy and transformation of the polity and its state for good. The above-listed activities will contribute to the democratization of the politics. The imperative of transformation requires more work. Above all, it demands that we empower the already mobilized people to assert their newly gained agency as they seek to forge a future of their own choice for once. Given we are working within this reformist framework for change, this demands nothing less than a redemptive constitutional practice. (More on this later!)
5. Conclusion
Where does this leave EPRDF? Obviously, these otherwise simple recommendations are hard for the TPLF-led EPRDF regime to accept and implement. Considering the privilege the TPLF enjoyed so far, the vested interest they currently have, and the powers it will have to relinquish in the future, this is only expected. The OPDO-ANDM alliance must be creative in identifying ‘incentives’ that can ease the TPLF in to their reform package. Some of the measures (such as freeing political prisoners and repeal of the list of ‘terrorist organizations’,etc) may be viewed as a threat even to the reformist elements in the OPDO-ANDM alliance. But this is the only best choice they have. This is the best deal they can get.
In this way, they can re-invent themselves (as the OPDO seems to be doing lately, at least in rhetoric) and become agents of democratization, or they may choose to perish as a party of the last authoritarian regime in the country, especially in the event that they fail to take these modest reformist decisions and actions. Their refusal to reform—as they are often bent on doing—will further deepen the current crisis and present them and the country a much bleaker future. We just hope that they choose to push for reforms in order to make themselves relevant to the future! Otherwise, the hope of transformation may as well become a mirage. And the flicker of hope seen in this new OPDO-ANDM alliance and their populist gestures in their own respective regions, may be just words.Democratic Transformation from within: Hope or Mirage? The OPDO-ANDM Alliance and the Prospect of Reform
Tsegaye R Ararssa
18/11/17
1. Introduction
No time has been more eventful in the last couple of decades in Ethiopia than the one we are living in. Years of peaceful protests in Oromia, later also augmented by flashes of resistance in Konso and the Amhara region, seem to have shaken the regime to its core and have brought the country to a cross roads once more. People have started to ask if this is going to be an opportunity for the regime to, FINALLY, transit to democracy and for the state to, at last, transform itself into a fairer, a more just, a more equitable, and a more peaceful—if only redeemed—polity. The recent OPDO gesture to reach out to ANDM in the spirit of solidarity and collaboration has occasioned a renewed hope in the possibility of this much sought after transformation. What does this gesture of solidarity promise? Will the democratic transformation promised in these gestures and the democratic aspirations expressed throughout the season of the protests be delivered or will they remain a mirage? Prospectively, beyond these gestures of alliance and the populist rhetorical flourishes, what can be done to see to it that the promise—if any—is delivered, or the hope is turned into reality? The following is a reflection pointing in that direction.
2. The OPDO-ANDM Alliance: What does it mean?
The OPDO-ANDM gesture of alliance is viewed by many as heartening. To be sure, more than anything else, it is a political alliance quickly put together to edge out TPLF in the raging power struggle within the EPRDF coalition. Yet, it has emboldened what democratic dividend can be harvested if—beyond the parties–the elites of the two populous regions start to work together in the spirit of ensconcing democracy and transforming the state-society relations in the country. From the side of the OPDO, beyond sending the message to TPLF that the OPDO are not alone in resisting its patronage, it is also an attempt to calm down the Amhara elite’s eternal suspicion and fear (albeit largely irrational and groundless) of the perceived Oromo threat to “the unity and territorial integrity of Ethiopia.” Regardless of the tacit endorsement of the (warped) attitude that the Amhara elite is the sole guardian of the ‘unity and integrity of the country, it is a gesture that also indicates the resolve of this generation of Oromos to take the bigger responsibility for the larger country in trying to bring others to the Ethiopian fold.
It can be taken as an attempt on the part of the OPDO to do their side of the responsibility and leave the others to do their part if they so choose. The other-regarding political ethos embodied in this gesture has also a far-reaching consequence for the future of the country. As such, OPDO’s carefully ‘calculated’ choice to focus on and consider others’ fears rather than dwelling on the injustice inflicted upon their people, now and in the past, is a signal that they want to be larger than their resentment of their ‘present-absence’ in Ethiopia thus far. Their act of claiming the country’s problems (and natural endowments) as their own (saying “Xaanan keenya”)–or even the more ridiculous rhetorical excess in saying that they are “addicted to ‘Ethiopianism’”–is suggestive of the place of the Oromo in the Ethiopia to come. In a sense, this could as well be a way of ‘presenting’, i.e., bringing back, those who have so far been rendered absent. A way of making themselves legible in the political vernacular of the country to which they have been illegible so far.
For ANDM, to accept OPDO’s initiative, just as much as it is a political tactic of edging out TPLF in its own bit of the power struggle within the EPRDF, signals the choice to move on by accepting the present reality on the ground. It is also a recognition that the demands of their people at the grassroots level is legitimate and needs to be met as such only democratically. They seem to have finally realized that in order to give in to the democratic demands of the people, they first need to realize democracy within their party (EPRDF) in which TPLF has so far been the sole maker and breaker of games, as it were. They seem to understand that mere common sense—and basic democratic thinking–suggests that the parties with larger members and larger potential constituencies deserve more hearing than they are getting so far. And they don’t see a political overreach in raising this simple question of fair hearing and treatment both in Oromia and in their own region. Of course, the implication is far-reaching for their people, their region, and the larger country. The demand simply unleashes the logic of equality in the political party thereby signalling the beginning of transformation from within.
Consequently, both OPDO and ANDM seem to have finally realized that in order to effectively respond to the democratic impulse hitting at their doors daily from outside (from their peoples), they need to answer the inner democratic urge from within, bypassing the hierarchic tradition of EPRDF politics that made them subservient so far. If seen in this light, the alliance is already a signal for more democratic mandate to act more autonomously for these hitherto ‘junior partners’ of the TPLF. At another level, the alliance may be seen as an immanent critique of the state on behalf of democratic transformation. But it is more. It may be a sign that effective democratic transition and state transformation may finally be coming from a corner least expected to be a site of democratic performance, i.e. from within (i.e. from within the constituents of the EPRDF system), rather than from without (i.e., the opposition political organizations cum the pressures of the international community).
The question now is what can be done to make this hope of transformation real? What of this ‘inner reform’ can be done right in order to bring about the much sought transformation? If this gesture of inter-party alliance is going to yield anything more substantive, what should we expect them to do in the near future?
3. What is to be done? And Quo Vadis, EPRDF?
What should be done? And where should they start it? Top in the to-do list is the introduction of democracy to EPRDF as a party. Or, more precisely, the alliance must push back to the undemocratic instincts of TPLF and put it in check. That should be followed by the alliance to take position of prominence to seek more mandate in Parliament. What remains after that, as we will see in the sections to follow, is a mere concatenation of this basic premise of democratization.
3.1. Democratize EPRDF, or Free it from the TPLF Suzerainty
The first task is to push this democratizing impulse in the two organizations to the level where it can effectively democratize the broader EPRDF internally. That is to say to ensure internal democracy within the coalition. Which means the parties with larger membership and larger constituency base ought to be given the voices and the votes they deserve. This in turn leads to the democratization of the key political institutions such as the Federal Parliament (the House of Peoples’ Representatives, alias HPR). The parties that have the larger number of seats in the Parliament will come to seize positions of prominence. This makes the OPDO-ANDM alliance a veritable force in the formation of a new government chiefly from the ranks of the OPDO and ANDM but also the SPDM and TPLF. In this process, they may choose to assign the premiership to one of their members or keep it in the hand of the SPDM in the interest of continuity and of not alienating the SNNPS all too quickly. (All this needs to be done through an intense process of negotiation keeping an eye on the ultimate democratization of the entire country.)
3.2. Free the Parliament and the Government from TPLF Domination, but keep the Government accountable to the Parliament)
Once the OPDO-ANDM alliance achieves position of prominence in the Parliament, what follows is freeing the parliament itself from TPLF’s repressive—and even unconstitutional–rules of procedure that muzzled Members of Parliament (MPs) in the name of ensuring party discipline and ‘democratic centralism’ (which in practice has more of centralism than democracy). They must understand that MPs know their priorities in the hierarchy of loyalties: to their conscience, their constituency, their country, and their party in that order. Accordingly, they must ensure the accountability of the Government to the Parliament in line with the constitutional provision that the HPR is “the supreme political authority” in the country thereby effectively subordinating the Executive to the Legislature with due respect to the principle of ‘separation of powers’ afforded in the Parliamentary system that ours is.
3.3. Free the People from Fear: Restore order and the ‘rule of law’
Next, the newly configured Parliament should resolve to lift the TPLF-imposed rule by Command Post by bringing an end to the undeclared state of emergency. It must also resolve to restore inter-State peace, especially around the borders. It should resolve to reinstate and/or resettle the over 600, 000 persons evicted from the Somali-Oromia borders and (from the Somali region). In this, they should demonstrate a compassionate governance the time demands.

3.3. Demilitarize the Politics, Depoliticize the Army
In a first gesture of demilitarizing the politics—and depoliticizing the army in the long term–in Ethiopia, they should call the army back to its barracks. They should make sure that the forces that have perpetrated violence and atrocities on the people in the course of the most recent protests are made accountable politically, administratively, and legally. The leadership and members of the Liyyu Police that committed massacres should be brought to justice. This includes the leader of the regional government, Abdi Iley and the leaders of the Federal Army that worked in tandem with the Liyyu Hail to commit the aggression on Oromia. The institution of the Liyyu police should be disarmed and disbanded.
3.4. Animate Constitutionalism
They must animate the constitutional institutions of dispute settlement in order for them to respond effectively to disputes over borders (Oromia-Somali; Benishangul-Oromia, Afar-Amhara, etc), local self-rule (e.g., Konso), identity (e.g., Walqayit, Qemant, Matakkal, Harari, region, etc), and other forms of internal self-determination (e.g., the long-standing Sidama demand for Statehood in the Federation, or of the Gamo to its own Zone/Special District). This requires the active engagement of the House of Federation (and its Council of Constitutional Inquiry), the Conflict Departments of the Ministry of Federal Pastoralist Affairs, and even the regular courts (over justiceable matters and cases that need to the activation of judicial accountability).
3.5. Free Political Prisoners, Repeal Repressive Laws, Counteract Corruption
Extending the work of restoring the rule of law, the alliance in Parliament must resolve to free all political prisoners. They should also resolve to repeal all repressive laws or the repressive provisions thereof (on the basis of legitimacy of purpose, necessity, rationality, proportionality, etc). In particular, they should revisit the overtly counter-democratic laws (counter-terrorism laws, the rules on media freedom, the laws on political parties and civil society associations—all of which have long stifled freedom of speech, expression, assembly, and association). They should also repeal the list of parties proscribed as ‘terrorist organizations’ purely on political grounds in order to silence dissenting voices. In the interest of further strengthening the ‘rule of law’ (forgive the RoL fetishism here!) and ensuring a degree of economic justice, they should activate the antic-corruption commission in order to prosecute corrupt officials, business people, and their associates who have been complicit in illicit ‘investment and trade’ activities. The Commission must be put to a rehabilitated use of pursuing justice rather than attacking dissidents.
3.6. Perform Compassionate Governance
The first act of compassion as a government is of course to resolve to extend humanitarian assistance to people displaced from hot spots of recent conflicts (over 600,000 in Oromia alone). People must get shelter and basic necessities. They should be brought out of the military training camps they have been put into. They should be provided with basic means of survival. But they should also be given their life back—be it where they have been evicted from or in a place of their choice where basic social services are effectively provided.
Moreover, the wider society, especially in Oromia and Amhara regions, has been affected by dislocation that resulted from the protests. Thousands have been subjected to mass arrest, detention in concentration camps, tortures, fake charges, and patently political trials. This has greatly put families in economic distress as mostly the breadwinners are sent to jail or have gone on exile.
In addition, in terms of performing compassionate governance and bringing about economic justice in line with the demands of the protests, all land grab schemes must be brought to halt, including the draft proclamation on the so called National Master Plan. All persons evicted from their land must be restored to their plots and/or given a replacement house and/or farm as appropriate.
3.7. Address all the Political Demands of the Protestors
In Oromia, addressing the demands of the #Oromoprotests is a matter of high priority. The demands are clearly articulated in the course of the last three years. No amount of cosmetic change, including in styles (such as new styles of doing public relations and communication via social media or one’s own conventional media), or a change in rhetoric, can satisfy an awakened public. The questions of abbaa biyyumma (the entitlement to rights and benefits in ones’s own country as citizens), of equitable resource distribution (and protection from an unfair tax), access to economic facilities (e.g. to land, mineral resources, water) and opportunities (e.g. education), linguistic justice (having Afaan Oromo as one of the working languages of the Federal Government), release of political prisoners, repeal of unjust administrative and economic laws and policies (such as the Oromia urban development law, so called Addis Ababa Master Plan, etc), more self-rule at the regional level [or non-interference of the TPLF overlords from the ‘center’], etc, etc. The regional government should also work more expeditiously to ensure the Oromo interest in Finfinnee (the so-called constitutional ‘special interest of Oromia over Finfinnee/Addis Ababa’). The fact that the economy has come to a standstill already must be taken into consideration and, next to pacifying the country by ‘getting the politics right’, must in time inject dynamism to the market. Without it, the difficulty of life gets only worse and the suffering of the poor will continue to rise. Price hikes must be brought to a halt. Still, jobs need to be created. Livelihoods must improve. Conditions necessary for enhanced productivity (i.e., stability) must be established.
4. Towards a Democratic Transition and a Deeper Transformation
Simultaneously, the government must start a comprehensive dialog, engagement, and negotiation in good faith with all political parties and stakeholders to ensure that there will be a genuinely democratic election in 2020. In the course of this dialog, they should not be afraid of demands for constitutional amendments, or revisions, needed for an effective transition of the politics to democracy and transformation of the polity and its state for good. The above-listed activities will contribute to the democratization of the politics. The imperative of transformation requires more work. Above all, it demands that we empower the already mobilized people to assert their newly gained agency as they seek to forge a future of their own choice for once. Given we are working within this reformist framework for change, this demands nothing less than a redemptive constitutional practice. (More on this later!)
5. Conclusion
Where does this leave EPRDF? Obviously, these otherwise simple recommendations are hard for the TPLF-led EPRDF regime to accept and implement. Considering the privilege the TPLF enjoyed so far, the vested interest they currently have, and the powers it will have to relinquish in the future, this is only expected. The OPDO-ANDM alliance must be creative in identifying ‘incentives’ that can ease the TPLF in to their reform package. Some of the measures (such as freeing political prisoners and repeal of the list of ‘terrorist organizations’,etc) may be viewed as a threat even to the reformist elements in the OPDO-ANDM alliance. But this is the only best choice they have. This is the best deal they can get.
In this way, they can re-invent themselves (as the OPDO seems to be doing lately, at least in rhetoric) and become agents of democratization, or they may choose to perish as a party of the last authoritarian regime in the country, especially in the event that they fail to take these modest reformist decisions and actions. Their refusal to reform—as they are often bent on doing—will further deepen the current crisis and present them and the country a much bleaker future. We just hope that they choose to push for reforms in order to make themselves relevant to the future! Otherwise, the hope of transformation may as well become a mirage. And the flicker of hope seen in this new OPDO-ANDM alliance and their populist gestures in their own respective regions, may be just words.