During the latest two years, I have been hearing a lot about the instability in Ethiopia. The problem is, as I see it, not only about instability, it is about severe conflicts, conflicts that have led to armed conflicts. There are a lot of reports on armed conflicts taking human lives and ravaging properties in different parts of the country. To emphasise the seriousness some politicians and intellectuals residing outside the country have given the conflict a status of “genocide”.
It is difficult to understand the root causes of what led the country in to this armed conflict. Whoever I am talking to in recent years has his/her own version of the reality with strong blame of the “others”. These others are the Amhara, the Tigre, the Oromos, the Muslims, the Orthodox, the Protestants etc. Ethnic, religious, historical, cultural, ideological, economic, and other factors are given as major causes for conflicts.
As I mentioned earlier, who ever you talk to puts the blame on the “others”. It is a rare encounter to hear individuals or groups taking responsibility, confessing their mistakes and suggesting solutions on how to get out of the trap. Self-criticism is a rare phenomenon in private and official dialogue in the society.
In an attempt to realize their goals, different individuals as well as groups are using different strategies. One strategy is to spread information about once conviction directly through personal contacts. But the major battle field is the social media such as twitter, facebook, you tube and other visible sights with large followers. The social media is used as a forum to campaign for ones on version of reality as well as to miscredit ideas or facts coming from the opposing groups.
For me who is not on the ground and not following the day-to-day events in place, it is difficult to verify what is reported in the social media. In a country like Ethiopia, it is not easy to relay upon or trust either the state or private media. Even if it is difficult to fully relay on any source, I am following the development in the country through media outlets in the country and outside the country.
More than verifying what is true or not from different sources, I am wondering what are the root causes of the conflicts, what could have been done to prevent the escalation to armed conflicts? When the armed conflict is a reality, the important question is how they could be resolved? and how to build a long-lasting peace? are essential questions that needs a reply.
One of the major problems in Ethiopia is interpretation of history. Some groups are convinced their forefathers were forced to submit to the central government by force. They also express that their cultural heritages and languages are not given the recognition they deserve. On the other hand, other groups are completely denying these claims.
In addition to that the major ethnic groups, the Amhara´ and the Oromos are convinced that during the last 30 years one of the Ethiopian minorities the Tigranes took power and isolated them and other Ethiopians. Open statistical figures showed that the key positions in the military, civilian and economic sectors were occupied by elites from the minority Tigray group. According to many sources including individual witnesses and human rights reports, the minority government imprisoned, tortured and killed those who opposed their undemocratic acts.
After the internal struggle within the coalition partners in the EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples´ Revolutionary Democratic Front), the ruling party TPLF (Tigray Peoples´ Liberation Front), was forced to leave power in non-violent transition in 2018. Following the peaceful transition, new alliances and conflicts started and even in some cases developed in to armed conflicts. In the beginning the Amharas´ and the Oromos´ allied against the Tigre ruling elites to remove them from power. Gradually the alliances cracked and friends within the same group and other groups started to consider each other as enemies. Many minor conflicts were allowed to escalate, political killings started to take place without getting any resolutions.
While it is difficult to deal with the problems, government and different authorities needed to listened to all voices. By listening to all voices to find solutions that are at least acceptable to competing parties and by allowing open forums for free discussion, would have minimized the taking up of weapons as means of reaching one’s political goal.
Where armed struggle has been taken as alternative, measures needed to be taken. The first step is to stop the armed conflict, the second step is to provide humanitarian help to those who are affected by the armed conflict, the third step is to rebuild the different services of the society, the fourth step is to work hard for the long-lasting peace. The best alternative to all these sufferings is avoiding armed conflicts as a means of resolving political conflict.