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The Interview: You cannot have a democratic country without holding free and fair elections: Jawar Mohammed


Addis Standard’s Ephream Sileshi sat down with Jawar Mohammed, Executive Director of Oromo Media Network (OMN)


 Addis Standard: What does it feel like to be back home after all those years in exile?

Jawar Mohammed: Victorious. It was a sign that we did it. We were fed up with repression, we were sick and tired of tolerating discrimination, the dictators were so disrespectful; they weren’t only repressive they were also disrespectful to our people. So we wanted to liberate ourselves and spent enough time planning and strategizing to make sure that the protests were not in vain. So my return was made possible as a result of this bitter struggle.

AS: You’ve been here for the last few days now. How would you assess the mood of the country? Is it as victorious?

[There is] a lot of excitement. The euphoria is subsiding a little bit but people are very excited, people have started to enjoy freedom. But I also see some concern, to be honest; I have a feeling of anxiousness because of security problems in some parts of the country. We have government officials who are a bit confused about things because they know how to dictate and now they have started to learn how to govern democratically. I sense some confusion among the people too. They know how to live under the rule of the gun and now they have to learn how to live under the rule of law. I think part of the security problems I see in some parts of the country may be linked to the abuse of that freedom. But over all, it is quite a significant change. It is an exciting time for the country.

AS: It is clear that there is a general understanding of how the country came to be at this exciting time, to use your own word; but it is safe to say that where it is going is anybody’s guess. In your perspective, where do you think we are headed now? What do you think is the road ahead?

I think [through the protests] we have completed phase I successfully. This phase was to change the government either through reform- through internal change- or by bringing it down. Our plan A has always been to empower the OPDOs, to search and empower the brighter and more democratically oriented individuals and groups within the party, and that has worked. It is a dream come true that the government was not brought down, but it has been transformed. Because if the government collapsed in a situation where there is different social polarization, in a situation where one group has dominated for far too long that the institutions have become synonymous with one party, such a change through revolution carries a lot of risk.  So it was a successful plan. I’ve been talking about this for years – to empower the OPDO and ANDM to muster enough muscle so that they can take power from the hegemonic grasp of the TPLF and they did it. So phase I is complete. The resistance part of the struggle is complete.

The second part is the governance part, which also has different phases. The first phase is actually to ensure that the transition to democracy is smooth. Part of this is to open up the sphere of politics. That has been done quite significantly by the reformists who are now in charge due to the persistent protest by our people. The prime minister has done a lot in both releasing political prisoners, in opening up the politics so that the opposition from outside and inside can come, and allowing the media to operate here. I think liberalizing the political sphere has worked quite well. But that is not enough; there is a lot of work to be done. You cannot have a democratic country without free and fair elections. The government is lagging behind in terms of preparing the ground to hold free and fair elections. In fact both the government and the opposition parties are lagging behind. So the immediate task should be for them to sit down and discuss on how to reform the electoral law, how to reorganize the electoral board from top to bottom. There are also other side issues that are very important. For the political leadership to develop a sustainable game plan, there has to be  stability in the country. The leadership needs to have a stable presence of mind, they have to focus.  Sporadic conflicts flaring up here and there are proving to be quite difficult for them. So the citizenry and people like me have to help in stabilizing the country. Stabilize the country and then transition to democracy.

AS: You talked about “phases” of the protest movement and said “phase I” as having been completed with the empowerment the OPDO and ANDM. As someone who has been a part of this resistance, can you help us understand what you mean by these phases?

As I said earlier we had two plans.  Plan A has always been to use civil resistance to lead toward the birth of reformists within the ruling party and we have been working on this for almost 10 years by identifying and recruiting people within the OPDO first and within the ANDM next. So to go back to the point of phases, phase I was about resistance politics. One could wage resistance politics in different ways. One can pick up a gun and go to wage armed struggle;  one can empower the citizenry to rebel and take control of the palace through mass action; or one can use civil resistance as a way of inducing change within the government itself. Dictatorships can collapse in three ways. One is some faction from a given ruling party comes up and says “we’re tired of dictating, let’s liberalize, let’s democratize”, which is a top down change. The second is when the opposition, the people …muster enough energy to rebel and destroy a given ruling party through revolution. The third is when power is negotiated as a result of  sufficient resistance from the wider public, but [in the event that this] resistance falls short of toppling down the government. Such resistance forces a given regime to start rethinking and it creates two sides within the government: reformists and hardliners. When the reformers get stronger than the hardliners, they take power and they start reforming. That is what happened in Ethiopia and the alliance between the reformists within the OPDO and the ANDM was made possible through this resistance politics.

Phase II is about governance politics, about establishing democracy and consolidating that democracy. So we have completed phase I, which is toppling a dictatorship. And these changes were made possible by the persistence of the protests which necessitated the strong alliance between OPDO and ANDM. Now this alliance is in between toppling a dictatorship and establishing democracy, which means the country is in transition. In October of 2016 I said “Now Ethiopia has to start talking about transitional politics”. A lot of people thought what I said was we should establish a transitional government. No. Transitional politics is about thinking how we are going to jump from this side of the river to the other side. Now we are on the river. If the hardliners had their way, probably in December of 2017, they could have tried to push it back to the old days. They didn’t do it because the protesting public showed their determination to end the tyrant that the EPRDF was in no uncertain terms . So the changes since then means the train is now passing over a bridge and the conductor of this train is prime minister [Abiy Ahmed].

But we should not forget that the completion of phase I means we are in a very precarious situation where there are only a few options at hand. The way I see it, the prime minister himself has two options. One is to drive straight to the place where democratizing Ethiopia takes place. The other is to try and hold the brake. If he holds the brakes, the train will fall off and that will probably lead the country to disintegrate before it transitions to democracy. That’s why I said we are in this precarious situation. I know that a lot of people are saying  “Let’s have a transitional government”. I say No. The current prime minister is already a transitional prime minister and what we have is a transitional government. This is no longer the EPRDF we knew. This is almost a new party governing the country right now. But that is not enough. The interesting thing that is happening right now is that we have liberals and reformists in power but they are not elected. They enjoy a huge support, but that support has not been quantified through elections. So we have to go back to the drawing board – facilitating free and fair elections – so that people can decide and say “hey guys, you’ve done a good job. Continue to govern us” or “You know what, you have been with those old people, we don’t trust you much, let’s give it to some other people.” Election has to take place. Unless preparations are underway to hold a free and fair election, there is still a risk of instability and a risk of, also, falling back to an authoritarian system.

AS: But there must be several layers of factors which could potentially derail the current changes than a Prime Minister holding the brakes. What do you think of other factors?

Of course there are several layers of factors. The first is remains of the old regime. They are still struggling to accept the reality. I knew they were done in October of 2016 [following the Irreecha tragedy].  In fact, many of us who were participating in the protests in one way or another knew this government’s end was written all over the walls two years ago in August 2016 during the Grand Oromo Rally. Before that there were protests here and there, there were lots of doubts whether it was a movement or a protest. We had discussed with the government that the protests would be absolutely peaceful and that they should restrain their forces. They didn’t restrain. That day [August 06, 2016] was very important for us because we realized that now we have built a movement, a national movement. A unified, national and a disciplined movement. That we have enough gas in the tank to go the full mile. This happened in August and in September the reformists took over the OPDO. They staged a coup, a soft coup, and took over the party’s leadership. But in October of the same year the hardliners caused the Irreechaa tragedy. It was a huge mistake because that showed the Oromo people that this dictatorship was not to be tolerated any more. But even as late as December [2017]  they were still day dreaming – going into deep reform sessions and all. They didn’t realize that the reformists have actually taken over the government structure. What happened after December was really a formality.

Coming to the present, we all know that those remains of the old regime are not really organized, they aren’t really a group, but we know at the same time that they are well resourced; they have huge resources inside and outside the country and can possibly sabotage the ongoing reform. I don’t think they want to or aspire to take over power, but they want to make sure that this transition isn’t successful. They’re are different groups from across the board. Some of them think if they can create enough problems in different parts of the country, it will keep the new leadership busy putting out fires rather than focusing on redistributive justice or holding them accountable. take for example the worsening border conflicts in Somali and Oromia regional states, which are definitely and clearly the work of disgruntled generals and intelligence officers. The other is they probably want to spread lawlessness. Not only spreading lawlessness also manipulate the economy, creating further chaos from which they can benefit.  When you combine insecurity with lawlessness and economic collapse you have a full blown crisis. And that will lead people to say “We need peace not freedom with this kind of insecurity,” which would in tern allow the armed forces to step in and even stage a coup d’etat – the same like they did in Egypt. This is one potential factor.

The second is a natural occurrence. After decades of dictatorship, the people feel they have now won. There is a euphoria in the country. Under dictatorships people obey orders from the government because of their fear of guns and the coercive power of the state. In a democracy people obey the government because they respect the rule of law. But now we are at this stage where the rule of gun has been defeated in the streets; it has been further de-legitimized by the reformist leadership. However, we haven’t developed the rule of law yet. So people are in-between. So you have these young people who have been so good at dismantling a government but are yet to be trained to focus on building a government. You have a situation where the society itself, to some extent, is contributing to instability and this condition in the society is being exploited by, particularly, the old intelligence branch of the government. So yes, there are several factors than a prime minister holding a break.

AS: When you say a people accustomed to obeying “orders from the government” is it equivalent to saying Ethiopians are not acquainted with the concept of being democratically governed?

It’s not about being acquainted with democracy or not. What happens is, one day there is a gun that holds you down, the next day there is this freedom with no clear line. Take for example the problem in parts of the Harari or Oromia regional states and elsewhere where young people just stop you and frisk you. And in Amhara regional state some are using misinformation and disinformation to agitate the young people to go out and destroy cities and burn things down.Why do they do that? Most of them do it because they are worried about security in their own areas. It used to be that they don’t trust the police. But now, they don’t obey the police because the police used to brutalize them. It is worth recalling that the Prime Minister, in his attempt to end police brutality, repeatedly said the police should not beat people. So that created a situation where the police are just standing by because they are confused. Law enforcement in this country is traditionally defined by a one way brutality. Now the law enforcement agents don’t seem to know where coercive power needs to come in; hence this confusion. In the past, a police officer was the law. Him and his AK47 were the law. Now that doesn’t work. So, it is not because the society isn’t acquainted with democracy, it is just that we are going through a period in which the line between rule by the gun and rule of law is not clearly demarcated. Which lines are to be respected, which lines are to be tossed. That was what I was telling to the young people in my message at the Millennium Hall and during my trip to Ambo. I was telling them “We’re done with the resistance part, we need to move to the governance part.” But I think in general such period of uncertainties are a normal situation. Young people are impatient and nervous. That always happens.  But despite such drawbacks the political leadership needs to sit down and calmly develop the rules of engagement, there has to be peace and stability in the country and part of that is for the people to obey the law, and for the government to ensure there is rule of law. And when we say ensure rule of law it doesn’t mean for young people to start frisking people or start collecting taxes like they’re doing in some places.

AS: But as much as many would love to see the youth to go back home and leave the politics to politicians, do you think the Ethiopian intelligence apparatus is reformed enough, or democratized enough to handle monopoly on violence yet?

Not yet. I don’t think the youth should leave politics. No, they shouldn’t. They are the vanguard of the revolution. I don’t trust any of these security and intelligence guys. I don’t trust any government official, for that matter, even if it is my mother’s son. I trust the people. I trust organized people. In Ethiopia the only effective, organized and proven force for change is the youth in different parts of the country. They have proven themselves to be effective. Without the youth remaining vigilant, there would be a problem; there is no guarantee that we’d transition to democracy. However the youth need to start transitioning from trying to take down the government, i.e. resistance politics, to building one. Resistance politics is about taking down a repressive government structure. An activist working against a dictatorship and working against an elected government is different. In dictatorship you’re trying to bring down the government itself. In democracy you’re trying to hold the government accountable. You’re trying to force them to be more effective. You campaign against corruption, you campaign against wastage of resources, you campaign for equality, more inclusiveness and so on. So the youth now, in this period during the transition, they have to restore peace. They have to restore peace not because they are scared of the state. Restoring peace is very important for themselves because they fought so bitterly to establish a democratic government. The youth are a social movement; they are part of the civic society. Democracy, at the bottom level, is built by the civil society but at the top level it is the product of a political contract among political elites. People like me and the youth can pressure, we can create an incentive for the political parties, but the political parties have to develop the rule of the game. The electoral law and all kinds of power sharing, have to be clearly defined. But they can’t do that if the country isn’t stable. That is why the youth have continue to stabilize the country for their own sake and not for the sake of the government.

Is the intelligence branch reformed? No. The military is reformed to a certain extent; there is no problem. The military had minimal problem even in the past. The bulk of the army at the bottom has always been on the people’s side. Because of that it has been easier to reform the military than the intelligence. But the intelligence was almost entirely from top to bottom controlled by one party. So, the human intelligence aspect in itself, training new agents or transforming the existing agents into agents loyal to democratic institutions is going to take some time. Efforts have started. I think the new chief of intelligence, General Adem Mohamed, has been quite effective in opening up the intelligence services to public scrutiny and making it abundantly clear that for example if you’re a party member you cannot be a part of intelligence operations. I think the message has been there. It is very important to tell it clearly that way. But I think it is going to take them a few years to develop a competent, independent, professional intelligence services. The technical intelligence is easier, I think because Information Network Security Agency (INSA) was incompetent and ineffective. They were trying to hack us, we used to hack them. They were really vulnerable. So, INSA was an exaggerated mess. It was a corruption power house filled with people who don’t know anything about modern technology. So since it is not really a well established, sophisticated institution, reforming it and replacing it doesn’t require much. They just need to bring in new hardware and new experts and I think there are a lot of young people these days who are good at these technologies. But the human intelligence is where they are going to need some more time. I want to tie back to what I was saying earlier. Even for the government to undertake full reform of the intelligence and the military, stability is very important. If there is no stability, the government is going to be more dependent on the old system. Until they recruit and replace the old system with a new ones, if there is conflict here and there they still need intelligence, they still need information and their option is to go back and rely on the old system and that makes them vulnerable to manipulation by the old guards who will resist. Despite quick reforms within the military, we should also remember that some parts of the military, some of the generals, are behind the conflicts in Ethiopia; I am 100 per cent sure of that. The reason they do that – and they do it everywhere, not only in Ethiopia – is because they want to show that a country cannot exist and function without them and the government will be more and more dependent on them.  That is why at this very moment stability is essential and all of us concerned with consolidating this change should help the government maintain this stability.

AS: Assuming there will be free and fair elections in two years as scheduled, what sorts of political alignment and realignments do you expect to see to make sure that the sacrifices made by the youth, particularly the Qeerroo, will not have been in vain?

I think the first is for the government to acknowledge that this is a caretaker government. Its only obligation is to take the country from one side to the other. The youth (the Qeerroos, the Fano and Zerma) have brought down the dictatorship and given them the ball to carry to the other side. They have to internalize that. They have to accept that. They are not a long term government. The prime minister hesitated to utter the word ‘election’ for a while, but now he has, on multiple occasions, said that his major obligations were to make sure the next election is free, fair and competitive. I think that is a major commitment. He has to follow through. In Ethiopia, particularly the youth, no longer take words, they want to see actions. And part of that action is for the government to start sitting down with the opposition to negotiate on electoral reforms, on the election day; charting out media freedom, access to media, access to state resources, creating strong civil society, etc. They have done quite a bit in negotiating with the opposition on some minor issues. For example, negotiating with Patriotic Genbot 7 and the OLF leaderships to come home and participate in peaceful political struggles; these are important steps for peace and stability, but not so important for the election. What concerns me right now is they have brought all these organizations from the diaspora and elsewhere, but they haven’t created the rules of engagement. It’s like bringing all 16 of the Ethiopian Premier League teams into a stadium, throwing them one ball and telling them to play. There are no lines, the goalpost isn’t clear, there is no referee, it’s chaos. Right now, the people coming from abroad are also just making up for what they missed for years. Sooner or later they’ll start acting. They’ll start agitating people. But you can’t have these many political organizations without clear rules. And those clear rules cannot be handed down by the government alone. They have to sit down together and draw those lines.

For the opposition parties to be effective, they must also understand that business as usual isn’t going to work anymore. You can’t just sit down in one month, write a press release, curse the government and say victory to the people. That’s not going to work. We have changed that. One of our biggest contribution through the four years protests was to transform Ethiopian politics into action-oriented politics, a politics guided by strategy. Politics with strategy followed by dedication and commitment and hard work. If the opposition parties think they can beat this government by waiting until the election comes and filling in candidates, they are wrong. What the opposition needs to do now is one, push the government to sit down with them to negotiate on election and related matters. And two, organize and strategize; they need to revise their own policies, they need to become modern. Some of the parties are still stuck in the politics of the 1960s and 1970s. In 2018, you can’t win with a strategy you had in 2005 or even in 2015. You are going to have to have an election strategy for the future, not for the past. That strategy means organizing at the grassroots level and devising a policy alternative that doesn’t only criticize the current government’s policy failures but also provides an alternative road map. That requires a lot of intellectual work. They have to have leaders who are charismatic enough, and who are hardworking. They should also consider merging together or create a coalition. Oromos alone have 15 or so parties and many more in the rest of Ethiopia. Those things have to change.  I don’t care who becomes the next prime minister; I care about the process. The process matters. If we get the process right, If we have a consensus on the electoral law, on the electoral board and if all parties are committed to accepting the outcome of the election, then I’m quite comfortable. Also, once you have developed the rule of the game, and once you’ve set the date for election, the political market place starts to heat up and that’ll encourage political parties to start working, to start forming alliances or develop their election manifestos. That’s why I have been focusing on this and talking about this, irritating the current leadership.

AS: You seem to be quite confident on the Qeerroo’s ability to make sure that the process of democratization goes smoothly in Oromia. But what about other parts of the country? Does it worry you that the lack of organized movement like Qeerroos in other parts of the country will hurt the rest of the process?

That doesn’t worry me. The good thing about non-violent movement as opposed to armed struggle is that non-violent movement produces a result but doesn’t control that result. Today what started by the Qeerroo and was picked up by the youth in the rest of the country, especially in Amhara regional state, but also in the south and the east, the whole country is seeing light at the end of the tunnel. The promise of opening up of the press, and the opening up the political space is happening in almost all parts of the country. Armed struggle has a strong control over society. Another observation I have is that people in all regions of the country are sick and tired of dictatorships. They want to move forward. They might fear and say ‘Oh, Oromo domination is going to come’, but ultimately they do want to be governed by an elected government; they do want to enjoy freedom, they do want to enjoy peace among themselves and with their neighbors. For now, I think almost all regions are committed to preserving the federal government. I have observed that secessionist movements have really decreased across all regions. These people have realized that flirting with secessionist ideals is not the best way to go about. Abdi Illey’s nonsense in Somali regional state about triggering article 39 is not real. I have spoken to Somalis across the world and there is no such movement in Somali region. In the past what pushed people, be it the Oromos, the Somalis, and the Eritreans, to push for break up was because they didn’t see alternative ways of attaining their freedom; they didn’t want to live under repression; they didn’t want to live under cultural and economic exploitation.  But now, I think, those political party movements in Ethiopia simply want to democratize the current federal system. We as Oromos have a huge obligation, not only because we have been at the forefront of bringing this change, but we are the largest and we are in the middle; we must transition this country to democracy together, by making sure that everybody is represented in every step of the process. Not only in the government but also in discussions outside of the government’s context; we must bring fairness and quality to the front and center. I don’t say this for political preach; I don’t want anyone to vote for me. I say this because Oromos fought for three things. Freedom, which is democracy; the ability to develop and escape from poverty; and peace. They didn’t want a government to rob them anymore; they didn’t want a government to kill them and they didn’t want a government to shut them up. You can’t enjoy peace, development and democracy alone. Let alone in such a complex country, an island like Madagascar needs stability across the ocean to have a stable democracy. Without that we can’t do it. So, for the Oromos to keep this country together, to democratize it and to develop it is essential for our existence as a nation.And when we say we must democratize Ethiopia, it is not an act of charity for the people of Afar or Gambella or Somali or Tigray.  It is an act for our survival as a united political community. We cannot survive without democratizing the country for us as much as for the others. We paid a lot of price for what we did. In my visit to Ambo I went to a place where a lot of our men and women were gunned down for demanding the right to live in dignity and the right to prosper. I want to see development in Ambo. I want to see democracy in Ambo. I want to see peace in Ambo. But you can’t have peace and development in Ambo without peace and development next door in Ginchi. You cannot see it without peace and development in Finfinne [Addis Abeba]. At the same time you cannot have this peace, development and democracy in Finfinne without Bahir Dar and Mekelle enjoying the same. So, can we Oromos do it? Yes we can. Because we know the price of repression; we have been at the receiving end of it. Second, we are so large that even if we steal from this country, we’d still not have enough. So, for us it is very important that there is fair distribution of wealth in the country. Overall, I think we can do it. The reason we can is because we have a lot of educated people. These last four years, the Qeerroos went through college and graduated while doing resistance politics. They graduated with a lot of sophisticated knowledge in politics. You can put a mic to any Qeerroo and you’d think you were listening to a famous political analyst on Al Jazeera. They have become really good. They aren’t just active citizens. They are highly informed, articulate and operatives. So, I think we can transition.

AS: The role played by the TPLF, despite its obvious shortfalls, in the last 27 years cannot be underestimated. Going forward though, how do you asses the posturing of the Tigray regional state and that of TPLF’s in this journey of democratizing Ethiopia?

One of the ironies of these 27 years during which Tigraryan elites were controlling the commanding height of the political and economic power is this confusion among the people of the rest of the country that the people of Tigray were benefiting. No. They weren’t. In fact Tigray region was one of the most closed regions for not only the last 27 years, but since TPLF has been the semi-de facto party that ruled the region for a good 35 years. These ruling elites have created a highly monitored, highly controlled society. In the center we often complain about censorship and political repression, but we forget that it is worse in Tigray. TPLF has also destroyed any alternative leadership except for itself. But because Tigrayans are in power in Finfinne, the people in Tigray didn’t rebel; how can you rebel against one of your own? The difference with the youth in Oromia , for example, is that, we said “they’re eating, while we look from outside the door,” so we were able to develop alternative models, alternative leadership and alternative institutions. For example, instead of waiting for the OPDO to do its job, we built the Qeerroo to protest who then forced the OPDO to transform itself. A lot of people don’t know this but when the government shutdown the space for civic societies, we went to the cultural societies and helped revive and regain our Gadaa system. You barely see this in Tigray and the little attempts were quickly and effectively crushed. That created a vacuum of strong leadership. So the lack of leadership in Tigray comes from this repressive legacy of the TPLF over the region for a long period of time and from the person the late Meles Zenawi was. He may have built TPLF but he destroyed it too. I think Sebhat Nega was right when he once said ‘Meles killed the party.’  He did, especially after the split in 2001; he killed the possibility of any leader emerging by decimating anyone who rivaled him. That left a vacuum of leadership when he suddenly died in 2012.

Now Debretsion Gebremichael is the chairman. Probably not a charismatic leader, but a chairman who is considered as one of the reformists within the party. But there are fears that the old guards are completely undermining his authority to lead the party. the likes of Getachew Aseffa, Abay Tsehaye, Sebhat Nega and others have all left Finfinne and relocated in the region. This move is likely undermining Debretsion’s leadership because their priorities are trying to stop any change in order to protect their wealth and themselves from prosecution;  they have turned the region into their own garrison and there are fears that they will paralyze the new chairman from aligning the party with the reformist at the center. It’s a tough time ahead for the posturing of the regional state’s politics, I think. But on the other hand, one also sees light at the end of the tunnel; the rerun of Aregawi Berhe and his party as well as the gradual strengthening of opposition parties such as theArena Tigray by using the opening of the political space is something we should not discount when calculating the political posturing of Tigray as a region.

AS: Finally, if you have one message for all Ethiopians, and to the Qeerroos and the Prime Minister in particular and to any other group you would like to give a special message to? And what is your message to prime minister Abiy?

For the people of Ethiopia, don’t mess with this opportunity. For the last 50 years the young people fought against tyranny tooth and nail; they overthrew Haile Selassie I, they overthrew the Derg, but all opportunities have slipped out of their hands. All Ethiopian scholars talked of a turning point and crossroads at each of these junctions in the past, and then missed the opportunity. I hope nobody will say “a missed opportunity” after this because it will not only be a missed opportunity, it will be a mangled one. With all this resource, with all these young people, with the kind of leadership we have, with the kind of international support we have, if we don’t transition to democracy, consolidate and sustain the gains and lift this country up, it will only be because we are lazy. So, the people of Ethiopia shouldn’t be tempted with little things here and there. We need to stick together, we need to work together, and despite our differences, we need to hold our leadership accountable when it errs, and we need to maintain peace and stability to make sure that we have an elected government in two years from.

The Qeerroos have been an interesting experiment. They have done great work. They have proven that they can bring down one of the most brutal and strongest tyranny in Africa. A tyranny that even the west expected to last for 50 more years. I think the Qeerroos have proven themselves to be quite effective and sophisticated in dismantling a dictatorship. But now it is time for them to prove that they can build a democracy, that they can build, consolidate and sustain a multinational democracy in Ethiopia. I have been passing this message for a while now. That’s the next challenge for them but I think with proper and inclusive guidance they will do it. If they continue with the speed and sophistication and unity they proved, then they can do it.

For PM Abiy and his team, their task is very simple and one: transition this country from where they took it from the youth when the dictatorship died and take it to democracy. Focus on that. On the side, of course, they’re getting a lot of help financially, and I hope the economy will recover and I am sure they’ll get support in terms of security too. I know there are internal and external factors led by some people who think they can mess with this country. They might try, but is not going to happen. I was in Nairobi a few weeks ago and I met with security officials from neighboring countries. Nobody wants to miss this opportunity. Everybody I have a chance to talk to wants to support. The international community, specially the US, is openly on board with this government and I think the west as well. Hopefully China will come back too. The biggest challenge is rather our own internal security, particularly the breakdown of rule of law in various parts of the country.  So my message is, both to the government and the people of Ethiopia at large , don’t miss this chance. AS


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