Promoted by the Embassy of Ethiopia in Brussels. The views belong to the sponsor
By Ambassador Hirut Zemene
The past three years of transition have brought important undertakings that led to ascertaining political freedom and democracy in Ethiopia. It will only be timely to draw the significant developments made to hold a democratic national election and why it is important to make sure this democratic path has to succeed.
The democratic election that was held on the 21st of June and the formation of the new government on the 4th of October 2021 is one of the most important achievements of the reform embarked upon back in 2018. When the new government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office, it initiated unprecedented reforms that has heralded the release of thousands of political prisoners, gave amnesty for many oppositions in exile to return and take part in the political dispensation of the country and it has also reformed repressive laws and strengthened the ethos of unity in diversity. The step taken to create an independent electoral structure was part of this process that has been essential to run a successful election.
Given the current reality in Ethiopia, it would be timely to emphasize the struggle made to ascertain the rule of law through the recent national election and the need to uphold a democratic path.
This was an election better contested with more than 52 parties taking part for both the federal and local parliamentary seats. Former oppositions and political figures that were excluded from the political scene in Ethiopia were allowed to partake in the contestations. The conduct of such a successful election has to also be credited to the painstaking work done by the National Election Board of Ethiopia, led by former political prisoner herself, the Honorable Madam Birtukan Mideksa.
The level of transparency that the Board has demonstrated both at the stages of voters’ education, registration and results administration was simply of a high standard for an infant democracy like Ethiopia.
The election was a landmark, showcasing the commitment of the government and the people to forward the country’s democratic dispensation. The government and the populace at large have spoken with one voice to the importance of a free and democratic election. The election was observed by more than a thousand local civic society organizations and representatives of the international community, including the African Union.
About 40 million Ethiopians queued line after line to assert their rights through the ballot box- the highest voters turn out in the country’s election history. Ethiopia has shown a strong commitment for democratization despite internal security challenges.
The Prosperity Party that won the majority of the electoral vote has taken an exemplary step by setting the culture of tolerance and cooperation when it embraced opposition parties in the newly formed cabinet and various administrative levels. The drive to ascertain gender parity has been upheld as a high percentage of the cabinet portfolio was composed of women.
Thanks to the bold decision by the reformist government to lay the foundation of gender balance, the bar is set high for the future of women in leadership. It is surprising as to why this important undertaking in Ethiopia was not given the deserved attention of the International Community and the mainstream media.
The Government and the People of Ethiopia were in the midst of preparation for such commendable democratic undertakings exactly a year ago when the TPLF clique attacked its own brethren at the Northern Command of the National Defense Force forcing Ethiopia to take law enforcement operation in order to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
There were countless efforts made to solve longstanding political problems in the country through dialogue. The political dialogue launched in the past two years, prior to the conflict, was meant to have a fertile transitioning to the June election. The political dialogue was drawn in the interest of creating national consensus among various political thoughts on how to build a political system that brings a reasonable continuum to all interest groups in the nation.
Ethiopia is a country of more than 80 ethnic groups with varying aspirations on how to uphold the constitutional order. So is also a nation that exhibits centuries old values that weld the people together in bad times and good times.
A number of steps were taken to bring back the degenerative path that the TPLF was taking the country to, by derailing from the reform process. There was every possibility for the TPLF to be part of this dialogue to create national consensus rather than fighting to keep the status quo that was waning. It should not be lost on us that reconciliation efforts were undertaken by the ruling party itself, various religious, elderly people, and civil society groups to make sure that the intransigence of the TPLF has to end and it has to be on course in the reform process.
This is the untold story buried and camouflaged by the current conflict. It is an untold story that the government of Ethiopia or the people were the last to see the country in the current state of affairs. It is an untold story that despite the challenges that it had to check an unwarranted attack from within, the government has not stepped back from its commitment for a democratic election.
Friends of Ethiopia should reflect on these facts and play a positive force in the effort to upholding the democratic order. Ethiopians have decided on how to be governed through the June 2021 democratic election. Only a democratic path could bring the country back on course of peace and security. For this to happen the voice of the people expressed through the ballot box should be respected.
There is no doubt that Ethiopia will settle its current internal security challenges, unfortunately inflicted upon her from within. Ethiopia has been a symbol of freedom and justice in many instances on the world stage. It is time for the international community to support this remarkable nation overcome its challenges.
It is in the best interest of the international community to try to understand the country’s drive to reform and ascertain national sovereignty , and provide critical support whereas the international media is advised to be a rationale voice of the international community that puts the problem into the right context.