ESAT News (March 28, 2016)
Ethiopian scholars, politicians and representatives of civil societies and women gathered in Washington, DC for a two day conference on the future of Ethiopia: transition, democracy and national unity organized by vision Ethiopia.
Representing Patriotic Ginbot 7 for Unity and Democracy, Neamin Zeleke, a member of the leadership said the TPLF Federal Democratic Republic is neither federal, nor democratic, nor republic.
He said the recent uprising by the people in the Oromia region was evidence that the Federal system by the TPLF was not designed to benefit the people. The popular uprising in different parts of Ethiopia show federalism, as designed by the TPLF, did not give rights to the people, Neamin said.
He spoke at length on the human rights abuses in Ethiopia perpetrated by the TPLF. Neamin said the minority government is not to be reformed but to be removed. He said he does not believe the tyrannical government would be removed through peaceful political struggle. Armed struggle, among other forms of struggle, is crucial to remove tyranny from Ethiopia, he stressed.
Lencho Bati, member of the executive committee, Oromo Democratic Front spoke on the need to create a national and common discourse that bring together all political organizations. Lencho said the regime cannot call itself developmental state as a state to be called developmental should be legitimate and accepted by the poeople, which the TPLF is not. The bureaucracy is not free from political pressure and appointment of administrative positions is not based on merit but political assignment. He said Ethiopians should politically, militarily and using all available means work to remove the tyrannical regime in Ethiopia.
Prof. John Harbeson, Professor Emeritus of political science at City University of New York said Ethiopia had missed at least four opportunities to establish a democratic state: 1974 revolution, the fall of the Dergue in 1991, the constitution assembly of 1994 and the historic election of 2005. Prof. Harbeson said in all the four case, Ethiopia’s opportunity to make a transition to democracy was squashed.
He also said the US, while fighting terrorism, should also help promote democracy.
Professor Minga Negash, Professor of Accounting, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa said Ethiopia needs a transformation, which is not only changing the government, but also a roadmap after post-EPRDF Ethiopia. The conflict with Eritrea, popular uprising in Konso, Oromia, Amhara, Somali, Gambella need to be dealt carefully, Minga said.
Another panelist, Professor Teshome Abebe Former Provost and Academic Vice President, Eastern Illinois University and Professor of Economics, Illinois said that chaos has become the source of power for the ruling party in Ethiopia. Prof. Teshome underscored that there should be a consensus that Ethiopia should have “unflinching respect for democratic values and its sovereignty should not be questioned.” Instead of completely annihilating TPLF, Prof. Teshome said, TPLF has to be reformed to unequivocally embrace democratic principles. Teshome said, “Our country is in distress and needs our attention.”
Dr. Beyan Asoba, Lawyer and Human Rights Advocate and Member of the Oromo Democratic Front, said the current and previous regimes have committed gross human rights violations in the country. He said Ethiopians should see the protest in the Oromia region as a struggle for democracy and good governance, not as a threat to the nation.
Alemayehu Gebremariam, Professor of Political Science, California State University, San Bernardino, Attorney at Law, and weekly blogger on Huffington Post spoke about the dictatorial regime in Ethiopia. He said one of the characteristics of dictators is their secrecy. Prof. Alemayehu elabotated on why the Ethiopian government is spending millions of dollars to jam ESAT. Prof. Alemayehu said sooner or later time will tell when TPLF will be held responsible for atrocious actions it committed on the people of Ethiopia. He stressed that whether the TPLF regime exists or not, the quest for democracy and respect for human rights will continue. According to Prof. Alemayehu, the roadmap for new Ethiopia is a new constitution.
Messay Kebede, Professor of Philosophy, University of Dayton, Ohio elaborated on ethnicity and power. Prof. Mesay said the way forward is to recognize the current ethnic based regional administrations. He said ethnic politics will not fade away even if TPLF is removed from power.
Ermias Legesse, former minister d’état of government communications, author, and human rights advocate said there is lack of cooperation among Ethiopian political parties and civic groups. Ermias called on the different political and civic organizations to cooperate for common, long and short-term goals. He said the cooperation among these groups should be built on a solid foundation of trust.
Dr. Mesfin Abdi, former lecturer at Addis Ababa University and researcher, presented a paper on land tenure and language issues in Ethiopia. He said, currently, the land does not belong to the farmers; and there are several unresolved questions.
Dr. Mesfin elaborated on the need to make Oromiffa as one of the working languages in Ethiopia. He said Amhara and Oromo elites should devise a mechanism to build a solid pillar of trust for the benefit of all nations in the country.
Seid Hassan, Professor of Economics, Murray State University, Kentucky, presented a paper on land grabs and state capture in Ethiopia. According to Prof. Seid, the worst corruption in the world is practiced in Ethiopia. The scholar said the TPLF/EPRDF government would continue the land grab, for the land is the only source of power and survival for the TPLF regime. The current problem in Ethiopia is multifaceted and all stakeholders should come together to devise mechanisms to mitigate it, he said.
Professor Ezekiel Gebissa: Professor of History, Kettering University, Michigan, and President Elect, Oromo Studies Association presented a paper on the theme: “Time to Look Inward: Harnessing Indigenous Asset and Resources for Democracy, Development, Human Rights and Peace Building.” Prof. Ezekiel discussed on the chances Ethiopia missed for its transition to democracy. He said we should have a plan for the country beyond overthrowing the TPLF regime. Prof. Ezekiel gave an elaborated speech on Gada System and Oromo values in Oromo society.
Ms. Elsabet Lakew a Political Science Student at Howard University and Organizer at Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, spoke about diaspora women in relation to their root. Elisabet related the struggle for democracy and human rights in Ethiopia to the “Black Lives Matter” in the United States.
Ms. Sewasew S.Johannessen, Manager, The Ark of The New Covenant Healing Ministry, Norway, requested all Ethiopians to come together to bring democracy and freedom in Ethiopia. Sewasew urged all Ethiopians work for reconciliation if they wish to see democratic Ethiopia.
Mrs. Asayesh Tamiru, human rights advocate, Frankfurt, who said humanity knows no boundaries urged diaspora Ethiopians show solidarity with women in Ethiopia. She said, “We should feel the pain of our people in Oromia, Somalia, Gambella- allover Ethiopia.” She underscored, “If we must inherit anything to our children, it is freedom!”
Ms. Wessen Debela, Human Rights Advocate and member of Center for Rights of Ethiopian Women (CREW), Washington, DC said though Ethiopian women intellectuals participate less in the affairs of the country. Ms. Wessen urged all women to participate in every aspect of socio-political life if they need to see a vibrant, prosperous Ethiopia.
Ms. Sewasew S.Johannessen, Manager, The Ark of The New Covenant Healing Ministry, Norway, requested all Ethiopians come together to bring democracy and freedom in Ethiopia. Sewasew urged all Ethiopians work for reconciliation if they wish to see democratic Ethiopia.
Mrs Asayesh Tamiru, Human Rights advocate, Frankfurt, said humanity knows no boundaries. Ms Asayesh said the diaspora Ethiopians must show solidarity for women in Ethiopia. She said, “we should feel the pain our people are facing in Oromia, Somalia, Gambella- allover Ethiopia.” She reiterated, “If we must inherit anything to our children, it is freedom!”
Ms. Wessen Debela: Human Rights Advocate and member of Center for Rights of Ethiopian Women (CREW), Washington, DC said though Ethiopian women intellectuals are more than 51% of the population, they participated less in the affairs of the country. Ms Wessen urged all women to participate in every aspect of socio-political life if they need to see a vibrant, prosperous Ethiopia.
ESAT will post the footage of the conference on its website.