dialogue not war

Ethiopia: Open letter to Prime Minister Abiy – pursue the path of peace

By Abdullatif Dire

Posted on July 23, 2021 11:58

 © Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has coined a watchword, ‘Medemer’, to unite people around his new party. Michel Euler/Pool via REUTERS
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has coined a watchword, ‘Medemer’, to unite people around his new party. Michel Euler/Pool via REUTERS

Your Excellency Prime Minister, first and foremost, congratulations to you and your party, the Prosperity Party, on winning Ethiopia’s historic 2021 election.

This article was first published in Ethiopia Insight. 

Your Excellency,

Reconciliation and compromise towards a national consensus for the sake of peace is not capitulation. It is a noble act that can guarantee lasting peace and hastens the path to prosperity. As you correctly said in parliament on 5 July, the country is capable of mobilising millions of youths to fight. But that would be not a wise decision. Certainly, it will not yield the desired results.

Instead, pursue the path of peace, forgiveness, and togetherness – deploy the virtues of your medemer philosophy. The country desperately needs you to return to the path of consensus-building to bring the country together. For this, a comprehensive national dialogue that is inclusive of diverse voices and views would be a good start.

When you became the prime minister of Ethiopia in April 2018, many of us in the Oromo community accepted the Ethiopian state for the first time. For generations, our families have been at war with the Ethiopian state. For many of us, Ethiopia represented intergenerational trauma, occupation, and pain. We believed you would be the leader who would change our people’s fate in Ethiopia for the better. And you did. For the first time, our people felt included, welcomed, and respected in Ethiopia.

Even those who were sceptical of an Oromo leadership were fully receptive to your leadership. Indeed, it was a time of seismic change for all Ethiopians.

Following from far away – Minnesota, US – I was so excited to see countless youth finally shift their focus to learning and working to better themselves and their families after so many sacrifices. It was finally new dawn in Ethiopia. It was poetic justice for so many heroes and heroines whose ultimate sacrifices were to forge a better future for our youth. Since then, you and your team have done so much good. Both domestically and internationally.

You made peace with Eritrea and won the Nobel Peace Prize for it. For many, you were a worthy peace laureate as you have also ended the lingering intercommunal conflict between the brotherly Oromo and Somali neighbours in Ethiopia. I lost my beloved uncle in the senseless conflicts which destroyed so many lives and livelihoods. Today, these communities are reaping the benefits of peace and stability. They have turned pages for the better. They are healing and rebuilding.

Your Excellency,

Ethiopia is at a critical juncture. Through the right approach and leadership, no challenge remains undefeatable. Reconciliation does not make one vulnerable, it makes for a venerable leader of peace. The path of peace offers more than it takes away. It saves lives and makes legacies. It prevents generations from falling into the epitome of living hell: violence and poverty. It makes the journey to a better future easier and faster. Pursue the path of peace and our people will surely reap its dividends in stability and prosperity.

By contrast, the use of military means will not yield meaningful and far-sighted results. It is a short-sighted approach that destroys lives and livelihoods.

It creates debilitating social upheaval that shackles generations in the darkness of wars and poverty. More importantly, conflicts hinder for many the realisation of dreams. Whatever outstanding differences you may have with your adversaries, long-lasting desirable outcomes will not be achievable militarily or by mass incarceration. Dialogue will. It works. It is a tried and tested method. Give the path of peace a chance. It is a noble undertaking of which you were already deemed worthy with your Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2018 and 2019, I spent the bulk of my spare time explaining to my friends and colleagues in the US the fortunes that awaited Ethiopia under your leadership.

I shared with them glorious articles written about you and the country. What a reformer you were. The unifier with both willingness and competence to bring people together. I believed the vigour of love that you preached would reverberate across Ethiopia and beyond to unite all of Africa. Today, my friends and colleagues share with me horrors written about Ethiopia. They ask me what changed so quickly. I try to reason and contextualise to no avail. I understand the complexity and magnitude of Ethiopia’s multitude of problems. But I believe you have the power to change it for the better. I still hold out hope.

Your Excellency,

Dig deep to forge the avenues to peace. You might be inconvenienced, but it will be well worth it. Do it for the millions of Ethiopian youths living today in the hope of a better Ethiopia tomorrow. When Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy, Dr Seleshi Bekele said, at the UN Security Council meeting, that Ethiopia is a young country with over 30 million youth currently in schools at various levels, I was moved to tears. Your country has a big future ahead. It cannot afford conflict. End it at any cost.

Begin this vital cause by granting amnesty to political prisoners languishing in prison to facilitate all-inclusive national dialogue. Follow it by inviting our own Oromo youth fighting in the Oromia region under the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) for talks. After all, the bedrock of our Oromoness – duudhaa oromummaa – prioritises forging reconciliation, dialogue, and patience for peace. I am cognizant of the immensely complex challenges that you inherited. I believe that you have the capacity to tackle it. Begin your journey to a peaceful and prosperous Ethiopia in Oromia.

Subsequently, you can move on to other regions, especially Tigray, to resolve the crises there. The unimaginable sufferings and atrocities in Tigray demand peaceful resolution urgently. If you can resolve differences with our country’s former archenemy – Eritrea – you can resolve whatever fundamental differences that may arise with fellow countrymen, the Tigrayan leaders. That will guarantee a future in which generations of Ethiopians will proudly teach and learn of our country’s history of resolving disputes without the barrel of guns. Pursue the African Union mantra of silencing the guns in Africa.

Your Excellency,

Battlefield victory, if not accompanied by dialogue and a healing process, will result in diplomatic defeat – or worse, in a reversal of the victory. Similarly, the electoral victory, if not accompanied by an inclusive dialogue and reconciliation process, may produce undesired social cleavages. History teaches us of these natural phenomena of life. It is time for all Ethiopians to come together to forge a new social contract to defuse tension and rekindle hope.

Convene a post-election conference to bridge social and political divides, to unite the country. Your leadership is at a critical time to orchestrate peace for Ethiopia and the wider region of the Horn of Africa. Peace is possible, but only through commitment to reconciliation and compromise to build lasting stability. Pursue the path of peace to ensure a dignified future for coming generations. I pray for your success, for the country’s peace, and for our youth to live in a peaceful and prosperous Ethiopia.

Thank you.

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