The state of democracy is relative. Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister once said, “Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in the world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all worst.”
Churchill’s idea was that the plain, humble common man, just, the ordinary man who keeps a wife and family who goes off to fight for his country when it is in trouble, goes to the poll at the appropriate time and puts his cross on the ballot paper showing the candidate he wishes to be elected to parliament that he is the foundation of democracy. And it is also essential to this foundation that this man or woman should do this without fear and without any form of intimidation or victimization. According to Churchill, if that is democracy, he salutes it and works for it.
Here at home, since the downfall of the former dictatorial military regime and despite internal as well as external provocations and conspiracies, Ethiopia continues to maintain peace, stability and embark on civilized norms and values of democratization, good governance and sustainable development even though those norms and values take long time to be fully implemented. From the very outset, the Ethiopian government formulated a constitution that guarantees equality of all nations, nationalities and peoples of the country. The constitution guarantees freedom of speech, expression in all aspects, ways and means. There are different independent newspapers with variety of views within the country expressing different social, economic and political views and addressing different issues. Also, there are different political parties operating with different political agendas in Ethiopia.
During the last elections, many international observers including the renowned Carter Center and over thirty-five thousand domestic observers declared that the elections were free, fair and democratic. Democratic nations follow rather strictly, only democratic and legal ways and means to resolve problems that may arise during social or political disagreements and this was the trend that should be followed by some opposition party members to resolve problem arising from the recent unfavorable demonstrations and disturbances in some areas of our nation. However, some extremist leadership wanted to destroy every peaceful democratic gain of the Ethiopian people thus far by choosing violent ways and means instead of peaceful dialogue for achieving their objective i.e. to grasp power by every means including through violence and anarchy. Further, some extremist leadership have made their number one priority to try to convince the international community that there is no democracy in Ethiopia or that the government is reversing the democratic process in Ethiopia and therefore the international community should penalize the country by denying economic assistance etc. The current government fought rigorously for the prevalence, maintenance and development of peace, democracy and human rights in this country. These rights that are entrenched in and guaranteed by the constitution are reinforced on a daily basis because democratic rights, human rights protection and respect for the dignity of the Ethiopian people is the number one priority of this government and will continue to be so in the future.
The government of Ethiopia will make sure that democracy, good governance and sustainable development are its number one priority. Also, international assistance and cooperation in that regard is imperative, rather indispensable to guarantee these fundamental mechanisms of human rights protection. Therefore, international governmental as well as non-governmental institutions alike must continue their assistance in that regard in order to reinforce those civilized values they have cherished. As in any law abiding government, the Ethiopian government has the responsibility of securing law and order in order to protect its citizens from violent activities and of bringing those culprits to justice. That is exactly what the government has done against few extremists. The government has also given amnesty to many offenders to help them learn from their mistakes and be responsible citizens. This is what is called due process of the law of the land.
An excellent example of such a phenomenon is the decision taken by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn to voluntarily and without any pressure to resign from the highest post of the land i.e. from the post of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and from his post as a leader of his own party. Such a bold, courageous and wise decision is simply unprecedented and unheard of and it is truly historic. It is indeed exemplary not only to the democratic process underway in Ethiopia but also to the whole continent of Africa as well. This shows that there is no turning back on democracy in Ethiopia because the country is on the right track in that regard.
On the other hand however, those who want to grasp power by any means including through violence are very busy in lobbying and in knocking at every governmental and non –governmental doors in order to mislead the international community on the current Ethiopian democratic process. They say among other things that democracy is going backwards in Ethiopia, the government is turning more and more to dictatorship and that there are no human rights that opposition parties are under arrest simply for political reasons etc. The reality however is that Ethiopia has continued to embark on what it firmly believes in i.e. on democratization, good governance, on poverty alleviation and on sustainable development because these are again matters of survival and not matters of choice to the public at large. Therefore, the country will continue to advance following the right trend. Therefore, the international community should not be mislead by few self serving hard core opposition parties who by and large been remnants of the previous dictatorial regime and whose intensions are to bring back the old archaic and dictatorial system. The Ethiopian people suffered enormously under the former brutal military regime for a very long time and do not have the intention to go back to that old system anymore because they have had enough. There is no turning back on those hard fought values and norms. No one should have any doubt on that and most importantly, no one must be misled by few opposition propagandists form within and the Diaspora. Therefore, it is important that governmental and non-governmental organizations alike build confidence on the democratic process flourishing in Ethiopia and continue their cooperation and collaboration in order to further reinforce peace, stability and good governance in the country.
BY YOHANNESGEBRESELLASIE (PH.D)