While most social media commentaries about the political changes in Ethiopia revolve around events and personages, very few seem to have grasped the epoch we are entering. Or the one we are leaving behind!
The entire “modern” Ethiopian history is about monarchs and militarists — the latter not to be narrowly defined as military men but as men with a militaristic mentality,i.e, Mengistu, Meles, Samora, and Abiy.
Post-monarchy, Ethiopians had only known one republic, which we can refer to the First Republic (1974 – to date).
The first Ethiopian Republic bequeathed to us 44 years of unrelenting revolutions, counter-revolutions, killings, torture, turbulence, and endless violence — comparable, in methods and mindset, to the bloody French revolution of 1789!
In the first 17 years of the First Republic, Mengistu Hailemariam and the DERG military junta took power and washed the country with blood. In those 17 years, Meles Zenawi and TPLF fought the existing order and authority, but as it later turned out their revolution was not about abolishing the reigning oppressive authority or to improve it but to take authority and use it in the very same way Mengistu used it: rule by killing! This continued up to 2018, for 27 full years of unmitigated state terrorism!
In late 2015, Oromo and Amhara revolutionaries unleashed anarchy in their respective regions. The anarchy and uprising was not an unthinking revolt which had disorder as an endgame. It was, according to the leaders of the struggle, a revolt to destroy the tyrannical order and change it with a better one.
The jury is yet out whether those who led this revolution — both from within and from outside — will use the acquired authority to usher a second republic of justice, freedom and democracy or will use it to extend the governing ethos of the First Republic: sectarianism, violence and tyranny.
But the early signs are good.
The mere prospect of an end to violence and adversarial politics is already leading to the realignment of forces — locally and internationally — and is yielding a new dynamics. Soon everybody will be scrambling for new visions, new templates, new nomenclature, new slogans, new alliances as Ethiopia takes baby-steps towards an era of competitive party politics and politically hyper-engaged citizenry.
We are entering this promising new epoch, where after tumultuous century, Ethiopians may just finally transform from subjects of their state to citizens with voice. Of course, the road towards that destination is filled with opportunities, risks and dangers!
For Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed and his reformist colleagues, the task ahead is to fast track the national democratization project, and to ensure they are not held hostage by personal self-preservation instinct or proclivities of the reactionary party they call our party — Prosperity Party!
The historic opportunity of ushering the second republic of harmony and prosperity is beckoning! The new national political class on both sides of the divide is on the cusp of some greatness. Success depends on how much they understand that the margin of error needed to steer the country towards the opposite direction of self-immolation and Balkanization is very small.
Muktar Ismail Issack