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Is the European Parliament a well-informed Institution?

By Tsehaye Debalkew, Washington D.C. February 1, 2016

It is to be reminisced that the European Parliament had passed a resolution pertaining to Ethiopia some 12 days ago..  In one of its motions the European Parliament said;

"    Whereas Oromia, the largest region of Ethiopia has been heat by a wave of violent protests over the expansion of the municipal boundary of the capital, Addis Ababa which has posed risks for farmers eviction from their land;"

It is appropriate to state here that, expanding the boundaries of the capital was not part of the City Master Plan. There is no easy way of expanding Addis Ababa into Oromia short of amending the FDRE Constitution or violating it.  Neither the Federal government nor the Oromia Regional State government would allow violating the Constitution, while amending it would have been through a lengthy and participatory process.   So, EP, your first ground is totally divorced from the reality on the ground.

What happened in the different parts of Oromia during the protests and the violence that followed is totally unacceptable and regrettable.  Today's Ethiopia should not be revisited by such dispiriting violence.  No life should have been lost.  Obviously, every life should matter.  Were there things that could have been done to prevent such tragedies but were not done because of incompetence or negligence?  If so, people in that line of work must be held accountable.  It is my belief that a lesson should be taken from the recent violence which was largely fueled by those forces that run to swallow the constitution either through loyalty to narrow nationalism or chauvinism.  The Ethiopian House of Representatives and the House of Federation should press the administration to acts fast and decisive after the fact.

The House should also look forward to opening public discourse platforms and devising ways and provisions to prevent such incidents from repeating in one, or another form.  I also think it would benefit the nation for the Houses to adopt a mechanism of getting adequately informed about such incidents, so such they would be in a position, first hand and then reach out to counterpart Houses or relevant regions and countries, such as the European parliament, in sharing and channeling the right information before wrong, exaggerated and motive-driven packs of misinformation gets to their ears.

Today's Ethiopia must consciously protect, encourage and champion its citizens.  On the other hand, there were a lot of predators from far and near who saw an opportunity of maddening the streets in the hope of creating total chaos so that they can sneak in to power hold through the back door.  It is these people who fueled the situation to violence and then to a confrontational one.  Social media and bad journalism married with sinister and parasitic politicians turned this protests into lawlessness.

Their minimum goal must have been escalating the violence as high as it can get for an evil political harvest that is whatever death or injury comes out from the violence would be used as a propaganda material at an insanely exaggerated rate and figure to fuel more public anger. Added to that is the mission of demonizing the government and damaging the image of the nation before the eyes of the international media and community with a shallow game to discredit the existing system as irresponsible and trigger happy.

And we cannot say they failed on all fronts.  At least, we have sent the European parliament falling for it.  The European Parliament representing EU on the parliamentary affairs front sounds feeling too big and too busy to look for the facts, when the European parliament started equating allegations to be the facts themselves; and shaky assumptions becoming conclusive grounds.  The European parliament has condemned the Ethiopian government in the most bizarrely intonated resolution. One can see that the European parliament lacks solid ground to stand on.  You are a big institution and we've always been expecting you to act as one and hence the question.  "Is the European parliament a well-informed institution? Is in order here.

It is  a shame that the hugely resourced and resourceful institution, Africa would like to look up as an exemplary political and economic union model is passing resolutions that are not well considered and processed.  It is even more shameful, if such resolutions and intonations were able to pass because of individual members who have much axe to grind on a nation that is pretty much focused on solving and overcoming her millennia-aged challenges while contributing its modest share as a family member of the international community.

Ethiopia is registering great strides in its determination to defeat poverty through its inclusive growth schemes, pro-poor investments and greening economy; build democracy through harmony, equality, participation and decentralization; deepen its peace through addressing all old and new social grievance at every level; and promote regional peace and integration through contributions of peacekeeping forces and facilitating regional initiatives and cooperation.  It is a pity that the European Parliament, has missed all that.  How many countries in the developing world or more specifically in Africa, are embarking on such multi-lane promissory and positive path? It is hardly natural to believe a huge and important regional institution such as the European parliament passes condemning resolutions against its key ally nations such as Ethiopia on an uniformed basis.  How hard would it be for the European parliament to get its facts right before jumping the guns? Not much except earnest political will to look for the truth.

Another allegation is as the most shocking one as it is magically transferred to be a fact to serve as a justification for EP's latest resolution in question:

"Whereas security forces used excessive lethal force and killed at least 140 protesters and injured many more, in what may be the biggest crisis to hit Ethiopia since the 2005 election violence;"

Notice the phrases, "excessive lethal force: and "killed at least 140 protestors".  The first one shows a clear judgment on the part of the European parliament as it claimed the EP had already known excessive lethal force was used by the security.

What is excessive force and how do you know if it was employed? The concept of "excessive force" itself is not concretized to a universally accepted standard level.  Nonetheless, it can be generally be understood as a deadly force used by police beyond necessary when trying to maintain law and order.  That means deadly force is not always considered excessive.  It is not considered 'excessive' if police used only the necessary amount of force to subdue a violent situation and enforce law and safety.  Cleary, the point here is, depending on any particular situation and on case by case justified grounds, police is justified to use all necessary tools, including guns, in the right situation, manner and amount to impose order.

If the above argument makes sense, we can only know whether or not the Ethiopian police applied excessive force during the Oromia disturbances, and only after investigation is conducted to determine the case and results of the investigation are conclusive enough to lead us to call it one way or the other, not before it.  There are investigations conducted into the matter so far. The EP is not in a position to know about the findings in the time it passed its resolutions.  Therefore, the European Parliament has only decided to pass those resolutions based on allegations.  And it is very uncharacteristic and depressing for such a sophisticated institution to rush into resolutions of serious nature based on allegations.

Here, we are challenging EP for judging before the fact and certainly not justifying the use of excessive force, if there was any, nor defending individuals who might have hand in any wrong doings in relation to the recent violence and deaths of a number of civilian and members of the police.  For us any single life lost through violence is a tragedy.  Any number of people are too many and beyond negotiable and we call them citizens the nation has to mourn about.  It is true people died in last month's incident of Oromia violence from the civilians and the law enforcements, and it matters less whether they are in the hindered or in the tens.  As to the knowledge of the exact causality numbers, we would assume the Federal and the Oromia governments were in a better position to know they are holding from saying or releasing them invoking the situation still-under-investigation.

The European parliament basing its resolutions on data obtained from opposition leaders and political activists via third parties as fact is mind-boggling.  It looks badly on the institution when it passes resolution without well considered foundations.  A standard verifiability should apply to every process and resolution, regardless of geography or color.  Unverified, allegations, data and facts are not adequate to serve as grounds for conclusions and resolutions.

Things get funnier when passes to the other grounds some of them repeated for emphasis, others for hyperbolic impact.  The present political geography of the regional governments, in present Ethiopia, is determined in the Constitution.  It is unthinkable to undercut the constitution to expand one or shrink another.  There is no law which allows that to happen.  How hard is it, for the EP to understand this fact?

 Hw clumsily the EP has handled another issue is shown as follows;

“Whereas on the 14 January 2016 the government decided to cancel the disputed large scale urban development plans: Whereas if implemented, the plan will expand the City's boundary by 20 times its current size: Whereas Addis Ababa's enlargement has already displaced millions of Oromo farmers and trapped them in poverty;"

All these junky justifications are used as foundational grounds for the resolution that came as "we condemn,... we urge... we demand.... we call etc". The European Parliament is condemning the Ethiopian government on very uniformed and misinformed decision and is calling for corrective actions and imposing prescription based on those misinformed and uniformed diagnoses.  EP had a better ways to engage Ethiopia: get the facts first and then express its views and recommend actions to improve the future.  But EP wouldn't feel it had to work to get the facts.  EP thinks it is entitled to the facts and it is only Ethiopia that has to reconcile herself with what are presented by EP as facts.  This because EU is a donor body and Ethiopia is a receiver of development aid and other assistances.  And there are individual members of the parliament who have an axe to grind and vendetta, take it personal to use their influence in the EU institutions to get back at Ethiopia.

We believe the European Community is way larger than its institutions.  In the same way, the EU is much larger than the EP. We also believe all European Union institutions are not insensitive to realties and standards of operation.  We even believe, the European Parliament one time or few times erring doesn't disqualify its vitality.  Ethiopia should always focus on  the positives spaces of cooperation and partnership with the European  Parliament.

Ethiopia's sacred mission of defeating poverty and consolidating democracy needs more friends.  For that very reason, Ethiopia must remain focused on expanding partnerships and cooperation. Disagreements and disparities can always be minimized through transparency and comparing notes.  Ethiopia must reach out to the EU institutions with honest and transparent partnership and cooperation without being distracted by irritant individual members in the EP.

The Ethiopian government must continue providing the facts and its own perspectives so that whoever cares have the right information and a sensible opinion about the country and her challenges.  Otherwise the government must always demonstrate that the power it enjoys and the responsibility it shoulders all comes from its people and from no other.  The buck stops with Ethiopian peoples and nowhere else.       Aloha!


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