By Seifeselassie Gebre 12-30-17
As it is known, Addis Ababa is a chartered city and the official capital city of FDRE and home to over five million Ethiopians comprised of about eighty ethnic groups. It is also the de facto diplomatic capital or hub of Africa and the headquarters of the African Union (AU) and has the fourth largest number of diplomatic missions and regional/ international organizations, next only to New York, Geneva and Vienna. Hence, it has not only national but continental and international importance and significance. However, a cloud of danger is currently looming over the horizons of Addis Ababa with the ongoing initiatives and actions by the Government and the House of People’s Representatives of FDRE to approve a shortsighted draft Proclamation on the “special interest of Oromia in Addis Ababa” that would surely create discriminatory practices among the city residents and by extension a non-egalitarian and ethnically-divided city population. This situation in turn would create fertile grounds for undesired sentiments of mistrust, suspicion, misunderstanding, divisions and hatred among the city residents. If this is allowed to happen, the ethnic viruses that have been raging in our ‘Kilils’ for the last two years would definitely be spreading to Addis Ababa, so far an island of peace, stability and tolerance in a troubled Country. We have to stop this trend at any cost even at the cost of amending our Constitution before it is too late.
The historic status of Addis Ababa is very crucial and sensitive and any attempt at tampering with this historic status by FDRE Government, the House of People’s Representatives and any party specially without proper and transparent consultations and consents of the bulk of the city residents (and not among few selected officials and cadres) would definitely lead to uncertainty and discontent at best and misunderstanding, divisions, hatred and even ethnic clashes at worst not only among the city residents but the entire Ethiopian people at large. So, the whole issue should be handled with utmost wisdom, maturity and care. It should be known that first and foremost, it is the Addis Ababans (the residents of Addis Ababa) that should have a say on this important issue/ draft as it would be mostly their lives that would be adversely affected by this proclamation for a long time to come. In order to have harmonious inter-ethnic relationships and sustainable peace, there must be complete equality but not “special interests or benefits” among individuals and ethnic groups. Special interests and benefits directly amount to committing illegal discriminations among Addis Ababans along ethnic lines. Addis Ababans have been living as one big family for ages with equal legal rights and duties and without resorting to ethnic sectarianism and clashes. If the draft Proclamation is approved, it would be a serious threat to the existing healthy inter-ethnic relationships and the culture of ethnic tolerance of “Addis Ababans”.
Addis Ababa is the capital city of all Ethiopians and it equally belongs to all individual citizens and ethnic groups who all have equal say, rights, privileges and benefits. The very concept or talk of “special interests, benefits and privileges” for this or that individual or ethnic group is pure discriminatory policy and practice among citizens and is incompatible with the universal principle of equality of individuals and peoples. It also clearly contravenes Article 25 of the FDRE’s Constitution. Thus, it amounts to national crime of the highest degree. I really don’t understand why it is required to raise or push this issue especially at this crucial time when our Country is trying to cope with multiple security crises. ‘The Government should, therefore, realize this potential danger and proactively take immediate and appropriate actions before its occurrence and before it is too late. Nevertheless, it is really a big sigh of relief to hear about the indefinite deferment of the discussions and adoption of the draft proclamation a few days ago which I very much welcome. It is a good sign that sane minds are finally prevailing. I sincerely believe and hope that it would altogether be repealed soon.
The metropolitan city is a mosaic of beautiful peoples (Amharas, Tigrians, Oromos, Ethio-Somalis, Gurages, Afars, Southern peoples, etc.) who have always been living side by side peacefully and harmoniously. They have always been so busy with their daily lives that they don’t have time for evil thoughts and sentiments such as narrow nationalism and its natural byproducts, divisions, hatred and ethnic clashes. Addis Ababa is a demonstration of “Little Ethiopia” and Addis Ababans are the representatives of all eighty ethnic groups of our Country. The diversity of Addis Ababa has always been its beauty and colors which the Addis Ababans are very much proud of. Thus, the Government should realize in a timely manner and proactively act in order to avoid future potential misunderstandings and clashes among the five million inhabitants of Addis Ababa.
The whole problem emanates from a vague and shortsighted statement which was mistakenly put in our Constitution (Article 49.5) in 1993. We have to call a spade a spade. It is one of the shortcomings of our Constitution which needs to be addressed urgently. I believe it should be abolished altogether and not just deferred for the short and long-term interest of our Country. Constitutions are man-made documents which are usually not perfect. They are prone to having shortcomings. Only Holy Scriptures such as the Holy Bible and the Holy Koran are not subject to revisions or amendments. If the bigger picture is to maintain durable and sustainable peace and harmonious inter-ethnic-relationship among all citizens and ethnic groups, we shouldn’t commit this suicide by blindly executing such shortcomings. I firmly believe that the only relevant issue in the draft proclamation that deserves urgent discussions and actions is the issue of adequate compensations for our peasants in times of evictions and dislocations from their land for urban development purposes.
As if the Government’s inappropriate policies of overemphasizing and overplaying ethnic identities haven't done enough national damage especially to our Oromia and Ethio-Somali regions, it is incomprehensible that the Government and the House of People’s Representatives are now contemplating to push and approve such irresponsible and potentially dangerous proclamation. It is really puzzling. Why don’t they instead utilize all their energies, money and time to address the current urgent and burning issues of inter-ethnic clashes and the deteriorating security situation in our Country? Haven’t we learned good lessons from our Country’s sad situation of the last two years? As if that was not enough we still continue overemphasizing and fanning ethnic diversities or differences. Is the draft proclamation telling us that Addis Ababans who have been living in the city for hundreds of years are aliens and do not have full rights and say in their own city? Do Addis Ababans have to move to one of the “Kilil’ enclaves in order to qualify for total citizen’s rights? I hope not. Even in complete alien countries such as USA and Western Europe, it takes five to eight years for an immigrant to be granted full-fledged citizenship. It is really bizarre and heart-breaking that Addis Ababans should be treated in such a way in their own city and Country. The truth is that for Addis Ababans,their only‘Kilil’ is Addis Ababa and their only identity is Ethiopiawinet.
I, thus, found the recently-drafted proclamation on the “special interest of Oromia in Addis Ababa” ill-advised and potentially dangerous to the historic, peaceful and harmonious inter-ethnic relationship among Addis Ababans on the following four valid grounds:
(1) It would have no importance or benefits whatsoever except to spoil the peaceful and harmonious inter-ethnic relationships among Addis Ababans;
(2) It clearly contravenes Article25 of the FDRE’s Constitution by attempting to create unhealthy and dangerous inequalities among citizens and ethnic groups by granting “special rights, benefits and privileges” to some and denying to others which clearly amounts to discriminations among citizens and ethnic groups and by extension to serious crimes;
(3) The draft proclamation was prepared without adequate and transparent consultations and consents of those residents that are affected the most namely Addis Ababans. This in spite of the fact that the city residents’ participations and consents are imperatives in such sensitive issues (even though there might have been some token discussions by few and selected individuals and cadres);
(4) With all due and great respect to our current Mayor of Addis Ababa who has been doing a very good job since his appointment, I have serious reservations in the critical role he played in representing the Addis Ababans and in negotiating and preparing the draft proclamation jointly with OPDO due to the existence of potential “conflict of interest” in the whole process. He is the Mayor of Addis Ababa and at the same time he is the executive member of OPDO, the ruling party in Oromia. Since the interests of Addis Ababa and OPDO do not always coincide as seen in the failed Integrated Master Plan for Addis Ababa and surrounding areas last year, does he represent and safeguard the interest of Addis Ababa or Oromia? A big question? This situation naturally puts him in a difficult situation as there is a clear and valid case of “conflict of interest” which needs to be addressed before any further move is made regarding the draft proclamation and the issue in general.
In conclusion, I call upon EPRDF officials and members, the entire Ethiopian people in general, and the Addis Ababa citizens in particular to discuss the merits and demerits of this sensitive issue without emotions and bias and with utmost care and come out with a consensus in the genuine interest of our beloved Country. The Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House of People’s Representatives do have special and crucial responsibilities and roles to play in this respect.
May God bless Ethiopia.