Ethiopia and Horn of Africa Conference
Ethiopia and Horn of Africa Conference
May 9 -10
Concept note and suggestions for a two day workshop on Ethiopia
1. Horn of Africa and Ethiopia: current despair and prospects for a stable, democratic and prosperous future
2. Democracy and good governance for stable horn of Africa
3. Creating a conflict-free development environment in the horn of Africa
1, Raise awareness on national and regional issues (Lack of democracy and good governance, ethnic politics, fundamentalism,)
2. Redirect the attention and focus of the international community to address the real causes of instability in the region
I. The current state of Ethiopian politics and society is arguably the most uncertain in the country’s recent history. The following factors have contributed to the current situation:
a) The state of the ruling party and regime
• First, we have a very confused and internally incoherent ruling class (party) especially since the death of their strongman
• With the death of the dictator, the ideas that glued the various wings of the ruling party have started to unravel as each tries to gain dominance in the government and the loot that they hope to collect with their political dominance
• The ruling party’s foreign backers seem to have doubts about the regime and its stability
• The economy is not going as well as the ruling clique wants others to believe and this has started to create noise especially among the poor
• The issue related to the country’s borders, especially with Sudan, is creating instability and anger among a very critical boarder population
• The level of corruption in the country has reached a point bordering highway robbery, which is simply unsustainable
b) On the part of the opposition in general and the organized opposition in particular
• Injustice and the complete collapse of the justice system (as an independent judiciary) combined with the brutality of the regime has led to a new consensus that accepts all inclusive struggle as a legitimate and timely form of struggle
• There are now serious organizations involved in it and the public is seeing them as a solution to their current predicament
• The role of ESAT and its ability to present itself as a legitimate contender that breaks the monopoly of information in the country. This has enhanced the possibility of mobilizing the population for a unified struggle.
• All these issues combined with the inherent weakness of the ruling party has made change a real possibility for the first time and thus the need to talk about the future of the country
II. Key challenges facing the democratic struggle, the future of democratic dispensation in the country and how to get there
• The not yet coherently addressed issue of dealing with ethnicity in a democratic framework that prioritizes individual freedom (along with group rights, that follow from it) and developing a visionary consensus among Ethiopia’s moderate elite
• The difficulty of bringing various democratic forces together for the struggle (the issue is not just about ethnicity, it also involves a character deficit among political leaders and the acrimonious political culture that has pervaded opposition politics)
• The need for a coherent discussion about the transition and the key issues that need to inform the transition
• How do we go beyond the complicated problems that the current regime is deliberately leaving behind? (How does one fight corruption once it takes deep root? How about the issue of identity politics vis. creating a meaningful and visionary Ethiopian nationalism? How about land grab vis. foreign investment?
• What is the meaningful and realistic role of the diaspora during the struggle and after liberation?
• The complicated foreign relations problems (especially with bordering countries and other regional players)…etc.
III. Suggested themes for individual sessions
Plenary I: The state of Ethiopian politics and society
Concurrent sessions I: (One largely dealing with what is and the other looking at the future)
• Inside EPRDF, (the papers could deal with inside the military, within the political parties, EPRDF and the business class, EPRDF and agriculture or the peasant population…etc. Here, the discussions will follow the first plenary and is designed to get papers on What is going on?
• The Ethiopian Economy after 23 years of EPRDF. Here we can solicit papers on a number of interrelated issues including: Is the economic growth data reliable? What is the cost of the current development model? Who are the losers and winners in the current economic dispensation? Who is controlling the economy and how? A discussion on Inflation and poverty…etc.
• The state of social development in the country: population dynamics, poverty and inequality, land grab and displacement, ethnicity and identity politics, environmental degradation….etc.
• Human rights and the state of politics in Ethiopia: Here a wide variety of papers can be presented; issues such as the human right situation in general; the nature of legal politics in the country and the possibility of change through that; the justice system…etc.
Concurrent session II. Where are we heading and how?
• Could EPRDF change? Is it possible to achieve democratic dispensation with EPRDF in power? Here issues such as the possibility of national reconciliation…etc. can be discussed
• The struggle for democracy in Ethiopia: challenges and opportunities: Here we can have papers about method of struggle; an assessment of the current state of the opposition (both electoral and other forms of politics); The meaning and usefulness of establishing a united struggle and under what condition?
• Thinking about a democratic transition. Here just thinking about possible transitional methodologies could be discussed. How do we see the transition coming? What would be the form of the transition that can get buy in from different constituencies? We can solicit open and bold thinking here
• Ethiopia and its neighborhood, the Horn of Africa, what challenges to durable peace, and stability in the Horn and what could be done about it.
• The state of cyber espionage, surveillance and jamming technologies and their potential negative effect on the struggle for human rights and basic liberties in Ethiopia
• How do we deal with the class of people emerging as the country’s business elite through corruption...et.
IV. Plenary II. (Looking ahead to the immediate and long term future)
• This is a plenary for the organized opposition to lay out its vision and how they plan to go there
• It might be a mixture of academics, civil society groups and political parties to talk about the future of the country. Both about the potential change and beyond
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