Ethiopia: National Dialogue: Viable Remedy to Heal Long-Built Grudges and Enmity

It is quite acknowledged that Ethiopia has been baffled by the cunning approaches and distorted narratives, calculatedly or subconsciously orchestrated, elements that wished to govern the nation by creating sustainable skirmishes between citizens, deliberately crafted before. Such a thorny measure must be eliminated through the use of a domestic weapon that will last for centuries and even millennia. Yes, if a given country has encountered any kind of disagreement, rivalry or disparity, it has to come up with possible solutions locally without interference from other countries as the locally worked out solutions are likely to be fruitful, comprehensive and also long-lasting.

In this regard, the role of all citizens, interested bodies and civil society organizations is incalculable. This incomparable role can be accompanied by a play space that can potentially provide all citizens with ample opportunities to express ideas and feelings and be a feasible contribution of meaning. Narrow conversations, broader public debates and even national dialogue can be seen as playing fields for achieving this.

In particular, the latter is very useful to raise awareness among the general public and other actors and help them actively participate in this invaluable national process. Very well, the need for a national dialogue and approved procedures before the proclamation and establishment of the commission is approved is unquestionable. Before the formation of the National Dialogue Commission (NDC), a series of preparatory works, such as the review of legal documents, historical narratives, organizational structures and best international experiences, were carefully examined and certified.

Even at the opportune moment of conducting public dialogue and consultation, participants raised a number of crucial issues regarding the independence of the commission; on the selection process of commission members; Approaches to conducting national dialogue, constitutional reform and the impacts of active conflicts occur in different parts of the country. The aforementioned consultations and those still not adequately resolved by the concerned bodies and the process continues towards its end to achieve the stability of Ethiopia by peacefully addressing the problems arising due to various reasons. This national dialogue is very useful in finding a viable remedy to cure the long-accumulated resentment and enmity among citizens.

Consequently, the concerns cited by public representatives and/or participants have been well addressed. Furthermore, some of the ideas raised during the discussion will be taken as inputs and incorporated to further strengthen the effort aimed at creating a stable and peaceful nation. The implementation of the National Dialogue in all corners of Ethiopia would bear fruit if handled properly and executed in an inclusive manner. Without a doubt, elite support, public support, and support from regional and international actors can be the key factors affecting the success or failure of National Dialogue efforts.

The public debates are actually part of a series of awareness-raising measures on inclusive national dialogue. In a bid to support the National Dialogue Process, with special focus on improving CSOs’ understanding of the issue by organizing various awareness raising platforms, it has played a pivotal role in achieving that goal.

Indeed, supporting the National Dialogue process is in the best interest of the nation, especially now more than ever when peacebuilding is essential and becomes a matter of life and death. Therefore, collaboration among all actors to support the National Dialogue is commendable and should pave the way for similar collaborations across all sectors of society to support the process, overcome challenges and achieve sustainable peace in the country. Here it is obvious that together, making a difference would be as easy as talking, as the saying goes: “Unity is strength.”

The Ethiopian Council of Civil Society Organizations (ECSOC) is also picking up the pace to help civil societies play a constructive role in the upcoming national dialogue. Various steps have been taken for a successful national dialogue to be carried out in a manner that is “comprehensive, convenient and knowledge-based.” This is really a promising step!

Much is expected of the Commission and civil societies have a huge role to play in the national dialogue. For the national dialogue to be successful, the Commission has many responsibilities and ethics are very important when carrying out such a delicate process. Revitalizing dialogue and regular consultations with civil society (SC) is one of the principles, as it is used to ensure the coherence and transparency of public debates and promote the comprehensive and progressive participation of civil society and also the public in general.

By promoting the exchange of information and experiences on the commission’s main policies and initiatives, as well as the ongoing institutional reforms in the country, dialogue would of course come to the fore. It is believed that the coordination of many activities will greatly enhance the effectiveness, relevance and impact of the engagement and contribute to the realization of the overall objectives of the commission.

National dialogues would be instrumental in bringing together all relevant national stakeholders and actors on the basis of a broad mandate to foster consensus at the national level regarding key issues of the conflict.

Therefore, the National Dialogue has acquired considerable importance as a platform for peaceful transformation. It further reflects the belief that conflict resolution processes should be as inclusive as possible, involving a wide range of political actors and extending beyond a limited set of political actors to include society at large.

Therefore, responsibility for conflict resolution has recently shifted from the national to the international level. If a process excludes important stakeholders or is perceived to serve the government’s short-term political objectives, constitutional reform proposals are unlikely to gain traction. Therefore, it must be inclusive and participatory.

Unequivocally, a constitution established in accordance with law and designed to include all citizens and civil society or the general public can ensure legal legitimacy. This, in turn, may make such a process more likely than a National Dialogue to meet generally accepted concepts of fair representation and expectations of a country-wide democratic process. Often, for a dialogue to be taken seriously and for its outcomes to be respected by participants, the parties will need to have provided some concrete disclosure of their intentions beforehand.

Interestingly, Ethiopia has tried, and is even tirelessly trying, to hold the first of its kind, a national dialogue in response to historical economic, social, political and other related issues. It is also known that Ethiopia formed the first national dialogue in 2022 to examine the challenges and prospects of the national discourse. It is true that national dialogue is a public political cycle addressed to many public artists in the midst of profound political emergencies, post-struggle circumstances, or during significant political changes.

Therefore, national dialogue in Ethiopia is being used as an equivalent of formal debates among citizens to find possible solutions to problems occurring throughout the country. The process continues to stand out as truly newsworthy throughout Ethiopia and has lately been proposed or gathered among citizens facing a range of issues relating to peace, security and social well-being.

In reality, it is a nationally owned political process that aims to establish agreements between a wide variety of national stakeholders in times of major political crisis and during major political transitions. Likewise, the National Dialogue promotes ownership within new political, economic and social systems, with the intention of establishing new institutions and negotiating a new or revised social pact between the State and its population. Developing sociopolitical procedures that can serve as containers to peacefully resolve these problems is essential and serves as a basis of experience for further institutional transformation and nation-building.

It should be noted that the motivations for participating in a national dialogue differ and depend largely on whether the exchange aims to promote hoarding, change the personalities and interests of the partners, or essentially aims to avoid escalation and a return to savagery.

More importantly, in an increasingly polarized and already tense political landscape, the government needs to create a platform that will truly pave the way for a negotiated political solution to break the current deadlock and achieve peace.

The national level dialogue forum should be convened with the participation of political leaders, traditional and religious leaders, representatives of youth, women and the general public; bodies provoked armed conflicts and other interested parties. Yes, this time the fruitfulness of the dialogue will be able to be precisely measured. The National Dialogue Committee must quickly translate promises into practical actions.