Dr. Barry Colley
It may take a miracle to stop an escalation into another stifling civil war as Government of Ethiopia (GOE) federal troops march on Makelle, the capital of Tigray Region currently controlled by the Tigrinya Peoples Liberation Front, TPLF. Perhaps Almighty God will favor Ethiopia with His Grace. In order to legitimize historically elusive national unity, the right to petition the GOE is paramount as is the right to practice civic engagement and power sharing by the people. These critical rights must add up in the short-run and be sustained in the long-term as the peoples' catalyst to wealth building In Ethiopia. Having served as a Program Officer and Country Director in Ethiopia for an American NGO during the oppressive rule of the Derg regime in the famine strife Ethiopia of the 1980’s, I raise a voice of concern in 2020. I caution against the eminent threat of another protracted civil war during the Novel Corona virus pandemic .
The persistent ethnic divisions or mirco nationalism in Ethiopia is fueling the current tensions and while Ethnic divisions are not the only source of the tensions, it is an historical impediment. Before and since the overthrow of Marxist leaning autocratic Derg government each of the eight major ethnic groups can claim they have been woefully neglected and overdue in obtaining basic needs and sustainable livelihoods. Meeting rising expectation in a national framework of governance requires that each ethnic group have access and benefits, access to a viable resource base to supply quality goods and services in sufficient demand to build a vibrant private sector that produces a hundred times more jobs and businesses than is possible in the public sector.
Each Woreda must build relationships between and among its citizens, learning to trust and to cooperate to enable resources to flow the many compared to the few. Elitism is not healthy in a fragile democracy with a political economy dominated by ethnic affiliation. Social spending must outstrip military spending to build relations among ethnically diverse citizens. The national budgeting process has to earmark social spending that invests in building quality of life milestones such as access for all to affordable and decent housing, attainment of a quality education, effective preventative and curative health care and services, and infrastructure investments that improve human capital impact. A structure for effective multiyear budgeting should also be adopted according to the political economy of Ethiopia with appropriate budget line items for national, regional or Awraja and Woreda or local budgets. Each resource base should harness enterprises that form the basis for income-generation and business opportunities. The businesses formed must be enabled through public, private and community partnerships to bring social advancement and economic impact to large numbers of people. Most certainly in Ethiopia this is related to the growth in pubic works employment and socially responsible businesses that are appropriately capitalized and scaled-up to create sustained jobs and employment in the informal and formal sector. The appropriate incentives must support the creation of revenues to sustain operations and provide tax base(s) for the public good such as public works, climate smart work places and infrastructural services.
The GOE annual budgets earmarked and obligated for defense should never outspend social spending as a percentage of the national budget. Social spending based on achieving critical success factors are needed to franchise each ethnic group. Equity among ethnic groups and within members of an ethnic group need to be set to benchmarks and milestones. The three levels of Ethiopian governance should make adjustments to overcome inevitable constraints by setting up a system to monitor, track and measure social-economic progress. The ultimate outcomes of managing ethnic diversity in Ethiopia is harmonious power sharing and equitable wealth building. I pray that these outcomes become branded more as concrete expectations compared to wishful aspirations.