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IDEA Editorial on Current Politics in Ethiopia and Kenya

September 20, 2017

Precautionary Measures in Ethiopian Politics can Mitigate and/or Overcome Local and Regional Conflicts


Compared to conflict-ridden countries like Somalia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia is by far stable and peaceful, although the country has never been free of conflicts in its enduring long history; a good example of ethnic conflict in Ethiopia is very much reflected by the present Oromo-Somali territorial disputes and confrontations. Long before the regional states were established, there were intermittent conflicts between the many transhumance of Ethiopia, and the present conflict between the Oromo and Somali Ethiopians could have been exacerbated by the pastoral mode of production of the two peoples; more specifically and arguably, the Oromo-Somali confrontations are manifestations of disputed grazing areas and water sites (wells and streams). This IDEA editorial is interested in exploring the brief history of the conflicts and concludes with a possible permanent resolution to the conflicts.

Three years after the EPRDF seized state power, i.e. in 1994 Eastern Ethiopia was immersed in the Oromo-Somali confrontations, and as a result close to five dozen people died on either side. Then the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) condemned the Ethiopian Somali Regional State for encroaching on an Oromia territory. In December 2003, another conflict broke out between the two groups over water and 20,000 people were displaced; in December 2005, when the Ethiopian government decided to transfer land from the Somali region to the Oromia Regional State, violence erupted again and both sides were hurt. However, the land transfer that was decided via so-called referendum was never implemented.

In April 2017, there was yet another conflict between the Oromo and the Somali, and because the conflict did not get any resolution, it is not surprising that Eastern Ethiopia is again engulfed with conflict. The Government should have taken necessary steps and measures to either mitigate or altogether overcome the conflict between the Oromo and Somali peoples. One major problem that bewitched the Ethiopian Government is its inability to become proactive; on the contrary, the Government has been reacting to deep-seated social and political problems. The Government should understand that reactive politics does not solicit meaningful and permanent solution to the Oromo-Somali antagonistic relations and to other conflicts elsewhere in Ethiopia. On the other hand, proactive politics stimulates creative and crafty solutions to major problems any country encounters. Moreover, in proactive politics, there won’t be surprises because the underlying dynamic of socio-political problems is reasonably predicted. We at IDEA strongly believe that proactive politics is synonymous with precautionary measures and we recommend that the Ethiopian Government should adopt it as part of its governance policy in order to garner ready-made solutions to societal problems.

When Negeri Lencho, Minister of Communication, was asked about the conflict, he reassured the Ethiopian audience by saying that the confrontation has tapered off, but he also said “there are armed groups in the area.” In a similar vein, but with slightly different approach to the conflict, Prime Minister Hailemariam recommended that the Federal Police patrol the main roads of the conflict zones. But this kind of recommendation would not contribute to a permanent solution in regards to ethnic animosity and subsequent skirmishes and an all-out violence. We at IDEA understand the Government’s difficult position in presiding over complex and complicated Ethiopian phenomenon, and it is easier to diagnose what is wrong than to cure it, but if the Government seriously considers the peoples’ wish and monitors their hearts and minds, it could successfully resolve the conflict-related problems surrounding the Oromo and Somali peoples.

Quite frankly, the hearts and minds of the people were expressed in the meetings of elders of the two people; they have told the world that they are brothers and sisters, have a lot in common, and have lived side by side for millennia. However, some elders from the Somali region said that the OLF is behind the conflict, and may be Negeri Lencho’s implicit portrayal of an “armed group” are OLF insurgents. If indeed the latter are involved in the conflict, the Government must bear in mind that it cannot dissuade the culprit organization and an alternative and viable option could be to deploy the Ethiopian Defense Forces, coupled by the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) Executive Committee initiative in reaching out and rehabilitating the displaced people.

Ethiopia should not tolerate any social and/or political problem that could undermine the unity of the Ethiopian people and distract Ethiopians from a more pressing agenda of peace and development, and the Government has an obligation to meet all preconditions to national development.

The Enigma of the Kenyan Electoral Process of 2017 and Legitimate Consensus

On August 8 2017, the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta declared victory in the election, but his opponent Raila Odinga, far from conceding defeat, disputed the election results and filed charge against the Electoral Commission and took it to the Supreme Court. Subsequently, the Court ruled that “the election board had committed irregularities that rendered the August 8 vote invalid and overturned the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory, which had [won] by a margin of 1.4 million votes.” (Source: Reuters).

Now, that the highest court of Kenya reversed the election results, another election is due to take place on October 17, 2017, and although Odinga is satisfied by the Court’s decision in invalidating Uhuru’s victory claim, he does not have trust on the corrupt Kenyan political system.

It is important to know why Uhuru and Odinga dominate the Kenyan political landscape. Both of them are sons of Jomo Kenyatta and Ojinga Odinga, the founding fathers of Kenya, first president and first vice-president respectively. The two founding fathers were highly educated and astute statesmen, and both of them were authors of important books such as Facing Mt. Kenya (Kenyatta) and Not Yet Uhuru (Odinga). By the time Kenyatta and Odinga assumed state power at independence in 1963, Kenya heralded bright future for the people of Kenya and Kenya was poised for a success story in economic development in Africa. Now, however, it looks that the juniors Kenyatta (Uhuru) and Odinga (Raila) have turned Kenyan politics into a dynastic rivalry and the country seems to have lost legitimate consensus in the art of politics.

Uhuru Miugai Kenyatta served as a member of parliament representing Gatundu South from 2002 to 2013, i.e. until he becomes the president of Kenya. He was also Minister of Local Government under Daniel Arap Moi in 2001 and held the same position in 2008 under Mwai Kibaki. Moreover, he served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade in 2008, and Minister of Finance from 2009 to 2012. Uhuru was a member of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), a party that led Kenya to independence, and later he became a member of the Jubilee Party of Kenya.

Jaramogi Raila Odinga was a member of parliament since 1992; Minster of Energy from 2001 to 2002; and Minster of Roads, Public Works and Housing from 2003 to 2005. When Odinga run for office of the presidency against Mwai Kibaki in 2007, he was a member of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Due to lack of legitimate consensus, however, the election of 2007 turned out to be very controversial and violent in Kenyan history, and sadly 1100 Kenyans lost their lives in due course of the post election chaos. For further information on the 2007 election and violence, readers can make reference to The Kenya Political Crisis: Diagnosis and Prognosis: www.africanidea.org/kenya_crisis.html      

Learning from the 2007 election, Raila Odinga resorted to forming a five-party coalition named National Super Alliance (NASA), which included among other parties, Forum for the Restoration of Democracy of Moses Wetangula and Wiper Democratic Movement of Kalonzo Musyoka. Coalition party formation has now become a trend in Kenyan politics and long before NASA was founded, the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) of Mwai Kibaki was organized. In coalition of political parties, diverse groups across ethnic lines are enabled to work together and more votes could be garnered at national level.

Whatever the outcome of the October 17, 2017 rerun of presidential election is going to be, the two contending leaders and their supporters should uphold legitimate consensus and gracefully accept the winning leader and party insofar the election is free and fair. In the event the election result stir controversy, however, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga must form a coalition government and share power rather than resort to violence and drag Kenya into unnecessary bloody conflict. It is time for the Kenyan leaders to set an agenda of peaceful co-existence and hail Kenya toward progress and a more democratic and peaceful nation. If this IDEA recommendation is realized, Kenyan politics will no longer be enigmatic and legitimate consensus will reign in the nation.

 

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