Today, we turn our attention to those people that sit silently in protest as others speak out. I mean the so called ‘Silent Majority’.
These people don’t express their opinions publicly. They do not join in any demonstrations against anything, nor belong to any movement, political party, or any counterculture. They don’t participate in public debates, don’t engage with each other to decide collectively upon their future. This group is overwhelmed and eclipsed by every vocal minority. Many are discontent, but they never speak up or defend publicly the vocal minority who defend their rights and liberty. As they say ‘when the silent majority opens its mouth, it’s usually to yawn!’
The silent majority is everywhere in Ethiopia. Its members are ordinary people but overwhelmingly those with wealth and education. We don’t know about you, but just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you. If you (the silent majority) don’t urgently reconsider your ‘laissez faire’ attitude, a systemic crisis awaits us all.
In the past couple of years, two distinct policies have struggled for primacy in the debate over the country’s political future: Oromo separatism striving for an independent state, and TPLF’s federal centralism striving to preserve the common Ethiopian state under its dominion. Recent political developments suggest the Oromo movement heading towards Oromo dominated federalism and TPLF nationalism swinging between separatist and oppositional politics.
Too complicated! Welcome to Ethiopian politics.
So where does that leave us? Can we really afford to ignore our duty and not take an active part in the rebuilding of the nation? Remember, he who controls government in 2020 has control for years.
I don’t mean to sound arrogant but right off the bat I say Ethiopia’s silent majority is defined by the broad consensus that has emerged in the country around the building of a multi ethnic nation. This consensus needs to be clearly stated. At present, it’s obscured by the oft-repeated idea that the nation is deeply polarized, as if Ethiopians are torn between support for a union of nine or more republics on one side, and secession seekers on the other. They aren’t. On the political battlefield, secessionists have been routed….at least for now. I submit we are in a period of profound transition – to what?… we do not know!
Yet, the root of Ethiopia’s current crisis is economic. The big exporters all report slowing sales. And the logistic companies too, say there is less traffic on the ports used by Ethiopia. Economic slowdown is not the end of the world. It’s a challenge! It creates opportunities if Ethiopia enables the private sector to drive economic growth, toughens security, combats corruption, further decentralizes power from the center outward, , and guarantees human rights. All of these may not fix the problems, but at least they will set the stage for a thriving economy. A topic we will explore next.
As I pointed out earlier, the silent majority needs to wake up and seize the moment in setting the political agenda. It needs to define what it really wants and realize that the current crisis can take the country through a downward spiral of collapsing expectations: from it being unthinkable that the union of regional states would break up, to it seeming inevitable that it would; from living an everyday working life to seeing your standard of living and the whole economy collapse beyond repair; from moving normally around your town, to fearing for your safety on the streets, based on what others read as your ethnicity. In a nutshell the silent majority have to step up ASAP and support financially or engage with all progressive forces that work to maintain Ethiopia from breaking up! Starting with postponement of the 2020 election!
Indeed, my guess is the silent majority would overwhelmingly support postponing the 2020 election if AA proposes the idea. The context of this scenario is that the election would be bad for Ethiopia and bad for democracy not only because all the institutions of democracy are still visibly frail but also because the country faces existential crisis. Furthermore political parties – the key players in our democracies – are in disarray – particularly the ruling party, which made itself dysfunctional, should pull itself together even more firmly. If all these cannot be addressed within the normal political process, AA has a strong legal argument to mobilize partisan support in parliament to invoke national emergency and make sure proper elections are taking place. He can then call a national conference of the regional governments to sort out the relative position of the federal and regional governments, agree on the items requiring constitutional changes, proceed with the dismantling of regional militia forces, decide on what should be the country’s shared priorities and the agenda for further negotiations.
Should AA and the ruling party fail to consider such a scheme, it will mean that we don’t want to learn from history… that we greatly overestimated the man in Menilik Gibi… and, in short, that we don’t know shi!t about government.
Yes dear reader, there is indeed an emergency. And emergency powers are just that – for emergencies, and I believe if used in good faith the national emergency can address the genuine tribulations Ethiopia currently faces.
Get involved! Get organized!! Let’s make a future together.