Conspiracy Politics: The Prospect of Ethiopia’s Reform

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By Solomon Dibaba :

Conspiracy politics is recently gaining currency in global, regional and in political power relations in many countries. It is difficult if not possible to come up with a comprehensive definition for the phrase but in general terms it may be defined as a secret or clandestine plan to gain political platform to usurp or retain political power in the most cunning way.

In spite of the fact that there are relations between the two, conspiracy theories should not be confused with conspiracy politics. Conspiracy theories employ false beliefs, that is, things we believe to be true but in fact are not. Conspiracy theories are used in conspiracy politics to create a certain level of belief or awareness among the public on issues that are apparently false or partially true.

Conspiracy politics is in contravention with the law and is essentially illegal but conspiracy theories are in many cases shrouded in the context of normal and legitimate political operatives.

Although conspiracy politics in Ethiopia is nowadays mentioned in connection with the clandestine opposition to the state of the reforms in the country, the practice and the idea behind it is as old as the modern history of the country.

Professor Merera Gudina, from the Department of Political Science and International relations at Addis Ababa University, confirms the same idea.

He said “Conspiracy politics is not a new phenomenon in Ethiopia. It was practiced during the imperial regime. During the period of the Derg rule, it became so complex that it involved several local parties and the government itself. Nowadays, conspiracy politics has become even more complex and subtle involving elitist politicians and a number of political alliances.”

Speaking of a possible solution to the problem he added “It is very important to create a government fully accountable to the peoples of Ethiopia. Competing elitist political parties should practice transparency in a more clear way.”

He also called for a national consensus in which every element of the political system should join hands to work for the promotion of real democracy and good governance to avoid any level of political crisis.

Speaking to ENA, Tigistu Awelu, and Chairman Unity for Justice and Democracy Party said “The main cause of conspiracy politics in Ethiopia is power mongering. There is no succession policy of power and the gun used to decide who should rule. Besides, Low political culture underpinned the proliferation of conspiracy theories based on multiple factors like arranged marriage, ethnicity and the fight against scares resources.”

Conspiracy politics is not an entirely new phenomenon in Ethiopia. Numerous incidents could be cited from the history of this country on how conspiracies of all types had influenced trends in the Ethiopia’s history.

For instance, Emperor Tewodros II, the first emperor to conceive the idea of a united, strong, and progressive Ethiopian state equal to any in the world faced opposition and conspiracy from the local vassals and even the peasantry.

In his quest for modernization, Emperor Menlelik II had to also face a number of conspiracies against his efforts towards the modernization of the country from the conservative warlords who thought the status quo was threatened and that their position is at stake. Similarly, historian believes that power was usurped from Lij Eyasu when Empress Zeweditu ascended the throne.

Probably, the most frequent political conspiracy in the recent history of Ethiopia occurred during the Derg regime. The political conspiracy between the so called “right wing” politicians and those from the left culminated in the assassination of Brigadier General Teferi Banti, Major Sisay Habte and others, after which the Derg claimed “the revolution has transcended from defense to offense”

On the other hand, even among the political organizations that formed a coalition under the “Union of Ethiopian Marxist Leninist Organizations”. There were numerous squabbling. Secret and open political assassinations that took the form of “red and white” terror in which a whole generation of youth were cold bloodedly killed left a legacy of state sponsored terrorism.

The battle of ideas in contemporary Ethiopia between those who advocate for national unionism and those who adhere to ethnocentric politics explains the political dichotomy under which conspiracy politics was boiling up in the country.

Tigistu had more to say “The uniqueness of the current conspiracy politics lies in the fact that ethnocentrism is becoming the underlying factor behind recent over a couple of years in the country.”

The leitmotif of the current conspiracy politics in Ethiopia is certainly the quest for political power not through elections but through a fifth columnist conspiracy in the guise of numerous demands for political legitimacy.

Many think that the mushrooming of public demands indicates the scope of the tasks to be accomplished by the government. However, it is difficult to conclude that all the demands voiced were “public demands” as some of the public rallies staged to forward these demands were far from being peaceful public demonstrations. The widening of the political space was hijacked by conspirators who employed Machiavellian strategies in modern times.

There are a number of illegal tricks that were going on in Ethiopia directly or indirectly related to conspiracies aimed towards the destabilization of the current democratic political order in the country.

The erroneous mix up of government responsibilities with that of party functions in Ethiopia has also set a good ground for conspiracy politics as party leaders at lower level interfere into customary government routine functions to dictate the political interest of groups in party echelons.

The assassination attempt on the prime minister, a brief military putsch that was staged at the office of the prime minister, sporadic demands and demonstrations staged by different sectors of the public service, politically motivated internal displacements, ethic based erratic violence, irresponsible use of local media outlets to fan divisive and venomous propaganda conspicuously mirror the scope of integrated conspiracy politics in Ethiopia.

The recent tragic assassination of the chief administrator of Amhara State and the Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian Army demonstrates three basic truths about the current political conspiracy in the country.

First the relative serenity of the government to widen the democratic space has gone into loggerheads with the responsibility of ascertaining the rule of law across the country.

Second using legal procedures to take up issues with the government and concerned authorities did not match with the interest of the conspirators in Trojan horse to assume political power by use of naked force. Third, the tragic events indicate that the action of the perpetrators was a new version of coupde tat linking ethnic based conspiracy with the quest for political power over the entire country by operating from a specific region.

Over the last four years and more particularly in the current fiscal year political conspiracy have been staged on some of the media outlets in the country have been deliberately broadcasting programs and interviews that promoted ethnic animosity among the peoples of Ethiopia and had helped to add more fuel to the already burning prairie fire of dislocation and displacement.

The social media has in fact remained a hallmark in the protracted conspiracy politics by deliberately disseminations fabricated news and fake audio and video footages as a process of manipulating public opinion on the real situation in the country.

Some media outlets in the country had opened up a Pandora box of protracted propaganda of destabilization the current political system in the country by over politicizing and creating artificial biases and hatred among the nations, nationalities and peoples in Ethiopia.

Conspiracy politics has also resorted to deliberate economic sabotages through elicit trade and contraband, human trafficking, money laundering and financing terrorist activities meant to spread discord and hopelessness among citizens.

Spreading the social psychology of fear among particular ethnic groups in the country and forcing them to flee their domiciles, resorting to pejorative biases and generalizations have been harbored in playing one ethnic group against the other in shrewd political conspiracy have been strategies that were employed to create a terror ridden social order.

The whole objective of conspiracy politics is, therefore, to engage in multiple politically motivated and interrelated activities to discredit the democratic order and the government to gain political power in the shortest possible time.

The political future of the country to a greater degree depends on the extent to which nationwide unity is maintained for the common socio-economic development of the country.

Ethiopia is a country with far reaching global and regional responsibilities. The way the nation handles these responsibilities has a greater functional reciprocity for the neighboring countries and Africa at large. With a political conspiracy persistently looming in the country, the nations, nationalities and peoples in this country cannot pause as underdogs in the proliferating political machinations.

Furthermore, the maintenance of peace and the entire democratic order in the country and thereby the sovereignty of the peoples of Ethiopia to a greater degree depends on the urgency of ascertaining the rule of law.