Virginia Declaration of the Conference on Good Governance, Peace, Security and Sustainable Development in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa

April 17th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

A three day conference on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, which was organized by two civil society organizations- (more…)

A three day conference on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, which was organized by two civil society organizations- Advocacy for Ethiopia (AFE) and Ethiopian National Priorities Consultative Process (ENPCP), and sponsored by Trans Africa Forum and Africa Action, was successfully held in Crystal City, Virginia, from April 9 to 11, 2010. The participation of several hundreds of Ethiopians, experts, scholars from the United States and Europe, men and women of the Arts, former diplomats and leaders of civic organizations, with Honorable Ana Gomes of the European Parliament, speaking over the telephone from the Sudan, made the conference rich and unique. The conference addressed broad themes of good governance, conflict, civil society and development in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, and has adopted the following roadmap:

ALARMED by the escalation of ethnic and religious polarization, active and latent conflicts in Ethiopia and Somalia, further endangering the livelihood of millions of people and disturbing international peace, and the total absence of a freely elected and accountable governance system in the region;
DEEPLY CONCERNED by the political, economic and social policies implemented by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in the last 19 years, which has failed to make maximum use of the catalytic roles of the donor community’s commitment for good governance, building national consensus, and boosting productivity and alleviating endemic poverty;

NOTING WITH DISAPPOINTMENT that, despite the unabated generous aid flows estimated at $25 billion to $30 billion since 1991, almost all of the credible international economic and governance indices rank Ethiopia at the tail end of world development, to the extent that the country, by the end of 2009, had an estimated 5 million orphans and 13-14 million or 16 percent of the country’s population being identified as dependent on international food aid. Notwithstanding these, the government unashamedly claims double digit economic growth and success in the alleviation of poverty;

RECONGNIZING with dismay that Ethiopia will be entering the next election without adequate preparation, and more importantly, under a cloud of impunity, relentless human rights violations, vigilantism, and the incarceration of political leaders like Ms. Birtukan Mideksa and others, while at the same time the ruling party uses federal and foreign aid funds to recruit youth supporters, all these being done with the intent of building a single-party state.

NOW THEREFORE, We, the AFE and ENPCP, together with the broad cross-section of Ethiopian participants of the three days conference:

1.1 Have agreed that the quagmires that Ethiopia finds itself are by and large a result of the 19 years of poor political leadership of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his TPLF/EPRDF party. We strongly believe that neither peace nor development can be achieved and sustained while Ato Meles Zenawi is in power. Hence, he must immediately exit the Ethiopian political scene, preferably peacefully.

1.2 We call upon all political parties, including the TPLF/EPRDF, to convene an all inclusive National Conference for Peace and Reconciliation, with a view to establishing a Transitional Government of National Unity that prepares the country for an unfettered free and fair election.

1.3. Call on the Ethiopian people to continue their valiant struggle for peace, democracy and respect for the rule of law. We urge all Ethiopians to continue to resist the divide and rule policies of the regime; we also admire the resistance of the Ethiopian people against religious extremism.

1.4 Call upon the Ethiopian people inside the country and in the Diaspora to support and stand with forces that celebrate our diversity while trying to cement the foundations of a united country. We specifically call on all Ethiopians who are being forcefully recruited by the ruling party to side with the people and refuse to engage in any action that may be harmful to their brothers and sisters.

1.5 Commend and applaud opposition parties, civic organizations and their leaders for the work they do under difficult circumstances, and call upon them to create unity, coordinate their efforts, form unbreakable coalitions, and prepare for pre and post election scenarios.

1.6 Call upon the Ethiopian Diaspora to rise to the challenges and provide material, moral and intellectual support to forces that are committed to advancing good governance and democracy in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

1.7 Call for the convening of civil society organizations with a view to establishing strong rights advocacy networks that can better express the voice of the voiceless, and the causes of the people of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

1.8 Encourage all Ethiopians to vote for a party that stands for democracy, good governance, unity, and at the same time support democratic forces that stand to defend and protect their votes.

1.9 Call on Ethiopian Americans to use their voting rights to influence U.S. policies towards Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

1.10 Call upon the citizens of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa to respect and defend the rights of women and children.

1.11 Agreed to establish a working group and broaden the breadth and scope of this declaration so that other stakeholders could join the process in taking the roadmap into action.

2.0 To theTPLF/EPRDF

2.1 Condemn the relentless human rights violations, extrajudicial killings, persecutions and crimes against humanity committed by the TPLF/EPRDF security forces in Addis Ababa, Arba Gugu, Bedeno, Gambella, Hadiya, Hawasa, Ogden, Oromia, and other parts of Ethiopia, and demand that those responsible be held accountable and brought to justice without delay.

2.2 Call for the abandonment of the use of the anti-terrorist and civil society laws as smokescreens to suppress dissent and deny Ethiopians their fundamental economic, social and political freedoms.

2.3 Join human rights organizations, parliamentarians, governments and the Ethiopian people in demanding for the immediate and unconditional release of Ms. Birtukan Mideksa and all other political prisoners.

2.4 Demand that the top brass as well as the rank and file of the Ethiopian military properly reflect the ethnic and religious diversity of the Ethiopian people, and the army’s size, shape, capability and doctrine be improved.

2.5. Demand that the TPLF/EPRDF ceases its manipulation of the electoral process by using federal and donor funds, political party controlled funds, sheltered employment, land and fertilizer.

2.6 Call upon the TPLF/EPRDF and the House of Peoples Representatives to initiate a constitutional reform in accordance to the will of the people, and define a term limit for the office of the Prime Minister.

27 Urge the TPLF/EPRDF to desist from blocking the Ethiopian people from having access to information. We condemn the government’s blocking of the Internet, the jamming of the Voice of America, and the muzzling of the local media.

2.8. Call upon the TPLF/EPRDF to revisit its opaque long-term farmland leases to foreign investors, which we know is dispossessing citizens from the lands and waters on which they depend to survive. We demand the setting-up of an independent expert group, with the full participation of local communities, in order to assess the costs and benefits and ecological as well as social risks of farmland leases to foreign investors. We believe that some of the land leases have the potential to change the geopolitical equation of the region. We also demand that the TPLF/EPRDF discloses all the details of the contracts to the general public.

2.9 Demand that the government discloses the purpose and nature of the ongoing border negotiation with the Sudan, and that TPLF/EPRDF refrains from once again abrogating Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

2.10 Demand the immediate repeal of the charities and societies, media, and the anti terrorism proclamations.

2.11 Demand that political party owned and “endowed” companies be urgently reformed.

3.0 To the people of the Horn of Africa:

3.1 We believe that our similarities and connectedness far outweigh our differences. Let peace and stability and democracy shine in our region. Let’s try our level best so that our wounds heal.

3.2 We encourage the continuation of the relationship that has recently been started by scholars from Eritrea and Ethiopia, and hope that such conversations would lead to new beginning which will be mutually beneficial to the brotherly peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Everyone knows that Eritrea and Ethiopia are invariably linked by history, religion, culture, economy, and security. It is thus costly and wasteful for both to maintain the status quo.

3.3 We encourage free and fair elections in all of the countries of the Horn of Africa. We wish success to the people of the Sudan in the ongoing election, and in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

3.4 We encourage the international community and the people of Somalia to work together in finding solutions to the complex problems of the country.

4. To the Diplomatic and Donor Community:

4.1 We urge all donor countries, particularly the Government of the United States, especially President Barak Obama to live up to the statements that he has made about Africa. We urge the U.S. not to use double standards. We believe the blind eye afforded to Prime Minster Meles Zenawi by the United States has resulted in strengthening repression in Ethiopia. We, therefore, demand a thorough review of the United States’ policy towards Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

4.2 We call on the Government of China to desist from assisting the Ethiopian Government’s anti democratic practices, particularly in providing technical support to block the Internet and the jamming of radio broadcasts. We also call upon the Government of China to make trade mutually beneficial.

4.3 We call upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to attend to the call for the investigation of crimes against humanity in Ethiopia.

4.4 We call upon the United States, the United Kingdom and European Union to investigate whether tax payers’ money collected during the 1984/85 famine in Ethiopia has indeed been used for strengthening the TPLF’s Red Army.

4.5 Let it be known that we condemn and oppose, in the strongest possible terms, all forms of extremism and terrorism.

Crystal City Virginia, United States of America, April 11, 2010.
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  1. Assta B. Gettu
    | #1

    Conferences of people of good will!

    With all the ups and downs and with all the excuses to avoid to be part of it, arranging a conference is more difficult and time consuming than ending it successfully, and for this reason, those Ethiopian individuals who worked tirelessly to call some intellectuals for an African Horn conference deserve our heart-felt praises and admirations.

    It is very encouraging to see some seasoned intellectuals gathered together for one important purpose – to bring a lasting peace between the regions of the Horn of Africa, but as we all know, peace never comes without a heavy price, without defeating dictatorship that has become one of the cultures of the Horn regions’ leaders.

    The conference has clearly laid out what the Horn regions should do in order to live in peace, to prosper economically, to be smart politically, to be generous ethically, and to be tolerant religiously.

    Naturally, the Horn of Africa is rich in mineral resources, indispensible rivers, wild animals, and fertile lands that will feed not only the Horn countries but also the rest of the African continent regions. To discover the minerals and to use them properly, the Horn regions must train their children to become geologists, scientists, engineers, and mathematicians; however, the Horn regions must accept the reality that they are under oppressive governments where they could not speak their minds and bring appropriate changes to their citizens as far as they remain under the leaderships of corrupt dictators. For these reasons, the Horn regions must conduct many conferences like these two conferences: one held in Arlington, Virginia, and the other held in Crystal City, Virginia, and speak up with one voice that they do not want any dictatorial governments in their states; they need democracy, the rule of law, and their individual rights.

    Without democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and fair election, there will be no economic growth, cultural exchanges with other countries, and new progress in modern education. And lack of these important elements will further stifle the little progress that may have been made in some of these Horn regions through the help of western countries. The reality is, however, western aid to countries like Ethiopia may not last long and may not come without a string attached to it. For example, America promised the Woyanne government millions of dollars if Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) attacked Somalia and captured the Islamist terrorists. Indeed, Meles pleased Washington by going to Somalia, a neighboring country, and by attacking the country, killing hundreds of Somalis and rendering thousands of them homeless.

    Such reckless adventure orchestrated by the west could not have happened if there had been strong and friendly economic, political, and cultural ties between these Horn regions. Such ties, of course, will never happen unless first these Horn regions arrange several conferences where they could discuss their differences openly and come out with solutions to their differences and there by create an atmosphere of working relationships that lead, in the end, to federations of the Horn states.

    It may be difficult for some Horn states, like Somalia to aspire for federation with the other Horn states because of the recent invasion of Somalia by the Woyanne government without any provocation; the wound the Somalis received from the Ethiopian dictatorial government is still fresh and has not yet properly healed; however, when Ethiopia will have a new democratically elected government, Somalia and other states will be on line to join the federal states of the Horn of Africa.

    Once the Horn states become federal states of the Horn of Africa, the political map of the entire continent of Africa will have been changed for good, and this change will create three other African federal states: Central African federal states, Western African federal states, and Northern African federal states.

    As these good conferences continue to be held in timely manners and various issues that concern each African state are openly discussed and analyzed by African scholars, then that great and joyous day – a day Kwame Nkrumah and others visualized from a distant point – will be finally realized, and that day is when all African states become one United States of Africa just like the United States of America.

    With all the natural resources Africa has, there is no way that Africa will never be an economic super power; let us just wait and see, and one day Africa will be one of the super powers once it has united its children to work together, to care for one another, and to live in peace, and to defend the continent from old and new colonizers.

    After Africa has achieved a federal system of government, there will be four federal holidays every year: Horn states Holiday, Central African states Holidays, Northern African states Holidays, and Southern African states Holidays. Of course, there will be one United States of Africa Holiday, and that holy day is the day that all African states became one United States of Africa.

    We must, however, realize that federal system of government will not solve all the problems each African state may have; for example, the race issue, the color issue, the culture issue, the language issue, and the religion issue. Such problems must be handled by each African state, and should not involve the central United States of Africa. For instance, Nigeria may have a religious problem between the Muslims and the Christians, and this type of problem must be solved by the Nigerian state government only, and the same thing applies to the rest of the African states. Marriage problem must be handled independently by each state of the United States of Africa; nevertheless, if a Nigerian man asks an Ethiopian girl for marriage, and she refuses to marry him because of his color, and he becomes angry and murders her; then this type of murder case must be handled by the federal court of the United States of Africa.

    I understand we are not yet at the federal level, but it is my hope that one day we will reach there and visit each African state without a visa and work in any one of the African regions with no question asked. The only means of achieving that noble goal is through conferences that allow us to discuss our views freely and criticize our oppressive governments and remove them peacefully if it is possible.

  2. Ferenj Lebaw
    | #2

    Werobela genzeb abarari. Hizb lemadenager…..
    Useless agenda for Ethiopian progress. As it literally is, it was a third world underdeveloped minds and conference. From the organizer on,….. .
    Stamp of the day: NOT QUALIFIED!

  3. Anonymous
    | #3

    I am dying to read the proceedings of the conference.
    I am asking the organizing folks to publish them as quickly as possible. I expect those papers to be brilliant scholarly contributions from which one can learn a good deal.
    I am certain that we don’t have any dearth of top and first rate scholars in the fields who can shed light on the problems of the region,do we?

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