Jemal-Dirie outlines unexpected critics in Ethiopia and backward steps taken by the government

As we are about to enter the new year in Ethiopia, it is time for us all to reflect on the failures of the last two years and the possibility of re-setting the clock for a new beginning. First let me make it clear from the outset, that this post is an expression of my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Somali Regional State or its official members.

In recent times, it has been concerning to witness the curtailment of hard-won fundamental freedoms and the narrowing of political space. Today, it appears that we are almost back to a pre-2018 state of affairs, if not worse. The government’s crackdown on opposition groups following the wrongful death of Hachalu has led to the prisons that were emptied in 2018 being filled with political prisoners once again. This is a frequent and well-trodden path characteristic of the Ethiopian state machinery, and it is a path to destruction that successive regimes have come out of as unsuccessful. However, there is still an opportunity to depart from this path, government officials must realise that moving Ethiopia backwards is not an option, nor is maintaining the status quo. The only option is to move forward as the very survival of this country relies upon realizing and effectively instituting the essence of true democracy and justice, if not, disintegration is inevitable.

The fundamental principles of democracy and justice are at stake for us all today. Having experienced the brutality of past dictatorial regimes which placed us on the verge of literal extinction, as Somalis (and indeed, other historically marginalised peoples) our existence in Ethiopia is inherently linked to the ability of the government to abandon its authoritarian ways as our very survival in Ethiopia, at minimum, necessitates the realisation of true democracy.

In hopes of re-setting the clock as we embark upon a new year, I call for the immediate release of political prisoners, for the government to cease the attack on media and free speech and to stop weaponizing communication channels as a means of repression. Further, I call for a long overdue genuine national political dialogue to discuss the way forward for this country, particularly in terms of achieving a genuine consensus on what the scheduled election will look like. This is a time that the government should task itself with remedying the deep-rooted legacies of state-violence and other repressive tendencies by charting a new path forward, not sliding back to its usual undemocratic disposition.

@Jemal Derie Kelif, Legal Advisor to the Somali President ( as of this moment)