Also featuring on Dutch television in the past week was the recent violence in Oromiya region in Ethiopia. An angry mob turned a Dutch farm into ashes, reason being that the land was provided to the investor by the Ehtiopian government whereas the community considered these lands communal grazing lands. The direct cause of the violence were the plans of the Ethiopian government to expand the fast growing urban area of Addis Ababa into Oromiya territory. The underlaying resentment has grown over the last twenty years that bear witness to a tense relationship between the federal administration and regional groupings, like the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Was it coincidence that also this week the OLF and four groups from other regions had their first gathering of the Peoples’ Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (PAFD) in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, arch-enemy of the Ethiopian government? A bit odd they chose Asmara, given the bad track record of the oppressive Eritrean regime with regards to 'Freedom and Democracy'.
So what drives these groups into each other's arms and seeking convening power from a relentless dictatorial regime? Reviewing the resolution of their first congress held last week the answer is clear: self-determination. The five groups from Benishangul, Gambella, Ogaden, Oromiya and Sidama regions apparently join hands in a collective effort to achieve self-determination. During the elections in 2005 the opposition groups named themselves Coalition for Democratic Unity. It appears that unity is no longer the objective. In a country with over 80 different ethnolinguistic groups one can imagine what this would mean in terms of stability, governance and economic opportunity. A disintegrated Ethiopia won't offer the best perspective for the Dutch and other foreign investors, who share the benefit of a single window service provision through the current political leadership, providing them access to important resources to run their businesses successfully. The backlash in Oromiya teaches these investors an important lesson. You cannot play cards without involving all the players.
I know of at least one case where a Dutch investor first reached an agreement with the local community before entering into an agreement with the Ethiopian government. His neighbour went the other way around. The first case lasted longer and the business was finally handed back to the community, with local employees taking over the farm in a proper business deal. Where the social contract is as thin as in Ethiopia, an important pre-condition for setting up a sustainable business is to allow local communities also to further their individiual and collective interests. Companies could benefit from the insights Dutch NGOs have to offer in this regard, being connected to their Ethiopian counterparts.
The Ethiopian case only serves to illustrate that excluding important stakeholders, soon or late invites for violence and radicalism. Inclusive decision-making processes are a pre-condition for longer-term growth and prosperity. Whether it concerns water management in the inner Niger delta in Mali; access to jobs for youth in specific neighbourhoods in Brussels; or European migration policies aiming at keeping people out rather than protecting them. Trying to exclude people will only cause them turning against you while you will be counted with those you have done business with. People peacefully co-exists where they are willing and able to share what they have in common and respect each others histories and traditions as well as universal human rights. The latter is often a challenge, since histories and traditions may cause nations or groups not to ratify certain agreements or request exemptionary clauses before signing them. If we want to reach concensus, we will have to learn to live with a certain measure of ambiguity and tolerance for minority perspectives as long as it does not infringe upon rights and freedom of others to make their own choices.
This Easter weekend the bloodiest attack was commited on innocent women and children in Pakistan, displaying the barbarism that desperate minds will turn to when no other perspective is left but to die in a 'glorious' manner while taking hundreds of innocent lives along. The only appropriate answer to such deep rooted hatred will be a message of love and compassion. At least for all those who seek shelter against such gruesome acts! I feel ashamed to see Christians in Pakistan continuing to express messages of hope in the face of despair following the example of Jesus Christ on the cross who prayed: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing". I sense he also prayed that prayer with foresight for us in Europe today.