In societies experiencing political transitions, the complex and layered linkages between developments in the domestic political sphere on the one hand, and dynamics at the larger regional and international levels, complicate transition trajectories and render prognostications difficult. The future of the transition in Ethiopia is inextricably linked with larger developments in the Horn of Africa and Red Sea regions and vice-versa. Therefore, efforts to understand the intricacies of the transition and more specifically efforts to support the transition will have to factor in dynamics not only at the local and national levels, but also regional level processes.
The Ugandan experience showcases how the combination of an adverse history of protracted political violence, entrenched personal power and institutional vacuum, present a formidable array of obstacles to a smooth and negotiated political transition. In the case of Uganda, the forces pushing for a political transition suffer from several weaknesses. The continued stability and strength of the government in Uganda suggests that a political transition will require the involvement of actors such as the international community or the Ugandan army. Until this latter scenario comes to pass, the question of political transition in Uganda will only remain a mirage for many Ugandans.
Political transitions can be perplexing in terms of the expectations that are raised. This in turn begs the question: Can a transition be expected to deliver solutions to both the immediate and also the structural political problems facing a society? There is a broad national consensus that the goal of the current transition is to create a functional federal, democratic, state in which people of diverse ethnic and religious affiliations enjoy justice, freedom, equality and dignity. In this respect, the transition’s definitive mission is to end not just the authoritarian regime’s excesses but also the hegemonic nature and totalizing penchants of the Ethiopian state. The transition thus has as its greatest challenge resolving the festering questions of the last half century, which revolutions in 1974 and 1991 were unable to address successfully.
Faith based organizations can play a critical role in peace-building and de-escalating tensions in societies experiencing democratic transitions. In the context of the changes that Ethiopia is experiencing, faith-based organizations constitute an untapped resource. The growing space for and strengthening of faith-based communities provides the opportunity and the space for collaboration and support for the new administration in Ethiopia and its reform agenda.