The Truth Behind Weldiya University Students For any political system to continue performing optimally and delivering for the public, it needs to operate on the basis of an existing bargain hammered out among major political forces and the political settlement emerging from that. In the absence of a political consensus required for its optimal functioning, a society unavoidably faces major uncertainty. In the absence of such consensus, no sector of society can be sure of its future in the political system. In a context of reforms, such uncertainties often lead to a classical situation of prisoners’ dilemma and hence leading to miscalculations and misperceptions. The situation becomes even more volatile if there are new forces unleashed into the political arena in which the political consensus on which the system has thus far operated has unceremoniously collapsed. Making matters worse would be the resurgence of ultra-nationalist forces who, emboldened by the new openings, have come to assume disproportionate influence in political mobilizations and rhetoric. In such a context, ethnic polarization, tension and violence become unavoidable. With the pre-existing political consensus brought to an end while no new elite bargain and political consensus has been hammered out, the power struggles that the political changes have induced tend to create the conditions for instability and violence, more so in a context such as the one described in the preceding paragraph. It has been within the above context that along with the popularly supported and widely acclaimed political changes the country has come to experience various incidents of violence. The tension between neighboring regional states, the communal violence that displaced millions of Ethiopians, the use of force by armed militia groups or the training and arming of new regional militia groups, the loosening of the effective enforcement of law and order, the emergence in some of the security institutions of highly politicized characters are all expressions of the fact that power relations in the country continue to be in a state of flux, accentuated by the end of the old political consensus and the lack of the emergence of a new one. Yes we don’t still know enough about the tragic events of the bloody Saturday. Yes, the tragic events are outrageous and we all thus condemn them. Yet, these tragic events, viewed through the prism of the foregoing, are not totally surprising. While those events certainly raise major questions about the reforms in the army and security sectors of the country, at their core they are political. They are in a way manifestations of the country being in the gray zone of the end of the pre-existing political consensus and the delay in the establishment of a new consensus. The experience from the past one year has demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that political reforms not founded on a new national political consensus are susceptible to the vagaries of power struggles that the absence of political consensus makes inevitable. Incidentally, it is not impossible to anticipate that the reforms that are currently aggressively being pursued in the economic realm as well are sure to accentuate the uncertainty and instability. These changes are being pursued in a context that is devoid of any public participation and consultation. Despite the impact they would have not only on the economic policy space of the country but also on the positioning of various sectors of the public in the economy, they are being pursued as purely technocratic exercises, accessible only to those in the know and those that are part of and campaigning for market forces. Given that these are being implemented in the absence of a national political consensus on the transition and the direction of the country and with the public largely left out, they can even carry more impact on societal power relations and expectations about delivery by or through the state. In the absence of an elite bargain and a new political consensus, even the political forces that returned to the country almost by default tend to operate on the basis of their own play book. In their eyes, the absence of a bargain and a new political consensus reached with their participation amount to a lack of a shared rules of the game, hence their inclination to use their own play book. While clearly a lot of progress has been achieved since PM Abiy came to power particularly in the political space, both the transition and these changes face major risk. The source of this risk is the fact that the transition and the changes are not grounded in a new national political consensus. Indeed, much of the troubles the country has experienced which threaten to undo all the great achievements registered are tied to this absence of a national political consensus. Thus, if the current trend of eruption of various incidents of tension, instability and violence are to be reversed and for the transition to succeed it is critical that a process of political dialogue for hammering out an elite bargain and achieve a new political consensus is urgently initiated. This can be accomplished on the basis of what I proposed in the article on namely a peace plan, ‘a plan whose starting point should be addressing the troubles in the EPRDF, which have been spilling over to trigger the insecurity affecting various parts of the country. It should establish a new inclusive consensus between the members of the ruling coalition. Such a plan should also involve stabilization of regional and local governments that experienced insecurity and violence. Additionally, the country needs such a peace plan that creates a platform for inclusive national dialogue as vehicle for truth and reconciliation and for building a rule and values based national consensus.’ The debate should not thus be whether the glass is half full or half empty. Indeed, it may as well be that there is a lot pouring into the glass & the glass may as well be filling up. In a context of absence of political consensus, the issue is that the glass itself may as well have cracked. If the crack is not fixed, the glass will break and all that is being poured into it spilt. As important as pouring new wine into a glass is thus the need of fixing the crack on the glass.