Professor Birhanu Mengistu delivers a public lecture

Professor Birhanu Mengistu delivers a public lecture on: Truth and reconciliation, or justice and reconciliation in Ethiopia?

Professor Birhanu, veteran scholar, who has been teaching and researching on public policy and public Administration for more than three decades now, has shared his professional and life experience in the context of the current situation in Ethiopia with BDU Community at Peda Campus auditorium. In his talk, the professor provides invaluable insight into the essence of negotiation in the context of the current ethnic based conflicts in Ethiopia. He indicated that conflict can be a growing ground for a betterment of a society, to create a developed and democratic nation; however, he continued, mismanaged conflict could, equally or even more, lead to a chaos where survival could be in jeopardy. In his talk, Professor Birhanu underscored the crucial role of truthfulness for sustainability of any sort of negotiation.

The professor commented on the current negotiators, elderly people from different ethnic backgrounds, who took the assignment of settling the various forms of conflicts in the country. He said the problem with their negotiation approach is their lining up with the ethnic group they come from. By way of lining up with one’s ethnic group while assuming as a negotiator, the professor said the negotiator is never free from partiality which makes the process difficult if not impossible. He said negotiators shall take an unshaken stance on bringing peace and reconciliation at any cost.

So as to transcend the problem the country is now facing, the professor said, there shall be peace and reconciliation that is cognizant of the values of the society. Also, both the victims and the offenders should be sincerely willing to submit to genuine reconciliation. In exemplifying the basic role the two conflicting parties could play, the professor added a story which runs as follows. He said if there is a very narrow aisle on which only one person can pass along, and if two individuals came from opposite direction and met somewhere in the middle of the aisle, there are two possibilities- to fight or to sit and figure out a way where both can head to their destinations. In the first case, only one can make it, but the second case is a win-win for both. The two persons agreed that the only way for both to pass through such a difficult situation is to agree to deal with it through discussion and negotiation. As a result, one bows to let the other walk over him. Finally, both make it to their destination. The professor brought this example to explain the importance of the readiness of opposing bodies/parties to a negotiation and compromise. Sometimes we should bow for a better future. The professor also underlined the need to create common ground for a successful negotiation.

The lecture was more heated with question from the participants and the reflections by the presenter.