After 15 Dark Years, a Pause for Peace : Ethiopia: The provisional government pledges a democratic path to ending both fratricidal carnage and famine.

Meles Zenawi is the acting president of Ethiopia and general secretary of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front

Last March, when it was clear that the criminals of the Ethiopian Workers Party were speeding up their preparations to flee the country, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) met to plan the transition to democracy. Now that our forces have assumed power, we are rapidly implementing the objectives outlined at that time.

Since the fratricidal war with the Eritrean people has pushed the country to the brink of disintegration, the first task is to end this conflict and establish a provisional government in which all political forces are represented. Then we will conduct a free and fair election, under international supervision, for a constituent assembly that will draft a new constitution.

The Democratic Front's program envisions a system that combines state and private ownership. Those sectors of the economy that play a key role in upholding the independence of the country--such as factories, banks, energy and mining--should continue to be state-owned. Those services, wholesale and retail trade sectors, that don't play a decisive national role but are currently state-owned should be set up as worker cooperatives or rented to private capitalists. Ownership rights would be guaranteed, and there would be no restrictions on the use of capital.

Those economic sectors that remain in the control of the state should be designed to give workers a wide and direct management role.

Small agricultural producers, however, are the backbone of the Ethiopian economy. Without growth in this sector, it is futile to envision meaningful economic reconstruction. To this end, the Democratic Front calls for repudiation of the heavy taxes now levied on peasants, nullification of cooperative farms and dismantling of the Mengistu government's "village-ization" program.

Peasants should be able to sell their produce wherever they want and at the price they want. By restoring initiative to the peasants, I believe it would be possible to double food production--the highest priority in this land of famine.

Although we believe all land should be owned by the state, the state should provide land free to all those who want to use it. Land should not be bought, sold or used as collateral.

Ethiopia's most vexing problem remains the issue of self-determination for Eritrea and other nationalities. The experience of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia has shown that the desire for self-determination cannot effectively be met by force. On the other hand, it is simply not possible for small entities to achieve sustainable economic growth unless they are integrated into a large national market. The tested way to bring rapid and sustainable economic growth is through maintaining unity and creating a strong country.

We believe that, above everything else, the democratic rights of people, including the right to self-determination, must be respected. Unity must be based on voluntary cooperation, not force and suppression. In those areas where people are struggling for self-determination, all alternatives should be presented to the people in a referendum.

After nearly 15 dark years filled with conflict, hunger and repression, Ethiopia has a new chance. To the best of our abilities, the new government will seek to avoid the ethnic strife that could plunge us back into a life of war rather than one of peace, progress and growth.

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