The roots of Ethiopian democracies discussed in Gondar

Cultures of democracies have been practiced in Ethiopia since time immemorial. Traditional democratic institutions have long been rooted in the Ethiopian societies’ civilization, history and culture. While the democratic development in Europe was largely inspired by Greek ancestors, Ethiopia can easily draw on indigenous epistemologies and understandings of democratic systems.

As one of the main components of democratic cultures, the word “parlare” which means “to talk” or “to discuss”, was an important reference point during a conference co-organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Humanities Department of Civics and Ethical Studies of the Gondar University on “Cultures of Democracy in Ethiopia” in April 2017.

At the beginning of the two-day conference, the Vice Dean of Gondar University, Dr. Yenges Amsalu spoke on the importance of participatory democracy and sharing of understanding with a view towards adjusting political and social concepts. Indigenous democratic cultures and institutions were thoroughly discussed through sixteen impressive presentations by speakers and scholars from Germany and Ethiopia (Debretabor, Mekelle, Addis Ababa, Ambo, Bahir Dar and Gondar).

While the focus of most papers was on the traditional institutions of the country, papers also referred to recent academic debates on democratic development, federalism, equality, the nexus between economic development and political participation, electoral systems and the role of media institutions.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung recognize the importance of this event as it is significant in creating a strong and active citizenship in order to strengthen democratic values and principles in Ethiopia.