Ethiopia’s elites need to be encouraged when they strive to learn from the mistakes of the past to build a better future. But they have to be admonished when they act as judge, jury and executioner in their assessment of real or perceived historical “injustices”. Successive generations have done what they believed to be right and left behind a legacy history shall remember. The present generation should endeavor to make its own history and bequeath future generations a better nation in the realization that resorting to finger-pointing or the blame game is entirely unconstructive. The major flaw characterizing Ethiopia’s elites, particularly ethno-nationalists, is the propensity to peddle victim narratives as a ploy to achieve their political objectives instead of seeking solutions that help rectify bygone aberrations. This strategy has spawned atrocities which have destabilized the country and prevented real democracy from taking root. It would not be a hyperbole to say that the primary reason why present-day Ethiopia is unable to forge the consensus necessary to exploit the opportunities before it is the political elite’s failure to develop a mindset fitting with the times.
The people of Ethiopia may live in freedom, peace and prosperity as long as the elites found in political parties, civil society organizations, religious institutions, the media as well as the public and private sectors choose to comport themselves responsibly. It’s a shame when these elites are loath to put their mind to finding practical solutions for the multitude of problems confronting the nation but preoccupy themselves with conspiracy mongering and spreading unsubstantiated narratives. They always need to keep in mind that it would be a loss for Ethiopia if the knowledge and experience they have gained during their career is used to breed more problems as opposed to resolving them. The public has no use for elites which have neither the capacity nor the desire to improve the lot of fellow citizens.
If the elite, who are supposedly the cream of society, do not tolerate differences, how can the rest be expected to behave better? If they just disseminate the information they receive in its entirety, whose job is it to do the vetting? Who would undertake a rational dialogue if they eschew positive discussions and prefer to stand by elements brandishing guns? Why has it become fashionable to level horrifying accusations against someone subscribing to a different belief rather than try to understand that person’s position? In this day and age a broad-minded and responsible person will never bring guns into politics. That is why the sacrifice paid by someone who had suffered under a military dictatorship and should advocate that that traumatic era must not repeated would be in vain when he throws in his lot with aspiring dictators. If the opportunities that help move forward Ethiopia’s democratization process are not to be squandered, it’s imperative to ensure that the time when power can be assumed through the barrel of the gun is well and truly over.
Ethiopia has always had a culture of dialogue among its diverse people. There are a plethora of matters on which the society interacts with each other. Sadly, the majority of the country’s elite have been good at nothing except destructive criticism, exchanging insults and character assassination. Ethiopians have for long passionately demanded respect for their right to freedom of expression. The elite, however, tend to be emotional when they are brought face to face on the media. This said the mainstream media are a relatively freer platform in facilitating the free flow of ideas as compared to social media, which have become an arena for fomenting intolerance, hatred and violence. If the elite cannot sit down and engage in a civilized conversation, how can the nation’s future be secured? Let’s all see to it that the opportunities that have fallen into Ethiopia’s lap are not wasted.
Failure on the part of Ethiopian elites to undertake a constructive discourse and promote the expression of varied opinions has discouraged compatriots capable of contributing their share to the national cause. Compelled to abandon social media due to the barrage of insults hurled at them, these individuals are also shunning the traditional media, leading to a dearth of helpful ideas. As Ethiopia loses more and more sensible people from the public sphere, freedom of expression will gradually become meaningless. The void they leave is bound be filled by elements bent on dominating the political space with force, paving the way to absolute dictatorship. Unless the elite shake off their torpor and start to engage in sober discussions, the future will not bode well.
The saying “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” aptly describes the current state of Ethiopian politics. Another adage—“The wise learn from the mistakes of others, fools don’t even learn from their mistakes”—fits contemporary politicians to a tee. The costly mistakes made by the 1970s generation during the tit-for-tat “Red Terror” and “White Terror” atrocities have not been heeded. Despite being leftists that set out together to liberate the people, the protagonists of the senseless dispute slaughtered one another over trivial differences. Even today there abound conflict-mongers who praise the killing of certain people belonging to other ethnic groups or religion but condemn that of someone from “their” side, who stop at nothing for the sake of taking the reins of power. The elite have been conspicuously silent in calling out these rabble rousers, preferring instead to devote their time and energy to playing victim politics and perpetuating mistakes that take the country backward. If they refuse to keep with the times and waste the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities which have come Ethiopia’s way history will judge them harshly.