As Ethiopians celebrated the advent of 2013 on September 11 the messages conveyed by different sections of the public underscored the importance of averting a recurrence of the ills of the past during the New Year. Recalling the ordeals of 2012 as they wish for a peaceful and happy 2013 is something expected from citizens who care about their country. Ethiopians from all corners of the country need to work harder than ever before at forging a consensus on the imperative to begin a new chapter of harmonious and respectful coexistence. The nation finds itself at a juncture where it’s vitally important to join hands in laying the foundation that enables its people, the vast majority of whom live in abject poverty, to lead a life of peace, prosperity and dignity. Politicians and other compatriots who feel they have a stake in the fate of the country have an obligation to build a nation that is no longer racked by destructive skirmishes and is suitable to live and work in for its citizens.
The ruling Prosperity Party and its rivals must always bear in mind that their sole raison d’être is the welfare of Ethiopia and its people. Invoking the public’s name in vain for selfish political ends only begets misery. The opportunities that had rarely come along were squandered due to the aversion of the political class to put the national interest above their own. If they take the long view and are truly willing to engage in a constructive dialogue aimed at creating an inclusive space there is still time to atone for past mistakes. Elements bent on achieving political objectives through violence better realize that their bankrupt strategy will not get them anywhere and be ready to submit to the will of the public as expressed through free and fair elections. Treating the public and political rivals with contempt is neither democratic nor a recipe for success.
Ethiopians are capable of accommodating their differences peacefully as they embark together on a nation-building exercise. There is no reason they cannot learn from the mistakes of the past and develop a sense of solidarity with intent to build a genuinely pluralistic nation. A farsighted people who had forged important social values over centuries, they have never been outfoxed by merchants of conflicts determined to divide them. This said they must remain ever vigilant against these forces. This is why it’s of the essence to eliminate discredited narratives embellishing certain segments of society and focus instead on creating a shared future that consolidates positive historical achievements and yet draws lessons from shortcomings so that they are not repeated.
Political parties and their support base need to adopt a mindset befitting the times. They have to demonstrate in practice their professed commitment to the peaceful and democratic pursuit of political objectives. Since they cannot engage constructively with others while they lack inner democracy and harmony, they must look into themselves critically before looking outside. Notwithstanding external factors, the lifespan of the bulk of political parties or the coalitions/alliances/fronts they have formed has been short owing to problems of their own making. The unity of purpose and action that the now defunct Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the former ruling party, had touted for long came unstuck due to the absence of inner democracy. If Prosperity Party, the EPRDF’s successor, fails to heed the lessons from its ancestor’s history, namely that a few individuals did whatever they pleased with it through the instrumentality of “democratic centralism”, it’s bound to face the same fate. Similarly, opposition parties, including those in existence for over half a century, have to undertake a brutally honest introspection if they are to be relevant players on the political scene.
Forces thinking of repeating the atrocities of the past year better think twice. The loss of the lives and hard-earned properties of the innocent and the ensuing sense of despair are apt to portend an ominous future for the country. As Ethiopia’s historical enemies boldly say through their proxies, the nation will be Balkanized. Ethiopians need to ask why these adversaries make this dark prediction whenever deadly conflicts break out. If the country is not to fall into the hole its enemies are digging for it at the hands of traitors lusting for power, citizens who truly have its interest at heart should rise to the occasion. Such stalwarts of Ethiopia’s cause possess the dedication and presence of mind required to foil the evil agenda of these enemies and their collaborators.
Diversity is a blessing that ought to be recognized and cherished. One of the defining features of freedom is respecting diversity. It’s hypocritical to demand one’s freedom without honoring others’ freedom. Anyone advocating respect for human and democratic rights has to unequivocally demonstrate that they treasure diversity. As people with diverse ethnicities, beliefs, cultures, languages and lifestyles Ethiopians have been models of mutual respect and tolerance thanks to the commendable values they forged over centuries. Should the present generation fail in its duty to preserve the values that it inherited from predecessors, history will judge it harshly. It may escape such condemnation if it upholds peace, the rule of law and solidarity. It’s for this very reason that a harmonious and respectful coexistence is indispensable for Ethiopia.