Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Healing the wounds of traumatized communities

Ethiopia has rarely enjoyed sustained peace and stability throughout its history. For centuries citizens from all walks of life in every corner of the country have been subjected to all manners of suffering by despotic rulers and generally speaking the political class who have always put their interest and that of their cronies above the national interest. Fortunately, the heavy price the nation and its people have consequently paid has not led to the state collapse many had feared thanks to the shared values its diverse population has forged over eons despite ethnic, religious, cultural and ideological differences. Nevertheless, no community has been spared the scars left by the absence of durable stability and democratic governance. Recent events unfolding across the country make it extremely difficult to heal these wounds anytime soon.

From the COVID-19 pandemic to the raft of ethnic-based conflicts in various parts of the nation to the attacks on the defense forces and the ensuing law enforcement operation in which tens of thousands were killed, maimed and forced to flee their homes, 2020 passed off as one of the years Ethiopians want to forget about quickly. This troubling state of affairs is primarily attributable to the fact that decent and progressive citizens who have the public interest at heart have largely shunned politics, leaving a void that has been filled by incompetent, short-sighted and unprincipled elements. These elements view violence as a means to accomplish their objectives and could not care less about the resulting misery for innocent civilians. If they are not swept away from the political arena without delay there will be no end to the ordeal Ethiopians are living through.

Leaving aside the atrocities which took place in the distant past for the moment the constant spate of violence gripping Ethiopia and the anxiety it evokes have exacted a massive humanitarian and economic toll seldom witnessed in living memory. Ethiopians and foreigners alike often wonder how we have managed to retain sanity, how we have survived this long as a cohesive polity in the face of the gruesome slaying and displacement of millions of defenseless compatriots coupled with the inexorable rise in the cost of living that has made life a living hell for the vast majority. Though this may be a testament to the resilience of the tie that binds Ethiopians together, it begs the question why we have become so inured to death and suffering that most of us have come to consider what is appalling by most people everywhere else to be par for the course. As perplexing as such indifference may be we need to look into ourselves critically to identify the reasons behind and begin the process of healing the wounds that are still too raw for far too many of us.

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Aside from wreaking havoc on the political and economic fronts, the interminable conflicts besetting Ethiopia have also perniciously eroding the social fabric holding Ethiopians together. In spite of the injustices they have been on the receiving end of at the hands of absolute monarchs and dictators Ethiopians have always demonstrated admirable unity in thwarting the   unceasing attempts of the historical enemies of the country and traitors blinded by hatred and greed to bring about its downfall. The secret behind the Great Adwa Victory and other feats they achieved in vanquishing colonial armies and expansionists is their reservoir of love for the place they call home and fellow countrymen. Unless Ethiopians wise up to and foil the deliberate acts intended to undermine their solidarity, which has been the bedrock of their solidarity and harmonious coexistence, and tear them apart, the traumas inflicted by the unrest ravaging the nation cannot heal.

In an age and day when using force to impose one’s rule on others has been thoroughly shown to be bankrupt, the only viable way forward is to embrace pluralism and empower citizens to exercise their basic liberties. The violence threatening to corrode the fabric of society and thereby the very survival of Ethiopia cannot be blamed on ordinary folks; it’s entirely laid at the door of inept, myopic and self-serving politicians bent on advancing their sinister agendas with blithe disregard for the consequences. Ethiopians have demonstrated time and again that they do not countenance anyone trying to sow divisions and hatred between them, to weaken the harmony that has stood them in good stead during times of adversity. For a people who have a proud history of standing shoulder to shoulder in their compatriots’ hour of need, the near absence of empathy for the victims of egregious atrocities is a cause for alarm. This is an aberration that ought to be rectified with alacrity. This is why it’s of the essence to initiate an inclusive process of national reconciliation aimed at rehabilitating affected communities in order to help them overcome the trauma they had to endure through no fault of their own.

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