As Ethiopians usher in today 2014, the new Ethiopian year, we are all glad that 2013 is in the rearview mirror. Sadly, a bevy of unresolved issues have been inherited from the previous year that we wish we had not. From the devastating law enforcement operation in the northern part of Ethiopia to the COVID-19 pandemic, deadly ethnic conflicts and the spiraling inflation 2013 was one of if not the most challenging period for Ethiopians in recent memory. The New Year must hence be a year that all of us who believe we have a say in shaping the destiny of the country commit ourselves to and actually take meaningful action aimed at tackling the grave challenges facing the country and fellow citizens. The government has pledged to the public to expand the fundamental reforms it has been undertaking since 2018 and deliver the change the public craves. If this promise is not translated into action it will count for nothing and may well threaten to exacerbate the multi-pronged challenges confronting the country. If the specter of such a tragedy is to be averted it is obligatory to create an inclusive political space that lends itself to a constructive dialogue on the way forward.
Ethiopia is a great country. If its citizens were to display respect for one another and solidarity they can do miracles. As such the Ethiopian project needs to be embraced by all Ethiopians. Divided a family cannot stand let alone a nation. The present generation has an obligation to ensure the continued existence of a country its brave ancestors bequeathed it through heroic exploits that earned them international tribute. History will not be kind to it should it fail to exert the utmost effort to take a nation that its forefathers, who possessed such exemplary traits as far-sightedness, forgiveness, patriotism, civility, loyalty, and tolerance, to greater heights and unwittingly help its enemies to accomplish their evil objectives. Ethiopia has for far too long been associated with poverty, famine, conflict and backwardness. Its people have been subjected to unspeakable iniquities at the hand of tyrants. That is why it’s of the essence on all stakeholders—the government, political parties, the elite, intellectuals, elders, educational and religious institutions, civil society organizations, the media and the business community—to embark immediately on bringing about democracy, social justice, development and unity through diversity.
At this critical juncture in Ethiopia’s history it’s in the national interest to focus on issues over which consensus can be reached instead of endeavoring to aggravate festering resentments for the express purpose of inflaming violence. In the meantime, it’s imperative to work hand-in-hand on building a system where each and every Ethiopian is able to exercise the basic liberties enshrined in the constitution. Trying to breathe a new life into bankrupt ideas to undermine national unity, rushing to institute the hegemony of a group perceived to be in power, peddling hateful and poisonous rhetoric, plotting to settle centuries-old scores through violence, perpetrating acts that do not befit contemporary norms, extremism, and greed have no use but to wreak havoc. The rafts of opportunities that have come Ethiopia’s way were wasted owing to our failure to learn the lessons of history. Many who tried to correct a mistake with another mistake have learned the futility of their action the hard way. As the saying goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Forces bent on perpetuating the atrocities of the past year are better advised to come back to their senses. It should not be lost on them that the loss of the lives and hard-earned properties of the innocent and the despair it engenders portend an ominous future for the country. As Ethiopia’s historical enemies are fond of saying, the nation will be splintered into several unviable entities. 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 with the instrumentality of turncoats lusting for power, citizens who truly have its interest at heart should rise to the occasion. Such stalwarts of Ethiopia’s are more than capable of foiling the evil agenda of these enemies and their collaborators.
If 2014 is to be a year of peace and prosperity Ethiopians from all walks of life must distance themselves from extremism, intolerance, chauvinism, parochialism and similar other negative attitudes. The country and its people stand to lose from internecine conflicts and acts which sow instability as they only lead to mayhem, destruction and suffering. Differences in opinions are natural to human beings and must never be suppressed; in fact they ought to be cherished. The zero-sum politics of intolerance where the “winner” takes all and those who hold differing views get nothing eventually spawns extremism. It would be wise to realize that there is always a common denominator over which a common understanding can be forged. Individuals and groups harboring a sinister motive should learn from history that any attempt to exploit ethnic, religious, cultural or political differences with intent to further their evil agenda is bound to fail. Happy New Year!