It has been more than a year since the tragedies at the celebration of the Oromo holy festival Irreechaa, which led to the death of more than 50 civilians. The State of Emergency declared by the government to appease tensions may have resulted in relative peace during the emergency period but does not seem to be of any help in bringing peace and stability post-emergency period. Blocking the internet and the social media to prevent the spreading of messages fuelling clashes and hatred politics does not, in my opinion, solve the problem at its core. Silencing people by force is like turning on a time-bomb which awaits its explosion when the time set arrives. I believe it is high time to ask if the strategies being followed by both sides – the government and protesters – can really bring the changes each side is aiming at.
Although it is the duty of armed forces such as the police to make sure that protests are not destructive either to people or public property, it is also their duty to do their best in making sure that not a single life is lost during the “peace keeping” process. Firing bullets and beating up protestors to death is in my opinion a crime. And besides, it will only create more anger among protestors and more protests from the general public. Protestors are only going to be larger in number and more tactful in their next attack against the government. Although all issues of protests brought up against the government may not necessarily be to the benefit of the larger people of the country, I do not believe that ignoring the questions of the protestors, and worse exerting violence to silence protests, is going to keep people from demanding answers. Controlling means of communication and information sharing means such as the internet and phones is not going to stop people from fighting for what they believe is their rights as citizens of this country. History has shown us that protests, and pretty violent ones in fact, can exist without phones and the internet.
Maybe you do agree with me but I always find it ironic that protesters destroy the properties of the public and yet claim to fight for the rights and well-being of the public. How can you destroy the hard earned properties of your own people and yet expect the same people to come to your support in your fight against the government? How can one threaten to destroy public infrastructure that is built with aid money and meagre tax money to prove the point that the public should be in support of those who destroy public property and not in support of those who help build them? I do not find it convincing. How can a protestor convince me about having a democratic mindset while shoving the tiniest form of opposition I might have against his or her ideologies?
You might ask, so what is the solution then? The government might reconsider decisions in response to the outburst of violent protests by the public. But is waiting until the public’s anger reaches the tipping point a sustainable way of responding to the public’s demands? And are protestors going to keep using violence to prove their points against the government? Where is this all going to lead? My fear is that it becomes a full-fledged war that benefits neither side. And the solution is certainly not a war.