Wednesday, February 8, 2023
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Ethiopia at a Crossroads: Imagining peace in the absence of a political dispensation

The origins of peace are based in the evolution and natural functioning of the human race. In that case, the very survival of human civilization is due to collaboration and constructive contact within and among its many groupings. A strong political conversation between and among the belligerents in any given context is required for a genuine peace to flourish and last.

What explains or illuminates peace? The common definition of peace is the absence of battle or the silence of gunshots. However, its true content is much larger and deeper than that.

Peace can be defined as an essential condition in which things continue to happen and function to the extent that they are bound or mandated by nature. It is a necessary and fundamental underpinning for the origin and sustenance of both human and nonhuman beings.

When treated generally, peace is seen as a unique public resource rather than a simple individual possession. From a macro-level perspective, it turns out to be a critical prerequisite for the mere existence of a society and state.

Galtung and his vision of peace

Yohan Galtung is a renowned Norwegian sociologist known as the “Father of Modern Peace and Conflict Studies.”

Following his thorough investigation, he discovered two traditional dimensions of peace as a concept: “negative peace” and “positive peace.”

He defines “negative peace” as the absence of conflict and violence in a specific scenario. Positive peace, on the other hand, requires the abolition of paradoxical and unjust relationships that exist within and among different communities and other groups, such as national oppression, dominance, exploitation, and socioeconomic inequality in a specific setting.

The government’s position on peace

Governments around the world can temporarily pacify and secure their territories by relying on brute force at any costs. However, if peace is to be sustained and long-lasting on the ground, it must be pursued and won using peaceful or nonviolent means and techniques.

In terms of relationships, peace is intrinsically tied with sustainable development, without which the latter would be, to put it mildly, unachievable. When it comes to the national system of governance, it is also associated with the administration of criminal justice and the rule of public security.

The right of people to live in peace

The right of people to live in peace is a fundamental right that must be exercised collectively. It was recognized and proclaimed by the United Nations Declaration on the Right of People to Live in Peace. On November 12, 1984, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution No. 39/11, which became this historic declaration.

Among other things, the Declaration recognizes that “the maintenance of a peaceful life for peoples is the sacred obligation of each state.” Its first provision found in Art. 1 declares “the peoples of our planet have a sacred right to live in peace.”

According to Article 2 of this soft instrument, “the preservation of the right of peoples to peace and the promotion of its execution represent a basic commitment of each and every state.”


In Ethiopia, we established the Ministry of Peace, which is hardly recognized worldwide, when reforming our primary government institutions in 2018. However, the general state of our peace and security has been deteriorating by the day since we implemented this mechanical change.

As things stand, the named ministry does not appear to be diligently promoting and striving for peace in accordance with the expectations of the general public or citizens.

What a ludicrous burden to add to the country’s already overburdened bureaucracy!

The charged leadership

Ethiopia’s current political leadership promises to transform the country by bringing wealth in all of its forms. However, that desire remains elusive and is essentially wishful rhetoric in a pretty hostile and toxic milieu caused by the obvious absence of peace and stability.

Obviously, where there is a large deficiency in long-term peace and harmony, there will be no ideal basis for general national progress and prosperity, no matter how hard one tries. Ethiopia is currently traversing difficult and dangerous political terrain.

What price should the poor country pay to restore the actual peace and solid security it has been denied, and to normalize its life after the terrible war and damage it has had to undergo for no good reason?

Politics as a means of bridging divides

Politics, in its contemporary sense, is an orderly mode of resolving conflicts through peaceful means other than war and military confrontation. But what we see in Ethiopia on a daily basis is poisonous hatred and widespread enmity, regrettably articulated along ethno-linguistic and religious lines.

To begin, the nature and operation of mainstream Ethiopian politics are insufficiently dynamic to serve the objective of peace.

Bitter hostility and authoritarianism, frequently expressed in the form of internecine warfare and mutually assured annihilation, have essentially characterized or symbolized the essence of our politics since the 1960s and 1970s. Internecine hostility, on its part, is adverse to intergroup harmony in a peaceful coexistence.

Ordinary Ethiopians are tired of being deceived and convinced to believe in an unachievable heaven of peace and prosperity in a never-ending leadership address.

Nonetheless, peace is something that must be experienced rather than taught about in the future. Working for peace is not as simple as preparing for war. It is not enough to boast arrogantly and constantly that Ethiopia will not be destroyed forever.

Such vacuous talk must be accompanied by healthy and meaningful political activity. To our chagrin, we are seeing the country’s accelerating collapse as a cohesive nation with complete sovereignty.

There is little doubt that an already politically fragile nation with a slew of hostile and polarized elites is as good as a dismantled one. You could never soothe a nation in the grip of internal struggle while instinctively working toward its friction and gradual disintegration.

My fear and hope intertwined

Ethiopia would have become a vanity if it hadn’t been for our foolish and mad elites’ misdirected appetite. I must underline that the strong social fabric and inter-communal bonding that have existed for centuries are what keep the country in its current state.

Let me hope, and only hope, that Ethiopia will remain as strong and united as it has always been. However, if it were to come apart as some reactionary’s desire, Amhara may not be the first to either initiate or participate in the process of its death.

Contributed by Merhatsidk Mekonnen Abayneh

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