As Ethiopians ring in the new Ethiopian year of 2015, we are reminded that 2014 has been a year our beloved country has undergone a series of testing challenges that entailed grave political, economic and social consequences. From the resumption of full-blown hostilities in the civil war racking the northern part of Ethiopia to seemingly endless bouts violence in various parts of the country, macroeconomic instability and severe drought the just ended year ranks among one of the most difficult chapter in recent Ethiopian history. The advent of New Year traditionally sees well wishes, merriment and the passing of a resolution to embark on a new journey. However, New Year is not just about enjoyment or feeling good; more importantly it is a time when everyone must reflect on rededicating oneself to the national cause and the welfare of fellow citizens. If the country is to make headway into the baggage of unresolved issues that has been inherited from preceding years it is of paramount importance needs to tackle the critical issues staring us in the face as we usher in New Year.
The biggest challenge Ethiopia has faced in 2014 is the fighting between government forces and militants of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which resumed on August 24 after a five-month lull. The combat has yet again resulted in the loss of lives and sent tens of thousands fleeing from their homes. The clashes have dealt a blow to the efforts underway since June to find a peaceful solution to the 22-month war that began following an attack on federal army camps based in the region in November 2020. The renewed conflict has shattered the months-long relative calm that has been prevailing in the northern part of Ethiopia following the federal government’s announcement in March of a truce to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to Tigray. Despite calls for an immediate stop to the war, it has actually expanded to more places in addition to the area where it initially erupted, leaving many doubtful whether there is an end in sight to it.
Aside from the devastating civil war, the unending horrific cycle of violence that has been gripping Ethiopia for successive years continued unabated in 2014, ravaging the lives and livelihoods of countless citizens across the breadth and depth of Ethiopia. Since the turn of the year thousands have been killed and millions more displaced from their homes in scores of incidents in various regions of the country. The killings are by no means the only of their kind Ethiopia has witnessed since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) took the helm in April 2018 and began to introduce a series of reforms intended to broaden the democratic space. As the premier himself noted once the country has been experiencing every week one deadly conflict on average since he came to office. The atrocities occurring across Ethiopia are in one way or another work of Ethiopia’s historical enemies and their collaborators at home bent on destabilizing it for the sake of accomplishing their evil agendas. It’s the innocent and vulnerable sections of society who disproportionately bear the brunt of the violence. The consequences are bound to be even more catastrophic if t taken a meaningful action is not taken soon.
Macroeconomic instability has also bedeviled Ethiopia throughout 2014. Chief among macroeconomic stability indicators that the federal government has by its own admission failed to get a rasp of is the astronomical rise in the cost of living due to a combination of several factors. Though the measures it took have somewhat tempered inflationary pressure in the later part of the year, the prices of basic as well as utility bills, house rent, mass transit services, medical expenses, tuition fees, etc. soared drastically, making life an ordeal for the majority poor. Needless to say prices cannot be expected to remain constant year on year. They are bound to soar. However, the manner in which they have been rising is not only unfair, but also incommensurate with income levels. To make matters worse one of the worst droughts to have occurred in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia in at least the last 70 years has proven to be devastating to livelihoods and produced repetitive, debilitating and cumulative shocks to herds, crops, water availability, and household incomes in the affected communities in southern and eastern Ethiopia. More than seven million livestock have died and millions of people face the threat of starvation. The impacts of the severe drought on livelihoods are expected to intensify rapidly in the coming months due to the effects of the extremely poor March-April-May rains.
The plethora of sufferings Ethiopians have been subjected to in 2014 must not be allowed to roll over into 2015. Although the burden of ensuring this lies with all stakeholders, the primary responsibility rests with the government. Some of the steps it needs to introduce include facilitating the conditions for durable peace; broadening the political space; protecting the unfettered exercise of basic human and democratic rights; upholding the rule of law and justice; bringing about an equitable sharing of political power and national resources; rooting out corruption ruthlessly; and eliminating attitudes and practices detracting from good governance. On their part citizens must contribute their due share to ensure the prevalence of good governance, equality of access to justice, eradicating the scourge of corruption, and fighting undemocratic and dictatorial tendencies. As we wish all Ethiopians a happy, peaceful and prosperous new year we call on everyone to do our best in order to achieve success on all fronts.