Defending a nation from any and all forms of aggression and threat is a shared obligation that the citizenry owe. It’s when citizens are able to develop a sense of belongingness and contribute their due share that they can aspire for the independence, peace and prosperity of their nation and translate this desire into reality. This requires, above all, the forging of a national consensus on fundamental matters. If the government properly carries out its constitutional duties, political forces operate freely and responsibly and other entities which have a stake in the affairs of the country act rationally, it would be possible to engage in a constructive dialogue and avert the specter of disaster looming over the nation.
The gravest danger facing Ethiopia nowadays is the increasingly irrational lusting for political power in utter disregard of the national interest and the imperative for mutual tolerance. It is perplexing how the protagonists in the political maneuvering lose sight of the fact that the fruits of peace and stability cannot be tasted without respecting rights, forbearance and battling authoritarianism. The reckless hate-mongering fomented by malicious elements via social media and other forums exploiting ethnic, ideological and religious differences is exacerbating the already tense situation. It is at such a critical juncture that citizens possessing a strong moral code are very much needed.
Recently a raft of protests bereft of official organizers was held in different parts of Ethiopia. The resulting absence of an atmosphere conducive to a peaceful venting of perceived grievances coupled with a heavy-handed response by the government unfortunately led to the death and injury of scores as well as the destruction of property. This is primarily attributable to the breakdown of trust that should exist between the government and the public due to the drowning out of the nonviolent articulation of the legitimate demands of the silent majority by loud-mouthed individuals spewing cancerous hate speech.
The voices of various segments of the society like the youth, women, academia, peasants, workers, elders, religious and civil society leaders, etc., should be heard if an ideology anchored in rationality rather than sentiment is to take root. Concomitantly the government has to acknowledge the errors of its ways in terms of its response to citizens’ peaceful and legitimate demand for the respect of fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution and international instruments to which Ethiopia is a signatory. In this regard it is incumbent upon it to attach due importance to address the disenfranchisement of citizens brought about by the constriction of the political space as well as its propensity to belittle widespread public discontent and drag its feet in responding to same. The government is also duty-bound to encourage and enable all citizens to discharge their national obligation.
As we always reiterate the rule of law is key to everything. Upholding the rule of law guarantees respect for the human and democratic rights of citizens, the equitable allocation of resources and the prevalence of good governance, allows access to justice for all, bolsters the fight against corruption and other forms of criminality, and ensures that love, rational discourse, tolerance and the national interest take precedence over hatred, internecine conflict, intolerance and narrow self-interest.Towards this end there is no choice but to give responsible citizens the opportunity to ensure that these important values are realized.
One of the age-old traditions which do Ethiopians proud is the preservation of unity founded on mutual respect. They have forged astrong bond and patriotism which have stood the test of enabling them to bridge differences in culture, language, religion, ideology and area of inhabitation. The epoch-making Great Adwa Victory of 1896 against the colonial army of Italy and the pan-Africanism movement it inspired bear testimony to this fact. A great country like Ethiopia deserves a leadership that is up to the complex challenges of the times. The great and proud people of Ethiopia need political parties that measure up to their expectations. The immense sacrifices paid by our forefathers are worthy of a generation that builds on them. All this requires a recommitment of all citizens to see to it that Ethiopia truly becomes a land of peace, stability, democracy, equality and prosperity.
Any act which jeopardizes the nation’s unity and incites bloodshed and displacement with the aim of consolidating or grabbing power must be vehemently condemned. Citizens who feel they have a vested interest in the well-being of their nation have to stand vigilantly against anyone bent on inflaming ethnic and other differences in order to advance sinister motives. For its part the government ought to facilitate the condition whereby the public can freely voice legitimate demands and respond duly to same in conformity with the constitution and the law. The legitimate and peaceful demands of the public must not be hijacked by irresponsible elements and engender deadly violence. The voice of right-minded citizens needs to be heard to safeguard the universal rights of citizens under a system undergirded by the rule of law. After all defending the nation’s welfare is an obligation of all citizens.