Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Resolving differences without bloodletting!

The loss of lives in vain continues apace in Ethiopia putting the nation’s very survival on a knife’s edge. In the past week alone scores of citizens were killed in conflicts across various parts of the country adding to the death of thousands in the past three years. The failure to provide the necessary political leadership at the federal and regional levels alike, coupled with the reluctance of the actors in the political arena to exert a concerted effort aimed at engaging the public in seeking lasting solutions, is largely to blame for the grave crisis presently rocking Ethiopia. Though the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has time and again pledged to introduce critical reforms in the wake of what it calls a deep renewal exercise, neither the unrest nor the killings and wanton destruction have come to a halt since then.

The inability of EPRDF leaders to read from the same page due the ongoing internal feuding has exacted a heavy toll on the public. Because the legitimate demands made by the public have by and large not been duly addressed discontent has been simmering for long eventually leading to the eruption of violent protests. The heavy-handed response to the protests has only served to exacerbate the crisis. Gambling with the lives of the people is a recipe for disaster and liable to gravely imperil national security. The task of leading a nation requires wisdom. Such wisdom begins with observing the rule of law and protecting the wellbeing of citizens. Unfortunately, the political leadership has been found wanting in this regard as it is preoccupied with dealing with the symptom of the disease from which Ethiopia is ailing from instead of searching for a panacea. It ought to have taken heed of the basic needs of the public and endeavor to bring about transformational change rather than churning out empty statements that aggravate public resentment. Sadly people are dying left and right due to a shocking shortcoming on the part of political leaders.

Much has been said about the fact that the government’s unwillingness to listen to the public’s grievances is one of the underlying causes which steering it on a collision course with the people. Despite acknowledging this deficiency, albeit belatedly, the EPRDF still seems to be loath to mend its ways. If it were to properly heed public opinion the widespread protests that are taking place would have been averted leave alone the unnecessary death of innocent compatriots. How long can the country’s toxic politics be allowed to fuel ethnic conflicts that are spawning bloodletting and destruction?  How can a government that is failing miserably in bringing the crisis to an end effectively discharge the duties entrusted to it? Why is it impossible to tackle problems before they trigger irreversible damage? Why can’t corrective measures be taken promptly in response to the youth’s demands when they take umbrage at political decisions? If the government does not pull Ethiopia back from the precipice the future will not bode well.

The dangers of mounting public disgruntlement as a result of political, economic and social injustices have manifested themselves in the violence of the past three years and loss of public trust in the government. Many are dying a senseless death in leaderless protests on account of a demonstrable absence of leadership by the government. It is impossible to bring about a change by attempting to implement “solutions” that have repeatedly failed. The right thing to do whenever protests are staged is to ensure that such a constitutionally protected right is peacefully enjoyed as opposed to quelling them with deadly force. And it would have been a display of decency if the government had expressed a heartfelt sorrow on the death of citizens and declared national mourning.  The near absent coverage of the events that have Ethiopians worried sick by the state-owned media, particularly those run by the federal government, is indicative of the gravity of the government’s cavalier attitude towards the crisis gripping Ethiopia.

The difference in the pace at which the measures recently promised by the leaders of the four member organizations of the EPRDF are being implemented is another proof that they are not on the same wavelength. The pledged release of prisoners is not proceeding expeditiously in some regions inciting further conflicts that threaten to send the country down a slippery slope. The EPRDF’s leadership would do well to appreciate that it cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this threat for the consequences of inaction are bound to wreak even more havoc on the nation and its people. At the same time some of the questionable steps taken to consolidate the grip on power have had no use but sow more confusion and animosity. If the events provoking instability are to stop immediately it is incumbent on the political leadership to act decisively. Needless to say the measure should be consistent with constitutional provisos and credible in the eyes of the public.

The Ethiopian people have always paid a steep price for peace. The government ought to equally value peace and show it does so by addressing the fundamental demands of the public. From now on not a single person should die in protests. And the security forces must not fire a single shot on peaceful protestors. It’s high time to create conditions which enable citizens to freely and peacefully express dissent, to criticize the government. It’s impossible to govern a nation while the sanctity of human life is desecrated. Protests are turning into destructive violence primarily because of egregious rights violations. The surest way to prevent senseless killings is to uphold the rule of law, to allow the unfettered exercise of basic liberties, to foster constructive dialogues, to strengthen the institutions of democracy, to enable the free expression of the people through free and fair elections as well as to put in place a level playing field where all political parties have a fair shot at garnering the votes they need to assume office. If these objectives are to be accomplished it is of the essence to resolve differences without bloodletting.        

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