Ethiopia has been mired in a vicious cycle of violence and destruction for the past two-and-half years. Inasmuch as many are worried sick by the turmoil rocking the country there are those who see a light beyond the darkness. Though the challenges engendered by the air of doom and gloom are testing, now is not the time to lose heart. From wars waged by foreign aggressors to internal power struggle there is no challenge, trial and tribulation Ethiopia has not gone throughout its history. As a historical nation which overcame extraordinary challenges thanks to the bravery of its indomitable sons and daughters, it should not be impossible for it to extricate itself from the quagmire it is currently trapped in with a display of genuine love of country on the part of this generation. Self-inflicted problems can be mitigated or resolved by demonstrating empathy. In particular showing empathy for the sake of assuring the very survival of the nation and its people will be instrumental in dealing with the testing challenges staring us in the face. Being consumed with intolerance and animosity for each other only harms the country.
Power mongering is the gravest of challenges in contemporary Ethiopian politics. While it goes without saying that the ultimate goal of any political actor is to assume power the important thing is to what end such power ought to be exercised. If the principle that ultimate political power is vested in the people is not backed up with concrete action then any pledge to that effect remains hollow. In this regard the process by which the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is electing a new chair and Prime Minister in place of the outgoing premier is bound to spell trouble if it does not reflect the will of the people. EPRDF leaders are obliged to keep in mind that there is a weight of expectation on the incoming Prime Minister they are about to appoint to provide the kind of leadership that enables over 100 million Ethiopians to enjoy a life of equality and justice. This requires of the leaders to stop paying lip service to the ideals the public aspires for and start to deliver. Let alone at a time when a breakdown in law and order in considerable parts of the country has forced the declaration of a state of emergency even during times of relative stability failure to heed public opinion has dire consequences. Although this generation of Ethiopians may be cognizant of the fact that its ancestors triumphed over adversities with farsightedness, what is the use of learning if does not draw inspiration and lessons from their accomplishments? Why can’t differences be resolved through civilized dialogues that beget win-win outcomes as opposed to resorting to violent means? The root cause of this entire problem is basically the lack of goodwill and respect for fellow citizens. How can we function as a cohesive polity in the absence of these critical factors?
It’s quite upsetting and indeed embarrassing for citizens who have a genuine love for their nation, which inspired the anti-colonialism struggle of oppressed people all over the world thanks to the Great Adwa Victory, is the seat of the African Union, and more recently has become a poster child of rapid economic growth an oasis of stability in a troubled region, see it go on a downward spiral due to the perennial immaturity of its politics. For the past quarter of a century ethnocentric nationalism has been the dominant narrative even as pan-Ethiopian nationalism was vilified and its proponents were marginalized. It is high time to reverse this state of affairs and set Ethiopia on the correct course. Again this calls for politicians of all stripes to abandon their incessant bickering and engage in a constructive political discourse.
The declaration of a state of emergency has grave implications for Ethiopia. Aside from constituting a damning indictment of the government’s abysmal human rights record, the measures that are being taken to enforce it has prompted the death, injury and incarceration of protestors who oppose its imposition. Moreover, the state of emergency has serious economic ramifications as well. On the one hand the closure of businesses and service providers as well as the suspension of both passenger and freight transportation in some areas in the wake of its approval by Parliament harms not only businesses, but also millions of citizens surviving on a daily income. On the other hand, it scares off foreign direct investment and compels some investors to relocate elsewhere. Unfortunately, the non-existence of a culture of engaging in dialogues that help to forge a consensus coupled with the inability to take lessons from mistakes has exacerbated the situation further. Had proper use been made of the centuries-old dispute resolution mechanisms of various ethnic groups, religions and cultures, the crisis engulfing the country would have been averted long ago. The problem again is the lack of goodwill towards each other.
As we have reiterated in previous editorials nothing is above the nation; no one is above the people. The people will be disillusioned when their aspiration for peace, democracy, justice and a decisive say in the affairs of the country are dashed. As such it is incumbent on all stakeholders, particularly in the political arena, to stop in their tracks any and all individuals and groups intent on exploiting long-running grievances to incite ethnic conflicts with a view to topple the government and grab power. Ethiopia is at a critical juncture in its history on account of the unprecedented challenges which threaten to rend it apart. As testing as these challenges may be they are manageable if each and every citizen displays goodwill and mutual respect towards one another.