The Ethiopian political system lacks commonly shared values upon which the philosophy binds different political groupings into one, irrespective of their diverse opinions and interests. Commonly shared value systems are simply essential drivers of social, economic and political stability of a country, writes Habtamu Girma.
Attempting to figure out the underlying reason behind the recent incidents that has claimed the lives of innocents Ethiopians and threatened the peace, stability, unity and harmony of lingo-cultural diversities (a word, which I believe, better represents the existing diversity) would not be an easy task. Unless we come up with swift responses, our future is increasingly becoming confusing and bleak. I believe that this mass confusion instigated from erroneous, if not corrupt, understandings on the essence and interpretation of history.
The political system, mass confusion and wellbeing of Ethiopians
When looking at the Ethiopian context, the mass confusion, though existed long ago, has been a growing phenomenon in recent years and months. The very problem lies in the political system itself. In essence, a political system is all about the way political business functions; how the political groups transact in the political market.
An ideal political system is one which allows and/or guarantees the wider populace all the means and tools to seize the ultimate power and role in playing politics. The corollary of that is that a well-oiled political machinery is one where the political market is free from elitism and where the rule of the game in political transaction lies in logic and principles.
Unfortunately, in the Ethiopian political system, hatred, hostilities, victimhood mentality, and personal glory govern the political discourse. To justify their vested interests, our political elites often focus on corrupt narratives and wrong interpretation of history. That is by far the source of the mass confusion threatening the peace, stability, unity and national integrity of Ethiopians.
A glimpse into the political history of Ethiopia entails that the political elites have incessantly taken Ethiopians into mass confusion at least in two ways. One is how the political circle understood the essence of history, where they divide history as bad and good. Such analysis of history is neither right nor wrong, but irrelevant altogether.
Basically, there is nothing of bad in history. The essence of history is all for good. If the narratives about the past depict the fraternity or animosity between groups or people, it is not bad at least. As holy books remind all humanity, all the deeds of human past or present is for a reason. The essence of history is for us to take lessons from.
Hence, our past, whether it has an alluring or detaching effect on the unity of all diversities in Ethiopia under one flag, it is there for Ethiopians to take lessons from.
The second form of mass confusion emanates from how political elites interpret history. The political elites often emerge with a political agenda which claims that it would heal past fractures by ‘reorganizing’ groups and repay those who they refer to as victims. Attempting to heal past mistakes by ‘benefiting’ the victim vis-à-vis disfavoring who they label as ‘oppressor’ or ‘exploiter’, is no different from committing another mistake.
In fact, it is past mistakes being repeated again. In the past, Ethiopians were submerged in endless disputes and hatred. So, to right that wrong, all Ethiopians and political groupings need to redefine the narrative. Unless this problem is quickly fixed, speeding on the highway that leads to demise.
The other thing that ails the Ethiopian political system is that it lacks commonly shared values upon which the philosophy binds different political groupings into one, irrespective of their diverse opinions and interests. Commonly shared value systems are simply essential drivers of social, economic and political stability of a country.
Commonly shared values shape the nature, form and functioning of formal and informal institutions which in one way or another amount to the foundations of structured political, economic and bureaucratic systems. If we do not have common values, there will be no remedy to the political ailments. Where such is case, blaming competing political groupings would be nothing more than sheer senselessness.
The political elites, who are either the products or reflection of the prevailing political system, would have little to offer in solving the problem. Therefore, Ethiopians need to work on having a national agenda of constructing shared values, hence making it the pillar of their political system.
A remedy for the evils of ‘mass confusion’
To take ourselves out of the political impasse and eventual woes, what is expected from us, particularly the current generation, are two things: one, understanding the concept of time and two, devise a uniting philosophy and/or values that makes us Ethiopians irrespective of our linguistic, cultural, ethnic and religious diversity.
The need to better understand the concept of time
One of the reasons for this ‘mass confusion’ is our inability to understand the concept of time properly. Time shows us the present via the image of yesterday, it endows us with the wisdom to understand why and how history matters.
With historical narratives taken for granted in the Ethiopian political tradition, differences in interpretations of history are not only the source of differences among political groups, but also depict the political landscape being at the epicenter of polarized politics. Therefore, one remedy is to understand the concept of time. Doing so not only shades light on the political landscape of Ethiopia, but also helps in promoting political stability, have a better political system and national consensus.
Since nation building is the foremost task of the young generation, we have to properly understanding the concept of time. Wrong understanding of the concept of time, is reflected by the decisions taken regarding key political issues that turn out to be biased due to stereotyping and/or cult of personality. If Ethiopians properly understand the concept of time, we would be healed from being biased on political matters.
Most important of all, understanding to the concept of time enables us to make fair judgment on historical incidents.
The need to have shared value system
In a country like Ethiopia, which has diverse ethnicities, languages, religious and cultures, devising a commonly shared values presupposes any political and economic interventions. The essence of a commonly shared value system is not only unites people as one country, but also becomes the source of strong institutional system that molds the economy and politics. Hence, the pillar of a national project of envisioning an economically strong and united Ethiopia shall be modeling commonly shared values by all Ethiopians.
Ethiopians can learn a lot from the shared value systems in major Western countries, which integrated those values to the foundations of their political and economic governance.
The task of constructing shared philosophy among Ethiopians requires the participation of the populace at large, with academics and/or scholars at the forefront. Political elites also have to understand the essence of a shared value system, without which molding the course of politics would be next to impossible.
The need for a mature leadership
The essence of leadership in all aspects of peoples’ lives (be it economic, political or social) is to reconcile competing or opposing interests. Leaders of different interest groups should be humble enough to shoulder this heavy responsibility.
What differentiates leaders from ordinary people is nothing but the virtues of the personalities. True leaders are not emotion driven. Leaders are those at the forefront capable of seeing the bigger picture, and in a way that best meet the strategic interests of their subjects. Leaders who focus on personal gains as opposed to the interest of the public would not be different from ordinary people.
Circumstantial evidences from the workings of today’s Ethiopia reveal that the country is in dire need of mature leadership. So, what is expected from our political leaders?
First of all, our political leaders have to find unshackle themselves from hatred, hostilities and vengeance; the three nemesis of Ethiopia’s politics. They should genuinely devise ways and mediums that widen the spectrum for peaceful political struggle, where all opposition groups are fairly treated to freely display their political agenda. Furthermore, the political, economic and bureaucratic governance should be reengineered with the ideals of democracy and Good Governance Government – the 3Gs – should be given due emphasis.
Ed.’s Note: Habtamu Girma is a lecturer at Jigjiga University, Department of Economics. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]yahoo.com
Contributed by Habtamu Girma