It’s axiomatic that any decision a government makes must be informed by its obligation to safeguard the rights and interests its peopleas well as the honor and sovereignty of the nation.Decisions that are grounded in these considerations are by and large apt to be credible in the eyes of the public.Even inan event necessitating decisions to be made under difficult circumstances care should be taken to minimize the extent of the downsides. Such precaution may be exercised though only in a system where transparency and accountability prevail. If the executive branch of the government operates in an environment in which it is compelled by the public to provide satisfactory explanations as to the appropriateness and fairness of its decision and the legislature robustly flexes its oversight power there will be no place for capricious decisions. The absence of government transparency and accountability is one of the major factors behind the unfolding of testing challenges that had posed existential threats to Ethiopia. To make matters worse the government has abysmally failed to respond duly to the mounting grievances of the public. The situation has been exacerbated further by the fact that cooler heads have been eclipsed by hotheaded elements having no desire to engage in a civilized discourse.
In a welcome relief for a country which until a few months ago was in a political turmoil, steps that go some way towards forging national consensus are being taken. Tens of thousands of prisoners have been released even as the Prime Minister has been on a whirlwind tour across Ethiopia in which he held direct dialogues with different sections of the public. The dialogues are expected to feature opposition parties as well. All these moves and similar other measures that are believed to be in the works are harbingers of better times in terms of the broadening of the democratic space. If the government builds on the constructive actions it has undertaken Ethiopia’s future may be laid on a strong foundation. The occasional slip up that may occur in the meantime can be rectified through deliberations underpinned by open-minded for the sake of national consensus. Nevertheless, it’s important to watch out lest some of the decisions the government passes convey the wrong or unintended message. There is no mistaking the implications of dropping charges against or pardoning prisoners jailed on political grounds. However, freeing individuals indicted on corruption charges stokes confusion and suspicion. The job of dispelling both falls squarely on the shoulders of the government.
The public’s frustration with some of the decisions of the government primarily stem from the opacity characterizing the conduct of affairs of the latter. As we have said time and again citizens are not empowered to have a say in matters affecting them and the nation owing to the government’s exclusionary practices. This inevitably resulted in the total loss of public trust in the government and widespread discontent against it eventually prompting the outbreak of deadly protests. Consequently Ethiopia has been roiled by political unrest for the past three years. It is incumbent on the government to be mindful of contemporary realities at home and abroad as it takes a raft of measures that it hopes are instrumental in fostering national unity and consensus. That is why it is imperative that each and every decision it makes does not engender distrust and is grounded in reason.
As mentioned earlier several individuals accused of corruption were set free last week after the charges against them were withdrawn. Had the anti-corruption drive which netted the suspects been prosecuted with the meticulous preparation and sophistication it required, their arrest and trial would not have suffered from lack of transparency. If the Attorney General (AG) did not do its homework and hauled innocent suspects before court, it constitutes a gross dereliction of duty for which it ought to be held to account. The public should have been informed about the criteria used to justify the release of the suspects allegedly involved in grand and sophisticated corruption that cost the country billions. Does dropping the corruption charges imply that no one shall “speak ill of “the suspects or that nothing will be done to recover the stolen money? And isn’t it likely to signal that committing a crime does not entail consequences? If credible justifications are not proffered for this and similar other questions, the public is bound to speculate that the government withdrew the charges as part of its promised political reform, or as a result of intense pressure by the allies and families of the suspects, or because the charges were politically motivated and thereby flawed from the outset. Furthermore, it is liable to cause even persons serving prison terms for run-of-the-mill crimes to demand to be treated similarly and get a reprieve. That is why it is of the essence to think through the repercussions of one’s decisions so as to avert making the same mistake over and over. As the saying goes, “Measure ten times, cut once”.
Erring is not a problem in itself; after all it’s a doer who makes a mistake. The important thing is to draw lessons from the mistake and do the right thing next time. Although Ethiopia may e best with a plethora of challenges, none of them can prevent it from realizing its potential to soar to greater heights. The youth of the country, which account for some 70 percent of its more than 100 million people, may be nurtured into responsible citizens that fight for freedom, equality and social justice. The nation building process can give rise to a democratic country that is governed by the rule of law insofar as justice triumphs over injustice. Needless to say this requires the concerted effort of the general public and a government that grounds its decisions in reason as well as the national interest.