The worst of the plethora of diseases that has been afflicting Ethiopia’s political culture for decades now is the unwillingness to listen to each other. The country and its people have endured untold suffering due to the failure of the actors on the political arena to subscribe to the principle that the beginning of political wisdom is to hear each other out. Countless Ethiopians have been killed, incarcerated, tortured and displaced because of the vicious circle of intolerance and hatred. In the past few months though the winds of change seem to be blowing. One of the issues Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) emphasized in response to questions put to him by parliamentarians this Monday was that Ethiopian politics needed to be rid of hatred and vengeance. He also underscored that the political space ought to be anchored in the interest of the nation and be imbued with a spirit of forgiveness. Furthermore, he urged against assuming power by killing the leader in office and holding on to power by torturing opponents. From families to government leaders all of us need to listen to each other. The times we are in require a display of tolerance and the desire to listen to what each of us has to say. They certainly have no place for a narrative laced with animosity and vindictiveness.
As we always say the people of Ethiopia a long-running culture of holding lively conversations on familial to national matters. They have coexisted harmoniously for centuries thanks in large part to their tradition of not letting ethnic, religious, political and other differences keep them from engaging in constructive dialogues and the free exchange of ideas. And they continue to enjoy the love, peace and solidarity they have lived with. So there is nothing that prevents them from talking and listening to each other. However, pseudo-politicians and other elements bent on advancing their agenda are inciting violence, which has led to the death of innocent citizens, destruction of the nation’s resourcesand widespread instability. These characters should know well that there is nothing Ethiopians will not do for their country and that if they choose to be wedded to the bankrupt ideology they are peddling it only serves to hasten their demise.
Irrespective of whether they are based locally or overseas politicians of all stripes must first guard against hot-bloodedness and rashness. They should always keep in mind that beating the drums of violence or trying to settle political scores at the expense of the long-term interest of the country have no use but stymie the change under way. Politics should be a pursuit that aims at accommodating peacefully competing interests rather than achieving anointing oneself king by intimidating or obliterating rivals. There abound communities that claim they were victims of injustice in the past. Setting out to “avenge” these injustices with unjust measures while it is possible to make amends for them through civilized discourse is no better than the acts of injustices themselves. The public’s heartfelt support for Prime Minister Abiy’s call for an end to a rhetoric driven by hatred and revenge emanates from a genuine belief that it is bound to result in a lose-lose situation for all. If politicians are to play properly the role of addressing the needs of the public they are well-advised to heed what it has to say.
There is a saying that goes, “Wise men learn from the experience of others, but fools will not learn even from their own.” The consequences for Ethiopia and its people of the choices we have made thus farare all too apparent. It’s high time to leave behind archaic attitudes and lay the foundation for the unencumbered exercise of freedom thought and expression. This is not an obligation that the government alone shoulders though. Each and every citizen as well as institution must uphold this fundamental right. In particular it is incumbent on politicians to exacerbate the damage inflicted at the hands of the government by abandoning the propensity to label as enemies anyone who evinces views contrary to theirs or adopts the middle ground. Even compatriots who were recently released after having to go through the ordeal of unjust incarcerationhave not been spared from such categorization. Such alarming and primitive practice should be stamped out from Ethiopia. Only listening to each other will do.
Ethiopia is endowed with resources that are enough to go around for all its children. Unfortunately, its citizens continue to flee overseas in droves. The government owes the duty of providing security guarantees and economic opportunities with a view to bring back home immigrants who fled their beloved country because of political persecution or in search of a better life. As hopes of a broader political space and the opportunity to have a fair shot at benefitting from the nation’s development grow it is imperative that Ethiopians from all walks of life join hands so that the hopes turn into reality. Anyone who has an ulterior motive in opposing calls for unity, the misappropriation of public funds or an end to pseudo-populism does not have Ethiopia’s interest at heart. Neither do forces bent on exploiting disagreements over the administrative boundaries of regional states or dredging up inequities that occurred centuries ago to inflame ethnic tensions. What is needed now is a unifying agenda which Ethiopians can rally around. Needless to say this requires a culture of mutual respect and engaging in frank deliberations on issues of national significance.
Ethiopians may survive as a nation and go on to greater heights when they live in unity, love and solidarity. As the premier said Ethiopians are held in high esteem when they stand united and disrespected when they bicker. Unity does not preclude diversity. Rejecting diversity is the prelude to using force and other undemocratic means to resolve differences. A market place of democracy can take root in a nation where its people can talk and listen to each other. Insisting that one has a monopoly on the truth and that all others are wrong is not only a manifestation of a mindset stuck in the past, but also quintessentially undemocratic. Regardless of how much we detest an idea it needs to be given a platform wherein it can be voiced without fear of reprisal. Curbing freedom of thought and expression is a recipe for suffering. Let’s listen to each other!