Ethiopia’s very survival is always uppermost in the minds of Ethiopians. The nation’s survival may be laid on a solid foundation insofar as the shared interests and needs of the people enjoy equal protection. In this day and age attempting to ram one’s interest down somebody’s throat or to create the hegemony of a single class is wholly unacceptable. Instead cherishing diversity and working tirelessly on issues that help forge greater unity ought to be the paramount agenda of the day. Telling Ethiopians that they managed to maintain the unity of the country through respect for differences while showing a willingness to reach a consensus on matters affecting their common destiny is akin to preaching to the choir. Ethiopia is on the up and up, albeit slowly. However difficult and frustrating the journey may be, its pace is bound to pick up. The critical juncture Ethiopia presently finds itself in its history demand that its citizens stop wasting time and resources on trivial affairs and attach importance to key national issues. Every Ethiopian who claims to love his country has to contribute his share.
Foremost among vital national issues are peace, democracy and development. Peace and democracy are fundamental prerequisites in ensuring Ethiopia’s continued survival as a viable polity. If these ideals are to be realized it is crucial to protect the basic liberties of citizens and faithfully uphold the rule of law. Ethiopians do not aspire for peace and democracy and democracy alone though. They also desire and indeed deserve to lead a prosperous life. Rather than trotting out figures that do not paint a true picture of the growth of the economy it’s of the essence that the growth leads to tangible results in terms of human and material development. Such fair development can see the light of day with the introduction of the required policy reforms as well as the inclusive participation of professionals in the field. Generally speaking peace, democracy and development can become a reality when institutions of democracy are strengthened and intellectuals go beyond bickering on inconsequential topics and hold discourses on vital national issues.
The people of Ethiopia have for generations suffered from famine, destitution and large-scale displacement despite the fact that their country possesses vast arable lands, considerable minerals and other natural resources and tourist attractions. And they have endured harsh oppression at the hand of rulers. Nonetheless they have defended their beloved nation against aggressors and expansionists achieving victories which inspired the anti-colonial struggle of black people. This is proof that they can do wonders if they are governed properly. Unfortunately, whenever the nation transitions from one political order to another, vital national issues are drowned out by squabbles over petty subjects. Instead of deliberating calmly on how to bolster national unity founded on multi-culturalism it is commonplace to see conflicts driven by differences in interpretations of emotive historical events. Such squandering of opportunities that rarely come along is not in the interest of Ethiopia and Ethiopians.
The unity of a nation can be guaranteed when its citizens arrive at a common understanding on the imperative to put the nation above partisan politics and to respect each other’s rights, freedoms and differences.
Inasmuch as doing a certain thing the wrong way over and over again cannot beget success, it’s pointless to pin one’s hopes on individuals or groups in the absence of any real effort to build institutions. Where sustainable peace prevails it’s possible, among other things, to create a stable political space assuring the enjoyment of justice and freedom, build a market economy and deliver quality education. There is no arguing that doing so would go a long way towards instituting a framework essential to improving the lot of Ethiopians on the political, economic and social spheres. The most pressing challenge ahead during the transition Ethiopia is presently undergoing is to launch initiatives aimed at improving the economic welfare of the youth. This includes financing youth employment schemes with revenues earned from spinning off wasteful government projects to the private sector. Unless the youth’s demand for change, which is largely driven by economic insecurities, is satisfactorily addressed, political instability will inevitably ensue. All stakeholders owe the obligation to do whatever is in their power to avert such a specter.
Though there is nothing wrong with the youth venting their frustration in street protests, they need platforms which raise their political consciousness. In particular forums that play a valuable role in terms of deepening peace, democracy and development are very much called for. As an uninformed and unorganized public lacks a proper grasp of its rights and duties, it is incited to violence relatively easily. Therefore, it is incumbent on intellectuals to instill the importance of peace, democracy and development at various town hall meetings and discussion fora. If these fundamental ideals are not held in high value, rashness will prevail over rationality. It goes without saying that irrationality destroys peace, derails the process of democratization and hinders the attainment of broad-based and inclusive development. Let’s attach importance to vital national issues instead of being at each other’s throats over trifling matters!