I was at a traffic light when a beggar who held a sign in Amharic approached my car and stuck out the sign so I can read it. It explained that he and his family are refugees from the Syrian war and have made the difficult journey by land and sea to Ethiopia and are now begging on the street. And it really took me aback. It was a moment of reminder how something that felt so distance, so far and I only saw as a news headline can have come knocking on my door. We sometimes feel like it is a great big world, but in reality, we are a lot more connected than we think.
I can only imagine what the journey out of Syria and into Ethiopia must have been like, but when it is a matter of survival, human beings are capable of so much. But what is the war about, when did it start? It seems that the Syrian as well as Yemeni civil war have been going on for years now and we cannot remember why they even began in the first place. I was reading more about these civil wars was reminded that the Syrian war has been going on since 2015 and the Yemeni one since 2011. The United Nations describes the situation as “the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster”, a clear indication that the situation is dire.
I recently read the letter written by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia regarding the Yemeni civil war where he calls for both parties to sit and work out their issues around a negotiating table rather than destroying the land both parties claim to love and care about. The message was indeed touching and I do not think that such a letter has been openly sent to both parties from a Head of State. This could be the Prime Minister’s way of implicitly showing interest in mediating a peace agreement, although the letter does not clearly indicate that or any effort he is willing to make other than simply express his disappointment at the state of affairs. Nonetheless, as it stands today, there is no end in sight for this war and this letter could perhaps be a reminder for peace talks or efforts to put pressure on the parties for a cease-fire.
These two wars have a lot in common, they are civil wars, they began with some sort of an “Arab Spring” type of movement and they have been extremely destructive. The price of war is not only going to be paid by those in Yemen and Syria, although they are the primary victims, but its impact is being felt around the globe. Seeing Syrian beggars on the street of Addis is just the beginning, trust me. In a way, the Prime Minister’s letter as high level and merry as it is, is in my view the beginning of a recognition of the impact of the war being felt. We cannot afford to be bystanders and watch simply because we are not in the same “geographic” place as those countries, we are bound to be affected by it and it is our duty to step up and play our role in bringing an end to the madness.
I am always amazed at how destructive greed is, and sadly in this world, it is easier to destroy then it is to build. I cannot imagine that the warring sides are unclear about the difficulties they will face in re-building their countries once they emerge as “victors” of the war. Victory is great, but at what cost?