Though pretty much that can be said about peace has been said ever since Ethiopia has been in the throes of political turmoil over the past three years, words have not been suited to action to date. Religious leaders, elders, intellectuals, politicians, civic organizations and other sections of society have sung the praises of peace at every opportunity they got. Now, however, it’s become clear that the source of the problem lies with elements fixated on taking a shortcut to power, not the public. Indifferent to the dignity and security of fellow citizens these elements have amply demonstrated that they have no qualms about destabilizing the country to take the reins of power they salivate for. Squarely at odds with the notion that derived from the will of the people power is a means to lay the groundwork for the process of democratization, their criminal actions instigate political unrest. Meanwhile, compatriots sermonizing about peace have lacked the courage to bring the malefactors to heel by naming and shaming them and confined themselves to voicing platitudes. Everyone knows though that things cannot go on like this. Important as it may be to preach peace, it cannot supplant action.
Attempting to explain to Ethiopians about the multi-faceted benefits of peace for the development and prosperity of their beloved nation is akin to singing to the choir. Even though a raft of promising initiatives have been taken since the administration of Prime Minister AbiyAhmed (PhD) officially commenced duties on April 2, 2018, a shocking number of people have been killed, subjected to physical and psychological drama, and displaced from their homes in a spate of internecine conflicts that erupted in different parts of the country. In spite of frequent calls for peace by the premiere and numerous public figures, merchants of violence have left no stone unturned to sow discord with the aim of grabbing power on the back of the ensuing conflict. Apparently the calls fell on deaf ears.
Sports arenas, universities and other places where people congregate are increasingly becoming venues for deadly clashes as they are singled out by rabble rousers to cause trouble. Moreover, in many areas administrative and security structures are not doing their jobs properly as though the government has abdicated its law enforcement duties. When the rule of law is not upheld lawlessness is bound to prevail. Coupled with the government’s failure to protect the safety and security of citizens the ascendancy of criminals is engendering an alarming crisis presenting elements harboring an evil agenda with an opportunity to exacerbate it further. If the federal and regional state governments do not coordinate law enforcement endeavors it’s going to be extremely difficult to put a halt to the escalating crisis let alone steer Ethiopia on the path to democracy. Therefore, it’s incumbent on the government to explore every legal avenue to protect the rights of the populace; it must not forget for a single moment that it owes the duty of enforcing the law in abidance with due process to thwart any tendency to fuel anarchy. The government must not sit idle while Ethiopians are unable to exercise their basic liberties. Its conspicuous inaction in the face of the incitement of the youth to bloodshed through emotive rhetoric by belligerent elements bent on stoking violence for the express purposed of assuming power in an unconstitutional manner is entirely unacceptable. There is a limit to everything. Talking about peace without backing it up with action is a waste of breath and frankly sends the wrong signal.
The intervention of Gamo elders in September 2018 to avert violence by youth groups in southern Ethiopia was universally honored because they took tangible measures that did not stop at expressing hollow words. And the youth were also praised for heeding the earnest imploration of the elders because they demonstrated that they valued peace. While the wisdom of the Gamo elders should be emulated to stop the conflicts raging in hot spots across the nation, the merchants of death are fomenting unrest. It’s an open secret that these forces are led and directed from behind the scenes by political puppeteers which, despite preaching about peace, are intent on snatching power via a short cut. Had the example set by the Gamo elders and youth been taken to heart, stadiums and universities would not have been racked by violence. Ethiopians need to acknowledge collectively that as a nation we still have far to go in terms of doing what we preach when it comes to peace.
Peace cannot come about through wishful thinking alone; it requires a vigorous upholding of the rule of law. The adage “Might tames what the law cannot” may ring true sometimes. This said both the government and political party leaders ought to accord priority to enforcing the rule of law given the unintended detrimental consequences that may stem from using force. Although a country undergoing a political transition inevitably faces a raft of grim challenges, its government must not coddle the perpetrators of the needless death and displacement of innocent compatriots. After all, its prime responsibility is to protect the wellbeing of its citizens. On their part religious leaders, elders, intellectuals and other stakeholders have to engage proactively with the public in exposing and denouncing the individuals responsible for the break down in law and order in restive regions. They also bear a moral duty to pound into the youth and other segments of society the vital importance of peace for the very survival of Ethiopia. If they are to be credible and effective in getting across their message it’s imperative that they remain above partisan politics and refrain from peddling divisive rhetoric. On the other hand forces consumed with usurping power are better advised to desist from resorting to a tactic belonging to a bygone era and instead practice a brand of politics fit for the 21st century. In particular, those preening about their accomplishments even though they know that they rose to prominence thanks to the heavy sacrifices paid by the public should learn from history that vanity begets only disgrace, not honor. Peace is a foundational pillar for a stable, democratic and prosperous society. That is why any rhetoric advocating the need for peace must be backed up with action.