Home to 100 million-plus citizens who have diverse interests present-day Ethiopia finds itself in a moment where it has no choice but to make greater strides in the political, economic and social spheres. Everyone who feels they have a stake in the fate of the country must fully support such an endeavor. Ethiopia may enjoy durable peace, sustained growth and generally a bright future to the extent that each and every citizen contributes his share. Ethiopians need to know that they shoulder grave responsibilities when they demand their rights and that the interest of the nation always comes before the interest of individuals or groups. Given that a country gains nothing but suffering out of hatred, vindictiveness, self-centeredness, wickedness, and apathy it is imperative to reject them in any of their forms. Just as governments come and go so do generations. But nations do not. That is why it’s obligatory to pay whatever sacrifice is necessary to preserve the very survival of a country. This requires a steadfast stand on critical national issues.
In the backdrop of the frequent violence that has been racking it for some time what Ethiopia needs now first and foremost is peace. Needless to say peace can be attained insofar as all Ethiopians demonstrate in deeds that they cherish it. If some toil day and night to bring about peace while others fan the flames of conflict it is akin to scooping up water with a sieve. Ethiopia’s political environment cannot yield peace and democracy unless all political forces eschew intolerance and extremism. The kind of politics that has been practiced in Ethiopia over the past fifty years has only engendered death, destruction and misery. Supplanting this embarrassing and old-fashioned brand of politics with the contemporary way of pursuing political objectives is instrumental in guaranteeing peace—a fundamental prerequisite in building a democratic system through free, fair and credible elections. Such system lays the ground work for the prevalence of freedom, equality and justice; it also nips dictatorial tendencies in the bud and ensures respect for basic liberties.
The Ethiopian economy is another area meriting utmost priority.This calls for the introduction or ramping up of a raft of policy and strategic reforms aimed at effecting a structural transformation and resuscitating the flagging economy. Naturally, it’s of the essence to bring on board all stakeholders if this process is to bear fruit. In particular professionals with the requisite skill sets have to have a significant say in leading the process without the undue interference of political leaders. Breathing a new life into the agriculture, services, manufacturing, mining and tourism sectors would have such dividends as boosting foreign exchange earnings and thereby reduce the trade imbalance, enhancing import substitution and creating ample job opportunities for the vast number of unemployed youth. It should be underscored here that the economic growth Ethiopia has been registering for over a decade must trickle down to the entire population. A situation where a few get insanely rich while millions stay hopelessly mired in poverty can no longer be tolerated. If the conditions ensuring that people are able to equitably share the national cake to the extent their contribution permits are not put in place, the ensuing social upheaval is bound to exact a heavy toll. In view of this specter, therefore, it is incumbent on the entire populace to see to it that Ethiopia becomes the epitome of peace and stability.
The business community plays an important role in peace building. It can succeed in this role though as far as it discharges this responsibility sensibly. The loans and foreign currency banks avail to it to finance its activities are largely mobilized from millions of hardworking depositors. Land, another critical input for their operation, by law belongs to the people. If the business community neglects its social responsibility and focuses on profit maximization alone, it will end up being a liability not only for the nation but itself as well. Although no one denies that it is entitled to make a healthy profit, it has to realize that engaging in monopolistic practices like price gouging, especially in terms of basic necessities, are unethical and are liable to provoke a public backlash. A system where a select few get fabulously wealthy even as the masses go hungry is doomed to fail sooner or later.
The decisive moment in its history that Ethiopia currently finds itself in demands a good deal of national soul-searching. When this exercise is constructive and informed by the national interest a culture of mutual tolerance and respect will develop, paving the way for a productive dialogue on issues of common interest. Ethiopia has squandered a plethora of golden opportunities owing to the inability to conduct a civilized discourse. If these opportunities had been seized with both hands, death, suffering, incarceration and displacement would not have been the lot of countless Ethiopians; the rule of law would have triumphed over dictatorship; citizens would not have been subjected to egregious rights violations; and a handful of hangers-on associated with corrupt government officials would not have turned into multi-millionaires overnight while millions of diligent folks got poorer by the day. Despite the challenges in the way it’s possible to atone for the errors of the past and make Ethiopia a bastion of peace, freedom, democracy and prosperity. The only path to attaining this goal though is the recommitment by all Ethiopians to a peaceful political engagement that while accommodative of differences fosters unity. That is why it is vitally important to accord priority to critical national issues.