A raft of reforms has been undertaken since the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) officially took up its duties in April 2018. Some of the incidences that have taken place since then incidences are illustrative of the real state of affairs in Ethiopia and bring long-suppressed ignominies to light. It’s incumbent on all who feel they have a stake in the fate of the country to find cures for the numerous ills that have been exposed after many years of remaining hidden. It’s also vital to prevent centuries-old wounds from reopening and ultimately become fatally toxic. This calls for an effort to see to it that the sea change Ethiopia is undergoing takes root and proceeds apace with the participation of Ethiopians from every walk of life. There needs to be a broad consensus on how to manage the change so that some benefit from it while others are excluded. The key to all this is trust. Trust can be built through tolerance and a rigorous adherence to the principle of give-and-take. The tired politics of scheming and conniving cannot take anyone far. It has been shown to be futile time and again.
No one can forget that the past five decades of Ethiopian politics, which has been characterized by egregious dictatorship, has led to nothing but to the large-scale death, incarceration, displacement and destitution of citizens. The public resentment that has been building for years to the administration of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) demonstrates the depth of ordeal Ethiopians had to endure. The opposition that has been mounting ever since the EPRDF ascended to power almost three decades ago eventually gave birth to a reformist bloc within the EPRDF itself which succeeded in taking the reins of power and avert the specter of a state collapse. The popular support the bloc initially enjoyed is a testament to the prevalence of public discontent. Gradually though the perception towards the reform began to change due to the myriad of problems that arose and continue to arise across the country. Though a significant proportion of the population still backs the change, there abound folks who are suspicious of or flat out oppose it. The bloc who shrewdly took the reins of power, the ousted group and the forces biding their time to swoop into office exemplify this divided sentiment. The difference can only be bridged by creating the trust required to build a nation where equality and justice prevail through the attainment of the stated objectives of the change. Failure to do so is not an option for it is sure to result in a mutual demise.
At this juncture it’s imperative to dwell on the major factors impeding the forging of trust. First is the absence of a shared vision on Ethiopia’s unity and solidarity between its people. There still abound compatriots which blanch at the mention of Ethiopia and cooperation between its diverse populace. Astute politicians bear the responsibility of bringing them to their senses and inducing them to believe in a shared vision. In this regard it’s of the essence to exert the necessary effort to flush out the poisonous attitude they have been implanting for decades in the minds of impressionable sections of the public in order that the latter develop a strong sense of patriotism. Second is the proliferation of elements that care more about power than the nation. Motivated by the desire to grab power by whatever means necessary, they would not be bothered in the slightest if innocents die or the country is beset with turmoil to accomplish their goal. They and their ilk have to be put in their place before they deal an irreversible blow to the endeavors of well-meaning compatriots to rebuild trust. Third is the zero-sum game of individuals and groups who are clueless about the art of politics. These forces wax lyrical about democracy but don’t practice; they tend to bicker over the most trivial of issues instead of resolving differences through constructive dialogue; their default setting is bellicosity, hatred, vindictiveness and deviousness; and they lay bare each other’s dirty laundry the minute they have a falling out. Unless they are brought to heel immediately, they are bound to wreak havoc.
All stakeholders owe a solemn obligation to contribute their share to establish mutual trust. Aside from protecting the safety and security of citizens and defending the national interest the government is duty-bound to uphold law and order. The moment the rule of law begins to be strictly enforced illegality will decline significantly. If institutions of democracy are strengthened and legal reforms which embody the underlying principles and spirit of the ongoing change are introduced, if the public’s confidence in the independence of the courts is restored, if the blurred line between the government and the ruling party is clearly delineated, if the security forces unequivocally demonstrate impartiality, if malpractices opening the door to discrimination and disenfranchisement are eliminated, and if ideas are able to freely flow then citizens will start discharging the duties that correspond to the rights they demand. When forces which think that they are untouchable or are intent on instigating lawlessness are put in their place in a manner respecting their due process rights a durable trust can be built between the people and the government. As this trust deepens through the deliberate actions of political parties, civil society organizations and individuals held in high regard engaging in a civilized discourse will become a norm.
Ethiopia’s future can be secured if and when its children agree on the ground rules. The series of measures Prime Minister Abiy has taken from the time he came to office have shown the futility of the animosity and infighting that for long has been the hallmark of Ethiopian politics. Tens of thousands of prisoners were released from jails they had been languishing; Eritrea-based insurgencies with no notable victory on the battlefield as well as politicians and activists ensconced in North America and Europe safely returned home following the premier’s assurances. The opportunities Ethiopia spurned due to the marginalization and suffering of the compatriots who were incarcerated in prison and forced to flee overseas in droves have cost it dear. The atrocities they endured must never be repeated. It’s not too late to make amends by building the trust essential for the success of the change underway and the founding of a democratic order. Peace, democracy and prosperity are critically important for Ethiopia because its people deserve freedom, justice and equality. If the aspiration of the masses is to be fulfilled there is no choice but to build trust between them and the government. There can be no shared journey together without trust!