Obsolete attitudes have always held Ethiopia back. Despite developing one of the earliest civilizations thousands of years ago, nowadays the country lags far behind most other nations in terms of keeping pace with modern-day advances. Though education is the key that unlocks the door of civilization, in Ethiopia it’s turning into a source of division due to political grievances dating back centuries. While the administration of education ought to be free from partisan politics, sadly it has become a casualty of the country’s childish politics. At a time when a nation like Ethiopia has no choice but to leverage rapid technological advancements for the benefit of its people, it’s disgraceful to be mired in perpetual discord. This week Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) paid a state visit to South Korea, a country held in high regard and is home to global industrial and tech giants. The sole African peacekeeping contingent to serve between 1951 and 1954 during the Korean War came from Ethiopia. A monument stands in South Korea in honor of the 6,037 troops deployed by Ethiopia who served with valor as part of the United Nations forces. Ethiopia’s was the only contingent that neither surrendered nor left their dead behind. Now though Ethiopia and South Korea are worlds apart. This shameful state of affairs should incense all Ethiopians.
Although Korea was a backwater before it was devastated by the war, it did not take long for the newly formed South Korea to emerge from the ashes of the war and achieve growth that has been nothing short of spectacular. South Koreans always try to do whatever they can for Ethiopia and Ethiopians out of a belief that they owe the nation and its people an eternal debt of gratitude. How about us? What are we doing to help ourselves? As we think of the assistance South Korea has provided to Ethiopia it’s incumbent on us to engage in a serious introspection. We need to be mindful of the sacrifices paid by our ancestors to defend Ethiopia from aggressors and expansionists in our endeavor to defeat poverty rather than bicker over trivial matters. We put issues requiring urgent action on the backburner while the vast majority of Ethiopians are living in abject poverty and misery; we treat those who hold a different view as sworn enemies instead of settling our differences in a civilized manner; and we do our a country a disservice by refusing to give up backward attitudes even as much of the rest of the world continues to outpace on all fronts. Though the premier’s visit to South Korea prompted us to dwell on that country, Ethiopia still has a long way to go in comparison with Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti and other nearby African states. It has become shamefully apparent that the current crop of political leaders and agenda setters are incapable of bequeathing a legacy to future generations leave alone set an example to children and the youth.
The people of Ethiopia have a long and proud history of living in harmony both through good times and bad times. It’s immoral to divide a people possessing such a wealth of tradition over petty issues and make them the laughingstock of the world. It’s a crime to subject a people who have suffered no end to more of the same while Ethiopia can come to epitomize peace, democracy and prosperity. Politicians and would-be human rights advocates have to exercise caution in their day-to-day activities. Unless a roadmap on how to arrest the alarming situation presently prevailing in Ethiopia is charted before it deteriorates further, it will be nearly impossible to secure the country’s very survival let alone sustain the ongoing change. It’s truly amazing when forces that had failed terribly at governing Ethiopia, always cared more about consolidating their hold on to power than the nation’s fate, and toiled day and night to sow the seeds of turmoil now shed crocodile tears and hold themselves out as the defenders of the constitution and the particular brand of federalism it has instituted. Be that as it may it’s not too late for them to see the errors of their way and do right by a country and people they had wronged.
On the other hand, it’s frustrating when compatriots who were thought of as being bona fide democrats engage in inciting violence. Elements devoid of any agenda except to meddle in others people’s business and wreak havoc are proliferating up and down the country. Some of them can beat a hasty retreat if something bad happens as they happen to hold the passports of other countries. These elements, which abhor the very mention of Ethiopianism, are bent on fomenting internecine conflicts by inflaming ethnic, religious, cultural and ideological differences among a people who have co-existed harmoniously for eons. Even though they know well that Ethiopia preserved its unity thanks to the sacrifices of its sons and daughters, they have no qualms about peddling false narratives and vitriolic narrative with intent to instigate instability. These unhinged characters cannot steer Ethiopia on the road to modernity for they have no inkling what it means. Given Ethiopia presently finds itself at a critical juncture in its history, it’s high time to undertake a frank dialogue on the pressing task moving forward— assuring the survival of Ethiopia and its citizens. This demands a concerted effort on the part of all Ethiopians who feel they have a shared destiny to safeguard national unity.
Ethiopia is a country beset with a bevy of difficult challenges. It’s imperative to produce solutions fit for the times if these seemingly intractable problems are to be tackled effectively. Wasting time on things which do not contribute to assuring the prevalence of peace, democracy, justice and prosperity begets nothing but criticism and loss of credibility. On the contrary, endeavoring to resolve differences through dialogue and a spirit of brotherliness not only earns one respect and trust, but is also a hallmark of modernity. Saying “this matter is non-negotiable” the moment a contentious issue arises is political grandstanding, pure and simple. The only thing that can never be put up for negotiation is the sovereignty of a nation. Anything else can be put on the negotiating table. The art of negotiation is an indispensable skill for politicians worth their salt. Accomplished businesspersons owe their success to the fact that they are adept at negotiation. In commerce nothing can be accomplished without negotiation. And in politics failure to reach a compromise through negotiation is sure to precipitate a conflict. The only way a political order anchored in the rule of law can take shape in Ethiopia is to open up the democratic space through a process of give-and-take. It’s then that the country can rid itself of poverty and backwardness. That is precisely why no one should be allowed to gamble with the lives of Ethiopians.