One of the manifestations of the dangers of the poor governance of a nation is the hand-wringing and running around like a headless chicken witnessed during emergencies. Some insist on seeking political solutions for challenges requiring legal remedies. When experts are invited to come up with workable solutions for knotty constitutional conundrums they resort to political grandstanding even though they could have used the opportunity to provide a constructive input. Moreover, instead of crafting a fitting response when natural or man-made disasters occur they hasten to exploit the situation to score political points. It is defenseless citizens who bear the brunt of such zero-sum politicking. Many have been killed, maimed and displaced on account of periodic internecine conflicts. To make matters worse the COVID-19 pandemics threatens to make the life of poverty they lead even more wretched. Meanwhile, politicians bent on gambling with the lives of the public to further their agenda try to milk the economic hardship and deaths caused by the outbreak for political gain. This is a typical example of an act flouting contemporary norms.
Over the past week the spread of COVID-19 in Ethiopia has accelerated at an alarming rate. The majority of confirmed cases are no longer imported; they are the result of community spread. Despite extensive sensitization efforts since the first reported case was reported on March 13, the complacency that has set in society is exacting a heavy toll on everyone. It’s become commonplace to see routine violations of physical distancing rules in, among others, restaurants, bars, gambling establishments, public transportation vehicles, places of worship and marketplaces. Chafing at these rules while the pandemic is burgeoning is an invitation to disaster. So is offering lame excuses or false narratives to justify non-compliance with other state-mandated restrictions and precautionary measures. Pointing fingers at someone else without first doing one’s part is not only hypocritical, but also not befitting the times.
Ethiopia needs to prioritize if it is to effectively tackle the plethora of challenges presently confronting it. This calls for adopting a systemic approach in terms of planning activities in order of priority, tracking progress and making adjustments as and when necessary. The success or failure of any nation or organization in attaining the goals it sets out to accomplish depends on the extent to which tasks are methodically executed and overcome impediments in the way. Ethiopia has been found woefully wanting in this regard. This is primarily attributable to the lack of importance attached to institution building. In fact it has been customary for successive governments to tear down institutions created by their predecessors instead of strengthening them. The present situation the country finds itself in traces its root to this legacy.
From senior party and government officials to civil society organizations leaders, titans of industry, intellectuals, researchers as well as the general public, each and every citizen ought to realize that the age-old problems afflicting Ethiopia cannot be solved without a paradigm shift. Nowadays conflicts which have been simmering for centuries have begun to rear their heads and are threatening to tear the country apart. A people who have managed to coexist harmoniously by setting aside their differences for the sake of the greater good are now right in the middle of a tug of war between implacably opposed forces. The tie that binds them is being unraveled through the divisive rhetoric peddled day in and day out even at a time the COVID-19 outbreak calls for greater unity. It’s reprehensible to perpetrate transgressions that in no way help the fight against the pandemic and may actually its humanitarian and economic toll.
Ethiopia has undergone a raft of political upheavals throughout its history, but more so in the past five decades. The 1970s generation, driven by the quest for social justice, toppled the monarchy in a revolution riding on the back of the popular slogan “land to the tiller”. Unfortunately, the revolution was hijacked by the military junta which, up on seizing power, proceeded to conduct a bloody civil war with various opposition groups. Seventeen years of insurgency later the junta was ousted only to be replaced by a liberator turned dictator that in turn was swept aside in a popular revolt after twenty-seven years in power. Forces uninterested in heeding the lessons of history that no empire or regime is permanent are working overtime to spread their discredited propaganda in a bid to engineer a comeback and foist themselves on the public. Sadly, elements following their playbook with an eye to taking the reins of power are aiding and abetting them. Oblivious to the uncomfortable truth that there is no place for outdated attitudes in this day and age, they are going down a path entailing unpleasant consequences for the country and its people.
Ethiopia is lurching from one corner to another like a boat buffeted by waves. The COVID-19 pandemic has dampened hopes of a better future whereby the transition currently underway would culminate in credible elections. Although it’s possible to keep the hope alive by navigating this difficult time prudently, the ongoing fracas among the political elite, most of whom are not interested in anything except waking the corridors of power, does not bode well. The pleas of responsible citizens urging them to engage in a civilized dialogue are falling on deaf ears even as habitual agitators go out of their way to stoke tensions over fabricated agendas for political consumption. The present generation can avoid a harsh judgement in the eyes of history insofar as it extricates the nation from the quagmire it is wallowing in. Unless it demonstrates in deeds that Ethiopia is above party politics and personal interest, individuals and groups with an axe to grind will continue to invoke the country’s name in vain and gamble with the lives of innocent people. Sooner than later these acts are bound to be eschewed for they represent an obsolete worldview.