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Averting a breakdown in law and order

Averting a breakdown in law and order

A country which is not a nation of laws is bound to be riven by conflict. This is particularly true when the country happens to be in the midst of a political transition. Nowadays the constant headlines about conflicts, death and destruction in different parts of Ethiopia are unsettling its people. At a time when tens of thousands languishing in prisons have been released, when citizens under the yoke of oppression are tasting freedom, when silenced voices are beginning to be rediscovered, when advocates for freedom and justice are seeing the rays of hope, and when acts threatening to wreak havoc have died down it’s saddening to witness in some quarters an inability to accommodate the change sweeping Ethiopia and resort to violence as a means to have one’s way. It’s irresponsible to turn a blind eye to ethnicized attacks that have calamitous ramifications for the country. It should be understood in no uncertain terms that sitting idle while neighborhood bullies undermine law and order as they please is akin to preparing ourselves to another bout of deadly unrest

The president of Oromia regional state, Lemma Megersa, once asked why Ethiopians can bear the burden of oppression but not of freedom. The point the president makes is important and ought to be impressed by responsible citizens on their communities. It’s appalling to hear of minor spats between individuals morph into ethnic conflicts that lead to killings and maiming. Even those who claim to support the love and forgiveness being espoused nowadays are guilty of fomenting hatred and inflaming the youth who look up to them unrest. The situation is exacerbated by the reluctance of the leadership and personnel of law enforcement agencies to take outlaws head on. How can law and order be upheld when law enforcement organs fail to do their jobs? Unless the pertinent government agencies and the public at large exert a concerted effort to nip this worrisome development in the bud it is apt to turn into full-blown crisis.

Ethiopia’s political culture is so toxic that the hatred, vindictiveness and power mongering characterizing it constitute a grave danger for the nation. Coupled with a tradition that values eating together more than working together, the caustic politics has been the source of an ordeal for the vast majority of the population. At a day and age when heroes toiling day and night for their country are murdered in broad daylight, when revenge attacks are carried out against a group perceived to be behind the killing where the official findings of the investigation underway have not been disclosed, and when cooler heads are unable to urge caution, it goes without saying that the consequences will be dire for everyone unless the rule of law is firmly upheld. History teaches us that victors shape a dominant narrative in which losers have no say. If the latter are not to feel aggrieved and have their voice heard they must be made to feel that their views matter. Needless to say this calls for the prevalence of democracy and justice prevail which in turn requires an uncompromising defense of law and order.

Upholding law and order guarantees the unfettered exercise of the rights and liberties of citizens. Fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution including, among others, freedom of expression and thought, the right to assembly and demonstration, freedom of association, freedom of movement and the right to life, liberty and the security of person need to be accorded legal protection. It’s nothing new for Ethiopians to suffer from killings, pillaging, displacement and migration despite trusting in the rule of law. The death of hundreds and the displacement of millions in recent incidents suffice to illustrate the dangers of a breakdown in law and order.

The far-sighted people of Ethiopia are taking stock of things. They urge peace and stability at every chance they get. The very survival of Ethiopia cannot be imagined without peace leave alone the growth and prosperity of its populace. Generations of Ethiopians have managed for centuries to hand over the baton to their successors primarily because they were able to coexist in harmony and forge a strong bond in spite of ethnic, religious and ideological diversity. Any and all attempt by criminal elements to undermine these laudable values needs to be resolutely fought. And anyone who assassinates fellow countrymen with impunity or shields him from prosecution need to face the music. Failure to bring to justice individuals and groups that had perpetrated heinous crimes is to blame partly for the unabated blood-letting of innocent compatriots. How can we talk of rights and freedom where anarchy prevails? How can the rule of law be respected when blatant acts of crime are hushed up? Law and order must be maintained.

The foremost responsibility of a government is to protect the safety and security of citizens. If law enforcement organs are found wanting in discharging their obligations in abidance with the law the ensuing outcome will inevitably be grim. It’s not in the interest of anyone to ignore crimes that pose a menace to the constitutional order when Ethiopia is undergoing a radical transformation which its people have pinned their hope on. The perpetrators of the grenade attack of June 23 at the rally in Addis Ababa, the murder of Engineer Simegnew Bekele, project manager of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, as well as other grave crimes have to face the full force of the law. As such it is incumbent on the government to immediately task its security apparatus with bringing to heel forces bent on inciting disunity and instability. If it fails to avert a breakdown in law and order anarchy Ethiopia’s future will be bleak!