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Breaking the cycle of violence!

Breaking the cycle of violence!

The alarming frequency with which intercommunal conflicts are occurring all over Ethiopia is perhaps the single greatest threat to the continued existence of the country as a functioning polity. Hundreds of innocent citizens including children and the elderly have died and are needlessly dying in areas where law and order have broken down. The latest bout of violence has even led to the death of law enforcement personnel. Moreover, some one-and-a-half million people have been forced to flee from their homes making Ethiopia the country with the highest number of conflict-driven internally displaced persons. The eruption of a slew of conflicts even as several communities ravaged by earlier violence are struggling to recover is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. Unless the cycle of violence besetting the nation is broken immediately it’s bound to exact a heavy toll.

Protecting the safety and security of the public as well as to defending the sovereignty of the nation is primarily the responsibility of a government. However, the government cannot succeed in discharging this duty without the meaningful participation of each and every stakeholder; they owe a positive obligation in contributing their share towards this end. This said it’s incumbent on the government to ensure that all the structures under its control are duly carrying out the tasks entrusted to them. The failure, in particular, of the lower echelons of the bureaucracy and law enforcement agencies, to do their jobs has enabled criminal elements to run riot and pose a grave security hazard. The public has the right to know why the local administrative and security organs in the areas which had never experienced internecine strife were unable to protect the defenceless citizens they were supposed to. If active steps are not taken to restore peace and stability the consequences will be too horrible to imagine.

The government must go beyond issuing statements condemning attacks and take the necessary measures to uphold the rule of law. Accordingly, the culprits culpable of crimes endangering the welfare of the public and national security must be brought to justice and receive the appropriate punishment without delay. This is precisely what the public is demanding in peaceful protests in various regions. If the state does not live up to its obligation to guarantee the safety and security of ordinary citizens deadlier conflicts are likely to ensue. There is no denying that different sections of the society need to play an active role in supporting the government nip conflicts in the bud. Religious organizations, political parties, educational institutions, civic and professional associations, elders, the youth, women, etc. must all strive to identify the root causes of the conflicts besetting Ethiopia. Questions as to who are the individuals responsible and their motive have to be answered unequivocally. Otherwise, the future will be bleak for the country and its people.

A news item that emerged early this week from a meeting organized by the Revenues Ministry on contraband trade in the southern town of Hawassa has to say the least astonished many. Numerous participants asserted that the conflicts flaring throughout Ethiopia are fueled by networks of smugglers whose interest has been dealt a blow in one way or another by ongoing reforms. They pointed out that the individuals involved in illicit trade are inciting violence with the aim of distracting the government’s attention away from them. The participants asked why the relevant authorities were loath to take action against the contrabandists whose identity they say is not a secret. They further argued that if these elements are denied breathing space the violence racking the country could be halted in its track. The government ought to explain what actions it has taken or is contemplating in view of this and similar other information it has been provided with. There is nothing more urgent than averting the ominous threat to the lives of innocent compatriots. The public undoubtedly stands with the government in this matter. The announcement by the Federal Attorney General that it has finalized preparations to prosecute the alleged perpetrators of violence is timely. Time will tell what comes of it.

Although a nation undergoing a political transition is apt to face a myriad of complex challenges, no problem is insurmountable if the public is empowered to participate in the efforts to overcome them. The government can put a stop to the soaring level of violence by empowering the above-stated segments of society and utilizing the services of seasoned professionals and stakeholders. It’s nowhere near good enough to issue stern warnings to forces bent on sowing divisions and turn the country into a warzone; they have to face the music in the shortest possible time. Moreover, elements within both federal and regional government structures and the security infrastructure peddling agendas contrary to the public interest need to be brought to heel. Given that the seemingly incessant outbreak of violence makes it not only impossible to properly govern, but also robs it of public trust it is of the essence to act urgently and at the same time in a manner respecting due process. Ethiopians always yearn for peace, democracy and prosperity. Anyone who tries to thwart this aspiration is sure to incur their wrath. As the entity whose principal mandate is to afford both physical and legal protection to the people of Ethiopia the must do whatever is in its power to break the cycle of violence the nation is mired in.