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Bringing to justice perpetrators of egregious crimes!

Bringing to justice perpetrators of egregious crimes!

The horrendous events that transpired in eastern Ethiopia the previous weekend have grave political ramifications for the whole of Ethiopia. The mind-numbing killing, maiming and vandalizing of the properties of innocent compatriots in the Somali regional state constitute one of the darkest chapters in Ethiopia’s recent history. They have exposed the deep fissure within Ethiopian society in spite of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front’s (EPRDF) singing of the ethnic federalism the country has been following for over 25 years now. The egregious crimes committed against “settlers” reinforce this point. The blatant murdering of “settlers” as though they were invaders as well as the burning down of the churches they were taking refuge in have enraged and broken the hearts of Ethiopians. Citizens are bound to lose all hope if law enforcement agencies fail to come to their help when they are attacked by an organized force comprised of fellow Ethiopians. The fact that individuals making life miserable for the masses do so with impunity threatens to elicit a breakdown in law and order and as such must be swiftly brought to justice.

As in other acts of barbarity children, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and the disabled bore the brunt of the atrocities in Jigjiga and other cities in the Somali region. Hardworking folks, businesspersons and entrepreneurs relying on the government to afford them protection were victimized as well. Both the federal and Somali region governments are patently guilty of dereliction of duty in terms of protecting the rights of citizens to liberty of movement as well as the freedom to live, work and acquire property anywhere within Ethiopia’s territory. Aside from resulting in the slaying and injury of an unknown number of residents of the region, the savagery has psychologically traumatized countless people. Some ten individuals, three of them younger than seven, were also brutally killed in an incident in the eastern city of Dire Dawa over the weekend. The families and loved ones of the victims of such appalling crimes deserve to get justice.

The defence forces and federal police have been deployed to the Somali region to maintain law and order. At the same time though the architects and perpetrators of the egregious crimes on innocent civilians need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. The conspicuous oversight in holding to account elements responsible for the death of thousands and the displacement of millions is to partly blame for the occurrence of strife in different regions of the nation. People who have taken sanctuary in churches in fear of their lives require not only emergency assistance, but also justice. It’s wrong to justify inaction against the perpetrators of grave abuses on the exigency of restoring stability and rebuilding efforts. Moreover, irregular security forces and support structures established by regional must be dismantled with immediate effect. These entities, which operate in parallel with regularly constituted law enforcement organs despite lacking a lawful mandate, are banes to society and the country. Going by the moniker “special forces” they are primarily responsible for undermining the rule of law.

Nowadays the forces arrayed on different sides of the political spectrum do not seem to have the national interest at heart. Given that once things go awry it’ practically impossible to rectify them it is imperative to break posthaste the vicious cycle Ethiopia is mired in. What’s the use of rights activists if they do not contribute their share in steering the change underway on the right path?  Officials at all levels of government bear a solemn responsibility of upholding the rule of law while discharging their duties. Political leaders and security chiefs who turn a blind eye to senseless violence need to ask themselves some fundamental questions however uncomfortable they may be. Ethiopia’s unity may be anchored in a solid foundation insofar as the different branches of government operate within the bounds of their respective mandate and in abidance with the principle of checks and balances. Mindful of the saying, “It’s easy to destroy but hard to build” no time ought to be wasted in empowering the youth to play an active role in strengthening national unity and peace. Ethnic conflicts can easily destroy Ethiopia if its people are found wanting in taking on resolutely the difficult task of managing peacefully the myriad of competing interests in their beloved nation.

The conflicts that have erupted in various parts of Ethiopia are not interethnic by nature. Different ethnic groups have co-existed harmoniously for centuries and in fact have provided sanctuary to each other in times of trouble. The political unrests that have roiled Ethiopia are by and large attributable to political elites. The same is true for the present day. Loath to step down once they assume the reins of power most political leaders wash their hands with the blood of the innocent while claiming to stand on the side of the people. They have no compunction about inciting internecine feuds in order not to lose the perks of power. And they inflame hot-headed sections of the public to unleash killings, looting and displacement. The culture of unaccountability that emboldens them to carry out such monstrosities has to be eradicated so that they and their cohorts face the music. The rule of law should never be sacrificed on the altar of political expedience.  

The foremost obligation of a government is to guarantee the security of citizens. Many compatriots have not enjoyed such protection owing to the federal government’s reluctance to intervene and arrest deteriorating security conditions until the administration of the affected regional state gives its consent. The outrage provoked by the atrocities committed in the Somali region and the gut-wrenching pleas of the victims has created a sense of insecurity within the public. How can the principle of equality before the law be enforced if individuals that incite or commit violence are not held answerable? No public official guilty of breaking the law ought to be immune from prosecution. Elements which had thrived in an atmosphere of impunity and opacity have to be reined in. The rule of law should triumph over lawlessness. Bring to justice the perpetrators of egregious crimes!