In the turbulent week that we have just gone through in the country, it feels wrong to write about any other topic. Being in Addis Ababa can sometimes make one feel sheltered from the happenings of other parts of the country. But this week, Addis Ababa was not isolated and it was clear for all to see a small fraction of what has been happening in other parts of the country.
So, as a way of trying to process the happenings of this week, I will be reflecting on the important topic of rule of law. In its simplest definition, the rule of law refers to a government’s duty to set a fair, transparent set of rules to govern and restricting it from any arbitrary exercise of power. This is a fundamental principle that lays the foundation for the governors and the governed to establish what political scientist refer to as the “social contract”. My aim is not to discuss theories rather to show that human nature, no matter where we are, have a similarity in understanding that there is a certain level of understanding and transparency between those who have been assigned to lead and those who are under their leadership. But it does not stop there, it also provides for rules of engagement between the people themselves as they live their daily lives, an equally important written or unwritten rule. All of this is established on main thing: trust! Trust between leaders and their people and among the people themselves. In these situations discontent is to be expected, whether by actions of the governors or the governed. That too has ways through which it should be voiced.
Although what I have described above is in no way new to any of us, it seems to have been forgotten or taken for granted. Our right to express ourselves should be respected and celebrated. Protests are currently on-going in many streets of the world, from Chile and Peru to Lebanon and Sudan. Millions are going out in strong numbers to show their discontent with government measures, policies and actions etc... Yet, they were organized in a peaceful manner, regardless of how long they last. Their aims are to communicate their discontent and show their leverage, in a peaceful manner, so as to get a reaction from the government on the issues.
However what has happened in Ethiopia during this week is anything but a peaceful protest. Violent mobs attacking religious institutions, peaceful citizens and spreading fear and terror in neighborhoods completely discredits the point behind the protest. Regardless of one’s opinions on the protest, none of us should condone the violent attacks, lives lost and properties damaged because of it. It is absolutely counterproductive and works against the very reason behind the protests.
The impact of having violent incidents each time any form of discontent comes along is not only destructive to those directly affected by it, but has long term consequences that will take our society and economy years to recover. It erodes the trust and the social understanding of living together, trading with each other and with others. Due to circumstances many would have to pick up the pieces and move on, but we all know that a trust, once eroded, will not be re-established so easily. Someone somewhere will have to take responsibility and accountability for lives lost, the properties damaged and much more. This step of accountability is not only necessary for the process of healing and beginning the long journey to re-establishing trust, it is mandatory to put an end to such violent practices.
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, perhaps we should all take a moment to reflect on that.