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Ethics and professionalism in law enforcement and our nation’s political turmoil

A sovereign and peaceful nation can easily be identified by its strong structure of security system, a combination of law enforcement, national intelligence and defense apparatus. If there is no law and order in a given nation, that particular country is said to be in a brink of collapse or failed state.

When a country is undergoing political transition from one government to another, it is very likely that corruption, crime and lawlessness openly manifest in most places. Surprisingly, one of the most prominent places of corruption is the law enforcement itself.

How many people have managed to get justice? Has there been an effective police investigation in regards to some of the reported cases where the lives of civilians was threatened by gangsters or when their properties were robbed by criminals? When a mob of ‘protesters’ broke into banks and rob an unknown amount of money at day light, where was the police? When a group of thugs killed innocent people in their homes, where was the police?

When evil people rape women in front of their family, what did the police do about it? When places of worship, churches and mosques were set on fire by criminal and irresponsible people, where was the police?

When factories and other economic entities were burnt down, where was the police? When public transport facilities were stoned, smashed and set on fire threatening passengers, where was the police? The cases are endless.

What we are witnessing nowadays in different parts of the country concerning mass displacement and conflict based on ethnicity is absolutely difficult to understand. I also do not understand why citizens constantly listen to hate speech, divisive and demonic languages and entertain those voices without second thought or go wild against their brothers and sisters, which, as a result, bring about a considerable loss of human lives and destruction of properties.

By so doing we are becoming vessels and instruments of our national enemies to execute their evil dreams and destructive agendas. When conflict and killing arose especially in Amhara, Oromia and Somali regional states, the intervention and duty of the law enforcement and defense forces both on local and federal levels in stabilizing the situation was unquestionably below their professional and ethical standard. They watched when one killed the other. They watched when homes and properties of citizens were set on fire.

When innocent people begged for protection to save their lives, police and defense personnel could not do anything about it. That is absolutely unacceptable. Killers, evil doers and trespassers must be brought to justice.

The negligence and corrupt attitude of the law enforcement can reasonably become a cause for breeding criminals everywhere. When criminals see police is not acting according to the law, they think there is no law in the country and when the law fails to bring law breakers to justice, and then the law becomes irrelevant. The rule of law is a pillar foundation for any government system anywhere in the world. Where there is no rule of law, there is little or no government because the very existence and life of that particular government is highly jeopardized.

Recently, we all know that the government has taken critical reforms within the defense, intelligence and law enforcement structures. Steps have been taken to introduce foundational reforms in these institutions in the hope to bring peace and stability in Ethiopia and across the region. If giant institutions, like the law enforcement, would become corruption free and maintain a high level of ethics and professionalism working day and night for the wellbeing and security of our beloved nation, then it is possible to see a stable, wealthy and vibrant Ethiopia in the near future.

The other possible risk is that as we all know our country is a seat of the African Union and many international organizations and quite often venue and platform for a number of international conferences and summits. One of the reasons they chose Ethiopia is because of its track record of strong security to guarantee their operation in the country. If they see that this quality is declining from time to time, they will always have a second thought of shifting to another country at least until such time situations are normalized. We don’t want to take this kind of risk as our country is the political capital of the continent.

The reform which the prime minister put in place about a year ago must be fully implemented without giving much time as our nation is experiencing one of the most frightening political destabilization in recent memory in the horn of Africa. This may send an alarming signal to other neighboring countries that regional conflict and conflagration is about to emerge sooner or later. In spite of the fact that we understand the tempo of protests and demonstrations has a tendency of declining in the near future, we should also bear in mind that it can cost us something significant standing as a nation.

The role of law enforcement has four major and unavoidable responsibilities. Those are enforcing law, preventing crime, responding to emergencies and providing support services. I really don’t know how the current political system can effectively control a dysfunctional, morally incompetent and ethnically biased establishment of law enforcement which is totally in conflict with the global policing philosophy and working principle.

Ethiopians should not live in fear. They have democratic and constitutional right to live peacefully in their own country. Somebody can neither grant nor rob them of their peace. It is God given. When their lives are in danger living in their homes as peaceful citizens, they deserve protection from their government. They have full right to send their children to school without hindrance or obstruction.

They deserve to go to work daily without anyone pausing threats on them. The responsibility and accountability of the government is to ensure and guarantee protection to the public which voted for it.

Failing to do that can potentially harm and drastically diminish the public confidence on their own government. The government should seriously deal with political businessmen who, from time to time, recklessly spark conflict and cause bloodshed in the country whose ultimate goal is to assume political power at the expense of the lives of our citizens.

Ed.’s Note: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter. The writer can be reached at [email protected]

Contributed by Zerihun T. Feleke