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Exercising caution

Exercising caution

First we would like to express our condolences on the death of two compatriots following a grenade attack during the massive rally held at Meskel Square on June 23 in the center of Addis Ababa to show appreciation and support for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD). We wish their families solace and a speedy recover for those who sustained injuries. Nothing can justify such a barbaric act. The police have launched a probe into the incident and are being assisted by the FBI. While we will not dwell at this point on how the investigation is unfolding nonetheless we would like to focus on the importance of exercising caution. The heinous attack gives rise to a raft of questions. Chief among is the obvious security breakdown. Is the breakdown attributable to intentional or negligent oversight? Or was scant attention was paid to ensuring that the event passed off without any incident? Much has been made about the fact that the body search carried out at the rally in which millions took part was perfunctory and that the podium on which the Prime Minister and other dignitaries were seated was too close to the rally goers. Had the premier and other participants been killed in the attack it would not be difficult to imagine that the consequences would have been horrific. This is precisely why it is of the essence to exercise caution.

It should have been par for the course to guard against an attack by elements that are opposed to the winds of change blowing in Ethiopia because it affects their interest or that paint themselves as supporters of the change but actually harbor an ulterior motive. Given that these elements stand to lose a lot they have no qualms about stoking ethnic and religious conflicts to derail the change underway and maintain the status quo that had existed for some 27 years now. It’s also within the realm of possibility that forces aware of security and intelligence lapses can take advantage of them to further an agenda that is not necessarily aligned with that of the general public. The hitherto lax attitude towards security needs to change. As such it is incumbent on the Prime Minister to reform his security team with a view to beef up its capacity and close off any loopholes. After all he cannot do an effective job while his security is not guaranteed.

The motive behind the attack and who masterminded it is bound to be identified following through the hopefully thorough investigation. Until then it is prudent that the Prime Minister go about his business mindful of security risks and the grave implications for the nation if God forbid harm were to befall him. While it would seem naive or ignorant to give such an advice a person who had served in senior positions both in the military and the intelligence apparatus it is not out of place to urge that prudence is a hallmark of the actions he takes. He has reiterated on several occasions that love shall triumph. But love can triumph insofar as caution is exercised. It would be unwise to let one’s emotion get the best of oneself as the information gleaned from the suspects under police custody and the public at large will no doubt be instrumental in terms of crafting precautionary measures. Citizens fiercely supportive of Prime Minister Abiy likewise need to resist the urge to be melodramatic or enamored with conspiracies and instead provide any information that may come in handy. Displaying histrionics and acting with haste only serve to push the change off track. Each and every action ought to be carefully thought out.

At this juncture it’s useful to examine the factors which necessitated the change. The decision to release tens of thousands of prisoners by dropping charges against suspects undergoing trial and pardoning convicts including inmates facing capital punishment as well as to draft a new amnesty law was prompted by the atrocious state of the legal system and the judiciary in Ethiopia. The law was used by the government as an instrument of suppression; justice up for sale to the highest bidder; institutions of democracy were emasculated. Led by Prime Minister Abiy the reformist camp within the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) that has taken the helm of the Front has taken a commendable step of turning the challenges confronting it into an opportunity as well as instituting the required thinking and legal framework with a sense of responsibility. The June 23 rally was an expression of an approval of this new beginning. It’s obligatory to proceed with caution in order to meet the high expectations of the public.

As the grenade attack was obviously intended to dampen the palpable air of public optimism the manner in which the investigation into the alleged perpetrators of the attack is conducted constitutes a test for the administration of Prime Minister Abiy. It has been common practice during the EPRDF’s rule for anyone who falls foul of the government to be excoriated by the state-owned media before being prosecuted, convicted and sentenced on flimsy charges. Amnesties that lacked proper legal justifications were also routinely bestowed en masse. These and similar other travesty of justice must never be repeated. This calls for the judiciary to be able to exercise the independence it enjoys under the constitution. As the premier has underscored over and over again delivering Ethiopia from this darkness and restoring it to its former glory is a task that be put off for tomorrow. Again this journey can take the country to greater heights if it is characterized by prudence and farsightedness, not rashness or irrationality.

As we have said time and again Ethiopia has squandered numerous opportunities due to precipitousness on the part of decision makers. Citizens must therefore steadily steer their leaders on to the path they want. Moreover, extra care has to be taken to ensure that the process of building a nation and a free society does not veer off course. The youth who rushed to save the Prime Minister as the attack unfolded did so without any regard for their lives because their beloved country needs them.  Tomorrow’s Ethiopia can be prosperous and democratic by  thwarting plots to sow ethnic, religious and political discords,  promoting unity, demonstrating in action love of nation, and upholding the rule of law. If this aspiration is to be realized it is imperative to exercise caution at all levels of government.