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Failing to learn from mistake: a recipe for becoming a laughing stock!

Failing to learn from mistake: a recipe for becoming a laughing stock!

The age-old adage “The wise learn from the mistakes of others, fools don’t learn from theirs” conveys a powerful message. No one is perfect. However, quote ad nauseam the saying “To err is human, to forgive s divine” to justify one’s failings is entirely indefensible. Mistakes exact a heavy toll when they are repeated time and again. In this unforgiving era it’s imperative to do everything possible so as to avoid making costly errors. Presently Ethiopian politics is being roiled by forces which keep on making the same mistakes they have been making for decades. In the fast-paced world we live in today an opportunity that rarely comes along cannot be regained once it is squandered. A hard-earned reputation built over years can be destroyed in an instant with a slip of the tongue or a display of swaggering driven by a perceived enjoyment of loyal support. This has been shown to be true time and again.

One of the worst traits characterizing Ethiopian politics is the near complete absence of a willingness to engage in a civil dialogue. Over the past nine months though scores of exiled opposition groups including those which had taken up arms have returned home following the commencement of democratic reforms aimed at laying a solid foundation for peaceful political struggle. So far the reforms seem to bode well. A broad consensus has been reached on the notion that Ethiopia’s very survival requires the peaceful pursuit of political objectives. Sadly, a slew of troubling developments are detracting from the promising beginning. Chief among these developments is the outbreak of deadly intercommunal conflicts that have led to the death and displacement of innocent civilians in different parts of the country. The violence is being perpetrated by elements loath to learn from errors of their ways. While time will tell where such strategy takes them they’re better advised to know that failing to learn from a mistake is learning to fail. Otherwise, they are bound to repeat the same mistake that had haunted generations and end up a laughing stock. 

The public has been demanding to no avail for some time now for a full disclosure of substance of the negotiations held between the government and rebels as well as the agreements the parties reached. In spite of this, however, everyone ought to be clear-eyed about one fundamental fact—any insurgent group which claims to be committed to a peaceful political struggle must lay down its arms unconditionally in the realization that the government by its nature enjoys a monopoly on violence, i.e., it has a sole right to the legitimate use of force. In the normal course of things its fighters are demobilized and housed in military camps pending a decision on how they are to be reintegrated. Meanwhile, the political wing transforms itself into a mainstream political movement. Otherwise, the whole point of its rejoining the political fold will be defeated.

The actions that one of the rebels which had vowed to take up mainstream politics, namely the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), has been accused of are downright criminal and dangerous. These acts include killing government officials, security personnel and defenceless civilians plus dismantling administrative structures in various zones of the Oromia regional state in western Ethiopia, training a new round of fighters, and refusing to hand in weapons. Just recently the party in power in Oromia, the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), had organized a joint forum with the OLF and other parties operating in the region. The forum was primarily mandated with resolving differences amongst themselves through discussions and negotiations. Instigating unrest entailing catastrophic consequences in utter disregard of this democratic process is an egregious lapse in judgement. OLF leaders have been excoriated by the Oromia regional government for dragging their feet in implementing the measures they have promised to take during meetings it held with them. The regional government says this has led to the death and dislocation of residents of the affected areas, property damage and the disruption of basic services due to road closures. How can an entity which swears in the name of the public claim to have the people’s interest at heart if it destabilizes the country after returning home to abide by the principles of a peaceful political struggle? How can it argue with a straight face that the 2020 elections should be held as scheduled when it is actively undermining stability? How can it expect peaceful, democratic and credible elections to be held in an unstable environment? It has to understand the simple fact that it’s suicidal to commit one political folly after another. 

The Oromia regional government, the regional police and the federal government have all warned that they will no longer tolerate acts of violence. There is no denying that efforts to ensure the peaceful resolution of disputes need to be strengthened. Needless to say this calls for the collaboration of all stakeholders. Resorting to violence as a means to settle disagreements while legal mechanisms are available only serves to exacerbate the problem which gave rise to the discord. It’s for this precise reason that it’s incumbent on the OLF leadership to come clean about their true intention and be part of the solution. Peace cannot come forth where the party that feels aggrieved is reticent about divulging the real cause for its gripe. Transparency and is an essential prerequisite for peaceful political struggle. And where transparency is upheld so is   accountability. Innocent citizens must not pay with their lives for the sins of others due to the absence of accountability. Ethiopians have had to endure unbearable ordeal for centuries because of the mistakes of the political elite. There is no way that they will countenance more of the same. Sacrificing the public interest on the altar of political expediency is bound to wreak havoc across the nation. This is a calamity that neither the present nor the coming generation want to read about in the history books. What’s needed now more than ever before is a democratic dialogue. If civilized discussions and negotiations are to be conducted national it is of the essence to rectify mistakes that have accumulated for ages. Belligerence and empty blustering have no place in nation building endeavors. It’s foolish to expect a solution to appear somehow while repeating the same mistakes over and over again. That is why failure to learn from one’s mistake is a recipe for becoming a laughing stock.