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Freedom unthinkable without justice!

Freedom unthinkable without justice!

Justice is a fundamental pillar of any society. Without justice society cannot exist. It’s only when justice is upheld that Ethiopian can put an end to its long chapter of ordeal and heal itself. Ethiopians should not succumb to the vitriolic narrative peddled by elements bent on stoking political crises and demonstrate that they are a rational people which have no time for the perpetrators of suffering and injustice.  Each and every citizen owes the duty to play a meaningful role in institution building efforts so that justice is not abused. In this regard it’s of the essence to ensure the independence and neutrality of the courts, the electoral board, the media, and security personnel. Anyone who wants to taste freedom must first discharge his obligations and contribute his share to ensuring that justice prevails throughout Ethiopia.  Freedom is unthinkable without justice.

Ethiopians have always yearned for justice. For centuries they have shouldered the yoke of oppression and lived a life of misery, poverty and indignity due to the injustice dished out to them at the hands of successive tyrants. Such has been an indisputable part of their history. The primary reason for the downfall of the imperial order of Emperor Haile-Selassie I and the military dictatorship of the Derg regime and more recently the end of 27-year rule of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) by the forces of change was one and the same—the unbearable level of suffering that sprang from pervasive injustice. The inability of these rulers to learn from the fatal mistakes of one another has not only made life a living hell for Ethiopians, but also continues to pose a grave existential threat to the nation to this day. Given that the imperative to get preparations for the upcoming general elections into full swing makes it imperative to attach the utmost importance to defending the national interest, it’s incumbent on the public to focus on matters critical to ensuring the prevalence of justice.

Ethiopians have a long tradition of respect for the law. Now though this respect has all but gone, allowing lawless elements to wreak havoc in many parts of the country. The party controlling the levers of power as well as justice sector actors should accord the utmost priority to the realization of a just society. The courts have to be able to enjoy institutional independence. Moreover, the decisions they give must be respected, particularly the government, no matter how strongly one disagrees with them. As the rule of law is trampled justice will become a tradeable commodity; the weak will be at the mercy of the powerful; unscrupulous public officials will abuse their power with impunity; and folks seeking justice will lose faith in their country. If the three branches of government are unable to carry out their duties in accordance with the principle of check-and-balance, justice will remain an elusive dream. In the absence of justice only tyranny thrives, not freedom.

Ethiopians have maintained their unity for centuries because they have stuck together through the good times and bad times. The shared values they have developed over time have enabled them to transcend ethnic, religious, cultural, ideological and other differences. Toiling day and night to undermine justice and thereby engender tyranny as opposed to galvanizing Ethiopians to lay the foundations for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Ethiopia is both intolerable and madness. Citizens may be able to live in equality under the law insofar as justice prevails. If Ethiopians believe that the courts are the bastions of justice and everyone is held accountable for his actions no matter his station in life, Ethiopia’s future will be brighter.

Ethiopians must reject in no uncertain terms anyone who pulls others down to his level instead of pulling together for a common cause. They have suffered enough from the spate of destructive violence that has been racking the country for some time now as well as the near absence of justice. Ironically, those who used to routinely flout justice are in turn now crying for it. The government needs to look into itself critically if this sad chapter is to come to an end. People claiming they were denied justice are entitled to be heard and have their grievances addressed if they turn out to be legitimate. In a country where a slew of commendable legal reforms have been introduced there should be no place for any and all acts that result in a subversion of justice. The prospect of such a scenario can be avoided by, among others, full respecting such due process rights of arrested or accused individuals as presumption of innocence, the right to be released on bail and the right to a speedy trial.

The surest way to forge national consensus and deepen the democratization process is to uphold justice. The consensus Ethiopians aspire for may be built by acknowledging that all Ethiopians are equal; eschewing and exposing bigotry, exclusionism and other immoral acts that are contrary to Ethiopians’ virtues; advocating respect for citizens’ unfettered exercise of human and democratic rights; and demonstrating the commitment to pay the necessary sacrifice for the nation and its people. Any Ethiopian who truly desires to see social traumas healed and live in freedom should act rationally and not let his emotions get the better of him. Inasmuch as someone deserves to be lauded for his good deeds he should be held answerable for his misdeeds. It’s disingenuous and downright dangerous to arrogate praise for a creditable act but hide behind one’s ethnicity to avoid being brought to justice for his crimes. Ethiopians need to realize that the freedom they have always yearned for is unthinkable without justice.