Hands off Ethiopia!
The situation Ethiopia presently finds itself has never been more troubling. The country is lurching from one crisis to another due to the inability and more worryingly the unwillingness to learn from past mistakes. As the old adage goes, “The wise learn from others’ mistakes, fools do not learn from theirs”. The prevalence of skewed world views totally divorced from rationality is dimming the hopes of the nation. It has become commonplace to play the ethnic or religious card to evade responsibility instead of seeking together win-win solutions for shared problems. This has led far too often to deadly internecine conflicts which threaten to unravel the tie that binds Ethiopians. The current generation is too preoccupied with extolling or denigrating the acts of previous generations rather than writing its own glorious chapter in Ethiopia’s history. Should discredited narratives unfit for the 21st century have blinded Ethiopians into killing each other and eroding the collective values they had forged through thick and thin? The answer obviously is an empathic no. Nothing is worth destroying the country over.
Let’s leave the past in the past and dwell on recent developments. Why are Ethiopians, who had shown remarkable unity following the advent of the change underway now after three years of costly struggle, more divided than ever before? Where did the solidarity that was on display for a short while after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) came to power in April 2018 disappear to? Why did the hope-inspiring reforms undertaken during the premiere’s heydays, which were touted as harbingers of better things to come, get nowhere? The answer is easy—because the forces of evil are gaining the ascendancy over the forces of good. Soon after a slew of commendable measures were taken a spate of violence has been occurring in various parts of the country, resulting in the killing and injury of tens of thousands of defenseless citizens. Moreover, millions more were displaced from their homes and were robbed of their possessions, forcing them to seek emergency assistance for food and shelter. One of the factors responsible for this sad state of affairs is the fact that the government has been found wanting in terms of discharging its law enforcement duties by bringing conflict entrepreneurs to justice as they openly challenge its monopoly on violence. To make matters worse the government’s disinclination to uphold the rule of law uniformly has compelled many to take the law into their own hands and launch retaliatory attacks. All this has brought the nation to the brink. The horrific events which took place last week in some areas of the country portend an uncertain future for the country.
The deepening rift within the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has demonstrated the proliferation in its rank of short-sighted and self-serving elements who do not care an iota about the future of Ethiopia and shamelessly proclaim that Ethiopia will disintegrate if they are not at the helm. Ethiopia has suffered a lot at the hand of incompetent public officials thanks to the Front’s practice of bestowing political appointments on the basis of quota as opposed to merit. Officials adept at hiding behind their ethnic identity whenever they encounter problems they are incapable of solving are now turning to religion to conceal their follies. What is more they are willing to do anything to advance their career including groveling before superiors and non-state actors wielding political influence. Consequently, they cannot carry out their official duties properly. That is why citizens rarely find sympathetic ears to their pleas for help when they are subjected to butchery, maiming and displacement. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the gross dereliction of duty by government officials is, among other things, to blame for Ethiopia being on the edge of the precipice.
Another factor contributing to the predicament Ethiopia is in is chronic youth unemployment. Though billions of birr has been allocated from government coffers for youth employment creation, the budget has been grossly mismanaged. Any youth employment creation scheme needs to be informed with a sound research. Throwing around money to mollify them temporarily does not address the root cause of the problem; it only exacerbates it. The youth are bound to lose hope if they are unable to find a path to gainful employment despite graduating from college. Naturally, anyone who believes he has nothing to lose can be swayed to do the bidding of moneyed characters. As such it’s of the utmost importance to see to it that the youth do not become instruments of elements harboring an evil agenda. The best way to accomplish this objective is to formulate and implement policies intended to create equal job opportunities for the youth so that they get a fair share of the national cake, not just print money at will and pump it into the economy. The events of the previous week unequivocally illustrate that we would do well to heed the saying, “Idle hands are the devil's playthings.”
The foremost duty of any government is to protect the safety and wellbeing of citizens as well as to defend the national interest and national security. As the government upholds law and order it must be guided by the principle that all persons are equal before the law. The obligation to hold accountable individuals who act as though they are above the law solely rests with the government. Enforcing the law is never about resorting to arbitrary executions or arrests in response to a breakdown in law and order; it’s about bringing the perpetrators of crimes to justice having regard to due process. Civil society organizations need to step up to the plate when the executive branch of government fails in its duty to enforce the law. So should Parliament. Similarly, citizens who feel they have a stake in the fate of the country have to bring pressure to bear on the government to uphold the rule of law. The solution to the grave crisis rocking Ethiopia lies in the shared values they have developed over millennia. The forces bent on engineering Ethiopia’s collapse must be told “Hands off Ethiopia!”