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Heeding public imperative to avoid hanging head in shame!

Heeding public imperative to avoid hanging head in shame!

One of the major events of the week was the discussion Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed (Dr.) held with the leaders and public representatives of the Ethiopia-Somali Regional State. The primary subject of his first official visit since being sworn in as premier was the havoc that was wreaked by the violence along the borders of the Oromia and Ethiopia-Somali regional states in September and October 2017. The clashes led to the death and injury of an unknown number of people the displacement of close to one million from both regions as well as and the destruction of considerable property. As the Prime Minister said in a speech he delivered during his visit the conflict was regrettable, contrary to Ethiopian culture and a shameful spot in the country’s history. It is imperative to close this disgraceful chapter posthaste and seek a lasting solution anchored in the will of the two people. As part of this endeavor the reasons and perpetrators behind the destructive and reprehensible violence need to be clearly identified. As people who have intermarried and have always had a strong bond, Oromos and Somalis provided refuge to each other and did everything they could to minimize the toll of the conflict. Both know well who is to blame for the senseless tragedy.

Intermittent disputes have arisen between Oromo and Somali communities for a variety of reasons, including over usage of water and grazing land. The disagreements however have always been settled by elders through traditional dispute resolution mechanisms wherein offenders were censured and ordered to pay compensation to the victims. There is no animosity between the people residing in adjoining areas of the two regions. The culprits are elements within both sides bent on fomenting instability. If a people-to-people conference comprising a cross-section of were to be organized, it would go a long way towards healing the wounds inflicted by the conflict and strengthen their ties.

History tells us that no ethnically-motivated dispute has ever occurred that precipitated an internecine conflict between Ethiopians for supremacy of one ethnic group over another. Nevertheless, clashes have erupted now and then at the instigation of political leaders who had ulterior motives. Ethiopians in fact have a proud tradition of jealously defending their beloved nation’s sovereignty against the evil intentions of expansionists and invaders despite the untold ordeals they have been subjected to by tyrants. They have always maintained their unity and foiled all attempts to sow ethnic and religious rifts between them. As a people who have co-existed harmoniously by embracing their diversity and possess an amazing set of indigenous knowledge, their leaders can learn much from them in terms of how to transcend parochialism and bigotry so as to steer Ethiopia on the path to peace and prosperity.      

The political actors of the country have to abandon the politics of hatred and revenge they are mired in up to their eyeballs and instead chart a new course to a win-win path. A politics of backstabbing and intrigue has no place in a free society and only serves to perpetuate the terrible episodes of recent years. The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), its allies and forces arrayed in the opposition camp must all put Ethiopia above, as its far-sighted citizens do, their political ambition. The egregious consequences for Ethiopia and its people of an immature political leadership and power mongering have amply manifested themselves under different rulers. Ethiopians should never be denied of the human and democratic rights enshrined in the constitution on the whim of strongmen or incompetent politicians. As the ultimate repositories of sovereign power they ought to have a decisive say in the fate of the nation and have their aspirations fulfilled.

Prime Minister Abiy has continued his whirlwind tour of regional states and is slated to meet opposition party leaders and different sections of the public in between. The thrust of the speeches he delivers on these occasions indicates he attaches special importance to the welfare of Ethiopians. The pledges he made need to be backed by actions which, inter alia, help the flourishing of platforms for the exercise of fundamental rights and eliminate laws and practices restricting same, enable citizens who have been disempowered to realize their full potential and have a fair share of the national cake, and generally reinvigorate the entire nation. In this regard his administration owes the duty to abide by and enforce the rule of law, bring about a thriving market place of ideas, eradicate abuse of power and other practices undermining good governance as well as inculcate the importance of transparency and accountability in the national psyche. There is no doubt that the public will rally around Prime Minister Abiy if his administration displays a genuine commitment to see through these critical tasks.

Ethiopia was a great nation once. It’s not outside the realm of possibility to make history the famine, dependence on aid and backwardness that has forced it to hang its head in shame. Neither is it far-fetched to rehabilitate its reputation damaged by the pervasive violation of civil and political rights. All it requires is to place the national interest front and center. The recent revelation by an EPRDF senior official that former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, who unexpectedly called it quits in mid-February, was deprived the support of his party’s leaders is to say the least quite troubling. Such flagrant disrespect not only amounts to subverting the authority of his office and thereby the national interest, but can also said to be a major factor in the EPRDF’s abject failure to respond to the demands of the public and the ensuing political crisis that has gripped the country for the past three years. The new premier must not be put through the same humiliation. He deserves the all-round support of the general public. Now is not the time to stand on the side and criticize, derail his agenda or expect him and his cabinet to do everything. Now is the time to listen to the heartbeat of the public and work harder than ever before to fulfill its needs. It’s only by heeding the public that Ethiopia’s leaders can avoid hanging their head in shame!