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Lest chaos brings shame on nation!

Lest chaos brings shame on nation!

It would not be an exaggeration to say that government entities have arguably been at the forefront in making the lives of many a living hell in Ethiopia. Frequent disruptions in the services delivered by the state-owned utility monopolies and municipalities have long been perennial sources of deep-seated grievance across the country. The change that has been underway for over a year now is being managed by institutions that are largely ailing and need to undergo a fundamental reform themselves dashing the hopes of those eagerly awaiting its outcome and worse proving to be a curse for numerous others. The judiciary, law enforcement organs and government bureaucracy have also been found very much wanting despite expectations that they would champion the change or at least not derail it by ensuring the prevalence of law and order as well as contributing to the creation of a fair and inclusive environment. All this is attributable to failure in political leadership and elements bent on roiling the nation.

A cursory analysis of the reality on the ground reveals the proliferation of forces which have no misgivings about lighting fire to a tinderbox with intent to destabilize the country. Meanwhile, the police, in disregard of the “principle of legality”, have descended to confiscating goods on which the legally applicable taxes and duties have been duly paid. A recent news report that the police had seized seven grams of gold during a raid on illegal establishments makes us cringe in shame and wonder if the ignorance lies with the police itself or journalistic standards. Flouting long-established laws and norms differentiating what is legal from what is not is without due regard to the ensuing consequences sets a dangerous precedent. It’s perplexing why issues that can be easily managed are to become wellsprings of chaos. In this day and age when solutions can be found for the most intractable of problems blowing trivial matters out of proportion and thereby foment turmoil is an insult to the nation and brings shame on it. 

Let’s examine the record of one of the public companies supplying a basic service, namely the power utility, for illustrative purposes. The company has always exhibited a trait that all monopolies share—a shabby treatment of customers in the belief that it’s accountable to no one. It routinely turns the switch on an off at will without consulting or giving a heads up to clients to whom it owes a contractual obligation to provide a reliable power supply. From time to time brownouts as well as blackouts occur for days on end without any official explanation or apology whatsoever. The practical absence of a culture of customer-focused service delivery in the company continues to make life an ordeal for millions. And true to form it announced a week ago that it had implemented electricity rationing a week earlier following a public outcry over long stretches of blackouts for several months. Barely a few days thereafter, though, a change to the time when the blackout would be in effect was abruptly disclosed. These missteps have further eroded public trust in the company. Why is it caught up in all this mess? Couldn’t the blunder have been avoided if it had users’ best interest at heart? Time will tell.

The kind of disarray described above abounds elsewhere, subjecting Ethiopia to humiliation and serving to underscore the arguments of the detractors the ongoing change; it also betrays the depth and extent of the government’s inadequacies. A simple example suffices to demonstrate the mess brought about by the inadequacies. The propensity of Ethiopia’s rulers to designate events and places on whim rather than on the basis of a clearly defined framework continues to be perpetuated to this date as manifested in the May 28 celebration of the downfall of the Derg regime for 28 years running. May 28 was never designated as a public holiday by law. The legislation designating September 12 as a public holiday marking the Derg’s ascent to power is still on the law books. Some two decades ago the Debre Zeit Road was renamed Ginbot 20 [May 28] Road. The name was never popular and eventually became forgotten. Sadly the practice has restarted, earning the venerated institution responsible for the folly public opprobrium. If the agents of the change taking place in Ethiopia are to succeed in their endeavor to steer the reform on the right course, it’s imperative to put a put a stop to the disorderliness blighting the country.

It’s appropriate to bring up here what Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) said last Sunday about “kicking up dust” and “leaving a footprint” at a dinner dubbed “Dine for Sheger”, a fundraising initiative to raise funds for the “Beautifying Sheger” project. He stated that kicking up dust is easy adding the dust engulfs the surrounding area and makes it resemble a war zone instead of a place where life thrives. He went on to say that though the individuals who kick up the dust may rejoice in their act, they were bound to weep when the dust suffocates them as well. The premiere noted that leaving a footprint, however, is a long, quiet and arduous task which tests one’s patience and takes time to lead to recognition or appreciation in the eyes of others. He underscored that everyone who left a footprint had encountered all this. The message intended to be conveyed by PM is valid for each and every Ethiopian but more so for public office holders. As the number of government officials that sow confusion while they themselves are muddled is shockingly high, they should choose between kicking up dust and leaving a footprint. Otherwise, they would be guilty of slighting the nation and bringing shame on it.