Lest history judges us harshly!
Throughout its long history Ethiopia has faced numerous ups and downs that had exacted heavy tolls. Domestic strife and the sacrifices paid to repel foreign aggressors have resulted in the destruction of both human capital and material wealth. The present generation has an obligation to take lessons from the seminal moments and shameful episodes the country has passed through if it to leave a legacy it will be remembered for fondly. While this responsibility primarily falls on the shoulders of the government it is also borne, among others, by religious and educational institutions, civil society organizations, elders, intellectuals, political parties and rights advocates. It’s incumbent up on each and every one of them to agree on the imperative to preserve the values that have helped Ethiopians stay united and agree that nothing comes before the security of the nation and the safety of its people.
It’s high time to sound the death knell of self-serving attitudes which do not befit the times and forge a shared vision towards building a nation where its citizens live in peace and equality. In this regard it’s of the essence to lay the foundation for an environment that is grounded in the needs of the people, not the select few, and is not only conducive to the robust competition of alternative ideas but also empowers the general public to choose from these options as it sees fit. The decision as to what form of federalism Ethiopia should follow ought to be decided up on a genuine dialogue that reflects the diverse interests of different segments of the public. Suppressing the views of the people—the ultimate repositories of sovereign power—in order to create the hegemony of a certain clique is antithetical to democracy. Trying to step into the shoes of a dictatorship that was ousted by a popular uprising is destined to beget a similar fate. Ethiopians have been subjected to death, maiming, displacement and trauma by the interminable conflicts that have racked the nation for some time now. History will never look kindly on the architects and perpetrators of this horror.
If Ethiopians are to maintain their unity they must not let self-serving politicians, for whom conflict is a lifeline, exploit ethnic, religious, cultural and ideological differences and destroy the strong values they have developed over centuries. In a country where the majority of patriotic intellectuals and elites are cocooned in their shell the political scene is dominated by elements which put their narrow agenda above the national interest. Regardless of their ethnicity and religious persuasion, the public must shun these elements given they have no qualms about using innocent civilians as cannon fodders to advance their interest. Ethiopia was built with the sweat, blood and tears of countless citizens. No one should be permitted to gamble with it for the sake of politicians harboring ulterior motives.
Ethiopia has had its share of citizens notable both for their commendable achievements and misdeeds. Though revisionist narratives stemming from a distorted worldview abound in Ethiopian politics, it cannot be denied that the accomplishments of some of these citizens have been lauded by local and overseas historians alike. Inasmuch as the wonderful contribution of such individuals sets an example for succeeding generations, it should not be forgotten that there also abound personalities whose egregious sins continue to be a source of national shame. The public needs no reminding how modern-day versions of such individuals, which had been blinded by hubris, had wrought untold suffering on the population and eventually engineered their own downfall after launching an ill-fated war against the defence forces. The leadership, members and supporters of the ruling parties and its opponents know what’s good for them they will refrain from any and all acts that are not in keeping with the times and only serve to earn them criticism in the eyes of history.
A not insignificant chunk of the public has no information or simply does not want to know about the heavy humanitarian and economic toll exacted by the recent law enforcement operation in the northern Tigray regional state. In particular those in the latter category have no desire to see an end to the endless cycle of internecine conflicts ravaging Ethiopia; in fact they paint issues that can be addressed through legal or administrative means as a matter of life and death to instigate tensions that lead to mayhem and destruction. Political operatives and cadres incapable of selling their ideas through civilized dialogues tend to think that they cannot take the reins of power without stoking ethnic and religious divisions. Pseudo-politicians alien to the concept of democracy and peaceful political engagement are only good at peddling false victim narratives, slandering and rumor-mongering, not articulating policies and strategies that address the needs of the public. History shall never forgive this utter disregard for the welfare of the nation and its people.
Ethiopians’ participation in the affairs of their country must be ramped up from current levels in order that they have a real say in determining their fate. Aside from taking part in the formulation and implementation of national development programs, they have a duty to play an active role in the political sphere including joining political parties of their choice so as to remedy the ills of Ethiopian politics. Some of the areas in which they can make an invaluable contribution are ensuring that Ethiopia’s brand of federalism enables its citizens to live in freedom, equality and justice; strengthening the foundation for an inclusive democracy by according recognition to ethnic and religious diversity as well as nurturing the tie that binds them together; ferreting out historical facts that help overcome divisive narratives and demonstrate the existence of shared values that have been the bedrock of their co-existence for millennia; and neutralizing once and for all the seeds of distrust sown by forces intent on tearing apart a people who have enjoyed a strong bond and thereby render them vulnerable to the machinations of historical enemies. If Ethiopians are able to accommodate their differences and exert a concerted effort towards a common goal, they can accomplish wonders that will have a proud place in the annals of history. That is why each and every one of us needs to have the national interest at heart in everything we do lest history judges us harshly.