Modern-day politics has no place for sore losers!
The assertion that Ethiopia is a great nation is not a cliché which has a statistical value alone. The country is inhabited across its length and breadth by some 108 million citizens who cherish their diverse identities, languages, traditions, beliefs, and lifestyles. According to official figures around 60 percent of the population is below 25. Out of this new crop of generation some 30 million are attending elementary to tertiary-level education. There is no arguing that irrespective of which generation they belong to all Ethiopians yearn for the prevalence of peace, democracy, justice and equality in their beloved nation. The vast majority of the populace has for centuries wanted grievances and political demands to be addressed through peaceful dialogue and negotiations as opposed to repression and the use of force. In a country whose hard-working and far-sighted people aspire to live in freedom under a democratic order underpinned by a mature political culture, it’s a crying shame to see a handful of politicians sore at losing instigate turmoil.
The pressing issue for Ethiopia in the backdrop of contemporary realities revolves around whether or not political differences, bickerings and gripes are more likely to be settled in a peaceful, lawful and democratic manner than through the barrel of the gun. The forces ranged across the political spectrum in Ethiopia still seem to be unaware of the rules of the game for a peaceful and democratic political engagement despite the sudden sweeping change the country is undergoing. When the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took the reins of power in May 1991 and established a transitional government it declare that the era of armed struggle had once and for all given way to peaceful political struggle. In reality, though, the Front lacked the desire to transform itself into an organization fully committed to abiding by the fundamental principles of peaceful political rivalry. The ensuing suppression of any meaningful opposition compelled scores of parties to go into exile landing them in the laps of foreign adversaries. The decades of pent up grievance, which had been bottled up due to an overpowering propaganda and the tactics of the security forces, eventually exploded prompting a sea change without resulting in a violent toppling of the government. The lead up to the change was not entirely smooth, however. Thousands died in deadly protests while several more suffered physical and psychological trauma and were displaced from their homes. Moreover, considerable private and government property was destroyed.
Before the widely accepted change could be anchored on a solid basis though insurgencies which had been designated as terrorists were invited to come in from the cold and take up mainstream politics. The hostility with neighboring Eritrea, which was associated with local opposition and regional terror threat, came to an end. Thousands of political prisoners were released while immigrants who had been leading a life of ordeal came back in droves. Moreover, the rapid fire reform measures undertaken in quick succession on several fronts left the actors on the political scene breathless. Some of the political forces which had returned up on the offering of an olive branch by the government proved to be woefully inadequate at reinventing themselves into organizations capable of conducting a constructive, thoughtful and forward-looking brand of politics. They were found wanting when it comes to playing a positive role in resolving peacefully disputes that could have given rise to conflicts; in fact they turned out to be the architects of some appalling incidences that terrorized certain sections of society. They demonstrated that they did not subscribe to the rules for a civilized game of politics and actually are enamored with gun-barrel politics. Sadly they are still unwilling to go halfway to accommodate the views of anyone who does not believe in their ideology. The problem is not between the government and groups in the opposition. The open antagonism among some member parties of the EPRDF is causing simmering tensions to boil over.
So, what are the rules of the game? They include, among others, resolving differences in a manner characterized by civility and pragmatism; abandoning the ridiculous notion that philosophical divergence makes it impossible to work together; facilitating unrestricted public dialogue and deliberations grounded in knowledge; putting an end to the political environment that unfortunately lends itself to intrigue and backstabbing; demonstrating in deeds the ability to co-exist harmoniously by according respect to the rights that one wants to be respected himself; eschewing violence as a means to achieve political ends; refraining from hiding behind one’s ethnicity or political standing to evade accountability for mistakes and crimes; facilitating a level playing field in which all rivals can have a fair shot at winning the hearts and minds of voters and submitting to the will of the people as manifested in free and credible elections. If these rules are adhered to no argument justifies the refusal to abide by the ultimate outcome of the game.
Many of the actors active on the Ethiopian political scene either have no inkling about or willfully ignore the rules of the game. As they instinctively put their interest before that of the public civility is not a hallmark of the way they comport themselves. It’s easier for them to incite violence than to adopt an articulate program and elevate the political consciousness of their members and supporters. “Activists” advocating various agendas are also afflicted by the same ailment. These activists are flexing their muscle in a power play even as the emotional scars of the atrocities committed by erstwhile powers that be are still raw. It’s paradoxical that numerous rights campaigners who waxed lyrical about respect for basic liberties are now promoting power politics. Intent on defeating any and all endeavor to lay the groundwork for an inclusive and stable democratic space they employ such tactics as smear campaigns and outright threats to cow anyone who “dares” oppose them. Using one’s popularity to drum up violence has become all too common. Ethiopia’s political landscape has been invaded by elements loath to play by the rules of the game. Modern-day politics has no place for sore losers!