Much expected from incoming prime minister!
Ethiopia is at one of if not the gravest juncture in its entire history. The deadly protests that have been taking across large swathes of the country for close to three years now have led to the death as well as physical and psychological injury of thousands of innocents, the displacement of hundreds of thousands and the destruction of property of incalculable worth. The political tension was exacerbated further by feuding within the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). It’s while Ethiopia is in the throes of an unprecedented political crisis that Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn tendered his resignation. The premier ought to be commended for setting in motion a peaceful transition of power, an example future leaders should follow, and deciding to be part of the solution. He must be thanked and properly honored for contributing his share while he was in office for over five years. Let’s dwell on some of the testing challenges his successor will face as he takes control of the reins of power.
The incoming Prime Minister needs all the support he can get given no occupant of the office has shouldered the kind of grueling challenges he is going to be confronted from the get-go. He will have to grapple with a raft of problems that have at times resulted in a breakdown of law and order for the past three years and forced the declaration of a state of emergency for the second time a month ago. Restoring the relative peace that used to prevail will continue to be very much trying. It will require extraordinary commitment, diligence and perseverance to respond credibly to the fundamental political and economic demands the youth have repeatedly voiced. They are tired of empty promises and want to see concrete reforms without delay including broadening the democratic space, facilitating the conditions instrumental to holding free and fair elections, and ensuring economic opportunities. All this responsibility cannot be borne by one person alone, though. The new Prime Minister should assemble a cabinet comprised of individuals possessing the required qualifications and impeccable integrity as opposed to perpetuating the practice of conferring appointments on a quota basis. It’s only by transitioning from a quota-based system to a merit-based that the root causes behind the widespread public discontent that has been simmering for decades may be addressed to the satisfaction of everyone.
Historically Ethiopians have always put their country first. Present-day Ethiopia though is witnessing alarming erosion in citizens’ sense of belonging that threatens to undermine the country’s unity. Sectarianism has become so entrenched that Ethiopianness, the tie that binds us together, may well unravel. The dangers of this prospect have already played out and led to disastrous outcomes. It is therefore incumbent on the incoming premier and his administration to be cognizant of the specter of catastrophe hanging over Ethiopia and do whatever is necessary to provide the kind of leadership which pulls the nation back from the brink. It is imperative to inculcate in the current crop of youth, which has known nothing but the steady diet of ideology the EPRDF fed it, a love of nation and dedication to defending shared interests. This can be accomplished insofar as there is the courage to take measures that help forge national consensus.
The primary reason behind the political crisis rocking Ethiopia is the government’s poor track record when it comes to enabling citizens enjoy basic freedoms and liberties including freedom of thought, opinion and expression, the right to assemble and demonstrate as well as the right to protection against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. To make matters worse the heavy-handed response to the mostly peaceful venting of frustration has brought the country to the edge of the precipice. The incoming premier’s administration top priority must be to extricate Ethiopia from the crisis it is mired in. This calls for, among others, the ushering of profound political reforms, which in turn will go a long way towards realizing Ethiopia’s renaissance.
The economic ramifications of the unrest gripping Ethiopia are of grave concern as well. The air of uncertainty prevailing in the country has put a brake on business and investment. If the downturn is not reversed within the shortest possible time an economic crisis is bound to ensue. At a time a steady influx of foreign direct investment is desperately needed to counter the adverse effects of one of the severest foreign exchange crunch in recent memory, it is of the essence to create a stable political environment so as to reassure overseas investors that their investment is protected and will yield an attractive return. The soon-to-be installed premier and his administration owe the duty to see to it that the current economic slowdown does not have a ripple effect and worsen deep-seated political tensions.
As we have said time and again Ethiopians always put their country front and center. All political actors active either directly or otherwise on the political scene should emulate this exemplary attribute of the constituency they claim to represent. The incoming Prime Minister should be afforded all the help he needs to demonstrate that the interests of the nation and its people trump all other considerations. The proud and far-sighted people of Ethiopia need leaders who are genuinely committed to do their level best to deliver sustainable peace, democracy and prosperity; they certainly have no use for politicians or activists who have no qualms about fomenting violence to further nefarious agendas. Ethiopia has survived numerous challenges in its glorious history. The present generation would be judged harshly by its successors if it were to dishonor the legacy of its illustrious predecessors. It’s high time that all Ethiopians pay the necessary sacrifice to promote unity while cherishing diversity, forge national consensus through participatory processes, lay the foundation for a transition to real democracy, and enable citizens to get their fare share of the national cake. If, however, they lay themselves open to the evil designs of the country’s historical enemies by descending into internecine conflicts, the consequences will be all too unpleasant for everyone. A display of wisdom is of critical importance in order to weather the troubling times facing our beloved country and chart a better course for the future. The people of Ethiopia expect much from the incoming premier!