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A New Year of mutual respect and cooperation

A New Year of mutual respect and cooperation

As Ethiopians usher their new year it is customary, among others, to wish well the country and fellow citizens, exchange gifts, hold festivities and offer thanksgiving to the Creator. So is to express hope for a better future and resolve with vigor to wrap up unfinished tasks as well as change oneself for the better through hard work. If 2012 is to bode well for Ethiopia it is incumbent on the elite and the general public alike to demonstrate wisdom in overcoming the multi-faceted challenges confronting the nation. Given that the new year brings with it a myriad of opportunities and glad tidings, it’s obligatory to put an end to counterproductive spats and reinvigorate the culture of mutual respect and cooperation of yore. The current state of Ethiopia and Ethiopianness requires earnest dialogue among different sections of the public. The deepening rift between the country’s elites is proving to be a cause for consternation for foreigners near and afar leave alone Ethiopians. We would do well to understand that if during the new year we are unable to tackle the problems that have marred our image in the eyes of the world the nation’s very existence will be imperiled.

Ethiopia is a great country. If its sons and daughters respect and cooperate with one another they can do wonders. The Ethiopian project needs to be embraced by all Ethiopians. Divided a family cannot stand let alone a nation. The present generation owes the duty to assure the continued existence of a country its brave ancestors preserved through heroic exploits that earned international accolade. Should it be found wanting in taking the Ethiopia that its forefathers, who possessed such exemplary traits as patriotism, far-sightedness, loyalty, solidarity, forgiveness, civility, and accommodation of differences for the greater cause, to greater heights and unwittingly help its enemies to accomplish their evil objectives it will be judged harshly by history. This great nation has for far too long been synonymous poverty, famine, conflict and backwardness. And its people have been subjected to unimaginable ordeal at the hand of despots. That is why it’s of the essence to proceed posthaste with bringing about democracy, social justice, development and unity through diversity. None of these ideals may be realized without mutual respect and cooperation.

At this critical juncture in Ethiopia’s history it’s in the national interest to benchmark best practices and focus on issues over which consensus can be reached instead of reopening old wounds with a view to inflame violence. In the meantime, it’s imperative to work in concert on building a system where each and every Ethiopian enjoys equal protection under the law. Trying to revive bankrupt ideas to undermine national unity, rushing to institute the hegemony of a group perceived to be in power, peddling hateful and poisonous rhetoric, plotting to settle centuries-old scores, perpetrating acts that do not befit 21st century norms, extremism, and greed have no use but to wreak havoc. We have to be mindful of the fact that the business-as-usual approach simply does not work and as such need to make a paradigm shift. The rafts of opportunities that have come Ethiopia’s way were wasted owing to our failure to learn the lessons of history. Many who set out to correct a mistake with another mistake have fallen by the wayside. As the saying goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Ethiopia may reclaim its former glory and steer on the path to greater things to the extent that everyone who feels he has a stake in its destiny display mutual respect and cooperation. Compatriots mired in a politics of hatred, conniving and backbiting have to return to their senses in the realization that the nation’s fate is in jeopardy. At the same time citizens who took up politics in hopes of currying favor with overseas actors better realize that if they don’t throw in their lots with fellow Ethiopians, they will end up as errand boys of potential adversaries. Ethiopia has to have peace and stability so that the general elections of 2020 are free and fair. Here what matters more than the outcome of the elections is the electoral process itself in terms of ensuring that every vote counts and that power is assumed through the ballet box as opposed to the barrel of the gun. Intimidating opponents as well as inciting skirmishes that leads to the loss of the lives and properties of the innocent are not hallmarks of a democratic-minded person. Anyone who thinks that these tactics can work in the upcoming elections is sorely mistaken. Therefore, everybody should attach importance to the notion that electioneering does not absolve one of the obligation to comport himself in a respectful manner towards others. Ethiopia needs and indeed deserves a civilized brand of politics in order to take the democratization process a step further.

If 2012 is to be a year of bright hope Ethiopians must distance themselves from extremism, intolerance, maliciousness, chauvinism, short-termism and similar other negative attitudes. The country and its people stand to lose from internecine conflicts and acts which sow instability for they only beget mayhem, destruction and suffering. Differences in opinions are natural to human beings and as such should never be suppressed; in fact they ought to be cherished. The zero-sum politics of intolerance where the “winner” takes all and those who hold differing views get nothing eventually spawns extremism. It would be wise to realize that there is always a common denominator over which a common understanding can be forged. It’s irrational to start a war one cannot finish; it’s a lose-lose proposition. Individuals and groups harboring a sinister agenda should learn from history that any attempt to exploit ethnic, religious, cultural or political differences with intent to further their evil agenda is bound to fail. Ethiopia needs peace, democracy and prosperity; its people aspire for justice, equality and justice. These ideals cannot be realized without a shared vision. Needless to say this requires mutual respect and cooperation on the part of all Ethiopians. Happy New Year!