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No place for politics of provocation!

No place for politics of provocation!

As the Ethiopian New Year gets into full swing it is incumbent on Ethiopians to commit themselves to working extra hard than the preceding year. Overseas-based political parties are returning from exile in droves having decided to pursue a peaceful political struggle. Given that a peaceful political struggle is indispensible in taking a step further the process of building a democratic order, all sections of society must believe sincerely in one fundamental right— freedom of thought and expression. This requires each and every citizen to be guided by and act in the best interests of the nation. Ethiopia now has a whole raft of opportunities before it. Hence, it’s vitally important to make the best of these chances with a view to enable democratic forces operate freely, assure the unfettered flow of ideas and create an environment free from hatred and vindictiveness. There must be no place for the politics of provocation that has long prevailed in Ethiopia.

The more political actors are willing to engage in frank and constructive dialogues and negotiations, the prospects of a truly inclusive political space are likely to be greater in Ethiopia. Political parties which have the welfare of the public at heart owe the duty to work together on such issues of national importance as protecting public safety and security, defending fundamental rights and freedoms, upholding the rule of law and guarding against the unconstitutional assumption of state power. In this regard priority ought to be accorded to ensuring peace and stability in conjunction with institution building. If the next elections are to be free and fair it is mandatory to put in place a level playing field. Naturally these critical goals can be accomplished if peaceful and democratic conversations start forthwith.

The principle of give-and-take is an integral aspect of the art of politics. Reaching a compromise through negotiations is a modern way of securing a win-win solution for all sides. Accommodating conflicting ideas not only helps to get an understanding of different viewpoints, but also is instrumental in deepening the process of democratization. Conflicts mostly stem from the prevalence of the inherently undemocratic my-way-or-the-high-way attitude. One of the stiffest challenge confronting Ethiopians today is to create an enabling condition for the people, within whom sovereign power resides, to enjoy freedom of expression to the fullest extent. Even if emotions are bound to be inflamed during deliberations and negotiations, it would be wise to be cognizant from the outset that solutions can be found without paying a heavy price. The politics of provocation though is essentially a manifestation of an I-know-it-all attitude and as such is entirely inappropriate in this day and age. Vanity is among the vices that has dragged Ethiopia backwards for centuries.

Ethiopians from all walks of life may enjoy the fruits of freedom when they are informed about their rights and duties and play an active role in seeing to it that the change taking place in the country is peaceful and democratic. In this regard political parties have the obligation to appeal to the intellect of their constituency, not their bias. The main factor impeding a wholehearted acceptance of the change is the fact that the grievances and resentments of the masses are boiling over uncontrollably leading to clashes here and there. Had there been platforms in which pent up frustrations would have been openly aired without reprisal, the culture of constructive dialogue and rational thinking would have taken root. The politics of provocation would have been starved oxygen as well. This would have gone a long way towards steering Ethiopia on the path to democracy and prosperity.

There are a host of advantages when it becomes a norm to adopt an idea because of its merits. The judiciary will carry out its functions in full independence. The defence and security forces will protect the welfare of the nation and its people free of partisanship. The institutions of democracy will discharge their duties in an independent and impartial manner. Civil society organizations will thrive. The principle of checks and balances will inform the operation of the three branches of government. Transparency and accountability will be hallmarks of the conduct of affairs of government. The rule of law will be upheld. Moral degeneration will be arrested. The bane that dictatorship has been for Ethiopia will be a thing of the past. Social media influencers in particular need to reject the politics of provocation focus instead on undertaking rational discourses fostering peace and democracy. After all it’s impossible to make the transition to democracy while consumed with anger and revenge.

Trying to exact retribution for the sins of past generations is a recipe for disaster. Ethiopian politics was beset for decades with animosity and intolerance owing to the inability of political actors to put country above party and meet each other half way even on objectives over which consensus can be forged. The propensity to fan rather than resolve differences, to plot the downfall of rivals rather than engage in civilized dialogue and to give precedence to partisan interests rather than finding a common ground arises out of ascribing a distorted meaning to freedom of thought. Any and all act liable to dash Ethiopians’ hopes of a new beginning for their beloved country must be nipped in the bud. Should citizens stand shoulder to shoulder for the success of the change unfolding in Ethiopia no matter who its architect are, the party that appeals most to the public will take the reins of power. If the political class can rally the public around the nation building project that is underpinned by the rule of law, the politics of provocation will have not thrive. Resorting to needless provocation should have no place in the endeavor to fulfill the aspirations of the people and assure the survival of Ethiopia.