The people can’t be fooled all the time!
One of the traits that ought to become a norm in Ethiopian politics is to respect the will of the ultimate repositories of sovereign power—the people. Regardless of whether they hold office or are aspirants, political parties which do not abide by this cardinal principle are doomed to go down in ignominy. Like any other society the thing the people of Ethiopia want most is to live a life of peace and stability. As peace and stability reign the conditions necessary to extricate citizens from the clutches of abject poverty and enable them exercise their human and democratic rights will thrive; criminality and lawlessness cannot flourish; the engagement between political parties can be conducted in an atmosphere characterized by civility and legality; and state power will be assumed through credible elections and cease to be abused with impunity. Ethiopians from all walks of life have the obligation to stand together for the attainment of these ideals. They may be fooled once but woe betide someone who tries to con them again.
Politicians should have no illusions that the only way they can over the public is through sound ideas, not incitement to violence. If the rivalry between Ethiopia’s political forces is to be constructive, the political space has to be the epitome of inclusiveness, transparency and tolerance. The creation of such an environment requires the contribution of his or her share by each and every stakeholder. The era of deceiving the public with bankrupt and discredited rhetoric should come to an end. All political actors need to show that no matter what their ideological bent may be they put the nation and its people before themselves. The futility of trying to sow instability as a means to accomplish political ends because one is unable to table policy alternatives on how to build a genuinely democratic Ethiopia has been demonstrated ample times. Ethiopians have made it clear in no uncertain terms that they have no patience for charlatans who think they can take them for a ride.
As protectors of the constitution and the welfare of citizens the defence forces, the police and the security apparatus must at all times be able to carry out their functions free of any partisanship to any political organization. Exercising undue influence over them and thereby compromise their independence should entail grave liability. The extent to which these institutions were routinely used to advance the interests of rulers and oppress the people has cost Ethiopia dear. While addressing senior military commanders the past week Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) underscored that the armed forces belonged to the people, not him, the ruling Prosperity Party or anyone else. This is a lesson that every politician must take to heart. Otherwise, they will incur the wrath of the public.
Political parties also shoulder the responsibility to advocate for such institutions of democracy as the National Electoral Board, the Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Federal Auditor General as well as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to discharge their duties with impartiality. Important as these institutions’ work may be to guaranteeing respect for human and democratic rights it’s also vital to upholding the rule of law. If the judiciary and law enforcement agencies are allowed to perform their tasks without unwarranted interference, the unchecked exercise of power will be curbed; the suffering of citizens and the destruction of the nation’s resources will stop; and election rigging and other illicit practices that disenfranchise voters will die out. The heavy humanitarian and economic toll exacted by the inability of the political class to engage in constructive politics has engendered deep-seated public resentment that continues to simmer.
The recent law enforcement operation in the northern regional state of Tigray proved once again that Ethiopians always come together in their country’s hour of need. Many had been fretting understandably that the unity of the people, forged over centuries with blood and sweat, had been dealt a fatal blow. The fact that they rose to the occasion as one though dispelled the fear that Ethiopia was on the verge of collapse. It’s not only ordinary folks and the government that ought to be united on matters of vital national importance. Politicians too must display such unison and refrain from any and all acts detrimentally impacting the national interest. If they take it up on themselves to develop a culture of accommodating differences in a civilized manner and start to submit to the will of the people, Ethiopia is sure to soar to greater heights. They should know well that the public is tired of the end-justifies-the-means modus operandi most of them practice and will show them the door if they choose to stick with it.
Ethiopians have shown time and again that nothing is beyond them if they pull in the same direction. The biggest obstacle has been the proliferation of politicians eroding the tie that binds them. From elements bent on inciting violence for political gain to rabble rousers which loathe lawful political rivalry anyone perpetrating crimes undermining law and order should be brought to justice. Innocent civilians should not be killed, lose their life saving or displaced from their homes on account of the poisonous narrative they peddle. At a time preparations for the upcoming general elections are gearing up it’s of the essence to ensure that the playing field is even by rectifying previous flaws which had marred the electoral process. Parties which are woefully unprepared for the elections and are thinking of committing fraud or casting doubt over the integrity of the entire process better pull out immediately. They need to understand that they have no hope of garnering the consent of voters without doing their homework first. After all the people can’t be fooled all the time!