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The road to perdition

The road to perdition

As the old adage has it to err is human, to forgive divine. None of us are perfect; we make mistakes all the time. The important thing is not to repeat the same mistake. Present-day Ethiopia is no different; it’s witnessing a plethora of developments giving rise to blunders, some of which are egregious. There abound fault finders who are bent on exaggerating the mistakes. As it leads a nation undergoing a transition the government is bound to err. However, it cannot shirk its duties for fear that it will be pilloried for getting things wrong. Although it is apt to slip up regardless of how informed its course of action may be the consequences will not rise to a level that put it in a knotty quandary. Uninformed decisions grounded in the-end-justifies-the -means mentality not only beget opprobrium, but also a debacle.  Even as fear of being in the wrong can never justify inaction it also does not absolve someone of the obligation to plan how to effectively discharge one’s responsibilities. Let’s dwell on some important matters in view of this.

One of the major steps taken in the political arena since Prime Minister Abiy came to power in April 2018 is the return home of insurgencies and individuals who were driven overseas by the system. Sadly, the inability to manage properly a process which positively contributes to broadening the political space has sparked bloody conflicts in different parts of Ethiopia. As a result innocent civilians have been killed in thousands and displaced in millions from their communities while property, both public and private, of inestimable value was destroyed. Rebels who have refused to lay down arms have dared to open fire on government forces. Citizens’ right to freely move, work and acquire property anywhere within Ethiopia’s territory has been severely curtailed. Though a nation going through a sea change is necessarily confronted with testing challenges, the government shoulders the responsibility of arresting such a breakdown in law and order. It needs to make prompt amends for the mistake it made in rushing to open up the democratic space by obeying and enforcing the rule of law faithfully lest the same mistake rears its head again. On the other hand it’s vitally important to put a stop to hateful narratives inciting internecine strife and develop a culture of civilized dialogue. There is no other option. Even if there is it’s the road to perdition.

On the social front as well Ethiopians had to endure for centuries a bevy of challenges in the health, education, housing and other sectors that have made life an ordeal for them. The chronic shortage in affordable housing is undeniably the biggest headache for the vast majority of the public. From parents awaiting the day they become owners of low-cost condos being built by the government through lottery draws while struggling to make ends meet to pay for food, rent, tuition fees and other needs to city dwellers whose houses are demolished for redevelopment purposes many are suffering a lot in the search for a place they can call home. The government’s efforts to avail housing to these sections of society as well as the millions of youth graduating from higher learning institutions and become independent of their parents have not had the desired impact. The government’s willy-nilly foray into the construction and delivery of condos to home seekers despite lacking the necessary capacity has rendered the project unviable. It has been deaf to numerous suggestions to rectify the problem. The suspension of the transfer of condos to the winners of the draws held recently due to political pressure undoubtedly exacerbates the problem further. If law and order is to prevail these shortcomings need to be addressed quickly. Otherwise, the ensuing toll will be too high.

The economic sphere is beset with a complex set of challenges as well. With dedication and hard work none of them are insurmountable. The foremost task incumbent on all stakeholders in terms of overcoming the challenges is to benchmark the best practices of robust economies and adapt them to Ethiopia’s unique conditions. Attempting to replicate wholesale economic policies and strategies that may have succeeded elsewhere is a recipe for failure. Lamenting perennially about chronic unemployment, foreign exchange crunch, debt stress, drought, famine, etc., while living in a country blessed with vast arable land, substantial water resources, diverse tourist attractions, different kinds of minerals and most of all a predominantly young population is a mistake of gargantuan proportions; it’s a sin to go hungry or countenance abject poverty while sitting on top of an embarrassment of riches owing to misplaced pride and laziness; it’s a disgrace for a nation which supposedly has plenty of knowledgeable economists and strategists to import year in year out basic food items in bulk; it’s a tragedy to export oilseeds without adding value and import edible oil that is hazardous to health; and it’s humiliating for Ethiopia to go hand in cap to donors even though it has the potential to be prosperous.

Inasmuch as bringing mistakes to light is instrumental to finding the appropriate solution harping on real or perceived deficiencies with the primary intention of delegitimizing the target is dead wrong. In particular social media has become a platform where naysayers paint a doomsday picture about Ethiopia. The problems blighting the country were not created yesterday; they have been accumulating for eons. Compatriots enlisted on social media by elements harboring sinister motives are toiling day and night to erode the public’s trust in the government and undermine its authority. They are also fomenting intercommunal conflicts by inflaming the youth through lies and venomous rhetoric. Consequently, innocent lives are lost and the nation’s very survival is imperiled. It’s of the essence to cure Ethiopia of this sickness and set both the country and the ongoing change on the right course. Ethiopians cannot afford to become inured to mistakes.  If they do they will be treading on the road to perdition.