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Shame on us!

Shame on us!

The international matches slated to be staged in Ethiopia have reportedly been switched, albeit temporarily, to neighboring countries because the country’s stadiums have failed to meet the minimum standard set by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The very fact that Ethiopia, which played an instrumental role in founding CAF over half-a-century ago, has been stripped the right to host international matches owing to the inability of its stadiums to live up to global benchmarks is not only a national disgrace, but has angered and ashamed many an Ethiopian in equal measure. It also serves as a stark reminder of the imperative to critically look into the morass of problems facing the country. If CAF determines that Ethiopia does not meet the standards necessary to hold international competitions, the nation surely falls short on other fronts as well. Failure to avail basic facilities like restrooms satisfying the required specifications even as we claim to have built 21st century stadiums means that we are blighted with grave shortcomings across a whole slew of areas. Let’s disabuse ourselves of hubris and engage in a serious introspection.

One of the perennial criticisms leveled against government agencies in Ethiopia relates to their performance against objectives. Aside from not prioritizing the activities which help attain the desire outcome, the monitoring and evaluation mechanisms they employ leave a lot to be desired; the manner in which they deploy and use human, financial and material resources is below standard; and they are hopelessly inadequate at scenario-building  wherein likely challenges are predicted and the appropriate solutions thereof are designed. Consequently, the performance they put in year in ear out is subpar. Though “stretch goal” has been a byword in government institutions for some time now, their achievement has been woeful to say the least. The mismatch between the performance of, among others, the export, manufacturing, tourism and agriculture sectors and the intended target is demonstrative of the gravity of the problem when it comes to setting realistic plans. Had Ethiopia’s considerable resources been put to proper use, it would not have been synonymous poverty and backwardness.

Ethiopia is home to some 110 million souls. Of these 70 percent are children and the youth. A nation is also endowed with vast arable land, a considerable surface and sub-surface water resource, various climate conditions suitable for farming, a substantial deposit of all sorts of minerals, and numerous tourist attractions. Sadly, a country blessed with such abundance is unable to feed itself and goes cap in hand annually to donors pleading for emergency food assistance to an average of eight millions people. Moreover, millions more displaced from their communities down to intercommunal strife have become dependent on aid to fulfill their basic needs. A staggering majority of the population lead a life of misery due to abject poverty, chronic unemployment and housing shortage. A fortune is being spent in hard currency on importing basic food items like wheat, edible oil and sugar that could and should have been produced locally. Even though no time should be wasted in extricating the masses from this quagmire, the effort being made towards this end is unsatisfactory. Such a deplorable state of affairs must not be allowed to become the new normal.

The political scene in Ethiopia, which has been on a downward spiral for several decades, continues to be a source of despair, not hope. Most politicians are unwilling to engage in a constructive dialogue. Even when they are forced into appearing on the same stage they don’t talk to each other candidly. Steeped in a culture of rumor mongering and backbiting, they are bereft of the courage and patience to take up frank discussions and negotiations—hallmarks of a civilized form of politics. Solely interested in avenging real or perceived slights which occurred over the past five decades, they have no desire whatsoever to learn from their mistakes and contribute to building a democratic order. And they always fall by the wayside because they are so intent on tripping up one another as opposed to finding a common denominator through a process of give-and-take. The injustices they have perpetrated have made life a terrible ordeal for the innocent. Mediocre politicians must be told in no uncertain terms to cease and desist from misdeeds liable to render Ethiopia the laughing stock of the world. Otherwise, there will be no end in sight to the journey downhill and the shame befalling the country.  

As we have said time and again Ethiopia is a great nation which is facing headwinds that it rarely did in the past. Who but the present generation should be embarrassed when a country that ought to hold its head up high is declared to be unfit to host international matches by CAF, the very continental governing organization it co-founded? Who should be humiliated when Ethiopia, a nation that has done a stellar record in peacekeeping missions around the world, is riven by conflicts at the hand of its children and comes to epitomize instability? Who must be mortified as a country that played a significant role in the independence struggle of fellow African states is now confronted with an existential threat on account of deadly conflicts fomented by ethno nationalists?  Which is the saner option: Subject Ethiopia to further shame or join hands to steer it on the path to prosperity? Engage in spats over trivial matters that eventually result in mutual destruction or talk as civilized people with the aim of restoring trust? If we persist in the errors of our ways we are bound to be even more disgraced. That’s why it’s incumbent on us to stop pointing fingers at others and acknowledge that we are responsible for our circumstances. This would go a long way towards extricating us from the hole we have dug ourselves into. If we have to be ashamed at anyone it should be at ourselves.