Shunning change an exercise in futility!
Trudging along at a tortoise’s pace in a constantly changing world exacts a steep price. The dividends of the blinding speed at which the technology-driven change of the 21st century is taking place can be enjoyed only insofar as one is able to keep pace. Human kind has made it to the present century owing to its success in changing the world to fulfill its needs. Change resistance is a recipe for downfall for change is an immutable law of nature. That is why it should be underscored here that the grave challenges currently staring Ethiopia in the face cannot be eluded by shunning change. As a nation over 70 percent of whose population fall under the youth category it requires a type of change which is fitting for this generation. To the extent that this change is underpinned by a shared understanding and managed properly,incidents that engender turmoil and destruction can be entirely avoided. At this juncture let’s dwell on some fundamental matters instrumental to making the change institutional, sustainable and anchored in the rule of law.
The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) badly needs a reform. It has been in power for over 26 years now following the culmination of 17 years of armed struggle to oust the military Dergregime. Inasmuch as it can be commended for accomplishing laudable achievements during its tenure it is not immune from criticism forits failings.In a departure from its custom of blaming others for the political crisis that has been rocking Ethiopia since the end of 2015 it recently laid the problem at its door. Although the EPRDF has on numerous occasions vowed to undertake a deep reform and respond to the demands of the public, its inability to deliver on its promise has had disastrous consequences for the country and its people.Its apparent disinclination to undertake a fundamental transformation has rendered it incapable of attuning itself with the new generation and providing solutions that are in keeping with the times. Attempting to lure the youth with empty propaganda or curbing access to social media does not work and in fact engenders more hatred.There can be no denying that applying 20th century tactics to 21st century problems is a clear indication that change is a concept that is anathema to the EPRDF.
Change resistance is one of the major shortcomings afflicting the Ethiopian political scene. A member of the 1970s generation of inflexible political actors the EPRDF views rivals as enemies and is loathe to open up the political space because change is not wired into its DNA. The ups and downs beginning from the transition period of 1991 to 1994, which many had hoped would bode well for multi-party democracy, to present day is testimony of this fact. The manner in which the EPRDF emerged as the dominant political party in Ethiopia and win each and every parliamentary seat with its allies in the 2015 elections—steamrolling its puny opponents—also demonstrates that the Front is anything but ready to embrace change. In this day and age it is stunning and frankly dismaying to see a single party, albeit together with a handful of allies, make a clean sweep of all legislative seats. Though some corrective measures have been taken after it is too late, the political crisis is set to rumble on without introducing reform packages efforts which are reflect contemporary realities. Failure to use change as an instrument to usher in a better future is apt to precipitate lawlessness.
If change is to be institutionalized and sustainable priority ought to be accorded to engaging a genuine dialogue. Even as the EPRDF releases thousands of prisoners and pledges to broaden the political space after taking full responsibility for the plight Ethiopia finds itself in, it is incumbent on it to listen and respond to the grievances and opinion of the public. This requires a strong commitment to implement the changes the public wants to see. Instead of imposing “solutions” that citizens had no say in it would be wiser to enable them to freely express what they want given it helps to craft the appropriate roadmap for the desired change. Change is indispensible not only in terms of enhancing personal and institutional development, but also in averting or minimizing the abrupt flare-up of violence. Carrying on business as usual is apt to provoke even more unrest. It’s in the interest of the EPRDF to turf out its worn-out propaganda machine and adopt a new communications strategy in cognizance of the fact that the tools which served it well in the bushes are of no use nowadays as a result of quantum leaps in knowledge and technology. Therefore, it better accept the need for real change and manage it in a way that is to the benefit of nation.
This reminder also applies to the forces arrayed in the opposition camp. In particular politicians belonging to the 1970s generation and their coterie of hangers-on have to ditch the tired and counterproductive hate propaganda they peddle via traditional and new media. Whether they like it or not the millions of educated youth of Ethiopia are wising up and becoming inquisitive; the time when they can be goaded into doing the bidding of someone through emotive rhetoric will soon be over. It is pointless to organize and run a political party which lacks a governing ideology that appeals to the youth. On the contrary it makes eminent sense to get on the change train before it leaves. Hence, it is high time, in reaffirmation of the notion that ultimate power is vested in the people, to commit oneself to a transformational change which lays the groundwork for the assumption of office through free and fair elections rather than force. Change can never come about in an atmosphere permeated by inflexibility and vindictiveness. The sole path to peace and prosperity is a civilized political engagement. All other options are not viable.
At this juncture it should be underscored that extra care needs to be taken to ensure that the manner in which change is implemented does not imperil both the national and public interest. Needless to say this calls for dialogue so as to forge a broad consensus on shared goals and values. As the process of institutionalizing and mainstreaming change deepens, anarchy and turmoil will have no place in Ethiopia. If this process is to succeed it is imperative to put a stop to the politics of hatred and revenge espoused by irresponsible, self-serving and myopic elements bent on fomenting violence, to respond promptly to the demands of the public as well as to persevere in seeing through change no matter the impediments standing in the way. Change is an inescapable fact of life. Shunning it is just an exercise in futility!