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Towards a civilized expression of response to dissent!

No one is above the nation, people!

The fever pitch state Ethiopia’s politics presently, which has given rise to confusion and misgiving, does not bode well for the long-term interest of the nation and its people. The widely held perception that the leadership of the member parties of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) are at loggerheads is a case in point. Though the resignation of two veteran leaders of the Front within days in the past fortnight is not unprecedented, the fact that the interaction between the member parties is apparently becoming fractious is a further illustration. As an organization which holds the reins of power, for over 26 years at that, intra-party feuding should not be allowed to destabilize the country. If the leadership acts in a manner that runs counter to the national and public interest, it will spell disaster for all. It should be acknowledged that the very survival of the over hundred million people of Ethiopia trumps every other consideration and as such must never be compromised.

The violent protests that have rocked Ethiopia over the past three years have resulted in the death of hundreds and injury of thousands, the displacement of tens of thousands and the destruction of property worth billions. Protests, both organized and spontaneous, are still taking place in some parts of the country. It is indefensible to brush aside protests as being normal instead of striving to institute fundamental changes that address the root causes of public disgruntlement and thereby bring about political stability. The important thing is not the retirement of long-serving leaders either to infighting or other reasons. Rather it is whether or not the necessary steps are being taken to promote democracy and unity in Ethiopia. It’s primarily the government’s responsibility to create an environment that lends itself to the realization of a participatory democracy. Nothing is above the nation and its people.

The public is bombarded daily with endless information. From unverifiable trivia to major issues of national significance most of the information that is doing the rounds is pretty depressing. While the right thing to do would have been to put a stop to acts which cast serious doubt over whether the form of federalism Ethiopia is following can create the single economic and political community it is intended to, it is inexplicable why the ruling party harps on the legitimate or otherwise criticisms directed towards the suitability of the country’s brand of federalism. There is no arguing that federalism is the sole form of governance fit for Ethiopia. This makes it incumbent on the government to properly identify and explain the reasons behind the violence that has put Ethiopia at a crossroads as well as to introduce the changes required to deal with the challenges facing the federal system.

The inability of the EPRDF’s member parties and the leaders of restive regional states to sing from the same song sheet do not absolve them of the responsibility to abide by constitutional obligations. The perennial grievances of the masses can be resolved insofar as the rule of law is duly upheld. Discontent is bound to be expressed here and there. This however requires a strong and credible government agency which promptly provides the public with accurate information that goes a long way towards allaying the grave concern that the unsettling news it regularly hears elicits. It also helps to enable the public to exercise its right to know and to determine if the government is living up to its constitutional obligation to conduct itself in a manner that is transparent and entails accountability.

The troubling times Ethiopia is in call for a reflection on how to maintain the bond of love and unity that has bound them together for centuries. One the shared values that the proud and far-sighted people of Ethiopia are renowned for is a deep love of country. The sacrifices our heroic forefathers paid to defend the nation’s sovereignty against colonialists and other aggressors must not be desecrated if its very survival is to be assured. No political interest or motive is and has never been above the interest of the nation. Ethiopians always attach the utmost importance to the fate of their country. Politicizing each and every issue from the perspective of certain groups in no way advances Ethiopia’s cause. Individuals may come and go; a nation doesn’t. Anyone who resorts to unraveling the tie that binds us is liable to be judged harshly in the annals of history.

As we always say the government owes the public the duty to listen to it. Truth be told the people install the government in office so that it serves them. As such it is incumbent up on officials and employees serving at every level of government to respect and submit to the will of the people. The same holds true for forces arrayed on different sides of the political spectrum and social media commentators. It’s the utter disregard for this obligation that is primarily to blame for the widespread grievances of the public, which in turn gives rise to conflicts. Democracy, justice and prosperity cannot be thought of in the absence of peace. Everyone stands to lose from a zero-sum politics that does not countenance a civilized and constructive dialogue. This has been amply demonstrated countless times over the past couple of decades. It’s high time therefore that the government creates an enabling environment for the truly participatory democracy that the people of Ethiopia yearn for. Everything else is an exercise in futility. After all no one is above the nation and its people.