Unity sole guarantee for survival!
The adage “United we stand, divided we fall” has always had a profound meaning for Ethiopians throughout their history. They have valiantly defended Ethiopia’s sovereignty against any and all foreign aggressors and expansionists. Forged in blood, sweat and tears their love of country is a living testimony of their unity. Ethiopia managed to survive as a nation for centuries because of the exemplary unity displayed by succeeding generations during good times and bad times. The present generation shoulders the historical responsibility of preserving this proud legacy. It cannot afford to fail in this grave duty.
The past three years however saw ethnic conflicts which threaten to undermine this legacy and thereby jeopardize the very foundation of national unity. Stoked by elements bent on grabbing power and exacerbated by the government’s failure to meet the needs of the public, these egregious acts have resulted in the death, injury and displacement of thousands as well as the destruction of property running into millions. Citizens are increasingly unable to exercise the right to live, work, move and acquire property in any part of the country. Ethiopians have never been associated with such disgraceful and horrifying acts. In fact they are renowned for treating visitors leave alone compatriots with graciousness. Nowadays though the proliferation of misdeeds that go against the kernel of what constitutes Ethiopianism is threatening the nation’s unity.
All citizens should be able to exercise their right to the equal protection of the law and to be proud of and promote their identities. Their constitutionally guaranteed rights to self-government; to speak, to write and to develop their own language; and to preserve their history must be respected. This would go a long way towards achieving the ideal of establishing and sustaining one political and economic community. Respecting fully the individual and group rights enshrined in the constitution will have multi-faceted dividends including creating a system of governance anchored in the rule of law, strengthening national unity, attaining prosperity, and instilling a culture of engaging in a civilized discourse whose ultimate goal is to ensure the prevalence of peace, democracy and justice. Sadly these ideals remain more elusive than before due to reactionary elements which incite ethnic clashes to further their political agenda. The havoc they are wreaking on Ethiopia ought to be dealt with promptly before it gets out of hand and pose an existential threat.
Unfortunately ethno-centrism has not reared its ugly head in regional states alone; it is sweeping through federal structures, intellectuals as well as Ethiopians living in the diaspora. It’s counterproductive to poison the youth with tribalism instead of empowering them to enjoy their basic liberties and inculcating in them a sense of what it really means to be an Ethiopian. Their fertile mind can be influenced into engaging in acts which have dire consequences for the entire nation. Inflaming ethnic tensions as a strategy to assume power rather than through the mechanisms provided for by the constitution can never work. Even if it does it is bound to be short-lived for it is not founded on a strong foundation. Viewing everything through ethnicity can take one only so far.
Ethiopianness is a notion, an ideal for which a heavy sacrifice was paid. At a time many African and other nations were living under the yoke of colonialism Ethiopia served as a beacon of freedom on account of the fact that it is the only black nation which had repelled one invader after another. It was a deep love of country that motivated our forefathers to overcome hunger, inclement weather and technological disadvantage when they routed enemies that were armed to the teeth. They did not let ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences weaken their unity or resolve. The current generation should be mindful of the ultimate price preceding generations paid to defend the nation’s sovereignty; it must not dishonor its ancestors by sullying the legacy they bequeathed it.
The leaders at all levels of government, political parties, the youth, and the general public all need to bear one matter in mind: nothing is takes precedence or is more important than the survival of the nation. The diaspora community too has to duly appreciate this fact. There can be no denying the stark difference between living in one’s own country and a foreign country. They know well that the countries which provided them with refuge and economic opportunities are united because of the strong bond among their citizens. It is imperative to have a shared vision in order to ensure a nation’s survival. Neither the incumbent political party nor its opponents can contribute their share towards the realization of this vision if they are intent on demonizing each other and playing a zero-sum game. Democracy has never thrived in such toxic environment. What Ethiopia desperately requires now is to engage in a genuine dialogue with the aim of assuring respect for the rule of law and the fundamental rights laid out in the constitution. No topic should be off limits in the dialogue. Needless to say the participants of the dialogue have to rectify past mistakes if it is to be underpinned by mutual respect, level-headedness and the principle of give-and-take. Being consumed by animosity, distrust and vengeance in no way helps to achieve a constructive outcome. Rather it is infinitely better to preserve the historical and shared values of the people and ready oneself for a civilized discourse. Let’s put a stop to fanning the embers of tribalism and deal a deathly blow to the national and public interest. After all unity is the sole guarantor of the survival of a nation and its people.