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Let’s talk about what really matters!

Let’s talk about what really matters!

Ethiopians must as one urge the government to come clean for they are starved of information that provides an accurate picture of the current state of the union. This Monday the nation’s president delivered a wide-ranging speech at the opening of the joint session of the House of Peoples’ Representative and the House of the Federation at the commencement of their annual sessions. The speech was anticipated to address at length several topical issues of critical national importance. The increasingly perplexing relationship between the federal regional governments is a case in point. In particular the bloody clashesthat saw scores die and tens of thousands displaced in the Oromia and Ethiopia-Somali regions was just a footnote in the speech. The conflict between the two bordering communities constitutes one of if not the most pressing issue that comes to mind when saying that we need to talk about what really matters.

Admittedly the president’s speech laid out a roadmap the nation’s legislative and development agendas for the current fiscal year. However, the public is not that into hearing a technical analysis of the country’s much-touted economic growth; it is more interested to know how each household stands to benefit fairly from the growth. The protection of basic liberties, which has not improved year after year, is still a cause for grave concern for many. Much can be said about the ordeal that citizens yearning for justice are forced to undergo. The abridgementof the constitutionally guaranteed right to engage freely in economic activity and to pursue a livelihood of his choice anywhere within the national territory is a troubling matter to this date. The inability to negotiate and forge a consensus on shared goals remains a national malaise. In a country beset by all these problems the people and the government cannot listen to each other let alone sing from the same songsheet. Transparency and accountability cease to be cherished values as the government oversteps the limits to its authority and acts with impunity. Such an environment does not lend itself to overcoming challenges in a manner informed by the objective reality. It would have been better to talk about this fact.

Last week the Speaker of the House of Peoples’ Representatives announced that he had tendered his resignation. The public was taken quite aback by the unexpected news that the he had decided to step down from his position at the helm of an institution which embodies the will of the people—the ultimate repositories of sovereign power. The Speaker said he would explain the reason for his resignation is yet to disclose what prompted him to quit. It’s unclear whether he wanted to take a break from politics, had fallout with the ruling party, is unable to discharge his duties due to health complications or other personal reasons. Why wasn’t the reason behind his decision made immediately clear to the public? Had the government been transparent and accountable for its action speculations would not have been rife about the Speaker’s resignation. How can the public trust the government in the backdrop of the latter’s secretive streak? How long can Ethiopians go on defending the fact that we are not an open society? Transparency is the biggest tool available to lawmakers in effectively exercising oversight over the executive branch of government. Let’s talk about what really matters.

Although the constitution of Ethiopia stipulates that the conduct of affairs of government shall be transparent and that any public official or an elected representative is accountable for any failure in official duties, the egregious flouting of these principles has wrought and continues to wreak havoc across the country. The problem is further exacerbated by the propensity to brush the problems posing a threat to the form of federalism Ethiopia is practicing under the carpet rather than seek solutions for them, thus giving rise to a simmering discontent that erupts into deadly violence from time to time. In a sign of the rift between the people and the government many of the problems that the government puts on the back burner usually recur in another form. When government officials and cadres live in a world that is divorced from reality the wrong medicine is prescribed for society’s ailments. There is no arguing that federalism is the sole form of government that can work in Ethiopia and that the failings of the federal system presently in place cannot be ignored. This calls for a nationwide dialogue where all stakeholders express their views. Ethiopia’s federalism cannot be said to be blossoming while it is beset by multi-faceted fault lines. If it is to be inclusive and consensus-based there is no choice but to discuss as a nation what really matters. There is no harm in that.

As the foundation for democracy, justice and prosperity the people of Ethiopia value peace above anything else.Peace will remain an elusive ideal without forging a common understanding it is essential for the very survival of a country. Needless to say this common understanding can be reached solely through the genuine and active participation of all who feel they have a stake in the fate of their nation. A civilized dialogue free from political baggage goes a long way towards the attainment of this goal. And every politician and citizen who submits to the rule of law toils to build a strong multi-cultural country founded on mutual respect and solidarity; he certainly does not lose sleep over beating the drums of war and turn his country into a heap of rubble. Power mongers bent on eroding national unity to accomplish their sinister motive can only succeed in an environment where transparency and accountability non-existent.Basing a political action or policy decision on a whim instead of principles cannot lead to an outcome that addresses the needs of the public. Such is the fatal flaw of many political parties and their leaders. But at least the party which holds the reins of power must abide by a set of constitutionally enshrined principles as it governs a nation.If we should talk about things that really matter then this surely fits the bill.

At the risk of repeating ourselves we proclaim that the proud people of Ethiopia always evince the utmost affection for their country and fellow citizens. As such they deserve principles-based governance. It aspires for its nation to be secure and prosperous. Sadly a raft of impediments stands in the way of realizing their dream. It is up to the government to get these problems out in the open and do whatever is necessary to eliminate them. It is impossible to keep everything a secret. Nothing has ever remained a secret forever. The government would do well to realize that it should only turn to the public when the nation is confronted with a crisis. Similarly it must strive to find a solution when the public unequivocally expresses what is troubling it; it should never tell it to stomach or forget the problem. The obsession with secrecy and reluctance to uphold the rule of law earn one only rebuke, not praise. Let’s talk about what really matters!