by Asfaw Regasa
To say that our country is at a “cross-road” now seems to have become a cliché as the expression has been used by many and we have not heeded to the warning. The various conflicts that are unfolding in different parts of our country before our eyes (Somali region, Oromia Region, Southern Region, Amhara Region, Benshangul Region and now in the outskirts of Addis Ababa) are dangerously alarming! The brutal murder of innocent citizens including women, children, and elders, burning churches and killing priests, destroying properties, and seeing pictures of citizens carrying their children and small properties migrate from areas that they lived for generations to shelters and cities within and outside of our borders depicts and brings to memory horrible pictures of genocide that took place in other countries.
The venomous seed that the diabolic Meles Zenawi and company have deliberately planted to disintegrate our beloved Ethiopia through their constitutionalization of ethnic politics seems to be bearing fruit. The sad thing is that such atrocities continue to be committed at a time when hopes and aspirations of our people for a democratic change have peaked and embraced the current change, that is the result of decades of struggle and sacrifice by the Ethiopian people, which is now being led by Dr. Abiy Ahmed and his team. Without a doubt, some of these atrocities (e.g., the Jigjiga and neighboring cities as well as the outskirts of Addis Ababa) could either be completely prevented or at least minimized had Dr. Abiy’s Government taken the necessary security measures beforehand. These atrocities were never unpredicted and, in fact, the symptoms for their occurrence were palpable even before they took place. The attribution of a difficult landscape for not preventing the carnages committed in the outskirts of the capital is a cruel joke at the lives of the many innocent civilians that have been massacred.
Now the question is: What Should Be Done?
This article aims at initiating immediate conversation among Ethiopians as to what should be done to prevent the massacre and displacement of our people and stabilize our country in the short run and throw ideas for discussion on the trajectory of the change that is currently underway.
The violence unfolding before our eyes in different parts of the country is extremely dangerous if not curbed as expeditiously as possible. Hence, the primary and most urgent focus should be conflict prevention and stabilizing peace in all parts of our country. In this regard, this author suggests the following:
- As it is well known, the primary responsibility of any responsible government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens in all parts of the country. In view of this, Dr. Abiy’s Government must put all police forces in all parts of the country in a defensive posture to protect citizens from such heinous crimes as expeditiously as possible.
- Political parties’ leaders, religious leaders, prominent citizens, intellectuals, Elders, Abba Gedas and civil society leaders must come out and use all available media and educate and ask all Ethiopians, particularly the youth, to desist from using violence and unconditionally stop massacring their fellow citizens and destroying property.
- Dr. Abiy’s Government must bring all those who have committed such horrifying crimes to justice and announce to the public court decisions as expeditiously as possible. If such legal measures are not taken quickly, criminals could feel that they could continue their atrocities with impunity.
- Dr. Abiy’s Government must hold any individual or media that spreads hate crime propaganda among the people to account under applicable laws. Whereas in a democratic society people have the right to free expression, however they don’t have any right to spread such propaganda that results in the massacre of citizens, destruction of property and destabilization of the country’s peace. We have heard on media a self-appointed “liberator” bragging about his ability to secede part of our country should he choose to do so and has described some of the youngsters who were involved in the recent conflict as “hooligans”, tacitly condoning the actions of those that were on the opposite side. After all, such characterization of the youth is reminiscent of Meles Zenawi’s similar characterization of the youth who were massacred during the 2005 election.
- It is alleged by many that the massacres that we see in different parts of our country are either initiated or facilitated and financed by criminals who lost political power due to the recent changes within EPRDF. Dr. Abiy’s Government must take appropriate legal measures on those that perpetrate such atrocities as soon as possible, provided it has evidence for such crimes.
With respect to our country’s political trajectory, this author believes that political parties would initiate discussion with Dr. Abiy’s Government now that all major exiled political parties are in country, in addition to those who have been struggling peacefully in country. However, as a concerned citizen this author suggests the following in view of sparking a conversation among stakeholders:
- Dr. Abiy’s Government needs to immediately convene all-stakeholders including, the Government, political parties, prominent individuals, intellectuals, elders, Abba Gedas, religious leaders, civic society leaders, etc. to discuss the current socio-economic and political situation and map out short- and long-term strategies to chart the democratization process in an inclusive manner. The Government needs to be inclusive because a) a democratization process has to be inclusive in principle and not exclusionary – the attitude that we are in power and we know it all leads to nowhere but to dictatorship; and b) our country’s multi-faceted problems were not created by a single individual, community or political party but are the results of our societal interactions over several generations and hence dealing with such complex problems requires the inclusion of all stakeholders.
- Some Ethiopians have proposed the idea of forming a transitional council composed of all stakeholders mentioned above while maintaining the current government. This author shares this proposition since such a council will play a vital advisory role to Dr. Abiy’s Government and the stakeholders take ownership of the change that is currently underway. The author urges the stakeholders to examine the merits and demerits of such a council or some other similar structure as soon as possible.
- The author suggests that Dr. Abiy’s Government be more transparent with the people of Ethiopia about the various bilateral or multilateral agreements that it is entering into through press releases, press conferences, etc. in order to solidify the massive support that it has garnered over the past few months and build the confidence of the Ethiopian people. (e.g., a bilateral agreement that secured $1 billion each from the UAE Government and the World Bank, the agreement with the Chinese Government, the agreement with the Eritrean Government, etc.).
As a cliché as it may sound, our country undoubtedly is at a cross-road between democracy and chaos, hope and despair, light and darkness. In spite of the horrific incidents that have taken place over the past few months, this author believes that our people have the wisdom, maturity and foresight to choose the former in each case and usher in a new era for our country. However, the Government, political party leaders, religious leaders, elders, intellectuals, Abba Gedas, civic society leaders and the media must play a vital role in bringing about the fundamental political change of a free, just and democratic governance that hundreds and thousands of our fellow citizens paid the ultimate sacrifice for over the past nearly six decades.
May Almighty God protect and bless our beloved Ethiopia!
The author can be reached at email@example.com