21 February 2018

Ethiopia: Decree Envisions National Welfare

Addressing issues of violence, insecurity and injustice is crucial for sustainable peace and development, as peace and development are inseparable or go hand in hand. Recognizing its appropriateness and timeliness, the government has declared a State of Emergency, following the recent unrest to be imposed for six months.

First of all, the State of Emergency allows the government to acquire leverage to address the long-term issues that caused the state of affairs, posing a grave threat to the state, the country and its populace. The declaration also offers the political actors opportunities to reverse the anomalous situation and take corrective measures that aid restoration of normalcy.

Though a State of Emergency in any country is a short-term scenario and does not aim to bring about sustainable solution, the measures to be taken consider first and foremost the pressing realities of the day and addressing the immediate shocks.

The return to normalcy can then be used to have a national discourse on sustainable peace and development in the country. So, the issues of peace and conflict are intricate and they require continuous engagement.

Regarding its timeliness and appropriateness, before the crisis reached its peak, the worsening of the situation in several parts of the country was becoming clear from day to day. The extremely dangerous turn of events was the cause of concern, not only to the political establishment but also to the peoples of this country as a whole, given the dire scenario that could be predicted. Anyone needs to consider how much destruction has taken place, how many lives have been lost and how many citizens have become internally displaced.

We also need to consider the peculiarity of our federation and the possible threats in every responsible citizen's mind in relation to the survival and continuity of the national fabric. We also need to take into the equation that the crisis is likely to damage the image of this country as a reliable investment destination- and how much effort and investment has gone into the construction of this image.

To arrest this mayhem, a crisis plan could have been put in place earlier, but then again, considering its effectuality in stopping a further escalation of disturbances and subsequent loss of human life and property, the declaration has no doubt proved to be a suitable response addressing the legal and operational landscape of the trouble spots.

A State of Emergency is in essence a state of anomaly. It is first and foremost about the security of the state and the people of the country. Despite the aberrations that are necessary, it is believed that untouchable rights will remain to be sacrosanct. Hopefully personal integrity rights will continue to be protected.

The State of Emergency provisions as communicated mean that in certain cases, there can be extrajudicial activity in the interest of countering armed insurrection. The reconfiguration of rules is hopefully in proportion to the magnitude of the threatening context that prevailed. Emergency powers are intended to fix the crisis and fixing a crisis is a pragmatic project.

The curb on certain rights is counterbalanced by the success obtained in terms of sustaining the federal entity and the unity of the country and assuring the peaceful coexistence of the peoples of Ethiopia. But we should envision beyond this transitory period a nation that is maturely democratic, just, tolerant, liveable and desirable and an important regional and continental actor.

Concerning the probable effectiveness of the decree to stop anti-peace forces, a cocktail approach to the crisis requires mechanisms that are found to assist media and journalists of all descriptions to behave professionally and responsibly. While constitutional guarantees for the freedom of expression and protection of the press should all along be respected as enshrined in conformity with the tenets of social contract, the communication industry has to exercise restraint and refrain from activities that can destabilize the lives of the citizenry and threaten the federal fabric.

Ostensibly, media should be a positive force to be unleashed in the nation's construction and not as an inflammatory device in the service of the historical adversaries of this country. Gagging the press is not a recommended course of action to be sure but the chemistry of the press is a very important consideration in all policy measures. Bad times require good press and our press should demonstrate its institutional nobility in this regard.

Of course, causing added misery to those in agony or adding fuel to fire is not the mark of praiseworthy journalism. Good press is also patriotic and the media should act in the defence and articulation of the best interests of this country.

Regarding social media and its deplorable role, much damage has already occurred. Despite the political dimension of this debate regarding social media, there is no shortage of professional knowledge of the numerous threats posed as a result of new media technologies and get into the hands of the most irresponsible. Social media abuses can threaten an entire nation, and social media journalists can be accessory to a brewing conflict. Social media have in some cases succeeded in turning communities against each other, in promoting hate and division as well as in producing a climate of fear and uncertainty.

Thus, the idea of social contract places certain obligations on the state in terms of political, economic, social and security commitments for the period of a term of office. Unless these commitments are addressed, there may be a failed state scenario or we may slide toward this frightening scenario.

Though there is a rising and unmet demand for high quality services in many public institutions, the government needs to address those appeals to significantly improve the service delivery and meet citizens' satisfaction. On the other hand, as there is no effective state without active citizenry, the peoples also need to take charge of issues which are important in their life such as demanding rights assertively and exposing malice with such official support and demonstration of commitment.

In the effort addressing national discourse over peace and development, the discourse of the media should be reviewed in light of knowledge advances and a more accommodating context should be created in terms of diversity as this is a diverse nation in a number of ways. I see numerous instances of peace, media and I think efforts should go a little further.

The declaration of the State of Emergency evidently brought stability in the country and preserved the safety of the people at large. Thus, it is the right and timely decision to control illegal actions, and re-normalize the regular socio-economic undertakings.

Though the decree has constitutional base, citizens could exercise some fundamental rights upon getting permission from the authorized command post for the welfare of themselves, and to safeguard constitutional laws and orders. The decree might also suspend constitutionally guaranteed democratic rights, as they are weighed less than the long-term benefits of the nation and the public.

In the period of State of Emergency, political parties, civic organizations and similar other associations need to undertake a peaceful, respectful and constructive discourse. Moreover, the government and the people should work cooperatively to enable the country to be a better place of peace and stability.

As the government have had the opportunity to decree a State of Emergency, it is the rightmost decision to resolve problems through discussions, protect the lives of millions, and forbid extensive property damage.

The government has declared a state of emergency to counsel and penalize anti-peace forces as well as to maintain sustainable peace and ensure the survival and continuity of the national welfare

Following the declaration of the State of Emergency, there have currently been tangible improvements in the country's peace and social order, especially, in places where extreme protests were principally entertained.

In sum, the need for strong and legitimate decree is most keenly felt in post-conflict settings, where the government is often tolerant till at least huge investments are severely damaged. In fact, the declaration of the State of Emergency is not only set to end violence but also to create a more democratic and just society and bring a time of hope and opportunity.

The State of Emergency offers political actors an opportunity to reverse the anomalous situation and create platform for sustainable peace and development discourse at national level.

Though Emergency rulings are for short term, they serve as a launching pad for durable solution.

Measures taken during the Emergency period, first and foremost, help to address the pressing realities of the day. However, the issue of peace and security are intricate and require continuous public engagement.

When one sees through a genuine lens, the decree is proper and would help to tackle the threats posed on the country and its people.

Regarding the role of the government and the public in maintaining sustainable peace in the country, though there has been a rising and unmet demand for high quality services, the government ought to address those demands to significantly improve service delivery. On the other hand, as there is no effective state without active citizenry involvement, the people also need to demand their rights assertively and expose malice.


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