Regarding a great many Ethiopians overseas and here at home, I am glad that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has chosen the path of national unity as a means to heal the wounds inflicted by tested and failed divisive political rhetoric.
I am not a politician, nor do I have an affiliation with EPRDF or any other political party. But the political headaches of Ethiopia has afflicted almost all of the citizens. As a citizen, or an individual of Ethiopian origin, I feel the need to take part in the current animated national discourse.
Abiy has made many speeches since he became Prime Minister just a couple of months ago. More importantly, he has taken measures that could help us understand where his political agendas lie. Abiy has made the realisation of the sense of national unity, good governance and widening the political space his areas of focus. His agendas became evident in the pardons granted to political leaders, the demotion of individuals with political clouts and his rhetoric in town hall meetings and public addresses.
Abiy has touched upon and focused on the importance of building a sense of national unity in a country with diverse languages and cultures. This seems to be a reversal of a generation-long test that failed but has been defended by previous leaders of EPRDF as a working template for federalism.
It is hard to deny the political calm Abiy's ascension to power has brought. But I have a concern that the issue of national unity has still not been addressed adequately to the public at large. There is still room to do as such, especially with the invitation that has been extended to overseas political rivals to contribute to this important matter - reaching a sense of national unity through open and constructive debates.
Another focus of Abiy's administration has been dropping charges or pardoning individuals. This has taken place partly in the name of widening the political space. The messages passed to the public regarding this matter were touching and had likely affected many.
But why those convicted of corruption charges were pardoned has been murky and confusing to the public.
If it was made in the context of forgiving previous wrongdoings, then why just them?
How about others that are imprisoned for lesser crimes? Those that did not extract as much from the nation's treasures? What does this teach the youth and other government officials who should aspire to be better citizens?
Good governance is the other matter that Abiy emphasizes. Corruption and maladministration have been rampant in Ethiopia. As subsequent administrations have promised but repeatedly failed to curb, it is essential to ask why it has been as difficult as rocket science for the government.
The answer is too simple, the lack of political commitment and checks and balances in government. It is doubtful that Abiy's administration has not paid attention to this plunder of the government's coffer.
Just late last month, the Office of the Auditor General revealed that there is an aggregate 20 billion Br of financial irregularities recorded in federal institutions. The government ought to address this by holding responsible officials accountable for this misuse of public trust. No one should be allowed to abuse the nation's treasures without facing consequences.
Corruption is evident even in the lower bureaucracy of the public sector. Services that should be rolled out fairly and equally are doled out disproportionately, with those that are not connected or lack cash to spare left holding the short end of the stick.
Public services must be provided on a levelled playing field. Ethiopia, facing a myriad of problems including the forex crunch and inflation, cannot entertain loopholes that allow the rich to get richer. Corruption arises when the public sector is incapacitated, and given that the ruling EPRDF party controls all the levers of the federal government, it has no one to blame but itself.
Corruption and mismanagement of public funds should be punished stringently. The government must likewise consider prohibiting individuals with felonies from serving in official positions. Corruption, like the cancerous tissue that medical science removes from the body, must be gotten rid off by the government surgically and efficiently. It goes without saying that the court systems should be reformed to protect against the miscarriage of justice.
Considering how difficult it is to clean up this mess, I hope Abiy's endeavour will be informed by the great Martin Luther King's saying that "even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."