9 August 2018

Ethiopia: Avoid Repeating Past Mistakes

A lot has been witnessed in the last couple of months in Ethiopian politics. And most of the incidents have in them an element of hope and optimism.

The release of imprisoned politicians and activists, the ever growing progress in freedom of speech and the press, the restoration of diplomatic ties with Eritrea, the end of polarization and the beginning of constructive engagement among the Ethiopian Diaspora, the reconciliation between political and religious leaders, the return of exiled politicians and parties, (some of which were labeled 'terrorists' by parliament) and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Synod in exile in the US have been the major positive incidents. And all these make it seem like it is the perfect time for change and progress.

Then again, it is amidst all these positive developments that we have also been witnessing conflicts and incidents of violence that break the hearts of many citizens. Among such unfortunate incidents are the saddening and unfortunate ethnic conflicts in western and southern Ethiopia among communities known for their age long peaceful coexistence, the grenade attack at rally for PM Abiy Ahmed, and the controversial death of engineer Simegnewe Bekele, project manager of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

This week, while there are still good news - the government has signed an agreement to end hostilities with the Oromo Liberation Front - we are also being informed of yet another tragic development from the eastern part of the country. Since Saturday, the violence in Somali State instigated by a seemingly organized mob has resulted in the loss of innocent human lives, burning of churches and widespread looting and vandalism.

The patterns of the incidents make them seem like they are planned beforehand to disturb the ongoing hope for overall reform, progress and reconciliation.

In this era of freedom and hope for progress, it is regrettable to witness such incidents unfolded before our eyes.

While the government showed too much restraint in dealing with the situation - so that it does not fuel the conflicts - it seems that the violence and conflicts have not just occurred randomly and that there are groups that want to withhold progress.

In its history, Ethiopia has passed through a lot of desperate situations, ranging from foreign aggressions to civil wars. It is undeniable that, though the country has kept its unity and independence intact, the incidents are the major reasons for the country to lag behind others in terms of economic development, freedom and democracy.

Currently, after decades of successive economic growth, the country is undertaking a deep reform to facilitate smooth transition to democracy. As this is not a chance to miss, Ethiopians should take maximum care not to repeat past mistakes.

Hence, in this promising time in the history, the government should take maximum care and responsibility to preventing conflicts that are happening here and there for the annoyance of the ongoing reform and spirit of change.

All Ethiopians, particularly the elite and political leaders should prioritize the peoples' and national interests than their personal interests. Everybody should take maximum care for not being trapped in the maze of those who are constantly engaged in sabotaging the change by instigating violence and ethnic conflict.

Instead, the goal of all Ethiopians should be realizing democracy, development and fair distribution of the country's resources. Failing to do so at this historical point in time would be a historic mistake.

Ethiopia

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