The deadly violence which rocked some parts of Ethiopia last week did not come as a surprise to many who had been expressing misgivings that it was certain to happen. Despite calls for the rule of law to be upheld in the wake of similar incidents in the past that led to the death and dislocation of innocent citizens and the destruction of their property, they continue to erupt sporadically. The disinclination of both federal and regional authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice has emboldened forces bent on dismantling the nation, precipitating a crisis threatening to push it over the precipice.
The authorities' standard response to accusations that the government is weak-kneed when it comes to upholding the rule of law is that it's wrong to resort to killing and other illegal acts in order to do so. Time and again the inability to uphold law and order has enabled criminal elements to operate with impunity. In particularly forces organized under the mantle of peoples' liberators are committing crimes endangering the country's very existence including instigating intercommunal strife. If this specter is to be averted the government needs to tackle it resolutely.
The political rivalry hitherto, which had been primarily informed by Ethiopianness, is being undermined by a destructive campaign that goes against the notion of pluralistic democracy and is intended to weaken the unity of Ethiopians. Regardless of the justifications offered by the architects of the campaign, they and their lieutenants on the ground brainwashed the youth of one ethnic group into slaughtering hundreds of Ethiopians of other ethnicity in Addis Ababa and other parts of the country as well as vandalizing their hard-earned property.
The deliberate attempt to sow division and hatred between a people who have co-existed in harmony for centuries by inciting uninformed youth into causing mayhem and destruction constitutes a grave challenge for Ethiopia. The devastation that took place the previous week is no different from those committed by barbaric invaders. Failure to maintain law and order is the first step on the path to state collapse. This is a prospect that ought to be thwarted at all cost.
As vital to building a democratic political community the rule of law must guide the action of every citizen. This is truer for politicians. Leveling constructive criticisms against and exposing the government's flaws and follies is the hallmark of a civilized and lawful brand of politics. It also helps garner public trust in future elections. The purely venomous narrative nowadays advocated by radical ethno-centrists only serves to engender societal fracture. Some insisted that the 2020 elections should be held on schedule while the COVID-19 pandemic was ravaging the world. And when the elections were temporarily postponed following a constitutional interpretation to that effect they openly stirred unrest saying the government will not have a legitimate mandate to rule the country after October 10, 2020. It's in the backdrop of this political tug-of-war that the assassination on July 29 of the Oromiffa singing sensation Hachalu Hundessa resulted in unspeakable atrocities.
It should be noted here that the measures citizens take to defend themselves in the face of the government's inability or reluctance to afford them protection can have unintended consequences. Although external factors may have contributed to the recent security lapse, it cannot be denied that it was largely fueled by internal tensions that had been building up for decades. It cannot be lost on anyone that Ethiopia's historical enemies stand to gain the most when the tie that binds its people is eroded owing to the absence of the rule of law.
The first order of business for the government in maintaining law and order is to clean its house. In this regard it's incumbent on it to purge from its ranks chameleons that consort with insurgents but switch their allegiance to the government when the balance of power shifts to it. Moreover, the government must stop the brazen attempt of certain political parties and prominent individuals to exert influence over or infiltrate the security forces so that they may have a free rein to do whatever they please. In fact the dereliction of duty by some members of the security forces is attributable to this attempt. The government can ill afford to ignore the grave threat that the inability to know what is happening under its nose poses to national security.
Ethiopians should not lose sight of one important fact. Presently no political party or individual claiming to be the sole defender of the vested interests of Ethiopians or their ethnic group lack a mandate derived from the people they "represent". They cannot act in their name without securing such authority through democratic elections. Whether they like it or not the transition Ethiopia is undergoing must be led by the incumbent government.
They would do better to engage positively with the government to assist it put in place enabling conditions for the next elections; table ideas that help ensure the elections are free, fair and credible; and undertake constructive activities that allow them secure public support. If, however, they choose to wreak havoc, the government and the public at large should join hands to see to it that they are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Failure is not an option for it means that Ethiopia will face the same fate as Syria and Yemen.
Ethiopia is a nation smack in the middle of a perfect storm of crisis, some of which have been rolling over for years. Contrary to the flawed arguments of some, the major unanswered question of its people is neither ethnic nor religious in nature. In fact Ethiopians have developed shared values which have helped them go through the good times and the bad times together. No single ethnic group has ever tyrannized or subjugated another; all have been subjected to oppression by successive ruling classes.
The peddling of a revisionist and false narrative in complete denial of this truth is part of the strategy of Ethiopia's age-old adversaries whose endgame is to render it a failed state or failing that to weaken it with the instrumentality of home-based proxies hawking the bankrupt politics of division and hatred. Ethiopians need to wise up to this stark fact. Ethiopia and its people may prosper through an unrelenting struggle for democracy and justice, not death and destruction. Let's all roundly reject the budding extremism and violence afflicting Ethiopian politics these days and strive towards building a nation founded on the principles of the rule of law and equality. Otherwise, Ethiopia will disintegrate before our eyes at the hands of anarchists.