Ethiopia: Shunning Politics of Mutually Assured Destruction

editorial

Peace is a valuable commodity vital to the continued viability of Ethiopia as a nation. Accordingly, each and every Ethiopian must contribute his/her share to the prevalence of stability throughout the territory of the nation.

This responsibility primarily falls on the shoulders of political parties. In the absence of a matured culture of democracy, any conflict stemming from misunderstandings among political parties is liable to provoke a multitude of problems. A case in point is the escalating war of words between the leadership of the ruling Prosperity Party and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). Officials peddling vitriolic narratives and inciting violence need to tame their tongue before the country is rent asunder. Unless party leaders that put their interest above the nation's and those who egg them on from behind abandon the politics of mutually assured destruction the ensuing inferno is bound to engulf them as well.

In a country afflicted by abject poverty and backwardness, politicians claiming to know what is in the best interest of the people are sowing instability. Incapable of extricating fellow citizens from the quagmire they are wallowing in, they are mushrooming at an alarming rate. Despite being endowed with vast arable land, favorable climate conditions as well as a youthful workforce Ethiopia is beset with hunger; though it's known as the "water tower of Africa", it still suffers from acute shortage of potable water; it trails behind most nations in practically every global development indices in spite of its long and proud history; tens of millions still living below the poverty line cannot meet their food and housing needs; millions of children suffer from stunting; and the transport, water, electricity, waste disposal and other municipal services provided to urban dwellers are substandard. Power mongers devoid of ideas on how to modernize the subsistence farming practiced in Ethiopia for thousands of years and improve the livelihood of its people should not be allowed to roil the country for political gain.

Many observers agree that ever since its advent some five decades Ethiopia's modern politics has been antithetical to democracy. From the leftist groups of the 1970s that engaged in the murderous Red Terror/White Terror carnages to present-day forces pursuing ethnic politics the bulk of political parties operating in Ethiopia have never had a proper grasp of the fundamentals of democracy. In any democratic society organized political entities have the obligation to offer a menu of policy options to the public. As such they must produce members capable of leading the nation. They should also serve as platforms wherein the diverse views and desires of the people, including their members, find free expression. Moreover, they ought to be the epitome of transparency and accountability and play an active role in promoting a civilized discourse. If one were to ask whether Ethiopia's political parties measure up to this task, the simple answer is no for the majority are good at nothing but zero-sum politics.

Terrible at developing policy alternatives and pursuing a constructive brand of politics the country's political parties, with the exception of a notable few, are either fast asleep as though nothing is happening or serving as dens for political hacks. Only a handful of them are making the necessary preparations to emerge competitive in the upcoming general elections slated to take some time in 2021. The fact that there are over 100 of them without so much as exerting a fraction of the influence that self-described activists wield beggars belief. So does their utter ignorance of the ABC's of politics and willful compromising of the national interest. That is why they must be told in no uncertain terms to mend the errors of their ways.

Political parties that truly have the interest of Ethiopia and its people at heart owe the duty to ensure that the transition period underway culminates successfully with the holding of free, fair, democratic and credible elections. They need to work together to facilitate Ethiopia's smooth transition to a democratic order, uphold the rule of law, enable citizens to have access to justice, eradicate conniving and vindictiveness from Ethiopian politics, and see to it that Ethiopia's future is bright. Furthermore, it's incumbent on them to play an exemplary role in terms of, among others, rejecting discriminatory attitudes and practices, creating a mutually respectful relationship among parties, and forging a culture of constructive dialogue. If the political space in Ethiopia is to be inclusive and representative of diverse voices, it's imperative to eschew violence as a means to assume power. Unless all political actors reach a consensus on the notion that grabbing power through the barrel of the gun is a path to mutually assured destruction, the future will not bode well for everyone.

The existence of far too many political parties in Ethiopia has always struck Ethiopians. Though the merger of some parties with a broadly similar platform was expected to cull their number, there are too many of them for citizens' liking. While their proliferation is not a problem in itself and the right to organize is a constitutionally guaranteed freedom, the fact that the vast majority of them exist on paper only is in no one's interest. They are proof that claiming to stand for democracy without living it and invoking the public's name in vain is political suicide. It's an open secret that most political parties are virtually the private properties of their founders. This wholly unacceptable state of affairs has to be changed so that the parties become genuine representatives of the segments of society they profess to represent and are able to function in a manner that is informed by Ethiopia's contemporary realities. The journey to forge a path to democracy may succeed through an unswerving commitment to the tenets of democracy, not misdeeds that do not befit the times. Political forces blinded by their lust for power and couldn't care less about the fate of their compatriots should think hard before destabilizing the country for selfish ends. They are better advised to shun the politics of mutually assured destruction for the sake of Ethiopia and its people.

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