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The Year That Was and Will Be

Ezana Sehay   1/4/2016

A year’s end has always been a time of gentle reflection, rehash the past and look back at the year ahead. In 2015, Ethiopians were in most ways than not pleased with their good fortune and glad to contemplate their future. But there are also some reasons for sourness to creep in to our spirit.

For many, the world in 2015 was a dangerous year. The Middle East is still burning, Europe was shaken by terror attacks and the unprecedented number of refugees, pockets of conflicts has caused great number of causalities in Africa. Too many in the world go without basic necessities and struggle against poverty and even the forces of nature.

Close to home; Somalia is still volatile. There is truce in the south Sudan civil-war but it is shaky. A tyrant in Eritrea persists, so does the exodus of the Eritrean youth out of the country. Across the Red Sea, Yemen has been transformed in a stage for proxy-war between the Saudi camp and the Iranian one.

As for Ethiopia, it has largely been removed from such troubles. There is of course, the threat of terrorism and the prevalence of maladministration. Moreover, in the last months of the year, the nation was faced with two major challenges: The El-Niño induced drought and the protest in the state of Oromia.

In the prior case, in spite of the severity of the weather pattern [the most devastating in half-century] the government has so far been able to manage to fend off any major impact on the people. This goes to show you how far the country has changed. Today’s Ethiopia is not the Ethiopia of Haileslesie or Mengestu. This is the Ethiopia of Hailemariam Desalegn whose administration is willing and able to protect the people from the wrath of Mother Nature.

In the case of the protest in Oromia, I am afraid both levels of government [federal or state] didn’t fare well. The protest, which started peacefully, was a potent symbol of the monumental change the Ethiopian society has undergone in the last two decades. The cause that triggered it was the so called “Addis Ababa and Oromia Special Zones Integrated Master Plan”. But it soon grew in to an expression of public discontent against state and local administrations.

Sadly while the protest was going on neither level of government attempt to communicate with the protesters or the public at large. As a matter of fact, government officials and the so called public-media began making statements or reporting about the protest after the passionate public plea by Ben of ethiopiafirst.com.

By then it was too late. The government’s failure to act promptly had created a vacuum of information.  As expected the void created by the government inaction was filled by rumors and propagandas spewed by the Diaspora extremists and their surrogates inside who hijacked the protest and steered it off the main road - leading to the heart breaking loss of life and damage to private and public property.

If one has to look for the silver lining in all this is that both levels of government are now acknowledged their faux pas and have made public pledge to address issues of the master plan and other pertinent matters in consultation with the stake holder [people] very soon.

Nevertheless, in spite of the aforementioned shortcomings, on balance, 2015 was a year where Ethiopians had much to be grateful for and here are some reasons to start the New Year with an optimistic note.

There is a strong government that is not only dedicated to building a democratic society but also committed to addressing the people’s demands regarding issues of governess that have long hobbled out the country. Some are even predicting 2016 to be the year of an all encompassing regeneration of the party and the government – to bring them in line with the prevailing realism.

Economically, there is unprecedented consensus emerging among influential economists and policy makers that the future “belongs to Ethiopia”.  – Amen!

Diplomatically, Ethiopia is regarded as the anchor of sanity in a traditionally chaotic regional and geo-political reality of the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.

Most importantly, Ethiopia is among the countries in which to live and work, safe – in fact, than it has ever been, ever!

However, these twin blessings – security and peace – are not a given. Protecting and preserving both at home, and helping promote then in the neighborhood with too little of either, are tasks that require constant attention and sustained effort. Ethiopians must never take their peace for granted, or full themselves in to believing that they are somehow immune from the bad tidings that have befallen far too many of their fellow human beings the world over.

Especially the folks in the opposition camp need some perspective. As much as they don’t want to admit it, you’re all right, Ethiopia! You are a wonderful place to live. To pretend otherwise  -  and not just because you don’t like the party in power is fairly insulting to the many places around the world, especially, our extended neighborhood, where a good day means not getting bombed, fighting civil-war, tortured, subjected to state slavery…

In a budding democracy like that of Ethiopia, it is natural for people to steadily grow less grateful for their fortune and more likely to obsess on what they don’t have. The freedom, including, the freedom to protest against and criticize the government for its failings, by the people are often ignored.

Gratitude, whether to God, the heroes who built the contemporary Ethiopia, or the luck of the draw, requires certain alertness to reality. It is not available to those who lack objectivity. To feel grateful we need view point. We need to know about the Ethiopia past and even more about the misery now endured by many other countries.

Wisdom and peace [said the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus] comes to someone who “does not grieve for the things not acquired but rejoices for those possessed.”  That important idea should be our guide, our thinking that defines our Ethiopian value.

The year ahead will bring challenges and crisis, no doubt, but I am confident in the country, its institutions, and citizens. Whatever the year ahead may bring – the persistent drought, eliminating bad-governance, terrorism etc… I remain hopeful and optimistic that 2016 will be as safe, as prosperous, and as peaceful for Ethiopia as 2015 was – if not better.

Happy 2016!

 


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