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UNFORTUNATE BUT A NECESSARY MEASURE

UNFORTUNATE BUT A NECESSARY MEASURE

 

Ezana sehay 10/11/16

 

The government’s declaration of the State of Emergency is not unexpected considering the circumstances that prompted such action: the persistent lawless protest and riot in some parts of the country which has led to the collapse of civility.

 

Among the most striking aspect of the last decade of global discontent for Ethiopian observers of the international scene was the stark contrast between there [Ethiopia] and, well, everywhere else. Though preoccupied with the problem of an increasingly bellicose Eritrean regime, no one knows when Somalia will come out of decades of chaos, or what will unfold in South Sudan and the consequence of the sectarian conflict in Yemen – two questions arose from the above observation of Ethiopia. First, why does it seem immune to the chaos virus? Second, how long can it remain so?

 

The short answer to the first question; two words: federal system. As for the second question, well no need to ask.

 

Since the protest flare up almost a year ago, the government has gone out of its way to address the issues raised by the protesters; sometimes too hastily, such as the cancellation of the -  Addis Ababa and surrounding Oromia towns Master Plan - which for all intent and purposes was a good plan. Besides such concessions both levels of governments [federal and regional] have pledge to undergo a transformational  step to make governing more transparent, accountable and responsive.

 

Unfortunately, such gesture of olive branch has failed to quell the protest. To the contrary it got worse in to becoming full blown riot and hooliganism. Houses of worship are burned, private properties and factories that used to employ tens of thousands are destroyed, public transport system is derailed, public utilities [of drinking water] that serve millions are left in blaze, there were acts of pogroms and ethnic cleansing.

 

All these have shocked Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia alike. Keep in mind, Ethiopia is considered the anchor of sanity in the region.  It has shaken the confidence of investors, but most importantly of that of the Ethiopian people. People consider the actions the government has taken to maintain peace and order inadequate and some even began to wonder if it [the government] has the capacity to deal with the situation.

 

The government apparently was hopping the protestors will come to their senses. The problem with this assumption is that the command center of the riot and protest is outside the country – in the save heaven of America, Europe and ME – from where the extreme nuts dictate what their infantry troopers have to do.

 

And what are they [the protest leaders] hopping to achieve has been baffling the public, but no more. Sponsors of the protest: OLF, G7, and the ethnocentric extremists in Oromia and Amhara regions are working in collusion with the country’s traditional enemies.

 

Members of this alliance know very well they can’t take on the gallant Ethiopian army, but have come up with a plan to weaken the government and create chaos in the country. Supporters of the alliance: individuals who are commandeering the protest and riot from within are determined to throttle the country’s economic development are so invested in the narrow and regressive world of their doom-laden vision. The hallmark of that vision is their fanaticism and ethnocentricity, and they see themselves as having license to do just about anything, no matter how morally reprehensible in the pursuit of their objective.

 

National [common] interest, honoring elders and religious leaders, civilized debate, respect one’s opponent, tolerance etc… are practices and mores of every other social and political exchange, and are necessary for reasoned debate to take place in a democratic society. Yet the anti-peace zealots seem to think that these standards don’t apply to them.  

 

 The foot soldiers of the troika [OLF, G7 and extremists] are hell-bent to halt the country’s march toward the middle-class status possibly by riots if not bullets. Consequently, realizing there will be no raising the flag of hope for any peace and stability and revitalization of the economy, under such circumstances – the government has decided to exercise its responsibility as any government would.

 

Yes sometimes even democracies take undemocratic means to protect democracy itself.   

 

Democracy is not static. It evolves. So does the way it deals with social and political issues. For example, expectations today, about haw governments deal with extra-legal protests, are an evolution from and a reflection on those earlier incidents, as well as other times of upheavals.

 

So, with each successive injury to the shared expectations of peace, order, and good government, comes a corresponding rise in public resentment of not only those identified perpetuators, but also a loss of faith in the state, as well as growing boldness among the malcontents that see in law-breaking a kind of force multiplier, which no amount of law-full demonstration can ever match.

 

Here is where we are: the so called “popular protest” in Ethiopia has been going on for more than eleven months now. Initially, some of us saw the iconographic protest as part of a legitimate demand and stood with it. But it didn’t take long for the protest leadership to reveal its true colors – a force with a hidden agenda and willing to push its followers go astray.

 

Ranting about the “lack of freedom, equal opportunity” or “Tigrean-domination”, the protest leaders keep dictating their followers to intimidate peace-loving Ethiopians, provoke the government, and desecrate our revered national symbols.

 

Ethiopia is a young, but flourishing democracy with responsible rule of law and constitutionally guaranteed collective and minority rights. The government is a multinational democratic which recognizes and respects all and nationalities. That is why no sane Ethiopian is buying the protester’s narrative of events. It is becoming apparent the protest is an alien plot whose strategic objective is to destabilize the nation.

 

Despite the protest’s veiled threat to national interest; the government was right when it engaged in an apparent good-faith and tried hard to facilitate negotiation among the regional community leaders to address the relevant issues.

 

Unfortunately, the extremists (protesters) response to the calls for co-operation and dialogue has so far been a fixation on escalation with the intent of planting the demons of an extremist agenda. They have declined all calls for peaceful settlement of the “problems”; instead keep perpetuating violence and intimidation of moderates.

 

Now, how does black-mail and intimidation constitute a fight for democracy? And how, if one side has a gun to the other’s head, can the outcome be anything but catastrophic?  Such attitude is what has strengthened the general Ethiopians’ resolve against those renegades who are trying contaminate the country’s unique and proud characteristics – the land of ethnic and religious harmony.

 

Feeling the wrath of public rejection and getting desperate, the extremists have declared war on moderation and civility – disrespecting elders and religious figures, such as, Aba Gedas, was the last straw. Such actions are not only a crime against the Oromo community, but also on the very principle that is giving them refuge – democracy itself.

 

The government’s tolerance is a manifestation of the good nature of its leadership and its commitment to democracy – freedom of speech and peaceful protest – so long as there is no resort to violence.

 

But in light of the new reality: the threat to national security and especially to the economy, the government needed to strike a balance. It was time to show its solidarity with the overwhelming majority of the Ethiopians who are expressing rage at the crimes of the extremists and disappointment at the government’s excessive tolerance.

 

The general population of the riot affected regions of Oromia and Amhara regions have distanced themselves from the protest. Sad to say, that was not enough; that didn’t deter the fanatics from veering in to total lawlessness, there by destroying the country’s good image.

 

It is now up to everyone else, esp. the government to ensure this doesn’t continue, because the cumulative social and political cost is getting too high. If the state can’t be trusted to enforce the criminal code, what is to prevent any political group – from taking a leaf from the same book? And why should ordinary law-abiding citizen obey the law, as a matter of principle, if the highest authority in the land fails to respect those principles and apply them in an impartial way.

 

The government may believe that it is doing itself, the protesters, and society at large a favor by sitting on its hands. Wrong, on all counts. If the lawless and violent protest continues, such as it is, will further be discredited causing a trickle effect as has been the case so far – tarnishing the good name Ethiopia. And sooner or later, the government will find itself boxed in, for not acting to maintain peace and order, by an angry citizen.

 


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