Only Embolden Hooligans, Outlaws, and Criminals
Seifeselassie Gebre 01-26-18
Over the past two years, the security and stability of our country has been tested and challenged on numerous occasions. Few reasons could be cited as the major causes for our current predicaments namely the destabilizing activities of Egypt and Eritrea, the subversive activities of the domestic/Diaspora extremist groups (Ginbot-7, OLF, and ONLF), certain historically hostile neighboring countries, the negative role of Global Neo-liberal forces in the West, hostile and openly biased foreign media outlets, and finally, certain EPRDF’s own in-house weaknesses which were recently publicly acknowledged. The main focus of this article, therefore, is EPRDF’s misguided and potentially dangerous policy of appeasement.
The Holy festival of Epiphany (Timket) was peacefully and colorfully celebrated throughout the Country in all regions and cities including Addis Ababa. However, in the Northern town of Weldiya, the situation was different. A well-coordinated mob of certain hooligans and outlaws who are clearly the agents and “useful idiots” of Ginbot-7 and by extension of Eritrea and Egypt tried to turn the religious celebration into an arena of hate politics, chaos and anarchy by shouting subversive political slogans, rampaging the surroundings, blocking roads and selectively attacking innocent citizens with impunity like what they did in Gondar last year. Gondar was the main bastion of these chauvinists, narrow nationalists and agents of the terrorist Ginbot-7 last year, however, it appears that certain youth in Weldiya town have taken over the baton from those in Gondar. We know there is no genuine/effective regional government there, but we believe there is a strong Federal Government. where is it, then, when people are harassed and killed and properties destroyed?
The historic Constitution of FDRE (Articles 29 & 30) has granted all citizens democratic rights to peacefully and legally express their opinions and present their demands including opposing the incumbent Government, whether justified or not and whether acceptable or not. However, as rights always come with responsibilities, all citizens have the obligations to fully respect all the provisions of the Constitution and the law of the land particularly respect for the life, security and property of other citizens (Articles 14 & 40). No individual or group has any right, be it democratic or legal, to attack other citizens, destroy properties and generally violate the law of the land. One cannot demand respect for his/ her democratic rights while he/ she readily breaks the law of the land and violates the rights of others. The hooligans and outlaws in the troublesome areas are, however, shamelessly demanding the Government to respect their “democratic rights” to disturb the peace and security of their surroundings, to attack/ kill innocent citizens and to destroy Government and private properties under the pretext of legitimate people’s demands, clearly a bitter fruit of the Government’s policy of appeasement. Because of this misguided and ill-advised policy of appeasement, the country continues to pay dearly in terms of challenges to its peace and security, pace of current economic development, new foreign direct investment, and its image as a tourist destination. Enough is enough and this situation has to end now. It is really bizarre that the Government is entertaining the claimed “democratic rights” of hooligans and criminals to kill innocent citizens and to destroy Government and public property” while ignoring and failing to uphold at any cost the basic human rights of innocent citizens to live in peace and without harassments and fear for their lives and properties.
The cornerstone and pillar of freedom and democracy is the rule of law which is incompatible with appeasement of any sort. Legal accountability should be fully and firmly put in place and the full force of the law should be strictly applied on violators irrespective of their identities or positions, without hesitation or mercy. The Government should have zero tolerance towards law violations and crimes specially involving ethnicity and religion. After all, there are no democratic rights without limitations and redlines. Any individual exercising his/ her democratic rights should be aware that violating others’ rights or resorting to ethnic, religious and sectarian divisions and hatreds are the legal redlines that are not permissible under the law. It is, thus, the constitutional duties and responsibilities of the Government to ensure that the Constitution and law of the land is respected in its entirety including the inviolable and inalienable rights of citizens to life and security and to move and live in any part of the Country or region without harassment and fear for their lives and properties. No Ethiopian, irrespective of his/her ethnic background should be harassed, displaced or killed in his own Country under any circumstances. This is totally unacceptable and should be immediately stopped if we are going to continue as one and united Country.
While it is appropriate and beneficial on the part of the Government to engage in constructive and conciliatory discussions with genuine, mature and responsible opposition groups, appeasing every Dick and Harry that comes up with illegitimate and illegal demands (be it individuals, political parties, ethnic/ religious groups) in the name of democracy is very destructive and counter-productive . From past experience, it has repeatedly been proven that appeasing outlaws and hooligans does not solve anything. On the contrary, it only emboldens them to further abuse democracy, come with more illegal, impractical and endless demands and continue and intensify their destructive activities as witnessed in our country’s security crisis in the past two years. The Federal Government should, therefore, be strong, firm and decisive and should not act by pressure and coercion rather it should only be led by accepted principles and above all, the law of the land.
When hundreds of innocent citizens were harassed and even slaughtered and thousands were displaced from their homes; when public and private properties worth millions of Birr were burned down and destroyed and when major highways were closed and commercial movements were halted by hooligans and outlaws in Gondar two years back, in Western and Central Ethiopia last year and in Eastern Ethiopia (Oromia/ Ethio-Somali border) this year, the illegal activities were all taken as if they were legitimate people’s demands for democracy and good governance by the Government and the perpetrators were allowed to escape legal accountability. The policies of “NO LEGAL ACCOUNTABILITY” and ENDLESS APPEASEMENT were practically pursued by the Government when it was abundantly clear to any sane and unbiased Ethiopian that these destabilizing activities of displacements, destructions, chaos, and death were masterminded, coordinated and financed by the two historical enemies of Ethiopia, Egypt and Eritrea and were executed by their known loyal domestic agents namely Ginbot-7, OLF, ONLF and Johar Mohammed (the premier enemy of the state). For those who still harbor the benefit of the doubt, they can verify these facts from the horse’s mouth, the head of the Eritrean rogue regime’s recent interview with Eritrean TV dated 20 January 2018 in which he openly and shamelessly reconfirmed his old stand stating that “he would overthrow the Ethiopian Government and replace it with a new transitional one” of course emboldened by his recent unholy military alliance with Egypt and using his loyal domestic agents. If the Government’s current policies of almost “no accountability” and endless appeasements continue unabated, for sure the Country would be heading towards disintegration. It is worth mentioning here that Turkey had similar or even more serious political and security problems than Ethiopia about a year and a half ago during the failed coup. The Government’s swift and resolute actions put the situation completely under control in so short a time that the entire country is now peaceful and very normal. These were achieved not by wavering policies and damaging appeasements but by firm, decisive and timely policies and actions.
One of the typical cynical tactics the supporters and sympathizers of the hooligans and outlaws (including some senior Government officials) use is to deliberately put the law enforcement bodies, Police and Defense (which are out there to carry out their Constitutional duties and responsibilities to protect the lives of innocent civilians and destructions of Government and private properties) on equal footings, both morally and legally, with the outlaws and criminals (who are hired and assigned agents of their masters (Ginbot-7, Eritrea and Egypt) to create anarchy and destabilize our Country under the pretexts of different and never-ending demands for this and for that rights). There should never have been any moral equivalence assigned to the actions of these two forces. In some cases, they don’t even disclose the identities of the culprits let alone condemn them and set both sides free as if the illegal activities and crimes were committed by some divine power. In other cases, there is a deliberate tendency to inappropriately apportion and vaguely blame both sides.
It has been proven beyond any shadow of a doubt specially during the last two years that the Government’s current ill-advised and shortsighted policy of appeasement does not have any benefit to the short and long-term national interests of our country except to (1) disrupt and endanger the daily peaceful lives of the citizenry, and create undue fear of loss of life and property, (2) tarnish the currently-improving image of the Country thereby adversely affecting investment and tourism, two major backbones of our economy, (3) embolden the hooligans and outlaws and create loopholes and favorable conditions for the destabilizing activities of Egypt, Eritrea and their domestic agents, (4) provide cheap propaganda materials and ammunitions to the fake-news outlets of ESAT, OMN, and VOA, to name a few, for their routine dissemination of one-sided, selective, and distorted information and fake news. Among the major aims of the fake news is the one to promote the 'not-so-hidden' political agenda of the West: creation of a client state that (a) fully embraces the discredited neoliberal economic model for the benefit of western multinational corporations, (b) subordinates its foreign policy to those of western nations. Thanks to EPRDF's vision and leadership, so far Ethiopia is enjoying impressive economic growth after having rejected neoliberal economic model for a hybrid state-private partnership model that others within the continent have been trying to emulate. Furthermore Ethiopia's foreign policy thus far can only be described as independent as demonstrated by its voting record at the UN.
Furthermore, whenever anti-Ethiopia countries namely Eritrea and Egypt and their domestic agents (Ginbot-7, OLF, ONLF and Juhar Mohammed) spew their poisonous psychological venom through their media outlets such as ESAT, OMN, VOA Amharic service, our government should immediately expose and discredit the lies they disseminate by countering with true facts in a timely manner so that these mercenary groups will have no free ride and so that our innocent and unsuspecting public specially the youth will not be misled and brain washed by their deceptions and fabrications. The present erroneous practice of silence on the part of the Government, which unfortunately implies admissions of guilt, should be stopped immediately. It appears that our government does not seem to understand and/or appreciate the power of the media in shaping public policy or informing the citizenry. Western democracies have long understood its power and potency. That's why they allocate enormous budgets to maintain communication media for the sole purpose of shaping public opinion, promoting self-image, advancing their political and economic agenda, tarnishing the image of only non-client states.
These outlaws and their masters/ supporters have the chronic habits and obsessions of criticizing everything EPRDF does and of not recognizing let alone praising even an iota of the EPRDF’s impressive performances and achievements. It is clear to every Ethiopian by now that these groups would never be pleased with EPRDF even if it completely fulfills all of their lame demands EXCEPT HANDING OVER STATE POWER TO THEM ON A SILVER PLATTER as they are totally biased and excessively allergic to the ethnic identities of some of the Government officials and members. Whenever conflicts and security crises arise, the Federal Government should not go low and act as a mere spectator but rather it should exercise its constitutional authority and govern resolutely to rid the country of dangerous and cancerous individuals and groups once and for all. The Security/ Defense forces should also not be hesitant and shy away from carrying out their Constitutional duties and responsibilities to protect the lives of innocent civilians and prevent the destruction of public and private properties. Furthermore, it is the concerns of many people that this policy of appeasement may be eroding the high morale and absolute resolve of our security and defense forces to carry out their duties and responsibilities.
It would be, therefore, naive to think that there can be peace and security without law and order. Even mature western democracies (US, UK, France Germany) have 'ZERO TOLERANCE' for hooliganism and unsanctioned public gatherings. Any public gathering or demonstration can only take place only if and when it is sanctioned (authorized) in writing by the relevant city authorities. Any deviation from an orderly conduct is harshly dealt with (riot police with batons, water cannons, and rubber bullets). Anyone can find ample examples of videos showing how riot police in various cities across US harshly dispersed demonstrations that arguably got out of line (e.g. Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and Ferguson riots to name a few). The moral of the story is that We cannot be "more catholic than the pope." If an individual or group engages in illegal means or commits a crime to air even a legitimate grievance, the government has the responsibility to neutralize the threat within the confines of the law. In fact 'State of Emergency' is mostly decreed in western countries only in cases of natural disasters (hurricanes, wild fires, volcanic eruptions, war etc). This is because law enforcement officers are fully empowered at all times to put down, arrest, and bring to justice, those elements that incite violence under the cover of peaceful demonstrations. Hence, there should not be appeasement or mercy when it comes to peace and security. Appeasing such hooligans and outlaws never worked in any country before and it will never work either in the future.
Finally, I wish to conclude my article by stating that the Ethiopian people are strongly demanding more than ever before for a strong, resolute, and unwavering leadership as our country’s current worrisome situation warrants. The Government should have zero tolerance towards sectarianism, narrow nationalism and chauvinism and perpetrators of any crime should be dealt with firmly, decisively and timely whenever and wherever these evil thoughts and practices rear their ugly heads. Appeasement and impunity are never allowed in western 'mature' democracies and neither should they be allowed or tolerated here in a young democratic state such as ours under any circumstances.
May God bless Ethiopia.