PEACE, TOLERANCE, DIALOUGE AND UNDERSTANDING IS THE ANSWER FOR THE UPCOMING NATIONAL ELECTION

                                      By

                         Yohannes Gebresellasie (Ph.D) Canada

Our people have been deprived of using the most basic and fundamental principles and norms such as tolerance, dialogue and understanding that are values of a civilized society. As a result, we as a people lagged behind in our effort towards development and progress because constant conflicts and wars based on ethnic, tribal, religious and ideological differences became our greatest challenges and obstacles to progress and development. Instead of resolving our challenges and obstacles through peaceful, democratic and traditional ways and means, we opted for violent and aggressive ways and means to resolve our internal as well as external differences for a very long period of time. The result was simply loss of human lives and destruction of invaluable resources. Peace, tolerance and understanding are cornerstones for a durable solution to any differences that may occur between and among us. Democracy, good governance and economic development can only be realized and sustained if there is peace, tolerance and understanding between and among people. Conflicts and wars, illegal and violent activities as ways and means of achieving individual, group or institutional goals and objectives will always have detrimental consequences on peace and development of our nation because those methods caused damage, destruction and underdevelopment that are highly regrettable. On the other hand, tolerance, dialogue, understanding and respect for each other and for the rule of law are signs of a peaceful and civilized society and they are also fundamental bases for a healthy democracy and healthy election. Further, whatever time they might take, these fundamental phenomenons of a civilized society will help narrow our differences, strengthen the healthy relationships and cooperation amongst us and most importantly, they help reduce and avoid damage and distraction and enhance mutual respect and unity in diversity amongst our Nations, Nationalities and Peoples. Tolerance, dialogue and understanding and certainly not violence are primarily a phenomenon of the 21st century. Although developed nations take credit for upholding and advancing this civilized phenomenon, developing nations like ours have for generations used traditional and peaceful conflict resolving mechanisms. The Geda system of Oromia and many others from different Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia are examples of such a phenomenon. Unfortunately, these peaceful traditional ways and means of conflict resolution mechanisms have over time been forgotten and/or replaced by violent means and ways over time that bares no fruits whatsoever. Therefore, it is time in fact it is long overdue that we develop and reinforce these traditional coupled with modern peaceful mechanisms by learning from our elderly, our traditional leaders and others who possess knowledge in that regard because they proved to have been effective for generations. Political parties in developing countries like Ethiopia have a lesson or two to learn from the experiences of domestic peaceful conflict resolution mechanisms coupled with modern, selected and useful western values. Assimilating both and putting them into effect can reinforce and enhance civilized values and norms. Here, it is important to underscore the significant role that can be played by the Diasporas in promoting and advancing dialogue, tolerance and other peaceful ways and means of resolving differences between and among individuals, groups or political parties alike. Since Diasporas by and large reside in countries with rich experience vis-à-vis tolerance, dialogue and other similar peaceful conflict resolution mechanisms and since they live and experience those norms, they are best suited to contribute their experiences in order to advance those important values to their country of origin. They can play a significant role in promoting those values and norms to the society with less experience in that regard. In other words, they must help in transferring those peaceful values that they take for granted in places where they reside and the achievements gained as a result as opposed to preaching and advocating violence and other illegal activities simply to achieve their personal, group or institutional goals. Diaspora’s gift for their country of origin should therefore focus primarily on promoting peace, stability and sustainable development and certainly not preaching or exercising violence, anarchy and lawlessness from their sanctuary. Our country suffered for a very long period of time because of endless conflicts and wars, each more ferocious than all previous wars. The price our people paid because of the absence of dialogue, understanding and tolerance and because of the prevalence of conflicts and wars have been devastating, therefore that must be stopped once and for all. One of the other more serious problems which we have been confronted with today is intolerance. Some foreign based radio stations such as the VOA and Deutsche Welle Amharic Services programs and web-sites such as the Ethio-Media.Com constantly preach and write issues that propagate and instigate violence instead of preaching peace and tolerance. Also some governmental as well as non-governmental institutions such as the International Crisis group (ICG) etc are misguided by few noisy opposition groups such as the self proclaimed genbot-7 and others that constantly made their day to day activity defaming our nation using North American and European tax-payers money. In our era of 21st century, these destructive forces are working against the true picture of our country using tax-payers money. Do international institutions have powers and every right to preach whatever they want and should the poor countries only limit themselves to those rights which do not disturb international agencies? When we follow international institution’s interests without any question, we get their full support, but when their own interests are interfered, these same agencies side with few noisy opposition advocates from within and abroad simply to fulfill their own interests and agendas ignoring our national interest or the interest of our people. International cooperation and assistance reinforces indigenous initiatives in democratization, good governance and promote sustainable development if used properly and genuinely. However, the root cause for development emanates from within through the initiatives and hard work of the indigenous population. It is important therefore that the international community in general do not use donor politics to impose upon domestic and national interest using specific time table such as national election time etc.. Using assistance as a weapon to divert sovereign nation’s priorities can not bare fruit; therefore international assistance must not be confused with political interest. Although foreign assistance designed to encourage development is truly significant, and thus, must be reinforced and certainly not reduced or stopped, they must realize that their aid must not dictate the main developmental agenda of the developing nations such as ours. The 21st century invites us to think of the past and to plan for a future, a future which gives us security to live in peace and happiness. A future which guarantees education and health services to all, a future which eliminates poverty and all weapons of destruction, a future which provides peace, tolerance and a healthy environment and a future that allows unity in diversity. Only a national strategy based on the culture of peace with its new values orientations, mentalities and forms of behavior can provide answers to our national challenges. In order to achieve our goals i.e. poverty reduction, democratization and good governance coupled with sustainable development, the public at large in general and political parties in particular must learn to appreciate peace and tolerance and respect for the rule of law. They must tell their supporters to exercise political tolerance and to avoid provocation. Further, Ethiopians both from within and  abroad must focus on developmental issues to improve the economic condition of their country and the global community must continue with its good initiative of extending its economic support and with its technical and technological cooperation to help this country in its effort to reduce and eliminate poverty and embark on democratization and good governance. Generally, tolerance, mutual understanding and respect and appreciation for diversity are foundations for peace and stability and cornerstones to achieving developmental endeavor and therefore, they should not be taken for granted. Recent agreement of 65 different political parties to abide by the code of conduct is a milestone in Ethiopia’s political history. This landmark achievement must be encouraged and indeed appreciated by all and not downplayed simply for cheap political gain. Dialogue, understanding “agree to disagree”’ negotiation and respect for variety of views, ideas, cultures etc. is the answer; certainly not violence. Therefore, dialogue and negotiation must be the only answer to any problem and/or differences that may exist before, during and after the upcoming national election because those vales and norms are the only principles that underpin the ideals of a civilized society. They should be promoted and not discouraged. The late Martin Luther king Junior once pointed out “violence never brings permanent peace”, therefore, all political parties must do the right thing and that is to find an alternative to violence, denounce violence once and for all, use dialogue as the only ways and means to resolve whatever differences may occur, be tolerant, understanding and ready to abide by the rule of law of the land. The public at large must be determined to put increased pressure on those individuals, groups and institutions from within and abroad to follow the above mentioned civilized values that help us as a people and as a country to advance and progress. The audacity to our dreams as a nation and the tenacity to make our dreams a reality depends on our unity in diversity and not the other way round. Our unity in diversity is the source of our strength; therefore, we have to build up on it and possess more understanding amongst each other and not leave any room for enemies to manipulate by trying to reverse this working formula: a constitutional right that guarantees equal rights, privileges and responsibilities to all Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia. To think otherwise is simply to go back to the old and archaic mentality that serves no good and bares no fruit whatsoever to our people and our nation. On the upcoming national election, all Ethiopians will hand in hand show the world that our unity in diversity is working, our constitution is our guarantee and our upcoming national election will be peaceful, free, fair, democratic and exemplary sign of a civilized society. For that to happen, the media, political parties, civil society and the public at large must intensify and promote peace, tolerance and understanding towards a free, fair and democratic election. At the end of the day, the winning party must accept the glory with humility and graciousness and the losing party must accept defeat with nobility and courage because all parties computed to lead our nation to prosperity and greater achievement; therefore, all parties are friends competing for a common good and not enemies to instigate violence. We are in the cutting edge of democracy and reform therefore, every Ethiopian from within and abroad has a citizenship and national responsibility to make the upcoming national election a historic success.