In meeting human needs for survival, there must be recognition of interdependence and movement. Hence, Ethiopia’s emphasis on transportation infrastructure and access to sea ports are critical to its ongoing development. Communication is another factor essential for integration and the exercise of human rights. The media has a responsibility that goes beyond the will of the rulers, according to this writer.
Two points I want to get across to readers right at the outset are interdependence and the concept of reproduction be it among flora and fauna or ecology in general.
Communication is an inclusive concept which includes movement from one place to another or by way of thoughts and dreams – bear with me and let me dwell deeper on physical movement.
The basic need to move from one place to another can either be prompted by external forced externally or initiated from within. In either case, the end objective or target could be survival. Grazing animals or people going after what they need for survival best demonstrate the case. The concept of trade and marketing follows.
Human needs for survival are many and varied. With Ethiopia being an agrarian country the livelihood of the majority of the population very much depends on agricultural production or other factors related to agriculture. To cut a long story short, the EPRDF government’s prioritising investment in infrastructure, especially on highways and interurban roads is more than justified. As Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, highly celebrated Indian economist once said, the 1974 famine that took the lives of over 200,000 people and cost Emperor Haile Selassie his throne, would have been minimised if there had been transportation to make the agricultural yields of one zone or wereda accessible to the neighbouring zone or wereda.
My arguments about the use of roads and transport system, in general, cannot be more vivid and crucial than at the present time. Because of the climate change following the el Niño phenomenon, hunger is looming and hovering over the horizon more than any time the country has experienced in the last 50 years or more.
Consequently, food and water have to be transported from the Djibouti Port by heavy trucks to all the needed areas as soon as possible. This being a life-saving undertaking, speed matters quite a lot.
The first logistic step would be to take the food aid from the Djibouti Port to the dry land port at Modjo. From Modjo, it has to be dispatched in every direction to wherever it is accessible by truck. The newly built railway was once used up to Modjo. We have not heard whether this process continued or not. Be that as it may, the major bottleneck encountered is the traffic congestion created at the port itself.
Ships have to wait in line before they get into the stevedoring area. They take time to unload. And time is not to be found anywhere. The forklifts have only limited capacity. There is very little that can be done once a freight ship is docked or anchored.
Berbera Port, one of the oldest ports in the history of Ethiopia’s access to the Red Sea, needs a lot of refurbishing. Alas, the Dubai maritime company did not seem to have fallen apart upon hearing the news that Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn had paid a visit to Somaliland to talk business. Instead, as it has done in Djibouti, it wanted to stretch its feelers and promised billions of dollars to renovate and increase its capacity for no other strategic goal than to deny Ethiopia direct access to the Red Sea. Undoubtedly, Ethiopia with its state-of-the-art naval power would be to be reckoned with over the Red Sea.
There is nothing more degrading and weakening than trying to make a fool of oneself by cracking hard jokes such as making Assab or Massawa ports docking grounds for herds of camel, as long as we have money to lease any port and we wanted.
But that was not meant to be a joke. We had to kneel down to pray for the mercy of that small neighbour of ours.
One of our senior masterminds of political leadership once said that Ethiopia was after the port and not the people of Eritrea.
The Assab Oil Refinery and the port management itself were employing thousands of people who were again the mainstay in the social and economic lives of people in Asmara and elsewhere in Eritrea. There were tourists coming to the shores of Massawa. I have been there twice and visited both the ports and the guest houses.
A transport system, whether it in the form of surface air or sea transport is simply a lifeline for humanity. Let us now examine what it means in the lives of farmers and traders that constitute over 85pc of the population many ordinary people living in the rural areas would say that the construction of the new roads they have started access to health centers, without which they would have to carry women in labour to the clinics on stretchers for long hours by foot.
Let us now look beyond what is too obvious. Any kind of people’s mobility for any reason amounts to fusion whether it is for the purpose of trade, which by the way, makes no distinction at the point of exchange. Migration too, minimizes differences and could end up in inter-marriage.
This kind of interdependence and reproduction is what is said to be the most powerful force for integration among people as it dissolves the poison of ethnicity that divides among a people. It becomes our responsibility to expedite this process and win over ethnic differences and work together for a common goal. Hurdles like land ownership or wealth sharing democratically are just factors over which we can have full command.
Another modality of communication, it should be remembered, is the media. This modality is one of the means of expressing ideas and thoughts either to a large audience or between members of a small group in a conference hall, or via print modality. Much as it is a part of a democratic individual right, it can also be a destructive power depending on how it is used and by whom it is put to use. This is because it may be used against its duty of ensuring that the electorate’s rights are ascertained and used only to transmit what the ruling party or the government wants and enforces on the people.
The rights of the electorate or those of every individual are made tangible if only the press is free from any governmental imposition. The people’s rights to know whether or not they are fairly represented in the government is only through the free press.
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