Citizens want ‘Love’ but Also Require Protection

I love and respect Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD). I want him to succeed at the national unity, democracy, justice and equality he has promised. One way of demonstrating love is being honest and offering someone we care about with constructive criticism.

Abiy and his administration are doing their best to transform the country, and we are grateful to the change they have brought thus far. He seems to genuinely care about his people, and we have seen gestures from him that we have not seen from other leaders in our history.

One area he has to work on quickly to succeed in leading the reform is his values. It seems to me that his administration lacks clear ones. It is evident that “love,” reconciliation and forgiveness are at the top of a value system he cherishes, which is great.

But Abiy needs to follow the principles of value formation. The first and most crucial stage is defining what “love” is. He needs to make sure that his administration, the military, security apparatuses, police and the public understand what he means.

He keeps preaching that “love” and forgiveness are high values and that retribution is defeat.

But how do members of the state’s security apparatus view this value system? Do they have a comprehensive understanding of the term? Do they understand that while it may be a great concept, reality requires some practicality to be of any use to the public?

I raise these questions as a result of the ongoing bouts of lawlessness that have gripped the country, where innocent lives have been lost to the cruelty of mobs. Time and again the law enforcement bodies have been unable to stop such incidents from happening.

I also see that members of his administration are quick to give press releases and condolences to victims after the fact.

That is not the primary job of a sitting government with an army, law enforcement body and the legal monopoly of violence at its disposal. Let charitable organisations, churches and mosques take care of such things. An effective and streamlined government should instead prevent such violent episodes from occurring.

How many innocent people should lose their lives before the administration enforces the law, which ought to be the true demonstration of its “love”?

Governments should respond swiftly by first taking responsibility for their failures. The repeated incidents are a testament that they did not do their primary job, protecting the helpless and innocent such as women and children.

They also ought to send a clear message to the perpetrators, not by exclaiming that the government would no longer excuse such acts, but by bringing the criminals to justice. The authorities should make tough decisions and take measures to ensure that impunity does not reign. The current administration has not persuasively demonstrated its conviction in this regard.

It is vital Abiy understands that there are those who are willing to exploit the restraint his administration has shown toward its exercise of power against civilians. Such individuals believe that they can take advantage of government inaction and get away with their vile acts.

What is happening in Ethiopia since Abiy took office is promising, and I am convinced we are heading in the right direction. However, this is a critical moment to clarify the new administration’s values for everyone to be on the same page.

“Love”, indeed, runs opposite to hate and retribution. But when it comes to the government, tasked with, if nothing else, keeping its citizens safe, the term represents the willingness to defend at any cost.

Abiy should define this value and communicate clearly, to be on the same page with his administration, the military, police, security apparatuses, and the public.

The country has endorsed his leadership with the sort of wholeheartedness never seen before. However, he must lead, which sometimes entails having to be tough. He should remain kind, a servant of the people and gentle but at the same time firm to his principles. This is possible without resorting to the sort of authoritarianism we have been told was a defense against lack of national security.

Currently, he is sending a confusing message. If this is not addressed quickly, and the state does not assert its monopoly over violence, we will miss the boat and ruin this golden opportunity to create a democratic nation that is just to all.

By Assegid Habtewold
Assegid Habtewold is the founder of PRO Leadership Global and CEO of Success Pathways. He can be reached at

Published on Sep 22,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 960]



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