Our society is struggling with a deeply rooted dilemma of lingo-cultural and national identity. As we enter the new transitional phase, we need a fresh set of codified morals to have a more tolerant frame of mind.
Should lingo-cultural identity trump the national one, or vice-versa? Should we consider belonging to one group as an achievement? Should we allow identity politics to shroud the democratisation process? Can we genuinely live in peace and harmony when someone, somewhere, has to lose a life for speaking a particular language?
Distorted perception ruins any chances for open dialogue and drives a wrench down our societal values. Leaders and society alike find it hard to navigate such controversial issues. The moral implication of this is that it influences everything from politics to our societal principles.
Ultimately having a rightful attitude about human beings and politics will help us make all sorts of decisions rationally. This can happen by ironing out bias from the politics and societal systems, which will eventually be fair enough to bring a fair distribution of wealth, rule of law, employment and even the much anticipated lower-middle income status.
A civilised way of requesting a better standard of living should not be made about one’s ethnicity or the other, but a universal demand of the society.
In Africa, where only a handful of leaders surrender power voluntarily, Ethiopia should pride itself on this achievement. History has it, that most of the time leaders are forcibly removed or die in power leaving their country soaked in public strife, instability and further poverty.
African leaders are rarely seen resigning as a way of assuming political and public responsibility. They never consider themselves accountable or own up unanswered public demands. It is remarkable that Ethiopia has broken away from this continental culture, with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn having tendered his resignation.
This is a historical moment not only in Ethiopian politics but also of the society as it devours the profoundly imbedded misconception that power is for life.
Ethiopia is moving forward, as the society has become more aware of issues of governance and development, spotting leadership shortcomings and calling them out. There is no doubt that Ethiopia is heading towards holding leaders accountable for their failures and actions and ushering progress and freedom.
It used to be that Ethiopia had leaders who stayed in power, claiming divine rights. We are now at a point where our leaders acknowledge that power is transient, even if they fail to practice what they preach often. Perhaps it is also a step forward to bring to the fore of leadership those who are young and can reclaim popular legitimacy back to the government.
Unrests have finally started to bite, and the government seems desperate to get the public to listen. Contrastingly, some people have turned to violence to forward arguments that can otherwise be made peacefully. This is creating a rift between citizens of the same nation.
The long-term consequences of this could be harmful to national consensus. Identity politics is like a heavy flood that damages whatever is in its way. For a country like Ethiopia, with dozens of ethnic groups, the initiative to act based on such identities can wear down harmony.
Are such issues what really plague Ethiopians? Is that not just a misconception of the actual political and economic bottlenecks, such as unemployment and lack of reliable institutions?
Better approaches would be to look after one another while demanding the correct provision of political rights, and better distribution of wealth. At a time when the country finds itself at a crossroads, it is time to be united than ever before. What the country needs is to stay in one piece, pursuing practical freedom and rule of law.
Being among those named, the “EPRDF Generation”, and someone who has never been able to exercise my voting rights for lack of a convincing party, how difficult times are approached and addressed will define competence. Providing creative means of leadership and peaceful approaches to Ethiopia’s problems will earn them one new voter such as myself.
What Ethiopians are demanding is a leader who turns their current reality around and brings better living standards – a leader who can make a lasting influence advocating for development, peace, the rule of law, unity and hard work. Leadership has never been about controlling people but inspiring them, leading by example to overcome problems, and working for the betterment of humanity.
In a lower-income country such as Ethiopia, it is a necessity to have a selfless leader with extraordinary creativity, insight and the willingness to work with others. A sort of leader who is ahead of people but never out of sight, demonstrating self-control and respect for human dignity. After all, when everything is said and done, leadership must lead to change and translate into visible societal benefit.
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