Costs of the State of Emergency

The country has reached the state of emergency because of the negligence of the government to answer the demands of the youth on time. The situation took many lives, damaged national assets and investments and left a bad scar on the image and future development of the nation.

The Ethiopian government announced a country-wide six-month state of emergency on October 9, 2016. It was a measure taken following the political unrest in the Oromia and the Amhara regional states which were happening for more than a year.

In fact, many critics argue that the state of emergency had been in effect even before its declaration. People who have been participating in the unrest were being hunted and killed.

The state of emergency to some people is still giving a straight face to the planned attack by the government against the challenge to its rule.

Of course, there are many others, including the government who believe the state of emergency was a necessary tool to maintain state law and order and secure the safety of citizens. It was initially declared for six months, but later it was extended for another four months.

But the declaration of the state of emergency as much as it may have brought benefit, it has also cost the nation and its citizens in many ways. It was justified that a declared state of emergency was necessary for response to the threat posed by anti-peace groups in close collaboration with foreign elements.

Officials said they needed to put an end to the damage that is being carried out against infrastructure projects, health centres, administration and justice buildings. The government did not want to see the damage and political unrest as just a simple crime under the other Ethiopia’s criminal laws. It does not want to prosecute the culprits without invoking a state of emergency. It has been already taken as a high-state security issue.

The paradox is the government, on the one hand, says the problem is created because of its internal political crises of the ruling party, on the contrary, it also points its fingers on other anti-peace groups and their foreign allies.

But whatever justification is given to it, one thing is sure. The situation has hurt the country in many ways. It took the lives of many people who dared to protest.

It has restricted the freedom of people to participate in the political process entirely and even limited the movement of individuals. Instead of handling the situation politically, the government chose to cool down the crises by the security force.

People fear to go from one place to another as there is a large presence of the military in the streets of the country, especially in the cities and regions where the unrest has taken place.

The restriction on writing or sharing of material on social media, radio, or the Internet that could create misunderstandings between people or unrest are restricted. The decision halted the exchange of information among citizens, and that has also brought the censorship that was banned long ago, almost 26 years ago.

The situation has affected the economy in many ways. The shutdown of the Internet and data mobiles damaged the economy. It is apparent that millions of dollars have been lost. During some of the blockage seasons, people were not able to transact online, had no high-speed communication. It has an adverse effect both on tourism and foreign direct investment (FDI).

The tourism sector lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Hotels and hospitality industries were hugely affected. Though the government justified that the reduction in foreign direct investment since December 2016 was due to policy change in the incentive mechanism, critics say it is also because of the state of emergency. The crisis left a scar on the country’s future FDI and tourism sector.

The psychological terror and fright in public places were another cost that was levied on citizens, after many years. The state also has to pay for the physical security, shifting its budget from development.

However, even if the costs of the unrest and subsequent declaration of emergency are unbearable, the situation has also brought some changes to the political environment of Ethiopia.

The ruling political party has made a massive cabinet reshuffle. It thinks there is a decay in itself and is changing some of its structures and personalities.

It also has invited the opposition political parties to negotiate on issues they think aggravated the political crises. So far, both sides have met on several occasions, and they are discussing some nationally important agendas, though it is known that EPRDF is buying time.

The problem of the Ethiopian government is that it gives deaf ears to complaints and maladministration questions from the society. It does not smell smokes early and proactively handle situations. It undermines everything until it turns out to be dangerous to the state. Finally, the government has to investigate to know the exact human and economic cost of the state of emergency.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Jun 27,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 896]



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