Ethiopia Breaks Down Walls, World Should Take Cue

Much like the rest of the world, the history of Ethiopia is not monolithic. There have been times of great civilisational achievements, as well as moments of extreme poverty and deprivation. There are moments of unprecedented hope, as well as episodes of great suffering and pessimism. It is a nation that is recognised as one of the earliest members of the United Nations and one of the founders of the African Union, as well as a country that has failed in building institutions at home.

It is as well as a country that has considerable resources, in its immense human capital, huge landscape and suitable climate, while there is also a weak provision of services, lack of foreign currency and low production capacity. Of course, for a long time, the world has seen Ethiopia as a poor nation, unable to exercise democracy, and with the occasional waves of displacement, drought and unrest hanging over its shoulders.

But Ethiopia is recently becoming a beacon of light for democracy, reason and humanism. There are significant challenges ahead, and the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has yet to walk the talk where it most matters. Making institutions autonomous and able to command the trust of the public is a daunting task his administration has yet to sail through.

Nonetheless, Ethiopia is proving itself to be a forward-looking country in “breaking down walls” and building bridges, believing in the diversity of ideas and exercising an open door policy to those seeking refuge. Some of the major developed countries, on the other hand, seem to be giving in to the temptation to clamp down and betray the multilateral institutions and world order they themselves have built up.

They seem not to prefer to address the causes for immigration in the source countries, which are time-consuming and complicated, but build walls to separate themselves from those they have deemed a burden. Ethiopia, a nation facing a multitude of macroeconomic and political challenges of its own, should be commended for reminding us that humanity needs to care for each other instead of cringing when asked to share and contribute.

Perhaps, to a sceptical observer, such kindness borders on naivety. And the Ethio-Eritrea rapprochement seems too good to be true. It may be that major players in the Horn of Africa contributed to the thaw in relations between the two countries, but there is also much to read in the decision to implement the Algiers Agreement without preconditions.

Abiy’s motto of positive-sum, otherwise known as Medemer, tells us that it is possible to let bygones be bygones and reconcile whatever the hurt each side has caused in the past. And even if the powers that be may have interceded, none of this would have likely happened had Ethiopia not extended Badme as an olive branch.

It begs the question, how many countries in the world have ongoing border conflicts, complicated by regional politics, that can be ameliorated if either side took the initiative to give a piece in return for the mutual benefits that can be reaped?

As long as there is the desire for peace, unity and justice, there is much that can be achieved. Politics is complicated, and goodwill alone, in the face of those that intentionally or unintentionally want to undermine democratic values, could be meaningless. But the will to right wrongs should not be underestimated. The wisdom in this way of thinking is that if we could all agree that, at the very least, we want peace and stability, the rest can be negotiated.

It was unfortunate that Abiy never met President Donald Trump – the latter could have learned much. For a president that is trying to fulfil his campaign promise to build a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico, giving a joint press conference where Abiy gets to discuss the objective of his trip, may have been uncomfortable.

Nonetheless, it shows the emotional strength of the Ethiopian people that through the adversity and chaos, building bridges is still a popular concept many can rally behind. This momentum ought not to slow down. It is the last line of defence against the problems that plague not just Ethiopians but humanity across the globe.

We need to break down walls, discuss and begin to work together for the common good if injustice and violence are ever to be addressed. Otherwise, it is the citizens of developing countries that will most suffer as their leaders will either be unable to protect them or rather be the ones that repress them.

By Getahun Alemu
Getahun Alemu is an engineer. He can be reached at

Published on Aug 11,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 954]



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