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Ushering the New Year with optimism!

Traditionally people all over the world display optimism as New Year comes around. They resolve to abandon an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life. Identifying weaknesses and strengths, drawing lessons from past mistakes andstrategizing on how to achieve objectives are important in realizing such a resolution. This commitment becomes grander in nature when it’s thought of at the national level. Informed by the successes and failures of the past ten years and motivated by the desire to greet New Year, which will be celebrated next Monday, with a renewed spiritthe federal government is holding different events over the ten days leading to the coming year under the theme “The New Year Shall Be Ethiopia’s Year of Rising”. The initiative is commendable if it is driven by a genuine desire to make amends for one’s mistakes.

Ethiopia as we always say is a great nation. It is home to a great people who possess such attributes as solidarity, mutual respect, tolerance, forgiveness, patriotism, foresight, etc and is an icon of anti-colonialism for black people. Unfortunately famine, backwardness, illiteracy, internecine conflicts and bad governance have left a blot on its history. It’s by demonstrating the same bravery, fortitude and love of country exhibited by our forefathers in development endeavors that this generation can break the cycle of poverty it is in and steer the country on the path to prosperity. If the ingredients necessary to sustain success on the economic front—peace, stability and democracy— are to be assured it is of the essence to abandon cynicism. Just as it is impossible to see light while mired in darkness democracy cannot prevail where dictatorship rules. Ethiopia can only rise through the informed consent of its people. All of us need to wish for this to come true in the coming year and contribute their share to its realization.

The new year should be a year where both domestic and external challenges that had dogged the country for ages are decisively dealt with. One underlying problem is Ethiopians’ distorted understanding of our history. Rather than writing its history having learned from the mistakes of preceding generations the present generation harps on the actions of kings and tyrants in days of yore. While the injustices of the past can never be forgotten they should not be allowed to dominate today’s political discourse. After all no one ought to be blamed for the sins of their ancestors. Instead it’s imperative on it to build on and scale up virtuous traditions while taking steps aimed at ensuring that people of Ethiopia do not undergo the ordeal they were subjected to for centuries. Judging the past through the lens of the present is not only unfair, but also flawed. Shouldn’t we take a page from Nelson Mandela’s legacy of forgiving the leaders of the Apartheid government and instituting national reconciliation despite the atrocities the regime had committed?  In the new ear the choice before us is simple: to co-exist harmoniously and take the country to the next level or descend into a tribal mentality and rip the nation apart?

The ruling party and others stakeholders shoulder a grave responsibility in terms of seeing to it that the coming year serves as a launch pad to start a new chapter in Ethiopia’s history. First and foremost hatred, sectarianism, chauvinism, parochialism, treachery, vindictiveness, corruption and similar other destructive tendencies which are liable to stock violence should have no place in Ethiopia. At the same time citizens must be protected from unlawful killing, incarceration, torture, displacement and dispossession of property. The practice of categorizing as an enemy anyone who does not agree with one’s point of view, which is essentially undemocratic and counterproductive, has to stop. Prejudice should give way to rationality. If a constitutional order where citizens can live in peace, love and equality is to be created it is of critical importance forge a national consensus founded on the principle of give-and-take. Ethiopia can be on the rise and rise insofar as its people exercise their basic liberties, engage freely in economic activity and to pursue a livelihood of their choice anywhere within the national territory as well as have equal access to and equitably share its resources even as they play a crucial part in development efforts.

As the key to extricating Ethiopia from poverty and backwardness education merits the utmost priority. Even though formal education is an important means of arming the youth with knowledge, they can also learn from the prodigious indigenous knowledge of communities across the country. Inasmuch as education without reasoning is useless Ethiopia cannot rise if it is not governed with reason. The youth will be able to critically think and generate new ideas if and only if the government and various sections of society put in place a supportive environment. A display of such solidarity would go a long way towards replacing negativism with inspirational ideas; it would also be instrumental in putting paid to regressive ideologies, snuffing out extremism, helping successive generations desist from regurgitating historical aberrations and make their own mark on history, responding scientifically to questions of principle, and expanding progressive thoughts, augmented by indigenous knowledge and farsightedness, that elevate Ethiopia. Needless to say all this can be translated into concrete action with the demonstration of an unswerving commitment on the part of everyone concerned.

As a nation Ethiopians have no option but to forgive each other so that our beloved nation becomes the land of freedom, justice and prosperity. This requires of us to refrain from being incited to violence by historically inaccurate narratives and recommit ourselves to a fresh beginning with an open mind and an open heart. In particular it is incumbent on the government to extend the hand of forgiveness at a time it has vowed that the coming year shall be Ethiopia’s year of rising. Furthermore it owes the duty to enable citizens to fully participate in the affairs of the nation, to facilitate the conditions for constructive and frank dialogues, to drastically reduce or eliminate both political and economic migration and above all to obey and enforce the law. Ethiopia can be home to a contented citizenry when they are empowered to exercise their basic rights and wholeheartedly discharge their obligations, when the rule of law is faithfully upheld, and when the political landscape is no more plagued by skullduggery and animosity. This calls for the government, political parties, religious and civic organizations, elders, the business community, the youth, women, academia, and the public at large to do whatever is in their power to hasten Ethiopia’s renaissance. This is why the New Year should be ushered with a sense of optimism and of a new beginning.