By Solomon Dibaba
The question of national, regional or global peace has now gained currency among scholars, politicians, military strategists, economists and the UN systems alike. Thousands of civil society organizations, NGOs and a myriad of corporate organizations are calling for peace here and there. Political organizations are already busy organizing peace committees, peace talks, peace rallies, peace what not? To the dismay of every one however, today the world is not as peaceful as it was centuries ago, to say the least.
Some attempt to attribute peace only to the absence of war but peace was also at stake even in countries where no war has ever been declared or conducted. Almost all countries in the world had incorporated the concept and the need for peace in their constitutions but today none of these countries enjoys an absolute peace. All global and regional political organizations, liberation movements, states old and new declare on the importance of peace.
In fact, the concept of peace has been reduced to a catchword or a cliché that is used to spice speeches from podiums but peace is more meaningful to those who suffer from continuous and sporadic conflicts and dictates from the enemies of peace.
Some scholars estimate that out of her entire years of history Ethiopia has enjoyed some 100 years of relatively peaceful years. The geopolitical location of the country, colonial ambitions, sporadic and localized battles for scares resources, ethnic based conflicts, conflicts between rival warlords over control of territories, irredentist stances of war mongering moguls from the neighbouring countries of the Horn of Africa were some causes that threatened peace and tranquillity in the country.
Over the last two decades, occasional terrorist attacks and punitive actions of religious fanatics have contributed to temporary absence of peace in some parts of Ethiopia. Ethiopia was in fact one of the first countries of Africa to suffer from unfounded terrorist acts. Even then major European countries were busy to blame and complain that the country was acting beyond its bounds. According to IGAD’s recent report, terrorist organizations like Al-Shabaab, have already become a threat to peace and stability in the Horn of Africa.
Despite these national pitfalls, Ethiopia has been able to register a continuous two digit growth for over a decade. Throughout these years of growth, peace had prevailed and economic developments hitherto unknown have been registered.
The economic growth in the country brought about more appropriate and positive demands from the public in various regions of the country. Against the backdrop of these positive demands, some political forces in opposition to these developments, formed clandestine groups among the disfranchised youth in some parts of Oromia and embarked on mobilizing the youth in schools not only to destabilize the normal academic calendar but to destroy public amenities like ambulances, school buildings and local government offices, courts and police stations that were built by the tax payers money.
Although the constitution provided for peaceful demonstrations and all legal means of petitioning the government, these forces did not intend to use such peaceful means but rather resorted to illegal means of provoking the security forces resulting in the loss of lives including members of the security forces.
Both the enjoyment and safeguarding of peace is not a task that is to be left only to the government and the security forces. The maintenance of peace unquestionably requires the concerted efforts of the entire public and all the elements of the political system and all traditional institutions.
The absence of peace however, has far reaching repercussions not only for the current development in the country but for future well being of the country as well. The investment programs currently under way and all the multi-faced development programs. It could lead to the shattering of the age old social fabric in the country and thereby lead to the ultimate balkanization of the nation.
Peace cannot be attained only because the need is felt by all. It requires meticulous scrutiny of equitable implementation of all development programs in the country by taking into account the needs, interests, values and social attitudes prevalent among the public in a participatory manner so that the population can enjoy a better life by reducing poverty to the desired level.
Even the most recurrent natural disasters that have been plaguing the country can be a threat to peace if they are not properly addressed on the desired scale. They may lead to spontaneous internal migrations that can trigger unnecessary completion on scares resources. Any kind of epidemic can also jeopardize peace unless swift action is taken. In short anything that adversely affects the livelihood of the public can in some way or another become a threat to peace. The quest for peace is therefore intrinsically connected with a survival of a nation.
Protecting and safeguarding peace therefore requires a multi-faced approach ranging from peace in the family and in the entire nation. Those who may suffer from lack of peace could be deprived of working from dawn to dusk to eke life out of their daily labour to make ends meet.
Children and their mothers as well as the elderly, disabled persons, those who are ill are the ones that are primarily affected by the disruption of peace in this country.
Members of micro and small scale enterprises who depend on their outputs for their daily livelihood need peace to attend to their duties. The effects of non prevalence of peace are not limited only to the usual social environment. It also trickles down on the ecological balance in the country.
The recent history of this country has shown the extent to which forest resources have been destroyed simply because social order was at stake somewhere. Farmers are the most vulnerable but most crucial sectors of the society and in the absence of peace their farmlands will remain fallow. Investors can get into a bleak situation where they will be forced to choose or lose.
Peace is everything for a country like Ethiopia with a population of 100 and a mosaic of over 80 nations, nationalities and peoples. They country has thousands of kilometres to trek before poverty is decisively defeated and no time can affordably be lost on unnecessary polemics when the strategic interest of the nation is at stake.
Peace in Ethiopia or its absence has greater regional implications. More than 15 terrorist organizations are already operating in Africa but their highest concentration is no where than the Horn of Africa. The absence of peace is a threat not only to Ethiopia’s plan to become a mid level developed country by 2025 it is also a setback for Agenda 2063 which also covers the Horn of Africa.
If the question of peace is not collectively addressed, it would be very difficult to pursue the nation’s vision of becoming the power house of Africa and a hub for Africa’s transport network. In short poverty cannot be addressed in the absence of peace and conflict of any kind will only help to play into the hands of those who never wish to see stronger Ethiopia.
Those who are professing to struggle for democracy, development and peace through armed demonstrations use these words as a smoke screen to shroud their vested interests and their stance of after me the deluge. For Ethiopia, peace is never an option but a mandatory prerequisite for the survival of the country.
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