Consistency, Please?

June 22 , 2019
By Tibebu Bekele ( Tibebu Bekele (, who is interested in constructive dialogue and civil engagement. )

In the last few weeks, I noticed that at least two traffic police officers are manning every major intersection. Not only that but everywhere I go there are lines of cars stopped and the traffic police are issuing violation tickets right left and centre.

I mentioned this to a friend, and he smiled a knowing smile and said, “don’t you know it is Sene?” Looking at my blank expression and realising  I had no clue as to what he is talking about, he said in frustration, “it is the close of the fiscal year!”

It finally dawned on me that he is alleging that the sudden vigilance of the traffic officers has more to do with raising money than the enforcement of the rules and regulations.

He argued by way of evidence the fact that in this time of year, tickets are written out for minor offences that are usually ignored. Another friend agreed with him saying his wife was issued a ticket for driving with a dim headlight. I do not know if these allegations are true or not. But I know for sure that I do not see these many officers on the road enforcing the rules. If this is the beginning of a new beefed up enforcement regime, then the traffic police should be commended for it and all power to them.

I only have one humble suggestion. The interpretations of rules require the reading of not only the letter of the law but its spirit also. In the new-found zeal, if they try to apply a too literal interpretation of the law, they will make the streets undrivable.

If the traffic police have been everywhere, the regular police in Addis have been conspicuous by their absence. Crime has been rampant, and residents of the city have been trying to draw attention to it by every means they can.

It has gotten so bad that international organisations and Embassies have been giving out warnings to their citizens and employees. One of these is the African Union (AU). The alert said, “There is a rising incident of crimes in Addis Ababa and caution should be exercised.”

The AU is neither the first nor the only international organisation giving such alerts. News and discussions of daylight robbery and night time break-ins have become common. The only voice that is missing in this discussion is that of the police.

If the usual modus operandi is followed, what is most likely to happen is one of these days, when the cry of citizens becomes too much, there will be some drastic measure taken. The police will be out in force and doing some major operation most likely violating due process. When complaints are raised, then the surprising answer would probably be ‘but we are only trying to get the situation under control,’

Take the case of the recent directive from City Hall suspending the operation of motorcycles (granted, with some exceptions) in the city. The reason given is the high number of criminal offences being committed using motorcycles. But this begs the question of why do you wait until things get out of control.

Criminals do not adopt a method overnight. They only do what they can get away with. If they have been using motorcycles, it is because the police did nothing or not enough anyway, about it.

I have read recently that the newest scam is being carried out using the small Toyota Vitz vehicles. I wonder if anything is being done to fight this before it gets out of control. Or is the next step suspending the operation of all such models?

When it comes to law enforcement, neither the loudness of the late-blooming campaign nor the severity of punishment is as effective as the consistent and reasonable daily enforcement of the law. So, can we have some consistency, please?

PUBLISHED ON Jun 22,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 999]

Tibebu Bekele (, who is interested in constructive dialogue and civil engagement.

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