Commentaries | Feb 23,2019
Jul 23 , 2022
By Eden Sahle
We do not value our freedom to travel until it gets systemically restricted, preventing people from exploring the opportunities abroad that can benefit them and their country. It is a lesson learned the hard way by the hopefuls I mentor.
Sponsored training opportunities, including through US and UK funding, have enhanced my skills and developed my career. I try to give back to the community by mentoring university graduates looking to acquire global experience and competitive advantage. Some have won scholarships.
Two of them went to Europe, all expenses paid. They got opportunities to work and learn from developers in the US and Europe. They came back with new skills in their fields and experiences that opened doors for them, expanding their professional horizon.
Another two were not as lucky. They could not exploit their scholarship opportunity because they could not get passports. Several support letters written for them did not help. The immigration agency tells them that their invitation letter does not privilege them to access urgent passport processing. Instead, an alternative is suggested: “buying your rights,” a fancy name for a bribe. This way, it only takes 20 days.
Public servants boldly suggest this crime with polite voices and big smiles. They find comforting words for those who find paying corruption criminal or sinful. These staffers even have active social media channels and brokers where they manage their criminal activities in public.
The passport saga is not only the problem of the two individual scholarship beneficiaries but also many others. Just three weeks back, a young medical doctor told me about his ordeal to get a passport. Despite providing his business travel purposes, he said he was interrogated, and his travel reason was questioned because he came from a particular place. A year after his application, he still has not received his passport. He gave up on the opportunities that would have allowed him to serve his patients and the country better.
Citizens are not only denied service but are sometimes physically beaten in queues by security forces at the immigration office. Few noble security forces are seen arguing among themselves as they disagreed citizens had to be beaten for clamouring to receive service. The simple request for a travel identification document has endless chaos for those enduring it and for anyone observing.
The constitution and many other international human rights laws guarantee the free movement of people. The supreme law of the land guarantees freedom of movement as a democratic right of citizens. It is puzzling to witness citizenship rights continue to be mismanaged and undermined on a large scale.
People are the foundation of any country; everybody loses unless a nation values its citizens and treats them with respect. Inefficiency breeds corruption as it makes people desperate to receive service on time and at any cost. Those who refuse to pay bribes are left to deal with the trauma of having to put their life on hold.
Criminal activities cannot be ignored as its costly for the already struggling nation. Listening to the public grievance requires more than placing a comment box that is questionable if it ever gets opened. People who are upbeat about serving their country should never be discouraged, pushing them to lose hope.
Leaders’ highest priority should be ensuring citizenship rights are met indiscriminately. People’s satisfaction with their country is one of the main factors that can lead them to build it for themselves and the next generation. Leaders should work harder instead of pointing fingers. They should aspire to create an efficient system. Otherwise, they have to reassess their purpose in their position.
People in important government positions should be logical about the process in place and imaginative in solving problems. The perception of urgency should sync into their mindset. Otherwise, opportunities are lost. It is a tragedy to allow people to be robbed of prospects due to technicalities, long lines or because they are not willing to shell out bribes.
PUBLISHED ON Jul 23,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1160]
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