From the Horse’s Mouth

Jan 18 , 2019

Confusion best describes the state of contemporary Ethiopia. Even a brief reading of the ongoing tensions and violence within the country make that evident. A year ago, one could legitimately claim what ails the country is the absence of democratic representation, lack of employment opportunities and substandard living conditions.

It is hard to ascribe similar causative elements to today’s political problems where there is an absolute lack of consistency. What we have in our hands is not instability, disorder or upheaval but confusion at a national scale of our identity, purpose and future. Ethiopia is in near anarchy.

The blame lies with the youth. It is a section of the demography that has yet to comprehend its place in this world and is barely understood. The young generation, currently an absolute majority within the country, has a say in the direction this country is heading much more than it is being given credit for.

The politicians and activists have their fair share of the blame for the debacle the country is in. They have on multiple occasions bowed to their impulses of off-the-cuff comments and biased remarks and inspired the worst in us. But their greatest fault lies in their inability to rise above the reckless whims of the masses.

At best, most of the opposition leaders have been symbols but not leaders. Too scared of losing supporters and unable to condemn the worst instincts of “their people,” they take their cue from the masses. They are bereft of ideologies and principles, and that can be said about every opposition political party.

Indeed, it is hard to have a guiding principle when one’s ideology is informed - through social media and protests - by the zigzagging impulses of a section of the populace.

In forging the nation’s political trajectory, surely those that have the most say are the youth. They are the majority but also, in this time of lawlessness, a frequent and forceful player who rushes naively and enthusiastically into a sea of uncertainty.

For the most part, the youth mostly do not own property or support dependents, perceive the world in black and white and subscribe to a view that there is such a thing as a comprehensive political doctrine. This makes them a naive, dogmatic but potent force with little or nothing to lose. The fact that the young generation is coming of age at a time when misinformation and disinformation are rife, and the likelihood of being exposed to new and opposing ideas is rare, makes the long-term stability of this nation questionable.

It is doubtful that this state of affairs will die out as quickly as it has managed to rear its head. Most developments in the economic and political realm point to it only getting worse.

Without the political leadership of centrist and reconciliatory elements, a political settlement is an unlikely outcome. The political elites are not able to rise above the everyday hubbub and crowd mentality. This will worsen the rift within the country and push the youth toward extreme positions. And without a political solution to the problems in the nation, the economy will suffer, devastating the already poor standard of living and exasperating joblessness. The nation will be in free fall from there on, if it is not already.

We must try to understand the youth and find a means of addressing its demands. We have heard enough from officials, opposition politicians and activists. If one thing is clear, they are at a loss to explain what is happening on the ground. They merely seem to be going with the flow and pontificating on matters that have already passed.

It is better that we hear what the problem is from the horse’s mouth, from the protestors, the rural villagers and the kids on the streets. We need to understand before we can ever act - and act we must quickly or face perpetual uncertainty.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 18,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 977]

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