With Courage, Integrity, Ethiopia Has the Chance

Feb 13 , 2021
By Teodros Kiros (PhD)

At this time, deep in the politics of bitterness and long-lasting traumas, there is a need for speaking truth to power embodied in courage, clarity and integrity that many have longed for.

Unfortunately, there have been too few, far and apart, that have had the boldness to express the pain and suffering felt by a section of the population without infusing it with further political rhetoric and acidity. There is outrage in his words – especially outrage at the silence – but there is also a sense of hope that people could yet stand up to what is right.

That person is Lidetu Ayalew, a politician whose views have been rather hard to pin into any of the entrenched opinions of the political aisles but has long been consistent. Recently, an interview that he gave to Ahadu TVwent viral. In it, he calls a spade a spade, challenging Ethiopians who are either silent bystanders or vacillating politicians who refuse to recognise that when any part of Ethiopia hurts, it is eventually everyone that suffers.

The military engagement between the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) forces, who were in control of the regional government, and the federal government has been devastating to the Tigray region. Thousands have reportedly died as a consequence of the fighting alone, millions within the region are said to be displaced, and millions more require humanitarian assistance. There have also been dire reports of sexual assault, civilian deaths and looting – Eritrean soldiers have also joined the conflict, according to some officials and US diplomats.

This could embitter the people of Tigray, as Lidetu said. He argued further that Ethiopians must voice their opposition to the military intervention of Eritrea and the restoration of normalcy in the region. He is right. Without a speedy delivery of humanitarian aid – which the government has said is improving but aid agencies argue is not enough – there could be a disillusionment that would be hard to address going forward, further stunting social cohesion.

Lidetu is keenly aware of this possibility and appealing to Ethiopians to empathise with their fellow countrymen and women to the north. His is a call we should echo, loud and clear, for reconciliation and dialogue to occur and to stave off further bloodshed.

We must courageously attempt to infuse reason into the battered contemporary Ethiopia. The dire condition is speaking to us all, and most specifically to those who have come to the view that violence as a means of achieving a political agenda is the only possible way. This will take us along a narrow street where darkness never ceases to end.

Ethiopians would do well to speak on behalf of citizens who are suffering from violence. For too long now, this has been the case for the various ethnic groups, with massacres taking place in many parts of the country. Some have been well reported on and communicated. Others, we mostly hear about from refugee testimonials. These are stories that should not be discounted out of hand. They should be heard – hence the continued insistence that communication lines be fully restored quickly – and empathised with.

This requires courage, not just to speak up but to look at the world in a different way than we are used to and admit that we may be wrong. It is the only way to bridge the political gap, shine a light on the suffering within the region that refugees attest to and address it. In an attempt to do this, the likes of Lidetu should be applauded.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 13,2021 [ VOL 21 , NO 1085]

Teodros Kiros (PhD) is a professor of philosophy at Berklee College and Harvard University and producer of African Ascent, a television programme.

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