By Desta Gebrehiwot
Whether few or many died as a result of the recent violence, and no matter the circumstances, what is left is grief. And it is extremely painful to lose a fellow citizen because of violence, while there could have been peaceful ways of addressing problems.
The country has recently gone through string of protests – some for legitimate and some for politically motivated causes. But whatever the motives, these incidents led to loss of lives and property damage. And there have been hot debates and reports as to what the solution could be. But the only parties who have the power to address the problems are citizens themselves.
This is what led the Public Consultative Forum of Ethiopia on Peace, Development and Democracy to call an emergency meeting and national dialogue. The dialogue focused on assessing the major challenges of the country and outlining possible remedies.
The national dialogue was open for discussion and personal reflections in which almost all participants have found themselves engaged so deeply at. In fact, who could not be emotional and obsessed talking about the well being of his or her country. After discussing in groups, the participants have come up with common outlooks.
On a group discussion, the participants have first raised what they believed were major challenges of the people which sometimes are followed by protests and violence, though these ways are futile to anybody. It is the Ethiopian way of doing things to mediate any difference and stick to peaceful ways of finding a solution for a problem.
The participants of the dialogue were religious and community leaders, elderly, artists, scholars, representatives of civic associations and other renowned personalities. They vowed to play their own role to help address the country’s major problems as they have thoroughly discussed the nation’s current affairs.
During the discussion, participants outlined that corruption and injustice, unequal wealth distribution, narrow political space, human and democratic right violation, have caused widespread public grievance which sometimes turned out to be violent. Indicating that violence can only lead to further damage and tragedy, the participants urged the government in which they said should play a leading role to address the cause of public complaints and handle protests wisely.
Promoting good governance, ensuring justice and fairness, widening political and media freedom were among the remedies which the participants recommended to maintain nation’s peace and stability and sustain development. The participants also stressed that creating national consensus and granting political amnesty are also needed.
The participants also called on the public to be rational and peaceful on its quest and demand to ensure democracy and good governance and they have repudiated any violent action or movement and the killing of people in whatever condition. They urged the government and the people to narrow down their differences and address the cause of the grievances only through peaceful means.
Educating the youth , assimilating sense of patriotism and treating every citizen equally and achieving economic growth are the priorities that should be given in this regard, the participants added.
Few irresponsible officials are adding fuel to the fire as they are committing corruption and creating inconveniences on people demanding decent services, as to the participants.
They also agreed that the government has to give immediate response to the public’s compliant. The government is aware of its shortcomings, hence it needs to act swiftly more than ever. It has not been able to fully meet its promises to address malpractices and other challenges in which both the government and the public admit are the major source of the problem.
The participants agreed that people should have an open access to discuss with the government and criticize it for its failure. Unless they have public forums and even peaceful demonstration to echo their thought of the government, it is more likely that people would be tending to choose violent ways to do so, according to participants.
The forum has finally elected representatives who would take part in the discussion to be held with senior government officials. Forum Chairperson Eng. Getahun Hussien said that the forum is committed to hold consecutive national dialogues involving renowned individuals to consult on nation affairs. He said that the forum through different mechanisms and direct contact with government and other concerned bodies would try to reflect the people’s demands.