Gone with the Wind
We have been nourishing great hopes for the unimpeded political, social and economic progress of Ethiopia in an enduring atmosphere of peace. It is a pity to observe that these hopes are being now and then dashed by certain unforeseen circumstances. There is every reason to believe that what is happening in Ethiopia now and then in this respect is paining the heart of every individual who wishes well for the betterment of the great Ethiopian society. It is lamentable to note that destruction -and not construction - is being visited on Ethiopia by its own cherished sons and daughters.
Three unforeseen circumstances have been transpiring in Ethiopia in recent times. These are the invasion of the country by the Asmara regime, the unfortunate political division among the ranks and files of the Tigrean Liberation Front(TPLF) and the recent incidents of looting and willful destruction in Addis Ababa.
The metropolitan city we had all loved and cherished had failed to live up to our expectations last week. To be sure, Addis Ababa had undergone various crises in the course of its relatively long life. However, what was witnessed in this normal citadel of peace last week boggles the mind to contemplate.
In times of yore it was normal for buses and limousines to have their windows shattered by student protesters. These destructive activities conducted by students were then considered to be an expression of genuine anger against what was then dubbed as the feudo-bourgeois system of rule whose raison d’ętre was an archaic system of land tenure.
However, last week’s looting, arson and willful acts of destruction cannot be seen in isolation from despicable forms of common crime. It is perhaps possible to say that not unlike Emperor Susneyos these agents of destruction had succeeded in reigning supreme for nine hours.
Last week’s events could be viewed by dividing them into three parts. These are the commencement of the Addis Ababa University students movement, the support given to this movement by students from other institutions of higher learning and the sucking into the disturbances of certain criminal elements in society.
For one thing, the most reasonable demands made by students of the Addis Ababa University could have obtained solution within the precincts of Ethiopia’s highly revered institution. However, because the demands were not properly dealt with, a high price was paid for their consequences. At the same time also there is nothing particularly unusual about the support given by students of other institutions of higher learning and secondary schools. It has been there all the time since the early 1960s.
Students had their own free press; and the campus was always free of police presence. These were part and parcel of university student rights. As we see it, students had also the right to demand participation in disciplinary, charter and senate matters.
However, the question of certain criminal elements in society should be viewed in an entirely different light. The allegation that the hands of some opposition political parties are in this criminal movement is not for the time being supported by evidence. However, there is ample room to support the allegation with sufficient and tangible evidence. This does not certainly absolve those who had been indulging in looting and destruction from perpetuating acts of nefarious crimes which are alien to our
culture and tradition.
Should the looters, thieves and arsonists be punished? This is beyond question. However, the problem is beyond acts of simple theft. What guarantee is there that the problem would not repeat itself. Why was not property given proper police protection? To what extent is the Ethiopian police force in a capable position to provide adequate protection to public property? This is a question worth pondering.
The Ethiopian Police Force should have learnt a lot from the African Youth Football tournament recently held in Addis Ababa. Many cars were stoned. One could have seen the consequences of issuing an ultimatum to students that they should leave the precincts of the institutions of higher learning before noon. Viewed in this light, it seems that the police force have not made adequate preparations for ensuring public security. This is a matter that should be thoroughly investigated.
A clear distinction should be made between the demands of students and those of certain criminal elements in society. A committee should be set up to investigate the matter. This would provide an object lesson both to the government and the society. In particular, when similar problems manifest themselves, high-ranking government officials should meet the people to answer their burning questions before harm is done to society.
The pursuit of an ostrich policy - that of always burying one’s head in the sand - is damaging to the vital interest of our society.