Yohannes Gebresellasie (Ph.d) Addis Ababa 5-24-19
Over the past one hundred years, Ethiopia has traded through tempestuous and turbulent conditions that can only be described in apocalyptic terms: droughts and famines, wars and conflicts, massive population displacements, appalling human rights violations and state orchestrated terror. Nascent efforts have only been made in the past decade to untangle this country from the shackles of backwardness and adversity in order to put it on the right track towards obtaining and achieving development. So, the least this country needs at this critical juncture is a relapse to its unpleasant past. Over the years, unimaginable scale of conflicts, wars and other man-made and environmental cataclysms have brought difficulties and hardships on Ethiopians during the former brutal military dictatorship and prior to that during the aristocratic dominion. The last twenty or more years however, Ethiopians have been experiencing relative peace, stability and democratic rule for the first time in the history of this nation since the current government came to power. Further, they have been working unremittingly in order to improve their lives and livelihoods by fighting poverty and underdevelopment and most importantly, Ethiopians want to protect and preserve peace because without peace, one cannot imagine development.
Age-old human as well as environmental cataclysms that prevailed in this country for a long time has been replaced by the prevalence of relative peace and by the process of democratization, pluralism, better governance and decentralization that has been taking roots in Ethiopia and that was put in place in order to tackle the colossal developmental challenges that have confronted the people of this country. Cognizant of this fact, the Ethiopian government has made poverty eradication, democratization, good governance and sustainable development as its number one priority. Also, the government has acknowledged that democracy; good governance and human rights issue are matters of survival and not matters of choice for the Ethiopian people for those issues are the root causes to bringing economic development and prosperity for the Ethiopian people. As a result, Ethiopia has thus far made a commendable effort with regard to the aforementioned issues that possess a paramount and fundamental importance upon the lives of the people at large. Also, the government has particularly been very active in espousing explicit pro-poor and pro-rural development policies during the past few years and it has been very successful in that regard.
The most important manifestation of a pro-poor policy is the allocation of public expenditure to those populations in areas of poor predominance. Therefore, the government has been engaged in the process of institutional reform that is leading to a reduction in the role of the government, corresponding growth in the activities of civil societies and the private sector. Consequently, some progress has been made in the social, economic, political and humanitarian sector. For that, it has established the human rights commission and the Ombudsman that function independently just like the justice system that is entrenched within the constitution of the land. The constitution of the land guarantees the rights of equal rights to all citizens. One of the most fundamental citizenship rights are the right to elect and to be elected in a fair, peaceful and democratic electoral process. For that, an electoral board has been established with a defined function and structure and with a system and the qualification for voting and holding elective office. The board among others supervises registrations and elections certifies elections; appoints the officers of election and the registrar; prepares a budget; manages the records of the Board; trains officers of election; certifies candidates for elective office; and recommends election districts and polling places.
After many years of authoritarian rule, Ethiopia has made a successful transition to a democratic electoral system whereby people can choose their leaders in a competitive and free contest at regular intervals, and within which these leaders have effective authority. Free, fair and democratic elections require among others independent institutions, a free and fair press, civil and political liberties, and choice. Democracy can be more than free and fair elections, but it cannot be less. No democracy can afford to be complacent as it is a work in progress, and the people cannot be spectators. Everyone must remain engaged in a peaceful and transparent manner in trying to make democracy a reality for all people. Generally, in a democratic election, there has to be a genuine choice of voters because there has to be a positive competition and not a negative collusion between and among political parties, that every citizen has an equal voice and opportunity to choose their leaders not infected or influenced by capital, wealth, status etc., that it should be transparent, uniform and effective. This means that ach vote should count and finally when all votes are counted, the winner is the one with the most votes. Within a democratic election, the Electoral Board remains impartial and non-partisan and regarded as such by the public at large. The Electoral Board should always create a conducive and enabling environment for participation and an educated citizenry. Also in order to establish the credibility of the electoral process, all parties have to work very hard to make the electoral process peaceful, democratic and successful. Generally, e lections are the cornerstone of creating a democratic political system.
I n the past decade, it has become a common phenomenon in the developing world to raise concerns on whether multi-party elections can possibly be held in a free and fair atmosphere or whether any ruling party can genuinely foment an enabling environment for peaceful, orderly and transparent elections. Such had been common pre-election concerns mainly of few opposition parties in Ethiopia. Concerns of this nature are often overblown by few opposition parties. For any election to be peaceful, fair and democratic and generally to be successful, media outlets must do their share and contribute positively. Same will be true for the upcoming Ethiopian election. Fair and professional media will among others enhance the media’s own reputation. Therefore, the information they disseminate should not solely rely on a single source with no attempt to independently confirm the stories or entertain the version and views of the other side. Most importantly, the media should refrain from being biased. Accuracy is essential for any information to be credible, reliable and beneficial but most often than not some media outlets lack objectivity, fairness, balance and impartiality expected from professional journalists. Hope they will correct whatever mistakes done and be ready for the upcoming Ethiopian election. In order to strengthen and optimize the ongoing economic and political reforms in Ethiopia and ensure continuity of the prevailing enabling environment for development and growth and for achieving the desired results of the major development ventures currently under implementation, it is critical that the media continue supporting some initiatives of the Government. Unbiased and knowledge based information and responsible journalism is thus very important in informing the public at large on the ongoing socio-economic and political reality of the country.
Democratization, good governance, on poverty alleviation and sustainable development are matters of survival and not matters of choice to the public at large. Therefore, there is no turning back on those hard fought values and norms. Generally, by understanding the rules by which we are governed, we can avoid the horrible problems that plagued us. By applying the principles of due process and the rule of law we can stop the seething discontent that continues to afflict us with so many social problems today. Rule of law brings hope for peace, hope for justice, and hope for a day when right will always conquer might. Hope for a day when truth will always overcome deceit. Hope for a day when love will truly be the highest law of our land.
Rule of Law is threatened today by seemingly innocent schemes of ambitious individuals and /or groups who seek to undermine the principles of due process for the sake of grasping power that will decree what law is and enforce its edicts with unbridled force. Rule of Law decrees that Law shall govern us according to the will of the People. Rule of Law is worthy of our highest aspirations and dedicated efforts as a united people. We must understand the laws of the land and be able to respect and be governed by the constitution of the land. Further, a civilized society does not rush to violence and destruction. It opts for construction and development endeavors instead. The role of the media should therefore follow the same way. By doing so, media outlets can play their part in making our nation a safer place to live and a safer place for future generations.