ADDIS ABABA (HAN) May 3. 2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News BY SOLOMON DIBABA. Ethiopia has suffered from prolonged wars and internal strife that were in most cases triggered by foreign invaders who used tactics that ranged from naked force to outright cheating and political trickery. Some historians note that out of the entire history of the country, the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia enjoyed full fledged peace only for 100 years. This might be debatable but it certainly indicates that the country has suffered from lack of peace for many years. Between A.D 1529 – 1991 Ethiopia was involved in more than 20 massive wars 16 of which were wars with external invaders. This figure also includes internal wars of Zemene Mesafint, Era of Princes (1769-1885).
Since 1991, the strategic location of Ethiopia and the mercuric political cadence in the Horn of Africa has been the raison deter for a paradigm shift in the foreign policy of the country. Cooperation rather than enmity, mutual trust and confidence building instead of war propaganda have become the hallmarks of Ethiopia’s foreign policy.
However, over the last couple of decades, intruders from a number of neighbouring countries have continued to violate the boundaries of the country. Eritrean army and Eritrean backed terrorist organizations like Al-Shebaab, ONLF have time and again tested the patience of the Ethiopian peoples and the government.
Porous boundaries, weak economic and social ties between the centre and peripheral areas of the country, under developed transport and communication infrastructures in the border areas of the country, trans-boundary settlements of same ethnic group, cross border arms trafficking, influx of refugees explain the extent to which socio-political complications in the border areas can become a threat to national peace and security.
Ethiopia is surrounded by arid and semi-arid ecology that easily triggers aggressive completion for pastureland and water resources. This is further complicated by localized conflicts that flare up at any point in time to secure the scares resources in the areas.
Weak economic link between the mainland and outback areas, in many cases force citizens in the border areas to depend on border markets or cross border contraband trades in which arms trafficking becomes predominant.
Pastoralists in the border areas of Ethiopia and the neighbouring countries use adjacent range lands to secure water and grazing land for their livestock. This has time and again created border skirmishes in the areas bordering with Somalia and Kenya and in some parts of Oromia’s border areas.
Despite efforts so far made by the government and in spite of harsh legal instruments human trafficking and illegal migration is even in the increase. Some reports indicate that human trafficking in Ethiopia is being conducted in the most secretive and clandestine manner involving a network of family connections and illicit financial transactions.
The recent cross border kidnapping of over 100 innocent children and women as well as looting of cattle by the Murule tribe from South Sudan, the abduction of youth in Tigray State who were working on traditional gold mining clearly indicate the vulnerable situation that our citizens in the border areas are facing.
The terrorist actions of the Islamic Courts and recurrent border skirmishes and bombings that were conducted by Al-Shabaab in Ethiopia’s border with Somalia were dress rehearsals for the Jihad that was declared on the nation. The situation in Somalia is showing some level of improvement but there is also a favourable ground for the expansion of ISIL which has earlier included Ethiopia in its infamous map of the caliphate.
The recent unrest that were witnessed in Oromia and parts of North Gondar Zone cannot be considered as isolated events or mere incidents of public unrest. The fact that the issue has attracted the foreign media and social media alike certainly indicates that various political groups here and abroad were trying to fish into the situation. Whenever such incidents occur the innocent and those who have nothing to do with the situation fall victim to a situation for which they are not responsible.
Those who wish to destabilize and disrupt the peaceful development of the nation are always ready to use every possible situation to discredit Ethiopia’s development efforts by allying even with their worst enemies. Various political parties that have tried to incite public unrest in the name of religious rights and political freedom have time and again tried to express their views at the expense of the peace and tranquillity of citizens.
Various political groupings in the country try to attribute poverty and localized periodic internal conflicts either to the federal arrangement or to the development.
The safety of our citizens is also linked to the extent to which the nation can protect them from devastating natural and man-made calamities. The recent flood disasters in Dire Dawa and Jigjiga towns triggered by La- Nina incident makes the nation to opt for more sustained safety measures.
Recent situations and incidents that occurred in Ethiopia compel the nation to boost its ability to forecast possible incidents in which the peace and tranquillity of the country is put at stake. This requires regular and sustained monitoring of the socio-economic and political situations in the entire country and devise viable strategies to cut short possible issues of conflicts.
The implementation of development strategies and programmes in the country require the participation of all stakeholders and partners. Ignoring this basic constitutional and policy direction of the country has recently resulted in regrettable unrest that could have been peacefully and promptly avoided.
Local conflicts and unrest in Ethiopia were/are in so many cases accompanied with limited level of arms trafficking with light weapons and grenades. Recent events have vividly indicated that a considerable number of people involved in unrest are actually armed. Huge amount of such armaments are not registered and it is very difficult to actually estimate the number of firearms that are being circulated in the country. It is obvious that such activities are potential threats to the livelihood and peace for our citizens.
The country has enough laws on illegal trafficking of arms but are these laws in operation? Ethiopia is reportedly working with IGAD countries and other African countries to control the illegal trafficking of arms. To what extent are such efforts successful?
Although the government shoulders the responsibility of maintaining peace and stability in the country, sustained peace and development is unthinkable without a meaningful support and participation of all citizens. Citizens could not remain indifferent to situations that would threaten their rights to peaceful life and development.
Ethiopia has rich cultural traditions that the nation could exploit to resolve conflicts. Almost every nation, nationality and peoples have their own home grown methods of resolving conflicts without resorting to the regular due process of law.
Despite such potentials, the nation has hardily done enough to effectively forecast possible local conflicts and utilize local mechanisms that are used for resolving conflicts.
Various political groupings in the country try to attribute poverty and localized periodic internal conflicts either to the federal arrangement or to the development polices of the government while the realpolitik is quite different. The ruling party and all opposition parties have a collective responsibility to keep the safety and peace of citizens and the territorial integrity of the nation. After all, the highest possible politics in this country hinges on safeguarding the territorial integrity and peace in this country.
Every one, every party, irrespective of political or ideological differences need to work towards the motto of peaceful Ethiopia. This is not a matter of give and take as it is impossible to clone such a beautiful country and peoples with a proud historical heritage of centuries.