Letís Shun Playing Politics for a Change and Rally for a Common Cause

By Mulubrhan Tsehaye

June 16 2008

For some time now, we have been hearing through various media outlets about the threat of starvation and people in need of emergency food aid in the southern and eastern parts of the country. The same media sources have also been reporting that a significant number of children are reportedly malnourished. We, Ethiopians should take this familiar grim news about a possible threat of drought and malnutrition with utmost sense of distress for it has affected our nation successively before with a devastating effect of immense proportion. Our countryís famine of 1974 and 1984-1985 that claimed millions of innocent lives is fresh in our minds and this alarming news should be a harsh reminder of a possible catastrophe hovering over our nation if it is not dealt with immediate and speedy response. It is obvious that this calamity has been caused by a number factors including the global high food prices, the global increase in oil prices, the increase of bio-fuel production using edible crops and of course to all these was added the failure of rains. While droughts are usually directly caused by the forces of nature beyond human control such as those like the failure of rains or even the global food crisis etc, functional democratic institutions and a government with effective early warning mechanism, a swift emergency response and a broad public participation in coordinating assistance to the needy can play a vital role in saving lives.

Yes, there are some conflicting reports, mainly from sources of the Ethiopian government that contend that the magnitude of the problem is exaggerated and the number of citizens under the threat of starvation in those parts of the country is considerably lower than that has been reported by the international media. Be that it may be however, the overriding issue that requires a particular attention should not be whether or not the reporters were quick to exaggerate or undermine the magnitude of the disaster or how high or low the number of malnourished children is. It is rather how to quickly and swiftly react and ward off this potentially catastrophic crisis. One starving child is too many and no child should be left starving no matter how difficult and challenging it is to reach each and every individual. The government thus has to avoid being tangled in a rather needless argument as to whether the magnitude of the disaster was exaggerated by some reporters or some of the aid agencies are ballooning the number of victims to sustain their employment etc. First of all, what bad can come out of exaggerating the gravity of the problem and overwhelming it with a excessive response? One would imagine that excess flow of aid would not be a challenge that the malnourished children wouldnít be able to handle? The government thus ought to continue focusing its full attention on how to confront the challenge at hand head-on and work relentlessly to effectively coordinate and speedily deliver the critically needed aid in order to successfully avert the potentially severe calamity of malnutrition or even starvation in those parts of the country.

Secondly, it is a public secret that Ethiopia under the current government has been registering a remarkable and rather unprecedented successive economic growth that is slowly pulling the country out of the deeply rooted poverty and long standing backwardness. These are real and tangible achievement records of the ruling party that are unmistakably visible through out the nation. Whether this year or next year there happens to be failure of rains, malnutrition or not the visible economic progress all over the country is the result of some of the polices put in place by the ruling party and no matter what its adversaries might say, the people of Ethiopia are the primary witness of these visible steps forward. Nobody can take away this from the government of EPRDF. Thirdly, as far as political records go, since the get go, the current government is the only government in the history of our nation that officially declared that poverty is the principal enemy of our nation and it will concentrate all its efforts on eradicating poverty that has devastated and humiliated Ethiopia for the past centuries. Now, regardless of how significant progress has been registered and how far the nation has marched forward in the path of economic growth, there are and will be still massive economic and social problems that entail to be undertaken including the threat of drought or even starvation every time rain fails or any other natural disaster strikes. It is obvious that in poverty stricken countries like ours, the journey to completely stamp out the longstanding and deeply-rooted poverty can not be accomplished overnight for it is a colossal task that poses a particular challenge of an immense proportion.

Of course, those few disingenuous Diaspora extreme elements will always try to politicize unfortunate natural phenomena like this to proliferate their political agenda. Instead of being alarmed by potentially serious reports like this and try to do whatever they can to help their compatriots, they are scrambling on to taking cheep shots against the ruling party in a bid to score some cheep political scores by blaming the current government about every misfortune that might take place on this Earth. It is a public record that these extreme elements have been blatantly roaring and campaigning against any aid for Ethiopia just because the current ruling party happens to be their adversary. While they are aware that the principal beneficiary of such aid is the poor and needy, they were and are prepared to pursue their selfish political agenda even if it means depriving the poor and destitute the critically needed help. True to their character, on one hand, they have made it their mission to lobby relentlessly all the donors including the European Union and World Bank and others to cancel any short term or long term developmental aids and loans that might be aimed at combating poverty and the reoccurring droughts in the country. And now, on the other hand, they are preaching that the current government is deliberately impoverishing and even starving the people and the reports of food shortage and malnutrition are the ruling partyís own making. Of course, to those of us who are accustomed to the mind setting of these rather deranged narcissists whose principal goal is merely reinstating themselves to power by any means necessary, their blame game does come as a bolt from the blue and nothing they attempt to say or do should be of any value.

The good new is however these narcissists are the minority and their narcissist ideals do not reflect in any way the patriotic fortitude of the majority of Ethiopians in and outside the country who truly understand the situation on the ground and are genuinely determined to do whatever they can to help and at the same time pressure the government to rise up to the challenge and react swiftly and effectively to ward off the looming calamity before it goes out of hand. Thus, Ethiopians of all political persuasions with an independent choice of rational outlook that is merely focused on the wellbeing of the ordinary Ethiopian people need to put our respective political differences on hold and get together now and mobilize our efforts to do our outmost share to quickly foil the threat posed to our compatriots for we owe it to the children in need. Playing politics and bickering at each other from a safe distance will never have any positive effect on the endeavor to combat this threat. Yes, we may have political difference and some of us are profoundly opposed to each other on many social and political issues but this is not politics; it is rather a common predicament of every citizen that entails a coordinated thrust by a force of unison.