Ethiopia: Food or freedom: Which comes first?
It is true that economic growth is a necessary condition for a country like Ethiopia….. Yet, food is not sufficient. Food is necessary for our survival but our survival is meaningless without freedom. Food and freedom cannot be dealt separately.
Food must be accompanied by freedom to make humanity flourish. Human beings are like trees. Trees need water (and other nutrients) … This is food. But they need sunlight (They must be free to see the sun), if they are to flower and get ripe. Though water is important for the growth of trees, it is sunlight that makes their growth meaningful. Same is true to human beings: Human beings need both food and freedom. We are also in a position to have them both by transforming our political system from the rule of man to the rule of law.
People have the right to food (food is one component of freedom). Human beings must be free to get food. Plus, citizens have also the right to express what they want. Freedom of consciousness (freedom of speech, expression, to be listened …….. every other aspect beyond filling the belly or stomach). We are not here to eat only; we also want to express our lives freely so as to realize our true selves.
Food and freedom are not mutually exclusive. We can achieve them all together. We may exert efforts to eradicate poverty (achieve food security). But there is no effort needed to let people free. Because freedom is just allowing people to be the way they like as long as their actions do not affect the right (freedom) of other fellow citizens. So, freedom only needs a good will of the ruling class accompanied by the maturity of individual citizens.
In order to achieve and sustain food security, every citizen must take part (participate) in the development endeavors of the nation. Participation is all rounded. It includes…..freedom of speech (or expression)…. Freedom of speech needs free thinking. When citizens are free to think, express and act the way they like, there is high possibility of inventing new ways of doing things. With freedom, there will be new innovations which help us develop our economic growth and other aspects. So, Freedom of Expression must be allowed for the sake of our national development.
Economic growth (food) is one component of development. Development subsumes democracy (besides economic growth). The essence of democracy is freedom; freedom in all aspects. Without freedom, development is not complete. The Human Development Index is all about freedom (access to education, democratic participation etc). The well being of the people is measured by the freedom the people enjoy. As the people are the major actors in bringing development, they must be let free. People without freedom cannot be innovative….. Without freedom we are weak who cannot achieve remarkable changes. So, freedom and food reinforce with each other. We cannot expect people without freedom to bring development.
As the saying goes, we eat to live (we do not live to eat). Our fathers (including those who had a good opportunity of having huge incomes) struggled for freedom. Because people do not live to eat; they eat to live (living with freedom). Living is not only eating…. but also realizing the fruits of life, which is possible only with freedom.
I am not prioritizing food or freedom. We should not prioritize … because both of them are equally important. Economic growth is not a guarantee for unity and stability. The people in Libya, Egypt and other Middle Eastern peoples do not have food problem. They have excess food (economic growth). But they lack freedom (democracy). This is why they violently opposed to their own rulers (that resulted in bloodshed). Freedom is also a component of the development of a nation.
Therefore, the EPRDF led government must let the Ethiopian people free. OR, if the ruling party is not capable of achieving both (food and freedom), it must confess that it is time for the other parties to come to power to make them both happen to humankind. However, if the ruling party tends to continue denying freedom (of the people) by naming and/or defaming ‘freedom fighters’ as ‘terrorists’, it really poisons our future political systems and results in ‘social decay’. This may lead to instability.
When the government terrorizes people in order not to express their political view freely, they tend to use force as a last resort. So, if the government continues to suppress human freedom in the name of ‘terrorism’, it is aggravating violence. Therefore, the EPRDF-led government should openly be informed to stop such activities that could lead to violence which brings more loss! As responsible citizens, we do not want to see violence; this is why we strongly oppose to the EPRDF led government, its actions of oppression and ethnic discrimination. The basic and immediate cause of violence is oppression.
The ruling party should accept and observe the principle of ‘peaceful transfer of power’. We shall respect and/or observe the ballot -and NOT the bullet.
As a final remark, even though it is self evident that the so called double digit economic growth in Ethiopia is cooked from (based on) false data, my concern goes that the importance of economic growth is not feasible in a country where there is no tendency for equitable distribution of wealth. What is the relevance of economic growth (if there is any) without freedom? We need both growth (food) and democracy (freedom).
Yes, oppression is the mother of violence.
Freedom is the Cause.
Abraha Desta is a political science instructor at Mekelle University, Ethiopia. He’s also doing his PhD with a South African university. The young scholar is a member of the opposition Arena/Medrek, and a vocal critic of the the ruling party and regime, even though he lives in the midst of the fear-ridden society. His writings on Ethiomedia.com as well as on FaceBook have earned him thousands of followers.