BY SOLOMON DIBABA
Ethiopia is not only home to various ethnic groups but also a centre for multiple world outlooks among the entire population. Diversity in Ethiopia is not an isolated variable but also encompassed people with different views and outlooks voicing their ideas on limited media outputs in the country.
A national harmony in ideology or world outlook is not something that could be achieved in the short run but develops through time. Ethiopia is rich in various cultural heritages and also cultural values and norms that govern the behaviour of each ethnic group in the country. Although not adequately tapped, religious values and ethical norms play an important role in shaping the social consciousness and ethical standards of the public.
When it comes to harmonizing public norms of behaviour, there are differences between the rural and urban populations in the country. The behaviour of rural Ethiopians is primarily conservative and religious-oriented but in the urban settings of the country, it appears that the populations manifest more pragmatic views.
However, such conclusions are subject to a wider range of research on social psychology and public perception of the realities in their areas. General observation shows that Ethiopians are orderly and disciplined people with heritages of thousand years of coexistence. Tolerance and disciplined but this was not always the case over the last three decades in which civil strife, ethnic conflicts and internal border disputes have threatened the stability of the country.
The main question that comes to mind now is what are the major determining factors that ensure a reasonable public discipline across the country? The first factor is the rule of law and the mechanisms or tools used to ensure it, the simple definition of the rule of law is “the restriction of the arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws.” The crux of the matter is whether these restrictions are legally defined and enacted justifiably so that they could be used to promote public discipline.
The rule of law codifies the core values and norms of citizens. Courts have the responsibility to interpret the Constitution’s meaning, as well as the meaning of any laws passed by the law-making body. Rule of law is a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated.
Laws provide a framework and rules to help resolve disputes between individuals. Laws create a system where individuals can bring their disputes before an impartial fact-finder, such as a judge or jury.
Apart from the law, in Ethiopia, there are age-old uncodified public norms and standards used for the promotion of peace and stability by employing traditional conflict resolution mechanisms that have not been adequately utilized by the public.
Public discipline entails the prevalence of a wider range of public accountability for enforcing the rule of law through various arrangements instead of leaving everything to the law enforcement bodies. The public is also accountable to ensure that public properties like roads, telephone booths, restrooms, and roadside signs are properly used. In this sense, public accountability adds up to public discipline that governs the behaviour of citizens in every aspect of life.
Ethiopia has a long history of religious, legal and political culture that has come down to the population from one generation to the other. The promotion of all the positive heritages of moral values and cultures is essential to strengthening public discipline.
Respect for the rules and regulations issued by the government and heeding to precautionary public notices will add value to the already existing elements of public discipline. Ethiopians are known for their respect for every stratum of the social ladder. The spirit of friendship, respect and obedience to authority is an important element of ensuring public discipline. This will help to deter hooliganism, staging political riots instead of using legal means to address grievances and concerns in a more civilized manner.
Respect for the leadership of this country and the political order in the country is useful for ascertaining public discipline. Hurdling insults, defamation statements and derogatory words may not exactly affect the leadership but at this point, mistreating and disrespecting the leaders of this country is no less than providing a propaganda tool for terrorist TPLF.
The prevalence of public discipline also implies practising democratic rights more responsibly without resorting to taking the law into one’s hands. For instance, in places of public gathering and religious festivities like Meskel, Timket and other outdoor events, public order and discipline cannot be maintained only by law enforcement bodies but also the entire public interested in its safety.
Public discipline in one aspect is the function of public legal social consciousness. If citizens are aware of their rights and obligations through formal and informal legal training, peace, social harmony and mutual solidarity and protection of the rights of those who cannot defend themselves will prevail. Besides, the current crisis and ethnic-based conflicts we observe in the country could have at least been reduced if not avoided through well-targeted promotion and enhancement of public legal consciousness.
Ensuring public discipline also requires promoting public education in schools to enable the country to produce a high discipline society. There is always a link between public discipline and other sub-disciplines in social life. This includes for instance labour, medical, military, sports and all other forms of professional activities that have to do with ascertaining professional and public discipline.
Public security and safety is a priority area that needs to be nourished by public discipline. Political rallies, public religious gatherings, entertainment events and all other forms of activities in which thousands of people congregate could be a centre of chaos and political turmoil unless a reasonable level of public discipline is observed by the participants.
Nowadays, the posts we see on social media and tubes are vivid reflections of the state of public discipline in the areas of public communications. Unfounded allegations call for nationwide protests organized by interested groups to show the extent to which ethnic-based politics is eating up into the status of public morals, respect and peaceful coexistence. Here it is also relevant to consider some of the challenges that usually threaten the promotion of public discipline.
Among other things, politically oriented rumours, gossip and deliberate misinformation among the public could give rise to upheavals and unexpected riots that are in no way compatible with the level of coexistence and cooperation among the different ethnic groups and sections of various societies in Ethiopia.
Long-awaited issues of unmet public demands that test the patience of the public could trigger the maintenance of collective public discipline. If the burning needs of the public are not met on time or if the necessary information is not released on time, any crowd in the public could turn wild and resort to a predictable level of damages on public utilities as was the practice in the past several years.
The alarming level of unemployment particularly among the youth is another factor that needs to be seriously considered. Unemployed youth stricken with the ramifications of poverty may care less about public order or peace. Besides, widespread corruption cases that come to the attention of the public may trigger anger that may not be controlled immediately.
Moreover, in a multi-ethnic country like Ethiopia in which a considerable number of ethnic groups live and work through shared borders, conflicts flare up anytime irrespective of the importance of the issues under consideration. Such situations overrun not only public
The current political developments in Ethiopia compounded by external political pressures by some foreign countries and global institutions seemed to create uncertainties and limited lack of trust between the government and the public setting a breeding ground for negative politicking and emotive public reactions that could easily threaten public disciplinary standards.
But what is the way pout from the danger paused by lack of public discipline? It is indeed very difficult to come up with a single solid solution to such challenges overnight. Ensuring public discipline requires the uninterrupted cooperation of all sectors in society. Public discipline develops by taking integrated and reciprocal measures in which every sector of the Ethiopian society should contribute their share.
Of particular importance is the contributions to be made by religion-based institutions with their huge capacity for public outreach. They have all the capacity to enforce public discipline among their faithful members as well as the rest of the society in the communities in which they operate.
Continuous public education through media outlets and CSOs in the country can effectively add up to the efforts underway by the government. However, ensuring public discipline must not be done through coercive measures that can sometimes backfire.
On the other hand, most of the crimes and trespassing of standard norms of social behaviour manifested in Ethiopia as all forms of crimes, hooliganism, addiction triggered crimes, and juvenile delinquency could have been avoided if the standard level of public discipline education was cultivated among all stratum of the Ethiopian population.
Ensuring public discipline can promote democracy, good governance and a spirit of accountability that must prevail among all Ethiopians. On the other hand, personal patience and accountability on every inch of personal and public life are very important.
Upcoming events like National Dialogue and Reconciliation can be a good opportunity to discuss the underlying issues that have so far obstructed the prevalence of full-fledged public discipline in the country. All concerned are expected to do their part in the entire process of promoting public discipline.
Editor’s Note: The views entertained in this article do not necessarily reflect the stance of The
The January 26/2022