I have not yet heard anyone who is overwhelmingly negative to PM Dr. Abiy’s visit to Eritrea. We must all give credit where credit is due. Reaching out for peace after long 27 years of madness is a noble action. What has happened has happened. The 1998 war between the two brothers and sisters was utterly senseless.
The new Ethiopian administration has left behind the rhetoric of the recent past and has begun to adopt foreign policies that are well suited to the challenges ahead. The visits the PM has paid to middle East, Egypt, Somalia, Kenya etc. has shown Ethiopia’s focus is now on strengthening our unity and fighting our enemy number one, poverty. More importantly, the visit he just had in Eritrea, our brothers and sisters indeed must be celebrated. Were many Ethiopians not anguished on the secession of Eritrea? We must now celebrate the fact that the people of Eritrea have shown such love to their Ethiopian brothers and sisters.
It is too early to pass definitive judgment on Abyi’s administration decision to forgive and reconcile. But no doubt he should be accorded credit for his willingness to give forgiveness and reconciliation a chance over hatred and blind animosity.
A leader cannot foresee all the foreign policy crises he might face or know with certainty all the implications and outcomes of his decision, but he can choose the people he will have at his side when those crises erupt. I trust Dr. Abiy has or will soon have in place a team of “the best and brightest” the country has to offer. He needs people who not only are extraordinary leaders but also intellectuals capable of farsighted strategic thinking.
While I am at forgiveness and reconciliation, let me offer some observations and some word of caution.
Forgiveness and reconciliation can occur in every sphere of human experience, including individual, community, national, and trans-national levels. But, they should be applied in positive ways to heal and strengthen both individuals and communities. Needless to say, the two are not one and the same. You cannot have reconciliation without first having forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a process and a choice. . It is a complex and enigmatic concept. Should we ‘push’ it down people’s throat with legislation or regulation, we surely would then make it fraught with difficulty. Politicians must be careful not to use the rhetoric of forgiveness to avoid accountability. Forgiveness is a gift victims can give. We destroy its power as a gift by making it a duty.
Yet forgiveness is useful for community and even nation building. . It is a practical way of preventing the pain of the past from defining the path of the future. Forgiving people have chosen not to perpetuate a historical grievance; they are somehow able to turn the page, loosen themselves from the grip of the past, and reframe their own story. We should wholeheartedly support the call for forgiveness in principle.