The need for different approaches in engaging communities in productive dialogue

After the assassination of the artist and activist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, the situation the country finds itself in is a huge cause of concern. The chaos that has prevailed following this event has resulted in a number of innocent civilian fatalities, which is a heartbreaking affair.

When such public disturbances occur, the measure the government should take in order to de-escalate tensions should be wise and prudent. But we all know that is not what is happening. Arresting key Oromo politicians, bringing forward grave accusations against them, certainly would exacerbate the crisis, not solve them. The way the government also handled the standoff in relation to the location of Haacaaluu’s funeral was also baffling. Most people have been rubbing their eyes in disbelief with the path the government has chosen.

Those measures such as putting influential Oromo opposition leaders behind bars might please some right-wing radicals who wish to see them removed from the scene in the short term. But that would not in any way help in bringing peace to the country. The “my enemy is defeated” feeling could create only temporary satisfaction. But it would strengthen the sense of victimhood among the Oromo, exacerbate underlying tensions, and put the country’s nascent democracy into danger. There is a danger of the incumbent lapsing into some kind of authoritarian government, shutting off one of the last possible routes to peaceful political change and putting hopes of reform in tatters.

Peace will be the issue of paramount importance. The government has a responsibility to make sure that no ethnic group is targeted for attack as a result of this chaos. Citizens deserve protection all the time. However, when angry insurrection occurs, cracking down on opposition parties and accusing them on public media as if they were coup plotters would not help diffuse the situation. One can’t even assume it is intended for a brief period just until things go back to normal because the accusations seem permanent. Along with avoiding the use of excessive force against demonstrators and providing the necessary protection for citizens, the government should seek different approaches, such as the community engagement in productive dialogue at preventing further violence, making the Oromo people and leaders stakeholders in solving the mysterious death of the beloved singer.

Image: The funeral ceremony of Hachalu Hundessa in Ambo

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The need for different approaches in engaging communities in productive dialogue