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Ethical Political Leadership for Sustainable Peace and Stability — a New Year Imperative?

Ethical Political Leadership for Sustainable Peace and Stability — a New Year Imperative?  

Though I am not a political scientist, as a humble citizen I have the impression that throughout Ethiopian history, the crisis of ethical political leadership (lack of political leadership hygiene) is responsible for Ethiopia’s underdevelopment and instability, and its social and structural injustices. Thus, strengthening ethical political leadership should be an imperative in the coming Ethiopian New Year.  

Ethics comprises principles and concepts that guide humans between right and harmful behaviours (Paul and Elder 2006). In the Cambridge dictionary of philosophy, ethics is used interchangeably with morality (Audi 199), and is concerned with what is right, fair, just or good in essence, what we ought to do, and not just what is convenient or congenial to the majority (Preston 2007).

According to Northouse (2004), ethics pertains to the leader’s being and actions, characterized by ‘respect, service, justice, honesty and community’. Central to ethical leadership is the responsibility to respect people’s dignity, to be sensitive to their needs as opposed to egoistic self-aggrandizement, and to create an environment of nurturance, trust, empathy, forgiveness and reconciliation (Heifetz 1994). 

In my opinion, the deficit and crisis of ethical political leadership poses enormous challenges to Ethiopia. Bad leadership manifested by persistent bad governance, dysfunctional institutions, manipulations of ethnic differences, corruption and personalization of power hinder the prevalence of peace, social justice and unity. In such an environment powerful political elites feed on the state, prey on the weak, use national resources for self-aggrandizement, and deprive the poor tax payers (citizens) of collective goods such as good education, medical care and employment. When people’s human needs are not met, protracted social conflicts and civil wars are inevitable (Burton 1990; Sandole 2001).

Of course, at this point it is proper to acknowledge the government’s current initiative and efforts to fight corruption. However, it is my firm belief that this effort will continue in the coming Ethiopian New Year with greater vigor and magnitude since fighting corruption is not a one-time campaign. In my opinion, the fight against corruption (unethical political leadership) just started. It is not time to celebrate. Not at all. We have a long, long, long … way to go.      

What is more, I believe, in the coming Ethiopian New Year, as a nation, we need to search for all-inclusive preventive and transformative measures to this political leadership crisis. Accordingly, it is crucial to consider some important questions like: what leadership is needed for Ethiopia? What went/is wrong in the system and how can it be rectified?  


In the absence of ethical leadership—establishing peace, security, social justice, functional institutions, and democratic governance are impossible. Of course, I understand establishing an ethical political leadership is not as such easy. For instance, Ackerman (2004) notes that: “ethical leadership is the result of a tough and often conflict-ridden process of institutional design”. For Ackerman, there is neither a mechanical formula nor an independent theory to respond to the crisis of leadership. Ethical leadership does not emerge overnight, out of natural goodness or nobleness of heart of charismatic political leaders. Strengthening ethical political leadership entails a peaceful ‘mental and structural revolution’ (Ngwane 2003), to alter the system that enables unethical people to assume political leadership (Mutibwa 1992). In my humble opinion, in the coming Ethiopian New Year our government in consultation with its citizens needs to focus on short and long-term strategies to inculcate ethical leadership values.  

Finally, I would like to underline the fact that, dealing with unethical political leadership in the coming Ethiopian New Year, as (Lederach 1997) notes ‘necessitates the examination of the entire system—its dynamic and structure’. Important also is the transition from violence to sustainable peace, from divisive ethnic politics to the politics of unity, from coercive power to integrative power, and from use of force to democracy, justice, constitutionalism, citizen participation, accountability and the rule of law (Boulding 1990, Museveni 2000, Mutibwa 1992).

Happy, Peaceful & Prosperous Ethiopian New Year!!!

God Bless Ethiopia!!!


Tsegai Berhane (PhD)

Mekelle University, School of Law 

 Sep 09, 2017



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