Bereket Gebru 04-05-18
There have been some recent reports that the state of emergency (SoE) declared in Ethiopia has negative impact on the country’s tourism sector. The argument here is that the SoE is a challenge to efforts of attracting tourists into the country. With the sense of unease people perceive under SoEs, they argue, tourists simply choose to go somewhere more peaceful and secure.
There is some part of the argument that makes sense. However, it is important to raise the circumstances that led to the declaration of the SoE. Months before the final declaration, protests popped in different parts of the country. Although Oromia was the main victim of such protests, other regions including Amhara, SNNP and Ethio-Somali regions all suffered from these fatal acts of lawlessness.
Numerous people lost their lives in all these regions with over six hundred thousand Oromos displaced from their homes in Ethio-Somali region. Although not treated as a huge crisis internationally, the strife between the two people has displacement more people than the extensively reported Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. The exodus of nearly six hundred thousand Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar into neighboring countries following their persecution by the country’s government has become an international agenda involving the most powerful nations in the world. However, the internal displacement of between six to seven hundred thousand Oromos has received little attention internationally.
Roads were blocked in different parts of the country to prohibit the movement of people and merchandize for weeks at times. Large parts of Oromia and some parts of Amhara region experience these road blocks that virtually stopped transportation across most parts of the country. Activities of trade and the movement of people were extremely affected throughout this period.
Peace and security were breached randomly and things got out of hand rather quickly and unexpectedly. The relative peace and calm during these times were unsustainable and unreliable. These unrests even looked spontaneous at times as they happened very suddenly and abruptly.
In stark opposition to the argument that the SoE has a negative impact on tourism, it has put a stop to all the characteristic traits of the unrest that are obviously against the advancement of tourism. The state of emergency has helped put a stop to the cycle of violence that was engulfing the nation.
By doing so, it saved the lives of numerous Ethiopians and averted the destruction of a considerable amount of property. It has helped rehabilitate the hundreds of thousands of people internally displaced as a result of the unrest. Transportation flow has also been reinstated to its normality. The movement of people and commodities has also made life easier to Ethiopians. Peace and security have also become more sustainable and reliable with the declaration of the SoE.
Considering the above stated realities of the unrest make tourism nearly impossible, the reinstatement of peace, security, transportation and trade is only going to make things much better for the sector. Therefore, the SoE is actually a blessing the tourism sector has been waiting to happen ever since the onset of the unrest in different parts of the country.
The statement from the relevant government office also supports the argument that the SoE did not negatively affect the performance of the tourism sector. According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, interruptions were not observed since the current state of emergency rule was announced on February 16, and are not expected afterwards as a result of the SoE. ENA quoted Gezahegn Abate, the Ministry's Director of Public and International Relations, as saying "Tangible information that we have gathered from tour operators all over the country indicates that no incident of interruptions have been witnessed in the country so far."
Within just weeks of the declaration of the state of emergency, the command-post put in place by the government to implement it managed to control the violent unrest. The swift success in containing the violence was mainly as a result of the goals set for the command post and the active participation of the people to stamp out the trace of violence.
Instead of adopting goals that mainly target the forceful apprehension of suspects, the command post has set out to normalize things and build peace throughout the country as fast as possible. Although it is only a few weeks since the SoE was declared, the results are all visible as peace and security has been restored throughout the county.
Although it came as a relief for all peace loving Ethiopians, the neutralization of the unrest in various parts of the country angered those who saw the situation as an opportunity to promote their political interests. These groups are still working relentlessly to reignite the fatal ordeals that set the country on the path of destruction and instability almost veering off the developmentally rewarding routes of the past fifteen years.
By seeking understanding and social participation instead of a harsh crackdown on dissenters, the command post responsible for the implementation of the state of emergency avoids any strains that the declaration of the law might have on citizens. As shown above, the goals of the command post focus more on creating an accord with the public than mounting a violent crackdown against suspected groups. It is this measure to align with the people and ensure social participation that finally paid off in ensuring peace and stability in the country last time around.