February 12, 2016 (GSN) - As opposed to the melting pot concept and policy of its next door i.e. The United States of America, Canada has championed herself with the concept of Multiculturalism. The idea and practice of multiculturalism is based upon respect and tolerance.
That respect and tolerance goes not only for the language, religion and the overall culture of the over one hundred-thousand immigrants who make Canada their homes every year, but also to the original Canadian people as well. In a country where the aboriginal people of Canada: the English and the French lived for many years and in a country where the English and French languages are the national languages, many immigrants live in Canada speaking their own languages and practising their respective customs, tradition and religion as well.
The Government of Canada not only promotes multiculturalism but also multiculturalism is its government's policy. As a result, variety of associations such as the Ethiopian Association, the Greek Association, the Italian, Russian etc. associations are active in promoting their culture and heritage in Canada. Most importantly, these many associations are by and large funded by the Federal as well as Provincial Governments of Canada for promoting their culture and heritage. That is why Canada is known to the world as a country of immigrants with high level and standard with regard to respecting the human rights and being tolerant of the culture, religion and heritage of the different people who come from different corners of the globe and that includes Ethiopians.
In our era of globalization, nations are getting closer and closer for shared experience and for shared prosperity. Nations are also caring more and more for each other as they have realized that they all live in the same world and thus have to look after each other. The African commission led by the British PM Tony Blair and where our late PM was a member is a good example of global cooperation for shared prosperity.
The African commission's objective is among others to help poor African countries to get rid of their debts by 100 per cent. By way of globalization, there is closeness for cooperation. However, one should also note that there also exist conflicts and even wars. When that happens, there are mechanisms; some civilized and others uncivilized ways of resolving those conflicts and/ or misunderstandings that may exist from within or from outside nations. What is important here is the adoption of a norm that is civilized and cultured in order to resolve conflicts that arise due to variety of reasons such as the recent unfortunate clashes that happened in different parts of our nation.
Whereas such types of ramblings and misunderstandings happen even in countries with many years experience in democratization and good governance, the mechanisms they take to avert disputes and/or clashes are based on maximum prudence and sageness or wisdom and never on violence. When misunderstandings happen in countries with ample experience in democratization and good governance like Canada, the issue of tolerance takes precedence to anything else and the adherence to the rule of law prevails and takes the upper hand.
The people of Canada as multicultural society possess one important thing which is extremely important and which is common to all despite their different backgrounds. That is to learn to be tolerant and to learn to respect the law of the land at any time and to abide by it. This mentality widely adopted in Canada by immigrants who make Canada their homes is a symbol of civilization that is automatically imposed on the Canadian society despite their original backgrounds. This norm and value is also reflected by the different political parties that compete for the variety of Municipal, Provincial and Federal seats of the country.
When elections are held in Canada, candidates are expected to perform with high ethical and professional standard. First and foremost, they must be of Canadian citizen and they must be free of any criminal record. Also, Canadian citizens are expected to use their rights to vote for the candidates they think will do the best job for them and their country. Finally the electoral board will have full authority and full responsibility to conduct and monitor elections from the beginning to the end and will make decisions on the election results. Once elections are done, citizens go back to work to do the business of the nation and that is all.
The rest is left for the electoral board to look at grievances, discrepancies and so on if there are any and everything is done in accordance with the law of the land. Finally when the electoral board decides who the winners and the losers are, the public as well as candidates accept the decision with grace, shake hands and move forward to do the business of the nation. If any candidate is not satisfied with the result of the election be it Municipal, Provincial or Federal, then he or she follows the legal channel of appeal to resolve the disputed case. This is the way things are done in one of the most democratic nations of the world: Canada and that is why Canadians are regarded as one of the most tolerant people in the world.
We Ethiopians have rich culture and tradition of generosity and kindness, however if we are honest with ourselves, we do not have a good reputation and enough experience for tolerance. In fact, we tend to be quite opinionated with stringency and rigidity. We simply lack tolerance and that is one thing most often reflected with political parties as well and that is what opposition parties in Ethiopia must learn from the Canadian political experience. Instead of resolving misunderstandings through a civilized dialogue, few opposition parties inside and outside of Ethiopia often opt for demonstration, provocation, economic destabilization.
This lack of tolerance on the part of few opposition partied has led to the recent unfortunate happenings in the different parts of our nation. Such an unfortunate incident could have easily been avoided had there been tolerance and respect for the legal institutions of the land on the part of few individuals, groups and opposition political parties inside and outside of our nation.
Opposition parties in Ethiopia are a recent phenomenon. Prior to this current government, there was no opposition party, there was no single independent newspaper, people had no right to express themselves let alone write their opinions on variety of independent newspapers, there was no respect for human rights in the country and virtually there was none whatsoever to protect the public. It was after the demise of the military dictatorship that the Ethiopian people started to see and experience the light of freedom and started to exercise their citizenship and democratic rights. Recent elections in Ethiopia demonstrated just that. Millions went to the ballot boxes to exercise their citizenship rights and cast their votes in an unprecedented way. Thanks to globalization and the advent of technology people have started to learn to be tolerant from the experiences of other countries' loyal opposition parties and from other countries' standard and ethical newspapers such as those in Canada. So, what are the lessons that opposition parties could learn from the experience of those countries like Canada?
First, all parties and more so the opposition parties must learn to be tolerant and patient because that is one sign of political maturity. Further, they must learn to follow rules and regulations, the constitution and all other legal and institutional framework of the country in dealing with disputes or conflicts. They must at all time refrain from advocating violence and use of power. Instead, they must adopt civilized values, norms, and ethics and opt for dialogue at any time in order to pass their messages across with an objective of putting the national interest first. Sometimes, they must learn how to agree to disagree. This is not a sign of weakness. Tolerance and forgiveness are in fact a sign of strength, self-confidence and a measurement of a civilized society.
The people of Ethiopia have unfortunately not been privileged with democratic values, norms and traditions. Whereas the people of Ethiopia have had a long history of democratic processes based on cultural and traditional means and ways, they did not unfortunately posses much experience in the universally acknowledged and accepted western democracy and its processes. During the previous military government of Ethiopia, the notion of democracy and human rights was unheard of. There was no free expression, no independent newspapers, no political parties, none what so ever.
It was only during the current Ethiopian government that people started to exercise their constitutional as well as citizenship rights. At present, there are many independent newspapers and many political parties in Ethiopia. However, considering the infancy of the Ethiopian political parties most particularly the opposition parties, it is most likely that they are bound to make mistakes rather quite often.
Although the Ethiopian people went to cast their votes in millions and showed unmatched decency that the whole world admired and approved, lack of democratic experience and most importantly, lack of tolerance often than not have marked an unfortunate incidences in different parts of our country. Such an unfortunate incidences could have been avoided had individuals, groups and few opposition political parties from within and outside the nation were tolerant. Again, it is not too late to learn from mistakes. Above all, those with different opinions should put the interest of the people and the nation first, not individual, group or party's interest.