Is EPRDF Council on-going session truly dominated by motley of Ethiopia’s problems, or the party’s?

10 Sep

by Keffyalew Gebremedhin, posted by The Ethiopia Observatory


    It is reported that the Council finished its meetings Tuesday evening. Unfortunately, it has not decided to tell the public anything new. The brief news items spoke of the usual stuff about GTE and problems of bad governance. In the case of the latter, it stressed the need for serious efforts to change the situation, according to Fana.



At such an important moment for Ethiopians, when the nation is preparing to greet its Year 2006, the country’s ruling party has been in session for three days now. We are told that the council is deliberating, among others, on good governance issues. By definition, it means that the TPLF/EPRDF is discussing its own record of failures in delivering the services the nation has been in need of and demanding, without much success this far.

As courtesy to the nation, therefore, our bosses have instructed the media they control to inform the people that they have since Sunday September 8, 2013 assessing organizational activities of the ruling party and government’s development and good governance. Unfortunately, what we read or hear, as carried by the state media and the other on the TPLF news agency is a copy and paste reproduction of past council session press releases.

Habitually, these are dominated by litanies of the country’s problems and the same solutions that do not impact the reality on the ground. At times, it is puzzling to note how and why these intelligent people, who have proved their survival skills, do not and could not realize that the root of the nation’s persistent problems, arising from the neglect and disrespect of the individual citizen, would not go away by merely employing the same self-serving, unsuitable and ill-designed solutions over and over.

We know that, like their predecessor, these leaders would not like to hear of what I am going to say here; but it must be said because I have a sense that they have been more at work on their 2015 prospects and the vote margin they should earmark in continuing their regime.

Issues and problems under consideration

The media have been instructed to tell Ethiopians that their leaders are working hard to address the known and worsening problems of the nation, primarily those relating to:

    ○   Unemployment

○   Labor productivity

○   Rural and urban development issues

○   Infrastructure development (roads, water, electricity, shelter, etc)

○   Agricultural production and productivity issues

○   Natural resources and irrigation development; and,

○   The need to curb ‘religious extremism’.

Moreover, much as in the months preceding the 2010 election, we are told that the ruling party has now decided “to work with political parties that are operating peacefully.”

Redux 2010 election: Without the lead actor

On reading this decision of the party about conditions to cooperate with the opposition, I could not help seeing the similarities with the year before the 2010 election. Of course, there were those television debates as part of the preparations they made, as the ruling party mostly focussed on cutting corners here and there to ensure that it was in control of its destiny in power. They did their homework effectively. It helped them in getting good grade of 99.6 – I think I forgot whether it was a test result or a high electoral result obtained in a highly polarized society.

It is clear to all of us, including those that were in their prime within the ruling party at the time but were later booted out after Meles’s victory. In recent days, I hear those once stalwarts of the TPLF and its central committee are granted permission to leave the country with their families (possibly installation grants as well) to ask political asylum in the United States.

At the time, the party used similar language to entice the opposition, which finally sent Hailu Shawel to his political demise. Against advice of his colleagues, he initially obliged and joined in the handshake with Meles, only to wake up later seeing his embarrassing situation. Medrek refused to go that route, refusing to sit in consultations under rules and regulations solely designed by the party in power for both the election and the code of conduct.

In the meantime, riding high before the election was Meles especially in the international media, which he had effectively hypnotized. He effectively and seductively utilized them for his fiction of his disinterest in power. Added to his was his loyalty to his ruling party and the prevalence of culture of internal democracy, operating by decision of co-equal members.

Unique to that 2010 election, however, was the party claiming to be seized with making Ethiopia a far advanced nation, with constant reference to the year-end December 2009 The Economist as its Bible. Even then, dominating the headlines was Meles Zenawi’s infamous proposal of his desire to take ‘early’ retirement, if only his party could agree to it.

Partly that was the ploy that took away the sting of electoral fraud in 2010, when Meles eventually put the crown on his head to rule the country with iron hand for another one thousand years, were it not for death that sniffed him out at 57. On consolidating his power, he immediately launched the Ethiopian developmental state, whose pedigree he knew very well in ensuring power in the hands of a single person at the top.

Nevertheless, his bizarre trick may have eluded these people in the ruling party now in session, but not one Ethiopian writer, who in an article on May 31, 2009 asked the pertinent question:Would Meles Zenawi truly depart, as he promised, or would he become the grey eminence of Ethiopian politics?

The writer did not wait for Meles Zenawi to provide the answer, which she unhesitatingly put forth and right to the point laying Meles bare, as follows:

    “If ever the transition Ato Meles seems to be engineering were to be realized, it is a sad irony that the country would have to worry and engage in questioning and scrutiny of Ato Meles’s actions and motives after retirement, and of those around him, even if they keep their eyes closed and their hands in solemn places. After all, history is replete with evidences that, even after their departure, some leaders are capable of leaving behind a long dark shadow that hovers over everything — unwanted mostly in so many ways. Especially as a leader, Prime Minister Meles has been a strong personality, partly because of his formation as organizer and eventually leader of a strong liberation movement that seized government power and has all the same militarized society for nineteen long years now.

    Therefore, that is the reason why this paper has posed the question whether Ato Meles would become the Grey Eminence ( L’éminence grise) of Ethiopian politics i.e., a retired man with designs who would still continue to exercise the same power and influence, this time outside the premier’s office. Or, would he honour his promises and leave ‘lock, stock & barrel’, to borrow his phrase, and become a spectator to Ethiopia’s progress along a democratic path?”

There is now the folly of the TPLF/EPRDF trying to come up with some sort of ploy. This is because the major preoccupation of this people at this moment is their future. At the same time, so strong is their disdain for the people that they tell the nation – we the fools – that they are discussing their party’s organizational activities. Why did they have to seek a camouflage in the nation’s enormous problems, when they are free as the sole power in the country to deliberate on any issue they like?

It is interesting that the motley of problems they mention here are the same issues we have been hearing all these years, whenever the TPLF/EPRDF hibernates for two or three days to these plotting sessions.

What are they haggling over?

In a country where its problems are too well-known, there is no need to waste time discussing it over and over aware that they cannot make dent. Or are they far ahead of time and are working on their prospects in the 2015 election? Frankly speaking, that seems to be their present obsession.

I can understand them, especially how it feels being in the eye of the storm. The ruling party is facing profound anger in the four corners of the country – increasingly open and silent resistance depending on the depth of the smoldering discontent in each locality.

Yet, we have to be grateful to the occasional cadreesque blares of the ‘chairman of the ruling party’ and the nation’s caretaker prime minister, who on a couple of occasions gave us the hint of the tactics and strategy they would employ to get every suspected opponent to drop on the way side between now and 2015. They have a page from Meles’s strategies he employed before and after the 2010 election.

Since transparency and honest governance have for long decades not being our nation’s forte, we would neither hear a true rendition of what they have been plotting, or how genuine they are about trying to address our country’s problems and the treatments. One thing is certain however; the real solutions are too dangerous and complicated for them.

Fusion between ruling political party and the state

Nearly two years shy of a year under a caretaker prime minister, most noticeable in Hailemariam has been the death of efforts toward evolving himself as statesman. Therefore, in his first year as a political cadre in power, we saw him most focussed on completing the horrendous disservice to Ethiopia of fusing the ruling political party in power (TPLF/EPRDF) and the government (the state) – for that matter with great success.

Unfortunately, for our country this has resulted in the amalgamation into single governance mechanism in this big and diverse country. What this has done is to facilitate inefficiency in decision-making, authoritarian leadership to a degree unseen anywhere else, save in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) and widespread corruption.

Because of that, our country has been squeezed into fitting into a suffocating corner for ease and convenience of the TPLF. This has made it easy for realization of the TPLF’s hunger for permanent control over the Ethiopian state. That is why it has to credit its foot soldiers for its success. They have made their contributions, which history would not forget, especially the terrible distortion it has created in the evolution our country into a democratic state, the strengthening of its institutions and the civil service to promote its interests.

As everyone harps on the double-digit economic growth, anyone who intelligently reads the state of the nation could easily see the unhealthy direction the country is moving.

In this situation, no one appears to be concerned, when the nation is plundered, its environment polluted and many citizens falling into the ugly cracks of wretchedness. Ministers are running to please Al Amoudi, the world’s 63rd billionaire in 2013, by preparing draft decision to the council of ministers to reduce gold royalty the country collects to 20 percent.

The country’s annual national budget, foreign aid and foreign loans are enriching the TPLF’s Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), with infrastructure contracts in road projects, railway tracks, Renaissance Dam’s enormous cement needs, sugar factories, consultancy services, etc. awarded to its multifarious companies.

In brief, as individuals, the human dignity of the Ethiopian people has been violated and their sovereignty robbed, with human beings imprisoned for life because they do not like one’s face, or massacred because they are demanding for their religious freedom – for that matter both Christians and Muslims.

All this is being done to serve the interests of the ruling political party, which has learned to thrive with political deceits and humongous corruption.

Of this fusion between the political party and the state, the World Bank offered an excellent advice to Meles and his colleagues in 2006 in its Country Assistance Strategy. The bank sternly warned that the approach Ethiopia has been following under the TPLF, the marriage between ruling party businesses interests – such as the Endowment for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT) – not recognizing government employees as civil servants free from the party and failing to separate the party and the state would not help advance broad-based economic growth, the rule of law and sensible devolution of power under the federal arrangement Ethiopia has chosen.

True to that concern, the state in Ethiopia has become an agent of the party that imposes its will on the people and unchallenged. Any different idea would result in severe punishments, imprisonments. After the 2010 election, Meles started implementing the anti-terrorism and anti-civil society laws, which ever since has sealed the denial by the party of the rights of Ethiopians.

More evidences could be marshalled to show that there is nothing else the TPLF/EPRDF council does it when it assembles in such meetings than checking how best its interests could be served, instead of the nation’s, as a state is required to do under the appropriate laws of the country. This is a party that has rendered Ethiopia landlocked, with a deal with Eritrea. This is a party that has surrendered Ethiopian territory to the Sudan on a deal premised on Khartoum agreeing it would block its territory from being used by opponents of the TPLF regime.

A year under caretaker political cadre prime minister

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is a political cadre; it is knowledge of this that has enabled Meles to picked him as his successor. This is because of his loyalty, with no other options (power base), he would out of gratitude protect the interests of the ruling party.

Therefore, what Hailemariam’s first year has shown the Ethiopian people as their prime minister and for official purposes as chairman of the ruling party is how deeply committed he is to that, as a political cadre. Certainly, that is the reason why he could not show signs of evolving into statesman.

We have seen how he harangues the nation on a daily basis, especially threatening who and how he would crush, imprison this or that. It is so scary that, instead of political differences, he gives the sense of portraying those with whom he has differences, such as the opposition parties, as enemies and criminals, instead attacking the differences.

Don’t get this wrong. There is no whiff in this of looking back to the days of Meles. That is not the case, although he used to have the capacity to somehow balance between the needs of the state and the party, economics being the love of his heart. Nevertheless, since power is his aphrodisiac, in the end the power Meles could spare went to aid TPLF’s dominance. otherwise, all the same he too was certified dictator and a man with blood in his hands, as both a politician and a cadre.

Given the statements Hailemariam has been making of late, especially regarding opposition parties and the problem of human rights, freedom of the press and religious freedom in our country, he has shown his sense of comfort in his cadre role more than becoming a student of society and willing learner into getting a feel of eventually evolving as statesman.

We have been hearing him and showing his increasing gusto, as he weighed on the side of the extremists within the state, instead of serving as the nation’s leader who treats every citizen with equality, irrespective of his or her political views. Such an approach would have enabled him to facilitate greater harmony if he engaged himself into seeking ways to address the problems of those members of our society that feel left out or their needs have been unaddressed.

Not doing this in the past and of late and now has only swelled the ranks of those that are compelled to raise their arms against their country. I regret to say, but for a person, who professes the importance of faith in his outlook and family life, Hailemariam happens to be trigger happy.

That is the main misfortune of Ethiopia today. Hailemariam has increasingly become the instrument of a far right repression in Ethiopia’s politics. Consequently, Ethiopians would have to deal with this added problem before it goes out of hand.

This has come on the heel of the country’s several mundane problems and shortages, such as food, water, shelter, electricity, etc., going from bad to worse. There are evidences that suggest that the fable of double-digit growth is suppressing these problems even as they are worsening and that the country is also falling behind in many areas.

For this, one need to look into unbiased international data that show, for instance, reports such as international competitiveness or the human development index, or Addis Abeba’s evolution as one of the most unequal cities in the developing world.

*Updated on conclusion of the council’s meeting on Tuesday evening, September 10, 2013.

One Response to “Is EPRDF Council on-going session truly dominated by motley of Ethiopia’s problems, or the party’s?”

  1. Salaam Yitbarek at 16:12 #

    “…the root of the nation’s persistent problems, arising from the neglect and disrespect of the individual citizen…”

    It is difficult to imagine how politicians – lowest common denominators that they are – can care for and respect the individual citizen when the individual citizens neither care for nor respect each other.

    Activists’ and opposition efforts would then be much better spent enlightening the public and advocating for social change, rather than focusing on EPRDF politicians who are mere symptoms of the real problem.


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