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In-depth: From Meles’ ‘Dead End’ to Abiy’s ‘New Horizon’

12 Jun

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

Despite being only months away from his death, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was on stellar form when the World Economic Forum on Africa came to Addis Ababa in May 2012.

“There has been very little infrastructure investment in Africa for the last 30 years. Since the 1980s, the gap in infrastructure investment has gone in the wrong direction. Why? Because since the 1980s, the policy has been that the private sector does infrastructure,” he told a rapt audience at the Sheraton Addis. Amid a stirring defense of his statist approach to development, Meles then derided the suggestion that democratization precedes prosperity: “I don’t believe in these bedtime stories and contrived arguments linking economic growth with democracy. There is no basis for it in history.”

Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, sitting next to Meles, sheepishly disagreed, but some of the history of Western growth, as well as the recent examples of China and others, such as South Korea and Singapore, suggest the late Ethiopian premier had a point. Mindful of his audience, Meles also delivered soothing words about the essential role of private enterprise in development, but he remained clear-sighted: “What our policy is based on is making the public sector play its role so we have an Asia kind of growth.”

Western partners were frequently wowed by such displays from Meles, despite his illiberal leftist predilections, and stuck by his government, as he argued that developing countries must have policy space. Such ideas and Meles’ rejection of the “neo-liberal paradigm” and its “night watchman state” were the focus of his unfinished doctoral thesis, African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings. According to contested official figures under Meles and his successor, an “Asia kind of growth” was achieved over the last decade, as Ethiopia’s economy expanded by more than 10 percent a year.

Now, keeping pace with the dizzying ideological pivot last year by swaths of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime, Western partners appear at least as impressed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed—who recently put in a star turn at Davos—as he takes the opposite approach: he prioritizes democratization, favors the private sector, and works hand-in-glove with the World Bank. “We are confident that international capital and expertise will deliver significant value for Ethiopia and contribute to the development agenda,” Abiy massaged the Davos set.

Ethiopia can’t afford a sustained slowdown

His office brands the strategy ‘A New Horizon of Hope’ and his advisors say public sector-led growth was unsustainable, as debt mounted, but with no equivalent increase in industrial exports, and a chronic and worsening foreign exchange crunch. The general idea now is to try and achieve returns on the last decade’s impressive investments in education and infrastructure by encouraging the private sector to capitalize on them, while rebalancing macroeconomic policy.

Given Ethiopia’s tenuous predicament, there’s popular support for the EPRDF political reforms championed by Abiy, and also the accompanying moves to temper the government’s economic role, although leftist dissent is flickering. After years of praise from all-comers of high growth driven by state enterprises’ borrowing and spending, now the dominant narrative describes the injustice, inefficiency, and corruption of that period, primarily focusing on the Metals and Engineering Corporation’s (MetEC) bungling.

Rather than a viable strategy for escaping poverty, opponents portray Meles’ so-called Democratic Developmental State doctrines as designed merely to entrench the hegemony of Tigrayan elites that formed the regime’s core. Consequently, Abiy-era economic policy has not been scrutinized closely, and bias has clouded positive and negative assessments. That needs to be urgently redressed. Now is a critical time for Ethiopians to decide which parts of the Meles agenda to keep and which to discard. The country cannot afford a sustained slowdown due to its poverty, bulging population—around 40 million people out of a total of 100 million are under 15—and volatile political crisis. State failure would produce seismic regional and international shockwaves. However, given the level of political dysfunction and elite disagreement, quickly forging a suitable new economic consensus looks like a tall order.

Privatizing prosperity

While some describe the approach under Abiy as a radical “neoliberal” departure, it is so far a pragmatic affair, involving significant continuity as well as novelty. The nuances are still unfolding. “The government will continue to play an important role. It won’t do everything as in the past, but in selected areas it will play a leadership role, and the Developmental State will continue for sure,” outlined Eyob Tekalign, a state minister of finance and former private equity man, one of a slew of key new policy-makers, in a February interview.

To illustrate, there have been no major structural changes to the financial sector and none are publicly planned, meaning foreign banks are still barred, state lenders remain dominant, the central bank politically directed, interest rates low, and capital outflows controlled. Similarly, an agriculture focus is set to endure, including an irrigation push, as are attempts to boost exports from industrial parks, and a bevy of new agro-industrial centers. There are no plans to introduce private land ownership, and certainly no advanced neoliberal policies, such as privatization of water, health, or education provision. In fact, large amounts of donor and government funds are likely to keep pouring into these areas where Ethiopia has made significant strides over the last two decades, reducing poverty, lengthening lives, and improving literacy.

That is not to say there is no change.

Last June, the EPRDF agreed to sell minority stakes in large state-owned enterprises other than public banks, including behemoths Ethio Telecom and Ethiopian Electric Power. Other entities such as railways and sugar projects will also potentially be offered for full sale. Those moves—initiated under former Prime Minister and EPRDF Chairperson Hailemariam Desalegn and advanced under Abiy—are the latest phase of a program to offload state farms, factories, and breweries inherited from the Derg’s command economy.

Although the privatization policy was expedited to ease a fiscal crisis, it’s unlikely equity sales and liberalizations will occur soon. Telecoms is a priority, and selling licenses to a minimum of two new operators may bring in close to $10 billion. There’s no clarity yet on whether Ethio Telecom will be broken-up, but a banker says it might take two years just to value its assets. The monopoly offers a shoddy and expensive service, despite a recent slash in prices. After mostly Chinese-funded efforts to expand mobile and data networks, now seems a reasonable time to expose it to competition.

One of Meles’ biggest misses

There are similar arguments in transport logistics, where state domination created a dysfunctional system. The World Bank and the government are prioritizing this area to try and boost textiles exports. Trucking a consignment from the flagship industrial park at Hawassa to Djibouti’s port costs more and takes longer than it should. This “critical bottleneck” faces a total “overhaul,” Eyob said.

In one of Meles’ biggest misses, the state-owned Ethiopian Sugar Corporation (ESC)—with the helping hand of MetEC, a major contractor that was run by military officers, which also failed on a $540-million fertilizer complex—couldn’t efficiently deliver large-scale schemes after it was tasked with turning Ethiopia into a top-ten exporter. Ethiopia is still a sugar importer, and ESC is generating no hard currency to pay back chunky Chinese loans. It also owes at least 50 billion Birr ($1.7 billion) to the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), a giant that has around two-thirds of total bank deposits.

The Ethiopian Railways Corporation ran into similar management and debt difficulties, although it did oversee construction of the China-funded, -built, and -operated Addis-Djibouti line. The two main contractors are reportedly seeking shares in that railway. However, selling parts of Ethiopian Airlines, such as catering, is unpopular due to patriotic support for a successful public enterprise, so that idea is on the backburner.

Gradual modernization is planned for financial services. The central bank is studying options, while a health check is being conducted on state lenders. The power corporation owes more than 200 billion Birr to the CBE, and the Development Bank of Ethiopia is bogged down by bad loans. Supported by the World Bank, there’s a focus on creating a dynamic government debt market to plug the budget deficit with non-inflationary borrowing and an ambition to establish a stock exchange by 2020. Measures have been taken to ease foreign-exchange regulations and are under way to allow non-resident Ethiopians to invest in banking.

Given hard currency shortages, and the gap between the official and black-market rate, clamor is growing for exchange-rate liberalization. Flotation may lead to inflation, which has generally run at more than 10 percent for years, as essential imports such a fuel and medicine become more expensive or simply unavailable as the Birr depreciates. The World Bank says a cheaper Birr would boost exports and crimp imports, reducing foreign-exchange shortages, but gradual depreciation since 2007 and two major devaluations haven’t had that effect. Additionally, most exporters rely on some imported inputs, and depreciation would increase the burden of Ethiopia’s dollar-denominated debt.

Sululta area, Oromia region; February 17, 2017; William Davison

A vital sector with a major shift is energy where public-private partnerships (PPPs) are slated to produce solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal plants, with the government agreeing to purchase electricity produced from privately funded and run power stations. That’s a departure for a government that borrowed over the last decade for the power corporation to oversee construction of large-scale dams such as Gibe III and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), envisioned as Africa’s largest—although efforts were made to fund the GERD domestically to demonstrate self-sufficiency, partly through effectively mandatory public sector salary contributions in return for low-yielding bonds.

The PPP policy aims to produce public goods and private profits and so will be a critical test of Meles’ maxim that developing nations should not rely on the corporate sector to deliver infrastructure. It will also be a test of the government’s ability to negotiate favorable terms in complex contract negotiations, and its lack of experience suggests this will be a stiff challenge. Private funding of infrastructure is presented as a way of transferring risk to the private sector, although arguably the UK used it as little more than an accounting maneuver to take capital investment off the government’s balance sheet.

Electricity generating capacity was supposed to increase to 17,346 megawatts by July 2020, yet that was quietly, but spectacularly, downgraded to a target of 6,000MW in the one-page A New Horizon of Hope strategy document in November from the Prime Minister’s Office. That’s 4,000MW less than the target in a five-year growth plan rolled out in 2010. The revision acknowledges that the flagship 6,450MW GERD on the Blue Nile is years behind schedule, after more MetEC blundering. Although it’s plodding along, a project closely associated with Meles has lost momentum, perhaps partly due to its relative inefficiency.

The aim had been to capitalize on a comparative advantage in hydropower potential to become a regional electricity hub through developing 35,000MW of installed capacity by 2037. The government signed a preliminary deal in January to connect with Gulf nations, but it does not appear electricity sales are a priority, although officials claim otherwise. A new bout of power rationing has just begun as dam levels dwindle at the end of the dry season. This involves reducing exports to Sudan and Djibouti and reduced shifts at factories. The World Bank says it’s not electricity generation that’s deficient in Ethiopia but distribution that’s inefficient.

Seemingly insurmountable challenges

In October, the government listed 14 energy and three road projects worth $7.5 billion it wants built as PPPs. A new secretariat announced in January it’s looking for investors for six solar schemes costing $800 million, and aims to have all energy projects contracted this year. That scheduling recalls the ambitious missed targets of the five-year plans—soon to be trumped by a 10-year economic blueprint—and there are other doubts. A frustrated investor says energy PPPs face a seemingly “insurmountable challenges” due to reduced political support for new schemes, the lack of a sovereign guarantee in case the electricity utility defaults on payments, and increased compensation demands by land users. “Without oversized support from the government, Ethiopia’s energy sector is very risky,” they said.

The government’s had stuttering experience of energy PPPs since 2014 with the Corbetti geothermal scheme, although an obstructive regulatory approach should now end with the pro-private sector mindset. The electricity tariff needs further revision to try and make projects bankable, but that will reduce Ethiopia’s attractiveness to investors, as cheap power is one of few competitive advantages.

Ethiopian consumers enjoyed one of the lowest prices in the world at around $0.03 per kilowatt-hour, which was doubled recently to bring prices into line with inflation and devaluations. A new “cost-reflective” tariff will be introduced by 2023, although the World Bank wants “full cost recovery” by 2021, which is unrealistic. Although businesses and the wealthy will bear the brunt of overdue increases, the government will have to move astutely in this area. With around a quarter of Ethiopians earning 17 Birr or less a day, extensive subsidy of basic services will be needed for some time. Miscalculation could lead to the type of discontent over living costs recently expressed in Sudan and elsewhere in the region, further complicating the political scene and destabilizing the state.

Debt issue

The commonly stated reason for ramping up economic liberalization is debt: public borrowing is 54 percent of gross domestic product, while external debt is 28 percent of output. This is much lower than, say, Greece or Italy, but is considered problematic because of a debt-servicing bill that hit $1.5 billion last year. “The reason that they are classified in our analysis as at a high risk of debt distress is because of debt and debt service relative to exports,” explained Mathew Verghis, World Bank Practice Manager for Macroeconomics, and Investment, to journalists in December. Abiy’s government has, however, had initial success at renegotiating the terms of some Chinese loans. Since 2012, Ethiopia’s had annual foreign goods sales of only around $3 billion, primarily coffee and other commodities with volatile prices, while Ethiopian Airlines brought in another $2 billion. Remittances, aid, loans, and foreign direct investment ease a balance of payments pressured by a trade deficit that was $12.4 billion last year.

A key part of rebalancing is the World Bank’s $1.2 billion six-year Growth and Competitiveness Program to boost private enterprise and modernize the financial sector. The budget support is split equally between loans and grants that will be released if the Bank is satisfied with macroeconomic policy. There are also several policy-related conditionalities that Meles would have blanched at, although officials say they weren’t imposed. “It’s our reform, not their reform,” argues Mamo Mihretu, a senior advisor to Abiy. Conditions include passing a public-private partnership directive; cabinet approval for an electricity-tariff increase and privatization guidelines; removing restrictions on private investment in logistics; and streamlining trade licensing and business-administration processes—a welcome measure for long-suffering small businesses, entrepreneurs, and foreign investors.

Renewed efforts to enhance tax collection are underway, with Ethiopia still in the bottom third of sub-Saharan African countries in terms of gross tax take. Abiy’s cabinet has delivered a new Civil Societies Proclamation and approved the establishment of an independent telecoms regulator, two more Bank conditions. “Our sense is that if all reforms go through as planned—many steps in complex reforms—it would represent a quite significant change in Ethiopia’s development model,” the Bank’s Verghis said.

The jury remains out on whether that would be a good thing.

Eyob Balcha Gebremariam, a development scholar at London School of Economics, has cast his verdict. He wanted continuation of an East Asian-style developmental state tailored to Ethiopia. “The priority should be addressing the structural problems that make us a rain-dependent primary commodity exporter,” he says. For Eyob, rather than market efficiency and autonomous institutions, the mechanisms for rapid industrial growth are learning by doing, and close, thus sometimes corrupt, ties between business and political elites that are needed to get deals done. MetEC’s failures and outrageous abuse of its privileges should be treated as a useful if painful lesson, not used to justify curtailing industrial transformation efforts, he believes. Controversial ruling-party affiliated conglomerates and close ties with select tycoons were part of the Meles model. That said, Abiy’s highly personalized leadership is ideal for cultivating plutocrats, as he did recently with a lavish fundraising dinner. Recent reports suggest Saudi billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi’s Ethiopian business prospects have not suffered unduly in the EPRDF power struggle and a well-connected Moroccan company may take over MetEC’s fertilizer debacle.

A food distribution point in Afdem Woreda, Somali region; October 8, 2014; William Davison

After a chaotic open election in 2005 ended with a deadly crackdown, Meles dropped any pretense of pursuing liberal democracy, used draconian legislation to crush dissent, and expanded the EPRDF to consolidate control of all tiers of government. He even rode roughshod over the federal system as he aggressively pursued national development at the expense of nominal regional autonomy on land and investment policies. The surge was the latest iteration of the EPRDF’s Marxist-driven class-based analysis, which led it to focus on the rural masses and dismiss urban elites as selfish “rent seekers” aiming to use pluralism to direct public policy in their narrow interests. The upshot of the EPRDF ideology was that liberal democracy was presented as an obstacle to improving the general welfare. Furthermore, democracy was recast as popular participation in the existential battle against poverty, rather than a system where government was accountable to people and individual rights protected.

This means the EPRDF took a side in a global ideological schism relating to development and liberty. For example, rather than seeing them as staunch defenders of fundamental rights, the EPRDF wildly characterized liberal Western organization such as Human Rights Watch as part of a fundamentalist neoliberal plot. As with the Soviet Union, Communist China, Chavez’s Venezuela, and many others, the EPRDF unabashedly prioritized the right to shelter, health, and food over civil rights, and were criticized for it. What this entailed was a brutally utilitarian approach to development, and that meant many people were knowingly sacrificed for a perceived greater good.

In Ethiopia, they were either moved out of the way for national priorities, such as hydro dams, or silenced because a hegemonic strategy didn’t allow dissent to be expressed, as countless opposition activists can testify. After more than three years of anti-government protests forced a rethink from Hailemariam and other EPRDF reformists, there is no doubt that this ruthless political-economic model failed in Ethiopia—but that does not disprove the developmental logic. More generally, there is no strong moral consensus among progressives on the rights and wrongs of China’s bulldozing state capitalism, which has certainly involved plenty of cronyism and crackdowns, while doubtless lifting tens of millions out of poverty.

The Meles approach was given some credibility by academics who grouped it under “developmental patrimonialism” along with the likes of Rwanda, another authoritarian state that’s received plaudits from donors for its use of billions of dollars of aid and fury for its human rights record, with critics doubting the veracity of its growth statistics. “The economic potential of developmental patrimonial systems, then, should be set against the loss of civil liberties they may entail,” wrote one scholar, Tim Kelsall. The claim was that undemocratic approaches could still be developmental, rather than extractive, if economic rents—such as the extra revenues generated by Ethio Telecom’s monopoly—were directed into productive areas, and that such a model might well produce better outcomes than more pluralistic systems.

Destitution is not solved by copying WB/IMF-inspired rules

Theorizing aside, Meles’ credit-driven high-risk coercive transformation effort was anyway essentially cut short by his 2012 demise and the subsequent unraveling of EPRDF control and discipline. It limped on under the dogged leadership of Hailemariam, who was torn between loyalty to his mentor’s approach and reformist inclinations, but internal fissures, popular discontent, and economic pressures surfaced in 2015. The rupture of EPRDF authoritarianism made a liberal democratic lurch the alternative to increasing bloodshed—but there’s no reason to think it will end Ethiopia’s poverty, according to Eyob from LSE. “Democracy is the solution for tyranny, but not for development,” he says, paraphrasing renowned late U.S. political scientist Samuel Huntington. “There’s an inherent contradiction between consensual democratic decision making and the radical action required to eradicate poverty.”

Eyob says Ghana is an example of a system where elites compete democratically but there’s no concerted effort to improve livelihoods. Ethiopia may be moving in that direction, or towards Kenya’s services-based growth. That may not be such a bad thing when you consider that, amid greater political freedom, Ghana’s GDP per capita went from $263 in 2000 to $2,046 in 2017, compared to Ethiopia’s increase over the same period of $124 to $768. However, Ethiopia had a higher population growth rate during that period. Coastal Ghana has a medium-sized population, while Ethiopia’s is the second-largest in Africa after Nigeria and it is by far the most populous landlocked country in the world.

Eyob’s case does become more persuasive when you consider that despite a relatively long history as a nation, and an infamously entrenched bureaucracy, Ethiopia’s still a developing nation with a weakly funded government, a fact that will only alter if tax receipts soar. Government spending is only 17 percent of GDP, while it is more than 30 percent for all but two of the 36 rich countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. As a comparator of the scale of global inequality in this area, Ethiopia’s annual government expenditure of 372 billion Birr is less than the UK NHS’s budget for mental health services, or the same as the cost of one U.S. aircraft carrier.

The EPRDF is praised for running extensive donor-assisted social protection programs, but foreign aid helps more than 10 percent of the population survive. Although Asian Tigers achieved sustained rapid growth with relatively small states, Eyob thinks Ethiopia’s autonomy has been sacrificed at a critical moment and policy is now geared towards constraining the state, rather than building it; and boosting private profits rather than improving general welfare. “The reality is development’s a political process about deciding how limited resources are distributed. There’s no country that’s addressed destitution by copy-pasting World Bank- and IMF-inspired rules,” he says.

How Ethiopia works

This sort of leftist thinking used to pervade the Prime Minister’s Office, but not any more, after Abiy recruited non-EPRDF policy whizzes, some donor-funded. One new face, Mamo a former World Bank official, is an arch-pragmatist, decrying sweeping ideological claims. He doesn’t rule out an interventionist approach, but wants to promote commercial enterprise, including where the state’s run out of steam: “There’s a huge potential we have not utilized in telecoms, energy, agriculture and logistics, where there’s been no meaningful participation of the private sector.” Mamo’s aim is to exploit unfulfilled economic potential to conserve and earn hard currency. Food security will be eased by expanding wheat production in irrigated lowlands, and he hopes negotiations with fertilizer giant Yara International, a concession holder, will catalyze $300 million worth of potash exports. Improved logistics and electricity distribution will be a shot-in-the-arm for manufacturing exports, he says.

Expedited World Trade Organization accession is not an end in itself, but incentivizes transparent economic governance, which is also how Mamo sees the Bank’s budget support. He says streamlined regulations and improved credit availability for the private sector should lead to a tech boom, and tourism will hit new highs, aided by relaxation of the visa regime, opening up Emperor Menelik II’s palace, and the Prime Minister’s 29 billion Birr Addis Ababa river project, the beneficiary of the fundraising banquet.

Given the enthusiasm for the Abiy era from citizens, business elites, diaspora, donors such as the U.S., and investors—many of whom turned a blind eye to EPRDF authoritarianism—some aspirations will be realized. Yet Ethiopia remains the world’s 17th least-developed country—just behind Afghanistan and Haiti—and there’s a nagging sense that the strategy may stimulate urban dynamism, so creating prospering pockets of Westernish modernity, yet leave tens of millions languishing in rural poverty, and do little to kick-start industrialization. This impression is bolstered by Abiy’s existing signature schemes being services- and Addis-focused: the riverside rehabilitation, and a deal for an Abu Dhabi real estate company to build high-end apartments and malls, albeit with a social justice component. Thus far, Abiy’s economic blueprint lacks a big idea—something Mamo doubtless approves of—and it also contains several recycled ones, such as large-scale agriculture in the lowlands, tourism, and mining.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the launch of the Abu Dhabi real estate project in Addis Ababa; February 19, 2019; PMO

In his influential book, How Asia Works, British writer Joe Studwell, another pragmatist, divided that continent into states that had pursued effective development last century, and those that merely created enough economic activity for elites to prosper. He found successful nations with activist governments like China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan used three key approaches—and none of them hinged on political or economic liberalization. They encouraged labor-intensive gardening-style small-scale agriculture; manufacturing was promoted and exposed to international competition; and economic policy, including the financial sector, was controlled so funds were invested to support the two sectors. His thesis is that various approaches can work, as long as policies are focused on improving productive capacity.

Studwell does not dwell on authoritarianism. Yet a lack of democracy means economic performance is harder to gauge accurately as independent research is tricky and statistics easily manipulated. There’s an ongoing cost to victims and opponents and, paradoxically, authoritarian systems are less stable, as Ethiopia has demonstrated. It is hard to justify a period of rapid growth if within years or even decades a regime implodes or becomes aggressively militaristic, causing destructive chaos. Development economist William Easterly has long argued that democracy produces better economic performance over a timescale of several decades or longer, and recent research suggests that democracy enhanced growth in southern Africa.

How Asia Works was praised by Bill Gates, whose foundation has funded the Taiwan-style Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) since 2011. The idea is for technocratic agronomic wizardry to improve yields and reduce middlemen’s cut. Yet agriculture is a mixed story. Long before the ATA, Ethiopia tried to boost smallholder productivity through an army of development agents that were linked to the EPRDF’s smothering political apparatus. Impressive yields were claimed, but there are doubts over statistics. “Very low levels of irrigation and mechanization point to the fact there is a huge amount still to do,” Studwell says in an interview. “It also links to the manufacturing challenge—making core technology like pumps and small engines.”

Ethiopia scores well on finance, which has been geared towards development and protected from volatile international flows. Since 2011, the government required commercial banks to buy central bank bills worth 27 percent of each loan to ensure they funded priority schemes. However, the policy struggled because of the Development Bank of Ethiopia’s weaknesses at assessing projects.

Studwell is optimistic, as long as the government keeps finance focused on strategic areas, and prevents destabilizing outflows of pension funds’ investments into financial instruments. “If they remove controls while allowing portfolio investment, that would be madness,” he warns. Instead they could ape Chinese or Taiwanese schemes that prevent portfolio investment being “pulled out on a whim.” Studwell says the government could help manufacturing by licensing foreign banks to import capital for trade financing, and that oligopolistic competition between state-owned utilities might best serve the national interest. The author, who like Meles sees no connection between early-stage economic development and democracy, is looking at Ethiopia as a potential Asia-style African breakout state—but only time will tell if Abiy’s government applies his policy mix.

Empowered

Chunks of Abiy’s overall strategy should be uncontroversial regardless of the precise approach. That is because few economies remain as state-controlled, closed, or under-developed as Ethiopia’s, with, for example, few multinational franchises, no stock exchange, little in the way of electronic payments, and a public telecoms monopoly—not to mention enduring extreme poverty. Currently, the big picture is that despite almost $14 billion of credit from China in the 12 years to 2017 for investment mainly in mainly telecommunications, transport, and energy, the infrastructure deficit Meles described at the Sheraton Addis is still present.

Arguably, without more heavy investment in the infrastructural spine of a market economy, Ethiopia will struggle to industrialize, and so fail to move up the global economic food chain by producing higher value-added goods. Additionally, with more than two million Ethiopians hitting the labor market each year, and countryside space shrinking, rapid industrial growth is the obvious way to provide jobs—although the World Bank says even a highly successful manufacturing drive wouldn’t create nearly enough of them.

“Rebalancing macroeconomic policies could exert downward pressure on activity” the IMF said last year. Yet any such dip would be alarming given major political challengesexacerbated by restive and aspirational youth. Reduced borrowing and slower growth in government spending is already having an impact, although private-equity firm Cepheus Capital expect 8 percent expansion this year. This is partly due to an Abiy-induced feel-good effect, which includes foreign investment that could reach $4 billion, a similar figure to last year. The IMF expects Abiy’s pro-private sector approach to prevent a downturn, but if that doesn’t happen, growing ranks of unemployed young men would fuel an explosive political situation, and probably lead millions more Ethiopians to seek work abroad. That would be bad news for the European Union, which, far from dealing with an influx of Ethiopians, wants South Sudanese, Eritrean, and Somali refugees to settle in Ethiopia, with Sudanese possibly added to the list if its transition sours further.

Few contest that the Meles model was defective and ran into severe difficulties. However, ultimately, Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest countries and afflicted by intense political, demographic, and environmental pressures. To prioritize its stability and development, foreign partners could back debt relief, not austerity. “There’s a question of whether the international community has fully appreciated the nature of the challenge. Ethiopia needs an infusion of cash on a scale that no-one is willing to contemplate yet,” says a diplomat worried about a Yugoslav-style fragmentation of a fractious multinational federation facing surging ethno-nationalism. Concurrent political and economic liberalization contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union, while Yugoslavia’s disastrous fragmentation was preceded by serious economic problems.

There’s nothing significant that Ethiopian elites agree on

Ethiopia’s challenges combined with a more empowered population mean trade-offs are stacking up for policy makers. There’s already been a significant rise in labor disputes as workers demand rights, most recently in the health sector, while there’s been high-profile criticism of rock-bottom factory wages. Surplus labor, however, is also an asset for a nation with few comparative advantages trying to attract capital. Political liberalization means more of such demands, without force as a suppressive tool, as Abiy’s government is experiencing.

Last year’s transition occurred after more than three years of protests partly over the evictions of Oromo farmers on the edge of Addis Ababa; demonstrations that reoccurredbriefly in March. Past control and repression meant smallholders could be removed from their land for minimal compensation. That’s trickier now, as could be seen with protestsat Sendafa in 2017 that closed a new government landfill, contributing to a fatal landslide at the existing overloaded dump. In another example, three major donor-funded road projects, including an expressway along the route from Hawassa to Djibouti, are currently held-up by compensation demands.

Economic nationalism was part of Oromia’s uprising with flower farms and factories torched because of low wages and evictions. Pollution claims shut down the only commercial gold mine last year, while the manager of Dangote Cement’s plant in Oromia was murdered with colleagues a year ago, possibly due to a labor dispute. Other foreign mining and road workers have also been killed and held hostage. Former Oromia President Lemma Megersa expressed his frustration at counter-productive behavior that discourages investment.

Commentators discuss a new “elite bargain” to replace the EPRDF’s uneven regional power sharing, but some argue there’s nothing significant about their country that Ethiopian elites agree on. Others even hope that amid political and economic liberalization there will also be a consensus on a Developmental State 2.0 strategy, pointing to the heavy left tilt on Ethiopia’s political spectrum. But Meles tried to sell the nation on a concerted approach to statist development, and failed; currently, it is hard to imagine Abiy trying. Some see a silver lining with a liberalized political sphere producing popular support for rational approaches to issues such as energy investment.

Others see only dark clouds.

Addis Ababa land-lease prices at auctions were an average of $650 per square meter in 2015. The frustrated energy investor believes farmers occupying valuable real estate could now seek compensation of $100 per square meter. “Even at $50 per square meter the cost of the land will be more than the cost of the entire facility,” they say about planned power stations. “Abiy has created a sense of freedom and empowerment among farmers. But you cannot please everybody: you can’t pay market prices if you want to rapidly develop infrastructure.”

According to this thinking, greater democracy is an impediment to development, and Ethiopia does need a powerful interventionist state to bulldoze its people out of poverty. But that would mean partially disinterring Meles’ legacy and, so far, Abiy has barely mentioned the former Ethiopian leader—let alone borrowed heavily from his developmental doctrines to invest them in Ethiopia’s future.

 

/Ethiopia Insight

 

The New Scramble for Ethiopia

2 Jun

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

Ethiopia’s prime minister is making headlines as a Trudeau-like liberal reformer. But behind his progressive sheen, his economic policies are set to accelerate inequality and poverty.

The new government already embarked on a partial privatization of key state-owned enterprises, as well as a hasty overhaul of the country’s regulatory framework in the hope of securing foreign capital for development. US trade delegations are ready to pounce on the lucrative state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, which will sell 45 percent of its stake to foreign investors.Recently, the German development minister complained that Germany could not just sit back and watch the US and China making billion-dollar investments in Africa: Germany should be involved too.



Earlier this year, the German president and key German industrialists visited Addis to sign a memorandum of understanding between the Volkswagen Group and the Ethiopian Investment Commission to set up an automotive industry in Ethiopia. Nine months into Abiy’s new leadership, the new scramble for Ethiopia has already taken off.


The liberal establishment’s story of last year’s change in Ethiopia is a familiar one, told and retold countless times across the globe since the end of the Cold War. In 2018, this story goes, after decades of authoritarianism and a closed state-led economy, a new, enlightened leader finally arose to usher in a period of liberalization and the free market. Soon after, the World Bank approved US$ 1.2 billion in grants and loans in return for the standard package “towards supporting reforms in the financial sector including improving the investment climate.”

What happens in Davos, stays in Davos — at least for the majority of the Ethiopian public, who takes little interest in the exclusive annual gathering of the global financial elite. This year, however, the speech by Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, at the 2019 World Economic Forum was shared widely on social media. Its spread highlighted the pop-star-like status that the country’s new, charismatic leader enjoys among Ethiopians, especially the country’s youth.

The forty-four-year-old prime minister addressed the World Economic Forum’s jet-setting global rich in their own language: literally, in English, but also in their neoliberal language of removing red tape for business, the power of the private sector, open markets, and integration (including Ethiopia’s commitment to joining the World Trade Organization).

Ahmed’s speech epitomized the usual pitch for global capital to come to cash-strapped developing countries (high returns! tax holidays!). But it also provided important insights on where the country may be headed, following its change of leadership in 2018 after years of protests.

The liberal establishment’s story of last year’s change in Ethiopia is a familiar one, told and retold countless times across the globe since the end of the Cold War. In 2018, this story goes, after decades of authoritarianism and a closed state-led economy, a new, enlightened leader finally arose to usher in a period of liberalization and the free market. Soon after, the World Bank approved US$ 1.2 billion in grants and loans in return for the standard package “towards supporting reforms in the financial sector including improving the investment climate.”

The practical results of two decades of the developmental state have been mixed at best. While the class of domestic capitalists is fairly small, wealth has become increasingly concentrated among a small group of party cronies and those directly linked to the military-run parastatal corporations. Though land is officially publicly owned, nomenklaturafigures and business people (domestic and foreign) linked to the party’s upper echelon became extremely wealthy through corrupt land deals and urban Ethiopia’s ubiquitous construction projects. This network has alienated other factions of capital, including among the large US-based diaspora, that were not linked to the political elite. These frustrated capitalists have become the base for the free market push, couched in the language of liberal democracy, in Ethiopia.

However, with Abiy’s Ethiopia aiming to become the world’s next low-wage paradise, inequality could increase dramatically. Foreign direct investment, while highly regulated and limited to certain sectors (mainly infrastructure, construction, agriculture, and textile), has taken on a significant role over the past ten years, growing from US $265,000 in 2005 to nearly US $4 billion in 2018.

Meles’s alternative path was financed with investments from China, estimated at more than US $12 billion between 2000 and 2015 and channeled towards infrastructure development (however, many of the country’s megaprojects went nowhere thanks to corruption). For instance, in 2017, a $4 billion railway, built and funded by the Chinese, opened to link Addis Ababa to the Port of Doraleh in Djibouti (where China opened its first overseas military base in August 2017).

The new government already embarked on a partial privatization of key state-owned enterprises, as well as a hasty overhaul of the country’s regulatory framework in the hope of securing foreign capital for development. US trade delegations are ready to pounce on the lucrative state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, which will sell 45 percent of its stake to foreign investors.

Recently, the German development minister complained that Germany could not just sit back and watch the US and China making billion-dollar investments in Africa: Germany should be involved too. Earlier this year, the German president and key German industrialists visited Addis to sign a memorandum of understanding between the Volkswagen Group and the Ethiopian Investment Commission to set up an automotive industry in Ethiopia. Nine months into Abiy’s new leadership, the new scramble for Ethiopia has already taken off.

A progressive platform must reject a development strategy that is built on exploiting the country’s rapidly expanding working class and demand that the spoils of economic growth finance the expansion of universal and free essential social services.

Neoliberalism Versus the Developmental State

In order to make sense of the transformation underway in one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, it’s important to understand Abiy’s political project, its social base, and how it operates within the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

It’s ironic that the new prime minister’s 2019 World Economic Forum address was received with so much approval from global financial elites. Only seven years ago, Ethiopia’s former prime minister Meles Zenawi hosted the 2012 World Economic Forum on Africa in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. There, he shocked the international financial elite by telling them that neoliberalism was a failed project.

Meles, who ruled as prime minister from 1995 until his death in August 2012, advocated instead his version of the “developmental state.” In this scheme, the state is in the driver’s seat of development, with ownership over key sectors and a tightly regulated private sector that serves to advance the overall national development agenda.

This model, which became official state doctrine in the early 2000s, is an eclectic mix of social and economic policies, some inspired by the East Asian “tiger” states but also more recently China’s industrial park and special economic zone industrialization model. Ethiopia also implements its own version of import substitution, allowing a small bloc of domestic capital to hold a state-sanctioned monopoly over key imports and local manufacturing.

Meles saw an opportunity for African countries to pursue an alternative development path in the rise of China and the breakdown of the Washington Consensus. This was his response to three decades of IMF policy, which turned Africa into what Meles called a “continental ghetto.”

Meles’s alternative path was financed with investments from China, estimated at more than US $12 billion between 2000 and 2015 and channeled towards infrastructure development (however, many of the country’s megaprojects went nowhere thanks to corruption). For instance, in 2017, a $4 billion railway, built and funded by the Chinese, opened to link Addis Ababa to the Port of Doraleh in Djibouti (where China opened its first overseas military base in August 2017).

Meles’s model, following in a long line of twentieth-century projects built on distortions of Marx, envisioned the development state’s historic role as serving the peasantry, the state’s “class base.” In contrast to neoliberalism, where wealth becomes concentrated among private capitalists, the activist state would ensure that wealth is broad-based and invested in expanding the nation’s technological capacity.

The practical results of two decades of the developmental state have been mixed at best. While the class of domestic capitalists is fairly small, wealth has become increasingly concentrated among a small group of party cronies and those directly linked to the military-run parastatal corporations. Though land is officially publicly owned, nomenklaturafigures and business people (domestic and foreign) linked to the party’s upper echelon became extremely wealthy through corrupt land deals and urban Ethiopia’s ubiquitous construction projects. This network has alienated other factions of capital, including among the large US-based diaspora, that were not linked to the political elite. These frustrated capitalists have become the base for the free market push, couched in the language of liberal democracy, in Ethiopia.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita GDP of about $860 (less than $2.50 per day) and a population of about 100 million expected to double over the next thirty years.

Still, under the developmental-state model, poverty declined from 45.5 percent in 2000 to 23.5 percent in 2016. This despite a population growth from 65 million in 2000 to 100 million 2016. Ethiopia has one of the lowest Gini coefficients (which measures income inequality) in Africa, much lower than neighboring “free market” Kenya. Large-scale and pro-poor investments in social services ensured that primary education (with gender parity) reached 100 percent, health coverage 98 percent, access to potable water 65 percent, and life expectancy at 64.6 years (up from about 50 years in 2000).

However, with Abiy’s Ethiopia aiming to become the world’s next low-wage paradise, inequality could increase dramatically. Foreign direct investment, while highly regulated and limited to certain sectors (mainly infrastructure, construction, agriculture, and textile), has taken on a significant role over the past ten years, growing from US $265,000 in 2005 to nearly US $4 billion in 2018.

With no private sector minimum wage in Ethiopia, low wages are seen as Ethiopia’s “comparative advantage” in the global race to the bottom, with the Ethiopian Investment Commission reporting that “the average wage of workers in the leather factories is US $45 per month, while the minimum wage in Guangdong is about US $300.” The recent Worker Rights Consortium’s investigation also reveals that Ethiopian factories are paying wages far lower than in any other apparel-exporting countries, with an average of 18 cents per hour.

In response to the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) denouncing exploitative wages in Ethiopia’s manufacturing sector, local business-friendly media were quick to warn that it’s too soon to ponder wages. “The one prime opportunity the nation can offer investors is low-cost labour,” they argue, “and taking that away will only have negative consequences. It will just drive investment elsewhere and exasperate unemployment in the country.”

In a particularly telling convergence between the aid-industrial complex and Western foreign policy agendas, these low-labor-cost industrial parks double as European migration-control tools. Donors have pledged to mobilize $500 million for two industrial parks, as long as Ethiopia reserves a third of the projected 100,000 jobs for refugees. The necessary proclamation permitting refugees to work in the formal labor market was passed in January 2019. This was advocated for by Western governments who would never dream of proposing a 30 percent refugee quota on job-creation schemes at home.

Revolutionary Versus Liberal Democracy

Meles not only borrowed state-led industrialization strategies from China, but also a China-inspired version of “development-first democracy.” Meles maintainedthat democracy would come after development was achieved, and when the base of the developmental state (the traditional, noncapitalist peasantry) had been transformed into an industrial proletariat.

Until then, a political system was required that would not dispute the fundamentals of the national developmental project. In Meles’s historic mission of ending Ethiopia’s “humiliation of poverty,” there was no place for a political opposition that could jeopardize the country’s long-term objective of development.

The 2005 elections, which were somewhat freer than later elections, proved a shock to the Meles regime. The opposition swept all seats in Addis Ababa and initially appeared to have won a majority of parliamentary seats. Yet when official results were released four months later, the ruling party was declared to have won 59 percent of seats.

Since then, the democratic space became even more restricted, with an increasing number of political prisoners, intensifying legal repression (such as declaring opposition groups terrorist organizations or the very restrictive NGO law introduced in 2009), and forcing people into silence or exile.

The systematic and brutal clampdown of dissent ensured that the ruling party won 499 out of 574 seats in the 2010 elections and, finally, a China-style 100 percent of seats in the 2015 election. Critically, the harsh reactions and condemnations by the West have also strengthened the ties between China and Ethiopia given the former’s policy of not interfering in domestic affairs.

This model of authoritarian pro-poor growth, including protectionism and state subsidies for agricultural inputs, ensured that the large mass of rural poor saw some real material improvements in their living standards in return for relative loyalty to the state. The massive expansion of EPRDF party membership, especially at lower administrative levels, also provided an army of local party spies for the police state that could immediately stifle dissent.

The numerically tiny middle class, mostly based in Addis, became largely apolitical after the brutal crackdown in 2005, when postelection protests resulted in the deaths of at least two hundred protesters.

The urban middle class primarily focus on securing their own — fragile, as wealth does not run very deep — material status, including through petty tax-evasion schemes, profitable black-market currency exchanges, and acquiring smuggled Western brand-name clothing, iPhones, and laptops. For those who can attain a middle-class lifestyle — signaled by a car and modern housing (with a live-in maid, mainly young girls from rural areas who earn approximately $40–60 per month) — political freedom was not worth the prospect of imprisonment. Instead, they preferred to “sit out” the Meles regime while securing their own little piece of the economic and real estate boom. This class focuses on accruing enough cash (access to credit is very restricted) to lease a plot of land and build a property that will rise in value alongside the country’s spectacular growth rate.

The Qeerroos

When protests erupted in the countryside in 2015, the middle class failed to understand the revolt’s class nature. Instead they reduced it to an expression of backward ethnic chauvinism. In reality, the protests, led by Oromo youth known as Qeerroo, foregrounded struggles over class, exploitation, and discrimination.

The trigger for the unrest was the government’s controversial proposal to expand Addis Ababa into the surrounding Oromia region, threatening local farmers with mass evictions. The government’s continued use of excessive force against protesters resulted in a death toll of more than 900 people between 2015 and 2017. The government also jailed tens of thousands of mostly ethnic Oromo political prisoners, turning a land dispute into a much larger protest for Oromo ethnic self-determination and “national liberation.”

The protests’ base of rural, unemployed, and underemployed youth was the product of the past twenty years of fast-paced but uneven development and rapid population growth. As in the “Arab Spring,” social media played a critical role in shaping the Qeeroo movement’s collective identity, while facilitating the coordination of rallies, boycotts, and roadblocks (since Addis is surrounded by the Oromia region, protestors managed to cut the capital off from fuel and other supplies). This large generation of young people — 50 percent of the country’s 100 million people are eighteen or younger — is also increasingly literate. Youth literacy (15–24 years) increased from 27 percent in 1994 to nearly 70 percent in 2015.

Critically, protestors carried out many attacks against factories. They especially targeted joint ventures between foreign investors and local non-Oromo elites, who the protestors accused of land-grabbing and denying decent jobs to locals.

Fears began to mount that the prolonged violence and increasing international scrutiny of the government’s heavy-handed response would push away foreign investors. This played into the hands of reformist forces within the government, many allied with the US-based Ethiopian diaspora. These forces highlighted the developmental state’s failure to ensure stability and the superficial compliance with human rights (with the notable exception of labor rights) demanded by US and EU investors.

Still, protesters had little to lose in material terms and, unlike the middle class, no stake in the authoritarian development model. The protests continued for more than two years despite the government’s repeated implementation of states of emergency and total internet blackouts.

Real cracks within the EPRDF became visible in 2017 when Lemma Megersa — president of the Oromia region (and close ally and mentor of Abiy) and then-chairman of the Oromia’s regional EPRDF member party Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) — began challenging his own ruling party’s heavy-handed response. He became the first “oppositional voice within,” preparing the blueprint for Abiy’s takeover of the EPRDF in the spring of 2018.

Dismantling the One-Party State From Within

When Hailemariam Desalegn — Ethiopia’s prime minister since Meles’s death in 2012 — stepped down after years of unrest in February 2018, few expected systemic change from within a party that ruled the country since 1991. After all, more than 60 percent of Ethiopia’s 100-million-strong population were born after 1991 and have never experienced another ruling party in their lifetime.

Real change also seemed unlikely given that the new prime minister was elected through a secret vote by the EPRDF’s opaque 180-member Council. Despite rumors of a division within the ruling party, it was unexpected that the party would elect Abiy. As an ethnic Oromo with a rural background and a base of support among Oromia youth protesters, he seemed set on implementing the opposition’s agenda.

But Abiy had another side. The urban middle class — silent through the years of mass repression of rural protesters — immediately flocked to support Abiy. He embodied the urban middle class’s cosmopolitan aspirations: his US resident wife and children relocated to Ethiopia only recently (his three children all attend Addis’s most expensive international school) and he works out regularly at one of Addis’s most upscale health clubs. Abiy’s most recent vanity projects highlight his bias towards an urban middle-class base: a digital museum, a mini-Ethiopian theme park, a zoo with 250 animals, and a $1 billion riverside greening project in Addis.

Upon gaining power, Abiy broke with the party’s biggest taboo by making peace with Eritrea, thus removing the permanent state of war and raison d’être for a strong police state. He then ended the state of emergency and released tens of thousands of political prisoners. In Davos, Abiy proudly announced that today there are no journalists in Ethiopia’s prisons (adding a cheeky comment that sometimes Western countries could learn from Africa too).

Abiy not only invited back exiled opposition leaders but installed a former political prisoner and high-profile opposition leader as the head of the Electoral Board and appointed a 50 percent female cabinet. He also passed amnesty laws, started the process to repeal Ethiopia’s repressive NGO law, and unshackled the media. And importantly, he began to bring military-run parastate organizations, responsible for embezzling billions of dollars, under government control.Meow is likeIf


If cats could talk, they wouldn’t.

~Nan Porter

The Social Question

While Abiy has largely delivered on promises of political freedom, his new government has so far been silent on the social question. Similar to other charismatic liberal darlings such as Obama or Trudeau, Abiy has enthusiastically embraced identity politics (within the culturally acceptable realm of a traditional and deeply patriarchal society such as Ethiopia), while treating poverty and inequality as issues best addressed through the market and technocratic means.

Abiy’s agenda is now clear: He intends to set Ethiopia on a path to (more) free market capitalism, reducing the role of the state while increasing the role of Western investors and the private sector more broadly.

However, Ethiopia’s political economy and development model remains dominated by China. Abiy may preserve the independence of Ethiopia’s development path by playing China and the West off one another. As one of the only two African countries that was never colonized, ensuring independence through strategic alliances and concessions would be a very Ethiopian approach (and in line with Abiy’s current careful regional maneuvering between Qatar and Saudi Arabia).

Meles said that during the 1990s, when neoliberalism was the only game in town, the government carried out its state-led development model “in stealth” to keep the Washington Consensus powers close. Abiy, who joined the EPRDF as a teenager and grew up politically under Meles, may pursue a similar dual strategy: short-term gains and additional non-China FDI through implementing just enough neoliberal reforms. Meanwhile, long-term Chinese funding will help maintain the primacy of the state and sustain the developmental agenda of pro-poor growth within a liberal-democratic setup.

The partial opening of the economy will meanwhile weaken the previous regime’s economic base, particularly its allies in domestic capital and the military. After all, one should not forget that while Abiy spoke eloquently at the World Economic Forum, he is also fluent in Meles’s two languages: his mother tongue Tigrinya, and the language of the developmental state.

In any case, progressives must insist that the ongoing political reform reflects not just “liberal” democracy but a radical one, in which “human rights” are indeed workers’ rights and women’s rights. Not in the Hillary Clinton sense of equal representation in top leadership positions, but through rights and protection of the country’s millions of female informal workers, women’s access to land, progressive sexual and reproductive rights, and an overhaul of the country’s legal and law enforcement sector that brings material rather than a symbolic change in women’s lives.

A progressive platform must reject a development strategy that is built on exploiting the country’s rapidly expanding working class and demand that the spoils of economic growth finance the expansion of universal and free essential social services.

Progressives must reject the neoliberal depoliticization of economic policy and the supposed supremacy of the free market. More importantly, progressives must insist that poverty and inequality are inherently political and man-made outcomes of social struggles. They must urgently organize and build a radical democratic agenda for Ethiopia that combines political with social and economic rights.

The renewed scramble for Africa shows that competing factions of global capital are itching to extract billions of profits from the African continent. Meanwhile, many African governments are willing to sell out their people and natural resources for a shameful price to remain competitive and “attractive for foreign investors.”

At times, this may be because local leaders are under pressure to quickly bring in money and jobs at terms they do not dictate. They hope to create a minimum level of economic opportunities for the growing number of young people who have nothing to look forward to and for whom the state has nothing else to offer. For some, this may be an issue of short-sighted state survival, and the lack of time or public support to try an alternative path when people are, quite literally, hungry.

Looking Ahead

From an international socialist perspective, the issue with Abiy’s speech at the World Economic Forum is not the speech alone, but the Forum and the power relations it represents.

As long as the global economy continues to serve the interests of a neoliberal financial elite — where in 2018 the world’s richest twenty-six billionaires owned as much as the bottom half of the world — there is only so much say the poorest countries can have in today’s international governance, shaped as it is by imperialist legacies.

It is the responsibility of socialists in the West to support political forces committed to implementing a socialist and anti-imperialist agenda that will change the rules of the game of the global economy, which are still mostly made in the Global North. For instance, much of the suffering in developing countries could be prevented if we had a UN Security Council with a President Sanders and Prime Minister Corbyn. They could even begin dismantling the Security Council from within. This is very much within the realm of the possible in the next two years.

At the same time, the global left should not leave “capacity building” to McKinsey, the Clinton Foundation or other Western NGOs. For young Ethiopian progressives, this is likely the first time in their lives that there is space to organize and build a left-wing political project. They need to learn very quickly before the “invisible hand” turns Meles’s “development without democracy” into Abiy’s “democracy without development” for Ethiopia’s poor.

 

Jacobin by Sephanie Jay is a freelance writer and independent international development consultant based in New York and Addis Ababa. She can be reached at stephaniejaynyc@gmail.com.

 

 

Kebour Ghenna: ‘So yes I am against privatization if privatization is not based primarily on pragmatic analyses’

30 May

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

 

Capital: What can you tell us about the future of democracy in Ethiopia, and the rise of ethnic nationalism?
Kebour Ghenna: The race to nationalism seems to make headways. The problem however, is that Oromo nationalism or Amhara, or Tigray nationalism is not going to solve our unemployment problem, or the climate change crisis, or the housing shortages and we can add many other problems. To the contrary these problems are better addressed by working together. I repeat working together. And the federation system, if well structured, with democratically constructed agenda through a series of discussions and procedures, can bring us prosperity. I am against those who preach ethnic nationalism as a solution to our current economic, social and political problems that’s not going to take us anywhere. It’s not by putting ethnic barriers that we can become a great nation. In fact if not careful, we may end up breaking the country into pieces and remain poor and powerless for generation.

Capital: Can this government, can Abiy Ahmed’s government, fight and win against ethnic nationalism?
Kebour: We all know Meles and his colleagues were the ones who introduced such territorially based autonomous regions, typically a community of language as ‘Regional Administration’, which are now conducting themselves as republics. Despite many voices of concern then, this ideology under the guise of history and pragmatism, was vigorously pursued. Abiy Ahmed is a member of this same party that legitimized this system, the party is still functioning, he very much relies on it for its day to day activities. Now we understand that he is taking the party in a different path; can he really convince his coalition members to change or transform his party’s orientations on this matter? I don’t know. But I worry that ethnic nationalism, which is becoming increasingly real in the past years in Ethiopia, may turn truly toxic, especially in these times of economic and financial turbulence within which Ethiopia’s highly indebted, unevenly developed autonomous regions find themselves.

(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

Capital: You mentioned that we are going through difficult economic times in Ethiopia today, can you elaborate more on the economic situation.
Kebour: We need first to understand that PM Abiy or his advisors and ministers do not really have much power when it comes to making the economy perform, that is, creating employment, generating foreign currency, create profitable firms, or controlling real wages or prices or even equalizing incomes or helping the poor very much. What is more interesting today is that people of power are under huge pressure to deliver prosperity to people who want instant gratification and are impatient for change. The young men and women like the ‘Kero’s and Fano’s’ of our time see politics as irrelevant to achieving the ideals that matter to them. How to reconcile this contradiction which on the one side is constrained by the limitation of power of political leaders with the impatience of the people is the biggest challenge. And we see it in the challenges our leaders experience in re-launching the economy. Yes the economy is in difficulty, it’s not creating employment, it’s not creating growth, not attracting enough investment and so on. But I have faith in the new generation; the PM has brought many of those young men and women into his team. He is also crisscrossing the country and the world and talking to professionals in search of ideas for turning the crisis into an opportunity for a ‘rebirth’ of the country. I salute the effort. But I also worry that such actions may not be sufficient or effectively conducted. I think there should be more discussions with regional leaders to promote a strong and cooperative region-federal relationship, encourage regional leaders to develop their own revenue systems, strengthen their economies, in short let them lead their economies. One small detail while I am on it, I think the federal government should consider the establishment of an association of regional presidents to share best practices and speak with a collective voice on national policy.

Capital: How do you explain the absence of an economic road map from the government and will there be a backlash as a result?
Kebour: I don’t know why this administration chose not to put up a road map for the economy or for its program in general. But I understand there are bits and pieces of this roadmap here and there. This is an issue that seems to bother many people, notably the elites and I suppose many business people. Somehow this administration’s response on this issue remains rather vague. Frankly, I am not sure if Ethiopians want a program, even less an ambitious program. I don’t see people eagerly awaiting the specifics of Abiy Ahmed’s EPRDF policies. Today such policies or programs are almost beside the point. Most voters will cast their vote for leaders representing their identity. The traditional ideological divides of Left and Right have collapsed. The tendencies toward ethnic politics we’ve witnessed in these past years will very well intensify.

Capital: Are you optimistic about the future of Ethiopia?
Kebour: Let me first say that I, as an ordinary citizen, am engaged in civic activities, recognizing of course that my individual contribution can only be quite modest. Still I see myself as a player, I don’t want to sit around, as a spectator, and say I am an optimist or pessimist. I am, and want to be engaged, I want to be an active citizen and help make the community a better place. I want ultimately to see a prosperous and fair Ethiopia. I think as a player you can’t be an optimist or pessimist, you just play to succeed.

Capital: What about the opposition parties, are you expecting them to form a reasonably broad alliance ahead of the next election?
Kebour: Despite the number of opposition parties, almost 120 in the country and growing, I argue that our democracy is being crippled by a lack of true ideology. We have been paralyzed by having too few constructive policy arguments. Not only there is very little exchange of ideas in recent years, but we have also seen on a whole host of critical issues that the government is being run by a party largely interested in money and power. This has been the root cause of our governmental dysfunction in recent years. In fact opposition parties in Ethiopia have hardly presented their ideology, hardly shared a picture of the shape and content of the ideal society they advocate for Ethiopia. For me, the ‘ideology’ we seek should outline the strategies and tactics that will be used by the party to achieve the envisioned society. The ideology should describe the sort of people who will do the work – the party organization – that will take the larger society to the ultimate ideal. Today we have to be careful not to mistake the clamors of interested and factious men as ideology or some kind of patriotism, most are in fact meaningless noise. Citizens should begin demanding substantive policy debates that will ultimately drive our government’s decisions.

Capital: Many say that you are against privatization, can you tell us why?
Kebour: May be you should ask me if privatization serve the public interest or not? For me, the issue is not simply whether ownership is private or public. Rather, the key question is under what conditions will companies or managers be more likely to act in the public’s interest. The debate over privatization needs to be viewed in a larger context. Privatization involves the displacement of one set of managers entrusted by the shareholders – the citizens – with another set of managers who may answer to a very different set of shareholders. By the way private ownership does not necessarily translate into improved efficiency. More importantly, private sector managers may have no guilt about adopting profit-making strategies or corporate practices that make essential services unaffordable or unavailable to large segments of the population. A profit-seeking operation may not, for example, choose to provide Internet services if it’s not profitable.

(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

Capital: So you are against privatization if I understand you well?
Kebour: Let me take this question away from the ideological ground of private versus public to the more pragmatic ground of managerial behavior and accountability. Viewed in that context, the pros and cons of privatization can be measured against the standards of good management – regardless of ownership. Why? Because, first, neither public nor private managers will always act in the best interests of their shareholders. Privatization will be effective only if private managers have incentives to act in the public interest, which includes, but is not limited to, efficiency. Second, profits and the public interest overlap best when the privatized service or asset is in a competitive market in other words in a liberalized environment. It takes competition from other companies to discipline managerial behavior. If these conditions are not met, continued governmental involvement will be better. The simple transfer of ownership from public to private hands will not necessarily reduce the cost or enhance the quality of services. So yes I am against privatization if privatization decisions are not based primarily on pragmatic analyses of whether agreed-on ends can best be met by public or private providers. As I said the ends need not be limited to efficiency; they need only be clearly specified in advance.
One last point, private corporations are very good at writing contracts that shift all risk to citizens (the taxpayers) and keep any rewards for the company. Once a public service is outsourced or asset is privatized, taxpayers have little recourse if a contract was drawn up poorly or the drafters failed to anticipate all contingencies. Because some contracts are written for extended periods, the public can be locked into bad deals for generations

Capital: Regarding the overall economic direction, many say we are heading towards a crisis, what is your view?
Kebour: As regards the economy, we may already be in crisis depending on whether you believe we’ve reached the tipping point. Let’s first recognize that the problem is not simple, and so the answer is not going to be simple either. The political picture remains muddy, it’s not clear that the federal government is strong enough to protect and maintain the rule of law. It’s not even clear to me that it can impose taxes or regulate commerce across the country. One fundamental question is whether our divided house remains one nation? How about the impact of climate change in our life and the economy? We have to tackle all these problems at the same time, they are interrelated, they require the participation of all of us: government, business, civil societies, faith organizations, academia and others. Regarding the economy the government has taken some steps here and there, and I don’t see any problem of reforming in bits and pieces, but then these bits and pieces should come one after the other in an ongoing effort to address the deep economic crisis the country is experiencing. I say, start by unchaining business growth, make sure business believes in the best future, find the right balance between liberalization and state-led development, encourage new entrants, new entrepreneurs unconnected with the state to reinvigorate the moribund economy, consider making Ethiopia not just a diplomatic city, but a commercial city with a very open economy, the easiest place in the world to register, and operate a company; abolish the Ministry of Trade’s business registration department, ensure the independence of the national bank (the one institution that is not ready to reform but is choking the economy), introduce a flat tax to ensure people pay proportionately more in income tax. Anyway, there is much to do in this area.

Capital: If you had one simple recommendation to the government – what will that be?
Kebour: You mean in addition to what I just said earlier, I would say – and I have been saying this for quite some time – and it relates to the privatization of public assets, in particular the privatization of Ethiopian airlines; I want to say to the PM, to just drop the idea of selling the airlines! I want to say to the PM to just look south, look at Kenya Airways; it was privatized in 1995 with IFC as chief advisor, where is this airline today? Not everything is good with privatization, don’t destroy the Pride of Africa.

የራበው ሠራዊት! የዐቢይ አሕመድ መከላከያ ሪፎርም ግምገማ!             መነበብ ያለበት የተመሥገን ደሣለኝ ዕይታ!

26 May

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

“የሕዝባዊ ቁጣውን ማዕበል ተከትሎ፣ ወዲህ በዐባይ ፀሐዬና በረከት ስምዖን ምክር ከ2009 ዓ.ም ጀምሮ ሠራዊቱ መሣሪያውን ግምጃ ቤት እንዲያስረክብ ተደርጎ ተቆለፍባቸዋል። ዶር ዐቢይ አሕመድ ከመጡም ወዲህ ይህ መመሪያ አልተሻረም!”

“ለሃገርም ለሕዝብም የሚበጀው፡ የገዛ ሠራዊትን በሥጋት ማየት ሣይሆን፣ በጥብቅ ዲሲፕሊን አንጾ በማይመለከተው ጉዳይ ጣልቃ እንዳይገባ አስተምሮ መቅረጽ ነው።”

“የመንግሥት ሠራዊት አስቀምጠህ፣ የሱልታና የቡራዩን ነዋሪ ለተከላካይነት ማጨት ከጦር ኃይሎች አዛዥ አይጠበቅም!”

“ለሕግና ለሕዝብ ታማኝ፡ ሥርዓት ሲቀያየር የማይናወጥ፡ ከግለሰብ አምልኮ የራቀ፡ ከፓርቲ ፖለቲካ የነጻ ሠራዊት ለመገንባት በቅድሚያ ቢያንስ መሠረታዊ ፍልጎቶቹን ማርካት ግድ ይላል!”

 

 

 

 [ወታደሩ] መድኃኒት የለም! ከውጭ ግዛ!”

“በገፍ ከሚገቡት መሣሪያዎች —በደኅንነት ግምት — በቁጥጥር ሥር የሚውለው ከ20 በመቶ እንደማበልጡ እየተነገረ ነው። የተቀረው ወዴት ነው የሚሄደው?  ለመድኃኒት የውጭ ምንዛሪ ያጣች ሃገር ለመሣሪያ ከየት አመጣች የሚሉ ጥያቄዎች ካላስጨነቁህ ሃገር እንደሌለህ ቁጠረው!”

“በመሬት እያማለሉ ሠራዊቱን ኦና ማድረግ ዘመቻ ይዘዋል!

የሕዝባዊ ቁጣውን ማዕበል ተከትሎ፣ በነዐባይ ፀሐዬና በረከት ስምዖን ምክር 

 

 

የኢትዮጵያ ሐኪሞች አቤቱታና የጠሚሩ አመለካከት! የት ይገናኙ?

25 May

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

 

 

 

የኢትዮጵያ ፖለቲካ ችግር መንስዔ የሆነው ሕገ መንግሥታዊ ፖለቲካ!

13 May

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

ጠቅላይ ሚንስትር ዶ/ር ዐቢይ ስልጣን ከያዙ ጀምሮ በኢትዮጵያ የተስፋ ጎህ ቀዶ ነበር። ነግር ግን በጎሳ መካከል የሚፈጠረው ችግር የአገሪቱን ዜጎች በእጂጉ እያሳስበ ነዉ። በአገሪቱ በጎሳ ክልል መካከል እየተፈጠረ ያለው ችግር ሁሉንም የአገራችንን ክፍል እያዳራሰ ነው። በኢትዮጵያ ወደ 2.5 ሚሊዮን የሚጠጋ ህዝብ በአገሩ ውስጥ መፈናቀሉን መንግስት ገልጿል። ህዝቡ በራሱ አገር በኢትዮጵያ ውስጥ ስደተኛ ሆኗል። በዚህ ግጭት ብዙ ኢትዮጵያዊያን በግፍና በአሰቃቂ ሁኔታ ተገድለዋል። ብዙዎች የመከራ ኑሮ እየገፋ ነው። ንጹህ ዜጋ በህዝብ ተከቦ በቪድዮ እየተቀረጸ ሲገደልና ተዘቅዝቆ ሲሰቀል እስከማየት ደርሰናል። ለጋ ወጣት ልጅ ተሰልቧል። የዉጭ ዜጎች ሳይቀር ተገድለዉ ከነመኪናቸዉ ተቃጥለዋል። ብዙ ብዙ ተሰምቶ የማታወቅ ዘግናኝ ግፍ እየተፈጸመ ነዉ። ዛሬ ወያኔዎች በስልጣን ላይ ባይሆኑም የተከሉት ከፋፋይና አገር አጥፊ ስርዓት ግን መራራ ፍሬ እያፈራ ነዉ። ባጭሩ የጎሳ ፖለቲካ ንጹህ ዜጎችን እየበላ እያደገ እየተስፋፋና አገር እያፈርሰ ነው። <!–more–>

የዚህ የአገራችን ችግር ስረ-መሰረቱ ህውሃት-ኢህአዴግ በኢትዮጵያ ላይ የፈጠረው፣ ሆን ተብሎ የተተከለ፣ ስርዓታዊና ህገ መንግሥታዊ መሰረት ያለዉ፣ የጎሳ ወይም የዘር መድሎ ፖሊሲ ነው። ኢትዮጵያ ከገባችበት የፖለቲካ አዘቅት የምትወጣዉ ይህን የጎሳ ፖለቲካና በቋንቋ ላይ የተመሰረተ ከፋፍይና አድሏዊና አግላይ አከላለል አስወግዳ፣ በምትኩም የዜግነት ፖለቲካና ሁሉንም ዜጎች፣ በየትኛዉም የአገሪቱ ክፍል በዕኩልነት የሚዳኙበት የህግ የበላይነት ስትመሰርትና በተግባር ስታዉል ብቻ ነው። የጎሳ አደረጃጀት በኢትዮጵያ ያመጣዉ ቀዉስ በተግባርና በተጨባጭ ስለታየ መፍትሄው ይህን የችግሩን ምንጭ ማስወገድ ነዉ።

በአለማችን የመጨረሻ ድሃ ከሚባሉት አገሮች መካካል ያለችዉ ኢትዮጵያ፣ በሰላምና በአንድናቷ እንድትኖር፣ ብዙ ጊዜ በማይሰጠዉና ቀስፎ ከያዛት ድህነትና ድንቁርና ላይ ታተኩርና ከመቶ ሚሊዮን የሚበልጡ ዜጎቿን መመገብ ትችል ዘንድ፣ ይህን የጎሳ ፖለቲካና ግጭት ከስር መሰረቱ ማስወገድ ለጠቅላይ ሚንስትር ዶ/ር ዐቢይ አስተዳደርና ለኢትዮጵያ ህዝብ የመጀመሪያዉ ዋና ተግባር ሊሆን ይገባል። አገሪቱ በአንድነቷ እንድትቀጠልና የህዝብ ዕርስ በዕርስ ጦርነት እንዳይነሳ፣ በሩዋንዳ ያየነዉ እልቂት በኢትዮጵያ እንዳይደገም፣ ከዚህ የበለጠ ቅድሚያ የሚሰጠዉ ጉዳይ የለም። በዶ/ር ዐቢይ የሚመራዉ የለዉጥ ሃይልም፣ በቅርብ ጊዜ ታሪክ ባልታየ ደረጃ፣ ከፍተኛ የህዝብ ተቀባይነትና ተወዳጅነት ስላለዉ፣ ይህንም የጎሳ ፖለቲካ ለማስወገድ ግንባር ቀደም ሚና ሊኖረዉ ይገባል። ይህንም ለማድረግ የኢትዮጵያ የህዝብ ድጋፍ ሊሰጠዉ ይገባል። ይህ የፖለቲካ ጥያቄ ሳይሆን የመኖር ወይም የሞት ጥያቄ ነው።

በአንድ ወቅት የተባይ ማጥፊያ ነዉ፣ ለችግርም መፍትሄ ነው ተብሎ በመንግስት መመሪያ የተረጨ ኬሚካል ምድሩንና አየሩን ከመረዘዉ፣ ዉሃዉን ከበከለው፣ ጠቃሚ ተክሎችን የሚያጠፋ ከሆነ፣ መንግስት ምን ማድረግ አለበት? መጀመሪያ መደረግ ያለበት፣ ይህን መርዘኛ ኬሚካል በጥቅም ላይ እንዳይዉል በአዋጅ ወይንም በህግ ማገድ ነው። ቀጥሎ መደረግ ያለበት፣ ምንም እንኳ ስራዉ አዳጋች ቢሆንም፣ ጤናማ አገርና ህዝብ እንዲኖር ሲባል፣ የተበከለዉን አካባቢ በተለያዩ በተፈተኑ ዘዴወች ማጽዳትና አካባቢዉን ወደ ጤናማ ይዞታዉ መመለስ ነው። ከዚህ ሌላ አማራጭ የለም፣ ምክንያቱም ምድራችን አንድ ብቻ ናትና። ኢትዮጵያም አንድ ናት ተለዋጭ አገር የለንም።

የአሁኑ የኢትዮጵያ ሁኔታ በዚህ ይመሰላል። ህዉሃት ወደስልጣን ሲወጣ፣ ከኦነግ ጋር በመሆን ኢትዮጵያን በጎሳ የሚከፋፍለዉን ህገ መንግስትና የጎሳ አከላለል አዉጥተው የአገሪቱ መታዳደሪያ አደረጉ። በዚህም መሰረት ለሃያ ሰባት ዓመታት በአገሪቱ ዉስጥ ጥላቻ ተነዛ።

በአሜሪካ ፎርቹን 500 ተብለዉ ከሚታውቁት ኢኮኖሚዉን ከሚመሩት ታላላቆቹ ድርጂቶች፣ ወደ ግማሽ የሚጠጉት የተመሰረቱት ከዉጭ በመጡ ሰዎች ወይንም በእነርሱ ልጆች ነው። አገሩ ፈጠራንና ስራን እንጂ ጎሳን ወይንም የመጡበትን አገር ባለማየቱ ነዉ ሃያል ሆኖ የቀጠለዉ። ጎሳን ሳያዩ ከሁልም አገር የመጣን የለማ የሰዉ ሃይል የጠቀማሉ። ኢትዮጵያ ዉስጥ ግን ዜጎች ከአንድ ክልል ሄደዉ በሌላ ክልል እንዳይሰሩ ተደረገ። ኢትዮጵያዊያን በተሰደዱባቸዉና ወላጆቻቸዉ ባልገነቧቸዉ ምዕራባዊያን አገሮች ለፖለቲካ ስልጣን በሚወዳደሩበት ዘመን፣ የአንድ ጥቁር ኬኒያዊ ልጅ የአሜሪካ ፕሬዘደንት ሲሆን አይተን፣ ኢትዮጵያዊያን ግን በአገራቸዉ ከቦታ ቦታ ተንቀሳቅሰዉ የመሥራት ተፈጥሯዊ መብታቸው ተነፈገ። ዕዉቀትና ክህሎት በጎሳ ተተካ። ከወሊሶ ሂዶ ወልቂጤ ወይንም ከወልቂጤ ሂዶ ወሊሶ ስራ ማግኘት ጭራሽ የማይታሰብ ሆነ፡፡ ኢትዮጵያ አሳፋሪ ምድር ሆነች። ክፍፍሉ በሁሉም ዘርፍ ሆኖ በቤተሰብ ደረጃ ደረሰ። የባህልን ትሥሥር በማወቅ ከሌላ አካባቢ ከመጡ ወገኖቻቸው ጋር ለመተዋወቅ ሊረዱ የሚገባቸዉ የከፍተኛ ትምርት ቤቶች ሳይቀር የጎሳ ክፍፍል ማሰልጠኛና የጠብና የክክክል ሜዳዎች ሆኑ። የተማሪዎች ማደሪያ አመዳደብና፣ የተማሪዎች ማህበር አደረጃጀት ሳይቅር በጎሳ የተከፋፈለ ሆነ። በሁሉም ነገር ጎሰኝነት ሰረጸ ተስፋፋ።

የመንግስት ሰራተኞች በተወለዱበት አካባቢ እንዲወሰኑ ተደረገ፤ ራቅ ካለ ቦታ የመጡት እንዲባረሩ ተደረገ። ይህም የሃሳብ ብዝሃነት እንዳይኖርና፣ አዲስና የተሻለ ሃሳብ በስራ ላይ እንዳይዉል አደረገ። ዜጎች ከሌላዉ የአገሪቱ ክፍል ከመጣዉ ወገናቸዉ ጋር እንዳይተዋወቁ ሆን ተብሎ መጋረጃ ተደረገባቸዉ። የኢሃዲግ መንግስትም ዋናዉ ስራ ህዝብን በጎሳ መለያየትና ማጠር ሆነ። በተጨማሪም ዜጎች የተለየና አማራጭ ሃስብ ማመንጨት እንዳይችሉ የሚያደነዝዝ የህዉሃት ፖለቲካ ሰበካ ተደረገባቸው። ዜጎች ዕውነተኛ መረጃ አያገኙም፣ የተነገራቸውን ብቻ መቀበልና የታዘዙትን መከተል ባህላቸው እንዲሆን ተደረገ። አዲስ በሬ ወለደ ታሪክ በመፍጠር፣ አንዱ በሌላው ላይ ጥላቻና ጥርጣሬ እንዲኖረው ተደረገ። ለዚህ የትግራዩን የመምህር ገበረኪዳን ደስታንና የተስፋየ ገብረአብን ታሪክ ትንተና ማየት ይበቃል። ይህም አሁን ላለንበት ዕርስ በዕርስ መበላላት አደረሰን።

በአጭሩ ኢትዮጵያ የብሔረሰቦች እስር ቤት ናት በማለት እንቅስቃሴያቸውን የጀመሩት የስድሳወቹ የተማሪ ፖለቲከኞችና ህዉሃት፣ የአሁኗን ኢትዮጵያ ጎሳዎች በየጉሪያቸው ተከፋፍለው የታሰሩባት ወህኒ ቤት አደረጓት። አሁን በኢትዮጵያ የምናየው የጎሳ ግጭት የዚህ የኢሃዲግ መንግሥት ህገ-መንግስታዊና ሥርዓታዊ (systemic) ከፋፋይ ስራ ውጤት ነዉ። በወያኔና ኦነግ በተደረገዉ የረጂም ጊዜ አዕምሮ አጠባ (brain wash) የተነሳ ወይንም በፍርሃት፣ ብዙዎች ይህን አፍጥጦ የመጣ ሃቅ መረዳት እየቸገራቸዉ ነው። ይህ አስከፊ የዜጎች ዕርስ በዕርስ መገዳደል መቆም አለበት። ብዙ ሰዉ በግልጽ ያልተገነዘበዉ ነገር ቢኖር፣ ህዉሃትና ኦነግ ይህን ስርዓት የፈጠሩት፣ ህዝቡን በጎሳ ከፋፍሎና ደካማ አሻንጉሊት የጎሳ መሪዎችን በማስቀመጥ፣ የአገሪቱን ሃብትና መሬት ለመዝረፍና ለመሸጥ መሆኑን ነው። ከኢኮኖሚያዊ ምክንያቱ በተጨማሪ፣ በህይወት ለመኖር ስንል፣ ይህ የሚያጫርሰን የጎሳ ክፍፍል አስተዳደርና ፖለቲካ መቅረት አለበት። ለዚህም የሚከተሉት ዝርዝር አሳማኝ ምክንያቶች አሉ።

በማናዉቀዉ ፅንሰ-ሃሳብ እየተጋደልን ነው፤ በኢትዮጵያ ህገ መንግሥት ብሔር ብሄረሰቦች ህዝብ የሚለው ፅንሰ-ሃሳብና ትርጉሙ በውል ተለይቶ አይታውቅም፡፡ ፅንሰ-ሃሳቡም ለኢትዮጵያ አግባብ የለውም፡፡ ብሔር ብሔረሰብና ህዝቦች የሚለው ምን ለማለት እንደሆነ ለብዙው ኢትዮጵያዊ ቀርቶ ህግ አውጭ ነን ብለዉ ፓርላማ ዉስጥ የሚቀመጡት፣ ህግ አስፈጻሚ ነን የሚሉት ባለስልጣናት፣ የቃላቱን ወይንም ጽንሰ ሃሳቦቹን ትርጉም አያውቋቸውም። ስለዚህ ማነው ብሔር፣ ማነው ብሔረሰብ፣ ማነው ህዝብ የሚለው በትክክል አይታወቅም። ስለዚህ ኢትዮጵያዊያን ትርጉማቸዉ ባልገባን ባዕድ ቃላት ዕርስ በዕርስ ተከፋፍለን እየተጋደልን ነው። ይህ በብሔር ብሔረሰብ ህዝብ የሚለው ከስታሊን ዘመን ፖለቲከኞች፣ አገራቸዉን በአግባቡ ያላወቁ በአስራ ዘጠኝ ስድሳዎቹ ወጣት የተማሪ ፖለቲከኞች የተኮረጀና ለእኛ አገር ፍፁም አግባብነት የሌለው ባዕድ ነገር ነው እያጋደለን ያለዉ።

ያልነበረንና የማይኖርን ወሰን ለመፍጠር ሲባል ህዝብን ማጋደል፤ እነዚህ ብሔር ብሔረሰብ ህዝብ ተብለው በቋንቋ የተከፋፈሉ ክልሎች መካከል የማያሻማና ግልፅ ወሰንና የመለያ መስመር ለማድረግ የማይቻል ነዉ። የጎሳ የሃሳብ መስመሩ ያለው በወያኔ-ኢሃዲግና ኦነግ ፖለቲከኞች አዕምሮ እንጂ፣ በህዝቡና በመሬት ላይ የለም። ይህን በወያኔዎች የቅዠት ምናብ ያለ የጎሳ የሃሳብ መስመር በህዝቡ ወስጥ ለማስመር ሲባል ህዝብ ወደማይቆም ብጥብጥና ጦርነት እየገባ ነው። ለምሳሌ የኦሮሞ ክልል አልቆ የጉራጌ ዞን የሚጀምረው በትክክል ድንበሩ ወይንም መስመሩ የት ላይ ነው? በመካከል ሁለቱንም ቋንቋ የሚናገሩ የተሳሰሩ ዜጎች የሉም ወይ? በሱማሌና ኦሮሞ፣ በአማራና ትግሬ፣ እንዲሁም በሌሎችም መካካል ህዝቡን የጎሳ ፖለቲከኞች እንደፈለጉት መከፋፈል ባለመቻሉ ግጭቱ ይቅጥላል። የግጭቱ ምክንያት የማይለያይንና የተወሃደን ህዝብ ለመለያየት በሚደረግ ዋጋቢስ ትግል ነው።

የትኛዉ ቦታ ወይም መሬት ነው ለማን የሚሰጠው፣ በምንስ መሰረት? በደም ወይም DNA ምርመራ ነው? በሚናገረው ቋንቋ ነው? በህዝብ ብዛት ነዉ? በታሪካዊ ይዞታ ነው? ያስ ከሆነ ወደኋላ እስከመቼ ያለዉን ታሪክ ነዉ የምናየዉ? ቦታዉ በተሰየመበት ቋንቋ ነው? ለምሳሌ አሁን የቅማንት ነዉ፣ የአማራ ነው እየተባሉ ሰዎች የሚሞቱባቸው ቀበሌዎች ጉባይ፣ ሌንጫ፣ መቃ ይባላሉ። በቦታ ስም ካየን ኦሮምኛ ይመስላሉ። የቦታ ስም የተሰየመበትን ቋንቋ ካየን አንዳንድ የኦሮሞ የጎሳ ፖለቲከኞች ቅኝ ገዥ ናቸዉ የሚሏቸዉ፣ እቴጌ ጣይቱ ብጡል አዲስ አበባን የቆረቆሩት፣ የኦሮሞዉ የራስ ጉግሳ የልጅ ልጅ ልጅ ሲሆኑ፣ ባለቤታቸዉ አጼ ሚኒሊክ ከጣያሊያኖች ጋር ታሪካዊዉን ዉለታ የተፈራረሙበት ቦታ ደግሞ ከጢጣ አልፎ መርሳ ሳንደርስ ዉጫሌ ላይ ነዉ። ትንሽ ኦሮምኛ ለሚችል ሰዉ እንዲህ ያሉ የቦታ ስሞች በተለያዩ በሰሜኑ የአገራችን ክፍሎች መኖራቸዉን ሲሰማ፣ ምንም እንኳ ታሪክ ባያዉቅ፣ እንዴት ነዉ የነመለስን “የመቶ ዓመትን ታሪክ” ተብሎ የተነገረዉን ተቀብሎ የሚነዳዉ? በሌላ በኩል ደግሞ አዲስ አበባ የኦሮም ብቻ ናት ሌላው መጤ ወይም ሰፋሪ ነው የሚሉት ጎሰኖች በ1450 አካባቢ በዚያዉ በአዲስ አበባ አካባቢ ጥንታዊ የኢትዮጵያ ከተማ እንደነበር ያለዉን የአርኪዮሎጂ መረጃ ማየት አይፈልጉም። የጎሳ ፖለቲከኞች ይህን ትሥሥራችንን የሚያሳየዉን ሃቅ ግን መመርመርና ማጥናት አይፈልጉም። የተነገራቸዉን “የመቶ ዓመት ታሪክ” ይዘዉ ያላዝናሉ እንጂ። ይህንም ጎሰኝነት የእለት እንጀራቸው አድርገዉታል፡፡

ሁሉም የጎሳ ፖለቲከኞች አንድ ትልቁንና የሚያግባባቸዉን ካርታ በመያዝ፣ ታላቋን ኢትዮጵያን የራሳቸዉ በማድረግ ፋንታ፣ የግላቸዉን ትንንሽን የሚያጋጩ ካርታዎችን በኪሳቸዉ ይዘዉ ንግስናቸዉን እየጠበቁ ነው። ግጭቱ በቋንቋ ተለያይቶ ብቻ ሳይሆን በመንደርም እየሆነና መከፋፈሉ የማይቆም ነው። በደቡብ አካባቢ የማይቆም የሚመስል የክልል፣ የወረዳና የራስ አስተዳደር ጥያቄ እየተነሳ ነዉ። ምንድን ነዉ መመዘኛዉ? ኢትዮጵያ የጎሳ ፖለቲካ መሞከሪያ ቤተ-ሙከራ (laboratory) ሆናለች። በድንቁርና ሙከራዉን በሚያካሂዱ “ተመራማሪወች” የቤተ-ሙከራዉ መሳሪያወችና እቃዎች እየተቃጣጠሉ ነው። አሁን የምንፈራዉ አጠቃላይ ቤተ ሙከራው እንዳይቃጠልና እንዳይወድም ነዉ። በዚህ በክልል ድንበር የተነሳ እስከአሁን በአሰቃቂ ሁኔታ ያለቁት ወገኖቻችን፣ የተፈናቀሉት ዜጎች በቂ ትምህርት አይሰጠንሞይ? መቼ ነዉ የራሳችን ጉዶች የፈጠሩት መከራ የሚበቃን? ኢትዮጵያዊያን ምን አደነዘዘን? ቀኑ እየጨለመብን ይመስላል፡፡

አንድ ክልል ለተወሰኑ የህብረተሰብ አካል ሲሰጥ፣ በሌላ አባባል ሌላው የህብረተሰብ ክፍል የዚያ አካል አይደለም ወይንም ባዕድ ነዉ ማለት ነው። ይህም “የኔ የብቻዬ ነው” ለማለት ነዉ። የአማራ ክልል ለአማራ ነው ማለት፣ በሌላ አባባል፣ የትግሬው አይደለም፣ የኦሮሞው አይደለም፣ የጉራጌው አይደለም ማለት ነዉ። ስለዚህ አከላለሉ፣ የአንተ ነው ተብሎ ለአንድ ጎሳ ሲሰጥ፣ ሌላውን በዚህ ቦታ አያገባህም፣ ይህ አካባቢ የኔ እንጂ የአንተ አይደለም ማለት ሲሆን፣ ህገ-መንግስታዊ የሆነ ፍፁም አግላይ የሆነ፡ አሰራር ነው። በየትም አለም የራሱን ዜጎቹን እንዲህ የሚያገልና የሚከፋፍልና የሚያጋድል ህግ የለም። ለምሳሌ በህንድ በማንነት ፖለቲካ አደረጃጅት አገር አፍራሽ መሆኑን የተረዳው የህንድ የመጨረሻዉ ፍርድ ቤት፣ የማንነት ፖለቲካ እንቅስቃሴ ህገ ወጥ እንደሆነ በይኗል፣ አግዷል። የጎሳ አከላለል፣ የኢትዮጵያ ህዝብ የዉጭ ጠላት ቢመጣበት እንኳ ተግባብቶና ተባብሮ አገሩን መከላከል እንዳይችልና፣ ኢትዮጵያን ለማጥፋት የተሸረበ ስልታዊ (strategic) ደባ ነው። ኢትዮጵያን ማፍረስ የሚመኙ የዉጭ ጠላቶችም እንዳሉን አንዘንጋ፡፡ አንዳንዶች የአረብኛ ቴቪዥን ፕሮግራም ከፍተዉ ለአይዞህ ባዮቻቸው እለታዊ ስራቸዉን በዘገባ ሲያቀርቡ እንደነበረ አይተናል፡፡

የቡድን ጥያቄ የዜጋን መብት በማክበር ይፈታል። የጎሳ ፖለቲካ፣ ግለሰቦች የሃሳብ የበላይነት ማግኘት ሲያቅታቸው፣ ወደ ስልጣን ለመዉጣት የሚጠቀሙበት አቋራጭ መንገድ ነው። የግለሰብ መሰርታዊ መብቱ ከተከበረ፣ ያማይከበር የቡድን መብት የለም። በየትኛዉም የአገሪቱ ክፍሎች፣ በክልል ወይም ጎሳ ሳይወሰን፣ ዜጎች በአፍ መፍቻ በቋንቋቸው መማር፣ በቋንቋቸው መጠቀም፣ መዳኘት፣ የመስራት፣ ሃብት የማፍራት፣ መሪያቸዉን የመመረጥ፣ ሃሳብቸዉን የመግለጽና የመደራጀት መብታቸው ያለምንም ገደብ ሊከበርላቸው ይገባል። ይህን ለማደረግ የግድ የጎሳ አደረጃጀት ወይም የጎሳ ክልል አያስፈልግም። ለአንዱ መብት ለመታገል፣ የዚያ ሰዉ ጎሳ አባል መሆን የግድ አያስፈልግም፣ ዜጋ ወይንም ምክናያታዊ ሰዉ መሆን ብቻ ይበቃል። ጎንደር ዉስጥ ያለ አንድ ኦሮምኛ ተናገሪ፣ የምችለው ቋንቋ ኦሮምኛ ብቻ ነዉ፣ በኦሮምኛ ልዳኝ ይገባኛል ካለ፣ አስተርጓሚ ሊመደብለት ይገባል። ይህን ለማደረግ የግድ የጎሳ ክልል አያስፈልግም። ይህ በየትኛዉም የአገራችን ክፍል የዜጎች ሁሉ መብት ሊሆን ይገባል።

በጎሳ ግጭት የማይነካና የማይጎዳ ክልል ወይንም የህበረተሰብ ክፍል አይኖርም። ባለፉት ሦስት ዓመታት ብቻ ያየነው ይህን ነዉ። የጎሳ ፖለቲካ መሃንዲስ ነን የሚሉት ግለሰቦች፣ ሌላዉ መጤ፣ ሰፋሪ፣ ቤት የለሽ፣ ነዉ እናባርረዋለን፣ የሚሉት ሳይቀሩ ራሳቸዉ ባጠመዱት ወጥመድ እየገቡ ነው። ኦሮሞ ከሶማሊ፣ጉጂ ከጌዶ፣ ቤኒሻንጉ ከኦሮም፣ ኦሮሞ ከአማራ፣ ሲዳማ ከወላይታ፣ አማራ ከቅማንት፣ አማራ ከትግሬ፣ አማራ ከቤኒሻንጉል ብዙ ቦታ ማቆሚያው የማይታወቅ ግጭት ተነስቷል። ይህ ችግር ወደ እኔ አይመጣም ብሎ ተዝናንቶ የሚቀመጥ የህብረተሰብ ክፍል የለም። በዚህ ከቀጠለ የጊዜ ጉዳይ ሆኖ እንጂ እሳቱ ሁሉንም ያዳርሳል። አንድ ቀን ደግሞ ከቁጥጥር ዉጭ ሊወጣ ይችላል። ስለዚህ ይህ ሁኔታ አንዱ ወገን አባራሪ ሆኖ ሌላው ተባራሪ፣ አንዱ የራሱን አገር ሲመሰርት ሌላዉ አገር የሚፈርስበት ክስተት አይደለም፣ የዕርስ በዕርስ መተላላቅ እንጅ። ማንም አይተርፍም። አንዱ ወገን ሲጠቃ ሌላዉም አልሞት ባይ ተጋዳይ ሆኖ ራሱን ያዘጋጃል፣ በምላሹም ጥፋት ያደርሳል። እየገደለ ይሞታል። በነሩዋንዳ፣ የመን፣ ሶሪያ የደረሰው እልቂት በኛ ላይ ካልደረሰ አንማርም ብሎ እልቂትን መጋበዝ ከድንቁርናም አልፎ ደደብነት ነው።

በጎሳ ስም ማጥፋትና ማጥቃት እንጂ ተጠያቂ ጎሳ አይኖርም። ጎሳ ሰው አይደለም “አብስትራክት” ሃሳብ እንጂ፡፡ በጎሳ ፖለቲካ መሪወች በጎሳ ስም በግለሰብ ላይ ጥፋት ይፈጸማሉ እንጂ ተጠያቂ የሚሆን ወይንም ሃላፊነት የሚወስድ ጎሳ ወይም ቡድን ግን አይኖርም፣ ሊኖርም አይገባም። የጎሳ ፖለቲካ በህግ አግባብ በማይጠየቅ ቡድን ስም፣ ግለሰቦች ወንጀል የሚፈጽሙበት አሰራር ነዉ። ግለሰቦች በቡድን ስም ያለህጋዊ ዉክልና ሃይል የሚያገኙበት ነገር ግን ጥፋቱን በህግ ወደማይጠየቅ ጎሳ የሚያላክኩበት፣ በጥፋታቸዉም ሲጠየቁም ጎሳችን ወደሚሉት ቡድን ሂደዉ የሚደበቁበት ሀገወጥነትና በጥላቻ የተነሳ ወንጀለኝነት ነዉ።

የጎሳ አከላለሉ፣ አሁን እንዳለ እንዲቀጥል ቢደረግ እንኳ፣ አገሪቱን ወደ ኢኮኖሚያዊ አዘቅጠት ከዚያም ወደ ማህበራዊ ቀውስ ይወስዳታል። በየትም አገር ለዕድገት አስፈላጊ የሆኑ መሰረታዊ ነገሮች አሉ። አንዱና የመጀመሪያው የህግ የበላይነት ነው። ሌላው የንብረት ባለቤትነት መብት ሲሆን፣ ስራን፣ ችሎታን፣ ፈጠራንና፣ ተወዳዳሪነትንና የሚያበረታታ ነጻ ገበያ ነው። ይህም የሰዉን ሃብት በነጻነት ማንቀሳቀስን መሰረት ያደረግ ነዉ። እዲሁም እነዚህን በስርዓትና በህግ የሚያስከበር ህጋዊ ተቋማት ሊኖሩ ይገባል። ማንም አካባቢ ሆነ ግለሰብ በራሱ ብቻ ምሉዕ እይደለም። አንዳችን ለአንዳችን እናስፈልጋለን። ነገር ግን ማንም ቢሆን ያለውን ሀብትና ዕዉቀት አውጥቶ ወይንም ሙያውን ተጠቅሞና ተቀናጅቶ ለመሥራት የህይወትና የንብረት ዋስትና ያስፈልገዋል።

በአሁኑ የኢትዮጵያ ሁኔታ ሰዎች ህጻናት ሳይቀሩ ካደጉበት አካባቢ በግፍ እየተባረሩና እየተገደሉ፣ ምን አይነት ሰዉ ነው ህይወቱን ለአደጋ እየሰጠ በዘላቂነት አገርን አልምቶ ራሱንም የሚጠቅመው? ከምንም በላይ ከግዚአብሄር ቀጥሎ ሃይል ያለውን የሰው አዕምሮ በትምህርት አልምቶና እንደተፈላጊነቱ አዘዋዉሮ መጠቅም ካልተቻለ፣ ከድህነት መዉጣት አይቻልም። አደጉ የሚባሉት የአለማችን አገሮች እዚህ የደረሱት በቆዳ ስፋታቸው አይደለም፣ በተፈጥሮ ሃብታቸዉም አይደለም፣ የሰው ሃብታቸዉን አስተምረዉና አልምተው ይበልጥ ምርታማና ዉጤታማ በሚሆነብት ቦታ አሰማርተዉ፣ ያለዉን የማምረትና የመፍጠር ችሎታ በመጠቀማቸዉ እንጂ። የምጣኔ ሃብት እድገት ምንጩና ቁልፉ የሰዉ ልጅ አዕምሮ ነው። ትርጉም ያለዉ የኢኮኖሚ ለውጥ ያመጣዉ ፈጠራ innovation ነዉ። ለዚህም አሜርካንን፣ ጀርመንን፣ ጃፓንንና ቻይናን የመሳሰሉትን አገሮች ማየት ይበቃል። ጎሰኝነት አሳፋሪ ድንቁርና ነው። አገር አያሳድግም።

ዜጎች ለዓመታት ለፍተው ላባቸዉን አንጠፍጥፈው ያፈሩትን ንብረት በሚቀሙበት አገር፣ ንብረታቸው በጎሰኞች በሚቃጠልበት አገር፣ የውጭ አገር ባለሃብት ቀርቶ፣ ኢትዮጵያዊያን ያላቸውን ሀብት ወደ ዉጭ ያሸሹ እንደሁ እንጂ በልማት ላይ አያውሉትም። ምንም እንኳ እንድ አንዶች ቢኖሩም፣ ያገኙትን የተፈጥሮ ሃብት አራቁተውና በክለዉ፣ የኢትዮጵያን ባንኮች ዕዳ ላይ ጥለው፣ ዘርፈው ለመውጣት ካልሆነ፣ በአገሪቱ ሰላም ተማምነው ያላቸዉን ሃብት አፍስሠዉ ዘላቂ ልማት አያመጡም። ዘመናዊ ቴክኖሎጂ የሰዉን ልጅ ስራ እየተሻማ ባለበት ዘመን፣ በተራ ጉልበት ስራ ላይ በሚመሰረቱ ጥቂት የቻይና ፋብሪካዎችም ላይ መተማመንም አይቻልም። በቴክኖልጂ (robotics, 3D printing, artificial inteligence) ምርታማነታቸዉን ሲያሳድጉና በጥቂት ሰዎች ብቻ ማምረት ሲችሉ፣ ስራዉን ወደ አገራቸዉ ይመልሱታልና። ወይም የተሻለ ሰላም ወደ አለበት አገር ያዞሩታል። በህዝብ ልማትና ምርታማነት ላይ ያልተመረኮዘ ዕድገት ዘላቂነት የለዉም፡፡ በጎሳ ግጭት የሚንገራገጭ ኢኮኖሚ ዛላቂ እድገት አያመጣም። ወያኔ የፈጠረዉ የጎሳ ሥርዓት፣ ሰው በችሎታውና ዕውቀቱ ወይም የሥራ አፈፃፀሙ የሚለካበት ሳይሆን በጎሳ ፖለቲካ ታማኝነቱ ወይም በገዛዉ ሰርቲፊኬት ነዉ። ይህም ወጣቱን በአቋራጭ ሀገወጥ ሃብት ፈላጊ እንጂ የዕዉቀት ፍላጎት እንዳይኖረው አድርጓል፡፡ በማጭበርበር ላይ የተመረኮዛ ኢኮኖሚ የትም አያደርስም።

አንዲት አዋሳ ተወልዳ ያደገች ወጣት የዩኒቨርሲቲ ትምህርቷን አጠናቃ ሥራ እያፈለገች ያጋጠማትን የገለፀችው ልብ የሚነካ ነበር። አንድ አጎቷን ይህን ጠየቀቸው። አጎቴ፣ እኛ ምንድን ነን? አጎቷም ምን ማለትሽ ነው ይላታል፡ እሷም “ዘራችን” ምንድን ነው? አለች፣ አጎቷም በመገረም “ዘሯ” የተቀላቀለ መሆኑንና በቀላሉ ኢትዮጵያዊ መሆናቸዉን አብራራላት። እሷ ግን ሥራ ለማግኘት ዘር ይመረጣል። የተወለድኩት እዚህ፡ ነው። ነገር ግን አንቺ የዚህ ክልል ዘር አይደለሽም እያሉ ስራ ሊቀጥሩኝ አልቻሉም ብላ ወጣቷ በሃዘን ተናገረች። ከአገራችን በድህነት ወደኋላ ከመቅረት በተጨማሪ፡ ህውሃቶች ህዝቡን በጎሳ ከፋፍለው በፈጠሩት ስርዓት ሰው የሙያ ችሎተው ሳይሆን ጎሳዉ ታይቶ ሥራ የሚቀጠርበት ድንቁርና የሚበረታታበት አገር ሁኗል። በዚህ ሁኔታ ያደገ ወጣት ለአገሩ ምን አይነት በጎ አመለካከት ሊኖረዉ ይችላል?

አገራችን ያላትን የሰው ሃይል ማልማት እትችልም። ያላትንም የለማ ህዝብ በሚያስፈልግበት ቦታ መጠቀም አልቻለችም። ወደ 105 ሚሊዮን የሚጠጋ ህዝብ ያላትና 80 በመቶ ወጣት በሆነበት አገር፣ ወጣቱን በአግባቡ አስተምሮ በሥራ ማሰማራት ዋነኛ ጉዳይ መሆን ሲገባው፣ በጎሳ ፖለቲካ ላይ በማተኮረ ሰውን ሠርቶ እንዳይበላ ማድረግ በወገን ላይ የሚፈፀም ከባድ ወንጀል ነው። በአንድ አካባቢ ሰልጥነው የተቀመጡ ሥራ አጥ ወጣቶች ሲኖሩ በሌላ አካባቢ ደግሞ ያሉትን ባለሙያወች በጎሳቸዉ የተነሳ አባርሮ ህዝቡ ባለሙያ አጥቶ በችግር ይሰቃያል። ይህም የጎሳ ፖለቲካ ያመጠው ጣጣ ነው።አገራችን ካለባት አጠቃላይ ድህነት በከፋ የገጠሩ አካባቢ ከፍተኛ የተማረ የሰው ሃይል እጥረትና ችግር አለበት። በከተማዎች አካባቢ የተጠራቀመው የሰው ሃይልና ሃብት ራቅ ወዳለዉ የአገሪቱ ገጠር ክፍል ሄደ እንዳይሠራ፣ እንዳያለማ፣ የሰዉ ህይወት እንዳያድንና፣ አገሩንም እንዳያዉቅ፣ ይህ የጎሳ ክፍፍል መስናክል ሆኗል። በአገሪቱ ገበሬው ያመረተውን ምርት በማዕከላዊ ገበያ መሸጥ ባለመቻሉና የስርጭት ችግር በመኖሩ ነው በአገራችን የምግብ እህል እጥረት የሚፈጠረው ተብሎ፣ የገበያ ልውውጥ ማዕከል (የኢትዮጵያ ምርት ገበያ) ያቋቋመዉ መንግሥት፣ ለዕድገት ፍጹም አስፈላጊ የሆኑትን የተማሩ ወጣቶች ግን ከአንድ ቦታ ወደ ሌላ ቦታ በነጻነት ሄደው መሥራት እንዳይችሉ አድርጓል።

የጎሳ ፖለቲካና ግጭትና ዘረኛ ቅስቀሳ በህዝብ መካከል የሚይረሳ የታሪክ ጠባሳ ጥሎ ያልፋል። ይህም ለወደፊት የአገሪቱን አንድነት አደጋ ላይ ይጥላል። የዘሬ ጥፋት የነገ ታሪካዊ ችግር ይሆናል። በአርባጉጉ፣ በደኖ፣ አጣየ፣ ጂጂጋ፣ ቡራዩ፣ ቤኒሻንጉል፣ ጌድኦ፣ ጋምቤላ፣ አጣየና፣ ጎንደርና ሌሎችም አካባቢ ጎሳ ለይቶ የተፈጸመው አሰቃቂ ድርጊት በቪደኦና ፎቶግራፍ ተቀርጾ ታሪክ ይመዘግበዋል። መጪዉን ጊዜ የተሻለ ለማድረግ ልንማርበትና ላለመድገም ሁላችንም ሃላፊነት አለብን።

ዘመኑ ከአንድ ክፍለ ዓለም ሌላው ክፍለ ዓለም መረጃ በቅፅበት የሚደርሰበት፣ የአገር አለማቀፍ ድንበሮች የሰውን እንቅስቃሴ የማይገድቡበት ዘመን ነው። የተፈጥሮ ሃብትም ቢሆን የልዩነትና የግጭት ምንጭ መሆን የለበትም። እያንዳንዱ አካባቢ የራሱ የሆነ የተፈጥሮ ሃብት አለው። አንዱ ነዳጅ፡ ሲኖረው ሌላው እብነበረድ ሊኖረው ይችላል፣ አንዱ ደግሞ ለም የእርሻ መሬት ሊኖረው ይችላል፤ ሌላዉ ሲሚንቶን ማምረት የሚያስችል ሃብት ሲኖረዉ፣ ሌላዉ የዉሃ ሃብት ይኖረዋል። ስለዚህ ሁሉም ዋጋ አለው ሁሉም ለአገራችንና ለህዝባችን ያስፈልጋል። ዘመኑ በጎሳ ታጥሮ የምንኖርበት አይደለም። የሚያዋጣዉና ሃይል የሚኖረን የጎሳን አጥር አስወግደን ስንተባበርና ሁላችንም በችሎታችን ስናበረክት ነው።

ኢትዮጵያ የጎሳ መብት የግለሰብን ወይንም የዜጋን መብት ያጠፋባት አገር ሆናልች። ኢትዮጵያ ዜጋ የሌላት የጎሳ ስብስብ ተደርጋለች። በጎሳ ፖለቲካ ማንም በዘላቂነት አያተርፍም። ኢትዮጵያ አሁን ለገባችበት የፖለቲካ ችግር ዋናዉ መንሰዔ የጎሳ ፖለቲካ ነዉ። በየከተማዉ የዚህ ብሄርና የዛ ብሄር እርቅ እያሉ በባለስልጣናት በቴሌቪዥን ለመታየት ሲባል ገንዘብ ማበከኑ ዘላቂ መፍትሄ አያመጣም። ችግሩ ከስሩ ይነቀል። ዶ/ር ዐብይ ከጎሳ ፖለቲካ ድርጅት መሪነታቸው ከፍ ብለው የአጣቃላይ ኢትዮጵያ መሪነታቸዉን በተግባር ሊያሳዩን ይገባል። ስለዚህ የጠቅላይ ሚንስትር ዐብይ መንግስት ተቀዳሚ ስራ ይህን የችግሩ ምንጭ የሆነዉን የጎሳ አደረጃጀትና ፖለቲካ በህግ ማገድና ሁሉንም ኢትዮጵያዊ ያለአድሎ የሚያስተናግድ የዜግነት ፖለቲካን በህግ ማስፈን ነው። ከዚህም በላይ ቅድሚያ የሚያሻ ጉዳይ የለም። ዶ/ር ዐብይ ይህን ካላደረጉና ለዉጡን ካልመሩ ለሚደርሰዉ ጉዳት ከተቀዳሚ ተጠያቂነት አያመልጡም።

ይህንም ማድረግ ይቻል ዘንድ ኢትዮጵያዊያን ረጋ ብለንና ምክንያታዊ፣ ገንቢና ሰላማዊ ወይይት በማድረግ፣ ችግሩ ምን አመጣዉ የሚለዉን ከስር መሰረቱ በመመርመር፣ ካለፈዉ ስህተት በመማር፣ የወደፊት አቅጣጫችንን ራሳችን መንደፍ አለብን። ሁሉ ነገር እያለን ሚሊዮኖች በሚራቡባት አገራችን፣ ሰዉ ቅድሚያ ሰጥቶ በጎሳ የተነሳ ሲጋደል ከማየት የበለጠ ለኢትዮጵያዊያን አሳፋሪ ነገር የለም። አገራችን እየፈረሰች ሃላፊነቱን ለተወሰኑ የጎሳ መሪወች መተዉ የለብንም። ሁላችንም እኩል ሃላፊነት አለብን። የኢትዮጵያ ምሁራን ፈረንጆች ከጻፉት የመማሪያ መጽሃፍ ዕዉቀት (textbook knowledge) በዘለለ፣ የአብዛኛዉን የአገራችንን ህዝብ ኑሮና ችግር ከተለያየ የዉቀት ዘርፍ ቀርቦ በማጥናት ለአገራችን ሁኔታ የሚስማማ አገር በቀል የመፍትሄ ሃሳብ ሊያቀርቡ ይገባል። የኢትዮጵያ ህግ አዉጭወች፣ አገሪቱን ወደዚህ ደረጃ ያደረሱትን ከፋፍይና አግላይ ህጎች በማስወገድ፣ ሁሉም ዜጋ በእኩልነት የትም የአገሪቱ ክፍል በነጻነትና በሰላም የሚኖርበት ህግ ሊያወጡ ይገባል። የሃይማኖት መሪዎች እባካችሁ እዉነቱን ተናገሩ። እንዲዚሁም የኢትዮጵያ ጦር ሃይል፣ የአገሪቱን ዳር ድንበርና የአገር አንድነትና የአገር ዉስጥ ሰላም ለድርድር የማይቀርብ መሆኑን አዉቆ፣ የተጣለበት አገራዊ ሃላፊነት በንቃት ሊወጣና ኢትዮጵያን ሊጠብቅ ይገባል። የኢትዮጵያ የፖለቲካ መሪወችና ባለድርሻወች፣የአገሪቱን ስልታዊ (strategic) ጥቅም፣ ለጊዚያዊና የአጭር ጊዜ የፖለቲካ ድል መስዋዕት ሳያደርጉ፣ የጎሳን ፖለቲካ በህግ በማገድ፣ ለዘላቂ ሰላምና ዕድገት መሰረት በሆነው የዜግነት መብትና ፖለቲካ ላይ ሊያተኩሩ ይገባል።

 

/ዶር አበራ ቱጂ
ሚያዚያ 28፤ 2011 ዓ፣ ም

 

 

 

Where are we heading?

7 May

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

In recent years institutional barriers and nationalist ideologies have inhibited reasoned discussion of our constitutional future. The politics of Oromia is to a large extent setting the agenda for Ethiopian politics.

Clearly, Oromo nationalists have plenty of people with authority to speak for it. In contrast, Oromo federalists, who also number not a few in Ethiopian politics, are having difficulty responding to their opposite counterparts’ thoughts powerfully expressed by people like Msser Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba.

Similarly an Amhara nationalist movement has dramatically emerged in the last three years, and growing by the day. Both nationalist movements present a real existential threat to Ethiopia.

Across the country we also notice that the pressures for solidarity within competing nationalist communities continue to deepen the differences between them, and impede the discovery and stimulation of commonalities that would have strengthened citizenship ties.

Both the theory and the practice of divided identities and dual representation in Ethiopian federalism have become a key target of nationalists, and especially of Oromo, Amhara, Sidama nationalist elites seeking to monopolize the voice of their people. From their perspective, the ‘Ethiopian’ civic identity of the country as a whole is a threat and a rival. Indeed, there are many who describe the federal system as a threat because it divides Oromos or Amharas against themselves.

But wait…what if we break up: How will we treat each other if we do become foreigners?

Would we be the best of friend? Would we be the worst of enemies…. There will, I fear, be great bitterness and a nasty split. Of course these tendencies do not yet dominate the way in which we view each other. They coexist with the on-goingness of the existing system. Even in Oromia a complete break from Ethiopia does not seem to be sought by the majority. The point nevertheless remains that on both sides, inside and outside Oromia or Amhara, a possible future in which we no longer belong to the same country is worrying people of all walks of life.

From some nationalist perspective, Ethiopia is already seen as a foreign country. Future relations are viewed from the perspective of Oromo’s or Amharas self-interest. What will happen outside Ethiopia is relevant only to the extent that it will have an effect in, say, Oromia or Amhara.

That’s the current discourse in the country….Backwardness by excellence.

Dear readers, why not elevate our thoughts in the way to get people live peacefully with one another, do business, work hard and cooperate. Why?

Why is it we can’t reflect on what a modern postnational state should look like. By postnational state read a country with no core identity, no exclusionary space, say, an Ethiopia that accommodates any resident born anywhere in Ethiopia, together with new comers from Africa and the world. A country philosophically predisposed to openness. A post modern state emerging and thriving amid multiple identities and allegiances. Indeed, a new model of another way of belonging.

Yes, such ideas are never going to be easy to agree to given our history. But do we really have much choice but adopting the use of a different lens to examine the 21st century challenges and precepts of an entire politics, economy and society. So again, why is it that, we Ethiopians, can’t build a better society, can’t even discuss the creation of a dynamic new conception of nationhood, one unshackled from the state’s, and old-fashioned politicians, demarcated borderlines and walls… its connection to blood and soil. Are we that dim?

/Kebour Ghenna

 

 

Ethiopia’s transition to democracy has hit a rough patch. It needs support from abroad

8 Apr

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

The ascent of Dr. Abiy Ahmed to the post of prime minster in Ethiopia a year ago was a rare positive story in a year filled with grim news globally. Within months of taking office, his administration released tens of thousands of political prisoners, made peace with neighboring Eritrea, took positive first steps to ensure free and independent elections, and welcomed previously banned groups back into Ethiopia. It was an astonishing turnaround in a short period.

But the progress has created new challenges. Ethiopia’s rapid transition away from authoritarianism unleashed waves of dissatisfaction and frustration that had been crushed by the ruling party for decades. If Abiy (Ethiopians are generally referred to by their first names) can’t maintain law and order and come up with a plan to address the causes of that anger without repressive measures, his country’s considerable gains will be threatened.

There aren’t many success stories around the world as nations transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Ethiopia has a chance to become a model, but it will need significant help confronting its challenges.

There’s no evidence that Abiy’s administration has a clear strategy for addressing these growing tensions.

As Ethiopians have become less afraid of voicing opinions, long-standing grievances have taken on new intensity. Disputes over access to land and complex questions of identity and administrative boundaries have led to open conflicts and score-settling, often along ethnic lines. Dissatisfaction has also been growing over long-standing questions about who gets to govern and manage the rapid growth of the capital, Addis Ababa. The rising tensions across Ethiopia have led to the displacement of more than2 million people since Abiy took office. And as tensions increase, this number is likely to rise.



Social media, meanwhile, has grown in popularity, and it is awash with hate speech. Firearms are flooding into many parts of the country. And local and federal authorities are losing control over security in many parts of the country. It’s a toxic mix with critical nationwide elections coming up in just over a year.

Progress is hampered by the lack of action from Abiy’s government, which has done little to calm inter-ethnic tensions and remedy the underlying issues. And institutions that could resolve such complex grievances are not yet seen as independent enough to address them in a nonpartisan way, following years of ruling party control. And perhaps most worryingly, there’s no evidence that Abiy’s administration has a clear strategy for addressing these growing tensions.

As Abiy’s popularity has waned, so has support for his reform agenda. There is mounting concern that Ethiopia risks becoming ungovernable if conflict and insecurity continue to rise. Some insist that if that happens a return to authoritarianism is the only way to keep the country together. It is not too late for Abiy to turn this situation around and build on the seeds of democracy he nurtured in his first few months in office. But a plan of corrective action, restoration of law and order, and some confidence-building measures are urgently needed from Abiy’s government.

Many Ethiopians living in the diaspora, including in the Los Angeles area, have backed Abiy’s effort at bringing democracy to Ethiopia. Ethiopians living abroad have raised more than $1 million to help some of those displaced by conflict.

Their efforts should be backed by the U.S. and other Western nations who have key long-standing partnerships with Ethiopia, including in the areas of migration, counter-terrorism and economic growth. They need to ensure that Abiy’s experiment with democracy succeeds. Should it fail, there would be dire humanitarian consequences for this country of over 100 million, many of whom protested against bullets and arrests from security forces for years in the hopes of a transition to a more rights-respecting government.

The United States and its allies can best support Ethiopians by continuing to offer praise for the reforms while also asking sometimes difficult questions about how Abiy’s government plans to restore law and order and address underlying grievances, and by determining what role the United States and other allies can play in making this happen. In Abiy, Ethiopia has a leader who, based on available evidence, genuinely wants that transition but may need a helping hand.

The next year is likely to determine how history remembers Abiy — and how democratic principles fare in Ethiopia.

Felix Horne is the senior Ethiopia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

/Los Angeles Times

 

Related:

የኦነግ ጦር በአጣዬ ሕዝብ ላይ ጦርነት ከፈተ

ብ ርሃን ሕዝብ  የኦነግ ጥቃትን ተቃወመ

 

 

 

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