Tag Archives: ethnic politics

Pope prays for Christians and other victims of violence in Ethiopia

3 Nov

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)


Ethiopian Orthodox faithful pray at a memorial service for victims of last month’s violence. (AFP or licensors)

Pope Francis led the faithful in prayer for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and other victims of violence in Ethiopia.

At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis said he was “saddened” by news of “the violence” in Ethiopia, “which has among its victims Christians of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahado Church”. The Holy Father expressed his closeness to the Church and to its co-Patriarch and Catholicos, who he described “my dear brother Abune Mathias”. He asked for prayer “for all victims of violence” in Ethiopia.

He then led those present in the recitation of the “Hail Mary” for that intention.

Dozens killed in violence

Unrest in Ethiopia in October led to the deaths of more than 70 people. The troubles began with tensions between security forces and a prominent political activist, and were focused in the Oromia region of the country. The government has said that ethnic and religious factors played a role in the violence.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is the largest of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, with between 45 and 50 million adherents, mostly in Ethiopia. The Oriental Orthodox Churches are distinguished by their recognition of only the first three Ecumenical Councils.


Sense & sensibility:                      Why TPLF insists on 2020 election

31 Aug

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

Editor’s Note:

Without batting its eyes, TPLF openly claims life in Tigray is stable and safe! The question one must ask is to whom it is safe. No sooner than this was stated last June, it struck many as TPLF propaganda. That’s up until the funeral of the late Ethiopian Chief of Staff Gen. Seare Mekonnen.

A former classmate of the General, Dr. Aregawi Berhe flew from Addis Abeba to Mekelle to bid farewell to his former classmate. He writes, on arrival at the airport, he and other mourners accompanying him were received with beatings. 

As far as I knew, Ethiopian culture respects the dead and mourners. I don’t think this is one of them. Nor does the impression one gets from this makes Mekelle a safe and peaceful city with good governance!


The TPLF recently showed some temerity by claiming Tigray has been growing faster, i.e., relative to Ethiopia. However, no sooner than this announcement, Tigrayans rose in arms, among others, angered by such lies and the conditions of life. On seeing this, TPLF jumped on its propaganda wagon and started blaring it. This was further aggravated by labour actions reportedly taking place within enterprises owned by the TPLF itself. 

Inevitably many suffered the consequences. People were imprisoned and reportedly in a typical TPLF fashion, along with humiliations and  beatings. Threats and mistreatments forced the workers to end the strikes. No mater how and where, disruption of societal life may not be fruitful. By the same token nor is the action taken against those people acceptable, inhuman as it is, while a consistent TPLF’s natural response.

Most important, however, is who should punish the TPLF that has pushed Mekelle into 75% rate of inflation. Like the TPLF, economists consider inflation a robber of people’s wealth and livelihoods!

Any reason why it thought this has made Mekelle reportedly safe?


The following is hilarious. A non-TPLF member in Kola Tembein (Werk Enba district) has 13 goats. As part of TPLF’s intolerance, it wanted to provoke the owner. It ‘imprisoned’ six of the goats in the house of a local militia member. This was intended to get the goat owner submitting to TPLF, and becoming a member.

Fortunately, for the owner’s six goats escaped and went back to him—notwithstanding the distance. I don’t think this speaks well of the TPLF, even by standards of goats’ morality. What made it worse for the ruling party is, as if such humiliation is not enough, the local people who heard about this reportedly received the goats with a hero’s welcome! 

Doesn’t this say something?

by Asmelash Yohannes (PhDI: Why does TPLF badly need the next election to be held?

From strategic point of view, the leaders of TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) know, or they are predicting to say the least, that the ruling EPDRF party may not survive the upcoming general election. You can call this a gamble or a bluff! But it could make sense if you have the time to crunch the numbers!

TPLF is with no doubt credited with the creation of the different parties that the ruling party EPDRF is composed of. Thus, their strategic calculation and prediction should not be undermined. They are betting that ODP (Oromo Democratic Party) and ADP (Amhara Democratic Party) would be victims of their own political making: the ‘reform’ championed by both parties would backfire spectacularly and it would either sweep them into the trash bin! or would highly weaken them politically. This thinking is based on different factors.  ODP and ADP are going to face an uphill battle in their home turf in the upcoming general election as they are going to compete against opposition parties that have strong support at grass roots level.  For example, ODP would compete against OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) and OFC (Oromo Federalist Congress) in Oromia region. OLF, despite the splitting of the party into different factions due to internal power struggle, has a strong support throughout Oromia. The reception of OLF’s leader Abbo Dawud  Ebsa at Addis Ababa from his self imposed exile had attracted millions of people. Main streets and road junctions in many cities of Oromia region are still painted with the flag of OLF. On the other hand, OFC is led by charismatic political veterans: both Dr. Merrara Gudena and Bekella Gerba wield greater influence in Oromia than that of the current president of Oromia region Abbo Shimelis Abdissa. Thus, TPLFites are of the opinion that ODP’s share of the ballots in Oromia region would be snatched by OLF and OFC. Furthermore, Jawar Mohammed, a political fire brand of the Querro movement, is a force that needs to be reckoned with. His decision to support either of the political opponents of ODP could be a game changer.

Further north, every political observer in Ethiopia understands that ADP of Amhara region is at crossroads. The assassination of high ranking political leaders of ADP in June 2019 was the last thing the party needed.   Even before this unfortunate event, the party was under immense pressure from new and emerging nationalist parties. Nationalist parties led by National Movement of Amhara (NMA) and other vocal activists residing abroad have managed to shrink the influence of ADP in Amhara region. This was factored by TPLF strategists. TPLFites are dead sure that the combination of internal power struggle within ADP and the threat from nationalist parties in Amhara would hasten the demise of ADP.

In General, TPLF seems to conclude that ODP and ADP would be at perilous situation at the next general election. The flip side of their argument is that TPLF can comfortably win the election in Tigray as they still seem to command the support of the elite and ordinary people. There are four opposition parties in Tigray: National Congress of Great Tigray (BAITONA), Third Revolution Tigray (TRT), ARENA Tigray, and TAND (Tigray Alliance for National Democracy). However, these four parties don’t seem to mobilize people and their support in Tigray is not something that could threaten the dominance of TPLF. If the next election is to be held as planned, there’s no doubt that TPLF will garner significant support in Tigray to overwhelmingly sweep all seats for the regional and national parliaments. However, the future for ODP and ADP is very bleak. TPLFites have officially and unofficially started to proclaim that they would seek coalition with other federalist parties if ODP and ADP fail to win sufficient votes in the next general election.

I am not in a position to ridicule the calculations of the TPLF strategists nor am I going to give them thumps up. But nothing would surprise me if Prime Minister Abiy decides to postpone the general election for fear of losing his grip on power. He perfectly understands that he stands zero chance of staying at the helm if ODP and ADP lose ground in Oromia and Amhara, respectively. For this reason, he may decide to postpone the election indefinitely until he feels comfortable that the survival of EPRDF is not under any threat. However, it would not surprise me a bit if the ruling coalition party disintegrates before the general election is held! These days, only fools would dare to predict what the future holds for the country.


Greedy like a ‘day hyena’ shouted Mom, unaware the worst is here!

29 Aug

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)


“Hate is like a poison you make for your enemy that you end up swallowing yourself.”

—David Duchovny, Holy Cow

“Ethnic stereotypes are boring and stressful and sometimes criminal. It’s just not a good way to think. It’s non-thinking. It’s stupid and destructive.”

—Tommy Lee Jones


by LJDemissie

Author’s note: Although I wrote this article on January 09, 2019, I didn’t try to get it published until now for various reasons, including patience. However, after watching a recommended YouTube video that contained Sebhat Nega’s interview statementspublished by Tigrai Media House on Jun 21, 2019, I was provoked to release my article. I wanted to let him know that I think of him as an evil in Ethiopian society, Ethiopian’s cancer, a hatemonger and day hyena for promoting “ethnic extremism” across Ethiopia, looting Ethiopians resources and conspiring with the TPLF’s elites to assassinate PM Abiy Ahmed by a hand grenade attack.


“Notoriously hungry, the hyena has long been a source of fear throughout Africa. A nocturnal hunter and scavenger, it has been associated with sorcery, evil, and trickery. During the European Middle Ages, bestiary texts adopted the hyena as a symbol for the devil’s dark deeds.” Jessica Sheppard-Reynolds

Ato Bereket Simon, who is incarcerated for alleged rampant corruptions and mismanagement of public resources, was the TPLF’s (Woyane’s) Hitman, Minster of Disinformation and Day Hyena for about forty decades. Before he was arrestedhe pitched at the TPLF’s cadres his new book (“a string of [fictionalized] stories that are, at best, littered with errors and, at worst, inaccurate”) at Mekelle University’s conference. He claimed his book contains answers to Ethiopians’ current political and economic problems. He also complained of, among other things, Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed’s unqualified usage of ቀን ጅብ, an Amharic phrase pronounced as “yekenijibi” which means day hyena.

Since it is worth understanding “yekenijibi”, this critic would present a background story of the possible origin of the phrase; would describe it in words and pictures and also deal with Simon’s complaint. So that Simon and his accomplices, including Sebhat Nega would be absolutely assured how a person who is about eight years or older interprets “yekenijibi” unmediated by prejudices.

A day hyena

Ancient Ethiopians wildlife observers noticed hyenas are scavengers and nocturnal. The prehistoric Ethiopians also thought hyenas’ daytime vision was not so great. So they thought it was completely out of character to see hyena wondering around during a daytime unless it was starving to death, disoriented or infected with rabies, which could make it much more daring than a night hyena. That led them to coin the phrase day hyena – a hyena more dangerous than a night hyena because it lost its senses. Through time they also used the phrase to describe a behavior and an act of a despicable and an extremely dangerous person who lost all its senses out of hate and/or sheer greed.

Fables on hyenas

As in Ethiopians’ classic fables, hyenas across the world are associated with immorality, treachery, greed, greedily gulping food, “feasting on corpses”, ugly appearance and “disturbing and frightening whoop loud laughter”. They are also associated with stupidity. The following “comic tales” would perfectly illustrate people around the world, including Ethiopians’ judgment of hyenas:

The Hungry Slender Hyena: The hyena has long had a bad reputation in African folklore and children’s tales as an untrustworthy, ugly cheater who is greedy as well as stupid. In one comic tale the hungry, slender hyena squeezes through a fence into a chicken coop and begins to eat to its heart’s content. Unlike the clever fox, who knows not to eat too much so he can sneak back out through the fence, the hyena eats all the birds and becomes too fat to escape. When morning comes, he is caught due to his own greed.”  The Iris, the blog of the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles, said Jessica Sheppard-Reynolds posted the story.

The Greedy Hyena: A hare and a hyena became friends, but one day the hare overheard her friend [the hyena] telling another hyena that once she trusted him enough to sleep at his place, he would eat her. Of course, the hare was worried about this and knew she had to think of a plan to save herself from the hyena’s jaws.”…

“When, on the next occasion, the hyena arrived to call on the hare, he noticed that his friend had a sack and asked what was inside it.”

“The sweetest meat you ever tasted, my friend,” said the hare. “Here, take a piece.”

“The hyena chewed the meat greedily before swallowing, “Yes indeed, it is the sweetest meat I ever tasted. Can I have some more?”

“This meat is so sweet it should only be eaten a little at a time, but you shouldn’t waste its sweetness by going to the toilet,” said the hare.

“How can you do that?” the hyena asked, looking puzzled.”

“By having your bottom sewn up, that’s what everyone who eats this meat does. I can get it done for you, if you wish.”

“I will, if you show me where the meat is,” said the hyena. Such was his greed.

“Up there.” The hare pointed at the cloud-shrouded mountain top. “There’s lots of it on mystical Kirinyaga, I’ll take you there, if you wish, and we’ll get your bottom sewn up before we go.”

They arranged to meet later and the hyena wandered over to talk to some of his sisters. The hare was having doubts about following the badger’s plan, till she overheard the hyena say to his sisters, “I’ll eat the hare, once she has shown me where to find the sweet meat.”

So, when the hyena returned, eager to be off, they went to see the ants. The badger used the bee grubs as payment for the ants’ work. The ants soon had the hyena’s bottom sewn up tightly and off they went to climb the mountain…By Lailoken, to Finish

The Woyane’s elites deservedly earned their nickname, day hyenas

Though stereotypes are “sometimes criminal”, the TPLF’s elites made their living by “exploiting pain of” ethnic diversity – politicizing ethnicity and stereotyping – among Ethiopians for more than forty years. For instance, to divide and conquer Ethiopians, the Woyane first waged a psychological warfare against the Tigrayan peasants. They were misinformed, brainwashed, tribalized and made to believe: The Amhara people are the enemy of the Tigrayan people because the Amhara people stole the Tigrayan people’s more than three thousand year old history, and they use it to brag about themselves. The Amharas invented and introduced prostitution among Tigrayan women. Moreover, Melese Zenawi told the Tigrayan people that they are the “Golden People”; he meant that they will continue dominating and ruling all Ethiopian ethnic groups for a century at least.

Ethnocentrism is extremely dangerous. For instance, “One of the most well-known and horrific examples of ethnocentrism pertains to Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler decided he hated Jewish people, as well as other groups of people, and had many innocent people slaughtered in concentration camps.”

No one knows except for the TPLF’s elites how many innocent Amhara people the TPLF’s assassination squads slaughtered. How many innocent Tigrayan youth (the TPLF’s fighters) the TPLF’s hitmen murdered for having consensual heterosexual relationship which was banned by the TPLF? How many of those executed Tigrayan girls (the TPLF’s guerrilla fighters) were pregnant?

This critic argues that the “comic tales” of “The Hungry Slender Hyena” and The Greedy Hyena” held true to Ethiopians’ lives when the TPLF’s elites, the bloodthirsty day hyenas – የቀን ጅቦች – had hegemony. Put differently, the greedy elites’ behavior of the last forty years had an “inherent behavioral similarities” with the greedy hyenas’ behavior of the “comic tales”.

One of the reasons the Ethiopian revolution dismantled the TPLF’s elites hegemony erupted like a volcanic eruption across Ethiopia is that the elites had “their bottoms sewn up” when they greedily gulped Ethiopians resources for twenty-seven years. And like “a bonnacon, a mythical, bull-like beast”,  the TPLF’s elites such as Sebhat Nega, Bereket Simon, Getachew Reda and Getachew Assefa are emitting their  “blast of smelly gas and shooting their excrement” across Ethiopia. “The terrible smell of the animals’ [the TPLF’s elites] gas and excrement” are causing ethnic violence that, so far, had displaced more than three million people so far.

The Iris remarked “The bonnacon is a mythical, bull-like beast with the mane of a horse and horns that spiral inward on top of its head. The bonnacon’s curved horns are not effective for defending itself against hunters, so instead it shoots a stream of potent dung that can burn anything in its path.”

Qualifying the phrase day hyena

To deal with Nega and Simon’s complaint, here is an impartial qualification of the phrase day hyena. Day hyena is an “insulting comment” with “clear meaning and intent”. Ethiopians use the phrase day hyena to describe a greedy, depraved, bloodthirsty, stupid as well as an unmannered and/or untrustworthy person such as Sebhat Nega, Bereket Simon, Getachew Reda, Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam (whom the TPLF’s day hyenas’ made him appear to be an angel) and Getachew Assefa. Though the TPLF’s voracious elites have been described in so many cartoons, images and terms such as tribalist, cancer, “irretrievably biased”, revisionist, thief, murder, hitmen, Nazi and sons of Mussolini’s Italian askaris and asses nothing has described them as perfectly as the phrase “day hyena”;

The below examples are proof that the TPLF’s elites have commonality of purpose with the Nazis:

  1. They looted humanitarian aid food from famine victims; for example, Bereket Simon publicly acknowledged raiding cooking oil stored for the needy when he was the TPLF’s guerilla fighter, hitman.
  2. They arrested and/or executed tens of thousands of people, including their own dear friends some of whom they had been friends with since childhood. And they executed their own teenage (12-17 years old) guerilla fighters some of whom might have been pregnant for having heterosexual relationships.
  3. They enabled their torturers, among other things, to urinate on/at/ detainees and to mutilate detainees’ genitals with pliers.

To sum up, I’m not trying to be mean by aiming at the TPLF’s criminal elites’ devilish personhood now known as evils in Ethiopian society, Ethiopian’s cancer, hatemongers, hitmen, and day hyenas, instead, I showed the “inherent behavioral similarities” between the beast within them and their counterpart – day hyena. Though equating people with an animal is an insult, paralleling people who inhumanely treated a person, including the writer’s friends and families for more than forty years with “a lesser being” is the least I could do.

To show solidarity, this article is dedicated for the TPLF’s teenage (12-17 years old) guerilla fighters, including pregnant teenagers for whom the TPLF’s elites lynched for alleged heterosexual relationships. This article is also dedicated for the TPLF’s political prisoners in the TPLF’s prison camps across Tigray.






የአዲስ አበባ ስንብት!

12 Aug

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

በተመስገን ደሳለኝ






የመከላከያና ደኅንነት ተቋማትን የማያካትት የአስፈጻሚ አካላት መቆጣጠሪያ አዋጅ ቅሬታ አስነሳ!

11 Aug

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

የአዲስ አበባና የድሬዳዋ ከተሞች አስተዳደርን ጨምሮ የፌዴራል መንግሥት መሥሪያ ቤቶችን የአሠራር ሥነ ሥርዓት በሚመለከት፣ በፌዴራል ጠቅላይ ዓቃቤ ሕግ የቀረበው ረቂቅ የመከላከያ፣ የደኅንነትና የፖሊስ ተቋማትን አይመለከትም መባሉ ቅሬታ አስነሳ፡፡

ረቂቂ አዋጁ በዋናነት የሚመለከተው ሁለቱን የከተማ አስተዳደሮችና የፌዴራል አስተዳደር ተቋማትን ሲሆን፣ ተቋማቱ በሕግ የተሰጣቸውን አስተዳደራዊ ውሳኔ የመስጠትና መመርያ የማውጣት ሥልጣንና ተግባራት በሥራ ላይ ሲያውሉ በሕግ መመራታቸውን፣ ከተፈቀደላቸው የሥልጣን ክልል አለማለፋቸውን፣ እንዲሁም የዜጎችን የተሳትፎና የመደመጥ መብት ማክበራቸውን ማረጋገጥና ዕርማት የሚደረግበት ሥርዓት እንዲኖር ለማድረግ መሆኑ በስፋት ተገልጿል፡፡

የረቂቅ አዋጁ መቅረብ በአገሪቱ እየታየ ያለውን የመንግሥት ተቋማትን ብልሹ አሠራር በተወሰነ ደረጃ የሚያሻሽልና ተገልጋይ ዜጎችም በአስፈጻሚ ተቋማትና አመራሮች ላይ እስከምን ድረስ መብት እንዳላቸው ግንዛቤ የሚሰጥ ቢሆንም፣ በዋናነት ቁጥጥር ሊደረግባቸው የሚገባው የፖሊስ፣ የመከላከያና የደኅንነት ተቋማት ግን ከአዋጁ ውጪ መደረጋቸው ወይም ‹‹እነሱን አይመለከትም›› መባሉ ተገቢ እንዳልሆነ፣ ስለረቂቅ አዋጁ በተደረገ ውይይት ላይ የተሳተፉ አስተያየት ሰጪዎች ተናግረዋል፡፡

ሦስቱንም ተቋማት ከሕግ በላይ በማድረግ የፖለቲካ ማስፈጸሚያ ሆነው መኖራቸውን የጠቆሙት አስተያየት ሰጪዎቹ፣ የሕግ የበላይነት በሕዝብና በመንግሥት መካከል ያለ መሣሪያ መሆኑን፣ አዋጁም እነዚህን ተቋማት አደብ የሚያስገዛ መሆን እንዳለበት አሳስበዋል፡፡ የአስተዳደር ተቋማት ሥልጣናቸውን ያላግባብ በመጠቀም ከሚያደርሱት በደል ዜጎችን መጠበቅና በደል ሲደርስባቸውም መፍትሔ የሚያገኙበት ሥርዓት መዘርጋት ስለሚያስፈልግ፣ ሦስቱም ተቋማት በዚህ ሥርዓት ውስጥ መካተትና አዋጁ እነሱንም የሚያቅፍ መሆን እንዳለበት አስተያየት ሰጪዎቹ ገልጸዋል፡፡

የፌዴራል የአስተዳደር ተቋሞች የአሠራር ሥነ ሥርዓትን አዋጅ አስፈላጊነት ተቋማት የውሳኔ አሰጣጥና የመመርያ አወጣጥ መርሆዎችንና ሥነ ሥርዓት፣ እንዲሁም በአስተዳደራዊ ውሳኔዎችና መመርያዎች ቅር የተሰኘ ሰው የውሳኔዎቹንና የመመርያዎቹን ሕጋዊነት በፍርድ ቤት የሚያስመረምርበት ሥርዓት በመደንገግ፣ የግልጽነትና ተጠያቂነት ባህል በማዳበር አስተዳደራዊ ፍትሕን ማስፈጸም ስለሚያስፈልግ ሦስቱም ተቋማት በዋናነት በአዋጁ መካተት እንዳለባቸውና ቁጥጥር ሊደረግባቸው እንደሚገባ አሳስበዋል፡፡

ለበርካታ ዓመታት በረቂቅ ደረጃ ተዘጋጅቶ ተግባራዊ ሳይደረግ የቆየው የፌዴራል መንግሥት አስፈጻሚ አካላትን የሚመለከተውና ለመጀመርያ ጊዜ በጌትፋም ሆቴል ሐምሌ 27 ቀን 2011 ዓ.ም. ለውይይት የቀረበው ረቂቅ አዋጅ፣ በአራት ንዑስ ክፍሎች፣ 57 አንቀጾችና 67 ንዑስ አንቀጾችን የያዘ ነው፡፡

ማንኛውም የአስተዳደር ተቋም በሕግ በተሰጠው ሥልጣን መሠረት በተገቢው ጊዜ መመርያ ማውጣት እንዳለበት ግዴታ የሚጥለው አዋጁ፣ መመርያ ባያወጣ እንኳን መብቱ ወይም ጥቅሙ የተነካበት ማንኛውም ሰው ተቋሙ ውሳኔ እንዲሰጠው የመጠየቅን መብት ያጎናፅፋል፡፡ ተቋሙ ተገቢውን መመርያ ሳያወጣ ቢቀር እንኳን፣ ማንኛውም ሰው ተገቢውን መመርያ እንዲያወጣ በጽሑፍ ማቅረብ እንደሚችልና የተቋሙ አመራር በ30 የሥራ ቀናት ውስጥ መመርያውን የማውጣት ሒደት መጀመር እንዳለበት፣ ወይም በጽሑፍ ለቀረበለት ጥያቄ ምላሽ መስጠት እንዳለበትም ያስረዳል፡፡

የአስተዳደር ተቋማቱ መመርያ ከማውጣታቸው በፊት ስለሚያወጡት መመርያ ረቂቁን በጋዜጣ፣ በተቋሙ ድረ ገጽና በሌሎች የመገናኛ ብዙኃን ዝርዝር መረጃዎችን ማውጣት እንዳለበትም ረቂቅ አዋጁ ያስረዳል፡፡

የተቋማቱ አስተዳደር ውሳኔ ጥያቄ በጽሑፍ ሆኖ እንደ ሁኔታው በአካል፣ በተመዘገበ ፖስታ ወይም በኤሌክትሮኒክስ ዘዴዎች ሊቀርብ እንደሚችልና ለቀረበው ጥያቄ ወዲያውኑ ውሳኔ የማይሰጥ ከሆነ ለጥያቄ አቅራቢው ደረሰኝ መስጠት፣ ጥያቄው በተገቢው ጊዜ እንዲመዘገብና ለውሳኔ እንዲቀርብ ማድረግና ጉዳዩ የሚታይበትን ቀነ ቀጠሮ ለባለጉዳዩ የማሳወቅ ግዴታ ይጥላል፡፡ ውሳኔ የሚሰጠው የተቋሙ የበላይ ኃላፊ ወይም ሥልጣን የተሰጠው የተቋሙ የሥራ ኃላፊ ብቻ መሆን እንዳለበትም ይደነግጋል፡፡ ውሳኔ የሚሰጠው ኃላፊ ተገልጋዮች ያቀረቡትን ፍሬ ነገርና ማስረጃ መመርመር፣ እንደ ሁኔታው የሦስተኛ ወገን አስተያየት ማዳመጥ እንዳለበትም ግዴታ ይጥላል፡፡

ቅሬታ አቅራቢው ውሳኔ ከሚሰጠው ኃላፊ ጋር በሥጋ ወይም በጋብቻ ዝምድና ካለው ወይም በማንኛውም ሁኔታ ግጭት የሚያስከትልበት ከሆነ ጉዳዩን ማየት እንደሌለበት፣ በዘር፣ በብሔር፣ በቀለም፣ በፆታ፣ በቋንቋ፣ በሃይማኖት፣ በፖለቲካ አመለካከት፣ በማኅበራዊ አመጣጥ፣ በሀብት መጠን፣  በትውልድ ሁኔታ፣ ወይም በሌላ ምክንያት ልዩነት ሳያደርግ ማስተናገድ እንዳለበትም አዋጁ ያስጠነቅቃል፡፡

በፌዴራል ተቋማት ውሳኔ ቅር የተሰኘ ተገልጋይ ለአስተዳደር ተቋሙ ቅሬታ ማቅረብ እንደሚችል፣ ተቋሙም የቅሬታ ማስተናገጃ አካል ማቋቋምና ለተገልጋዩም ይፋ ማድረግ እንዳለበት፣ የቀረበው ቅሬታ ተመርምሮ ውሳኔ እስከሚሰጥ ድረስ እንዳይፈጸምም እንደሚደረግ ረቂቂ አዋጁ ያብራራል፡፡ የአስተዳደር ተቋሙ ውሳኔ ተገቢ አለመሆኑን የተረዳ ሰው፣ ውሳኔው በፍርድ ቤት እንዲከለስ አቤቱታ ለፌዴራል ከፍተኛ ፍርድ ቤት ማቅረብ እንደሚችልና የፍርድ ቤቱ ውሳኔ የመጨረሻ እንደሚሆንም ደንግጓል፡፡ የክለሳ አቤቱታው መመርያውን በሚመለከት ከሆነ መመርያው ከፀደቀበት ቀን ጀምሮ በ90 ቀናት ውስጥ መሆኑን፣ የአስተዳደር ውሳኔን ለማስከለስ ከሆነ ደግሞ ውሳኔው ከተሰጠበት ቀን ጀምሮ በ30 ቀናት ውስጥ መሆን እንዳለበትም አዋጁ ያስረዳል፡፡ ፍርድ ቤቱም ውሳኔው ሊመረመር ይገባዋል ብሎ ሲያምን ቅሬታ የቀረበበት ተቋም በ15 ቀናት ውስጥ የጽሑፍ መልስ እንዲሰጥ ማዘዝ እንዳለበት ይገልጻል፡፡

የአስተዳደር ተቋማቱ በሚያወጡት መመርያ ወይም በሚሰጡት ውሳኔ ጉዳት የደረሰበት ማንኛውም ተገልጋይ፣ የአስተዳደር ተቋሙን (የመንግሥት አስፈጻሚ ተቋማትን) አግባብ ባለው ሕግ መሠረት ካሳ እንዲከፍል መጠየቅ እንደሚችልም ረቂቅ አዋጁ ለተገልጋይ ሕጋዊ መብት ሰጥቷል፡፡




Ethiopia’s Policy Logjam and the Unintended Consequences— Is the Abiy led government reverting to the TPLF model? Part III

9 Aug

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

By Aklog Birara (Dr)

“ያልተማሩ ምሁራን ያቆዩዋትን ሃገር፤ የተማሩ መሃይማን አያፈርሷትም”   አቶ ታየ ቦጋለ

Aklog Birara (Dr)

My hypothesis in response to the question under the sub-tile is that Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed may not revert to the TPLF model of repressive and ethnic governance. Because, this reversal of history would only strengthen repression, ethnic-cleansing and ultimately Balkanization of Ethiopia and deepen or worsen poverty. It will be a mortal blow to his government; and undermine the aspirational narrative he used to mobilize millions of Ethiopians.

I have no doubt that there are ethnic and religious fundamentalists behind the ‘throne’ who are determined to remake Ethiopia only in their own image or to disintegrate it completely. Amharas are especially most vulnerable from several fronts. In the North, the TPLF has snatched and incorporated large tracts of the most fertile farmlands into Greater Tigray. In the North East, Oromos claim that a large part of Wollo is Oromo land. In the West and South West, strategic and fertile lands and water basins have been taken away and incorporated into the newly created Beni Shangul Gumuz region.

In almost every part of Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, Awassa, Arusi, Dire Dawa, Harar, Kaffa, Sidamo and other locations where hundreds of thousands, and in some places millions of Amharas work, live and own property, they are being harassed, expelled and dehumanized at a level never seen in Ethiopia’s long history. The barrage of hateful propaganda against the Amharas, often buffeted by the fabrication and dissemination of false historical data constitute a most diabolical narrative that Amharas and the world community must heed to. As far as I can discern, there is no red line or demarcation to speak of that might mitigate risks for the Amharas.

Regardless of how much I (we) love Ethiopia and Ethiopian identity, the existential threat against the Amharas is real and compelling. From the mid-1960s up to now, I have devoted my intellectual capital Ethiopia’s rightful place in the world. I have also felt strongly and urged Ethiopians not to fall to the never ending and dangerous trap of ethnic identity as a destiny. The reality of ethnic-based hatred, suspicion and division on the ground that is supported directly or indirectly by external push to dismantle Ethiopia show a valued target, namely, the Amharas. This group and other like-minded Ethiopians of my generation have always embraced their country and their identity as Ethiopians. I am part and parcel of this embrace.

In my generation, at least and despite ideological differences among intellectuals, efforts were made to diagnose core problems honesty, objectively and in a balanced manner. Declarations such as the number of people in each ethnic group were not made. Today, declarations are given as facts and are imposed on others. Denials are given as facts. How else would one explain the narrative concerning Emperor Menilik? When truth is abandoned for political gain, the room for dialogue is also minimized or completely curtailed intentionally.

Going back to my hypothesis I opine that there is no contradiction between defending the rights of the Amhara population to exist as human beings and to defend themselves; and defending Ethiopia and Ethiopiawinnet. This is because of the fact that the struggle for Ethiopia’s durability and the assertion of citizenship identity as an Ethiopian would have little meaning if the very people who fought for these national values are made scapegoats for the country’s multiple ills and are attacked constantly. If we do not speak up today, history will judge us harshly.

In this connection, I am reminded of what happened to the Jewish people. They were accused and demonized in all parts of Europe. Demonization, harassment and other forms of psychological warfare against Jews was then followed by “crimes against humanity and genocide.” In his highly acclaimed book, “East West Street,” Philippe Sands argues persuasively that the barrage of defamation, harassment, character assassination, individual and group abuse of Jews that preceded genocide showed intent.

Targeting Amharas shows intent.

“Imagine the killing of 100,000 people who happened to come from the same group…. Jews or Poles.” He suggests based on concrete evidence that “the killing of individuals, if part of a systematic plan, would be crime against humanity,” the body of international law identified and articulated by the distinguished human nights lawyer, Professor Hersch Lauterpacht. At the same time and in connection with the Nuremberg Trials, another legal mind, Professor Rafael Lemkin opined that “the killing of the many with the intention of destroying the group of which they were a part” constituted the body of law that is now known as genocide.

Sands clarifies the contrasts and interrelatedness of the two bodies of law that the international community now applies. “For a prosecutor today, the difference between the two was largely the question of establishing intent: to prove genocide, you needed to show that the act of killing was motivated by an intent to destroy the group, whereas for crimes against humanity no such intent had to be shown.”

Since providing genocide is difficult, I urge those concerned to collect evidence meticulously and systematically. Cases covering Yugoslavia, Rwanda and allegations of crimes of genocide in Chechnya, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay illustrate that no individual or group can get away with genocide. I underscore intent. Part of intent is the propagation of ethnic hatred, suspicion, division, harassment and wholesale incarceration.

I suggest that the Amharas were and still are among the most avid supporters of democratic and fundamental change in Ethiopia. Despite this fact, the attempt to reverse the infant but popular change process is all around us. Among the reversals is the deliberate targeting of Ethiopian national institutions and icons of identity under the pretext of holding back resurgence Amharas. Assertiveness to survive is not the same as that of the propestrous claim to reassert “hegemony.”

Those who present the make-believe thesis of “hegemony” target both symbols and persons. Their intent is total dismantlement or destruction. Jewish synagogues were symbols and targets.

Why else would ethnic and religious zealots “torch” Ethiopian Orthodox churches? Why would there be targeted massacres and other human rights abuses in nationally leaning areas of not only the Amhara region but also in Addis Ababa, Awassa, Beni Shangul Gumuz, Dire Dawa, Gambella, Gedeo, Guji, Harar, Kaffa, Sidamo, Kaffa etc.? Why would the TPLF continue to garrison itself in Mekele instead of negotiating and guiding the future of Ethiopia so that everyone, including Tigreans would benefit from fundamental policy and structural change?

Ethiopia continues to suffer from misinformation and the distortion of historical facts by instant “historians, activists, fundamentalists and extremists.” In one recent episode, an individual claimed that he does not know “Emperor Menilik,” the Ethiopian hero who mobilized hundreds of thousands and defeated Italian colonialism at the Battle of Adwa. Unlike this person who subordinates the freedom of black peoples to narrow ethnic identity and an uncertain future, Italians in Rome celebrated Ethiopia’s Emperor chanting “viva Menilik.” If he denies Menilik, he will have the proclivity to claim that Amharas were not massacred because of their ethnicity.

A group of learned folks, including at least two professors who have written books, went out of their way to critique a communique that was written thoughtfully and signed by 145 people. The signatories represented a cross-section of views and mixed ethnic groups. Instead of stating their positions, the critics identified the signatories as “super racists” without a shred of evidence to support their assertions. Further, the same cohort made a sweeping conclusion that the assassinations that occurred on June 22, 2019 in Bahir Dar were linked directly to a plot by the Amharas to overthrow the government.” The failed coup in the Amhara state was an attempt by ethnic nationalists (that is Amharas) to restore Amhara hegemony over Ethiopia.” this assertion constitutes deliberate intent.

This accusation mirrors a narrative echoed by government authorities as well as by Herman Cohen, whose Anti-Amhara position is well established. There is no material or forensic or other evidence to support this false narrative. It never occurred to the critics, for example, that the plot in Bahir Dar of cold-blooded murders of Amhara leaders might have been conceived and implemented by a party or parties inimical to the Amharas. My estimation is that, this hypothesis is dismissed outfight to make the Amharas responsible for Ethiopia’s growing pains; and to pave the way for the reshaping or reconfiguration of Ethiopia by marginalizing the Amharas even more. I pose the question of what comes next?

The dire consequences of this well-orchestrated false narrative are evident each day. Numerous Amhara youth continue to be arrested; and those incarcerated are accused of terrorism.

Whose agenda is being paraded?

It is sheer madness to accuse the Amharas of plotting a coup d’etat against the Abiy Ahmed -led government for the following reasons:

  1. Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed won the premiership with strategic and methodical support of the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP);


  1. An overwhelming number of Amharas came out of their homes, villages, towns and cities in support of the reform process;


  1. Amhara youth sacrificed their lives and helped dislodge the Orwellian regime led by the TPLF; and called for unity among the Amhara and Oromo peoples; and,


  1. The ADP leadership continues to support the Abiy government.

Against this historical and positive role of the Amharas, the least beneficiary of the EPRDF federal budget based on size of population and need is the Amhara region. Equally telling is the recurrence of ethnic-cleansing, marginalization, harassment, persecution and disproportionate incarceration of the Amhara population, especially youth.

In the same vein as the “historian/anthropologist” who claimed that he did not now Emperor Menilik , group of “concerned” people who claimed to represent the “majority of the Ethiopian population,”  went out of their way to accuse and demean the Amharas who defended Ethiopia’s independence over centuries  of “super racism.” This is a sinister term and concept that has been implanted in the minds of ethnic elites whose proclivity to imitate alien terms and apply them as widely as possible to achieve their goal is indisputable. In this regard, it is vital to remind ourselves why Amharas are targets of ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses.

In the twentieth century “The Nazis of Austro Hungary had already in the 1930’s targeted Ethiopia as a threat against white supremacy and white colonialism in Africa…. And a threat to “Western Civilization,” wrote the distinguished late historian Professor Alem Eshete. “In the case of Ethiopia, the classic work on the subject, which we have repeatedly introduced to the Ethiopian public, myself and the Ethiopian patriotic Diaspora in Germany, was , of course, the book by the Austrian Nazi, Baron Roman Prochaska’s “Abyssinia the Powder Barrel” (Vienna 1935), translated in all the major Western languages (including American English,) before the Italian invasion in 1936. Baron Roman Prochaska was posted for two years as Austrian Consul in Addis Ababa until his expulsion in February 1934. The Italian translation of Prochaska’s book entitled ABISSINIA PERICOLO NERO meaning “Abyssinia the Black Threat or Danger” was published in 1935, which is a year before the Fascist invasion.”

The ethnicization of Ethiopian politics that has been normalized and legalized through the 1994 Ethnic and language-baaed Constitution traces its roots to fascism and its ideologues. “Starting from the first page, Prochaska alerts his white public by stating that for four years that Emperor Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia, in “close co-operation with Japan,” was engaged “on a life and death struggle with the white race, the consequences of which are incalculable. The targets are the colonial powers in Africa without exception. It is hardly possible to imagine a more unhappy situation of a white man than to have to live under the oppression of an Abyssinian grandee. The prevalence of this contemptuous invective is characteristic of the mentality and attitude of the natives who imagine themselves to be infinitely superior to the white race.”

The accusation by the critics of Amharas as “super racists” that I underscored above emanates from this narrative, an inheritance that fundamentalists and extremists now use liberally to target Amharas including intellectuals. Italian fascist ideologues conceived the theory that the Amhara nationality was far too independent, dedicated to freedom and to the sovereignty of Ethiopia and proud of its rich and diverse cultures and institutions including its Orthodox Christian faith, its written alphabet and unit calendar as well as its ability to welcome and to serve as home to Muslims at a time of their greatest needs.

The critics fail to recognize this enduring legacy. Ethiopia became a beacon of freedom for Black people throughout the world. Italian fascists and the rest of Europe felt strongly that Ethiopia was a competitor and should be subjugated in order to dominate all of Africa.  It is this legend that ethnic elites and Ethiopia’s traditional adversaries resented and still resent the most.

Amharas are targeted constantly not because of their history as “colonizers, as chauvinists and as oppressors” but because of their unmatched dedication to Black African freedom, independence and their commitments to fairness, justice, inclusion and national identity as Ethiopians. It is ironic that, having fought the most and suffered the most for the freedoms, rights and independence of all Ethiopians and the rest of Africa, Amharas now face an existential threat.

The first and foremost priority for Amharas is to organize across regional boundaries; and defend themselves. Their survival is a prerequisite for the survival of Ethiopia as a country. Amhara youth should be careful not to be hoodwinked by the sinister machinations of either the TPLF or the OLF. They both thrive by planting seeds of division among the Amhara population.

Whether within Ethiopia or outside, Amharas have no other choice but to speak with a unified voice against ethnic hatred, suspicion and division. Those of us who live outside Ethiopia have a special responsibility to dispel false narratives and to defend rights. Words and narratives matter a great deal.  For example, most of those murdered in cold-blood and most youth arrested since the tragedy in Bahr Dar are Amharas. Political assassinations are so common in Ethiopia that it should be the exception and not the norm that should shock us. Equally, coup d’etat in Ethiopia is so frequent that Ethiopians take it as part of their political culture.

In an interview released on August 4, 2019 “ETHIOPIA IS ON THE BRINK OF DISINTEGRATION” Hassan Jabhad of the Ogaden National Liberation Front warned us all of Ethiopia’s potential disintegration by pinpointing flash points. “Others like Sidama people are calling for an independent region of their own. Worst of all, there have been five coup attempts in the country during the past year.” This number is not validated by anyone else. The point is this. From 1916 to 2018, there were 8 unsuccessful coups, one every 18 years. Excluding the alleged coup in Bahir Dar, the most recent took place after Prime Minister Dr. Abiy took power in April 2018. Amharas should not be blamed for these attempts.

What is the reason for blaming the Amharas for the alleged coup? The straightforward answer is to contain the resurgence of Amhara nationalism and pin the blame on the Amharas as a pretext to subjugate them. Amhara resurgence is predicated by one single motive, survival.

Asymmetrical treatment is unfair and unjust.

The alleged coup in Bahir Dar does not meet the criteria. Rather, it is a plot to create a false and misleading narrative in order to hit the Amharas hard. Regional squabbles and changes in leaderships that are common in Beni-Shangul Gumuz, Oromia, Somali, Gambella, SNNP etc. regions are taken as normal; while one that took place in the Amhara region is linked mysteriously with a coup attempt. Why this stark differentiation?

I find no difference between this assertion and that of Herman Cohen’s. It is a narrative to hit one specific ethnic group. It is propestrous to claim that the Amharas ruled Ethiopia for 500 years. On the contrary, 500 years ago, the Amharas were almost annihilated. The narrative of a coup linking it to the Amharas is make-believe. For the culprits behind this façade, there isn’t any difference between the fascist narrative of Amhara dominance and oppression; and the resurfacing of Amhara “hegemony” as a mantra.

The folks who called the signatories of the July 19, 2019 communique “super-racists”have their own agenda. They used a term that is intended to reinforce the TPLF thesis of “Amhara chauvinism” and to encourage onslaught of the Amharas. History will judge which narrative prevails in Ethiopia. Is it governance by capturing state and government by ethnic-elites and taking turns to assert hegemony in the same manner as the TPLF and its core ally the OLF did for 27 years? Or is it to struggle for participatory democracy based on the rule of law and citizenship rights that assure each and every Ethiopian the right to live, own property, vote etc. in any part of Ethiopia? I believe that the later will prevail at the end.

I also believe and contend in this commentary that what distinguishes Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed and his team is their dedication to Ethiopia’s durability and to Ethiopiawinnet (ኢትዮጵያዊነት መንፈስ ነው). In this sense, they are on the right side of history. It is therefore pathetic to try to alienate them from the vast majority of Ethiopians; and to try to own them as if they are private property. Oromo and Tigrean intellectuals and activists should not try to own or disown Ethiopia’s leaders in order to serve their narrow agendas. Leaders should also not allow themselves to be traded like a commodity.

Remember this. Ethiopia is a country of more than 86 nations, nationalities and peoples. Each of them belongs to this great country. The exercise of freedom and socioeconomic and political rights for one is tantamount to freedom and socioeconomic and political rights for all. The only regional state that accepts these values is the Amhara reginal state. The future belongs to those who include.

Why would the dissenters to the July 19, 2019 communique not call for parity and equityinstead of following the TPLF logic of demeaning Amharas? What makes them believe that the current government can govern Ethiopia without the representation of this huge population and other non-Oromos? It is simplistic to dismiss numbers and to fabricate number for political end. Ethiopia had an Amhara majority under the Dergue. Where did they disappear since the EPRDF?

Has there been a census in Ethiopia under the TPLF and its allies allowing and encouraging that those surveyed can and should identify themselves freely as Amhara etc. wherever they live without fear of retaliation? In fact, millions of Amharas disappeared into the thin air under the EPRDF. Have critiques asked themselves how 2.5 million withered away in a single census; and how millions more Amharas “disappeared” from Ethiopia’s demographic data?

I urge Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Amhed to live-up to the promises he made; not to flinch; and not to reverse the progress made so far. Instead he should push for fundamental changes. He should not alienate Amharas who constitute a bulk of his base of durable support.

Preserve human rights and the rule of law

The world is no longer isolated.; and Ethiopia should not be shut-off again. On Monday July 15, 2019 CNN critiqued the Abiy government for reverting back to the old days of Ethiopian oppressive politics. “Ethiopia’s leader promised to protect freedom of expression. But he keeps flicking the internet kill switch.” In an ominous sign of reversal of freedom and the protection of human rights “Access to Facebook, Twitter, What-is up, Instagram, and some VPN apps remain blocked by the government. The continued blocks represent a significant barrier to freedom of expression and the right to information.” It is true that the Internet has been restored.

In this century, closing or restricting internet access entails enormous economic costs. “During the shutdown, businesses were forced to close, events were canceled, and families were unable to communicate. Popular taxi service Zay-Ride was also affected by the shutdown, leaving their drivers with no work for a week. Combined, the effect of internet shutdowns on the economy is staggering. According to the internet monitoring NGO, Netblocks, each day of an internet blackout costs the Ethiopian government nearly $4.5million.”

Ethiopia suffers from foreign exchange shortages. Therefore, shutting down the internet makes no economic or social sense. The Internet “switch on and switch off” habit should not become a frequent occurrence. CNN quotes the executive director of the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia who said: “People want to know the well-being and safety of their family… the internet shutdown is putting people in fear again.”

Reversal to the TPLF dark days of shutting down every media outlet in order to punish Ethiopians will be an Orwellian act that Prime Minister Dr. Abiy promised won’t happen again. CNN quotes another activist who said “Since 2016, the government of Ethiopia has had a habit of shutting down the internet whenever there is political unrest or demonstration [and] after a few months the new administration took office they returned to their old habit.”

The argument by federal authorities that shutting down the internet is intended to quell unrest following the alleged coup is reminiscent of what happened under Meles and under Hailemariam Dessalegn. Protests and dissent were always followed by repression, command posts, killings and incarcerations. “It is a move that is highly reminiscent of Desalegn’s tight control of the media” in which, according to Human Rights Watch, there was a “strategy to manage and control information flows, including the media, and ensure that its policies are promoted but not critiqued.”

This time too it is intended to enforce a narrative that is flawed. A flawed narrative has consequences regardless of who reins.

The promising political environment of freedom of the press and political pluralism that elevated Prime Minister Abiy’s status is diminishing fast. Wholesale arrests and incarcerations of Amharas are reminiscent of the harsh political realities of 27 years under TPLF that some non-TPLF members now support without questioning who is hurt. Their rationale for support is the same as that of Herman Cohen, namely, alleged resurgence of Amhara hegemony.

It is not the various positive options offered that the critiques of the July 19, 2019 communique address. They use their ethnic lenses and accuse and oppose “super racist Amharas” in the same way the TPLF demeans all Amharas of “chauvinism.” There isn’t any distinction except for the superlative term “super racists” they threw like a badge of dishonor or honor. Apartheid may be labeled as such; but labeling any Amhara as “super racist” lacks imagination. It borders outright madness and mania.

This hysteria of the Amhara ‘phantom’ chasing its victims is a tired and worn-out phenomenon that diminishes all Ethiopians. Why not learn a little from President Isaias Afewerki? Why not learn from the transformative leader of the Somali region, Mustafa Omer. He represents a future and promising Ethiopia. He is reputed as a human rights defender. As such, he stands for human dignity, honor and inclusion.

Mustafa Omar exemplifies a person with humility, curiosity to know the truth and a person who has an ounce of empathy to overcome sheer ignorance in advancing the common good and not to resort to the term of “super racist.”

Ethiopia lacks such leaders as Mustafa Omar who are endowed with the intellectual and moral acumen not only to debate incessantly but more important to build a multiethnic nation by bringing all its members closer in such a manner that at the end, they fulfill their human potential and become stronger. As Omar noted in his speeches and in his interactions with Amhara youth in Bahir Dar, the Amhara agenda is a human and humane agenda.

Today, Ethiopia is on the brink of collapse. This is why it needs leaders who build bridges and not ethnic elites who accuse Amharas of “super racism and ethnic chauvinism; and Oromos of narrow nationalism.” Ethnic hatred, suspicion, fear and division are at an all-time high. The ethnic federal system is no longer capable of holding the country together. The overarching narrative that guides political elites, including federal government authorities is identity politics.

At the heart of ethnic disparagement, relentless psychological and physical conquest is primarily the Amhara nationality. Evidence from other countries shows that ethnic hatred that often leads to ethnic cleansing and genocide have no boundaries. It is like a communicable disease such as Ebola. Untreated, it spreads far and wide and infects anyone and everyone eventually. Today it is the Amhara; and tomorrow it will be the Gurage, Annuak, Wolayta, Somali, Tigray or Oromo etc. “ነግ በእኔ” (Tomorrow it will be me) is apt to remember. Remember intent.

The wholesale arrest and incarceration of the Amhara, especially youth, activists, journalists, intellectuals, business men and women, military officers exceeding 1,000 is a dangerous trend to undo Ethiopia. The argument these wholesale arrests and incarcerations are linked to alleged coup d’etat and the horrific assassinations of June 22, 2019, in Bahir Dar and Addis Ababa is, at best, indefensible and arguably sinister. One tragedy was followed by another tragedy. The victims of both tragedies are primarily the Amharas. So, why blame the victims?

The press statement by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) following the tragedy and accusing the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP and the Amhara nationality of “chauvinism” shows the existence of direct involvement in the tragedy that triggered mass arrests and jailings that continue to this day. The latest statement by the TPLF on Amhara “chauvinism,” ነፍጠኛ and other attributes amounts to a call of Tigreans and other ethnic groups to rise up against a specific group of people. It is the resurrection and the enlivening of the 1968 Manifesto. This vitriol by a specific ethnic political group that is still a member of the Ethiopians Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is an affront to humanity and a mortal threat to Ethiopia’s durability.

Here, I should like to remind the reader of the tragedy preceding the first and second world wars when the Jewish people were targeted and set-up for what is now known as “crimes against humanity and genocide.” As far as I know, no rational political leadership anywhere in the world this century trumps up plots and schemes to stimulate crimes against humanity and genocide. However, the deliberate targeting of Amharas is intentional.

It is not rocket science to deduce from the tragedy of June 22, 2019 and the targeting of the Amharas in the TPLF 1968 Manifesto of this specific population as mortal enemies of the Tigrean people and others as a plot that is being resurrected with a level of vitriol that no sane political leadership anywhere on this planet would espouse in the 21st century. We need to join hands and stop genocide before it happens.

Tragically for the Amhara and ultimately for Ethiopia, ethnic hatred, suspicion, fear and division has been propagated by ethnic elites over the past half century. This is the reason why I hypothesize in this commentary that Ethiopia lacks a team of statesmen as leaders. With a few exceptions that I have highlighted above, the bulk of EPRDF leadership is incapable of transcending its ethnic silos and ethos; and has failed to bring more than 86 ethnic groups to work together.

The Amharas are not Ethiopia’s enemy; and can’t be blamed for its multiple problems. It is the system that failed all groups. It is the structure and policy architecture imposed on 110 million Ethiopians in 1991 in general and under the 1994 ethnic and langue Constitution that needs urgent and immediate transformation.

The current ethnic and linguistic federal structure is broken. It is broken because it is artificial and conflict-ridden. It is broken and infested with religious and ethnic extremists who burn churches and investments and massacre innocent civilians including spiritual leaders.

Change the Constitution and the administrative structure.

Why not be bold enough and allow “100” flowers to bloom? Nigeria is more diverse and has a larger population than Ethiopia. It is home to 250 ethnic groups. The most populous and politically influential ethnic groups include: Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%. Nigeria decided to reconfigure the country into 36 states and a federal capital city, Abuja.

It is high time to commission an expert group to restructure the Ethiopian administrative system using a set of criteria that enhances human freedom and accelerates economic and social transformation. The Nigerian federal system is an option and there are other options too. Ethiopia deserves a modern, efficient, manageable and democratic federal system that gives the population direct voice and makes officials accountable to citizens not parties. In addition, the possibility of expanding the number of self-governing cities from the current two to a greater number based on diversity of the population should be explored.

The contention on Addis Ababa should cease. Addis Ababa should serve solely as a federal city with no special privileges or rights bestowed to any ethnic group. It should be given the same status as Abuja or Washington D.C.

In summary, I suggest the following:

  1. The single most important challenge and opportunity for Ethiopia is to create jobs for over 3 million young people each year for the coming decades. This investment will pay huge dividends by boosting incomes, raising GDP, creating resiliency, transforming human energy to productive use, reducing dependency, empowering the young to build bridges across ethnic and generational boundaries etc. etc. etc. The value added is immense. This is where the federal and regional governments, foreign aid and the Diaspora should focus.


2.   Those of us in the Diaspora should stop fighting with one another. We should grow up and act as a model of change for Ethiopia by breaking ethnic silos holding forums and dialogues that reflect Ethiopia’s rich diversity.


  1. Those of us who love Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people as a whole should continue to support the change agenda in our homeland and push for fundamental policy and structural changes.


  1. The Ethiopian federal government’s top priority is to safeguard the safety and security of all Ethiopians; to release all political prisoners of conscience; to restore freedom of the press and other basic rights; to hold every person or group that murders innocent civilians and burn churches and properties in any part of Ethiopia accountable; and to apply the rule of law impartially and consistently.


  1. Authorities should assemble representatives of Addis Ababa and iron out differences in administering and managing this multiethnic city, the seat of the federal government, the African Union and numerous U. N. agencies.


  1. “ስንኖር ኢትዮጵያዊ ስንሞትም ኢትዮጵያዊ (When we live, we are Ethiopian; and when we die, we are Ethiopian”) are eternal values that we hold dear wherever we live and pass. These eternal values must, however, be translated into action on the ground. Federal and regional authorities have an urgent obligation to translate these values by ensuring that each and every Ethiopian has the right to live, own property, vote and identify himself or herself as Ethiopian, Afar, Gurage, Tigre, Amhara, Annuak, Somali, Oromo, Muslim, Protestant, Orthodox etc. anywhere and anytime. Ethiopian citizenship is a common denominator that defines who we are us and not ethnicity.


  1. The government’s responsibility with support from the global community, the Diaspora and the private sector is to resettle all internally displaced persons; to agree on specific criteria to avert future displacements; and to hold any regional official or non-governmental entity or person accountable for displacements and ethnic-cleansing. Demeaning any ethnic group shows intent and must be made illegal.


  1. The parallel priority I am recommending is to convene a special emergency meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dr. Abiy to discuss and come up with a solemn covenantthat leaders of each Kilil agree that their first loyalty is to preserve Ethiopia’s territorial and sovereignty; to safeguard the personal safety and security of each Ethiopian;  to implement the rule of law; and to cooperate faithfully with the federal government in bringing any person accused of crimes against humanity and identified as thief of state and hold each and every one to account in a court of law.


  1. The government of Ethiopia must convene an All-inclusive National Conference of national consensus, peace, reconciliation and agree on an interim transitional arrangement and period with a specific time frame that will pave the way for a free and fair election. To have teeth and credibility with the Ethiopian public such a conference must go beyond elites; and must involve each of the 80 plus ethnic groups and representatives of all stakeholders including youth, faith groups and civil society.


  1. In the long-term, the current ethnic and language-based Constitution must be overhauled; and the unequal and uneven political party structure that excludes viable multinational opposition groups must be addressed and streamlined.  In this regard, I recommend the establishment of a high caliber Constitutional Commission consisting of a cross section of Ethiopian experts within and outside the country and vetted by the public on the basis of integrity, impartiality, independent thinking and professional competence. The Terms of Reference (TOR) of such a Commission should be disclosed to the public.


“ያልተማሩ ምሁራን ያቆዩዋትን ሃገር፤ የተማሩ መሃይማን አያፈርሷትም” አቶ ታየ ቦጋለ



Ethiopia’s Policy Log Jam—Why I urge Prime Minister Abiy to leave a lasting legacy, Part I

Ethiopia’s Policy Logjam and Unintended Consequences —-why willful ignorance should be combatted now, Part II



አንዳንድ ነገሮች…

2 Jul

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)


የተፈፀመውን ግድያ በብርጋዴል ጄኔራል አሳምነው ፅጌ፣ በአብን ወይም በፀንፈኛ አማራ ናሽናሊዝም ማላከክ የችግሩን ምንጭ ከመከለል በቀር ምንም አይፈይድም። መነሻ ምክንያቱን መፈተሽ ብልህነት ነው።

* ጠቅላይ ሚኒስትር ዐቢይ አሕመድ ሃገሪቱን ከሴራ ፖለቲካ ማላቀቅ አልቻሉም። ባንዳንድ ሁኔታዎች ራሳቸውም የሴራው አካል መሆናቸውን መገመት በመቻሉ ሁኔታው ተስፋ አስቆራጭ ሆኗል።

* ሁሉን አካታች ፍኖተ ካርታ ማቅረብ አልተቻልም። የተረኝነት መንፈስ ገኗል። ጠቅላይ ሚኒስትሩ ሃገሪቱን አሻግራለኹ ብለው የገቡትን ቃል በአቅም ማነስ ይሁን በዳተኝነት አጥፈው በዘር ላይ በተመሰረተው ፌደራሊዝም እንደማይደራደር በፓርቲያቸው በኩል አሳውቀዋል።

* ይህ እንዲፈጠር የኢሕአዴግ አባል ድርጅቶቸ አስተዋፅኦ እንዳለ ሆነ የቀድሞውን አስተዳደር ሲቃወሙ የነበሩ ነገር ግን አሁን መንግስትን የተለጠፉ ፖለቲከኞች፣ የመንግስትን ጥሪ ተቀብለው መንግስታዊ ኃላፊነት የተረከቡ ባለሙያዎች፣ የዐቢይ አህመድን አስተዳደር ነባራዊ እውነታውን እንዳይረዳ አድርገዋል። ያልተገባ አፕሩቫል ሰጥተዋል።

* አንዱ ሃገር እንደሌለው እየተሰማው ሌላው በተረኝነት (entitlement) መንፈስ እየተንጎማለለ በሰላም መኖር አይቻልም።

* ለዚህ የባለጊዜነት/ተረኝነት እና የሃገር አልባነት ስሜት መፈጠር አስተዋፅኦ ያደረጉ በርካታ ነገሮቸ ቢኖሩም እንደሕገ መንግስቱ የአንበሳውን ድርሻ የሚወስድ የለም።

* የአማራ ክልል በዚህ የዘር ፌዴሬሽን ከሚኖር የራሱን ሃገር ቢመሰርት ይሻለዋል።

* በሕይወት የተረፉት እና ወደፊት የሚመጡት የክልሉ መሪዎች ይህንን ኢፍትሃዊ ‘አማራ-ጠል’ ስርዓት እልባት እንዲያገኝ ማድረግ የመጀመሪያ ተግባሩ መሆን አለበት። አለበለዚያ የህዝቡ ፍላጎት የሚፈጥረው ጫና ሁለተኛ ዙር መተላለቅ እንዳይፈጠር ያሰጋል።

* የአዲስ አበባ ሕዝብ በዜጎችን ስም በሚነግዱ እና ኢህአዴግን በምርጫ ሊቀጡ ቀጠሮ በሚይዙ ቡድኖች እየተታለለ መኖር የትም አያደርሰውም። ለኢትዮጵያ ሕልውና ከተቻለ መታገል ነው። ካልሆነ ተስፋው ስደት ብቻ ነው።

*በትግራይ ልሂቁና ፖለቲከኛው አራት ኪሎን እየናፈቀ ሕዝቡን በፕሮፓጋንዳ እየጠመዘዘ ነው፡፡ ኢትዮጵያ ብትፈርስ የሚጎዳው ሕዝቡ ነው፡፡ ከአማራ ክልል ጋር የሚገናኘው መንገድ በመዘጋቱ የፈጠረው ችግር የአደባባይ ሀቅ ነው፡፡ ይህንን የሚያስተውል በቂ ልሂቅ እና ፖለቲከኛ በመድረኩ የለም፡፡

* ደቡብ ክልል ተብሎ በሚጠራው የሀገሪቱ ክፍል አማራጮች ያሉት ይመስለኛል፡፡ አንደኛው ደቡብ በተባለው ከረጢት ውስጥ ሆኖ የሃገሪቱ ገዢዎች ደጋፊና ተባባሪና በስልጣን ላይ ያሉት በሚሰጡት ድርጎ መኖር ነው፡፡ ሁለተኛ የሲዳማ መንገድን በመከተል ክልልነት በማወጅ ኢትዮጵያን ለማፍረስ ከሚሰሩ ኃይሎች ጋር በመተባበር በሚመሰረተው ኩርማን ሃገር ውስጥ ከመጀመሪያው ባልተለየ አጃቢነት መኖር ነው፡፡ ሦስተኛው በዜግነት በእኩልነት የሚኖሩባት ኢትዮጵያ እንድትፈጠር መታገል ነው፡፡

* የኦሮሞ ልሂቅ ከጥቂቱ በቀር Live with it በሚባል ትዕቢት ተወጥሯል፡፡ ኢትዮጵያ እስክትሰበር ድረስ ለመመዝበር ቁርጠኝነት አለው፡፡ ስትሰበር ደግሞ ኩርማን ሃገር ለመመስርት ስለማይዳዳ Nothing to care ሁለተኛው መፈክሩ ነው፡፡ ይመክራሉ ይዘክራሉ የተባሉት በለው በለው የሚል ማደናበር ላይ ናቸው፡፡ ይህንን ታሪካዊ ኃላፊነት የሚረዱና ለመስራት የማይለግሙ ወዴት አሉ?

*ሶማሌ፣ አፋር፣ ጋምቤላና ቤኒሻንጉል በዳር ሃገር (periphery) ስም ሁሌ አጋር ተብለው ከሃገሪቱ የኢኮኖሚ እና ፖለቲካዊ ጉዳዮች ተገልለው መኖር ይመርጡ ይሆን? መቼም ወደ ፖለቲካ ስልጣን የማያመጣቸውን ከዜጎች እኩል የማያደርጋቸውን ስርዓት ካላዋለዱ በኩርማን ሃገር መረገጥ እጣ ፈንታቸው ነው፡፡

* ይህ የተረኝነት እና የሃገር አልባነት መንፈስ እንዲፈርስ ሕገ መንግስቱ እንዳይነካ ከሚፈልጉ እና ህገ መንግስቱ እንዲለወጥ የሚፈልጉ ሰዎችን ያካተተ ብዙሃኑ ኢትዮጵያዊ እምነት የሚጥልበት በግልፅነትና በታማኝነት የሚሰራ የሕገ መንግስቱን ጉዳይ በምን አይነት መንገድ መፍትሔ እንደሚያገኝ የሚያማክር ቡድን በተቻለ ፍጥነት መቋቋም አለበት።

* በአሁን ወቅት በጠቅላይ አቃቤ ህግ እየተደረገ ያለው አፋኝ ህጎችን የማሻሻል ሂደት በግልፅነቱ፣ በተዓማኒነቱና በአሳታፊነቱ እንደመነሻ የሚያገለግል ስለሆነ ይህ ሕገ መንግስቱን የሚያሻሽል/የሚለውጥ ሂደት ትምህርት ቢወስድ መልካም ነው።

* የሕገ መንግስቱ ጉዳይ እልባት ሳያገኝ ምንም አይነት የምርጫ ወሬ፣ ሽርጉድ፣ ክርክር መጀመር የለበትም።

* የኢትዮጵያ መከላከያ ሚኒስትር አቶ ለማ መገርሳ እንዳሉት ይህ ወቅት የሸግግር ነው። በሽግግር ወቅት የሚኖር ስልጣን በመደበኛ ጊዜ ከሚኖር ስልጣን ያነሰ መሆኑ ሊሰመርበት ይገባል። ስለዚህ በዚህ ወቅት ስልጣን ላይ ያሉ ሰዎች ራሳቸውን እንደ ባለሙሉ ባለስልጣን ሳይሆን ለጊዜው መደበኛ የመንግስት ስራዎችን ለማከናወን በአደራ መልክ በኃላፊነት ስልጣን እንደያዘ በመቁጠር ሁሉንም የህብረተሰብ ክፍል ያማከሉ ስራዎችን ማኀበረሰቡን እያማከሩ እንዲሰሩ ይደረግ።

* በአዲስ አበባ አስተዳደርና በአንዳንድ የመንግስት ከፍተኛ መዋቅሮች የሚታየው እብሪት፣ ትዕቢትና ተረኝነት ሰከን ቢል መልካም ነው። ማንንም አይጠቅምም።

መጀመሪያ፡- ሰላም፣ መረጋጋት፣ ጸጥታ፣
ሁለተኛ ፡- ብሔራዊ እርቅ፣ የልሂቃን ድርድር፣ ሕገ መንግስት ማሻሻል፣ ፖለቲካዊ መረጋጋት
ሦስተኛ፡- የሕዝብ ቆጠራ በመቀጠል ምርጫ

/አቤል ወበላ

Credit: ECADF

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.


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


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