Tag Archives: revolutionary democracy

The New Scramble for Ethiopia

2 Jun

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neoliberalism Versus the Developmental State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revolutionary Versus Liberal Democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Qeerroos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dismantling the One-Party State From Within

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

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

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

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

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


If cats could talk, they wouldn’t.

~Nan Porter

The Social Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

The EPRDF should make or break, says Prof. Merera Gudina

7 Mar

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

Merera Gudina was among the speakers giving remarks at an event organized by the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI) in Paris on February 21. The event, organized by the independent research and debate institution dedicated to international affairs, brought together a number of prominent French Ethiopia watchers, including René Lefort who addressed on a variety of topics. Drawing on the first-hand experience in the opposition politics and as a student of political science, Dr. Merera, a professor at Addis Ababa University and the chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, spoke about the potential, challenges, and threats toward real democratic development in Ethiopia under Abiy Ahmed’s administration.

Dr. Merera started by offering summar of the complex events and the history of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), pinning down the causes of the four years of street protests that has propelled Abiy Ahmed to the throne on 2 April 2018.

The multiparty democracy, a federal system of governance and the ending of the command economy introduced by EPRDF miserably failed, Merera contended. One is the political engineering of the Peoples’ Democratic Organizations (PDOs) which he said were created by TPLF in order to restructure the Ethiopian state according to its own designs. “The PDOs miserably failed. They have lived under the domination of the TPLF. It was probably the old generation have read George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Their life was like that. All animals are equal but some are more equal than others. So until last year, they were in one way or another pushed around by their more dominant group in the EPRDF. This is the first major blunder of the TPLF, creating surrogate groups, which neither represent their own people nor serving well the TPLF itself but contributed for the last twenty seven years to the ongoing crises,” Merera said.

“The second is what we call the constitutional engineering by the TPLF, introducing what we have now as a sort of federalism which is neither federalism nor democracy. In fact, what happened was it became the mother of all problems, the ruling party’s ideology of revolutionary democracy, which is neither revolutionary nor democracy. The federalism which was introduced was devoid of democracy,” he added.

No less importantly, central to the current crisis of the Ethiopian State is ethnic federalism, which he described as neither federalism nor democracy. “The federalism which was introduced by the TPLF was devoid of democracy. So what we had was the British type of indirect rule. Mogzit Astedader, as we say in Ethiopian language, somebody who is not able to define his own livelihood, supported by others kind of thing. That type pf federalism failed to resolve the historical marginalization of some groups, such as the Oromos, much of the south. Secondly, it could not help one way or another, it created a new type of relationship between the various peoples of Ethiopia.

Merera underlined the so-called federalism introduced in 1991 and officially sanctioned in the country’s 1994 Constitution was opposed both by the marginalized groups as well as the so-called relatively better-off groups. He describes EPRDF’s conception of revolutionary democracy as one essentially based on democratic centralism, which means “there is no separation of powers, which means all independent institutions in the country, including the election board, the judiciary, the army, the police are controlled by one group. It means, what we call in political science, privatization of the state, serving the interest of one group. That is why you see massive corruption.”

Dr. Merera also talked about the non-competitive elections held from 1995 – 2015, which he described were neither free nor fair. He quoted Josef Stalin who used to say the people of Soviet: “You vote, we count.” That is the game. So the people of Ethiopia have been voting, the ruling party counting.

Especially after the 2005 elections, EPRDF has introduced a lot of unconstitutional laws, political registration law, media law, anti-terrorism law, electoral law of conduct, all kind of things. These were all aimed at fostering the domination of one group. It has encouraged the rise of a totalitarian state, which has caused crisis and widespread anti-government protests in the country, that have persisted for four years.

Daunting challenges

The EPRDF installed Abiy Ahmed prime minister on 2 April 2018, who has promised to chart a new course and embrace multi-party democracy. Abiy’s reform pledges have opened up some political space. Dr. Merera praised some of policies and strides made by the new administration, such as releasing thousands of political prisoners, including himself has been freed after more than a year in detention, opening political space to political parties inside the country, initiating several legal reform, that include electoral law, anti-terrorism law, civil society law, national dialogue.

But he went on to say: “Lack of unity among the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front members, regarding the pace and depth of the reform is becoming a major handicap.” For example, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which used to be the real ruling party, it appears, is resisting the change. They are accusing the central government of targeting the Tigrayans. “Not a small resistance, it can cost the country as a whole,” he said.

Emerging hostility between Amhara and Tigray regions

Another challenge creating uncertainty for the transition is, he added, “the emerging hostility between the Amhara wing of EPRDF and Tigray wing of EPRDF over the issue Wolkait Tsegede, Raya Azebo, and other issues. In fact, a sort of a cold war is emerging between the two. Certain areas, probably this is true, the Amhara group is saying the TPLF is arming the Kimant and probably the Agew next, against the proper Amhara. That confrontation is serious, dangerous for the two regions and beyond and it can bring down the EPRDF and can lead to major splits within the EPRDF. What is clear is a government within the government is being created,” he said.

“The third challenge is the confrontation between OPDO, to which Prime Minister Abiy belongs and the OLF, the major political force in Oromia and dgroup not yet laid down arms. Some sort of disarmament, negotiations is going on. The elders are trying to do what they could but it might take a long way to properly handle that situation.

Slow pace of reform

“The fourth important thing is the pace of the reform appears to be slow. It took about a year, still no tangible whatever on the ground. So this slowness of the reform, especially at a local level, nothing has been changed. The old robbers are still there. The criminals are still there. People in some areas are fed up to live with them, so which can invite trouble.”

The ailing economy

The fifth challenge, according to Dr. Merera, is the state of the economy, especially youth unemployment.” I think if the present change is worthy, whatever it is, it came with the blood of young people of Ethiopia, especially the young Oromos. Probably, if they don’t have anything to eat, they can turn to eat their own leaders. That is a critical case. Youth unemployment is very massive.”

Let the change to take its course

Dr. Merera underscored the enormous task ahead, saying they current EPRDF leaders were not elected by the people of Ethiopia. “Change has been imposed on them. I think the EPRDF should make or break. Unless EPRDF one way or another seriously take up this change, allow the changes to take its own course, then if it is trying to reverse the change, block the change, it is going to be a disaster for Ethiopia.”

He also called upon all stakeholders to “rethink about their actions, not to engage in anything that could take the country down in whatever way, for simply running after the dream of this group or that group in this delicate period.” For instance, he said, the present federal structure could not be reversed simply because some group wants too. “A lot of damage could happen on the ground. What we need to do it to democratize it as it lacks democratic content. Otherwise to reverse it is calling for civil war,” he warned.

The TPLF, which dominated the coalition before Abiy’s selection, and which seem ill-disposed toward the Prime Minister is no ordinary group, Merera said. “That group has been dominating Ethiopian politics for the last quarter of a century. They have the means, the money. They are in the military security structure. So, you would not simply wish away them.”

“In the interest of EPRDF, even in the interest of the country, TPLF leaders should allow the changes to deepen for all of us, including them. Otherwise, if they push this country into a further confrontation, state collapse like Somalia or Rwanda is a likely scenario. I don’t think they would be beneficiaries out of it. I think they should allow to this change take its proper course,” he concluded.

 

/Ethiopia Observer

 

 

በአስታራቂነት የመጡ ሃይማኖት አባቶች ፊት ደብረጽዮን (ሕወሃት) ጦር ሰበቃውን ያለሃፍረት ተያያዘው!

15 Jan

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

“…ሁሉም በተለይም የሃገር መሪዎች የፖለቲካ መሪዎች ማሸነፍ መሸነፍ ከሚለው ወጥታችሁ ስላምና ፍቅር አሸናፊ እንድታደርጉ መጥተናል….” ሃጂ!

 

 

“ሕዝቡ የደገፈው ይደግፈው! ለኛ (ሕወሃት)ይህ ቀላል ነው! ይኸ ግን ሁሉ ውስጥ አለ ወይ?”

 

23 rough years of TPLF/EPRDF: The Reporter editorial acknowledges regime’s sins & inadequacies

31 May

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory
The Reporter: Suiting word to deed

Inasmuch as the EPRDF’s successes during its 23-year incumbency deserve recognition, the shortcomings which characterized its administration also need to be addressed lest it is not lulled into a sense of complacency. We are motivated by nothing else but a fervent desire to see a stable and peaceful Ethiopia when we bring up the EPRDF’s shortcomings. After all, citizens who genuinely wish our country to be democratic and prosperous have to be able to engage in a frank dialogue on all subjects if we are to move forward as a nation.
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