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Ethiopia: Interview with Lidetu Ayalew (Reporter)

Lidetu AyalewLidetu Ayalew, the founder and the longest- serving president of Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), rose to prominence in Ethiopia’s opposition politics during the highly contested 2005 general elections.

The aftermath of that election, although it won Lidetu and his party seats in parliament, alienated him from a strong support base due to a split within the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD). The impact continued during the 2010 general elections as EDP failed to win a single sit in parliament. And in 2011, Lidetu stepped down from his party’s presidency and virtually vanished from active politics since then. He then traveled to UK to do his MA in Developmental Studies at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies. As the country warms up to the fifth general elections, Lidetu, a member of EDP’s Central Committee, has resurfaced with a new book titled Tiyatre Boletica (Theatre of Politics). Solomon Goshu of The Reporter sat down with Lidetu to talk about his new book. Excerpts:

The Reporter: You seem to have vanished from the political scene. What have you been up to?

Lidetu Ayalew: I was studying in London for two years. Prior to that, I finished my term as president of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) and a successor [Mushe Semu] was appointed. Although I am no longer in the Executive Committee, I am still a member of the Central Committee. And in that capacity, I am carrying out what is expected of me. The day-to-day task is performed by members of the executive committee. So, I am still active and will remain so in the future.

Recently, you released a book titled Tiyatré Boletica on hearsay and Ethiopian political shenanigans. You say hearsay has a bigger role in Ethiopian politics than conscious and rational reasoning. Why do you think it is so?

I never considered hearsay to be a big concern in politics prior to and after joining the peaceful struggle. I believe most people still think so. But in the course of my long political career, I found hearsay to be my biggest challenge. I now believe hearsay is deeply embedded not just in party politics but within the society. For instance, opposition parties with common agenda have failed to join forces because of hearsay. Yes, there are differences between political parties but the major obstacle was hearsay. One party hates another without any appreciable reason. It is mostly influenced by defamation and hearsay. This has greatly impacted the struggle. Frictions between the top leadership of political parties are mostly founded on hearsay, thus preventing parties from resolving their internal issues to take the struggle one step forward. I hear opposition political parties blaming the ruling party on their own internal divisions. If the ruling party is to divide us, it would be by arousing suspicion between one another, spreading rumor to turn one party against another. But beyond that, a rumor spread by one individual eventually grows to become the party’s biggest problem. I have seen hearsay souring a party’s relation with the public. It has prevented parties from amicably resolving their issues and come out stronger. It has exacerbated the extremely polarized relation between the opposition and the ruling party. It has disrupted the healthy relation between those in the diaspora keen to engage in the country’s politics and those at home. I have come to understand that the opposition’s peaceful struggle will reach nowhere unless hearsay is tackled. I wrote the book so that people can understand the problem. Anyone entering politics should be aware of it and be prepared to deal with it effectively.

You have singled out the media as the main propagators of hearsay. In your 22-year active political engagement, have you seen an improvement?

Journalists, as members of the society, are also victims of hearsay. But when the media falls in the traps of hearsay, the problem is magnified because it reaches a wider public. The media is expected to fact-check false allegations, expose and present the truth to the public. However, most of them, although they are no longer in the business now, have been spreading hearsay. And the society, new to democratic culture and the press, takes whatever the media says as fact. Some journalists have manipulated this limitation of the society and have caused plenty of problems. The general environment was encouraging for some in the media to spread hearsay. I still believe there are some in the media engaged in that practice. In my book, I have mentioned the names of many media outlets to showcase the defamation against me. Some were not just spreading hearsay but also fabricating them. But over the past 15 years there have been improvements. The society does not take everything the media says as a fact. But to get here, we had to pay a heavy price.

In your book, you acknowledge political extremism as the main problem in the country. You cite generational gaps as a factor and a failure to engage the youth. Your party’s, EDP’s, recently released manifesto also lays emphasis on the youth. Why, do you think, are the youth marginalized?

We have to understand the source of political extremism first. In Ethiopia, there seems to be no culture of examining the past to understand how, why and when a certain problem occurred. For instance, we repeatedly talk of EPRDF’s dictatorship but we do not examine how and what caused it. The same goes for opposition politics. We talk of Ethiopia’s long history of state structure but this is marred by hatred and bickering. People were being killed for their political beliefs over the past 50 years. It is only natural to have a differing political opinion but a generation has been wiped out because of that. The problem has continued to this day even when we are claiming to have a multiparty system. Some political forces would still prefer to take up arms to kill one another had current circumstances allowed it. I have examined why it is so. It is all due to the leftist political thinking of the 1960s. The forces back then are still active in politics. There are different political ideologies and organizations but the individuals are still the same. These people are found both within the ruling party and the opposition. You also find them among the society that supports the opposition or the ruling party. There are also influential personalities in social affairs. These are the generation of Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP)-Meison (All Ethiopian Workers Movement). The leftists have prevented us from having a healthy political culture by being an obstacle to the principles of tolerance, deliberation and give-and-take. They do not tolerate alternatives other than theirs and do not work to abolish it. That has affected not only the past but also the present. Unless it is put to a stop today it will also continue to affect the future. Secondly, when you look at the demography of this country, 70 percent is below the age of 30. But those playing the key roles in politics are of the generations of EPRP and Meison. The founding members of Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF) were between the ages of 18 and 22 at the time. These are still the people in government positions in their 60s. But this generation has not been able to become a political leader even at the age of 40. It is still a follower. It has become a worshipper of ‘that generation’ from what is told or written about the time. I am not saying ‘that generation’ is bad altogether. It has a lot of attributes to admire such as one’s commitment to sacrifice oneself for one’s belief. But we need to differentiate the good from the bad. We have to ask whether it is wise to follow the ideology of the time. That generation had determined its own course while this generation has not. That generation is still determining the terms for the current generation. They are undermining the current generation by giving it different labels. I believe this generation should be given an opportunity.

You say the diaspora is influencing politics to the point of affecting the independence of political parties at home. Why do you think it has been difficult for parties to withstand such interferences?

Most political organizations in the diaspora are leftists. Many of them fled the country during the Derg regime and some left after the EPRDF came to power. Our society esteem highly those abroad because of a belief that the diaspora are well educated or that they uphold democracy and human rights because they live in such systems. It is also of the belief that due to better job opportunities they are financially better placed. So, the public’s view of political organizations in the diaspora is way too favorable than it should be. Hence, their influence in politics at home is huge although they may not be as influential as they were in the past. But the majority of the political organizations abroad have greatly contributed to the political problem at home using their financial capability. The public’s culture of financially supporting political parties at home is very limited. So, political parties at home establish relations with political organizations in the diaspora to curb their financial constraints. And that money does not come without strings attached. It comes with an agenda and an ideology which affect the independence of political parties at home. EDP has a firm stand on this; they may support us financially but they cannot impose their political orientation on us. Because of our stand, the financial support we used to get from the diaspora has substantially declined. Unless all these issues are addressed, the interference will remain. The forces abroad should only play supportive role- not assume the leadership.

You have been calling for major reforms in Ethiopia’s political landscape. What are these reforms you speak of?

Democracy cannot be achieved through the barrel of a gun. Once a regime assumes power after an armed struggle, the chances of that regime relinquishing power through a democratic process is very slim. Election should be the only avenue to assume power. Ethiopian political forces do not have a clear stand on this. There are a considerable number of political forces, with public backing, who disregard peaceful struggle as a means to assume power in the country. The peaceful struggle cannot flourish when the public is divided on the means to assume power. Our problems cannot be achieved with regime change alone. Had that been the case Ethiopia’s problems would have been resolved long ago. Independent institutions that protect the interest of the people must be built for a sustainable democracy. The current regime has its limitations, but we do not believe that it is the source of every problem in this country. Some of the problems will remain even if the regime is gone. So, instead of viewing the regime as the source of every problem we should accept it as part of the solution. But what the opposition camp wants is for the regime to be wiped out to establish a new system, draft a new constitution, set up a transitional government. That will not be the solution and might even create another grievance and rebel group. On the other hand, the ruling party blames the opposition camp as the source of the problem and labels it anti-peace and anti-people. They regard themselves as the only force that can provide a solution to the country’s problem. This is wrong. During the 40th anniversary of TPLF celebrations recently, we have been hearing how the party has always been on the right course with a clear path. We have been told that those who stood against TPLF had nothing good to offer and labeled as forces of destruction. If this sort of political thinking is correct, then there should be no place for a multiparty democracy. There is no such thing as absolute correctness or wrongness in political processes. Everything is relative. If the ruling party persists with such attitudes, then there will be no multiparty democracy in this country. That attitude has its roots in jungle politics. So, it should welcome the vital and irreplaceable role the opposition camp plays. The public should be politically conscious and avoid being driven by emotion. An opposition party should solely be judged by the policy alternatives it offers. So, each of us should avoid pointing fingers at others. We need to look inwards and accept that we are also part of the problem and work to be part of the solution.

You said the opposition camp views EPRDF as a force that works against the interest of the country. You also believe that the ruling party is intolerant of plurality of ideas and wants to remain in power. However, you do not go as far as others in the opposition in your accusations against the EPRDF. You believe the ruling party’s aspirations to bring about economic growth are genuine. Can you explain that?

Before the EPRDF assumed power, there was a massive propaganda that labeled it as a force that wants to weaken and disintegrate the country. That propaganda had a profound impact on the public. That agenda continues to persist even after 24 years and, despite massive achievements of the regime in socio economic aspects such as infrastructure, education and health. EPRDF is a dictatorial party jealous of its political power. However, it works to develop this country as much as its capacity and circumstances allow it. It does not have democratic tenets and does not want to share power. But it has offered solutions to millions of economic and social problems. Some parties have not accepted this reality and complain to the international community as if the ruling party were destroying the nation. That is political suicide. That is an assault on your own credibility than a score against the ruling party. That is one contributing factor for the opposition to grow weaker than stronger.

How do you evaluate the ideology the ruling EPRDF subscribes to?

I do not believe EPRDF has a clear ideological path. They claim to be proponents of a developmental state but I doubt they know what the ideology means. It is arguable if there is a government in the world which is not developmental? EPRDF never claimed to be a developmental state prior 2005. It had good track records in development but not so much in democracy. So, they had to call themselves developmental. Because they have not properly implemented democratic values, they could not claim to be democrats. Neither could they boldly claim that development, as opposed to democracy, should come first. So, they started claiming that they are proponents of a democratic developmental state. One time they say democracy is an existential issue, only to come back and say that development should come first even at the expense of democracy. As I see it, the EPRDF has struggled to have a clear ideology since assuming power. Yes, the ruling party fares better in its effort to realize what it preaches about development. But their talk of democracy is not more than lip- service.

In your book you expressed your worry about ethnic and religious tensions in the country. You go further and say that it could escalate to a scale of Rwandan genocide. But on the contrary, the nation is hailed as a beacon of peace and stability in the region. Where does your fear stem from and what should be done to avert it?

Yes, that keeps me awake at night sometimes. I have been in the political process and have come to witness the hatred and tension. I am not too confident that this will not lead to a Rwandan-scale genocide. You still see the strong suspicion between one another and we have seen it erupt from time to time. There have been political and religious motivated clashes that had caused the loss of life. In my view, the relative peace we see now is springs from EPRDF’s strong security apparatus and not because a culture of tolerance is rooted in the society. EPRDF cannot contain this through intimidation and force forever. If this strong grip weakens for various reasons, the tensions will pose a danger to the nation. The security apparatus is important but what EPRDF should truly rely on is the politics of national consensus and tolerance. I do not wish my fears to be a reality. There are those who do not agree with me and say that Ethiopia is a nation of peace and will continue to remain so. That is what I want the reality to be. But I do not want to deceive myself; and we should not cover it up.

Let me take you back to the 2005 general elections, what was the source of the friction between you, your party, and CUD? How much of that has affected your subsequent political path?

There is usually a strong desire among the public for political parties to form coalitions. CUD was a coalition formed without properly examining the pros and cons of joining forces and pressured by the perceived importance of coalitions. That was the fundamental problem. Members of CUD did not have similar political goals. Instead of understanding such differences, the coalition was formed due to the perception that joining hands is always advantageous. There were no genuine deliberations to identify a core common agenda that can unite us. The coalition was further lauded by the media. Questioning that will lead to suspicion and expose oneself to hearsay. As I have said in the book, joining the coalition was a mistake. We knew all along that it was impossible to work together with some of the forces in the coalition. In spite of that we joined the coalition fearing the pressure and consequences of not doing so. That was a mistake.

But some question EDP’s timing to leave the coalition. They say EDP could have been patient instead of leaving the coalition in times of crisis. What is your response to that?

We did not leave the coalition. We were forced out. We were determined to resolve the problem with deliberations. That did not happen and we were forced out. The beginning of the end began when CUD said they had expelled me and Mushe Semu [then number two figure at EDP and who succeeded Lidetu as the party’s president until 2013]. But there is no legal basis for that. We represent EDP in the coalition and it is only EDP that can expel us. And EDP can no longer stay in the coalition when its representatives are expelled. CUD never had the culture of resolving differences democratically. Instead they wanted to impose their ideas forcibly by spreading hearsay. So the timing was not our choice. Also the change they wanted was solely regime change. They wanted nothing less. They did not want to take parliamentary seats but the EDP did. That was the division.

Much like the role of Meles Zenawi in EPRDF, people find it difficult to differentiate Lidetu from EDP? Are you the product of EDP, or is EDP your product?

Ideas emanate from individuals. Gradually those ideas develop to become popular. But the reality in EDP is different from that. The core political beliefs of EDP emerged in 1999. We established the party after clearly identifying our path of political struggle in deliberations that lasted a year. I may have played a role in that process. But what the party stands for is also shaped by others. People might have found it difficult to differentiate between me and EDP because I represented the party in many of the public debates. But that has changed and I am no longer in the leadership. But people still hold that view.

In your book, you have stated that hearsay is more directed to you than your party. In line with that, there were reports that some members of EDP have asked you to play a role behind the scenes in order to protect the image of the party. How much of that is true?

I am not aware of that. It is actually to the contrary. I wanted to step down from the party’s leadership 12 years ago. There was a time I literally cried, begging to step down but I was denied. I was the one who asked for a diminished role within the party. In fact, others opposed because they thought I wanted to step down because of hearsay.

You have been playing an active role in Ethiopian politics for over 20 years. At a time when opposition politics is struggling to play a meaningful role, your decision not to contest a seat in this year’s election has baffled many. That has been construed as an indication that you have not recovered from the defeat of the 2010 elections and a sign of frustration in the system. What do you say to that?

It is wrong to give up when you lose elections. I had also lost a local election 12 years ago. In 2000, EDP had contested a seat in parliament and Addis Ababa City Council and won seats. I was not a candidate back then but I led the campaign. I took part in the debates. You do not necessarily have to be a candidate and have to pick your role based on the circumstances. If I had to give up, it would have been in 2005. Winning and losing is the rules of the game in elections. If I say I cannot accept losing in elections then I do not understand politics. It is true that there are a lot of discouraging factors but that actually propels me to contribute more in the peaceful struggle. I have come to realize that the struggle needs a lot more effort and sacrifice. No matter what, I do not intend to back down. But sometimes you might want to give priority to personal matters.

Source

EDP launches campaign manifesto

The Reporter – The Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) published its election manifesto that consists of alternative policies and other ideological points that the party wants to achieve in the upcoming election in order to become a competitor. Its main target is the youth.

The party launched its 30-page manifesto on Wednesday this weekend and will use it throughout the coming campaign and debate period. The manifesto, apart from a detailed description of the party’s alternative, contains three major areas that the party wants to pursue first.

The major areas that the party focuses on are economic, social and political affairs. Though these are the major pillars of the manifesto, there are many issues covered in each part.

If the party assumes power in the upcoming election, the party plans to implement various issues under the economic affair, such as easing the cost of living and inflation. In this regard, the party plans to implement the minimum wage of 1,000 birr for civil servants and 700 birr for pensioners.

Apart from setting a minimum wage for civil servants and pensioners, the party also set a minimum wage for daily laborers and, though it varies from place to place and conditions, the minimum wage for daily laborers should not be less than 60 birr.

Additionally the party also plans to exempt food items from Value Added Tax (VAT) and plans to reduce the 15 percent VAT on items and services, which it said contributes to increasing cost of living, down to 7.5 percent.

The part in the manifesto where it describes economic affairs also gives emphasis on fighting corruption, and in this regard, the party plans to increase the salary and other benefits of employees in the government offices such as customs authority, court, prosecutor, security and immigration, anti corruption authority, road transport, municipalities and so on.

The manifesto proposes not only the increment of salaries, but also a merit-based recruitment process. The party also proposes a very serious law that will severely punish those individuals who violate the laws and engage in corruption.

In the area where the manifesto describes social affairs, it covers a range of matters that revolve around issues such as the quality of education and plans to change the structure of the current education system into the previous one.

In this category, the manifesto also covers issues related to providing health service, promoting good governance, provision of housing and protecting both natural resources and the environment.

The last part of the manifesto describes the political affairs and the stand of the party, and in this regard, the manifesto proposes that constitutional amendments that it says will improve the nation’s unity and economic growth and also present its alternative policy that focuses on foreign policy.

Credible Announcements for Low and Stable Inflation

Abis Getachew Makuria, executive committee member of Ethiopian Democratic PartyBy Abis Getachew Makuria

The recent occurrence of the price increase in consumers’ commodities is expected to raise the general inflation which was at a single digit for the last 15 months. Though the government put the blame on business community, the recently observed inflation across the nation is consistent to the existing theories of inflation.

Milton Friedman’s long lasting theory of inflation states that general price increase is highly determined by expectations. Robert Lucas widen the concept that these expectations are not only formed by past information but also based on current information from media, press, reports and government announcements as well.

The recently observed inflation highly attributes to change in expectations. These changes are mainly driven by the mechanism in which the budget deficit for the year 2014/15 is regulated and by the governments’ announcement of wage increase for the civil servants. These two recent economic phenomenons led to changes in expectations of inflation among economic agents. In this article I will try to discuss how these two economic occurrences have led to a rise in the general prices.

Before the legislative approved the 2014/15 budget, the media were stating that the budget deficit will be financed through the sell of the treasury bills and borrowing of the central bank. Though financing the deficit through TBs sell weakens and crowds out the private investment it might not necessarily lead to inflationary pressures. However, the announcement of borrowing from the central bank to finance the deficit will have an impact on inflation expectations and hence inflation.

In a country where the central bank is at the hand of government it is very hard for the pubic to trust government announcements about the money supply and borrowing. Economic agents are also uncertain whether the government is borrowing the right amount from the bank. In such a situation, if the government itself makes it public that it will borrow from the central bank to finance its deficit, then it is obvious that expectations about inflation will rise. This will then have a direct and immediate impact on prices too.

In addition, the shift in expectations is not uniform since the prices of same items in same markets vary here in Addis Ababa. From this one can understand that expectations are formed from personal judgement than the government announcement. Moreover, one can clearly see that economic agents do not have confidence on government announcements because if announcements have been trusted then the price increase could have been uniform.

If our country was blessed with strong labour unions and consumers cooperatives, they would have also faced the same problem in adjusting their wages and prices, respectively. This is mainly due to blurred view on the new money that will be injected into the economy. Because of such unclear information, economic agents could not set their share in the economy given the nations’ total output.

To remove the problem of higher expectations of inflation that is associated with the budget deficit, government should take measures of making the central bank independent. If the central bank is independent from the hands of executive and accountable to the legislative, then the public confidence raises that the incumbent government will not borrow money as it wishes.

Though it is hard for a developing country such as ours to have a fully fledged independent central bank that targets inflation, at least it is possible for the government to offer partial independence for the bank by making it accountable to the legislative and providing it freedom of choosing policy instruments. On the other hand, the goal can be set with national consensus through negotiations between representatives of economic agents such as the business
community, labour unions, consumers’ cooperatives, government, etc… This point should be scientifically confirmed too. In other words, this is the level of inflation that facilitates growth at its optimum level. In such a case, the central bank will not only have a single goal of inflation targeting but also will have a goal of economic expansion. Hence, once the goal is set the central bank should be independent in choosing monetary policy instruments which is coherent to other policies in order to achieve the threshold level of inflation. In addition, to strengthen the check
and balance the central bank should be accountable to the legislative body of the government. Hence, inflation expectation due to budget deficit adjustment can be solved in such a way.

The second phenomenon that triggered the inflation expectation is the governments’ announcement of the nationwide wage increment for the civil servants. Though the government argues that the scale is not even announced to raise the inflation level, the announcement alone is adequate to trigger expectations.

An increase in the wage level should be appreciated. However, if the increment or the announcement is not associated with productivity and improved service provision, then it will lead to sever inflation and economic chaos. In our everyday life we witness the increasing corruption, mal administration and the mix of governmental and party doings in the civil service which is partial evidence that productivity and service provision of the civil service is
deteriorating through time. Thus, economic agents adjust their inflation expectations to the higher level due to the belief that new money injected into the economy without improvement in productivity.

Though the initial intention of the government was to improve the living condition of the civil servants but the opposite effects are already being witnessed. Therefore, the bottlenecks of the civil service should have to be resolved and it is necessary to create a productive environment at the civil service before the wage increment. At least, such measures could create trust among the public that the salary increase is consistent with improved productivity.

However, creating a productive environment and removing the bottlenecks of the smooth functioning of the civil service may take time. Thus, these policy measures could be taken as long term solutions. In the short run, pro urban poor measures can be taken to ease the cost of living such as subsidizing major consumption items like kerosene and selected cereals too.

In general, the expectation on inflation is the main source of the recently observed inflation. To lower expectations of the public the government is announcing every time that there is no ground of inflation to occur in the country. It further points finger on few greedy and irresponsible traders. In my opinion, traders are of course few compared to the total population of the country but few among the traders can not create nationwide inflation. Hence, government should focus on making its announcements to be credible. For government announcements to be credible there have to be measures to be taken like the move to have partially independent central bank and creating conducive environment to promote productivity and remove the supply side problems.

OPINION

Dereje BAs you all know, a wave of protest has been observed across most universities in Oromia region in response to the new integrated master plan unveiled by government operational in the capital Addiss Ababa and five Oromiya special zone administrations in the outskirt. Following the announcement, massive rallies against the plan were held in several universities. Protesters were holding different slogans advocating, “Government hands off”. In another event, government unleashed security forces to keep an eye on and react accordingly. The impasse pertaining to the plan ultimately devoured lives of several citizens and public asset suffered a huge loss as police responded with live bullets to crackdown.

There are mounting evidences that clues the deadly violence in Haramaya and Dire Dawa was ethnically motivated. The most shocking tragedy was the Amhara and tigray nationalities were specifically targeted. You may have brought into picture such an incident ever but get relaxed that the diverse form of malice and wickedness in man is uncountable.

Eyewitnesses revealed that students were beaten relentlessly hard by regional police forces. Temporary standoff observed between federal and regional police forces when access for federal denied by the regional. In the middle of the face off, defense force broken through asked nobody but veto.

A text message reported to have been sent via cell phone with in a circle of oromo students. Warning notification for Oromo nationals was also put up, transcribed in Oromiffa, not to watch the football match (Chelsea versus Atletico Madrid) where a blast went off to kill one, and leave many others injured.

Exclusively, an inflammatory lyric was heard, “The University, the president and the police force belongs to us!” meant ‘’Yegna Yegna!” which pumped fuel on the tension. Some students believed stranded in different pockets within the compound and presumed dead amidst chaos as leaked by students who fled campus. Surprisingly enough, no student was allowed to speak in other languages than Oromofa, fully hypocritical! I am afraid that this might trickle down to other universities out of Oromiya region and vengeance may erupt in a reciprocal fashion.

Churches and commercial banks in Dire Dawa and Harar cities were unusually overwhelmed by students receiving money from friends and families. University compounds here turned in to Ghost villages due student’s exodus as police ramped up around. What makes the issue paradoxical was why the appeal begins to defend plan-induced displacements and infringements of Oromo people and finally end up with discriminated assault?

God bless brave Oromo students who gallantly crucified themselves to protect and get non-Oromo friends out of campus safely. The generosities of these farsighted compatriots and the unforgettable harsh time grappling with catastrophic risk have been extraordinarily praised and enthusiastically applauded by students and the people of Ethiopia.

In an attempt to settle issue in dialogue, Dire Dawa administration officials payed visit to the Dire Dawa University but succeed only in failure. The reason was simple, representative of rebellion students, “Derartu” allegedly, former member spew out in front of officials and found reluctant to talk unless friends in detention are released without precondiion. This in turn sparked anger off and angry guards turned her in seconds upside down to coil and sandwich in a mud at a gunpoint till swoon and grow fainter.

The migrant students who fled to Dire Dawa Medihanialem church left for campus on Wed 7 May 2014. I solicit the prompt cooperation of Dire Dawa people who unreservedly provided food and shelter. Students were escorted by Dire Dawa security forces on their way back. The deal between Haramaya university officials and migrant students was brokered by Dire Dawa administration EPRDF office representative. For the benefit of the doubt, panel of experts were sent to the university with the aim of assessing security landscape.

The team-expressed grievance over what has happened and offended by the anarchism reigned in. EPRDF representative vowed to launch a probe into the case using party structure to bring elements to justice.
On one accord, it is by and large the responsibility of government to aware people at every level and should practically involve the people in any intervention endeavors. On the other accord, the information and security force along with its functional system found weak to detect and safeguard innocent civilian citizens and destruction of public assets well in advance. As a result, many people, as I personally would have thought, turned out skeptical that invisible hands behind the scene might have orchestrated the mob.

In general, a serious scrutiny measure by government is reported to have been underway to identify whether the question over the contentious master plan was really claimed from within or without. I is not a big deal whether within or without but it is primarily the duty and responsibility of government to aware people and provide timely information in a transparent way.

Government’s passive reaction to shield victims added momentum to be epicenter of public debate. One might be forgiven to think that it is a preemptive attack and de-facto decapitates potential opposition contenders and has always sought to close the space for any entity that seems to pose threat on government interest. It would be a premature judgment to me to accept the argument at least at this stage but be it an individual or institution, those involved directly or indirectly should face trial and independent investigation team need to verify whether security forces used excessive force or not.

To this end, government is exhorted to show passionate commitment and determination to focus the lens not only outwards but also inward. The news that has been dominating all the TV channels and top stories of public media were performing a clip from the same hymn sheet and script. The effort exerted by government top officials to discuss with different societies and condemning all oppositions in a basket has been a customary experience. Why? It should have been done in a well-defined manner prior to the episode. One of the unhealed chronic diseases of government was never and ever let an ear to the ground but wakes up after the storm. The burden of proof is up to government if otherwise.

In a country, where good governance mess up in terms of high profile corruption scandal and absence of independent democratic institutions is evident and where religious inflammation is fragile, the price we pay to back on truck would be unbearably soaring if once fly into a rage. Be cognizant that despite tremendous surge in economic achievements, the probability of shattering into nothing is still exists.

Analytically speaking, extremely polarized and narrow views are emerging and reflected in post Meles political era. Most people found on the same page regarding the notion that the move is not only an apparent signal to quality deterioration in political leadership but also public trust vacuum is getting wider and wider, the bigger challenge we face off in years to come.

Thus, I presumably assume that the menu of option left to choose is either rush to register successively a two digit economic growth, business as usual, leaving things behind or click political will for new roadmap against the narrow ethnic based federalism to be politically stable, economically strong, socially just and culturally acceptable.
Thanks to the fresh memory of Egypt which validated that lack of vibrant multi party system, absence of strong opposition to rely on, and above all the temperature of masked internal friction within the incumbent could open opportunity to the military topple power through coup d’état.
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Dereje D.

The Paradox of Democratic and Developmental State in Ethiopia

Abis Getachew MakuriaBy Abis Getachew Makuria

After most African countries obtained their independence in 1960’s, their primary task was to alleviate poverty and bring their economy in the appropriate development path. On the debate of which way development and prosperity can be achieved, the leading role of the government in the economy was at the centre of the stage. This thinking was popular because of the then famous Keynesian thinking that government led expansionary fiscal policies could make a positive change in the development process of the country. However, this thinking was under counter attack by Neoliberals in 1980’s and 90’s suggesting a very limited role of the government in the working of the markets. Most African countries have shifted to this neoliberal thinking through Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) of Bretton Woods Institutions. The final result of these policies had left a sever disaster to the economic development of the continent.

During the first years after the fall of the military regime, Ethiopia has also implemented the SAPs in certain aspects. Since these policies became out of fashion by the end of 1990’s, the government has officially announced in the year 2001 that it is following the Developmental State path that took the South East Asian Tigers to the growth success. The Ethiopian government promotes this thinking to other African countries pointing out the average double digit growth of the country since it became “developmental”. The main aim of this article is on how far we can go as a nation with the developmental state thinking. It also attempts to address if sustainable development can be achieved in the developmental state path.

The developmental state has two approaches: the economic approach and the political approach. The political approach focuses mainly on the nature and capacity of the state. Regarding the nature of the state it has to be autonomous and independent and regarding the capacity it requires a high quality bureaucracy. To achieve this it suggests attracting educated and independent man-power to governmental offices. The economic approach, on the other hand, mainly depends on market failure and its suggestion of the government intervention. Though these developmental suggestions are still in question in their practice in Ethiopia the main concern is still on how far we can go with the developmental state thinking.

The main target of the developmental state focuses on the early stage of growth and industrial transformation which makes it difficult to have long-term planning unless supported by the right centred or left centred political stand. In order to have an intergenerational long term institutional planning there has to be a political principle that has to guide future planning as well. Johnson Chalmers who first coined the term “developmental state” wanted to represent the countries of South East Asia who had an economic growth miracle and not regarded it as an ideology to be governed with. All developed countries in the world, even the very liberal ones had a growth history of government intervention but they could made long term planning that has enabled them to have a sustained development. A country such as United States that is at the peak of development has right wing ideology while China that is at the peak of economic growth has a leftist ideology. No matter what kind of ideological stand they have, these countries can build their institutions that dreams for the next generation. But when we come to the case of Ethiopia, we are twin hearted that is neither right centred nor left centred that made us, as a nation, failed to build strong political and economic institutions. Such failure may not end on this generation but may have an impact on the coming generation since it transfers ill suited institutions that could not reconcile the conflicts between: autonomy and accountability; growth and distribution; consensus and inclusiveness.

The other concern of the practicability of developmental state in Ethiopia is whether it can bring sustained development in the country. The term development itself has social, economic and political characteristics and hence advancement of each character is required for a development to be categorized as successful and sustainable. As a nation starts to develop economically and when the middle income class society starts to emerge it is natural that the society questions for democratic rights. The common, if not the universal, feature of the developmental state is its authoritarianism. Such a pressure may limit the life of the ruling party as a government becoming its own grave-digger. Due to this authoritarian behaviour of developmental state model, it raises a question whether the party on power has devotion for a persistent and flourishing development in the country.

Our concern is strengthen when we see figures of employment transfer from agricultural to the industrial sector, which shows the industrialization process and uphold of development. The transfer is insignificant though fast and rapid economic growth is underway for the last decade, showing how the policies have failed to bring structural changes in the country. From the world experience, for a late catch-up country there is high opportunity for such radical transformation which is absent in the case of Ethiopia. Focus is on place for the industry and manufacturing sector in the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) but within the last four years compared to our neighbouring countries Kenya and Uganda the attraction of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is again insignificant. This is mainly attributed again to the poor institutional setup of the country and poor quality of man power in the bureaucracy.

As discussed above, it is very difficult for the developmental state to be democratic and if it becomes it will be at the cost of its own legitimacy. Such a development to become true it requires sacrifice for the benefit of a country, people and generation at the cost of personal or partisan interest. Though the assumption of maximizing self interest is rejected theoretically in the developmental state model, the world eyes are on Ethiopia on whether the benevolent government assumption works practically.

It is without a shred of doubt that the developmental state model has achieved a huge success in the academic arena, like communism and neoliberalism. However, it has numerous problems in its implementation. This is the time, for the stakeholders and citizens to rethink the pros and cons of this model and to make the adjustments and shifts.

By Abis Getachew Makuria
Head of Foreign Relations of EDP

Opinion expressed in this article is solely my own and does not reflect fully EDP’s view

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Second Round EDP Executive Committee Members’ Training takes place at EDP’s office

The second round training of Executive Committee Members of Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) took place at the EDP’s Beklo Bet office.

The training took place on Sunday, March 9, 2014 starting from 9:00 AM. The training course was delivered to the executive committee members by Ato Lidetu Ayalew, former president of EDP.

The course which lasted for the whole day focused on, party ideology, party strategy and the personnel who will bring about change. The course was well received and the feedback was positive and encouraging.

This course is an ongoing course and will be given by experienced members of EDP.

It is expected the 3rd part of the training will also be conducted by Ato Lidetu Ayalew, next month.

It is to be remembered the first training was conducted on November 3, 2013 and focused on Ethiopianism and also various current and pressing national issues.

Highlight from the ALN’s 10th General Assembly

Africa Liberal Network (ALN) 10th General Assembly, 5-7 December 2013 — at Ocean Paradise Resort, Zanzibar

Ethiopian Democratic Party President, Chanie Kebede

Ethiopian Democratic Party President – Chanie Kebede at Ocean Paradise Resort, Zanzibar where ALN’s 10th General Assembly was held

 

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Top Executive Team Visits Southern Region of Ethiopia

Sidama zone EDP coordinating committee

Ethiopian Democratic Party – Sidama zone coordinating committee

The newly elected top executive team of Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) visited the Southern part of the country and had an effective meeting with local EDP executives and party members as well.

The visiting team was composed of Ato Chane Kebede President of the party, Ato Ermias Balkew head of the party’s structural and internal affairs and Ato Wassihun Tesfaye head of the party’s research and development wing.

During their week stay they had a chance to meet local executives of the party and EDP members in Aleta Wendo, Sidama , Hawassa, Shashemene and Wolayeta Sodo zone.

The discussion focused mainly on the early preparation for the 2015 election, helping the local executives and members to reach the society on regular basis and enforcing local executives to provide work plan and start work as soon as possible based on the discussion with the senior executives.

Accordingly, consensus has reached that the local executives will start preparation for the 2015 national election. It is also reached an agreement that with the close attention of the top executive body, the local executives work intimately with the society in the region and promote the ideas of EDP. In addition, the general framework of the work plan is expected from the local executives in order to start their task in the region.

This is the first local visit by the newly elected executive members of EDP and they are expected to travel to other parts of the country as well.

Africa Liberal Network expresses concern about upcoming Ethiopian elections

On behalf of the Africa Liberal Network (ALN) I call on the international community to join me in expressing concern about the upcoming Ethiopian elections, scheduled for 14 and 21 April, around which an increasing number of incidents of unfair practices are being reported. [Read more…]

EDP granted the status of Observer Membership in Liberal International!

The UK EDP Support Group is very proud to break the good news to our fellow Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia, for the first time in Ethiopian party politics history, Ethiopian Democratic Party ( EDP), is granted the status of Observer Membership in Liberal International ( LI). [Read more…]