It would be expected of the heads of multilateral finance organisations…

It would be expected of the heads of multilateral finance organisations to be concerned of macroeconomic stability in member countries. They have to ensure the money they lend in generous terms, collected from the international community, would be paid back, if not in time. But the kind of stability issue, or lack thereof, that has brought Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, to Ethiopia last week was of a different sort, claims gossip.

Her historical visit to Addis Abeba, the first of such courtesy made by an IMF head since its founding in 1947, was marked by her expression of grave concerns over Ethiopia’s ongoing political instability, gossip disclosed. During her two-day stay here, beginning on December 14, 2017, she was hosted by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and his macroeconomic team over dinner at his residence on Thursday.

It was a follow-up to her meeting with the Prime Minister the same morning after she paid a courtesy visit to President Mulatu Teshome (PhD) at the State House on Menelik II Avenue. Lagarde told the President that it was not her intention to give prescriptions, but would like to know where Ethiopia is heading to and wanted to be assured if the government is capable of containing the recurrent mass and deadly protests in the restive region of Oromia, gossip disclosed.

The President skirted around the issue, instead, providing an economic rationale to the source of the discontent, claims gossip. Mulatu briefed Lagarde that there is a youth bulge where the government is trying to respond to creating opportunities, but not to the level it is demanded, gossip claimed. He raised the issue that when he graduated from college, the student population at tertiary level was no bigger than 5,000, compared to over 200,000 today. To his credit, this is the kind of demographic trap Vera Songwe of the UNECA alluded to when she introduced Lagarde to a roomful of diplomats, international technocrats and expats at the UNECA the following morning, to present her keynote address on technology’s impact for inclusive growth.

In a sheer matter of coincidence, the very question Lagarde raised with President Mulatu was up in the minds of the Executive Committee members of the EPRDF, who had congregated a couple of kilometres north of the Jubilee Palace the same morning, trying to crack the nuts in a desperate search for solutions. Hailemariam had to break from the meeting, and let his fellas mind their own lot while meeting Lagarde right before lunch, gossip disclosed.

Although he had put up an upbeat face with Lagarde offering her a laundry list of Ethiopia’s accomplishments and growth wonders, a paper he tabled to the EPRDF meeting was less sanguine, claims gossip. He conceded that the functional state of the ruling party, which prides to have a membership base of seven million, through its component parties, is no better than the extant, gossip revealed.

Hailemariam’s report, one of the five tabled, including from each party in the ruling coalition, informs the Executive Committee of the Revolutionary Democrats’ bumpy journey in recent years, gossip disclosed. The recurrent and widespread discontents across the country, as well as the violent protests and interethnic tensions, have left many people in a state of trepidation, pinning their hopes, against all the odds, on the outcome of the meeting began last week, gossip observed.

The meeting began in mid last week in what gossip claimed was a little awkward moment. Abadula Gemeda took the floor lodging his complaints on what he claimed was unfair treatment he and his party, the OPDO, were subjected to by the TPLF’s dominance in the EPRDF as well as the country’s state of governance, gossip claimed. Although he had heard solidarity voices from some of the leaders in the ANDM and SEPDM, the majority turned his plea down, arguing that the meeting was not called to hear individual complaints, gossip disclosed. Among the vocal voices against his bid were some of the OPDO leaders of Abadula’s contemporaries, revealed gossip.

TPLFites have conceded that there could have been times their individual-leaders have done or failed to do things that make their allies in the coalition feel the way they do, revealed gossip. They hope that their report on their recent meeting up in Meqelle – candid in their criticism and self-criticism as brutal it was – would help them restore confidence in their sincere desire to fix what ails the EPRDF, together with their allies, claims gossip.

They would want to see the process in self-reflection, which has taken close to two months, and the result in reshuffling their top leadership would be considered as a benchmark by other parties in the coalition to do likewise before the EPRDF’s convention in March 2018, claims gossip. Several leaders of the EPRDF would like to see each other eye to eye on the issues of state capture for personal enrichment, fanning identity politics to shield accountability off, and the much talked about TPLF’s historical hegemony in the nation’s politics, and in the federal institutions such as the military, claims gossip.

Many at the gossip corridors wonder if the EPRDF leadership has the resolve, courage and competence to do just that.

Published on Dec 16,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 920]



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