The Clock Ticks Already




Tomorrow, the Downfall of the Dergue, better known as Genibot 20, will be celebrated. It would have been 28 years since members of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came to power, first as part of the transitional government and then as a governing coalition.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) will have been in office for around two months by then. Untried and untested, he has nonetheless come to be known as the “reformer,” having rescued the nation of the unrests of the past three years by merely having been able to give hope. And as the days go by and the honeymoon phase dissipates, people will start counting the promises that have been delivered.

It would be unfair to say that there have not been substantive improvements over the last weeks since his assumption of office. He is tasked with undoing an uncompromising political culture that has existed for decades. It would take time and painful decisions about the fate of his party must be made – a bit of patience here is due.

Nonetheless, there are glimpses here and there that could serve as indicators of how he wants to reach the goal of a widened political field.

Abiy, who was able to win the hearts and minds of parts of the public, has been able to halt the unrests that could have led to economic and political ruin. Most of this success has to be attributed to his oratory skills.

It started with his speech to parliament when he was sworn in as Prime Minister. He has since visited cities that have suffered from the unrests such as Ambo and Gonder, where he also made well-prepared speeches and held town hall meetings. He has accomplished what few people could have predicted as the unrests spiralled out of control.

This should result in a reorientation of how officials interact with their constituents. Ever since, the public media outlets have taken a softer note, echoing Abiy’s call for national unity and referring to political rivals as “contenders” rather than “opposition”.

His words have been considered as a guaranty to transform the country away from the current political impasses. To have come out of the same ruling coalition and still be able to enjoy popularity is nothing less than a political miracle. And this power should not be wasted. At some point, he must begin delivering on the fundamentals that matter to people – economic and political empowerment.

Unfortunately, there is still no clear indication that Abiy will not stay the course that the ruling coalition has been stuck in for almost three decades. It is apparent that he has to walk a tightrope in the things he says and the actions he takes. Dismantling an old system is bound to wreak havoc, even temporarily, for in any system there are those that benefit from it, however few they may be.

His greatest task then is to live up to the expectations of the public. The measures he has since taken are positive and sometimes negative. For the latter, it is the recent restructuring of the Council of Ministers. Few officials that have been put in leadership positions in ministries have the educational background or level of experience the offices require.

It is not lost on Abiy that what has brought him to the helm of the ruling coalition is well beyond the faculty of his party. All regimes that refuse change will lose their standing in the eyes of the public. It is because of the failure of his party to effectively govern the country that he has entered Arat Killo.

What is fortunate is that he has shown a willingness to sit-down with opposition parties overseas for discussions. It is crucial to acknowledge that he has invited leaders of opposing parties for dinner. Dialogues are also being held with at least one overseas-based political party.

Abiy needs to walk the talk on the reforms and lay the foundation for multiple parties to participate. Words only have never assured multipartyism, and if Ethiopia is an example, neither does a constitutional writ. It is institutions that can only be strengthened through checks and balances that can provide confidence in the nation’s democracy. To this end, his government should work to make the 2020 national elections believable in the public eye.

Thus, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) should be restructured after talks with opposition parties to an end where all can agree on. Other democratic institutions such as the public media and law enforcement bodies must get a similar treatment.  Continuing to release members of political parties from prisoners or dropping charges against them is a must.

The government also ought to take it upon itself to resurrect the press and make it easier to open TV and radio stations and newspapers.

Citizens must contribute to this effort, as well as members of the ruling coalition’s four constituent parties. His vision of a united, developed and stable nation should be supported, but not accepted out of whim. They should give recommendations when they believe the path he is taking is wrong as well as offer assistance. But they must never act in bad faith.



By Abraham Negussie
Abraham Negussie (areyam2004@gmail.com) is a public relations and communication officer at Awash Bank. He has a blog called - ‘aglegele.wordpress.com’. The writer would like to humbly reiterate that this article is his own personal viewpoint.

Published on May 26,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 943]


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