The Revolutionary Democrats, under the leadership…

The Revolutionary Democrats, under the leadership of their young and popular leader Abiy Ahmed (PhD), are entering into the uncharted sea, gossip observed. Beginning this week, they will start their most anticipated convention in the town of Hawassa, the seat of the Southern Regional State. Hawassa will host the EPRDF Congress for the third time since the Front was formed in 1989.

The convention will be held after a six-month delay from its original schedule; again, not the first time. In 2001, the Front’s fifth convention was delayed by a year due to the war with Eritrea and the subsequent split within the top leadership of the TPLF, the senior partner in the coalition.

Yet again, the EPRDFites found themselves in another historical juncture. Following the leadership change in April this year, they have tried to introduce reforms in four areas: broadening the political space; opening up the economy; rapprochement with Eritrea; and pushing for national unity by promoting the idea of Medemer; credited to Abiy, it translates as positive-sum.

Nonetheless, the journey has not been all too positive, as the EPRDFites would admit. The weakening of the rule of law and the recurrence of mob justice has been a stain on the popular optimism that followed Abiy’s rise to the top, according to gossip. The Front’s Executive Committee met in August and attributed these issues to the alleged work of two forces: those whose interests are affected by the ongoing change and a faction of the populace that is reluctant to embrace the change, claims gossip.

The first group is blamed by the Executive Committee for working to portray Abiy’s leadership in isolation from the collective decisions of the EPRDF; taking his various messages out of context; and advocating as if the unity among members of the ruling coalition is eroding, says gossip.

Granted, Abiy believes the changes that engulfed the country to be “constitutional, EPRDFite and popular,” gossip claims. Yet it does not take much of a political pundit to see how much democratic centralism, a political culture with its roots on the left, has been undermined in the process, claims gossip.

It is sufficient to read the various slogans adopted by the four member parties in the coalition during their respective congresses: Abiy’s own rebranded party, the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), picked the message “Prevail with Excelling Ideas”; the TPLF, “Reform for Perseverance & Unity”; the ANDM, “Reform for Equity & Democratic Unity of the Amhara People”; and the SEPDM, “Peoples’ Unity for Comprehensive Reform”. While the three parties share the words “unity” and “reform,” all of them seem to have a different notion of what these entail, gossip noted.

The epic challenge for a young and popular politician such as Abiy is to ensure a unity of purpose and action of the delegates of the EPRDF convention, says gossip. And he is an admirer of transformative leaders such as Nelson Mandela of South Africa; Park Chung Hee of South Korea; Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore; and Deng Xiaoping of China, gossip disclosed.

Indeed, if Abiy looks upon these leaders as examples and wants to emulate them to take his country out of political turmoil and toward economic transformation, there is little doubt they can be sources of inspiration, claims gossip. However, these were leaders who were on top of a party machinery that was unified and focused on moving mountains, unlike his own coalition, which is fractured along regional and ethnic cleavages, says gossip.

A historical task is thus posed before him at the convention this week, according to gossip. Abiy and his allies will be tested by the force of their willpower in pushing an agenda that has been eluding their founding chairman, the late Meles Zenawi, claims gossip. Whether or not the convention will take concrete steps in laying the foundation for the formation of a unified EPRDF – rebranded perhaps as the Ethiopian People Democratic Party (EPDP) – is yet to be seen, according to gossip. The idea has powerful proponents and detractors deep inside the Front, gossip claims.

Published on Sep 29,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 961]



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