Uncharted Waters of Ethiopian Politics

Democracy is that system of government which history found better suits society. But most African states - and some not - have lacked it even if leaders consistently promise that public officials are accountable to their constituents. Ethiopia's situation does not fare better, and the last two years have not been particularly good to the country, where unrests across the nation have been consistent.

The present trend of Ethiopian politics does not give a definite picture as to which direction the country is heading. But some factors indicate that the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) led government lacks democratic leadership. The fact on the ground is that the rule of law and accountability are nothing but rhetoric for those at the highest echelons of power. Law and order have clearly become dressing for those whose actions do not match their words and have little respect for the machinations of democratic governance.

The leadership talks much about developmental growth but whenever the members of the free press, such as Voice of America (VoA) or the Voice of Germany (VoG), try to pose genuine questions, either the telephones are not picked up or the audience is bombarded with the usual response, “we are working on it.” The local media does not have in this regard.

It is thus not strange that we have little clue of what is going on in our country, or what the government is precisely doing to better it.

One can say non-democratic leadership has several faces to escape accountability. The international community is never fooled by it though. They dig the truth from the subjects themselves. There are embassies which also act as watchdogs to find the fact by looking beyond what the authorities are comfortable revealing.

There is no denying the fact that authorities are trying to muddle the reality of what is happening.

Is the federal structure of the nation becoming an issue?

There is no denying the fact that it is. Even members of parliament are using their seat to call upon Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to give an account of the unrests in the country, particularly in some areas of the Oromia and Somali regional states. As many of the political observers report, the legislative body is taking on its responsibility after all. Perhaps, the tipping point for them was the unfortunate incident earlier this month in the town of Chelenko, in east Hararghe, adding fuel to the fire.

One thing is clear. Nations are built by harmonising communities. This takes a lot of effort. It requires protecting the interests and the rights of the people, allowing them to share from the country’s resources and economic development equitably. Law enforcement has a similar responsibility; they make sure that the rule of law is heeded. As for those that wield great power, they are checked by different bodies of the government. Of course, the independence of institutions is paramount, for they need to challenge those who may abuse power.

The present political situation stands somewhere below democracy. And as Ethiopia has come to witness a subsequent administration to the one that belonged to the late Meles Zenawi, but from the same party, not much has changed. There is nothing that shows that Hailemariam Desalegn’s Administration has done a better job to ensure better representation of the people or that officials are more accountable.

And the apparent fact that there is a power vacuum at the top of EPRDF’s leadership is not doing much to better the political dilemma. Bereket Simon, one of the party’s ideologues, from the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), one of the party coalition’s four constituents, has resigned from his post as an adviser to the Prime Minister for reasons beyond our knowledge. Abadula Gemeda, from the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), another constituent, also resigned from  serving as speaker of parliament.

Although he has acknowledged he would stay around as a member of the party,  his reasons for leaving such a post remain unclear. These political gimmicks give the impression that some drama is being performed on the political stage. Meanwhile, the situation in Ethiopia deteriorates.

Most of these problems could be solved with careful thinking. Take the example of Ethiopia’s currency – the paper notes as well as the coins.  A one hundred note is the same throughout the country. The state of being Ethiopian can be equated to that analogy. We are the same people in the face of humanity. We are all equal, and enmity is not a viable option for there is no adequate cause.

People may have their reservations when it comes to the government. Thus, they should be allowed to protest peacefully. It is their democratic right, as witness the writ of the constitution. This is not a hard fact to observe or deny. We do not have to wait for non-nationals to come and tell us what we already know, which I suspect the political leadership realises too.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Dec 30,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 922]



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