Worrisome Political State, Result of Incapable Leadership

I usually sit in front of my shop every morning to enjoy my coffee. Unlike most Ethiopians though, I prefer to enjoy my coffee alone, not in groups as is the norm. But once in a while, there is that stranger that excuses himself to start a conversation. It was one of those days, not long ago, when I met this individual who without invitation started replaying his entire life story.

I could not help but be interested though since, akin to everyone in Ethiopia, he started to discuss the current political state of affairs of the country. But just because I was interested, it did not mean I was not agitated either.

It is unfortunate that politics is devolving to identity, especially of the lingo-cultural sort. Although it is recurrently uttered that we are citizens of a single nation, and enjoy equal rights and responsibilities conferred by the constitution, it is rare to find that translated into action. Or that is at least how the populace has come to fill.

It seems as if there is a confusion. Ethiopia is a country of many different lingo-cultural identities, with a federal structure of government divided along those fault lines. This sort of structure indeed has many detractors, including opposition parties. And the popular belief that it has become hard to reconcile one’s loyalty to national identity to that of lingo-cultural definitions, leading to political unrests.

The consequence of this has been devastating. It is unfortunate that lives are lost and properties are destroyed – things especially evident in the Oromia Regional State. This is not to mention the hundreds of thousands of people that have been displaced as a result of unrests.

Reading and hearing such things is sad, especially if one is lost for possible solutions to heal the wound. No one deserves such fate, let alone those who are innocent and are simply trying to lead a decent life.

Unsurprisingly, pundits have come to attribute such a state of affairs to the sort of federalism the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has chosen best to implement. It is hurting the nation, and stressing their political future too. But one wonders if that is where all the fault lies.

“Ethnic federalism seems to be a good solution only if it is applied moderately,” wrote Jurgen Rose and Johannes Traut in their book Federalism and Decentralization, “in an atmosphere of democratic political culture, mutual tolerance, and the sincere wish to live together in peace with other ethnic groups.”

If that is the case then why is it showing cracks within the Ethiopian political atmosphere? Why is our social, political and economic status at the risk of failure? What could explain the displacement, the loss of life and destruction of property?

Perhaps, the problem lies in the fact that EPRDF’s political philosophy was imposed upon the people, with little effort to create awareness. Worse, such a system should have been put to public debate, or even better, a referendum.

The good news is that it is not too late. There is nothing within the current state of Ethiopia that cannot be fixed. Thus, instead of looking for answers from our leaders, in a top-down approach, we must rise up to the challenge to put forward our visions for Ethiopia coherently.

The current political situation is a bane on the economy. It will push the country down by channeling productive energy that could have otherwise been used positively elsewhere.

And the leadership is not doing much to fix this current state, instead of putting  forward more promises. There are meetings between senior officials of the ruling party, and the outcome seems to be a good dose of the same old. There was a time when it seemed like there would be change, where members of EPRDF’s executive committee declared that they should be held responsible for public discontent. Sadly they failed short of holding themselves accountable.

This is not to say that there were not some things that were promising. For instance, the facility known as Ma’ekelawi is going to be closed down and reopened as a museum. Even better was the news that the charge of members of opposition political parties would be dropped. At least there the government has put its money where its mouth is, freeing the likes of Merara Gudina (PhD) and Bekele Gerba.

Our leaders should thus find it in their hearts to listen to the people. Ask what the citizenry wants, and what sort of federalism would best suit the nation. Then they should work to realise that, or step down if they cannot.

Without the government having to reiterate, Ethiopians know that they are a diverse group of people who very much have the will to live in peace and harmony. What is remaining is the right type of leadership to lead us down that healthy path.


By Hintsa Anderbirhan
Hintsa is interested in policy measures. He could be reached at hintsa1974@gmail.com.

Published on Feb 17,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 929]



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