By Kuchiye | January 7, 2007
I consider myself fairly balanced in most aspects of human demeanor. Keeping an open mind, avoiding being judgmental, believing in the power of discourse, self respect, respect for the values of others, sensitivity to real or imagined fears– these, in no particular order, are among attributes I consider important in any decent human being and in contemporary Ethiopian politics. Divisiveness, rhetoric, mediocrity, lack of dignity, name calling, holier-than-thou posturing and win-lose prototypes are among my turn-offs.
Recently, I swung into one of those “self-assessment” moods and tried to seek the rationales that made me Over the New Year weekend, I could not get over the persistent nagging of my conscience to continue with the “self-assessment” exercise. Hence, I began to reflect on why I find myself skeptical about EPRDF and why, indeed, the majority of Ethiopians find it strenuous to bring EPRDF into their fold. Here is what came out of my brain storming exercise:
- EPRDF willingly landlocked the country and surrendered the right of 80 million people to access the sea. By admission of its top party brass, EPRDF forced EPLF to abandon the peace negotiation with the Derg government and facilitated Eritrea’s independence.
- It surrendered the entire Eritrea only to turn around and fight an outdated trench war that claimed the lives of 70,000 citizens. This, over a piece of land that is of little consequence. In an even more perplexing saga, EPRDF surrendered sovereignty of that same piece of land to Eritrea - the Algiers Accord.
- EPRDF exploits the ethnic differences of its people as a weapon of divide-and-rule. It cultivates mafia-type interest groups in regional administrations fully knowing that once these groups are entrenched, they will fight not for the people they are supposed to represent, but for the status quo and for their circle of friends.
- EPRDF dared to take a chance at democracy but lacked the wherewithal to accept the outcome. By so doing, it squandered an amazing legacy that would have gone EPRDF’s way. The killing of peaceful demonstrators, the mass arrests, the ban on independent media, are not exactly the types of incentives that inspire confidence and popular embrace.
- EPRDF suffers from a clear case of paranoia. Therein might one find explanation for most of its shortcomings: political philosophy that is founded on ethnicism, propaganda strategy the boarders fear mongering, economic policy that endows the ruling party and its clique but denies the citizen, fear of creating political space to accommodate genuine opposition, habit of holding others accountable for its own ills.
- For EPRDF, human and democratic rights are inconvenient truths that have to be recited on world political stages to satisfy the minimum requirement of donors. How else can one explain the absence of press freedom and the totally suffocating political climate Ethiopians are forced to live in? Isn’t this the reason also why Ethiopia is branded as one of the most press unfriendly countries in the world and a leading human rights violator?
Here comes my fair and balanced side. No doubt EPRDF inherited some of the country’s problems, but it was and still is in a historic position to mitigate them.
No doubt, also, some progress is made in selected development endeavors, albeit in limited fashion. School enrolment, gross health coverage, road miles etc have improved in absolute terms but as measured by human development Index, which the UN says, is a broader definition of well being, Ethiopia ranks 169th out of 177 countries. That is not a record to write home about, is it?
The ultimate optimist in me says there is still time to right the wrong and to build a vitally necessary level of trust between all the parties who have vested interest in Ethiopia. If we dare to spell out what is important for each one of us and what we are fearful of, if we put down our guard and engage in decent discourse, if we show willingness to consider ways and remedies outside of our comfort zones, then we will no doubt be rewarded with a much needed breakthrough. Let’s try the wisdom of queen Sheba, the enormity of Yohannes, the benevolence of Menelik, the progressiveness of Haile Selasssie, the pride of Tona and Jifar, the cunning of Habte Georgis, the daring of Balcha and the humility of all our ancestors. What good is a generation that is not worth a legacy?