Monday,20 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1386, (22 - 28 March 2018)
Monday,20 May, 2019
Issue 1386, (22 - 28 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Peaceful reform will see Ethiopia through dynamic political moment

Peaceful reform will see Ethiopia through dynamic    political moment
Peaceful reform will see Ethiopia through dynamic political moment

For the first time in Ethiopian history, a head of government has tendered a resignation letter to leave office through a peaceful process.

On the one hand, Prime Minister Hailemariam’s decision to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power shows the political maturity and integrity in a continent that is often characterised as being ruled by strongmen (“presidents for life”). On the other hand, his bold decision to give way political power to another leader offered an opportunity for the ruling party to explore additional perspectives in the political reform and renewal process it has been undertaking for a little over a year now.

While this is the reality, a few casual observers in the foreign media have opted to characterise the political changes in Ethiopia and the current dynamics on the ground in divisive and ethnic terms. Ahmed Amal’s article published on Al-Ahram Weekly’s Website in the edition dated 8 March 2018 under the title “Ethiopia after Desalegn” is not different. It misrepresents the political situation in the country by generalising based on stereotypes, while making bold predictions founded on tenuous empirical foundations from the typical stereotypes and perhaps oversimplified approach towards the interpretations of the political and social dynamics of Ethiopia and for that matter Africa.

The article contains numerous factual errors and erroneous assumptions about Ethiopia — a country that prides itself on its diversity and the unity of its people. Leaving aside the sinister motivations one might insinuate from the flavour and slant of the article — namely, the international misrepresentation of political realities for underlying geopolitical aspirations — I would rather focus on separating the facts from the falsehoods for the benefit of your readers.

The central objective of the article seems to be to make the reader believe that one nation (ethnic group) among the 86 or more nationalities (ethnic groups) of Ethiopia, dominate all political and economic structures in the country and, in turn, control the entire fabric of the Ethiopian polity. This assumption is not only erroneous but an insult to the collective values and norms of Ethiopia and its people.

To depict Ethiopia as merely a collection of separate and fragmented ethnic nationalities is not only wrong but an absolute denial of the thousands of years of statehood that it has enjoyed throughout its history. It is true that there have been violent transitions of power in our history, as is common in the histories of almost all countries in the world. Yes, we have also experienced the most brutal military dictatorship and also armed insurrections in the past; however, all these transitions have never been stipulated and conducted at the expense of the collective pride and unity of Ethiopia.

In order to properly understand the dynamic political moment Ethiopia is currently facing, one must appreciate the essential driving factors of change, as well as account for the social and cultural fabrics that sustains and keeps society moving forward.

The causes for the protest and disturbances are neither the monopolisation of political and economic resources by a single ethnic group nor the mistrust of one ethnic group over the other, as alluded by the author. The main reasons include a lack of good governance and the failure to deal with public demands in an expeditious manner; the rise of rent seeking behaviour in public and political life; the practice of corruption and mismanagement of public funds; growing youth unemployment and the inability to leverage the demographic dividend for further growth; outstanding questions related to self-administrations and the apathy of local officials in addressing rights enshrined under the constitution; and, finally, the growing demand for better services and the equitable distributions of resources.

These are the main challenges that the ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), and the incoming prime minister will steadfastly address in an all-inclusive manner in the weeks and months to come.
The other point that is often based on fabrication and maliciously presented is the claim of the dominance of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) within the EPRDF.

This fairy tale has been espoused widely for malevolent political ends for many years. In fact, the governing EPRDF is comprised of four political parties from four regional states with shared political ideology, principles and objectives. Alluding the dominance of one party over the other three partners — who represent millions of constituents — is patronising to say the least.

Overall, Ethiopia has courageously faced the challenges posed by the recent resignation of the prime minister. However, managing a transition with continuity and stability is not uncharted territory in the history of the Ethiopian political experience. We have encountered it in the past and will certainly face it in the future, with new aspirations and greater demands.

Even during this period of change, sustaining our values with dignity and moderation has not been lost in our collective memories. We welcome messages of goodwill from our friends but we have also learned, over the years, the difference between constructive advice and destructive deceits. Ethiopia, and its proud people are stronger than the problems they face today, and will overcome and prevail through unity not division.

Taye AtskeSelasie, ambassador of Ethiopia to Egypt

Editor’s note: This piece constitutes a response to an article published in Al-Ahram Weekly two weeks ago. It is published as is, unaltered bar minor grammatical points, because the Weekly respects and upholds the right to reply.

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