Doomsters’ Prophesy of Doom & EPRDF’s Prospect of Second Renewal (Part two)
Part one cutoff with an inventory of the challenges that ANDM must overcome
if it is to live up to the rising expectation of the Amhara people.
Continuing from where the narrative left off, this concluding part begins by adding to the list of multiple challenges, ANDM’s hesitance to combat rising chauvinism fanning the present rage in western Amhara regional state.
If anything, ANDM’s lackluster resolve to fight nascent chauvinism, particularly as it manifests itself in the guise of shifting blame elsewhere to hide internal deficit, raises eyebrows. Not least because the
EPRDF never pass-up any suitable occasion to remind party members that
chauvinism remains a major threat to the young republic of this nation of
To its credit ANDM has recently committed itself to promote Amhara
democratic nationalism, though the leadership has yet to flash out the
distinction between democratic and a not so democratic variant of Amhara
nationalism. Still, the effort is commendable even necessary, so long there is clarity that in the absence of workable definition, Amhara democratic
nationalism could easily be exploited to reinvent a mutant version of chauvinism. Indeed, to the extent possible, Amhara democratic nationalism could well serve as a potent antidote to the thinly-veiled chauvinism which in recent years seems to have taken hold of the ranks of ANDM. This is
borne out by ANDM’s ill-advised foot-dragging and mishandling of the Kemant people’s demand for self-administration.
The tragic bloodshed is partly a
consequence of unjustified delay in complying with the decision of the
Amhara regional assembly on the longstanding issue of Kemant autonomy. The costly postponement of implementation of Kemant self-rule in a way implicates ANDM in a slanderous tendency of catering to the local minority
chauvinist elements in its own jurisdiction.
The situation worsened as lingering bitterness over the acrimonious resolution of the Kemant question
reignited in the wake of the hysteria aroused by the over-politicization of
the Wolqayt-Tsegede affair.
As the crisis entered a critical threshold,
many ranking ANDM political appointees skirted the responsibility of playing a visible moderating role to apparently avoid the backlash of vociferous chauvinist agitators.
The slack in leadership naturally opened up opportunity for these elements
to put a conspiratorial spin on every aspect of Wolqayt-Tsegede complication with the clear aim of galvanizing the public to a point of creating an ungovernable situation. The of destabilization reckon that the
key to this end is to have the mass of the Amhara people finally buy and
internalize the old chauvinistic line of hate, which unfortunately passes
for political dissent in this country. Sad to say, dissent itself in some quarters of this country means demonizing Woyane Harenet, including in worst cases, the people of Tigari. So much so that one searches in vain for any opposition publication that does not impugn the TPLF as a tyrannical hegemon, driven by a vindictive motive of strangulating Amhara Killel.
Alternately the front is accused of plundering the resources of the
remaining regions of Ethiopia for the benefit of Tigrai. Witness how
jumping on the bandwagon of the current troubles, opposition satellite
television and social media mobilized the worst instincts of a sizable
number of ill-informed Amhara youth to prize ethnic prejudice.
Vulnerable even in normal times to external agitation, it is the alienated youth that lend itself to wreak havoc with no meaningful endgame in mind that in no way justify threatening the lives of third or fourth generation Tigraian communities in Amhara region. Who, but the sick, relish the disturbing
incidents of fatal attack on individual members of the Tigraiga-speaking
community? Neither can any sane mind can defend evicting the Tigraian
seasonal laborers from Metema, where incidentally Yohanese the IV of the
Tigraian House of the Selmonic dynasty died, defending the Gonder and Gojam
against Mhadist incursion.
Here it bears to keep in mind that blind trust in social-media disinformation is to a good measure an inverted reflection of the level erosion of public confidence in the intentions of both tiers of government.
The gap in credibility in turn explains the increasing mass gullibility to conspiracy theories that distort public understanding of the rationale behind every necessary policy measure that, at times, involves fleeting pangs as all change-inducing drastic steps do. Yet EPRDF’s detractors relish every hiccup not lest the current eruption as an ideal opportunity to cascade visceral ethnic hatred.
The worst part is the recent upswing in chauvinist propaganda campaign
may well have prompted an opposite reaction in the form of narrow-nationalism, rightly defined by the EPRDF as no less a threat to the federal system of shared and self rule. Though to uneven degree, this applies as much to the OPDO as it does to the TPLF and its active supporters. The latter’s reluctance to take a proactive initiative with a
view to bring closure to the unsettled Wokiyte-Tsegede chasm may not amount
to irrefutable evidence of burgeoning narrow nationalism in Tigray.
But it is hard to be certain that the leadership’s tailism on this score has
nothing to do with TPLF’s tacit pandering to parochial minority voices in Tigray.
Among whom some even think that Tigray is, as it were, exempt from
compliance with the constitutional obligation of accommodating legitimate
local demand for self-autonomy.
This monochromic perception of perfect congruence between the geographic
contours of Tigray regional state and Tigrnga speaking people is a commonplace misconception in Ethiopia which the TPLF to date has done
nothing to dispel.
In fact the studied silence regarding diversity in Tigray may well explain why the TPLF leadership failed to gauge the
sentiment of the Amharic-speaking community of Wokayit-Tsegede before the disgruntlement bulged into a federal problem. If so, the TPLF leadership
may have to account, if only by omission, for diverting from EPRDF’s approach to adjudicating contested boundaries between equally entitled claimants of distinct identities. Thus, neither ANDM nor the TPLF can justify their inertia in the face of a looming crisis by pointing finger at the claimant’s failure to follow proper legal procedure. Doubtless there is no other way of realizing the conditional right of recognition outside the clearly established legal procedure.
However, in times of crisis where
politics takes precedence over legal procedure, insistence on legal
formalism is at best unhelpful. It might even be contrary to the spirit of
EPRDF’s firm policy of privileging people’s interest over legitimate or
illegitimate claim and counterclaim involving demarcation of territorial
Contrary to this spirit, pro-TPLF websites, blogs, and pal-talks narrowly
frame the Wolqayt-Tsegede issue and mischaracterize the turmoil in Gonder
as a preplanned vindictive retribution against the people of Tigray. Sadder
still, the language by which this unwarranted reading is expressed is
barely distinguishable from ESAT’s hate-filled rhetoric. Lost in all this
is TPLF’s settled party line of combating polarization between peoples otherwise bound by a common destiny. Instead backslide to narrow-mindedness
is playing into the hands of émigré firebrands, responsible for broadcasting hate-message with intent to exasperate the riotous situation in western Amhara. Sad as it is, the degree to which hate- messaging galvanized rural folks, particularly in precincts of some distance from Gonder city proper has surprised many.
Not least the moderate interest-groups who propped up in the welter of the first phase of mass anger. With mandate, to be sure, to hold the regional government
accountable for a litany of grievance that in time converged with other special interests, to cause the present furious outburst. Unfortunately the first attempt to bring calm to Gonder through town,-house consultation folded behind a sudden flooding of Facil’s city by a gun-wildling rural crowed determined to have its way, if need be, by means of naked force.
To no small extent it is the presence of a menacing brigade of armed rustics,
who may have their own reasons for occupying Gonder’s main street, which
nonetheless stretched the limits of the region’s law enforcement capacity.
And complicated matters to the present disturbing degree, described by some
as a point of no return.
Alas, this remains to be seen, but in the meantime two closely related questions cry out for answer. The first concerns with the question, does the current crisis imply the end of the EPRDF? Whilst building on the first, the second asks, is ethnic federalism unraveling in Ethiopia? By a predetermined reading of the present crisis, many learned and lay
commentators alike give affirmative answer to both these questions.
In fact, on several media write-ups of the current flare-ups, one can’t but dismiss the EPRDF as a spent force with no prospect of even temporary revival. Yet this interested bleak outlook betrays unfamiliarity with the time-tested resilience of the EPRDF and the deep rootedness of the Ethiopian federation.
Not to mention ignorance of the number of times the EPRDF overcame daunting challenges both in the lead-up and
duringits25-yeartenure in office. Indeed a quick review of this country’s post-1991 political history at the very least suggests prudent caution before rushing to write EPRDF’s obituary on every seemingly intractable mishap.
Recall if you will the 1989-2000 intra-party fallout over ideo-political
direction that, combined with the breakout of the Ethio-Eritrean war,
almost brought the EPRDF to the brink of collapse.
Yet the EPRDF reemerged visibly renewed from experience to embark on a rapid development strategy that within a few years set the country on an upward trajectory propelled by sustained and sustainable double-digit GDP growth. Recall too the 2005
post-election crisis which quickly deteriorated into urban turbulence,
prompting many to downgrade EPRDF’s chances of survival to less than zero.
Again, unlike the main opposition collation that went for broke and
disintegrated, the EPRDF arose reinvigorated from the experience of
quelling the 2005 turmoil to win the 2010 national election by a landslide
on the promise of enacting a national renaissance.
As unmistakable signs of national renewal appeared, the tragic death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi unhinged the EPRDF as well as the whole country. No sooner rumor of EPRDF’s fragmentation spread amid wild talk of fierce power struggle between the
constituent fronts of the ruling coalition.
Yet, despite the tragic 2012 passing of the intellectual force behind Ethiopia’s impressive turnaround, the EPRDF rebounded from the death of its chairman –Meles Zenawi– to run
as a united front and clinch another stunning election victory three years
The whole point of rehearsing the story of EPRDF’s resilience is intended to serve as a cautionary reminder of the folly of banking on EPRDF’s fall every time riots breakout in this country. Granted the present outburst is in a crucial regard more disturbing than any discussed above.
Not, as many think, because the crisis erupted in the two most populous constituent regional states of the Ethiopian federation. Rather, what is more worrisome for the EPRDF is the social and ethnic background of the aggrieved whose plight, combined with multiple exogenous factors, precipitated the current round of flare-ups in Amhara and Oromia regional states. Surely, if an
identity-based claim in Amhara region could mesh with local discontent to
spur rural mobilization, the EPRDF is certain to take close stalk of the
corrosive implication of the situation to one of its twin sources of legitimacy.
For, by its own admission this side of EPRDF’s legitimacy stems from sustained partisanship to the interests of the toilers of rural Ethiopia. In the same vein, the EPRDF is liable to critically evaluate the
deleterious effect of the recent disquiet in Oromia. Lest further neglect erodes the party’s second leg of legitimacy, underpinned by proven commitment to alleviate the conditions of historically disadvantaged nationalities.
To the extent that the present crisis is ultimately traceable to disaffection within the ranks of EPRDF’ strong constituent social base, one can rest assured that a comprehensive rectification measure is already
being primed for implementation.
Besides, given its capacity to rebound
from setbacks, one can dare say that the leadership will neither rest nor
spare any effort to right the wrongs that conspired to dent EPRDF’s public acceptance rating. Yet, a caveat has to enter here if only as a reminder
that the outcome of the remedial measure to be taken has to fully meet the
expectation of the aggrieved segments of EPRDF’s constituency.
Anything less is certain to deepen public resentment with even more daunting
ramifications. On the bright side, however, EPRDF’s open admission of
responsibility for the underlying causal determents of the crisis can by itself be taken as half of the solution to the hemorrhaging problem affecting state and society in equal measure. If this stands, there is ground for optimism in that EPRDF’s appraisal of the crisis and what is to be done holds the promise of sweeping reform both at the level of good convenience and distributive justice incommensurate ratio to the present rate of demographic growth. Short of drastic change at each level, both the national transformation plan and the Ethiopian Renaissance are bound to stall.
Let there be no mistake, stagnation in a state of incomplete transition is liable to cause great public disappointment, even loss of confidence in the nation’s ability to breakout of centuries of entrapment
in abject poverty.
To continue with the discussion it is perhaps apt to highlight the two most
problematic issues identified by the EPRDF as focal areas requiring
immediate remedial intervention. Put in broad terms, the first concerns
house cleaning. This could begin by retiring gatekeepers, demoting
incompetent office-holders, purging corrupt elements, promoting
hardworking, able and committed party loyalists. But above all, the key to
a positive outcome lies in raising the standards of appointment of party
officials to government posts, particularly to institutions of service
At the level of state administration, there is no alternative to speedy incorporation of mechanism of best-practice of accountability and robust systems of transparency, particularly in the areas of land administration, state procurement, revenue &tax collection and vital public
service delivery. Admittedly implanting effective and efficient administrative modalities of good governance is as much desirable as it is indispensable.
But it is naive to expect meaningful result in the absence of demonstrable political will to drastically curb rent-seeking,
corruption, nepotism and patronage within the state/party governance
sphere. Blessing in disguise, as they say, the present crisis seems to have
rudely awakened the EPRDF to the urgent need of hardening its political
resolve against graft if it is to cleanup at least grand corruption: Lest,
otherwise, public confidence in the ethical integrity of policymakers drops
below an irreversible threshold of tolerance of misconduct.
The second area identified by the EPRDF as a background factor to the
crisis is lack of perfect symmetry between rising expectation and
sub-optimal delivery of the promise of growth and transformation. This gap,
however, cannot prejudice against due appreciation of Ethiopia’s impressive
state-led development performance. If third-party validation of this claim
need be, suffices to consult the World Bank’s January 2015pressrelease. The
release says: ”Poverty in Ethiopia fell from 44 percent in 2000 to 30
percent in 2011, which translated to a 33 percent reduction in the share of
people living in poverty”.
In the same press statement, Guang Zhe Chen, World Bank Country Director for Ethiopia added, ”Although Ethiopia started from a low base, its investment in pro-poor sectors and agriculture has
paid-off and led to tremendous achievements in economic growth and poverty
reduction, which in turn have helped improve the economic prospects of its
citizens.” As much as the government’s poverty-reduction strategy continues to payoff, deep poverty, combined with a bulging unemployed youth population, remains a source of worry on many levels.
Why this remains a concern can be gauged from there sent destructive rage exhibited by unemployed youth in Western Amhara and Oromiya regional state. And, from how this violent outburst preempted efforts to diffuse the simmering tension in Oromia and western Amhara through open-ended dialogue. Such behavior may not be terribly shocking in a country where more than 20 million people, mostly youth, live below the poverty line or even below than the income level of two-dollar per day.
Especially in present-day Ethiopia, where the poor are no longer resigned to a life of abject misery as a preordained fate beyond human remedy. In marked contrast to their forebearers, today the poor in Ethiopia, particularly youth, have become assertive in placing demand on
the government to avail them opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.
Albeit in times of distemper, the jobless youth tend to play into the hands
manipulators, whose only dream is to see this country go up in smoke. In
this context, it behooves the EPRDF leadership to devise means of
monitoring actual grassroots perception, reaction, complaints and
suggestions without overt reliance on administrative mechanism of gathering
data. This goes along with the need to broaden the scope of life-improving
To end in a positive note, one can confidently say that, so long as the
present and previous spats of disorder is in the last analyses traceable to
poverty, the EPRDF has what it takes to rise to the occasion as the right
provider of lasting solution to this country’s cumulative weight of
unaddressed malaise. Indeed an incumbent with an impressive track record in the fight against dismal indigence cannot fail to prevail over the last hideout of the country’s erstwhile foe – poverty.