Recently Walta Information Center (WIC) released a rare video that showed a heated discussion between the top leaders of the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). This video showed a glimpse of a major shift in the dynamics of power and influence within EPRDF. The release of the video itself is indicative of the desire among the EPRDF leadership to be a transparent and open political party. But it can also be observed that there are forces within, that try to maintain the status quo.
In all EPRDF's history, the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has been the powerhouse and the agent of every bit of change that has happened in the Front. TPLF had the moral and substantial authority to lead the Front. TPLF had far more popular support in its base state - Tigray - when compared to the support that the other three parties in the EPRDF had in their respective base states. It also had the complete allegiance of the military. These substantial strengths, combined with its leadership capability and strong will, helped it maintain superior power and influence in the EPRDF.
But due to its unwillingness to change and adapt with time, TPLF is losing its substantial and moral strength that made it stand out from the other sister parties. The most important source of strength was the unwavering support that the people of Tigray gave to TPLF. That support seems to have started losing ground due to nothing but the party's own poor performance in governing the region and more importantly its unwillingness to change.
The majority of the people of Tigray is still committed to supporting TPLF and are expressing their desire to see a change in governance and in the leadership. This desire of the people is being voiced in different venues, despite the concerted effort by regional authorities to muffle those voices. The most impactful voice was that of the millionaire and philanthropist, Dawit Gebregziabher.
Dawit, in consecutive interviews he held with Aiga Forum and Ethiopian Reporter, expressed his frustration with the governance in Tigray and advocated for a leadership change. Dawit was very loud and clear in stating that TPLF is still his favourite party, but also that he wants to see change in leadership and in governance. The stand of the people of Tigray can be expressed in no better way, than he put it.
TPLF's 12th Congress was a good opportunity for the party to show respect for the people and its willingness to change for the better. But TPLF's response was a spit in the face of the people of Tigray.
To their dismay of the people, TPLF elected the same president whose administration was the source of all the governance problems. And rather than gracefully addressing the complaints raised by Dawit, TPLF's leadership resorted to attacking his personality. It is imperative here to discuss the major issues Dawit raised and how the regional leadership responded.
In what might be called the Meqele Project, Dawit requested a licence to run a privately funded non-government organisation (NGO). But the city's administration demanded that he transfer ownership of the NGO to the regional government when the construction of the building is completed. And Dawit did not agree.
Who is on the wrong side here? Why would the government want to administer the NGO?
As the name indicates NGOs are non-governmental. This brings us to a more profound problem. In complete disregard of the constitution, TPLF has made it its top priority not to allow any sort of civic organisation that is out of its control in the Tigray Region.
Even the once vibrant Tigray Development Association (TDA) could not escape this mishandling by TPLF. Today, TDA has become a mere extension of the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT) rather than a grassroots organisation by the people and for the people, as it was once.
In what can be named the Adwa project, Dawit and the residents of Adwa took the initiative to build a cultural center which would help the next generation learn about the history of their motherland and particularly the history of Adwa. Dawit volunteered to finance this initiative and even went to the extent of allocating the real estate that he had acquired for business to this noble initiative. The proposal was prepared and submitted to the regional government.
But the project was halted by the regional government for unknown reasons. The regional government has not given any official response to the open accusations of Dawit. Instead, TPLF leadership resorted to attacking his personality. The attack on Dawit by TPLF's leadership may help stifle Dawit but it will not hide the problem below the tip of the iceberg. In his interviews, Dawit pointed to the tip of the iceberg but the people know that the problem is way bigger than that.
The recently released video that shows the discussion EPRDF leadership had regarding poor governance, has brought a new twist to the issue Dawit raised. Sekoture Getachew of the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) correctly reported the findings of the investigative committee, and brought the issue the people of Adwa raised as an example.
The key thing to note here is that what the investigative committee reported, is what it collected from the people in suggestion boxes and survey questionnaires. So the people of Adwa are complaining that they are not happy about the regional government's decision to halt the Adwa project.
Irritated by Sekoture's report, the Minister of Communications & Information Technology (MoCIT), with a deputy prime ministerial portfolio to coordinate the economic cluster, and vice chairman of TPLF Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD), utterly declared that the issue of Adwa was resolved by firing some administrators who cooperated with Dawit and that the government has opened a corruption case on this issue. For those who can read between the lines, Debretsion is threatening Dawit with governmental retaliation against him, if he does not stop resisting. This statement declared that the initiative to solve the governance problem is dead on arrival for the people of Tigray.
In a graceful and diplomatic way, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn tried to remind Debretsion that this is the people complaining and even if the issue is resolved now, the fact that it took four years to resolve the issue is unacceptable.
Kudos to Prime Minister Hailemariam for trying to push the EPRDF's leadership to take the people's complaint and internalize the problems. It ignites a torch of hope to see the Premier trying to transform the Front into an open and accountable political organisation. What is saddening, is to see TPLF being a hindrance to, instead of an agent of such a change.
Mersea Kidan Is Senior Manager in a Manufacturing Company Based in United States. He Can Be Contacted At Mersea.firstname.lastname@example.org.