16 May 2017

Ethiopia: The Revolutionary Democrats Are to Celebrate Their 25th Year in Power


Having their roots deeply entrenched in the leftist spectrum of politics, the Revolutionary Democrats are to celebrate their 25th year in power come May 28, 2017. Over the past quarter of a century, their leaders have had various formulas they thought would have legitimised their rule on a vastly diverse and highly polarized society.

From the age-old democratic centralism in their party culture to Revolutionary Democracy as a guiding ideology and from one party dominant electoral engagement to democratic developmental state, the Ethiopian public has been through these for much of over two decades. Ironically, all these have been political ploys in the interest of self-preservation, claims gossip.

For one, the one party dominant rule - although by no means new to Ethiopia for there are 21 countries in Africa with such rules - is a system that is obsessed only with electoral engagement with frail party challengers and is extremely hostile to other forces that challenge the might of the state.

No wonder the EPRDFites have behaved in such aversion to civil society and the media, seeing them as formidable forces to their dislike. As a result, a two-decade political history of Ethiopia can be surmised as electoralism. It is a concept where regular elections are done but favouring the incumbent; high courts and election commissions act in partisanship with it; political opponents are harassed and denied space; and the media ignores them. Electoralism is a political environment where the rule of law and institutional separation of power are absent.

Another significant threat of electoralism is the potential for the incumbent to conflate the party and the state, thus appointing senior party leaders to senior government positions despite the first unable to fulfill requirements for competence.

Though late, the Revolutionary Democrats have woken up to the damage this has done to their ability to govern as tightly as they have had it for so long now. Thus, their apparent reform agenda has brought forth lower ranking members of the party to most senior positions in the government they run. That appears to have caused democratic centralism to fracture, with many leaders in the party going on their own, making rather bold statements and controversial proposals, despite consent from the centre, gossip observes.

Such controversies have recently been fueled by an alleged leak of a "bill" on the rights of the Oromia Regional State over the capital Addis Abeba. A disputable copy of this bill surfaced in the social media sphere, leading defenders to stand up for it and alarmists discontented.

It was not possible for those in the gossip corridor to verify the authenticity of the copy of this alleged bill circulating in various social media platforms. However, much of the content inscribed there were propositions made by the OPDO Central Committee a couple of months ago, claims gossip.

Clearing the dust, a high-level meeting was held in Addis Abeba a couple of weeks ago, attended by chairpersons and deputies of each of the four parties in the ruling coalition, gossip disclosed. Lemma Megersa and Worqneh Gebeyehu (PhD) of the OPDO have tabled their party's propositions to which others responded in varying degrees of support and opposition, claims gossip.

There was not as such blanket rejection of the six or seven points included in the proposition, gossip revealed. Nonetheless, the TPLFites have shown their reservations on some of the points while the ANDMites displayed their support, disclosed gossip. The chairman, Hailemariam Desalegn, was favourable to the demands from the OPDO, claims gossip.

The meeting, characterised by some in the gossip corridor as constrictive and held in the spirit of understanding, ended with the decision for each of the leaders to take the agenda to their respective central committees for further discourse, gossip disclosed.


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