5 November 2017

Ethiopia: The Ethiopian State

Photo: Soman/Wikipedia
Ethiopia's national and regional flags.

Many in Ethiopia, it seems, have rejected the 2015 general election that saw the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its allies win all the seats in parliament. The unrests in the country, especially the recent ones in some parts of the Oromia Regional State, betray this truth, for a party that has an absolute majority cannot possibly face so much protest on the streets. Despite Merga Bekana's (Prof.), former chairman of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), assertion that the election was free and fair, the lack of international observers from Western countries points that there may have been something fishy about the landslide victory.

A state of emergency is typically proclaimed at times of natural or humanmade incidents, where the government would have the types of rights it would not have under normal circumstances. Its purpose is to create peace and stability until a substantive solution can be found for the problems.

And now that 2016's state of emergency has come and gone, is it not time to ask if it has succeeded?

The emergency proclamation, which was planned to last six months, was extended to 10 months. But whatever stability it had temporarily instituted has not lasted long enough. Here and there, we hear of unrest and conflicts which are taking lives and hurting the economy.

A couple of weeks ago, resignations by two senior officials were witnessed. This came after many government officials were arrested in a high-level corruption case for allegedly misappropriating public

funds. And the latest breaking news has been the unrests taking place in certain parts of the Oromia Regional State and the conflicts along the Oromia and Somali regional states.

According to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, the reason for the tensions in the country were external forces and corruption. At least he was truthful in asserting that unless the political causes are resolved, such violence will only continue.

In this context, the fact that political figures such as Abadula Gemeda (MP-OPDO), speaker of parliament, and Bereket Simon, an adviser to the Prime Minister in charge of Policy Studies & Research Centre,have resigned has created suspicion among the public that there are problems within the higher echelons of government.

In both cases, the news came from the media while the politicians took their time confirming that they are in fact resigning. While Hailemariam accepted Bereket's resignation from his post, the Prime Minister also announced that Abadula's request would be further negotiated. At the same time though, Tesfaye Daba, chair of Defence & Foreign Affairs Committee was reportedly being considered for the job.

Abadula's resignation at a time of unrest in the Oromia Regional State has created speculation. It is important to remember that he is a member of the Oromo People's Democratic Organisation (OPDO) and has even served as president of the region. His resignation may very well have to do with the tensions in the region.

But in a climate where the media is being accused of distorting incidents that need the nation's attention, it will be very hard to ascertain for sure what is truly behind these resignations.

I have myself once met him here in Brussels, the European capital. While I was talking to my daughter, he stopped to ask if we were Ethiopians. My daughter took the initiative to answer and even introduced me to him by my name. He looked up and said he had heard of the name somewhere. In that brief introduction to him, I was able to see a man that could indeed be touched by some of the things that are occurring in Ethiopia to the point that he would resign from a post as highly regarded as speaker of the Ethiopian parliament.


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