Ethiopia: Building Capable Institutions Crucial to Sustain Reform - Scholars


Addis Ababa — It has been a year since Ethiopia has introduced sweeping reforms that bring hope to its people. The reforms have believed to bring change in the political, economic and social areas.

The widening of the political space, which creates the opportunity for parties that even once was labeled as terrorists and exiled politicians to come back and take part in the political activities is among the fruits of the reforms.

However, lack of strong and capable governmental institutions and civil society organization has become a challenge in the efforts to sustain the change, panelists of the discussion aimed to promote dialogue and discourse said.

Scholars from various fields of studies and career took part in the discussion held on Friday in Addis Ababa on Ethiopia's journey towards democratization and challenges that the reform faces.

Panelists discussed on the challenges of the reform and how to manage those obstacles that could jeopardize the reform.

Ababaw Ayalew, Assistance professor of history from Addis Ababa University is among the scholars, is known to boldly discuss issues related to the reform.

Many governmental institutions lack the capability that is needed to sustain the reform, he said. The way that the institutions are organized, which he said is based on mediocrity rather than meritocracy, led to existence of weak institutions.

According to Abebaw, poor working culture among these institutions combined with limited human resource could continue to challenge the reform.

Building the capacity of institutions is critical in order to ensure the sustainability of the reform, which he said has initiated from within the ruling party.

According to the Assistant Professor, this problem is not restricted to government institutions. Political parties are also in a similar position.

He emphasized on the need for the political parties including the ruling, EPRDF to make sure that they developed the capability to shoulder their responsibilities so that to sustain the reform.

Dr Dima Negewo, a former chairman of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Minister for Information for a short period (1991-92), is one of the panelists.

In his discourse, Dr Dima, who is now a political and economic researcher has also emphasized on the need to build capacity of institutions in a way that suits the change.

He also underlined the need for strong and broad-based political parties that could contest the government.

According to him, the rising of ethno-nationalism, lack of accountability and problems related to economic and security issues have continue to be a challenge.

Dr. Semir Yesuf, a political science lecture agreed on the need to have competent parties which can compete with the government.

However, he emphasized the need to be abiding by the law and respect the principles of fair game and opinions of others, saying that political parties are currently engaged in maximizing their benefit rather than standing for the people.

"Democracy is not a gift from a government, instead it is a space that everyone can engage and exercise," said Dr Semir, emphasizing the need to mark distinction between government and party and avoid authoritarian legacy.

Dialogues need to be promoted to open space for criticism in order to build a democratic system, said Ekram Mohammed, a political philosophy researcher.

Since democracy cannot be flourishing without ethics, she emphasized the need to promote ethical practices, referring to some unethical practices of parties.

"Democracy needs to be understood by everyone and there is a need to be a place to any opposite ideology to be heard; that is to this extent that democracy should exist," she said.

Participants raised question and comments on various issues during the half-day discussion, which is one of the four discussion topics of the two-day event aimed at promoting the culture of discourse.

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