The Contest for The New Prime Minister And the Way Forward in Ethiopia part four
By Orion Demame
Tigrai Online, March 20, 2018
The way forward
Ethiopia is a proud nation with independent mind set and own foreign policy. It does neither allow foreign interference in its internal affairs nor does it ditch to foreign pressure no matter what. It can take advices though. This was demonstrated by the US State Secretary, Rex Tillerson's recent visit who applauded what the government is doing including the Emergency Decree. Barack Obama did the same last time he was in Addis as well. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov also cemented the matter with his statement "Ethiopian politics belongs to Ethiopia alone". The Foreign Minister of United Arab Emirates was not scared by the current noise to sign agreements with the government. This happens only in Ethiopia because the world knows Ethiopia as dependable anchor of peace and stability. It is now preparing to choose its next Prime Minister.
In doing so, it shouldn't rush to vote the wrong Prime Minister and should instead take time to find the right one that the Ethiopians craved and the world anxiously awaits to see. The next PM could be from any one of the eighty or so nations and nationalities if he/she is equipped with the right attributes. First and foremost, he/she should be loyal to the constitution and be committed to honestly serve Ethiopia and Ethiopians. He/she should be intellectually, mentally, and psychologically strong and fearless in front of actual and perceived adversaries at home and abroad. Since knowledge is power, the candidate must have academic qualifications, world view knowledge and leadership experience including policy and decision making at a higher level. Should be confident always and have some excellent oratory skills that would enable the candidate to glide his/her way through at big international conferences and forums. Should be an excellent and exceptional negotiator so that he/she would be able to push Ethiopia's short, medium and long term economic interest to the limit. It is also preferable if the candidate is multilingual in foreign languages but important that he/she be fluent in the English language. Having said this, I will add the following that I think the government needs to consider:
- It should change the current method of choosing its presidents and prime ministers. I guess it may be about time to find ways on how to bring in candidates for these positions from the EPRDF support parties after all they are in the government. For instance, President of the Ethiopian Somalia Regional State, Ato Abdi Mohamoud Omar, has delivered remarkable results in all areas including security. I don't see any reason why he shouldn't be tried in the government while holding his party's chairmanship as in the case of the current Prime Minister does.
- The Government has so far been promoting people to high public offices including the intelligence without back ground checks on them. The ruling party believed to the "pretentions and look good for employment" strategies of the candidates and never suspected how mercilessly greedy they could be. The result was the wide spread corruption, injustice, bad governance, etc. Now the Ethiopian Government should start to use the most rigorous scrutiny method including psychometrics. The intelligence must facilitate this as, I hope, it has a wealth of database on the candidates since birth and beyond. All countries use this method and is nothing new. For instance, there can never be any candidate that would be considered to take high office in the United States without passing the FBI's and other intelligences offices' narrow security checks. Further, he/she must face the gruesome questions from the appropriate congress select committee. By the way, that includes the President as well. The next Ethiopian Prime Minister should also undergo such scrutiny.
- Lifting the previous emergency decree too soon was wrong. France's emergency lasted for three years and was lifted after it made sure that it closed all loopholes. Now that the Ethiopian Emergency Decree has been passed, it should go all the way until the thugs and their cohorts are weeded out once and for all no matter how long it takes.
- The current criminal code as it is, is too soft and needs revision. It is laughable to give prison sentence of only 20 years for someone that committed the most horrific killing on four persons and release him/her after only 10 years.
- Ethiopia should apply capital punishment (death sentences) including lengthy sentences up to 40, 50 or more years to organised outlaws, bandits and rioters that committed killings.
- Security forces should not be criminalised for doing their jobs. The current appeasement strategy followed by the government did not bear fruit. Instead, it emboldened the rioters to do more harm. The directives that come out from to time have crippled the police from discharging its responsibilities of protecting citizens and keeping law and order for fear of being tried for crimes. The Police Force should be authorised and empowered to take proportional measures that the situation requires anywhere and anytime.
- Attacking security forces, leave alone killing, should be a red line that should not be crossed at all. To protect and safeguarded out security forces, the government should be hard handed on the criminals and must face the full force of war time law even in normal times.
- One of the appeasement measures taken during the previous emergency decree was releasing 20,000 rioter prisoners. I was critical then and I still am. In the first place, they should have been under the custody of the police and not the army because the army is trained to deal with measure wars against foreign aggressors and wouldn't understand the intricacy and complication in the local disruption of law and order. Besides, the army is so kind and would treat the prisoners as they normally do to even prisoners of war. That is what they did, they fed them and even bought them white T-shirts. In fact, some of the prisoners were heard saying that they were on holiday treat relaxing and not detention really. The army would unsuspectingly believe to the false excuses, remorse and lies of prisoners. A prisoner would tell any lie if he/she knows that lie would get him/her released. That is exactly what happened. But those 20,000 released went to their villages became 200,000 and came back a year letter and here we are in riot 2.01. So, I hope the government will not repeat the previous mistake and should instead, with absolute determination, send the tugs in this round to hard labour in the remotest area that would crush their ego until the demons in their heads are crushed for good.
- The government's good will in pardoning political prisoners and terminating the legal processes of those under trial was not well received by the opposition and the offenders themselves. They saw it as a weakness rather than a good will gesture. Look to the amount of damage Dr Berhanu Nega has been enduring on Ethiopia since his release from death sentence under the pardoning policy. Dr Merara was received as a war hero and went to his constituency to organise his hooligans. He is now going from village to village including Keelem in Wolega, the heartland of OLF and galvanising criminals and thugs. How can one justify the release of Colonel Demeke who is responsible for the death of 11 security officers instead of receiving the death sentence? It is mind boggling. I think the Amhara and Oromo s leadership have gone out of control and are actively sabotaging the EPRDF. So, the government should pause and ask itself whether pardoning was a good thing. I think it is a policy that terribly went wrong and should be stopped. In my opinion, pardoning should be extended to prisoners of common crimes and not political prisoners.
- One of the most important roles of a government is to make policies and decisions based on the information it receives from various sources including the regional states. It seems to me EPRDF lacked timely and continues information on the events that took place in the Oromia State. I am convinced that the Local Government Leadership purposely held vital information from reaching the government. Since timely and accurate information is necessary to make the right policies and decisions, it is necessary for the government to either reform the media law or find a mechanism to bypass the state bureaucracy.
- I recall Shaebia saying "it will give Ethiopia a hundred years homework". Even in one of President Isayas' recent interviews, he pledged that he will invest much to fulfil his dream, namely, disintegrate Ethiopia. Well, this may be the beginning of the hundred years. Our leaders were naive to let the Eritrean Shaebia mess up freely in our country. In fact, it should have been Ethiopia that gave him a thousand years homework. We heard so many times that they would cut these fingers and those fingers, but the Ethiopian people never saw any finger cut. In fact, Isayas seemed to get more new fingers by the day. We also heard about a new Eritrean Policy that didn't come to fruition. So, something concrete should be done in this respect.
- The Federal Government through the Constitution has surrendered more powers to the regional states more than they can chew. The Constitution has worked remarkably well so far. Now it is facing stumbles. In my opinion, the Federal government shouldn't request permission from the regional states in any sort of intervention. Federal Law should always have precedence.
- The Constitution is not necessarily static. It should accommodate new developments and new realities. For instance, the Constitution of the United States was signed by only 13 states in 1789 but was amended many times. Similarly, those constitutional law experts in the government should propose amendments that would close all loopholes and deficiencies on the current points of contention and on potential sources of conflict in the future.
- I also advise the experts to investigate the federal system of Nigeria. They were less than ten states to begin with. Now, they are about 35 or so. Regional States should be reconfigured like in Nigeria for expediency.
- It doesn't mean that there were no conflicts before. But those conflicts were entirely caused on grazing land. Now other issues including border, ownership, land and infrastructure expansion, national working language, etc. have become sources of conflict. The creation of Oromia State out of eight regions (formerly known as provinces), that did not know each other except for the common language, made the Oromo State Leadership to think outside the prism of EPRDF politics to which it is a party. Now that they have the biggest budget, the largest investment, adequate infrastructure, plenty of education centres. etc. it went to their heads and want it all for themselves.
- OPDO (camouflaged OLF) has in fact become a staunch opposition to the ruling party and needs to be transparent about its agenda.
- What is the point of putting manufacturing plants in Oromia if it is going to be in flames? So, the government must start dispersing investments to all states and should not be concentrated in one state as it is now. Even some of the infrastructures, institutions and industries should be relocated from where they are now. Now that the roads, energy, telecommunications and institutions of higher learning are plenty and accessible in most places in the country, I don't see why not.
- The EPRDF government should have disarmed the citizens during the transition period back in the early 1990s. Now, it is high time to disarm all citizens that are not in possession of proper firearms licences. Moreover, illicit arms, drug and human traffickers should be given a lengthy sentence such as a minimum of 20 years. For instance, Singapore sentences death for anybody found with drugs irrespective of the quantity even if it is only one joint. If Singapore can do it, I don't see why Ethiopia can't.
- There has never been short of riot and unrest in the world but rioters disarming or even attempting to disarm police or riot officers is unheard off. This can only happen in Ethiopia because of the government's appeasement policy. The rioters know two things very well, that the security forces won't shoot at them and that if apprehended, they would be given "tehadso" and not punishment. I have observed that the security forces specially the Federal Police Anti-Riot Unit have good preparedness. I admire their dedication and good work in the most challenging circumstances. For instance, I saw them standing in the torrential rain honourably discharging their assignments during President Barak Obama's visit to Addis Ababa. But they still need to be better equipped. Rain coat should have been included in their tool kit for instance. Most importantly, if it is about protecting their lives from violent and lawless people, they should then be provided with modern riot-gear including anti-stab uniform, body armour, and gas masks. For instance, all or most of the 16 security officers murdered by the bandit Colonel Demeke would have been alive today had they been equipped with proper and dependable riot gears.
- The current budget allocation system is unfair, undemocratic, and biased towards population. This can be evident from the fact that the two most populous states are able to accomplish a lot because of their big budgets. If this continues as it is, the other states will lag even further. Therefore, the budget calculation should take into consideration the challenges due to landscape topology disadvantages as well as minority interests like that in corporate shareholders.
- It seems the Ethiopian Intelligence Authority is infested with people that are determined to bring down the government and unlawfully change the Constitution. The intelligence did not deliver their what is expected of them to the extent that the hooligans were able to chock Addis Ababa albeit for a short time. To start with, it is risky business to allow 70% of the intelligence community to be occupied by people of one ethnicity. This should change and change soon because if they can feed the hooligans with information today, then, they will not hesitate to sell the country to the enemies. It is now time to clean. Needs to clean the intelligence from the "wolves in sheep's clothing". So, I suggest that the government gives highest priority and mercilessly purge the OPDO and ANDM that are considered bottlenecks.
- Circumstantial evidence shows that, Ato Lemma and the OPDO Gang of Three in general, have access to intelligence information. Since Ato Lemma has been an intelligence officer, he may have arranged to feed him with vital information constantly. I suggest his network with the intelligence should be cut and destroyed.
- The behaviour of the 152 or so Honourable MPs' case should be revisited and measures to purge them should be considered. They staged a coup d'état and miserably failed. The Honourable Aba Dula also tried his best to give a hand in the plot. He unashamedly threw about 50 yes votes only to be caught red handed. I think he disgraced himself. Who do you believe then if not Aba Dula who has sacrificed in blood for the Ethiopian people as we know. Lemma and company are navies and it is ok. But Aba Dula? The government should bring this case to their constituencies and the latter will do the job.
- If the intelligence community are members of parties, it is highly likely that they would be biased towards their party politics and lose sight of their constitutional obligation. That is exactly what is happening in Ethiopia now. So, it is necessary that the intelligence community should be neutral and non-political. If not, we should then expect the current situation to repeat.
- The Addis Ababa City Administration and most of the other city administrations in Oromo State are dominated by Oromos from Keelem and the environ in Western Wollega. This gave them an upper hand to infest racial hate and ethnic discrimination among the none Western Wollega Oromos. They are also abusive and show contempt to other Oromos. This should change and change soon.
- Addis Ababa is too small a capital city for a population of 110 million, so something should be done to it. That is why the Constitution needs amendments.