In 1992 Bill Clinton’s presidential advisor James Carville, crippled President George H.W. Bush’s bid for re-election; with the use of the four-word phrase: It’s the economy, stupid. The phrase, which appeared wherever Bill Clinton made campaign appearance, eclipsed President George H.W. Bush’s victory over Saddam Hussein in Desert Storm. By highlighting the prevailing recession in the US economy that resulted in massive job losses while Bush ‘41’ was in office, the four-word phrase “it’s the economy, stupid” was credited for electing William Jefferson Clinton as the 42nd President of the United States of America.
In the 2005 elections, rural Ethiopia, where over 80% of Ethiopia’s population resides, overwhelmingly voted for EPRDF and the other parties which historically aligned with it. Rural Ethiopia decidedly rejected leftovers from the Derg era, under the leadership of ex-Derg Agriculture Minister Engineer Hailu Shawel. Rural Ethiopians remembered their enemies; those who relegated them to death from starvation and disease; and rejected CUDP en-masse in 2005. That the Derg and their clones were even given the opportunity to run as opposition in the 2005 elections was a travesty, to say the least, in my opinion. Consistent with the saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, then it goes without saying, that If the enemies of Mengistu Haile Mariam were friends of the Ethiopian people, then his friends, such as his Ministers, were enemies of the Ethiopian people, obviously.
EPRDF earned the votes of Rural Ethiopians, because the party had made tangible difference in their lives by raising their standard of living. Being called a farmer is not a bad word anymore; because it is no longer associated with starvation whenever a drought hits. Now there is talk of two or three crops per year through the implementation of irrigation and other innovations. More varieties of agricultural products are being introduced to farming communities. New cash crops for export, which would bring higher profits per hectare for the farmers and foreign currency to the treasury, are being introduced continuously. Farmers are fast becoming the new middle class in Ethiopia. Furthermore, EPRDF has food security policy in place; thus farmers will never have to face starvation and become victims of Global Warming, ever again.
PM Meles was the first to admit that EPRDF lost votes in urban centers because it did not do enough for the population. The predominant issue in urban communities, especially in Addis Abeba, is unemployment and affordable housing, to name just two. It is not that the government did not do much; but that it did not do enough, in spite of best efforts by well-liked and respected Mayor Arkebe Oqubay. Addis Abeba residents elected Dr. Berhanu Nega as Mayor in 2005. However, he wouldn’t serve the people who elected him because he had other ideas. In my opinion, any politician who abandons his supporters is a loser; plain and simple.
Regardless, Addis Abeba has seen tremendous progress; and the evidence is there for everyone to see. The housing boom in Addis Abeba is overwhelming; with more in the pipeline both in the public and private sectors. To my Ethiopian compatriots I say: Don’t believe the nay-sayers. Don’t let them hoodwink you into thinking that Addis Abeba has not made great progress….beyond expectations. All it takes is just one visit to the homeland to disprove enemy propaganda. The Temporary Addis Abeba Administration is doing commendable work for the people of Addis Abeba; thank you very much. After all, Rome was not built in one day!
Perhaps the most pressing problem in urban areas is employment or the lack thereof. With ever increasing urban population, this problem will always be here. It is work-in-progress. It requires huge investment. Success in rural Ethiopia will also alleviate some of the urban challenges that Ethiopia is facing. Almost everyday it seems like, new investors are being introduced from China, India, Japan, Europe, you name it; lining up to do business in Ethiopia; in every sector imaginable including oil and gas exploration and varieties of manufacturing ventures. Ethiopia has arrived! It is about time! Nothing can stop Ethiopia from surging forward. What it means for Ethiopians living in urban areas is jobs, jobs, and more of it. I feel like jumping for joy! Yes!
History is being made in Ethiopia; and it is there for all to see. Dams are being built wherever feasible, on several great rivers of Ethiopia. The Blue Nile River is being harnessed for the generation of electricity, and for irrigating the vast fertile land of Ethiopia. In the Sixties there was talk about the potential for Ethiopia becoming the bread basket of Africa. Well, that potential is here and now. Our country will also soon become a net exporter of Electric Power (Ethiopia to begin exporting electric power next year ). No more threats and intimidation from Egypt! New Universities are being opened in many Ethiopian cities (http://www.ucbp-ethiopia.com/e548/index_eng.html). Health Centers are fast emerging.
Progress is here to stay. Ethiopia will re-establish itself as one of the most stunningly beautiful countries on the globe. Tourists will be flocking into Ethiopia to visit its historical heritage, which is second to none. With unadulterated rugged beauty, Ethiopia is on track to become among the world’s favorite destinations for tourists. I sincerely believe that Ethiopia, without prejudice, is the most beautiful country on the face of the earth, bar none!
The upcoming New Millennium Celebrations will be the ideal formal stage from where Ethiopia shall launch the New Century. The rest of Africa will join in the celebrations too. Arguably the oldest civilization in the world, Ethiopia will be a nation to be reckoned with, in the Twenty-First Century. Ethiopia will move in only one direction; and that can be nothing but only upward. Every Ethiopian has a role to play; especially those in the Diaspora, vocal or otherwise. Don’t miss the boat you hear?
It will be “it’s the economy, stupid” allover again in 2010.