EPRDF versus rudderless populism
By Dilwenberu Nega
Tigrai Online, Ethiopian News, August 25, 2016
This week two recent news items from Ethiopia had captured my attention. Both contained prescriptions for the ongoing standoff between the EPRDF government and a rudderless populist movement which, by the look of it, is hell-bent on trying to mug the nation’s developmental democratic system by resorting to unauthorised street demonstrations, strikes and sit-ins. Now just pause for a moment and imagine if Ethiopia were run on populist reactions to current affairs – say by referendums on every issue. Would the outcome not be anarchic and chaotic? You only have to look at what the referendum for Brexit did to the United Kingdom. Brits have already come to rue the day they voted for Brexit. Besides what will happen to Ethiopia under an ochlocracy rule (government by the mass of people)?
The first news item which instilled in me a sense of confidence that a breakthrough to the current standoff between the Government and sporadic street demonstrators was in sight came in the form a Communique issued by The Executive Committee of EPRDF, following a meeting called to critically examine the party’s strengths and weakness, achievements and failures since EPRDF had reformed itself 15 years ago. To me and to many sober-minded observers, this action by the ruling party is not only timely, but it is a sure sign of the Government’s dogged determination to address what itself has described are “legitimate grievances of the people.”
Here then is a Government which demonstrated a commendable sense of humility and courage by critically looking at its performance over the years and reach the conclusion that while some of the demands by the populist movement are legitimate, it would not tolerate attempts by forces from within and without to hijack the original grievances of the demonstrators in order to advance their own hidden agenda of seizing power through the backdoor.
Mind you, while the EPRDF is not new to the culture of looking inwards – self-criticism and reappraisal –the prevailing circumstances it is confronted with today must have forced the Executive Committee to be brutally honest with itself, if its objective of detoxifying the party and government from the scourges of maladministration, from abuse of power, from corrupt practices, from the proclivities to jobbery, to old school network, to toadyism, to chauvinism and to parochialism were to be crowned with success. Moreover, The Communique also highlighted on the Government’s resolve to embark on a pruning process (euphemism for a purge) in the New Ethiopian Year in order to ensure that a revamped EPRDF will be best equipped for the challenges ahead. This friendly but firm approach by the Government appeals to reason, and one only hopes the forces of destruction would have the grace to pause and rethink on what more they expect from the Government.
However, it is with the second news item - an Amharic editorial in one of Addis Ababa’s daily newspaper, “Reporter” – that I have a digestion problem with. It urges dialogue between the Government and “all those who are concerned about the nation’s future.” In principle, and in an ideal situation, dialogue is an indispensable ingredient to conflict resolution. The trouble, in as far as the ongoing standoff between the Government and the rudderless populist movement is concerned, is the fact that we are dealing with a rather precarious circumstances in which a populist movement without a leader and visionless has taken recourse to street violence. The Government has therefore no partner in peace. It would be an exercise in futility, would it not, to engage in talks with vuvuzela demonstrators.
With regards to Ethiopians abroad particularly the cyber warriors, the cyber bullies and arm the chair politicians who churn out rules of engagements to Ethiopia’s gullible youth, the Government must continue to ignore them. Firstly, their objective is to ventilate hate politics on cyber-space, so that the country becomes a bonfire waiting to happen. Secondly, mindful of the fact that under the present Constitution, it is only Ethiopian citizens who are entitled to vote and be voted, they try to create an anarchic environment in an attempt to arm-lock the EPRDF Government into accepting them as a power to be reckoned with. Thirdly, you must not lose sight of the fact those who shout the loudest among the diaspora are invariably serving the interest of Ethiopia’s traditional enemies whose objectives are to dismember Ethiopia into their mini vassal states.
The nation now awaits two major undertakings. The Government must swiftly show its no-nonsense approach by delivering its pledge to spring-clean its house. The rudderless populist movement, on the other hand, has to come to its senses and realise that a gulf yawns between opposing a ruling party, and opposing the national interest of Ethiopia by demonstrating to the nation a high degree of tolerance.
No sober-minded person would therefore say, as good-old Professor Mesfin W. Mariam had said recently: “Let Ethiopia bleed, for she had bled before and recovered.”