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DOOMSTERS' PROPHESY OF DOOM&EPRDF'S PROSPECT OF SECOND RENEWAL

DOOMSTERS' PROPHESY OF DOOM

&

EPRDF'S PROSPECT OF SECOND RENEWAL

 

                                                                       Genenew Assefa

 

In no one of the periods which have followed the revolution of 1789 has the national prosperity of France augmented more rapidly than it did in the twenty years preceding that event, but the French found their position the more intolerable the better it became.

De Tocquville

 

From May 28, 1991 to last week -- not a fortnight seemed to have lapsed without flurries of self-fulfilling prophesies of EPRDF's shipwreck in a tidal wave of mass upheaval. As much as apocalyptic premonitions of state collapse appear credible during spurts of small and big flare-ups, none however has come anywhere close to the mark in the last quarter-century of EPRDF's indisputable political upper-hand not to say hegemony. Apparently, the cassandras at home and abroad are not the reflective sort inclined to pause and ask why their countless forecasts of what fate has in store for the EPRDF never seem to hold even in times fraught with peril.  Nor do the blasé care to account for the failure of their hopeful projections of EPRDF's internal fallout much less mutual destruction between the four front   constituent fronts of the ruling coalition. Yet, despite the conspicuous absence of a sufficient condition for state meltdown, the ShakeHussein Jebrils of the cyber age continue to divine the second coming of the old united Abyssinia in the twilight years of EPRDF’s ''disunited'' Ethiopia.  No doubt this is easier imagined than could possibly be realized, though the credulous readily echo social-media prophesy of reversal to involuntary national reunion minus diversity. Apparently for Facebook addicts, distinguishing the difference between authentic and simulated fact poses a formidable intellectual challenge to their puny mental acumen. No wonder most are today taken in by the latest internet chatter of state disintegration only to be disappointed as the deadline of the forecasted cataclysm recedes behind a temporal twilight zone.

The irony is, the wider the gap between forecast and outcome vis-à-vis EPRDF's fate, the greater seems the trust the gullible place on the latest internet rumor of  nationwide rejection of EPRDF's politics of recognition, enshrined as an inderogabel right in the federal constitution. It comes as no surprise, then, that in the heels of the current crisis in Oromia and Amhara regional states there followed what can only be described an orgy of exuberant expectancy of an impending terminal point of EPRDF's tenuous hold in the remaining seven regional states and two chartered cities of the Ethiopian federation. Each said to be on the verge of bursting out of EPRDF's stranglehold to sound the death toll of the first republic bound by ostensibly unacceptable principle of unity with diversity. Obviously, such grim prospective need not be backed by any empirically grounded analysis so long as it is posted as self-evident truth for the avid consumers of imaginary narratives with no underpinning except kitschy montage and crass photo-shop. To the contrary, where the willing are concerned, any analogical allusion to turbulence- scenarios of a Mid-Eastern variety is just as good as, say, a well-balanced appraisal of the potential occurrence of a conflagration of a Syrian magnitude in Ethiopia.

 Such is the sorry aptitude level of the target audience of hatemongering satellite television. Run by fugitives, to be sure, whose claim to fame lies in nothing but dissemination of venomous message pegged as wisdom for the benefit of their devoted fans straddling across  the urban centers of Ethiopia to the wider diaspora. Lacking in abilities of discernment, the crazed fans of hate telecast, for which no one assume responsibility, seems to be willing to be had by their faceless mentors' dissimulation of the actual reality in Ethiopia. No wonder most eagerly ingest and spew every outlandish fabrication exceeded only by their own quarter-century-old messianic anticipation of EPRDF's total disintegration. Witness how the programmed are even more exercised by the latest flurry of wishful postings of EPRDF's ignominious demise. A certainty, we are told, guaranteed by the spread of the current outbursts of ostensibly intractable rural disorder in parts of Amhara and Oromia regions. Sadder even is that this same internet concoction of nationwide state failure is echoed, with relish to boot, by global media networks. With the approval, no less, of self-appointed area-experts affiliated with reputed think tanks, and syndicated analysts of prestigious periodicals specialized in international affairs.

There is no question that the present outburst in Oromia and Amhara regional states is by far the most serious and, by any measure, the most disastrous to date. By the latest count, the combined tragic loss of life in the two regions runs in the hundreds not to mention the staggering scale of the senseless destruction of public utilities, private investment outlets and personal property. If there is any consolation, it is the lull in the mindless rampage across Oromia, with promising signs of a halt to follow provided the OPDO regains its bearings. Unfortunately, at the time of writing the situation in western Amhara remains stormy compounded by fear of further descent into generalized chaos.  On the upside, however, even as the tempest rages on, there are faint but discernable indicators that the fury may well subside before the worst of the possible comes to pass.

 In the meantime, it might well be useful to reflect on the sudden explosion of indignant anger in western Amhara region: And explore what legal instruments that those at the helm could bring to bear on the pressing task of addressing the root cause of the crisis. To this end it is first crucial to disaggregate: A) the genesis of the contentious issue that triggered the turmoil, B) the particular variables of the underlying determinants of the disorder, and C) the aggravating secondary factors responsible for the occasional slippage of the mass outrage into hate-filled retributive vehemence. 

It is perhaps apt to begin by a brief discussion of the flashpoint of the present crisis ---Wolqayt-Tsegede- For years the mapping of this multiethnic district within the jurisdictional bounds of the Tigray regional administrative state has been a subject of local contention. Though the motivation behind the radicalization of the issues ranges frommisguided to self-serving, there can be no denying that responsibility for the deterioration of situation lies with the leadership of Tigray and Amhara regional states.  More so given that the question of Wolqayt-Tsegede is neither, as some would have us believe, an irremediable issue of injustices that calls for adversarial mobilization, nor a Gordian entanglement beyond the adjudicative capacity of the Ethiopian federal arrangement. In fact, the entire federal system is premised on recognition of identity claims, that had long rendered resort to other means of redress superfluous, if not, a punishable offense in the eyes of the law. Besides, the federal constitution has built-in mechanisms of reconciling competing identity claims and, in worst case scenario, of facilitating amicable partition. A case in point is the 2001 ruling of the House of Federation on the Silte people's demand for Zonal autonomy, predicated in legitimate claim to distinct ethno-linguistic identity, separate from the rest of the Gurage nationality. Perhaps an equally instructive example is the federal adjudication of dispute involving close to 245 Kebeles straddling across Oromia and Somali administrative states. Both cases stand as best practices of accommodating identity-recognition claims and addressing correlated demands for boundary adjustments between adjacent regional states.

In the case of Wolqayt-Tsegede, anecdotal evidence abound pointing to grievance against political marginalization compounded by enforcement of a non-people centered top-down resettlement activity amid a contested land entitlement claims. On the other hand, there is no evidence to support an express desire on the part of Wolqayt-Tsegede community to seek redress through proper channels in the manner of the Silte people who painstakingly adhered to legality in their pursuit of self-autonomy. As to all peoples, the federal law grants the Wolqayt-Tsegede community the right to submit petition to the regional assembly of Tigray regional state for redress or even for settlement by referendum. If dissatisfied with the decision of the regional assembly, the aggrieved has no other alternative except litigating the case in the House of Federation which holds the last say on the matter.

For reason broached below, in advance of commencement, much less, exhaustion of this clearly laid down legal process, the unattended Wolqayt-Tsegede case spilled over to Amhara region to devastating effect. As it turned out, the tremor caught the ANDM/EPRDF political operatives off guard. Particularly party representatives close to Wolqayt-Tsegede and the contiguous environ of Northern Gonde, an area of thin state presence where resort to violence tend to be an accepted means of dispute-resolution. Against the backdrop of rising tension, one would have expected a proactive grassroots-level engagement of the issue in question from the leadership of TPLF/ ANDM wings of the EPRDF. Or at least initiation of a concerted effort of awareness creation on the legal options and procedural mechanisms available should any of the Wolqayt-Tsegede communities seek a different jurisdictional arrangement.

Such a possibility cannot be ruled out a priori, particularly where residents at the interstices of boundary demarcations are concerned. Similar to, say, Wolqayt-Tsegede where identities tend to overlap, spurring at times vacillation when it comes to making decisions of belongingness in the context differentiated ethno-linguistic geo-political space. Be that as it may, it can be said that the present crisis is in part an outcome of a complacent self-congratulatory attitude pegged to the successes of the reigning politics of recognition and the impressive index of social and economic development. Complacency and the attendant relapse to reinter mentality and self-enriching activities played no small role in distracting the leadership from paying close attention to mounting discontent under its nose. Focused elsewhere, the leadership apparently overlooked that grassroots disaffection combined with the gaps in understanding of how the ethnic federal arrangement works, could be used to foment discord among the peoples of the Ethiopian federation. Whatever unforeseeable factors may have been at play, ultimately it is detachment from the needs and interest of the people that opened up opportunity for outsiders to hijack the Wolqayt-Tsegede issue. An issue that otherwise should have been addressed long ago and spared this country the needles death of too many not to mention the destruction of vital public-service utility.

How it may be asked discontent in Wolqayt-Tsegede could trigger riot as far as Baher Dar, sit of the Amhara regional state.  Well, in answer, the riots in urban hamlets of western Amhara could be interpreted as impassioned expressions of solidarity with the plights of the Amharic-speaking Wolqayt-Tsegede people. But on a slight inspection this response flies on two counts. First, there has never been an outburst of violence in the name of solidarity with real or perceived violations of the rights of Amhara communities, say, in Bedeno, Abomsa, Yasos or even recently in Gurdaferda, an incident which the Ethiopian diaspora tried to play up to a level of mass hysteria. Second, the solidarity argument collapse in the face of the fact that there are peacefully modalities of expressing solidarity that trumps destructive vandalism and spreading fear among Tigrians residents. Who could not be any more far removed than the next Amhara from whatever high-level decision-making is at stake.  Nay, a more plausible explanation must be sought elsewhere as the root cause of the crisis is deeper than the immediate percipient. Granted, the messy execution of the arrest warrant of a former army officer, reportedly implicated in illicit activity associated with the troubles in Wolqayt-Tsegede is what sparked the fury in Gonder before it spread to the western zonal precincts of the Amhara region with unheard of speed.

 In situations like this, kneejerk reaction is a hardly a substitute for a thorough appraisal of the underlying factors responsible for the concatenation of distemper across western Amhara. Neither is it any help to look for an alibi as nothing can explain away the turbulence as a mere function of Facebook agitation or as a handiwork of anti-peace troublemakers. Sure enough the inflammatory role of social-media and clandestine subversive elements cannot be discounted. Even so, exogenous factors aside, greater weight has to be given to internal administrative malaise if the mass rupture in the two most populous regions is to be properly articulated free from exonerative semantics, so to speak.

 This much tallies with the recent EPRDF leadership assessment of the state of the nation. Among other failings, the sharply worded assessment concedes that the ruling party bears the lion's share of the blame for the widespread mass discontent with government conduct. The assessment likewise regrets the party's own slack in responding to public demands which eventually exploded into the present lawless disturbance of no precedent. On the leadership's own admission, dilution of the party's founding values, corrosion of partisan ethos, deflation of revolutionary élan, and lowered standards of party recruitment significantly compromised EPRDF's public standing. This slipup is equally visible in ANDM, and as elsewhere, the combination encouraged circumventing standards of ethical integrity culminating in unconcealed rent-seeking, networked graft, rampant kickbacks and routine abuse of power etc.  In a word, corruption seems to pervade federal and regional state institutions not least land administration ministries to the determinant of EPRDF's rural stronghold. Compounding widespread corrupt practices, fostering cynicism, runs snobbish disregard to the concerns of the increasingly demanding agrarian population. Thus, a glance at the level of maladministration suffices to understand the recent erosion of grassroots confidence in the current leadership of ANDM including the EPRDF.

 To this must be added ANDM's hesitance to combat emergent chauvinism, particularly in the present context of rage in parts of Gonder and Gojam.  If nothing else reticence in the face of renascent chauvinism in the guise of externalizing internal deficit, raises eyebrows. Not least because the EPRDF never pass-up any suitable occasion to remind party members that chauvinism remains a threat to the young republic of this nation of nationalities.

 To its credit ANDM has recently committed itself to promote Amhara democratic nationalism, though the leadership has yet to flash out the distinction between democratic and a not-so-democratic variant of Amhara nationalism. Still, the effort is commendable even necessary, with the proviso that in the absence of a workable definition, Amhara democratic nationalism could easily be misappropriated as a green light to smuggle in a mutant version of chauvinism disguised in politically correct rhetoric. Indeed, to the extent possible Amhara democratic nationalism could well serve as a potent antidote to incipient chauvinism which in recent years seems to afflict the ranks of ANDM. To a degree recidivism can be gauged by ANDM's ill-advised foot-dragging or prevarication in regards to the Kemantpeople's demand for self-administration. The resultant bloodshed amplifies the unjustified delay in complying with the decision of the Amhara regional assembly on the longstanding issue of Kemant autonomy. The costly postponement of the ruling of the regional assembly in no small way implicates ANDM in a disquieting tendency of catering to the local minority chauvinist elements within its own jurisdiction. The deleterious effects of pandering to these elements came to full view as lingering bitterness over the rancorous resolution of the Kemant question conflated with the hysteria aroused by the over-politicization of the Wolqayt-Tsegede affair. Worse still, as the crisis mounted many ranking ANDM political appointees shunned their responsibility of cooling flared tempers, apparently to avoid retaliatory chauvinist backlash.

The slack in leadership naturally opened up opportunity for hostile inciters to undermine every attempt to disentangle the Wolqayt-Tsegede complication from compounding external machinations by wiled conspiracy theory with a clear aim of creating an ungovernable situation. The advocates of destabilization reckon that the key to this end is to have the mass of the Amhara people finally buy and internalize the old chauvinistic line of TPLF bashing, which unfortunately passes for political dissent in this country. In certain quarters, rightful dissent itself amounts to nothing more than demonizing WoyaneHarenet, including in worst cases, the people of Tigray. So much so that one searches in vain for any opposition manifesto that does not impugn the TPLF as a tyrannical hegemon with vindictive motive of extorting humiliating submission from Amhara Killel. Alternately the TPLF is rumored to amass inordinate amount funds by plundering the resources of the remaining regions of Ethiopia for the benefit of Tigray.

  Against this manufactured background, opposition satellite networks and social media mobilize the worst instincts of unsuspecting youth to partake in hate crime in the name righteous indignation. It comes as no surprise, then, that vulnerable to external agitation even in quieter times, as often it the marginalized youth of Amhara region who wreaked havoc with no meaningful endgame in mind. Much less a worthwhile end, which not even remotely can justify threatening the lives of third or fourth generation Tigraian communities in Amhara region.  Who, but the sick, relish the disturbing incidents of fatal attack on individual members of the Tigraiga-speaking community? Neither can any sane mind defend evicting Tigraian seasonal laborers from Metema, where incidentally Yohanese the IV of the Tigraian House of the Selmonic dynasty died, defending Gonder and Gojam against Mhadist incursion.

Here it bears to keep in mind that blind trust in social-media disinformation is to a good measure an inverted reflection of the level of erosion of public confidence in the intentions of both tiers of the federal government. The gap in credibility in turn explains the increasing mass gullibility to conspiracy theories that distort public understanding of the rationale behind every necessary policy measure that, at times, involves fleeting pangs as all policy implementations of transitions do. Yet EPRDF's detractors relish every hiccup not lest the current turmoil as an ideal opportunity to cascade visceral ethnic hatred

The worst part is the recent upswing in chauvinist propaganda campaign may well have prompted an opposite reaction in the form of narrow-nationalism, rightly defined by the EPRDF as no less a threat to the federal system of shared and self-rule. Though to uneven degree, this applies as much to the OPDO as it does to the TPLF and its active supporters. The latter's reluctance to take a proactive initiative with a view to bring closure to the unsettled Wokiyte-Tsegede chasm may not amount to irrefutable evidence of burgeoning narrow nationalism in Tigray. But it is hard to be certain that the leadership's tailism on this score has nothing to do with TPLF's tacit pandering to parochial minority voices in Tigray. Among whom some even think that Tigray is, as it were, exempt from compliance with the constitutional obligation of accommodating legitimate local demand for self-autonomy.

 This monochromic perception of perfect congruence between the geographic contours of Tigray regional state and Tigrnga speaking people is a commonplace misconception in Ethiopia which the TPLF has to done little to dispel. In fact the studied silence regarding diversity in Tigray may well explain   why the TPLF leadership failed to gauge the sentiment of the Amharic-speaking community of Wokayit-Tsegede before the disgruntlement bulged into a federal problem. If so, the TPLF leadership may have to account, if only by omission, for deviating from EPRDF's approach to adjudicating contested boundaries between equally entitled claimants of distinct identities. Thus, neither ANDM nor the TPLF can justify their inertia in the face of a looming crisis by pointing finger at the claimant's failure to follow proper legal procedure. Doubtless there is no other way of realizing the constitutional right of recognition outside the clearly established legal procedure. However, in times of crisis where politics takes precedence over legal procedure, insistence on legal formalism is at best unhelpful. It might even impeded EPRDF's people-centered policy over legitimate or illegitimate claim and counterclaim in contested demarcation of territorial jurisdictions.

 Contrary to this spirit, pro-TPLF websites, blogs, and pal-talks narrowly frame the Wolqayt-Tsegede issue and mischaracterize the turmoil in Gonder as a preplanned vindictive retribution against the people of Tigray. Sadder still, the language by which this unwarranted reading is expressed is barely distinguishable from ESAT's hate-filled rhetoric. Lost in all this is TPLF's settled party line of combating polarization between peoples otherwise bound by a voluntary national unity and common destiny. Instead backslide to narrow-mindedness is playing into the hands of émigré firebrands, responsible for broadcasting hate-message with intent to exasperate the riotous situation in western Amhara. Sad as it is, the degree to which hate- messaging galvanized rural folks, particularly in precincts of some distance from Gonder proper has surprised many. Not least the moderate interest-groups who propped up in the welter of the first phase of mass anger. With mandate, to be sure, to hold the regional government accountable for a litany of grievance that in time converged with other special interests to cause the present furious outburst. Unfortunately the first attempt to restore calm in Gonder through town,-house consultation folded behind a sudden flooding of Facil's city by a gun-wildling rural crowed determined to have its way, if need be, by means of naked force.  To no small extent it is the presence of a menacing brigade of armed rustics, who may have their own reasons for occupying Gonder's main street, which nonetheless stretched the limits of the region's law enforcement capacity. The upshot, needless to say, complicated matters to the present disturbing degree, described by some as a point of no return.

Alas, this remains to be seen, but in the meantime two closely related questions cry out for answer. The first concerns with the question, does the current crisis imply the end of the EPRDF? Whilst building on the first, the second asks, is ethnic federalism unraveling in Ethiopia? By a predetermined reading of the present crisis, many learned and lay commentators alike give affirmative answer to both these questions. In fact, on many media write-ups of the current lawlessness  one can't but dismiss the EPRDF as a spent force with no prospect of even temporary revival. Yet this interested bleak outlook betrays unfamiliarity with the time-tested resilience of the EPRDF and the deep rootedness of the Ethiopian federation. Not to mention ignorance of the number of times the EPRDF overcame daunting challenges both in the lead-up and during its 25-year tenure in office. Indeed a quick review of this country's post-1991 political history, at the very least, suggests prudent caution before rushing to write EPRDF's obituary on every seemingly intractable mishap.

Recall if you will the 1989-2000 intra-party fallout over EPRDF's ideo-political direction that, combined with the breakout of the Ethio-Eritrean war, almost brought the ruling coalition to the brink of collapse. Yet the EPRDF reemerged visibly renewed from the experience to embark on a rapid development strategy that within a few years set the country on an upward trajectory, propelled by sustained and sustainable double-digit GDP growth. Recall too the 2005 post-election crisis which quickly deteriorated into urban turbulence, prompting many to downgrade EPRDF's chances of survival to less than zero. Again, unlike the main opposition collation that went for broke only to implode, the EPRDF arose reinvigorated from the experience of the 2005 showdown to win the 2010 national election by a landslide on the promise of enacting a national Renaissance. As unmistakable signs of national renewal appeared, the tragic death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi unhinged the EPRDF as well as the whole country. No sooner rumor of EPRDF's fragmentation spread amid wild talk of fierce power struggle within the ruling coalition. Yet, despite the tragic 2012 passing of the intellectual force behind Ethiopia's impressive turnaround, the EPRDF rebounded from the death of its chairman --Meles Zenawi-- to run as a united front and clinch another stunning election victory three years later.

The whole point of rehearsing the track record of EPRDF's resilience is intended to serve as a cautionary reminder of the folly of banking on EPRDF's fall every time riots breakout in this country. Granted the present outburst is in a crucial regard more disturbing than any discussed above. Not, as many think, because the crisis erupted in the two most populous constituent regional states of the Ethiopian federation.  Rather, what is more worrisome for the EPRDF is the social and ethnic background of the aggrieved whose plight, combined with multiple exogenous factors precipitated the current spate of confrontations in Amhara and Oromia regional states.  Surely, if an identity-based claim in Amhara region could mesh with local discontent to spur rural mobilization, the EPRDF is certain to take close stalk of the corrosive implication of the situation to one of its twin pillars of legitimacy. For, by its own admission this side of EPRDF's legitimacy rests in sustained partisanship to the interests of the toilers of rural Ethiopia. Thus, if this is agreeable enough, then ANDM bears the responsibility of regaining EPRDF's sagging legitimacy in parts of Amhara region. In the same vein, it is incumbent upon the OPDO to reclaim its standing in the eyes of disaffected smallholding Oromo farmers in the outskirts of expanding urban centers in general, and Finfine in particular. Lest further neglect, erodes EPRDF's second leg of legitimacy, underpinned by proven commitment to alleviate the conditions of historically disadvantaged nationalities.

To the extent that the present crisis is ultimately traceable to disaffection within the ranks of EPRDF' strong constituent social base, one can rest assured that a comprehensive rectification measure is already being primed for implementation. Besides, given its capacity to rebound from setbacks, one can dare say that the leadership will neither rest nor spare any effort to right the wrongs that conspired to dent EPRDF's public acceptance rating. Yet, a caveat has to enter here if only as a reminder that the outcome of the remedial measure to be taken has to fully meet the expectation of the aggrieved segments of EPRDF's constituency. Anything less is certain to deepen public resentment with even more daunting ramifications. On the bright side, however, EPRDF's open admission of responsibility for the underlying causal determents of the crisis can by itself be taken as half of the solution to the hemorrhaging problem affecting state and society in equal measure. If this stands, there is ground for optimism in that EPRDF's appraisal of the crisis and what is to be done holds the promise of sweeping reform both at the level of good governance and distributive justice in commensurate ratio to the present rate of demographic growth. Short of drastic change at each level, both the national transformation plan and the Ethiopian Renaissance are bound to stall. Let there be no mistake, stagnation in a state of incomplete transition is liable to cause great public disappointment, even loss of confidence in the nation's ability to breakout of centuries of entrapment in abject poverty.

 To continue with the discussion, it is perhaps apt to highlight the two most burning issues identified by the EPRDF as focal areas requiring immediate remedial intervention. Put in a nutshell, the first concerns house cleaning. This could begin by retiring gatekeepers, demoting incompetent office-holders, purging corrupt elements, promoting hardworking, able and committed party loyalists. But above all, the key to ensuring a positive outcome lies in raising the standards of appointment of party officials to government posts, particularly to institutions of service delivery. At the level of state administration, there is no alternative to speedy incorporation of mechanism of best-practice of accountability and robust systems of transparency, particularly in the areas of land administration, state procurement, revenue & tax collection and vital public service delivery. Admittedly implanting effective and efficient administrative modalities of good governance is as much desirable as it is indispensable. But it is naive to expect meaningful result in the absence of demonstrable political will to drastically curb rent-seeking, corruption, nepotism and patronage within the state/party governance structure.  Blessing in disguise, as they say, the present crisis seems to have rudely awakened the EPRDF to the urgent need of hardening its political resolve against graft if it is to cleanup at least grand corruption: Lest, otherwise, public confidence in the ethical integrity of policymakers drops below an irreversible threshold of tolerance of misconduct.

The second area identified by the EPRDF as a background factor to the crisis is lack of perfect symmetry between rising expectation and sub-optimal delivery of the promise of growth and transformation. This gap, however, cannot prejudice against due appreciation of Ethiopia's impressive state-led development performance. If third-party validation of this claim need be, suffices to consult the World Bank's January 2015 press release. The release says: ''Poverty in Ethiopia fell from 44 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2011, which translated to a 33 percent reduction in the share of people living in poverty''. In the same press statement, Guang Zhe Chen, World Bank Country Director for Ethiopia added, ''Although Ethiopia started from a low base, its investment in pro-poor sectors and agriculture has paid-off and led to tremendous achievements in economic growth and poverty reduction, which in turn have helped improve the economic prospects of its citizens.''

As much as the government's poverty-reduction strategy continues to payoff, deep poverty, combined with a bulging unemployed youth population, remains a source of worry on many levels. Why this remains a concern can be gauged from both the recent destructive rage exhibited by unemployed youth in Western Amhara and Oromiya regional state. And, from how this violent outburst preempted efforts to diffuse the antecedent incendiary tension through open-ended dialogue. Such behavior may not be terribly shocking in a country where more than 20 million people, mostly youth, live below the poverty line or even below than the income level of two-dollar per day. Especially in present-day Ethiopia, where the poor are no longer resigned to a life of abject misery as a preordained fate beyond human remedy. In marked contrast to their forbearers, today the poor in Ethiopia, particularly youth, have become assertive in placing demand on the government to avail them opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty. Albeit in times of distemper, the jobless youth tend to play into the hands manipulators, whose only dream is to see this country go up in smoke. In this context, it behooves the EPRDF leadership to devise means of monitoring actual grassroots perception, reaction, complaints and suggestions without overt reliance on administrative data. This goes along with the need to broaden the scope of life-improving economic opportunities.

 To end in a positive note, one can confidently say that, so long as the present and previous spells of disorder is in the last analyses traceable to poverty, the EPRDF has what it takes to rise to the occasion as the right provider of lasting solution to this country's cumulative weight of unaddressed malaise. Indeed an incumbent with an impressive track record in the fight against dismal indigence cannot fail to prevail over the last hideout of the country's erstwhile foe - poverty.

 


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