26 July 2016
Friendly but firm, a celebrated strategist, a tried and tested fighter of the liberation struggle and FDRE’s first Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Retd. Lt. General Tsadkan Gebre Tinsay, is known by his peers for “speaking up before he blows up.” He was depoliticized, in accordance with the Constitution in 1994 when he became a Chief of Staff, and demilitarised himself following the fall-out of the TPLF split in 2000. He is therefore entitled to opine on political matters despite the military handle to his name. Besides Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalgn’s “participatory and listening administration” encourages the general public to make use of the freedom of speech enshrined in the Constitution. At a consultative meeting held some weeks ago with the literati from colleges and universities, Prime Minister Haile Mariam spoke so vividly about the need for the public to speak up whenever they come across instances of jobbery, maladministration, abuse of power and rent seeking.
Gen. Tsadkan’s recent 13 page “The current political situation of our country and suggested remedies” (written in Amharic and in Tigrigna www.aigaforum.com) went viral on the internet and managed to spur a sense of utter disbelief from those who believe that the reality on the ground in Ethiopia is not as dark and as foreboding as General Tsadkan portrays it to be, while his analysis had allowed exponents of “just-in-time politics” (a form of politics in which ad hoc coalitions and relationships are built around issues instead of ideologies) to have an unwarranted field day.
This script tries to zoom on General Tsadkan’s declared remedies with the view not to debunk them per se, but to point out that his prescriptions, far from addressing the political crises would make them even more complex and unmanageable. Prescriptions must be in line with the diagnosis. As no good comes out from prescribing chemo-therapy to someone who suffers migraine, so too no good will come out from prescribing a remedy for assumed or actual political crises that the GoE is seen to be facing. While I make no effort to portray myself as a revolutionary with a proven democratic dispensation as General Tsakani, sheer common sense spurs me to conclude that his analysis has, intentionally or unintentionally, over-egged the political crises which, it must be noted, are being addressed by EPRDF’s ongoing rectification program. Judging by the concentrated and implacable resolve the general public has given to the Government’s no-nonsense approach to corruption, to misuse of office, abuse of power and rent seeking – the root causes of the political crises – there is rising sense of confidence – and certainly not lack of confidence – that EPRDF has now got things under control. It must of course be remembered EPRDF’s remedies are not effervescent pills which work instantly they are taken. The level of mandate the electorate gave EPRDF demands that the Government be given time to prove its people-based remedies bear fruit.
In his preamble, General Tsadkan makes no secret of his desire to lay emphatic stress on the need for nothing less than a paradigm shift to be on top of “Ethiopia’s political crises” all to be implemented “in line with the Constitution of FDRE” because he believes that the unfolding political crises demands that they be addressed not only by the party and state, but the opposition-at-large. His prescription, now dubbed “The Tsadkan formula” calls for:
1) The full implementation of the provisions of the Constitution.
2) The unfettered activities
3) The willingness by the EPRDF to accept the outcome of a general election observed by international observers.
This formula has all the hallmarks of an oxymoronic proposal. On the one had it pledges assurance, persuasion, fidelity and loyalty to the constitution; while on the other hand it introduces ideas knowing full well that they clash head-on with FDRE’s written constitution. Ethiopia is a pluralistic democracy where Parliament is sovereign.
In the May 2015 Election the electorate, secure in the knowledge that a divided opposition does not have what it takes to lead Ethiopia and mindful of the fact EPRDF delivers on manifesto promises, had returned EPRDF to office with a thumping majority. The fact that no opposition had managed to secure a seat in the HPR, may provide fodder to those hell-bent at demeaning Ethiopia’s own stride to democratization, but it does not alter the irrefutable reality on the ground. For far too long, EPRDF has been at the receiving end of blame and criticism for the weaknesses and in-fighting prevalent inside Ethiopia’s gallimaufry opposition, as if EPRDF is meant to be their nanny. The naked truth, there for everyone to witness, is that the great majority of the 60 odd opposition parties in Ethiopia are still in their swaddling clothes and therefore are no match for agrarian EPRDF in terms of resource, organisational discipline and committed members.
What kind of remedy can come out by turning our backs on the millions who voted for EPRDF at the last election?
In layman’s term what the General is calling for is nothing less than a snap general election, because in his learned wisdom the people of Ethiopia have lost confidence in EPRDF. Only time can tell whose prescription works best for Ethiopia. It is my humble opinion that our celebrated General has failed to err on the side of caution.