By Hager Selam 10-02-16
The Ethiopian people's revolutionary democratic front yet again declared an in depth renewal both in the party and in the government it leads. Many are pondering what it meant and tried to make sense of it all. As usual some are cynical and others are skeptical. Unfortunately and regrettably, cynicism has now become part of our political life and so is skepticism. No matter how one interprets it, it is imperative that we take deep look into the essence of the pronouncement made by the dominant player in the political life of our nation and of course, in our own lives. EPRDF dominated the political scene of the nation for a quarter of a century and it is here with us to stay. It is not a party that can be wished away as some may perceive or even wish. Our politics has lacked all the wisdom and also the very essence of the rule of the game. It is suffering from a short supply of basic norms and values that guide transformative and modern politics. The political scene in Ethiopia is driven by hatred, irrational, emotional and illogical outlooks . Worse, it is driven by sensational attitudes and utterance that are never corroborated by facts and evidences. There is no civility nor is it free from emotions. In such an environment, there is no surprise to observe all sorts of acts and manners that even could lead to serious consequences that are undesirable. Irresponsible politics and politics with no accountability are dangerous. That is what is being played out currently in our country.
No doubt EPRDF in this case is not free from the blame and should bear it's fair share of responsibility. Here comes the essence of an in depth renewal. EPRDF, as in the past confessed that, despite remarkable achievements in the last 15 years of renewal, it faced yet again formidable challenges in the process. It stated its failures, limitations and weaknesses in bold and clear terms. It also admitted that the demand for good governance and lack of effective and quality service delivery are at the centre of the challenges the country is facing. Use of public office for personal gains and self enriching is discernible among the top leadership, the party admitted. Political power entrusted by the electorate, instead of being used as an instrument for change and transformation, has been abused by some of its members at all levels of the leadership. That to me is the meaning of the renewal.
Why? For two reasons. First and foremost, there cannot be a genuine renewal without admitting one's shortcomings, failures and weaknesses. Secondly, only after admiring your mistakes then you soul search for causes of the problem and design the roadmap to redress the identified problems. There is no comparison to EPRDF in apportioning blame sufficiently to itself in the context African politics or for that matter in the broader developing countries politics. I believe this is a culture to be nourished and cultivated. Admitting failure is a sure way to success.
Then the question to be followed is what is next? One might be inclined to say that this is not new for EPRDF to make public confession. True, the party was involved in every sector of social, economic and political progress and is bound to make mistakes and sometimes perform short of expectation, especially at a time where there are demand by the public for more infrastructure, social and economic development and inclusive and equal participation.
In the renewal it made in the last 15 years, did it live up to its promises and to the expectations of its constituency? The answer, in my view, is in the affirmative. It is since that historical moment that the party articulated its democratic developmental program that gave clarity to development and democratic discourse in the country. That project undoubtedly delivered and continues to do so despite the challenges and limitations we witness currently. That is precisely why EPRDF came up with the soul searching scrutiny and self assessment to unravel the bottlenecks so that the path of democratic development is unhindered. That is why it called for an in depth renewal.
Experience and practice have taught EPRDF that renewal within the party was never complete without the involvement of the public. Healing for EPRDF comes from its electorate. That is where a loyal party to the will of the public refuels its energy and gets rejuvenated. That is when it rebuilds the broken bridge of trust with its social basses.
In the aftermath of the 2005 national and regional elections, when the party performed poorly in some parts of the country including the capital, it simply dug deep inside itself to find out why the public protested in the areas it lost in the elections.
EPRDf immediately went back to the electorate and engaged in a frank and candid discussion. The public never missed its words and told the party in no uncertain terms what its failures were. The two issues that came out clearly were lack of good governance and imposing programs on them even if they were meant in good faith and for good cause. Secondly, related to this was that the public seriously complained that the party was not listening to their grievances. It did not require sophisticated analysis for EPRDF to take corrective measures and win the trust of the public. Never in the history of politics in our country this has happened. We all know how the party made a forward movement after that renewal. That gives me trust and confidence in the recently announced in depth renewal of EPRDF. Of course there is this legitimate question that many raise as to how did the situation degenerate itself to this level in the first place? There are a number of factors that could explain this. Apparently, the top leadership in its traditional self evaluation ( gemegema) blamed itself for gradual decline in commitment, gradually transforming itself into a ruling class and less sense of belongingness to its social bases and being carried away by the achievements and complacence prevailed in the leadership. All said and done, can EPRDF genuinely renew itself ? Or what is the alternative for EPRDF and by extension to the country? If the past is the guide to the future, I would like to believe that the party could renew itself for two reasons. The party has a vision for Ethiopian Renaissance. It has a cause and even unfinished project of the new Ethiopia that we embarked upon under the leadership of EPRDF. The old system that reined in the country for centuries is gone for good. And yet the new Ethiopia that recognised our diversity and pluralism and that rightly gave the power and sovereignty back to the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia, needs further nurturing and consolidation. The task of making this gigantic national project is on the shoulder of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia led by EPRDF. That is why despite its limitations, the peoples of Ethiopia overwhelmingly voted for EPRDF and its allies in the last two elections. Secondly, the country is in forward movement when it comes to social, economic and infrastructure development. This is chiefly because EPRDF owns policies and strategies that are home grown and based on Ethiopia's reality. EPRDF, will make historical and unforgivable mistake if it fails to lead the country to the next high level. History will judge EPRDF and so the next generation unfavourably, if the party lets down the peoples of Ethiopia and more so the martyrs who dearly sacrificed their blood for this cause. The onus is on EPRDF and the party knows what it means and what it takes to halt the current unrest and reverse the situation with the full participation of the people.
Finally, what is the alternative for the country? I see no other alternative than an in depth renewal of EPRDF. Let us all, instead of promoting hate politics, engage in genuine renewal so that what we have built so far is not destroyed but consolidated and move fast to realise our national ambitions. EPRDF is determined to leave a legacy behind in the construction of the new Ethiopia where peoples, languages, cultures and religious diversities are celebrated and coexist in harmony and in equality. Prosperous, peaceful and democratic Ethiopia will be one footprint EPRDF intends to leave behind as one of its legacies. That to me seems the essence of an in depth renewal.
I am not in any way dismissing different shades of political opinion in the country. Surely the renewal process should be inclusive and participatory. All the democratic institutions including political parties and civil society and mass organisations should participate and contribute their part. It is imperative to note that pointing fingers at the ruling party alone won't do the trick. Others should also undertake soul searching self assessment as what their role was in all of these. I believe no body should wash its hands off.
Hearing the views of some of the opposition political parties dismissing the renewal outrightly again is not constructive. If they think that this is a short cut to power that is a non starter.