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Deep renaissance: its cause and meaning

Deep renaissance: its cause and meaning

Bereket Gebru 09-30-16

After finding out about the misguided understanding among my peers of the meaning of the recently launched EPRDF measure of “deep renaissance” to rid itself of the problems of corruption and rent seeking, I have set out to investigate it and present a sound explanation. This article deals with the situation that led to “deep renaissance” and explains its meaning. To kick things off, however, I have opted to deal with the past fifteen years of renaissance as it was then that these problems started to brew.

The past fifteen years of EPRDF rule had “Ethiopian Renaissance” as a theme. Ethiopian renaissance entailed a period of rapid economic and political transformation in which the country uplifted itself of the deep poverty that has identified it in previous years. The political segment of it also envisioned a more democratic Ethiopia with capable leaders that put public interest before their own.

Accordingly, there have been tangible results in the economic standing of the country as it has managed to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. With a double digit growth throughout the past fifteen years, the period of renaissance in Ethiopia has matched its name. In this period of rapid transformation, the level of poverty in the country has been halved. It has also been identified that at an equivalent rate of national food supply per person (290 kg/yr), the Chinese economic growth gained the stability to increase sustainably for decades to come. Accordingly, the status of economic growth in Ethiopia is analyzed to be equivalent to that of the Chinese economic growth in the 1980s.

The agricultural sector has enjoyed a tremendous growth in the past fifteen years. To corroborate that, the total agricultural harvest in the country stood at 73 million quintals annually in the mid 1990s. However, the autumn harvest alone this year has reached 280 million quintals. During the fifteen years of EPRDF’s renaissance, the harvest by subsistence farmers increased fourfold. The national food supply has grown to reach three quintals per person annually.

Health, education and infrastructure development all enjoyed glittering spells during the fifteen years of renaissance as health and educational facilities have reached almost each locality. Access to all weather roads also increased substantially slashing the hours it took rural residents to access one. Electricity, clean water and telecommunication have also gone mainstream within the specified time. The social realities in the countries have, therefore, changed for the better within the specified time.

The political and diplomatic realities of the country have also largely benefitted from the rapidly improving economic and social conditions. The level of political participation has increased in the country as demonstrated by the increasing number of people casting their votes in national and local elections. Diplomatically, the country has also leveraged a considerable negotiating power and influence through its cooperative and mutually beneficial foreign policy.  

However, the rapid economic growth of the past fifteen years also brought with it the temptation to pursue personal wealth on the part of some EPRDF leadership. As corruption is a vice that occurs when the private and public sectors meet, the office holders of the party found it hard to stick to their social oath when the frequency and grandeur of these contacts became immense as a result of the economic growth. From grassroots to high level leadership of the party fell to the challenges of amassing wealth. The party was not oblivious to the challenge as it stated in its tenth party convention in 2015 that corruption and rent seeking threaten the party’s credibility and the sustainability of the ongoing rapid economic growth in the country. 

Although the party long embarked on efforts to root out corruption and rent seeking, the network those involved in these practices have put in place has proved stronger than originally expected. With the people increasingly frustrated at the abuse of public office by government officials and the resultant widening gap in living standards, it was a matter of time before the criminal acts of some EPRDF leaders reflected on the credibility of the party as a whole.

Accordingly, the popular demands for good governance ensued as demonstrated in some parts of the country. Apart from the violent nature of the expression of anger by the people, the demand for good governance is justified. Following these popular demands for good governance in various parts of the country, the executive committee of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) evaluated the major undertakings of the last fifteen years with a thorough deliberation on the rise of corruption and rent seeking behavior.

It was to curb the rising corruption and rent seeking in the party that cast its shadow over the remarkable achievements of the period of renaissance that the executive committee decided to launch a period of deep renaissance. Accordingly, deep renaissance is a move designed by the party to reinstate the sense of public service that characterized EPRDF for the large period of time prior to the recent surge in rent seeking behavior.

The period of deep renaissance is to be kicked off with a wide and deep evaluation. The solution packages put forward in deep renaissance include: staffing political office through merit and not mere party membership, raising ethical standard, implementing transparency, accountability and participatory measures.

Although deep evaluation is, as stated earlier, part of deep renaissance, the change of personnel who are deemed unfit for their positions does not constitute the big picture. Along with the merit based system proposed in deep renaissance, the evaluation would help procure capable personnel from either the party system or elsewhere that can re-galvanize public service to cater for the needs of the disgruntled public. It would, at the same time, be used to identify and get rid of those involved in rent seeking behavior. The understanding of this measure as a firing campaign is, thus, far from accurate.

Deep renaissance would also embed in itself moves to raise ethical standard. In addition to ensuring the promotion of ethical principles (accountability, transparency, leading by example, integrity, honesty, etc) in public service, deep renaissance sets out to craft a system that rewards ethical behavior and punishes transgressions against it. It would also ensure more participation by stakeholders giving them the chance to act as watchdogs collectively monitoring the actions of office holders.

In general, deep renaissance is a move designed to redeem the sense of public service in EPRDF and promote the creation of a system that works towards public interest and not individual greed. 

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