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Fifteen Years of Renewal: Opportunities and Challenges

Fifteen Years of Renewal: Opportunities and Challenges


By Yinager Ewnetu 10-06-16


Making good on the declared deep renewal is anxiously awaited by both the supporters and opponents of EPRDF.  Despite the fact that it made tremendous progress in all spheres of life of Ethiopians in general and its constituencies in particular, formidable  challenges are overshadowing the achievements. The fact that EPRDF led government registered unprecedented social, economic and political progress in the history of the country is not a matter  for debate. The results speak for themselves. For those who do not wish to admit this fact, it is there in the good books of the international organizations.


 The changes in the country are vividly seen by a casual observer. This is evident   in the rural areas where overwhelming majority of Ethiopians reside. Change in household income as a result of concerted efforts by the extension services provided by the government increased production and productivity. Today close to 55% of  Ethiopian  farmers are commercialized and they are connected to the global markets. Thanks to expansion in access to education and education facilities and infrastructure, 28 million students are in school at all levels. Clearly, there is no doubt  more work is needed to improve quality in education which is the top preoccupation of the sector now.


 Similar endeavors have been put in health sector and the country achieved MDGs, in some cases far early than the targeted dates. Urban development and governance program performed relatively well and the pressing needs of the urban centers were addressed in the last fifteen years. Although the success is far from satisfaction, when it comes to fight against rent seeking, achievements in job creation,  SME and housing and infrastructure were significant by any standard.


 Special  program was designed for our pastoralist communities where their life style was given due consideration and it is gratifying to observe how life has been changing in those communities. Developing huge infrastructure projects that could carry the economy is another area where  remarkable work was done in the past 15 years. Those who do not believe in data presented by official and international sources, they can see them with their own eyes. There is no need to call witnesses to testify than those who benefited from the programs. No little effort was exerted  in areas of democratization but the pace with which democratization was advancing leaves a lot be desired. This is found unsatisfactory in the eyes of both the ruling party and of course in the views of  the public opinion and our partners. This is an area where serious analysis and work needs to be done. It is worthwhile to labor a bit why there is such a gap. Does it have to do with the  attitude of the citizenry?  Or does it have to do with lack of strong democratic institutions and culture of democracy?


The first renewal gave clarity in defining democratic developmental state in Ethiopia. Unlike other developmental states, ours was democratic developmental state believing  that development alone cannot manage our diversity. Democracy was given prominence and democratization was set in motion. Several efforts have been deployed. However,  the result  is far from adequate. Therefore, it goes without saying that work on consolidation of democracy is ought take enough focus and attention. The two pillars of strengthening  democratic institutions and building the culture of democracy are of paramount importance and significance.


The fact that democratic developmental program and the resultant policies and strategies are still relevant and valid and this is still an opportunity for EPRDF led government. As reiterated by EPRDF, the efficient and effective delivery is a matter of life and death and  ought to be an overarching  concern of the recently declared deep renewal. What is holding us back from fully delivering the provisions of the home grown policies and strategies? EPRDF without, if and but should find answer to  this burning issue adequately. Merit and competence based human resource is a key ingredient in the effective discharge of good governance and service delivery. For any progressive government this is, I believe,  unavoidable. Merit and competence is not in contradiction with fair and just representation. However, there should not be  representation at the expense of merit, profession and competence. Alternatively, political leadership and civil team could also be given policy matters and civil services, with clear line of accountability, transparency  and responsibility.


One thing EPRDF must consider seriously is that its constituency cannot be taken for granted any more.  While EPRDF's  social basis is well aware of what EPRDF has brought to it and the country, it is not ready to hear its talk without concrete actions. In other words, they surely want EPRDF to walk the talk, when it comes to good governance, fight against corruption, efficient and effective service delivery and making the growth more inclusive. The repeated argument about GINI coefficient and talk of high and fast growth cannot be understood to the 22 million who are under poverty line and to those graduates without  decent job. Good governance movement for the last several years and 15 years reform should be visible to the ordinary citizen who is forced to pay for services that was supposed to be given for free. Prudent use of tax payers money is not for compromise.


Political participation and political space is the value EPRDF fought for and enshrined in our constitution because of our conviction and not  because it was imposed on us. Now with all its political commitment to do good on its policies and promises, EPRDF lacked the necessary capacity to deliver. The lesson for EPRDF is that it should not only look for capacity inside its membership. It  would be inconceivable that a  country of 100 million could be in a short supply of competent bureaucracy. Government policy could be ideological but delivery of good governance should not be ideologically driven. Hope that enough  lessons  are learnt, even if it is hard way, seriously. In addressing  public  grievances, EPRDF must make  sure that there is no disconnect between  public demand its renewal, which otherwise could lead to further credibility gap. It is time to really establish the legitimate concerns and address them decisively. The rest of the demands  should also be addressed in a very convincing manner. That is the challenging facing EPRDF.


The  fact that there were unrest in the two largest regions of Ethiopia does not necessarily mean that the overwhelming majority in those two regional states and the rest of the regions are against the system and the constitution that gave recognition and protection to their identity, culture, language, group rights and religion. They are the ones, through their representatives who ratified the constitution and the federal system. It is up to them to take upon themselves whether they wish to sustain the system or have another arrangement. However, there is no need to do anything through street violence and loss of life and destruction of our meager resources.


The constitution has all the necessary safety bulbs to addressing grievances without resorting to violence. There is civilized and modern way of handling our grievances and demands. Who  do we really  please by fighting each other? EPRDF is not above the law nor is it above the the peoples of Ethiopia. This is a party that tolls day and night to make itself irrelevant by transforming our society. Why should we sacrifice our forward movement over  the  challenges that we can collectively  overcome?  Wisdom and calm is needed from all sides. We are a country that cannot afford to waste any resource including our valuable resource, time. We have  no  luxury of time. A wasted day or opportunity cost us dearly. Let peace prevail in Ethiopia. Let unity of purpose and civilized way of addressing our grievances be the guiding principle. Let us show to the world that we are not old civilization only  but   also  conduct mature politics. Let us by all means be above the politics of hate and zero sum game. No country prospered by emotional and hate politics. Unity and solidarity are what our country needs today more than any time.

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