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A Closer Look At (Ethiopian) Prosperity Party

A Closer Look At (Ethiopian) Prosperity Party

Assefa A. Lemu

1.     Introduction

The three former member parties and the five allied parties ofEPRDFagreed to end their independent existence and merged together to form a new unified party called (Ethiopian) Prosperity Party. The adjective “Ethiopian” which appeared in the introduction section of the draft bylaw of the party issued in October 2019 was later dropped because of various considerations and now it is simply called “Prosperity Party” (PP). The merger agreement was signed in Addis Ababa (Finfinne) on December 1, 2019 by the chairpersons of the following eight political parties:

1.      Afar National Democratic Party (ANDP) represented by Mrs. Ayisha Mohammad

2.      Benishangul-Gumuz Democratic Party (BGDP) represented by Mr. AdiguAmsaya

3.      Oromo Democratic Party (ODP/EPRDF) represented by Dr. Abiy Ahmed;

4.      Amhara Democratic Party (ADP/EPRDF) represented by Mr. DemekeMekonnen;

5.      Southern Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SEPDM/EPRDF) represented by Mrs. MufriatKamil

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6.      Somali Democratic Party (SDP) represented by Mr. Ahmed Shede

7.      Gambela Peoples Democratic Movement (GPDM) represented by Mr. AmedUjulu

8.      Harari National League (HNL) represented by NuridinBedri.

The creator and senior member of EPRDF, TPLF, refused to join PP. The legal, political, and economic effects of TPLF’s refusal will be seen in the future and not part of this discussion.

2.     The Program of Prosperity Party

According to the Program of Prosperity Party (PP) (https://addisstandard.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/AS-Exclusive-Prosperity-Party-Program-.pdf), the reasons forthe establishment of PP are:

1.      To change the form and content of EPRDF to make it fit to the struggle that the time requires and to expand its achievements in social, economic, and political changes;

2.      To design alternative development model to bring all-rounded prosperity;

3.      To have national party that will build peace, democracy, multinational unity, justice, and prosperity;

4.      To have a unified multinational party that is based on representation and merit;

5.      To unify the actions and objectives of EPRDF’s member organizations and allied organizations (Agara) who have been working together for about three decades and to make them unified and better political force.

As indicated in its program, the overall objective of PP is to make Ethiopia prosperous country. Its values are the dignity of the people, justice, and multi-national unity. PP’s multinationalism embraces different ethnic, religion, and other identities (e.g. gender). PP’s program is divided into Political, Economic, Social, and Foreign Relation programs.

1.      Political Program-The main objective of PP’s political program is to build a nation state which is strong and has legitimacy. This is based on the premises that 1) Ethiopian State is weak, 2) Ethiopian State has problem of legitimacy. Therefore, to make Ethiopian State strong and legitimate, PP will work on national reconciliation and take actions which will facilitate the interaction of peoples in Ethiopia. PP believes that the political-economic community that will be built will respect the unity of the country and the identity and culture of nations, nationalities, and peoples. This shows that as an offspring of EPRDF which came out of the womb of EPRDF, PP claims that it will continue implementing some of EPRDF’s policies regarding nations, nationalities, and peoples. As Mustafie Mohammad put it, Somali Democratic Party (SDP) joined PP with the belief that the federal structure will be maintained, Somalis will admister themselves and by their own children with their own language and have a role in the central/federal government (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ym6N6cZvQlU).It is obvious that Somalis joined PP to get more, not to lose what they already got.The question is what recourse for Somalis if any of these rights are violated under PP because SDP was dissolved and membership is based on individuality.

 

According to the program, the democracy to be built by PP will equally respect individual and group rights. It will work for the realization of federal system which recognizes the rights of nations, nationalities, and peoples. PP will work to make political, ideological, legal, and other movements to respect the constitution and believes that the constitution can be amended only through constitutional procedures. The question is, does PP support the current federal structure/regionalization or want to introduce new federal structure/regionalization?

 

2.      Economic Program- The objective of PP’s economic program is to build inclusive economic system that realizes the prosperity of the people, in which Government plays key role to make sure that the fair distribution of wealth happen and intervenes in strategic areas following the principles of market-led economy.  PP will work to transform the economy from the current agriculture dependent to export-led and import substitution industrialization.

 

3.      Social Program- The center of PP’s social program is realizing all rounded social prosperity. The effort to realize social prosperity must protect the health, security, and comfort of the people in inclusive and accessible way.  PP’s social development programs will be implemented based on the objective of promoting unity in diversity.

 

The first level education will be conducted in multiple languages which will take into consideration a multinational unity and existing conditions of States (Regions). The working language of PP will be the working languages of States/Regions specified in their constitutions (Section 4.10.1 of the Program). However, Article 5 (c) of the bylaw of the party says “Regions and regional party offices, at least, must use one additional language of the working languages of the party based on the existing reality in that region”. Here, the PP is not only crossing the line to enter into the turf of Government to impose what language the States/ Regions should use, but also, according some analysis, imposing the use of Amharic on party members and Regions governed by PP. The bylaw also says the programs and plans of the party will be implemented in States/Regions and Federal institutions and the basic organs of the party will be organized  at the residential and workplace of the members. Therefore, the separation of party and government under PP is questionable.

 

Furthermore, to realize the plan for creating multinational unity, PP will work to have additional Federal Government’s working languages. According to the announcement made by Dr. Abiy Ahmed, the working languages of PP are Amharic, Afan Oromo, Tigrigna, Somali, and Afar languages and the party will work to make the last four languages the working languages of the Federal Government in addition to Amharic.

 

4.      Foreign Relation Program-PP’s foreign relation program will be that which realizes the building of democratic Ethiopia and regaining national dignity through maintaining the unity of the country.

PP is an instrument to operationalize Medemer Philosophy. That is why we see some of the expressions in the PP’s program which were copied from the “Medemer” book. If it is true that Medemer book was written by one individual, it is also true that PP was created by one individual. In the introduction section of the bylaw of PP, it was stated that the objectives of the party will be achieved through Medemer thinking. Of course like any other Ethiopian citizens, Dr. Abiy has the right to establish a party that can promote and implement his ideas and visions. He openly said he presented his ideas and visions through book and party, and anyone who disagrees with him and has alternative ideas and visions must come forward and present to the people. Election 2020 will prove if PP and its founder are the best or if there are better alternatives out there.

3.     The Bylaw of Prosperity Party

Unlike EPRDF which was the coalition/front of four political organizations, PP is a unified single party. The organization of PP from top-to-down is as follows: National Assembly, Central Committee, Executive Committee, President, Vice President, Central Control and Inspection Commission, the Office of the Party, Regional Offices of the Party, Local Organs of the Party, Women’s Organization, and Youth Organization. National and Regional Assemblies as well as Conferences from Zone to Kebele will elect leaders to lead them.However, per Article 22 (4) of PP’s bylaw, the leaders of branch offices will be assigned by the Executive Committee based on the nomination of Regional Branch Party Committee. Therefore, the election of Regional Branch Party Committee cannot automatically make the elected individual the leader of the branch office. If the Executive Committee refuses to approve the elected individual, then the Branch Office may be forced to elect another one and submit for the approval of the Executive Committee. This shows the tightness of control that the central PP organ has on the Regional organs or branches.

The history of Ethiopian political parties shows that the structure of the government follows the structure of the party. This was true under the Workers’ Party of Ethiopia (WPE) under Derg and under EPRDF. Therefore, there is speculationthat the system of government under PP will be presidential and the federal structure will be restructured based on geographical boundaries with the possibility of dividing one ethnic group like Oromo in multiple regions/provinces and with tighter control on Regions from the center.

The number and combination of the Central Committee (CC) will be decided by National Assembly and the CC will issue detailed procedure which specifies the implementation of this. Any decision made by the CC will be implemented by all organs and members of the party.It is necessary to note that even though Article 9 of PP’s bylaw says membership is based on individuality, per Article 4 (22) and Article 17(3), the party also uses representation for membership.  It is not clear if this representation is based on number or being vocal or economic power or historical marginalization or other factors. What we know at this point is that PP wants to use the principles of both individual rights and group rights.

Any Ethiopian citizen who can fulfil the criteria listed under Article 9 of the bylaw of the party can be a member of PP. Even though membership is individual based, National Congress, State/Regional Congresses, and Zonal, District and Kebele conferences will be organized based onnumbers of the people and number of members. The representation of minority nations, nationalities, and peoples will be affirmed (Article 15(a) of the bylaw). If individual members represent only themselves, not  the ethnic or religious group or other group, it is not clear how the number of the people which are not members of the party come in to consideration and influence the combination of congresses and conferences of the party.

4.     Five Reasons Why I Disagree with PP

 

1.      Old wine in new bottle: PP is nothing but the reformedEPRDF. Looking from the perspective of ethnic rights, PP may be considered as adulterated EPRDF which takes away some of their rights such as self-administration and imposes on them the use of party languages. In addition, millions of EPRDF members and supporters as well as thousands of EPRDF cadres and leaders who have been accused of various alleged crimes and abuses of human rights migrated from EPRDF to PP and now called PP members and officials. Their political thinking is shaped by EPRDF teachings of the last 28 years. As Dr. Abiy Ahmed who was the Chairperson of EPRDF and currently the President of PP himself put it, PP is the chick hatched from the egg of the decayed EPRDF (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRtXfoI_RW0).  Breaking EPRDF’s egg and taking out the offspring became necessary because further delay may lead to the death of both EPRDF and the chick. Therefore, PP is just an old EPRDF in a new container and his President is preaching existing ideas as if it were a new ones. If we use similar analogy of “egg and chick” that Dr. Aby used, how do we expect a dove out of snake’s egg? In other words, how do we expect the former EPRDF officials and cadres will stop what they have been doing for the last 28 years?Do we really expect reasonable honesty from former EPRDF and current PP officials who claim they are religious persons but,as recently observed, lie to the people and cheat them by confusing the word “passport” with “escort”?

 

2.      One man show:In his November 12, 2019 message, the founder of PP Dr. Abiy Ahmed said, in addition to Amharic, his party will use Afan Oromo, Tigrigna, Somali, and Afar and will struggle to make these languages Federal working languages in addition to Amharic (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkHnuInQe3Y). The agreement to merge was signed by eight parties on December 1, 2019 and the Central Committee of the partyhaven’t yet met and discussed on the language policy. Then, how does the creator of PP picked these languages and what are the criteria to pick them? According to CIA’s World Fact Book (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/et.html) the order of languages in Ethiopia based on the number of their speakers is as follows: AfanOromo 33.8%, Amharic 29.3%, Somali 6.2%, Tigrigna 5.9%, Sidamo 4%, Wolaytta 2.2%, Gurage 2%, Afar 1.7%, Hadiyya 1.7%.What are the criteria to pick Afar language to make it one of PP’s language and not picking Sidama, Wolaytta, and Gurage who has more speakers in Ethiopia and not considering Hadiya which has the same number of speaker with Afar? Even though the President of PP claims that the party will function based on knowledge and truth, what we observe is the opposite; it is simply one man show based on sweet-talking.

 

Some critiques say that PP’s language policy is Dr. Abiy’s attempt to dilute the demand of Oromo to make Afan Oromo additional Ethiopia’s Federal Government’s working language. The decision is not based on principles and not deliberated upon by the legal organ of the party.

 

3.      Changing the structure of current regionalization: Even though PP says it will follow federal structure, PP’s federal structure will be different from the current one which is ethnic/language based regionalization. It should be known that as Dr. Abiy himself said he considers the state borders mentioned in Ethiopian constitution simply as administrative boundaries and based on that thinking his government established Administrative Boundaries and Identity Issues Commission  which may propose alternative regionalization of Ethiopia (read more here on the Regionalization of Ethiopia: http://aigaforum.com/article2019/Regionalization-of-Ethiopia.htm ).The audience must not be misled by PP’s word which says it accepts federal system. The follow up questions to be asked are: what kind of federal structure, what will be the basis for regionalization? In politics where deception is common practice, it is necessary to be vigilant: Yamarqa, siafufunsiqabbaneessuufi, siqabbaneessunimmosiliqimsuufi (you porridgethey blow you to cool you, they cool you to swallow you).

 

4.      Just Ethiopiawinet: Nations and nationalities will not have representatives in PP because individuals become members representing only themselves. Therefore, group rights may be in peril. Under such system, the possibility of nations and nationalities losing the gains achieved so far and sliding back to the pre-1991 situation is very high. On December 8, 2019, the President of PP, Dr. Abiy Ahmed wrote on his Facebook page regarding the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples day “እንኳንየኢትዮጵያዊነትቀንለሆነውየኢትዮጵያብሔሮች፣ብሔረሰቦችናሕዝቦችበዓልአደረሳችሁ፡፡This literally means “Happy Ethiopian nations, nationalities, and peoples day which is the day of Ethiopiawinet”. Some interpreted this message as an indication that if PP takes government power, there will be no nations, nationalities, and peoples day, but only “Ethiopiawinet Day” because PP’s objective is to knock down ethnic identity and boost up Ethiopiawinet where there is no consensus on what Ethiopiawinet represents.

 

5.      Tight top-down control (centralism):The accountability of the Regional Branch Party Committee is to the Regional Assembly and to the Central Committee. The leaders of the Regional Branch Offices are assigned by the central Executive Committee (President) of the party. The Regional Branch Party Committee Assembly cannot hold urgent meeting without the approval of the CC (Article 23 (6)). Regional branches of PP have no executive committee, but coordination committee called Regional Branch Party Coordination Committee. The number and combination of the representatives that the Regional Branch Offices send for National Assembly are decided by the CC of PP. For Example, the CC can dictate the Somali Regional Branch Office of PP to send 10 PP members who represent Somali State/Region and comprise 2 Somalis, 2 Amharas, 2 Tigres, 2 Oromos, and 2 Guragies.

 

5.     Conclusion

Currently, there are more than 107 political parties in Ethiopia. This number is fluctuating because some of them are under reorganization and regrouping as PP, Ezema, OLF-led coalition, TPLF-led coalition, Medrek, etc and others are under establishment. Unless something extraordinary happen between now and the day of Ethiopia’s Election 2020, PP may not face strong opposition. For example, in Oromia, OLF has no intention to restructure itself and has no plan to develop political, economic, and social policies to rally its supporters around(https://addisstandard.com/the-interview-we-think-we-will-win-a-majority-in-oromia-and-win-significant-seats-in-the-federal-parliament-dawud-ibsa/) and Jawar Mohammad wants to focus on the process of the election rather than on the result (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwCcAdTmSWo&t=525s).Dawud’sOLF wants to be elected without clear political, economic, and social policies and even without updating its half a century old political program to figure out what to do after it takes political power. This is disrespect for the Oromo people and voters. We also heard a lots of talk about election from Jawar Mohammad through the TV he manages/owns, but we didn’t see any tangible organization.

As I mentioned in one of my articles (http://www.aigaforum.com/article2019/Oromo-Unity-and-Refusal.htm), the Oromo people, particularly the educated ones, will not give their votes blindly to anyone who simply says he/she wants Oromo to vote for him/her. Let me repeat what I have said regarding this: “The leaders of Oromo political parties must know that the Oromo people will evaluate them and their parties based on the alternative policy proposals they offer, the quality of their leadership and their ethics. The expectation to get votes simply by using the word “Oromo” as prefix or suffix is wrong.  Oromo need strong party that presents a coherent policy agenda to the voters. Strong party and coherent policy agenda could be achieved by bringing together resources including human power and coordinating efforts not by thinly dispersing one’s resources and fighting each other”. If OLF wants victory in the upcoming election, it must reconsider its position and restructure itself to be fit for the election and come up with updated and acceptable policies otherwise it will suffer from the consequence of its stubbornness. OLF must stop externalizing problems and talking about agonizing environment and start organizing the Oromo people and other peoples and Jawar must start walking the talk. Jawar repeatedly told us that he is political scientist, political researcher, strategist, well-read, etc. We want him to demonstrate all these skills, knowledges, and abilities in 2020 election. Others also must get ready for the election and present their alternative programs and policies to the voters. Otherwise the Ethiopian peoples could not escape from being governed by the reformed EPRDF called PP.

 

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