Thank God for EPRDF

Tekle Haileselassie May 07 2010


In this piece I will try to illuminate the tremendous strides Ethiopia has taken towards development through the socioeconomic and political programs laid out by the EPRDF led by its wise and intelligent leader, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.


 In spite of all the negative hot air that is blown by the so-called "opposition" to pooh-pooh Ethiopia's unprecedented progress, the country and its leader are getting the most favorable press at the court of world opinion.


 What, then, motivates the nay-Sayers to plug their ears and close their eyes so they may not hear or see all that is good about their country? The short and simple answer is that they do not want the country to move forward under the leadership of the party and people in power today.


They are simply bent on wresting power by any means necessary. One of their tools is propagating bald faced lies. They are not unlike Rush Limbaugh, the rabid and numb-skull radio talk show host in the United States who, after Barrack Obama's election to the presidency, said "I hope he fails."! The leaders of the opposition are former Dergists or cowards we did not hear from during the Derg years because they were afraid of losing their necks to the long arms the butcher of Addis Mengistu Hailemariam.


 Now that there is so much freedom of expression they have come out of the woodworks to abuse their newly-found freedom. One need only see the Ethiopian parliament in action to witness the hand full good-for-nothing members whose sole reason for existence seems to be to look for lightening behind each rainbow. But even these idiots aren't able to resist their instinctive urges to smile and even applause whenever the prime minister appears to give speeches and to field questions from parliamentarians. The prime minister's frequent, humorous and pithy remarks are most entertaining and highly educational.


These occasions are always highly anticipated and not-to-be missed events. One is tempted to think that Mr. Zenawi should charge tuition for his virtuoso lectures. Thanks to the availability of satellite television worldwide those of us in the Diaspora are able to see what is going on in Ethiopia with our own eyes. We do not need second hand opinions of the doom Sayers and merchants of gloom to tell us what is going on in the country. These idiots remind me of Richard Pryor, the American icon of comedy, who, when caught by his wife in a compromising situation in bed with another woman, swore "honey, it is not what you think, believe me, I did not do anything-Do you believe me or you believe your eyes?"


But the self-appointed know-it all at the Voice Of America and the streets of Washington DC, the Ethiopian equivalents of a segment of American talking heads a former vice president of the United states called "the nattering nabobs of negativism", want us to believe the news according to them instead of making our own judgments based on empirical evidence available in the media and other more reliable sources. Joining the confederacy of such dunces are a few of the prime minister's former comrades-in arms in the struggle to dislodge the people of Ethiopia from the Derg's ever-so-tight jaws. I am talking about individuals such as Siye Abrha, Aregawi Berhe and Gebru Asrat. These guys had a falling out with the majority of their party especially concerning how the conflict with Eritrea ought to be resolved.


 I am given to understand that the general that he was Siye Abrha wanted the party to be led by the military and that Eritrea should be subdued by military means; whereas Mr. Zenawi along with the majority of the party believed that the military should stay out of politics and that civilians should be in charge of setting policy make decisions regarding what wars the nation should be involved in. Mr. Zenawi and company are supposed to have favored political and diplomatic means to deal with the Eritrean situation over military means realizing the adverse consequences of war which result in the unintended consequences of collateral damage to, and alienation of, innocent civilians who have no say in what Isayas Afeworki and his henchmen do in Eritrea.


 Meles' calculus was to give Isayas and his yes-men enough ropes with which to hang themselves eventually. All indications to date are that this strategy has borne plenty of fruit. The Eritrean regime is in a shambles, and Eritreans are fleeing their land in droves to neighboring countries, including Ethiopia. There are plenty of signs of an impending collapse of the Eritrean government. Perhaps, Ethiopians and Eritreans will live together will live together harmoniously in the not too distant future, when the strongman of Macaw and his posse are gotten rid of and a democratic order takes root in Eritrea.


 We might even come to entertain the notion of Ethio-Eritrean political and economic integration once and for all! Already there is a cynical movement afoot for the consideration of some sort of federation/confederation on the part of opposition politicians on both sides of the border. No doubt Ethiopia has a lot of issues on its plate to deal with before the nascent democratic order matures. But the "unkindest cuts of all", to borrow Shakespeare's language, is to learn that Mr. Aregawi Berhe was quoted as telling a British journalist that the TPLF had, some twenty-five years ago , diverted funds intended for famine relief.


 The falsehood and illogic of this accusation has been eloquently refuted by the now prime minister, Meles Zenawi on one of his appearances in the Ethiopian parliament. But let us suppose, for a second, that the accusation were true. How can food bring back to life Ethiopians mowed down by the brutal campaign of the Derg's Red Terror? The principle of medical triage dictates that you first stop the bleeding in order to save life and limb and then worry about food, shelter or vacation in Hawaii. If in the darkest days of the Derg-years money was diverted from anywhere else to buy arms with which to stop the Derg's killing spree, so be it. It is pathetic to see individuals like Aregawi Berhe and Gebru Asrat and Siye Abrha , who have sacrificed so much of themselves for the sake of the Ethiopian people have now made about face and are spreading falsehoods about the government now that they are no longer in its inner circle. They are like the proverbial ape which pointed at those (unreachable) grapes are "sour", hence the expression "sour grapes"! These individuals who are besmirching the prime minister character no doubt have skeletons in their own closets and they should heed to the advice that "those who live in glass houses should not throw stones".


 There is no end to the non-sense the good-for-nothing opposition blurts spread, including that global warming, deforestation, lack of roads, shortage of schools, clinics, food , electricity etc are caused by the government! The truth of the matter is the current government has done wonders for Ethiopia; and from now on I quote liberally from the internet and its Wikipedia, and the magazine New African on their coverage of Ethiopian affairs.


They all attest in one way or another that this government more than any other in the history of Africa, has done more to plant trees and roll back desertification throughout the country. What used to be barren land only a few years ago has now turned green. And there is no more able advocate for Africa in the campaign against global warming than Meles Zenawi.


The African Union selected him to lead an African Delegation to the Global Warming Conference on Climate Change at Copenhagen in 2009. He was given the Green Revolution award and a financial prize of $200,000 by the Norwegian Yara Foundation in September 2005: ... in recognition of past accomplishments and encouragement to achieve economic development for the people of Ethiopia." He donated the entire $200,000 prize to Fre-Addis Ethiopia Yesetoch Merja Mahber. On 31st of August Mr.Zenawi was appointed chair of the African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC). In February 2010, the UN named Meles Zenawi as co-chair of the Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing along with England's Prime Minister, Mr.-Gordon Brown.


Mr. Zenawi's accomplishments are deep, varied and already legendary. In its February 2010 issue, the magazine New African, under the title of "A Rising Giant ", said “...outsiders may have their own perceptions, sustained by media images of hunger and poverty, but investors are focusing on Ethiopia's size and record of rapid and sustained growth. The country has Africa's second biggest population...and five times the land area of the UK, including extensive waters....Each month the skyline of Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa changes as cranes add new height to scores of office blocks, and hotels and apartments sprout all over town. Two lane streets mushroom into six lanes and fill with traffic.


 Scarcely a month passes without announcement new cement and other manufacturing plants or major infrastructure development, including new electric power stations....Five years of an average double-digit GDP growth has made Ethiopia Africa's fifth largest economy."It continues to say that Ethiopia is expected to soon turn "from a country suffering from crippling power cuts into a major electricity exporter."And according to a Reuter’s quote of the IMF on March 24, 2010 "the economic outlook for Ethiopia remains generally favorable with continuing strong growth expected," Wait, there is more! Again New African says that "Ernest and Young Ethiopia's managing partner, Zemedneh Negatu, promotes Ethiopia as Africa's rising giant....he told a US business audience in October (2009) that Ethiopia's GDP could soar from $70bn to $470bn by 2023,edging past Angola Sudan to make Ethiopia Africa's third largest economy.


 If recent trends continue, such as attracting large volumes of foreign investment, evolving and adaptive reforms in the business operating environment and a large investment in infrastructure, Ethiopia's goal of joining the ranks of middle income emerging market economies in the next 15-20 years is achievable."At this point I want to give an honorable mention to Sheik Mohammed Hussein Ali Al Amoudi. Outside the vision laid out by the EPRDF, Sheik Al Amoudi, more than any other individual, is responsible for concretizing the visions of the government with his considerable means of money and a kind heart. His creation of industry and employment is equaled by none.


 This man has made it possible for potential entrepreneurs to visualize their dreams of success in industry as they see the phenomenal number of successful projects undertaken by him. There simply is no one else in Ethiopia today who is as equally talented in making money and giving it away to a myriad of worthy causes as Sheik Al Amoudi!


Ethiopia's development trajectory is made apparent, for example, by the establishment of the first car and bus factories, in addition to advances in textiles, leather, garments, agriculture, beverages and construction. Consequently, Ethiopia has been labeled "The East African land of opportunity “by World Investment News.


In the area of education, Wikipedia points out that "in 1991 only 27 percent of Ethiopian children attended school, but in 2004 gross enrollment rate was up to 77% and reached 85% in November 2006...."As of 2005, there were 13,500 elementary schools 550 secondary schools...More colleges and universities have been constructed and/or expanded during the last few years than in the whole history of Ethiopia....In the last decade, more than 30 new private colleges and universities have been created." And on the social front, there is a big change in the state of women. "...The Ethiopian leadership has made significant advances to protect women's rights in recent years: its first Minister of Women's Affairs and overhauled legislation on rape, female genital mutilation and other offenses.... And unlike prior governments, the current government's development focus is heavily geared towards the rural poor." "As markets get less and less centralized, and farmers become more sophisticated and better informed the traders are starting to complain about the market power of the farmers. So, farmers are now better off, and able to wait and spread their grain sales through the year rather than having to rush everything to market immediately after harvest. The UN report says that grain prices in Ethiopia, however much they have risen, however unaffordable they may be to the urban poor, are still below prices in most neighboring countries,"


Notwithstanding the rosy economic picture of the country, some say 'man cannot live by bread alone". What about the state of democracy?"Meles Zenawi is the first Ethiopian leader in (Ethiopian) history to develop the structure for multiparty system of governance with a multiparty parliament in composition."Much nonsense is marketed concerning the ethnic federalism the EPRDF put in place, but it defends the practice by saying that it was necessarily "the only solution to the century old oppression under centralist governments and one ethnic domination of culture, language, politics and economy controlled by the Amhara ethnic group....Therefore, the policy's aim was to empower ALL ethnicities and to develop their cultures and languages. Also it was widely seen as a solution to the demands of governance preferred by the ethnic based liberation front’s and parties that participated during the July Convention of Nationalities in 1991." Meles is quoted as saying "the ethnic basis of Ethiopian democracy stemmed from the government's fight against poverty and the need for an equitable distribution of the nation's wealth. Peasants must be enabled to make their own decisions in terms of their own culture.


Power must be devolved to them in ways that they understand, and they understand ethnicity....Other approaches to development had been hegemonic and exploitative and had led to an internecine strife and civil war." Meles further states that there are two basic views about ethnic federalism: "if you think it is a threat, it will be; if you think it a benefit, then it will be." He concludes by pointing out that "ethnicity will become less an issue as the economy grows and Ethiopia's process of (un coerced) assimilation does its job." "Throughout its operation the government and the prime minister have advocated 'pro-poor' domestic policies. According to World Bank's East African Leadership, the Ethiopian government ranks number one in Africa on spending as a share of GDP going to 'pro-poor ‘sectors."


African Development Bank and the Paris based OECD Development Center stated that "Ethiopia has become one of the fastest growing countries in Africa." People of all faiths have much to celebrate the unprecedented freedom of worship that exists in the country today. Same may be said about freedom of speech. Contrary to the sanctimonious propaganda of the opposition lamenting lack of freedom of expression, they in fact use their new-found freedom to spew constant streams of venom directed at the government. The fact is "Meles Zenawi's administration was the first to introduce private free press in Ethiopia. As of 2009 there are 56 radio stations that are owned and operated by regional governments, community organizations, and private companies. The government has issued licenses for seven regional states' television transmission agencies, but there are still no private broadcasts in the country." As far as the use of languages is concerned, it should be noted that "most Ethiopians are taught in their mother tongue in primary schools and they are encouraged to develop their own language." Going back to the government's emphasis on developing the rural sector it must be pointed out that the overwhelming majority of the population, 85%, lives on working the land. Ethiopia recently became Africa's second largest flower exporter, after Kenya, with its export earnings growing by 500% over the past year....Wildlife conservation has been an important concern of Meles Zenawi. "World Wildlife Fund praised Ethiopian government's progress by saying "Ethiopia has set a fine example for the other countries to emulate," and World Investment News calls Ethiopia "East African and of opportunity."


Ethiopia's enviable progress would not have been possible were it not for the able leadership of Meles Zenawi. This man's promising future was clear as early as when he enrolled at the General Wingate High School for gifted students from which he graduated with the highest honors possible. He was given The Haileselassie I Prize Trust by Emperor Haileselassie. He then went on to enroll at the Addis Ababa University's medical college where he stayed for two years after which he chucked a lucrative future as a doctor for a hard life as a liberation fighter that lasted for at least 15 years! After his victory over the Derg he became prime minister.


Undaunted by the innumerable challenges of managing a most complicated society, he managed to continue his education, and got his MBA degree from the Open University of the United Kingdom in 1995 and a Master of Science degree in economics from Erasmus University of the Netherlands in 2004. “Some university professors and renowned college administrators have stated that Meles Zenawi was a very smart and gifted student. At a public speech in George Washington University (in the USA), the vice chancellor of Open University said 'president Meles Zenawi was a brilliant student who achieved distinctions in every course he took.' In JULY 2002, Meles has also received honorary doctoral degree in political science from Hannam University of South Korea. Meles has represented Africa in several international forums and summits. Diplomats say he is one of the most intelligent, sharp and eloquent leaders in the continent.


A Somali analyst who underlined Meles Zenawi's political, military and diplomatic maneuvering in the Horn of Africa called Meles the greatest strategist of the 21st century in Africa' Learning all this about Mr.Zenawi one is forced to lament by borrowing an epigraph by Jonathan Swift, which goes: " When a true genius appears in the world, you know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." This is similar to the one in the Bible:"But Jesus said to them: a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household"-Mathew 13:57