of ‘May 28’
By Bereket Gebru
Minster Hailemariam Desalegn delivered a speech for all those gathered at the
Stadium and the millions following on national television and radio in
celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the May 28, 1991 victory of
the people over the Derge. In his speech, he raised some major milestones of
the last 23 years. As a brief speech though, he merely stated the facts without
going into each major milestone thoroughly. Accordingly, this article is
prepared to give a thorough look into some of these major achievements.
the main points the Prime Minister raised was the fact that the country was at
the peak of its aid dependence 23 years earlier when the EPRDF assumed state
power. He recalled that food self-sufficiency seemed like a problem that would
take an awful lot of time to overcome and that only 50 million quintals of main
crops were produced annually.
fact, during the Derge regime drought and famine occurred every decade. The drought
affected various regions and a large number of people while efforts to
interrupt its cycle proved to be weak. Numerous sources show that the 1984-85
drought affected almost all regions of the country. That meant the already
scarce resources of the country had to be allocated towards alleviating that
problem. Consequently, the external accounts and the overall fiscal deficit
worsened, despite international drought assistance totaling more than US$450
million. Notwithstanding these efforts, close to 8 million people became famine
victims during the drought of the mid-1980s, and about 1 million died.
Minister Hailemariam in his May 28 speech then stated that steady efforts to
increase production and productivity have paid off with figures of 250 million
quintals of main crops produced annually a couple of decades into the victory
he stressed, has helped us achieve the great victory of food self-sufficiency. Considering
famine and drought put the lives of millions of Ethiopians in jeopardy every
decade, breaking their cycle and finally ensuring food self-sufficiency is a
highly notable achievement. He further pointed out that the success of the
family based food security program has helped the country readily cope with the
harshest famine in 60 years that hit the horn of Africa three years ago.
then concluded, considering ours was a country associated with hunger and
famine until recently to the point that we were cited as an example by the
Oxford dictionary to explain these words, the news of our achievement of food
self-sufficiency in just a couple of decades is a testament to the big strides
the country has taken.
late 1980s, as a result of the recurring cycles of drought and famine that
affected millions of Ethiopians and other numerous problems, the World Bank
identified Ethiopia as the world’s poorest country. For the same country to
become one of the biggest economies in Africa and most notably one of the
fastest growing in the world in a matter of just over a couple of decades is
truly remarkable. Besides brightening the hopes of Ethiopians, such an
achievement clearly shows how effective efforts taken during those years have
Prime Minister went on to say that these are just the early days of the taste
of victory and that the people should stand by the government as productivity,
quality and prosperity still need to be improved much further. He then stated
that the government will continue the development of rural roads, rural
electricity, telephone and potable water needed to launch modern production and
industrial development in rural areas.
sources indicate that there were approximately 18,000 kilometers of roads in
1991, the last year of the Derge, of which 13,000 kilometers were all-weather
roads. By then Ethiopian road density was the lowest in Africa with perhaps
three-fourths of farms more than one-half day's walk from an all-weather road. Only
about l2 percent of the population had ready access to roads. Most roads in the
national network were concentrated in the central, eastern, and northern
2011/12 GTP progress report states that the federal and regional total road
length has increased from 53,143 in 2010/11 to 56,190 in 2011/12, indicating
the construction of 3074 km by federal and regional roads in the year. Most
importantly, 9365 km of woreda roads were constructed during the year under
review under URRAP. This has in turn resulted in an increase in the stock of
all weathered woreda roads to 10,219 km including last year’s accomplishment of
854 km. This has also resulted in an increase in road density per 1000 km2 from
48.1km in 2010/2011 to 57.4 km in 2011/ 2012, which indicates a 19 percent
increase in performance from the previous year. Moreover, the proportion of
acceptable roads (good + fair) has increased from 82 percent in 2010/11 to 86
percent in 2011/2012. The average travel time to all weathered roads has also
declined to 2.9 hours in 2011/12 from 3.5 hours in 2010/11.This imply that
local communities’ have now access to different social services such as health
and education within a short distance.
the fact that total road length, road density and average travel time to all
weather roads need to improve even further, the achievements so far show that
Ethiopia has already come a long way from the days when it had the lowest road
density in Africa and probably the whole world by extension.
two original rail systems were the Franco- Ethiopian Railroad (FER) and the
Akordat-Mitsiwa railroad. A French company built the FER by authority of
Emperor Menelik II. Construction began in l897 at the port city of Djibouti,
and the final link reached Addis Ababa in l9l7. In l959 the Ethiopian
government acquired a 50 percent holding in the line. An Italian company
completed construction of the Akordat- Mitsiwa line in l922. The Ethiopian
government acquired ownership of the line after World War II. By the early
l970s, the railroad's equipment was old, and the line was in need of track
improvements. In the mid-1970s, operation ceased to be viable because of the
threat posed by Eritrean guerrillas and the realization that existing road
facilities could handle the railroad's traffic. For these reasons, the
government closed the line in l976, and it was partially destroyed in later
only the Menelik era railroad still operational in the country, the ambitious
Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) has identified construction
of a national railway network as an important task. Under the Growth and
Transformation Plan, a total of 2,395Km railway line is planned to be
constructed in three corridors and five lines. Though, the physical work is not
yet to be started due to long preparatory and planning works, in 2011/12 detail
study and design activities have been conducted under different alternatives.
Project agreements have also been signed to a number of projects. Construction
agreements have been signed with contractors for Addis Ababa/Sebeta-Mieso,
Mieso-Dire Dawa-Dewenle, and the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (LRT) Projects.
The Addis Ababa LRT project has less than a year to go operational with the
others already underway presently.
electricity, electric power production in l985/86 totaled 998.7 million
kilowatt-hours, 83 percent of which was produced by hydroelectric power
installations. In 1985/86, of the total 847.7 million kilowatt-hours of power
sold by The Ethiopian Electric Light and Power Authority (ELPA), 59 percent was
for industrial use, 29 percent for domestic use, l0 percent for commercial use,
and the remaining 2 percent for other uses such as street lighting and
agriculture. By 1987 about 9 percent of the total population, 4.3 million
people, were using electricity.
2011/12 GTP progress report denotes that the country’s power generating
capacity has increased from 2048.5 MW in 2010/11 to 2,177 MW in 2011/12. In
2011/12, the plan was to increase electricity distribution lines to 145,838 km
in 2011/12 by constructing additional 7,006 km of distribution line from the
previous fiscal year. Actually, a total of 14,398 Km additional distribution
lines were constructed in 2011/12, which increased the total length to 153,230
km by the end of the fiscal year under review. In 2011/12, the national
electric service coverage reached at 48.5 percent. The over fivefold increase
that we have seen above is once again kept in electricity coverage as the 9
percent coverage of the Derge days was 48.5 percent two years ago.
other social service raised in the Prime Minister’s speech is
telecommunication. Sources show that in 1989 Ethiopia counted only
109,000 telephones, or two sets per 1,000 inhabitants, one of the lowest per
capita figures in the world. Only 84 percent of service was automatic; the rest
still used outdated manual systems. Over two-thirds of the telephones were in
Addis Ababa or Asmera; the remainder were scattered throughout a few of the
larger towns or regional capitals. Most users were either government offices or
businesses. International direct dial was available to some users in Addis
Ababa. Local or long- distance calling was difficult, however, with frequent
busy signals for uncompleted calls.
Ethiopia has come a long way from such
records. It has been quite a while since the country introduced mobile and
wireless phones besides expanding fixed line telephones. The 2011/12 GTP
progress report states that the rural telecom expansion program is already underway
to install telecom services in 7000 kebele’s generally.
The number of mobile subscribers and
telecom density for mobile lines increased from 10.7 million and 12.85 % in
2010/11 to 17.26 million and 20.4 % in 2011/12 respectively. Similarly, the
coverage of wireless telephone service increased to 90 percent in 2011/12 even
if the plan was to reach 63 %, while the number of subscribers and telecom
density for fixed line declined from 0.854 million and 1.03 percent in 2010/11
to 0.805 million and 0.95 % in 2011/12 respectively. This decline in the number
of fixed line subscribers is due to the expansion of mobile services and
illegal optical fiber cable damage and cut. Generally, the total subscribers’
base has increased to 20.73 million at the end of 2011/12.
data on potable water supply during the Derge regime have eluded me for now,
there are general statements in various sources indicating that it was very low.
2011/12 GTP progress report cites the Central Statistical Agency (CSA) census
data to make its point that the water supply coverage is now estimated to be
55.21% in rural and 78.71% in urban areas, while the national coverage is
estimated to be 58.25 % in the 2011/12.
to this census survey, the existing water supply schemes are now benefiting
40.26 million people in rural and 8.53 million in urban totaling 48.79 million
populations throughout the country. Of these about 50 % are estimated to be
female beneficiaries. The improvement in access to 53 potable
water benefits women in terms of reducing water fetching time and increasing
school attendance of girls as well as encouraging them to spend more time on
income generating activities.
big leap that was just briefly dealt with in the Prime Minister’s speech was
the creation of employment opportunities. With the mega projects being
undertaken in all directions taking in a large number of employees, millions of
jobs have been created during the GTP period alone (since 2010/11). Both the
construction and trade and services sectors were noted as the next most
contributors to employment opportunities.
construction sector absorbed some 482 thousand individuals while the trade and
services sector aggregated some 467 thousand in just about the last fiscal year
of Ethiopia. The construction sector in particular has been associated with a
large intake of female workers. The housing projects being carried out in the
capital and other regional cities have provided young women with wide
opportunities of employment. The government’s commitment to encourage both
local and foreign investment has surely paid off in recent years as thousands
of businesses are being registered and resuming operation in the country. Such
trends coupled with the bigger size of the economy have resulted in the
expansion of trade and the service giving sector in general. The consequence
has been the rise in the number of work force engaged in the sector.
another point raised by Prime Minister Hailemariam was the long spell of peace
the May 28 victory has accorded Ethiopians. Marked with a history full of
conflicts and war, Ethiopia barely had a long time of peace and calm. Internal
armed struggles and foreign aggressions have always kept Ethiopians on their
toes sharpening their abilities at it along the way. Following the May 28
victory however, they have enjoyed a relatively long spell of peace except for
the time Eritrea invaded our territory. After dealing with the problem swiftly
and effectively, Ethiopians have once again sorted their priorities right
claiming their hard earned steady development out of poverty.
upcoming political elections are just another chance of extending this upward
trajectory and peaceful spell. Therefore, Ethiopians need to vigilantly guard
the peaceful completion of the elections and make good use of their opportunity
to elect those who would administer their country.