Monday, November 06, 2006

The real problem is sidetracked

The real problem in Ethiopia is sidetracked by the constant talk of politics. When all is said and done, what mattes for an ordinary citizen is not really who resides in the National Palace or the Arat Kilo Palace. It is whether he/she can afford to put food on the table for his/her family.

The sad state of affair is that this paramount, decisive and life-and-death issue is sidetracked by those vocal groups in the government and the opposition. Just do a cursory spot check of how much staple grains are going in Ethiopia. It is mind boggling how expensive they have become.

Governments, even those that espouse market economy, have an indispensable role first in laying the foundation for a favorable economic environment using various tools such as monetary policy and government lead investments and two in seeing to it that prices are not being manipulated by greedy businessmen. In short, government has the solemn duty to look after its people. When it cannot deliver on this important aspect of its duty, it should resign and hand over to another who could do it. It cannot keep on trying until it gets it right. It’s after people lives that are on the line.

The EPRDF led government has not done enough to alleviate the sufferings of the Ethiopian people. Ask ordinary Ethiopians and just listen to their answers. The majority of Ethiopians would tell you I no uncertain terms that their lot has suffered year after year and that they don’t see any hope. Please note that I said ask ordinary Ethiopians. To be sure, there are group of people who benefited immensely by their mere association with the government. Sons and daughters of Ministers and other officials are being sent to abroad for their high school and tertiary educations. The poor Ethiopian people are footing the bill albeit indirectly and without their consent.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hard to Let Go but it is right to let go

Tony Blair addressing his Labor party for the last time as leader said ‘It is hard to let go but its right to let go, for the country and for you, the party’. He said ‘The truth is, you can’t go on forever, that is why its right this is my last conference as leader’.

It was a remarkable speech. This is what is meant by a true servant of the people. Blair acknowledged that when one stays in power too long (too long of course as defined by the mood and sentiment of the people) fatigue sets in and the people would be reluctant followers.

This concept of what it means to be a leader is a foreign concept in the vast majority of African countries including our own Ethiopia. Our leaders (I rather call them self-appointed) see leadership in a different light. They see the continuing existence of the Ethiopian nation and polity as if inextricably connected to their very existence. What a sad state! They keep on anointing themselves leaders with a bit of reshuffle here and there.

Nothing good can and should be expected to come out of such personalities. It is up to you and me and the rest of us to constantly make it clear that enough is enough.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Questionable Credibility

I have read two articles written by Workie Briye titled “It is harvesting time for TPLF spy "diplomats” and “The impudent thief”. Both articles deal with the recent circular issued by the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Ethiopia and the defection/resignation of diplomats.

Let me say at the outset the mass defection/resignation, if true, simply reinforces the known fact that the EPRDF days are numbered or to borrow Professor Clapham’s phrase, “they have lost the mandate of heaven.” While I was writing this piece, I have come across in the EthioMedia a letter written in Amharic supposedly by EPRDF high level official. The letter states the days of EPRDF are numbered. Good! I say Amen! The sad thing is that this official, it seems to me, has just woke up from his/her sleep to tell what Ethiopians have know all these years, that is, what a dreadful regime has EPRDF become.

I do not know anything about who Ato Workie is. But, from his writing it seems to me that he himself was an official within the Ministry. The gist of his argument in both articles can be summed up in the following:

1) 50 or so diplomats allegedly have ‘defected’ or ‘refuse’ to go back to Ethiopia when recalled or resigned. According to Ato Workie, these diplomats have “left the regime refusing to serve what many of them call a criminal regime” implying what they have done is a commendable, patriotic and honorable act.

2) The EPRDF led government itself is drowned in corruption to its neck and thus its effort to accuse or bring to justice those officials including the defectors is groundless.

I think the above is a reasonable summation of the articles any reasonable and principled person can come up with. Assuming we agree with the statement, let me lay out a few points to argue that Ato Workie’s arguments are not convincing at all for a non partisan Ethiopian like me and arguably borders hypocrisy and selfish motives. Here are my arguments:

  1. Assuming that the allegation is true and that these 50 or so diplomats have indeed defected, it is too transparent to see for all that the supposed reason for their defection is not believable. They have been serving this government in some cases for over a decade and frankly until their term of posting has ended and they are called back. So, how are we to buy their lame excuse of ‘refusing to serve a ‘criminal regime’? Has it just downed on them, when they are recalled, that this in fact is a ‘criminal regime’? When did this government become a ‘criminal regime’? I suppose, inferring from Ato Workie’s articles, most probably this year when they are instructed to implement the Ministry’s ‘Strategic Plan’. Of course, they did not defect on the day the ‘Strategic Plan’ was issued notwithstanding their harbored opposition to it. They did defect; it seems to me, when they are recalled. They would probably have continued to serve (or lead a good life) had the government not committed the ‘mistake’ of recalling them.
  2. Unlike these diplomats, the recent Ethiopian history is full of great personalities such as Ato Belachew Asrat (former Ambassador to the former Soviet Union) and Dej. Zewde G/Selassie (former Deputy Prime Minister). These principled persons resigned from the Dergue regime at the height of their career when they saw the Dergue regime for what it was. They did not wait to be recalled. You want another recent example: Look at Ato Woldeselassie Girma. Ato Woldeselassie was appointed Minister of Finance in 1991 but resigned shortly thereafter for policy differences. The same is true with Ato Shiferaw W/Michael. Another example would be Ato Tecola Hagos who left the government around 1993 or 1994. These people might understandably have joined the government on a mistaken contemplation but left when they see the writing on the wall as it were. My contention is this: You just cannot serve a government and implement its policies for a long long time and when the going gets tough, you concoct a reason as to why you don’t want to be associated with the government any more. Granted genuine differences might arise later in time, even then you must be prepared to spell out the differences but defend the past policies you were an instrument to design and implement or admit your mistakes for supporting and implementing such policies. You cannot have it both ways.
  3. On the other hand, if it is indeed true that these diplomats have just discovered the ‘criminal’ nature of the government (after having ‘walked’ with it all these years), then it is good riddance for the Ministry and the Ethiopian people because they should not have been diplomats in the first place as they seriously lack common sense judgment or they are opportunist sycophants.
  4. Finally, the argument that ‘the government itself is a thief and therefore cannot legitimately ‘accuses others of looting the national wealth’ is a totally unacceptable argument. And, I don’t think it is a valid legal argument in a court of law. John 8:32 says “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. There is no reason why these diplomats should freak out just because a circular is out; purportedly to bring to light whatever ill-deeds and ill-gains they have made using their offices. Why? Because 1) If they are clean, who cares about what this ‘criminal regime’ is talking about? 2) After all they all now reside in countries where the rule of trumps bogus charges such as the one they claim is being orchestrated by the regime. On the other hand, if as the circular implies, they have benefited illegally, well, that speaks for itself.

My point in short is this: I don’t think such personalities have any credibility to denounce the government they have ‘willingly’, for whatever reason, served until yesterday while they have every opportunity to resign long ago, I mean long ago. You may say: It may be that they have families or older parents or poor relatives or loved ones to support and understandably did not dare to resign and lose it all. But principle demands sacrifice. It is the sacrifice that gives one the credibility or the higher moral ground to utter truth as truth. They have had their chance but they have chosen not to use it so I don’t think they can claim any credibility now. It is too late. However, it would be in their right to remain wherever they want to remain. It is the inclusion of such types of personalities in some of the opposition parties that constantly baffled me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Somalia Turmoil and Ethiopia’s national interest

The Somalia Turmoil and Ethiopia’s national interest Somalia has been without a functional national government for 15 years and counting. The transitional government that is supported by Ethiopia is clearly losing ground amongst the Somalia people. The dispute between the transitional government and the Islamic courts is a dispute between the two entities, period. Does Ethiopia have a legitimate national interest in the outcome of the resolution of the dispute? Yes. Whether Somalia would prove itself a stable country to the east of Ethiopia or not is a matter of national interest for Ethiopia on a host of many issues. But that does not mean Ethiopia must actively work to see to it which party is winning in such struggle. It is up to the people of Somalia to decide. Thus, Ethiopia should refrain from being a self-appointed ‘judge’ of the dispute. The Ethiopian government should stand in solidarity with the people of Somalia as they work their way through the dispute and wait and see. Wait and see is a good and sensible policy for now.