The feuding EPRDF sisters signaling the ultimate end of an era: The final demise of the EPRDF and the making of a Real Change in Ethiopia
By Raggaasaa Oljirraa, July 17, 2019
The euphoria of change in the aftermath of Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s accession to power in autocratic Ethiopia has consumed the energy, the resources and the emotions of the Ethiopian populace for the last 15 months until now. The exchange of attacks and counter-attacks between Abiy enthusiasts and skeptics characterized the tenure of the Colonel’s premiership to this date. It was a period of disorientation for the cult like adherents & loyalists of Abiy, where as it has been a worrisome political climate for the critics of the rising populist star who sprang out of the very establishment that thousands of Oromo youth paid the ultimate price to dismantle. With it came again, the raging debate of whether the turmoil is a change, a reform or a continuity. The disoriented critical mass I mentioned earlier was hell bent on the motto of “don’t ask don’t tell” by blindly choosing to believe that the turmoil is the change. For them it was the end of history and Abiy was their last man (not Francis Fukuyama’s last man, though). Any critical voice against the Colonel’s regime was portrayed as unprogressive and anti-peace agent that jeopardizes the much sought after change without understanding what structural and systemic elements a change should have entailed.
It was in the midst of this hope, euphoria, confusion, fear and skepticism that the EPRDF sister organizations opened a new front of propaganda warfare against each other in the open air. Many had already sensed the fact that the sisters were at odds for a long time but the only quality those Revolutionary democrats harbored was the skill with which they kept their internal skirmishes within the bounds of EPRDF’s hamlet. With that era of secrecy gone forever, TPLF and ADP caught us with a surprise of an unprecedented accusatory press releases and counter press releases of blaming each other for everything under the sky. The alternating press releases that were going on for the last two weeks may not be the last ones while we expect more barrages of condemnation to take place as we speak because the pattern is rooted in the political history of these two core-Abyssinian adversaries since time immemorial.
Change, reform or continuity?
Change is an act of making a difference or becoming different from what has been the norm so far. Without resorting to an in-depth analysis of the dictionary meaning of the word, the focal point here is to examine whether what has happened after Abiy’s rise to power has made a substantive difference or whether Abiy has become different by being de-baptized of his ideological life-line of revolutionary democracy. Undeniably many things have become different in appearance since April 2018. Many prisoners were released unconditionally (thousands of Oromo that are replacing the ones’ released back then is not the scope of this discussion as it has its own platform or agenda next), people began to express themselves, relatively, freely (though speaking ones’ own mind and doing what ones’ mind desires are two diametrically opposite poles), fearing the agonizing tone of Tigrinya speaking secret service agents vanished into thin air, and most of all opposition forces ranging from a one-man, unemployed refugees-turned politicians streamlining YouTube channels residing in the Welfare states of the West to Organizations with formidable military muscle capable of challenging the status quo went home to be part of the turmoil and play the game of survival of the fittest. In essence, these differences, if sustainable and genuine, were commendable to incrementally yearn for the next progress to take effect while returnee politicians will be screened through that process of natural selection.
The question here is though, are these differences organically embedded in the systemic and structural components of present day Ethiopia’s system of governance and the answer is absolutely “No”. Arguably, the much praised change agent, Abiy Ahmed, is the bi-product of the very system that was based on the political and economic philosophies of Revolutionary democracy and the Developmental state, respectively. What these two entail may require a thorough analysis but in short these two ideological streams were Meles Zenawi’s scepters used to maintain TPLF/EPRDF’s dominant political position by justifying the need for a vanguard party in a multi-ethnic polity like that of Ethiopia and control the nation’s economic resources by legitimizing the need for state intervention as opposed to the neoliberal stances of leaving things to take their own due course dictated by the free market alone. With it, the country fell under the grip of Zenawi’s TPLF at the helm while its satellite surrogates to which Abiy Ahmed belonged helped perpetuate the political and economic hegemony of the vanguard party. That was how EFFORT & METEC as State and Party enterprises amassed an innumerable amount of wealth owned by a Tigrean oligarchy and with the likes of Abiy being handed out a small share of the booty for the services they rendered in the plundering.
Now, for the difference that we see today to be exhibited as a change, those systemic and structural elements must have been dismantled and replaced. The first task for a change to take effect should have been the dismantling of the coalition of the un-equals, i.e. the Orwellian EPRDF that has been the source of all evils that agonized Ethiopia for over a quarter of a century. Doing so could have eroded, Abiy, Lama, Gedu & Co., because the first two rose to the ranks of the EPRDF structure of Security apparatus while their beginnings goes back to their days as child soldiers. If not it was for the EPRDF, we would have never heard of these giant names we are preoccupied with today. So, the change that we were yearning for, i.e., dismantling the EPRDF and the change Abiy was charting for us turned their backs at each other. Consequently, the much sang for change is not there for the critique while it is at its climax for the disoriented herd of worshippers who believe in Abiy Ahmed’s supra human quality. This is a very dangerous crowd that could be bartered by the next potential cult like figure that may arise at a certain point in time.
A Reform by extension is also a process of improving or amending what is wrong, corrupt or unsatisfactory. Yet, both processes of change or reform require systemic and structural changes discussed earlier but concluded with hopelessness.
The political landscape in contemporary Ethiopia rather could best be described in terms of continuity in many ways. Abiy and his cronies are the continuation of the very system that nurtured them and a fight against it would be suicidal to them as they are very well aware of it as well. Their actions of perpetuating the status quo clearly speaks to their deep seated intent of prevailing against all odds under the guise of change. Abiy himself spoke of his plan of resorting to machineguns and to do what it takes to maintain his prophesied royalty. The man who mesmerized millions by singing love, peace and መደመር suddenly changed course, only to resort to his true self. Some of his adherents began to doubt the sincerity of the man. With the eroding confidence of those who once propelled him to the level of a supra human messiah, some jokingly expressed the hollow መደመር as an elusive populism by saying “የተደመሩ ተደበሩ”.
Another significant hallmark of an attempt for the continuity of Ethiopia’s imperial legacy began re-asserting itself from its natural corner that claims to be the sole guardian of the Ethiopian State as they knew it before. Today’s Amhara regional state (plus Tigray of course) that coalesces with the highland Christian kingdom interchangeably used for Abyssinia by the renowned Dr. Tadesse Tamirat in his monumental work “Church and State in Ethiopia”, unequivocally claimed to be at the helm of grand project for the renaissance of Ethiopia that was color blind to non-mainstream Ethiopians.
The unfolding events in the very recent past, the daily bluffs by the collection of adult Kindergartners known as አብን, all attest to the once and for all attempt of pushing for the restoration of imperial Ethiopia as a continuation rather than recognizing a multi ethnic polity that requires multidisciplinary approaches for a peaceful co-existence. In fact it was Abiy who invoked the idea of restoring Ethiopia’s Glory in his inaugural speech which has become the blue print for the አብን bunch. The latest killings in Abyssinia (Amhara Reginal State) clearly indicated the regressive political culture of a society reminiscent of the era of princes or Zemene Mesafint that goes back to 180 years and beyond. Though, the actors are different, the pattern is exactly the same: The now defunct Asaminew Tsige acted the role of Kasa of Quara (aka emperor Tewodros) from Gondar, while a DebreTsion from Tigray could be equated with Kasa Sebagadis as his Tigrean counterpart in the bloody race for the Abyssinian throne.
With Ethiopia caught in a quagmire of bitter contention between regressive forces yearning for the past and the progressive political forces whose very principle is based on the right to self-determination as enshrined in the charters of the new world order, a change in personnel within the EPRDF’s power structure cannot even slightly be equated with CHANGE in the true sense of the term. That is why some critical voices are strongly advocating for examining what has changed and what should been changed for Change to be a full-fledged Transformation so that a lasting peace could be ascertained through a participatory democracy.
In fact, for the much sought after Change to take effect, both blind support and blind hatred or critique are the primary menaces that could easily derail the well-intended course we all are, seemingly, attempting to take. So, our struggle is not only with the dictate of the self-appointed change agents but with those who blindly support without knowing what to support and some nihilists who believe that nothing has happened to begin with. We have certainly started a course and made a difference, if not change but we can change things if we have the audacity to listen to each other and believe in the symbiotic value of a civil discourse’s outcome.
For a change to foment, EPRDF should wither away
As I have said earlier, a lasting change could only be sealed if the structural and systemic anatomies of governance organically embedded in EPRDF is completely routed out once and for all. This is not a slogan nor a blank wish but it is an objective realty. Undeniably, it is the EPRDF that housed all evils which now needs to be demolished so that all the demons could go astray and seek a different host than the people of Ethiopia. Because everything happened in the ‘sacred” name of the EPRDF. It was “appropriate” to imprison, torture, maim or ultimately kill an innocent citizen if EPRDF wished so. It was alright to silence a different view, muffle dissent and eventually quarantine the ones’ whose eye colors EPRDF did not like because they were not desired by the tenets in the Manual list of EPRDF’s Revolutionary democracy. It is okay to plunder, loot and amass wealth by the few revolutionary democrats at the helm of the state power while the Ethiopian masses remain in perpetual poverty because it is in line with EPRDF’s religious belief in Developmental state. So, why should we keep this house of demons unless we are doomed to a debilitating state of denial?
Any attempt to maintain EPRDF while seeking a ground breaking change in Ethiopia is conceptually congruent to a futile attempt of grinding water to make it more liquid or something else. One can perpetually keep grinding water. It does not change its material form of existence, i.e. it always remains as liquid as its original nature. Similarly, a real change cannot be attained in Ethiopia as long as EPRDF remains a ruling party, a position it has hitherto maintained. For that matter, this house of cards has reached the apex of its development and had already resumed its journey of a downward spiral. The latest open squabble among the “lovely” sister organizations within the moribund EPRDF is an outright manifestation of the decay and decline of the most abusive conglomerate. While no one can save it from its ensuing death, any attempt to resuscitate the EPRDF is a disservice to the struggle for real Change in the country at this moment.
Many may pose a legitimate question of what is going to happen to the ruling party that Dr. Abiy is at the helm of, if EPRDF is dismantled for the stability of the country would be at stake. Rightfully so, every rational mind should worry about peace and stability of a country with over 100 million, to begin with. We all need to seriously contribute to peace and stability for no one can do politics within a vacuum or chaos, but without the need to maintain EPRDF. With it gone, it does not mean that organizations that constituted the very EPRDF would be liquidated. They will only lose their sisterly statuses and become equal partners the same way they are going to interact with all stake holders in Ethiopia. They maintain their autonomy and prove themselves by standing the test of the time to which they have dedicated themselves, i.e. the role of the true servant leadership. It will be a high time for these parties since they will be judged by the merits and demerits of their members and leaders as well as ideologues, if one existed, for that matter. Those who fail will give way to those who assert themselves to be fit to fulfill the aspirations of their people.
Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s OPDO, now ODP, should be prepared to reign by creating a governing coalition of equals both within Oromia and Ethiopia. When a party cannot stand alone, it is an international norm in a democracy that parties can form a governing coalition for a period of their terms while maintaining their autonomy of continuing or withdrawing from it at a time of their will. If Abiy’s OPDO has the confidence to do so, Dr. Abiy will remain at the same positions he now holds, namely Ethiopia’s prime minister and chairman of his party until the upcoming election. Mind you that EPRDF has never been a coalition but a Vanguard party of un-equals whose blood supply for its existence was running through the veins of TPLF. That day is over and TPLF is truly defeated because its current behaviors of actions clearly indicated its loss of control over its foster children. So, TPLF is openly declaring its resolve to dismantle its own creation as its Adet project is becoming a liability rather than an asset it has been for over 28 years. It is end of an era and beginning of a new. There are only two annoying elements that are trying to hang on EPRDF as long as it lasts: The first group is a collection of the rent seeking scavengers within the OPDO who just joined it but believe that they did not have enough out of the booty and those who amassed much but trying to buy time to secure the wealth they have plundered so far. The second group is the scum-bug diaspora that sold its soul for a plot of land by, simultaneously, acting as the agent of the CAPITAL FLIGHT from Oromia in particular. There is a symbiotic relationship between the scavengers within the OPDO and those sum-bug diaspora. The home based looters have millions of Birr to exchange it for US Dollar as well as Euro that would be deposited for them in Europe, the United States and Canada. The diaspora assists them in the transaction, luring people who send money home by a large amount of exchange rate than the official one. According to the official exchange rate, one U.S. Dollar amounts to twenty eight Ethiopian Birr whereas the network of the home based thieves and their Diaspora based accomplices are offering an exchange rate of up to 42 Ethiopian Birr for one U.S. Dollar. These were the ones’ who were chanting “LONG LIVE EPRDF” in front of the Minnesota State Capitol on Thursday July 11, 2019 and in few other places, as seen sporadically.
Dr. Abiy Ahmed has clearly lost control of EPRDF, if not the country and with this dangerous trend maintaining an unruly institution will dearly cost, not only the party or its pros and cons but an entire nation to be exact. Some took his words for a prophecy when the renowned political scientist, Professor Merera Gudina, eloquently stated that Abiy’s challenge is not going to be presiding over Ethiopia but leading the EPRDF. This is exactly what is happening with a clear signal of what it is going to culminate in to. Professor Merera’s assertion was not a prophecy of a superstitious nature, but a sharp critical analysis of a political scientist that is capable of envisioning a socio-political trend in a foreseeable future. It is up to those who are at the helm of the ensuing theatre to act correctly or otherwise face the consequences of a real change that is in sight with the final demise of the EPRDF.
One last remark from my recollections of the revolutions of 1989 is worth mentioning here. When the reform agenda known as Perestroika was launched by the then president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, the world was so excited and Gorbachev was hailed as an unprecedented change agent that was easing the East-West tension once and for all. For a world that was on the brink the nuclear confrontation in the midst of a cold-war era, the emergence of a Messiah in the name Gorbachev was simply breath taking at the time. But, Gorbachev the reformer did not intend to dismantle his beloved Soviet Union, he just envisioned an economic reform to his socialist planned economy by slightly introducing some state-private enterprises (the so called Mixed economy Menge also imitated in 1989) so that the long queues for the daily bread across the soviet empire would find some ease. Gorbachev did not see the paradox in his perestroika that maintaining the Soviet Union and introducing a capitalistic economy would be completely incompatible. Eventually, Gorbachev and his Soviet Union were wiped out in 1991 by the very reform he himself induced without knowing where it was going to take him. With it, the reformer and the much acclaimed change agent became a victim of, not necessarily his own making but the dynamics of what due course a CHANGE had to, uncontrollably, take. While admitting his final defeat, Gorbachev sent a message to his East German counter-part, Erich Honecker who was still reluctant about the ensuing change even when the Berlin Wall was falling apart in front of his eyes just half a mile away from his Palast Der Republik on the grounds of Alexander Platz in central Berlin. In his message to Honecker, Gorbachev stated verbatim as written in Deutsch/German, “Wer zu spät kommt, den bestraft das Leben”, meaning: who comes late punishes life! Shortly after this message of the century as many alluded to, Honecker sought refuge in Moscow, was brought back to Berlin for trial but was let go to live with his daughter in Chile where he died few years later in Santiago De Chile while in exile.
May be do we see signs of a Mini-Gorbachev in our own Lamma Magarsa, in context????? – አብዮት ልጅዋን ትበላለች!– Then, which child is next?