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Investing for Suppression: EPRDF‛s vain agenda
By Kaleab Kassaye
It was about two decades ago that the President of the then Transitional Government and the existing and only Supreme Leader (officially Prime Minister) of Ethiopia, Mr. Zenawi vowed to bring justice, democracy and better days to the country- a nation that had been at the brink of annihilation and collapse caused by the long-lasting civil war. Buoyed by the ovation and cheer from close friends, colleagues and other guts obsessed to gamble on blood money, he has fancied about seeing Ethiopians who can feed themselves three times a day, able to speak and elect their leaders based on the basic parameters of constitutionalism, having a say on the affairs of their home country, marking a paradigm shift in the politico-economic landscape and even a renaissance of our historic dominance in the region.
When all put into the ground, 'til this day, there isn’t any success story to talk about in this hysterically deteriorating nation apart from recurrent hunger, war, massive immigration, unemployment, torture and mockery of justice. Yet, six out of ten Ethiopians wouldn’t afford to feed themselves (the normal diet) three times a day, censorship is a norm and party owned media is a cradle, demonstration and rally is virtually banned a long ago, elections are far from being unrigged, decisions are made at the politburo level, one individual with a very rigid, imprecise dogma is in power for twenty-one years. The chances of bringing change look slim at best and the citizenry keep complaining of heavy-handed tactics of suppression by the ruling party. Of course, certainly infrastructures are getting momentum following a massive anger of the electorate in 2005.
Western Donors with the assumption of a democratic-pluralist politics and relied on the unexamined and ethically unreliable data’s and records, hoping that the regime will learn from its mistakes and strive to bring something beautiful to the people keep lending their hand. Indeed, this continuing enthusiasm toward Ethiopia goes beyond the rhetoric of development ‘‘partnership’’ and could be justified by the country’s strategic significance in the region. In the last two decades the EPRDF government has received some USD 36 billion in development aid from donors, notably the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union, Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID), GTZ (Germany), CIDA (Canada), Japan, the Netherlands and Italy. This makes Ethiopia the world’s second largest recipients of total external assistance after Indonesia. In addition Ethiopia is the highly indebted poor country of the world mainly during the EPRDF stewardship. The amount of tax collected from individual citizens, cash contribution of the Diaspora has significantly increased and enough to bring change in the life of the people in normal course of actions. But, as a matter of fact, nothing has changed. This is perhaps a brainteaser. Is the regime actually investing on development, democracy which the country has long been dreamed of? Is the mass satisfied with what is going on in the country’s socio-economic vein? Do really the regime won the hearts and minds of the youth, civil servant, the agrarian, and pastoralist? Does our fathers, mothers and family members blissful to the deeds of the incumbent? Are we speaking freely what we believe in? The answer is a big, fat NO!
I am just wondering where this mega money goes. It is firmly believed that this amount is more than enough to open a path at least. The government claims the construction of schools, medical centers, roads and buildings. Parallel to this claim is the donors funding of each and every construction project. In an open society, the government in power is supposed to invest in transforming the mass as opposed to few individuals. It is expected to transmute the country into democracy and lessening the multifaceted agony of its citizens, implying the apparent responsibility of misuse and looting. Regrettably the regime, which has long been suffered from lacking legitimacy, keeps investing in tightening the level field for democratization and constitutionalism. This plainly is sabotaging the hope of the future generation. Innovation and broadmindedness is the stamina to compass the days ahead.
According to a very recent report in the Economist, the United States, Germany and Britain have continued to pour money into the country despite the arrest of opposition politicians on trumped-up treason charges, the harassment of ordinary citizens, the curbing of internet access, and heavy spying on universities and workplaces. Needless to say, these are the major investment areas of the governing elites. Using hundred millions of dollars to convince poor citizens in order to vote to the incumbent, paying billions of dollars to install deep inspection tools to confine the reach of free internet access and rival broadcasts are on top of the agenda. Prosecution of newspapers and radio transmission are the forefront business for the last two decades. Opposition politics and concomitant thoughts are outlawed and a single party state is operating since the last “election”. When outsiders do bring up dogmatic faultiness, Zenawi responds tartly to the critics that it is due to the absenteeism of strong opposition parties. How can a country afford strong political groups and civil society committed to contribute something in the existing situation? The strong oppositions who won the only democratic election are thrown to jail and are in exile. Being a member to the other camp other than EPRDF is a taboo. A person has to pay a virulent price for telling the truth. True that the rise of China as an alternative patron makes it easier for them to cock snooks at critics concerning human right and constitutionalism.
Huge investment is flown to intensify repression and curb the media than enhancing democratization and good governance, check is signed in order to acquire sophisticated weapon and ammunition (note the 200 T-72 tanks Ethiopia has bought from Ukrspecexport SC, the Ukrainian state-controlled arms exporter last year).
Corruption and illicit trafficking of the country’s wealth including Aid money are other areas of this noxious venture. Party officials at the district level are relentlessly embezzling the public treasury and cash begged in the name of the poor and the starved. A Woreda (District) cadre is receiving double of his monthly salary in the form of per diem (Wulo Abel) for nothing but simply speaking on a phone or reporting his normal chore to his fellow guts. A UN report confirms that 8 billion USD has secretly been taken out of Ethiopia. Unofficial reports also suggest the monopoly enjoyed by a party owned company for about 60% of the national economy. Offshore account of leaders is in a much thicker than domestic reserves of the national bank. An individual citizen has to proof his commitment to vote for the EPRDF in order to secure food aid -there is nothing for granted and being starved does not guarantee assistance.
Seemingly Western governments have become shy about spreading the idea that food aid and development aid are credits granted in return for government’s effort toward democratization and human right protection. The Economist succinctly contended that “all tyrants want things from the West-from a haven for their ill-gotten gains to recreation for their families. When access to these goodies is withdrawn, it can send a powerful signal.” Hence people under brutal leaders in Africa and Asia are in one or the other under the mercy of Western donors. As far as the West continues to endorse these ridicule “investments” of the leaders, it will take another century for democracy to shine in these parts of the world.
We need a more transparent financial system in the country. It has been argued time and again that the economic boost is benefiting EPRDF and its allies not the mass. For the public it is a curse. and just curious what the anti corruption commission is established for?? Excellent observation.
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