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“Live and Let Live” Boggs Down Ruling Party
Partial aerial view of Bahir Dar, the seat of the Amhara Regional State. In focus is a statue dedicated to the martyrs of the ANDM, formerly the EPDM.
Reciting a poem inside the Bahir Dar town hall last week, a young actor recalled the sacrifices made by people such as Mulualem Ejigu, a veteran fighter in the armed struggle against the Derg who was assassinated a few years after the ousting of the military regime, to whose memory the hall is dedicated. A poetically emphasised, but stern, warning on the curse of corruption was sent by the routine.
Facing an army of cadres of the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), one of the four parties that form the ruling coalition, who gathered last week at their party’s ninth convention, those allegedly involved in corruption, nepotism, and the advancement of self-interests at the expense of the common good was denigrated by the actor.
He won a round of applause from the animated majority of the 1,200 cadres assembled on the first day of the convention, in the afternoon of September 4, 2010.
Later in the night, in bars across the town, this feeling was echoed by some of the cadres who played to the tune of the latest release by Tewodros Kassahun, a.k.a Teddy Afro, with lyrics promoting the virtues of keeping one’s integrity and not submitting to the pull of vested interests.
Whether leaders in the ruling coalition and the national parties that form it have been involved in practices that compromise their party was a subject of heated debate when they discussed part of the 47-page report which was presented by the leadership of the ANDM to the convention, chaired by Addisu Legesse, a politbureau member at the time of going to press.
Achievements in the social and economic life of the Amhara Regional State and the outline of goals to accomplish until the next convention, in two years’ time, dominated much of the three-part report, dubbed “transformation.” The party’s plan of action parallels the “growth and transformation plan” which the federal government is currently brainstorming.
Theirs is as ambitious as the federal plan for the whole country; leaders of the Amhara regional state would want to double agricultural output by 30pc, supplying 5.36 million quintals of fertilizer in the next five years, twice the volume that is available in the region now. They want to ensure a 100pc provision education, while in the health sector they plan to improve the ratio of health post one to 25,000 people.
Determined to root out what they claim is entrenched “rent seeking” culture in the public, they pledged to identify sectors in the region’s economy “to allow enhanced competition and efficiency.”
Yet, beneath their satisfaction with past accomplishments, delegates were bitter about the “loss of revolutionary culture” in their party that has led the leadership to “favouritism and corruption,” as they described it.
Some delegates challenged the leadership for the existence of an alleged “group that has the power to destroy others, does it deliberately, and has the ability to conceal its vices.”
This is reflected more in the leadership than the rank and file, according to Ambachew, one of the 300 non-voting delegates that participated in the convention, who is doing his doctoral studies in the United Kingdom (UK).
“Are there untouchables; those who are protected?” he asked.
The existence of networking within the party is real, they would agree. So is opportunism at the highest order of the ruling party’s leadership, Bereket Simon, a founder and senior leader of the party, said.
- A father figure in the party, Addisu Legesse, founder and veteran fighter, handed over his chair to a noncombatant younger leader.
- A teacher when the EPRDF took over in mid-1991, Demeke Mekonnen’s ascendance to the top most position surprised many.
- A political maverick, Bereket Simon is one of the veterans preparing the ground for the younger generation to take over the leadership.
- Humble and popular in the regional state, Ayelew Gobeze was a teacher when he joined the party in the early 1990s. He is an emerging star.
- Relatively younger than the veteran founders, Tadesse Kassa (Tinkishu) is an old hand; his election to the politbureau was unexpected.
- Little known outside of the region, Gedu Andargachew was a student when he joined the party during the last year of the armed struggle. His ascendance was no surprise.
“Opportunism” exists at the highest level of the leadership, each member of which has been evaluated, the central committee of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) agreed in its recent meeting, Bereket told delegates.
“There were relationships formed on the basis of unprincipled benefits,” he said. “However, we could not establish that senior leaders are in bed with powerful interests.”
This view is indeed confirmed by the World Bank, in its country policy and institutional assessment for 2009, a key component used to determine the amount of loans and grants it gives member countries.
“Where corruption does occur, it is reported as typically entailing misrepresentation or falsification or of documentation, rather than a network of bribery of public officials,” says World Bank’s assessment, in its section of “state capture by narrow vested interests.”
There is a growing feeling among members, however, that the system they have installed since their ascendance to political power in the early 1990s has created many millionaires. Yet, their selfless contributions to the advancement of the country failed to help them address the basic needs of health and education of their families and themselves, some feel, in the same way they would agree that the party’s culture of correcting its leaders and members with “criticism and self-criticism” has been seriously eroded in recent years.
The attitude shared by members of the leadership is “live and let live” and a growing culture of “opportunism,” according to the assessment by the leadership of the EPRDF.
The sources of opportunism are diverse, according to Addisu, who is also deputy Prime Minister. The desire for co-existence, the insecurity of leaders as well as the rank and file about their political status, and the prospect of losing the material comforts which political offices bring, are some of these sources.
Opportunism is the result, rather than the cause, delegates like Ambachew, whose views were shared by others such as Tadesse Kassa, a.k.a. Tinkishu, a founder of the ANDM and member of its central committee, said. It is the new culture of “hearsay and gossip” within the organisation that has created an environment which makes “opportunism” rewarding and fighting it costly, according to them.
However, these all result from individual weaknesses and their source ought not to be externalised, Bereket argued, referring to the conclusion of the EPRDF leadership.
“The leadership of the EPRDF believes that opportunism is internal; not imposed by outside sources,” he said.
It takes individual resolve to fight the attitude of “live and let live,” Addisu agreed.
“Why do our members not dare anymore?” he wondered.
Daring they may, if only the party provides a guarantee that whistleblowers will be protected.
“The party should establish a stronger supervision and controlling system on those who network and subject other members to punitive consequences,” Desta Tesfaw, director general of the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA), said.
The problem is exhibited on an individual level and thus, “Individual members should be prepared to take risks and pay the price,” Bereket insisted. Yet, these “problems occurred with the transformation” of the party.
In light of the expanded size of its membership (nearly a million) and the increasing number of intellectuals that have joined the party lately, delegates espoused this argument. Of the 75 delegates nominated for the party’s central committee on the afternoon of September 7, for instance, not less than seven have PhDs, including Genet Zewdie, now Ethiopia’s ambassador to India.
“What remains now is consolidation,” Bereket said.
Despite the increase in membership size, the quality and resolve of such members for the cause of the organisation, which was first formed in November 1980, in the remote parts of Waag, in Wello, are questioned by critics.
Among the 37 founding members, two of which are women, Bereket and Addisu were members of the five presidiums last week, which navigated delegates during the convention that came to an end on Wednesday morning, electing Demeke Mekonnen, a former teacher before joining the party, as its chairman.
It is the first time that the party has installed a non-combatant member, who joined after the end of the war against the Derg came to conclusion, in May 1991, to its highest position.
Gedu Andargachew, a student who joined the party a year before the end of the war, and now deputy governor of the regional state, was elected as deputy chairman, while veterans such as Addisu, Bereket, and Tadesse remained in the executive committee and its politbureau, but with the intention to phase in the handing over of the leadership to the new generation.
“The succession plan of the EPRDF is a redeployment of the veterans and the top leadership,” said Tadesse.
While the veterans are redeployed, perhaps to teach or take leaves of absences to write their memoirs, the new and relatively younger leadership will be challenged in its bid to root out what the EPRDF leadership calls an increasing attitude to “live and let live.”
In the view of the outgoing leadership, it is such a growing attitude that has paved the way for the rank and file’s lack of desire to fight “mediocrity” in search of personal comfort. Illegitimate land grabbing in urban areas, as well as increased disputes on rural land; rent seeking; and poor service delivery have been caused by this. The issues of land, tax, and government procurement are areas in which businesspeople make sudden elevations “from rags to riches.”
“The EPRDF is to be tested on the issue of land,” Addisu warned.
Perhaps, the rank and file of the EPRDF get less credit than they deserve in their internal fight to hold their leaders accountable; their critics appear to be little informed about the elevated nature of debates on policy priorities and their implementations.
Despite every discourse within the party being pre-determined in the tradition of leftist parties, in the view of sceptics, the remarkable, unscripted, and raw nature of comments directed, particularly, from farmer members in their midst makes it hard to accept everything as predesigned.
In the unprecedented openness and access they allowed to the private media for the first time, following a heated debate, according to a veteran member, they were seen ruthlessly passing judgment on those nominated for the central committee. However, while some of them made it onto the committee, even after the onslaught they were subjected to, others did not.
Such was the story of Asrat Genet (MD), head of the regional government’s health bureau and central committee member for the past two years. His nomination for a second term, and voting in favour thereof, met with strong resistance from the rank and file on the grounds of unbecoming personal conduct, alleged corruption, poor handling of members under his supervision, and underperformance on the region’s delivery of healthcare services.
“He wants to be served,” said a female delegate. “He is not there to serve the public.”
The criticism directed at Asrat was echoed by other members who claimed to have worked in the same cell.
An intervention from the highest order, Ayalew Gobezie, president of the regional state and politbureau member, that Asrat is well versed in health policy development and interpretation, did little to save him. A second round of voting on his nomination fell far short of the 265 votes needed to get him on the shortlist.
Yet, in the case of Alebachew Negussie, head of the EPRDF’s political affairs, the result was different. None other than Bereket Simon bailed him out of a political storm brought forth by a delegate’s assertion that his performance was poor and did little for the regional party apparatus. Bereket’s defence of Alebachew for outstanding achievements at the EPRDF level helped him to survive and enter the central committee.
Such a political culture of openness and uninhibited discussions within the EPRDF domain astounded observers, some of whom were known businessmen and women, such as Bizuayehu Tadelle, Abebaw Desta, Hirut Alamerew, and Telksew Gedamu, a businesswoman who is building a 17-storey hotel with a projected cost of 130 million Br, on the shores of Lake Tana.
“I am surprised with the openness and participatory nature of the meeting,” Bizuayehu, chairman of East Africa Holdings, which owns 80pc of National Cement in Dire Dawa, told Fortune. “It is clear that they are committed but I am more surprised by the elevated political consciousness of their farmer members. They were direct and to the point.”
I hope that this is a sign of greater political transparency.
Originally Posted by HerachioBlo
I'm personally looking into opening my own baby farm. You can scrape a mean profit flippin babies right now because of the stock market. 6k a pop, 9 months for your investment to mature. From there, acquisitions and mergers.