An open letter to His excellency Mr. Awal Arba Unde
The President of Afar Regional State
Dear Mr President,
I hope you would agree with me when I say, the developmental lag and challenges of our region are mainly attributed to lack of leadership and good governance. This can’t be contested as several reports and research findings assert that maladministration and poor leadership have brought the Afar region to its current shape and form. I believe it is up to the current generation of Afars to refuse to settle for such disgraceful reality and to find ways to improve things. As the old Afar proverb says, it is always best when improvement starts from the top. It is with this motive that I am writing this letter to forward few but important tips of advice to contribute to leadership rejuvenation in Afar region.
Mr President, we are living in a very challenging time and collective leadership is needed more than ever. I am of the belief that you shouldn’t be left alone with the burden to decide on all regional affairs singlehandedly. Rather, people need to offer assistance for, as a regional president, you are not expected to have knowledge of everything. However, you are expected to surround yourself with resource persons and professionals whose primary responsibility will be to support the president in making key decisions. Mistakes committed by key personnel like you have far reaching consequences and advisors are the best people to consult with to avoid making grieve mistakes. In this regard, please consider setting up a “Council of President Advisors” to help you easily formulate policies, set development priorities, and exercise your constitutional power properly. Among others, the advisory group should include Constitutional and Legal Advisors, Business Advisors, Development Advisors, Policy Advisors, Communication Advisors and Peace and Security Advisors. It is my strong conviction that with a pool of such professionals, your leadership will achieve astonishing development results.
Speaking of development, I am always puzzled by how a leadership of an independent region with massive land mass and rich natural resources try to tackle underdevelopment without a “Regional Development Plan”. As far as I know, Ethiopia’s Afar Region doesn’t have a comprehensive “Long-Term Regional Development Plan” in which the future of the region’s education, health, population, livelihood, politics, economy and other issues are discussed in detail. As a result, nobody is able to predict what the region will look like after five, ten, thirty or fifty years. In the absence of such an important document, Afar region is like a sailing ship trying to find its way without compass. Hence, kindly consider tapping into the knowledge of the highly qualified diaspora Afar community or the think thanks of the region to develop a Region wide Development Plan which will serve as the roadmap to the future. Few years back, The African Union developed a 50-year continental plan for Africa called “Agenda 2063”. If it is possible to plan for a big continent like Africa, why not for a region?
Another important issue worth mentioning here is the fact that realizing development comes with the precondition of securing a peaceful environment. Where there is no peace and stability, it is impossible to realize development for development and lack of peace can’t coexist at the same place. Given the current reality, it is very silly waste of time, temper, and resources to try to develop the Afar region without prevailing peace and order. Quite often, the region been dragged into confrontation and different powers have continued to pose an existential threat on the citizens of the region. And when under threat, armed forces are not only essential for providing security and deterrence but also are the most potent manifestation of strength. Therefore, before thinking of developing the region, it will be very wise move to beef-up security measures and increase regional security forces in size, training, equipment, and experiences. By doing so, the region will also be discharging its constitutional mandate of establishing a regional law enforcement forces such as the police and special forces. I understand war is very destructive and it should be avoided at any cost. However, desperate times require desperate decisions and security forces must be used as a last resort to protect citizens.
Moreover, given the changes currently taking place in the region, I would say it is very crucial to understand the situation on the ground. Afar region is no longer the same as it used to be. Especially after the arrival of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, things are changing at a fast pace. For example, leveraging the widened political space, exiled political parties such as APP, ALF, and Ugugumo have returned home to advance a peaceful struggle. Youth groups and social movements such as the Xukko Cina movement have emerged to challenge the political status-quo of the region. Regional peace is deteriorating due to increased tensions and conflicts over natural resources and territorial claims. #COVID-19 is attacking the region at its core and life with coronavirus has been the new normal. Hence, in order to responded to the unfolding changes properly, conducting a “contemporary analysis of the region” to understand how and why change is happening is very timely decision.
Finally, I want to make it clear that my advice doesn’t come from a lived experience as a Regional President for I don’t have such exposure yet. However, it all comes from lessons learnt during years of exposure to the international environment, shared platforms with global leaders and years of leadership trainings attended at world class institutions. To this end, I am sure you will not resort to ignoring my advice as premature decision. Best of luck Mr President.
Dawud Mohammed Ali
Dawud Mohammed (MSc, MBA) is Lecturer of Business and Development Project Management at Samara University, Chevening Scholar, UK, 2018/19, Mandela Washington Fellow, USA, 2015 IVLP Exchange Scholar, USA, 2013
Join the conversation. Like borkena on Facebook and get Ethiopian News updates regularly. As well, you may get Ethiopia News by following us on twitter @zborkena