By Samuel Estefanous
Six or seven years ago, while I was travelling in the Eastern part of the country, I had made an impromptu stop at Adama and I was enjoying the calm soothing evening air the City is famous for when a total stranger engaged me in a rather pointed conversation for my taste.
You can figure out for yourself the vibe at an open air beer garden in any given Rift Valley town in the country- a travelling loner cannot decline the warm company of the locals even if he wants to. So what I did, I let the elderly man who had forced his company on me to carry on. He began with the obvious, you know, the regular conversation breaker. In this country you don’t begin an idle conversation with the state of the day’s weather; instead you right away start by damning EPRDF with choice words of curse.
“I just don’t understand what this people are up to, they are ruining the country.” The reference ‘this people’ is unmistakable but I kinda weighed in just for the effect,
“You mean the EPRDFites, huh?” I observed. The old man gave me an impatient look as if imparting- who else, like you don’t know the reference.
Hitherto, I had taken such encounters for granted but on that eventful evening it was like I had an epiphany. It was like the people and the ruling coalition are traveling on two parallel roads in opposite directions hatefully snarling at each other with vengeance.
The gap looked so unbridgeable that only naked might was keeping the Coalition in power. However what we didn’t know was the youth of Oromia and Amhara were staring down the yawning barrel of the guns pointed at them with considerable contempt.
In such circumstances, Ethiopians realized that a state of anarchy was looming around the corner and they were bracing themselves for the inevitable virtual disintegration of the Nation on ethnic lines when a breakaway unit of EPRDF suddenly appeared on the scene from nowhere. This select group of politicians smacked of and talked like run of the mill regular Ethiopians. They promised the multitude a bloodless primordial transformation of the country without totally uprooting the existing state structure. Medmer promised us that a pragmatic eclectically oriented political ideology of no actual exclusive dogma (more in the line of Ethiopia First tum) would be the sole guiding principle for the foreseeable future.
We all tripped over ourselves in our enthusiasm and longing to see our beloved country in one piece and at peace and extended our support without the slightest reservation. Across the board, Ethiopians breathed a sigh of relief assuming that we were spared the impending anarchy.
Sadly, four years later, the transition we were promised would be bloodless turned out to be dripping bloody, the country is being broken in to multiple de facto separate pieces and we are wondering why…
Here are some possible factors that have derailed the transitional medium dubbed Medmer off the projected track…
1-The Agents of Change were few and isolated.
By its own admission, the number of registered and card carrying army of EPRDFites was/is close to ten million but those who broke allegiance and meaningfully parted ways with Front were a handful. When the fall of the erstwhile mighty EPRDF was declared the bulk of EPRDFites were caught unawares. Unlike the rest of Ethiopians, they must have felt like their entire life time investment had collapsed on them until Prosperity Party made its intention crystal clear to the effect that nothing is going to be changed except the rhetoric as long as they are willing to be re-educated and re-christened.
In plain terms the change was limited to a closed circle of a committed few, it isn’t effectively communicated to the army of Cadres, and it was forced down their throat. What went down one’s throat involuntarily is certain to be spewed. If you really think about it that is the chief reason the change wouldn’t take root no matter what. EPRDF Cadres are only human, they weren’t just asked to shift allegiance but to liquidate their previous self, seal it and kick it to Timbuktu-an impossible feat to accomplish.
Obviously they couldn’t hence the regular bickering between the Premier and the cadres. The only way out for the Premier and Co is to disband the inherited cadres and recruit fresh ones. In legal parlance when an institution established by a given regulation is dissolved it is customary to decree in the miscellaneous section of the law repealing the previous legislation that assets and liabilities of the dissolved Enterprise are devolved to the new one. It is disrespectful to thus transfer members of one political group to a rival political party with diametrically opposite ideology (at least on paper) as if they were chattels or something. On their part they should have resigned their position and refused to be transferred.
Thus it goes without saying that the only reason they are in to Prosperity Party is economical. If they get the chance they wouldn’t hesitate to turn on Medmer and shred it to pieces at the first opportunity in the most terrible manner only EPRDFites are capable of. I had a sneaking feeling that TPLF had ventured an assault on the Federal government forces counting on the support of the army of cadres it had raised in the past twenty and seven odd years otherwise it wouldn’t have snapped a death trap on itself the way it had done. Thank God, TPLF counted out the overwhelming Ethiopian public from the equation and paid the ultimate price.
2-The undying sense of absolute entitlement
Of all the vices of EPRDFites, the one that never ceases to amaze me is their sense of absolute entitlement. Just because they control 100% of the public affairs of the country, they assume that they are entitled to dispense justice the way they like it, become extremely generous at the tax payers’ expense, fire and hire at will…the list is endless and it is certainly the hangover from the curse Revolutionary Democracy.
They are under the illusion that unlike the rest of Ethiopians they are not subject to the common law of the Commonwealth. They strongly believe that they are accountable only to the party and they are subject only to the peer review (gimgema) of the party hierarchy and liable only to the extent the party choses to hold them accountable. As everybody knows the worst penalty the party meets out to a loyal cadre is change of position or change of duty station.
You know why? Every single EPRDFite is guilty of some breach of the common law and they use it as some kind of leverage to silence each other. That is how the country got itself into a vicious circle of ‘sustainable’ criminal enterprises. An EPRDFite chief of a given public body runs it like it is a family estate of his co- heirs. He hires whomsoever he likes and he fires whomever he dislikes with total impunity as long as he keeps the network of ‘yebelay amerar’ well informed. No wonder, recently the Premier had mercilessly berated the top echelon of members of the Addis Ababa City government.
3- You better watch your steps; I speak for my ethnic group
The reason individual EPRDFites are having such an irresponsible field day is simple-whatever they do, good or bad, they do it in the name of the ethnic group they hail from but for their own private interests.
It is impossible to hold an ethnic group to account or to reprimand a sub clan; more than anything else this state of affairs has contributed to the excesses of the widespread culture of impunity in the country. The fact that a growing number of people have become supersensitive on the question of defending the domain of their respective ethnic group without a single question being asked has enabled the culprits to retreat deep in to the impregnable den. If an official is under some kind of investigation the question dancing at the tip of most folks tongue isn’t what did he do but where is he from.
Part I of this article is available HERE.
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