The following advice was given five years ago to, on the eve of the election held in 2005. I am posting now because it is relevant today as it was then. Presently conditions have gone from bad to worst for the Ethiopian people, but not for your party. You have become richer and power drunk. It is true that some new infrastructures and new housings have been built, and social services have expanded thanks to some 2500 projects provided by aid programs. Off course, any other regime would have done the same, most probably better, with the huge amount of technical and financial assistance received from foreign sources. The question is at what cost and of what quality and standards.
You have compromised the country’s sovereign territory by giving away huge tracts of border lands to foreign powers. In the guise of investments you have handed over the national resources and the economy to foreign interests, and sold out millions of hectares of the most fertile land to foreign powers and companies, dispossessing the Ethiopian farmers of their rightful property and their livelihood. You have compromised the independence of the country into a neo-colonial status by making it totally dependent on foreign charity and aid.
Politically your ethnic federation is a total failure, your regime is hated by all ethnic groups including your own. You remain in power by the point of the gun until it lasts, the loyalty of gun totting militias being unreliable at best. I invite you to read carefully the following message because it is an honest advise, and relevant to your own future, especially that you are preparing another sham election, in which the collaboration of some opportunists will never legitimize.
SOME FRANK COUNSEL TO EPRDF
When you read the following lines you will probably say to yourselves, what is this old fool telling us? Doesn’t he realize that we have made it? We are rich and powerful; we have vanquished all our enemies, even those in our own party. WE have convinced foreign powers to support us. We have allowed some freedoms that did not exist during the monarchy and socialism, etc. etc.
There is no doubt that as a party you have been very successful. The problem is that on the national level your mistakes and misdeeds outweigh by far your achievements. Now that you are at the apex of your tenure, I suggest that you reflect and ponder seriously on the sad fate of the Ethiopian regimes that have preceded you, and of those other dictatorships elsewhere. Some of them could claim some popularity and Monarchs could claim legitimacy, in your case you have none of those qualifications. You are disliked by the whole nation and by the majority of your own tribesmen and women.
One axiom of your policies was the failed ethnic division of the country, a problem that the nation had overcome after centuries of attritions. You have presided over the separation of Eritrea, to the disadvantage of Ethiopia, to the misery of the Eritrean people and a hundred thousand useless deaths. The state ownership of the land which you persist in maintaining, not because of its economic advantages, but to give you a full control on the peasantry, has not solved the persisting famine neither alleviated poverty or given any valuable contribution to the economy. The claimed 11.1/4 growth of GDP last year is based more on the huge increase of foreign aid; some seasonal improvements of the agricultural sector and some generous statistical adjustments, than on sustainable economic development. The country still depends on food aid and foreign budgetary supplement, despite the billions of dollars spent on countless developmental projects. As to your governance I could go on and on about the injustices, mismanagements, corruptions, blatant crimes, vandalism and malfeasances committed by your regime for the past fourteen years. The sacred blood of the university students and many other victims of your regime is still fresh on the ground.
While the Monarchy had exhausted its usefulness, the revolutionary regime that followed bought the country into a destructive morass and decline. Then followed your regime with its self-centered parochialism, and all its misconceptions about the country’s needs. Obviously, the country does not have the leadership it deserves. Our people are good, industrious and proficient. Our land is rich and hardly exploited. There is no excuse for its backwardness, but for the lack of genuine, honest and competent leadership. You could have built a great Ethiopia from the abundant human talent and natural resources that the country possesses. Thus, you could have been admired and respected. Driven by fear, insecurity and greed you failed to do so. Now you are at a cross road, you have to choose your future role, whether you want to be a historical political party or a footnote in a history of sham and shame.
Manipulating and coercing voters will probably get you elected, and establish another rubberstamp parliament with a few seats conceded to the opposition. This will not work. On the contrary it will strengthen the opposition and drive them into more aggressive stands. A few mass demonstrations may suffice to destabilize your regime. In spite of all the favors you award them, I wouldn’t count much on the loyalty of the police and the army, after all they are Ethiopians; ultimately they will side with the people of whom they are part and parcel. In spite all the back bending you do to please them, your foreign supporters are not likely to continue their assistance. They have committed values and broader interests. A rigged-up election and a failure of the democratic process in Ethiopia is detrimental to their avowed policies. Look at Serbia, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and other similar developments. It is now the season for democracy and honest governance.
In view of all the above, I believe that it is time for your party to handover the country to capable and honest hands. You have nothing to loose but gain the respect and admiration of the people of the world.
Please understand why I am so concerned, I have no other interest other than that of the country and my compatriots. I also believe that you need some honest counsel, because more than often absolute power has a sedative effect, which deprives one’s sense of balance.
In defense of my bluntness I quote George Orwell who said “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”.
Imru Zelleke (