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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Ethiopia's Presidential Address


Fitsum Getachew

Thu, 10 Oct 2019 17:54 GMT

The Ethiopian government outlined its programs for the year on course through the usual yearly address by President Sahle-Work Zewde in parliament. It could easily be compared to the US presidential State of the Union address to Congress. 

It’s usually a blueprint of the government’s engagements for the current year and a heads up for all stakeholders.

This year the president appeared to have given due emphasis on the major concern of the citizens. First and foremost, the issue around the rule of law and order. Reports of attacks by armed factions particularly in remote areas such as Oromia, Amhara as well as Benishangul Gumuz and Gambella etc. have been frequent. These have constituted a major concern to anyone who has the integrity and sovereignty of the country at heart.

The argument that in a transition period such as what the country is undergoing, this is expected. However, it has created an issue of confidence in the government to guarantee law and order to its people. And if any government fails in this basic duty, then the logical conclusion would be ‘close the shop and go out of business’, as it were.

It may not be unusual to have sporadic pockets of violence here and there for any number of reasons in a country such as ours; it may not be unheard of in other countries as well, particularly in the third world. The point however is that it is becoming a constant pattern and could very easily degenerate and spread to explode and run out of control. On more optimistic terms there are those who argue it can happen even in relatively well established, stable democracies. Factions that are disenfranchised with the incumbent, factions that have motives to believe that they are not fairly represented in government, politicians who believe they have been sidelined could have understandable motive to “make their voices heard”. Unfortunately, the usual way of doing it is through some form of assault on what they believe are ‘representatives of the system’. This is because unfortunately, peaceful rallies are hardly allowed especially if the message is perceived to be contrary to the system.

No wonder that the president has made it one of the priorities in her speech to MPs about the intention of the government to address in earnest this pivotal issue.

She said specifically the federal police and the armed forces would be strengthened so that the current ‘relative’ peace and stability will turn to ‘absolute’. This is a major announcement and probably a warning given that the country is slated to conduct a vital election. The guarantee of peaceful conduct of the same will be critical. The credibility of the election is at stake as is the government.

There is also the referendum slated for November for the Sidama community to decide on their status within the regional state of the South. This will test the region’s capacity to carry out democratic processes smoothly, as well as the National Electoral Board led by the popular newly appointed iconic personality Birtukan Mideksa, a former opposition politician who has a record of integrity despite repeated detentions.

The president also highlighted other major activities that the government is pledging to carry out sooner than later: the economy is one. Many observers argue that most of the national problems would be resolved if economic issues were adequately addressed: Inflation, unemployment, shortage of foreign currency, unfinished projects, illegal trade, contraband etc. The president’s concern suggests that not addressing these issues could have huge repercussions such as security issues owing to the easy manipulation of idle youths through social media. Discontented young people are easy targets of ‘activists’ as youths are faithful followers of some extremist networks.

Creation of millions of jobs and price stabilisation have been noted in the president’s address besides enhancement of production, supply market, exports and boosting investment. Contraband and tax evasion were also given emphasis.

Regarding the structural problems of the macro-economy, she said, the government was already undertaking reforms and they will be enhanced.

It could be observed that there are forces even in the very coalition that runs the country that allege a loss of unity of purpose. There are voices who do not refrain from forecasting dooms day scenarios. But the optimism of the Prime Minister Abiy with his philosophy of ‘medemer’ (synergy) has been picked up the president’s address. There are forces who do not seem to sleep while trying to envisage new methods of blocking the direction of the reforms on several political grounds, not least the fear that there would be a monopoly of power by some extremist factions who work under the cover of the establishment. There are a few signs of opposition that have emerged out of such perception; and in politics, perception, albeit unfounded, has its own weight.

The president also warned that universities could no longer be venues of political dispute but of research and studies. Serious precautionary measures have been devised to avert any outbreak of violence.

Finally, the president pronounced that the success of the government’s endeavours will only be assured when concerted efforts by all parties, institutions, civil societies, the media and citizens are in unison. She stressed prosperity is guaranteed if we apply the philosophy of “medemer” or synergy .

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of 7Dnews.