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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Mixed Messages from the Premier’s Day in Parliament

Politics

Fitsum Getachew

Tue, 05 Feb 2019 16:15 GMT

During the last appearance of the Ethiopian prime minister in parliament he responded to a number of key questions on matters of great concern to the country. Opposition parties, security, prosecution of corrupt officials, regions and federalism, university politicisation, the economy, specifically budget and trade deficit, debt burden, foreign currency, unemployment and mega projects were among the issues addressed. The session lasted more than two hours and enabled the premier to clear many of the doubts in the minds of citizens on the issues raised. 

Political parties

Abiy invited them to legalise their status in view of the upcoming elections and refrain from unlawful activities. He advised them to convene their respective congresses, inviting neutral observers thereby choosing the leaders and candidates for the upcoming election. Only then could they legally qualify to take part in the elections, he admonished and added the government would support their endeavours in the interest of the enhancement of democratic culture in the country. Opposition politics is now not as in the past, he explained, because there are no political prisoners nor journalists detained and hence this could not qualify as a political issue. What counts are new ideas that would be of benefit to citizens to defeat poverty given the political landscape is open.

Security issues

The premier cleared that the army cannot intervene against any criminal activity observed but is mandated to take care of the sovereignty of the nation. Crime prevention is the duty of law enforcement and only when they are overwhelmed and ask for help can the armed forces intervene. It happened in Ethiopian Somali Region and West Oromia (Welega) with armed groups allegedly associated with OLF. He stated however that his government would prosecute every criminal and the law would be respected.

Regions and federation

He stressed that there was no issue of any citizen not being allowed to work or live in any region of their choice. The perception that regions are exclusivist or separate state from the rest of the country is wrong and unconstitutional. Ethiopians do not subscribe to such immorality. Their long history of peaceful coexistence witnesses this. Peddling such ideas is playing with fire he warned, the unity of the country and the credibility of his government are at stake.

The media

The prime minister qualified the media in general as ‘unhealthy’ including the public media leaving aside some exceptions. An ad hoc committee was studying on how to build the capacity of the public media while the private ones must sit together and discuss on the way forward because their freedom does not exist without responsibilities. He also expressed his concern that they risk their survival and editorial independence trying to look for sponsorship and financing. The government would support them for the sake of promoting democratic culture and discussions, the premier noted. 

Universities

Abiy lamented that nowhere on earth are there universities manipulated by politicians as ours. He dismissed this as unacceptable and added that it shows the cynicism and ruthlessness of certain political groups. Discussions and contributions by students were welcome but not engagements in violence and destruction. His government had anticipated these risks before the academic season begun and staged a discussion forum with all stakeholders to avoid such scenario. Unfortunately that did not bear all the intended fruits. 

The economy

The picture is mixed: dark and bright. The premier talked about how the risks of ‘stagflation’ were averted with timely reforms and radical measures. The support of the international development partners was crucial and he thanked them for their confidence in the reforms.

The premier pointed out the key issue was creating sustained employment, increasing exports and controlling the 14% inflationary trend that persisted for years. Corruption of government officials was being aggressively investigated and persecuted while he admitted the slow pace in the process. Efforts against arms and foreign currency trafficking as well as contraband trade were intensified but again there is a lot more to do.  

The premier expressed his pride for the extraordinary direct budgetary support by the World Bank and other international financial sources which changed commercial loans into concessions. His hope was that the economy would soon begin to take off in a healthy manner.

According to the premier, Ethiopia’s economy is being overhauled so that it moves to a new healthy trajectory. Foreign direct investment is bound to augment, exports are to be enhanced, and employment is to rise. All this would help efforts to guarantee peace in society and restore stability without which democracy and growth would be inconceivable.

Conclusion

The overall assessment of any one who followed the answers of the PM would observe a slight frustration but overwhelmed by optimism and hope. The challenges are undeniable but a united hand would come over them is the premier’s conviction, and a bright future for the nation. His stand on the unity of the country and the need for a strong and legal government are unshakeable. His warning for those who try to undermine the law and the ongoing reforms in any manner was severe. 

Taking the government’s patience as a weakness was a grave miscalculation he cautioned. The government continues to pursue all criminals and suspects and brings them to court. He reiterated compromise with criminal behaviour was inconceivable.

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

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