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IDEA Warning to the PM Abiy Ahmed-Led Ethiopian Government

IDEA Editorial                                                                       December 17, 2019

The Institute of Development and Education for Africa (IDEA) has serious concerns about the complicated and incredibly dangerous political landscape that currently prevails in Ethiopia; hence this warning to the present governing elite of the country. It is for the sake of the Ethiopian people and the wish of stability and progress in Ethiopia that we at IDEA came up with a caveat so that wrong policies and political programs are redeemed before the country plunges into the abyss. The enumeration format below is deliberately wrought to attract the eyes and perceptive minds of Ethiopians and the powers-that-be:

1.    The Ethiopian Government must preserve Ethiopian sovereignty at any cost. We say this because, at one point in due course of his speech, Dr. Abiy Ahmed said, “Ethiopia is not sovereign” in the context of donor aid that the country gets. This kind of phrasing could be a slip of the tongue but it is a   perfidious and treacherous assertion nonetheless. What makes Ethiopia unique is that it was never colonized, although briefly it encountered a brunt of Western hegemony during the five year Italian occupation; Ethiopia could also continue to assert its economic sovereignty if the ruling elite exhibits a sense of self-determination and patriotism. PM Abiy and his cabinet must not be oblivious to the fierce sense of independence of Ethiopians!

2.    Do not sell off major Ethiopian economic enterprises such as Ethio-Telecom, Ethiopian Light and Power Authority (ELPA), Ethiopian Railway, Ethiopian Shipping Lines etc. These are major assets of the country, and if privatized, there aren’t Ethiopian billionaires to buy them; foreign corporations, however, could do so and that will make Ethiopia dependent in unequal global political economy.

3.    Do not permit any economic shock induced by foreign corporations and/or by their respective governments. There are abundant lessons in regards to shocks from the experiments tried in Latin American, African, and Asian economies in the 1970s, 1980s and beyond. The countries of these continents were virtually destroyed by what Naomi Klein aptly calls “disaster capitalism”; a denomination of the latter, known as structural adjustment program (SAP), put out by the World Bank and the IMF, emasculated African countries that adopted the Program as a precondition to getting aid from the Bretton Woods institutions. But as a result of SAP, their economies faltered and collapsed ignominiously.

4.    Take action against marauding criminal armed gangs that have virtually disturbed the Ethiopian socioeconomic fabric and have rendered havoc to the daily life of Ethiopians.

5.    By hook or by crook, open up the closed highway roads, especially those that connect the Amhara Regional State with the Tigray Regional State. Farmers were unable to bring their produce to the market and merchants could not conduct a sane transaction and exchange in the open air markets due to the closure of the roads. If the Government does not understand that transportation is significantly important to a bustling local economy, it won’t understand macro and/or microeconomics, or the very essence of business. Do something about it!

6.    It is good initiative to assign police forces in university campuses in order to safeguard the students from being victims of ethnic conflict, but the Federal Government in cooperation with the Regional States’ governments should bring about a lasting peace in the university campuses via dialogue that involves professors, students, community and religious elders; the students should also be educated and reoriented in pan-Ethiopian agenda that supersedes  narrow ethnic identity and hatred of other nationalities.

7.    The Government should refrain from discriminating and intimidating Tigrean Ethiopians, especially those who are not involved in politics, but quite the contrary are involved in entrepreneurship and the making of wealth; they are a productive force of the Ethiopian society and it would be unfair, unjust, and meaningless to harass and attack them

8.    The Government should instruct its Attorney General and its Ministry of Justice to take immediate action to bring to justice Tigreans and non-Tigreans who are charged and accused by the Attorney General, and this should be done without further delay; as the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us, “Justice delayed is justice denied”.

9.    Do not involve your government in the internal affairs of neighboring countries like South Sudan and Somalia unless the involvement has good intentions, as for instance in resolving conflict peacefully. The Ethiopian Government special force that recently interfered in the Kismayu, Somalia election debacle could tarnish Ethiopia’s global image.

10.  Do not permit any economic shock by foreign corporations, institutions, and/or governments unto the Ethiopian soil; there are abundant lessons from the Latin American, African, and Asian countries that were shaken in the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond. Do not embrace the Washington Consensus blindly; its neoliberal agenda does not quite fit the poor Third World countries realities. There is nothing wrong in embracing the market economy or capitalism, for this mode of production has contributed tangible transformation in capital, know-how, technology, and the elevation of the poor to a middle income status. But you must avoid unfettered capitalism that will enrich a tiny percentage of the Ethiopian people and foreign nationals only.

11.  This item further reinforces # 10 above: Ethiopia should not be a laboratory for the so-called free market economy tainted with neoliberal agenda ala Milton Friedman Chicago School of Economics that literally impoverished and destroyed countries. If Ethiopia follows the Chicago School, a great majority of foreign companies will benefit but Ethiopians will be relegated will be stalled. The newly established new party, the Prosperity Party (PP), as its name implies could aim to bring wealth to Ethiopians, but it could not do so given the nature and characteristics of neoliberal economic policy and the Washington Consensus.

1.12. The renovation of Ethiopia’s historical sites and artifacts should be accomplished primarily by Ethiopians; foreign expertise should be involved as a last resort. Please read the following IDEA editorial entitled “Lalibela Should be Patronized and Renovated by Ethiopian Architects and Engineers”: www.africanidea.org/Lalibela_renovated_by_Ethiopians.html

13.  Last but not least: The Ethiopian Government should not compromise on Nile politics and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to the detriment of Ethiopians, but it could negotiate with the Egyptian government on equal footing. The Tri-party negotiation should continue without the bizarre involvement of third parties such as the World Bank and the US Treasury.

Above all, this warning is a constant reminder of what a government is obliged to do to its country and its people. Moreover, since Abiy Ahmed is now a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, he is additionally obligated to act according to the mission and objectives of the Prize; he cannot have the prize but fail to fulfill the preconditions of peace in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. For us at IDEA, however, all thirteen caveats mentioned above must be realized by PM Abiy and his government so we can congratulate him second time for meeting the criteria put forth in this editorial. We wish him well!

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