By Keffyalew Gebremedhin
The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
Ethiopia under the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is quietly experimenting its mini-nationalization of investor properties and enterprises.
Addis Abeba, Washington’s yet unsorted ally, its move would be seen as one of the most bizarre anomaly of our time. Given that the United States now is under the most hawkish business tycoon, in his own right the first United States billionaire President Donald Trump, members of his cabinet of similar wealths, the Ethiopian regime’s move is likely to smack the new US Administration on the face.
Such nationalization, anathema to the United States, the Trump Administration experiences in less than two months since assuming power could irk many, coming as it does as the most despicable political eccentricity under their early watch.
The fact remains, however, Ethiopia’s only state-owned English daily The Ethiopian Herald, lauded this in a piece dated March 3, 2017 as “economic revolution to fundamentally overhaul its [Oromia Region’s] economy through research based public-private partnership investment strategy aiming at ensuring economic justice among Oromo people.”
As if that is not enough, to put the official ruling party imprimatur to this misguided action, already under implementation within the TPLF-cobbled false and perfidious federal system of governance, the paper quotes the regional state’s communication head Addisu Arega, who in his own confusion claims, “the initiative would encourage domestic investment which in turn benefits the youth and farmers together with Foreign Direct Investment.”
Of course, in a nation where political propaganda and lies do not make a difference between fact and fiction, bear in mind here that over 40 of the businessmen whose properties were nationalized were local investors, according to the Ethiopian Reporter.
The TPLF systematically gave it its sanction to this horrid experiment through its opinion-maker page – the Horn Affairs, published by a wheeler dealer rumoured as part of the security establishment. The Horn article denounced an opponent of the Oromia nationalization measure as ‘pseudo activist’ who as ‘supporter of narrow democracy’ – whatever that means:
“Usually focuses only on the regime change than improving the living standard of the people. These people they do not have modern attitude or thinking that transforms the life of their people. They are not interested to show the experiences of developed country social and economic transformation to bring modern thinking and institution to their beloved people. Their objective is denying and preventing the economic development of Oromo people in the name of freedom and resistance. Practically there is no freedom without economic development.”
It is worrisome that insanity should prevail on this scale and nakedness in one of the poorest and badly injured nations on Earth at this time. This mad action is likely to drive businesses out of the economy and hurt mostly the poor and without recourse. How come they cannot see, or are uncaring about the huge risks for fresh investments, especially as the country’s growth and stability are signalling red – partly due to the ongoing less confrontational rebellions in most parts and the rising insecurity and deaths on both sides?
I should hasten to clarify that, if the title of this article sounds a lament about the death of the human sense of right and wrong in Ethiopia’s politics, especially at the highest levels of the TPLF regime, the author’s objective has been partially achieved.
Similarly, if those who read this article understand its purpose to be to make a small contribution toward the resolution of the multi-faceted problems our country has been facing, I consider it a step forward. Note that the nation’s situation is progressively deteriorating with every passing day – most hated regime, state violence, armed struggle on many fronts, poor economic performance, food insecurity, drought, corruption, what not! There is also the threat of drying foreign exchange, which today the regime revealed its industries are starving due to inability to import the chemical inputs manufacturing industries need.
Unfortunately, our nation’s dilemma is such that while it is even in this difficult situation, the TPLF continues to try to sustain itself in power by any means, including through political deceits, horrendous rights abuses and its costly means of divide and conquer that is now bleeding the country.
Massive youth unemployment
That being the reality, I worry about the ruling party’s exclusive focus at present on the problem of youth joblessness. Job seekers data in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, quoted by the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA), shows that there at present over three million employment seeking youth. Most of them are not so well educated, as part of the failure of the standard and quality of education, for which efforts to improve it has not proceeded beyond mere talks and propaganda.
Of course, in Tigray, which benefits from all technical assistance and foreign aid has improved vastly, it being the regime’s political objective. This is shown by the vast differences of the outcome of comparisons between lower grade pupils standards of learning in Amhara and Tigray regional states, as revealed recently in an article with pictures (below) by Samson Asfaw:
What we see through the regime’s youth employment policy here is a n attempt to create an agenda that would show it is concerned, when the TPLF has no iota of concerns for Ethiopian youth in particular. It is, therefore, only shedding crocodile tears. While seemingly intended to address the unemployment problem through establishment of a revolving fund, its past experiences should amply remind the nation with a trove of evidences of its disastrous failures, owing to incompetence, nepotism and the corruption its ethnic politics has fostered.
To my mind, our pressing problems at the moment are more political in nature than economic, though the latter is a constant a given problem, which cannot be effectively addressed without political solutions. The regime presumes that mere technocratic economic planning, zeroing on youth unemployment, as if that could address our nation’s more complicated political problems. This is a wrong diagnosis and a wrong solution too.
Ethiopia has been successfully sold to the outside world as a country with legendary ‘double-digit’ economic growths. Nonetheless, not adequate attention has been given – both by citizens and foreign scholars – to the problems and implications to Ethiopian daily lives of the crushing land grab, home demolitions, state violence and human rights abuses and lack of respect for property rights, etc.
The fact of the matter is that these human and state power cruelties have pushed significant proportions of Ethiopians, especially those not belonging to the ruling ethnic group in particular, such as Amharas and Oromos and those that have been considered backward (in Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz, SNNPR) to be pushed, further and further away from the narrower growth centers where TPLF members easily pluck the fruits into places the fruits and benefits don’t reach. Those with fertile lands have been beaten, dislocated and pushed off into the margins of existence.
Evidently, in a land where poverty has been profound and land grab has pushed millions more into further poverty. This has badly affected the nation’s health and its future prospects for balanced growth and development.
Today, the just-revived youth employment fiction would not take the country any distance as a nation. Nor could it ease its pain and the anger of vast section of the population. Hence in the midst of the worst political crisis, right at this moment Ethiopia finds itself in a vacuum of political will and realism, entangled by the TPLF foolhardy, which is only intended to distract attention from the real solutions – just to prolong its stay in power.
My intention here is not to foreclose the policy door or deny sympathy to the difficult situation of massive youth joblessness across our nation. As stated above, I am persuaded that this would not work in an environment where there is no political will and commitment to the nation and its people.
Accordingly, my view aims at exposing the TPLF’s political chicanery – I like this word, which, according to its dictionary definition, it underlines the TPLF’s goal of trying to utilize the jobless problems as means for political deceit, its subterfuge to achieve its own political objectives of political and economic control of Ethiopia.
For a country that first established its National Youth Policy in 2004, with the express aim of bringing about “the active participation of youth in the building of a democratic system and good governance as well as in the economic, social and cultural activities […] and to enable them to fairly benefit from the results”, this policy initiative, just like the TPLF democracy, has surely been castrated from the get go.
If not, to what could one attribute, for instance, the sudden yield by the TPLF to its repressive impulses last week to imprison 19 Blue Party leaders and 10 senior members of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), who were in the midst of foreign-powers-induced talks with legal opposition political parties.
Unlike the European Union’s (EU) confusion, High Representative and Vice President Madm Federica Mogherini betrayed during her visit last week in Addis Abeba, this lawlessness and violence by the ruling party must be understood against the backdrop of the over year old political crisis that has aroused the nation with angrier about its misgovernance. At the time of her visit, I sincerely reacted with the following twitter message:
I am prompted to write this piece to urge the TPLF to realize that it entirely relies on use of force as its means of continuation and that the free will of the people has been completely trampled. Now as the nation’s impatience is further building once again, even under an environment of the martial law, time is almost running out.
Consequently, in the interests of our common homeland, its people and the future of our children, the time to act is now to turn to explore possibilities for mutual tolerance, as the road toward peaceful coexistence and a modicum of consensual governance, lest there would not be anything left for regret.
That in view and to shed more light on our national problem, Part II of this article would focus on this TPLF bankrupt youth policy. The first step is to expose why Ethiopians suffer from lack of income; why they have to become migrants all over the world, or are being pushed into prisons even at home, etc.
Part II would also make a few both specific and general recommendations for the TPLF regime to act upon, in its self-interests.