Ethiopia under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent – THE SEOUL TIMES
|Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia|
The nation of Ethiopia is blessed with a very rich history and in recent times this nation is being guided by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). However, the EPRDF faces many major problems and this applies to the legacy of the Mengistu regime which collapsed in 1991, ethnic diversity, religious diversity, income disparity, climatic factors, and other major issues. Therefore, since the demise of the Mengistu regime in 1991, the EPRDF have taken over the mantle of power. However, how is this new chapter under the EPRDF?
Before concentrating on Ethiopia itself, it is worth remembering that other nation states have collapsed. Therefore, the demise of communism led to major convulsions in many parts of the world. This notably applies to the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. After all, Ethiopia also shared both an ideological past with these nations, despite respective differences, and a fraught ethnic and religious balance which could spill over into bloodshed at anytime.
Therefore, when Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was asked about the most important achievement under his leadership he responded like a seasoned politician. He stated that “the two most important were successfully managing the transition from the military dictatorship of Mengistu regime to an emerging democracy without collapsing, like many similar countries did, such as Yugoslavia and Soviet Union. That was a major challenge and I think I have done better, with all its pluses and minuses.”
If we analyze this statement then it is clear that Meles Zenawi is making a valid point. Of course you have had major tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea but if you look at the bigger picture, then it is clear that Meles Zenawi does make complete sense. Therefore, it is all too easy to point a negative finger at the EPRDF but the stark reality is very different.
If you look at events in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and the former Soviet Union, then Ethiopia under the EPRDF have done wonders. After all, not only was the nation state weak after the demise of Mengistu, but the legacy of Mengistu was severe. Therefore, the EPRDF was faced with severe problems and the ethnic, religious, and geographic make-up of Ethiopia, made the situation even more delicate.
Despite this, Meles Zenawi and the EPRDF have galvanized Ethiopia and this nation is moving forward. The opposition may reject this and make counter claims, however, the very survival of Ethiopia was at stake in the early 1990s. Not only this, but Ethiopia is a frontline nation in the war against Sunni Islamic radicalism which threatens mass terrorism and turmoil throughout the region.
So the opposition may deem the EPRDF to be negative and bent on maintaining power, however, in truth, the EPRDF is a responsible political party and the elections in 2005 proved that the path of democracy was a reality. After all, the EPRDF is the first party in the history of Ethiopia to develop a proper multi-party system of governance. This can clearly be seen via opposition parties who are represented in the Ethiopian parliament.
So the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), and others, may complain; but it is clear that the EPRDF is focused on modernizing Ethiopia via economic restructuring and democracy. Of course, given the legacy of Ethiopia under Mengistu, and other factors, this road is not easy. Yet despite this, the EPRDF is doing its best to stabilize Ethiopia and to re-energize this nation.
The second major achievement, according to Meles Zenawi, is ” … for this party to rekindle hope through the renaissance of this country; particularly over the past five to six years. There is hope and optimism now that this country will ultimately get out of poverty. I think it [the ruling party] has charted that course of optimism. With its pluses and minuses, again, the dynamic of continued economic stagnation for several decades has been reversed. We have now entered into a trajectory of fast economic growth; and we have now joined very small and elite nations that are fast moving in terms of economic development.”
Overall, I would argue that the opposition, despite lofty ideals, is too naïve and impatient. The EPRDF is steering Ethiopia on the right path and in recent years you have had major economic growth. If you look at the continuing political crisis in the Ukraine, and magnify this with the ethnic, religious, and geographic make-up of Ethiopia, then the EPRDF is clearly a very responsible political party.
Lee Jay Walker