Wednesday, February 21, 2024
InterviewCharting a conservative course

Charting a conservative course

Enat Party questions motives behind key issue

Seifeselassie Ayalew (PhD) is a distinguished economist with a wealth of experience in both the public and private sectors. Having served as a senior expert and managing director in a governmental institution for many years, as well as a deputy managing director in a private construction company for four years, Seifeselassie brings a wealth of expertise to the table. For the past twelve years, he has successfully owned and operated his own company in Ethiopia, showcasing his entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen.

In the realm of politics, Seifeselassie has actively been engaged for the last four years. Notably, he played a pivotal role as a co-founder of the Enat Party, serving as its deputy president for a three-year tenure until 2022. Following the resignation of the party’s president, Seifeselassie assumed the position of party president after being elected by its general assembly.

Seifeselassie is committed to fostering collaboration and unity within the political landscape of Ethiopia. He underscores the active partnership between his party and six other opposition parties, collectively working towards bringing positive political change in the country.

Abraham Tekle of The Reporter sat down with Seifeselassie to delve into current issues regarding access to the red sea, the country’s political landscape and Ethio-Eritrea relations among others. EXCERPTS:

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The Reporter: How has Enat Party, established four years ago, shaped its primary goals and objectives within the Ethiopian political landscape? What progress has the party made in achieving its aims thus far?

Seifeselassie Ayalew (PhD): Formal political struggle in Ethiopia emerged following the political revolution of 1974, leading to the establishment of numerous political parties actively involved in political activities. However, many of these parties adopted Western political ideologies, such as socialism or communism, and attempted to implement them in our country.

This approach proved detrimental for Ethiopia, resulting in significant loss of life and leaving a negative legacy in our political history. The same can be said for the reign of the EPRDF.

In contrast, Enat Party’s political ideology is deeply rooted in the profound factors of Ethiopia’s historical background while also drawing inspiration from beneficial philosophies embraced by Western countries.

Our ideology can be best described as a “Conservative Political Ideology,” which blends elements of the country’s historical context with universally practiced political ideologies such as liberalism, social democracy, and conservatism.

By following this approach, our aim is to forge a distinctive path that honors our heritage while embracing progressive ideas from around the world.

Our focus is not solely on achieving specific goals but rather on effectively implementing our political ideology once we attain power. Nevertheless, we remain actively engaged in critiquing the government’s negative actions and exposing any wrongdoing.

What has prompted your party’s sudden surge in vocalization and active involvement in recent political developments, such as the Amhara region conflict and the national university entry results? This departure from the pattern of political parties becoming inactive after participating in national elections, as commendable as it is, could you shed light on the factors that have influenced your current level of interaction and activism?

The question at hand pertains to whether Enat Party’s increased participation is a response to recent incidents in the country or if it stems from a broader intention to transform the prevailing political culture that has hindered the nation’s well-being.

To address this inquiry, our heightened level of engagement cannot be attributed to specific recent events in Ethiopia alone. Instead, it is deeply rooted in our longstanding commitment to achieving meaningful political reforms and progress since our establishment.

In contrast to the trend you mentioned, where many political parties become inactive after participating in national elections, Enat Party does not fade away or become passive until the next election cycle.

We are a party that actively seeks engagement in all aspects of the nation’s affairs while also exerting influence on the incumbent government to work towards the betterment of the nation and the welfare of the general public.

Given the ongoing political developments in the country, what is your party’s perspective and position on the emerging topic of Red Sea dynamics and port politics?

Enat Party has not yet disclosed its stance on the issue of the Red Sea and access to a port, and we have valid reasons for this decision. However, considering the current political situation and the ruling system, we see no difference between the current government and the previous Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime. As Enat Party, we view the Prosperity Party (PP) as a continuation of the EPRDF government, essentially representing part two of the rule governed by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), since the foundation of the PP is rooted in the EPRDF.

It was during the TPLF/EPRDF era that Ethiopia became a landlocked country, a fact acknowledged by all. Port access for Ethiopia has been a fundamental agenda for most opposition parties, both past and present. Enat Party explicitly emphasizes in our political program that pursuing port access for Ethiopia is a critical priority that requires a purposeful response.

So, we disagree with the political decision made during the EPRDF’s reign, which left Ethiopia as one of the few countries without port access despite its substantial population. Our party’s stance on this matter is clearly articulated in our political program.

However, this doesn’t imply that we blindly align with the current ruling power’s political intentions regarding port access or the Red Sea issue. Our call for port access has been long-standing. It is not a sudden priority, particularly at a time when the nation is facing multiple challenges.

Therefore, we approach the pursuit of port access with the understanding that, weather genuine or not, the government has appropriated our quest, along with that of many other political parties, in the aim of making Ethiopia a country with port access or the right to utilize the Red Sea.

We emphasize that this agenda does not belong to the government alone but rather to us and the other political parties whose ideas have been assumed by the ruling party.

What are your thoughts on the timing and approach of raising this question, given claims that it is intended to divert attention from political tensions and attract international interest, particularly from the United States?

The responsibility for presenting valid reasons for raising the issue of Red Sea or port access lies solely with the ruling government. Given the current circumstances, we can only speculate and draw assumptions, nothing more. However, the timing and manner in which this matter has been addressed have raised significant concerns within our community.

Following the devastating conflict in the northern part of the country, which has claimed the lives of thousands of people, the situation remains uncertain for the future. It is puzzling why the government has chosen this particular moment to address the challenging issue of port access and the Red Sea, without adequately addressing the situation as stipulated in the Pretoria peace accord. Additionally, considering the ongoing intensified conflict in the Amhara region and the dire reality of the disaster in the Oromia region and other parts of the country, the government’s decision raises further questions.

We believe that the government has brought up this sensitive issue at this specific time to divert the general public’s attention from the unfolding crises across the nation and the precarious situation that the country and its citizens are in, leaving them in a state of uncertainty.

How do you address the perspectives of those who see the government’s decision to raise this issue as a ploy to attracting the attention of the international community?

The matter of appeasing the international community necessitates consideration from multiple perspectives. As a result, it becomes challenging to ascertain whether the Ethiopian government possesses the determination and deliberate intention to fulfill the expectations of the international community regarding port access and the Red Sea. Speculation inevitably arises when evaluating this issue, making it difficult to arrive at a definitive conclusion in this context.

How probable do you think it is that the recent unfolding events, including the Prime Minister’s pursuit of port access, the Red Sea matter, and the reactions from Eritrea, Somalia, and Djibouti, could intensify existing tensions and potentially ignite a full-blown conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea? What is your perspective on this matter?

Based on the information gathered from our sources and the coverage provided by international media organizations, I can assert with confidence that if the current situation persists, there is a high likelihood of it escalating into a full-scale war. Multiple factors contribute to this assessment, including government statements and the handling of the matter by media outlets. Considering these factors, it is evident that the trajectory points towards an impending war.

Various reports also indicate that both Ethiopia and Eritrea have been deploying their armies along the border. While it is challenging to predict how these circumstances will unfold or evolve into an unprecedented situation, it is disheartening to witness the individual who played a crucial role in achieving long-awaited peace between the two nations, even being awarded a Nobel Prize for it, seemingly leading us toward an unavoidable war.

If such a scenario unfolds, what potential ramifications do you foresee for the future of Ethiopia?

As a nation, we have endured a series of conventional wars and internal conflicts, including the devastating civil war that unfolded in the past two years.

There are also ongoing disputes in various regions of our country. Given this tumultuous history, it is clear that the chosen course of action by the ruling government will impose an overwhelming burden on our nation.

We simply cannot bear the weight of another wave of devastation and anguish, as it would only exacerbate our already precarious economic crisis.

In the wake of the political transformation in Ethiopia back in 2018, a new era of relative peace emerged between Ethiopia and Eritrea. From your perspective, what notable benefits do you believe Ethiopia reaped as a result of this historic peace settlement?

First and foremost, it is essential to clarify whether there was a formal peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Before delving into the benefits for the country, it is crucial to establish the existence and nature of any agreement between the two nations.

Furthermore, it is important to understand the specific type of agreement, if any, that was reached between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Evaluating the implications of the agreement requires a clear understanding of its nature.

In any bilateral relationship and agreement, the primary objective should be to serve the interests of both countries and their respective populations. Long-term benefits and outcomes should take precedence, as a nation’s existence extends beyond any particular government or administration.

It is worth noting the historical pattern in Ethiopian leadership of completely overhauling the institutional capacity established by previous governments, from the feudal system to the Derg regime, and from the Derg to the EPRDF era. This trend has continued under the current leadership. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that nation-building cannot solely rely on such practices.

After PM Abiy came to power, a significant decision was made to pursue peace with the Eritrean government. While this step was commendable, there are ongoing debates regarding the nature of the agreement between the two countries. Questions arise regarding whether the agreement was formal or informal and whether it held vital significance for Ethiopia. Unfortunately, there is a lack of sufficient knowledge to fully answer these questions and comprehend the specifics and importance of the agreement.

Therefore, before discussing the benefits Ethiopia may have derived from the peace settlement, it is imperative to address the existence of a formal peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea and gain a better understanding of the nature and significance of any potential agreement that may have transpired.

What are your thoughts on the opinion that the agreement primarily represents the two leaders rather than Ethiopia as a whole?

The agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea seems to have been predominantly forged through direct discussions and negotiations between the two leaders, rather than being a formal agreement.

In this context, it raises concerns about the absence of a formal agreement that ensures the protection of Ethiopia’s interests.

From various standpoints, the perceived benefits of such an agreement to the nation appear to be limited. Consequently, the existence of a formal agreement between the two countries remains unclear, and if one does exist, it should be accompanied by comprehensive documentation to enhance clarity and transparency.

What are the reasons behind your party’s statement regarding the rise in religious and racial attacks, discrimination, and political suppression in Ethiopia?

In general, I can say that the suffering in Ethiopia has significantly increased, particularly in the aftermath of the political transition that occurred in 2018. The historical background of a nation can contribute to the prevailing tensions between various ethnic and religious groups. Past conflicts or grievances, including instances of political or social marginalization, can instill a sense of injustice and fuel animosity.

Moreover, within the political sphere, the manipulation of identity-based issues for personal or group interests further exacerbates conflicts. Economic competition and disparities in development also serve to intensify identity-driven disputes.

It is crucial to acknowledge that the political transition in Ethiopia has resulted in negative incidents within the country. One notable instance is the occurrence of large-scale displacement and conflicts in the Somali region subsequent to the political transition, which have continued to escalate.

It is regrettable that, in certain cases, political elites have deliberately intensified conflicts between specific communities to serve their own agendas. It is imperative to recognize that the responsibility for these issues primarily lies with the political elites who have instituted ethnic federalism as a governing principle in the country. The repercussions of these actions are profoundly affecting the people of Ethiopia, and this represents an unprecedented situation in the nation’s history.

What is your Party’s view on the current security dynamics in the Amhara region, including conflicts between armed forces and government security forces in various areas? What recommendations do you propose to resolve the conflict?

The recent escalation of conflicts in the Amhara regional state has garnered significant attention. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the conflict in the Oromia region has been ongoing for the past four or five years. Despite receiving less coverage, the impact of the Oromia conflict on us as a party and on Ethiopians in general should not be downplayed.

The conflict in Oromia has had a profound effect on the region’s civilians, including the Amhara ethnic group, who are shouldering a heavy burden. However, it is equally important to recognize that the Oromo ethnic group is also enduring dire circumstances, lacking the essential peace and stability required for survival.

The involvement of the federal government in the Amhara conflict is disheartening. It is undeniable that the government has deployed its formidable forces in the ongoing conflict, resulting in the unfortunate suffering of civilians. Our stance is clear: conflicts should never involve civilians. Unfortunately, reports from the region depict the hardships endured by the public.

While there may be underlying causes for the conflicts in both regions, it is the government’s responsibility to actively seek peaceful resolutions. The government has previously demonstrated its capacity to resolve matters peacefully, as evidenced by the conclusion of the two-year-long war that impacted millions.

What are the reasons behind your strong criticism regarding the recently released Grade 12 exit exam results, as well as the Ministry of Education, and the overall examination and education system?

There could be several reasons for expressing both deep concern and strong criticism towards the recently released exam results, the Ministry of Education, and the entire examination and education system.

The concern and criticism may stem from worries about the overall performance of students in the exams, such as low pass rates or poor scores. Additionally, if there are doubts about the fairness of the evaluation process, including allegations of grading errors or inconsistencies, it can lead to frustration and criticism.

The criticism may reflect concerns about the quality of education provided by the system. If the exam results indicate a lack of adequate knowledge or skills among students, it can raise questions about the effectiveness of the curriculum, teaching methods, or resources provided by the educational institutions and the Ministry of Education. This highlights the need to address how our educational system has been governed in the last three decades.

Our criticism might stem from perceived deficiencies in the institutional mechanisms for accountability and transparency. If there are doubts about the integrity of the examination process, such as allegations of cheating or corruption, it erodes trust in the education system and calls for reforms.

Moreover, the concern and criticism could be driven by the belief that the exam results and the education system’s shortcomings may negatively impact students’ future opportunities, such as their chances of pursuing higher education or securing employment.

So our call signifies the desire for positive change and improvement within the education system. It indicates a need for reforms, addressing issues such as curriculum updates, teacher training, infrastructure development, or the adoption of more effective evaluation methods. However, it’s important to acknowledge the efforts made by the Minister of Education to upgrade the level of education.

Has the relevant government entity provided a response to your Party’s appeal for the exam to be retaken?

No they haven’t.

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Video from Enat Bank Youtube Channel.


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