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Public welfare of more concern than appointing a new leader!

Public welfare of more concern than appointing a new leader!

The much-anticipated election of the chairman of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) culminated this week when Abiy Ahmed (PhD) was picked to fill the vacant post, paving the way for him to be sworn in as the next Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Ever since Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn unexpectedly tendered his resignation in mid February, speculations had been rife as to who would succeed him. Pressing as installing someone in the country’s top job may be we should never lose sight of the fact that the welfare of the public is a matter of greater importance. A leader who truly loves Ethiopians knows well that Ethiopia and Ethiopians have an unbreakable bond. As this bond was forged over the course of centuries with blood, sweat and tears the welfare of the public is of greater importance than the process of anointing a new leader. The incoming premier ought to always keep this fundamental truth in mind.  

The people of Ethiopia are very apprehensive about the fate of their country as it finds itself at a crossroads. They worry that if the wrong choice is made the pluralist unity they have maintained for generations will unravel and land their beloved country in a crisis which poses an existential threat. The appointment of a new leader of the EPRDF is a matter of national significance; it’s not just a purely organizational issue. Given that the EPRDF is one way or another responsible for the political turmoil which has been rocking Ethiopia for the past three years, the top priority of its new leader must be to go beyond the interest of the Front and respond to the needs of citizens. The important thing is not who controls the levers of power per se but rather his vision for Ethiopia and its people.  

The EPRDF would be sorely mistaken if it thinks that electing a new leader is mission accomplished and go about doing things with a business-as-usual attitude. The new chairman can deliver the kind of leadership that fulfills the aspirations of the people and get underway the process of building a better Ethiopia when the EPRDF demonstrates a genuine commitment to bring about fundamental reforms. The Front’s failure to meet the peaceful demands of the public for freedom, justice, equality as well as respect for human and democratic rights is to blame for the pent up frustration of the public that led to violent protests. Unfortunately, the absence of a mechanism that accommodates a peaceful expression of discontent elicited a heavy-handed response that resulted in the death and injury of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens. Needless to say elements bent on sowing destruction and havoc played a role in exacerbating the situation and pushing Ethiopia to the edge.

Another subject that merits the immediate attention of the new EPRDF chairman and soon-to-be-unveiled Prime Minister is the blurred line between party and government. Although there are several areas linking a government and the political party leading it, the fusion of the roles of the two is the root cause of many of the problems besetting Ethiopia. This is a practice that needs to be eliminated without delay. The party must only take part in major decisions and retreat from daily government operations. While the primary responsibility of the government is to protect the interest and security of the public at large, a political party’s raison d'être in a democratic system is generally to represent distinctive segments of society and pursue the particular interests associated with them, and on this basis to seek power through competitive elections. The EPRDF needs to introduce reforms in this regard during the two remaining years of its current tenure with a view to ensuring that the next election is free and fair. If the next Prime Minister manages to institute a clear separation between the ruling party and the government it will be an invaluable gift to the public.

The public should stand to benefit at least as much as the EPRDF or its member parties from the resolution of the political crisis gripping Ethiopia. The new Prime Minister and politicians who may get a shot at leading Ethiopia would do well to acknowledge that ultimate political power is vested in the people and owes the obligation to provide the kind of leadership that is in keeping with the times. The present generation, which is well-informed thanks to information technology, yearns to see its country become a stable and prosperous democracy governed by the rule of law. A leader who is guided by a vision embodying these ideals is bound to win the hearts and minds of the public. It’s through the adoption of a shared vision that a society which spurns hatred and extremism can be created. This is precisely what the public desires.

As we have said time and again Ethiopia is a great country that is home to a great people. Its proud and far-sighted citizens have shown that they can do wonders if they are governed the right way. They have also amply demonstrated the consequences of bad governance. Now more than ever it is time for pan-Ethiopianism to be the winner. As the EPRDF elects a new leader and installs him as the next premier it must be emphasized that tribalism and fanaticism have no place in Ethiopia. Ethiopians should display at this critical juncture in our history that despite differences in political outlook we stand united in our nation’s time of need. On their part politicians are duty-bound to put the nation and the country first. That is why the welfare of Ethiopians should be a matter of greater concern than appointing a new leader.