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reflections & outlook

Worrying Past, Bleak Year Ahead

By Beyene Petros (Prof.)

 

Like every professional person, my attention over the past Ethiopian year was divided into several areas of responsibility. My daily chores revolve around discharge of my academic duties and commitments; pursuing matters relating to my political . . . engagement and following up on social commitments.
 

To these, one can add keeping abreast with current world affairs as part of the daily routine.
 

Within the limitations of the objective condition I discharge, my academic duties have been rewarding achievements. These include classroom teaching and advising graduate student thesis and dissertation research work. I was happy to see the fruition of my efforts as more than 10 students graduated with M.Sc. degrees with extraordinary performance.
 

The satisfactory progress of my PhD students with their dissertation research, given the severe limitations of resources, was also another encouraging achievement. The culmination of success of an academic, is in his/her being able to publish the research findings in a reputable scientific journal. It was a highly productive year as there were quite a few papers already published during the year and there are some that have been accepted for publication.
 

To put it more modestly, my political engagement was much less rewarding during the year.
 

The effort made by eight opposition political parties and two eminent politicians, over the year, to form the "Forum - Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia", is the most laudable achievement. I could also add the withdrawal from Somalia of the Ethiopian Armed Forces as a positive outcome of the year's long campaign by our political activation.
 

On the other hand, looking too hard to find what good may have transpired in the parliamentary atmosphere, would reveal the issuing of the detailed working procedures of the House of People's representatives (HoPRs) in the form of pocket-sized booklets and made accessible to every member of the parliament as one achievement.
 

On the other hand, what prominently figures out around parliamentary environment is the fact that a series of controversial laws have been enacted during the year. To pass these laws, the ruling party has used its absolute majority in the parliament as the only leverage with a total disregard for the concerns and reservation of all others.
 

Among these is the CSO Law that in effect makes the task of civic education totally out their reach. The media law, which very much legalizes what earlier on used to be considered as breach of the constitutionally, provided freedom of the press and access to information. The new party law has tightened government control measure on the formation and activities of political parties. The worst of all is the anti-terrorism law, which is dubbed as "draconian and a declaration of terror against political parties", by many.

 

On the whole, the mundane nature of the parliamentary proceedings had worsened, as a result of which my attendance of parliament was much lower than the years before.
 

Furthermore, the country continued to face economic difficulties over the year. This was evident in a manner that affected the livelihood of each and every Ethiopian - food price inflation, fuel cost increase, power shortfalls, and foreign currency deficit and the attendant overall economic slump were obvious to all. Although the government initially tried to portray that Ethiopia is "immune from the global economic crisis", this later on was rescinded and found to be a futile denial of reality on the ground. On top of this, the misery of the rural poor was compounded by the poor rains as food shortage threatens the lives of millions in several parts of the country.
 

Likewise, it was upsetting to witness the harassment the Ethiopian civil servants were subjected to, by the government, using the pretext of "Business Process Reengineering", infamously known as "BPR".
 

The lack of trust in fairness and transparency of the process and the assumption of "ill-motive" on the part of the implementers has created a sense of extreme insecurity and despair in the workforce of the country. It is very sad to witness the sharp division among the population between those who are benefiting from the process and the bulk of the experienced and seasoned workforce which is being marginalized or totally put out of duty.

 

I naturally hate to take on a pessimistic outlook. I would have been the happiest person if the outlook of the Ethiopian New Year has a positively predictable omen in all aspects of life. Unfortunately, predictions do not point towards those.
 

I am seriously concerned about the impending famine. The doomsayers are already talking about the 'famine cycle', which very sadly has become synonymous with Ethiopia. The failed and late rains that affected most parts of the country simply re-enforce the doomsayer's predictions.
 

From the political vantage point, the chances for free, fair and genuine elections in the year 2010 are non-existent as of now. This situation can only be normalized by the goodwill of the ruling party to negotiate the outstanding issues that have been impeding democratic elections in the country.
 

To be sure, negotiating the 'Political Party Code of Conduct' is a necessary step; but a minor one at most. This situation seriously concerns us because we do not want to be once again subjected to the post election nervous outcries, accusations and counter-accusations, which might lead to untoward consequences from which no one would benefit.
 

Thus, as prospects for improvement in economic, social, political and governance regimes are bleak, I only hope that all able citizens would understand the impending dangers our country is facing and contributes his/her share to ameliorate the worst from happening.
 

May the Almighty give the citizens of this country the needed wisdom! 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Beyene Petros (Prof.) is Member of Parliament and chairman of the Ethiopian Social Democratic Party (ESDP).

 
 
 
   
   
   
 
 
 

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