Blurring Ethiopian blues
What are the implications of Ethiopia’s ruling party and its allies winning an overwhelming majority in last week’s parliamentary polls, asks Gamal Nkrumah.
Some assumptions are debatable as far as Africa’s second-most populous nation, Ethiopia, is concerned. The Nile Basin nation is of pivotal importance as a regional power-broker and Africa’s fastest-growing economy.
A palette of plans for Ethiopia notwithstanding, the “blue” visionary approach put forward by a range of civil society groups is generating a compelling new country and a fresh political dispensation. Smudging the country’s political canvas, Ethiopia’s recent elections shed some light on the cloudier politics of a promising economy.
“If we remain committed to the ideals of justice, liberation and above all the sanctity of human dignity, we can ultimately prevail over evil, no matter how stacked the odds are against us,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn declared at South African leader Nelson Mandela’s funeral in Qunu in the Eastern Cape some years ago.
His oratory won him the respect and affection of people across the African continent.
The Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the headquarters of the African Union (AU), one of Africa’s fastest-growing cities, is a magnet for entrepreneurs and investors from abroad, as well as for poor people flocking into the capital from the surrounding countryside.
Desalegn was elected head of the ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), on 15 September 2012. The country adopted a federal system of government, and the EPRDF won a landslide victory in nine of the 11 regions and city states in the sprawling country. Yet, for all the ruling party’s flab, surprisingly few of the powers that be subscribe to Desalegn’s vigorous workout. It remains to be seen whether he has the character and experience to clear the hurdles before him.
Ethiopia has been feted by investors, but to create jobs for unskilled millions is no easy task. Desalegn was formerly president of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR), and his ethnic background is key to the political stability of the country. The southern regions of Ethiopia are traditionally marginalised, but Desalegn is now enjoying a second spell in office.
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