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Opinion
TIME TO GET IT RIGHT PDF Print E-mail
By Kebour Ghenna   
Monday, 20 June 2016 07:19

On the eve of the departure of AU Commission Chair Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma the typical Pan African observer poses himself two questions. Has the Chair made a difference to the commission's biggest problems? Has she advanced African integration?
On both questions, our answer is simple: not really.
At least she will be remembered for her Agenda 63 fairytale. A wish list for Santa Claus that no parent could ever possibly afford and no child could ever possibly deserve. But hey, who am I to say the Agenda doesn’t make any sense, when we have the signatures of so many smart African leaders appended to it.
I bet the bullet train from Algiers to Durban, via Ndjamena is just there to spice up the Agenda?
Anyway large-scale wishful planning fail because the facts upon which they are built are unreliable, frequently completely bogus. And they fail because people don't really want them. Here I’m not even bringing corruption into the picture. Add a comment

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THE SYSTEM IS FAILING, BUT WE CAN’T EVEN TALK ABOUT IT PDF Print E-mail
By Kebour Ghenna   
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 14:49

Serious thinkers of past centuries like Charles de Montesquieu, George Buchanan, John Locke and others were the most effective exponent of the separation of powers of government. It’s literally thanks to them that all the constitutions of the world brag about the three branches of government: the Legislative branch, the Executive branch, and the Judicial branch. According to this principle the Legislative branch is the Parliament and they enact the laws. The Executive branch is the President or Prime Minister, who runs the daily business of government. The Judicial branch is the Courts who interpret the law and determine whether laws are constitutional or not. And yes, the 1995 constitution of the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Republic, also adopted the separation of powers as the basis of its system. The problem is we still don’t know how to make it work. Hence democracy has been on hold, or work in progress according to the government.
Actually, real democracy cannot be ordered around or organized in such a heavy handed way. It requires kindness (why not), resilience and grit. The government is trying, right? What more can it do?
In the old days, there was no need for such a sophisticated governance system. To begin with, there was not much distance between governors and the governed. The latter know where the former live…and how they live…and how little difference there is between them. When they didn’t like their master, they chopped off his head. That’s the way things worked.
Fast forward to the politics of our time, with the separation of powers legality, accountability, transparency and availability of necessary resources between the branches of government, democracy was harder to achieve. But then again in Ethiopia, we had a taste of it, although it quickly struggled to move forward. Why? Some say it’s due to lack of vision and audacity of politicians of both aisles of the political spectrum...Other say it’s ‘Greed’.
Today citizens’ uncertainties about policy are interpreted as resistance to the party and the government, making it impossible to conduct rational debate. The consequence is that most Ethiopians, have lost the consciousness that they are the masters of their own country, so they don’t care about public affairs.
What would change things? Well, first, reaffirm and strengthen the government’s commitment to the doctrine of separation of powers and the principle of check and balance and its application. Encourage our elites to reflect on any political idea. Let them tell us what is the purpose of government? What does it cost and what benefits does it confer? To what extent the separation of power is practiced. Let’s make sure that our schools and the public ponder on these issues.
Twenty-first-century Ethiopians greatest challenge will be to rebuild the bridges that brings all the various nation and nationalities to base all their actions on the non-historical and more esoteric values of truth, justice and love. Their choice should be between serving human beings or serving history, between thinking ethically or thinking strategically.
They (the wenty-first-century Ethiopians) need to dismiss the temptation to shift to smaller targets - like, say, the person sitting next to you in your office. After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win. They need to understand that individual initiative and developing new skills and capital isn’t going to be enough to fix failed systems. It requires first admitting the systems and institutions of the nation are inadequate and need to be completely re-worked from the ground up. It requires for the normal and sensible citizen to stand up, make more noise, and be counted. It requires that we do away with a system that allows a parliament with no opposition, a parliament which ignores the many voices who did not vote for the ruling party. It requires that we give up phony “reform” to demonstrate that the government is still functioning and that it is listening to the people. Reforming the country by tweaking the government machinery is fantasy, and all politicians know it. Any serious reform, therefore, has to start with the total review and transformation of the existing political structures and the reining in of the entrenched powers.
Now on the economic front, Ethiopia’s economic figures look good on the surface, but in reality, our people are becoming poorer and poorer. The unemployment rate remains severe. Salaries are falling backwards. The wealth gap is getting bigger and bigger. Life is becoming more and more unfair. Young people have less money to spend on rent, are afraid to get married, and don’t even feel sure they can afford to eat three meals a day. Hope is harder and harder to see. No wonder most people switch from producing to scheming and speculating, they seek more something for nothing... That’s zany!
We need to turn this around. How? When? May be with the region? The city?  A single party? A coalition government? The market? We don’t know, but efforts are required at the level of technical debate, ideas, civil society, and national political parties to change government philosophies and reform. To begin with, we should all agree, that twenty first century government must aim to deliver twenty first century governance solutions.
Will that happen?

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BROKEN WINDOW PDF Print E-mail
By Kebour Ghenna   
Monday, 21 March 2016 07:43

Governing the state of Ethiopia used to be uncomplicated. Citizens were, and still are, generally docile, or rather kept docile.
But in the past months things have become more tumultuous. In many parts of Oromya local leaders and activists are threading identity politics to contest the lacuna of political representation. Their inability to pressure the government to make decision in their favor is posing a direct threat to the integrity of the Ethiopian state. Remember TPLF forty years back! Add a comment

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The ‘Ferenji’ Year in Review PDF Print E-mail
By Kebour Ghenna   
Monday, 28 December 2015 08:13

As always there’s good news and bad news in politics or anything related to it when reflecting on the year past or looking forward to the future. Today I want to reflect on how things fared in the past year. I must caution you from the start, that my analysis of the news is opinion-driven and not data-driven, so please take it with a grain of salt. Also, I will not be exhaustive in my selection of issues, but will only spotlight some of the most controversial and talked about issues.
Let’s look at what happened:
Election: It was undoubtedly a smooth year for PM Haile Mariam. The ‘Opposition’ (Capital “O”) was brushed away with much practiced ease, giving the EPRDF total control of Parliament. In many ways the 2015 election did not generate much excitement, and voters, by and large, were hardly enthusiastic. But winning by 100% is always difficult to make sense. Now there is a potentially more radical and progressive opportunity to renew the political system of the nation. The question is, will the EPRDF leadership opt for reform at victory? Can it be a force for introducing greater opportunities for political participation? Just asking!
Economy: High probability that the government will continue with high growth using public investment in infrastructure. Despite a higher than average portion of GDP dedicated to infrastructure, spending is still low. It’s critical that international partners continue to increase support to infrastructure. As to the private sector, realistically it’s hard to see where the strength will come from, whatever growth there is it will still remain short on scale. There is need to find ways to expand the role of the private sector. Today we live in a country where opportunity is stifled. Unfortunately it serves no useful purpose whatsoever to try to limit people’s access to opportunity.
Corruption: The problem has now reached crisis levels, our leaders tell us. To change the situation, they argue, the government should act fast and decisively. That’s right! But talking about it is not enough. There are several reasons why the problem persists. First, is the general economic situation, it may sound banal but the monstrous regulatory burden the government continues to introduce deepens corruption. Second, is the endemic culture of impunity, and the few court convictions at the highest levels of government. Third, the hush over the yearly reports of the Auditor General to the parliament, none of which were reviewed or acted upon. Put simply we’re getting to the point where people believe that in Ethiopia today honest business no longer pay.
Infrastructure: By and large the results there have been considerable!
Real Estate: It’s very hard to ignore the government’s effort in developing low cost housing in Addis Ababa and other cities. But this is not enough. The government is failing to get enough homes built, leading to rising rental levels and growing overcrowding, with more families squeezed into ever smaller spaces. People of lower incomes (the young and the poor) are finding it harder to pay for a roof over their head. There is need to step up government efforts to realize citizens‘ housing rights by speeding up housing delivery rate, facilitating financing to independent or group home builders, and transferring land at discounted price to those committed and ready to build their house. It should also encourage and support innovative private housing: Why not go for a true renaissance and implement, say, Housing for All program. Ambitious? Yes. Impossible? No.
Addis Ababa: Never a dull place. No doubt efforts were made to keep up with the demands of the city. Sad to see, however, so few kids out playing soccer, and so many chewing ‘Tchat’!
Free press: while the constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, to say that this government guarantees every citizen’s right to free speech would be an over statement. In the past fifteen years, the people of Ethiopia have gone from enjoying the freest political autonomy to fearing their own government more than almost any other internal or external threat. Believe me a letter or a call from the ministry of information can cause instant weight loss. It’s sad to see our new generation of leaders oppose those who don’t follow the herd, unfortunately it is precisely that herd mentality that will ultimately keep Ethiopia in mediocrity and under development. Are we entering a new dark age?
Judicial system: Citizens are very concerned of the state of our judicial system. There can be no development without a sound justice system, period.
The recent upheaval over land issues: The authorities must have thought that everything done in the name of development in Oromya is good news. But here is the thing, people today can sense when something is wrong. The belief that someone always benefits from these land schemes, in most cases the politically connected is wide spread. And this is resented. To suggest that policy tweaks would now resolve the problem is absurd. The issue is much more complex than officials suggest, it would require a bit of imagination and dialectical ability. One last thing: I’m not supposed to say things like “This is dumb,” but the government’s riot control of civilians have been dumb.
Drought: The situation is clearly in the danger zone, and although the government’s response is adequate for now a lot of things could go wrong. The people of Ethiopia are willing to help their brothers and sisters in need...Call them to chip in! Open the minds of the people to the fact that everyone is in this together. Remember a nation is only as strong as the bonds between its people; and if people have a strong social bond, they will labor together during difficult times and work out all problems.
“What’s next?”  is a key question that everyone should be asking. I still think Ethiopia is terrific. It’s still growing. There’s still enthusiasm in the air.  At the same time there is a sense of uncertainty, partly because of the problems mentioned above, but also because of lack of space and opportunity to cultivate clashes of ideas, lack of debates over the principles by which we should reorganize the government, both politics and economy.
See you next ‘Ferenji’ year!

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WHEN CHINA SNEEZES AFRICA CATCHES A COLD PDF Print E-mail
By Kebour Ghenna   
Tuesday, 01 September 2015 05:49

China has become the major development partner of sub-Saharan Africa. It is now the subcontinent’s largest single trading partner and a key investor and provider of aid. In 2013, trade between China and Africa reached a record $200 billion, almost 20 times higher than it was in 2000, with a 44 percent spurt in Chinese direct investment in Africa.
US trade with Africa, but only in goods, not services, totaled $85 billion in 2013. Services amounted to about another $11 billion. European trade with Africa reached $137 billion in 2013. Africa has become the second-largest source of China's oil imports, and a major destination of Chinese investment, with more than 2,000 Chinese enterprises currently investing there. Add a comment

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POLL 1

1. Do you think the drought will affect next year's harvest?

(16301 votes)

33.9%   (5528)
33.7%   (5491)
32.4%   (5282)
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POLL 2

2. Do you think the water problem in Addis Ababa will be solved by next year?

(5495 votes)

96.5%   (5303)
3.2%   (178)
0.3%   (14)
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