By Getachew Beshahwred
At the ceremony held on 11th December 2019 to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 to Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Berit Reiss-Anderson, Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, listed down the achievements of the Prime Minister for which he was being awarded the Prize:
- His role in creating peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea,
- His efforts to build democracy in Ethiopia and
- His contribution to peace and reconciliation process in East and North East Africa.
There is no doubt these achievements are considerable and tangible. However, they are still work-in-progress. It requires a lot more effort and work to create a long-lasting and durable peace in the Horn of Africa. His efforts to build democracy in Ethiopia is tangled with ethnic and religious tensions and has become hostage to self-declared leaders and ‘representatives’ of the people, who do not represent no one but themselves. He has faced internal and external opposition to his reforms. Against this backdrop, it was a pleasant surprise that he managed to transform the EPRDF into a single and united (minus one) national party. I read comments by political writers and commentators how this would be damaging in the long-term. However, I cannot see how you can support the Medemer Principle on one hand and oppose the very essence of unity, the formation of a national non-ethnic party, on the other hand.
In any case this prize is a tremendous opportunity for the Prime Minister to plough on with his reform agenda.
Mr Berit Reiss-Anderson said, “Ethiopia has a unique history with in African context, since it was never colonised by any western power. They say that good news rarely arrives from the Horn of Africa. Historically good news, did in fact come from Africa. Ethiopia is the Cradle of Mankind. The first Homo Sapiens emigrated from the territory of your country. In this sense WE ARE ALL ETHIOPIANS.”
Those of us who have lived away from home are used to hearing such sentiments; some may add King Haile Selassie, King Menelik, Abebe Bikila, Miruts Yifter, Haile Gebre Sellasie, the Drought and Ethiopian Airlines. The name Ethiopia is widely recognised and respected and it has even been mentioned in the Bible more than 40 times, and the first Hijrah (Migration) declared by Prophet Muhammad was to Ethiopia.
However, it is still gratifying to hear such nice words about our PM and our country at such a huge and prestigious event. But, this would continue only if we Ethiopians can sustain Ethiopia.
The Prime Minister in his acceptance speech stated that, “There is no ‘Us’ and ‘Them’. There is only ‘Us’. We are all bound by a share of destiny of love, forgiveness and reconciliation. We Ethiopians remained independent for thousands of years because we came together to defend our home land.”
When Ethiopia was invaded, more than once, by foreign powers all Ethiopians regardless of ethnicity, region or social status came together against the aggressors and won. They won because they were united. As the Prime Minister pointed out, we Ethiopians can unite during wars but no so in peace time. A real puzzle!
It is very difficult but not impossible to lose Ethiopia. If our peace-time disunity continues, because we are fighting each other, we open our doors for foreign invaders. Today’s invaders do not come with guns, tanks, or planes. Oh No. They are now more subtle. They come armed with nice suits, shiny pens, powerful mobiles and laptops; machines which can do massive and long lasting damages. They also dangle shiny gifts in the form of grants, loans, donations and financial assistance and all for ‘Free’.
But as they say here in the west there is no free lunch. Though the tactics might have changed, the aim remains the same which is the control of people and resources, and any country that loses these powers, easily loses its independence and thereby its freedom, gradually, without even noticing it.
These modern-day invaders are good at divide and rule, and we are doing or at least half of the job for them, the divide part.
The Home-grown economic development program can be successful only if we are united as a country and people. Medemer is an ancient concept with a modern twist. We should accept it, nourish, develop and improve it. The tools needed to implement this basic concept must evolve, adopt and change. The Medemer principle of Ethiopia can work only if we act as Ethiopians first and foremost. We may have different religions, come from different parts of the country, we may be young or older, poor or rich, but we are all Ethiopians. We should not give time and space to those who preach hate and denial; denial of all facts and history, some of them even claim to be historians.
Yes like many other countries, our history is full of contradictions, exploitation, war etc. England had its share of wars. The English Civil War (1642-1651) between the parliamentarians (roundheads) and the Royalists (Cavaliers), was mainly about the manner of British Governance, and it led to the deaths of many and the execution of King Charles I in 1649. There were a number of Wars (1296-1328) between England and Scotland. The Welsh uprising against the English (1400-1415) lead to untold loss and destruction. The history of Ireland and England is filled with tales of wars and destruction.
There are still a number of unresolved issues between the nations of the United Kingdom. However, they are all part of the United Kingdom and they do not resort to wars and fighting to resolve their differences. They address and resolve their differences though democratic means. Some in Scotland would like to be an independent state. However, they have not formed a Scottish Liberation Front with its own army, and they do not go around evicting and killing non-Scottish people.
Hence, we all need to accept that we are all Ethiopians and we need to resolve our differences and solve our problems united and in a democratic way, because as the saying goes, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’.
The Prime Minister’s ’s Home-grown Economic development agenda can be a success if we are all united and work for the same cause and stop heavily relying on donors and donations. It seems many donor countries and international organisations are keen to help Ethiopia. It was announced on 11th December 2019, that the IMF is about to approve a $2.9 billion (US dollars) loan to Ethiopia. This has been also referred as a Financial Assistance. It is a loan. However, we should be recognisant of the fact that the world is full of countries which did not come out well from IMF sponsored loans and reform programs. It is quite possible Ethiopia could spend billions on interest payments and could also lose control of some aspects of Economic Management. The London Financial Times,12th December 2019, under the headline, ‘ Ethiopia set to win IMF loan for policy reforms’, states, ‘The IMF said the program would strengthen the oversight of state-owned enterprises and support the reform of Ethiopia’s financial sector. Analysts said Ethiopia would be keen to present the IMF programme as its own and not something imposed by the Washington-based institution. …….Charles Robertson, Chief Economist at Renaissance capital said…….the loan (is) a substantial change and…The IMF would put pressure on the government to move to a more flexible exchange rate as part of its programme.’
From history, we know the IMF’s flexible foreign exchange approach would lead to a devaluation of the national currency which would make imports prohibitively expensive. Hence imported goods and services would be completely out of the reach of a significant majority of Ethiopians and the gap between the poor and the rich would hugely expand. It seems the move to soon privatise huge publicly owned companies without significant consultation and to establish a Stock exchange without establishing the necessary institutions, could be part of these loan requirements. If that is the case, gradually the government may lose its power and authority to manage the economy without the approval of lenders and donors. If a government cannot apply both Monetary, Fiscal and other necessary measures without foreign approval, or it is required to take measures which may not be in the long-term interest of the country just to resolve short-term problems, there is no much independence either. The loan itself is not the issue. Sometimes it makes sense to borrow and invest as long as the long-term return from the investment is greater than the cost (all costs) of borrowing. The problem is with the conditions attached to the loan. I am sure our people are smart enough to avoid such a trap.
Otherwise we could easily enter into a vicious circle of loans, and the independence saved at Adwa and Maichew could be lost in the high-rising offices in Washington without a single shot being fired.
Getachew Beshahwred BA (Dist.), MBA, BFP, FCA, Cert CII, PMP is the Managing Director of GB & Co Ltd, Chartered Accountants and Management Consultants, London. Getachew can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. GB and Co, in association with the Chartered Insurance Institute, London and the London Institute of Banking and Finance provides Executive Training for Insurance and Banking personnel from Ethiopia. The training is done either in London or Addis Ababa. Contact Getachew for further details.