Ethiopia is succumbing to an unprecedented political turmoil and pervasive graft in the government is undermining its integrity and fuelling insurgency across the country, says the former president of Tigray Regional State and founder of the opposition political party, Arena Tigray for Democracy and Sovereignty, Gebru Asrat.
In an interview with the Amharic Reporter newspaper published Sunday, Gebru Asrat, who once served on the executive committee of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) before his falling out with the party said that government projects that were supposed to benefit the poor are only enriching the elite and a failure to stop corruption is damaging the country’s future.
“Whether you call it revolutionary democracy, or developmental state, the system is literally built on blatant corruption. The officialdom colludes with businessmen to take over land illegally for self-enrichment. Mega projects are in jeopardy and are facing bankruptcy. Inefficiencies and finance mismanagement are rife. Take the sugar and fertilizer projects, they are total failures. In all theses, you have patronage network of businessmen, contractors, higher officials who are placing their private self-interests over wider public goals.”
Gebru said the anti-corruption crusade has proved nothing more than a sham and only done for political gain. “When the public resentment grows, it has become a fashion to take measures against some that have no or little influence. Of course, the regime is not ready to turn against corrupt individuals. Corruption has eaten deep into its fiber. The political and business establisments do not want reform. Too much change would expose them and take them out of the game.”
Gebru said that the country’s economic woe has generated widespread discontent, which is compromising the country’s stability. “The centre is no longer holding. People are not obeying the federal authority and they no longer fear government. For example, any request from opposition party to organise demonstration in Addis Ababa would automatically be refused. But in Oromia region, look at the number of demonstrations that are taking place without authorization. That means the regime’s development army teams and one-to-five networks put in place to control people’s movement have collapsed. People have sent message, they are assuming a leading role in the struggle, they have declared victory in their own struggle,”
Gebru Asrat observed that the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is beset by its own internal divisions and the showdown between member parties is putting its very existence into question. “The competitions among regional lords for more control and power at the expense of the federal state have reached at their final stage. Whether EPRDF likes it or not, it is in a turmoil. There is no doubt about that. EPRDF is not able to respond to the public’s demand. It has lost its legitimacy. Members are busy trying to protect their own interest than saving the party. As matter of the fact, if the regime is still there, it is thanks to its security apparatus and defence force. It is not there because it is accepted as such by the wider society. Where this will lead is hard to predict. But one thing is sure: the party is alienated because the conflict with the public grew. What is missing is a political force ready to replace the regime. This is concern for all of us. The regime has been working all those years to make the existence of successor impossible,”
For Gebru the collapse of the regime is a matter of time, at the same time expressing concerns about the potential for civil war. But he said he doesn’t subscribe to the doomsday warning that the country would disintegrate. “Ethiopia has weathered numerous challenges. It has been there before the regime and it will exist after. People want to live together. Some politicians are working to undermine that. The ruling party also does things that destabilise the unity among the public. There could be price to pay for that. But this country is not disintegrating,”