Prospects for Governance discussed in Addis

The peaceful transition of power and the election of a new Prime Minister opened the next promising chapter in the rich Ethiopian history. Obviously, Ethiopians at home and abroad are curious about the direction the new leadership will be heading. As decision makers need to find a balance between established long-term governance structures and new demands by upcoming generations, some questions have necessarily to be addressed: What should the future governance in Ethiopia look like? How to preserve successful pillars of governance in the future? Are there changes of governance needed to implement new policy priorities?

Reasons enough for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and the Centre for Dialogue, Research and Cooperation (CDRC) to jointly invite to the conference “The Promise to the Next Generation: Prospects for Governance in Ethiopia”, that took place on May 24th, 2018 (GC) at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Abeba.

The event brought together distinguished opinion makers, politicians with diverse backgrounds, researchers, advocates as well as the young and the experienced who shed light on important governance issues in Ethiopia. In his keynote speech, H.E. Getachew Reda, executive member of EPRDF and TPLF, pointed out from his personal point of view what are the major challenges of governance in contemporary Ethiopia: The burden of history, the individual nature of the country’s institutions as well as the lack of interest or debate on different ideas.

He emphasized that the democratic institutions established under the Ethiopian Constitution are operating under the patriarchal culture of Ethiopia. Hence, he argued, forcing and coercing seems still to be the preferred way instead of persuading and convincing citizens to engage in desired activities or civic action. In order to make the institutions successful, some cultural habits would have to change. Getachew admitted that the new generation has become more demanding than previous ones and is impatient for change. On the other hand, he said, the management of diversity, age-old winning mentality, urbanization, geopolitical situations, lack of job opportunities and the influence of foreign organs that are interested to export governance solutions without taking the Ethiopian unique situation into account or context have complicated governance issues recently, according to Getachew.

Nevertheless, democratic federalism as well as the developmental state approach can still be good indicators for the prospects of governance in Ethiopia. Even if the current challenges are related with some failure to promptly respond to new demands, Getachew underlined that these are temporary problems that could be fixed soon.

His viewpoints were later brought up for discussion by a group of handpicked individuals from different walks of life. Guided by Dr. Elisabeth Woldegiorgis (Addis Ababa University), Dr. Milkessa Midega (Oromia Youth and Sports Bureau Head), Ms. Selome Tadesse (social activist), Dr. Gedion Timothewos (lawyer and constitutional expert), Dr. Merera Gudina (scholar and politician), and Mr. Tsedeke Yihune (business owner and political commentator) reflected on the ideas in the following panel discussion.

The discussants as well as the questions from the audience raised a couple of debatable issues: The use of force and violence, the merger of party and government, the recruitment processes for positions in the public sector, the accumulation of power at individual level, challenges for the education policy, the imminent gender gap, the impact of party ideology, the lack of accountability and the situation of human rights. Obviously, not all of them could be discussed in the intensity that is needed due to time constraints.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung is grateful for the interest of over 150 participants and is looking forward to the next edition. You’ll hear from us soon again.