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At the risk of sounding clichéd the adage “old habits die hard” fits to a tee the actions and attitudes of the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) and the government it heads. Briefing the media this week about the performance of the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) since he came to power in April 2, 2018, the Government Communication Service extolled the achievements of the administration. As all previous Ethiopian governments were wont to do, the Service made light of the grave challenges that have been rocking the country since the premier assumed office and trotted out the usual platitudes about how the government is determined to address the challenges. While it’s not surprising to see that the government is cast in the same mold as its predecessors in this regard, its preference to pursue a similar modus operandi is concerning nonetheless.

The tenure of Prime Minister Abiy began with the introduction of a raft of reforms that were broadly popular. From freeing political prisoners to allowing exiled opposition party leaders to return home to replacing draconian laws that infringed the unfettered exercise of constitutionally rights, the successive measures his administration undertook in the political arena were welcomed by Ethiopians home and in the diaspora. The liberalization of the telecom and financial services sectors that were hitherto closed to foreign investors as well as the various initiatives the government embarked on to enable the private sector play a greater role in the economy were also positively received by many. It did not take long, however, before the public began to sour on the administration owing to a combination of factors that were of its own making and in some instances extrinsic to it.

The gravest of the challenges that Ethiopia has been confronted with in the past six years is the outbreak of conflicts which at times threatened the very survival of the nation. Foremost among these are the horrendous two-year civil war in northern Ethiopia and the seemingly endless spate of violence across virtually all regions of the country in which hundreds of thousands died and millions were displaced and left psychologically traumatized. The period was also marked by the sickening regularity with which heinous acts that violated basic liberties occurred, including torture, abduction for ransom, forced disappearance, unwarranted restrictions on the right to movement; the imprisonment of scores of politicians, journalists and ordinary folks on legally dubious grounds; and flouting the due process rights of citizens. It further saw heightened public discontent with the PP-led government due to the endemic levels corruption, nepotism and other forms of bad governance assumed on its watch and its failure to take the bold actions required to hold to account those responsible for them.

On the economic front the performance of the government has been less than stellar since the prime minister took the reins of power. Though his administration has formulated and implemented its much-vaunted homegrown economic reform program, the majority of the structural problems it sought to tackle have worsened. Consequently, the economy has come to be defined by, among others, chronic unemployment, a crippling level of both domestic and external debt, the astronomical rise in the rate of inflation, a widening trade imbalance, the rapid depreciation of the local currency that resulted in a  decline in real income, the perennially high number of citizens seeking emergency assistance because of natural and manmade disasters, the inability to achieve food security despite the availability of vast arable land and considerable water resources, and a weak manufacturing base incapable of substituting imported capital goods and food items. All this as well has fueled public resentment in the government.

Prime Minister Abiy’s administration go-to response to the criticism that it has not delivered on the lofty pledges it made at the start of its reign has been to point out that the challenges facing the country are structural in nature and as such require time to get a handle on. This argument was understandable early into his rule given the enormity of the challenges. But six years should have been more than enough to make a dent into the majority of them regardless of how complex or intractable they may be. It should duly acknowledge its shortcomings instead of going over the top about its accomplishments and exert every effort towards finding the requisite strategic and comprehensive solutions. This calls for multidimensional approach that combines inclusive political and economic reforms as well as social development initiatives. It’s only then that Ethiopia can rise above its current challenges and its citizens’ aspirations for long-term stability and prosperity come true.

#Forsaking #Selfcongratulatory #Mindset

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