The following in-depth responses were provided by Ato Dereje Berhanu – 42 years old and an engineer by occupation. We found the arguments to be well-thought of that need to get as much exposure as possible in this election. We reproduce the responses in their entirety.

 

MediaETHIOPIA – March 20, 2005

 

 

1.                  What is your general impression about the upcoming elections? Are you following the event with interest or casually?

 

I am following closely the upcoming election since it provides an opportunity to empower the Ethiopian people.  The Ethiopian people do not want to have a rubber stamp parliament  like the present one, they want their representatives to be independent minded and voice their opinion boldly for truth and justice and without fear or bowing down to the special interest.  However, it requires a free and fair election with no ifs and buts for us to choose and empower effective representatives that will lead us to our dream.

 

My general impression for fair election in Ethiopia has dipped recently after learning that a significant number of the selected election officials as a condition to be non-partisan by the Nation Election Board of Ethiopia happened to be members of the ruling party.  It is like the payer is also being assigned as a referee in a soccer game.  I am hoping the widely used term “conflict of interest” will ring a bell to the Election Board and pull out the regime cadres.  Furthermore, the recent killing of All Ethiopian Unity Party members by the current regime cadres just prior to the election in Gojjam is another abuse of power and intimidation by the regime that significantly undermined the sincerity of the election.

 

On the positive side, a Senator form California “Mike Honda” has introduced a bill to support free and fair election in Ethiopia.  If it goes thru it will provide opportunity to force the Ethiopian Election Board to be impartial on all issues and recruit non-partisan election officials.  On the other hand,  “The Coalition of Democratic Forces” an alliance formed by a group of opposition parties has announced that it will run for 485 parliamentary sits of the total 547 unlike the previous election where the current regime took easy cruise without a legitimate opposition.

 

2.        Which political personalities or parties have impressed you with their agenda and vision for Ethiopia?

 

The All Ethiopian Unity Party and the Coalition of Democratic forces as well as their chairman Ato Hailu Shawel stands out.  The AEUP is the largest opposition party where its leaders have been organizing the party at grass root level touring the nation in all four directions to establish office and register members.  The party includes highly dedicated Vice Presidents like Shalekea Getachew, Shaleka Admasu and Ato Abayneh who understand the heart beat of the Ethiopian farmers that constitute 85% of the population.   Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam, a veteran human right activist who recently revealed the jungle politics of the current regime and also wrote the book entitled “Ye kihedet Kululut” which is considered by many as the best political book about Ethiopia is to be noted.  Dr. Berhanu Nega, chairman of the Rainbow Party is another well educated politician with international vision and world class experience.  He has a proven track record of standing up against Woyene regime and has gone to prison for truth and justice voicing his protest towards the regime that restricted freedom of University students.  Another great personality worth to mention despite the fact that he is not member of a political group is Dr. Taye, chairman of Ethiopian Teachers Association.

 

3.        Do you think EPRDF has been good for the country? Some people say that EPRDF has improved Addis Ababa with the new modern International airport, ring road, Sheraton Hotel and the numerous new buildings, and the improved roads outside Addis Ababa. Their critics say that these are superficial. What do you think?

 

I agree that many buildings have been built in Addis.  Main reason is EPRDF got a break from the West to get loans from international banks once the communist Dergue was gone.  Our national debt has skyrocketed now hitting record high and we do not know how to pay except beg for debt cancellation.  The other reason is regardless of what government is in power buildings and roads will be constructed as time goes forward and population increases.  If you look at Addis before Haile Selassie took power, there literally was nothing. 

 

Let see who built the buildings

Sheraton was built by an individual billionaire and would have done it regardless of any government.  We all know communism is history.    The private buildings in Addis are built by Ethiopians who lived abroad and locally as well as by TPLF business enterprises.   A good chunk of the loans from the obtained from the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia to build these buildings are not paid. Some are also built by government using international loans that adds to our national debt. The belt way is a good for the city but we should remember that the planning was done way before Woyane took power and was again with international loan.  Just charge the credit card as long as it is approved is the motto.  But it works great for propaganda to show development it even convinces those that come from abroad.  The devil is on the details where most Ethiopians don’t see.

 

As far as the airport, the issue was controversial at the time in terms of where to use the money.  Is it better to build mass storages and support Ethiopia effort to fight famine or expand the Bole Airport was the controversy.  Any how the airport was expanded, however, there is a major compliant and problem at present regarding the construction considering the money spent. 

 

Other key issues that have gone to the back burner

Are the existing buildings maintained?  The answer is NO.  It does not matter how many we build unless we keep what we already have intact.  

 

Are we preserving space for park and play grounds or we just building on top of them?  Most of the Keble lands reserved for recreation have buildings now.   There is no place for kids to pass time except running around the streets.

 

How about sustainability, storm water management, the eco system as well as environmental aspects of the city?  These issues are like jokes to mention in Addis

 

4.      Among the ministers and political appointees in Prime Minister Meles cabinet, who is – in your opinion - most respected (least disliked)? Who do you think is least liked?

 

I will say most disliked is Bereket Simon: Reason being his major role in favoring  big government hand on media and his role to dismantle the Ethiopian independent journalists association which recently won its ruling over his ministry in the federal court.  Furthermore, his sincerity for Ethiopian cause is questioned by his former comrades of TPLF.  He is also being disliked for being the right hand of the prime minister who many consider including Bereket treason materials.

 

The other Ministers that are not or were not members of the TPLF are all considered puppets with no power or authority on key decisions that affects the motherland.  Even a Listro in Addis can tell you this and it is not worth mentioning their names. 

 

Arkebe Ekubai had gained popularity initially for cleaning the city when he replaced the former mayor Ali Abdo who had created the biggest dirt in the history of the capital.  The regime changed him in respond to a treat from international organizations in moving out of Addis unless the city is cleaned. 

 

However, the mayor success is short lived and is limited to Woyane supporters and few others due his recent reckless actions.  His selection to the position was also illegitimate since he was not a resident of Addis at the time.  It is obvious to all Addis residents that he became a Mayor due to his political loyalty to Meles.  The regime has also dissolved the City Council of Addis Ababa and replaced it by its cadres.  His decision of firing desperately needed medical doctors without issuing a strong warning while the nation is producing the highest rate of children HIV in the world is considered irresponsible by many. In addition, Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC) recently expressed its concern over "illegal displacement" by the ongoing development activities in Addis Ababa where over 300 residents were displaced out of there home and are living in a temporary shelter.  There was no earlier preparation to accommodate them.  Issues like, school for their children school was not even raised.   They are moved out because investors (where many are associated with regime directly or indirectly) can build condominiums in the city.  There are also those that question whether his effort in cleaning the city is to polish the tarnished image of Woyane before the election and also question his favoritism along political alliance in giving high valued lands and permit for construction.    

 

5. In this election, what issues are important for you personally and your family? (The economic condition, democratic rights, employment, peace and stability, others?) How about for the whole country? (The Eritrea question, famine/drought, the economy, AIDS/HIV, poverty, ethnic relationships, land tenure, environment pollution, population growth, etc?)


All the above issues are extremely important.  In addition, Ethiopia’s right for an outlet to the sea, human rights and free and fair election are conditions that should be addressed without compromise.  The issue of population growth is negated by Ethiopia being the numero uno (number 1) nation in children HIV rate as well as the top four in HIV in the world.  In addition, the average life of an Ethiopian is the lowest in the world, in a recent data, the average age has dropped from high thirties or low forties to high twenties.  This makes population control a very delicate issue; High birth rate in combination with the highest death rate in the world.

 

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