Ruling party chief strategist Minister Bereket Simon, head of Government Communication Office, released a book, in Amharic language, titled ‘A Tale of the Two Election’.
Bereket Simon’s book signals a break from the ruling party’s long-standing motto that ‘the truth will speak for itself’ and it is the first to be published in the name of an incumbent EPRDF (the ruling party) officials.
In his book, Bereket reflects on and contrasts the 2005 and 2010 elections, the 3rd and 4th National and Regional Legislative Elections, respectively. The book in particular discusses the sources of the 2005 post-election violence and EPRDF’s landslide victory in 2010. Bereket Simon asks, in the preface of his book:
‘The two elections have fundamentally exhibited similar characters…the first one started and ended peacefully…the second one started peacefully and ended in violence…in the first elections the opposition progressed from 12 to 170 [parliament] seats, while in the second they regressed from 170 seats to one. While the ruling party greatly suffered in 2005 and it has thrived in 2010. In the two elections held in five year period…what are the reasons for such highly unparalleled results?’ [quote translated by CapitalEthiopia]
The 2001 EPRDF intra-party dispute and the subsequent Tehadso (Reform), which expelled several high ranking leaders of the party, is another focal point of the 314 pages and 10 chapters book.
The book provides a glimpse of the armed struggle and the subsequent two decades. Bereket dedicated his book in memory of his brother Kasahun Gebrehiwot, to his party ANDM (Amhara National Democratic Movement) and to senior members/fighters of EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Party). [EPRDF is a coalition of ANDM and three other parties].
Bereket Simon’s book was formally released on Tuesday in Sheraton Addis Hotel, where Minister Bereket thanked Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for reviewing the book and Sheik Mohammed Al-Amoudi for covering the printing costs.
Frankly, Bereket hardly needs to have his book reviewed by Meles Zenawi, as he has an intimate knowledge of the two elections, the ruling party politics and his expertise on public relations qualify him to be called Ethiopia’s spin doctor.
Bereket Simon is founding member of the ruling party with decades of service as a fighter and politician in his belts. He is also believed to be one of the master minds of the ruling party. In particular, Bereket Simon was in charge of the ruling party’s election campaign in the 2005 elections, which led to street violence when an opposition party claimed victory. The 2005 election earned Bereket the hatred of the opposition camp. He is believed have favored the hardline position his party took in the inter-party talks during the 2005 post-election violence where he was chief negotiator and spokesperson of the ruling party.
Though some argue that the ruling party media strategy was ineffective, few could show how the fault, if any, could solely be attributed to Bereket Simon, given the party’s centralized decision making process. At any rate, it is undisputable that Bereket’s performance in the elections debates was unmatched by his colleagues. Notable; in a debate in ECA meeting hall where he subtly led astray opposition figure Mesfin Woldemariam, who turned the policy debate into a lengthy sermon on his personal history. In another debate organzed by Addis Ababa University students, Bereket Simon practically taught the history and typology of electoral systems to opposition leader Merera Gudina(PhD), who embarrassed his supporters by failing to present systemic flaws other than allegations of harassment by government officials on his party.
A Tale of Two Elections is the first book to be published in Bereket Simon’s name, but certainly not his first literary work. Bereket Simon is known to have written several superb poems during his days in the armed struggle, that ousted the Marxist military regime in 1991, though none of them had been formally published to date. Bereket is also behind most of the publications expounding government policy and ruling party positions, though the materials are silent about authorship – an approach rooted in the party’s traditional take on ‘personality cult’.
The publishing of a book by an incumbent ruling party official – Bereket Simon – may not necessarily signal a change in the tradition of the party. Bereket Simon is expected to step down the party leadership in mid-2012 or 2014, as part of the ruling party’s strategy to transfer power into a new generation. Thus, he couldn’t be perceived as promoting his political personality, which is discouraged by the party.
Yet, the book is historic as it is the first to be published by an incumbent ruling party official. The only comparable instance is Meles Zenawi’s unpublished ‘African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings’ – a draft work believed to be a doctorial dissertation – which he presented in a forum in Columbia University in 2006. The parallel between Meles Zenawi’s and Bereket Simon’s works is that both are said to reflect the personal views not the position of the government of the ruling party – another taboo in the ruling party tradition.
If the Bereket’s book signals a change in direction, the public may soon see a number of personal works of EPRDF officials – including Meles Zenawi’s fictional story – which are dusting in the shelves for more than two decades.
Still, A Tale of the Two Elections stands alone as one written by an EPRDF official concerning the controversial election 2005.
Profile: Bereket Simon, now in his late 50s, was born in the historic city Gondar from an Amhara father and a Tigrigna speaking mother.
Bereket Simon took arms against the Military regime in the second half of the 1970s, as a member of EPRP – a party that fragmented shortly afterwards. Unlike most EPRP members, he refused to flee abroad and formed an other party, with likeminded comrades who took similar decision, EPDM – later renamed ANDM, in 1980. ANDM (Amhara National Democratic Movement), along other parties, formed the current ruling Coalition EPRDF, in 1989.
Bereket served as a member of the Executive Committees of EPRDF and ANDM for more than two decades.
In terms of governmental posts, he was in charge of the government’s public relations since 2002 , as Minister of Culture and Information, then Minister of Information, and now Head of Government Communications Affairs Office with a Ministerial portfolio. He was also member of the Parliament from 2005-2010.
Minister Bereket Simon graduated in Masters of Business Administration.
Note: A review of the book will be posted in this blog as soon as possible.