Pandora’s Box – full of Public Grievances

Urgent and concrete measures should be badly needed and deployed before it is too late and before EPRDF becomes a has-been political front party. Blatant symptoms have begun to surface which tell that the ‘deep-renewal’ project is becoming to be dysfunctional.

The large number of executive cabin reshuffle conducted recently has appeared to be impotent on getting the aspired outputs or changes by the people of the nation. As we know, technocrat Doctors and Professors have been made to hold many of the ministerial positions of the government.

Almost one solid year is about to elapse since then. However, most of them are performing in a tortoise’s pace forward with considerable number of them are still remained stagnant in solving problems of their respective public organizations.

Nowadays, making rule-of-law the governing standard in most of the public organizations, has become to be beyond the ranges of the politically staffed technocrat incumbents.

During the first few months of their stay in office, the people in general, their respective civil servants in particular had great expectations and trust on the newcomers that they would have the capacity as well as the audacity to meaningfully minimize if not eradicate all the unjust (the undemocratic practices, nepotism, multifaceted corruption activities, downfall of meritocracy, etc) practices within their organizations which are still continuing to be the prevailing attributes of most of the organizations.

Consequently, one can confidently confer that business is running as usual if not getting worse.    

Despite some of those new ministers are doctors and professors by training, most of them seem to prefer political games at the top to/than relentlessly work with confidence so as to build model public organizations by putting the right person at the right place/position.

Contemporarily, staffing by favoritism continues unperturbedly at the cost of merit. Whenever grievance cases are raised from below (common civil servants), the cases are primarily seen from the vantage point of the top (politically positioned individuals) while utilizing the rule-of-law as the main reference is crashed at the palm of their hands.

As the result, legitimate grievance appeals of the mass (predominantly the public servant) usually hover in the air losing justice to prevail. Some of the top-positioned individuals even do not have a glimpse of shame to explicitly denounce reasonable civil servant complaints and to resume the age-old decayed procedures as well as regressive legacy activities of their predecessors.

Giving an elephant –ear to an appropriate criticism and being receptive to wrong deeds of the politically-empowered incumbents, would not hold water in the effort to bring positive changes at the public organizations. Such things would do nothing but add some more parasites to the Pandora’s Box where accumulated mass grievances may one day explode and go viral to an irreversible level.

At national level, such incidents have been seen in the regional states of Oromia and Amara. When people do not acquire a satisfactory answer for their valid (constitutional) objections, it is a general truth that the people would demonstrate its grievances peacefully even violently.

Therefore, opening the Pandora’s Box (which is full of mass dissatisfaction and grievances) could be both an answer and a disaster. Hence, the government as a whole the public organizations in particular, should solve each and every civil servants’ legal appeals that are stored in the Pandora’s Box before it is too late.

When the newcomer technocrat ministers could not make it at any cost (excepting by trespassing the rule-of-law) the consequence would be definitely hazardous and beyond repair.

Why business is still going as usual in those organizations?

One of the main reasons behind is that the government incumbents are at the state of ensuring their own personal political power grip at the expense of public expectations. The existence of deep intra- and inter-elite tension has resulted in trickling down negative impacts among the ethnically diverse societies.

Widespread of a system of patronage among the public servants has lead them to seek government positions by relying on their ethnic affiliation than on their personal academic profession and experiences.

As the matter of fact, the ethnic-based federalism model is not a problem by itself. The challenge comes when the political elites twist this model for the sake of rent seeking.

Another challenge is that, the existence of weak check and balance among the legislative and executive groups. Legally, the legislative body is supposed to follow up and control the activities of the executive body.

However, the reality on the ground is the other side of the coin. The economically poor legislative members of the parliament could not have the moral status to control and confront the personally and illegally enriched executive members.

The executive members find it easy to manipulate the government’s budgets. They are the ones who have a full-fledged access to the financial elements. Besides, they can fly abroad anytime by disguising they are doing the government’s business.

On one side, the so-called legislative body that is supposed to have a superior political power in the country are actually found to be puppet of the executive ones. To put it differently, the legislative body does not have the practical platform to be the real controller of the executive members.

While living by being dependent on the insignificant amount of monthly salaries, dwelling in a simple common residence, using city-buses or taxies for transportation, members of the legislative group would be in no practical position to check and control each and every evil activities of the executive group who live in lavish houses surrounded by gun-carrying guards and transport by using modern Toyota V8 Model expensive cars.

Therefore, at least in this case, among others, the legislative members’ low personal living condition, is one of the bottlenecks that make them refrain from confidently checking and controlling the executive members who are at high class of living condition where most of their financial sources are illicit.

Moreover, further reasons may be described why the public is full of various grievances. For instance, obviously there is a very high deviation between the principles imprinted in the constitution, and the government’s actual implementation on the ground.

In the first place, even though the principles on the constitution are relevant for society type like that of Ethiopia’s, but EPRDF had designed this kind of constitution which is beyond its actual capacity to apply the principles and rules on the ground.

As the result, the peoples’ expectation from the government and the government’s tangible performance are considerably different. Thereby, this has resulted in creating dissatisfaction among the people and have already begun to request more by demonstrating “Let the government respect the Constitution!”.

This indicates that the people has good knowledge on the constitution and its awareness level is mushrooming at a breakneck speed while the government has bad track record on acting according to the constitution and it is lagging behind the time and the societies’ consciousness.

The actual governance of the country doesn’t reflect the values and principles prescribed within the constitution, because, as EPRDF repeatedly confesses via various Medias and during different meetings, the challenges of good governance are explicitly witnessed some of which are (among others): the conception of popular sovereignty is challenged by the desire of individual to prosper at the expense of the mass; aggressively prevailing of rent seeking and corruption; fading of good governance; weakening of justice system; lacking of accountability; and the commonness of social service provision problems.

Likewise, the environment is too restrictive for people to voice their grievances for various socio-economic and political issues. People could not express their complaints in all peaceful means when resources are being squandered, mal-administration is not abated and injustices surge.

An environment of fear and despair is radically mounting which nourishes the dangerous malaises that we have been infected with.

In addition to this, the danger of binary-politics (‘either-Or’ labelling) is also another setback of good governance and for flourishing multiparty system in the country. The governing party is said to be developing a mentality of labelling anyone or group as “Whether you are with us or against us!”.

Civil servants, private sectors, media and individuals have been put in either box of developmental or rent seekers. Those who comply with the policies and strategies of the government are developmental whereas those who politically challenge – are indiscriminately branded as anti-developmental, terrorists, narrow nationalists and fundamentalists

This would endanger the growth of multi-party democracy and multi-dimensional way of thinking. Besides, this regressive approach would undoubtedly create an impediment of dynamism of the new generation in the 21st century. As a result, public confidence is eroded, civil and political rights are diminishing since those tags are mostly politically motivated.

All in all, The euphoria being obtained from the success of sustainable economic growth, should also be repeated from improving the continuum of democratization by realization of constitutional civil and political rights, group as well as individual rights in line with the ethnic-based federalism.

Moreover, Executive, legislative, and judicial categories must quickly develop the confidence and autonomy to check the power of public officials. Activities of the government should not be at loggerheads with the principles of the constitution.

By the same token, there should be a clear demarcation on the tasks between the governing political body and the government, while their deeds should resemble with the values of the constitution.

In a nutshell, some of the blockages of the democratization process are: Poor capacity of the bureaucracy that can’t cope up with the rapid economic development; poor moral of bureaucrats; undemocratic culture; undemocratic state Medias; shrinking democratic environment and crippling democratic institutions.

Hence, the way forward should be: Recognition of the depth and breadth of the problem; solving the aforementioned obstacles; identifying the perpetuators of bad governance and take merciless measures; provision of an all-rounded support to the opposition political parties for sake of blossoming multiparty system; and making fundamental changes in the institutions.

Last but not least, the executive officials should not give a deaf ear to the civil servants’ legitimate grievances but rather must be responsive in time and make decisions from the rule-of-law perspectives so as to make the Pandora’s Box solved and closed forever.


Berhanu Tsegay is a resident of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and a Masters Degree holder in Development Studies. He can be reached at +251943-304555 or [email protected]

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