Triumph of the spirit Celebrating Ethiopia’s National Day
28 May – marks the anniversary of the demise of the dictatorial military regime called “Derg” that was in place from 1974 until 1991. It was overthrown by a coalition of liberation forces which demanded a democratic system that recognised the freedoms of all of <g data-gr-id="70">Ethiopians</g> nations and nationalities. It is a day when the people of Ethiopia have triumphed against tyranny, bloodshed and repression.
Ethiopia is a country in which more than eighty ethnic groups exist and twice as many dialects are spoken. The ‘National Question’ was among the first issues to be formulated by radical university students in their demands for socio-political change in Ethiopia. Growing civil unrest and a unified force of Ethiopian peoples, led by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) against the dictatorial communist regime finally led to its demise in 1991. The victory of the Ethiopian people over the Derg was not just a mere change of government; it was a victory which opened the way to democracy and economic prosperity.
The struggles of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia for equality and justice; for respect for their human and political rights; and good governance, development, peace and security finally bore fruit. To launch the final goal of the struggle and assure the country’s renaissance, a coalition of 27 political and liberation organisations under a transitional government embarked on the path of transforming Ethiopia from a centralised, military-controlled, “Marxist” dictatorship to a free and democratic federation. In <g data-gr-id="101">1995</g> a new constitution was <g data-gr-id="100">drafted</g>, setting up a bicameral legislature and an independent judicial system and guaranteeing equal rights and freedom of expression to all Ethiopian citizens. The New Ethiopia was constituted on the basis of equality, mutual respect, unity and diversity and one economic space and secularism where all religious beliefs are treated equal. This is the reason why we celebrate the Anniversary of 28 May, the National Day of Ethiopia.
The building of the institutions of democracy, of good governance and of the rule of law <g data-gr-id="74">is of course</g> a work in progress. It continually deepens and expands, gaining strength year by year. The Constitution provides for a regional system of government that comprising nine autonomous states and two city administrations each having its own Constitution. <g data-gr-id="75">Boththe</g> Federal as well as so the regional/state governments have executive, legislative, and judicial powers.
The victory of 28 May, and the subsequent activities at both federal and regional level, to move the country out of backwardness and conflict to peace and stability have led the country down the path of democracy and development. The war being waged against poverty is yielding substantial results. For the first time in its history, Ethiopia is in a dynamic process of vigorous transformation. It is one of the ten fastest growing economies in the world. Its GDP has been growing at an average rate of more than 10 <g data-gr-id="92">per cent</g> for the last decade. The success of its development is demonstrated by its capacity to bring about rapid and continuous development which has benefited people at all levels. Ethiopia is one of the few countries expecting to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals at the end of this year. The strategy of building a democratic system has played a significant role with good governance based on transparency, accountability, public participation, and the supremacy of the rule of law, being the main reason for the country’s quantum leap in development.
To become food <g data-gr-id="93">self sufficient</g>, the Government has continued utilising the huge water resources of the country and was able to realise big <g data-gr-id="94">hydro power</g> dams and <g data-gr-id="111">large</g> amount of irrigation schemes in the past 24 years. The country has gone a long way to mutually cooperate with the <g data-gr-id="109">neighboring</g> countries to use the water resources equitably. All current <g data-gr-id="95">hydro-power</g> plants are based on the principle of equitable utilisation of the waters and designed not to benefit only Ethiopia but also development opportunities for neighbouring countries too. Therefore, in line with the development programmes of the country, the government has started the construction of the biggest Dam in Africa and the 7th largest in the world “The Renaissance Dam”. The <g data-gr-id="107">Dam when becomes fully operational</g> will generate 6000 MGW electric power. This Dam is designed on the basis of international law.
Ethiopians continued to engage deeply in the realisation of the Renaissance Dam. They mobilise funds and buy Government bonds to reaffirm once again to fight and eliminate poverty. It is named after “Renaissance” to remember the greatness and glory of the country’s past and the hope that the time is coming to revitalise.
The success story does not end there. It is also well reflected in foreign relations. Ethiopia enjoys excellent relations with almost all its <g data-gr-id="89">neighbors</g> as well as with the international community at large. It has expanded its bilateral, regional and international <g data-gr-id="86">relations,</g> and takes a prominent role in international <g data-gr-id="91">peace keeping</g> operations. The guiding principles of its foreign policy are focused on the principles of mutual respect and benefit, good neighbourliness, mutual growth and international peace and stability. These are winning the cooperation and support of its development partners. The current foreign policy strategy gives priority to tackling the challenges of underdevelopment and its ills. The principles of Economic Diplomacy that Ethiopia now pursues complement the national <g data-gr-id="84">endeavors</g> to lift the country out of poverty and contribute to the strengthening of its democratic institutions. In this regard, India is one of the primary development partners to Ethiopia. The relationship has benefited Ethiopia from the training of human power, FDI <g data-gr-id="88">source,a</g> line of credit (LOC), boost trade, and facilitate <g data-gr-id="87">acquisition</g> of equipment and technologies.
28 May victory brought about a fundamental transformation in the political economy of the country where the government is following the Developmental State. It has created a situation in which the private entrepreneur can become the motor of development by creating an exceptional and conducive environment and drying up various forms of rent-seeking. It allows the government to selectively and effectively interfere when market gaps occur and lets it play a leadership role in coordination and improving the capacity of development forces.
28 May laid the foundations for democracy, peace and good governance and has allowed Ethiopians to hold their heads high and once again take pride in their identities. This year’s 28 May National Day would be celebrated after Ethiopians voted for a new government and national parliamentary election for the fifth time, which itself is the fruit of the 28 May.
The author is Minister Counsellor II at the Embassy of Ethiopia in India
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