The Silver Jubilee of Ginbot 20, the 25th anniversary of the downfall of the Derg regime, was celebrated last week under the theme “Diversity based democratic unity for our renaissance.” It is also the Silver Jubilee of the EPRDF, the main engine behind the developmental path and the renaissance.
The first Congress of the EPRDF took place in Kolla Tembien in January 1991, at the time when the gallant fighters of TPLF and ANDM as well as the later founders of OPDO and SEPDM were in control of half of the country.
The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front was born with equal representation of the two parties in the Front’s leadership. It was a blow to the Derg officials and to the reactionary forces in the diaspora, such as EPRP.The Congress deliberated on and approved the Revolutionary Democracy political program that saved the Ethiopia from the existential threat it was facing and put her in the right track of democracy and development following the downfall of the Derg regime.
The resolutions of the first Congress and the leaders it elected succeeded in making the Transitional period characterized by peace, multiparty democracy and development. Ethiopia escaped not only the immediate threats posed by the downfall of Dergue & the empty treasury and tens thousands of small arms scattered all over the country; but also managed the more fundamental threats that arise from centuries old national operation and denial of the farmers’ fruits of labor.
However, on December 1995 when EPRDF held its 2nd Congress the focus was not celebration nor scramble for power. At that time, the EPRDF was a four-member party Front, with OPDO and SEPDM included. It was a time when each member party started governing its respective region through the first free and fair national and regional elections in the country’s history.
The EPRDF one more time focused on spotting weaknesses and setting future directions in its Second Congress that took place in Hawassa city, which the capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region. It conducted a critical and thorough evaluation of its performance in terms of its organizational, governance, developmental activities and other national issues and foreign relations.
The Congress delivered the first Plan of the EPRDF for Peace, Development and Democracy. It also set clear directions on how the constitutional system could be made effective.The fruits of the directions set in the Second Congress, which were supplemented by the Third Congress 1998, were clearly seen in the rise of Ethiopia from the brink of collapse to the regional prominence and influence in the region.
The stability of the government and the unity of nation nationalities and peoples during the Eritrean aggression and the subsequent full-scale war (1998-2000) was an undeniable evidence that the three EPRDF Congresses put the country in the right direction and an effective governance structure.Even if the EPRDF leadership was not fully healthy, it kept differences aside and led the people to victory and enabling the defense forces inflict a humiliating defeat on the Eritrean dictatorship.
The Congress held after the gallant Ethiopian armed forces restored our sovereignty was not a celebratory one rather a preparation for the subsequent struggle on existential threats of the system.It was a time to refine the basic principles of Revolutionary Democracy and further elaborate and revise the sectoral policy frameworks based on the achievements, challenges and shortcomings observed in the previous decade.
However, as it is always the case with transformative changes, it was not easily accepted by all. Some members of the leadership stood against the need for change either because it affects their personal interest or because they were trapped by rent-seeking and adventurism tendencies since the times of the war.
The challenge was turned into strength by the Fourth Congress, named “Renewal Congress”, conducted in August 2001, which evaluated the party’s performance since the down-fall of the Derg.Under the chairmanship of Meles Zenawi, the Congress identified that democracy and development are matters of survival for the nation.The Congress approved directions to enhance the performance in agriculture, capacity building and other key sectors as well as The second Five Year Plan for Peace, Development and Democracy.
Building on that achievement was the focus of the Fifth Congress held in 2004, in Bahirdar, that was named “Emerta Congress” (or “leap forward congress”).The directions set by the two Congresses and the democratic developmental state built as a result were the primary engines of the sustained double-digit GDP growth that the nation register since 2003/4.
However, the Sixth Congress held in 2006 in Mekelle had its own challenges to address. It was a time when extremist opposition elements – with the encouragement of color revolution promoters and capitalizing on the limitations of the system – turned the third national and regional elections into a crisis.
The sixth Congress however went as per the long tradition of EPRDF. The Congress pointed out that the election showed that the nation’s gains in terms of democracy, development and peace have not yet reached an irreversible stage. Therefore, the Congress set directions to intensify national consensus building works, to work on leadership capacity building and enhance focus for urban development as well as youth and women empowerment.It also endorsed several other directions that made up the 5-years Plan for Sustained Development to Eradicate Poverty.
The 6th Congress did not only boost EPRDF’s stature as a cohesive and forward-looking party; but also ensured the nation continues its developmental stride.The directions set by the sixth Congress, as well as the subsequent Seventh Congress in 2008, in Hawassa city, enabled the all EPRDF leaders, members and supporters work in unison to sustain and scale-up the socio-economic strides, despite the distractions from several forces – ranging from mere pessimists to neo-liberal forces, from power-hungry opposition forces to terrorists based in Somalia.
The 8th Congress was held in Adama, in 2010, at a time when the continued double-digit growth and the impacts on human development indicators impressed the world. Just four months earlier, in the third national and regional elections, the Ethiopian people rewarded EPRDF by a landscape victory. It was indisputable that a dominant party system has emerged with EPRDF at the top.The Congress’s main theme was: “The Ethiopian Renaissance will reach irreversible stage through the implementation of the Growth and Transformation Plan”.
The 9th General Congress held in Bahir-dar in mid-2013 was another moment where EPRDF emerged stronger and unified, and ready to accelerate progress in the developmental path.The General Congress, under the theme “with the thoughts of Meles: stronger organization and developmental forces for the renaissance”, was entirely focused on evaluating the implementation of the GTP so far and on how to tackle setbacks and enhance performance.
The Tenth Congress was held last year in Mekele, under the theme “To Live up to Peoples’ Trust Utmost Growth and Transformation. The congress was held at a time when the double-digit growth continued and the peoples of Ethiopia rewarded EPRDF by a landscape victory.
The decisions and directions set by the Congress are pivotal in the lives of each and every Ethiopian. The developmental path embarked on a decade ago will now board on a new phase with the GTP II. The efforts to attain good governance and weed-out rent-seeking will now be taken to a new height with new directions, renewed commitment and sense of urgency. The existential struggle for a transition from a political economy dominated by rent seeking to one that is characterized by developmentalism will be waged full-scale in urban areas with quality-oriented supports to dry up its sources.
EPRDF continues to be the engine of development, the driver of the renaissance and the sustainer of the fruits of Ginbot 20.