Concepts that have not been prescribed by Revolutionary Democracy

"Future generations will learn to be self-reliant, and not how to beg"

“Individuals will start to think alike and all persons will cease having their own independent outlook. In this order, individual thinking becomes simply part of collective thinking because the individual will not be in a position to reflect on concepts that have not been prescribed by “Revolutionary Democracy”.

So wrote Meles Zenawi (pictured, left) in a widely cited passage from the so-called Gimgema Papers – a collection of papers laying down the ideology of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front – the mainstay of the ruling four party EPRDF coalition.

So it is not surprising that the ever busy bee was chosen as the coalition’s symbol.

"The future is bright with EPRDF"

So busy, in fact, that EPRDF was able to sweep this year’s elections and take all but two of the federal parliament’s 547 seats.What’s the Amharic for uchakachuaji?

Unlike 2005, there was little resistance this time. Political aspirations have been put on hold while EPRDF seeks to nurture a politically neutered but materially aspirational middle class and to transform rural areas. The pace of development in breathtaking – particulary coming from Tanzania. High tension power lines are slung over mountain ranges; new black top is transforming roads – and the towns they pass through where hamlets are re-ordered on grid systems in anticipation of growth.

In Addis Ababa, the past five years have seen a patchwork of well developed private housing estates and publicly owned flats shoot up – served with roads, water (sometimes), public transport and electricity (intermittent). The overall message is clear. As one colleague said to me, “in Kenya my NGO colleagues leave the NGO world for politics. For me the only option is the private sector”.

Here in Dar es Salaam, we are still waiting more than a year for Tanroads to finish widening and upgrading a three kilometre stretch of road running from Kigamboni ferry to Tungi. The much lauded 20,000 plots project – at the heart of what is meant to be Kigamboni New City lacks any of those things.

EPRDF’s seriousness of intent and execution is attractive.  But I refer myself back to the first quotation, and advise myself to be careful what I wish for.


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