USAID's governance chief in Ethiopia acts dumb
There was a meeting between DAG and Civil Society representatives here yesterday at the Hilton from 9:00 to 12:30 am. It was chaired by Isaac Dewan(World Bank) and Fidele Frassroto(UNDP).This meeting highlighted how much donor agencies are either bossed around or subservient to Meles Zenawi. That is why I want to share it.
The meeting had no particular team. So, I and fellow civil society representatives went there with nothing. We asked the organizers and the chairs what the agenda was. The issue of the draft NGO legislation was raised. The civil society here has no input on the draft which will certainly becomes law. In fact, one of the participants asked whether anyone saw the legislation. The main stake holders were not allowed even to have a glance at the draft legislation.
PBS(provision of public services) was also discussed. The DAG members told the participants that the government objected to the involvement of any NGO/Civil Society in the area of advocacy. It was stipulated in the PBS matrix that only mass based organizations, which have constituencies are allowed to participate and engage in advocacy work. NGOs can only give technical assistance. The DAG has endorsed this government position, the position that deprives Ethiopian NGOs and Civil Society organizations from engaging in advocacy work. What kind of self-respecting democratic government representatives would go along with that? Would they do the same in their own countries?
One of the participants in the conference was Steve Smith, Democracy and Governance Chief of USAID. Throughout the meeting, I had the feeling that this man was either dumb or unbelievably partisan. He said if the civil society here wanted to have changes in the legislation, it could work with opposition MPS. What? To set agenda in parliament, it need fifty plus one vote. Any foreigner who is slightly interested in Ethiopian politics knows this as this issue was one of the reasons why CUDP leaders boycotted parliament and landed in jail. This man leads USAID's democracy and governance department. Is it based on such facts that they make decisions and hold stances? Is it ignorance or a deliberate manipulation of facts?
Mr. Smith then went on advising participants that as EPRDF MPs are illiterate and do not know about the functions of civil society, they should give them trainings about that so that they will help make changes in the draft legislation. Nice try. If Smith doesn't have the knowledge about democratic centralism, he should ask to be assigned in another country. Democratic Centralism, my American hero is, a system of internal political organization where party members debate and vote within the internal frameworks of the political party, but once the decision is made all members have to reflect that in their dealings external to the party whether in parliament or other institutions and places. EPRDF's leading organizational principle is democratic centralism. There is no dissent from party line anywhere. What a waste of money will it be if the civil society gives training to EPRDF MPs and they just rubber-stump the decision of EPRDF's politburo?