By: Amleset Abraar
HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – Ethiopian community members residing in different parts of Somaliland, on Wednesday (May 28th) 2014, celebrated the 23rd anniversary of Ginbot-20 victory which marks the overthrow of the dictatorial and repressive Dergue military regime in Ethiopia. Jointly organized by the Ethiopian Consulate General office in Somaliland and the Ethiopian Community Association in Hargeisa, the 23rd anniversary was celebrated colorfully in the attendance of over four hundred members of Ethiopian communities residing in Hargeisa, Borama and other parts of Somaliland.
Participating in the event also included representatives from the Somaliland government: the Speaker of Parliament, the Minister of Interior, the Minister of Aviation, representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International cooperation as well as other high level officials. The celebration detailed the overwhelming progresses so far made in Ethiopia following the demise of the brutal Dergue regime and the formation of a Federal Democratic system of governance.
In his opening statement, the head of the Ethiopian mission in Somaliland Brigadier General Berhe Tesfay noted the inspiring progresses made so far in Ethiopia in terms of building democratic system of governance based on equality of all nations, nationalities and peoples as well as on ensuring rapid and sustainable economic and social development. He said the fall of the military dictatorship in 1991, and the coming to power of a new Federal Government and the subsequent new Constitution has provided the foundation for a new democratic era in Ethiopia which ensures full respect to human and democratic rights including the equality of nations, nationalities and peoples, based on mutual understanding and respect.
The General who expressed gratitude to those who have sacrificed themselves for the creation of the current improved Ethiopia also noted that their sacrifices has resulted in the creation of policies and strategies that continue to lift the country and its people out of poverty. Also to remain in the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian people is the gallant late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who was the main architect of Ethiopia’s path towards democracy and development. His long-lasting and unique legacies have enabled the people of Ethiopia to stand in unison to defend the shared benefits of development and democracy.
General Berhe also pointed out that the Government’s right mixes of policies and strategies being coupled with continuous structural improvements being taken to encourage stronger implementation capacity in all economic, political and social areas has enabled the people of Ethiopia to start enjoying the taste of democracy and development. Following the Ginbot-20 victory, he said, the Ethiopian Government being aware of the indispensability of having a skilled and knowledgeable workforce and pro-poor directions has devoted its effort on building productive citizens.
These being compounded with the government’s resolve in fighting any forms of rent-seeking, have enhanced the country’s overall productive capacity in all areas for the past two decades and also laid the foundation for future rapid and sustained growth. Such an approach was among the factors which helped Ethiopia to register a double digit growth for the last ten years in row which he said has now make Ethiopia to be the 7th biggest economy in Africa and the 69th globally.
He further mentioned some major improvements being made in the areas of agriculture, industry, infrastructure, services including education and health as well as on building major public projects. On agriculture, the Government having the proper understanding of giving priority to enhancing the small holder farmers’ production and productivity and them to medium and large scale farming respectively has devoted significant share of its annual budget to agricultural sector transformation. It has put in place continuous agricultural extension and transformation packages that have resulted in an over tripled compounded growth of annual agricultural production, from what it was around 50 million quintals some years ago to over 300 million to date and to nearly half a billion in the few of years to come.
This increased production, he said, has enabled the Government to build 400,000 metric tonnes of emergency food reserve with further plans of increasing the reserve to 3 million cubic tonnes at the end of 2015. This will make Ethiopia to be food sufficient whereby it will respond to any drought driven emergency food requirements by itself and without demanding support from donors. The improving agricultural production is also paving a conducive atmosphere to the Government’s direction of transforming Ethiopia from agriculture-led economy to an industrial-led one and the progress so far is very rewarding. This could be evidenced by the lessening of the share of agriculture to the total GDP from 53% some 20 years ago to about 40% now. And this attests that the industrial sector is expanding rapidly and is contributing a significant share to the economy. This does mean that the productivity and volume of agriculture sector is also increasing in an amazing annual pace while its share to the economy is giving way to the industry. Currently, general Berhe said, micro and small enterprises as well as medium and large scale industries are tremendously expanding in every corners of Ethiopia, ushering another round of renaissance to come.
The Consul General who noted the construction of over 36 thousand new schools and over 30 new universities across the country in the last ten years also said that the Government has so far made the national primary and secondary school access coverage to reach over 95%, and about 22 million school-age Ethiopians have access to education currently. The Universities’ admission capacity has grown to about 50,000 per year and all the universities are hosting a total of half a million students at a time now. This marks a skyrocketing leap as compared to the less than 3000 capacity of all universities twenty years back. The 50,000 ones joining university every year constitutes 20% of the total students and the rest 80% (over 200,000) are being made to attend vocational trainings every year.
On health, the General said, the government has so far achieved its target of making health facilities available to rural areas in every 5 kilometers radius. It has built about 20,000 new health centers and over 200 hospitals in short period of time with over 38,000 trained health professionals being assigned to serve the sector. The construction of additional 3,200 health centers and 825 rural hospitals is also in full swing and would be completed within few years. This enabled the country’s total health coverage to reach over 90% now.
He also explained the Government’s commitment to maximize the road and railway interconnectivity within the country and across the region with Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia. He said the country’s road coverage has grown fourfold to about 90,000 kilometers now compared to what was to be less than 20,000 kilometers 20 years ago. The Government is has plans to increase the road coverage to130, 000 kilometers in the next few years with an outlay of USD 9 billion. The General also referred to implementation of the Government’s plan to finalize over 5,000 kilometers of railways in the next few years in eight selected corridors. These include the Addis Ababa-Djibouti, the Addis Ababa-Kenya, the Addis Ababa-Sudan, the Addis Ababa-South Sudan, the Addis Ababa-Bedele, the Addis Ababa-Woldiya and Mekelle and the Tadjoura railway projects.
On huge public sector projects, General Berhe noted the Government’s desire to see such huge projects being undertaken by the Ethiopian private sector. But it has taken the initiative to build such big projects by itself until a strong private sector capable of undertaking multi-billion dollar projects could come to the scene. The government is therefore undertaking many mega projects including the USD 5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with the capacity to generate 6,000 MW of electric power. This coupled with the Gilgel-Gibe dams and wind power turbines will help to ensure the Governments target of increasing Ethiopia’s power generating capacity to 10,000 MW in the next few years.
The Government is also building 10 new sugar factories which will start production at the end of 2015. This being coupled with the renovated existing three sugar factories will make Ethiopia to ensure sugar self-sufficiency and will eventually enable the country to be among the top-ten sugar exporting countries in the world. Similarly, the government is also building five fertilizer factories with a total outlay of USD 3 billion. These factories would be completed by the end of 2017 with a total capacity of producing over 1.5 million tones of fertilizer per annum. This will not only help to save the hundreds of millions of dollars annual expenditure for fertilizer imports but also reinforces efforts aimed to transform the agriculture sector. What’s more encouraging is the government’s successful approach of making the mega project’s metal and engineering works to be undertaken by Ethiopia’s Metal and engineering Corporation (METEC). This not only helped to save expenditure but also to create knowledge and skill assets at home.
In his concluding remarks, General Berhe calls for the renewal of commitment to enhance the country’s development and pave the way for a conducive approach to an eventual transition into an industrial-dominated economy and middle income status within a decade. It underlined the renewal of commitment to encourage the creation of as many businesses and strong private-public-partnerships as possible through appropriate intervention and facilitation of healthy and competitive interactions. He called on all the Ethiopian communities in Somaliland and elsewhere for renewed determination to fight rent-seeking and other illegal activities that might try to counter the country’s efforts at ensuring rapid and sustainable economic growth and building a nation of good governance and democracy.
Representatives of the Ethiopian community associations in Hargeisa and Borama on their part made their own remarks. Deputy Chairperson of the Ethiopian Community Association in Hargeisa, Ato Abebe Hailemariam, expressed the association’s satisfaction over the overwhelming progresses being made in Ethiopia in terms of development and democratization. He also expressed the members’ determination to do everything possible to support the Government’s effort of ensuring Ethiopia’s renaissance. Chairperson of the Ethiopian Community Association in Borama, Ato Ahmed Nuh, on his part noted the improvements being made in Ethiopia in ensuring democratic governance and equality of all nations, nationalities and peoples.
He also appreciated the significant emphasis being given to Ethiopian communities residing abroad including in Somaliland which he said is enabling them for enhanced participation in their country’s development and political affairs. Head of Investment Bureau of the Ethiopian Sumale Region, Ato Abdinasir Mahamed, who on his part noted that the region was ignored in previous eras, also detailed the tens of thousands of kilometers of road being constructed in the region following Ginbot-20 victory. He also noted that health facilities are being accessible to peoples in every corners of the region. He further appreciated the growing relations between the peoples of Ethiopia and Somaliland based on understanding and mutual respect. He also expressed his office’s determination to do everything possible to encourage the participation of the Ethiopian Somali communities residing in Somaliland on investment opportunities being created in the Ethiopian Somali Region.
The Speaker of Somaliland’s Parliament H.E. Mr. Abdirahman Mohamed Abdillah on his part appreciated the Ethiopian Government’s progresses in improving the lives of its citizens. He particularly valued the inspiring progresses being made in the agriculture, education and health sectors. Somaliland’s Minister of Interior, H.E. Mr. Ali Mohamed Waran Ade on his part expressed satisfaction over the improving overall relations that exist between Ethiopia and Somaliland since EPRDF came to power. He said the new system of democratic governance in Ethiopia and Somaliland helped to end the spirit of animosity between the peoples of the region which was more or less rampant in previous eras.