Some things hardly change, despite the change of times

Feb 23 , 2019

Some things hardly change, despite the change of times. The French maxim, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” resonates today to the thousands of people whose settlements in the outskirts of Addis Abeba were brought to an abrupt end after nearly two decades.

The same old claims of a state power justifying its actions as an act of determination to uphold the rule of law becomes a bitter pill to swallow for those who are being displaced. Those on their defence challenge the powers that be of its credibility, not only over its inactions over the years, but also of its subtle recognition of their legitimacy with the provision of utilities by the state enterprises.

Those in the gossip corridors across the city were no less preoccupied with the controversy, thereby revealing where they stand in their stance about the incumbent. The dispute also exposes the once near unanimous support granted to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) is in the process of erosion, although he still enjoys considerable popularity unusual to his predecessors, gossip observed.

It is common for him to receive displays of adoration from members of the public whenever he goes around, as the case was on Friday evening when he entered into the newly opened Hyatt Regency Hotel. Abiy responded with his trademark smile, nodding in recognition of the clapping and whistling of those gathered out by the cafe’s porch.

Alongside his staunch political ally, Lemma Megerssa, chief of the Oromia Regional State, he was there to grace a gathering of the Nouveau riche, mobilised by political peddlers in support of a cause. For some of these people, the event ought to have been deja vu of the EPRDF 1.0, when political clientelism dictates the launching of public projects off the government budget and political masters dispatch their army of cadres to lobby those visible in the private sector to step up to the plate, gossip observed.

Last week was no different in this respect, claims gossip. Takele Umma, deputy mayor of Addis Abeba under EPRDF 2.0, was busy in the previous weeks, offering an audience to many of these businessmen and women called to his office. It was to persuade them to chip in on financing the construction of a stadium in his native town, Ambo, a spa town established in 1889. Close to 120Km west of Addis Abeba, it is rather known for its role as an epicentre of resistance to the government of EPRDF 1.0.

Takele tried to sell the project as indispensable to the stability of the area where a restive youth has hardly any places to spend its idle time, gossip disclosed. Leaders in the area are desperate to keep the youth away from the streets and engage it in constructive activities. Building a brand new stadium for a projected cost of half a billion Birr is one of the ideas the town’s leaders have in mind, but with a limited purse they can only cover 35pc of the town’s recurrent budget from municipal taxes.

The Deputy Mayor of Addis Abeba has reached out to close to 500 business people prior to the fundraising event on Friday, hoping to get one million Birr from each of them, gossip disclosed.

The event, held in the absence Mohammed Hussien Ali Al-Amoudi’s customary largesse of such initiatives, was not a total disappointment either to Takele, the Prime Minister or President of the regional state, gossip observed. Those who attended the event have pledged to contribute two thirds of the project cost, 350 million Br, a considerable commitment from a private sector now suffering from a broader slowdown in the economy, a depressing trend the governor of the central bank, Yinager Dessie (PhD), has conceded to during his one of a kind press briefing last week.

However, among the notable donors were Worku Aytenew, a buoyant businessman who is erecting an edible oil refinery in the town of Debre Markos, who chipped in with 15 million Br; Tedros Yeshiways, the CEO of Gomeju Oil, pledged 12 million Br; and Awash International Bank, 10 million Br. Gemshu Beyene, a construction mogul who owns Elilly Hotel, not only pledged five million Birr, he also acquired a hand watch Abiy donated for five million Birr, a present he claimed to receive during one of his overseas trips.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 23,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 982]

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