Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front: Wikis


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Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front
የኢትዮጵያ ሕዝቦች አብዮታዊ ዲሞክራሲያዊ ግንባር
Leader Meles Zenawi
Founded 1989
Headquarters Addis Ababa
Youth wing EPRDF Youth League
Membership  (2006) Four million [1]
Ideology Democratic socialism,
Social democracy, Regional Federalism,
Ethnic Self-determination

Cited from party website

It is an alliance of four other groups: the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement, the South Ethiopian Peoples' Democratic Front and the Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front (TPLF). Together they had 472 of the 527 seats in the House of People's Representatives following the election held in May 2000. The results of the last legislative elections, 15 May 2005 have not been accepted by all contesting parties. The disagreements led to a prolonged crisis and public unrest which led to the death of 193 Ethiopians which included civilians and police officers. The ruling front claimed to have won 327 of the 527 seats. The opposition, which claims widespread fraud and intimidation, claims that the two major opposition coalitions together would form a majority. Though one of the major opposition parties (Coalition for Unity and Democracy) carried Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa by a landslide, they did not have the stronghold which the EPRDF has in rural Ethiopia.

The opposition in Ethiopia is divided but still exists, and is increasingly acting in concert. The EPRDF's two main opponents in the 2005 elections were the Coalition for Unity and Democracy and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces, both of which are also coalitions of multiple opposition parties. The opposition made spectacular gains in the election which appeared to have caught all observers, including the contestants themselves, off guard. Early results from the polls showed that the opposition on course to sweep to power with a substantial majority. However, the National Election Board which the Prime Minister appoints, stopped the vote tabulation process for several days leading to a break in the chain of control of ballot boxes. When the counting finally resumed and the ruling coalition declared itself the winner, the opposition cried foul and contested the results.


Before it became the government in 1991, the EPRDF was a rebel group, battling the military junta known as the Derg. Formed from the union of the TPLF and the Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Movement (EPDM) in early 1989, they were later joined by the OPDO (Oromo prisoners of war of the TPLF and EPLF, and Oromo members of EPDM) and the Ethiopian Democratic Officers’ Revolutionary Movement (a small body of Derg officers captured by TPLF, most notably at Shire in February 1989, which was later disbanded after the establishment of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia.[2]

In mid-January, the ailing Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE) declared once again that it is in need of rescue fund. The business weekly, Addis Fortune, reported that the bank called on the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) to inject more capital to refill its empty cash registers.[citation needed]

Though the health of all state banks has been in dramatic decline within the last ten years, crisis-ridden DBE has been in much more serious trouble carrying a huge burden on its shoulders in the form of non-performing loans. Much of these loans are taken out by crooked “borrowers” like the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), which is infamous for defaulting on the multi-billion birr loans it has been raking out from state banks. [EFFORT is now under the control of Meles Zenawi's wife, Azeb Mesfin.][citation needed]

In mid-December, Addis Fortune reported that DBE "loaned" a whopping 1.7 billion birr ($141.6 million) to the Messebo Cement Factory, one of the many companies owned by EFFORT. Messebo’s business plan was an expansion project, to build a second factory that will extend its market monopoly in the cement business. "The money, 96 million in euro [141.6 million dollars], has been obtained entirely as a loan from the DBE; only 15 percent of this money was required in local currency," the paper reported.

"The civil work has been completed. The machinery are now coming from China," Brehanu Werede, acting general manager of the project, said.

As a result of its crisis, cash strapped DBE has been unable to finance essential and productive entrepreneurial projects. It is turning down loan applications from serious entrepreneurs that have little political and ethnic leverage, while funnelling meagre resources to a borrower that has been deliberately confusing loans with grants.[citation needed]

Even more surprisingly, it happened at a time when DBE has once again pressed the red button for rescue injection from the national treasury. It doesn’t make sense to undertake such a mammoth expansion project on the part of Messebo at a time when the cement market is predicted to reach a saturation point with the opening of a dozen of new factories including Sheik Mohammed Al-Amoudi’s Derba Midroc Cement Factory, which is expected to start production at the end of this year.

DBE has a long but difficult history. Over one hundred years ago, the founder of the first bank in Ethiopia, Emperor Menelik II (1844–1913), realized the critical role banks play in development endeavours. When Emperor Menelik inaugurated Bank of Abyssinia on February 15, 1906, he undoubtedly envisioned it to grow, multiply and serve generations to come. That bank played a critical role to push his modernization agenda. It is also credited for financing the construction of the only railway line in Ethiopia, the Ethio-Djibouti railway, which currently finds itself on the verge of extinction.

Emperor Menelik had also set up another bank, solely committed to enhancing development and trade by providing badly needed financial facilities, despite the fact that resources were extremely meager. In 1909, the emperor launched the Societe Nationale d' Ethiopie Pour le Development de l' agriculture et de Commerce (The Society for the Promotion of Agriculture and Trade).

Since its establishment, the bank has undergone major restructuring and re-naming at least eight times. During the reigns of HaileSelassie and Mengistu Hailemariam,the bank did not register any dramatic growth nor faced critical illness. After the fall of the Derg, the bank saw dramatic changes as its non-performing loans had reportedly reached as much 94 per cent. In 2003, it was re-established as the DBE. In July 2009, the bank declared that it completed the controversial Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) which has been allegedly used to push the agenda of the ruling elite to tighten its monopolistic grip on every key institution in the country.[citation needed]

It is an open secret that the DBE has been experiencing more difficulties under the Meles regime than its predecessors. The main cause of its dire problems, as mentioned above, is related to the fact that the amount of loans it disburses and the amount it recovers have been showing a widening gap that cannot be easily filled with capital injections from external and internal sources.[citation needed]

According to the data obtained from the bank, from 1972 to 2009, DBE disbursed 13.3 billion birr in loans but could only collect 8.39 billion birr from borrowers. Laden with heavy burden of debts, the bank is making recurrent loan requests from internal and external sources. In fact, had the bank been in healthy condition, borrowing from external and internal sources would not have been a problem because the bank was set up to operate as such.

Dr. Seid Hassan, Economics and business Professor at Murray State University pointed out the fact that he had even come across credible complaints about Azeb Mesfin’s business activities, which include using her power and influence to force potential competitors to "sell" their start-ups to her or her business partners in order to enable her various companies and "joint ventures" to enjoy market dominance.

Last year, DBE celebrated its 100th anniversary in the presence of Zenawi’s octogenarian figurehead, President Girma Wolde-Giorgis, who recently celebrated his 86th birthday. As the celebration was in high tempo, interesting figures that were rarely made public were released by the officials.

One of the most eye-catching figures came from Abay Weldu, TPLF Executive Committee member as well as Deputy President of the Tigray Region, and DBE Northern Region Manager, Hadush Gebregziabher. A tthe bank’s diamond jubilee, both of them excitedly disclosed that since the fall of the Derg, the bank loaned over 3 billion birr to the Tigray Region, i.e. EFFORT and its affiliate business projects, as reported by TPLF’s own media outlet, Walta Information Center.

What makes the story much more interesting is the fact that from 1970 to 2009, the bank loaned 13.2 billion birr to private businesses and government projects. Out of the total outlay disbursed in four decades, it was learned that the bank loaned nearly 8.5 billion birr since the fall of the Derg, which was 19 years ago. That makes TPLF the biggest beneficiary of the "loan" bonanza taking the lion’s share, i.e. nearly 40 per cent of loans, from the struggling bank, and its other external and domestic sources of capital, including the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and the NBE.[citation needed]

In addition to the 3 billion birr plus loan, Messebo Cement Factory was recently awarded 1.7 billion birr (147.6 million US dollars). That simply means that in the last 19 years, the TPLF and its ethnic affiliates took out over 4.7 billion birr of fund from the coffers of DBE, not to mention other states banks that are also victims of TPLF money grab scheme.[citation needed]

TPLF companies are currently undertaking "expansion" projects with funding from struggling state banks. In fact, there is also an incredible and outrageous twist to this saga. DBE reportedly had planned to lend around 2.4 billion birr this fiscal year. Of this total amount, 1.7 billion birr has already been granted to Messebo’s so-called expansion project. The TPLF leadership has consistently claimed, EFFORT does not belong to the people of Ethiopia. Abadi Zemu, Sebhat Nega and even Gebru Asrat, who claim to be struggling against Meles Zenawi’s injustice have stated that EFFORT belongs to anyone with Tigrian blood.[citation needed]

In a recent interview with VOA’s reporter Girmay Gebru, Abadi Zemu, who is the CEO of EFFORT and Executive Committee member of the TPLF, has said that Messebo Cement Factory already commands 40 per cent of the cement market in Ethiopia. Messebo was set up in 1995 with a registered capital of 240 million birr. It is puzzling why DBE approved Messebo’s 1.7 billion birr loan in foreign exchange to construct a second factory at a time when businesses are closing down due to severe shortages of hard currency and loan facilities.

It was just a few months ago that the international media jokingly reported about Ethiopia’s Coca-Cola drought as the East African Bottling Company, which was forced to suspend production of the global brand and laid off its employees as the state banks claimed to have run out of their foreign exchange reserves. Tens of thousands of business owners, especially those engaged in the import sector, have been seriously affected by the foreign exchange crunch.[citation needed]

The repeated firing and hiring of senior management officials within the last decade also reveal that DBE’s future has been uncertain and shaky. The bank has also been subjected to scathing criticism for being too generous on risky loans to EFFORT and failing to insist on repayment with interests in time. No matter where the bank is going, the fact that TPLF is draining state banks to undertake its discriminatory, monopolistic and illegal business projects will remain a thorny issue, and even a source of future conflicts for generations to come as the ongoing looting and corruption is too naked and unprecedented in the history of the poor nation.[citation needed]

The EPRDF held its sixth party congress in September 2006 at Mek'ele in the Tigray Region.[1]


  1. ^ a b "About EPRDF", Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front website (accessed 29 May 2009)
  2. ^ Sarah Vaughan, "Ethnicity and Power in Ethiopia" (University of Edinburgh: Ph.D. Thesis, 2003), p. 168


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