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By Ethiopian Scholars
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Contents Meles Zenawi’s Political Dilemma and the Developmental State: Dead-Ends and Exit... 2 Messay Kebede Mind the Jump: A Brief Response to Prof. Messay Kebede .............................................. 17 Abiye Teklemariam A rejoinder of Prof. Messay Kebede's article: Meles' political dilemma ........................ 20 Seid Hassan A short reply to Messay's paper - specifically on the power of dictators ....................... 22 Girma Moges Another rejoinder of Messay Kebede's article: Meles Zenawi's dilemma...................... 24 Minga Negash Demobilizing Ethiopians will never be the solution to Ethiopia’s existential problems : A response to Prof. Daniel kindie and to Prof. Messay Kebbede ....................................... 28 Wedi Samre Messay Kebede and his "Manifesto" ............................................................................. 46 Tekola Hagos Some remarks on Messay's article ................................................................................. 52 Demeke Taye A few points on democracy vs development................................................................... 54 Wondemhunegn Ezezew Developmental state or neo-liberal economic policy? ...................................................654 Fekadu Bekele COMMENTS FROM READERS .......................................................................................... 70 Selected Coments
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Meles Zenawi’s Political Dilemma and the Developmental State: Dead-Ends and Exit By Messay Kebede June 14th, 2011 This paper can be taken as a manifesto of an individual who has pondered on the tragedy of Ethiopia for many years and whose specific features is that he is passionate about the country, has no political ambition or affiliation, even though he is firmly anchored in the opposition camp, and feels no grudge is worth nursing if it stands in the way of a much higher cause. These features possess the virtue of providing a vantage point, not only to analyze the problems of Ethiopia, but also to approach them from the perspective of the best way out for everybody. In a sense, the paper is a mental reenactment of the 2005 election triggered by the question of what would have happened if its outcomes were used to institute a grand coalition instead of exasperating mutual suspicion and the desire to oust or suppress the opponent. In conceiving the election as a lost opportunity, the paper attempts a theoretical construction whereby what came through the ballot box could be recreated through the learned decision of the ruling elite and opposition groups. Not that it entertains any illusion about the predictability of the future, but because the constant availability of different choices in history allows us not to always expect the worst. Narrowing of the Playing-Field One cannot explain the circumstances and outcomes of the 2010 national election without the aftermaths of the 2005 election, rightly considered as a watershed in Ethiopia‘s recent politics. In light of the opening of the political field for free and fair election in 2005, it is reasonable to assume that Meles and his supporters had caressed the idea that they would easily emerge winners. Meles allowed free election, not because he was ready to cede power after a fair fight, but because he thought that the opposition was too weak and its popular support too fragmented and numerically feeble to constitute a serious challenge. The underestimation of both the opposition and the extent of the popular frustration alone explain the opening of a competitive scenario. From his electoral defeat that he had to reverse by a violent crackdown on protesters and the imprisonment of opposition leaders, Meles drew the conclusion that only the path of authoritarian politics can keep him and his supporters in power, a conclusion that, unfortunately, opposition leaders failed to acknowledge––despite numerous signs indicating the closure of the political field––with their declared hope of a repeat of the 2005 election.
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They badly missed Meles‘s determination never to go back to the situation of 2005 and his scheme to prepare the conditions for the institution of a de facto one-party state. His resolution was all the firmer as a repeat of the 2005 election crisis would cripple his leadership and end his ascendency within the EPRDF. On the other hand, it was also clear that Meles would not go to the extent of banning political parties, thereby going against the present constitution, which justifies the hegemony of the EPRDF, and the international opinion favoring democracy and multiparty states. Meles could not take the road of openly establishing a one-party state, not only because of the international opinion, but primarily because outlawing political parties would entail the dissolution of the EPRDF as a coalition of ethnic parties in favor of a single party, and hence the renunciation of ethnic politics. Indeed, how could the EPRDF transform itself into a single party unless the idea of ethnic groups having their own autonomous representation is done away with? And how could Meles and the TPLF maintain their political hegemony without the fragmentation of Ethiopia along ethnic lines, which becomes effective only through the existence of ethnic parties representing ethnic groups? Without ethnic based elections, ethnic distinctions would be simply linguistic and not political. Elections are thus an indispensable component of the ethnicization of Ethiopia: they give primacy to ethnic entities over the larger notion of Ethiopia as a single nation. Another reason for maintaining a semblance of democracy is that the facade of open election is an important tool for Meles‘s repressive policy. In a country where opposition is forbidden, people have no other choice than the violent overthrow of the regime, either through a popular insurrection or an organized guerrilla movement. The recognition of the right to oppose and compete for state power, in addition to detracting people from the idea of a violent overthrow of the regime through the hope of a peaceful, democratic access to power, gives the ruling party an arsenal of legal and covert means to harass and undermine opposition forces. The state allows the existence of opposing parties, but makes sure that the electoral contest never reaches the level of real threat to the ruling elite. Only through the establishment of a peaceful order achieved through the weakening of the opposition could Meles prevail in his party and retain the loyalty of the army. His political prevalence and his ability to retain the loyalty of senior party members and army officers depend on his success in providing a safe and extended environment for a tranquil enjoyment of preferential treatments and privileges. Failure to do so brings about anxiety and frictions that will threaten his absolute power.
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That is why it is absolutely mistaken to interpret the rise of Meles to absolute power as his own doing. No doubt, Meles had the temperament and the qualities needed to emerge as a strongman within the TPLF and used his prominent position to alter the original egalitarian tendency prevailing in the upper leadership of the party. However, individual dispositions are not enough to create dictators or authoritarian leaders; social forces are also necessary. In particular, the TPLF‘s persistence to retain a hegemonic position within the EPRDF and the state despite its minority status in terms of regional weight compelled the organization to put its fate in the hands of a strong man. When political hegemony is achieved through the exclusion of rival elites, it calls, sooner rather than later, for the enthronement of a dictatorial ruler as the best guarantee to preserve the hegemony. The only way by which the TPLF could maintain its egalitarian tradition was to relinquish its hegemonic aspirations, thereby making the recourse to a strongman unnecessary. Toward the Developmental State Faced with the dilemma of allowing political pluralism while ensuring the dominance of the EPRDF, Meles opted for the strategy of using all the means of the state to cripple opposition parties until such time his own power and the party he represents acquire a hegemonic status. This new strategic choice is none other than the recourse to the theory of the developmental state. The purpose of the policy is to create the conditions for a long-term rule of Meles and his party by siphoning off popular support from opposition parties to the point of making them irrelevant. A word of caution: I am not saying that Meles‘s love affair with the theory of the developmental state dates from the 2005 election. As shown by his doctoral thesis, he has reflected on the theory for quite a long time. Even so, what remains true is that the 2005 electoral crisis and its consequences turned the theory from a personal preference into an indispensable strategy and provided him with the opportunity of convincingly presenting it to his supporters as the only viable policy. To begin with, Meles criticizes neoliberalism even before he has made any genuine effort to apply it. The reason is that the application of the theory would simply result in him and his followers losing power, as evidenced by the 2005 election. What made the theory of developmental state a necessity is thus the single and overriding issue of Meles‘s control of absolute power. The theory, we know, has been praised and advocated by many scholars for
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its ability to promote rapid economic growth. As a model drawn from the successful and rapid development of Japan and East Asian countries, such as Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, etc., the theory has been prescribed as an efficient remedy for countries struggling against underdevelopment. For Meles, the economic advantages are worth considering only to the extent that they guarantee the control of state power. In effect, the theory is usually associated with the presence of authoritarian states that reject the path of liberalism. I know that some scholars, Meles himself, and his ideologues maintain that the developmental state is not incompatible with the defense of democracy and human rights, that the new state can be democratic and developmental at the same time. This kind of approach ignores, mostly for political reasons, the defining character of Asian developmental states. Countries that seriously engage in the path of the developmental state do so because they think that the liberal paradigm of development has failed in Africa and elsewhere. Born of a critique of neoliberalism, it is inconsistent to assume that the theory is compatible with democratic principles. Had it been the case, the difference with liberal policy would become difficult to establish. The truth about the theory is that authoritarianism is conceived as the best and most efficient way to achieve rapid development, especially for lagging countries. Witness those countries that are cited as examples were or still are defined by an authoritarian state. Rather than being both democratic and developmental, this model of development promises the gradual institution of a democratic state once economic progress is put on a firm footing. The prescription of authoritarianism as a remedy to achieve the goal of rapid development vindicates that all authoritarian states are not developmental. They become so only when they harbor the clear goal of using a strong state to achieve growth. It is, therefore, a mistake to argue that popular insurrections in the Arab world testify to the failure of the authoritarian model of economic progress at the expense of democratic rights. None of the Arab states has sincerely applied the Asian model of development, given that authoritarianism was used to defend the interests of predatory elites rather than to accelerate national development. In the case of Ethiopia, the economic dimension must be emphasized as it is the key to the project of a long-term rule of Meles and his cronies. Like most people, Meles has observed that people living in regimes that show robust economic performances are little prone to protests and insurrections. What essentially drives people is not so much the pursuit of freedom in the abstract sense of the word as their ability to satisfy their most basic needs. Freedom becomes mobilizing when it is invoked to overthrow regimes that have lamentable
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economic records. Accordingly, a regime that succeeds in providing bread and butter for its people is guaranteed for a long rule. Of course, elections will be held in such a regime, but they are more about popular consecration or approval than genuine contests. In a situation of economic progress, the ruling party need not use fraud and intimidation to win elections; it prevails because the economic success of the regime makes opposition groups irrelevant. Such is the course that Meles would like to take in order to institute the conditions for an indefinite retention of power. The developmental state promises the defeat of the opposition achieved no more by suppression and rigged elections, but based on the economic achievement of the regime. In this way, contests for power become less threatening as the regime will draw its legitimacy from popular approval, which is not concerned with the conquest of state power. This popular approval guarantees a long-term rule, the very one needed by Meles‘s cronies and military elite to entrench their interests and privileges, thereby transforming them into permanent acquisitions. The establishment of a firm but silent and condescending rule is what they want in exchange for allowing Meles the exercise of absolute power. Characteristics of Developmental States The whole question is to know whether Meles‘s new strategy can be successful in the conditions of Ethiopia. Since success entirely depends on the ability to furnish appreciable economic growth to the Ethiopian masses, we need to say a few words about the basic characteristics of the developmental state. According to many scholars, some crucial and commonly held features define the developmental state or the Asian mode of development. Market Economy: The commitment to free market must be unwavering even if the state is called upon to play a leading role both in terms of planning, investments, and directives. The economic role of the state, though decisive and extensive, is not tantamount to running the economic machine, as was the case with the socialist policy; rather, it is to render a helping hand for the establishment of vibrant private enterprises and a capitalist class. Besides actual economic functions, the developmental state supports capitalism by providing a lasting political and social stability together with the rule of law and the protection of property rights. The fact that the state assumes a supporting role significantly reduces rent-seeking activities, such as government extracting revenues by the control of land and natural resources, the
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imposition of exorbitant tax and restrictive regulations affecting free enterprise, or government agents demanding bribes and other payments from individuals or firms in exchange for preferential treatments. The net outcome of such rent-seeking activities is, of course, the prevention of economic growth through the falsification of market economy and fair distribution. The national wealth cannot grow in a country where rent-seeking behaviors prevail, since the imposition of restrictive controls hampers economic activity and an important part of the wealth goes to a sector that makes no contribution to productivity. Clearly, in light of most underdeveloped countries being held back by states that have grown into rent-seeking systems, the supportive role of the developmental state to market economy constitutes a major shift. That the state limits its role to supporting private business does not mean that we are dealing with a weak state, in the liberal sense of the state confined to providing law and order. The developmental state requires a strong and authoritarian state, that is, a state that enjoys financial autonomy, is free of internal cleavages and frictions, and faces a disabled opposition. It is also endowed with effective institutions so that it is able to soar above particular social forces. Only thus can it direct economic forces toward national development and have enough leverage to prevail over adverse forces. Bureaucratic Autonomy: The strength of the state is actually a condition for the other defining character of the developmental state, namely, the autonomy of the bureaucracy. Indeed, bureaucrats rather than the political elite supervise and direct the economy, with the consequence that, unlike the ruling political elite, the bureaucracy is established on the basis of merit, efficiency, and high skills. What is required of the bureaucrats is less political allegiance than efficiency in exchange for handsome remunerations. The advantages enjoyed by the bureaucrats are, therefore, not due to rent-seeking activities but to their contribution to economic growth. Development-Oriented Elite: What makes the autonomy of bureaucracy possible is the control of state power by development-oriented political elites. Instead of using the state to sideline rival elites, as is often the case in underdeveloped countries, such elites are motivated by the desire to increase the national wealth. As they make political legitimacy conditional on economic achievement, they allow an autonomous functioning of the bureaucracy, given that autonomy is how bureaucracy can function efficiently. Such is not the case in rent-seeking states: government is used to undermine rival elites for the simple reason that the dearth of
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economic growth entails the extraction of revenues through political exclusion and illegal means. Nationalist and Elite Education: The strategy of using skill and merit to perpetuate the rule of a political elite fosters the other necessary component of the developmental state, to wit, the centrality of education. Not only does the strategy advocate the expansion of education so as to increase human resources in all areas of social life, but also insists on providing a quality education, especially an elite education at the higher level of university. The provision of highly trained people is a component part of the policy of rapid economic growth and hence of direct interest to the ruling elite. Needless to say, education is also geared toward nation-building: in conjunction with the values of meritocracy, it promotes national consciousness and unity. Obviously, the promotion of nationalism is necessary to justify the prerogatives of a strong state and inculcate discipline, just as it is necessary to galvanize and mobilize people around the national goal of development. Without the inculcation of the values of loyalty, unity, dutifulness, meritocracy, and the drive to learn, the developmental state cannot achieve the mobilizing power it needs to lead the country into the road of rapid development. The Ethiopian Situation In thus exposing the main characteristics of the developmental state, we secure the ability to see whether Ethiopia under Meles has the required attributes for a successful move. It must be admitted that, once again, we find a repeat of the mistake of Ethiopia‘s previous modernizing regimes, namely, the attempt to copy a model of development and apply it in a country lacking the necessary prerequisites. Most observers acknowledge that market economy in Ethiopia not only operates under unfriendly conditions, but has also taken a skewed form. For instance, despite the primacy given to improving agricultural production, the entire agricultural activity is hampered by the state‘s control of land. The absence of private ownership of land does not allow peasants to use their allotted land for transaction purposes. Nor does it encourage them to invest so as to improve productivity. The state‘s ownership of land and its subsequent disincentive effect on agricultural production represent a major disparity with East Asian countries that is not likely to be removed any time soon. State ownership of land is necessary to keep control over the
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peasantry and protect the ethnic boundaries. If land becomes a commodity that peasants can sell and buy at will, the confinement of people to ethnically defined areas would be seriously jeopardized. The ethnic borders add further restrictions on economic activity in that they prevent the free mobility of labor and capital. People isolated behind ethnic borders and increasingly turned into alien groups by a denationalized education, the nurture of animosity over past treatments, and a separatist language policy, are understandably little inclined to move from region to region in search of opportunity. The hampering effect of internal borders is no less true for capital owners: their ethnicity can restrict their freedom to invest wherever they like or can cost them heavy losses in the form of bribes to local agents to get the necessary permission. Another major distortion to market economy is the fact that the Ethiopian economy is increasingly dominated by conglomerates that have close ethnic and political ties with those controlling state power. Directly owned and managed by senior members of the TPLF, the conglomerates extend their activities in numerous and crucial agricultural and industrial productions as well as in service areas, such as banking, insurance, import/ export, etc. There is no denying that the provision of political support to these TPLF-controlled businesses structurally distorts the operation of free market. The distortion encourages the wide practice of corruption and embezzlement, given that enterprises owned by businessmen non-ethnically related to the ruling elite cannot hope to operate without bribing officials of the regime. The weight of political intervention undermines efficiency and quality in all spheres of business and bureaucratic activities. Not only does political protection foster the wide practice of corruption, but it also erases free competition, the result of which is that merit and the norms of efficiency and quality are set aside. Likewise, it creates insecurity since the lack of the rule of law, basically manifested by the complete subordination of the judicial system to the ruling elite as well as by the ethnically charged social atmosphere, gives property rights a precarious status, to say the least. Insecurity, wide corruption, and the absence of free competition, all conspire to discourage investment and block the improvement of productivity. In short, the characteristics of the Ethiopian economy are at the antipode of what is needed to launch a process of development that could be branded as an application of the Asian model of development.
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Another crucial disparity is that the cumbersome weight of political intervention does not allow the autonomy of the bureaucratic sphere which, as we saw, is a defining feature of the Asian model of development. Far from allowing autonomy, Meles and his cronies are using the bureaucracy as an extended organ of the political machinery, thereby undermining impartiality and professionalism, and distributing favorable treatments on the basis of political patronage, ethnic affiliation, and bribes. What must be emphasized here is that the ethnic basis of the Ethiopian state, as fashioned by the TPLF, is structurally adamant to the autonomy of the bureaucracy. In order to build a competent and professional bureaucracy, recruitment and promotion must be based on merit rather than on ethnic affiliation and political patronage. The whole ideology and political goal of Meles and his followers are thus directly opposed to the establishment of a professional bureaucracy. One necessary condition for creating a competent bureaucracy and improving the human capital in terms of skills, knowledge, and expertise is, of course, education. In this regard, the records of the Meles regime show some improvement, but alas an improvement that is only quantitative. We can even say that the quantitative improvement is obtained to the detriment of quality. The tense relationship of the regime with students and teachers further weighs on the regime‘s inability to raise the standard of education. Also, the lack of political accommodation and material improvement cause a systematic brain drain that further impoverishes the country of skilled people. If the regime cannot find incentives by which it retains the services of the people it educates, then it can never attain the level of human capital needed to launch a developmental state. Another obstacle disabling the educational policy is the lack of nationalist themes extolling Ethiopia. Civic education is polarizing in that it is not directed toward national integration and the development of national consciousness; rather, it exalts ethnic identity and fragmentation. It reiterates past grudges, but does little to create a new national consciousness based on the inheritance of the past. Whatever nationalism the educational system or the regime is propagating, it is an exhortation to a clean slate, start-from-zero nationalism. This futuristic nationalism answers every question except the most important one, which is: Why an Oromo person, for instance, would prefer the construction of a new Ethiopia to the creation of an independent Oromia? The futuristic nationalism lacks the excitement and commitment flowing from continuity, from the sense of belonging to a historical and transcendental
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community. The future generates excitement when it connects with the past so that it tells a story, a saga by assuming the mission of looking after and moving forward a legacy. Interestingly, Meles knows that the developmental state needs a nationalist theme, that popular mobilization around national goals is one of its strengths. That is why he is now fanning the theme of ―war on poverty‖ and the Abay dam project. Especially, the latter project is highly nationalist: (1) it enables Meles to blame Western countries for their reluctance to support the project; (2) it revives a longstanding grudge against Egypt over the control of the Nile; (3) it appeals to the contribution of each Ethiopian, thereby supplying a common national goal, regardless of ethnic belonging, and allegedly able to pull Ethiopia out of poverty. In his address during the 20th anniversary of the victory of the TPLF, Meles made a short speech about the Abay dam project that was saturated with nationalist slogans and boastings. The themes of unity, common goal, and eradication of poverty promised the renaissance of Ethiopia, the restoration of the eminent place it had in the past. Not once was the ethnic issue mentioned, rather, the historical identity of Ethiopia was back to the forefront. One would be tempted to shout ―Alleluia‖ were it not for the fact that this tardy nationalist discourse does not agree with the actual ideology, political structure, and economic policy of the regime. This brings us back to the fundamental issue, to wit, the question of knowing whether the Ethiopian ruling elite has the characteristics of a development-oriented elite, as forcefully required by the theory of the developmental state. As we saw, the non-predatory character of the ruling elite is the sine qua non of the whole theory: in addition to being nationalist, the ruling elite must draw its legitimacy and its retention of state power from its ability to deliver economic growth rather than through the use of repression. To the question of whether Meles and his cronies are anywhere close to being a developmental elite, the answer is, of course, no. This negative answer does not, however, mean that they are unable to become developmental. I am not saying that some such transformation will occur or that it is inevitable. As a strong skeptic of determinism in history, I am simply referring to the possibility inherent in the human person to finally make the right choice and laying some conditions necessary to effect the transformation. Since my position will certainly cause an array of objections, even angry attacks, it is necessary that I set out the arguments liable to back it up.
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Conditions for the Emergence of Developmental Elites Serious studies on the rise of developmental states agree that threat to power is the reason why authoritarian elites decide to initiate reforms promoting economic growth. The reforms are meant, not to satisfy any sudden democratic aspiration, but essentially to preserve power. The threat can be internal or external or both; the point is that it is clearly perceived that the ruling elite will soon lose everything unless it initiates reforms. Such was the case with Japan, which adopted drastic reforms toward modernization in order to counter the threat of colonization. Such countries as Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Singapore, and South Korea undertook reforms to weaken the menace of communism. If we take the case of some Latin American countries, we find that their modernization is a response to the danger of internal insurrections led by Marxist groups inspired by the Cuban Revolution. In the face of serious threats, ruling elites adopt either a repressive policy as the right response or opt for reforms as the best way to ensure their long-term interests. History testifies that, of the two methods, the avenue of reform has best served ruling elites. Additionally, the wise policy of reforms is perceived as a way of getting out of the political stalemate caused by authoritarian regimes. When traditional elites engage in the process of modernization, they initiate the formation of a modernizing elite, especially through Western education, whose interests and outlooks clash with the traditional system of power legitimacy. This conflict is easily translated into a competition for the control of political power. Authoritarianism is then used as a repressive power to maintain rising elites in a subordinate position. All the same, the assessment of the ruling elite could also be that a policy of repression brings about neither economic development nor ensures peace and political stability. The expectation of an indefinite and inconclusive political conflict creates a rapprochement between the authoritarian elite and aspiring modernizing elites. Stated otherwise, both parties realize the existence of a political stalemate and take the decision to engage in negotiations. The decision means the renunciation of repression on the part of the ruling elite and the withdrawal of the call for the overthrow of the regime on the part of aspiring elites. These decisions show their respective readiness to compromise on reforms to the system. My contention is that the Ethiopian situation precisely exhibits a political stalemate, itself fraught with dangerous possibilities. The tangible repressive tendency of the regime after the 2005 election has forced opposition forces and leaders to opt either for an armed conflict, with
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all the uncertainties that are attached to this form of struggle, or pursue a peaceful struggle whose success depends on Meles‘s guarantee of democratic rights, which, I believe, is no longer likely. The third possibility is the path of popular uprising of the kind shaking up the Arab world. The likelihood of a popular uprising in Ethiopia cannot be underestimated even if no one can tell when and how it is going to materialize. One thing is sure, though: unless something is done, it will occur and, given the political structure established by the TPLF, it is not set to be peaceful and probably will invite dangerous confrontations. What is likely is not the Egyptian situation of the army refusing to shoot demonstrators, but the Libyan or Syrian scenario of bloody confrontation and civil war. Redoubtable though Meles‘s repressive power may be, he is not likely to marginalize the opposition and achieve a final victory. The fact that the state becomes a repressive power blocks the economic progress that he needs to sideline the opposition. On the other side, the challenge of the opposition is bound to grow but without endangering Meles‘s hold on power, that is, so long as it sticks to a peaceful form of struggle. This stalemate can implant nothing else but the seeds of an angry popular insurrection that no one can seriously claim to control. In other words, the present situation is deepening the political stalemate, which can only develop into a dangerous state of affairs for everybody unless a mood for compromise soon emanates from all parties concerned. Toward a Transitional State The only way by which the present ruling elite can begin its transformation is through the establishment of a grand coalition materializing a power-sharing arrangement among various elite groups, especially with those representing opposition forces. This grand coalition brings a major change: it means the forging of a national political elite and, more importantly, the rejection of the embedded practice of using the state to exclude rival elites. I say ―embedded‖ because the practice goes back to Haile Selassie . It was taken up and amplified by the Derg; under the TPLF, it took an open ethnic form. In all these cases, the principle is the same: all the means of the state are used to marginalize and exclude rival elites, be they ethnic, religious, or class-based. The practice of exclusion instead of integration or coalition denotes the lack of development-oriented elites and the preponderance of rentseeking, predatory elites. The use of the state to keep out rivals betrays a quest for wealth that is not based on growth but on political entitlement and predatory practices.
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The call for a grand coalition may seem utopian since it amounts to asking the TPLF to abandon its hegemonic position in favor of a shared leadership. However, the utopian character decreases as soon as we see it from the perspective of the long-term interests of all the players and as the only viable way out from a dangerous situation. As we saw, developmental elites emerge not so much from an ideological or moral conversion to democracy as from an existential dilemma. The dilemma applies to opposition forces as well: it means competing elite groups renounce the principle of conditioning change on the overthrow of government. Instead of positing change in terms of one group losing and another group winning, they espouse the idea of change occurring as a result of coalition formation or power-sharing with the ruling elite, which amounts to a win-win outcome. I hasten to add that the EPRDF should not be cited as an example of grand coalition, given the hegemonic position of the TPLF. The idea of a grand coalition is workable because it contains a valuable incentive for everybody, that is, the incentive to effect changes so as to avoid dangerous developments. Let me clarify: change cannot be an incentive for Meles and his cronies if it is coined in terms of them giving up power. There is no incentive for the opposition, either, if compromise is posited in terms of maintaining the status quo. Each camp must come half way so that they all meet where power-sharing arrangement takes form. The interesting thing about power-sharing is that it creates the conditions needed to apply the developmental state. Meles is thus taken at his word and provided with the incentive of being able to preserve the long-term interest of himself and his group. Indeed, we have indicated that the developmental state requires the dismantling of the rent-seeking state, the consequence of which is that elite rivalry for the control of the state is significantly diminished. The rivalry has its source in the fact that the control of power gives an exclusive access to wealth through various legal and illegal means. The establishment of a genuine market economy removes the incentive of state control as a privileged access to wealth. If the road of earnest reforms is rejected, what else remains but the maintenance of the political structure of the TPLF, the consequence of which is that Meles has to adhere indefinitely to a repressive policy and the practice of electoral fraud? The expectation that he will be able to marginalize the opposition by offering to the masses tangible economic betterment cannot happen if the present political structures and practices are preserved. The
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developmental state cannot be a reality so long as the state is used as an instrument of exclusion. One outcome of Meles‘s rise to absolute power that could turn out positive is his ability to dismantle the rent-seeking state. I venture to say that absolute power has given Meles some autonomy vis-à-vis his followers; I even suggest that a disparity between his interests and that of his followers is inevitable. The passion of Meles is power; the goal of his followers is enrichment. The rent-seeking activities that they use to enrich themselves prevent Meles from achieving the economic growth by which he can justify his control of absolute power. He has now the choice of maintaining the old structure, with the consequences that his power will become increasingly fragile, or resolutely dissolve it through reforms. In order to do the latter, he needs the support of the opposition. The dissolution of the rent-seeking state means that Meles takes the opportunity to lay the foundation of the developmental state by promoting integration or coalition instead of exclusion. This enormous contribution is the manner he protects his long-term interest and that of his followers. Is there a better way of effectively guaranteeing his assets and a great place in history than by becoming the great benefactor, the architect of Ethiopia‘s final entry into the road of modernization? He is entitled to keep whatever he and his followers have amassed if the reforms he realized say to Ethiopians: ―you owe me.‖ Meles‘s goal to use authoritarianism to bring about economic growth so as to marginalize the opposition thus faces one major stumbling-block. The projected growth cannot occur unless the state is reformed. The only exit is to present the change in terms of a win-win option, that is, in terms offering incentives for both Meles and the opposition to come to an agreement. The problem is none other than the design of an agreed transition allowing the ruling elite a constitutional guarantee of continuity and an effective control of power while including the opposition in a genuine system of power-sharing. For example, a strong presidential power that retains the control of the armed forces and the right to nominate the prime minister working with a parliament elected by the people could do the job. In this way, the prime minister becomes accountable both to the president and the parliament, thereby incarnating the rule of consensus that animates the entire political system. To sum up, to solve the present political stalemate of Ethiopia, one prescription is for democratization to occur gradually and under the sponsorship of an authoritarian ruling elite.
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Various systems of power-sharing guaranteeing the interests of the ruling elite and of the opposition can be designed. The point is that the movement toward greater democratization begins, no more through the overthrow of a ruling elite, but through a formula of powersharing and the building of trust among various elite groups. This type of democratization is not uncommon: the transition from authoritarianism to democracy is not only the trajectory of the Asian countries that applied the formula of the developmental state, but also of other countries, such as Turkey, Spain, Brazil, Chile, etc. The truth is that the birth of democratic states from an evolution of authoritarian regimes is no less a historical trend than the establishment of democracies as a result of the violent overthrow of authoritarianism. (Messay Kebede, Ph.D, can be reached at Messay.Kebede@notes.udayton.edu)
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Mind the Jump: A Brief Response to Prof. Messay Kebede
Abiye Teklemariam Megenta June 15, 2011
Professor Messay Kebede‘s challenging essay, ―The fallacy of TPLF‘s developmental state,‖ makes a lot of fresh arguments and suggestions. Some of them are deeply unsettling to many of us who consider ourselves to be part of a pro-democracy struggle in Ethiopia. To the extent that we believe Messay himself is a member of our community — a towering intellectual figure at that — it is hard to escape a sense of deep disenchantment with what appears to be his abandonment of our deepest convictions. But that is not a good enough reason to react negatively towards the article. I agree with American political philosopher Michael Walzer that the internal critics, the incrementalists and foot-draggers, the prophets that are honored in their own city, are better in achieving the goals of their criticism than the external hammeron-the-skull critics. But the axe and the furious witnessing (to use Kafka‘s phrase) are needed if communities are not to stagnate beyond reprieve, as ours seems to be heading towards. It is refreshing to see that Messay is willing to stick his neck out in service of reason and progress. But alas, most of his arguments, at least the arguments which matter, are far from persuasive. The main point in Messay‘s article is that it is not beyond Meles Zenawi to establish a developmental state provided that the present political structure is reformed in such a way that leaves, at least for some time, the ruling elite in power, but does not exclude the opposition from participating in the act of governing. This is an authoritarian scheme, insofar as its grounding is elite agreement, not voter choice. But Messay takes a hopeful, if not an overconfident, view that democratization is possible under the tutelage of these power sharing authoritarian elites. The relevant literature in political science and political economy shows that this overconfidence is misplaced. There are diverse explanations of the democratization process, and Messay is on point to claim that elite-conceded or – to a lesser degree – elite-imposed democracies are not implausible. But there are few places where these democratization processes have started with power-sharing arrangements among competing political parties. As Harvard Political Scientist Pippa Norris argues, there is little evidence that power sharing ―serves the long-term interests of democratic consolidation and durable conflict management‖. As it turns out, the bulk of literature points to an opposite conclusion: that power sharing arrangements in full-scale authoritarian systems unravel quite quickly since the currency of
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trust and strength of agreement-enforcing political institutions on which the effectiveness of these arrangements rely are very low, or even worse, they lead to exclusionary bargaining systems and political culture that frustrate the emergence of democracy. It is good to note that in the very few cases where power sharing schemes have positive democratization effects, including some of the examples mentioned by Messay, the authoritarian states happened to have strong selectorate accountability, or they were less than full-scale authoritarianisms. In a simple language: the more the scale of authoritarianism, the less the actual democratization effect of power sharing arrangements. If what Messay says about the nature of Meles Zenawi‘s rule is true, it makes his idea hopelessly mistimed. It seems to me that what prompts Messay to consider this path to democratization is his enthusiasm for the developmental state. In a way, his aim is to kill two birds with one stone. But accepting elite authoritarian tutelage would not have been necessary had Messay been less dismissive of the concept of a democratic developmental state. Messay insists, plausibly enough, that the concept ignores the ―defining characteristics of Asian Developmental States‖. But that is not a good reason to reject altogether its realizability. Indeed, the histories of postwar Germany, Botswana, South Africa and many other countries suggest that a developmental state can be democratic. I do not know the ―serious literature‖ on this issue to which Messay refers, but my understanding is that a good many developmental scholars agree that such states are possible, in both an ideal and non-ideal sense. If such agreement exists for political reasons as Messay contends – which I think is an implausibly strong claim – he fails to offer any evidence. Also, Messay makes two rather common errors – both of the conflating sort – when he constructs his argument. First, he takes it for granted that neo-liberalism = liberalism. I think it is fair to say that this is a troublesome position. Philosopher John Holbo rightly calls the general tendency to conflate the two as ―strawman-ing liberalism‖. Some of the most vociferous critics of neo-liberalism – an economic philosophy that is best represented by the ‖Washington consensus‖ – including Joseph Stiglitz, Meles Zenawi‘s unabashed champion, are self-proclaimed liberals. The dominant thought in liberalism qua philosophy (to which such egalitarian stalwarts as Ronald Dworkin, Richard Arneson and John Rawls belong) doesn‘t prima facie reject a developmental role for the state since the underpinnings of this thought are not property rights. Second, Messay seems to think that democracies are ipso facto liberal. I am sympathetic to the view that no democracy can be illiberal. This is not,
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however, similar to saying that no democracy can be non-liberal. Certainly, in Messay‘s exalted field (political philosophy) there is a rich scholarly work on normative non-liberal democratic theories. The institutional implications of these theories have also been a subject of serious discussion by political scientists. It is not my aim to nitpick Messay for trivial purposes. It is to show that once one escapes such confusions, one can imagine the possibility of a democratic developmental state, and, dare I say, a liberal democratic developmental state. Messay has much else to say, not least in his kicking of opposition parties in the shin for failing to grasp that Meles Zenawi had no intention to ―go back to the situation of 2005‖. This is an odd claim. My impression before the 2010 election was that if there was any single point that Ethiopian opposition groups agreed on, it was that Ethiopia was backsliding towards absolute authoritarianism. Am I missing something here? Some believed that their only way of connecting to Ethiopians was to use whatever political space the system provided them; some decided that this was a naïve view and chose a different path; there was a minority who continued to participate in the process with the hope that Meles Zenawi would come to see the follies of his ways. If members of this latter group committed any offence, it is in their antideterminism, a view with which Professor Messay openly associates. I do not see how a person who advises Meles to make concessions can hold it against the opposition for acting on a similar belief unless the advice is intended to be no more than gestural. I believe that Messay‘s attempt to reflect on the matter of development and democracy in a decently nuanced manner is commendable. The Ethiopian opposition seems unwilling to give up the tiresome but emphatically false argument that democracy is a precondition for economic development. Democracy needs a better and a more convincing defence than one that tastes as a picked cherry or is based on dogmatic assertions that fly in the face of wellgrounded knowledge. I can‘t emphasise enough how emancipatory Messay‘s article is. But its emancipatory value is in the freshness of its approach, not the force of its reason. (The writer can be reached at email@example.com)
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A rejoinder of Prof. Messay Kebede's article: Meles' political dilemma By Prof. Seid Hassan | June 16, 2011 I am writing this brief note as a rejoinder to Professor Messay Kebede‘s article titled as ―Meles‘s Political Dilemma and the Developmental State: Dead-Ends and Exit‖ and do so without overshadowing the points that Professor Messay has made and without repeating them here. My rejoinder stems from two perspectives: 1. That the ideas advanced by Professor Messay represent ―out-of-the-box‖ thoughts, and I strongly believe that such bold ―out-of-the-box‖ thoughts encourage discussions, which in turn could (hopefully) open the door for new thinking and new approaches/paradigms. I call upon other intellectuals, concerned citizens, opposition party members and their supporters, and even the ruling party members and its supporters to come up with new ideas of this kind (of their own), and/or entertain them, all geared towards the emancipation of Mother Ethiopia and the well-being of its people. 2. That, as I argued and stated elsewhere (see, here and here for example), ―…if the last 18 years that Ethiopia has been under the EPDRF are any witness, this country is neither in a position to mimic these countries (that is, Southeast Asia) and bring about measurable economic change, nor is the political and economic phenomena of Ethiopia comparable to those countries…‖ In that specific article, I listed, using a few references, particularly the extensive study made by the World Bank, the common practices of those particular countries. In short, the common policies and practices of those countries included, among other things: a) Shared Growth which encouraged all citizens to cooperate with the ruling parties and which raised everyone‘s hopes thereby encouraging them to work hard. In contrast, Ethiopia is engulfed with a highly discriminatory system that is dangerously widening the income gaps between the haves and the have-nots, the major beneficiaries being EPRDF leaders and regional kingmakers. The others are: b) Increased accumulation of human capital; c) Rapid accumulation of physical capital; d) Rapid growth of manufactured exports; and e) Targeting Specific Industrial Policies and Avoiding Rent-Seeking; f) Stable Macroeconomic Environments. None of these are being replicated in Ethiopia, nor does Mr. Zenawi‘s highly corrupt system fit ―Developmental State‖ that was applied Southeast Asia. What is created in Ethiopia is a rather peculiar (opaque) rent-seeking and highly greedy system which has completely stifled
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free enterprise and freedom, where the TPLF owns and operates numerous key business sectors, the sole beneficiaries being party leaders and their followers, including the members of the military leadership. One more point is in order here: As I understood from the segment of his analysis that deals with the ―Developmental State‖, I do not believe, as some readers may be mistakenly inclined to think, that Professor Messay believes Mr. Zenawi‘s ―Developmental State‖ theory and practice is either the ―preferred‖ method to other alternatives or the panacea for Ethiopia‘s ills. I, for one, do not believe that authoritarian systems, particularly as exemplified by the practice of Zenawi‘s ―Developmental State‖ ideology and practice, do a better job of promoting economic growth and stability, for the empirical evidence testifies otherwise. It is just that, given the political and economic circumstances and realities that Ethiopia is in, one cannot jump to the ―Promised Land‖ without understanding these realities and creating the necessary conditions for the transitions.
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A short reply to Messay's paper - specifically on the power of dictators By Girma Moges | June 18, 2011 Messay‘s assertion that elections or popular revolts are not going to either work or to be controllable by anyone is, I think, a wrong assertion. It is completely wrong to assume that TPLF/EPRDF or any other dictatorship for that matter is undefeatable. Dictators are dependent on the people they rule for their existence. It is this dependence that creates their Achilles-heel. Thus dictators are defeatable if they are struck at their Achilles-heel. (I have discussed these weaknesses of dictators in one of my articles under የሰላም ትግል ሠራዊት posted on Ethiomedia). Yes, it may take years to build a nation-wide millions-man strong army of peaceful struggle to wage a successful nation-wide peaceful uprising. Yes, it may require a lot of work to bring all or major opposition parties together, exposing the regime as well as building a nation-wide election-result-defending millions-man strong army to force TPLF/EPRDF accept its defeats following elections. Of course, if there is defeat! I do not see any reason why Ethiopian pro-democracy force can not defeat its dictatorship given all the required homework is sufficiently met before waging the peaceful struggle. Just like the pro-democracy forces of any other countries, Ethiopian pro-democracy forces are also good enough to stand up and defeat their own dictators when the time is ripe. That is, if there is a clearly defined goal, a well-thought grand strategy and campaign strategies are calculated, error-free tactics are planned as well as appropriate mass political defiance and mass noncooperation weapons of peaceful struggle are selected. Yes, Ethiopia may have its peculiarities including ethnic issues within the army and between regions the regime would love to exploit! Thus the peaceful struggle or uprising may not be as easy as was in Egypt. However, the solution is not to declare defeat and surrender even before trying a single day political defiance sit-in at Ethiopian ―change square‖ or a single nation-wide non-cooperation strike. Therefore the solution is simply to be prepared better not quit! Regarding the idea of grand-coalition proposed by Messay, if he meant power sharing, I do not think that dictators are in the business of sharing or rendering power at will. In addition, that issue was raised by the opposition during 2005 post-election period and did not get acceptance by Meles. I remember his answer was short to the demand: ―Coalition with the opposition is unthinkable.‖ I think he has also characterized coalition with opposition as
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undesirable debating club (I stand to be corrected if I am mistaken). So I think Meles is beyond a point of return on that issue. Of courses, if TPLF/EPRDF was forced to accept its election defeat by a nation-wide organized millions-man strong peaceful struggle army and if also it believed that accepting defeat was the only best option left for TPLF/EPRDF to continue staying on power it would have accepted the proposal. Alternately if Messay meant the formation of an authoritarian grand coalition that simply focuses on developmental stuff abandoning democracy, I doubt its feasibility. In closing, I always believe that the power of the Ethiopian people is much more stronger than the power of TPLF/EPRDF. --Girma Moges has written extensively on the power of a non-violent form of struggle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Another rejoinder of Messay Kebede's article: Meles Zenawi's dilemma By Prof. Minga Negash | June 17, 2011
Professor Messay Kebede of the University of Dayton recently wrote a philosophical article entitled ―Meles Zenawi‘s Political Dilemma and the Developmental State: Dead-Ends and Exit.‖ Abiye Teklemariam, the founding editor of Addis Neger responded by alluding that political liberalization is difficult if not impossible in present day Ethiopia.2 In a third and short rejoinder Professor Seid Hassan of Murray State University, using euphemism, argued that everyone in Ethiopia, including the members of the ruling party, must ―think out of the box‖. The two professors appear to focus on finding ways and means for resolving the apparent stand-off between the ruling regime and the opposition. With regard to the so called developmental State, in my August 2006 commentary, I argued that Mr Meles Zenawi‘s incomplete essay was self-serving, contained no new knowledge, and more importantly it did not address the then critical issues of governance. I shall not return to it now. In this short rejoinder, I attempt to show that within a number of Ethiopian political organizations, the opportunity for an out of the box thinking does not exist. The parties mix scientific research with policy and propaganda. One might attribute this void to poor leadership, intransigence, authoritarianism and to our collectivist culture that instills conformance, fear and submission to authority. I submit that it is the absence of this critical mass of independent thinking within organizations and government that plunged the country into a sorry state of polarization. Independent thinking is even more risky in organizations that are armed, secretive, sectarian, radical and in networks that attempt to convert themselves from liberation fronts to modern political parties. Hence, a successful out of the box thinking in our settings require time, space and more importantly a visionary leadership. Furthermore, new thinking has had its own rewards and risks. In the late 1980s the new thinking in China resulted in unprecedented economic growth without a political development. In the Soviet Union and South Africa the new thinking ended up washing away the regimes themselves, sparked revolutions in Eastern Europe, and dismantled one of the superpowers of the century. Meles Zenawi‘s series of thinking: - from his days as the chief ideologue of the Marxist Leninist League of Tigrai to the chief conductor of Ethiopian affairs for 20 years, might be considered as an out of box thinking. The results are there for all to see. An out of the box thinking within organizations therefore is both difficult and risky if implemented without the scrutiny of democracy. It instills fear among the intellectual community. In this
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short rejoinder I argue that the ruling party in Ethiopia has been incapable of providing the required leadership for the development of the culture of an out of the box thinking. It has missed several opportunities. Hence, if TPLF is to have relevance to the new environment, it ought to have new vision and new leadership. New thinking cannot come from its present leaders. It is also unexpected of Meles to return the country to the 2005 situation. As regards his exit plan, if he has one, he has missed the opportunity of stepping down with grace. His present efforts appear to be focused more on preventing the bubbles from bursting. If one turns the clock back to 2006, the time when Mr. Meles Zenawi wrote the article entitled ―African Developments: Dead Ends and New Beginnings‖, the reader would quickly realize that the idea was not original. However, Meles is smarter than some of his Ambassadors. One cannot accuse him of ordinary plagiarism. Leaving the intellectual debate to scholastic forums, there were, as Professor Messay has shown, the developmental State argument, which was a response to the 2005 election crisis. Since 2006, a number of unexpected political and economic developments have occurred. First, within the TPLF/EPRDF, Meles Zenawi and his wife were able to consolidate power. Every contender of power within the party was either sidelined or purged without an event. The net effect of this power concentration was to solidify Meles Zenawi‘s authority and a build-up of cult within the party, and the entire governance system. By May 2010 the consolidation of power within the party manifested itself in an absurd election statistics. It resulted in a 99.6% control of the 547 seats in the parliament. In other words, the space and time for an out of the box thinking within TPLF/EPRDF and the country was completely closed, and the likelihood of reopening the broader political space now is remote as the regime is even more threatened by the revolutions of the Middle East and North Africa and hyperinflation. Indeed, like most of the rulers who are threatened by youth revolutions, rather than dealing with the root causes of the problems of governance, Meles unfortunately elected to label his adversaries, including the legal opposition, as Eritrea‘s agents and terrorists. On June 15, 2011 the House of Peoples Representatives (Parliament) regrettably failed to correct Meles‘s excesses. It labeled the regime‘s adversaries as terrorists. Hence, I argue that it is impossible to exercise an out of box thinking within TPLF/EPRDF. Meles‘s dilemma therefore appears to be more on the modalities of extending his prolonged rule, evidently at all costs. Consequently, one can argue that Meles is no exception to the ordinary dictators of Africa. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s speech on June 13, 2011 at the summit of the African
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Union, in Addis Ababa, in the presence of Meles Zenawi, is interesting. Her speech contained the following:“….But, even as we celebrate this progress, we do know that too many people in Africa still live under longstanding rulers, men who care too much about the longevity of their reign, and too little about the legacy that should be built for their country‟s future. Some even claim to believe in democracy – democracy defined as one election, one time...” And on the link between revolutions Mrs. Clinton argued as follows:“…Every country in the world stands to learn from these democracy movements, but this wave of activism, which came to be known as the Arab Spring, has particular significance for leaders in Africa and elsewhere who hold on to power at all costs, who suppress dissent, who enrich themselves and their supporters at the expense of their own people. To those leaders our message must be clear: Rise to this historic occasion; show leadership by embracing a true path that honors your people‟s aspirations; create a future that your young people will believe in, defend, and help build. Because, if you do not – if you believe that the freedoms and opportunities that we speak about as universal should not be shared by your own people, men and women equally, or if you do not desire to help your own people work and live with dignity, you are on the wrong side of history, and time will prove that." Mrs Clinton‘s speech might embarrass her host, Mr Meles Zenawi, but she also appears to be fishing for an out of box thinking in the wrong waters. Her speech did not take cognizance of the institutions that manufacture dictators. It is the presence of separation of powers in the governance system and term limits that prevent the rise of autocracy. Notwithstanding this, if the rulers of Ethiopia have the willingness to learn, there are still many ways to safely exit from political power. Within the realms of the African experience, TPLF/EPRDF leaders can still arrange an exit for Meles and his close associates. How the dominant ruling regimes in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania arranged safe exits to their former leaders is an important reference point. The recent election histories of Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, etc also show that loss of government power does not necessarily lead to retributions and loss of privileges. My sense however, is that the TPLF has lost both the space and the time for an out of box thinking.
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Meles could have exited honorably from both party and State power just after the May 2005 election. He could have opted for sharing cabinet positions. He could have kept his words and exited after the May 2010 election, however deficient the election might have been. Any one of these missed opportunities would have earned him respect. It would have changed the political landscape for the better. If he allows an out of box thinking within the secretive party at this late hour, the process opens a major Pandora box. There is no known succession plan and, the scandals are too many to be put under the carpet. There are also competitions among the various wings of EPRDF. In other words he is at a point of no return. Meles‘s dilemma aside, if and when TPLF‘s out of the box thinkers come out, as was the case of the Afrikaner intellectuals in the early nineties, the opposition and the broader Ethiopian society are duty bound to give them the opportunity to succeed. --Prof. Minga Negash can be reached at email@example.com
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Demobilizing Ethiopians will never be the solution to Ethiopia’s existential problems : A response to Prof. Daniel kindie and to Prof. Messay Kebbede By Wedi Samre June 18th, 2011 Post cold-war Ethiopia has been in the throes of existential crisis. It has been dismembered and landlocked. Its territories have been stolen in broad day light and ceded to neighboring countries. It was exposed to Eritrean invasion and wanton destruction. Its national language has been relegated to the status of a regional language. Its people have been played off against each other on the basis of region, religion and language. Of late, the Ethiopian people have been victims of land grabbing. In a word, Ethiopia has been confronted with unprecedented existential crisis in three thousand years of its history. Yet Ethiopian intellectuals and politicians have not risen to the challenge of the crisis. Two recent articles published by two high-profile intellectuals, Prof. Daniel Kindie‘s ―የኢትዮጵያንና የኤርትራን ሕዝብ የሚያስተሳሥሩ ቋሚ ሠንሰለቶች ‖ (Abugida 12, june2011)and Prof. Messay Kebbede‘s ―Meles‘s Political Dilemma and the Developmental State: Dead-Ends and Exit (Abugida, 13june 2011) evince the inaptitude of Ethiopian intellectuals to be up to the challenge. The two gentlemen avoid addressing the existential problems of the country and talk about minor issues which deflect public attention away from the big one. Prof. Daniel talks about the enduring bonds between Eritrea and Ethiopia and about his desire to see the formation of a North-East African common market. Prof. Messay tells us barefacedly that Melis Zinwi is in a political dilemma. He adds that Melis Zinwi ―thinks‖ that developmental state can be a solution to his ―political dilemma‖. But according to Messay, it has become a dead end for Melis Zinwi. In Messay‘s infinite wisdom, the developmental state can be an exit (and not a dead end) if and only if Melis Zinwi accepts to share power with what Messay calls the opposition parties. Messay says clearly to Melis Zinwi that Ethiopians are ready to acknowledge their defeat if he accepts to share power with ―opposition parties‖. Unbelievable! The thesis that I am going to defend is that the articles of the two gentlemen are defeatist and have the devastating consequence of demobilizing Ethiopians. To put it bluntly, the message of the two articles is Shabia (EPLF/TPLF) friendly. By talking about Ethio-Eritrean relationship, Prof. Daniel Kindie obscures the truth that the cause of the existential problem of our country is intimately connected to the desire of Shabia ( EPLF/TPLF) to guarantee the Eritrean independence in the future. Likewise Prof. Messay Kebbede downplays Ethiopia‘s existential problems by saying without the slightest proof that Melis Zinwi is in a dilemma.
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The truth is that Melis Zinwi has never been in a dilemma. He has been incredibly and admirably consistent for the last thirty seven years in his crusade against the Ethiopian nation. This is in sharp contrast with Messay who has never been consistently loyal to the Ethiopian nation. Indeed, both Prof. Daniel Kindie and Prof. Messay Kebbede are men of contradictions. Let‘s begin with Prof. Daniel Kindie. On the one hand, he is known for advocating the return of Eritrea to Ethiopia under a federal arrangement. He also promised to take up his pilgrim‘s staff and to roam around the Horn of Africa to preach the economic necessity of forming a common market of the Horn African countries. As if the ―debalkanization‖ (i.e. the suppression of custom duties) of the Horn of Africa could provoke the development of the region, Daniel Kindie says the ―balkanization‖ of the countries of the Horn of Africa is an obstacle for development . However we know that the main problem of the Horn of Africa is not the absence of a regional common market; the problem is the absence of market worth the name within each country of the Horn of Africa. This is particularly the case of Ethiopia, one of the future biggest markets in Africa with 120 million potential consumers, to use a Western market phraseology. Why don‘t we have a national market worth the name in Ethiopia? The answer is that Western educated Ethiopians have always been obstacles to modern nationbuilding. And here is the rub. Prof. Daniel says he wants to work for the formation of common market of the countries of the Horn of Africa. Yet he is not known for working for a strong national cohesion of Ethiopia. To the contrary, he is known for his vitriolic Tigray bashing. Even though the day to day activities of the ―TPLF‖ during the last thirty seven years leave no room for doubt as to its Eritrean identity, Daniel Kindie would have us believe that it is a ―Tigray organization‖. Isn‘t this a sufficient proof that prof. Daniel has been engaged in the intellectual and political balkanization of Ethiopia? The problem is that like the rest of our educated Amhara brothers, Daniel Kindie has never tried to demonstrate how an organization which fought to dismember Ethiopia and which has been moving heaven and earth to destroy the Ethiopian nation can be considered Tigrayan. Weren‘t the signature of the Algiers intraHamasin Agreement and the EPLF/TPLF self-serving Eritrean advocacy prodomo in The Hague meant to facilitate the stealing of Ethiopian territory in Tigray and its cession to Eritrea? (For additional information concerning the ―TPLF‘s‖ conspiracy against Tigray, the reader can refer to Beyene Gebray‘s article published by Irobmablo) The regional history of Tigray has always been a history of Ethiopian bravery and patriotism. A Tigrayan dies for Ethiopia, he never conspires against Ethiopia. That has always been always the case since the dawn of Ethiopian history. And yet our educated Amhara brothers are determined to put a Tigray label on the Eritrean secessionist organization calling itself ―TPLF‖. But the unpatriotic choice of
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Amhara intellectuals and politicians to collaborate with the enemy does not mean that the TPLF is a ―Tigray organization‖. The position of Amhara intellectuals and politicians is untenable all the more so since they have never ceased saying that the ―TPLF‖ is an antiEthiopian organization. If the ―TPLF‖ is anti-Ethiopia organization, it should be a fortiori an anti-Tigray organization. What is odd is that Ethiopian intellectuals and politicians refuse to accept that the TPLF is an anti-Tigray organization. This is for example the case of Prof. Messay Kebbede, the number one intellectual balkanizer of the Ethiopian nation and demobilizer of Ethiopians. Some years ago, Messay described the ―TPLF‖ as an ―antiEthiopia Tigre group‖. Yet today, he argues that a developmental state under the leadership of the ―anti-Ethiopia Tigre group‖ could be an ―exit‖ to the ―Ethiopian stalemate‖ if the antiEthiopia ―Tigre‖ group accepts to share power with the ―opposition parties‖. Why the voltface prof. Messay? How on earth can there be a power-sharing arrangement between what you call anti-Ethiopia ―Tigre‖ group and the ―opposition parties‖? Are you advising Ethiopians to collaborate with what you call an anti-Ethiopia ―Tigre‖ group? Aren‘t there already legions of collaborators who rule the different regions of Ethiopia on behalf of what you call ―anti-Ethiopia Tigre group‖? If Messay is not advising Ethiopians to stop to defend Ethiopia and to collaborate with the enemy in implementing its project of dismantling the Ethiopian nation, what is the point of power-sharing? If power-sharing is a means to prevent the enemy to destroy our country, it is unclear what has led Messay to think that the anti-Ethiopia ―Tigre‖ group would be ready to share power with patriotic Ethiopians. No patriotic Ethiopian can work with the sworn enemy of their country. Messay‘s manifesto is an exercise in intellectual mystification of the root causes of Ethiopia‘s existential problems. Melis Zinwi has never been interested in power for the sake prestige and amassing unearned huge wealth. Melis Zinwi has a superior mission which Messay feigns to ignore. If the desire of Melis Zinwi were only the retention of power, he would not have rendered Ethiopia landlocked; he would not have stolen Ethiopian territories to cede them to Eritrea and to the Sudan. He would not either work to destroy the national language of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo church. The life mission of Melis Zinwi is clear for anyone who does not want to behave like an ostrich. The destruction of the national language of Ethiopia is another way destroying Ethiopia politically, socially, economically and culturally. Imagine how American economy would be totally crippled if the different federated states were to have no common language of communication? This is to say that Messay has sinned by his excessive unrealism since his manifesto for
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power-sharing does not give due consideration to Melis‘s satanic calculus. Messay is a prisoner of his own perverse theory of Tigray hegemony. It leads him to obscure the mission which Melis Zinwi set out to fulfill since he arrived at the age of 10 in Addis-Ababa. That mission is the dismantling of the Ethiopian nation so that Ethiopian nationalism would never represent again a threat for Eritrean independence. Messay denies this (despite the facts on the ground) and has always said that the TPLF is not an Eritrean organization. Messay tried to no avail to refute the declaration of Sebhat Nega that the TPLF was an Eritrean organization and that it would defend Eritrea from any foreign attack (read: they would do the best they could to destroy the Ethiopian nation once and for all). That is why Messay says that the ―developmental state‖ can be an exit out of what he calls ―Meles‘s political dilemma‖. Yet he knows that the TPLF is an Eritrean organization. Didn‘t he mention once the possibility of activating the Eritrean connection if the TPLF‘s rule of Ethiopia was to be threatened seriously? It was an indirect way of saying that if Ethiopians were united and decided to destroy the TPLF, the Eritrean army would never hesitate to fight on side of the TPLF against Ethiopians. This should have led him to exhort Ethiopians to rally around the defense of their country. But he preferred to point the finger at Tigray rather than making his own self-introspection. Messay has also contributed to what he calls now ―Ethiopian stalemate ― by exhorting Ethiopians to avoid describing the ―TPLF‖ as an Eritrean organization or by saying that ―TPLF‖ would work for the modernization if Ethiopians stopped fighting to regain their Assab Autonomous Administrative Region. Forgetting the great disservice he has been rendering to the Ethiopian nation, Messay thinks that the developmental state can be an exit for Melis Zinwi‘s ―dilemma‖ and for the Ethiopian ―stalemate‖. The problem of Messay is that he does not explain how one can envision the existence of an Ethiopian developmental state led by what he himself calls an anti-Ethiopia Tigre group? Messay, the philosopher, draws conclusions without demonstrating his arguments. For the Ethiopian from Tigray, the expression ― anti-Ethiopia Tigre group‖ is a contradiction in terms because it is impossible for an anti-Ethiopia group to be Tigrayan; describing an anti-Ethiopia group as Tigrayan is a despicable attempt to tarnish the image of Tigray. But since the aim of Messay is to put a Tigray label on the Eritrean organization, he talks about developmental state. This reminds me the Amharic saying ―lam balwalechibet Kubet lekema‖. Because the reality of post-cold war Ethiopia is that it has been without state, government and leader. Without showing first the
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existence of an Ethiopian state, Messay cannot talk about the possibility of a developmental state as a solution to the country‘s existential crisis which he calls euphemistically ―the Ethiopian stalemate‖. Messay knows full well that the reason why there is neither state, government nor a leader in Ethiopia is that Ethiopia has been occupied by a branch of the Eritrean people‘s liberation front calling itself ―TPLF‖. The EPLF branch has succeeded in passing for a Tigrayan organization thanks to the unfailing help it enjoys from collaborationist Amhara intellectuals and politicians in general and from Messay Kebbede himself in particular. Messay says he belongs to the ―opposition camp‖. The reality is that Messay hates Tigray. He does not hate Shabia (TPLF/EPLF). Messay‘s earlier writings and his latest article show in no uncertain terms that he is, in spite of himself, a Shabia (TPLF/EPLF) ―wedo geb‖. To describe the ―TPLF‖ as an anti-Ethiopia Tigre group is to be a TPLF propagandist; it is a subtle way declaring an intellectual war on the Ethiopian nation in general and on the Tigray people in particular. Besides, there is one thing which Messay does not seem to have thought over. If as he says the ―TPLF‖ is an anti-Ethiopia Tigre group, then it is impossible for him to say that he belongs to ―opposition camp‖. Because there cannot be an opposition party in a country ruled by its enemies (i.e. by what he calls anti-Ethiopia Tigre group). Could there be an opposition party in the United States, in the United Kingdom or in any other Western country if the group holding power were anti-America, anti-Britain, anti-Germany or anti Sweden group, etc.? It seems that Messay and the so-called opposition parties have forgotten the crucial fact that the very idea of politics is predicated on the dichotomous opposition between a friend and foe, between a citizen and a foreigner. This means that if a country is ruled by foreigners (enemies), it is conceptually and empirically impossible for politics to exist. So if Messay says that the ―TPLF‖ is an anti-Ethiopia Tigre group, he must accept (if he is consistent with himself) that there cannot be an opposition party in Ethiopia. There can be only an Ethiopian national liberation front which must fight to liberate the country from enemy rule. If we accept that there is no politics in Ethiopia (because Messay and other Amhara intellectuals have admitted publicly that those who rule Ethiopia are anti- Ethiopia ―Tigre‖ group), then it is impossible for developmental state to exist in Ethiopia. If Messay addressed the problematic of the developmental state in Ethiopia from the angle of the Ethiopian concept of ―mengist‖, he would realize that the very concept of Mengist militates against Ethiopia being ruled arbitrarily let alone by her enemies (i.e. by what Messay calls anti-Ethiopia Tigre group). But is Messay really interested in defending the causes of Ethiopia? If he were attached to the
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defense of the Ethiopian nation, he would plead for national unity and for a united national resistance as the only solution to our problems and would tell Ethiopians that the discourse on developmental state is an evil hoax which, like other evil hoaxes such as revolutionary democracy, Melis Zinwi uses to mask the fact that he is Eritrean enemy at the helm of of Ethiopia. Messay seems to forget that the only responsible factor for economic development in Ethiopia is the Ethiopian people and never the collaboration of political parties with the occupation force. Only when Ethiopia is led by patriotic Ethiopians and only when the Ethiopian people are convinced that they have leaders committed to working for their wellbeing, will they work for the development of their country. In the absence of such conditions, talking about developmental state or simply about economic development is either a sheer stupidity or a semantic manipulation. Personally, I thought that Melis Zinwi‘s discourse on developmental state could hoodwink only the uneducated rank and file of the ―TPLF‖. But it seems that there are high-profile educated Ethiopians who take it seriously. What interest does Melis Zinwi have to work for the development of the country which he wants to destroy? As for Messay, I am not sure that he really believes that developmental state through ―power-sharing‖ can be a solution. I don‘t believe that Messay is stupid. But since my aim here is not to correct Messay but to protect Ethiopians from being mistaken by Messay‘s esoteric talk about developmental state, I would like to say a word or two on the subject. One reason why I say Messay‘s manifesto is Shabia (TPLF/EPLF) friendly is because he compares Melis Zinwi with the leaders of East Asian countries without first showing whether the comparison is possible and desirable. The Asian model of development, let it be said, is the result of a patriotic choice made with view to enabling the countries in question to catch-up the Western world. That is why it was based on the « flying geese pattern development model » developed in 1936 by the Japanese economist Kaname Akamatsu to explain the catch-up industrialization by latecomer economy, i.e. his own country Japan. In other words, it did not have, contrary to what seems to believe Messay, anything to do with authoritarianism. The Asians came up with their own development model after having studied Western economic history and rejected Western economic theory and especially the neo-classical economic development model (they rejected the idea of the invisible hand). They also rejected the dependency theory developed by Latin American scholars because for Asians international trade (or what we call today globalization) is not an end in itself, but a means to their industrial development. As we know, following president Truman‘s 1949 inaugural address to the American Congress that the United States was dutyPage | 33 Geza hayet
bound to to help ―back-ward countries‖ achieve development, American leaders encouraged the newly decolonized countries of the then called Third World to espouse free market capitalism. The idea was to contain Soviet expansionism in the Third World. But following the decolonization process which started in earnest the 1950‘s, some economists realized that neither Keynesian nor neoclassical economics were pertinent for the newly decolonized countries in their quest for development. This led to the birth of development economics. But hardly was development economics born than the United States started to wage ideological and diplomatic war against developmentalist economic policies. The developmentalist policies were considered to be hostile to the interests of American multinational corporations. So the United States leadership preached that free market capitalism accompanied by Western development aid was the royal road to development. American leaders did not have a problem in influencing African and Latin American leaders. That was not the case of Asia. The Asians rejected the teachings of Western mainstream economics theory, but they abstained themselves from being opposed publicly to the United States crusade against developmentalist economic policies. Unlike Eritrean hero and imposter, Melis Zinwi, the Asians did not say that they were for a developmental state and against free market capitalism (the only exception was Japan which threatened (in the 1990‘s) not to finance the the world bank unless the latter recognized the specificity of the Japanese development model). Melis, the born-liar, says he is against neoliberalism while it is a public knowledge that he is politically, diplomatically and economically hundred percent dependent on the support of his British and American protectors. As for the Asians, they continued secretly implementing their developmentalist policies while expressing in public their full adherence to the principles of free market economy. Until the publication of Chalmers A. Johnson‘s book ―MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial policy, 1925-1975″ in 1982 (Johnson was the first to speak of the ―developmental state‖), it had been believed in Western academia, that free market and international trade were responsible factors for Asia‘s industrialization. But Western academia had refused to accept Johnson‘s study of Japanese industrialization until the publication in 1992 of other books concerning Taiwanese and South-Korean model of development. Be that as it may, the United States leadership knew from the outset that the Asians did not tell the truth when they presented themselves as adherents to free market capitalism. But America was obliged to turn a blind eye because of the East-West rivalry during the cold war. It was obliged to open its market to Asian products for geopolitical reasons.
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I make this digression to show why Messay is wrong when he associates developmental state with authoritarianism. To the contrary, the patriotic desire to efface the national humiliation inflicted on Asians by Western domination was the driving force behind the invention of the Asian model of development. When Chalmers A. Johnson coined the expression ―developmental state‖, it was by way of contrast with what is thought to be the ―regulatory‖, ―laissez-faire‖ or ―night watchman‖ state of the Anglo-Saxon world. Of course, I am not saying that Asian leaders were convinced democrats. I am saying they were imbued by a patriotic desire to work for the glory of their respective nations. That is why I doubt Messay‘s sincerity when he compares Melis Zinwi, the sworn enemy of Ethiopia with the patriotic Asian leaders like Dr. Mahathir of Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, or with South Korean and Taiwanese leaders . The authoritarian nature of Asian leaders is not surprising in view of the history of the Western world. The history of the West from the 17th century to 1945 shows that authoritarian regimes (officially called parliamentary democracies) created the market and the market in turn then gave birth to ―democratic oligarchic regimes‖. But one should not confuse authoritarian regimes with unpatriotic, corrupt, arbitrary and incompetent regimes. If authoritarian regimes play an active role in economic development, it is because they are patriotic. The proof is that where there is an authoritarian patriotic regime, the construction of a modern state becomes indispensable. Indeed, contrary to what is asserted by orthodox economic theory, a modern state is by definition a developmental one. There has never existed a state which is anti-development or which does not work development. For example the question why the Industrial Revolution took place in England is still a moot point. But it is safe to say that England would not have been the cradle of the industrial revolution without the existence of an authoritarian regime ( as is discussed brilliantly by Karl Marx in his magnum opus: Capital) determined to make England a dominant world power. After England, the two countries to industrialize were Germany and France. Their industrialization was led by the state. This is/was also the case in the United States as is demonstrated by Joseph E. Stiglitiz in his Globalization and its discontents. The idea defended by some Western scholars that the United States is a stateless society may be true when it comes to political, administrative and social issues. But that is not the case concerning economic, technological, scientific and military issues. Americans are opposed to big government when it comes to political, administrative and social issues. But there is a national consensus in favor of big government regarding economic, technological, scientific and military issues. The huge bailout received by banks in the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown is a good illustration of that. In other words, for historical reasons it may be probably correct to say that
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the United States has a government (mestedadir) but not a state (mengist) in the strict sense of the word. The problem in the Western social science literature is that there is a confusion between a state and a political power. A state is a form of political power, but not every political power is a state. This statement finds confirmation from the Ethiopian conception of mengist. Indeed, the Ethiopian concept of Mengist shows that there is neither state nor political power in post-Mengistu Ethiopia. Why? The answer was given by Messay himself. He said that Ethiopia was ruled by an anti-Ethiopia Tigre group. This means that Ethiopia has been ruled by an enemy rule no matter what the mother tongue of the enemy is. The problem is that Messay contradicts himself by saying that the enemy which rules Ethiopia is a Tigre group and this group can work for development of Ethiopia if it shares power with the ―opposition parties‖. However unbelievable it may be, Messay tells us that one can be Tigrayan and the sworn enemy of Ethiopia. There is no telling where Messay has found that idle crotchet. Anyway, so long as Messay does not deny the Ethiopianity of the natives of Tigray, he cannot show how one can be anti-Ethiopia and Ethiopian at the same time. Like other Amhara intellectuals and politicians, Messay is mired in self contradiction. That is why also he says the ―opposition parties‖ can share power with an anti-Ethiopian Tigre group. Would it have been possible for our ancestors to envision the possibility of power sharing with Italian fascist invaders? How can you envision power sharing with those who came to humiliate you, to reduce you to slavery, to destroy your history, your national language, your religion? And what leads you to believe that the enemy who is bent on destroying you once and for all is ready to share power with you? I am afraid that Messay should be the spiritual descendant of Afewerk Gebreyesus who pleaded that Ethiopians should accept Italian colonial rule for the sake of modernization. Messay would certainly retort that the ―TPLF‖ is a Tigray organization although it is antiEthiopian. Why does Messay put a tribalist slant on the problems of Ethiopia if his aim is to defend Ethiopia? Doesn‘t Messay say incessantly that he is against ― ethnic politics‖ It is very unfortunate for Ethiopia that Amhara intellectuals and politicians have developed a genius for putting a tribalist slant on what is essentially a problem of loss of national independence! One thing is certain, though. However hard Messay and Amhara intellectuals and politicians may try to convince us that one can be a Tigrayan and the archenemy of Ethiopia, we Tigrayans will never accept such a sheer blinking political and intellectual idiocy.
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The reason is simple. It is against our history and our Ethiopian identity. Messay or Amhara intellectuals need not tell the natives of Tigray what it means to be Ethiopian (Tigrayan). They should rather relearn to accept that a Tigrayan is an Ethiopian nationalist. Period. I defy any Ethiopian intellectual to come up with a well-reasoned argument showing that one can be Ethiopian (Tigrayan) and anti-Ethiopian at the same time. Don‘t try to repeat G7‘s argument which consists to say that the ―ministry of defense‖ and the economic sector is totally monopolized by ―Tigrayans‖. This is a backward and pro-Shabia argument intended at pitting Ethiopians against each other. Because, unless the aim is to mask the true Eritrean identity of the TPLF, we Ethiopians don‘t care about the mother tongue of those who rule our country. For the Ethiopian people what is crucial is to know whether those who rule Ethiopia work for the defense of Ethiopian sovereignty and territorial integrity or whether they work to destroy Ethiopia. In nutshell, the yardstick of Ethiopiawinet (or being Tigraway) is the defense of Ethiopian sovereignty and territorial integrity. As stated previously, Messay Kebbede has never been a defender of Ethiopian sovereignty and territorial integrity. To the contrary, he exhorted Ethiopians to accept the violation of Ethiopian sovereignty and territorial integrity for the sake of what he called ―modernization‖. His latest article is rehash of that despite the esoteric discourse about developmental state. The gist of Messay‘s message can be summed up as follows. ―Let‘s give to Melis Zinwi the guarantee that we Ethiopians endorse his decision to render our country landlocked, to steal Ethiopian territories and to cede them to the Sudan and to Eritrea. Let‘s give him also the guarantee that he would not be held to account for the huge amount of money he stole on his own behalf and on behalf of his Eritrea. In exchange, Melis Zinwi must share power with ―us‖‖. Melis Zinwi and his hirelings must be very happy with Messay‘s anti-Ethiopia manifesto. For the nth time, Messay is demobilizing eighty six million Ethiopians. Although Messay has been the number one demobilizer of the Ethiopian people, he is not the only one. Daniel Kindie is another example. Messay Kebbede and Daniel Kindie have one thing in common in the sense that they seize upon every opportunity to segregate the Tigray people from the rest of Ethiopia. As readers may remember, Daniel Kindie once said that the ―TPLF‖ had a project of creating a Tigray republic. This could mean three different things. It could mean that the TPLF would separate Tigray from Ethiopia with the help of the Tigray people. It could mean also the TPLF could try to separate Tigray from Ethiopia despite the opposition of the Tigray people. But we can also say that since the TPLF is an Eritrean organization, it will try to separate Tigray from the rest of Ethiopia so that Tigray would be
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used as a buffer zone to protect Eritrea. Undoubtedly, the preference of Daniel Kindie goes to the idea that TPLF would separate Tigray with the help of Tigray people. That is why he is concerned more about Welkait and Tsegede being part of Tigray than about the further dismemberment of Ethiopia. That explains also why Daniel has never told Ethiopians to strengthen their national unity against any Eritrean attempt to further dismember Ethiopia. To the contrary, he came up with an imaginary map of the so-called Tigray Republic. Many innocent Ethiopians believed him even though he did nothing other than repeating the same old trick of putting a Tigray label on what is indisputably an Eritrean organization. It is difficult for me to understand what led Daniel Kindie to ―believe‖ that Tigray would not fight together with their fellow Ethiopians against any attempt by the Eritrean secessionist organization calling itself ―TPLF‖ to separate Tigray from the rest of the country. If only Daniel and others of his ilk knew Tigray. But there is one very amazing thing about Daniel Kindie. He does not see any contradiction between his declared anti-Tigray bias and his plea for the rapprochement of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Wouldn‘t it be more urgent to fight against the poisonous anti-Tigray Amhara intellectual tribalism (including against his own) rather than making a meaningless plea for the return of Eritrea. What does Ethiopia stand to gain from Eritrea‘s return? Daniel Kindie argues that Ethiopia could not achieve economic development without cooperation with Eritrea. One can argue that the chief reason why Daniel Kindie pleads for Eritrea‘s return is probably he is not aware of the fact that the reunification of Eritrea in 1952 contributed to the postponement of modern national building in Ethiopia. If he were aware of that, he would probably not plead that Eritrea should be given a second chance to return to the bosom of God‘s chosen people. But if we were to follow Daniel Kindie, what iron-cast guarantees do we have that the Hamasin will not be used again by Arabs to wage a proxy war against Ethiopia? Without Eritrea not only our country would not be today under foreign military occupation, but a part of our territory would not be stolen by the Hamasin occupation force and be ceded to neighboring countries. So, instead of causing more problems to our own country by pleading for the return of ungrateful Eritrea, we should rather work hard to strengthen our internal cohesion so that our country can regain its stolen territory of the Assab Autonomous Administrative Region (i.e., the area inhabited by our Afar compatriots) annexed to Eritrea by the occupation force.
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Let it be observed that my opposition against the return of Eritrea to Ethiopia even as a simple province is not motivated by any hate toward the Hamasin. My opposition is based solely on love for my own country, which country has not yet unfortunately produced nationalist elite capable of raising up to the challenges of modern nation-building. My conviction is that the Hamasin will never be genuine Ethiopians nor do they deserve to be allowed to return again into the bosom of the chosen people. If by miracle Eritrea were to be an economic success story, I bet that no Hamasin would envisage confederating her province with Ethiopia. Moreover, it is because the Hamasin don‘t feel Ethiopians that some Hamasin like TesfaTsion Medhanie plead for a confederal arrangement. This is clear evidence that if Eritrea returns to Ethiopia, the Hamasin elite (yes I say the elite and not the people) will be an obstacle to nation building in Ethiopia as it has been for the last fifty years. The Hamasin intellectual Diaspora has made tawdry attempts to smear Ethiopia by peddling unmitigated lies. Under such circumstances, it would be silly to think that the new Hamasin generation brought up with a rabid Ethiopian hatred would develop an Ethiopian we feeling. So, although historically at least half of Christian Eritrea is of Tigray origin which emigrated to Eritrea between 1910-1930 in search for work and even though the Ethiopianity of Eritrea is not open to doubt, the imperative of building a strong Ethiopian nation in the twenty first century militates against any rapprochement with Eritrea. If by misfortune Ethiopian politicians were to decide to establish a federal or a confederal arrangement with Eritrea, the Ethiopian people in general and the Tigray people in particular should, for the sake of their nation‘s well-being, prevent that from happening if necessary by taking up arms against the powers that be. I must repeat that this has nothing to do with any hate toward the Hamasin. The objective of keeping the Hamasin at bay is to spare the next generation of Ethiopians the ordeals of war, under-development and the deferment of modern nation-building faced up by our generation owing to the mistakes made in 1952 to reunite an extremely under-developed and depersonalized Eritrea with Ethiopia, a proud independent country, which was preindustrial but certainly not under-developed. I say the Hamasin suffer from depersonalization because among the formerly colonized peoples of the world, they are the only ones to consider the European rule reducing them to colonial slavery and washing of dishes as a sign of their modernization. This alone is a compelling reason to prevent them from becoming again part of the God‘s chosen people.
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That being said, Daniel Kindie should know that nothing is solved between Ethiopia and its renegade province. Once the occupying force is chased away from Ethiopia, Eritrea will be forced to return the territories, resources and money which EPLF and TPLF gangsters stole on its behalf from Ethiopia. The Hamasin should not forget the Ethiopian saying: rist beshi ametu lebalebetu. It remains to be seen under what conditions a future government of liberated Ethiopia will recognize Eritrea. Whatever may be the policies of liberated Ethiopia toward Eritrea, Ethiopia is too old, too big, too populous and too potentially rich to be associated with Lilliputian Eritrea. If Ethiopians succeed in building an internally cohesive nation, if we can sweep away the moral decay, treason, corruption, opportunism, tribalism, immorality, illegality, disrespectful attitude towards each other left behind by the anachronistic regime of Haileslassie, by the renegade student movement of the 1960‘s and the early 1970‘s, by the bestial Derg regime, and that which will be left by the Hamasin occupation force and its collaborators, the destiny of our country is to be a very important geopolitical player in Africa and in the Middle-East in general and in North-East Africa in particular. So, instead of trying to distract Ethiopians by raising the irrelevant issue of mending fences with Eritrea, we Ethiopians should rather concentrate all our efforts on strengthening our internal cohesion, because that is the only means to liberate our country from the rule by the foreign occupation forces. In addition to the problem of nation-building, there is another factor which militates against the return of Eritrea in any form. I want to talk about the demographic explosion. By the year 2025, the population of Ethiopia will have been somewhere in the region of 120 million. If our country is lucky enough to be ruled by a new generation of patriotic and competent Ethiopians committed to making it the economic power house of Africa, it will be possible to convert the demographic dividend into economic miracle. But feeding, educating, finding work, housing and providing efficient heath service to the population will also be a formidable challenge to our country. Meeting successfully such a challenge would certain require that federalism as an option be rejected. If by misfortune Ethiopians were to hold brief for ―federalists‖ such Daniel Kindie, federalism will lead to spend a lot of money to pay the salary of bureaucrats instead of enabling the Ethiopian people to eat three times a day and to have access to efficient educational, administrative and heath services. What I am saying is that federalism will militate against the improvement of the living conditions of the Ethiopia people. What our country needs is a strong unitary state, strong in the sense one capable of mapping out and pursuing vigorously a dynamic political and economic development agenda
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with the active participation of the Ethiopian people. Why advocate federalism whereas our country did not have a unitary state let alone a centralized one? Ethiopian intellectuals and politicians are convinced to the contrary. They believe that Menelikean and post Menelikean Ethiopia (1916-1991) had a centralized state, which is why some writers even go as far as saying that centralization was an obstacle to the modernization of Ethiopia (Messay Kebbede, 1999). The truth is that if Ethiopia had had a centralized state administration that could have by no means been by itself an obstacle to modernization, all the more so since most of the industrialized countries of the planet have a centralized administration. The problem of pre1991 Ethiopia was not the centralization of power. The number one problem was that political power was considered by rulers as their own real estate and they used it for personal aggrandizement and for controlling the people rather than for transforming the society. Under the Derg, individual rule couched in the personal cult of Mengistu, where the latter ruled according to his whims and caprice. There was nothing which could stop Mengistu even when it became very clear that he was driving the country on the road to ruin. Unfortunately, the mistaken belief that ‖ state centralization‖ was used as a means of oppressing the Ethiopian people has now led centrifugal forces such as MEDREK (whose leadership is composed of individuals whose loyalty to the Ethiopian nation is questionable) to say that federalism is a panacea for Ethiopia. Once again, this shows that Ethiopians are looking for a solution without correctly diagnosing the political ills of the country. I hasten to add that Ethiopia has nothing to gain from federalism but everything to lose from it. Federalism will certainly be part of the problem and never part of the solution. Federalism will militate against the political and economic nation building of twenty first century Ethiopia. It is because federalism creates more problems that it does not exist elsewhere in Africa. The only country which considers itself as federal state is Nigeria. We should however know that federalism in Nigeria has been used as a means of divide and rule, and not as an instrument of nation building. The Nigerian elite has made the bad choice of weakening centrifugal forces (through territorial balkanization) rather than building a strong central state capable of satisfying the political and economic aspirations of its people. When it comes to our country, Ethiopian history shows that the weakening of the central state had always been a source of great suffering for the Ethiopian people. For example, the decline of Axumite Ethiopia and the loss of full control of the Red Sea area were due to the weakening of the central state. Ethiopia‘s Axumite kings could not control effectively the
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Beja population who rebelled against the central state. Under kings Amda Tsion (1314-1344) and Zera Yacob (1434-1468) Ethiopia had a strong state whose territory was as big more or less as the Ethiopia of the 1970‘s. However, the fateful decision of king Beide Mariam (14681478) to reverse the centralizing policies of his father, king Zera Yacob weakened the central state that some decades later, a young man of 19 named Ahmed Ibn Ibrahim (alias Gragn) rebelled against the central government and wreaked havoc on the country between 1526 and 1542. King Gelawdewos (1540-1559) defeated Gragn and restored the authority of the weakened state by establishing his ―capital‖ in what is today the Southern Ethiopian region of Arssi. But the able Gelawdewos did not seem to be interested in reimposing central authority over Harar. That had enabled Gragn‘s nephew, Nur Ibn Mujahid, to have more time to make the necessary military preparations and to rebel against the central government in 1558 and to even kill and behead Gelawdewos in 1559. Gelawdewos was then succeeded by his elder brother, Minas (1559-1563). But King Minas was not of the same stature as Gelawdewos. After four years of reign, Minas was succeeded by his son of thirteen years old who, under the royal name of Sertsa Dengel (1563-1597), was to become one of the greatest kings. However,the fiscal and military decentralization measures taken by Sertsa Dengel with view to warding off the threat of Ottoman incursion in the north and to stopping the Oromo internal migration in the South resulted eventually in the advent of the zemana mesafint (1755-1855). Sertsa Dengel could have rebuilt a strong central state had he not dispersed himself fighting against the Ottomans and their stooge, Bahri negash Yishak, in the North, the Beta isra‘el in the north-west and the Oromo in the south and South West. Although history is not made with ifs, Sertsa Dengel could have integrated the Oromo into the state rather than trying in vain to rebuff them. Four years after his reign, i.e. in 1567, Sertsa Dengel succeeded in rebuffing the Oromo from the present day area of Jimma. But as the Oromo needed more space, they were unstoppable. The inexorable march of the Oromo toward the South, South-west, central and northern Ethiopia had debilitating consequences for the state to the extent that Ethiopian kings were forced to abandon the south and the south-western part of the country to it‘s fate and to flee to northern Ethiopia with view to avoiding encountering the Oromo. Ethiopian kings thought that Gondar could be their safe haven. But the Oromo followed Ethiopian kings where they moved on. Thanks to their exceptional military capacity, the Oromo even became king makers as they helped the apostate king Susenyos (1607-1632) to take power at the expense of Sertsa Dengel‘s sons. After the abdication of Susenyos, his son, Fasiledes was crowned as king. The reign of Fasildes witnessed the further territorial contraction of the country and the diminution of the prestige of the Solomonic monarchy. Indeed, Gondar
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epitomized the military and the political atrophy of the central state, although it witnessed the renaissance of Ethiopian arts and architecture. What is remarkable about the Oromo is that only three decades after the premature death of Sertsa Dengel at the age of 47, did they become a force to be reckoned with in the Ethiopian political landscape whilst they had been at the periphery of Ethiopia (Borona) until Ibn Ibrahim Ahmed‘s rebellion against the central government in 1526. One can wonder if the Zamana mesafint (i.e. the atrophy of the central state) would have been possible without the Oromo internal migration. Be that as it may, the Zamana mesafint, which era witnessed the apotheosis of Oromo political domination of Ethiopia, had the negative consequence of separating northern Ethiopia from Southern Ethiopia. After its political integration to the Ethiopian state for almost two hundred years, Southern Ethiopia started a separate evolution from northern Ethiopia because of the lack of will on the part of the Oromo aristocracy ruling northern Ethiopia (with the exception of Northern Shewa and Tigray) to reunite the north and the south by creating a central state. Fortunately for Ethiopia, Menelik II applied himself seriously to the task of reuniting the south and the North after almost three centuries of separation. Oddly enough, Menelik never tried to put in place a centralized administration, although he presided over the territorial division of the country into administrative regions called Awraja. Before Menelik, king Tewodros had tried to reinstate the Solomonic state by abolishing the hereditary character of regional governments which had come into being during the Zamana Mesafint. However, Tewodros‘ project for Ethiopia was too good, too revolutionary to be implemented. After one hundred years of anarchy, it was very difficult to abolish overnight the hereditary nature of regional governments. Because of their revolutionary character, Tewodros‘s policies even led his own close relatives to rise in armed opposition against him (Shiferaw Bekele). That explains also why Yohanes renounced pursuing Tewodros‘ project of creating a strong central state. But the lack of will on the part of king Yohanes (albeit his military superiority) to put in place a centralized administration enabled Menelik to be in cahoots with the enemies of Ethiopia: the Egyptians and the Italians (Harold Marcus, 1975, Zewde Gebreselasse, 1975). Had Yohanes not been killed by one of Tigray‘s provincial rulers, Ethiopia would not have survived the colonial encounter, because of the otherwise inevitable fratricidal war between Yohanes and Menelik. Thanks to the assassination of Yohanes by one of his own men, Menelik was able to rally all Ethiopians around him in 1896 and to defeat the Italians. However, Menelik was not a nation builder. He was more obsessed with weakening his northern adversaries in general and Tigray in
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particular than in strengthening the defensive capacity of the nation. He was more afraid of Tigray than of the colonial powers which encircled Ethiopia. Although Tigray fought heroically against the Italians to defend their country‘s independence and their king‘s throne, Menelik chose to be ungrateful and disrespectful toward them. He refused to treat Tigray respectfully as he himself had been treated when he was governor of Shewa. The curse started to hang over Ethiopia when Menelik decided to marginalize Tigray, the core of God‘s chosen people. It was a strange thing on part of Menelik to claim his genealogy of Tigray and to refuse at the same to be the king of the Tigray people, too. I don‘t know if Menelik‘s claim of Tigray descent was made for political reasons or if his claim was based on the awareness of the historical fact What is certain is that Menelik fought against Tigray in 1899 and in 1909 while acquiescing to the demands of the British for the restriction of Ethiopia‘s internal sovereignty by not constructing a dam on the lake Tana. Menelik was the first Ethiopian king to accept the restriction of the internal sovereignty of God‘s chosen people in favor of nonchosen people. He had no internal adversary, but he squandered the historical opportunity of presiding over nation-building, which unique opportunity none of his predecessors had had. One can imagine how Tewodros would have worked for the modernization of the country if, like Menelik, he had had the chance of having the whole Ethiopian people behind him. Because of Menelik‘s lack of will to work for nation-building and the inability of the generation of intellectuals to rectify those errors, Menelik‘s patriotic and noble campaign of reunifying the country is now considered by some quarters as a colonial ―empire building‖. Although it is a conceptual error to describe Ethiopia as an empire, it is nonetheless indicative of the absence of nation-building in contemporary Ethiopia. Centralization is one way of nation-building inasmuch as it implies the integration of the peripheral elite into the national decision making process. So, if there had been centralization, it would have been necessarily accompanied by the integration of the regional northern and southern Ethiopian elites into the decision making process at national, regional and district levels. This did not happen in twentieth century Ethiopia. The moral of this cursory look at Ethiopian history is that we Ethiopians have not succeeded in establishing a strong central state for almost five hundred years. It is for this reason that Daniel Kindie seems to me a dangerous idealist. We cannot put the future of our country in jeopardy for the sake of bringing back the Hamasin. So in light of this historical experience, Ethiopians are well advised to reject completely any future federalization of their country. I
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understand that some Ethiopians are wedded to federalism, because they are fearful of the return of ―Amhara‖ rule. The point is that Amhara rule never existed in Ethiopian history. It must not be forgotten that this generation has been paying a steep price as a result of the wrong diagnosis of the political anatomy of twentieth century Ethiopia by the intellectual generation of the 1960‘s and the early 1970‘s. Who can deny that Haileselassie and Mengistu wielded an absolute power, and that neither the Ethiopian people in general nor the ―Amhara‖ in particular could stop those two autocratic and unpatriotic rulers? Besides, it is perfectly possible to enjoy under a unitary state all the supposed advantages that a federal system may offer.
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Messay Kebede and his "Manifesto" By Tecola Hagos | June 20, 2011 In our troubled times, the written word is a powerful tool. I am referring to the recent article by Professor Messay Kebede titled “Meles‟s Political Dilemma and the Developmental State: Dead-Ends and Exit” that has been posted in most Ethiopian Websites on 15th June 2011, which has started a tsunami of controversial ideas. I found also some well written pieces in response to the article by Messay Kebede, which comments and criticisms I read with great interest, such as the pieces by Said Hassan [―A Rejoinder of Professor Messay‟s article: „Meles‟s Political Dilemma…‟”], Abiye Teklemariam [―Mind the Jump: A Brief Response to Prof. Messay Kebede”] et cetera. Thus, let me interject that one must read the statements of our fellow Ethiopians with alertness, care, and respect. This article or ―manifesto,‖ as Messay identified it, is a piece of writing which raised and resolved several complex issues in mere twelve pages that others would have written books and still fail to reach the profound insights that Messay generously shared with us. I wish Messay had not used the word ―manifesto‖ to identify his article, for the piece is far more insightful and reasoned than being mere reductionist declaratory advocacy that a ―manifesto‖ usually is. First, let me consider in much generalized form what some of the critics of the Article by Messay had written: in case of Said, the criticism revolves around allegation that Messay had left out some significant aspects of a ―developmental State‖ vis-à-vis the situation of Ethiopia under Meles Zenawi and his EPRDF supporters; and in case of Abiye, an expressed ―deep disenchantment‖ of Messay‘s ―abandonment‖ of the election based democratic development struggle, for elite-controlled authoritarian ―developmental state‖ processes. Of course, both Said and Abiye have stated much more in their responses, both authors have augmented their comments with theoretical insights and practical observations of our Ethiopian struggle for ―democracy.‖ I understand the concerns of both, for their concerns are genuine and very much well known to us all from their long list of articles and commentaries posted in Websites and their long standing unwavering opposition to oppressive and dehumanizing political and economic systems focusing on Ethiopia under the iron-rule of Meles Zenawi and his supporters.
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I see misunderstanding in the reading of Messay‘s Article by very many other readers as well, who actually cared to read the Article (highly commendable) and shared their comments. I read also very few belligerent and irresponsible statements that were completely out of line. Personal attack in all instances is ad homineum, it does not enlighten or expand the discourse at hand; it is more of a detraction and undermines the seriousness of the subject matter under consideration. As an aside, I have noticed in general in recent time that there is a decline of Ethiopians attacking each other in delinquent and irresponsible manners in blogs/websites except in Warka. I give great credit for such positive changes in the polite and disciplined responses of very many Ethiopians, such as Eskinder Nega, Abebe Gelaw, Abiye Teklemariam, Said Hassan, Teodros Kiros, Lt. Ayal-Sew Dessie, Seyee Abraha, Fekadu Bekele, Aregawi Berhe, and Messay Kebede himself who under fire in websites, public conferences, and/or radio programs lead the way in civility. Actually, several more could be listed here. I do have serious disagreements with some of the aforementioned individuals; nevertheless, I acknowledge here their contributions in presenting their ideas with manifest respect of their audience, for they have greatly ennobled public discourse. I hope we all adopt their public demeanor in dealing with some belligerents or hacklers. What seems to have irked both Said and Abiye, for example, Messay in his article is not defending or writing an apology for ―developmental states‖ economic theories. For example, Abiye wrote, ―It seems to me that what prompts Messay to consider this path to democratization is his enthusiasm for the developmental state.‖ Here is where the first misunderstanding starts. Messay is merely explaining what ―developmental states‖ stands for, what local conditions need be taken into account, how genuine the leadership ought to be or whether the leadership has the capacity to carry out the intricate structural adjustments that need be made, et cetera. I understand there is a very thin line between explanation and justification. Some may have misunderstood the essence of Messay‘s article and may have read it as justification rather than for what it truly is—an explanation and discussion of a concept. Messay is not supportive of the ―developmental States‖ let alone the brutally oppressive Government of Meles Zenawi. It would require some tortured logic to squeeze out such finding form the Article by Messay. There are, on the other hand, some pointed superb discussions on the point of democratization (on its philosophy and manifestations), about a magical point in the life of a struggle where the breakthrough to democracy manifests. Especially, I find Abiye‘s statements, in defending
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views that he thought was abrogated or abandoned by Messay, namely the roughs in liberal democracy vs. neo-liberal democracy and the process of development quite impressive, but presumptuous. The attempt to delaminate philosophical theory from economic theory is futile, for we may be surprised to find how interconnected the two are. This is a situation where we are in circular argument, the old dilemma of the ―chicken or the egg.‖ My concern goes beyond mere issues of rhetorical arguments, but why must we need to have contrasts to understand problems. I find the same type of problems in mathematics ―equalization‖ process too, to mention an analogy to better understand my concerns. Why should there be such designation in order to understand a situation. The economic ramifications is even more problematic, bordering the absurd if we try to use the economic concepts that go with neoliberalism in case of Ethiopia whose economy is not of consequence in the global economic system of globalization. I find it quite presumptuous for us Ethiopians to be hairsplitting between liberalism and neoliberalism when we are the least developed nation on earth with minuscule involvement in the global economy. Labeling and categorization had done us tremendous harm in the past. I cannot forget the countless Ethiopians murdered as a result of pseudo Marxist theoreticians and military thugs who wiped out whole generations of Ethiopians by labeling them ―Adharis,‖ Tsere Abyotegnoch‖ et cetera. I am always skeptical about any argument that is based on definitions of particular words. I prefer to consider the facts of a case and the circumstance in which it figures rather to match label to some selected facts or situation. The dispute whether a ―developmental state‖ is a democratic state seems superfluous, for it seems to equate economic development with democratic system of government, which of course is not a bright argument or supposition. All one needs to present is the case of China, or the case of former Soviet Union, or the cases of countless East European countries and Latin American countries; even the United States is a borderline socialist state with its social welfare system and extensive regulation of production not to mention its extortionist tax system that effectively redistribute income. We soon find out that we are dealing with shades rather than stark or sharp contrasts. The dispute could be resolved by defining what is meant by development and what is meant by democracy. It is possible to see a confluence point for such understanding, and we will have less zeal in establishing differences, but devotion in finding solutions.
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Messay is not a hasty thinker; he is capable of maintaining sustained discourse on a subject matter for years at times. He is a reflective thinker, as would be expected of his caliber and stature. We had several conversations on such issues on Meles Zenawi and the political and economic situation of Ethiopia. Although our discourse was contentious, we usually seem to end up with similar conclusions on a number of controversial issues including the many points Messay discussed in his article. The reason I am saying all this is to lay out some background setting. However, I have serious disagreement on some suppositions Messay has made in his article, although not that important in the overall picture of his analytical essay. He made the unnecessary delaminating between power and wealth in characterizing the leaders of the EPRDF and TPLF, namely between Meles and his supporters ―cronies‖ as Messay would call them. ―One outcome of Meles‘s rise to absolute power that could turn out positive is his ability to dismantle the rent-seeking state. I venture to say that absolute power has given Meles some autonomy vis-à-vis his followers; I even suggest that a disparity between his interests and that of his followers is inevitable. The passion of Meles is power; the goal of his followers is enrichment. The rent-seeking activities that they use to enrich themselves prevent Meles from achieving the economic growth by which he can justify his control of absolute power. He has now the choice of maintaining the old structure, with the consequences that his power will become increasingly fragile, or resolutely dissolve it through reforms. In order to do the latter, he needs the support of the opposition.‖ [page 11] I believe in order to make such grand distinction about the motives of political players, Messay, must depend on careful individual psychological profiling of Meles Zenawi and his supporters. In short of that, one may make guarded suppositions based on empirical evidences collected over a period of time on the life-histories of the same. In both Meles and his supporters‘ cases, their families‘ histories establish the facts of their poverty, almost all coming from poor rural or semi-urbanized peasant families. Meles‘s primary needs from childhood to the time of his adulthood were of the material kind; he is no different than Mengistu Hailemariam‘s social and economic poverty as his background. He suffered social ostracization, poverty, and social stigma of a different kind, but no less traumatic than the one suffered by Mengistu. Thus, in contradistinction to what Messay‘s thesis, I hold that Meles‘s first and foremost motive must have been the acquisition
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of wealth and material security rather than power. And he used that control of material wealth to acquire political power, and more wealth, with the absurd result that he now controls fabulous wealth estimated to be worth billions of dollars. Even now with all his billions, people who knew him closely say that he is the stingiest/miserly individual in the TPLF. Thus, the deriving motive for Meles and almost all of the TPLF members first and foremost was materially secured existence. I have not seen in my research of over fifteen years any convincing evidence of Ethiopian nationalism or patriotism in the history of TPLF and its Leaders. The moving force behind all the power struggle and tenacious attachment to power is insatiable greed for money and wealth. Messay is clearly convinced that Meles cannot bring about even the ―developmental State‖ let alone democracy based on elections because Meles‘s interest is in staying in power, and not economic development per se, but Messay also points out the eternal contradiction that Meles‘s pursuit of power stands in conflict with economic developmental changes that need be in place to maintain the state structure and Meles‘s power. Messay was not advocating that Meles must do this or that, but simply pointing out the fault lines where Meles Zenawi falters and the deep chasm of political and economic outlooks and understanding between Meles and his supporters in Government and/or the EPRDF. ―To the question of whether Meles and his cronies are anywhere close to being a developmental elite, the answer is, of course, no. This negative answer does not, however, mean that they are unable to become developmental. I am not saying that some such transformation will occur or that it is inevitable. As a strong skeptic of determinism in history, I am simply referring to the possibility inherent in the human person to finally make the right choice and laying some conditions necessary to effect the transformation. Since my position will certainly cause an array of objections, even angry attacks, it is necessary that I set out the arguments liable to back it up.‖ [page 9, emphasis mine in bold] Messay went on explaining the basic theory of transformations and theories on power. His statements are not justifications for a particular action or program helpful for Meles and his supporters; rather it explained the situation most likely to be the case. In this instance, Messay is at best just sharing his conjectures based on his deep understanding of both philosophical underpinnings of political systems and the surprises of historical reality in the day to day life
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of a system with people in it, and at worst one may dismiss it as some wild speculation of an aging Marxist. I prefer the former. I admire Messay Kebede greatly, he is one of the finest philosophers I had the good fortune to have met in my life, even comparing him with some of my own teachers who are quite renowned philosophers. He is my enduring good friend, a man of great charm, who is a truly polite and civilized man. And I say all these with emotion, for I am witness of Messay‘s greatest love being Ethiopia, all of it. He is someone I could entrust the fate of Ethiopia. It is of no interest to me how he lived his intellectual life before 1991. What I see in Messay now is a sincere deep thinker who loves his country and his people dearly. It pains me greatly when we translate our failure in understanding his profound and deep thoughts and attack his person because of our own mediocrity or hasty conclusions. The highly informative and well presented criticisms and/or statements by Said Hassan and Abiye Teklemariam on Messay‘s Article are not in the categories I am castigating. In fact, such brief responses by two greatly gifted and skilled scholars are of tremendous importance in promoting discourse and understanding with depth. I commend them both. My concern here is that even the best of us could make mistaken assessments under our overcharged political and economic circumstances. And such differences of views ought not be raised to a point of condemnations or personal attacks. I believe there is a misunderstanding, maybe a confusion between what is being offered by Messay as an explanation and hypothetical positing of our current political and economic situation, and a perceived justification of unacceptable flirtation with the work of a deranged and brutal dictator Meles Zenawi, whose traitorous crimes against the State of Ethiopia and the People of Ethiopia will never be excused on any ground. God Bless Ancient and Lovable Ethiopia.
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Some remarks on Messay's article By Demeke Taye | June 20, 2011 I read Professor Messay Kebede‘s article, ―Meles Zenawi‘s Political Dilemma and the Developmental State: Dead End and Exit.‖As usual Professor Messay comes through as passionate as ever about his country, Ethiopia. As one of the leading and active observers of Ethiopian politics, he comes up with different perspectives to help us come out of the dilemma we all are in. Looking at the article from this angle I have nothing but admiration for his thoughts and reflections. Ethiopia is in a comprehensive crisis and we all should think of how to come out of this quack mire. This entails that all of us should come up with some idea how to do so, and this must be welcomed by all of us. The old student notion of my way or the highway should be put to rest. I believe that people who jump to attack the character of persons rather than evaluate their ideas are short of ideas themselves. People use curses because they do not want to think and because they do not have ideas to advance. Our student days saw this approach and we all know what the result has been. Professor Messay‘s Article deals with a number of important points regarding the current political situation in Ethiopia, but the main focus is about the developmental state and what it needs as a prerequisites. He enumerates the lacking requirements in Ethiopia by referring to other developmental states in the world. Some of the requirements mentioned include a comprehensive economic betterment to all, the independence of the bureaucrats, and the judiciary, and the vision by the ruling party to move towards an inclusive political system. The party in power in Ethiopia has a very narrow social base and stays in power because it controls the means of coercion. It is scarred of any coalition because it fears that its power will be eroded and loses power. Meles is talking about development and economic growth because he sees in it a way to avoid revolt by the masses of Ethiopia. Messay suggests that Meles can be encouraged to move to compromise if the opposition can show him the way to do so and thus free him from his base is, to say the least, a very optimistic view of Meles. I do not think Meles is capable of thinking such long-term strategies. Meles has shown some ability, like most Ethiopians, in dealing with imminent and immediate problems, not envisaging grand political strategies. Perhaps Messay‘s article may give him some idea of what he should do in the long run. Given the political culture we have had, it is hard to believe
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that Meles and his followers will give much thought to what should be done in the long run, and more importantly, they may feel that compromise is defeat and surrender. What is said about Meles and his followers apply to the opposition groups too, in that they too will see compromise as surrender and defeat. I think the great challenge to Messay‘s idea is the ingrained political culture in Ethiopia. Somehow, we Ethiopians, think in terms of either winning all or losing it all. In conclusion we should welcome Messay‘s idea and we should discuss it. If Messay‘s idea has place in the political culture of Ethiopia, then we can build on what is positive and move on to a higher plane; we do not have to start from zero and build everything up from nothing.
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A few points on democracy vs development By Wondemhunegn Ezezew | June 23, 2011 The ongoing debate on the relevance of the ―developmental state‖ for Ethiopia has been really encouraging. Though I was intrigued by Prof. Messay‘s emphasis on the role of the elite in shaping the historical courses of their respective countries, I did not, however, like the authoritarian flavor that he wished to generously lavish upon them. Why would one choose to hold onto the authoritarian road when we could follow the democratic one? Now I do not want to bombard you with all sorts of definition about democracy. I think, for the present purpose, we all agree that apart from the periodic elections and other rituals associated with them, democracies are generally supported by the triple-pillar of accountability, transparency and legitimacy, which together constitute the supremacy of the law. Where the rule of law is the highest authority, there can be no arbitrary violations of human and property rights, officials and bureaucrats will be held accountable in the event they misuse their positions and public resources, and the media will serve as a strong arm of the country‘s justice system by investigating and exposing political scandals and corrupt practices. To the extent that these things are the main parts and components that make up a democratic society, I do not see why they shouldn‘t comprise the precondition for development. After all, development is all about the effective utilization of a country‘s available resources to generate the maximum possible benefits for its citizens. If the system in place prevents or discourages the active monitoring and supervision over how these resources are used, then the entire project about achieving all-round development will be an exercise in futility. There is no doubt that the elite everywhere are the makers and breakers of their own societies. But they are more successful in discharging their social duties and responsibilities when they operate in democratic and transparent ways. So, in order to substantiate my case and convince you that democracy is a must for development, at least for Ethiopia, we will briefly look at the role of different elites in morphing their countries‘ politics, economy, and social development through some comparative lens that guides us across China, Nigeria, Botswana, and Greece. China Most of the pro-developmental state argument will not, typically, wrap up its journey without showering lots of praises on the remarkable achievements of China, which is often upheld as the paragon of a successful state-directed capitalist society. It is true that China‘s hands-on
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approach has delivered spectacular economic outcomes in terms of ensuring sustained economic growth for over three decades and lifting more than 250 million of its citizens out of poverty during the same period. But no matter how beautifully one portrays the miraculous economic performance China enjoyed since 1978, the hard facts remain that it is more the result of gradual erosion of the government‘s role in directing the national economy and the subsequent rise of private capital and responsibility, not the other way around. Reform, Reform and Reform One widely dispersed, and often mistaken, assertion about China‘s economic successes in particular and the attendant monomania with the ―Beijing Consensus‖ in general is that people wrongly attribute this success to the authoritarian features of the Communist Part of China (CCP), which is often assumed to have controlled the magic wand that kept the country‘s unprecedented economic expansion going for a long time now. The truth, however, is that China‘s strong growth and prosperity are the result of continuous reform, opening of the economy to foreign capital and expertise, gradual decentralisation in the organization of production, and with it the increasing shrinkage of government presence in the economic scene. China‘s reform train began with the Household Responsibility System (HRS) in agriculture which dismantled the Maoist collective farms and allowed greater active participation of families in production and marketing decisions. Though the HRS still imposed quota requirements, it however empowered households to enjoy greater autonomy over the utilization of their surplus value, such as to dispose it at market determined prices at will. This new found relative freedom and autonomy combined with the prospect of making more money from selling their extra-quota produce encouraged farmers to spend more time and resources on their farms which further increased the quality and quantity of food production. Though the legal framework governing land use and ownership rights is far from complete, the there is no doubt that the HRS has played a pivotal role in transforming China‘s agriculture for the better. China which lost over 30 million of its population to famine under Mao‘s failed collectivization programmes became more than self-sufficient within five year period (1978-1983) and net food exporter (1983-2004). The CCP is not just a self-selected group wishing to hold onto power at all costs. Besides the economic re-organization of production under the HRS, the Chinese political elite have made
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enormous efforts to modernize the country‘s agricultural sector by deploying new technologies and innovative methods of production. When the reform programme was launched in 1978, less than 30% of China‘s 13 million hectare of arable land had irrigation facilities; today more than 50% China‘s agricultural land is irrigated. China is also among the top countries (after Japan, South Korea and Holland) in the world in terms of fertilizer application per unit of hectare, with fertilizer consumption level more than twice the world average. The government also actively promotes intensive agriculture by earmarking substantial funds for research, demonstration, capital investment, infrastructure and marketing support. The Chinese reformers were far from being complacent. Having achieved remarkable productivity gains in agriculture and having made great strides in ensuring food security, they pushed similar radical reforms in other sectors of the economy albeit ―with Chinese characteristics‖—on gradual, piecemeal, incremental and cautious approaches. On the industrial front, Chinese politicians followed even stronger decentralization measures by gradually privatizing state owned enterprises (SOEs) and further withdrawing state direction and guidance in economic life. Some of these former SOEs were transferred to individual Chinese investors; others—the so called Township and Village Enterprises (TVEs)--were restructured and put under the nominal responsibility of local governments (though in effect privately operated); still in other cases foreign participation was allowed in the form of joint venture, outright acquisition and portfolio investments. Today, after nearly three-decade-long rigorous implementation of market-oriented reforms, the private sector in China accounts for nearly 70 percent of the country‘s total domestic production, which before 1978 was totally and completely micromanaged by central planners and coordinators. Perhaps China‘s most important achievement lies in the external sector. Exchange rate reforms, favourable taxation and regulatory incentives as well as stable social and political conditions combined with cheap but competent labour have enabled China to jump-start its export economy, especially by attracting foreign capital and technology in labour intensive manufacturing sector that produce electronic goods, textiles, electric gadgets, etc. for both domestic and export markets. Despite certain irregularities here and there, generally attractive and investor-friendly environment has made China the biggest destination for private capital among developing countries.
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Still there are many problems that threaten to derail China from its market-oriented heydays. Increasing income inequality, corruption and environmental degradation spring to mind. The financial sector has been overwhelmingly controlled by the country‘s four biggest state owned banks, which often make no hesitation to direct big loans to inefficient government owned enterprises often at the expense of innovative individuals and businesses. Its trading partners, and the US at large, are unhappy about Beijing‘s deliberate manipulation of the value of renminbi, which has been artificially kept undervalued through massive foreign reserve accumulation, often by purchasing US government bonds. Property rights are far from secure and the Communist Party can sometimes bring down an entire village by brute force followed by the arrest or execution of anyone who questions such government actions or decisions. As tough as these challenges are, Chinese economic and political elites will be determined to find solutions in their own ways and there is no reason to expect that China will reverse course and fall back to its unworkable, complex and failed communist past. Though the state still controls major industries in finance, energy and telecommunication, its role in organizing the Chinese economy is generally on the wane. Freedom of entry and exit for private players as well as increasing competition and mushrooming entrepreneurial culture are behind China‘s astounding economic achievements. NOT increasing government guidance and interference. Obviously, China is nowhere close to being a fully-fledged democratic country. But if despotism is the small price to pay for development, the Chinese elite have a lot to show for it. In less than three decades, they have built the second biggest economy in the world. What do you say about the current ruling elite in Ethiopia who have failed to achieve even national food security goals after twenty solid years? Botswana and Nigeria Consider Botswana and Nigeria, two African countries, with colonial past, endowed with rich mineral deposits, both inhabited by diverse cultural and religious groups. Their similarities end here. Nigeria is notorious for its entrenched, institutionalised corruption and its politicians rank among the most ruthless professional thieves in the world. Both electoral and political corruption is rife and holding public office is a highly lucrative business in the country. Since
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the early 1980s, Nigeria has received over 300 BILLION US dollars mainly from petroleum extraction. This is an incredibly huge sum of money, at least by African standards. But Nigeria remains one of the poorest countries on our planet, with well over 60 percent of its citizens languishing below the national poverty line. The level of corruption in Nigeria is so deep-rooted that it has become part of the national way of life to the extent that in many parts of the world MONEY and NIGERIANS have come to be perceived as synonymous. Obviously, without all-round cultural and moral revolution, Nigeria as a nation has a gloomy future—it is simply a failed state no matter how you choose to define its failure. On the other hand, Botswana has received lots of praise from international opinion leaders for its open and transparent dealings. In its November 6th-12th 2004 issue, The Economist Magazine lauded Botswana‘s British educated presidents for their efficiency, moderate attitude, honesty and willingness to ―leave office‖ when ―the constitution says no.‖ In its 2009 Corruption Perception Index Report, Transparency International identified Botswana as the least corrupt country in Africa (ranking 37 out of 180 countries) with a score of 5.6 (10 being the best score). In this country, fiscal responsibility and social responsiveness go together. The government has effectively used the windfall from its diamond and other mineral resources by focusing on productive infrastructure and inclusive social spending schemes. As a result, Botswana has transformed itself from a poor post-colonial nation to a middle income country, with its citizens enjoying higher standard of living than most of their Sub-Saharan African counterparts. If democracy -- that is the legal and institutional foundations to hold public officials accountable—are not the necessary preconditions for economic development, how does one explain the divergence in the economic trajectories followed by Botswana and Nigeria? Even if we accept the need for stronger government activism in guiding the country‘s investment and production decisions, Ethiopia, or most of Africa for that matter, is far from the ideal candidate for such serious national endeavours. If by a developmental state we mean the ability and freedom of the state to mobilize national resources to achieve clearly defined social and economic objectives, this will hardly happen in a country markedly divided by ethnicity and riven by corruption. In an environment where people are deliberately encouraged to commit themselves to parochial and narrow nationalist pursuits, the local will always prevail over the national.
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Of course, this does not mean that cultural homogeneity is the only ideal condition to execute developmental state programmes. Even though homogenous nations have certain comparative advantages that heterogeneous countries do not have, they are not insulated from moral, social and economic degeneration as demonstrated by the recent Jasmine contagion in the corrupt Arab world. Greece If anything the current popular crisis in Greece has shown us it is the fact that the past cannot guarantee the present or the future. For starters Greece is the cradle of much of the World‘s civilization—most importantly it is the birth place of democracy. But unfortunately the country is deeply corrupt (ranking worse than Ghana in the Transparency International‘s 2009 Corruption Perception Index) and one of the most difficult places to start business (it was ranked worse than Ethiopia in World Bank‘s 2010 Ease of Doing Business Report). The shadow economy (which is based on unreported income) accounted for one-fourth of the gross domestic production in 2007, which, for instance, compared with 11.8% for France and 7.2% for the U.S. Tax evasion is so pervasive that the national treasury loses an estimated 20 BILLION dollars a year, a whopping sum which could have avoided any recourse to the IMF and the ECB for financial assistance to cushion its current sovereign debt crisis. How could a nation that successfully exported democratic values to the rest of the world could suddenly find itself in a situation where national moral standards hit rock bottom? Of course, there is a multiplicity of causes that made the current Greek sovereign debt problem a veritable hot potato. The adoption of the euro and the forfeiture of its fiscal and monetary autonomy to a supranational authority (the ECB) is one of them. But I think no other factor would rival the existence of rampant corruption for the country‘s current social and economic predicament. When the elite neglect or abandon their traditional role as social transformers and reduce themselves to mere parasites on their society, the entire nation will simply become cynical about the elite‘s superficial rhetoric on patriotism and public spirited ness. Thus, naturally, unable to reign in the astray elite, ordinary people will choose to engage in their own tiny malpractices, which over time develop into major national puzzle. No wonder, in present day Greece, as of 2010, ―nearly a third of Greek income was undeclared, with ―fewer than 15,000 Greeks declar[ing] incomes of over €100,000, despite tens of thousands living in opulent wealth on the outskirts of the capital.‖
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Greece is at cross roads as a nation. Not because it will be unable to service its debt and fall pray to its domestic and European creditors. It will certainly overcome its current financial challenges with or without its EU members‘ support, though ordinary people will have to endure some pain for some time. Rather what is more worrisome about Greece is the gradual erosion of its critical social norms and institutions. A recent poll conducted to survey the confidence of the Greek people in various public institutions revealed a startling result. The proportion of respondents who said they have NO TRUST for political parties in general was a whopping 89%. Similarly, the have-no-trust response for governments was 90%, for parliament (85%), for trade unions (80%), for the media (72%), for banks (69%). The only two institutions that the people seemed to have some trust were social movements (42%) and fellow citizens (54%). Though Greece seems to have been drifting helpmessly due to the elite‘s loss of moral compass, it has still some introspective and vigilant children who are aware of its problems and who are making loud calls about the urgent need to, ―redefine the public debate. Talk about public morality, a new political ethos, and the common good. Cultivate consensus, and try hard to win hearts and minds in the cause of remaking Greece.‖ Lessons for Ethiopia 1. Over all the elite are the makers and breakers of their society. 2. The experience of Greece shows that the past or the present is no guarantee for the future. Responsible elite like good school children are to be nurtured and cultivated to ensure their continuous existence in their societies. Where negligence and ignorance prevail, a single demagogue can intoxicate and poison an entire elite generation and turn them into forces of catastrophe. Think about the historical role of Hitler and his intellectual rear guard. 3. Cultural homogeneity is not a necessary and sufficient condition to create and develop a healthy society. And heterogeneous communities are not doomed to eternal rivalry and conflict. Altruistic, God-fearing and humane elites from a cross-section of their communities can and should defuse potentially mutually destructive tensions and create cooperative environments if they put their personal or clique interests over and above the interests of ordinary people.
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The Chinese experience, contrary to widely held assertions, reveals that what is critical for achieving rapid and inclusive socio-economic advancement is not government‘s heavy-handed, ubiquitous presence in national economic affairs rather it is sustained reforms towards opening up the national economy to the outside world, protecting and enforcing property rights and contracts, encouraging stronger private sector engagement, and above all limiting government intervention to correcting market failures, providing social safety net for the economically downtrodden, expanding infrastructure development, as well as promoting knowledge creation and dissemination. Even though China is nowhere close to being a democratic country, the role of its government in guiding national economic affairs cannot and should not be overrated.
5. Corruption is a big, and perhaps the biggest, obstacle against poverty reduction efforts in many developing countries. We were recently surprised to find out that some 8.4 billion dollars left Ethiopia illegally during the past twenty years of TPLF/EPRDF rule. But we should understand that the problem is not a new one and has its roots in the final years of the monarchy and became deeply entrenched during the chaotic Derg era. One insightful study by Léonce Ndikumana & James K. Boyce (2008) which examined capital flight in 40 Sub-Saharan African countries found that between 1970 and 2004 some 17 billion dollars were illegally smuggled out of Ethiopia, of which some 10.5 billion (60%) was stolen under TPLF/EPRDF. The reader can see that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate abject poverty in our country before one can have the appropriate insecticide to fight and eliminate these bloodsucking ticks from the Ethiopian body politic. 6. The comparison between Botswana and Nigeria shows that even if two countries have abundant natural resources, strong rules and institutions that support transparency on government activities lead to superior economic and social outcomes (in Botswana) while a culture of endemic corruption inhibits a country‘s political and economic progress (Nigeria). 7. Though one cannot rule out the practical relevance of developmental state for Ethiopia, it is quite impossible in the current political setting as created and advanced by the TPLF/EPRDF regime. This aspect of the problem is best captured by Dr. Berhanu Nega:
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There is also another peril associated with EPRDF‟s ethnically-oriented politics when viewed from the perspective of building a democratic system [in Ethiopia]. This problem arises from the distribution of state resources. Usually ethnic sentiment or identity politics is extremely intractable as it is driven by emotional rather than rational considerations. Ethnic nationalism is especially sensitive to feelings of subjugation or grievances. It is very easy to fan the flames of ethnic nationalism even based on sheer rumour or propaganda. Such developments, when coupled with conflicts of interest among the elite groups, will make recourse to nationalistic appeal even more attractive. This is clearly evident among the members that constitute the EPRDF coalition who usually engage in fierce confrontation over federal-to-regional budget subsidy allocation sessions--wrangling so common when parliament convenes every year to ratify annual budget proposals. But the problem is more severe than that. In a government structured along ethnic lines, if there is a dominant ethnic group in it, there will always be the perception that the dominant group is favouring its own ethnic enclave, regardless of the factual foundation of such claims. Even when the alleged relatively better economic activities are not based on explicit favouritism, others will use it as evidence of exploitation to agitate and mobilize their own resentful ethnic groups. In the case of Ethiopia, the all-around accusations directed at Tigray illustrate the severity of this problem. Regardless of whether or not such accusations are true, the mere existence of such perception kills any sense of solidarity among its citizens, who instead become preoccupied with bitter feelings of envy and rivalry. (Berhanu Nega in „Yenetsanet Goh Siqed‟, my own free translation, pp.99-100) It is true that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has had plenty of opportunities to bring Ethiopians together for Grand National transformation mission. But sadly from the outset he chose to stick to counterproductive ―Shoa Amhara‖ bashing campaign which later on would backfire on him earning him a bad name for leading ―Wedi Adwa‖ robber barons. That is not all. Like his Marxist godfathers, instead of accepting criticisms for his government‘s damaging actions and decisions, he preferred extreme reliance on propaganda. He was right in some sense. The Stalinists in Soviet Russia were such loud and determined propagandists that observers in the West had the tendency to speculate that life in Soviet Russia must have been superior compared with the US. This speculation could not have been more plausible especially when judged against the Soviet Union‘s demonstrated achievements in cuttingedge space technology. All this propaganda, however, was exposed when Gorbachev ―uncovered‖ Russia to the rest of the world.
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In that sense, what we wait for right now is the Ethiopian Gorbachev, an Ethiopian leader who values honesty and self-examination more than his commitment to some askew ideological superstructure. Certainly Meles Zenawi alone is not the root of all evils in Ethiopia. Far from it. We have plenty of them among other ethnic groups including the Amhara, the Oromo, the Somali, etc. An OLF activist who vows to stamp out the ―children of invaders‖ from the ―Oromo country‖ or an Amhara jingoist who dreams to impose his language on every other ethnic group are both as destructive as Meles Zenawi himself. It takes a simple principle to bring harmony in our nation: do not do unto others what you do not want others do unto you. So, it must be understood that all-encompassing social transformation is brought about by people we look well beyond ethnic loyalty or even racial barriers (Mandela comes to mind) and who have profound commitment to the promotion and protection of human dignity regardless of their provincial, religious or linguistic background. Genuine transformers are those who lead their subjects by example. The elite can be the light or the darkness of their society depending on how they behave or act in accomplishing certain stated objectives and goals. When our leaders give a penny, we will donate a pound; when Meles Zenawi frequents in and around Gondar, we will make Adwa our home; when our politicians shake hands with respect and genuine smile, we will return to the true Ethiopian tradition where tolerance, love and mutual respect are the norm. You do not create a healthy society simply because you have an excellent constitution or simply because ethics is taught as a subject at schools and universities. In stressing the decisive influence of his predecessors on his great scientific achievements, Isaac Newton once said, ―If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.‖ Where are our academic, political and religious giants on whose shoulders the current and future generations could stand with pride? Wondemhunegn Ezezew firstname.lastname@example.org. Resources 1. Amvona (2011), The Greek Restructuring Debate, available at http://www.amvona.com/latest-news/foreclosure/14627-the-greek-restructuring-debate.html
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2. Eklogika (2011), Confidence in Greek public Institutions (in Greek) available at http://www.eklogika.gr/uploads/files/Dimoskopiseis/pi-skai-all-18-5-2011.pdf 3. Open Democracy (2011), Facing the Greek Crisis: it’s the Politics, Stupid, available at http://www.opendemocracy.net/takis-s-pappas/facing-greek-crisis-it%E2%80%99spolitics-stupid 4. Marangos, J. and Bitzenis, A. (2007), ‗Economies in Transition‘, Stamouli Publishers, Athens, pp.397-441. 5. The Wall Street Journal (2011), Greece Grapples with Tax Evasion, available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704182004575055473233674214.html
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Developmental state or neo-liberal economic policy? Answer to Professor Messay`s Essay on Grand Coalition to save Ethiopia
By Fekadu Bekele | June 20, 2011
From the outset I would like to express my frustration that Professor Messay`s article does not have any new substance or cannot be accepted as entailing a thoughtful idea. Those who side with the position of the Professor may think and believe that Professor Messay wrote a grand theory which might be seen as a panacea to save Ethiopia from all the evils the Meles regime has inflicted.
After reading the article twice, I cannot detect the theoretical and methodological foundation of the article of Professor Messay. Howerver, Professor Messay believes that his approaches in characterizing the Meles regime, and Meles himself, and the theory of developmental state are new theoretical reflections which can be carefully studied. In all the three points I cannot scrutinize the exact methodological and scientific approaches to substantiate his theory. Except that he commands the English language which makes impossible for many to detect his theoretical weakness, I am not convinced that the article can teach us new things. If somebody writes such an article he must either explicitly or implicitly clarify that he follows some paradigmatic approaches to prove that the article he writes reflects things which are taking place on the ground. First of all to pursue authoritarian politics is not a matter of choice, but it is a desire of certain groups to impose their interests and thereby to shape the entire political landscape according to these interests. Such kind of authoritarian politics emanates from the nature of the person who seizes political power. In order to understand the character of such an authoritarian ruler one should study the society and the circumstances he grew up in, and the education system which shaped his mind to behave like this. Family backgrounds also play decisive roles in shaping the mind of such an authoritarian ruler. As Meles and his compatriots are the products of a particular area, even though they boast that they follow this or that ideology, what ultimately decides their thinking and handling is the socioeconomic condition and the family background in which they grew up. Philosophers, psychologists, and men of drama like Schiller have already proved that the exercise of political power for good or bad can be conditioned on the particular circumstance in which the political actors are grown up. To say
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that Meles had no other option than to be an authoritarian means that he can alter his mind at any time and become a democrat. That is why Professor Messay thinks that there is no other option than building a grand coalition before the country falls into pieces or the situation ends in bloodshed. If we accept the argument of Professor Messay as he tried to analyze in his essay, what Meles and his friends did against Ethiopia was not calculated from the outset, and they were compelled to follow an ethnic and a neo-liberal policy because they did not have any other choices. As we all know Meles and his group could not seize political power without the help of Blair and the American government. The West in general and America in particular did everything to eliminate the Mengistu regime to wipe Ethiopian nationalism out once and for all. Therefore ethnic politics and neo-liberal economic policy as Meles had introduced and practiced in Ethiopia could not be materialized without the help of America and England. In all his previous analysis when Professor Messay accuses the Meles regime, he either deliberately or unconsciously omits the role of the Americans and the British in shaping the Ethiopian politics over the last 20 years. Only in a weakened country in which a regime which pursues ethnic or any other politics which fits the interests of the West and practices a neoliberal economic policy, it is easy for the West to meddle in the internal affairs of such a weakened country. Coming to neo-liberalism, it seems that Professor Messay did not understand the economic policy of the Meles regime prior to the 2005 election. As if the regime until then did not follow a neo-liberal economic policy, Professor Messay tells us that the Meles regime understood well the danger of neo-liberalism and has done everything to convince his comrades to follow his developmental policy which is strictly regulated and manipulated by the state. To my understanding, prior to the election of 2005, Meles and his regime had agreed with the IMF and the World Bank to strictly apply the structural adjustment program (SAP). Devaluation of the Ethiopian birr in relation to the US Dollar, privatization, liberalization of the internal and foreign market, reducing state budget for social purposes, so as to canalize the money for productive ―purposes‖, are all instruments of neo-liberal economic policies. In all Sub-Saharan African countries where such a policy was applied, though the negative effects vary from country to country, in general such a policy has enriched the few and impoverished the masses. There are well documented studies which show the negative effects of SAPs. In short the main agenda of SAPs was to de-industrialize Africa, and to make her dependent on
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one or two raw material or agricultural products. The chaotic situation in many Sub-Saharan African countries, including Ethiopia prove that how SAP was designed to impoverish the entire continent and canalize wealth to the capitalist West via different mechanisms. If any country accepts the shock doctrine of the IMF, it will end up in permanent debt, and payments of this debt permanently by transferring her hardly won wealth every year become a natural law which must continue indefinitely. It is a calculated intrigue of the West to systematically unlock such kinds of governments to pursue a macroeconomic economic policy which does not work in such backward countries like that of Ethiopia. After the Meles regime has been applying for almost fifteen years such a bitter economic policy, to say that he has well understood the danger of neo-liberalism is a pure mockery against the Ethiopian people. The misunderstanding of the work of the IMF and the World Bank is not only the fault of Professor Messay. Many Ethiopian economists whom I know have the same attitudes; and many of them cannot understand the ideological foundation of neo-liberalism. Because all hate the Meles regime, they believe that what our country had to experience over the last 20 years is solely the work of one dictator. It is perceived that all foreign forces and their international organizations which shape economic polices for Third World Countries are by their nature innocent. The widespread belief is that African dictators block the application of the policy as is prescribed by the IMF and the school books and thus all countries are condemned to poverty. Coming to the developmental state, many development experts, by eliminating social history and economic anthropology from their heads convinced many Third World students that the policy of developmental state is a new phenomenon which can be reduced to few countries. If one studies the economic history of Europe, at least from the fourteenth century onwards, state systems had played crucial roles in shaping and manipulating their economies and social systems. Especially from the sixteenth century onwards, European Monarchs had pursued an active economic policy to develop a home market in their respective boundaries. Their approaches were holistic, and supported by all available instruments to build a coherent and strong nation in their respective countries. If we come to Japan, there were well established relationships on one hand between the German and the Japanese governments, and on the other hand between the United States of America and Japan during the Meiji dynasty. Japan had sent some young men to Germany to study the economic performance of Germany, and sent others to America to study modern administration systems. The Meiji dynasty which had a well disciplined military organization, and which was determined to modernize the economy
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had forced the industrialization of Japan. The unique socio-cultural condition of Japan and their disciplined psychological make-up helped Japan to materialize her inward looking strategy. Without a disciplined bureaucracy, and without a unique culture which prevails in the society, it was not possible for Japan and others to pursue their policies. As Professor Messay believes these countries did not follow a strict free market economic policy and the rule of law, but the unique relationship that had prevailed between the banking system, the state and the industrial sector helped the industrialization of Japan and South Korea. During the 70s and 80s South Korea was governed by military dictators which did not allow any political participation, and the organization of trade union was strictly forbidden. As some critical analysts affirm, foreign debt and military dictatorship are behind the industrialization of South Korea. To apply in countries like Ethiopia such a strictly state oriented economic development policy like that of Japan and South Korea is an impossible task, because the cultural situation of the society and the psychological make-up of the intelligentsia are factors which block any meaningful economic agenda. The fragmented and intriguing characters we have, and the loss of our self-reliance, and weak theoretical background we posses, are some of the factors which block our wishes to develop Ethiopia. I do not know any Ethiopian economist who has extensively studied the role of Mercantilism, and the Works of Friedrich List, Heinrich Pesch, and others, which are crucial indeed for the application of a developmental state economic policy. Neither do I know who has a good understanding of philosophy and tries to combine philosophy, sociology and cultural transformation with a kind of renaissance economic policy to foster industrialization policy in our country. As so long as we are stick to the market economic policy of the IMF and the World Bank it is practically impossible to get Ethiopia out of the present situation. Having this in mind, if we come to the advice of Professor Messay to create a power-sharing arrangement with the regime, I do not believe that the Meles regime with such a bloody past, and which has been selling our country to the so-called foreign investors, and systematically destabilizes our country so that patriotic feelings could not develop among the youth, will accept an arrangement which could save Ethiopia. Meles and his clique are determined to see a much weakened Ethiopia, and could stay on power when they follow such an intriguing policy. Foreigners who know the regime very well say that Meles and his clique hate Ethiopia, and the divide and rule system which they have been systematically applying nation-wide
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over the last 20 years weakened the entire nation. Today we have in Ethiopia not a political elite as Professor Messay thinks and believes; instead we have a Mafia system across the country which has corrupted all the local administrators. How is it possible to build a grand coalition with such a regime which dreams day and night to see a very fragmented and weakened Ethiopia? Meles like his masters, the West hates the concept of a Nation-State, because only through a strong Nation-State the people of a given country could freely exercise their true freedom, and build a strong economy which is based on science and technology. It seems that Professor Messay does not know what is going on in Ethiopia, and the real economic and social conditions which the Ethiopian people are subjected to. Therefore, not only from a theoretical, and paradigmatic point of view, but also from the conditions which are existing on the ground, and from the nature of the regime, the proposal of Professor Messay is not acceptable. At the same time when the Meles regime is in a very desperate position, and no more in a position to cope with the social and economic crises of the country it is unwise to call for a grand coalition. --The writer can be reached at email@example.com
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COMMENTS FROM READERS Mesay Kebede says: Your comments on my article raise interesting points and invite a serious debate. For now I say the following: 1. Your statement that ―what prompts Messay to consider this path to democratization is his enthusiasm for the developmental state‖ completely misunderstands the main idea of the article. What prompts me is the present political impasse of Ethiopia: Neither Meles can succeed in marginalizing the opposition through rapid economic development, nor the opposition can overthrow him through electoral victory (the only way is armed struggle or popular revolution). What is the way out from these dead-ends? That is the main question of the article and I am surprised that you think that Ethiopia is not in a political stalemate. 2. I think that your understanding of the genesis of democratic systems is not complex enough. It still reflects some Marxist assumptions. Democratic systems emerge, not only because of popular pressure or uprising, but also when conflicts between elites reach an impasse. Democracy is a way out from a political stalemate. I think numerous historical facts confirm the assumption. 3. You say that authoritarian states lead to democracy when they have strong selectorate accountability. This is a structuralist argument that ignores the importance of subjective factors in history. It does not apply to Japan and other East Asian countries, which are now in the democratic camp. Most importantly, what is crucial is not the presence of some institutional prerequisites, but the determination of elites to respect them. The TPLF constitution of Ethiopia is fine; the problem is that the ruling elite does not respect it. 4. I agree when you say that ―no democracy can be illiberal.‖ However, your notion of a ―liberal democratic developmental state‖ misses the characteristic feature of the Asian model of development. In the latter authoritarianism is perceived as a necessary means to promote economic progress and modernization. If you adopt liberalism, in whatever form, then I don‘t see why you need the developmental state. 5. My question concerning the 2010 election is the following: if opposition leaders had known that the elections would result in complete defeat for them, would they have participated? If I remember correctly, MEDREK was hesitant because the guarantees of fair elections were not enough. But they had to follow others, especially Hailu Shaul and his party, who thought that
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a fair competition was possible. I have heard many interviews of opposition leaders in which they say that they expect a significant victory. I have also read many articles stating that the Meles regime is on its last leg.
Abiye Teklemariam says: Professor Messay, Thank you for the response. On the misreading, I stand corrected. But it doesn‘t change the substance of my response. Here are my comments. 1. I don‘t deny that democracy can be a way out of a political stalemate. I actually did not state my views about the genesis and development of democracy fully. My main point is there is little evidence to suggest that grand power sharing coalitions lead to democracy. In fact, the evidence points to the contrary. 2. I didn‘t say authoritarian states lead to democracy when they have strong selectorate accountability. It is that authoritarian power sharing coalitions lead to democracy if they are preceded by either an authoritarian system that had strong selectorate accountability or that is less than full-scale. It is a structuralist argument, but backed by a strong empirical evidence. 3. The theory of developmental state is an economic theory(not an all encompassing political philosophy) that informs the priorities of economic policy and how to mobilize resources to execute them. It is insensitive to regime typology. The fairness vs. prosperity, employment, taxes and spending, deficits etc economic debates in liberal states can be informed by developmentalism. 4. I think the election time declarations of the opposition party leaders were intended to redirect people‘s attention to political contest. I thought it was not a great strategy, but the truth is it had nothing to do with their beliefs that 2010 elections could be like 2005
Enanu Agonafer says:
1. Ethiopia needs new thinkers and Dr. Messay and Abiye are not two of them.
Ethiopia Dr. Messay and Abiye know has evolved. New economic relations have created
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new classes. The military, ethno – military and academic elites are no more in command. The future of Ethiopia is the new emerging middle class – the economic elites. Any analysis that shuns this force from consideration is wrong. And that‘s why most attempts to introduce change in the form of democracy or other continues to fail. In the past century, Ethiopia was feudal under absolute monarchy close for seventy five years. Regent H. Selassie took power from Empress Zewditu through palace intrigue. A coup d‘Etat was tried by military elites against him but failed. In the name of revolution, military elites came to power in 1974 until they were removed by another ethno – military elites. The latter are still in power but losing grip to new elites. For hundred years, the power exchange in Ethiopia has been from a monarch to military elites to ethno – miliary elites. It was done by palace intrigues, ―revolution‖ and violent civil war. Coup d‘Etats have not succeeded. Democracy and peaceful transfer of power has not been tried except in 2005 in which the ethno – military elites were defeated. The academic elites had always been in the background of these power exchange in the country. Academic elites such as leaders of OLF, EPRP and AESM are examples here. They paid enormous prices but never succeeded to achieve independence, form their own government or share power with others. The century of military, ethno – military and academic and quasi- academic elites in Ethiopia is over. A recent study of the Ethiopian military has confirmed that its interest to take power through coup d‘Etat is almost nil. In case situations go out of hand, it might step in but only upon the request of parliament or the government itself. Some say it has understood that the Constitution prohibits its take over of power. The quasi- academic – ethno -military forces such as OLF and ONLF (if they want to succeed like TPLF) have to take their hit-and-ran to a higher level to be taken seriously. They have not done that for the last three- four decades and they are losing momentum. The diaspora academic elites are still talking whereas those in the country are not. The ones in the country have changed to the extent that their mission is not to liberate the masses but rather prosper and join the emerging economic elite. The century is for the emerging economic elites in the country. The opposition is dead and buried in the country. TPLF/EPRDF, let alone share power with the opposition, it will not talk to them as they have no sizable constituency that wields political clout. As a political force, which largely comes from the academic and quasi – elites, the opposition is out. Even in 2005, it was the economic elites that took the opposition where it found itself. Once they realized
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they cannot do business with the opposition, they let it go. The opposition has not recovered from the damage the separation caused. The economic elites have now turned to the government and started demanding wider economic space (in forms of free economy and market) which they are getting day after day. The entire bureaucracy is serving them and the police protecting them and their property. Soon, they will demand further political liberalization in the jargon we hear every day: good governance, transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness, responsiveness, participatory, consensus, rule of law, etc. And the government will talk to them, respond to their demands provided they pay money. The economic elites forming the middle class is the force that will bring democracy in the country. The military, ethno-military and the academic and quasi -academic elites have been given the chance in the last fifty years. They have squandered the chance and it is time for them to leave the field for others. 2. My opinion is meant to show how the vocal diaspora academic elites are detached from the reality in Ethiopia and feed the day dream of the diaspora opposition. They cannot be power brokers in a highly charged political environment by suggesting ideas pulled from nowhere. First, they have to see if there is economic change that has affected relations in the country to the extent politics is impacted by it. Nobody begins with that. The discussion is always TPLF/EPRDF is in power for so long and how can we remove it. If anything different comes, it is how power can be shared with the government – obviously with academic and quasi – academic elites. Some get angry if you say both TPLF/EPRDF and academic elites are no more important political forces in the country. The worst thing is they do not ask who these new forces are. TPLF/EPRDF have not talked for a while and will not talk to the opposition both from within and without the country. They have reach a point where they consider the opposition a hit away from total elimination. They will not listen to any kind of suggestion to re-invent and strengthen the opposition because democracy needs them. They have, time and again, said democracy is not an urgent affair for the country; growth and development are.
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So, with whom does TPLF/EPRDF with its government deal today? The economic elites. As noted widely, the service, industry and agriculture sector are moved by foreign and domestic capital. The finance source of the five-year budget and plan is foreign and domestic capital and tax. Behind capital and tax are mainly business people on whom the government is dependent. The government talks to these people, works to meet their interests and sometimes they clash. There are several recent examples to this effect. The future challenge these people will raise to the government is to create ―enabling economic environment‖ which includes good governance. In effect, good governance is democracy in a different name. As the economic elites closely work with the government to advance their interests, they will fight back any force like the academic and quasi academic elites that aspires to take political power or share it with the government. First of all, the academic and quasi – academic elites have no significant stake in the country. They have no economic interest to advance or any other major interest for that matter. They might claim to be citizens of the country and need democracy and human rights, but those are not enough to put economic interest of an entire class in the hands of people who cannot protect it and help it to grow. The academic elites of the diaspora cannot even claim they are citizens of the country. So much for their concern and efforts to destabilize it. TPLF/EPRDF have said they will hand over power after building capitalism in the country. We do not know if the economic elites will not remove them soon enough to further open up the country for business. The millions of workers in the newly created farms, service, manufacturing and construction will join the new economic class to bring about a far reaching change in our country. EFFORT is TPLF`s platform for joining the emerging economic elites. Others are supposed to imitate TPLF – EFFORT and join the rush before it is too late; but they do not seem to have understood the game. Most Ethiopians are blinded from seeing this reality because of elite dysfunction and empty bravado about democracy and human rights. Do not get us wrong. We are for democracy and human rights. The problem is to know how they can be brought about and by whom. The political discourse in the country and abroad should raise real questions and struggle with them rather than look for a short cut to power. Time for all of us to reflect hard and long!
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