The fallacy of TPLF’s developmental state


By Messay Kebede

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 {www:virtue} of providing a {www: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 {www: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. 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 {www: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.

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 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 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 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 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 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.

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 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.

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 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 rent-seeking, 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.

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 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. 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 power-sharing 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)


17 thoughts on “The fallacy of TPLF’s developmental state

  1. Shigut on

    Professor, although, I held the highest regard and respect for your opinion, I differ some of the points you have outlined. I envy your benevolence attitude and patience towards the belligerent regime. As far as I am concerned, I see no peaceful resolve to the problem at hand; I think it is too naive for me to expect the government of Melese to liberalize the economy or normalize its relationship with the oppostion.You seem to be taken by government propaganda concerning the Nile dam and its call for national development movalization.However,all these new government schemes may appear to be attractive primarily just to woe the opposition for government support without political representation. The truth is melese is prone to copy greatly from abroad, only to abandon his borrowing a short while later without any explanation. If the regime was really willing to normalize relationship it could have done it on its own accord any time.
    For instance, it can devolve the national army by appointing high ranking officers from all sectors of socity.If it wants it can summon religious leaders to held national reconciliation meetings between government and the opposition followers. If there be willing heart within TPlf leaders, truly the ball is in their court. Unfortunately, I see no positive response by the leaders. ; Beside, after this many years TPLF leaders intrigue I expect no anything different than the present state of affairs. I am one of those who believe we must challenge the regime through bekagn protest.
    Doctor, the zeitgeist (spirit) of our time is to move away from authoritarian regime to political plurality, and multi-party system. That is what we have been witnessing in 2011.So far three dictators have been ousted by popular uprising. Two are battling against their own people; one is almost at his end-it is a matter of days before he surrenders or gets killed. The,Syrain tyrant might linger for a while, so long his army continue to kill, the tyrant will find it hard to maintain his grip. In short, for the last twenty years, Ethiopians have shown restraint and patience. The ruling elite must have taken different reading of the people’s peaceful remonstration as weakness. God willing we must go to the street and demand our freedom. Though weyane has well-armed and capable of committing atrocity, its atrocity will be checked by the community of nations. Ethiopians need to be willing to shed blood for their freedom.

  2. Mango on

    2#.Shigut,

    I agree with you 1001% and thank for diagnosing the sickness correct and prescribing the right and the working medicine.

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    ~Benjamin Franklin has to say

    It is surprising as to why this professor is coming out indirectly pampering and patting on the bottoms and shoulders of tyrants at this particular time even when most of the world leaders are delivering the surrender or get captured message to most of these medieval style genocidal tyrants being encircled by the population they have been and are still willingly dehumanizing.

    Yes, the Ethiopian tyrant will always cheat, outmaneuver,outgun, deceive, divide, bribe, kill, jail, displace, etc. and through all types of treacheries try to stay in power but will never as a minority 5% clique monopolizing 100% of state powers will ever genuinely share with any independent political opposition. The tyrant is currently afraid deep down to his bones due to the prevailing political atmospheres in the surrounding areas and is buying learned men and women of pen to hold umbrellas over his head so that heavy rains which may turn to thunderstorms and from thunder storm to tsunami may not carry him away for ever. Now days even mother nature have become unpredictable as much as peoples’ power.

    The professor also seems to be frightened by the possible coming of the inevitable change like the tyrant dictator himself because just a day ago the US foreign minster was urging dictator Meles to leave before it is too late. And most tyrants often leave when it is already too late.

    “Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.” Thomas Jefferson has to state

  3. Oaklander on

    Dear Professor, it seems you are trying to find a way out for this dictator and his allays before the tide coming from north swipe them out, I think it is too late now for them they had their fair share of time where they could have changed for the better and made a big difference in our history. Now the time is to stand up together and fight, if you sir afraid of the fire in the struggle you can step aside wait for your liberators(the rest of Ethiopian who have said Beka) it won’t be far and it will happen. I value your contribution and I admire most of your work.

  4. Tebabaer on

    I couldn’t have read a more naive thesis from a political scientist. It’s all but impossible to expect Meles and his mobsters to hand over power on a silver platter when they could go on plundering the nation while jailing and killing anyone and everyone perceived to pose a challenge to their rule….with impunity. It’s amazing to see Meles’ drama of the Nile dam seems already to have achieved the desired effect of hoodwinking elements of the so-called opposition into thinking of the “developmental state”…My friend it’s called diversionary tactic, a time-tested ploy of diverting mass attention away from internal political problems toward an oft imaginary enemy. This is the same Tribal Tyranny that is selling away Ethiopia’s fertile land to foreigners and pocketing the cash trying at the same time to whip up Ethiopian nationalism vis a vis the Egyptians. Even Hilary Clinton’s warning of a neo-colonialism in Africa was a clear reference to the kind of treachery being committed by Meles against the Ethiopian people. So my friend Messay no type of collaboration with this regime would save our country from impending disaster. The only way out is to launch a nation-wide mass uprising that is broad-based including all hitherto adversarial forces to remove this Tribal Tyranny and replace it with a broad-based transitional arrangement. The time for paradigm shifts is here.

  5. Adwa Boy on

    Dictator governments never learn from their predecessors. The fact is no government will rule it citizens by force. This kind of tool is past by date which it will not work in 21st century.

    Dictator governments still do not understand and never learn from history that the will of the people always prevail. If governments haven’t got their people on their side, they will be removed whether they like it or not.

    It takes time but the dictator will end up loosing everything including their loved once. Take Hosin Mubarak of Egypt for example, he is languishing in prison including his sons and wife. Dictators do not care even about their own immediate family not to mention their citizens as they are disturb psychologically and they are unstable mentally. To sum up dictators are mental ill. When people voice their unhappiness about their government policies, the dictators do not take notice that they are not needed to lead their country but pretend they have the support of their people.

    However an outside interference will make matters complicated as we have seen in Middle East. Western governments love messing up things in the name of democracy so we must wise up to solve our problems by ourselves instead of being manipulated by outsiders.

  6. Endale on

    Endrias Eshete has made an open invitation to Mesay Kebede in an interview he gave just before resigning from the presidency of AAU. Endrias said that he would like to have people like Mesay in the university. I wonder if this article is a kind of response for that????

  7. anon on

    Please let us not spread unsubstantiated rumors upon our people. We must allow any of our citizens including Professor Messy to disagreeable to our test.We must be willing to hear opposing views even though it may be displeasing. I believe, more than anything else, the professor is here proposing academic solution while the situation calls for real world solution.

  8. dan on

    Endale, you are such a useless critique that your conspiracy theory is like coming out of a third grader’s mind. we don’t have to react like a knee jerk reflex every time our mind senses that a written opinion favors the woyanee junta in some mysterious ways. i am sure you can’t write even a paragraph to critique the opinion in a scholarly manner. i even doubt you understood the concept of the whole opinion. ladies and gentlemen we have to keep in mind that this is the world wide web. any body can participate in the discussion process and we have to be equally well aware and prepare to analyze from which direction the writing is coming. i am not here to defend dr Messay’s opinion because it is written by him. but he has forwarded his thoughtful and scholarly opinion and all of us should be welcomed to complement or critique his opinion. otherwise to sit behind a key board and disseminate conspiracy theory and sow suspicion is a useless proposition and highly suspect.

  9. Stoned Peter on

    It is very hard to understand when people like doctor Mesay and like him always miss the end and the begining of the Ethiopian political events. Remember doctor Mesay before you brought this idea Meles wants to finish his bad political event in Ethiopia according to your suggestion or proposal. However he will not do it according to your wish and people like you who are so called Ethiopian intellectuals because of his 20+ years crime on millions will not let him go easily I am sure he will be happy to see a new so called Hodam Ethiopian intellectual because even though people like you could not stop the coming popular flood Meles might think fresh cadres might delay in days and weeks his end. Didn’t you learn from Mengistu Halemariam and other dictators. Remember dictators are not normal they do not think properly for instance right now if you see the color white Meles doesn’t see the same white color rather he might see black or red so instead of wasting your precious time how to save a single dictator and his few cadres join the struggle and contribute in action and lead us at same time let us see your intelectual capacity if you can and if you have the interest. It is enough doctor Mesay Meles has millions of chances to correct his failure for the last 20+ years the problem is or was not getting a chance to correct his failure rather Meles’s goal is to finish the end of Ethiopia so your advice would fail on deaf ear at the same time you will be counted as one of those so called Hodam Ethiopian intelectuals like Indras Ishete, Samuel Zerihun etc. so do not worry for Meles’s end rather think and worry what you have done for the millions of poor Ethiopias in your capacity, I am sure being a doctor is not an easily got thing. Compare what you have done for the last 20 or more years your contribution with the rest of uneducated Ethiopians for the struggle in terms of financial, intellectual etc. I am sure some of your students are under six feet because of the harsh Ethiopian reality they are not with us today however some of your students like Dina Muhufti of Ethiopian foreign ministry employee the one we heard debating about Mele’s good job on German Amharic service with you must be considered our misery extenders, concerning you you can choose whatever you want either with Meles or the people but please let us know which one is your choice. If you are willing intellectual you can give us your wisdom to lead us. If you are determined intellectual please lead us and show us the way how to save us from Meles’s calculated goal oriented distraction and misery by using your knoledge. Don’t you feel shame for being under the control of for 20 years by second year drop out Meles leadership.

  10. Assta B. Gettu on

    Dr. Messay Kebede’s well-written article reveals the sincere views of the author himself, the 2005 and the following national elections.

    We have already discussed, commented, and analyzed the 2005 election, its horrible results, and the misused opportunity for the opposition; therefore, what is the main purpose of Dr. Messay to bring that dead issue – the misused opportunity – back to us again? Is it to tell us the great achievement of Dictator Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) on that particular day where the opposition missed the opportunity of winning the election, or does Dr. Messay has a new idea to inform us never to miss any opportunity on any other election day that would, as usual, be held under the barrel of a gun?

    Dr. Messay does not have the slightest idea when he speculates that Meles knew he would win the 2010 national election. No one on this earth knows what is in the mind of the other person, except, perhaps, Dr. Messay, but the Holy Scripture refutes Dr. Mssay’s pre-knowledge of a man’s thought before the man himself reveals his thought: “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1st Corinthians 2:11).

    Everybody knows the authoritarian rule of Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) and under this oppressive rule there is nothing the opposition can do to change the determined spirit of Meles to stay in power. Dr. Messay is unable to give the opposition his strategies how the opposition could have won in the two national elections?

    Any person in power has, most of the time, the advantage of winning an election; in this case, Meles main technique to win the 2005 election was to shoot to kill any person who declared the opposition had won the election. On the other hand, the technique he used to win the 2010 national election was to refrain from killing those who supported the opposition. Instead, he used a new technique, and that new technique was to issue millions of new IDs that represent TPLF, and any person who was not registered to vote for Meles and who did not carry the ID card could not get food donated by the international donors and distributed by the Meles cadres; besides, such person could also be expelled from his/her leadership position in his/her community he/she presented, and that is why Meles won by 99.6% in the 2010 national election.

    The opposition did not possess the power Meles has had, so how could the opposition figure out that Meles was not going to use in the 2010 election the same technique he used in the 2005 election? In 2010, he had already declared to the world that he would run a clean election without any blood shed and that he would respect the Ethiopian constitution that allows the establishment of a political party. The outside world believed him he would do what he had promised to do; even some of the opposition parties might have believed him, too. After we have seen the deception, the brutality, the intimidation, the threat, and the imprisonment brought by the ruling party against the opposition, we cannot blame the opposition for losing the election.

    Some of the main tools that helped Meles win the elections are the following:

    1. ethnicity
    2. open election
    3. the establishment of a political party that opposes the ruling party
    4. the strong loyalty of the Tegaru army
    5. the pleasing of his political supporters by offering them high positions, land, house, money, high paying jobs
    6. weakening his political opponents by sending some of them to jail, and by killing some
    7. the poor economic conditions of the country
    8. the division of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church
    9. the support he gets from the west

    Therefore, it is safe to say Meles by his own political craftiness without the help of TPLF or EPRDF has been able to stay in power for such a long time and amass billions of the Ethiopian money to himself. In all those years he has been in power, he has never said dictatorship is the only “viable policy” even though we in the diaspora and the whole world know Meles has been a dictator since day one.

    Ethiopia, Sudan, Syria, Burma, and many other countries are under authoritarian rule, but we don’t see any economic development in such countries, and what we see is that most of the people of those countries are always hungry and unsatisfied the way their rulers treat them. However, Dr. Messay seems to attest that authoritarianism is the best way to achieve a rapid economic development.

    Dr. Messay praises Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) by calling him “a scholar,” and it is okay with me to call him a scholar since he has a doctorate degree, but can a highly educated person orders his soldiers to shoot at innocent civilians? Can a scholar steal money from the poor Ethiopian peasants? Can a scholar, without the approval of the parliament, go to war, and sell some of the people’s fertile lands to the Arabs? Such abnormal behaviors may be acceptable to Dr. Messay and his likes but not to many other self-conscious and, in a real sense, highly educated scholars.

    According to Dr. Messay, the economic growth in Ethiopia under Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) has helped Meles to stay in power for over twenty years: he further says as far as people have bread and butter on their tables, they, more or less, do not care about their freedom.

    In the first place, there has never been a real economic growth in Ethiopia that lifted the Ethiopian people from poverty and stopped them from receiving foreign donated food every year if not every month, but it is right to say the economic disasters in Ethiopia kept Meles in power for a long time. He is lucky that many poor Ethiopians go to bed without bread and butter every evening and cannot raise their hands to bring down Meles from power because they are too weak, and he is too strong. He wants to keep them that way so that he could rule them for ever.

    Dr. Messay makes another mistake by telling us that it is the rich who fight for their freedom, but the poor, as far as they have enough food and butter to eat, don’t care about their freedom. I totally disagree with Dr. Messay as the Scripture says: “…that man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

    We remember Gandhi and Martin Luther Kink Jr., knew most of their people had enough bread to eat and water to drink, but they were poor; therefore, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. galvanized their people to gain their freedom and fought hard using Non Violence as their weapon. The Indian people as well as the American Negroes didn’t say they had enough food to eat and did not want to ask the government to grant them their freedom, but they all revolted against the injustices of their governments. In the same way, I am sure, if Ethiopians have dedicated leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. they would not say they have enough food and water, and they don’t need to be free from their oppressive government. They will rather rise up and fight for their freedom rather than fight everyday for a piece of bread and for a glass of water. However, for Dr. Messay, it is not right to oppose any dictator as far as that dictator has been providing his people food and butter. Men and women are governed not by their physical needs only but also by their spiritual needs: Freedom of the body and freedom of the spirit are essential for a person’s survival in this world.

    Dr. Messay emphatically declares, “The national wealth cannot grow in a country where rent-seeking behaviors prevail….” Can he tell us briefly which sector of the Ethiopian society does not contribute to the economic development of Ethiopia? Is there any idle society in Ethiopia that does not contribute directly or indirectly to his mother land? To my understanding of the Ethiopian politics, the only people who do not help their country are the Meles crime families. These people know how to steal money out of the country but do not know how to add money to their country’s economic growth, and the main reason the Ethiopians’ economy does not grow is simply the people at the top are stealing it and stashing it in foreign banks.

    It is amazing to read the following statement by Dr. Messay: “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 seems to me Dr. Messay does not want to see a strong and viable opposition that will topple down the authoritarian government in Ethiopia. According to Dr. Messay, Dictator Meles must always have a “disabled” opposition, a dysfunctional one, in order for Meles to develop the country economically without any opposition party. Well Meles has ruled Ethiopia for over 20 years without any serious rivals, and as such the economy of the country is still stagnant, and the people of Ethiopia are not better of than they had been 50 years ago.

    I clearly see Dr. Messay glorifying bureaucratic elites or wealthy people because he believes these wealthy people are the engines of the country’s economy. He doesn’t seem to know it is, in fact, these types of people allied with their authoritative government exploit the poor, the helpless, and the voiceless people of Ethiopia.

    Yes, nobody denies education is vital for the development of a country; however, when education is purposely used to train only one segment of the society so that the educated society can control the other uneducated section of the society. In this case, the educated Tegaru can control the uneducated Amharas, Oromos, and the rest. In other words, education must be fairly distributed to all the people of the country without race, gender, and ethnicity, but this is not the case in Ethiopia under the authoritarian rule of Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi).

    Dr. Messay strongly believes in a state ownership of land to keep control over the poor peasant’s boundaries of land. In Ethiopia, however, land has always been in the hands of the people until the death of Emperor Haile Selassie, and most Ethiopian peasants were very satisfied with their land, but when Meles took by force the people’s land and sold some of it to foreign countries without the people’s permission and without compensation to those who lost their inherited land, the people of Ethiopia lost their faith in the Woyanne government.

    Ethnicity had never been an issue in the old days; people could travel freely from one place to another place and settle any place they wanted, but when most of the Ethiopian people see Meles helping only his own tribes, then ethnicity becomes a big problem in Ethiopia. In the old days, the Amharas, the Oromos, and the other tribes were free to invest their money anywhere they wanted. No one controlled their assets – their cattle, their sheep, their goats, their mules, their donkeys, their horses, and their chickens. They could sell their animals at the price they had fixed; they could kill their sheep or goats or caws at any time and eat their meat with their families. That was sweet and pure freedom then!

    Dr. Messay should know bribery is not limited to Ethiopia; it is everywhere in the world: in fact, it is worst in the democratic countries such as in the United States, Great Britain, Italy, Germany, and in many other democratic countries. Taking someone’s money improperly is not the only nature of bribery: stealing and telling a lie are also parts of bribery.

    Dr. Messay, there is no such a thing as a professional bureaucracy: all bureaucrats such as members of Meles criminal families are unprofessional bureaucrats. Can you tell me which country in the world has professional bureaucrats? What do you mean by professional bureaucrats? Do your professional bureaucrats include professional thieves such as Meles and his likes? If they do, then Meles is a professional bureaucrat.

    Dr. Messay witnesses to the public Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) has demonstrated some improvements in education in Ethiopia, but Dr. Messay has failed to tell us in which part of the country the improvement in education is more visible? Does the improvement in education includes all Ethiopian regions, or the improvement in education Dr. Messay is talking about is only more visible in Mekelle city, the home town of Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi)? Is the improvement in education in all subject areas, or is it just on certain disciplines, and which are these disciplines? Can you be more specific, please?

    It is unbelievable Dr. Messay, as an educated person, believes civic education is a polarizing factor in Ethiopian rather than a unifying factor, which means Ethiopian students should not learn civic lessons. This is music to Meles’ears because most of the time, it is those students who are well versed in civic education that raise questions about the legitimacy of Meles presidency; therefore, Meles will be elated if civic education is taken out from the curriculum. However, Ethiopians love to recite to their children the glorious histories of their kings, queens, and their local and national heroes; therefore, civic education is vital for the young as well as for the old Ethiopians.

    Ethnicity is not a new entity in the Ethiopian history as Dr. Messay believes it is a new phenomenal. For example, Amharas have always been Amharas; Oromos have always been Oromos, and the same thing is true with the rest of the Ethiopian people. The ethnicity of the Oromo people has never been a factor in failing to protect Ethiopia from external invaders. The Oromos, the Amharas, and the rest have always been on the front line to defend Ethiopia from all its enemies, but ethnicity became a problem only when Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) took care of the Mekelle people only at the expense of the other Ethiopian people. Ethnicity became a problem when Meles gave the high paying jobs to the Tegaru. Indeed, ethnicity became a big problem when Meles sent abroad for higher education students only from Mekelle city. Now, under Woyanne government, ethnicity is a curse, but under Emperor Haile Selassie it was a blessing to say I am an Amhara, I am an Oromo, and etc.

    One cannot establish the love of one’s country in his own people by merely planning to build a big dam, by inciting his people to wage a war against a peaceful country, by collecting money from his people for the dam or for a war; therefore, Dr. Messay’s three points that Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) has proposed as his nationalist themes are invalid. The people of Ethiopia know very well Meles will never build the dam and will never go to war with Ethiopia’s old enemy, Egypt. A love of country is instilled in one’s people’s mind when the ruler of that country has shown a complete and selfless dedication for his country. It is too late now for Meles to galvanize the Ethiopian people for a noble cause such as promising them to build a dam, to bring back the two lost seaports, and to defend Ethiopia from any aggressive enemy.

    If it is only a fear of losing one’s authority over one’s subjects that pushes authoritative regimes to declare economic reforms in their countries, such fear-oriented economic reforms are doomed to fail because they are not heart-felt or deep-seated reforms; they are just lackadaisical like trying to build a dam and planning to go to war with Egypt.

    Dr. Messay confirms Japan, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Cuba, and some Latin American countries took major efforts to modernize their countries because of the fear of colonization or because of the threat of communism. It could be so, but there is no threat that forces Meles to modernize Ethiopia; the opposition is disorganized, confused, and dysfunctional to be a great threat to him. The West has always been on the side of Meles, and there is no other power at this time that threatens Meles to bring a favorable change to the Ethiopians.

    Why do modernizing elites waste their precious times in engaging the ruling elites since the ruling elites have the upper hand in convincing or forcing the modernizing elites to be submissive to the ruling elites? The ruling elites may agree superficially that they would renounce repression, and the modernizing elites may sincerely agree they would not plan to overthrow the ruling regime. In fact, the ruling elites has the power to send the modernizing elites to jail for speaking out about the overthrow of the regime, and there will be no lasting or binding compromise between the modernizing elites and the ruling elites since power, wealth, and fame are in the hands of the ruling elites.

    One can dare say there is a political stalemate when there are two or more active and powerful political parties in Ethiopia. At this time, however, there is no effective political party able to compete with Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi); therefore, for Dr. Messay to say there is a political stalemate in Ethiopian is absurd and ridiculous. Meles for his defense can simply say there are political parties in Ethiopia, but in reality, we know Meles government is a one party government.

    Dr. Messay tries to convince us armed conflict, peaceful struggle, and popular uprising will not likely bring down Meles from his power. Not satisfied with his false prediction, he goes further to discourage those young Ethiopians who in the near future may try to oppose the Meles regime by telling them not to follow the Egyptian, the Libyan, the Syrian and the Yemenis ways of confronting Dictator Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi).

    Dr. Messay has again disappointed us for failing to give us the effective ways of dismantling the Woyanne regime and bringing democracy to our country?

    To tell the truth, there will be no compromise with a killer even though Dr. Messay suggests the present political stalemate may endanger everybody “unless a mood for compromises soon emanates from all parties concerned.”

    At last, Dr. Messay offers his advice that the two political parties should consider grand coalition and power-sharing; this kind of advice, of course, would fall into the deaf ears of the ruling elites since Meles never wants to share power with any political party.

    Dr. Messay asserts democratization takes place through a slow and long process not through the overthrow of ruling elite. In this case, Dr. Messay is not even one of the modernizing elites; he is rather one of the ruling elites since he firmly believes in the continuation of the Meles regime.

    Having read Dr. Messay’s article, and using the two Amharic words, I am obliged in the name of the remnant of the Ethiopian political opposition to dub him: እበላ ባይ.

  11. Sam on

    #9. dan,

    You are eagerly advising us to the effect that this is a world wide web where any one can express his opinion but at the same immediately turn around and condemn forum members who have just done that by expressing their genuine opinion on Dr. Messay’s too long drawn hazy theoretical proposition which you seem to admire for its flight high up in the sky above the heads of ordinary mortal humans seeking practical propositions for the solution of their long standing problems.

    What is wrong with suspecting a theory as a conspiracy theory since this is a world wide web where anybody can freely express his opinion as you knowledgeably stated. You seem to be desiring to eat your cakes and keep them at the same time. Why? Enough is enough! ):

  12. truth Ok on

    #9. Assta B.Gettu,

    “Ethnicity is not a new entity in Ethiopian history as Dr. Messay believes it is a new phenomena…” you stated

    Thanks for pointing out the truth. Rushing throuth Dr. Messays article and reading his blind denial paragraph on ethnicity I thought that the Dr. is out to lie BIG for some reason. That important piece of lie painted the whole article as a piece of lie as far as I am concerened. I really lost both respect and trust for the Dr even though he does not need them.

    Absolutely there is nothing wrong with ethnicity and community because we can be different in some ways as well as being similar in many ways. Our diversities are our stregths and bottomless sources of innovations and creativities if we acknowledge differences in other as well as receive acknowledgement and respect for our being different as well. It was all a hand work of nature and not artificially self made.

    The fundamental problem is that tyrants some times emmerge from a parochial small circles and exclusively empower ONLY elites from their own ethnic groups at the complete expenses and exclusion of other ethnic groups creating and causing inter ethnic haterade and violence simply for the sheer pupose of dividing and ruling the poor citizens like the tplf tyrants are currently doing.

    The answer to such an evil medieval self serving political behavior is to rise up and bring about democracy and good governance that treats all citizens equally regardless of their ethnicity, religion, region, gender, intergenerational gap, etc. on the basis of justice for all. Let people like dr: Messay hide their heads deep in the sand like the proverbial Ostrich and try to lie in to our face but we don’t accept their exaggerated elitist false manipulations and prphesies.

  13. Stoned Peter on

    Thank you Assta B. Gettu it is an amazing reply as always. Your reply to Doctor Mesay’s article is well written I allways enjoy to read your writings thank you for that, I am sure the doctor has learned just like me with your deep analysis of the Ethiopian political reality mainly Meles’s psyche. I have no idea what kind of doctorate, doctor Mesay has if you ask me to guess it just by reading this article and his past article about a book on protestantism and the Ethiopian Orthodox church I would say his doctorate might be in physics, math, geology or some scines field that might be the problem for his lack of deep analysis of the current Ethiopian social and political situation. Really if Doctor Mesay had followed for the last 20 years the true color of Meles I am sure he would not wasted his time in writing this article, how to understand Meles the dictator. If Meles wants to do good things which are expected from a good leader for his subjects he should learn more than anything from Mengistu Halemariam. Because Mengistu was not overthrown by TPLF rather the people of Ethiopian did not want him so they stoped to fight for him so the soldiers parked their tanks while TPLF barefooted fighters swarm slowly Ethiopia then Addis Ababa. So if Meles wants not to repeat what happened to Mengistu I am sure 20 years are more than enough to change someone’s thinking. For example if a child was first grade when Meles began to rule Ethiopia today that child could be a doctor just like Doctor Mesay who knows if doctor mesay was one of those children who were first grade when Meles began his 20 years power to rule Ethiopia. however I have heard in German Amharic service the TPLF foreign ministry employee Dina Mufti call doctor Mesay my former teacher so doctor Mesay has all kinds of chances such as education and age to understand Meles so I do not get why doctor Mesay does not get Meles’s psyche. I know you do not need to be a doctor to know the day to day reality of Ethiopia. especially the work of Meles because his work is open for everyone to see it, for instance as soon as he came to power his first job was to expel 40 university teachers as well as his dismantle of the Ethiopian malaria protection organization and appoint a new pope from his tribe for the Ethiopian Orthodox church those three public and religious organizations were not an immediate threat for his power however for Meles his action on those three and other similar firing and expelling were a show of power display which was unnecessary if Meles was a normal person in addition the Ethiopian army displacement was a bad Meles’s work as we saw later during the Ethiopian and Eritrean conflict. In short can doctor Meseay tell us Meles’s success in his last vain 20 years of ruling Ethiopia, except giving 2 seaports and he begs others to let him import he goes to war with Eritrean and wins the battle and loses the victory after all that blood shade, he permits election then when he loses the election he kills voters, he goes to Somalia andloses his military credibility, he puts price control with 90 days he goes back, what about Meles’s national bank gold bars becoming rail road bars, what about 10,000 tones or 100,000 quintals of coffee evaporates just like water vapor etc. So if all the above mistakes were done under the leadership of Meles where the wise doctor found about Meles’s matured quality leadership. By the way Doctor Mesay can you tell us in what field you got your doctorate if you do not mind I personaly I will try to ask people. By the way I have a big respect to you and your profession so please do not misunderstand me.

  14. Haqq on

    # 9 Assta B. Gettu

    Thank you for enlightening the real content of the article, I was decided not to west my time to write any comment on this article as soon as I read it, however you made me to change my mind. I am totally agree with you analysis it is perfectly detailed in simple language. However when you said …”Amharas have always been Amharas; Oromos have always been Oromos, and the same thing is true with the rest of the Ethiopian people….” I took it as you saying that previous there were no issue /problem between ethnic groups in Ethiopia, you may correct me if I misunderstood, if so I believe there were issue /problem between ethnic groups in Ethiopia and Woyane government used in his advantage by preaching as if he is going to solve the problem instead by galvanizing it. That is why we have still LFs in our country & I don’t believe for a second producing too many LFs is a solution for Ethiopian ethnic issue. We have to admit this issue existed and exists and come together to resolve once for all by replacing the dictatorial regime with democratically elected government.

    My always concern is that we are not united and this is golden opportunity for the dictator, that is why he is working day in and day out to divided us in Ethiopian as well in Diaspora as we witnessed in the “Dam” diverssion.

    At this time we don’t need some one, scholar or anyone for that matter, to tell us who are Woyane or Meles and how we can save them from doomsday. You don’t need to be scholar to know who is Meles Ethiopian society who leave in country side let alone get access or ability to reading such kind of article where there is no even access to the radio knows who is Woyane and Mels , however needs a leader who can lead him to ride of Meles once for ever.

    At this time we need someone to tell us how we can unite, how we can be strong to defeat Meles & how we can convince those LFs to come to the table for common interest building future democratic inclusive Ethiopia.

    My other concern when it comes to strength is that as we are few people organized we have too many organization, political and civic, that divides human power and make us weak especially in Diaspora. Here I am not advocating unnecessary unity , however if any one doesn’t agree with someone’s idea shouldn’t jump to create new organization, we need tolerance & focus on common goal we have to think ahead beyond our self existence/interest in time , for next generation.

    In general we need a leader, determination, tolerance & consistency.

    God the almighty Bless Ethiopia.

  15. Haqq on

    Please read # 11 Assta B. Gettu instead of # 9 Assta B. Gettu of the title of my previous comment with apology.

    Thanks.

  16. Assta B. Gettu on

    Dear truth OK #13,

    Dr. Messay has to learn the real political issues in Ethiopia from people like you, Stoned Peter, Haqq, and many other persons who really understand the true natures of Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) and his crime families.

    You are absolutely right “Our diversities are our strengths and bottomless sources of innovations and creativities….” However, under Meles regime, our diversities and ethnicities have become our enemies. Today to live a descent life in Meles’ Ethiopia, one has to look alike like one of the Tegaru; one has to say he is from Mekelle; one has to speak Tigrigna, and one has to show his ID card that he is a member of the ruling party.

    I don’t think Dr. Messay knows in detail what Dictator Meles is doing to the Ethiopian people and especially to the young Ethiopian generations who do not fully and really know that beautiful culture, that beautiful tradition, and that rich history of their Ethiopian ancestors. Meles has brain-washed them by telling those who belong to his tribe as his close kin, and those who do not belong as his distant friends.

    Whatever evil thoughts Meles is instilling in the innocent brains of the Ethiopian children, the Ethiopian people will never give up or hide their true and natural identities – their ethnicities – even though Meles Seitanawi uses the people’s ethnicities as his weapons to divide them and rule them forever.

    Dear Stoned Peter #14,

    I’m glad you enjoy reading my writing, and it is my hope Dr. Messay will respond to the legitimate questions you have raised after you have read his article, but don’t be embarrassed if he fails to answer your questions as it has always been the case with some Ph.D. holders.

    It seems to me though Dr. Messay is indifferent to the basic problem Ethiopia is facing today: food, water, healthcare, education, transportation, electricity, housing, and jobs are the problems indeed, but these problems will be improved over time when Ethiopia gets a caring and selfless leader. I argue the basic and, at that, the irreversible problem which has been happening for two decays or more in Ethiopia is the tigrianization of Ethiopia, and, if Meles continues to rule Ethiopia for another 20 years, the Amharas,’ the Oromos,’ and the other Ethiopians’ cultures will become like those endangered species.

    Many times when some people talk about the food problem Ethiopia is facing, they don’t realize Meles’ long term goal is to have only one tribe in Ethiopia – the Tegaru tribe – and one army only – the Tegaru army; in this way, his old ambition for his Abbey Tigray will be accomplished. For example, one, willing to buy something from one of the stores in Addis Ababa, has to take with him an interpreter if the buyer is an Oromo or an Amhara or another Ethiopian tribe. Most stores in Addis Ababa are now owned by the Tegaru. These are the first signs that tigrianization is sweeping most of the Ethiopian cities, towns, and villages. The appointment of Abba Paulos as the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church is part of the process of tigrianization. As we all know Abba Paulos is from Tigray, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church is now full of Tegaru’s deacons, priests, bishops, archbishops, security guards, and many Tigrean monks and nuns. The abbots in the Ethiopian monasteries are mostly Tigrean origins, and to be under a Tigrean abbot is like to serve under Adolf Hitler, and I am very sorry for the few Amhara and Oromo monks who serve the Church under the ecclesiastical administration of those hot-tempered Tigrean abbots.

    It is too bad Ethiopia is being ruled by swindlers, money launderers, warmongers, and bigots, scoffers of religion, iconoclasts, and enemies of God.

    Dear Haqq #15,

    It is good you have changed your mind and read Dr. Messay Kebede’s article. I agree with you ethnicity has never been a big issue, and it is one of our cultures to say: “I am from Oromo; I am from Amhara,” or he is Gojamme; he is Gondere; he is Wolloye, and so on and so forth. And there is nothing wrong to tell to the other person to which tribe you belong. Belonging to one group of people does not take away your Ethiopianization from you; in fact, it confirms you are one of the hundreds beautiful tribes of your mother land Ethiopia. Ethiopia has many children that we cannot even count them, but they all belong to one country, to one Ethiopia, and to one soil.

    Yes, Dictator Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) can use our languages, our ethnicities, our colors, our religions, and our geographical locations as the best means to further divide us, alienate us from one another, and weaken our eternal unity so that he could stay in power without being challenged.

    Using our languages, he would say Tigrigna is the richest language in all the Ethiopian languages; using our ethnicities, he would say he cannot give that profitable job to that person because that person is from Oromo or from Amhara. Using our colors, he would say Tigreans and the Amharas look like the Yemenis; the Oromos and the other Ethiopian tribes look like the Kenyans. Using our religions, he would say the Amharas and the Tigreans are Christians but the Oromos are Muslims. Using our geographical locations, he would say Wolkait-Tegedie belongs to the Tigray province, not to Gondar, and some of the fertile lands of Gondar belong to Sudan, and there are many other divisive issues Meles uses on a daily basis in order to stay in power. For example, his economic programs, his education plans, his job distribution methods, and his appointments for government offices are all one sided; all are planned to enrich one tribe only; therefore he is able to stay in power all these years while we are fighting about our languages, our ethnicities, our religions, our colors, and our locations. We must identify the main issues that divide us and prolong our slavery in the hands of a cruel and merciless master – Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi).

    Let us burry our differences, ignore our personal pride, build our unity, strengthen our community, and march forward to bring down our common enemy – Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi). Yes, as you said, we need a good shepherd who cares for his sheep, and once we know what kind of leader he is, then we will follow him to the end.

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