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
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. 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 nation-building. 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 intra-Hamasin 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: http://irobmablo.org/Irob_History_Beyene.pdf ) 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 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 anti-Ethiopian 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 “anti-Ethiopia 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 anti-Ethiopia “Tigre” group accepts to share power with the “opposition parties”. Why the volt-face 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 any one 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 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 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 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 well-being, 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 duty-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.
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 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 anti-Ethiopian. 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. 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 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.
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 a 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 Tesfa-Tsion Medhanie plead for a confederal arrangement. This is a 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 pre-industrial 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.
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 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 pre-1991 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 every thing 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 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 (1468-1478) 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 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 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 non-chosen 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 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.