On the Democratization Process By Messay Kebede

June 29th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

This is not a response to the numerous reactions generated by my previous article titled “Meles’s Political Dilemma and the Developmental State: Dead-Ends and Exit” Some of the reactions raised serious and legitimate questions; others emanated from misunderstandings of the actual contents of the article; still others drifted more toward acrimony and malicious insinuations than a civilized exchange of ideas. While I thank all those who came up with serious questions and assure them that I take their challenges as expressions of the real framework of the Ethiopian political debate, I say “grow up” to those who chose acrimony and insinuations, including those who gushed their bravados about popular revolution and armed struggle from their comfortable life in Europe and America.

This paper is rather intended to stress some points that we should keep in mind when we discuss about democracy and the role of elites. Among the serious challengers of my proposal, Abiye Teklemariam Megenta and Eskinder Nega point out that elite driven political change cannot produce democratic outcomes without the active participation of the people. I wholeheartedly agree with them, but insist that the issue of how democracy functions is different from how democracy comes into being in the first place. The shift from functional to genetic perspective brings out the decisive role of elites, more exactly, the potential for democratic change when rival elites give up the path of violent confrontation. Democracy presupposes the stage of civilized behavior through the surrender of violence as a means to defend or promote one’s interest. Once violence is out of the picture, what else remains but the avenue of compromise and agreement to resolve conflicts over power and material interests?

The whole issue it to know what compels elites to seek compromise and agreement rather than domination and exclusion. Studies of democratic changes show that when prolonged struggles over power and interests among various elite groups reach a stalemate or when a common threat endangers their existence, such as invasion by a foreign country or civil disorder and war, competing elites develop a disposition toward compromise. For instance, one incentive leading elites to devise an agreement is the fear of revolutions, which often tend to empower unorthodox and extremist elites (radical intellectuals, religious fundamentalists, secessionist leaders, etc.). Accordingly, it is idealistic to generate democratic disposition from the enlightening effect of progressist ideas or convictions; ideological conviction must be backed by interests for democratic changes to actually occur in practice. In other words, the conditions for democracy appear when rival elites commit to a peaceful resolution of their conflicts, which resolution is itself the outcome of a calculation of the best way to preserve their long-term interests.

I know that the common meaning attached to democracy is that it is the rule of the people. However, to say so does not mean that the people actually rule. Instead, it means that the people have the power to decide who rule them and that the latter are accountable to them. The control of state power is the concern of political elites, not of ordinary people. Moreover, democracy presupposes not the absence of conflicts, but their intensification, which applies more to elite competitions than to the communalism of the people. As rightly conceptualized by Karl Marx, the day the people control power is the day state power and politics come to an end.

Be it noted that there is an organic connection between the decision of elites to settle their disputes peacefully and the recognition of popular sovereignty. As soon as elites give up the use of force, there emerges the need for a sovereign arbitrator of conflicts, and this is typically realized through a free and fair competition for the vote of the people. Obviously, competition cannot be free and fair if it does not include the respect of basic rights, such as freedom of organization and expression and the fundamental rights of the individual. There is no arbitration of conflicts by the people, either, if the people are not invested with the necessary authority.

The decisive role of elites does not mean that the people passively await for elites to grant them their basic rights. On the contrary, people fight for those rights in conjunction with elites competing to assert their interests. As shown by Theda Skocpol’s statement according to which “revolutions are not made; they come,” it is a mistake to forget the autonomy of popular uprisings from elite politics. What connects popular movements with the latter is not that elites cause revolutions, but that they need the support of the people in their struggle for the control of power and compete for it, often in demagogic terms.

Those elite groups that best articulate their interests with the interest of the masses have a better chance to rise to power through election. Nonetheless, the inevitable divergence between elite interests and the masses offers the opportunity for the rival elite group to conquer power in its turn. This democratic process runs into danger when elite groups appear that claim to represent the masses. Instead of being mere allies, such elites identify with the masses and become their saviors, the typical form of which is found in the Leninist notion of “professional revolutionaries.”

The gist of my previous article is the assertion of a political stalemate in Ethiopia. The 2010 election has resolutely demonstrated that Meles and his followers have moved far away from the idea of free and fair competition for state power and that they are determined to stay in power by all means. This retraction incapacitates the nonviolent opposition and puts an end to the prospect of change occurring by means of free election. The deadlock is thus tangible: neither can Meles succeed in marginalizing the opposition through rapid economic development, as presumed in his defense of the developmental state, nor can the opposition overthrow him through electoral victory.

There is, of course, no impasse for those who opted for armed confrontation as the only means to topple the present regime. In my view, their position is the most consistent response to the drift of the present regime toward repression and one-party system and is in line with the goal of overthrowing the ruling elite. My problem is not that I discard the possibility of its success, given enough time, but that armed struggle leaves untouched the problem of democratization. Far from resolving the problem of democratization, the seizure of power by an armed movement creates domineering temptations, as strongly evinced by the history of the TPLF and EPLF. What remains true, however, is that the existence of such a movement can pressure the ruling elite to negotiate so that the path of democratization would still be found in the idea of coalition. Thus, there is no escaping negotiation and coalition when one wants genuine democratization.

On the other hand, the impasse of Ethiopia’s nonviolent opposition can only lead to one result: popular uprising or revolution, which, in addition to being unpredictable, will occur in a society polarized by ethnic tensions. In view of this stalemate and its dangerous implications for the country, including for the elites competing for power, I thought that an appeal to common sense and the long-term interests of all involved is timely and relevant. Hence the idea of coalition that I framed in such a way that it provides incentives for rival elites to work out a compromise. Those who characterized my idea as naïve simply forget that it is less naïve than those who believe that the TPLF can rule Ethiopia for an indefinite time or those who except democratic outcomes from a popular uprising.

For these incorrigible groups of people, I remind George Santayana’s famous warning: “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Emperor Haile Selassie and the landed class lost everything because they refused compromise, thinking that they were invincible. This same belief presently animates Meles and his cronies. On the opposite side, those who pushed for revolution reaped the Derg and a host of tragic setbacks, including a prolonged civil war, economic decline, the ethnicization of conflicts, the loss of Eritrea, and the victory of the TPLF with its ethnic federalism.

What I find questionable is the assumption that genuine democratic forces are already ready not only to lead the popular uprising, but also to institute a genuine democratic government. Nothing is more naïve than this assertion: because people talk about democracy and democratic rights, it does not mean that they are willing to implement them. More often than not, elites use democratic slogans to rally popular support while their real intention is to establish their own exclusive power. All political actors in Ethiopia know this: simply, those who risk losing everything are understandably more suspicious than those who aspire for power. Moreover, democracy cannot happen overnight: it requires a protected process of institution-building, culture change, popular empowerment, and confidence building among political elites. As shown by the history of advanced democratic countries, democracy is made of incremental advances, often interrupted by setbacks.

I may disappoint many people when I say that in today’s Ethiopia I do not see the gathering of democratic forces, but that of resentment, suspicion, and hostility. The idea of a grand coalition is just an attempt to channel these negative forces into a protracted process of mutual accommodation and thrust (in lieu of distrust and dethronement of one group by another). I may disappoint even more when I state that I refuse to posit democracy in terms of either/or, that is, in terms cornering Ethiopians to say “democracy now or nothing else.” With due respect to my critics, as a long and evolutionary process, democracy grows out of authoritarianism. When one thinks in terms of process versus leap into the unknown, change is never either this or that; rather, it is this and that, to wit, a transition.

  1. koroboo
    | #1

    I have to say I am very proud to have amongst us Ethiopians, a very realistic, brave and well grounded intellectual, who rather show the best road map ahead for the dysfunctional power hungry elites camped in both opposition and ruling class for the sake and advantage of his dispossessed countrymen. If I have ever come across anyone who learnt from the mistake of the generation that lead the country into the verge of oblivion starting from the 60’s and 70’s, it must be Messay. How I wish there was someone of his calibre existed in those days who didn’t take his eyes of the main goal of protecting the interest of his people rather than the very few educated elite.
    Although this sprinkling of reality dose of the current events was timely and welcomed. In my opinion, more permeation of this type of well grounded thinking needs to be main stream thinking amongst the elite, rather than the pie in the sky Lala land idealism which is neither productive nor realistic. Above all since it is a thinking that will delve us further into the exact vicious circle this ‘my way or the high way’ has lead us until now.
    Surly the emotionally charged and venomous charges labelled at people like Messay by those who think they are always right typifies the challenge that is ahead of us. This becomes even more hypocritical when these comments for further bloodshed come from those who are living in the luxury of European and American with their children.
    I have to say that what were available for us to digest in Messay’s two articles were practical analysis and solutions to the massive issues we face in Ethiopia today. If I am not mistaken, I think what has prompted Messay to write is the present political impasse and polarisation in Ethiopia. I agree with him as the fact is, I don’t think anyone can argue if one says that neither Meles nor his group can succeed in marginalizing the opposition through what is deemed as double digit economic growth, transformation and development, nor the opposition can overthrow him through peaceful means be it through electoral victory (no chance!) or popular revolt (no chance, the political environment in Ethiopia is such that Libya and Syria will be more likely than Tunisia and Egypt, and I don’t think there is the appetite for a prolonged and violent uprising to happen based on my assessment here Ethiopia). Obviously for geopolitical, economic ethic and morality reasons armed struggle is out of the question. So what is left? In the oppositions view, how can we come out of these dead-ends? That is what I think Messay was grappling with, although there needs to be more detail on how to incentives and prompt all sides to look at the bigger picture and bring about these political arrangements with the ultimate goal of establishing democratic governance? How can we learn from strong developmental states that managed to become democracies like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan etc…?
    Moreover, given that we rightfully focus on the TPLF regimes dictatorial rule and how it affects our people. Why are we not also discussing the massively dysfunctional opposition and how we can strengthen it so it can be in a position to be ready for power? Why are we preventing ourselves from asking tough questions to the opposition so it can be stronger by answering them practically? Questions like the following need to be inevitably answered and the sooner it is done the better it will be for our people,
    1) Given that elections, popular revolts or armed struggle are not going to either work or be controllable by anyone. Especially since the majority in Ethiopia doesn’t have any appetite for further bloodshed given that the relative peace experienced for the last couple of years has shown people the values of tranquillity and the pointlessness of mindless conflicts, wars and carnage. How do you go about attaining our goals for democracy, freedom, justice rule of law etc…?
    2) With enough blame to go around, would a purely blame game strategy used by the opposition a correct course to take? Why are the opposition parties failing to forward alternative arguments on issues of public interest ranging from the cost of living to doing business and social security? Is playing a blame game alone what we need right now or solutions? Why would the opposition fail to articulate their stands and go to bed merely opposing and comfortably? Why shouldn’t we hold them to account for both our and their benefits? If they are like these now how would they be like when they take power? Continue their lazy ways?
    3) The realities on the ground in Ethiopia are so much different from what I read and hear from Ethiopians in the Diaspora. Indicating a massive disconnect and unrealistic ambitions. Can you imagine a Chinese democratic activist working with North Korea to democratize china? With the same token, how can anyone in the right mind justify working with the lunatics in Eritrea to bring democracy in Ethiopia? Really? The sad thing is I don’t see anyone who claims to be an intellectual oppose or discuss any reservation about this craziness. Why?
    4) What have we learnt from the 60’s and 70’s idealistic but fatalistic student movement? Would you say if they were focused on incremental change rather than squabble to take power we would have seen a different outcome by now? Maybe even a democratic, free and prosperous country?
    5) Would the Diaspora do the fighting itself or still hope to use the poor and powerless as cannon holders? Especially the politicians who live comfortably with their families in the west and incite people in Ethiopia using remote controls without batteries? Really?
    6) Would you agree that the Ethiopian political scene has been challenged by character poverty since opposition politics has became increasingly specious, individualized, and uncoordinated? Don’t you think the opposition is still divided along sectarian lines, serve special interests etc…? Would you agree that they are still haunted by animosity, and argue about unsubstantiated ideas? Is that how they plan to also serve our people?
    7) Given the challenges we face ahead, aren’t you concerned about the luck of mature debate and the intellectual caliber of the people who take the helm of opposition leadership? Case in point Hailu who could/might have been PM in 2005, Thank God! Ehhh!

  2. Aboo
    | #2

    Your view is certainly outside of the conventional wisdom. Although I agree with you on your assessment about how Ethiopian politics is broken and needs a different outlook. I would like to know how you will be able to force or convince the TPLF without any carrot or a big stick? Or have I misunderstood your suggestion?

    By the way I agree with your view on the so called Diaspora politicians. If you are not prepared to walk the talk, shut up and let the brave people in Ethiopia do the fighting! You can support but not lead since you have chosen to save yourself and family and abandon your people.

    Thank you Messay.

  3. wedi samrawit
    | #3

    Prof.Messay has nailed it albeit with certain shortcomings.

    Regardless of all the pretentious talk about people’s power, the elite are the real forces behind the political project of the state and its trappings even though they understandably have to appeal to ordinary people to get things done. Call the elite the demi-gods and the people their worshipers. The state has always been the brainchild of the ambitious elite and has been continuously shaped by them from time immemorial. Those who speak about democracy through popular participation can easily negate their proposition by their own actions. Even at debate level, Messay and other writers never received the representation of our people to discuss whether or not democracy is good for development. Abiye and Eskinder should have consulted the ‘PEOPLE’ what to include in their responses to Messay’s provocative piece.

    But Messay has his shortcomings too. He complains about acrimonious and insidious reactions to his paper. But he himself does not seem to be immune to similar flaws he filters out in his writing. Of course, I have read many irresponsible blogs that minced no words as they accused him of working for TPLF for suggesting power sharing arrangement between TPLF and the opposition. But Messay should not have resorted to wholesale denunciation especially against those who have chosen the armed struggle route. His sharp shootings aimed at those, “who gushed their bravados about popular revolution and armed struggle from their comfortable life in Europe and America,” is simply unwarranted, inflammatory and indiscriminate which does not help his point. We may have our own reservations and scepticism regarding the viability of armed struggle, but nothing can justify such ill-conceived statements.

    Messay also made the right diagnosis about the current political stalemate in Ethiopia only to end up making the wrong prescription. First of all, as far as I understand, the essence of our longstanding cry is not about the exclusion of the opposition from political power. Most people care less whether real power is with Messay from Addis or Ibssa from Tulummaa or Goitay from Axum. Ordinary people, as Messay clearly understands, are not as much obsessed with the urge for power and control as do the elite. So, at the end of the day, our debate was meant to bring about ways and means to create a system that accommodates not only the interests of elite groups but also the aspirations and pressing needs of ordinary people.

    As long as the current lopsided power structure continues and real power still rests on people from a minority ethnic group, what is the value of “getting some room for our opposition”? I think Messay seems to forget the ultimate aim of our struggle. If it is to get some ministerial portfolios for opposition members, why should I donate my money, spend my time discussing and commenting on issues? Why? Those whose sole goal is getting power and money can fight for themselves. I do not care for them. I repeat. I do not care if Hailu or Chamiso dies without seeing Arat Kilo palace in their life time. If our concern is really for ordinary people, we must stand clear about our intensions and long term objectives. TPLF must be dismantled altogether. Period.

    But this will lead to bloodshed. Certainly it will. It is all about exploitation and one ethnic domination in the military and the economy. It is all about farmers who are losing their ancestral land to foreigners. It is all about the millions hungry and unemployed. It is not about “power-sharing” festivities. It is here where Messaye is caught off guard. No amount of power sharing and negotiation between TPLF and opposition parties will avoid the spectre of war and violence as long as the fundamental economic problems are not solved. The current urgent problem is Ethiopia is economic not political. The problem largely affects the ordinary people not the elite ones. Like we saw with the sequence of events in the Arab Spring World, life and death situations do not necessarily require the “stamp” of political elites. The people will rise up when the critical mass is reached. As the saying goes, famished people eat their rulers.

    The bottom line is that this debate will remain irrelevant as long as the current situation in Ethiopia is concerned. Only if Meles had ears to listen that talk of reform or new grand coalition would be acceptable. Even when Meles listens, all problems will not go away simply because the subservient opposition is incorporated into a new coalition government. Messay’s proposal does not fully recognize the plight of the ordinary people. As things stand now a guerrilla fighter in Armachiho has a great sense of wisdom than most of us arm-chair/cyber warriors scattered around the world.

  4. sema egazbehir
    | #4

    I was just about to write in my clumsy english my sincere reaction to the Dr. Messay’s article. But Wedi Samrwait spare me from doing that as he/She puts everything i wanted to say eloquently and in concise manner. Thanks, i whole heartily agree with your thinking.

    Dr, Messay I do not understand why do you hate HIM this much. why do not leave him alone? in my opinion the generation, how toppled him, has a lot more to answer for the state we are in today than the emperor himself. I would like you to come clean on that first, before dragging him through your mud in all of your article. Please do not insult those who are trying their best to counter and resist the destructive forces of TPLF. I can clearly see that you can not to give them the benefit of doubt, please at least stop insulting them.

  5. Shafi Gobena
    | #5

    The fact that Dr. Messay wrote such a lengthy piece on democracy and power sharing between TPLF/EPRDF and the so called opposition tells us that he believes he has found the antidote for the poisoned political environment in the country. We feel that he is wrong on three counts.

    First, democracy is only one aspect of our political problem. There is another problem democracy has not and cannot solve. A national question. The Oromo and Ogadeni are demanding self determination and Afar will soon follow. Europe, North and South America and Asia have not succeeded to solve national question with democracy. Dr. Messay has not raised this aspect of our problem because he wrongly assumed that democracy is what people in the country need and want. Sad to say, that is not the case.

    Second, Dr. Messay thinks the so called opposition is one big family whose interest is known. The entity, even if it was given the chance, has not proven it is worthy of the name. It is amorphous whose interest cannot be captured even in a broad common program. Even a small group of opposition in the country has trouble reconciling their differences and work together against the ruling party. Dr. Messay has not seriously weigh his statements when he wrote about the opposition.

    Third, Dr. Messay believes if the stalemate is not solved by power sharing, the remaining choices are between popular insurrection and armed struggle. We wonder why he omitted the peaceful struggle that is safe compared to his choices. Genuine peaceful struggle does not usually end up in the removal of governments, but it forces them to reform. Given our situation, reform and eventual choice is what we should promote. By peaceful struggle, we are not talking about leaders that release periodic statements condemning the government and participate in elections. We admit that there is no organized peaceful struggle going on now in the country. Such a struggle needs a leader (or leaders) and people ready to sacrifice their interests for the well being of all. In time, such people will emerge and take leadership. If The country will be saved from descending into chaos, it will only be if genuine peaceful struggle takes the TPLF/EPRDF upfront. Dr. Messay will not touch this issue because his entire power sharing suggestion will fall apart.

    Finally, the sticky point in our political problem is national question which cannot be solved by democracy. Pursuing a genuine peaceful struggle will help to to generate and maintain dialogue with organizations that raise national questions and bring them to the fold.

  6. Lema
    | #6

    I appreciated this paper because I think the author properly diagnosed Ethiopians political problem, and he prescribed appropriate solution.

    However, I think it would be better diagnosing our disunited struggle, and providing solution for it instead of instead of taking the time massaging, masturbating, the brain. Let us be practical.

    By the way, I think it will take a miracle to unit our PHDs. The last 40+ years of our PHDs are only great on paper and when they work alone. They will also work happily for barely high school graduates; for example, Andreas Eshete has been working for Meles. And there are so many of them like him.

    Put five of our PHDs in a room to work on a project, one will find them eating each other alive.

    I wish a stroke will hit Meles’s crooked brain.

  7. aha!
    | #7

    Your main point/thesis is there is chance for autocratic rule to change to a democratiic rule, where one of features of the ruling party, not a ruler as in the case Of Emperor Hailessie, nor the King of Tunisia, where at least with Emperor an offer was offered to Him to endorse Constituional Monarchy,with parliamentary democracy to which he gave his consent. Following that what had presided in Ethiopia was a Military, a totalitarian regime with Marxisist-Lennist ideology, engaged with the Liberation movements with more or less the same ideology but leanining towards the oppression of nations and nationalities by the previous regimes. Unlike other autocratic rulers of the past and rulers of other, the current ruling party is multi facated, as one man ruler from among TPLF politbeuro for being autocratic, ethnocratic/ethnic dictatorship (minority or majority ethnic ruler, as long as the platform is based on ethnicity and the country is divided along nine major ethnic boundries) and embraces totalitarianism of the derg regime and its own marxist inclination, supper imposed with revolutionary democracy with developmental economic theory in the East Asian style. Included in this theory is also the precedence of economic development before democracy.

    Since 2006, during the split of Kinjit, which later formed UDJP and Ginbot -7, the press release at end of K-5 tour was “No change but durable democracy”, in a country where the plan is economic develoment precedes democracy in the East Asian Style. To add an insult to an injury, UDJP formed a coalition with the loyalist opposition parties, whose objectives is respect ethnic rights, protect human rights, a (common denominator for all factions) and democracy, a party is a mirror image in terms of ethnic agenda. The creation Medrek/fdd/fdre created a three way thug of war between the positve of forces of intergation of KAUP, EDP and others with the goals for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians with liberal democracy against the negative forces of disintegration with ethnic agenda with developmental economic theory and revoltionary democray. Professor messay, in the light of developments seen in a modular context, it is not the lack of “gathering steam of democratic forces” that is needed because because every one of these parties claim democratic, what is needed is the “gathering of steam ” of the poitive forces of integration in a non-violent uprising to freedom not democracy from autocratic, ethnocratic rule/ethnic dictatorship and totalitarianism with ethnic federalism and secessionism to restore Ethiopian Nationalism and Ethiopian National Intersets. The armed struggle is also ads momentum and protection as long as it is well co-ordinated with positive forces of integration, of which the Medrek/fdd/fdre becomes a part.

  8. rezene kadissaba
    | #8

    Gash Messay – Great article and approach. True our political stalemate has to be treated politicaly with democratic steps.

    But you missed mentioning the efforts made by the rulling party and again missed the lost opportunities by the oppositions. I have been arguing; EPRDF provided two genuine chances – for OLF in 1991 and to Kinijit in 2005. Though it takes two – but the opposition didn’t capitalize on the chances. Dont you think now is the opposition’s turn to start giving the ruling party a chance for a matured dialogue? Plus the time to stop associating themselves with the violent once; stop playing safe with Eritrea, and so on? I think the ball is on the opposition side.

  9. Samuel
    | #9

    There is some thing comfusing about Messay’s recent two articles. I aleays had a misgiving about Messay’s poltical stance since the time he accused the intelligentia of the 1960s and 1970s for the overthrow of the feudal system about 4 years ago. He has this cunning abilty to wiggle through philosophical forest to throw few remarks contrary to contemporary poltics.

    His recent two articles in which he insinuates the opposition falls far short of its destination. The articles emanate from a very strong presumption that the ultimate objective of the opposition forces (of all colours) is the total overthrow of the government. He does not appreciate the efforts of all opposition forces, including the armed groups, to work with the government from the get go. The first victims of the TPLF government were ONLF and OLF since the TPLF could not trust any other than themselves for their grand plan of subjugation of the whole nation. Next were the AAPO for the same reason that ONLF and OLF were purged. In those days the TPLF was busy building its structural ground work to ussurp the financial systems, the economic sector, the defence sector, the transportation sector and all economic sectors to the benefit of the TPLF. Aboy Sibhat has explicitly told us the building of EFFORT to control every sector of the society. Every one knew that the there is no representative government. In 2005 the western powers forced the TPLF to open up the poltical space. The TPLF thought that had every thing under control and grudgingly opened up the land scape. The election result was a total loss foor the TPLF. Instead of working for a smooth transition it opted to annul the result of the election altogether closing the open space that was slightly opened. In other words the opposition has been demanding the TPLF to come a negotiating table for too long. Instead it has now become a Gestapo state with SS guards (mainly Tigrean army) sprinkled through out the country terrorizing the ordinary citizen.

    So I (and I believe all others except the TPLF gangs) understand that the ball has been in the TPLFs camp ever since they came to power to accomodate the diverse people in the country in the interest of the Tigrean people. I do not believe in the invicibilty of the TPLF. The moment the opposition forces come to a common understanding, the structure of the TPLF comes down crumbling, because it lacks the mass base.

    This raises another issue. Shoiuld the TPLF and EPLF have given up their struggle some 30 years ago when the derg regime seemed unwinnable?

  10. Enanu Agonafer
    | #10

    Thank God Dr. Messay quoted Marx and Lenin to substantiate some of his arguments in this paper. I was thinking if he has thrown away his communist books once he settled in the U.S. because his analysis is devoid of any discussion on emerging classes and class relations and contradictions and transformation that may result from it. It is time for him to return to his old books.

    The fact that Dr. Messay failed to analyse the change in the country, say in the last thirty years, shows how the vocal diaspora academic elites are detached from the reality in Ethiopia and work to feed the day dream of the diaspora opposition. In the piece posted above, he talks about power sharing between political elites only. That is between the TPLF/EPRDF cadres and the so called opposition. The rest are simply to watch and applaud by surrendering their interests. Isn’t Dr. Messay’s suggestion twenty years old? What’s new except the flowery language in which it is presented? What is missing is comprehensive anatomy, particularly economic and socio-cultural anatomy of present day Ethiopia. Owing to this deficiency, Dr. Messay cannot be a power broker in a highly charged political environment by suggesting ideas pulled from nowhere.

    First Dr. Messay has to see if there is economic change that has affected relations in the country to the extent politics is impacted by it. Nobody begins with that falling in a methodological flaw trap. The discussion is always TPLF/EPRDF is in power for so long and how can we remove it. If anything different comes, it is how power can be shared with the government – obviously with academic and quasi – academic elites. Messay will get angry if you say both TPLF/EPRDF and acadamic elites are no more impotant political force in the country. The worst thing is he does not ask who these new forces are.

    TPLF/EPRDF has not talked for a while and will not talk to the opposition both from within and without the country. It has reached a point where it considers them a hit away from total elimination. It will not hear to any kind of suggestion to re-invent and strengthen them because democracy needs them. It has, time and again, said democracy is not an urgent affair for the country; growth and development are.

    So, with whom does TPLF/EPRDF and its government deal today? The economic elites. As noted widely, the service, industry and agriculture sector are moved by foreign and domestic capital. The finance source of the five-year plan is foreign and domestic capital and tax. Behind capital are tax are maily business people on whom the government is dependent. The government talks to these people and works to meet their interests. sometimes the two clash. There are several recent examples to this effect. The future challenge these peole will raise to the government is to create “enabling economic environment” which includes good governance. In effect, good governance is democracy.

    As the economic elites closely work with the government to advance their interests, they will fight back any force like the academic and quasi academic elites that aspires to take political power or share it with the government. First of all, these elites have no significant stake in the country. They have no economic interest or any other interest for that matter. They might claim to be citizen of the country and need democracy, but those are not enough to put economic interest of an entire class in the hands of people who cannot protect it and help it to grow. The academic elite of the diaspora cannot even claim they are citizens of the country. So much for their concern and efforts to destabilize it.

    TPLF/EPRDF has said that it will hand over power after building capitalism in the country. We do not know if the economic elites will not remove them soon enough to further open up the country for business. The millions of workers in the newly created farms, service, manufactury and construction will join the new economic class to bring about a far reaching change in our country. EFFORT is TPLF`s platform for joining the emerging economic elites.

    The economic elites are the hope of our country. As someone said above, national question, threatening the existence of the country rather than democracy is a burning question. Economic elites that come from different ethnic background and religion can only broker a workable deal to a such threat. More than others, it will be the economic elites that will opt for a genuine peaceful struggle because of the stake the hold in the society. The political elites have no stake to mention and they are the ones who venture to unleash popular uprising, revolution and armed struggle. There is no choice other than to stop them.

    Welcome to the new Ethiopia where propertied classes have returned to power after they were in the wilderness for thirty five years. They knew the chase was temporary and communists won’t win. Scholars, declassed elements, are still trying to keep their favored old order, but it is over.

  11. Birtu/can
    | #11

    Here we are wasting paper and ink about the possibility of a coalition government with TPLF mafia, while woyane is holding members of the independent media hostage labeling them as terrorists. Can thee opposition function with these thugs who keep spitting on our faces? Are we supposed to forgive and forget the thousands perished in woyane gulag? Wouldn’t that make us guilty by association? Why can’t the brains (intellectuals) of the opposition come up with a real workable solution instead of diddling around with hopeless idea? We have sacrificed cream of the crop outstanding Ethiopians from the days of professor Asrat up to now with Reeyot and Wubeshet for practically zero result. Some ended up dead, some still remain in jail, and some in rare cases got released. Those released packed up and disappeared into the horizon never to be heard from again–remember Birtukan, teddy..etc. We have to come up with a game changer plan that will lift us(Ethiopiann people) out of the dark hole. The nightmare has to end by any means necessary. The beast has to be slaughtered.What are we waiting for? the second coming of Christ?

  12. ጉረኞች
    | #12

    Thanks Wedi Semre….you look good when you came of of your ethnic diatribe. You analyzed it well. The major problem of Messay’s suggestion is that his proposal is not pragmatic, ….dead on arrival, as they say. Meles simply will not share power, let alone with opposition who he hates so much even with his own camp. He is just brutal and greedy dictator. The peaceful opposition leaders have been demanding the same power sharing or to much lesser status of having few seats in parliament have been completely forced out by Meles. Why would Messay think that Meles will be willing to share power, in whatever status, with oppositions after he saw what Meles did in the last election? How would Mesay implement his own proposal, with no willing counterpart from ruling junta? Messay proposal is not pragmatic. It is theoretical argument that has no value to break the political stalemate. Ethiopia would not have so much problem if Messay’s proposal was implementable.

  13. Ezana
    | #13

    The author should be reminded that he is, to equal degree, guilty of “gushing” forth with his assertions, presumably from the comforts of his plush and Air-Conditioned room in the West, just as those he condemns for staying “incorrigible” in espousing a populist revolution.

    His “genetic perspective” is but sophistry in postmodern fashion, an attempt at dressing down (or up) the notion of democracy as nothing but that evolutionary process made possible only with a blessing from “elites”. All may not be lost for the majority neither–should the people opt for what the author calls “civilized behavior”– a presupposition he deems a necessity for democracy.

    This essentialist atomization (democracy vs democratization, civilized vs un-civilized) of categories betrays an underlying bias of psychological nature (self-identification), and one that sits at odds with the emancipatory ideals of freedom. i.e. the author, as all intellectuals, is an elite.

    To be frank, one is justified in being fearful of the sort of renewed-dictatorship which more than likely would result from this proposed power-sharing (or the benign coalition-forming) negotiation among the few–as it would unavoidably imagine itself to be representative of the majority–returning us back, with vigor, to the status quo.

  14. Meles
    | #14

    We will not compromise with our principle. Only the new generation will take over power not the old Diaspora politicians who only think about there belly.

    By the way it is good to see open minded people like Koroboo who is at least realistic about the future of the old Diaspora leaders who are upto no good.

    | #15


  16. Alemayhu Haile.
    | #16

    Gash,Dr. Messay , you were my teacher in AAU.I wounder you about you mark of philosophy. you were joking for you “A”, clever student “B” , Average student “C” lazy student D and F.Now you also wrote unclear and unrealistic analysis. you are an optimistic and opportunist. I surprised that you did not forget fundamental Marxist and Leninist lecture.Gash,Messay, did you remember the eradication of the most important professor from AAU by Woyane in 1995 undemocraticaly?.ofcourse you did not hurt because you are living in America very well.you donot wary about Ethiopian people operasion .I think you forgot the undemocratic leader of woyane government.How could be peacefully the share of politics from woyane. could you remember the 2005 and 2010 woyane undemocratic and unfair election? could you remind the massacre of 2005 and other death of people stile died. What do you think about peaceful translation.Dr.Messay, No one diaspora interested power share with woyane unless their family and cadere. We are interested to step down and human right , freedom of speech, freedom of press ,freedom of demonstration, freedom of right , freedom of meeting, freedom of market share , freedom of mass media, freedom of work and even life.and so on. How could be so resolve this rooted problem with out people movement and fighting. Your view is certainly outside of the conventional. wisdom.I think no solution with out fighting and people uprising revolt. Please think before writing such reticulated and ambiguous proposal. Thank you. I am from AddisAbaba. I respect you right.

  17. rezene kadissaba
    | #17

    Enanu Agonafir –

    You need to write articles of your own. You sound relevant and informed. Ethiopia is changed for good. Not recognizing this fact; and trying to write about Ethiopia is like writting a fiction. Everyone thinks Eth is the same small trading country which you know by just talking on the street. Specially those who came from Addis want to believe we know it all. But we are the least informed – even living in the capital. So try first being informed then argue with facts.

    Well done Enanu

  18. anon
    | #18

    We may present what past politcal scientsts have written about evolution of democracy and the posiblity of its application across different countries from purly acadamic point of view.But what direct relevance does this text book teoretical assumption has to do with The objective reality in a political condition such as Ethiopia? The Ethiopian experts has been with the issue of “misrule and abuse”for two decades now,yet we still don’t seem to know how to solve the equation before us.Most people know weyane junta is not in a mood to accomodate any Ethiopian oppostion by granting political space.Since 2005,weyane has caved in,it is operationg under extreme fear.There are two alternative:
    1-To form aunity of purpose among Ethiopians and call anation wide peaceful protest.
    or seek a way out through a coordination of both urban and rural proteracted armed straggle involving involving a multi national army.Dr.Messay argue that he does not see that armed struggle in the case of Ethiopia is unresonable,but he doubts that after armed struggle the new party that come to power,may fail to promote democracey. That is not true.For instance, EPRP has been one of the leading democratic organization ever surfaced in Ethiopian politics.Members have then right to information,they have the previlage to participate in immportant policy issues so when the highest body assembles to craft a policy the views of ordinary members is reflected in the decission making body.EPRP had its own constitution and members who commit crime will be tried tribunal.Beside,there were committees that will protect and defend the right s of each individual within the party highraricy The point is ,if Ethiopians chose to confront the regimeby raising a multi national army, there must be a political party that is in charge of the military activity of this undertakings. Such invironment willby necessity nurture democratic principles as members assert their right to speech and debate.As some have poited out above i dont hold the view weyane is unbeatable force by any means.We like it or not armed struggle is the way out of the delima;because weyane has said the Ethiopian people as far back to fight and gain their freedom.The question is do we take weyane at her word or do we hope for a pie in the sky and accept indefinite subjujation.No matter what some are fear full of the weyane regime’s capacity for violence, in the end when soldiers are forced to take orders from higher up to commit heinous crime against innocent unarmed civilians they have to make that decision on individual bases? Under such circumstances, in this information age every atrocity will be brought into light, the likely hood of crack among the ranks of weyane is there. We have seen this in Libia, Yemen, and even, towards the end; in Egypt-Ethiopia is not exception not all members of the police army and air force are from one ethnic group. Beside, the many Ethiopian previous weyane soldiers who resign because of dissatisfaction with the regime can be available .Still, Ethiopians are too patient but if provocked will defend themselves with great determination. The posiiblity of suchsenerios will lead individuals to consider their own devices-this in turn will force the regime to have some form of fissure within it.Infct tin the moment of stress and strain criminals will turn one another when their orders is not obeyed.

  19. ጉረኞች
    | #19

    አየ እናኑ ክፉኛ ተወናብደሻል:: የሌለ ነገር ከሞባጠጥ አርፎ መቀምቅጥ አይሻልም? አንቺ economic elite የምትይው እኮ ራሳቸው መለስ ዜናዊና አዜብ መስፍን ናቸው:: ሌላ ዜጋማ ነፍሱን ለማቆዬት ነው የሚኖረው:: እንኳን ፖለቲካ ውስጥ ሊገባ:: አዲስ ቲዎሪ ፈጥረሸ ሞተሻል:: ድንቄም እቴ አሉ…

  20. aha!
    | #20

    Enanu Agonafer has a grasp of the multi-layer, hierachical nature of TPLF/eprdf regime/political model, which at the basic-level has ethnic agenda of ethnic and secessionist politics and/or policies, with undelying marxist ideology in terms of land ownership with ethnic federalism of the nine major ethnic groups and secessionism/secessionist rights, calling for perpetual skirmishes with the regime, in divide and rule styleof governance of colonialism or the apartheid system of adminstration of self-rule and separate development, super imposed with revolutionary democracy, that gave rise to the exploitation, political and economic strangle hold of the country’s resources and its people by TPLF and TPLF affiliated enterprises, the major one being EFFORT, a conglomerate of busunesses and industies, with access to land and capital as the means of production, while land and capital are not availble to the silent majority of Ethiopians acting as enterprenuers.

    These phenomena and attributes define the TPLF/eprdf regime as multi-facated in terms of governance, which is autocratic rule emanating from among TPLF Politbeuro, totalitarian as continuation of the Derg regime with Derg Administrators in place, and its own inlination of Marxist ideology, ethnocratic rule/ethnic dictatorship (majority or minority ethnic rule as long the basic platform is ethnic agenda). Despite all these attributes Prof. Messay identifies the current ruler as as autoritarian, not even a dictator and the best way forward is political plurarism and power sharing of the oppositon parties with the TPLF/eprdf regime, but how to go about implenting it is a mystry, other than peaceful transfer of of power from one party to another through fair and free election.

Comments are closed.