Dictatorship and its Evolution: Contrasting Burma with Ethiopia. By Messay Kebede

December 19th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Since the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the iconic leader of the opposition to the military rule, Burma’s (Myanmar) political evolution has become an important discussion topic for political observers and analysts. Detecting a promising shift toward democratic opening, Hillary Clinton recently visited Burma and held talks with political leaders. The hope is that, after decades of a dictatorial military rule and deferred promises of democratization, Burma is finally engaging in the serious path of political reforms and transition to democratic government. On the other hand, Ethiopia, which had a fleeting experiment with free and fair elections in 2005, is going through the reverse process of a repressive and dictatorial government whose notable outcome was the holding of an election in 2010 that was anything but fair and free and resulted in the regime claiming 99.66 % of parliamentary seats. The purpose of my analysis is to compare the two countries with the hope of clarifying the reasons why they took divergent political paths and assessing the implications of Ethiopia’s democratic retreat, together with the political options offered to opposition forces as well as to the ruling party.

Many Similitudes

Lest of being accused of comparing oranges with apples, I must begin by showing that the two countries are indeed comparable. Notably, one immediate and weighty counterargument would be to say that the Ethiopian regime has all the characteristics of a civilian government while that of Burma is a military rule, itself the result of a coup in 1958 against the then legitimate civilian government. I grant the difference but also remind that, while open military regimes indeed materialize the hegemony of military elites in the form of a direct or indirect rule––the latter often done through the conversion of military rulers to civilian politicians––there is an intermediate form in which the military elite forms a tight coalition with a ruling civilian elite. My contention is that the latter applies to Ethiopia, there being no doubt that both the history of the TPLF as a guerrilla organization and the privileged treatment that the Meles’s government accords to the military produce a de facto alliance between the civilian leadership and the repressive apparatus of the regime. Since the regime has lost any legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of Ethiopians, the use of military and police forces alone ensures its survival.

There is more to the matter than the above similarity. Though belonging to different continents and histories, Ethiopia and Burma share many striking similarities. To begin with, not only in a way similar to Burma Ethiopia was subjected to a repressive military rule for an extended period subsequent to a coup that overthrew a civilian government, but also the military rule in both countries was coupled with the implementation of a socialist policy. Just as the Derg traded its initial nationalist platform for a socialist agenda, so too the military junta that ruled Burma announced in 1974 the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

As a result, both countries suffer from a legacy of economic mismanagement imparted by the nationalization of the means of production and the subsequent spread of corruption and lack of accountability. What is more, after the disavowal of socialism, a skewed policy of privatization of state-owned enterprises has led in both countries to the formation of conglomerates owned by ramifications of the ruling parties or their closest cronies. Just as in Ethiopia privatization meant the corrupt practices of passing ownership to extended organs of the TPLF, in Burma, too, denationalization changed state property into the private property of generals or their cronies. Unsurprisingly, the prevention of a healthy and open competition and the drainage of the financial resources by the monopolistic and corrupt practices of the conglomerates failed to improve economic outputs so that real economic progress has remained elusive in both countries.
Another noticeable similitude is that both countries have suffered and still suffer from ethnic quarrels and insurgencies. Like Burma, Ethiopia is an ethnically diverse country with a history of armed insurgencies fuelled by a longstanding grudge against a dominant ethnic group. In Burma, ethnic groups have complained about the dominance of Burmans, who constitute 60% of the population, and the policy of Burmanization that resulted in minority groups being economically and culturally marginalized. We know that the source of ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia is the complaint about the dominance of the Amhara and the policy of Amharization. In the face of ethnic insurgencies, the central state in both countries has assumed the responsibility of defending national unity through the formation of a strong military force.

In terms of ethnic conflicts and their outcomes, there are, however, notable differences. Contrary to Burma, the Amhara dominance was not the hegemony of a majority, since the Oromo ethnic group can claim to be as populous (if not more) as the Amhara, not to mention that today’s dominance of a Tigrean group has plunged Ethiopia into the uncharted course of the ascendency of a minority group. Above all, the military in Burma were able to contain ethnic insurgencies, whereas armed insurgent groups defeated and destroyed the Ethiopian army. The clear outcome of this was that in Ethiopia the military junta lost power and was replaced by a guerrilla elite while Eritrea became independent. But as stated earlier, some such difference does not remove the fact that the TPLF’s rule is the result of one military force replacing another military force.
Most characteristically, the existing regimes in Burma and Ethiopia are similar in the way they react to electoral defeats. Both like to brag about the opening of the political field, which however they are quick to repudiate at the slightest challenge. Thus, in 1990 the military regime in Burma announced the holding of the long promised free election whose outcome was that the opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy, won a landslide victory. The reaction of the military leaders was typical: they refused to hand over power to the victorious party and put Suu Kyi and other leaders under house arrest.

Restarting the opening process, Burma’s military rulers announced in 2003 a seven-step roadmap to democracy that would culminate in the holding of free elections. The promised elections were held in 2010, but which were far from being free and fair since, in addition to the electoral process being marred with widespread frauds and irregularities, the National League for Democracy was banned from participating and its leader still under house arrest. Even so, the ruling junta announced a complete victory by stating that the party representing it, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, had won 80% of the votes.

We remember a similar scenario in Ethiopia. The relatively free and fair election held in 2005 resulted in the opposition gaining a substantial victory. The reaction of the TPLF was the rejection of the results, the imprisonment of the main leaders of the opposition, and the violent crackdown on protesters. A blatant intensification of repression followed, even as the holding of free elections in 2010 was reaffirmed. The promised elections were held amidst intimidation, repression, and restrictive rules. The ruling party unashamedly claimed to have won 99.66 % of parliamentary seats even if opposition parties and external observers spoke of votes being rigged and voters and candidates being intimidated and harassed.

It should be noted that the upgrading of repressive policy had comparable effects on the opposition forces. In both countries, opposition groups have failed to either force the existing ruling elites into dialogue or ease in any way the repressive policy. This failure has led to fragmentations over the right approach, some opposition groups turning more and more to armed struggles while others prefer to rely on the likelihood of a popular uprising. Thus, powerlessness has resulted in the split within the National League for Democracy, some groups having decided not to boycott the elections and work with the ruling party. Though Ethiopian opposition groups present a different aspect, still the inability to force change on the regime has caused splits and strategic reassessments.

Main Differences

As concerns differences, a notable factor appears in the relations of both countries with the West. Since 1996, Burma is under international sanctions organized by Western countries, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Such is not the case with Ethiopia, since despite widespread violations of human rights, Western governments have been reluctant to economically punish the Woyanne regime, mainly because the regime is considered as an ally in the fight against terrorism and appears as the only stable state in a highly volatile region. However, the difference is somewhat decreased when we note that the international sanctions against the Burmese regime are far from being efficient, given that the sanctions were not strictly enforced and that the two neighboring countries, namely, China and India as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, proved reluctant to support Burma’s economic and political isolation.

Where the difference becomes major is that the military regime in Burma, admitting its undemocratic nature, proposed in 2003 a roadmap that traces out a step-by-step progression to democratic government, which, it is true, many observers found painstakingly slow and unreliable. By contrast, the Woyanne regime has never been sincere enough to recognize its lack in democratic credentials, and so never offered any transitional arrangement on the grounds that Ethiopia is provided with a blossoming democracy since the overthrow of the Derg and the capture of state power by the TPLF. Some such attitude allows the holding of a bizarre discourse in which the regime interprets its crackdown on political dissents, not as an opposition to democracy, but as the defense of the democratic order against nondemocratic forces.

From the above disparity follows the Ethiopian regime’s constant game of deception, which blocks the need for a transitional process and whose consequence is the establishment of a political deadlock cornering many Ethiopians into rejecting the idea of evolution of the regime, thereby giving them no other choice than passivity or the resource to violent methods. Needless to say, to the extent that the impasse deprecates nonviolent opposition, it promises nothing but uncertain outcomes for Ethiopia as well as for those who control power.

Burma’s Incentives for Change

To understand why Burma engaged into a transitional process, it is necessary that we delve into the reasons why the military junta thought that gradual democratization is the best option for all. I have already indicated that the decision to open the political competition was not caused by the pressure of opposition forces. Then, what could impel a well-established dictatorship to open a political system that so durably and efficiently defended its hegemony? It must be said here that analysts differ in their explanation of the change of political direction.

Many observers maintain that the planned democratization is simply a fake promise designed to perpetuate military rule under civilian disguises. Others, however, are more cautious, arguing that there are some compelling reasons for democratization, however slow and unsteady the process may be. For such commentators, economic interests are the driving force behind the timid push for democratization. The first commanding point is the geographical situation of Burma, notably that it is part of a region that is going through an unprecedented economic boom. The realization that Burma, far from participating in the boom, is falling behind is incentive enough for the military to think about change.

The awakening includes the recognition that the dictatorial system in place stifles free and fair competition and encourages corruption and embezzlement, and so stands in the way of economic improvement. A dynamic market economy requires that the political apparatus be unlocked so that excluded and educated people inject their expertise, their dream of prosperity, and their social ambition into the economic system. In other words, political opening became appealing to the ruling junta in Burma, not because of internal threats to the dictatorial system, but because of the understanding that economic progress is conditional on political reforms.

A related incentive to political change toward democratization is the need to lift the economic sanctions imposed by Western countries and international financial institutions. What this means is that, once the military junta had decided to engage the country in the path of economic development, the lifting of international sanctions through slow but palpable political changes became an integral part of the new direction of the country.

Political opening became all the more attractive because of the involvement of many army generals in the sector of private business following the privatization of state-owned enterprises. The corrupt practice of privatization, which favored senior officers, had the unintended consequences of creating a business-military group with some leaning for a healthy private economy. This group of generals, retired or not, was likely to use its influence and power to bring about those changes necessary to accelerate the pace of personal enrichment. Stated otherwise, the fact that many generals privately owned businesses encouraged the gradual shift of their interests from political power to the management of their businesses.

One other reason for political overture advanced by some observers is the development of a generational conflict within the military. As the senior officers who established the dictatorial system became old, younger officers aspired to replace them. The best way to avoid generational conflicts that would undermine the unity of the armed forces is to transit to a civilian government, while protecting the interests of the military as well as of the old and retiring guard. A civilian government friendly to the military could be established if the military initiate and control the democratization process. Since the people owe democratization to the military, they would express their gratitude and their recognition of the military as the protector of democracy by favoring the party representing military interests.

Meles’s Kryptonite

Insofar as the Burmese evolution is triggered by the understanding that the establishment of a free market economy cannot come about without political reforms, it provides an important lesson for Ethiopia’s ruling clique. Meles’s government survival depends on its ability to control the repressive forces of the state. This ability, in turn, depends on Meles’s success in keeping the repressive forces materially satisfied and using them in a moderate way, given that an excessive recourse to the violent means of the state to suppress recurring riots caused by economic crises would be troubling to them. These two conditions point to nothing else but the need to realize a steady economic growth in the country. Meles understands this quite well, as evidenced by his flirtation with the idea of developmental state. To quote Addis Fortune, “having rejected democracy, the Revolutionary Democrats only have their ability to deliver economic growth as their source of legitimacy.”

Meles’s dream to bring about a developmental state must confront one undeniable fact: neither the pursuit of one’s interests nor the gratitude and the loyalty or fear of clients, still less moral exhortations, can nurture a sustained achieving drive, alone able to launch Ethiopia in a real path of economic development. A sustained productive appetite requires the challenge of a social system rejecting the ascriptive protection of clients, cronies, and ethnic associates, that is, it demands the exposure of the business community to the constant challenge of a competitive market. And since economic progress is necessary to remove the threat of popular uprisings, it springs to mind that political reforms should be an essential component of the survival strategy of the Woyanne regime.

My guess is that Meles dismisses the idea of political opening because he has in mind the Chinese model of economic growth without democratic opening. Yet, he should realize that the Chinese model is off the table for Ethiopia. To start with, Ethiopia is saddled with conflicts of all kinds, especially with ethnic rivalries, mostly nurtured by the TPLF itself. The proliferation of competing elites representing various ethnic groups places Ethiopia far away from the homogeneous nature of the Chinese elite. One of the consequences of the Maoist class war has been the elimination of elite diversity in favor of a uniformized leadership structure. Such is not the case in Ethiopia where elites have tended to disperse around competing interests, made particularly exclusive by identity politics. Witness even the EPRDF is a coalition of diverse ethnic groups, and so has nothing to do with the monolithic character of Chinese political elite fashioned by decades of ideological uniformity, Spartan alignment, and an internalized sense of hierarchical discipline.

Nothing that resembles even remotely the Chinese uniformization characterizes the formation of modern elites in Ethiopia. The Chinese characteristic of the political class, the military elite, and the bureaucracy being for decades under the control of a disciplined, united, and omnipresent political party is to be found nowhere in Ethiopia. Again, take the EPRDF. In addition to being an alliance of disparate groups, the main uniting force of the political front, namely, the TPLF, assuming that it has been somewhat disciplined, fragmented in 2001. The split and its subsequent developments opened the door to an influx of arrivistes, yes-men, and opportunists of all varieties. The consequence was that recruitments into the political, economic, and bureaucratic elites were based more on loyalty to Meles and his close associates than on ideological commitment and competence. All these people associated with the ruling clan for the unique purpose of personal enrichment through political protection and illicit means. It is therefore a divagation to assume that economic progress can be achieved with so many corrupt, incompetent, and self-serving people infecting the entire political and economic apparatuses.

The Transitional Process

However compelling the need for political opening has become to accelerate Burma’s economic progress and the very interests of the Burmese military, it must not be made to seem that the military are ready to hand over power to an elected body. As already indicated, the democratization process must promote their long-interests, and so must remain under their control for a foreseeable future. How could it be otherwise when we know the corrupt source of their enrichment and the absence of a serious threat to their continued rule? For them, democratization must guarantee, not their marginalization, but their integration into the emerging system and the preservation of their privileged place.

The means to ensure the above result is to place restrictions on the democratization process such that the military still command a political leverage that gives them assurance against political exclusion. In effect, the 2008 Constitution reserves 25 percent of legislative seats and all government posts associated with defense and security to the members of the military. In addition, the Constitution allows autonomy to the military in their own affairs, just as it puts them in charge of the protection of the Constitution, security, and unity of the country.

No mistake about it, the military still have extensive power and the political opening allows anything but a fair and free contest. Nonetheless, compared to the Woyanne regime, it has the advantages of clarity and the avoidance of deception and betrayal of one’s own Constitution, such as it happens to Meles’s government every time it transgresses the promised respect of the democratic rights of all Ethiopians. Above all, the Burmese Constitution has the advantage of promising a gradual democratization while the Woyanne’s attitude of denying rights permitted by the Constitution blocks political evolution, giving Ethiopians no other option than violent uprisings.

Granted that good reasons exist to characterize the transition process set by the military as nothing but a sham, a disguised means to preserve the status quo, the fact remains that other Asian countries have progressed into multiparty systems after decades of military or civilian dictatorships. All these countries have started with slow and incremental reforms whose effect was to create a growing middle class that became interested in supporting deeper economic reforms and political changes.

It is worth noticing here that opposition forces in Burma have evolved toward the acceptance of a transitional phase and abandoned their “full democracy now or nothing” approach by participating in the electoral contest of 2010, despite the many restrictions imposed by the military. Most significantly, after her release, Suu Kyi admitted the need for a transitional phase when she said: “I don’t want to see the military falling. . . . I want to see the military rising to dignified heights of professionalism and true patriotism.” Even if we assume that the military want to consolidate their power rather than to support democratization, it is undeniable that the opening of the political system and the participation of opposition forces can lead to gradual change reconciling the interests of the military with those of the nation.
Contrary to what is in gestation in Burma, the Woyanne retractions of democratic rights as a result of election defeat in 2005 creates nothing but a deadlock and a further deterioration of the political and economic life of the country. The only way out is political opening, as shown by the evolution of the Burmese military rulers, who came back to political opening after effecting a similar crackdown on the winning opposition party. The lesson that the Woyanne should learn is that the retraction of democratic rights is a recipe for economic mismanagement and stagnation and hence is not even in line with their own long-term interests.

The initiation of political opening is, moreover, the best way to argue for and make acceptable the setting of some rules to avoid a total loss of power. The deal should be the opening of the political system in exchange for some guarantees against marginalization, which is exactly what the military in Burma have proposed. Everything is possible in due time, and the Woyanne regime should use its hegemony to do what is possible instead of using its power to repress the opposition. The good usage of power is not repression, but the implementation of reforms that have the long-term outcome of integrating its own sectarian interests into the national interests. Since this process of integration is the sure way of avoiding revolutionary uprisings, which sound the end of reformism in favor of the overthrow of the existing regime, my question is: Why wait until things get out of hands with animosity reaches a boiling point even as solutions able to reconcile all interests can be worked out?

Opposition parties as well as the ruling party should know that their goals must be based on what is achievable. To do otherwise is to raise problems that they cannot solve for the simple reason that solvable problems are those that already implicitly contain their solutions. To project goals that do not contain their solutions is to plunge into a destructive utopianism, as illustrated by the mistakes and subsequent demise of the Ethiopian leftist forces after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1974. Meles’s government cannot stifle the deep discontent of Ethiopians and the challenge of opposition parties; as things stand now, the latter (I am speaking of those committed to a nonviolent strategy) cannot force the ruling party to play the game of fair and free election. What remains but that which protrudes as reasonable and feasible by default, namely, the path of mutual accommodation.

  1. Teddy
    | #1

    I have found this comment on a different website and I am reposting it because it is a very honest assessment of the political situation in Ethiopia. The message is similar to the one Prof. Messay is proposing so please read on.
    REVOLUTION sweeps away a hated tyrant, unleashing a joyous jumble of hopes. Amid the cacophony a faint but steady drumbeat grows louder. Soon the whole country marches to this rhythm. Those who fall out of step find themselves shunted aside or trampled underfoot, sacrificed to the triumph of an idea that many exalt as noble but no one can define. It happened in Ethiopia when the mighty king of kings Hile Selasse, was deposed in massive uprising that shook the country and lead to the harsh reality of a barbaric military dictatorship. It happened in Iran when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini steered a broad uprising against the shah into a grimly Islamist cul-de-sac. It will also happen in Egypt, Syria, Libya as the Arab spring turn to a winter of discontent.
    This is real politick, where if the ground is not ready nor fertile, no matter how hard you try you will end up with crushed dreams that will turn a promising and idealistic start to an even bleaker future. Today, Ethiopian politics is filled to the brim with people who were major actors during the red terror era. This is true in both sides, opposition and ruling elites. Unless and otherwise, these people are willingly or forcefully sidelined. Expecting change to come from these same people with a damaged or perverted sociological makeup is like buying an ox expecting to milk it.
    My advice to my fellow Ethiopians living in Ethiopia is to learn from history and choose to put pragmatism before idealism. To never ever listen to any voices from the Diaspora calling for violence, but listen to anyone in Ethiopia who choose to practice what they preach, ranging from Eskinder Nega to Meles Zenawi. Above all to make sure to never lose the hard gained peace and security of the country. If we can learn anything from the red terror generation, it must be that revolution can never work in a very poor, diverse and complex country like Ethiopia. Evolutionary change is the most practical, cost effective and realistic strategy we should follow. Otherwise, there will come a day when we will look back in envy to these times and like a Somali, say what did we do to us?

  2. Desalegne
    | #2

    The Burmese military has not rejected and denigrated its Burmese or Myanmar identity. On the other hand, the TPLF and its leader, Meles Zenawi reject and denigrate the Ethiopian identity. The TPLF is an ethno-fascist organization working to build its own ethnic state. It is in conntrol of Ethiopia to loot, accumulate wealth and lay the ground for the Tigrayan statehood. Tigray is now a de facto state with its special status and preferemtial treatment. This reality is like the colonial era when the powers controlled the colonies and transferred most of the wealth to and built, and developed their own countries. The fascist and racist leader of the TPLF, Meles Zenawi openly speaks about the superiority of his Tigrayan identity and foments ethnic hatred and animosity.

  3. Dawit
    | #3

    I agree with Prof. Messay and the first commentator and I wanted to continue the same theme. Imagine if there was no idealistic rose-tinted leftist self-righteous revolution that turned into a bloodbath of white and red terror? Imagine the red terror generation instead choose an evolutionary approach to political change? Imagine where Ethiopia will be after 37 years without war or instability? Not mentioning the progress it would inevitably have had in democratisation, rule of law and freedom? When are we going to put the interests of the majority in Ethiopia, who typically is a subsistence farmer living a hand to mouth existence, instead of the minority elite upper class who had hijacked political power for millennia? When are we going to realise Ethiopia will never have a meaningful democracy unless we tackle the fundamentals. It is it not a rocket science to say that an empty, dependent stomach can never have a voice nor democracy? Is it fare to spend all our energy and effort fighting each other while our people are not self sufficient in food? Isn’t it time we choose a strategy that will not only work but also imbeds the question of the majority within our strategy? Isn’t it time the opposition in the Diaspora stops giving political order and dictate and start supporting those who chose to walk their talk?

    Isn’t it also time the Meles regime starts to grow up and begin to listen and respect the peoples voice? Isn’t it time to accommodate the questions of reasonable people like Prof. Messay who are well learnt and have no ulterior motive except to see a fast progressing Ethiopia? Isn’t it time to stop the cycle of violence and start to pull our country towards sustainable peace, stability, prosperity, democracy, justice and freedom? Isn’t it a fact that the hands of history is on EPRDF’s and especially TPLF’s shoulders and the blood of those that were left behind makes it imperative that you put the lives of the majority into safe hands?

  4. astra
    | #4

    I think that Prof.Messay should stick with his esoteric philosophy which allows him to divulge in endless discourses.Comparing Ethiopia and Burma is like comparing apples and oranges. Ethiopia is ruled by one ethnic group for the benefit of that group. It is also a completely corrupt as well as primitive group of robbers . Their motto is “Tigre Uber Ales” (Tigre above everyone else) The Tigrean Weyane method of achieving this is to sell whatever they can, including land (outside Tigre) to get fast money. Their Final Aim: maybe to establish a Tigre Republic. So Messay wake up and smell the coffee.Burma is as far away from Ethiopia(in every sense) as the other side of the moon.

  5. Abiy
    | #5

    [Teddy] you wrote,

    ..”If the ground is neither ready nor fertile, no matter how hard you try you will end up with crushed dreams that will turn a promising and idealistic start to an even bleaker future.”

    I find your statement irrelevant; you cannot frame a meaningful argument by supposing if this or that happen then. If that is your habit save it for your childreen.In that case we might as well argue what ‘if ‘the chair you are sitting in suddenly collapses what do you do with it? Such suppositions prove nothing but your own fear. And your fear is not shared by the majority of Ethiopians. Your argument amounts to mean accept the present situation as it is. Worst still your divisive politics will not succeed nor save the neck of the irresponsible shiftas whose motto is

    “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 1 Corinthians 15:32.
    To continue to believe, as you do, without any evidence that Ethiopians in the country support the TPLF regime is a defeatist strategy-the enlightened weyanes know this and are in constant trepidation. Just because the TPLF blocked all news access to Ethiopians does not mean that the people don’t know what is taking place in the country. In a word, it shows you are ill informed about the feelings of Ethiopians. Even the house maids who come from the country side, and attend night school, will tell how the regime diverted the country’s resources to its home base. These are having not gained this knowledge from their employees but from their peers in schools. Or are you counting on, the so called forced EPRDF party members? They will tell you they are doing it because the regime threatens them if they refuse to join. In a word Ethiopians have deep hunger for freedom. We are not out for revenge but they made it clear they want to be in charge of their destiny.
    Therefore your dichotomy of Ethiopian politics Diaspora verses domestic is unfounded. You seem to have sensed weyanes time line is dwindling .That is why you chose to speak about this thing you call revolution; we speak not about revolution but peaceful demonstration to demand beka and the removal of weyane. Weyanes have wasted twenty years of golden opportunity to amend their ways. On the other hand Ethiopians did not sit by their hand crosses all this time instead we had a national dialogue among the differing members of our society. I believe there is a national consensus at the present that says any democratically elected government is better than the shiftas. Your crocodile tear, as in the above, concerning Ethiopians at home is out of place here, save it for your own merdo.Every hodam cares only for his belly.

  6. aha!
    | #6

    It is unthinkable to expect an evolutionary nor revolutionary process from the vantage points of OPDF/EUDF/fdre as long as the focal points are not the dismantling ethnic federalism, secessionism and totalirianism stipulated in the constitution. Seeking for improvement with these ideologies in tact is like expecting a dove from the egg of a snake.

  7. Gadda
    | #7

    I think this professor is a good tinker and I hope he will get listened to by people who crave for power or those who are in power because he has good ideas.

  8. Gebrissa
    | #8

    Why do people waste their time by think of revenge? The red terror generation is a good term I will use because I always assume they are waste generation. They destroy country and still destroying country working as opposition and government. Why don’t they leave us alone?

  9. አምሃ
    | #9

    ዲሞክራሲ በቀላሉ ማስፈን እንደማይቻል ታሪክ ይነግረናል:: መጀመሪያ ተባብረን ረሃብን እናሽንፍ: ሕዝባችንንም እንታደግ!

  10. Dawi
    | #10

    [....the Woyanne regime should use its hegemony to do what is possible instead of using its power to repress the opposition. ...]

    What Messay is saying here is, Meles has the responisibility to play what history has presented upon his hands at this juncture, which is the use of power as a ruler for the ultimate good of country.

    The path Meles took is irrelevent to me today. Whether it started as a minority led government or a majority what matters the most is who is going to implement a life changing programme for the ordinary people? The proof is in the pudding.

    I don’t agree with Abey’s saying that :

    ” …I believe there is a national consensus at the present that says any democratically elected government is better than the shiftas…”

    What consensus?

    “Shiftas” or not , we know for example a minority-led government in Rwanda, not a majority-led one in South Africa that has succeeded in implementing a life-changing programme for ordinary people.

    Rwanda has 97 % primary shool enrolment, 92% medical insurance, 75% have clean water and lower infant mortality etc.

    Let us look at India? In most freedom indicators it scores along democracies like USA with elections & government changes however, in public services like education, health, clean water India scores like the failing state Bagladesh.

    Just because we have some elected “democratic” government does not mean; roads, hospitals and schools (that benefit the masses of poor people) comes first.

    An inclusive Developmental State can guarantee that the masses of poor come first. Off course, for a grass root participation of all “.. a path of mutual accommodation..” is the best way to go.

  11. Urgessa
    | #11

    The weyanne or Hodam using the alias Teddy is showing his contempt for Ethiopians through his stinking and trash comments above. The discriminating, fascist and racist rule of Meles Zenawi will not last long. Its days are numbered and this is a bad time for the weyannes and their Hodam allies. I know one Hodam who lives in the west and runs some business in Ethiopia. Han shows panick and unease over any talk about a public uprising in Ethiopia against the fascist rule of Meles Zenawi. This hodam argues that Meles Zenawi is the best choice now and his departure or fall will cause much bloodshed and chaos in Ethiopia. He fears tha the Amharas and dergists will come to power, exploit and kill others.

  12. Oda Tulu
    | #12

    Thank you Mr. Urgessa. Meles must go and face justice for all his heinous crimes. Teddy is a TPLF operative who has everything to lose with the demise of the racist Zenawi regime.

  13. aha!
    | #13

    Astra, you are right, the professor used Berma to draw parralel to the two woman leaders, which he failed to invoke, other than that there is no contrast or comparison for similarities to be drawn between the two countries one based on ethnic and secessionist politics and/or policies the other with Military Dictatorship.

    The conclusion does not not even match the theisis statement for comparative analysis. Professor Messay Kebede, would be better off if he anchors he thought process against the TPLF/eprdf regime and its mirror images on the three ideologies of ethnic federalism, secessionism and totaliarinsm to give way for capitalism and democracy, individual freedom, liberty and equality to supercede ethnic and secessionist rights, restore Ethiopian nationalism, Ethiopian national interests and the the Sovereignity of Ethiopia, perhaps, requisites, perhaps for “Andinet Hayloch” for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, perhaps in a non-violent uprising for freedom from autocratic and ethnocratic regime of either minority or majority in the future.

  14. ጉረኞች
    | #14

    You said “What Messay is saying here is, Meles has the responisibility to play what history has presented upon his hands at this juncture, which is the use of power as a ruler for the ultimate good of country.”
    Can you direct us where you got the above Messay’s statement or you simply misquote and misinterpret his arguments at your will? The grand deceiving conspiracy for development state model applies to Ethiopia is debunked by many writers. There is no basis or any essential ingredients in Ethiopia that other developmental state had when they implemented their development strategy. Surprise, surprise—-the primary reason why the model does not apply to Ethiopia is the existence of meles and his cronies. What ever they touch spoils. What I understand from all your writing is that you do not care for Ethiopians who are subjected to starvation by its own incompetent government at all, what you care is for the survival of the evil brutal dictator Meles. ውሻ በበላበት ይጮህል ነው ጉዳዩ::

  15. Fighter-Jet
    | #15

    they like it or not the foot soldiers and members of the fascist and racist Gujile will lose! I hope all the opposition groups will agree on the agenda of Bilisummaa/Freedom/Netsanet from this Gujile as their common ground and fight like Oromo nationalists are trying to do as described below!

    —–Oromo Nationalists are Arrab-tokkee Referring to Bilisummaa, but Arrab-torbee Regarding Walabummaa—–

    I would like to clarify here that the genuine Oromo nationalists do have no conflict when it comes to bilisummaa/freedom of the Oromo people from the currently ruling fascist and racist Gujile. The only conflict area, which is actually reconcilable, is the one based on their view regarding the type of walabummaa/sovereignity of future Oromia they want to realize. In this respect there are the following seven positions entertained in the Oromo community at large:

    Position 1: that of the nationalists, who strive to achieve an independent republic of Oromia seemingly disregarding the possible regional union with the neighbouring nations, specially with the nations, who are now living in Ethiopia.

    Position 2: who advocate a nationally independent Oromia within a regional union of free nations in the Horn of Africa (union with nations living around Oromia) in a form of a ‘union of independent nations’, something like confederation.

    Position 3: who are open for both the positions 1 and 2 as long as the Oromo people will decide per referendum.

    Position 4: who want to have an integrative Oromia in a form of an autonomous Oromian state within Ethiopian federation; i.e the ‘union of autonomous nations’.

    Position 5: who try to achieve an integrative Cush Oromia being the same to the whole Ethiopia, without necessarily having an autonomous Core Oromia within Ethiopia; simply it is an integrative republic of Oromia, which is geographically greater.

    Position 6: who do say “Oromian national autonomy within Ethiopian federation is not bad, but we don’t need to die for it”; they are considering that even Gondar and other northern parts of the empire are parts of Oromia; accordingly, they want to realize either position 4 or 5 per Oromo public verdict.

    Position 7: who are open for the above varities (positions 1, 2, 4 and 5), as far as the determiners in this choice are the Oromo public. They believe that neither the samaller ‘independent Core Oromia’ nor the greater ‘integrative Cush Oromia’ is disadvantageous as long as bilisummaa of the Oromo people will be realized and further respected.

    Despite these different positions, which do characterize the arrab-torbee (seven tounged) nature of the Oromo nationalists regarding walabummaa Oromia, in comparison to their arrab-tokkee (one tounged) position referring to bilisummaa Oromo, the political enemies of the Oromo nation, specially the currently ruling Gujile from the Tegaruland, attempt to give the Oromo liberation movement in genreal and the OLF in particular a fake and false picture. They try to present it as a secessionist or separatist movement just wanting to discredit the legitimate struggle of the Oromo people for bilisummaa and walabumaa in the eyes of the international community.

    They also do exploit and use the above mentioned area of conflict in the Oromo liberation camp to hinder the forward march of the Oromo people to bilisummaa. Even some politically conscious Oromo nationalists fell in their trap and described the other genuine Oromo nationalists with different position on walabummaa as Quislings in the Oromo liberation movement. But, actually, the only true Quesilings are those Oromo nationals, who are against bilisummaa Oromo, not those genuine pro-bilisummaa nationalists with their own different position regarding walabummaa.

    Fortunately, after many years of conflicts in the Oromo liberation camp, now it seems that all Oromo nationals from the Oromo political spectrum, extending from the left wing to the right wing, are coopertaing with each other and coordinating our efforts in order to liberate the Oromo people from the currently ruling fascist and racist regime.

    Specially, it is encouraging to observe the still strong Oromian Students’ Movement (OSM), including the Qeerroo movement for freedom and democracy, being part and parcel of the ongoing Oromo liberation movement (part of our Fighter-Jet). I think we can present this Fighter-Jet by summarizing the above seven positions in to three parts, as an airkraft with the following left wing, middle body and right wing. The skilled pilot of the Fighter-Jet is, of course, our famous mindset of bilisummaa, the OLF.

    1) The left wing, who talks about the possibility of forging ‘Oromia in Ethiopia’. This wing includes those Oromo nationalists, who do want to have an integrative Oromia in a form of an autonomous Oromian state within Ethiopian federation, for they think that even the large part of the so called Abyssinia in the current geography of Ethiopia belongs to Oromia.

    2) The middle body, who strives to realize ‘Oromia vs Ethiopia’ as the two separated neighbouring nations, the same as the two-states-solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict; this group considers Ethiopia as being the same to the colonizer Abyssinia.

    3) The right wing, who tries to foster the notion of an integrative Oromia in a form of ‘Oromia is Ethiopia’, claiming that even the whole Ethiopia was once Oromia and can again be transformed into Oromia,

    This Fighter-Jet is actually a well developed Oromo liberation movement like a well grown butterfly, which had firstly got its caterpillar and then developed its two wings. The middle body (the caterpillar) of the Oromo liberation movement is the one which started in 1969 with the kaayyoo/goal of realizing an independent Oromia to be liberated from the colonizer neighbouring Abyssinia. The left wing grew in 1991 as the Oromo liberation movement could get rid of the fascist Derg trying to forge free ‘Oromia in Ethiopia’. Now the right wing is developing in order to get rid of the currently ruling fascist and racist Gujile and then foster a liberated country in a form of ‘Oromia is Ethiopia’.

    When we look at the current OLF activists, we do detect that there are some 1st-generation OLFites, who do consider themselves as part of only the caterpillar, but deny the importance of the development of the two wings; many 2nd-generation OLFites, who do see the political significance of the left wing, but failed to accept the necessitiy of the right wing; and there are few 3rd-generation OLFites, who started to recognize the very imperative and important development of the butterfly/figther-get with its middle body having the Core Kaayyoo of independence and using tactically both the left wing and the right wing to come to the planned goal of the Oromo liberation movement.

    That is why, interestingly, the currently ongoing pan-OLF movement tries to take into consideration the beneficial move of the above three factions of the Oromo liberation movement and tries to harmonize these three types of moves towards bilisummaa. But, in order to accomodate these different Oromo positions regarding our future type of Oromian sovereignty, all Oromo nationalists have to be able to concentrate on the common denominator of all the positions, i.e on bilisummaa of the Oromo people. To comprehend what I do mean, we just need to compare the following interesting three concepts: secession, independence and sovereignty. Let me try to put the difference in short as follows:

    - secession needs the precondition of being legally part of one sovereign nation and being a minority nation at the periphery. Oromia has never been legally part of Ethiopia and it is neither a minority nation nor at periphery unlike Tigrai. So Oromia’s question is not a question of secession in this sense.

    - independence is the liberation of a subjugated nation from the other oppressive one, as the case we do see in the attempt of some Oromo nationals trying to emancipate the occupied Oromia from the oppressive Abyssinia.

    - sovereignity is the right of the liberated and free nation to decide on the type of arrangement it wants, like the sovereignty of the Oromo nation to decide on its future in a form of an independence, be it within or without Ethiopia.

    Thus, according to the right of the Oromo nation to its own bilisummaa and walabummaa, it is not wrong if some Oromo nationals do strive for the right of Oromo and Oromia within Ethiopia, as long as the determining factor is the result of the referendum. That is why it is so nice to see that our nationalists are bombarding tyranic Abyssinists from the three parts of our Fighter-Jet.

    This is really very scary for the enemy of the Oromo nation. Important is that all the three parts do fight the enemy, but do not attack each other. In the currently ongoing rhetorics, it is good that the OLF factions are refrainig from attacking each other. Of course, it is clear that we do read nowadays a lot of the criminal cadres of the Gujile camouflaging as Oromo nationals in order to sow a discord in the Oromo liberation camp by trying to support one faction of the OLF and attack the others!

  16. Dawi
    | #16

    ጉረኞች :

    1 + 1 = 2 I know you only read what you like but Messay has even suggested on You-Tube of making Meles some kind of a KING like in the line of Emperor Haile Selassie.

    The following is todays appeals to the ruler that he can have his cake and eat it too.

    [[...The initiation of political opening is, moreover, the best way to argue for and make acceptable the setting of some rules to avoid a total loss of power..]]

    [[..The only way out is political opening, as shown by the evolution of the Burmese military rulers, who came back to political opening after effecting a similar crackdown on the winning opposition party....]]

    [[..The deal should be the opening of the political system in exchange for some guarantees against marginalization, which is exactly what the military in Burma have proposed..]]

    And Messay’s worry that you & others don’t care because of your bravado and opposing “political opening”:

    [[..My guess is that Meles dismisses the idea of political opening because he has in mind the Chinese model ..]]

    So the hope is he rules out the Chinese model because as a crafty man he may think he can overcome the draw back of that model; that would certainly waste valuable resources and a possible outcome of fail in the face.

  17. ጉረኞች
    | #17

    In all of your quotes in #16 you didn’t show that Messay said Meles has “…..responsibility to play what history has presented upon his hands at this juncture…” You missed the point of Messay’s message. It is a matter of getting a little opportunity for peace not a matter of trusting the blood sucker for good cause of development. Meles never understood his responsibility as a leader of a country to put country first before his selfish hateful agenda of dividing Ethiopians and imposing ethnic hegemony of Tigray elites on other ethnic groups. Messay has not recognized Meles as a responsible person. On the contrary, he recognized Meles as a blood sucker tick that may not be removed any time soon. Messay is naively hoping if Meles allowed to continue with his dictatorship, other capable Ethiopians might get opportunity to get the country going. So he is banking on others not on the dictator. The fallacy of Messay arguments originates from this false assumption. He has not understood what the mission of Meles is.

  18. Dawi
    | #18


    [[..Messay has not recognized Meles as a responsible person. On the contrary.. a blood sucker tick that may not be removed..]]

    People compare their welfare in Dictatorship with that in Anarchy. If they feel the repression is too high and their economic welfare is too low, they go for insurrection and dispose the Dictator. The case in Syria seems to go that way today.

    “Messay’s Manifesto” is only one solution for the impasse nothing more. He is appealing to the aspiration of Meles and proposing a win-win to avoid Anarchy.

    [[..The grand deceiving conspiracy for development state model applies to Ethiopia is debunked by many writers…]]

    Even though, there are folks like Prof. Minga Negash who think it is too late to reconcile, the other ne Sayers like Anteneh Shiferaw who wrote the other day, mostly jump to conclusions by not realizing the qualitative change that has taken place in the country. That is, the system is no more a one Ethnic group but a single man’s Dictatorship.

    So contrary to ne Sayers, I venture to say, you can’t have a more ideal situation for implementing a Developmental State theory than today.

    BTW, If it makes you feel any better, Abebe Gelaw revealed on ESAT the other day that the head of EFFORT is 100% Amhara; surprise, surprise…: ).

  19. ጉረኞች
    | #19

    Look Dawi:
    Why would one predict anarchy when removing a dictator? No body can tell which way it will go. For the sake of agreeing with you, let Ethiopia take its chances after it removed the dictator by peaceful insurrection. I do not sensed in Messay writing he is worried about Anarchy, he is more concerned in the time it takes to remove the stumbling block for development, in this case Meles.
    “the system is no more a one Ethnic group but a single man’s Dictatorship.”
    I completely disagree with your assertion. In a country where over 90% of the military leadership is controlled by one ethnic group, where over 75% of investment (the case of Gambella) is controlled by one ethnic group, the national wealth is controlled by one ethnic group companies, EFFORT and other related sister agencies, I can’t believe that you denied the existence of ethnic hegemony. You can’t convince anyone on this, Dawi!!!

    About EFFORT being lead by 100% Amhara, that wouldn’t surprise me a bit. If I do a friendly reminder, the President of the country is 100% Oromo. But you and I know that it is a ridiculous joke!!! My friend, the silent majority is much more smarter than you may think.

  20. Dawi
    | #20

    [[..About EFFORT being lead by 100% Amhara, that wouldn’t surprise me a bit. If I do a friendly reminder, the President of the country is 100% Oromo...]]

    I assume you know the head of EFFORT I am talking about is no other but Azeb Gola, the wife of Meles. We already know Meles is part Kunama and Raya Oromo. So, loyality has to be the only criterea to work for them. If there are more Tigreans who are loyal to them because of the path they took to come to power it is understandable however, time and again he has eleminated/ purged his close freinds in a dime.

    So only a gullible like you would think ethnicity would be an issue with the Dictator. :-)

    If as you said, 75% of the Ethiopian investors are Tigreans I will not complain. No one stopped you and I to go and invest. As we speak, I have not heard of shortage of land for someone who wants to invest. So what is the problem?

    I happen to consider the FDI in Gambela the right thing to do. It happened because the Dictatorship defined and established a pro-investment legal and institutional framework (e.g. tax holidays, ensuring economical liberties etc) without facing the boundaries some (elected) Democracy encounters on it’s political process (e.g. opposition from parties or coalitions ideologically opposed to these measures).

    The Dictatorship has a land lord clause in the agreement that gives it the right to take back the land anytime if that is desired. (read the karatouri agreement)

    [[..Why would one predict anarchy when removing a dictator?..]]

    What else can it be? As Messay pointed out, “..Opposition parties as well as the ruling party should know that their goals must be based on what is achievable…” Repeating destructions as “.. illustrated by the mistakes and subsequent demise of the Ethiopian leftist forces after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1974..” when you don’t have alternative, is unintelligent therefore, I don’t see anythig but Anarchy that follows.

  21. anti aircrafta
    | #21


    1. “ These Gallas are one of the Abyssinian problems. They burst into the country in the sixteenth century. Where they came from is uncertain, but they made good their position, and contributed in no small degree to the ruin of the Abyssinian Empire, especially after the queen mother, about the middle of the 18th century, for purposes of her own, brought about a marriage between the king, her son, and a Galla, and thereby introduced Galla intrigues into the political complications of the kingdom. The name “Galla” is said to signify, in their tongue, “invader,” but the Mohammedans have a curious legend that it was given them by Mohammed, when a messenger sent by him to their chief to require them to profess the Mohammedan faith, returned, saying, “He says, no” (ga la). “Then,” answered the prophet,” let that name be henceforth the name of the whole race who have refused to believe the revelations of the Angel Gabriel.”
    There can be no greater mistake than to confound, as has been done, the Gallas with the Moors. They are a completely different race” (Views in Central Abyssinia, Sophie F. F. Veitch, 1868).

    2. The first appearance of Gallas in Abyssinia

    … Mohammed Gragne, who was himself shot in the action by a Portuguese marksman.
    It was at this time, in the middle of the 16th century, that the Galla tribes first attracted attention. A horde of Gallas came from the south, and swept up to and over the confines of Abyssinia. Men of lighter complexion and fairer skin than most Africans, they were Pagan in religion and savage in manner. Notwithstanding frequent efforts to dislodge them, they have firmly established themselves. …(” Record of the expedition to Abyssinia, Vol 1, By Trevenen Holland, 1870).

    3. The Gallas, with the usual pride of wild and independent nations, call themselves exclusively Orma, i. e. ” men,” ” the people “; and an individual among them is Ilm ‘orma, ” a son (or one) of the people,” corresponding literally with the Arabic ibn-el-nas— ” gentilis,” ” well-born,” “free”— as opposed to the abd or slave.

    In the same way, therefore, as the free Galla styles himself Ilm ‘orma, he calls his language Afan Orma, “the people’s tongue”— lit. ” mouth.” (Philological Society (Great Britain)., Philological Society (Great Britain), Louis Loewe – 1846)

    4. About the word “ Orma” ..

    The Orma is a tribe found in Eastern Kenya, mostly along the lower Tana River. They are also called Galla, a term used in Ethiopia (but now considered pejorative) to refer to Oromo people.
    The Orma are semi-nomadic shepherds. They live in the southeastern deserts of Kenya except during the rainy season when they move their herds inland. The tribe has a population of about 70.000 people (2005). It has is own language, also called Orma (Encyclopedia).

    5. “ …They (Gallas) came out from Guinea and have subjugated and invaded the following provinces of Abyssinia; Gedma, Angota, Dawra, Fatagar, Wied, Ifar, Gurage, Ganz, Cont, Damota, Walcka, Bizama, Shewa and Bali” (Ancient and Modern History and Geography, Jean B. D’ Audiffret, 1694).

    Find the above mentioned places in old map of Abyssinia and locate them in current map of Ethiopia.

    6. About the Ogaden…
    The region is sparsely populated with Somali-speaking nomadic pastoralists. Their ancestors migrated there in the 16th century, displacing the Oromo (Galla) who previously lived there. The Ogaden has no large towns (Encyclopedia Britannica).

    7. About Amhara… .
    “ Proper Amhara is a mountainous province of that name, to the south-east, in the centre of which was Tegulat, the ancient capital of the empire, and at one period the centre of the civilization of Abyssinia. This province is now in the possession of the Galla, a barbarous people, who have overcome all the southern parts of Habesh” (Researches into the physical history of mankind, Volume 2, James Cowles Prichard, 1837).

    8. Finally in the second half of the 19th century, Abyssinian campaigns started to restore itself back.
    In the words of Emperor Teodros…“
    “I will first conquer the Gallas, who have seized on Christian lands, devastated churches, and, by force, converted the inhabitants to Islamism; and, after that, the Mussulmans now residing in Abyssinia will have the option of being baptized or of leaving the country” ” (Travels in Abyssinia and the Galla Country. An account of a mission to Ras Ali in 1848, from the Mss of the late Waltee Chichele Plowden, her Britannic consul in Abyssinia, edited by his brother Teevoe Chichele Plowden. London, Longmans, Geen, and Co. 1868).

  22. ጉረኞች
    | #22

    “We already know Meles is part Kunama and Raya Oromo.” You are even more feeble minded than I ever thought. So you are trying to rip off his claimed ethnicity in a stroke of your pain and in your silly mind you are downgrading him from “gold” to “copper” status. What kind of sickness you are suffering from? የትኛውም ዘር ውስጥ ደባልቀው ትግሬ አንደሆን ወገቡ አስኪ ስበር አየሰገደለት ነው::

    “…..time and again he has eleminated/ purged his close freinds in a dime. ” Meles deserve credit for eliminating the most racist element than he is. You ain’t seen nothing, it won’t be long before they cannibalize each other. አንተ ምን አይነቱ ዘረኛ ነህ ባክህ?

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