A Reply to Gen. Tsadkan’s Reply: Narrowing the Gap Messay Kebede

August 3rd, 2016 Print Print Email Email

Below is my response to Gen. Tsadkan’s reply to my review of his article. The reply is posted at: http://www.ethiomedia.com/1012pieces/5863.html

Dear Lt. General Tsadkan Gebre Tensay:

I thank you for sending me your reactions to my review of your article on the political difficulties of Ethiopia and of the solution you suggest to overcome them. Your response constitutes a very welcome clarification, not only for me, but also for the many more readers who have questions about your article. I have received many emails from various circles. Some of them agree with my assessment of your article; others reflect the opinion that my review was unnecessarily harsh and missed the core of your argument, which is the necessity of taking the constitution as a framework of a broad agreement to avoid chaos and conflicts. Still others consider your article as a misleading attempt to prolong the life of the existing ruling clique.

Let me affirm from the outset and in the most categorical terms that I do not share the view of those who maintain that your article is an exercise of deception. Your article reflects a genuine concern for the future of Ethiopia and suggests solutions that appeared to you most realistic and feasible. As to the view of those who accuse me of missing the main point of your argumentation, my reply is that I did not miss it. On the contrary, as I will try to show, my criticism was setting the conditions for the constitution to become a framework for all parties concerned to work together.

Your clarification begins by stating the basic agreement that I share with you, namely, that Ethiopia is going through a deep crisis that threatens its very existence and that the only way to counter the danger is by implementing democracy. There is no other solution than the democratic one, given that the use of force will only aggravate the crisis to the point of making it unsolvable through peaceful means. Where we disagree is that the implementation of democracy means for you the unrestricted application of the constitution.

Here I need to specify what I mean by “disagreement.” For me, the problem pertains not so much to the core features of the constitution as the people who are supposed to implement it. If the present ruling clique is the implementer, 25 years of experience tell me that it is not going to happen. Those who are ruling the country went to the extent of claiming a parliamentary electoral score of 100 percent even as deep frustration was looming everywhere and flared up in Oromia after only a few months. I have used the term “naivety” to express this reality. Yes, our solution must be realistic, but equally realistic must be the possibility of implementing it.

What does “realistic” mean? No more no less than the imperative necessity of cleansing the ruling clique of all those elements opposing the implementation of democratic principles. Without this prior measure, no rapprochement between the government and the opposition is thinkable. In particular, your call for a “structure where all political forces and the populace at large through various forms of organization, shall participate and reach consensus on the way forward including revising some of the laws and reorganize some of the institutions, especially those related to elections,” cannot see the light of day unless the TPLF undertakes the purge of die-hard ethnicists and anti-democratic forces from its ranks. In addition to an internal reshuffling, measures to build up confidence must be taken, like the unconditional release of all political prisoners, the lifting of the ban on demonstrations, free speech, etc., as well as the unambiguous abrogation of the infamous anti-terrorist law.

My understanding is that the cleansing of the EPRDF can be undertaken legally if enough members wish to do so. Be that as it may and whatever means are used, there is no possibility to organize fair elections so long as the present ruling clique remains in power. Better yet, things would move decidedly in the right direction if a transitional government of national reconciliation in which all parties, community leaders, and important civic organizations would participate, is established. This would dismiss the present parliament, a move that simply acknowledges that the total electoral victory of the EPRDF was illegal because it was obtained by undemocratic means.

At this stage, I would like to deal with your major argument, which is the necessity of taking the constitution as a basic framework if the country is to change peacefully. I have already acknowledged that you do not reject the alteration of the constitution provided that it is supported by the majority of the Ethiopian people. I agree with you on both accounts. However, given the undemocratic nature of the EPRDF government since it came to power, it is untenable to state that the constitution was approved by the Ethiopian people. It is not an exaggeration to say that the constitution was fundamentally the work of the TPLF and OLF. This is so true that many groups were deliberately excluded and, most of all, there was no open, public debates on the spirit and content of the constitution. Without open debates, there is no democracy. Rather than being democratically established, the constitution was an imposition by the victors on the vanquished.

How can this breach be corrected? The agreement to take the constitution as a framework, a point of departure must be accompanied by the understanding that one of the major tasks of the transitional government or the forum, as you suggest, is to organize official and public discussions on the constitution and gather suggestions and amendments, be they structural or functional. The second step is to put the suggestions and amendments to the test of popular verdict. If a majority of the Ethiopian people decides that the major provisions of the constitution as they are now are acceptable, then this ends the debate once and for all. However, if the majority decides to include amendments, the amended constitution will be the final one.

A crucially important note is that the main condition for this kind of open debate and democratic procedure is the removal of article 39. The threat of secession will polarize and radicalize various groups, thereby preventing any move toward mutual concessions. For pro-unity forces, article 39 amounts to negotiating with a gun to one’s head. By contrast, my belief is that a clear majority will support the principle of decentralization and self-rule if the threat of secession is removed. The deletion of the article will also open the possibility of changing the structure of the government so that any hegemony of one ethnic group over other groups is definitively excluded. Moreover, alongside the fortification of self-rule, measures that integrate all ethnic groups into a national unity could be designed and given the necessary political tools.

These amendments should facilitate mutual concessions and the formation of a representative government. If both national unity and self-rule are protected, only extremists on both sides will find a reason to oppose the proposal. In a democratic system, one cannot eliminate by force extremist positions, but precisely the effectiveness of a true democracy is to isolate them and turn them into a negligible minority.

I hear you when you argue that perfect democracy cannot be established given the conditions of our country. I also admit that the TPLF’s option of armed struggle against the Derg was not conducive for the development of democratic culture and methods of work. My issue is not TPLF’s inability to establish a perfect democracy, but its abysmal failure to put democracy, however limited it may have been, on the path of growth and expansion. Worse yet, it rolled back on its declared democratic intent by effectively moving toward a dictatorial system of government.

The failure and the betrayal are no accidents. You recognize it, the TPLF has followed Leninist principles from its inception. Allow me to add that it never got rid of those principles. Leninism is an anti-democracy ideology based on the goal of establishing a hegemonic party in all political, ideological, and economic spheres of social life. A party cannot be governed by Leninist principles and be as the same time democratic, any more than a square can be a circle at the same time. I really have trouble agreeing with you when, after admitting that the TPLF was a Leninist party, you write: “This is why I say the TPLF was democratic and revolutionary. But it was not without defects and challenges.” The essence of Leninism is not to limit democracy; it is to exclude it by the practice of “democratic centralism,” the addition of “democratic” being nothing more than a deceptive adjustment. The truth is that the TPLF must be demystified for Ethiopia to advance in light of the fact that it rejected the content of Leninism but retained its spirit. My criticism was a call for self-criticism, which is the primary condition for renewal. Needless to say, renewal is also highly dependent on a complete critical assessment of Meles’s rise, methods of government, and actual outcomes.

I welcome your clarification about the issue of developmental state versus liberalism. You bring out the “dilemma” between restricting freedom and leaving the whole economy to the forces of the free market. I applaud that you reject the use of coercive methods while not turning a blind eye to the danger inherent in the principles of the free market when they are applied to an undeveloped economy. Agreed, the debate is raging and the final truth on the question of knowing which one is best for developing countries is not yet in sight. However, it is clear that Ethiopia under Meles has taken the path of the developmental state. The intention of my criticism was not to take side for or against developmental state: I was merely pointing out that Meles used the ideology partially, that is, to justify authoritarian methods while ruling out and neglecting the other conditions, without which the model of development cannot work. Hence my suspicion that he did not choose the path to accelerate development, but to justify authoritarianism. In the end, Ethiopia ended up with nothing, that is, with neither development nor freedom.

Wishing you success in your endeavors
Yours truly
Messay Kebede

  1. How should we trust traitors, Dr. Mesay
    | #1

    Dear Dr. Messay

    Where do you stand? First you supported the unitary party kinijit, and then you shifted to Ethnic party MEDREk. Later you departed from Medkrek, and supported Ginbot 7. Now you are communicating with TPLF.

    I am just wondering. Is there any single time TPLF was trusted? Does TPLF has a tail to catch? The word Trust, Loyalty and Yilignat are not in the dictionary of TPLF?

    Why are you wasting time and divert peoples time and attention away from the uprising that would eradicate the malignant TPLF.

    Thank you!

  2. Dawi
    | #2

    Prof. Messay said:

    [[.. Meles used the ideology partially, that is, to justify authoritarian methods while ruling out and neglecting the other conditions, without which the model of development cannot work...]]

    Meles has argued that, there is no direct relationship between democracy and growth in the past. He has said, Democracy is good, it is positive for growth but the case of democracy can stand on its own.

    There are evidences that support his views; many countries that are more or less prosperous today achieved it under dictatorships, that include the Asian Tigers like South Korea and Taiwan. Therefore, you have to be wrong in saying Meles’s model can not work. There is no doubt it is working as it has worked in other countries unless the present EPRDF leadership mess it up completely however, what you’re interested in, democracy, can stand on its own. The countries mentioned above underwent a democratic transitions later on and that democratization insured these countries the continuity of their growth model to the present. Ethiopia can do same.

    What do I mean by EPRDF messing up Meles’s DS? It is by allowing issues to become a mountain out of a molehill, staying one step behind of “regime change” advocates as they are doing now; shadowing solvable crises after crises like in the petty border issue of Wolkait/Tsegede? Why don’t TPLF and ANDM who are EPRDF jointly administer the place? Or why not let ANDM run it if that defuses the whole thing right away? Does EPRDF need to be one Party to make such a move? Then be one; isn’t 25 years courting long enough for a marriage to take place? :)

    The bottom line is, if we just let what Meles has started and see it come through in the pipeline for another 5 years, a dynamic Ethiopia that exports electricity and industrial products that is interconnected with modern rail systems; a country that produces surplus food shall happen. I won’t doubt that at all.

    And this is no small accomplishment for EPRDF.

  3. Lessons to learn
    | #3

    I admire the General for admitting that the path Woyane taking us will end in disaster- for them and us. The question is why now?
    We know Woyanes lie about anything and everything to be in power. So how many times do they need to lie to us, for us to stop believing any thing that comes out from Woyane?
    What I am saying it is a normal practice by Woyane supporters, members and leaders to lie and lie and lie to non-Tigrean Ethiopians.

    I am asking the professor to stop እንኪያ ሰላምትያ wtih them. If Woyane really wants Ethiopian and Ethiopiawinet the rightful thing to do is leave power to opposition now without calling another elections.
    መድረክ አንድነትና አውራ ፓርቲዎችን ጠርቶ ስልጣን ተረክቡን ለኛም የማሪያም መንገድ ስጡን ማለት ብቻ የሚያስፈልጋቸው

    Let us stop debating with them any more!!!!!
    ሰላማዊ ተቃዋሚዎች ታስረው የሚማቅቁት በጥይት ግንባራቸው የሚሞቱት በዚህ መንግስት በወያኔ ነው
    ጉንጫ አልፋ እንዳይሆንብን ስልጣን ለቅቄያለሁ እስካላሉ ዓንወያይ!!!!


  4. Lessons to learn
    | #4

    To Dawi

    Issue is now about saving the country from further political crisis not about about how to save the DS policy.
    Ethiopians are telling to Woyane ‘Enough’ is ‘Enough’.
    Which means Ethiopian people are telling to Woyane that beneficiaries of DS are only members, supporters and leaders of Woyanes and the citizens living in Kilil one.

    in short, Ethiopians do not want the leadership of Woyane because of its ethnic-apartheid policies, its criminal behavior, lack of justice, its its lack of legitimacy to rule from the people of Ethiopia.

    Woyane is rejected throughout Ethiopia except its birth place Kilil one.

    Please Dawit forget about DS and focus to understand and address why millions of Ethiopians rejected Woyane. Try to understand why people protesting at this scale? Why do people choose to take arms to let Woyane know they had enough of them?
    I admire you for believing in Woyanne but it is time to hear the voices of the rest of Ethiopians who are not woyane. Your ‘Awra’ party failed the Ethiopian people.
    Thank you.

  5. Kebede Alemu
    | #5

    @Lessons to learn :

    Here we meet again. It took me a while to stop laughing from your naive suggestion for the government to pack it up and hand over to the “opposition”. It is okay to lack sophistication, but it isn’t okay to pretend to know about something without understanding what the talk is all about. In other words, you just turned the page without understanding the contents of the previous page. The good professor and the general are entertaining some real issues concerning a historical land with more than 100 million inhabitants. So, for you to shrug it off as woyane this and woyane that is childish at best. If you have nothing to contribute you better zip it up. No matter what you think of them – the woyanes – they are as proud Ethiopian as any of us. Don’t conflict your ideological (assuming you got one) with the basic truth. As such, I applaud the two gentlemen for going at it. I for one, don’t see eye to eye with the good professor’s world outlook, but that doesn’t give me the permission to question his sincerity or better yet his “Ethiopiawinet”. Time to grow up, buddy.

  6. Dawi
    | #6


    [[..Ethiopians are telling to Woyane ‘Enough’ is ‘Enough’…]]

    That is true but, throwing the baby out with bath water is not an intelligent thing to do.

    DS is going to shorten our suffering and quicken the democratization; something we all can agree with; trust me, the general and the Professor will have the least disagreement on that subject. If you recall Prof. Messay’s past proposals it included the example of the military of Burma/ Myanmar; how give and take is necessary to minimize the suffering; a win win solution for all is the best way out.

    We are far from that yet and in mean time, we know EPRDF has cat’s lives, meaning nine lives. :-) It may renew itself and buy some mileage out of it as they have done in the past.

    Having said that, the opposition camp has to take time and gel any way; it needs to form some a respectable democratic front to dare the incumbent for the coming [general Tsadkan's] “free & fair” election.

  7. Lessons to learn
    | #7

    To Kebede Alemu
    Thank you for reading my comments.
    I believe only transfer of power to opposition will save Ethiopia. And the transfer of power should start asap before the political crisis escalates into something else which we have no control of.
    Woyane lost the legitimacy and capacity to rule. Woyane his history.
    Please Kebede listen to the voices of Ethiopians.
    thank you again.

  8. deriba gothcu
    | #8

    A High time to transition from wannabe politician to statesmanship, A call for unity.
    Change is coming; what has been taking place for many weeks now is a truly popular movement never ever seen in that country. The student movement of 1974, was just that a student movement. Now is the time to go past the frivolous political argi-bagi which frankly saturated everyone. This is when true believers stand up and get counted as patriots. No shame in being a patriot. Forget about the communist demagogue which was forced down people’s throats for years on end by lunatic leftists. As far as it is concerned it all has been destructive. Patriots should stand shoulder to shoulder and formulate simple formulae which take our people past the finish line. The momentum is already there it just needs a little push against the headwinds. The headwinds that stand in the way right now are about not being clear as to what happens the day after, public security past the finish line. Remember these important and legitimate concerns of people in light of the divisive policies on the ground. These issues are hazy in people’s mind and need to be cleared up. We need to work fast to clear the debris out of peoples mind and provide them with some clarity and binding objectives. We are on the verge a most dynamic non-violent change in our history. Let’s not blow it.
    The General’s views need to be taken as a cry for help.

    | #9

    ኢትዮጵያዊ መልኩን ነብር ዥንጉርጉርነቱን ወያኔ እባብነቱን አይቀይርም

    What a famous American Jew named Harold Rosenthal said about Ethiopians in his most revealing and shocking interview with Walter White is quoted below.
    “It’s stupid—stupid. We are what we are! No matter what we join or adopt it doesn’t change what we ARE. I am a Jew and nothing can change me because I take up another religion. Such stupidity! (This concept is verified in Scripture by the rhetorical question: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” And in the parable of the Tares and the Wheat we find that the Tares (the children of the wicked) are utterly destroyed. None are saved from the destroying fire, none are converted into Wheat. God is not going to change the tares into something they never were).”
    Please read this revealing and shocking interview part-1 & part-2 as follows.

  10. Misker
    | #10

    The weyane wayting last grip of article 39 the nation across the country very carefull before the anoucement thats their waitting for we don\t have to be surprise but keep gurd ever where there is helicopters weitting to hide go back to ddebit last cave some to china,usa, saudi they are moving …..

  11. Lessons to learn
    | #11

    To Dawi
    I agree with your points but the problem is like any political crisis if a government in power looses control of situations when there is no one dominant opposition party, then he county will be in trouble for many years.
    That is why I prefer Woyane to invite opposition parties to peacefully transfer power to them, through negotiations and legally binding agreement.

    That will save the country and the people from total collapse. Derg left with agreement.
    Thank you again.

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