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Ethiopia: Medrek's Path to Unity and Charisma



  08:46:24 pm, by admin   , 1719 words  
Categories: Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Medrek's Path to Unity and Charisma

Dr. Messay Kebede is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton in the United States. He taught philosophy at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia from 1976 to 1993. He also served as chair of the department of philosophy from 1980 to 1991. He earned Ph.D., University of Grenoble, France

Ethiopia: Medrek's Path to Unity and Charisma

By Messay Kebede

Since the fall of the Derg and the capture of state power by the EPRDF, there has been a consensus on the need for a strong opposition party to counter the hegemony of the ruling party. The consensus includes the understanding that the basic condition for a strong rival party is unity over policy matters and organizational strength and that its viability depends not only on criticizing the ruling party, but also on proposing a better alternative policy. Though the alternative force need not be monolithic, the consensus admits that there must be an agreement on the major issues of economic development, state organization, the rights and duties of the people, and the separation of state powers.

Despite the obvious nature of the stated conditions, it proved particularly difficult to engineer a strong united opposition party, mainly because the opposition originated from various groups which, on top of having disparate interests and ethnic affiliations, were little prone to trust each other. Even so, Kinijit, a semblance of united party, emerged in 2005 and competed successfully against the ruling party. Unfortunately, both the repressive reaction of the ruling party and internal dissensions fractured the unity and brought about its end.

Soon after the debacle of Kinijit, another attempt to create a united opposition was undertaken and resulted in the creation of Medrek. The latter promised to learn from the mistakes of Kinijit by moving toward unity gradually and on the basis of explicit agreements reached through democratic compromises. One basic agreement was the rejection of the clause of the EPRDF constitution granting ethnic groups the right to secede. The removal of the clause meant that Medrek cemented its unitary goal by a clear commitment to Ethiopian unity.

Besides denouncing the anti-democratic, corrupt, and repressive nature of the ruling party, Medrek proposed the institutional protection of the rights of citizens and, in the hope of countering dictatorial tendency, even suggested that the leader of the nation must not serve more than two terms. Another policy change concerned Eritrea: Medrek rejected the Algiers agreement, reaffirmed the port of Assab as an Ethiopian territory, and pledged to explore all available peaceful means to recover the port.

Yet, despite all these noticeable achievements, we all knew that Medrek was far from being a strong and united party. In effect, its performance in the 2010 election was abysmally poor. While much of its failure is rightly attributable to the repressive policy of the EPRDF, its inability to include all opposition parties, notably the relatively powerful All Ethiopian Unity Party, the perceived fragility of its unity, and its incapacity to force the regime to guarantee a level playing field were not negligible contributions to its electoral fiasco.

The good news is that we are told that Medrek has transited from coalition to the higher stage of front and is now targeting the final stage of complete unification. However, faithful to its prudent policy, it wants to accomplish its ultimate goal without precipitation and is working hard to resolve the remaining important but contentious issues. Sadly, a glance at the remaining issues shows that Medrek is still far away from becoming a strong and united party. Some such lag calls for nothing else than a review of the method and principle of unification in view of the fact that unification alone can lift Medrek to the level of a serious rival to the EPRDF, assuming that the latter has any lasting future after the demise of Meles. In the case that the EPRDF explodes, the unification is all the more necessary to stand up to the disintegration forces that the implosion would certainly unleash.

According to Gebru Asrat’s recent speech to the Ethiopian community in Atlanta, the contentious points are the following: (1) the issue of land ownership: even if Medrek affirms that land belongs to the people, as opposed to the EPRDF’s position defending state ownership of land, there is as yet no agreement on the right to sell land; (2) whereas federal structure with autonomous regions is a shared idea, the criteria for the demarcation of regions remain litigious. In other words, some members of Medrek defend the present ethnic delineation of regions while others advocate the use of different criteria.

There is no denying that these contentions are serious: one does not see how Medrek can unify if genuine and wholeheartedly accepted solutions are not provided. More importantly, the contradictory nature of the contentions throws doubt on the sincerity of the agreement already reached. Indeed, it is inconsistent to say that land is owned by the people without these same people having the right to do whatever they like with the land, including the right to sell it. What is ownership if it is not the right to sell, exchange, mortgage, and pass on? As to ethnic federalism, once the principle of national unity is unconditionally endorsed, it is contradictory to argue in favor of regional arrangements that weaken the unity. On the contrary, regional organization must be such that it enforces unity while at the same time ensuring autonomy to regions. It must be decentralization without however nurturing separate identities and exclusiveness.

The solution to the problem requires first of all an ideological change, the very one moving away from the ethno-nationalist stand of the TPLF. The attempt to unite groups that see themselves as separate and autonomous entities reduces unity to an agglomeration, a mere sum of disparate elements, which can only be an appearance of unity. Instead, we should begin with unity and see the various groups as internal differentiation, the outcome of which is that unity becomes organic. In so being, the relationship turns into that of parts to the whole and is based on the interdependence of the parts at the expense of their separate self-hood.

The interdependence of the parts means that the whole--in this case the federal state--becomes the common good, that by which all regions benefit, thereby ceasing to be an abstract entity soaring above the component parts. Interdependence means also cooperation between regions yielding mutual benefits. Obviously, the way to obtain this kind of dependence is to adopt a principle of regional organization set on efficiency and practicality. What I want to explain is that in no way does the principle contradicts or negatively affects the purpose of the existing regional demarcations; it just makes them more efficient and democratic. Let me explain.

One of the problems of ethnic federalism, as designed by the TPLF, is the disproportionate nature of the existing ethnic states. The disproportion, essentially caused by the relatively huge size of Oromia and the Amhara region, creates imbalance, which imbalance provokes an unhealthy competition for the capture of the federal power between groups claiming to represent important ethnic groups. Naturally, the competition is perceived as a threat by minority groups. Thus, not only is the imbalance preventing democratic interrelations between various groups, but it is also a constant menace to national unity. The existence of two disproportionally vast and self-sufficient regions is a constant incentive for secessionist or hegemonic tendencies.

Since democracy presupposes equality, no federal arrangement can work democratically so long as there is no parity between the various regions. The breakup of Oromia and Amhara region into smaller units is, therefore, a requirement of democratic federalism. The whole point is to convince well-intentioned leaders from both sides that the breakup is in the best interest of the people they represent.

The ability of ethnic regions to defend their interest will not be diminished if opposition parties reach the consensus that no national leaders will be elected and no law will be enacted unless a majority of regional states support them. The agreement decreases the importance of the bulky regions since it requires their representatives to enlist the support of smaller regions to advance their agenda. Put otherwise, making elections and legislation dependent on the support of regional states, and not on size or the number of people, endows smallness with attractive traits. If size ceases to grant political importance, the common sense choice is to agree to a principle of regional organization that favors efficiency and democratic answerability.

The suggestion does not go against the present principle of linguistic demarcation of ethnic states. Nor does it dispute their right to self-rule. It just asks, in the name of democracy and equality, that regional states be commensurable and that federal power be, not the emanation of regional power, but its transcendence. The organization reproduces the principle of differentiation since regional states become parts of the whole rather than the whole being a sum of disparate and autonomous entities.

Such an organization encourages national unity since those who aspire to become national leaders cannot do so by propagating parochial and sectarian ideologies. On the contrary, their vision must integrate other groups as well, given that they need their support to become national leaders. Moreover, the principle that national leadership and federal laws must rise above ethnic groups stimulates competition within each ethnic group, obvious as it is that those ambitious to become national leaders must first defeat and marginalize sectarian or secessionist rivals in their own camp. In this way, each state would produce an internal counter force to secessionist or hegemonic groups.
The general ideas is therefore to turn all influential positions at the federal level into incentives for integrative ideology and a disqualification for all views that fail to promote the common interest of all ethnic groups. The idea does no more than institutionalize the irrefutable logic that the best way to advance the interests of all ethnic groups is to erect a federal power that transcends the interests of any particular group. I add that it is the only consistent position: once the commitment to Ethiopian unity is reaffirmed, as did members of Medrek by rejecting the right to secede, it is incongruous to make such a commitment and yet refuse a principle of organization that makes sure that regional entities become component parts of an inclusive whole.


Comment from: Yirgacheffee [Visitor]

WARNING!: Medrek’s path is Korokonj and may lead to Kaliti!

When Abebe lays an egg,
Birhanu cashes the checks.

10/12/12 @ 01:19
Comment from: negusse bulcha [Visitor]
negusse bulcha

opposition on the basis of hate and just for the sake of opposition will not go any where, that is why for the last 20 there is no opposition party stayed united except lidetu ayalew’s party, and i have a great respect for that man.dr berhanu is money and power hungry and will never lead ethiopia mogure

10/12/12 @ 01:30
Comment from: TEDDY [Visitor]

Tchiffenee :
WARNING!: Agazi’s path is Lima Limo and may lead to Gedela Gedel!

When Agazis lay eggs,
Azeb Mesfin cashes the checks.
Banda Pastor HMD gives his blessing .

10/12/12 @ 02:13
Comment from: [Member]

አቶ መሳይ ከበደ ትንታኔው ጥሩ ነው::
የተቃዋሚ ቡድኖች መተባበር ለ ኢ ህ አ ዴ ግ መውደቅ አፋጣኝ ይሆናል ::
የ አገራችን ቀንደኛ ጠላት ከ አራት ኪሎ ተጠርጎ መጣል አለበት ::
ለዚህም ተግባር የተለያዩት ፓርቲዎች በመተባበር አዛማጅ መንገድ ተከትሎ የሽፍታዎቹን ቡድን መንጥሮ መጣል የጊዜው አንገብጋቢ ጥያቄ ነው እላለሁ ::

ይህን የማይፈልግ ሁሉ ጠላት ; ባንዳ; ወይንም የ ወያኔ ካድሬ ነው::
በዚህ ድረ ገጽ ላይ እነማን እድነሆኑ ማወቅ አያዳግትም::

10/12/12 @ 06:20
Comment from: Extraterrestrial [Member]

This days after the shock wave the Ethiopian people sent to the whole world after the death of their Great PM some of the “fools” and “idiots” diaspora talkative seems are slowly coming to their senses but, not fully. It is a good sign you have started questioning the nature of Ethiopian opposition even if an idiot way of yours, it is good because you might start asking the right questions about yourself and oppositions.

This one idiot among the many dissporas idiots seems to not get the point that you can’t build a political party around election time and win election, you need to have a clearly marked political-economic agenda and a long grass roots level hard work.

The short cut to power through hate politics is not the way. You want short cut to power because what you want is power, not building democracy.

If you have an analytical mind as most of you in the diaspora world think are God given to you can you please ask an honest question why opposition parties failed and failed miserably the Ethiopian people.

The Ethiopian people wants genuine opposition with an alternative political-economic policy challenges to the Government, not hate agenda.


10/12/12 @ 06:55
Comment from: Tamrat Tamrat [Visitor]
Tamrat Tamrat

Medrek or any opposition party shouldn’t be only occupied by possessing port but the afar people cannot t be torn apart in to two for the economic benefit of others. There is no shabia-afar or woyane-afar there is only one afar.

Afar unite! Afar family has a right to travel with out anybodys interfirance in thier nation, killil, rigion, call it what ever.

10/12/12 @ 07:06
Comment from: Gemech [Visitor]

Before I say anything I would like to congratulate you on your new found knowledge of the need for a strong unified opposition party that shows in its manifesto a credible alternative socio-economic policies tha promises to take Ethiopia out of poverty faster than the policies of the party in power.

Having said that I might ask you why it took you so long to realise the obvious.

Secondly, what is really baffling to anyone who observed Ethiopia’s history of the last 20 years is that any so called opposition group or individual never suggested an alternative route to socio-economic development. None of the articles you posted here for instance, mentioned even as a passing remark, anything about poverty reduction, reducing or eliminating child mortality or the unfortunate death of young mothers during delivery, lack of education and appropriate training facilities for our young people, the development of infrastructure, the list can go on. All you and the so called opposition were worried about is the constitution that created the federal system and Article 39, the loss of Assab and and above all that Meles was from Tigray.

For your information, the country has never been more unified than today. Article 39 does not endanger national unity. On the contrary, it cements it by reassuring nations that they are in the union out of their own will. Secession has its own cost and benefit. If a nation decides to go it alone after weighing up the costs and the benefits of breaking away from the union, and they do it through the democratic process, good luck to them. What a responsible government or opposition should do is to make sure there are no grounds for a secessionist movement to foment.

Your obsession with Killil is so out of order it is forcing you to suggesting the breakup of the Amahra and Oromo regions. Why? Isn’t this what prompted our forefather to say, “Fiyel ezih, kizmzim ezia”?

The Ethiopian people are not spending sleepless nights thinking about Article 39 and Assab. These issues have become irrelevant. The relevant issue at hand is the economy. As the Clinton camp used to say, “It is the Economy stupid”

Contrary to what you said, the party in power is not corrupt, it fights corruption. It is not repressive either, just because it thwarts terrorist groups’ actions before they succeed causing problems doesn’t make it repressive.

What I would like to see is, Medrek’s or other opposition parties’ programme to see if they have better alternative programmes for Ethiopia and the Horn. These are the changes they need to make in order to be electable.

10/12/12 @ 13:45
Comment from: Banda Geday IV [Visitor]
Banda Geday IV

@ Yirgacheffee

Banda Geday IV is not a member/supporter of Medrek but advice you nonetheless to immediately exercise Article 39 and secede to the the nearest welfare office in your area.

Srafett, dedeb neh..!

10/12/12 @ 16:46
Comment from: Gebru [Visitor]

@ By Messay Kebede
My question to you is where were you ? why now ? we Ethiopian don’t need any other party, because we already have. our political parties participate in the right direction, and stand for what is right for ethiopian people by living with them. Sorry ! the so called politicians in the diaspora is not, will not acceptable once for evere…if you claim your self as a politician ? come over and let’s work together for ethiopian people otherwise keep your mouth shut, we don’t need your idea, or advice….

10/12/12 @ 16:56
Comment from: Abyssinian [Visitor]

Dr. Kebede:

The Ethiopian Constitutional provision explicitly granting the right to secede has unfortunately been used to legitimize the arguments against the present state of affairs.

In a nutshell,you are arguing that the existence of Article 39 is a threat to national unity and that the starting point for a democratic union in Ethiopia is acceptance of a centralized Federal Power. You couldn’t be farther from the truth for the following reasons.

First, I believe that, as reasonable people, we can agree that we want a democracy in which the right to free speech can be exercised. Even without Article 39, people in exercising their right to free speech can and should be able be able to demand the right to secede! Are you going to tell me to hold my tongue? You see, you are making an issue out of a non-issue.

Second, over the last 20 years there has been no evidence of new groups seeking to leave the union. Those that are trying have(1)been in existence prior to Article 39 (2)are non-factors and are only trying to save face and/or reputation and most importantly whether Article 39 is in the Constitution or not, the vast majority of Ethiopians will never let any part of Ethiopia leave.

People like yourself are using Article 39 as a way to get attention and support because you have not brought any tangible alternative to EPRDF’s policies! You along with all other parties are dysfunctional with no vision, platform or alternatives. That is precisely why you are side-stepping the issue of what the hell would you do if the Ethiopian people supported you? Give us tangible proposals! All you do is state the facts i.e There’s poverty etc. The Ethiopian people know that! What the hell do you propose? All Kinijit does is argue among yourselves and jockey for power before you even get it. What happened after EPRDF lost the elections in Addis? Kinijit was begged to run Addis!

The sad thing is the next elections will come and go without the opposition having organized themselves. My blood is boiling as I write this I am Ethiopian first and Amhara second and viva EPRDF because they have balls and the best choice AT THIS TIME. The rest of you are ZEREKREK NEFTAMOCH. At least EPRDF is working while you scratch your ass.

10/12/12 @ 22:34
Comment from: abi [Visitor]

Dear Dr Mesay
Please look back at your back ground! How you used to teach(Dictator like Meles)? What youwere doing in MOE to kill generation with your ML ideology?
Please shut up!

10/12/12 @ 23:27
Comment from: werner2010 [Visitor]

Dr. Messay doesn’t want to be reminded of his past. He used to teach Marxist Leninist Philosophy in Addis Abeba University back in Mengistu era. My uncle who had joined the university with a GPA of 3.6 had to drop out because he got an “F” at Dr. Messay’s rubbish Marxism Leninism philosophy class. A Mengistu cadre giving lectures on democracy, human rights and free speech; could it be more surreal!? ጅብ የማያውቁት አገር ሄዶ ቁርበት አንጥፉልኝ አለ ማለት ይሄ ነው

10/13/12 @ 03:58
Comment from: birtu [Visitor]

I find it hard to believe that a Dr who was the verry instrument that kept Mengistu Hailumariam in power by advising him how to keep the youth in check to submission by terroising and intimidiation, is now trying to lecture us about democrasy and free speech. Please you should be embarassed of what you did when the very people you are trying to lecture have asked/demanded freedom and democrasy.
This summs you and your diaspora friends…

“A Mengistu cadre giving lectures on democracy, human rights and free speech; could it be more surreal!? ጅብ የማያውቁት አገር ሄዶ ቁርበት አንጥፉልኝ አለ ማለት ይሄ ነው “

10/13/12 @ 10:44
Comment from: addishule [Visitor]

A mixed in content.
As a self appointed adviser of Medrek, he cannot , but repeat the mistakes others have committed . In effect He cannot be compared with leaders like Seye who have made their own contribution to current Federalism. In any case the federal system in Ethiopia is a choice of the people , nations and nationalities to build a common home.This is not in any way negacaible and the sycopant philosopher should also learn MEDERK is a group of old politicians who cannot decide on the future choice of Ethiopians
Another dream of Mesaye is his expectation of implosion of EPRDF. The EPRDF is a party like all parties , but Even EPRDF cannot allowed to rule Ethiopia by sheer force. I cannot say it is refined democratic party, but by all standards it is the most Democratic organisation compared to other parties . At best it recognizes teh right of nations yo self administration, be it the TPLF way . or else . So it could good of him from throwing his disillusion as he and his comrades did it in the seventies

10/13/12 @ 12:43
Comment from: Aberaham [Visitor]

We Ethiopians have no enemy more than poverty. Poverty has been what is crushing the wellbeing of our people. Ethiopia cannot move an inch forward unless poverty is targeted to be eliminated. The different background of our people has never been the problem in our history. It was the different kinds of systems, which have been created as strategies of divide and rule by the old feudal oligarchies and the murder agent of the Derg oppressive regime that became sources of tension among our people. Neither the feudal regimes nor the murderous Derg regime had the understanding or the interest to wage war on poverty. That was why we had the February Revolution and the overthrow of the Derg. Only under the party of EPRDF and its remarkable late Prime Minister Meles, the priority has become the eradication of poverty. The eradication of poverty, however, can only be realized through development. Without development, poverty will not be eliminated! It has never happened in other countries before and it will not be successful in any other countries in the future either! The process of development starts with economic growth – but economic growth cannot be sustained without increasing education, roads and bridges, hydroelectric powers, a well-functioning financial sector, creating growth-enhancing governance, strong land reform, effective market system, strong nationalism and sustaining a long lasting stability, etc. That is exactly what we see is emerging in today’s Ethiopia. That is what the Ethiopian people are experiencing in their own lives. There is no alternative to development in present day Ethiopia! That is way the opposition groups have no a sound and meaningful alternative mission for Ethiopia to replace the EPRDF’s development agenda. That is why - fellows such as Mr. Kebede may write books, articles or commentaries on web-pages but cannot offer any idea that is interesting and worth reading except making fools of themselves.

10/13/12 @ 13:55
Comment from: Gemech [Visitor]

Once I heard someone saying, ” a professor is someone who has devoted his life to lifelong from others.”

If that is the case, I hope Professor Kebede will learn a thing or two from what the 11 out of 14 respondents wrote about what he posted on this thread. All of you have raised the pertinent points to expose Dr. Kebede’s erroneous line of thinking. (May be erroneous is not the correct adjective to use here, giving him the credit for his high level of education, deliberate attempt to direct readers attention away from the pressing issues facing Ethiopia, would be a justifiable description of what he was trying to do in what he posted here.

The best quote in this regard must be,

“A Mengistu cadre giving lectures on democracy, human rights and free speech; could it be more surreal?” Werner. Also admired by Birtu.

Thanks for the great Points raised above.
Keep exposing those who are anti-peace, stability and development.

10/13/12 @ 16:32
Comment from: [Member]

Give a chance to this Tushpulatov Mededovichsky, if he is reformed. He may have his own version of peristroika. We still do have that nostalgia of Kaki party that made us sing together with a bayonet in our chest. On the opposite side we were breaking the Anbessa Autobuus that was heavily ladden with poor peasants, chicken and grain heading to Weserbi Chancho.Some of us are caged in that world view still fossilized like an ancient lizard.

10/13/12 @ 17:05
Comment from: Meskerem [Visitor]

The opposition is full of erratic individuals. There is no discipline. No respect for each other. The opposition is very scary.The opposition is being consumed in its own fire. It is in a process of self immolation.EPRDF pours a little benzene to assist the burning process. That is it.

10/13/12 @ 19:51
Comment from: Heny [Visitor]

mesay kebeda moytu
tekateko fitu

10/13/12 @ 19:54
Comment from: [Member]

***to Werner***
It seemed that you have a grudge against the good professor.
Just because your uncle didn’t study and subsequently failed his class, doesn’t make Dr. Messay a bad person.
In fact he is a respected lecturer at the Dayton university.
ዶክተር መሳይ ጥሩ አስተማሪ ከመሆኑም በላይ የ አገር ትቆርቅዋሪነቱን እያስመሰከረ ነው::
ለተቀረነው ሃበሾች እውቀት ያካፍለናል::
የጋን መብራት ሁኖ አልተቀመጠም::
የ ወያኔውን መግንስት ደጋፊዎች የ አገራችን ምሁራን የሚጽፉትን ሳያነቡ ከ ድንቁርናም ይሁን ከ ቅናት አለያም ከምቀኝነት አንጻር ሲዘልፉ ነው እንጂ የሚገኙት በ ማስረጃ የተደገፈ ተቀናቃኝ አርቲክለ ጽፈው አላየሁም::

10/13/12 @ 22:41
Comment from: Abyssinian [Visitor]

I had to come back and post one parting suggestion to Mr. Kebede.

Well, you have received some feedback from the readers. I think it’s fair to say that two things are apparent.

The first is that poverty and it’s attendant difficulties are the main concerns of our great nation.

The second which must flow from the first is what remedies do we need.

This in turn begs the question to all opposition parties- what is your proposal?

So far we have seen no concrete proposal. If there is none forthcoming, I strongly suggest everyone get to work because as I mentioned above, you and the others will have nothing to stand on after the next elections.

But, I know all the parties will fall back and “unfair, rigged election” and blame the Western world for “backing dictators".

10/15/12 @ 00:37
Comment from: Maritu [Visitor]

you explained every thing, ok. tekawamis who have been sleeping on quenn size beds, eating their kitfo,chewing chat, drinking whisky and choosing their life styles and talk bulls, beaquarach power is thir need. Why can’t come with clean alternative policy and economic models. why they only concentrate sitting on the chair/power? how good is that for the poor mother? Pls use ur brain and education to make a real difference and then you will be rewarded with a real sense of achievments. cheers

10/18/12 @ 02:32



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