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Ethiopia: Meles’s Political Dilemma and the Developmental State: Dead-Ends and Exit



  11:20:45 pm, by admin   , 6179 words  
Categories: Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Meles’s Political Dilemma and the Developmental State: Dead-Ends and Exit

Ethiopia: Meles’s Political Dilemma and the Developmental State: Dead-Ends and Exit

By Messay Kebede*

This paper can be taken as a manifesto of an individual who has pondered on the tragedy of Ethiopia for many years and whose specific features is that he is passionate about the country, has no political ambition or affiliation, even though he is firmly anchored in the opposition camp, and feels no grudge is worth nursing if it stands in the way of a much higher cause. These features possess the virtue of providing a vantage point, not only to analyze the problems of Ethiopia, but also to approach them from the perspective of the best way out for everybody. In a sense, the paper is a mental reenactment of the 2005 election triggered by the question of what would have happened if its outcomes were used to institute a grand coalition instead of exasperating mutual suspicion and the desire to oust or suppress the opponent. In conceiving the election as a lost opportunity, the paper attempts a theoretical construction whereby what came through the ballot box could be recreated through the learned decision of the ruling elite and opposition groups. Not that it entertains any illusion about the predictability of the future, but because the constant availability of different choices in history allows us not to always expect the worst.

Narrowing of the Playing-Field

One cannot explain the circumstances and outcomes of the 2010 national election without the aftermaths of the 2005 election, rightly considered as a watershed in Ethiopia’s recent politics. In light of the opening of the political field for free and fair election in 2005, it is reasonable to assume that Meles and his supporters had caressed the idea that they would easily emerge winners. Meles allowed free election, not because he was ready to cede power after a fair fight, but because he thought that the opposition was too weak and its popular support too fragmented and numerically feeble to constitute a serious challenge. The underestimation of both the opposition and the extent of the popular frustration alone explain the opening of a competitive scenario.

From his electoral defeat that he had to reverse by a violent crackdown on protesters and the imprisonment of opposition leaders, Meles drew the conclusion that only the path of authoritarian politics can keep him and his supporters in power, a conclusion that, unfortunately, opposition leaders failed to acknowledge––despite numerous signs indicating the closure of the political field––with their declared hope of a repeat of the 2005 election. They badly missed Meles’s determination never to go back to the situation of 2005 and his scheme to prepare the conditions for the institution of a de facto one-party state. His resolution was all the firmer as a repeat of the 2005 election crisis would cripple his leadership and end his ascendency within the EPRDF.

On the other hand, it was also clear that Meles would not go to the extent of banning political parties, thereby going against the present constitution, which justifies the hegemony of the EPRDF, and the international opinion favoring democracy and multiparty states. Meles could not take the road of openly establishing a one-party state, not only because of the international opinion, but primarily because outlawing political parties would entail the dissolution of the EPRDF as a coalition of ethnic parties in favor of a single party, and hence the renunciation of ethnic politics. Indeed, how could the EPRDF transform itself into a single party unless the idea of ethnic groups having their own autonomous representation is done away with? And how could Meles and the TPLF maintain their political hegemony without the fragmentation of Ethiopia along ethnic lines, which becomes effective only through the existence of ethnic parties representing ethnic groups? Without ethnic based elections, ethnic distinctions would be simply linguistic and not political. Elections are thus an indispensable component of the ethnicization of Ethiopia: they give primacy to ethnic entities over the larger notion of Ethiopia as a single nation.

Another reason for maintaining a semblance of democracy is that the facade of open election is an important tool for Meles’s repressive policy. In a country where opposition is forbidden, people have no other choice than the violent overthrow of the regime, either through a popular insurrection or an organized guerrilla movement. The recognition of the right to oppose and compete for state power, in addition to detracting people from the idea of a violent overthrow of the regime through the hope of a peaceful, democratic access to power, gives the ruling party an arsenal of legal and covert means to harass and undermine opposition forces. The state allows the existence of opposing parties, but makes sure that the electoral contest never reaches the level of real threat to the ruling elite. Only through the establishment of a peaceful order achieved through the weakening of the opposition could Meles prevail in his party and retain the loyalty of the army. His political prevalence and his ability to retain the loyalty of senior party members and army officers depend on his success in providing a safe and extended environment for a tranquil enjoyment of preferential treatments and privileges. Failure to do so brings about anxiety and frictions that will threaten his absolute power.

That is why it is absolutely mistaken to interpret the rise of Meles to absolute power as his own doing. No doubt, Meles had the temperament and the qualities needed to emerge as a strongman within the TPLF and used his prominent position to alter the original egalitarian tendency prevailing in the upper leadership of the party. However, individual dispositions are not enough to create dictators or authoritarian leaders; social forces are also necessary. In particular, the TPLF’s persistence to retain a hegemonic position within the EPRDF and the state despite its minority status in terms of regional weight compelled the organization to put its fate in the hands of a strong man. When political hegemony is achieved through the exclusion of rival elites, it calls, sooner rather than later, for the enthronement of a dictatorial ruler as the best guarantee to preserve the hegemony. The only way by which the TPLF could maintain its egalitarian tradition was to relinquish its hegemonic aspirations, thereby making the recourse to a strongman unnecessary.

Toward the Developmental State

Faced with the dilemma of allowing political pluralism while ensuring the dominance of the EPRDF, Meles opted for the strategy of using all the means of the state to cripple opposition parties until such time his own power and the party he represents acquire a hegemonic status. This new strategic choice is none other than the recourse to the theory of the developmental state. The purpose of the policy is to create the conditions for a long-term rule of Meles and his party by siphoning off popular support from opposition parties to the point of making them irrelevant.
A word of caution: I am not saying that Meles’s love affair with the theory of the developmental state dates from the 2005 election. As shown by his doctoral thesis, he has reflected on the theory for quite a long time. Even so, what remains true is that the 2005 electoral crisis and its consequences turned the theory from a personal preference into an indispensable strategy and provided him with the opportunity of convincingly presenting it to his supporters as the only viable policy.

To begin with, Meles criticizes neoliberalism even before he has made any genuine effort to apply it. The reason is that the application of the theory would simply result in him and his followers losing power, as evidenced by the 2005 election. What made the theory of developmental state a necessity is thus the single and overriding issue of Meles’s control of absolute power. The theory, we know, has been praised and advocated by many scholars for its ability to promote rapid economic growth. As a model drawn from the successful and rapid development of Japan and East Asian countries, such as Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, etc., the theory has been prescribed as an efficient remedy for countries struggling against underdevelopment. For Meles, the economic advantages are worth considering only to the extent that they guarantee the control of state power. In effect, the theory is usually associated with the presence of authoritarian states that reject the path of liberalism.

I know that some scholars, Meles himself, and his ideologues maintain that the developmental state is not incompatible with the defense of democracy and human rights, that the new state can be democratic and developmental at the same time. This kind of approach ignores, mostly for political reasons, the defining character of Asian developmental states. Countries that seriously engage in the path of the developmental state do so because they think that the liberal paradigm of development has failed in Africa and elsewhere. Born of a critique of neoliberalism, it is inconsistent to assume that the theory is compatible with democratic principles. Had it been the case, the difference with liberal policy would become difficult to establish. The truth about the theory is that authoritarianism is conceived as the best and most efficient way to achieve rapid development, especially for lagging countries. Witness those countries that are cited as examples were or still are defined by an authoritarian state. Rather than being both democratic and developmental, this model of development promises the gradual institution of a democratic state once economic progress is put on a firm footing.

The prescription of authoritarianism as a remedy to achieve the goal of rapid development vindicates that all authoritarian states are not developmental. They become so only when they harbor the clear goal of using a strong state to achieve growth. It is, therefore, a mistake to argue that popular insurrections in the Arab world testify to the failure of the authoritarian model of economic progress at the expense of democratic rights. None of the Arab states has sincerely applied the Asian model of development, given that authoritarianism was used to defend the interests of predatory elites rather than to accelerate national development.

In the case of Ethiopia, the economic dimension must be emphasized as it is the key to the project of a long-term rule of Meles and his cronies. Like most people, Meles has observed that people living in regimes that show robust economic performances are little prone to protests and insurrections. What essentially drives people is not so much the pursuit of freedom in the abstract sense of the word as their ability to satisfy their most basic needs. Freedom becomes mobilizing when it is invoked to overthrow regimes that have lamentable economic records. Accordingly, a regime that succeeds in providing bread and butter for its people is guaranteed for a long rule. Of course, elections will be held in such a regime, but they are more about popular consecration or approval than genuine contests. In a situation of economic progress, the ruling party need not use fraud and intimidation to win elections; it prevails because the economic success of the regime makes opposition groups irrelevant.

Such is the course that Meles would like to take in order to institute the conditions for an indefinite retention of power. The developmental state promises the defeat of the opposition achieved no more by suppression and rigged elections, but based on the economic achievement of the regime. In this way, contests for power become less threatening as the regime will draw its legitimacy from popular approval, which is not concerned with the conquest of state power. This popular approval guarantees a long-term rule, the very one needed by Meles’s cronies and military elite to entrench their interests and privileges, thereby transforming them into permanent acquisitions. The establishment of a firm but silent and condescending rule is what they want in exchange for allowing Meles the exercise of absolute power.

Characteristics of Developmental States

The whole question is to know whether Meles’s new strategy can be successful in the conditions of Ethiopia. Since success entirely depends on the ability to furnish appreciable economic growth to the Ethiopian masses, we need to say a few words about the basic characteristics of the developmental state. According to many scholars, some crucial and commonly held features define the developmental state or the Asian mode of development.

Market Economy: The commitment to free market must be unwavering even if the state is called upon to play a leading role both in terms of planning, investments, and directives. The economic role of the state, though decisive and extensive, is not tantamount to running the economic machine, as was the case with the socialist policy; rather, it is to render a helping hand for the establishment of vibrant private enterprises and a capitalist class. Besides actual economic functions, the developmental state supports capitalism by providing a lasting political and social stability together with the rule of law and the protection of property rights.

The fact that the state assumes a supporting role significantly reduces rent-seeking activities, such as government extracting revenues by the control of land and natural resources, the imposition of exorbitant tax and restrictive regulations affecting free enterprise, or government agents demanding bribes and other payments from individuals or firms in exchange for preferential treatments. The net outcome of such rent-seeking activities is, of course, the prevention of economic growth through the falsification of market economy and fair distribution. The national wealth cannot grow in a country where rent-seeking behaviors prevail, since the imposition of restrictive controls hampers economic activity and an important part of the wealth goes to a sector that makes no contribution to productivity. Clearly, in light of most underdeveloped countries being held back by states that have grown into rent-seeking systems, the supportive role of the developmental state to market economy constitutes a major shift.

That the state limits its role to supporting private business does not mean that we are dealing with a weak state, in the liberal sense of the state confined to providing law and order. The developmental state requires a strong and authoritarian state, that is, a state that enjoys financial autonomy, is free of internal cleavages and frictions, and faces a disabled opposition. It is also endowed with effective institutions so that it is able to soar above particular social forces. Only thus can it direct economic forces toward national development and have enough leverage to prevail over adverse forces.

Bureaucratic Autonomy: The strength of the state is actually a condition for the other defining character of the developmental state, namely, the autonomy of the bureaucracy. Indeed, bureaucrats rather than the political elite supervise and direct the economy, with the consequence that, unlike the ruling political elite, the bureaucracy is established on the basis of merit, efficiency, and high skills. What is required of the bureaucrats is less political allegiance than efficiency in exchange for handsome remunerations. The advantages enjoyed by the bureaucrats are, therefore, not due to rent-seeking activities but to their contribution to economic growth.
Development-Oriented Elite: What makes the autonomy of bureaucracy possible is the control of state power by development-oriented political elites. Instead of using the state to sideline rival elites, as is often the case in underdeveloped countries, such elites are motivated by the desire to increase the national wealth. As they make political legitimacy conditional on economic achievement, they allow an autonomous functioning of the bureaucracy, given that autonomy is how bureaucracy can function efficiently. Such is not the case in rent-seeking states: government is used to undermine rival elites for the simple reason that the dearth of economic growth entails the extraction of revenues through political exclusion and illegal means.

Nationalist and Elite Education: The strategy of using skill and merit to perpetuate the rule of a political elite fosters the other necessary component of the developmental state, to wit, the centrality of education. Not only does the strategy advocate the expansion of education so as to increase human resources in all areas of social life, but also insists on providing a quality education, especially an elite education at the higher level of university. The provision of highly trained people is a component part of the policy of rapid economic growth and hence of direct interest to the ruling elite.

Needless to say, education is also geared toward nation-building: in conjunction with the values of meritocracy, it promotes national consciousness and unity. Obviously, the promotion of nationalism is necessary to justify the prerogatives of a strong state and inculcate discipline, just as it is necessary to galvanize and mobilize people around the national goal of development. Without the inculcation of the values of loyalty, unity, dutifulness, meritocracy, and the drive to learn, the developmental state cannot achieve the mobilizing power it needs to lead the country into the road of rapid development.

The Ethiopian Situation

In thus exposing the main characteristics of the developmental state, we secure the ability to see whether Ethiopia under Meles has the required attributes for a successful move. It must be admitted that, once again, we find a repeat of the mistake of Ethiopia’s previous modernizing regimes, namely, the attempt to copy a model of development and apply it in a country lacking the necessary prerequisites.

Most observers acknowledge that market economy in Ethiopia not only operates under unfriendly conditions, but has also taken a skewed form. For instance, despite the primacy given to improving agricultural production, the entire agricultural activity is hampered by the state’s control of land. The absence of private ownership of land does not allow peasants to use their allotted land for transaction purposes. Nor does it encourage them to invest so as to improve productivity. The state’s ownership of land and its subsequent disincentive effect on agricultural production represent a major disparity with East Asian countries that is not likely to be removed any time soon. State ownership of land is necessary to keep control over the peasantry and protect the ethnic boundaries. If land becomes a commodity that peasants can sell and buy at will, the confinement of people to ethnically defined areas would be seriously jeopardized.

The ethnic borders add further restrictions on economic activity in that they prevent the free mobility of labor and capital. People isolated behind ethnic borders and increasingly turned into alien groups by a denationalized education, the nurture of animosity over past treatments, and a separatist language policy, are understandably little inclined to move from region to region in search of opportunity. The hampering effect of internal borders is no less true for capital owners: their ethnicity can restrict their freedom to invest wherever they like or can cost them heavy losses in the form of bribes to local agents to get the necessary permission.

Another major distortion to market economy is the fact that the Ethiopian economy is increasingly dominated by conglomerates that have close ethnic and political ties with those controlling state power. Directly owned and managed by senior members of the TPLF, the conglomerates extend their activities in numerous and crucial agricultural and industrial productions as well as in service areas, such as banking, insurance, import/ export, etc. There is no denying that the provision of political support to these TPLF-controlled businesses structurally distorts the operation of free market. The distortion encourages the wide practice of corruption and embezzlement, given that enterprises owned by businessmen non-ethnically related to the ruling elite cannot hope to operate without bribing officials of the regime.

The weight of political intervention undermines efficiency and quality in all spheres of business and bureaucratic activities. Not only does political protection foster the wide practice of corruption, but it also erases free competition, the result of which is that merit and the norms of efficiency and quality are set aside. Likewise, it creates insecurity since the lack of the rule of law, basically manifested by the complete subordination of the judicial system to the ruling elite as well as by the ethnically charged social atmosphere, gives property rights a precarious status, to say the least. Insecurity, wide corruption, and the absence of free competition, all conspire to discourage investment and block the improvement of productivity. In short, the characteristics of the Ethiopian economy are at the antipode of what is needed to launch a process of development that could be branded as an application of the Asian model of development.

Another crucial disparity is that the cumbersome weight of political intervention does not allow the autonomy of the bureaucratic sphere which, as we saw, is a defining feature of the Asian model of development. Far from allowing autonomy, Meles and his cronies are using the bureaucracy as an extended organ of the political machinery, thereby undermining impartiality and professionalism, and distributing favorable treatments on the basis of political patronage, ethnic affiliation, and bribes. What must be emphasized here is that the ethnic basis of the Ethiopian state, as fashioned by the TPLF, is structurally adamant to the autonomy of the bureaucracy. In order to build a competent and professional bureaucracy, recruitment and promotion must be based on merit rather than on ethnic affiliation and political patronage. The whole ideology and political goal of Meles and his followers are thus directly opposed to the establishment of a professional bureaucracy.

One necessary condition for creating a competent bureaucracy and improving the human capital in terms of skills, knowledge, and expertise is, of course, education. In this regard, the records of the Meles regime show some improvement, but alas an improvement that is only quantitative. We can even say that the quantitative improvement is obtained to the detriment of quality. The tense relationship of the regime with students and teachers further weighs on the regime’s inability to raise the standard of education. Also, the lack of political accommodation and material improvement cause a systematic brain drain that further impoverishes the country of skilled people. If the regime cannot find incentives by which it retains the services of the people it educates, then it can never attain the level of human capital needed to launch a developmental state.

Another obstacle disabling the educational policy is the lack of nationalist themes extolling Ethiopia. Civic education is polarizing in that it is not directed toward national integration and the development of national consciousness; rather, it exalts ethnic identity and fragmentation. It reiterates past grudges, but does little to create a new national consciousness based on the inheritance of the past. Whatever nationalism the educational system or the regime is propagating, it is an exhortation to a clean slate, start-from-zero nationalism. This futuristic nationalism answers every question except the most important one, which is: Why an Oromo person, for instance, would prefer the construction of a new Ethiopia to the creation of an independent Oromia? The futuristic nationalism lacks the excitement and commitment flowing from continuity, from the sense of belonging to a historical and transcendental community. The future generates excitement when it connects with the past so that it tells a story, a saga by assuming the mission of looking after and moving forward a legacy.

Interestingly, Meles knows that the developmental state needs a nationalist theme, that popular mobilization around national goals is one of its strengths. That is why he is now fanning the theme of “war on poverty” and the Abay dam project. Especially, the latter project is highly nationalist: (1) it enables Meles to blame Western countries for their reluctance to support the project; (2) it revives a longstanding grudge against Egypt over the control of the Nile; (3) it appeals to the contribution of each Ethiopian, thereby supplying a common national goal, regardless of ethnic belonging, and allegedly able to pull Ethiopia out of poverty.

In his address during the 20th anniversary of the victory of the TPLF, Meles made a short speech about the Abay dam project that was saturated with nationalist slogans and boastings. The themes of unity, common goal, and eradication of poverty promised the renaissance of Ethiopia, the restoration of the eminent place it had in the past. Not once was the ethnic issue mentioned, rather, the historical identity of Ethiopia was back to the forefront.
One would be tempted to shout “Alleluia” were it not for the fact that this tardy nationalist discourse does not agree with the actual ideology, political structure, and economic policy of the regime. This brings us back to the fundamental issue, to wit, the question of knowing whether the Ethiopian ruling elite has the characteristics of a development-oriented elite, as forcefully required by the theory of the developmental state. As we saw, the non-predatory character of the ruling elite is the sine qua non of the whole theory: in addition to being nationalist, the ruling elite must draw its legitimacy and its retention of state power from its ability to deliver economic growth rather than through the use of repression.

To the question of whether Meles and his cronies are anywhere close to being a developmental elite, the answer is, of course, no. This negative answer does not, however, mean that they are unable to become developmental. I am not saying that some such transformation will occur or that it is inevitable. As a strong skeptic of determinism in history, I am simply referring to the possibility inherent in the human person to finally make the right choice and laying some conditions necessary to effect the transformation. Since my position will certainly cause an array of objections, even angry attacks, it is necessary that I set out the arguments liable to back it up.

Conditions for the Emergence of Developmental Elites

Serious studies on the rise of developmental states agree that threat to power is the reason why authoritarian elites decide to initiate reforms promoting economic growth. The reforms are meant, not to satisfy any sudden democratic aspiration, but essentially to preserve power. The threat can be internal or external or both; the point is that it is clearly perceived that the ruling elite will soon lose everything unless it initiates reforms. Such was the case with Japan, which adopted drastic reforms toward modernization in order to counter the threat of colonization. Such countries as Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Singapore, and South Korea undertook reforms to weaken the menace of communism. If we take the case of some Latin American countries, we find that their modernization is a response to the danger of internal insurrections led by Marxist groups inspired by the Cuban Revolution. In the face of serious threats, ruling elites adopt either a repressive policy as the right response or opt for reforms as the best way to ensure their long-term interests. History testifies that, of the two methods, the avenue of reform has best served ruling elites.
Additionally, the wise policy of reforms is perceived as a way of getting out of the political stalemate caused by authoritarian regimes. When traditional elites engage in the process of modernization, they initiate the formation of a modernizing elite, especially through Western education, whose interests and outlooks clash with the traditional system of power legitimacy. This conflict is easily translated into a competition for the control of political power. Authoritarianism is then used as a repressive power to maintain rising elites in a subordinate position. All the same, the assessment of the ruling elite could also be that a policy of repression brings about neither economic development nor ensures peace and political stability. The expectation of an indefinite and inconclusive political conflict creates a rapprochement between the authoritarian elite and aspiring modernizing elites. Stated otherwise, both parties realize the existence of a political stalemate and take the decision to engage in negotiations. The decision means the renunciation of repression on the part of the ruling elite and the withdrawal of the call for the overthrow of the regime on the part of aspiring elites. These decisions show their respective readiness to compromise on reforms to the system.

My contention is that the Ethiopian situation precisely exhibits a political stalemate, itself fraught with dangerous possibilities. The tangible repressive tendency of the regime after the 2005 election has forced opposition forces and leaders to opt either for an armed conflict, with all the uncertainties that are attached to this form of struggle, or pursue a peaceful struggle whose success depends on Meles’s guarantee of democratic rights, which, I believe, is no longer likely. The third possibility is the path of popular uprising of the kind shaking up the Arab world. The likelihood of a popular uprising in Ethiopia cannot be underestimated even if no one can tell when and how it is going to materialize. One thing is sure, though: unless something is done, it will occur and, given the political structure established by the TPLF, it is not set to be peaceful and probably will invite dangerous confrontations. What is likely is not the Egyptian situation of the army refusing to shoot demonstrators, but the Libyan or Syrian scenario of bloody confrontation and civil war.

Redoubtable though Meles’s repressive power may be, he is not likely to marginalize the opposition and achieve a final victory. The fact that the state becomes a repressive power blocks the economic progress that he needs to sideline the opposition. On the other side, the challenge of the opposition is bound to grow but without endangering Meles’s hold on power, that is, so long as it sticks to a peaceful form of struggle. This stalemate can implant nothing else but the seeds of an angry popular insurrection that no one can seriously claim to control. In other words, the present situation is deepening the political stalemate, which can only develop into a dangerous state of affairs for everybody unless a mood for compromise soon emanates from all parties concerned.

Toward a Transitional State

The only way by which the present ruling elite can begin its transformation is through the establishment of a grand coalition materializing a power-sharing arrangement among various elite groups, especially with those representing opposition forces. This grand coalition brings a major change: it means the forging of a national political elite and, more importantly, the rejection of the embedded practice of using the state to exclude rival elites.
I say “embedded” because the practice goes back to Haile Selassie. It was taken up and amplified by the Derg; under the TPLF, it took an open ethnic form. In all these cases, the principle is the same: all the means of the state are used to marginalize and exclude rival elites, be they ethnic, religious, or class-based. The practice of exclusion instead of integration or coalition denotes the lack of development-oriented elites and the preponderance of rent-seeking, predatory elites. The use of the state to keep out rivals betrays a quest for wealth that is not based on growth but on political entitlement and predatory practices.

The call for a grand coalition may seem utopian since it amounts to asking the TPLF to abandon its hegemonic position in favor of a shared leadership. However, the utopian character decreases as soon as we see it from the perspective of the long-term interests of all the players and as the only viable way out from a dangerous situation. As we saw, developmental elites emerge not so much from an ideological or moral conversion to democracy as from an existential dilemma. The dilemma applies to opposition forces as well: it means competing elite groups renounce the principle of conditioning change on the overthrow of government. Instead of positing change in terms of one group losing and another group winning, they espouse the idea of change occurring as a result of coalition formation or power-sharing with the ruling elite, which amounts to a win-win outcome. I hasten to add that the EPRDF should not be cited as an example of grand coalition, given the hegemonic position of the TPLF.

The idea of a grand coalition is workable because it contains a valuable incentive for everybody, that is, the incentive to effect changes so as to avoid dangerous developments. Let me clarify: change cannot be an incentive for Meles and his cronies if it is coined in terms of them giving up power. There is no incentive for the opposition, either, if compromise is posited in terms of maintaining the status quo. Each camp must come half way so that they all meet where power-sharing arrangement takes form.

The interesting thing about power-sharing is that it creates the conditions needed to apply the developmental state. Meles is thus taken at his word and provided with the incentive of being able to preserve the long-term interest of himself and his group. Indeed, we have indicated that the developmental state requires the dismantling of the rent-seeking state, the consequence of which is that elite rivalry for the control of the state is significantly diminished. The rivalry has its source in the fact that the control of power gives an exclusive access to wealth through various legal and illegal means. The establishment of a genuine market economy removes the incentive of state control as a privileged access to wealth.

If the road of earnest reforms is rejected, what else remains but the maintenance of the political structure of the TPLF, the consequence of which is that Meles has to adhere indefinitely to a repressive policy and the practice of electoral fraud? The expectation that he will be able to marginalize the opposition by offering to the masses tangible economic betterment cannot happen if the present political structures and practices are preserved. The developmental state cannot be a reality so long as the state is used as an instrument of exclusion.

One outcome of Meles’s rise to absolute power that could turn out positive is his ability to dismantle the rent-seeking state. I venture to say that absolute power has given Meles some autonomy vis-à-vis his followers; I even suggest that a disparity between his interests and that of his followers is inevitable. The passion of Meles is power; the goal of his followers is enrichment. The rent-seeking activities that they use to enrich themselves prevent Meles from achieving the economic growth by which he can justify his control of absolute power. He has now the choice of maintaining the old structure, with the consequences that his power will become increasingly fragile, or resolutely dissolve it through reforms. In order to do the latter, he needs the support of the opposition.
The dissolution of the rent-seeking state means that Meles takes the opportunity to lay the foundation of the developmental state by promoting integration or coalition instead of exclusion. This enormous contribution is the manner he protects his long-term interest and that of his followers. Is there a better way of effectively guaranteeing his assets and a great place in history than by becoming the great benefactor, the architect of Ethiopia’s final entry into the road of modernization? He is entitled to keep whatever he and his followers have amassed if the reforms he realized say to Ethiopians: “you owe me.”

Meles’s goal to use authoritarianism to bring about economic growth so as to marginalize the opposition thus faces one major stumbling-block. The projected growth cannot occur unless the state is reformed. The only exit is to present the change in terms of a win-win option, that is, in terms offering incentives for both Meles and the opposition to come to an agreement. The problem is none other than the design of an agreed transition allowing the ruling elite a constitutional guarantee of continuity and an effective control of power while including the opposition in a genuine system of power-sharing. For example, a strong presidential power that retains the control of the armed forces and the right to nominate the prime minister working with a parliament elected by the people could do the job. In this way, the prime minister becomes accountable both to the president and the parliament, thereby incarnating the rule of consensus that animates the entire political system.

To sum up, to solve the present political stalemate of Ethiopia, one prescription is for democratization to occur gradually and under the sponsorship of an authoritarian ruling elite. Various systems of power-sharing guaranteeing the interests of the ruling elite and of the opposition can be designed. The point is that the movement toward greater democratization begins, no more through the overthrow of a ruling elite, but through a formula of power-sharing and the building of trust among various elite groups. This type of democratization is not uncommon: the transition from authoritarianism to democracy is not only the trajectory of the Asian countries that applied the formula of the developmental state, but also of other countries, such as Turkey, Spain, Brazil, Chile, etc. The truth is that the birth of democratic states from an evolution of authoritarian regimes is no less a historical trend than the establishment of democracies as a result of the violent overthrow of authoritarianism.

Dr. Messay Kebede is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton in the United States. He taught philosophy at Addis Ababa University 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


Comment from: t/ f [Visitor]
t/ f

It’s a well thought and research paper you’ve put Dr. Messay Kebede. It was long, but it keep me wanting & yarning to read more. I was enjoying reading your article how the crafty, conman Melse works and how he played with Ethiopian people.
Things I liked very much from what you’ve said is quote,"The passion of Meles is power; the goal of his followers is enrichment.” I couldn’t have said it better.

I doubt that he would trust anyone as your suggestion to share power. If we are talking about the same person who has been chatting Ethiopians for the last Twenty years, He will dare not allowed Opposition to share power with. I just don’t see that happening at all. He will keep playing games with the poor peoples and mocking them when he gets cornered for his stupidity. TPLF has no interest to look beyond their noise at all. Ethiopia is them, and TPLF is Ethiopia period. This will continues until the people starts to question their rights by any means necessary. I just don’t see it any other way.

06/15/11 @ 01:01
Comment from: Brehanu [Visitor]

I agree with professor Mesay. Ethiopia should not swing from one extrmism to another like a pendulum. The politics of gun must be laid to rest. Those who seek power seek first the gun to control power. This culture must be abandoned. Until then ethiopia should not be classified as a civiled country. If there is no peaceful change there will be war and instability. The present regime must come out of its old fashioned one party, corrupt, totalitarian thinking of ruling by deception and start instituting meaningful democratic change. Otherwise, it must understand it is ruling a rebellious population that is willing to rise against it any time any soon.

06/15/11 @ 03:29
Comment from: Teshome [Visitor]

Dr. Messay Kebede has written a very thoughtful article and a must read for all who wish to become instruments of change in Ethiopia. Messay challenges both the ruling elite as well as the fractured opposition to chart a new course as the status quo is unsustainable as well as dangerous. The arguments he makes and the transitional modalities he proposes present a sound basis for solving the current state of stalemate within Ethiopia. I would hope that this article would be available in Amharic as well. Perhaps the opposition will see to it that it does!!

06/15/11 @ 04:17
Comment from: JonesHenry [Visitor]

Yes! Very fitting for you to use the term DEAD END!!!

06/15/11 @ 04:20
Comment from: werner2010 [Visitor]

You simply assume that the oppostion had won the election of 2005, how do you know?? Do we have to take your words for it? If you want to be seen as a scholar, you should stick to established facts. Anyways, after the 2005 election the opposition boycotted the parliament and refused to take over the administration of Addis. How can you talk about “grand coalition", when the power-hungry opposition had resorted to copy-cat the Ukranian revolt and propagated violence and chaos in the streets of Addis? In my view, the government and the opposition are equally responsible for lost opportunity and the loss of lives after the 2005 elections. I have attended some opposition meetings before and after the election of 2005. After witnessing how the opposition leaders maul each other apart at one of the post-election meetings in Europe, I started to reconsider my unequivocal support to the opposition. Since then they have never failed to disappoint me. Ethiopia needs strong opposition and Meles has
Some words to the opposition:
1. Not everybody agrees with what they say. They must learn to accept dissent. For instance, I don’t believe that salvation of Ethiopia will ever come via Eritrea. They call themselves pro-democracy, and they try to forbid people from speaking their minds or try to disrupt meetings.
2. They should stop being against the development of the country. What is the point of
attempting to block international aid when the poor in Ethiopia needs it most? Further, not everyone is willing to postpone much needed development projects -like the dam on Abay- until Berhanu Nega assumes power in Addis. Meles will not be around forever, but the dam will be there for generations to serve all Ethiopians. By the way, it is rather remarkable that some in the opposition used to say that Meles lacked patriotism. And when he announces the start of the Abay dam project, the same people accuse him of becoming too nationalistic.
3. The opposition should learn to give credit when credit is due. Wide spread education and health facilities, peace and stability, roads, telecommunication, urban development and housing, irrigation projects, factories,… are undeniable achievements of this government. The increasingly respectful coexsitence of nations and nationalities is an incouraging development. And I love the fact that mama Ethiopia is regaining it’s deserved place and influence in Africa. Ethiopia is increasingly becoming a safe tourist destination and a land of opportunities for investors. Our image as a land of war, hunger and disease is fading rapidly.
The author describes himself as having “no political ambition or affiliation, even though … firmly anchored in the opposition camp". Huh?? In fact the author was a lecturer of Marxist-Leninist philosophy at AA University from 1976 to 1993. May be he has some personal issues with the current government that took away the from him the chairmanship at the philosophy department there. Many influential Dergue cadres red-terror butchers had their political indoctrination in that department.

06/15/11 @ 05:23
Comment from: Mike [Visitor]

Inflation/depression, high TAX/VAT and that, are all an out come of a poor economic policy set, and made to be intricate and confusing, that can only put us in a gutter that leads into a ditch.

Though Woyanes corporations on it’s on has it’s economy. That goes parallel to the rest of us. It’s a Shame…..

06/15/11 @ 05:29
Comment from: Andom [Visitor]

The person you are accusing quit his school and luxury to join those in the bush fighting for the freedom of their people. By then you were too much focused on your luxury and spent most part of your life toasting in Eurpoe and US. Don’t you have a fear of god to even mention the name of this brave man. Shame on you professor. If you have the love and the gut go and show us that in practice. Do not use your good english to seed hatered among innocent and hard working citizens. By the way I like your picture. It looks like you are trying to convince us your knowledge comes from the bunch of books pictured at the background. What silly of you!

06/15/11 @ 06:34
Comment from: Giant girl [Visitor]
Giant girl

One thing that strikes me the most is the illusion of amara Scholars in justifying nationalist tendencies through Abay. For one thing if this is a unifying theme why would Eritrea separate? The fact is no Somali no Oromo or no South has any connection with Abay cause. We need a new sense of unity that respects the right of ethnic models to exist and function. Asia model simply can not be applied to African model where evolution has shaped the survival of ethnicism. We don’t know how much of ethnicism is genetically influenced but it requires serious study. Dr Messay is simply applying the Asian model uncritically. Any vision that does not take the ethnic issue seriosly is endangering unity. It may or may not influence rapid growth but it leads to stability which has not be considered as a factor as a condition for developmental state per se. The other issue is lack of freedom for religious groups especially muslims who as we know are good business men but are hampered by restrictions imposed on them on banking sector. Not only that systematic exclusion of one ethnic group over the can other further our inefficiency in economic development. Especially the role of religion in producing loyal citizens in increasing productivity is ignored.

06/15/11 @ 07:59
Comment from: kena keb [Visitor]
kena keb

The same old story with a deceivingly enticing approach. A futile attempt, in a nut shell. An old grudge from his days at the Addis Ababa University visibly surfacing after so many years of hibernation.

Ethiopia shall prosper!!

06/15/11 @ 09:40
Comment from: makeLOVEnotWARS [Visitor]

well thought and researched piece once again from one of the best academics and patriotic Ethiopians. If our African compatriots share power in Kenya, Zimbabwe etc why not in Ethiopia??? Both sides should sit for a while and think about the greater picture (avoiding the looming danger of unrest and eventual civil-war:a case in point Yemen & Libya) instead of being stubborn and caring too much about their ego and personal gain. Excessive testosterone is the least we Ethiopians need at this critical time. Polarizing differences would take us nowhere but to a crisis we’ll never come out of.

06/15/11 @ 10:02
Comment from: kul [Visitor]

Dr. Messay said, ‘The passion of Meles is power; the goal of his followers is enrichment.’ But I think Meles is passionate not only to power but also to enrichment.

06/15/11 @ 11:20
Comment from: [Member]

“Honesty is the best policy”

Why do our so called diaspora intellectuals lack honesty. No matter how they try to come up with ideas of accepted facts or principles, they can never avoid their bias statements and denial.
They couldn’t clear their minds from the past, instead they try to rewind history backwards.
When ever they run out of theorem, the 2005 election incident is their safity net, as if they were not responsible for the death of more than 300 people.
The 2005 riot was started by the irresponssible oppos, who were trying by any means neccessary to put themselves on the throne. Big mistake!! Some of them have paid for their mistakes. Now we are in a diffrent level. We don’t have to repeat those mistakes.
Everything said and done, our govt has done a lot of good things and mantained our state of unity from the fragile status to a strongest ever been.
There is no time to debate and hair spliting of theorem. All Ethiopia needs in these days is people who show up in practice, as many of her educated children are doing back home. There is no chance of being ” yedil atbiya arbegna” let’s act before it is too late. Let’s go with the programme!!

06/15/11 @ 11:26
Comment from: Aberaham [Visitor]

Stop blubbering - If you have any clue on the nexus between political democracy and development, we would like to hear from you.

06/15/11 @ 11:29
Comment from: Mez [Visitor]

What can I say? you have nailed it Werner2010. These people try to hide behind their title and even deny political affiliation. At the end of the day, all you see is just that, the naked truth. I really like the way you put everything. This applies not only to Mr Kebede, but also to many of the people who write on this forum, including the owners of, who are so blinded by their hatred that they don’t even see anything positive coming out of the country. My take is Ethiopia has a long way to go to be an ideal environment for most of us. If we do not develope tolerance to other people’s opinion, belief etc, we will not get there. Many writers on Ethiopian web sites give you only one impression….My way or the highway. Too bad, it doesn’t help.

06/15/11 @ 12:46
Comment from: Magic John [Visitor]
Magic John

Some of these scholars have nothing both in their hearts or in their minds to prescribe pro people practical strategies and action lines other than reproducing lengthy muddle jargon far removed from contexts with hidden intention of old dethroned tyrant elites maneuvering at the top to grab and rob power from the new tyrannical elites unilaterally monopolizing power by force alone.

They think that they really can outmaneuver, fool the tplf tyrants by talking, phrase mongering and if possible even by joining and destroying from the inside since the hoped for opposition or the CUD onslaught could,t produce quick results.

The aging essay is applying for a post with the tplf dictatorship in order to become an advisory to the aging PM and from that position HELP MAKE ETHNICITY disappear once and for all using his SECRET MAGIC WANDS. The profession of a scientist is even more effective when combined with a profession of a magician because magic and astrology preceded science as a result of which almost all prophets have been blessed in practicing them.

Soon I must also apply magic to convince the tplf tyrants to reform themselves and give up power in peace and of their own free will otherwise they will be forced out in painful ways that are far removed from magical applications.

At the start of my magical performance I will always recite the following quote from Voltaire, even though Voltaire was not really a magician himself like me. :)

“Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.”

Voltaire stated aptly(French Philosopher and Writer,1694-1778)

06/15/11 @ 13:04
Comment from: dude [Visitor]

Dopest article on nazret to date, now articles like this make a real news organization, this thing read like a 7 page editorial from new york times except made to fit ethiopian politics. Wish to see much more from this author.

Author is original because he speaks ideas. Blowin minds by throwin ideas like a grenade launcher.

06/15/11 @ 13:17
Comment from: Dave [Visitor]

Two comments:

1) I think you (Dr. Messay) should cite some papers instead of saying some scholars….This is one of the weak points of this lengthy paper.

2) Dr. Messay seems to be in favour of the developmental state ideology. But he afraid to say it explicitly because of his connection with the Ginbot 7 (GIRGER 7) group.

His criticisms on developmental state were too soft.

I want to read Al Mariam’s comment on this paper.

06/15/11 @ 13:20
Comment from: Belay [Visitor]

Dr.Mesay I you have bad spot
in my life.This was 1972 ethiopian calnder in AAU 4Kilo.My phlosopy
teacher from Rusia after
he relased all grades you
collected and changed all grades
most of us were in problem.
I wonder now still you do not
even fill gulty for what you did
in that dark age.Please stop do not full us.

06/15/11 @ 13:54
Comment from: Tatek [Visitor]

Professor Messay, thank you for your outstanding analysis and insights into our current day political dilemma. You have done it again. I have always enjoyed reading your papers. Your articles are always profound, meaningful, and thoughtful. Your writings have always been impartial, balanced, independent, and constructive. Because of your impartiality, I have never thought you had a political stand until today. I believe, as you said, your impartiality contributed to understand and analyze our political situation more objectively. Objectivity is a very important and critical quality. I also believe your contribution in writing these types of analytical papers is extremely important and beneficial. Please continue in this endeavor.
I want to comment on the comments of the few dead-enders who tried to criticize Dr Messay’s analysis. It seems these individuals, the likes of werner201, Andom, and Giant girl tried to criticize before reading and understanding the content and substance of the paper. Obviously, this type of behavior is lacking the intellectual capacity to learn, listen, and comment intelligently. This type of mind set takes the joy of logical, lively, and substantive discussions. From my experience, these people must be emotionally charged cadres who see/understand things in a very narrow, pre-defined, rigid, and ideological views. Unfortunately, from our Ethiopian experience most cadres were/are driven by political opportunity, power, and money not by the love for rule of law, justice, democratic governance, and national interest. As we have seen the Woyane/TPLF cadres and lackeys, true for their character defend the in defendable, support the
Regarding the 2005 election there are hundreds of irrefutable evidences documented by both national and international – EEC, US, UN election monitoring bodies. These evidences indicate that TPLF/Woyane was rejected by the large majority of Ethiopians and lost the election big time. It is only Mellesse and his thugs who deny the obvious.
Woyane/TPLF/Mellesse did not go to bush to fight for liberty/freedom. This is evidenced by the state of affairs in Ethiopian since the last twenty years. The evidence shows, TPLF/Woyane created and perpetuated ethnic divisions and infighting, state sponsored terror, genocide, repression, and mass imprisonment. All these are contrary to the spirit, promises, and fruits of liberty and freedom. TPLF/Woyane/Mellesse went to bush to get State power. It was all about power.
There is no such thing as ethnic based democracy. This was coined by Joseph Stalin to invade and grab lands from Eastern Europe and Asia. It did not work then because Stalin later purged millions when these ethnic groups requested autonomy and self rule. See what the Mellesse/TPLF thugs are doing to the Oromos, Somalis, and Southerners. They tell some Ethnic groups they have freedom when it is convenient, then they will go back and create sub ethnic and clans and make them fight among each other. This is the day to day reality in Somali region between (Isaac, Gade bursi, and Ogden tribes), in Oromia (between Borenas and Gujis), in Southern region (between Sidamas and Derassas), and so forth. Mellesse’s version of ethnic based democracy, freedom, and liberty is all fake and lie. It is all about divide and rule.
Finally, the hall marks of Woyane/TPLF are dictatorship, repression, imprisonment, poverty, genocide, and treason against Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Ethiopia, as the results of Melesse’s convoluted policies is a land locked, divided, poor, and weak Country. These are in addition to lack of rule of law and democratic governance, live in perpetual violence, and dictatorship to the extreme.

06/15/11 @ 14:12
Comment from: abyssiniangirl4life [Visitor]


you sound like a broken record. Please visit aiga forum for tuning. LOL


If you have an independent source other than TPLF mouthpieces that claim the ruling party, in fact, won the 2005 election, PLEASE share with the rest of us ignorant folks.


Maybe you should read the article one more time. No where in the article did Dr. Kebede advocate using Abay as a rallying issue. He was pointing out how developmental states are impossible to create in ethnically-polarized countries such as Ethiopia and how Meles, realizing this, is using the Abay project to unify the nation. Last I checked Meles was an agame. Not Amhara. As for your comments about Moslems being discriminated against, this is the first time I’ve heard about it. But you know what I’ve heard about countless times? Moslems massacring hundreds of innocent people because their immature selves can’t handle a torn-up book.

06/15/11 @ 14:33
Comment from: Tefera [Visitor]

ethiopia was a mess and it is still a mess and it is hard to pint a finger on one group or person. however, me and i am sure millions of ethiopians like me want to know how we go from here…i hope ato mesay will shed a light on that next time.

06/15/11 @ 14:49
Comment from: Enanu Agonafer [Visitor]
Enanu Agonafer

Ethiopia needs new thinkers and Dr. Messay is not one of them.

Ethiopia Dr. Messay aknows has evolved. New economic relations have created new classes. The military, ethno - military and academic elites are no more in command. The future of Ethiopia is the new emerging middle class - the economic elites. Any analysis that shuns this force from consideration is wrong. And that’s why most attempts to introduce change in the form of democracy or other continues to fail.

In the past century, Ethiopia was feudal under absolute monarchy close for seventy five years. Regent H. Selassie took power from Empress Zewditu through palace intrigue. A coup d’Etat was tried by military elites against him but failed. In the name of revolution, military elites came to power in 1974 until they were removed by another ethno - military elites. The latter are still in power but losing grip to new elites.

For hundred years, the power exchange in Ethiopia has been from a monarch to military elites to ethno - miliary elites. It was done by palace intrigues, “revolution” and violent civil war. Coup d’Etats have not succeeded. Democracy and peaceful transfer of power has not been tried except in 2005 in which the ethno - military elites were defeated. The academic elites had always been in the background of these power exchange in the country. Academic elites such as leaders of OLF, EPRP and AESM are examples here. They paid enormous prices but never succeeded to achieve independence, form their own government or share power with others.

The century of military, ethno - military and academic and quasi- academic elites in Ethiopia is over. A recent study of the Ethiopian military has confirmed that its interest to take power through coup d’Etat is almost nil. In case situations go out of hand, it might step in but only upon the request of parliament or the government itself. Some say it has understood that the Constitution prohibits its take over of power. The quasi- academic - ethno -military forces such as OLF and ONLF (if they want to succeed like TPLF) have to take their hit-and-ran to a higher level to be taken seriously. They have not done that for the last three- four decades and they are losing momentum. The diaspora academic elites are still talking whereas those in the country are not. The ones in the country have changed to the extent that their mission is not to liberate the masses but rather prosper and join the emerging economic elite.

The century is for the emerging economic elites in the country. The opposition is dead and buried in the country. TPLF/EPRDF, let alone share power with the opposition, it will not talk to them as they have no sizable constituency that wields political clout. As a political force, which largely comes from the academic and quasi - elites, the opposition is out. Even in 2005, it was the economic elites that took the opposition where it found itself. Once they realized they cannot do business with the opposition, they let it go. The opposition has not recovered from the damage the separation caused.
The economic elites have now turned to the government and started demanding wider economic space (in forms of free economy and market) which they are getting day after day. The entire bureaucracy is serving them and the police protecting them and their property. Soon, they will demand further political liberalization in the jargon we hear every day: good governance, transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness, responsiveness, participatory, consensus, rule of law, etc. And the government will talk to them, respond to their demands provided they pay money.

The economic elites forming the middle class is the force that will bring democracy in the country. The military, ethno-military and the academic and quasi -academic elites have been given the chance in the last fifty years. They have squandered the chance and it is time for them to leave the field for others.

06/15/11 @ 16:28
Comment from: Negestitu Desta [Visitor]
Negestitu Desta

Why do all the so called scholars have to be so critic of PM and the ruling party. Is it because they are from the North or what? it the problem really being thoughtful about Ethiopia or ethnicity. I wonder. Any given government needs encouragement in what it is trying to do, it is obvious that every one cannot be happy at the same time, but at least we should be able to give credit where and when it is due. We just can not be so blinded by hate and envy that we keep on writing only critizing. How about a suggestion and advise for a change? Why are we still talking about a lost election three years later. The world is moving fast and we should keep pace.

06/15/11 @ 18:07
Comment from: C'moi senait [Visitor]
C'moi senait

Too much talk does not feed our ppl. You mention 17 times in about that election, i men a weyanne fals election supported by your USA cia, western donners….your boring aricle might irritate a fe weyannes kadres here. Otherwise it is no different from all crap politician you wann be. I hate a welawaye politician from america , they think they can bring a lasting peace and prosperities to poor ethiopians just they live in america does not mean you have all the solution , you are the only one who can run ethiopia to democracy. Listen here! We are all tired of those crack heads opposition a Cia buuchilla(dogs)

06/15/11 @ 19:22
Comment from: john john [Visitor]
john john

I think this guy sound more shabia symtizere who locked up with hate and fake freedom for Dead-Ends and Exit. Thank you for tip we know how you feel.

06/15/11 @ 19:40
Comment from: alemawo(r)k [Visitor]

Not denying the developmental state can contribute to a transition of a society into a tech-established community, Dr. Messay has tried to connect the stage where Ethiopia is regarding the prerequisites to make the transformation possible. While , for a change, the Dr’s approach to analyzing the current state of government is what is expected from a well intentioned scholar, the land question in my view, shouldn’t be the main reason why the developmental state is being short changed in Ethiopia. Even speaking about this theory, it should be taken into consideration that the Ethiopian case can reject a perfect copy of the Asian path of development. So, things can, in some cases be, a matter of trial error until working patterns are discovered.

06/15/11 @ 19:46
Comment from: prince of konso [Visitor]
prince of konso

DR mesay. where were you when mengistu was slaughtering our people. you were busy teaching marxist philosophy to cultivate enough cadres to that butcher mengistu. as your biography indicates you left ethiopia after the heroic epdrf took over ethiopia. under mengistu we never heard your name . please shut up and live your oppourunust life. you dont have any moral authorty to talk about democray and motherland.

06/15/11 @ 21:22
Comment from: Bon2 [Visitor]

Why does the Amara / pro Amara elites work against free use of language, pride in ethnicity and education in ones first language? Why should Oromo speakers and Tigringa speakers learn in Amharic? It is their God’s given right to learn in the language that they prefer. Don’t you think choosing Amharic over others is one of the exclusion tactics that is well used by former rulers Prof? Ethiopians can unify without abandoning their language and culture. As for the free movement within the state, people can do business or work anywhere. Regional positions (Government Jobs) obviously require knowledge of local language.

06/15/11 @ 21:29
Comment from: oneluv21 [Visitor]


06/15/11 @ 23:18
Comment from: abyssiniangirl4life [Visitor]

No one is stopping you from speaking oromo or whatever language it is you speak. Just don’t expect the rest of us to speak it or adopt it as our national language. BTW didn’t woyane give you the permission to speak oromo. So what is your complaint, exactly?

06/15/11 @ 23:21
Comment from: Gi [Visitor]

Oh lord! Wayane running dogs and land grabber big and small tyrants barking and ranting. Yes, Messay may have his own one language, one ethnic, one religion imperial grand agenda becuse he loves himself so much instead of tyrant Meles’s grand dam who loves himself even 100 times more than anything in life as always but why do Wayane tyrants get so much tickled and irritated by some one’s self centered comment? Shame!

06/16/11 @ 03:21
Comment from: Lema Abay [Visitor]
Lema Abay

When I read your article it seems to be that you don’t know what kind of politics is going on in Ethiopia. Please, don’t try to confuse the people who are not well informed about the political and developmental system in the country. My question to you is; if Meles/EPRDF is doing well for Ethiopia and for the people of Ethiopian what is the problem if he/EPRDF stay in power. Concerning your political clarification, that is useful only for those who are hungry of power not for the starved people. For the majority of Ethiopians poverty is the worst problem than your old fashion democracy. We need a democratic system that feeds the Ethiopian population, adapted to the country´s ethnical system.

06/16/11 @ 04:15
Comment from: henok [Visitor]

Dr. Mesay’s former stuents say that a kilo or two of teqateqo banana could not be missed in the bag of this man during his teaching days in AAU. That is why his face turned teqateqo now.

06/16/11 @ 04:41
Comment from: [Member]

It is as usual, a well thought article by a well educated lecturer.
we should all be alert to the true nature of Meles the shifta, as it is a way of making his stay as comfortable as he is looting while in power. The initial agenda of such self-centered greedy fellow had been proved in more than one instances that he wanted to amass wealth by any means illegal and run the hell away.
ይህማ ከ ጥንቱ የታወቀ የመለስ አጀንዳ ነው :: ሰውየው ከጥዋቱ አላማ አርጎ የያዘው ነገር እንደምንም ብሎ ስልጣን ከያዘ በህዋላ ዘርፎ ከሚስቱና በጣም ከሚያቀርባቸው አንድ ሁለት ሰዎች ጋር ወደ የማይታወቅበት ቦታ መሮጥ ነው ::
ምን ያድርግ ከመንግስቱ ሃይለማርያም ተምሮ የለ !
ይህ አይነት አላማ የ የ ዲክታተሮች መለያ ጠባይ ነው ::

በህዝባዊ ትግል : በ አገር አቀፍ የስራ ማቆም አድማ : እ ህ አ ዴ ግን ማንበርከክ ግዴታ ነው ::
እ ህ አ ዴ ግ ይውደም

06/16/11 @ 07:41
Comment from: [Member]

Wow, all the lady linoness came out

Ladies, I like all your comments and
keep it up.


06/16/11 @ 08:20
Comment from: Megistu Gedamu [Visitor]
Megistu Gedamu

Negestitu Desta,

No, the tyrants are not being criticized and opposed because they are from the north but because they are defining themselves as the north that took power by the power of the gun and as such unilaterally monopolizing the entire power of the entire country in an exclusive favor of what you call the “north” or tiny Adwa. What the opposition is saying is that it is absolutely wrong to monopolize political, economic,military, etc. power by a tiny minority northern ethnicists for their sole ethnic circles (elites)These people have no traces of good will for Ethiopia but all the good wills and power concentration in to the hands of their tiny minority elites. The opposition is saying that they must have a democratic national Ethiopian agenda and Ethiopian interests but not only their own tiny Ethnic elites overwhelming one sided interests.

No, any and all governments do not deserve only encouragements but also oppositon and criticisms for all the wrongs, corruptions, bad government and bad governance that reduces the majority to the status of slaves and the wretched of the earth. Tyrants and dictators must be opposed by all means possible just like in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries. Soome 20 long years of very bad and unjust corrupt governance and yet you are lobbying for the tyrants acceptability and easy riding on the backs of the wretched 80 million exhausted Ethiopians. Shame on you!

The minority tyrants have stolen the peoples voices, the peoples lands,the peoples financial resources, natural resources, political power, economic power, military leadership and the whole country in short. We want back our not ONLY our stolen voices but also stolen rights, stolen wealth, stolen heritages, stolen dignity, stolen future, etc. Please don’t try to hypnotize and tranquilize us out of our rights. ):

06/16/11 @ 10:50
Comment from: Zerayakob Yared [Visitor]
Zerayakob Yared

“….. and a separatist language policy,… “

What does this means please ?


06/16/11 @ 13:00
Comment from: andom [Visitor]

Cry Neftegna Amhara! Cry loud!!That is all you know. You destroyed the country for century and it seems you need more time to finish the rest. Your time is gone. In the next 20 years all your once previlaged scholars in US and Europe will perish and you’ll be left with no teeth to bite. You better watch out!People whom you are accustomed to suppress and humilate have now the ball in control. Come out of your outdated “Ankober Hahemony” and let’s build the country you destroyed. Think like 21st century!!

Tatek - your name sound like you’re one of the sons of derg military men. What more we can expect from dull minds like you. Keep on helping your Professor cry out loud. You morons!!

06/16/11 @ 13:39
Comment from: anon [Visitor]

Negestitu Desta,You asked

“Why do all the so called scholars have to be so critic of PM and the ruling party. Is it because they are from the North or what"?

My time lie states it is the 21st century;the childreen of Ethiopia de,mand freedom.Freedom is God given it is not a personal gift that is passed through the hand of Legese to another citizen at will.WhY do You appear to be astounded with your own immagend question? After so many years of pblic demand why do you still sound ignorant to the question of our people?As far as we the people are conserned No individual or state power is in a postion to probhit another of our citizens from enjoying their God given freedom.No where does even the weyane constitution says Melese is invested to tke away the righrts of Ethiopians:that is the right to peacefull assembly,to speech,travel etc.You sir,when you raised that question you gave no thought to the heart beat of the people.You feel melese and his circle are intitled to do what ever they want,whenevr they feel to.And the rest of us have to accept their decree with out any question.As many of you want to assume ingnorance for the event in the country,there will be a big surprise waiting for your types.Just hang loose,time will tell.

06/16/11 @ 14:39
Comment from: Derbabaw [Visitor]

Professor, although, I held the highest regard for your opinion, I differ with the points you have outlined. Your benevolence attitude and patience towards the belligerent regime is commendable. As to me I don’t expect the regime will peacefully accomodate the grivances of the people or will take a postive step to resolve the problem in time.; I think it is too naive for me to expect the government of Melese to liberalize the economy or normalize its relationship with the oppostion.
If the regime is really willing to normalize relationship it could have done it on its own accord any time.
For instance, it can devolve the national army by recruiting officers from thedifferent segements of the socity or by appointing high ranking officers from all sectors of socity.If it wants it could have summoned religious leaders to mediate reconciliation meetings between government and the opposition followers. If there be willing heart within TPlf leaders, truly the ball is in their court. Unfortunately, we saw no positive response by these leaders; My dealings with this leaders for the past two decades thought me ,more than any thing else, about their intrigues,and untrust worthinessaware .Due to this fact, expect nothing different from them than the present state of affairs.

You seem to be taken by government propaganda of the Nile dam ,and the call for national development movalization.One must not take these projects in face value,all these new government schemes may appear to be attractive because they are intended to woe the opposition to support government agenda without any political representation. The fact is melese has relish to copy greatly from abroad, only to abandon his borrowing a short while later without any explanation.
Instead, I believe we must challenge the regime through bekagn protest.
Doctor, the zeitgeist (spirit) of our time is to move away from authoritarian regime to political plurality, and multi-party system. That is what we have been witnessing in 2011.So far three dictators have been ousted by popular uprising. Two ,against all ods,are battling against their own people; one is almost at his end-it is a matter of days before he surrenders or gets killed. The,Syrain tyrant might linger for a while.However, So long his army continue to kill unarmed civilians,there will likely be mounting pressure both from the Arabs and the world leaders for him to step down,and the tyrant will find it hard to maintain his grip. In short, for the last twenty years, Ethiopians have shown restraint and patience. The ruling elite must have thought a weakness of the people’s peaceful remonstration .At this stage of the late game, God willing we must go to the street and demand our freedom. Though weyane has well equped armey and is capable of committing atrocity, its behavior will be checked by the community of nations. Ethiopians need to be willing to shed blood for their freedom.

06/16/11 @ 14:53
Comment from: I_hate_ehadig! [Visitor]

Ethiopia has already been f***** up. We don’t trust each other and finally the country becomes a play field for its enemies. By the way I think not to trust others is inherent to us that the situation of the country worsen after this. Sympathy of my motherland.

06/16/11 @ 15:50
Comment from: Tazeb [Visitor]

Dear all Audience,

here comes another -vePHD pls don’t spoil your expensive eyes by reading all egn egn egn egn…tinish Kumneger yelelow, wushet yebezabet…..

06/16/11 @ 16:11
Comment from: Maru Molla [Visitor]
Maru Molla

“The likelihood of a popular uprising in Ethiopia cannot be underestimated even if no one can tell when and how it is going to materialize. One thing is sure, though: unless something is done, it will occur and, given the political structure established by the TPLF, it is not set to be peaceful and probably will invite dangerous confrontations. What is likely is not the Egyptian situation of the army refusing to shoot demonstrators, but the Libyan or Syrian scenario of bloody confrontation and civil war.”

Professor Messay!

This is a wishful-thinking. Ethiopians within the country are much wiser, and do understand the effort being made by foreign based irresponsible doomsday intellectuals. However, you may want to call it, the government you served as a college professor had to be removed by armed struggle and replaced by the front that led the struggle with a lot of sacrifices. It is not because your “democratic” system unfairely lost power, rather it is the most repressive system of government was destroyed by those who were determined to fight it to the end. You left a chunk of historic period untouched while doing your analysis of ‘developmental states’ and their motives behind economic reforms. I believe, it is a deliberate attempt and not because your memories of the most corrupt system you supported with your services are fading. The country which was in ruins had to be rebuilt again from the scratch. Where there were no tools in place you have to use what is available. The EPRDF government is no way under pressure to lead the economic reforms, rather doing it because of its longstanding convictions. It is also mandated by the people of Ethiopia to do everything in the best interest of the country. As an individual, I trust what our government is doing.

You talk about political dilemma and provide power-sharing as a solution. I think it is laughable to think of power-sharing in the absence of real challenge. That possibility was completely erased when the opposition refused to take their seats after the 2005 elections results. They can blame themselves and nobody else. Today, it is a different reality whether you agree or disagree. Thank you!

06/16/11 @ 17:02
Comment from: ፊታውራሪ Free [Member]

Over all, it is a very good paper that has vividly captured the ills of the nation under the dictatorial and treasonous rule of meles zenawi, but i believe the prof seems more interested in analyzing and solving the dilemmas faced by our political elites than the hardship of the mass. For instance, lets say the opposing political groups agreed to share power and implement an economic policy designed for the emergence of the so called developmental state, which means enacting liberal free market economic policies and leaving the Ethiopian market wide open for anyone interested to do business in the country. The policy also demands the privatization of every public companies such as tele, eepco, eal and even wuha limat and so on. Everyone knows that at the moment there is no a single Ethiopian who can acquire a company as big as our flag carrier eal. That means potential buyers must be found from the west, middle east and far east. They certainly will come flocking as long as Ethiopia is willing to sell at dirt cheap price her companies she built in generations using billions of dollars. The new owners who will be solely interested in making profit will then start firing Ethiopian employers in mass. That is just what happened in every country the prof has mentioned here and Russia after the nations started implementing free market economic policies tailored for ‘developmental states’ such as Chile. The money that would have become a salary for Ethiopian workers will then be deposited in foreign banks, or will be used to monopolize the market and to create a favorable political condition for the few richest who will be in this case foreigners. The prof might argue the kind of political and/or market condition will be averted by the would be strong institutions and ‘efficient bureaucratic machinery’, but that is easier said than done. Money rules everywhere even in the most democratic countries let alone in Ethiopia, and in the Ethiopia the prof is calling for, the money will be in the hands of rich foreign citizens. He may also argue that Ethiopia does not have to sell her companies to foreigners or anyone for that matter, but how is it possible for the government to end its economic policy based on rent seeking practices, which by the way allows the state to sell and lease massive lands for foreign investors like the woyane is doing in the country now, while it still maintains the ownership of the richest companies in the country at the moment? On another note, the prof stated

“…a strong presidential power that retains the control of the armed forces and the right to nominate the prime minister working with a parliament elected by the people could do the job.”

I’m just wondering, is he proposing an a democracy like the Ayatollah of Iran have to offer for their people? Or is he proposing a democracy like Putin’s Russia? Who is going to appoint the president anyway? In another point, the prof stated

“To sum up, to solve the present political stalemate of Ethiopia, one prescription is for democratization to occur gradually and under the sponsorship of an authoritarian ruling elite. Various systems of power-sharing guaranteeing the interests of the ruling elite and of the opposition can be designed. The point is that the movement toward greater democratization begins, no more through the overthrow of a ruling elite, but through a formula of power-sharing and the building of trust among various elite groups.”

Why would not only an authoritarian but also highly corrupt ruling elite, which is by definition an entity against any ‘movement toward the greater democratization’ of Ethiopia, led by a power addict and master traitor like meles agrees to share state power with an adversary that is so incapable of dethroning it from Arat kilo? What is ‘guaranteeing the interest of the ruling elite’ means anyways? letting them have every thing they have stolen from the nation? simply forgetting the many treasons they have been committing against the country to this date? letting them own EFFORT and monopolizing the market???

06/17/11 @ 00:24
Comment from: Workamaw [Visitor]

It is really amazing to see how stubborn and adamant the TPLF cadres are. This, of course, is a reflection of the rather rigid leadership from those at the helm of power.
Some of the cyber cadres are so biased and internally blind that they do not even seem to have the patience to read the material. They rather rush to hurl their usual vulgar expressions, which they apparently have been fed with since their infancy.
Some do not even seem to have the capacity to comprehend the content of such well-thought (scientific) paper from a seasoned philosopher of unique and rich experience. Still, this group does not fail to do its homework of throwing insults and rubbish comments; as such they make their daily breads.
The third group seems to have the patience and ability to go through the material, but fails to see its content from a neutral perspective.
In sum, the trademark of all these groups is that they are mule stubborn and full of disdain. Their hearts are, unfortunately, full of hatred of inexplicable extent.
In my view, Prof. Messay attempted to provide us with the necessary tools to understand the characteristics and behavior of a developmental state, which the current Ethiopian regime claims to be or tries to emulate. He then proceeded to summarize the characteristics of the incumbent regime itself that are crystal clear to every citizen of the nation but to the TPLFites and their blind sympathizers.
Thanks to his analytical skills, Dr. Messay has then laid the regime entirely naked for everyone to see. He did not need to use unkind words to do so. His facts alone are sufficient. His humbleness and civility are clear to see.
Unlike is the case in many other writings, Dr. Messay did not stop there after unveiling the true nature of the regime. He clearly pointed out that the status quo is a stalemate that demands immediate solution. He even went further to suggest a solution he thinks is appropriate.
To be honest with myself, the suggested solution is more in favor of the criminal minority group than the majority, who have suffered for two long decades under the oppressive rule of the former for no wrong they did. My understanding is that Dr Messay knows this well, but he focused on the long-term peace, stability and development of the nation and wanted to be as pragmatic as he can by accounting for the rather stubborn and dodgy nature of the incumbent. He is also forced to use a bit of appeasement. This is implied by his statement:
“…One outcome of Meles’s rise to absolute power that could turn out positive is his ability to dismantle the rent-seeking state. I venture to say that absolute power has given Meles some autonomy vis-à-vis his followers; I even suggest that a disparity between his interests and that of his followers is inevitable. The passion of Meles is power; the goal of his followers is enrichment…”
Whether also self enrichment is not a passion of Meles is a big question I throw back to Professor Messay.
Now, coming to the cyber cadres of TPLF, none of them seems to be persuaded by such a helpful proposal that will provide a leeway for the corrupt system for a safe landing and may eventually lead to a gradual democratization. However, this is not unexpected from them, as the Professor rightly pointed it out:
“…The rent-seeking activities that they use to enrich themselves prevent Meles from achieving the economic growth by which he can justify his control of absolute power. He has now the choice of maintaining the old structure, with the consequences that his power will become increasingly fragile, or resolutely dissolve it through reforms. In order to do the latter, he needs the support of the opposition…”
Obviously, these people around Meles would not leave any stone unturned to hinder Meles from making any such attempt, as this would undermine their uncontrolled looting of the nation’s resources driven by their insatiable appetite.
Assuming that the opposition is ready for such huge and bitter concession on behalf of the majority with the long term advantage in view, if Meles fails to grab this wonderful opportunity to make the necessary transition by shrugging off the dangerous and deadly parasites around him, then it is highly unlikely that he and his cronies would escape the painful consequences of an inevitable angry mob that has the potential to consume him and his cronies alive.

06/17/11 @ 03:07
Comment from: dude [Visitor]

Yes fitawrari free, that is exactly what it means. Compared with the amount of wealth the nation has the potential of creating, whatever amount is already presently in the hands of individuals related to governing party is minimal. Think big, so much more wealth can be created if people are given the opportunity.

06/17/11 @ 05:22
Comment from: Tatek [Visitor]

To andom,
Did I touch your nerve or more precisely nailed your sick mind? First of all, go back to school and learn to write and communicate in the English language. Secondly, learn to construct sentences and spell words properly. Your writing skills and thought process reflect that of an illiterate and a low life idiot. It is true, one should not expect more from a Woyane/TPLF cadre. Next time you better write in your local language for you are incapable of expressing yourself in English. As for labeling me and people who oppose your Woyane/TPLF mafia group, it not surprising to hear from people like you. One thing your Woyane/TPLF masters thought you well is to label everyone by village, wereda, ethnicity, clan, and color. The same thing what the Italians did during the Ethiopian occupation. It looks like the Woyane/TPLF thugs are a good student of the Italian Fascists. As for me, Woyane/ TPLF, Derg, and Shabia are all one and the same. They all think, rule, kill, and torture alike. They are like the two faces of one coin. They are all the same and nothing more.

Andom, instead of blabbering all this none sense, defend if you can, what your Woyane/TPLF thugs have done in the last twenty years. They divided Ethiopia into ethnic states, land locked the Country, and coordinated mass killings, genocides, imprisonments, tortures that took place in Gambella, Sidama, Kembata, Gonder, Addis Ababa, and Ogaden. These crimes were witnessed, verified, and documented by governments, organizations, and citizens from Ethiopia, EEC, UN, and US. Talk about these and defend if you can. But then, I don’t expect any justice, truthfulness, and values from Woyane/TPLF cadres. Finally, everybody knows that the Woyane/TPLF group has destroyed Ethiopia and Ethiopians in the last twenty years and it is doing the same thing today. This is not acceptable, nor sustainable, and will be dealt with for good. This is the only option of the Ethiopian people and no one can do anything about it.

06/17/11 @ 14:26
Comment from: Alemawo(r)k [Visitor]


I like your sophistication, keep it up.

What annoys me about the TPLFites is; they always think their path is eternal and they like to shape their motto either by accident or by default, in ethnic terms. They have already thought out which idea is supposed to come from which ethnic group, so they go against it without even reading the whole message. A country can’t continue to function with that kind of belief, unless of course, what they are saying is the only way that works for the country’s future. I will always have a hard time accepting that crap.

06/17/11 @ 22:59
Comment from: Shewarega [Visitor]


Very good question. The simple reply, because, thanks to Derg, they don’t have the Queen bee no more.

Let me explain. You see, you Eritreans are like Wasp. We Ethiopians are like bee. If a bunch of folks sitting in a room see a Wasp flying among them, they will all scater and run out because one Wasp can do a lot of damage alone. I say Eritreans are like that because look at our past history, that of Zerai, of Abereha Deboch and Moges Asegedom, of Aqua Seleba. These are people who single handedly did great courageous acts that moved a whole nation.

On the other hand, back track to that room I mentioned earlier. If a bee was seen flying, people will not scatter. Rather they will pull out a handkerchief or a piece of cloth to kill the bee. They will step on it and its end of the story. But that single bee, in its hive, with her Queen in place, as part of a group, it will scare a lion to death let alone a few human beings. That was the story of Ethiopia in the past. That was our story in Mettema, Adwa, or the struggle against the fascists during the five years occupation.

Derg and the student movement of the 60s and 70s, quoting some Communist crap destroyed that and made Ethiopia forever victim to her internal and external enemies. If the traditional institutions needed reform that could have been implimented, but wiping them off completely led us to where we are now. The country being ruled and looted by those who hate her the most.

06/18/11 @ 00:05
Comment from: Abel [Visitor]

What kind of Democracy are you fellows talking about?
The North Africa(will go no where),
The American (systematic slavery),
The Derg(Killing by the name of Demo.),
The Dr Birhanu’s(Full of lies and ill ambition)
I dont get it.
Let us not dream nightmares.
What ever the case may be Meles is by far better than any of these.
Ethiopia needs some one who is ready to fight poverty on his leadership at least for the next four years.Then we will see who will be next.
Other wise you will see the consequence on your eyes the ruin of the country.
You! old fashioned Diasporas have no idea of the country now.
Please watch what your writings.

06/19/11 @ 12:26
Comment from: Fred [Visitor]

This is the first serious attempt made by any scholar to dissect the trials and tribulations of Meles’s borrowed developmental state imperative that I know. Bravo Dr. Messay. The self-thought intellectual (aka Meles) should know that he is entitled to his interpretation (rather misrepresentations) but he is not entitled to own the facts (or hide behind them) at will.

06/19/11 @ 18:55



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