a.k.a. Meles’ Ethiopia
Whether we like it or not, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is here to stay. YaLssemah sima! Yessemah leGoreBet assema! But most Ethiopians don’t even know what the term “revolutionary democratic” really means. Separately, they make sense. Put together, not so much. So if you, like me, are one of those Ethiopians who simply feel their way through the dark world of politics using [only] their unreliable senses for a guide, you’d grab at anything with the promise of illuminating the darkness and brining to light the
hidden works of politicians mysteries with both hands.
[Who, after all, said a country belongs only to politicians, cadres and those who win their daily bread through/of/with it? Who minus who, I ask you? 🙂 ]
So, when I came across the following article on my favorite Amharic Newspaper Addis NeGer‘s 1st year Vol. 045 (Nehase 24, 2000 E.C), I took it with both hands. Took it and snatched at it as would a hungry dog the free meat he found hanging outside a careless butcher’s shop. Then, I decided to share my findings with fellow political naives. So we could all have some idea as to what’s going on in this country of ours.
Now, I’m not sure if I got every thing down right, or if they did, yet attemptes have been made to translate the article word for word & in a layman’s language – the only type of language this blogger knows! Any confusion, misrepresentation or headache caused by and after reading this article are therefore results of this blogger’s political-ignorance and/or lack of interpretational skill. Which is why you should take what you are about to read with the preverbal grain of salt. Neither let the post title trick you. The reportage itself ended with the question “So seriously.. What is Revolutionary Democracy?”.
Can’t say fairer than that!
Revolutionary Democracy & EPRDF’s Power Hegemony
June 1998 E.C.
The post-election 2005 crises has yet to resolve. [Foreign] Diplomats and the country’s elders were busy with going to and fro Kaliti Jail & the palace in an attempt to have jailed political party leaders, members of the civil society and journalists released. [It was at this time] Prime Minister Meles Zenawi presented his Doctorate Research paper on the failure of Africa’s development [ventures] at Manchester University & in the presence of great economic thinkers.
This paper, entitled “African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings”, holds Neo-liberalism (set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so) responsible for the failure of the continent’s development. The Neo-liberal theory demands that government’s involvement in a country’s economy be limited. Philosophers refer to such a government as “Night Watchman State”. Ato Meles has argued that “since the two poles that this theory stood on have broken down, the Neo-liberal journey in Africa has reached the point where it can move no further”. As an option and a way to bring about the continent’s economic resurrection, he proposes the state-led macroeconomic planning referred to as “Developmental State”.
After the Prime Minster presented his research paper, strong arguments (dialogues) and harsh criticisms has been made against it by and among Ethiopians. “The economic failure in Ethiopia was the result of the government’s failure. Coming after throwing all his oppositions to jail and controlling all political key points alone, [with this paper] Ato Meles seems to try and give an “intellectual sounding” proposal by pointing fingers of blame on the tried and proven Milton Friedman theory for his/party’s failure to bring about economic development” says Dr. Kassa, an Economist.
Dr Minga Negash, an accounting and financial professor, rejects the paper as “same old story”.
Ethio-pundit, the Neo Liberal Ethiopian blog, has also rejected this proposal of P.M. Meles’ as “an excuse to disguise dictatorship”.
At Meles’ proposal had it’s supporters as well. An individual by the name Haile Mamo has writes “even if I only read the concluding chapter of the first draft, [from it I can conclude] the Prime Minister has presented strong arguments supporting the need for a developmental state.”
Some writers have attempted to contrast and give analysis between the political views of the Prime Minster and Dr. Birhanu Nega based on this research and the Nega’s book “YeneTsanet Goh SiQed” (When Freedom Dawns) which he wrote from prison around the same time.
Dr. Birhanu Nega believes government’s involvement in a country’s economy should only be to fill the gap created by Free Market Economy’s inherent limitations. Ato Meles, on the other hand, says development should be led by the government or be a “state-led development’. Under the title “The Tale of Two Books”, the blog Ethiopian Politics scorns Ato Meles’ researcg paper and praises Dr. Birhanu’s book.
Addis Fortune, the weekly business newspaper, observes “Ethiopian politics has never been more clear” and explains how Ato Meles’ and Dr. Birhanu’s ideas can serve as pointers regarding what issues Ethiopia’s politics would revolve around in the coming elections.
Fwd 2 years: June 2000 E.C.
EPRDF has distributed a document entitled “Agerawi Lewtoch, Qetay Fetenawoch ena Abiyotawi Democrciyawi Mefthewoch” (Nation-wide changes, upcoming challenges and revolutionary democratic solutions). This document has packed the ideas Ato Meles forwarded in Manchester. Inspite of the introductory part of his Manchester document stating the proposal as his own personal belief and not his government’s official stand, the new EPRDF document is made up of this “private belief” of the P.M’s. “[It] shows Ato Meles’ personal philosophy ends being the party’s philosophy” explains an Economist Addis NeGer commissioned to do a comparative study between the two documents. “Take out terminologies, analysises and comparative studies between countries and you’d end up with the June document”.
Another political Analyst Addis NeGer commissioned to do similar study says the document is where “the idea of a Developmental States [is] presented in a language fit for cadres”
After part of the document was published on Addis NeGer‘s last week issue, it has attracted many a readers’ attention. Many people have contacted us, through phone calls and in person, in an attempt to acquire the document.
“This document should be read and examined carefully like all previous documents EPRDF issued” says the Analyst Addis NeGer commissioned, “it gives a clue as to what the government’s desire is. The only way to study EPRDF is by following the method America used to study the Soviet Union before 1989. Nobody knows who wrote the document and how it was written. So to answer these questions we would have to compare all available documents as well as research as well as non-research papers EPRDF’s officials individually wrote. Analysing the document isn’t enough [to give the whole picture]. However, it would give us a good deal of information as to where the Front is planning to take the country.”.
The part that attracted this Analyst’s attention in the new document is EPRDF’s political direction. It seems to applaud a one party supremacy method called “power hegemony”. This is not the first time when an EPRDF document supporting power hegemony got issued. Ever since the Front’s yoke party, TPLF, accepted Marxism & Leninism as an ideology, it’s been issuing various papers on the need for power monopoly. All of these papers, although said to be part of the Revolutionary Democratic package, present different arguments when supporting the concept of power hegemony and the strategy with which to achieve it. Especially those 3 documents issued by EPRDF after it came to power show just how varying its arguments when explaining the need for power monopoly are.
The Trine documents
The first of these documents was issued in June 1995 E.C. The Political Science Professor of Oklahoma University and a scholar on Ethiopian studies, Dr. Theodore Vestal, calls this document “[a document] that can be listed among those political journals matchless in their confusion”. In his book, “Ethiopia: A post-cold war African State” Professor Vestal describes this document broadly. EPRDF issued this document at the eve of taking over power after the completion of the transitional government. The 68 page document was entitled “Abiyotawi Democraciyawi Giboch ena Qetay Ermijawoch” (Revolutionary Democratic goals and the way forward). The political “goal” the document proposed was “making sure the political and human rights of the public were respected & protected”. These bodies the document calls “public” are referred to as “the oppressed”. Those standing opposite them are called “oppressors”. What EPRDF calls “an oppressor” is those individuals who were in the position of power & authority in the monarchy or dergue regime and those opposition parties who support what it refers to as “the imperialists”. After listing the “great public’s” right, the document explains how these rights contradict with that of the ruling classes’ rights. When this happens, it says, repressing the rights of the oppressors’ is necessary.
To be Continued… (Didn’t say when)