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Can we reduce the problems in Ethiopia to mere lack of effective democratic political economic arenas?

By Ztseat Ananya
Tigrai Online, April 28, 2018

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The leadership within EPRDF and its member parties is not only corrupt, but has also grown a Red-Burgeouise mentality


With the coming of the new leadership of Dr Abiy in  the ruling party, EPRDF, differing opinions exist about the ways forward, especially about the steps that need to be taken to diagnose the prevailing underlying diseases in Ethiopian politics, and treating them.

The prescriptions for the way forward to stabilizing the political economic system are argued to be by some observers like:

  • Administering power base reshuffle to restore harmony within the ruling party;
  • Taking critical steps which shall lead to solving the good governance issues;
  • Creating more political democratic arena for reinforcing multiparty political culture;
  • Creating institutional thinking, widening free institutional media, think-tanks;
  • And overall democratization process, ensuring sustainable, equitable economic development and other issues.

The arguments, the approaches to bring this into practice differ. On the one hand, many hope to see an improved the statues-quo by reforming the basic hit and misses existing to address the issues; on the other hand, others go to the extreme suggestion of undertaking total new set of political national dialogues that provide basis for new elections. 

I challenge the fact that most assumptions and expectations that strongly rely on solving the problems in this country through encompassing more democratic political economic reforms ignore deliberately or unknowingly deep structural problems. 

With the above notions, I provide my argument points as follows to conclude that, these expectations are overtly simplified or disguised to a reduced package of problems while many deep issues remains exist beneath. 

1. Nation building process in other countries (for those countries who basically succeeded in creating it) is accompanied with agreeable historical and economic narratives reconciled. Therefore, state building institutions are stable despite changes of political parties providing a basis for sustainable grand design of political economic domain.

2. Unfortunately for us, in Ethiopia there is disagreement in the process of nation building which is plagued by the prevalence of irreconcilable competing interests of nation building process that are centralist to one identity based vs federalist multiculturalists approaches.

3. Thus in the absence of harmony on the way to nation building process, the state building process and infrastructure in Ethiopia can be feared to remain unstable. This can be argued more boldly in the wake of our observation on emerging signs of continual struggles for  political power, economic resource and media dominance control race all of which will be plagued by federalist and centralist approaches feud.

4. It is not difficult to understand that the rigidity of the stubborn centralist approach reduces the hopes of instilling for democracy because democracy can exist only with the acceptance of identities, cultures and languages of others, especially when there is diversity, which can extend to accepting fair economic opportunities. With an orientation that has difficulty in accepting diversity that requires multiculturalist co-existence, it would be naïve to expect more democratic political economic faire system strictures can be established.

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5. Federalism as a political system is characterized by decentralization of political economic decisions while state developmental-ism is centralist in its political economic orientations. In Ethiopia the political governance system is federalist while the political economic orientation is centralist. This cannot be immune from the existence of conflicting attitudes between the two approaches although it can be argued it is manageable through constitutional clear cut role division. Although it can be argued that it can be handled through proper harmonic constitutional and political process. It cannot be ignored the fact that we have been witnessing some imbalances in this delicate balance amid the political unrest it recently.

6. Furthermore, it can be argued that, there exists a potential clash in the coalition nature of the ruling party, which is a blend of ethnic regional structure and democratic centralism that could compete to pull the string to opposing directions. It is reasonable to expect that in the face of discord in nation building process, fierce competition will characterize for political, economic, power bases which will be more vulnerable to the influence of ethno-centrism than to democratic centralist and state developmental led reality. This could pave for predatory competitive characterized unstable political-economic system than cohesive, stable and integrative one.

7. The leadership within EPRDF and its member parties is not only corrupt, but has also  grown a Red-Burgeouise mentality; this mentality not only encourages the leadership to be more corrupt, but also use state apparatus to control the entire economy directly and indirectly. Now that the leadership is corrupt and self-centered, there will be no desire to improve the livelihood of the majority. In fact, one of the ways that it uses to sustain its economic hegemony is by making the majority be economically dependent on leadership itself. State developmental program without a strong, committed, selfless leadership is not only impossible but also a source of antagonism and political turmoil.

8. It can be argued pressures for more democratic and inclusive political system from major international economic actors enshrine covert subversion of the status-quo of political-economic ideologies in favor of their international hegemonic interest. Thus, the internal delicate balance of coexistence further will be liable to the existing competing international political ideologies and international political economic hegemony race. It cannot be ruled out that these influences can elicit two competing lines in the political system of the ruling party. Thus, we cannot ignore the possible anxiety for possible leakage of the bipolar influences inside the ruling party to make matters worse.

9. The aforementioned conflicts can be feared to reinforce predatory and competitive political-economic reality. This will lead to competitive and mutually exclusive similar investments that lack basic economic investment cost benefit analysis as it will be politically motivated. This reduces the chance for having stable state apparatus as the predatory behaviors in the wake of these conflicting approaches will undermine democracy, fairness of economic and political power sharing conditions. This ultimately stands on the way to creation of one macroeconomic multiculturalist nation.


In conclusion, I personally argue, that instilling democracy through encouraging transparency, participatory system, institutional thinking based governance and economic fairness and other measures is neccessary but not sufficient in itself. In fact, there is also the question of feasibility. In Ethiopia, the presence of competing interests in nation building, the prevalence of  possible conflicting natures between the political governance and political economic system, the leakage of international political economic hegemonic competition are deep other issues that we have them enshrined to a lesser evil issue of lack of overall democratic political economic base. Thus, it is my view that addressing the structural issues requires critical consensus on issues of nation building process and genuine mutual acceptance of federalist mindset by all actors so that addressing democracy can be a process than a miracle. How much addressing the later could solve the previous grand issues and the extent of possible vicious complication in the process is something to be waited to be seen.

 The views on this article are personal and are open to debate.


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